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Thursday:  November 20, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Nigeria (42)

Wednesday
Apr182012

Islamic States Announce Own Media Channel (REPORT) 

(PHOTO: Opening ceremony of the Information Minsiters meeting of the OIC, Gabon/IINA)(HN, April 18, 2012) - Today, Information Ministers of the member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) started the 9th Islamic Conference of Information Ministers (ICIM); a three-day meeting in the capital of Gabon, Libreville hosted by President Ali Bongo Ondimba.

The group is focusing its attention on  "Information Technologies in the service of peace and development” at the Conference Palace in Democracy City and is being attended by a group of ministers and delegates representing 57 member countries.

Morocco who is Chair of the 9th session, and other member representatives, made speeches in which they stressed the importance of the meeting being held during a time characterized by "a multitude of challenges in the world in general, and in the Muslim Ummah world in particular.  

Speakers urged broadcasters to counter stereotypes about Islam and Muslims in the Western media and asked that the adoption by the Seventh Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers held in Algeria in December of a resolution to create a new Islam media channel, be implemented as soon as possible.

Already the organization has been working on a comprehensive plan to combat prejudice against Islam and Muslim communities with a view to developing campaigns to foster respect for cultural and religious pluralism and diversity, while raising awareness of the positive contributions of Muslims to promote tolerance and understanding.

The OIC Secretary General Ekmelddin Ihsanoglu said, "We are keen to have an OIC outlet to present to the world the true picture of both the Islamic civilization and religion."

The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) is also taking part in the conference and Dr. El Mahjoub Bensaid, presented how the organization can support the new OIC media efforts by offering training to journalists.

Concern by the Ministers centered on information programs which would support, in particular, the Palestinian cause and the issues of the sovereignty of Jerusalem, (Jerusalem is known in Arabic as Al-Quds) and Al Aqsa mosque, as well as highlighting the role of the African continent in Islam. A high priority for the group is in restructuring the process of the International Islamic News Agency (IINA) and the Islamic Broadcasting Union (IBU), opening of OIC media offices in member countries and activating cooperation between the OIC and the Global Digital Solidarity Fund. The group is entertaining proposals for the establishment of an OIC Muslim journalists union, and the launching of an Islamic TV satellite channel to be called "OIC".

Malaysia is among 10 countries which have been selected to study the proposed establishment of an Islamic television station that will act as an important platform for highlighting Islamic issues and which will discuss Muslim issues globally, countering coverage that discredits Islam.

Besides Malaysia, the committee will be represented by Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Gabon, Senegal, Nigeria, Morocco and Mauritania.

The first meeting of the committee is scheduled to take place at the OIC headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the middle of June.

The Gabon resolution says negative news in some Western media has resulted in stigmatized stereotyping, racial discrimination and victimization directed against Muslims. Stressing that the Islamic faith is based on the core values of peace, tolerance, moderation and peaceful co-habitation with all other religions and beliefs, the OIC labeled the emergence of Islamophobia as a “contemporary form of racism and xenophobia motivated by unfounded fear, mistrust and hatred of Muslims and Islam which manifests itself through intolerance and hostility in adverse public discourse.”

“As such, Islamophobia is an affront to the human rights and dignity of Muslims,” the resolution claimed.

THE PLAN

The Gabon conference has short, medium and long term goals for putting in place an action plan to fight Islamophobia it said.  It is asking member states to create funding for media campaigns, and discourage using expressions such as “Islamic” fascists or “Islamic” extremists for criminal terrorists. The OIC underlines the importance of developing Muslim's own narrative on daily issues such as the environment, climate change, social justice, development, poverty, etc.

For the medium term, the resolution asks member states to implement media literacy programs in schools to combat misperceptions, prejudices and hate speech. It aims to utilize success stories in the Muslim world “as a means to show that the interests of Muslims are similar to the rest of the world when it comes to democracy, good governance and human rights.” The resolution even plans to create awards for excellence in unbiased journalism, reporting, photography and publishing.

According to the long term goals of the OIC media resolution, professional media people in member states are called to “develop, articulate and implement voluntary codes of conduct.” It sets up scholarship programs for Westerners to study in the Muslim world and encourage reporter-exchange programs between the Muslim world and the West in order to disseminate this information throughout media outlets.

--- HUMNEWS

Monday
Apr162012

Nigeria: World Bank Presidency - US vs the World? (PERSPECTIVE) 

By Yemi Ajayi

(PHOTO: Dr. Jim Yong Kim, new World Bank President/Dartmouth College) *Since this article posted on Monday, the World Bank board voted to confirm Jim Yong Kim as the next World Bank President. He will start his tenure on June 30 when Robert Zoellick steps down from this same post.

The race for the World Bank presidency will enter the homestretch Monday when the bank's 25-member executive board votes on who succeeds its outgoing president, Robert Zoellick.

It is a defining race for the Bretton Woods institution (comprising the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) founded in 1944. It is also a race that has assumed the character of a clash between an arcane tradition and the quest for change in the way the international finance institution with the official goal of fighting poverty picks its president.

In the race for the World Bank presidency were initially three candidates: Nigeria's Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Colombian Minister of Finance, Jose Antonio Ocampo and a public health expert and president of Dartmouth College in the United States, Jim Yong Kim. The number was reduced to two last Friday with Ocampo's withdrawal for the post.

However, the candidates are merely instruments in a proxy war between Washington and its European allies, which has traditionally produced the president and the rest of the world that is clamouring for a paradigm shift in how the leadership of the World Bank emerges.

The clamour has pitted the rest of the world against the US, which is out to defend its tradition of producing the World Bank president since foundation.

(PHOTO: Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria/NigeriaMailOnline)For US President Barack Obama, he cannot afford to fail where his predecessors had succeeded. Losing out in the jostling for the post, especially in a crucial election year, is to hand the Republicans the ammunition to make a bid at undoing his attempt to renew his tenancy at the White House.

Withdrawing from the race last Friday, Ocampo, in a letter to the World Bank, said he was doing so because "it is clear that this is becoming no longer a competition on the merits of the candidates, but a political exercise."

"For me, as an economist and as a Colombian, it has been a great honour to participate in this first open competition for the presidency of the World Bank... to facilitate the desired unity of the emerging and developing economies around a candidate, today (last Friday) I am retiring from the race to support the minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who I wish the best of luck in this final stage."

If it were going to be a straight fight based on merit on a level playing field for the candidates, Okonjo-Iweala could start preparing her handover notes for her successor in Nigeria and return to the organization where she was managing director before her call to national duty last year.

Even though she was reluctant to join the race some weeks ago, her candidacy has gathered rave endorsements from the media at home and abroad, 35 former World Bank economists and managers, Africa and other developing nations since she threw her traditional headgear into the ring.

She is the official candidate of Africa and its allies who have canvassed the argument that someone with high-flying credentials and requisite experience like hers is better placed to make the World Bank deliver on its goals of helping developing nations to improve on their peoples' wellbeing.

Since March when Obama picked him as the US candidate for the post, Kim has come under global scrutiny. Despite his credentials and achievements, especially in public health, including his stint as a director of HIV/AIDS at the World Health Organization, he is considered as one who lacks the "appropriate finance and economic credentials" to lead the World Bank.

(PHOTO: Jose Antonio Ocampo of Colombia/Columbia Univ) In contrast, Okonjo-Iweala has institutional knowledge, hands-on experience in development economics and public finance and has proven to be reform minded. In her first appointment as Nigeria's Minister of Finance, she superintended over the country's historical debt relief, an exercise that earned her global accolades; spearheaded the reform of the public sector in Nigeria leading to greater transparency and the monetization policy of the federal government; and championed the creation of the Excess Crude Account that largely provided a buffer for Nigeria during the global economic crisis between 2008 and 2009.

