Friday, December 30, 2011


Some time ago, in the country of Fuxiuguo, in a beautiful valley along a river, there was a village called Qiya. The river had been subject to flooding, but the people of Qiya had built a dam to control the river, and now the village was prosperous.

There in Qiya, Mr. Nuli worked very hard, and provided a nice home for his family. They had a nice piece of land along the river, with livestock and beautiful gardens. Under Mr. Nuli, the land was very productive. Working it was both lucrative and pleasant.

Mr. Tantu saw Mr. Nuli's land, and realized that if he bought the land and developed it, then sold the development to people who wanted to live and work along the river, he could make a great deal of money. But, he knew Mr. Nuli had no desire to sell his family's home and business.

Near Mr. Nuli's land lived one Mr. Zhisou. Mr. Zhisou had lived in Fuxuiguo a very long time. In fact, he lived in this country when it was known as Meiguo, and remembered the time when everyone worked hard like Mr. Nuli, dreaming that one day their work would pay off, and they would have a good life like Mr. Nuli does now. But that was before Emperor Haowan came to power. Under Emperor Haowan and his minister, Mr. Fushisixiang, Meiguo changed. People became so enamored with having a good life that they no longer wanted to work for it and earn it; they just wanted to have it, and their desires knew no bounds. The country changed so dramatically that one day a new emperor came to power, Fubai, and he declared that the country would now be known as Fuxuiguo.

Now, Mr. Zhisou kept a low profile. He lived in a very modest hut with very few possessions. The emperor's administrator, Mr. Haoshou, saw to the needs of the people, and felt sorry for Mr. Zhisou. When the emperor's men were giving out rice, Mr. Haoshou made sure Mr. Zhisou got an extra bag of rice; when the emperor's men were giving out firewood, Mr. Haoshou saw to it that Mr. Zhisou got an extra bundle.

One day there began a great rainstorm. The rain lasted for days and days, and the water level behind the dam began to get higher and higher. Mr. Tantu talked with Mr. Haoshou about the water level behind the dam. Mr. Haoshou assured Mr. Tantu that the dam was very strong, and would not break, even if the rains lasted for many weeks. Mr. Tantu was not convinced, though, and went to Mr. Zhizhang, who was Mr. Haoshou's supervisor. Mr. Tantu explained that he was concerned the dam might break, and that the ensuing flood would destroy the entire village. Mr. Zhizhang agreed that this was a grave concern, and asked Mr. Tantu for advice. Mr. Tantu told Mr. Zhizhang that it would be better to release some of the water, and wash out a few of the homes along the river, than to let the water accumulate until the dam broke and the flood destroyed the entire village. Mr. Zhizhang agreed that they must immediately release a great quantity of water in order to preserve the dam which would, in turn, preserve the village.

Meanwhile, Mr. Haoshou was making the rounds on the dam, checking it to make sure it was holding up to the flood. When Mr. Zhizhang's emergency order to release the water came through, Mr. Tanzang was on watch at the dam. Sadly, he was unaware that Mr. Haoshou was on the dam, and when the water was released, it swept Mr. Haoshou away, drowning him. The sudden surge of water crashed down the river, and destroyed Mr. Nuli's garden, sweeping Mr. Nuli and much of his livestock downstream, where their bodies were never recovered. Other people who lived near the river had their homes destroyed, too, and lost loved ones.

Mrs. Nuli was devastated at the loss of her beloved husband and her way of life, but she and her children were still alive, and she was thankful for this.

The disaster in the village was so great that Emperor Fubai himself came to the village to console the people. He told them how terrible it was, and how thankful he was that things did not turn out worse. He promised the people help so they could have a fresh start. He said that, in time, people would look for reasons as to why this happened, and would begin to invent wild stories. Emperor Fubai said that it was a terrible rainstorm that caused this tragedy, and warned people not to believe the crazy conspiracy theories that they would inevitably hear, as believing these stories would dishonor the memories of those who died as a result of this tragic rainstorm.

Mr. Tanzang was promoted to become the administrator. Under Mr. Zhizhang's supervision, he conducted an investigation, and determined that the decision to release the water was the correct one, as it preserved the dam intact, and saved the village. Per the emperor's instructions, he offered a generous amount of money to the people who had suffered, so they could rebuild their lives. He bought the Nuli family's land from Mrs. Nuli for a generous price, so she could take her family and establish a new life somewhere else.

Mr. Zhisou's home was very modest, but surprisingly, it was never in any danger from the rainstorm or from the sudden flood of water. The land that had belonged to Mr. Nuli, though, was used for a public project. Mr. Tantu's company got the contract from Mr. Tanzang to redevelop the land in the public interest. The project was very profitable to Mr. Tantu's company.

Time passed, and Mrs. Nuli began to establish her new life. But, as she talked to other people from Qiya, she heard stories about how Mr. Tantu had wanted her family's land. She also heard stories about how Mr. Tantu recommended that some of the water be released to preserve the dam and thus protect the village. She also heard stories about how Mr. Haoshou, who was very respected in Qiya, thought the dam was far stronger than necessary to save the village, even if the rain got much worse. And, she was puzzled about how Mr. Haoshou so tragically drowned when Mr. Tanzang released the water from the dam, and about how Mr. Tanzang was then promoted into Mr. Haoshou's job. Finally, it broke her heart to think of her home being completely destroyed as the land was redeveloped, and the stories she heard about how profitable the redevelopment project was to Mr. Tantu pushed her over the edge.

Distraught, Mrs. Nuli went to see Mr. Kungfutse, better known to his students as Confucius, to inquire of the Master's opinion on these events.

The Master told her that it was a terrible tragedy, and that a thorough investigation by the emperor's administrator showed it could not have been prevented. The Master explained that it is common, in the wake of such tragedies, to seek reasons why they occur, but that the simplest explanation is always the best. Confucius told her that she should get on with her life and take care of her children, rather than sacrificing their future to dwell on a past that she cannot change.

Saddened, Mrs. Nuli began to leave, as Mr. Zhisou arrived outside the Master's residence. She looked at Mr. Zhisou, whom the whole village knew to be crazy, as he yelled to Confucius:

"The peacock is killed for its beautiful plummage! Great trees in the forest are cut down for their wood! Does a candle not burn itself out? Everyone understands the value of having so much worth, but who understands the value of having so little?"

Mrs. Nuli looked at crazy old Mr. Zhisou, and asked him what all that meant.

"Dams do indeed break under too much stress, but it is not the dam that contains the river's water over which the emperor needs to concern himself."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Unity and Faith, Part 5

We continue our consideration of events in Nigeria. In Part 1 we looked at the broad political situation there, paying attention to the North/South divide in Nigerian politics. In Part 2 we saw how that North/South divide is, in large part, a Muslim/Christian divide. In Part 3, we considered in greater depth the religious aspect of violence in Nigeria, including accusations of police abuses - abuses which seemed to target Muslims more than Christians.

In Part 4, we saw a report from 2009 about how the leader of Boko Haram was captured in an operation by security forces, and then died in police custody. We went on to see how, though economic disparity is often blamed for unrest, Boko Haram has its base among an educated middle class, and its leaders themselves claim their motivation is Islam; we also saw how, in Nigeria's corruption, northern Muslim elites were the main perpetrators. Then, we saw how Boko Haram claimed earlier this year that their militants had arrived after training in Somalia, and Boko Haram was threatening attacks that would be both wider and fiercer than their previous attacks, which, as of 2009, they were saying were going to make Nigeria ungovernable. Finally, we began to look at Boko Haram's international connections, and introduced the smuggling operations involving Nigeria, including the movement of heroin from South Asia.

We now look at more recent developments, including connections between Boko Haram and other terrorist organizations, and accusations of connections between Boko Haram and government officials. We begin with Boko Haram claims al-Qaeda links, November 24, 2011:

Kano - A purported spokesperson for Islamist sect Boko Haram claimed on Thursday that the group, blamed for attacks including the suicide bombing of UN headquarters in Nigeria, has links with al-Qaeda.

"It is true we have links with al-Qaeda," the man identifying himself as Abul Qaqa told reporters in a phone conference in the Hausa language spoken throughout Nigeria's mainly Muslim north.

"They assist us and we assist them."

This is nothing new. We previously saw how Boko Haram had claimed to have people trained in Somalia, and, in general, we have in many posts considered how ideology, like contraband, moves across the Sahara and Sahel in Africa - it is not surprising if al Qaeda has connections with Boko Haram.

Skipping down:

The group is believed to have a number of factions with varying aims. Nigeria's secret police alleged this week that some Boko Haram members have links to politicians following the arrest of another alleged spokesperson for the group.

Abul Qaqa refuted the secret police claims during the phone conference.

For information on the alleged links to political leaders, we consider Boko Haram: How SSS established case against Senator Ndume from November 27, 2011:

The Department of State Service (SSS) appears to have established a strong connection between the detained Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume and the former spokesperson of the dreaded Boko Haram sect, Ali Sanda Umar Konduga (a.ka Al-Zawahiri).

