Republic of Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir with First Vice-President Ali Osman Taha. The government announced in November 2012 that there were arrests surrounding a coup plot., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Sudan Vision News Daily
Taha: Sudan Makes Progress towards Economic and Development Issues
Khartoum - First Vice President of the Republic Ali Osman Mohamed Taha said that Sudan is making good steps in the coming year according to the political, economic, and developmental indicators, beside the existence of the political will and awareness of the Sudanese people of the their role towards achieving the development and their positive role in providing requirements of the investment.
Taha added during his address to the opening sitting of the States First Economic Forum, that the existing investment Act fulfils the demands and ambitions of both the national and foreign investors calling for bringing its provisions and recommendations on reality.
Taha pointed out that the social responsibility of the government is one of bases of the features of the policies of in the field of investment.
He called on the states Governors and the political organization to reconsiders the settlements of disputes and conflicts in Darfur and Kordufan states to find its share in the development and investment projects.
Taha also called on the states Governors to exert more efforts on improving the infrastructure and to create the right atmosphere for investment to benefit from the local and foreign investment privileges, and to settle the land ownership issues, indicating that investment is the backbone of the Sudan's economy.
He stressed on the importance of the fair and balanced distribution of investment opportunities in all the different states of the Sudan in a way to achieve a fair distribution of resources.
He pointed out the investment map is a field report on the spaces ready for investment without legal or administrative restrictions, calling at the same time on the states governments to work for settling the disputes and resolve problems that hinder the investment in the states.
Taha said that there are chances for progress in agricultural investment and the achievement of the food security, and to benefit from the Arab initiative in this regard.
He called on the use of the comparative advantages that Sudan is enjoys in this aspect.
Taha asserted commitment of the government to provide the infrastructure for an appropriate and encouraging investment atmosphere in order to be reflected on the living standards and services of the citizens and the investment partners.
David Yau Yau, a former leader in the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), who defected during the transitional phase to independence from Khartoum. His fighters have continued hostilities against Juba, the capital of the Republic of South Sudan., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
MONDAY 2 DECEMBER 2013
Promotion of former rebels sparks tension in South Sudan military
December 1, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudan appears to be split over the integration of former rebel groups in the young nation’s military, following president Salva Kiir’s appointment of prominent rebel leaders to senior positions last week.
The South Sudanese army (SPLA) is itself a former rebel group that signed a peace deal with the government of Sudan in 2005, leading to southern independence in 2011.
Following months of negotiations, Kiir appointed the leaders of several rebel groups from various locations - mainly the Greater Upper Nile region - to the regular army last week.
These included Bapiny Monytuil, who was appointed as a lieutenant general, while Johnson Uliny, along with four other colleagues, were appointed as major Generals, with Kiir ordering the full integration of their forces. In the same order issued on 25 November, Kiir also named six other brigadier generals.
In a separate order issued on 29 November, Gabriel Tanginye was appointed as a major general, Thomas Mabor Dhol as a brigadier general and Gatwec Joak as a colonel.
The move has drawn widespread opposition from within the military and the general public, with some senior officers questioning the army is serious about security sector reform.
Rebel leader David Yau Yau, who is fighting the SPLA from his base in Jonglei’s Pibor county, accepted Kiir’s amnesty and signed a deal in June 2011 that saw him promoted as a general despite being a civilian before launching his insurgency in 2010 after failing to win a seat in the Jonglei state legislative assembly.
However, Yau Yau rebelled again in April 2012, complaining that despite his title he was not given any real responsibilities. The cycle of rebellions and groups splintering from the SPLA only to be reintegrated and the leaders given senior positions predates the 2005 peace deal prior to the country’s secession from Sudan in 2011.
Nonetheless many South Sudanese do not approve of such pragmatism, with some arguing that such appointments encourage rebellions.
Sabit Marier, a member of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) - the political wing of the SPLA during the more than two-decade-long civil war - said on Sunday that the rebels had achieved nothing apart from the “killing their own people”.
He argued that rather than being rewarded with senior military posts, rebel leaders “should be held responsible for all the atrocities they committed”, adding that the president’s decision will only “encourage more rebellion”.
Marier said the recent decision also goes against Kiir’s policy of a lean government, with the integration of rebel forces set to greatly increase the size of the armed forces.
Many SPLA generals were retired earlier this year as Kiir attempted to trim the size of the military in order to save money during an oil transit fee dispute with Sudan that was crippling South Sudan’s economy.
