Will 2006 Be a Turning Point in American Politics?

June 21st, 2010 admin Posted in health reform Comments Off

The 2006 Congressional mid-term elections are just around the corner. In many ways this election is a pivotal point for both the Democrat and Republican parties. For over a decade the Republican party has maintained control of both the Senate and House of Representatives. Though due to many issues that now face the country that may very well change.

Whether Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, most americans agree the problems this nation and the world face are serious and need to be addressed. Unfortunately it appears that within the United States partisan politics and an unwillingness to compromise has prevented any real progress.

In the House of Representatives the Democrats need to gain 15 seats to achieve a majority vote. Many political pundents from both parties believe this will be the case and some say the net gain will be much higher, though most qualify their opinion with a healthy “anything can happen”.

The Senate race is much tighter with the Dem’s needing 6 seats to gain a majority position. The outcomes of the various Senate races seem to be much harder to predict. Opinion polls (something all politicians and news agencies rely on) vary from day to day though most show that at least two of the Senate races are impossible to predict.

If the Democrats take control of congress what will change? It is a good question but difficult to answer. The executive branch will still be Republican and a “divided government” as it is sometimes called has proven problematic in the past.

The American style of democracy relies on a system of checks and balances with a congress providing the role of oversight as one of its functions. Most if not all political analysts agree that Congress has been rather lax recently in exercising that particular responsibility.

The war in Iraq, terrorism, immigration, social security and health care reform seem to be the issues most Americans are concerned with. Whether or not any one or all of these issues are addressed and resolved after the mid-terms remains an open question.

Recently Republicans have had a difficult time responding to the various problems and scandals that have plagued them, with the Rep. Tom Foley / page situation only adding to the list. The base, or core of the Republican party which includes conservative evangelicals have voiced serious concern over the direction of the party and the apparent drifting from core Republican values.

Fiscal responsibility, smaller government and personal freedoms have historically been major parts of the GOP platform. Federal spending, the deficit and the federal government are at this point larger than ever before and growing, and many would argue that personal freedoms are being threatened in the war on terror.

The Democrats do not have it any easier. Unable to communicate a clear message and an inability to provide a new direction for the country, most Americans find themselves forced to choose between two apparently dysfunctional political parties.

The possibility exists that after this election cycle both parties will try to set aside their differences and tackle the major issues. If the Dem’s do gain a clear majority in both houses, then both parties will be forced to at least try to work together if they are to get anything done.

The President will have two years left in his second term and with the situation in Iraq no where near resolved and a majority of Americans feeling the war was a mistake, it is likely both parties will work towards a quick if imperfect solution.

A “divided government” situation, where one branch (for example: the Executive) is controlled by one party and another branch of government (Legislature) is controlled by the political opposite can have both positive and negative aspects.

Proper Congressional oversight has a better chance of being exercised and maintained and a larger proportion of the population will generally have their concerns heard and addressed. Two political parties with an equal share of power will leave a smaller unrepresented minority (in theory).

The down-side is the very real possibility that nothing gets done. Both sides so entrenched and unwilling to move on an issue that if the Executive branch is presented with a bill to sign it is vetoed and any proposals made to Congress are rejected out of hand.

An honest willingness from both parties to work on the demanding issues of the day will not only serve their own individual interests but serve the country as a whole, which is why they were elected in the first place.

The 2006 Congressional mid-term elections may provide a new dynamic to Washington and a real opportunity to address some of the problems that face this nation. With the middle-east more volatile now rather than less, North Korea and Iran working towards nuclear weapons, America’s damaged reputation in the eyes of the world and the serious reality of America’s domestic problems, both Democrats, Republicans and the Nation would be best served by setting aside partisan politics and setting to work on the difficult issues we now face.

Bill Watson

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Progressive Ctholicism

June 7th, 2010 admin Posted in health reform Comments Off

Most scholars view the appearance of progressive Catholicism as a dramatic break with the past. The shift in attention toward solving the economic and political problems of the poor defines progressive Catholicism (Bruneau 45). Catholic progressivism in Latin America is typically dated from the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). It was at this historic conference (originally designed to meet the challenges of modernization in Europe) that “democratic” reforms were first introduced and sanctioned by the papacy (Hewitt 123). Mass was to be said in the vernacular, Church members were to practice toleration for alternative ideas, and greater attention was to be paid to social justice. But, in reality, a few Latin American Churches anticipated these reforms by at least a decade, especially with regard to social justice. Brazil led the way. During the 1950s, bishops in Brazil expressed interest in land reform, literacy campaigns, and rural cooperatives (Mainwaring 128). These efforts went beyond the traditional alms giving favored in the past; instead, they represented a sincere desire to improve the long-term living conditions of the lower classes. Even before the convocation of Vatican II, attention also was given to promoting greater lay involvement in religious services in Brazil.
No event in Latin America crystallized the progressive movement more than the Second General Conference of CELAM, held in Medellín, Colombia, in 1968 (Mainwaring 148). The purpose for gathering bishops from throughout the region was to apply the reforms and recommendations of Vatican 11 to the Latin American context. Under the leadership of progressive bishops such as Hélder Câmara ( Brazil) and Raúl Silva Henríquez ( Chile), this conference was celebrated for its declaration in favor of social justice, later called the “preferential option for the poor.” Supposedly, the poor always possessed a special place in Catholic doctrine. Nevertheless, the Brazil bishops thought it necessary to publicly declare support for this social group. Given the tarnished past of the Church when it came to serving the poor, this was the least they could do.
To put the preferential option into action, the participants at the Medellín conference advocated the development of comunidades eclesiales de base (CEBs), known in English As ecclesial base communities (Mainwaring 89). Overall, the range of CEB activity is quite broad. Despite their notoriety for radical political activity, no presupposition should be made regarding their ideological content. Most people participate in base communities primarily for their religious content and often ignore the political messages propagated by their progressive leaders.
The intellectual engine driving Catholic progressivism during the 1960s and 1970s was liberation theology. As defined by one of its founding fathers, Gustavo Gutiérrez, liberation theology attempts to reflect on the experience and meaning of the faith based on the commitment to abolish injustice and to build a new society; this theology must be verified by the practice of that commitment, by active, effective participation in the struggle which the exploited social classes have undertaken against their oppressors (Hewitt 56)
Two elements stand out in this philosophy. The first is its reliance on Marxist methodology. More accurately, liberation theologians base their understanding of Latin American poverty on dependency theory, a perspective that views poverty and repression in the Third World as a direct function of the world capitalist economy dominated by Western Europe and the United States. Central to the solutions for persistent underdevelopment offered by many dependency theorists and liberation theologians is the concept of class struggle. This provided radical Catholics the intellectual justification they needed to join revolutionary movements during the 1970s. Second, liberation theologians emphasize praxis, or putting the liberating words of the Gospel to work. For this reason, liberation theologians have been the most fervent advocates of CEBs, giving the base-community movement its reputation for political radicalism. Although both CEBs and liberation theology have had a significant qualitative impact on Catholic thought and action, these movements remain quantitatively small (Hewitt 55). Their primary influence has been to challenge non-liberationist priests and bishops to think more carefully about the plight of their poorest parishioners. Many bishops were receptive to this challenge, others not.
In terms of Church-state relations, Catholic progressivism manifested itself as opposition to authoritarian rule. Not only did several episcopacies denounce their respective military rulers, but they rejected authoritarianism as a method of rule per se. This represented a significant break with the Church’s traditional preference for elite-based politics. In the past, whenever the Church felt its interests were somehow threatened by a given government, it would simply throw its support to those elites who opposed the sitting governors. Beginning in the 1960s, this strategy changed. Espousing a preferential option for the poor implied defending the interests of the popular classes against dictatorial abuses. The policies adopted by military governments during the 1970s had the effect of distributing income upward, away from the lower classes. In order to accomplish this task with a minimal amount of social resistance, dictators resorted to previously unseen levels of repression. Labor movements and other popular-class organizations bore the brunt of this assault. To show solidarity with the popular sectors, bishops publicly denounced both the economic policies and repressive tactics associated with military regimes. In addition, these bishops also attacked the philosophical underpinnings of authoritarian rule as being inherently unjust.
In Brazil, the episcopacy responded to the dictatorship (1964-85) by consolidating a number of progressive elements that were already developing in several dioceses. Base communities were expanded, though they still reached only a small fraction of the country’s Catholic population. Episcopal criticisms of human rights abuses and economic injustice grew increasingly common beginning in the late 1960s with the appointment of Dom Aloísio Lorscheider as general secretary of the Church’s episcopal conference and with the ascension of Dom Paulo Arns to the archbishopric of São Paulo in 1970 (Serbin 45).
Brazil witnessed the emergence of the region’s most progressive episcopacies comparatively early, before Vatican II. This immediately raises the question of how Vatican II could have shaped progressive pastoral reforms in this country when it had not occurred yet. It is important that Brazil experienced rapid growth of non-Catholic religions during the 1930s and 1940s, when Protestant growth was still relatively slow elsewhere. Consequently, bishops in Brazil implemented progressive reforms in the 1940s and ’50s in an effort to improve their credibility among the popular classes and slow the exodus from the Catholic faith. As for political alliances, each episcopacy sought state assistance from the democratic regimes preceding military rule, but there was a noticeable drift toward reformist parties that were more in tune with the masses.
The Brazilian bishops first sought to stave off the Protestant advance in the 1930s and 1940s by seeking prohibitions on the entry of missionaries into their country (Mainwaring 197). A renewed and strengthened alliance with the state under Getúlio Vargas enhanced their ability to take such defensive actions, although the state’s cooperation on this issue was lukewarm at best. At a higher level, bishops tried using their connections with the political elite to impede the entrance of missionaries. Laws were passed, strengthened, or enforced in several nations making it illegal to import the Bible. At the urging of several bishops, president Getúlio Vargas pressured the United States government to limit the number of evangelical missionaries entering Brazil in the 1940s (Hewitt 44). This issue arose when the United States tried to persuade Brazil to join the Allies in World War II. Vargas, not particularly interested in getting militarily involved, delayed Brazil’s entry until the war was assuredly won. The negotiations over Protestant missionaries, while directly beneficial to the Catholic hierarchy, probably served as one of Vargas’s many stalling tactics, rather than representing a sincere desire to help the Church. The restrictions were never enacted.
Many Church leaders realized that a new pastoral commitment was needed if Brazil was to remain a predominantly Catholic nation ( Mainwaring 213). Learning from the success of Protestant missionaries, the Catholic hierarchy promoted numerous social projects and organizations aimed at improving the lives of the working class and poor beginning in the late 1940s. Many of the techniques employed by the Brazilian Church mirrored the efforts being made by the Protestants, including grassroots literacy campaigns centered around reading and discussing the Bible, health clinics, and rural cooperatives. Eventually, the Brazilian Church gave birth to the base community movement. However, in 1964 the Brazilian military came to power with the goal of demobilizing the popular sectors. After it became clear to the episcopacy that the regime intended to stay in power indefinitely, relations deteriorated. Having made a substantial commitment to the needs of the poor, it would have been difficult for the Church to maintain credibility had it supported a dictatorship that opposed their interests.
For most of its Latin American existence, the Catholic Church in Brazil enjoyed the comfort of being the sole provider of religious goods and services. This changed during the twentieth century. Although the doors for Protestantism opened as early as the mid-1800s, significant expansion waited until after 1930. Not only did Protestant missionaries challenge the hegemonic position of Catholicism, but an indigenous derivative of North American Protestantism–Pentecostalism–awoke many bishops and clergy to the fact that the region may not have been as Catholic as previously thought. If the Church was to remain a spiritual and moral force in Brazilian society, it needed to match the pastoral efforts put forth by Protestant churches. Having been associated with the political and economic elite for so long, a credible commitment to the poor meant publicly distancing itself from abusive governments.
It would be myopic to say that the need to compete with Protestantism was the only factor affecting the bishops’ decision to oppose military rule. Growing poverty and repression, reforms promoted at Vatican II and Medellín, courageous decisions on the part of individuals, and martyrdom catalyzed the new attitude toward military rule. However, religious competition was a key component in explaining the variation in responses throughout the region. Competition furnished the wake-up call the Church needed to realize that poverty and repression were serious problems that demanded more than temporary acts of charity.
All this should not imply that bishops in the pro-authoritarian cases in Brazil were unconcerned about poverty and repression (no matter how callous their behavior appeared). But the costs of opposing the government (e.g., loss of funding for Church programs or physical repression) outweighed the benefits (measured in membership retention). Thus, the episcopacy had an incentive to maintain friendly relations with an unpopular government in the short term while hoping for better social conditions in the future. True, there were some who pleaded with the episcopacy to rethink its association with the ruling elite, but most parishioners just remained quiet, as they always had. In other words, there was no mechanism (or alarm) to inform the bishops they were not acting in accordance with popular desires.
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Andrew Sandon

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Miami Schools Expands and Prepares for the 2006-2007 School Year

June 5th, 2010 admin Posted in health reform Comments Off

Miami Schools Will Open Four New Schools

This school year Miami Schools is opening four new schools and several new facilities to cope with increased student enrollment for the 2006-2007 school year. The new schools will cater to elementary, middle and high school students.