Information pieced together by Sunday Vanguard, at the weekend, suggest that part of the evidence the SSS has assembled against the senator is what a security source described as "the two-way communication link, via telephone between the senator and the man known as Al-Zawahiri". It was learnt that the "connect is so strong that even the attempt by the senator's wife to address a press conference on Friday afternoon had to be quickly thwarted by the senator himself."

"When it was discovered that the woman (wife) was attempting to address the press on the matter of the detention of her husband", the source continued, "it was impressed on the husband that should such a press conference be addressed, the Department would go to town with details of its findings which allegedly link the senator to Al-Zawahiri.

"At that point, the man had to make a quick contact with the wife, putting a halt to the move for a press conference".

Sunday Vanguard was also made to understand that whereas further investigations were still on, "the evidence we have suggests that when the Police Headquarters was bombed, it was the same Al-Zawahiri who announced to the world claiming responsibility on behalf of Boko Haram and we also believe that, prior to that incident, the two men had communication or were in contact."

"If that is fully established, the puzzle we are attempting to solve is why the senator did not alert the authorities; but the investigations continue", the security source disclosed.

The allegations go so far as to suggest that Senator Ndume had prior knowledge of a terrorist attack, and did nothing. Farther down in the article, political leaders were interviewed about this issue. Generally, they called for honest investigations and a fair judicial process, seeking to avoid a media circus. (Oh, that our own political leaders in America had such wisdom and integrity!)

As touched on above, though, Boko Haram is denying connections to Senator Ndume. From Boko Haram threatens to attack PDP, CPC, ACN, others •Warns landlords to eject political parties •Denies links with Ndume •Boko Haram will end soon —Jonathan •JTF recovers 2 explosive devices in Maiduguri, November 25, 2011:

MEMBERS of the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, have said that they have no dealings with Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, who was arrested in Abuja early this week for allegedly sponsoring the movement, according to various reports which they claimed they read on pages of newspapers.

Speaking in a telephone interview with the media in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, on Thursday, spokesman for the sect, Abu Qaqa, who relayed the message to the press on behalf of the chief spokesman, Abu Dardam, said that the Yusufia movement was a religious sect, as such its members had no business with politics as being insinuated in government circles and among security agencies.

Qaqa further said that long before now, they were aware that Usman Al-Zawahiri, who was arrested and charged to court along with Ndume, was working for the State Security Service (SSS) and as such, what is happening is only a gimmick. He said that in order to prove to the world that the sect had no interest in politics or politicians, its next step was going to be attacks on all political party offices from national to the state levels.

He said the sect also read what the state chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Baba Basharu, had been saying about how the movement came into being. According to him, everybody knew what the sect stood for and no politician or political party was associated with it in any way. Therefore, for lying about them, he said Alhaji Basharu had been marked for death.

Speaking on whether the sect had links with Al-Qaeda, Qaqa said wherever Muslim groups which shared the same ideology and were working for the cause of Allah, his sect was with such groups, saying whoever felt that his group had links with Al-Qaeda, based on their ideology in promoting Islam and fighting to free their people from Western claws, was right. But he insisted that any group that did not have his sect’s kind of ideology was not part of them and his sect was not with such a group. He said it was for that reason his group was insisting that it had no links with any political party; be it ANPP, PDP, ACN, CPC and others.

Making good on these threats, Boko Haram has recently targeted Geidam in the northern Nigerian state of Yobe.

We now review Boko Haram bombs Yobe, November 27, 2011:

Churches, homes and the police headquarters in the small northeast Nigerian town of Geidam of Yobe state were set ablaze in a wave of night time gun and bomb attacks by the radical Islamist sect, the police said on Sunday.

Boko Haram, whose name translates as "Western education is forbidden" from the local Hausa language, has claimed responsibility for dozens of shootings and attacks with improvised explosive devices this year.

The Hausa, a Sahelian people in Nigeria's north, are one of the country's major ethnic groups. They have communities in Niger and as far away as Sudan and Cote d'Ivoire. Boko Haram's roots among them may help explain connections to foreign terrorist organizations: the organizations would be foreign to Nigeria, but perhaps not to the Hausa.

Also, Boko Haram clarified the meaning of its name. In Part 4 we quoted an article from Niberia's Vanguard which quotes a statement made by Boko Haram:


For the first time since the Killing of Mallam Mohammed Yusuf, our leader, we hereby make the following statements.

1) First of all that Boko Haram does not in any way mean "Western Education is A sin" as the infidel media continue to portray us. Boko Haram actually means "Western Civilisation" is forbidden. The difference is that while the first gives the impression that we are opposed to formal education coming from the West, that is Europe, which is not true, the second affirms our believe in the supremacy of Islamic culture (not Education), for culture is broader, it includes education but not determined by Western Education.

Continuing with Boko Haram bombs Yobe:

"The Geidam divisional police headquarters and First Bank were bombed on Saturday evening by Boko Haram and fire was exchanged into the night between police and Boko Haram members," a police spokesman told reporters.

"Four policemen were killed, 20 wounded, eight churches and 20 market stalls as well as Geidam council secretariat are completely destroyed."

Geidam is a small town in Yobe state, which straddles the Nigeria-Niger border, and is the home of the powerful state governor. Boko Haram often targets politicians, who the sect say are corrupt and have left the northeast region impoverished.

Boko Haram's attacks have mostly taken place in and around Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, which borders Yobe state and neighbouring countries Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

A boost in military numbers in recent months in Borno has pushed the sect's attacks further afield, security sources say.

Boko Haram claimed responsibility for an attack in Damaturu, the capital of Yobe, earlier this month that left at least 65 dead. It was also behind two bombings in the capital Abuja this year, the latest in August, a suicide attack at the U.N. building which killed 26 people.

Notice that one of the targets was a bank. From Boko Haram threat: Bauchi banks now close 2pm, dated November 11, 2011:

Bauchi— Commercial banks in Bauchi State are now panicking following alleged reports that members of the Boko Haram sect planned to bomb the financial houses in the state to protest the alleged freezing of the accounts of their late founder, Mohammed Yusuf, by the Federal Government.

The Police Public Relations Officer, Assistant Superintendent, Mohammed Barau, however, said they were unaware of the development, adding that security had been beefed up in the state to ensure safety of life and property.

Sources said that there had been panic withdrawals even as customers now visit their banks very early for business.

Boko Haram's attacks and threats of more are indeed inducing terror among the intended victims, and this most definitely includes the economic sector.

Next, we consider an excerpt from Page 10 of Key Issues in Nigeria's 2011 Elections, dated March 29, 2011, by Sola Tayo. The paper addresses Nigeria in the run-up to the recent elections, but I claim that the same dynamics are at play even now.

Nigeria is often spoken of as having unfulfilled potential. Analysts talk about it eclipsing South Africa to become the continent's largest economy,[5] but such plaudits mean little if a country continues to suffer the effects of poor wealth distribution. Growth needs to be combined with developmental improvement if Nigeria is to be a continental leader. Meaningful efforts to address wealth inequality could be the key to tackling violence; this is blamed on religious differences when poverty is often a bigger factor. Improving the overall quality of life for all Nigerians should mean fewer people feeling disadvantaged or marginalized, and the concept of national unity might be embraced.

However, there is a risk that any sense of national pride and unity will continue to dissipate and people may react to situations according to their religious or regional grouping rather than acting in the national interest. Ordinary, disaffected people are vulnerable to being manipulated into serving the interests of the richer and more powerful, whether in the name of religion or ethnicity. Elements of this manipulation are already evident in conflicts across Nigeria, including over oil, religion and citizenship.

The suggestion is that Nigeria's unrest is due to poor wealth distribution, but I have already made the point that in the case of Boko Haram, the core is middle class and claims Islam, not economics, is the driving force.

But, notice the initial part of the passage, about "unfulfilled potential", and the concluding part, about "manipulation" evident in conflicts over oil. Nigeria already is a regional power, and could become, as mentioned in the passage, a continental leader.

What other (potential) African continental leaders have met a tragic demise just this past year?

Considering now some analysis of the events in Nigeria, we review excerpts from Analysis: What will follow Boko Haram?

MAIDUGURI, 24 November 2011 (IRIN) - Across the road from Maiduguri railway station, in the corner of a now abandoned property, a leafy neem tree provides a canopy for the remains of a mosque flattened by the Nigerian army.

The mosque had belonged to Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad (People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad), better known as Boko Haram - loosely translated from Hausa, the lingua franca of northern Nigeria, as "western education is forbidden".

Its destruction followed coordinated attacks by Boko Haram militants against police stations and government buildings in four northern states in July 2009. After several days of fighting, more than 800 people were dead, including the Salafist group's leader, 39-year-old cleric Mohamed Yusuf, killed while in police custody.

