Monthly Archives: December 2010

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2011


HAPPY NEW YEAR

The New Year will have new crops for spring and probably more crap from the politicians. Let’s see how inventive they will be for 2011.

It is time to return all that you borrowed.  In my case you have until 31st December midnight to get your things back.  Pass the deadline; I will consider your items mine.

I probably will not show up anywhere, unless I am invited, as I don’t want your presence to bring me bad luck. Anyway, if you insist remember that I like to drink red wine. Better, I am willing to bring my bottle so I don’t have to wind you up at your cost.

Anyway, bear in mind that New Year’s resolutions do not work.  So don’t suffer by not smoking, drinking or eating pass the stroke of midnight.  You will be a miserable bloke annoying the ones wanting to have a good time.

The only resolution I will accept is for you to stop sending chain letters. I do not feel guilty by not forwarding them to 5, 10 or 20 of my friends or deleting them as spasms. Actually my friends are grown up and I wish for them to stay as such.

Before I forget, a toast and happy New Year to WikiLeaks Julian Assange he brought to the world the gifts that Santa has not been able to ho ho ho from the time he put on his red silly suit.

My prediction for the New Year is that I will receive phone calls from the people who never gave a shit about me the whole year. I don’t feel bad as the feeling is mutual with the exception that I will not call you.

My phone will SMS non stop from people I hardly know.  Don’t insist it will be a waste of your money as my phone, as usual, will be on selective mode.  It selects the sms that deserve to be read.

Please, wherever you are don’t start crying because the old year is gone.  It was not so good anyway and drama queen tears just irritate me and make champagne taste bitter. So don’t spoil the fun.

I wish to all my good friends a divorce so I don’t have to hear about their bad relationship in 2011, a solid prenuptial agreement if they wish to jump from the good life to marriage.  Also, children if it is for love and not decoration, a need to keep up with the Jones or a pension scheme for old age.

My resolutions,  that I can keep for the New Year,  is to eat the food and drink the wine that I like, not listen to advice from people always asking me for advice,  get a haircut only once a month, listen to music at the volume I want since I’ve got headphone, tell it like it is, not go to these mega weddings where they serve self-service food,  no funerals this year since the people I like will live on, not excuse myself again for calling my father’s ex-wife by his late girl friend’s name, help more my homeless friend whose seems to be getting crazier and be nastier to people who are rude to me.

The resolutions I wish but are a pipe dream and will never happen is for a Tsunami to hit a meeting of the head of states of the African Union, for poachers to get unicorned by rhinos, to have a gay albino as president of Uganda, for some politicians to keep their drugs and give me my social booze back after hours, Sarkozy to have a role in the new version of Snow White and the seven dwarfs and for Obama to stop embarrassing me.

“Happy New Year”
Now, let’s toast, kiss kiss and no problem if you don’t like champagne.
“Give me your glass!”

Patrick-Bernard

THE IVORY COAST SAGA


Ivory Coast is based on corruption, nepotism and presidents which want to stay in power until death do us part. 

Election time and two opponents are standing up for he second and last round;

  • The incumbent Laurent Gbagbo against the opposition politician Alassane Ouattara.
  • The Independent Electoral Commission declares Alassane Ouattara the winner.
  • The results are cancelled in a heartbeat and Laurent Gbagbo is declared the winner.

 
The consequences are that at this very moment Ivory Coast has two presidents. Of course, it follows suit some ministers in the two camps have been given their portfolio.

Laurent Gbagbo keeps his place, shouldered by the army, in the presidential palace and the other one set up his governmental HQ in a hotel.

Skirmishes for justice denied regarding the result of the election follow suit with over 50 people killed, 200 hurts and unknown amounts kidnapped.  The kidnapped are mainly the one opposing Laurent Gbagbo.

The international community, including the UN which monitored the election recognizes Alassana Ouattara as the winner and all impose stiff penalties on Laurent Gbagbo, his family and entourage.  Remember that African Governments are very much a family affair.