Miami Schools has added the Ronald W. Reagan High School in the northwestern part of the district. This is an area that is expanding rapidly. The new high school will cover about 20 acres and house extremely modern facilities. The Ronald W. Reagan High School will have 250,000 square feet of classrooms, computer lab, an 800 seat auditorium, a 700 seat cafeteria, a Media Center and a gymnasium. Also on campus there will be a number of outdoor areas: fields for football, soccer, softball and baseball as well as basketball, tennis and racquetball courts.

The most innovative part of Miami Schools’ Ronald W. Reagan High School is that it is an academy based design. This means that ninth grade students will be tested and surveyed to discover their interests and areas of strengths and then be encouraged to select from three academies. The three academies on campus will be Cambridge Academy, Information and Communications Technology Academy, and the Classical Arts Academy. These academies will both have separate facilities and share common school facilities. This is part of Miami Schools continuing educational reform plan.

In the southern part of the district, Miami Schools will open the new Norma Butler Bossard Elementary School. The campus will cover 7.5 acres. The school will be equipped with a Media Center, music and art centers, a cafeteria that will accommodate nearly all the students, a three story classroom building, bilingual rooms, a well equipped science laboratory, and a Wellness Center. The Wellness Center will be available for staff and student use. This school is named for Norma Butler Bossard, who had served as the Miami Schools language arts division head for many years.

Another innovation for the Miami Schools is the newly constructed David Lawrence, Jr. K-8 Center. The K-8 Center will be a world class facility that is adjacent to Florida International University. Miami Schools will work in conjunction with Florida International University to provide professional development for Miami Schools’ teachers and Florida International University’s education majors. The K-8 Center will be able to house nearly 1,600 students. The state of the art facility will include a Media Center, computer labs, art labs, and music centers. The K-8 Center will be home to the Johnson and Wales University nutrition and cooking workshops. These workshops are part of “Healthy Eating/Healthy Choices,” a grant the school received from Health Foundation of South Florida. The cooking workshops will be open to staff and parents.

The last addition Miami Schools is the Young Women’s Preparatory Academy. This is the first all female school to be operated by Miami Schools. The Young Women’s Preparatory Academy will accommodate 450 girls in grades 6-12. The Young Women’s Preparatory Academy will have a thorough educational curriculum that will develop the academic, personal and social skills of the students. The school aims to prepare its students for postsecondary education and the world.

Stacy Andell

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Haiti:the Magic Land

June 2nd, 2010 admin Posted in health reform Comments Off


By Alejandro Guevara Onofre


In 1492 Christopher Columbus wrote about Haiti: “The most beautiful in the world”. Certainly, Haiti is a wonderful country in the Caribbean. I think that has a special beauty, with a geography and traditional culture that is totally different from all the other countries in Latin America.

Now, this essay is a historical information about Haiti, the first black republic in the modern history and one of the poorest nations on Earth. Each chapter provides details on history, economy, biographies, sport, awards, foreign relations, culture and other important aspects of Haiti. The people that don’t know Haiti very much think that Haiti is only one of the world’s poorest countries, but the Island is known for its traditional culture, hospitality, superstitions, history. Furthermore, Haiti is the home to National Park History, one of the ancient wonders of the world, and renowned women such as Edwidge Danticat and Michaëlle Jean were born there.

Since then, the dictatorships have destroyed Haitian society, economy, ecology and sport. Since 1950, two million Haitian people emigrated to the United States and other countries. Haitian-American arrived from Haiti with nothing more than their clothes. If we compare the Haiti of today to Haiti of thirty years ago, we see a change: a new multiparty democracy. Today, a vast part of the Third World and more than a billion people are under dictatorships.

Eventually, I would like to finish my introduction with a message by Albert Mangones: “Haiti is unique in history, going directly from slavery to nationhood”.


1492: Columbus discovered Haiti in the 15th Century.

1520-1697: Haiti is a Spanish territory. In the late 1500 and early 1600, African slaves flocked to Island.

1697-1790: Haiti is a French colony. After 16th Century, Haiti became the most important French colony in the Americas. Island´s export to Europe included sugar, coffee and corn. The beauty of Haiti is recognized by the French in the mid-1700 Century, when they called it “Pearl the Caribbean”.

1790-1803: During the French colonization slaves suffers from maltreatment. By the late 1790, pro-independence demonstrations. An Anti-slavery movement under Toussaint L´Ouverture began. L´Ouverture is one of the most important black leaders in the history.During this period of time, Haitian slaves attack villages. Anti-French protests riots brutally suppressed. By the late 1803, under leadership of Jean Jacques Dessalines, Haiti army defeated the French forces at the Battle of Vertieres.

1804-1806:A French colony for more than hundred years, Haiti becomes independent, one of the most important events in the history. Jean Jacques Dessalines became the first president of new republic of Haiti, the first black republic in the modern history. Dessalines is the “Father of Modern Haiti”. Haiti occupies the Western third of Hispaniola, the second-largest Island in the Caribbean.

1804-1820: Unfortunately; Haiti is divided into two zones. Northern Haiti is occupied by Henri Christopher, who is named Emperor, while the north is occupied by Alexander Petion. Petion is probably the greatest Haitian politician who ever lived.

1880: Haiti has one of the richest ecosystems in the Caribbean.

1900: Haiti´s modern political has been tumultuous, marked by dictatorships

1915-1934: Haiti has not had an effective national government Invasion by United States forces. US troops sent to Haiti during civil sub-war.

1918: The Presidential Palace, one of the best national palaces in the world, is originally designed by the Haitian Georges Bassan. Bassan is inspired to White House Washington.

1926: Emily Greene Balch, a human rights activist, went to Haiti.

1928: Cator is the only Haitian ever to win olympic silver medal. After, Haitian athlete Sylvio Cator breaks the men’s long jump record in Paris. Cator was given a hero’s welcome when he returned to his country.

1937: In the Dominican Republic, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo ordered national troops to massacre of 20000 Haitian emigrants.

1940-1950: Haiti is one of the most popular travel destinations in the Caribbean.

1944: Dewitt Peters, an American school-teacher, founded the Centre d’Art in Port -au-Prince Since 1944, Centre d’Art became the centre of the Haitian painting. It is now one of Haiti´s biggest tourist attractions, and every year thousands of people came to see the paintings and other work of Haitian art.

1945: Haiti becomes the 26th member of the United Nations in October.

1956: Haiti establishes diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan).

1956: Daniel Fignolé is President of the Provisional Council and Head of State of Haiti

1957-1971:After working for a time as a traditional doctor, Francois Duvalier became one of Haiti’s most famous doctors. In 1957, Duvalier is elected President of the Republic of Haiti. President Duvalier announced: “My government will guarantee the exercise of liberty to all Haitians”. Francois Duvalier, also known for his nickname “Papa Doc”, emerged as Head of State and quickly gained nearly absolute power. In 1961 “Papa Doc” rewrote the National Constitution. After, he became the first “President for Eternity of Haiti”. In the 1960s and 1970s “Papa Doc” popularizes superstitions ideas to Haiti through a series of important voodoo rites. The Duvalier dictatorship instituted rig press censorship. International agencies accuse government of grave human rights abuses. His regime of terror resulted in the deaths of least 30000 Haitian. The Island is one of the most dangerous countries in the Third World.

1957-1981: Haitian First Lady Simone Ovide became one of the most dominant women in the history of Haiti. Simone, wife of the most famous dictator of Haiti, gained in influence and power through corruption and crime.

1957-1989: For many decades, Haiti does not have diplomatic relations with the USSR, People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Hungary, South Africa and East Germany.

1960: The Tonton Macoutes, the brutal secret police, initiated a “Haitian genocide” in which political prisoners were tortured and executed.

1964: Joseph Eduard Gaetjens, the idol of millions of Haitians, is arrested and killed by the Tonton Macoutes, the sinister Haitian secret police. Like John Barnes (Jamaica) and Everald “Gally” Cummings (Trinidad Tobago), he was a great footballer in the Caribbean. After, Gaetjens become a world symbol of the struggle against dictatorship in the Third World. He had dual Haitian and American nationality and played at 1950 World Cup for the United States. Son of Haitian mother and Belgium father, he played for many clubs in the United States. The year 1950 was a very important year for Gaetjens: the United States beat England 1-0, the birthplace of the modern football.

1964: Francois Duvalier changed the national flag. Black and red are the colors chosen by Duvalier. Black, which is similar to the Angolan flag, represents the descendants of the patriot Francois Toussaint L’Ouverture and is also the traditional color of the Haitian people. While, red symbolizes the country`s independence. But the original flag, used since 1803, was removed in 1986 by order of the new government.

1966: Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia, arrives in Port-au-Prince. Under the leadership of Dictator Francois Duvalier, many African countries maintain official diplomatic relations with Haiti.

1967: The Comedians, a film by British director Peter Glenville, inspired in the cruel Haitian dictatorship by the Duvalier family.

1971: After Duvalier’s death, power passed to his son Jean Claude Duvalier, the man who became known throughout the world as “Baby Doc”. Baby Doc is as dictatorial as his father. Haiti is ruled by iron hand. Duvalier, best known for his anticommunist political, is omnipresent. Many opposition leaders were arrested. He is accused of human rights abuses. Thousand of Haitian people fled the country. Corruption is prevalent at all levels of government. The health system is one of the worst in the Americas.

1974: The sporting system is one of the worst in the Third World, but Haiti qualified for the 1974 FIFA World Cup. Haiti beat Trinidad-Tobago in the World Cup qualifiers. Is one of the greatest sporting moment, in the chronology, comparing it to something like Sylvio Cator, who won a silver medal in long jump in the 1928 Olympics Games in Holland.

1975: In El Salvador, Miss Haiti, Gerthie David, is named first runner up at Miss Universe Pageant… transmitting live to millions by CBS. After, Gerthie David is acclaimed in Port-au-Prince as a national heroine. Miss Haiti competed with 71 other women from around the world for the title of Miss Universe, including Miss USA, Summer Barthollomew.

1980: Like Canada, West Germany South Korea and Kenya, Haiti boycott the Moscow Olympic Games in protest for Soviet invasion of Afghanistan

1980-1986: Jean-Claude Duvalier, Haiti’s longtime dictator, married Michelle Bennett, an aristocratic lady. A little more than three months later, Bennett-Duvalier becomes First Lady of Haiti. Like Eva Peron (Argentina) or Jiang Qing (People’s Republic of China), she was a woman with great power. Michelle Bennett promoted her mulatto countrymen to positions of leadership in the dictatorship at his expense of the African-Haitians.

1982: The National History Park (La Citadelle Laferriere, Sans Souci Palace and Ramiers) is designated as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Like Machu Picchu (Peru) and Angkor What (Cambodia), the National History Park is considered among the wonders of the world.

1982: Ronald Agenor wins a gold medal in men’s tennis singles at the Central American and Caribbean Sports Games La Havana. He captures the hearts of the Island.

1983: Pope John Paul arrives in Haiti for a visit. “Things most change here”, said John Paul II.

1986: As Jean-Claude consolidated his power, he consistently refused to consider constitutional reform. The insurrection against the dictator Jean Claude Duvalier began…Antigovernment protesters in the capital. Many deaths, injuries and arrests. Seeming end to long Haitian dictatorship with fall of Duvalier regime.

