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World Cup: Immigrants bring glory to France.

By Nick Ogutu


Yes, it is France! Or “Les Bleus” as they are famously known. Congratulations to France for winning the FIFA World Cup in Russia. This is the second time France has won the coveted cup in a sport that has yet to become popular in USA but is extremely popularly worldwide. In 2001, France was also the first national team to win the three most important men’s titles recognized by FIFA: The World Cup, the Confederations Cup, and the Olympic tournament after victory in the Confederations Cup. Just like any other sport, winning a championship involves decisions both on and off the field. Let’s take a few moments to analyze this French team and see if there are any lessons America can learn from the French.

Apart from the African and Caribbean countries that participated in the World Cup, France had the highest number of players of color, mainly Black. This is a record they have held for many decades. In fact, in 1998 when they won World Cup for the first time, most of their players were people of color. Most of their players were either born abroad or their parents were. This diversity extends to city demographics as well. For example, in Paris, the biggest city in France, almost 40 percent of those 20 years or younger are either foreign born or have immigrant parents. Just like many other countries, the very face of nationhood is changing. A simple glance at a photograph of the current French national team, is enough to explain why the leader of France’s racist far right, Jean Marie Le Pen – The French equivalent to President Donald Trump – long ago disowned it as “not a real French team”, despite the glory the team has brought to the country. Every player but two in its starting 1998 World Cup lineup had roots in Africa.

For the past five World Cup tournaments, France’s hopes have rested on the shoulders of the exquisitely talented Algerian born midfielder Zinedine Zidane, star striker born of Caribbean immigrant parents Thiery Henry, and midfield powerhouse Senegalese born Patrick Viera. New Black players who took over from the older generation include Paul Pogba, whose parents immigrated from Guinea, N’golo Kante’s parents were born in Mali, and the star of 2018 World Cup, Kylian Mbappe, whose father was a refugee from Cameroon. This team delivered France it’s second World Cup title. Kylian Mbappe has gone a step further by donating his entire prize money-$500,000- to a French charity. This did not surprise those who know him, because he paid for twenty-four young kids from France to attend the just concluded World Cup, showing his commitment to the France nation.

Other countries are learning fast from the French and are tapping into the talent of refugees and immigrants. Belgium, which took the bronze medal in the 2018 World Cup, for the first time had the highest number of non-white players in their starting lineup. Additionally, even their assistant coach, Thierry Henry, is Black. There is no doubt players like Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard, Michy Batshuayi, and Romelu Lukaku whose family lineage is outside Belgium, have brought honor to their country. The story is repeated in England, Holland, Sweden, Germany, and other countries. Even my own country, Kenya, has been losing long distance runners to oil rich countries such as Bahrain, Dubai, and Qatar who pay them millions of dollars to change their citizenship. Kenyans adopted in those countries have, in many cases, won them their only Olympic medals. But why do countries go out of their way to lure such talents? It because immigrants make those countries great: they bring pride, honor, and benefits to the economy.

Yesterday, the presidents of Russia, France, Croatia, and many other dignitaries stood in heavy rain, soaking wet, not caring about their expensive suits, shoes, and watches, because of football. The Croatian president captured the world’s attention by showing her commitment to her country’s team by flying in and out of Russia many times during the tournament to attend all the Croatian team matches. Many teams, some of which did not even make it to the quarter-finals, will be received back home as heroes. These teams show what even competing for this coveted prize brings to the image of a nation. However, the newspaper headlines featuring other immigrant stories have sadly been different. Immigrants offer their hearts and souls for their adopted countries but are unfortunately not appreciated to the same degree. That is why immigrants must tell their stories and fight the negative narratives against them, not only in America but worldwide.