Notwithstanding his diminished credentials, Kim, by some quixotic arrangement, is most likely to succeed Zoellick who bows out on June 30 after a five-year term during which the bank provided over $247 billion to help developing countries boost growth and overcome poverty. His being the US candidate, which some analysts have described as a "wrong call," guarantees him victory under the weighted voting system that Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are calling for a review.

Under the voting system, the US, which is the bank's largest shareholder, Europe and Japan control 54 per cent of the votes. The trio has formed an alliance which ensures that the bloc votes are delivered to the US' candidate. Europe is under obligation to back the US as repayment for its support in always ensuring that the headship of the International Monetary Fund, is held by the continent under an informal pact.

According to reports at the weekend, so far, US, Russia, Canada and Japan are lining up behind Kim alongside Spain, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia and South Korea. This follows a move last Friday by the US members on the World Bank executive board to block the board from transparently assessing the outcome of the interviews of the three candidates, which took place earlier last week.

With Ocampo's withdrawal for Okonjo-Iweala, his backers - Brazil and Argentina - may team up with the three African constituencies to vote for the Nigerian minister.

However, the straw poll held by the bank's board last Friday before Ocampo's withdrawal, showed that Kim was guaranteed 36 per cent of the votes, Okonjo-Iweala about five per cent and six per cent for Ocampo. The votes reflect the voting rights of the countries or regions backing each of the candidates.

The undecided were the European Union with 29.2 per cent; India, 4.6 per cent; China, 3.4 per cent; Switzerland, 3.0 per cent; Saudi Arabia, 2.4 per cent; and Asia, 9.5 per cent bloc votes.

Monday's decision by the bank's executive board was some three weeks ago clearly encapsulated for the members by the Financial Times. The newspaper in an editorial on March 27, in which it endorsed the candidacy of Okonjo-Iweala, said: "In this less than ideal world, Mr. Kim's appointment seems inevitable. But if the Bank's shareholders wanted the best president, they would opt for Ms. Okonjo-Iweala."

Will the board heed the voice of reason as the World Bank, for the first time in its 68 years of existence, chooses between candidates?

Well, if the Nigerian minister loses, as that fact cannot be discounted, given the high stakes politics, she can take solace in the immortal word of American journalist and writer, Damon Runyon, "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong...."

--- This editorial originally appeared in AllAfrica HERE

Monday
Apr022012

India: Leading the way on polio, energy innovation (PERSPECTIVE) 

(PHOTO: Polio victims in Kishanganj, India/TOPNEWS.IN) By N R Narayana Murthy and Ted Turner

India celebrated an historic milestone earlier this month when the World Health Organisation announced there had been no new cases of wild polio virus for one year.

That leaves only three polio endemic countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

To understand the scope of this achievement, consider that 20% of all births worldwide today are in India. According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), one child is born here every 20 seconds, and each has to be vaccinated in order to completely wipe out polio - from the most rural outposts to shanty towns in urban hubs and everywhere in between.

The achievement is a validation of the work of the United Nations, the public and private partners of the Global Polio Eradication initiative, the Indian government, and the people of India, all of whom united to solve what seemed like an insurmountable problem.

The victory over polio is also evidence that fast-growing nations like India can embrace economic development and sustainable development at the same time. India`s transformation on many fronts gives us reason to believe that nations can overcome disease and environmental degradation to become healthier, wealthier, and more environmentally sustainable.

It is estimated that India will soon surpass China as the world`s most populous country. As India grows, it is bringing millions of people out of poverty and into an emerging middle class. How India grows can show the world that harnessing innovative technologies, using sustainable energy sources, and engaging a young generation is a proven path to prosperity.

India is working with the UN to tackle these issues on a global scale. UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon is championing two new initiatives - Every Woman Every Child and the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative - because access to energy and improving women and children`s health are fundamental to achieving all our development goals. India is an example of how a commitment to these two goals leads to results.

A bright future for India begins with increased efforts to promote safe motherhood. According to USAID, today, India accounts for more maternal deaths than any other country in the world; avoidable complications during pregnancy and childbirth kill approximately 67,000 Indian women annually. These unfortunate statistics are a reality in part because many Indian mothers are still in their teens; nearly one-third of all women deliver a child before the age of 20.

The Indian government has committed to promoting maternal health and family planning, pledging to spend $3.5 billion per year on improving health services, especially women`s and children`s health. India`s ministry of health has announced it is strengthening efforts in the 264 districts that account for nearly 70% of all infant and maternal deaths. The government is implementing a Mother and Child Tracking System, which tracks every pregnant woman by name for the provision of timely antenatal care, institutional delivery and postnatal care, and immunizations for newborns.

Innovations in health are being matched with a bold effort to find new sources of energy to meet India`s growing demand. According to the UN, more than 280 million people in India lack access to electricity, and millions more suffer from unreliable and intermittent service. When Indians don`t have access to energy, they cannot improve their health and economic opportunity.

(GRAPH: Solar roof water heater/Watersystemz.com)In Bangalore, rooftops are dotted with solar-powered water heaters - now mandatory on all new structures. Underserved communities are experimenting with clean energy solutions. The UN Foundation, for example, through its Practitioner Network for Energy Access, is working with a range of businesses and civil society organizations in India to catalyze the delivery of micro-grid and stand-alone energy solutions to communities that lack access to electricity.

In India`s rural communities, clean burning cookstoves can provide a safer way for millions of people who live off the electricity grid to cook meals without emitting harmful smoke into their homes. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves has extended an invitation to the Indian government, as a leader on this issue, to be a leading national implementing partner in scaling up the market for clean cookstoves and fuels.

India`s leadership on sustainable energy is crucial because developing countries around the world want to replicate India`s success. India is now developing ways to bypass the plight of many developed countries, which rely excessively on a fossil fuel-based energy infrastructure. It also helps India fulfill its obligations to future generations for clean, sustainable energy sources.

India will have the opportunity to showcase its progress to the world in June when delegates from around the world gather in Rio de Janeiro for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.  As governments and civil society groups gather to talk about the future we all want, there are lessons to be learned from India`s approach to development and innovation.

To be sure, India`s embrace of sustainable development will take decades to realize. The size and scale of its challenges are enormous. But India doesn`t accept these challenges as intractable, and neither should the world. There is impressive evidence that India can achieve both economic development and sustainability at the same time. That`s good news for India and good news for the world.

-- Murthy is an industrialist and Turner is a media entrepreneur and philanthropist. This opinion piece first ran in the Times of India.

 

Friday
Mar302012

BRICS 4th Meeting: `Non-West, Not Anti-West' (REPORT)  

(Video via IBTIMES)

Top emerging economies, coming under the banner of BRICS, on Thursday criticized the West for financial mismanagement, called for a "merit-based" selection of the next World Bank chief, rued the slow pace of reforms in the International Monetary Fund, declared that dialogue was the only way to a peaceful resolution in Syria and Iran, but failed to go beyond motherhood statements and give the bloc a meaningful push.

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries took baby steps towards facilitating intra-BRICS trade and investment in local currency, but failed to reach any agreement on a BRICS development bank. They signed an agreement to extend credits in local currencies under the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism.

However, the suggestion for a BRICS Development Bank was pushed to a later date, since there were major differences among the members.

Spreading themselves beyond economics, the BRICS members articulated an alternative political vision with regard to current international issues.

(PHOTO: BRICS summit handout of leader photo op; l to r, Brazil's Dilma Rousseff, Russia's Dmitry Medvedev, India's Manmohan Singh, China's Hu Jintao, South Africa's Jacob Zuma) "The views were more non-West, than anti-West", explained an official. While these were mainly broad-brush positions on current events, their importance lay in the fact that five emerging global leaders actually sat across the table to agree on these points.

In a statement at the end of the plenary session, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, "The world is passing through uncertain times. The rapid recovery of the BRICS economies from the financial crisis highlighted their role as growth drivers of the global economy. Our cooperation is intended to explore meaningful partnerships for common development, address global challenges together and contribute to furthering world peace, stability and security."

