Post Colonial Moment: Crime out of control in Trinidad

Violent crime has gotten so out of control on the Caribbean island of Trinidad that prime minister Patrick Manning is asking both the UK and the US to send in police to control the situation. This comes after a complaint letter signed by 400 Trinidadian businesses was published in a local newspaper, blaming the prime minister for not having a proper plan to curb violence.

The surge in crime is blamed on illegal drug trade with is creating a criminal elite with enough resources to corrupt public institutions. In turn the profits from drug trafficking is used to purchase weapons which are being used by gangs.

The prime minister also said criminals deported back to the Caribbean island from the UK, the US and Canada contributed to the crime problem.

Police say more people have been murdered in the first nine months of this year than in the whole of 2004.

We would have hoped, taking in consideration the deterioration of crime, [for] a more decisive and immediate plan for tackling crime," Christian Mouttet, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce, was quoted as saying.


South African Government defiant against AIDS accusations

A day after a trade union leader accused the South African government of being irresponsible dealing with the AIDS crisis in the country, South Africa's health minister lashed out angrily against the allegations.

Trade leader Zwelinzima Vavi had also accused President Thabo Mbeki of a "failure of leadership". "Any health ministry that presides over the spread of an epidemic like this one has much to answer for," said Mr Vavi, secretary general of the South African Congress of Trade Unions (Cosatu).

"When last did any of us hear our president mentioning the words HIV and Aids?" Mr Vavi asked.

Six million of South Africa's 45m people are infected with HIV, according to the health department.

Strains have emerged in the alliance between Mr Mbeki's ANC and the unions, who demand more action on poverty.


Renewed war between Eritrea and Ethiopia threatening

The Eritrean government warned the United Nations today that the border war with Ethiopia might be rekindled if the world body fails to resolve the dispute.

"I wish to categorically inform the assembly that Eritrea is determined, and has the right, to defend and preserve its territorial integrity by any means possible," Berhane Abrehe, Eritrea's finance minister, told the 191-nation U.N. General Assembly.

"If the United Nations fails to reverse the occupation, it will be as equally responsible as Ethiopia is for any renewed armed conflict and its consequences," he said.

Following a peace accord five years ago which ended their two-year border war and killing over 70,000 people, Ethiopia and Eritrea agreed with an independent panel on where their border should lie. Two years later Eritrea full accepted the panel's findings.

But the process of marking out the new boundary broke down after Ethiopia objected that the flashpoint western town of Badme had been awarded to Eritrea. The border war began when Ethiopia accused Eritrea of invading Badme.

"Ethiopia is not only occupying the village of Badme and other sovereign Eritrean territory, but it has and continues to build illegal settlements in these areas with the view to, in [U.N.] Secretary-General Kofi Annan's words, 'creating facts on the ground'," Abrehe said.

The 15-nation U.N. Security Council this month approved a resolution calling on Ethiopia "to accept fully the boundary commission's decision and take the necessary steps to enable the commission to demarcate the border completely and promptly."

The resolution for a mandate for UN peackeeping missions extends for at least another six months.

The UN historically has not made good bringing peace to the Horn of Africa. Right after World War II, the United Nations, after a lengthy inquiry in which those who wanted union with Ethiopia and those who wanted independence lobbied the great powers and the U.N. extensively, eventually reached a compromise that the former Italian colony was to join Ethiopia as part of a federation. Eritrea would have its own parliament and administration, and would be represented in the Ethiopian parliament which would function as the Federal Parliament. Halie Selassie would be the monarch of Eritrea and he was represented by a viceroy.

Most Eritreans never found the agreement to be desirable. Many blame the security council's lack of cultural sensitivity and geography. Eritrea is mostly Muslim and Ethiopia is Christian. Eritrean is famous for its highlands, which cold war allies took advantage of for radio satelites. While Ethiopia is mostly land-locked lowlands. During the 1950s many people, including British feminist Sylvia Pankhurst, were seduced by the idea that this region of Africa is historically connected to Judeo Christian faith, which is true to a certain extent. However looking back today it was overly generalizing.


