United States

If Haiti and Africa are considered “sh**holes,” then the United States must hold responsibility

During a heated meeting with lawmakers concerning immigration to the United States, President Donald Trump was reported to have made derogative comments about Haiti and several African countries. Trump has been accused of arguing against people from ‘sh**hole countries’ coming to the United States, preferring to accept immigrants from countries such as Norway. Although Trump has since denied making the remarks about Haiti and Africa (despite the reputable sources from officials present at the meeting), the US President has been widely criticised for his comments and has received a barrage of complaints from policy-makers and political commentators both within the United States and across the world. Trump’s recent comments only fuel public accusations that he is a racist, and provide further weight to the notion that he is overwhelmingly unfit for office. However, despite the intolent and abhorrent conjectures behind Trump’s scolding of Haiti and Africa, is there an ounce of truth in the US President’s remarks?

In many senses, the answer is yes. Both Haiti and several African countries have been economically deprived for decades, and have been marred by poverty and political instability. Haiti is undoubtedly the poorest country in the Americas and one of the poorest in the world, with a GDP per capita of US$846 in 2014. The World Bank stated that six million of Haiti’s 10.4 million inhabitants live under the national poverty line of US$2.41 per day, with a third of those living in extreme poverty. Haiti’s economy is also heavily depedent on external finance – particularly from Venezula, and has an increasing fiscal deficit, particularly due to poor management of public expenditure and the country vulnerability to natural disasters, e.g. Hurricane Matthew. Moreover, Haiti has been plauged by political instability and corruption, and has struggled to embed democracy succesfully, with coup d’état’s an ever-present reality throughout the country’s history. These issues have been influential in the dramatic rise of Haitian-born immigrants in the United States over the last 25 years. This is despite the US government’s extrodinary efforts to block illegal immigration from the country, as noted by the Migration Policy Institute.

Similiarly, many African countries have also suffered from extreme poverty and political and economic trepidation, despite the rich abundance of resources across the region. Despite recent growth over the last decade, which has partly been driven by an increase in domestic demand and foreign investment, Africa remains the poorest continent in the world. Several African countries have had particular trouble with managing fluctuating commodity prices on global markets, largely due to their depedency on a single agricultural commodities as a source of revenue. In addition, Africa has suffered from a plethora of natural disasters, rampant outbreaks of disease – particularly HIV/AIDs and tuberculosis, and has had an unwavering reliance on foreign aid. This is without mentioning the emergence of brutal dictatorships throughout Africa during 1960s and 1970s, and the ever-present reality of fierce tribal differences that have often been the precursor to civil war in many countries. Evidence from Pew Research Centre shows that although Africans make up a small number of the United States’ immigrant population (4.8% in 2015), immigration from Africa has approximately doubled in every decade since 1970, demonstrating the extent of development crisis in Africa.

However, Trump’s comments – and indeed my previous assessments of Haiti and Africa, ignore the significant role that the United States has played in creating the conditions that have predisposed the two regions to such negative attitudes. Firstly, the historical relationship between the United States and Haiti has been mostly oppresive by the former against the latter. Due to its geographical location, the United States have had a persistent interest and influence in the political and economic conditions in Haiti over the last 200 years. Although maintaining its trade relationship with Haiti following its indepedence from France in 1804, the United States failed to recognise Haiti’s freedom until 1862 (incidently not until the American Civil War), due to a fear that it could result in an slave uprising in Southern states. For much of the 19th century, the United States monitored Haiti with great suspicion and perceived the free state as a threat to its future ambitions.

The lack of political support for Haiti by the United States was most evident in the country’s sparadoic military interventions in the country throughout its early history, culminating in the eventual occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934, which added fuel to the deep political tensions that had existed in the country since its birth. Since then, the United States have played a dominant role in damaging the Haitain economy, largely through their support of the brutal ‘anti-communist’ regimes of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, which led to widespread corruption and the death of millions, and its influence in driving ill-suited political and economic reform policies, particularly during the 1990s. As of 2016, Haiti’s GDP was roughly  £8 billion – approximately 0.4% of the United States’ GDP in the same year, demonstrating the gulf in economic performance between the two countries.

