Sunday, 31 May 2015

Egypt demolishes former President Hosni Mubarak's party headquarters

A bulldozer destroys the building of the headquarters of the once-dominant party of ex-president Hosni Mubarak that was torched during the 2011 uprising that toppled him on 31 May 2015 in Cairo.
Former President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party was dissolved in 2011
Egypt has begun demolishing the headquarters of the now-dissolved party of former President Hosni Mubarak.
The building in Cairo near Tahrir Square was torched in the 2011 uprising that toppled Mubarak.
Demolition workers also began tearing down a nearby office block that was once the centre of state bureaucracy.
Egypt's government approved the move in April and said that the land would be given to the neighbouring Egyptian Museum.
Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) was dissolved in April 2011 and its assets, including its headquarters on the River Nile, were seized.
An Egyptian worker collects wires following the demolition of the headquarters of the once-dominant party of ex-president Hosni Mubarak on 31 May 2015 in Cairo
The building was set on fire by protestors during the uprising against Mubarak in 2011
An Egyptian worker turns his face during the demolition of the headquarters of the once-dominant party of ex-president Hosni Mubarak on 31 May 2015 in Cairo
The demolition was finally approved by the government in April
The rubble left after the demolition of the headquarters of the once-dominant party of ex-president Hosni Mubarak on 31 May 2015 in Cairo
Officials have said that the space will be given to the gardens and buildings of the Egyptian Museum
BBC Middle East editor Alan Johnston says that those who rose up against Mubarak will certainly welcome the demolition work.
But he says that many will be deeply disappointed that in other, more important ways, their revolution failed to fulfil their expectations.
Mubarak was sentenced to three years in jail on corruption charges after a retrial earlier this month.
His original conviction was overturned in January over legal procedures.
The ex-leader remains in the Maadi Military Hospital in Cairo where he has been held amid his trials.
His two sons were also given four years in prison in the same case, which centres on the embezzlement of $14m (£9.2m) earmarked for renovation of presidential palaces.
In June, Egypt's highest court is due to decide whether to allow an appeal against a lower court ruling that dropped murder charges against Mubarak.

Heavy metal: Life at the world's largest shipyard

  • 30 May 2015
  • From the sectionAsia
Ship under construction in the Ulsan shipyard in South Korea
To a European visitor, the city of Ulsan on the southern tip of the Korean peninsula seems like a throwback to some lost world.
At first, it is hard to say exactly why. It is just that something doesn't feel quite right. Ulsan feels like a place you vaguely know but can't quite figure out how.
And then it hits you. It is reminiscent of old photographs of European shipbuilding towns on rivers whose names are redolent of their history: in Britain, the Clyde, Tyne, Wear, Tees or Mersey.
In those pictures cranes and partly built ships towered over houses. Thousands streamed from work together the moment a shift ended.
Nobody could forget how work enabled their lives because they saw, heard and smelled the place of work in every corner of the town. It was their skyline.

Asian domination

That world of the heaviest of industry is no longer prominent in Europe. Even the biggest shipyards that remain (in Romania, Poland and Germany) are minnows compared to the yards of Asia.
If you look at the league table of shipbuilding companies in the world, five of the top 10, including all of the top four, are South Korean. The other five are Japanese and Chinese.
But the Hyundai Heavy Industries yard at Ulsan is the biggest of them all, giant cranes (aptly called Goliaths) dominating the skyline. The city pulsates with work and wages and the activities of far from idle hands.
A dry dock at the shipyard
A cross section view of a ship under construction
The yard stretches for 2.5 miles (4km). More than 60,000 people are employed there, constructing a huge ship every four or five days. These ships are the length of three football fields and are built in pieces each weighing hundreds of tonnes and then assembled around the clock.

A life's work

In the dark, the yard glows across the town. By day, the clang of construction rings out. In the old European pictures and newsreels, workers would stream home on foot or maybe bicycles. At Ulsan, they swarm out on motor scooters.
And when they are out, they drive the company car, eat in the company restaurants, laugh and cry in the company theatre, shop in the company department store, have their children in the company hospital, learn in the company schools, cheer for the company football team.
Partially constructed ships at Ulsan shipyard in South Korea
The Ulsan shipyard opened in the 1970s and now has a 16% share of the global market
One of the longest-serving workers, Lee Sang-bok, told the BBC: "Everything here is Hyundai. The highway I drive on is named after the founder of the company. The hospital and university is funded by Hyundai too.
"There's a town joke that it's just like the Hyundai Kingdom."
He started work at the yard soon after it opened in 1974.
"I joined this company when I was just 16. In the past 40 years, shipbuilding really has become the centre of my life. I devoted all my youth to this company. It's become my identity".

