Showing posts with label africa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label africa. Show all posts

Sunday, July 26, 2015

International Courts and the New Paternalism - African leaders are the targets because ambitious jurists consider them to be 'low-hanging fruit'

International Courts and the New Paternalism. By Jendayi Frazer
African leaders are the targets because ambitious jurists consider them to be ‘low-hanging fruit.’
WSJ, July 24, 2015 6:47 p.m. ET
Nairobi, Kenya

President Obama arrived in Kenya on Friday and will travel from here to Ethiopia, two crucial U.S. allies in East Africa. The region is not only emerging as an economic powerhouse, it is also an important front in the battle with al Qaeda, al-Shabaab, Islamic State and other Islamist radicals.

Yet grievances related to how the International Criminal Court’s universal jurisdiction is applied in Africa are interfering with U.S. and European relations on the continent. In Africa there are accusations of neocolonialism and even racism in ICC proceedings, and a growing consensus that Africans are being unjustly indicted by the court.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. After the failure to prevent mass atrocities in Europe and Africa in the 1990s, a strong consensus emerged that combating impunity had to be an international priority. Ad hoc United Nations tribunals were convened to judge the masterminds of genocide and crimes against humanity in Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. These courts were painfully slow and expensive. But their mandates were clear and limited, and they helped countries to turn the page and focus on rebuilding.

Soon universal jurisdiction was seen not only as a means to justice, but also a tool for preventing atrocities in the first place. Several countries in Western Europe including Spain, the United Kingdom, Belgium and France empowered their national courts with universal jurisdiction. In 2002 the International Criminal Court came into force.

Africa and Europe were early adherents and today constitute the bulk of ICC membership. But India, China, Russia and most of the Middle East—representing well over half the world’s population—stayed out. So did the United States. Leaders in both parties worried that an unaccountable supranational court would become a venue for politicized show trials. The track record of the ICC and European courts acting under universal jurisdiction has amply borne out these concerns.

Only when U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld threatened to move NATO headquarters out of Brussels in 2003 did Belgium rein in efforts to indict former President George H.W. Bush, and Gens. Colin Powell and Tommy Franks, for alleged “war crimes” during the 1990-91 Gulf War. Spanish courts have indicted American military personnel in Iraq and investigated the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay.

But with powerful states able to shield themselves and their clients, Africa has borne the brunt of indictments. Far from pursuing justice for victims, these courts have become a venue for public-relations exercises by activist groups. Within African countries, they have been manipulated by one political faction to sideline another, often featuring in electoral politics.
The ICC’s recent indictments of top Kenyan officials are a prime example. In October 2014, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta became the first sitting head of state to appear before the ICC, though he took the extraordinary step of temporarily transferring power to his deputy to avoid the precedent. ICC prosecutors indicted Mr. Kenyatta in connection with Kenya’s post-election ethnic violence of 2007-08, in which some 1,200 people were killed.

Last December the ICC withdrew all charges against Mr. Kenyatta, saying the evidence had “not improved to such an extent that Mr Kenyatta’s alleged criminal responsibility can be proven beyond reasonable doubt.” As U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs from 2005-09, and the point person during Kenya’s 2007-08 post-election violence, I knew the ICC indictments were purely political. The court’s decision to continue its case against Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto, reflects a degree of indifference and even hostility to Kenya’s efforts to heal its political divisions.

The ICC’s indictments in Kenya began with former chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s determination to prove the court’s relevance in Africa by going after what he reportedly called “low-hanging fruit.” In other words, African political and military leaders unable to resist ICC jurisdiction.

More recently, the arrest of Rwandan chief of intelligence Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Karenzi Karake in London last month drew a unanimous reproach from the African Union’s Peace and Security Council. The warrant dates to a 2008 Spanish indictment for alleged reprisal killings following the 1994 Rwandan genocide. At the time of the indictment, Mr. Karenzi Karake was deputy commander of the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping operation in Darfur. The Rwandan troops under his command were the backbone of the Unamid force, and his performance in Darfur was by all accounts exemplary.

Moreover, a U.S. government interagency review conducted in 2007-08, when I led the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, found that the Spanish allegations against Mr. Karenzi Karake were false and unsubstantiated. The U.S. fully backed his reappointment in 2008 as deputy commander of Unamid forces. It would be a travesty of justice if the U.K. were to extradite Mr. Karake to Spain to stand trial.

Sadly, the early hope of “universal jurisdiction” ending impunity for perpetrators of genocide and crimes against humanity has given way to cynicism, both in Africa and the West. In Africa it is believed that, in the rush to demonstrate their power, these courts and their defenders have been too willing to brush aside considerations of due process that they defend at home.

In the West, the cynicism is perhaps even more damaging because it calls into question the moral capabilities of Africans and their leaders, and revives the language of paternalism and barbarism of earlier generations.

Ms. Frazer, a former U.S. ambassador to South Africa (2004-05) and assistant secretary of state for African affairs (2005-09), is an adjunct senior fellow for Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Arab Countries in Transition - Economic Outlook and Key Challenges - Deauville Partnership Ministerial Meeting

Arab Countries in Transition - Economic Outlook and Key Challenges - Deauville Partnership Ministerial Meeting
IMF Policy Paper, October 10, 2013

Summary: In an environment of heightened socio-economic tensions, regional insecurity, and strained public finances, the Arab Countries in Transition (ACTs) 1 face the difficult task of delivering on the expectations for jobs and growth. Despite patchy improvements in some countries, economic growth remains subdued, private investment is weak, and external and fiscal buffers are running low. Fostering social cohesion and avoiding a downward spiral of economic and political malaise calls for urgent implementation of economic reforms and coordinated support from the international community.

Regional economic outlook and key challenges (edited)
In an environment of heightened socio-economic tensions, regional insecurity, and strained public finances, the Arab Countries in Transition (ACTs, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen) face the difficult task of delivering on the expectations for jobs and growth. Despite patchy improvements in some countries, economic growth remains subdued, private investment is weak, and external and fiscal buffers are running low. Fostering social cohesion and avoiding a downward spiral of economic and political malaise calls for urgent implementation of economic reforms and coordinated support from the international community.

A. Background and recent developments
Three shocks undermine sentiment. The economic situation in the ACTs has become increasingly difficult amid a still weak external environment, rising regional tensions stemming largely from the civil war in Syria, and heightened domestic political uncertainty in many countries, at times accompanied by violence. As a result, private sector sentiment has worsened, private sector activity remains subdued, and private investment, particularly foreign direct investment, has slowed.

Growth is low and unemployment is rising. Average growth (excluding Libya) is expected to inch up to 3 percent in 2013 from 2½ percent in 2012, with the marginal pick-up reflecting a nascent recovery of tourism and exports, increased post-crisis capacity utilization, and a post-drought rebound of agriculture in Morocco. This moderate growth is not generating the jobs needed to stem the rise in the number of unemployed, which has increased by more than 1 million people since early 2010.

Progress with reforms has been uneven, further straining public finances. Budget deficits remain elevated, averaging 9 percent of GDP in 2012(excluding Libya) owing to weak revenue collection and weaker-than-expected fiscal consolidation efforts. In Egypt and Jordan, high levels of public debt (more than 80 percent of GDP) further limit fiscal space. Meanwhile, inflation pressures have begun to ease in most ACTs helped by lower food and energy prices and weak demand. Foreign exchange reserves have stabilized for now, reflecting a gradual narrowing of current account deficits and, notably in Egypt, external financial support. Nevertheless, reserve buffers remain low relative to the underlying vulnerabilities.

B. Short-term outlook
Private investment and growth are anemic. The current challenges faced by the ACTs are likely to persist over the near term. Revitalizing private sector activity will require political stability and strong policy efforts to improve the business climate. This will take time. Meanwhile, we expect only a gradual recovery in 2013–14, with average GDP growth at about 3 percent. Inflation is expected to stabilize in the upper single digits and the current account and fiscal deficits could begin to narrow gradually, but will remain elevated. Consequently, public debt and unemployment in most countries are likely to continue creeping up.

Significant downside risks. Risks to this already sobering outlook are significant, and mostly to the downside. The Syrian crisis, recent domestic political tensions, and incidences of increasing violence have the potential to intensify further and bring growth to a halt. This would have strongly negative consequences for labor markets in the region. First, an increased flow of refugees could overburden budgets of Syria’s neighboring countries, while damaging trade, confidence, and growth in the region more broadly. Equally damaging could be setbacks to the political transitions as well as an escalation of violence in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, or Iraq, which would further delay economic reforms and deter investment. In some countries, new disruptions to energy supplies (for example, oil production in Libya or Jordan’s gas imports from Egypt) would take a toll on fiscal and external positions. Finally, and with somewhat lower probability, weaker global—notably European—growth could slow recovery of exports and foreign inflows.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A case study in the dangers of the Law of the Sea Treaty

Lawless at Sea. WSJ Editorial
A case study in the dangers of the Law of the Sea Treaty.
The Wall Street Journal, December 24, 2012, on page A12

The curious case of the U.S. hedge fund, the Argentine ship and Ghana is getting curiouser, and now it has taken a turn against national sovereignty. That's the only reasonable conclusion after a bizarre ruling this month from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg.