As residents of the Bronx, we have another “cup” to win. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won the Democratic primary and the Bronx could not stop celebrating. Our district grabbed the headlines with the greatest upset in recent electoral history. The 28-year-old has been sensational, giving powerful speeches around the city and as a guest in different media houses. But just like the World Cup, she won semi-finals and still has to battle in the finals. The New York 14th Congressional District will become complicated if the rumors are true that current 14th District Rep. Joseph Crowley has re-entered the race on Working Families Party ticket. That is why on November 6, 2018, the date for general elections, those of you that are eligible to vote should come out and vote for their preferred candidate. To quote one famous American writer, Robert Heinlein, “Does history record any single case in which the majority was right?” You now have an opportunity to answer that question in November in the race between the youthful Ocasio- Cortez, against the little-known Republican Party nominee, Anthony Pappas and the possible third-party candidate, Rep. Joseph Crowley, who is the 10 term incumbent who just lost to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in the Democratic Party primary held in June.

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez
Rep. Joseph Crowley
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Political crisis in Ethiopia and the risks of ripple effect humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa

Political crisis in Ethiopia and the risks of ripple effect humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa


By:Nick Ogutu

Refugee and Immigrant Rights Activist, Executive Director of Columbia University based Initiative, Safari Yangu Immigrant Stories, President, Amnesty International Bronx New York. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.

Nick Ogutu
Mr. Nick Ogutu

Ethiopia, with more than 100 million people, is the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria. It hosts the headquarters of the African Union and its geographical location makes it a strategic resource for the Western powers in their counterterrorism efforts. Ethiopia maintains very strong support from foreign donors despite its deteriorating human rights record (New York Times, 2016).

Ethiopia is currently under a state of emergency due to recent protests and violence. This violence has caused widespread internal displacement. In addition to its own internal turmoil, Ethiopia plays a crucial role in the region as a host of refugees itself. According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR, 2018), “Ethiopia is host to the second largest refugee population in Africa, with over 847,200 refugees from nineteen countries, the majority originating from neighboring South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan”. The political crisis in Ethiopia cannot, therefore, be told in isolation. Ethiopia is part of the Horn of Africa, the easternmost extension of African land, comprised of the countries mentioned above, and Kenya. These countries share a long history and many diverse communities live across the region. Due to political instability, the region has seen many conflicts and is very fragile. This article will examine the complex relationships between Ethiopia and its neighbors in order to understand the risks of a multi-country humanitarian and refugee crisis in the Horn of Africa.

The Ethiopia and Eritrea Conflict

Following many years of conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea and at some point, involving Italy as well, Eritrea was formally recognized as an independent country after the 1993 referendum. Eritrea believes that Ethiopia is constructed of different nationalities that were forced together during the imperial scrambles for Africa, and is therefore held together with weak, artificial alliances. Therefore, the Eritrean opposition’s approach has been to conduct sharp, well directed military offenses in the hopes that Ethiopia will collapse. Hence, they identified south-eastern Ethiopia, inhibited by Ethiopians of Somali origin, as the weakest point of Ethiopia. For more than 30 years, escalation of conflict has continued along borders killing many people, displacing many people from their homes and adding to the regional refugee crisis (Axel Borchgrevink & Jon Harald Sande Lie, 2009).

The hostility between these countries has adversely affected the Somali communities that live along the common border between Ethiopia and Eritrea. According to a Human Rights Watch report (2018), the Somali region security forces’ intolerance for dissent by the Somali community extends beyond the border into Eritrean territory, targeting families with relatives across the border. Hundreds of thousands of people have been internally displaced since.

Ethiopia’s Long Border with Somalia & The Somali Diaspora
(Photo credit: Nick Ogutu) Ethiopia’s Long Border with Somalia & The Somali Diaspora

Somalia has almost one million citizens living in the diaspora, many of which are refugees and asylum seekers. Any conflict in Ethiopia would result in a grave situation in Somalia, given the long, unmarked border that Ethiopia and Somalia share. In fact, Ethiopian military has in the past crossed its southeastern border and intervened inside Somalia (New York Times, 2011)

Somalia is one of the most unstable countries in the region at the moment. Since the former president Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in a bloody civil war in 1991, Somalia has not had a stable government. Parts of the country have either seceded or are run by different warlords. Some militant groups like the Union of Islamic courts, which later evolved into the now infamous Al-Shabaab, have been labeled as terrorist organizations.

