Nigeria’s New President Sworn in Amidst ‘Catastrophic Expectations’

By Lisa Vives

Swearing-in Ceremony Nigeria 2015NEW YORK, Jun 1 2015 (IPS) – Muhammadu Buhari, his hand on the Holy Book, was sworn in as Nigeria’s president at an open-air ceremony this past Friday in the capital city of Abuja. His speech acknowledged many of the challenges facing the largest democracy in Africa but offered hope that these challenges could be met. Continue reading Nigeria’s New President Sworn in Amidst ‘Catastrophic Expectations’


SACBC Justice and Peace Commission

The President should show a greater level of ethical leadership on the Nkandla affair

The Justice and Peace Commission for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference notes with dismay the determination in the report released by the police minister Nathi Nhleko last week that President Zuma is not liable for any non-security upgrades to his private residence at Nkandla.

There are a lot of legal and constitutional matters that are being contested in relation to the public protector’s report on Nkandla. As Church, our role is to remind our political leaders of their ethical responsibility.   In this role, we wish to remind our political leaders that, at a time when millions of our people are struggling to make ends meet, it is morally unjustifiable for the government to spend excessive amounts of money – R246 million – on one person and on non-security items highlighted by the public protector’s report. We therefore urge the president to show ethical leadership and take some responsibility for the runaway expenditure on the Nkandla project. Continue reading THE STATEMENT OF THE JUSTICE AND PEACE COMMISSION OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON NKANDLA.

Okinawans Want Their Land Back. Is That So Hard to Understand?


The U.S. military sits at the center of a dispute that’s plagued the peaceful island of Okinawa for decades.

By Jon Letman, Originally published in Truthout.

Protesters hold up anti-military base signs in Okinawa. (Photo: Chota Takamine)
Protesters hold up anti-military base signs in Okinawa. (Photo: Chota Takamine)

Living in a country where people learn world geography through frequently fought overseas wars, Americans are accustomed to reading about places where we’ve fought wars — Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. But one formerly war-ravaged part of the world most Americans don’t think much about is Okinawa.

Once the independent kingdom of Ryukyu, Okinawa was annexed by Japan through a series of events in the 1870s. At the end of World War II, 70 years ago, Okinawa was the site of one of the war’s most ferocious battles.

Caught between the armies of Japan and the United States, Okinawans suffered unspeakable horrors during the “typhoon of steel.” Viewed as expendable under imperial Japan, many Okinawans were killed outright by Japanese soldiers or forced to commit mass suicide. An estimated 120,000 Okinawans — between one-third and one-quarter of the population — died between March and June 1945. Continue reading Okinawans Want Their Land Back. Is That So Hard to Understand?

Article by Justice Malala – a MUST read

Sent by Sr. Biddy Rose Tiernan, SNDdeN
The author is an independent minded South African journalist, and he can write.

Justice Malala writes

“President Jacob Zuma is not a fool. He makes gaffes every week and has no idea what constitutionality means. But he is not a fool.”

He might not read – as has been alleged – but that does not mean he does not know what levers have to be cranked to ensure that he never gets inside a court.

Since he became the president of the ANC in 2007, he has overseen the most concerted and successful assault on the country’s independent institutions.

The judiciary is today facing a major crisis of confidence because of cases involving him at the Constitutional Court.

The minute he won the ANC presidency in Polokwane, the Scorpions – which had been investigating him- were disbanded. It was quick, cruel and ruthless.

Over the past few months it has been the public protector’s turn. In that time, we have witnessed concerted and coordinated attacks from parliament, the executive and various wings of the ANC on the office led by possibly the most admired “public servant” in the nation today – Thuli Madonsela.

This past week we had the extraordinary sight of our security cluster – which has over the past few weeks made fools of themselves saying all kinds of nonsense about Madonsela – turning on the populace and declaring that publication of pictures of the taxpayer-funded Nkandla monstrosity were illegal and that the full might of the law would come down on those who dared to do so. All this for one man: Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma.

The man is not a fool. He has managed to get Africa’s oldest liberation movement to become a tool for his protection.

Whatever he does – whether it is his friends the Guptas landing their planes at military key points with impunity or a hideous compound being built for him for R208-million, the man has got the party rushing to do his bidding.

And so one has to ask: Which ANC is this?

How can an organisation that refused to have a personality cult built around Nelson Mandela allow itself to become a mere tool in the hands of Zuma? How can its leaders cast aside the party’s historical mission – to transform the lives of millions of poor black people and build a united, non-racial, prosperous and democratic country – to simply become gophers for Zuma?

Yet that is what the party’s 86-member national executive committee has become.

ANC MPs are now introducing legislation that is aimed solely at protecting this one man.

Across the land, provincial party leaders hobble state machinery merely to protect and keep this one compromised leader out of jail and in power.

It is an incredible sight.

Once proud leaders who served our nation in exile, in the United Democratic Front and in trade unions now scrape and bow before one man.

The ANC no longer has leaders. It has zombies who mindlessly follow this one leader and do his bidding.

It is quite extraordinary.

