Tag Archives: UN

Congolese diamond deportees ‘need help’

The UN refugee agency has warned that Angola’s deportation of more than 300,000 nationals from the Democratic Republic of Congo this month has left them in an extremely precarious situation.

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The UNHCR said there were many allegations that migrants had been killed, reportedly by the Angolan security forces, with six deaths confirmed.

It urged the Congolese government to help the returnees, saying that many had insufficient access to food, water, healthcare and proper sanitation.

The mass expulsions coincide with the Angolan government’s plan to reform its diamond industry; large numbers of Congolese had worked in informal mining operations.


Cover photo: Angola accuses the Congolese migrants of digging for diamonds illegally. Photo: Reuters

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Ghana mourners ‘upset over Annan’s covered casket’

Ghanaians are continuing to pay respects to Kofi Annan, the former UN chief whose body is currently lying in state at the Accra International Conference Centre.

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Many are continuing come to pay their respects to him ahead of his funeral on Thursday.

But according to Ghana’s CitiFM, there has been some upset that the casket is covered.

The news website quoted a mourner as saying: “We were surprised and we just came and saw the casket closed with a Ghana flag [draped over it]. So we were just asking that; did we come to observe the Ghana flag or we came to observe [him].

Ghanaian funeral rites are elaborate – and the BBC’s Mayeni Jones has tweeted a video of a procession from Mr Annan’s home state of Akwamu arriving at the centre.

Here are some close-up shots, taken by the BBC’s Ayo Bello, of the paramount chiefs’ magnificent ceremonial umbrellas: 450068c2-a8a8-4e53-b517-be881f7009ca9efd53b6-f4e2-4299-9a5f-016c504e8c60 Part of the events on Wednesday have included officials paying their respects to Mr Annan’s relatives. The tweet below shows members of a peacekeeping training centre in Ghana, named after Mr Annan, greeting family members:

Mr Annan, the second African to become UN secretary-general, died aged 80 last month.

He served two terms, from 1997 to 2006, and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian work.

Sri Lankan ‘war criminals’ hired as UN peacekeepers

Confidential report says officers implicated in the abuse of Tamils were operating in Africa.

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The UN has been sending alleged war criminals to act as peacekeepers in conflict zones, a confidential report claims.

The document, seen by the Observer, and sent to the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations last month, claims that senior Sri Lankan officers accused of war crimes have been deployed to UN operations in Mali, Lebanon, Darfur and South Sudan.

Drawn up by the South-Africa based International Truth and Justice Project, the 41-page document, marked confidential, claims a cohort of senior Sri Lankan commanders who have been deployed to UN operations were involved in alleged abuses during the final phase of war with Tamil rebels in 2009.

Among them is a commander sent to oversee UN peacekeeping operations in Mali, west Africa, and who controlled Sri Lankan troop divisions alleged to have committed war crimes during the finale of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war, which left at least 100,000 people dead.

Another Sri Lankan commander said to be implicated in alleged abuses was appointed to lead a UN peacekeeping mission earlier this year, but was not eventually deployed.

However, it is confirmed that in 2016 a senior Sri Lankan officer was sent to Darfur, western Sudan, and another was deployed to South Sudan where fighting continues. Although the UN has introduced a vetting process for Sri Lankan soldiers involved in its peacekeeping missions, which is designed to screen out anyone who was involved in frontline combat positions in the final phase of the country’s civil war, campaigners say it has failed.

During the military offensive, reports of gross violations of international humanitarian law emerged, including allegations of repeated targeted attacks on civilians, hospitals and extrajudicial killings.

Yasmin Sooka, executive director of the International Truth and Justice Project, who has sat on a UN commission inquiry into sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, said: “Sri Lanka’s security forces were involved in mass atrocities in 2009, for which there has been zero accountability – instead, alleged war criminals have been promoted and rewarded with prestigious and lucrative UN postings.

