Friday, April 29, 2011

Uganda's Museveni ... in the ways of Syria and Libya

Okay... so Museveni is not satisfied with the additional 5 year term to his 25 years as President of Uganda. He continues to be intimidated by Dr. Kizza Besigye, the opposition leader who lost the presidential elections early this year, who is also becoming very popular and is certainly stealing Museveni's thunder.

Yesterday's riots in Kampala were sparked off by the manner in which Dr. Besigye was arrested during the April "walk-to-work" protest against high prices organized by several opposition parties over rising fuel and food prices. President Museveni has called these protests illegal. Although this is a solidarity protest by opposition parties, the government has chosen to target Dr. Besigye accusing him of inciting violence. The security forces, in the presences of media and the public approached Dr. Bisegye's car and broke one of the windows and pepper sprayed him in the eyes as he fought with the plain clothed police. They then frog-marched him out of the car to detention. This is the fourth detention this month for his participation in the "walk-to-work" protests.

Opposition Leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye
The arrogance of government officials is clearly seen in this statement by the Minister of Information, Mr. Kabakumba Matsiko, "I would like to reassure the world that the government is in charge, and we are going to improve the security situation. We're not going to encourage worthless demonstrations which don't have clear and genuine objectives to continue."

The trouble started in Kisseka market with news about the violent arrest of the popular opposition leader along with rumors that he might have died. "They arrested him like a chicken thief. We cannot allow such things to continue. Museveni must go," said, one of the protesters.

President Yoweri Museveni
Clearly Museveni is not the popular and favored leader the election results led us to believe. Ugandans are fed up with the his dictatorial manner of leadership. Museveni who began his presidency 20 years ago as a favorite of the West has turned into "functional tyrant" like Mubarak. Power has corrupted this man to the point that he is now steadily taking the pathways of Gaddafi (a close friend) and Assad of Syria.

In a previous blog I questioned the longevity of this new 5 year term for Museveni. Voices are already calling for him to step down. If the opposition can unite as one voice they can harness the power of the people to bring down Museveni's government. How long will the opposition stay splintered allowing Museveni to play them like pawns on his chess board? Maybe it is time for the people to lead and pave the way for a fair and democratic government in Uganda.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

First Woman in Egyptian History to run for President

Buthayna Kamel
On International Women's Day in March this year, Egyptian women took to the street to demonstrate what was clearly a shameless stride by the transitional government to continue excluding women from political participation in this new democracy. The women staged a "Million Woman March" on Tahrir Square. The same Square where they had faced tear gas, sexual assaults and harassment when demonstrating against Mubarak and his regime.  Women joined the men in one voice demanding Mubarak to step down and calling for a true and fair democracy only to turn around and find that they are now being sidelined in the new political process and were attacked by men because of raising their voices seeking to be heard.

Buthayna Kamel, a former talk-show host, has stepped out as a presidential candidate making her the first woman in Egyptian history to run for the highest office in the country. This is a brave leap of faith for Ms. Kamel considering the gender discrimination in the current Egyptian constitution. Gender rights activists in Egypt say it is important that women have a role and a voice in the new parliament and want to see women represented in the council elected by the new parliament to write a new constitution later this year. The fight for women's rights over the past decade has seen laws allowing women to divorce their husbands, pass their nationality to their children and be treated equally under tax law. However, women are still treated as second-class citizens particularly under the family law status.

The truncated timeline for holding the new elections will benefit existing organized political groups that are male-driven leaving women without a strong voice to influence a new constitution and legislation. Ms. Kamel has express her concern that she along with other women will be forced off the race because "women are supposed to stay at home". 

But the women will press on. If it means more marches then so be it. Women have to stand in solidarity. I believe that the strong women of Africa should stand alongside the women of Egypt. Most constitutions in Africa treat women as second-class citizens. This is the 21st century - let's move with the times and not be stuck in the past. Women are the back-bones of these economies. They are the mothers, daughters, sisters and wives of these men. They are now DEMANDING respect and they will be heard. They will raise their voices from the highest hills, they will not be drowned... not this time. 