The tribunal—who knew it existed?—ordered the Republic of Ghana to overrule a decision of its own judiciary that had enforced a U.S. court judgment. The Hamburg court is the misbegotten child of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Sold as a treaty to ensure the free movement of people and goods on the high seas, it was rejected by Ronald Reagan as an effort to control and redistribute the resources of the world's oceans.

The U.S. never has ratified the treaty, despite a push by President Obama, and now the solons of Hamburg have demonstrated the wisdom of that decision. While debates on the treaty have centered around the powers a country might enjoy hundreds of miles off its coast, many analysts have simply assumed that nations would still exercise control over the waters just offshore.

Now the Hamburg court has trampled local law in a case involving a ship sitting in port, and every country is now on notice that a Hamburg court is claiming authority over its internal waters.

Specifically, Hamburg ordered Ghana to release a sailing ship owned by the Argentine navy. On October 2, a subsidiary of U.S. investment fund Elliott Management persuaded a Ghanaian judge to order the seizure of the vessel. The old-fashioned schooner, used to train cadets, was on a tour of West Africa.

U.S. hedge funds don't normally seize naval ships, but in this case Elliott and the Ghanaian court are on solid ground. Elliott owns Argentine bonds on which Buenos Aires has been refusing to pay since its 2001 default. Elliott argues that a contract is a contract, and a federal court in New York agrees. Argentina had freely decided to issue its debt in U.S. capital markets and had agreed in its bond contracts to waive the sovereign immunity that would normally prevent lenders from seizing things like three-masted frigates.

To his credit, Judge Richard Adjei-Frimpong of Ghana's commercial court noted that Argentina had specifically waived its immunity when borrowing the money and that under Ghanaian law the ship could therefore be attached by creditors with a valid U.S. judgment registered in Ghana. He ordered the ship held at port until Buenos Aires starts following the orders of the U.S. court.

But in its recent ruling, which ordered Ghana to release the ship by December 22, the Hamburg court claimed that international law requires immunity for the Argentine "warship," as if Argentina never waived immunity and as if this is an actual warship. On Wednesday, Ghana released the vessel, and the ship set sail from the port of Tema for its trans-Atlantic voyage.

So here we have a case in which a small African nation admirably tried to adhere to the rule of law. Yet it was bullied by a global tribunal serving the ends of Argentina, which has brazenly violated the law in refusing to pay its debts and defying Ghana's court order. The next time the Senate moves to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty, Ghana should be exhibit A for opponents.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Algeria: structural and other reasons for regime stability

Kal writes:
Richard Phelps argues that Algeria has not seen a popular uprising this year on broad structural lines (‘An Algerian Exception?‘ CMEC Blog): ‘Algerian regime does not have an identifiable leader with whom political power truly lies’.


And the government has focused its strategy toward them based on this reality and avoided the provocative showings of ‘symbolic’ violence that gave fuel to protest movements in Tunisia and Libya and Syria and Egypt (part of this is owed to the government’s relationships with the private media as well). Official and unofficial media has not covered demonstrations extensively to the extent that protesters in one city would necessarily be aware of those in another. The massive showing of ‘force’ at the February demonstrations — which were quite small, using barely a few thousand people if that — was a show of bodies more than anything else, and while protesters were manhandled and some beaten few or none were shot or killed in the way their counterparts elsewhere in the Arab world were. The government issued reforms, after long deliberations, and statements of intent to reform on a range of issues. It acted quickly to buy off organizers and potential participants or to contain and frustrate them rather than making public ‘examples’ of children or attempting to use overwhelming and direct force. The ‘crackdowns’ on protesters in Algeria this year were in large measure qualitatively different from those elsewhere, as were the demonstrations themselves.

Structurally it is important to understand that Algeria’s politics do operate in a diffuse manner, that power is spread through regional and professional and bureaucratic networks which often compete with one another but are also sometimes dependent on one another. (One might quibble with any comparison of the Algerian presidency to the power of any single office in Lebanon or to even its strongest Lebanese za’im; the perception and reality of the president’s power in Algeria is an interesting thing to follow and to try an gage at any one time but the presidency has frequently overwhelmed the military under Bouteflika.) The business class and the military officers and the technocrats and local notables intersect and it would be difficult to ‘purge’ the government as the Tunisians are now trying to do and it would also be difficult to make removing Bouteflika in a coup appear to Algerians as a symbolic act with and the armed forces a trusted ‘care taker’ of some transition process (let alone a ‘savior’) as the Egyptian Army did with Mubarak, since Algerians are generally more cynical and probably distrust their military and opposition more than their cousins in the rest of the region. It is also important to understand the field in which these various networks and factions (‘clans’) interact, overlap and struggle; it involves a great deal of both external and internal opacity and risk. There are enormous uncertainties involved. Longtime Algeria hand John Entelis wrote in September that change of some kind would wind up taking place in Algeria, if only so that the country’s elite could keep its own interests, and that  ’[w]hether this process develops peacefully or violently is ultimately in the hands of le pouvoir’.

But structural reasons are not the only ones Algeria has not seen an uprising. The Algerian military and political class has dealt with uprisings and transitions before and probably had a better idea of how to deal with such problems technically given its experience in the 1988-1990 period and the youth uprising in 2001 and the tens of thousands of youth riots which have struck the country in the last decade. In other words, it is important to recognize that the Algerian regime — like its counterparts elsewhere — made choices this year.

Read the whole post at

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What drives the global land rush?

What drives the global land rush? Authors: Arezki, Rabah; Deininger, Klaus; Selod, Harris
IMF Working Paper No. 11/251

Summary: This paper studies the determinants of foreign land acquisition for large-scale agriculture. To do so, gravity models are estimated using data on bilateral investment relationships, together with newly constructed indicators of agro-ecological suitability in areas with low population density as well as indicators of land rights security. Results confirm the central role of agro-ecological potential as a pull factor. In contrast to the literature on foreign investment in general, the quality of the business climate is insignificant whereas weak land governance and tenure security for current users make countries more attractive for investors. Implications for policy are discussed.


After decades of stagnant or declining commodity prices when agriculture was considered a ‘sunset industry’, recent increases in the level and volatility of commodity prices and the resulting demand for land have taken many observers by surprise. This phenomenon has been accompanied by a rising interest in acquiring agricultural land by investors, including sovereign wealth and private equity funds, agricultural producers, and key players from the food and agri-business industry. Investors’ motivations include economic considerations, mistrust in markets and concern about political stability, or speculation on future demand for food and fiber, or future payment for environmental services including for carbon sequestration. Some stakeholders, including many host-country governments, welcome such investment as an opportunity to overcome decades of under-investment in the sector, create employment, and leapfrog and take advantage of recent technological development. Others denounce it as a ”land grab” (Zoomers 2010). They point to the irony of envisaging large exports of food from countries which in some cases depend on regular food aid. It is noted that specific projects’ speculative nature, questionable economic basis, or lack of consultation and compensation of local people calls for a global response (De Schutter 2011).  In a context of diametrically opposite perceptions, the objective of the present paper is to provide greater clarity on the numbers involved and the factors driving such investment. This is done by quantifying demand for land deals, and exploring the determinants of foreign land acquisition for large-scale agriculture using data on bilateral investment relationships. This work is an important first step to assess potential long-term impacts and discuss policy implications.

The analysis of large-scale land deals is relevant for a number of key development issues.  One such issue is the debate on the most appropriate structure of agricultural production. The exceptionally large poverty elasticity of growth in smallholder agriculture (de Janvry and Sadoulet 2010, Loayza and Raddatz 2010) that is reflected in rapid recent poverty reduction in Asian economies such as China, and the fact that the majority of poor are still located in rural areas led observers to highlight the importance of a smallholder structure for poverty reduction (Lipton 2009, World Bank 2007). At the same time, disillusion with the limited success of smallholder-based efforts to improve productivity in sub-Saharan Africa (Collier 2008) and apparent export competitiveness of “mega-farms” in Latin America or Eastern Europe during the 2007/8 global food crisis have led to renewed questions about whether, despite a mixed record, large scale agriculture can be a path out of poverty and to development.

Whatever the envisaged scenario, renewed pressure on land raises the issue of whether there is sufficient competition and transparency to ensure that land owners or users are able to either transfer their land at a fair price or hold on to it as opposed to having it taken away without their consent and in what may be perceived an unfair deal. This resonates with recent contributions to the literature that suggest that resource abundance can contribute to more broad-based development only if well-governed institutions to manage these resources exist (Oechslin 2010). This is borne out by empirical evidence both across countries (Cabrales and Hauk 2011) and within more specific country contexts where resource booms may have fuelled widespread rent-seeking and corruption (Bhattacharyya and Hodler 2010) or even violence (Angrist and Kugler 2008) rather than economic development.

