Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Apartment explosion in Maryland not terrorism

Washington, DC and its place in the world. Silver Spring is to D.C.'s immediate North. Unlike some national capitals, Washington, DC is not pat of an autonomous region nor part of a specific county. It has it's own county the District of Colombia but DC is not it's own state. There has been campaigns for years to make D.C. the 51st state to no avail. As a result D.C.'s independent city government is tied to the national government.

While the world and fanatic sports fans have been distracted for the time by the Rio Olympics, events continue to go on around the world. In Silver Spring, Maryland, a late night explosion and fire in August 11th levelled half of an apartment building that killed 2 residents and injured another 30 people. The apartment residents were more shocked and confused. One apartment resident referred to the explosion as "un temblor" an earthquake. This is not a terrorist attack. It is most likely a gas leak set off the explosion. The ATF sprung into action is now investigating the cause of the explosion alongside the local Silver Spring Police and Fire Department. Several families have been made homeless as a result of the explosion. Silver Springs is a bordering suburb of the U.S. capital of Washington, D.C. It is part of the wider D.C. Metro system. Silver Spring like Bethesda and other Maryland towns bordering D.C. is home to multiple government employees, agencies, hospitals and shops tied in some form to the national government. There is Pentagon City and the underground Crystal City across from the Pentagon. Any explosion or loud noise makes D.C. paranoid no matter how small. Keeping the United States' capital city and the home of U.S. president protected at all cost is not taken lightly by the local D.C. police, the Pentagon, the FBI, ATF and Homeland Security. At times, all of them work together to ensure the city's safety. However, it is worth noting that apartment explosions are not unique to Silver Spring or D.C. alone.

Massive explosions that levelled two apartments in New York 2015

It's common to hear about apartments being levelled by gas explosions across the United States. Many apartments and houses in cities and towns use gas stoves powered by propane, butane, natural gas, etc and gas for heating. Electric stoves are also popular and common but for many older infrastructure, gas is still king. It is not uncommon to hear apartment residents complain of gas leaks for weeks to landlords prior to dangerous apartment explosions. 

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Sudan Crisis: Who is accountable

There was much accolade and praises for both sides when the recent National Dialogue Roadmap to Peace (sound familiar? Think Occupied Palestine and Israeli military) was signed between Darfuri factions and Sudanese government. For decades, the various rebel groups (not the straw man stereotypical rebels from Hollywood films or Western media) who are and have been fighting an armed struggled against the Sudanese government over legitimate demands. Since Omar Bashir came to power in 1989, the Sudanese government that has cared little if not at all for marginalized people living across Sudan in Darfur, Blue Nile state, North Kordofan, Red Sea state home to the Beja people and Northern Nubia. It appears the government is only concerned about the well being of the Sudanese capital Khartoum that has become a metropolis and a mini Cairo if you well. The ongoing conflicts in Darfur, North Kordofan and Abyei has little to do with religion or Clash of Civilizations ie Islam vs Christian or Islam vs indigenous/local religions. It has to do with marginalization, climate change, neglectful government, a self proclaimed President for life who treats the position as their own personal kingdom (think Mubarak in Egypt before 2011 Egyptian Revolution or Ben Ali of Tunisia and countless other African leaders), lack of representation in politics, economics and society. Bashir has been pushing ethnicity in this case Arab and African Sudanese against one another even neighbours. Ethnicity and the old saying, "you're better than them" since they are our enemy or because you come from this group or "they are not like us" has been played up by the government and it's supporters. Ordinary Sudanese are tired of the wars including the people in Khartoum who have been shielded from the horrors of war since most of the fighting is done outside the capital in rural Sudan. When the third or fourth, etc Peace Agreement was called between the rebel factions and Sudanese government, most ordinary Sudanese did not hold their breaths. The ceasefire that was called before the Peace Agreement was signed was already broken hours after it had begun. The Peace process begins again. Sudanese people have long demanded peace and in agreement to a permanent ceasefure and a final end to the long lasting wars. It's the leaders of rebel groups and government who are still stubbornly hanging on to a stalemate. -Aan

The article below was written by Trayo Ahmed Ali and originally published on Sudan Tribune. Ali writes on the inner workings and peace politics of Darfuri rebel groups, peace keeping forces of AU, UN and the up and downs of the Sudanese government stop and go negotiations with various factions. In the article below he calls for simple yet practical approaches to ending the fighting. Enjoy the read.

