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As there are different authors for the articles on this blog, each article does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bokamoso Leadership Forum.

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28 January 2010

Port-au-Prince calling: Fulbright scholar gives first-hand perspective on homeland’s tragedy

By Erica Butcher

More than a week after the earthquake, “people are still alive under the rubble, especially in the poorest areas,” Ohio University alumnus Frednel Isma said in a phone conversation from Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Thursday.

“It is so frustrating! We cannot do anything! When the rubble is as tall as I am standing and you hear people still calling out. They’re alive and we cannot do anything. We don’t have the equipment to lift the stones off of them,” Isma said in a sober tone.

He explained Haitians’ frustrations escalated as they noticed search and rescue teams in wealthy areas, “where they may be one or two people in need of rescue” rather than in areas “where hundreds of poor people are alive calling out for help.”

Talking about the rescue operation, Isma said, “Maybe they don’t have maps or information about where to search, but something has to be done.”

He is pressuring relief and aid agencies to go to places outside of Port-au-Prince also badly affected by the quake. “There are places where it is really bad. People are still alive and there’s nobody there to help them,” Isma said.

Isma returned to Haiti last August after earning a master’s degree at Ohio University in International Development Studies, as a Fulbright scholar, but his studies and previous work experiences with aid agencies never prepared him for what he is witnessing now.

“It is so scary! Last night I slept outside. The home where I was living was destroyed. There are not even any latrines. It’s unbelievable! So many people are fleeing and looking for anywhere they can find shelter. The earth was shaking again this morning. People are scared. They are panicked!”

Isma was not in Port-au-Prince at the time of the initial earthquake on Tuesday, Jan. 12. He was traveling in Southern Haiti, in an area not as greatly impacted by the quake. Instead of staying in a safer region, he returned to the city to search for relatives and friends.

Isma reported that the president of Haiti, Rene Preval, waited until Wednesday, Jan. 20 to make his first address to the nation, more than a week after the earthquake. According to Isma, until Wednesday, the president had only addressed the foreign press and not the Haitian people directly.

With tension in his voice, he said, “The government is totally absent. I am so pissed to see that no one is in charge from Tuesday! Nobody was helping from the government. The president admitted yesterday that the government is down. Instead of responding with their means, even though limited, they (government officials) fled. And they have not done anything. Even the mayors of cities are no where to be seen.”

He urged the president of Haiti to “Say Something! Talk to the people!”

Isma, who is voluntarily leading the efforts of a Haitian nonprofit organization, spends his days in meetings trying to organize aid distribution, and distributing water, energy bars and face masks. He said that there is a desperate need for face masks because of the suffocating smells of decomposing bodies everywhere.

“I have seen things you can’t imagine. . . I just don’t know.”

Haitians struggling to survive themselves are grappling with feelings of helplessness because they lack rescue equipment and cannot provide adequate medical care to the injured or suitable burials for those who lost their lives in this catastrophic event. For Haiti, Isma is urgently calling up on the world to continue to respond as thousands fight to survive.

For more information on this article contact Ebutcher10@gmail.com

Author’s Note: During the “Rally for Haiti” event that took place on Sunday, Jan. 24, in Athens, OH, U.S.A., Isma via phone explained that his organization, COSPED, Collectif de Specialistes en Population et Developpement, is trying to get aid to areas that have yet to receive assistance. Isma was one of the founding members of COSPED when the organization was established in 2006, before he began his studies at Ohio University. In Dec. 2009, he was elected Deputy Coordinator. Isma is working voluntarily and not receiving a salary for this position. The organization was originally established to address population issues, such as HIV/AIDS and reproductive health. After the earthquake, COSPED shifted its focus to relief because of the gravity of the event. The organization does not currently have a website, but is working to develop one with the assistance of volunteers in the U.S. The organization has minimal overhead expenses, only those related to communication, transportation and the basics needs of its Haitian staff, food, etc. If you would like to make a donation to Isma’s organization please contact the author.

Frednel Isma: Isma earned his undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Université Adventiste d.Haïti. He also earned a post-graduate degree in Population and Development from Université d.Etat d.Haiti via Faculté des Sciences Humaines (Human Sciences Faculty). He has 11 years of experience working in different institutions and fields. He spent 5 years working as an accountant and from 2005 to 2007 worked as a project manager and logistics assistant in United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Haiti. He also taught accounting and accounting software in Université Adventisted in Haiti as well as courses in demography in INHSAC before his arrival at Ohio University as a Fulbright Scholar in 2007. His thesis, titled, “Trends, Composition, and Demographic Structure of Haitian Employment: Census and Policy Analysis from 1971 to 2003,” analyzes Haiti’s development policies and economic constraints and their impact on employment and is available online through Google Scholar.
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25 January 2010

Media and Democracy in Mali

by Idrissa Fane. Idrissa Fane is Fulbright Scholar from Mali, he is a second year Master student in Communication and Development.

