Thursday, 30 June 2016

U.K.: Reversing the ''Brexit''-Why & How?

It has been a week since the UK voted to leave the European Union. What was an unimaginable prospect became a reality. For the first time in history, a European Union member state decided to leave the EU. Now Great Britain will be on on its own as it will have to navigate an increasingly complex and globalized world. When Europeans start to explore what opportunities are there to be seized from Britain's advisory departure, with many exciting political prospects, Britain starts second-guessing the Brexit. 

In his last meeting with European Union leaders, David Cameron affirmed that until Britain leaves the European Union, it is full paying member of the institution and refused the temptation of triggering the Article 50. By refusing to trigger the formal process for Britain to leave the EU, while European Union leaders desperately wanted him to do so, he has done nothing more than kicking the can down the road for the next Prime Minister to pick it up.

Across British political spectrum, the reality of leaving the European Union, with all the consequences that would trigger, finally dawns on British Politicians. There are good reasons to negotiate to keep Britain in European Union:

-The fall of the British pound is the first warning sign; major corporations are planning to pull their headquarters out of London. Even if Britain opts for the Norwegian model, it will continue to pay billions in contributions to the European Union without having a say in shaping the rules of the single market. 

-There are also elements of UK unity at play. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar, three British territories that voted to stay in Europe, could call their own referendum on remaining part of the UK. Scotland and Gibraltar are already in talks to form an alliance that would join the EU. 

-Scotland voted massively in favor of remaining within the European Union. Scots now refuse to be dragged out of it. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met European leaders Wednesday afternoon in Brussels, discussing the place of Scotland in European Union, in any event that the UK central government in London does not reverse the Brexit. She claimed, after that meeting, being confident that Scotland's voice was being heard and that the European Union understood its position. Last week she made it plainly clear that the possibility of the second referendum for Scottish Independence is on the table. 

Should Scotland break free of England, (make no mistake of it,) it would be welcomed back into the European  Union as a sovereign and Independent country. Scots would have the best of both worlds: free of English dictates and welcome in the common European family. Their economic liberalism and progressive social policies meanwhile being a boon to the rest of the Europe.   

From this perspective it is far from certain that British leaders will abide by the Brexit and actually leave the European Union. The decision by British voters last week is not legally binding; It is simple an advisory to British leaders. 

According to US Secretary of State, John Kerry, even the high profile ''Leave'' campaigners such a former London Mayor Boris Johnson are also in no hurry to leave. Whether this means that Brexit could be reversed remains unclear. However, John Kerry believes that there are number of ways of reversing the Brexit. So for the sake the argument, let's explore the ways of reversing the Brexit:

In order to leave the European Union, the next British Prime Minister would have to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that governs the European Union. That means that the actual process of leaving the European Union, could be starting three months after the Brexit. There is actually a strategic element to waiting to invoke Article ''50'':

-the negotiations with the EU are expected to be very, very hard. So Britain does not entertain the idea of leaving the European Union without sealing a deal on free market with the European Union and if no deal is struck withing the sunset period ( two years period offered by Article 50) and no extension granted, Britain might just reverse the Brexit to stay in European Union or call for another referendum before the end of two years period. 

- Britain's Parliament could also vote to block leaving the European Union. They may also seek to influence Britain's deal with the European Union, potentially moving Britain away from some its harder demands toward something more accommodating of European viewpoints, or 

-British lawmakers could simply ignore the will of 52 percent of voters by not endorsing the next Prime Minister decision to invoke Article 50, 

-British lawmakers could also open negotiations with European Union leaders on a path for Britain to stay in the EU. The Three months break allows the Parliament some wiggle room to backtrack from the decision. 

The United Kingdom might now enter a new phase in its history characterized by a further deterioration of its international standing and economic uncertainty. Europeans, meanwhile, have to catch up on the time they spent dealing with 40 years British foot-dragging. Great opportunities are out there to be seized:

-Great Britain leaving the European Union present Europeans with the possibilities of the establishment of a common European military, of shared European representation in international institutions. Europeans should seize this historical opportunity in order to tremendously boost their cooperation in all these policy areas.  

-Great Britain leaving the European Union might have given a new impetus to democratic ideals across Europe. Two elements conspire positively in this respect. On the one hand, the country that historically more than any other opposed reforms aimed at further democratizing the European Union is out of the way: Britain will no more be able to veto reforms in this direction. On the other hand, both European elites and common citizens alike might now be spurred into further democratizing the EU as means to rescuing it. 