In its Delhi Declaration, BRICS members opposed violence as a way of resolving political crises in other countries. "Global interests would best be served by dealing with the crisis through peaceful means that encourage broad national dialogues..." On Syria, BRICS supported the Arab League and special envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan.

On Iran, they observed, "We recognize Iran's right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy consistent with its international obligations, and support resolution of the issues involved through political and diplomatic means and dialogue between the parties concerned, including between the IAEA and Iran and in accordance with the provisions of the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions."

The BRICS nations put their might behind Afghanistan, saying it needed "time, development assistance and cooperation, preferential access to world markets, foreign investment and a clear end-state strategy."  Israel was rapped on the knuckles for its settlement policy, but BRICS advocated direct negotiations with the Palestinians. The underlying theme was a repudiation of the western developed countries' approach, without actually getting into the details.

In an action plan, BRICS leaders agreed to meet before United Nations General Assembly meeting every September, much like the Non-Aligned Movement and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation meetings; regular gatherings of finance ministers, central bank governors, trade ministers, national security advisers, etc.

(PHOTO: BRICS handout of finance ministers shaking hands in cooperation)But underneath the camaraderie and the determination to strike a different path, serious differences exist. On the economic front, it would be a tussle between India and China, while Russia is pushing the political agenda, particularly on Iran and Syria, where BRICS supported the Russian viewpoint. India and Brazil pushed through their joint pitch for reform of the UN Security Council, which China has not been enthusiastic about, although Russia supports it.

While the BRICS joint statement blamed the Eurozone crisis for the state of the global economy, Indian officials saw this as a way of deflecting criticism of China manipulating its own currency, which also leads to a lot of distortions.

The BRICS development bank too has been kicked down the road, because India still has many reservations. The PM, in fact, preferred to focus on improving the World Bank rather than creating a new institution, as China does.

"We must address the important issue of expanding the capital base of the World Bank and other multinational development banks to enable these institutions to perform their appropriate role in financing infrastructure development," the declaration read.

Indian finance officials see the BRICS Bank idea primarily as a way of legitimizing the use of Chinese currency overseas. Second, they feel that any BRICS bank would essentially be a Chinese bank, because none of the other countries have the financial depth to fuel such an institution. India wants the global financial architecture to change, but at a much slower pace. South Africa supports the Bank, but Brazil cannot, because it already funds the Latin American development bank.

On the election of the next chief of the World Bank, the five countries did not even attempt to find a consensus candidate that could have been an alternative to the Korean-American chosen by the US.

The G20 received a unanimous thumbs-up as a forum for global financial governance and agreed to coordinate positions at the body. Russian president Medvedev said, "We confirmed all agreements on our cooperation in updating the international currency and financial system. One of the goals here is to renovate the IMF. We analyzed the situation in the world economics and came to an agreement on a further coordination of actions within our organization, including preparation for the next G20 summit."

South African president Jacob Zuma made a spirited call for including the development concerns of sub-Saharan Africa in the BRICS development plans. "We feel that Africa is being treated with respect. There is no feeling that people are looking down on our continent."

--- This article first appeared in the Times of India

Related:          BRICS nations stepping up innovation to improve healthcare: Study

Related:          BRICS: Not bound by ‘unilateral’ sanctions on Iran

Related:          BRICS countries call for World Bank Presidency voting review

Related:          Protests outside Hu Jintao's hotel

Friday
Mar232012

A New World {Bank} Order? (REPORT)

(Video, The White House)

(HN, March, 23, 2012) - And then there were two.  When US President Obama nominated his World Bank candidate Jim Yong Kim today just hours before the deadline, the choice was a surprise.  

(The World Bank Logo) The deadline for nominations to replace the current president, Robert Zoellick, is 18:00 (6:00P) Washington time (22:00 GMT) tonight.

"I am nominating Dr. Kim to be the next president of the World Bank", said Obama.  "I can think of no one more able to help families, communities, and entire nations break out of poverty, which is the stated goal of the World Bank," he said.

Obama pointed to Dr. Kim's international experience in his statement "He has worked in rural villages and squatter settlements just as he has worked in the halls of power and privilege."

Dr. Kim is a US academic who currently heads Dartmouth College and is by career, a doctor and former director of the HIV/Aids department at the World Health Organization. Dr. Kim also co-founded the health organization `Partners in Health' in 1987 along with Dr. Paul Farmer; and has been lauded on innovation lists from Time to Fast Company.

Paul Farmer, chair of the Department of Global Health at Harvard University, praised the nomination.  "It is time for a development professional to lead the world's leading development agency," he said.

The pick for one of the world's leading development banks could have also gone to another well-known American who openly campaigned for the job, global economist Jeffrey Sachs.

(PHOTO: Dr. Jeffrey Sachs/The Earth Institute) Earth Institute founder, UN advisor, emerging market government consultant Jeffrey Sachs announced his own bid for the World Bank presidency last Fall saying, "The inside process has produced 11 out of 11 politically-orientated appointments.  Not one of them has been a development professional. It has been seven bankers, three defense or military officials, and one congressman."

But following Dr. Kim's nomination, Sachs announced his withdrawal from the race tweeting,   "Jim Kim is a superb nominee for WB. I support him 100%. I thank all who supported me and know they'll be very pleased with today's news".

Sachs had support from several developing countries of the G20 including Costa Rica, Kenya, Haiti, Jordan, Malaysia, East Timor, Bhutan, Guatemala and Chile who openly backed his bid.

Dr. Kim, 52, had not been among the names rumored to be under consideration by President Obama, which included former White House adviser Larry Summers, Pepsi head Indra Nooyi,  UN ambassador Susan Rice, economist Laura Tyson, Senator John Kerry and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"This is one of the most critical institutions fighting poverty and providing assistance to developing countries in the world today," Dr Kim said in a letter to students at his university.

AFRICA'S CHOICE

The nomination has set up a two person race for the Bank's top spot as three African countries - Angola, Nigeria and South Africa have pledged their support to Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, the Nigerian Finance minister and a respected economist, diplomat and former World Bank managing director, as their World Bank choice.

(PHOTO: Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala/The Nation) Of the competition Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala has said: "I consider the World Bank a very important institution for the world, and particularly for developing countries deserving of the best leadership, so I look forward to a contest of very strong candidates.  And am I confident? Absolutely."

It was also believed that Brazil was set to nominate former Colombian finance minister, Jose Antonio Ocampo, but on Thursday, Colombia's current finance minister, Juan Carlos Echeverry, said the country was instead focused on a bid for the presidency of the International Labor Organization which it felt it could win.  Mr. Ocampo had agreed to stand for the World Bank post, but Brazil, needed Colombia's support to proceed.  It is unclear if they will nominate someone else by tonight's deadline.

HOW DOES THE WORLD BANK CHOOSE ITS LEADERS?

A US citizen has led the Bank since it was founded in 1944, but developing nations say it is time for change.  The World Bank presidency is chosen by the organization's board, which has 25 representatives of the Bank's 187 member countries.  Some, like the US and the UK have their own seats, like the UN Security Council. Others are grouped by constituencies.

The goal is to choose a new president by consensus, but a simple majority will do. Votes in the World Bank - and in the IMF too - are weighted by financial contribution.  The US accounts for 16% of the vote; EU countries have 29% and Japan as the next largest voting partner.

The World Bank has 13,000 staff in more than 100 countries, and loan funding is expected to reach $26 billion this year.

G8 ECONOMIC DOMINANCE

In recent years the emerging markets of the world have loudly voiced their opinion that the 'monopoly' of G8 dominance over the world's economic system must be changed to incorporate the fastest growing, largest populations of the world such as Asia, Africa and Latin America into the decision making process.

The United States will now face its first unprecedented challenge to its hold on the World Bank presidency with at least one candidate in opposition; setting up the first contested bid for the top job at the global development lender.

