Monday, 22 February 2016

FRANCE: Hollande & Le Pen's surge

Francois Hollande is already viewed as the most unsuccessful president in recent French history. Hollande's ratings have dropped in February 6 points. In January, Hollande enjoyed 24% approval rating, that lasted only a month. A new poll by the barometer IFOP reveals that 81% percent of the population are dissatisfied with the president. His hapless leadership has enabled the rise of Marine Le Pen's far-right Front National. He plans to run again in 2017, but does he stand a chance?

He still has 12 months left to shed his reputation as the most hapless president of the Fifth Republic. But achieving that has become a major effort--a virtually impossible mission. All the issues he failed to address in previous years have now become obstacles. He believed for too long that the country, reforms and the economic recovery would essentially happen automatically. But he was wrong.

About 4 million Frenchmen are now out of work. The economy is reeling instead of growing, as it alternates between shrinking and stagnating; and there is growing resentment among workers. And Hollande, who set out to please everyone, is now incurring the wrath of all.

In addition to struggling against economic troubles and unemployment, he also needs to convince the French that Marine Le Pen and her far-right party, Front National (FN), are not an alternative.The Front National has finally become a major political force in recent years, during Hollande's term in office. One in three Frenchmen now say they could imagine voting for Marine Le Pen in 2017. If the presidential were held tomorrow, she could be ahead of the incumbent in a runoff vote.

Is Hollande hapless case? he can be portrayed as a statemen in a documentary filmed in his palace, and he can order the French army to bomb Islamic State in Syria. But even his foreign policy, which he seems much more decisive than on domestic issues, has done nothing to improve his poor approval ratings. He seems that no matter what he does, Hollande remains deeply unpopular with the French. Some 81% percent are dissatisfied with his performance as president. And for once commentators on both the left and the right agree: There is no love lost between Francois Hollande and the French.

What does this president have left on his agenda? Does he intend to achieve a major success in his remaining year in office and reform his country? No one honestly believes that anymore. At the moment, it seems as if he had only one overriding goal: to run for re-election in 2017--despite everything.

Hollande has the very upright posture of short men, a stiffness and a forced dignity that many find off-putting. In the past, when he served as a member of parliament for his party, he was popular among the French for his jokes and his quick-wittedness. Today when he tries to interact with the French people, he feels more like a director of the school of administration he attended than the man so many voted for to run their country. The odd thing about Hollande is that he has stressed from the very beginning that his task as president is to ''unite and comfort''. But the only other president before him to arouse so much anger in the country was his predecessor: Nicolas Sarkozy.

Whereas Sarkozy annoyed the French with his hyperactivity, Hollande vexes then with his apathy and trepidation. Those who work with Hollande all say that he is very good listener. He is well-versed on the issues, even complicated ones, but add that the president is very ''indecisive'' when it comes time to make decisions. This is how Pascal Lamy, the former head of the World Trade Organization and a friend of Hollande explains his way of thinking; ''Francois has two brains, one that recognizes the situation as it is, and another one that sets policy''.

Socialist Hollande has deeply disappointed the French--both those on the left and the pragmatists in the center--and the remaining year of his presidency will do nothing to change that. The beneficiaries of all this frustration are Marine Le Pen and her far-right party, the Front National. Many French are sick of constantly alternating conservative and socialist governments, because no matter who is in charge, their lives remain the same. the established parties seem to be losing more and more credibility each year. And the worse things get for Hollande, the better things will be for Marine Le Pen.

Hollande can also consider it his achievement that Marine Le Pen has managed to turn the Front National from a protest party into a real political force. Instead of opposing Marine Le Pen's nationalism, he has committed the policies of his predecessor, Sarkozy, a policy of empty promises and hollow words.

When Marine Le Pen's party won elections for the European Parliament in 2014, Hollande, looking serious, said on the evening of the election: '' The result does not correspond to Frances' role in Europe''. But he cannot change the reality with important sounding pronouncements. That was much true in 2015, when Marine Le Pen's party won two more seats in the French Senate. The Front National now has twice as many seats in the European Parliament as Hollande's Socialist Party.

Marine Le Pen claims to be fighting against ''those at the stop''. The approach is successful because the Paris elite is indeed aloof. Hollande, the prototype of this special caste, grew up in wealthy Neuilly and graduated from three of the so called ''Grand Schools''.  Him and some of his ministers and state secretaries were in the same class at France's renowned: ''Ecole Nationale d'administration'' or ''Ena''.

The president has now officially declared war on Marine Le Pen and dubbed her his most important opponent for the presidential election. This would never have happened in the past. Up until now, the established parties preferred to simply ignore the Front National. But that is no longer an option. The question is whether this will not in fact increase Marine Le Pen's popularity even further.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Agence France Presse photo of: French President Francois Hollande at Brussels summit 2015-getty image

Friday, 19 February 2016

U.K.: The Anatomy of EU's June-referendum

Marathon talks between David Cameron and EU leaders in Brussels have resumed this morning as the British Prime Minister tries to secure a reform deal. Cameron is engaged in a last ditch bid to secure an EU reform deal which will allow him to call a referendum on British membership on June 23.

Whether a deal is reached or not, British people will likely vote in EU referendum this year. Britain Prime Minister, David Cameron has laid out his four objectives for EU reforms before holding a membership referendum. David Cameron has argued that the EU needs to play a less prominent role in some aspects of how its members countries function.

Although the upcoming UK referendum on EU membership will only be the second time the British electorate has voted on its participation in the integration project, over 50 referendums have been held elsewhere in Europe on other aspects of European integration. There are four key characteristics of ballots on the EU: that campaign matters, party messages are important, the framing of the ''reversion point'' is crucial, and that EU referendums are not just about the EU.

When Britain goes to the polls, on June 23, to vote on whether to stay in or leave the European Union, it will be following in the footsteps of many other European countries. Since the early 1970s, over 50 referendums have been held across Europe on various aspects of European integration. Most of these have learn from these past referendums experiences? Most importantly, perhaps, that governments should never be complacent when calling a vote on the EU.

Since 2000, there have been 21 referendums and six of these a majority of voters rejected a proposal that had the broad backing of the mainstream political parties, the media, trade unions and business organizations. Such ''No'' votes even occurred in countries that are traditionally very pro-European, including France (which said ''No'' to the Constitutional Treaty in 2005) and Ireland (which first time around at least voted against ratifying the Nice and Lisbon treaties).

Between them, these referendums experiences have revealed four key characteristics of ballots on the EU: the campaign matters, party messages are important, the framing of the reversion point is crucial and finally, EU referendums are not just about the EU.

The polls during the early stages of a referendum campaign often give a very poor indication of the actual outcome of the vote. Attitudes towards the EU are far more malleable than vote intentions in general elections. Many voters will change their minds as the referendum campaign progress. And many remain undecided until they cast their vote.

