Thursday, December 18, 2014

Convicted, Executed For Murder At 14, Exonerated 70 Years Later

It took 70 years, but a 14-year-old African American boy from Alcolu, South Carolina who was executed for allegedly killing two white girls has now been exonerated of murder.

George Stinney Jr
In a ruling issued Wednesday by Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen, the murder conviction against George Stinney was vacated over concerns that the young boy’s constitutional right to a fair trial was violated to the point that his name should be cleared, WIS TV reported.
Stinney, who was so small at the time of his execution by electric chair that he had to sit on a phone book, is often cited as the youngest American to be put to death by the state in the 20th century.
During his trial in 1944, Stinney’s white lawyer did not present witnesses or cross-examine witnesses presented by the prosecution. In 2009, Stinney’s sister claimed in an affidavit that her brother could not have killed the two young girls because he was with her at the time their deaths occurred.
"The state, as an entity, has very unclean hands," attorney Miller Shealy argued at a hearing in January, as quoted by the Huffington Post.
According to the prosecution, Stinney admitted to murdering the two girls – Betty June Binnicker, 11, and eight-year-old Mary Emma Thames – by beating them with a railroad spike. The boy’s family and other advocates argue this confession was coerced, and little evidence from the trial – including the spike – remains.

George Stinney Jr

The trial was concluded after about three hours, and a jury of 12 white men delivered a verdict against Stinney in 10 minutes.
"By not putting the state's case to the test at all, by not cross examining witnesses, not putting up a defense at all, not giving a closing argument, George was never afforded effective council and as a result his Sixth Amendment rights were violated," said defense attorney Steven McKenzie to WIS.

One relative of Binnicker testified that while the laws were different at the time of Stinney’s trial, he was“found guilty by the laws of 1944” and said the decision should stand.
Solicitor Chip Finney also defended the work authorities did in the past.

The Obamas: We've been victims of racism too!
"The small irritations or indignities that we experience [as blacks] are nothing compared to what a previous generation experienced. It's one thing for me to be mistaken for a waiter at a gala. It's another thing for my son to be mistaken for a robber and to be  handcuffed, or worse, if he happens to be walking down the street and is dressed the way teenagers dress. - President Obama (December 2014)
"They weren't trying to railroad every black person associated with Alcolu and these little girls” he said during the hearing. “They made a determination based on facts we don't have today that George Stinney should be detained.”
Judge Mullen disagreed, however, ruling that Stinney’s right to due process was violated.
"Given the particularized circumstances of Stinney's case,” Mullen wrote, “I find by a preponderance of the evidence standard, that a violation of the Defendant's procedural due process rights tainted his prosecution.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Guinea’s Other Emergency: Organising Elections

Africa Briefing N°106

Guinea's President Alpha Conde

Guinea is due to hold presidential elections in 2015. The country’s electoral history, the failure of dialogue between the government and the opposition and the indefinite postponement of local elections originally scheduled for early 2014 are all bad omens. With a divided political scene split along ethnic lines, and in the grip of an Ebola epidemic that has weakened Guinea’s economy, the government has two options. It can either promote dialogue and establish a credible framework for the second free presidential election in the country’s history, a framework that could include a negotiated postponement; or run the risk of instability and inter-ethnic violence. Given its control of institutions and the political timetable, it must work with the opposition and international partners to build minimum consensus on electoral arrangements in order to reduce the risk of violent protests in the lead up to, during or after the vote.
Such a consensus must be stronger than the one reached for the September 2013 legislative elections, held after a delay of almost three years. Those polls were preceded by fierce controversy and violent demonstrations. Although the conduct of the vote was peaceful, the opposition accused the government of fraud and called for the elections to be annulled. Many foreign observers questioned the integrity of the polls. The government managed to contain tensions only because the opposition felt that legislative elections were of secondary importance, and because international partners mediated between the two sides.

Obasanjo Lies Like A Badly Raised Child - Gen Alabi-Isama

I implore Obasanjo to stop lying before he dies...
By Godwin Alabi-Isama
I am gravely pained to be trading words with General Olusegun Obasanjo once again on the history of Nigeria-Biafra War. He is an elder and a former ruler who, ordinarily, should be treated with utmost respect.

*Alabi-Isama (pix: vanguard)
But how can one genuinely respect an old man who tells lies like a badly raised child? Obasanjo has obviously not recovered from the shock inflicted on him by my book, The Tragedy of Victory in which I exposed the tissues of lies in his civil war memoir, My Command. It is said that a lie may travel for a thousand miles, but it takes just one step of truth to catch up with it.