The historical challenge for Europeans is now to improve the performance of the southern and eastern member states of the European Union. Free from British fears of Brussels' red tape and with the crucial contribution of small yet economically dynamic countries such as the Netherlands or Sweden, Europeans should further integrate toward a dynamic yet inclusive social-market economic model. 

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

Photo-Credit: Brexit-photo

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

SPAIN: Stalemate looms after Election

Spain, a country accustomed to tight election results and coalition talks, went to the poll on Sunday, six months after its last general election. The result reflects the state of political dismay that has dominated Spain for some time now.

Mr Rajoy and his popular Party were the clear winners in Sunday night, but the changes of forming a stable government-or any kind of government, for that matter--are poor all the same. The numbers tell a simple story: The PP and centrist Ciudadanos Party together hold 169 seats in parliament. The Socialists and Unidos Podemos, together command 156 seats. Both blocs, assuming they can even come to an agreement, would still be far from the absolute majority, which requires 176 votes in Spain's congress. 

To break the deadlock, the most likely option is that a PP-led minority government, though Mr Rajoy would still need the Socialists to either abstain or vote for him, It is hard to see that happening without wrenching change inside the PSOE. 

Backrooms talks to see which parties can form a governing coalition, a task that eluded them despite months of negotiations following the December vote, seems to be impossible war to break again.  Mr Mariano Rajoy hopes to put together a coalition as soon as possible, ideally involving his party's traditional adversaries, the socialist PSOE, led by Pedro Sanchez. But two days after the election, both Pedro Sanchez and Albert Rivera, leader of the centrist Ciudadanos party, have declined the offer. 

A PP led minority government remains the most likely outcome of the Sunday election. If the stalemate materialises again, the PP, which won 137 seats, 14 seats up from from 123 in December but short of the 176 needed for an outright majority, will be the only alternative to a third round of elections. This should in principle allow the other parties to justify their abstention in an investiture vote to facilitate a PP led administration. Another possibility would be a German style grand coalition.

Spain has learning curve ahead: its de facto two-party system that narrowed representation but allowed the country to function as en efficient quasi-presidential system for almost 40 years has been squashed by an electorate sick and tired of the same old party tricks: a new era of true parliametarianism is upon them. 

The real question is whether the Spanish political parties are up to the test. Can they leave behind the rigid party discipline required by a presidential system and adopt a more flexible approach to government demanded by a real parliament?

Spain which has been without a government since December, remains deeply fragmented after the country's second inconclusive election in six months, in which Mariano Rajoy's conservative People Party increased its seat count but fell short of the 176 needed to secure a majority in the 350 seat congress of deputies.

By Guylain Gustave Moke

Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Agence France Presse-photo of : Spain Incumbent Prime Minister: Mariano Rajoy.

Monday, 27 June 2016

U.S.-E.U.: Negotiating the ''TTIP'' deal...

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) aims to topple regulatory and tariff barriers and establish the largest free-trade and Investment area in the world. The United States and European Union (EU) have been negotiating the deal for the last three years.

The two sides have been pushing to resolve remaining issues year's end, coinciding with the end of Barack Obama's presidency. The next round of negotiations is expected in July. But the project has been facing mounting opposition in parts of Europe, especially in France and Germany, where critics say the talks have been conducted in secret and fear a far-reaching impact on agriculture and the environment.

The latest opposition to this project, few weeks before the next round of negotiation, comes directly from the French Prime Minister. French Prime Minister, Monsieur Manuel Valls, shares the school of thinking that the TTIP would impose a viewpoint which would not only be a breeding ground for populism, but also a viewpoint that would be bad for French economy. He said '' no free trade should be concluded if it does not respect EU interest. He continued: ''I can frankly say, there would be no TTIP deal''.

I disagree with French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, because the TTIP is more than a trade deal. It is an opportunity to cement the Euro-Atlantic geopolitical alliance and restore faith in the Western model of market economies.

 At first glance, the character of the negotiations towards a deep and comprehensive transatlantic free trade agreement appears to be a purely economically motivated effort to further reduce tariff barriers and find common ground on a broad set of regulatory policies. However, the grand strategy behind TTIP aims for more than stimulating trade, investment, and growth. Creating the largest free trade area in history carries the potential to strengthen the Euro-Atlantic geopolitical leverage by forming the decisive international economic hub of the 21st century and adding inclusive institution to the global order. Introducing the next chapter of transatlantic cooperation, TTIP would put the economic and geopolitical implications of the “Pivot to Asia” into perspective.