Marier fears that increasing the size of the SPLA will affect the national budget as more will be spent on soldier’s salaries rather than providing institutions with funds to deliver services.
A senior military officer, who wished to remain anonymous, said that some soldiers have registered repeated complaints about the lack of promotions from within the army’s ranks.
“Sometimes it makes it difficult for us in the command to convince junior officers and non-commission officers because, according to the conventional system, junior officers move faster than senior officers. It takes three to four years for officers with the ranks of lieutenants and captains and about six to eight years for major and lieutenant colonels to go to the other ranks. We have groups of officers and soldiers waiting commissioning and promotions”, he said.
Another officer said that although Kiir, as the SPLA’s commander-in-chief, was acting within his powers and mandate to promote peace and defend the country’s sovereignty and security, he felt that there could have been a better balance of promotions from within the SPLA and the ranks of former rebels.
“Current ranks are seen as source of money instead of the value of service to the country. I tell you that most of the current commanders cannot run a company when given [an] assignment. Some of them desert assignments during operations, pretending that they are sick”, an officer who did not want to be identified told Sudan Tribune on Sunday.
“So why not commission long-serving, non-commission officers and young officers who have demonstrated ability?” he added.
Sudan Foreign Minister inspects damage done through an Israeli airstrike on April 4, 2011 near Port Sudan. Israel has attacked the African state before the continent's largest, in 2009., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
MONDAY 2 DECEMBER 2013
Sudan scoffs at ICG report on brewing dissent in the east
December 1, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The report issued by the International Crisis group (ICG) this week on East Sudan being on the verge of a new conflict over Khartoum’s failure to implement the 2006 peace accord is nothing but "fantasy", an official here said today.
The London-based think tank said that frustration is growing rapidly among the people of the East which in some cases is creating secessionist sentiments and calls for backing rebels fighting to topple the National Congress Party (NCP) led government in Khartoum.
ICG further accused NCP of using divide and conquer tactics along tribal lines which is also adding to the tensions in the region.
But Mustafa Osman Ismail who is the government official in charge of East Sudan dossier said that the ICG report was prepared by some opposition activists in European countries.
Ismail who spoke on pro-government Ashorooq TV on Sunday said that the report is false and imaginary. He also stressed that the East is governed by its own people.
He went on to say that East Sudan is witnessing a balanced economic development unseen since the country’s independence in 1956 and rejected describing the region as marginalized.
In its report, ICG blamed the situation over the non-implemented provisions of the East Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA) including allocation of legislative and executive positions to Eastern Front (EF) former rebel group in federal and state institutions, East Reconstruction and Development Fund (ERDF) establishment as well as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of EF forces.
"The failure to implement the ESPA, together with NCP machinations, has hopelessly divided – mostly along tribal lines – the Eastern Front (EF), the alliance of armed groups that signed the agreement" ICG said.
Last February, EF members issued a statement giving the central government one month to follow through on their commitments particularly the financial portion.
Under the October 2006 peace agreement, the EF joined with the government and a $600 million ERDF was established to help the region recover from war.
A further $3.5 billion pledged at a donor conference that took place in Kuwait in December 2010 was also supposed to be added to the East Reconstruction and Development Fund (ERDF).
But the EF said the money is managed inappropriately without transparency and that that the people of the East were excluded from the top posts at ERDF or were given positions without a mandate.
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Eastern Sudan has the country’s highest poverty rate; the highest number of deaths of children aged under five, and the most children between the ages of six and 13 out of school.
Sudan’s eastern Red Sea, Kassala and Gedaref states have potential gold, oil and gas resources, but poverty remains endemic among the region’s five million inhabitants, whose livelihoods have been undermined by war, climate change and environmental degradation.
Merowe Dam in Sudan where the largest source for electrical power is being constructed on the African continent., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
MONDAY 2 DECEMBER 2013
Calls for US investment in Sudan agricultural sector: report
December 1, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The United States charge d’affaires in Khartoum Joseph D. Stafford called on American companies to invest in Sudan’s agricultural sector, according to a news report.
Stafford who was on a visit to Nahr al-Neel state, told the pro-government Ashorooq TV that he realizes the difficulties facing the two countries as a result of US sanctions imposed but stressed that Washington demonstrated goodwill in seeking to improve bilateral ties through a candid dialogue.
