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The Paris Attacks

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.

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Civil Service volatility: Democracy vs Bureaucracy

19th April 2021
President Masisi

Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.

These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.

The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”

The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.

“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”

Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.

The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.

Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.

One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.

But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.

One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.

Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.

In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.

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Morupisi fights for freedom in court

19th April 2021
morupisi

Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.

Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.

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Pressure mounts on Biden to suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents

19th April 2021
Joe Biden

United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.

According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.

“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.

A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.

Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.

In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”

While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.

Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility.  Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.

For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies.  European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.

It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.

The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.

“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”

“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.”
The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”

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