In contrast to the omnipresent narrative about the “Rise of Asia,” the European Union and the United States are of unparalleled economic importance not only for their respective markets, but for the global economy. Trading goods and services worth more than $2 billion daily, the Euro-Atlantic area pools one third of worldwide trade and almost half of globalGDP. Exemplifying the significance of the transatlantic economic partnership, U.S. investment in Ireland alone is higher than U.S. investments in Brazil, Russia, India and China — combined. 

Despite the emergence of economic powerhouses in the Asia-Pacific region, the transatlantic economy constitutes the backbone of the world economy. Even a slight reduction of the remaining tariffs and a minimum of mutually recognized regulatory policies would generate economic effects that by far exceed deep and comprehensive free trade agreements with external parties. 

On a societal level, prospects for growth and investment through free trade as an alternative “Marshall Plan” could restore public trust in the Western model of market economies after tumultuous year of fiscal and debt crises without aggregating huge spending deficits— especially relevant for the Southern periphery of the recession-torn eurozone. “Economic nation-building at home” is desperately needed, and TTIP provides the vehicle to do so.
The EU-U.S. trade project focuses on more than economic benefits. Cutting redundant non-tariff barriers by setting common standards at the highest common denominator would combine consumer protection and economic gains to set the international gold standard for the global free trade system. 

Above all, a successfully negotiated and ratified agreement has the potential to unlock the WTO’s “Doha Round” by demonstrating the ability of a variety of parties to forge consensus on a great spectrum of regulatory aspects, despite significant differences in their respective systems. In contrast to widespread criticism, TTIP is neither a hidden agenda for deregulation, nor a neoliberal courtesy deal for big business. On the contrary, an international trade agreement would enshrine rules, define procedures, and mark limits by framing globalization in a legal context. 

The transatlantic best case scenario on the final nature of TTIP includes a “magnetic momentum” in which countries outside the Euro-Atlantic area consider accession negotiations towards the legal context that TTIP manifests. An expanding zone of free trade which links high consumer protection standards with low hurdles for small- and medium sized companies to trade goods, services and capital, is of vital geopolitical importance for both the European Union and the United States. In turn, a well-crafted TTIP with an accession clause or FTA-to-FTA compatibility segment would help the spread of the rules-based international order, agreed upon by liberal democracies upholding the primacy of the rule of law in global trade affairs.
In addition to mutual recognition and partial harmonization of standards, a standing court on investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS) would create an international institution by Euro-Atlantic design. A permanent court, as proposed by the European Commission, could channel the steadily rising number of cases under arbitration and ambitiously integrate the more than 3000 existing international bilateral investment treaties under a common umbrella based on rules proposed and implemented by the transatlantic alliance. 

In the tradition of Bretton Woods, Europe and America would underpin the existing liberal world order by adding another institutional piece to the overall international architecture. As every vacuum provokes external powers to fill the gap that Europe and America leave, it lies within the geopolitical interests of both sides of the Atlantic to continuously shape rules, norms, and institutions.
The ability of Europe and America to conclude grand projects would symbolize the internal cohesion of the transatlantic alliance and open a gate through which the EU and the U.S. continue to commonly further interests and values in the international arena. Both sides of the Atlantic have benefited tremendously from the existing global trade arrangement. It lies within their most vital interest to not only preserve and protect, but expand and renew the international order of their design by cooperating economically on an ever stronger scale. 

If Europeans wish TTIP to serve EU interests, they could impose a criteria of investor protection, but they also need to be ready to make compromises. Perhaps the Europeans should think back to the history of their own single market. It became a huge success, but started as the European Coal and Steel Community. The planned Atlantic deal could be launched first for important industrial and service branches and later expanded to other economic sector. A TTIP-Light would be better than a no agreement at all.

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

Photo-Credit: AFP-Getty Images of French Prime Minister: Monsieur Manuel Valls

Friday, 24 June 2016

U.K : Why-How--Britain votes ''out'' of E.U

When David Cameron decided to hold a referendum on British continuing membership in the European Union, he must have thought that this would provide a relatively easy of way of settling a dispute within the Conservatives Party. But now that the British public voted in favor of leaving the EU ( Leave 52%-Remain 48%): Cameron must be thinking: Why? How?

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separation. Now, in the United Kingdom, it was the: Immigration.

Part of the answer is the role that immigration played in the campaign, taken together with the economy. Levels of immigration into Britain have been high in recent years, with about half of the immigrants under the EU freedom movement provision, and this has caused social tensions in some places where migrants have clustered. And the British government's inability to control migration is seen as emblematic of wider loss of control.

