Friday, July 30, 2010

Steven Okurut: An African brutalised by police in Ukraine

This morning I was saddened by the story of an African from the East African country of Uganda, who was brutalised by police in Ukraine. The violation, reported by Human Rights First, is a grim reminder of the vulnerability of Africans living in Ukraine and beyond.

According to Kyiv Post, the alleged brutalisation of Steven Okurut happened on 18 July 2010 in a supermarket in Karkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine. On this fateful day, the Ugandan was approached by two police officers and summoned to a "secluded room" on the second floor, where the officers searched, physically and verbally harassed the unsuspecting Steven Okurut. Steven was suspected of "harboring and trafficking drugs" (a common suspicion faced by Africans in this part of the world). During the encounter, Steven Okurut endured blows to the head, shoulders and thighs. It is worth mentioning that the officers allegedly extorted money from the Ugandan.

The alleged brutalisation of Steven Okurut by police officers highlights the plight of foreigners with non-slavic appearance in Ukraine - many of whom are caught between the devil and deep blue sea, with the police on one hand and ultra nationalist groups on the other hand.

Where should victims of such racially motivated crimes turn to for protection, if the police cannot protect them?

Xenophobia is reportedly a growing concern among foreigners in Ukraine. In an article published on the Huffington Post, the President of African Center in Kyiv, Ukraine - Charles Asante-Yeboa described a gruesome attack he miraculously survived in the hands of a group of young men at a bus top near Shuliavska - a station on Kyiv metro line in the Capital and largest city of Ukraine. The must-read article reveals that racist violence in Ukraine is "rampant and unpredictable" - a practice that has claimed many African lives, including Julius Igbodunu Azike, Joseph Bunta, Gbenda-Charles Victor, et al.

The recent alleged police brutalisation of Steven Okurut is testament to the extraordinary violence against foreigners in Ukraine. The government of Ukraine should investigate such violations without delay and ensure that perpetrators of hate crimes and violence, many of whom enjoy impunity, bear the full weight of the law. This would go a long way to guarantee the security of foreigners living in Ukraine. Impunity is not an option.

Ukraine is located in Eastern Europe and the state is scheduled to co-host the UEFA Euro 2012 soccer championship.

Prior to South Africa 2010, the media was flooded with crime alerts and negative criticism of the African powerhouse. Perhaps the criticism encouraged the authorities to work harder to guarantee security. Has Ukraine been issued a blank check ahead of Euro 2012?

It remains to be seen whether xenophobia, hate crimes against foreigners, police brutality and extortion in Ukraine would be curbed before thousands of soccer fans storm Ukraine in 2012.

*Photo: Kyiv Post.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chad fails to execute Arrest Warrant against Omar al-Bashir

The President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, in a show of defiance, visited Chad and walked free, despite a standing arrest warrant against him, issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague. The President is suspected of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur. In March 2009, the ICC issued an arrest warrant against President al-Bashir, for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and on 12 July 2010, the court, in line with Article 58(6) of the Rome Statute, modified the arrest warrant, adding genocide to list of hideous crimes allegedly committed by al-Bashir in Darfur. Less than two weeks after the second arrest warrant was issued, President al-Bashir made a controversial official visit to neighboring Chad, ignoring an international call for his arrest upon arrival in Chad.

On Thursday 22 July 2010, Omar al-Bashir arrived Chad on an official visit and walked free, as the government of Chad failed to execute the arrest warrant against the visiting Head of State.

It is worth mentioning that prior to the visit, human rights groups called on the government of Chad - a Member State of the ICC - to arrest Omar al-Bashir in line with its obligation under the Rome Statute, but the unprecedented calls to arrest the most-wanted Head of State, Omar al-Bashir, fell on deft ears.

No doubt, Chad has gone down in history as the first Member State of the ICC to fail to fulfil its duty under Article 59(1) and Part IX of the Rome Statute. The government of Chad failed to execute an arrest warrant issued by the court, and to comply with a request to cooperate with the court to bring al-Bashir to the Hague to face trial for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. 

