Archive for May 14th, 2009
Mosque Massacres Revisited
By Peter Cassie-Chitty
On Friday August 4, 1990 over three hundred Muslims, men and boys, were prostrate in prayer at the Meera Jumma Mosque, fifty yards from the Kandy Batticaloa Road. None of them were armed.
It was seven twenty in the evening and the town of Katankudi was lit up. The prayers went on when there was a power cut throwing the mosque into darkness.
A stones throw away from the Meera Jumma is the smaller Hussainya Mosque. There was a smaller gathering of approximately forty people here — prostrate in prayer too. The power cuut had been effected by the large group of LTTE cadres on their murderous mission.
According to eye witnesses the raiders were dressed in battle fatigues, others in sarongs and tee shirts. They drove up in several white Hiace vans — armed LTTE cadres.
A. I. Ismail was 55 then. M.M. Akbar was 16. Two men who survived the attack as fate disposed and told the tale. It was appalling.
The most crowded place
In Katankudi the population is denser than in any part of South Asia including Calcutta. In one and a half square kilometres live 50,000 people.
In August 1990 there had been agitation in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. Security was sparse and the Muslim and Sinhalese civilians living in the area were exposed to the aftermath of Black July 1983.
LTTE attacks had accounted for 14 Muslims on August 1 in Akkaraipattu. The dead men had their hands tied behind their backs with their own clothes and then shot in the occipital (back) region of the head.
Between August 2 and 3 of that year, fifteen other muslims were killed in attacks by the LTTE at Medawachchiya, Batticaloa and Majeedpuram. On August 4 they hit Katankudi.
I found the streets of Katankudi bare and all the shops closed. First impressions were that of a ghost town. Then when we reached the mosque everything changed. “This is a ‘hartal’. We have closed shops to mark the ten years that our children and their mothers have suffered without the bread winners of their families. Some mothers lost very young children who had gone but to worship Allah”, the trustee of the mosque, a tall, bearded middle aged man says in perfect English.
On the walls of the mosque are the marks left by machine gun fire. The floor bears the markings of the grenades that were thrown at the worshippers. We spend some time listening to the voices that are strained with emotion. Young children and women cling to the windows of the mosque and wait to tell their stories.
Katankudi’s narrow side streets are crowded with screaming children at play in the hot soft sand of eastern afternoons. They are as noisy as children anywhere in the world.
In 1990 Akram was the youngest most precocious at six, Ajimeel, Jaroon and Rizwan, were 10, Asroof the only boy who was 11, Dalhan Haris, Fauser Hassan, Arip, M. Ajimal, Makeen, Kamaldeen and Imtiaz were all 12 – Anas, Faizal, and M.B.Jawad 13 – Sameeen, Jaufer, Samath, Mohammed Fauzer, Safar, M. S. M. Jaufer were all 14, Fazlan was the oldest at 15. They went to the same schools and played together. Came to the mosque and prayed together.
Each neighbourhood has its own little mosque to permit the faithful to pray as mandated by the Word — five times a day.
Then when the public address system sounds, calling the faithful to prayer the streets empty in a few seconds. They come to the mosque and wash themselves before every prayer. On August 4, 1990 they performed the same ritual. In their innocence they knew that something was wrong for attacks had been carried out on peace loving, hard-working Muslims.
The hour was grave. Everybody looked for Divine Intervention. The LTTE were on the rampage murdering unarmed Muslim civilians. The men in Katankudi had filed into the mosques and no one was on the streets to warn of the danger that lingered.
The witnesses say that while men stood guard at the doors of the mosques latecomers were herded and shut inside. Then through the windows they were mowed down, gunfire drowning screams of “Allah – hu -Akbar”. They were shot in the back, killed by men who respect nothing not even a place of worship.
The Muslims continued to be attacked despite President Premadasa’s attempt to stop them by increasing the armed forces personnel in the Eastern Province.
Six days after the Katankudi massacre Armed LTTE men rounded up hundreds of civilian Muslims. Akin to genocide now.Their attempt at mass murder in Siyambalagaskanda failed when the Army turned up in numbers.
On August 18, however the LTTE launched another attack on Eravur and murdered 31 children, 27 women and 115 men. They then raided other villages unhindered and continued their reign of terror throughout the Eastern, Northern and North Central areas.
Mosques all over the country had now to be given armed protection. Then the State Minister of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs Mr. Aswer called on the Muslims to be calm and patriotic. God fearing and disposed to peace, the Muslims did remain calm.
Sinhala villages came under threat; hundreds were brutally murdered in Tantrimale, Weli Oya, Padhavia while the security forces chased phantoms.
The election of the People’s Alliance Government in 1994 saw a lull. Calling the bluff off the LTTE President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga refused to budge in her conditions.The Security Forces now were given orders to protect the threatened villages from the LTTE.
However on September 17, 1999 the village of Gonagala was attacked and 52 people, including a number of very young children, were hacked to death in the stealth of the night.
A visit to that region was made recently by two British Journalists, veterans at covering the fate faced by children in a conflict situation. Former paramedical officer , now photo -journalist and Scotsman Martin Klejnowski – Kennedy and Madeleine Leeson of the Reuters Foundation toured Batticaloa and the Eastern province. Both had visited every battlefield except Kashmir in the last four years. Gruesome scenes are nothing novel to them. One million people were murdered in 100 days in Ruwanda and they have seen fields full of 15000 Somalians killed by Erithrean soldiers piled up in the desert sun.
