Saturday, January 30, 2010

Togo team banned from next two competion – CAF’s decision is insensitive and immoral

The recent decision by the Organising Committee of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations Angola, 2010 to ban Togo from participation in the next two competitions of the African Cup of Nations is an insult to common sense and a warped and vindictive interpretation of the rules that govern their tournaments. The CAF Organising Committee completely threw overboard the underlying philosophy of justice that guides every rule. A blind application of rules without any thought for the spirit behind the rule or law is tantamount to an abuse of the rule.

The Committee cited “Article 78 of Regulations of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations, Angola 2010” as the basis for their decision. In any contract, there is the possibility of unexpected and disruptive events may that may excuse a party from the obligations of the contract. In a normal and sensitive interpretation, these become mitigating circumstances that temper the judgment on the breach of that contract. The lawyers refer to such an event as force majeure. What worse event than the death of some members of the concerned parties do we expect to occur before it begins to take a serious view of Togo’s breach? The dishonest extension of the argument to interpret the withdrawal as entirely due to the interference of the Government of Togo in the affairs of the Togo national Football Association is most unfortunate.

The statement issued by CAF is an insult on injury. Hear them “The Executive Committee and its president renewed their sincere condolences to the families of victims involved in this tragic terrorist attack which happened January 8, 2010. The attack was condemned by CAF and also a total support was given to the Togolese team.” What support can they give to the dead? What “sincere” condolence can you give to a group you are punishing for an unfortunate event that they had no control over?

Let us go back and analyse the whole situation. The Angolan government and the Organising Committee claim they were not aware that the Togolese team was travelling by road from Point Noire to Cabinda. If this is true, how did the team get the security squad that was escorting them to Cabinda? The bus was not a Togolese nor was the driver who was tragically killed in the event. But for the Angolan Security men escorting the team bus, all members of the team could have been killed.

Immediately after the attack Rodrigues Mingas, Secretary General of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC), said his fighters had meant to attack security guards as the convoy passed through the Angolan province of Cabinda, which is situated inside Congo. Rodrigues Mingas was reported to have told France 24 television. "This attack was not aimed at the Togolese players but at the Angolan forces at the head of the convoy, so it was pure chance that the gunfire hit the players. We don't have anything to do with the Togolese and we present our condolences to the African families and the Togo government. We are fighting for the total liberation of Cabinda."

The whole world saw video footage of a traumatized team. We heard what the team members said in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

According to a BBC report on that day, Togolese midfielder Alaixys Romao said the team was likely to pull out of the 16-nation cup.

"No-one wants to play," he said. "We're not capable of it. We're thinking first of all about the health of our injured because there was a lot of blood on the ground."

Despite their unfit psychological state, they were put under great pressure by the Angolan government and the Organising Committee to change their mind and play. So, who was interfering with the team’s decision, the Togolese government or the partnership of CAF and the Angolan government? Who knows what threats CAF made to the Togolese team to make them “change” their mind to stay on and play when they had explicitly told the whole world that they were too traumatized to play. Simply put, they were not in a proper psychological state to go into the tournament. The Togolese government did what any responsible government would have done in the circumstances. With relatives of team members bombarding them with questions and requests to bring the boys back home in accordance with the strong desire of the team members just after the attack, what should they have done? The Togolese nation went into mourning and they were fearful for the lives of the survivors.

Interestingly, the statement from CAF posted on their website does not mention the aspect of interference of the government of Togo. The decision appears to be entirely predicated on Article 78 which reads” A forfeit notified less than twenty days before the start or during the final competition, shall entail in addition of the forfeit of the entry fee, a maximum fine stipulated by the regulations as well as the suspension of the concerned national association for the following two editions of the African Cup of Nations.

Moreover, the withdrawal shall entail the forfeit of its share in the profits realised from the receipts. In addition, the Organising Committee may order the concerned national association to make compensation for any eventual damages.” Despite all the mitigating circumstances of the breach of the rules, the Committee applied the full weight of the prescribed sanctions. It will be observed that the Organising Committee ignored the provisions of their own Article 89 which says Reserves are made as to cases of force majeure and shall be decided by the Organising Committee.”

