Mission Accomplished, Part Deux?

3 02 2013

mission-accomplishedYes We Can?

The French rightly pride themselves on having inspired American remakes like “the Dinner for Schmucks” and “True Lies.” They also rightfully complain that Americans always spoiled the artistic touch in the original movies. For once the roles are reversed in real life and not on cinema reels. The French remake being shot now in Mali of the 2003 ‘Mission Accomplished” flick starring George W. Bush does not, thus far, show any promise of improving on the American original action drama.

Credit should be given when due, Mr Hollande’s decision to put boots on the ground is a responsible choice– better late than never. However, the real question today is: does France have a credible exit strategy that does not result in another botched war in Northern MaliPresident Hollande’s PR-minded visit to Mali’s liberated north along with the nation’s interim President Dioncounda Traoré felt like a an eery replay of George W. Bush’s infamous “Mission Accomplished” moment aboard a US aircraft carrier. While Mr Hollande and his host were prudent not to declare the fight against Jihadis over, they had more rhetoric than concretes to offer as an assessment of the current situation. Most media stories reported the event without really questioning the next phases in the conflict.

Just as in 2003, Hollande echoed Bush’s pledges of grandiose plans for rebuilding Iraq. Like the images of Iraqis tearing down Saddam’s statue in 2003, footage of effusive and jubilant locals praising Mr Hollande and their liberators has been rolling on cable news channels around globe. A weak and temporary fill-in until Mali resumes its democratic regime interrupted by military coups, Mr Taroré did not have much to say about reconciliation with the North other than a vague willingness to negotiate with the MNLA. Behind the smiles, and the photos ops, no concrete plan seems to exist to fix Mali’s multidimensional failures.

On the security front, the draw down of France’s 3000 troops has already been decided. the official line is that ECOWAS troops will support Malian troops hereon forward. The United States has pledged $10 Million Dollars to help train Mali’s army. this being the same army that melted in battle last winter when Jihadis took it head on, one cannot help but wonder whether this check is a buy-out option from a hopeless task? Whatever the answer is, it is imperative that the Malian army be continuously supervised lest its undisciplined troops engage in yet another round of vigilante retribution against civilians they deem to be in cahoots with the enemy.

As of January 20, only 450 out of the 4500 ECOWAS troops pledged were already on Malian soil. Almost half are from Chad, the rest are spread between Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Benin and Togo. Of course, the devil is in the details; Benin sent policemen, and Ghana sent combat engineers — neither are exactly frontline combat troops. Of course, these numbers increased in the last 10 days but the questions remain valid: other than Nigeria’s and Chad’s troops, how soon can we expect that this mishmash can be forged into a credible fighting force?

Speaking of mishmash and cultural references, experience in Iraq and Afghanistan show that any foreign troops have a very short time window to adapt to local cultures and traditions. Sub-saharan troops are not an exception to this rule. Just as their Western counterparts in the past decade, they are entering into an alien culture whose intricacies and codes they must quickly grasp or risk being seen by locals as a serious nuisance in their lives. After all, who could forget how quickly Iraqis’ shouts of “Thank you America” turned into “down down America”?

Conspicuously absent when the going got rough, Europe’s leaders seem all too content to have dodged another war they could avoid. Of course, they pledged 50 Million Euros to fund the African contingent being deployed in Mali and to send trainers. Decidedly, the European Union is a coalition of the amnesiacs. over a decade, Western European nations diligently filled terrorist coffers with ransom money to free EU hostages. Way above the $100 Million mark, that money went a long way in helping Jihadis buy arms and train future terrorists. Consequently, the onus of showing responsible leadership remains on EU member countries. They should, at least, triple their financial and military assistance to France. if not for their own security, it is a step on the way to repair the damage their policies caused to Mali and the region’s security. Their credibility and commitment to combat international terrorism depends on it.