A case sufficiently exposed, squarely tabled but evasively torpedoed with ulterior motives
 By Trayo Ahmed Ali

As Sudan National Dialogue "roadmap" (proposed by the AUHIP Panel) was signed in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on August 8 - 2016, the motion was set off for negotiations on different tracks and the parties geared up busy fixing their positions. Here, this Sudanese social media reporter (Mr. A. B. Gamal) covering the events gave his version of account on the prevailing mode and positions of the parties delegates that let the mediator, to finally postpone the talks. In it, the writer detected Sudan government behaviour, described and likened to that of a "three-time-divorced-woman" !!
- Mr. Gamal informs his readers that the "tactics" that always used by such a "thrice-divorced-woman" and the techniques she applies usually involve "tricky" rules including deception, denial, foul play, blackmailing, corrupting, crookedness, fabrication of facts, massaging of figures, character assassination and others including "yelling" and "walling". All emanate from the beneath of her cunning "yellow smiles".
Furthermore, Mr. Gamal explains that such a woman, skilfully applies "old fox techniques". She does a multiple and simultaneous negotiations with all the parties and at the same time". As her focus has always remained on how to return back to the "House of Obedience" (as defined in Sharia law) the writer says, she always gives major concessions to her original husband, tricks the "Ajaweed" (jurry in the definition of Islamic traditions), fools the "Myhalek" and deprives her "abandoned" children.
She gives a yellow smile to her "Al-muhalel" (the temporary husband used to legitimise the process of remarrying and be discarded at later stage). In between She finger points and constantly pore baseless accusations against the real victims (her abandoned children she got from different husbands - and who usually turn rebel as the result of mistreatment).
- In his write up Mr. Gamal, while, figuratively give signals on who represents the "Muhalel" and the "original husband", he clearly identifies that the NCP government represents the "thrice-divorced-woman", the movements represent the "abandoned children turned rebel", and the mediator obviously represents the good-will "Ajaweed".
As a stake-holder, participant actor and negotiator who puts "humanitarian concern" above any other consideration, I found Mr. Gamal "theory" pretty fitting analogue that exposes "Who behaved how" and "who adopted what positions" in this all important exercise.
- Indeed it was so oddly enough to see the bizarre the way it was. As the movements attempted to square the issues, the government turns around to triangulate the squares. It was clear that when the movements move a head one step forward, the government moves two steps backwards !!!
Now, let us zoom into the scene.
* Humanitarian Negotiations: The scope, the Issues and positions
- It was strictly negotiations on Cessation of Hostilities (CoH). Meaning it is an "a political" or a de-politicised issue by nature ruled by international standards. The The Movements negotiators accordingly abided themselves by to the dictates of this phase of humanitarian negotiations, singled out core issues around which the Cessation of Hostilities anchored, defined and presented as follow:
1- Humanitarian Aid "mechanisms" shall be established to only monitor and report the flow of humanitarian assistance and the protection of civilians by establishing an "Overseer" mechanism. The government (with no sensible argument) flatly rejects movement’s proposal.
2- The Movements argued that their forces (at this stage) can only be confined within their "areas" of presence or operations. The government insists on confiding movements forces into "cantonments" termed as "locations" or "sites" !!!
3- The Prisoners of War "PoW" be released as a gesture to show "good faith"was the Movements position. The government flatly rejects the idea to the point of denying the mere presence of such "PoWs".
4- Returning of international Humanitarian NGOs expelled from Darfur to fill the gap. The reason, as the movements argued was to fill the gap by assisting the UN agencies. The government opposed to the idea and argued that "Sudanese" NGOs are fit to carry out the job.Meaning the "HAG" (government humanitarian arm of the National Intelligence and Security).
5- Foreign militia be controlled. The movement argued that to create conducive environment for humanitarian operation the "Foreign" militia operating in Darfur be controlled and monitored. The government refused the proposal on the ground that the issue is part of "final" Ceasefire arrangements.
6- UNAMID to be engaged. The Movements suggested that the UNAMID (as a UNSC mandate backed mission) and has forces on the ground shall be entrusted to establish the CoH mechanisms and chair its mechanisms. The government objects and argue that the UNAMID is weak, not neutral, incapable and can not be trusted to carry out the job.
- The only issue the government suggested and insisted on it is for the movements to join the DDPD as it stands without changing comma!!! Even here the movements argued that such issue can only be discussed and agreed upon in due course (at the phase of political negotiations when it starts).
- Under these circumstances and scheme of things where the opinions are so divergent and the government kept displays nothing but "irrational" intransigence, whether such talks could have had made any meaningful progress to address the much needed humanitarian requirements or not, is a matter of stating the obvious. On it I do rest my case to the good judgement of the reader.
The writer is a leading member of the Sudan Liberation Movement - Minni Minnawi. He is also the humanitarian secretary of the rebel alliance Sudanese Revolutionary Front. He is reachable at :