The United States’ relationship with Africa is of course well-documented, and the lasting impact of slavery on the continent cannot be understated. However, more pertinent to the floudering foundations within modern-day Africa is the United States’ calculated economic and political incentives in the region since the 1960s. In order to secure its global dominance following the Second World War and deligitimise communism as a political ideology, the United States endeavoured to remove several left-leaning or “anti-American” regimes across the region. This led to political instability and civil unrest across the continent, with the United States intervening in several countries, irrespective of their accordance to ‘good governance’ and democracy. Examples include the removal of Patrice Lumumba from Congo in 1960 and the CIA-led coup in Chad in 1980.

The United States’ political involvement in Africa is closely associated with their economic agenda throughout the continent, prescribed through the ‘Washington Consensus’ and expoused by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.  This has forced African countries to liberalise their economies to stimulate trade and foreign investment, decentralise state systems, float their fragile currencies and privatise key industries, all unpinned by an apparatus that ‘encouraged’ large borrowing to the continent to finances their economic transformation. Both the political and economic incentives of the United States has decimated many African countries, who have since had to contend with crippling debts, and poorly managed infrastructures and resources. Albeit several African countries appear to be on the road to recovery – boasting levels of growth similar to that of East Asia during the 1990s, the legacy of US involvement in the region remains.

Of course, it would be wrong to ignore the impact of other internal and external factors in effecting the development of Haiti and Africa. However, Trump’s derogative statements about the two regions suggests a lack of knowledge and antipathy for the extent to which the United States has contributed to their lacklustre growth. In fact, rather than to follow the cynical narrative that has now become synonymous with Haiti and Africa, the World should reflect on the great strides both areas have made in overcoming the imperialist claw of the United States. Haiti and Africa are not “sh**hole” countries – and if Trump thinks they are, maybe his country should look in the mirror first.

Is the world still concerned that over 200 schoolgirls remain missing in Nigeria?…

Once Michelle Obama joined the worldwide calls for the restoration of the missing schoolgirls in Nigeria – mercilessly kidnapped by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, it appeared that the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaign had successfully galvanised the world’s leaders into actioning the swift return of the young children. However despite a growing international concern and the various measures implemented by the Nigerian government in rectifying the predicament, as of yet the schoolgirls remain in captivity. Thus, compounded by the fact that nearly four months have passed since the baneful kidnappings, are we to conclude that the world no longer cares that 200 schoolgirls linger within the hands of an organisation identified as a ‘terrorist’ group and a global threat?

Bring-Back-Our-Girls-Michelle-ObamaWhat is for the certain is that we are aware of where the abducted schoolgirls are located – at least theoretically. On 26 May 2014, a Nigerian military official confirmed that they had ‘found’ the missing girls, yet for security reasons they could not disclose their whereabouts nor could they use force to rescue them due to the possibility of ‘collateral damage.’

However, it appears that this was a disguise for the evident ineffectiveness of the Nigerian government, who have not only failed to curb and address the actions of Boko Haram in the past (let alone in this instance) but have also allowed the Islamic group to commit over a dozen other crimes throughout the country since the abduction, including the assassination of a Muslim leader in Borno state and the seizure of the vice-prime minister’s wife. As a matter of fact, the Chibok schoolgirl kidnappings is just another episode within a catalogue of atrocities instigated by the radicals and in conjunction, is another example of the incompetence of Goodluck Jonathan and his regime in quelling Boko Haram’s growing influence in Nigeria. The conclusion of the Nigerian inquest into the kidnapping at the end of June epitomised the toothlessness of the Nigerian government, with their findings simply acknowledging the number of girls still under confinement.