Importantly, a large proportion of voters may never make it to the ballot box. Getting people to vote could be crucial in the British referendum, as Euroskeptics voters are more likely than those who support remaining in the EU to say they will definitely vote. A lacklustre campaign with low turnout is thus likely to benefit the Leave camp, whereas a high-intensity campaign leading to high turnout will more likely boost the Remain side.

Referendums give voters a direct say on policy outcome, but parties are crucial in structuring the debate and the choices that voters face. During referendum campaigns, voters tend to turn the political parties to which they feel closer for guidance on which way to vote. Of course, not all voters follow such party ''cues'', but they have been shown to matter. Yet when parties are openly split on the question, as the French Socialists were in the 2005 campaign, party messages have a much weaker effect. In the UK both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party have already displayed a degree of internal division that is likely to weaken of their recommendations to voters.

Voters face uncertainty non only about what Britain's future within the European Union will look like, but also crucially what will happen if they vote to leave the EU.

The ''reversion point'', or the consequences of rejecting the proposal, has been shown to be a crucial determinant of how people vote in EU referendums. Voters are generally risk adverse, and hence when the ''reversion point'' is presented as radical break with the status quo, or is associated with great uncertainty, this favors the ''Remain'' side. Of course there is a danger for governments that if they exaggerate the consequences of voting ''No'' to their proposal they will be accused of scaremongering.

However, the experiences of the Danish and Ireland ''No'' votes(to the Masstricht, Nice and Lisbon treaties), which all reversed in subsequent referendums, demonstrate the persuasive power of highlighting the negative consequences of a second ''No''.

Finally, it would be a mistake to think that voters care only, or even primarily, about the EU when they cast their vote in EU referendums. As the former Irish Minister for Europe, Dick Roche, said poignantly: '' the problem n a referendum is that you can ask the right question, but people answer other questions''. ''Referendums are potentially an opportunity for voters to express their dissatisfaction with political establishment, and with the government in particular. This is why referendums held during the midterm of the electoral cycle, when governments are often relatively unpopular, are more likely to end in defeat.

Such protest voting is especially common when the campaign is less intense and citizens feel that less is at stake. This potential mood is one reason why both sides need to fight a broad-based campaign that involves well known individuals who are not closely associated with the established political parties.

In comparison with past EU referendums, the Remain side in Britain faces a particularly though challenge: the British public is more Euroskeptic that other European electorates and British parties, media, trade unions and business organizations are more divided over Europe. However, the choice facing voters is also starker than in any previous referendum held in an existing EU member state-to leave or remain in the EU-and this will most likely make it easier for pro-Europeans to appeal to voters who are risk averse.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Agence France Presse-photo of EU's leaders: Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, and David Cameron, yesterday at Brussels

Thursday, 18 February 2016

FRANCE: Sarkozy's comeback

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced his intention to return to frontline politics by competing in the leadership contest for France’s main centre-right party, the The Republican, 3 years ago. But his path back to power has been far rockier than expected;

Sarkozy's return becomes more contentious and deepens existing divisions within the party. Sarkozy is embroiled in several corruption scandals, and has failed to excite much popular support. He trails center-right rival Alain Juppé by a considerable margin in opinion polls.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was placed under formal criminal investigation on Tuesday over alleged illegal campaign funding, in a new blow to his hopes of getting back into the '' Champs Elysées''.  The case against Sarkozy has hinged on the activity of PR firm Bygmalion, which organized some of Sarkozy's appearances during his failed election campaign four years ago and is accused of using a vast system of false accounting.

Bygmalion allegedly charged 18.5 million euros ($21 million) to Sarkozy's party-then called the ''UMP'' but since then renamed ''The Republicans''-instead of billing the president's re-election campaign. As a result, the campaign was able to greatly exceed a spending limit of 22.5 million euros ($25 million), according to allegations.

It’s 15 months until the French presidential elections in 2017 and former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s return to centre stage promises to make French politics a lively affair until then. But Sarkozy’s return has deepened divisions within the centre right ''The Republican'', thwarting its efforts to present a united front against populist '' Front National'' (FN).

In last Senate election, the Socialists lost control of the upper house (elected mainly by local councils), having already lost in municipal elections in March and in the European elections in May, which were won by Marine Le Pen’s FN. For the first time since its creation in 1972, her extreme-right party won representation in the senate with two seats. This underestimates the large number of local votes won by the FN which continues to cut into the ''The Republican's'' grassroots support. The last thing the Republican  needs now is another scandal.

Sarkozy’s return is adding to internal pressures on the already fractured ''The Republican''. The Republican’s disputed leadership election in November 2012 was narrowly won by Jean-François Copé against former Prime Minister François Fillon, which created bad blood inside the party. This was made worse when Copé was forced to resign as The Republican chief over the Bygmalion campaign finance scandal incriminating his chef de cabinet Jérôme Lavrilleux who was deputy director of Sarkozy’s 2012 election campaign.

Sarkozy fiercely maintains his innocence in this affaire involving the issue of false invoices to hide some of his re-election campaign spending. Sarkozy claims he had never heard of Bygmalion, but the issue won’t go away. Sarkozy is now designated as an ''assisted witness'' in connection with accusations of using false document, fraud and breach of trust.

Sarkozy gazes upon a presidential bid in 2017. He tries to portray himself as a new, calmer and wiser man since his defeat in 2012 by François Hollande. He claims to have had no choice but to re-enter politics in order to serve his political family and country and launch a new collective project fit for the 21st century. However, the Bygmalion case could prove the most damaging, especially after the investigation found that Sarkozy asked for more campaign events in mid-March 2012, around two months before the vote.

Sarkozy's ambitions have not been helped by a series of scandals, including allegations that he used money from late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi to fund his 2007 campaign, that he was involved in kickbacks from a Pakistani arms deal in 1990s, and he tried to bribe a magistrate to get inside information on yet another corruption case in which he was implicated.

Furthermore, Sarkozy is still deeply unpopular among French voters who had voted against him in favour of Hollande in the 2012 presidential election. In a recent CSA poll, 60 per cent of respondents do not want Sarkozy to run in 2017. A BVA-Odoxa poll shows nearly 55 per cent of respondents do not find him ‘convincing’. Crucially, 67 per cent think his political return is motivated by revenge rather than a true collective project for France.

So what are Sarkozy’s motivations for returning to politics? He claims to want to ‘reunite his political family’ and create a ‘credible alternative’ that would go beyond outdated cleavages of left-right, green, etc. However, he struggles to dissociate ''The Republican'' leadership contest from the longer-term contest to select the right-of-centre presidential candidate for 2017.

Alain Juppé seems the only one capable of beating Sarkozy in the ''Republican'' leadership contest. Despite being out of parliament for 10 years, he is popular with the general public who see him as an old hand, a sort of vieux sage. In a recent IFOP poll, 66 per cent said they had a favourable opinion of Juppé compared to 43 per cent for Sarkozy. Juppé is 70 and has hinted he wouldn’t seek a second term if he won the presidency in 2017. Still, he is closer to the moderate centrist party MoDem with whom an alliance might be instrumental in 2017 to combat the FN.

