The Guardian: 400 Bodies found in the Ivory Coast

UN investigators have found more than 100 bodies in Ivory Coast in the last 24 hours, victims of what seem to have been ethnically motivated massacres. Some appear to have been burned alive and others were thrown into a well, said a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The killings occurred in three locations in western Ivory Coast, and may have been carried out by Liberian mercenaries, according to the UN.

The discovery came as Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognised president of Ivory Coast, said he would not try to capture Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to leave power and is hiding in a bunker under his personal residence. In his first televised address since the siege in Abidjan began this week, Ouattara said he would focus on returning the country to normal to ease the plight of civilians.

The UN team’s discovery underlines the need for an urgent resolution to the crisis, which was brought about by Gbagbo’s rejection of the official election results last November.  About 40 bodies were found in Blolequin, west of Duékoué, where another 229 corpses were discovered last week. A further 15 bodies have been discovered in Duékoué, and another 60 were found in the nearby town of Guiglo. Some of the victims were from other countries in west Africa.

Forces loyal to Ouattara were partly blamed for the massacre in Duékoué discovered last week. It is not yet clear who carried out the massacres uncovered on Thursday.  “All the incidents appear to have been at least partly ethnically motivated,” said Rupert Colville, the UNHCHR spokesman, in Geneva. “I think one has to be a little bit cautious of assigning responsibilities.” He said ethnic tensions were rising as the conflict continued.

Ivory Coast has a Muslim north and Christian south, and more 60 different ethnic groups. Under Gbagbo’s decade-long rule, particularly in the early days, he tolerated and encouraged an increase in xenophobia, mainly aimed at Ivorians whose parents came from neighbouring countries, as well as the French. Muslims from the north – Ouattara’s main constituency – were also discriminated against, causing much resentment, and a brief civil war.

Following the rapid advance of Ouattara’s forces through the country last week, Gbagbo has been confined to his bunker with his influential wife, Simone. UN and French peacekeeping forces have attacked his military depots to reduce his firepower. But he refuses to surrender, insisting he won the election and blaming France for his predicament.

Many of Gbagbo’s top generals and troops have deserted him, but about 200 soldiers and militiamen equipped with heavy weapons are guarding his home in the upmarket Cocody suburb, according to the French military. They repelled an assault by Ouattara’s fighters on Wednesday. In his television speech Ouattara said his forces were going to set up a security perimeter around Gbagbo’s compound. They would then wait for him to run out of water and food, while at the same time securing the streets of Abidjan, where most people have stayed inside their homes this week due to the heavy fighting.

Ouattara said he would soon end the ban on cocoa exports, which he announced in January. He also asked the EU to lift sanctions on Ivory Coast’s main ports, designed to pressurise Gbagbo into stepping down.  In addition, Ouattara requested the Central Bank of West African States to reopen its branches in the country to allow salaries to be paid. He also pledged to hold a public inquiry into any human rights abuses committed during the conflict


The Guardian: Census reveals that 17 % of World’s Population is Indian

The first results from India‘s latest census – the second biggest in the world – were released on Thursday,revealing that the country has added 181 million new citizens in the last decade, making it home to 17% of the world’s population. China remains the most populous country on the planet, with 1.34 billion, but India is closing the gap with 1.21 billion.

The additional Indians found by the census are roughly equivalent to the population of Brazil, the fifth largest country in the world. One Indian state alone – Uttar Pradesh – now has a population of 199,500,000 people, just under that of Britain, France and Germany combined.  However C Chandramouli, the census commissioner, told reporters in Delhi that the new count showed population growth in India had slowed. The 17.6% increase was down from 21.5% recorded in 2001.

Though Indian economists and politicians talk frequently of the “demographic dividend” from the hundreds of millions of young people in their country, there is fear that overpopulation is placing a huge strain on poor social services and infrastructure.