With Jihadis melting in nature, and quickly disappearing in the depth of the Sahara, France, African nations, and the world at large are better served by some candor: there are not enough troops on the ground. Mr Hollande does not yet have an exit strategy, Mali’s military and governance require years to rebuild. After the joy recedes, the people freshly liberated in northern Mali will be expecting all the rosy promises made to them to be fulfilled. For that to happen, the international community should follow France’s lead and shoulder its part of the responsibility. Anything short of a full Bosnia-style UN mission in northern Mali can not be a serious response to a an equally serious problem. For the sake of peace, we can only hope that today l’impossible n’est pas Français!





#Mauritania: General Aziz’s image problem

14 03 2012
Image

Taqadoumy.com cartoon

Mauritania’s strongman was today in Nouadhibou to put on his own long-planned show of force. The crowd was estimated to range between 15000-20000 people.

This was no spontaneous affair. for months, government ministers and the UPR ruling party officials have been shuttling back and forth to Nouadhibou to prepare the rally. Originally, the visit was decided after local party bosses threatened to leave the ruling party a few months back in the fall of last year. The stakes became even higher after the opposition’s successful protests yesterday in Nouakchott.

On the form, the visibly tense General surrounded himself with his government ministers at the rally to present an image of a hands-on manager. Calling on each of them, or pointing at them throughout the one-hour speech, Aziz was intent on matching promises with faces. Without missing a beat, rattled off a series of promises of electricity, water, roads and civil state reforms. Visibly, the man was on a mission to show that he is a man of action and principles. This was a replay of his 2009 campaign theme of the “President of The Poor.” Only, this time, he is not facing any elections but a growing wave of protests after disillusionment with his policies, as well as, the lack of any tangible improvements to the country’s living conditions. 

On the substance, the General attacked vehemently his critics and opponents describing them as: “liars, thieves” and went further to simply state that they were “marginal, and inexistent opposition.” A strange thing for the strongman to say in the same breath as he claimed to be a democrat allowing opposition figures “to go on TV to lie and insult him.” In essence, this was a Qadhafiesque performance but on a shorter time schedule. 

Borrowing a page from Hugo Chavez’s playbook, Aziz’s message was a mix of populist grandiose promises of prosperity, and aggressive self-styling as a “man of the people.” However, lacking Chavez’s and Qadhafi’s oratory style, it still remains to be seen whether the man will win over his national audience with this performance. In his eagerness to mitigate the seriousness of the current crisis, the General went as far as denying that the country was on the verge of a famine claiming it to be “an opposition lie.”

Another singular moment was when the General attempted to stoke up nationalist and patriotic sentiments. Aziz alleged that Mauritania’s soldier, recently released by AlQaeda, was not free due to any negotiations. His explanation was that he, on principle, does not negotiate with terrorists but..that the soldiers was traded against a terrorist that was in Mauritanian custody. He further added that once handed over to the terrorists, the air force was prompt to bomb them. The raid was reported as having occurred over Malian territory, and to have missed its targets, hitting instead a truck loaded with goods.

The aggressive rhetoric is likely an attempt to repair the strongman’s tarnished image after a slew of corruption scandals since his 2008 coup. By far, the most serious among those was the scandal involving his own son Badr that sent shockwaves across Mauritanian society. 

The young man was released from police custody back in January after he shot a girl with a pistol lodging a bullet in her spine. The presidential family moved swiftly to save the son. it put immense pressure on the victim’s family and the Attorney General to avoid any legal pursuit of General’s son. Finally, the family’s victim received a substantial sum of money from the Aziz family in order to keep them quiet.

Arguably, today’s most awkward moment came just before the speech begun. A man was heard live on Mauritanian TV shouting: “Aziz we want jobs, Aziz we want jobs.” The sound was interrupted in the live broadcast, and the camera quickly shifted to people carrying signs praising the General. After all, one man in Mauritania can claim today that he gave the authoritarian ruler a piece of the people’s mind.