Tell me how free your media is and I will tell you how flourishing your democracy is. If this assertion still holds true, the Republic of Mali, known as Mali, can brag about its democracy established in 1992 following a civil unrest that led to a coup d’état and the restoration of a civilian government. Sandwiched between countries where democracy seems far removed, Mali is nonetheless cited as the one of the most democratized and liberalized states in Sub-Saharan Africa. Over the last 18 years, the democratic process has continued to be sustained. The country has experienced relatively free and fair elections in the midst of increased political pluralism and decentralization.

Concurrently, there has been media liberalization during the same period. State controlled media have gone public. Private print and broadcast media have tremendously expanded in both number and in access. Mali has more than 200 radio stations, over 42 newspapers and periodicals, and two televisions stations. Foreign media outlets have increased, although they are limited to the capital Bamako and are only accessed through local media, and foreign satellite and cable. Access to the Internet is open. A broad range of views and opinions, including those critical of the government, are permitted. Ownership is varied, ranging from professionals with an economic agenda to opponents with a political agenda to obscure people who pull the string in the dark for various reasons.

This proliferation of private media has contributed to political freedom, human rights, and freedom of speech. It has also contributed to better information, increased knowledge and participation. To a larger extent, the media have taken an active role in the consolidation of the democracy by educating citizens about their civil and political rights and responsibilities and by informing, advocating, mobilizing, and socializing them into democratic norms and ideals. The media have become the voice of the voiceless and have provided citizens with a podium to express their views and participate in the democratic process. From domestic to foreign issues, the media have been monitoring the government and holding it accountable to its people, by exposing its misdeeds and denouncing policies contrary to public interest. As late as December of 2009, the media required transparency over the use of the funds obtained from the privatization of Mali's telecommunication company (SOTELMA). Soon after the earthquake in Haiti, the media asked the government to cast a spotlight on the fate of Malians working in peacekeeping in Haiti.

Since 1992, the professional working environment of the typical Malian journalist has been improved. New infrastructures were built for the promotion of journalists and measures have been taken to improve their living conditions. Mali’s constitution protects the right to free speech and press. Despite a few instances when journalists were detained for libel, in general the government observes the laws and rarely invokes slander. A recent piece of legislation guarantees reduced penalties to convicted journalists.

State owned media have also made tremendous effort to gain citizens’ trust by allowing coverage of opposition parties’ political activities. The government has set up a Committee of Equal Access to guarantee access to State controlled to all political parties during election campaigns. Parties’ airtime is determined by the number of their candidates. Parties with more candidates have longer airtime. Such measure aims at strengthening democracy by establishing political equality and fairness among the parties.

Mali’s unique media environment could be attributed to two major factors. Firstly, the historic role played by the media in the establishment of democracy. While a combination of international pressure, student demonstrations, and trade union strikes, contributed in paving the way for the Malian democracy, the print media played the most significant role. Long before student protests and unions strikes, Les Echos and l’Aurore, the only newspapers at that time, defied the military regime. Both newspapers have been at the forefront of the revolution and through their courage they have inspired the civil society. Secondly, the presence of media associations and advocacy groups which play the role of police within the media in order to prevent abuse to and from the media.

However, the Malian media faces real challenges: The first is inadequate qualification of journalists. Few Malian journalists have received the training necessary to carry out their duties professionally. Most came to the profession unprepared and unaware of basic ethical issues. The daily ethical problems in Mali include: bias, partisanship, lack of objectivity, misinformation and corruption. But while the lack of adequate training may be a contributing factor, journalists’ poor living conditions contribute significantly to ethical issues. In fact, Most of them work for a very little or no salary at all, especially in the broadcast media. Therefore, they have become an easy prey for corruption and partisanship.

Since 2002, another challenge surfaced: the rapprochement between the President and opposition parties following the appointment of their members as government Ministers. This has quieted opposition parties and reduced political debates. While this might bring stability to the country, this single party mood could weaken the mechanisms of checks and balances, especially in the absence of strong civil society and legislative and judicial institutions. It could weaken the media which have become de facto the sole defender of democracy.

