Commentary & Analysis
Friday, January 30, 2009
After the 1998 terrorist attack on the US embassy in Nairobi in which 250 people were killed, it was acknowledged that the country’s level of disaster preparedness was extremely poor. Later, in 2006 a building collapsed at the junction of River Road and Ronald Ngala Street and again it was reiterated that the level of disaster preparedness was very poor.
On Wednesday, a popular mega store was gutted down by a fierce inferno in Nairobi’s Central Business District just 100 metres away from the city’s fire station, prompting Nairobi Metropolitan minister Mutula Kilonzo to lament about the sad situation that is the country’s level of disaster preparednes. It is now beyond doubt that the powers that be have not learned from past tragedies.
What we are asking is, what happened to the national disaster management authority that was formed sometime back to coordinate and boost the level of disaster preparedness? The last time we heard of it, it was housed at Nyayo House and it had began receiving funding and technical assistance from donors. Can someone tell Kenyans what this team is doing before another tragedy occurs? We raise this legitimate concern because this country is in the habit of suffering from collective amnesia.
It appears that there is either no proper continuity programme from one government to another, or if at all there exists one such programme, people in authority simply don’t care. This brings us to two incidents that demonstrate how lethargic we are in implementing things we have committed ourselves to. Sometime last year, Planning minister Wycliffe Oparanya surprised many Kenyans when he candidly admitted that the goals set out in Vision 2030 could be a pipe dream because the government and development agencies have not fulfilled their financial pledges necessary to accomplish the Vision.
Then, before he had done anything, Prof Kithure Kindiki resigned from the position of Secretary for National Reconciliation and Cohesion citing lack of commitment and facilitation to enable the office execute its functions in view of the post-election violence that drove the country to the brink of total collapse. Upon tendering his resignation, Prof Kindiki noted that once the coalition government had been formed and politicians had shared out cabinet positions among themselves, it appeared that everybody forgot that the country needed some national healing because the government did nothing to enable his office to function.
And finding himself without anything to do, he decided to quit instead of earning a salary without anything to show for it. We want to believe that what happened to Prof Kindiki’s office is the same fate that has befallen the National Disaster Management Authority. We believe, and correctly so, that the idea for proper disaster preparedness died the moment the 1998 bombing tragedy got out of media headlines.
Otherwise how does the government explain how a supermarket located in the capital’s CBD can be gutted down only 100 metres away from the fire station that sends help too late. During Wednesday’s fire disaster, it transpired that one of the impediments in responding to the fire was the inability for fire fighters to get to the scene due to traffic congestion. This is a pointer to poor planning and the failure by City Council authorities to create corridors of tranquility in which emergency personnel can operate effectively in case of a disaster.
This is the same problem we had in 1998 and it appears that we have not learned any lessons from that tragedy. All these conceded, it is our view that time for rhetoric about what has to be done for this country to be disaster-prepared is now over and that the government and all its private sector partners must now start walking the talk. It is important for the government to put in place proper disaster management systems in order to boost investor confidence.
The government, through the Prime Minister’s office, is organising an international conference on the “Kenya we want”. In this conference, the government hopes to showcase the investment portfolio available locally and thereby attract foreign investment. But it will be difficult to attract investors when they know that they risk their lives and investments due to poor disaster preparedness. No one wants to invest in a deathtrap. We therefore urge the government to put its act together and ensure that this country is safe, and that in case of an emergency, people and property have a high chance of being rescued.
Friday, January 30, 2009
January 29 2009
Only chief mediator Kofi Annan can now prevent ministers and MPs named in the Waki list from being dragged to The Hague to face charges related to post-election violence.
Parliament on Thursday employed a technicality to block the government’s rush to beat Friday’s deadline of enacting a Statute for the Special Tribunal for Kenya and its entrenchment in the Constitution.
MPs said the radical decision was prompted by the constitutional crisis between Parliament and the Executive following the decision by President Kibaki to reappoint Mr Amos Kimunya to the Cabinet even though he had been censured by the House.
Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara (CCU) stopped the government in its tracks when he evoked rules of the House to block efforts to fast track the Bills on the Special Tribunal.
Mr Imanyara, who was supported by MPs Bonny Khalwale (Ikolomani, New Ford-K), Olago Aluoch (Kisumu Town West, ODM), Charles Kilonzo (Yatta, ODM-K) and Ababu Namwamba (Budalang’i, ODM), rose on a point of order immediately after Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua had sought the House’s permission to reduce the maturity period of the Bills from 14 days to one day.
It is significant to remember that the Bills, which were published yesterday, could have taken 14 days to mature before they were debated on the floor of the House. Said Mr Imanyara: “We are not going to allow leave of the House to be granted.”
This prompted Speaker Kenneth Marende to make a ruling over the issue. He referred to Standing Orders Nos 98 and 99 on the period of maturity for published Bills.
While Standing Order No 98 sets the periods of maturity that different forms of Bills may go through before they are introduced in the House, Standing Order 99 states that for a Bill to go through the three stages in one sitting, MPs must grant leave.
Ruled the Speaker: “Mr Imanyara has the support of more than two members as required and does not require even the sympathy of the Chair. Therefore, leave of the House is not granted.”
By that ruling, the commitment of President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to meet the deadlines of setting up the Special Tribunal for Kenya were thrown into disarray.
President Kibaki did not join other MPs in debating and passing the Bills at Parliament Buildings. He and Mr Odinga had committed to the Special Tribunal when they signed an agreement to establish it on December 17 last year.
They have since lobbied MPs to pass the Special Tribunal for Kenya Bill 2009 and the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2009 to beat today’s deadline of enacting the Statute for the tribunal and entrenching it in the Constitution, respectively.
Ms Karua said that debate on the Bills will resume next week and hoped that Mr Annan would not punish the government for a delay.
By Bernard Namunane, Dave Opiyo, Alphonce Shiundu and Caroline
KENYA GOVERNMENT FAILS TO MEET WAKI TIMELINES: PARLIAMENT REBELS AGAINST KIBAKI OVER KIMUNYA'S RETURN TO THE CABINET
By David Ochami and Peter Opiyo
The Government suffered a blow as it missed deadlines set by the Waki Report to create a Special Tribunal to try post-election violence suspects.
And faced with the risk of having ministers and suspects tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, it was exploring options for extending the deadlines.
The Special Statute Tribunal for Kenya Bill, 2009 was blocked on technical grounds in the House, yesterday.
In a tactful understanding of the House Standing Orders, Mr Gitobu Imanyara (Imenti Central, CCU) objected to fast-tracking discussion on the Statute Bill and Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2009, denying the House a chance to debate them.
The former sought to establish the tribunal, while the latter was to anchor it in the Constitution. To beat today’s deadline, the Government has no option than to speed the two Bills.
But rising on a point of order, Imanyara objected to the move, saying the House was not ready to grant leave to debate the two Bills.
Speaker Kenneth Marende referred to Standing Order No 99 and declared Imanyara’s move legal, thus denying the House the opportunity to establish the court.
According to this Standing Order, a member can object to the House granting leave to speed up a Bill as long as he is supported by at least two members.
Imanyara had Mr Olago Aluoch (Kisumu Town West, ODM), Mr Charles Kilonzo (Yatta, ODM-K) and Dr Bonny Khalwale (Ikolomani, New Ford-K), among others.
Mr Marende then ruled: "Imanyara doesn’t have the sympathy of the Chair because he has the numbers."
Earlier, Justice Minister Martha Karua had moved three procedural Motions that extended yesterday’s sitting and fast tracking the publication date of the Bills. House rules require that a Bill can only be debated after the lapse of 14 days since its publication. But the House can change this. And Parliament effectively did this by reducing the publication date to one day to give opportunity for the debate and passage of the two Bills.
Karua only managed to table the Constitution of Kenya (Ammendment) Bill, 2007 and the Statute for the Special Tribunal at the first readings.
But Imanyara objected that the Bills go through the second and third readings in yesterday’s single session. Since Parliament does not sit today, technically, the opportunity to establish the Tribunal is lost.
On Tuesday, Parliament had laid the ground for the establishment of the Tribunal by adopting the Waki Report.
It also enacted the International Crimes Bill that domesticated the Rome Statute and defined international crimes, paving way for the establishment of the tribunal.
And The Standard has established that the move to stop debate on the formation of the tribunal was mooted by backbenchers from both sides of the House in the last two days.
Several MPs told The Standard on condition of anonymity that the move was aimed at "teaching" the President a lesson for slighting Parliament over the reappointment of Kipipiri MP Amos Kimunya to the Cabinet.
"I have been told by some MPs that they are unhappy with Kibaki over the Kimunya issue. That is why they behaved that way," a minister told us.
The MPs, who spoke after stopping debate on the two Constitution Bills, said Parliament had no confidence in Kimunya
Earlier, while delivering a ruling on Kimunya’s reappointment, Mr Marende said the Motion of censure in which a no confidence vote was passed against Kimunya still stands.
By: Adzitornu Stanislav Kofi
There is no doubt that former President Kufuor has contributed immensely towards the democratic dispensation that Ghana currently enjoys. This assertion is derived from his regular featuring at the G-8 Summits ever since he became president of Ghana and his excellent relations with world leaders that have enabled Ghana attract attention and investment worldwide. Perhaps, it may be difficult to have another president that would enjoy such massive international support on the same scale as President Kufuor. Without doubt, President Kufuor is truly respected on the international front.
