Sunday, 10 February 2013

Mali -- it's war

I am all in favor of military task force to support local Malian troops; to dislodge Tuareg  rebels and Al-Qaida elements. This is a simple mission to push back rebels; win back lost ground and ultimately taking back territory.

UN approval requires AU and ECOWAS to come up with a swift plan to claw back the occupied territories. Foreign troops on the ground in Mali could spell resistance. There is a concern that like in Iraq and Afghanistan; Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb could make Mali a strategic hob to wage war and prolong conflict in that region. As international public opinion shifts with changing situation on the ground a long war will not be interest of the UN. Competing powers at the Security Council with major powers like China and Russia on opposing side of the western powers. Continued support for a strong and robust military mandate may subside. 

Mali’s Military had been unwilling and at time unable to take the fight to militants and win back lost territory. Without a process map to democratic elections and looming possibility of a further coup; Mali’s current transitional civilian government does not trust it military wholeheartedly. Especially after the military launched a coup in march of this year plunged the country to chaos and ultimately the capitalization of land  by Tuareg rebels with the support from Alqaida.

Like Tuareg rebels in Mali; Boko Haram sect in Nigeria and Alshabab militia in Somalia all pose a significant challenge for security, military and intelligence forces. Crushing these competing elements and challenging their ideology will be difficult. Tuareg rebels are focused on building an Islamic state with Sharia law at the core of that ideology. Such measures involve the curtailing of Western values, destruction of sacred shrines, limiting rights for women and observation of strict social norms. Those that don’t comply are usually met with hash punishments.

Cost of an offensive Urban war against Tuareg rebels and Al-Qaeda could be substantial and ECOWAS could be sucked into a long war; costing 100’s of millions of dollars requiring a constant flow of military equipment and personnel.  The human cost could be high fighting urban warfare in cities against an enemy that does not wear a uniform that can easily blend into the civilian population. There will be many casualties and civilian deaths caught up in the cross fire.

Displacement of Mali citizens is a reality that the world will have to contend with. Mali’s neighboring countries will shoulder the immediate burden as refugees including women and children stream across the border. Most countries in Africa are poor and with crumbling infrastructure. Already struggling to address the needs of the host population many services health care, schools, housing, electricity and waters will be stretched to breaking point if there is an exodus of refugee numbers.

A quick and decisive military victory is what is required; regressing of Sharia law and crushing Islamic militants may prove to be difficult mission. Fighting an ideology, changing a mind set has its challenges and may not be addressed in the short term. Ultimately it is the Malian people who can determine their future and rid the country of undesirable elements.  Tuareg  rebels and Al-Qaida elements are currently a present danger to Mali, a threat to regional stability and a security concern for the civilized word.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The prospect for military intervention in Cote d’Ivoire?

It would appear that the consensus currently is not for a unity government but the likelihood of military intervention. This is very dangerous as it could ignite a civil war and ECOWAS could be dragged into a long protracted conflict that may not have an immediate end in sight.

There could also develop deep-seated bitterness between northern and southern Ivorians that could last for generations. The entire West African region risks the impairment of its own development and economic prosperity, with the likelihood of war spreading beyond Ivorian borders, not to mention the spill over of refugees into neighbouring countries, many of who’s infrastructure can barely hope to address immediate needs of their own citizen. Let us also not forget the likely additional influx of foreigners seeking humanitarian assistance.

ECOWAS may not be able to afford a long term ground offensive or even the troop numbers that will be needed. ECOWAS’s future will be in the balance and its credibility damaged if it makes threats of military intervention and fails to follow through. I feel that the military option is not a realistic prospect and all the stakeholders will have to find a way to talk their way out of this crisis.

Previous Nigerian interventions in Liberia and Sierra Leone were not unqualified successes……there could be a a likely repeat of this in Cote d’Ivoire

In Liberia and Sierra Leone the military force was sent in to stabilize and bring a semblance of normality in a chaotic region. The wars went on for too long, thousands of people died, millions were displaced, and the overall damage to property was beyond comprehension. The hoped for economic resurrection and property was not realised. There is now relative peace in Sierra Leone and Liberia. But poverty, lack of jobs and illiteracy are still a major problem threatening the fragile recovery. This could happen all over again in Cote d’Ivoire.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Game of Shame

The 2010 FIFA World Cup (FWC) in South Africa is expected to generate more than $5 billion, the highest revenue in World Cup history, raising concerns of a likely increase in abuse, exploitation, trafficking of women and children.

