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"Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida, two former presidents of Nigeria, have put their differences aside and released a joint statement over the growing fear, uncertainty, and insecurity in Nigeria. The statement also called for the Federal Government to open talks with all groups that have been perpetrating violence acros the country, in order to find a lasting solution to the crisis that has engulfed the country."- Nigeria Exchange News
THE JOINT STATEMENT:
“Unfolding events in our dear motherland, Nigeria, over the last few years are threatening to unravel the nearly a century-old labour of our founding fathers and subsequent generations in building a strong, united, peaceful nation that can accommodate and cater for the needs and aspirations of our diverse communities. Internecine crises are raging across the land unabated with damaging consequences on the social, political and economic life of the nation. And in the process untold hardships are being visited on all citizens in one form or another on a daily basis.
The loss of innocent lives being experienced by the day across the nation is simply unbearable. Currently, the nation is gripped by a regime of fear and uncertainty that virtually all citizens have difficulties going about their normal day to day lives without great anxiety and trepidation. This cannot be allowed to continue.
A deeply worrying trend that is emerging from this terrible situation is that a pervasive cynicism is beginning to set in, so much so that millions of true Nigerian patriots are starting to question the platform upon which the unity of this country rests. This is simply untenable. The people of this country must not allow whatever sense of frustration, fear and despair we are experiencing now to supersede our hopes for a collective destiny which lies in our continued existence as a nation. For us, and we believe for millions of other Nigerians, the continued unity of this nation is not only priceless but non-negotiable.
While we are very much aware of the efforts various governments in the country are making to confront the escalating security challenges across the country, we believe that it is time that these efforts are scaled up to be more involving and inclusive. In this regard, whatever robust security measures are put in place to contain the situation, as is normal in such circumstances, they must be complemented with an equally intensive process of community involvement. We, therefore, urge all governments in the country, starting with all the 774 local councils to comprehensively engage their communities at the various levels including elders, youth organisations, trade unions and associations, women bodies, the clergy and other community stakeholders.
We also call on the Federal and states governments not only to encourage these grassroots engagements for peace and beneficial coexistence but should work out the framework to sustain the engagement. In all these efforts it is important to emphasise that our diversity is a cause for celebration not a cause for lamentations.
As the Holy Month of Ramadan commences, Nigerians wherever they are and whatever religion they profess are accorded a great opportunity to turn the tide against insecurity, violence and hatred. Religious leaders, in particular, have an even greater challenge to use the immense virtues of this holy period to inculcate among the millions of citizens the spirit of mutual respect, humility and forgiveness. Ample opportunities are therefore at hand to bring all armed belligerents to table for meaningful dialogue with the authorities for our future and that of our children and grandchildren.
Finally, we need to reiterate that no meaningful development can ever occur in an atmosphere of violence and hatred. History has shown that any society that is built on the structures of violence and intolerance cannot prosper. We need to appreciate that, God in His infinite mercy, has blessed our country with abundant resources and talents, but we need peace and harmony to harness them not just for our own well being but also that of our children and grandchildren. We owe this future generations of Nigerians this much.
On our part, we are ready to do whatever is possible to promote the quest for peace and harmony, a ready to join hands with all patriots to sustain and further enhance the unity and progress of this country.
Economic growth remains strong in Nigeria, with non-oil real gross domestic product (GDP) estimated to have grown at 8.3 percent in 2011 and overall real GDP at about 6.7 percent. Inflation slightly declined to 10.3 percent in December 2011 (year-on-year) from 11.7 percent a year earlier, in response to monetary tightening by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and moderation of food prices.
A modest fiscal consolidation took place in 2011. The non-oil primary deficit (NOPD) of the consolidated government is estimated to have narrowed slightly from about 34.6 percent of non-oil GDP in 2010 to 32.9 percent in 2011, mainly due to expenditure restraint at the federal government level. Higher oil prices helped shrink the overall fiscal deficit from 7.7 percent of GDP in 2010 to about 0.2 percent of GDP in 2011. Monetary policy was tightened substantially in 2011 in response to high inflation and strong foreign exchange demand. The central bank has gradually increased its overnight deposit rate by 900 basis points since September 2010 and tightened regulatory requirements. In November, it adjusted downward its soft band around the naira-US dollar exchange rate, and depreciation pressures on the naira have since abated. Financial soundness indicators point to continued improvements in the health of the banking system.
Growth is projected to remain robust in 2012 and inflation is projected to increase temporarily as a result of the increase in gasoline prices. The main downside risks to the short-term outlook are a further deterioration in the global environment and an exacerbation of current violence in northern Nigeria.
Executive Board Assessment
Executive Directors commended the authorities for countercyclical policies that have supported economic activity in challenging circumstances. Directors considered that the medium-term growth outlook remains favorable, although subject to external downside risks. Accordingly, they emphasized the continued need for policies to safeguard macroeconomic stability, diversify the economy, and make growth more inclusive.
Directors supported the authorities’ strategy to rebuild fiscal buffers through a better prioritization of public expenditure, continued subsidy reform, and improved tax administration. Efforts in these areas will also provide the necessary resources for targeted social programs and needed infrastructure. Directors endorsed the use of conservative oil price assumptions in the preparation of the budget but noted that only a comprehensive tax reform will reduce the budget’s dependence on oil revenues over the medium term.
