Former President Mubarak considered using Tu-160 to destroy Ethiopian dam

Egyptindependent

An unverified voice recording attributed to Egypt’s Former President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak has generated great controversy among Egyptian social media users.

The recording, which surfaced on a Facebook page titled ‘Ana Asef Ya Rais’ [‘I’m sorry Mr. President’], featured statements from Mubarak on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam ‘GERD’.

Mubarak relinquished power in 2011 following the 25 January Revolution and has been subjected to judicial trials since.

In the unverified voice clip, Mubarak said that Ethiopia did not dare to establish GERD during his era, adding that he had the ability to destroy it with Russian-made Tupolev Tu-160 fighters, if it had.

Mubarak also asserted in the recording that Egypt is currently considered a weak country, unlike in the past when the world saw it as powerful one.

Egypt Independent made several attempts to reach administrators of the Facebook page that broadcast the voice recording of Mubarak.

Why did Qatar leave the Djibouti-Eritrea border?

The renewed Djibouti-Eritrea border dispute is the first ripple effect of the Gulf crisis in Africa.

 Maintaining the 500-strong presence of Qatari armed troops in a remote area was a costly and largely thankless endeavour write Barakat and Milton [AP]
Maintaining the 500-strong presence of Qatari armed troops in a remote area was a costly and largely thankless endeavour write Barakat and Milton [AP]
by 

@BARAKAT_Sultan

Sultan Barakat is the director of Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies at the Doha Institute.

by 

@SansomMilton

Sansom Milton is a senior research fellow at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies.

The media has been quick to associate Qatar’s decision to withdraw its peacekeeping forces from the disputed Djibouti-Eritrea border with the Gulf crisis. This connection was most likely made because Qatar’s decision came only days after both Djibouti and Eritrea announced that they are siding with Saudi Arabia in the diplomatic rift and downgraded their diplomatic relations with Qatar.

The withdrawal of troops, if understood as a knee-jerk reaction, contrasts markedly with how Qatar has been operating since the start of the crisis. Qatar has not reciprocated the harsh, punitive moves of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in a tit-for-tat spiral of vindictiveness. Nor has it reacted to countries which have reduced diplomatic relations, such as Jordan, by taking retaliatory measures against its thousands of nationals working in Qatar.

While Qatar Airways offices have been sealed off in Abu Dhabi and its senior staff harassed, no such measures have been taken by Doha. Furthermore, while food supplies through Saudi Arabia and the UAE were cut, Qatar continues to supply the latter with around 57 million cubic metres of gas daily. This shows that Qatar continues to play the long game by taking the moral high ground – a strategy that looks to have paid off given the number of international diplomatic capitals that have refused to cave into the intense lobbying of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to vilify Qatar. 

READ MORE: Africa and the Gulf crisis: the peril of picking sides

Given what we know about how Qatar has operated during the crisis, the explanation that the troop withdrawal is purely a knee-jerk reaction to the downgrading of diplomatic ties does not add up. Doubtlessly, with downgraded relations, Qatar finds itself in a difficult position as a mediator and peacekeeper between the two nations. No mediator can operate effectively with reduced representation, both on a practical and reputational level. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the decision has been made in a retaliatory manner. Rather, there are three less evident reasons for why the decision to withdraw has been on the cards for some time and why it is now impossible for anyone in Qatar to advocate for maintaining the peacekeeping force.

The potential fallout of the crisis could have ripple waves spiralling out of the border dispute to the much larger Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict and the rest of the Horn of Africa at a time when the sub-region is facing a massive humanitarian crisis.

First of all, a fundamental principle of conflict mediation is that any third party must maintain a credible threat to walk away if the conflicting parties are not committed to reaching a negotiated settlement. Qatari troops have, for the past seven years, been stationed in the dusty uninhabited border region between the two East African countries to monitor the implementation of the terms of a ceasefire agreement brokered by Qatar in June 2010.

Despite consistent attempts to turn the ceasefire into a peace agreement, little progress has been made. A minor breakthrough was achieved in March 2016 when, in a deal mediated by Qatar, Eritrea released four prisoners from Djibouti’s armed forces who were captured in June 2008 during border clashes. However, in the past year, the Eritrean negotiating team has disengaged from the mediation process despite the United Nations Security Council mandated-arms embargo on Eritrea being re-approved in November 2016, demanding that Eritrea release all missing prisoners and allow UN monitors to enter the country.