Film Review: Lord of War

Nicholas Cage does a dynamic job portraying Yuri Orlov, a lowly Brooklynite turned international arms trafficker in the thriller Lord of War. The timeline of the film starts as Orlov sells weaspons during the waning cold war years to Soviet strongmen, than he switches over to getting warlords and child soldiers as customers in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Eamonn Walker does an excellent job playing the sociopath Liberian president, Andre Baptiste Sr. Orlav makes it clear from the beginning of the film that he is a businessman. He doesn't care who gets guns; it matters more that they are using his products. "There are enough guns for one out of every twelve people in the world," said Orlov. "It is my job to get guns to the other eleven." Even when he is asked if guns are more dangerous than cigerettes, he states that at least guns have safety pins. Throughout the film Orlov has his family telling him that what he is doing is wrong. It is interesting to see if Orlov ever has a change of heart. Despite the fact that there are arms traffickers all over the world, it is hard to be mad at Orlov because many governements, such as China, Russia, France, UK and US allow these people to carry on their work. Coincidentally all the above countries are permanent members of the UN Security Council. This is a fascinating film for anyone interested films with socially redeeming value.


Retro Film Review: General Idi Amin Dada

General Idi Amin Dada was one of the most notorious dictators the world has ever seen. He is best know for orquestrating the deaths of over half a million Ugandans and expelling Jews and Asians from the country back in the 1970s. The Criterion Collection recently re-released Barbet Schroeder's documentary about the tyrant with brillantly remastered scenes. The film was shoot during the height of Amin's presidency. Although many parts of the first are just comically, one has to wonder how this man even became a head of state. Amin spends a great part of the film preparing his troops to fight the 'impending' war in Golan Heights. Quite possibly the most controversial moment in the film is when the interviewer asks Amin about his comments in a newspaper article saying that he told more Jews should have been killed during the Holocaust. Amin starts to laugh uncontrollably for a couple of minutes. He later says in the film that his country would welcome Palestinian terrorists who brought a hijacked El-AL plane to the country. Coincidentally a week after filmming, Palestinians did actually hijack a Israeli plane and brought it to Entebbe. Amin is also seen in the film making hypocritical statements about women in government and Ugandans being more 'revolutionary' (Check out the revolutionary jazz band at the beginning of the film). This is a great film that gets into the mind of evil.


Post-Colonial Moment: 60th session of the UN General Assembly

Over 170 heads of state met today to open up the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. But delegates are going into the meeting to hear some discouraging news. Five years after world leaders adopted the ambitious set of antipoverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals, many of the goals have not made much progress.
The vast majority of poor countries are well off track, notably in sub-Saharan Africa, where most nations are projected to meet few if any targets.

The new U.N. Human Development Report, published last week, ranked 177 countries based on quality of life. Twenty-four African nations were at the bottom. The child mortality rate in Africa is 29 percent higher than it is in rich countries, and the share of people living on less than $1 a day is 11.5 percent higher than it was in 1981, the report said.

But it cited some successes in Africa, including gains in universal primary education and greater public investment in health and education. A handful of countries are seeing rapid economic growth.

The US delegation is also going into the summit to make some major explanations for not taking the lead on the goals. John Bolton initially wanted to back off any reference to specific goals for reducing poverty, hunger and combating AIDS.

The United States subsequently relented, but not before the administration's opening foray in the negotiations left some African leaders dismayed.

"The thing that shocked me personally was that they're trying to shift and change goal posts," said Kenyan health Charity Kaluki Ngilu to the New York Times. "If this is the case, we African leaders might as well go home and find other methods of developing ourselves."


