Wednesday 28 September 2016

NATO is inviting a nuclear war

This is an excerpt of an interview which I recently conducted via skype with Katehon, a Russian-based geo-political think tank. I gave an historical overview of the evolution of U.S.-Russian relationships from the Cold War era to the present detailing how the previous emphasis on diffusing tensions through a succession of international treaties has been replaced by one of antagonism largely stemming from American policy in the post-Cold War which is largely shaped by the Wolfowitz and Brzezinski doctrines. American militarism as exemplified by its interventions in countries such as Iraq, Libya and Syria as well as by its abrogation of anti-ballistic missile treaties and its deployment of nuclear shields is imperiling world peace. The American-backed coup in Ukraine along with its sponsorship of the insurrection against the Assad government in Syria have created the circumstances which could lead to conflict with the Russian Federation and potentially to a nuclear war.
The world is already in a very tumultuous situation, which is close to a situation that historically had been avoided at the height of the Soviet Union’s conflict with America. That is, we are on the verge of a nuclear war.
After the end of the Soviet Union, there were those ideas of the “end of the history”, and how America had won, and everybody would then be like America as a capitalist entity.
The point though is that once the Cold War ended, it made NATO a redundant institution. If you have no enemy to fight, how do you justify your existence? It seems that a part of American policy has been predicated on this idea of creating enemies and sustaining enmities. This is not a criticism of the United States, but it is a criticism of American foreign policy, as it is dictated by the Wolfowitz Doctrine and the Brzezinski Doctrine.
In other words, NATO survived. And the part of this survival mechanism, in a way what President Eisenhower referred to as the Military Industrial Complex, is this idea of war and conflict. It began in Yugoslavia and has continued to the present through Iraq, Libya and now Syria.
It is a very dangerous situation, because Russia has interests in Syria, it has a naval base there. It also has an interest in combating radical Islam through ISIS and Al-Nusra, which threatens Russia and its borders, it threatens the whole world.
It is a very disturbing fact, that the US has now developed a policy, which is based on militarism. Because the Wolfowitz Doctrine is predicated on the notion that America must be a hegemon, it must dominate the world economically and militarily. And in doing so, America reserves the right to not abide by international treaties and multinational obligations. This is very specifically mentioned.
So, when you put that into the context of Syria, you find that this recent ceasefire was not observed mainly because the United States was against it. They didn't give it a chance to succeed. And in the same way, the recent massacre of 62 Syrian soldiers was not accidental. It makes particular sense from the American perspective. They are fighting a proxy war. Their goal is to overthrow the secular regime of Bashar Al-Assad and create a balkanized Syria, consisting of separate states that are based on ethnic and religious nationalities.
This whole idea of NATO and its role in the Middle East, in Syria is patently very counterproductive.
© Adeyinka Makinde (2016)

Adeyinka Makinde is a London-based writer

Monday 26 September 2016

The Debate

As Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, presidential candidates representing respectively the Republican and Democratic Parties come together for their first in a series of presidential debates later today, here I assemble some random memories of past confrontations.

The Lincoln-Douglas presidential debates of 1858 appear to me to have attained a sort of reverential position in the historical memory of the United States. But in modern times, the Nixon-Kennedy debates of 1960, with its first time use of television in addition to radio as well as the media-friendly aura of Jack Kennedy, has seemingly set a standard to which all debates are compared.
Interestingly, although Kennedy is largely viewed as the victor because of his media savvy and the result of the election, documentaries and articles often remind that most people who listened to the first debate on radio thought Nixon -a debating champion in college- won the debate while those who watched it on TV thought Kennedy to be the victor.
The legend is that JFK waltzed into town from the Kennedy family's Palm Beach resort residence complete with a tan and having availed himself of the services of two young women of easy virtue. While Kennedy strode in "looking like a matinee idol", Nixon, whose facial features appeared permanently etched with a grimace at the pain of having banged his knee a few weeks earlier on, is said to have refused makeup and paid for this with a resultant 'five o'clock shadow'.
The debates since then have been memorable for quips and put downs. In 1984, Ronald Reagan's retort to an anchor's expression of concern over his ability to cope with the demands of the presidency was met by his pledge not to make "age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience."
His opponent Walter Mondale rocked with laughter along with the gathered studio audience.
One of the most memorable of course has to have been the retort by Senator Lloyd Bentson to Vice Presidential candidate Dan Quayle in 1988 when Quayle appeared to compare himself to John Kennedy.
"Senator,” Bentson replied, “I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."
Quayle appeared stone-faced and mumbled a response reminiscent of a petulant teenager being severely admonished by his parent.
There have been interesting moments since then, but these are the ones which stand out in my memory.
© Adeyinka Makinde (2016)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Friday 23 September 2016