There are fears that the arrest of President al-Bashir in Chad would distabilized the fragile peace in the region. Until recently Chad accused Sudan for harboring rebels that threaten its peace, and Sudan, on the other hand, accused Chad for supporting rebel groups that mastermind the conflict in Darfur - a conflict that, according to the UN, has claimed 300,000 lives.

Now that Chad has failed to execute an arrest warrant issued by the ICC against Omar al-Bashir, one question remains unanswered: Does the ICC have what it takes to bring suspects of international crimes to justice?

Of course, with a well written statute, the ICC has what it takes to bring perpetrators of the most hideous crimes against humanity to justice, but the statute can only be executed with unconditional international cooperation. Chad's failure to cooperate with the ICC goes a long way to embolden perpetrators of crimes that fall within the jurisdiction of the court.

*Photo: Wikipedia.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Botswana denies Bushmen land rights

I received an email from Survival International, an organization supporting indigenous and tribal peoples worldwide, that called my attention to the violation of indigenous land rights of the Bushmen - a group of indigenous people in the southern African country of Botswana. Prior to receiving the email, perhaps like you - I knew nothing about a gross injustice faced by the Bushmen in Botswana. As I read the email, questions lingered in my mind - who are the Bushman? Why does the government of Botswana violate their land rights?

According to Survival International, the Bushmen are the original inhabitants of Southern Africa, and they have lived in the region for thousands of years. There are only about 100,000 Bushmen in Botswana, South Africa, Angola and Namibia.

Why does the government violate the land rights of Bushmen?

In Botswana, the ancestral land and home of the Bushmen is in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The government of Botswana discovered diamonds in the reserve in the 1980s and started evicting the inhabitants from their ancestral home, in order to open a diamond mine on the land. By 2005, all the Bushmen had been evicted - their homes, schools and water sources destroyed. The Bushmen were taken to camps outside the reserve and were prohibited from hunting - their main source of livelihood.

The following short video clip better explains the plight of the Bushmen in Botswana and their battle for survival in a country they call home. WATCH

This is a clear case of conflict between business and human rights!

Where do we draw the line between the quest for wealth and profit, and violation of the basic rights of a people? The government of Botswana has shamelessly picked business over human rights.

Irrespective of whether you favor human rights over business or not - the Bushmen have the right to live in their ancestral land - which happens to be rich in diamond.

If you ask me - the government of Botswana should grant the Bushmen within its jurisdiction access to their ancestral land and reinstate their right to live and hunt on their land - in accordance with their culture. The government should grant the Bushmen immediate access to water and other basic neccessities, as well as ensure that they enjoy all constitutional rights guaranteed to every Botswanan. All Bushmen arrested for hunting to feed their families should be released unconditionally.

On 27 May 2010, Survival International reported that trucks carrying soldiers and policemen entered the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. It is believed that the aim of the "invasion" is to intimidate the Bushmen and evict them from their ancestral land.

Many Bushmen are still prohibited from returning to the reserve and there is currently a ban on the use of a borehole (well) that supplies water to the Bushmen in the reserve. Survival International points out that the ban is a calculated attempt by the government to stop the Bushmen from returning to their land.

You can help the Bushmen keep their land. Please take action, here or email Botswana's President - Ian Khama at - to push for the rights of the Bushmen.

*Photos by CharlesFred

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Nelson Mandela International Day 2010: Who inspires you?

July 18 is Nelson Mandela International Day. On this day, 92 years ago, a man was born in a forgotten part of the world; a man with the right DNA and skills needed to liberate South Africans from unspeakable racial discrimination and oppression by a white minority aparthied regime. On this day, people of conscience worldwide pause to celebrate the birthday of this living legend: Nelson Mandela. Are you a person of conscience? Who inspires you?

Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner for 27 years, imprisoned for his role in the anti-aparthied campaign. After he was released from prison in 1990, he went on to become South Africa's first democratically elected President. Contrary to what many expected, President Mandela preached reconciliation between black South Africans and their former oppressors. After his first term in office, he once a gain silenced his critics by stepping down - setting the course for a democratic South Africa.

