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Philanthropist Calls African Leaders out for 'Mismanaging Resources'

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

On a speaking tour at several African venues, telcom magnate and founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation for Good Governance, philanthropist Ibrahim scolded African leaders for misusing valuable national resources.

Citing Nigeria for its rampant corruption, he observed: “Africans do excellently well when they are in Europe and United States, but they refuse to return home to develop and invest due to bad governance.”

The Sudanese-born foundation chief said, "It is time for us to accept that in a globalized marketplace, many African countries are sub-scale - are economically unviable," he said.

"The regional economic integration of Africa is vital if we are to survive, let alone compete. The GDP of all of Africa is less than that of Brazil. It is time to wake up." Still, in an interview with The Africa Report, Ibrahim said Africa was a better place to make money than the U.S. “I made millions and billions investing here,” he said. “If you want to waste all your money in American real estate, that’s your business.”

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation rewards good governance and great leadership in Africa. Dr Ibrahim has been a vocal critic of the fragmented nature of the African continent which, he says, makes Africa less likely to survive with small and economically isolated countries.

"Who are we to think that we can have 53 tiny little countries and be ready to compete with China, India, Europe, the Americans? It is a fallacy.”

Near Total Media Blackout for Egyptian 'March of a Million'

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Images of a historic popular uprising in Egypt against the 30 year rule of autocrat Hosni Mubarak have been all but blacked out by hostile media in the U.S.

A Comcast deal to carry the Middle East news wire Al Jazeera English was scrapped in 2006 and no other U.S. cable company-approved network offers it. The world class reporting by Aljazeera can, however, be seen in Canada and in a small number of American cities in Ohio, Vermont, and Washington D.C.

A similar blackout was taking place this week in Egypt as Pres. Mubarak pressed the telcom Vodaphone to turn off the internet, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. "We have been working round the clock to make sure we are broadcasting on alternative frequencies. Clearly there are powers that do not want our important images pushing for democracy and reform to be seen by the public," a Jazeera spokesman was quoted to say by the Reuters news agency.

According to Reuters, at least one million Egyptians took to the streets last week in scenes never before seen in the Arab nation's modern history, roaring in unison for President Hosni Mubarak and his new government to quit.

Mona Eltahawy, Egyptian-born columnist, in a radio interview, said: “I’ve never seen anything like it… Mubarak shuts down the internet, shuts down the train system, and shuts down almost the entire country and still they come,“ referring to the widening street protests.

Meanwhile, the managing editor of The Root, a popular Black website, wondered aloud at the silence of African Americans in a piece titled “Where Are the Black Voices on Egypt and Tunisia?”

“African Americans have traditionally been the conscience of the country on foreign policy issues,” wrote Root’s managing editor Joel Dreyfuss. “That's what makes the silence today so startling.”

He rebuked the Congressional Black Caucus for their hesitancy, and suggested that the role played by Gen. Colin Powell and Condoleeze Rice shifted the African American role from outsider to insider. “The result has been the diminution of an American voice that gave people abroad hope that at least some of us were sympathetic to their struggles,” he said.

But this silence may not matter much now, he continued. In Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, they’re on the move – with or without help from America’s political establishment.

Despite Naysayers, Black Colleges Still Relevant

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By Jesse Muhammad, Special to the NNPA from The Final Call –

(FinalCall.com) - The nation's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have served this country since 1837.

They educated freed slaves, offering educational opportunities not afforded to Blacks at White institutions during the days of legally mandated segregation.

Many highly successful CEOs, doctors, entertainers, educators, lawyers, engineers, and politicians graduated from these institutions.

Today, Black students have many more choices—leading again to questions about the relevancy, value and role of HBCUs and their future in a so-called post racial America.

“I don't understand how someone can even question the relevancy of HBCUs. HBCUs are vitally important to the entire spectrum of the educational system in America,” Dr. Julianne Malveaux told The Final Call. She serves as president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

President Obama has set a goal for the country to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020 and publically stated HBCUs are essential to achieving the target. There are 105 private and public HBCUs in the U.S., concentrated mostly throughout the Southeast, servicing over 300,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

"People try to measure the relevancy of HBCUs, but do you factor in that we're receiving a lot of first generation college students? Do you factor in the academic deficiencies coming onto the campus? We service students on Black campuses in a way that other schools don't,” added Malveaux, a noted economist.