To better understand this phenomenon and its potential impact, an empirical analysis of the factors driving transnational land acquisition is needed. To this end, we constructed a global database with country-level information on both foreign demand for land and implemented projects as documented in international and local press reports. We complement it with country-specific assessments of the amount of potentially suitable land and other relevant variables. We then use bilateral investment relationships from the database to estimate gravity models that can help identify determinants of foreign land acquisition. Results confirm the central role of agro-ecological potential as a pull factor but suggest that, in contrast to what is found for foreign investment more generally, rule of law and good governance have no effect on the number of land-related investment. Moreover, and counterintuitively, we find that countries where governance of the land sector and tenure security are weak have been most attractive for investors. This finding, which resonates with concerns articulated by parts of civil society, suggests that, to minimize the risk that such investments fail to produce benefits for local populations , the micro-level and project-based approach that has dominated the global debate so far will need to be complemented with an emphasis and determined action to improve land governance, transparency and global monitoring.  The paper is organized as follows. Section 2 puts recent land demand into broader context, highlighting the importance of governance in attracting investments. It draws on an analysis of how foreign direct investment (FDI) is treated in the macro-literature to suggest a methodological approach, and outlines how we address specific data needs. Section 3 presents our cross-sectional data on land demand, outlines the econometric approach, and briefly discusses relevant descriptive statistics. Key econometric results in section 4 support the importance of food import demand as motivations for countries to seek out land abroad (‘push factors’) and of agro-ecological suitability as key determinants for the choice of destination (‘pull factors’). They also highlight the extent to which weak land governance seems to encourage rather than discourage transnational demand for land. Section 5 concludes by highlighting a number of implications for policy.

Buy the paper here:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

USAID Expands Life-Saving Malaria Prevention Program in Africa

USAID Expands Life-Saving Malaria Prevention Program in Africa

August 17, 2011
Public Information: 202-712-4810

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), announced the expansion of its Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) program. IRS is the application of safe insecticides to the indoor walls and ceilings of a home or structure in order to interrupt the spread of malaria by killing mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite. Malaria is the number one killer in Africa.

Through the new IRS contract, the President's Malaria Initiative, led by USAID and implemented together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will provide technical and financial support to the Ministries of Health and National Malaria Control Programs in African countries to build country-level capacity for malaria prevention activities. The $189 million, there-year contract awarded by USAID to Abt. Associates will cover the implementation of IRS activities in Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, with the possibility of expansion based on malaria control needs and availability of resources.

Activities include assessing the environment to ensure safe and effective use of insecticides, evaluating mosquito abundance and susceptibility to the insecticides, educating residents about IRS and how they should prepare their house for spraying, training spray teams, procuring insecticide and equipment, and monitoring and evaluating spraying activities.

"Here in Washington, a mosquito bite is a fleeting nuisance. But in all too many places, that sudden sting and scratch can be a death sentence. In a world being bound ever closer together, those places do not seem so far away," said Rear Adm. (RET) Tim Ziemer, U.S. Malaria Coordinator. "Preventing and treating malaria saves lives, contributes to a reduction in all-cause under-five mortality, improves the health of children in malaria-burdened regions, and contributes to socioeconomic development in areas most affected by malaria."

The United States is focusing on building capacity within host countries by training people to manage, deliver, and support the delivery of health services, which will be critical for sustained successes against infectious diseases like malaria. PMI continues to introduce and expand four proven and highly effective interventions in each of the target countries. Scale-up of the four interventions is complemented by a strong focus on extending expanding access in rural and underserved communities and further expanding community engagement for malaria prevention and control.

According to the World Health Organization, the estimated number of global malaria deaths has fallen from about 985,000 in 2000 to about 781,000 in 2009. In spite of this progress, malaria remains one of the major public health problems in sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria is the leading cause of death for children under five. Because malaria is a global emergency that affects mostly poor women and children, malaria perpetuates a vicious cycle of poverty in the developing world. Malaria-related illnesses and mortality cost Africa's economy alone $12 billion per year.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Statements by the Parti communiste des ouvriers tunisiens/حزب العمال الشيوعي التونسي‎

Statements by the Parti communiste des ouvriers tunisiens/حزب العمال الشيوعي التونسي‎

1. Libya

PCOT: “Statement on the military intervention in Libya”
DATE: 20 March, 2011
A number of imperialist countries (France, the United States, etc.) have launched air and missile attacks on sites said to belong to Mu’amar al-Qadhafi. These attacks came after the decision of the “Security Council,” which gave the green light to initiate military operations in Libya.
The Tunisian Communist Workers’ Party is concerned that the purpose of this intervention is not the protection of the Libyan people from the oppression of Qadhafi, but instead the occupation of the country, to subjugate its people, plunder its resources and use its territory to establish military bases for the control of North Africa in order to ensure the security of the Zionist Entity and safeguard the interests of the imperialist powers in the region. France, the United States and all western countries which have launched attacks on Libya today have no interest in the triumph of the popular revolts blowing down Arab regimes, corruption and unemployment, things which long found support and backing from the colonial powers, so today we see they are quick to take the necessary precautions so as not to let things get out of hand.
The brotherly Libyan people will be able to overthrow Qadhafi, depending on their capabilities and the support of other Arab peoples (and all the revolutionary forces of the world), and are not in need foreign intervention which will only bring them more killing and destruction, as well as violations of their sovereignty and the occupation of their land and the plunder of their resources.
The Tunisian Communist Workers’ Party expresses its rejection of the military intervention and calls for their immediate halt. It also calls on all anti-imperialist forces in the Arab and Islamic world at large to move and calls on all the peoples of the world to come out in marches and demonstrations and engage in all forms of struggle in order to stop this interference.
Long live the struggle of Arab peoples for freedom, dignity and the fall of the Arab regimes and corrupt puppets. Down with the imperialist enemies of the people and the protectors of the Zionist Entity.
– The Tunisian Communist Workers’ Party, 20 March, 2011.

2. Palestine

Tunisian Union of Communist Youth: “On the Anniversary of Land Day: Let the Revolution of the Arab Peoples be a step in the direction of the liberation of Palestine”
DATE: 30 March, 2011
Let the Palestinian people be revived today, the thirty-fifth anniversary of Land Day under the obnoxious Zionist occupation and under political division, which has bedeviled Palestinian ranks and prevented success in stopping the gushing of settlements, which seek to obliterate the Arab identity of Palestinians towns and villages under the mantle of “more land and fewer Arabs”. The celebration of this anniversary in these particular circumstances mark national resistance and are a reminder of the persistence of resistance in the face of this racist [regime] which does not hesitate to use the dirtiest and most arrogant methods to swallow up the Palestinian territories. There is no doubt that the return of sovereignty to the Arab peoples, especially the Tunisians, will provide strong support for the Palestinian cause after the removal Ben Ali and Mubarak, who dedicated themselves in service of the occupation and forced their people to remain silent and easily suppressed demonstrations and campaigns [against Israel] in obedience to the racist entity to provide a good “neighborhood” and faith.
The Tunisian Union of Communist Youth salutes the steadfastness of the Palestinian people, reiterates its absolute support as it has since its establishment as an advanced and progressive site for the Palestinian national cause and:
  • That the unity of the Palestinian ranks, nation, resistance, democracy best answers and expresses the demands of the Palestinian reality, especially with the failure of successive governments to put an end to the barbaric and racist policy back up by the United States of America and employed by the regimes of the Arab countries;
  • That the Tunisian people, on the day after their glorious revolution bear more responsibility on the basis of national and humanitarian bonds to provide support for the brotherly Palestinian people in regaining their usurped land and their right to impose their sovereignty in the context of a progressive and democratic state.
Thus it emphasizes breaking all forms of normalization with the Zionist enemy and annulling all secret treaties which the previous regime spent its time on.
It calls for all the activities of the community of activists, parties, organizations, associations and personalities toward the activation of solidarity with and to publicize the Palestinian cause and to celebrate this anniversary in a manner fitting of its symbolism.
Long live the Palestinian people.
Downfall to Zionism, imperialism and reactionary Arabs.
Long live the Tunisian Revolution supporting the brotherly Palestinian people.
Immortality to the martyrs and victory to the resistance. 
– Tunisian Union of Communist Youth. Tunis, 30 March, 2011.

