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.
Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.
Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.
“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.
Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.
The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.
The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River. They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).
His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.
The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.
Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.
37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far
Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.
“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.
It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.
Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.
This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.
In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.
“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.
Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.
Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”
Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.
He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”
According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.
Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.
“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.
He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.
Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.
“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.
He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”
Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.
However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.
In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.
“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.
Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.
“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.
Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.
In an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.
The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.
“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.
According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.
“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.
Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.
“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.
“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.
Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).
On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.
Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.
President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.
“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.
On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.
In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.
Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.
Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.
As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.
This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.
The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.
As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.
“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.