Boko Haram's revenge was dramatic. Seen initially as an insular local sect - one of many in the north - it reached out of Borno State, on the fringes of the Sahara Desert, to bomb the Nigerian capital, Abuja, and make common cause with the global Jihadist movement. Western governments are scrambling to provide counter-insurgency training to confront the group, which views the Nigerian state as illegitimate, and demands Sharia law even in the southern half of the country where the majority is non-Muslim.

The rank-and-file Boko Haram have no intentions of working within the political system - not even getting the support of corrupt political leaders who are selling the system out. Their goal is to replace the entire corrupt system, and institute strict Islamic law everywhere, forcing the Christian south into dhimmitude.

But, those who control and manipulate them have a different agenda. In Part 4 of this series, we saw mention of a "northern Muslim élite" that was responsible for much of the corruption. And, this could easily tie in with the allegations against Senator Ndume.

We now examine excerpts from the end of Boko Haram plans to bomb Defence Headquarters - Report dated September 9, 2011:

Illegal immigrants: Customs boss summons state comptrollers

The Comptroller-General of Immigration, Mrs Rose Uzoma, on Thursday, read the Riot Act to the state comptrollers of immigration and other top officers of the service for allowing illegal immigrants into the country and constituting a security risk to the nation.

Mrs Uzoma, who summoned the state comptrollers of immigration service to an emergency meeting in Abuja, on the growing insecurity in the country, was worried that intelligence reports had pointed to the fact that some of the people involved in the recent bomb blasts in Nigeria were foreigners.


Mrs Uzoma, who emphasised that she would no longer tolerate excuses from any of the state comptrollers where there were noticeable lapses, particularly blamed the security lapses being experienced on the officers in charge of the northern states.

This northern Muslim élite clearly has ties in the security forces, and is pulling strings to facilitate the movement of people and contraband across the northern borders. These people include jihadis tied in with international terrorist organizations, and this contraband now includes weapons from Libya's vast arsenal that fell into the hands of the jihadis. But, that's not all.

A November, 2009, NATO research paper entitled An assessment of crime related risks in the Sahel has this to say on page 2 about Nigeria's other connections in the international underworld:

Nigerians, who are notoriously active in the Golden Crescent (Pakistan, India, Afghanistan), work closely with Latin American cartels. Nigeria is still the biggest regional producer of cannabis4, with plantations bringing farmers 200 million dollars and generating profits of 12 billion dollars for traffickers.

Finally, we consider another excerpt from Key Issues in Nigeria's 2011 Elections, Page 10:

If the hopes of the people for fairness and prosperity continue to be held to ransom by the interests of a very powerful minority, Nigeria is at increasing risk of a downward spiral of disenchantment, with potentially disastrous consequences. The uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East show that disillusioned people will only take so much. This has been acknowledged by the Governor of Nigeria's Central Bank, Lamido Sanusi, who warned that events like those in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya could be experienced in Nigeria if developmental issues were not addressed.

This "very powerful minority" includes infidels, to be sure, but it also includes a "northern Muslim élite" tied in to international narcotics-, arms- and human-trafficking, which it uses to finance jihad.

Who in the infidel world benefits from keeping Nigeria in a state of disarray, rather than allowing it to become a continental leader and major player on the world scene?

Perhaps I should rephrase the question.

Who pulled the strings of intervention in Libya and Côte d'Ivoire?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Men of Integrity, Part 2

In Part 1, we considered a brief recent history of Burkina Faso. Highlights included how Thomas Sankara led a military coup in 1983 (one of a series the country had seen), seizing power with the help of his friend Blaise Compaoré. Sankara established a Castro-style revolutionary government, complete with revolutionary committees and torture, defying the powers of international bankers and French neo-colonialists. Sankara was trying to establish Upper Volta, as the country was then known, as a truly independent nation - independent of the manipulating foreign powers that seek to keep so many African nations subdued.

Compaoré murdered his childhood friend, seizing power in 1987 in a country that Sankara had renamed "Burkina Faso", and began to align his country's policies more closely with the goals and desires of these international puppet masters. As a result of Compaoré's new policies, Burkina Faso supported bands of armed thugs who stirred up trouble in Sierra Leone and Liberia, as well as in neighboring Côte d'Ivoire, where strongman Alassane Ouattara, a fellow Burkinabé countryman, was this year installed as "president" with assistance from French military power operating under UN auspices, and in violation of Ivoirian law.

Guillaume Soro, another Burkinabé who owns very nice houses ;) in Burkina Faso and France, is one of Ouattara's chief lieutenants in what I might call an occupation of Côte d'Ivoire.

So, what we have is an obvious attempt by foreign powers, including neo-colonial France and international bankers, to use the power they have consolidated in Burkina Faso to spread their influene throughout western Africa, with their most recent conquest being Côte d'Ivoire.

Needless to say, relations between Compaoré and Ouattara are cordial. The text of Burkina Faso: President, Ouattara Aim to Boost Ties, November 18, 2011:

Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore, who backed Alassane Ouattara during Ivory Coast's political crisis, hosted a joint cabinet meeting with the Ivorian leader Friday to boost bilateral cooperation.

Compaore said the joint meetings were designed to foster stronger integration between the neighbouring west African states.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Compoare added that he was "happy about the return of peace and institutional stability in our sister republic, Ivory Coast".

Compaore was firmly behind Ouattara in the impasse that arose from the November 2010 elections, when Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept he had lost, although Compaore's mediation efforts appeared to achieve little.

The crisis ended with the arrest in April of Gbagbo, whose resistance gave rise to clashes that left thousands dead.

At the joint meeting, Ouattara thanked Burkina's leader for his "personal involvement ... in the denouement of the Ivorian crisis".

Some three million Burkinabe work in Ivory Coast, mostly on cocoa plantations.

An estimated 80,000 Burkinabe fled Ivory Coast during the country's political unrest. - ANP/AFP

But, the main thing they are working on bilaterally is the consolidation of power.

For some background, we consider an excerpt from COTE D'IVOIRE: Barakissa Ouédraogo, "We must talk, otherwise we’ll keep killing one another", from earlier this year:

OUAGADOUGOU, 4 July 2011 (IRIN) - As Ivoirian and international officials discuss truth, reconciliation and trying those suspected of war crimes, Barakissa Ouédraogo, one of more than 100,000 Burkinabé who fled Côte d'Ivoire for Burkina Faso during the post-election violence, says helping families rebuild destroyed homes would do more to foster stability.

Ouédraogo said she regularly received death threats and that Burkinabé friends in Côte d’Ivoire were killed and maimed. "The violence just got to be too much - so many killed, so many injured. We had to flee." She said presidents come and go, and that it is the people who must decide not to let politics lead to killing. Ouédraogo was born in Côte d’Ivoire, where Burkinabé have lived for generations. Having fled to Burkina in January, she recently returned to Abidjan's Abobo District to assess the damage at her shelled home.

"I think these truth and reconciliation processes are just theatre, decoration. If you ask me, the money that would go into organizing such things could be used to fix holes in roofs, to help families who are really destitute. If you see your home repaired, you get some relief. Whatever your ethnicity, whatever your politics, that would ease your pain. There are still people living outdoors.

"You're going to go to talk to a commission, tell them how your family was killed and you want to forgive, then what? You return to the street because your home is flattened."

One of the main causes of "flattened" homes was the use of French firepower - helicopter gunships, for example - to support Ouattara's thugs as they ousted President Gbagbo. The "truth and reconciliation processes" mentioned, for which another of my series on events in the region is named (see sidebar), is an attempt to whitewash the crimes of Ouattara's thugs and their French allies, and blame everything on Gbagbo's supporters.

So, Burkina Faso under Blaise Compaoré played a key role in destabilizing the region and in particular in overthrowing the legitimate government of Ivoirian President Laurent Gbagbo.

But, as we saw in Part 1, what goes around comes around.

First, we consider the backdrop to the drama that is about to play out in the region. From WEST AFRICA: Sahel the danger zone for food insecurity:

DAKAR, 27 October 2011 (IRIN) - Erratic rains and high imported rice and wheat prices against a backdrop of chronic food insecurity and malnutrition in parts of the Sahel, will leave millions of people at risk of food insecurity, according to the latest crop assessments.

"We are definitely going to have a difficult year," said Patricia Hoorelbeke, West Africa head of NGO Action Against Hunger (ACF), adding that the NGO is considering expanding its food and nutrition programmes in the region.

Food production

Food production is expected to be lower than usual in parts of western Niger, Chad's Sahelian zone, southern Mauritania, western Mali, eastern Burkina Faso, northern Senegal and Nigeria, according to a report by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and a separate assessment by USAID's food security monitor FEWS NET.

The link at the end of the passage has some interesting infographics. In the short term (i.e., for the rest of this year) there will be food supply "stress" in Mauritania - fairly distant from Burkina Faso:

But, as 2012 opens, the situation will worsen, engulfing the entire country of Mali (where there are other troubles) and spreading to the other side of Burkina Faso.

