A new law that excludes former officials of the Gaddafi era from public office is dividing Libya and deepening the turmoil plaguing the country.
Passed by Parliament on Sunday essentially at gunpoint – heavily armed militias were parked outside government buildings and refused to leave until it was approved – the law bans from politics not only those who held office but clerics who glorified Muammar Gaddafi and researchers who worked on his notorious ideological tract, the Green Book.
The measure is one more symbol of the divided society that has emerged after Gaddafi's ousting in the oil-rich North African nation, stalling its troubled transition to democracy.
The collapse of central state authority and the already weakened military under Gaddafi has left successive governments without strong and decisive law enforcement bodies and forced them to lean on militias, formed initially from rebel forces that fought Gaddafi, to fill the security vacuum.
Legal experts as well as supporters and opponents of the new law note that it can be overridden if it's not included in a new constitution that has yet to be drafted. The Parliament itself is temporary, with its main mission being the formation of a panel to write the charter that will result in new elections.
"This Parliament and this government are transitional and therefore any decrees that are passed under transitional bodies become invalid," said veteran lawyer Abdullah Banoun. "Only after the new constitution passes, and we know how Libya will look in the future, only then can Parliament debate laws like that."
Law a 'legal violation'
According to a timeframe set by the transitional government during the eight-month civil war, the new constitution was supposed to have been drafted by November 2012. But the process stalled amid a struggle between two factions in Parliament – a group of mostly Islamists and their rivals over formation of the Cabinet.
In the meantime, many senior politicians and former Gaddafi-era officials who defected to the rebel side may lose their posts.
Banoun supports the idea of purging Gaddafi-era officials but objects to the passage of the law under pressure from the militias, which are comprised of former rebels who have refused to lay down their arms and hold sway in the absence of a strong military or police force.
"The law in itself is a legal violation because Parliament passed it while it was under a state of terrorism and intimidation," Banoun said.
After the militia groups ended their siege of government buildings, Prime Minister Ali Zidan promised a Cabinet reshuffle and praised them on Wednesday as "revolutionaries".
He said his government would look into the backgrounds of all senior officials and fire those banned by the new law.
Under the legislation, anyone with ties to the former regime would be barred for 10 years from state institutions, including the military, police, judiciary, local councils, universities, financial oversight bodies or media institutions.
The law bans anyone who held a post in or "behaved" in a way that served and prolonged Gaddafi's regime.
This includes participants in the coup that overthrew Libya's monarchy in 1969, members of the notorious Revolutionary Guards that hunted down Gaddafi's opponents, legislators in the Gaddafi-era Parliament, members of local councils, ambassadors, heads of student unions, those with business ties to Gaddafi family members, employees of state-run media and those who took part in failed reform efforts by Gaddafi's son and heir apparent, Saif al-Islam.
Also targeted are those who studied and researched the Green Book, which laid out Gaddafi's vision for rule by the people, but ultimately put all power in his hands alone.
Also banned are Libyans who co-operated with security agencies and violated human rights, those who glorified Gaddafi and promoted his Green Book and ultraconservative Muslim clerics and others who opposed the 2011 civil war that led to Gaddafi's capture and killing.
Supporters of the law say such sweeping measures are needed to allow state institutions to develop free of the influence and corruption that plagued the Gaddafi era.
Critics say it perpetuates the regime's practice of excluding a large bloc of Libya's more than six million people from political life.
Opponents have dubbed the law "de-Gaddafisation," and say it is reminiscent of what happened in Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003 that ousted Saddam Hussein. Under that policy, Iraqis with ties to Saddam's ruling Baath Party lost their jobs, effectively draining the country of the most qualified and skilled bureaucrats.
The new Libyan law is to take effect in early June.
Jobs on the line
It is not clear how many people will be dismissed, but those whose jobs are on the line include Mahmoud Jibril, the liberal-leaning politician and head of the National Forces Alliance that won the largest number of parliamentary seats in the July 2012 elections. He was prime minister for the opposition during the civil war and in the transitional council that governed the country in the months afterward.
Also affected would be Parliament leader Mohammed al-Megarif, who was Libyan ambassador to India in 1980 before he joined the opposition in exile.
Al-Megarif wrote a series of books on Gaddafi's repressive policies and led the country's oldest armed opposition movement, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, which plotted assassination attempts, including a daring 1984 raid on Bab al-Aziziyah, the late dictator's fortified compound in Tripoli. The regime cracked down on the group, executing and arresting many of its members. Many fled abroad, where they worked as political activists.
"The law is very unfair to people like al-Megarif, because it puts them on equal footing with people who killed the revolutionaries during the war," said Tawfiq Breik, of the liberal-leaning National Forces Alliance.