Youth Chasing Police Today in Nouakchott #Mauritania

25 04 2011




Mauritania’s Bouazizi Died Today

23 01 2011

Yacoub Ould Dahoud, A Mauritanian Folk Hero

 

Yacoub Ould dahoud, the Mauritanian businessman who burned himself on January 17, 2011 in front of the presidential palace in Nouakchott, Mauritania died today.  The 41-year old wast motivated by a desire to depose Mauritania’s President, General Aziz and to democratize his country.

His body was supposed to be flown back today from Morocco where his family took him to receive better medical care. It is not clear yet whether the delay is politically motivated – Aziz’s strongest regional ally – as reports indicate that the Moroccan authorities are insisting on conducting an autopsy to determine the causes of his death.

Many Mauritanians this blogger spoke to tonight are convinced that the delay is an act of active collusion designed to help General Aziz win time to manage a public relations fiasco that could potentially lead Mauritanians to take to the streets. This is in the wake of initial protest in the capital city of Nouakchott and other cities against the skyrocketing prices of essential goods.

His death is fueling anger in Mauritania despite an age-old societal aversion towards suicide. Mauritania’s Taqadoumy news website collected reactions of Mauritanians made on Facebook and other source. They reflect a growing outrage fueled by a perceived smear campaign kicked off  by General Aziz’s earlier declarations describing Dahoud’s action as “desperate because of [General Aziz’s] war on corruption as [Dahoud] hails from a wealthy family.”

Dahoud was not a poor man, nor was he unemployed like his Tunisian counterpart. His Facebook profile accessed today by this blogger shows Dahoud followed very closely the events unfolding in Tunisia culminating with Ben Ali’s ousting by his people. He came from a prominent family and many Mauritanians I spoke with agree that he was driven by the same motivation as Tunisia’s Bouazizi: making a statement about tyranny and the lack of freedom in their socieities. Not so much a question of Dollars and cents.

Influenced & Inspired By Bouazizi

Yacoub posted on his Facebook wall a link to a manifesto (also posted it on Google Docs) in Arabic and French in the wee hours of January 17, 2011 explaining his demands. Proceeded with slogans posted earlier in French calling for General Aziz’s ouster (Aziz Dégage.) His list of demands included a call to end of Mauritania’s military meddling in politics, and for the regime of (coup master) Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz to be deposed. Dahoud also denounced tribalism as well as slavery on his Facebook wall. His manifesto also included jabs at France’s meddling in Mauritanian affairs under Nicholas Sarkozy who many Mauritanians blame for the success of General Aziz’s power grab in 2008 by providing the necessary political cover internationally allowing him to conduct fraudulent elections in 2009 to legitimize his coup d’etat.

Contrary to initial reports from Reuters claiming Dahoud committed this act to protest tribal grievances, his was a genuine political act of pre-planned and meditated dissent, in fact his suicide note states clearly that he sought peaceful constitutional reform and a functioning democracy.

Dahoud's Manifesto

His manifesto opens with:

Extremism and terrorist groups are a result of 50 years of poverty and the loss of hope that rulers’ oppression will end.

Then he further clarifies:

Enough corruption, enough oppression. Mauritania belongs to the people, not to the Generals and their entourage.

To get the corrupt army band from power, enough with corruption, enough oppression. We suffered fifty years of corruption and oppression. Do we and the future generations not deserve one month of steadfastness to dash out of oppression, intellectual, material and physical oppression [?]

Dahoud then listst his demands:

- The release of human rights activists in prison [Biram Ould Dah] who are fighting against slavery

- Eliminating all taxes and tariffs on rice, wheat, cooking oil, sugar, milk and monitoring their obscene price hikes

- Replacing taxes and tariffs on basic goods through more taxation on cigarettes, luxury cars and tariffs on European ships that are pillaging our maritime wealth, as well as taxing telecom companies or Mauritania’s income from gold mining stolen by the Army commanders’ band.