While Mali is still a fledgling democracy because of institutional and structural weaknesses, weak political parties, and the absence of a professional media with international standards, hope remains for the strengthening of democracy. Hope remains since tolerance, justice, compromise, trust, sharing, and mutual respect that have characterized Malians for centuries are norms compatible with democratic citizenship. Hope remains with visionary and humble leaders like Mali’s former President, Alpha Omar Konare and current Head of State, Amadou Toumani Toure, who have preferred to make history instead of clinging to power by changing the constitution. The leadership example that they have set must become the rule, not the exception.
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21 January 2010

Devastation in Haiti Felt Locally

By Erica Butcher

January 20, 2009---The devastating 7.0 earthquake that crushed Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, and caused extensive destruction in areas in the southern and northeastern part of the country affected one-third of Haiti’s population of 9.7 million people. As the death toll continues to rise, some sources estimate 100,000 to 150,000 lives have already been lost.

Frustration continues to mount among those most affected by the earthquake as aid from around the world is slow to reach the most devastated areas, where orphaned children are heard crying out for their parents. On the ground, Haitian and international media agencies are relaying mounting concerns as people go day after day without adequate medical care, food, shelter, water and burial.

Medics and reporters are expressing the agonizing frustration of witnessing thousands of preventable deaths. Relief after persons are pulled from the rubble is turning into grief with the realization the injured may only be waiting to die in makeshift clinics that lack the basic medical supplies needed to save their lives.

As images and stories of millions of homeless people sleeping in the streets travel across borders, many in the U.S. have had to wait for days and will possibly have to wait for months to learn if their loved ones survived. Thousands of Haitians and non-Haitians simply disappeared with no record of their death.

Outside of larger cities, small towns, like Athens are also home to Haitians, who are experiencing hardship from afar. Members of the Athens community, such as Haitian graduate student Valessa St. Pierre, feel some sense of relief when they are informed family members survived, yet they must wait to hear about the welfare of countless others.

“What is mostly hurtful to me on top of the people being killed is the feeling of the loss of the country—something that is bothering a lot of Haitian people—to see an already overwhelmed country—it is painful to watch and painful to bear. —St. Pierre said.

Haitians in the U.S. describe the shock they feel as they try to contact relatives and comprehend the enormity of the loss. While some discuss what can be accomplished in rebuilding a nation once subjected to colonialism, unfair taxes, embargos and debts that have left it ill-prepared for such a disaster, it is difficult to imagine how those who survived are coping with post-traumatic stresses.

“With Haiti being my country—to see it in ruins—it breaks my heart—knowing that the people of this country started many revolutions and that my ancestors worked so hard for Haiti’s freedom and now to have to overcome this—it is hard to put into words what I feel” —St. Pierre, said.

Much attention has been placed on the outpouring of aid from around the world—a bleak glimmer of hope more lives will be saved. Many Haitians are managing the moment-to-moment struggles of surviving new dangers, yet they find the strength to help in recovery efforts. Despite their lack of resources, Haitians are the real heroes—sharing what little they have, risking their lives to rescue neighbors and strangers, transporting the injured and handling decomposing corpses with their bare hands.

Haitian and Fulbright scholar, Frednel Isma, returned to Port-au-Prince after earning an M.A. in International Affairs at Ohio University last August. Fortunately, he was traveling in a region of Haiti not as badly devastated by the earthquake on January 12. Instead of retreating to the countryside, he returned to Port-au-Prince only two days later to search for relatives and friends. On Monday, January 18, he posted a message on a social-networking website in response to numerous persons’ efforts to contact him.

“I am alive, Thank God . . . . The situation is chaotic and I cannot describe what Haiti is experiencing now. Although I am sleeping without a roof over my head . . . I am one of the fortunate ones who made it for now . . . Thanks for your prayers” —wrote Isma.

Bose Maposa, an OU graduate student from Botswana, is gradually hearing news about the 40 or more Haitian friends she studied with in Cuba.

“Last week, I found out that two passed away, Kerton and Clemonte. It was just shocking. It is painful when you know that people are dying, but when I learned that someone I knew passed away it is a devastating feeling” —Maposa said.

So far, Maposa has learned seven of her ex-schoolmates are alive.

“I have started to contact people I went to school with to see what to see what we can do in terms of long-term assistance. I’ve seen it happen where a death occurs and people help right after, but then the family is left to deal with rebuilding their lives. I want to make sure that their families get all the help they can get, and not only them, but all Haitians,” Maposa said.