3. Syria

Article by Samir Hammouda: “Syria: The Pending Dictatorship…”
DATE: 1 April, 2011
The Arab masses continue to make history. Current events in Syria today developed from ideological struggle and political fact. The most notorious dictatorships, including those hide by painting themselves as “nationalist” and “resisting Zionism” also downfall by means of mass vibrations.
From its start till now the popular uprising in Syria proceeds with more than 150 martyrs and hundreds of wounded after only a few days. The martyrs and the wounded are not the result of Zionist bombing or terrorism. Instead they come from the bloody repression of the “nationalist” Syrian regime.
In that country, as in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Algeria, Morocco and Libya events are in essence repeating by similar ways, despite different specificities in this or that country, for be sure that the catastrophe is the Arab reality and true despotism for all Arab regimes.
The uprising of the masses in Syria is the result of the same underlying social, economic and political causes which shook the pillars of dictatorship in the rest of the Arab world. Syria is also a country of poverty, unemployment, regional disparities and is penetrated by liberal capitalism. In Syria, too, there is a total absence of freedoms, suppression of the opposition for the sake of maintaining sectarianism and smashing people’s most basic political, economic and cultural rights. In Syria corruption is rampant and the minority of the local bourgeoisie holds a monopoly on the country’s economy and wealth and the control of the political police has a hold on the judiciary and the throats of the citizens.
The policies and words of the Syrian regime in the face of popular protests and its suppression and distortions are of the same version know  to Arab peoples under the despotic regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and other countries. If Bashar al-As’ad accused his opponents of being controlled by outsiders and the public of a tendency to drift along according to foreign schemes hostile to the country’s interests this is not the best political speech since Ben Ali and Mubarak or Qadhafi and Ali Saleh. All dictatorships, whatever their ideological dress — “nationalist” or “socialist” or “Islamic” — resort to the same outdated and false arguments to justify tyranny and the depravation of the people’s liberties as is necessary for political and social emancipation. While the Syrian regime boasts of thousands at the demonstrations of its supporters its security and military apparatus massacres and tortures its opponents. But history does not run out of lessons. Yushenko was boasting thousands at his crowds before his downfall, Ben Ali bragged of two million members in his own party a few days before fleeing.
But the popular uprising in Syria increases the taste for blood and for politics and other dimensions at the local level as in the rest of the Arab world. The Syrian regime is the last in a series of regimes that embraced the Ba’th project on the basis of Arab nationalist aspirations for unity, socialism and liberation from colonialism and Zionism. In recent decades, the Syrian regimes support has been an important component in Arab power, not only on the nationalist file, but also on the leftist and Islamist ones. This was done under the banner of “nationalism” and claiming that the Syrian regime is part of the nationalist forces that stand on the front lines of confrontation with the Zionist Entity.
We have stood on many occasions against political forces urging us to overlook the dictatorial approach of this regime on the pretext of standing against the Zionist Entity and we consider this approach opportunistic, harmful and against the development of the revolutionary movement and combativeness in the Arab world and national liberation. Patriotism and resistance to colonialism and to Zionist and imperialist plans facing us cannot be in contradiction with the people’s enjoyment of their full democratic and political freedoms, or their condition at the forefront. It is true that political freedoms alone are not sufficient to realization of national aims, but the sovereignty of the Arab peoples and the revival of the Arab world and unity in the face of imperialism will not be achieved without them. Why would democracy for the Arab peoples not antagonize the Zionist Entity if this were not a threat to its very existence?! And why has America supported and still support the tyranny of Arab regimes if these do not serve its interests and objectives?! And how can our peoples achieve unity and finally dispose of the poisons of religious conflict, sectarianism, tribalism and local infighting among their parties without citizenship and equality without democracy and the triumph of citizenship and equality without conquering discrimination based on classism, sectarianism, religion, gender or ideology?!
The failure of the Syrian regime once again confirms the failure of authoritarian regimes in achieving national goals: unity and socialism and liberation from colonialism and Zionism. If bourgeois democracy is the gateway to the dismantlement of Arab dictatorships and despotic regimes then the Arab people are not doomed to merely copy them and are instead able to overcome their shortcomings and negative aspects toward  broader and greater democracy, democracy responsive to the grassroots, national political ambitions and economic and cultural rights.
No one today can predict how events in Syria will evolve, nor the depth or extent of the preparedness of the Syrian people to topple Bashar al-As’ad yet it is certain the Syrian regime will not respond to calls for political reform for it is not in its character or interest of a single Arab dictatorship to respond to the people’s demands for freedom. The regime that represses its people and harasses its opponents does have a future or a way out of crisis and collapses by its own internal rot, the laws of its own design and by the advancement of the masses, sooner or later.
– Samir Hammouda, 1 April, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

“The Day of Rejection” in Mauritania

Kal posts this:

"For pictures, flyers, video and a summary of the 24 May youth demonstrations in Mauritania (The Day of Rejection), see here and here. The youth staged a mock funeral for democracy in Mauritania, marching on the Blokate square in Nouakchott. As in previous demonstrations, there was an emphasis on reducing the military’s role in politics, corruption and commodity prices. The demonstrators were met by plain cloths police and security men, who allegedly distributed knives to thugs. The demonstrations on 24 May were smaller than in April and saw less head on violence from the authorities. But the government does appear somewhat spooked by the youth movement: aside from the use of plain clothes police and agents provocateurs, it has used misinformation campaigns to confuse and hamper the protests with false flyers (and by setting up false Facebook accounts and pages, according to activists). Here is a link to an al-Akhbar article on the demonstration [Ar.]. For background on the youth protest movement see the previous posts on this blog and this writer’s recent article in the Arab Reform Bulletin."

Here is one flyer, "posted by organizers on Facebook and by this writer on Twitter last week (they are also in a gallery in the links above)":

There is a second flyer in Arabic at the original post.

Friday, February 4, 2011

More than 90% of Egyptians hold their property without legal title. No wonder they can't build wealth.

Egypt's Economic Apartheid. By Hernando de Soto
More than 90% of Egyptians hold their property without legal title. No wonder they can't build wealth and have lost hope.
WSJ, Feb 03, 2011

The headline that appeared on Al Jazeera on Jan. 14, a week before Egyptians took to the streets, affirmed that "[t]he real terror eating away at the Arab world is socio-economic marginalization."

The Egyptian government has long been concerned about the consequences of this marginalization. In 1997, with the financial support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the government hired my organization, the Institute for Liberty and Democracy. It wanted to get the numbers on how many Egyptians were marginalized and how much of the economy operated "extralegally"—that is, without the protections of property rights or access to normal business tools, such as credit, that allow businesses to expand and prosper. The objective was to remove the legal impediments holding back people and their businesses.

After years of fieldwork and analysis—involving over 120 Egyptian and Peruvian technicians with the participation of 300 local leaders and interviews with thousands of ordinary people—we presented a 1,000-page report and a 20-point action plan to the 11-member economic cabinet in 2004. The report was championed by Minister of Finance Muhammad Medhat Hassanein, and the cabinet approved its policy recommendations.

Egypt's major newspaper, Al Ahram, declared that the reforms "would open the doors of history for Egypt." Then, as a result of a cabinet shakeup, Mr. Hassanein was ousted. Hidden forces of the status quo blocked crucial elements of the reforms.

Today, when the streets are filled with so many Egyptians calling for change, it is worth noting some of the key facts uncovered by our investigation and reported in 2004:

• Egypt's underground economy was the nation's biggest employer. The legal private sector employed 6.8 million people and the public sector employed 5.9 million, while 9.6 million people worked in the extralegal sector.

• As far as real estate is concerned, 92% of Egyptians hold their property without normal legal title.

• We estimated the value of all these extralegal businesses and property, rural as well as urban, to be $248 billion—30 times greater than the market value of the companies registered on the Cairo Stock Exchange and 55 times greater than the value of foreign direct investment in Egypt since Napoleon invaded—including the financing of the Suez Canal and the Aswan Dam. (Those same extralegal assets would be worth more than $400 billion in today's dollars.)

The entrepreneurs who operate outside the legal system are held back. They do not have access to the business organizational forms (partnerships, joint stock companies, corporations, etc.) that would enable them to grow the way legal enterprises do. Because such enterprises are not tied to standard contractual and enforcement rules, outsiders cannot trust that their owners can be held to their promises or contracts. This makes it difficult or impossible to employ the best technicians and professional managers—and the owners of these businesses cannot issue bonds or IOUs to obtain credit.

Nor can such enterprises benefit from the economies of scale available to those who can operate in the entire Egyptian market. The owners of extralegal enterprises are limited to employing their kin to produce for confined circles of customers.

Without clear legal title to their assets and real estate, in short, these entrepreneurs own what I have called "dead capital"—property that cannot be leveraged as collateral for loans, to obtain investment capital, or as security for long-term contractual deals. And so the majority of these Egyptian enterprises remain small and relatively poor. The only thing that can emancipate them is legal reform. And only the political leadership of Egypt can pull this off. Too many technocrats have been trained not to expand the rule of law, but to defend it as they find it. Emancipating people from bad law and devising strategies to overcome the inertia of the status quo is a political job.

The key question to be asked is why most Egyptians choose to remain outside the legal economy? The answer is that, as in most developing countries, Egypt's legal institutions fail the majority of the people. Due to burdensome, discriminatory and just plain bad laws, it is impossible for most people to legalize their property and businesses, no matter how well intentioned they might be.

The examples are legion. To open a small bakery, our investigators found, would take more than 500 days. To get legal title to a vacant piece of land would take more than 10 years of dealing with red tape. To do business in Egypt, an aspiring poor entrepreneur would have to deal with 56 government agencies and repetitive government inspections.