What has happened to the culture of debate and contestation that once permeated this movement?

What happened to the pride that made this once great organisation stand up and expel people who muddied its name?

How can this lot walk in the shoes of Albert Luthuli, AP Mda, Anton Lembede, Pixley kaIsaka Seme?

So, as we look at the extraordinary lengths that the current ANC “leadership” has gone to defend an embarrassment of a leader whose entire family seems to be infused by a shocking culture of entitlement – Zuma’s brother, Michael, last week admitted using his name to swing tenders to his benefactors – we have to ask: Where is the ANC?

The answer is heartbreaking: The ANC is compromised; it is lost.

It has lost its moral compass and its leadership of society.

The man at its head is a reflection of what the party is: ill-disciplined, compromised and unprincipled.

The desperation one sees among the ANC’s leaders is a reflection of this.
When a man as widely admired as Cyril Ramaphosa has no other argument to convince a voter to still support the ANC than “the Boers will return”, then you know that this is a movement that is both intellectually and morally bankrupt. The emperor and his lieutenants have no clothes.

And so we will remember the reign of Zuma. We will remember it not for its achievements but for the cowardice, callowness and bankruptcy of the leadership that he brought with him. We will remember his lackeys for their bowing and scraping and their destruction of the continent’s greatest liberation movement.

What an ignominious end for the party of Mandela.”

If you want to make more people aware of how our country is being undermined by one man’s personal greed and, in the hope of stopping this runaway train, encourage people to be part of finding a solution, please forward the above article to all your friends, family and associates.

Thank you.

Thirsty in Nicaragua, the Country Where ‘Agua’ Is Part of Its Name

By José Adán Silva

The people who live in the village of Santa Isabel in the western Nicaraguan department or province of Boaco have to walk long distances to fetch water from streams and wells, because nearby water sources dried up this year during the unusually long dry season. Credit: Courtesy of Jorge Torres/La Prensa de Nicaragua
The people who live in the village of Santa Isabel in the western Nicaraguan department or province of Boaco have to walk long distances to fetch water from streams and wells, because nearby water sources dried up this year during the unusually long dry season. Credit: Courtesy of Jorge Torres/La Prensa de Nicaragua

MANAGUA, Jun 4 2015 (IPS) – Nicaragua, the Central American country with the most abundant water sources, and where water – “agua” in Spanish – is even part of its name, is suffering one of its worst water crises in half a century, fuelled by climate change, deforestation and erosion.María Esther González is one of many residents of the Nicaraguan capital whose daily lives are affected by the water shortages. She lives in a poor neighbourhood in Managua’s District One, where piped water is now available for less than two hours a day.

González, the head of her household, hasn’t slept well for the past four years, because she has to be alert and ready when the water starts to run, any time between 11 PM and 3 AM.

She then has two hours or less to fill up a number of containers, wash clothes and clean her small home, before the pipes run dry again.

“For four years I’ve had to keep a vigil late at night to collect the water for our daily needs,” González told IPS.

But sometimes three days go by before the water runs, and Nicaragua’s water and sanitation utility, the Empresa Nicaragüense Acueductos y Alcantarillados (Enacal), has to distribute water in tanker trucks to many neighourhoods in the capital.

“People now have to walk long distances to find water, and those who can afford it buy water from farmers who have wells on their properties. The problem is that not everyone can afford to buy both water and food.” — Arístides Álvarez  In Managua – whose name also contains the word “agua,” – a city of 1.6 million people, the problem is more visible due to media coverage of the frequent protests by entire neighbourhoods taking to the streets.

But the shortage is a nationwide problem, and threatens the living conditions of the country’s 6.1 million inhabitants, and especially the rural population.

Arístides Álvarez, a member of the non-governmental network of Potable Water and Sanitation Committees, told IPS that in rural areas in central and western Nicaragua thousands of families used to depend on wells and rivers that have dried up.

The community organiser said, for example, that in some communities in the department or province of Chinandega, 140 km northwest of Managua, three rivers that supplied at least 1,300 rural families now run dry during the November to May dry season.

“Today people have to walk long distances to find water, and those who can afford it buy water from farmers who have wells on their properties,” Álvarez said. “The problem is that not everyone can afford to buy both water and food.”

According to Álvarez, rural families were desperately waiting for the rains that should fall in the May to October rainy season. But this May the rain was scant and sporadic.

Ruth Selma Herrera, the former executive president of the Enacal water facility, told IPS that another problem affecting water supplies is the lack of investment in the water system and poor water management.

“At least 150 million dollars are needed to upgrade the water distribution network, because the pipes are old and the losses due to leaks are enormous,” she said.

But no short-term solution is in sight.

El Niño poses a threat

According to forecasts from mid-May by the U.S. National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, there is a 90 percent chance that the El Niño climate phenomenon will continue to affect Central America through the Northern Hemisphere summer and an 80 percent chance that it will last through the year.

El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a cyclical phenomenon in which the surface temperatures of the equatorial Pacific rise and have repercussions on weather around the world as the currents flow west to east.