Africa women UNITE!!

The Christian Science Monitor

Sunday, April 17, 2011

British colonial government and Gaddafi government are the SAME!!!

The British response to the  MAU MAU revolt of 1952-1960 would have caused more than a gasp today. The scenario is very much like what is taking place today in Libya in that the "rebels" are in a military conflict with their "oppressor" who has superior warfare equipment.  Unlike the Libyans who have found favor with France, the UK, the UN and the USA, the Kenyan men and women fighting for their independence against a Nazi-oppressive regime fought as the UN, Europe and the USA watched. These are the same nations that scream they hold the values of justice, freedom and democracy sacred.

Almost 50 years after this brutal British regime was marched out so that Kenyans would gain their independence four brave, now elderly, Kenyans have brought a case to the UK courts seeking compensation for specific torture meted out to them by the colonial British militia.

The claimants, Ndiku Mutua, Paulo Nzili, Wambugu Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara, in their 70s and 80s, flew from their rural homes to appear in a London court. This has been an on-going case which was catapulted by Caroline Elkin's pultizer prize book "Imperial Reckoning - the Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya". The book also inspired a four-series BBC documentary in the UK. Dr. Elkin, a professor at Harvard, spent a decade investigating the so called Mau Mau "rebellion" (as opposed to a "revolt") and she concluded "I now believe there was in late colonial Kenya a murderous campaign to eliminate Kikuyu people that left tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands dead". The official estimates of the Mau Mau killed by British forces was 11,000.

10 days ago the UK government ordered the release of records documenting the Mau Mau "uprising" which will be used in the human rights case before the courts for the for four claimants. Interestingly, these documents have been concealed and only authors like David Anderson, a professor at Oxford University - and an expert witness in this case, and Dr. Elkin have had access to these records.  Kenyan authors who have written about the Mau Mau revolt never had access to validate their facts.

In a brief conversation with Dr. Elkin, I found out that she had experienced some difficulty obtaining the records in London as an American. However, one of the most interesting aspects of her book is the information she obtained directly from descendants of British settlers in Kenya. Dr. Elkin told me how she fought to keep a straight face as these white Kenyans described in offensive language their disdain and contempt of the African Kenyans with whom they currently live among. They also gave her graphic details of what was done to the Kenyans during what was known as the Emergency period.

British Ministers have called for the compensation case before the High Court in London to be struck out.  They claim the British government cannot be held liable for abuses during the British colonial rule. Is it not absurd that this case is being tried in and by the country that committed these heinous acts of violence? Is there not a conflict of interest which is why we now hear the clamoring of the British Ministers demanding that the case be thrown out of court?

I bet these Ministers concur and support those bringing the German Nazi perpetrators to justice today - 60 years after the holocaust. What is the difference between the German Nazis and the British Nazis? They both killed, maimed, tortured and humiliated innocent citizens. They both committed gory crimes against humanity. 

It is a sham for the UK to send forces into Libya to fight Gaddafi in the name of justice and democracy when he (Gaddafi) is doing exactly what the British colonial government did to innocent Kenyans and now does not want to be held accountable.

Other Resources:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Is Uhuru the annointed one?

Last week Uhuru was installed as a Gikuyu elder in a traditional ceremony formally appointing him the next leader of Central Province. Ordinarily this ceremony would have not even taken priority in the prime news hour, but it clearly ruffled feathers in some political camps for there was a furor of activity directed against Uhuru.

Uhuru Kenyatta is the son of Kenya's founding President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. He is also a politician, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. He is among the "Ocampo 6" suspects returning from a three-day session at the Hague answering to allegations that they incited the political violence post Kenya's 2007 elections.