The two states, particularly Eritrea, have not heeded calls for border demarcation and have gone into denial by refusing to refer to the border conflict as a serious issue. The presence of the Qatari peacekeepers had allowed both parties to grow accustomed to the status quo of a mutually beneficial stalemate.

Second, Djibouti and Eritrea consistently engage in a geostrategic game of shifting alliances. When Qatar entered the fray, the Djibouti-Eritrea border dispute was a minor conflict with very few international actors showing an appetite for mediation. Since then Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti has expanded to become the largest US military base in the region, China has also entered Djibouti, while, in April 2015, Saudi Arabia and Eritrea signed a security cooperation agreement and the UAE is currently completing the construction of a military base north of the port city of Assab in Eritrea from where its armed forces have been operating in the military campaign in Yemen. This particular corner of the Horn of Africa is by now far too crowded for a small nation like Qatar to justify its military presence as a buffer.

READ MORE: Qatar-Gulf crisis: All the latest updates

Third, maintaining the 500-strong presence of Qatari troops in a remote area is a costly and largely thankless endeavour. While the withdrawal was doubtlessly hastened by the changes in diplomatic relations with Eritrea and Djibouti, this has more to do with the infiltration of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia into Eritrea. This military presence clearly renders Qatari troops stationed thousands of miles away in an isolated area a soft target for direct or indirect retaliation. Moreover, 500 troops represent a significant investment of military manpower for an armed forces of around 12,000 during the most urgent crisis the country has faced in its history.

With Eritrea moving its forces into the contested Dumeira Mountain and Dumeira Islands, the temperature of the conflict has been increased and the situation is now more explosive than ever before, for all actors involved. The rapid development of the situation demonstrates the important stabilising role that Qatar had played under the radar for many years.

Moreover, the potential fallout of the crisis could have ripple waves spiralling out of the border dispute to the much larger Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict and the rest of the Horn of Africa at a time when the sub-region is facing a massive humanitarian crisis. This should serve as a cautionary note for the potential of escalation in other places where Qatari assistance has been keeping the lid on conflict, in particular, the Gaza Strip, where as a result of the increased isolation of Qatar by its Gulf neighbours we may see the end of the single most important donor to the reconstruction of the besieged territory to date. This should focus the minds of world leaders on the need to resolve the Gulf crisis amicably as soon as possible.

Professor Sultan Barakat is the director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies and professor in the Department of Politics at the University of York.

Dr Sansom Milton is a senior research fellow at the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

WHY THERE’S A STATUE OF BOB MARLEY IN ETHIOPIA?

Fun fact: the Rasta movement arose in Ethiopia, not Jamaica.

By Bill Wiatrak |Houstoniamag

WHEN YOU THINK OF JAMAICA, you’re likely to conjure a mental picture of Bob Marley before you think of anything else. There’s no other country in the world where one musician seems to represent the embodiment of an entire culture like Marley is to Jamaica. The dreadlocks and the red/green/yellow color scheme seems sooooo Jamaican. But is it?

The answer might surprise you: Look no further than the Ethiopian flag. Does it look familiar? That’s because the Rasta movement arose in Ethiopia, not Jamaica.

Ethiopia is the only African country never colonized by Europeans. Countries like Kenya and Egypt were controlled by the British; the Belgians took the Congo; and much of North Africa was seized by the French. Every European country seemed to want a piece of the “dark continent,” but Ethiopia always avoided colonization—including two failed attempts by the Italians in 1895 and later in 1935.

During the latter attempt, a prominent figure emerged: a king who claimed to be from the lineage of Queen Sheba and King Solomon. His name was Haile Selassie, who became revered far beyond his country as “The Lion of Judah.”

Haile had other names, too, partly because of the different languages he spoke (including French and the native Amharic and Ge’ez languages of Ethiopia). Tafari was his given name at birth, meaning “one who is respected or feared.” Later, as governor of the walled city of Harer, he was given the ranking title of Ras, or “prince.” If you haven’t already figured it out, Haile Selassie was also known as Ras Tafari. Sound familiar?

Shutterstock 118293034 douji7

A few years prior, in the 1920s, a popular Jamaican political leader named Marcus Garvey predicted that one day a black man would be crowned king in Africa. This king would be a divine being that would bring deliverance to the people of Africa and the rest of the world. In 1930, when Selassie was crowned emperor of Ethiopia following a coup d’etat, this prophecy appeared to be coming true.

