Friday, 30 September 2016

FRANCE: The Legitimate Limits of Islam's Criticism

A new documentary on the rise of radical Islam in France has sparked controversy among the French public, with viewers’ opinions ranging from praise to outrage. The filmmaker, Bernard de La Villardiere, has been slammed as ‘sensationalist’ and ‘provocateur’ by the head of the town in which part of it was filmed.

The first episode of new show “Dossier Tabou” (Banned Dossier) titled “Islam in France: the failure of the Republic” was aired on Wednesday, September 28 on the French M6 channel. Watched by some 2.4 million viewers, it immediately grabbed public attention, topping of Twitter discussion trends in France.

The documentary revolved around the financing of Islamism by foreign powers, such as Saudi Arabia, its organization and its internal divisions, as well as the training of imams. In a manner of illustration, it showed excerpts from sermons by a confirmed radical cleric named Mohamed Khattabi, who had been under house arrest for nearly three months after the attacks in France in November 2015.

Muslims in France said it was yet another caricature of a religion already stigmatized in the country following recent terror attacks and they accused the channel of fanning hatred against Muslims. But Islam, like any religion, needs effective critiques from believers and non-believers alike.

Now, in modern day France and in countless other countries around the world, the constraints of Muslim doctrine have inspired a very different kind of art – the art of satire. Artists, journalists and everyday people all over the Western world and beyond use the right of free speech to criticize every part of life, and Islam is no exception. But many in the Islamic world as well as many Muslims living in predominantly non-Muslim countries are still adjusting to close proximity with societies where public mockery of religion is not just allowed, but a common norm. Western society too is adjusting to Islam.

As frightening as it can be to point out, Islam, like Christianity, another religion that is no stranger to violence and intolerance, does have certain facets that are not acceptable in a modern society. It is not okay for women to have fewer rights than men. It’s not okay to devalue people based on religion or sexual orientation. These are problems in other religions too, but open critique of these issues from practicing Muslims is both underreported and undersupplied.

There remains a sharp social stigma in Islam that makes open criticism of the religion from both believers and non-believers alike very difficult. Unfortunately, that stigma has frequently manifested in tragic and unnecessary violence such as the attacks on Charlie Hedbo in Paris.The West’s free press, which supposedly is up in arms to defend freedom of expression, is also not without blame. It certainly underreports instances of discrimination that Muslims in the West face for their faith. The Western press also ‘freely’ expresses more depictions of Islam’s extremist side than it does anything else.

Still, as attacks around the world show, this kind of over-depiction doesn’t come out of nowhere. It is often the case that outrage among fundamentalist Muslims in reaction to satirical/caricature religious mockery can hurt Islam’s image more than any cartoon, article, documentary ever could. The most tasteless anti-Islam cartoon/article/documentary is nothing compared to murder. Also, attacks from Islamic terrorists almost always swell the ranks of ultra right groups in Europe. An extreme right party has a far better chance of overwhelming France than terrorists have of eradicating free speech there.

In the same way that gang members killed two New York City cops and recently in Dallas as “revenge” for the police-related deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, French Muslims are now under attack from France’s most intolerant and revenge-seeking citizens. Attacks on Muslims in France have already resulted in fired guns and detonated grenades in French mosques, as well as the miscarriage of one French woman who was severely beaten by two islamaphobic men for wearing a hijab. Conversely, the Israeli bombings of Gaza emboldened anti-Semitic French Muslims of Palestinian descent to attack French Jews and Synagogues. To quote a much smarter person than I on the subject: “Violence has an echo.”

All of this drives the question: Is there a right way to criticize Islam? Extreme satire, caricature, documentary, article almost always risks stereotyping. That alone doesn’t justify killing anyone. Extreme political correctness is equally flawed. Secular classes of people who openly criticize religions like Christianity often won’t do the same with Islam in fear of both violence and appearing racist.

The West still suffers from the misperception of Islam being as much an ethnic identity as it is a religious one. Given that Muslim populations exist everywhere from Morocco to Malaysia, such a concern needs to be overcome. Islam has many moderates and peaceful reformers in many different countries. Though, unless they are Malala, they are not well highlighted.

We need a balance of all of these approaches. If Westerners wish to criticize Islam and truly employ free speech, they have to tell the whole story. If Muslims want to participate in a world where everyone isn’t Muslim, they must accept harsh criticism of Islam and even contribute to it. If that can’t be done, more Muslims and non-Muslims alike will continue to senselessly die.

Prof Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Author
International Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Getty Image photo of French Muslims, praying in Paris' Street on Friday

Thursday, 29 September 2016

U.S.:Understanding Donald J Trump

The First presidential televised debate 2016, on Monday ( like all the debates), exposed something about Donald J Trump, the Republican nominee. Donald Trump's debate performance demonstrated that he is naive; he does not do his homework; he is ignorant about basic facts; he lacks self-control;

Trump is not eloquent speaker; he uses few words, he constantly loses his train of thought and seldom finds its again and he often gets carried away in anger. He will repeat a half sentence he seems to like two or three times, but there is nothing intellectual about it. Simply put, Trump lacks the temperament to be President.

Trump is a proven pathological liar. There are innumerable examples: Trump has said there 30 million illegal immigrants in the US, though the actual number is 11 million. He said that the unemployment rate was 42 percent, when it is only 4.9 percent. He flatly denied on Monday's debate that he supported the Iraq war. However a TV interview in 2002 revealed that he did support it. On ''Birtherism'', he shamelessly blamed Hillary Clinton 2008 campaign team.

In fact, the Institute ''PolitiFacts'', which checks the veracity of claims made by politicians, looked into 160 statements made by Trump and found 70 percent of then to be mostly false, false or ''pants of fire''. Never before, the Institute says, has a politician lied so often. Trump suggests that his political style is verbally robust, but his policies are immaculate. his biggest lie is his claim that he is telling the truth in the service of the greater good.

No wonder why 50 former national security officials who had served at high level in Republican administration from Richard Nixon to George W Bush, saying that they would not vote for their party's presidential nominee.

Trump's success is the story of an outsider who has broken with all the rules of the world of politics and has done so very successfully. But there is also a second narrative to be told: a story of an emotional intelligence deficit.

In the terminology of modern leadership theory, Trump is deficient in emotional intelligence--the self-mastery, discipline, and emphatic capacity that allows leaders to channel their personal passions and attract others. Contrary to the view that feelings interfere with thinking, emotional intelligence-which include two major components, mastery of self and outreach to others-suggests that the ability to understand and regulate emotions can make overall thinking more effective.

While the concept is modern, the idea is not new. Practical people have long understood its importance in leadership. In 1930's, former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, a crusty old veteran of the American Civil War, was taken to meet Franklin D Roosevelt, a fellow Harvard graduate but one who had not been a distinguished student. Asked later about his impressions of the new president, Holmes famously quipped: ''second-class intellect, first class temperament''. Most historians would agree that Roosevelt's success as a leader rested more on his emotional that his analytical IQ.

Psychologists have tried to measure intelligence for more than a century. General IQ tests measure such dimensions of intelligence as verbal comprehension and perceptual reasoning, but IQ scores predict only about 10-20% of variation in life success. The 80% that remains unexplained is the product of hundreds of factors playing out over time. Emotional intelligence is one of them.