The rise of emerging economies such as China, India, Russia and Brazil has put pressure on the United States and Europe to throw open the selection process for both the Bank and the IMF tho these giants have quietly accepted the situation. Mexico, to its credit as this year’s chair of the G20 did not hesitate to make a bid for the IMF leadership last year.

(PHOTO: Christine Lagarde/Wikipedia) The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were created at the conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire in 1944 as a way to standardize trade between nations after the devastation of the Great Depression and World War II.  An unspoken agreement has  traditionally seen a US national head the World Bank and a European run the IMF - currently France's Christine Lagarde.

And it seems the `Geographic Gap' (tm) countries (*HUM research) have support in their arguments for more inclusion.  Recently three former chief economists of the World Bank - Francois Bourguignon, Nicholas Stern and Joseph Stiglitz wrote an editorial saying about the World Bank selection process, "To say it is merit-based, and to choose an American repeatedly, shows scant respect to the citizens of other countries". 

Other critics - from academics to non-governmental organizations - have long argued that the World Bank is ineffectual and even damaging to developing countries because of its emphasis on free market economics. 

The current president, Robert Zoellick, is to step down from his role at the institution when his five-year term comes to an end on 30 June.

(PHOTO: Paul Wolfowitz/Wikipedia) Mr. Zoellick, 58, was nominated for the role in 2007 by then US President George W. Bush, following an employee relationship scandal between then World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz who resigned when it was discovered he had negotiated preferential compensation treatment  for his girlfriend Shaha Riza with the US State Department, shortly after he became bank president in 2005.

The deadline for nominations is 6 p.m. Washington time (2200 GMT). Then the World Bank board of member countries will shortlist the names of two or three candidates and finalize its choice by the time of IMF and World Bank semi-annual meetings on April 21.

--- HUMNEWS, (c) 2012

RELATED:  Kenya, End U.S. Monopoly Over World Bank (Perspective)

RELATED:  Claude Smadja, An emerging-market coalition (Perspective)

Tuesday
Feb212012

10 million Africans face starvation (REPORT) 

 By Mel Frykberg

(GRAPHIC: FEWS Net)The UN warned on Saturday that 10 million people in Africa’s Sahel region faced starvation and called for a greater humanitarian response to the crisis, which is threatening eight countries, particularly Niger, where at least half of those at risk are situated. The Sahel countries include parts of Senegal, southern Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, southern Algeria, Niger, northern Nigeria, Chad, Sudan and South Sudan, northern Cameroon and Eritrea.

Helen Clark, the UN development programme’s administrator, and the under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs and UN emergency relief coordinator, Valerie Amos, made the appeal during a visit to Niger’s Tillabery region.

Their visit entailed an inspection of an agricultural project supported by the UN, which grows vegetables in a sustainable way, while simultaneously improving the nutrition of the villagers and providing them with a source of income.

“This project shows how a tiny initial investment can make a major difference,” Amos said.

“Just a few kilometres from here, there is a village which has not had this investment, where people are leaving their homes and have taken their children out of school so that they can look for food,” she said.

(PHOTO: Aliyin Would Eleiat, the chief of a village in the Gorgol region of Mauritania shows 1 of few wells that still has water. It serves as the lifeline for 75 families/Irina Fuhrmann, OXFAM)Clark stated that the wider crisis in the Sahel, where poor harvests following repeated droughts had caused severe shortages, threatened 10 million people in desperate need of assistance.

Furthermore, international non-governmental organisations warned that the Sahel could be crippled by this year.

Oxfam has announced that harvests plummeted 25% in the region compared to 2010 because of lack of rains. This will leave more than one million children threatened with severe malnutrition.

---This piece originally appeared in South Africa's New Age

RELATED:

(PHOTO: Baaba Maal with Oxfam in Mauritania/OXFAM)Senegal's Baaba Maal visits Mauritania with Oxfam: "The scale of this crisis is so great that I have to speak out so that the world reacts"

During a 48 hour visit to the Gorgol region of Mauritania, the musician Baaba Maal discovered the harsh reality for communities affected by a food crisis that now touches one in four people across the country. Today 700,000 people are food insecure in Mauritania.

"What is happening in this part of Africa is so close to my heart. People are suffering, especially children. I cannot watch and do nothing,” declared Senegalese singer Baaba Maal after visiting Mauritanian communities at the center of the current food crisis in the Sahel. Low rainfall, poor harvests, a lack of pasture and rising food prices are among the key factors driving this crisis.

Baaba Maal, who met populations in the south of the country, not far from his home village in Senegal, noted: “Some families have almost nothing to eat, and I worry about how they will feed themselves until the next harvest.”

(PHOTO: The Senegal River, which forms the natural border between Mauritania & Senegal, is too low for the crop season/Irina Fuhrmann, OXFAM)The Senegalese singer, internationally renowned and recognized for his commitment to development in Africa, launched an appeal to the international community for urgent action: “We cannot watch and do nothing while our brothers and sisters in Mauritania are victims of such a crisis. I have been able to see the solutions that are being put in place. We have to support and strengthen them."

"I met Hamila, a mother of five children, who had just bought a bag of rice thanks to money provided by Oxfam. This money will allow her to feed her family over the coming weeks. Hamila is among the most vulnerable people in her community but there are many other people who need our help,” explained Baaba Maal.

Last December, Oxfam and its partners launched a humanitarian response in the south of Mauritania in order to provide assistance to 30,000 people, and are planning to scale up operations to avoid a major crisis. In coordination with the emergency plan developed by the Government, the organisation has put in place cash transfers to allow populations to protect their livelihoods. Other actions to improve access to clean drinking water are also underway in order to prevent water-borne diseases that lead to malnutrition, especially in children.

"When I was young, this region was totally green but every year I see it becoming more and more dry. Yet water is there, in the river and in the ground. We have to work together and join forces to solve the problem, so that we never see this situation repeated again,” added Baaba Maal.

Oxfam is calling for urgent interventions to avoid the worst over the coming months, as well as long-term investments to strengthen the resilience of populations, allow communities to cope with bad years, and prevent crises of the future. As well as Mauritania, Oxfam is actively supporting communities affected by this crisis in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Senegal.

--- This piece originally appeared on OXFAM

Thursday
Feb162012

Warnings of Second African Drought in Sahel (NEWS BRIEF)

As many as 10 million people are threatened by drought in the Sahel. CREDIT: Shannon Howard/WFP

(HN, February 16, 2012) -- A persistent drought in the Sahel region of Africa could turn into a famine and threaten up to 10-million people.

This was the main conclusion of an emergency meeting of UN agencies, NGOs, governments and donors hosted Wednesday in Rome by the World Food Programme (WFP).

"We have a short time to act. We have two to three months, no more than that," the head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, José Graziano da Silva, said in no uncertain terms at a press conference after the meeting.

Also attending were representatives of the African Union and the Economic Community Of West African States - as well as the executive director of WFP, Josette Sheeran, the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, Valerie Amos, the administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Helen Clark, the assistant administrator of USAID, Nancy Lindborg and the EU commissioner for humanitarian aid, Kristalina Georgieva.

Said Sheeran: "We are having an emergency meeting to avoid a full blown emergency, before we see the effects which are long lasting and devastating. We know what needs to be done. We have learned some lessons from the Horn of Africa. While we can't prevent drought, we can prevent famine. "

More than 10 million people in the Sahel are threatened because late and erratic rains have ruined harvests in parts of Niger, Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Senegal, Gambia, Burkina Faso and northern Nigeria.

Food shortages have pounded the region at least five times in the past 10 years. Farmers in the region have seen harvests fall by 14 percent in Burkina Faso and 46 percent in Mauritania, says WFP.

The government of Niger says that over 5.5 million people in the country are at risk of going hungry and that a rapid response will be needed to avert a full scale food crisis.  In Chad, 6 out of 11 regions in the Sahelian parts of the country are reporting “critical” levels of malnutrition, with the other 5 at levels described as “serious”.