Yesterday, Laurent Gbagbo, in a televised address, formally declares himself the winner and informed all his opponents, specially the other government in the hotel, to go back home and let him run the country.  Also, he called on the European Union, African Union and even the United States, Russia and China to check the elections result under an “Evaluating Committee.”
Oooh! He wants to show how well he can rig the election.

Then what? 
I have been thinking about it and I foresee only the following scenario;

  • Nothing and Laurent Gbagbo stays in power with the army at his side.
  • Lots of changes and Alassana Ouattara take up his place as president.
  • A coalition government, Kenya and Zimbabwe have taken this road, and it does not work but seems to please the international community.
  • A civil war which will give more work for the United Nations and lots of meetings.

 
It is not a good time for the production of Cocoa and that stuff is bound to get more expensive.

Has anyone mentioned what the hard-working citizens of Ivory Coast are going through?
I tell you, they all have been tusked in the backside by the leadership.

Patrick-Bernard

MY BROTHER’S OYSTERS


It is 6pm and, again, it is snowing on Paris. The snow flakes are thick and melt as soon as they hit the pavement. I cross the street and the wind hits my chest like a heart attack and yet I have on a thick sweater covered by a leather jacket. My face no longer exists, I know it is there but I cannot feel it to the touch. My finger tips have a life of their own, they tingle.
No, I am not crying, that’s the look I have when I meet the cold. I just find it difficult to smile.

I head to the drug store for my brother.  He tried, he did his best to hold it for the past two days but this morning he woke up with a fever. The cold is pernicious and anchored his body to the stage that only medicine can free him. He already acquired cold habits; he blows his nose in tissues, coughs with a deep cavernous sound and pronounces words with mainly the consonant B and some distorted vowels.
“I hab a bold.”
“And you do, I can tell.”  

Though, while walking, my head rings from his words when I was about to leave the house. “Id woub be bood to eat oysters.  It is bull of bitamin and bood for bold.”
“I didn’t know oysters have good vitamins to fight cold but I know that we shouldn’t go out this evening if you’re sick.”

Yesterday, my brother’s friends ask us to join them this evening to eat oysters. My brother doesn’t like oysters he looooves them.
I am not too sure of the reason for my brother to get well so quick. I think it is foremost to eat oysters this evening. He wants to feel better for the moment, eat oysters and then go back to bed to cure his left over cold.
“Is it raining?”
“No! It’s snowing.”
“Again!”
“Yes! And could I have some Actifed and some Fervex.”
“Is it for a child or an adult?”
“Adult, please.”

I am back home and give the magic potion together with a spoon, water and a glass to my brother who is now in bed.  Don’t be confused, Fervex comes in powder form and drunk with water. The spoon is to twirl the Fervex powder with the water in a glass so it dissolves uniformly.  Don’t feel bad, I did not know about Fervex until my brother asks for it.

Anyway, it is 7:30pm and my brother has taken a shower.  He has a robe on and from the bathroom’s door looks at me in the kitchen. “We are leabing in hab an hour.”

The car is covered with a layer of three inches snow, the tires water-sky on slush and lucky, Paris is almost deserted on a Saturday night.

“La Criée” is a nice restaurant, they have more than one with the same name, and their specialty is sea food.  My brother’s friends Pascal, Alain, José and Jean-Paul are seated at the back waiting for us. I introduce myself and we carry on a nice conversation.

We order four plates of oysters and two others something else as a starter.  Before the food is served my brother excuse himself to go to the restroom.

The oysters are on the table served on a bed of crushed ices and designed half lemons and under the large plate stand; special sauces, two types of bread and butter.

These slimy odd-looking mollusks are eaten live from their shells.
I take one, squeeze a dash of lemon and with a small fork remove it from its nacre housing and put it in my mouth then swallow a sip of the lemony sea water from its shell.  No, I will not tell you if I chewed the oyster or not but that stuff is good.