To the poor Jamaican population, Tafari was more than just an Ethiopian king. He appeared to them to be the chosen one. Jamaicans, like many other former slaves, had been robbed of their culture and sense of belonging. The idea of going back to Africa and redefining and reasserting their native roots was very appealing. The home continent of Africa became known as “Zion” by the Jamaicans, while the white man’s world was called “Babylon.”

The people who idolized Tafari embraced many of the Ethiopian traditions: An Ethiopian vegan lifestyle without alcohol or salt was adopted; the colors of the Ethiopian flag were embraced; dreadlocks became a symbol of a lion’s mane as well as the idea of roots connecting man to God. Long hair is also strongly associated with the biblical story of Sampson and other Old Testament scripture. The Jamaicans accepted many traditional biblical teachings but felt like white men had altered the sacred text to make African slaves more subservient to their masters.

Selassie explained to his followers that he was not the Messiah. In spite of his protests, many were certain that was the chosen one. The new cult took Tafari’s name: They became the Ras Tafarians.

Shutterstock 498156949 arvnup

This small cult never really gained worldwide acceptance until Robert Marley popularized it. Born Catholic, Marley converted in the 1960s, grew his dreadlocks and began writing songs with spiritual elements. When asked about his religious beliefs, the singer once mentioned, “I would say to the people, Be still, and know that His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia is the Almighty…. I don’t see how much more reveal our people want. Wha’ dem want? A white God, well God come black. True true.” Many of Bob Marley’s songs are about reuniting Africa and deal with other Rastafarian beliefs. Many casual listeners don’t really listen to the words, the reggae melodies instead invoking thoughts of tropical vacations and beaches.

In 1966, Selassie visited Jamaica to an ecstatic crowd of thousands. He appropriated 500 acres of land of his country to Jamaicans or other people of African descent who wished to move to Ethiopia. Bob Marley visited Ethiopia in 1978 and stayed in Shashamane, the village formed by those who had taken Selassie’s offer. It was thought that a large percentage of the one million adherents might move to “Zion,” but that never really happened. Fifty-plus years later, roughly 800 Rastafarians live in the town. For all the songs about moving back to Africa, hardly anyone actually did it—including Marley himself. Shashamane remains an eccentric little enclave in Ethiopia peopled by Rasta followers. Ganja, ironically enough, is illegal in Ethiopia, though it’s tolerated in that community to a certain extent.

Bob Marley died in 1981 of skin cancer that began on one of his toes. He refused to treat it because of his religious beliefs. Like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and James Dean, Marley has become more of a brand than the person he really was. He symbolizes Caribbean music, smoking weed, and the red, green and yellow colors of the Ethiopian flag.

In 2015, a statue of Marley was installed in Addis Ababa for Bob’s 70th birthday celebration. In 2005, Rita Marley, Bob Marley’s widow announced she would be moving his body to be reburied in Ethiopia, though that never happened; the famous singer still rests in tomb in his home in Nine Mile, Jamaica. Marley’s music, meanwhile, continues to inspire the world from the Americas to Africa—even if many folks are only listening to the melodies.

Experience the best of South Padre Island and enjoy a vacation you’ll never forget.

Bob marley statue ethiopia xffvms

Africa, Unite
’Cause we’re moving right out of Babylon
And we’re going to our father’s land

How good and how pleasant it would be
Before God and man, yeah
To see the unification of all Africans, yeah
As it’s been said already let it be done, yeah
We are the children of the Rastaman
We are the children of the Higher Man

US airstrike in Somalia under Trump’s new authoritie

“On June 11, at approximately 2 a.m. eastern daylight time, the Department of Defense conducted a strike operation against al-Shabaab in Somalia,” said Dana White, the Pentagon’s chief spokesperson in a statement.

“The operation occurred approximately 185 miles southwest of Mogadishu,” White said. “The U.S. conducted this operation in coordination with its regional partners as a direct response to al-Shabaab actions, including recent attacks on Somali forces.”

White explained that the airstrike was carried out under the new authorities approved by President Trump in March, which “allows the U.S. Department of Defense to conduct legal action against al-Shabaab within a geographically-defined area of active hostilities in support of partner force in Somalia.”

“We remain committed to working with our Somali partners and allies to systematically dismantle al-Shabaab, and help achieve stability and security throughout the region,” said White.

According to a statement from U.S. Africa Command (Africom) the airstrike targeted “an al-Shabab command and logistics node at a camp located approximately 185 miles southwest of Mogadishu in a stronghold for the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab organization.”

Africom assessed that eight al-Shabaab militants were killed in the strike.