The first modern census in India was conducted under British rule in 1872. Since then, Indian census officials have gone forth more or less every decade and counted how their countrymen have multiplied. The most recent exercise involved 2.3 million “enumerators” travelling to more than 630,000 villages and more than 5,000 cities, logging how many people live in any one place, establishing identities and ages, and noting details such as whether a household has air conditioning, a car, a computer, phones and internet access, as well as basics such as water and power.

The controversial question of caste, the ancient hierarchy rooted in the Hindu religion which permeates all parts of Indian society, has been left to a separate census.  Care was taken to include the homeless, with enumerators, who are often schoolteachers, scouring streets and railway stations to arrive at an accurate count.  The Indian media made much of the inclusion of even Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, a Pakistani national who is the only surviving member of the group of terrorists who launched the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, and who is on death row.

Though there is good news – a rise in literacy of nine points to 74% for Indians aged seven and older – there is also bad news. The figures indicate a continuing preference for male children over females in a country where female infanticide is still common and the government has been forced to ban doctors from revealing the sex of unborn children.

This is particularly marked in the north, even in more prosperous states such as Haryana. Some experts attribute this to the availability of new, cheap ultrasound scans which allow parents to easily determine the gender of child, others to families deciding to have fewer children and wanting to ensure a son.

The breakdown showed 914 girls being born or surviving for every 1,000 boys under the age of six, compared with 927 for every 1,000 in the last census. “This is a matter of grave concern,” said Chandramouli. Efforts to stop female infanticide and foeticide have largely failed. “Whatever measures that have been put in over the last 40 years has not had any impact on child sex ratio and therefore that requires a complete review,” G.K. Pillai, India’s Home Secretary, told reporters.

The overall gender ratio showed a marginal improvement, with 940 women counted for every 1,000 men, compared with 933 in the last census. The southern state of Kerala, which has long enjoyed high literacy rates for men and women, had the healthiest sex ratio in the country, the census has found.

One of the most difficult facts to establish has been age of Indians, officials involved with the count told the Guardian. Few among the poor know their date of birth, which nonetheless has to be established so that they can all be issued with the biometric identity card which is a key part of new government programmes to broaden and improve access to India’s vast but inefficient welfare schemes. To help find ages, the enumerators were given a “local event calendar” listing significant dates which respondents would remember.

The calendar in use around Delhi – every region has its own – starts in 1905 and includes India’s independence in 1947, the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and Mother Teresa’s death in 1997. There is also the Indian victory over the West Indies to win the 1983 cricket World Cup.

BBC: Jimmy Carter Critical of U.S. Cuba Policy

Former US president Jimmy Carter – on a visit to Cuba – has criticised US policy towards the island. Mr Carter said the decades-long US trade embargo and travel ban damaged the Cuban people and hindered rather than helped reform. He also urged the Cuban government to move towards democracy and allow complete freedom of speech.

During his three-day visit Jimmy Carter held talks with the Cuban leader Raul Castro, as well as leading dissidents. He also met the jailed US contractor Alan Gross, but did not secure his release.  “We should immediately end the trade embargo which the US has imposed on the people of Cuba,” Mr Carter told a news conference before leaving Havana. He also said a US travel ban on American citizens visiting Cuba and keeping Cuba on a list of state sponsors of terrorism were counterproductive.

‘Old friends’

Mr Carter – who met leading dissidents including several who have recently been released from jail – said he was optimistic that Cubans would gain more freedom. “My own hope is that in the future, there will be a complete freedom for all Cuban people for speech and for assembly and for travel; that all the internationally adopted standards for human rights will be enforced in Cuba,” he said.

Mr Carter added that he hoped Cuba would release the jailed US contractor Alan Gross and that the US would also free five jailed Cuban intelligence agents. Raul Castro hailed Mr Carter as an “honest man” and said the visit had helped address “common problems”. “It was a good visit, for him from his perspective and for us from our own,” Mr Castro said.

