Thursday, 3 February 2011

News Report: Bill Gates Advises U.S. Not To Cut Overseas Aid

Bill Gates
The United States should reject Republican demands for a dramatically lower overseas aid budget, which could threaten both U.S. strategic and humanitarian goals, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates said on Wednesday.

"It's important now that we talk about why, in tough times, these budget choices are still very, very wise choices for the taxpayer to make," Gates told Reuters in an interview.

The Microsoft co-founder, whose $34 billion foundation is devoted largely to funding health projects in developing countries, said Republican calls to narrow the yawning U.S. budget deficit by slashing overseas aid could weaken the U.S position.

"Any government program should be looked at because the size of the deficit is gigantic and unsustainable," Gates said, noting that the overall U.S. aid budget of about $35 billion is dwarfed by the Pentagon's $700 billion funding request.

"If you look at our defense budget, which as a percentage of GDP or in absolute, clearly it sounds like we want to engage the world," he said. "And yet if your balance is totally guns and aircraft carriers, the general reception you get over time isn't as good."

Gates, one of the wealthiest people in the world, spoke amid a gathering debate in Washington over the future of U.S. aid programs, which some Republicans in Congress have targeted for cuts as the country grapples with its budget deficit.

In a speech to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition on Wednesday, Gates said U.S. aid policy had a raft of benefits for the country, ranging from stabilizing poor countries before they become security risks to building new markets for U.S. exports as developing countries grow.

"Any claim that foreign assistance to the poorest countries is just money down a rat hole simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny," Gates said, pointing to the eradication of smallpox, decreasing infant mortality and advances in agricultural productivity as key milestones.

Tough Choices:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has stressed that development must be as important as defense and diplomacy to U.S. policy, said on Wednesday there was a "great push" in Congress to cut overseas aid spending, requiring everyone to preemptively tighten their belts.

"We have scrubbed our budget for every dollar of savings and we have made very hard choices," Clinton told a gathering of U.S. ambassadors in Washington.

Gates said aid spending was among the best things that government can do.

"I think well-spent aid is uniquely effective among all the different kinds of spending our government does," he said in his speech, adding that foreign aid advances U.S. goals and values for a relatively low cost.

"Right now, the tough choice is to maintain foreign assistance, not to cut it," Gates said. "Right now, the bold act of leadership is to defend spending on key international programs, not to attack it."

Gates told Reuters the U.S. government needed to do a better job of promoting the results of overseas aid to a public unnerved by budget cuts at home.

"If you say to the American public, 'What do you think about foreign aid?,' they can have an image from the past where in the Cold War we sent a lot of money to people more for strategic friendship than expecting there to be a benefit to the population in those countries," Gates said.

"If you say to the public, 'What do you think about polio eradication?' ... I don't think you'd get many no's."

Credit: Reuters

News Release: Buhari Advises ACN To Be Careful About Alliance Pronouncements

Muhammadu Buhari
The attention of the Presidential Candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) Gen Muhammadu Buhari has been drawn to the unfortunate remarks by the Action Congress of Nigeria(ACN) blaming him for the collapse of alliance talks between the two political parties ahead of the 2011 polls.

As he seriously believes that political maturity demands circumspection on the part of leaders at a time when our people are eagerly yearning for liberation from the 12 years of PDP misrule, the CPC flag bearer is convinced that it is counter-productive engaging in a media war when there is still the possibility of working together in the unpredictable political season that we are entering.

General Buhari would not want to go into details of the difficulties of forging the collaboration before the close of nominations for the reason those he believers in building bridges rather than cutting them.

He strongly posits that the two parties are the most ideologically compatible and have the responsibility of providing leadership in the political space to give alternative to the people of Nigeria.

"There are difficulties in time and circumstance which make it difficult for the collaboration to come through immediately but we still believe that given our mutual commitment to democracy and reconstruction of the economy, there is no option to removing the obstacles and work together “ he said.

General Buhari restates his faith in the inevitability of the two parties working together and coalescing their electoral opportunities to create a political force that will result to the birth of a new political regime.

"We therefore believe that this is not time for saber-rattling and blame game as such may be a backhand service for those who want to keep Nigerians in perpetual servitude. It is more profitable to remain positive and keep the communications channels open as we focus on the bigger picture"

He called on the leaders of both parties to continue to dialogue and rededicate to their objective of working together as the vanguard of national opposition in Nigeria.

"The time we are, calls for nothing short of working assiduously towards a national rebirth. Our people are suffering and dying of hardship in the midst of plenty, a vast majority of them are not sure of whether they would get the next meal; political leaders who are not part of the rot  must be evolving ways of getting them out of this hopelessness  rather than throwing punches inward which can only be to the delight of the forces of retrogression"

Finally, General Buhari enjoins Nigerians to keep their eyes on the ball as we move rewards the April elections rest assured that change is on the way.

