By Francis Ghiles Senior researcher, Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB)
Shoppers at a supermarket in Tunis, 12 November 2012 Food prices are rising in Tunisian supermarkets
Two years have passed since poverty-stricken Tunisians began an uprising that ejected their corrupt ruling family and sparked revolution across the Arab world.
Since then, the Tunisians have held orderly elections, ushering in a coalition government, and made progress on drafting a new, democratic constitution. But all is not well and Tunisia today stands at the crossroads. Both economic and political factors are at play.
The economy is drifting, becoming ever more hostage to politics. Strong headwinds from Europe, which absorbs 75% of Tunisia exports, make the challenge of economic recovery more difficult.
Escalating disputes between the labour unions and employers are threatening to derail economic recovery: workers argue they are seeking rights which were denied by the ousted regime, while business leaders and foreign investors say union demands are impossible to meet.
German car supplier Leoni is negotiating the closure of one of its largest plants, south of Tunis. Other investors are putting new investment on hold until uncertainty abates.
Unemployment has climbed from 14.9% to 18% since December 2010 and food prices are rising. The current account deficit will amount to more than 7% of GDP for the second year running and capital flight is on the rise. The estimated 2% rebound of GDP this year is hardly noteworthy when compared with the 1.5% decline last year.
The government's decision to sack the respected governor of the central bank, Mustafa Nabli, in June was followed by the resignation of the minister of finance, Houcine Dimassi, who accused the government of being "more concerned about winning votes than about the health of public finances".
The Islamist Ennahda-dominated government seems unconcerned about the deteriorating state of the economy. Will the US, the EU and multinational institutions continue to support Tunisia to the tune of $1.3bn, as they have done these past two years?
The Islamist Ennahda party, supported by Qatar, which now rules in coalition with two smaller parties, including the Congress for the Republic party of President Moncef Marzouki, has done little to stop the escalation of violence which led a mob of its supporters and bearded flag-burning zealots to attack the US mission and burn the American school in Tunis two months ago.
Tunisian central bank The central bank's governor was fired on 27 June
A videotape showing the paramount leader of the Islamists, Rachid Ghannouchi, meeting and apparently co-ordinating policy with the same Salafists - some of whom have the support of Saudi Arabia and call for all foreign investors and tourists to be banned from Tunisia - has humiliated a force once seen as unstoppable.
The Islamist Prime Minister, Hamadi Jebali, was further humiliated by the success of the two-day conference called by the powerful Tunisian Trades Union Movement (UGTT) three weeks ago. The leaders of all the major political forces in the country attended except Ennahda, which saw the meeting as circumventing their domination of the process of writing a new constitution. Other acts of violence are causing concern.
Beji Caid Essebsi, Tunisia's first post-revolution prime minister, has succeeded in pulling badly fragmented liberal and leftists forces together since he founded the Nidha Tunes (The Call From Tunis) party four months ago, while Islamists' recent missteps and thuggery have eroded their popularity. Mr Essebsi called the death of one of his party's senior officials, Lotfi Naguedh, a "political assassination".
Mr Naguedh's death last month came days before an Amnesty International report spoke of human rights "being reversed". Tombs of local Sufi shrines, such as the Sayida Manouba in Tunis, are being destroyed by Salafist zealots, in a pattern all too familiar in neighbouring Tripoli and Timbuktu.
Drift into violence
As it battles to impose censorship on the media, the government last summer appointed a former police officer who had been condemned for corruption and barred from holding public office, Lotfi Touati, to run the state-owned Assabah press group. This prompted some of the journalists to go on hunger strike.
The first-ever general strike of journalists in the history of the country followed. Despite these pressures, new websites offering high-quality news such as Kapitalis, launched by experienced journalist Ridha Kefi in 2010, are flourishing.
The recent drift into violence has confirmed that the Islamists have organisational capacity, popular support and international connections which their opponents appeared to lack. In Tunisia, however, the strength of liberal and leftist reaction is becoming more evident by the day, as many men and women are prepared to fight for what they believe is a modern vision of their country, whose founder, Habib Bourguiba, granted women equal rights in 1956.
Rachid Ghannouchi is the true puppetmaster of the Tunisian government. Ahead of last year's elections, he threatened to order troops onto the streets of Tunis if the minimum threshold of votes he expected Ennahda candidates to receive did not materialise.
Now he warns that Nidha Tunes supporters are "more dangerous than Salafists". Were this exercise in calculated ambiguity to continue until the general elections announced for June 2013, the damage to the fabric of Tunisian economy and body politic would be enormous.
Sarkozy to be questioned in Bettencourt donations scandal
File image of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy The allegations relate to the financing of Mr Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign
Continue reading the main story
French ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy has arrived at a court in Bordeaux to be questioned over allegations he received illegal campaign donations in 2007.
Mr Sarkozy is suspected of accepting thousands of euros from L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, the country's richest woman.
Police raided his home and offices in July as part of an inquiry ordered by investigating judge Jean-Michel Gentil.
Mr Sarkozy, who lost presidential immunity in May, denies all wrongdoing.
Although he has stepped back from frontline politics since his defeat by Socialist challenger Francois Hollande, Mr Sarkozy is rumoured still to harbour ambitions of running for re-election in 2017, the BBC's Christian Fraser in Paris reports.
The outcome of the investigation could determine whether the former president will make his widely anticipated return, our correspondent says.
Judge Gentil is leading the investigation into allegations that staff acting for Mrs Bettencourt gave 150,000 euros (£120,600) in cash to Mr Sarkozy's aides during his successful 2007 campaign to become president.
Individual campaign contributions in France are limited to 4,600 euros.
Mrs Bettencourt's former accountant, Claire Thibout, alleges Mr Sarkozy's campaign treasurer at the time - Eric Woerth, who later became budget minister - collected the cash in person.
She also revealed in a leaked police interview that Mr Sarkozy, while mayor of Neuilly from 1983 to 2002, paid "regular" visits to the Bettencourt house, our correspondent says.
The former president has dismissed as mere gossip claims that he took envelopes stuffed with cash.
Mr Woerth, who was forced to resign as UMP party treasurer in July as a result of the scandal, is already under formal investigation over the 150,000 euro payment allegations.
The allegations surrounding Mr Sarkozy and Mr Woerth first surfaced in connection with a trial over the estimated 17bn euro fortune of Mrs Bettencourt, 87, whose father founded the L'Oreal cosmetics giant.
Both Mr Woerth and Mr Sarkozy deny any wrongdoing, as does Mrs Bettencourt.
PS: I wonder why this man has not been sent to the Hague for committing crimes against humanity and the destruction of entire countries? With regard to this article ...it is just ridiculous as if Lady Betancourt is the only rich person that bankrolled him. I could name several more.
TUNIS, Tunisia - Tunisia's prime minister accused opposition parties and unions Thursday of provoking three days of violent clashes and pleaded for patience while the government tackles the nation's economic problems.
The army had to intervene Thursday between police and protesters in the interior town of Siliana to stave off another day of clashes as striking residents demanded jobs, government investment and the resignation of the local governor.
Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali accused leftist opposition parties and unions for being behind the general strike in Siliana that degenerated into stone-throwing clashes with police, who tried to disperse protesters with tear gas and shotguns.
"The only loser in these troubles is the democratic edifice that the government is trying to put into place," he said at a press conference. "These people don't want democracy, just chaos and destruction."
The local hospital said the riots had left more than 300 people, including at least a dozen in danger of losing their eyesight from shotgun pellets.
Some 15,000 people marched through the town Thursday to call for the governor's resignation. They then clashed with police until the army moved in to restore order, witness Mouldi Kenzizi told The Associated Press.
Siliana is in the North African nation's poor interior, which has long suffered from a lack of jobs and investment — a situation that has only become worse since the overthrow of President Zine Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.
Residents said they were demonstrating Thursday in response to the government's continued refusal to dismiss the unpopular governor, Ahmed Mahoubi, a member of the Islamist Ennahda Party that dominates the government.
Residents of neighboring towns joined Thursday's protest march and there were also demonstrations in solidarity throughout the province and in the capital — including attacks on police posts and headquarters of the Ennahda Party.
Siliana residents were also calling for the release of 14 people arrested 20 months ago and still being held without trial.
Tunisia's economy, based in large part on European tourism and exports, has suffered after the revolution and with the European economic crisis. On Tuesday, the World Bank approved a $500 million loan to help support reforms in the financial sector to encourage investment and growth.
Jebali said there would be an independent investigation into the causes of the clashes.
"We do not have a magic wand to satisfy all the needs of the population in just 10 months, but we are open to a dialogue with all parties to work together," he said.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Protests grow as Islamists in Egypt rush through a new constitution
Saturday 01 December 2012
Egypt hit by strike threats after assembly backs President's power grab 'project'
Egypt's opposition groups were scrambling to mount a challenge to their Islamist foes, as Tahrir Square was once again packed with protesters, and newspapers and television channels prepared to go on strike in protest over President Mohamed Morsi's recent power grab.
The rally came after the nation's constituent assembly, an Islamist-dominated body which many liberals and secularists wanted dissolved, added the finishing touches to Egypt's new national charter in the early hours of yesterday. Hossam el-Gheriyani, chairman of the assembly, said during a live broadcast of the final session that officials would call Mr Morsi and inform him that "the project of the constitution is completed".
The President is due to sign the document today before a referendum in mid-December. At the urging of the Brotherhood, the drafting process was completed two months earlier than planned, to avoid an expected legal challenge by Egypt's judiciary. The finished document has been derided by some analysts for its clumsy language, and was rushed through after dozens of secularists, women and Christians resigned from the assembly. Many were replaced by Islamists, and Human Rights Watch – while noting that the constitution safeguarded some key rights – said the final draft was "flawed and contradictory".
Tens of thousands of Islamists are expected to rally today in support of Mr Morsi outside Cairo University. An original plan to protest in Tahrir Square was aborted following fears of clashes with the opposition protesters. But given the apparent unwillingness of either side to retreat, there are continuing fears that the political brinkmanship will spill over on to the street.
A number of private TV channels and newspapers plan to strike next week in response to the President's decree and the fast-track constitution.
In an attempt to shield himself from the gathering storm, Mr Morsi issued a televised appeal for calm late on Thursday. He explained that last week's presidential decree, which granted him unprecedented powers, was a temporary measure designed to speed the democratic transition. Mr Morsi's declaration led to a partial strike by judges incensed that their powers of oversight had been abrogated. "It will end as soon as the people vote on a constitution," the President said. "There is no place for dictatorship."
But amid the tents and talking-circles of Tahrir Square yesterday, the mood was uncompromising. "I'm a Muslim, but the Brotherhood are not Muslims at all," said Amgad Bashir, a member of Mohamed ElBaradei's Al-Dostour Party. "They do not understand religion and they do not understand the teachings of the Prophet Mohamed. Morsi is running a one-man show."
