A Vision for the Future - China to Construct Housing in Rwanda

President of the Senate Hon. Bernard Makuza receives Chairman of the Chinese Congress H.E Zhang Dejiang, Photo by Rwanda Ministry of Foreign Affairs    

President of the Senate Hon. Bernard Makuza receives Chairman of the Chinese Congress H.E Zhang Dejiang, Photo by Rwanda Ministry of Foreign Affairs    

KIGALI, Rwanda - It is not uncommon for cities in the developing world to experience an influx of rural-urban migration because of economic development, and thus heightened opportunities in urban areas. While at times this occurs on a scale so large that new buildings and infrastructure must be constructed to accommodate the newly enlarged population. In the case of Rwanda an entirely new microcosm of a city had to be built to mollify the citizens adversely impacted by the this issue. Befitting the optimistic prognostications for the future, the new development is called Vision City, and will eventually provide 4,500 new homes to Rwandans in 2024, its scheduled completion.

The problem; however, they plan to construct luxury, but pedestrian styled homes ranging in price from $172,00 to $560,000. At these prices the population that most requires housing is unable to afford it because the average per capita income is just $700 a year. A study in 2012 by the City of Kigali, the Ministry of Infrastructure, and the European Union revealed that by 2020 a housing deficit of upwards of 344,000 homes could prove to be problematic for Rwanda’s already populous and centrally located capital city. Just a year after the study came out, ground broke on Vision City, Rwanda’s largest housing project to date.

The project is set to be completed in four phases with phase one offering an initial five hundred housing units sometime early this month to help alleviate the housing deficiency. In addition to offering accommodations, Vision City will also provide supermarkets, schools, and a new network of public transportation, thus making the housing project truly a city within a city. While Vision City has been funded by the Rwandan Social Security Board, construction is being led by China Civil Engineering, and is utilizing a prolific quantity of imported materials which may account for the steep price of the housing units. Due to this, it seems that many Rwandans will not be able to afford to live in Vision City which could prove to be problematic especially as its very construction is part of a plan to appease the housing deficit due to migrant workers pouring into the city in search of work.

Furthermore, the project may exacerbate Rwanda’s already prominent level of income inequality especially as its construction displaced approximately three thousand people who owned more moderately valued property on the land which Vision City is currently being erected. Vision City’s location on the periphery of Kigali is of paramount importance in understanding its role in explaining and perhaps heightening income inequality in Rwanda. When there is an inundation of people migrating into economically important cities it is frequently the case that many end up settling on the outskirts as that is where they can afford to live even if they must commute to jobs that are more centrally located.

This has proved to be the case in many Brazilian cities regarding the construction of favelas (shantytowns) on the periphery of city centers as well as Kibera in Nairobi, which has evolved into the largest slum in Africa. While Vision City seeks to provide housing for this eventual overflow of migrant workers, the prices of the units do not reflect its final goal and might merely expand the perimeter of the city while encouraging the construction of slums on its outskirts. The result of this is that it will become even more difficult for migrant workers to find affordable accommodations and have easy access to jobs.

Of course, this is assuming that Vision City achieves full occupancy. Apart from the obvious problem that they are too expensive for the average Rwandan, it is quite possible that people will not want to move there because everything is too cookie-cutter and planned, which was the case in Brazil’s construction of Brasilia in 1960 as well as a similar development in Angola that finished in 2012 but remains largely unoccupied.

Nevertheless, there is a potential certainty that population in Rwanda that wants and can afford to live in luxury style homes with imported granite, but it is unlikely that this is feasible and in some cases even appealing to the general population. Ultimately, it seems that while Rwanda has poured $110 million dollars into this project, its vision for the future might be a little too optimistic and may even exclude the very people it is trying to help.

Are We There Yet? Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton SNL Video

UNITED STATES - It has been a hellish and interminable 2016 presidential election cycle, best described by the immortal words of Charles Dickens from the opening salvo of his historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,

Written over 150-years-ago, the themes of the elite versus the populace, the concentration of immense wealth in the hands of a few while the common people suffer could not have been more prescient of the class struggles we face today as a nation. Donald Trump emerged from this miasmic discontent as an extremely flawed leader of America's version of the French Revolution.

On the converse, Hillary Clinton can be compared to Madame Defarge, the central female antagonist in the novel. Though she too was on the side of the revolutionaries, Defarge was reluctantly embraced by them as a necessary agent for change. Like Clinton she is viewed as "cold," "dreadful," and "frightfully grand," her inscrutable machinations belying her hidden past. She is smart, but ruthless, and accomplishes her dark deeds in support of the revolution through a veil of secrecy and deceit.

Though the revolution was justified neither side emerged from the war unsoiled. So, it is with the two opponents of this presidential battle. Some have suggested reforming the election process to shorten its duration, something many welcome in light of this particularly onerous season. Thus, the most enduring and perhaps memorable moments of the past 18-months will have been the political sketches presented by the cast of the Saturday Night Live (SNL) comedy show.

Every four years the SNL writers pens sketches in a trademark style pillorying politician and presidential hopefuls alike. Well known actors and comedians portray with uncanny accuracy and sardonic humor the foibles and idiosyncrasies of wannabe senators, congressmen, and most notably White House aspirants. In the words of Wally Schirra, "Levity is the lubricant of a crisis. We resort to jokes, pranks and good natured kidding to relieve tension, stress and boredom," and in this contentious competition SNL has more than delivered.

With less than two weeks left early voting has commenced. News outlets are reporting that 5 million Americans across 35 states have already voted, including 3 million people who have voted in 'Battle Ground' states. These states are must wins in order for either candidate to secure the 270 electoral votes necessary to become the next president of the United States. Hillary is well on her way to breaking the highest glass ceiling in the nation, to become the first female to occupy the Oval Office, and once this happens, "it will be the end of the world as we know it."

Credit: DonkeyHoyte created this caricature of Hillary Clinton was adapted from a photo in the public domain from the East Asia and Pacific Media's Flickr photostream. The body was adapted from a photo in the public domain from the U.S. Department of State's Flickr photostream. This caricature of Donald Trump was adapted from Creative Commons licensed images from Max Goldberg's flickr photostream.

U.S. Mandatory Prison Sentences, For Everyone Except Rapists

Former U.S. Senator Todd Akin, Photo Courtesy of Flickr/Chris

Former U.S. Senator Todd Akin, Photo Courtesy of Flickr/Chris

UNITED STATES - Americans tend to view the social deficits of other countries from a position of superiority. This precedence of acting as a moral arbiter sitting in judgment of rest of the world has become so prevalent as to seem deflective. A means to hide the necessity of dealing with systemic racism, sexism, and pedophilia which are a scourge upon our nation. However, these ills are not as obvious as abuses like China’s One Child Policy which officially ended earlier this year, but has not changed entrenched cultural norms which encouraged the killing of female children to make room for a possible male birth.

Or the practice of Leblouh (force feeding girls to make them obese) in Mauritania because men will not marry a skinny woman. Then, perhaps the greatest assault against a woman’s control of her body and sexuality, female genital mutilation (FGM). Because each of these practices are heinous it is easy to point to these abuses when judging those societies. In essence, the obvious barbarism of these practices overshadows the more pervasive, but pernicious abuse of women and girls in America through what has come to be known as 'rape culture.'

The 2016 presidential election has brought the systemic violation of women and girls to the nation’s and world’s attention. The sexism and misogyny of Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate was unequivocally exposed in an Access Hollywood show in which he was captured on tape vulgarly describing how he grabbed women by their genitals. He also described forcibly kissing women, trying to seduce a married woman, and lauding his ability to assault women because of his celebrity status.