Sunny Ade: A Tribute

King Sunny Ade

"He's gliding through his own stratosphere, high on his own supply." - Excerpt from a Rolling Stone magazine review of the Sunny Ade compilation album, 'The Classic Years' (1967-1974)

I guess 'Juju' as a genre and a philosophy of music was the opposite of the particular formula invented by Fela Kuti that came to be known as 'Afro-beat'. Sunny's development of Juju continued that music's 'conservative' style and image. Although occasionally 'cheeky' in vocal and musical expression, it was generally inoffensive and did not challenge the forces shaping society, instead, it was steeped in 'praise singing', humour and the exposition of traditional Yoruba values. A Juju musician like Sunny would never sing as Fela did about the hard-bitten life of the common man getting out of prison and living on the edge.

But the music was dynamic. Complexly constructed but simple in its delivery and ability to enable the listener to understand its cadences and its raison d'être. Fela apparently grumbled when Sunny began to incorporate certain features of Afro-beat into his music. But he must have understood that Sunny was merely elevating his music. He was not 'copying' Fela, Sunny's music remained of its kind and Fela would have instinctively understood the syncretic nature of Yoruba culture which applied to the music-making devices of both men.

Both Fela's ‘yabis’ style of hurling insults at the powerful and Sunny's penchant for praise singing are long-lasting and authentic  forms of social and political expression in Yoruba society. Both men may have seemed like opposites: 'conservative' versus 'radical', 'compliant' versus 'contrarian' and to some 'good' versus 'evil', yet both had the greatest respect for the other. Sunny Ade's personality reflected his music as Fela's did his. Whereas Fela was a veritable Zitatenschatz; a treasure trove of his own quotes, Sunny was -is- soft-spoken. He has always been content to let his music speak, and millions have been enthralled and will continue to be for an infinite period of time.

Sunday Adeniyi better known by his nom de guerre King Sunny Ade was born on September 22nd 1946 in Oshogbo, Nigeria.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2016)

Adeyinka Makinde is a London-based writer.

Sunday 18 September 2016

The Iron-Fisted Ethiopian State

A political crisis of longstanding duration has been brought to the world’s attention by the actions of a competitor at the recently concluded Olympic Games. Marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa’s gesture of raising his arms aloft in the form of a cross as he was about to confirm his silver-medal position was a politically-motivated one intended to highlight the plight of the Oromo people of Ethiopia who vehemently claim to be perpetually marginalised by the country’s central government. The Oromo also claim to be the primary victims of an escalating crackdown on public dissent. But while the Ethiopian government strenuously contests the facts and figures behind each repeated claim by local human rights groups and international non-governmental organisations of mass incarcerations, torture and extra-judicial killings, the picture emerges of a nation perennially at struggle in the quest towards achieving a genuine democracy and the rule of law. Whatever the merits of the arguments positing the clash of ethnic interests, ideological fractiousness and contestation of social policy, Ethiopia’s political history is one that is replete with episodes of ethnic or ideologically-motivated dissent which have typically been met by violent counter-reactions on the part of those wielding the levers of central power; whether by its overthrown monarchy or by its military and civilian successors. The iron-fisted approach to managing the affairs of state adopted by successive Ethiopian governments has always been predicated on the idea of preserving a multi-ethnic polity seemingly at any cost, much to the extent that the critics of the present administration accuse it of being insensitive to the genuine grievances of its citizens and of being unable to appropriately distinguish between protest and insurrection. This heavy-handed approach, some commentators contend risks plunging Ethiopia into a serious ethnic-based conflict that would not only mirror the violent transformations in its own recent history but which may also undertake the devastating features of conflicts as have occurred in neighbouring Sudan and Somalia and even Rwanda.

