African Union Elects First Woman Commission | Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:58 AM EDT, 16 July 2012

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Photo by the Presidency of the Republic of South AfricaAfter much debate and contention, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former South African Minister of Home Affairs was chosen as the new leader of the African Union (AU). Dlamini-Zuma is replacing incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon who has been the head of the 54-member Commission since 2008.

Dlamini-Zuma's ascendance was hard-won as there was stiff competition for the chairmanship. The ex-wife of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma proved to be a tough competitor and was rewarded with the honor of being elected as the AU's first female leader.

The newly built AU headquarters was funded by China as a gift from Beijing which continues to expand its influence in Africa. Located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the inauguration of the new building occurred in January 2012.

Since the AU’s auspicious start, it has suffered some setbacks, particularly with regard to its lack of diplomatic leadership during the Libya and Ivory Coast conflicts. The election process exposed internal rivalries between French-speaking countries that backed Ping and mostly English-speaking countries that favored Dlamini-Zuma.

In addition to division between Francophone and Anglophone countries, Nigeria and Kenya, two of the largest members of the AU reportedly expressed reservations about South Africa having so much power while some smaller nations felt that their issues and concerns wouldn’t receive equal consideration.

According to Reuters Dlamini-Zuma won after three rounds of voting at this weekend's summit. She received a final vote of confidence of 37, which provided her with the 60 percent majority required to be elected for a four-year term.

Mubarak's Unexpected Death Sentence?

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 14:41 PM EDT, 11 June 2012

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Photo by Sun NewsCAIRO, Egypt - Hosni Mubarak is currently in intensive care following his decline in health since his 2 June 2012 conviction. Though currently incarcerated for life, this did not assuage the ire of family and friends of protesters who were brutally murdered during Mubarak’s crack down of the Arab Spring uprising. The citizens of Egypt had hoped that he and his top officials would be convicted of murder.

Had he been convicted of murder he would have automatically been sentenced to death. However, Mubarak was sentenced to the lessor punishment of life in prison. Immediately following the verdict he was transferred to Cairo’s Torah prison to begin serving his time.

Subsequent to his transfer, Mubarak’s health rapidly deteriorated to the point where it was rumored that he had died. His wife, former first lady Suzanne Mubarak, refuted this claim after visiting him, but did say that he is very ill and should be transferred back to the military hospital where he was housed since his April 2011 arrest. These requests have been repeatedly denied.

Per The Associated Press, officials stated that "The former president's health is in decline, but now it's stable in its deteriorated state." Since his wife's visit, Mubarak has suffered from "an irregular heartbeat and required assistance in breathing.” He has been moved to the Intensive Care Unit, however, his wife hasn't been able to see him again because of prison policy limiting the frequency with which prisons can receive visitors.

It is ironic that Mubarak should fear the Torah prison where his government routinely incarcerated dissidents. According to news sources, he broke down upon hearing the news of his transfer there to serve out his life sentence. It is a verdict that is contested by all parties – Mubarak who feels betrayed by the military government who ousted him, and the protesters who demanded his death and feel that through back room dealings the military acquiesced to a sentence of life imprisonment.

If, Mubarak is truly as ill as claimed, then the issue may ultimately become a moot point since he may soon die. His proximal death delivered by nature versus man yields the net result of another despot biting the dust.  If, however, the pronouncement of his early demise is a ruse, authorities should immediately return him to jail to serve out his sentence, thus providing a modicum of justice for Egyptian citizens who desired the ultimate punishment.

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Humiliating North Korean Rocket Crash

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:19 p.m. DST, 13 April 2012

North Korea and weapons of mass destruction

PYONGYANG, North Korea - Yesterday, amid the fanfare of ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korea's founder and "eternal president" Kim Il-sung, his grandson, Kim Jong-un suffered a humiliating set-back when the rocket that was to herald his military might and validate his ascendancy, disintegrated shortly after lift-off.

North Korea’s defiance in launching the rocket despite threats by America and Japan to shoot down any missile launches from the Communist state is definitely a loss of face for Kim Jong-un’s government.

It was speculated by observing nations that the missile may have crashed due to the unusual silence from the North Korean government shortly after the launch.  News outlets who were in contact with reporters who had been allowed into the country to witness the event, receive little or no information from their people on the ground.