As the passage itself indicates, eastern parts of Burkina Faso will become directly affected.

A stressed food supply, caused by drought, has been known to help generate fairly chaotic conditions; Somalia is a classic example of this.

For some additional background on the developing food insecurity situation throughout the Sahelian region of Africa, which includes the area we are considering, I suggest an article by Alex Thurston, published in The Christian Science Monitor, entitled Sahel Grapples with Food Insecurity, November 21, 2011, and cross-posted at Thurston's blog: Focus on Sahelian Food Shortages.

The food insecurity situation is noteworthy in Chad, where there are chronic problems with malnutrition and food shortages, and is of real concern in Niger, already shaded in the graphic above to have a stressed area near its capital, which is near the border with Burkina Faso. Skipping down in WEST AFRICA: Sahel the danger zone for food insecurity:

Returnees from Libya

The return to Niger and Chad of migrants from Libya who previously sent money home to help mitigate crop deficit is already pushing some families into further food insecurity, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). "These returns have aggravated extreme poverty and hunger which is affecting more than half of Niger's 2.5 million people threatened with food insecurity this year," said IOM.

While international attention and government involvement has been relatively high in Niger compared to the devastating drought of 2005, Oumarou Lalo Keita, principal adviser to the prime minister, said international agencies have been slow to respond to government appeals for increased aid over recent months as a result of the return of some 90,000 migrants from Libya. "There is clearly cause for concern," he said. Following the 2009-2010 drought, the country does not have sufficient emergency food stocks, he said. "We experience difficulties year-on-year, and there is still a gap between needs and the support we receive."

While governments and aid agencies in West Africa are for the most part well-versed in responding to food insecurity, readiness and capacity is still low in some areas.

Part of the Chadian Sahel and eastern Burkina Faso are not receiving as much international attention, said ACF's Hoorelbeke. "Chadian Sahel is hardly covered - there are not enough agencies there... If there is a situation that we hear very little about, it is eastern Burkina Faso, where we are likely to see a real problem this year," she told IRIN.

The same guys who pull strings in western Africa have been busy in Libya. And now, people returning from Libya are going to be a problem, and not just because they are refugee mouths to feed instead of wage-earners as they were under Gaddafi. From Burkina Faso, Niger - Libya weapons fear, November 14, 2011:

Ouagadougou - Burkina Faso and Niger are concerned about regional insecurity following the conflict in Libya which they fear has led to new arms trafficking, Niger's prime minister said Monday.

"It is a major concern, the trafficking of arms is a real threat to the region," Rafini Briji said on a visit to Ouagadougou.

"The conflict in Libya has created very complicated situations since the arms depots were opened and people from all quarters helped themselves and took them [arms] in all directions," he said.

Briji said Niger and Burkina Faso were worried about armed groups and the concentration of weapons all around their two countries.

In response they have decided to reinforce their co-operation to ensure security in the Sahel-Saharan zone, Briji added.

During a visit to South Africa on Friday, Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou asked for military aid to help fight armed groups and traffickers, saying the Libyan conflict had aggravated terrorist threats.

Since the overthrow and killing of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, experts have expressed concern that part of Gaddafi's considerable stock of weapons could end up in the hands of al-Qaeda's branch in North Africa which has bases in the Sahel and is currently holding several foreign hostages.

To be sure, the Sahara/Sahel region was already a crossroads for smugglers moving South American cocaine to Europe, moving Asian heroin to the Americas, and moving arms to anyone with a means to pay for them. But, Libya was well-stocked with arms, and the area is now going to be flooded with weapons - and not just with military-grade automatic rifles.

Perhaps the potential for trouble is why Compaoré's government in Burkina Faso is taking a page from the playbook of Compaoré's childhood friend Thomas Sankara, whom Compaoré murdered to seize power, and trying a new plan to alleviate food insecurity problems. From BURKINA FASO: “Blue revolution” needed to boost dry-season harvest:

OUAGADOUGOU, 17 November 2011 (IRIN) - The Burkina Faso government is attempting for the first time to implement a nationwide dry-season agricultural campaign to counteract possible food insecurity in areas that received poor or erratic rainfall this year. But the government, alongside others in the region, also needs to invest in a "blue revolution" - small-scale irrigation systems to help farmers grow crops in drought-prone zones - says the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Some 146 out of 351 communes across 10 of Burkina Faso's 13 regions were affected by low grain outputs, according to the government's provisional estimates. The regions most affected by poor rains were the northern millet-producing zone, the Sahel, the Centre north, the Centre west, the East and the Centre east.

"At the moment the food security situation is not alarmist, but there are pockets spread out across the country that could be in a critical situation, and that need to be closely monitored," the Deputy-director of the World Food Programme (WFP) in Burkina Faso, Ariane Waldvogel, told IRIN.

One thing is for sure: If food insecurity in and around Burkina Faso develops into a real crisis, this could be the spark that allows all these nomadic mercenaries with all their new Libyan toys to ignite a real flame in Burkina Faso - a country that has in recent months experienced unrest - bringing the troubles that Compaoré helped cause elsewhere home to roost.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Blog Updates

I am continuously updating the blog.

It is not so much a question of posts (bloggers post new updates daily, and some post even more often than that) as it is a question of the sidebar.

New widgets get added to the sidebar fairly often, and there is ongoing maintenance to the links provided.

Today, I have added in a widget linking to the election offices for all fifty of the US states. This widget is currently right next to the widget with links to the state court and judicial systems.

The FEC link can be found with the US government links. Also, there is a miscellaneous resource widget that has links to sites that provide information on money in federal and state politics, as well as a plethora of other links.

There is an international news and analysis widget, and it has a great many links to international news sources and various blogs and other sources. More news and analysis links can be found in the widgets for individual US states and for various countries, which are organized by continent (for this purpose, I take the Suez Canal as the boundary between Africa and Asia, so Israel is in Asia, and Egypt in Africa).

The links alone make my blog worth bookmarking. Whenever I want to know what is going on anywhere in the world, I start at and from my blog. ;)

There are excellent sites linked in the sidebar that provide links to campaigns for federal and various state elected offices. It is not my intention to duplicate (mainly, copy) the excellent work done elsewhere. However, I do have many links to many races for US President, US Senate, US House of Representatives, to various races for state offices, and to some national and state political parties and political action committees. If you have a link you would like to see in the sidebar for a polical campaign, please leave a comment, preferably including the URL.

Especially, if you have a link to an NGO, a news source, a think tank, a recommended blog, a government or international entity, etc., please leave a comment with the URL.

Coming soon will be more links to government and political websites in the non-US English-speaking world.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Moscow Nights, Part 2

In Part 1 we took a cursory glance at select examples of corruption in Russia, finishing by calling attention to how Vladimir Putin talked about (over a decade ago) introducing the "dictatorship of the law" on Russia's lawlessness. We now further examine the situation in Russia.

We begin by considering an article from September 12, 2011, entitled We introduce to you a new vacation spot for government leaders... which, complete with pictures, documents a nice, new road leading off into nowhere - but which actually leads to a "tourist complex":

The official web page of the Republic of Altai Government says that, in 2009, Gazprom decided to build a tourist complex, Altai Inn, and that the complex would kick-start development of Altai's massive tourist potential. True, Gazprom people told us that the inn was intended for meetings with business partners, corporate events and for hosting foreign guests. So the tourist potential will obviously cater to a very narrow circle of people. Judging from the way we were pushed out of the inn, we were not members of that circle.

Rumours in Altai claim that the circle is, in fact, even narrower: indeed, guest and partner will be one and the same person, the number one person. We were immediately reminded of the unfortunate experience of journalists and archaeologists from the mountainous part of Altai who tried to attract public attention to the villa and the road. At their request, the Prosecutor's Office discovered some irregularities in the builders' operations and even fined the road contractor but, as a result, the initiators of the inspection had some trouble with the law.

We left the grounds ourselves, not waiting to be pushed out. Gazprom is apparently building the Altai Inn with its own money. The official customer is its subsidiary firm, Gazpromneft. The land, as we were told by the regional administration, had been bought from a deer-breeding farm that went bust and that it did not have the status of a nature reserve. The total cost of the complex is about 1.5 billion roubles. The company will decide how to use the tourist facility and it answered all our questions in the same way as the guards did: "This is private property".

But the road is not private property.

The documents in fact do not refer to it as a road but, rather coyly, as a "spur off highway M52”. The customer is the state-owned institution Gorno-Altai Avtodor, which means the republic's administration. We easily discovered the cost on the Internet: four billion roubles, ie, 200 million per kilometre. By comparison, the annual budget of the whole republic is nine billion. But it is not the locals who are paying: at the Prime Minister's special order, the "spur" leading to Gazprom's complex has been financed out of the Federal Budget, ie, with tax payers' money.

