22/1/11 Peter Clifford –
PREVENT WAR WITH CHOCOLATE
In November 2010 elections were held in the West African State of the Ivory Coast and by all fair assessments the incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo lost. Under the rules he should of course stand down and give way to the democratically elected winner, the Opposition Leader, Alassane Ouattara.
The African Union, the UN, the EU and many other countries support the election outcome and have called upon Gbagbo to give way and resign. He still refuses to do so.
The reason why this is important is that the Ivory Coast has a long history of civil war which was only ended by a peace agreement in 2007. Unless this situation is resolved quickly the war will erupt again and 1000’s of men, women and children will lose their lives. Already there are reports of sexual assaults on women who supported the winning candidate.
UN soldiers have been present in the country for a number of years to help maintain the peace. This Wednesday the UN Security Council voted to send another 2,000 troops following attacks on six of their vehicles, some of which were set on fire and two soldiers injured. Gbagbo’s latest move is to order that all UN vehicles should be stopped and searched – an illegal act of course under international law. He has also ordered the UN out of the country.
Faced with the prospect of yet another civil war many citizens with their families and belongings have fled in their thousands to neighbouring countries. Meanwhile Gbagbo is still resident in the Presidential palace, while his election winning rival, Mr. Ouattara, is holed up in the Golf Hotel in the Ivory Coast capital Abidjan, with a force of 800 U.N. peacekeepers protecting him.
CHOCOLATE – YOU SAID? WHAT ABOUT THE CHOCOLATE?
Chocolate comes into this story because the Ivory Coast is the world’s leading producer of cocoa, chocolate’s main ingredient. With concerns about a prolonged interruption to world supplies, the commodity price of cocoa has already jumped to a six month high and could hit $3,300 dollars a ton.
However, cocoa is also the main source of revenue for Gbagbo and his discredited government and the money from cocoa sales is paying the wages of the troops that are keeping him illegally in power. Without that revenue or the continued prospect of it, he will not be able to continue.
AVAAZ, the international voice of people worldwide, is targeting the world’s chocolate manufacturers to put pressure on Gbagbo to stand down and to withhold their orders until he does so.
So, citizens and chocolate lovers worldwide, protect your supplies of chocolate and vote for democracy at the same time! The Ivory Coast supplies between 30% – 40% of the world’s supply of cocoa ($1.4 billion dollars worth plus).
Global Witness, a London based pressure group, estimated in 2007 that more than $30 million of cocoa revenue was being diverted to the purchase of military equipment during the 2002 – 2003 civil war, in much the same way that the sale of diamonds and timber has contributed to propping up illegal regimes previously in neighbouring Liberia.
This must not happen again. The cocoa revenue needs to be used for development to benefit all the Ivory Coast’s citizens, not for sponsoring genocide (or ending up in Swiss bank accounts?).
AVAAZ is therefore petitioning the following chocolate manufacturers to get an effective response:
ADM, Barry-Callebaut, Blommer, Cadbury, Caobisco, Cargill, Cémoi, Cipexi, European Cocoa Association, Federation for Cocoa Commerce, Ferrero, Hershey’s, Kraft, M&M/Mars, National Confectioners Association, Nestlé, Olam, Outspan Ivoire, Pronibex, Révillon, Unilever, Valrhona, World Cocoa Foundation
To send a message to these companies, go to: AVAAZ.org – And send a letter (it’s easy! Just click on 4 boxes at the top of the page and hit “send”) – 227,000 messages so far – Let’s get to 250,000.
To those of you not yet familiar with AVAAZ, it has nearly 7 million members and is incredibly effective in using modern technology to bring the views of citizens globally to the attention of governments, companies and individuals worldwide to bring about rapid change. To learn more about AVAAZ go here: http://www.avaaz.org/en/about.php
The Economist magazine described AVAAZ as “a town crier in the global village, a cross-border fraternity that strives to be seen, heard and heeded.” The article goes on to note that “the movement, using 14 languages and engaged in a mind-boggling list of causes, has had some spectacular successes.” Read the full article…… Economist
So don’t delay, protect your chocolate supplies! keep chocolate prices low! And support Democracy in West Africa Now!