But they were appalled at the brutality of the LTTE in the Meera Jumma and Hussainia Mosques and at Gonagala.
To be fair by all ethnic groups they visited Katankudi and Batticaloa where they met Tamil children whose parents had been killed by the security forces. On the last leg of the tour they met the children of Gonagala.
Kennedy and Leeson were very impressed by the professionalism and thoroughness shown by the security personnel at the check points. They came into direct contact with numbers of Tamil, Muslim and Sinhalese civilians and have seen clearly that the LTTE does not represent the Tamil people but form a micro minority of terrorists.
Captions: 1)Spared. They were too young to be in the mosque in 1990. They lost their fathers and brothers. 2) Clinging to the windows from where the terrorists opened fire on unarmed Muslims. 3) The list of the men and boys massacred on August 4, 1990. 4) The battered walls of the mosque where machine gun-wielding Tigers committed genocide.
- 14 May 2009
கரையாம்முள்ளி வாய்க்கால் பகுதியில் படையினர் நேற்றையதினம் மேற்கொண்ட தேடுதலின்போது அவ் பகுதியில் கடந்த சில நாட்களுக்கு முன்னர் இடம்பெற்ற மோதல்களில் கொல்லப்பட்ட புலிகளின் தளபதி ஒருவர் உட்பட 19 புலிகளின் சடலங்களை படையினர் நேற்றையதினம் கைபற்றியுள்ளதாகவும் தொடர்ந்தும் அப்பகுதியில் தேடுதல் மேற்கொண்டுவரும் படையினர் புலிகளின் ரி.56 ரக துப்பாக்கிகள்-21, கிரனைட் லோஞ்சர்கள், எல்.எம்.ஜி. மெசின் கண், கிளேமோர் குண்டுகள் என ஆயுதங்களை கைப்பற்றியுள்ளதாகவும் இராணுவம் தெரிவித்துள்ளது.
|Culture – Political Analysis|
Question: On February 15 2009, the Pakistani government announced that it had reached an agreement with the supporters of Pakistani Taliban, Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM). The agreement contained provisions to enforce of Sharia law under the guise of Nizam-i-Adl Regulation’ in the Malakand region of Swat. In response the Taliban declared a truce to study the proposals. The Swat Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan said, “Taliban have declared a unilateral ceasefire for 10 days as a goodwill gesture. Our fighters will not attack security personnel and government installations.” However, he added that the militants would hold their positions and defend themselves if attacked. The deal has drawn much criticism both at home and abroad. So what lies behind the deal? Will it bring lasting peace to Swat?
Answer: This is not the first time TNSM has entered into a deal with the Pakistani government to bring about Sharia law to Swat. Similar accords have been signed between the TSNM and the Pakistani government in 1994, 1999 and 2007. But the longevity of each agreement has proved short-lived, and the Pakistani government has used each accord to serve its own interest. This time, it appears that the government has no intention of honoring the accord, but wants to use it to achieve a number of objectives.
First, the Pakistani army does not want to be embroiled in a situation where it is heavily involved in fighting militants in Swat and simultaneously waging war against Al-Qaeda and Baitullah Mehsud’s Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in FATA. Hence striking an agreement at this stage, allows the Pakistani army to regroup and shift resources elsewhere if required.
Second, the Pakistani government plans to use the accord to divide the so called Taliban of Swat and those Taliban allied with Al Qaeda. While explaining why Islamabad made a pact with the militants, Husain Haqqani, the Pakistani ambassador in Washington said, “We are attempting to drive a wedge between Al Qaeda and the militant Taliban on the one hand, and Swat’s indigenous movement that seeks to restore traditional law in the district. This is part of a pragmatic military and political strategy to turn our native populations against the terrorists, to isolate and marginalize the terrorists.”
Third, and more importantly, the US is planning a fresh spring offensive in Afghanistan and has sent an extra 17,000 troops to the country. The extra troops will increase the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan by more than 40 percent. The new forces will include a Marine expeditionary brigade of some 8,000 troops and an Army brigade of 4,000 soldiers equipped with Stryker armored vehicles, plus 5000 support staff. These troops will be used to curtail a surge in fighting-which usually peaks in the summer months- improve security in provinces surrounding Kabul, protect the ring-road that girdles the country’s capital and, above all, to reinforce NATO’s faltering effort in southern Afghanistan ahead of the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for August 2009.
Fourth, to aid, America’s plan to stabilize Afghanistan, America has instructed the Pakistani army to strike a deal with the militants in Swat as a temporary measure and refocus its energies on FATA. To ensure that Pakistan is fully onboard and not distracted by its border with India, America told her loyal agent Rehman Malik the Interior advisor to the prime Minister to admit partial culpability of Mumbai attacks. A few days before the Pakistani government’s announcement, BJP’s Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Singh Modi poured scorn on Congress Party’s attempts to increase tensions with its neighbors. He said, “If we single out that one incident (of Mumbai attacks) and ask any person in this country, even with basic information and knowledge they will say that such a big terror attack on India cannot take place without any internal help from the nation itself.” Both of these American agents helped cool tensions between the Zardari government and Congress led government in India, which was pushing for military action against Pakistan. The stage is now set for a joint operation between the US and the Pakistani in FATA area.