Skipping down just a bit:

[A local named Lev] told us that he was breeding and selling horses, that gays held jamborees on the bank of Katun every summer and finally told us the details of how the Prime Minister himself allegedly came to inspect the tourist complex: "We expected him to fly in by chopper but he drove by jeep."

At that point, one of us noted that the grass growing around the house was cannabis. Lev looked a bit embarrassed and said that the locals were not interested in the grass: "Even the locusts don't eat it here; it's only for those who come here every summer."

It seems federal money was used to build a road to a private country getaway (known in Russian as a "dacha") with a very exclusive guestlist: Vladimir Putin. And, by the way, those who accompany Putin may have an interest in smoking pot.

Why does Russia tolerate Putin?

All countries are unique, but Russia is more unique than most other countries. Russia is not European, yet Russia is not Asian. Russia is Russian - but, the definintion of that word "Russian" is what presents the challenge.

So, why does this place and its people tolerate Putin?

Some analysis from Why haven't the 2011 protests hit Russia? from November 21, 2011:

Russia is far from a brutal war or famine. In fact, it lacks many of the social and economic conditions plaguing Arab states and Western liberal democracies. Despite declining polls, Putin and Co. still remain popular. Russia has successfully weathered the global economic crisis, has no sovereign debt problem, no mortgage crisis, and no widespread household debt. According to Rosstat, overall unemployment is low, around six per cent, but joblessness among young people 16-25 years old is quite high, 26.1 per cent, and comparable to that in Arab states and the West.

Yet this has not caused many young people to lose faith in capitalism or the Putin system. "In Russia everyone knows the emperor wears no clothes, even when he's dressed in Armani and Brioni. Yet we don't have 'occupiers'", writes Malor Sturua in Moskovskii komsomolets. "The ideals of our youth are Putin and [the oligarch Roman] Abramovich, power and money. They aren't drawn to occupy Moscow's 'Wall Street'. They prefer to be a part of it."

Moreover, Sturua continues, Russia is "submerged in a pool of social passivity and civic apathy. Civil society has not ripened in it. Authoritarian society has ripened where they chose the Presidents and nominate the Prime Ministers several years before the elections in secret from the people. And the people who do this are a million times less than one per cent of the Russian population. 'Stability' plays the role of progress. And as they explain not long ago, the Brezhnev stagnation was damn good for the Soviet Union."

Now we consider excerpts from Integrating Russia’s Post-Imperium, by Dmitri Trenin, November 2, 2011:

With Russia's 2012 presidential elections effectively over since Vladimir Putin's decision to reclaim his old Kremlin office, it is time to turn from personalities to policies. Putin plans to stay in the Kremlin for two more presidential terms, another 12 years, as he is enabled to do by the recently-amended constitution. So who will be Russia's next president is now a certainty; less obvious is what he hopes to achieve.

One issue, however, has now shot to the top of Russia's political agenda: Eurasian integration. In early October, Putin wrote a newspaper article that proclaimed what appears to be his reigning foreign-policy goal: a Eurasian Union of former Soviet states. Two weeks later, in St. Petersburg, he hosted a meeting of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) prime ministers, eight of whom signed an agreement establishing a free-trade area among their countries. On January 1, 2012, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia, which now form a customs union, will join a single economic space.

And Putin wants even more: a "Eurasian Schengen" (free movement of people among the three countries, built on the example of the European Union) by 2015, followed by a currency union and, ultimately, full economic integration. Indeed, Putin wants to restructure Russia's relations with the former Soviet states to create not merely a bigger market, but eventually an economic bloc-cum-security alliance.


In his much-quoted newspaper piece, Putin denied that his new integration plans are aimed at restoring the Soviet Union under another name. This is a credible claim, for three basic reasons: the complete evaporation of Russia's imperial élan, its unwillingness to pay other countries' bills, and the new countries' unwillingness to cede too much sovereignty to the former hegemon.


Putin is ambitious, but he is also cautious. He probably sees that only mutual economic interest can do the trick. Creating a new Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON, the Soviet-era trade bloc), or a new Warsaw Pact, is as impossible as a latter-day Soviet Union. Eurasian economic integration, if it stands a chance, must follow a different path.

If all parties concerned join voluntarily, and proceed in a step-by-step manner, as with the EU or the North American Free Trade Agreement, Eurasian integration will benefit all of those involved. Rather than behaving like an empire secretly trying to re-invent itself, Russia has an opportunity to become a regional leader. But Eurasian integration will fail if Russia's partners see the process as Moscow’s attempt at political domination.


In the West, Putin's best-remembered statement about the Soviet Union described its end as the "greatest catastrophe of the twentieth century." But Putin's other comments, less familiar to Western readers, refer to the Soviet system as "unviable." In his ruthless judgment, those who want the USSR back "have no brains."

The picture that emerges is one of Putin presenting himself as a strong, perhaps paternalistic leader, not unlike some of Russia's tsars. A comparison to Stalin is not totally inappropriate, provided one also considers the contrasts. This strong leader guarantees strength and stability to Russia during times of global turmoil, and Russians, who have had three revolutions in the past century, and centuries of troubles at the hand of foreign and domestic powers, are not unattracted by this prospect. Yes, Putin is corrupt, but cynicism would dictate that all leaders are, and at least under Putin, Russians have stability and a chance to work their way into a better life and become "part of it".

Yet, Putin's plan is not to rebuild the USSR, which was founded on ideology and preached a world revolution; rather, Putin is about business, regardless of which side of the law the business is on. This is an economic empire being built - it is everything Soviet ideologues ever accused the United States in particular and capitalists in general of being.

But, instead of a phoenix arising from the ashes of the Soviet Union, Russia's corrupt leadership today is fiddling while Russia burns. From Russia's Dangerous Implosion, November 19, 2011:

Russia is set to experience a debilitating demographic crisis. Its population will sicken and drop by one-third, and its dominant Slavic-Orthodox population will dwindle and be surpassed by its Islamic faction. The consequences of this crisis will, unless the world gets better leadership than the likes of Barack Obama, and soon, have dire and direct and lasting effects for the rest of the world.

According to RIA Novosti, Russia's Kremlin-funded answer to Reuters, between 1950 and 2000 Russia's share of the world population fell by half, from 4% to 2%. And, according to RIA, it will fall by half again before this century is out, dropping to just 1%. That means only one out of every 100 people on the planet will be citizen of the Russian Federation.

If you look at a map of the world in 2100 with boundaries redrawn to reflect share of world population (RIA helpfully draws one for you), Russia is invisible. While the population of the rest of the world has grown, Russia's has fallen back to the level it had in 1950 under Stalin. By 2100, the population if the USA will be more than triple that of Russia.

If we start analyzing the causes of this catastrophe, we make initial note of the fact that Russia has the world's highest rate of abortion. In 2009 Russia exterminated a shocking 1.3 million fetuses, 73 for every 100 babies born. Russia has more abortions each year than the United States, a country with more than double Russia's population. By contrast, Russia's birth rate ranks #166 out of 195 world nations. Hardly any babies are being conceived, and more than 40% of those that are conceived are exterminated before being born.

The fate of babies that are born in Russia is a bleak one. Russia ranks #6 in the world for fatality by suicide. It has the second-highest prevalence of AIDS in Eurasia. It is #7 in the world for cigarette consumption and #5 in the world for alcohol consumption. Its rate of fatality by fire is ten times that of the United States, and it is the most dangerous place in the world to drive a car or get on a plane.

All this leads Russians to a very early grave: Russia's average life expectancy of 65.5 years places it #135 out of 194 world countries. That's the bottom third of the planet.

Russians have given up on the future, seeking desperately to have fun today, and perhaps a better tomorrow; that the day after is doomsday means nothing - or, perhaps, it means everything, and has become the justification.

For whatever reason, Mother Russia is dying.

From Russia: the logic of decline, September 16, 2011:

There are specific factors that precipitate the demise of a system. Above all, it is the ruling team that cannot be replaced. If there is no political competition, there can be no development. How important is it who personifies power? Judge for yourselves: Putin, who is associated with certainty (we know what to expect from him) may accelerate the processes of decay. For his part, Medvedev, with his diffuse position and penchant for mimicry, might slow them down. But what is better for Russia: rapid or slow decay? Putin's regime, relying on security structures and their control of property, is inherently repressive and incapable of modernisation.

Another factor of decline is the obsession of the power apparatus, above all security men, with their personal enrichment. All civilisations perished when their elites started thinking about their own purses. Sparta and the Ottoman Empire were invincible until the Spartans and the Janissaries engaged in trade.


The "Kushchevskaya syndrome", which has been repeated many times all across Russia, i.e. the intertwining of the mob, business, government and repressive bodies, is further proof of degradation of a system that cannot function even according to its own rules.


