Monday, February 27, 2012

Revisiting that General Assembly Resolution on Syria

Revisiting that General Assembly Resolution on Syria

by Ronday Hauben
Part 1-The Monday meeting

Why did the current president of the UN General Assembly (GA), Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser of Qatar, call a special meeting of the General Assembly on February 13, a meeting, as several nations noted, outside the regular procedures of the General Assembly?

The notice for the GA meeting was unusually short, as UN members were only notified on the Thursday night before for a meeting the following Monday morning. So it was not surprising that there were a number of complaints that in addition to procedural violations, normal consultation channels for calling a GA meeting had not been followed.

As the meeting unfolded on Monday, several delegations provided explanations of the customary procedures that had been violated, suggesting that the President of the GA was using his office to manipulate a procedure at the UN to further the political goals of his nation. Also, several of those speaking at the GA on Monday referred to the precedent this was setting for GA meetings in the future. Such a precedent would make it more likely that future Presidents of the GA will call meetings contrary to GA procedures when the person in the presidency has a political purpose.

The meeting went on all day on Monday with several speaking for and against the GA President’s purpose for the meeting to condemn Syria for its clampdown on allegedly “peaceful protest.” Several of those speaking made clear their view that the violent acts of armed opposition and foreign forces who are acting in Syria cannot be considered acts of “peaceful protest”.

Several who spoke referred to the Arab League Observer Mission Report which had verified the presence of armed groups and the Syrian Free Army, and that these armed insurgents were responsible for violent actions against the Syrian government and civilians.

The proposal of the Observer Mission to continue for another month and to work toward a political solution had been quickly dismissed by the Qatar Presidency of the Arab League, just as now the Qatar President of the GA failed to mention the important contribution of the Observer Mission to the understanding of what is happening in Syria.

In his statement to the GA on Monday, the Russian Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, explained that his nation “regretted the ending of the Observer Mission” and took note of this fact.

Similarly others speaking referred to the importance of this mission.

One of the most comprehensive statements of what is happening both in Syria and at the United Nations was presented by Ambassador Maria Rubiales de Chamorro of Nicaragua on Monday. Her statement deserves serious attention. Following is a summary of her presentation.

The Nicaraguan Ambassador explained that at a Summit meeting of ALBA in early February, an analysis of the situation in Syria was discussed and a condemnation was issued of the policy of the interference in the domestic affairs of Syria, as well as the effort to destabilize Syria.

Also ALBA condemned what it called “armed violence by irregular groups supported by foreign powers against the Syrian people.”

Calling for a return to calm in Syria and support for peaceful reform and national dialogue, she referred to the steps being taken by the government of Syria to arrive at a political solution to the conflict.

But what is interfering with such efforts, she explained, is the fact that the “same script that the forces of NATO and their allies implemented in Libya” is now being applied to Syria.

Ambassador Rubiales de Chamorro pointed to the actions of NATO and its allies against Libya where “these same actors carried out the same practices and policies”.

The “play” in process against Syria that she described, included several acts. She listed these acts as:

2)Arming of Terrorists
3)Military Intervention
4)Destruction of the Country
5)Juicy Contracts for the Reconstruction of that country that they themselves have destroyed

The Ambassador called on other members of the UN to make clear that “we do not share the hypocritical view of life that is now being labeled R2P.” (Responsibility to Protect)

R2P, she said, “cannot be allowed to become a devious argument to justify foreign intervention in the domestic affairs of states.”

She explained that the Arab League Observer Mission Report had documented that Syria had complied with the protocol setting up the mission and the Arab Plan of Action.

The Syrian government withdrew members of the military from the streets. It released thousands of detainees who had not been involved in acts of violence. It facilitated the work of the foreign media. But yet the very report documenting these conclusions is “now being swept under the carpet,” she noted.

Similarly, the Nicaraguan Ambassador expressed her nation’s appreciation for the initiative of the Russian Federation to offer to mediate a diplomatic, political and peaceful solution to the crisis. She conveyed the full support from her President, Daniel Ortega, to Russia and China for the work they had done in the Security Council in favor of negotiations and a peaceful resolution of the conflict and against instigating a war against Syria.

Despite the fact that several other nations had spoken at Monday’s meeting against the imposition of a regime change program by the Arab League for Syria, when the GA President ended Monday’s meeting, he only summed up the sentiments of those supporting the Arab League program.

The impact of these abuses of UN GA precedents and procedures is that not only the people and government of Syria, but also the very integrity of the UN system itself, are being undermined and jeopardized. The actions of the subsequent meeting that followed on Thursday demonstrated this abuse ever more clearly.

Part II – The Thursday Meeting

At the Monday GA meeting, Bashar al-Jafari, the Syrian Ambassador effectively challenged not only the substance of the meeting, but also the abuse of the precedent under which it was called. The meeting had allegedly been called for the GA to discuss a Human Rights Report issued by the Human Rights Council in December of 2011. The Syrian Ambassador pointed out that this was an inappropriate activity as the GA Resolution governing how Human Rights reports from the Human Rights Council were brought to the GA was violated.

The procedure established in Resolution A/Res/65/281 (20 July 2011) was that the Human Rights Council Report to the GA was to be presented in the 3rd Committee of the GA and subsequently in the GA. The Report would cover the period of the prior year from October 1 to September 30 of the current year. The presentation of a December 2011 Human Rights Council Report to a GA Plenary meeting in February 2012 was violating the mandate set in the GA Resolution. Hence holding the GA meeting on Monday, February 13 in violation of the procedures contained in A/Res/65/281 was an illegal activity by the GA President. The Syrian Ambassador had asked that the Monday meeting be suspended to await an impartial decision by the UN Secretariat Legal Council on the actions being taken by the GA President.

The GA President refused to accommodate this request and just continued with his plan for the Monday meeting.

When the Thursday meeting was held, however, in recognition of the correctness of the Syrian Ambassador’s legal objection, the GA Agenda designation for the meeting was changed. The new Agenda designation was under the GA agenda item 34, “Prevention of Armed Conflict”.

Such maneuvers help to demonstrate that the very holding of the GA meeting itself was not in line with the procedures or provisions for General Assembly activity.

If the GA is acting outside of its processes and procedures, then the stage is set for it to go on to endorse a resolution contrary to the Charter of the UN.

The Charter of the UN clearly states that if the Security Council is exercising the functions it is assigned with regard to any dispute, the General Assembly cannot “make any recommendation with regard to that dispute or situation unless the Security Council so requests.”(Chapter II, Article 12[1])

Yet practically the same resolution that was vetoed at the Security Council on February 4, was brought to the GA for a vote on February 16. The Russian Federation asked to amend the resolution with the amendments it had proposed in the Security Council so that the resolution would conform to the requirements of the UN Charter.

These amendments included a provision to not only require that Syrian government military and armed forces withdraw from cities and towns, but that this happen “in conjunction with the end of attacks by armed groups against state institutions and quarters of cities and towns.”

Another provision of the Russian amendments was to replace the requirement of meeting a time table set by the Arab League with the provision that the process would “take into account” the time table set by the Arab League, adding that this would be done “without prejudging the outcome.”

Such amendments could help to prevent the Arab League process from becoming a process in support of the armed insurgents against the Syrian government, and hence a mechanism for regime change, in violation of the obligations of the Charter to respect the sovereignty, and the territorial integrity of Syria. The sponsors of the GA Resolution refused to consider the Russian Federation’s requested amendments.

At the GA meeting on Thursday to consider the resolution against Syria under the Agenda item “Prevention of Armed Conflict”, the representatives of several nations spoke against the resolution, objecting to the fact that it did not take into account that there is an armed insurgency operating against the Syrian government and people.