Jump into the cold dry winds of West Africa and the story within Ghana of President Kufuor becomes a mixed bag of applause and revulsion; applause because his apologists see him as the best thing that happened to Ghana since Nkrumah while his opponents consider him as a very shrewd thief, one who has managed to hide his loot cleverly from public scrutiny and official inquiry. If in doubt, go back to 2005 when his predecessor, ex- President Rawlings rhymed in unison with his party faithful ‘Ataa Ayi Nie, Kufuor Nie’ (Ataa Ayi is Ghana’s most notorious armed robber)
For the first group of apologists, Kufuor has been the most successful Danquah-Busia leader in living memory, having served two full-terms as president under a Republican Constitution without interruption from the military. They also attribute to him, the creation of a new enabling environment that has allowed a class of rich people to emerge within Ghana. They point to the string of business enterprises within the private sector that sprang up with the advent of Kufuor.
They mention the plethora of banks, financial institutions, social and economic infrastructural projects including but not limited to the Bui Dam, the restoration of Peduase Lodge, the new Jubilee House and the massive construction of roads such as the Accra-Aburi highway among others. Indeed, it appears former President Kufuor has outdone all his predecessors in the construction sector alone, if tenure of leadership is used as a basis of assessment vis-à-vis actual work done.
Among this group can be found the likes of Paul Afoko, Daniel K. Osei, Birago, Tommy Amematkpor, Stephen A. Ntim, Richard Winfred Anane and of course, Oteng Kufuor, son of Professor Kufuor of The University of East London who currently writes in the Chronicle under the pseudonym Maame Coomson.
The other group, his opponents, are likely to smirk at the preceding paragraph, citing cronyism, favouritism and outright sabotage from the former President, who they claim, dexterously hides behind surrogates to undermine and thwart the efforts of those who choose to pursue their interests outside the control of former President Kufuor. Such people readily cite and adduce some evidence of interference in their legitimate business by surrogates of Kufuor (does anybody remember a certain Sammy Crabbe and the Ghana International Airline back-stabbing?).
They mention for instance, how ideas of theirs submitted to certain consultants or ministries have found their way into the implementation stage albeit in altered form. They also mention how certain people have become constant recipients of lavish contracts and other rewarding opportunities at the expense of those who strove to get Kufuor to power.
For this group, Kufuor’s legacy is nothing to write home about and the hot heads among them are even suspected to be planning to teach Kufuor a bitter lesson by adducing evidence of corruption and other untoward acts to the new NDC government. Within this group are the likes of Dan K. Botwe, Mahmoud, Auntie Adoley, Joe Danquah, Okerchiri Adusah, and Isaac Asiamah among others.
There is yet another group, consisting of pure NPP thoroughbreds who attribute the recent loss of power mainly to Kufuor and the vote-rejection activities of his men. This group is largely made up of Young Turks and die-hard hawkish elements or fanatics who have been at the receiving end of Kufuor’s legacy.
These people, known to be the foot soldiers of the NPP are alleged to be in possession of audio information about a supposed phone call made by former President Kufuor to Dr. Afari Djan in which a conspiracy was hatched against declaration of results for Akufo-Addo, ostensibly because Akufo-Addo does not respect.
For them, so long as Kufuor has any influence in the party, the NPP would never grow to its full potential. It is this line of thinking that blended them together into a fighting force that does one main thing: ensure that all Kufuor surrogates do not hold any office within the national executive of the party. As a result of their influence and massive support base at the grassroots they are a rather dangerous lot, having gradually established themselves as the new kingmakers within the party.
Within their ranks can be found Nii Boye Laryea, Olive, Francis Adil, Sahadatu Issahaku, Mr. Yesterday, Atta and Atsu, Rita Asobayire and the entire FONAA network operated by Akufo-Addo’s ‘three wise men’ as they are called together with their elusive network of sharp troubleshooters. If anybody has any future within the NPP party, that person must necessarily enjoy the support of this group, especially the Akufo-Addo elements among them. Put together on any day, they are a terrifying lot, combining unbelievable intellect and political savvy at all levels of their operations.
The existence of these three groups signifies one unavoidable truth: the legacy of Kufuor, whichever way one looks at it would not be easy to determine. It appears there is bound to be a slugging match to determine who wins who and why as a basis to finally establish what the true legacy of Kufuor is.
Inasmuch as all these elements rallied behind Kufuor to enable him enjoy a smooth tenure as president, the old hatreds are threatening to re-emerge, what with the stirring of the hornets nest by the unwise decision of Oteng Kufuor (Maame Coomson) to rub salt in the wounds of people who are already spoiling for a fight.
Now that the battle lines have been drawn, I shudder to think of any alliance within the party against the first group. Former President Kufuor and whatever legacy he might have left is indeed under threat and in all truth, I do not envy him at all considering the firepower of the people he now has to contend with, at a time he does not have either the ideological or repressive apparatus of state at his behest and disposal. I wish him Godspeed
Stanislav Kofi Adzitornu
By: 3G Media Inc., (2009-01-07)
In a speech addressing the NPP Congress in 2005, Kwabena Manu aka Pancho alluded exactly to what has happened to the NPP in the just ended elections in Ghana.
In a two part speech, he detailed his experiences/ordeal in the 2004 NPP Parliamentary primaries and concluded with the ills within the NPP.
Please read the speech below in its entirety to get the whole picture of what was said that day.
"Members and Supporters of the NPP, the NPP Secretariat, Honorable Ministers, Members of Parliament, Nananom, Ladies and Gentlemen; Good afternoon:
The presentation that I am about to make this afternoon is not your usual kind of presentation but an important one nevertheless.
Words are inadequate for me to communicate the mixed feelings that fill my heart this afternoon, as I stand here to try and communicate to you, what I see as a not so democratic practice within our New Patriotic Party.
I say mixed feelings because, I am very proud to be a member of this Party and at the same time feel a painful sense of betrayal by our Party at the National, Regional, and Constituency levels.
I went to Ghana in March 2004 to try and fulfill a life long dream of a career in Politics. I have always wanted to be of service to Ghanaians and mankind; thus my continued servitude in Public Service in the United States of America.
Prior to my departure for Ghana, I had conversations with NPP headquarters in Accra on a couple of occasions and I made my intentions clear to them that I will seek the Party's Parliamentary nomination for the Nsuta/Kwamang/Beposo constituency. I was informed among other things that application forms for Parliamentary aspirants will go out by the end of March 2004, that the primaries will be in June and that the application/registration fee may be the same as it was for the bye-elections (5 million cedis).
I satisfied the necessary requirements needed to contest the constituency primaries. I paid the 11 million cedis application/registration fee. I went through the vetting procedure in mid May and was hopeful that the primaries will be in June as was initially stated by the National headquarters.
I went with my Campaign Manager to Kumasi in mid June to see Mr. F. F. Anto, the then NPP Ashanti Regional Chairman to discuss with him the need to go ahead with the Nsuta/Kwamang/Beposo constituency primaries since there were no underlying problems within the constituency that could plunge the primaries into violence and chaos. He assured me that he agreed with me and that he will do all in his power to get the nod from National Headquarters, since prolonging it would become financially burdensome for the contestants.
Sensing that no date will be fixed in June, I spoke to National Headquarters during the last week of June and was informed that the President needed the help of all NPP MPs to help pass a bill sometime during the first week in July and that dates could not be fixed for primaries in constituencies with incumbent MPs until Parliament ended its session on July 15th 2004.
The rationale behind this decision was that if primaries were held earlier and an MP knew he had lost his parliamentary primary bid, he will not be obliged to go to Parliament and vote on the said bill.
I do not want to dwell on my personal experience but the treatment of NPP members abroad as STEP CHILDREN of the party cannot be told without telling my story.
After consistently stating my case, that I will not wait for Parliament to end its session on July 15th before we could meet to choose a date since that will prolong the primaries, the 3 contestants met with the Ashanti Regional Secretariat of the NPP on July 12 to choose a date. The incumbent MP stated he could not agree to a date the week of July 17th but rather preferred July 26th because he needed time to campaign despite the other contestant and myself agreeing to a date the week of July 17th.
The Regional Chairman stated he did not want any contestant harboring the delegates at a designated place. The Constituency Chairman stated that would not happen because he intended to harbor the delegates at his residence. I disagreed with his request and stated I felt there could be foul play. He told the Regional Chairman that there will not be any foul play.
I insisted I was against the idea but the incumbent saw nothing wrong with that. The Constituency Chairman was given the go ahead to house the delegates. This opened up a perfect opportunity for the constituency executives to cook up a strategy and work for their incumbent MP who had routed huge sums of money through the executives to be given to the delegates the night before the primary.
Prior to me coming here today, I was told by some people not to criticize any individual. I say to you today, that some things are so eternally true that they are worth dying for; and if a man is afraid to die for something that he is willing to live for; then he isn't fit to live.
An aspiring MP elect at that time, Honorable Abum Sarkodie of Mampong- Ashanti, became a self appointed roving ambassador to the residence where the delegates were housed the day before the primary.
As late as 11:30pm the night before the long awaited primary, he made his last visit to the Chairman's residence at Beposo. He played a perfect role as the liaison between Hon. Osei Prempeh and the delegates that were assembled there. I want members of this great Daquah/Busia/Dombo political party tradition to understand that I do not have anything against Hon. Osei Prempeh. I just want the NPP to do what is right as a political party.
Even though it was agreed for all three contestants to send a representative to the constituency chairman's residence to monitor foul play, the incumbent did not send one. He had no need to, as a plan had been discussed to get the delegates to vote for him.