Yinka Odumakin

Spokesman for Buhari/Bakare Ticket

News Report: Fear Descends On Northern Cote D’Ivoire

Scantily Filled Stalls. Photo Credit: IRIN
With no sign at present of an end to the political deadlock in Côte d’Ivoire, the country remains partitioned. The economic repercussions of the crisis are being felt in both south and north. In Abidjan and the south, where Laurent Gbagbo and his administration are still in control, in the face of regional and international condemnation and isolation, prices of key commodities have risen dramatically. In the north - long held by former rebels Forces Nouvelles, and providing the main support base for Alassane Ouattara, internationally recognized as the elected president - livelihoods are being crippled and basic services reduced to a minimum in regions which have been marginalized for decades.

“We’ve taken a big step backwards. You’d think this was 2002,” said Marie Laure N'guessan, a 28-year-old seamstress in the town of Ferké, 600km north of Abidjan, referring to the year when civil war broke out between the rebels and Gbagbo’s government.

Speaking to IRIN by phone, N’Guessan said people’s morale had been badly affected by developments over the past two months. “Life has become grimmer in the north. In the markets people don’t talk much any more. There is a certain sadness in people’s faces.”

In an attempt to increase economic pressure on Gbagbo and his allies, Ouattara supporters have launched a campaign aimed at paralyzing Abidjan by cutting off access to goods from the north. This has meant impeding the movement of trucks carrying merchandise to the south. “This is having very serious consequences on the population,” Kouadio Jean Bosson of the Convention de la Société Civile Ivoirienne, told IRIN.

“Many trucks are blocked. This is not done on a permanent, systematic basis. It is intermittent and the locations change. But there isn’t the usual to-and-fro between the north and south zones because of the transport problem, the risks involved. A certain fear has descended.”

“Prices of basic goods have risen. And people in the north are already very poor,” he added. Government figures from a 2008 study place four out of five northerners in a state of poverty, the highest proportion in the country.

Adama Timité, 28, a truck driver in the town of Mankono, said he had not worked since the beginning of the election crisis. “Yams, rice, millet and sorghum are beginning to rot in the fields. What little money I have is running out and I cannot go into the bush to truck out the harvests. Buyers have stopped buying and the pressure on us is growing by the day,” he told IRIN by phone.
“We’ve only managed to find transport to send our produce south in the last three days,” said Sali Koulibali, a vegetable trader in Katiola. “I hope it gets through. Some of my colleagues lost half of their produce over the last two weeks. Tomatoes and onions are going bad. People in the south need them and we cannot supply them. We are making a huge loss.”

The Ouagadougou peace accord signed by the main parties in March 2007 included a strong commitment to restore state services in the north and other areas held by the Forces Nouvelles. This included returning civil servant, teachers and health workers to strengthen and rebuild basic facilities which had fallen into disarray since the outbreak of hostilities and the de facto partition of the country. But such initiatives have been abandoned amid rising tensions and uncertainty.

Some 50 percent of health workers are now absent from their posts in rebel-held areas in the north and west, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“I didn’t get my pension last month and this month’s is also in doubt,” said Dramane Soro, a retired teacher in Korhogo.

“I am diabetic and cannot pay my medical bills. I have received no treatment for the past five weeks. The pharmacies are empty and the one the hospital has no insulin,” he said.

According to Bosson of the Convention de la Société Civile Ivoirienne, the blood transfusion service in Bouaké, the rebels’ capital, is no longer fully operational.

In this difficult context, health authorities, with the help of UN agencies, plan to vaccinate some 840,000 people
against yellow fever in Béoumi, Katiola, Mankono and Séguéla districts. This follows a confirmed outbreak of the disease which is thought to have killed 25 people among 65 suspected cases. Laboratory tests have confirmed 12 cases of the disease.

Political tension has caused some forced displacement in the north, Bosson said.

“In some areas, such as Touba, some of Gbabgo’s supporters were chased away; some went to Guinea, because people’s attitude was ‘why did you vote for Gbagbo?’. Others were banished by the local authorities.”

Clavaire Kouamé, an agricultural adviser in Boundiali, told IRIN: “We live in constant fear. Many of my colleagues have left to take refuge in the south, because after the elections there were some serious physical threats. Now, I am very careful if I go out to the shops. There is a lot of mistrust amongst us.”

“We try to get by and get on with our neighbours, playing football or other games. But we are well aware that things could change for the worse any time. Our fate depends on what happens in Abidjan. When it’s calm there, it is calm here, but when things go off, things become much more strained and tense with certain people."

The extreme paucity of basic services in the north predates the current crisis. As an April 2010
UN Panel of Experts report on Côte d’Ivoire underlined, the Forces Nouvelles have proven more effective in collecting revenue from the general population than distributing this wealth in the form of service provision.
“Zone commanders are relatively autonomous and appear to retain a large percentage of taxes levied in their respective zones for their own purposes,” the report stated.