Some experts argue that emotional intelligence is twice as important as technical or cognitive skills. Others suggest, it plays a more modest role. Moreover, psychologists differ about how the two dimensions of emotional intelligence-self control and empathy-relate to each other. Bill Clinton, for example, scored low on the first but high on the second. Nonetheless, they agree that emotional intelligence is an important component of leadership. Richard Nixon probably had a higher IQ than Roosevelt, but much lower emotional intelligence.

Leaders use emotional intelligence to manage their ''charisma'' or personal magnetism across changing contexts. We all present ourselves to others in a variety of ways in order to manage the impressions we make: for example, we dress for success. Politicians, too, dress differently for different audiences. Ronald Reagan's staff was famous for its effectiveness in managing impressions.

Successful management of personal impressions requires some of the emotional discipline and skill possessed by good actors. Acting and leadership have a great deal in common. Both combine self-control with the ability to project. Reagan's poor experience as Hollywood actor served him well in this regard, and Roosevelt was a consummate actor as well. Despite his pain and difficulty in moving on his polio-crippled legs, FDR maintained a smiling exterior, and was careful to avoid being photographed in the wheelchair he used.

Humans, like other primate groups, focus their attention on the leader. Whether CEOs and presidents realize it or not, the signals they convey are always closely watched. Emotional intelligence involves awareness and control of such signals, and self-discipline that prevents personal psychological needs from distorting policy. Nixon, for example, could strategize effectively on foreign policy; but he was less able to manage the personal insecurities that caused him to create an ''enemies list'' and eventually led to his downfall.

Trump has some of the skills of emotional intelligence. He is an actor whose experience hosting a reality-television show enabled him to dominate the crowded Republican primary filed and attract considerable media attention. Dressing for the occasion in his signature red baseball cap with the slogan ''Make America Great Again'', he appeared to have gamed the system with a winning strategy of using ''politically incorrect'' statements to focus attention on himself and gain enormous free publicity.

But Trump has proven deficient in terms of self-control, leaving him unable to move forward the center for the general election. Likewise, he has failed to display the discipline needed to master the details of foreign policy, with the result that, unlike Nixon, he comes across as naive about the world affairs.

Trump has a reputation as bully in interactions with peers, but that is not bad per se. President Lyndon Johnson was a bully, and many Silicon valley entrepreneurs have a bullying style. But, unlike Trump, these figures bullies had vision that inspires other to want to follow them. And Trump's narcissism has led him to overreact, often counter-productively, to criticism and affronts.

It is this deficiency in his emotional intelligence that has cost Trump the support of some of the most distinguished foreign policy experts in his party and in the country. In their words, he is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood, He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate criticism. Trump has been disqualified by his second-class temperament.

By Jennifer Birich
Political Commentator

Photo-Credit:CNN photo of; Republican Debate-Donald J Trump

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

COLOMBIA: The Peace Deal-Analysis

Since taking the office, Santos has been deeply committed to a peace deal that would end five decades of conflict that has caused more than 250,000 deaths. After 4 years of negotiation in Cuba, Colombia's centre-right government and the Marxist FARC rebel group signed a peace deal on Monday.

Colombians will vote on Sunday on whether to ratify the agreement, but opinion polls show it should pass easily. Colombians are nervous over how the rebels will integrate into society, but most are optimistic peace will bring more benefits than problems.The FARC ( Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), which began as a peasant revolt, became a big player in the cocaine trade and at its strongest had 20,000 fighters. Now, its some 7,000 fighters must hand over their weapons to the United Nations within 180 days. 

The end of Latin America's longest running war will potentially turn the FARC into a political party. The FARC, like the Patriotic Union, a left-wing party closely linked to the FARC, could be rehabilitated and run candidates in ''gerrymandered'' districts designed to provide seats in Congress for the insurgents after the peace deal. 

Santos enjoys wide international support for his pacification efforts, from prominent leaders like UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Pope Francis as well as progressive political sectors in Europe and Latin America. Showing its support for the peace deal, the European Union on Monday removed the FARC from its list of terrorist groups. Washington would also review whether to take the FARC off its terrorism list, and has pledged $390 million for Colombia next year to support the peace process.

Although Colombia’s competent armed forces thwarted the FARC ambition to control strategic sectors of the economy, the low-level insurgency continued to exact a heavy cost on an otherwise buoyant economy. This is why Santos has linked the peace settlement to greater prosperity for Colombia’s 40 million people. Colombia has performed better economically than its neighbours in recent years, and peace should reduce the government's security spending and open new areas of the country for mining and oil companies.

Colombia has the land and climate to be a major food exporter, like Brazil, and is becoming an energy power with world-class oil, gas, and coal deposits, as well as a strategic logistical corridor with ports on the Atlantic and Pacific. Colombia’s political influence as a democratic country in South America will grow if it manages to sustain economic development and growth, offsetting the influence of Venezuela’s radical, anti-American “21st-century socialism,” now undergoing a serious internal political and economic crisis.

The United States has been a key supporter of Colombia against the FARC guerrillas since the Clinton administration launched Plan Colombia in 2000, providing substantial military equipment, training, and financing for an ostensibly anti-narcotics program, but with a more basic goal of defeating the then dangerous guerrilla insurgency. The plan worked, the FARC and other guerrilla groups were rolled back, much of the FARC leadership was wiped out, and the Colombian people became more strongly opposed to guerrilla violence.

This political-military success is what induced the weakened FARC to accept the peace deal. Cuba acquiesced in providing Havana as a neutral ground for the negotiations. Before the decline of the FARC, Cuba and Venezuela had long subversive associations with the Colombian guerrillas, including partnering in international drug trafficking.

In his campaign for international support for peace, Santos met President Obama twice. They have met before, during Obama’s first term, when the US Senate was stalling on approval of a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia because of resistance by the AFL-CIO union lobby. With help from the White House, this resistance was overcome.

But for the 65-year-old Santos, the peace deal is more political, and he hopes to focus on what new bilateral relations can develop after the peace deal. This calls for new ideas, and could be an opportunity for the Obama administration--subsequently Clinton/Trump administration--to be more creative in support of a key Latin American ally that is a defender of democracy and human rights in a continent where these values are under attack from authoritarian regimes.

Santos has established a pragmatic relationship between peace and economic prosperity. This requires greater economic inclusion for the poorest sectors in Colombia, 30 percent of the population, who are concentrated in the rural sectors where subsistence agriculture and inadequate social investments in education and health care perpetuate chronic poverty.

This breeding ground for rural violence and political instability is what a new Plan Colombia should address through specific programs of social development if President Obama wants to keep the United States relevant for Colombia’s democracy. The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank are already working in this direction with Colombia, but this cooperation does not carry the political label of the United States to a commitment to genuine democracy and free institutions in Latin America.

Just as it defeated the guerrilla insurgency, Colombia, after the peace deal, can become a model of how political freedom and compromise can enhance the prospects for inclusive economic development, without which no democratic regime can sustain itself in Latin America.