Like any politician who is not barred by term limits or cannot become a lame duck, I will love to be the MP for Nsuta/Kwamang/Beposo for a very long time; longevity has its place. However, I must not be imposed on my constituents and should not buy my way into Parliament. My loss in the primaries was not due to a bad campaign but due solely to the fact that majority of the delegates were bought.
I am very certain that the framers of our NPP constitution did not foresee such a flaw in just a few delegates choosing a parliamentary candidate in a primary contest.
There is something strangely inconsistent about a political party that does not allow majority of its members to freely express themselves during primaries, but allows a limited number of constituency executives to directly or indirectly tell a limited number of delegates which candidate to vote for in a primary, and yet, boast to the world that the NPP led administration respects democracy so much that it encourages democratic values including FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION. There is something strangely inconsistent with this.
I am deeply convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the global democratic revolution, then we as a political party must undergo a radical revolution of democratic values.
I am therefore making a passionate plea to this POLITICAL PARTY of ours to consider allowing all card bearing and dues paying members to exercise their rights in choosing who they want representing them as their MP in the general elections. If the NPP truly believes in absolute democratic principles, then it must NOT allow constituency executives to tell delegates which candidate to vote for. We must also not allow the highest bidding candidates to buy their way to Ghana's Parliament.
About 100 delegates, as in the case of the Nsuta/Kwamang/Beposo constituency cannot and should not be allowed to make a decision for the almost 18,000 NPP registered voters. This is not democracy at its best. The NPP cannot afford its dedicated membership the luxury of an anemic democracy. We as a party must formulate a basic procedural guideline to guard us in our parliamentary primaries. An incumbent must not be given the upper hand by allowing him to invite his minister and MP friends to speak in his favor. Our slogan of "Positive Change" should not leave behind our quest for an all- inclusive parliamentary primary process.
The notion that NPP members in Ghana, have everything to teach their counterparts abroad and nothing to learn from them, is not just. Whatever affects one NPP member directly, affects all NPP members indirectly because we are all tied up in a single garment of DESTINY.
We must therefore allow fairness and justice to roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty spring.
When we do this, then we will be able to live amongst ourselves as a peaceful and unified NPP.
I am going to divert briefly……….
My conscience tells me to tell you this afternoon that the truth must be told.
Our Party as I speak today is in a period of moral crisis. In a period of moral crisis, silence is betrayal. I also agree with Dante, "that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality".
You shall speak the truth says Jesus, and the truth shall set you free.
Just as the (P)NDC stepped on the toes of many Ghanaians, we as a party and government have stepped on some innocent toes. Some innocent civil servants are sent home on interdiction in haste, just because other civil servants want their jobs and fabricate baseless lies and stories about them. Even some civil servants who have voted the UP traditional way since the advent of Ghana's party political activities are victimized in haste because they are believed to be on the other side of the isle. Those PWD senior staff deserves our sincere apologies.
Some in our Party and government are trying so hard to obey the eleventh commandment; Thou shall not get caught.
Be corrupt and steal and cheat and lie but steal with a finesse so that even when you get caught as a government official it becomes embezzlement rather that stealing. This has come to be known in Ghana today as "causing a financial loss to the State".
My brothers and sisters of this NPP, the clock of our political destiny is ticking out and we must act now before it is too late. If something isn't done in a hurry to right this wrong then I am afraid to say that this will be the next political blunder of the Danquah/Busia/Dombo tradition since the PFP/UNC political blunder of 1979 that paved the way for the PNP to capture power. This political tradition cannot afford another blunder that will awaken the souls of J.B. Danquah, Kofi Abrefa Busia, Paa Grant, J. Kwesi Lamptey Edward Akufo Addo, Victor Owusu, Jatoe Kaleo. Chief S.D. Dombo, Abayifah Karbo, Malam Mahama Tula, Akwasi Amankwa Afrifa, Adam Amandi and Joseph Yaw Manu to mention a few; only to tell us that they have toiled in vain. We must also not dampen the spirits of some of our elder statesmen like R.R. Amponsah, Solomon Osei-Akoto, Kwame Safo-Adu, Appiah Menka and B.J. Da Rocha.
It seems I can hear the voice of the God of the moral universe saying to the NPP and its government; You are ignoring some basic issues of the day - If you don't change your ways, I will break the backbone of your power and place it in another party that at least knows my name and which Ghanaians feel will do a better job than the NPP.
We have toiled so long in opposition and we must not allow ourselves to be placed in that predicament so soon.
For those of us that cannot see it, the writing is boldly on the wall; "2008 will not be an easy battle as 730,000+ votes that separated us and the NDC cannot be viewed as a huge margin when it comes to the voting trends of Ghanaians.
Asawase and Odododiodio comes to mind. How realistic are we as a political party when we deprive a well known candidate who ran on our party's ticket in 2004 and replace him with a least known candidate. Nii Ayi Bonte was not treated fairly. We must put an end to this unrealistic practice of imposing candidates on constituents.
We must also not allow the NDC to inject poisonous drugs of hate into the minds of our party faithfuls and Ghanaians in general.
I will not trade my NPP affiliation for any other political party. I will continue to work hard towards the success of the NPP in subsequent elections.
We must all help in our own little ways and retain the NPP in power, come 2008."
By: Afful, Kweku, (2009-01-26
I have always commended the Kufour led government for their major achievements (NHIS, improved infrastructure, National school feeding programme, and enhancing freedom of speech to mention a few). I have also objectively criticised them for their lapses.
I have keenly followed the developments in Ghanaian politics for sometime now and was quiet enthusiastic of the Kufour administration in 2000 for following reasons;
1. I believed they had the best team of experts and professionals at the time to make up the government and bring about the required ‘positive change’ they proposed.
2. I also believed that since most of the key men in the party were already accomplished and somewhat financially sound, they would not be coming into politics to enrich themselves but purely make a name for themselves as the party that helped to alleviate poverty in Ghana.
I remember in 2001, some spare parts traders in Accra deliberately reduced the prices of their spare parts to help reduce transport cost in the nation. People were willing to make genuine sacrifice to put our nation back on track. Those were the days when people hardly complained when the prices of fuel went up about 3-4 times in a year.
However, I become amused at some high profile financial malpractices in the Kufour administration to mention Dr. Anane for instance and how the whole issue did not get anyway but was re-assigned a cabinet position.
Again the number of ministerial appointments under the Kufour administration was very excessive if not unnecessary. It was as though some ministries were deliberately created to appease certain party loyalists.
We all witnessed the amount of cash injected into the just ended campaign as well as the cost of some of the medals presented to award winners the recent national awards. (It is good to reward deserving citizens but it should be done in moderation)
In spite of all these, I kept my faith in Papa Kufour but the one that disturbs me is the current issue of benefits to be paid to ex-presidents…hmmmm! This is very shocking to say the least. I believe strongly that ex-presidents should be well taken care off but it should never be to the detriment of the masses. Consider the number of families that can’t afford a decent meal a day, the unemployed, school drop-outs and professionals (teachers, doctors etc) whose salaries haven’t been paid. A lot of these people have to sacrifice daily even though their pay doesn’t commensurate what they do.
For me, the issue of ex-gratia for ex-presidents at the moment leaves a bad taste in the former President Kufour’s administration and does not say well of a nation that calls of its citizenry rich and poor to sacrifice their little or much to the good of mother Ghana. Ah ah ! Na waa ooo! This is too much. Whoever proposed and approved of these benefits must ask themselves some serious questions. Our leaders should try and put themselves in the shoes of the ordinary people who gave them the mandate to rule. The poor is becoming poorer whilst the rich becomes richer. I am not a communist but am I believer of equal opportunities.
Well done President Atta-Mills.
I was pleased to read about the moves been made by the camp of President J.E.A. Mills to cut down the excesses in governance so as to save the taxpayer a few cedis. That is a true example. Thank Mr. President and God bless you. Keep it up please.
If we have to move Ghana forward we should be very willing to make some sacrifices to advance the national agenda. To Ex-President Kufour I will ask that please advice the the Chinery Hesse committee or parliament to withdraw the package of retirement benefits put forward by and recommend an independent body to make a moderate and realistic offer to be represented to parliament. If I were in your shoes sir, I will even say thank you but a few security details and some few monthly cedis would do seeing that you are already blessed. I would ask the same of Ex-President Rawlings.
Performance related benefits.
As a Human Recourse expert, I would recommend that benefits for ex-presidents should be based on performance which would be measured by the per capita income, growth in the GDP and the rate of inflation.
If you are interested in moving Ghana forward please send your sensible and realistic comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you very much.
Published:Jan 27, 2009
Tasks we face are no less daunting than those of the US
We must demand progressive policies, not dogma
THE inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th US president left much of the world yearning for just such a bi-partisan expression of hope and the possibility and promise of new, invigorated leadership.
Given its resonance with the quintessentially South African narrative of change and racial harmony, it is regrettable that a more high-profile South African presence was not felt in Washington, though thankfully, Madiba sent Obama a warm letter of congratulation.
In our own country, three years of pre- and post-Polokwane manoeuvring, mud-slinging and character assassination have generated a real yearning for a similar unifying, visionary leadership.
It is an even more poignant desire, given the resounding echoes of similarity between the inauguration of Nelson Mandela in 1994 and Barack Obama this year.
For though South Africa has travelled far on its road to democracy since 1994, the challenges it continues to confront in bridging the divides of its past amidst global adversity are no less daunting than the Molotov cocktail of challenges the US is confronting under Obama’s newly-minted baton.