International sporting events like the World Cup can affect human trafficking; contributing to short-term increases in demand for prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation. Global sporting spectacles can facilitate the entry of trafficked persons, as visitor’s transit to other cities and countries where they are likely to be exploited.

Prostitution is illegal but Sex trafficking is big business in Southern Africa. With over 35,000 child prostitutes; South Africa now boasts one of the top countries in Africa in people trafficking. Trafficked girls are easily intermingled amongst local prostitutes. Recent estimated suggest that up to 1000 Mozambican girls are trafficked into Johannesburg each year. To be sold as sex slaves or as wives to miners.

South Africa shares a porous border with Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland; making it easy for people to come in and out without being detected. This problem is compounded by the lack of adequately trained employees, resulting in few police officials controlling large portions of the country's borders and coastlines.

People trafficking in South Africa are linked with the highly sophisticated global sex industry. Despite these urgent issues, South Africa has no public services specifically designed to assist victims of trafficking. Victims of International cross border sex trade are usually afraid of law enforcement officials. They do not trust the police to assist them’ especially as they can be persecuted are likely to be deported as illegal immigrants.

South Africa is unable to provide adequate protection and assistance to its victims. Children are seen as cheap labour by traffickers. They can be forced to work in unhealthy and dangerous conditions that could lead to their deaths.

These games will provide much excitement for viewers all over the world. But in the shadows and murky world of sexual exploitation; the World Cup provides opportunities for abusers, exploiters and traffickers to meet the increased demand for cheap labour and sexual services.

This trend can only be reduced by greater awareness by all stake holders; and a genuine step-up by law enforcement officials to help protect vulnerable women and children.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Statue of Pride or Shame

It stands taller that most buildings in the world including that of the statue of Liberty. It cost in excess of 25 million dollars. It was built by the North Koreans; I refer not to a building in the United States nor that in Europe or any where in the Middle East.

Africa's most controversial figure, President Wade of Senegal has instigated, supported and overseen the building of this monumental structure. It symbolizes Senegal´s 50 years of independence from French colonial rule.

This structure has been controversial with many from the faith communities in Senegal and around the world angered. Christians were in receipt of a public apology from the president after he compared the statue with Jesus Christ. Many Muslims are appalled and ashamed resulting in a religious fatwa declared and the president resignation demanded.

There have been angry seen on the streets in Senegal, with demonstrations from the general population including members of the parliamentary opposition party.

The image of this statue is of a half dressed man pulling his wife, spouse or girlfriend virtually naked with a baby aloft also wearing very little clothing.

Many Senegalese claim the sculpture has nothing to do with their customs, religion or way of life and it has very little affiliation with what Senegal is all about.

President Wade's decision to erect this structure could stir much needed debate on degrees of tolerance, understanding, freedom of expression and clear thinking.

Senegal like so many African countries is poor with large unemployment amongst the general populace. It defies belief how President Wade could justify the use of the public money in this fashion. Especially as local labour was not used during the construction of this symbolic image. It remains to be seen if this structure will become a tourist attraction attracting much needed cash back into the economy.

President Wade has also made it much more difficult for the full benefits of tourism to filter back to common Senegalese. He has declared that he would pocket personally; over a third of all income generated by the sculpture as it was his idea in the first place.

It shows a President who is out of touch with his people. This could also spell an opportunity for the opposition; to capitalize on an elderly statesman whose decision making seems off the mark. Especially as the country is less that 24 month away from a general election.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Your Health Your Future

Sierra Leone has one of the highest in the world for infant, child and maternal mortality rates.

World wide mortality rates have improved significantly but in Africa especially Sierra Leone mortality rates are very high and reversal of this decline is painfully slow.

The Human development index provides the blue print by which mortality rates can be measured and evaluated. Mortality rates are part of a wider problem. GDP, life expectancy, literacy rates, gender inequality and human rights are factors that assist in providing clarity as to the causes and solutions to this problem.

Sierra Leone is one of the poorest nations on earth. Slavery, colonisation, bad governance and a decade long war have contributed to large parts of the population living on a dollar a day. The Sierra Leonean economy is heavily reliant on International Aid and urgently needs Foreign Direct Investment. But this will only take root when there is good governance, availability of an educated work force and respect for human rights.