On August 19, 2012, then Missouri U.S. Rep. Todd Akin who is a Republican, expressed an erroneous but entrenched belief about rape during an interview in which he was discussing abortion. He claimed among other things that doctors told him if a rape is 'legitimate' then the woman will rarely become pregnant. His comments revealed a deep well of victim blaming and shaming, while casting aspersions on the truthfulness of some rape accusers.

"Well, you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, well how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. It it's legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child." (KTVI)

In addition to being victimized by her attacker, in Akin's world a woman would be forced to bear the child of her rapist should she conceive. In essence, she will be victimized numerous times while trying to seek justice -- first by the rapists, then the justice system, the media, the medical community, and politicians.

This kind of ignorance and anti-feminist sentiment has manifested in repeated attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade as well as defund programs like Planned Parenthood which provides free or reduced services to millions of women who would not otherwise have access to HIV testing, mammograms, contraceptives, and other types of preventative screenings. This inherent sexism and bias has permeated our national awareness and elevated the discussion of women's rights, but in practical terms, has not resulted in any real change.

Trumps insult - “nasty woman” - hurled at Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate during a debate best sums up what American women and girls have been increasingly subjected to these past few years. Increased levels and frequency of being verbally abused, sexually harassed and assaulted. Even Mrs. Clinton is delegitimatized on a daily basis by both the media and her opponent's surrogates by stating that if she had been running against anyone except Trump, she would have been soundly defeated.

On a macrocosmic level the attacks against Mrs. Clinton's stamina, looks, capabilities, sexuality, and domestic troubles, are equivalent to the treacherous waters through which average American women try to navigate on a daily basis. Women walk the delicate balance of trying not to appear aggressive despite being competent, of dressing down to avoid being perceived as provocative, and sometimes sublimating their intelligence in order to spare the ego of an insecure coworker or manager. 

At a microcosmic level, the rise of prosecutors refusing to bring charges against rapists, male judges belittling women and girls, casting aspersions on their testimony, and eventually dismissing the charges is alarming. In some of the more egregious cases women and the families of young girls who have been raped watch in horror as their rapists were not sentenced to prison terms as prescribed by the U.S.’s ‘mandatory minimum sentencing’ laws.

In fact, these violators, rapist, and pedophiles receive less time if any, than the mandatory minimum sentencing of Black and Latino men who have committed petty offenses such as selling minuscule amounts of drugs, or have been convicted of other non-violent crimes, but receive life-sentences.  Ava DuVernay’s documentary “13TH” brilliantly illuminates the injustice of mass incarceration within the context of race and poverty, and the economic incentive the enforcement of mandatory minimums on this demographic group has created.

The disparity between the prison sentences handed down against the aforementioned group, versus those given to sexual predators, many of whom are white and male, is inequitable in the extreme. Trump, is the most high-profile sexual predatory, who despite being captured on tape discussing how he sexually assaulted women, has largely been exonerated by his supporters, while the women who have accused him of assault have been excoriated.

The double standard is the primary reason why so few sexual assaults are reported. Women who know that their lives will be examined with a fine-toothed comb, and that their lifestyles, mode of dress, career choice, and sexual history will be used to discredit them.

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), referenced the Criminal Justice Systems Statistics, which determined that out of the 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free.  The American Prosecutors Research Institute, created a comprehensive document which listed the minimum and maximum sentences for all classes of rape. To understand the gravity of the human rights abuses females in America are facing, three cases are presented below, but they are just the tip of the iceberg.

Delaware state statute requires a sentence of “Life in prison [without] probation or parole if: the victim under 16 and is seriously injured.” This sentencing however, was not applied in the case of the wealthy du Pont heir.

"Robert H. Richards IV was convicted of rape, the wealthy heir to the du Pont family fortune was spared prison by a Delaware court in 2009. [.....] Richards is a great-grandson of the chemical magnate Irenee du Pont. He received an eight-year prison sentence [...] for raping his toddler daughter, but the sentencing order signed by a Delaware judge said "defendant will not fare well" in prison and the eight years were suspended." (Source: CNN)

Texas state statute requires a sentence for “Aggravated Sexual Assault in the 1st degree to serve from 5-99 years; $10,000 fine.” That you can violently rape someone and spend less than 5 years in jail or pay a $10,000 fine is reprehensible, but the latitude of the interpretation of this sentencing structure by the prosecutor worked in favor of the man who raped a 2-year-old girl.

"Thomas Boden, 29 raped his then girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter in front of her 4-year-old sister in 2015. The crime was discovered when the mother came home to discover her baby crying and screaming that he had cut her private parts, and when she examined her diaper it was full of blood. Despite Boden confessing to the rape, the hospital confirmation that the child had been violently raped, and the DNA evidence supporting the assault, the prosecutor offered Boden, and “he accepted a plea deal of 10 years probation.”

Which meant that he did not have to spend any time in jail,” and was ordered not to have contact with the victim. As part of the deal, Boden will not be required to register as a sex offender.”  (Raw Story)

Montana state statute sentencing requirements for perpetrators who have raped a “victim [who] is less than 16 and actor is 3+ years older or bodily injury results, then 2-100 years and fine of up to $50,000”

On 4 October 2016 "Prosecutors recommended that a 40-year-old unnamed Glasgow, Montana man who confessed to repeatedly raping his 12-year-old daughter be sentenced to 25-years imprisonment.

Instead, it was reported that Judge John McKeon sentenced the perpetrator to 60-days in prison, “plus a 30-year suspended prison term […] as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. The man also was ordered to complete community-based sex-offender treatment and register as a sex offender.

Amidst severe criticism and a Change.org petition signed by 14,000 people demanding McKeon’s impeachment, he defended his decision by asserting that a psychosexual evaluation finds that psychiatric treatment “affords a better opportunity for rehabilitation of the offender and for the ultimate protection of the victim and society.” (CBS News)

A discussion about the efficacy of treatment options for pedophiles has been demonstrated to be ineffective. According to Harvard Medical School, “Pedophilia, the sexual attraction to children who have not yet reached puberty, remains a vexing challenge for clinicians and public officials. Classified as a paraphilia, an abnormal sexual behavior, researchers have found no effective treatment. Like other sexual orientations, pedophilia is unlikely to change.”

In all three cases, the justification given to support the ridiculously lenient sentences were in some fashion related to the judges' belief that they knew what was best for these victims, and this did not include punishing their attackers. These paternalistic rulings have become a major contributing factor in the larger problem of the ‘rape culture’ assailing our nation today.

A mother or father deserves justice when their child has been raped and they should not have to fight with the courts to have the perpetrator sentenced as prescribed by the law. A single-mother should not be judged as somehow complicit in her child’s sexual abuse simply because she finds herself in the unfortunate position of having to work outside of the home to support her family.

A woman who is raped should not have to justify her life choices, her sexual history, her mode of dress, or anything else that lawyers of the defendants use to discredit them. We cannot expect that the election of Hillary Clinton to the presidency will result in a reduction in sexism, misogyny, gender bias, sexual assault or abuse, but her elevation will help to keep the issues of women's rights front and center.

A problem unrevealed will fester, but a problem uncovered is well on its way to potential resolution.

Murder Disguised as Honor: The Issue of Honor Killings in Pakistan (Qandeel Baloch)

Qandeel Baloch, from her official Facebook Page: "As women we must stand up for ourselves....As women we must stand up for each other....As women we must stand up for justice."

Qandeel Baloch, from her official Facebook Page: "As women we must stand up for ourselves....As women we must stand up for each other....As women we must stand up for justice."