“HBCUs will unfortunately never outlive their usefulness and relevancy until America lets go of its obsession with racism. We have witnessed that racism with the election of President Obama and we're years away from it going away. So, HBCUs are necessary,” said Dr. Lee Jones, a former dean at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater.

Dr. Jones also founded the largest organization of Black male Ph.D.-holders called the Brothers of the Academy. “Without the contributions of HBCUs, where would this country be? People cannot overlook the significant individuals that these schools produce every year,” Dr. Jones told The Final Call.

Howard University film student Akilah Muhammad greatly opposes the notion that HBCUs have become extinct. “I chose to attend a Black institution because of my family and it has met all of my expectations. Being here has given so many of us a sense of self,” Ms. Muhammad told The Final Call.

“Those who think HBCUs have lost their impact must not be interviewing students on our campuses. And, for those who think that we are missing out on diversity by attending a Black college should come see the diversity that exists within Black students from around the world,” said Muhammad, who is from Houston.

“There are so many generational stereotypes of Black colleges that are totally false. There are things you get on these campuses you can't get anywhere else, and I'm happy I chose a HBCU,” said Keiser Johnson of Brooklyn, a freshman psychology major at Howard.

“HBCUs are as relevant today as they were at their inception. Students still get a world class education without the burden of diversity that they would find at majority White schools. Plus there is still a great deal of racism,” said Jarrett Carter, a 2003 graduate of Morgan State University.

Carter's displeasure with how HBCUs have been improperly portrayed in mainstream media motivated him to create the informational website HBCUdigest.com in January 2010.

“We don't tell our stories well enough or consistent enough. We have HBCU graduates doing extraordinary things in science, entertainment, and the arts. But, how will we know that if we don't communicate it?” asked Carter.

Measuring HBCU effectiveness

Late last year, in a column titled “Black Colleges Need a New Mission,” Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley argued HBCUs have become ineffective.

“Black colleges are at a crossroads. At one time black colleges were an essential response to racism. They trained a generation of civil rights lawyers and activists who helped end segregation. Their place in U.S. history is secure. Today, however, dwindling enrollments and endowments indicate that fewer and fewer blacks believe that these schools, as currently constituted, represent the best available academic choice,” wrote Riley.

Members of the National Association for Equal Opportunity responded to the column: The group noted that HBCUs confer 22 percent of all bachelor degrees earned by Blacks, 24 percent of all bachelor's degrees awarded to Blacks in science and engineering and nearly 35 percent of all bachelor's degrees in astronomy, biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics.

“The data demonstrate clearly that HBCUs are doing the heavy lifting of educating Black students, especially, in growth and high need disciplines. Increasing numbers of other students who want to attain a degree in a smaller, richly diverse environment, are enrolling and matriculating at HBCUs,” said the group, which represents the interests of HBCUs across the country.

Hampton University president Dr. William Harvey said, “Clearly, historically Black colleges and universities do not need ‘a makeover' or ‘a new mission.' What is needed are major publications, such as the Wall Street Journal to conduct solid and sincere research so it can better appreciate the value and contributions HBCUs make.”

A 2009 Associated Press study analyzed the six-year graduation rates of 83 four-year HBCUs, finding that only 37 percent of Black students obtained degrees within six years. That's four percent lower than the national college graduation for Blacks students. Black males lag behind with a 29 percent graduation rate within six years compared to 45 percent of Black females.

Last December, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released its own report, “The Educational Effectiveness of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.”

The report listed some HBCU challenges and triumphs. “Though only about 20 percent of African-American college students attend HBCUs, 40 percent of all African-American engineers received their degrees from an HBCU. Similarly, of the top 21 undergraduate producers of African American science PhDs, 17 were HBCUs,” the report noted.