Notice that there is no specific amount prescribed as the punitive fee in Article 78 – only “the forfeit of its share in the profits realised from the receipts.” What if there was no profit in this case, the Togolese FA still has to pay $50,000. This is an interpretation and application of law with a petty and rigid mind. They forgot to mention Article 90 which stipulates specific amounts. This was a very shoddy job of the Committee.

From the preliminary reaction of the Togolese government to the CAF statement, there is a clear indication that we have not heard the last of this matter. FIFA has a duty to intervene and correct this mindless, vindictive decision. Let common sense prevail in the interest of African football.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fighting Al Qaeda: America's "Countries of Interest" - An incomplete list

In the wake of the failed Christmas day suicide bomb plot, President Obama ordered a swift investigation to find out why there was a system failure. Last Tuesday, the world was told of the near catastrophic failure arising from information hoarding, communication lapses and general system inertia.

As a direct response to the findings of this investigation, the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has announced that "Because effective aviation security must begin beyond our borders, and as a result of extraordinary cooperation from our global aviation partners, TSA is mandating that every individual flying into the U.S. from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening. The Nations that are state sponsors of terrorism were identified as Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria and the ten "countries of Interest"; Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen.

Nigeria was included in the infamous list because of the singular act of its national, Abdul Umar Farouk Mutallab, the 23-year old mechanical engineering graduate of the University College of London who had been radicalised while studying in England and trained for his mission in Yemen.

It will be recalled that Richard Colvin Reid, otherwise known as the shoe bomber, was a member of Al Qaeda who was convicted by an American federal court for attempting to destroy a commercial aircraft in-flight by detonating explosives hidden in his shoes in December 2001. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole in a super maximum security prison in the United States. His crime led to the new requirement of U.S. airline passengers having to remove their shoes for inspection before boarding. Richard Reid was born and bred British, radicalized to Islamic extremism at Finsbury Park Mosque in London. The series of coordinated suicide bombings on London's public transport system during the morning rush hour on July 7, 2005 were carried out by four British Muslim men.

In 2006, there was a terrorist plot to detonate liquid explosives carried on board at least 10 airliners travelling from the United Kingdom to the United States and Canada. Interestingly the explosive of choice was also PETN, the same explosive found on the Nigerian. At least 24 suspects were arrested and charged to court for terrorism offences. These were all British home grown terrorists. Most of these have been convicted. This incident brought to the fore the need to look at the British social system to see what the key factors were that enhanced the incubation of these terrorists.

The young Nigerian Abdul Mutallab became radicalised while studying at the University College, London. From England, he went to the Middle East to live out his new extremist faith. So I see a common thread in all of these incidents - the British society offers a favourable atmosphere for impressionable young people to become terrorists. The law in that country allows all kinds of Islamic extremists to use, with impunity, hate-filled messages to poison the minds of young gullible Muslims.

These instances of British terrorists clearly point to Great Britain as a country in which several terrorists have been produced. It then goes without saying that any list of "countries of interest" without Great Britain seems to me to be incomplete, if the single incidence of a Nigerian attempted bomber can qualify that nation to be in that list. In this particular case the father of the young man made a report to both the authorities in Nigeria and to the US Embassy in Nigeria. This indicates there is no intrinsic jihadist inclination or culture in Nigeria and that the Nigerian system does not tolerate it.

Newspaper reports indicate that the Committee on Foreign Relations of the US Senate has invited the father of the alleged terrorist to appear before the Senate on January 20, 2010. The letter which requested the former Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria to testify before it stated that: “The United State Senate Committee on Foreign Relations would like to extend an invitation to Mr. Farouk Abdul Mutallab, former Chief Executive Officer of the First Bank of Nigeria, to testify before the Committee on the morning of January 20, 2010.

“Mr. Abdul Mutallab acted in a heroic fashion by informing US authorities of his concerns about his son’s whereabouts and activities and by seeking to disrupt what he believed could have been a dangerous situation. We would like to afford him the opportunity to discuss his experience with his son and to provide his recommendations on the process by which he worked with US authorities.

“I would also note that Mr. Abdul Mutallab's appearance would allow him to correct the negative press to which Nigeria has been unfairly subjected over the past two weeks.

If this is how the United States Senate feels about the role of Abdul Mutallab Snr in the failed bombing episode, the inclusion of Nigeria in the list of "countries of interest" is absolutely unjustified.