- A constitutional amendment to be submitted to parliament in an emergency session containing the following points:

a- No current or ex member of the military shall be eligible to be elected President of the Republic

b- An independent electoral committee that will organize and supervise elections without intervention from the Interior Ministry- the source of all ills undermining freedoms in our country.

c- Imposing that the choice of the prime minister be the prerogative of the parliamentary block holding the majority in parliament

d- The nomination ministers of: justice, interior, finance, education shall be contingent upon parliament’s approval

e- The nomination of judges and the attorney general shall be contingent upon parliament’s approval

f- The nomination of the members of the constitutional council [the highest court of the land] shall be contingent upon parliament’s approval

g- Calling via a presidential decree for legislative and presidential decree within six months from the decree’s issuance

h- calling parliament in an emergency session to ratify: the constitutional amendments, an amnesty law for the General [Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz], members of the High Council [military junta ruling body] and the ministers in his government before and after the 2009 elections

If you do not accept this offer, then you should face the people’s wrath and be forced out as Ben Ali was.

I take this occasion to beg the people of France to force its rulers to accept the Mauritanian people’s right to self-determination.

Our lives are a small price to pay for Mauritania so that our sons can live in a country with social justice, liberty and democracy.

Yacoub Dahoud

A simple citizen demanding legitimate rights.

Hasn’t the time come for the Mauritanian people to chose freely and seriously who will preside over its destiny, and manage its resources that can easily service its needs instead of alms of hostile foreign governments?

 





Inner-Workings of A Police State: Foreign Ministry

20 01 2011

 

Guilt By Association: A State Policy Under Ben Ali

This is a summary translation of a document  (the picture above) found after the fall of Ben Ali’s regime in Tunisia. It is a report from the Tunisian Consul in France to the Interior Ministry asking for instruction about issuing a passport to the daughter of a Tunisian man living in France. The document shows the consul asking for instructions on how to proceed with the passport application given that the little girl’s father is a political refugee in France.

This is how the Ben Ali regime kept a vindictive eye on dissidents living abroad. Even if a tunisian left tunisia, he or she, will still be under surveillance and subjected to the arbitrary rule of Ben Ali. Most importantly, that this document shows the complicity of in Ben Ali’s crimes and abuses in the foreign ministry. The current foreign minister and his predecessor, are as complicit as Ben Ali himself in the repression and terrorization of the people of Tunisia.

Again, I could have written a longer and more detailed analysis of what is behind this, but I choose not to.The document speaks for itself. The banality of evil..

 

 

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Consulate of The Republic of Tunisia

Pantin [France]

 

List of documents addressed to

The Minister of Interior and Local Development

(Borders & Aliens Directorate)

Under supervision of the Minister of Foreign Affairs

[Stamp]

000829

Documents Number Notes
Passport Application for Bilqees Bousshaqi Born on on 1/27/2009 registered at our service under the number 100528 

Supporting documents:

-Parent Authorization

-Copy of the father’s national ID Card

-Copy of father’s residency card

-Birth Certificate

4

 

Awaiting your authorization as the father is a political refugee in France.
Total 5

The above mentioned documents were received

Date [Blank]

Signature

Pantin, April 3, 2009

Consul

[Signature & Seal]

Abderazaq Ben Faraj





تضامنوا مع المدونة طل الملوحي

13 09 2010

Free 19-year old Syrian Blogger Tal Al-Molohe

وقفة إحتجاجية أمام السفارة السورية بالقاهرة للمطالبة بالإفراج الفوري عن طل الملوحي