Book Review: I Didn't Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation

This book attempts to answer the ongoing debate about who is at fault for the social, cultural and most importantly economic suffering of Africa. Michela Wrong's latest book illustrates the problems seen in Eritrea to make some kind of sense of whats going on. The book essentially spends the greater part of the book pointing fingers at former Italian and British colonialists, the UN and the cold war superpowers. She also mentions the failures of Haile Salisse and Mengistu did more bad than good. The point of the book was struck by making the basic point that all those who came into contact with Eritrea were only looking out for their own interest, which seems to be a repeating theme throughout the rest of Africa. The only complaint I have with the book is that it would have been better if the author interviewed more ordinary Eritreans and Ethiopians because there was not much of a voice from the civilian point of view. The book is not meant to answer all the questions about Africa's fate, but rather look at it from a different perspective.


Kenyans worry over "Patriot Act" bill

The human rights community fears that a anti-terrorism bill will be pushed through the Kenyan legislature due to complaints from the United States and the United Kingdom that the country's efforts to deal with terrorim is unsatifactory.

The draft Suppression of Terrorism Bill, first put forward in 2003, was withdrawn last year following widespread criticism.

Amnesty International says in a statement it is concerned by the law's "vague and broad definition" of terrorism and terrorist acts, and the wide-ranging powers it gives authorities to search and detain persons in connection with terrorist activities. Under the proposed legislation, police would have the power to arrest people and conduct searches without a warrant.

The organization has also condemned the bill's "denial of the right to legal representation during interrogation" and other aspects of the proposed law. The bill allows suspects to be held incommunicado for some time after their arrest.

Reports indicate that Kenyan authorities now wish to re-introduce the legislation. This follows U.S. and Israeli criticism of a Kenyan court's June decision to release seven persons implicated in a November 2002 attack on a hotel near the coastal resort of Mombasa, which claimed 16 lives.

Kenya was previously the victim of a terrorist attack in August 1998, when the American embassy in the capital, Nairobi, was bombed, killing more than 250. Almost simultaneously, the U.S. embassy in the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam came under attack. The 1998 and 2002 incidents have been linked to al-Qaeda, the global terrorist network.

More recently, two of the men arrested in connection with the July 21 London bombing incident have links with East Africa: 24-year-old Yassin Hassan Omar immigrated to Britain from Somalia at the age of 11, while Ibrahim Muktar Said, 27, came from Eritrea in 1992, when he was 14.

"We are wary of the possibility of the government responding to the utterances of Britain and the U.S. without taking into consideration the human rights violations in the bill," said Ekitela Lokaale, program officer at the Research and Advocacy Unit of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, a non-governmental organization (NGO).


Global South Response to Hurricane Katrina Relief

In a unprecedented move, countries in the developing world are contributing to relief efforts in the gulf coast. Despite being the wealthiest country in the world, the US was shown to have the same vunerabilities as the rest of the world.

Sri Lanka, still suffering from the afternoon of the December 26 tsunami, has offered to help victims of Hurricane Katrina in the US with $25,000US.

"Having experienced the fury of nature ourselves during the December 26th tsunami, the people of Sri Lanka and I fully empathize with you [the American people] at this hour of national grief,'' said President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

Thailand's prime minister confirmed Monday that the Thai government is offering 100 doctors and nurses and Indonesia sent 40 doctors to go to the United States. India gave $5 million to the American Red Cross and donations of essential medicines, water purification systems for household and community level operation and a medical team.

Venezuela has offered to send fuel and food to portions of the United States which some aid may not be able to reach. State-owned Petróleos de Venezuela, the parent company of Citgo Petroleum Corporation, has also pledged a USD 2 million donation for hurricane aid. However Hugo Chavez used the opportunity to slame the Bush administration for sluggish rescue efforts.

"As more information comes out now, a terrible truth is becoming evident: That government doesn't have evacuation plans," Chavez said last week. "There were many innocent people who left in the direction of the hurricane. No one told them where they should go."

Last Saturday Cuban president Fidel Castro told American officials that he has prepared 1,500 doctors to go to the disaster area, but hasn't received any response from the Bush Administration yet.