Cameron and the rest of Remain camp failed dramatically to convince British voters that there are 28 members states in EU, with very diverse economic interests and, governments of sharply differing political complexions. A chance to the rules of freedom of movement will be welcomed by some but bitterly opposed by others. The Remain camp also failed to link the UK economic stability with the EU workers. At the end the Leave camp instilled optimism to undecided voters, playing the strong democratic card, persuading them to take a leap in the dark.

The answer lies to the lessons/experiences of past EU referendums. Thursday UK referendum on EU membership was the second time British electorate voted on its participation in the integration project, and over 50 referendums have been held elsewhere in Europe on other aspects of European integration.

It seems that the British government/Remain camp did not learn a thing from past referendums ( 1975- the first UK referendum on EU) and, 21 referendums on EU since 2000,( France 2005-Ireland) where 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. These experiences revealed 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.

The polls during the early stages of Thursday UK referendum on EU membership campaign gave a very poor indication of the final outcome of the vote. Attitudes towards the EU are far more malleable than vote intentions in general elections. Many voters changed their minds as the referendum campaign progressed. And many remain undecided until they cast their vote. And David Cameron, who resigned this morning, was very complacent to call a vote on the EU.

Importantly, a large proportion of voters did not make it to the ballot box. In London, many voters could not be bothered to go to the polling stations because of the rain/flood but in Birmingham/West Midlands, out 707,000 registered voters, only 4000 cast the votes. Getting people to vote was crucial in the British referendum, as Euroskeptics voters were more passionate, enthusiastic than those who supported remaining in the EU. A lacklustre Remain campaign with low turnout benefited the Leave camp.

Thursday Referendum gave voters a direct say on policy outcome. The weaker Remain camp message, failure to structure the debate and the choices voters faced, lack of guidance on which way to vote, was the last straw that broke the camel's back. Both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party, in Remain camp, displayed a degree of internal division that weakened of their recommendations to voters.

Although it is well-established truth about referendums that in the face of uncertainty, voters tend to support the status quo-witness the referendum on Scottish Independence, and before that the even more decisive rejection of a change to the voting system for parliamentary elections, the Remain camp failed to make the case about what the voters faced, non only, on Britain's future within the European Union will look like but also crucially what will happen if they voted to leave the European Union.

The ''reversion point'', or the consequences of rejecting the proposal, happened to be a crucial determinant of how people voted in Thursday UK referendum on EU membership. 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 would have favored the ''Remain'' camp. But the Remain camp exaggerated the consequences of voting ''out'' , to the point of showing in a video how to vote, without convincing arguments how they would control immigration if they win the referendum, led to the accusations of scaremongering. This is discouraged seniors voters.

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 was a mistake for the Remain camp to think that voters cared only, or even primarily, about the EU when they cast their vote in Thursday referendum. As the former Irish Minister for Europe, Dick Roche, said poignantly: '' the problem in a referendum is that you can ask the right question, but people answer other questions''. ''

Thursday referendum was potentially an opportunity for voters to express their dissatisfaction with political establishment, and with the Tory government in particular. This is why referendums held when governments are often relatively unpopular, are more likely to end in defeat. Thursday referendum result was not just about EU, it was a clear message of discontent of the British Tory government. After years of austerity measures with the Tory government, less intense campaign of Remain side, British voters felt that less is at stake. The result is a out-cry rebuke of the Tory government.

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

The United Kingdom voted ''OUT'' on EU referendum.The question that will remain unresolved is whether there could be a future for Britain in Europe/out of European Union that keeps national democracy alive and well. Although Britain's elites have failed to offer the public any reason to think highly of the existing EU, it should come as no surprise that some Britons have started to indulge in speculation about future European arrangements.

Some have expressed the extraordinarily optimistic view, that this referendum result might create such a political upheaval across Europe that the European Union would be forced to recognise itself as looser alliance among nations that no longer attempted to harmonize and regulate the internal affairs of its members states. National governments would take back powers deemed essential by their citizens, including the right to control borders. An European Union like this would be most Britons would happily rejoin, as it were, in a second referendum.

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

Photo-Credit: Agence France Presse-photo -Getty Images of David Cameron 

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

EU-RUSSIA: EU's sanctions cunundrum

The European Union nations agreed Tuesday to extend sanctions against Russia until January, a show of unity despite growing dissent in Europe about whether to continue the measures much longer.

The closed-door decision is still subject to final approval from the bloc' senior leaders. But EU diplomats claim the move was not expected to be altered. The prospective extension of sanctions targets Russia's energy, financial and defense sectors, strictly curtailing the trade that EU businesses are allowed to conduct with Russian counterparts.