He added that the Cuban government was ready for dialogue with the US, but only if it was “without conditions”. Mr Carter also met Raul Castro’s brother Fidel, and said he and the veteran communist leader and talked like “old friends”.

Unexpected visit

Mr Carter, 86 – who is on his second trip to Cuba – is the only serving or former US president to visit Cuba since the revolution in 1959. His three-day visit at the invitation of the Cuban government was only announced on Friday.vThere had been speculation that he had come seek the release of Alan Gross, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison earlier this month for providing satellite communications equipment to Jewish groups in Havana. But although Mr Carter met the contractor in prison and called for his release, he said his main aim was to try to improve relations between Washington and Havana.

His visit came a week after the Cuban authorities released the last of the “Group of 75” dissidents arrested in a crackdown on opposition activists in 2003. Their release had been a key condition set by the US and EU for any improvement in relations. But Washington has also said there can be no easing of tensions until Mr Gross is also freed.

Cuban dissidents pose for a photo before meeting Jimmy Carter in Havana

Mr Carter met some of Cuba’s leading dissidents

Foreign Policy: The Hard Part of Libya’s Revolution

You may recall the last time the United States and its allies used military force to overthrow a hated Arab dictator. The resulting vacuum was quickly filled by anarchic looting, murderous rivalries and, ultimately, civil war. The blitheness of President George W. Bush’s administration towards post-war Iraq was quite possibly the most inexcusable blunder in the history of American foreign policy. It’s a mistake we wouldn’t want to make again.

That’s why Lisa Anderson, one of the very few American scholarly experts on modern Libya and president of American University in Cairo, recently wrote that “Any military and diplomatic intervention that will bring an end to the Qaddafi regime should be accompanied, from the beginning, by mobilization of the resources for political reconstruction.”

That does sound like a good idea. But it’s not happening. A senior official in President Barack Obama’s administration says that the situation in Libya is “much too fluid,” and the identity of the rebel leadership much too uncertain, to permit serious planning about a post-Muammar al-Qaddafi world, should the rebels actually seize power. The White House is, to be fair, a bit preoccupied, what with organizing the no-fly zone, trying to stave off chaos in Yemen and Bahrain, and attempting to assist a soft landing in Egypt and Tunisia. Most of those countries, as this official says, are of greater strategic significance to the United States than Libya is. And there is, of course, the all too real possibility that the military intervention will produce a stalemate rather than a decisive rebel victory, in which case any such planning would be moot.

The good news is that Libya is not Iraq. The country’s tribal divisions should not prove as insuperable an obstacle to national unity as Iraq’s Shia-Sunni-Kurd divide. And should the rebels somehow overthrow Qaddafi, they will have the legitimacy which comes of winning an insurgency, as the Iraqis placed on the throne by U.S. power did not.

But one of the fundamental lessons of Iraq is that things will be worse than you think. Not only does war unleash all manner of latent enmity and violence, but decades of abusive treatment by a ruthless dictators fuels pathologies that only fully manifest themselves when the lid of control pops off. Pro- and anti-Qaddafi tribes could square off against one another; Qaddafi could unleash the jihadists he once trained to wreak violence both at home and abroad. So you wouldn’t want to bet on a happy outcome in Libya — you’d want to do whatever you could to help deliver one. And it behooves those of us who have argued for the intervention now under way to give serious thought to what form that help should take.

The United States will not be the occupying power in Libya as it was in Iraq, and thus will have far less leverage, and far less responsibility. The Libyans will be calling the shots. But thanks to Qaddafi’s malevolently whimsical vision of a nation without a state or state institutions, whoever inherits the country will need an enormous amount of outside help.

Larry Diamond, a Stanford scholar who served with the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and was a leading advocate for intervention in Libya, says that the most directly relevant lesson of Iraq — and of Afghanistan, for that matter — is “security trumps everything.” People won’t accept a new political order if they may pay with their lives for doing so. It’s impossible to know right now where those threats may come from. But since Libya will have no foreign troops to stop looting or score-settling, the United States or others will have to train Libyan forces in what Diamond calls “democratic policing.”