Prof Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
International Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: AFP-Colombia Peace Deal in Cuba

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

WORLD: The Limits of the U.N.S.C

From Syria, Nigeria to human rights abuses in Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, a world ruled by chaos and disorder, security is paramount. Trust in the UNSC's ability to create peace and stability is shrinking. It is no longer an exaggeration to think that the world is collapsing and a new discussion how we can tackle the challenges of a multipolar world order becomes an urgency.

The pressing question is: Does the structure of the Security Council still reflect the realities of the 21st century? When is it appropriate to use the veto and what can be done when the Security Council is unable to reach agreement? Though, it is important to recognize that the UN are essential but as the world changes, it becomes necessary to look for adjustments or alternatives to adapt the International Community to the challenges we face today.

From its inception, 71 years ago to now, an awful lot things have changed. Many issues threaten the founding ideals and values of Security Council:  lack of security for people within their own systems (terrorism), lack of link between security and justice (human rights abuses), as insecurity continues to increase – while at the same time more and more non-state actors are gaining in power.

There is a difficulty in imposing legally binding checks and balances on the UNSC. The Council has broad powers to maintain international peace and security, most notably under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and its decisions are binding on UN members. At the same time, some of the Council’s actions have been labelled as ultra vires and the lack of a binding, legal oversight mechanism to reign in Council action has been decried.

There are genuine calls for the UN to strike a balance between fundamental principle of State sovereignty and the need to protect human rights. However members states views differ on the interpretations of the ideals and values of the Security Council Charter, with some underscoring the primacy of non-interference in domestic affairs and others expressing the need for action in cases where States are unable to protect their people or are themselves the perpetrators of human rights violations.

There is in the Charter a “dynamic equilibrium” between non-interference in internal affairs and the promotion of human rights.  States could not hide human rights violations behind the principle of sovereignty.  While it is difficult to strike an accurate balance, it is preferable to make errors while defending human rights than to show “excessive zeal” in respecting, to the letter, the principle of non-interference.

Another obvious limitation of the UNSC is the power of veto. There are five permanent members of the UN Security Council: China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States. These permanent members States have the ability to ''veto'' any substantive resolution and decide which issues deserve the title of ''substantive''.

This privilege not only prevents much needed international action from taking place ( North Korea-nuclear weapon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi-human rights violations), but also undermines the entire basis of the UN, which is international cooperation, peace and stability. 

Furthermore, the UN Security Council is rigid in structure. The five permanent members are the same five permanent members since the UNSC's founding in 1945. Thus, as the times changes and power shifts, the council loses its importance.

The changing nature of the threats facing international peace and security — which now ranges from terrorist acts to pandemic diseases and unprecedented migration flows — underscores the urgency of reform, power structures, reflecting today challenges. In fact, the concept of sovereignty itself had changed; today, it should amount to a contract between the Government and the governed.

The Security Council is like a Rubik’s Cube, it is very difficult to get at. But the time has come to have a Council that reflects real power structures. UN needs reform; its structures are outdated. The UN should not function like a dictatorship in which only the alpha males can decide – regardless of their stance on essential values like human rights.

Prof Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Author
International Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Getty Images of United Nations Security Council photo

Monday, 26 September 2016

U.S.A:. Rethinking-America ''Post-Racial Age''

A couple hundred demonstrators chanted and marched through Charlotte on Sunday, as protests persisted after the release of two videos showing the fatal shooting of a black man by police officers in North Carolina's largest city.

The video released offered no clear evidence that Scott was holding a gun when he was shot. Angry protesters have filled the streets of Charlotte every day since the Tuesday killing of Keith Scott, 43, whom police said was armed when officers shot him. The fast-growing Sun Belt city, a banking centre, became the latest flashpoint in two years of tense protests over U.S. police killings of black men, many of them unarmed.

Keith Scott is the latest name in a long list of black men and women who have perished at the hands of police. Keith Scott's killing and other are not personal issues or isolated incidents: they are tragic reflections of deeply broken system.

The persistence of racial discrimination in America is only news to those of us who have never been on the receiving end. For many African-Americans and other minorities, it’s a pervasive reality rather than a newsworthy aberration. Yet for some time, and especially since the 2008 election, the rhetoric of the “post-racial age” has provided some comfort to liberals for whom civil rights are the stuff of history lessons.

With a black president, it appeared to be merely a matter of mopping up the last residue of the country’s ugly past. In some circles, the focus has already shifted towards dismantling the legislative instruments of the civil rights era – affirmative action is increasingly framed as outdated, and as a mechanism of reverse discrimination – or towards a framing of social problems as the result of an indigenous culture of poverty that can be separated from the legacy of segregation and racial prejudice. Statistically, being older, conservative and white makes you significantly more likely to see racial discrimination in the criminal justice system as non-existent.

The idea of a post-racial society is not only factually misleading, but amounts to a collective denial of the realities of contemporary America and to a thinly veiled defense of the status quo. Everyday discrimination happens to a substantial minority of the American population, often in plain sight. It is not something that has to be “discovered”, but something that has to be consciously “unseen”.

Ask any African-American, and they will probably have a story to tell about sour interactions with police officers, about being told by parents to never throw away shopping receipts (lest they be accused of stealing) and to never wear a hooded sweatshirt after dark (because police might stop-and-frisk them), about being mistaken for the valet attendant at an upscale restaurant, and about the justified anger they might harbor as a result of those experiences.

Indeed, what’s so outrageous about Charlotte is not the fact that a single police officer deliberately shot an unarmed citizen, but that being black still makes you 21 times more likely to be killed by an officer of the law. What’s so upsetting is not the rioting by angry crowds but the persistence of discrimination and disadvantage that becomes a fertile ground for anger.

This is not to deny the progress that America has made since the days of Jim Crow. But to confuse reality with the lofty ideal of a post-racial society amounts to a of denial of the present that threatens the achievements of the past. The fight against racial prejudice is always a fight for collective vigilance, and against entrenched systems of power and privilege.

One of the tasks for White America today is to confront the Black experience and the “frustrations rooted in reality” instead of falling prey to familiar tropes about Black men. Such a confrontation requires navel-gazing over one’s own privilege, but it also requires an engagement with voices from the Black community.

There’s still an unfortunate and pervasive tendency to sideline the voices of African-American writers and thinkers – many literature and sociology syllabi still throw together all Black writers in dedicated weeks on “race”, as if racial issues did not permeate most of American history and culture –, and to examine the experience of being Black from the vantage point of white privilege. That’s stupid. Many of the most compelling, insightful, and urgent accounts come to from the pens and pulpits of people for whom discrimination was and is a fact of life.

Blacks plainly still suffer prejudice across America: they account for 86% of the vehicle stops made by police in Charlotte. But America’s race problem is increasingly one of class. Blacks’ biggest problem is now poverty, which is most visible in places such as Charlotte. Solving the problems of places like Charlotte is less about passing more anti-discrimination laws than about rekindling economic growth and spreading the proceeds. But there are also ways of making politics and policing work better that would contribute greatly to racial harmony in America.

If there is one lesson from the killing of Keith Scott, it is that police officers should behave like civilians, not an occupying army. Above all, America must rethink its rhetoric of ''America Post Racial Age''.

