Archive for October, 2008

No Deferment on Bashir Arrest Warrant!

It is really maddening, but not surprising, to read African leaders “demanding” the UN Security Council defer the indictment of the Sudanese President Bashir for “genocide for mass killings in Darfur” by the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. This is yet another example of African leaders looking out for one another at the expense of their own people.

According to the Guardian article, arguments used against the indictment include the situation on the ground could get much worse, and the Sudanese government and its supporters may make it impossible for aid agencies to care for the Darfur refugees, which are valid concerns.

What is baffling is one argument used by the African leaders, that the International Criminal Court is “picking on Africa” by indicting Bashir. Are they serious?!?! Are they saying that African war criminals should be exempt from prosecution because they have already gone after the former Liberian President Charles Taylor? So no more African war criminals should be prosecuted until another war criminal from a different continent is prosecuted first? Or do we have to wait until one war criminal from each continent is indicted before we go after another African war criminal? Just incredible! This is mind bogglingly stupid and heartless! Any African leader who uses this argument again should be mercilessly ridiculed.

What is heartening is that the victims themselves want Bashir prosecuted:

The strongest counter to this position comes from an unexpected quarter – from Sudanese human rights and civil society activists who would surely bear the brunt of any government backlash. They insist that there can be no trade-off between justice and peace in Sudan.

“The survivors in the camps say only justice can make a difference. There can be no peace without justice,” Salih Osman, a human rights activist from Darfur and a member of Sudan’s national parliament, said during a visit to London this week. “The survivors say: ‘We have nothing to lose. There is no peace, and there is no deployment of the hybrid force.’

Who should the UN Security Council listen to, the self serving AU leaders who are protecting one of their own or the victims themselves? OK, if that isn’t convincing enough, how about taking Bashir’s past actions and history into account?

The second point Sudanese dissidents make is that the Bashir government only responds to pressure. It does the minimum necessary to deflect international scrutiny and as soon as it detects a relaxation, it goes back to business as usual. Bashir responded to Moreno-Ocampo’s announcement by going to Darfur for the first time and making a reconciliatory speech admitting there could be no military solution.

Osman Hummaida, another human rights activist went further in arguing that an indictment could usher in a more conciliatory government in Khartoum, which would strengthen the prospects for peace in Darfur and the south.

“In terms of the political agenda, it has impacted positively. It has demoralised the hardliners. The people backing reform are in a better position now,” Hummaida said.

“There are people in the [ruling National Congress party] NCP with a heavy financial interest. They want to engage with the international community and they may not let one person stand in the way.”

If these aren’t convincing arguments in favor of issuing the arrest warrant against the Sudanese president, then I don’t know what is.

The author also gives another great example of how indicting the then President of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, for war crimes may have hastened the fall of his regime. If members of the UN Security Council vote to delay the indictment, one message they may send to Bashir’s victims, however unintentional, is that his crimes aren’t on the same scale as that of Milosevic’s.

I hope the Security Council and the ICC do the right thing and give the people of Darfur the justice they want and deserve. If not, it may be necessary to start an online petition demanding the UN Security Council not defer the indictment, and that the ICC issue an arrest warrant.


The ICC “asked for more evidence” before it decides on whether to issue an arrest warrant. Lets hope this isn’t a sign of the ICC succumbing to the pressure of the lobbying by the African leaders.

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I just reread this BBC article from a few months ago about how a Chinese state owned bank is investing $9 billion in the Democratic Republic of Congo in exchange for mining rights. There was also a similar article where a Chinese mining company is investing $3 billion in a Peruvian copper mine.

On the surface these investments seem exactly what these two developing countries need, but in reality the Chinese companies will end up making enormous profits:

But critics say the problem is not just fiscal privileges.

The whole arithmetic of the deal unfairly favours the Chinese. At current world prices for copper and cobalt, they claim, the Chinese side of the joint venture will make a colossal overall profit of about $42bn after all the investment’s been paid.

That is between a 4 to 5 times return on their investment. I don’t see how anybody can argue that the people of DRC are the winners here. What makes the deal even worse is:

The idea is that China will recoup its total investment within 10 years.

Thereafter the joint venture – one third DR Congolese, two-thirds Chinese – continues to exploit the mine.

Why on earth should a foreign entity end up owning 66% of a country’s natural resources? Again, how is this deal in the best interest of the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo?

This is an ideal time to reevaluate the whole idea of giving for-profit companies or foreign government owned companies the right to exploit developing countries resources, where the investors reap extremely handsome profits while the people in those countries see minimal benefits.

Hence I am proposing forming community profit organizations (comprofit or CPOs), where these entities would bid for contracts to exploit natural resources such as minerals, oil, etc., where all the profit would then be invested directly in the local community and country: to build schools, hospitals, roads, etc. The difference between this approach and what the Chinese bank is doing in the DRC would be investing $42 billion vs $6 billion in the local community.