In fact, one reporter stated that no one in the press corps had been informed of the launch, much less of the outcome. Officials did not come to present a press conference to confirm the success or failure of the launch, and their ‘handlers’ were as dismayed with the lack of guidance from senior leaders.

Later, the country's official news agency confirmed that the rocket launch was a failure, after officials in other countries said that the suspected long-range missile had crashed into the sea. In addition to the loss of the rocket, the North Koreans said that the satellite that they intended to launch into space was also destroyed in the crash.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfJLXFMyvXk]

"The earth observation satellite failed to enter its preset orbit. Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure," North Korea's official KCNA news agency reported.

In order to minimize its overt disregard of the UN resolution that prohibits any launch using ballistic missile technology, Pyongyang claimed that the purpose of Friday's launch was to put a weather satellite into space. However, non-proliferation experts express skepticism since this is the third time that North Korean has initiated long-range missile tests.

South Korean and other nations in the Northeastern Asia feel that this launch was an extremely aggressive act that threatens the peace, stability and security of the region. They view this launch as particularly troublesome given North Korea's previous pattern of failed rocket launches followed by nuclear testing, which many view as the actual goal of these exercises.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned Friday's launch despite its failure.

"[It] is deplorable as it defies the firm and unanimous stance of the international community," a statement from his office said. "The launch is in direct violation of Security Council Resolution 1874 and threatens regional stability."

The United States meanwhile condemned North Korea's "propaganda" displays.

"North Korea is only further isolating itself by engaging in provocative acts, and is wasting its money on weapons and propaganda displays while the North Korean people go hungry," Jay Carney, the White House spokesperson, said.

Osamu Fujimura, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, said the rocket launch was a "grave provocation".

The Group of Eight (G-8) bloc of industrialised nations also condemned the launch, while China called for calm on the Korean peninsula.

"We hope all parties can maintain calm and restraint and not do anything to harm peace and stability on the peninsula and in the region," Liu Weimin, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said in a statement. (Source: Aljazeera)

The world must wait and see North Korea’s next move toward continued nuclear testing and aggressive posturing in the region, but the UN Security Council has gone on the offensive and said it would meet in an emergency session on Friday to discuss the situation.

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Pakistan's Dirty Secret War

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 20:50 PM EDT, 5 April 2012

Balochistan Man, Photo by Colonial BalochistanBALOCHISTAN, Pakistan - Recently, we wrote about the Tuareg of North Africa and the battle they are fighting in Mali for independence as an autonomous country. There is another little known group of people also fighting for their independence, as well as control over the natural resource in their region, the Baloch. These Asiatic people inhabit Balochistan which is a territory located in southwest Pakistan.

It lies in a mountainous region that is rich in natural gas. It is also Pakistan’s largest province and the area from which Pakistan imports much of its natural gas.

The Baloch, view Pakistan's unilateral ownership of this natural resource as larceny because they are not remunerated, nor can they adequately utilize the gas because so many of their homes and villages have been razed to the ground.

Balochistan borders two conflict nations, Iran and Afghanistan. The Baloch rebels control the border crossings into Iran and Afghanistan, and in the case of the latter, this nearly inaccessible region can only be navigated with the permission and guidance of the Balochian militia.

Although it is not a common occurrence there have been reports that members of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have joined their ranks, but this could be because these religious ideologues have fled into hiding, or they are meeting arms dealers to replenish their weaponry.

The Baloch, an ethnic minority in Pakistan, has been engaged in a 60-year-long insurgency against the government. Because America and other nations have focused on Pakistan for its tacit support and harboring of Taliban operatives, other injustices that occur in the country often go unacknowledged and definitely under-reported in the Western media.

In fact, some have even labeled this conflict as “Pakistan’s Dirty Little War.” A fact which should give America pause when Congress continues to approve economic support for this country.  In fact, America provides Pakistan nearly $1bn in foreign aid annually. (Source: Guardian UK)

As with many conflict torn areas of the world, some warring factions employ the frightening practice of kidnapping, torture, and forced disappearance of the relatives of their enemies. This occurred in Libya post-Gaddafi, in Congo, and also in Pakistan. In fact, in Pakistan, there are organizations which have been formed to help families get information about loved ones who have been kidnapped, and Amnesty International has focused extensive attention to this issue.