Prof Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Author
International Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Reuters' photo of protest in Charlotte, for the killing of Keith Scott

Friday, 23 September 2016

SOUTH AFRICA: A.N.C's Failures..

South Africa's Universities have been thrust into the Bermuda Triangle of government indifference and Zuma’s anti-intellectual contempt.

When the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, called a press conference this week to announce his ‘decision’ on fee increases for the year, there was a clear and devious strategy at play: to do everything possible to distance himself, the Treasury, President Jacob Zuma, and the ANC, from the mess which they themselves have created.

The ANC strategy has been, from the very beginning, to make the Universities the enemy of the students, so that the collective anger can be wielded not against those who make the decisions about funding, but against the very institutions which have been calling for more funding for more than a decade. It is a desperate act of self-preservation which once again puts the ANC first and the people last.

In a time of crisis, one expects strong leadership and foresight. But what South Africa is witnessing this week is more cowardice and disdain by an ANC government that has abandoned the future of South Africa. They well know that even if Universities are able to implement an 8% fee increase, this will render them unsustainable as institutions.

At the heart of the frustration that young South Africans are feeling today is the lack of opportunities in the country economy. With 8.9 million people unemployed, and a government which doesn’t take higher education and skills development seriously, hopes for a better life are being maliciously dashed. The ANC's attempt to pit students against universities and get off scot-free will only prolong the crisis, and assist in the collapse of precious institutions that exist to serve South Africa, and provide the skills young South Africans need to pursue their dreams.

Furthermore, dissatisfaction with the government has been growing over high levels of unemployment, a lack of basic services and allegations of widespread corruption. the ANC is likely to use its impressive mandate to try to drive through its National Development Plan - rejecting nationalisation, and emphasising investment and infrastructure. The business-friendly plan has alarmed South Africa's powerful unions - some of which may soon break away to form their own party.

It might be tempting to conclude that in South Africa the more things change, the more they stay the same. But the national polls, and electoral outcomes in South Africa’s nine provinces, reveal subtler shifts and trends that cast the election in a rather different light and raise important questions about the ANC’s future as a dominant party. Would the ANC be able to deliver its promises and maintain its legitimacy? Would President Zuma and the ANC leadership be able to address the big issues that sickening South Africa today?

The ANC wasn’t just elected into government in 1994. It reclaimed the freedom and self-determination of all people by means of a struggle that was long, bloody, dehumanizing, humiliating and towards the ends, fairly clever. On a continent where democracy is largely just another corrupt form of failed governance, the ANC is the party that won the struggle, thereby becoming the natural leader of the nation.

But the power the ANC holds in its current form is neither saturated nor guaranteed. Its leadership is not carved in stone. The massive power struggles within the party are the truest form of political rivalry and need to be given more attention. The prevalent whining about the definition of a “true democracy“ and the size and relevance of the opposition also misses the point. The government is not accountable to its opposition. It is accountable to its people.

Many things have improved in South Africa since 1994, to be sure.  State racism has ended, and the country now boasts what many describe as the most progressive constitution in the world.  People have rights, and there are institutions designed to protect and uphold those rights. Still, the dream of higher education, as a gateway from poverty for young South Africans remains a struggle – a struggle that is infinitely compounded by the sense of disappointment that accompanies it, given the gap between the expectations of liberation and the state of abjection that the majority continues to inhabit.

South Africa’s unemployment rate in 1994 was 13 percent – so bad that most were convinced it could not get worse.  Yet today it is double that, at more than 25 percent.  Add all the people who have given up searching for work, and the figure is closer to 37 percent.  The situation is particularly bad for young people.  The Economist recently reported that “half of South Africans under 24 looking for work have none. Of those who have jobs, a third earn less than $2 a day.”

Besides its dismal record on employment, South Africa also boasts a reputation for being one of the most unequal countries in the world.  Not only has aggregate income inequality worsened since the end of apartheid, income inequality between racial groups has worsened as well. 

According to the 2011 census, black households earn only 16 percent of that which white households earn, partly because young black South Africans, who can not afford to achieve their dreams through higher education skills end up doing menial jobs, which limits the scope of jobs opportunities. About 62 percent of all black people live below the poverty line, while in the rural areas of the former homelands this figure rises to a shocking 79 percent.

In 2006, 70 percent of South Africa’s land was still under the control of whites, who constitute a mere 10 percent of the population.  The ANC’s Black Economic Empowerment programme has succeeded in minting new black millionaires (South Africa has 7,800 of them now), but cannot seem to manage the much more basic goal of eliminating poverty, by making Universities affordable for the young South Africans.

When the ANC assumed power in 1994 it implemented a progressive policy initiative known as the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP).  The RDP was designed to promote equitable development and poverty reduction, mostly through education investment and the mass rollout of social services to connect millions of people to housing, electricity, water, and clinics. Despite its successes, this policy framework was abandoned a mere two years later. 

Also when the ANC came to power with a landslide vote in 1994, they did so on the promises of the Freedom Charter.  Penned in 1955, the Freedom Charter expressed South Africans’ demands for the right to work, housing, freedom of movement, education – most radically – economic justice. Most South Africans agree that these promises have been horribly betrayed.  South Africa’s education system remains a privilege for few.

Given these contradictions, it is no wonder that South Africa is ablaze with discontent, earning the title of “protest capital of the world”.  It seems that every year authorities report that the number of protests has reached the highest levels since the end of apartheid.  And, indeed, the figures are staggering: early this year some 3,000 protests occurred over a 90 day period, involving more than a million people.  South Africans are taking to the streets as they give up on electoral politics.  This is particularly true for the young:

The government’s response has been a mix of police repression – including the recent students protest--and the continued rollout of welfare grants, which now reach more than 15 million people.  The grants are a stop-gap solution to the failure of trickle-down economics, a way of papering over the contradictions of South African capitalism; everyone is aware that without them poverty and inequality would be so unbearable that the country’s already tenuous sense of social stability would come crashing to an end.

So far the protests have been focused on issues like lower universities fees, housing, water, electricity, and other basic services, but it won’t be long before they coalesce into something much more powerful, as they did during the last decade of apartheid.  There are already signs that this is beginning to happen. 

The Economic Freedom Fighters, recently founded by Julius Malema, the unsavoury former leader of the ANC Youth League, is successfully mobilising discontented youth and making a strong push to nationalise the mines, the banks and lower universities fees. 

In short, the situation in South Africa over the past 20 years opens up interesting questions about the meaning of democracy.  What is democracy if it doesn’t allow people to determine their own economic destiny or benefit from the vast wealth of the commons?  What is freedom if it serves only the capital interests of the country’s elite?  The revolution that brought the end of apartheid has accomplished a great deal, to be sure, but it has not yet reached its goal.

Prof Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/ Writer
African Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: AFP-Photo of South Africans Students Protest

Thursday, 22 September 2016

WORLD: Capitalism and Climate Change

When did global warming cease being merely a computer simulation? It must have been at some point between the 1970s, when the world experienced 660 natural catastrophes, and the last decade, with its 3,322 storms, heat waves and flooding. It came quietly, as most of us were looking away.