Directors highlighted the importance of improving public financial management, including a stronger framework for managing Nigeria’s oil wealth. They welcomed the establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) and underscored that a rules-based approach to setting the budget reference oil price would strengthen the budgetary process and the operations of the SWF. In this regard, Directors recommended that outlays from the SWF’s infrastructure fund be integrated into the budget and medium-term expenditure plans.
Directors noted the monetary authorities’ commitment to further reduce inflation but considered that a pause in the tightening cycle is at present warranted. More broadly, they agreed that a monetary framework better focused on a clear inflation objective should help anchor inflation expectations and support disinflation. Greater exchange rate flexibility will also facilitate the pursuit of price stability.
Directors commended the authorities for their actions to resolve the recent banking crisis. The modalities of operation of the asset management corporation should continue to make sure that fiscal risks and moral hazard are minimized. Directors supported the central bank’s focus on strengthening supervision and the regulatory framework, including by addressing remaining deficiencies in the Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism regime. They also agreed that a Financial Sector Assessment Program update will help take stock of the progress so far and provide a road map for remaining reforms in the financial sector.
Directors concurred that wide-ranging reforms are needed to make growth more inclusive. They welcomed the authorities’ initiatives to improve the business climate and reform sectors with high employment potential, particularly agriculture. Directors encouraged the authorities to persevere with planned reforms in the energy sector under appropriate social safeguards.
Under Article IV of the IMF's Articles of Agreement, the IMF holds bilateral discussions with members, usually every year. A staff team visits the country, collects economic and financial information, and discusses with officials the country's economic developments and policies. On return to headquarters, the staff prepares a report, which forms the basis for discussion by the Executive Board. At the conclusion of the discussion, the Managing Director, as Chairman of the Board, summarizes the views of Executive Directors, and this summary is transmitted to the country's authorities.
IMF Executive Board Concludes 2011 Article IV Consultation with Nigeria
Public Information Notice (PIN) No. 12/20
February 28, 2012
"A recent demolition effort in a teeming, floating slum in Nigeria's largest city has some activists fearing the government may try to entirely destroy an area that is home to about 100,000 people. The Makoko slum rises out of the murky lagoon water separating mainland Nigeria from Lagos' islands. A government-led eviction last week that saw men in speedboats destroy homes with machetes there left about 3,000 people homeless. Some say the government's warnings about the demolition make it sound like the state wants to entirely destroy the area. But those in Makoko have created their own life independent from the state, with its own schools and clinics, however ill-equipped." -AP
Chamberlain Oguchi, former Illinois State basketball star is heading to London Olympic Games under the banner of Nigerian National Basketball Team. The graceful and energetic basketball player Oguchi will be a great asset to Nigerian team in London 2012 Olympic Games.
Oguchi while at Illinois State University (ISU) was the 2009 Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year. He was the leading Redbirds player averaging 15.2 points per game.
This is the first time in history that Nigeria qualified for Olympics in men’s basketball after defeating Dominican Republic. In the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Venezuela, Nigerian National Team defeated Dominican Republic 88-73.
Nigeria players, including Chamberlain Oguchi (9) and Ike Diogu (6), celebrate after upsetting Greece during the quarterfinals of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament on July 6. / By Leo Ramirez, AFP/Getty Images
Although, Chamberlain Oguchi was born in United States he is no stranger to Nigerian National basketball team. Oguchi has been playing for Nigerian National basketball team since he was 19 as reported by wjbc f Illinois news.
“It still hasn’t quite sunk in yet, that we’re going to the Olympics. Just being a part of this is monumental. I can’t explain how excited I am to do this,” Oguchi said as he expresses joy and satisfaction on Nigeria qualifying for 2012 London Olympic Games.
The Nigerian community in Houston, Texas is bubbling with excitement on the success of a home town boy. And Nigerian Americans are proud of their own going back home to represent our fatherland at the Olympic global arena in London.
Illinois State's Champ Oguchi advances the ball against Drake on Jan. 14, 2009, at Redbird Arena in Normal. (The Pantagraph/CARLOS T. MIRANDA)
Chamberlain Oguchi is the son of proud parents, Chief and Mrs. Godwin Oguchi (Ichie Ezediobi). His parents are residents of Texas and migrated to United States from Umuoji, Anambra State, Nigeria.
“For us to be able to accomplish what we’ve accomplished and knock off some of the top teams in the world, it was huge. The whole team felt like it was time for Nigeria to come together and qualify for the Olympics,” Champ Oguchi said as he prepares with his team mates for the next battle in London soil.
On July 29, Oguchi's Nigerian Basketball team will open Olympic play against Tunisia, at 3 a.m. CT (9 a.m. in London).
Ghana has a new president, John Dramani Mahama, former vice president who was sworn in by Chief Justice Theodora Georgina Wood after the sudden death of President Atta Mills. President Mahama, the new Commander in Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces will complete late President Mills remaining term that will elapse after the fortcoming December election.
John Dramani Mahama was born in 29 November 1958. He is a writer, historian and activist, who was known for fighting for the underclass. He also devoted his time in championing the cause of environmental enlightenment and campaigning against environmental degradation brought by plastic litering and discarding in West Africa.