LAHORE, Pakistan - Tasleem was a good Muslim girl living in the slums of Lahore, Pakistan, until she was seen with a Christian man. A young girl who behaves outside of the strict code of conduct placed on women in Pakistan brings great dishonor to her family, enough dishonor that family members often believe that the only option is death. According to her brother, Rajhu, she had brought dishonor to her family, but mostly to him, and because he had such thin skin and was unable to withstand the constant teasing at work, he decided the only course of action was to commit a barbaric killing.

He was not the only one at fault, because it was revealed that co-workers encouraged him to kill his sister for "being disobedient" and the only way to preserve his manhood was to take her life.  So, on  August 14 , 2016 Rajhu shot his sister in the head.

Tasleem tragic fate is not unique, since approximately 1,000 Pakistani women are murdered by members of their family in so called “honor killings” every year. Many experts believe that this is an under estimation because these killings are often unreported. Honor killing murders are widely accepted and encouraged to keep women from being disobedient. Women who bring dishonor to their family by having relations with men outside of her religion or doing anything outside of the enforced designated role of a woman are no longer deemed valuable to her family.

The biggest issue with these murders is that historically the killers face little to no punishment, and this has led to the systemic belief by families and many in society that this type of murder is acceptable. In the cases that are reported there are few legal ramifications because of loopholes in Islamic law, including Qisaas and Diyah. These two remedies allow for a family member of the victim to 'kill the killer,' or accept Diyah, 'blood money' as recompense in lieu of judicial punishment.

The practice of Diyah further dehumanizes women and diminishes their role and worth in society. As such, they become little more than chattel to be abused, sold, or otherwise disposed of as the owner desires.

In an article by Dr. Mohammed Rateb Nabuls, title “Islam and equality between men and women,” he clearly articulates with supporting exegesis the equality of women and men in Qur'an.

The texts which follows are Dr. Nabuls' words and interpretations and should not be considered our opinion.

"Women are human exactly like men, and the Prophet PBUH said in this respect:"

Women are twin halves of men.

"And He [the Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH)] said also:"

Every new-born child is born in a state of fitrah (innate). Then his parents make him a Jew, a Christian or a Magian, just as an animal is born intact. Do you observe any among them that are maimed (at birth)?

[Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmizi, Nasaee, Abu Dawood, Ahmad, and Malek]

"This new-born indicates male and female. Any inferior look at the woman as less human than man is a Jahilyya (pre-Islamic) consideration that is not admitted in Islam. Better yet, Islam came to fight such consideration as a form of discrimination."

Despite the above admonitions to not define women as less than human, Pakistanis and others continue to do so. Then, when the male, and sometimes female members of the woman’s family murder her in an honor killing, instead of seeking justice, these perpetrators are quickly forgiven and given money. Rarely, if ever, does anyone call for the ultimate penalty of 'killing the killer' as one of the three remedies for murder in Islamic law.

Compounding the issue, everyone in the community, including her family feels justified in their actions of killing a human being who has done nothing other than being born female. This abhorrent practice of honor killing cloaked in the guise of Islam is absolutely misogynistic, and has been codified into traditional practice versus righteous behavior.

In the case of economic gain, the killing is also contrary to Islam. This is particularly true if it is deemed that imprisonment of a brother or father for an honor killing would result in their inability to earn income or support their family. This further incentives the community not to punish them . Yet, the killing of a woman due to poverty or simply because she is female is considered sin. Again, according to Dr. Mohammed Rateb Nabuls:

 "The Prophet PBUH was asked once:"

 What is the worst sin in the sight of Allah?........He said: “And to kill your children for fear of poverty.” [Agreed upon]

 "And Allah says in the noble Quran:"

 (And when the female (infant) buried alive (as the pagan Arabs used to do) shall be questioned. For what sin she was killed?)     [Al Takweer, 8-9]

"Man and woman are created so as to know by innate nature what is wrong and what is right, and to know when they do wrong and when they do right.

This is the real Islam according to its origins and resources. It is not what Muslims do nowadays; it is rather the great principles established by the noble prophet (PBUH)."

 Allah says:

(Indeed he succeeds who purifies his ownself (i.e. obeys and performs all that Allah ordered, by following the true Faith of Islamic Monotheism and by doing righteous good deeds). And indeed he fails who corrupts his ownself (i.e. disobeys what Allah has ordered by rejecting the true Faith of Islamic Monotheism or by following polytheism, etc. or by doing every kind of evil wicked deeds))     [As-shams, 9-10]

"This Ayah addresses both men and women. Saving one’s life is like saving all mankind, and killing one person is like killing all mankind.

Dear brothers, woman is equal to man as a human being, and as a person who has the ability to transcend, sublime, excel, and to be looked up to." (Dr. Mohammed Rateb Nabuls)

Unfortunately, Dr. Nabuls' voice of moderation is drowned out by the preponderance of ideologies espoused by those who refuse to learn, feel disenfranchised and powerless, or simply like to murder women who they feel have aggrieved them. Pakistani women from all walks of life continue to be murdered, and even fame does not protect them. In countries around the world, even in the United States, aberrant interpretations of Islam have radicalized uneducated people who then chose to follow the fallacious teachings of ‘man,' and perpetrate all manner of violence.

In the case of women, men who ascribe to these teachings and beliefs subjugate the females in their inner circle, their communities, and under these conditions women’s rights are minimal and dependent upon their obedience to men. Specifically, women in Pakistan are unable to do anything about their situation because as soon as they speak out against their oppression they are immediately in risk of death.

Activist groups have stepped in as a voice for voiceless, and Pakistani female activists have been advocating for stricter punishments for those who commit honor killings. Finally, on 6 October 2016 their voices were heard, largely as a result of the media coverage given to the murder of Fouzia Azeem (فوزیہ عظیم‎;) who was also known as Qandeel Baloch, (قندیل بلوچ‎)‎.

According to news reports, Baloch was a Pakistani model, actress, feminist activist and social media celebrity. She was only 26-years-old when her brother murdered her on 15 July 2016 in an honor killing. Her death was the impetus needed to finally push forward legislation to eradicate this practice and reform Pakistan's Penal Code. The bill unanimously passed through Pakistan’s parliament, and closes the qisaas loophole by no longer allowing perpetrators of honor killings to be set free because they have been granted forgiveness from the family.

Additionally, those accused of honor killing will be given a minimum of 25 years in prison. This amendment is meant to change the culture of honor killings in Pakistan by showing that honor killings, no matter the circumstances or reason behind it, is now punishable in secular court.  The bill is the first step to enacting a long list of reforms that need to occur before the oppression of women stops.

Passing these laws will not result in an immediate change in the long tradition of female oppression, but it does send the message that the government is finally willing to reform Pakistan's laws to protect women from their own families.

As the Pakistan's prime minister, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif said, there is no honor in honor killing.

Globalization Express: Ethiopia's Chinese Railway

Light Railway System Built by the Chinese, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Photo by Etsutaro Tanaka

Light Railway System Built by the Chinese, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Photo by Etsutaro Tanaka

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - Traveling through Ethiopia's capital city one may notice bustling sidewalks filled with young professionals, construction sites looming with delicately built scaffolding, and street signs written in a language that is not Amharic as one might expect, but Mandarin Chinese.

While it is not unusual for African countries to have a heavy influence of non-native cultures and languages due to colonialism, China has never been one of these. When one thinks of Africa and the historic problems which currently beset it, many of these problems are inextricably connected to 19th century European colonialism during which Britain, France, Portugal, Germany, and Belgium to name a few, used military aggression to implement imperial agendas.