More than 10 peace conferences were held throughout the 1990s to address the sources of conflict and possibilities for peace in Somalia, but they were largely unsuccessful. (Axel Borchgrevink & Jon Harald Sande Lie, 2009). Since then, other efforts followed, and Somalia is now governed under the Federal Government of Somalia, a government which is not widely accepted and has faced constant opposition and threats from different militant groups. The fragile government is protected by the African peacekeeping forces, AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia).

Ethiopia’s southern Kenya Border & Regional Refugee Hosting Challenges

Kenya is one of the most stable countries in the region, with a diverse economy and vibrant democracy, civil society, and press. However, Kenya has faced its own human rights challenges. Just like Somalia, Kenya shares common ethnic and geographical similarities with Ethiopia. The upper eastern province of Kenya is predominantly Oromo and Somali ethnic populations, ethnic groups that also reside in Ethiopia and Somalia. Apart from the recently arrived refugees, many of the Oromo and Somali ethnic populations have lived in Kenyan for decades and are Kenyan citizens.

The Kenyan government has long supported the Ethiopian government, showing a blind eye to the human rights violations it is accused of.   Ethiopian refugees face so many challenges in Kenya. It takes months if not years to get official recognition as a refugee, a status you need to access any benefits from the host government or UNHCR (United National High Commission for Refugees). Kenya has an encampment policy, which requires refugees to stay in the camps at Dadaab and Kakuma. These camps presently also house refugees from Sudan and Somalia. The two camps are the biggest in the world and cannot accommodate any more refugees. Refugees in Kenya who choose to not stay in the camps faces arrest and prosecution by the Kenyan authorities. Amnesty International Annual report (2018), explains how the Ethiopian government has taken advantage of that loop-hole in Kenya refugee policy to harass their own citizens in Kenya. The Ethiopian Embassy in Nairobi has recruited spies and bribed the Kenyan police to target the Oromo refugees in Nairobi and other cities (Human Rights Watch, 2018). Many of these refugees have been either killed, tortured, or deported back to Ethiopia.

Kenya has gone through its own internal economic and social challenges that have had negative effects on the refugee populations it hosts. The economy is shrinking, and the country is divided along tribal and regional lines due to political upheavals. For a number of years, Kenya has threatened to close down the refugee camps (UNHCR, 2015) and repatriate the refugees back to their countries of origin, citing security fears and the economic burden. Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps remain open only due to a court order and international pressure. UNHCR (2017) while urging the government to reconsider their decision, issued this statement, “UNHCR works closely with the Government of Kenya and we understand well the current regional security situation and the seriousness of the threats Kenya is facing. We also recognize the obligation of the government to ensure the security of its citizens and other people living in Kenya, including refugees.” Kenya is concerned about terror groups using refugee camps as recruitment centers, especially after the Garissa university terror attack (Kenya Daily Nation, 2017). The terror suspects were found to be operating from the Dadaab refugee camp.

Current Ethiopian Political Concerns

If the Ethiopian crisis escalates, it could spiral into a regional catastrophe affecting more than six countries. When the former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced his draft of reforms that included the release of thousands of political prisoners (Human Rights Watch, 2018), there was a sense of relief among civil society and the international community that finally the government was serious about addressing some of its political issues. However, his resignation weeks later shocked many, and the subsequent declaration of a state of emergency (Reuters, 2018). Some of the recently released prisoners have since been re-arrested (Amnesty International, 2018) and then released on bail, and many people live in fear.