To honor Mandela's enormous contribution to world peace, democracy and freedom for all, in 2009, the UN General Assembly adopted a text declaring 18 July - Nelson Mandela International Day, in a bid to "make peace a way of life for people around the world." This is the case because Nelson Mandela, former South African President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate is a symbol of peace, democracy and freedom.

As you celebrate Nelson Mandela International Day, I hope he inspires you to promote peace, human rights, freedom and equality for all.

I found the following video very inspiring. WATCH...

Permit me to leave you with the words of this historic figure - Nelson Mandela - in his final testimony in the 1964 trial that sent him to prison for life:  
"I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
Make everyday a Mandela Day!

Théophile Kouamouo: Arrested for publishing Corruption Report in Ivory Coast

A message calling my attention to the arrest and detention of a leading French-speaking African blogger - Théophile Kouamouo in Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), was disheartening. On 13 July 2010, Théophile Kouamouo and two other journalists were arrested for publishing an article about alleged corruption in the cocoa and coffee trade sector in Côte d'Ivoire.

According to Global Voices, Théophile Kouamouo, a French citizen of Cameroonian origin, was arrested alondside two other journalists - Saint Claver Oula and Stéphane Guédé - all working for "Le Nouveau Courrier", a new news daily launched on 25 May 2010, on the orders of the Public Prosecutor - Raymond Tchimou Fehou.

The published corruption report contained details of the findings of the Prosecutor's investigation into corruption, including fraud, misappropriation, embezzlement, forgery, you name it, in the cocoa and coffee sector. Théophile Kouamouo and his colleagues were arrested, questioned and detained after refusing to reveal the source of the published information. On the morning of the arrest, plainclothes policemen allegedly stormed and searched the office of "Le Nouveau Courrier" without a search warrant.

It is worth  noting that Côte d'Ivoire is party to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and Article 19 of the ICCPR clearly states that: "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice." It therefore goes without saying that the state has an obligation to guarantee freedom of expression within its borders.

Théophile Kouamouo and his colleagues at "Le Nouveau Courrier" were arrested, questioned and detained for simply expressing views on the findings of an investigation into embezzlement in the cocoa and coffee sector. This, no doubt, is a violation of Article 19 of the ICCPR.

The Prosecutor seems to be unaware of the fact that Article 1 of the Code of Ethics for Ivorian Journalists, provides that journalists have the right to protect their information sources.  Arguably, by refusing to reveal their sources, Théophile Kouamouo and his colleagues demonstrated commendable professionalism and adherence to "house rules." Does adherence to a code of ethics constitute a crime?

You would agree that the arrest and detention of  journalists undermines human rights and the fundamental right to freedom of expression in Côte d'Ivoire and beyond. The arrest of Théophile Kouamouo and his colleagues is in line with a systematic crackdown on freedom of expression and freedom of press in many African countries. In April, a journalist, Germain Ngota, died under mysterious circumstances behind bars in Cameroon; in Egypt, a young blogger - Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman is still in jail for expressing his views.

Should journalists, reporters and writers be arrested for seeking, receiving and imparting information?

Théophile Kouamouo and his colleagues have been deprived of liberty since 13 July, awaiting charges of "theft of administrative documents." In the interest of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, the journalists should be released unconditionally.

Help secure the release of Théophile Kouamouo by signing this online petition.

UPDATE (26 July 2010): Thanks to a coordinated public outcry, all three journalists have been released, following a trial on 26 July 2010. However, the newspaper, Nouveau Courier, has been suspended for 15 days and slammed with a fine of 5 million CFA francs. Speaking out against human rights violations can make all the difference.

*Photo: Global Voices.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Swedish Police Unit run out of fuel in Car Chase!

A bad day for law enforcement, earlier this week, as a police squad car ran out of fuel in a car chase in Northern Sweden - from Nordmaling towards Umeå. What went wrong? Why was the police unit unable to refill?