1987: Haiti has one of the America’s rates of HIV infection

1987: The New Constitution restored many of the liberties abolished by the Duvalier family. The National Constitution recognizes both French and Creole as official languages. A new opposition emerged under Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

1988: Writer Rene Depestre wins the Prix Ranandot. Depestre, a Haitian dissident now living in France, was cited his novel Hadriana dans tous mes reves. By the mid-1980s Rene Depestre had become well known in literacy circles outside Haiti.

1990: Ertha Pascall-Trouillot becomes the first black woman elected of head of state in the world.

1990: First multi-party elections. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a charismatic black leader, was elected president of Haiti. Aristide is the first democratic president since 1804.He was elected with the most popular support of any Haitian presidential candidate in the history.

1991: Military coup in the country. Raoul Cedras, leader of the coup, emerged as head of the new government. This year marked the end of eight months of democracy. Under new government, all political parties were dissolved.

1991-1995: Like Equatorial Guinea, Cuba and North Korea, Haiti has one of the most serious human rights problems in the Third World.

1993: United Nations imposed economic sanctions on Haiti, one of the most densely populated nations in the Americas.

1994: Peaceful occupation by United States forces to restore democratic electoral system. Raoul Cedras and his family went into exile in Panama City. Aristide was restored to power.

1995: In Port-au-Prince, sub-war violence includes assassination of Meireille Durocher Bertin.

1995: In Beijing, the capital of city of the People’s Republic of China, Haiti participated in the UN`s Fourth World Conference on Women

1996:More than 5,000 Haitians had been killed and miles more fled to abroad, United States, Canada, Bahamas and Dominican Republic, since 1991.

1998: Haitian president Renè Garcia Preval arrives in Taipei (Taiwan) for a four-day state visit. He and President Lee will sign a communiqué to strengthen bilateral friendship and cooperation.

1999: Dominican president Leonel Fernandez visit to Haiti as part of a new diplomacy.

2002: In Paris, Dudley Dorival finished 3rd in the 110 hurdles at the World Championships. He becomes the 1st Haitian to win an individual international medal since 1928.Dorival was born in New Jersey, United States, to Haitian parents on 1 September 1975. He in 2000 officially became a citizen of Haiti.

2000: Haiti is one of the thirty poorest countries in the Third World.

2000-2001: The elections were boycotted by the main opposition political parties. Aristide was again elected President. Widespread violent in Haiti allege that Aristide’s election victory is fraudulent. Total political censorship exists in national media.

2004: This year Haiti is celebrating the 200th Anniversary of their National Independence. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti flees to Central African Republic following anti-government demonstrations. Haiti has one of the most violent conflict areas in the Americas. After, UN troops sent to Haiti during civil sub-war.

2006: Rene Preval is sworn in as President of Haiti. Since the peaceful transfer of power in February, Haiti is the newest democracy in the Third World.


Like Bangladesh, Uganda or Tanzania, Haiti is one of the poorest countries on Earth. In 1997, the Haiti’s economic growth rate (real GDP) per capita was U$ 1,300. GDP per capita for Namibia, Botswana and Equatorial Guinea are higher than for Haiti. In the country 4 million people living on less than U$2 a day. More than 6 million of the Haiti’s population still does not have access to potable water and electricity. For years of dictatorships had left the country’s economy in ruins. The country dependent on international aid. Several hundred thousand farm workers migrate each year to Dominican Republic.

In 1997, total exports for the year were U$110 million, while total imports were US$ 486 million. Since 1804, the US market has been the most important export destination for Haiti. Nearly 80 percent of Haiti’s total exports are destined for the United States. Haiti’s exports include sisal, mangoes, coffee, cotton, bauxite, and sugar. The Island’s imports from the United States include cement, oil, food, machinery and transport equipment. France has been the second largest exports destination for Haitian products.

In the past, the tourism industry occupied an eminent place in the Haitian economy, but several political problems have blocked tourism. Haiti was the first country in the Caribbean to promote tourism in an accelerated form. Haiti is a small country with vast mountains, tropical beaches and beautiful historic buildings.


Like Katherine Dunham, Lillian Hellman, W.B. Seabrook, Erik Leonard Ekman, Alejo Carpentier, Selden Rodman, Noel Coward and Angeline Jolie, many people say that Haiti is the most beautiful country in the Caribbean. Known as the “Magic Land”, Haiti is famous for its culture. Certainly, Haiti its culture, its superstitions and its music. The superstitions or voodoo plays a profound role in the lives of many Haitians. The voodoo was introduced into Haiti in the late 16th Century. Haiti is also famous for its painting, and finally for its ruins…for example the Sans Souci Palace, the most famous ruins in the Caribbean. Exactly, this enigmatic palace is considered a Cultural Heritage for Humanity by UNESCO. Originally constructed by black slaves, now Sans Souci is one of Haiti’s main tourist attractions.

Since the late 1940s, Haitian painting, best known as “naïve art” or “intuitive art”, is famous all around the World. The most important figure was Hector Hyppolite. His work made its biggest splash in the United States in the 20th Century. Other artists known internationally include Rigaud Benoit, Castera Bazile, Joseph Jean-Giles and Jean-Baptista Bottlex.Haiti is famous for its traditional sculpture. The best Haitian sculptor is Albert Mangoes.


Nelust Wyclef Jean (singer/Haitian-American): Original member of 1990s hip hop group The Fugees. Wyclef Jean is probably the most popular Haitian singer of all time. Jean was born in Croix des Bouquets (Haiti) on October 17, 1972. When he was just ten years old, he moved to the United States. Under leadership of Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill, The Fugees had several hits in the 1990s, including The Score (The Score album sold 6 million copies). Since 1997, Wyclef Jean, as soloist, became well-known on the international music scene. Like songwriter and producer, Jean collaborated with superstars as Santana, Withney Houston, Mick Jagger,Bono,Tevin Cambpell, Bounty Killer, Eric Benet, Sarah Connor, Claudette Ortiz, Tarkan, Michael Jackson, Youssou N´Dor, Shakira, Olga Tañon, Carlos Ponce and Julio Voltio. During the last seven years, he has sold more than 10 millions albums worldwide. In 2002, his single Masquerade was a great success.

Since then, Wyclef Jean is a man that always works with love for Haiti, one of the World’s poorest countries. Recently, he makes perhaps his best work: “Yele Haiti”, a foundation which works for the human development in the Island. Like Miriam Makeba in South Africa or Bianca Jagger in Nicaragua, Jean loves his roots. In an interview for Magazine, Wyclef Jean discussed about Haitian roots: “I am 100% Haitian. I am proud to be Haitian. I still have my Haitian passport. I represent Haiti in everything that I do. Every head in the industry knows that I am Haitian…they know what I’m about. I was Haitian forst. Haitian till die!”, said Jean.

Discography: Wyclef Jean Present the Carnival Featuring the refugee All-Stars (1997) / The Ecleftic:2 Sides II a Book/ Masquerade (2002) / The Preacher’s (2003)/ Sak Pasé Presents: Creole 101( 2004) /Hips Don’t Lie (with Shakira, 2006).


Gerthie David “The Black Goddess”

In 1975, many Haitian people were shocked to open their newspapers and see photographs of Gerthie David Miss Haiti in El Salvador. On the night of July 19th 1975, in San Salvador, Gerthie David, Miss Haiti, was the second black woman to first runner-up in the history of Miss Universe Pageant. After winning the Miss Haiti title, Gerthie went to San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador, to enter the Miss Universe Contest. The competence was exhausting, very hard, for example Miss Bolivia, Jackeline Gammarra, great favorite, was eliminated. This day, Miss Haiti looks like a black goddess. Her exotic beauty and charming personality are amazing! At 1,72m in height, she was the best in the evening gown competition, but her speech about the Haitian superstitions swayed thousands of applauses in the 25th Edition of the Contest. Certainly, Miss Haiti captive to the judges Sarah Vaughan (American black singer), Maribel Arrieta (Miss El Salvador 1955 and First runner-up at Miss Universe 1955), Jean Claude Killy (French sportsmen) and Leon Uris(American writer ).

When Bob Barker, the host this pageant, announces the final placements, Gerthie was cheered by the entire auditorium. Suddenly, her pulse rate beats at thousand per minute… “First runner-up is Miss Haiti!”, said Barker. She was one of the most exotic delegates in all history of Miss Universe. In the 1970s, Gerthie David was a model from Port-au Prince and she became a symbol to the Haitian youth. Next months, in London, Joelle Apollon, Miss Haiti-World, came in sixth place at Miss World 1975.After sixteen years, Marjorie Vincent, formerly Miss Illinois 1991,won the title of Miss America Pageant. The first Miss America to originate from the Caribbean. In other words, Marjorie Vincent has Haitian roots. Furthermore, she was the second black woman to win the pageant.


Like in Brazil or Italy, the football is the most popular sport in Haiti. Certainly, the national pastime is the football. A different of the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico, the Haitian people don’t like the baseball. In the 20th Century, football became the most popular sport in the Island, thanks to such heroes as Sylvio Cator, Joseph Gaetjens and Emmanuel Sanon. In 1974 Haiti qualified for the World Cup in Germany.

Emmanuel Sanon was one of the Haiti’s most popular players and played at the 1974 World Cup. Sanon made a great contribution to Haitian football because he played in more World Cup qualifiers any other Haitian. He is still very popular with local fans. Other phenomenal talent was Joseph Eduard Gaetjens. He represented both Haiti and the United States. He made FIFA World Cup History: When scored United States opening goal in the 1950 World Cup against England. Joseph came to the United States in the 1940s to play in the American Soccer League. His beautiful play in the Brookhattan Club made in a national star. In 1953, he played for Haiti for the first time.

It’s practically impossible to talk about Haitian athletes without mentioning Sylvio Cator. He is a legend in this sport. Cator won the silver medal in the long jump at 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. Cator returned home to a hero’s welcome. From 1928 to 1930, he was record man in the long jump. Cator was a marvelous jumper and footballer. He also played an important role in popularizing football in the Island (it was the captain of Haitian National Team).

Since then, he is an example for young people in Haiti. He died in November 1938, but today the people of Haiti still think of him with respect. Many years after Cator’s death, the National Stadium in Por-au-Prince was renamed in his honor. Cator was the first of the great Caribbean sportsmen that would come to dominate world track and field.


Bruny Surin (Canada-Haiti/track field)/ Edrick Floreal (Canada-Haiti/track field)/ Samuel Dalembert ( USA-Haiti/basketball) / Ronald Agenor (USA-Haiti/tennis)/ Sylvio Cator (track and field)/ Yves Jeudy (Box)/ Dieudonne Lamothe (marathon)/ Ludovic Augustin (shooting)/ Ludovic Volborge (shooting)/ Joseph Eduard Gaetjens (Haiti-USA/football)/ Dudley Dorival (track field)/ Fitz Plantin Andre (football)/ Emmanuel Sanon (football)/ Josmer Altidore (Haitian-American/football).

Dudley Dorival (track and field): Dudley Dorival was born on 1 September 1975 in Elizabeth (New Jersey, USA). Dorival is the son of Haitian parents and got Haitian nationality just in time for the XXVII Summer Olympics Games. Since the 2000 Olympics, Dudley Dorival has competed in international competitions under the banner of Haiti. In Sydney (Australia) Dorival finished 7th in the 110m hurdles. He became the first Haitian to Olympic finalist since Yves Jeudy (boxer) in 1976. He won the silver medal at the 1994 World Junior Championship, the bronze at the 2001 World Chanpionship and the gold medal at the 2002 Central American and Caribbean Games El Salvador. Dorival is one of the best sportsman in the history of Haiti.