The chaos of the past two weeks has given Egypt's often disparate secular and liberal opposition a standard to rally around. Yet amid the contending political egos and divergent manifestos, it remains unclear how much unity they can actually bring to bear on Mr Morsi. It also seems likely that the highly organised Brotherhood will get the result it wants in any referendum.
Hossam Moanis, a spokesman for the leftist Popular Current party, said the opposition will continue its defiance. "We will carry on demonstrating, and maybe we can raise the pressure by using civil strikes," he said.
Islamists rally behind Morsi as Egypt's rifts widen
Saturday 01 December 2012
Islamist crowds demonstrated in Cairo today in support of President Mohamed Morsi, who is racing through a constitution to try to defuse opposition fury over his newly expanded powers.
Many thousands assembled outside Cairo University, waving Egyptian flags and green Islamist emblems to show their backing for the president and the constitution he is promoting.
Mursi was expected later in the day to set a date for a referendum on the constitution hastily approved by an Islamist-dominated drafting assembly on Friday after a 19-hour session.
Mohamed Ibrahim, a hardline Salafi Islamist scholar and a member of the constituent asssembly, said secular-minded Egyptians had been in a losing battle from the start.
"They will be sure of complete popular defeat today in a mass Egyptian protest that says 'no to the conspiratorial minority, no to destructive directions and yes for stability and sharia (Islamic law)'," he told Reuters.
Demonstrators, many of them bussed in from the countryside, held pro-constitution banners. Some read "Islam is coming", "Yes to stability" and "No to corruption".
Tens of thousands of Egyptians had protested against Mursi on Friday and rival demonstrators threw stones after dark in Alexandria and the Nile Delta town of Al-Mahalla Al-Kobra.
"The people want to bring down the regime," they chanted in Cairo's Tahrir Square, echoing the slogan that rang out there less than two years ago and brought down Hosni Mubarak.
Mursi plunged Egypt into a new crisis last week when he gave himself extensive powers and put his decisions beyond judicial challenge, saying this was a temporary measure to speed Egypt's democratic transition until the new constitution is in place.
His assertion of authority in a decree issued on Nov. 22, a day after he won world praise for brokering a Gaza truce between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement, dismayed his opponents and widened divisions among Egypt's 83 million people.
Two people have been killed and hundreds wounded in protests by disparate opposition forces drawn together and re-energised by a decree they see as a dictatorial power grab.
Mursi has alienated many of the judges who must supervise the referendum. His decree nullified the ability of the courts, many of them staffed by Mubarak-era appointees, to strike down his measures, although says he respects judicial independence.
A source at the presidency said Mursi might rely on the minority of judges who support him to supervise the referendum.
Mursi, once a senior Muslim Brotherhood figure, has put his liberal, leftist, Christian and other opponents in a bind. If they boycott the referendum, the constitution would pass anyway.
If they secured a "no" vote to defeat the draft, the president could retain the powers he has unilaterally assumed.
And Egypt's quest to replace the basic law that underpinned Mubarak's 30 years of army-backed one-man rule would also return to square one, creating more uncertainty in a nation in dire economic straits and seeking a $4.8 billion loan from the IMF. Mursi's well-organised Muslim Brotherhood and its ultra-orthodox Salafi allies, however, are convinced they can win the referendum by mobilising their own supporters and the millions of Egyptians weary of political turmoil and disruption.
"There is no place for dictatorship," the president said on Thursday while the constituent assembly was still voting on a constitution which Islamists say enshrines Egypt's new freedoms.
Human rights groups have voiced misgivings, especially about articles related to women's rights and freedom of speech.
The text limits the president to two four-year terms, requires him to secure parliamentary approval for his choice of prime minister, and introduces a degree of civilian oversight over the military - though not enough for critics.
The draft constitution also contains vague, Islamist-flavoured language that its opponents say could be used to whittle away human rights and stifle criticism.
For example, it forbids blasphemy and "insults to any person", does not explicitly uphold women's rights and demands respect for "religion, traditions and family values".
The draft injects new Islamic references into Egypt's system of government but retains the previous constitution's reference to "the principles of sharia" as the main source of legislation.
"We fundamentally reject the referendum and constituent assembly because the assembly does not represent all sections of society," said Sayed el-Erian, 43, a protester in Tahrir and member of a party set up by opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei.
Several independent newspapers said they would not publish on Tuesday in protest. One of the papers also said three private satellite channels would halt broadcasts on Wednesday.
Egypt cannot hold a new parliamentary election until a new constitution is passed. The country has been without an elected legislature since a court ordered the dissolution of the Islamist-dominated lower house in June.
Tunisian president should remember what he is in the gov't for: to serve his country. Morsi is behaving as predictable, taking over the power with the Brotherhood. Let's hope it doesn't turn into Iran again. People have the power! I wish el-Baradei would do more against him.
Coimbra tem mais encanto na hora da... chegada!
Less than a week after Forbes Magazine chronicled the list of 40 richest Africans in which 11 of them were Nigerians; another different list emerged that was unfavourable to Nigeria.
The quantification and tabulation by Forbes, maintained that Aliko Dangote was still the richest person in Africa for two consecutive years, 2011 and 2012 respectively. Many Nigerians were probably proud to have one of their own at the top of the list. Of course, Dangote works for his money and has been providing jobs to Nigerians. He is part of the solution by heavily investing in Nigeria and Africa, unlike those that siphoned their wealth abroad.
And here comes the bombshell, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a sister company of The Economist magazine, complied a list of its 2013 Where-to-be-born Index and of the 80 countries evaluated, quantified and covered, Nigeria comes last in the ranking at 80 out of 80: "it is the worst place for a baby to enter the world in 2013." This is beyond just a bad news, it is depressing, no matter how you look at it.
Nigeria is among the worst and miserable places for wealth redistribution and income inequality in the world. An oil and mineral resources rich nation, where less than 1% of the population controls about 99.5% of the country's wealth. This implies that Nigeria wealth distribution is more like a pyramid with tiny wealthy class at the top and large base of poor and destitutes at the bottom. No country can progress without a thriving middle class. Nigeria does not have a middle class, but few very rich and the large very poor. This is a pathway to gloom and doom, not a recipe for winning a future.
Nigeria a nation of private jet owners, tantalizing cars and expensive wine drinkers, is also a nation of massive homelessness, joblessness, disease infected water and starvation. Many women and children go to bed at nights on empty stomach with malaria infected bodies. Nigeria is the only oil exporting nation without reasonable electricity, drinking water and health care facilities.
Wole Shadare and Faith Oparugo, writing in Guardian News on Nigeria's growing ownership of private jets wrote:
"WITH Nigeria holding the record of a country with the highest private jet ownership in Africa, the aviation sector has brought into sharp relief the paradox of a nation that is endowed with huge oil resources but where only a few are wealthy.
In a country where the average Nigerian lives on less than $1 a day, there is a super rich class of business moguls, bankers, preachers, politicians and oil magnates whose private ownership of jets is more than that of any other country. While the rich can afford such luxuries, the economic crisis in the nation is seen in a situation where the aviation sector needs financial succour from the Federal Government.
According to an official of Bombardier, the Canadian aircraft manufacturer, Nigeria ranks behind the United States, United Kingdom, and China among countries that top their orders for the supply of the aircraft type; just as there are indications that N1.30 trillion may have been expended in the last seven years. Nigeria is said to top the market for private jet ownership."
Well this time around, the country of jet owners has been classified as the worst place to be born in the world.
What does this really mean? Well, it is loaded and this is not good for Nigeria and Nigerians. Without being defensive as usual, the world is actually losing the hope they bestowed on Nigeria.
Nigeria is not a confidence nation and Nigeria without doubt, rely on how the rest of the world sees her. This is important because the world is telling Nigeria that her so-called image re-branding and public relation are not working. The most important image re-branding is doing the right thing, not tricking people to think otherwise.
The Economist Intelligence Unit assessment actually means that among the poorest countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia, Nigeria is the worst place to be born in 2013. Cynics and realistic Nigeria may refute such an assumption and conclusion, but that may not be necessary because they do not have the bigger microphone to dispute EIU assertion and convince the rest of the world that Nigeria is the 'best' country to be born.
Nigerians do not have access to media industry as big as CNN, BBC or EIU that can easily dispense and dissipate information to all the four corners of the world. Therefore Nigeria has to lick her wound and move on as usual. Nigeria is now becoming like a football to be kicked around without any consequences because our leaders and policy makers are so inconsequential in global affairs and do not command any respect.
Is Nigeria really the worst place to be born? The answer depends on who is answering the question. Of course the fat cats and politicians will resoundingly say NO, but the average Nigerian without food, electricity and drinking water will say YES.
But it is also easy to pick on Nigeria, because of its management failure. Nigeria's natural and human resources have not been properly managed, due to weaken internal mechanism of operandi . This is the principal factor that deterred her from greatness and parked her where she found herself today.
Nigeria can be a miserable place for our youths whose unemployment rate is at a disastrous and alarming level. Our youths are poorly educated, and less than 5% of them are gainfully employed. This means that 95% of Nigerian youths are roaming the streets without purpose and employments. The implication of this scenario is crime, restlessness and vandalism that are running rampant among energetic youths and elusive minds.
The rate of joblessness for the entire country is alarming, Nigerians without full employment should be approaching 75-80%. The operating word is 'full employment' and when an individual is fully employed, it means that he is not underemployed and he can survive comfortably from the gainful employment.
Nigerian wealthy class are known for spending their fortunes in foreign lands. Big shops in places like Dubai, London and many others cannot be satiated until wealthy Nigerians step into their expensive stores and impressed them with hard currencies. At same time it must be clearly clarified that spending one's earned income is his right. But when the rich could not utilize their disposal income to help boast the well-being of their country, then there is a problem.
Nigeria must be serious about improving the quality of life and well-being of her people. The brain drain occurring in Nigeria is not healthy for the most populous country in Africa. Nigeria needs all the brain power it can muster and as much as it can gather to improve her economy for her poor citizens. There are emerging leaders and active Nigerians that are rising to the challenge of making their nation better but the critical mass has not been approached.
As The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) narrated: the "quality-of-life index links the results of subjective life-satisfaction surveys—how happy people say they are—to objective determinants of the quality of life across countries. Being rich helps more than anything else, but it is not all that counts; things like crime, trust in public institutions and the health of family life matter too. In all, the index takes 11 statistically significant indicators into account. They are a mixed bunch: some are fixed factors, such as geography; others change only very slowly over time (demography, many social and cultural characteristics); and some factors depend on policies and the state of the world economy."
Corruption has arrested affirmative development in Nigeria. The country must slow down corruption to be able to win the future for posterity. Corruption has become so bad in Nigeria, that even sports, the only institution that Nigerians collectively adored has been touched by corruption. The Nigerian Green Eagles coach recently narrated how bribery and corruption played a role in selection of the players.
