TERRORISTS OR SCAPEGOATS? If what French President Francois Hollande said is anything to go by, there has to be a huge question mark against these two “Al Qaeda attackers” who are said to have murdered 12 people on that fateful day.
“The Illuminati did it”, bleated François Hollande. Did the French president simply shoot from the lip or he hit the nail squarely on the head? In this two-part instalment, BENSON C SAILI puts the whole saga in context following two weeks of meticulous sleuthing.
Over the span of only three frenzied days that brought the entire globe to a practical standstill, an orgy of killings in the French capital of Paris laid waste to a total of 20 lives, the deadliest terror attack in the country in nearly 55 years. The body count was not even half-done when names like Islamic Jihadists, ISIS, and Al Qaeda in Yemen – the providential scapegoats – began to be bandied around as the likely culprits by the Western media. This rash inference – call it the Rupert Murdoch line – was made on the basis that the AK-47 wielding attackers were chanting the trademark Jihadist kill-chant “Allahu Akbar”, meaning Allah, the Muslim God, was great.
Saleable as it was to the characteristically docile Western audiences, the Rupert Murdoch line did not wash with the French authorities themselves. In a live, tongue-in-cheek television speech on January 9, only two days after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, François Hollande, the French President, said “the Illuminati were behind the shootings” in what he termed “a terrorist attack of the most extreme barbarity”.
In the mainstream Western media, “Illuminati” is a forbidden word. Resultantly, none of the huge-circulation print media as well as their electronic counterpart in Europe and across the Atlantic quoted Hollande verbatim. I was glued to Sky TV myself as a glum Hollande rendered his keening speech and I can wager you even the translator himself never used the word “Illuminati” once.
According to blogosphere translations of portions of Hollande’s speech, his exact words were, "Those who committed these acts; these terrorists, these ‘illuminated ones’, these fanatics; have nothing to do with the Muslim religion”. True, the term “Illumines” in French can also refer to “delusional people” but a rhetorical devise of the Illuminati is that they use double-speak, with one meaning intended for their ilk and another intended as a mass blindfold.
Hollande would never have been president if he was not Illuminati. It is telling, therefore, that he seemed redolent with rage at his own bedfellows for so blatantly setting upon his country. The “Illumines” allusion was clearly a coded dig at the very monstrous order to which he belonged, a megaphone remonstration at a most egregious act of foul play. Paraphrased, what Hollande was saying was that Moslems had nothing to do with the atrocity: the terrorists were the Illuminati. Certainly, the concourse of leaders who showed up for the “unity march” were not there as a gesture of solidarity, many of them anyway: they came to toast to the sacrifice and harvest first-hand the enormous haul of negative emotional energy on which they thrive. The unity march was a triumphant march. To just give one example of how despicable some of these rascals we call presidents or prime ministers are, Bibi Netanyahu, who was conspicuous by his presence, was just fresh from erasing 2310 men, women, and children from the face of the earth in the 2014 summer offensive on the Gaza strip.
If Hollande was effectively flashing the middle-finger at the Illuminati for the crass barbarity wrought upon his people, exactly how did he know it was them? What forms did the Illuminati fingerprints take in the crime trail?
CHARLIE’S CASE OF CHEERS AND JEERS First, let us familiarise ourselves with the ill-starred publication. Charlie Hebdo is French for “Charlie Weekly”. The essential thrust of the magazine is satirical, meaning it employs humour, irony, caricature, exaggeration, or outright ridicule to expose and lampoon institutional ills or peccadilloes, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. It features cartoons, polemics, and jokes in the main, although it does carry a modicum of incendiary news items. It has been characterised as “irreverent and stridently non-conformist in tone, strongly secularist, anti-religious, and left-wing, and publishes articles that mock far-right politics, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, Israel, politics, culture, and various other groups as local and world news unfolds”. In other words, it has a provocative, bare-knuckle approach which knows no sacred cows. Its circulation has ranged from 45,000 to 60,000 copies per print run, about a tenth of what the country’s popular news weeklies typically sell.
Founded in 1960 as a monthly, the magazine has a chequered and tumultuous history, with several incarnations between and betwixt. From 1961 to 1970, it was banned three times by the French government, one transgression of which was its mockery of the demise of iconic president General Charles De Gaulle. The slur on De Gaulle brought about its permanent ban though it promptly sprang to life again under a new guise, the very name it goes by today. In December 1981, it ceased to exist altogether, only to resurface twelve years later. It has been the subject of several lawsuits though it only lost one in which the complainant was its own employee.
The magazine can be vulgar to a point of being plainly insulting and all in the name of journalistic licence. It particularly reserves a special disdain for the world’s most eminent religious faiths. Some of its reprehensible portrayals in recent times have included a cover cartoon featuring rolls of toilet paper labeled “Bible,” “Koran,” and “Torah” under the headline “In the shitter, all the religions”. François Hollande has been caricatured with a talking penis hanging out of his underwear and the country’s black Minister of Justice was once depicted as a monkey, which could well have been a racist gibe.
Until the January horror, the magazine had been inching towards bankruptcy and had latterly laid off a number of employees. Its fortunes have now dramatically turned around: its first edition after the attack was on course to sell 5 million copies locally and abroad after the first print-run of 1 million copies sold out within half an hour of hitting the shelves. On Ebay, the popular online shopping megamarket, purchasers eager to get their hands on a collector’s memento made mind-boggling bids of up to $82,400 per copy! A number of companies have pledged tantalisingly hefty sums to help the magazine sustain itself for the foreseeable future. Not all adversity is wholly adverse, seemingly.