'Directed capitalism'

When South Korea industrialised in the 1960s and 1970s, setting in train its breathtaking transformation from poverty to affluence, it was done in a way to make Western "free-market" economists disapprove (though there is an argument that when the United States and Britain industrialised, they broke their own rules, too).
A massive propeller being fitted
A ship's propeller can weight as much as 100 tonnes
Government direction and government subsidy was the order of the day. South Korea's leader at the time, Gen Park Chung-hee, said "do it" and the corrupt rich he had jailed and threatened had no choice but to create the industries the government decreed.
It was "directed capitalism".
Under Park Chung-hee, scores of businessmen were arrested and charged with "illicit profiteering".
Property was confiscated. Some were paraded with signs round their necks saying: "I am a corrupt pig."
In return for freedom and renewed access to their money, the country's richest people were told to invest in new industries.
Welders working on a ship at South Korea's Ulsan shipyard
Welders are crucial members of the teams that construct the ships
They had to sign an agreement stating: "I will donate all my property when the government requires it for the construction of the nation."
Initially, the plan focused on six key industries (cement, synthetic fibre, electricity, fertiliser, oil refining and iron and steel), but in the early 1970s it turned to shipbuilding.
And this is where construction magnate Chung Ju Yung came in.
It should be said that he was not in that first wave of corrupt business leaders. He earned his money the hard way, born a peasant who left home to labour on building sites and then to form his own construction company.
With the Korean War, he thrived.

Metal bashing

Initially, he made cars in Ulsan but then turned to shipbuilding. He was supremely ambitious and supremely confident - legend has it that he toured London seeking finance and when it was pointed out that South Korea had no shipbuilding industry, he took out a Korean bank note on which was a famous ship from the 16th Century.
He was also supremely careful with money. In the company museum at the Ulsan shipyard, there are two pairs of shoes which Mr Chung is said to have worn for 30 years, getting them constantly repaired despite being a multi-billionaire.
His parsimony has paid off. It used to be said that Asian manufacturers competed with Europeans and North Americans on price but not on quality.
That is no longer so. The Ulsan yard is a builder of sophisticated vessels into which goes a lot of top research.
Metal gets bashed but lab mice get pushed, too. It is heavy industry in which research and the latest technology is incorporated.
Lee Sang-bok is now an inspector at the yard. His role is important.
Some of the vessels built there are carriers of liquefied natural gas. Inside these ships go huge containers. A leak of LNG would be catastrophic, igniting a huge explosion, so welds have to be inspected in microscopic detail. This is what Mr Lee does.
It is a working life that has lasted 40 years. It has given him and his family prosperity and pride.

