Agents of Change - National Review congratulates

If you have ever wondered how China got to this stage as a major economic power in the world today, follow Mun C. Tsang’s peek into how the country’s educational plans have evolved to transform the largest populous nation in the world into the most prosperous one.

Rose Rindap Manko assesses Sino-Nigerian economic relations in the last one and half decade, concluding that benefits abound in the connection between the two countries, just as the existing excessive trade imbalance needs to be adjusted.

Iran Deal and Future of Middle East

Sunday, 29 November 2015 00:00 Written by

Mustafa Folami writes that Iran’s ‘historic agreement’ in Vienna has the potentials of keeping the Middle East peaceful, though skeptics of peace in the region have not indicated any resolve to give the deal a chance.    

A Push for Western Sahara’s Decolonization

Thursday, 01 October 2015 00:00 Written by

For over forty years now, the people of the Saharawi Republic, which has been recognized by the AU and over 80 countries of the world, have lived under the colonial subjugation of the Kingdom of Morocco and its Western allies, prompting various campaigns for the decolonization, self-determination and successful independence of the Arab Maghreb nation

Anatomy of Syrian Crisis

Wednesday, 01 July 2015 00:00 Written by

The Chinese ask River gods for protection against floods. Each year, tens of millions of Indian Hindus make pilgrimages to the Ganges to seek spiritual cleansing. As a little Syrian boy stretches his hand to the heavens along the corridors of the Euphrates, you cannot be sure which of the gods he is calling out to.

It is clear on one ground that this was the same Euphrates  that have  fed the Babylonians, Assyrians, Nabatacans, Armenians, Persians, Byzantines, before the fall of Allepo to the Seljuk at the turn of the 11th century. Without doubt, it is to the God of Moses, Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad who had watched over the rise and fall of this various civilizations on the banks of the Euphrates.

As the ancient Syria fades away with its Semitic contradiction, Hafiz Assad swept to power in a bloodless coup in 1970.

Before Assad, the Middle East has been described by western Scholars as an obsolete term of expediency. It is used provisionally to refer to that strategic geo-locale which is more conspicuously defined by the culture of its communities than the territorial entities of its political units. It includes more than 20 Arabic-speaking countries of a combined population of over 150 million. It also includes Turkey and Iran, and it sometimes extended to include Pakistan and Afghanistan. Most political maps will include modern day Israel, with its mixed Hebrew and Arabic speaking population. This is what historian Marshall Hodgson refers to as the insightful neologism.

In the wake of the 1917 Arab revolt, Syrians expected the creation of an independent Arab state in historic Syria (Bilad Al-Sham) linked to a wider Arab federation. Instead, betraying their promises to the Arabs, the western powers subjugated the Arab East, dismembered historic Syria into four mini-states, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine, and sponsored the colonization and establishment of the state of Palestine.

In time, Syria gained political independence, but its separation from Jordan, Lebanon and the Arab world proved irreversible. Israel became a formidable enemy on Syria's doorstep and a permanent obstacle to its nationalistic aspirations. This revisionism reached a climax in the effort of the radical wing of the Ba'th party (1966-1970) to make Damascus the bastion of a pan-Arab revolution and a war of liberation in Palestine. This, however, only brought on the 1967 defeat and the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights. This defeat generated intense new security fears in Syria, gave new roots to revisionism and further locked Syria into conflict with Israel and its backers.

The 1967 defeat brought home the high costs of messianic revisionism and provoked the rise to power of Hafiz Al-Assad, a leader who, while no less stamped by Syria's grievances and dreams, was prepared to chart a more realistic course matching objectives and means. He scaled down the objectives, focusing them on recovery of the occupied territories, defense of the Syrian state, and the enhancement of its status in the Arab world. Yet, as the capabilities of his adversaries and the intractability of Syria's environment simultaneously increased, the widening gap between goals and means has persisted and the attainment of even Syria's scaled-down goals proved elusive.

But Assad refused to throw in the towel. He went on like a gallant soldier until the hand of death took him away at the beginning of the 21st century. For the first time in the history of Arab aristocracy, Assad installed his son as the next king of Syria.

Enter the Butcher of Damascus

The great North African historian, Ibn Khaldun wrote about dynasties in his Muqaddimah: an introduction to history. Ibn Khaldun had written that prestige in one lineage lasts four generations before it dissipates, it is doubtful whether the Assad lineage in Syria is slated for four generations.

The “crown” prince had been bequeathed his kingdom by autocracy - his father's will, and the accidental death of his elder brother, Basel, who had been groomed to rule. And it stood to reason that he would defend what he has been given; it was the most fearsome national security state in the Arab east.
Hamza al Khatib, a boy of thirteen from the southern town of Deraa, by the Jordanian border, would emerge as the emblematic figure of the war between the regime and its people. The boy had been picked up along with a number of his peers. They had committed the unpardonable sin of scribbling anti-regime graffiti on their own walls. His body was returned to his family a month later. He had been subjected to horrific torture, his knees and neck broken, even his genitals severed.