"He was Vice President of Ghana from 2009 to 2012, and he took office as President on 24 July 2012 following the death of his predecessor, President John Atta Mills.A communications expert, historian, and writer, he was a Member of Parliament from 1997 to 2009; he was also Minister of Communications from 1998 to 2001.
He attended the Achimota Primary School and the University of Ghana, receiving a bachelor's degree in history in 1981 and a postgraduate degree in communication studies in 1986. Following this, Mahama traveled to the Institute of Social Sciences in Moscow, Soviet Union for further studies," Wikipedia reported.
Recently he was in United States and Britain to promote his book 'My First Coup d'État and Other True Stories From the Lost Decades of Africa.'
John Dramani Mahama (seated) being sworn in as President of Ghana
According to news report by AFP:
Mahama, according to a recently published memoir, grew up as a child of privilege. In the book, "My First Coup d'Etat -- And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa," he describes his experiences at an elite boarding school in the capital Accra, where he was drilled in the customs of Ghana's former colonial power, Britain.
"The history and prestige (of the Achimota boarding school) did not stop me from hating it," he wrote.
In the book's first chapter, he vividly recalls the day in 1966 when he learned Ghana's founding president Kwame Nkrumah was ousted in a military coup.
"When I look back on my life it's clear to me that this moment marked the awakening of my consciousness. It changed my life and influenced all the moments that followed," he wrote. His father, who served as junior minister in Nkrumah's government, was briefly detained and interrogated by the coup leaders.
Mahama described his journey around Accra, accompanied by an official from his school, in search of his father, who was later released unharmed.
John Mahama is a christian and a family man, who has been married to Lordina Mahama and blessed with seven children.
And I want to thank the leaders of the many countries who have joined us. I want to acknowledge my colleagues from the Administration and the Congress who have contributed so much to the fight against AIDS. But mostly, I want to salute all of the people who are here today who do the hard work that has given us the chance to stand here in 2012 and actually imagine a time when we will no longer be afflicted by this terrible epidemic and the great cost and suffering it has imposed for far too long. On behalf of all Americans, we thank you.
But I want to take a step back and think how far we have come since the last time this conference was held in the United States. It was in 1990 in San Francisco. Dr. Eric Goosby, who is now our Global AIDS Ambassador, ran a triage center there for all the HIV-positive people who became sick during the conference. They set up IV drug drips to rehydrate patients. They gave antibiotics to people with AIDS-related pneumonia. Many had to be hospitalized and a few died.
Even at a time when the world’s response to the epidemic was sorely lacking, there were places and people of caring where people with AIDS found support. But tragically, there was so little that could be done medically. And thankfully, that has changed. Caring brought action, and action has made an impact.
The ability to prevent and treat the disease has advanced beyond what many might have reasonably hoped 22 years ago. Yes, AIDS is still incurable, but it no longer has to be a death sentence. That is a tribute to the work of countless people around the world – many of whom are here at this conference, others who are no longer with us but whose contributions live on. And for decades, the United States has played a key role. Starting in the 1990s under the Clinton Administration, we began slowly to make HIV treatment drugs more affordable, we began to face the epidemic in our own country. And then in 2003, President Bush launched PEPFAR with strong bipartisan support from Congress and this country began treating millions of people.
Today under President Obama, we are building on this legacy. PEPFAR is shifting out of emergency mode and starting to build sustainable health systems that will help us finally win this fight and deliver an AIDS-free generation. It’s hard to overstate how sweeping or how crucial this change is. When President Obama took office, we knew that if we were going to win the fight against AIDS we could not keep treating it as an emergency. We had to fundamentally change the way we and our global partners did business.
So we’ve engaged diplomatically with ministers of finance and health, but also with presidents and prime ministers to listen and learn about their priorities and needs in order to chart the best way forward together. Now I will admit that has required difficult conversations about issues that some leaders don’t want to face, like government corruption in the procurement and delivery of drugs or dealing with injecting drug users, but it has been an essential part of helping more countries manage more of their own response to the epidemic.
We’ve also focused on supporting high-impact interventions, making tough decisions driven by science about what we will and will not fund. And we are delivering more results for the American taxpayer’s dollar by taking simple steps – switching to generic drugs, which saved more than $380 million in 2010 alone.
And crucially, we have vastly improved our coordination with the Global Fund. Where we used to work independently of each other, we now sit down together to decide, for example, which of us will fund AIDS treatment somewhere and which of us will fund the delivery of that treatment. That is a new way of working together for both of us, but I think it holds great results for all of us. Now all of these strategic shifts have required a lot of heavy lifting. But it only matters in the end if it means we are saving more lives – and we are.
Since 2009, we have more than doubled the number of people who get treatment that keeps them alive. We are also reaching far more people with prevention, testing, and counseling.
And I want publicly to thank, first and foremost, Dr. Eric Goosby, who has been on the front lines of all this work since the 1980s in San Francisco. He is somewhere in this vast hall, cringing with embarrassment, but more than anyone else, he had a vision for what PEPFAR needed to become and the tenacity to keep working to make it happen. And I want to thank his extraordinary partners here in this Administration, Dr. Tom Frieden at the Centers for Disease Control and Dr. Raj Shah at USAID.