We finish our oysters and my brother comes back from his emergency. He eats the first one and complains;
“Dib you libe your oysters.”
 “Oooh yes!” was the reply in unison.
“Hmm, ok …. Dib you finb dem kinb of bat?”
“Oooh no, not fat at all!” Then he eats his last one and takes back his sick look.

The lad is so sick that he does not order anything else and seats quietly the evening.
The rest of us follow-up with a main course and I select moule marinière and we drink a fantastic crisp and light German white wine.

I really hope that my brother enjoyed his oysters as much as I enjoyed my evening.  My brother wants to go home.  The lad is really sick.

Patrick-Bernard

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT – KENYA


The Security control area at the entrance of t...
Entrance to the United Nations Detention Unit – The Hague

ICC has given the names of 6 suspects responsible for crimes committed in 2007/2008 during the result of the botch elections in Kenya. It resulted in a questionable power sharing between now President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

In this power sharing they bloated the government to satisfy the president whose party probably rigged the election and the loser who should have been president. They added a thingamabob vice-president with lots of doodad members of parliaments who are among the highest paid in the world. 

The atrocities according to Mr. Moreno-Ocampo,  International Criminal Court Prosecutor, resulted in more than 1,100 people being killed, 3,500 injured and more than 600,000 being displaced from their homes.
Of course, it is not accurate; the toll is most likely higher since getting proper statistic is almost impossible in that part of the world. I mean statistics for people killed during rioting when live bullets are used.
A foot note: some of the money allocated for relocating the internally displaced people vanished in the pockets of some government officials.
Isn’t nice the way governments representatives fulfill their duties on behalf of their citizens!

President Moi Kibaki’s reaction to Mr.Moreno-Ocampo news was ‘the people who have been mentioned have not yet been fully investigated as the pre-trial process in The Hague has only but began.
They, therefore, cannot be judged as guilty until the charges are confirmed by the court.
Calls for action to be taken against them are, therefore, prejudicial, preemptive and against the rules of natural justice.”

Very nice, it is very short, let me translate it: the mentioned suspects can go on in their functions like nothing ever happened and we will do our best not to send them to The Hague. 

Not strange, according to the corruption perception index Kenya is among the most corrupt country in the world and the most corrupt in East Africa.

WikiLeaks notes from the US embassy called Kenya a swamp of corruption where probably all the members of the government are corrupt. The government was so offended by the divulgation of this open secret that some members of parliament want to oust Mr. Michael Ranneberger the US ambassador to Kenya.

As far as I am concerned Ambassador Ranneberger has my vote of confidence. Also, don’t believe the hype on any other charges the Kenyan government wants to pin on him that’s hogwash. 

I have no idea if Mr. Moreno-Ocampo will succeed. What I know is that he will get only blah blah from the government but no help.

Already the Security Chiefs, stated that they will not help ICC in its probe.  In the meantime it is most likely that any known witnesses will be bought, hunted or lynched to the highest tree.

Watch the government fomenting strategies, meetings and press conferences to help their adversely named sextet.  Of course, to give credence to their issues they will give a good word for the one killed in vain
Of course a word, only a word and not much more.

The interesting fact is that president Kibaki is now in favor of a local tribunal to judge the culprits of the election chaos.  Yes, it is interesting knowing that not one prominent person mentioned in any of all the corruption cases has ever been indicted. The judicial system is only a name on a big board outside a nice building. You may as well call it the Judicial banking system.

Oops! Let me remind you again that Kenya is one of the most corrupt countries of our entire planet.

Actually, a local tribunal is a good idea that will definitely suit the politicians since everyone will go scot-free.

Patrick-Bernard

PARIS GATHERING – DAY 2


Using an orange zester to zest an orange.

Yum, yum and yummy

It is 2pm and just woke up. I don’t remember the last time I have done that.  I feel disoriented and my brain needs an instant dose of strong coffee to function. Jet lag, the cold and the new environment which I have thrown myself in at my brother’s place, before my next destination, are not the only reason of the slow thinking process. Yesterday evening I took part in a small gathering given by my brother and its partner.