However the crisis cannot only be blamed on Mother Nature - fighting in Mali has resulted in thousands of refugees fleeing into neighbouring states, including Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso.

- HUMNEWS staff

Friday
Jan272012

Nigeria's Boko Haram vows to fight until country establishes sharia law

A spokesman for Boko Haram tells the Guardian exclusively that the Islamist group says it will not stop deadly attacks until country is ruled according to dictates of Allah.

The Islamist group Boko Haram, which has killed almost 1,000 people in Nigeria, will continue its campaign of violence until the country is ruled by sharia law, a senior member has told the Guardian.

"We will consider negotiation only when we have brought the government to their knees," the spokesman, Abu Qaqa, said in the group's first major interview with a western newspaper. "Once we see that things are being done according to the dictates of Allah, and our members are released [from prison], we will only put aside our arms – but we will not lay them down. You don't put down your arms in Islam, you only put them aside."

Qaqa, whose name is a pseudonym, said the group's members were spiritual followers of al-Qaida, and claimed they had met senior figures in the network founded by Osama bin Laden during visits to Saudi Arabia.

The interview comes a week after Boko Haram claimed responsibility for Nigeria's single deadliest terrorist attack, which killed 186 people in the northern city of Kano.

In an audio message posted on YouTube on Friday, the group's current leader, Abubakar Shekau, threatened to bomb schools and kidnap family members of government officials.

"If [security forces] are going to places of worship and destroying them, like mosques and Quranic schools, you have primary schools as well, you have secondary schools and universities, and we will start bombing them."

Shekau rejected calls for a negotiated peace from President Goodluck Jonathan, who on Thursday called for the shadowy sect to step out of the shadows and engage in dialogue.

Nigerian officials have voiced hopes for a negotiated settlement with "moderate elements" of the group. "Under the circumstances, if you look hard enough, you can find moderate elements you can communicate with," General Andrew Azazi, the national security adviser to the president, told the Wall Street Journal on Friday.

Western diplomats say Boko Haram has splintered and the hardliners leading the factions responsible for the wave of violence that has killed some 250 people this year appear to have rejected any suggestion of dialogue.

The Guardian was able to contact Abu Qaqa through an intermediary from the group's home state. The go-between has been in contact with the group since its inception, and met with its founder, Mohammed Yusuf, several times before he was killed in 2009. For most of the interview he used a voice modulator, but local journalists confirmed that his undisguised voice matched recordings of previous interviews.

Qaqa said Shekau and others had travelled to Saudi Arabia for training and funding. "Al-Qaida are our elder brothers. During the lesser Hajj [last August], our leader travelled to Saudi Arabia and met al-Qaida there. We enjoy financial and technical support from them. Anything we want from them we ask them."

He said recruits from neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger had joined the group. A recent UN report said weapons from Libya may have been smuggled to Boko Haram and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghre via Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

Security officials and diplomats in Abuja said they had no evidence of a link with al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia, but an official confirmed that "elements of Boko Haram have made contact with external groups". The extent and frequency of that contact was unknown, the official said.

In the decade since it first appeared, Boko Haram has graduated from crude driveby attacks on beer parlours to bombing security buildings in the northern Muslim heartland. Its most audacious attack targeted the United Nations building in the capital, Abuja, killing 25 in August. In recent weeks, Christians institutions have increasingly come under fire. A Christmas Day bomb attack on a packed church just outside the capital claimed almost 40 lives.

But Qaqa said the rights of the country's 70 million Christians, who represent half of Nigeria's population, "would be protected" under the group's envisioned Islamic state. "Even the prophet Mohammed lived with non-Muslims and he gave them their dues." But he said everyone must abide by sharia law: "There are no exceptions. Even if you are a Muslim and you don't abide by sharia, we will kill you. Even if you are my own father, we will kill you."

Speaking fluent but non-native Hausa, the lingua franca across the Sahelian belt on the cusp of the Sahara desert, he said: "It's the secular state that is responsible for the woes we are seeing today. People should understand that we are not saying we have to rule Nigeria, but we have been motivated by the stark injustice in the land. People underrate us but we have our sights set on [bringing sharia to] the whole world, not just Nigeria."

Sharia law is already in place across 12 states in the Muslim-majority north. Few believe the group's radical ideology has traction in Nigeria's mainly Christian south, which is also home to millions of Muslims and has so far been out of the group's reach.

Raising his voice for the only time during the interview, Qaqa denied reports that some governors in northern Nigeria paid the group monthly allowances in exchange for immunity from attacks. "May God punish anyone that said so," he said, before adding that the group has popular support in the north.

"Poor people are tired of the injustice, people are crying for saviours and they know the messiahs are Boko Haram.   "People were singing songs in [northern cities] Kano and Kaduna saying: 'We want Boko Haram'," Qaqa said, describing how the group can blend into the communities in which it operates. "If the masses don't like us they would have exposed us by now. When Islam comes everyone would be happy," he said.

Diplomats say Nigeria's security services are belatedly attempting to gain control of the situation, which was previously dismissed as an internal, northern squabble often fuelled by politicians with personal grievances.

"There is an ongoing review of all security agencies," the presidential aide Ken Wiwa said. "This is a relatively new phenomenon in Nigeria and the administration is working hard to improve its capacity to respond. There are various other initiatives which will be implemented but this is as much a political as a security issue."

An official said Nigeria's central bank was involved in measures aimed at strangling the group's external funding sources, including speeding up a cashless economy.

(By the Guardian’s Monica Mark in Abuja, Nigeria.  READ MORE HERE)

Sunday
Jan222012

Non Natives Flee as Nigeria’s President Visits bombed City of Kano 

(PHOTO: Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan meets the Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero on Sunday/PM News) By Maduabuchi NMeribeh/ Kano

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan today visited the city of Kano, the scene of the most deadly offensive, so far, by the Islamic militant group, the Boko Haram.

As it is the practice, Jonathan vowed to identify and deal with sponsors and foot-soldiers of the sect and also announced on BBC later that some arrests have been made. He was in the state to assess the extent of havoc wrought by the Islamic fundamentalists in last Friday’s coordinated attacks on the ancient city.

The Nigerian President told the BBC that some arrests have been made over the attacks which according to some sources have so far claimed over 160 lives.

“Some arrests have been made. Some died in the process. Some were suicide bombers,” Jonathan said. It is not clear whether the President was talking of fresh arrests or a couple of Boko Boko Haram members Police claimed to have arrested during the attack.

“There must be people who are sponsoring them. Terrorists all over the world have their source of income. We are also looking into those areas to make sure that the so-called Boko Haram… those who are encouraging them, those who are sponsoring them, shall be brought to book,” said Jonathan who added that the perpetrators of the dastard act will be made to face the full wrath of the law added.

While commiserating with the Emir of Kano, President Jonathan again promised that his administration will ensure that terrorism becomes a thing of the past in the country.

“Our coming today is to express our condolence to the good people of Kano over the dastardly acts. Those causing havoc will never succeed … The federal government will not rest until the perpetrators are brought to book. We will not rest until these terrorists are wiped out,” said the President.

“A terrorist attack on one person is an attack on all of us,” Jonathan said as he inspected sites targeted in the violence, and met the city’s top Muslim traditional leader, Emir Ado Bayero, pledging to boost security”, he added.

The attacks have been described the biggest single attack so far since about five years of the sect’s insurgency.

Last Friday, Boko Haram held Kano hostage bombing and shooting in about 10 locations.  In the aftermath, about 200 people died, many were injured. Government and church properties were burnt.

Since the attack that sent fear and panic into the ancient city, security has been beefed up with soldiers taking over the streets.