Nigerians are becoming sick and tired of hearing Nigeria called, " the most corrupt, the worst country, the bad and the ugly". For once Nigerians desire to be proud to announce to all and sundry - We are Nigerians without anybody reminding them how backward, corrupt or bad Nigeria is. When is that going to happen? Or Nigerians asking too much?
Emeka Chiakwelu, Principal Policy Strategist at Afripol. Africa Political & Economic Strategic Center (AFRIPOL) is foremost a public policy center whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise, democracy, sustainable green environment, human rights, conflict resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa.firstname.lastname@example.org
Uncertain: President Goodluck Jonathan is liked but there is concern that he lacks the backbone to steer changes
If President Goodluck Jonathan succeeds in just one thing – turning on more lights – Nigerians may forgive him for falling short on other fronts.
Having risen serendipitously through ruling party ranks to reach the top in 2010, following the death in office of his predecessor, and then on to win elections last year, the affable, former zoology lecturer has made reforming the power sector his priority.
A decade of rapid economic expansion on the back of high oil prices and a boom in services has delivered greater prosperity and confidence to parts of Nigeria’s south – notably Lagos, the commercial capital, and more recently the oil-producing Niger delta from where Mr Jonathan hails.
But the development of the mainly Muslim north has been left trailing dangerously, at the same time as the region’s elites are smarting from a loss of political power. It is not entirely coincidental that an Islamist insurgency has taken root, its rank and file peopled by young men with little hope of finding jobs.
Conventional wisdom has it that the country will struggle to turn the corner in a more balanced and stable way if it fails to resolve the greatest impediment to growth and investment: electricity shortages. Last-minute vacillation by the government has nevertheless come close to stalling the privatisation programme on which hopes rest following the failure of past multibillion-dollar attempts to improve supplies via state investment.
In the epicentre of Nigerian deal making – the Abuja Hilton – successful bidders expecting to take over power plants and distribution networks went in a short space of time from celebrating breakfast over champagne to staring disconsolately into their coffee. Mr Jonathan’s decision in mid November to revoke a transmission management contract perplexed the experts, unnerved the bankrollers and caused dismay. The president saw his mistake – caused by turf wars among officials – and back pedalled again last week. But the confusion had already reinforced the impression of an administration inclined to set off in the right direction only to shoot itself in the foot.
The muddle has added to a more pervasive mood of uncertainty about the direction in which Nigeria is heading: forwards in the fast lane where it could overtake South Africa as the continent’s largest economy; backwards to political turmoil and conflict; or stumbling along somewhere in between.
Mr Jonathan is liked – his provincial roots, good humour and humility give him the touch of the common man. But to listen to fractious political and business leaders, he is not universally respected. In a country more accustomed to ruthless generals, there is concern that he lacks backbone.
Moreover, the former state governor has depended on the same patronage system that he claims to be fighting. Some reformers and activists believe he is too compromised to drive through meaningful change.
It is not only electricity at stake. Investment worth tens of billions of dollars in the 2.4m barrels a day oil industry has stalled pending the passage of long delayed legislation aimed at improving efficiency and delivering greater returns.
Meanwhile, the theft of oil in the Niger delta has reached unprecedented levels, with criminal networks stealing upwards of 150,000 b/d worth more than $7bn annually. The perception that corruption is waxing has been reinforced, ironically, by the greater transparency Mr Jonathan has begun to bring to murkier sectors of the economy.
A series of investigations into the petroleum industry has shone a light on billions of dollars in losses caused by mismanagement and fraud.
“Unless we get a government in place that can squarely face corruption and punish it at all levels, we can’t see the end of this situation,” says General Muhammadu Buhari, the ascetic former military ruler who has run two failed bids to win presidential elections.
Yet there are signs of progress. Partly as a result of optimism over power reform – and the prospect of this unleashing Nigeria’s industrial potential and cutting dramatically the cost of doing business – Standard & Poor’s, the rating agency, upgraded the country this month.
The upgrade still leaves the sovereign rating three notches below investment grade. But as Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the combative finance minister and coordinator of economic policy, notes, downgrading has been the norm for many countries riding through current global economic turmoil.
Since last year’s fiscally profligate election, Nigeria has begun to rebuild foreign reserves, increase savings above the budgeted price of oil and marginally improve the proportion of state revenues available for capital investment.
Banking reforms initiated after the 2008 crash have also delivered more solid foundations, and telecoms is still booming a decade after it was liberalised. A forthcoming report by the International Monetary Fund gives a qualified thumbs up, predicting growth in gross domestic product this year of 6.3 per cent while noting the risks posed by a fall in the world price of oil, on which Nigeria still depends for more than 80 per cent of state revenues.
Impatience with the status quo presents a growing threat. The warning signals have been flashing in multiple ways. One has come from the impoverished northeast, where the Islamist insurgency took root and spread. Another is in the amount of irreverent comment on the web.
This peaked this year when the government tried to remove the fuel subsidy, prompting nationwide protests and strikes. To halt the chaos, it was obliged to restore half of it.
The lifting of the subsidy sparked an eruption of anger because it forced up the price of transport and food. The public also perceived that people in business and political circles were abusing the subsidy removal for their own ends and forcing the poor to pay the cost.
“The government can attempt it again but resistance will still be there so long as people don’t see an improvement in their lives,” says Ahmed Makarfi, who chairs the senate finance committee.
Yet, signs of turmoil have not dissuaded potential investors from seeing Nigeria as an increasingly attractive frontier market, especially when returns elsewhere in the world are slowing.
Store openings by companies such as Shoprite and Walmart’s subsidiary Massmart are growing at 36 per cent a year, according to a recent McKinsey report.
Heineken held its worldwide financial conference in Lagos earlier this month, bringing 60 analysts from all over the world and celebrating a 10 per cent annual growth in Nigerian beer market over a decade.
Heineken cites the country’s demographics as one of the reasons – with 160m people, it is home to one in six Africans.
What some economists see as a demographic dividend, others see as a time bomb already detonating in parts of the country.
Up to 6m people are entering the job market every year and youth unemployment is nearly 40 per cent. Hence the urgent need to create conditions for Nigeria to become more productive. This and other difficulties are far from straightforward, for, if successful, reforms will chip away the patronage on which the political system depends.
“In terms of tangible results he [Mr Jonathan] hasn’t done well but if you look nine months forward, power is working and the Petroleum Industry bill is passed, things will be looking a lot better,” says Bismarck Rewane, a Lagos-based financial analyst.
Islamists in northern Mali said on Wednesday that they had pushed secular Tuareg rebels out of the town of Léré, and now had control of the main towns bordering Mauritania and Niger.
Mohamed Ag Attaye, a spokesman for the Tuareg group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA), said his group had retreated to a base north of Léré, 60 kilometres from the border with Mauritania.
“For five days Mujao and Ansar Dine [two Islamist groups] have encircled the town of Léré,’‘ he said, adding they had bribed some Tuaregs to join them.
A spokesman for Ansar Dine confirmed that they had taken Léré. “Some have joined us; others have left the city,’‘ he said.
More than a week ago, the Islamists seized Ménaka, which was the Tuaregs’ last bastion in north Mali since June when they were driven out of the main northern cities by the Islamists.
Mali was plunged into turmoil in March after a coup in Bamako created a security vacuum.
It allowed the secular NMLA to sweep across the north, taking half the territory and declaring it a new nation called Azawad. This was supposed to create a homeland for the Tuareg people, who have long felt marginalised by Mali’s government.
The Tuaregs are the traditional inhabitants of northern Mali, but the country’s administrative heart has always been in Bamako, hundreds of kilometres away, an area dominated by darker-skinned ethnic groups that are culturally distinct from the Tuaregs.
Months later, the rebels were kicked out by Islamist groups, allied with al-Qaeda, which have imposed strict sharia law in the north.
Northern Mali’s independent and outspoken women have been forced to wear head-to-toe veils, and accused thieves have had their hands hacked off in gruesome public spectacles that recall the worst days of Afghanistan under Taliban rule.
On Wednesday, a resident of a village 160 kilometres south of Timbuktu said the Islamists had seized and burned 200 cartons of cigarettes in the latest application of sharia.
Cash-strapped Swaziland urged to hike witch-doctor tax
MBABANE | Fri Dec 7, 2012 9:29am EST
MBABANE (Reuters) - A Swazi Member of Parliament has urged the government to hike taxes on traditional healers and soothsayers to help solve a funding crisis in Africa's last absolute monarchy.
The mediums, known as sangomas in the landlocked southern African nation, pay an annual 10 emalangeni ($1.15) license fee, but MP Majahodvwa Khumalo said they had jacked up their fees fourfold in the last few years and should pay more.
"A majority of our people consult traditional healers but the money they pay to government falls far too short of the money they make," he told parliament.
Swaziland's budget deficit ballooned to 15 percent of its annual economic output in 2010 but the government managed to keep itself afloat by running through central bank reserves and delaying payment of wages to civil servants.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) declined to launch a bailout because of reluctance by King Mswati III, who has at least a dozen wives and a personal fortune estimated at $200 million, to cut royal or military spending.
The IMF has continued to press for reductions to what is officially Africa's most bloated bureaucracy. In an in-depth assessment of the economy published in February, it rated the scope for raising more taxes as "small".
($1 = 8.6745 South African rand)
(Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)
Ghana: Testing Africa's model democracy
In a region still struggling toward democracy will elections in the West African nation be smooth and peaceful?
Inside Story Last Modified: 07 Dec 2012 11:06
Ghana is often described as a beacon of functioning democracy in West Africa. It has had free and fair elections since the end of military rule in 1992, following a referendum that made law its multi-party system.
"One of the strong points about Ghanaian democracy … is that tribalism or ethnic strife has not been a particularly strong factor in the democratic process. In fact the main issue at the moment is how to distribute equitably the oil resources."
- Gamal Nkrumah, a political analyst
It is also one of Africa's fastest-growing economies, thanks to oil and natural gas reserves, and other natural resources like cocoa and gold that were discovered recently.
As voters cast their ballots in Ghana's presidential and parliamentary elections on Friday, the question is whether the country will preserve its status as a 'model democracy' in Africa.
Although Ghana has enjoyed five peaceful transfers of power, other sub-Saharan countries still experience post-electoral violence.
Last year in Nigeria, around 800 people died during riots that followed the re-election of Goodluck Jonathan as president.
"As other African leaders look around for an example to follow, Ghana is the example … These governments in other parts of the continent, they got to deliver prosperity to their people and Ghana is making a genuine effort to do that."
- Aly Khan Satchu, an economist
Ghana's neighbour Ivory Coast saw a similar spate of violence in 2010 when Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power after being defeated in an election.
And in Kenya, after incumbent president Mwai Kibaki won the elections in 2007, allegations of vote-rigging triggered a round of violence that killed more than 1,200 people.
So, could Ghana be a model for democratic process for the African continent?
"We're seeing investors from the Gulf and Latin America [going to West Africa], and it's not only about commodities … investors are also looking at agriculture and infrastructure … It's definitely an asset for Ghana to have a stable economy and government."