He underscored the vital role played by Sudan in Africa and the world and expressed confidence that Khartoum will respond positively to Washington’s overtures.
The U.S. diplomat also called on American companies to invest in Sudan’s agriculture and particularly in Nahr al-Neel state due to the special advantages it offers.
In 2010 the United States announced it was easing sanctions on agriculture equipment and services and gave six U.S. firms licenses to export to the East African nation.
Since then more U.S. companies have expressed interest in entering the Sudanese agricultural sector.
Sudan has been under US economic sanctions since 1997 and remains on the US list of state sponsors of terror. At the time, Khartoum harbored Al-Qaeda’s late chief Osama bin Laden.
After 2003 sanctions were tightened over the conflict in the Darfur region and human rights violations in other parts of the country.
Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir speaking at the national independence celebration on December 31, 2008., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Sudan rebels, government clash again south of rail town
Monday, 2 December 2013
Rebels and government forces in Sudan’s South Kordofan state have clashed again south of a railway town the insurgents briefly occupied last month, both sides said on Monday.
Fighting in the state has intensified since early November, at the start of the dry season, as the government began an operation to crush the ethnic rebels who rose up two years ago.
Access to South Kordofan is restricted for journalists, aid workers and others, making verification of claims by both sides difficult.
The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) insurgents said they had killed dozens of government troops - including several officers - in fighting Friday and Saturday around Abu Doma mountain, south of the rail town of Abu Zabad.
“We know the area very well,” but government troops were not as familiar with the terrain, JEM spokesman Gibril Adam Bilal told AFP.
“They were preparing to attack us by three sides.”
Sudan’s army spokesman, Sawarmi Khaled Saad, told AFP there had only been “a little battle” around the mountain about a week ago and government forces were pursuing the rebels in various parts of the state.
JEM occupied Abu Zabad, which is just over the border in North Kordofan state, for several hours on November 17.
JEM, originally from the western Darfur region, has been supporting Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) rebels in South Kordofan since shortly after an uprising began there in 2011, analysts say.
Hoping to oust
Both groups belong to an alliance aiming to topple the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime and install a government more representative of the country’s diversity.
The Sudan Armed Forces and SPLA-N are also fighting, on a smaller scale, in Sudan’s Blue Nile state.
There can be no military solution to the conflicts in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, according to the United Nations Security Council.
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir says his government is ready for a broad political dialogue, including with armed groups.
But Bilal does not foresee a political settlement because “the strategy of the Sudanese government is a military solution.”
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur.
Last Update: Monday, 2 December 2013 KSA 18:29 - GMT 15:29
'What we need is a reasoned discussion,' says shadow attorney general Mark DreyfusLenore Taylor
'Assume the worst,' defence minister tells industry forum, warning of more leaks to come about intelligence sharingKatharine Murphy
MPs quiz the Guardian's editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger over the NSA revelations; but the Met also wants secrecy over access to reporters' notebooks
• Roll up, roll up. It's secrecy Super Tuesday. In keeping with the spirit of the times, we should perhaps keep mum, but people will insist that we live in a free society. And so it is that as MPs today quiz the Guardian's editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, about our publication of the Edward Snowden revelations, the Metropolitan police will be elsewhere trying to establish its right to more secret hearings. As part of a continuing entanglement with Sky News, the Met wants to establish its right to argue in secret to obtain access to reporters' notebooks. Its ability to argue in "closed session" was denied by the high court. Now it is taking the matter to the supreme court hoping for a more favourable judgment. It isn't just the Big Brother government that one has to worry about. It's also his pesky cousins.
• Real tragedy in Glasgow at the weekend, garnering the blanket coverage one rightly expects. But as a consequence, much less attention was paid to the verdict of the former cabinet secretary Lord Butler, who offered the BBC his view on the administrative qualities of our ruling coalition. Francis Maude, cabinet office minister with the brief to drive the civil service to distraction, recently called for mandarins to "speak truth to power". Why would they, asked Lord Butler, when civil servants were being hung out to dry in public? "People are not encouraged to speak truth to power when in the same breath in the same interview they are told that they will be dumped on when things go wrong. I'm sorry to say, I really think that Mr Maude and some of his colleagues don't understand leadership." Quite a thing to see Sir Humphrey bare his teeth.