Most African nations and governments resisted colonization, but were crushed in the ensuing effort due to a lack of military prowess or weaponry. Other liberation efforts were undermined by leaders who colluded with the imperialists for their personal aggrandizement and that of their cohorts. They became willing participants and puppet governments facilitating the theft of natural resources such as gold, diamonds, timber, oil and gas, etc. African countries with the most abundant and coveted resources continue to struggle against foreign influences and manipulation which foment continuous instability devised to advance neocolonialists agendas.

This is one of the things which makes Ethiopia unique. Starting in the 1880s Italy tried to annex Ethiopia, which was then known as Abyssinia, but was repeatedly thwarted. Then, on 3 October 1935, the fascist leader Benito Mussolini ‘ordered a new invasion and on 9 May of the following year [Ethiopia] was annexed.” But, unlike other African nations, Ethiopians never accepted the yoke of tyranny and on 5 May 1941, Ethiopian regained its sovereignty under Emperor Haile Selassie.

During all of this, China had yet to expand its imperialistic aspirations beyond the Asia, however, in the latter part of the 20th century this changed when the government initiated a long-term strategy to increase its business and land holdings in Africa. China's influence in Ethiopia can be attributed in part to globalization, though it is also possible that this term is just a euphemistic cover for more nefarious motives. No matter the intention, China's influence in Ethiopia has led to several developments, most recently the construction of a 460-mile railway connecting Ethiopia to the Republic of Djibouti.

The train terminates in the capital, Djibouti City which is on the coast of the Gulf of Tadjoura, strategically located and which provides access to both the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. While the primary purpose of this railway is to decrease the amount of time required to transport products and people to and from this important port, when viewed within the larger context, it is yet another mechanism by in program by China and other nations to engage in 'land grabs.' Unlike the overt appropriation of land by European colonialists, China and other neocolonialists are subtler in their acquisition strategies by promising equitable compensation.

Instead of force, they bring gifts, or rather the promise of economic prosperity, which the government benefits from, but the local and indigenous people who are most affected are the least rewarded. China is Ethiopia's largest importer and the African continent's biggest trade partner. While this is great for China, as it has formed amicable relationships with many countries that have abundant natural resources, these benefits are not reciprocal. In Ethiopia, China benefits by being able to purchase large swaths of land, however, forcing the relocation of the Oromo and Amara among others.

Additionally, the displaced citizens are not trained for non-agrarian or non-rural job opportunities, leaving many of them to retreat to Addis Ababa where they live on the absolute fringes of society. Also, the Ethiopian government has failed to enforce any types of quotas on the Chinese which would cause them to hire local people. Thus, many jobs related to China’ expansion into the country are being worked by Chinese immigrants, which further exacerbates the issue of high-employment.

Furthermore, many of local goods such as clothing, housewares, shoes, etc. are now being imported from China at such an inexpensive cost that it has all but decimated the local economy. For example, if you go to an Ethiopian market and look at the tags on traditional Ethiopian dresses, many will read 'Made in China.' This is extraordinarily strange as the clothing is "traditional" to Ethiopia and thus one would assume would or could only be made locally, using age old techniques, and customary fabrics.

Thus, the railway to all outward appearances is a good thing, a progressive indicator which signals Ethiopia’s ascendancy in the global arena. And, were the Ethiopian government in complete control or even the majority shareholder in these economic endeavors, this could portend the possibility of remaining independent. But, this is not the case, and regarding the railway which is a vital tool in an economic arsenal, this is most evident by the fact only Chinese workers are employed to work back-end as technicians, and in forward facing positions such as conductors, with the vague promise that Ethiopians will be trained in the future to take over these roles.

Furthermore, the railway, which cost upwards of $475 million, was constructed and funded in full by China. Meng Fengchao, the board chairman of China Railway Construction Corp, the company that built the railway, stated that the train system is the first railway built outside of China, which was constructed in accordance with the strict rules, guidelines, and standards for railway construction in China. This successful completion and launch of this railway is a big deal for China especially because it accomplished this feat in Ethiopia, a country in the Horn of Africa which many in the West have only known historically as a place of famine and war.

China’s willingness to negotiate with governments which do not view Communism with the same abhorrence as Western nations, provides it with additional opportunities to expand its geopolitical footprint while simultaneously, but quietly annexing more land. Some speculate that China is becoming increasingly smitten with African countries because it plans to move large numbers of its citizenry to the Continent as part of a long-term effort to reduce its current overpopulation. However, empirically it could also be surmised by the number of Chinese workers who still live in Ethiopia post-construction, as well as the estimated 20,000 who live and work in other capital cities like Lusaka, Zambia, that the unchecked immigration of Chinese laborers is a calculated program in their neocolonialist push.

Speculation aside, China's influence in Ethiopia and its subsequent construction of the railway is monumental for Ethiopia. The country's nascent connection to the sea through this railway is a historic milestone as Ethiopia has been landlocked since Eritrea’s succession in 1991. As with all advances, there are winners and losers, and in the immediate, Ethiopia’s infrastructure is being improved, and in the long-term -- perhaps one day these railways may cut across the Continent transporting goods and services, reuniting people and cultures torn asunder by European colonialism, and connect African countries each to the other in a way that can prognosticate a fully realized African Union.

Until then, Ethiopians and immigrants are happy to be able to have access to a safe, modern, and well-constructed railway system which now expands their living space and horizons. Though train stops and other announcements are now spoken in English, Amharic, and Chinese, in its purity it is wondrous evidence that people from every nation are becoming less isolated and participating more fully as global citizens.

How an Olympic Race Became Political: Feyisa Lilesa's Homage to the Oromo Nationalist Movement

Feyisa Lilesa, Ethiopian Olympian, Oromo Activist, Rio 2016 Olympics, Photo by Jeso Carneiro

Feyisa Lilesa, Ethiopian Olympian, Oromo Activist, Rio 2016 Olympics, Photo by Jeso Carneiro

ETHIOPIA -  While many Olympic runners raise their arms as they approach the finish line, few do so as a demonstration of political protest. Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa joined this elite group of politically charged Olympic athletes such as Tommie Smith and John Carlos when he crossed his arms at the end of the Men’s Marathon during the Rio Olympics. While Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in a Black Power salute during the awards ceremony, Feyisa Lilesa crossed his arms at the end of the race to demonstrate his allegiance with the Oromo people as they continue a centuries long clash with the Ethiopian government. What looked like a stretch to many Olympic observers was really a powerful demonstration that resulted from many years of unrest and political strife.

Thousands of miles from where Lilesa made his protest in August, Oromo dissenters had been actively demonstrating against the Ethiopian government since 2014 when a plan was unveiled for the expansion of Addis Ababa. The plan, arguably excellent for the capitals image and perhaps even reminiscent of the rapid improvements made under Haile Selassie in the mid 20th century, also proved reminiscent to the Oromo of how they were kicked off their land when the capital was moved from the north of the country to Addis Ababa in the first place. The new plan involved permeating the capital city into the Oromo occupied outskirts of its current blueprint, displacing members of the already marginalized group in the process. Without previous knowledge of the maltreatment of the Oromo, one might think that protests involving more than one hundred thousand people across Oromia might be drastic, but the government’s plan to expand the city into heavily Oromo occupied territory was perhaps the last straw after centuries of government action taken to improve Ethiopia at the expense of the Oromo.