“U.S. forces will use all effective and appropriate methods to protect Americans, including partnered military counter-terror operations with AMISOM and Somali National Army (SNA) forces; precision strikes against terrorists, their training camps and safe havens; and hunting and tracking members of this al-Qaeda affiliate throughout Somalia, the region and around the world,” said the Africom statement.

Until the new authorities were granted in March, the U.S. military could only carry out air strikes against al-Shabaab in self-defense situations when Somali troops and their U.S. advisers came under fire.

The U.S. military has previously conducted counter-terrorism missions and airstrikes in Somalia targeting al-Shabaab leaders, but those missions have been carried out under the different authorities targeting al-Qaeda.

Al-Shabaab has been an al-Qaeda affiliate since 2012. It has been designated as a terrorist organization by a number of nations, including the United States and United Kingdom.

In March, the southern portion of Somalia was temporarily designated by Trump as an “active area of hostilities” for 180 days, according to a U.S. official. The designation applies to active combat zones such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, parts of Libya, parts of Yemen and now Somalia.

The U.S. military is permitted to conduct airstrikes in these designated combat zones if there is “a reasonable certainty” that no civilians will be hurt. This is less stringent than the “near certainty” standard issued by former U.S. president Barack Obama in 2013 as a Presidential Policy Guidance that is still applied elsewhere. That standard requires high-level, interagency vetting of proposed airstrikes. The target must pose a direct threat to Americans.

A U.S. official stressed in March that the U.S. military will not be able to make unilateral decisions for airstrikes. Rather, strikes will be done in consultation with the government of Somalia and the African Union military force in Somalia.

There are about 50 U.S. military personnel in Somalia advising and assisting the Somali military in its fight against al-Shabaab.

In May, Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken became the first U.S. military service member to be killed in Somalia since 1993 when the Somali unit he was advising came under attack during a mission.

In its statement, Africom noted that al-Shabaab has used safe havens in southern and central Somalia to plot and direct terror attacks, steal humanitarian aid, and shelter other terrorists. It cited three incidents over the last eight months where large groups of al-Shabaab fighters overran three AMISOM bases seizing heavy weaponry at the bases.

The Qatar Crisis According to British Media

The Independent

Only Shakespeare’s plays could come close to describing such treachery – the comedies, that is

The Qatar crisis proves two things: the continued infantilisation of the Arab states, and the total collapse of the Sunni Muslim unity supposedly created by Donald Trump’s preposterous attendance at the Saudi summit two weeks ago.

After promising to fight to the death against Shia Iranian “terror,” Saudi Arabia and its closest chums have now ganged up on one of the wealthiest of their neighbours, Qatar, for being a fountainhead of “terror”. Only Shakespeare’s plays could come close to describing such treachery. Shakespeare’s comedies, of course.

For, truly, there is something vastly fantastical about this charade. Qatar’s citizens have certainly contributed to Isis. But so have Saudi Arabia’s citizens.

No Qataris flew the 9/11 planes into New York and Washington. All but four of the 19 killers were Saudi. Bin Laden was not a Qatari. He was a Saudi.

But Bin Laden favoured Qatar’s al-Jazeera channel with his personal broadcasts, and it was al-Jazeera who tried to give spurious morality to the al-Qaeda/Jabhat al-Nusrah desperadoes of Syria by allowing their leader hours of free airtime to explain what a moderate, peace-loving group they all were.

First, let’s just get rid of the hysterically funny bits of this story. I see that Yemen is breaking air links with Qatar. Quite a shock for the poor Qatari Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, since Yemen – under constant bombardment by his former Saudi and Emirati chums – doesn’t have a single serviceable airliner left with which to create, let alone break, an air link.

The Maldives have also broken relations with Qatar. To be sure, this has nothing to do with the recent promise of a Saudi five-year loan facility of $300m to the Maldives, the proposal of a Saudi property company to invest $100m in a family resort in the Maldives and a promise by Saudi Islamic scholars to spend $100,000 on 10 “world class” mosques in the Maldives.

And let us not mention the rather large number of Isis and other Islamist cultists who arrived to fight for Isis in Iraq and Syria from – well, the Maldives.

Now the Qatari Emir hasn’t enough troops to defend his little country should the Saudis decide to request that he ask their army to enter Qatar to restore stability – as the Saudis persuaded the King of Bahrain to do back in 2011. But Sheikh Tamim no doubt hopes that the massive US military air base in Qatar will deter such Saudi generosity.