Friday, 12 August 2016

Hydropolitics Flooding in Sudan, farmers fight against land dispossession

Khartoum's new skyline in the background along the Nile River. Despite 20+ years of war occurring in Sudan, the Sudanese capital Khartoum was and is still spared the ongoing bombing in Darfur, Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile states. Because of this, Khartoum has been to expand and build grandeur infrastructure in hope of becoming the new Dubai of Africa. All this in the shadows of the ongoing government war against civilians outside the capital in peripheries. Khartoum has not been spared from ongoing student and wider national protests on police brutality and crackdown.

Drowning the Lands of the Ancestors of Ancient Nubia, Dal and Kajbar Dams

It has been an extremely hot and drought filled summer. Sudan, North eastern Africa is witnessing hot summers and little rain. Rain is seen as much as a blessing in Sudan, Egypt and other arid countries in Africa and Asia. Especially when rain aids in agricultural production and irrigation that can't be supplied solely by rivers and streams. In the past weeks, Sudan has experienced heavy flooding across the country in Kassala state and West Kordofan, Darfur that has affected over 42, 000 people. Many ordinary Sudanese have had to protect themselves and properties by reaching higher ground. Because of the crumbling road networks outside of the capital, flooding in rural Sudan cuts off towns and villages from one another, destroys houses sometimes small villages and makes passing rural roads impossible. The floods have been ongoing for a month. Meanwhile, South Sudanese refugees are constantly fleeing from war torn South Sudan into Darfur, Kordofan and as far North as Khartoum to escape the trauma, bombings, military crossfires and forced migration. It's not just properties that are destroyed, but fears of lasting destruction to agricultural lands in Abyei and South Kordofan has shocked many Sudanese and the government as well. The flooding also halted train service from Khasrtoum to Nyala, Darfur state ten days ago. The waters have since resided but the flooding has affected other towns in recent days. South Sudan's capital Juba, also experienced flooding on July 10th.

Farming is life, land means identity and controlling the Nile 


The Nile has done a lot for Sudanese to be able to farm and live along its banks and also further inland. As been mentioned many times, the River Nile gave birth to the world's first societies and Civilizations in Nubia, Ethiopia and Egypt (Ancient Kemet). Africans then as now have never taken the Nile for granted. Egypt considers the Nile to be its sole property and it usually gets the final say in water management discussions and meetings on Nile's resources. Ethiopia which is home to one of the sources of the Nile, has long been in a diplomatic spat with Egypt over Nile's importance to Ethiopians too. Often times, Egyptians forget that 10 other African countries also rely on the Nile for agriculture, food production and water resources as well as trade. For nearly 40 years, Sudan's critical infrastructure such as road networks, civic works, hospitals, schools and housing outside of Khartoum has been collapsing from neglect and the government diverting its revenue towards defensive and security state. Much of Sudan's GDP is spent on defense, militarization of the police and army to support the now decades long civil war between South Sudan (1970-2006), Darfur (1970-1980s  than from 2003-present), Blue Nile including South Kordofan and Abyei (2011-) and occasional student and rebel uprising in East Sudan around the city of Port Sudan. The city is the number one part for the country at the moment. Sudan in recent years has made attempts to increase it's own local agricultural productions and provide improved water infrastructure to its growing population. The most unpopular and damaging way is through the series of dams built along the Nile namely, the Meroe, Setit and Atbara Dams. Many Nubian Sudanese families have been disposes of their ancestral lands and displaced home towns. Some families are being displaced for the second time after originally being displaced when the 1964 Aswan High Dam was built and created Lake Nasser. For years, Nubians have protested against the Egyptian and Sudanese governments continual dam construction that has caused irreplaceable damage to Ancient Nubia and Kush's important archaeology, historical monuments and cultural heritage. .