Now, with the progress we are making together, we can look ahead to a historic goal: creating an AIDS-free generation. This is part of President Obama’s call to make fighting global HIV/AIDS at home and abroad a priority for this administration. In July 2010, he launched the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which has reinvigorated the domestic response to the epidemic – especially important here in Washington D.C., which needs more attention, more resources, and smarter strategies to deal with the epidemic in our nation’s capital.
And last November, at the National Institutes of Health, with my friend Dr. Tony Fauci there, I spoke in depth about the goal of an AIDS-free generation and laid out some of the ways we are advancing it through PEPFAR, USAID, and the CDC. And on World AIDS Day, President Obama announced an ambitious commitment for the United States to reach 6 million people globally with lifesaving treatment.
Now since that time I’ve heard a few voices from people raising questions about America’s commitment to an AIDS-free generation, wondering whether we are really serious about achieving it. Well, I am here today to make it absolutely clear: The United States is committed and will remain committed to achieving an AIDS-free generation. We will not back off, we will not back down, we will fight for the resources necessary to achieve this historic milestone.
I know that many of you share my passion about achieving this goal. In fact, one could say I am preaching to the choir. But right now, I think we need a little preaching to the choir. And we need the choir and the congregation to keep singing, lifting up their voices, and spreading the message to everyone who is still standing outside.
So while I want to reaffirm my government’s commitment, I’m also here to boost yours. This is a fight we can win. We have already come so far – too far to stop now.
I want to describe some of the progress we’ve made toward that goal and some of the work that lies ahead.
Let me begin by defining what we mean by an AIDS-free generation. It is a time when, first of all, virtually no child anywhere will be born with the virus. (Applause.) Secondly, as children and teenagers become adults, they will be at significantly lower risk of ever becoming infected than they would be today no matter where they are living. And third, if someone does acquire HIV, they will have access to treatment that helps prevent them from developing AIDS and passing the virus on to others.
So yes, HIV may be with us into the future until we finally achieve a cure, a vaccine, but the disease that HIV causes need not be with us.
As of last fall, every agency in the United States Government involved in this effort is working together to get us on that path to an AIDS-free generation. We’re focusing on what we call combination prevention. Our strategy includes condoms, counseling and testing, and places special emphasis on three other interventions: treatment as prevention, voluntary medical male circumcision, and stopping the transmission of HIV from mothers to children.
Since November, we have elevated combination prevention in all our HIV/AIDS work –including right here in Washington, which still has the highest HIV rate of any large city in our country. And globally, we have supported our partner countries shifting their investments toward the specific mix of prevention tools that will have the greatest impact for their people. For example, Haiti is scaling up its efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission, including full treatment for mothers with HIV, which will in turn, of course, prevent new infections. And for the first time, the Haitian Ministry of Health is committing its own funding to provide antiretroviral treatment.
We’re also making notable progress on the three pillars of our combination-prevention strategy. On treatment as prevention, the United States has added funding for nearly 600,000 more people since September, which means we are reaching nearly 4.5 million people now and closing in on our national goal of 6 million by the end of next year. That is our contribution to the global effort to reach universal coverage.
On male circumcision, we’ve supported more than 400,000 procedures since last December alone. And I’m pleased to announce that PEPFAR will provide an additional $40 million to support South Africa’s plans to provide voluntary medical circumcisions for almost half a million boys and men in the coming year. You know and we want the world to know that this procedure reduces the risk of female-to-male transmission by more than 60 percent and for the rest of the man’s life, so the impact can be phenomenal.
In Kenya and Tanzania, mothers asked for circumcision campaigns during school vacations so their teenage sons could participate. In Zimbabwe, some male lawmakers wanted to show their constituents how safe and virtually painless the procedure is, so they went to a mobile clinic and got circumcised. That’s the kind of leadership we welcome. And we are also seeing the development of new tools that would allow people to perform the procedure with less training and equipment than they need today without compromising safety. And when such a device is approved by the World Health Organization, PEPFAR is ready to support it right away.
And on mother-to-child transmission, we are committed to eliminating it by 2015, getting the number to zero. Over the years – we’ve invested more than $1 billion for this effort. In the first half of this fiscal year, we reached more than 370,000 women globally, and we are on track to hit PEPFAR’s target of reaching an additional 1.5 million women by next year. We are also setting out to overcome one of the biggest hurdles in getting to zero. When women are identified as HIV-positive and eligible for treatment, they are often referred to another clinic, one that may be too far away for them to reach. As a result too many women never start treatment.
Today, I am announcing that the United States will invest an additional $80 million to fill this gap. These funds – (applause) – will support innovative approaches to ensure that HIV-positive pregnant women get the treatment they need to protect themselves, their babies, and their partners. So let there be no mistake, the United States is accelerating its work on all three of these fronts in the effort to create an AIDS-free generation and look at how all these elements come together to make a historic impact.
In Zambia, we’re supporting the government as they step up their efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission. Between 2009 and 2011, the number of new infections went down by more than half. And we are just getting started. Together, we’re going to keep up our momentum on mother-to-child transmission. In addition, we will help many more Zambians get on treatment and support a massive scale-up of male circumcision as well, two steps that, according to our models, will drive down the number of new sexually transmitted infections there by more than 25 percent over the next 5 years. So as the number of new infections in Zambia goes down, it will be possible to treat more people than are becoming infected each year. So we will, for the first time, get ahead of the pandemic there. And eventually, an AIDS-free generation of Zambians will be in sight.