Since then, the ice cap at the North Pole is melting, glaciers in the Alps are disappearing and dikes on the North Sea have had to be heightened. Rainfall has become even more intense in Western Europe whereas precipitation has fallen in the southern part of the Continent.

On the Arabian Peninsula, which is almost entirely covered in desert, ground water levels are falling dangerously. In Africa and Central Asia, deserts are expanding. In Israel, Australia and Brazil, lakes and rivers are drying up. Soon, climate change could result in shortages of such goods as coffee, chocolate and wine from southern France. In the American South, on the coast of Louisiana, a piece of land the size of a soccer field disappears into the sea every hour. At such a rate, the New York Times Magazine recently calculated, Central Park would vanish within a month. The Principality of Monaco would be history after just 15 days.

In 2014, around 60 percent more greenhouse gases were pumped into the atmosphere than in 1990, the year against which most reduction targets are measured. There is little to indicate that the trend might soon change. And if it doesn't, if emissions continue at today's rate, the World Bank calculates that average global temperatures will increase by 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. The consequences of so much warming, the World Bank says, would be "extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise."

The sheer scope of the destructive effect the production of fossil fuels already has today is visible when you visit places that provide the world with its supplies of coal, oil and natural gas. Louisiana, for example, an oil-rich US state whose coast is sinking into the sea and which is threatened by hurricanes. Or the Chinese coal province Hebei, whose 70 million inhabitants would be better advised not to leave their homes on many days of the year because levels of fine particulate matter go far beyond those considered to be safe.

Paris Climate Summit last November/December produced an agreement hailed as “historic, durable and ambitious”. Developed and developing countries alike are required to limit their emissions to relatively safe levels, of 2C with an aspiration of 1.5C, with regular reviews to ensure these commitments can be increased in line with scientific advice. Finance will be provided to poor nations to help them cut emissions and cope with the effects of extreme weather. Countries affected by climate-related disasters will gain urgent aid.

Like any international compromise, it is not perfect: the caps on emissions are still too loose, likely to lead to warming of 2.7 to 3C above pre-industrial levels, breaching the 2C threshold that scientists say is the limit of safety, beyond which the effects – droughts, floods, heatwaves and sea level rises – are likely to become catastrophic and irreversible.

Might it be enough, though, to fundamentally change the rules by which the global economy functions? The matter of fact is that we have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis.

In other words, climate protection and capitalism are mutually exclusive. In order to stop global warming, we have to use fewer resources. But in order to prevent the collapse of our capitalist economic system, unlimited growth is necessary. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed. And it's not the laws of nature. Our reaction to climate change is inversely proportional to the dimension of the problem it presents.

Is climate protection doomed to failure so long as the world continues to pursue growth? During that past two centuries, humanity has experienced something never before seen on this scale: a period of almost continuous growth. Earth's population has increased sevenfold since 1800. Per capita earnings have grown on average from $700 to $6,500 per year and economic output is 60 times bigger than it was 200 years ago. That continual boom, though, was made possible fossil fuels, resources people long held to be inexhaustible. Coal, followed by oil and natural gas, made unprecedented economic growth in Europe, America, Australia and Asia possible.

That growth is inevitably linked to destruction of nature and that the climate can only be protected by curbing economic activity. In other words, the only thing that can help the environment is giving up material things. "Less is more" is the mantra of the degrowth movement, which began more than four decades ago when a research group lead by the American Dennis Meadows was tasked by the Club of Rome to examine the frontiers of economic expansion in 1972. The resulting report was titled, "The Limits to Growth," and the theory that grew out of it has been finding great resonance ever since.

As proof of the irreconcilability of capitalism with environmental goals, economists like to cite the "rebound effect," which holds that all efforts to increase efficiency are negatively offset by increasing demand. The first person to describe the rebound effect was William Stanley Jevons of Britain. His book, "The Coal Question," was published 150 years ago and described how steam engines required decreasing amounts of coal because of technological advances. Nevertheless, he noted, consumption of the fuel continued to rise because an increasing number of steam engines were being used. Jevons concluded that more efficient use of energy is not accompanied by sinking consumption. Instead the opposite is true.

Newer car engines use less fuel, heating becomes more efficient and yet the total consumption of oil, natural gas and fuels continues to increase because automobiles get heavier and apartments larger. In that way, what has been gained in efficiency has been lost again -- at least to a certain degree. But the extent of the effect is the subject of debate.

A few studies have concluded that no more than 15 percent of the savings are lost. Others claim the loss to be as great as 30, 50 or even 80 percent. In some cases, though, the rebound effect can also destroy all efficiency gains. Lighting provides a good example. With each level of development -- from the candle to the light bulb to today's LED lights -- less and less energy was required, with efficiency increasing within 200 years by 1,000 times. And yet per capita use of lights has grown at an even faster rate -- by more than 25,000 times. A similar trend can be observed in crude oil. Thanks largely to improved extraction technologies, the global supply has grown so much that it has caused prices to collapse and triggered a renaissance of gas-guzzling SUVs.

Low energy prices should provide a natural opportunity to reform energy policies, at least in theory. Developing nations could pare back the subsidies they pay to make fuel cheaper for consumers. And industrialized nations should systematically invest the billions saved by consumers through cheap fuel into renewable energies. Unfortunately, though, that kind of farsightedness goes beyond the constraints of the current everyday political reality in which many governments are trapped.
That backdrop is the reason that proponents of degrowth consider the idea of green growth to be an illusion, indeed self-deception.

Of course, it is possible to reduce emissions by restricting growth. It is conceivable, but costly. Assuming a 1 percent reduction in both economic output and CO2 emissions in an environment of global gross domestic product of $70 trillion and emissions of 33 gigatons, it would cost $2,100 to cut a ton of CO2. By comparison, it would only cost around $40 to reduce the same amount of CO2 by instead using wind power.

Should greenhouse gas emissions continue as they are today, the world will likely reach the 2 degree Celsius maximum within 30 years. Indeed, in order to have any chance at all of stopping global warming at 2 degrees Celsius, emissions would have to fall by 10 percent per year starting in 2017 at the latest.

Prof Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
International Affairs Expert


Monday, 19 September 2016

WORLD: Political-Economic fragility of : ''Emerging Economies''

Assessments of the larger emerging economies--China, India and Brazil--and their global influence have been as volatile as each of their stocks markets. In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, the buoyancy of their economies supported both a global recovery and their status as the rising powers in 21st century. Now, the boom decade after 2001 seems a distant memory.

As China's economy slows from supercharged to respectable growth and re-balancing curbs its demand for commodities, growth in commodity-producing countries, Brazil among them, has slumped. Even India, with surpassed China's growth rate for the first time in 2015, confronts a stalled economic reform program under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and faces longer-term obstacles to its ambitions to become a manufacturing powerhouse that would rival China. Current distress in these former dynamos reveals an underlying fragility in these once-rising powers.

The current downgrading of the BRICS' economic prospects and their future goal role has probably overshot reality. Although China's boom is over and its high-growth years unlikely to return, these economies, after a difficult adjustment, are likely to outpace their industrialized counterparts, which face their own demographic and economic barriers to sustained growth. Furthermore, the BRICS's global ambitions--economic as well as political--are unlikely to disappear, even though their economic clout may be temporarily diminished.