Majda al-Falah, a lawmaker with the Freedom and Construction Party, the political arm of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, said Parliament will discuss laws governing the election of a 60-member constitution panel next week.
She said it will be up to this panel to keep the law or remove it.
'Made in China' has saved lives. Why not share it, in the form of cheaper commodities such as Chinese-produced medicine, with Africa?" asked Ming-Hui Ren, director general of the Chinese government's international co-operation department. He was speaking this week at the first meeting on African soil to consolidate health collaboration between the giant of the Far East and the continent.
About 200 African and Chinese government officials, UN agencies, international aid organisations and Chinese drug companies attended the meeting at the Gaborone Sun in Botswana's capital.
China's deputy health and family planning commission minister Xiao-Wei Ma, said the gathering signified a "new historical line" in China and Africa's relationship by setting it on "a fast track of overall development".
While China and Africa have been meeting on health co-operation annually since 2009, all meetings until now were held in China and this was the first time the Chinese pharmaceutical industry and international aid organisations joined the collaborations.
In August, the health ministers of African countries will gather in Beijing to further consolidate "mutually beneficial health co-operation".
A question of ulterior motives
While China has experience to share, it has been criticised for allegedly providing health assistance to Africa only to secure access to natural resources and economic markets. But Ren maintained that his country has no interest in Africa's natural resources. He insisted that China's sole motivation in co-operating more in Africa's health spheres is to "save African lives and battle disease together".
China, the world's second largest economy, has achieved remarkable improvements in health indicators over the past few decades: Chinese government data shows that life expectancy increased from 45 in 1960 to 74.8 in 2010 and maternal mortality was cut by two-thirds between 1991 and 2011 to 30.1 per 100000 women – 10 times lower than South Africa's rate.
The focus of collaborations does however seem to be swayed towards increased business for China through the facilitation of the entry of cheaper Chinese medical products into the African market.
According to Ming Xu from China's ministry of commerce, China and Africa need to develop an "array of matchmaking platforms" to help Chinese drug companies with the registration of their products in Africa, dealing with local authorities, as well as the preparation of the required documents".
Feng Zhao from the African Development Bank said some countries, such as Ethiopia and Uganda, spend up to half of their health budgets on importing expensive medicine, yet on average the continent's countries only have access to 38% of essential medicines prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Vaccine industry booming
China has one of the world's fastest growing vaccine industries, which produce immunisations at a fraction of the price of the Western world. According to the Gates Foundation's China director, Ray Yip, a dose of oral polio vaccine costs between three and four US cents in China, while the WHO says it's produced for up to five times that amount elsewhere.
China has mostly been unable to sell such products internationally, as their standards have not been vetted by the WHO, which requires manufacturers to adhere to stringent guidelines in order to obtain "prequalification", or approval.
On May 13, a WHO team will be visiting a Chinese vaccine manufacturer for the final step in prequalification approval for a vaccine for Japanese encephalitis. According to Jian-Kang Zhang, the China programme leader for health organisation Path, several other "African disease" vaccines, such as rotavirus, pneumonia and polio vaccines are in the pipeline for prequalification.
Daniel Berman, the director of the aid organisation Médecins sans Frontières in South Africa, said adding China's products to the vaccine market will result in increased competition and "massive reductions in cost from which Africa could heavily benefit".
Botswana's permanent health secretary, Kolaatamo Malefho, said he would have faith in Chinese products, despite perceptions that some are substandard – as long as they have been prequalified.
However, Yip added: "You get what you pay for. African governments would therefore have to carefully vet their buying companies so they are able to trust them to buy quality products."
According to Alastair Robb from the British government's department for international development, the department will commit funds to the health collaboration, although the amount has yet to be determined. The department strongly supports Africa-China partnerships and has already given £10-million to a project that focuses on transferring Chinese agricultural technology to Africa.
Berman said it was "interesting" that China is "asking Africa what it wants … There has been good consultation, but we need to keep in mind that all development aid, including China's, is tied to 'objectives'."
Janet Byaruhanga, health officer at the African Union, cautioned that China should remember "Africa is not a country. There are 54 of them and each one is different with a different culture and level of development."
No South African government representative attended the meeting. The health department's director general, Precious Matsoso, was listed on the programme as a speaker, but told the Mail & Guardian after the conference: "What is the meeting about? I didn't know about it. No one contacted me about it."
MONROVIA - The Liberian government denied on Friday it had violated its own laws in awarding resource contracts and pledged to implement the recommendations of an independent audit into the deals.
According to a draft of the audit obtained by Reuters, almost $8 billion worth of contracts signed by Liberia since 2009 have violated its laws, casting doubt on President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's anti-graft and good governance efforts.