The toughest sanctions were first imposed after July 2014 shoot down of Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 airliner over separatist-held territory in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. Shortly after the annexation of Crimea, the West imposed sanctions against Russia.

Various justifications for sanctions extension have been presented stating that Russia should be penalised for her annexation of Crimea. The West is unwilling to go to war over Ukraine but merely denouncing Russia's actions is too weak. This begs the question: under what conditions will sanctions be lifted? If only be Russia returns Crimea to Ukraine, then the sanctions are effectively permanent. Local support for reunification with Russia is more than 90% and given the situation in eastern Ukraine, the Crimean people would not accept a return to their former governors. The Sevastopol naval base is also of great strategic and nostalgic importance to Russia.

A second explanation offered is that sanctions-extension are necessary to prevent Russia from invading other parts of the former Soviet Union, Poland or Nordic states. It is difficult to refute the counterfactual, but from the Russian viewpoint, their actions in Ukraine were motivated by a coup d’état in Kiev that was encouraged by foreign powers and which threatened Russia’s vital security interests and the well-being of the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine. The Russian course of action was defensive, not offensive. Had Russia wished to take Kiev, she could easily have done so. There is no indication that this was ever intended, and it is certainly not the sanctions that prevent such action.

Another argument frequently cited in defense of sanctions-extension is that they ensure the proper implementation of the Minsk accords. Though this stance seems reasonable, the fundamental problem is that while Russia wishes to see the adoption of Minsk II, there is little they can do to achieve this goal. The main obstacles toward the implementation of Minsk II lie in Kiev. The agreement calls for legislation granting broad autonomy to the eastern regions of Ukraine. President Poroshenko has repeatedly stated that Ukraine will remain a unitary state and that no substantial federalisation would be considered, gutting Minsk II. Perhaps the wrong party is being sanctioned.
The final argument is the most illegitimate. It states that sanctions extension should be strengthened in order to “degrade" the Russian economy and create circumstances under which oligarchs and others would rebel against President Putin and bring about regime change. This fantasy is mainly entertained amongst American neoconservatives, but Washington is obliged to support it, as perceived weakness toward Russia is a political “kiss of death”. 

This has also driven an unprecedented campaign to demonise Putin across the West. In particular, comparisons made by senior statesman of Putin to Hitler constitute a descent into unseemly ignorance. They are an insult not only to Russia, who bore the heaviest load in defeating Nazism, but also to Hitler’s victims. With opinion polls showing Putin’s popularity rating breaking records, the response of Western politicians and media has been to attack the supposed lack of morality of the Russian people in effectively racist terms.
The United States’ strategy is not clear. Moreover, it is hard to understand why some form of containment or regime change policy toward Russia would be in Europe’s interest. Such maneuvers carry a high risk of creating considerable turbulence on Europe’s eastern boarders, leaving primarily Germany to pick up the pieces and inevitable bill. For the U.S., the potential cost of this policy is limited, but for Europe the risks are substantial. Why would Germany want this?
One can understand European solidarity with Poland and the Baltic countries, as they fear Russia, but bullying those countries that wish to lift sanctions also carries costs. All European Union member states were told that decisions of this sort would require unanimous agreement, but they are now learning that some are “more equal than others”, which will no doubt lead to problems later.
The sanctions are proving ineffective. Following a shallow downturn, the Russian economy is stabilising, largely on the back of import substitution as Russian counter-sanctions push European agriculture out of the market. New capital sources are being found in Asia, replacing European banks. Perhaps the major victims are the already vulnerable southern and eastern European countries, who have lost a major market and may need further assistance. 

Many European companies have suffered declines in exports to Russia. Within Russia, while there has been some impact upon ordinary Russian people, predictably, this has triggered a “rally around the flag” response. This has strengthened Putin’s position and that of the country’s hardliners who oppose cooperation with the West, which is now widely seen as seeking to destroy or contain Russia. The liberals and modernisers in the Russian government have been discredited. Oligarchs are certainly not rising up against Putin.
From a geostrategic standpoint, sanctions have helped to score an own-goal of historic proportions. The post-war global order is coming under serious threat, but not from Russia. The challenge comes instead from a rising and profoundly disruptive China intent upon supplanting the current unipolar global system. To have driven the Russian bear into the arms of the Chinese dragon qualifies as insanity. In fact, it would have behooved the West to do everything possible to pull Moscow into their own tent and far from Beijing.
The sanctions regime against Russia has not achieved any beneficial goals and does not help Ukraine. In fact, it is counterproductive; weakening the E.U. economies, creating rifts within the bloc and undermining modernisers in Russia. Instead of extending sanctions, EU should seek a more diplomatically reconciliatory tone.