Nubian protest against Dam construction at KSA (Saudi) Embassy in Washington, DC

One of the largest agricultural schemes that the Sudanese government has approved via a bill is a 99 year lease of 1 million feddans (roughly a 1 million acres) which would allow Saudi investors to cultivate farm land behind the Setit and Atbara Dams. The scheme despite sounding like a fantastic idea has crushed local, smaller Sudanese farming families and independent farmers who rely on the land for their livelihoods. The farmers have widely protested the government's approval to allow Saudi investors to take over the land. Farmers continue to protest both the new scheme and dam constructions especially in Nubian lands in Northern Sudan. Before the recent Setit and Atbara farmland scheme was approved, the largest agricultural project in the world was El Gezira farming scheme between the White and Blue Nile south of Khartoum. The Sudanese government has since scraped El Gezira scheme as infeasible. Saudi Arabia is one of the Sudan's biggest allies and long standing investment partner. The other country being China who receives 70% of Sudan's oil exports.

Wildfires in California heat domes across the U.S.

The state of California in the United States. It is the largest state in the country by population: 38-40 million people and one of the most expensive states in the U.S. because of the standard of living, the entertainment industry that is being challenged by the film industry popping up in the South particularly the state of Georgia and the popular filming location New York City . California is bordered to the East by several small islands i.e. Isla Catalina or Catalina Islands, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, etc. To the North is Oregon, Nevada, Arizona and the immediate South Mexico.

Santa Clarita Fires, town North of LA

Not the surfer's Paradise, Environmental problems persists 

Greater Los Angeles area at night.

The U.S. State of California is still in a severe drought that has lasted for close to 6 years now. In unforgiving fashion, Mother Nature has not spared any pat of the state from the current heatwave and heat doom spread across the United States. Although California has a Mediterranean climate (one of the few states in the U.S. to have such a climate), the state is semi-Arid. The further South a traveller goes, the more desert California becomes. Each summer, the wildfires spreads across Los Angeles hills and Forest. Los Angeles has lost a good chunk of its forest to annual, devastating wildfires that is both man-made by opportunistic arsonists and caused by Mother Nature in the form of high winds and dry bush. The most famous being the dreaded Santa Ana winds. The wildfires in Los Angeles County has become a regular occurrence for decades now. It affects both the wealthy and poor along the coast and inland or the flatlands.  Thousands of families have been evacuated and displaced by the fires. While the city of Los Angeles has been spared, the fires are still being battled by local fire-fighters. A heat dome recently ended in California and across the United States. Contrary to American pop culture, climate in the United States isn't the stereotypical Maine Spring or Midwest (Northern) snow and ice. Summer time in the country even in the normally cold Midwest gets unforgiving hot and temperatures reach 35-41 Celsius or 95-106 degrees. In Texas, Arizona, New York City and most of California can reach degrees of 100+ degrees each summer. New York City is known for becoming humid during the Summer as well despite being surrounded by water. Southern California's weather is self explanatory. In Texas and other states, the vegetation and land is generally green year around. That's not the case in California, Arizona and New Mexico. In California, the green hills and mountains turn dry and yellow partly due to the fact that the grass in California is not entirely native to the state

"Station Fires" in Los Angeles Forest

Mexican Rock Group Molotov Frijolero breaks down the peculiarities of immigration, border police and U.S. Foreign Policy

Home to several famous major metropolises and a megalopolis San Francisco Bay Area, California has been faced with many environmental problems. Rapid urbanization in South and North is worrying environmentalists in the same way it has across the Global South. The nuclear pollution and fallout debris from the 2011 Fukushima Disaster is gradually making its way towards the West Coast of California. In addition, the state sits in the Ring of Fire and on several active earthquake prone fault lines that run literally underneath the cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento, the state capital. The slow desertification in the greener North has pushed the prices of food up. The state originally lost a lot of its indigenous grass and flowers during the Spanish colonization in the 16th century. California and the South west United States was colonized by Spain and than absorbed twice: first by Mexico in 1769 and than by the United States in 1850 as a state. While part of Mexico, California was known as Alta California and Baja California, the Mexican state was the Southern half of the Mexican province Las Californias. The Mexican influence particularly people, culture, food and language never stopped flowing to California and still remains across the state today and wider United States.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