"We did not violate any laws ... Some contracts awarded were not in the interest of the country and we had to come back to renegotiate," Information Minister Lewis Brown told a news conference in the capital Monrovia.
"We do recognize that we have capacity problems and we accept that," Brown said, adding that the audit was aimed at boosting Liberia's ability to negotiate contracts and avoid corrupt deals.
"The real issue is strengthening capacity," he said.
Nobel Peace Prize-laureate Sirleaf has said the billions of dollars in foreign investment she has drawn since becoming Africa's first freely-elected female president in 2006 should help ordinary Liberia to climb out of poverty.
But the audit could prove a bitter pill for Liberia. The accounting firm hired to conduct the audit, Moore Stephens, disclosed widespread irregularities with the deals in its draft report.
Natty B. Davies, chairman of Liberia's National Investment Commission, said the purpose of the audit to was to point out what had happened and recommend possible action.
"We will look into any recommendation that will be made to us," Davies said at the news conference with the information minister. "That audit was commissioned by us and it is all aimed at enhancing the level of transparency and accountability of this government."
Liberia, settled in part by freed American slaves, sees itself as a rising African star as it recovers from 14 years of on-off civil war funded by "blood diamonds" that ended in 2003, leaving its economy and infrastructure in ruins.
Major mining contracts signed since 2009 include a $1.5 billion deal with Anglo-Australian miner BHP. The draft audit said the deal was among those only "partially compliant" with Liberian law.
It added that none of the tangle of commercial forestry contracts - dozens of smaller-value projects covering a huge area of forest - complied entirely with Liberian law.
ROME, Italy's first black minister has responded to a barrage of sexist and racial insults by saying she is proud to be black, not coloured, and that Italy is not really a racist country.
Cecile Kyenge, an eye doctor and Italian citizen originally from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was named integration minister by Prime Minister Enrico Letta last Saturday, one of seven women in the new government.
Since then, she has been the subject of taunts on far-right websites, which have branded her with names such as "Congolese monkey", "Zulu" and "the black anti-Italian".
She also faced race-tinged insults from Mario Borghezio, a European parliament member of the pro-devolution Northern League, which has been allied in the past with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
In reference to Kyenge, Borghezio called Letta's coalition a "bonga bonga government" - a play on the "bunga, bunga" antics under Berlusconi - and said she herself appeared to be "a good housewife but not a minister".
Kyenge dismissed the comments, which the speaker of the lower house Laura Boldrini labelled "racist vulgarities". Kyenge plans to push for legislation, opposed by the League, that would allow children born in Italy to immigrant parents to get automatic citizenship instead of waiting until 18 to apply.
"I arrived in Italy alone at 18 years old, and I don't believe in giving up in front of obstacles," Kyenge, who left DRC so she could pursue her studies in medicine, said.
She also rejected the term "coloured" used to describe her in many Italian press reports, saying: "I am not coloured, I am black and I say it with pride".
Millions of emigrants left Italy in the 19th and 20th centuries but the country has had difficulties integrating citizens from other countries who come seeking work.
Kyenge, who is married to an Italian, said she did not view Italy as a particularly racist country, and believed that hostile attitudes stem mainly from ignorance.
"Italy has a tradition of welcoming and offering hospitality towards others. We need to recognise these traditions and apply them day to day," she said.
Boldrini herself told a newspaper on Friday that she had received daily death threats online and a stream of messages containing sexually violent images.
"When a woman takes up public office, sexist aggression sets off against her, and whether simple gossip or violent...it always uses the same vocabulary of humiliation and submission," Boldrini told La Repubblica newspaper.
"We shouldn't be afraid to say that this is an underground culture, shared in some way. In my view: an emergency in Italy," she said, pointing to regular cases of Italian women being murdered or abused by men, often by husbands or partners.
The brutal regime of jailed ex-president Charles Taylor registered the largest rate of economic growth than the present government of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a new group has claimed.
The Liberian Institute of Public Integrity or LIPI report, which was compiled by the talkative former Auditor General John Morlu, his ex-Press Officer Ernest Maximore, Aloysius Toe, the man brought to fame by Taylor; Dan Saryee, the man noted for the issuance of the controversial Legislative report cards, and Cllr. Jerome Verdier, former chairman of the defunct TRC, among others hailed the Taylor regime as the best performer in the history of Liberia.
"President Taylor regime registered the largest growth rate in the history of Liberia, growing at 106.28% in December 1997. From 1997 when Taylor assumed power to December 2002, which was his last full year in office, Taylor's economy grew on average of 39.76%, beating all Liberian Presidents," LIPI said.
"But as was the case with all previous governments," LIPI continues, " Taylor left for Bryant an economy that was characterized by "rampant" corruption, nepotism and patronage."
