Top EU Diplomat Expelled on Orders from Gambia President Jammeh

president yahya jammeh on vote campaign, photo courtesy flickr source afp seyllou

BANJUL, Gambia - After being expelled under orders that left Brussels “astonished,” the European Union (EU) representative to Gambia left the country within the 72-hour deadline by boarding a Brussels Airlines flight back to the EU headquarters.

Agnès Guillaud, the European Union's chargée d’affaires in Banjul, received her expulsion orders on Friday, 5 June 2015 and was asked to leave Gambia within a strict 72-hour deadline.

The Gambia’s president, Yahyah Jammeh, expelled the European Union’s top diplomat to his country without "much explanation" an EU spokeswoman said. In response, the EU summoned the Gambian ambassador on Saturday for clarification of the expulsion.

A clear explanation has yet to be released publicly, but what is certain is that the expulsion comes at a time of tension between the EU and the Gambia on issues of international human rights.

Last December the EU blocked over $12 million in aid to the Gambia, citing its “poor human rights record” as justification for the withdrawal. With the expulsion Guillaud, on top of the recent report released by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stating that LGBT people must receive civil rights protections equal to those of any other citizen, to the suppression of free speech, and the unjustified execution of prisoners; Jammeh's government has become for all intents and purposes a dictatorship.

EU officials found the expulsion completely unjustified. "There appears to be no justification for the decision by the Gambian authorities. We are astonished by this announcement which came with no explanations," an EU spokeswoman said.

This expulsion comes in a wave of many anti-western political moves led by Jammeh who in 2013 withdrew his country from the British Commonwealth, with officials saying that the institution represented nothing more than “prolonged colonialism.”

The President has also received international criticism for his claim that he has a herbal remedy that can cure AIDS and his 2012 statements in which he vowed to execute dozens of prisoners in his jails during an “anti-crime” crackdown. In addition to President Jammeh's human rights abuses in terms of due process, he has openly expressed anti-homosexuality rhetoric which is an increasing phenomenon amongst many African leaders.

On 16 May 2015, the White House released a statement by U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, in which she stated that the U.S. stands in solidarity the LGBT community and specifically accused President Jammeh of "unconscionable comments.....which underscore why we must continue to seek a world in which no one lives in fear of violence or persecution because of who they are or whom they love. We condemn his comments, and note these threats come amid an alarming deterioration of the broader human rights situation in The Gambia. We are deeply concerned about credible reports of torture, suspicious disappearances – including of two American citizens - and arbitrary detention at the government's hands." (Source: The White House)

In response to these accusations, Jammeh's office issued the following statement, “The National Security Advisor should instead address racism, abuses and impunity in America where lately innocent and unarmed African-Americans, for example, are being regularly shot by white police officers with impunity rather than prescribe human rights to Gambians who have a long history of civilization.” 

There is no proof that the expulsion had anything to do with Jammeh's hard-line positions dedicated to his so called "preservation of social norms", or the fact that Gambia has increasingly come under fire because of its gross human rights abuses, but it remains to be seen if the government will retract the order for the expulsion of Guillaud, or continue to forge a path that will further encourage sanctions and a decrease in international aid.

Contributing Editor: @AustinBryan
LinkedIn: Austin Drake Bryan

The Cannabis Capital of the World

verde-white-widow-marijuana-photo-by-diego-charlc3b3n-sc3a1nchez.jpg

Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 06:45 p.m. DST, 24 June 2014

Marijuana Bud, Photo by Smokers High Life

LAZARAT, Albania -- This past week, the Albanian government waged a war against the large-scale cultivation of marijuana in the small town of Lazarat, which is 140 miles south of the Albanian capital. Lazarat has been called the 'cannabis capital' of Europe, and it comes by this title honestly. International officials estimate that the small village alone produces 900 metric tons of cannabis each year, which brings in over $6 billion annually.

The offensive began last Monday, 16 June, as Albanian special forces donned Kevlar vests and stormed the village in army vehicles designed to withstand automatic weapons and shelling attacks. Their protective gear proved important, as cartel-style gangs defended drug warehouses and weapons caches. The firefight lasted days, and on Wednesday, 18 June, police and rebels reached a ceasefire agreement.