Think of the lives we will touch in Zambia alone – all the mothers and fathers and children who will never have their lives ripped apart by this disease. And now, multiply that across the many other countries we are working with. In fact, if you’re not getting excited about this, please raise your hand and I will send somebody to check your pulse.
But I know that creating an AIDS-free generation takes more than the right tools, as important as they are. Ultimately, it’s about people – the people who have the most to contribute to this goal and the most to gain from it. That means embracing the essential role that communities play – especially people living with HIV – and the critical work of faith-based organizations. We need to make sure we’re looking out for orphans and vulnerable children who are too often still overlooked in this epidemic.
And it will be no surprise to you to hear me say I want to highlight the particular role that women play. In Sub-Saharan Africa today, women account for 60 percent of those living with HIV. Women want to protect themselves from HIV and they want access to adequate health care. And we need to answer their call. PEPFAR is part of our comprehensive effort to meet the health needs of women and girls, working across United States Government and with our partners on HIV, maternal and child health, and reproductive health, including voluntary family planning and our newly launched Child Survival Call to Action.
Every woman should be able to decide when and whether to have children. This is true whether she is HIV-positive or not. And I agree with the strong message that came out of the London Summit on Family Planning earlier this month. There should be no controversy about this. None at all.
And across all of our health and development work, the United States is emphasizing gender equality because women need and deserve a voice in the decisions that affect their lives. And we are working to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, which puts women at higher risk for contracting the virus. And because women need more ways to protect themselves from HIV infection, last year we invested more than $90 million in research on microbicides. All these efforts will help close the health gap between women and men and lead to healthier families, communities, and nations as well.
If we’re going to create an AIDS-free generation, we also must address the needs of the people who are at the highest risk of contracting HIV. One recent study of female sex workers and those trafficked into prostitution in low and middle income-countries found that, on average, 12 percent of them were HIV-positive, far above the rates for women at large. And people who use injecting drugs account for about one third of all the people who acquire HIV outside of Sub-Saharan Africa. And in low-and middle income countries, studies suggest that HIV prevalence among men who have sex with male partners could be up to 19 times higher than among the general population.
Now over the years, I have seen and experienced how difficult it can be to talk about a disease that is transmitted the way that AIDS is. But if we’re going to beat AIDS, we can’t afford to avoid sensitive conversations, and we can’t fail to reach the people who are at the highest risk.
Unfortunately, today very few countries monitor the quality of services delivered to these high-risk key populations. Fewer still rigorously assess whether the services provided actually prevent transmission or do anything to ensure that HIV-positive people in these groups get the care and treatment they need. Even worse, some take actions that, rather than discouraging risky behavior, actually drives more people into the shadows, where the epidemic is that much harder to fight.
And the consequences are devastating for the people themselves and for the fight against HIV because when key groups are marginalized, the virus spreads rapidly within those groups and then also into the lower-risk general population. We are seeing this happen right now in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. Humans might discriminate, but viruses do not.
And there is an old saying that goes: “Why rob banks? Because that’s where the money is.” If we want to save more lives, we need to go where the virus is and get there as quickly as possible.
And that means science should guide our efforts. So today I am announcing three new efforts by the United States Government to reach key populations. We will invest $15 million in implementation research to identify the specific interventions that are most effective for each key population. We are also launching a $20 million challenge fund that will support country-led plans to expand services for key populations. And finally, through the Robert Carr Civil Society Network Fund, we will invest $2 million to bolster the efforts of civil society groups to reach key populations.
Now Americans are rightly proud of the leading role that our country plays in the fight against HIV/AIDS. And the world has learned a great deal through PEPFAR about what works and why. And we’ve also learned a great deal about the needs that are not being met and how everyone can and must work together to meet those needs.
For our part, PEPFAR will remain at the center of America’s commitment to an AIDS-free generation. I have asked Ambassador Dr. Goosby to take the lead on developing and sharing our blueprint of the goals and objectives for the next phase of our effort and to release this blueprint by World AIDS Day this year. We want the next Congress, the next Secretary of State, and all of our partners here at home and around the world to have a clear picture of everything we’ve learned and a roadmap that shows what we will contribute to achieving an AIDS-free generation.
Reaching this goal is a shared responsibility. It begins with what we can all do to help break the chain of mother-to-child transmission. And this takes leadership at every level – from investing in health care workers to removing the registration fees that discourage women from seeking care. And we need community and family leaders from grandmothers to religious leaders to encourage women to get tested and to demand treatment if they need it.
We also all have a shared responsibility to support multilateral institutions like the Global Fund. In recent months, as the United States has stepped up our commitment, so have Saudi Arabia, Japan, Germany, the Gates Foundation, and others. I encourage other donors, especially in emerging economies, to increase their contributions to this essential organization.
And then finally, we all have a shared responsibility to get serious about promoting country ownership – the end state where a nation’s efforts are led, implemented, and eventually paid for by its government, its communities, its civil society, its private sector.
I spoke earlier about how the United States is supporting country ownership, but we also look to our partner countries and donors to do their part. They can follow the example of the last few years in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, India, and other countries who are able to provide more and better care for their own people because they are committing more of their own resources to HIV/AIDS. And partner countries also need to take steps like fighting corruption and making sure their systems for approving drugs are as efficient as possible.