As Haitians and the world mobilize resources, there are immediate needs and long-term concerns. In looking ahead, more will be accomplished if the citizens of the world continue to rally.

Locally, Ohio University students are organizing a fundraising concert, “Rally for Haiti,” taking place on Sunday, January 24 at 6:30 p.m. in Baker Center Ballroom. The event will include performances by students from around the world, a poem reading by Bose Maposa and a speech by Haitian native Valessa St. Pierre. The event is open to the public and all proceeds will go to support relief efforts. For more information, contact Erica Butcher eb549701@ohio.edu
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18 January 2010

Revising the gerontocratic myths in African political leadership: A platform for youth revolutionarism.

By Williams Abobo.

In almost every African society, respect for the elderly seems to be an entrenched provision in the socio-behavioral code observed by that particular society. So before Moses wrote down the Ten Commandments enjoining the Israelites to respect their parents and by extension, the elderly, in order to have long life, Africans already knew of respect for the elderly. Respect for the elderly is so strong in Africa that it sometimes seem as though Africa is practicing gerontolatry—the worship of the elderly. It has been promoted by a set of dogma and mythologies; completely inimical to youth involvement in leadership at all levels of the African social strata.

A recurring myth in the philosophy of gerontocracy is that the older one gets, the wiser he/she becomes. In most paintings I have seen of God, His hair and beard are completely grey. I can only guess that the intension is to give Him the wise, peaceful and calm looks associated with the elderly class. On the other hand, Satan is depicted as a youth overflowing with destructive power. Ironically, when these same painters portray a person like King Solomon or Noah in the bible, they always have grey beard and hair. Meanwhile Satan according to the belief of most religions lived long before Solomon and Noah; and is still living. So who is supposed to be painted with grey hair and beard? Applying simple logical reasoning, I should think that Satan must also have grey beard and hair. The question that I ask myself when I see such paintings is: is it not possible to have a destructive, diabolical thinking, and a hopelessly ineffective elderly person?

I think that there are examples of such people in every society. Yes, the expectation is that the older one is, the wiser he/she must be. But it will be unrealistic for anyone to assign a positive truth value to any proposition which seeks to establish a direct link between age and wisdom. The point about gerontocracy is that age increases every year so once a leader is selected because of his age and associated wisdom, he/she is inclined to rule for life. The assumption is that he/she becomes wiser and more experienced every year which makes him the best person to rule. Omar Bongo of Gabon was one of the African leaders in this group. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has also fought courageously to keep himself in power. Museveni of Uganda, another gerontocrat has remained in power since 1986. The list may be too long for me to exhaust.

Another recurring myth in the philosophy of gerontocracy is the fallacy that the judgment of the elderly is always right. It is considered disrespectful for a youth to challenge the judgment of an elderly person. As a youth, the society expects you to be “religiously obedient” to everyone older than you regardless of the fact the judgments of the elderly may be out of favor relative to the peculiar challenges of the following generation. Therefore when the older generation forces its interests on the younger generation, the latter will be compelled to abandon its interests, leave its peculiar challenges unattended to and follow an established pattern of life prescribed by the former. I doubt if any society can ever grow in such a situation! In many African countries political leaders make choices on who they will like to succeed them. Often, supporters of political leaders accept the succession choice thus made by their leaders leading to, what I prefer to describe as a neo-dynastic political system. In Nigeria, outgoing president Obasanjo choice of who should succeed him was granted, at least by official account. Soon after the death of Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo, worshippers of the gerontocratic cult quickly predicted what the leader would have done if he knew he was going to die soon. Their conclusion was that the dead leader’s son, Faure Eyadema, should be made the president. A similar situation took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

I have come to the conclusion, that for Africa to grow, one crucial thing to do is to revise, demystify and ease the obsession with age when it comes to electing people into political leadership. Merit-based rule is what is needed--one that allows people to become leaders based on their overriding merits rather than how old they may be. Under merit-based rule, the youth, interested in political leadership will have the opportunity of bringing into political administration, new ideas, creativity, exuberance and an unstoppable hope to succeed. This is what I call youth revolutionarism. Competent and self confident youth will be able to challenge the neo-dynastic political leaders into justifying their stay in office on merit or relinquish power if they lack merit. Under youth revolutionarism, gerontocrats will not be assumed to be wise; they will demonstrate it. Their judgments will not be assumed to be right; they will prove it. That is the only way the youth will be emboldened to venture into political leadership knowing that it is competence which matters but not old age.
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11 January 2010

Morocco: Better luck in 2030

By Bouchra Kachoub, a graduate student from Morocco, currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Applied Linguistics at Ohio University

In the minds of South Africans, May 15th 2006 is synonymous with great achievement and is a warm-up for a giant leap towards a global event: The 2010 World Cup. However, in the minds of Moroccans, this particular day may not make any sense for some while it may give a feeling of inferiority and underachievement to others, for May 15th 2006 marks the decisive day where the two competing African countries received the news of the verdict made by the FIFA executive committee.