"You could all be there right now lending your services, but 48 hours have passed since we made this offer, and we have received absolutely no response," Castro said at Havana's Palace of the Revolution.

"We continue to wait patiently for a response. In the meantime, all of you will be taking intensive courses in immunology and also something that I should be doing -- an intensive brush-up course in English."

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation has pledged $1 million for disaster relief.

Singapore has so far ferried about 700 evacuees and hauled tons of supplies in 39 sorties on 4 September.

Dozens of other countries in the South have also offered.


Post-Colonial Moment: The Iron Lady takes her last bow.

Dame Mary Eugenia Charles, the first woman prime minister of the Caribbean, died today aged 86 after complication from a broken hip. She was best known as the "Iron Lady of the Caribbean." She is even more well known for her support of the US-led Greneda invasion in the 1980s.

Charles' career in politics started as an advocate for press freedom, when the Dominica Labour Party attempted to limit dissent with a sedition act in 1968. In 1970, she was appointed to the legislature and in 1975, to the house of assembly, where she became the leader of the opposition. She co-founded the Dominica Freedom Party which helped Dominica win independence from Great Britain in 1978. Charles became prime minister in 1979.

Unlike her socialist contemporaries such as Norman Manley and Cheddi Jagan, Charles took hardline conservative postions on many economic and social reform. Other issues that were important to her were anti-corruption measures and individual freedom. However, her support of the Greneda invasion pit her against many leaders in Latin America, including Fidel Castro.

She resigned when her party lost elections in 1995. She also served as foreign minister of Dominica from 1980 to 1990. She was created a dame in 1992.

Despite the many coup attempts and disagreement over foreign policy, Charles will be best remembered as a strict constitutionalist and savvy lawyer. She also became a spokeswoman for the Caribbean banana industry, defending the preferential access of former European colonies to Europe's markets.


Condi Rice finds time to 'visit' hurricane victims

Yesterday Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was seen packing food boxes for hurricane victims at a shelter. She used the time to defend the President about allegations by black leaders that the slow response was due to racism.

"I am a African American," said the enraged Rice. "Nobody, especially the president, would have left people unattended on the basis of race. I just hope that when people stop and think about it, they will just see that that’s just not the case. How can that be the case? Americans don’t want to see Americans suffer.”

This is an interesting statement considering that Ms Rice was still on vacation in New York during and after the hurricane. While mostly African American and poor people were struggling to survive the growing floods and lawlessness, Ms Rice was in the Big Apple attending plays and getting tennis lessons from Monica Seles. Many New Yorkers found this unseemly, and her activities were noted in several gossip columns. Finally on Thursday while shopping for shoes in the swank Fifth Avenue boutique, Ferragamo, Rice was approached by a woman who shouted to her “How dare you shop for shoes while thousands are dying and homeless!” Rice had her security physically remove the woman from the store.

Not surprisingly Rice abruptly ended her vacation and headed to Alabama the next day to save a really bad public relations situation.

Critics may argue that disaster relief is not the job of the Secretary of State. However, for a woman who constantly attributes her successful career to her upbringing in Alabama, one would think she would have been amongst the first people to get down to the area as a gesture of giving back to those who helped her. Her behavior just further cements her disconnect from the African American community. Would she have even cancelled her vacation if her shoe shopping hadn't been disturbed?