Morlu, Saryee, Verdier, Toe and others said Liberia's Gross Domestic Product or GNP witnessed a very strong growth from December 1997 to December 2002 with an average of 39.76% under Taylor, who headed a dreaded regime as compared to an average of 7.16% under current President Ellen Johnson-Sireaf for the period December 2006 to December 2013.
Under a particular section in the report, Morlu, Toe, Saryee, Verdier and others concluded that looking at Liberia's historical GDP Growth, "Charles Taylor wins the GDP myth."
According to them, Taylor's regime in 1997 recorded an annual growth of 106.28 percent, 29.70% in 1998, 22.90% in 1999, 25.70% in 2000, 22.10% in 2001 and 31.89% in 2002, a year before he was forced into exile.
The group quotes economic data published by Trading Economics, which shows that "the gross domestic product (GDP) in Liberia expanded 8.80 percent in 2012 from the previous year. The Central Bank of Liberia reports GDP Annual Growth Rate in Liberia.
Historically, from 1961 until 2012, Liberia GDP Annual Growth Rate averaged 2.79 percent, reaching an all-time high of 106.28 percent in December of 1997 and a record low of -51.03 percent in December of 1990."
LIPI has reproduced Liberia's GDP data from Trading Economics for reference. See the various tables:
Tubman presented to President William R. Tolbert an economy that had an average growth rate of 4.9% in the preceding 10 years prior to the death of President Tubman, peaking in 1966 at 7.7%. The growth rate in 1966 was recorded as the highest rate in the world. Inasmuch as Tubman left for President Tolbert such an impressive gross domestic product growth, he also left an undeveloped country characterized by massive level of corruption, nepotism and patronage.
Tolbert presented to President Samuel K. Doe a growing economy, an economy that registered an average growth rate of %2.56 percent under the regime of Tolbert. Except for 1973 and 1975, Tolbert maintained positive gross domestic product growth rates.
By 1979, the last full year of Tolbert regime, although the economy was on the decline, it was positive 3.26% at year-end, down from 4.82% the previous year. As was the case of Tubman, Tolbert handed over to President Doe an economy characterized by underdevelopment caused by "rampant" corruption, nepotism and patronage.
President Samuel Doe made a serious mess of the economy, showing a negative average growth rate of 4.40%. From the first year in office until the eve of the civil war in 1989, President Samuel Doe tanked the economy, reaching an astronomical decline in gross domestic product of negative 26.70%.
But the irony is in spite of his negative economic growth, Samuel Doe was regarded as a development-oriented President, who contributed significantly to the infrastructure development of Liberia, including the construction of public roads and highways, and public buildings than any of the Liberian presidents whose economy was considered "fastest growing."
Doe did not just leave an economy characterized by "rampant" corruption, nepotism, tribalism, and patronage, he left behind an economy that had completely imploded and sunk.
Between President Samuel Doe and President Charles Taylor, Liberia had several intervening political arrangements, including an interim government and a rotating council. At December 31, 1990, Liberia recorded the worst economic performance, reaching negative growth of 51.03%. By December 31, 1996, the economy has recovered and grew at 12.12%. Essentially, President Taylor also inherited a growing economy.
President Taylor regime registered the largest growth rate in the history of Liberia, growing at 106.28% in December 1997. From 1997 when Taylor assumed power to December 2002, which was his last full year in office, Taylor's economy grew on average of 39.76%, beating all Liberian Presidents. But as was the case with all previous governments, Taylor left for Bryant an economy that was characterized by "rampant" corruption, nepotism and patronage.
Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant inherited an economy that was in a complete free fall. By 2003, the war escalated and all economic activities seemed to have not only come to a complete stop, but also were in a precipitous decline, reaching negative 31.30%. In a matter of two years, Chairman Bryant turned the economic situation around, producing an average GDP growth of 3.95%.
As history has shown, Chairman Bryant left for Ellen Johnson Sirleaf an economy that was characterized by "rampant" corruption and extreme political patronage, much of the patronage being imposed by warring factions' distribution of government institutions through the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Accra.
President Sirleaf inherited an economy that was also amongst the "fastest growing" economies in Africa, with a growth rate of 5.30%. Except for President Samuel Doe, who tanked the economy he inherited, Sirleaf has continued the growth started by Chairman Bryant. Including the projected 7.20% growth in 2013, the average growth rate under Sirleaf is 7.16%, only second to Charles Taylor's economy.
But if history and current performance are measures of future performance, then President Sirleaf is likely to leave behind a growing economy characterized by the historical problems of corruption, nepotism and political patronage. The institutionalization of corruption and the culture of impunity remain a cause for concern.