ECOWAS Lauds France’s Intervention in Mali

Ambassador Kadre Desiré Ouédraogo
Ambassador Kadre Desiré Ouédraogo

By Damilola Oyedele

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission has welcomed the intervention by French troops in crisis-torn Mali, where Islamic rebel groups are in control of the northern part of the country.

However, with France’s assistance, the Malian government has regained control over the central town of Konna.
President of the ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador Kadre Desiré Ouédraogo, according to a statement at the weekend, lamented that efforts to find solutions to the political crisis in Mali have not yielded result as the situation deteriorated further in the past few days.
“The commission reiterates its support and encouragement to the Malian Defence and Security Forces’ commitment to take all necessary measures to repel this attack. It commends the efforts of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff in the implementation of Resolution 2085 of the UN Security Council,” he said.

He cautioned against any action by any group or individual to derail the transition process warning that such an act would be met with sanctions.
He added that measures would be taken to implement the decision of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, which authorised the immediate deployment of troops in Mali.

Meanwhile, the Authority of Heads of State and Government has urged the Transitional Authority of Mali to expedite action on the establishment of an agency responsible for political dialogue with rebel groups, which renounced terrorism and violence and recognised the territorial integrity and secularity of Mali.

It also authorised the immediate deployment of troops to assist the Malian army defend the territorial integrity of the country to conform to the UN Security Council Resolution 2085.

In a statement by the Chairman, President Alassane Ouattarra of Cote d’Ivoire, the body lamented the attempt by the rebels to capture Konna and progress southwards towards positions held by the Mali government troops.

“Authority thanks the Security Council members and the French government for their expeditious reaction aimed to stabilise the military situation in Mali. Authority commends the Malian Defence and Security Forces for their efforts to repel the advances by the terrorists and hails the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff for its exemplary mobilisation,” he added.
Source: This Day, 14th January 2013.


Statement of the President of the ECOWAS Commission on the situation in Mali

Published on Saturday, 12 January 2013

The ECOWAS Commission deplores that despite the efforts made to find political solutions to the separatist crisis in Mali, the situation has seriously deteriorated over the past days with the attack perpetrated by rebel groups on Government positions, which resulted in the capture of Konna, when the ECOWAS Mediation invited the parties to a dialogue on 10 January 2013.
In these grave circumstances, the ECOWAS Commission reiterates the Community’s commitment to support the Government and People of Mali to preserve Mali’s territorial integrity and combat terrorism.
The Commission welcomes UN Security Council Press Release of 10th January 2013 authorising immediate intervention in Mali to stabilise the situation. The Commission thanks the French Government for its initiatives to support Mali.
The Commission reaffirms the previous decisions of the Authority of Heads of State and Government on Mali. In conformity to these decisions and against the backdrop of Resolution 2085 of the UN Security Council, the Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government, in light of the urgency of the situation, has decided to authorise the immediate deployment of ECOWAS troops within the AFISMA framework. Measures will be taken to implement this decision.
The Commission reiterates its support and encouragement to the Malian Defence and Security Forces and commits to take all necessary measures to repel this attack. It commends the efforts of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff in the implementation of Resolution 2085 of the UN Security Council.
The Commission thanks the African Union, United Nations, partner countries and the International Community for their support and calls on all to actively and urgently contribute to efforts aimed at stabilising the situation.
It cautions against any attitude which hampers the transition process and the decisions of the International Community, which will be liable to targeted sanctions.
Abuja, 12 January 2013
H.E Kadre Desiré Ouédraogo
President of the ECOWAS Commission



Desmond Tutu wants Blair, Bush arraigned at ICC over Iraqi war

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu


NINE years after the invasion of Iraq by United States (U.S) and its allies, South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu has stirred the hornet nest, arguing that United Kingdom’s (UK) former Prime Minister Tony Blair and for President George W. Bush should be taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague over the war.

Tutu, who raised this position in UK’s Observer newspaper on Sunday, accused the former leaders of lying about weapons of mass destruction.

The former archbishop said the Iraq military campaign had made the world more unstable “than any other conflict in history”, he said.

However, Blair responded by saying “this is the same argument we have had many times with nothing new to say”.