Michaëlla Jean (Governor-General of Canada)/ Yvonne Neptune (former Prime Minister)/Claudette Werleigh (Prime Minister 1995-1996)/Lina Blanchet (singer)/ Edwidge Danticat (writer)/ Michelle Bennett Duvalier(First Lady of Haiti 1981-1986)/ Luce Turnier (painter)/ Ertha Pascal-Trouillot (Head of State 1990-1991)/ Marie Casimir (journalist) / Sonia Sekula (Painter) / Marie Chauvet (writer)/ Suzanne Comhaire-Sylvain (writer)/ Carmen Brouard (singer)/Dayana Bennett (journalist and actress) / Elie Price (singer)/ Blanche Bosselman (singer)/ Lina Mathon (singer)/ Georgette Moliere (singer)/ Simone Ovide Duvalier (First Lady of Haiti 1957-1981)/ Marleine Bastien (human rights leader)/ Garcelle Beauvais (actress and model)/ Deborah Saint-Phard (track and field)/ Antoinette Gauthier (track and field), Louise Pierre (track and field)/ Rose Gauthier (track and field)

Edwidge Danticat (writer): One of the Caribbean’s most famous writers in the 21st Century. She has written several novels and collections of shore stories, including Kri? Kra!, nominated for a National Book Award. Danticat attracted international attention in 1997 when she wrote perhaps her most famous novel Farming of the Bones, a story about genocide Haitians under the repressive dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo.

Garcelle Beauvais (actress): She is the first Haitian actress to star on television. Although she has lived in the United States for many years, the actress and former fashion model Garcelle Beauvais was born in Saint Marc, a city in Haiti, in 1966. She is perhaps best known for her role as Francesca Monroe on TV’s the Jamie Foxx Show. Like Gerthie David, Joelle Apollon, Evelyn Miot, and Marjorie Vincent, she has the classic beauty of the Haitian black woman


-Bennet Patterson, Carolyn.”Haiti: Beyond mountains, more mountains”, National Geographic, Washington DC, January 1976

-Bishop,Randa. “Imponentes monumentos haitianos”, Americas, Washington DC, enero-febrero 1987

-Cobb,Charles. “Haiti against all odds”, National Geographic, November 1987

-Encyclopaedia Britannica Book of the Year 1981, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Chicago, 1980

-Encyclopaedia Britannica Almanac 2003, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Chicago, 2002

-Guevara Onofre, Alejandro. Enciclopedia Mundototal 1999, Editorial San Marcos, Lima, 1998

-Hunter, Brian. The Statesman’s Year-Book 1991-92, The Macmillan Press, 1991

-Moritz, Charles. Current Biography Yearbook 1972, H.W Wilson Company, NY

-Sconfield, John. “Haiti-West Africa in the West Indies”, National Geographic, Washington DC, February 1961

-The International Who’s Who 1996-97, Europe Publications, London, 1996

-The World Almanac 2001, World Almanac Books, New Jersey, 2001

-Tibballs, Geoff. The Olympics´ strangest moments, Robson Books, London, 2004

-Vargas Llosa, Mario. “Haití: la muerte”, El Comercio, Lima, 25.4.1994

-Visión. “Imperio del Poder Vitalicio”, Santiago de Chile, 17 de marzo de 1967

-Wallechinsky, David. The complete Book of the Olympics, Aurum Press, London, 2004

-Wallechinsky, David-Wallace, Irving. The People’s Almanac2, Batam Book Inc

-WWW.Yotube.com “1975 El Salvador Miss Universe” (video)

Alejandro Guevara Onofre

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Did the African Union Get Ghana’s Message?

May 27th, 2010 admin Posted in health reform Comments Off


The recent elections in Ghana have been hailed as a successful African story. The praises, admirations and messages of commendations coming from all corners of the globe is an indication that the world is hoping for a change in Africa. It is also an indication that the world is expecting something different, different from the way things are done all the time on the continent.

Having experienced political instabilities for most of her modern existence Africa has often been described as a failed continent – a continent where everything is depressing. So it came as a surprise when Ghana managed to conduct one of the best successful elections on the continent. The successful elections in Ghana have indeed opened a different chapter for the continent. It has shown the rest of countries on the continent that there is the need for democracy to be given a chance in Africa. The elections have sent a powerful message to the continent that democracy as a form of government should be widely adopted and practiced by all the countries so that there will always be peaceful means of electing leaders and transferring power from one administration to the other.

I strongly believe that Ghana’s elections are sending the following message to the African Union and its members.

That the constitutions of the various African states should stipulate the number of years and number of terms one could occupy the office of president or prime minister. To alleviate the continent from political diarrhoea, poverty and economic melancholy the governments must as a matter of urgency embark on democratic reforms. The years where leaders rule till they die or are chased out of office should be a thing of the past. The leaders should allow free and fair elections to be held every 4 or 5 years depending on what the constitution says. Elected leaders must have fixed term of office and on no account should they try to manipulate the system in order to remain in power.   The elections in Ghana which attracted a lot of international commendations around the world are indicating to the rest of Africa that the people want something different. Our image as a continent can improve considerably if we allow democracy to flourish, if we allow rule of law to work, if we embark on a new path-a path where it is possible for the incumbent to lose elections and hell does not break loose, a path where judges are free to dispense justice without fear or favour, a path where members of the opposition are not seen as enemy combatants but as contributors of our democracy and development, and a  path where policies and ideas dominate political discussions and elections instead of the whipping of tribal and ethnic sentiments.

The leaders on the continent must realize that the existence of a vibrant democracy is in the best interest of the people and the continent as a whole. The politicians must know that vibrant democracy is a necessary condition if Africa is to come out of her current political and economic misery.

More often than not, lack or absence of democracy, corruption and abuse of power has often been cited by coup plotters as reasons for overthrowing governments in power. To prevent such incursions by the army political accountability on the continent must be nurtured strengthened. That means the three organs of government namely the executive, legislature and the judiciary must first be independent of each other and secondly they should powers that checks and balances each other so as to prevent one arm from amassing too much power.  History has shown that a situation where one arm of government amasses power only breeds envy and instabilities. The Judiciary should be given enough powers to investigate allegations of corruption so as to prevent the repetition of corrupt practices that fuelled the wars on the continent.

Additionally, the fourth arm of government that is the media should be enshrined in the constitution and the AU Charter. The mushrooming of public and private media on the continent especially electronic media should be seen as an encouraging development and governments should be encouraged to allow such private stations to be established unconditionally. The freedom of the press must be safeguarded so as to prevent unscrupulous politicians from attacking them and subjecting them to all sorts of negative tactics. The media should be allowed to play its role as the watchdog of the state and every law that will intimidate them and undermine their ability to work should be repealed.

The various institutions of government such as police, military and the ministries should work to promote democracy and development. Rule of Law should be employed by the state. Everyone should be equal before the law. Instances where there are two separate laws for the rulers and the ruled is not only affront to rule of law but affront to democracy and justice. The office of the Ombudsman and other independent bodies should be established to protect the citizens from the state.

That brings us to one of the most important institutions of democracy .i.e. electoral commission. The role of the electoral commission must also be enshrined in the constitution. This office must be independent of the executive branch of government. It must be well resourced so that it can organise elections without any difficulties. The role played by Dr. Afari Gyan in conducting Ghana’s election can only be described as excellent. The electoral commission must be impartial so as to prevent the electoral disputes that characterised the elections in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria. 

The constitutions of the various countries should guarantee the existence of opposition parties. This will prevent the one party state found in most countries from gaining root. Absence of official opposition not only prevents the people from having a choice but also discredit any advantage democracy or elections may have. Therefore, constitutional and electoral courts should be established in member countries so that matters of political and electoral disputes could be settled amicably.  Corruption should be punished severely and every effort should be made track down every penny stolen from the countries.

The AU

The African Union as a continental body has a lot to learn from Ghana’s elections.

The AU Charter should be reformed, strengthened and implemented to the letter. All regional bodies such as ECOWAS, SADC and the rest should be streamlined to work within the broader framework of the AU. The AU must not be a talking shop anymore. It must not be a gathering of corrupt, despotic and kleptocratic rulers but rather a gathering of true democrats. The AU must be a platform of action and concrete decision making, a platform where issues affecting the people are addressed. This will require strong, determined and visionary leadership. A leadership who share the thoughts and ideas of Nkrumah, Lumumba, Seketuri and Nasser and who are committed to fighting poverty and improving the lots of the people. The AU must have a full time foreign policy chief who will be the mouthpiece of the continent and who will articulate the needs and concerns of the people to the outside world. The AU should establish special bodies of experts who will serve as advisory bodies to the AU. The complete silence exhibited by the AU during the current global financial crisis necessitates for the establishment of such bodies of experts. These bodies may include health, economics, environment, resource, science and technology.

Each country should strengthen her intelligence capabilities so as to ward off the undesirables of the cold war tactics where Africa was destabilised by the west using their intelligence branches and the various African countries should share vital information about what the west is up to. Every effort should be made to prevent arm struggles either within the countries or between the countries.

The days where suspensions are used as a form of punishment for coup plotters should be things of the past. Instead there should be a strong, well funded standing army (Africa High Command) ready to be deployed to any country where the army will try to cease power. Such an army should also be used to crash any arm insurgence that will show it ugly head onto the Africa political scene.

The Pan African Parliament should be strengthened and its decisions binding on all member countries. An African Court of Justice should be established to settle disputes between nations and within nations and its decisions must be binding on all members as well. This court must be the highest court on the continent. It must be modelled in line with European Court of Justice. Individuals could take their case to this court for dispensation of justice. These democratic and constitutional measures will definitely help to reduce conflicts and human rights’ abuse which is rife on the continent. 

Africans must unite and form a common front so as to make their voices heard on the international stage. We must unite against all forms of propaganda from the rest the world. The positive effect that Aljazeera is having on the world is an indication of what positive thinking could bring to the world. Aljazeera has done well in shaping the world opinion about Islam, Arabs and issues affecting Muslims, Arabs and people of the developing world. To counter the growing influence of Aljazeera, BBC for example has had to close down some programmes in order to launch an Arabic version of the BBC. Africans must know that our coming together will be interpreted differently by many who do not share our interests. As a result every effort would be made to thwart these laudable efforts in order to maintain the status quo of having a north –south divide. We must also know that our effort to change our predicament would meet several challenges among them the huge financial requirement, the human and material resources needed and many others. But we must put ourselves together and start doing something now because a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step.

Finally it is time for the old guard of African politics to leave the scene and give way to the younger generation. There are a lot of Barak Obamas on the continent but they have been prevented by the old guard from making any economic, social and political contribution towards Africa’s development. It is very sad that even in this 21st Century these old guards still think they only hold the key to wisdom. Some of these old guards have been in power for more than 3 decades yet they still want to continue to rule. For example Gaddafi of Libya has been in power for 39 years now. Omar Bongo of Gabon 31 years, Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea 28 years, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe 28 years, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt 27 years, Paul Biya of Cameroon 26 years, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda 22 years, Omar Al Bashir of Sudan 19 years, Iddriss Derby of Chad 17 years, Yahya Jammeh of Gambia 14 years, and the list goes on unending. Recently the president of Tunisia has decided to make himself a life president of the country. The presence of such dictators is not only harmful to the image and the development of the continent but a major factor why impoverishment and underdevelopment is prevalent on the continent. Every effort should be made by the AU and the regional bodies to discourage such blatant abuse of power. It is against this background that Ghana should be commended again and again for conducting one of the freest elections on the continent.

Ghana’s elections are a straight message to the African Union and its members that democratic reform needed on the continent is long overdue and that the African Union should take notice of it. Let this 21st Century be a century of hope, a century of development, a century of prosperity and a century of peace for Africans and the world.


Lord Aikins Adusei

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Sierra Leone Democracy Requires More Than a Leadership Change!

May 25th, 2010 admin Posted in health reform Comments Off

By all objective standards, we must now have come to the stark realization that the “change of leadership syndrome”, with its resultant enforced public euphoria and sometimes genuine expectations of change our society has continually been subjected to with the Milton Margai, Albert Margai, Andrew Juxon-Smith, Siaka Stevens, Joseph Momoh, Valentine Strasser, Maada Bio, Ahmed Tejan-Kabbah and the current Ernest Koroma regimes have not in any significant and meaningful manner impacted our society and its peoples living standards, infrastructure, socio-economic and political development.


The concept of the “change of leadership syndrome”, not to be confused with “democracy“, can best be described and characterized as the aspiration to and achievement of political power by a nation’s political elite, without a concomitant vision, knowledge and know-how as to how best the levers of political, economic and social power can positively be utilized in effecting change in one’s society.