The commission found Black students report more contact with HBCU faculty than Black students at non-HBCUs.

The study noted HBCUs have less funding, less support, and fewer resources for students than comparable majority White schools. Despite having less money and fewer services, the report found no significant differences in academic success when measuring HBCUs against wealthier White institutions.

According to a 2006 National Center for Educational Statistics report, the short term economic impact of HBCUs is $10 billion annually, providing more than 180,000 full and part-time jobs.

Harvey points to success stories such as Xavier University in New Orleans educating nearly 25 percent of the approximately 6,000 Black pharmacists practicing in the country, and ranking first in the nation in placing Black students in medical schools.

The nation's top producer of Black bachelors and doctorates in engineering is North Carolina A&T and nine HBCUs cumulatively graduate more than 30 percent of all Blacks who receive engineering degrees.

“This short list of some of the research and academic activities at HBCUs refutes the assertion that HBCUs are inferior. In fact, it illustrates that some HBCUs are superior,” argues Harvey.

The role of HBCUs in 2020

Last year, the Obama administration allocated $850 million during 10 years in federal funding for HBCUs. William Foster IV believes the allocation is far less than what is needed.

“We're talking about $85 million a year split between 105 schools. That is nowhere near enough money,” said Mr. Foster, who started the HBCU Endowment Foundation in 2007, after discovering that only 20 percent of Black colleges and universities have endowments.

Dr. John Wilson, executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs, pointed out that government assistance goes beyond the budget outlays.

“We're aware that it is not enough but that's not all that we have or will do. However, the HBCU presidents were quite grateful for that assistance. But, that amount was in addition to the Title III funds that HBCUs receive. Also a quarter of a billion dollars has funded research programs,” said Wilson, a graduate of Morehouse College, a prestigious historically Black men's school in Atlanta.

Wilson was appointed in 2009 by President Obama, who signed an executive order last February renewing White House commitment to HBCUs.

The five key tasks of The White House Initiative has five new tasks for HBCUs, including improving the identity, visibility, and distinctive capabilities and overall competitiveness of HBCUs; forging national dialogue regarding new HBCU programs and initiatives; improving the ability of HBCUs to remain fiscally secure institutions; elevating the public awareness of HBCUs; and encouraging public-private investments in HBCUs.

“HBCUs have made it possible for millions of people to achieve their dreams and gave so many young people a chance they never thought they'd have—a chance that nobody else would give them,” said President Obama during a National HBCU Week reception at the White House with HBCU officials last September.

“We cannot reach that goal without HBCUs. We can't get there unless all of you are improving your graduation rates. We can't get there unless all of you are continuing to make the dream of a college education a reality for more students,” said President Obama, speaking to Black administrators and educators.

“In order for the nation to reach its educational goal of making America number one globally in college graduation, then HBCUs cannot be excluded,” added Malveaux.

Schools need Black support

“African American people need to embrace, accept and celebrate HBCUs. Not just football games and the marching bands but the education. Alumni should donate back to their school. However, even if you did not attend an HBCU, if you're Black in America you still should financially support our institutions,” said Malveaux, who also just released a new book titled “Surviving and Thriving: 365 Facts in Black Economic History.”

Carter agrees that financial support should be made by the community. “Some people don't give because they say they can't afford to give hundreds of dollars a year. But, how about you pool your dollars with someone else and give together? We can't forget that's how we elected President Obama, by giving in small amounts across the country. We can do the same thing for HBCUs,” said Carter.

Sean Walton, Jr., a law student at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, has been able to connect HBCUs from across the country via his online community TheFreshXPress.com.

“The HBCU is the pulse of young Black America and that's what our site is all about. We not only provide thought-provoking content through virtual roundtables but we engage students on the yard. The HBCU culture is very much alive from the campus to cyberspace,” said Walton, 25.

“We as HBCUs have to take responsibility to raise our games as well. We need to be a part of more cutting edge conversations regarding technology to engage our students,” said Malveaux.

According to Walton, recent polls taken by his staff revealed “HBCUs are still popular because students have a more real relationship with professors who can keep it real about what Black people face in the world.”