I began today by recalling the last time this conference was held here in the United States, and I want to close by recalling another symbol of our cause, the AIDS Memorial Quilt. For a quarter-century, this quilt has been a source of solace and comfort for people around the world, a visible way to honor and remember, to mourn husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, partners and friends.
Some of you have seen the parts of the quilt that are on view in Washington this week. I well remember the moment in 1996 when Bill and I went to the National Mall to see the quilt for ourselves. I had sent word ahead that I wanted to know where the names of friends I had lost were placed so that I could be sure to find them. When we saw how enormous the quilt was covering acres of ground, stretching from the Capitol building to the Washington Monument, it was devastating. And in the months and years that followed, the quilt kept growing. In fact, back in 1996 was the last time it could be displayed all at once. It just got too big. Too many people kept dying.
We are all here today because we want to bring about that moment when we stop adding names, when we can come to a gathering like this one and not talk about the fight against AIDS, but instead commemorate the birth of a generation that is free of AIDS.
Now, that moment is still in the distance, but we know what road we need to take. We are closer to that destination than we’ve ever been, and as we continue on this journey together, we should be encouraged and inspired by the knowledge of how far we’ve already come. So today and throughout this week let us restore our own faith and renew our own purpose so we may together reach that goal of an AIDS-free generation and truly honor all of those who have been lost.
Thank you all very much.
Hillary Clinton is the United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 19th International Aids Conference
Source: US State Department
Mills was 68. The unexpected death of the leader of the world's No. 2 cocoa grower comes months before he was due to stand for re-election in December.
Ghana, also a major African gold producer, started pumping oil in 2010 and posted double-digit growth in 2011, burnishing its image as an increasingly attractive investment destination on the continent. It was praised for its healthy democracy.
"It is with a heavy heart ... that we announce the sudden and untimely death of the president of the Republic of Ghana," a statement sent to Reuters by the president's office said.
Vice President John Dramani Mahama would be sworn in to replace Mills under Ghana's constitution, officials said.
The president's office said that Mills, who celebrated his 68th birthday on Saturday, died a few hours after being taken ill, but no further details were given.
A presidential aide, who asked not to be named, said the president had complained of pains on Monday evening and died early on Tuesday afternoon when his condition worsened.
Mills had returned from medical checks in the United States a few weeks ago.
Ghana's election commission said December's presidential and parliamentary elections would go ahead as planned.
"The election calendar remains unchanged - it's purely a party matter," election chief Kwadwo Afari-Gyan told Reuters, explaining that it was up to the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) to find a candidate to replace Mills.
PRAISE FROM OBAMA
Trained as a lawyer and taxation expert, Mills had overseen Ghana's emergence as one of Africa's newest oil producers two years ago, winning plaudits both at home and abroad for his sound economic policies and commitment to democracy and good governance.
In March, U.S. President Barack Obama received the Ghanaian president in the Oval Office and praised him and his country as "a good-news story" in Africa.
Previous rumors about Mills's possible ill health had swirled in the last few weeks and he traveled last month to the United States for medical treatment.
On that occasion, he had joked with reporters on his departure from the capital Accra about rumors of his death, asking them: "Are you seeing a person who has died?"
Mills, who won a close-fought, two-round election in 2008 by beating off rival Nana Akufo-Addo of the then-ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), was preparing to bid for a second term in polls set for December, once again against arch-foe Akufo-Addo.
Mills and his National Democratic Congress (NDC) party have had to manage high expectations among ordinary Ghanaians awaiting benefits from the country's oil production.
But he had always made a point of stressing the need for political stability in an often turbulent region - coups in Mali and Guinea-Bissau this year have blotted the continent's advances in democracy and governance.
"We are going to ensure that there is peace before, during, after the (December) election, because when there is no peace, it's not the elitists who will suffer, it's the ordinary people who have elected us into office," Mills told Obama in March.
Neighbor Ivory Coast has not been so peaceful, suffering months of violence last year after a disputed election. Near-neighbors Liberia and Sierra Leone suffered years of war.
Ghana has seen democratic elections decide its leadership no fewer than four times since the last military coup in 1981, a rare feat in a region where power is still just as often determined by the bullet as by the ballot.
Mills had served as vice-president to President Jerry Rawlings, a fiery former coup leader, who stood down in 2000 after two elected terms under the democratic constitution Rawlings himself had introduced.
Mills's 2008 victory was his third attempt at the presidency. He had lost twice to John Kufuor in elections in 2000 and 2004.
(Writing by David Lewis and Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Michael Roddy)
Five passengers in the vehicle were killed as they spilled out of the Mercedes-Benz SUV, including an 8-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy. Driver ran two red lights, slammed into a pillar, and rolled over.
Five people were killed, including two children, after leaving a Nigerian heritage celebration in Queens early Sunday when their speeding SUV, swerving after blowing through two red lights, slammed into a concrete pillar, rolled over and burst into flames, police and witnesses said.
The dead included Nnenna Obioha, 57, of Michigan, who helped organize the convention and was the founding president of immigrant group Arondizuogu Daughters Association, relatives said. Emergency workers said the crash of the black Mercedes-Benz SUV was one of the most horrific wrecks in recent memory.