According a report on The Local, the officers were unable to refill simply because their charge card could only work in petrol stations 20 kilometres away. Apparently, Swedish police units are unable to "fill up with fuel at any petrol station."  Certain fuel operators do not service police cars. This explains why the police unit was forced to abandon the chase and drive 20 kilometres back to Nordmaling to refill.

Commonsense suggest that in order to effectively respond to emergency situations and enforce the law, police units should be able to refill their squad cars in any filling station, or at least, carry an "emergency fuel kit!"

The fact that a Swedish police unit ran out of fuel in a car chase, and was forced to abandon the chase because the unit was unable to refill, is a testament to loopholes and administrative bottlenecks in Sweden. It is inconceivable that such bottlenecks extend to law enforcement in modern day Sweden.

Although the chase was "ultimately successful", many questions remain unanswered. Why were the police officers running on a near-empty fuel tank? Why didn't the officers use personal funds to refill, and maybe keep the receipt?

More should be done to facilitate law enforcement in Sweden, and save police officers the embarrassment of running out of fuel in the middle of a car chase.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Migrant Workers in Finland: The Working Poor?

Although Finland has failed to ratify the UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and All Members of Their Families, Article 2 of the Convention defines a migrant worker as "a person who is to be engaged, is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national."

The quest for a better life has forced many people to travel to unlikely destinations. The Nordic country of Finland is located in Northern Europe and boasts of a population of 5.4 million people. Until recently, Finland was not a popular destination for migrant workers - partly due to the fact that the country was a "latecomer to industrialisation." Today, like other highly industrialised economies, Finland is grappling with immigration, and the immigration debate is contentious - to the extent that the Immigration Minister faced death threats. The negative tone of the immigration debate has far reaching damaging consequences on a vulnerable group of people - migrant workers. The question is: are migrant workers in Finland the working poor?

Roughly defined, the "working poor" refers to people who are employed but live below or slightly above the poverty line. It is worth mentioning that the poverty line, according to the European Working Conditions Observatory is defined as 60% of the equivalent median income.

In Finland, many migrant workers from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe - hold full-time jobs but live near, on, or slightly below the poverty line. This is the case because many are employed in unskilled jobs - menial jobs like cleaning, newspaper delivery, dish washing, you name it - irrespective of academic qualification. It is extremely rare to find immigrants employed in relatively high-paying jobs in the field of medicine, banking, law, etc. in the Nordic country. As if this is not enough, they face untold exploitation from unscrupulous employers - employers who mostly pay migrant workers a minimum wage for equal work.

Immigration critics blame the plight of migrant workers in Finland on language barriers and lack of skills that would allow migrant workers compete in the job market. The recent economic melt-down ushered in job cuts - as another justification for the plight of migrant workers in Finland.

On the other hand, migrant workers and immigration advocates blame the system. They argue that Finnish authorities are more interested in securing borders than protecting the rights of the many migrant workers legally residing in Finland. Consequently, many migrant workers are left at the mercy of employers. Administrative bottlenecks on issues that affect the wellbeing of immigrants, have not gone unnoticed.

Having lived in Finland long enough to have an opinion, if you ask me - there is no denying that migrant workers in Finland are arguably the working poor. Contrary to what anti-immigration proponents in Finland think, the immigrant community is made up of hardworking individuals who just happen to be at the wrong place - a place where they are forced to work two or three menial jobs, in a bid to rise above the poverty line. Many are educated, many speak the language, but somehow find it extremely difficult to integrate into Finnish society.

It is true that well-paid jobs are available for immigrants - immigrants from countries in the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA), and it is also true that  a majority of immigrants from other parts of the world - predominantly Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe rarely enjoy this privilege - they constitute the working poor in Finland.

The authorities in Finland should pay more attention to the plight of migrant workers. Migrant workers make an enormous contribution to the Finnish economy, and reserve the right to equal treatment, decent work and a decent life.