The juxtaposition with our own prospective president, who is confronting charges of corruption and racketeering as he prepares to take office, is truly depressing. Our seeming national lack of vision is starkly juxtaposed with the US’s Obama moment.
While the inauguration oration contained a clear vision of the restoration of values in the US — crucially, the reassertion that security and civil liberty are not mutually exclusive concepts — it is with respect to the economy that Obama will face his sternest test. This test will have consequences that will reverberate in the very fibre of every emerging-market economy including our own.
And it is with respect to the economy that Obama has once again demonstrated pragmatic leadership free of ideological blind spots from which we can all learn.
In his speech, he said: “Nor is the question before us whether the market is good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favours only the prosperous.”
Given that South Africa is at a crucial point of governance transition, and economic-policy discourse, it is worth earmarking this progressive approach as worthy of note for our prospective rulers. For as we chart a new course to try to protect our economy from the worst fall- out of the global crisis and address our chronic growth and employment problems, it is worth reminding ourselves that we are not engaged in a zero-sum game between the market and the state as some ideologues on the left and right would suggest. It is worth reviving the progressive “third-way” of the Blair/Clinton years, as Obama is suggesting.
As we approach the elections, it is worth reminding ourselves as an electorate to look for such progressive ideas, not ideological dogma, in the manifestos of those who seek to lead us.
By CHARLES BABINGTON and LIZ SIDOTI,
Associated Press Writers
Eight days after Barack Obama took office as a "change" president, House Republicans have made a huge political gamble that could set the tone for the next election cycle.
In unanimously opposing the massive spending bill that Obama says is crucial to reviving the economy, they signaled they are not cowed by his November win or his calls for a new era of bipartisanship. Obama's popularity will slacken, they say, and even it doesn't voters will reward a party that makes principled stands for restrained spending and bigger tax cuts.
Democratic officials think Republicans are misreading Americans' hunger for action. And if they are right, the GOP could face a third round of election setbacks next year.
Eyebrows were raised on both sides by Wednesday night's 244-188 House vote, in which not a single Republican supported the stimulus package.
Passage was never in doubt, even when 11 Democrats joined the Republicans in voting nay. And the Democratic-controlled Congress is almost certain to enact some version of the measure soon, after senators make changes and work out the differences with the House.
Many congressional insiders, however, thought a dozen or more GOP House members would back the bill this week, especially after Obama met separately Tuesday with House and Senate Republicans in a rare presidential visit to the Capitol's two wings. The House vote makes it easier for Democrats to portray the entire Republican Party as a do-nothing, head-in-the-sand group, though GOP officials call that unfair.
"I think the Republicans have painted themselves into a box," said David DiMartino, a former Senate Democratic staffer now in public relations. "If the stimulus package works, they were wrong. For them to be right, the economy has to tank. They seem to be rooting for a bad economy."
Democratic strategists also think Republicans blundered by unanimously opposing Obama just after he made a high-profile show of bipartisanship. Not only was there his visit to the Capitol, but he agreed to drop two items from the bill that drew particular GOP fire: money to resod the National Mall in Washington and to expand family planning programs.
Republicans began pushing back Thursday. The two concessions were mighty small, they said, and Democrats ignored the GOP's alternative package that included more tax cuts and less spending, especially for programs with no obvious promise for stimulating the economy quickly.
Having Congress do nothing is not an option, "although sometimes our Democratic friends would like to present the false choice," Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., told reporters.
If a Democratic measure fails to improve the economy, Kyl said, then in about six months Republicans will "be in the position to say, 'We didn't have the input into this that we needed, and that's why it hasn't worked.'"
For now, at least, White House aides see Obama's outreach to Republicans as a win-win for him, no matter where the House and Senate votes end up. They calculate that Americans will give him credit for trying to win Republicans over, even if he fails.
Liberal groups and labor unions turned up the heat Thursday. They announced a TV ad campaign meant to pressure moderate GOP senators to back the stimulus bill. The ad, by MoveOn.org and other groups, targets Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Charles Grassley of Iowa, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama will continue to meet with Republicans and make changes to the bill in response to their concerns. However, Gibbs suggested in an interview, GOP lawmakers will pay a political price if they ultimately stand in the bill's way.
"There will be people in districts all over the country who will wonder why, when there's a good bill to get the economy moving, why we still are playing gotcha," he said.
Both parties point to polls that they say show support for their respective viewpoints. White House chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told House Republican moderates this week that surveys find about 80 percent support for the stimulus legislation.
House GOP leaders, meanwhile, cited a poll Thursday in which most respondents said the stimulus bill is too expensive. It also found, they said, that 71 percent think it's unfair to give refund checks to people who do not pay federal income taxes.
Many low-income workers already receive some benefits through the Earned Income Tax Credit, but the stimulus bill would expand refunds to help offset payroll taxes that these workers pay.
Republicans' biggest complaint is that the package is loaded with items that they say seem more likely to promote liberal agendas than to stimulate the economy in the short run. They include $1 billion for the Census Bureau and money to combat Avian flu and help people stop smoking.
With such items being highlighted, "it's becoming an easier 'no' vote for all us," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in an interview Thursday.
Many Republican lawmakers feel they were stampeded into voting last fall for a $700 billion financial bailout measure that proved unpopular with voters and of questionable benefit, Graham said. They worry that the stimulus bill might have a similar fate.
"Who wants to own an $850 billion increase in the national debt," Graham said, "not knowing whether it will work?"
EDITOR'S NOTE — Charles Babington and Liz Sidoti cover Washington for The Associated Press. AP White House Correspondent Jennifer Loven contributed to this report.
By DEANNA BELLANDI, Associated Press Writer
AP SPRINGFIELD, Ill.
Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was schooled in the politics of the Chicago Machine, but his successor's career has been built on grass-roots organizing to cut government and protect the little guy.
Pat Quinn became the state's chief executive Thursday after the Illinois Senate voted unanimously to remove his scandal-ridden predecessor. The decision immediately elevated Quinn from lieutenant governor, where he had served for two terms under Blagojevich.
Quinn took the oath of office from state Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke in the lieutenant governor's office shortly after Blagojevich was booted from office. He later signed the oath in the House.
"The ordeal is over," Quinn declared to lawmakers.
Quinn and Blagojevich campaigned on the same ticket, but the two Democrats had little in common.
Blagojevich rose through the infamous Chicago Machine while Quinn began his career crusading against utility companies and organizing petition drives, including one that cut the size of the Illinois House by one-third — putting dozens of politicians out of work.
The 60-year-old former state treasurer and tax attorney now must turn his attention to serious problems facing the state's 12 million residents, including a budget deficit of more than $3 billion.
Quinn has been the state's No. 2 executive since 2002, but the lieutenant governor's office is one with few official duties. Quinn will probably enter office with some goodwill from lawmakers who have spent years sparring with Blagojevich.
"I think he's regarded as being honest and in that way a very refreshing change from Blagojevich," said Cindi Canary, head of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
In Illinois, governor candidates do not pick their running mates. Lieutenant governor candidates run separately in party primaries, and the two run together in the general election.
Blagojevich and Quinn were not close, and Quinn says they have not spoken in more than a year. He once backed an amendment to recall constitutional officers that was clearly aimed at the governor.
And he repeatedly called on Blagojevich to quit after the governor's Dec. 9 arrest on federal corruption charges, including allegations that he tried to sell off President Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat.
Last year in a radio interview, Blagojevich said Quinn was not even part of the administration.
The two men were more cordial in 2002 when they took over from GOP Gov. George Ryan, who is now serving a prison sentence for corruption. Both Democrats cast themselves as fix-it men.
"This election is a mandate for reform from top to bottom," Quinn said on election night in 2002. "We are going to replace a government of deals with a government of ideals."
As lieutenant governor, Quinn became a vocal advocate for veterans. He helped start a relief fund for military families, pushed for better health care benefits and made a point of attending funerals for Illinois service members.
Quinn, who once hiked nearly 170 miles across the state with his elderly doctor to promote universal health care, said his passion is in grass-roots organizing.
"I think that's really actually more my interest in life than anything," Quinn said.
House members once greeted him in their chamber with a chorus of boos following his successful effort in 1980 to reduce the chamber's size to 118 members.
Three years later, he helped create the consumer watchdog group Citizens Utility Board, which filed a landmark lawsuit against Commonwealth Edison Co. that produced $1.3 billion in consumer refunds.
Quinn was also the state treasurer from 1991 to 1995 and unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 1996.
By BEN FELLER, Associated Press Writer
President Barack Obama issued a withering critique Thursday of Wall Street corporate behavior, calling it "the height of irresponsibility" for employees to be paid more than $18 billion in bonuses last year while their crumbling financial sector received a bailout from taxpayers. "It is shameful," Obama said from the Oval Office. "And part of what we're going to need is for the folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint, and show some discipline, and show some sense of responsibility."
The president's comments, made with new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at his side, came in swift response to a report that employees of the New York financial world garnered an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses last year. The figure, from the New York state comptroller, drew prominent news coverage.
Yet Obama's stand also came just one day after he surrounded himself with well-paid chief executives at the White House. He had pulled in those business leaders and hailed them for being on the "front lines in seeing the enormous problems in our economy right now."
The executives who appeared with Obama are not leaders of the Wall Street financial companies that the president targeted, but rather heads of such well-known manufacturing and technology giants as IBM, Motorola, Xerox and Corning. Still, they get paid handsomely.