Evaluating the future roles of China, Brazil and India in global politics and governance first requires a more realistic assessment of the ambitions and capabilities they demonstrated during the bool years. They did no pose a coherent challenge to the existing global order at the time, due to international and domestic obstacles that persist in the current downturn. Chief among these are each country's difficult shift away from entrenched development models at a time of declining economic threat to their claims to a share of global leadership--and also the greatest risks to a reformed international order.

As the three largest emerging economies, China, Brazil and India share certain characteristics that have shaped their approach to international politics. None has been a US' ally; unlike Europe and Japan, dependence on US security guarantees does not moderate potential economic conflicts with Washington. each has made large bets on opening its economy and breaking with a more autarchic past. Their populations have endorsed the benefits of trade and foreign investment, providing a political base for this turn to the global economy.

At the time, the state continued to play s significant economic role in all three countries, intervening through ownership of or influence over critical sectors, such as finance. Tight links between big business and political elites produced high levels of political corruption, which ranked as a major political issue in China, Brazil and India. Finally, nationalism featured prominently in domestic politics. In the cases of India and China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping linked economic reform to a program of national renovation and global rise.

Despite these shared characteristics , the emerging economic powerhouses did not present a collective challenge to the existing global order. They neither exported state-led models of developments nor exerted pressure for a highly regulated international economy, as some had predicted. Instead, in nearly every issue area, China, Brazil and India can be best described as conservative globalizers. Economic opening had encouraged deeper engagement with global institutions, and the politically popular benefits that resulted made the existing international economic order an unlikely target for a hostile takeover.

Following the global financial crisis, these three countries demonstrated their support for a reformed global order that awarded them a larger role. Of course, they pressed their national and collective interests in those forums, sometimes at the risk of gridlock. The stalemated Doha Development Agenda, a trade negotiation at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that was launched in 2001 but stalled in 2008, was a case in point.

Within existing global governance institutions, China, India and Brazil aimed to reduce what they saw as the disproportionate  influence of the incumbent, industrialized powers. They demanded a reallocation of quota shares and voting power at the Bretton Woods institutions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. They also gained a prominent role on the newly empowered Group of 20 (G-20). The Financial Stability Board, a fourth pillar of global economic governance--along with the IMF, World Bank and WTO--also awarded the emerging economies new decision making power over the financial reform agenda.

Throughout those conversations, the new economic powers voiced a common criticism: Their growing economic dynamism meant that the old configurations of power--a cartel of industrialized countries--were out of date. The world necessarily become more multi-polar, and emerging economic powers applauded that transition, hoping to have a greater hand i reshaping the rules going forward.

Dramatic change in the substance of those rules, however, seemed doubtful. The emerging powers' stance toward capital controls exemplified this combination of newfound influence in the service of modest reforms. They promoted a new, though hardly revolutionary, international consensus on capital controls--government measures to regulate the international flow of capital previously shunned by the IMF--that recognized their utility as one instrument in the toolkit of macroeconomic management. They did no, however, press for a return to comprehension capital controls: in fact, China and India were gradually removing controls, not tightening them. Brazil's particular circumstances-heightened capital inflows that distorted its exchange rate--let it to implement a financial transactions tax in 2009 to discourage those inflows, a tax suspended in 2013 as capital outflows mounted.

These three countries' position on capital controls, however, reflected not only their greater influence in global institutions, but also theirs aims to maximum policy discretion in dealing with the effects of globalization. As conservative globalizers, they have supported reformed global governance institutions but have been reluctant to cede autonomy beyond those original, embedded institutional bargains, resisting greater oversight of national policies by other economic powers or global institutions. That attitude reached beyond the economic sphere. For example, their skepticism regarding humanitarian intervention and the application of the Responsibility to Protect norm--a loosening of barriers to international intervention in narrowly defined circumstances of mass atrocities--reflected that protective stance.

Many alarmists overstated the challenge that China, India and Brazil posed to the existing economic and political order, because these observers not only misjudged the goals of the emerging powers but also exaggerated their capabilities. In many areas, particularly those in which economic weight brought greater influence, such as trade and monetary governance, the emerging economies could exercise substantial veto to power, producing gridlock but often failing to generate outcomes that reflected their preferences. They could build coalitions to enhance their bargaining leverage, but the diversity of their economic interests and political alignments limited the permanence of those coalitions. Economically and politically, their weight was felt most directly in their respective regions, in which each was the largest economy by a substantial margin.

Even before China's recent economic slowdown and the collapse in commodity prices, however, these three countries faced daunting agendas--economic and social inequality, environmental degradation and political corruption---impeding their rise as a force in global politics and governance. Meanwhile, more-open economies and globalized politics produced an army of actors and audiences with a stake in their external relations, meaning that foreign policy could no longer be managed as a purely elite operation. These limitations on the expansion of their global influence became more apparent with the end of the China-driven boom.

Economic shockwaves emanating from China over the past year have sent a clear signal that its boom is over. They have spread gloom over the emerging economies. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde has warned that a ''new reality'' will slow economic convergence between emerging economies and rich countries. As economic growth slows--or goes into reverse in Brazil and other commodity-producing--political leaders face the challenge of instituting economic reforms that were often stalled during the boom years under less favorable economic conditions.

This difficult political and economic environment could produce two possible outcomes:
First, economic failures could be offset by nationalist appeals, distracting potent constituencies with foreign threats or risky adventures. A second and more likely option is a retreat from claims to international leadership by political elites distracted by domestic demands and threats of political unrest.

Instead of challenging the global order, China, India and Brazil would revert to free-riding on the fragile support offered to global order by a politically divided Unites States and a fractured European Union.

Prof Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert
Political Analyst/Writer

Photo-Credit: Getty-Images

Friday, 16 September 2016

DR-CONGO: Kabila--The ''Authoritarian''

The Republic Democratic of Congo is at a political crossroad; the next three months are pivotal to shape the country political landscape: the continuation of this culture of absence of politics of accommodation, which could lead to ''full scale authoritarianism'', heightening political and social tensions or a smooth transition, which it seems evidently clear to me 'wishful thinking''.

Republic Democratic of Congo's political class is divided in two segments: On one hand, the incumbent President, Joseph kabila's extremists backers. Although the constitution in article 220, barres Joseph Kabila to seek a third term in office, his backers are romancing the idea of constitutional referendum, guaranteeing extra-constitutional third term to their ''Suzerain'', through different mechanisms, for instead the so called ''Inter Congolese Dialogue/ or National Inclusive Dialogue''. However, the selectiveness of this dialogue is the elephant in the room. 

On the other side, the main political opposition bloc, ''Rassemblement'', a political platform that houses several political parties, is not in the negotiating table of the ICD/National Inclusive Dialogue, as it opposes, in any form or shape, an extension of Kabila's regime beyond December 20th. This bloc portrays itself as the defender of the country's constitution that forbids Kabila seeking a third term and also as a guarantor of the United Nations Security Council resolution 2277 that encourages the DRC government to organize presidential elections within constitutional framework and the providential notions of respectability of human rights, freedom of press and freedom to political prisoners/activist.