*Photo: YLE.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani: Sentence to Death by Stoning in Iran

You would agree that the Islamic Republic of Iran is famous for all the wrong reasons - a controversial uranium enrichment programme, and, of course, grave human rights violations. Human rights activists worldwide have once again taken the government of Iran to task, over the story of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani - an Iranian mother of two, who was sentenced to death by stoning in Iran, and is in imminent danger of execution. What is her crime?

In 2006, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was convicted for adultery, and in line with the Iranian Penal Code, she was sentenced to death by stoning - the legal punishment for adultery in Iran.

Recently human rights activists and groups raised concerns that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani would be stoned to death in Iran. This warning sparked an international campaign to pressure the government of Iran to refrain from stoning Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, and to put an end to this cruel and "medieval form of punishment" in Iran.

Have you ever imagined how the many victims of death by stoning in Iran are executed?

Chapter 4 of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran pertaining to adultery clearly spells out How To Execute the Punishment. Article 102 states that an adulterer man shall be buried up to his waist, and a woman shall be buried up to her chest and then stoned to death. Article 104 even specifies the size of the stones to be used - the stones shall not be too large to kill the convict immediately and shall not be too small...

It goes without saying that at any moment, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, could face this ordeal.

According to Amnesty International, there have been 126 executions in Iran already this year. Unfortunately, many victims of this cruel form of punishment in Iran have not had a fair share of media coverage because it is done behind closed doors. However, a global outcry and condemnation of the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani could bring pressure to bear on the Iranian regime to abolish stoning as the legal punishment for adultery in Iran, and save the mother of two.

Mina Ahadi, head of the Internatioanl Committee Against Stoning and the Death Penalty, told CNN that international pressure from groups like Amnesty International, governments and individuals of conscience worldwide is the only way to save Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani from being stoned to death in Iran. In her words, "it's a done deal. Sakineh can be stoned at any minute. That is why we have decided to start a very broad, international public movement. Only that can help."

Ahadi was right. The regime in Tehran has apparently bowed to international pressure and criticism. The consequence of a week long campaign to save Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtian from death by stoning is there for everyone to see.

The 43-year-old Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani will not be executed by stoning. However, it remains to be seen whether she would be cleared of the death sentence for adultery.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has been imprisoned for 5 years, and her two children have pleaded for her life to be spared. Is this too much to ask?

Should people be sentenced to death, worst of all - death by stoning, for adultery?

Amnesty International has called on the authorities in Iran to end execution by stoning, and urged Iran not to execute Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani by any other method.

You can take action, here to stop the execution of Sakineh Mohammadi and another Iranian woman called Zeynab Jalalian, 27, arrested in 2007 for "emnity against God."

*Photo: Facebook group - Save Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani from being Stoned to Death in Iran, and Amnesty International.

Friday, July 9, 2010

U.S. Justice Department drags Arizona to court over Anti-Immigration Law

The U.S. Justice Department has challenged the constitutionality of a  Misguided Immigration Law in Arizona, in a court of law. The immigration law requires people in the state to  carry immigration documents at all times, and  calls on the police to detain anyone - with "reasonable suspicion" - for evidence of legal status. The new law, which is scheduled to go into force at the end of this month, sparked protests from immigrants and immigrat rights advocates in the U.S. President Obama has criticized the law, branding it "misguided" and "unenforceable". Critics of the law argue that it would lead to civil rights violations and racial and ethnic profiling against Latinos in Arizona. This is the case because it is reasonably forseeable that under the law, Latinos in Arizona would be subject to unreasonable police stops and questioning. Mindful of the fact that Arizona is struggling to curb illegal immigration from Mexico, the residency status of many hispanics legally residing in the U.S. would be unduly questioned by the police - simply because they look like the many undocumented immigrants from Mexico. In a bid to stop this law from going into force on 29 July 2010, the U.S. Justice Department dragged Arizona to court on Tuesday - pleading for an injunction against the anti-immigration law.