“This is an affront to those they are supposed to be protecting in Mali and Lebanon – as well as to victims in Sri Lanka who are desperate for justice. The UN needs to ensure countries like Sri Lanka publish the names and photographs of their peacekeepers a reasonable period before deployment, so that civil society can play a role in vetting them. Peacekeeping is a privilege, not a right – only the very best should represent the country.”

Her comments follow concerns raised by Tory MP Paul Scully, chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Tamils, who in May wrote to the UN’s peacekeeping operations asking for details of the vetting and screening process of members of Sri Lanka’s Special Task Force who may be deployed by the UN.

His letter makes reference to a senior Sri Lankan special task force officer “who appears to be currently deployed in Africa in a UN peacekeeping role, despite there being allegations that he was involved in ordering summary executions of Tamils in the east of Sri Lanka during the war”.

A UN Peacekeeping spokesperson said it was developing a strict vetting process with Sri Lanka to ensure all peacekeepers met their standards.

The UN said it was working with the government of Sri Lanka to ensure that the country’s domestic screening process complied with the UN’s policy on screening personnel. “This is necessary before the UN can receive any further deployments or rotations from Sri Lanka,” it added. It is important that all procedures and institutional arrangements are in place so that the domestic screening process can meet these requirements.

“The national Human Rights Commission plays a key role in this process and we trust the government will facilitate its important work.”

SOURCE: The Guardian, UK

“Block oil sales” – Libya to UN after clashes between rival factions

Move comes after strongman Khalifa Haftar takes control of key Gulf of Sirte oil terminals.

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An image purporting to show an oil storage tank on fire at the Ras Lanuf terminal last week. Photo: Reuters

Libya’s oil industry – the sole reliable source of revenue for the strife-torn country – has been plunged into chaos after its United Nations-recognised government was forced to urge the UN to block any sales from its main oil terminals.

The key terminals in the east of the country were captured from local militias last week by the so-called Libyan National Army, headed by strongman Khalifa Haftar. But on Tuesday Haftar announced his forces would send the revenues to a rival oil corporation in the country’s east rather than the UN-recognised National Oil Corporation (NOC).

Nigeria warns UN of nuclear weapons threat

The Nigerian government has warned that the continued existence of nuclear weapons remains a threat to all mankind.

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It stated this in its statement to the general debate of the 2018 Substantive Session of the UN Disarmament Commission by Faisal Ibrahim, first secretary, Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the UN.

“The cost of maintenance and modernisation of these weapons are both outrageous and inexcusable, when compared to resources allocated by States for more useful and productive ventures.

“These more useful and productive ventures could further the growth, development, prosperity and other peaceful and positive articulation of human endeavours,” the statement said.

It highlighted the 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which affirmed that the threat or use of nuclear weapons constitutes a crime against humanity.

The country added that the ICJ’s opinion also affirmed that the threat or use of nuclear weapons constituted a violation of international law, including international humanitarian law.

Nigeria reiterated its view about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that could result from either a deliberate use and/or unintentional explosion of nuclear weapons.

It said these consequences should serve as a compelling reason for all states to address the question of the continued possession of nuclear weapons.

“Nuclear weapons still remain the ultimate agents of mass destruction and their total elimination should be the final objective of all disarmament processes within the broad spectrum of goals being pursued by the United Nations.

“To this end, my delegation heartily welcomes the adoption of the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which opened for signature on 20 September 2017.

“My delegation remains proud to have participated actively in the processes leading to its adoption, as well as being one of the first countries to sign the treaty.

“Our commitment was guided by Nigeria’s principled position on the denuclearization of the world.”

Nigeria stressed that the universalisation of the Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was dependent upon strict compliance with its three pillars: disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

“As a State Party to the Treaty of Pelindaba, Nigeria welcomes the establishment of Nuclear Weapon Free Zones (NWFZ) in parts of the world.

“The treaty serves as a shield for the continent of Africa, including preventing the stationing of nuclear explosive devices on the continent and prohibiting testing of nuclear weapons.”