Last week, Tutu, a veteran peace campaigner who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 in recognition of his campaign against apartheid, pulled out of a leadership summit in Johannesburg because he refused to share a platform with Blair.

The former Archbishop of Cape Town said the U.S.- and UK-led action launched against Saddam’s regime in 2003 had brought about conditions for the civil war in Syria and a possible Middle East conflict involving Iran.

“The then leaders of the United States (Bush) and Great Britain (Blair) fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the spectre of Syria and Iran before us,” he said.

He added: “The question is not whether Saddam Hussein was good or bad or how many of his people he massacred. The point is that Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair should not have allowed themselves to stoop to his immoral level.”

Tutu said the death toll as a result of military action in Iraq since 2003 was grounds for Blair and Bush to be tried in The Hague.

But he said different standards appeared to be applied to Western leaders.

He said: “On these grounds, alone, in a consistent world, those responsible should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in The Hague.”

In response to Sunday’s article, Blair issued a strongly worded defence of his decisions.

He said: “To repeat the old canard that we lied about the intelligence (on weapons of mass destruction) is completely wrong as every single independent analysis of the evidence has shown.

“And to say that the fact that Saddam massacred hundreds of thousands of his citizens is irrelevant to the morality of removing him is bizarre.”
Source: The Guardian, 3rd September 2012.


Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala On Forbes List Of World’s Most Powerful Women

By Juliet Alohan with Agency Report

Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (ThisDay)

Forbes, a leading source of reliable international business news and financial information has released its list of “The World’s Most Powerful Women” with Nigeria’s finance minister and coordinating minister for the economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala taking the 81st position in the politics category as one of only three Africans on the list – Joyce Banda, President of Malawi (71) and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia’s President (82).

Angela Merkel, German Chancellor topped the list dominated by women from the United States led by secretary of state Hilary Clinton in second place and 59 others such as Melinda Gates (4), Michelle Obama (7), Oprah Winfrey (11), Christiane Amanpour (53), Lady Gaga (14), Beyonce Knowles (32), Jennifer Lopez (38), Marissa Mayer – CEO Yahoo (21) and Sheryl Sandberge – COO Facebook (10) among others.

Other notable women of power on the list are President of Brazil, Dilma Roosseff (3), Sonia Gandhi, president, National Congress Party of India (6), Christine Lagarde – MD, IMF (8), Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, president of Argentina (16), Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma (19), Queen Elizabeth II of the UK (26), Julia Gillard, prime minister of Australia (27), Yingluck Shinawatra, prime minister of Thailand (30) and Sri Mulvani Indrawati, MD World Bank (72).