When I asked his father, Sheikh Hamad (later uncharitably deposed by Tamim) why he didn’t kick the Americans out of Qatar, he replied: “Because if I did, my Arab brothers would invade me.”

All this started – so we are supposed to believe – with an alleged hacking of the Qatar News Agency, which produced some uncomplimentary but distressingly truthful remarks by Qatar’s Emir about the need to maintain a relationship with Iran.

Qatar denied the veracity of the story. The Saudis decided it was true and broadcast the contents on their own normally staid (and immensely boring) state television network. The upstart Emir, so went the message, had gone too far this time. The Saudis decided policy in the Gulf, not miniscule Qatar. Wasn’t that what Donald Trump’s visit proved?

But the Saudis had other problems to worry about. Kuwait, far from cutting relations with Qatar, is now acting as a peacemaker between Qatar and the Saudis and Emiratis. The emirate of Dubai is quite close to Iran, has tens of thousands of Iranian expatriates, and is hardly following Abu Dhabi’s example of anti-Qatari wrath.

Oman was even staging joint naval manoeuvres with Iran a couple of months ago. Pakistan long ago declined to send its army to help the Saudis in Yemen, because the Saudis asked for only Sunni and no Shia soldiers; the Pakistani army was understandably outraged to realise that Saudi Arabia was trying to sectarianise its military personnel.

Pakistan’s former army commander, General Raheel Sharif, is rumoured to be on the brink of resigning as head of the Saudi-sponsored Muslim alliance to fight “terror”. 

Five things to know about Qatar’s first 2022 World Cup stadium

President-Field Marshal al-Sissi of Egypt has been roaring against Qatar for its support of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood – and Qatar does indeed support the now-banned group which Sissi falsely claims is part of Isis – but significantly Egypt, though the recipient of Saudi millions, also does not intend to supply its own troops to bolster the Saudis in its catastrophic Yemen war.

Besides, Sissi needs his Egyptian soldiers at home to fight off Isis attacks and maintain, along with Israel, the siege of the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

But if we look a bit further down the road, it’s not difficult to see what really worries the Saudis. Qatar also maintains quiet links with the Assad regime. It helped secure the release of Syrian Christian nuns in Jabhat al-Nusrah hands and has helped release Lebanese soldiers from Isis hands in western Syria. When the nuns emerged from captivity, they thanked both Bashar al-Assad and Qatar.

And there are growing suspicions in the Gulf that Qatar has much larger ambitions: to fund the rebuilding of post-war Syria. Even if Assad remained as president, Syria’s debt to Qatar would place the nation under Qatari economic control.

And this would give tiny Qatar two golden rewards. It would give it a land empire to match its al-Jazeera media empire. And it would extend its largesse to the Syrian territories, which many oil companies would like to use as a pipeline route from the Gulf to Europe via Turkey, or via tankers from the Syrian port of Lattakia.

For Europeans, such a route would reduce the chances of Russian oil blackmail, and make sea-going oil routes less vulnerable if vessels did not have to move through the Gulf of Hormuz.

So rich pickings for Qatar – or for Saudi Arabia, of course, if the assumptions about US power of the two emirs, Hamad and Tamim, prove worthless. A Saudi military force in Qatar would allow Riyadh to gobble up all the liquid gas in the emirate.

But surely the peace-loving “anti-terror” Saudis – let’s forget the head-chopping for a moment – would never contemplate such a fate for an Arab brother.

So let’s hope that for the moment, the routes of Qatar Airways are the only parts of the Qatari body politics to get chopped off.

Meet the world’s most powerful doctor: Bill Gates

By Politico

 

Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates | Stephen Voss/REDUX

Some billionaires are satisfied with buying themselves an island. Bill Gates got a United Nations health agency in Geneva.

Over the past decade, the world’s richest man has become the World Health Organization’s second biggest donor, second only to the United States and just above the United Kingdom. This largesse gives him outsized influence over its agenda, one that could grow as the U.S. and the U.K. threaten to cut funding if the agency doesn’t make a better investment case.

The result, say his critics, is that Gates’ priorities have become the WHO’s. Rather than focusing on strengthening health care in poor countries — that would help, in their view, to contain future outbreaks like the Ebola epidemic — the agency spends a disproportionate amount of its resources on projects with the measurable outcomes Gates prefers, such as the effort to eradicate polio.

Concerns about the software billionaire’s sway — roughly a quarter of WHO’s budget goes toward polio eradication — has led to an effort to rein him in. But he remains a force to be reckoned with, as WHO prepares to elect one of three finalists to lead the organization.