Fifth, regarding the mixed American statements on the Swat deal, it is noteworthy that the deal was announced soon after Holbrook’s departure. It is inconceivable that the US was unaware of the deal and it happened without its knowledge. Furthermore, the initial statements from US officials were favorable as opposed to statements from NATO and Britain. The US State Department’s, deputy spokesman Gordon Duguid echoed what Pakistani officials had said while defending the Swat agreement. He said, “The Islamic law is within the constitutional framework of Pakistan. So I don’t know that that is particularly an issue for anyone outside of Pakistan to discuss, certainly not from this podium.” When a reporter described the agreement as a peace treaty between the Taliban and the government of Pakistan, Mr Duguid said: “I’m not sure about your characterization of what has gone on in Pakistan. I refer you to the government of Pakistan for a better readout of that.” This was in stark contrast to the statement from Britain’s High Commission in Islamabad which said: “Previous peace deals have not provided a comprehensive and long-term solution to Swat’s problems. We need to be confident that they will end violence, not create space for further violence.”
Sixth, the stern remarks from Holbrook and other officials are intended to assuage the concerns raised by NATO, India and other countries. At the same time they also underscore Washington’s desire to send a strong message to the Pakistani army that the militants in Swat will have to be eventually uprooted and America will not stand for a repeat of 2006, when similar pacts was used by militants in FATA to regroup and wage cross-border incursions.
26 Safar 1430
|Culture – Political Analysis|
Question: Is there any historical information about the advent of Islam in Nigeria and how it was ruled under Islam? What is the current political situation there?
Answer: Historical perspective: (1) Islam entered the northern region of Kanoo in Nigeria very early in the middle of the seventh century and from there it spread to the Hausa and al-Faulani regions in the north and central Nigeria. This spread was a result of trade activity. In the middle of the tenth century, it spread and became prevalent through the scholars of jurisprudence from Spain. These regions became an Islamic ‘Imara and were referred as the ‘Uthmani Khilafah or the Sokoto khilafah after ‘Uthman Danfodev and he ruled for close to a hundred years until the British annexed it in the year 1904 C.E. During the same period another Islamic sultanate was establish by al-Rabih bin Zubair and was called the Borno Sultanate. The Maliki school of thought is prevalent in the Shari’ah courts of Nigeria and most Muslims there are sunnis. Islamic Shari’ah laws are partially applied in 12 of the regional provinces of Nigeria.
According to the statistics of the 2006 census, the population of Nigeria exceeds 140 million a majority of which are Muslims. Various statistical estimates have put the Muslim population share between 68 to 78%.
The geographical area of Nigeria is approximately 1 million square kilometers and it is the 32nd largest country in the world in terms of land area.
(2) Nigeria was first discovered by the Europeans at the hands of the Portuguese traveler John Alphonso D’mizi in the 15th century C.E and was followed by the visits of other travelers such as the Dutch, the British and French which was followed by the European traders who used the port of Lagos to ship around 7 million Africans between 1450 and 1897 C.E. to exploit their labour and work in Europe.
In 1885 C.E., the British declared the West African region as colonies under its tutelage and this declaration was globally acknowledged. In the following year, the Royal Niger Company under the leadership of Sir George Tompan Goldie declared the regions as its territory and in the year 1900 C.E. this region came under the direct control of the British government.
Between the period 1900 to 1904 C.E., Britain was able to eliminate the Islamic rule and consolidate the various regions which later came to be called as Nigeria.
(3) It was not until the year 1914 that this region was referred as Nigeria which was given by the British to the regions between the Gulf of Guinea to the south, the Great Saharan region of Chad to the north, Benin to the west and Chad & Cameroon in the east. The British colonialists had established three colonies in the northern, southern and the Lagos regions.
The British colonialists adopted different approaches to rule the various regions: in the southern and the Lagos regions, they used the typical colonialist method which they were using in their other colonies; a salient feature of this was to take along the Christian missionaries in order to convert the local people to Christianity.
But since Islam was predominant in the northern regions, the British allowed the Muslims some degree to self-rule under the British supervision. Thus the colonialists were able to isolate the Muslim majority from the pagan Christian minority in the south so that Islam does not spread to the southern region and remains a divided heterogeneous country for long-term British influence.
The British colonialists used two means to consolidate is stronghold on Nigeria: First was the Shell Company’s monopoly on Nigerian oilfields from the very beginning of oil business. The Shell Company continues to enjoy a monopoly over 40 to 50% of the total oil production in Nigeria. The second tool which the British used was the Christian missionary work which allowed them to convert roughly 40% of the local population.
(4) In terms of population, Nigeria is one of the top eight Muslim countries, it is a member of the OIC as well as the British Commonwealth since 1963. Yet it is a divided nation with no distinct identity. It has some 250 ethnic tribes the biggest three being Hausa and al-Faulani in the north, a majority of these tribes are Muslims and comprise over half the population of the country; and the Yorba in the central and southern region which accounts for about 25% of the population, a majority of whom are Christians but with a sizable Muslim minority. The south-central region is inhabited by the tribe of Ibo who are some 18% and are Catholic Christians, they are called the Jews of Nigeria, and they are wealthy, they once controlled the Nigerian oil.
(5) Nigeria was placed under a resolution passed by the League of Nations in 1922 C.E. and Britain was forced to grant a symbolic independence on October 1st, 1960 C.E along with other colonies under its control. The British were in fact alarmed by the rising American colonialism which emerged from across the Atlantic in its greed for the enormous natural resources in Nigeria.