However, the selection in a primary election for the ''Republican'' candidate for the 2017 presidential race is a different matter and a long way off. If Sarkozy decides to run, he will face two problems: Alain Juppé, the mayor of Bordeaux, and his own shadow of scandals.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Agence France Presse-photo of : Nicolas Sarkozy

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

U.S.: Democrats' 2016 Strategy

The GOP is weak, but Democrats nevertheless need to change their strategy if they want to keep the presidency. The GOP gained a majority in both houses of Congress for one reason: midterm election demographics. The Senate turned red because of the Democrats’ poor response to expected lower voter turnout in demographics that are a vital part of the Democratic base. However, demographics alone do not tell the whole story.

Democrats had to react to this expected lower voter rate. To compensate, Democrats moved to the right and center, distancing themselves from President Obama, in order to win more swing votes. Still, the cardinal rule of elections is that they are won not by winning over undecided voters, but by getting more of your supporters to the polls by rallying your base. The Democrats faced a difficult election, but chose a losing strategy.

The Democratic run to the right at best took some undecided voters from Republicans. But it likely lost as many votes as it won. When one side runs as Republican and the other runs as Republican-lite, the liberal Democratic base will not bother voting.

The 2016 election will reveal whether Democrats learned their lesson. Even with the expected higher turnout from low-income, minority, and young voters in presidential election years, the GOP can and will use general dissatisfaction with the president to achieve victory. Democrats need a fresh strategy that redeems the party in progressives’ eyes to win 2016.

The Republican party’s strategy, as it was in 2014, is be to unify the party against the president. President Obama remains very unpopular among all Republicans and self-identified conservatives. As in 2014, Republicans are capitalizing on this feeling to increase base and undecided support. Obama is seen by many conservatives as subverting the Constitution and democracy through his executive orders. 

The Democrats’ recent shift in political strategy is a strong attempt to use the Republicans’ own tactics against them. Whether genuinely pushing for progressive solutions or merely putting up the facade of progressive liberalism, the actions of the Democratic members of Congress and the President’s administration boost populist support for Democrats.

The president chose to propose a larger tax on the wealthiest Americans in the State of the Union. The proposal is aimed at “putting the new Republican Congress in the position of defending top income earners over the middle class.” These measures put the president and the Democratic party back in the good graces of many middle-class and low-income American citizens. If the president succeeds in dispelling general dissatisfaction with him, Republicans will be forced to support the president or oppose his popular policies.

Standing up for progressive policies should win Democrats a lot of support in 2016, but, because of their Congressional majority, the GOP is in a stronger position to highlight issues and disagreement with the president.

Victory in 2016 will also depend on how each party rallies their key demos. The Democrats’ progressive strategy will only be successful if their candidate appeals to that same class of voters. President Obama twice compiled at least 332 electoral votes by adding wins in almost every competitive state. He posted double-digit wins among women, huge margins among voters younger than 30 and historically high marks among blacks and Latinos. As non-white voters continue to grow as a share of the electorate, a Democratic nominee who roughly holds onto Obama's 2012 level of support across all democratic groups would win the national popular vote by about 6 percentage and coast to victory in the Electoral College. 

The Republican presidential aspirant nominated at this summer's convention is likely to become that party's nominee in part by invoking jingoist and xenophobic themes. This theme can be countered by Democrats with appeals to cosmopolitan America's better angels and its Judaeo-Christian, immigrant and liberal democracy roots, its diverse and welcoming culture and its visceral anti-authoritarian. But those angels will be more persuasive when combined with a compelling Democratic narrative of economic populism. There lies a problem. 

Democrats have been in power for 8 years with paltry results for the middle class. Real wages have risen steadily in Australia and northern Europe in this period, yet stagnated in the U.S. Income disparities widening. Indeed, the mean 2.5 percent real wage gains by German workers in 2015 alone exceeds the cumulative rise in median real American weekly wages since 1979. 

Wall Street malfeasance goes unpunished. Collective bargaining is not prioritized despite super-majority support for unions as devices to raise wages. The carried interest tax loophole remains wide open. Trade agreements give short shrift to wage concerns. Tax inversions have become commonplace. America has earned a reputation globally as tax shelter for the rich, worse than Luxembourg or the Cayman islands. Even long overdue EU steps to close tax loopholes exploited my multinational are demonized by Obama administration Treasury officials. 

Some of this dismaying record reflects Republican Party intransigence. But a considerable portion is self-inflicted by President Obama, lending credence to Republican attacks on wage stagnation. Such attacks are disingenuous  because higher wages have a third rail of Republican politics since President Reagan. Its recent history is a litany of wage suppression: a political party determined to show recovery while opposing minimum wage, collective bargaining, higher overtime pay, paid sick-leave and the like. They reject linking wages to productivity gains or to CEO pay. That party is centered in corporate America unduly prioritizing profits at the expense of wages.

Pew polling finds that Democrats are viewed as more attentive than Republicans to middle class worries. But electorally, this edge is threatened by Republican nationalist populism and economic frustration. And their electoral success in November may well hinge on a visionary agenda of economic populism. 

Electoral success for Democrats in November will hinge on muting Republican nationalism with economic populism centered on raising wages. Democrats should break with the uninspiring Obama legacy by redefining their vision of the American economic experience to include reformation of corporate governance and linking wages to productivity. Few Americans would defend the behavior of U.S. executive suites and most would welcome a powerful, seasoned alternative to misfiring quarterly capitalism.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalsit
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Reuters photo of Democrats hopefuls CNN debate: Hillary Clinton & Bernie Sanders

DRC: The Price of Freedom

With regards to freedom of speech, gathering, expression DRC and Turkey are almost at eye level. Words are heavy in DRC, and every journalist, political activist knows that, because of word, because of sentence, you can be sued, you can be demonized by pro-government media and you can even land in  prison. Different views are not tolerated. Critical minds are suppressed, intimidated. And it is not just going backwards, it is sliding backwards very very fast. 

In the last years especially, the free expression of thought has been made more difficult and newspapers, TV stations, journalists or authors critical of the government are subjected to financial and other penalties. By now, more journalists are incarcerated in DRC than in China. Arbitrary arrest and trials are common place. UN reports more than 100 political prisoners in DRC in 2015 and at the eve of new legislative and presidential election, tension is high.

The country's president, Mr Joseph Kabila has changed a lot since he came to power. In the beginning, he used to talk about being all embracing. No longer. It is not secret that he wants to reform the constitution in order to seek a third term and the opposition, worried about this concentration of power, is determined to do whatever it takes to bend Kabila, in respecting the constitution and leave power at the end of the year.

The opposition has multiplied calls for civic and calm protests around the country. Yesterday, a nationwide strike was observed, which it seems to be successful story for the opposition;  however, the success of the ''stand against Kabila'' will depend on its ability to find support among the rural population; many think nothing will change when they take the streets, no because of fear, but because of this collective depression, apathy. People feel demoralized, they lose the interests in politics and retreat to their private lives. The reason for the countrywide depression lies in the fundamentally changed view of the state, opposition and politics.