Non-natives from the South were left with no choice than to embark on panic travelling.  Many Southerners today turned up at the New Road Park in Sabon Gari, to board luxury buses to the Eastern parts of Nigeria, as government eased the 24-hour curfew into a dusk to dawn curfew.

President Jonathan at Emir Ado Bayero’s palace, commiserated with the Emir and the people of Kano just as he regretted the multiple bomb attacks on security formations and Saint Louis Catholic Church at Bompai.

“The people doing this are not spirit. They are among us. I seek the cooperation of all towards getting those involved in the havoc arrested. I assure Nigerians that the government will intensify its security in Kano and all over the country to unravel the misery behind this act.

“What is good for us as a nation is to look at our neighbours, to know what they do to enable us fish out these miscreants because if we don’t, one day, it may be against us. We will not rest until these terrorists are wiped out,” the President stated.

He charged Nigerians to be watchful of bad elements in the society who continue to distract peace and stability, adding that, “Nigerians should do everything possible to make sure that miscreants in our midst are immediately reported to security agents. It is the responsibility of all Nigerians to fight militancy.”

The President also promised to order the deployment of more security agents in the state in addition to providing them with modern security equipment and logistics.

“Any dangerous attack on any community is an attack to Nigerians. In some years back, none of us will believe that Nigeria will be involved in suicide bombing mission,” he stated.

He therefore appealed to traditional rulers and patriotic Nigerians to educate their people on the inherent danger of terrorism.  While receiving the President in his palace, Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero, in an emotional-laden tune condemned the perpetrators of the attack on Innocent citizens in the state, adding that Kano is now plunged into fears and apprehension which he urged the Federal Government to do everything to tackle the menace of insecurity in the country.

The Emir reiterated the fact that Kano being the most populous state in the country with a number of border communities should have adequate security personnel.

The President later visited the affected areas of the bomb blasts including the badly torched Zone 1 headquarters of the Police to access the damage. He promised that the Federal and state governments were ready to assist the injured and relatives of the dead during the attack.

--- Reporters Maduabuchi NMeribeh in Kano with Ayorinde Oluokun in Abuja contributed to this report which first ran in PM News Nigeria. 

Friday
Jan202012

Nigeria Under Attack (NEWS BRIEF)

(UPDATED JAN 21 1900GMT) - A series of coordinated bomb attacks on Friday aimed at key government installations in the northern Nigerian city of Kano has killed more than 150 people, with death tolls still rising.An eyewitness photo of one of the attacks in Kano. CREDIT: Vanguard Newspaper

Eyewitness reports said among the installations hit were the police headquarters for the north and the passport office.

Channels Television, an independent broadcaster based in Lagos, said in a Twitter message that its Kano correspondent, Enenche Akogwu, 31, was shot dead in the mayhem by suspected members of Boko Haram.

The apparently coordinated attacks represent one of the worst and most brazen assaults on the country, and follows a Christmas Day bomb attack on a Catholic church near Abuja and another on the UN headquarters in the capital in August, which killed more than 20 people.

"The nature of these attacks has sickened people around the world...There is no place in today's world for such barbaric acts," said UK Foreign Secretary William J. Hague.

A BBC correspondent in Kano said he would be surprised if the death toll was anything less than 100. A mortuary official quoted by the BBC said exact casualty figures were hard to come by as many people were likely still buried under rubble.

Al Arabiya, quoting a hospital source, said 162 bodies were brought to area morgues.

In the Kano attack, at least six explosions could be heard. Eyewitnesses writing on Twitter said security forces moved in as firefighters struggle to bring some blazes under control. An immediate 24-hour curfew has been imposed.

And, in an unprecedented move, Nigeria closed its borders Saturday with Cameroon and Niger, ostensibly because militants move freely from those countries into Nigeria.

With more than 9-million people, Kano is the most populated city in Nigeria after Lagos and is the capital of the predominantly Muslim north. The BBC, which has a correspondent in nearby Kaduna, said the radical Islamic sect, Boko Haram, has taken responsibility.

The attacks come on the tail end of labour disruptions that virtually paralyzed the nation for several days.

As news of the Kano attack spread, the exasperation of ordinary Nigerians came through on many tweets. Wrote a Twitter subscriber named Isha72 in Zaria, Nigeria: "Lord we may never have it as clueless as this again in Nigeria. How much can we take?"

Tweeted another user named Matt: "Where we are headed is not pretty."

One reader writing on the Vanguard Newspaper website said the violence shows it is time for the North and South - respectively predominantly Muslim and Christian - to go their own, separate ways: "When will the Southern leadership stand up and say: 'Enough with this marriage with the core North?'"

Several foreign governments, including Canada, have re-issued advisories against travel to Nigeria.

- HUMNEWS staff

Friday
Jan062012

Tensions Building in Nigeria Over Fuel Hike (NEWS BRIEF)

(PHOTO: Intelhub)(HN, UPDATED January 8, 2011) - As Africa's most populous nation headed towards a nationwide, indefinite strike Monday over sudden fuel price hikes, efforts to subdue the situation by Nigerian lawmakers over the weekend fell flat.

An emergency meeting of Nigeria's House of Representatives passed a resolution calling on Jonathan to restore a fuel subsidy that has triggered protests and economic hardship across the country.

“We are sitting near a keg of gunpowder and we are playing with fire,” said Rep. Pally Isumafe Obokhuaime Iriase of the Action Congress of Nigeria. “This will be the last straw that will break the camel’s back if we do not act.”

The 'Occupy Nigeria' protests began to appear shortly after New Year’s, when the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan scrapped a fuel subsidy - a move that more than doubled petrol prices and sparked price hikes for transport. (One report said fares in Rivers State are now 300 percent higher).

Police in the strategic northern city of Kano fired tear gas Thursday to disperse protesters who planned to stay overnight in a major square.

In Kano, protesters said they were not only tear-gassed but also detained by police by the dozens. According to one report, a lawsuit has been filed against authorities in Kano state over efforts to silence the protesters.

Said one spokesperson for the plaintiffs, Jibrin Suleiman Garin Ali: "They beat us to a pulp, they injured several of our protesters, and some are still missing and we don't know their whereabouts."

A harsh police response has been reported elsewhere in the country, including Lagos.

Even with the president and ministers huddled in meetings, there appears to be no resolution to the crisis. With the participation of organized labour, the movement is now positioned to virtually shut down the country starting Monday - even though a court ordered trade unions to call off the general strike.

At least one travel site has warned travellers to avoid visiting the country early next week.

(PHOTO: ALLAFRICA.COM) The protests have lit up Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites used by Nigerians. Because texting is so incredibly popular in the country it has been a major tool for organizers to mobilize the masses.

Wrote one Twitter user in Nigeria regarding the planned Monday strike: "Monday is the D-day in Nigeria. #OccupyNigeria is shutting down the nation. Watch out."

Many members of Nigeria's large Diaspora community have been praising the efforts of the protesters, with some expressing surprise at the huge numbers of people standing up. Tweeted Nigerian-American Yetunde Taiwo: "#OccupyNigeria I am so 4 it. Finally Nigerians r mad enough 2 effect change."

- HUMNEWS staff

Wednesday
Nov162011

Nigerian Leads List of Africa's Wealthiest (REPORT)

(HN, November 16, 2011) - A billionaire from oil-rich Nigeria leads the Forbes Magazine 2011 list of wealthiest individuals in Africa.Africa's richest individual, Aliko Dangote. CREDIT: Dangote Group

With a fortune estimated at $10.1 billion, Aliko Dangote made his billions from a stake in the pan-African, publicly-traded company, Dangote Cement. At just 53-years old, he also has interests in flour milling, sugar refining and salt processing. Dangote now accounts for a quarter of the Nigeria Stock Exchange's total market cap. 

Dangote is among 16 billionaires identified by Forbes as Africa's 40 wealthiest individuals. Egypt clocked in with the most billionaires, at seven - and primarily from the Sawiri and Mansour families. None of the 40 wealthiest are female, Forbes said.