This intense urge for naked political power, witnessed especially among our political leaders, devoid of any coherent and sustainable national economic and infrastructural strategy or purpose-driven agenda both in implementation and execution, remains the common bond and thread linking the current Koroma administration to its failed predecessors.


The emergence of Sierra Leone’s socio-political and economic disintegration, though not started under the SLPP government of President Ahmed Tejan- Kabbah, certainly reached monumental proportions during his 10-year stewardship, as the country remained at the bottom strata of every index used in measuring societal growth and development in the world.

Despite the rising crescendo for change leading up to the elections in 2007, the SLPP leadership and elite had become resolutely tone deaf and exhibited such callous disregard for the peoples genuine aspirations for development and change that even their traditional power base in the south and eastern regions of the country could no longer hold.

The RUF war in the 1990’s had caused untold destabilization in the country with wanton and rampant destruction of lives and property being the order of the day. The destruction was even more acute in the regions of SLPP traditional support, the south and eastern regions. The election thus of the SLPP government in 1996 and to a subsequent second term in 2002 was meant to signal our peoples overwhelming desire and hope for security, reconstruction of the country’s basic infrastructure, governance and for a sustainable economy and development.

However, despite the enormous mineral and natural resources, together with the overwhelming international donor financial support afforded the Kabbah administration, in combating not only the RUF menace but the economic challenges confronting the country, it had become glaringly clear to every objective commentator and observer, by the time of elections in 2007, that the country, and certainly the regions of the south and east, had not seen any appreciable change in their living standards and economic development.

During annual visits to Sierra Leone, between 2002 and 2007 and in social and business interactions with SLPP ministers, permanent secretaries, the police brass, parastatal heads, civil servants, business owners and a cross section of the populace, it quickly became crystallized in my mind that the SLPP leadership was not only lacking in the requisite political and socio-economic vision but was alarmingly incompetent and inarticulate in mapping out and implementing a strategy for sustainable development needed to effectuate transformation of our country in the wake of the civil war.

While the beneficiaries of the party’s largesse, in an effort at self-preservation of their way of life banded themselves into support groups like the so-called “Reform Group” and the “Friends of Solo B“, with ostentatious living and verbal and physical assaults against perceived opponents, the administration had by the elections effectively succeeded in squandering even the goodwill of the international community.

Regrettably though our compatriots by an large not only seemed to have succumbed to the avarices and greed the system afforded it’s participants, but most detrimental was their utter lack of understanding of our peoples mood for change, lack of critical thinking and policy innovation exhibited by the likes at “Stop Press” and regulars at “Jay Bees”, with whom I had come into contact. For while even the “Joe “ in the village was aware that the leadership needed to change course and direction, the SLPP was totally deluded and thus became incapable of effecting this change.

One of the most shocking aspects of the disconnect in the country was that some of the top members of the ruling elite were either former school mates, college mates and or friends who during our transformative years had engaged in the kind of development-vision discussions we all longed to see for our country. I was disappointed with the type of development projects organizations like NACSA, headed by a former college mate of mine, were embarking on as development projects.

While the construction of water wells and court barrays became the symbol of development under the SLPP administration, some of us became increasingly disenchanted as such projects only served to foster and portray the level of backwards the country was wallowing in and further epitomized the bankruptcy and vision deficiency exhibited by the leadership.


As a local musician aptly put it, millions of dollars in development assistance was being spent on workshops, seminars and “talk shops“ while essentials as electricity, roads, pipe borne water supply and youth employment were left unattended.

It was not uncommon to find people with questionable local NGOs being awarded large sums for merely organizing seminars and writing proposals or party stalwarts given contracts which knowingly would not be completed or performed at all, while the bread and butter issues relevant to the peoples welfare and development were ignored and remained unaddressed.

Such was the modus operandi permeating developmental programs operated by NACSA, SABABU Educational Project, HIV-AIDS to name but a few, whose collective legacy remains 19th century type water wells, shoddy school buildings, court barrays and non-existent project signs that dotted the cities and the nation’s countryside.

Non of the hugh resources available for development at NACSA’s disposal were channeled into creating an infrastructure for sustainable economic and jobs activity in the country. Apparently the model of the government’s development strategy was one of building court barrays, water wells, community centers and other non-economic infrastructure as “talk-shops”.

The problems of youth unemployment, lack of adequate electricity and energy, clean pipe borne water supply, dilapidated roads, corruption, lack of vision and innovation in stimulating sustainable economic growth, unhygienic environs and over dependency on NGOs and international donors, were all too conspicuous throughout the country.

To the common man, the SLPP bureaucracy and elite became increasingly viewed as not understanding their plight, not innovative in addressing the country’s problems, was out of touch with basic management risk analysis and implementation required to lift and transform their various departments, agencies and ministries into revenue generating sources, were fearful of agents of innovation and change, were corrupt to the core and lacked apathy for the plight of the average Sierra Leonean.

It was thus against this backdrop and political landscape that the 2007 elections was fought between the SLPP, APC, PMDC, NDA, CPP, PLP and UNPP parties. 


This change of leadership syndrome, devoid of any reasoned programs and policies designed, articulated and implemented to provide alternatives to the current economic malaise in the body politic of our nation, is again being manifested in the perceived polarization the country has been plunged into as a result of policies and personnel changes pursued by the current APC administration.

While, it is reasonable to expect personnel changes with every new administration, the APC must seek to ensure that “balance” is maintained in governance structures and institutions in order to promote national cohesion and forestall the perception of an imbalance and thus non- representation by their political opposition.

Whilst a host of coercive and unprogressive measures during past regimes succeeded in creating an apathetic atmosphere, I am alarmed at the preponderance of tribal political consciousness and identity witnessed among Sierra Leoneans abroad since the last general elections ushered in the APC administration. This situation if allowed to fester will in both the short and medium terms represent the single most impediment to development and a true democracy.

However, with the new Koroma administration, there is still hope that the President might reverse course and seek to rectify some of the mistakes and hurdles encountered in the learning curve this past year. For the APC’s failure to change course risks relegating it to the dustbin of unresponsive failed administrations to have dotted the Sierra Leone political landscape.

The level of our societal disintegration has continued to remain pervasive to such an extent that the recent 2008 United Nations Human Development Index again ranked Sierra Leone the very last in the world; a dubious position and distinction not unknown to her peoples, as the country has over the past decades being so placed at or near the bottom consistently and with such regularity that progressive Sierra Leoneans must step up to this challenge and spearhead policies and efforts to salvage our country.

The Finance Minister, Mr. David Carew’s recent expression of “disappointment” over the low level of donor support or “delays in the disbursement of external budgetary support” resulting in adverse economic management and budget execution, highlights a failure of the administration’s economic team in charting an economic vision, that is bold and development oriented, devoid of donor reliance, that so characterized and doomed the prior Tejan-Kabbah administration.

The APC government in order to get a handle on this economic stagnation, underdevelopment and growth must start thinking bold and designing programs not in the 300 million dollar national budget range, as is currently the case, but in the billions of dollar range. Through leveraging of the nation’s marketable mineral resources, such as along lines recently proposed by Mr. Patrick Bockari’s SLID proposals, our nation’s perennial disappointments over delays and outright non-existent pledges of external budgetary support from donors will be a phenomenon of the past.

To paraphrase a common saying, performing the same tasks and expecting always a different result is tantamount to lunacy. For as a people with a strong sense of knowledge and education, this apparent dichotomy in our political leadership’s penchant for resorting to the same old tried and non performing policies of dependency, despite abundant resources stems directly from the utter bankruptcy of initiatives and ideas coupled with the inordinate penchant for power so far glaringly exhibited, not only by the political leadership but of greater concern to this author, the educated elite that any nation must depend on to facilitate her development.

An immediate area of implementation that can help alleviate the issues of unemployment, infrastructure development and maintenance is through a coordinated pubic works program that will provide employment and training to youths while at the same time modernizing the nation‘s dilapidated infrastructure.


The challenge thus to progressive Sierra Leoneans is to utilize and express their various expertise’s in formulating models, institutions, businesses and programs of workable alternatives to pull our nation from the near-perpetual last position on the human development index.

It is hoped that a consensus emerges in creating new models and institutions of governance to replace the old and current models of local government administration, reform of the institution of chieftaincy, health care delivery and financing, taxation, job creation, pubic works programs, management and leveraging of mineral resources towards economic development, a proactive and functional privatization program and a robust public-private partnership arrangements for management of the nation‘s unproductive parastatals.

For if we as a society were to pause and objectively reflect upon the stewardship of our leaders and their policies since independence in 1961, we will find and conclude that despite the several leadership changes, Sierra Leone has woefully failed in the pursuit of sustained socio-economic and political development deemed essential and necessary for the betterment of her peoples. Rather the country continues to plunge into the abyss and bottomless perdition of poverty and underdevelopment hitherto unknown in any society of such economic abundance and developmental potential.

Finally, we must realize that the intractable significant problems facing our nation cannot be resolved at the same level of thinking and perception as we were when they were either created by our forefathers or by ourselves. I have always believed that the change of leadership syndrome and its resultant negativity towards effective participation in our country’s economic and socio-political processes remains the single inhibiting factor to our democracy and nation‘s development. The nation’s experience must make it abundantly clear that by just engaging in a change of leadership syndrome, without addressing the essential underpinnings of societal reformation, risks bring about no significant change to the now descredited status quo.


Kortor Kamara

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Servants of the Lord’s Vineyard

May 21st, 2010 admin Posted in health reform Comments Off

a Grave Moral and Community Obligation

As a tenants and custodians of the world we have a responsibility to care for the environment (Gen 2:15) especially when that environment directly affects our health and that of others. A quick glance at our world will show that we have caused it to slide even from its fallen state. Much of the damage done to the Lord’s vineyard has come from ravaging the earth’s resources in pursuit of economic gain. Instead of worshiping and seeking the almighty God, our culture has gone berserk after the almighty dollar. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with earning a living and nothing wrong with having personal property. It just should not be earned at the expense of the environment that we all share because it is a violation of the commandment to love thy neighbor (Mt 22:39). Considering the Earth and the environment to be community property, which is on loan to us from God, also expresses a certain obligation to maintain or enhance that loan with interest (Mt 25:14-30). Therefore the privilege of free trade inherently obliges the tradesman to use the goods from which his trade is derived in a responsible fashion. But it also involves a moral obligation both to repair the damage already inflicted on nature and to prevent any toxic residue from worsening the situation. Yet the responsibility does not rest solely on the manufacturers and sellers of products made from resources that are inappropriately reaped or sewn. It also rests on us as consumers who spread the toxic chemicals by regular use and improper disposal as well as perpetuate the cycle by funding the offending companies through our purchases. This means that our responsibility to ensure the basic right for wellness through a healthy environment is now a matter of repair and prevention and that the matter is a grave one. If we can do something to repair and prevent the ravages of toxic chemicals we should do it. Otherwise by our indifference we cause the suffering of others as well as ourselves.

Taking It Personally – Lifestyle Change

What can you do to repair the poisoned environment when the scale of it is so grand? The first thing to do is to take a look at your lifestyle. You should not be content with merely voting for environmental reform but you should take action to bring it about in whatever small way is within your immediate control. Many of your daily activities involve chemicals that directly affect not just the overall environment but also your personal health in adverse ways. What is surprising to find out is that using these chemicals that cause cancer and other serious health problems is completely voluntary and that there are alternatives that are effective, affordable and convenient. Choosing to make responsible use of the Earth’s resources in your own little corner of the world may seem small but the collective use by an increasing number of people is having an impact on our world.

One of the many families that have taken to heart this challenge to prevent and repair is the Bartel family. When the Bartel family discovered alternative products they switched out their entire house and even brought them to work. “Every time I use these products, I am reminded that I am making a difference in the world in some small way and that it is pleasing to God,” explains Becca Bartel. This is right on track with how Christians view material goods Becca continues, “as God’s gifts to us. They are meant to bring out in each one of us the image of God.” As simple as it may be, this is no small message that is entrusted to each individual family to communicate. The first educator is always the family, where the child learns to respect his neighbor and to love nature. That’s what makes this one of those great daily opportunities to teach your children about your faith because; by example we are showing them love of neighbor and God through the world He created.

Tim Bartel

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Is Poverty a Black Thing?