Encouraging local capacity is thus more important than devising and importing elaborate solutions. The key lesson, Bodine concludes, is, “Wherever possible, work through existing institutions.” Unfortunately, Libya has very few institutions at all. Outsiders might have to let the new rulers work out their own political problems in their own way, but nevertheless provide enormous amounts of technocratic help.

But who should those outsiders be? The United States has learned painful lessons about the limits of its credibility in the Arab and Muslim world, which is one reason why Obama has kept the American footprint as small as possible. Why, then, contemplate an American-led effort to rebuild Libya, especially one that U.S. taxpayers are not about to fund? When Libya was freed from colonial rule in 1951, it fell under the tutelage of the United Nations, which helped organize a provincial assembly and draft a constitution. Perhaps the U.N. needs to return to Libya and play something of the administrative role it did in post-conflict states such as Kosovo and East Timor. James Dobbins, a former senior American diplomat now at the RAND Corp., has argued that U.N.-led state-building efforts have generally proved far more cost-effective than American ones.

Libyans, who preserve a national memory of the hated colonial experience under Italy, however, may view even the U.N. as a neo-colonial force. Lisa Anderson suggests drawing on the resources of the global South, on states such as South Africa and Chile that have made the transition from dictatorship to democracy. One possible source of institutional — but non-state — support, she notes, would be the Club of Madrid, a group of former heads of state of democratic countries. That would be, she says, a “twenty-first century solution” to the problem of state-building.

I’m not quite convinced that a country that missed out on 20th century state-formation is ready for 21st century solutions. Still, all these issues are worth debating. What is not worth debating is whether, having decided to intervene in Libya, the international community has both an obligation to prepare for the post-conflict situation and the capacity to do something about it. The fiasco in Iraq does not demonstrate that outsiders are helpless to shape such chaotic settings, but rather that you need to pay close attention to their very complicated realities, and approach them with due humility. If they ever do reach Tripoli, the Libyans whose heroic resistance to Qaddafi we are now apostrophizing are going to turn around and say, “Help us.” And it will not be enough to give Donald Rumsfeld’s cynical shrug and say, “Democracy is messy.”

BBC: Wikileaks reveals that India’s Congress Party ‘bought votes’

India’s ruling Congress party bribed MPs to survive a crucial vote of confidence in 2008, a diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks suggests. It describes how a senior Congress aide showed a US embassy official “chests of cash” to pay off MPs ahead of a vote over a controversial nuclear deal.

The ruling party has denied the allegations. The leak heaps further pressure on embattled Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after a string of corruption scandals. The leaked cable, reported in The Hindu newspaper, has caused uproar in the Indian parliament with the main opposition parties saying that Congress had “brought shame to the nation” and calling on the prime minister to resign.

‘Chests of cash’

The cable by US official Steven White said that the embassy employee had met Nachiketa Kapur, an aide of senior Congress leader Satish Sharma. It says that Mr Kapur told the embassy employee that “money was not an issue at all, but the crucial thing was to ensure that those who took the money would vote for the government”.

The embassy employee said he was shown “two chests containing cash and said that around $25m (£15.5m) was lying around the house for use as pay-offs”.  Nachiketa Kapur denied the report, saying: “I vehemently deny these malicious allegations. There was no cash to point out to.”

Satish Sharma told a news channel that he did not even have an aide called Nachiketa Kapur. “I never had and still don’t have a political aide,” he said. Mr Sharma is described as a “close associate of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi [and] considered to be a very close family friend of [Congress party chief] Sonia Gandhi”.

The cable said that Mr Kapur also claimed that MPs belonging to regional party Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) had been paid 100 million rupees ($2.5m; £1.5m) each to ensure they voted for the “right way”.  RLD leader Ajit Singh has denied the charge and said that he was “opposed to the nuclear deal” and his party MPs “voted against the government”.