طل الملوحي مدونة سورية عمرها أقل من 19 عاما إعتقلت منذ 11 شهراً من قبل أجهزة الأمن السورية وحتى الآن هي قيد الإحتجاز والتحقيق في المعتقلات السورية في مكان غير معلوم ولايدري عنها أحداً .. أقصى نشاطات طل الملوحي تنحصر في كتابة قصائد شعرية في حب فلسطين
آن الأوان لكشف إنتهاكات حقوق الإنسان البشعة في سوريا وتسليط الأضواء عليها .. وحيث أن أشقائنا أحرار سوريا في الداخل يستحيل عليهم في ظل النظام القمعي العنيف القايام بأي أنشطة تعمل على الكشف على مصير طل .. قرر النشطاء الأحرار المصريون بكافة ميولهم السياسية تجاوز الحدود الجغرافية والتضامن الإنساني مع قضية حقوق الإنسان في سوريا والمطالبة بالكشف عن مصير طل والإفراج الفوري عنها من خلال وقفة إحتجاجية سلمية يوم الأحد 19 سبتمبر 2010 أمام السفارة السورية في القاهرة في 18 شارع عبد الرحيم صبري بالدقي من الساعة الثالثة ظهراً ولمدة ساعتين حتى الخامسة عصراً
قضية الحريات قضية إنسانية تخص كل حر شريف تتساقط معها الحدود الجغرافية .. وأحرار مصر دائما هو أول من يناصرون حرية الإنسان وحقوقه في داخل البلاد وخارجها
الوقفة الإحتجاجية السلمية .. حق دستوري كفله لك القانون .. للتعبير عن مطالبك امام سفارة الدولة المعنية





Haram in the House of Bliss!

11 01 2010

Hanevy on the day he was arrested

The news from the House of Bliss (Dar Naim Jail) is not good; Hanevy fell on his head on his way back to his cell and is semi-comatose according to the latest reports. The government sent a military doctor to asses his status. The verdict is that he needs x-rays to evaluate any possible internal injuries. A great source of concern is that the authorities blocked any visits to Hanevy since his fall which raises grave concerns over his prognosis: What is there to hide?

Interestingly, a cleric urged Hanevy to end his hunger strike because it is a form of suicide. This blogger’s response: is it Haram to combat injustice? Isn’t silence in the face of tyranny a sin?

Today, the head of Mauritania’s opposition, former presidential candidate and chairman of the RFD party, joined a sit-in at Nouakchott’s courthouse. The event was called for and organized by the Journalist Union to demand Hanevy’s release.

Daddah was not the only political leader to advocate for Hanevy, in fact, Noma Bint Mogaye (featured previously on Dekhnstan) among others, demanded his release in an interview where she attacked General Aziz. To them his case is about the future of freedoms and liberties of Mauritanians under the increasingly authoritarian General Aziz.

He was featured extensively during the parliamentary debate over the new Anti-Terror Law. In the process of the debate, private sources in the opposition informed this blogger that the said law is plagiarized from Tunisia’s own anti-terror law with the difference that the Tunisian version had relatively more protections for the citizens. It should be said that while Tunisia is not exactly a model on civil liberties, General Aziz is drawing on the example of some of the worse human rights abusers in the world; it gives observers insights into his real ambitions.

In other news, if you type Mauritania in Google News, or twitter, most of the return hits you will get are about the unfortunate westerner hostages (Spaniards, French, Italian) kidnapped by Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb in November and December of last year. This is a far cry from the content of Mauritanian news sites where the issue has been given minimum attention.

These hostages’ plight deserves our sympathy and our prayers go to them and their families in the hope for their safe return to their homes and families. We also hope that the Mauritanian government will get its act together and wipe out from the face of the earth, once and for all, those terrorists behind these acts.

Unfortunately, the reality is such that Mauritanians are focused on their own domestic problems trying to fight off a tyrannical regime with every legal and peaceful venue amidst international indifference.

While, the world’s concern over the growth of Al-Qaeda in the Sahel is commendable and justifiable, policy makers ought to remember that terrorism is not vanquished only by bombs and guns. The best hope to prevent this criminal gang from growing is winning the goodwill of local citizens by showing-  rather than talking- a commitment to their liberties and freedoms.








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