The dining room table was lit with a row of candles, the various lampshades provided soft colored lights and the bottles of wines, alcohol, champagne, beers, liquors, fruit juices, sodas, glasses and ashtrays were laid on the indoor terrace.
My brother selected some light techno Grace Jones’ music while his partner placed some snacks in colorful bowls.

Actually, his partner did the cooking; cream of corail lentils with carrot juice and cumin and, for main course, medley of sea fish in Emmental cheese sauce.  Two simple dishes with fancy names that make your taste buds purr with delight.

The invitation was for 7:30pm and five guests except one came in time.  The sixth, the drama queen, requires lots of attention and being last  gives her an opportunity to make a grandiose entrance in front of a complete audience.
Angela arrives ½ hour late, bubbly, chicly dressed with accessories to match, a beautiful smile on a gorgeous face “I am here” and she kiss-kiss everyone with movie star warmth. 

The guests are a comfortable variety of shades, educations and backgrounds with two things in common the French language and culture. It is nice to see an eclectic group enjoying themselves under a common flags.

One of the guests, a chef, brought a fruit salad of oranges, figs, grapes and different raisins in vanilla and orange zest syrup. Pascal serves it with bananas flambé and ice cream, It is yum, yum and yummy and that’s when you realize that food is an important ingredient to congeniality.

The conversation goes from intellectual serious to sublime ridiculous and everyone partakes. My brother mentions Kiki and Mahmud, some friends which he really appreciated during his vacation in Kenya. Another provides a riot of laughter about all the business possibilities you can dream of using a cat. The teacher pours with nonchalance his dysfunctional life which he discusses with his therapist. The drama queen speaks about her being at the right place at the right time in thrilling situations and the doctor provides professional advice to one with a painful hernia. My brother is over teased about the lack of love he gives to a plant which provided him with ten years of pleasure. The chef exposes the difficulties and charms of running a restaurant and Pascal attends to all the friends’ needs.

The guests move from topic to topic as a group.  No one is left and it went on, non-stop, until 4am.

The toast was four bottles of champagne, kiss-kiss and the drama queen gives me a kiss-kiss-kiss-kiss before their ride home.  

Patrick-Bernard

I ARRIVED IN FRANCE


I have just arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport, France, and pick up my luggage and being a nicotine addict rush outside. It is dark and the weather is icy cold with no wind.  The slush of the melting snow is thick and hugs the road curbs and  the used-to-be-green grass is covered white.  I am confused and ask the time to a man smoking next to me at the exit.
“It is 7:30” he replied after looking at his watch.
 I take a couple of drags and
“Sorry, is it in the evening or in the morning?”
He gives me a weird look. “In the morning.”
“Thank you.”

I am seriously confused since I have my own internal clock and it is always dark when I wake up or go to sleep. Yes, I have patterns of insomnia and that’s why I need to know if it is AM or PM.

France is expensive so I take a bus to the center of Paris. The ride is soothing; the traffic is moderately heavy until l’Etoile. I get off at my stop and see the “Arc de Triomphe” an imposing monument that sits like a rock at the center point of many avenues.

I take a taxi to the workplace of a friend to fetch the key of his flat where I will be staying for a while. He works for the fashion house Dior on Avenue Montaigne. I had never been there before and the whole block is an array of Dior’s boutiques about Dior for this and that. I visit three Dior boutiques with clerks dressed in full fashion telling me to go to Dior’s main building which is always, but that’s not true,  next door. 

Finally a receptionish which is of help.  “Of course, he is here. Let me call him for you. ”
I meet Pascal; he is not a clerk but one of the person who creates what the fashion house designs.
We kiss on the cheeks, we are in France remember, and he gives me the keys with “I will see you in the evening”

It is a nice neo building; the apartment is a one bedroom with all the convenience which you can dream of in Nairobi. Everything works from the flick of a button and it even has wireless internet access and a washing machine able to dry clothes if you wish.