• How might coalition top bods show a bit more leadership? The odd gesture wouldn't hurt. In the publication Tribune and on his blog, the indefatigable David Hencke tells of the behind-the-scenes controversy concerning the Student Loans Company, whose last boss, Ed Lester, had his tenure blighted by a public row about his tax arrangements. "The Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents Whitehall's lowest paid, put forward a rather interesting negotiating ploy for 2014," explains Hencke. They suggested that his successor forgo a £25,000-a-year bonus on top of his £160,000 salary and taxable expenses of £30,000 a year. "Instead it suggested that the bonus be redistributed to the staff, benefiting the lowest paid." It would have contributed to a good new deal. "All 2,400 staff could get an increase of more than £600 incorporated into their salaries. The few very lowest paid would get a £960 pay rise to take them up to the nationally recognised living wage." The Cabinet office said nyet apparently. Trickledown be damned.
• Unsurprising perhaps, for this is the way of things. The uber rich do very nicely, thank you – and the poor, they have their food banks. Hencke ends his tale with a vignette. "I was behind a well-paid young couple in Berkhamsted Waitrose at the butchery counter who were ordering fillet steak – not for their own dinner, but to feed their dog. The complacent man boasted that he wouldn't normally be at Waitrose because he regularly got the fillet steak for the dog at Harrods food hall." Poor Fido, no one escapes austerity.
• Yes, leadership is definitely an issue, and not just in Whitehall. Each day brings fresh evidence that the right hand has no clue what the left is doing. Emily Thornberry QC, the shadow attorney general, has a continuing interest in the colossal cock-up at the Serious Fraud Office which led to secret info and the names of witnesses in a past investigation involving fighter jets and BAE Systems being sent to the wrong address. The bundles ended up in a building that was also being used as a cannabis farm. The government is trying to recover the material. How's that going, she asked. "The SFO has recovered 98% of the data – this includes all audio tapes and electronic media. The SFO continues to pursue the recovery of outstanding material," replied solicitor general Oliver Heald QC last week. They're doing their very best. Worrying, isn't it?
Twitter: @hugh_muirHugh Muir
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Lost amidst the well-chronicled travails of the Affordable Care Act rollout are the long term effects of people struggling to get the health coverage they need without going bankrupt.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s been the main story line of the US healthcare system for several decades. Sadly, little has changed.
Still, with all the ACA’s highly publicized snafus, and less discussed systemic flaws, there’s no reason to welcome the cynical efforts to repeal or defund the law by politicians whose only alternative is more of the same callous, existing market-based healthcare system.
US nurses oppose the rollback and appreciate that several million Americans who are now uninsured may finally get coverage, principally through the expansion of Medicaid, or access to private insurance they’ve been denied because of their prior health status.
At the same time, nurses will never stop campaigning for a fundamental transformation to a more humane single-payer, expanded Medicare for all system not based on ability to pay and obeisance to the policy confines of insurance claims adjustors.
Website delays – the most unwelcome news for computer acolytes since the tech boom crashed – are not the biggest problem with the ACA, as will become increasingly apparent long after the signup headaches are a distant memory.
What prompted the ACA was a rapidly escalating healthcare nightmare, seen in 50 million uninsured, medical bills plunging millions into un-payable debt or bankruptcy, long delays in access to care, and record numbers skipping needed treatment due to cost.
The main culprit was our profit-focused system, with rising profiteering by a massive health care industry, and an increasing number of employers dropping coverage or just dumping more costs onto workers.
The ACA tackles some of the most egregious inequities: lack of access for many of the working poor who will now be eligible for Medicaid or subsidies to offset some of their costs for buying private insurance through the exchanges, a crackdown on several especially notorious insurance abuses, and encouragement of preventive care.
But the law actually further entrenches the insurance-based system through the requirement that uncovered individuals buy private insurance. It’s also chock full of loopholes.
Some consumers who have made it through the website labyrinth have found confusing choices among plans which vary widely in both premium and out of pocket costs even with the subsidies, a pass through of public funds to the private insurers.
The minimum benefits are also somewhat illusory. Insurance companies have decades of experience at gaming the system and warehouses full of experts to design ways to limit coverage options.
The ACA allows insurers to cherry pick healthier enrollees by the way benefit packages are designed, and as a Washington Post article noted on 21 November, consumers are discovering insurers are restricting their choice of doctors and excluding many top ranked hospitals from their approved “network”.
