Posts Tagged Africa


Following the recent ISIS attacks on Paris, French President Francois Hollande invoked the Mutual Defense provision of the European’s Union’s Treaty of Lisbon, rather than Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Charter.  He was calling on France’s European allies to stand with France against the “Islamic” State.

The oddity of that choice was because the E. U. is basically a trade pact which has morphed into a quasi-governmental union; however, NATO has always been specifically a military mutual defense pact.  Various reasons have been suggested as to why President Hollande chose the Treaty option, which had never been used before.

Might there have been some mistrust regarding Turkey, which is a member of NATO, but not of the E. U?  In recent months, the relationship between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Vladimir Putin, of Russia, has been quite strained.  Also, Istanbul’s recent downing of a Russian bomber, which allegedly invaded its air space, has certainly made a bad situation that much worse.  Might the animosity between the two nations have stifled common sense?

Invoking the NATO Charter would actually be superfluous, however, since both the France and the U. S. are already engaged in northern Syria.  France only joined after the November 13 attacks; but, the participation of other European nations would demonstrate unity against ISIS.

It is important to point out that calling on NATO—which has quite a similar membership to the E. U, plus the inclusion of the U. S. and Canada—would not be received well by Russia.  President Vladimir Putin believes that the defense pact has been trying to break-up his relationship with the former Soviet republics, many of which have already joined NATO.

Lastly, some national security analysts believe that President Barack Obama might have tried to dissuade Hollande from calling-up NATO in order to keep the Syrian situation in somewhat of a gray area—between peace and all-out war.  And, given the proximity of both Russian and Iranian forces, that certainly would be a valid concern.

To an extent, I believe that the actual rationale might be somewhat “all-of-the-above”. Following the Paris Attacks and the drowning of the Russian passenger airplane over the Sinai, Paris and Moscow seemed to be leaning toward working together, focused on forming a coalition to eradicate the “Islamic” State.  But, Turkey’s downing of the Russian bomber seemed to have caused Putin to back away.

Many of the participants in the Syrian conflict will be represented in Paris this week for the Climate Change talks.  A basic framework might be discussed in order for:  the Europeans to consider how working together against ISIS in Syria might also reduce the refugee problem back home; Russia might form a closer relationship with the West, especially in reducing some of the sanctions that are devastating its economy; and the U. S. needs to form a closer relationship with Moscow in order to make peace a possibly, as well as for the political situation back home.

There are also some longer-term problems that will need to be addressed, perhaps under the auspices of the United Nations: Syrian President Bashar Assad needs to realize that he must go into exile, perhaps in Iran; a Kurdish homeland needs to be established; and regional Islamic countries, both in the Middle East and North Africa, need to find a way for Sunnis and Shias, as well as other peoples, to live together in peace.


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Given the sheer volume of Syrian refugees, and those from other countries in the Middle East and North Africa, who are seeking refuge and to establish a peaceful life for their families, we cannot wait for political solutions.  Many of our own forebears had come to our shores, similarly seeking refuge from: religious intolerance; the potato famine; civil war in their homelands; invasions by regional dictators; and the list goes on and on.  So, why are the refugees from the MENA Region different?

Many in the Republican Camp have been castigating President Barack Obama about literally everything under the sun, including his Middle East policy.  They disavow any recollection of his predecessor, George W. Bush, invading the Region, and even agreeing to initiate the draw-down, beginning in 2011. But, as usual, they cast Obama as the bad guy, and as being incompetent.  When they are asked to outline their plans to do things differently, however, all they can do is provide diatribes against the President; but, they all avoid offering anything specifically that they would do to handle things differently.

So now. they are making the refugees the pawns in their political agenda.  Remember, by the way, that this is taking place during the build-up to a 2016 Presidential Election Year.  I wonder if this is part of their plan—replacing the targeted attacks against Mexican Immigrants with heartless ones against refugees from the MENA Region.  The Republican hate-filled attacks would certainly bring a smile, however, to the face of long-gone Commie-hunter, Senator Joe McCarthy.  He attacked every political enemy as being a Communist infiltrator.

Back to the refugees, who are streaming into Europe as I write this, through harsh land routes and even more treacherous seas.  Surely, we’ve all seen the photos of families huddled in the rain, being beaten by guards and photographers, and the three-year old boy’s body washed up along the shore.  This is not a time, however, for pity.  This is a time for open arms, feeding and sheltering these “tired and huddled masses”, just like someone once welcomed our ancestors.

No one is suggesting that we bus this newest generation of refugees to our shores by bussing them to Times Square, Harvard Yard or South Beach!  Over the past decade, or so, the U. S. has carried-out the BRAC (base closure and realignment commission) Program, which closed or combined military bases, leaving the excess of redundant or unnecessary facilities vacant.

We should selectively re-open some of those bases, which could provide all of the necessary facilities to house the refugees, and with all due security.  Dining, health care, training, recreational facilities can easily be re-opened, and even a small section of a Post Exchange, to provide basic necessities.  Much of the on-going labor could be provided by the refugees themselves: basic labor around the camp; kitchen and dining room chores and establish a day care center.  Training could provide basic English language and job skills, such as: carpentry; plumbing; cooking; doctor’s/nurse’s helper and midwife; etc.  Such skills could enable the refugees to assist in providing their own necessities of life, as well as the ability to function, if and when they are released.