Instead of the resolution recognizing this problem, as the Arab League Observer’s Mission had recommended, the GA Resolution supported the armed insurgency by requiring the Syrian government to cease military action against that insurgency, but not providing any other means to prevent the actions of the insurgents against the government or people of Syria.

Speaking against the GA Resolution, the Venezuelan Ambassador, Jorge Valero explained:

“The Draft resolution denies the Syrian State its right to protect its population and to ensure internal peace and security. The draft asks it to give up the privileges granted to it by the Constitution for ensuring the country’s stability. The draft does not call for – as proposed in the amendment submitted by the Russian Federation, and I quote, it does not call for – ‘all sections of the Syrian opposition to dissociate themselves from armed groups engaged in acts of violence’ nor does it, and I continue to quote from the Russian amendment, nor does it ‘urge Member States and all those in a position to do so to use their influence to prevent continued violence by such groups’.”

Ambassador Valero pointed out the mechanisms of the Arab League plan for Syria that are a violation of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and pointed to how the Resolution supported the armed insurgency against the Syrian government and people. This, he explained, was but a repeat of the acts taken by the UN against Libya. Also he expressed his support for the initiatives of the Russian Federation and China, “which have prevented the Security Council from being used to violate the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Several others who spoke against the draft resolution, either before or after the vote, expressed similar objections, as well as the disappointment that the Russian Federation amendments had not been accepted by the sponsors of the GA resolution.

The vote was taken. More than one quarter of the UN members either did not vote at all, or voted against or abstained. Even some of those who voted in favor of the resolution expressed their support for the Russian amendments.

Speaking after the vote, the Syrian Ambassador expressed his concern not only for his nation, but also for the UN as a whole. He expressed the concern that if the UN continues to send the “erroneous message” that it is acceptable to violate the sovereignty of member states, then this will impact the UN itself morally and politically. “And we will have destroyed the large body of normative efforts for the past 60 years,” he warned.

Watching the process first at the UN Security Council with the draft resolution against Syria, and then at the GA with the draft resolution against Syria, what is surprising is that in this situation, the veto protected the Principles of the Charter at the Security Council, while at the GA, the members could not prevent the abuse of their procedures and subsequently of the Charter.

Under an agenda item for “Prevention of Armed Conflict” many members voted to support an armed insurgency against a member nation in clear violation of the Charter. One member expressed her hope that the warning given by those who opposed the resolution would not prove true. Grenada’s Ambassador said that she was voting for the resolution to provide diplomatic support to help the government and people of Syria end all the bloodshed. She said she was not voting on or for a resolution that directly or indirectly or through interpretation or reinterpretation would be used as the basis for the removal of government, military intervention or other acts against the Charter of the UN in letter or in spirit. She said that she was expressing these understandings with a prayer and a hope. She didn’t acknowledge, however, the abuse of Libya that had occurred under Security Council resolutions, or the difficulty of reversing the support for the armed insurgency in Syria that some nations would claim they had license to provide based on this GA resolution.

What was important about her statement, however, was that she demonstrated that at least she had heard the objections to the resolution. Though she voted in support of the resolution, she acknowledged that if the objections proved true, such a use of the resolution would not be in accord with why she voted in favor of it. Though she said that her vote was not intended to provide a pretext for regime change or foreign intervention in Syria, unfortunately such a vote does little to protect a fraternal member nation of the UN from abuse.

Ronday Hauben is Winner of the 2008 Silver Elizabeth Neuffer Prize for Excellence in Journalism at the United Nations

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Mai Nasara-YOU meet ME at the Library

Mai Nasara-YOU meet ME at the Library

Being a rejoinder by Ifeoma Lillian Esiri to Mai Nasara's "Meet me at the Library" speech delivered on the occasion of Nigeria's LNG Literature prize award ceremony

"There is a passion to giving, there has to be, and those who give, give to where that passion lies."~~Ifeoma Lillian Esiri

In your acceptance speech ‘Meet Me at the Library’ delivered at Nigeria LNG’s Public Presentation and Award Ceremony, you expressed the hope that ‘the one thing that would mostly be on our minds would be libraries’. Some of that ‘hope’ I suppose, is being realized, as one of the things I intend to talk about in this reply to you is ‘libraries’. The other is ‘giving’.


I am glad Benjamin Franklin fascinates you because he is the beginning of my discussion of libraries. Franklin was great in many things, including author. He was an insatiable reader but there were no libraries in his time, and the absence of printing presses that could mass produce books in America meant that the few books available were quite expensive and came from England. Franklin got his friends to give not only their books, but money to buy more books. Thus he was able to establish the Library Company of Philadelphia, one of America’s earliest libraries, credited by some as America’s first public library. This is the Wikipedia entry of that effort:

"Franklin and his friends were mostly of moderate means, and none alone could have afforded a representative library such as a gentleman of leisure might expect to assemble. By pooling their resources in pragmatic Franklinian fashion, the contribution of each created the book capital of all."

I have discussed Franklin at some length for two reasons which will become apparent.

You asked ‘Can we truly say we have libraries in this country?’ I answer – Yes, we do. They may not be in the thousands, may not have grand interiors and may not have extensive collections, but they are libraries and they serve a purpose. Zaccheus Onumba Dibiaezue Memorial Libraries has had a community library at Awolowo Road, Ikoyi since 2000. It also has five libraries in different Local Government Primary schools and one in a State Secondary school in Ikoyi. Together they have gotten hundreds of Government school pupils and students reading. We are not the only ones. Mrs Liz Jibuno of Didi Museum has established a library in Delta State as part of the Museum’s Delta State initiative. That library serves its community and is a great resource for many NYSC members there. There are many others, but whether one or one thousand matters not: the fact is that they are there, making the effort. That is why I am particularly saddened by your ‘sound and fury’ and ‘conspiracy’ nonsense.

You complain of small rooms ‘stuffed with many colourful books telling stories of summer, snow and cookies’ and large rooms big ‘enough to house a thousand titles, like The Runaway Hero, The Great Fall, Heads and Tales, One Little Mosquito and Eno’s Story’ all written by your friends, as well as ‘Jelly Baby’ written by your mentor, but which instead, have very few titles. Both types of room, you claim, ‘are pompously labelled “Library”’.

Now, let me go back to Franklin. You say that you "learned" that good "leaders and role models" (presumably like Franklin) "take special pride in knowledge and do everything to contribute to the education of the young". Sadly, I have to say that your learning is flawed. The end result of learning is emulation: you try to equal or surpass your role model, in this instance Franklin. But you haven’t told us that you have brought all your friends together and that they have not only given significant volumes of books but have also made monetary contributions for the purchase of more books and that we should soon expect the launch of the Library Company of Nigeria. What you have told us on the other hand is that small rooms are stuffed and large ones left empty. The point Mai Nasara is this: summer, snow or cookies, large or small, empty or full - those "pompously labelled" libraries are the result of someone’s effort. You have no right to belittle or insult them, particularly if you yourself are not active in that area.


To adapt Kennedy’s famous words I would say to you Mai Nasara – Ask not what Mo Ibrahim can do for your country – ask what you can do for your country.

Using John Wood’s model, a library, according to you, would cost $5,000. So, you calculated that $5 million from Dr. Ibrahim’s foundation will yield 1,000 libraries, and an additional $200,000 each year would produce 40 more. Well, I’ve been doing some arithmetic of my own and when I divide $100,000 (which I believe is what you have received by winning the NLNG Literature Prize) by $5,000, I get 20 libraries. It would have been so much more inspiring if you had started your call for 1,000 libraries by telling us you were putting up the first 20, or even 10. By all means get Mo Ibrahim and those like him to establish hundreds of libraries. But are you entitled to ask of others sacrifices you do not make yourself?