Over 10 ten years now, people in DRC become used to same rhetoric, the same circle of violence, and nothing happens. In 2006, several opposition, political activists, young and old took the streets, protesting Kabila's fraught electoral victory over Mr Jean Pierre Bemba. Many people were detained, imprisoned and killed. In 2011, the same circle repeated itself with Mr Etienne Tshisekedi. Every time, the West/US talked of sanctions but still nothing happened. And in a very hypocritical sense of ''déjá vu'', in 2016, the Obama's administration, through Obama's envoy in DRC, Thomas Perriello, Washington sings the lullaby of sanctions against Kabila and his cheerleaders, in any event that legislative and presidential election is not held this year.

The West/EU, it seems, wants stable regimes, and therefore it is not emphasizing human rights; they have become postponable issues( the case in point is: Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, where the West and US have turned a complete blind eye to human rights abuses, authoritarian regime for a facade of stability) But these are not postponable issues. There can be no stability without democracy.

For an amateur politician like Mr Kabila, who seems to have learned the lessons of heavy-handed government from old African dictators: Yoweri Museveni, Robert Mugabe, Eduardo Santos, Pierre Nkurunziza, civic participation and giving citizens a say have always been curiosities rather than crucial parts of democracy. That’s where his reliance on the security services to quell the protests with brutal force, stems from. 

Mindful of rising doubts about him in the West, Kabila may seek friends elsewhere. Dozens of oil contracts, hydropower, farming and mining projects worth billions of dollars are in the offing. Angola wants an agreement over oil off-the coastline it shares with DRC. China wants minerals for infrastructure contract worth $12 billion. Such things may win friends and give Kabila and his economy some respite, in case of sanctions. 

But also, Kabila may be able to pivot away from Western support. Donor contributions to DRC have declined in recent years, going from 42 percent of the country budge in 2010 to 19 percent in 2015, as mineral production has increased dramatically. As last year DRC is now Africa's largest Copper and Cobalt producer, though the recent commodity slump has dampened its ambitions somewhat.

The greatest strength of the opposition nationwide strike, its rarity, will unfortunately become its greatest weakness in the future, if the opposition cannot keep the momentum in one form or another until the legislative and Presidential elections. So far, the biggest opposition party – the UDPS – seems unable to use the nationwide strike to its advantage. Kabila has heard the warning bells; Kabila could even profit from the protests if he heeds the calls for more civic participation. That alone would represent an undeniable improvement in comparison to the current situation.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
African Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Agence France Photo: DRC President: Joseph Kabila, at Press Conference in 2011 presidential election

Monday, 15 February 2016

WORLD: Combative Atheism

Atheism and religion are inextricably bound to each other: The strength of one is the strength of the other. 

Atheism is on the rise. Richard Dawkins’ books are frequent bestsellers and have popularized the belief that religious creation narratives are incompatible with the theory of evolution. In Dawkins’ wake, a whole host of professional atheists has launched frequent attacks on religious believers and has introduced atheism as a world-view into the public discourse throughout much of the world.

Those who thought that freemasonry, Darwinism and fervent criticism of the Church were a thing of the 19th century – and had been replaced by a more relaxed approach to questions of faith – have been proven wrong. Today’s atheism is more combative than before and hard to ignore. 
History teaches us that atheism is largely a reactive phenomenon. In the 18th century, the first comprehensive atheist arguments emerged in Europe as a response to the dominant position of the Catholic Church and its political power. Writers like La Mettrie, Voltaire, Diderot and d’Holbach penned their books in opposition to ecclesiastical fraud and power-grabbing. Voltaire called the Catholic Church “nefarious” and demanded its destruction. After the Enlightenment, atheism remained strong in countries where the Church had secured a privileged political, legal, and financial position: France, Italy, and Spain.
The resurgence of atheism today can be seen as a reaction to the proclaimed “resurgence of religion”. Atheists have started to mobilize, they have formed associations and pushed into public discourses because religion has re-gained prominence after the end of the Cold War. Many political, social, and cultural debates are now described as having religious roots. Often, this is taken to mean that religion should be opposed altogether.
We should not make the mistake of over-estimating the pervasiveness of atheist thinking. In Germany only ten percent don’t believe in any higher power. Almost 25 percent call themselves agnostic: They don’t know whether God exists or aren’t sure. If the question is re-phrased to inquire about an explicit disbelief in God, only five percent respond affirmatively. This isn’t surprising: Like the “resurgence of religion”, the “surge of atheism” has been hyped by the media. It’s less pervasive than you might think.
Church membership, church attendance rates, and religious self-identifications have been on the decline for decades. And even those who continue to attend church irregularly often place less importance on religion than previous generations. But the weak commitment to organized religion in Europe also translates into a weak commitment to atheist ideas. Fervent commitments to religious fundamentalism or combative atheism remain the exception.
Religion is often criticized for being intolerant, fanatical, and violent – but the same criticism can also be leveled against combative atheism. Indeed, the most vocal atheists always seem a bit antiquated and reminiscent of 19th century critics. Intolerant fanatics aren’t in high demand, regardless of whether their arguments are religiously motivated or rooted in atheism. The values of tolerance and acceptance of alternative cultures and beliefs are held in higher regard today than they were in the past.
We don’t need to rid the world of religion, and we don’t need to rid the world of atheism. Political religions have wreaked great havok in the 20th century under the name of fascism, nationalism, and communism. Let’s hope that their age has passed. We don’t need another ideology that proclaims to explain and cleanse the world, regardless of its guise. The European experience of totalitarianism remains fresh in our collective memory. Atheism’s future lies in its willingness to embrace pluralism and to respect the cultural contributions of religious beliefs.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit:Nexus-Edition photo of: Guylain Gustave Moke

Friday, 12 February 2016

EUROPE: Gender-Equal Europe...

Women’s equality is directly linked to Europe’s overall well-being. Only by overcoming gender inequality can we truly lay the foundations for the continent’s future.

The list of European problems is long: the mass immigration, refugees' integration, and the rise of nationalist parties from Paris to Budapest. Before this backdrop, feminists have often found their fight for complete women’s equality – socially, politically, and economically – rejected as a lesser issue. Responses such as “I see your point in reducing the pay gap, but we have bigger problems to worry about, don’t you think?” are common, and likely all too familiar to those advocating for women’s improved standing in society. In these instances, gender activists often back down or even silently agree, postponing their ideas and plans for a later date when no other problems will seem to loom as prominently.