These exchanges are alleged to have happened at the time of a controversial deal between India and the US which paved the way for India to massively expand its nuclear power capability. The government’s left-wing allies withdrew their support over the deal but the Congress party narrowly survived the vote despite substantial opposition. If the government had lost the vote, India could have faced early elections. A defeat would have also put the nuclear deal in doubt.

Accusations of vote-buying were also made at the time: opposition MPs waved wads of money in parliament alleging they were offered bribes to abstain. Widespread corruption in India costs billions of dollars and threatens to derail the country’s growth, a recent report by consultancy firm KPMG says.

The report says corruption is no longer just about petty bribes but about the major scandals where billions of dollars are allegedly siphoned off by government and industry. India’s Telecoms Minister Andimuthu Raja is under arrest on suspicion of underselling billions of dollars worth of mobile phone licenceshe denies the allegations.

The government was also forced by the courts to quash the appointment of its anti-corruption commissioner, on the grounds that he himself faces corruption charges. Congress was recently forced by the opposition to set up a cross-party investigation into corruption

The Guardian: British Protestors plan to turn Trafalger Square into Tahrir Square

Campaigners against public service cuts are calling for a 24-hour occupation of Trafalgar Square – drawing inspiration from revolts in the Middle East – to coincide with Saturday’s trade union protest in London.
Student activists who organised last year’s demonstrations say there will be a rolling programme of sit-ins and protests on the day and have called on people to occupy the central London square turning “Trafalgar into Tahrir” – a reference to the gathering point in Cairo that was at the heart of the revolution in Egypt earlier this year.

“We want Trafalgar Square to become a focal point for the ongoing occupations, marches and sit-ins that will carry on throughout the weekend,” said Michael Chessum from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. “There are a lot of smaller scale demonstrations and actions planned and, just as we have seen in recent protests in the Middle East and north Africa, we want to create an ongoing organising hub.”

Saturday’s main demonstration has been organised by the TUC and is expected to see more than 200,000 people – including public sector workers, families and first-time protesters – take to the capital’s streets to oppose government cuts. This month the TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, promised a barrage of protests against the cuts, ranging from industrial strikes and “peaceful civil disobedience” to petitions by Tory voters in the shires.

The plan to occupy Trafalgar Square is the latest in a wave of proposed sit-ins, occupations and “people’s assemblies” that activists have branded a “carnival of civil disobedience”.  “We have seen time and again that marches from A to B do not achieve their objectives,” said Chessum. “This is about creating an ongoing movement that will put pressure on the government. This is the start of what is going to be a hot summer of protest against the ideological nature of what this government is doing.”

The call for an occupation of the London landmark is backed by student groups, activists and two Labour MPs – John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn. In a joint statement they have called on people to “stay in Trafalgar Square for 24 hours to discuss how we can beat this government and to send a message across the globe that we stand with the people of Egypt, Libya, Wisconsin and with all those fighting for equality, freedom and justice.

“We want to turn Trafalgar Square into a place of people’s power where we assert our alternative to cuts and austerity and make it a day that this government won’t forget.” Alongside the main march, which will set off from the Embankment before making its way to Hyde Park for a rally, anti-cuts campaigners say they plan to occupy some of the capital’s “great buildings”, close down scores of high street stores and occupy Hyde Park.

UK Uncut, a peaceful direct action group set up five months ago to oppose government cuts and protest against corporate tax avoidance, is planning to occupy and force the temporary closure of scores of shops on Oxford Street on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, student groups will meet at the University of London student union building in Bloomsbury at 10am. Some are then expected to make their way to the main assembly point in a “feeder march”; others will peel off to take part in various “direct actions” .