When Ethiopian rebels succeeded in overthrowing the hardline Marxist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991, the succeeding political framework, that of a federation of nine ethnically-based states, was hailed as a model for the African continent. The constitution granted autonomy to the constituent parts of the country and included a clause providing for the right to secede. The apparent success of this system, apart from the separation of Eritrea, was according to Meles Zenawi, evidence of “the successful management of our diversity.”

Zenawi, the leader of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) which defeated Mengistu’s forces, had been speaking as prime minister twenty years later. Under his leadership, Ethiopia’s marked development of infrastructure was accompanied by official data indicating consistent annual economic growth. A poverty assessment provided by the World Bank in 2011 found that poverty had fallen in the country from 44 percent in 2000 to 30 percent in 2011. The report also stated that average household health, education, and living standards had improved over the same period of time. The regime received a boost in July of 2015 when on a state visit US President Barack Obama had repeatedly referred to the “democratically elected” government of Ethiopia.

Nonetheless the apparent progress made in development and democracy under Zenawi’s Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has for long been underplayed by the opposition. They charge that the theoretically impressive constitutional arrangements were negated by the authoritarian nature of Zenawi -who died in 2012 after 21 years as leader- and continues to be undermined by his chosen successor, Hailemariam Desalegn. The true state of affairs according to Bulcha Demeksa, an outspoken opposition figure, is that the federal powers designated to the regions have been effectively usurped by the national government; claiming at the time Zenawi was in power that he removed regional presidents “at will”.

There is much in the way of evidence of the authoritarian ways of the Ethiopian government, dominated by the EPRDF, since the deposing of the Mengistu regime. This came into sharp focus at the time of multi-party elections held in 2005. The opposition’s complaints of election fraud were backed by the view of election observers from the European Union and the Carter Center. The elections of 2010, was also mired by claims of voter intimidation while that of 2015, which saw the EPRDF winning a landslide of 500 out of the 547 available seats -with its allies winning the remaining 47- was described by the opposition as an “undemocratic disgrace” and offered proof that Ethiopia is “effectively a one-party state”. The result is that not a single opposition member presently sits in the Parliament of the country possessing Africa’s second largest population.

The EPRDF is also in full control of the security apparatus. The military, the police force and the intelligence services, dominated by ethnic Tigrayans, serve as ultimate guarantors of its survival. The government has also made use of vaguely drafted counter-terrorism laws to clamp down on dissent. An article in the European Scientific Journal published in January 2016 claimed that at least eleven journalists had been convicted and sentenced to periods in excess of ten years since the enactment of Ethiopia’s Proclamation on Anti-Terrorism in August of 2009. Whereas the situation before the passing of the anti-terrorism legislation was that no laws contained provisions overtly criminalising the standard activities of opposition journalists and politicians, Article 6 of the Proclamation typifies the draconian nature of the law by allowing for a broad-brush policy which enables the authorities to interpret all manner of activities as ‘encouraging terrorism’ by direct or indirect means.  It is a tool used to diminish freedom of speech, association and assembly by criminalising the role of opposition politicians, journalists and bloggers, as well as the work of environmental and human rights activists. This view is supported by the United States State Department which in April of 2016  called for an end to the government’s use of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation law “to prosecute journalists, political party members and activists”.

Another piece of allegedly ‘anti-democratic’ legislation among a welter passed during this period was the Charities and Societies Proclamation of 2008. This restricts Ethiopian non-governmental organizations from embarking on any human rights-related work if they receive their funding from foreign sources.

Critics of the government also point to its brutal handling of recalcitrant populaces in various regions much to the extent that certain external human right organisations such as Genocide Watch and Human Rights Watch have alleged that the consistent use of lethal force and other extreme measures in the provinces are fulfilling a range of criteria which when taken in sum are considered to amount to genocide. This applies to the Anuak people of Gambella province as well as to the inhabitants of the regions of Ogaden and Oromia.