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

Photo-Credit: AFP-Getty Image photo of : The European Commission President, Mr Jean Claude Juncker & Russia's President Vladimir Putin

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

DR-CONGO: Bemba's conviction

The ICC has convicted Jean Pierre Bemba, a former Congolese vice president, former Dr-Congo Senator and Presidential Candidate in 2006 to 18 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity, in the form of rape, murder, pillage, perpetrated in the Central African Republic CAR from 2 October 2002 to 15 March 2003.

In justifying the stiff ruling, judge Sylvia Steiner argued that Bemba had failed to exercise control over his rebel army sent into CAR in late October 2002 where they carried out a series of sadistic rapes, murders and pillaging of particular cruelty. Bemba's case was the first at the ICC to focus on rape as weapon of war and the first to highlight a military commander's responsibility for the conduct of the troops under his control.

Bemba becomes the highest level official to be sentenced by the ICC after being convicted in March on five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. And he is the only third person to be sentenced at the ICC since 2002.  According to the Prosecutor, Bemba's 1, 500 troops unleashed a five month campaign of terror, during which families were victimised and which was aimed at squashing any resistance to Patasse's rule and Bemba had done more than tolerate the crime as a commander.

The case however is likely to drag on for a few more years, as his defence team has already filed notice that it intends to appeal the conviction, and argued that Bemba should be released immediately as he has been behind bars since his arrest. But the three judge bench argued that they have not found any mitigating circumstances to allow a reduction in sentence.

Bemba is convicted of these crimes in his capacity as military leader of MLC. These Crimes were committed during an armed conflict which took place in CAR in 2002-2003, when groups belonged to the MLC backed up President Ange Felix Pattassé's Central African armed forces in countering an attempted coup led by Francois Bozizé( who later became President of CAR, but was also subsequently ousted by another coup in 2013.)

The Rome Statute provides for both individual criminal responsibility and command responsibility. It is important to note that the Rome Statute does not establish a hierarchy among the different modes of liability. Therefore, the fact that Bemba is charged with command responsibility rather than individual criminal responsibility does not mean that the charges against him are less serious. On the contrary, the Prosecutor noted that the fact Bemba acted as commander could be considered as an aggravating factor in this case.

But Bemba's defence team argued that the whole trial process was flawed and unfair and that Mr Bemba's rights as an accused were violated throughout. No reasonable trial chamber could have convicted him of the charges he faced. Mr Bemba was convicted of a case in which in material respects he was ignorant  and that the former leader of DRC was not liable as superior for the actions of the MLC in CAR. In different cases, the ICC has previously sentenced two other Congolese warlords to 14 and 12 years respectively.

The CAR referred the case to the Office of the Prosecution on 22 December 2004, public notice thereof was given by the ICC on 7 January. The ICC issued an arrest warrant against Bemba on May 2008, and was subsequently arrested by the Belgian authorities and handed over to the Hague. He first appeared to the ICC judges on 4 July 2008.

The Pre-trial Chamber confirmed the charges laid against Jean Pierre on 15 June 2009. He was charged with war crimes ( rape, murder and pillage) and crimes against humanity ( rape and murder) perpetrated in CAR in 2002-2003.

The Defence challenged the admissibility of the case, on the grounds that only CAR Courts were competent to prosecute Bemba, that the case was not serious enough and CAR had not ratified the Rome Statute to warrant action by the ICC and that the procedure was flawed with several judicial errors. These allegations were refuted in June 2010 when judges ruled that the case was admissible before the ICC, this ruling was confirmed before the Appeals Chamber in October 2010. CAR ( Central African Republic) finally ratified the Rome Statute in 2011.

Concurrently, and from soon after Bemba was taken into custody, the defence filed a stream of requests for conditional release. Despite some twists and turns and disagreements amongst the judges, conditional release was never granted during the investigation stage nor during the trial proper.

The ICC based in the Hague, The Netherlands, was set up in 2002 by a treaty called the Rome Statute, which was ratified by more than 120 nations, including Dr-Congo and CAR, and aims to protect ordinary people from injustice and crimes by the powerful.

Following ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, supporting countries wanted to create a permanent court prosecute crimes more effectively and act as deterrent. Apart from Bemba, the only African person so far tried and convicted by the ICC is Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, another rebel leader of Dr-Congo. The trial of Congolese rebel leader Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui led to an acquittal that is being appealed by the prosecutors.