In the mind of the dictators and its enforcers, this was meant to do the trick and scare the people into their private homes. It had worked that way before, but the barrier of fear was broken. That grim deed strengthened the resolve of those who wanted to be done with the regime. The Syrians took their time to erupt. It was as though the people knew that they were in for a particularly grim and bloody struggle.

Tunisia had led the caravan and then stepped out of the way. Its upheaval was overwhelmed by the protests in Cairo. But it was Libya, flanked to the west by Tunisia and in the shadow of Egypt to the east, which raised the rebellion to higher grounds. For Syrians every Friday became the big day for protest. They gave each Friday a name and a theme – 'Your silence is killing us',  'the Friday of the free Syrian army', 'with us is God', and so forth.

In Leila Vigna's 'Syria: Anatomy of a Revolution', it was observed that the root of the political revolution started in February, 2011, in the heart of the old Damascus souks of al-Hariqa. A tenuous yet important signal heralded the revolutionary times to come. After agents of the security forces brutally arrested the son of a store keeper for wrong parking - a common-place arrest in a country where security forces have a free hand to do as they please - the local storekeepers closed shops, gathered in the souk alleys and shouted:”the Syrian people do not let themselves be humiliated”. It is in this area that the movement of contestation caught fire, effectively gaining national resonance.

The violence of police repression towards protesters before army tanks surrounded the city over the following weeks set the country on fire. As repression increased in the following days and weeks, protest slogans began challenging the regime and eventually called for its fall. Meanwhile, the uprising spread from one city to the next with a magnitude and speed unprecedented in Syria's history.

Protests are now being held with varying intensities in every part of the country, except some areas of the coastal mountain range where a number of Alawi Syrian's live - the confessional group from which the Assad family hails.

Several generations had already attempted to foment contestation against the regime that was progressively set up by Hafez al-Assad following a coup d'état in 1970.The repression of the secular left and Islamist oppositions reached its peak in the late 70's and early 80's, resulting in a wave of arrests. For example in March 1982 aerial bombings of the city of Hama in response to a revolt instigated by the Muslim Brotherhood killed between 20,000 and 30,000 people.

By the summer of 2012, the country was at war. This is not a civil war, as opined in certain quarters, but a war waged by the regime against its own people. Armed opposition groups are extending their control over   Syrian territories. By the tail end of 2014 the various contending armed groups have metamorphosed into what is today known as ISIL-Islamic States of Syria and the Levant.

From here we turn to  Ibn Haldun: ”The builder of the family's  glory knows what it costs him to do the work, and he keeps the qualities that created his glory and made it last. The son who comes after him had personal contact with his father and thus learned those things from him. However, he is inferior to him in this respect, in as much as a person who learns things through study is inferior to a person who knows them from personal application”. As the rudder of the Syrian state ship runs haywire on the international sea of world politics, the sweats of millions of Syrians in forced exile may galvanize into a greater Euphrates that will earn the mercy of the heavens for a political baptism.

Devil in South Africa

Tuesday, 30 June 2015 00:00 Written by

Shocking pictures and videos detailing the amount of barbarism unleashed by South Africans on their fellow brothers and sisters from the same continent in utter disregard of Madiba's words of wisdom above flooded the media in April. This incidence made not only Africa but the world at large tremble.

Nevertheless, Africa was shocked the most. What keeps happening in South Africa in a form of xenophobic attacks is uncalled for and definitely uncivilized in every sense of the word.

While violent conflict on the African continent is not a fresh development, the kind seen in South Africa repeatedly has a whole, different and annoying dimension, and propels thoughts with different perception of Africanism. In Nigeria particularly and across the 'Dark Continent', a feeling of brotherhood by virtue of African heritage is an attitude instilled in us by the exemplary past leaders. Late Gen. Murtala Mohammed was among the front liners in liberating South Africans from all sorts of inhumane treatment that was characterized by apartheid.

Conflicts in Africa generally take religious dimension such as those seen in Nigerian states of Plateau, Kano and Kaduna. In Central Africa, ethnic issues lead to clashes as witnessed almost all over the continent and particularly in South Sudan. Sometimes politically motivated crises are also seen throughout the continent. These are the norms when it comes to conflict in Africa, but xenophobia or 'Afro-phobia' as a South African termed it, away from the South African cities and villages, is such an uncommon occurrence in Africa.

The recent attacks on foreigners in South Africa was not the only  one in the history of the former apartheid country, but the one that unfortunately involved Nigerians in April of this year seemed to pronounce to the whole world that primordial attitude toward strangers is not leaving the country so soon.