THE MUSLIM OUTRAGE The straw that finally broke the camel’s back, the smokescreen the Illuminati used to chastise France for one reason or the other – in the bigger picture that is – on January 7 2015 was Charlie Hebdo’s almost morbid obsession with Muhammad, the founder of Islam and whose depiction the faith prohibits.
In 2006, not only did the magazine publish demeaning cartoons of Muhammad of its own but it also reproduced 12 controversial cartoons that had first appeared in a Danish paper and which drew lightning bolts of ire from the Islamic world. In 2011, the magazine’s offices were fire-bombed and its website was defaced after one of its November editions featured a cartoon that cast Muhammad as a sadist. The prophet was satirised as its guest editor, with the following words issuing forth from his mouth: “100 lashes from the mouth if you don’t die laughing”. In September 2012, the magazine seemed to have crossed a line when it reeled off a series of cartoons of Muhammad some of which showed him stark naked.
Satire implies conscious sophistication but Charlie Hebdo was stretching it to a point of being plain foolhardy. When asked as to why his magazine seemed hellbent on knocking all taboos, editor Stéphane Charbonnier nonchalantly replied, “We have to carry on until Islam has been rendered as banal as Catholicism”. The response had undertones of a smear agenda. This was not simply a principled publication indulging its love of a particular journalistic genre but a bunch of wayward satiricists with subversive motives.
In the event, it was not only Moslems who were outraged. Western leaders too were troubled by the magazine’s stubborn refusal to show at least a modicum of sensitivity. At the time of his presidency, Jacques Chirac warned the publication of “overt provocations” which needed to be avoided. In the US, a White House statement questioned the wisdom of publishing cartoons that profaned a revered religious figure like Muhammad. On their part, the civilised elements of the Muslim world, represented by the Grand Mosque, the Muslim World League, and the Union of French Islamic Organisation, sought to tame the slanderous and sacrilegious publication by taking recourse to litigation, albeit to no avail.
Meanwhile, the Moslem fundamentalists thought they had enough. In March 2013, Al Qaeda through its Yemeni branch, officially known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), issued its on fatwa against the magazine’s editor and 10 other “insolent infidels” who were a thorn in the side of its faith. Charlie Hebdo of course did not take the hitlist lightly: it posted a permanent police guard outside its premises. As things turned out, this was not a tight enough safeguard.
THE STRIKE On January 15 2015 at about 11:30 a.m., two armed masked men garbed in black bulldozed their way into the Charlie Hebdo premises and turned it into a killing field. When the deed was done, 12 people lay dead and 11 wounded, four of whom seriously. The dead ranged from ages 42 to 80 and included editor-in-chief Stéphane Charbonnie, four cartoonists, and three policemen. Of the wounded two remain in critical condition.
The assailants, who kept chanting “Alahu Akbar” like they were airing a jingle, were later identified as the brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, aged 32 and 34 respectively. They were Frenchmen of Algerian descent and have been linked to Al Qaeda. On their way out of the Charlie Hebdo building, they shot dead a policeman, an event that was captured live on amateur video, and hijacked one or two cars in their getaway. Police launched a manhunt but it was not until the following day, on the morning of January 8, that they were spotted northeast of Paris.
At one stage they robbed a police station, later abandoning their getaway car and vanishing into a nearby forest. The following day, they were again spotted after they had hijacked a Peugeot 504 and police chased after them for about 27 km on a single highway OJ Simpson style. At some point, they vacated their vehicle and in the ensuing exchange of fire with police, one of them sustained a minor wound on his neck. They still were able to escape the police dragnet on foot.
At around 10:30 a.m., they burst into a signage production company where only two people were present, the business owner and a 26-year-old graphics designer. The latter was beckoned to stash himself somewhere by the business owner without catching the eye of the two armed intruders. He hid in a card box under a sink in the canteen, where he tipped the police by mobile texting and communicated with them for about three hours. Meanwhile, the strangers did not lay a hand on the business owner. He even made coffee for them and bandaged the wound of the injured fella. Later, a salesman arrived. He too was not harmed and was allowed to leave. After an hour, the business owner was asked to depart the premises too.
At around 5 p.m, police decided to storm into the building via the roof. The two terrorists didn’t want to die like cowards apparently. They bounded out of the building with guns blazing but were promptly neutralised in a hail of gunfire that rang out from all around. Meanwhile, a secondary siege in a kosher supermarket 40 km away staged by an alleged ally of the two brothers ensued. The perpetrator, Amedy Coulibaly, killed 4 hostages before he was finally shot dead himself by police. He had earlier killed a female police woman in the company of his girlfriend Hayat Boumeddiene who remains at large to date.
The deaths of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo building, the two Kouachi brothers themselves, Amedy Coulibaly, his four hostages, and the policewoman brought the total number of dead in the whole saga to 20. To most, it’s case closed: the three main culprits are all dead, save for the woman. To the discerning, however, it is not as simple as that. There are a number of aspects about the whole incident that raise more questions than answers. For instance, were the so-called terrorists really terrorists? Were they for sure commissioned by Al Qaeda or were working under the auspices of the Illuminati as Hollande intimated? These questions and precious others we address in the next and final installment.
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”