When it regained its independence, it went to be ruled by the Christian Ibo tribe who were generously given wealth and education under the colonialist masters, the first ruler was Binyamin Namdi Azikoi. The rule was then taken over by General Johnson Aghelli Aronsi who also was from the same tribe and he consolidated the rule as the monopolistic fiefdom of the Ibo tribe. He assassinated his rivals of the Muslim tribes of Hausa including prime minister Abu Bakr, the northern leader Ahmad Balua, General Zakaria Mimlari, Col. Kor Mohamed etc. then in May, 1966, he abolished the federal system of governance and promulgated a unified constitution in his attempt to further consolidate his grip on power.
Despite these, he could not remain in power for long and was assassinated within six months…in 1967, the Ibo tribe revolted and under the leadership of Col. Shikomeka Oedemegua and declared separation of the oil-rich Biafra region inhabited by them. This resulted in civil war which lasted for three years during which some 1 million people were killed. The Muslim Hausa trine emerged as victorious defeating the Christian Ibo tribe.
Then there were other revolutions and coups until Obasanjo came to power on 13th February, 1976 C.E and continued to rule until October 1st, 1979. He was a Christian from the Yorba tribe who were aligned with the Hausa and came to power with the blessings of the armed forces leadership who were also from the Muslim tribe of Hausa.
During his rule, Obasanjo adopted a new constitution in 1978 paving way for presidential elections which were first held in 1979 and won by Shaikhu Shajari of the Hausa tribe.
Coups followed and were repeated until 1985 when General Ibrahim Babangida of the Hausa came to power.
General Ibrahim Babangida survived two coup attempts in 1990 and during the same year, he ratified a new constitution which paved the way for return to civilian rule in the country.
In 1993, another presidential election was held under US and international pressure which were won by Mas’oud Abiola, a Muslim from the Yorba tribe, but General Ibrahim Babangida annulled the elections and jailed Mas’oud Abiola, but relented later under international pressure and stepped own from power in favour of Ernest Shonekan who did not have any support from the armed forces. Then on 17th November, Defence Minister Col Sani Abacha, seized power in a coup against the Shonekan government.
Another presidential election was announced in 1998, but President Sani Abacha died before the elections and as a result Abdus Salam Abu Bakr of the Hausa tribe, who was a presidential aide under Sani Abacha, came to power. With this, thirty years of military rule came to an end.
General elections were held in 1999 C.E. in which Obasanjo won unanimously and remained in office for two terms from 29th May, 1999 until 29th May, 2007 C.E. Throughout his term, Obasanjo was clearly aligned with America and was most hostile towards Muslims.
The last elections were held in April, 2007 which were won by Moussa Yar’ Auda who continues to rule until today.
(1) Because of the enormous natural resources in Nigeria, the big powers, especially the US and Britain are locked in a bitter conflict. Nigeria is the 12th largest producer of petroleum in the world and the 8th largest exporter, and has the 10th largest proven reserves. Nigeria’s proven oil reserves are estimated by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) at between 16 and 22 billion barrels, but other sources claim there could be as much as 35.3 billion barrels. In mid-2001 its crude oil production was averaging around 2.2 million barrels per day. Petroleum plays a large role in the Nigerian economy, and accounts for 40% of GDP and 80% of Government revenue. Nigeria is a member of the Oil-Producing Export Countries (OPEC), but it is also the world’s 12th largest producer of crude oil. The oil is concentrated in the Nigerian Delta, which is some 20,000 square kilometres in area and is the cauldron of Nigerian political and economic life. It consists of wetland, mangrove swamps, waterways, muddy creeks and coastal islands. It is the hub of Nigeria’s bn-a-year oil & gas industry, with thousands of miles of oil pipelines and associated infrastructure. 90% of Nigeria’s oil exports are produced from here.
Nigeria also has a wide array of underexploited mineral resources which include natural gas, coal, bauxite, tantalite, gold, tin, iron ore, limestone, niobium, lead and zinc. Despite huge deposits of these natural resources, the mining industry in Nigeria is still in it infancy. However, the gas reserves are three times as substantial as the crude oil reserves.
(2) Since the British discovered oil in the Nigerian Delta in 1950, the British Royal Dutch Shell company has dominated Nigeria’s political, economic and foreign policy ventures. After independence from the UK, successive Nigerian governments have introduced legislation and favourable economic policies to benefit Shell at the expense of the people of the country. For instance the people of the delta states live in extreme poverty even in the face of great material wealth found in the waters by their homes. According to Amnesty International 70% of the six million people in the Niger River Delta live off of less than US per day.
What makes oil in Nigeria particularly attractive is that much of Nigeria’s petroleum is classified as “light” or “sweet”, meaning the oil is largely free of sulphur and in cost terms easy to extract. Nigeria has 159 total oil fields and 1481 wells in operation according to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. The most productive region of the nation is the coastal Niger Delta Basin in the Niger Delta or “South-south” region which encompasses 78 of the 159 oil fields. Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), usually known simply as Shell Nigeria accounts for fifty percent of Nigerian’s total oil production (899,000 bbl/d) operates largely onshore on dry land or in the mangrove swamp in the Niger Delta. The company has more than 100 producing oil fields, and a network of more than 6,000 kilometres of pipelines, flowing through 87 flow stations. SPDC operates 2 coastal oil export terminals. Shell Nigeria owns concessions on four companies, they are: Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO), Shell Nigeria Gas (SNG), Shell Nigeria Oil Products (SNOP), as well as holding a major stake in Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG).