The calamitous effects of 15 years of Joseph Kabila's regime are product of the absence of politics of accommodation and polarization that characterize the political culture in Republic Democratic of Congo. Democracy is built on the values of citizenship and the equal freedom of each and every individual. The rights and duties of each citizen entail recognition of the equal standing of every member of the political community in the democratic process. Recognition of the other is built into the fabric of democratic societies even though the clash of interests, intense political debates and febrile media shapes everyday life. 

For 15 years, Joseph Kabila has compromised the democratic process of politics of accommodation.
Democratic politics accommodates criticism, rejection and the routine removal of parties from power: it persists in the face of intense daily conflict because there is a broad commitment to the idea of fair rules that apply to each and all and that the political process is better off with these rules than without. Accommodation of difference, in one form or another, is the bedrock of democracy.

What distinguishes democracy from fascism and authoritarianism is the necessity of compromise and acceptance of accommodation as the sine qua non of politics. Accommodation can be, and most often is, only very thin. This minimum settlement upon which a society rests includes consensus on even a small range of issues, except the minimum rules of the game. Indeed, more often this settlement is the stage on which political contestation and ideological struggle play themselves out. This is nothing new. What appears different contemporary challenges facing Dr-Congo's democracy is that this foundation, the bedrock of accommodation, appears not only to be thin, but cracking.

In times of heightened economic and political tensions in Republic Democratic of Congo, as the opposition is calling for a day of protest: 19 September 2016, across the country and abroad, there is a risk that the bedrock of accommodation is challenged and weakened by government exclusionary rhetoric and intimidation tactics against the opposition.

Yet even in this fraught, political impasse in Republic Democratic of Congo, the idea of the politics of accommodation can still just about survive. Compromises can still be made, negotiations can re-start, and exclusionary rhetoric can still be stamped out. But when  Joseph Kabila's regime becomes indifferent to falsehood and deceit on seismic levels, and even offers promotion to those who champion lies, democracy becomes vulnerable and highly fragile, And when those who oppose this are ridiculed and cast aside, the politics of accommodation has begun to fracture.

That's why, the stakes are very high in Republic Democratic of Congo, where democracy is no longer played out in a confident and inclusive way but, rather, is driven by insecurity ( Beni's masacre), exclusiveness ( the absence of ''Rassemblement in the dialogue process) and fear. 

Joseph Kabila's backers and 4 members of the opposition claimed, on Wednesday, of making a breakthrough in that selected National Inclusive Dialogue, by agreeing on the sequence of series of upcoming elections, potentially removing a major obstacle to breaking a dangerous political impasse. However the devil is in the details of that agreement: There is no specific date for the next presidential election, knowingly that the incumbent president's term runs out in December 20th, leaving open the proposition of a transition period with the incumbent president beyond December 20th.

There is a looming danger to that agreement (of the 5 Kabila's backers and 4 oppositions members) that it could be rejected by the mast majority of population and the main opposition plateform ''Le Rassemblement''.  The absence of majors Congolese political heavyweight, such as Etienne Tshisekedi and Moise Katumbi, could void that agreement. And there is also fear that the absence of politics of accommodation that characterize the structure of the National Inclusive Dialogue could trigger a repeat of civil wars that killed millions of people between 1996-2003.

Because of the lack of politics of accommodation, negotiation, compromise runs out, and Kabila might be tempted to look for short cuts, imposing his will. The dangers are all too obvious--a political system/regime, rigged in his favour, increasingly impervious to opposition and challenge and in the hands of those who support him to corrupt it further: a dangerous path to : Authoritarianism. 

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

Photo-Credit: Getty Images-Photo: Joseph Kabila, the President of Republic Democratic of Congo

Thursday, 15 September 2016

US-EU: Analysis: Debating the ''TTIP''

France wants to halt thorny EU-US trade talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as President Francois Hollande underlined there would be no deal until after President Barack Obama leaves office in January. France has been skeptical about the TTIP from the start and has threatened to block the deal, arguing the US has offered little in return for concessions made by Europe. 

German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel has said talks for TTIP has de facto failed. Mr Gabriel's statement is in contrast with the position of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who supports the deal. The fact that former British Prime Minister David Cameron, an outspoken proponent of TTIP, is no longer involved in negotiations is another major setback for the deal, which at this point is believed by many to be dead in the water.

US presidential candidate Donald Trump has promoted protectionist trade policies, while rival, Hillary Clinton also cast doubt on the TTIP deal. Congressional opposition has become steep. The lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have railed against free trade agreements as unfair to US companies and workers.

The opponents of the deal believe that in its current guise the TTIP is too friendly to US businesses. One of the main concerns with the TTIP is that it could allow multinational corporations to effectively ''sue'' governments for taking actions that might damage their businesses. Critics claim American companies might be able to avoid having to meet various EU health, safety and environment regulations by challenging them in a quasi-court set up to resolve disputes between investors and states...

In Europe, thousands of people supported by society groups, trade unions and activists take to the streets expressing protest against the deal. Three million people have signed a petition calling for it to be scrapped. For instance, various trade unions and other groups have called for protests against the TTIP across Germany to take place on September 17.

However, the debate in Europe surrounding TTIP relies on faulty critique on one side, and unsubstantiated promises on the other. Citizens on both sides of the Atlantic deserve better.

It is often easier to explain something by saying what it is not, rather than what it is. It should be clear that this article intends neither to champion nor to condemn TTIP. But since the debate has been raging, we can only sadly observe that the arguments on both sides do not live up to the issue at stake. What it reveals about us—Europeans—is disquieting.

The first aspect of TTIP worthy of criticism is the approach that has been employed by the European Commission. Its lack of transparency and secrecy could only attract the anger of opponents and prevent a substantive debate from taking place. This allowed public certainty that the negotiation was evil to easily creep in and spread. If it is true that the EU has a full jurisdiction over trade negotiations as far as the interests of the Union are concerned, that should not imply the exclusion of the people. The pursuit of the EU’s interests should bring all Europeans together, not create divides between the people and the institutions that represent them.
Concerning the cons of the agreement, thinking that such an agreement would devastate the EU’s economy looks like an admission of weakness or even an admission of failure, disparaging the competitiveness of the EU. The EU remains the strongest economic power and the most fully integrated market in the world. We have a chance to benefit from TTIP as well, for example in the field of public procurement. But no one really talks about that, since emotion can be far more easily aroused with chlorinated chicken and GMOs. 

More generally, the perception we have of the US reveals a sort of hypocrisy on our part. While we enjoy the positive economic effects of American growth, we widely still present the US as an aggressive capitalist monster acting out of thirst for money. We can no longer free-ride and be paranoid at the same time. This attitude is not fitting for an economic and political power such as the EU. Also, thinking that EU regulations will have to be lowered to align to the American standards is not reflective of reality. In the field of financial services, for example, the US has stronger regulations than does the EU. Moreover, free-trade does not require lowering standards for public health, environmental regulations, and consumer protection.
Let’s turn now to one of the most prominent critiques surrounding the agreement. The investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism is not unique to TTIP. Many free-trade agreements contain an ISDS provision. In the TTIP case, opponents are unclear: Do they reject the principle of such a mechanism, or do they reject the manner in which it will be executed? This nuance is very important. 