Most of those who stood with Obama earned a total 2007 compensation package of between $8 million and $21 million, according to a review by The Associated Press. Those calculations include the executives' salary, bonus pay, incentives, perks, the estimated value of stock holdings and other compensation.
Lashing out at Wall Street bonuses, Obama said the public dislikes the idea of helping the financial sector dig out of a hole, only to see it get bigger because of lavish spending. The comptroller's report found such bonuses were down 44 percent, but at about the same level they were during the boom time of 2004.
Vice President Joe Biden also chimed in, saying the level of bonuses "offends the sensibilities."
"I mean, I'd like to throw these guys in the brig," Biden said in an interview with CNBC.
Obama said he and Geithner will speak directly to Wall Street leaders about the bonuses, which threaten to undermine public support for more government intervention as the economy keeps reeling.
The House just approved an economic stimulus plan that would cost taxpayers more than $800 billion; the Senate is considering its own version.
Separately, Congress passed a $700 billion plan last year to shore up the financial sector, one that drew howls of criticism about a lack of transparency.
Said Obama about Wall Street leaders: "There will be time for them to make profits, and there will be time for them to get bonuses. Now is not that time."
Obama said Geithner has already had to step in to stop one company from taking delivery of a new corporate jet it planned to buy even after receiving billions of dollars of support from the government. That bank, Citigroup, canceled the deal earlier this week.
Obama's strong words overshadowed the other part of his message, that he wants to roll out, in the coming weeks, new plans to regulate Wall Street and get more credit flowing to consumers again. The president considers such steps to work in tandem with the economic stimulus measures unfolding in Congress.
One idea under consideration by the Obama administration is the creation of a "bad bank" that could take over soured debt, like defaulting mortgages, that have corroded the balance sheets of banks and helped choke off lending. The president did not discuss that proposal or any others.
The administration may seek approval from Congress for another round of money, perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars, to help banks get out of trouble and get credit flowing again. But in his CNBC interview, Biden said any moves depend first on how the remaining $350 billion in financial-sector bailout money is spent.
"It's got to be transparent, it's got to be accountable," Biden said. "Once we do that and see whether or not we can get this system kick-started, the credit system flowing more, that's when we'll make the judgment whether or not anything else is necessary."
By MIKE BAKER, Associated Press writer & Reuters
Blackwater Worldwide, which guards American diplomats in Iraq, said Thursday it would be prepared to leave that country within 72 hours after Iraqi officials denied the North Carolina-based company an operating license because of a deadly shooting spree in Baghdad.
But Blackwater founder Erik Prince told The Associated Press that while losing the State Department contract would hurt the company, the move would cause more harm to the diplomats it has protected since soon after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
"Our abrupt departure would far more hurt the reconstruction team and the diplomats trying to rebuild the country than it would hurt us as a business," Prince said Thursday in an exclusive interview with the AP.
Iraqi officials said the lingering outrage over a September 2007 shooting in Baghdad's Nisoor Square that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead led to its decision.
The shooting strained relations between Washington and Baghdad and fueled the anti-American insurgency in Iraq, where many Iraqis saw the bloodshed as a demonstration of American brutality and arrogance. Five former Blackwater guards have pleaded not guilty to federal charges in the United States that include 14 counts of manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter.
Blackwater maintains the guards opened fire after coming under attack, an argument supported by transcripts of Blackwater radio logs obtained by the AP. They describe a hectic eight minutes in which the guards repeatedly reported incoming gunfire from insurgents and Iraqi police.
The Iraqi decision to deny Blackwater an operating license was made public Thursday. A U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, which took effect Jan. 1, gives the Iraqis the authority to determine which Western contractors operate in their country.
"We sent our decision to the U.S. Embassy last Friday," Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf told the AP. "They have to find a new security company."
State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood said the department has yet to determine its next step.
"We have to study and see what we're going to do next," said Wood. "We haven't made a decision on how we're going to move forward yet."
Prince said his company had yet to receive orders from the State Department to evacuate.
Neither Khalaf nor a U.S. Embassy official speaking on condition of anonymity gave a date for Blackwater personnel to leave Iraq, and neither said whether they would be allowed to continue guarding U.S. diplomats in the meantime.
Blackwater president Gary Jackson told the AP the company has plans to remove its nearly two dozen aircraft and 1,000 security contractors from Iraq within 72 hours of receiving such an order. "If they tell us to leave, we'll pack it up and go," Jackson said.
Two other U.S.-based security contractors working for the State Department — DynCorp and Triple Canopy — have licenses to operate in Iraq. But Prince played down the possibility that Blackwater contractors would simply move to another employer.
"It is a big assumption for someone to say, 'Fire Blackwater (and) all those guys will migrate over to one of the other competitors.'" Prince said. "It's not that easy."
Blackwater has been operating in Iraq without a formal license since it arrived in the country. The State Department extended Blackwater's contract for a year last spring, despite widespread calls for it to be expelled because of the shootings.
Blackwater's work in Iraq, which includes a reputation for aggressive operations and excessive force it disputes as unfair and inaccurate, turned the company into a catchall brand name for private security contractors. Executives said last year that the unwanted attention had them shifting their focus away from private security.
If banned from protecting diplomats in Iraq, Blackwater executives said Thursday the company remains on track to reach a goal of $1 billion in annual revenues in the next year or two. The State Department contract comprises about one-third of the company's overall revenues, though the work of providing actual boots-on-ground security is only part of the deal.
The private security firm, which trained some 25,000 civilians, law enforcement and military personnel last year, continues to expand even as its future in Iraq becomes less promising. Blackwater has a fleet of 76 aircraft, and almost all of them are deployed in hot spots in places like Afghanistan and West Africa.
On Thursday, three international teams were at the company's compound in North Carolina going through classes: Authorities from Yemen flipped through four-inch binders as they learned how to identify the components of an explosive by looking at X-rays. A group from the country of Georgia was practicing SWAT techniques in a makeshift building, taking instructions through a translator from a Blackwater official.
A Canadian team was also on site, along with a number of other law enforcement, Coast Guard and civilians who kicked up burning rubber on a driving track and rattled off rounds on shooting ranges. Members of the Army and Navy were practicing their driving skills in Blackwater's mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles.
"When you first hear Blackwater, you automatically, instantly think about the overseas stuff," said Jim Sierawski, Blackwater's vice president for training. "That overshadows the training center. Here, we've been on a steady incline every year."
Associated Press writers Robert Burns in Washington and Sinan Salaheddin and Chelsea J. Carter in Baghdad contributed to this report.
By CHRISTOPHER WILLS, Associated Press Writer
Gov. Rod Blagojevich was bounced from office Thursday without a single lawmaker rising in his defense, ending a nearly two-month crisis that erupted with his arrest on charges he tried to sell Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat.
Blagojevich becomes the first U.S. governor in more than 20 years to be removed by impeachment.
After a four-day trial, the Illinois Senate voted 59-0 to convict him of abuse of power, automatically ousting the second-term Democrat. In a second, identical vote, lawmakers further barred Blagojevich from ever holding public office in the state again.
"He failed the test of character. He is beneath the dignity of the state of Illinois. He is no longer worthy to be our governor," said Sen. Matt Murphy, a Republican from suburban Chicago.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn, one of Blagojevich's critics, was promptly sworn in as governor.
Blagojevich's troubles are not over. Federal prosecutors are drawing up an indictment against him on corruption charges.
Blagojevich, 52, had boycotted the first three days of the impeachment trial, calling the proceedings a kangaroo court. But on Thursday, he went before the Senate to beg for his job, delivering a 47-minute plea that was, by turns, defiant, humble and sentimental.
He argued, again, that he did nothing wrong, and warned that his impeachment would set a "dangerous and chilling precedent."
"You haven't proved a crime, and you can't because it didn't happen," Blagojevich (pronounced blah-GOY-uh-vich) told the lawmakers. "How can you throw a governor out of office with insufficient and incomplete evidence?"
The verdict brought to an end what one lawmaker branded "the freak show" in Illinois. Over the past few weeks, Blagojevich found himself isolated, with almost the entire political establishment lined up against him. The furor paralyzed state government and made Blagojevich and his helmet of lush, dark hair a punchline from coast to coast.
Many ordinary Illinoisans were glad to see him go.
"It's very embarrassing. I think it's a shame that with our city and Illinois, everybody thinks we're all corrupt," Gene Ciepierski, 54, said after watching the trial's conclusion on a TV at Chicago's beloved Billy Goat Tavern. "To think he would do something like that, it hurts more than anything."
In a solemn scene, more than 30 lawmakers rose one by one on the Senate floor to accuse Blagojevich of abusing his office and embarrassing the state. They denounced him as a hypocrite, saying he cynically tried to enrich himself and then posed as the brave protector of the poor and "wrapped himself in the constitution."
They sprinkled their remarks with historical references, including Pearl Harbor's "day of infamy" and "The whole world is watching" chant from the riots that broke out during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. They cited Abraham Lincoln, the Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus as they called for the governor's removal.
"We have this thing called impeachment and it's bleeping golden and we've used it the right way," Democratic Sen. James Meeks of Chicago said during the debate, mocking Blagojevich's expletive-laden words as captured by the FBI on a wiretap.
Blagojevich did not stick around to hear the vote. He took a state plane back to Chicago. Returning to his North Side home, he told reporters he planned to go jogging. But he had not left the house when the vote came down.
The verdict capped a head-spinning string of developments that began with his arrest by the FBI on Dec. 9. Fderal prosecutors had been investigating Blagojevich's administration for years, and some of his closest cronies have already been convicted.