(3) Considering that Britain held influence over Nigeria until the death of Sani Abacha, and due to its stronghold over oil production in Nigeria and also because 10% of all Nigerian oil production was imported by Britain, its security presence is consolidated in the country, especially over the armed forces which it controlled. President Babangida signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in 1985 with the Shell Company in order to secure the interests of Britain; this MoU was renewed with some modifications in 1991C.E.
(4) However, with the entry of the United States, especially after 1999 during the term of Obasanjo, the monopoly of the British companies was challenged and America adopted a two-pronged strategy to defy this influence over Nigerian oil:
First: America supported the Nigerian opposition and rebels in the Nigerian delta and gave them loans through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and also supplied arms under a structural modifications program. This created problems for the Shell Oil Company in exporting Nigerian oil, while the American ExxonMobil and Chevron substantially increased their investments in Nigeria. It was estimated that Exxon-Mobil would increase its output to 900,000 bbl/d by 2000 and by 2005 overtake Shell as the country’s largest producer. This rivalry between UK and US for domination of Nigeria’s petroleum industry wrought havoc on the people of the Nigerian delta. Through a clandestine network of shadow private mercenary companies and covert support for a variety of rebel groups these oil companies have on occasions bitterly attacked each other’s oil interests. It was during the Bush junior’s era that the US oil industry used its links with senior administration officials such as Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld to push for a far more aggressive oil policy in Nigeria than that followed by Bill Clinton. This in part was driven by America’s desire to reduce its reliance on Middle Eastern oil, and in part driven by the greed of the US oil companies to secure a larger share of oil. In the major energy policy documents of the Bush Administration West Africa featured prominently as a safe source of imported oil. For example, one of main recommendations VP Cheney’s National Energy Policy Report makes to the President is “to deepen bilateral and multilateral engagements[with African governments] to promote a more receptive environment for US oil and gas trade, investment and operations”. But it was not until Bush’s 2006 State of the Union address, that he spelt out clearly America’s vision to wean itself off Middle Eastern oil. He said “…replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025…make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.” Hence US attention turned towards West Africa and Nigeria in particular. By March 2007, Nigeria had edged past Saudi Arabia to become America’s third largest supplier, delivering 41,717,000 barrels of oil to the desert kingdom’s 38,557,000. This also means that energy security of Nigerian oil is an important aspect of American foreign policy. In 2006, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi E. Frazier, pledged to increase American Naval presence in the Gulf of Guinea.
Second: America intensified its interference in the African continent especially during the terms of the former presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush and was thus able to apply pressure upon Nigeria as well as build its public opinion there as well as elsewhere in the African continent against military rule. It encouraged multi-party elections. This approach enabled it to effectively counter the British as well as French stronghold in Africa.
Thus America put its weight behind the civilian leaderships and supported them to come to power. It also supported the idea of multi-party elections and as a result, a leadership emerged which were wither America’s full fledged agents or cooperated with the US.
This is what actually happened, the US supported Obasanjo against the British backed armed forces leaders such as Babangida and Sani Abacha who were protecting and promoting British interests. Babangida had signed a MoU with the British Shell Oil Company and Abacha had dedicatedly supported British interests against American interests even beyond the geographical borders of Nigeria in the neighbouring territories. Nigeria had led the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which was even run by Nigerians. The ECOWAS promoted and protected British interests in the region and its armed forces even went to Sierra Leone during the rule of Abacha in the 1990’s and restored the rule of Ahmed Teejan in 1998 which the British were openly calling for. Also in 1997, the ECOWAS forces entered Liberia to help Charles Taylor during a long-drawn civil war. Thus Nigeria actively protected British presence in Sierra Leone and Liberia and it is said that it spent some 10 billion dollars in what is called the Peace Restoration in these two countries. The then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US armed forces even referred to Sani Abacha as the Short Abhorring person because of this hatred towards Abacha who frustrated American agenda against British interests in West Africa. It may be interesting to note that the US through pressure tactics, its support and its siege of Liberia forced Taylor out of power in favour of his deputy Mosees Balau. Taylor fled Liberia in took refuge in Nigeria in the year 2003. Taylor used to proclaim himself as the one who resisted and frustrated US interests in the West African region in general and Liberia in particular.
America succeeded in holding multi-party elections in Nigeria during 1999 and brought Obasanjo to power with its support and assistance. During Obasanjo’s term, Nigeria became the largest recipient of US aid which reached 40 million dollars annually as against merely 10 million dollars during the military rule. In return, Obasanjo served America like no other Nigerian ruler had hither to. Some of the important services that he rendered for the Americans are:
1. His naval forces held routine naval exercises with the US Navy under the so-called War on Terror.
Thus America used these two means: Supporting Nigerian opposition, and promoting civilian rule and multi-party elections. This approach enabled the US to thwart British oil companies and is now almost ahead of them.
(5) In addition, by bringing in Obasanjo in 1999, the US was also able to counter the British influence both politically and militarily. Thus in addition to the naval exercises, Obasanjo also signed an agreement with the Americans to provide military training for Nigerian armed forces personnel. His visit to the US in May 2001 further consolidated and strengthened US-Nigerian cooperation for the first time. His policies were not free from severe criticism in Nigeria itself, especially his allowing the US Navy in Nigerian territorial waters was intensely criticised. Obasanjo cultivated close relationship with the US and became a member of various American societies.
During his rule, the Nigerian budget would first go to Washington to be reviewed so that it would be acceptable to the World Bank. Earlier it was only discussed and passed in the national legislative parliament of Nigeria.