My second reason for speaking at length about Franklin is the sense I get that in looking to Mo Ibrahim’s $5 million, you feel that for giving to be worthwhile or indeed effective, it has to be on that huge scale. Franklin and his friends were men of "moderate means" but "the contribution of each created the book capital of all". The donation he gave the town of Franklin was only 116 volumes. There is a passion to giving, there has to be, and those who give, give to where that passion lies.

You say our children "must gain unfettered access to books" as the only way forward and you are quite right. When we opened our first school library at St. George’s School for Girls, Falomo, I urged publishers to get children hooked on books by making frequent book donations to libraries. I pointed out that in so doing they would, so to speak, be killing two birds with one stone: once a reader always a reader and books sales for them would go up. No one listened and no one gave, but its logic is very simple and it baffled me that they didn’t get it.

Here’s how it works. The late Cyprian Ekwensi took part in one of our children’s programmes and afterwards asked his publishers to give us two copies each of all his books. They did. To this day, he is our most read children’s author because we have a lot of his books. We have also had to replace every single one of those books many times over and we have paid to do so. Children will always be children: with them the life of a book is very short. Once they have read a book and liked it, their friends will get to know, will want to read it and will ask for it. And we will have to get it! I cannot imagine what else an author desires more than that his books should be read. And it all started with a donation of two copies of each title.

A good number of our books come from being donated. There is an endless stream of wonderful people whose children outgrow their books and they bring them to us. I cannot recall who gave us Achebe’s ‘Chike and the River’, but we have had to replace that many times, along with his ‘How the Leopard Got its Claws’ (I am truly puzzled when you say that it was in your county library in America that you finally got hold of this book. We’ve always had several copies in all our libraries and the book is not out of print. It’s available today at N230 from Heinemann – but I digress).

Giving is in many forms; one’s time, money, ideas, property-it’s a long list. You have won a prestigious prize. The selection process was transparent and had integrity, but it was a panel of five adult judges who told you that you were the best. Yet, those judges are not your audience, your book was not written for them. So I would advise that you do not snub invitations to discuss your work with children. They truly are the hand that will feed you. Not every Newbery (the annual American award for the ‘most distinguished contribution to literature for children’) or Carnegie (the British equivalent) winner is in print today. A publisher will not continue the publication of a book children do not read. If children do not take to your book, you have won nothing. They are the ones you must seek out, impress and inspire.

You have set yourself a rendezvous which might take some time: meanwhile, why not keep one with me – at the library, 196 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, 10 a.m. on Friday 30th March, 2012? But don’t show up without books – whether written by you, or your friends, or from your ‘avant-garde publishing maverick’. The children will be there: they always are. So – ‘at the library’ – the children and I will be waiting.

Mrs. Ifeoma Lilian Esiri is passionate about children and their education, and is a trustee of Zaccheus Onumba Dibiaezue Memorial Libraries.

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Little known Mai Nasara wins LNG literature prize.

Little known Mai Nasara wins LNG literature prize

Meet Me at the Library: Getting Nigeria to Book a Date with Development.

Being a speech by Adeleke “Mai Nasara” Adeyemi, author, The Missing Clock: Winner, The Nigeria Prize for Literature, 2011; delivered at Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos on February 6, 2012, at Public Presentation and Award Ceremony, hosted by Nigeria LNG Ltd.

"The evidence of this conspiracy can be found in... the private school with a small room, stuffed with many colourful books telling stories of summer, snow and cookies. We find it in the public school with a room large enough to house a thousand titles... but instead has a few shelves and chairs, and even fewer titles. Both rooms are pompously labelled 'Library'.”~~~Mai Nasara


A certain 18th century English poet woke up one day and penned the following words: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast”. I am not sure what Alexander Pope was thinking about that particular day but I know he was right about the human heart and its penchant for hope. It was sheer hope that drove me to enter my first published work for The Nigeria Prize for Literature.

If I learnt nothing else from this experience, I have learned that hope drives us towards success even beyond our imagination. I dared hope to make the shortlist; I won the Prize.

Today, I dare to hope again. This time, it is my hope that by the end of this event and long afterwards, the one thing that would mostly be on our minds, and lips, would be libraries. Yes, libraries. I will tell you why in a moment.

Before I talk about libraries, I would like to thank the Panel of Judges for finding The Missing Clock worthy of honour. Similarly, I salute Nigeria LNG Limited for their no-holds-barred sponsorship of The Nigeria Prize for Literature, along with its twin, The Nigeria Prize for Science.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my life has been much enriched by literature. The stories I have read in books have ensured my spiritual, mental, physical, and, yes, financial well-being. It is for this reason that I was not surprised when I came across this quote from none other than Chinua Achebe: “Stories are not just meant to make us laugh; our lives depend on them.”

I have always loved books. My fondest memories of childhood are of the times I spent immersed in books.

Born to Yoruba parents, I grew up in Katsina State, a mere Nigerian boy among many other Nigerian children. That’s why I’m "Mai Nasara" and don’t feel dichotomized. At Government College Katsina, GCK, I was at home in a sea of humanity, a veritable tapestry woven from far-flung lands as of my Japanese woodwork teacher, who put up a plaque at the entrance of the school library that I still see today in my head: “A school is a book in which is written the future of the nation”.

Time will fail me to talk about my English Language teacher, the Ghanaian Mr Sereboh, with his ever-present cane (every one of us knew how to say ‘bulala’ in reverential tones) that thwacked so much more on the blackboard than on buttocks; my Filipino Technical Drawing teacher who, without asking our permission, propped herself up on a box to enable her carry on against all odds at the blackboard.

I was a mere Nigerian boy—until March 1987. That was the first time religious riots came to my adopted home of Katsina. As we embarked on our exodus to the Army barracks in town, because the parents insisted it was unsafe to stay overnight amidst the ‘other’ townspeople, silent stares and stony silences transpired among differently believing neighbours and classmates, employers and employees.

Before that watershed day, I waded through the motley space of the weekly Yankutungu Market on my way home with my childhood friend, CNS Okereke. Although I grew up having several other friends, I remember CNS with fond affection because his family home held a magnet for me: shelves bulging with books and yet more books along with myriad magazines—Reader’s Digest, National Geographic, New African, West Africa, and many others.

Unlike today, most publications of the time were safe for children to read. I bought two newspapers every waking day, from my pocket money; my father bought his own two to make for a bounteous binge-a-day. From my father, and others like Benjamin Franklin, whom I encountered in art and science, I learned that good parents, leaders and role models take special pride in knowledge and do everything to contribute to the education of the young. Mr Franklin in particular fascinates me.

A town in Massachusetts in the United States named itself after Franklin in honour of the famous Pennsylvanian. In return, Franklin, who is revered as the founding father of American Independence, donated books for use by the local residents. He was asked to donate a church bell instead but declined, on the basis that “sense” was preferable to “sound.”

Unfortunately, Nigerian children today feed their minds with “sound and fury, signifying nothing” as William Shakespeare wrote. But it is not entirely their fault. For some reason, those of us who grew up reading good books and learning from stories in them seem to have conspired to deny the young generation the benefit of that knowledge and more.

The evidence of this conspiracy can be found in many schools, and indeed communities. We find it in the private school with a small room, stuffed with many colourful books telling stories of summer, snow and cookies. We find it in the public school with a room large enough to house a thousand titles, like The Runaway Hero, The Great Fall, Heads and Tales, One Little Mosquito and Eno’s Story, by my friends, Uche Peter Umez, Chinyere Obi-Obasi, Yemi Sanusi, Ndidi Chiazor-Enenmor and Ayodele Olofintuade, respectively, and Jelly Baby, by my mentor, Philip Begho, a master storyteller, nestling side-by-side with Mabel Segun and the Dr Seuss’ classics; but instead has a few shelves and chairs, and even fewer titles. Both rooms are pompously labelled “Library”.