The Russian ruling class not only deprives society of its viability. It is setting a trap for itself. The most successful mechanism that humanity has developed for self-preservation (including of the elite) is free competition. As soon as the East European elites agreed that they would not cling to power, they guaranteed development for their societies and security for themselves. The fact that the Russian ruling team is trying to secure an infinite monopoly for itself attests to its lack of confidence and inability to run a free society. Monopoly implies the need constantly to protect it and it makes it impossible to relinquish power without fearing for one's life. So far, only Mikhail Gorbachev has managed to break out of this vicious circle without fearing for his personal safety. The fate of Arab rulers who have lost power or are desperately clinging on to it cannot but prompt anxious thoughts in Russian rulers. If they hope they will be able to avoid sharing the fate of other "autocrats" they are in for a disappointment: the last twenty years have not seen a single instance of a happy end to one-man rule.


Everything is beginning to fall apart. The once all-powerful institution of leadership is losing its influence. There is a growing awareness in the midst of the political class that relying on Putin as guarantor of security may soon pose a threat to the very survival of that class. The state and its security structures are perceived by the population as a hostile force. When 73% of respondents believe that the gap between the rich and the poor has widened over the last ten years and 52% that the government has more thieves and corrupt officials than in the 1990s and finally, when more than half the respondents are sure that the coming elections will not be fair - that is a sign of alienation of the population from power.

Moscow is well-lit by power, money, and good times, but all around, dusk is falling on one of the world's great countries, as a great people, which has been through so much, parties its way into a long, dark night.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This One Before, Part 4

We continue from Part 3 considering the connections between the US government and Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel.

This map, from Mexico's Drug-Related Violence, a report by June S. Beittel of the Congressional Research Service dated May 27, 2009, shows the geographic extent of the Sinaloa Cartel's activity as of 2009; notice that the Sinaloa Cartel had the greatest geographic area of activity.

Some recent news and analysis came out in an article entitled US Prosecutors Seeking to Prevent Dirty Secrets of Drug War From Surfacing in Cartel Leader's Case, from November 5, 2011; we quote the beginning:

US Government Using National Security to Conceal Evidence, Attorneys for Narco-Trafficker Zambada Niebla Claim

The criminal case of accused Sinaloa drug organization leader Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla is straying even further into the path of a cover-up under the guise of national security, if pleadings filed by his attorneys are to be believed.

Lawyers for the alleged Mexican narco-trafficker, son of one of the top figures in the Sinaloa "cartel," recently filed a motion asking the court to block U.S. prosecutors' efforts to exclude the defense from discussions with the judge over the treatment of evidence deemed classified material. Zambada Niebla's attorneys contend they must be part of those discussions since the supposed classified material goes to the heart of their client's claims in the case.

The information the US government is seeking to withhold from Zambada Niebla's attorneys, they believe, is likely related to a key figure in the case, an informant, Mexican attorney Humberto Loya Castro, who served as an intermediary between the Sinaloa Cartel leadership and US government agents seeking to obtain information on rival narco-trafficking organizations.

The analysis goes on, at one point quoting from an affidavit dated October 24, 2011, entitled DECLARATION OF FERNANDO X. GAXIOLA, and filed in the ongoing case UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. JESUS VICENTE ZAMBADA-NIEBLA, which the article addresses. Here I quote an excerpt from the same part of the affidavit quoted by the article:

9. Mr. Loya-Castro stated that agents told him that, in exchange for information about rival drug trafficking organizations, the United States government agreed to dismiss the prosecution of the pending case against Mr. Loya-Castro, not to interfere with his drug trafficking activities and those of the Sinaloa Cartel, to not actively prosecute him, Chapo, Mayo, and the leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel, and to not apprehend them. The agents stated that this arrangement had been approved by high-ranking officials and federal prosecutors. Mr. Loya-Castro told Chapo and Mayo about this arrangement, and they agreed and relied on this agreement by providing the requested information. Mr. Zambada-Niebla was told of this agreement and relied on this arrangement by providing the requested information to Mr. Loya-Castro, who would then pass along the information to the agents. The agents told Mr. Loya-Castro that, when he went to meet with Chapo, he should notify the agents in advance. The agents assured Mr. Loya-Castro that they would not follow him and would not interfere with the meetings so that he could be calm and obtain as much information as possible, and Mr. Loya-Castro informed Chapo that the agents would be aware that he was going to meet with him. The agents also told Mr. Loya-Castro to be careful when he spoke on the telephone with Chapo because they could be heard by Mexican authorities, and therefore he should not be explicit about the information that he gave Chapo over the telephone. The agents also allowed Mr. Loya-Castro to be present at confidential meetings where information about the Sinaloa Cartel was being discussed and allowed him to pass the information along to Chapo.

10. Mr. Loya-Castro stated that he gave the agents significant information that he relayed from Chapo, Mayo, and Mr. Zambada-Niebla, which resulted in numerous arrests of major figures in rival drug trafficking organizations. He said he was present when Chapo received a call from Mr. Zambada-Niebla in which Mr. Zambada-Niebla provided information about a major rival drug trafficker for the purpose of passing on to the DEA, which he did pass on and which helped lead to the apprehension of that individual. Mr. Loya-Castro stated that, under his agreement with the government, the charges against him were dismissed in 2008.

11. Mr. Loya-Castro stated that, in 2007, he asked his main handler, a DEA agent named "Manny," to help him obtain the same deal that he had received for Mr. Zambada-Niebla who had outstanding federal charges in the District of Columbia, in exchange for information. Thereafter, Mr. Loya-Castro negotiated the same deal for Mr. Zambada-Niebla. In 2009, Manny informed Loya-Castro that the federal prosecutor in Washington D.C. and the DEA had agreed that Mr. Zambada-Niebla's charges would also be dismissed and he would not be subject to prosecution in exchange for information. As a result, they arranged a meeting between the DEA agents and Mr. Zambada-Niebla in Mexico City so that the parties could establish a more personal relationship and so they could deal directly under the same arrangement that Mr. Loya-Castro had. Mr. Loya-Castro told Mr. Zambada-Nieble that he was immune from arrest and prosecution under the existing agreement and that the agents wanted to continue the same arrangement with him.

Basically, the DEA teamed up with the Sinaloa Cartel. The Sinaloa Cartel would help provide information that the DEA would use to take down the Sinaloa Cartel's rivals; in return, certain key Sinaloa Cartel figures would be immune from prosecution. This relations ship was going back several years.

Of course, the predictable outcome would be that the Sinaloa Cartel would come to dominate the drug-trafficking in Mexico.

Might this arrangement help explain the greater extent of geographic influence of the Sinaloa Cartel as opposed to the other cartels in Mexico?

We now consider excerpts from Mexico's Drug Cartels by the Congressional Research Service, updated February 25, 2008, from pages 13-15 (of 21) (I fixed some misspellings):

Enforcer Gangs


Sinaloa Cartel

In response to the Zetas, the Sinaloa cartel established its own heavily-armed enforcer gangs, the Negros and Pelones. Both are less sophisticated than the Zetas, and focused on attacks against adversaries.39 Edgar "La Barbie" Valdés Villarreal is alleged to be the head of the Negros. The Negros are believed to be "responsible for the recent rise in attacks against police officers in Nuevo Laredo, in an attempt to wrest control over the local police from the Zetas."40

In recent turf wars in Tamaulipas, Guerrero, Michoacán, Nuevo León, and Tabasco, the Zetas have alleged that the Sinaloa cartel and Negros leader "La Barbie," enjoy police protection. The Mexican government dismissed these charges, noting that it has at varying times focused on prosecutions of different cartels, and each time the affected cartel charges that the government is working on behalf of a rival organization.41 In May 2006, "La Barbie" made similar allegations of police protection of the Zetas in a full-page ad in a Mexico City daily.42

Police Corruption

Mexican cartels advance their operations, in part, by corrupting or intimidating law enforcement officials. For example, Nuevo Laredo municipal police have reportedly been involved in the kidnapping of Gulf cartel competitors to hand over to the Zetas. The Zetas then hold them for ransom or torture them for information about their drug operations.43 The International Narcotics Control Board44 (INCB) reports that although Mexico has made concerted efforts to reduce corruption in recent years, it remains "a serious problem."45 Recent efforts to combat corruption include promoting professionalism in law enforcement agencies and inclusion of rule of law lessons in training. Nevertheless, the INCB recommends that Mexico continue to promote efforts to combat corruption.46

Some agents of Mexico's Federal Investigative Agency (AFI) are believed to work as enforcers for the Sinaloa cartel, and the Attorney General's Office (PGR) reported in December 2005 that one-fifth of its officers are under investigation for criminal activity. The PGR reported in late 2005 that nearly 1,500 of AFI's 7,000 agents were under investigation for suspected criminal activity and 457 were facing charges. In November 2005, a video depicting the interrogation of four Zetas who revealed their methods of torture, ties to Mexican law enforcement agencies, and recruitment techniques, was given to the Dallas Morning News. The video ends with the murder of one of the Zetas. The Mexican government sent mixed signals about the involvement of AFI agents in the kidnapping of the Zetas, first announcing that eight agents were under investigation, and then announcing that AFI agents had no connection to the kidnapping and murder of the four Zetas.47 However, a report from a non-governmental organization says that "subsequent U.S. and Mexican press reports based on Mexican court files have concluded that AFI agents probably kidnapped the Zetas in the resort city of Acapulco, then handed them over to members of the Sinaloa cartel to be interrogated and executed."48

This might put into perspective a recent report entitled Neither Rights Nor Security: Killings, Torture, and Disappearances in Mexico's "War on Drugs". The report made a splash in some circles about rampant torture and other abuses by Mexican authorities during recent years.