In 1990 and 1997, the Albanian government was overhauled in order to address widespread corruption and centralized wealth. The new socialist administration has sought to join the European Union multiple times in recent years, but their intentions have not translated to EU membership for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the most problematic aspect of Albanian admission is the cannabis industry.

For nearly two decades, Lazarat has made Albania the 'cannabis capital' of the European bloc, as their marijuana yield is distributed through nearby Italy and further westward. Armed with weapons seized during the 1990 and 1997 revolutions, gangs in Lazarat were omnipotent until last Wednesday. Similar problems may persist in other rural areas of Albania, but certainly not to the same extent as Lazarat.

While opposition to Albania's inclusion in the EU is centered around the production of marijuana, many Albanians see the industry as useful and profitable. Most in Albania would agree, however, that the gangs in Lazarat and other townships gain tremendous revenue through the distribution of marijuana, and these organized crime vehicles present a threat to residents of Lazarat and nearby locales.

The defensive volley of ammunition and explosives that were discharged from gang controlled safe houses is best explained by what is at stake in the standoff. The $6 billion industry in Lazarat alone totals half of the entire country's Gross Domestic Product. It is astounding that such a small village, located in a relatively small nation, could feed so much of the European marijuana market on its own.

More than marijuana, this move by officials in Tirana signals the eradication of small gang militias, which in a sense own and operate the small village of Lazarat. Those in charge in Tirana believe that the people of Lazarat will be better off without the coalition of gangs running the township, but that will remain to be seen. In the meantime, Albania is one step closer to association with the European Union.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

Gazprom Pipeline Runs Dry

2113212191_9e8cf0ddef_z.jpg

Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 08:05 p.m. DST, 21 June 2014

"CIMG0406"  Photo by: JanChr KIEV, Ukraine -- The violent conflict between Russian separatists and Ukrainian militias is slowing down, if only momentarily, due to a ceasefire declared by Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday, 18 June. While bloodshed may be decreasing, Russia has initiated a new economic offensive, shutting off the primary gas pipeline running between the two nations.

According to Russian officials, Ukraine has run up an oil bill totaling more than $4 billion, although Poroshenko's administration denies this figure. The issue at hand is not whether Ukraine owes its northeastern neighbor for unpaid gas, but rather the size of the debt. Ukrainians have been vocal about Russian price-gouging, claiming that exports to Ukraine are sent at a steep premium when compared to other countries. Also, according to Poroshenko the value of Russian oil fluctuates at president Vladimir Putin's convenience.

While Russia closed the tab on 16 June, the move will not immediately impact the Ukrainian markets. Like much of Russian diplomacy, shutting off the pipeline is more a show of power than anything else. For now, the gas reservoirs throughout Ukraine are full and will provide energy for months. Even so, winter months are brutal in Ukraine, and officials will need to act fast to secure reliable gasoline preserves for wintertime.

The feud impacts communities outside of Russia and Ukraine. Gazprom, the corporation responsible for the supply termination, is the largest gas company in Russia and one of the largest international suppliers. European Union nations rely largely on the circulation of Gazprom oil through Ukraine, which is then sold and traded further west into EU countries. The uncertain relationship between Russia and Ukraine, especially in light of the ongoing Ukrainian civil war, leaves EU member nations at the mercy of regional stability.

Sensing the gravity of the situation, EU representatives have tried to middleman a compromise between Ukrainian and Russian executives, to no avail. Gazprom will require Ukraine to pay at least half of the debt before any more oil crosses the border. Ukraine has dismissed the offer, citing the longstanding price inflation and demanding that the costs be set at a rate consistent with the international market.

At the end of the day, both Ukraine and Russia have much to gain by cooperation, and more to lose if the regional friction continues to silence synergy. A good portion of Gazprom revenue comes from Ukrainian consumers and the network of markets throughout the EU. And similarly, Ukrainian winters could prove dangerous without the necessary raw materials.