The most spectacular allegation was that Blagojevich had been caught on wiretaps scheming to sell an appointment to Obama's Senate seat for campaign cash or a plum job for himself or his wife.
"I've got this thing and it's (expletive) golden, and I'm just not giving it up for (expletive) nothing. I'm not gonna do it," he was quoted as saying on a government wiretap.
Prosecutors also said he illegally pressured people to make campaign contributions and tried to get editorial writers fired from the Chicago Tribune for badmouthing him in print.
Obama himself, fresh from his historic election victory, was forced to look into the matter and issued a report concluding that no one in his inner circle had done anything wrong.
In the brash and often theatrical style that has infuriated fellow politicians for years, Blagojevich repeatedly refused to resign, reciting the poetry of Kipling and Tennyson and declaring at one point last month: "I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong."
Even as lawmakers were deciding whether to launch an impeachment, Blagojevich defied the political establishment and stunned everyone by appointing a former Illinois attorney general, Roland Burris, to the very Senate seat he had been accused of trying to sell. Top Democrats on Capitol Hill eventually backed down and seated Burris.
As his trial got under way, Blagojevich launched a media blitz, rushing from one TV studio to another in New York to proclaim his innocence. He likened himself to the hero of a Frank Capra movie and to a cowboy in the hands of a Wild West lynch mob.
The impeachment case included not only the criminal charges against Blagojevich, but allegations he broke the law when it came to hiring state workers, expanded a health care program without legislative approval and spent $2.6 million on flu vaccine that went to waste. The 118-member House twice voted to impeach him, both times with only one "no" vote.
Seven other U.S. governors have been removed by impeachment, the most recent being Arizona's Evan Mecham, who was driven from office in 1988 for trying to thwart an investigation into a death threat allegedly made by an aide. Illinois never before impeached a governor, despite its long and rich history of graft.
Blagojevich grew up in a working-class Chicago neighborhood, the son of a Serbian immigrant steelworker. He married the daughter of a powerful city alderman and was schooled in the bare-knuckle, backroom politics of the infamous Chicago Machine, winning election to the Illinois House in 1992 and Congress in 1996.
In 2002, he was elected governor on a promise to clean up state government after former GOP Gov. George Ryan, who is serving six years in prison for graft. But he battled openly with lawmakers from his party, and scandal soon touched his administration.
Antoin "Tony" Rezko, a former top fundraiser for Blagojevich, was convicted of shaking down businesses seeking state contracts for campaign contributions. Witnesses testified that Blagojevich was aware of some of the strong-arm tactics. Rezko is said to be cooperating with prosecutors.
Quinn, the new governor, is a 60-year-old former state treasurer who has a reputation as a political gadfly and once led a successful effort to cut the size of the Illinois House.
"I want to say to the people of Illinois, the ordeal is over," Quinn said. "In this moment, our hearts are hurt. And it's very important to know that we have a duty, a mission to restore the faith of the people of Illinois in the integrity of their government."
Thursday, January 29, 2009
By Jerry Okungu
Africa News On Line
January 29, 2009
Africa has reason to worry that the once much talked about APRM is fast losing its glamour. Its architects are busy mutilating it.
First Obasanjo soiled it after being its founder chairman for years then went ahead to rig the Nigerian elections.
Thabo Mbeki attempted to present a fake national report to the AU summit after his government wrote the report against the protocols of the APRM. Mbeki has since been removed from office for abuse of power- a cardinal sin in Africa why the APRM was formed in the first place.
One of the first three countries to undergo the process was Kenya. Now it has emerged that neither Kenya nor the rest o the continent has ever learnt anything from the process. Kenya’s 2007 elections were rigged as usual. The violence that followed; a sure proof of bad governance caught the world by surprise but not unexpected. Today, high stakes public corruption cases are the order of the day in Kenya.
Ghana; that heralded example of the APRM process has also fallen by the wayside. The much acclaimed John Kufuor tried to do a “419” on Ghanaians just a day before he left office. He got a Parliamentary Sub Committee to approve his exit package far beyond Ghanaian means and five times more than an American retiring president can take. In the end, angry Ghanaians called him a thieving president!
Let us remember that this taxing and expensive mechanism was aimed at encouraging the adoption of policies, standards and practices for promoting political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental integration.
It was supposed to achieve these goals through the sharing of experiences and consolidation of the best practices and achievements, including identification of the weaknesses and assessments of needs in the area of capacity building.
It was meant to pluck Africa from the dungeon of corruption, undemocratic rule and mismanagement of national resources. It was supposed to improve the lives of the people of this continent.
The principles adopted by the founders stipulated that, any review carried out in the framework of the Mechanism was to be carried out on the basis of technical skills, be credible and devoid of any political manipulation.
Concerning the staff in charge of the review, the document specified that APRM activities be conducted and managed by a group of 7 eminent African persons. Members of the group would be Africans with proven experience in the APRM focus areas, be of high moral integrity with proof of their commitment to the ideals of Pan-Africanism.
Now, as we grapple with rumors that the Ethiopian Government’s report, whose Prime Minister is the current APRM Chairman, was doctored before being presented to the APRM Summit, another bombshell has been dropped from the West African Coast regarding the inappropriate activities involving a Head of State and a member of the APRM Panel!
Two newspapers; Le Quotidien of Senegal and Le Matinal of Benin have detailed the gory exploits of one Marie Angelique Savane who, until December 2008 was a Panel Member of the Eminent Persons leading the team that assessed Benin’s process.
The two papers, from two neighboring countries wrote about this incident in November and December 2008 and challenged their readers to judge for themselves whether Mrs. Savané, in her practices, complied with the APRM rules of engagement.
When contacted to confirm or deny the allegations leveled against her, she avoided the press like a plague.
However, the Beninese newspaper, Le Matinal has revealed some unangelic acts of Marie Angélique Savané, wife of Landing Savané, Minister of State in Abdoulaye Wade’s government. Mrs. Savané, a panel member in charge of the Benin APRM Country Review, has been accused of bleeding Benin’s public funds, specifically the budget of the Marina Presidential Palace, where she was registered as an Advisor to the President of the Benin Republic, Yayi Boni.
Le Matinal issue of November 28, 2008, wrote that Mrs. Savané, in charge of the review of the Republic of Benin, was effectively paid from the national budget. The report adds that she was rewarded “For the good and loyal services rendered to top government authorities”.
Appointed to assess the management of public resources in Benin and paid for this mission by APRM Secretariat in South Africa, Mrs. Savané, according to our colleague of Le Matinal, also received from the State of Benin, housing allowances, subscription to a pension scheme and several other allowances.
Journalist Jean-Christophe Houngbo of Benin, in reference to the Budget of the Presidency to the National Assembly of Benin, reveals that Mrs. Marie Angélique Savané, although a Panel Member of APRM, managed to get quickly appointed as a Special Adviser to President Yayi Boni with a salary index of 1,100 acquired as of 1st January 2008. For her new status, Mrs. Angélique Marie Savané was paid a gross monthly salary of US $8000.00 effective 1st January 2008. Her monthly subscription to a pension scheme amounted to US$ 1102.00 per month with a monthly housing allowance of US$ 800 for a residence she did not have in Benin
These were not the only favours enjoyed by the Panel Member of the African Peer Review Mechanism. In fact, another chapter entitled “Various Allowances” was opened for her and estimated at US$ 4000.00 per month, according to Le Matinal of 28 November 2008.
And what is more, declares the Beninese journalist, Mrs. Angélique Marie Savané, who was already highly paid for her work in the Republic of Benin by APRM, also received from the Presidency of Cotonou a constraint allowance of US $ 1800.00 per month. Another budget for “accommodation” was opened for her by the cantors of Change to the tune of US $ 500.00 per day.
These facts, revealed by the Beninese press, are taken from a document presented to the Palais des Gouverneurs in Porto-Novo in November 2008, entitled, “National Budget -2008 Management-Nominative Status of the number present as of 1st January 2008”.
This document of which Le Quotidien managed to obtain a copy, mentions that she has been receiving a fixed monthly allowance of US $ 800.00 since 1st January 2008, water allowance of US $ 900 and telephone allowance of US$ 500.00.
According to journalist Jean Christophe Houngbo of Benin, the irregularities committed by the APRM Panel member had for weeks preoccupied members of the National Assembly of Benin yet Mrs. Savane was not an employee of the State of Benin.
This case is likely to cause a lot of stir in Benin, according to the Benin daily newspaper Le Matinal. Media reports already indicate that Beninese MPs across the political divide want to have more information about this case. It seems that plans are underway to arrest the Minister of Finance, Soulé Mana Lawani, and his colleague of the Public Action Assessment Ministry, Pascal Irénée Koupaki, for these shameful irregularities during these times of serious economic crisis.
Now the question to ask is this: How credible are these APRM assessments across the continent when some of the eminent panel members themselves are not so eminent, let alone Heads of State who would like to manipulate their country reports?
Sources: Le Quotidien Newspaper in Senegal and Le Matinal Newspaper in Benin
Contributors: M. Gueye and M Soro of Le Quotidien Newspaper in Senegal
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
By Kepher Otieno and John Oywa
The death of Pamela Mboya could be a setback to efforts to unravel the murder of her husband.
Relatives and friends of former Planning Minister Thomas Joseph Mboya yesterday said Pamela was planning to push for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission so that Kenyans could finally get to know why Mboya was murdered in cold blood in July 1969.
