Archive for January 2012
By Hassan Isilow
There have been mixed reactions from regional experts regarding U.S president, Barack Obama’s decision to send five American military officers to South Sudan.
“I believe the United States is sending its troops to southern Sudan in order to protect its oil interests, because china is already there,” Professor Hassan Hajji Ali of the University of Khartoum told me in a Radio interview.
He said the U.S has strategic interests in the region. “Last year President Obama offered to send 100 American soldiers to Uganda where they would help the government there fight the Lord’s Resistance Army guerrilla group which has been operating in northern Uganda for over 2 decades.” The academic said although the U.S mission is still suspicious; he believes the Americans might want to help South Sudan fight against the North should another territorial dispute a rise. The United States strongly supported South Sudan’s drive for independence, creating speculation that the super power might be interested in exploiting the countries oil and other natural resources.
“I suspect the United States could be planning to attack Khartoum so as to cause a regime change,” said Journalist Ali Bashir, adding: “You know the United States has always looked for a way to get rid of President Omar Al-Bashir, but the people of Northern Sudan will oppose this American imperialism.” The comment comes as the White House this week announced that five U.S officers will join the United Nations mission in the capital of Juba to focus on strategic planning and operations. They are not expected to engage in combat operations, but will be armed for personal protection.
Obama issued a memorandum Tuesday declaring that the U.S officers could not be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court during their deployment because South Sudan is not a party to the ICC. The first of the small group of U.S. forces is expected to depart for South Sudan later this week. The Pentagon said there were no plans to expand the U.S. contribution to the U.N. mission.
Since gaining independence in July, South Sudan has been beset by internal conflict. Aid groups estimate that 60,000 people have been affected by recent outbreaks of violence, and the UN says tens of thousands have fled their homes and are in urgent need of high-nutritional food, clean water, health care and shelter.
Violence also has simmered on the new border with Sudan. The two countries have not yet agreed to terms to share the region’s oil wealth. In response to the violence, Obama issued a separate memorandum last week giving the U.S. the ability to send weapons and defense assistance to South Sudan. The Obama administration also has authorized American investment in South Sudan’s oil sector.
Additional reporting AP:
By Hassan Isilow
The ANC centenary celebrations were nothing but a display of elite power, where the country’s middle class drove to Bloemfontein to show off their stylish wheels. This is the view of most activists I spoke to this week. Ayanda Kota, chairperson of the Unemployed People’s Movement, believes it was wrong for the ruling party to spend R100 million on celebrations yet thousands of South Africans are unemployed.
“R100 million was spent on celebrations – spent to entertain elites, through playing golf and drinking the most expensive whiskey. This is not a people’s celebration. We are absent!” the Grahamstown, based activist said. He added that most South Africans wished that money would have been used to build houses, create employment, and build schools for children who continue to learn under trees.
“During the struggle our leaders embodied the aspirations of the people. But once they took state power they didn’t need us any more. We were sent home. We are only called out to vote or attend rallies.” Khota stated that every year President Jacob Zuma promises to create new jobs but instead, unemployment continues to grow.
“How can a person be free with no work, no house and no hope for their life? Unemployment is sky rocketing. Most young people have never worked. Anyone can see that there is an excessive amount of poverty in South Africa. There are shacks everywhere,” the activist related. Many people I spoke to in he wake of the centenary celebrations in Bloemfontein this week shared this view.
An ANC supporter who spoke to me on condition of anonymity during the centenary celebrations in Bloemfontein said it was only officials in the ANC and those owning BEE businesses enjoying the fruits of freedom. The source said the party had seriously neglected the poor. Another ANC supporter said while she remained a committed member of the party, there was much more work for the party to do. “People are frustrated with the ANC for not fulfilling their promises. We thought we would have a better life after getting independence in 1994, but still we are trapped in poverty,” she said.