Human Rights Expert Blames All Sides for Ivory Coast 'Fiasco'

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By George E. Curry, NNPA Special Correspondent –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Although the most recent presidential election in Côte d’Ivoire was the most “painstakingly prepared” in African history, mistakes were made at every step that virtually guaranteed the process would end up in chaos, a former international human rights official concluded.

In an analysis of the election in which both candidates – incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and his challenger, Alassane Ouattara – claimed victory, Pierre Sane, former secretary general of Amnesty International pointed to errors that left the outcome of the voting unresolved.

“The polling process had been an intricate consensus between all the parties involved, even if there had been slips at each and every stage,” said Sane, who was born in Dakar, Senegal and is now president of the Imagine Africa Institute in Paris. “From the open air meetings to the population census, from creation of the polling list to the issue of national identity cards, from the establishment, then the re-establishment of the Independent Election Commission to the distribution of polling cards, the whole process prepared by and implemented by the authorities, the opposition and the rebels under the watchful eye of the international community was supposed to lead to an indisputable result.”

He continued, “Beyond the Elections Act and the Constitution, a Code of Conduct had been prepared by the political parties in order to guarantee compliance with the rules by all those involved in the polling competition. The cherry on the cake was that the United Nations had been called upon to certify the whole process set up. Never seen before in Africa!”

In addition to the U.N., Sane pointed to an array of institutions directly involved in the election process, including the Gbagbo government, armed rebels, the country’s major political parties, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, France, and the European Union.

Despite unprecedented international involvement, however, Sane observed: “Once it is all done with, we have two winners. This means a failure and a dead end, which may drive the country to a civil war much more ravaging than the one it went through between 2002 and 20005. And, the only outcome for the winner, whichever side it is, will be to have to rule for a long time against the other half of the country.”

With such elaborate preparations, what went wrong?

According to Sane, the first mistake was the none-enforcement of the Ouagadougou Agreement that provided the framework for the election. Under Article 3 of the agreement, rebels who had staged a failed coup against Gbagbo were required to surrender their weapons and disband two months prior to the election. But, the rebels, who control the northern part of the country, never gave up their weapons.

“Why did the international community not insist that the rebels comply with the Ouagadougou political Agreement and its four Amendments, which they themselves signed and endorsed? Why did the United Nations Security Council not order the rebels to disarm, as stipulated in the Ouagadougou Agreement that the Council endorsed? Why did Blaise Compaore, the Facilitator and leading figure in the Ouagadougou process, not apply the required pressure to ensure compliance with this crucial provision?” Sane asked. “And finally, why did the rebels and their political leader, Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, refuse to disarm despite having signed the Agreement?”

The second source of controversy was the composition and operation of the Independent Electoral Commission, whose decision has been championed by France and the U.S. Of the 31 members of the commission, Sane points out, 11 are from government bodies and 20 are from the rebel groups and their political supporters.

“It seems to be a unique situation in Africa that among the 20 representatives of the political parties and rebel groups in the Commission, 18 belong to the opposition and 2 to the party in office,” Sane said. “Even supposing that the constitutional bodies delegates (11) are close to the Government, it would still only add up to 13 against 18. One way or the other, the ‘independent’ Commission is in point of fact controlled by the opposition. Its chairman is a senior member of the opposition coalition, and a former PDCI minister in the Gbagbo cabinet.”

The third factor cited by Sane was the role of the Constitution Council, the equivalent of the Supreme Court in the United States.

“Just as it is everywhere else, Côte d’Ivoire Constitutional Council is sole judge of the constitutionality of the Laws,” Sane wrote. “It ‘controls the fairness of referendum operations and of the election of the people’s representatives’ [Article 32 of the Côte d’Ivoire constitution]. It rules on the eligibility of candidates to the presidential and legislative elections, on the disputes linked to the election of the President of the Republic and Members of Parliament. The Constitutional Council announces the final results of the presidential elections.’[Article 94 of the Constitution]

“It is under the provisions of this mandate that the Constitutional Council canceled the ballot in 7 districts (out of 8 challenged), on the grounds of 5 appeals introduced by candidate Laurent Gbagbo based on irregularities involving ‘the absence of his representatives and delegates in the polling stations; ballot-boxes stuffing; conveyance of records of proceedings by unauthorized individuals; voting obstruction; absence of polling booths; and rigging of valid vote numbers,’” the human rights advocate said. “Based on evidence provided to support the demands, the Constitutional Council canceled the ballots in the relevant districts, and re-adjusted the results, thus leading to confirm Laurent Gbagbo as the winner.”