Until the next time,
Peter Clifford: www.petercliffordonline.com
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16/1/11 Peter Clifford – http://www.petercliffordonline.com : SOUTH SUDAN Part 2 l JUBA PRISON SEQUEL
Sudan has 597 ethnic groups and more than 400 different languages and dialects.
When I was there in the late 1970’s I was able to enjoy much of this culturally rich diversity.
From the hospitality of Arabs in the North who took me into their homes for a meal and to stay, to observing the tough Dinka tribesmen tending their very long horned cattle on the grasslands and seeing spear toting tribesmen coming out of the bush wearing little more than a penis sheath near Wau, to finally meeting the friendly smiles of the Black African Sudanese in the deep South, there was, and is, much to discover.
If the separation of the two halves of Sudan goes ahead, after 21 years of conflict, the challenge will be to preserve peace and harmony between the two nations and to prevent inter-racial antagonism. It will not be easy.
Another potential flashpoint is the discovery of oil in Sudan, mainly in southern Sudan, which northern Sudan is relying on them to continue to export by pipeline to Port Sudan on the Red Sea.
In 2009 revenues from oil in Sudan accounted for 50% of the country’s domestic revenue and 93% of it’s exports, but tribal conflict in the oil rich Adyei province on the north/south border prevented the people there taking part in last week’s referendum.
Unsurprisingly, the latest news in Sudan is that the crucial 60% tipping point for the implementation of the independence agreement has been passed but the final result will not be known for 30 days. There are almost 4 million registered voters in South Sudan, over 51% of them women.
Interestingly, South Sudan has already decided to adopt English as its official language and when I was there many people already spoke it, having been educated in Uganda or Kenya, both part of the British Commonwealth. English lessons are now a major industry, including for some members of the Judiciary.
JUBA PRISON SEQUEL:
If you read Part 1 of this article you will have read my story about being carted off to prison in Juba by a Secret Police Officer. To continue….
As he and his plainclothes officers took us and our luggage away I said to my girlfriend in German (she was from Germany, I am half Austrian), “Just tell them the truth, we are just travellers, nothing more”.
“No good speaking German”, barked the Secret Police Officer, ” I was trained by the Starsi” (former communist East German Secret Police not known for their humanity!). Not a good start.
For a couple of hours we were interrogated separately at the Police Station. It wasn’t too gruelling and they never did manage to work out that the cartridge camera I had at the time had a film in it.
The trigger for their interest was that our passports had been re-issued in Turkey. Having stayed in Israel we thought it prudent not to advertise that fact as we travelled through Egypt and Arab north Sudan.
As our luck would have it, this particular week, President Nimeiry (later deposed in a coup) had flown in from Khartoum to open a new radio station and the Secret Police were on “high alert”.
It wasn’t long before they had convinced themselves that we had come all the way from Israel to assasinate their Head of State!
Eventually we were taken to the prison proper and released into the prison compound, my poor girlfriend alone into the women’s section and me into a separate larger section with 304 black guys! Frankly, they were amazed to see me. According to them “white men” didn’t get put in prison,”it was all wrong”.
They crowded round me asking questions and a number of them, assuming I must be extremely hungry after being interrogated by the police, gave me little cubes of food to eat (rather like Oxo cubes). I later discovered that this was their meat ration for a week. I have never forgotten their kindness.
Daily Life in Juba Prison:
From then on the other inmates made sure I got the best of the meagre resources and those that had been assigned jobs around the prison offered to take messages to my girlfriend.
One of the many high points was every time I decided to use the one and only cold water outdoor shower. On each occasion I would look up to find myself surrounded by a ring of about 200 black guys peering at my “equipment”.
I quickly realised that most of them had never seen a white man with no clothes on before! Fortunately I am not particularly shy.
For the first 24 hours I was rather tense, imagining the worst but after that, being a pragmatist, I went with the flow of prison life. Some of my fellow inmates were very young – a 15 year old imprisoned for stealing a transistor radio for example – and some others, manacled at the ankles, were clearly mentally ill and were there because there was nowhere else to put them.
After a while I also discovered a South Sudan opposition politician kept in a separate compound in the middle of the prison yard, whom Nimeiry had kept locked up for several years. We had some conversation and on my release I passed his details onto Amnesty International who took up his case.
