Oil, banks and being of the ‘wrong’ religion

Last week was one with no really predominant stories making the international news. There was no single story that merited the kind of saturation coverage that usually follows when CNN or BBC gets excited about something. In view of this, I will try to write on three of the stories all at once rather than pick a single one as usual. First off, the short round up of the news.

Last week was one with no really predominant stories making the international news. There was no single story that merited the kind of saturation coverage that usually follows when CNN or BBC gets excited about something.

In view of this, I will try to write on three of the stories all at once rather than pick a single one as usual. First off, the short round up of the news.

Last week began with the celebration of international women’s day. Fittingly the night before, Kathryn Bigelow won an Academy Award for best Director, the first time a woman had ever won it, for the Iraqi war drama, “The Hurt Locker”.

Film critics hailed it as an advance for women in Hollywood although I have a suspicion that we will wait a long time before another female director wins it again.

Over in DC, Michelle Obama made use of the day to show her funny side, remarking at a State Department function that she very nearly addressed Hillary Clinton as ‘President Clinton’ before telling her husband, President Obama, at the Whitehouse, to look at her adoringly.

More interestingly, we all discovered the lengths that politicians in DC will take to get their policies through. Emmanuel Rahm, the Whitehouse Chief of Staff, was accused by Congressman Eric Massa of approaching him naked in a changing room of a gym and berating him for his lack of support for the healthcare bill.

The quote of the day was, “Do you know how awkward it is to have a political argument with a naked man?” Then again the Congressman is facing charges from the House Ethics Committee on sexually harassing a male staffer so Whitehouse denials may have some credibility.

While political comedy reigned over stateside, the news from central Nigerian was deadly serious. Nearly 400 Christians were killed in the town of Jos apparently in reprisal for killings of Muslims that had happened in the same area in January.

More disturbing are UN reports that the areas security forces may have been aware of the pending violence and could have prevented it.

Nigeria is a country that is divided by religious, regional and ethnic lines. The North-South divide follows largely the Muslim-Christian fault line much in the same way as it does in Sudan with similarly deadly consequences.

Every government in Nigeria since the return of democracy in 1999 has consciously tried to ensure that both sides are represented in government. However, for the people of central Nigerian, worshiping the wrong God can still get you killed. Is it insensitive to say they need our prayers?

In Europe, the discussion of the day was the idea of a European Monetary Fund modeled after the International Monetary Fund, although not directly in competition with the IMF, as a lender of last resort for Eurozone members who cannot raise funds on the markets on tolerable rates.

This idea as proposed by German Financial Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble following the Greek debt debacle did not make it as a talking point to the end of the week.

Having been shot down by his own Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and French Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde, as near impossible to set up especially as it requires an amendment to the EU treaty and that at any rate it was not a priority.

In the Eurozone the slogan is still ‘single currency, sovereign fiscal policy’ and it would take more than Greek and Portuguese troubles to change this.

America’s democratic experiment in the Middle East, Iraq held its second parliamentary elections last Sunday.

Despite the efforts of the forces of anarchy, the car bombs and mortar rounds did not stop 62% of Iraqis from voting.

Granted that this was lower than the 75% in 2005, a year that was even more violent than this one but at the time the novelty of free elections was still enough to drive people to the polls.

That and the prospect of getting the ‘correct’ people elected, the ‘correct’ person depended largely on whether you were Kurd, Sunni or Shiite. Five years later, much more disillusioned voters are back at the ballot.

The Economist reported that Iraq was on the verge of an oil bonanza with a projection of $172 Billion every year, at current oil prices, by about 2013. If this is true, the parliamentarians voted this time round have the power to decide on Iraqi’s democratic future, will it follow the lead of all its middle eastern neighbours and go undemocratic while abolishing taxes or will it stick to the difficult path of democracy and accountability.

Will Iraq vindicate America’s vision of a democratic beacon in the region and fall for the notorious oil curse?

okabatende@gmail.com

Oscar Kabbatende is a lawyer

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