“Since Christmas the movement has become much more autonomous,” one veteran of last year’s protests told the Guardian last week. “There are smaller, semi-independent groups planning small-scale direct action against a range of targets. It will be a bit of a disappointment if we get to the end of the day and one of London’s great buildings is not occupied. We have to make an impact.”

Online, other groups are calling for more widespread direct action on Saturday. An organisation calling itself Resist 26 claims it will stage a number of “people’s assemblies” along the route of the march. Under the banner “Battle of Britain” it is calling for a 24-hour occupation of Hyde Park and “after parties” at famous London landmarks including Piccadilly Circus and Buckingham Palace.

The Guardian: Obama Lifts Suspension on Gitmo Trials

Barack Obama  has given the green light to resume military trials of terror suspects detained at Guantánamo Bay, making a sharp departure from his election promises to close the camp and bring America’s fight against terrorism back into the remit of civilian law.  The US president lifted a suspension on so-called “military commissions” which he had imposed on his first full day in the White House. By so doing, he permitted the revival of trials conducted by military officers, with a military judge presiding.

Obama also signed an executive order that moved to set into law the already existing practice on Guantánamo of holding detainees indefinitely without charge. The president sought to sweeten the pill among civil rights and liberal groups of the resumption of two of the most widely criticised aspects of George Bush‘s war on terror by emphasising that he still wished to see Guantánamo close. When he came into office in January 2009, he repeatedly promised to have the campclosed within one year. It was set up in the wake of 9/11 in 2001 and thereafter the war in Afghanistan.

As another sweetener, he also defied Republican opposition and said he would continue to allow terror suspects to be tried in federal civilian courts, known as Article III courts, on the US mainland. “I strongly believe that the American system of justice is a key part of our arsenal in the war against al-Qaida and its affiliates. We will continue to draw on all aspects of our justice system including Article III courts to ensure that our security and our values are strengthened,” he said.

But civil rights groups condemned what they saw as a decision that flew in the face of the president’s earlier promises to close the camp. “The irony could not be more pronounced,” said Wells Dixon, a lawyer with the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR). “He came into office saying it was one of his national security priorities to close Guantánamo, yet he has now become one of the first presidents to codify a policy of indefinite detention.”

Critics see the resumption of the military trials as confirmation that Guantánamo will be closing no time soon. Under the executive orders allowing detention without charge, there is an in-built review process that allows cases to be reconsidered after the first year and then every four years thereafter. CCR said that was in itself a tacit admission that Guantánamo would remain a place of extra-judicial detention. Dixon said that the four-year reviews were also, in legal terms, strikingly similar to the so-called combatant status review tribunals set up by the Bush administration in 2005 and struck down by the supreme court as essentially unconstitutional in 2008. “This is creating a bureaucratic morass that will achieve nothing legally but will ensure Guantánamo remains open,” he said.

Some relatives of victims of the September 2001 attacks said that they were also disappointed by the resumption of military trials. Colleen Kelly, whose brother Bill Kelly Jr died in the Twin Towers on 9/11, said that she knew all too well how important it was to protect all people, not just Americans, from the threat of terrorism. “There are some seriously dangerous people being held in Guantánamo Bay, I think the world understands that.

But I think there’s also a huge opportunity here being missed to show the world that not only does the US talk the talk, we walk the walk also.” She said that the past nine years since 9/11 showed that the criminal system of justice had proven to be fully robust enough to deal with difficult terrorism cases. “There have been more than 170 successful anti-terror prosecutions in civilian courts since 9/11, which to me suggests they work.” Some 172 detainees remain in Guantánamo, of whom fewer than 40 have been earmarked for trial in either criminal courts or military commissions.

Before the military commissions were suspended by Obama, only a handful of cases were ever fully processed under them. Most of them involved guilty pleas, such as that of the Australian David Hicks who was returned to Australia after his conviction. Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver, was convicted by military tribunal in 2008 and was returned later that year to Yemen to serve the remainder of his five-and-a-half-year sentence.