Documenting the true extent of wealth on the continent is almost impossible, with many dictators concealing their wealth offshore. In China and Russia, wealthy individuals have been known to threaten journalists who publicly document their wealth.

Even though it is home to Africa's wealthiest man, Nigeria has extreme poverty. These women are at a UNICEF-supported feeding centre in Katsina. Credit: M BociurkiwAccording to Forbes, Dangote's fortune "surged 557% in the past year, making him the world's biggest gainer in percentage terms and Africa's richest individual for the first time."

Dangote's base - Lagos - is set to become the most populous city in Africa, in already the most-populous nation in Africa - but one with extreme poverty, with the poverty rate above 70 percent, according to UN Habitat. According to Forbes, Dangote recently bought himself a $45 million Bombardier aircraft for his birthday.

Number Two on the list of Forbes' most wealthiest Africans is South African diamond magnate Nicky Oppenheimer. With an estimated fortune of $6.5 billion, he recently deepened his pockets by selling the family’s remaining stake in diamond miner DeBeers.

Number Three is Nassef Sawiris, who runs Orascom Construction Industries, Egypt's most valuable publicly-traded company, and is said to have a net worth of $4.75-billion.

Forbes acknowledges that much of Africa's private wealth is in the hands of current and former dictators. Among them it identifies two Nigerians: the late Sani Abacha, Nigeria’s former military ruler, who had stashed away at least $3 billion in offshore accounts; and, Nigeria’s former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, worth at least $12 billion.

Indicative of the inequality gap represented by the Forbes Africa list is that only six nations on the continent are represented: South Africa, with 15 wealthiest; Egypt, 9; Nigeria, 8; Morocco, 5; Kenya, 2; and Zimbabwe, 1.

- HUMNEWS staff

Friday
Aug262011

Suicide Car Bomber Attacks UN Headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria (REPORT)

Victims being evacuated from UN House in Abuja, CREDIT: Vanguard Newspaper

Latest Developments

  • UN revises death toll to 23, including 9 UN staff members; fears more bodies under rubble
  • 73 people injured, 26 of whom remain in intensive care; eight evacuated to South Africa for treatment
  • 50 suspects reportedly arrested, according to Nigerian Inspector General of Police Hafiz Ringim 
  • Vast majority of the dead Nigerians; 30-year-old Norwegian woman has also been confirmed among the dead.
  • Nigeria asks FBI for assistance in investigation
  • Deputy UN Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro and UN Security Chief Gregory Starr visit victims in Abuja
  • UN promises care of staff and continuity of operations; UN and Nigerian security officials rapped for lax precautions.
  • Embassies demand extra police protection in aftermath of the blast; French Foreign Affairs Minister Alain Juppé describes attack as a “heinous and cowardly act."

 

(HN, August 30, 2011 - UPDATED 0300GMT) - A suspected suicide bomber detonated a car bomb inside the United Nations headquarters in the Nigerian capital of Abuja Friday, killing as many as 23 people and injuring 73 others.

The UN confirmed Saturday that nine of its staff members are confirmed dead and several others injured. Of the injured, 26 are in intensive care - some of whom have been evacuated to South Africa.

The vehicle - reportedly a white SUV - roared past security guards Friday morning and rammed through two gates before stopping inside the entrance to the enormous building, inflicting maximum damage.

Known as UN House, the facility has four floors and is designed as an atrium-like structure. Since the vehicle entered inside the building it was able to inflict tremendous human and structural damage.

One source in Abuja told HUMNEWS that one UN agency - the World Health Organization (WHO) - has had two staffers confirmed killed. At the time of the attack, a WHO staff association meeting was taking place on the 1st floor, above the reception area. "That is apparently where many injuries and deaths occurred," the source said.

Migiro said the bombing was "a shocking incident, an attack on global peace and communities".

"I have looked at the ripped-up gate. It is amazing how this happened and we are grappling with that, now ... an investigation is under way ... We will see what we have to do better," Migiro, who was accompanied by UN Security Chief Gregory Starr, said.

"We are working as a team to ensure that the injured do get all the treatment that they require," Migiro said after visiting the hospital, where many of the injured were receiving treatment.

Starr said the UN had no previous warnings or intelligence about threats against its Nigeria headquarters.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the attack "an assault on those who devote their lives to helping others."

Aside from WHO, the building houses the offices of UNICEF, UNDP, UNIFEM and many other UN agencies. It also houses a travel agency and a branch of the UK-based Standard Chartered bank. In all 26 UN agencies are in the building, employing about 400 people.

The 23 death toll figure would strike many people as eery as it is the same number of people that died in the 2003 attack on the UN headquarters in Iraq, including  including the United Nations' Special Representative in Iraq Sérgio Vieira de Mello.

Said UNDP Chief Helen Clark: "I deplore this brutal attack against our unarmed colleagues who dedicated their lives to helping the people of Nigeria."

The bomb would have made a direct hit on a security desk at the front, the bank and travel agency and ground-floor UN security offices. It would appear the attackers had knowledge of the facility: Fridays are half-days at the UN in Nigeria and since the attack occurred at 1030am local time it was well before workers began to pack up their belongings for the weekend.

The attack would have come as a surprise to UN security personnel as Abuja has one of the lowest security phases in the UN system.

According to one source, a security clamp-down on Abuja took effect soon after the attack, snarling traffic to and from the airport.

The building is protected by a private security firm hired by the UN; unlike the nearby US Embassy there is no Nigerian security presence. A security building at the front screens all visitors and has x-ray machines to monitor bags and other items. It is a 10 minute walk from several embassies, included the heavily protected US Embassy.

One former UN employee at the building told HUMNEWS that he disliked working at the complex for two reasons: "Number one it is a natural target as all UN agencies are housed in one building, and second the security is rarely at the top of their game from what I have seen."

Soon after the attack, militants from the shadowy group, Boko Haram, the Muslim sect with reported links to al-Qaida that wants to implement a strict version of Shariah law in the nation, took credit for the bombing in a phone call to British broadcaster BBC.

Jennifer Cooke, Director of the Africa Programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies described the Boko Haram attack as "a major escalation."

"There's going to be a security reaction from Nigeria which has been fairly lax so far," Cooke told BBC News.

A UN official in Nigeria told the BBC that the UN had stepped up security at all its buildings in Nigeria in the past month after receiving information that the UN could be targeted by Boko Haram.

UN House in Abuja. Observers say the lack of protective, concrete security barriers on the approach road left the building vulnerable to high-speed vehicles. CREDT: HUMNEWSThe attack follows a period of relative calm. However, early this year, there were bombings connected with the local, state and national elections, including one in late 2010 during Nigeria's 50th independence anniversary ceremony, killing at least 12 at a market in Abuja.

"I saw scattered bodies," said Michael Ofilaje, a UNICEF worker at the building, which he said shook with the explosion. "Many people are dead."

"We condemn this terrible act, utterly," secretary-general Ban told reporters at U.N. headquarters. 

Ban reportedly told a Security Council meeting that the attack was "evidence that the UN premises are increasingly being viewed as a soft target by extremist elements around the world".

The explosion punched a huge hole in the building. Workers brought three large cranes to the site within hours of the attack, trying to pull away the concrete and rubble to find survivors. Others at the site stood around, stunned, as medical workers began carrying out what appeared to be the dead.

"This is getting out of hand," said a U.N. staffer who identified himself as Bodunrin. "If they can get into the U.N. House, they can reach anywhere."

Ali Tikko, who was in a building 100 yards (meters) from the site of the blast when it occurred told the AP, "I see a number of people lying on the floor - at least four or five. I cannot see if they are dead. There are a lot of security around."A wide view of the Security Council as Members observe a moment of silence for those who lost their lives in today’s tragic attack on the UN House in Abuja. CREDIT: UN

Ordinary Nigerians were quick to register the shock and disgust in postings on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. "Please pray for Nigeria in this turbulent time. The government has failed us in its entirety," wrote a Twitter user, Toni, from Benin City in Nigeria.