Ethiopia Prime Minister
(Photo credit: Nick Ogutu: Ethiopia Prime Minister)

Since the state of emergency was declared in Ethiopia, almost one million Ethiopians have been internally displaced, and thousands have crossed the border into Kenya. Activists have also sounded the alarm on the rising incidences of rape and other gender-based violence, allegedly committed by the police and the military (Amnesty International, 2018). Last month’s election of the new Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, a former lieutenant-colonel in the army and the first Prime Minister from the Oromo community, has not definitely quelled any fears from the general public.

The Ethiopian situation is a time-bomb that the international community must take an active role in to ensure stability. With a population of over 100 million, the current refugee crisis in the Horn of Africa risks meeting the levels of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Iraq, and the Congo. With so much instability in the region, including the ongoing war in South Sudan, most of the countries neighboring Ethiopia are terrified.

There has been evidence of victims of slavery and human trafficking in Libya are refugees from the horn of Africa (The East African, 2018). Any further escalation of violence Ethiopia and instability in the region will push more refugees to attempt the already dangerous journey to Europe through North Africa and the Mediterranean Sea.

Reforms Required: A Call to Action

The political opposition, civil society, and the press must be given a respected space and a voice in Ethiopian society to ensure transparent governance. The Ethiopian democratic space must be opened and widened as the political landscape is quickly shifting. It will have to accommodate the people’s demands, especially the most vulnerable such as displaced populations, if the current ruling party wants to govern equitably.

As a key western ally receiving billions of dollars from the U.S., U.K., Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Canada, the West must use that leverage for reforms before instability in Ethiopia have widespread repercussions across the region. All political prisoners should be released, responsive and representative government formed, end state of emergency, compensate victims of violence and perpetrators of crime to face justice.  Without these urgent reforms, unrest in the country could have a domino effect in what is an already volatile part of the African continent.

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China’s Presence in Africa Comes with a New Edge

new Silk Road

WASHINGTON D.C., United States of America, July 10, 2018/ — A new Silk Road running between China and Africa promises a boost in trade for Beijing. Long focused on commercial activities, the Chinese government is now expanding its remit to bolster military relations and pursue subtler, soft-power strategies across the continent. But, as the U.S. retreats, what tools will Beijing use—and should the West be worried?

The Communist party wants to redefine its military engagement with countries across Africa and expand its power-projection capabilities. As part of this initiative, China invited top brass from 50 African nations last month to attend an inaugural “Defense and Security Forum”. From counter-piracy to counter-terrorism, China has vowed to provide these countries with “comprehensive support”, including equipment, personnel and tech.

One goal is to ensure the security of Chinese business interests in Africa, where President Xi Jinping’s government is entrenched as a crucial investor and trade partner. Between 2012 and 2016, China’s foreign investment in Africa more than doubled, from around $40 billion to $90 billion. Beijing has positioned the Suez Canal into its Belt and Road Initiative—President Xi’s multi-billion-dollar trade project building roads and railways to connect China with markets in Africa and Europe.

China’s military footprint is at its most visible in Djibouti, a small country with a strategic location in the Horn of Africa, allowing it to punch above its weight. There, the U.S. has its only permanent military base on the continent, stationing 4,000 soldiers at Camp Lemonnier—a launch pad for operations in Yemen and Somalia. Last August, the Chinese military opened its first overseas base in the country, which overlooks the Gulf of Aden, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. This development prompted concerns in Washington—and allegations that Chinese troops there were blinding U.S. Air Force pilots with lasers haven’t helped matters. There is talk of building a new massive dock there, which could accommodate Chinese destroyers and supply ships.

Djibouti has hosted numerous Chinese infrastructure projects, including the first electric transnational railway in Africa and plans for a $4-billion natural gas deal. Beijing watchers say China’s activities in Djibouti are a blend of commercial and military interests—a model that the Far Eastern powerhouse may replicate elsewhere. This next port of call could be a paradise archipelago off the continent’s western gulf. At the end of a recent trip to Africa, China’s Foreign Minister visited Sao Tome and Principe. This tiny island nation is tipped to be a strategic transport hub for Beijing, which has reportedly pledged tens of millions of dollars to revamp its international airport and construct a deep-sea container port.