Sylvain Touati, a fellow at FIKRA
in order to watch the approx. 30 min report on Ghana just visit the link below
On Saturday, in an unprecedented move to mark the second anniversary of the slaughter of a farming family, survivors of farm attacks marched in Pretoria and called for attacks on South Africa's mostly white farmers to be designated a crime of national priority
Susan Nortje, second left, marches with other families of murdered farmers and survivors of farm attacks
By Erin Conway-Smith, Pretoria
7:52PM GMT 01 Dec 2012
Since the attack on Attie Potgieter and his family, the simple stone farmhouse where they lived has stood empty and crumbling, with nobody wanting to live in the home where one of South Africa's most disturbingly brutal crimes took place.
Mr Potgieter, a farm caretaker, was stabbed and hacked 151 times with a garden fork, a knife and a machete near Lindley in the Free State - the agricultural heart of the country.
His wife, Wilna, and two-year-old daughter, Willemien, were both made to watch him die, before being shot in the head, execution style.
All for pocket money, and possessions of relatively little value – a too-common story in South Africa's rural areas, where mostly white Afrikaner farmers feel they are being targeted in gratuitously violent attacks on their remote farms and smallholdings. They accuse police and government of failing to make these crimes a priority. And as the horrifying murders continue, they are growing increasingly angry.
"If you kill a rhinoceros in South Africa, you get more time in jail then if you kill a person," said Susan Nortje, 26, Mrs Potgieter's younger sister. "I don't think people understand. We must show people what's really happening."
The murder last weekend of British engineer Chris Preece, 54, who was born in Southgate in north London and found his dream on a piece of rolling farmland bordering Lesotho's Maluti mountains, is the most recent farm killing to make headlines.
Mr Preece spent his weekdays working in Johannesburg before retreating to his beloved farm near the town of Ficksburg, where he and wife Felicity dreamed of starting a nature reserve to save raptor birds and cheetahs.
He was stabbed and hacked to death by men who stole just £210 and a mobile phone. Felicity was left severely traumatised with a skull fracture, and has not yet been able to talk about the attack from the Bloemfontein hospital in where she is being treated.
The couple's son, Robert Preece, and his wife, Jeanne, are now considering leaving their native South Africa, because they don't want to raise children in a country "where a man can be hacked to death for no reason".
"This isn't something we're going to get over," Jeanne Preece, 29, told The Sunday Telegraph. "It is a bottomless weight in all our souls."
On Saturday, in an unprecedented move to mark the second anniversary of the slaughter of the Potgieters, families of murdered farmers and survivors of farm attacks marched in the capital Pretoria and called for attacks on South Africa's mostly white farmers to be designated a crime of national priority.
Carrying photos of dead relatives and friends, 200 protesters - many wearing the khaki shorts and short-sleeved shirts that are the unofficial uniform of white South African farmers - sought to deliver a memorandum to the country's police minister, Nathi Mthethwa, urging that farm attacks be given the same elevated police attention already accorded to rhinoceros poaching and copper cable theft.
"These murders are marked by a unique level of brutality – often worse than that found in terrorist attacks," the memorandum said. "The argument that farm murders are 'only murder' does not hold water."
South African police stopped releasing separate figures on farm attacks in 2007, and incorporated them into wider violent crime statistics.
But according to the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa, there have been 2,863 farm attacks and 1,592 farm murders since 1990, and independent think-tanks put the true number of farmers murdered at closer to 3,000.
It is now twice as dangerous to be a farmer as it is to be a police officer in South Africa, according to Johan Burger, a senior researcher with the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies' crime and justice programme. Last year the country had a murder rate of 31.9 per 100,000 people, almost 30 times higher than Britain, according to police statistics. For police officers, this rate rises to 51 – and among farmers, a staggering 99 people killed per 100,000.
What troubles many South Africans is the horrific and unnecessary violence that's a grim hallmark of farm attacks ostensibly staged to steal money - blamed by some on resentment at the yawning gap between rich and poor, 40 per cent unemployment in some rural areas and the legacy of ill feeling bequeathed by the former apartheid system.
Ernst Roets, deputy CEO of the Afrikaner civil rights group AfriForum and an organiser of the campaign, complained that the government had tried to declare the march an illegal gathering. "They are taking active steps to stop us from speaking out about the problem," he said.
The police minister was not in his offices on Saturday to receive the memorandum. But a spokesman, Zweli Mnisi, accused AfriForum of "grandstanding".
Mr Mnisi said: "They are only representing people based on their colour. For us, racialising crime is problematic. You can't have a separate category that says, farmers are the special golden boys and girls.
"You end up saying the life of a white person is more important. You cannot do this."
South African farms are still overwhelmingly owned by whites, mostly Afrikaner - who are descended from the country's first Dutch settlers and speak their own language. The government's efforts to encourage a gentle method of land reform, known as "willing buyer, willing seller" in stark contrast to the state-sponsored violent takeovers in neighbouring Zimbabwe, has been a flop.
Prof Burger rejects claims by some in the Afrikaans farming community that the attacks amount to a genocide on white farmers. He said there is also no evidence of political involvement in the attacks.
"The perception is that farmers are all rich, and these criminals know the vulnerability of these remote farms, and so they see it as relatively low risk," he said.
However, he added, in some attacks the perpetrators "take out their hatred for all those past wrongs, and show who's in control now". Farmers claim their attackers are stirred by the old black struggle song "Shoot the Boer", the subject of a court case on hate speech brought against the former African National Congress party youth leader Julius Malema after he took to singing it at rallies.
Among those on the march was Magda Pistorius, 53, who still grieves for her husband Wybrand, killed in an attack in June last year.
The couple were asleep at their new home on a smallholding in Muldersdrift, near Johannesburg, which they had moved into just 12 hours earlier, when they awoke at 3.50am to find two men standing over the bed. One of the men said "Hello, boss" - and then shot and killed Mr Pistorius, 53, before shooting his wife in the stomach.
Their daughters were also at home, but unharmed. The robbers fled with just a mobile phone and a torch.
The bullet was removed from Mrs Pistorius' stomach four months after the June 2011 attack. Today, she lives around the corner from the smallholding, and finds daily life hard because of the constant reminders of her husband.
"Physically, I have recovered," she said. "But emotionally, it will never go away.
"The government has to do something to stop this whole story. This whole country is so lawless. It's easy to rob and steal. The justice system is a mess. Everyone else here has got their human rights. But what about ours?"
Also protesting were three generations of the Pretorius family, ambushed when they returned home from a church service to their smallholding in Muldersdrift, near Johannesburg, one night in 2005.
Unbeknown to them, members of their extended family had been held captive at the house. A worker ran out to warn that a gang of armed men were inside, but while Coenie Pretorius, 36, was trying to drive off, the men opened fire.
Mr Pretorius died from gunshot wounds in front of his family and his wife, Petro de Kock, was shot in the lower back while protecting their two young children. She survived the injury, but the family still has deep scars from the trauma of the attack, especially since no one was ever convicted.
The slain farmer's parents have since moved to Perth, Australia, saying they can no longer live in South Africa, but returned to join in yesterday's protest.
Their grandson - also called Coenie, who is now 20 and lives in Johannesburg, said: "It makes it so difficult for us, because they wrecked our lives.
"Something needs to be done. This isn't just happening to our family - look at how many families there are here today."
Mario Monti, the Italian prime miniser, has told the country's president he plans to resign after Silvio Berlusconi's party withdrew crucial support in parliament from the technocratic government.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti announced he would step down as soon as the Italian budget was passed, probably at the end of the month: trader fear the uncertainly will trigger another phase of the debt crisis.
By Josephine McKenna
9:07AM GMT 09 Dec 2012
President Giorgio Napolitano's office announced Mr Monti's decision after they met for nearly two hours of talks late Saturday at the Quirinale palace, the president's official residence in Rome.
An offical statement released by the president's office said Mr Monti had told the head of state that without the support of Mr Berlusconi's party, "he cannot further carry out his mandate, and consequently made clear his intention to resign" .
Mr Monti's decision came after members of Mr Berlusconi's People of Freedom party abstained or withdrew from a vote in the Senate on a package of economic measures on Thursday.
The technocrat prime minister said he would resign as soon as crucial budget legislation was approved. That is likely to occur before the end of the year and may force early elections after leaders across the political spectrum immediately pledged to approve the law as quickly as possible.
The premier's resignation came just hours after Mr Berlusconi announced his intention to run for a fourth term as prime minister and only a day after Angelino Alfano, the leader of Mr Berlusconi's centre right party, said that the Monti administration had run its course.
"I am coming back out of a sense of responsibility," Mr Berlusconi told reporters outside his AC Milan football club. "I am not in the race for a good position, I am running to win." But Mr Berlusconi has an uphill battle ahead of him as his party's popularity hit a record low of 14 % on Friday - half the level of support of his main opponent, the centre-left Democratic Party.
The 76-year-old billionaire on Sunday was expected to meet members of his centre-right party on Sunday and begin talks with his former coalition partner the Northern League.
In the meantime, political turmoil in Italy, which is mired in recession and fighting rising unemployment, is likely to unsettle the financial markets.
Standard & Poor's rating agency on Friday warned that it could lower Italy's rating if the recession continued in 2013, cited "uncertainty" over whether the next Italian government could maintain the austerity introduced by Mr Monti's administration.
Coup in Africa: President flees as Central African rebels seize capital
BANGUI, Central African Republic - Agence France-Presse
Members of the Seleka rebel coalition are seen in a village outside the town of Damara in the Central African Republic in this January photo. Rebels in the country captured the capital Bangui after forcing their way through a key checkpoint manned by international forces on March 24. AFP photo
Looters and armed gangs roamed the streets of the Central African Republic's capital March 23 after rebels captured Bangui and the coup-prone country's president disappeared.
The fighters from the Seleka rebel coalition fought running battles with government troops in the riverside capital before capturing the presidential palace and declaring victory. They had resumed hostilities this week in the former French colony and moved rapidly south towards Bangui with the aim of ousting President François Bozizé, whom they accuse of reneging on promises made in a January peace deal.
A high-ranking military source confirmed that Bangui was in rebel hands: "What is certain is that they have taken the city." Homes, shops, restaurants and offices -- including the premises of the U.N. children's agency UNICEF -- were looted as armed men roamed the city where electricity supplies have been cut off.
"They break down the doors and loot and then, afterwards, the people come and help themselves too," said Nicaise Kabissou, who lives in the city center.
"There's looting all over town," said a diplomat in the city that lies in the mineral-rich heart of Africa.
South Africa troops in Bangui -- who number around 250 and were supporting government forces -- suffered casualties in clashes with rebels, Brig. Gen. Xolani Mabanga told the SAPA news agency, but he was unable to provide any figures. The International Committee of the Red Cross said injured people were flooding hospitals and medical centres in Bangui, and asked for secure access to the capital.