Nigeria noted that the NWFZ serves as a measure to ensure a world free from the fear or possibility of the use of nuclear weapons.

It, therefore, called on all Member States to support efforts to replicate it in the remaining parts of the world, including in the Middle East.

Nigeria stressed the need for peaceful uses of outer space, particularly, preventing the weaponisation of the outer space to preserve peace and security to the benefit of all mankind.

“In this regard, we strongly support the negotiation of a treaty preventing an arms race in outer space and for interim transparency and confidence-building measures toward that end.

“Nigeria remains committed to using its space science capabilities for developmental purposes and, to that end, we have embarked on several developmental projects.

“Some of which include desertification sensitivity index, population dissymmetric analysis and carbon emission assessment, among others.

“Nigeria firmly believes that space technology has the immense potential to benefit both developed and developing countries.

“And in this regard the UN needs to promote equal and non-discriminatory access to outer space, irrespective of levels of social, economic or scientific development.

“Nigeria wishes to highlight the efforts of UN Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament in terms of their contributions to disarmament measures and other future challenges.”

It noted the valuable input of the Centre in Africa, particularly in its efforts to ensure the provision of a robust programme on capacity-building and in extending technical assistance to many States on the continent. (NAN)


SOURCE: Premium Times

US, UN silent on Kenya TV closure by government

THE US and the UN, despite having built a reputation globally as defenders of freedom of expression, continue to maintain an unusual silence as the Kenya government clamps down on independent journalists and media.

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Journalists camp outside Nation Centre on January 31, 2018 following reports that police wanted to arrest NTV Managing Editor Linuis Kaikai. The US and the UN, despite having built a reputation globally as defenders of freedom of expression, continue to maintain an unusual silence over the TV shutdown in Kenya. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Both have so far not criticised the move to shut down NTVKTN News and Citizen TV.

In the Kenyan case, UN and US have so far been unwilling to denounce the government’s action of violating press freedom.

State Department officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday — 48 hours after the three stations were silenced.

In remarks to reporters on Wednesday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric did not take issue with the Kenya government’s apparent attack on press freedom.

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“We would want to see an atmosphere in which media is able to operate freely,” Mr Dujarric said in response to a journalist’s question as to whether the UN is “doing anything” about the TV shutdown.

Mr Dujarric had temporised less the previous day.

“We do, of course, feel that it is critical for the media to be able to operate freely and to report freely on these situations,” he said at a press briefing in New York on Tuesday.

Then too, however, the UN spokesman avoided direct criticism of the kenya government’s action against the three TV stations.

OBASANJO

Two weeks ago, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to Kenya to help avert a political crisis that analysts warned could be sparked by Mr Odinga’s “swearing-in.”

Mr Obansanjo’s mission ended unsuccessfully.

The US had earlier expressed opposition to Mr Odinga’s initiative.

“Forming a separate or parallel government is really unhelpful,” Donald Yamamoto, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs, said in December.


SOURCE: Daily Nation

Ethnic cleansing: How US, UN failed South Sudan 

When South Sudan’s Yei region turned violent in the midst of the country’s civil war last year, a handful of U.N. and U.S. officials begged their leaders for help. Government soldiers were burning villages and slaughtering men, women and children, they warned.

Their pleas fell on deaf ears. The U.N. did not send peacekeeping troops to stay in Yei, and the U.S. continued to support South Sudan’s military, possibly in violation of U.S. law, according to an AP investigation based on dozens of internal documents and interviews.

Yei became the center of a nationwide campaign of what the U.N. calls “ethnic cleansing,” which has created the largest exodus of civilians in Africa since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. More than 1 million people have now fled to Uganda, mostly from the Yei region. And tens or even hundreds of thousands of people in South Sudan have died.

Kate Almquist Knopf, director at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the U.S. Defense Department, compared the situation in South Sudan to Rwanda.

“The same thing is happening now in South Sudan,” she said. “It’s happening on Africa’s watch. It’s happening on America’s watch. It’s happening on the United Nations’ watch.”