But what if we got things mixed up here? What if gender inequality is truly at the core of European problems? What if addressing gender equality is the first step to overcoming a myriad of other issues? There is actually some evidence indicating this to be true – gender inequality may in fact be the core problem in Europe, holding societies back from unfolding their fullest and truest potential. (This being a global issue, similar arguments will likely also apply to other parts of the world, but this article will focus on a European context.)
Relatively speaking, Europe is already doing fine in regards to gender equality. This is particularly true for countries within the EU, where EU stipulations guarantee equal treatment regardless of one’s gender. Article 23 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union specifically states: “Equality between men and women must be ensured in all areas, including employment, work and pay.” This is as far as the legal aspect is concerned. You might call this the status de jure. But how is this playing out in real life for women in the EU?
The Gender Equality Index (GEI) is a good starting point to answer this question and helps us establish the de facto situation for women. This index is annually drafted by the European Institute of Gender Equality and compiles factors used as indicators (i.e. knowledge, money, work, time, violence, power, health, and intersecting inequalities) to determine differences between women and men. 

For last year, the top-ranking countries are Sweden, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium, with Romania, Slovakia, Portugal, Greece, and Bulgaria ranking the lowest. Comparing this to a global level, according to the 2014 Global Gender Gap Report, done by the World Economic Forum, the top five for the EU also are part of the top 15 worldwide, with Romania, the EU’s lowest-ranking country, still ranking at 70 out of 136. Most EU countries easily make the first third of the list, giving the EU a comfortable global standing for the GEI.
Where, then, is the problem? Right here. No country, worldwide or within the EU, has established even remote equality between women and men. Europe’s leading country in most gender statistics, Iceland, only holds a score of 87 (with 100 being complete equality), while Finland and Sweden clock in at the low 80s. The EU average on gender equality, according to the GEI, lies slightly below 53, meaning that, on average, gender equality in the EU is only halfway achieved. To anyone caring about such equality, this is bad news. And to anyone caring about Europe’s future, this is bad news, too.
What does gender equality have to do with Europe’s overall problems? A whole lot. It is clear that those countries that feature an overall healthier level of gender equality also fare better economically, socially, and politically. And this is not simply a question of economic success. True gender equality allows countries to unfold their full potential by relying on all their citizens’ creativity, passion, and commitment. 

In Europe this is particularly true when realizing that most top-level politicians, diplomats, CEOs, and journalists – those making key decisions and finding solutions to problems – are men. Angela Merkel is the famous exception to the rule, veiling the fact that Europe’s top problem solvers are almost exclusively male. This is not in and of itself bad, but it does subtract from the potential of problem-solving that would come with a more gender-diverse group of leaders in Europe and the EU.
The good news for Europe is that change is happening. Slowly – sometimes too slowly, it would seem – women move into positions of increased power and achieve equality, at least in individual or in small cases. In a few years, however, we will also see a broader change in European society. 

Today, women make up the majority of students enrolled in European universities and are increasingly pushing into the traditionally male-dominated STEM(science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. This wave of highly-qualified women will reach higher-ranking jobs in both public and non-public relations. University enrollment is not the only indicator – today, many political activists, young journalists, lawyers, and young members of think tanks are women, and this is a trend poised to continue.
This trend, however, does not by any means indicate that we can all just sit back and see positive change in the form of women’s empowerment sweep through Europe. On the contrary: As almost all movements for greater social inclusion, this one is experiencing significant backlash. Opposition against women’s empowerment is all too common – the degrading and highly sexualized depictions of women in the media is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Domestic violence as well as sexual assault are still major issues. The grossest and most appalling misogynism takes place in the form of human (sex) trafficking, with a large percentage of those trafficked being underage females. This takes place in our very European backyard; a perversely skewed image of women and their purpose. 

Even on a political and professional level, sexism is extremely prevalent. I cannot even remember how often I have heard of highly-qualified women being denied promotion after promotion by men who simply cannot handle strong women being in positions around them. And I can hardly imagine any female politician who could live a life similar to that of Dominique Strauss-Kahn or Silvio Berlusconi (or many others, for that matter) and still be able to continue their careers without facing larger problems.
However, the problem with sexism – in Europe or elsewhere – is not just men. It is a system, built around the assumption that women simply do not belong within the world of power and decision-making. This system also extends to women themselves, who, from early on, are systemically discouraged from believing in their own abilities to become change-makers. 

As a result, even the smartest women too often refuse to take credit for their great work or acknowledge that they have the power to bring about social or political change. With that, we not only lose an unspeakable amount of ideas, innovations, and improvements; we hinder our continent from living up to its full potential.
What is there to do? It’s simple. Let’s realize the promise of gender equality as stipulated by the EU Charter years ago. For women, this means not being satisfied with an almost-equal status. Everything less than equal is not only wrong but dangerous. For men, this means stepping up and combating sexism – the root of inequality – wherever it appears (and it appears all the time). As men, there is a need to drop the apprehension of the word “feminist” and realize that it stands for nothing else than somebody who truly values equality between the sexes.
Maybe it’s no coincidence that Europe is named after a woman. Let’s take it as an incentive to think of our continent as a place of gender equality – not just as a theoretical concept, but as a reality on our streets, in our cities and families. I truly believe that a gender-equal Europe will be able to overcome its never-ending series of problems and issues. We should continue to press for equality until it is achieved, not just for women’s sake, but for our whole continent’s sake.
Inspiration for this article was found from the United Nations’ ‘HeForShe’ 2014 campaign. The initiative aimed to recruit men who would step up for women’s rights. Several male celebrities have since publicly proclaimed themselves feminists. For European men, it is time to join the team of Matt Damon, Ryan Gosling, and Joseph Gordon-Lewitt, as I did, and say: “I am a feminist”. I know plenty of other men who are, too. 

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investugative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Agence France Presse-Getty Images of : Euro MPs, including the Italian deputy Licia Ronzulli and her daughter Victoria, top row, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

LIBYA: The IS' gains

The country is under militia rule; there are two parliaments and governments, in the west and the east; Rival militias in Libya have thrown the country into civil war and made it easy prey for the Islamic State. IS is spreading; IS is capturing new territory each day.

But the dissolution of Libya started long before. In last parliamentary elections, Islamist parties associated with the militias in Misrata, an important trade city, fared miserably and have been unwilling to accept their defeat. Under the leadership of the Libyan Dawn, the militias captured the capital city of Tripoli. They deposed the newly elected and internationally recognized parliament and reinstated some members of the previous parliament, leading the elected members to flee to Tobruk.

Since that split took place, the country has effectively become home to two parliaments, but also two governments and two armies. Both sides have been fighting each other since, attacking airports, oil terminals and cities. The bloody power struggle is leading to Libya's collapse. Oil production has fallen dramatically, from over 1.6 million barrels a day to under 500,000. Revenues are still sufficient to cover the salaries of government workers and to subsidize gasoline, but there isn't enough left over to maintain hospitals or cover necessary infrastructure repairs.

IS' strategists have been waiting for precisely this kind of chaos. The conflict has weakened the state to such a degree that is easy to capture. IS, for its part, would like see this vulnerability persist. Should intense conflict erupt once again in Libya, the jihadists would benefit from the power struggle by constantly shifting its loyalties. It is a strategy that worked well in Syria, even allowing it to militarily outmaneuver stronger rebel groups such as the Nusra Front.