In 1941 at the end of the Italian occupation the imperial system made strides towards assimilating the Oromo in order to build Ethiopian nationalism at a time when the country was lacking a strong national identity. This assimilation process entailed making Amharic the national language and banning the use of the Oromo language in schools, churches, and public offices. While some Oromo’s ‘Amharised’ in order to achieve upward mobility, it was not long before campaigns such as Macha Tulama and Ethiopian Student Movement formed in opposition to the current political environment and poor treatment of the Oromo identity. While some of the more extreme followers of these movements wanted independence from Ethiopia all together, they at the very least desired equal treatment of the Oromo language, culture, and religion to that of the Amhara. [1]

Unfortunately, not all that much has changed since Oromo nationalist movements began. The Oromo remain the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia (and the Horn of Africa for that matter), yet groups such as the Amhara and the Tigray are favored in government just like they have been for decades. Interestingly though, Ethiopia is a country in which a strong sense of fraternity is felt amongst its citizens, which can perhaps be attributed to the historical bond that it is the only country to have fought off colonization. However, it must be noted that fraternity and national identity cannot be confused here because if you ask an Oromo about their national identity it is likely that they will respond “I am Oromo,” not, “I am Ethiopian

With this in mind, it is not surprising that when Oromo athlete Feyisa Lilesa ran for the Ethiopian Olympic team he also took a stand that demonstrated his allegiance to his Oromo identity during a crucial time in their history and relationship with the Ethiopian government. Even though Lilesa won silver in the race, he won gold in the hearts of many Oromo nationalists through his bold demonstration of solidarity and civil disobedience towards a government that has historically mistreated his people.

1. Bulcha, Mekuria. "African Sociological Review/Revue Africaine De Sociologie."African Studies Companion Online 1.1 (1997): 30-65. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

Failed Military Coup Against President Erdoğan Leaves Dozens Dead in Turkey

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, (r) & Gen. Necdet Ozel (l), Source (AP Photo)

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, (r) & Gen. Necdet Ozel (l), Source (AP Photo)

TURKEY - A military coup in Turkey was announced by Turkey’s government broadcasting agency, TRT, Turkish Radio and Television, July 15th before midnight, local time. The note read by TRT’s Tijen Karas said “Control of the government is completely seized.” The note was also published in office of commander of chief, which later was removed after the situation was taken largely under control.

Chief of Turkish Military staff, Hulusi Akar was taken hostage by a group of military personnel attempting the coup, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported. His whereabouts is still unknown.

The coup simultaneously took over the control over Ataturk International Airport, and both bridges, Fatih Sultan Mehmet and Boğazici, over Bosphorus. Military tanks were stationed riot police headquarters Istanbul. An email sent to press members from Turkish Military Forces said the control of the government was seized.

President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan initially addressed the nation on CNN Turk via Facetime, where he called people to meet in squares in cities to protest to coup attempt and protect the democracy. The call received a quick reply and and large crowds started their march toward squares despite the martial law, and curfew declared by the coup.

Several of the tanks were taken over by the people and were handed to police. Many civilians were killed during the protests since the coup attacked protesters with tanks and military aircraft. At least 42 was killed in Ankara’s Golbasi district during the attacks by the coup, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported. Though the death toll of the civilians, military, and security forces is unclear, at least 60 people were reported dead in the country.

Following TRT, CNN Turk and Kanal D were raided by the military coup, which had to stop its broadcast coverage of the coup temporarily. Both outlets were liberated by the people protesting and taking over district from the military coup members, and continued their broadcast.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said the situation is largely under control and necessary actions were taken to end the coup attempt. He characterized the Coup attempt 'greatest insult' towards Turkish Republic, Anadolu Agency reported.

Though largely under control according to the government agencies, military attacks which earlier targeted Riot Police Headquarters, General Directorate of Security, as well and the parliament building in Ankara, continues to target civilians who are still on the streets protesting the coup.

President Erdoğan has returned to Istanbul where he talked to press at Atatürk International Airport. Erdoğan wowed to bring the coup plotters to justice Anadolu Agency reported.

''This is a movement of treason and an insurgency. Let me tell you that they will pay a heavy price for this treason,'' Erdoğan told TV networks during a live broadcast from Istanbul's Ataturk Airport.

''There is a government in power and a president in power elected by the people. We are on duty and we will continue to conduct our duty until the very end,'' Erdoğan said, assuring the country that ''the outcome of this will be good.''

The president also warned soldiers participating in the overthrow. ''You are our soldiers. It is impossible for us to accept you pointing your gun at the people, your parents, your brothers and sisters. These weapons have been given to you by the people. If you point these to the people, you will pay a hefty price.''

Arrests in the military would go higher up the ranks, he said.

Contributing Journalist: @ElvanKatmer
LinkedIn: Elvan Katmer

Taking Back America is About Personal Responsibility

Statue of Liberty, New York, Photo by Alex Be.

Statue of Liberty, New York, Photo by Alex Be.

UNITED STATES - No one should have to pay for the crimes of others, or be condemned simply because they share skin tone, profession, or religious affiliation. America isn’t that far removed from a time when Blacks, Native Americans, Jews, Catholics, Mormons and others had no legal recourse for being discriminated against. But we as a country and society have made great strides. However, in the last few days, much to the dismay and horror of the majority of Americans, the disenfranchised have chosen to discard reason and rational discourse to engage in ex-judicial violence. They have advocated for “race wars.” They are more vociferous and aggressive in their condemnation of foreigners. They are blinded by emotionalism and have conflated their desire to return to a past that made sense to them with the right to threaten a sitting President Barack Obama with death.

They are advocating for undemocratic policies, and seek to elect leaders willing to discard the sacrosanct ideals embodied in the U.S. Constitution. Within the last three days we have witnessed the death of two black men shot dead by officers, and a reported retaliatory shooting, murder, and wounding of several policemen in Dallas, Texas. Yet, in the midst of this mayhem and climate of blame and hate, cooler heads are prevailing and calling upon us to act with dignity, restraint, love, and civility in the face of the deeper undercurrent of distrust, fear, and intolerance which currently besets our nation.

On July 4th the Washington Post featured a post in which Fernando Herboso, 58, and his brother Carlos, who are Hispanic and own their own real-estate company, recount the difficulties they are encountering when trying to sell homes to Muslims wearing traditional clothing in the supposedly progressive suburbs of Washington, DC. They report an incident which occurred when they were showing a U.S. military veteran and his wife a home in Frederick, MD.  When they entered the community clubhouse and went out to the pool area a patron verbally assaulted them.

According to the article, the “woman lounging at the pool took one look at his client’s hijab and said it loud and clear: “We don’t want Muslims in our clubhouse. Take off that robe over [sic] your head!” she boomed.”

In another incident a child of one of his clients needed to use the restroom and the house they were touring had no running water. So he took her across the street where a woman was in the front yard watering her grass. He politely asked her if the little girl could use her restroom and without a word the woman shut off her hose, walked into her house, slammed and locked the door behind her.

This is the America we live in today, a sad reminder of days we thought were long behind us. Practices which we believed eradicated through the enactment of Civil Rights Laws and in this instant, the Fair Housing Act.  U.S. citizens are succumbing to baser natures and vilification of the other in lieu of examining their own role in why they are unable to keep pace with the demands of the new world. With bravado they proclaim that they are no longer holding back and are going to ‘tell it how it is,” but it would seem, to everyone but themselves. People who once privately embraced racism, misogyny, xenophobia, antiSemitism, anti-Muslim, and isolationism, now publicly defend these reprehensible characteristics and when confronted claim they have been misinterpreted.

But White Nationalists are unapologetic in their incitement of violence, or their exhilaration that their agenda has been elevated to the national stage. Sites like The White Genocide Project, promote the myth that racism against whites is a fact and that white people are the only ones who have to give up the country they built. They believe that Asians get to keep Asia, Muslims and Arabs get to keep the Middle East, Jews should be exterminated, and Black people get to keep Africa. Because, according to them all across Europe and in America white people are being forced out of their countries.  But, here is the problem.....America was stolen from the Native Americans, built on the backs of African slaves, and expanded westward through the construction of Central Pacific Railroad at the hands of Chinese-Americans. This is not to say that many other immigrants also didn’t contribute, however, in the early decades of its establishment, the blood, sweat, and tears of these three groups built this nation.