Crowds started setting immigrants' businesses ablaze as attacks against foreigners spread from Durban to Johannesburg. Chanting and singing, machete-armed residents burned down shops owned by foreigners, including a Nigerian dealership in the nation's largest city - Johannesburg.

Violence targeting immigrants' shops started recently in the port city of Durban in early April. Residents have accused African immigrants of taking their jobs and committing crimes. The unemployment rate in South Africa is 25%, according to government figures, and the unemployed youths have been showing signs of becoming violent even before the April attacks.

Among the reasons South Africans give to flush immigrants out of the country by the sharpness of their machetes is that immigrants commit crimes in the country. President Zuma tends to tacitly agree with that by saying, "While some foreign nationals have been arrested for various crimes, it is misleading and wrong to label or regard all foreign nationals as being involved in crime in the country."  Jean-Pierre Lukamba, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo said, "They are using us as scapegoats. Every day, immigrants are living in this fire. It's not just attacks. It's institutionalized xenophobia. The government must do something. Those people aren't just mad for no reason. They want electricity, they want jobs, and they want water. They don't understand the history of Africa, this is perhaps the spine of it all.”

Perhaps this is what Nigerians find more relevant in the unfortunate incidence in South Africa – ignorance. Nigerians are proud that they were friends to the apartheid South Africa and went through a lot to help those affected out of it. President Zuma's comments were not reassuring at all, and at this point it feels like everyone (including the president) wants these unfortunate immigrants to leave for their home countries. Could it be that their leaving is the primary goal in the first place? Immigration concerns in South Africa have contributed to this suspicion. The government recently clamped down on immigration into the country, with work permits for foreign university staff not renewed and a refusal of visas for family members visiting foreign workers there. Xenophobia in South Africa appears to be more than gang craziness. Immigrants also accuse police of not doing enough to protect them as they were attacked and their businesses smoldered. What is not right in South Africa?

According to a 1998 Human Rights Watch report, immigrants from Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique living in the Alexandra township were "physically assaulted over a period of several weeks in January 1995, as armed Bantu gangs (the same people that carried out the April 2015 attacks) identified suspected undocumented migrants and marched them to the police station in an attempt to 'clean' the township of foreigners." The campaign, known as "Buyelekhaya" (go back home), blamed foreigners for crime, unemployment and sexual attacks. At some point even AIDS pandemic in South Africa was blamed on the foreigners.

A 2004 study based on a citizen survey across member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) found that Bantu South Africans expressed the harshest anti-foreigner sentiments, with 21% of South Africans in favour of a complete ban on entry by foreigners and 64% in favour of strict limitations on the numbers allowed. By contrast, the next-highest proportions of respondents in favour of a total ban on foreigners were in neighboring Namibia and Botswana, at 10%. Another study in the same year by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) of attitudes among Bantu police officers in the Johannesburg area, found that 87% of respondents believed that most undocumented immigrants in Johannesburg are involved in crime. This could be seen as a sign of bottled-up xenophobia within the police and the society that have been brewing in that region a long time ago.

On 30th May, 2013, 25-year-old Abdi Nasir Mahmoud Good was stoned to death. The violence was captured on a mobile phone and shared on the internet.

A report, 'Towards Tolerance, Law and Dignity: Addressing Violence against Foreign Nationals in South Africa' commissioned by the International Organization for Migration, found that poor service delivery or an influx of foreigners may have played a contributing role to the growing xenophobia in the country, but blame has also been placed on township politics for the attacks led by the people.

These past attacks were allegedly sparked by community leaders and this one was not different. Local media outlets say violence flared up in Isipingo, near Durban, after comments made by Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini, who said in a speech that foreigners are not welcome and must leave South Africa. Migrant workers from other African countries are seen by many as a threat to social and economic prosperity in a country where 54 percent of the population live on the poverty line, according to the World Bank. 

Though this is the first time Nigerians in South Africa are officially affected by the Bantu xenophobic attacks in the country, it enrages Nigeria to the extent that many want to stop patronizing any South African business here in Nigeria, if the South African government doesn't do something worthwhile on the condition of Nigerians attacked in its country. President Jacob Zuma did not help matters with his comment that he doesn't think South Africans are xenophobic, and that if they were, there wouldn't be so many foreign nationals living in the country. He echoed comments made by Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko, who said the attacks are Afro phobic. “It is African-on-African. It is not on other nationalities,” he said. There surely has never been anything like 'Afro phobia' in Nigeria, that's why Nigerians alongside other nationals from other countries whose brothers and sisters were affected by the devilish dance of South Africa could not understand this reasoning, and want nothing but the safety of their fellows countrymen.
“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” …Nelson Mandela

Niger Republic: Long Peace Threatened

Sunday, 01 February 2015 00:00 Written by

The Republic of Niger is faced with the threat of a shattered peace on a scale that is hitherto unknown