The whereabouts of Bozizé, who seized power in a coup in 2003, remained a mystery. A well-placed source told Agence France-Presse he had left the country in a helicopter, but did not disclose his destination, while French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed only that he had fled Bangui.
Officials from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo-Brazzaville said he was not on their soil, although it would be easy to cross the river Oubangui to reach the DR Congo.
A security source in Kinshasa said 25 members of Bozizé's family had made that short trip to seek refuge in the Congolese town of Zongo.
But he could not say whether Bozizé himself was also there. French President François Hollande called on all parties in the conflict to form a government in accordance with the peace deal reached in January, and asked "the armed groups to respect the population."
France on March 23 called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the deteriorating situation.
It has sent an extra 300 French troops to back up the 250 soldiers already there to protect an estimated 1,250 French nationals living in the landlocked country, the military said in Paris.
The January peace deal made opposition figure Nicolas Tiangaye the head of a national unity government that was due to carry out reforms before elections next year.
It also brought several prominent figures from Seleka, a loose alliance of three rebel movements, into the government. But the deal collapsed after the rebels said their demands, which included the release of people they described as political prisoners, had not been met.
Seleka first launched its offensive in the north on Dec. 10, 2012, accusing Bozizé of not abiding by the terms of previous peace agreements.
Facing little resistance from the army, they seized a string of towns, defying U.N. calls to stop before halting within striking distance of Bangui.
Negotiations brought an end to that offensive and led to the January peace deal reached in Libreville. Col. Djouma Narkoyo, one of the rebel commanders on the ground, said March 23 the rebels were ready to meet with regional African leaders on the crisis but refused to negotiate with Bozizé.
After a decade in power, Bozizé's legacy is an unstable country riddled with corruption, despite natural resources in the form of uranium, gold, oil and diamonds.
The Central African Republic has been unstable since independence from France in 1960 and, despite its mineral wealth, is one of the poorest countries in the world.
23 March 2013 Last updated at 23:36 GMT
Central African Republic rebels 'enter capital Bangui'
Rebels in the Central African Republic are reported to have seized the Presidential Palace
Hundreds of rebels have entered the Central African Republic (CAR) capital Bangui, according to witnesses.
Seleka rebels were said to be fighting running battles with government troops.
The fighters, who have been involved in an on-off rebellion since December, accuse President Francois Bozize of failing to honour a peace deal.
Former colonial power France has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, and reportedly sent troops to secure the airport.
French officials warned French nationals in the country should stay at home.
Rebel spokesman Nelson Ndjadder said they had shot down a government military helicopter and were now heading for the presidential palace.
Central African Republic
However, there were no further reports of fighting as darkness fell.
The rebels are also said to have cut off electrical power to parts of the city, having taken control of three power plants in the neighbouring town of Boali.
A local UN official in southern Bangui said people were in a state of panic but could not confirm the rebels had entered the city.
The rebels joined a power-sharing government in January after talks brokered by regional leaders to end a rebellion they launched last year.
But the deal quickly collapsed, with the rebels saying their demands, including the release of political prisoners, had not been met.
On Friday it was reported that they had taken a checkpoint in the town of Damara, about an hour's drive from Bangui, where regional Fomac peacekeepers are based.
BBC Africa editor Richard Hamilton says government soldiers have been unable to fend off the rebels because Mr Bozize fears being overthrown in a coup and is therefore wary of having a strong army.
He came to power himself in a military coup in 2003.
CAR has been hit by a series of rebellions since independence from France in 1960.
It is one of the poorest countries in Africa, despite its considerable mineral resources.
Michel Djotodia: Central African Republic rebel leader
A Soviet-trained civil servant who turned into a rebel leader, Michel Djotodia has finally achieved his long-held ambition of becoming leader of the Central African Republic (CAR).
He declared on 25 March that he would rule by decree after his forces stormed the capital, Bangui, ending President Francois Bozize's decade-long rule.
"He had political aspirations, and he pursued them fervently," says US anthropologist Louisa Lombard, who has studied the CAR conflict.
"Hearing the stories of his ambition during my research, I almost felt embarrassed on his behalf - he seemed like a Jamaican bobsledder convinced he'd win gold," she adds, in a blog titled "President Michel Djotodia?".
The UFDR fighters I knew... could have put up a decent fight against the CAR armed forces on their own, but the 'Chadians' were what made them so unstoppable”
End Quote Louisa Lombard US academic
Yet, Mr Djotodia - some seven years after playing a key role in the launch of the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) rebel group - is now in power.
"He's somebody very determined. When he decides on something, he goes all the way," AFP news agency quotes an unnamed rebel leader as saying.
Born in 1949 in the north-eastern town of Vakaga, according to a report in the Cameroon Tribune newspaper, Mr Djotodia led the UFDR into a coalition with other rebel groups last year to form Seleka, which spearheaded the offensive to overthrow Mr Bozize.
For Mr Djotodia, this was sweet revenge: Mr Bozize's rebel forces had toppled his political boss, then-President Ange Felix-Patasse, in 2003.
Mr Djotodia had served in Mr Patasse's government as a civil servant in the ministry of planning after studying economics in the former Soviet Union.
According to Ms Lomard, he ended up staying for 10 years in the USSR, where he married and had two daughters.
He became fluent in several languages, "which made him useful when it came to representing the UFDR to foreigners and the media," she says.
A Seleka rebel in Bangui (25 March 2013) The rebels are now in control of the presidential palace
"People in Tiringoulou [in CAR] tell of one day, long before the rebellion, when a plane of Russian hunters unexpectedly arrived. Upon hearing Djotodia's rendition of their language, declared him not Central African but Russian and brought him along for their tour of the country," she adds.
Mr Djitoudia also worked in CAR's foreign ministry and was named consul to Nyala in neighbouring Sudan's Darfur region, Ms Lombard says he used his time there to cultivate alliances with Chadian rebels in the area.
"It was these fighters from the Chad/Sudan/CAR borderlands who became the military backbone of the Seleka rebel coalition that first threatened Bangui in December," she says.
"The UFDR fighters I knew - tough guys, but a bit ragtag, especially compared to their counterparts in places like Chad or Sudan - could have put up a decent fight against the CAR armed forces on their own, but the 'Chadians' were what made them so unstoppable," she adds.
Mr Djotodia's forces overran Bangui about two months after Seleka signed a peace accord with Mr Bozize, in talks brokered by regional leaders in Gabon.
Under the accord, Seleka agreed to serve in a unity government, led by Mr Bozize, until elections in 2016.
Mr Djotodia took the post of defence minister - though he had minimal influence over the army which Mr Bozize continued to control.
Michel Djotodia (L) and Francois Bozize (R) on 11 January 2013 Mr Djotodia (L) was Mr Bozize's (R) defence minister for a short while before ousting him
Accusing Mr Bozize of running a parallel administration and failing to release political prisoners, Seleka withdrew Mr Djotodia, along with three of his colleagues, from the government about a week before launching an assault on Bangui.
As Mr Bozize fled to Cameroon, Mr Djotodia announced that elections would be held in three years, suggesting, in an interview with Radio France Internationale, that he would run for the presidency to legitimise his rule.
"I did not say that in three years I will hand over power. I said that in three years, we are going to organise free and transparent elections," he said.
It is a remarkable change in the fortunes of a man who had been jailed in Benin in November 2006, for using the country as a base for his rebellion against Mr Bozize.
According to rights group Amnesty International's 2009 report on CAR, Mr Djotodia and another rebel leader Abakar Sabone were detained without trial in Benin for more than a year, before being released at Mr Bozize's request as part of yet another regionally brokered peace initiative to end the conflict.
It was probably Mr Bozize's biggest political mistake, as it opened the way for Mr Djotodia to shrewdly play the dual role of peace-maker and rebel leader until he finally seized power in Bangui.
This is really a curse!!!It is like a trap from which is there is no escape...and the only one suffering are once again the people while those "leaders" siphon off the money in the name of fighting for "democracy and prosperity". How absurd!!
...as the story drags on, I will bet my left arm that he will be overthrown by some other rebel leader emerging on the political scence in the years ahead.... that´s the only thing that will be sure for this plagued nation "state".
U.S.-Approved Arms for Libya Rebels Fell Into Jihadis’ Hands
By JAMES RISEN, MARK MAZZETTI and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
December 5, 2012 297 Comments
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration secretly gave its blessing to arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year, but American officials later grew alarmed as evidence grew that Qatar was turning some of the weapons over to Islamic militants, according to United States officials and foreign diplomats.
Libyans in Benghazi last year in front of a Libyan flag, right, and a Qatari flag painted on the wall.
No evidence has emerged linking the weapons provided by the Qataris during the uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to the attack that killed four Americans at the United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in September.
But in the months before, the Obama administration clearly was worried about the consequences of its hidden hand in helping arm Libyan militants, concerns that have not previously been reported. The weapons and money from Qatar strengthened militant groups in Libya, allowing them to become a destabilizing force since the fall of the Qaddafi government.
The experience in Libya has taken on new urgency as the administration considers whether to play a direct role in arming rebels in Syria, where weapons are flowing in from Qatar and other countries.
The Obama administration did not initially raise objections when Qatar began shipping arms to opposition groups in Syria, even if it did not offer encouragement, according to current and former administration officials. But they said the United States has growing concerns that, just as in Libya, the Qataris are equipping some of the wrong militants.
The United States, which had only small numbers of C.I.A. officers in Libya during the tumult of the rebellion, provided little oversight of the arms shipments. Within weeks of endorsing Qatar’s plan to send weapons there in spring 2011, the White House began receiving reports that they were going to Islamic militant groups. They were “more antidemocratic, more hard-line, closer to an extreme version of Islam” than the main rebel alliance in Libya, said a former Defense Department official.
The Qatari assistance to fighters viewed as hostile by the United States demonstrates the Obama administration’s continuing struggles in dealing with the Arab Spring uprisings, as it tries to support popular protest movements while avoiding American military entanglements. Relying on surrogates allows the United States to keep its fingerprints off operations, but also means they may play out in ways that conflict with American interests.
“To do this right, you have to have on-the-ground intelligence and you have to have experience,” said Vali Nasr, a former State Department adviser who is now dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, part of Johns Hopkins University. “If you rely on a country that doesn’t have those things, you are really flying blind. When you have an intermediary, you are going to lose control.”
He said that Qatar would not have gone through with the arms shipments if the United States had resisted them, but other current and former administration officials said Washington had little leverage at times over Qatari officials. “They march to their own drummer,” said a former senior State Department official. The White House and State Department declined to comment.
During the frantic early months of the Libyan rebellion, various players motivated by politics or profit — including an American arms dealer who proposed weapons transfers in an e-mail exchange with a United States emissary later killed in Benghazi — sought to aid those trying to oust Colonel Qaddafi.