In conclusion, it may be said that Obasanjo was able to substantially weaken the British stronghold within the military establishment in Nigeria. Within a short period of his taking over power, 200 military officers who were loyal to the pro-British generals were dismissed from the armed forces in the Northern region. In fact, Fimi Falana, a human rights lawyer commented during a show with As’ad Taha on al-Jazeerah TV channel on 30th February, 2002: “Nigeria has now become an American colony.” i.e. during the Obasanjo’s term in office.
Obasanjo was not content with merely implementing American policies alone, he tightened the noose around the former generals who were loyal to the British and even tried to recover the money which they had earlier swindled. He curtailed their governmental privileges which were given to them. He made desperate attempts to recover 1.30 million dollars swindled by the late president Abacha and tried to deposit them in 23 different UK banks, but Britain refused his request.
It is pertinent to point out that Obasanjo was highly influenced with American concepts:
As for the civilian rule: Though he came to power in 1976 through a military coup, he restored civilian rule and handed over power to a civilian named Shekhu Shajari who had won in the elections held by Obasanjo in 1979 C.E.
As for his excellent relations with the US: During Obasanjo’s rule, 3 US presidents visited Nigeria:
During his first military term, Jimmy Carter visited Nigeria in 1978.
During his second term as civilian ruler, 2 presidents made visits: Bill Clinton in 2000 and George Bush in 2003 C.E.
(6) After the completion of Obasanjo’s 8 years in office until 2007, the present incumbent Omar Moussa Yar’ Adua won the elections and came to power. Omar Moussa is only the second civilian president of Nigeria who has power through a civilian transfer of authority. He enjoys the support of Obasanjo and the US to complete the task which his predecessor began, and that is to tie Nigeria to American interests and guarantee it strongly. The newspaper Sharq al- Awsat reported through its correspondent Mahmoud al-Doungho who said: “The new president is an obscure person, he is one who merely run everything in favour of the former president Obasanjo.” Some people describe Omar Moussa Yar’ Adua as a mere protégé of Obasanjo, which also implies that he is a mere puppet in the hands of America. It may be mentioned that Omar Moussa is from Obasanjo’s own party i.e. the Democratic Peoples Party.
Since he does not have the kind of personality that his predecessor had, his stance towards America is also not as strong and intense, and he is aware of it. Therefore he tries to befriend Britain and its agents while also treading the path of his predecessor in serving American interests.
Though he visited the US term shortly after taking over power, in mid December, 2007, and met George Bush, he also visited Britain in July, 2008 and met Gordon Brown. He had earlier visited Libya also.
(7) However, the political conflict in Nigeria is not as intense as it was during the military regimes i.e. until the time of Sani Abacha when the British stronghold was very evidently strong. It is neither like the first and second term of Obasanjo when the balance of power was in America’s favour, the conflict is potentially hot.
On the one hand, there is a president who is brought in by the US and who believes in the concepts of civilian rule and democracy, therefore the US influence is stronger, but at the same time, the current president is not a strong personality.
While on the other hand, elements loyal to Britain are in the armed forces…and the main ‘booty’ in this conflict is the Nigerian oil apart from the strategic location of Nigeria in the West African continent.
And if the US does not extend more and more of aid to the current president, the pro-British men especially the armed forces will return to power as they were in the past.
|Culture – Political Analysis|
|The following article has been translated from the Arabic “Al-Wa`ie” magazine dated May 2009/1430 Jamaadal ula.
Six years have passed since the United States invaded Iraq, only one year after launching its occupation of Afghanistan, both of which continue till this very day. Tragedies and hardships, inflected by the US and its allies, have been the constant daily reality for the people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in many other places across the Muslim world. Over one million Iraqis have been killed – according to opinion polls conducted by the ‘Opinion Research Business’. 2.3 Million more were displaced inside Iraq and just as many refugees outside – according to the UN General Commission.
Around a million women are either windowed or divorced (based on a report by the Iraqi Ministry of Planning – mid 2007). Children are suffering from malnutrition, which has increased from 19% during the UN sanctions at the time of the Clinton administration to 28% under Bush (Oxfam Report – July 2007). Around 350 nuclear scientists and more than 200 university professors in various fields were killed by the ‘Israeli’ intelligence agency Mossad in cooperation with the American occupying forces (as reported by ‘Al-Bayyna Al-Jadidah’ newspaper on 10/12/2007). The unemployment rate is between 60% and 70%, according to Oxfam’s report, which also states that 43% of Iraqi’s live on less than one dollar a day. All of this is happening, while the country is divided politically on the basis of sect, ethnicity and doctrine. Sectarian divisions are fueled by the bombing of religious centers, kidnapping, killing, displacement, and torture by all involved. It was even revealed that some of the perpetrators, who were caught red-handed, were Americans. All of this, along with an unprecedented and unmatched American criminality, excessive use of force, use of internationally banned weapons, arrests and torture. Not to forget the scandal of Abu Ghraib that shocked the whole world (as in Guantanamo and Bagram). All of this, and we haven’t even discussed any of the other aspects of life in Iraq like agriculture, industry, oil, electricity, water facilities, roads, bridges, postal services, and hospitals. The invasion, and all that has resulted from it, is attempted to be justified with the trumpeting of various slogans like: Spreading Democracy; Preserving Freedoms; Fighting Terrorism; Eliminating Tyranny. Above all, the US has installed a set of puppet and agent rules as leaders and placed them in control of Muslim lives; the same rulers who are betraying their people, dividing countries, and whom the US will use to ensure it maintains a permanent presence when it leaves. This is the democratic model the US wanted for Iraq and the rest of the rulers and nations in the region. The US, the corrupt and unjust leader of Western civilisation that does not recognise any human value other than capitalism..