Forbes List Of World’s Most Powerful Women

1. Angela Merkel Chancellor, Germany

2. Hillary Clinton Secretary of State, United States

3. Dilma Rousseff President, Brazil

4. Melinda Gates Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

5. Jill Abramson Executive Editor, New York Times Co.

6. Sonia Gandhi President, Indian National Congress, India

7. Michelle Obama First Lady, United States

8. Christine Lagarde Managing Director, International Monetary Fund

9. Janet Napolitano Secretary, Department of Homeland Security, United States

10. Sheryl Sandberg

11. Oprah Winfrey Entrepreneur, Personality

12. Indra Nooyi Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo

13. Irene Rosenfeld Chairman and CEO, Kraft Foods

14. Lady Gaga Musician, Philanthropist

15. Virginia Rometty President and CEO, IBM

16. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner President, Argentina

17. Ursula Burns Chairman and CEO, Xerox

18. Meg Whitman CEO, Hewlett-Packard

19. Aung San Suu Kyi Chair and Parliamentarian, National League for Democracy, Burma

20. Maria das Graças Silva Foster CEO, Petrobras-Petróleo Brasil

21. Marissa Mayer CEO, Yahoo

22. Anne Sweeney Co-Chair, Disney Media Networks, and President, Disney/ABC Television Group, Walt Disney

23. Diane Sawyer Anchor of World News, ABC, Walt Disney

24. Angela Braly CEO, WellPoint

25. Susan Wojcicki Senior Vice President, Google

26. Queen Elizabeth II Monarch, United Kingdom

27. Julia Gillard Prime Minister, Australia

28. Nancy Pelosi Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, United States

29. Arianna Huffington Editor-In-Chief, Huffington Post Media Group, AOL

30. Yingluck Shinawatra Prime Minister, Thailand

31. Kathleen Sebelius Secretary, Department of Health and Human Service, United States

32. Beyonce Knowles  Actress, Entrepreneur, Musician

33. Diane Von Furstenberg Owner, Fashion Designer, Diane von Furstenberg Studio, L.P.

34. Helen Clark Administrator, U.N. Development Programme

35. Georgina Rinehart Executive Chairman, Hancock Prospecting

36. Amy Pascal Co-Chairman, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony

37. Margaret Chan Director-General, World Health Organization

38. Jennifer Lopez Actress, Musician, Personality, Philanthropist

39. Sheri McCoy CEO, Avon Products

40. Shakira Musician, Personality, Philanthropist

41. Mary Barra SVP, Global Product Development, General Motors

42. Zhang Xin & family Cofounder, CEO, Soho China Ltd.

43. Alice Walton Chairman, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

44. Laura Lang CEO, Time Inc., Time Warner

45. Angela Ahrendts CEO, Burberry Group

46. Sue Naegle President, HBO Entertainment, Time Warner Cable

47. Ellen DeGeneres Comedian, Personality, Philanthropist

48. Safra Catz President, CFO, Oracle

49. Laurene Powell Jobs & family Founder and Chair, Emerson Collective

50. Rosalind Brewer President and CEO, Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart Stores

51. Anna Wintour Editor-in-Chief, Vogue, Conde Nast Publications, Inc.

52. Helene Gayle President, CEO, CARE

53. Christiane Amanpour Chief International Correspondent, CNN, Time Warner

54. Rosalia Mera Investor, Philanthropist

55. Cynthia Carroll CEO, Anglo American

56. Cher Wang Co-founder and Chair, HTC

57. Abigail Johnson President, Fidelity Personal, Workplace and Institutional Services, Fidelity Investments

58. Padmasree Warrior Chief Technology and Strategy Officer, Cisco Systems

59. Chanda Kochhar Managing Director and CEO, ICICI Bank

60. Gail Kelly CEO, Westpac Banking Group

61. Margaret Hamburg Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration, United States

62. Ellen Kullman Chairman and CEO, EI du Pont de Nemours

63. Drew Gilpin Faust President, Harvard University

64. Shari Arison Investor, Philanthropist

65. Mary Schapiro Chair, Securities and Exchange Commission, United States

66. Angelina Jolie Actress, Philanthropist

67. Miuccia Prada Owner, Fashion Designer, Prada

68. Carol Meyrowitz CEO, TJX Cos

69. Ertharin Cousin Executive Director, World Food Programme, United Nations

70. Sue Gardner Executive Director, WikiMedia Foundation

71. Joyce Banda President, Malawi

72. Sri Mulyani Indrawati Managing Director, World Bank

73. Bonnie Hammer Chairman, Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios, NBCUniversal, Comcast

74. Chua Sock Koong Group CEO, SingTel

75. Sofia Vergara Actress, Entrepreneur

76. Ho Ching CEO, Temasek

77. Tina Brown Editor-in-Chief, The Daily Beast and Newsweek, IAC/InterActiveCorp.

78. J.K. Rowling Author

79. Chan Laiwa & family Philanthropist

80. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw Founder, Chair, Biocon Ltd.

81. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Minister of Finance, Nigeria

82. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf President, Liberia

83. Gisele Bundchen Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Supermodel

84. Mary Meeker General Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

85. Shaikha Al-Bahar CEO-Kuwait, National Bank of Kuwait

86. Marjorie Scardino CEO, Pearson

87. Solina Chau Director, Li Ka Shing Foundation

88. Jan Fields President, McDonald’s USA, McDonald’s

89. Weili Dai Co-founder, Marvell Technology Group

90. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey President, CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

91. Sun Yafang Chair, Huawei Technologies

92. Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi Minister of Foreign Trade, United Arab Emirates

93. Guler Sabanci Chairman and Managing Director, Sabanci Holding

94. Greta Van Susteren Anchor, FOX News, News Corp

95. Mary Callahan Erdoes CEO, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, JPMorgan Chase

96. Mary Callahan Erdoes CEO, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, JPMorgan Chase

97. Mindy Grossman CEO, HSN

98. Patricia Woertz Chairman, CEO and President, Archer Daniels Midland

99. Beth Brooke Global Vice Chair - Public Policy, Ernst & Young

100.Sheikha Mayassa Al Thani Chair, Qatar Museums Authority, Qatar

Source: Leadership, 23rd August 2012.