Of course, it could be that authorities on both sides of the border have been corrupted, with key officials allowing the trafficking of arms to the Sinaloa Cartel and obstructing justice on its behalf, and steering the conduct of counternarcotics operations to take down the Sinaloa Cartel's competitors.

That might also explain not just the... uh... aggressive law enforcement tactics... :) being used by Mexican authorities, but also the rise of some apparent vigilantes in some parts of Mexico. From Shadowy group says it targets cartel; some in Veracruz are glad, October 19, 2011, by Tracy Wilkinson:

Reporting from Veracruz, Mexico— The callers to the radio program were voicing their support for the Matazetas, the Zeta killers.

Better they fight among themselves. Let them kill each other. Anything to rid us of the thugs who long ago took control of our city and are slaughtering our people.

It is a sign of the desperation and deep outrage over surging drug-war violence that a shadowy group of vigilante killers is not only tolerated but welcomed by many here in Mexico's third-most populous state.

Yet it also comes with a disturbing question: Just who is behind the killings of Zetas — another drug gang? Agents acting on behalf of the government or military? An ad hoc group whose presence is being tolerated by authorities as well as the public?

Or, are these vigilantes that are fed up with the excessive crime and with the excessive government corruption? Skipping down:

Their sudden rise and the surgical precision with which the killers systematically picked off nearly 100 people in 17 days has led to conjecture among some people that they may be operating with implicit or direct support of the government or military. Some suggest that the June kidnapping, torture and killing of three marine cadets in Veracruz might have propelled the marine corps to begin acting outside the law. Officials dismiss such speculation, and others wonder why a group aspiring to be a clandestine death squad would post videos on YouTube.

The case against Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla - and several related cases - are being prosecuted in northern Illinois. In fact, according to a February 18, 2010, press release from the US Attorney's office in the Northern District of Illinois, several Chicago-area-based agencies were key in cooperating to bring Mr. Zambada's case to court:

The DEA led the investigation in Chicago, together with the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division and the Chicago Police Department. Also assisting in the overall investigation were DEA's National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Police Department; the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of Illinois; the Chicago and Peoria offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Chicago offices of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Cook County Sheriff's Department, and other state and local law enforcement agencies. The investigation was coordinated by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago, and with the assistance of agents and analysts of the Special Operations Division (SOD), and attorneys from the Criminal Division's Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section (NDDS), which is prosecuting related cases.

It sure looks suspicious that the current President, under whose administration much of this gun-trafficking scandal has occurred, is from the same part of the country as key law enforcement agencies that helped put together this case against Zambada.

What might have happened that US authorities are now prosecuting a guy they supposedly had a deal with? And, what classified information might the government be trying to keep under wraps during the course of this prosecution?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pearls of the Sun God, Part 2

We continue from Part 1 examining the events in Somalia, which have taken an interesting turn.

Anyone following the news from the Horn of Africa knows that the TFG, together with AMISOM, launched an offensive to clear Al Shabaab terrorists from Mogadishu and its environs.

From AMISOM PRESS RELEASE: TFG/AMISOM Commence Operations to Secure Final Sector of Mogadishu, October 10, 2011:

10 civilian deaths from continued Al Shabaab mortaring in Heliwa and Karaan Districts last week have prompted the Somali National Army, supported by AMISOM, to undertake operations in the North of the Mogadishu.

Operations are aimed at securing the former Arafat Hospital and the Pasta Factory on the Industrial Road, and driving the Al Qaeda linked extremists out of the city.

And, more recently, from AMISOM PRESS RELEASE: Control of Deynile Critical to Security of Mogadishu, October 21, 2011:

Mogadishu, 21 October, 2011; AMISOM Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Fred Mugisha, today undertook a tour of the frontline following the commencement yesterday of operations in support of the Somali National Army, aimed at pushing al-Qa'ida linked extremists from the strategic Deynile district on the outskirts of Mogadishu.

"Deynile is of vital strategic importance as it controls access to the Afgoye Corridor which links the capital to the terrorist-controlled areas of southern Somalia, allowing them to reinforce and resupply their fighters in Masla and Balaad in the far northeastern edges of the city," he said following his tour.

"The Afgoye Corridor is also home to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons and securing it will allow humanitarian aid, which the extremists have so far been restricting, to finally reach them," he said. "The extremists have also been using the suburbs of Deynile as a base to assemble improvised explosive devices, including car and truck bombs such as those recently employed to target civilians in the capital."

He said that the success of this operation was critical for the security of Mogadishu. "As was to be expected, given Deynile's significance, the operation has encountered heavy resistance but steady progress is being made. In the face of this resistance, AMISOM has suffered casualties," he added.

The offensive has had some success - which generates new problems. As we previously pointed out, control of key economic areas in Mogadishu served as a source of income for Al Shabaab, as the organization "taxed" merchants and businesses.

Of course, we have also been told a big part of the problem in Somalia now is a famine.

But, then, the famine is starting to look a little suspicious.

We now consider an article entitled Somalia: Manufacturing a famine by Rasna Warah, October 19, 2011:

On July 18 this year, the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea tabled a report to the UN Security Council.

The report stated that United Nations agencies, international humanitarian aid organisations and local Somali non-governmental organisations had been forced to move their operations or cease them entirely in many parts of Somalia, mainly due to "an alarming void in international humanitarian aid and development assistance," and also because of "threats from elements of Al Shabaab," who control much of southern Somalia.

Two days later, the UN's World Food Programme — the largest distributor of food aid to Somalia — declared that Bakool and Lower Shebelle, two regions in southern Somalia, had been hit by the worst famine in 20 years.

The UN agency further claimed that 3.7 million people across the country — almost half the total Somali population – were in danger of starving, of which 2.8 million were in the south.

This declaration led to a massive multimillion-dollar fund-raising campaign by UN and international humanitarian agencies. Meanwhile, journalists began referring to the famine as a "biblical event." By September, Time magazine was reporting that the famine had expanded and that a full 12.4 million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda were at risk from hunger.

The magazine also stated that in southern Somalia, 63 per cent of the population was either starving or at risk of it.

These figures did not convince many Somali analysts, including Ahmed Jama, a Nairobi-based agricultural economist and former consultant with the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation.

"I was disturbed by the WFP announcement because Lower Shebelle is Somalia's breadbasket and had even experienced a bumper harvest last year," he told this writer.

Skipping down:

But was there really widespread famine, or were the famine figures exaggerated or misinterpreted? FSNAU's estimates for Somali populations "in crisis" in the period August-September 2011 were highest in the most fertile southern parts of Somalia, and were highest in those areas controlled by Al Shabaab.

Significantly, there were only 490,000 people (less than one-eighth of Nairobi's population) in Somalia who were experiencing what the IPC classifies as "famine" or a "humanitarian catastrophe."

In fact, about half of the nearly four million people that the WFP claims are starving are actually experiencing what is known as a "humanitarian emergency"; the rest are in an "acute food and livelihood crisis."

Therefore, I think the widely reported "famine" in Somalia is highly exaggerated. What Somalia is experiencing is generalised food insecurity, not widespread famine. Unfortunately, most media organisations have failed to mention or comprehend this fact.

Is it possible that the "famine" in Somalia was "manufactured" to raise funds? The sequence of events leading to the famine appeal certainly raises suspicions. According to Jama, the timing of the famine declaration in July was probably a response to the shortfall of funds that WFP has recently been experiencing and also to divert attention from the criticism that the UN agency was subjected to after the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia released its 2010 report in March last year.

Then, WFP was castigated by the UN Monitoring Group for colluding with corrupt Somali contractors who are known to sell or divert food aid. Sources interviewed by the Monitoring Group — an entity mandated by the UN Security Council to monitor arms embargo violations in Somalia — estimated that up to half of the food aid reaching Somalia was regularly diverted, not just by Somali transport contractors, but by WFP personnel and NGOs operating in Somalia. That 2010 report led some donors, notably the US, to withdraw funding to WFP’s operations in Somalia.

Rasna then goes on to explain how the European Union has invested a considerable amount of money - 175 million Euros over the past 15 years - to develop the agricultural infrastructure of the Shabelle region of Somalia - "Somalia's breadbasket" - and the question presents itself as to how a famine could occur in a "breadbasket" whose infrastructure has been built up with so much investment over more than a decade. Later on, Rasna points out that the EU funds this through the UN, and relies on UN reports to assess the effectiveness of the program - without any independent or EU audits.