IS expands its sphere of influence from Sirte on the coast to the east, west and south. there are already bridgeheads and cells in the south, and if IS is allowed to join forces with terrorist organizations in Chad and Niger, then it will be more difficult to push IS back.

The city of ''Sirte'' is the Islamic State's new center of power in Libya. A short time ago, the terrorists took over TV and radio stations here, which have since been broadcasting jihadist songs and speeches given by IS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani. In addition, offices of the authorities have been occupied, oil terminals attacked and foreign workers beheaded. Just recently, government employees were even forced to publicly apologize for having worked for the Libyan state. IS, in Sirte,  has also gained supporters in Benghazi and Tripoli. Members of Islamist militias are defecting to IS.

IS is already expanding its reach to the south. In the city of Sabha, IS is planning the possible establishment of the Fezzan Province of the Islamic State. If that happened, it would place the smuggling routes for refugees, weapons and drugs in IS' hands and create a corridor for the group to other Islamist groups south of Libya.

Last week, IS' fighters reached the oil terminal at Ras Lanuf. If things keep on going like this, they will soon capture it. But the awareness that people need to be coming together to counter this threat is still lacking.

Today, Darna is ruled by several militia groups, the most important of which is the Islamic Youth Shura Council, an organization founded in the spring after splintering off from the Libyan terror group Ansar al-Sharia. In Darna, the leaders of Ansar al-Sharia have joined forces with Islamic State while in Benghazi they have not.

Initially, IS emerged in Libya in the form of a group of fighters returning from Syria. The so-called al-Battar Brigade brought Darna under its control by murdering politicians, judges and attorneys -- but also by killing commanders of other militias. An "emir" sent by Islamic State arrived in Darna, a previously little-known Yemenite named Mohammed Abdullah. Last Oct. 5, the first meeting was held between the men from the Islamic State and Shura Council leaders, during which they announced their alliance and the founding of Islamic State's "Barka Province." At the end of October, hundreds of citizens publiclly proclaimed their loyalty to the "caliph."

IS now hunts down everybody who voices criticism, be it even just a comment posted on Facebook. Three young anti-IS activists were beheaded on camera in Darna. Suspected criminals are lashed. A murderer was executed in the local football stadium. Islamists are treated no better. The leader of Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi has been missing ever since he refused to join the "caliphate" -- in all likelihood he was killed. A further militia leader has applied for asylum in Turkey.

The Libyan capital, Tripoli, has been under the control of an Islamist alliance calling itself "Fajr Libya" -- Dawn Libya. The group doesn't belong to Islamic State, but the route to the "caliphate" nevertheless runs through Tripoli. Last August, Fajr Libya took control of Mitiga Airport in Tripoli, leaving the terminal in ruins and destroyed jets at the gates. A plastic tarp hanging over the entrance reads "International Airport Tripoli." And Mitiga is an international airport, even if there is essentially only a single destination: the "caliphate."

IS' influence is fast spreading to individuals too. IS also receives support from Abdul Wahhab al-Gayed, a former member of Libya's parliament. As the head of the Border Guard, he received around €250 million from the government in mid-2013. However, the money never went where it was supposed to. It is believed that al-Gayed used it to procure weapons for his militia, which has joined forces with IS.

There have been other criminal efforts to raise money for IS as well. In October 2013, members of the Ansar al-Sharia terrorist group robbed a central bank money van in Sirte that was reportedly carrying €39 million. Now it appears that Ansa al-Sharia is merging with IS.

There are now three urgent reasons for political agreement: the first is the spread of IS; the second is the miserable condition of living: 2,4 million Libyans are reliant on humanitarian aid, with 1.3 million requiring food assistance and the third is the financial situation at the central bank, whose reserves have shrunk enormously, from $280 billion in 2011 to just 50 billion, largely due to the drastic decline in oil production. It is a question of time before Libya runs out of money.

Because the political process will progress more slowly than military process, the US is considering conducting air strikes in Libya against IS. As the past has shown, air-strikes alone do not defeat terrorists. This is a battle for oil fields and refineries, a battle for cities and strategic positions, and for that, Libya needs ground troop, the rebuilding of its army an adequate training. But there is no readiness on the part of the International Community or the United States, UK and France for that kind of engagement.

The truth is that Libya is well on its way to becoming a failed state -- making it the perfect prey for IS. Furthermore, Libya is close to Italy, has plenty of oil and offers a possible corridor to Boko Haram in Nigeria as well as to Islamists in Mali and in the Sahara. Indeed, if IS succeeds in solidifying its presence Libya, the terrorists could pose a threat to Southern Europe in addition to destabilizing all of North Africa.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
African Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Courtesy of -Agence France Presse

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

EUROPE: The Fear-Factor

“Truth and love will overcome lies and hatred,” said Václav Havel. That phrase became the rallying call of Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution. 

Yet the political debate in the European Union today is more about fear and repression than about rights and possibilities. A quick sweep across the continent’s political landscapes, populations and you’d be hard pushed to deny that this phrase still requires the future tense rather than the present one. From Golden Dawn, UKIP’, PEGIDA and many other expressions of fear in Europe: Fear is more politically successful than hope.

The fear is that external forces threaten a way of life. Change has become something to be treated with suspicion rather than embraced. This fear is infecting both the electorate and the elected. During the last European election campaign, UKIP party members had publicly linked homosexuality to both climate change and pedophilia, called women who don’t clean behind the fridge “sluts”, and said the UK should stop sending aid to “Bongo Bongo Land”.

All across Europe, Politics has become paralyzed by this fear of change. Global finance, the approach to climate change, mass migration, endless wars on drugs and terror all are crying out for a change in policy, yet the mainstream parties shy away from it. Instead we are left with torture to prevent terrorism, bloodshed to prevent extremism, and isolationism to protect our way of life, fear to protect the European values.

In the wake of terrorism and a rise in fear of the unknown, a tide of repressive immigration policies is passing through Europe. Many Europeans with a background from other continents face a similar situation today. Europe's companies and public services could not operate without immigrants, working for low wages and minimal social security.

In the eyes EU politicians, Muslims are perceived as a potential threat. They must be educated in European values, so they do not become followers of extremist views and possibly of terrorism. These European values are seen as something given, not something to be defined together in an inclusive political process.
Since 2006, EU politicians agreed to promote the idea of "integration contracts" for potential EU immigrants. That anybody wanting to live in the European Union must show they understand what is defined as European values and promise to follow them. Otherwise, they will not get a permit of residence. If they do not follow the contract, they might be expelled. Muslim leaders across Europe are already reacting negatively to the proposal for "integration contracts". The approach taken by EU politicians since 2006 increase tensions in Europe, not reduce them.

Another example of this approach is the secret EU action-plan to prevent "radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism", which member-states have promised to implement. One of its elements is dialogue with moderate Muslim groups, but citizens in general and Muslims in particular are not allowed to read the plan and the strategy underlying such a discussion.