But after the White House decided to encourage Qatar — and on a smaller scale, the United Arab Emirates — to ship arms to the Libyans, President Obama complained in April 2011 to the emir of Qatar that his country was not coordinating its actions in Libya with the United States, the American officials said. “The president made the point to the emir that we needed transparency about what Qatar was doing in Libya,” said a former senior administration official who had been briefed on the matter.
About that same time, Mahmoud Jibril, then the prime minister of the Libyan transitional government, expressed frustration to administration officials that the United States was allowing Qatar to arm extremist groups opposed to the new leadership, according to several American officials. They, like nearly a dozen current and former White House, diplomatic, intelligence, military and foreign officials, would speak only on the condition of anonymity for this article.
The administration has never determined where all of the weapons, paid for by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, went inside Libya, officials said. Qatar is believed to have shipped by air and sea small arms, including machine guns, automatic rifles, and ammunition, for which it has demanded reimbursement from Libya’s new government. Some of the arms since have been moved from Libya to militants with ties to Al Qaeda in Mali, where radical jihadi factions have imposed Shariah law in the northern part of the country, the former Defense Department official said. Others have gone to Syria, according to several American and foreign officials and arms traders.
Although NATO provided air support that proved critical for the Libyan rebels, the Obama administration wanted to avoid getting immersed in a ground war, which officials feared could lead the United States into another quagmire in the Middle East.
As a result, the White House largely relied on Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, two small Persian Gulf states and frequent allies of the United States. Qatar, a tiny nation whose natural gas reserves have made it enormously wealthy, for years has tried to expand its influence in the Arab world. Since 2011, with dictatorships in the Middle East and North Africa coming under siege, Qatar has given arms and money to various opposition and militant groups, chiefly Sunni Islamists, in hopes of cementing alliances with the new governments. Officials from Qatar and the emirates would not comment.
After discussions among members of the National Security Council, the Obama administration backed the arms shipments from both countries, according to two former administration officials briefed on the talks.
American officials say that the United Arab Emirates first approached the Obama administration during the early months of the Libyan uprising, asking for permission to ship American-built weapons that the United States had supplied for the emirates’ use. The administration rejected that request, but instead urged the emirates to ship weapons to Libya that could not be traced to the United States.
“The U.A.E. was asking for clearance to send U.S. weapons,” said one former official. “We told them it’s O.K. to ship other weapons.”
For its part, Qatar supplied weapons made outside the United States, including French- and Russian-designed arms, according to people familiar with the shipments.
But the American support for the arms shipments from Qatar and the emirates could not be completely hidden. NATO air and sea forces around Libya had to be alerted not to interdict the cargo planes and freighters transporting the arms into Libya from Qatar and the emirates, American officials said.
Concerns in Washington soon rose about the groups Qatar was supporting, officials said. A debate over what to do about the weapons shipments dominated at least one meeting of the so-called Deputies Committee, the interagency panel consisting of the second-highest ranking officials in major agencies involved in national security. “There was a lot of concern that the Qatar weapons were going to Islamist groups,” one official recalled.
The Qataris provided weapons, money and training to various rebel groups in Libya. One militia that received aid was controlled by Adel Hakim Belhaj, then leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, who was held by the C.I.A. in 2004 and is now considered a moderate politician in Libya. It is unclear which other militants received the aid.
“Nobody knew exactly who they were,” said the former defense official. The Qataris, the official added, are “supposedly good allies, but the Islamists they support are not in our interest.”
No evidence has surfaced that any weapons went to Ansar al-Shariah, an extremist group blamed for the Benghazi attack.
The case of Marc Turi, the American arms merchant who had sought to provide weapons to Libya, demonstrates other challenges the United States faced in dealing with Libya. A dealer who lives in both Arizona and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Mr. Turi sells small arms to buyers in the Middle East and Africa, relying primarily on suppliers of Russian-designed weapons in Eastern Europe.
In March 2011, just as the Libyan civil war was intensifying, Mr. Turi realized that Libya could be a lucrative new market, and applied to the State Department for a license to provide weapons to the rebels there, according to e-mails and other documents he has provided. (American citizens are required to obtain United States approval for any international arms sales.)
He also e-mailed J. Christopher Stevens, then the special representative to the Libyan rebel alliance. The diplomat said he would “share” Mr. Turi’s proposal with colleagues in Washington, according to e-mails provided by Mr. Turi. Mr. Stevens, who became the United States ambassador to Libya, was one of the four Americans killed in the Benghazi attack on Sept. 11.
Mr. Turi’s application for a license was rejected in late March 2011. Undeterred, he applied again, this time stating only that he planned to ship arms worth more than $200 million to Qatar. In May 2011, his application was approved. Mr. Turi, in an interview, said that his intent was to get weapons to Qatar and that what “the U.S. government and Qatar allowed from there was between them.”
Two months later, though, his home near Phoenix was raided by agents from the Department of Homeland Security. Administration officials say he remains under investigation in connection with his arms dealings. The Justice Department would not comment.
Mr. Turi said he believed that United States officials had shut down his proposed arms pipeline because he was getting in the way of the Obama administration’s dealings with Qatar. The Qataris, he complained, imposed no controls on who got the weapons. “They just handed them out like candy,” he said.
David D. Kirkpatrick and Kareem Fahim contributed reporting from Cairo.
Libya’s NTC in Battle Against Militants and Discontent
March 19, 2013
The first meeting of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) is in full swing. Ministers, who began working hard to restore order in the war-ravaged country, were quickly deluged by questions of legitimacy in the post-revolutionary Libya.
The Muslim Brotherhood were first to express their concerns with NTC on social media. The NTC Minister for Economy, Abdullah Shamia, also member of the Brotherhood wrote that he was “slightly concerned that a brother would question [the NTC’s] legitimacy.”
With this said, part of the action to improve the standing of the NTC in the public eye does not appear to include elections in the near future. Ministers were instead agreeing on the need to hold off on announcing a date for elections to elect a parliament that would in turn draft a new constitution.
“Now is not the time to run elections … elections are not our first priority,” Minister for Transportation and Communications, Anwar Fituri said. “We need to stabilise the country first.”
As the Council attempts to finesse the transition from dictatorship to democracy, pockets of resistance, loyal to former ruler Muammar Gaddafi put up a vicious fight. The last thing NTC Chair Mahmoud Jibril, needs is questions over the Council’s right to assume the task of government.
Earlier, the Council resolved to take action on organising and deploying Libya’s military to assist in stabilising the country in a peacekeeping capacity.
A press release issued recently read: “We must remain united in our goal of creating a united country … the National Transitional Council is committed to creating a safe environment for elections.”
Libya's south teeters toward chaos — and militant extremists
Libya's long-neglected, isolated southern region has grown more lawless since the fall of Moammar Kadafi. Only ill-trained tribal militias hold Islamist extremists at bay.
In post-Kadafi Libya, chaos reigns in south
By Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times
March 30, 2013
SABHA, Libya — Their fatigues don't match and their pickup has no windshield. Their antiaircraft gun, clogged with grit, is perched between a refugee camp and ripped market tents scattered over an ancient caravan route. But the tribesmen keep their rifles cocked and eyes fixed on a terrain of scouring light where the oasis succumbs to desert.
"If we leave this outpost the Islamist militants will come and use Libya as a base. We can't let that happen," said Zakaria Ali Krayem, the oldest among the Tabu warriors. "But the government hasn't paid us in 14 months. They won't even give us money to buy needles to mend our uniforms."
Krayem is battling smugglers, illegal migrants bound for Europe and armed extremists who stream across a swath of the Sahara near the porous intersection of southern Libya, Chad, Niger and Algeria. Since the 2011 Arab uprisings that swept away Moammar Kadafi and other autocrats, Western countries and Libya's neighbors fear that this nation may emerge as an Islamist militant foothold.
Kadafi was replaced by a weak central government that has struggled with economic turmoil and the lack of judicial reform and a new constitution. The long-neglected south has grown more lawless. The Al Qaeda-linked militants, including Libyans, behind the January assault on a natural gas processing complex in Algeria that killed at least 37 foreigners traveled from Mali through Niger and Libya's poorly patrolled hinterlands.
While the Libyan national army is rebuilding, the country is relying in part on ill-trained tribal militias rife with grievances, feuds and agendas. This volatile mix holds sway in the country's southwest and in the northeast, where last year militants killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, and trafficked guns and missiles to extremists in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip.
"Our concern is the Mali situation coming here," said Fathallah Ali, assistant to the president of the local council in Sabha. "Much of the sophisticated and heavy weaponry looted from Kadafi's military went to Islamic militants there and other parts of Africa. Al Qaeda is moving in this direction."
Libyan extremists are now connected to an Al Qaeda branch in Algeria, rebels in Syria and the fighters trying to establish an Islamic caliphate in Mali. Security officials also are concerned about reports of militant training camps with caches of weapons hidden in the desert south of Sabha.
Government officials in the south shy away from discussing the region's chaos. An activist was recently shot and killed after publicly criticizing the lack of law and order. Much of the danger stems from tribal animosities that were suppressed during four decades of Kadafi's rule and are now playing out in the kind of security vacuum that Islamic militants have exploited in countries such as Somalia and Yemen.
The Tabu, who are Africans, have been battling the rival Arab Awlad Sulayman clan for more than a year. At least 130 people have died. Peace talks have been complicated by joblessness, rising drug and alcohol abuse and skirmishes over smuggling networks stretching from the borders of Algeria and Chad.
The streets of Sabha, the main city in the south, rattle with gunfire and the gripes of desperate men waiting for work, sitting on dusty curbs with buckets, paint rollers and chisels. Jailbreaks are common. Libyan news reports said in January that three bodyguards were wounded when gunmen fired on a hotel housing Mohammed Magarief, president of the national congress.
In the city's hospital, doctors are pistol-whipped and patients shot in their rooms by rival tribesmen. The sick slump in hallways. There is no CT scan or MRI machinery; a trauma victim is likely to die before he can be driven 400 miles north to a better hospital in Tripoli.
"We're treating illnesses we've never seen before in languages we don't understand," said Dr. Othman Habib, a pediatrician. "More and more migrants are coming from Chad and Mali. Libya's borders are open and poorly guarded. We never saw malaria before, but now we see it all the time. We're overwhelmed. The hospital is full of germs and bacteria. Rats. This is shameful, but it's true."
A bereft father, his tunic wet with the blood of a son hit by a car, walked past.
"One man was brought in with a gunshot wound not long ago," said Habib. "We fixed him and put him in intensive care. But his enemies came to the hospital that night and shot him 18 times. We operated and he lived. We hid him in the women's ward and then sneaked him out of town."
Dr. Yusef Farag, a surgeon, listened and said, "We have 200 beds. We've turned 500 people away. This hospital serves the whole south, but we can admit no more. We have no neurosurgeon. We have no oncology doctor. There are too many weapons and too many comas. It's a disaster."
Despair permeates the dirt alleys not far from the hospital that curl through the cinder block slums of Tabu tribesmen.