Even though it was acting within its constitutional powers, Sane explained, it would have been better if the High Court had extended some of its deliberations.

“Since the decision of the Constitutional Council is final and not subject to appeal, and considering the unusual circumstance, why did the Council not take the time to make further inquiries on the demands submitted by candidate Laurent Gbagbo, and maybe even ask candidate Alassane Ouattara to introduce his own queries without challenging non-compliance with the deadlines? Similarly, why did it not order a new ballot in those districts disputed by requesting that the Government involve the armed forces and the United Nations troops to guarantee security in the polling stations of these 7 districts? Or just cancel the ballot, and hold it again after 45 days as outlined in the decree?”

Finally, the actions of the United Nations’ special representative were called into question. Choi Young-Jin, the special representative to U.N. General Secretary, certified the outcome of the election based on the findings of the Independent Electoral Commission and did not wait for the determination of country’s High Court. Moreover, he made that announcement at the Golf Hotel, the headquarters of Ouattara.

“Why did the United Nations Secretary General Special Representative not work on the results proclaimed by the Constitutional Council, and decide to certify them or not as was the case for the first ballot?” Sane asked. “In the event of enduring disagreement, why would he have not thoroughly checked the cancellation criteria brought forward by the Constitutional Council, and assessed their validity, and even required, under those exceptional circumstances, that Alassane Ouattara submit ‘democratic divergences.’ Then transmit a report to the Security Council?”

The former human rights executive concluded, “No election is ever perfect, whether in Africa or elsewhere. And, nobody can today pretend unequivocally that either won the presidential election…This is why a judicial body is the one to which the Law confers last resort authority to determine and decide the final outcome of the ballot.”

Major Decision Looms for New Orleans' City Council on Prison Facility

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By Seth DiStefano, Special to the NNPA from thefendersonline.com –

It’s not often that building a new prison might represent a watershed moment in criminal justice reform. But in New Orleans, Louisiana, that’s exactly what is happening.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the damage to the Orleans Parish Prison severely curtailed the ability of local authorities to maintain levels of incarceration that, until the storm hit, were the highest per capita in the country. For a city of approximately 465,000, the pre-storm prison capacity of 7,200 enabled one of the most dysfunctional and unfair criminal justice systems in the nation.

Following the destruction of Katrina, however, local governments had to build a correctional facility. What has followed can be called one of the most significant debates on criminal justice reform in the country, on one side are the local grassroots activists, criminal justice experts, and good government advocates, on the other, is the pro-incarceration, politically entrenched Sheriff who seeks to maintain one of the nation’s largest per-capita prisons.

Though the Sheriff’s initial proposal was for a prison with less capacity (5,800 beds as opposed to 7,200) than the original, it’s still far out of proportion when compared to cities of comparable size. New Orleans now has approximately 350,000 residents. Building a prison this out of balance with the population will only further enable the city’s troubling pattern of locking up the poor, people with mental disabilities, and persons of color who cannot afford the bail or fines that got them incarcerated in the first place.

Despite long odds, local activists and community based organizations waged a remarkable campaign to significantly reduce the size of the local prison. A recent Mayor’s report recommended a facility more in line with the area population. The report now awaits action by city council.

What happens next will certainly impact the future of criminal justice reform in New Orleans, a system that has traditionally been one of the most troubled in the nation.

Hundreds of pro-reform activists took out a full page ad in the Times-Picayune newspaper to support building an appropriate size jail.

Seth DiStefano is the Senior Organizer for the Criminal Justice Reform Project of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

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