May 19th, 2010 admin Posted in health reform Comments Off

The poor performance of African economies and economies where the people are of colour other than whites have prompted people to ask whether poverty is a black or a colour thing.

This question about poverty being a black thing has gained credence in many circles. This question is also asked about Africa because it is the poorest continent on earth. It is a continent where for 30 years there has not been any concrete economic development compared to the rest of the world. It lags behind all the other continents in terms of economic and social development. Most if not all the countries African continent have similar economic problems namely high unemployment, high inflation, higher deficits, poor state of economic and social infrastructures including roads, harbours, education, airports, telecommunication, health and sanitation and rail system. Africa is a continent where people die for lack of food, water, and against common preventable diseases. It is a continent full of misery, desperation and hopelessness. It is a continent where very few children under the age of five survive the menace of the six killer diseases. It is a continent where people have no access to basic necessities of life. It is a continent where people walk several miles for water and children have no access to education and medical services. It is a continent where rural life is nothing but a condemnation to abject poverty. It is a place where people live in mud/thatched houses with bamboo/raffia leaves as roofing sheets. It is a continent full of wars and armed conflicts. It is a continent of dictators and kleptocrats, a continent where corruption is rewarded and achievement is shunned, a continent where entry into public life/service is seen as a means to acquiring wealth and a means of getting top positions. It is a continent where life expectancy is low and corruption very high.

So is it a colour or race thing? I must say that I do not agree or subscribe to the notion that poverty has any colour inferring in it and that the underdevelopment and impoverishment which is prevalent on the African continent is deeply rooted in centuries of slavery and colonialism, coups, armed conflicts, brain drain, endemic corruption and mismanagement, dictatorial rule, Kleptocracy, foreign interventions and the fight for control of the natural resources.

Slavery and Colonialism

Centuries of slavery and colonialism deprived the continent of her able human and economic resources. The able men and women were carried away to work in the plantations of the Americas (in all about 30 – 40 million people) and they helped to make America and Europe what they are today. Millions of young Africans were forced to abandon the continent of their origin and were transported several thousands of miles away unto a land where they had no historical attachment with. They travelled in very deplorable conditions, without adequate food, water and air. When they reached the so called new worlds they were made to work from morning till sun set the only time they had on their own was Sundays in which they had to everything that they needed on their own such planting their crops, repairing their homes. It was a very nasty experience having to work for ours without pay. Some even worked till they dropped dead. The slave trade deprived the continent of her energetic men and women a vital resource in any development process and sunk the continent into intellectual wilderness.

Looting of Resources

About the same time that slavery was being vigorously pursued, the natural resources including timber, gold, diamond, tin ore, ivory and many more were looted in large quantities by the European countries namely Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Italy. After slavery was abolished the looting of the natural resources continued. The irony is that virtually all the income from these resources was used to finance the economic and the infrastructural development of the European countries with little or nothing at all being used to develop the various countries where these resources came from. A clear example is the case of Democratic Republic of Congo where King Leopold II of Belgium enslaved the Africans, forced them to work without pay, killed about 10 million and looted the country of her resources and virtually nothing was used to invest in the country except guns which the Belgium army used to terrorise and kill the Africans. When the DRC was transferred from Leopold II to the Belgium state the looting and killing continued till DRC gained her independence in the 1960s. In fact DRC (Congo Free State) was the main supplier of rubber a vital raw material for the tyre industry and all the money from the sale of the rubber went to Belgium. King Leopold II was able to transform Belgium as one of the poorest countries in Europe into one of the wealthiest courtesy the enslavement and looting of Africans and their resources.

Belgium was not alone in what she did to the continent. Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Italy all looted Africa of her gold, diamond, ivory, timber, cobalt, coltan, tin ore, bauxite, manganese and all the minerals you can think of. The Africans who resisted the illegal activities were killed in their millions as happened in South West Africa (now Namibia) where the Germans in 1904 to 1907 committed the first genocide of the 20th Century by killing the Herero and the Namaqua people. While Europe became richer Africa became poorer and the trend continued till the 1950s when the African countries started to gain their ‘independence’ beginning with Libya in 1951, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia all in 1956 and Ghana in 1957.

With little or no investment in the continent the various post colonial governments inherited countries with practically no infrastructure: roads, rails, harbours, telecommunications, education, health and sanitation and airports. The only areas which saw some few infrastructure investments during the colonial days were those where raw materials were heavily extracted. The attainment of independence did not come on silver Plata. Algeria, Zimbabwe, Angola, Kenya, Namibia and to some extent South Africa all attained their independence from their colonial masters through arm struggles and in most cases the few infrastructures that existed were destroyed due to the conflicts.

Foreign Involvement

As if slavery, colonialism and the looting of the continent’s resources were not enough the continent became a battle ground during the Cold War as the two super powers and their allies battled for influence and control on the continent mainly for her resources. As a result many African governments who were deem to be pro-Russia or America were overthrown using the military. A case in point was the overthrow of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana on February 24th, 1966. Another example is the overthrow and assassination of Patrice Lumumba of Congo on January 17th 1961.Other leaders such as Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for either advocating for independence or improvement of conditions of Africans.  CIA and the western intelligence community have been implicated for engineering the assassinations and overthrow of elected leaders of Africa. For example Larry Devlin, the CIA Station Chief in Congo during Patrice Lumumba’s  days spoke to Washington Post in December 2008 saying he refused an order to assassinate Patrice Lumumba but his refusal did not stop the CIA and the Belgium government from overthrowing and assassinating him. The assassination attempt on Gamal Nasser of Egypt on 24th October 1954 and the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981 were alleged to be the work of Britain’s M16 due to their refusal to hand over the administration of the Suez Canal to the British.  

The CIA, KGB and their allies encouraged and financed wars and political instabilities throughout the continent. Angola became the battle ground for the CIA, KGB and the Chinese as each tried to gain control over the country, her people and resources. The civil war that engulfed Angola in 1975 only ended in 1991 after 26 years of conflict. When the war ended the few infrastructures that remained after the war of independence (1961-1974) were gone.

On March 7, 2004 Simon Mann a British citizen, a veteran mercenary and former officer of Britain’s elite Special Forces (SAS), and 69 other mercenaries were arrested at a military airfield outside Harare, Zimbabwe .Their destination was Equatorial Guinea in West Africa. Their mission was to overthrow Teodoro Obiang Nguema, president of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, a nation of 600,000 people. During his defence he mentioned some powerful members of the British establishment as his financiers and backers including Jack Straw UK Justice Minister, Peter Mandelson former European Union Trade Commissioner and now Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise &Regulatory Reform, Sir Mark Thatcher a businessman and son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Jeffrey Archer a key Tory member who was convicted for perjury and Ely Smelly Calil a Lebanese oil trader accused of bankrolling the plot. Mark Thatcher was arrested in South Africa and charged with supplying the aircraft that carried Simon Mann to Harare. Mr. Thatcher pleaded guilty in South Africa and was later made to pay 300,000 pounds in exchange for a prison sentence. The coup plotters were to put Severo Moto, an opposition leader living in Spain in charge of the country. The coup was to give both the plotters and their backers unquestionable free access to the oil resource in the nation.  If the coup had succeeded Mann and his cronies would have turned Equatorial Guinea into one of the usual sad stories in Africa- bloodshed, corruption, mismanagement, poverty and what have you.  The governments of Spain, South Africa and others in the west were seriously implicated for being privy to the plot. Thanks to the vigilance of the Robert Mugabe regime the coup was nip in the bud. Unfortunately, most resource rich countries on the continent have not been all that lucky.

Among those mercenaries who sought to return Africa to their former colonial masters was Bob Denard. In fact, Simon Mann is just a small fish compared to Bob Denard, a French who made a career as a mercenary overthrowing leaders in Africa. When Bob Denard died in 2007, he had more than a dozen of coups to his credit. Four of those coups took place in Comoros Island alone. French author Jean Guisner, who has followed Denard’s career and written extensively about the French government, says Denard did nothing that was contrary to French interests – and he allegedly acted in close cooperation with intelligence services. Denard’s mercenary career took place between the 1950s and the 1980s. During that period, he is reported to have been involved in post independence Nigeria, Benin in 1977, Angola, Zaire – now DRC and the former Rhodesia – which is now Zimbabwe. Registering their frustration and lack of justice for the Comorians, Mr. Abdou Soule Elbak, former president of Grande Comoro said “This man sullied our history”, referring to Denard. “I regret he was not made to answer to all the crimes he committed in our country, the murders and the torture which he was guilty of,” said Moustoifa Said Sheikh, leader of the Democratic Front Party. All these mercenary activities took place on the continent because of the natural resources.

The product of all these were the political instabilities and the wanting destruction of lives and property that have bedevilled Africa till today. As the elected leaders of the continent were assassinated, overthrown and subjected to all forms of cold war tactics including bribery, arm twisting and blackmail the continent degenerated and faulted on all aspects of human endeavour. The new crop of leaders who replaced the post colonial independence leaders and who were largely puppets of the European and American governments became increasingly authoritarian and corrupt. Joseph Mobutu Sese Seko who became the choice of the Americans after they help to assassinate Lumumba ruled Congo for 32 years and in those years the country became poorer as Mobutu and his cronies got richer and the western countries notably USA and her allies had free hand looting the mineral resources most importantly cobalt a very important mineral needed for missile development. Little development activities was carried out by Mobutu. As a result Congo today can only be accessed by boats and canoes mainly through the River Congo.

As tyrants and dictators gained the support of western governments and did whatever they wanted with their economies without questions their people became poorer and hopelessness and desperation were the hallmarks of their lives. As the little money that came into government coffers were taken by corrupt government officials and civil servants there were almost no money to carry out infrastructural development and the poverty deepened. Poverty, desperation and hopelessness visited the people and coupled with their inability to change their leaders democratically, dissents were sowed among the population which serve as breeding grounds for more coups, civil wars and civil disturbances. This was evidence in Ghana, Nigeria, Niger, Ivory Coast, The Gambia, Liberia, Mauritania, Algeria, Gabon, Togo, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda and Sierra Leone all experienced coups in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and even in the early 1990s. These waves of coups were followed by civil wars that hit Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Congo, Chad, CAR, Somalia, Uganda, Sudan, Angola, Niger and Guinea. These wars apart from it human cost also contributed to the destruction of roads, harbours, airports, rail lines, telecommunications, hospitals, schools and the livelihoods of the people. With the absence of infrastructures the countries have been unable to make any headway in terms of economic development.

World Bank, IMF & the Role of Foreign Corporations

The World Bank and the IMF (Bretton Wood Institutions) and foreign companies have also played their part in making poverty endemic on the continent. Most African countries incurred billions of debt through loans contracted from the Bank and IMF. Most of these conditional loans were used to service debts already owned by these poor countries. The loans were also used to pay foreign expatriates who came to the continent as ‘technical experts’.

Some of these loans were also used to undertake projects and programmes that benefited only the rich. Again part of the loan was also siphoned away by corrupt politicians and civil servants.

The structural adjustment programme (SAP) forced on the poor African countries by the Bank and the IMF forced the various governments to abandon their support for the public sector with serious consequences. The withdrawal of farm subsidies in particular has made it difficult for farmers to compete with their Western counterparts who receive millions of dollars of government subsidies every year. The unrests and disturbances over food shortage and high food prices that occurred in Egypt, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mauritania, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia and Sierra Leone in 2008 were the direct result of the Bank and IMF bitter pills prescribed to these poor countries.