The story did not start with South Africa and Morocco alone; it also included Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Egypt was optimistic enough that it stayed in the battle field only to obtain zero votes from the FIFA executive committee compared to 14 votes for South Africa and 10 for Morocco, while Tunisia and Libya withdrew for different reasons. Libya was a strong potential candidate, but ruined its participation when it started explicitly relating sport events to hot political issues, especially that of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Tunisia must have known where it stood and decided to withdraw so as not to upset its people, especially at a time when Morocco, a sworn enemy in soccer, was involved.

The fact that Morocco is known by its hospitality must have strengthened its feelings of being a potential host country. However, FIFA does not look at a country’s cultural profile or promises. On the contrary, it is more realistic and looks for concrete evidence rather than plans on paper or miniatures of a construction site to show what the event will look like. At the time of the elections, which were held for the seventh time in a row in Zurich, Morocco had only two big stadiums that needed renovation, while South Africa was already working on the construction of more stadiums impervious to whether it was selected or not. This act must have increased the trust of the FIFA executive committee on South Africa despite the spreading propaganda of high crime rate and diseases such as AIDS, which the majority of the Moroccans thought was a serious detractor. Furthermore, it caused many Moroccans to think that they were the only viable choice.

The prior experience of South Africa in hosting the rugby World Cup in 1995 and the cricket World Cup in 2003 added to the weight of its candidature and helped the FIFA committee in convincing themselves that their choice was sound enough. Moreover, the nine standing stadiums, in addition to the ones under construction, made the committee’s choice ineluctable. However, the 10 votes that Morocco received were not based on something tangible, but they were perhaps based on the emotions and experience of some of the members of the committee towards this country and the images of promise created when presenting their candidature. For Morocco to be ready for the World Cup in four years was very ambitious and may be impossible given the fact that hotels, roads, stadiums, airports, restaurants, attraction sites and much more still need to be built.

FIFA has proven to be more open-minded and in favor of celebrating the World Cup in happy Africa, unlike the International Olympics Committee that has never considered this continent to host such events. Also, FIFA has adopted a rotation system for the World Cup to ensure that all nations are involved. In fact, this was a great initiative for developing countries to push themselves to develop and enrich their economy. For example, million of dollars will be spent in South Africa and approximately 150,000 jobs will be created. This economic boost would not have come to South Africa were it not for the World Cup. Many Moroccans were left questioning what made the FIFA executive committee chose a country that is far south in the continent? They argued that Morocco is at the center which divides the distance between those who are in the northern regions of the world as well as the southern ones. Don’t all roads lead to Morocco? Many were also left wondering whether the FIFA executive members were sharing benefits with airlines? On the other side, other Moroccans thought that their local authorities, meaning Moroccan authorities, were too corrupt and half of the World Cup budget will only end up in their pockets.

The fact that Morocco did not secure the vote can be perceived as a positive aspect of this event because the country has indeed embarked in constructing all the projects that were on paper instead of taking a step backward as was expected by the majority. King Mohamed VI appointed a new Minister of Tourism who implemented a plan that aims at enlarging tourism projects such as the construction of hotels and attraction sights. Transportation has improved since then and roads have been maintained; however, stadiums construction is either very slow or unheard of.

Unfortunately, Morocco has not learned its lesson yet despite the fact that it was bidding for the World Cup a fourth time. On the contrary, South Africa has always been close to hosting the World Cup as it lost the bidding by just one vote to Germany for the 2006 World Cup because of New Zealand’s executive committee, Charles Dempsey, who abstained from voting. Overall, Morocco has moved forward since 2006 and even though it was not selected, hosting the world cup remains an African event which does not exclude Morocco from its benefits because it serves as the gate to Africa from Europe. Now that the rotating policy, adopted by the FIFA, will have the World Cup go around the world before it comes back to Africa in twenty years, all what we can say to Morocco is “Better luck in 2030!”
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04 January 2010

Will West Africa be the next battleground for the War on Terror?