The U.N. says it is still considering sending a permanent peacekeeping force to Yei if it gets more troops. The U.N. now has about 12,000 peacekeepers throughout South Sudan, but U.S. officials say it would take roughly 40,000 to secure the country.

“It’s all about what resources the mission has available,” said spokesman Daniel Dickinson.

The U.S. budgeted $30 million in aid to South Sudan’s military for the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years and gave further $2 million in July for a military and security operations center. The assistance appears to violate a U.S. law prohibiting support to any unit that has committed a gross violation of human rights. South Sudanese soldiers are accused of gang-raping women and killing people, including civilians and a journalist. The government has denied “ethnic cleansing.”

A spokesperson for the State Department said military officials who received assistance “were vetted and not credibly implicated in the gross violation of human rights.”

However, the U.S. aid is a “red flag,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, who sponsored the law. “The South Sudanese security forces, like their rebel counterparts, are notorious for violating human rights without fear of being punished. We do not want the United States to be associated with such misconduct.”

South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, has received more than $1 billion in humanitarian aid every year from the U.S. and the U.N. In 2013, civil war broke out. A peace deal brokered by the U.S. and the international community collapsed in July 2016.

That month, government troops rampaged through the town of Nyori in the Yei region, according to a former local official. Like others, he spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution.

He ran into the bush to hide, and returned three days later to carnage.

“I witnessed with my own eyes, young children, they were slaughtered,” he said.

Rose Kiden fled when the soldiers swarmed her house. She said she came back to find her sister on the floor, after being raped by eight soldiers. Her husband was killed by government troops when he went to collect food.

But even as the violence near Yei spread, Kiden said, U.N. vehicles drove by without stopping.

“They didn’t do anything,” she said. “They just passed.”

When U.N. officials visited Yei in September 2016, they were horrified by stories of women gang-raped and a baby hacked with a machete.

“If the security situation is not rapidly stabilized, the protection crisis in Yei will swiftly become a multi-faceted humanitarian crisis,” said a U.N. report from Sept. 15 obtained by AP to the top U.N. leader in South Sudan at the time, Ellen Loj.

After nearly two months, the U.N. started sending small, temporary patrols to the Yei region, but the violence merely continued after they left. On Nov. 11, special advisor Adama Dieng warned about “the potential for genocide.”

That month, the U.N. decided not to send a permanent force to Yei. When asked why at her farewell press conference on Nov. 28, Loj said the U.N. did not as yet have enough troops.

“South Sudan is a big country and we cannot have a soldier behind each and every South Sudanese,” she said.

During another U.N. visit in February this year, a community leader from the Yei area said he had begged for peacekeepers three times in the past few weeks.

“We need imminent protection before it’s too late,” he said, according to an internal report. “If we get killed because we told you the truth today so be it.”

Hours later the U.N. left.

The U.S. also struggled to respond to the crisis in South Sudan, according to documents and interviews. In July 2016, the South Sudanese military fired dozens of bullets into two U.S. embassy vehicles.

Still, the U.S. continued to believe it could fix South Sudan’s military. In September, President Barack Obama sought a “long-term military to military relationship” with South Sudan and allowed military training and education, according to a letter to Congress obtained by AP.

“Once again in South Sudan, we have shown a pattern of having bad analysis, either ignoring the symptoms of the problem entirely, not seeing them, or analyzing them in the wrong way,” said Cameron Hudson, the director of African affairs at the National Security Council in the Bush administration.

The U.S. also got approval from the U.N. Security Council for 4,000 extra U.N. peacekeepers in South Sudan, but failed to get the South Sudan government to accept them.

In the fall, a dissent cable drafted within the State Department argued that U.S. support for the peace deal and failure to act was fueling violence.

“The risks of famine, continued mass atrocities, and genocide are among the highest in the world,” the draft cable said. The risks of not changing U.S. policy, it continued, “are immediate and unacceptably high.” The draft was never finalized because it did not gain enough support, and senior officials said pulling out of the peace deal would have created even more violence.