The raison d'etre of the lawsuit is the fact that only the Federal government has the power to regulate immigration in the U.S. Lawyers for the Justice Department argue that the controversial immigration law in Arizona is unconstitutional - because under the U.S. Constitution, immigration law is under the jurisdiction of the federal government alone.

It goes without saying that the anti-immigration law in Arizona represents blatant disregard for the U.S. Constitution, and its enactment would set an unwanted precedent - other states would be emboldened to overstep their authority, and make U.S. immigration law a state affair.

The U.S. is arguably the "land of the free" - but Arizona apparently seeks to change this assertion, by requiring free U.S. citizens and lawful residents to carry documents to proof citizenship or legal residency.

Besides violating the U.S. Constitution, the anti-immigration law is a beacon of racial and ethnic profiling. The law exposes Latinos in Arizona to unreasonable police controls - backed by "reasonable suspicion" that they are living in the U.S. illegally. This is the case because the law seeks to curb illegal immgration from Mexico, and punish illegal immigrants in the state - many of whom are Latinos. It is fair to say the law threatens the fundamental freedoms and civil rights of the many Latinos legally residing in the U.S., as well as the rights of many American citizens.

It is true, that Arizona is trying to protect its borders, and it is also true that the anti-immigration law endorses racial and ethnic profiling, and, in the words of President Barack Obama, "has the potential of violating the rights of innocent American citizens and legal residents...".

It is therefore good news that the Justice Department has dragged Arizona to court over the anti-immigration law. Time will tell whether the honorable court will grant an injunction against this controversial immigration law.

Read a statement from the U.S. Justice Department, here.

*Photo of Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building: Wikipedia.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Robert Byrd: Lessons on Life from Ku Klux Klan to Civil Rights Advocate

"I shall never fight in the armed forces with a negro by my side... rather, I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again..."

These are the words of Robert Carlyle Byrd - a United States citizen who rose from the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan to a civil rights advocate. Senator Robert Byrd died on Monday 28 June 2010, at the age of 92. The story of Robert Byrd is a story worth telling; it's a story packed with lessons on a life from Ku Klux Klan to a civil rights advocate and guardian of the Constitution.

Last week, I came across the news of the death of a U.S. Senator - Robert Byrd - a man who opposed civil rights and equal rights at the time he ran for election into the United States House of Representatives in 1952. Reading further, I learned he later had a change of heart and became a fierce civil rights advocate, and carried the U.S Constitution in his chest pocket at all times.

In the 1940s, Robert Byrd joined the Ku Klux Klan. At the time, he was young - 23 or 24 years old. He later became disinterested in the movement and blamed his decision to join the organisation on the "Southern Atmosphere" in which he grew up and the "prejudices and its feelings". It is worth reiterating that according to Robert Byrd, the atmosphere in which he grew up engineered his opposition to equal rights.

CNN reports that according to Robert Byrd, the decision to join the Ku Klux Klan was "the greatest mistake" he ever made. As a Senator, his biggest regret was his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In 1964, he voted against the civil rights bill that extended civil rights to African Americans. In 2005, he said if he had to do it again, he would change his vote for the 1964 Act. WATCH...

Without going into his political carreer, and what Senator Robert Byrd did and did not do as a Senator for West Virginia, the point of interest is - Robert Byrd is a man who made a grave mistake in his youth; a mistake that was corrected, but hunted him for the rest of his long life.

Hunted by a dark past, Robert Byrd is quoted by Reuters to have asked former Senator Alan Simpson: "... do our colleagues fear me or respect me?"

Are you feared or respected? If you're feared, I am afraid there is a problem!

The story of Senator Robert Byrd is a lesson for the many young people who still have an opportunity to make the right choices, and refrain from going down the wrong road, in search of some sort of "excitement" - which would later become a burden. Senator Robert Byrd made this mistake, but reinvented himself and became a champion for civil rights and equality for all.

How would you be remembered?