ISIS choas theory in Bangladesh

Dhaka and Kolkota is the world's fastest growing megacities

Some 20 hostages were killed in Dhaka, Bangladesh at a cafe on Saturday 1 July, 2016. The hostage taking turned terror attack is as shocking to Bangladeshis as to many people around the world. Among the killed were Bangladeshi, Japanese, Iranian, Syrian and Chinese tourists.
Bangladesh is as far way from Iraq and Syria as it's geography has granted it. It is not part of the Middle East, although it was influenced via religion and a few words from Persian thousands of years ago. It's in South Asia and attacks of this magnitude happen infrequently even in Indonesia. Asia has the largest Muslim population in the world. Yet, ISIS inspired terrorist attacks and groups are condemned and protested against by ordinary Bangladeshis, Indonesians and Indian Muslims. Secular Bangladeshi bloggers challenging the stricter, takfiri form of Islam that some Bangladeshis have decided for follow have faced both death threats and have been murdered in recent months. Despite Islam being the state religion, Bangladesh is a secular state. Bangladeshi society is attempting to balance secularism and religion while dealing with multiple social issues infrastructure and climate change affecting the majority of ordinary Bangladeshis.

Migrants working for no pay to build Qatar's World Cup infrastructure and Dreams

Bangladesh is most known for in the world is being one of the countries that sends thousands of migrants abroad for work, tourism and mostly as UN Peacekeepers around the world. Most of the time, it is seen as a low lying country that is prone to flooding and a neighbour of India. Bangladesh and India used to be part of a larger Indian sub-continent until 1947, when the British colonialists finally allowed the then Indian sub-continent to become two countries India and Pakistan. The partition of India is still today regarded as one of the most violent and mass movement of millions of people in recent human history. Millions of people were suddenly displaced from their homes and farmlands they had lived in for generations and told that they were now on the "wrong side" of newly created artificial and colonial borders. Neighbour who had lived in relative peace in multiethnic and multireligious towns and villages now belonged to mono religious states ie Pakistan was created as a Muslim nation and India became a majority Hindu nation. Anyone who studies both countries know that even now, just language and cultural diversity along slaps the colonialist created religious state in its face. Once again, the dying colonial power Britain blamed local governments and peoples for the violence as some form of ancient tribal and religious hatred instead of chaos brought on by Europe. In the partition two new states were created that were supposed to gain independence after India and Pakistan. They are Kashmir and Bangladesh. Kashmir is still fighting for its independence to this day having been occupied and ruled by both Pakistan and India. Both countries claim Kashmir as their respective territories since their independence. Ironically both countries' independence days are a few days apart from each other. Kashmiris have long demanded that they gain sovereignty since they do not feel that they belong to either country and have Kashmiri identity and language.

History of Bangladesh and Bengali culture and heritage 

Bangladesh gained it's own independence in 1971 after an equally brutal war of independence against Pakistan. Formerly known as East Pakistan, Bangladeshis have felt more connected it's immediate neighbour India than its co religious distance neighbour Pakistan. Culturally and historically, Bangladesh shares a lot in common with India. People live on both sides of the border. The clothing is somewhat similar while the holidays are influenced by India. Bengali language, the official language of Bangladesh is written in a form of the Sanskrit script similar to the Hindi. Bengali literature is both popular in both countries and abroad. There is a large Bangladeshi Diaspora living abroad as well. British Bangladeshis haves been living in the United Kingdom especially the major cities, for decades now and have contributed to Britain. Alongside British Pakistanis and Indians, British Bangladeshis are known officially as British Asians in UK Census. The largest Diaspora is in the United States, Malaysia and the Gulf countries UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. Many Gulf countries rely on Bangladeshi and other South Asian migrants for ongoing construction and infrastructure projects in the Gulf capitals and large cities.

Hydropolitics Flooding in China

China's place in the world. Home to the world's largest population and by extension one of the largest Disaporas. China is bordered by the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean as well as Thailand, Laos, Mynmar, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Russia as well as parts of Central Asia. Once the home of empires and kingdoms and one of the longest written histories in the world, China lately has surpassed United States as the world's largest economy and has turned the world into a multipower place in the diplomatic scene. Although the West doesn't want to acknowledge this.

To the East of Sudan, the People's Republic of China has also experience deadly floods this month. China has other reoccurring weather patterns such as cyclones, typhoons, monsoons and rarely tsunamis. Nearly each year, China experiences flash flooding that leads to the destruction of property and lives. China has been developing its local and national infrastructure at a rapid pace over the last thirty years and will continue to build new cities from scratch and housing for the 1.3 billion population one of the largest in the world.

Flooding in part of China in June, 2016

Southern China flooding in July, just last month