UN Names Okonjo-Iweala Member of Development Panel


Dr. Ngozi  Okonjo-Iweala

The Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been named as member of the 23 High-level Panel to advise on the global development agenda beyond 2015, a statement by UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday.

According to Ban, 2015 was the target date for achieving the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Members of the panle include: Fulbert Amoussouga of Benin, Vanessa Corrêa of Brazil, Yingfan Wang of China, Maria Holguin of Colombia, Jean-Michel Severino of France, Horst Kohler of Germany, Naoto Kan of Japan, Queen Rania of Jordan, Betty Maina of Kenya and Abhijit Banerjee of India. Others are Andris Piebalgs of Latvia, Patricia Espinosa of Mexico, Paul Polman of the Netherlands, Elvira Nabiullina of the Russian Federation, Graça Machel of South Africa, Sung-Hwan Kim of the Republic of Korea, Gunilla Carlsson of Sweden, Emilia Pires of Timor-Leste, Kadir Topbas of Turkey and John Podesta of the U. S.Tawakel Karman of Yemen, and the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning, Amina Mohammed, will serve in an ex-officio capacity.

He added that the High-level Panels’ three co-chairs are President Susilo Yudhoyono of Indonesia, President Ellen Sirleaf of Liberia, and Prime Minister David Cameron of the UK. ``I have asked my High-level Panel to prepare a bold, yet practical development vision to present to Member States next year. I look forward to the Panel’s recommendations on a global post-2015 agenda with shared responsibilities for all countries and with the fight against poverty and sustainable development at its core,’’ Ban said.

He said that the Panel would hold its first meeting at the end of September in the margins of the annual high-level debate of the General Assembly. The UN scribe said that the panel was also expected to submit its findings to the Secretary-General in the first half of 2013, and that those findings would inform his report to Member States.

Ban said that the eight MDGs agreed on by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000, set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV and AIDS reduction, and a ``Global Partnership for Development’’.

According to a recent study, the 2012 Millennium Development Goals Report progress has been made in some areas with three important targets on poverty, slums and water met three years ahead of 2015.

It added that meeting the remaining targets, while challenging was possible but only if governments do not waiver from their commitments made over a decade ago. The High-level Panel was part of Ban’s post-2015 initiative, mandated by the 2010 MDG Summit, at which UN Member States took stock of the progress made in achieving the MDGs.

Member States have called for open, inclusive consultations – involving civil society, the private sector, academia and research institutions from all regions, in addition to the UN system to advance the development agenda beyond 2015.

Ban, however, added that the work of the Panel would reflect new development challenges while also drawing on experience gained in implementing the MDGs, both in terms of results achieved and areas for improvement.

``The Panel’s work will be closely coordinated with that of the intergovernmental working group tasked to design Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as agreed at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June.’’
Source: Business Day, 1st August 2012.


Path to HIV-free world, by UNICEF, UNAIDS


THE United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) yesterday identified ways to ensure success in the battle against Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

According to the UNAIDS, the world has the tools necessary to achieve an HIV-free generation, especially if more attention is given to the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015, expansion of anti-retroviral kits to 50 million people by the same year, and the implementation of innovative prevention techniques to stop new infections.

The UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNAIDS, Dr. Michel Sidibe who raised this hope at the opening of the Seventh Summit of African First Ladies Peace Mission yesterday in Abuja, noted that for a long time, Africa had no other choice than to manage an emergency situation, but that now, the world had the science and ability to eliminate the transmission of HIV from mother to child.

Represented by the Country Co-ordinator, Kwame Amponah, Sidibe said that UNAIDS had created a new frame-work to galvanise support for reducing sexual transmission of HIV, improving access to treatment, social protection, empowering young people and combating gender-based violence.