I’m alive to stand up to him on the lies he has told on the war because I was a major participant in it.  I kept records.  With facts and figures at my finger tips, I have debunked Obasanjo’s lies in part three of my book, consisting of one hundred and sixty five pages, sixty nine pictures, thirteen military strategies and tactics, maps and documents.  This was the same Obasanjo who published a fake Federal Government gazette that I was found guilty by the Army when I was never tried.  I have proved that Obasanjo was an incompetent commander. I have proved that he was a wily and cunning fellow, and an incredible opportunist who reaped where he did not sow.
I have proved that he was an ingrate and a hypocrite. More importantly, I have proved that he was a coward, who ran away from the war front to go and look for phantom ammunition.  Rather than respond to my claims the way a gallant officer should, he has now responded like a motor-park tout, impugning my person and questioning my ethnic lineage. I never said I was from Ibadan. I only schooled there.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Central African Republic's Hidden Conflict

International Crisis Group

Away from the international spotlight, the Central African Republic’s rural areas are turning into fields of violence as war over territory and livestock hits a highly vulnerable population, with effects increasingly felt in neighbouring Cameroon and Chad.

“The country’s crisis has exacerbated old conflicts and produced new ones. Rural Central African Republic is now the stage for a violent competition over livestock, the wealth of the poor”.
Thibaud Lesueur, Crisis Group’s Central Africa Analyst

In its latest briefing, The Central African Republic’s Hidden Conflict, the International Crisis Group examines a dangerous conflict-within-a-conflict requiring urgent action by the transitional government and its international partners. Targeted by anti-balaka militias and ex-Seleka fighters, many pastoralist communities are left in extreme poverty and forced to flee. Tens of thousands cross the border to Cameroon and Chad where, in turn, land pressure intensifies. Many of the victims seek retribution or join armed groups to survive, becoming actors in a conflict that divides communities and damages a pillar of the traditional economy.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Gospel According To St. Obasanjo (1)

By Dan Amor 

For all it may be worth, the last tirade against President Goodluck Jonathan by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, is certainly one of the salvos intended to weaken the support base of the President as his enemies led by Obasanjo plan to hit him below the belt. But the reactions of Nigerians of varied backgrounds to Obasanjo's old tricks show that Nigerians are no fools. The people's condemnation of Obasanjo's arrant hypocrisy has been overwhelming. The first reaction came from no less a personality than the traditional ruler of Lagos, His Majesty Oba Rilwan Akiolu,  who said that Obasanjo's government was the most corrupt in the history of Nigeria. The respected monarch cannot be more correct. Amidst Obasanjo's catalogue of anti-corruption verbal interventions, the question that now begs for an urgent answer is: is Obasanjo among the Saints? 


Due largely to the lamentable short memory of homosepiens, it seems as though we have forgotten so soon about the person of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and his recent past. But the poor boy from Owu Village in Ogun State was led by fortuitous and opportunistic circumstances to have a rendezvous with history and destiny. Against his will and command, Obasanjo became head of state after the assassination of his boss, General Murtala Muhammed. He was said to have been the man who launched Nigeria into the estranged comity of heavily indebted nations when he took the first ever N1 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan in 1978 when the Nigerian currency was 75 kobo to the United States dollar. It was said that more than half of this money was not accounted for by General Obasanjo while a fraction of it was left for the incoming administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in October 1979.

2015 Presidential Election: Where Are The Women?

By Banji Ojewale

In politics if you want anything said ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman – Margret Hilda Thatcher, ex-British Prime Minister

Last year the government in Romania heeded this counsel from the late British leader, Baroness Thatcher. The authorities, gravely worried by high profile corruption slowly killing the country, appointed a woman, Laura Codruta Kovesi, to man the nation’s National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA). Within a very short time this 41-year-old 1995 law graduate has turned the  formerly  quiescent agency into a viable attack dog mauling down those who had themselves been bringing down the economy and politics of Romania with their corrupt practices.

*Laura Codruta Kovesi

She has become the most feared public office holder on account of her exploits in an attempt to do what was thought to be impossible: battling graft in high places to a standstill and arresting its spread. Although as in Nigeria, she is horrified that the citizens have expressed  distaste for corruption, they still keep voting for politicians suspected or convicted of larceny.  “ It is extremely difficult to explain this contrast,” Kovesi laments.