“No law in the north”:

This delivery gap crucially extends to the sphere of justice, according to André Banhouman Kamaté, the president of the Ligue Ivoirienne des Droits de l’Homme’s (LIDHO) national executive office.

“There is no law in the north. The law does not exist because the magistrates are not there. The courts, beyond handing out identity papers, do not work. If you have a problem related to human rights, you cannot go and see a judge. The judge has no control over the police or gendarmerie, no power to take military commanders to court,” he told IRIN.

“The justice system is not legal, because people have to submit themselves to the Force Nouvelles' justice system, where the people have no legal training.”

Kamaté said people still bore the scars from what happened when the rebellion started in 2002. “The general sense of the population is fear, because during the war in 2002, people there were effectively taken hostage. Now, even though the curfew has been lifted, after 10 pm, everyone goes home,” he said.

Kamaté pointed to the ransacking of a house belonging to one of Gbabgo’s ministers during a demonstration in the town of Bondoukou, and the torching in Bouakou of a house owned by another Gbagbo supporter, as examples of the sporadic violence witnessed in parts of the north.

Sporadic violence:
“In the regions controlled by the Forces Nouvelles, we continue to see the same pattern of abuses as before the elections, mostly attributed to unruly elements of the FAFN [Forces Armées des Forces Nouvelles – the rebels’ military wing], who take advantage of their arms and military uniform to wreak havoc on the civilian population,” noted Simon Munzu, the head of the Human Rights Division of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire or ONUCI.

“These include rape, confiscation of property on any pretext, the setting up of illegal roadblocks that infringe freedom of movement, and racketeering of road users.”

One new development, Munzu explained, is the emergence of groups of youths determined to enforce the civil disobedience campaign recently waged by Ouattara's camp by “setting up roadblocks, burning tyres, obstructing traffic generally, and threatening to use physical violence against those who appear not to want to heed the call to disobedience.”

“While we condemn human rights infringements committed by the defence and security forces of Laurent Gbagbo, we cannot turn a blind eye to the increasingly serious violations of economic, social and cultural rights that result from the forcible enforcement of the call to civil disobedience that has been issued by the Ouattara camp,” he added.

An evening power cut in Bouaké on 26 January sparked fears of an attempt by the Gbagbo administration in Abidjan to cut off electricity in all areas throughout Forces Nouvelles-held territory. But power was restored within hours - the outage explained by a technical problem.

Credit:  IRIN

News Release: Liberal Democratic Party Of Nigeria Says INEC Lied On Deadline On Submission Of Candidates

It has come to the knowledge of the Liberal Democratic Party Of Nigeria(LDPN) that not only is INEC interested in failing to conduct a free, fair and credible election come April, 2011, that INEC is passionately playing an ignoble script in favour of elements interested in continuing the plunder of our collective patrimony. We are aware of the Report in the Vanguard and the Nation Newspapers of Wednesday 2nd, February, 2011 on Pages 5, and Pages I and 2 respectively where INEC is alleged to have declared 20 Political Parties unfit to exist as well as listing our great Party as one of those that did not meet the 31st January, 2011 deadline for the submission of lists of Party Candidates.

We state in the most unequivocal terms that the Liberal Democratic Party Of Nigeria(LDPN) met the deadline for the submission of the list of candidates and is poised to wrest POWER from the PDP led government through the Ballot box come April. We also want to state that on the de-registration of 20 Political Parties by INEC we shall contest this in Court conscious of the fact that some registered Political Parties like the Democratic Front of Prof. Wole Soyinka may well be Parties of the future, and taking into cognizance the flawed elections of the past non of the Parties accused of having not won any elections into the National and or State Houses of Assembly hitherto cannot be blamed.

May we also state that the Commission (INEC) which consistently frustrated the rights of the People through rigged, flawed and failed elections lack the moral nexus to accuse the Parties of not having won elections. It is a known fact that as at the time we submitted the list of our candidates on the 31st of January, 2011 being the deadline the list of most of the PDP Candidates had not been submitted so INEC should cease to intimidate and misinform Nigerians rather it should face and resolve the issues surrounding the near failed Voters Registration exercise.

Finally, we call on all Nigerians to remain eternally vigilant because such is the price of freedom, of progress and of development. We must insist that rather than heat up the polity through unguarded media releases INEC should concentrate on the fundamentals before her, which is the registration of voters, the compilation and collation of a credible voters register and above all the conduct of a free, fair and credible election come April..

God Bless Nigeria

Dr. Chris Nwaokobia Jnr.
Presidential Candidate of the Liberal Democratic Party Of Nigeria(LDPN).

Chief Felix Modebelu

National Chairman LDPN.