Today, more than 18,000 homes have been destroyed in the Yei region. Hundreds of people have died, and many more have fled.

A pastor from the Yei area at a refugee camp in Uganda said he felt abandoned by the U.N. and the world.

“They could have protected people’s lives,” he said. “They could have saved us from coming to this camp.”

Is not only gender violence, UN has a problem of child rape

If a United Nations official in New York raped an American child, there would be hell to pay. Similarly, if a UN official in Geneva raped a Swiss child, there would be an outcry.

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Members of a U.N. peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic allegedly turned to sexual predation, betraying their duty to protect. Photo: Washington Post

So why is it that when a United Nations official or peacekeeper rapes an African child, the organisation fails to ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted?

This a question that the world body has been avoiding for years. Only recently its top officials acknowledged that the UN has a very serious sexual violence problem.

Earlier this year UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres confirmed that UN peacekeepers and civilian staff perpetrated 145 cases of sexual exploitation and abuse involving 311 victims in 2016 alone. That is more than two victims for each case on average.

Many of the victims, by the UN’s own admission, are children. And while the numbers are huge they are likely to be the tip of the iceberg because they only represent the crimes that have been reported. More than that, these numbers are only representative of sexual crimes committed within the organisation’s peacekeeping forces.

The problem is so bad that the UN keeps an updated list of accusations against peacekeepers on a website. So far this year 32 reported cases of sexual violence have been made against peacekeeping staff.

Long-standing affair

The 2016-2017 figures are only a small portion of the sex and child rape crimes committed by UN staff and peacekeepers over at least the last 20 years. The figures don’t include the UN sex scandals in the Bosnian War dramatised in the 2010 film Whistleblower nor the long running “food for sex” scandals of the early 2000s. These involved UN peacekeepers withholding food from refugees and displaced families until they agreed to the soldiers access to their children for sex.

A 2006 Save the Children report found “abuse at all age levels from 8 to 18”. Victims older than 12 years of age were identified as being “regularly involved in selling sex”.

The report went on to say that among the children interviewed “all of the respondents clearly stated that they felt that the scale of the problem affected over half of the girls in their locations”. This is a longstanding problem that dates back to the war in Bosnia.

According to the Code Blue Campaign, a campaign set up by Aids Free World to respond to the growing UN sexual abuse scandal, the Berbérati battalion of Congolese peacekeepers in the Central African Republic were the subject of serious concerns over a period of two years 2014 to 2016.

According to Code Blue, in June 2016 UN investigators knew that a group of children was living inside the army base, making them easy prey for a battalion that had been accused of multiple counts of child rape.

To put “multiple” into statistical context let’s use the UK as a point of reference. In the UK only one in seven rapes are reported. If one assumes that the same number of rapes are reported at the UN, then the 311 cases reported in 2016 would represent over 2100 victims in a single year.

That is a figure that should be hard to ignore. Yet the UN continues to use legal and sovereign immunity claims to prevent the prosecution of offenders.

This immunity rests on challengeable legal foundations and can be waived by the UN. But the world body chooses not to waive immunity, instead using this legal fiction to protect child rapists.

Not a single one of the accusations  the UN lists on its website, and specifically those that involve the rape of children, has been prosecuted.

For at least 20 years the leadership of the UN has known about this sexual violence problem and for years it has failed to act. Indeed, former Secretary General Kofi Annan listed his failure to address the problem decisively as one of his regrets. His successor Ban Ki Moon has also acknowledged that not enough has been done.

Current Secretary General Guterres has proposed a four-part strategy to deal with the problem. This entails putting the rights and dignity of victims at the forefront of the UN’s efforts, working relentlessly to end impunity for those guilty of sexual abuse and exploitation, building a civil society network to support UN efforts, and raising worldwide awareness of the problem.