Uhuru Kenyatta, an alumni of Amherst College in the USA, was nominated to Parliament in 2001 as a novice and appointed Minister of Local Government by former President arap Moi. Moi served as the Late Kenyatta's Vice President and as his apprentice throughout Kenyatta's reign. I believe Moi was returning the favor by appointing the inexperienced son in Parliament and later naming him as his successor. Uhuru lost the 2002 elections to the current President, Mwai Kibaki.

Uhuru Kenyatta
Luis Morano Ocampo, the Hague prosecutor issued summons for the six suspects on the grounds that they are responsible for crimes against humanity in the form of murder, forcible transfer of population, rape, persecution and other inhuman acts in the Rift Valley Province. Uhuru Kenyatta seems to be the main target of this investigation and it is possible that this is a diverting tactic of his 2012 Presidential election opponent Raila Odinga. Odinga does not stand a chance of winning the elections in 2012 and this case against Uhuru opens up his chances to be the front-runner in next year's election.

This notorious move against Uhuru has earned him even more popularity among the Kenyans and more so among the Gikuyu people who comprise of the largest population in Kenya. Unfortunately there have been great efforts to discredit Uhuru through the media but with no avail. Uhuru held rallies in various parts of the country and the response was overwhelming to the dismay of his nemeses. They have just returned from the Hague to rousing welcome.

Other Sources:
The Standard

Gbagbo in Detention

Laurent Gbagbo

Last Tuesday, April 5th, I blogged that Laurent Gbagbo was stepping down that day in a matter of hours.  The story took a dramatic twist when he decided not to take the negotiated settlement and bunkered down with his family.  With all bets off the palace was surrounded by UN and French forces including the rebels.

Technically - Gbagbo sees himself as the legitimate President because he had himself sworn in as President and as per the Ivorian constitution, as the incumbent President, he has to sign over Presidency to Ouattara.  Gbagbo thought that he could buy time and with that time he would have more sympathetic support from Ivorians particularly as it became clear that the French are behind his ousting.

Well today, the French forces captured Gbagbo and he was handed over to his rival Ouattara at the Golf Hotel in Abijan.  It has been said that his wife, Simone, is the real power behind Gbagbo and she has been the one pressing him not to give in.

Simone Gbagbo

This Ivorian civil unrest is about hoarding of power, corruption and propagated xenophobia against the Muslims in the north. These are same reasons that destroyed this potentially emerging economy in the late 1990s.  Gbagbo in his early years was considered a peaceful, Sorbonne-educated socialist but during his rule he has earned a reputation for being short-tempered particularly towards  journalists. On the other hand he is also known for his contagious laughs and powerful handshakes. He is a born communicator with a broad smile and charming laugh. He is the kind of person who lights up a room - the life of the party so to speak. He is also known for his passion for music and good food. However, politically he is a stubborn player known to use militia groups and death squads against his opponents.

For those who follow politics it is interesting to see history repeating itself. Gbagbo was one of the strident opponents of the founding President Felix Houphouet-Boigny. Mr. Houphouet-Boigny ruled Ivory Coast for 33 years with the support of the West bringing stability and economic prosperity to his country and being the envy of the continent. Over time he grew increasingly corrupt, autocratic and unpopular. Gbagbo was among the first in the opposition to call for democratization and redistribution of wealth. He was jailed for "subversive teaching" and "fomenting insecurity" and after much harassment by Houphouet-Boigny's security forces he went into exile in France. He then returned in 1988 pushing for democratic reform.

Today, this man is in detention and is being accused of inciting xenophobic attacks, corruption and despotic leadership. Gbagbo fought and was jailed in his pursuit of a democracy in Ivory Coast but today he is willing to destroy his country by refusing to accept defeat at the ballot box- democracy. The same standards he used on Houphouet-Boigny are being used on him now. A bitter pill to swallow - right Gbagbo?

Other Sources:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Another African Head of State Steps Down!

Laurent Gbagbo

It is now just a matter of time... a few hours at the most. Gbagbo has agreed to step down after a decisive victory for pro-Ouattara forces. 