Thus, there are no halcyon days when this was a 'white' country to 'take it back to' or even to make great again. There is only the historical evidence of the dark days of violence, openly legislated systemic racism and intolerance, which resulted in the murder of millions of black slaves, the near annihilation of the Native Americans, and the abject treatment and exploitation of many other immigrants.

Meanwhile, across the pond, the passage of the Brexit referendum is the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for Americans being swayed by nationalism, seduced by nativism, and ensnared by nostalgia. The referendum presented British citizens with the choice to leave or remain as member country of the European Union. Overwhelmingly, the country voted in favor of leaving, though many regretted the decision upon review in the cold light of the morning after, leading to over 4 million people signing a petition to hold a second referendum.

The measure passed in large part because of cunning pandering to fear and xenophobia wrapped in the illusion of restoration of days of yore, and the charlatan promises to rob from the rich and give to the poor. For those who voted in favor of leaving or simply to make a political statement of their dislike of the status quo, they were shocked to discover that the passing of the referendum would not lead to greater freedom, opportunity, and affluence. Instead, it ushered the country into a Charles Lutwidge Dodgsonian universe, in which the young people and immigrants are Alice in anything but ‘Wonderland.’ The minute it approved the referendum Britain had to confront the impending reality of diminished presence and participation in the global market space, as well as being excluded from the privileges and ease of mobility that came with being citizen of the EU.

For young people like Sarah Abbasi, there is a great deal of anger toward the older generation holding the future of her generation captive. In her op-ed in The Guardian she wrote that “The future of the younger generation in the UK has been decided against their wishes. A nostalgic older generation has shaken my identity and I no longer fully understand what it means to be British. The number of students wanting to pursue opportunities in another EU country is likely to decline; it remains unclear whether or not future generations will even have the opportunities that were made available to me, which moulded me into an outward-looking, inquisitive and ambitious British.”

In numerous interviews and polls of Brits over 60, they revealed that they wholeheartedly supported leaving the EU so that they could take back their country or return to the way things used to be. In essence they voted to leave so that they could return to the idyllic days of a bygone era. One is tempted to ask if these elderly British citizens also longed for the loss of wealth that occurred immediately after World War II? Or perhaps they wanted to return to the 1970’s when Britain suffered a long running period of relative economic malaise, dogged by severe inflation, strikes, and citizens being regularly targeted in deadly terrorist’s attacks perpetrated by Irish Republican Army (IRA). Maybe they yearned for the times when “Unemployment exceeded 1 million by 1972 and had risen even higher by the time the end of the decade was in sight, passing the 1.5 million mark in 1978? (Source: West Sussex County Times)

It was reported by The Telegraph that the pound has crashed below $1.30 and bond yields hit record lows as Brexit aftershocks rattle global markets.  With the pound trading at its lowest levels in thirty years, inflation is predicted to hit the country hard. This means that older citizens who voted for the measure, were so wedded to the past they failed to take into account the realities of living as a pensioner on fixed income. Now these pensioners must look at their unvarnished history, no longer obfuscated by hazy memories, to accurately recall the difficulties they faced in that ‘better past.’ They must grapple with the present reality of decreased purchasing power of their pensions forcing many to make hard choices, even to the point of forgoing basic necessities.

When British citizens voted on behalf of xenophobia, racism, and isolationism, they deceived themselves and willingly bought into an irrational assertion that it is possible to resurrect the past. These older citizens who live predominantly in areas of the country which suffer from high unemployment as a consequence of the loss of industrial and mill jobs, became willing participants in what can only be described as mass psychosis. They chose to believe in the absurdity that the anachronistic industries that no longer meet the needs of our technology driven world would magically reappear. They longed for and fervently hoped to return to the ‘glory’ days of the Industrial Era. An era as outmoded and inefficient as slavery, the horse and buggy, and gas lights, etc.

Similarly, during each U.S. election cycles, candidates up and down ballot promise the return of factory jobs that supported families and communities in areas of the United States known as the Rust Belt. Politicians count on these constituents looking backwards, resisting progress, acquiescing to complacency and apathy, instead of aggressively retooling their skill-sets to prepare them to compete and grow with technology advancements. They count on their refusal to work in other market sectors despite the evidence that manufacturing has been in rapid decline for decades. Particularly in the steel mills and coal mines 'pink slipped’ workers refuse to acknowledge that these jobs will never come back.

With regard to the fossil fuel industry, many countries, including Saudi Arabia, are planning for future decreases in demand for oil and gas. According to Bloomberg News, the Kingdom plans to invest $109 billion in technologies to harness renewable clean energy sources from solar panels, wind, geothermal and nuclear reactors. Here in the States, coal companies are shuttering their doors and moving their base of operations overseas where regulative oversight is less stringent, and occupational health and safety rules non-existent. Robert Murray, owner of one of America’s largest private coal company, mendaciously informed employees that his company plans to lay off as many as 4,400 workers, or 80 percent of his workforce, and that their only hope to keep their jobs is to vote for a coal-friendly political candidates.

The fact of the matter is the industry is obsolete, and cannot compete against natural gas and other renewable energy producers. But, this didn’t stop Murray or politicians from stoking fears, peddling false hope, and persuaded the workers to blame others for their inability to compete in the new economies. Instead of inspiring confidence in the future, or offering educational opportunities to enable these workers to become more competitive, they appealed to their resentment. They urged them to wallow in self-pity, play the blame game, and adjured them to eschew personal responsibility.

When politicians cynically display and profess empathy for the plight of manufacturing workers and miners, cajoling them into giving them their votes with the patently false and empty promises of bringing back their jobs, they too are guilty of avoiding personal responsibility. They know that they will not be held accountable for the things they promise, so they can say anything with impunity in this culture of irresponsibility. Yet, these jobs will never come back because America no longer has a need for, nor the appetite to, pay for the high costs of these materials when manufactured domestically.

Additionally, our economy is much more complex and driven by domestic and international market forces. We now trade across borders intangible assets, resources, goods and services that are sold at greater profit to emerging countries. Though the economy is not as robust as we would like, we are not in a Great Depression, and the huge infrastructure building programs which were implemented as part of a strategy to kick start our economic engines, are no longer integral to our continued economic stability. Thus, to posit that we are going to turn back the clock, reinvigorate the Rust Belt and put people to work on large infrastructure projects is simplistic a best and deceptive at worst because we live in a world governed by technology.

The past is irrevocably complete and there is something profoundly pathetic and inimical about trying to steer a present into yesteryear and selling it as the future. The time of isolationism is past, we live in a global economy in which working poor and middle class people, especially in America, couldn’t survive without access to the low-costs products produced in China and elsewhere and sold in mega-stores like Walmart and Target. The very idea that the U.S. can pull back from its role as a global leader, ignoring the positive impact of international politics, policies, and trade is absurd. We have become and are becoming an increasing pluralistic and culturally diverse country and this cannot be reversed. So the preposterous idea of expelling all Mexican immigrants, building a wall, or otherwise seeking to once again homogenize the power structure, is not only xenophobic, but would also economically devastate the country and set a dangerous precedent that is antithetical to the democratic ideals of our nation.  