He urged African leaders and the first ladies to work to ensure the elimination of the disease.

At the world’s largest AIDS meeting yesterday in Washington DC, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF, Geeta Rao Gupta, said that addressing poverty, violence and discrimination was a major way to protect vulnerable group of women and adolescent girls against HIV/AIDS.

Gupta re-echoed what has become a recurring theme of the meeting since the United States (U.S.) Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, declared earlier at the AIDS forum that gender equity was crucial to protecting women.

Topping the world’s anti-AIDS goals for women is the effort to nearly eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

According to a UNICEF 2011 report, 57 per cent rate of babies born with HIV have been dropping steadily, especially in developed countries for several years as more infected women receive AIDS drugs during pregnancy and while nursing.

The HIV adviser, UNICEF, Dr. Chewe Luo, said that the drop was not happening fast enough to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goals target date and that this was a key reason many countries focus just on protecting the babies.

President, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), Chip Lyons, said that “a fundamental challenge in HIV in children is getting fast, effective, and reliable testing, and getting back test results quickly for action.”

Lyons noted at a panel discussion of adolescent HIV treatment needs, entitled “Addressing the Psychosocial Needs of Transitioning Adolescents Living with HIV Since Birth: A Global Perspective” that for years, children living with HIV/AIDS were left out by conventional treatment methods, but that as treatment methods improved, more children were growing up with HIV and they faced unique challenges and obstacles.

Besides, experts, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UNAIDS have warned of growing cases of drug resistant HIV/AIDS in Africa.

But the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) insists that Nigeria is yet to record cases of HIV drug resistance.   However, the Director-General of NACA, Prof. John Idoko, said the country was on high alert following reports of resistance in other African countries and had intensified surveillance and monitoring.

Source: The Guardian, 27th July 2012.

Ki-Moon Wants Death Penalty Abolished


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon has called on member states still operating the death penalty to abolish its practice, and stressed that the right to life lies at the heart of international human rights law.

“The taking of life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict on another, even when backed by legal process,” Mr. Ban told a panel organised by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on “Moving away from the death penalty – Lessons from national experiences” at UN Headquarters in New York.

“Where the death penalty persists, conditions for those awaiting execution are often horrifying, leading to aggravated suffering, so death penalty must be abolished” he added.

In 2007, the General Assembly endorsed a call for a worldwide moratorium of the death penalty. Since then, the practice has been abolished by countries like Argentina, Burundi, Gabon, Latvia, Togo and Uzbekistan. More than 150 States have either abolished the death penalty or do not practice it.

However, Mr. Ban noted that the death penalty was still used for a wide range of crimes in various countries. In particular, he expressed concern that 32 States retain the death penalty for drug-related offences, and its use on juvenile offenders.

“I am also very concerned that some countries still allow juvenile offenders under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged offence to be sentenced to death and executed,” Mr. Ban said.
Source: Leadership, 4th July 2012.



Pope Benedict XVI Calls for Peace in Nigeria

Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict XVI has used his weekly address to an audience at the Vatican to call for an end to "terrorist attacks" against Christians in Nigeria.

Suicide bombings of three churches in Kaduna state on Sunday, claimed by militant Islamist group Boko Haram, killed at least 16 people, reports the BBC.

Revenge attacks between Christians and Muslims in Kaduna and Damaturu have killed dozens more.

The Pope urged Nigeria to build "a peaceful and reconciled society."

Speaking at the Vatican, Pope Benedict said: "I am following with deep concern the news from Nigeria, where terrorist attacks are continuing, especially against Christians.

"I appeal to those responsible for the violence to immediately stop spilling the blood of innocent people."

He urged Nigerians to "to cooperate in the construction of a peaceful and reconciled society in which the right to freely express faith is guaranteed."

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has said the attacks on churches suggested a "systematic religious cleansing".

State authorities on Tuesday imposed a curfew in Damaturu, and reinstated a Kaduna State-wide ban on movements.

According to Reuters, at least 80 people have been killed in clashes in Kaduna and Damaturu since Monday.

Source: This Day, 20th June 2012.