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If the lacklustre attempts of the Nigerian government raises questions over whether the return of the kidnapped schoolgirls remains a priority, the actions of the world’s leaders only adds salt to the assumption that the world has turned its back on the students. Undeniably, the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaign led to widespread media coverage and raised attention of the kidnapping on an unprecedented scale, however since the world’s celebrities erected their photographs online displaying their banners of protest, the international emphathy has dramatically dwindled. In the short-term, many nations – including the United States and United Kingdom, offered support in the form of intelligence experts to aid the Nigerian’s in their search for the young children. Though, in the long-term the missing schoolgirls have largely dissapeared from the subconscious of the international political and social arenas and have become a distant memory in response to the advent of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Ebola outbreak and ultimately other pressing internal and external issues. Similarities can be made between the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ and ‘Kony 2012’ campaigns, both of which became worldwide phenomena overnight but fundamentally depreciated due to a lack of perpetual support for the respective causes in the long haul.

So, is the world still concerned that over 200 schoolgirls remain missing in Nigeria? seemingly not, however it is important that we continue to raise awareness of the abducted students and not confine the crimes of Boko Haram into the abyss of unsolved mysteries. Importantly, although we live in the world where news is constantly changing, we should grow to become more vigilant in sustaining our campaigns against the atrocities we witness – wherever it may be in the world, as people power (as in this case) has proved in past to be an affective lobbying tool in determining the actions of politicians. However, we must refrain from our Western-centric perceptions and apprehend that the plight of anyone in world is parallel to our own understanding of how people should be treated, particularly when it concerns children. Ultimately though, we can only begin to imagine what the reaction would be if over 200 girls went missing at the hands of ‘terrorists’ in the Western world...

Why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a product of miscalculated foreign intervention

In the ongoing struggle between Israel and Palestine, one question that surely springs into the minds of the world’s populace is what will (if anything) bring the two conflicting states together? Well what is certainly apparent is that a feasible solution has yet to emerge. Indeed, what has been particularly detrimental to the reconciliation process is the largely unsuccessful interventions of foreign countries in the affairs of the Israeli and Palestinian people.israel_palestine

Historically, the ‘Holy Land’ has always been a matter of contention between the Judeo-Christian and Arab world, however it would be an over assumption to suggest that the conflict between Israel and Palestine stemmed from an uneasy relationship between the Abrahamic religions in the past. As Mark A. Tessler noted in 1994, the conflict is not based on primordial antagonisms, and it has only been over the last century that Jews and Arabs began to view one another as enemies. In reality, it was not until the fall of the Ottoman Empire as a consequence of the  their defeat in the First World War that tensions in the area emerged. More importantly, the fall of the Ottoman dynasty would also stimulate a growing incentive by nations across the world to influence the destiny of Palestine, largely without considering the consequences of their actions.

For centuries, the Ottomans had solidified its domination over Palestine, and had governed the largely Arab population without any significant resistance. Yet, by the turn of the 20th century the Ottoman Empire was struggling to survive, hampered by a weakening economy, internal and external threats to its territory, and a lack of military modernisation – particularly in comparison to its rivals in Europe. Coinciding with the burgeoning Zionist movement – which promoted the idea of a Jewish homeland in the ‘Land of Israel’ (although other areas, such as Uganda and Saudi Arabia were also considered), the future of Palestine became increasingly uncertain. Ultimately however, the fatal decision of the Ottomans to align with the Central Powers would be the catalyst to the tensions in the ‘Holy Land’ in the future.

The Ottoman Empire’s eventual defeat at the hands of British during the First World War would result in Palestine being surrendered to Britain under the terms of the Balfour Declaration. However, although the British had initially signed an agreement with Arab leaders in 1915 which promised the sovereignty of Palestine in exchange for their support in the war effort – culminating in the Arab Revolt in 1916, the Balfour Declaration effectively lobbied for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine in appeasement of Zionist movement. As a result, driven by their own individual interests in the area, Britain had given promises both to the Arabs and Jews over the sovereignty of Palestine, causing either side to claim their right to the land. The falsehood of Britain’s promises would lead to tensions between the Arabs and Jews in Palestine throughout the inter-war period, as Jewish migration dramatically increased. As a consequence, the Palestinian nationalist movement matured in response to the growing strength of the Zionist cause.