“All of the candidates are going to have to ally with him in some way,” said Sophie Harman, associate professor of international politics at Queen Mary University of London. “You can’t ignore him.”

Evidence of Gates’ unprecedented influence abounds in ways subtle and showy.

“He is treated liked a head of state, not only at the WHO, but also at the G20” — Geneva-based NGO representative

Already a decade ago, when Gates started throwing money into malaria eradication, top officials — including the chief of the WHO’s malaria program — raised concerns that the foundation was distorting research priorities. “The term often used was ‘monopolistic philanthropy’, the idea that Gates was taking his approach to computers and applying it to the Gates Foundation,” said a source close to the WHO board.

The billionaire was the first private individual to keynote WHO’s general assembly of member countries, and academics have coined a term for his sway in global health: the Bill Chill. Few people dare to openly criticize what he does. Most of 16 people interviewed on the topic would only do so on the condition of anonymity.

“He is treated liked a head of state, not only at the WHO, but also at the G20,” a Geneva-based NGO representative said, calling Gates one of the most influential men in global health.

The member country delegates POLITICO spoke to did not voice particular concern over Gates’ influence and were confident he is well intentioned.

However, his sway has NGOs and academics worried. Some health advocates fear that because the Gates Foundation’s money comes from investments in big business, it could serve as a Trojan horse for corporate interests to undermine WHO’s role in setting standards and shaping health policies.

Others simply fear the U.N. body relies too much on Gates’ money, and that the entrepreneur could one day change his mind and move it elsewhere.

Gates and his foundation team have heard the criticism, but they are convinced that the impact of their work and money is positive.

The opening of the World Health Assembly in 2016 in Geneva | Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

The opening of the World Health Assembly in 2016 in Geneva | Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

“It’s always a fair question to ask whether a large philanthropy has a disproportionate influence,” said Bryan Callahan, deputy director for executive engagement at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “When it comes to the priorities that the foundation has identified and that we choose to invest in, we hope that we are helping to create an enabling environment,” he said.

Steve Landry, the Gates Foundation’s director of multilateral partnerships, said the foundation provides “significant funds” to program teams that then decide how to use them best.

Strings attached

The Gates Foundation has pumped more than $2.4 billion into the WHO since 2000, as countries have grown reluctant to put more of their own money into the agency, especially after the 2008 global financial crisis.

Dues paid by member states now account for less than a quarter of WHO’s $4.5 billion biennial budget. The rest comes from what governments, Gates, other foundations and companies volunteer to chip in. Since these funds are usually earmarked for specific projects or diseases, WHO can’t freely decide how to use them.

Polio eradication is by far WHO’s best-funded program, with at least $6 billion allocated to it between 2013 and 2019, in great part because around 60 percent of the Gates Foundation’s contributions are earmarked for the cause. Gates wants tangible results, and wiping out a crippling disease like polio would be one.

But the focus on polio has effectively left WHO begging for funding for other programs, particularly to prop up poor countries’ health systems before the next epidemic hits.

The Ebola crisis of 2014, which killed 11,000 people in West Africa, was a particularly bruising experience for WHO. An emergency program drawn up in the wake of the epidemic has so far received just around 60 percent of the $485 million needed for 2016-2017.

Gates’ influence over the WHO was called into question once again during the race to succeed Chan as its director general.

Outgoing WHO boss Margaret Chan has also had to scale back her attempt to get countries to increase mandatory contributions for the first time in a decade. Chan initially hoped for a 10 percent hike, but WHO will end up asking for just 3 percent more this month after some countries objected.

That makes the Gates Foundation’s input all the more important. “They come with a checkbook, and with some smart ideas,” said Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Most of the Gates Foundation’s influence in the WHO is very discreet, she said, adding that it can also decide to take initiatives outside of the organization, as it did with GAVI, which helps the poorest countries buy vaccines in bulk at a discount, or with a recently launched Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, an alliance to develop vaccines for emerging infectious diseases.

 But the foundation’s focus on delivering vaccines and medicines, rather than on building resilient health systems, has drawn criticism. And some NGOs worry it may be too close to industry.

In January, 30 health advocacy groups penned an open letter to WHO’s executive board protesting against making the Gates Foundation an official partner of the agency because its revenue comes from investments in companies that are at odds with public health goals, such as Coca-Cola.

The Gates Foundation says it operates as a separate entity from the trust, thanks to a “strict firewall,” and that it remains independent from its investments, which strictly exclude the tobacco, alcohol or arms industries.