U.S to label three Boko Haram leaders as 'terrorists'

By Agency Reporter 

The United States government is expected to formally apply a "foreign terrorist" label on Thursday to three alleged leading figures of the violent Boko Haram sect, officials told Reuters.

Boko Haram Spokesman2

The action by the State and Treasury departments follows growing pressure on the Barack Obama administration to take stronger action against Boko Haram.

The group, which says it wants to establish an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria, has stepped up attacks on Christian places of worship this year.

Thursday's anticipated action, officials said, involves applying the "terrorist" designation to three men presumed to be central figures in the group.

The three individuals, an official said, are Abubakar Shekau, aged around 43, described as a Boko Haram leader who allegedly aligned himself with al Qaeda in a video message; Abubakar Adam Kambar, aged roughly 35; and Khalid al Barnawi, aged approximately 36. All three are native Nigerians.

The expected action will freeze any assets they have in the U.S and bar people from America from any transactions with them.

It is among the first such action the U.S. government has taken against Boko Haram, but falls short of demands from some U.S. lawmakers and the Justice Department to designate the entire group as a "foreign terrorist organization."

The State Department has been under pressure to act against Boko Haram for months.  In January, Lisa Monaco, the Justice Department's top national security official, sent a letter to the State Department arguing that the Nigerian group met the criteria for a "foreign terrorist" listing because it either engages in terrorism that threatens America or has a capability or intent to do so.
Source: The Nation, 21
st June 2012.


U.S to label Nigerian militants terrorists


The U.S. government is expected to formally apply a "foreign terrorist" label on Thursday to three alleged leading figures of the violent Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, officials said.

Boko Haram Spokensman

The action by the State and Treasury departments follows growing pressure on the Obama Administration to take stronger action against Boko Haram.

The group, which says it wants to establish an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria, has stepped up attacks on Christian places of worship this year.

Thursday's anticipated action, officials said, involves applying the "terrorist" designation to three men presumed to be central figures in the group.

The three individuals, an official said, are Abubakar Shekau, aged around 43, described as a Boko Haram leader who allegedly aligned himself with al Qaeda in a video message; Abubakar Adam Kambar, aged roughly 35; and Khalid al Barnawi, aged approximately 36. All three are native Nigerians.

The expected action will freeze any assets they have in the United States, and bar U.S. persons from any transactions with them.

It is among the first such action the U.S. government has taken against Boko Haram, but falls short of demands from some U.S. lawmakers and the Justice Department to designate the entire group as a "foreign terrorist organization."

The State Department has been under pressure to act against Boko Haram for months. In January, Lisa Monaco, the Justice Department's top national security official, sent a letter to the State Department arguing that the Nigerian group met the criteria for a "foreign terrorist" listing because it either engages in terrorism that threatens the United States or has a capability or intent to do so.

Boko Haram increasingly is seen as a potent threat to Nigeria, the continent's most populous state and major oil producer, and as part of growing arc of Islamist extremist groups stretching across northern Africa.

More recently, a group of Republican senators led by Scott Brown of Massachusetts introduced legislation requiring the State Department to determine whether Boko Haram should be designated as a terrorist group.

Republican Representative Patrick Meehan, who chairs a Homeland Security subcommittee in the House, also introduced an amendment that would force the administration to add Boko Haram to the terrorism list or explain why it was not doing so.

However, U.S. diplomats are weighing these demands against counter arguments, including those made by a group of academic experts on Africa who sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month urging her not to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist group.

The academics argued that the move could backfire by enhancing the group's reputation among potential recruits and other militant groups. A U.S.

designation might also empower more radical elements of Boko Haram, which is divided into factions, the professors said.

In her letter to the State Department, Monaco of the Justice Department reported that since 2009 Boko Haram has conducted violent attacks against Nigeria's "police, politicians, public institutions and civilian population."

Monaco said that according to press reports, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for 510 victims in 2011, and also took credit for a Jan. 20 attack on government buildings in Kano in which more than 160 were killed.

She said that although Boko Haram attacks until now have occurred only within Nigeria, Washington should not underestimate the threat the group poses to U.S. interests.
Source: Business Day, 21st June 2012.