Alassane Ouattara, a former IMF deputy director, won the presidential elections in November, 2010. Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down claiming extensive ballot rigging in the northern half of the country, controlled for the last eight years by the rebels backing Ouattara. Since he has the army on his side he decided to do exactly what Gaddafi is doing to his own people. He has used his army as a killing machine to his own end, but even the army gets tired of aimless killing with no benefits in sight.

Ouattara and the international community have repeatedly asked Gbagbo to step down and leave but he would not budge. Early last week Ouattara, finally, gave him an ultimatum which of course Gbagbo ignored. Pro-Ouattara forces (certainly with the help of the West) have in the last few days inflicted persuasive defeat of the army and captured the major towns and cities. Last week the rebel force, now calling itself the Republican Force began its assault on Abijan - the seat of power.

As of this morning the rebel forces announced they have surrounded the palace where Gbagbo and his family are sheltering. He has agreed to step down and according to the UN, the negotiators are on the verge of agreeing to surrender terms and the departure of Gbagbo.

So who is next? Gaddafi?????

The Economist

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Mr. Dabbashi - Libyan Women Matter!!!

Ibrahim Dabbashi

Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's former deputy ambassador to the UN, was on Charlie Ross on Thursday, March 31, 2011 representing the opposition and describing the elements of the opposition group against Gaddafi.  

The opposition is a single group, a Provincial National Council, made up of  civil technocrats, with representatives of the youth and military (rebels). This the group that is waiting in the helms for Gaddafi's regime to fall and they will take over as a transitional (Provincial) government. This is looking hopeful with the defections of top officials close to Gaddafi like Mr. Moussa Koussa - Libya's Foreign Minister - and the knowledge that there are those still within the government who are waiting for the right conditions before they can defect.

My concern is that Mr. Dabbashi did not make any mention of women being represented in the National Provincial Council. It seems that with this wave of change that is taking place in the Arab world, women are still being disenfranchised even though they are in the frontlines leading protests against their despotic rulers.  Egyptian women are back on the streets again, protesting this alienation and sidelining.

I think Mr. Dabbashi and his fellow "civil technocrats" need to address gender-mainstreaming now on the front-end instead of waiting until they have formed their new government to address the situation.

Women are the backbones of any economy in the world and male leaders need to recognize that they would gain much in raising the status of women and acknowledging them as a critical mass.

Other Resource:

Terror-Loving, Ex-Somali PM sued in Virginia, USA

Mohamed Ali Samantar
Finally General Samantar will have to answer for his contribution to the terror regime of military dictator Siyaad Barre who ruled Somalia from 1969 to 1991. Samantar was the Defense Minister from 1980 to 1986 and Prime Minister from February 1, 1987 to September 3, 1990.  Siyaad Barre's regime is well known for its senseless murders and cruelty.

Samantar is a "prominent" member of the Somali Community in the Diaspora living in Virginia, USA. In a civil law suit seeking financial damages for commanding his troops to detain, torture and kill Somali citizens of the Isaaq clan, Samantar will now have answer to the charges against him.

The original lawsuit in 2004, filed by Somalis living in the US under the 1991's Torture Victim Protection Act, was unsuccessful. A federal judge ruled that Samantar was entitled to diplomatic immunity, however, last year the US Supreme Court reinstated the case and US District Judge Leonie Brinkema has denied Samantar's request (via his lawyer) to dismiss the case.

Samantar, in his arrogance, must have thought that after more than 20 years no one can bring a case against him, let alone common men and women he once terrorized and considered scum.  He probably did not realize that courts in the US can hold him accountable for his atrocities under international law. That is the purpose of international laws - they are border-less.

You will reap what you have sown, Samantar! 60+ years after the holocaust, Nazi murderers are still being indicted for their crimes against humanity - what makes you think you can get away with your nazi-like atrocities against your own people?