The Oromo, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia who comprise around a third of the country’s population, have consistently complained of being marginalised in a country where the exercise of political power is traditionally viewed through the prism of the rivalry between the Amhara and Tigrayan ethnic groups. A 2009 report by the Advocates for Human Rights organisation documented a historical account of consistent human rights abuse against Oromo communities by three successive regimes: that of the Haile Selassie-led monarchy, the Marxist Derg of the Mengistu era and the present EPRDF government. Oromo groups often characterise the treatment meted to their communities as an enduring form of state sanctioned tyranny. In October of 2014, Amnesty International produced ‘Because I am Oromo: Sweeping repression in the Oromia region of Ethiopia’, a 166-page document which asserted that between 2011 and 2014, at least 5,000 Oromos had been arrested based “on their actual or suspected peaceful opposition to the government.” This frequently involved taking pre-emptive action. Dissenters, both actual and suspected, it claimed had been “detained without charge or trial (and) killed by security services during protests, arrests and in detention.”

The Ogaden region, scene of a large scale battle between the armies of Ethiopia and Somalia between 1977 and 1978, is composed of ethnic Somalis, a great many of whom live impoverished lives in an underdeveloped expanse of land which is richly endowed with oil and gas resources. Its people also accuse the national government of severe human rights abuses including enforced displacements from ancestral land, restriction of large groups to camps, starvation and massacres of civilians and suspected militants. The management of a blockade of the region and the camps established for internally displaced person has involved regulating the availability of food and water. It has meant starvation while rape and intimidation are claimed to be weapons used by the Ethiopian military in keeping the people in line who have suffered from dispossession of their lands which have been turned over to Chinese-run oil and gas projects.

The Anuak of the Gambella region, a resource rich and fertile area which is situated to the west of the country on the border with Sudan, have also suffered from government policies. The region does not appear to benefit from the oil and agricultural projects the government has leased to foreign interests. Instead this mainly pastoral people, dark-skinned Africans traditionally treated as inferiors by the lighter-hued Highlanders, have suffered from enforced displacement from their lands and were subjected to a notorious series of massacres by the army and Highlander militias in the early 2000s. 

The case made against the Ethiopian regime is both frequent and compelling. Nonetheless, context is required before reaching a final judgement. Ethiopia, is the descendant state of a multi-ethnic empire with a remarkably turbulent history. Although seen by outsiders as an Abyssinian entity with an Orthodox Christian identity, the Amhara,Tigrayan and others of the Habesha ethnic strain amount to no more than 35% of a total population which accommodates over 80 different ethnic groups. Further, although it vies with Armenia for the honorific of the first Christian nation, nearly 45% of Ethiopians practise the Islamic faith.

It is under these circumstances that in the cause of maintaining its nationhood that Ethiopia has arguably inevitably developed a brand of authoritarian leadership; one which is perhaps synonymous with the Russian concept of zheleznaya ruka (or silnaya ruka): rule by the iron fist. Such a rationale will of course be of cold comfort to those groups such as the Oromo who although forming part of the lineage of the imperial family (both of Emperor Haile Selassie’s parents were paternally of Oromo descent) have had to endure restrictions on forms of their cultural expression; a culture based before incorporation into the Abyssinian empire on the Gadaa system which they proudly hold to be an exemplar of traditional democratic social, political and economic governance. The parallel institution of Siqque is claimed to have promoted gender equality.

In 2010, the Economic Intelligence Unit described the Ethiopian government as an “authoritarian regime” when ranking the country in 118th place out of 167 on its ‘Democracy Index’. If the present rulers of Ethiopia do privately admit to the necessity of conducting the task of nation building with a strong hand, they should be aware both of the limits of its severity and of the need to reassure their countrymen by demonstrable policies that their governace is not predicated on the perpetuation of a form of ethnic hegemony. For it is the argument of many of its sternest critics that the EPRDF is dominated by the TPLF which as a guerilla force played the decisive role in defeating the Mengistu government and gaining effective control of the country. They only need to look at their history and that of Ethiopia to be aware of the dialectic of violence that is inevitably unleashed when the hatred and injustice borne of ethnic chauvinism exceeds the limits of tolerance. The Woyane Rebellion of 1943 in Tigray province which was eventually crushed was one which was directed at the Amhara-centred regime of Selassie. And it was a coalition of ethnic militias which conducted the fight against the tyrannical rule of Mengistu.