But according to an international news magazine report last week, this depressing situation has not discouraged  the woman. A New York Times writer, Andrew Higgins, says: “Since Ms. Kovesi took over D.N.A last year, what was a trickle of high-profile arrests and prosecutions has become a flood. Nearly all have ended in convictions, with her prosecutors recording a success rate of over 90 percent.

Buhari Can Only Offer 'Tired Ideas, Provocative Utterances' - PDP

Press Statement

December 11, 2014

2015: PDP Welcomes Buhari To The Race, 
Insists Jonathan Is The Best 

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has welcomed the emergence of former Military Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari as the Presidential flagbearer of Bola Tinubu's All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 general elections.


This will be the fourth time General Buhari will be contesting in the presidential elections. On each of the three previous occasions, he failed to articulate a vision of the future that was acceptable to Nigerians. On each occasion his brand of politics was rejected across Nigeria. Apart from changing to a dinner suit, General Buhari, has not changed the tired ideas and provocative utterances that Nigerians rejected in previous elections.

We hope that this time round, General Buhari will conduct a campaign that is issue based and devoid of ethno-religious sentiments.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Obama: Racism ‘Deeply Rooted’ In U.S.

President Obama and his family several years ago
Addressing protests over minorities killed by police officers, President Obama said racism is “deeply rooted” in the U.S. and that activists should keep pressing steadily in their demands for reform.
“This is something that is deeply rooted in our society, it’s deeply rooted in our history,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with BET, a portion of which was released Sunday. “When you’re dealing with something as deeply rooted as racism or bias … you’ve got to have vigilance but you have to recognize that it’s going to take some time, and you just have to be steady so you don’t give up when we don’t get all the way there.”
Mr. Obama held meetings at the White House last week with young civil-rights activists who are protesting the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer last August in Ferguson, Missouri.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Wole Soyinka's Demonization Of President Jonathan

By Dan Amor

In a feat of acerbic verbal tantrums, Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka Tuesday December 2, attacked President Goodluck Jonathan and likened the Nigerian leader to Nebuchadnezzar, the Biblical autocrat and king of Babylon who initially denounced the Living Supreme God. Soyinka who addressed a press conference on the state of the nation at the popular Freedom Garden in Lagos, said that Jonathan is tyrannical because the Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba, stopped the attempt by the defected speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, to enter the Green Chamber of the National Assembly with thugs. The respected professor of dramatic literature who is clearly biased in his recent pronouncements given his current alignment with top leaders of the opposition political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), said so many unprintable things against the administration of President Jonathan. 

*President Jonathan and Prof Soyinka 

Indeed, the distinguished playwright is entitled to his opinion especially in a wide democratic space in which freedom of association and of speech is the norm. But it is unfortunate that the renowned literary icon could allow his judgment to be beclouded by ahistorical considerations. By this recent act of likening Jonathan to Nebuchadnezzar, Soyinka has come down from his Olympian height as a global citizen and statesman to the sheer pedestrian rabble of petty villainy and rancour. It is a pointer to the fact that every great intellectual has his weak points. Our own Kongi is no exception. Even with the unsavory political development in Anambra State in 2004 which led to the unfortunate withdrawal of the security personnel of former Governor Chris Ngige after his attempted abduction by the police, no Nigerian, not even Professor Chinua Achebe who rejected former President Olusegun Obasanjo's national award due to that crisis, went as far as comparing the former President with Nebuchadnezzar. 

Ben Bruce: Heading For The Senate

By Banji Ojewale
As it is going to be with the next set of Senators of the United States of America, where new faces, the majority being the Republicans, are coming up, Nigeria in 2015 may witness a similar displacement of old hands in its Senate. I am not making any attempt to predict bloc party victory or defeat.

Ben Murray Bruce
(pix: thenewsnigeria)

There is always some tricky of impreciseness in it for analysts. In the case of the US, it was perhaps “easy” for the Cable News Network (CNN) to arrive  at its 246-Senate seat forecast for the Republicans in the November 2014 ballot because of the near-infallible opinion poll system in the country. CNN journalists and experts relied on such advanced sampling techniques as computer technology and sociological and psychological research.  
But it was not always so. The pollsters of the previous age plunged the US into trouble when their statistics misled the nation’s media. In the 1948 Presidential election, the “soothsayers” predicted victory for the Republican candidate Thomas Dewey. Now without waiting for the official count of the vote after the ballot, US newspapers declared in screaming headlines: Dewey defeats Truman.