Everybody should respect common values like women's rights and respect for different sexual orientations. Islamic fundamentalism too often equals repression. But other religious dogmas are not free of prejudice. The racist attitudes behind the large countries' integration contracts do not belong in the European Union. The important issue of integration has been kidnapped by hardliners seeking to support their domestic political careers. Public opinion in member-states should mobilise against the repressive laws being prepared at the closed meetings of the interior ministers.

This is a question of taking advantage of Europe's diversity instead of meeting globalisation by building walls. Above all it is an issue about equal rights. And wasn't that one of the European values every democratic European wants to defend?

Fear is the easy sell. It breeds more fear, generating its own political currency. The last great success of hope (over fear) was Barack Obama in 2008. He was the embodiment of change and of the hope that change could lead to something better. Politicians around the world scrambled to harness his political success. Too often, these calls have lacked authenticity and failed to emulate the appeal. After eight years in the White House, even Obama has found that hope is a difficult thing to maintain.

Václav Havel described hope as “an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.” Unable to articulate a positive agenda, a space has been vacated in the political spectrum. Where there is no hope, what is left apart from fear?

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit:

U.S-ASIA-PACIFIC: ''The Offshore Balancing''

Over the past two decades, China’s military modernization has emerged as a growing threat to U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific region. To balance this threat, U.S. defense analysts have been reevaluating current military strategy for the region, which has centered on the forward basing of U.S. military forces along the Japanese archipelago.

One notable proposal that has attracted considerable attention is offshore balancing, which would have the U.S. reposition its forces in Guam, Hawaii, and San Diego. From a military standpoint, these locations would put U.S. forces out of range of most Chinese counter-intervention threats. However, from a political standpoint the repositioning of U.S. forces would raise a series of issues that could endanger the U.S.-Japan security relationship.

For U.S. defense analysts, the biggest threat to American interests in the Asia-Pacific has been China’s military modernization and its ability to threaten U.S. forward deployed forces stationed in Japan. While U.S. forces in Japan maintain robust capabilities and a diverse range of firepower, Chinese investments in counter-intervention capabilities can greatly constrain U.S. forces ability to operate. The major concern of China’s military modernization has been its development of advanced conventional ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. China has also been greatly expanding its ISR capabilities to further improve the lethality of these systems. These counter-intervention systems pose a formidable threat to U.S. forward forces in the Asia-Pacific.

To balance this counter-intervention threat, U.S. analysts have proposed a number of strategies aimed at mitigating Chinese capabilities. One such approach would include further expanding fortifications at U.S. forward bases to strengthening anti-missile batteries in the region.

Another, more controversial strategy is offshore balancing. Advocates of offshore balancing believe that forward based U.S. forces are detrimental to American interests in the region. They argue that it promotes regional balancing against the U.S. due to forward deployed forces and multilateral and bilateral security agreements cause a significant strain on U.S. finances as most partner nations fail to pay their fair share of the security agreement. Proponents of offshore balancing would have you believe that if the U.S. withdraws its forward forces it would both save money and force regional states to provide more for their defense.

In the Asia-Pacific, offshore balancing also seeks to counter the Chinese counter-intervention threat by positioning U.S. forces outside the range of most Chinese missiles. Forces would be positioned within the second island chain, primarily in Guam and Hawaii; from here U.S. forces would be able to surge into Japan if it was attacked. Furthermore, positioning forces on U.S. territory would be more financially sustainable while also making it more difficult for China to attack major U.S. assets or, although unlikely, conduct a bolt-from-the-blue attack.

Although offshore balancing may provide some military benefits, it does entail political risks. First, the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Agreement has been grounded by the presence of U.S. forces in Japan. Any decrease in U.S. forces would demonstrate a lack of political will to defend Japan as well as a lack of commitment by the U.S. to its security agreement. After 10-plus years of protracted fighting in the Middle East and South Asia, America’s public could require a good deal of convincing by U.S. leaders before they would support military intervention on behalf of Japan. Fewer U.S. military personnel would give the U.S. less incentive to follow through with its obligations to the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Agreement. Fewer troops mean that the U.S. would not have as much national interest in Japan as it has with a larger troop presence.

Second, reducing forces would also impact the ability U.S. to assist in regional humanitarian disaster and conduct regional security cooperation exercises. Not having forward deployed forces in Japan would significantly inhibit its ability to quickly and forcefully respond to humanitarian disasters throughout the region. American forces in Japan are able to conduct both bilateral and multilateral exercises within the theater, helping advance U.S. security objectives in the region. Without that force, exercises would be more costly with more logistics involved in moving forces into the theater.

Finally, a reduction in forces would harm U.S. security relationships in the region. U.S. economic interests would be more vulnerable, while Washington’s ability to ensure stability in region, as it has over the last 50 years with forward forces, would be weaker. A reduced U.S. presence in Japan could also alter China’s foreign policy in the region. China’s “salami slicing tactics” throughout the region have been difficult for the U.S. to limit and with fewer American military personnel in the region, this tactic will surely increase.

While offshore balancing may provide a military solution, it fails to answer important political and alliance management questions. Ever expanding Chinese counter-intervention capabilities pose a significant threat to forward deployed forces in the Asia-Pacific. Adequately dealing with this threat requires not a retreat from the region but further engagement supplemented by intensifying alliance language – the recent U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines is a step in the right direction in that regard.

Also important is strengthening physical U.S. instillations and assets in Japan against China’s counter-intervention capabilities. Any major departure of U.S. forces from Japan would cause the latter to doubt the resolve of the U.S. and would compromise American security interests. Forward forces in Japan are central to ensuring that the U.S. maintains a strong presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Reuters-photo..

Monday, 8 February 2016

SENEGAL:-Hisséne Habré's Trial

The trial of Hisséne Habré for crimes against humanity, torture, war crimes committed during his rule between 1982 and 1990 has resumed in Senegalese capital, Dakar, today. It was over 26 years ago that former Chad dictator Hissène Habré terrorized his population with the blessing of the Reagan White House.

In the 1980s, US President Ronald Reagan was searching for a ''man in Africa'' who would keep Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi in check--and decided on Hisséne Habré, a rebel leader who was as ambitious as well as ruthless. His rebels were armed with heavy weapons by Washington, counseled by US intelligence operatives and supported by French army units.

In October 1982, Hisséne Habré seized power for himself with the logistical support of the CIA. until his toppling in 1990, he waged a proxy war against Moammar Gadhafi's troops: 10,000 Libyan soldiers are thought to have been killed in the conflict. In 1984, three years before his state visit to the US, entire villages were erased in southern Chad during an incident that came to be known as: ''Black-September''. In June 1987, Hisséne Habré was received by Reagan in Washington. Nobody wanted to hear about the fact that he rampaged through his country and had tens of thousands of people killed. Hisséne Habré was the most brutal dictator ever to have been funded by the United States.