The fall of its civilization
The irony in this international conflict of civilisations is that Islam is growing at the same pace as the Capitalist decline. The West is not able to stop Islam as it is running out of materialistic supremacy and becoming bankrupt in its ideology, standards, and way of life. Physical force hasn’t achieved the intended outcomes reserved for the Muslim world. Instead, it has awakened the Muslim masses to what is really going on, made them know the reality of the kafir west and realise how much hatred the west holds for Islam and Muslims. It also made them aware of the importance of Islam in their lives and consequently are returning to their religion at a faster pace so as to lead the whole world with it. We recall in this conflict the Hadeeth of the Prophet (SAW):
When Bush announced his war on terror, he said it was a global war, a war of values. This implies that Bush recognised the universality of Islam and its global cultural mission in which he wants to limit and prevent the re-establishment of the Caliphate (the Islamic State) – which Bush mentioned literally more than once and described it as “the global empire”. Bush also mentioned that it was a preventive war, which implies that Islam is progressing internationally and will eventually assume power; however he wanted to strike before it strengthened with the establishment of its own state.
The West in its war against Islam is determined to win, determined not to allow the Muslims the privilege of regaining a state of their own. Similarly, the Muslims should be determined to gain victory as to them it is a matter of obeying Allah(SWT) in establishing this Deen. A matter of following in the footsteps of our beloved prophet Muhammad (SAW) in the establishment of the Islamic State. Muslims will not be able to overcome the tragic conditions caused by the West until they rid themselves of its collaborators, namely the rules in the Muslim world. This can be achieved at the hands of the people who hold the reigns of power in the armies. Only then the Caliphate can be realised through its main prerequisites:
• An Ummah yearning for Islam and to be ruled by it, which already exists.
• A political party able to realise the global Caliphate for the Muslims. This also exists.
• Support from the people of power in the armies who can help to support this party – as did the supporters (Al-Ansar) of Al-Madina(RA) to the Prophet (SAW) when he established the Islamic State the first time so they can rule by what Allah has revealed and spread the light and guidance to the rest of the world by invitation (dawah) and jihad.
The Ummah is now in waiting for that support to help her become complete. Support, that in it is the goodness of change. Allah(SWT) mentions in the Quraan:
“And on that day, the believers (i.e. Muslims) will rejoice at the victory given by Allah with the Help of Allah. He helps whom He wills, and He is the All-Mighty, the Most Merciful”
Al-Wa`ie Magazine May 2009
Muslim presence in the North dates back to eighth century. According to historians forefathers of present Muslims were present in the North of Sri Lanka as far back as the eight century. Mannar and Jaffna are two places recorded in history. Muslims have been engaged in Trade and other vocation in the Jaffna area. They were settled in number of streets and those streets had Muslim names. Large number of mosques and schools also catered to them. In 1981 the total number of Muslims in the North was 50,831. According to statistics as at end of 2007 the population of Muslims in the North is 20,583.
The process of eviction of Muslims from the Northern Province commenced early as 1985. Muslims from Mullativu were the first victims. In the year 1990 a pure form of ethnic cleansing of Muslims took place in an unprecedented manner. Muslims were ordered to leave within a short time period or face dire consequences. According to a survey conducted by Dr. S.H. Hasbullah Muslim families were evicted from about 70 villages in the province. Scholars have pointed out that the eviction was a calculated attempt at uprooting of an ethno-regional identity of a community from a land of historical habitation. Even today the reasons for the expulsion of Muslims from the North are not clear.
In the year 1990 except in certain parts of Mannar and Vavuniya Districts an attempt was made to clear the rest of the North of Muslims. The effort was successful in the Jaffna, Mullaitivu and Mannar Districts. However, in the Districts of Vavuniya and Mannar substantial number of Muslims continued to remain in spite of threats to life and property. In Vavuniya the entire Muslim population remained intact (statistically) and in Mannar the Muslim population dropped drastically to less than 6,000 after the expulsion. (From 26.81% to 5.14%)
At the time of expulsion a large concentration of Muslims lived in the Jaffna District. In the year 1981 there were 13,757 Muslims in Jaffna. The number is down to 299 in the year 2007. There was heavy concentration of Muslims in the Jaffna town.
Muslims of the North left behind land and property and all their other belongings when they were expelled in 1990. According to a survey carried out by the Muslim Rights Organisation an extent in excess of 30,000 acres of land (agricultural, settlement or land earmarked for future use) belonging to 11,000 individuals are left abandoned in the North. This land is either occupied by other individuals or remains abandoned.
Inaccessibility, security considerations and third party possession have prevented the displaced from visiting their homes and lands. Even during the ceasefire (2002-2004) and peace negotiations the Muslims could not settle in their land and house due to variety of reasons.
According to information land and houses belonging to Muslims are now occupied by others. Land is being used by them for cultivation and other purposes. On inquiries the Muslims were told that the land and houses now belong to them. Even the law enforcement authorities and public officers are helpless.
In conflict environments third party possession of property belonging to others is known as “secondary occupation”. In countries like Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda (many other countries) the secondary occupation posed a serious threat to re-integration in post conflict situations and also threatened existing peace. The difference between those countries and Sri Lanka is that the period of duration of secondary occupation is almost two decades in certain cases.