All this helps explain who so many ordinary Egyptians have been "smoldering" for decades. Despite hard work and savings, they can do little to improve their lives.

Bringing the majority of Egypt's people into an open legal system is what will break Egypt's economic apartheid. Empowering the poor begins with the legal system awarding clear property rights to the $400 billion-plus of assets that we found they had created. This would unlock an amount of capital hundreds of times greater than foreign direct investment and what Egypt receives in foreign aid.

Leaders and governments may change and more democracy might come to Egypt. But unless its existing legal institutions are reformed to allow economic growth from the bottom up, the aspirations for a better life that are motivating so many demonstrating in the streets will remain unfulfilled.

Mr. de Soto, author of "The Mystery of Capital" (Basic Books, 2000) and "The Other Path" (Harper and Row, 1989), is president of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy based in Lima, Peru.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Angola country report

Angola country report

1  US State Dept: Angola Briefing:


Despite a fast-growing economy largely due to a major oil boom, Angola ranks in the bottom 10% of most socioeconomic indicators. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that Angola's real GDP increased by 16% in 2008. However, GDP growth in 2009 was flat due to significantly lower oil prices owing to the global financial crisis. According to IMF the GDP growth in 2010 is projected at around 2.5 percent, but a solid pick-up in the pace of growth is expected for 2011. Angola is still recovering from 27 years of nearly continuous warfare, and it remains beset by corruption and economic mismanagement. Despite abundant natural resources and rising per capita GDP, it was ranked 157 out of 179 countries on the 2008 UN Development Program's (UNDP) Human Development Index. Subsistence agriculture sustains one-third of the population.

The rapidly expanding petroleum industry reached its Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cap of 2 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2008. However, Angola’s production was cut to 1.51 million bpd in January 2009 by an OPEC mandate in response to plummeting oil prices. Throughout 2009, Angola never got down to its OPEC quota and produced an average of 1.8 million bpd. Angola is currently Africa’s largest oil producer, a position that Angola has traded places back and forth with Nigeria over the last year. Crude oil accounted for roughly 85% of GDP, 95% of exports, and 85% of government revenues in 2009. Angola also produces 40,000 bpd of locally refined oil. Oil production remains largely offshore and has few linkages with other sectors of the economy, though a local content initiative promulgated by the Angolan Government is pressuring oil companies to source from local businesses. The government is also pressuring oil companies to increase the number of Angolan staff.

Block 15, located offshore of Soyo, currently provides 30% of Angola's crude oil production. ExxonMobil, through its subsidiary Esso, is the operator, with a 40% share. In 2005, Block 15's second major sub-field, Kizomba B, came on line, producing about 250,000 bpd. BP, ENI-Agip, and Statoil are partners in the concession. Chevron operates Block 0, offshore of Cabinda, which provides about 20% of Angola's crude oil production. Its partners in Block 0 are Sonangol (the Angolan state oil company), TotalFinaElf, and ENI-Agip. In 2007, Block 0 had a total production of 370,000 bpd, and drilling activity continues at a high level. Chevron also operates Angola's first deepwater section to go into production, Block 14, which started pumping in January 2000 and produced 105,000 bpd in 2006.

TotalFinaElf brought the first Kwanza Basin deepwater blocks on line with production from its Block 17 concession that began in February 2002. Inauguration of the Dalia oilfield in December 2006 combined with the Girassol field already in operation brought Block 17's total production to approximately 500,000 bpd as of July 2007. Total expected to begin drilling in new oilfield Pazflor in 2009, bringing production to a peak of 700,000 bpd by 2011. Exploration is ongoing in ultra-deep water concessions and in deepwater and shallow concessions in the Namibe Basin. BP made the first significant ultra-deepwater find in its Block 31 concession in 2002 and had reached nine significant discoveries by the end of 2005. BP shipped its first crude from the Plutonio oilfield in Block 18 in 2007 and ultimately expects Plutonio to average 200,000 bpd in full production. Marathon also drilled a successful well in its Block 32 ultra-deep water concession. TotalFinaElf operates Angola's one refinery (in Luanda) for sole owner Sonangol; plans for a second refinery in Lobito with projected production of 200,000 bpd are moving forward, with KBR selected to do the front-end engineering and design work. There are plans to increase capacity of the Luanda refinery from 40,000 bpd to 100,000 bpd. Chevron, Sonangol, BP, Total, and Eni are developing a $4 billion to $5 billion liquefied natural gas plant at Soyo, now under construction by Bechtel, expected to start production in 2012.

Exports to Asian countries have grown rapidly in recent years, particularly to China. In late 2004, China's state oil company Sinopec entered the market, offering two separate $1 billion signing bonus offers on two offshore blocks. Sinopec has also formed a partnership with Sonangol to operate Block 3/05 (formerly Block 3/80), whose operation was transferred from Total to Sonangol. Sonangol will seek to expand its operation of onshore and shallow water blocks. This includes the northern block of Cabinda's onshore concessions, which since the reduction in hostilities with separatist forces is now open to exploration. Sonangol and Sinopec will also be eyeing future concession rounds, particularly for 23 blocks in the Kwanza Basin onshore area and the relinquished parts of Blocks 15, 17, and 18, currently operated by Exxon, Total, and BP. In 2008, Angola was China’s second-leading source country for crude oil by volume, importing 599 million barrels valued at U.S. $59.900 billion, up 19.3% year on year.

Diamonds make up most of Angola's remaining exports, with yearly production at 6 million carats. However, the financial crisis severely depressed diamond prices in 2009, sharply curtailing Angola’s diamond exports, and at one point forcing the state diamond authority, Endiama, to buy up production at cost for stockpiling to keep operators going. Diamond sales reached approximately $1.1 billion in 2006. Despite increased corporate ownership of diamond fields, much production is currently in the hands of small-scale prospectors, often operating illegally. Eight large-scale mines operate out of a total of 145 concessions. In June 2005, De Beers signed a $10 million prospecting contract with the government's diamond parastatal, ending a 4-year investment dispute between De Beers and the government. The government is making an increased effort to register and license prospectors. Legal sales of rough diamonds may occur only through the government's diamond-buying parastatal, although many producers continue to bypass the system to obtain higher prices. The government has established an export certification scheme consistent with the "Kimberley Process" to identify legitimate production and sales. Other mineral resources, including gold, remain largely undeveloped, though granite and marble quarrying has begun.

In the last decade of the colonial period, Angola was a major African agricultural exporter. Because of severe wartime conditions, including the massive dislocation of rural people and the extensive laying of landmines throughout the countryside, agricultural activities came to a near standstill, and the country now imports over half of its food. Small-scale agricultural production has increased several-fold over the last 5 years due to demining efforts, infrastructure improvements, and the ability of returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return safely to agricultural areas, yet production of most crops remains below 1974 levels. Some efforts at commercial agricultural recovery have gone forward, notably in fisheries and tropical fruits, but most of the country's vast potential remains untapped. Recently proposed land reform laws attempt to reconcile overlapping traditional land use rights, colonial-era land claims, and recent land grants to facilitate significant commercial agricultural development. However, the lack of clear title to land tracts and burdensome registration process in Angola continues to be a significant impediment to foreign investment in the agriculture sector.

An economic reform effort launched in 1998 was only marginally successful in addressing persistent fiscal mismanagement and corruption. In April 2000, Angola started an IMF staff-monitored program (SMP). The program lapsed in June 2001 over IMF concerns about lack of progress by Angola. Under the program, the Government of Angola did succeed in unifying exchange rates and moving fuel, electricity, and water prices closer to market rates. In March 2007, the government announced it was not interested in a formally structured IMF program, but would continue to participate in Article IV consultations and other technical assistance on an ad hoc basis. In November 2009, following increased Angolan efforts to make oil revenues more transparent, the IMF approved a 27-month Standby Arrangement (SBA) with Angola in the amount of approximately $1.4 billion to help the country cope with the effects of the global economic crisis. According to a statement released by the IMF, “While the immediate goal is to mitigate the repercussions of the adverse terms of trade shocks linked to the global crisis, the program also includes a reform agenda aimed at medium-term structural issues to foster non-oil sector growth.” The loan is the largest IMF financing package to date for a sub-Saharan African country during the current global crisis.

In December 2002, President dos Santos named a new economic team to oversee homegrown reform efforts. The new team succeeded in decreasing overall government spending, rationalizing the Kwanza exchange rate, closing regulatory loopholes that allowed off-budget expenditures, and capturing all revenues in the state budget. New procedures were implemented to track the flow of funds among the Treasury, Banco Nacional de Angola (the central bank), and the state-owned Banco de Poupança e Credito, which operates the budget. The Angolan Government adopted a new investment code. Concerns remain about quasi-fiscal operations by the state oil company Sonangol, opaque oil-backed concessionary lines of credit that operate outside the budget process, inadequate transparency, oversight in the management of public accounts, and the lack of supervision of the commercial banking sector. A recent Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) report cited Angola for a significant lack of laws and regulations regarding anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing (AML/CFT). The Angolan commercial code, financial sector law, and telecommunications law all require substantial revision.