The British administration over Palestine would expire in 1948. However, following the events of the  Second World War – the Holocaust and the Arab leadership in Palestine alignment with Nazi Germany (a decision undoubtedly influenced by Britain’s ‘betrayal’ of the Palestinian cause after the First World War), the overall consensus of the recently formed United Nations was to partition Palestine into an independent Jewish and Arab state. This decision was widely objected by the Arabs, particularly due to the fact that the Jewish population in Palestine was a minority at the time. As a result of the creation of Israel, a large portion of the Arab population would be enclosed within the new Jewish state. The post-war world were defiant that the Jewish population’s call for a home would be accepted – particularly in response to the atrocities Jews had suffered, who were unwilling to compromise their newfound home against Arab objections to the partitioning of Palestine. Thus, the eventual declaration of the Jewish state of Israel on 14 May 1948, as supported by the United Nations would sow the seeds to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Throughout the last 65 years war, has continuously broken out in the region between Israeli and Arab populations as a result of  the creation of the Jewish state, leading to mass killings and millions of citizens forcibly being expelled or fleeing from their homelands in both Israel and in the Palestinian territories. In 1948 war broke out between Israel and Palestine (backed by Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq), however only a year later Israel defeated its Arab neighbours and in turn, seized further territory within Palestine which were later incorporated into the new Jewish state. Furthermore, despite their defeat the Arab states divided the Palestinian territory amongst themselves, with the Gaza Strip and the West Bank being incorporated by Egypt and Jordan respectively.

Seemingly, this was  an opportunity for Palestine’s neighbours to share the spoils in the newly independent territory. Without the intervention of the United States – who were engaging in a global power struggle with the Soviet Union, and the lacklustre attempts by the United Nations to cease fighting, the future of Palestine was once again determined without legitimate consideration for the Palestinian people. This was compounded by the Tripartite Declaration in 1950, which was a joint statement by the United States, France and Britain which cemented the territorial agreement in Palestine after the war of 1948-49. This was despite the fact that the West would aid Israel economically and militarily during this 1950s, as well the Soviet Union’s own efforts to strengthen the Egyptian army. The Suez Crisis in 1956 also demonstrated Egypt’s own intention to maximise its own strengths in Palestine under the leadership of Nasser, further elucidating the impact of foreign intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel would be victorious once again against the Arab states during the Six Day War in 1967, resulting in further territory being captured, including the remaining Arab lands of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the incredibly fractious Jerusalem, effectively incorporating the whole of the Palestine in the process. It also demonstrated the  unwillingness of the Arab states to support the Palestinian cause.  The ultimate repercussions would be a strenuous relationship between the Palestinian freedom fighters and its Arab neighbours – signified during the Jordanian-Palestinian War and the Lebanese War. The United States perceived support for Israel, especially during Johnson’s tenure as president has only damaged relations further between Israel and Palestine, and by extension the rest of the Arab world. Significantly, although the peace process began in the 1990s after years of further animosities in the region – giving Palestine greater autonomy in the area in the process, as of yet neither side has been able to co-exist in amity and tensions continue today.

I090203-Jewish-peace-1[1]n conclusion, before we simply jump on to the ‘anti-Israeli’ and ‘Free Palestine’ bandwagon, it is important to assess the impact of foreign powers in solidifying the untenable relationship between Israel and Palestine.  Although it would be foolish to ignore that there are obvious nationalist motivations that have exacerbating the conflict from either side, the actions of foreign nations have only contributed in intensifying the internal differences as a consequence of their egotistical nature of their individual agendas. Ultimately, if we are to solve the enigma of the Israel/Palestine conflict in which both sides can have their nationalist potential realised, the nations of the world must avoid dwelling into the narrow-mindedness that has existed in the resolution process in the past, and give fair consideration to the claims of either side before we can even begin to hope for peace.