According to laws of Sri Lanka encroachment or forcible occupation of land and houses are unlawful. An aggrieved individual can seek redress through courts of law to have the land or property restored back. These remedies are sought very frequently in courts in normal circumstances. However the conflict environment in the North and East has posed several difficulties. Security conditions, deficiencies in maintenance of law and order and civil administration have prevented victims form seeking regular legal and administrative remedies. To seek such remedies the aggrieved party needs to be present in the area.
In the case of Northern Muslims the long period of abandonment, inaccessibility and security reasons have together provided an ideal opportunity for the secondary occupiers to possess and occupy land and property freely and without and obstacle. The owners are unable to access their land and property or obtain information regarding the current state of them. This has created a climate of total impunity for the secondary occupiers.
Aggrieved Muslims are unable to gather documents of title and other documents to prove the land belong to them. Such documents are needed to prove ownership in courts of law. Most of the victims are unable to retrieve or obtain copies of vital documents. In the absence of documents the only other way of proving ownership is to get others to testify and identify land and property. Due to the long period of abandonment lands are difficult to identify due to changes and due to natural causes. Even individuals who are capable of identifying land and give evidence are either too old or not amongst the living.
Laws of Sri Lanka make a distinction between State land and Private Land and property. Both categories of land are governed by different laws. The State is the custodian of land on behalf of people and hold land in trust. State land administered and managed by specific institutions established by law. Laws have been enacted to dispose and alienate State land and the government from time to time declares policies as to how State land is divested to people and institutions.
As much as laws enable individuals to acquire land and property, laws also provide for the legal basis for loss of title to land and property. The law found in the Prescription Ordinance which was enacted by the British more than 100 years ago. In terms of this law a third party is entitle to acquire title to property through long time possession. This is known as prescriptive title.
It is understandable that in ordinary circumstances prescription has been used to acquire right to immovable property such as land. Courts are inclined to hold with the third party occupier on the basis of legal and factual considerations. Prime among them is the failure of the owner of property in asserting his legal rights in time. What is meant here is that an owner of property must take legal remedies immediately to recover it. The delay will work against the legal owner unless action is taken within the stipulated time.
Ground realities in the northern province will make recourse to legal remedies difficult. Primary reason is the costs involved and the laws delays due to breakdown of law and order and civil administration etc. on the other hand the affected Muslim will not have necessary documentary proof acceptable to court or verbal evidence. It will be near impossible for them to stand up to the claim of a secondary occupier and succeed.
In Sri Lanka in depth study of the issue of secondary occupation is still at an early stage of development. This is due to the fact that most complicated and contentious cases are in the Northern Province and also most of the cases in other parts of the country have been resolved to a certain extent. Number of international organisations and policy institutes have also done considerable amount of work on this subject of late. However the state policy or the law reform has not been very responsive to the needs. Apart from legal issues the secondary occupation of land and houses raises few other serious issues-
a) Potential to create fresh disputes
The subject of secondary occupation of land and property has been subjected to extensive discussion and research in other parts of the world. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Guatemala are some of them. In some countries like Bosnia and Kosovo the agencies have successfully implemented property restitution plans. On this subject the “Pinherio Principles” have been widely adopted as guiding principles on land and housing restitution.
Secondary occupation has also created a social issue. Most of them are poor landless, often they belong to Tamil community. In such circumstances eviction of a secondary occupier will also lead to more tension in the society.
The viable option is to lobby for law and policy reform. Amendment to existing laws or introduction of new legislation is important to deal with the multitude of issues expeditiously. In order to address issues arising out of abandonment of land and secondary occupation new structures and institutions are necessary. The policy and law reform envisaged can be initiated in three stages. But all stages are interconnected.
a) Vesting of abandoned properties of displaced (Northern) in the State
b) Preserve documents of title to land, survey plans, land registry details
c) Conducting of land survey and photographing of property
d) Setting up of special institution and appointment of special officers
a) Enactment of new laws and amendment to existing legislation
b) Special tribunals/courts to inquire in to property claims
c) Laws to nullify land transfers under questionable circumstances
a) Formulation of a special land policy for North and East
b) Appointment of special Commissioners
c) Expeditious Issue of copies of documents of title
d) Legal advisory services to the displaced
b) Restitution of land and houses
By M.H.M. Salman
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The United States is rushing emergency aid to Pakistan — an initial $5 million — to help people uprooted by the fighting against extremists, according to the State Department.
Veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke criticized Bush for committing a “pathetic” amount of money to Pakistan.
The United States urged the Pakistanis to launch the military action that in recent days drove hundreds of thousands of people from their villages.
Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee took a longer-term view Tuesday and discussed how the United States might triple aid to Pakistan over the next five years.
The State Department said Tuesday the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan and officials of the U.S. Agency for International Development are evaluating the needs of civilians fleeing the Swat valley and surrounding regions in northwest Pakistan.
“We are of course very concerned about the well-being of civilians who are fleeing the fighting in the area,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said. “And we have personnel, USAID personnel, on the ground in Pakistan, not in the Swat valley, but in Pakistan, who are directing assistance to help them.”
Kelly said the $5 million was just an initial payment.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, praised the new military offensive by the Pakistan military.
“In recent days we have seen encouraging signs that Pakistan’s army is finally taking the fight to enemy, but much remains to be done,” Kerry said in his opening to a hearing on Pakistan and Afghanistan.