But, can we truly say we have libraries in this country?

In a civilized society, the public library is the visible face of government.

As John N. Berry III so rightly observed: “The public library is an excellent model of government at its best. A locally controlled public good, it serves every individual freely, in as much or as little depth as he or she wants.”

Books do change people. Wonder of wonders, they have been known to change society at large.

We will never grow a civilized and responsible citizenry without the book. It is not a luxury; it is a lifeline. There will never be justification to banish the book for only with it can we frustrate the fanatic with his fateful folly.

Community libraries lie at the bedrock of American greatness, a reality I have seen in the public library in the county where I have lived for some time now. I have roamed its length and breadth and depths (yes, it has a basement floor brimming with children’s books for various grades). My wife would later summarize my first trip there to colleagues (who probably all their lives have taken the library for granted) in these words: “My husband was just like a boy in a candy store!”

It was in this library that I finally got hold of Chinua Achebe’s How the Leopard Got its Claws, a boon of a book for children and adults alike that perfectly illustrates the 200-year-old truism by French nobleman Joseph de Maistre: “Every country has the government it deserves” (written on August 15, 1811), often quoted anonymously as, “People get the leadership they deserve.” (Sometimes rendered vice versa as “People deserve the leadership they get.”)

I was a little skeptical when the thought entered my mind to recommend a book, written by a Nigerian author whose entry made the Initial Shortlist for The Nigeria Prize for Literature, 2011, for purchase by my county library. How thrilled I was, really to the marrow, when just days after, acting on a hunch, I logged into my library account and, searching, saw that the book had been purchased by the library!

Ladies and gentlemen, just imagine what a country we will have if children from Anambra to Zamfara, Abakaliki to Zungeru, Akure to Zaria, all grow up reading stories of hope, courage, patriotism, responsible citizenship, of our common humanity, written by some of our best authors! It most certainly won’t be one kept running on barrels of innocent blood spilled hither and thither, every now and then, again and again.

I agree there is a decline in reading culture but can we truly say the books are available for our kids even if they wanted to read? Why can’t we have modern libraries in our schools or public areas?

I asked that last question once and someone said, “Ah, but who can fund such projects?”

“Mo Ibrahim,” I sputtered, before realizing many were listening for my answer. Goodness, help!

I started ‘following’ Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim, one of the pioneers of GSM telephony, once I came across something he wrote about an inductee of TIME 100 in 2011. An initiative of Time news-magazine, that annual list brims with profiles of movers and shakers of our world; every edition is a complete curriculum of lessons in leadership and development.

Dr. Ibrahim wrote on the vision of Bineta Diop, founder of Femmes Africa Solidarit√©, an organization with a focus on women-led peace-building work in the most fragile of states on the African continent: “Women are the economic drivers of Africa, on average working twice as many productive hours as men. They are also the constituency most incentivized to build peace. A gender-based approach to conflict prevention has the potential to transform the continent.”

Indeed, women have a significant role to play in Africa’s development—from Algeria to Zimbabwe, armed with stories of ‘How-to’ for one another and their children, swappable at the well, mill and clothesline. For advancing this view, and so eloquently, I have come to regard Dr Ibrahim as a true visionary, a very wealthy and generous one to boot.

Dr. Ibrahim’s foundation administers the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. The award is a US$5 million initial payment (it is believed to be the world’s largest, exceeding the US$1.3m Nobel Peace Prize) and a US$200,000 annual payment, for life, to the African head of state who delivers the most security, health, education and economic development to his (or her) constituents and democratically transfers power to their successor. The foundation, much like the Nigeria LNG-sponsored The Nigeria Prizes, doesn’t always succeed in realizing its yearly goal.

It is my conviction that Dr. Ibrahim’s foundation would even better promote leadership, development and democracy in Africa by paying heed to Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi’s prescription: “If we are to teach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.”

The dividends of development will be more visible if Dr. Ibrahim, for instance, redirects his attention and mammoth resources to endowing a network of public libraries, customized to helping our children play catch-up with their peers around the world; give each a head start.

I assure Dr. Ibrahim—along with any other takers out there—that they would, to get the point across more forcefully using an Americanism, get more bang for the buck by building libraries, each determined by John Wood (details later) to cost US$5,000. Just imagine the alternative trail that could be blazed with one Mo Ibrahim Prize money and dole-outs over a ten-year period!

A little math will bring this out clearly: US$5 million equals 1,000 Room to Read-type, ready-to-admit libraries! And from annual add-on ‘maintenance’: US$200,000 equals 40 more libraries, on a yearly basis!

I look around and see many Mo Ibrahims here—which is why I dare to hope. I believe that as individuals, and corporate bodies, we too can join in this noble cause. And we would be in really good company. The Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) built 2,509 public libraries: 1,689 in the United States, 660 in Britain and Ireland, 125 in Canada, and others in Australia, New Zealand, Serbia, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific Island nation of Fiji.

When he made out his last grant, the total number of libraries in the United States came to 3,500, nearly half of them built with construction grants made available by Carnegie. The first of Carnegie’s public libraries opened in his hometown of Dunfermline in Scotland, in 1883. The locally quarried sandstone building dazzled all with its stylized sun bearing a carved motto at the entrance: “Let there be light”.

Following hard in the footsteps of Carnegie is former Microsoft top executive, John Wood. His Room to Read, an award-winning non-profit headquartered in San Francisco, California, USA, is founded on the belief that “World Change Starts with Educated Children.” The organization focuses on improving literacy and gender equality in education in the developing world.

Working in collaboration with local communities, partner NGOs and governments, Room to Read develops literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and supports girls to complete secondary school with the relevant life skills to succeed in life. It currently serves communities in nine countries across Asia and Africa, with plans to expand into a tenth country, Tanzania.

You just must get John Wood’s memoir, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, to read! Today, Room to Read has built nearly five times as many libraries as Carnegie! Incredibly, in 2010, nearly 9 million books (that’s 95 every minute!) were checked out from Room to Read libraries—now numbering 12,500, a milestone achieved over 10 years.

Now all I want to do with this opportunity is to sell John Wood’s model, powered by a one-liner conviction, to Uncle Mo and a smattering of other African entrepreneurs and philanthropists: “It takes educated children to change the world.” A not-so-trivia: Room to Read is now opening new libraries at an astonishing rate of six a day. Compare McDonald’s one new outlet every 1.08 days.

If you are a children’s literature enthusiast, or simply a literature buff, you would give John Wood more than a hug; you would kiss him. You see, for literature to be institutionalized anywhere, it must be indigenized—-something Room to Read is keenly aware of and has been working on.

Hear Wood: “Throughout the developing world, most children don’t have access to children’s books in their local language. The few books that are available are either second-hand books in foreign languages or low-quality, black and white books for more mature readers—not the type of literature that is meant to spark a child’s imagination, curiosity, and a desire to learn to read.”

Of course we can and indeed have built a network of public institutions for the common good. A military ruler once built, by executive fiat, expansive twin office buildings in every local government in the land, to convince the people he meant business with his two-party theory. O that these had been the first set of public libraries!

I make bold to say to you today that there is no other way to go—forward. Our children, especially girls, must gain unfettered access to books and the stories in them because a person’s thinking skills—the conceptualization of ideas and their expressions—are heavily dependent on what they read and learn.