The stalemate is expected to drag on, as both parties are sure of their facts and figures regarding oil transactions. Russia and Ukraine will both plead their case to international mediators in the coming months, but considering the average length of arbitration and settlement agreement, it will likely come down to the combined efforts of Kiev and Moscow to resolve the dispute and steady the market.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

Will Scotland Choose Independence?

scotland-inverary-castle-photo-by-rolf-bach1.jpg

GLASGOW, Scotland -- The Scottish referendum on independence will take place 18 September 2014. If 40% of the population in Scotland vote in favor of separation, Scotland will be an autonomous nation once again, following 300 years of political fusion with Great Britain.

The movement is spearheaded by the opposing 'Yes Scotland' and 'Better Together' campaigns, which advocate Scottish independence and United Kingdom solidarity, respectively. The First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond is perhaps the most visible spokesman for the 'Yes Scotland' outfit. Allistair Darling is a longstanding member of the British parliament and heads the Better Together movement.

According to the 'Yes Scotland' and 'Better Together' factions, social problems in Scotland need to be addressed. But the two camps are at odds over whether these changes can take place with London in the driver's seat. According to Alex Salmond, the power dynamic between the UK and Scotland are among the most unequal in Europe.

Poverty, drug abuse and suicide affect Scots at much-higher rates than their British or Irish neighbors. Recent studies conducted throughout the Highlands find that Scottish men have a suicide rate 73% higher than males throughout the rest of the UK. The same study found that female Scots committed suicide at twice the rate of women throughout the Kingdom.

Wealth inequality has fluctuated over the past decade but remains a serious problem in Scotland. Throughout the population, one in five children are living below the poverty line. A study published by Child Poverty Action Group finds that in many Scottish communities, one in three children are currently impoverished. The 'Yes Scotland' campaign believes that with increased autonomy, Scots will be able to address problems in their communities, without relying on representatives in Westminster as middlemen.

The agriculture industry in Scotland is particularly invested in the outcome of September's referendum. Currently, Scottish farmers receive subsidies through the European Union. The EU allocates a lump sum to the UK, and stipends are generated to English and Scottish farmers from these funds.

Pro-independence farming coalitions believe that farmers in Scotland are undervalued in these calculations. They argue that an independent Scotland would receive greater allowances from the EU. Opponents of Scottish independence claim just the opposite, stating that the UK has greater lobbying power in the EU debates, and Scottish famers are wrong to think they could collect larger subsidies as a small, independent nation.

One of the largest controversies in the debate over Scotland's future is centered in massive oil reserves located in UK waters, off Scotland's coast. Alex Salmond has claimed that £1.5 trillion in natural gas deposits lie within Scotland's jurisdiction, but this figure is largely disputed. The veracity of the estimate is unclear, and both sides have much at stake with regards to the amount and ownership of the deep sea oil in question.

Scots are still widely divided on the issue of independence, but the international community is not so unsure. In recent weeks, President Barack Obama has come forward in support of UK solidarity.

In September Scotland will make its voice heard. Preliminary polls show that Scots are within reach of the votes required to pass the referendum. If Scotland splits from the UK, the dispute over Scottish identity will only intensify. Arguments over currency, citizenship and the economy are guaranteed to draw conflicting viewpoints between officials.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

Related articles

Outrage After Turkish Mine Explosion Kills Over 200

194720701_cd63e9064a_z.jpg

Allyson Cartwright, Contributing JournalistLast Modified: 21:04 p.m. DST, 15 May 2014

"Orgreave S24's washout (3 of 3)  Photo by: Earthwatcher

SOMA, Turkey— At least 245 Turkish miners have died and 120 are still trapped after an explosion of a coal mine in what is being called the “worst industrial accident in the country’s history”. Hopes of rescuing the remaining miners are “dimming” according to Energy Minister Taner Yildiz. Thousands of people are rallying in response in Turkey, angered by the disaster and the lacking efforts from the government and rescue agencies.