Indeed, one could imagine excluding some economic sectors from the ISDS scope. This is for example what NAFTA did with financial services under its Chapter 11. If, however, opponents rather contest the ISDS on principle—the possibility for private companies to legally challenge states—they should remember that even national courts have allowed investors or companies to sue states because of the adoption of a law. For example, a 1934 French law had prohibited the manufacture and sale of any cream substitute not exclusively made out of milk. A company had specialized in the production of such a product before the act was passed. The Council of State—the highest administrative court—recognized that passing constituted an overreach of responsibility on the part of the state. We should also take note that expropriation and discrimination are also forbidden in the EU and that it would be hypocritical to renounce our home principles abroad.

All these details show how dogmatic and demagogic the TTIP debate is turning. If the opponents contest the privacy of this form of justice, they seem to forget that international arbitration allows the parties to chose their arbiter.
The advantages of TTIP are much less prominent in public debate. Because we hear pro-TTIP arguments less, it will be harder to criticize these views. But simply arguing that TTIP will create new job opportunities is not enough. Which guarantees and security can those pushing TTIP really provide to the European people?
Finally, the tragedy of this debate is that we seem to have forgotten that it takes two to enter into a bilateral deal. We too seldom consider the opinion of the American people. Doing so would probably stop many of the stereotypes about both the US and TTIP. Americans are far from all being satisfied with TTIP, and Congress is extremely divided. American isolationism did not die with the Monroe Doctrine. But beyond that, there is also something we should learn from Americans. Their class actions system demonstrates that the opposition to companies’ unfair practices is more structured than in the EU. American consumers organize legal collective actions and defend their interests more efficiently than do their European counterparts. If a similar culture were developed within the European Union, European consumers would probably feel the strength of the fantastic democratic countervailing power they can and should be vested in, and TTIP opponents would maybe be more reasonable.
We need the US as much as the US needs us. Many worldwide issues cannot be seriously addressed without a transatlantic cooperative framework. This is the case with regulatory arbitrage or shadow banking, which harm the both US and the EU economies. TTIP should be the first of a new Free-Trade Agreement generation, designed to conciliate both regulation and liberalization. The classical opposition between the preservation of high protection standards and absolute free-trade can be resolved through deeper transatlantic institutionalization, discussion, mutual recognition and prevention. When Europeans stop fearing everything at all time, that will be possible. But for now what is certain is that both Europeans and Americans deserve a better debate than a simplistic “for or against free trade?”

By Prof Guylain Gustave Moke
Political/Social Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist
International Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Getty-Images-London TTIP Protest Photo

Thursday, 1 September 2016

GABON: The Fraught Election--Analysis

Gabon, a small but oil-rich country on the Atlantic coast of Central Africa that is home to around 1.7 million people, voted for president on August 27, in which Ali Bongo was declared winner, reinforcing patterns of dynastic succession in small African countries that are ostensibly democracies, but in reality autocracies.

Angry protesters set fire to Gabon's national assembly on Wednesday as thousands of people took the streets after an announcement that President Ali Bongo has been re-elected. The national assembly lies on the same road as several important institutions, among them the Senate, the oil ministry, several embassies and the headquarter of state television.

The clashes erupted as soon as Bongo was declared the winner of Saturday's presidential poll, with opposition supporters chanting ''Ali Must Go''. As chaos erupted on the street outside, Bongo hailed the outcome of the election, which he declared had been ''peaceful and transparent'' despite the opposition crying foul.

Interior Minister Pacome Moubelet Boubeya said on Wednesday that Bongo has obtained 49.80% percent of Saturday's vote, beating rival candidate Jean Ping who received 48.23%. Bongo won by only 5,594 votes, of a total 627, 805 registered voters. Election Commission members belonging to the opposition immediately denounced the result, with one commissioner for Ping's party, Paul Marie Gondjout, saying the vote had been stolen, and refuse to accept the result.

The opposition demanded a recount on the province of Haut Ogooue, where Bongo won 95% of the vote. Results from the province showed a turnout of 90%, compared with a nationwide turnout of 56.46 percent.

On Thursday, two people were killed, when ''La Garde Nationale'' ransacked the opposition headquarter, and took away thousands of documents, including the electoral commission results which could undermine Bongo's victory. The president of Electoral Commission has resigned and revealed that Bongo's camp made personal death threats to members of electoral commission (CENAP), confirming the opposition allegations of  possible tampering with the outcome of Saturday's presidential election

Bongo, who has now won a second term as head of the tiny-oil-rich state, previously ruled for 41 years by his father, is not a stranger to election rigging allegations. In 2009, Bongo was declared winner of the presidential election after his father's death. The result was disputed and in the ensuing clashes several people were killed, buildings looted and the French consulate in the economic capital Port-Gentil was torched.

There are fears of a post-election tensions that could potentially increase the political and economic tensions in Gabon. It seems politically clear that Bongo wishes to hold on to power regardless of the opposition allegations of vote rigging by influencing the electoral body that is not independent and the constitutional court that hears election disputes, with judges whose appointment was influenced by the president.

Some of Constitutional Court judges are starting to sing Bongo's tune that Ping broke the electoral rule that barres candidates from publishing results before the electoral commission releases them, by publishing on Sunday figures that showed him winner of the Saturday election. On the other hand, Ping,  a 73 year old career diplomat well known on the international scene, a former chair of the African Union Commission and the son of Chinese immigrant, who worked with Bongo senior for many years, has accused Bongo of being born outside Gabon---an automatic disqualifications from the race.

Bongo's opponents will be limited in their ability to provoke widespread disorder and political paralysis in Gabon. Moreover, opposition figures, including Ping, often have little external support, making rebellion highly improbable. The PDG, backed by the resources of a nation, can easily clamp down on dissent if it chooses, much like the Republic of Congo did after its elections in March..

Still, in the unlikely event that a disgruntled opposition could instigate a rebellion following an electoral loss, it would be difficult for the French government to stand by and do nothing. France could be forced to act to safeguard its interests in Gabon, the most important of which are stability and the safety of French nationals and supply lines. But short of significant threat to Gabon's security, Paris is unlikely to intervene in its affairs, giving Bongo free rein to assure the survival of his presidency.

The Saturday fraught presidential election has already opened cracks within the ruling party and fragilized Bongo's reign. An unprecedented number of members of Bongo's ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) have defected to the opposition. The defectors may signal trouble on the horizon for the Bongo family. The departure of several old-guard PDG officials could indicate that the cash-strapped government is starting to lose its grip over the Gabonese political system.

Bongo and his party mobilized the massive state resources at their disposal to secure a victory, particularly since an electoral loss would have jeopardized, not only Bongo's rule but also the political system that has run the country from its infancy.

In this political junction, France's role in Gabon could mean the difference between peaceful transition and further discontent. France relies less on Bongo's Gabon than it did on his father's, and its apathy toward the current president could result in inaction.

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

Photo-Credit: AFP-Photo of Protest in Gabon, after the announcement of Saturday Presidential Election, Wednesday, May 31st 2016, Libreville-Gabon