"Clashes between border tribes have increased," said Adam Ahmed Dazi, a Tabu councilman who sat at a desk stamping papers while complaining about the lack of financial support from Libya's central government. "Tribal militias and smugglers have better arms. But smuggling is in the hands of rich people with trucks. The Tabu in this neighborhood barely have bicycles. But we are like a towel. Everyone wipes the bad on us."
He sighed, his narrow frame almost lost in his coat.
The road out of Sabha cuts through a green blush of oasis and a series of checkpoints — the first controlled by a militia, the second by the national army — in a strange hodgepodge of overlapping interests. Krayem and his Tabu tribesmen, their faces covered with scarves and sunglasses, guard a third checkpoint near rock formations at the edge of blowing sands.
"The desert is wide with many roads," said Krayem, a man seemingly wearing away bit by bit. His teeth are loose, a nostril is gouged and he is missing a finger that was shot off by soldiers exacting retribution for his defection from Kadafi's army during the revolution.
"Anything forbidden they try to smuggle through here," he said. "The military can't control this territory on its own. If we left this checkpoint even for 30 minutes bad people would come. The government doesn't pay us. We do this to protect our country."
He tugged the brim of his camouflage hat.
"But men need to feed their kids," he said. "That's why many are moving into the smuggling trade."
They traffic in rocket-propelled grenades, stolen cars, hashish and government-subsidized gasoline and flour. Krayem has seen it all.
He stepped toward the broken road as dusk fell across market tents, thicket and scrub. The wind cooled. A big truck, draped with boys and barrels and lumbering like a collapsing house on wheels, approached. His men checked their guns and prepared for night.
"The next checkpoint is 150 kilometers away," he said, nodding to the outskirts of Sabha and the encroaching desert. "We don't have enough patrols to cover all what's in between."
The first woman elected to lead a major western state changed way Britons viewed politics and economics
* guardian.co.uk, Monday 8 April 2013 15.21 BST
Margaret Thatcher, the most dominant British prime minister since Winston Churchill in 1940 and a global champion of the late 20th-century free market economic revival, has died.
Her spokesman, Lord Bell, said on Monday: "It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning. A further statement will be made later."
Downing Street announced that she would receive a ceremonial funeral with military honours at St Paul's Cathedral.
David Cameron, who is cutting short his trip to Europe to return to London following the news, said: "It was with great sadness that l learned of Lady Thatcher's death. We've lost a great leader, a great prime minister and a great Briton."
He told the BBC: "As our first woman prime minister, Margaret Thatcher succeeded against all the odds, and the real thing about Margaret Thatcher is that she didn't just lead our country, she saved our country, and I believe she will go down as the greatest British peacetime prime minister."
Cameron later said parliament would be recalled on Wednesday "for a special session in which tributes will be paid" to Lady Thatcher.
In a statement, President Barack Obama said that, "the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend."
"Here in America, many of us will never forget her standing shoulder to shoulder with President Reagan, reminding the world that we are not simply carried along by the currents of history—we can shape them with moral conviction, unyielding courage and iron will."
He added that her premiership was "an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can't be shattered".
Buckingham Palace said the Queen was sad to hear the news and that she would be sending a private message of sympathy to the family.
The first woman elected to lead a major western state, Lady Thatcher, as she became after the longest premiership since 1827, served 11 unbroken years at No 10. She was only overthrown by an internal Tory party coup in 1990 after her reckless promotion of the poll tax led to rioting in Trafalgar Square.
Thatcher, who was 87, had been in declining health for some years, suffering from dementia. The death of Sir Denis Thatcher, her husband of 50 years and closest confidante, intensified her isolation in what had proved a frustrating retirement, despite energetic worldwide activity in the early years.
After a series of mini-strokes in 2002 Thatcher withdrew from public life, no longer able to make the kind of waspish pronouncements that had been her forte in office – and beyond.
Her death was greeted with tributes from across the political spectrum.
As Labour sources announced the party would suspend campaigning in the local election as a mark of respect, its leader, Ed Miliband, said: "She will be remembered as a unique figure. She reshaped the politics of a whole generation. She was Britain's first woman prime minister. She moved the centre ground of British politics and was a huge figure on the world stage.
"The Labour party disagreed with much of what she did and she will always remain a controversial figure. But we can disagree and also greatly respect her political achievements and her personal strength."
The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, said: "Margaret Thatcher was one of the defining figures in modern British politics. Whatever side of the political debate you stand on, no one can deny that as prime minister she left a unique and lasting imprint on the country she served.
"She may have divided opinion during her time in politics but everyone will be united today in acknowledging the strength of her personality and the radicalism of her politics."
The work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, said: "Watching her set out to change Britain for the better in 1979 made me believe there was, at last, real purpose and real leadership in politics once again. She bestrode the political world like a colossus."
The former prime minister Tony Blair said: "Margaret Thatcher was a towering political figure. Very few leaders get to change not only the political landscape of their country but of the world. Margaret was such a leader. Her global impact was vast. And some of the changes she made in Britain were, in certain respects at least, retained by the 1997 Labour government, and came to be implemented by governments around the world."
Blair's successor as prime minister, Gordon Brown, said: "She will be remembered not only for being Britain's first female prime minister and holding the office for 11 years, but also for the determination and resilience with which she carried out all her duties throughout her public life. Even those who disagreed with her never doubted the strength of her convictions and her unwavering belief in Britain's destiny in the world."
Describing her as a political phenomenon, the former Tory prime minister Sir John Major said: "Her outstanding characteristics will always be remembered by those who worked closely with her: courage and determination in politics, and humanity and generosity of spirit in private."
The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: "Her memory will live long after the world has forgotten the grey suits of today's politics."
The "Iron Lady" proved a significant cold war ally of the US president Ronald Reagan in the final showdown with the Soviet Union, which broke up under reformist pressures led by Mikhail Gorbachev, a Kremlin leader with whom Thatcher famously declared she could "do business".
As a result, many ordinary voters in ex-Soviet bloc states saw her as a bold champion of their liberty, a view widely shared across the spectrum of mainstream US opinion – though not at home or among key EU partners.
Thatcher was an unremarkable mid-ranking Conservative politician – known chiefly for being a "milk-snatching" education secretary under Edward Heath (1970-74) – until she unexpectedly overthrew her twice-defeated boss to become party leader in 1975.
Within a decade she had become known around the world – both admired and detested – for her pro-market domestic reforms and her implacable attitudes in foreign policy, including her long-running battle with the IRA, which almost managed to murder her when it placed a bomb in the Grand Hotel, Brighton, in 1984.
At home the emerging doctrine of Thatcherism meant denationalisation of state-owned industry – the new word "privatisation" came into widespread use in many countries – and defeat of militant trade unionists, notably the National Union of Miners, whose year-long strike (1984-85) was bitter and traumatic.
Boosted by the newly arrived revenues from Britain's North Sea oil fields, Thatcher had room to manoeuvre and change the ageing industrial economy in ways denied to postwar predecessors, and she used the opportunity to quell her enemies – including moderate "wets" in her own party and cabinet.
But she also deployed her notorious "handbaggings" in the European Union to obtain a British rebate – "my money" as she called it. She was less successful in fending off the centralising ambitions of the "Belgian empire", her description of the European commission, especially in the years when it was headed by the French socialist Jacques Delors.
A further sign of her losing her grip came when Thatcher, long a sympathiser with the apartheid regime in South Africa against the liberation movement, dismissed Nelson Mandela as a terrorist.
Her allies in the tabloid press, notably Rupert Murdoch's Sun, egged her on. And, as the British economy recovered from the severe recession that her monetarist medicine had inflicted on it – to tame the unions and cure inflation – she briefly seemed invincible.
But untrammelled power, with the defeat or retirement of allies who had kept her in check, led to mistakes and growing unpopularity. When Sir Geoffrey Howe, nominally her deputy, finally fell out with Thatcher – chiefly over Europe – his devastating resignation speech triggered Michael Heseltine's leadership challenge.
It had been expected since he resigned as defence secretary over the Westland helicopter affair in 1986, Thatcher's closest previous brush with political death.
Heseltine denied her outright victory in the first round of voting – then confined only to MPs – and she made way for Major rather than risk losing to him in the second ballot.
In retirement she wrote highly successful memoirs in two volumes and campaigned energetically on behalf of the Thatcher Foundation, which sought to promote her values – free markets and Anglo-Saxon liberties – around the world. Speaking engagements made her moderately wealthy and she made her final home in London's Belgravia
Margaret Thatcher: Economic legacy of an Iron Lady
There really was no modern British Prime Minister who presided over a greater transformation of the nation's economy than Baroness Margaret Thatcher. When she left office, nearly every aspect of British economic life had changed fundamentally.
People will debate for a long time what she meant when she said "there's no such thing as society". But in Britain in the late 1970s it's fair to say there was no such thing as the consumer. When she left, politicians spoke of little else.
Her critics would say she got rid of the rules and institutions that had been holding British society together. Supporters would point to those same rules and institutions as the forces holding our moribund 70s economy back. But for better or worse, we can agree that she helped force the rise of the individual at the expense of the collective.
In the wake of World War II, Britain - and most other countries - put the state in charge. For decades after, the assumption of Labour and Conservative governments alike was that the state knew best.
In an era in which politicians are all too often greeted with indifference, it is easy to forget that Britain was once led by a woman who inspired passion - both love and loathing.”
The rule was "regulate first, ask questions later", and if you wanted to consult someone about it you talked to the unions, or the CBI. In policy terms, the individual consumer was nowhere to be seen.
Whether it's the reform of the unions, the end of exchange controls, mass privatisation, sale of council houses, or Big Bang, the big thing about Margaret Thatcher was that she was the first leader of a major economy to seriously confront that statist post-war consensus.
She wasn't the only one. The first stirrings of a global move against the state were already there, when she came to office. It was Jim Callaghan, after all, who famously said we could no longer "spend our way out of a recession".
And of course Ronald Reagan was elected soon after her, in 1980. Had Jimmy Carter been re-elected, the story of Margaret Thatcher's first term might be told rather differently.
In many ways, her battles in those first few years in power were macroeconomic. They were about raising interest rates to double figures to confront inflation, and raising taxes, in the teeth of high and rising unemployment, in 1981. Most of the battle to change the way the economy worked at the grassroots level came later.
But, for all that, Thatcher was probably the politician who took on the collectivist impulse with most conviction, against the bitterest opposition.
There'll be more to say about her legacy in the days ahead - for example, on her mixed record on public spending, and how it compares with George Osborne's own plans for the state.
But for any economist, the shift in favour of the market is the legacy to remember first. That is the change that is literally all around us, and very unlikely to go away.
In the wake of the financial crisis, some say the market is now too free - that we give too much power to the consumer, and pile too much risk onto the individual. That's an important and ongoing debate.
But, we shouldn't forget how little governments trusted markets or individuals back in 1979. I doubt you would find many critics of modern capitalism who would want to turn the clock back to 1979.