As with the Tuareg and other minority groups around the world who are persecuted and marginalized, the Baloch live in a constant state of conflict. They not only face violence, murder, and larceny, but they must also contend with the kidnapping of their loved ones. Often children are taken who could be trafficked into sexual slavery, pressed into war as child fighters, or outright killed.

The Baloch have refused to negotiate with the Pakistani government which they view with suspicion. During the six decade conflict the Pakistani government has failed to make a good faith effort to meet the needs and requests of the Balochians. There have been gross human rights abuses as well as the burning of homes and rape of women.

It seems the only end to this 60-year conflict will occur when the Balochian achieve the right to self-governance in a country which has seceded from Pakistan.

Sub-Saharan Immigrants Suffer in Libya

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 21:25 PM EDT, 28 March 2012

Libyan Rebel SoldierTRIPOLI, Libya - Illegal immigration is a problem in emerging economies where many migrants seek to make the dangerous journey to Europe in hope of a better life. Libya, as a gateway to Europe, finds itself in a politically sensitive position with regard to immigrants.

Specifically, native-born Libyans now seem to have a serious problem with 'black' Africans. Sub-Saharan Africans are now viewed with suspicion and are often discriminated against through racial profiling. Because of their skin color they are easily identifiable and singled out.

Muammar Gaddafi, the former Libyan leader recruited thousands of mercenaries – nearly 30,000 according to the nonprofit group Human Rights Solidarity – largely from Sub-Saharan countries. The men were reportedly hired to take care of the dirty work of repression, and many were ruthless in their violence.

Shortly after the overthrow and death of Gaddafi, rebels hunted down mercenaries from Nigeria, Ghana, Chad, and Mauritania, including some black Libyans who were subsequently detained, beaten and extra-judicially killed. Even immigrants who have legally entered the country suffer immense discrimination.

Because most Libyans view Sub-Saharan Africans with suspicion, illegal immigrants fare much worse, especially those caught at the borders. Just outside of Tripoli there is a camp that houses about 600 detainees who have been caught trying to cross the border illegally.

Most have used all their money and resources to get to Libya which is a gateway to Europe. They don't want to stay in the North African country, but are simply seeking passage to countries where they can work in anonymity.

Once detained men and women are housed separately and subjected to harsh conditions. They are housed in corrugated steel buildings with concrete floors and no heating.  Many of the men complain that they haven't had access to telephones and are therefore unable to contact their families to let them know what has happened. According to a BBC report, they also state that many are sick and lack access to healthcare, and are hungry.

There are just a few wardens to guard over 600 prisoners and they recognize that this is a potential human rights violation, but are powerless to do anything about it.  They are doing their jobs though some sympathize with these immigrants who are just trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.

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India and Iran Thwart US Sanctions

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 10:04 AM EDT, 26 March 2012

Dr. Hamid Ansari, Vice President of India

NEW DELHI, India - Three years ago, on 13 April 2009, Shri M. Hamid Ansari, the current Vice President of India, released a book titled, "Challenges and Strategy: Rethinking India's Foreign Policy" authored by Ambassador Rajiv Sikri of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

In the book, Sikri seems to have anticipated the United States’ move to initiate economic sanctions against Iran and outlined a roadmap for India to respond to this eventuality.

At that time Ambassador Sikri was the “Secretary (Deputy Minister) in the Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi, in charge of India’s relations with Central Asia, Caucasus, East Asia, ASEAN, the Pacific region, the Arab world, Israel and Iran.

He also served as Ambassador of India to Kazakhstan and as Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy in Paris.” (Source: Foundation for Non-Violent Alternatives)

In his book, Sikri postulated India’s position in the world would continue to ascend in terms of its economic prowess, scientific acumen, and human capital. China, in addition to its continued role as banker to a number of countries, most notably the United States; is another emerging economy that continues to realize growth through its strategic receptivity to business innovation.

In fact, according to The National Intelligence Council (NIC) of the United States, both China and India are expected to achieve parity with the U.S. within the next 10 years. Having prognosticated this over 3 years ago in his book, Sikri proposes that India’s role during this period of rapid growth should also include increased “stability in the littoral states.”

He opined that increasing freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, security of sea lanes, and the availability of an interdiction capacity to safeguard Indian shipping will go a long way toward India becoming a major player in the region. The effect of this level of engagement would be the development of more dynamic political relationships with all the states of the Persian Gulf.