The former president of Chad was one on the most gruesome tyrants in post-colonial Africa's gruesome history. He is accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture. According to estimates by a Chadian truth commission, he is responsible for the deaths at least 40,000 people.

The trial taking place in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, is an historic one. For the first time, an African despot is being tried in an African country, after the African Union (AU) gave its blessings to the special tribunal. It was a decision nobody expected. The organization, after all, includes several dictatorships whose rulers are themselves at potential risk of persecution. Furthermore, the relationship of many African states to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, is irreparably damaged.

They consider the ICC to be a racist institution of the West that has it out only for Africans. Alleged criminals like Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta refused to cooperate with the court and the South African government blocked the extradition of Sudanese head of state Omar al-Bashir, who has been on the ICC wanted list for years because of the mass killings in Darfur. But the ICC has no jurisdiction for the crimes in Chad. The ICC did not take up its work-until 2002--after the massacres took place. For this reason, the African Union has now decided to take own legal path.

In Senegal, Africans are going to pass judgment on Africans for the first time.The trial could even serve as model for other countries looking to clear up past crimes.

After he was toppled, Hisséne Habré fled to friendly Senegal--along with $12 million he had taken out of the national bank. For 25 years, he led a pleasant life in Dakar, residing in the Ouakam neighborhood and in a villa in the wealthy ''Almadies area''. He bought himself the favor of politicians and journalists. One of those politicians bought by Hisséne Habré, is the former Senegal president, A Wade. For many years, Mr Wade refused the extradition of Hisséne Habré, despite the International Court of Justice, the highest judicial organ in the United Nations ordered the prosecution of Hisséne Habré.

Then the light at the end of the tunnel became visibly clear when a new president was elected in Senegal, the liberal reformer Macky Sall. He gave his allowance for the special tribunal in Dakar and on June 30, 2013, the ex-dictator was arrested. Once again, an investigation was opened in Chad, this time led by the tribunal judges. They questioned over 2,500 witnesses, and had mass graves exhumed. Forensic experts from Argentina analyzed the human remains.

Finally, the victims have names, faces and their own voices. They are no longer part of an anonymous mass of victims, as is so often the case when leaders violate human rights in Africa. So far, no victim has been able to confront dictators like Robert Mugabe, Joseph Kabila, Yoweri Museveni, Pierre Nkurunziza, Omar al-Bashir without fear. At the special tribunal in Dakar, the victims are able to look at the accused directly in the eye.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
African Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Agence France Presse-Getty-Images: Hisséne Habré at Court hearing in Dakar

WORLD: Global Information warfare

You cannot see it and you cannot hear it. It happens silently every day, can hit anyone anywhere, and we can all be its unsuspecting victims. This is the new type of warfare:

Information has always been at the core of conflicts. When Napoleon planned to invade Italy, he duly upgraded the first telegraph network in the world, the French “semaphore”. He famously remarked that “an army marches on its stomach”, but he also knew that the same army acted on information. As Von Clausewitz once stated, “By the word ‘information’ we denote all the knowledge which we have of the enemy and his country; therefore, in fact, the foundation of all our ideas of actions in war.” 
This is why radar, the computer, the satellite, the GPS system, and the Internet were initially developed as military technologies, while unmanned vehicles are becoming a reality, thanks to DARPA. The difference between then and now is that information warfare is acquiring kinetic aspects unknown to past generations. Information has become a weapon because the targets too have become informational. The phenomenon is well known. Today, those who live by the digit may die by the digit. This much is clear. The question is how we should understand such a macroscopic transformation.
One popular interpretation is rooted in the eighties. Simulacra and Simulation, Jean Baudrillard’s book on the relationship between the real and the symbolic, was published in 1981. It was required reading for the actors in The Matrix, where it appears in the first episode. WarGames, the American Cold War science-fiction film, became a box office success in 1983. Both suggested looking at the role of information in conflicts in terms of an increasing process of simulation, virtualization, and gamification. This is understandable but also misleading.
Consider your bed in your house. This may be the actual object in which you sleep. Let’s define that as the system. Or it may be an idea of your bed, say, what you have in mind when you are at work. Let’s define that as the model. When we treat something as real, we expect the system and the model to be correctly related. When this relation does not work correctly, we make mistakes, e.g. we bump into the bed at night because we think it (the model) is elsewhere. The virtual is not real, but it is not a mistake either. It is, rather, a model without a corresponding system. The engineer designing a bed is working with a model to which nothing yet in the world corresponds; it is a “virtual” bed, like the shadow of an object without its corresponding object. You know it is virtual because you cannot sleep in it.
Notice now that the decoupling cuts both ways. There is the opposite case in which, instead of there being a model without its system (the virtual), there is a system without its model. This is the case in which the representable remains unrepresented. Imagine an object without its shadow, like Peter Pan. There is no technical word for this, so let me use latent, in the original Latin sense of concealed or unknown.  What there is in the world is either real(system + model), virtual (only the model), or latent (only the system). The world is full of latent things, systems that remain or are meant to remain below the threshold of the observable. The operations of the NSA were latent until Snowden disclosed them. Only then did they become real for all of us.
Let us return to the nature of information warfare. In the past, war has always been real in the system and model sense, like the bed in which you sleep. The hard facts of war were inevitably accompanied by their informational shadows: the human shouting, the smell of horses, the sounds of trumpets in battles, the rhythm of machine guns, the pitched whistles of bombs falling from the sky, the smell of napalm, the marks left by the tanks’ tracks.
For a short time, in the eighties, digital consumerism made us mistakenly think that war could be experienced by the public as virtual: a televised or computerized game involving only representations to which nothing corresponded, like shadows without objects,simulacra in Baudrillard’s terminology. Thus, in 1991, Baudrillard argued in The Gulf War Did Not Take Place that the hi-tech fighting on the American side during the first Gulf War had transformed a conflict into propaganda and mass-mediated experience. The analysis was correct in perceiving a difference and in identifying that difference in the decoupling between the system and the model. But it was wrong in selecting models as the new battlefields.
Global information warfare is not virtual. It is mostly latent; that is, it is in the world but not experienced as part of the world. It is a war without shadows. You cannot see it, and you cannot hear it; it happens silently every day, can hit anyone anywhere, and we can all be its unsuspecting victims. 

Take, for instance, Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks. According to Arbor Networks, more than 2000 DDoS incidents occur worldwide every day. Their number is increasing, and more and more countries are involved that are not officially at war with each other. Similar attacks are very cheap. According to TrendMicro Research, a week-long DDoS attack capable of taking a small organization offline, can cost as little as $150 in the underground market.
This is just an example. Conflicts in the infosphere—not just DDoS attacks, but also trade wars, currency wars, patent wars, marketing wars, and other silent forms of informational battles to win hearts and minds—are increasingly neither real nor virtual, but latent to most of their victims. They are nonetheless dangerous and wasteful. They require special interfaces to be perceived. They will require a special sensitivity to be eradicated.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Nexus-Publishing Edition photo of : Guylain Gustave Moke