I am tired and take a shower and just like in America the water, to the temperature of my desire, pours down with pressure. I am told to help myself to anything I want and the kitchen is … better than a diamond mine.

The fridge is full of cheeses, yogurts and jams that I don’t even know the name of. I am a serious coffee drinker and open a jar of “Bresil Sul de Minas” pure Arabica ground coffee. The smell, the aroma, the bouquet makes me sit down while I sip.  I decide to sin and take two cups. Hmm! South American know how to grow their coffee.

I dress up and my curious nature takes me outside. I see an African woman, too lazy to meet her counterpart,  conversing with a building intercom while two pass her by with the latest fashion from downtown Dakar. It is a weird contrast and specially the warm lemon green boubou outfit against the icy cold melting snow.

Well, it is not much different from the women, in the plane, going in sari from America to France. It is blending without integrating, the bride or groom is still chosen by the parents and they only eat Indian food. Only the children integrate, they eat burgers smothered in mild curry ketchup. It is surprisingly good actually; it is sweet, tangy with no chilly heat. I recommend it.

I go to a bakery and buy a baguette, a croissant and a chausson aux pommes (apple turnover) and next shop I get some nice blue cheese and pâté de campagne.

Walking back, a man riding a motorcycle with three wheels makes me smile.  Not the man but the motorcycle, it looks so stable and you don’t have to put a foot on the ground when you stop. A leash-less small dog crosses the street alone followed by his master.

All right! I am in France.

Patrick-Bernard

THE INTERNATIONAL JURIST “The Bemba Trial: Ersatz Justice?”


I am grateful to The International Jurist  and in particular Xavier Rauscher who accepted my request to reproduce a post written by Melanie Gouby about Jean-Pierre Bamba Gomba, former vice-president of the DRC, presently on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on three counts of war crimes and two count of crimes against humanity.  The reading is fascinating.

 The Bemba Trial: Ersatz Justice?

This is a guest post by my good friend and journalist Mélanie Gouby, who is currently in the Kivus, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Being aware of her views on the Bemba Trial, I asked her if she would be willing to write a guest post for The International Jurist to share them and perhaps begin a discussion on the latest ICC trial. She readily accepted, and made time in what I know to be a very busy schedule to write the post in the briefest delays, for which I am very grateful.

You can read more of Mélanie Gouby’s work on her blog, Going with the Wind (Facebook page here), recently nominated in the Best New Blog category for the 2010 Aid Blog Awards. You can also follow her on Twitter @Melaniegouby. 

The scales of the atrocities committed in central Africa over the last two decades is unmatched by any other conflict since World War Two, if only in the number of deaths. The Democratic Republic of Congo in particular has seen millions of people being massacred, raped, maimed, dying of diseases in insalubrious refugees camps and losing everything that made them human beings. Congo is an ongoing genocide. The reasons to the never-ending violence, devastating in a country already striped to the bones, are numerous. From the conveniently illegal mineral trade to the political factions trying to get their share of power, there is not one solution to end it. But there is one demand that unite all Congolese people: Justice.

Reporting from and about DRC for the last two years, my initial illusions about what kind of fruits the work of the ICC would bear in this part of the world have been largely reduced to zero. Given the international community’s responsibility in this conflict and its scale, Congolese people would have been right to expect something of the scale of the ICTR, as well as help for stabilization and reconstruction going far beyond the 20 000 MONUC troops and the disparate aid.

But here we are, in 2010, still waiting for those big trials. Most media will have by now glossed over the importance of the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba, but few will have actually asked what the people on the ground in the CAR and the DRC actually think of it. What kind of impact will it have in reality on their life and will it help them to heal those most deep wounds?

Bemba’s troops, from his Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC), have committed atrocious crimes in DRC, in particular in the Ituri region over periods of several years. A Congolese colleague told me stories of cannibalism on pygmies in the Ituri forest and gender based crimes too gruesome for me to recall here. These stories however are not just rumours, they are well established facts here in Eastern DRC and are not without witnesses. But what is Bemba tried for? Command responsibility for (alleged) war crimes committed by his troops in the Central African Republic. Moreover the prosecution has already recognized that Bemba was neither there, nor directly responsible. Meanwhile justice for victims in the DRC will remain elusive.