Also, in 2009, Sikri correctly deduced that in the future India would find itself in conflict with American strategic policies. In a chapter titled ‘U.S. and Nuclear Issues,’ he emphasized the importance of India as a sovereign nation to determine its own foreign policy strategies. As such, its commitment to continue to trade with Iran despite America's imposed economic sanctions demonstrates their determination to enact policies in the best interest of the nation.

By following this protocol, the government ensures its continued growth and development that will ultimately result in an increased standard of living for India's estimated 1.2bn people. (Population Figure from World Bank)

According to Andrew Bacevich, a professor of international relations at Boston University and a retired career officer in the United States Army, Iranians have every reason to view the U.S.government with suspicion and hostility. The history of tensions between the U.S. and Iran is nearly 60 years old.

In 1953, under President Dwight Eisenhower, the CIA and British MI-6 collaborated to overthrow the democratically elected Iranian government and installed a puppet leader, an action undertaken without any concern for the Iranian people, but in pursuit of near-term strategic interests.

In his book "The Limits of Power, The End of American Exceptionalism," Bacevich postulates that the current Iranian ‘nuclear’ crisis is a cover for more convoluted motives similar to the political machinations of the 1956 Suez Canal crisis. It started when Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein, led the Egyptian Revolution which resulted in him becoming president in 1956, a position he held until his death in 1970.

Under his leadership, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal Company, an act that was untenable to Britain which had colonized and ruled Egypt for decades. Consequently, Britain enlisted the support of the U.S., France and Israel to regain control of Egypt through military aggression, ostensibly on behalf of the international community. Because they did not succeed in toppling the government, Nasser and his rule came to embody anti-imperialist efforts in the Arab World and Africa, a nationalist and political movement now known as Pan-Arabism or Nasserism.

With regard to nuclear disarmament and preemptive strikes, the U.S. has a long history of taking military action against any country that possessed equal armament, military might and therefore constitutes a direct and imminent threat. By this yardstick, North Korea, qualifies, because its nuclear program is well-developed, they are an isolated and hostile government, and its government currently possesses long range nuclear weaponry that could potentially threaten the U.S. and its allies.

In fact, on Monday, 26 March 2012, the Nuclear Security Summit met in Seoul to discuss the issue of nuclear terrorism. In attendance were President Barak Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev, as well as leaders from 53 nations and organization who gathered to discuss methods to prevent terrorist groups from acquiring nuclear bombs or highly enriched uranium that could be used to build a nuclear bomb.

Though North Korea was not on the agenda, its planned long range missile launch scheduled for this week was hotly debated, and Summit leaders agreed that some preemptive action should occur if peaceful negotiations failed. By contrast, Iran possesses no such weaponry, and like the phantom ‘weapons of mass destruction’ which were the pretext by which George Bush justified the war in Iraq; the likelihood of discovery of any significant cache of weaponry in Iran is highly speculative.

It is true that there are a number of radical and virulently racist voices within the Iranian government, but unlike Kim Jong-il, and his successor Kim Jong-un, it appears that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad posturing obscures Iran’s inability to enforce any threats. In fact, Bacevic equates this current incitement by American strategists with regard to Iran, as the same mindset by which arm chair war mongers successfully manipulated previous American presidents into a nuclear war crisis with the Soviet Union until “cooler heads prevailed.”

These same voices instigated the open-ended 10-year war in which the U.S. has been mired in Afghanistan and more recently Iran with the intent to enrich military contractors without regard to the loss of thousands of lives by thousands of American soldiers and over 100,000 Iraqis. In fact, these two conflicts didn’t yield a single victory until President Obama directed a change in strategy to include targeted assignations like the one which killed Osama bin Laden.

India and Iran number among China, India, Russia, Europe, and maybe Brazil operate in a world in which the U.S. no longer the sun against which all other countries must resolve. According to Bacevic the new geopolitical landscape will be multipolar, and America must mature and accept its role in this new governance paradigm. President Obama in a recent speech stated that ‘American Exceptionalism’ must evolve in order to survive. This new reality does not negate other countries’ sovereign rights to pursue strategies which are in their best interests and compromise shall become the order of the day.

As Tehran and New Delhi plan to hit $25bn in annual bilateral trade over the next four years, it remains to be seen if India will back down in its support of and continued trade with Iran. In any event, the Indian government has taken a stand, flexed its muscles, and stands poised to assume its rightful place in a 21st century multipolar order.

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