Angola is the second-largest trading partner of the United States in sub-Saharan Africa, mainly because of its petroleum exports. U.S. exports to Angola primarily consist of industrial goods and services--such as oilfield equipment, mining equipment, chemicals, aircraft, and food. On December 30, 2003, President George W. Bush approved the designation of Angola as eligible for tariff preferences under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

2  CIA summary:

3  World Bank: Angola at a glance,

4  World Bank: costs of doing business in Angola, Here you can see costs for all of these (downloadable as Excel sheet):

Starting a Business
Dealing with Construction Permits
Registering Property
Getting Credit
Protecting Investors
Paying Taxes
Trading Across Borders
Enforcing Contracts
Closing a Business
Difficulty of hiring
Rigidity of hours
Difficulty of redundancy
Redundancy costs (weeks of salary)

Friday, December 3, 2010

1,000-man militia being trained in north Somalia

 1,000-man militia being trained in north Somalia

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Key political risks to watch in Angola and the Gulf of Guinea

Key political risks to watch in Angola

Key political risks in the Gulf of Guinea

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Somali Militant Group Built Training Camps, al Qaeda Links

Somali Militant Group Built Training Camps, al Qaeda Links. By WILL CONNORS in Kampala, Uganda, SIOBHAN GORMAN in Washington, D.C., and SARAH CHILDRESS
WSJ, Jul 17, 2010

The terror group behind last weekend's deadly Uganda blasts recruited a local man to coordinate the attacks and received funds from al Qaeda, say investigators, as it extends its reach beyond lawless Somalia.

Al Shabaab, the Somalia-based group that has claimed responsibility for July 11's triple suicide blasts that killed 76 people in Uganda's capital, Kampala, has in recent months built up Pakistan-style terror training camps. One top leader, Sheikh Muktar Robow, has helped to transform the group from a local insurgency into a global jihadist organization modeled on, and swearing allegiance to, al Qaeda.

That picture of the group, and its development under Mr. Robow, emerged from interviews with Ugandan, Kenyan and U.S. investigators; current and former U.S. intelligence officials; and Somalis, including a member of the militant group.

A U.S. intelligence official said information gleaned from militant communications shows links between al Shabaab and al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan and Yemen. U.S. officials also see evidence of overlap in training and membership and say their working assumption is that al Shabaab has several hundred core members, similar to the numbers in al Qaeda in Pakistan and in al Qaeda's Yemeni outpost.

Intelligence officials say they believe al Qaeda is using the Somali group as a symbiotic host body, allowing its operatives access to other African countries. "As much as we're looking at al Shabaab, they are riding on the back of a more experienced player," said Col. Herbert Mbonye, the director of counterterrorism for Uganda's military intelligence body.

That relationship has raised red flags at U.S. intelligence agencies. In the past 18 months, militant training camps have emerged in Somalia similar to those that developed in Pakistan's tribal areas, a U.S. intelligence official said. Intelligence officials are now following about two dozen individuals from the U.S. and other Western countries who may have been affiliated with al Shabaab, or gone through these camps.

"It's quite an alarming story," the U.S. intelligence official said.

Al Shabaab's relationship with al Qaeda appears to have been cultivated in part by Mr. Robow, a top commander. Also known as Abu Mansur, he is among the U.S. government's most wanted terrorists.

Mr. Robow offered a warning of sorts ahead of Sunday's blasts, which hit a restaurant and a sports club where people had gathered to watch the final match of the World Cup. Speaking during a public address at Friday prayers earlier this month, Mr. Robow called for attacks against countries that had sent some 6,000 troops under African Union auspices to support the Somali government's offensive against al Shabaab. "We tell the Muslim youths and Mujahedeen, wherever they are in the Muslim world, to attack, explode and burn the embassies of Burundi and Uganda," Mr. Robow said, according to local media reports.

Mr. Robow grew up in southern Mogadishu as a devoted student of the Quran, according to public speeches he has made. He studied law at the University of Khartoum in Sudan, and then returned to Mogadishu to teach Arabic for several years. He is about 40, U.S. officials believe, based on a birth date on an Eritrean passport he used.

In 2000, Mr. Robow traveled to Afghanistan to train with the Taliban and al Qaeda, which used the strife-torn South Asian country to plot the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S. In Afghanistan, Mr. Robow learned to fight, fire a sniper rifle and conceal roadside bombs, an al Shabaab official in Somalia said. He stayed less than a year, leaving before U.S.-led forces swept into Afghanistan.

Back in Somalia, Mr. Robow became a member of the Union of Islamic Courts, which aimed to establish strict Shariah law in the country, which had been largely lawless for a decade. The group came to power in 2006. Mr. Robow helped to establish an Islamist government and founded al Shabaab, a youth brigade that would serve as the union's armed wing.

The Islamist government soon collapsed. Al Shabaab endured. Mr. Robow, a skilled orator, became an al Shabaab spokesman and eventually deputy commander.

Al Shabaab, which controls vast territory in Somalia, has been engaged in a running battle with Somalia's transitional federal government. The group has pinned the government to a strip of the capital, Mogadishu, and largely prevented officials and parliament from meeting.

Beyond his ambition to overthrow Somalia's government, Mr. Robow has advocated linking the group's ambitions to global jihad. Through media interviews and in videos posted online, he sought to attract fighters in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Iraq, largely because foreign recruits could replenish al Shabaab's ranks and aid its finances. In a 2008 interview, he lamented that there "are not enough non-Somali brothers."

The same year, the U.S. Treasury Department declared al Shabaab a terrorist group and named Mr. Robow its "spiritual leader." Mr. Robow later released a statement saying the group was "honored" to be included on the list but expressed disappointment al Shabaab wasn't ranked higher.

Senior U.S. administration officials said some foreign fighters who answered Mr. Robow's calls—some of whom have "close links" with al Qaeda—came with experience, funding and the agenda of establishing Somalia as a base from which to attack Western targets.

The foreigners also brought new tactics. Roadside bombs and suicide blasts, once unheard-of in Somalia, are now part of al Shabaab's armory. The group's commanders have banned dancing, mustaches and, most recently, watching World Cup games on television. Fighters punish offenders with floggings or public amputations.

On Wednesday, armed al Shabaab fighters drove through towns in southern Somalia, blaring a warning to residents through megaphones mounted on their vehicles, according to witnesses contacted by telephone. "You must collaborate with [us] and allow your sons to fight the enemy of Allah," Abu Maryama, a senior al Shabaab official told crowds in the southwestern town of Baidoa. "If you pay no heed to this …you will be considered as another enemy and face punishment."

Harsh retribution and indiscriminate deaths have sapped public support for the group, and created rifts within it. Mr. Robow has been caught between those who want to focus the insurgency in Somali—and retain a measure of popular support— and the global jihadists who don't care about local backing, according the al Shabaab colleague. Mr. Robow, a Somali who has long opposed foreign intervention in his country, may not be considered radical enough for the new agenda, according to a recent report by the International Crisis Group, a Brussels based think tank.In the Uganda attack, the group's two factions apparently found middle ground.

The blasts have presented U.S. officials with a quandary. They see a need to step up support and involvement in the region, but they haven't determined the best course. "Violence always breeds urgency," the U.S. intelligence official said. "The question is: What [to do]?" The U.S. has been tracking al Shabaab and al Qaeda in Somalia for years, officials say. The Central Intelligence Agency works with military special forces units to collect intelligence and pinpoint targets, a former senior intelligence official said. The U.S. also works closely with the Ethiopian and Kenyan governments on counterterrorism operations.

Those efforts have grown in recent years as U.S. officials discovered as many as 20 Americans from Minnesota making their way to Somalia, including one who was determined to have been among five suicide bombers in an October 2008 attack in northern Somalia.

The intelligence-gathering paid off last year when U.S. Special Forces killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a top operative linked to both al Qaeda and al Shabaab who was believed to be linked to 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

But U.S. Special Forces units and intelligence officials have been grappling with a broader response to the growing terror threat from Somalia. Calling in airstrikes could fuel retaliatory measures against a weak Somali government. It could also stir up anti-U.S. sentiment that would advance the group's agenda, said the U.S. intelligence official.

"If you strike a camp, it makes you feel good, but what do you do the next day?" the official said. "You don't effectively eliminate the threat."

On Thursday, an al Shabaab leader underscored that point, delivering a message on the radio in Mogadishu congratulating what he called the Martyr Saleh Nabhan Brigade for the Kampala attacks.

Intelligence agencies have warned about al Shabaab's growing ambition to attack other countries—particularly Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya—as well as the West, the U.S. intelligence official said.U.S. intelligence hadn't picked up many direct threats against Uganda, but there has been a general concern about attacks targeting countries that supply troops to A.U. forces.

Investigators in Uganda say they are questioning a Ugandan man, Ali Isa Ssenkumba, who they say has confessed to helping plan the attacks.