The wide disparity between the healthcare you need, what your policy will cover, and what the insurer will actually pay for remains.
Far less reported is what registered nurses increasingly see – financial incentives within the ACA for hospitals to prematurely push patients out of hospitals to cheaper, less regulated settings or back to their homes. It also encourages shifting more care delivery from nurses and doctors to robots and other technology that undermines individual patient care, and that may work no better than the dysfunctional ACA websites.
Is there an alternative? Most other developed nations have discovered it, a single-payer or national healthcare system.
Without the imperative of prioritizing profits over care, Medicare for all streamlines the administrative waste and complex insurance billing operations endemic to private insurance. That waste is a major reason why the US has more than double the per capita cost of healthcare of other developed nations, yet lower life expectancies than many.
Medicare for all eliminates the multi-tiered health plans that plague both the individual and group insurance markets that are tied to the girth of your wallet not your need for care. Class, gender, and racial disparities in access and quality of care vanish under Medicare for all.
It’s beyond time that we stop vilifying government and perpetuating a corporatized healthcare system that has abandoned so many. We can, with a system of Medicare for all, we can cut healthcare costs and promote a much more humane society.
Yves here. Fracking skeptics have been concerned about methane releases, since methane is a vastly more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. This report is particularly grim and calls the entire case for shale gas into question.
By Nick Cunningham, a Washington DC-based writer on energy and environmental issues. You can follow him on twitter at @nickcunningham1. Originally posted at OilPrice
A major new study finds that methane emissions from the production of shale gas may in fact be higher than previously thought. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on November 25, casts into doubt the notion that natural gas produces half as much greenhouse gas pollution as coal. Natural gas has been embraced by many, including President Obama, as a centerpiece of America’s climate change plan.
Methane can be released from natural gas wells during the drilling process. Scientists have thus far had difficulty measuring these “fugitive methane emissions” precisely, with competing studies stirring controversy. The latest report, published by a group of 15 scientists, found that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is significantly underestimating the amount of methane released during natural gas production. Specifically, the report concludes that fugitive methane emissions could be 50% higher than EPA estimates.
The findings could put pressure on state environmental regulators as well as the U.S. EPA to draw up new regulations, according to Dan Lashof of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Methane is a powerful climate change pollutant, and the study gives greater impetus to the EPA and states to establish stronger standards to reduce leaks from the oil and gas system,” he said in an interview. Similarly, Dan Grossman of the Environmental Defense Fund told NPR in an interview last week, “[w]e think that other states will look at what we were able to accomplish here and replicate it.”
If the latest figures are accurate, it could mean that the greenhouse gas advantage that natural gas has over coal could be a mirage. The Energy Information Administration estimates that U.S. carbon dioxide emissions declined 12% since 2007, citing natural gas supplanting coal as a major reason. That number does not account for methane emissions however.
Colorado is leading the charge in regulating methane, as its air quality regulators recently proposed rules that would require tougher standards at drilling sites. The rules would force operators to use infrared cameras to detect leaks; conduct inspections of pipelines, tanks, and other equipment on a monthly basis; and observe stricter limits when operating near residential communities. No other state has enacted rules that target methane pollution.
The regulations in Colorado enjoy the support of several key industry players, including Anadarko, Encana, and Noble Energy. They agreed to the regulations because of public pressure to do so. State elections in early November saw four Colorado communities ban hydraulic fracturing. Oil and gas companies hope that by cooperating with regulators, they can quell opposition to drilling. Still, they caution that compliance with the rules will cost up to $80 million a year due to required inspections. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment estimated the annual cost would only reach $30 million.
Parliaments, tech leaders and privacy activists are scrambling to respond to revelations about NSA and GCHQ surveillance
Revelations about the extent of the surveillance programmes undertaken by the NSA and GCHQ – as well as their efforts to undermine online security and encryption – have provoked fierce reaction around the world, sparking technical innovations, legal challenges, and moves towards political reform.
Leading technology firms including Google, Apple, Microsoft and Yahoo have been working to rebuild users' trust after the disclosure that the NSA can access information on their servers. For Google, this has involved announcing efforts to increase the encryption used for data travelling between the company's data centres, which the Washington Post revealed was being accessed by the NSA, as well as joining legal calls for the release of more government information at users' request.
Other technology startups have taken more drastic action. Lavabit, a secure email provider reportedly used by Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower, shut down after the government requested a back door into its systems. Another company, Silent Circle, closed its email service shortly afterwards.