It would be remiss to fail to elaborate further on the achievements of the EPRDF alluded to earlier in regard to the reduction of poverty as well as improvements in both health and education. High on the list of projects which if brought to fruition would serve to be genuinely transformative in its effect is that of the 4.2 billion dollar Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). This 6,000 megawatt gravity dam situated on the Blue Nile will be the largest hydro-electric dam on the African continent. It is being constructed under a longstanding threat of war by Egypt, a country which relies heavily on the waters of the River Nile. But the Ethiopian government is dogged in its pursuit of a scheme which has the potential to bring a great many of its citizens out of poverty.

The government’s Productive Safety Net Programme through which people can work on public infrastructure projects in return for food or cash provides jobs for around 7 million people. The effects of drought are combatted with more effectiveness than previous regimes through a national food reserve and early warning system located in all the woredas, that is, local government districts. There have also been productive initiatives made in relation to tackling the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Alongside the iron-fisted style of governace is some evidence of flexibility. The so-called ‘Master Plan’ aimed at extending the capital city of Addis Ababa was scrapped in the face of protests from the Oromo community who viewed it as a ploy by other ethnic groups to uproot them from their fertile land under the guise of development. In an unprecedented display of independence, the Oromo component of the EPRDF, the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO) announced in January of 2016 that it was resolved to “fully terminate” the plan.

The government has also shown a good level of resolve in asserting Ethiopian national interests; its defiance of Egyptian attempts at intimidation over the GERD project being a notable example. And while the legislative stipulation contained within the Charities and Societies Proclamation regarding funding from external sources appears primarily geared towards stifling internal dissent, it can also be viewed as a prudent act aimed at protecting the Ethiopian state from foreign interference of the sort that has enabled intelligence services of certain countries to utilise non-governmental organisations to destablise other nations. The successful rescue by Ethiopian defence forces of Aneuk children abducted by members of the south Sudanese Murle tribe in the Gambella region where groups of Murle had massacred hundreds of people was also a laudable act done in the national interest. The country is shaping itself in a position to be a key player in regional affairs with its expected role as energy supplier to its neighbours as well as through its peacekeeping efforts under the auspices of the African Union

That said, it is also clear that the heavy-handed approach to governace needs moderating lest it succeeds in triggering an uncontainable level of violence. Violence is of course a phenomenon to which generations of Ethiopians are familiar with.

The pattern of intermittent bloody insurrections and coups against the old imperial regime continued under its successor, a military regime whose initially bloodless coup which overthrew the monarchy in 1974 transmogrified into a train of unceasing violence. Commencing with what came to be known as ‘Black Saturday’, it was followed by the internecine struggles within the junta, known by the amharic word for ‘committee’, the Derg. The assassinations first of General Aman Andom and later Tafari Benti paved the way for the rise of Mengistu as the overseer of the ‘Ethiopian Red Terror.’ During this period, in which between 30,000 and 750,00 were killed, Mengistu fought an internal war against two civilian Marxist parties: the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP) and the All-Ethiopia Socialist Movement (MEISON). It is worth noting that the Ethiopian Civil War which concluded with the 1991 sacking of the Mengistu regime is officially designated as having started in September of 1974. Since that time, the government has had to cope with a range of low-intensity insurgencies which presently number ten.

The onus is on the government to begin to mould a genuinely inclusive national philosophy which eschews the perennial preoccupation with securing and maintaining ethnic hegemony. The country needs to evolve beyond the present facade of federalism, for there is ample evidence of truth in the cynical interpretation of Zenawi’s words on the “successful management of our diversity” as a euphemism for the successful supervision of a divide and conquer strategy. An inability to tackle ethnic grievances risks plunging Ethiopia into a level of darkness commensurate with or even exceeding that which occurred during the Rwandan genocide. The monopoly of state arms on the part of one ethnic group offers no guarantee of continued peaceful co-existence among Ethiopia’s disparate ethnic groups if those on the receiving end perceive their national army to be an ‘interahamwe’ of sorts.