Richard Crabbe, former chairman of African Publishers Network has pointed out that “If education is the road out of poverty (the pervading state of affairs in much of Africa), books are the wheels needed for the journey.” Only from rubbing minds with characters in stories from all over the world will we succeed in inculcating in our people, starting as children, the meziere m ya (Igbo: “Do it a little better for me”) mentality.

My friend (I hope!) Muhtar Bakare, the avant-garde publishing maverick, it was who with his Farafina publishing imprint bullhorn got me into preaching the mantra: ‘Telling our own stories’. I’m happy to announce to the world that he has a working paper for realizing the dream of community libraries.

If you have been friends with me for anything up to a week you’d have heard me share the following: “The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them.” That quote is from Barry L. Lopez, who went on to say something to the effect that sometimes people need stories more than food to live!

Dear parents and guardians, let us prime our children to go questing... to grow up wanting to read, ask questions, and learn. This is the only way we are guaranteed a future as a nation.

Many of us dream of a better Nigeria for the future generation and rightly so. What baffles me is the seeming sense of helplessness in the land. And hopelessness, which as the poet Pope tells us, is contrary to nature.

Slowly but steadily, Nigeria became a place where the state of mind is ‘Anything Goes’—-what I think Wole Soyinka codified as the doctrine of itirayi. That word is a neologism whose etymology (I like to think the Greek ‘etumos’ is related to the Yoruba ‘itumo’) is simply something contrived from the English verb to ‘try’... as in, to cheat or cut corners!

Well, if you’ve read enough stories you know there is no such thing as cutting corners... and getting away with it! By now you have become a believer in process.

No one seems to know if or how we can achieve our dream Nigeria. Well, I do. I have the perfect answer ready; I have hidden it carefully in Banji’s story in 'The Missing Clock.' All I ask of you today is to put this story and the many others Nigerian authors are telling on a shelf in a library near you, to await discovery by eager hands reaching out to make a contribution.

My wife may not agree that sartorially I’m well-suited for today’s occasion. But if nothing else, my choice apparel is a visual aid for the point of the day.

The garment, as many of you know, is a kaftan. But less known is the icing on the cake. Well, in a manner of speaking.

I’m talking about my cap.

Like the garment it complements, this cap typifies a people. Curiously, the cap is called Mu hadu banki, Hausa for ‘Let’s meet at the bank.’

The origin of such a designation for a mere cap I’m afraid you shall have to find out yourself. Surely that’s not asking too much of you.

While you should not bank on this—or any cap for that matter—to get money from the bank, I’m capitalizing on it to help you get the picture of what I’m convinced lies at the core of why we the people of these Amalgamated Territories of Niger Area (ATNA, I say) have not been able to forge a common identity for ourselves, a rallying point from which core values can become consolidated for building a union with privileges and opportunities accessible to the vast majority.

I have directions for you: Meet me at the library—Mu hadu labri. But don’t show up without children! Whether born to you or any for whom you bear a burden: to see her metamorphose into a Nigerian... calibrated to my benchmark pre-1987 settings, upgraded to the digital Internet age of course. On such children alone we must bank to build the Nigeria of our dreams.

Like a fitting cap, that would be our crowning achievement—and our generation, with its angst and anger, follies and frustrations, would not have been wasted.

If truly we want a better Nigeria, it can happen even in our lifetimes. But we must start now.

At the library—I’ll be waiting.

See you.

Thank you.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Statement from Kurt Haskell, Delta 253 Passenger

Statement from Kurt Haskell, Delta 253 Passenger

by Kurt Haskell,
Thursday, February 16, 2012

Every victim of a crime in Michigan is entitled to make a statement in open court regarding the impact of the crime on their life. The statement is limited to the victim’s physical, emotional and financial well being as it relates to the crime. Keep that in mind as you read my statement.

Below is a copy of the victim impact statement I gave today at the Underwear Bomber sentencing hearing. When reading my statement, keep in mind that I am a practicing attorney in the State of Michigan.

In addition, I regularly practice in the Court the hearings are taking place at and therefore, I am somewhat limited as to what I can say. We were limited to 5 minutes each.

I wish to thank the Court for allowing me these 5 minutes to make my statement. My references to the government in this statement refer to the Federal Government excluding this Court and the prosecution.

On Christmas Day 2009, my wife and I were returning from an African safari and had a connecting flight through Amsterdam. As we waited for our flight, we sat on the floor next to the boarding gate.

What I witnessed while sitting there and subsequent events have changed my life forever. While I sat there, I witnessed Umar dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt, being escorted around security by a man in a tan suit who spoke perfect American English and who aided Umar in boarding without a passport.

The airline gate worker initially refused Umar boarding until the man in the tan suit intervened. The event meant nothing to me at the time. Little did I know that Umar would try to kill me a few hours later as our flight approached Detroit.

The final 10 minutes of our flight after the attack were the worst minutes of my life. During those 10 minutes I sat paralyzed in fear. Unfortunately, what happened next has had an even greater impact on my life and has saddened me further.

When we landed, I was shocked that our plane taxied up to the gate. I was further shocked that we were forced to sit on the plane for 20 minutes with powder from the so called bomb all over the cabin.

The officers that boarded the plane did nothing to ensure our safety and did not check for accomplices or other explosive devices. Several passengers trampled through parts of the bomb as they exited the plane. We were then taken into the terminal with our unchecked carry on bags. Again, there was no concern for our safety even though Umar told the officers that there was another bomb on board as he exited the plane.

I wondered why nobody was concerned about our safety, accomplices or other bombs and the lack of concern worried me greatly. I immediately told the FBI my story in order to help catch the accomplice I had seen in Amsterdam. It soon became obvious that the FBI wasn’t interested in what I had to say, which upset me further.

For one month the government refused to admit the existence of the man in the tan suit before changing course and admitting his existence in an ABC News article on January 22, 2010. That was the last time the government talked about this man. The video that would prove the truth of my account has never been released.

I continue to be emotional upset that the video has not been released. The Dutch police, meanwhile, in this article (show article), also confirmed that Umar did not show his passport in Amsterdam which also meant that he didn’t go through security as both are in the same line in Amsterdam. It upsets me that the government refuses to admit this fact.

I became further saddened from this case, when Patrick Kennedy of the State Department during Congressional hearings, admitted that Umar was a known terrorist, was being followed, and the U.S. allowed him into the U.S. so that it could catch Umar’s accomplices.

I was once again shocked and saddened when Michael Leiter of the National Counter terrorism Center admitted during these same hearings that intentionally letting terrorists into the U.S. was a frequent practice of the U.S. Government. I cannot fully explain my sadness, disappointment and fear when I realized that my government allowed an attack on me intentionally.

During this time, I questioned if my country intentionally put a known terrorist onto my flight with a live bomb. I had many sleepless nights over this issue. My answer came shortly thereafter.

In late 2010, the FBI admitted to giving out intentionally defective bombs to the Portland Christmas Tree Bomber,the Wrigley Field Bomber and several others. Further, Mr. Chambers was quoted in the Free Press on January 11, 2011 when he indicated that the government’s own explosives experts had indicated that Umar’s bomb was impossibly defective. I wondered how that could be. Certainly, I thought, Al Qaeda wouldn’t go through all of the trouble to plan such an attack only to provide the terrorist with an impossibly defective bomb.

I attended nearly all of the pretrial hearings. At the hearing on January 28, 2011, I was greatly disappointed by the prosecution’s request to block evidence from Mr. Chambers “as it could then be able to be obtained by third parties, who could use it in a civil suit against the government”.

It really bothered me that the government apparently was admitting to wrongdoing of some kind as it admitted that it was concerned it would be sued. It further upset me to know that the government was putting its own interests ahead of those of the passengers.

