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.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.