Tweeted MusaT from Nigeria: "When will our President stand up to the call of governance. Maybe he needs to be reminded that the Primary function of government is SECURITY.  Our president is not proactive on the issues of security facing this country, rather he is busy pock-nosing in the judiciary."

In a statement, US President Barack Obama called the attack a "heinous action."

"I strongly condemn today’s horrific and cowardly attack on the United Nations headquarters building in Abuja, Nigeria, which killed and wounded many innocent civilians from Nigeria and around the world.  I extend the deepest sympathies of the American people to the victims and their families, colleagues, and friends, whom we will keep in our thoughts and prayers.

"The people who serve the United Nations do so with a simple purpose: to try to improve the lives of their neighbors and promote the values on which the UN was founded -- dignity, freedom, security, and peace.  The UN has been working in partnership with the people of Nigeria for more than five decades.  An attack on Nigerian and international public servants demonstrates the bankruptcy of the ideology that led to this heinous action."

Many Nigerians and outside observers were upset that Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan took a full five hours to comment on the attack, which he described as a "barbaric, senseless and cowardly." The statement also promised to increase security in the nation's capital, and indeed, the diplomatic copmmunity this week demanded more protection in a meeting with government officials.

Jonathan visited the blast site Sunday.

Ban dispatched Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro and the UN security chief, Gregory Starr.

The Security Council observed a minute's silence before the start of a meeting Friday on UN peace keeping operations.

The Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Prof. Bola Akinterinwa, described the attack as a sad development and a wake-up call for security agencies in Nigeria.

- HUMNEWS staff, agencies, Twitter

Saturday
Aug132011

Polio Victim on Front-lines of War Against Crippling Disease in Nigeria (EXCLUSIVE REPORT)

Mallam Aminu Ahmed Wada. In 1965, a few years after polio vaccine was widely available in the west, he was struck by polio. Both of his legs are completely paralysed. He moves on two wooden crutches which are just a few inches high. His mobility depends on the strength of his arms and shoulders. CREDIT: M Bociurkiw/HUMNEWS(HN, August 13, 2011) - Even amid the congestion and chaos of Nigeria's second-largest city, it's almost impossible to miss the roadside property of the Kano Polio Victims Trust Association.

Scrap metal, wheel-chairs, and small, custom-made motorized vehicles for polio victims seems to stretch for as far as the eye can see.

One of the first people to greet you will be Mallam Aminu Ahmed Wada, polio victim-turned-campaigner. His association started about a decade ago with just a few members and now has more than 2000.

In the mid-1960s, a few years after polio vaccine was widely available in the west, Wada was struck by polio. Both of his legs are completely paralysed, and he moves on two wooden crutches which are just a few inches high.

As Wada speaks, sparks fly all around him as welders work wonders with metal pieces to construct these amazing devices. Some are simply plastic lawn chairs on bike wheels, with hand-operated controls for steering.

The devices transform the lives of polio victims, allowing them to travel to job, classes - and around the dusty streets of Kano.

The NGO buys scrap metal and transform it into wheel-chairs, motorized chairs and crutches for polio victims - which are then sold to the state government and others. Part of the association's work is to employ people struck by polio; Rotary International is one of its key supporters.

Wada is a tireless campaigner for polio eradication. He often travels with vaccination teams, urging mothers to vaccinate their children against the crippling disease that has struck thousands of kids in Nigeria, particularly the north.

"Look at me," Wada begs watching mothers during one rally. "Do you want your children to be like me? Please vaccine them."

In 2003, Islamic leaders in northern Nigeria organized a boycott of polio vaccinations, claiming that the vaccines were a Western plot to infect Muslims and make them infertile. But an enthusiastic campaign by UNICEF and others has helped to reduce the case load.

But total polio elimination - the hope of campaigners ranging from Wada to billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates - appears elusive. In Kano alone there have been six cases in the last three months, according to a HUM correspondent in West Africa.

Wada's son, Umar, was also paralysed by the virus in 2004. This was the time Kano State completely rejected polio vaccine because of the boycott. "I woke up in the night to find Umar's leg was weak," says Wada. "We took him to the hospital, but there was nothing we could do." 

Wada, and his wife Hadiza, have nine children. Hadiza is also a polio victim and moves around on crutches.

These devices transform the lives of polio victims in the northern Nigerian state of Kano. CREDIT: Christine McnabAlthough the numbers of cases have plummeted - last year there were only about 20 recorded cases -Wada is the first to tell you that there is no room for complacency. Recently, he presented a non-motorized wheelchair to a young polio victims in Kano state during the launch of a vaccination campaign.

Polio (poliomyelitis) mainly affects children under five years of age. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Among those paralysed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented. Once polio strikes, it cripples the victim for life. Prevention is primarily through polio vaccine, administered multiple times.

Only four countries in the world remain polio-endemic, down from more than 125 in 1988. The remaining countries are Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

With files from Christine Mcnab

Sunday
Jul312011

Fighting Severe Malnutrition One Child at a Time in Nigeria's North (REPORT/VIDEO)

- Words: HUMNEWS staff, with UNICEF
- Video: Courtesy of UNICEF Nigeria. Edited by Max Ramming; narrated by Maggie Padlewska 

 

 

(HN, July 31, 2011) - As government and aid officials fight to stem to tide of malnourished children in the Horn of Africa, on the other side of the continent, a proven method of quickly guiding children back to health is showing impressive results.

In Nigeria's dry north, a programme to endow individual communities with the ability to treat malnourished children has resulting in a sharp decline of cases.A weary mother brings her malnourished infant for the first time to a CMAM post near Katsina. CREDIT: M Bociurkiw

Malnutrition here, as well as in many parts of Africa, is not only due to lack of rain or climbing food prices. Aid workers say poor household feeding practices are also to blame: mothers either stop breast-feeding abruptly and too early or do not have the knowledge on how to prepare nutritious meals.

Dubbed the Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM), the concept is designed to nurse children back to normal over the course of about eight weeks. For the most part, children are treated at home with ready-to-use therapeutic food. It is a result of a close collaboration between the federal, state and local governments and communities, as well as UNICEF and the European Commission.

On a recent visit to a CMAM post in Katsina, mothers could be seen shepherding their malnourished children through a carefully-planned circuit. First come a check-up, then a consultation, and finally the mothers receive any needed drugs and anti-biotics, and food supplements, including the therapeutic food.

Careful records are maintained so that, over the course of eight weeks of rehabilitation, proper follow-up can take place. When the programme started, there were 100 cases a day treated; now, only about 20 mothers come in every day. "We are very, very happy with the results," said one health worker.

Midwife Fedosi Babendaga at the CMAM post. CREDIT: M BociurkiwThe programme is so finely-tuned that if a mother does not return for a follow-up visit, a trained community volunteer comes to knock on their door.

Midwife Fedosi Babengada says that, in addition to the case management, mothers are also offered nutritional advice on how to boost the health benefits of each meal.

Despite being one of Africa's most prosperous and populous nations, more than one million children aged five and under die of preventable causes every year in Nigeria. It has the fourth-highest number of underweight children in the world. This translates into more than two million children suffering from severe and moderate levels of acute malnutrition - most of them in northern regions.

CMAM reached about 54,000 severely malnourished children in seven drought-affected northern Nigerian states. It is funded by a 3 million Euro grant from the European Commission's humanitarian aid agency (ECHO).

The focus states border Niger Republic and the Republic of Chad - both of which appealed last year for humanitarian food aid following severe food shortages caused by the ongoing Sahel drought and climate change.

Apart from the effects of Sahel drought in Northern Nigeria, other major challenges in the region include poor child care practices - particularly low exclusive breastfeeding rates - as well as inadequate quality and quantity of complementary foods.