When I attended the jury selection hearings, I questioned why versions of the same two questions kept coming up, those being:

1. Do you think you’ll be able to tell whether something is actually a bomb? and 
2. Do you realize that sometimes the media doesn’t always tell the truth?

I continued to be greatly saddened at this point as I felt the truth continued to be hidden.

When Umar listed me as his only witness, I was happy to testify, not on his behalf, but on behalf of the truth. I never expected to testify, as my eyewitness account would have been too damaging to the myth that the government and media are putting forward.

A mere 5 days after I was announced as a witness, there was an inexplicable guilty plea which exasperated me as I no longer would be testifying.

Kurt Haskell, Northwest Airline Flight 253 passenger

In closing I will just say that regardless of how the media and government try to shape the public perception of this case, I am convinced that Umar was given an intentionally defective bomb by a U.S. Government agent and placed on our flight without showing a passport or going through security, to stage a false terrorist attack to be used to implement various government policies.

The effect this matter has had on my life has been astounding and due to this case, I will never trust the government in any matter, ever.

In regards to sentencing, nothing I’ve said excuses the fact that Umar tried to kill me. He has waived his valid claim to the entrapment defense. Umar, you are not a great Muslim martyr, you are merely a “Patsy”. I ask the court to impose the mandatory sentence.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Boko Haram threatens to kill US Ambassador to Nigeria

Boko Haram threatens to kill US Ambassador to Nigeria

Terence McCulley, US Ambassador to Nigeria

Information recently made available to through sources within the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, indicates that the leadership of the group is uneasy with the proposed memorandum of understanding [MOU] between Nigerian and the United States of America over security concerns posed by the menace of Boko Haram. As gathered, the leadership of the group has proclaimed that “we will murder the US Ambassador if the MOU is signed”.

“We know his house in Maitaima [in Abuja]. We know his vehicle and the time he leaves his house and the time he returns” stated one of the leaders with the Islamic group who continued to elaborate that Nigeria will be making a grave error if it joins America in an “unholy marriage” to fight “our men”.

As part of the USA/Nigeria Bi-national commission, a working group drawn from the two nations met in Abuja January 23-24, 2012 “to find a way to bring peace to the north through both security and political responses and to work with the Nigerian government and others in the international community to promote greater economic development and long-term growth throughout northern Nigeria”. This is according to Victoria Nuland, Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson, Washington, DC.

Meanwhile, in a related development, a Boko Haram source revealed that the office of the National Security Adviser [NSA] to the President have opened a line of communication with the leaders of the group – and have met with three top ranking members of the group. In particular, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th ranked members of the group were reported to have met with the NSA in Abuja recently.

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

World war and the Russia-China Veto

World war and the Russia-China Veto

Admonition to the Security Council: “First Do No Harm.” (The Russian Ambassador)

by Carla Stea

It is troubling, indeed, that although Mrs. Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had never set foot in Syria during the period about which she professed expertise, she was, nevertheless, invited to address the United Nations Security Council on December 9, 2011, and much of the Western media quoted her as the authoritative source on human rights abuses by the Syrian government, citing her poorly substantiated remarks on numerous occasions.

It is especially troubling because, at the January 31, 2012 Security Council meeting on Syria, addressed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, the French Foreign Minister, the Qatar Prime Minister and other diplomatic luminaries, Mr. Muhammad Ahmad Mustafa Al-Dabi, the Head of the League of Arab States Observer Mission to Syria, who had traveled throughout Syria from December 24, 2011 through January 18, 2012, who had interviewed a broad spectrum of Syrians, from members of the Syrian opposition, to Syrian government officials, and Syrian civilians, was not invited to that meeting to present facts about the reality on the ground in the Syrian Arab Republic. However, Mr. Al-Dabi’s Report, dated January 27, 2012 presents too many “inconvenient truths” which undermine and discredit the campaign to demonize the Syrian government.

So transparency and accountability were sacrificed for the sake of propaganda.

For the record, Mr. Al-Dabi’s report states:

“26. In Homs and Dera’a the Mission observed armed groups committing acts of violence against Government forces, resulting in death and injury among their ranks. In certain situations, Government forces responded to attacks against their personnel with force. The observers noted that some of the armed groups were using flares and armour-piercing projectiles. In Homs , Idlib and Hama , the Observer Mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against Government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of those acts include the bombing of a civilian bus carrying eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs , a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed.

44. In Homs, a French journalist who worked for France 2 channel was killed and a Belgian journalist injured…It should be noted that Mission reports from Homs indicate that the French journalist was killed by opposition mortar shells.

73. The Mission noted that the Government strived to help it succeed in its task and remove any barriers that might stand in its way. No restrictions were placed on the movement of the Mission and its ability to interview Syrian citizens, both those who opposed the Government and those loyal to it.

75. Recently there have been incidents that could widen the gap and increase bitterness between the parties. These incidents can have grave consequences and lead to the loss of life and property. Such incidents include the bombing of buildings, trains carrying fuel, vehicles carrying diesel oil and explosions targeting the police, members of the media and fuel pipelines. Some of those attacks have been carried out by the Free Syrian Army and some by other armed opposition groups.

68. Since it began its work, the Mission has been the target of vicious media campaigns. Some media outlets have published unfounded statements which they attributed to the Head of Mission. They have also grossly exaggerated events, thereby distorting the truth. Such contrived reports have helped to increase tension among the Syrian people and undermined the Observers' work. Some media organizations were exploited in order to defame the mission and its Head and cause the Mission to fail.”

Rarely mentioned is a report that a Saudi TV station recently broadcast a Salafist religious leader giving his blessing for spilling the blood of observers. This was stated by the Russian Ambassador at the Security Council meeting on January 31.

The Report of the League of Arab States Observer Mission to Syria discredited the US/NATO effort to justify a Security Council resolution paving the way for economic sanctions and, ultimately, military invasion of Syria, using arguments and blueprints almost identical to the ones used to induce the entire Security Council to support resolution 1973 against the Libyan government.

(The prelude to Security Council resolution 1973 included members of the Libyan opposition – speaking before the Security Council in violation of the Security Council Rules of Procedure- lamenting the plight of peaceful Libyan demonstrators, and pleading for the equivalent of color revolutions, orange, rose, tulip, velvet, jasmine and other bubble gum flavored programs engineering the destabilization and collapse of governments too independent to be tolerated by NATO powers. These Libyan defectors begged for foreign intervention in Libya , and their tears were the culmination of opportunism – many of them had earlier comfortably represented the Gadaffi government.)

Mrs. Navi Pillay provided the fig leaf required for adoption of a Security Council resolution against Syria (though she had never entered Syria throughout the entire period in question), so she was given a red carpet welcome by the UK , Germany , the US , France , etc. Mr. Al-Dabi was not part of the orchestra, and did not provide necessary cover for economic and military aggression against the Syrian government, so he was effectively excluded from participation in the Security Council meeting about which he exclusively possessed reliable direct information from inside Syria.

It is troubling that, although the Al-Dabi report was readily obtainable by media outlets, at no point does the New York Times refer to the Observer Mission Report in its January 28th page 8 article, or in its February 1 page 8 article, or in its February 2nd page 10 article, or in its supercilious editorial on February 2nd, entitled: “It’s time for Russia to stop blocking the United Nations from acting against the Assad regime.” The editorial states: “The Russians, Chinese and Indians – invoking Libya – insist that they will not abide foreign military intervention in Syria or let a resolution be exploited to permit the use of force. That complaint loses credibility when Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, stipulates publicly, as she did Tuesday that ‘there is no intention to seek any authority or to pursue any kind of military intervention.’ It should be relatively easy to write a resolution to rule out military action, assuming Russia is not playing games.”