The ICC has drawn fire from some African leaders for its nearly exclusive focus on the African continent. All of eight of the ICC formal investigation have been in Africa, adding to the argument that the ICC has compromised its legitimacy, and the charging process has degenerated into some kind of race hunting.

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

Photo-Credit: AFP-Getty Image of : Jean Pierre Bemba

Friday, 17 June 2016

UK: JO COX: A rising Star in British Politics

Jo Cox, who was killed in her constituency on Thursday, was considered to be a rising parliamentary star. The 41 year old, who leaves behind a husband and two young children, represented the area she grew up in and had the plight of refugees close to her heart and her killing ends what looked to be a promising political career. She was due to celebrate her 42nd birthday next Wednesday. Weapons, including a firearm, were recovered from the scene.

Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron let tributes, describing her as a ''bright star, no doubt about it''. Former Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown said his memory would be ''forever scarred'' by her killing.

Her husband Brendan Cox was an adviser to Gordon Brown and they lived with children Leija and Cuillin on a converted barge on the River Thames in London. Jo Cox was representing the constituency of Batley and Spen in west Yorkshire, northern England.

Her father, Gordon worked in a toothpaste factory and her mother Jean was a school secretary. She graduated in 1995 from the University of Cambridge, where she first got interested in politics. She went on to help launch the pro-European campaign organisation ''Britain in Europe'' and spent two years with the European Parliament member Glenys Kinnock in Brussels.

She then spent a decade working for Oxfam in New York, Brussels and war zones as the head of policy and of humanitarian campaigning. Jo Cox was also the national chair of Labour Women's network for four years and worker with Gordon Brown's wife, Sarah Brown on galvanising international action to stop babies dying during pregnancy and childbirth.

A tireless humanitarian, goodhearted person, Jo Cox also worked with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation before standing for parliament in the May 2015 general election. In her maiden speech in parliament last year she claimed to be proud of the ethnic diversity in her constituency. She abstained in last year's contentious vote on allowing Britain military action in Syria, insisting a more wide-ranging attempt at a solution to the conflict was needed.

Jo Cox was among the 36 of Labour's lawmakers who nominated veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn to get on the ballot paper in last year's Labour leadership contest. Corbyn subsequently won a landslide. Like the vast majority of MP's in the left of centre party, Jo campaigned for Britain to stay in the European Union in the June, 23rd referendum.

Jox Cox had complained to police earlier this year about ''malicious communications'' she received.  A man was arrested in March 2016 and was cautioned by the police, but he is not the man in custody for Thursday's attack, a statement from London's Metropolitan Police said.

The Times newspaper reported that police were considering putting in place additional security for Cox when she died. Witnesses said Cox was repeatedly shot and stabbed in Thursday's assault in the Yorkshire village of Birstall.

A 52 year old man, named by the British media as Thomas Mair, was arrested shortly after Cox was attacked. Neighbours describe him as a loner, mentally unstable, with extreme right wing ideologies.

A star is fallen. A mother and wife was taken away from her children and husband prematurely. The British Parliament is deprived of a refined lawmaker. The Labour Party lost a strong voice. The Batley and Spen constituency  lost its ''pioneer''. The world hast lost one of its humanitarian champion.

Jox Cox killing left a sense of void in all of us and makes us question: WHY? Although Jo Cox is no longer with us physically, her godly and charismatic spirit will continue to shine in our hearts.

By Guylain Gustave Moke

Thursday, 16 June 2016

DR-CONGO: Kabila's corruption

Africa is widely considered among the world's most corrupt places, a factor seen as contributing to the stunted development and impoverishment of many African states. Of the ten countries considered most corrupt in the world, six are in sub-Saharan Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of them, according to Transparency International, a leading global watchdog on corruption.

The prevalence of corruption in Dr-Congo warps the political process. From the current President, Joseph Kabila, who's entertaining the idea of seeking a third term to public officials, corruption seems to be the key for re-election because holding office gives them access to the state's coffers, as well as immunity from prosecution.

Corruption, although difficult to quantify, is a major problem that negatively affects the running of the country, business and Congolese society. Congolese are certainly aware of the corruption they observe in their daily lives. According to Transparency International's 2014 Global Corruption Barometer, 80 percent of respondents in Dr-Congo believed that the President, political parties, the Parliament, the police and the judiciary were corrupt or very corrupt and 60 said that business practices, government's deals were dishonest. They only institution in which Congolese have trust is the Catholic Church. A comparison with earlier reports by Transparency International reveals how little has changed in decades.

