If there is one man in Africa who combines kindness, authoritarianism of right and rationed proportions with nevertheless a deep commitment to democracy, business proficiency learnt on his now large-scale farms, political nous that outsmarts all competitors, a demanding Christian belief, honed while he was in prison for 3 years under the military dictatorship and a not overdone portion of charisma, it is Olusegun Obasanjo, the man who returned Nigeria, Africa’s most populated country and largest economy, to democracy twice and was himself the elected president for 8 years from 1999 to 2007. No wonder a majority of Nigerians consider the Obasanjo years as the best in Nigeria’s history.
Блог пользователя Jonathan Power
Was the cultured and sophisticated Italian writer, Oriani Fallaci, speaking for the large numbers of working class people who end up being the ones who usually play host to immigrants, when she wrote in a leading liberal newspaper, Corriere della Serra, of her experience of trying to get rid of Somali immigrants living in a tent, performing all their bodily functions next to Florence’s cathedral? “I don’t go singing Ave Marias or Paternosters before the tomb of Mohammed. I don’t piss or shit at the feet of their minarets. When I find myself in their countries I never forget that I am a guest and a foreigner. I am careful not to offend them with clothing or behaviour that are normal to us but inadmissible to them. Why should we respect people who don’t respect us? Why should we defend their culture or presumed culture when they don’t respect ours. I want to defend our culture and I say that I prefer Dante Alighieri or Omar Khayyam. And the sky opens. They crucify me ‘Racist, racist’.”
Is Islam violent? ISIS in Syria and Iraq. In Pakistan, there is Lashkar-e-Taiba and the attempted murderer of the schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai. Immigrant Moroccan men roughly pushing women and fondling them in the crowd in Cologne. Murderous bombs in Paris. Ayan Hirsi Ali, a Somali female author who was raised a Muslim, writes, “Violence is inherent in Islam- it’s a destructive, nihilistic cult of death. It legitimates murder.”
The British have a problem. A referendum con continuing membership of the European Union scheduled for June may lead to Brexit- Britain heading for the exit. Anybody with any knowledge of Europe’s war-like history knows this would be totally self-defeating.
Writing in 1751 Voltaire described Europe as “a kind of great republic, divided into several states, some monarchical, the others mixed but all corresponding with one another. They all have the same religious foundation, even if divided into several confessions. They all have the same principles of public law and politics unknown in other parts of the world.” But they also had a lot of war.
It’s two years since a mass of demonstrators brought down the centrist government of President Viktor Yanukovych.
We don’t hear much about Ukraine these days, mainly because the foreign journalists, not having too much to do- and often being freelance and therefore only paid by the number of lines they get printed- have gone home or to other hot spots. Most of the news these days comes out of the Washington-based IMF that repeatedly warns that the economy of Ukraine teeters on the brink and that corruption remains so deep and widespread that it is difficult, to say the least, to get good economic decisions made. Often the government appears to be checkmated by an unsympathetic parliament where the representatives of the oligarchs, who prefer the status quo, wield their power.
There are three schools of thought in American foreign policy- two you have heard about and a third that is relegated to the background.
The first and arguably the most prominent is the neo-conservative. These people, in the days of the Soviet Union, were the rabid anti-communists who wanted to beat the Soviet Union into the ground with vastly increased spending on defence. Today they are the ones who supported the extreme right wing agitators who overthrew the middle-of-the-road president of Ukraine, Wiktor Yanukovich. They supported President George Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and want President Barack Obama to intervene in Syria.
We in the world outside the US don’t have a vote in the US presidential election in November. But that doesn’t stop most of us having a strong opinion on who should win. Very few non-Americans would vote Republican- and probably not 51% of Americans. After all President Barack Obama won two elections and has not given the Democrats a bad name. Many of us are being pulled towards Senator Bernie Sanders, a social democrat, who is giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money. But to be honest, once the primaries in the southern states start to roll, he is likely to be marginalized by Mrs. Clinton. She will probably win the election for president.
“Brazil has a great future, and always will”, said Charles de Gaulle, the president of France in the 1960s. In truth it is not difficult to be cynical about Brazil. It is a large land of both great potential and many lost opportunities- and yet whenever I visit it, as I have regularly over 40 years, I find the positive changes are immense.
In my time I have seen growth rates year after year of 10% or more. I have seen the transformation of favelas- shanty towns- into solid working class housing. I have seen infant mortality rates plummet. (To capture the flavor of the lives of the poor a must read is the new top prize-winning novel, “Quarenta Dias” (Forty Days), written by Valeria Rezende, a nun.) And under Brazil’s last president, Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, leader of the Workers’ Party I have seen the almost unbelievable- capitalist economic progress and socialist social progress storming ahead hand in hand.
Life, said Martin Luther King “is a long and desolate corridor with no exit sign”. He must have said that when his spirits were flagging as most of the time he was optimistic about making the world a better place.
I was reminded of this when reading a new report, “Freedom in the World, 2016”, written by the US-based Freedom House. For the tenth consecutive year, it says, freedom has declined. 72 countries slipped back in the amount of political, civil rights and press freedom they allowed their citizens. 43 countries made gains. However, to keep it in proportion, the number of countries which are free is much higher than when the Cold War ended. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of countries going backwards have small populations.
Yesterday in Kabul the so-called Quadrilateral Coordination Group - comprising representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US - met to hold discussions on a roadmap to peace in Afghanistan.
A former Taliban senior official said that "military confrontation is not the solution" and that a "political solution" was needed to end the war in Afghanistan. "The motivation for peace talks was very weak in the past," Mohammad Hassan Haqyar said. "But now the situation has changed and the parties seem to have a readiness for dialogue."