Such efforts have prompted new companies and services to step into the breach. One project, named Mailpile, crowdsourced more than $160,000 of funding to build encrypted mail software and keep data storage away from US servers.
Other projects working towards similar ends have felt the increase in interest: one storage service, SpiderOak, based on "zero-knowledge privacy" said download figures immediately spiked.
Even the federal National Institute of Standards and Technology, which sets required security and encryption levels, has announced a full review of its standards in an effort to restore industry trust following concerns the NSA had manipulated the institute's guidance.
The continuing transparency lawsuits from Google and other Silicon Valley companies are not the only legal challenges faced by the NSA and GCHQ. Following the release of a secret court order against Verizon revealing the collection of Americans' phone records, two civil society groups initiated freedom of information lawsuits asking for further details.
Those actions, launched by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Electronic Privacy Information Center, led to the declassification and release of hundreds of pages of secret court rulings governing the collection of US domestic phone records under section 215 of the Patriot Act – including circumstances under which the court had found parts of the NSA programme unconstitutional.
The NSA's UK counterpart GCHQ faces even greater challenges under British and European human rights law. Advocacy group Privacy International has launched actions with the UK's investigatory powers tribunal and with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development against both GCHQ and seven telecoms companies working with it.
Concurrently, a coalition of digital rights, privacy, and freedom of expression groups – Open Rights Group, English PEN and Big Brother Watch – has begun a challenge at the European court of human rights, funded through public donations.
Internal GCHQ documents showed the agency feared exactly that kind of legal scrutiny should the scope of its surveillance programmes became public, as the result of what it characterised as a "damaging public debate".
Bulk surveillance programmes also face political reform efforts as well as legal challenges. The diplomatic fallout of revelations about NSA and GCHQ spying on foreign allies sparked proposals to increase data protection in the European parliament.
Even in Britain, where the political reaction had been comparatively muted, parliament debated the limits of GCHQ surveillance for three hours, with MPs from all three main parties advocating reform of the agency's oversight.
However, the most significant calls for political reform have been in the US. Following the narrow defeat of an amendment that would have cut funding to an NSA programme tracking the phone records of Americans, Barack Obama himself proposed a modest reform package.
Speaking at an August press conference, Obama pledged to re-examine parts of the Patriot Act, launch an NSA transparency website, add a privacy advocate to the foreign intelligence surveillance court (which oversees NSA programmes) and launch an independent review into the NSA – though within days this was scorned, as it emerged that body would report to Obama's director for national intelligence.
The most significant political reform efforts to date, though, come not from Obama, but from the House of Representatives, where two bills reforming the NSA are under consideration. One is backed by the chair of the Senate intelligence committee, Dianne Feinstein, a staunch NSA defender who nonetheless expressed concerns the agency had gone too far in the monitoring of allied leaders' phones.
Another, led by long-time NSA critic and Republican house member Justin Amash, with bipartisan backing, has attracted more support from bodies concerned by NSA surveillance, who believe it contains more substantive checks and balances on the agency.
Both bills are believed to have a realistic chance of becoming law. One essentially codifies and reinforces the NSA's efforts to date; the other moves to put some restrictions on its programmes. Which will win out with lawmakers – and the public – remains an open question.James Ball
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Dr. Nico Kassanda with Tabu Ley Rochereau during the period of African Fiesta in the 1960s. Rochereau died on November 30, 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Tabu Ley did for music what cell phones have done for banking
Sunday, December 1st 2013 at 23:06 GMT +3
He is widely known for his invention of ‘soukous’, but his contribution to Africa’s first technological revolution – analogue music – was more transformational, writes Prof Calestous Juma
The passing of Tabu Ley Rochereau has robbed the world of the king of Congolese rumba. Through his legendary Orchestra Afrisa International, Tabu Ley was one of Africa’s most prolific songwriters and influential vocalists.
Tabu Ley’s contribution to the invention of soukous is widely known. But his role as one of the pioneers of Africa’s first technological revolution – recorded music and radio broadcasting – is less known. Africa’s analogue revolution preceded today’s digital revolution by five decades.
At 14, Tabu Ley recorded his first song, Bessama Muchacha, with the legendary Joseph ‘Le Grand Kallé’ Kabasele’s African Jazz in 1954. After finishing high school, he joined the band full time. In 1960, Kabasele assigned him to sing Independence Cha Cha to celebrate the birth of the Congolese nation.