The explosion in the mine occurred after a malfunction with a power unit. This has resulted in a power outage in the mine, making the mine cages inoperative and thus rescue efforts far more difficult. It is also reported by The Guardian that fires from the blast had not yet been extinguished, 18 hours after the explosion. Most of the deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning as claimed by Yildiz. Reuters reported that oxygen is being pumped into the mine in order to keep the remaining trapped miners alive. However, Mehmet Torun, a board member and former head of the Chamber of Mining Engineers says, “Unless we have a major miracle, we shouldn't expect anyone to emerge alive at this point.”

Tensions are rising above ground as well in the nearest city to the mine, Soma. Friends and relatives of the deceased and trapped miners are venting frustrations against Prime Minister Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party. Erdoğan’s government has a questionable history with the mining industry. Turkey was ranked third worst for worker deaths by the International Labour Organization in 2012. The New York Times says just two weeks ago they vetoed a proposition for a parliamentary commission that would try to alleviate the dangerous conditions in the mining industry. His government is further criticized for not responding to his rival party, Republican People's Party. They requested action on work-related incidents in the Soma mines in April, but were refused.

Violent demonstrations concerning the mining accident are occurring in Soma as well as in the country’s largest city, Istanbul, and the capital, Ankara. Wednesday afternoon protestors, mostly teens and 20-somethings, confronted riot police at the headquarters of the Justice and Development Party, according to The Huffington Post. They also said that the police were equipped with gas masks and water cannons. The protestors could be heard shouting that Erdoğan was a “murderer” and a “thief”. It was reported that hundreds of protestors were also at the Soma Holding headquarters, the company that owns the mine.

Erdoğan’s presence at the mine furthers the anticipation of his candidacy in the upcoming presidential election, despite him not confirming a bid. He has postponed an international trip, instead going to visit the mine. He also has declared three days of mourning in Turkey for those miners lost. According to The Huffington Post, in the past he has been unsympathetic to the dangerous mining conditions in Turkey, saying after a 2010 accident where 30 miners died that it is part of the “profession's fate”. In the case of this accident in Soma, Erdoğan insists that it will be fully investigated. On the miners still trapped, the prime minister said, “Our hope is that, God willing, they will be brought out. That is what we are waiting for."

Follow Allyson on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

Social Media Bans Persist in Turkey

recep tayyip erdogan, photo by cvrcak1

recep tayyip erdogan, photo by cvrcak1

TURKEY, Ankara - First Twitter and now YouTube, social media platforms in Turkey are continually being banned by the Turkish Telecommunications Authority. This latest YouTube ban comes after a video posted on March 27 on the site that is supposedly of an audio recording of top Turkish officials discussing a military operation against Syria, according to CNN.

This leak was followed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s accusations that YouTube and Twitter are being used to slander and spy on the government. The Twitterban came first on 21 March 2014 after a re-election rally during which CNN quoted Erdoğan as saying he was determined to “root out Twitter”; however, the ban was deemed unconstitutional by the Turkish high court.  The YouTube ban followed six days later.

Besides the audio recording of a planned false-flag against Syria, more audio was leaked that incriminate the Justice and Development party leader, Erdoğan. What he calls “immorally edited material”, had been published on YouTube that supposedly was of Erdoğan instructing his son to hide millions of dollars from the police, further implicating him of corruption allegations.

After public outcry and protest, the 27 March 2014 YouTube ban was overturned 2 April 2014. Al Arabiya News said that the ban was found to be in violation of human right and instead of a site-wide sanction, 15-videos were banned. However, just two days following the lifting of the ban, it has been reinstated.  This back-and-forth with the rulings against YouTube has created more mass disapproval in Turkey and internationally.

Turkey has been vying for admission into the European Union, but after these latest regulations by the Turkish government, it seems like this may be less and less of a possibility. An anonymous high-ranking EU official spoke on Turkey’s EU bid to Today’s Zaman saying, “For Turkey's EU membership, countries like France and Germany will eventually seek a referendum for public support, and Turkey has lost the support of young and liberal constituencies in the EU with its ban on social media. This [ban] has definitely not brought Turkey closer to the EU.”

Losing EU favor is only the beginning. The US has also been vocal about their objection to Erdoğan’s social media ban. Al Arabiya News reported that last Friday, Washington had been urging the Turkish government to “open all social media space in Turkey”.