According to the New York Times, if unauthorized farm workers are expelled from the U.S. it would result “not just [in] more expensive produce, but the collapse of American labor-intensive agriculture. Instead of milk from a nearby dairy, the only kind available would come from abroad, and it would be irradiated or powdered. Meat would come from Brazil, shellfish from Thailand, fruits and vegetables from New Zealand — and that's the good, expensive stuff. There would be plenty of inferior products too, and much much less of anything would be fresh.

But worst of all would be the jobs lost for Americans. According to economists, every farm job supports three to four others up and downstream in the local economy: from the people who make and sell fertilizer and farm machinery to those who work in trucking, food processing, grocery stores and restaurants. Do we really want to lose those jobs too? No one in America is going to benefit from expelling immigrant farm workers. And the cost won't be pennies: it will run to billions of dollars.”  

And then there are the technological advances that skilled and highly trained immigrants bring to the economy. Already a challenging process, further restricting or outright closing our borders to immigrants will negatively affect our quality of life and access to innovations which streamline our daily interactions.

The Hill recently reported that “More than 100 chief executives of major tech companies and trade associations — including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer — urged President Obama and Congress on Thursday to reform the existing immigration rules for highly-skilled workers. In recent years, tech giants have argued that the U.S. isn't producing enough graduates with the advanced technical skills needed to fill the several open engineering and research positions they have. In their letter, the tech executives note that IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Oracle combined have 10,000 job openings in the U.S.  

“We call on you to address the need for more qualified, highly-skilled professionals, domestic and foreign, and to enact immigration reform this year."

Once again, it comes down to personal responsibility. There are jobs in the country which Americans are unwilling to do – field workers, domestics, cleaning people, manual day labor, fast food employees, etc. Yet, we blame the immigrants who are willing to do what every other immigrant group has done who came to this country. You start at the bottom, you work hard, you save, poured your hard work and sacrifice into the futures of your children. These people were and are not afraid of responsibility. They did and do not shrink from the challenges of becoming captains of their destiny. They did and do appreciate the gift of democracy and freedom, and we would do well to return to this.

We shall fall as a nation if we chose to circle our wagons to the exclusion of the majority of people who do not look like us, pray like us, or talk like us. Emma Lazarus inspired us to enlarge our tents in the second and most famous stanza of her sonnet “The New Colossus,” in honor of The Statue of Liberty.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

If we chose to turn our backs on this path and shutter our borders, we shall dim that light of that beacon that will guide us through these uncertain times. If we start to single out groups of people and accuse them of being un-American, we risk reviving the “practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence.” In so doing, the U.S. shall lose its moral authority, and become no better than other countries where differences are not tolerated and often violently eradicated.

It is up to us to bury the carcasses of mythos, inhumanity, and the shamefulness of a past that didn’t serve us well as a nation. We must at every opportunity disabuse those who extol a time when people could abuse, subjugate, and kill others with impunity simply because they believed it was an inalienable right. We must resist all attempts to force us into suspicion and distrust, and reporting on our neighbors. We must remember our recent past, when tactics disguised as policy were implemented to disenfranchise American citizens.

We must stand firm and denounce all efforts to implement a national registration system for law-abiding Muslim Americans. We must remember our history so we don’t repeat it. We need look no further than January 14, 1942 following the attack on Pearl Harbor to see the ruinous and un-American conclusion of this type of thinking and rhetoric.

Today, it is the Muslim Americans, but in 1942 it was Japanese Americans. First, was the War Department’s blanket Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt which authorized the physical removal and detention of all Japanese Americans into internment camps in the interest of national security, after having classified them as enemy aliens. 127,000 Japanese American citizens, some of whom were veterans, became subject to racism, violence, and had their houses, businesses, and other property stolen. Not just because of the executive order, but by being labeled as such, they were distrusted as potential sleeper agents who could turn upon their communities and country even unto future generations.

Let us not ‘Regrexit’ because we have blithely succumbed to fear mongering and hatred, or apathetically acquiesced to the belief that there isn’t much we can do. We are responsible for this American experience, and we are the people, who are for the people, and governed by the people who protect the best of this democratic experiment. We should not let a vociferous minority define us as the majority. We should continue to enlarge our capacity for tolerance predicated upon an innate desire to be compassionate toward ourselves and each other. We must continue to push ourselves and our Constitution to embody the best in us, because it is only in this way that we will continue to evolve individually and as a nation. We must take to heart and heed the timeless warning that all evil needs to prevail is for good people to remain silent.

Today, America is at a cross-road, we face a choice between two paths and the future lies on the one less traveled. It is within the boundless possibilities of the unknowable that we can reaffirm our commitment to protecting the ideals of democracy, diversity, pluralism, and freedom. However, it will require bravery, it will require honesty, and it will be difficult. People have grown accustomed to blaming others and outside circumstances for their personal failings. We must take responsibility and face reality - a man is born, he lives, and he dies. If we are unhappy with our life and desire for change, we should as Ghandi recommended, ‘be the change we wish to see in the world,” and this starts and ends with personal responsibility.

Editor-in-Chief: @AyannaNahmias
LinkedIn: Ayanna Nahmias

Nigeria’s Corruption Problem: The Causes and Attempts to find a Solution

Anti-Corruption Sign, "Corruption is the parent to poverty," Jos, Nigeria, Photo by Mike Blyth

Anti-Corruption Sign, "Corruption is the parent to poverty," Jos, Nigeria, Photo by Mike Blyth

NIGERIA - In the 1960s, most of Nigeria’s exports were agricultural products. But after the 1970s oil boom, Nigeria became a powerhouse economy, with large multi-nations flocking to the country to exploit its national oil reserves. By the late 1970s, Nigeria had the per capita income of around $1100, which made it the fastest growing economy in sub-Saharan Africa.

Today, Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa. While the oil industry has allowed Nigeria access to international capital markets and thus pursue ambitious private and public sector projects, the oil industry has also made Nigeria more susceptible to corruption. In a survey conducted by the German anti-corruption establishment Transparency International, a global coalition against corruption, Nigeria ranked 32nd from the bottom in their annual Corruption Perception Index.

There are many reasons why this corruption exists. Nigeria’s foreign debt problem incentivizes Nigerian officials to participate in money laundering schemes which includes government officials embezzling oil money for private enrichment. Some of the blame could also be attributed to Nigeria’s traditions and cultures. Traditional customs stress gift giving. Those in power, such as businessmen, politicians and other public servants are likely to trade gifts as a way to strengthen interpersonal connections. Nigeria is not the only nation fighting corruption that has evolved as a consequence of these traditions. China, for example, also has a gift giving culture and the government is battling corruption there as well. 

It is worthy to note that corruption isn't just driven by financial remuneration, because just as many powerful officials engage in this illicit behavior to assuage a deep seated psychological need to safe guard their positions. This is especially prevalent during times of political instability. In these instances, bribery is used to prevent being ousted from power, where they may in some cases be forced out into an environment in which they must try to rebuild their lives, but are unable to do so because of the many enemies they created while in power. Their sudden debasement, in particular with extreme cases where they didn’t secret away money, these officials can end up living in poverty.

In Nigeria, officials may be forced out of power by a coup d’etat or low public opinion polls. Much of the corruption in Nigeria is policy-induced, in other words, the regulations and standard operating procedures overseeing government officials affords them an unwarranted amount of freedom to manipulate the system in their favor, often in the form of large sums of cash hidden in off-shore accounts in countries like Switzerland known for its stringent banking privacy practices.

The anti-corruption campaign in Nigeria should not only rely on efforts of political retribution, but also incorporate economic and structural reforms. These reforms should employ punitive action in the form of a national policy for fiscal restructuring. This would include cutting down practices such as ‘rent-seeking’ which is quite prevalent in Nigeria and other African nations. This odd term describes a systemic corruption scheme in which a public officials seek affluence and wealth without working or minimal effort.