The Consequences of corruption are negative not only for civil society and the democratic process, but also for economic development, the environment and public health. While corruption is often viewed in terms of economic losses, there are substantial evidence of ecological devastation and the poisoning of the people, land and livestock by multinational mining corporations, which made possible by collusion between the government and the private business.

The Democratic Republic of Congo's proven mineral reserves are worth an estimated of £200 billion over the next years. The demand for Dr-Congo's minerals: gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt and so many more to be used for smartphones, computers, batteries and countless other popular consumer goods, is increasingly high, yet rampant government corruption and mismanagement have kept Congo's people in poverty while the illicit trade in minerals has funded violence, armed conflict and elections.

From Mobutu to Kabila, corrupt government officials have been bought by multinational firms, rich individuals, who paid huge kickbacks to plunder Dr-Congo's loot. But also neighboring countries including Rwanda, Uganda, Angola and Zimbabwe have all sent troops into Dr-Congo, ostensibly to fight political wars, but happy to reap rewards from what lay beneath the rich soil with sometimes the blessing of Congo's President: Joseph Kabila.

Joseph Kabila who has been ruling Dr-Congo for 15 years, announced in 2001 to curb corruption. In 2002, the United Nations report identified 114 companies and 54 individuals either in  breach on international guidelines on corporate responsibilities, or who should face global financial sanctions, 16 of them were British firms. In 2014, they are more than 234 companies and 93 individuals in breach on international guidelines on corporate responsibilities.

In 2005, Dr-Congo signed the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a voluntary code of conduct launched by former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair in 2002 to cut corruption by pressing companies to publicise their payments to state authorities. However the UN has found that in 2014 more than 70% of Dr-Congo gold was sold in Dubai without any problem, while gold continued to provide important funding for both the army, Kabila's electoral fund and armed rebel groups.

So far Joseph Kabila who promised to curb corruption, has found himself entangled in corruption scandals and turned out to be more crooked than Mobutu. From 2001 to 2012, Kabila's regime transferred ownership of at least $5 billion of assets from the state-mining sector to private companies with no compensation or benefit for the State treasury. And those companies had links to Kabila and his siblings.

The revelations in the ''Panama Papers'' data leak confirmed what I have written previously about the opacity of Kabila's corruption. The name of Kabila's closest friend, the Israeli '' Dan Gertler'' is mentioned more than 200 times in the Mossack Fonseca documents. The law firm also set up two of Gertler's companies, Caprikat and Foxwhelp, that obtained oil blocks 1 and 2 in Dr-Congo's lake Albert basin in 2010, after Kabila personally forced the oil minister to cancel licences for the same blocks that had been attributed to other firms.

Kabila's siblings are also involved in corruption. According to the same ''Panama Papers'', Kabila's twin sister owns part of an offshore company which interests in Dr-Congo that include a part of mobile-phone company: Vodacom Congo. Kabila's twin sister Janet Désiréé Kabila Kyungu is one of the directors of Keratsu Holding Limited, a company registered in Niue through Mossack Fonseca.

Furthermore, Joseph Kabila, the man who came in Dr-Congo in 1997 without a suitcase, let alone a wallet, has now taken the No. 1 spot on People with Money's top 10 highest-paid political figure for 2016 with an estimated $75 million in combined earnings, thanks to corruption, while an average Congolese citizen lives on less than a dollar a day; unemployment is 73%; basic services like roads, hospitals and schools are still absent; conflict and instability persist; The $ 2 billion lost to the suspension mining deals this year translates into twice the country's annual spending on health and education.

The government announced on March this year the suspension of mining law revision until further notice. History is repeating itself all over again. At the precipice of every election, Joseph Kabila has often used mining law and deals as leverage for political gains and as incentives for electoral fund, at the expense of the penniless opposition.

In 2005, Kabila's regime attributed 56% of mining deals to the Israeli ''Dan Gertler'', who in return funded Kabila's  presidential campaign in 2006. In 2011, a series mining deals was attributed to anonymous offshore companies, which sponsored Kabila's presidential election, again. Those two deals cost Congo more than $3 billion in potential revenues. Eventually, Kabila's won fraudulently the contested polls.

As Kabila is on the verge of launching a frontal attack on the constitution, mainly the article 220 that barres him for seeking a third term in November 2016, it is not surprising to see mining deals being struck without public announcement, with no clarity on where the cash is going.

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

Photo-Credit: AFP-Photo: Dr-Congo President: Joseph Kabila Kabange