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Historic Summit in New York

muslims and israel
New York City, New York – Gaza is dubbed an open prison with the highest unemployment in the world, Hamas a terrorist organization, Fatah puppet of the West, and Palestinian youth martyrdom trainees. This is all happening right in a land regarded internationally as the “Holy Land” at a religion that pumps more oil than water and receives more visitors than natives.
Against this inhumane and unsustainable condition, we are hosting an historic summit in New York City “Muslims and Israel” on Monday, August 27, 2018, 6:8:30 PM to seek the immediate end of this unnecessary condition on our Palestinian families. The summit is dedicated exclusively to God’s words about Israel, holy land and Jerusalem. No prophetic, scholarly or political quotes shall be allowed. As Abrahamic Family, once we all accept God’s Words, human interests and positions on the holy land can then be connected to God’s commandments/instructions.
So far we have two of the most eminent Muslim scholars on the issues of the holy land confirmed and waiting for their counterparts’ confirmations. The summit is a secure, close door forum and all RSVPs must submit to background checks. RSVP:
Dear Muslim Leaders,
You have 57 nations in OIC including 22 Arabs ones. You possess and enjoy more natural resources than others. You numbered close to 2 billion. Your Palestinian families are dying to work for and in Israel every day. You call Palestinian families in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt refugees when in fact artificial borders were created by your invading colonizers to divide and weaken you. Your governments enjoy Israeli technical services and your peoples are becoming Kamikazes just to go to Israel for work and freedom. You maintain power and control of your destitute populations partly by blaming the Jews and Israel for your incompetence, etc…
Dear Muslim Populous,
If you truly love your Palestinian brothers and sisters, then open your minds and allow understanding and wisdom to guide your feelings and emotions. 70 years of public misleading from our corrupt dictators and biased scholars has been the single most deadly cause of Muslims in the world including Palestinians. With rational thinking and right attitude on the part of Israel’s neighboring nations, the Holy Land can easily be a peaceful and prosperous homeland for all Israelis and Palestinians, home and abroad. Therefore, we must cease justifying our anti-Semitism and anti-Israel by peddling leftist Jewish groups’ activist tactics. These leftist liberal Jews are bunch of humanitarian souls fighting for the rights of all peoples regardless of who they are.
Dear citizens of the world,
If you’ve desired a world of peace, love and harmony, let us make the holy land a place of peace, love and harmony. We can’t afford the status quo. The rise of religious extremism and bias attacks have roots in anti-Semitism, anti-Israel and Islamophobia. September 11 tragedy and all post September 11 conflicts are some of those rooted in what is happening in the holy land. According to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every person is entitled to a homeland. So do the 15 million Jews.
In conclusion, If we all love world peace and Palestinians’ dignity, we must all support an independent and secure Jewish State of Israel. Ones the Muslim leaders formerly welcome a sovereign Jewish nation in OIC, a sovereign Palestinian nation becomes a reality. Ain.t simple! #muslimsandisrael #holyland #palestine #peacefulcoexistence#nycsummit #muslimmedia
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Ahmed saves Ethiopia from collapse; for now

Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed

By Teshome M. Borago | PT Staff writer

Credited for beginning the reformation of an important African country of 100 million people; the new Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed has become an unlikely hero.

A son of Muslim family from the Jimma zone of Oromia state in Ethiopia; Dr. Abiy Ahmed is from the Oromo ethnic group. The last time a leader with Muslim background rose to power in Addis Ababa; the Ethiopian bureaucracy quickly overthrew him in months. It was Ethiopian Emperor Iyasu V who reigned in 1913 with the help of his father Imam Mohammed Ali, until the then powerful Ethiopian Orthodox Church and rivals inside the Imperial family revolted, because they feared his Muslim association.

But this time around, Ethiopia is a secular nation and Dr. Abiy Ahmed appears to have the overwhelming support of the Ethiopian people.