Due to SAP and other policies of the Bank and IMF investment in education, health, transportation and other sectors of the economy declined considerably. The governments were also forced to privatise state owned companies. The sad aspect of this exercise was that almost all the companies went to foreigners and the proceeds used to settle debts already owned by these poor nations. Unable to pay their debts and more cash trapped these poor countries turned to the bank and IMF for more loans and the Bank response was open up your markets for foreign goods and accept globalisation. As a result the continent has become a dumping ground for foreign goods. Unable to compete with the influx of cheap foreign goods most local firms have no choice but to close down, laying off several millions of workers and devastating many families.  Mr. John Jenkins the author of the ‘Confessions of an Economic Hit Man’ has written extensively about how the Bank, IMF and the various big cartels and corporations conspired to keep Africans and the developing world in the state in which they are today. Please watch John Jenkins on youtube as he tells his extraordinary story on youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTbdnNgqfs8

The presence of companies such as Shell, Mobil, Chevron, BP, Total, Rio Tinto, Texaco, BHP Billiton, Anglo-American and others have contributed to the high poverty levels on the continent. These companies who are mostly resource extraction in nature have destroyed the once rich soils of Africa, forcing many farmers to abandon their farms and loosing their livelihoods. Rivers, wells and streams used by the people for their everyday activities such as washing and drinking have been polluted by these profit making companies. Fishing in most mining and oil drilling communities has ceased as pollution has killed fish stocks in these rivers and lagoons rendering the fishermen unemployed. Communities which were once beaming with life are now ghost communities as land, rivers, lagoons and wells have been destroyed. Respiration, nausea and other mining related diseases are on the increase in many communities where mining and oil drilling are taking place but these profit making companies have abandon their corporate social responsibilities which they owe to the people. In August 2006 a Dutch company called Trafigura dumped highly toxic waste in Abidjan, Ivory Coast killing 17 people and sickening thousands. Such inhumane acts byTrafigura is just a tip of the iceberg.

Brain Drain

The poverty on the continent has also come about as result of serious brain drain that has hit the continent in recent times. The flight of doctors, engineers, architects, lawyers, judges, bankers, accountants, teachers, nurses, planners, agricultural experts and others have limited our ability to implement development projects and programmes. The flight of these intellectuals has rendered many government agencies very weak. In some communities there are hospitals without doctors and nurses. In others there are universities and colleges without lecturers and teachers. Countries like Malawi, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ghana, and Liberia have lost so much of their professionals to the very rich countries of Europe and America so much so that many of their sectors have resorted to hiring foreign expertise in order to cope. For example there are more Malawi doctors in Manchester City alone than the whole of Malawi combined. The irony is that governments use scarce resources to train these intellectuals only for them to leave the country for greener pastures abroad. Britain and the US are major recipient of these brain drain and even though they are aware of the tremendous negative effect it is having on these poor developing countries, they have done nothing to discourage it, in most cases they have encouraged it.

Corruption and Mismanagement

Corruption is another cancer that has tragically made the continent very poor. From South Africa to Egypt there is no country where corruption is not endemic.  According to the Africa Union (AU) around $148 billion are stolen from the continent by its leaders and civil servants. In 2006 Forbes’ list of most corrupt nations had 9 out of the first 16 countries coming from Africa.  Since oil was first discovered in Nigeria about 50 years ago, several billions of dollars have been realised from its but today the whole population continue to live in abject poverty and the country has nothing to show for it. As a result able men and women are battling dangerous seas just to enter Europe and try their luck. Others have resulted to 419 a popular scam used to trick people into given out their money and valuables. Those who seem to have benefited from the oil are corrupt politicians, civil servants and the big oil corporations such as Shell, Mobil, BP and their American counterparts. In fact Nigeria has consistently featured in the top 1% of the most corrupt nation on the planet. Between 2005 and 2007 several state governors and their immediate families were arrested by Scotlandyard in London on corruption and money laundering charges. Among them are James Ibori of oil rich Delta State and his wife Theresa who had their 35 million dollar asset frozen by the English court. Mr. Ibori earns about a thousand dollars a month but during his eight years as a state governor he managed to acquire wealth to the tune of $35m and was a key financial contributor to the campaign of the current president of Nigeria. He owns a private jet and lavish London home.  Another corrupt governor is Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, governor of oil-rich state of Bayelsa who was also arrested in London for money laundering charges. Mr. Alamieyeseigha broke his bail conditions and evaded capture in Britain by dressing up as a woman. When Police conducted a search in his London home they discovered one million pounds worth of cash in his home.   Another governor who was arrested in England was Joshua Dariye of Plateau State. He was arrested in a London hotel for stealing money meant for development of his state. In South Africa Jacob Zuma is still battling it out with the court for his part in the multi-billion arms deal in 2001 in South Africa. He was forced to resign as Deputy President of South Africa. The late Mobutu in his 32 years as President of Zaire, now DR Congo amassed several billions of dollars belonging to the Congo people. In 2006 former president of Malawi Bakili Muluzi was arrested for pocketing $12m donated to his poor country by foreign governments. Again former Zambia president Frederick Chiluba was arrested together with two business men Aaron Chungu and Faustin Kabwe and charged with 11 counts of stealing money meant for the Zambia’s development. In Equatorial Guinea where oil export has earned the country billions of dollars, the 600,000 people living in the country continue to live in poverty while Teodoro Obiang Nguema and his cronies continue to siphon the oil revenue with no accountability. Gabon and Angola both Oil exporting countries are no different. In fact, the governments in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea can best be described as Kleptocracy that is government by thieves. In countries such as Nigeria, Egypt, Cameroon, The Gambia, Sudan, Uganda, Libya, Tunisia a Kleptocracy class of people have replaced anything democracy. In these countries very few people continue to remain in power and the people have no say in the way their country is govern or run. For example Gaddafi of Libya has been in power for 39 years now. Omar Bongo of Gabon 31 years, Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea 28 years, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe 28 years, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt 27 years, Paul Biya of Cameroon 26 years, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda 22 years, Omar Al Bashir of Sudan 19 years, Iddriss Derby of Chad 17 years, Yahya Jammeh of Gambia 14 years, and the list is unending. What is clear is that these unelected leaders continue to amass wealth at the expense of their poor countries and continue to mismanage whatever remains of their corrupt acts. Because most of the leaders are former military officers or former rebels with no grasp of economics and management, they are unable to formulate any good economic policies that will make their economies grow hence poverty has become a part of the people but their leaders know not what poverty is. A visit to the Niger Delta region of Nigeria shows that majority of the people are unemployed. Years of oil spills have made the soil unfit for any agricultural activity. Their streams and wells are polluted and the people have no access to basic necessities of life even though billions of dollars is realised from the sale of oil from that region every year. In the 1990s economic hardship, abject poverty,  and destruction of the environment forced the people of Ogoniland to demand a say in which Shell operates but the military regime led by Gen. Sani Abacha arrested the environmentalists led by Ken Sorowiwa and executed them. It is these monies meant for the development of the states that these state governors were caught trying to bank away in Europe. Every effort to get the Nigeria government to develop the oil rich areas fell on death ears until the unemployed youth took up arms against the federal state. They kidnapped foreign oil workers and demanded ransom before their victims were released. They disrupted the oil production forcing the oil companies to move several miles offshore for their own safety but they were not safe either. Eventually, the companies had to reduce their output by 25% in 2007-8. These disruptions affected supply of oil in the world market forcing the price to skyrocket to $140 a barrel in the summer of 2008.

In DR Congo it is estimated that gold and diamond deposits alone could fetch the country 23 trillion dollars not to mention the abundance of timber and other several minerals that are found in large quantities such as columbo-tantalite (coltan) and cassiterite (tin ore) yet years of corruption, mismanagement, conflicts and foreign involvement have made this resource rich nation one of the poorest in the world. Coltan for example is used in every mobile phone and a number of electronic devices in the world. Cassiterite used in electronic circuit boards is the most traded metal on the London Stock Exchange. It is often said that western nations cannot maintain their current level of lifestyle without Congo and most corporations in the west can easily go bust without Congo. The question is if Congo is the blood line of the west and the west is rich because of Congo then why is Congo so poor? And where are the billions of dollars from the sale of these minerals? The answer lies in the history of the nation which is corruption, slavery, colonialism, assassinations, armed conflicts and foreign involvements. Since her independence from Belgium in 1960 there has not been peace in the country. Several millions of Congolese have died about 4 million of them in the last eight years alone and most of the dead are civilians. The conflict in Congo is largely about who controls the vast resources in he country. The huge size of the country has made its administration very difficult. And the problem is exacerbated by weak, ill-trained, undisciplined and very corrupt Congolese army who abduct, terrorise, rape and murder the people instead of protecting them.

The various militia groups operating in the east of the country have made life very difficult and unbearable for the civilian population. These armed groups with backing from Rwanda and Uganda have largely operated in the region with impunity – abducting, raping, massacring and stealing from the poor people. Jean Pierre Bemba who is now facing war crimes in The Hague was a notorious warlord whose activities have not escaped the international criminal court (ICC). Another notorious warlord who is still operating with impunity is Laurent Nkunda. A visit to Walikale town in the east of the country explains in vivid terms why the people are so tragically poor. People have abandoned their farms and moved to the mines but whatever is made from the mining is taken away from them by the Congolese army and the ever present predators i.e. the armed groups. These armed groups force the people to mine the minerals without pay. Unable to farm and not paid for their toil, most of them have to credit food in order to survive. Everyday in Walikale about 16 aircraft fly out of the city with loads of minerals bound for Rwanda. These stolen minerals further find their way in the western mineral market in London and Switzerland. The proceeds are shared by the warlords in Congo, the Generals, politicians and the businessmen in Rwanda and the rest is used to acquire weapons that are used to terrorise the people and prolong the war. Please click the link below to watch a video of Congo.


Recommendations and Conclusion

It is clear that several forces within and outside the continent have contributed to making the continent the poorest on earth. But there is no time to look back but a time to look forward and get our acts together, organise ourselves and start doing something. The progress that has been made by China, India, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia the Gulf countries including Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates Saudi Arabia and Qatar over the last 30 to 50 years shows that poverty has got nothing to do with colour or race. Nations become poor because their leaders fail to formulate policies and programmes that address their problems.

To reverse the negative impact of centuries of slavery and colonialism on one hand and decades of coups, civil wars, corruption, mismanagement and foreign interventions on the other hand, the governments should focus their attention on reforming their democratic institutions and allow free and fair elections to be organised. They should do more to fight corruption and mismanagement, establish independent corruption watchdogs, strengthen the judiciary, and be accountable to the people.

They should curtail the power of the army and embark on concrete, sound and result driven policies and provide more incentives to discourage brain drain.

The governments should embark on building social and economic infrastructures – schools, hospitals, roads, rail lines, telecommunications, airports, harbours, markets, that will lay the foundation for economic and social development. They should establish research institutions to find out how best to use the various natural resources to benefit the people. As the saying goes ‘resources are not but they become’ that is to say you may have all the natural resources in the world but if you do not have the ability to convert them into useful commodities/ consumables to benefit the people they are nothing.

The AU should be more concerned about fighting poverty than just been a talking shop for corrupt, kleptocrats and dictators. 

Lord Aikins Adusei

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Alabama – the Heart of Dixie

May 15th, 2010 admin Posted in health reform Comments Off

America’s 22nd state, Alabama has long played a key and very dramatic role in the civil and human rights history of the United States . Also proudly known as “the Heart of Dixie,” Alabama has transitioned from the almost totally agricultural society of its Confederate/post Confederate Civil War Reconstruction days to today being a thriving hub for aerospace, health care, education, banking and various technical manufacturing industries.

Although Alabama is sometimes unfortunately associated with some of the worst violations of civil rights, especially against African Americans, in the late 19th/early 20th century, two of the strongest reformers and leaders of the “Progressive Movement” that would forever impact the United States were two Alabamian women, Pattie Ruffner Jacobs and Sue Berta Coleman. After reconstructionism forced Alabama to become an increasingly industrialized and urbanized society, many Alabama women found that their constraining, traditional “ladylike” Southern belle roles had to be abandoned as necessity led them away from being simple homemakers to working in the public arena. They encountered prejudice, disease, illiteracy and many other social problems that they attempted to address and ameliorate.

Pattie Ruffner Jacobs was white, Sue Berta Coleman was black, and the two women never met each other. Early 20th century Alabama ’s society was still segregated, so while black and white women worked on many of the same issues, it was through separate organizations. However, both groups worked for social and humanitarian reforms in Alabama such as child welfare, temperance, health issues, neighborhood improvements and literacy programs. Some of these important organizations were the Alabama Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Alabama Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, the Alabama Child Labor Committee, the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association and the Alabama Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.

Although complicated by the campaign to disenfranchise black voters in Alabama and, indeed, throughout the South, many Alabama women were led into the women’s suffrage movement in their desire to gain more power and influence in Progressive reform issues. Alabama’s suffrage leader Pattie Ruffner Jacobs was instrumental in the national ratification of the 19th Amendment, (the women’s suffrage amendment), and by 1920, Alabama Progressive Movement accomplishments included education, prison and industrial reforms, as well as schools for girls and boys.