Certainly, none of the Labour politicians who have been making their condolences this afternoon would consider it for a single second.
Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan Thatcher and Reagan shared an ideology and a chemistry
Margaret Thatcher was a very divisive figure in the UK, but not so across the Atlantic, where her popularity has endured decades after she left office. Why?
Lady Thatcher first visited the US in 1967 as a 41-year-old guest of the State Department's international exchange programme.
It marked the start of a long relationship between the UK's future prime minister and a country with which she felt great admiration and affinity.
In later years, when she resided in Number 10 and cultivated a strong bond with President Ronald Reagan, it became clear that this affection was shared by many in the US.
In 2005, the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom was set up by the conservative think-tank, The Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, and pledged to advance her ideals.
Its director, Nile Gardiner, says she was more popular in the US than in the UK, and for two reasons. The first is strong leadership, an important attribute in the US.
"The United States has lost a dear friend, and the world has lost a transformative leader who broke the glass ceiling in global politics. "
"She was the conviction politician, the figure who stuck to her principles and belief. Inevitably she's mentioned in the same breath as Churchill.
"They are the only two British politicians of the last century who are consistently cited by American politicians, with Tony Blair a distant third."
The second reason is because she was someone who was steadfast in her rejection of socialist ideals.
"She was a firm believer in free market and capitalism, what most Americans believe in when it comes to the economy," says Gardiner.
"Now with all the debate about government spending, and rolling back the frontiers of the state, her legacy is increasingly important for Americans."
We will never see as close a relationship as the one shared by Reagan and Lady Thatcher, he says, and it's arguable that some of Reagan's economic reforms might not have happened without her having done the same just before in the UK.
"She was an inspirational leader who stood on principle and guided her nation with confidence and clarity. Prime Minister Thatcher is a great example of strength and character, and a great ally who strengthened the special relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States. "
"She challenged the relentless rise of big government and Reagan did the same. Would he have implemented them without her? Perhaps, but she made it easier for him."
The endurance of the high esteem in which she was held was illustrated in 2009, when the US House of Representatives passed a resolution "recognizing the 30th anniversary of the election of Margaret Thatcher as the first female Prime Minister of Great Britain."
She is still tremendously loved on the American right because she unleashed the free market, beat the unions and went to war with the bad guys, says Michael Goldfarb, an American journalist in London.
"She and Reagan were perfectly matched and she was seen as providing a heft to the free-market ideology that they both introduced."
But there were two difficult moments in their relationship, says Goldfarb. One was over the Falklands War, when Reagan tried to call a ceasefire. The other was two years later in 1983, when he invaded Grenada without apparently informing Lady Thatcher.
She was also not afraid of being blunt with another US president, George HW Bush. Legend has it that when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, Thatcher was in the US and she told the president not to "go wobbly" in his response to this aggression.
Even as the memory of her fades, says Goldfarb, she still inspires a lot of love and admiration. Her gender added to the mythology.
"It's not so much that she was the first woman prime minister, but the fact that she was a woman behaving with such masculine strength really appealed to the right."
Leaked documents from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's ill-fated campaign to become president suggest her aides held a strong admiration for Lady Thatcher and invoked her "smart, tough leadership" as an inspiration.
Sarah Palin has also lauded Lady Thatcher as a political heroine. She once spoke about the grocer's daughter "overcoming the odds and challenges of the status quo". But a meeting between the two women in London that was planned in 2010 never happened.
Much is made by British pundits about the "special relationship" between the US and the UK, says Professor Shaun Bowler, a political scientist at the University of California at Riverside. Sometimes it's not special at all, but with Thatcher it did have a special quality.
Very few British prime ministers register at all with the American general public, he says, but Thatcher was the first in many years to make her mark, especially during the Falklands War and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
"I think that she made herself a much more prominent figure than she would otherwise have been through sheer force of personality.
Margaret Thatcher at Ronald Reagan's funeral When Reagan died, Thatcher flew to the US to attend the funeral
"My sense is that other prime ministers John Major, David Cameron and - outside the brief moment of banking crisis-driven fame - Gordon Brown, never registered that much with US public opinion.
"I have the sense that even during 'quiet' times Mrs Thatcher would have attracted more attention - she was someone to be reckoned with."
In 2011, the mythology of Margaret Thatcher was cast on the big screen and introduced to a new audience, when she received the Hollywood treatment.
Meryl Streep won an Oscar for her portrayal of the Iron Lady - but forgot to mention Thatcher in her acceptance speech.
But there's little chance of Lady Thatcher being forgotten by the rest of America. Her death has brought forth a new flood of enthusiasm and opinions about the former prime minister - and ensures that her legacy will live on.
Former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher has died "peacefully" at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke while staying at the Ritz hotel in central London.
David Cameron called her a "great Briton" and the Queen spoke of her sadness at the death.
Lady Thatcher was Conservative prime minister from 1979 to 1990. She was the first woman to hold the role.
She will not have a state funeral but will be accorded the same status as Princess Diana and the Queen Mother.
The ceremony, with full military honours, will take place at London's St Paul's Cathedral.
The union jack above Number 10 Downing Street has been lowered to half-mast while Parliament will be recalled from its Easter recess on Wednesday to enable MPs to pay tributes to the former prime minister.
After cancelling planned talks in Paris with French President Francois Hollande and returning to the UK, Mr Cameron made a statement outside No 10 in which he described Lady Thatcher as "the patriot prime minister" and said she had "taken a country that was on its knees and made it stand tall again".
"Margaret Thatcher loved this country and served it with all she had. For that she has her well-earned place in history - and the enduring respect and gratitude of the British people," he said.
Lady Thatcher, who retired from public speaking in 2002, had suffered poor health for several years. She had been staying at the Ritz hotel since being discharged from hospital at the end of last year.
BBC political editor Nick Robinson said Lady Thatcher - whose husband Denis died in 2003 - had been a controversial politician who inspired "passion" among her critics and supporters.
Her government privatised several state-owned industries and was involved in a year-long stand-off with unions during the Miners' Strike of 1984-5. She was also in power when the UK fought a war following Argentina's invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982.
Lady Thatcher survived an assassination attempt in 1984, when the IRA bombed the Brighton Grand Hotel, where she was staying for the Conservative Party's annual conference.
During her later years in office she became increasingly associated with Euroscepticism. She is also seen as one of the key movers behind the fall of communism in eastern Europe.
She stood down in 1990 after she failed to beat Michael Heseltine by enough votes to prevent his leadership challenge going into a second round.
World leaders and senior UK figures have been paying tribute to Lady Thatcher.
US President Barack Obama said the world had "lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty" and that "America has lost a true friend".
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would "never forget her part in surmounting the division of Europe and at the end of the Cold War".
Ahead of his return to the UK, Mr Cameron told the BBC: "Margaret Thatcher succeeded against all the odds. The real thing is she didn't just lead our country; she saved our country.
"I believe she will go down as the greatest British peacetime prime minister."
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: "The Queen was sad to hear the news of the death of Baroness Thatcher. Her Majesty will be sending a private message of sympathy to the family."
Lady Thatcher was born Margaret Roberts, the daughter of a shopkeeper and Conservative councillor in Grantham, Lincolnshire, in 1925.
She studied chemistry at Oxford University and worked for a plastics company before marrying businessman Denis Thatcher in 1951.
She gave birth to twins Mark and Carol in 1953, the year she also qualified as a barrister, and served as MP for Finchley, north London, from 1959 to 1992.
Having been education secretary, she successfully challenged former prime minister Edward Heath for her party's leadership in 1975 and won general elections in 1979, 1983 and 1987.
Sir John Major, who replaced Lady Thatcher as prime minister in 1990, called her a "true force of nature".
He added: "Her outstanding characteristics will always be remembered by those who worked closely with her: courage and determination in politics, and humanity and generosity of spirit in private."
* Baroness Thatcher is to have a ceremonial funeral - a step short of a state funeral - with military honours to be held at St Paul's Cathedral in London
* The funeral parade will begin at Chapel of St Mary Undercroft at the Palace of Westminster
* A hearse will take the body to the RAF Chapel at the church of St Clement Danes on the Strand
* Baroness Thatcher's coffin will be transferred to a gun carriage and drawn by the Kings Troop Royal Artillery to St Paul's Cathedral
* The route is to be lined by all three armed forces
Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair called her a "towering figure", while his successor Gordon Brown praised her "determination and resilience".
Labour leader Ed Miliband said Lady Thatcher had been a "unique figure" who "reshaped the politics of a whole generation".
He added: "The Labour Party disagreed with much of what she did and she will always remain a controversial figure. But we can disagree and also greatly respect her political achievements and her personal strength."
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg described Lady Thatcher as one of the "defining figures in modern British politics", adding: "She may have divided opinion during her time in politics but everyone will be united today in acknowledging the strength of her personality and the radicalism of her politics."
Others to pay tribute included former chancellors Lord Howe and Lord Lawson, who resigned from her government following differences over economic policy, Europe and her leadership style. Lord Howe said the former prime minister was a "remarkable person" and a "very good" leader.
London Mayor Boris Johnson said Lady Thatcher's memory would "live long after the world has forgotten the grey suits of today's politics" while Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond described her as "a truly formidable prime minister whose policies defined a political generation".
But Lady Thatcher's economic policies and political style also came in for criticism.
Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock said income inequality had grown sharply during her time in office while Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said she had "prolonged the war and caused great suffering" in Northern Ireland by the use of "draconian, militaristic policies".
In a statement, The National Union of Mineworkers said Lady Thatcher had "set out to serve those whose interests were profit for the few" and this had led to the "decimation" of the coal industry.
And "parties" have been taking place in Glasgow and in Brixton, south London, to mark Baroness Thatcher's death. BBC reporters said about 250 people are attending the event in Glasgow and 100 in Brixton.
* Baroness Thatcher is to have a ceremonial funeral - a step short of a state funeral - with military honours to be held at St Paul's Cathedral in London
* The funeral parade will begin at Chapel of St Mary Undercroft at the Palace of Westminster
* A hearse will take the body to the RAF Chapel at the church of St Clement Danes on the Strand
* Baroness Thatcher's coffin will be transferred to a gun carriage and drawn by the Kings Troop Royal Artillery to St Paul's Cathedral
* The route is to be lined by all three armed forces
She was asked if Thatcherism had left the nation divided. She responded with a partly political broadcast.
Listen to Maggies first speech as pm at whitehouse with jimmy carter
Maggie bows out in style
No matter what individual people think of her, (I disagree with a lot of what she did or the attitude she displayed or her often strange views on the world) ...but one cannot deny that she was a witty, very intelligent and extremly strong woman who staunchly fought her corner in a male-dominated world of that time. And she undoubtedly considerably shaped the UK of the 20th century which would have certainly been a different country without her.
Last edited by Matthias Offodile; April 8th, 2013 at 11:01 PM.