Originally Published on http://www.vocfm.co.za
By Hassan Isilow
He might be out of the limelight, but former South African President Thabo Mbeki is still popular among ANC supporters. In fact, some say he could easily win any elective position within the party, if he chose to contest. On Sunday crowds celebrating the ANC’S centenary in Mangaung responded with a huge cheer when Mbeki’s name was read out by both Baleka Mbete and President Jacob Zuma.
“Mbeki governed this country very well during his tenure. We still love him and would elect him if he chose to contest,” one ANC delegate who wished to remain anonymous told me during the celebrations. Mbeki received another cheer from the crowd when he was shown on the big screens that were broadcasting the proceedings of the event to more than 100,000 ANC supporters and 6,000 VIPs, including 46 heads of state.
Mbeki was also shown on the TV screens in the stadium lifting a torch carrying the centenary flame, which was lit by President Zuma at midnight on Saturday to mark the centenary. Baleka Mbete said the centenary flame would be taken to all regions in the country. “The flame will be in Bloemfontein for this month and will be taken to every district in the province,” she said, adding that in February the flame will be moved to the Western Cape.
However, elsewhere most South Africans whom I spoke to during the Celebration said ANC had done little to improve the lives of the poor. “Officials in the ANC and those owning BEE businesses are the ones enjoying. The ANC has neglected us the poor,” one ANC supporter told me. Another said while she remained a committed member of the ANC, there was much more work for the party to do.
Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma, took the opportunity to commemorate African states who contributed by supporting the ANC’s struggle against apartheid. He commended Mozambique’s role, saying the country’s former president, Samora Machel, lost his life because of his endeavour to see ANC succeed in attaining freedom. He also praised the late Tanzania President Julius Nyerere and his Chama Cha Mapinduzi political party for hosting and training ANC fighters. The other African countries that helped the ANC included Zimbabwe, Zambia Botswana, Uganda, and Namibia. Others are Ethiopia and Algeria.
By Hassan Isilow
KAMPALA- A few months back, I escorted some friends from Kampala to Entebbe international airport where they would catch a flight to the United States. But on our way to the airport, we were pissed off, when the blue lights convoy escorting the ‘big man’ pushed us off the road. The speeding motorcade appeared from no where, without prior warning. Usually traffic police officers riding on motor bikes clear the roads before such convoys arrive, but this time round this one came from no where. Our driver had to go off the narrow road and almost knocked a pedestrian.
I then asked my friends, where this very important person could be heading too. And why was he in such a hurry? One of my friends replied that the big man was probably rushing for supper at state house Entebbe and ‘feared’ his chicken soup could get cold.
We bust into laughter and forgot the misery of being pushed off the road for the first time. But as we approached Nkumba University, one more convoy escorting another ‘big man’ pushed us off the road again. This time all occupants inside the car were angry. Our driver Collin asked what exactly do these people in Government do? Why are they always in a hurry? We started debating the jobs of cabinet ministers and that of the head of state, then one funny friend said, he thinks all they do is waste tax payers money on buying expensive cars, yet most of the roads in the country were filled with potholes.
Another friend Patrick, who has been living in the United States for the past 10 years, joined the conversation saying, if our leaders were beyond doubt democratically elected then why would they need escorts? Who are they afraid of? Considering the huge size of our cabinet, how much do you think costs the taxpayer in terms of escorts for cabinet ministers, Resident District Commissioners and the District chairmen? Well some might urge that with the history of coups in Uganda the President and his vice should be entitled to escorts and a convoy. But I also think the tax payers needs to know what these officials use these motorcades (Convoys) for, because some of them abuse this privilege. For instance Former US Vice President Dick Cheney was accused of deploying amulti-vehicle motorcade complete with blocked streets and a police escort —allegedly to take his dog for a regular vet check-up.
I think the money used on these convoys and big cars for Government officials could better be used to fix our potholed roads and stock drugs in hospitals. Imagine how much ART drugs would that money purchase? And how many Ambulances would that money buy? How many kilometers of roads would that money build? I believe our tax is wasted on military and police escorts for these big men and women.
I can imagine the look on the faces of these officials whenever they drive past our potholed roads. How do they really feel?