Robert Byrd will be remembered  as the longest serving (as of today) Senator on Capitol Hill - a civil rights advocate and guardian of the U.S. Constitution. His life is full of lessons; lessons on a life from Ku Klux Klan to civil rights advocate. In his words, "it's a lesson to the young people of today, that once a major mistake has been made in one's life, it will always be there...".

It is worth mentioning that the Senator seized every opportunity to apologize:
"I know I was wrong. Intolerance had no place in America. I apologized a thousand times... and I don't mind apologizing over and over again. I can't erase what happened."
On the order of President Barack Obama, the flag of the U.S. shall be flown on half-staff "as a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding service of Senator Robert C. Byrd...". The flag shall be on half-staff from Wednesday, 30 June, with the exception of July 4 2010 (Independence Day), till the "great patriot" is laid to rest.

Once a member of the Ku Klux Klan, USA Today  notes that Senator Robert Byrd went on to endorse America's first black President.

Funeral service is scheduled for 6 July 2010.

You are encouraged to read the Senator's autobiography: "Robert C. Byrd: Child of the Appalachian Coalfieds.

It's 4 July - Permit me to seize this opportunity to say: Happy birthday to the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave!! Happy Independence Day to you - all Americans!!

*Photo: Reuters.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

2010 FIFA World Cup: Luis Suarez Robs Africa of a historic Victory

The FIFA World Cup has been in progress since 11 June 2010. Little did I know that I will be writing about the tournament, but the game of 2 July 2010, between Ghana and Uruguay, urged me to weigh in on a beautiful game gone bad. In the game between Uruguay and Ghana, Luis Suarez - striker for Uruguay, with what appeared to be an intentional handball, robbed Ghana of a well-deserved place in the semi-finals; Luis Suarez robbed Africa - of a historic victory.

On Sunday, Ghana went to Soccer City - bearing the weight of the whole continent of Africa - as Africans worldwide looked up to Ghana to break the glass ceiling and become the first African nation to qualify for the FIFA World Cup semi-finals. The Black Stars of Ghana understood their mission - to take African football to a new heights.

For the Black Stars, the road ahead was daunting - but possible. In Soccer City, they were the underdogs, but they were undeterred, and refused to be trampled upon. The Stars clearly dominated the game - they attacked Uruguay from all fronts - with all they got.

Pressurized, desperate and running out of time, with goalkeeper - Fernando Muslera completely displaced, Uruguay desperately needed a second goalkeeper to keep the Black Stars from scoring. At this point, in a blatant display of cheating, striker - Luis Suarez stepped in and played the role of second goalkeeper for the South American side. The consequence of this cheating was fatal! African hearts were broken, dreams shattered, and FIFA regulations put into question once more - as Luis Suarez robbed the last African team standing, of a victory in the neck of time.

In a display of "excellent" goalkeeping skills, the striker - Luis Suarez, made a controversial save for Uruguay. With both hands, Luis Suarez stopped the ball from making its way to the back of the net. The striker - turned goalkeeper - was sent off with a red card, but the damage had already been done.

It is immaterial to mention the fact that Ghana was awarded a penalty for this blatant display of unprofessional conduct, but with no time remaining, Ghana's Asamoah Gyan stepped up to the plate and lost the decisive penalty.

It is worth mentioning that the match proceeded to penalty shootout. At this stage, the demoralised Black Stars of Ghana - the youngest team in the FIFA World Cup 2010 tournament - lost to Uruguay. It is fair to say the better side lost!

As you would expect, many, including the coach of Uruguay - Oscar Tabarez, have justified this blatant display of cheating and unprofessional conduct.

Regardless of what you may think, Luis Suarez has gone down in history as the man who robbed Ghana of a historic place in the FIFA World Cup semi-finals, with a handball. He will be remembered as the man who robbed Africa of a historic victory at the FIFA World Cup 2010.

FIFA  should reform the rules applicable to such intentional fouls - fouls intended to prevent obvious goals. In such a case, a goal should be awarded, and the unscrupulous player sent off.

Photos: Courtesy Paul Fletcher's Blog and World Cup Blog

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