In response to warnings of a new drought, the Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development sounded the alert about food and nutritional problems for the people living in the so-called “dry corridor” – an arid region in the northeast and centre of Nicaragua encompassing 33 of the country’s 153 municipalities, characterised by low rainfall and high poverty levels.

The concern, expressed in a report on the country’s economic situation for 2015 presented in April, is that in the dry corridor, home to over one million people, food production and consumption could decline again due to the drought-related loss of grains and livestock, similar to what happened last year.

In 2014 the central government sent emergency aid – food, water and medicine – to that area affected by the drought caused by El Niño, which periodically leads to drought on the western Pacific seaboard and the centre of the country, with a major drop in precipitation during the rainy season, according to the Centro Humboldt, a local environmental organisation.

The organisation’s concern was shared by the local World Bank delegation.

World Bank representative in Nicaragua Luis Constantino told the La Prensa newspaper that the Bank and the government were currently discussing a strategic plan for the dry corridor.

“We are focusing on water management programmes,” he told the paper. “We are proposing a conference (with experts) to discuss options for the dry corridor, mainly to ensure that local governments have enough water to supply the population, but also to discuss maximising irrigation possibilities for agriculture and livestock.”

Jaime Incer Barquero, a Nicaraguan scientist and adviser to the president on environmental issues, told IPS that climate change has been expressed in Nicaragua through the El Niño and La Niña effects, associated with drought and flooding, respectively.

This country has Central America’s two biggest lakes: the 1,052-sq-km Lake Xolotlán and the 8,138-sq-km Lake Cocibolca, also known as Lake Nicaragua. In addition it has 26 lagoons, over 100 rivers, four reservoirs and five of Central America’s 19 largest river basins.

Land degradation

Different organisations say the level of soil erosion in Nicaragua is 10 times higher than the maximum rate that permits an optimum level of crop productivity, and this is affecting the country’s water sources.

The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) reported that Nicaragua’s soil is eroding at an irreversible pace because of the conversion of forest to pasture land for extensive grazing.

The maximum tolerable soil loss in the country is four tons (degraded due to poor agricultural and livestock management practices) per hectare per year. But in Nicaragua soil loss stands at 40 tons a year, CIAT researcher Carlos Zelaya explained during environmental workshops held in Managua in May.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) confirmed the magnitude of the problem.

“In Nicaragua land degradation is around 30 percent, and as high as 35 percent in the west,” said FAO food security facilitator in Nicaragua, Luis Mejía.

Incer Barquero, the presidential adviser, said that if erosion is not curbed, “in less than 50 years we’ll stop being called Nicaragua, and water will be a distant memory.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

Forthcoming book documents history of black sisters in U.S.


LONDON (CNS) — Shannen Dee Williams stumbled on the subject of black nuns by accident. Later, she would wonder if she had done the right thing by digging further. “Had I known what I was going to uncover, I probably wouldn’t have done this project,” Williams said. “I was naive. I didn’t get it.”

What she didn’t get — what she never expected to find — was that the history of black women religious in the United States is replete with shocking examples of racism, racial segregation and marginalization, perpetuated by their white religious leaders and peers. At their peak around 1965, there were about 1,000 African-American sisters, Williams said, but there are only about 300 today.

Dr. Shannen Dee Williams pesented some of her research at an international symposium at the University of Notre Dame's London Global Gateway campus. (GSR/NCR)
Dr. Shannen Dee Williams pesented some of her research at an international symposium at the University of Notre Dame’s London Global Gateway campus. (GSR/NCR)

Her project was first her doctoral thesis and is now a forthcoming book, “Subversive Habits: Black Nuns and the Struggle to Desegregate Catholic America after World War I.” In early May, she presented some of her research at “The Nun in the World: Catholic Sisters and Vatican II,” an international symposium at the University of Notre Dame’s London Global Gateway campus, hosted by the university’s Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism.

Williams is an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she teaches courses in U.S., African-American, women’s, civil rights and religious history. When “Subversive Habits” is published, it will be the first historical monograph to examine the lives and labors of black Catholic sisters in the 20th-century United States.

Pope Francis warns mission societies against becoming NGOs


World Mission Day 2015 (AP Photo)
World Mission Day 2015 (AP Photo)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The mission-oriented agencies of the church must guard against operating like nongovernmental organizations, empty of Christ’s  presence, Pope Francis said. “Please, guard against falling into the temptation of becoming an NGO, a distribution office for subsidies, small or large. Money can help, but it can also be the ruin of the mission,” said Pope Francis in an audience June 5 with members of the pontifical mission societies.

The societies, who were holding their annual meeting in Rome, are the four missionary awareness and mission-funding agencies coordinated under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The agencies support the church in developing countries, as well as the formation of seminarians, priests and religious in pontifical colleges, the pope noted.

However, he warned the groups’ members that “when functionalism becomes central or takes up a lot of space, as if it were the most important thing, it will lead to ruin; because the first way to die is to take for granted the ‘sources,’ that is he who moves the mission.” The work of the pontifical mission societies belongs to Jesus, he continued, urging members not to “remove Jesus Christ” from their “many plans and programs.”