By Oumar Ba, a graduate student at Ohio University pursuing a Masters Degree in Political Science

Umar Faruk Abdul Mutallab, who allegedly tried to blow up a Detroit bound airplane on Christmas day, is a Nigerian national.  However, the reports seem to indicate that his self-radicalization and his potential ties to Al Qaeda occurred while he was studying Arabic in Yemen.  Nigeria experiences cyclic religious violence that often leaves hundreds of dead, the latest being the crackdown on the Kala Kato sect in Bauchi State on December 28 2009 and the clashes between the Police and the Boko Haram sect last August.  But this eruption of religious violence appears to be an issue confined within the Nigerian borders, in other words, it is not a transnational problem.  Therefore, it is not the subject of this post.
The object of this article is to ask questions about the probability of West Africa, especially within the Sahel-Sahara region, becoming the new frontier for the War on Terror. Within the last few months, many events that often went unnoticed by the western media, have nonetheless proven to be steps in the escalation of transnational violence, and have made the U.S and some European governments pay more attention.

Oumar Issa, Harouna Touré and Idriss Abdelraman are three Malian nationals that were arrested in Ghana on December 18, 2009 by U.S federal agents and were extradited to New York to face charges of “narco-terrorism”.  They allegedly have some ties with al Qaeda and some cocaine connection with the Colombian FARC.  Of course, both al Qaeda and the FARC are on US terror list.  We do not know at this moment if and to what extent these three individuals are involved in narco-terrorism but the intriguing aspect of this issue is the unprecedented arrest of Malians in Ghana by the U.S. government.
On November 20 2009, a Boeing 727 with an expired registration from Guinea Bissau was found incinerated in the Malian desert, in the middle of nowhere. Though there are still many speculations about this unusual crash landing, the United Nations revealed that the airplane took off from Venezuela, went to Columbia, was picked up by the radar around the Cape Verde islands, then disappeared until it was found in the desert, burned to the ground, with no signs of the pilot or the crew.  Apparently, the crew discharged its load of cocaine there, burned the plane, and left the scene.  These events happened amidst US efforts to help Malian security forces to combat terrorism in the northern part of the country.
The border between Mali and Mauritania is the area where an Italian couple was kidnapped on December 18, 2009.  On December 28 2009, a group named Al Qaeda au Maghreb Islamique (AQMI) issued an audio message and claimed that it is detaining the Italian couple.  Three weeks earlier, the same group kidnapped three tourists from Spain in the South East region of Mauritania.  Since the start of its operations four years ago, AQMI is  responsible for the death of about 30 Mauritanian soldiers  but it was not until it killed four French nationals in Aleg, Mauritania in 2007 that it started targeting westerners.  Last June, AQMI claimed responsibility for the murder of an American citizen in the capital city of Mauritania and the suicide attack on the French Embassy in Nouakchott.  That was the first suicide attack ever in the region.
How will these events impact the local development?  What political consequences will there be? Do local governments have the means to face the threats from AQMI? What strings will be attached with any help from the Western governments?  How will the local populations react if there is an escalation of the violence?
Local tourism activities are already paying a hefty price.  The Western governments have issued warnings for their citizens who would be tempted to travel to the northern Malian cities of Timbuktu and Gao.  The political fallout of these events can be seen in the recent developments of the democratic process in Mauritania.  President Aziz removed the democratically elected President Sidi, and ran for the elections he prepared and made sure he won.  The western powers did not waste any time in recognizing the new regime as the legitimate government of Mauritania. A few weeks after his investiture, President Aziz paid Sarkozy a visit.  The political stability of Mauritania is a vital ingredient in any attempt to fight terrorism in the region. On December 24 2009, the Obama administration reinstated Mauritania in the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) program, which is a program of trade benefits for African countries that are meeting the threshold of democratic reform.  At the same time, Madagascar, Guinea and Niger were dropped from the program.

What are the geostrategic consequences of the war on terror in West Africa?  What does it mean for the central command of US military operations in Africa: AFRICOM? What about the French military troops based in Dakar?  Until recently, the French government was reviewing its military alliances with its former colonies and studying the effects of the potential closure of some of its military bases in Africa to reduce its expenses in this post-Cold war era.  The Commandant of the French military base in Dakar, General Paulus has said that “France maintains permanently a warship in the Gulf of Guinea to assist the French citizens.  If we would close one or the other base (Dakar, or Libreville), this warship would have to cover all 15 countries from Mauritania to Mozambique.” Obviously, the French military forces would not want to retreat from West Africa just to see AFRICOM establish a permanent base in the region. Will Mauritania offer to host a permanent American military base in its soil?
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