The Times editorial board suffers not only from short term but also from long term memory loss. Perhaps The New York Times forgets NATO’s games, and not only in Libya, eleven months ago, where NATO grossly violated the mandate given by resolution 1973. The Russians remember all too well how much credibility to accord Secretaries of State, such as Secretary of State James Baker’s assurance to Gorbachev that following the unification of Germany, “NATO will not expand one inch east of Berlin.” Today NATO encircles Russia. Former US Ambassador to Moscow Jack Matlock stated: “I was a witness to that, and we deceived Russia. Why then should they believe us now?”

At the January 31 high-level meeting, British Foreign Secretary Hague may have been among the most honest speakers, when he stated:

“This resolution does not propose imposing change on Syria from outside, it calls for the Syrian people to be allowed to make their choices. It does not call for military action and could not be used to authorize it. It does not contain coercive measures. Indeed, it is not a Chapter VII resolution. However, it should put the leaders of Syria on notice that measures will be considered by this council if there is not an immediate end to the violence and if the Arab League plan continues to be ignored. This threat is essential.”

The resolution in blue on February 2nd stated:

“PP10: noting that nothing in this resolution authorizes measures under Article 42 of the Charter,” and then goes on to conclude: “Decides to review implementation of this resolution within 21 days, and, in the event of non-compliance, to consider further measures.”

It is an insult to the intelligence of the Russians and the Chinese to expect them to be reassured by this devious wording which, once accepted, requires them, within three weeks, to agree to consider those Chapter VII “further measures” they today so wisely reject. Any child could decipher the implicit trap, and threat in the wording of the final draft resolution submitted to the capitals. Further, in view of the picture given by the Observer Mission Report, it would be categorically impossible for the Syrian authorities to comply, since much of the violence within Syria is caused by the opposition. (Media statements that “only” Russia, China and India oppose the Syria draft resolution are bizarre, since, together Russia and China constitute 40% of the Permanent Membership of the Security Council, and the combined populations of Russia, China and India are over three billion people, almost half the population of the world. The use of the word “only,” deliberately suggesting that Russia and China are a recalcitrant minority, recalls a BBC report which stated: “Storm over the English Channel. Continent isolated.”)

It is important to understand the Russian-Chinese concern, because the consequences of Security Council Resolution 1973 against Libya are horrific, and in extreme violation of the so-called democracy and human rights of Libyan civilians, which was used as the rationalization for the more than 7,000 NATO bombing missions against Libya.

Concluding Remarks

The US/NATO powers are confronting an economic crisis brought on inevitably by the crisis of capitalism, a crisis which can no longer be resolved by war. The Russian-Chinese veto has in fact also helped protect the United States from the policies relentlessly urged by certain reckless and irresponsible members of the establishment in Washington, who would turn the United States into a military juggernaut leading to an all out World War. Lacking UN Security Council support, these reckless members of the establishment cannot claim that they represent the “International Community.”

Carla Stea is a journalist holding press accreditation at the U.S. Department of State and the United Nations. Her articles have been published in the US, the UK, Latin America, Russia, and have appeared in Latin American Perspectives, Covert Action Quarterly, War and Peace Digest, Rock Creek Free Press, Komsomolskaya Pravda, Rabochaya Tribuna, Sovetskaya Rossia, Novosti Press, Baltexpert, and Tapol, Report on Human Rights in Indonesia.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Report of the Arab League Observer Mission to Syria.

Report of the Arab League Observer Mission to Syria

70. The purpose of the Protocol is to protect Syrian citizens through the commitment of the Syrian
Government to stop acts of violence, release detainees and withdraw all military presence from cities and
residential neighbourhoods. This phase must lead to dialogue among the Syrian sides and the launching of a
parallel political process. Otherwise, the duration of this Mission will be extended without achieving the
desired results on the ground.
71. The Mission determined that there is an armed entity that is not mentioned in the protocol. This
development on the ground can undoubtedly be attributed to the excessive use of force by Syrian Government
forces in response to protests that occurred before the deployment of the Mission demanding the fall of the
regime. In some zones, this armed entity reacted by attacking Syrian security forces and citizens, causing the
Government to respond with further violence. In the end, innocent citizens pay the price for those actions with
life and limb.
72. The Mission noted that the opposition had welcomed it and its members since their deployment to
Syria. The citizens were reassured by the Mission’s presence and came forward to present their demands,
although the opposition had previously been afraid to do so publicly owing to their fear of being arrested once
again, as they had been prior to the Mission’s arrival in Syria. However, this was not case in the period that
followed the last Ministerial Committee statement, although the situation is gradually improving.
73. The Mission noted that the Government strived to help it succeed in its task and remove any barriers
that might stand in its way. The Government also facilitated meetings with all parties. No restrictions were
placed on the movement of the Mission and its ability to interview Syrian citizens, both those who opposed the
Government and those loyal to it.
74. In some cities, the Mission sensed the extreme tension, oppression and injustice from which the Syrian
people are suffering. However, the citizens believe the crisis should be resolved peacefully through Arab
mediation alone, without international intervention. Doing so would allow them to live in peace and complete
the reform process and bring about the change they desire. The Mission was informed by the opposition,
particularly in Dar‘a, Homs, Hama and Idlib, that some of its members had taken up arms in response to the
suffering of the Syrian people as a result of the regime’s oppression and tyranny; corruption, which affects all
sectors of society; the use of torture by the security agencies; and human rights violations.
75. Recently, there have been incidents that could widen the gap and increase bitterness between the
parties. These incidents can have grave consequences and lead to the loss of life and property. Such incidents
include the bombing of buildings, trains carrying fuel, vehicles carrying diesel oil and explosions targeting the
police, members of the media and fuel pipelines. Some of those attacks have been carried out by the Free
Syrian Army and some by other armed opposition groups.
76. The Mission has adhered scrupulously to its mandate, as set out in the Protocol. It has observed daily
realities on the ground with complete neutrality and independence, thereby ensuring transparency and integrity
in its monitoring of the situation, despite the difficulties the Mission encountered and the inappropriate actions
of some individuals.
77. Under the Protocol, the Mission’s mandate is one month. This does not allow adequate time for
administrative preparations, let alone for the Mission to carry out its task. To date, the Mission has actually
operated for 23 days. This amount of time is definitely not sufficient, particularly in view of the number of
items the Mission must investigate. The Mission needs to remain on the ground for a longer period of time,
which would allow it to experience citizens’ daily living conditions and monitor all events. It should be noted
that similar previous operations lasted for several months or, in some cases, several years.
78. Arab and foreign audiences of certain media organizations have questioned the Mission’s credibility
because those organizations use the media to distort the facts. It will be difficult to overcome this problem
unless there is political and media support for the Mission and its mandate. It is only natural that some negative
incidents should occur as it conducts its activities because such incidents occur as a matter of course in similar
79. The Mission arrived in Syria after the imposition of sanctions aimed at compelling to implement what
was agreed to in the Protocol. Despite that, the Mission was welcomed by the opposition, loyalists and the
Government. Nonetheless, questions remains as to how the Mission should fulfil its mandate. It should be
noted that the mandate established for the Mission in the Protocol was changed in response to developments on
the ground and the reactions thereto. Some of those were violent reactions by entities that were not mentioned
27/01/12 9 McAULEY
259.12D 12-21687
in the Protocol. All of these developments necessitated an expansion of and a change in the Mission’s mandate.
The most important point in this regard is the commitment of all sides to cease all acts of violence, thereby
allowing the Mission to complete its tasks and, ultimately, lay the groundwork for the political process.
80. Should there be agreement to extend its mandate, then the Mission must be provided with
communications equipment, means of transportation and all the equipment it requires to carry out its mandate
on the ground.
81. On the other hand, ending the Mission’s work after such a short period will reverse any progress, even
if partial, that has thus far been made. This could perhaps lead to chaos on the ground because all the parties
involved in the crisis thus remain unprepared for the political process required to resolve the Syrian crisis.
82. Since its establishment, attitudes towards the Mission have been characterized by insincerity or, more
broadly speaking, a lack of seriousness. Before it began carrying out its mandate and even before its members
had arrived, the Mission was the target of a vicious campaign directed against the League of Arab States and
the Head of the Mission, a campaign that increased in intensity after the observers’ deployment. The Mission
still lack the political and media support it needs in order to fulfil its mandate. Should its mandate be extended,
the goals set out in the Protocol will not be achieved unless such support is provided and the Mission receives
the backing it needs to ensure the success of the Arab solution.