It is a form of corruption which predictably results in reduced economic efficiency because funds allocated for specific public safety programs or infrastructure improvements are siphoned off. The resulting decrease in revenue due to these misappropriation of funds, retards economic growth, depresses upward mobility, decreases job opportunities, and fosters income inequality. All of which forms the basis for failed states, and oppressive regimes ill-equipped and in most cases, unwilling to reallocate funds to their rightful purposes. This form of corruption has statistically led to economic decline on a national level.

The newly appointed Nigerian Police acting Inspector General, Ibrahim Idris vowed to reform the police to assist in combating corruption at the highest levels of government. This in and of itself is a gargantuan task given its infamous reputation for criminality and corruption that exist in many police departments. Yet, Idris has vowed to implement tougher legal enforcement measures designed to increase effectiveness in apprehending corrupt officials. During his inauguration ceremony last Tuesday, 21 June 2016, Idris gave a speech promising reforms that will require police officers to more seriously investigate citizens’ complaints against corrupt officials, and to pursue redress these complaints to a natural conclusion, even if it results in charges, trial, and possible conviction.

He also supports partnering with forensic libraries and operating centers throughout Nigeria to better coordinate investigatory efforts, establish standard operating procedures, and design protocols by which security agencies must abide. Without a unified approach, Idris’ promises will become just as ineffective as previous attempts to root out corruption, especially when the allure of extra money is tempting to police officers who are paid low salaries.

Despite these challenges Nigeria continues to be one of the most prosperous sub-Saharan countries. The Economist estimates that Nigeria’s economy will triple in size by the year 2030. However, foreign investment remains a vital component to maintaining this rate of growth. Therein lies the challenge, because the high risk of government officials absconding with the money, and low rate of return because of corruption and bribery, foreign investors are less likely to commit funds or support capital infrastructure projects. Nigeria’s fight against internal corruption is intensifying, but these efforts still have a long way to go.   

Contributing Journalist: @Helene_Serena
LinkedIn: Helen Huang

Palestinians Learn from Israel’s History of Making Handmade Weapons For Use Against an Occupying Power

"Carlo" - Handmade Imitation of the Swedish Carl Gustav M/45 Sub-machine Gun, Source: The Truth About Guns.com

"Carlo" - Handmade Imitation of the Swedish Carl Gustav M/45 Sub-machine Gun, Source: The Truth About Guns.com

ISRAEL - It’s been said that history has an uncanny tendency of repeating, and that those who don't know history are damned to relive it. But, sometimes the repetition of the past is deliberate, especially when the lessons from it are used as a proverbial playbook to frame current actions and strategies. When this happens, it can lead to some interesting conclusions. An example of this phenomenon can be found through the study of the similarities of recent events in the decades-old conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Daniel Kurtzer, the former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel, and the S. Daniel Abraham Professor of Middle East policy studies at Princeton University, published an op-ed critique in the Washington Post of the book ‘Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917-1947’ by Bruce Hoffman (Knopf). He writes about the deftness with which Hoffman draws parallels between the Jews struggle for freedom from the occupying power of British rule and those of the Palestinians today.  

“Palestinian and Israeli narratives have always been more reflective of each other than contrasting. Both peoples suffered exile from their homeland and the experience of being refugees. Both believe they have been the victims of historical injustice. Both claim the same land and have a primordial attachment to that specific land. And members of both have engaged in acts of terrorism in the pursuit of national self-determination and independence.”

At the risk of giving too much away, or even straying from the focus of this article, and in the interest of transparency, in his book, Hoffman does highlight the differences in how Jewish terrorists resisted the British versus tactics employed by the Palestinians today. 

Despite this, Kurtzer acknowledged that “…One person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter, and Hoffman's study will undoubtedly add to the partisan debate over who exactly was and is a “terrorist,” and whether violence associated with the struggle of one people for national independence is more legitimate than the struggle of another people.”

The weapons used by the Israelis between 1917 and 1947 to fight against the British were often handmade because of a lack of access to arms dealers. Fast forward to the current conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and it has become evident that there is a marked increase in terrorists attacks in which handmade weapons have been utilized in attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces. Of these new and potentially lethal firearms, a cheap imitation of the Swedish Carl Gustav M/45 sub-machine gun (better known by its street name, the “Carlo”) has emerged as one of the most popular handmade weapons.

The “Carlo” has been tied to a string of recent attacks, including one this past February, which took the life of a 19-year-old Border Police officer, Hadar Cohen. Though crude and inaccurate - the firearm was highly effective. It was constructed from cheap and readily found materials, and in this case the barrel of the gun used in this particular case was crafted from a commercially available water pipe. Other such weapons, used in similar recent attacks throughout the country, have been constructed from blueprints found on the internet and assembled out of household items such as fridge pipes, metal hoses, and other random pieces of metal.

Jewish militants, fighting for their independence also worked secretly and around the clock to produce a series of handmade weapons for use against the opposing British forces. Like the “Carlo,” which is now favored by Palestinian militants, a favorite firearm produced by the Jewish resistance was the Sten sub-machine gun. Cheap to produce, this weapon was essentially a hollowed-out metal tube which could spit out bullets. Yet, it became the scourge of British troops who often fell victim to its deadly simplicity.

The weapon was a favorite among the pre-state militias, such as the Lehi and the Irgun, who manufactured and used the weapon with devastating effectiveness. All too common were attacks like one in which a British police sergeant was killed, and three other police officers wounded when ambushed while sitting in a cafe.

It was the relative ease of construction and an inability to control the everyday items from which the weapons were fashioned which has led to escalating concern among local security and military officials. Similarly, the "Carlo,” a handmade Imitation of the Swedish Carl Gustav M/45 sub-machine gun, is a simple design easily constructed from discarded material.  It is comprised of three separate components: an internal mechanism, a barrel, and ammunition, and of all these the ammunition is the least complicated to compound. All other pieces can be manufactured by using common machinery; such as pipe-cutters and lathes, operated by a single person or small group of individuals.

The period in which this weapon was originally manufactured, from the 40’s to the 60’s, lends itself to uncomplicated duplication and inexpensive cost to produce. Consequently, they are readily obtainable on the black market for as little as $750. Perhaps most troubling, is that this also makes it untraceable which further complicates efforts to keep peace in the region. As use of this weapon becomes much more prevalent, and as Security officials seek ways to stop its manufacture and spread, it takes us back to the beginning of the article and to the premise of the oft penchant for humans to repeat history.

Like the Palestinians, the Israelis similarly manufactured and distributed illegal arms for use in its battle against the English occupiers. A war that sought to expel the colonialists from a region that was governed under the British Mandate prior to the creation of the modern State of Israel in 1948. Eerily, it seems that the Palestinians have studied and employed a few lessons in warfare from the history of Israel’s struggle against its own former occupier, and that they are equally determined.

Ironically, like the British, Israeli security officials now find themselves in a difficult but strangely reminiscent position that the colonialist must have certainly confronted. The reality that the efficacy of their efforts to hinder the production of the handmade weapons by the Israelis may not have been as effective or swift as they desired or required.  

The question remains, now that the Palestinians are manufacturing and distributing the “Carlo” for use in their resistance against what they see as an occupying ruling government, can the Israelis succeed where the British ultimately failed? Can they control the production and spread of similar handmade weapons used by the Palestinians to attack Israelis, or will they find themselves on the opposite side of a dynamic which may portend a repeat of history of their own independence?

Contributing Journalist: @JonEizyk
LinkedIn: Jon Eizyk