Fencing off big money

Worries about the growing role of private money led member nations to agree, after several years of negotiations, on a new policy governing how it engages with entities such as private foundations, companies and NGOs. It is currently being rolled out across the agency.

Despite the criticism, WHO’s board granted the Gates Foundation “official relations” status. In practice, several sources said it does not change much to the relations WHO already had with the foundation.

Gaudenz Silberschmidt, WHO’s director for partnerships, said the new status is based on a three-year collaboration plan: “That means we have a solid planning and we and member states know what we are doing with them.”

The U.N. body also changed four years ago the way its budget is approved, to ensure member countries set its priorities. That means Gates can only put money into projects the 194 members support; the foundation cannot pitch a new one out of the blue and ask WHO to work on it right away just because it is providing the money.

Candidate for the WHO director general position Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus | Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

Candidate for the WHO director general position Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus | Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

These changes have calmed some criticism of its growing influence over the health body, Silberschmidt and two sources close to the WHO board said.

The foundation also seems to have got the message. Its representatives meet five to six times a year with other major donors to discuss the WHO’s priorities, and how it can support them, Landry said.

Two representatives of major donor countries confirmed the foundation’s envoys had been very cooperative in recent years. “They’re much more inclusive. They bring in other stakeholders, talk to member states to really try to build consensus,” said one delegate.

With the best intentions

Gates’ influence over the WHO was called into question once again during the race to succeed Chan as its director general.

The final three candidates include Sania Nishtar, a cardiologist from Pakistan who has pledged to take the agency “back to its former glory”; David Nabarro, a British physician and former U.N. special envoy for Ebola; and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has served as health minister and foreign minister in the Ethiopian government.

“I don’t think they have any bad intentions. They are just such a big player that as immediately as they put money down they can disrupt things” — Geneva-based diplomat

Tedros, who like many in Ethiopia goes by his first name, is supported by the African Union. He has promised to reform the organization to better deal with crises like Ebola and to push for universal access to health care all over the world.

Last year, a French diplomat suggested that Gates also supports Tedros, having funded health programs in his country when he was health minister. Several foundation officials have denied this, saying that the foundation cannot take a position given that it is not a voting member country and thus has to remain neutral.

The new WHO boss will be selected by the member countries who have paid their membership fees on May 23, at an annual meeting in Geneva.

Still, most country representatives who agreed to speak anonymously on the topic said they were not particularly concerned with the Gates Foundation’s influence on WHO.

“I don’t think they have any bad intentions. They are just such a big player that as immediately as they put money down they can disrupt things,” said one Geneva-based diplomat.

Outgoing WHO chief Margaret Chan | Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

Outgoing WHO chief Margaret Chan | Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

“As far as I can tell, people are really happy with anyone who is giving money,” said another.

One big unknown is what will happen with the foundation’s money once it meets its target of eradicating polio, which started in the late 1980s and now appears to be nearing its goal. Chan has warned that if the polio money dries up in 2019, the global health body will be on the lookout for even more money.

The Gates Foundation’s Landry said his colleagues were working with WHO and its polio team on a “transition plan” to ensure the programs currently funded by the polio effort don’t run into trouble once the money stops flowing. WHO is due to present a report on it to member countries in May.

“The foundation’s impact on the WHO is enormous,” said Garrett, of the Council on Foreign Relations. “If they weren’t there, if they walked away with their money, the deleterious impact would be profound, and everyone is all too aware of that.”

Why Are Black People Obsessed With The Bible That Was Used To Enslave Them?

By Jean Gasho |Modern Ghana

When I became a born-again Christian in 2008, I started studying the bible word for word. I would spend hours a day reading all commentaries for all the verses I studied.

The more I studied the bible the more I realized that most of the Christians around me did not believe everything that was in the bible. It was either they did not know half of the bible or they knew and chose to ignore. As a person who always thought deeply about things, it was crystal clear to me that half of the bible was very disturbing to the human mind. If today people lived by the bible rules from Genesis to Revelation, they would be deemed mentally unstable, barbaric or even evil.

If a man raped a woman, their punishment was to marry the woman by paying a dowry to the father. It was irrelevant whether the woman loved the man or not. There was no such thing as human rights as we know today. In wars, the Israelites would kill their enemies, including the women and children without mercy, and would take the virgins to be their wives.

Bible character Lot offered his own virgin daughters to be gang-raped by men of Sodom so that the angels of the Lord would be spared. But in the eyes of God, he was a righteous man.