Even the massive internet company Google has joined the protest against the YouTube ban. Russia Today reported that Google has appealed the YouTube ban to Turkey’s Constitutional Court. Since Google Inc. is the owner of YouTube, a Google spokesperson told Wall Street Journal via email, “it is obviously very disappointing to people and businesses in Turkey that YouTube is still blocked, and we are actively challenging the ban in the courts,” and that the YouTube ban impedes on “freedom of speech”.

Any negative impact of these social bans on Erdoğan’s chances of winning has yet to be determined. Prime Minister Erdoğan is currently running in the Turkish presidential election. Local elections in Ankara were challenged March 30 after claims of corrupted results, of which Erdoğan won. Reuters reported that the opposition party’s call for a recount was denied. It appears that in local elections his candidacy has not been tainted. Turkish national elections for presidency will take place on 10 August 2014.

Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

Portrait of a Fugitive. Deposed Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych Flees

fugitive-ukrainian-president-viktor-yanukovych-photo-by-european-parliament.jpg

KIEV, Ukraine - Days following a truce announcement which ended the bloody riots which rocked the Ukrainian capital, news outlets are reporting that the ousted leader is in fact now a fugitive.

As the sign held by the protesters to the right depicts, deposed President Viktor Yanukovych's flight into hiding came just hours before a warrant was issued for his arrest. By fleeing, Yanukovych conferred upon himself a dubious honor, as he joins the ranks of fallen leaders who failed to heed the voice of the people.

Leaders who may have transitioned from power with dignity, but chose to resist compromise, a position which ultimately paved the way for their own destruction.

Courtesy of the Global Post, recent despots who retreated in ignominy are listed below:

  1. Nicolae Ceaucescu, Secretary General of the Romanian Communist Party (1965 – 1989)
  2. Saddam Hussein, deposed President of Iraq (1979 – 2003)
  3. Muammar al-Gaddafi, Libyan Dictator (1979 – 2011)
  4. Hosni Mubarak, deposed president of Egypt (1981 – 2011)
  5. Ben Ali, deposed President of Tunisia (1987 – 2011)

On Friday, 21 February 2014, after meeting with opposition leaders, President Yanukovych, announced that he had signed a peace deal. However, it appears that shortly after closing the deal, Yanukovych recognized the writing on the wall and chose to flee into hiding.

There is speculation that Moscow, a once staunch supporter of Yanukovych during the deadly three-month standoff which resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries, recognized the futility of its calculated bid to bring the ex-Soviet nation back under its control. Yanukovych must have realized that he had lost both their confidence and support, and this may have been a deciding factor in his decision.

The peaceful uprising that turned violent earlier this month was triggered when Yanukovych under pressure from Russia, opted to cease political and trade deal discussion with the EU, in lieu of a $15 billion bailout to Ukraine from Russia. Ukranian citizens viewed this as a subversive effort by Russia to undermine Ukraine’s growth toward increased democracy.

Most Ukranians believed that this financial dependency would erode decades of political autonomy, economic expansion, and democratic freedoms realized since gaining their independence in 1990. Russia's offer of financial support was, in the opinion of most, a bid to once again impose a draconian style of rule reminiscent of the Soviet Union.

During the violent unrest, Moscow publicly decried the “treasonous” activities of the opposition, yet stopped short of sending military support to keep Yanukovych in power. When Yanukovych acquiesced to the opposition’s demands, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev immediately put distance between Russia and Ukraine by declaring that his government could not have full ties with a leader who was being tramped on like a "doormat.” The unrest in Ukraine is seen as a potentially destabilizing influence that could adversely impact Russia's interests.

It would seem that Yanukovych’s inability to suppress the opposition through any means necessary, no matter how heinous or distasteful, has been interpreted by the Kremlin as “biting the hand that fed him.” A new Ukrainian leader has not been appointed, and at this point Russia views any interim government as illegitimate. It remains to be seen if Moscow will honor its promised financial support or abandon all efforts to manipulate this sovereign nation back under its control.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter

Twitter:

@nahmias_report

Editor-in-Chief:

@ayannanahmias

Related articles