An opportunity for someone? To divert and profit from control of international aid? And, perhaps more... after all, there is international traffic of ships, aircraft, and trucks moving that international aid, from developed countries to Somalia, and then the ships, aircraft and trucks go back... I wonder if they are empty when they go back.

The interesting turn, though, is a Kenyan armed invervention, prompted - supposedly - by lawlessness that spilled over from Somalia into Kenya.

From Kibaki gambles on regional war with Al Shabaab, October 21, 2011 (also available here):

Panic in Lamu

Some witnesses say the kidnappings along Kenya's coast were carried out by groups linked to the Somali pirates whose operations have come under pressure from heavier international maritime policing in the region. The kidnappings generated panic. The resort town of Lamu, favoured by (relatively) wealthy European tourists, emptied within days and this at the start of the tourist high season, which this year was forecast to generate a record US$1 billion in revenue.

Those abductions were further aggravated by the kidnapping of two Spanish aid workers in the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp. This was the shot that sent Kenya's armed forces into south-central Somalia. Invoking Article 61 of the United Nations charter on territorial integrity, some 1,600 Kenyan troops launched their first cross-border military offensive, Operation Linda Nchi (Protect the Nation), since the end of the Shifta War in 1967. Derided in the region for their lack of fighting experience, the Kenyan armed forces have deployed mechanised infantry with aerial cover from fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships. We hear that Somali TFG troops will be joining them in the battle for Afmadow.

The real prize, though, is the port city of Kismayo. Both Kenya's military and its Amisom counterparts believe that the capture of Kismayo, from which Al Shabaab now derives much of its revenue, will choke off the militants.

Kismayo... in Part 1 we discussed how Al Shabaab taxes, among other things, the charcoal industry, which exports charcoal to the Arabian Peninsula. But, a port town is important for moving other commodities, as well.

By the way: the Kenyan attack seems to be supported by US drone activity which has resulted in losses of some of our drones.

Either way, Kismayo is important to Al Shabaab, and Al Shabaab is preparing to defend it. From Kenya-Somalia: A risky intervention, October 20, 2011:

On the move

"Many people have been leaving in the last three days. No-one wants to get caught up in the fighting, I have sent my family to the villages," said a resident of Afmadow, a town 140km north of Kenya's border.

Describing the intervention as a "joint Kenya-Somali operation", the commander of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces in the border area, Gen. Yusuf Hussein Dhumal, told IRIN from his base in Tabta, 65km north of the Kenyan border, that his forces were in control of Qoqani, 50km south of Afmadow town.

"We are being delayed by heavy rains. Our aim was to be in Afmadow by now but the rains have made that impossible. We will push until we chase them [Al-Shabab] from Kismayo."

Mohamed Ahmed Ilkase, a reporter for Somali national TV travelling with the Somali forces, told IRIN Al-Shabab was reportedly regrouping in Afmadow.

A resident of the port city of Kismayo, 500km south of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, said Al-Shabab had been reinforcing its positions in the city and conscripting people "to fight the enemy. They have been bringing many militias since Monday [17 October] and have been calling on residents to register to fight."

He said families had started leaving the city. "Some are going south [towards Kenya], while many others are going north to Mogadishu."

Al Shabaab has time to dig in to defend Kismayo, conscripting local people to fight. The time is available because heavy rains are slowing the movement of the military forces trying to seize the town... heavy rains in a region that has a famine caused by drought.

Of course, it is not uncommon for an area devastated by drought to have heavy rain, which still does not make up for an extended time of below-average rainfall. And, it is not uncommon in arid regions of the world for sudden heavy rain to bring vehicular movement to a standstill.

We consider an excerpt from an article entitled Taliban Heroin Flooding Kenya on its Way To Europe and The Americas from December 14, 2009 (the post appears to be a copy of an article from The Standard (Kenya), to which I link in the sidebar, but I have (curiously) not been able to find the article there; italics, boldface and other formatting are in the original):

Kenya is fast becoming a key hub for trafficking of drugs from Afghanistan to the rest of the world.

According to reports by the United Nations, "30 to 35 metric tonnes" of Afghan heroin pass through East Africa each year.

This is two-thirds the volume going through West Africa. The largest ever drug haul in Kenya, in December 2004, was 1.1 metric tonnes with a street value of over Sh13 billion.

The proceeds from the drugs are used to finance terrorism activities in Northern Africa and some other sub-Saharan states. It is also suspected that the illicit drug trade supports the unending conflict in neighbouring Somalia.

The Taliban, among whom the world's most notorious terrorist Osama bin Laden hides, are reported to earn $100 million (Sh8 billion) a year from protecting the drug trade. Drug barons are rumoured to sit in Afghan government positions raking in billions more. The UN puts the potential export value of Afghan narcotics at about $3.4 billion (Sh270 billion) a year. So much is grown that destroying it all is impossible: With stockpiles of 10,000 metric tonnes awaiting export, the UN this year proposed creating a "flood of drugs" in the country to destroy the value of opium.

This last comment is interesting; if the Afghan opium fields were suddendly destroyed, for example, by spraying herbicide on or by burning the opium plants, there is still enough Afghan heroin in the "pipeline" to supply the world until another harvest - and, perhaps, for longer. This stuff has been getting stockpiled under the watch of US-led international forces in Afghanistan.

Skipping down:

On November 24, a ministerial declaration supporting UN efforts against drugs and organised crime was signed in Kenya. Dated December 8, the report quotes Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director on the UN Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) as saying: "Drugs are enriching not only organized crime but also terrorists and other anti-Government forces,"

He describes the situation as a worrisome development.

"In East Africa... 30 to 35 tonnes of Afghan heroin [are] trafficked each year causing a dramatic increase in heroin addiction and spreading of HIV and Aids in the slums of Nairobi and Mombasa."

The official said the rise is also connected to state failure in Somalia.

"Mainly because of the drastic situation in Somalia, he said, East Africa was becoming a free economic zone for all sorts of trafficking — drugs, migrants, guns, hazardous wastes and natural resources."

West Africa has traditionally been associated with the international drug trade but Kenya now leads states in East Africa that have emerged as favourites for drug traffickers.

Obviously, this development of Kenya becoming a hub for drug-trafficking is not something that happened over night. For example, drug-trafficking through Kenya was addressed in an article entitled Traffickers' drugs haven in Kenya by Karen Allen, May 9, 2006


It is something that worries Titus Naikuni, chief executive of Kenya Airways.

His airline crews have been amongst those used as drug mules.

Five of his staff have been arrested over the past year, trying to bring narcotics into Europe.

With extra security measures now in place, he says his employees are aware that international drug cartels are now targeting them.

The travel industry is used to move drugs from Kenya to Europe.

It is interesting that the previously-described "panic in Lamu" is resulting in a dramatically-decreased number of tourists coming in from Europe to Kenya. Decreased business might have an impact on the travel industry... at a minimum, fewer tourists means that honest customs and immigration officials (assuming some can be found) have more time to examine aircraft, passengers and cargo, and thus to detect drug shipments.

We now consider an excerpt from a recent report, Termites at Work: Transnational Organized Crime and State Erosion in Kenya by Peter Gastrow, September, 2011:

While to the onlooker Kenya appears to be in a relatively healthy state, it is in fact weakening due to a process of internal decay. Endemic corruption and powerful transnational criminal networks are “white-anting” state institutions and public confidence in them. Termites are at work, hollowing out state institutions from the inside. As a result, development is being hampered, governance undermined, public trust in institutions destroyed, and international confidence in Kenya’s future constantly tested.

The country is perceived as one of the most corrupt in the world, ranked far down at 154th on a list of 178 countries that feature in the 2010 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.5 Close to 90 percent of Kenyans surveyed rated their country as being between corrupt and extremely corrupt, while only 8.5 percent regarded it as slightly corrupt.6 Bribery has become a normal part of life. In 2010, 58.6 percent of persons who sought the services of the Nairobi City Council paid bribes, 54.4 percent of those who sought the services of the police did the same, and 47.8 percent who sought the services of the judiciary also resorted to bribes.7 It is this corruption- ridden environment that enables criminal networks to thrive. They can buy protection, information, and power.

I wonder if the corruption includes collaborating with transnational cartels that traffic in Afghan heroin (and Latin American cocaine)?

Kenya's intervention in Somalia is not about stabilizing Somalia, a neighbor which has been in chaos for decades. The intervention is about control of a route for moving heroin from Afghanistan where it is produced, via Iran and Pakistan, to the Somali port of Kismayo, from which heroin is trafficked through the lawless areas of southern Somalia and across the border into Kenya, and from there smuggled to lucrative markets in Europe and elsewhere.

And, the US is actively supporting this intervention, just like the US occupies Afghanistan, where the heroin is now comfortably produced and even stockpiled.