Friday, November 28, 2014

'Zuma Is A Thief, I Am Not Going To Withdraw It!' - Mashabela (MP)

Recently, serious chaos, and eventually a fight erupted in the South African National Assembly as an MP, Ms. Ngwanamakwetle Mashabela of the Julius Melema-led Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), while addressing the House, described South African President, Jacob Zuma, as a “thief” and “criminal.” Asked by the House chairman, Cedrick Frolick, to withdraw the statement, she refused and instead continued to repeat the same words. She insisted on  remaining on the podium and also  completing her speech despite an order by Mr. Frolick for her to stop and leave the podium. As several MPs sought to talk, and Ms. Mashabela stood her ground, chaos was unleashed in the House.  The eventual invitation of the police to escort the defiant MP out of the Legislative chambers led to a scuffle which badly degenerated, as punches were reportedly exchanged. See Video BELOW

Praying For Nigeria

Banji Ojewale

Owing to the prevalent situation in Nigeria, I am being asked to repeat the following article with slight additions to reflect the political and socio-economic circumstances on the ground. We certainly need the intervention of a Higher Force to guide us as we pass through this period.


(pix: goddiscussions)

The famous French writer Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States of America in the first half of the 19th century and returned with reports of how great America had become not too long after it had emerged from its War of Independence and passed through the teething problems of nation-building. His extensive tour led him to probe the source of this eminence. 

When Tocqueville had undertaken an arduous search, he wrote: “I sought for the greatness of the United States in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich higher learning and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic congress and her matchless constitution and it was not there. Not until I went to the churches of America did I understand the secret of her genius and power”.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ebola: First Clinical Trial Of Vaccine Yields Positive Results

(pix: en-africatime)

An experimental Ebola vaccine tested on 20 volunteers appears to be safe and producing the immune response expected within four weeks of receiving the dose.
Half of the test group received a higher-dose shot, and those people produced more antibodies, says a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Some people also developed a different set of virus-fighting immune cells, named T cells, doctors found.
Research on monkeys had also noticed such a combination response, reports AP.
Calling it "a promising factor," Anthony Fauci, director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which led the vaccine work, said the response was comparable to what had produced protection in the animals.
The researchers reported no serious side effects other than high fever which subsided in a day. A booster shot may be needed, say experts, going by the results in monkey trials.

Sierra Leone: Ebola May Have Reached Peak - Official

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's 
temperature being taken by a Chinese soldier 
before the opening of a new Ebola virus clinic 
sponsored by China, in Monrovia, Liberia, 
Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014 (pix: ibtimes)

The Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, which has been surging in recent weeks, may have reached its peak and could be on the verge of slowing down, Sierra Leone's information minister said Wednesday.
But in a reminder of how serious the situation is in Sierra Leone, a ninth doctor became infected Wednesday and the World Health Organization said the country accounted for more than half of the new cases in the hardest-hit countries in the past week. By contrast, infections appear to be either stabilizing or declining in Guinea and Liberia, where vigorous campaigning for a Senate election this week suggests the disease might be loosening its grip.

In all, 15,935 people have been sickened with Ebola in West Africa and other places it has occasionally popped up. Of those, 5,689 have died. The case total includes 600 new cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in just the past week, according to the WHO.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mali: Last Chance In Algiers

Africa Briefing N°10418 Nov 2014
The full briefing is available in French

As northern Mali experiences renewed violence, peace negotiations in Algiers offer a unique opportunity to resolve the crisis. But after almost two months of negotiations, peace remains a distant hope. The Malian government and participating armed groups have struggled to find common ground. Influential radical groups that are absent from the negotiating table are tempted to resort to violence to derail the process. 

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita
 Conflict resolution will require reconciliation of competing interests regarding security in the Sahara, organisation of the Malian state structure and local balance of power between divided communities in the north. In the face of armed clashes, it is tempting for mediators to move quickly to achieve a deal that would only guarantee security in the short term. But rushing the process will not help. Time is needed to build the foundations of sustainable peace.
After months of deadlock, Algeria arranged international mediation that had long been handicapped by institutional rivalries. The mediation team led by Algeria should maintain this momentum and take the time necessary to build broad consensus for a future agreement. The document that serves as a basis for the drafting of a final agreement is a useful first step, but it offers solutions that have shown serious limitations in the past. It presents the crisis as a centre-periphery conflict without acknowledging the divides within northern communities. It does not provide for political and security institutions that would ensure equitable access to resources and responsibilities for all communities.

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