Mrs Mboya, 70, died at a hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she was undergoing treatment on Monday.
Mr Otieno Nundu, a former personal assistant to the late Mboya and who was with him minutes before his assassination, said Mrs Mboya had planned to appear before the truth commission about her husband’s death.
"She was to lead Mboya’s friends and relatives to the commission. Now we are back to zero," said Mr Nundu.
He added: "It is a big shock. With her death, many secrets about Tom may never be known."
In February last year, Pamela wrote to the Kofi Annan mediation team and expressed her willingness to testify regarding the unresolved murder of her husband 40 years ago.
Mboya was shot in broad daylight on July 5, 1969 on Nairobi’s Government Road (Now Moi Avenue).
Yesterday, both President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga sent messages of condolence her family.
Immigration Ministers Otieno Kajwang’ and his Public Service colleague Dalmas Otieno also mourned Mrs Mboya.
Raila said Pamela’s death has closed a major chapter in Kenya’s history.
"Pamela served Kenya in various capacities in her long career in public service. She was one of the founder mothers of this nation and we will miss her," Raila said.
He added: "We will cherish the role her husband played in Kenya and the dignity with which she picked up the pieces of her life when Mboya was assassinated."
Mrs Mboya’s family left for South Africa yesterday. She lived in Lambwe in Suba District.
Monday, January 26, 2009
By Justice Malala
Jan 26, 2009
You have to be ‘100 percent Zuma’ or you’re history
IT IS impossible not to feel a little sorry for President Kgalema Motlanthe. In the space of one week, one newspaper has written that he is estranged from his wife and a second has alleged that he has impregnated a 24-year-old.
Motlanthe rocking ANC boat
These stories have not appeared by accident in the press, and it is no accident that the names of Motlanthe’s alleged paramours have been provided by “anonymous sources”. These stories are appearing now because of the state of the ruling party: comrade is eating comrade; dog is eating dog.
The ANC is more deeply divided under Jacob Zuma than it was under Thabo Mbeki. The so-called Zuma camp in the ANC is out to ensure that absolutely no one can stand in the way of the man’s ascendance to power. If anyone dares speak they soon find themselves attacked by the likes of Julius Malema, following which they are discredited in the media and in party meetings.
Motlanthe’s biggest problem was that he dared to speak sense. For example, when Malema was attacking the judiciary and claiming he will kill for Jacob Zuma, he was the only one in the ANC to stand up and say this is not right. Consistently, on the big issues, he has defended the party’s sane values instead of the mangled and macabre values some in its new leadership have espoused.
When ANC officials — such as chief whip Mnyamezeli Booi, who is facing a R140,000 fraud charge stemming from the Scorpions’ investigation into the abuse of travel vouchers by MPs, demanded the dissolution of the Scorpions and the revision of the National Prosecuting Authority Act, it was Motlanthe who requested he be given time to apply his mind to the matter before signing.
It soon became clear that those who stand to benefit from the ascendance of Jacob Zuma — a man who will be the lamest and most manipulated president this country has seen — would ensure that this administration of a certain rectitude would not stand. A litany of gossip has been leaked to the press.
When Motlanthe was about to appoint Enoch Godongwana as deputy minister of finance, Zuma’s allies instructed Luthuli House to block the appointment.
Motlanthe is being forced to sign laws despite a clear danger that these might not be constitutional.
This is the way it is now in the ANC. There are those who want Zuma to ascend to power and will do anything to make that happen, and there is a grouping that sees in Motlanthe some of the values of the real ANC. They refuse to join Cope, but they do understand why people like Mosiuoa Lekota and Mbhazima Shilowa have left.
However, they argue: “I was in the ANC in happy times and I will be in the ANC in these unhappy times”. These are the people who are being squeezed now. For example, the argument put forward by supporters of Gauteng education MEC Angie Motshekga for her to be premier is that the ANC chair, Paul Mashatile, is not “100 percent JZ”.
To become anyone or anything in the ANC of today, therefore, one has to appear at rallies and on court steps in support of Zuma. That is why you see the likes of Motshekga and others singing Umshini Wami at court. They need to be seen to be “100 percent”, or they, too, will be frozen out.
None of this is new. Many of the leaders who are now appearing next to Zuma on the steps of various courts are the same ones who supported Mbeki when he asserted that HIV does not cause Aids.
So what’s next? Now that Motlanthe is so intimidated that he is considering staying out of politics for a while, the word is that the next man in line for elimination is ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. You will remember that Mantashe, despite being the chair of the SA Communist Party, has supported finance minister Trevor Manuel on contentious issues such as the now-evaporating Budget surplus and the general thrust of our macro-economic policy.
And while the noose tightens around Mantashe, the witch-hunt in the ANC continues. Any leader not seen as “100 percent JZ” will be marked for elimination from the party. And so a fundamental and heartbreaking shift for the worse is taking place in South African politics.
This week, Barack Obama told his fellow Americans: “The values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths.”
It will not happen here.
Jan 25, 2009
‘National Alzeheimer’s’ is a dangerous malady which manifests itself in people who refute the existence of things there for all to see
During the annual family festivities, we disrespectful newspaper types find we have a lot to answer for, relatively speaking, of course
Until he got here and was married to a local black woman, he had never really appreciated the depth of apartheid’s impact on our national psyche
My column of two weeks ago, French Leaves Le Zoulou Blank, provoked a potpourri of reactions.
There were those who laughed with me — and at me — for my inability to comprehend, let alone converse in, Asterix’s lingo.
And there were those who expressed incredulity at my stupidity: how can you, who has always reminded us of your Durban origins, deliberately expose your puny little self to the ferocity of the chilly teeth of a European winter?
But I was enraptured by a handful of other letters that, to my mind, missed the whole point of my piece.
They focused on what I thought was a throwaway line: “Thanks to apartheid education, I am largely self-taught when it comes to English. Many of our teachers could write beautiful words in English, but when it came to pronunciation, English became an uphill struggle for both teacher and pupil. Many of us were taught by teachers who made the word ‘scathing’ rhyme with ‘scatting’; ‘determine’ to rhyme with ‘undermine’.”
One of the letter writers postulated that, sadly, apartheid only existed in the minds of those who willed it upon themselves.
Yes, you heard me.
I myself did a double take. I read it again. Yes, it was there in the black and white of my e-mail screen.
The writer exhibited a neurosis which the late Studs Terkel called “national Alzheimer’s”. This malady manifests itself in people who deny things there for all to see, the consequences of which they themselves are victims.
There are thousands, if not millions, of people in the world who deny the existence of the Holocaust.
But okay, why go so far back into history? Let’s get closer to home, to more recent historical events. There is a prominent Muslim scholar in this country who maintains that 9/11 never happened. Not that it was brought about by some nefarious elements in the US intelligence community as some people have suggested — no, he is saying it never happened. But what about Ground Zero — surely something existed there before that fateful day on September 11 2001? No, it never existed.
The letter in response to my column is of that neurosis — denial .
That I even used the word “apartheid” in my earlier column wasn’t even the point.
I was anchoring my reasoning on an established truth: that we are who we are today — in our grasp of each other’s language, in our race relations, in our uncomfortable co-existence, such as it is, as people of different cultures — simply because of our past.
To deny that past is not only foolish, but dangerous.
Some people have argued that Jews have made political capital out of the Holocaust: there are just too many books, movies, monuments et cetera.
I argue differently.
Had the Jewish people failed to raise human consciousness about the Holocaust, there was a huge possibility that some fool somewhere would repeat it.
The Holocaust is, as far as I am concerned, unparalleled in its sheer brutality in human history. Yes, we’ve had numerous genocides since, most notably in Rwanda and Eastern Europe.
But the Holocaust is still a milestone of unparalleled gravity in terms of the scale, the psychology behind it and the viciousness of the murders.
Over the festive season, I had occasion to have a conversation with a Dutch acquaintance who relocated to South Africa a few years ago.
As a voracious reader, he told me, he had read about apartheid and knew what it had done to the country.
But until he got here and was married to a local black woman, he had never really appreciated the depth of its impact on our national psyche.
He was close to comparing it to a Holocaust of the mind.
Apart from its physical brutality — thousands were forcefully removed from their ancestral lands, thousands died in apartheid prisons — apartheid’s perverse success was its ability to corrupt the soul of a people.
It created the psyche of the victim versus perpetrator, and liberation has failed to free both victim and perpetrator.
The victim sometimes still feels cheated by the past, and the erstwhile perpetrator is in denial: I never did anything wrong against anyone.
In any case, that is in the past, let’s move on.
The Holocaust happened more than 60 years ago, but we still haven’t moved on. We haven’t jettisoned it to the past. It is, and should remain, a sad beacon of human history.
So should apartheid.
In fact, we haven’t even begun to deal with the depth of that horror.
Which makes it all the more saddening that, less than two decades into our negotiated co-existence, there are those with brash egos of such gargantuan proportions that they want to deny that apartheid ever existed.
It’s time to call in the reinforcements and broker a real deal in Zimbabwe
Mondli Makhanya Published:Jan 25, 2009
There is a story I have told in this space before, so I will beg indulgence.
I repeat it because it is pertinent at the moment as the leaders of the Southern African Development Community gather in Johannesburg for a summit on Zimbabwe.
The events took place in 2000, in the early days of the Zimbabwean meltdown. Zimbabwe’s war veterans and associated Zanu-PF ruffians had launched their violent invasion of commercial farms. There had been rape and pillaging in the countryside. The newly formed Movement for Democratic Change had shocked Zanu-PF by scoring a referendum victory that threw out constitutional reforms proposed by President Robert Mugabe. That development, just months ahead of the June parliamentary elections, sent shock vibrations through Zanu-PF, which now feared an electoral loss.