Now of course, Justice should also be rendered to victims of the MLC in the CAR. Ironically, many of them do not think it is Bemba who should be in the dock, but rather Ange-Felix Patassé, the then-president of the Central African Republic. In 2002, Patassé requested from Jean-Pierre Bemba that he sends his troops to Bangui in order to counter an attempted coup by Francois Bozizé, a former minister in his government turned rebel. Although it is indeed the MLC who would have committed the alleged war crimes, victims in the CAR themselves are calling for Ange-Felix Patassé to be prosecuted and often dismiss the Bemba trial as ineffective for peace in their country. Bemba was back home, a several thousands of kilometres away, unconcerned by the political struggle at the origin of the fight. According to victims, Patassé is the most responsible, and according to civil society members I talked with on several accounts, Bozizé is not far behind, but people are too afraid to talk since he is in power. Patassé and Bozizé are both running for president in the forthcoming election in CAR, an insult to the hundreds of victims who lament that a foreigner who was not even on the Central African soil is the only one indicted while their corrupted and aging leaders are still having their cake and eating it.

This trial is also an insult to the victims in the DRC. Bemba’s Banyamulengue have committed atrocious crimes in the East and the complete absence of charges for those crimes is a slap in the face of everyone affected by the MLC exactions. Not to mention that it seems rather obvious that those crimes would be easier to impart to Bemba, in comparison to the crimes committed in the CAR. Bemba was there and directly in control of his troops. Would looking too deep into those events bring to light the responsibility of people a little too influential?

I asked Luis Moreno-Ocampo in July why he did not prosecute Jean-Pierre Bemba on crimes committed in DRC and he gave me this evasive answer: “The Central African Republic referred the case and we found that these were the greatest crimes committed in the CAR, which is why we charged him there. Also we cannot investigate before 2002 and some allegations against Bemba in DRC are from before 2002 so I’ve got no jurisdiction.” Given that all trials at the ICC so far have principally used witness testimonies as main evidence, it seems odd that the prosecution did not find enough ”evidences” to prosecute him on those allegations from after 2002.

As to CAR, Fatou Bensouda, the deputy prosecutor declared that Ange-Felix Patassé “is a co-perpetrator” of Bemba. So why on earth is he allowed to quietly come back to Bangui and run for president?

I arrived in the DRC in November, just in time to watch the opening of the trial on a TV set in Goma. The intermittent power cuts made it just that much more difficult to follow, but reaction to the defence opening statement were unanimous. “Bemba should have been tried for crimes here in the DRC, not in the CAR, but this is all political anyway”. People here want justice, they are hungry for it. At a local level first, but they also look up to the ICC. They still hope that someday, the people who are really the most responsible and are keeping their wonderful country in a constant state of disarray will be prosecuted.  Not a Lubanga or a Katanga, “petits poissons” as the Congolese like to say, swimming in a vast sea populated by real sharks.

Arresting a popular figure like Bemba (let’s remember here that he was the main contender against Joseph Kabila in the 2006 presidential elections and keeps a high level of popularity in Western DRC) is useless if it does not concern DRC and is not balanced by the trial of his opponents, equally guilty of war crimes. The message sent here to CAR and DRC populations and leaders is that impunity is in fact still a reality if you have enough power, that Bemba was arrested because he lost the elections and subsequently was an embarrassment for Kabila as well as an easy scapegoat for CAR politicians. Whether this is the reality, or not, does not matter. What matter is what the people who are supposed to feel relief from these trials actually think is true.  Peace without justice is not an option, but what the ICC has given Central Africans is ersatz justice without a perspective for peace, because the same people remain in power, the same balance of interests remain unchallenged, and the same people remain voiceless and helpless.