In a significant expansion of the war on drugs, the United States has begun training an elite unit of counternarcotics police in Ghana and planning similar units in Nigeria and Kenya as part of an effort to combat the Latin American cartels that are increasingly using Africa to smuggle cocaine into Europe.
The growing American involvement in Africa follows an earlier escalation of antidrug efforts in Central America, according to documents, Congressional testimony and interviews with a range of officials at the State Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Pentagon.
In both regions, American officials are responding to fears that crackdowns in more direct staging points for smuggling — like Mexico and Spain — have prompted traffickers to move into smaller and weakly governed states, further corrupting and destabilizing them.
The aggressive response by the United States is also a sign of how greater attention and resources have turned to efforts to fight drugs as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have wound down.
“We see Africa as the new frontier in terms of counterterrorism and counternarcotics issues,” said Jeffrey P. Breeden, the chief of the D.E.A.’s Europe, Asia and Africa section. “It’s a place that we need to get ahead of — we’re already behind the curve in some ways, and we need to catch up.”
The initiatives come amid a surge in successful interdictions in Honduras since May — but also as American officials have been forced to defend their new tactics after a commando-style team of D.E.A. agents participated in at least three lethal interdiction operations alongside a squad of Honduran police officers. In one of those operations, in May, the Honduran police killed four people near the village of Ahuas, and in two others in the past month American agents have shot and killed smuggling suspects.
To date, officials say, the D.E.A. commando team has not been deployed to work with the newly created elite police squads in Africa, where the effort to counter the drug traffickers is said to be about three years behind the one in Central America.
The officials said that if Western security forces did come to play a more direct operational role in Africa, for historical reasons they might be European and not American.In May, William R. Brownfield, the assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement, a leading architect of the strategy now on display in Honduras, traveled to Ghana and Liberia to put the finishing touches on a West Africa Cooperative Security Initiative, which will try to replicate across 15 nations the steps taken in battling trafficking groups operating in Central America and Mexico.
Mr. Brownfield said the vision for both regions was to improve the ability of nations to deal with drug trafficking, by building up their own institutions and getting them to cooperate with one another, sharing intelligence and running regional law enforcement training centers.
But because drug traffickers have already moved into Africa, he said, there is also a need for the immediate elite police units that have been trained and vetted.
“We have to be doing operational stuff right now because things are actually happening right now,” Mr. Brownfield said.
Some specialists have expressed skepticism about the approach. Bruce Bagley, a professor at the University of Miami who focuses on Latin America and counternarcotics, said that what had happened in West Africa over the past few years was the latest example of the “Whac-A-Mole” problem, in which making trafficking more difficult in one place simply shifts it to another.
“As they put on the pressure, they are going to detour routes, but they are not going to stop the flow, because the institutions are incredibly weak — I don’t care how much vetting they do,” Professor Bagley said. “And there is always blowback to this. You start killing people in foreign countries — whether criminals or not — and there is going to be fallout.”
American government officials acknowledge the challenges, but they are not as pessimistic about the chances of at least pushing the trafficking organizations out of particular countries. And even if the intervention leads to an increase in violence as organizations that had operated with impunity are challenged, the alternative, they said, is worse.
“There is no such thing as a country that is simply a transit country, for the very simple reason that the drug trafficking organization first pays its network in product, not in cash, and is constantly looking to build a greater market,” Mr. Brownfield said. “Regardless of the name of the country, eventually the transit country becomes a major consumer nation, and at that point they have a more serious problem.”
The United Nations says that cocaine smuggling and consumption in West Africa have soared in recent years, contributing to instability in places like Guinea-Bissau. Several years ago, a South American drug gang tried to bribe the son of the Liberian president to allow it to use the country for smuggling. Instead, he cooperated with the D.E.A., and the case resulted in convictions in the United States.
Even more ominous, according to American officials, was a case in which a militant group called Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb offered three of its operatives to help ship tons of cocaine through North Africa into Europe — all to raise money to finance terrorist attacks. The case ended this past March with conviction and sentencing in federal court in New York.
American counternarcotics assistance for West Africa has totaled about $50 million for each of the past two years — up from just $7.5 million in 2009, according to the State Department. The D.E.A. also is opening its first country office in Senegal, officials said, and the Pentagon has worked with Cape Verde to establish a regional center to detect drug-smuggling ships.
While the agency has not sponsored units in West Africa before, it has long worked with similar teams — which are given training, equipment and pay while being subjected to rigorous drug and polygraph testing — in countries around the world whose security forces are plagued by corruption, including the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama.
It is routine for D.E.A. agents who are assigned to mentor the specially trained and screened units to accompany them on raids, but it has been unusual for Americans to kill suspects. Several former agents said the recent cases in Honduras suggested that the D.E.A. had been at the vanguard of the operations there rather than merely serving as advisers in the background.
By contrast, the effort in West Africa is still at the beginning stages, officials say. But the problems there are the same — and growing. Officials described one instance in which a methamphetamine lab was discovered in Africa, with documents suggesting that it had been set up by a Mexican trafficking organization. William F. Wechsler, the Pentagon’s top counternarcotics officer, said that observing drug traffickers’ advances into West Africa, and the response from American and local authorities, was like watching a rerun of the drug war in this hemisphere in years past.