The use of these bases would solve two problems:  provide shelter for some of the refugees showing-up on the shores of Southern Europe and the mountainous borders of Northern Europe, while providing the necessary security to segregate the refugees from the basic populace until they are sufficiently vetted for release.  Now is the time for rational creativity, rather than polemic and political ideology.  Timing is urgent as the refugee population continues to grow day-by-day!

Over the past several GOP Presidential Debates, we have been hearing about American Exceptionalism and that we must be the World Leaders.  So, how exceptional would it be for America to remove Lady Liberty from her home in New York Harbor, douse the flame that she has proudly held high for more than one hundred years, and send her back to France?  Is that what America is all about? Really?

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A man, returning from Liberia, died from the Ebola Virus, in a Dallas, Texas hospital this past week.  This has brought out a considerable amount of misguided media commentary suggesting the cancellation of all flights into or out of West Africa.  A number of European nations have already curtailed such flights.

Isolating the region would do little more than eliminate the delivery of equipment, supplies and skilled health care workers from assisting in combatting the disease.  What would you do in such a situation, if members of your family were endangered?  The result would probably just cause the inflicted and family members to travel elsewhere in Africa in search of assistance.  So, do we then isolate the entire continent?

Common sense dictates that, when you have a major problem, it is best to combat it at its source. Experts–such as our CDC or the U.N’s WHO–advise that the spread of Ebola, or any disease, is really a question of mathematics.  When the number of people with the virus infect more than one other person, on average, the virus will spread.  The goal is to keep that number under one, which causes it to contract.  Then, after stopping the spread, it becomes a much more manageable problem to solve.

By isolating either West Africa or the entire continent, where most countries do not have the resources to contain the Ebola, it will only cause the situation to get worse.  And, given the lack of medical supplies, skilled professionals and public health protocols, the current Ebola Virus Epidemic will only continue to grow and become unmanageable.  No country is truly safe if we do not act now!

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Nelson Mandela passed away today, at age 95. It didn’t come as a shock due to his age. Happily, the People of South Africa, and around-the-World (at least most parts of it), although somewhat sad at his passing, are celebrating his life–and accomplishments. His legacy certainly will live on.

Nelson Mandela was a Co-Founder of the African National Congress, which was formed to fight for equal rights for Blacks–in their own Lands. Originally, the ANC advocated violence and, then, Mr. Mandela, among other ANC members, was arrested and sent to prison (on Robin Island) for five years; however, eventually, the South African Administration charged the ANC with attempting to overthrow the Apartheid Government. Accordingly, Mandela’s sentence was extended to life Imprisonment.

After 27 years, basically in solitary confinement, at Robin Island, Mr. Mandela was released, along with other ANC Members. Toward the end of his imprisonment, he was actually discussing the rolling-back of Apartheid. Upon his release, rather than renew his pro-violent ways, Nelson Mandela promoted Non-Violence. Think about that: after 27 years in solitary confinement, and promoting an integrated and inclusive South Africa. Nelson Mandela was elected the first President of a Post-Apartheid South Africa. Just like in many parts of the U. S., Discrimination and Bigotry have not been eliminated; however, things are gradually getting better.

It certainly is appropriate to mention him him with Mahatma Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the same breath, all who espoused Non-Violence. He wasn’t universally loved, because he met with Fidel Castro and Yassir Arafat. President Mandela’s belief was: how can you deal with anything if you don’t face it. Perhaps 27 years in solitary confinement enabled this educated man to search for forward-looking solutions.

The U. N. had placed sanctions on South Africa’s prior Apartheid Government. There additionally was an Anti-Apartheid movement in many countries. Many people around-the-World realized that discrimination of a People in any country provides support to such bigotry in other parts of the World. And, not just for Blacks; but, also Gays and Lesbians, Muslims in Europe; Christians in the Middle East, etc. Solidarity seems to prevail.


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If you always seem to have a problem choosing that Just-Right Gift for someone who doesn’t really need anything–or spends most of their life in Jeans and a T-Shirt, or something that they already have plenty of, I have a solution for you. Several years ago, my Daughter bought me a Flock of Chicks, for Christmas, that was given to a village in, I believe, Kenya. They would raise the Chickens, have Eggs and, eventually, Poultry to Eat.

There is a famous proverb, attributed to someone in China; however, the specific origin is uncertain; but, here goes: “Give a Man a Fish and He will eat for a Day. But, teach him how to FISH and he will never go hungry again.” Isn’t that Education? I believe that a primary reason for Hunger, Malnutrition and Poverty, in many parts of the World, is the Lack of Education.

UNICEF and MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnel have joined to provide desks for kids in Malawi. Also, I am sure that other countries in Africa, as well as other poor areas, can benefit from the “Kids in Need of Desks” Program.  Rather than sit on dirt floors, the Children can sit and have a good surface to write on.

Perhaps you don’t particularly care for MSNBC or Mr. O’Donell; but, hopefully you see the value of this program.  If so, you can send your contribution directly to UNICEF.  I understand that just $10.00 buys one desk for two students–and the desks are made in the local area, thus creeating jobs..  But, if you can afford $50.00 or $100.00, all the better.


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