Mugabe’s security forces and Zanu-PF militias had responded to this shock by unleashing more violence on the MDC, trade unionists and civil society organisations.
The economy was going into free fall. Infrastructure was falling apart.
Worried, regional leaders organised a summit at Victoria Falls. Present were Namibia’s Sam Nujoma, Mozambique’s Joaquim Chissano and South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki.
For long hours they sat in a room, trying to get Mugabe to change direction. When they emerged from their marathon meeting, they told the journalists gathered that Mugabe had agreed to several measures that would restore order to the country. He would ensure, among other things, that within 30 days the war veterans would be off the farms, violence would cease and a climate conducive to free political activity would be created.
Mugabe was not permitted to speak at the press conference and the difficult questions were fielded by the three presidents.
When asked why they believed Mugabe would stick to his part of the deal, they reacted angrily. How dare you question the validity of an undertaking that a head of state makes to other heads of state, they shot back. They got more irritated as the question was posed in different ways.
We all left Victoria Falls wondering whether maybe, just maybe, they were onto something.
The following week, Mugabe was on the hustings, spewing his rhetoric.
At every rally, he repudiated the Easter weekend agreement. He vowed that he would never set comrade against comrade by getting the security forces to remove the war veterans from the farms they occupied. He told his followers that he would never allow the country to return to British rule, meaning that he would under no circumstances give the MDC the ability to win a democratic election.
He pledged that the land seizures would continue until all the land belonged to real Zimbabweans.
It was as if he was intent on rubbing his brother leaders’ noses really roughly in sea sand.
And the state of the country today shows how serious he was about wrecking Zimbabwe.
Since then, there have been many more summits where the leaders of the region have extracted promises from Mugabe. He has nodded vigorously, only to show them the middle finger once he got back to Munhumutapa House.
I have always cast my mind back to that Easter weekend each time the SADC leaders have proclaimed an imminent deal and an end in sight to the Zimbabwean crisis.
Have they not been played enough by this man to realise he is a conceited liar, who is only interested in retaining power and feeding the greed of those who keep him in power?
If they do not care about the plight of Zimbabweans, then what about the damage that is being done to their own countries by the meltdown?
Tomorrow, the leaders of the region will gather in Johannesburg to try once more to resolve the crisis. Mugabe will arrive at the summit with only one thing on his mind: how to trick them into helping him to control real power. He will hoodwink them again and manoeuvre his way around the deal signed last year.
I do believe that there will be some movement tomorrow, but only because the MDC has been beaten into such a pulp that it will be prepared to make some really stupid compromises.
The MDC is in a truly lonely place in this process because the major power brokers in the region, led by South Africa, are openly on the side of Zanu-PF.
If there is to be a genuine lasting solution to the Zimbabwean crisis, the search for solutions must be broadened beyond the SADC region. The involvement of the African Union, which has leaders who are less beholden to Mugabe, is necessary. And so is the involvement of the United Nations, whose humanitarian organs have a much a greater understanding of the situation on the ground than our regional leaders.
For, even if a government of national unity is formed, it will be one in which Mugabe and Zanu-PF will wield disproportionate power. We all know they will abuse that power. And I have my doubts whether SADC will have the courage to prevent this abuse. They cannot be trusted to do it alone. They have failed dismally — and they must have the humility to admit as much.
By The Editor,
The Times Newspaper
Jan 26, 2009
THERE is already talk that the West Wing caretaker, President Kgalema Motlanthe, is considering returning to Luthuli House rather than face a sustained attempt to assassinate his characte
Recent newspaper reports about Motlanthe’s private life — he is estranged from his wife and, allegedly, is involved with two other women, one of whom is said to be just 24 years old and pregnant — no doubt benefit his political enemies.
Motlanthe was foolish to believe he could hold onto his privacy once he took the oath of office to become South Africa’s president.
Politics is not for the retiring, media-shy among us.
Look no further for proof of this than the contrasting fortunes of Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki. Two men less alike are hard to find.
One man was a deeply unpopular president, the other is a populist who is likely to become president.
One is an outgoing, singing, dancing, engaging, openly polygamous man who — despite acknowledging that he practised unsafe sex with an HIV-positive woman and faces corruption charges — still charms the pants off the electorate.
The other is a stiff, sombre individual who still favours the royal, third-person “we ” when speaking of himself. On the day he was fighting for his political life at Polokwane, Mbeki refused to look his audience in the eye.
Shortly after Polokwane the ANC retired Mbeki. Zuma is a man whose life, as they say, is an open book (or two).
Motlanthe, however, is a notoriously private individual. His attempt to hold onto his privacy —his spokesman told the nation we had no right to ask questions about the identity of the first lady — was naive.
But his personal life should not detract from the qualities he brings to the Union Buildings. Remember how sorely Bill Clinton was missed when George W Bush took office.
ALL AFRICA NEWS
23 January 2009
In the heat of the 2008 general elections, the then flagbearer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Prof. John Evans Atta Mills made a number of promises to Ghanaians.
Among them were free uniforms for public sector school children, reduction in fuel prices, a lifetime premium for the National Health Insurance Scheme, building of hospitals, etc. Immediately the former Legon Professor won the elections on the ticket of the NDC, Ghanaians started calling on him to honour his promises, but the President has not responded to the call. Members of his Transitional team have however, given the indication that the economy, which the New Patriotic Party (NPP) left behind, was broke and that there was no money in the national kitty. These pronouncements seem to have created an impression on the minds of Ghanaians that the NDC government was looking for a leeway to renege on its numerous promises.
The Chronicle is, however, happy that President Mills himself, who made those promises, has finally come out to assure Ghanaians that he would respect all the pledges he made during his campaign tour of the country. At a meeting with the National Chief Imam at the Osu Castle on Wednesday, this week, President Mills said as a Social Democrat, he would deliver on all the promises he made, and would also pursue policies that are geared towards the alleviation of poverty in Ghana.
For the ordinary Ghanaians who voted for the President and his party based on the promises that were made, there is no way they would accept the excuses that the economy is broke, and that such promises could no more be honoured.
This means that President Mills would have to do a lot of thinking to come out with alternative ways of raising money to honour the pledges. This is the only way Ghanaians can have confidence in his new government. As Prof. Mills himself noted sometime back, he has to hit the road running now, because he has an arduous task ahead of him, though we concede that he is yet to get the full complement of his government.
Despite his assurance that internal security would be the top priority of his government, there have already been reports of armed robbery attacks on innocent citizens, one of such attacks occured in traffic in broad daylight, in the nation's capital, Accra.
This means that the armed robbery situation is getting out of hand, so it would be wrong for the President to think that because his cabinet is not ready, he can not do anything about the situation. He must summon all the Service Commanders to strategize on how to deal with the situation, because that was what he promised Ghanaians.
By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 23, 2009; Page A04
It is one of the most exclusive lists ever created.
Most members of Congress won't be on it. Supreme Court justices probably won't make the cut. Titans of industry and Hollywood stars will be found wanting.
In Washington D.C., nothing will be harder to win a spot on than the list of e-mail addresses allowed to arrive, unimpeded, to President Obama's BlackBerry.
Presidential press secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday that only "a limited group of senior staffers and some personal friends" will be allowed to send e-mail to what might soon be known as BlackBerry 1.
"It's a pretty small group of people," Gibbs deadpanned.
Obama's wife is a sure bet to be on the list, and maybe his kids. Vice President Biden will probably be able to get through, along with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, adviser David Axelrod, aide Reggie Love and Gibbs.
There are the friends: Marty Nesbitt, Valerie Jarrett and Eric Whitaker from Chicago. Some Cabinet secretaries might make it; some might not. Bill Clinton might need to use his wife's account if he wants to send a message.
Charles Ogletree has a good shot at making the list. The Harvard Law School professor is a longtime Friend of Barack Obama. He joked yesterday that "I think that he will use the BlackBerry to not only address issues of critical concerns with FOBO but to also check in on the performance of all Chicago sports teams."
Gibbs would not say who, or even how many people, will be on the list. But it's a good bet that it will be easier to get invited to the Academy Awards after-party at Steven Spielberg's house, or to the VIP reception at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
True, very few people are allowed to sit in on the Supreme Court's weekly deliberations. And a dinner invitation to Pamela Harriman's house was pretty hard to get in her heyday. But aside from that, there's almost nothing in Washington that is more exclusive.
The president has to overcome the objections of security officials to keep his beloved handheld device, and Gibbs declined to elaborate on the specific restrictions that will be placed on the president's BlackBerry, except to say that "use will be limited and that the security is enhanced to ensure his ability to communicate, but to do so effectively and to do so in a way that is protected."
In geek-speak, that means that it's likely that White House IT experts will use a server-based "whitelist" for incoming messages. Only people explicitly placed on the list will be able to send messages. The rest will simply bounce back.
Gibbs also suggested that Obama's outgoing e-mail would be limited. Mail servers can be tweaked to make sure that only certain outgoing messages find their destinations.
What kind of messages will Obama be getting from this exclusive group? Gibbs said it's likely to be a mix of personal and professional.
"I've gotten e-mails from him -- not recently, or not in a few days, I should say -- that go from anywhere from something that's very strictly business to 'Why did my football team perform so miserably?' on either any given Saturday or any given Sunday."
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