Mr. Ssenkumba, who is in his late thirties and hails from a farming community outside Kampala, told investigators he was recruited by Somali men who persuaded him that he could have success in business in Somalia, according to a Ugandan military official close to the investigation.

Posing as a businessman, Mr. Ssenkumba made frequent trips to Somalia, where he attended an al Shabaab training camp, the Ugandan official said. Mr. Ssenkumba told investigators many other Ugandans are at al Shabaab's Somalia training facilities.

This person says Mr. Ssenkumba become familiar with guards at the borders between Uganda and Sudan and Uganda and Kenya, and received money and coordinated logistics for roughly two dozen al Shabaab members in Uganda who are suspected of plotting the triple suicide blast. Mr. Ssenkumba said, and investigators say they separately determined, that the attack was partially funded by informal money transfers from al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Police in Kenya said they arrested Mr. Ssenkumba last week, before the attack, and handed him over to Ugandan investigators Tuesday, after the bombings.

According to Nicholas Kamwende, the commanding officer of Kenya's anti-terrorism police unit, Mr. Ssenkumba walked up to an immigration officer on the Kenya-Somalia border some time before the Kampala attacks and turned himself in.

"He said he didn't want to stay any longer with al Shabaab, that he wanted to go home," Mr. Kamwende said. "We didn't have anything to hold him on and we thought the Ugandans would be in a better position to exploit what he knew."

Mr. Ssenkumba wasn't made available to comment and it wasn't immediately apparent whether he was represented by a lawyer. Neither Mr. Kamwende nor Ugandan officials would say whether Mr. Ssenkumba provided information before the impending attack. Ugandan officials say Mr. Ssenkumba didn't turn himself in voluntarily.

—Nicholas Baryio in Kampala and Keith Johnson in Washington contributed to this article.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fruits of Engagement in Sudan - Khartoum's hard men and Obama's diplomacy

Fruits of Engagement in Sudan. WSJ Editorial
Khartoum's hard men and Obama's diplomacy.
The Wall Street Journal, Dec 12, 2009, page A18

In his Oslo address Thursday, President Obama mulled the trade-offs in dealing with repressive regimes. "There's no simple formula here," he said. "But we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement, pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time."

From Nobel theory, we move to practice in Sudan. As a candidate, Mr. Obama stood with the human rights champions of Darfur and pledged tougher sanctions and a possible no-fly zone if a Sudanese regime infamous for genocide didn't shape up. His tone has changed in office.

Unveiled in October, the Administration's Sudan policy emphasized carrots for the regime to ease up in Darfur and implement a peace deal in southern Sudan; any sticks were relegated to a secret annex. The President's special envoy to Sudan, retired Major General Scott Gration, was reluctant even to allude to tougher sanctions. He said that "cookies" and "gold stars" are preferable to threats and that Darfur was experiencing only "remnants of genocide."

President Omar al-Bashir, whose Islamist National Congress Party took power in a 1989 coup, got the message and decided to test the limits of this new indulgence. Almost immediately the regime hardened its stance on implementing the peace accord. Brokered by the Bush Administration in 2005, the deal calls for political reforms, including free parliamentary elections now scheduled for April, and a referendum on independence for the south in two years. Long before the ethnic cleansing in Darfur turned into a Hollywood cause célèbre, a two-decade war between the Muslim north and the Christian and oil-rich south took two million lives.

On Monday, police in the capital Khartoum beat and arrested opposition leaders who were pressing parliament to adopt the necessary laws to hold the April elections. Time is running out to pass them. The Bashir regime now refuses to overhaul the national security and criminal laws as also stipulated in the 2005 deal. Its recalcitrance means the election and referendum, assuming both come off, would be tainted. This could in turn end up restarting the civil war.

At the same time, the preference for diplomacy over pressure has encouraged the hard men in Khartoum to stoke the flames in Darfur, ignoring an arms embargo and challenging the U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force there.

In the man-bites-dog story of the year, the U.N. last week took the Obama Administration to task over its lax efforts to enforce the arms embargo, while praising the Bush Administration. "In contrast to that leadership of 2004 and 2005, the United States appears to have now joined the group of influential states who sit by quietly and do nothing to ensure that sanctions protect Darfurians," Enrico Carisch, who was the top U.N. investigator of violations of the arms embargo until October, said in written testimony before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa.

The Sudanese aren't even the hardest of cases. Concerted American pressure forced this regime to cut ties with al Qaeda in the 1990s, end aerial bombing and support for slave-hunting militias in the south and accept the 2005 peace deal.

Mr. Obama can summon up tough rhetoric. "Yes, there will be engagement; yes, there will be diplomacy—but there must be consequences when those things fail," he said in Oslo. But the world's rogues might be forgiven for missing the nuances. So far, they've seen only the engaging side of this American President.

Monday, August 10, 2009

USAID Partners With Chevron To Promote Agricultural Development in Angola

USAID Partners With Chevron Corporation and the CLUSA To Promote Agricultural Development in Angola.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chevron Corporation and the Cooperative League of the United States of America (CLUSA) to assist Angola in diversifying its economy by revitalizing small and medium scale commercial farming, and promoting agricultural development that is environmentally friendly, socially just and economically sustainable.

Benefits of Implementation

The partnership between USAID, Chevron and the CLUSA will enable farmers to develop and improve the commercial viability of their products and services. The mechanisms the partnership will use to assist Angola in reaching its agricultural sector development include:
  • Providing finance, business and training support to small and medium scale farmers and related agricultural enterprises;
  • Strengthening the capacity of agrarian schools;
  • Providing assistance to non-governmental organizations that deliver savings and credit products to small and medium scale farmers and related agricultural enterprises;
  • Technical assistance to commercial banks providing wholesale lending to rural finance institutions; and
  • Financing and support to private sector-based agricultural initiatives that promote sustainable, integrated value chains that link producers, input suppliers, financiers, buyers and other agribusinesses.
USAID’s Partnership with Chevron and CLUSASince the beginning of their partnership in 2002, 2,371 producers and other agribusinesses, of which 19 percent are women, have received training and access to loans, and more than $1.4 million in loans have been given to Angolan farmers for production and distribution of coffee, potatoes, and bananas.

To build on the successes of this partnership, USAID, Chevron and CLUSA will coordinate technical assistance and research to promote environmentally friendly resource management agricultural and agribusiness practices and will serve as the facilitators of "best practices" to country-level partners. They will work together to monitor the impact, effectiveness, and sustainability of their support to agricultural activities.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Is Food Aid for Africa Working?

Is Food Aid for Africa Working?: A Wall Street Journal reporter asks if western food aid policies are truly providing aid. By Brian Doherty
Reason Magazine, Jul 17, 2009

Although billions have been spent on foreign development and food aid to Africa in the decades since World War II, over half a billion people remain undernourished in Africa today according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture—a number that's 53 percent higher than it was in 1992 when the government first began accumulating such figures.

While the reasons for continuing poverty are manifold, Western government programs such as food aid and agriculture and ethanol subsidies deserve their share of the blame. So argues the new book Enough: Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty (PublicAffairs), written by Wall Street Journal reporters Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman, each of whom have years of experience writing page-one stories for the Journal on African matters, particularly African famine.

Unlike anti-aid anaylsts such as William Easterly and Dambisa Moyo, Thurow and Kilman see plenty of room for more (intelligent) action on the part of Western governments. In fact, Kilman argues that genuine agricultural development aid has yet to be sufficiently and intelligently attempted.

But their reporting in the Journal and in Enough provides vivid examples of the ways both aid policy and U.S. farm policy hurts, not helps, the long-term well-being of Africans as they struggle for self-sufficiency.

Senior Editor Brian Doherty spoke with Scott Kilman in July.

See interview in the link above.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

U.S. Applauds Consensual Agreement Among Mauritanian Parties

U.S. Applauds Consensual Agreement Among Mauritanian Parties. By Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman
US State Dept, Bureau of Public Affairs
Washington, DC, June 5, 2009

The Government of the United States applauds the Mauritanian parties for reaching a consensual agreement that will restore constitutional order through a transitional process to resolve the current political crisis. We commend Senegalese President Wade for his vision and persistent pursuit of this agreement. The accord represents a laudable success for the African Union and the African people in resolving this crisis. The United States will, in conjunction with the other members of the International Contact Group and community, actively support all parties to this agreement, including efforts to ensure that the resultant elections are organized and held in a free, fair and credible manner.

PRN: 2009/552

Monday, June 1, 2009

Egypt Needs Democracy and Term Limits

Egypt Needs Democracy and Term Limits. By Saad Eddin Ibrahim
Mubarak competes with Ramses II for time in office.
WSJ, Jun 02, 2009

Egyptians have traditionally thought of their country as the "Mother of the World." President Barack Obama says he wants to change the world. Egypt may very well be a good place to start.
Egyptians at home and abroad have been clamoring for change. Kefaya, which literally means "enough," is a slogan, an outcry, and a grassroots movement that has been organizing to reform our antique regime. Over 1,000 acts of civil disobedience have taken place all over Egypt in recent months. Participants have included the Bedouins of Sinai, the Nubians of Aswan, and even the Coptic monks of Upper Egypt.