Okonjo-Iweala tipped to head World Bank

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Channel TV)
The coordinating Minister of the economy and finance  Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has being tipped to be amongst the candidates to be nominated from the developing countries to head the World Bank ahead of the planned resignation of the incumbent president.

According to Reuters, Dr Okonjo-Iweala and former Colombian Finance Minister, Jose Antonio Ocampo are the two tipped to be nominated to lead the World Bank, sources with knowledge of emerging market efforts to find candidates said on Tuesday.

The candidacies of Okonjo-Iweala and Ocampo, who have credentials as both economists and diplomats and according to sources the respective backing of Brazil and South Africa, pose a challenge to the United States, whose hold on the top post has never been contested.

But with its majority of votes and the expected support of European countries, the United States is still likely to ensure that another American will succeed Robert Zoellick, who plans to step down when his term expires at the end of June.

Washington has held the presidency since the Bank’s founding after World War II, while a European has always led the International Monetary Fund. It has yet to publicly identify a nominee to succeed Zoellick.

The decision to nominate Okonjo-Iweala and Ocampo followed weeks of discussions among emerging and developing countries at the World Bank board including China and India.

Two sources said South Africa’s director at the World Bank board, Renosi Mokate, who also represents Nigeria and other English-speaking African countries, personally flew to Abuja to consult with Okonjo-Iweala about her nomination.

“The impressive credentials of both Ocampo and Okonjo-Iweala puts tremendous pressure on the White House to come up with a candidate of at least equivalent standing,” said Domenico Lombardi, a former World Bank board official now at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

“This signals a big shift and really reflects a game change,” Lombardi added. “This is the first time in history we have a truly contested election.”

Okonjo-Iweala, who left the World Bank as managing director last year to become Nigeria’s finance minister, and Ocampo, a former U.N. under-secretary for economic and social affairs, will join American economist Jeffrey Sachs, who has the backing of a handful of small countries, on the nomination list.

The deadline for submitting nominations is Friday, and the Obama administration has said it will name a candidate by then. All of the World Bank’s 187 members nations have committed to a merit-based process to select Zoellick’s successor.

Former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo (Channel TV)
Former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo

Sources said Ocampo, currently a professor at Columbia University in New York, would be formally nominated by Brazil while Okonjo-Iweala could be nominated on Wednesday.

Nominations will be submitted to the 25-member World Bank board, which has said it will decide on the next president within the next month. The candidacy of Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy is said to have the blessing of President Goodluck Jonathan, who convinced her to join his cabinet last year to lend more weight to his reform agenda.

Emerging and developing economies have long talked up their desire to break U.S. and European dominance of the Bretton Woods Institutions, but have until now have failed to build a coalition large enough to change the status quo.

Sources with knowledge of the administration’s thinking say Washington has focused on convincing a woman to enter the race, which could go some way to address calls by emerging market nations for change. A woman has never led the bank.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was a leading contender, however, it is not clear she wants the job, sources have said. Former adviser to President Barack Obama, Lawrence Summers, has also been short-listed for the job. He has declined to comment.

The United States has insisted that to keep funding flowing from Congress for the World Bank, it is important to retain the presidency.

Lombardi said the test was whether large emerging economies like China would rally support for Ocampo and Okonjo-Iweala, or in the end vote for a U.S. nominee.

Last year, Brazil and China failed to rally around Mexico’s central bank chief, Agustin Carstens, for the top post at the IMF, instead favoring former French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, who now heads the institution. It is unclear if big emerging nations such as China and India would support a fellow developing nation candidate.
Source: Channels TV, 21st March 2012.





Mandela Stable After Surgery For Abdominal Complaint

FORMER South Africa President Nelson Mandela is in a stable condition after undergoing surgery, the BBC understands.

Nelson Mandela

Officials said he was taken to hospital overnight for a “long-standing abdominal complaint” which needed “proper specialist medical attention”.

Sources, according to the BBC, said he is talking and likely to leave hospital on Sunday.

The 93-year-old statesman and anti-apartheid icon has suffered declining health in recent years.

As the country’s first black president after a history of white minority rule, Mr. Mandela occupies a special place in the hearts of South Africans.