Italy works against the Somali Compact on Statebuilding

On May 6, the Italian Institute for International Affairs- “Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI)” in Rome- held one day high level closed door seminar sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Embassy of Italy to Somalia. The Title of the Seminar was “Somali Perspectives: Institutional and Political Challenges.”
President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali of Puntland, Vice President Abdullahi Sheikh Ismail  and Minister Abdighani  Abdi Jama of Jubbaland, the Somali Ambassador to Italy, Mussa Hassan Abdulle, the Somali Ambassador at Large Abdirashid A. Sed,  and Political Analyst Faisal A. Roble attended the seminar. Marco Claudio Vozzi and Carlo Campanile represented the foreign Ministry of Italy. IAI Officials and experts steered the seminar.
The report of the seminar highlights the participants’ positions and suggestions on Federalism and the nexus between security and development. It suggests change of policy priority of Italy towards Somalia from “state to state” relation to “state to regional federal states” relation. It also proposes the mobilization of international support for the clan dominated regional States at the expense of the Somali State which itself exists ostensibly.
The suggested policy shift of Italy subverts the Somali priorities listed in the 2012 provisional constitution, then restated in the Somali Compact between the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and the International donor Community (Partners) agreed upon in Brussels, Belgium in September 2013, for the promotion of peacebuilding and statebuilding in Somalia. 
The organizers of the seminar passed up the opportunity to get fair and balanced Somali perspectives because they avoided to invite critical observers of the current troubling reality in Somalia exacerbated by the implementation of federalism without constitutional and legislative provisions. Therefore, the recommendations of the report are based on incomplete or inaccurate assessment of the reality in Somalia.
The report reemphasizes the view of “clan” federalism as “the most viable option to stabilize Somalia after 20 years of conflict and fragmentation,” and as a fact on the ground. Two of the fallacious reasons adduced in support of this view are “to prevent the reimplementation of failed policies in centrally controlled system of government in Mogadishu and “to compensate the inability of the central government to maintain control over the national territory.”
Those fallacious reasons assume two things. First, every government in the capital Mogadishu is prototype of the ousted military dictatorship regime. Second, a capable central government based in Mogadishu failed to maintain control over the national territory for incompetence. Both assumptions are false.
In reality, the federal government lacks the legitimacy and ability to exercise control over territory beyond Mogadishu. On the other hand, the return of dictatorship is possible only when the Somali citizens tolerate the violations of the fundamental democratic principles of the provisional constitution. No respect for the rule of law and individual liberty is license for abuse of power, corruption, and anarchy. 
Today, the highest priority for Somalia is the unity of the people and integration of the territory divided by the civil war and the re-establishment of legitimate and effective central authority that strictly adheres to the constitution and the principles of good governance. The critical challenge is not the division of competence between central and local governments but it is the embracing of shared future through reconciliation, common territorial and political ownership, and allegiance to common citizenship.
The US Secretary of State said in Mogadishu, “We all have a stake in what happens here in Somalia. The world cannot afford to have places on the map that are essentially ungoverned.” Today, Somalia is practically no different from an ungoverned place. 
Continued disputes and hostilities among regional authorities prevent the effectiveness of national central authority able to provide leadership, national representation, justice, security, and socio-economic development to the Somali citizens. Somalia will not be an independent and sovereign state without an effective central authority protected by Somali national security and defense forces.
The participants of the seminar recognized that the form or model of the Somali federalism is yet to be defined and formalized in constitution. This fact defeats the argument that clan federalism is a fact or necessity or the only option against disintegration.
Clan federalism cannot heal the social ills caused by civil war. Contrary, it deepens national disintegration and disharmony. The current “censure motion” of the federal parliament against Jubbaland State, the exchange of accusations between Southwest and Jubbaland leaders, and the vehement opposition of Puntland against the formation of Mudug and Galgudud state and possible war over Galkaio control substantiate the claim that clan federalism is an obstacle to Somali national solidarity and progress. More worrying is that the syndrome of clan federalism in Somalia has traversed into the Somali inhabited regions of Ethiopia and Kenya, and fomented clan wars intended to impose the  domination of clans supported by government forces.
Ironically, the people and political forces of Italy rejected federal system that divides the country into north and south or into autonomous regions and metropolitans spearheaded by the Lega Nord and Forza Italia. They supported political and fiscal decentralization under a unitary system of governance. The main reason for the rejection of federalism was to maintain national unity, equal welfare, and citizenship. Therefore, Somalia should not be an experiment for federalism that separates people by keeping alive civil war scars and grievances.
Undoubtedly, the FGS bungled the opportunity offered by the New Deal Strategy by failing to comply with the performance and policy prescriptions required or implied in the Somali Compact. But more harmful, Italy works against the principles and goals of the framework of the New Deal Strategy specifically developed to help the fragile (failed) States like Somalia. The quick forsaking of the New Deal is a disaster for the fragile States.
The release of IAI report coincided with the publication of the research paper of Professor Afyare Elmi in May 2015 under the title, “Decentralized Unitary System: A Possible Middle Ground Model for Somalia.” The research paper focused on the question for rebuilding a sustainable, independent, sovereign, and democratic State of Somalia.
Professor Afyare identified four major domestic grievances that are vexing the Somali people: Trust deficit; Demand for democracy; Access to basic service; and Call for equitable share of resources. The neighboring countries (Ethiopia and Kenya), the international community, and Somali leaders used these grievances to push for clan based federalism as a solution that keeps each clan in separate traditional territories.
Through objective analysis of the current literature on various forms of federalism and the Somali history and culture, Professor Afyare has concluded that a decentralized unitary system is the most suitable model of governance for Somalia. He made the unity of the country as the central tenet for rebuilding the Somali State without overlooking the necessity to address domestic grievances and any legitimate external interest. The meltdown of clan federalism paves the way for a decentralized unitary system
The clan political entities and relative stabilities existing in certain areas of Somalia are under grave threats by complex problems: poverty, unemployment, extremism, political alienation, clan conflicts, rival interferences of foreign countries, wars and instabilities in regional countries, and endemic corruption and criminal activities. The political crisis bedeviling the Federal Government, Puntland, Jubbaland, Southwest, and Somaliland are good examples.
Somalia needs a central government that respects the democratic system of governance and able to provide the functions of State.  The establishment of an effective central authority complemented by subsidiary local authorities with powers, responsibilities, and adequate resources to govern, is essential to leave behind the stigma of failed state.