Film Review: The Constant Gardener

I went to see this film today so I could get away for a while from the tragic images coming out of the hurricane-ridden Gulf Coast. If there was one thing that I got out of the film, it is the fact that poor people are not given any respect in this society, whether in Kenya or New Orleans. The film revolves around mid-level British diplomat Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) and his leftist activist wife Tessa (Rachel Weisz). Tessa and his African doctor companion are killed in the beginning of the film, which was initially believed by road bandits. But as the film progresses it is learned that Tessa was murdered because she found out that pharmaceutical companies, with the help of British government cronies, are testing dangerous drugs on unsuspecting Africans. Unfortunately this is a very real problem as corporations use the developing world as guinea pigs. In many cases pharmaceutical company will deny people important drugs to treat other diseases, such as AIDS, if they don’t comply with taking these shady tests. Because the vast majority of Africans live below the poverty line, many corporations think it is okay to take advantage of this. The film also delves into briefly into the rights and wrongs of the Iraq War and the homosexuality of the African doctor (which would interestingly be a great subject for a whole other film). While I thought the love story in the film was a bit sappy, I give the film high marks because I do feel it is important for people to know about the social ills going on around them. Maybe as a result of viewing the film a few more people might want to get involved with Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam or some other like-minded organization to learn about the issues. After the success of Hotel Rwanda and potentially this film, maybe Hollywood is starting to realize that there are some people in the world that want to view films that have socially redeeming value. You will definitely leave this film more informed about the real world, if not entertained.


Is Kanye West Right, Or has the white middle class lost its mind?

Last night during the US broadcast of a hurricane relief concert, rap star Kanye West let out a torrid of criticism against President Bush's seemingly lack of response to the crisis on the Gulf Coast. West departed from his script and made the following statement:

I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family, it says, "They're looting." You see a white family, it says, "They're looking for food." And, you know, it's been five days [waiting for federal help] because most of the people are black. And even for me to complain about it, I would be a hypocrite because I've tried to turn away from the TV because it's too hard to watch. I've even been shopping before even giving a donation, so now I'm calling my business manager right now to see what is the biggest amount I can give, and just to imagine if I was down there, and those are my people down there. So anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help -- with the way America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible. I mean, the Red Cross is doing everything they can. We already realize a lot of people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way -- and they've given them permission to go down and shoot us!

He then went on to say "George Bush doesn't care about black people!" before NBC, the TV network showing the benefit concert, abruptly cut to US comedian Chris Tucker. Immediately following the concert NBC issued a statement saying that "his opinions in no way represent the views of the networks. It would be most unfortunate if the efforts of the artists who participated tonight and the generosity of millions of Americans who are helping those in need are overshadowed by one person's opinion."

West is no stranger to controversy. During the Live 8 concert in July West criticised G8 politicians for riding in Bentleys and Mercedes Benzs, although he himself owns 12 vehicles. Even more controversially, West also used the global platform to make claims of "man-made diseases placed in African communities", a reference to the conspiracy theory that AIDS was created to exterminate Africans.

With his latest album release this week, West regained popularity and props from progressives for being the first rap star to come out (no pun intended) against homophobic lyrics by others in the hip hop community. With his clean-cut, Abercombie and Fitch look and socially conscious rhymes, he has become the darling of the white liberal establishment. A couple of weeks ago he became the first rapper to be featured on the cover of Time magazine and his album was even reviewed on 'the always proper' National Public Radio. But with his latest outburst he may have now lost the confidence of the same people who have propped up his career? Have white liberals who do the New York cocktail circuit been scared away by someone who turns out to be just like the other 'hip hop thugs'?

Whether or not West's statement last night was appropriate for such an event is up for discussion, but what he has said isn't far reaching from what many of the hurricane victims have already made clear. Race is a main factor in this situation, as over seventy percent of Gulf coast residents are African American. With thirty percent of the residents hovering around the poverty line, class also has an important role. The vast majority of the people who didn't evacuate the area prior to the hurricane either don't have a vehicle or had no money to take other transportation. Of course, those who did leave the area were of a certain class level and race. The real question here is would the response by the federal government been the same if a natural disaster of equal fate hit, say, New York's Westchester County or Southern California's Orange County? Critics might just be mad with Kanye West for airing out America's dirty laundry.


"This ain't no Third World, this is America, man!"

Five days into the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina the international community and US politicians are in awe that a tragedy such as this could happen in the world's most powerful country. With the large number of deaths, lawlessness and humanitarian aid for survivors the situation shows the vunerability of the country.