There are a lot of other practices and laws in the bible which today are seen as beyond barbaric. The Christians of today will skip all those disturbing scriptures and cherry pick on the ones which are positive and makes them feel good, both in the New And Old Testament.

One of the biblical scriptures that remain untouched today is SLAVERY. The hard truth is that both in the New and Old Testament, slavery was never condemned by God. The biblical era itself was an era of slavery. Slave masters were told how to buy slaves and how to treat them. In the New Testament, slaves were simply ordered to obey their masters. Jesus Christ himself was mute on the issue of slavery, He never said a word against the practice, which was very common in His day. He could have simply told the slaves of His day to start social movements to fight against the injustices of slavery. Slaves could have started a “Slaves Lives Matter” movement, protesting in the streets, but Jesus Christ never encouraged such.

The new Christians themselves had slaves. In the book of Philemon, the Apostle Paul sent a slave who had escaped back to his Christian master, because it was the “right thing” to do.

When I first became a Christian, I remember writing about the topic of slavery according to what the bible said, and the article was obviously not well received.

Now, this brings me to the black man, the white man, and slavery. Today black people are always looking for answers as to why they are still suffering and why they were enslaved. But the truth is the white men did not introduce slavery to the world. It was there since the beginning of time. In fact in Africa, slavery was rife way before the white men landed there. Black people had black slaves. When the white men got to Africa, they were introduced to the concept of slavery by the black men. It was the black people/black masters who sold their own slaves to white people. Black people were fighting each other, tribe against tribe, enslaving the defeated tribes. The white men simply saw an opportunity and beat the black people at their own game.

The whites had something the blacks did not have, the BIBLE. The good book gave them the authority to overpower the black race. The white men taught the black men the bible, and with scriptures like these, they were justified to enslave. “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Colossians 3:22”

Today the black men still cry that they were enslaved by whites, but will not accept the fact that they played a huge part in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In no way am I saying the white men were justified in what they did, but I believe the bigger blame is actually with the people who sold their own brethren into slavery. Who is more to blame, the slaves who bought Joseph or his own brothers who sold him into slavery? Black people will never get anywhere unless they stop preaching half-truths about racism, colonization, and slavery. We have to confront our own history and deal with it.

Our forefathers allowed themselves to be indoctrinated by the bible so that they could be enslaved. They were not smart enough to think for themselves at this point. They were even more in numbers than the whites, yet with the bible, they were conned into slavery, in one of the greatest evils ever done to mankind.

If black people are asked to think critically when holding the same bible that enslaved them, they refuse to question whats in the bible as they fear they will be sinning against God.

The white slave masters were bible believing “sincere” Christians. They went to Africa to spread the gospel and saw an opportunity to enslave black people to make their lives better using the very gospel they were spreading.

Today the white man has finished with the bible, in fact they are finished with God. They have removed God from their schools and systems. They are now the masters of atheism. They call the bible an evil uncivilized book. However, they are still reaping the benefits of what the bible gave them, slavery and colonization. They are the most privileged people in the world, and the only reason why they are privileged is because their forefathers used the bible to enslave black people and better their lives, and that is the inheritance of white people.

As for black people, still divided today, still suffering as hell, still experiencing the after-effects of colonization which will probably never end, they will hold and defend the bible till death. The blacks are forever trying so hard to get to where the white man is today, but no matter how the blacks try, they are not able to catch up. Africa seems to be getting worse by the day, black people are going mad with Christianity, some even drinking sewage because their pastor says so. Last year in Nigeria a pastor and his congregation were burnt to death after he poured petrol on himself and the congregation and lit the room on fire saying God would not allow them to burn.

Even though I am a black woman, I fail to understand black people. All I know is there is something seriously wrong with them, and it only comes out when they hold the bible. I do not understand why we are now the main defenders of the religion that was used to enslave us? I do not understand why it is only us who refuse to put the bible down for even 10 minutes just to “think”. I do not understand why we moan about racism, slavery, and oppression when the bible we love so much clearly does not condemn it.

If you want to be where the whites are today, the only solution is to do what the white people do today; which is to question everything and think. Remove the bible from your head for just one hour and question and think. It’s not being demon possessed and it’s not being evil, its called freedom. Unless you will ever get to this place, as black people you will forever be in chains. And it is clear to me that even in 2017, black people are not ready for freedom.

As I finish this article, I leave my readers with only two questions. Why are black people so obsessed with the bible, which is the book that caused their suffering? And why is it that they are the only people who when holding the bible refuse to question anything or think?

This Article first appeared on www.jeangasho.com