Mr. Mohamud M Uluso

Saturday, 30 May 2015


By Karim Lebhour
DJIBOUTI ( AFP)  — For years the Horn of Africa nation Djibouti was seen by foreign powers as a far-flung military outpost overlooking the Gulf of Aden. Now the strategic port wants to capitalise on its key position on one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the gateway to the Suez canal.
Djibouti offers an African base across from the Arabian Peninsula at the crossroads for cargo traffic between Asia and Europe.
Djibouti Al Riyad Market
Djibouti Al Riyadh market ( Photo AFP)
It may be a tiny country of around 850,000 people, but it has a bold ambition to become the commercial hub of eastern Africa, building on its role as the main port for landlocked Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country.
To achieve that the former French colony has embarked on a series of infrastructure projects expected to cost some $14bn. Offshore from historic Djibouti city, the waters are crowded with a mix of hulking warships, giant container cargo vessels and the traditional wooden fishing dhows that have plied the seas here for centuries.
But a short drive away, Chinese workers are busy building a giant new terminal dedicated to container ships from Asia.
Work is concentrated on the first of six new specialised docking terminals — each one focusing on different commodities including minerals, livestock, oil and gas — to add to the two terminals already in operation.
“More and more shipping lines are interested in Djibouti, we are now making the way to be a Dubai, even Singapore!” said Suleiman Ahmed, a senior executive at Doraleh container terminal.
Cargo trade is booming. It has increased between six and 10% each year, with Djibouti enjoying growth partly because other regional ports are struggling.
Kenya’s port city of Mombasa is already overstretched, while the secretive Red Sea state of Eritrea sees little if any traffic.
And Yemen’s once key port of Aden — just across the Gulf of Aden from Djibouti — is now a war zone.
“Mombasa is congested, Eritrea is not a welcoming country, but Djibouti is a strategic and safe location — we rely on it,” Ahmed said.
In a volatile region, Djibouti hopes to build a reputation of stability and security.
It hosts several foreign military bases, including Camp Lemonnier, the US military headquarters on the continent used for covert, anti-terror and other operations in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere across Africa.
France and Japan also have bases in Djibouti, which has been used by European and other international navies as a base in the fight against piracy from neighbouring Somalia.
Earlier this month, President Ismail Omar Guelleh told AFP that “discussions are ongoing,” with China concerning a potential military base, saying Beijing’s presence would be “welcome”.
Djibouti now wants to position itself as the gateway for Asia into Africa.
“From Egypt to South Africa, the eastern coast of Africa has only nine coastal countries,” said Abubaker Omar Hadi, chairman of Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority, waving his hand over a map of the continent on the wall of his office.
“This has created 10 landlocked countries, 400-million people who have no access to the sea. They are the ones we want to serve.” For now, Djibouti mainly serves Ethiopia’s 94-million consumers, but the ambition of Djibouti extends to the entire African continent.
As well as its massive port expansion, Djibouti wants to add two new airports, a modern railway and build industrial areas.
At present, the country’s small airport sees French Mirage fighter jets share its one runway with civilian aircraft. But the government plans to replace that with an international airport with a capacity of 1.5-million passengers annually, some 25km from Djibouti city.
A total of 14 infrastructure projects are planned in Djibouti totalling some $14.4bn, mainly financed by Chinese banks. But some are wary of such huge investments for a country with less than a million people.
“There was no market research and parliament was never consulted,” said opposition lawmaker Doualeh Egueh Ofleh, who said he was worried about the financial risk the projects could pose.
“When we take the loans from the World Bank and Western institutions, there was some control… now with the Chinese, we take all possible loans for all projects without any control,” he added, predicting Beijing would control the country’s infrastructure if Djibouti failed to repay its debts.
But Djibouti’s government is betting on strong African economic growth to recoup the investment.
“Even before Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong, the economic and maritime hubs in the region were Aden and Djibouti,” says port authority chief Abubaker Omar Hadi. “We know what to do to regain our place.”

Why are the Rohingya fleeing Myanmar?