If not corrected, Ethiopia risks ratcheting the dialectic of violence to a level which would imperil its continued existence.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2016)

Adeyinka Makinde is a London-based writer and Law Lecturer with a research interest in intelligence and security.

Thursday 8 September 2016

Can the British state convict itself?

Intelligence Accountability: Can the British state convict itself?
Adeyinka Makinde
The use of intelligence apparatuses by states seeking to advance their national interests and as a means of ensuring internal security can often be comprised of strategies and actions where the boundaries between the ethical and unethical as well as legality and illegality become seriously strained. This article examines the accountability of political figures and servants of the British state where it has used intelligence and covert forms of action as the basis of waging aggressive war, sanctioning kidnappings, condoning the use of torture and conducting state-sponsored assassinations. These issues have received a great deal of public scrutiny in recent times because of the pivotal use of intelligence to take Britain into a war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the apparent cooperation of Britain’s foreign intelligence agency in renditions sponsored by the American Central Intelligence Agency as part of the so-called ‘War on Terror’ and disclosures providing tangible evidence of a shoot-to-kill counter-insurgency strategy employed by British military intelligence in the early years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It concludes that despite its highly evolved democratic and legal institutions, the British state has demonstrated a marked resistance towards holding its statesmen, intelligence officials and high-ranking soldiers to account for actions when they have crossed into the realm of criminal blameworthiness.
Key words: Aggressive War; Rendition; Counter-Insurgency; Human Rights; Criminal Accountability
- Introduction
- The British state as an unaccountable entity
- Accountability and the British intelligence services
- Democratic values versus espionage and covert values
- A. War of aggression: The case against Tony Blair
- B. Kidnapping and Torture: The case against Jack Straw
- C. Extra-judicial Assassinations: The case against Frank Kitson
- Conclusions
- Notes
- References

© Adeyinka Makinde (2016)

Monday 5 September 2016

Eating in 'La Cité Phocéen'

Bouillabaisse Royale Avec 1/2 homard at 'La Cuisine Au Beurre', 72 Quai du Port, Vieux-Port 13002 Marseille. The name 'La Cuisine Au Berre' is derived from the movie of the same title which starred the iconic comedian Fernandel who was born in Marseille and is considered an icon of the city. Bouillabaisse is the traditional fish stew of Provance and is said to have originated in Marseille. The menu consists of soupe de poissons and a half lobster which bestrides a plate of scorpion fish, fielas, saint-pierre, sting fish, tud turnard, fried bread, home made rouille and emmental cheese.

Soupe de poissons
Half lobster dominating a plate of fish

Choice at a Tapas outlet on Archipel du Frioul was Royal Paella: Chicken, Spare Ribs, Prawns, Mussels, Green Beans Sausage "Chorizo", Sweet Pepper, Garlic, Species and Peas.

Royal Paella

What is 'down-to-earth', basic food? The sort enjoyed or even endured by the common man and the out-of-pocket school boarder getting through life on a 'staple diet'? I guess there's eba and stew in West Africa and putu among the Zulus. The Celts and Anglo-Saxons on the British Isles have their meat and potatoes while the Mediterranean folk have this: Pasta 'Bolo'. Life can't be all Bouillabaisse & assorted exotic fish dishes in 'La Cité Phocéen' - especially when on the occasion of visiting the infamous former prison fortress Island of Chateau d'If!

Pasta Bolognese

© Adeyinka Makinde (2016)

Thursday 1 September 2016

Chateau d'If

(PHOTO: Adeyinka Makinde)

The front of the Chateau d'If, the setting of Alexandre Dumas' classic novel 'The Count of Monte Cristo.' A military fort, a prison for political dissidents and revolutionaries and finally a monument which encapsulates how fiction can become a living reality.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2016)