With Dr Nico Kasanda, he pioneered soukous as a blend of Congolese folk music and Latin American, Cuban and Caribbean rumba as well as soul. From the two Congos as its epicentre, soukous diffused to much of sub-Saharan Africa.
Tabu Ley and his contemporaries such as Kasanda and Franco Luambo did for recorded music what mobile technology is doing for money transfer and mobile banking today. The combination of music recording and radio broadcasting provided Africa with an early opportunity to jump forward in an emerging technology. Its social, political, economic and cultural impact was profound.
Like mobile phones, the adoption of sound recording was unfettered by incumbent technologies and trade unions. In contrast, sound recording in the US encountered considerable resistance from unions organised to protect live musicians from technological unemployment.
Reflecting on the dilemma, Joseph Petrillo, the president of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) said that nowhere “in the mechanical age does the workman create the machine that destroys him, but that’s what happens to the musician when he plays for a recording. The iceman didn’t create the refrigerator, the coachman didn’t build the automobile”.
He added: “But the musician plays his music into a recorder and a short time later the radio station manager…says, ‘Sorry, Joe, we’ve got all your stuff on records, so we don’t need you any more’. And Joe’s out of a job.”
Access to new musical instruments, recording studios and radio provided the opportunity for young Africans to leapfrog into the analogue age. Congolese musicians experimented with a variety of Western music but came up with their own creations. They did the same with musical instruments. The guitar triumphed partly because it was plucked like the local thump piano (sanza or likembe).
In 1947, a Greek entrepreneur, Nicolas Jéronimidis, and his brother created Ngoma, one of the first recording companies in Kinshasa. A year later, Ngoma released Marie Louise by Wendo Kolosoy and Henri Bowana. Its enchantingly romantic edge made it an instant hit. It was whispered that Marie Louise could raise the dead if played at midnight. This word of mouth and promotion by Radio Congolia accounted for its blockbuster success.
The ensuing controversy in religious circles resulted in Kolosoy’s banishment from Kinshasa, imprisonment in Kisangani by Belgian authorities and subsequence excommunication from the Catholic Church.
It is against this revolutionary background that Tabu Ley and other African musical legends emerged. The late 1950s were a period of remarkable political promise and optimism. The struggle for African independence was under way and the wind of freedom and creativity was sweeping across the continent. The two Congos were a meeting place for a diversity of African and international cultures.
Kabasele served as mentor for the young musical innovators with his African Jazz acting as a business incubator. The analogue revolution spawned bands in the same way today’s digital revolution is creating business start-ups. New bands were in every respect technology-based start-ups. Many were formed but only a few flourished. Those that did relied heavily on scouting for new talent, good human resource management and access to radio.
Tabu Ley’s generation pushed existing instruments to their limits and generated new creations of their own.
For example, Franco’s band invented the mi-solo (half solo) between lead and rhythm guitars, a technique where notes in a chord are played in a sequence rather than in a simultaneous pattern. These and many other creations would have resulted in new musical instruments. But they lacked the relevant engineering capability to translate their ideas into new instruments.
Beyond his music, Tabu Ley’s legacy includes other notable lessons for Africa’s second technological revolution. First, he spent his entire life nurturing young talent, an essential feature of any creative industry. He gave back to society as much as he received from his mentors. Second, Tabu Ley put considerable effort in expanding the diversity of talent by identifying and promoting women musicians.
His biggest successes included M’Bilia Bel and Kishila Ngoyi (known artistically as Faya Tess). Franco emulated Tabu Ley with the recruitment of Jolie Detta (of Massu fame). Third, Tabu Ley retained strong though uneasy interest in public service and later acted as a cabinet minister under Laurent Kabila following the fall of the despot Joseph Mobutu.
The passing of Tabu Ley marks punctuation to Africa’s long and winded journey of technological innovation. It is both a reminder of how a small number of dedicated people combined two emerging technologies to create a cultural revolution. African culture in general and music in particular provide a powerful platform up, through which the continent can jump into a wide range of new industries.
– Calestous Juma is Professor of the Practice of International Development and Faculty Chair of the Innovation for Economic Development Programme at Harvard Kennedy School. He co-chairs the African Union’s High-Level Panel on Science, Technology and Innovation. He is author of The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa (Oxford University Press).