See Full Text here

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Saturday, February 04, 2012

Do White Women earn more?

Do White Women earn more?

This AP story shot around a bit:

White women with BA’s lag in pay, census finds

Washington – Black and Asian women with bachelor’s degrees earn slightly more than similarly educated white women, and white men with four-year degrees make more than anyone else.

A white woman with a bachelor’s degree typically earned nearly $37,800 in 2003, compared with nearly $43,700 for a college-educated Asian woman and $41,100 for a college-educated black woman, according to figures being released today by the Census Bureau. Hispanic women took home slightly less at $37,600 a year[....]

A white male with a college diploma earns far more than any similarly educated man or woman – in excess of $66,000 a year, according to the Census Bureau. Among men with bachelor’s degrees, Asians earned more than $52,000 a year, Hispanics earned $49,000 and blacks earned more than $45,000.
This story was actually better than some, because it didn’t bury the fact that regardless of race, women as a group earn far less than men.

So why are black women and Asian women with degrees earning more annually than white women? As far as I can tell, it’s because white women, on average, are more likely to be part-time workers. As Tiffany at pointed out, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research took a closer look at the data. They found that when the comparison was limited to only those women who work full-time, year-round, the “white disadvantage” disappeared:

According to recently released 2004 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, African American women working full-time, full-year earn $26,992 in median annual earnings, compared with $32,036 earned by comparable white women workers.

Among those with a bachelor’s degree alone, African American women earn $38,160 compared with $40,700 earned by comparable white women. African American women are also less likely than white women to hold bachelor’s degrees or higher, with only 16.7 percent of African American women holding bachelor’s degrees in 2004, compared with 24.6 percent of white women.

Asian American women, in contrast, earned more than white women even when comparing year-round, full-time workers. This may possibly reflect higher average educational attainment among Asian American women than white women. However, Asian American women – like Latinas, Black women, and American Indian women – are more likely to live in poverty than white women. And in turn, white women are more likely to live in poverty than white men.

I’ve already seen some anti-feminists argue that the same thing is true of the wage gap between men and women – that is, the reason women appear to earn less is that men work more hours than women. It’s true that men work more hours; however, the wage gap is much larger than can be accounted for just by the difference in work hours.

This is a myth which is frequently repeated by anti-feminists on the internet. Although exact details vary, the argument is generally that the pay gap is a statistical illusion that has nothing to do with discrimination against women. Women are paid less because they work so many fewer hours; if US government statistics took account of hours worked, the wage gap would disappear. So the critics say.

There are two big flaws in this argument. First of all, the numbers don’t add up – taking account of hours worked does make the pay gap a little smaller, but not that much smaller. Second, the argument implicitly assumes that how many hours we get to work isn’t affected by discrimination; but there’s no reason to believe this is true.

How big a difference does hours worked make?

It is true that men work more hours than women, on average (at paid jobs, anyhow – but keep in mind women work many more unpaid hours at home). But the difference isn’t that large, among men and women who work full-time.

According to the US government’s Monthly Labor Review (April 1997, pages 3-14), the average full-time year-round woman worked 40.8 hours a week in 1995. Men, according to the same source, worked 44.5 hours – a significant difference, but not a huge difference (and not nearly as large a difference as anti-feminists sometimes claim). How much does that affect the wage gap?

Fortunately, we don’t have to do the math ourselves – the US Department of Labor has done it for us. According to a DOL web page in 2001 – a web page that, unfortunately, has since been taken down by the Bush administration – comparing only hourly wages, women were paid 83.2% of what men were paid in 2000. 83.2% is a noticible difference from the 76% figure for weekly full-time wages – but it still leaves the majority of the pay gap unaccounted for.

Is hours worked really a discrimination-free zone?

When anti-feminists say that it’s better to compare hourly wages, they’re sneaking an unjustified assumption into the argument. Because part of the pay gap can be accounted for by different hours worked, that part of the wage gap doesn’t, they say, have anything to do with discrimination. But is it really true that how many hours people work can’t be affected by discrimination?

Most people, after all, don’t have that much choice in how much they work. Once you’ve got a full-time job, whether you work 41 or 45 hours a week is as much up to your employer as it is up to you – and it’s quite possible for the hours assigned to be affected by discrimination.

In the eighties, for instance, I worked for a temp agency in NYC which discriminated against its black temps by giving white temps more and better assignments. (I found out when the Times printed a expose of the practice, after which I stopped accepting jobs from that agency). Presumably I earned more than black and latina counterparts that year in part because I worked more hours; but my working more hours was itself a result of discrimination.

The assumption that hours worked can’t have anything to do with discrimination is unrealistic. If discrimination exists in the job market, it potentially has effects on all aspects of the job market – including how many hours a week people work.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

New Islamic religious sect emerges in Nigeria

New Islamic religious sect emerges in Nigeria

A new Islamic religious sect that goes by the name Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan (Vanguard for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa), Ansaru for short, has emerged in Nigeria. In a statement signed by its supposed leader, Abu Usamata Al’Ansari, and circulated in the Northern parts of Nigeria, the group questioned Boko Haram’s style of operation which it stated was inhuman to the Muslim Ummah.

The sect’s motto is “Jihad Fi Sabilillah” which means “To fight and sacrifice for Allah’s cause.” The group’s insignia is a Qur’an sandwiched between two guns bearing flags with the inscriptions “There is no deity but Allah and Muhammad is His messenger”.

The group’s statement reads in part “For the first time, we are glad to announce to the public the formation of this group that has genuine basis. We will have dispassionate look into everything, to encourage what is good and see to its spread and to discourage evil and try to eliminate it.” It has also vowed to restore “the lost dignity of Muslims in black Africa” and bring back the dignity of Islam in Nigeria and to the Sokoto Caliphate, as founded by Usman Dan Fodio in 1804.

Some have speculated this group may be a splinter faction from the dreaded Boko Haram sect that is presently tormenting the Northern parts of Nigeria. This would seem unlikely considering there appears to be an allegiance, as contained in their statement, to the seat of Islamic authority in Nigeria and beyond; the Sokoto Caliphate. This seat of authority is headed by the Sultan of Sokoto, a descendant of the late Usman Dan Fodio and a much respected Islamic leader in Nigeria and throughout the Arab world.

It is also worth noting, that the dreaded Boko Haram sect had promised to attack Sokoto and Kano states if its cult members detained in those states were not released immediately. Without a doubt, the issuance of such threats, especially in respect of Sokoto state, will be viewed as an affront to the Sultan of Sokoto and may have spurred his loyalists to take up arms against Boko Haram. Kano state is also the seat of another local Islamic authority that is headed by the Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero. Both Sultan Sokoto and Emir Kano had denounced Boko Haram and its bloody rampages as un-Islamic.

by Egoigwe

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