Obviously, an American president elected on a platform of change is music to Egyptians' ears, and Mr. Obama will be a welcome guest. He is universally popular with Egyptians, Arabs and Muslims. But will average Egyptians really connect with him, let alone get a chance to meet him? With only 10 hours in the country, his visit will be carefully choreographed. Security forces will understandably separate him from the eager Egyptian crowds. Mr. Obama should consider scheduling a town meeting with representatives of Egyptian civil society. He had such a meeting when he visited France.

Mr. Obama will meet an Egyptian president who is still grieving over the untimely death in May of his 13-year-old grandson Mohammed. Despite the special bond between the two, Hosni Mubarak did not appear at the boy's funeral, or at that of the prime minister's wife a week earlier. This has led to widespread rumors about his health. Yet no native reporter dared to raise a question about the matter, as it is against the law to do so.

Mr. Mubarak is the third-longest serving Egyptian ruler in the country's last 2,000 years of recorded history. He has refused to step down or even appoint a vice president. There is widespread apprehension that he is grooming his son Gamal (46) to inherit the "throne." Over 60% of Egypt's population was born during Mr. Mubarak's tenure and have not known any other ruler. Many of them want "change" and are waiting anxiously for someone to help them bring it about.

Let's hope that whatever else he may have pressing -- Palestine, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan -- Mr. Obama will try to be that change agent. One remarkable thing he can do for Egypt and the rest of the Muslim world is to offer American help in making governance more sound. He should promote the rule of law by promoting democratic elections and term limits for democratically elected presidents.

This may appear to be long shot. Mr. Obama's advisers will likely argue against it to avoid offending his host. But such a bold move would win him the hearts and minds of the world's 1.4 billion Muslims forever. With his legendary gift for communication, Mr. Obama should find a way to propose the idea and offer a Marshall-like plan of financial incentives. He can then call on Egyptians and other Muslims to do the rest.

Mr. Ibrahim, an Egyptian sociologist and human rights advocate, was imprisoned by the Mubarak regime. He has lived in exile since 2007 and is currently a visiting professor at Harvard.

Friday, May 29, 2009

US Concern About Niger's Democratic Processes

U.S. Concern About Niger's Democratic Processes. By Ian Kelly
US State Department Spokesman, Office of the Spokesman
Bureau of Public Affairs, Washington, DC
May 29, 2009

The United States is concerned about recent announcements that President Tandja plans to hold a national referendum aimed at drafting a new constitution and permitting the extension of his time in office. We believe this risks undercutting Niger’s hard won social, political, and economic gains of the past decade, and would be a set-back for democracy, based on the regular, peaceful transition of political power and faithful adherence to constitutional due-process. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Niger’s Constitutional Court have also registered concerns about this issue.

President Tandja is about to complete two consecutive five-year terms after two successful free and fair elections under Niger’s democratic constitution. During that time, he has been a good steward of Niger’s national interests, attracting international investment and launching ambitious public works against a backdrop of social and political stability.

We have shared our views with President Tandja in the interest of continuing a strong and warm relationship with the Government of Niger and the Nigerien people as they move toward the end of his constitutional term in office.

PRN: 2009/521

Monday, May 4, 2009

As the U.S. Retreats, Iran Fills the Void

As the U.S. Retreats, Iran Fills the Void. By Amir Taheri
WSJ, May 04, 2009

Convinced that the Obama administration is preparing to retreat from the Middle East, Iran's Khomeinist regime is intensifying its goal of regional domination. It has targeted six close allies of the U.S.: Egypt, Lebanon, Bahrain, Morocco, Kuwait and Jordan, all of which are experiencing economic and/or political crises.

Iranian strategists believe that Egypt is heading for a major crisis once President Hosni Mubarak, 81, departs from the political scene. He has failed to impose his eldest son Gamal as successor, while the military-security establishment, which traditionally chooses the president, is divided. Iran's official Islamic News Agency has been conducting a campaign on that theme for months. This has triggered a counter-campaign against Iran by the Egyptian media.

Last month, Egypt announced it had crushed a major Iranian plot and arrested 68 people. According to Egyptian media, four are members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Tehran's principal vehicle for exporting its revolution.

Seven were Palestinians linked to the radical Islamist movement Hamas; one was a Lebanese identified as "a political agent from Hezbollah" by the Egyptian Interior Ministry. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah, claimed these men were shipping arms to Hamas in Gaza.

The arrests reportedly took place last December, during a crackdown against groups trying to convert Egyptians to Shiism. The Egyptian Interior Ministry claims this proselytizing has been going on for years. Thirty years ago, Egyptian Shiites numbered a few hundred. Various estimates put the number now at close to a million, but they are said to practice taqiyah (dissimulation), to hide their new faith.

But in its campaign for regional hegemony, Tehran expects Lebanon as its first prize. Iran is spending massive amounts of cash on June's general election. It supports a coalition led by Hezbollah, and including the Christian ex-general Michel Aoun. Lebanon, now in the column of pro-U.S. countries, would shift to the pro-Iran column.

In Bahrain, Tehran hopes to see its allies sweep to power through mass demonstrations and terrorist operations. Bahrain's ruling clan has arrested scores of pro-Iran militants but appears more vulnerable than ever. King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has contacted Arab heads of states to appeal for "urgent support in the face of naked threats," according to the Bahraini media.

The threats became sensationally public in March. In a speech at Masshad, Iran's principal "holy city," Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri, a senior aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, described Bahrain as "part of Iran." Morocco used the ensuing uproar as an excuse to severe diplomatic relations with Tehran. The rupture came after months of tension during which Moroccan security dismantled a network of pro-Iran militants allegedly plotting violent operations.

Iran-controlled groups have also been uncovered in Kuwait and Jordan. According to Kuwaiti media, more than 1,000 alleged Iranian agents were arrested and shipped back home last winter. According to the Tehran media, Kuwait is believed vulnerable because of chronic parliamentary disputes that have led to governmental paralysis.

As for Jordan, Iranian strategists believe the kingdom, where Palestinians are two-thirds of the population, is a colonial creation and should disappear from the map -- opening the way for a single state covering the whole of Palestine. Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have both described the division of Palestine as "a crime and a tragedy."

Arab states are especially concerned because Tehran has succeeded in transcending sectarian and ideological divides to create a coalition that includes Sunni movements such as Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, sections of the Muslim Brotherhood, and even Marxist-Leninist and other leftist outfits that share Iran's anti-Americanism.

Information published by Egyptian and other Arab intelligence services, and reported in the Egyptian and other Arab media, reveal a sophisticated Iranian strategy operating at various levels. The outer circle consists of a number of commercial companies, banks and businesses active in various fields and employing thousands of locals in each targeted country. In Egypt, for example, police have uncovered more than 30 such Iranian "front" companies, according to the pan-Arab daily newspaper Asharq Alawsat. In Syria and Lebanon, the numbers reportedly run into hundreds.

In the next circle, Iranian-financed charities offer a range of social and medical services and scholarships that governments often fail to provide. Another circle consists of "cultural" centers often called Ahl e Beit (People of the House) supervised by the offices of the supreme leader. These centers offer language classes in Persian, English and Arabic, Islamic theology, Koranic commentaries, and traditional philosophy -- alongside courses in information technology, media studies, photography and filmmaking.

Wherever possible, the fourth circle is represented by branches of Hezbollah operating openly. Where that's not possible, clandestine organizations do the job, either alone or in conjunction with Sunni radical groups.

The Khomeinist public diplomacy network includes a half-dozen satellite television and radio networks in several languages, more than 100 newspapers and magazines, a dozen publishing houses, and thousands of Web sites and blogs controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The network controls thousands of mosques throughout the region where preachers from Iran, or trained by Iranians, disseminate the Khomeinist revolutionary message.

Tehran has also created a vast network of non-Shiite fellow travelers within the region's political and cultural elites. These politicians and intellectuals may be hostile to Khomeinism on ideological grounds -- but they regard it as a powerful ally in a common struggle against the American "Great Satan."

Khomeinist propaganda is trying to portray Iran as a rising "superpower" in the making while the United States is presented as the "sunset" power. The message is simple: The Americans are going, and we are coming.

Tehran plays a patient game. Wherever possible, it is determined to pursue its goals through open political means, including elections. With pro-American and other democratic groups disheartened by the perceived weakness of the Obama administration, Tehran hopes its allies will win all the elections planned for this year in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

"There is this perception that the new U.S. administration is not interested in the democratization strategy," a senior Lebanese political leader told me. That perception only grows as President Obama calls for an "exit strategy" from Afghanistan and Iraq. Power abhors a vacuum, which the Islamic Republic of Iran is only too happy to fill.

Amir Taheri's new book, "The Persian Night: Iran Under the Khomeinist Revolution," is published by Encounter Books.