In today's Die Welt (Germany) the editorial writes "America looks aghast at a third world situation on its own soil, splintered and full of violence. Armed men have humiliated the under-staffed police officers. In the Superdome, 20,000 people hang out as if in a refugee war camp."

In the French newspaper, Liberation, no time was spent mincing words. "The situation is still as desperate as ever for thousands of Americans after Hurricane Katrina's passage. Why was the United States so ill-prepared? Bush reacted slowly, the levees couldn't handle more than a Category 3 hurricane. In addition, despite evacuation orders, most in New Orleans had no mode of transportation and finally, the war in Iraq has sapped resources." Of course this newspaper comes from the same country where African immigrants are desperately dying in dilapidated aparment buildings.

The Times of London didn't hold back either with its editorial titled "It's An Ill Wind That Blows No Good for Bush" —'With a hurricane, even one cutely named Katrina, there is no one to fight (although jihadi websites yesterday claimed that "Private Katrina" had enlisted on their side). The spectacle would make any leader look impotent, as if he were, well, trying to hold back the waves. To be the President of the world's superpower and to lose an entire, world-famous city within hours is humbling.'

The most profound complaints are coming from the hurricane victims themselves, who blame the dire situation on poor leadership. One man who lost his home was quoted on CNN yesterday as saying "This ain't no Third world, this is America, man. People shouldn't be dying in the streets. People shouldn't be hungry. It thought this was America."

"Where's George Bush? Where's George Bush?" said another so-called 'refugee' carrying his sick child.

Even New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin lashed out at the federal government for not "getting off their asses." The Congressional Black Caucaus expressed anger around the slow response for relief.

"It looks dysfunctional to me right now," said Rep. Diane Watson, D-California at a press conference on Friday. The black lawmakers blame the slow response on the fact that most of the victims were poor. Many also are black, but the lawmakers held off on charging racism. "The issue is not about race right now," said Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio. "There will be another time to have issues about color."

Watson and others also took issue with the word "refugee" being used to describe hurricane victims.
"'Refugee' calls up to mind people that come from different lands and have to be taken care of. These are American citizens," Watson said.

Added Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland: "They are not refugees. I hate that word."

He called for citizens and governments to come together "with a force equal to that of Hurricane Katrina" to meet the needs of the hurricane victims.


Hurricane Katrina: American Tsunami

New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin proclaimed that his city has just gone their own tsunami after ordering a mandatory evacuation of the metropolitan area. It is believed that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people died in the hurricane, making it the nation's worst natural disaster since the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

While the aftermath of the hurricane may not equate to the monstrosity of the Asian tsunami last December, the initial estimated damages are $26 billion, more than the cost of September 11 clean up.

President Bush has declared the Gulf coast area a national disaster area. There is growing concern that the prolonged flooding will lead to an outbreak of health problems for those who remain in hurricane-affected areas. In addition to dehydration and food poisoning, there is also a potential for hepatitis A, cholera and typhoid fever, all related to the growing contamination of food and drinking water supplies in the area. The longer these people are stranded in the searing heat the more will perish from the aforementioned causes.

However the biggest problem right now is the deteriorating law enforcement conditions as a large number of looting is being reported.New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered 1,500 New Orleans police officers to abandon the search and rescue effort Wednesday evening to address the increasingly violent looting occurring in New Orleans. The order effectively redirects all New Orleans officers away from the search and rescue efforts. An Associated Press report quotes Ray Nagin as saying, "[The looters] are starting to get closer to heavily populated areas — hotels, hospitals, and we're going to stop it right now." Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco said she was "furious" about the looting. "What angers me the most is disasters tend to bring out the best in everybody, and that's what we expected to see", Governor Blanco said at a news conference. "Instead, it brought out the worst".

On September 1, following an incident when a military helicopter was shot at, evacuation of the Superdome has been suspended, until the area around the Superdome is under control

At this time more help is going to be needed from everyone. To find out what you can do, please contact the American Red Cross, www.redcross.org.