“West Africa is now facing a situation analogous to the Caribbean in the 1980s, where small, developing, vulnerable countries along major drug-trafficking routes toward rich consumers are vastly under-resourced to deal with the wave of dirty money coming their way,” he said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
First Published July 22, 2012 1:01 pm
'Look, if you've been successful, you did not get there on your own. When we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative but also because we do things together." So said President Obama, campaigning in Roanoke Virginia, last week. He went on: "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help".
He listed great teachers, government research, roads and bridges and the whole fabric of the American system as various ways in which "somebody along the line" would have contributed to your success. This was the essence of the social liberalism of the great British thinker Leonard Hobhouse, but now championed by a United States president. Hobhouse passionately argued that capitalist wealth was co-created by the interaction of society, social capital and the entrepreneur. Government investment, financed properly by taxation, was the precondition for a successful capitalism.
Fox News, self-appointed 21st-century American custodian of free-enterprise capitalism, rather as Pravda guarded communism, was on to the issue like a flash. In my New York hotel, I watched an overheated Fox commentator begin railing about socialism and before long Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took up Fox News' cue as is mandatory for any Republican politician. The speech really "reveals what he [Mr Obama] thinks about our country, about free enterprise, about individual initiative, about America," he declared. "Did you build your business? If you did, raise your hand." Hands, pre-arranged, shot up. "Take that, Mr President," he finished.
The slowest and most faltering economic recovery since World War II was already triggering anxious questions about how to regain American economic dynamism, but Romney's presidential candidacy has crystallised a fundamental debate about capitalism that will spill over into Britain. It is a potential turning point in both countries. For Romney, whose fortune was made at Bain Capital, the private equity company he co-founded, owned and ran, embodies all the ills (or strengths, if you are so-minded) of a capitalism dominated by financial engineering, with companies as casino chips. It proved Romney's downfall when challenging Ted Kennedy in the race for the Senate in Massachusetts in 1994. The Democrats are determined to make it his downfall a second time round. Bain Capital was, and is, a quintessential product of the 25-year boom in credit and asset prices that began in the early 1980s. Romney spotted the opportunity. He would raise money from private investors, saying the aim was to deploy Bain's consultancy techniques on pre-established companies carefully bought for their turn-round potential. This, coupled with significant leverage, would guarantee sky-high financial returns, not least for Romney.
The public understands that if you finance buying a house with a bank providing 90% of the asking price, and the house doubles in value, then your own 10% stake multiples elevenfold. Romney would apply the same logic not to the wealth-generating activity of starting innovative companies but to buying existing companies. Banks were only too keen to lend vast sums of money for such schemes, as they did right up to the financial crash in 2008. The companies' own profits would service Bain's debt.
Bain Capital would make the company more valuable—taking production offshore to low-cost countries, selling off redundant land, slashing research and investment budgets. And the general rise in property prices would help matters still more. When the companies' profits had risen, they would then be floated on the stock market for a much higher price and, hey presto, everybody got very rich.
President Obama Photo: mail &Guardian
Trail of disasters
Private equity has always been controversial. A few mature and poorly managed companies have benefited from the private equity treatment, but it became a huge industry dedicated to deal-making, extravagant leverage and self-enrichment, leaving a trail of disasters in its wake. In Britain, EMI has been emasculated by Guy Hands's private equity fund and now looks likely to be swallowed up by Universal. US journalist Josh Kosman in The Buyout of America writes that many of the companies in the biggest PE deals in the 1990s fared worse than had the taken-over companies stayed independent. He identifies five companies—Stage Store, American Pad and Paper, GS Industries, Dade Behring and Details, all of which paid lavish dividends and fees to Bain before filing for bankruptcy.
For private equity is not at core about creating value through innovation and investment. That would need private equity owners to take another risk (the results from innovation are uncertain) on top of the leverage risk, hardly the point of the deal. Instead, the overriding requirement is to fatten up the company so it can be resold on the public markets to deliver great capital profits, just as Obama says.
Bain Capital is part of the problem, not the solution. The private equity recipe has ripped the heart out of innovative US while leaving its banks encumbered by massive non-performing debts. The business model is now broken and the US has to start to ask questions about whether the Bain type of allegedly individualist capitalism really delivers growth and jobs. As the answer is: no, what does?
Obama has begun the counter-argument. Innovation is necessarily about taking risks and unless there are mechanisms to share them between the private and public sectors, the risks and innovation are necessarily not undertaken. "The internet didn't get invented on its own," Obama argued. "Government research created the internet so that all the companies could make money off the internet."
He could have gone much further. The same is true of industries ranging from aerospace to pharmaceuticals. The whole ecosystem in which innovation is housed—patents, copyright, finance, universities, research, knowledge transfer, ownership rules, regulation to ensure common standards—is co-created between the public and the private. Innovative entrepreneurs and companies are in a continuous trial-and-error relationship with their customers, suppliers and outsiders, not isolated in an individualistic silo.
The Fox News charge that this is socialism is bewildering and dangerous nonsense. Anglo-American capitalism, mired in debt, low investment and out-innovated by its competitors in Asia and Germany, is at a crossroads. What is clearer than ever is that the conservatives' response is dumb. If Obama and the Democrats can beat them in the US it will have global ramifications—a chance to recognise what really makes good capitalism work. At last, it is game on.
WILL HUTTON, writes for Mail & Guardian South Africa