In Sierra Leone only the privilege have access to education and health services. The poor have to fend on their own and women and children can become seriously affected. Access to health care and education is a human right. This is sanctioned and should be respected by all those countries that are signatures of convention. The Sierra Leonean government must provide the basic rights for women ensuring that this equality is applied to all.

Inequalities in health provision have a direct relationship with income inequality that is synonymous with many poorly managed economies. This Results in increases in mortality rates and reduction in life expectancy. However countries like china have shown that without GDP increases and economic prosperity, progress in addressing a nation’s health can be dawdling. But with clear vision and care provision, people lives could be improved and transformed.

The health of the nation is very important; the health of any nation can directly affect wellbeing. This can influence spending habits and affect economic activity. Healthy workers can live longer and can be very hard working. Healthy individuals are likely and more willing to invest in education, which empowers others and provide immense career opportunities for many.

Mortality rates can only be reduced by immunization, availability and accessibility to adequate health services. There is a need for the government of Sierra Leone to increase the numbers of qualified health professionals. It is imperative that these services are made available locally, preventing residents from travelling great distances.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Rough Justice

At the best of times justice in many parts of Africa can be corrupt, unfair and unequal. It is usually based on who you know, how much money you have and the level of influence you are able to command.

In South Africa popular R&B star Molemo (known as Jub Jub) was intoxicated, high on cocaine and other drugs. He raced his car at high speeds in a heavily populated part of Soweto, leaving four people dead following a fatal collision.

Drug use and its glamorization is an ever growing problem in Africa. Cocaine an illegal drug is one of the most addictive. It stays longer in your body, slows down your judgement, can lead to delayed reactions and a false sense of security.

The granting of bail to "Jub Jub" despite his reckless actions and poor judgement, have upset many people in community. Many people have taken to the streets in protest leading to clashes with the police and law enforcement officials.

Issues relating to poverty, inequality and justice is what Soweto residents are demanding. South Africa must have one justice for all. There cannot be one justice for celebrities and another for common every day South Africans. Justice must be true and uncompromising. It should be free, fair and equal amongst all men and women.

President Zuma and his ANC party will have to start delivering on what they have promised the vast majority of the people. They must bring in much needed investment, development and addressing the root caused of poverty. We must all remember that the ANC was created with a sole purpose of enriching and empowering the lives of all South Africans.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

International women’s day

International women's day is recognised across the world in celebration of women’s achievements in all areas of our society. In some parts of the world, this day is celebrated by a national holiday, raising awareness and funding for projects that can enrich women’s lives.

Women have always been at the heart of human development, but they find themselves at the margins of most societies, despite major advances and a constant promotion of women development world wide.

In many countries in Africa women’s position within society has not changed much in over 50 years, cultural beliefs and taboo ensures that women’s roles remain invincible and their efforts recognised for almost little or no reward.

International women’s day started in 1911 with calls for a closing of the gender gap, for women to be paid as much as men and for all women to be offered the same privileges usually bestowed on man.

International women’s day in Africa is a serious affair. Women’s lives are burdened excessively. In both urban and rural Africa women work from 7am to 7pm. Especially in rural Africa; women can be burdened by domestic chores, taking care of their kids and other activities to support their families.

In many parts of Africa there is very little investment in girls. There is a general perception that if too much energy time and resources is spent on girls, they would more than likely get married and leave the home taking away much needed investment.

In many parts of Africa women cannot own land nor control the earning made of that land. Inheritance is usually passed on directly to men ignoring women all together.

Africa must recognise women’s contribution. Women burdened life style must be changed. Women cannot remain invincible. Women have to be empowered through education and a highlighting of their important role in society.

An educated woman can influence decision making with their husbands at home and members of the community. It is these actions that can ensure that the roles of women become fully recognised leading to better rewards.

Women’s roles across Africa are changing, much faster than we are willing to give credit for. Critics will say not fast enough. We have also seen many large institutions increase their female participation and quota for senior positions.

We must acknowledge, that Africa has its first female president in Liberia and in Rwanda; female members of parliament out number their male counterparts. This is unheard off in the entire world, outstripping both the British and American parliaments.

We can see clearly how an educated, empowered and resourceful women; can achieve to great heights; especially when opportunity is readily made available. Calls for women to have better control and more say in their lives, is a noble and welcome call from an ever changing world.