Last Saturday, millions of Ethiopians rallied in the capital Addis Ababa and several other cities to show support for Dr. Abiy. Ironically, the source of his growing popularity is his bold criticism of his own EPRDF ruling party, to which he belongs.

The EPRDF has ruled Ethiopia for 27 years with an iron fist: often jailing opponents, killing activists and siphoning resources to the elites of the Tigrayan ethnic group. The EPRDF party’s first major test was in a 2005 election, when millions rallied and voted for the opposition, but the regime massacred around 200 protesters and locked up the opposition. The EPRDF’s second major test came from Ethiopian Muslims who bravely protested in cities nationwide against religious persecution. Finally, the EPRDF’s Tigrayan rulers got a taste of their own medicine when ethnic enclaves rebelled one by one. When the two largest ethnic groups – the Oromo and Amhara– rose up in 2015 with coordinated nationwide protests, by choking commercial routes and over-stretching the military: the EPRDF government panicked. It initially tried to respond to peaceful protests by killing hundreds more Ethiopians, but that did not work.

Then EPRDF held emergency inner-party meetings to find a way out. Continuing the deadly military response to the emboldened protestors could have pushed the country toward collapse or civil war. So it had to make a compromise. As both a survival strategy for the ruling party and to bring peace to the nation, the ruling party forced its former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to resign. Under pressure from an Oromo faction inside the EPRDF party, the government selected Dr Abiy Ahmed Ali as a replacement PM.

And what a historic decision it has been. PM Dr Abiy Ahmed has become the Uniter-in-chief, healing old wounds not only between political and ethnic groups but also between neighboring countries like Eritrea. He released thousands of political prisoners and apologized for the sins of the ruling party. He released journalists and even allowed exiled top media groups, ESAT and OMN, to operate inside Ethiopia. He invited domestic opposition groups to his Palace and made peace. He convinced armed military opposition groups; like the Ginbot 7 and former OLF leaders, to drop their weapons and operate peacefully inside the country. During a recent mass demonstration in the capital, people chanted slogans to support their new Prime Minister while some waved the flag of the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) in the crowd, a symbolic image never witnessed before.

Abiy Ahmed has effectively reformed Ethiopian politics from the inside out. During one recent parliamentary session broadcasted live on TV, he blamed his own ruling party of torturing people and “terrorizing” the country. By becoming the voice of dissident in his own government, Abiy has stabilized the country and calmed the protestors.

His statesman rhetoric and progressive actions have set the foundation for real change. So far, He has walked the perfect balance between ethnic nationalism and Ethiopian nationalism. Thus, both tribal nationalists and multiethnic nationalists like pop icon Teddy Afro are singing his gospel.

Some critics still don’t trust the system is fair and regional tribal authorities are persecuting perceived minorities with impunity. The senseless killings of ethnic minorities last month prove that more must be done. Abiy can fix these urgent problems if he quickly uses his popular mandate to further reform key institutions like the military, judiciary and election board as well as rearrange the federal structure to empower regional autonomy while promoting multiethnic identities. After all, by ancestry, most Ethiopians are mixed, including Abiy himself.

To de-ethnicize federalism, Abiy must change the format of the next Ethiopian national Census, by redefining “ethnicity” away from its current narrow politico-linguistic feature toward a more comprehensive definition that includes ancestry. Such Census reform will reveal that most Ethiopians are mixed ethnic-Ethiopians by ancestry; not just a bunch of competing tribes destined to clash forever. Establishing a common denominator in identity development is the key to long-term mitigation of ethnic conflicts. Abiy is the perfect man to do this Census reform because he has credibility among the largest tribe – the Oromo – despite himself being a mixed-Ethiopian with multiethnic ancestry. Without Census reform, it is impossible to de-politicize ethnicity if ethnic affiliation continues to correlate with political affiliation.

With corrupt regional officials and the old guard in the ruling party working to sabotage him, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed must move fast to democratize and unify the country. Timing is everything.