The other prisoners wiled away their time keeping themselves clean and their particularly spot in the prison tidy and playing a curious game in the sand with little depressions and stones. It is only in recent years that I have come to realise that this game was Mancala (UK Store Folding Mancala) (USA Store Mancala), a simple but fascinating game with unpredictable outcomes. I recommend it.
I was also given a rather battered Agatha Christie murder novel to read but as the last half dozen pages had been used as toilet paper by someone else I never got to find out “who did it”!
After 10 days both my girlfriend and I were brought to the Governor’s office. I was glad to see that my girlfriend was okay, she, like me, having been well looked after by her prison companions.
The Governor informed us that we were being flown back to Khartoum immediately. This was a bit of a blow, considering we had spent two weeks travelling from there and I had got a hernia in the process.
We were driven to the airport under armed guard, followed by a bit of a farce as they tried to get us on the aeroplane.
But I see this is turning into a book again………. So I will conclude the story in a few days! I promise….. In Part 3
Until the next time,
Peter Clifford: www.petercliffordonline.com
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11/1/11 Peter Clifford – http://www.petercliffordonline.com : SOUTH SUDAN Part 1: Hopefully the Birth of a Nation? l Juba Prison
South Sudan Referendum:
Last weekend the people of South Sudan went to the polls in a referendum to decide whether South Sudan should be come an independent nation or remain part of greater Sudan. Is this the final end of the long running Sudan civil war?
In theory the decision should be a massive forgone conclusion. Sudan, both geographically and culturally is split down the middle – a controlling Arab government and Moslem population mainly in the North and a Black African mainly Christian population in the South.
Physically the north is largely steppe and desert and to the South it is largely rain forest, grassland and savanna – as can be clearly seen from the BBC map.
For 21 years, and intermittently far longer than that, there has been civil war in Sudan between the two sides, costing more than 2 million lives in the last 15 years alone. However, in a 2005 peace agreement, part of the deal was that southern Sudan would be allowed a referendum to decide its future.
Why am I writing about this? Because more than 30 years ago I crossed this vast country ( more than a million square miles and the largest in Africa) overland from the northern border with Egypt at Wadi Halfa almost to the southern border with Uganda.
I say almost, because my journey came to an abrupt halt in Juba, soon to be the new capital of South Sudan (or whatever name they decide). I don’t know much about Juba as I did not see a lot of it, but I do know something about the inside of Juba prison….
Travelling Across Sudan:
Travelling across Sudan, even today, is not easy. From north to south by road it is over 1500 miles and I expect the roads now, as they did then, still wash out in the rainy season.
Part of my journey was by rail (old British steam trains and diesels) and part was intended to be by relatively “comfortable” riverboat on the White Nile but it was out of service. In the event there was no choice but to take the train to the end of the narrow gauge line in Wau and hitchhike on a lorry from there.
Hitchhiking on lorries was, and probably still is, a popular form of transport, providing extra income for the drivers. The top of the lorry was packed with people, but sitting all day on rock hard sacks of sugar, especially for my lean frame, is not my idea of a “good time”!
Things got worse as we skidded around on muddy tracks and passed at least one lorry which had completely turned over throwing its unbelted hitchhiking passengers all over the roadside with serious consequences.
Finally rounding one bend our own lorry went out of control and reared up to the side on only one set of wheels ready to somersault. At this point, in total terror, I managed to tear the lining of my abdomen and got myself a hernia before the lorry righted itself and continued its journey into Juba city.
Arrival in Juba:
By the time we arrived in Juba, I was not feeling too great and was only too pleased to find a small hotel run by third generation Greeks (where did they come from?). Who cares that the sanitation seemed to be run by a vast population of maggots that lived in the toilet bowl – all I wanted to do was sleep!
But sleep and rest was clearly not meant to had. Within a short time a member of the then Secret Police arrived, did not like the look of my passport or that of my girlfriend and carted us off to prison…
……..But before this blog turns into a book, I will pause there and post Part 2 in a day or two!!
In the meantime, I wish the people of South Sudan a good result in their referendum and every success in their right to self determination and a peaceful future.
Until the next time,
Peter Clifford: www.petercliffordonline.com
If you value what I have written please click on the “Like” button and Tweet my short link http://bit.ly/petercliff onto your friends.
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