The spectre of thousands of Rohingya refugees stranded in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea off mainland Southeast Asia will loom over Friday’s Regional Summit on Irregular Migration in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok. The roots of this crisis lie in Myanmar, where the Rohingya have faced institutionalized discrimination for decades.
In the past three years, tens of thousands of Rohingya have boarded ships to flee abroad, to escape persecution in Myanmar. However, the issues they face are not new.
Here, Amnesty International assesses the state-sponsored persecution and dire humanitarian situation that is forcing tens of thousands of Rohingya to risk their lives and flee the country they are not permitted to call home.
State-sponsored persecution
More than one million Rohingya are believed to live in Myanmar, where they have faced decades of repression and the denial of their human rights. They are not regarded as an official ethnic group and are denied citizenship under Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law, which effectively renders them stateless. As a result their rights to study, work, travel, marry, practise their religion and access health services are severely restricted.
© Getty Images
The Myanmar authorities deny the existence of the Rohingya – insisting on referring to them as “Bengalis” – a term used to imply that they are migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. The authorities also severely restrict access to Rakhine state, making it very difficult to obtain independent and accurate information on the human rights situation there.
While Myanmar’s President Thein Sein has been praised for sweeping reforms since he took office in 2011, the Rohingya have certainly not benefitted. On the contrary, recent moves by the government seem designed to cement their exclusion further.
Earlier this year, pressure from Buddhist nationalist protesters prompted the President to revoke all temporary registration certificates – known locally as “white cards”. Losing these cards will leave many Rohingya without any identity document. It also makes it highly unlikely they will be able to vote in the general elections, currently scheduled for November this year.
In October 2014, the government announced a Rakhine State Action Plan which, if implemented, would further entrench discrimination and segregation of Rohingya. The announcement of this plan appeared to trigger a new wave of people fleeing the country in boats. The government has not made the plan publicly available – or consulted affected communities about it – adding to concerns that it will be used to further marginalize the Rohingya.
In March 2014, one day before the first national census in Myanmar since 1983, the government backtracked on a promise to allow the Rohingya to self-identify and instead announced that they would have to register as “Bengali” or not be counted, in effect excluding them from the census.
In 2012, violence erupted between Buddhists and Muslims – the majority of them Rohingya – in Rakhine state, leading to scores of deaths, mass displacement and the destruction of property.
Tensions between Buddhist and Muslim communities have continued ever since. Predominantly anti-Muslim attacks took place in several towns across the country in 2013 and 2014.
© Getty Images
Despite allegations that state security forces either directly took part in some acts of violence, or failed to protect individuals from attacks, Amnesty International is not aware of any independent investigations being carried out or state officials being held to account. Instead, Myanmar authorities have arrested and imprisoned Rohingya community leaders who have spoken out about the human rights abuses they face.
Amnesty International continues to receive reports of arbitrary arrests, torture and other ill-treatment of Rohingya in detention, as well as deaths in the custody of Myanmar security forces.
The 2012 violence resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of people. An estimated 139,000 individuals – mostly Rohingya – remain displaced across Rakhine state today, with most living in official internally displaced person (IDP) camps and unofficial temporary shelters. Many of those displaced do not have sustained access to food, medical care, sanitation facilities and other essential humanitarian assistance.
Government-imposed restrictions and the Buddhist Rakhine community’s mistrust of NGOs – due in part to their perceived bias towards the Rohingya and Muslims – continue to hamper aid groups from providing humanitarian assistance to those who have been displaced. Following a visit in July 2014, one senior United Nations official described witnessing “a level of human suffering in IDP camps that I have personally never seen before”.
Growing religious intolerance and discrimination
Myanmar has witnessed a disturbing rise in religious intolerance in recent years, often fuelled by hardline Buddhist nationalist groups and directed particularly at Muslims. The Myanmar authorities have largely failed to take action against those who incite discrimination, hostility and violence. Instead, they have sought to introduce new laws and policies which will further discriminate against the Rohingya – among other minorities.
© Getty Images
One such law was passed last week – the Population Control Healthcare Law. It establishes a 36-month “birth spacing” interval for women between child births, apparently playing into fears that minority groups are having more children than the Buddhist majority. The new law is particularly alarming for Rohingya couples, who in the past have been restricted to having no more than two children. At worst, the law could become a blueprint for state population control and even pave the way for state-enforced contraception, abortions or sterilization.
Three other laws aimed at “protecting race and religion” are still before parliament and could give the authorities free rein to discriminate against women and minority groups – including the Rohingya.
Nowhere to go
The deteriorating situation of the Rohingya has pushed growing numbers of them to leave Myanmar in recent years. Since the 2012 violence, UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – estimates that more than 110,000 people – mostly Rohingya but also Bangladeshis – have left the Bay of Bengal on boats. From January until March this year, that figure is estimated at 25,000, twice the number as in the same period last year.
Many Rohingya flee across the border to neighbouring Bangladesh where they attempt to board boats bound for countries in Southeast Asia – in particular Thailand and Malaysia – where they are vulnerable to further human rights abuses.

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