For her part, Sue Berta Coleman began innovative programs for Alabama ’s black families in nutrition, childcare, literacy and vocational training, especially for young black women. Although the initial concentration was on family and domestic skills such as cooking and sewing, most of the women later attended college – unheard of just a few years before — and became teachers. This is indeed apropos to the fact that recent historians have called the actions of these brave Alabama women in the Progressive Movement “social housekeeping,” or the traditional nurturer/caregiver female role extended to the public sphere.

For more information on Montgomery, Alabama, visit http://www.montgomerymicroblog.com and http://www.alabamamicroblog.com.

John Parks

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Entering the Labour Market by Single Mothers

May 12th, 2010 admin Posted in health reform Comments Off

Decision to enter the labour market for single mothers is linked with the issue of taking care of their young children. Child care costs will continue to be an important factor determining welfare participation in the welfare reform environment because of the low expected earnings of low-skilled workers and the high percentage of earned income that must be devoted to purchase reliable quality care. In addition to facilitating mothers’ employment and thus reducing poverty and the need for income supplements, quality child care is also an important social concern in and of itself, given the strong link between quality child care and positive child outcomes, particularly for at-risk children.

In this paper, we analyze the effectiveness of child care assistance policies indirectly by considering explicitly the effect of the cost of child care on welfare recipiency. We find that, over a set of alternative specifications, welfare recipiency and employment of single mothers are sensitive to the predicted hourly price of child care.

1. Brief Review of Existing Evidence

There are three main sources of information related to our research question on the effect of the price of child care on employment and welfare recipiency. The first source is econometric works on the effect of child care costs on employment. Second is a set of papers focused on the welfare side of the coin. Finally, there is some evidence from evaluations of welfare -to-work demonstration projects of the importance of child care costs to employment and welfare recipiency.

In terms of the econometric work on the effect of child care costs on employment, that body of work has been well summarized elsewhere (Berger&Black 1992; Blau&Alison 1998). Almost all the studies on employment find a significant negative effect of child care costs on women’s employment, although the estimated child care price elasticity with respect to employment varies widely across studies. Most relevant to our current topic are three papers—Berger and Black (1992), Blau and Alison (1998), and Bowen and Neehan (1993)–each of which uses data to look at differences across marital status. Each of these papers finds evidence that the elasticity of single mother’s employment with respect to child care costs is greater in absolute value than married mother’s employment elasticity.

Blanck (1985, 1989) review the relationships between welfare recipiency and childcare costs and suggested that a 50% child care subsidy would increase the labor force participation of single parents by 2.9 percentage points and that a 20% reduction in the AFDC guaranteed payment would increase the labor force participation of single parents by 1.6% and reduce their welfare transfer program participation by 1.2 percentage points.

Evidence of a positive relationship between child care costs and welfare recipiency can also be found in a number of evaluation studies of welfare -to-work demonstration projects, though the results are not uniform. Graham and Beller (1989) reviewed evidence from several major welfare -to-work demonstration projects that included child care components. They wrote, “Although the confluence of services, mandates, and incentives in these demonstrations suggests caution is required in interpreting their results, based on this evidence it seems reasonable to conclude that subsidized child care may have a modest effect, at best, in increasing employment levels of very low-skilled, single mothers with small children” (Graham and Beller, 1989, p.665). However, as the authors point out, none of these demonstrations explicitly examined the importance of child care costs within an experimental framework, so any conclusions relating to the importance of child care costs are tentative at best.

The Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), which was included in Joesch review (1991), deserves extra scrutiny. This program was an innovative program based on the dual (and often competing) goals of encouraging work and making work pay. It contained two key work incentive provisions, the second of which related to child care. The MFIP paid child care costs directly to providers for all parents working or participating in employment-related activities. The AFDC reimbursement scheme differed because the parents paid the providers directly and were reimbursed later. The practice of reimbursing the mother after the expenditure occurred may have hindered the mother’s efforts to get and stay employed. Also, the AFDC reimbursement rules tend to discourage providers from accepting such subsidized clients because of the uncertainty of receiving payment. The report finds significant impacts in numerous areas, including employment rates and earnings of the MFIP approach.

Finally, Waldfogel (2001) analyzed Massachusetts state data on current and former TANF recipients who also receive child care vouchers. He found that increased funding for child care subsidies and availability of full-day kindergarten are associated with increased probabilities that current and former welfare recipients will work.

In sum, a thorough review of the broad literature relevant for this paper reveals a uniformity in the direction and significance of the child care price effect but a rather broad range of empirical estimates concerning the importance of child care costs on employment probabilities of single mothers.

2. Single mothers’ choices in welfare recipiency

One of the most important aspects of the market for child care is that individuals face widely different costs for similar services depending on the availability of low- or no-cost child care options. We begin with analysis of individual decision making that represents the discrete choices about welfare recipiency and employment of mothers with young children. In our case, we assume that mothers of young children seek to maximize their utility over goods and child services, subject to four constraints: a money budget constraint combining the mother’s labor income and nonlabor income, a production function for child services, a mother’s time constraint, and a child’s time constraint. Child services are the commodity parents are consuming from their children; it could be companionship or love or pride in one’s progeny. They are produced with a combination of the mother’s time at home, the child’s time with other caregivers, and money inputs. Total nonlabor income is the sum of family income from sources other than the mother’s labor market participation and means-tied transfer income, such as welfare payments. Mothers have three uses of their time: work in the labor market, time spent with children, and leisure. The child has two types of time: time with the mother and time with a nonmaternal caregiver.

From these assumptions, we derive that single mothers decide whether to be employed or not taking into account two or four different values corresponding to the different possible work and welfare outcomes. Increased expenditures on child care lower a woman’s effective wage in the labor market when she is not receiving AFDC. Also included among these factors will be her predicted wage, nonlabor family income, dichotomous factors indicating that the mother is nonwhite or unhealthy or lives in an urban area or in the South, factors affecting the value of a woman’s time at home (specifically, two factors indicating whether the youngest child is age zero to two years and whether there are two or more preschoolers in the family), the state’s average Medicaid expenditures per enrollee, the state’s average monthly AFDC payment, and the state’s unemployment rate.

Because of kinks in the budget line caused by AFDC regulations, as well as possible discontinuities in hours of employment and child care availability, it is reasonable to suspect that decisions about AFDC recipiency are made jointly with decisions to work for pay.

3. Demographics, Employment, and Child Care

According to Berger and Black (1992), employed single mothers are 28.5 years of age, on average, and have 12.5 years of education. Only 26% live in poverty, but two-thirds have income less than twice the poverty threshold. Approximately one-fourth work part time, and 53% report paying for child care. The oldest single mothers are those who are employed and paying for child care, and this subgroup also reports the highest education levels, with 12.6 years of education. Focusing further on the issue of paying for child care, those single mothers employed and paying for care are a bit less likely to be nonwhite and less likely to live in poverty or receive welfare than all employed single mothers. Additionally, they are less likely to work part time, and they earn higher average hourly wages ($8.96 vs. $8.25 an hour).

4. Employment and Welfare Status

According to Berger and Black (1992), the working single mothers not reporting welfare recipiency are the oldest and have the most education and the lowest poverty rates. Their higher nonlabor income may indicate that they are more likely to be receiving child support payments. The other group with relatively higher nonlabor income is the group not employed and not on welfare. Some of these women are also receiving child support, but there is substantial variation among themselves, as the high poverty rate indicates. Others may be queued for welfare, waiting for their savings to be depleted.

The nonwelfare group is far less likely to be employed part time and receives a considerably higher average hourly wage. In addition, while the welfare recipient group is less likely to pay for care (36% vs. 56%), the recipient group pays a higher hourly price for child care. This may reflect the higher cost of part-time child care or the receipt of child care subsidies.

5. Child Care Mode Choice and Weekly Expenditures by Mode of Care for Employed Single Mothers

According to Bowen and Neehan (1993), single mothers receiving welfare are more likely to rely on relative care and less likely to rely on center-based care. But recall that they are also more likely to work part time, an employment state more often associated with this pattern of modal choice. In addition, the welfare recipients are less likely to pay for relative care and less likely to pay for center-based care. Neither subgroups are very likely to pay for relative care. The welfare recipient subgroup’s average weekly payment for center-based care is considerably higher than for those not receiving welfare. For all single mothers, center-based care is the most expensive, followed by home-based care and relative care.

Child care costs present a problem for the researchers in that they are often unknown unless the mother is engaged in market work. This situation is similar to the problem of wages that are unobserved if the person is not employed. In addition to the problem of limited observation of the relevant variable, child care is complicated by the fact that many families do not pay the “market price” for child care. Nonprofit centers are often subsidized in the form of free rent and require no return on investment capital. Relatives and friends may be willing to provide child care at a reduced price or at no charge either because they receive in-kind payments or because they enjoy caring for the child.

How one approaches this problem depends in part on the information available and in part on the question one is trying to answer. Because the focus here is on the mother’s decision, only the portion of the cost she pays is relevant. Since we are interested in the effect of child care costs on welfare recipiency and employment, we analyze the cost of child care per hour of employment, not the cost per hour of child care used. This is the relevant decision choice for mothers of young children who are evaluating the costs and benefits of entering the labor market, with one alternative being receiving welfare.

As it was previously mentioned, differences among families in their access to low- or no-cost care is a very pertinent issue for our problem. Using the average local market price of child care alone ignores substantial differences among families in access to below-market child care. The problem is that there is not really an exogenously given price of child care that is relevant to all consumers in the marketplace. Instead, because of differences in family circumstances and location of residence, each individual faces her own price per hour of child care. Nonwhite mothers, mothers who reside in urban areas, and mothers reporting poor health are more likely to receive AFDC. The state’s average AFDC payment per enrollee is related positively to AFDC recipiency, but the average Medicaid expenditure per enrollee is related negatively (Graham and Beller, 1989, p.668).

6. The effect of predicted child care expenditures on the probability of AFDC recipiency

According to findings of Berger and Black (1992), that effect of predicted child care recipiency is positive and significant. Those with higher nonlabor incomes are also less likely to receive welfare, while families in which the youngest child has one or more siblings under the age of six are more likely to receive welfare.

With child care expenditures reduced to one-half for all single mothers, AFDC recipiency would fall further to 12.5%, while employment is predicted to rise to 74.7% (Blau and Allison, 1998, p.105). Tying the child care subsidy to a reduction in average state benefits reduces the receipency rate still further to 15.1% and increases the employment rate to 69.5% with further cost saving in AFDC expenditures (Blau and Allison, 1998, p. 104). Subsidizing child care costs for all single mothers may be an important policy tool leading to lower AFDC recipiency rates. These subsidies could be packaged with existing federal TANF program restrictions on length of total, lifetime welfare recipiency, and work requirements to improve living standards for ex-recipients by helping to “make work pay.”


This paper looks specifically at the effect of child care costs on the decisions of single mothers concerning employment and AFDC recipiency. In doing so, it seeks to answer the questions made so relevant first by the Family Support Act of 1988 and more recently by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996: Can subsidizing child care reduce the welfare dependency of single mothers? The answer seems to be an unequivocal yes, though the size of the estimated effect is found to be sensitive to the estimation strategy used.

In the short run, AFDC benefits should be made more uniform across states, and raised, at a minimum, up to the federal poverty level. If the policy goal is to expand the labor market options available to welfare recipients, the most important consideration should not be welfare reform, but rather raising the effective wages of the work that is available. Such a change, which would affect all single mothers, not merely those collecting public assistance, would begin with the important first step of raising the minimum wage.

Publicly provided health care and child care programs are needed if women are to support themselves and their families through participation in the labor market. Child care must also be available for low-income working women. First steps toward the establishment of a national child care system include the extension of Head Start, a federally funded program for economically disadvantaged preschool children.

For too long social policy has assumed that single mothers should derive income from either the labor market or the state. Today’s welfare-to-work programs presume that paid employment will end women’s need for government support. However, the reality for most single mothers is that neither labor market income nor public assistance at current levels can adequately support their families. A meaningful family policy would expand the opportunities and the income available to women with children–both from the labor market and from the state.

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