The authorities have not given any further information and say they will only release another statement after President Jacob Zuma has been briefed by medical specialists.

A statement from President Zuma’s office said the “love and good wishes of all South Africans and people throughout the world” were with Mr Mandela, and asked for his family to be given privacy.

The statement did not say which hospital he had been admitted to but there are suggestions it was a military hospital in the capital, Pretoria.

Journalists waiting outside one hospital have been told to move away or face arrest.

Mr Mandela had returned to Johannesburg last month from his rural home in the Eastern Cape and in January last year, he received treatment in the city’s Milpark hospital for a serious chest infection.

“I can assure you that the former president is in good spirits and well,” said Mac Maharaj, a spokesman for President Zuma.

He said further information would be released once President Zuma and the Mandela family had received a full medical report from doctors, but that the former president’s life was not in danger.

“This was a long-standing complaint –– nothing that cropped up suddenly and needed emergency attention,” said Mr Maharaj, who was in prison in Robben Island with Mr Mandela.

“But it is an issue that the doctors treating him felt needed specialist attention, and so arrangements were made accordingly.”

He would not confirm reports that Mr Mandela had undergone overnight surgery for a hernia, and appealed for “co-operation from the public and the media so we manage this thing properly”.

The statesman’s eldest granddaughter said she was not immediately concerned about his health.

“I don’t see it as a big thing. When I saw him on Wednesday, he was in good spirits, in perfect health, and the epitome of health really for a man of his age,” Ndileka Mandela told the AFP news agency.

“Grandad rebounded from his illness last year. I don’t see any reason why this should be any different.”

A spokesman for the ruling African National Congress (ANC), also said there was “no need for panic”.

“It was not an emergency admission. It was planned,” Keith Khosa told local media.

Andrew Harding says the government is clearly keen to control the flow of information, after previous alerts about the former leader’s health became the subject of much speculation.

Mr Mandela retired from public life eight years ago - his last public appearance was at the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.The Nobel Peace Prize winner is affectionately known in South Africa by his clan name, Madiba.

He spent 27 years in prison for his fight against white minority rule before being released in 1990.

In 1994, he became South Africa’s first black president, stepping down in 1999 after one term.

Source: The Guardian, 26th February 2012.




Abdulmutallab, Nigerian Underwear Bomber to Get Life Sentence

Written by
Thursday, 16 February 2012

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the privileged son of a wealthy Nigerian banker, returns to federal court in Detroit on Thursday to receive a mandatory life sentence for trying to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253, four months after pleading guilty and admitting it was a suicide mission for al-Qaida, has learnt.

Abdulmutallab, 25, tried to detonate explosive chemicals that were hidden in his underwear minutes before the plane landed at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The government says he first performed a ritual in the lavatory — brushing his teeth and perfuming himself — and returned to his seat. The device didn't work as planned, but still produced flame, smoke and panic in the cabin.

On the second day of the trial in October, Abdulmutallab suddenly pleaded guilty to all charges.

In a defiant speech, he said he was carrying a "blessed weapon" to avenge Muslims who have been killed or poorly treated around the world. He admitted he was inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American-born cleric and leading al-Qaida figure in Yemen who was killed by a U.S. drone strike last fall.

"The Quran obliges every able Muslim to participate in jihad and fight in the way of Allah those who fight you, and kill them wherever you find them ... an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," Abdulmutallab said.

Anthony Chambers, an attorney appointed to assist Abdulmutallab, believes the Nigerian will speak again Thursday but doesn't know what he'll say.

Chambers, meanwhile, is urging U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds to declare that a mandatory life sentence is unconstitutional, claiming it is a cruel punishment in a case where no one but Abdulmutallab was physically hurt. His groin was badly burned.

"Not one passenger lost his or her life. Not one passenger suffered life-threatening injuries," Chambers said.

The government said that is not the threshold.

"Unsuccessful terrorist attacks still engender fear in the broader public, which, after all, is one of their main objectives," prosecutors said in a court filing Wednesday. "In addition, the enormous cost of the augmented security measures adopted as a direct result of defendant's unsuccessful terrorist attack are borne by the American public at large in both increased cost, inconvenience and wasted time at airports."