In order for this to work the comprofits will need to be run like proper, for profit businesses. The only difference between a for-profit company and com-profit would be where the profits go. In the for-profit case the billions of dollars of profits go to individuals and investors, while in the com-profit case the money goes to the people who own the resources. For example, why should a steel magnate be worth upwards of $20 billion or a foreign government owned bank make $42 billion while the people who own the resources get crams in return?

The challenge is the comprifit would need to raise billions of dollars in order to compete with the likes of state owned companies or huge for-profit companies that can offer $3 billion upfront to developing countries who badly need the resources. What I have a problem understanding is that why doesn’t the World Bank encourage such ventures? May be it does, and I am not aware of it, but more often than not I am reading stories of deals pushed by the Word Bank that favor investors at the expense of the people.

Comprofits could also raise funds from private investors, such as large pension funds, and other institutional investors in return for reasonable returns.

Finally, I understand that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are donating their fortunes to charities. Why not invest some of that money in comprofits? Not only would this reduce poverty and disease, increase literacy and build infrastructure, but the charities would also get a good return on their investments. I would call that a win-win.

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Split the ANC?

A lot has been written about the feuding within the ANC and the talk of forming a new party by some supporters of former President Thabo Mbeki. However, most of the articles I have read focused on former minister’s views as to why a new party may be needed, and left me (and I am sure many readers outside of South Africa) wondering if there was any grassroots support for it. This article in the Guardian, however, suggests that there may very well be support for it, at least in some regions of the country.

My concern is that the new party may not have a broad, multi-ethnic support, and could end up splitting the ANC across ethnic lines. The danger then is that violence could breakout between the supporters of the ANC headed by Zuma and the new party. What makes this fear real is the threat by the ANC’s youth leader “to kill for Mr. Zuma.”

I am not going to weigh in as to whether the ANC should split, since there are good arguments as to the pros and cons: A pro is that it is good for democracy and accountability to have two strong parties. The downside of splitting the ANC is that it could lead to gridlock at a time when South Africa needs real reform.

It may be inevitable that the ANC is destined for a split, but the ANC leadership must put the interests of the country before their personal ambitions, because the dangers of a split are real and could destroy South Africa. Zuma, as the leader of the party, has the power and responsibility to prevent the ANC from breaking up by addressing the legitimate grievances of those contemplating leaving the party.

The first, and main issue Mr. Zuma needs to address is the lack of respect shown by his supporters for the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. I would even suggest that, for the sake of his party and the country, Mr. Zuma should step aside until his corruption trial takes its course. Second, he needs to fire anyone in the ANC who advocates violence, and should start with the ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema. Otherwise we maybe witnessing the beginning of a dangerous period in South Africa, and Mr. Zuma may go down in history as the person most responsible for the aftermath.

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Counterfeit Drugs Problem

The BBC recently reported that Belgian authorities seized large quantities of counterfeit drugs destined for Africa. This is an alarming report and one of the most dangerous and pressing issues facing Africans today. The issue of counterfeit drugs is not new and will continue to get worse unless governments around the world and the UN start taking it extremely seriously.

Those who manufacture and distribute fake drugs are responsible for the deaths of countless patients and need to be treated as what they are: mass murderers. As such, governments in countries where these drugs are manufactured should be compelled to prosecute them and/or extradite them to countries where the drugs were sold and patients died as a result of taking the drugs.

According to the report the fake drugs were manufactured by a company based in India. The world, and particularly the west African countries where the drugs were destined must press the Indian government to fully prosecute the manufacturers. It is more than likely that this wasn’t the first shipment, and fake drugs made by these criminals are in circulation in Africa and murder charges should be brought against those responsible. Fake malaria drugs kill, and those responsible must be prosecuted for murder, and not be treated like white collar criminals and prosecuted for fraud.

Prosecution alone is not going to solve the problem since this is a very lucrative business, and other measures are needed to limit the amount of fake drugs being sold. Manufacturers of legitimate drugs, whose products are being counterfeited, need to work with African and other third world countries (who are bearing the brunt of this problem) to setup labs to test random samples of drugs being sold in those countries. I believe the best way to do this is to setup a non-profit organization, funded by the drug companies, where the organization would then be tasked to work with the drug companies, governments, hospitals and pharmacies to randomly test drugs, and also educate health workers and pharmacists to lookout for telltale signs of counterfeit drugs. On the surface this may sound like an unfair burden is being placed on the drug companies, but i believe in the long run these companies will more than get their money back since the reduction of fake drugs in the market will mean that the void will be filled by real drugs.

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