Releasing the 2016 UN annual review Guterres said,

I fully recognise that no magic wand exists to end the problem of sexual exploitation and abuse. Nevertheless, I believe that we can dramatically improve how the United Nations addresses this scourge.

Many people in power have known for decades of the sexual abuse by the UN and for some reason it continues. It is one of the reasons I quit the UN in 2009 calling out the abuse in my 2013 book “A Life Half Lived”.

Three years later, is the world just beginning to see the scale and scope of the problem? Are we today with the UN precisely where we were with the Catholic Church in the 1980s?

If we are, then as a global community, we need to do better than just “dramatically improve”. This scourge must be stopped now. Children in conflict zones need our help.


This story was first published on The Conversation, by isiting Professor, Public Policy, King’s College London

Nigeria’s population is exploding | all you need to know from the latest UN data

By the year 2050, Africa will be the most populous place in the world and Nigeria will be the third most populated country in the world. The population of Nigeria is expected to surpass that of the US to become the third as the population of China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and the United States of America will cross the three hundred million nark to make the world population just shy of 10 Billion inhabitants by 2050.

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This knowledge comes in a new UN report released by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs titled “World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision.” The report also gives some damning information about the future of Nigeria. Statistics by experts show that by 2040, Nigeria’s population growth would have quadrupled without commensurate amenities and employment to sustain it.

If there has ever been any time to discuss the future and make plans for this future, it will be now. Better than other times, there are information and data to back up the provided information for us to be concerned about our shared futures as Africans and Nigerians. A country without amenities and opportunities to provide for its citizens will degenerate into chaos which will most likely lead to loss of human capital or even worse; a war which might mean the end of a Nigeria as we know it. The theory of self-preservation extensively explains to us that humans will do anything – absolutely anything to survive and will not mind resorting to crime to do this survival.

Here are four takeaways from our already existing population explosion.

1. Legislation: Seeing as development is a long-term project, the government of Nigeria can introduce a policy now to reduce the entrants of newborns into society. Following Chinas one child policy at this time will not be a bad idea. While enforcing it might be a hassle, the government can set up checks and balances to increase its interaction with its citizens and enforce future legislations. It could come in the form of the BVN getting converted into a Social Security Number to tracks its citizens.

2. Sex Education: Nigeria likes to pride itself as a religious nation. It is not. People are still having sex, people are still getting pregnant and sometime in the last 12 months, a shipment of sex enhancing drugs was found in the North. There needs to be proper sex education – especially from the places Nigerians are fanatical about. In our Churches and Mosques, religious leaders need not shy away from topics about sex or the truth that Nigerians particularly enjoy getting under the sheets. Safe sex should be taught about, with contraceptives cheap and easy to access.

3. The strain on Economy: Lately, save for some state governments, Nigeria has been unable to cater for its people. There are currently over two million Internally Displaced People in Nigeria. The economy took a terrible hit and there have been no policies to alleviate the situations of Nigerians, with a lot of them crossing over from the middle-class table to being poor. Nigerians and the government need to have begun work yesterday. New policies need to be made. Personal interests need to be taken away from a place of power and with Nigerians having the ability in their hands come 2019, Nigerians need to vote in people with proven track record to be at the helm of affairs.

4. Declining Healthcare: What happens when Nigerian doctors are appreciated in other parts of the world – parts of the world with better opportunities for personal and professional development? They keep leaving. There currently exists an unhealthy balance in the number of doctors available to the number of people in Nigeria. With less than a million doctors in Nigeria currently, what happens when the world population increases? As a country, we need to do better for our people. The largest amount of migrant doctors to the US are Nigerians and these Nigerians are breaking and setting new records. But Nigeria remains suffering.

There are a lot of important conversations we need to have as Nigerians. A population explosion we are currently going through much like climate change is real. There is no god or God somewhere that will magically fix things for us. If there was, a dollar would equal one naira and Nigeria’s electricity problems would have been fixed years ago. We need to do better and move from making political decisions in favour of the people that provide us with rice or recharge cards to strongly minded academics, businessmen with track records.