Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Nigeria at Cross Roads

Nigeria finds itself at cross roads. Africa’s most populous country with over a 150 million people, divided between Africa’s largest Muslim community in the north and Christians in the south.

The division between the two communities has been the worst in the past 10 years; culminating in conflicts, damage to property and loss of life.

Jos a town smack in the middle of the north and south divide has experienced the most disruption. The cycle of violence has gone virtually unchecked by faith leaders on both sides; unable and in some cases unwilling to convince their communities to live in peace.

All faiths preach peace tolerance and charity, but when religion is used as a weapon it can have ramification that can spin well beyond the immediate confines of both communities.

Federal and Local governments have run out of ideas in addressing the route causes of this decade old disturbances. The common sledge hammer approach of sending in the Military have usually quelled the violence in the short term. But a return to the status quo is ever so likely; culminating in violence and a return to the viscous and deadly cycle between the two communities.

There is a failure by government at both federal and state level to address this issue. Grinding poverty, illiteracy, disillusioned youths combined with criminal elements have forced women and children to live under the haze of perpetual fear and intimidation.

President Yara Adua long term absence from the political seen; as he seeks medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. Have not helped in addressing long term hardened grievances between Christian south and Muslim north.

Yara Adua’s refusal to hand over formal powers to Vice president Jonathan has left a void and created a political vacuum in Africa’s most populous nation. Virtual in slow motion confusion, poor judgement and indecisive actions have split the country into two. With a direct and engaging threat to the Nigerian political system.

Nigeria is indeed a young democracy. The ruling party PDP have ruled Nigeria since it’s achieved transition from military to civilian rule. In an effort to guarantee unity the PDP party operate a strict leadership rotation cycle system between political representatives from the north and those from the south. This complex system of cycles has guaranteed harmony for many years; but it is currently being tested.

The temporary but protracted departure of the President Yara Adua has thrown the entire political cycle into dispute. This situation is far worst as Vice President Jonathan is poised to take over in President Yara Adua’s ill absence, breaking the cycle for the very first time.

Back biting, finger tossing and name calling are a few of milder forms that this dispute has commanded. Hardliners on both sides of the divide have expressed concerns and likely to spark descent due to the breaking the cycle. The ramification may not be felt straight away but are bound to create confusion.

Nigeria will limps to the finish line with the start of another new cycle next year when national elections are dues. If the PDP wins the question will be; which of the cycles does the PDP adopt. The newly adopted one brought about by the rushing in of Vice president Jonathan or the one that had stated much earlier.

It will be painful and difficult. The courts may have to have the final say in deciding who would lead the PDP. I would expect Politicians on both sides to put away their differences in the interest of Nigeria.

Friday, 5 February 2010

ICC -- Who’s next?

I have always wondered if the International criminal court (ICC) is a fair organisation and what criteria it uses when selecting individuals who can be put before it‘s judges in the Hague.

There are increasing calls world wide for both former President Bush and Pri-minister Blair to face the ICC for wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan; resulting in the death and the displacement of thousands of people.

It defies belief that powerful individuals of the world can not be questioned let a lone brought before the International courts; raising serious concerns as to the effectiveness of the court and damaging further; the courts credibility as a fair, just and transparent organisation from the eyes of common concerned citizens of the World.

The ICC up until recently was labelled a white elephant costing millions of US Dollars annually and failing to yielding any tangible results. The ICC gained some respectability in 1999; when Slobodan Milosevic was indicted and convicting for atrocities against Serbian forces in Kosovo.

In 2003 a vocal and boisterous court; in its ambitious move to date, captured Charles Taylor charging him with crimes against people of Sierra Leone. Taylor’s rebel group captured and drugged children; who in turn chopped off the arm and limbs of innocent citizens during a 10 year brutal war. Taylor’s trial in the Hague has attracted world wide attention and intrigue. With growing concerns on both sides of political and public opinion vented in favour or against the ICC to try an EX- President.

The ICC with momentum has gone one step further since its formation. The Charging of Omar Al- Bashir a Sitting President of Sudan; with genocide, crimes against humanity and violation against the people of Darfur. Claims of ethnic cleansing and State sponsored militia, resulted in the death, rape and murder of thousands of people.

The Arab League and the African Union had earlier requested that Omar Al- Bashir arrest warrant be suspended. Both institutions were fearful of knee-jerk reactions and reprisals against Aid agencies and the people of Darfur. Further questioning the Courts ability to thinks through ramification of its actions, the timing of its indictments and the effects on the ground of those who they would otherwise try to protect.

Omar Al- Bashir will receive ample support from Russia and China on this issue. In a symbolic gesture they will try to table an amendment to the charges or a delay to the proceedings at the United Nations Security Council. Bashir is unlikely to attract similar sentiment from the Western Nations whom would more than likely veto any such proposals.

Sudan like the United States of America (USA) is not a member of the ICC. A defiant Bashir refuses to recognise the court, claims that the ICC is in beach of International Law and has no jurisdiction in Sudan. This is an argument that has all the haul marks of double standards, justified on the basis that the USA also does not recognise the court and the court has no authority over any USA citizens.

Bashir is convinced that the ICC charges are politically motivated. The Sudanese government sights variation in the application and interpretation of the ICC own laws, has swiftly cancelled visa and deported Aid agencies namely Oxfam in the United Kingdom and Care in the USA.

Omar Al- Bashir is now a wanted man and he will have difficulties travelling outside of the African continent. If and when he does, he is likely to be arrested and taken to the Hague for trial. Within the African continent, African leaders will be more tolerant and reluctant to interfere with Omar Al- Bashir; fearful that some of them may be next in focus of the ICC.