Friday, June 15, 2012

Here is an article from one of Unity's friends in Cairo reporting on the drama unfolding as Egypt faces its next presidential elections with no parliament and no constitution. Unfortunately for the revolutionaries there is little to be cheerful for, either submit to a military-backed dictatorship or risk a stifling Islamic autocracy.

Showdown in Cairo: Egyptian High Court Dissolves Parliament

Daily Beast/Newsweek

By Vivian Salama

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Terrorist attacks in Iraq kill dozens as religous festival gets underway

A series of coordinated attacks have taken place across Iraq on Wednesday morning. Seven provinces were affected by the violence, including Baghdad.  The most lethal attack (a car bomb explosion against a pilgrim rest stop in the east of the capital) reportedly killed 40 civilians and flattened dozens of buildings in the area. In the provinces of Salluhdin, Anbar, Babil, Karbala and Wassit, extremists targeted predominately Shiite areas with car bombs, mortar attacks and roadside bombs. In the Tamim province, two KDP offices were the subject of car bomb attacks, indicating an intent by extremists to further polarise the community where ethnic and political tensions remain high. Approximate casualty figures from this morning’s violence have yet to be corroborated, but initial reports suggest over 70 were killed and at least the same amount wounded. A number of areas were put under curfew as a knee jerk reaction to the potential for further violence.

Amongst tight security measures it seems extremist/insurgent groups have again managed to pervade checkpoints and areas of additional security to subversively target pilgrims and places of religious/political importance. Additionally, and after an almost monthly attack cycle of disproportionate violence since the beginning of the year, extremists have managed to emphasize the utter futility  of Iraq’s counter-terrorism forces. Its failure - a by-product of the dysfunctional architecture and poor communication between these units - is furthermore apparent after a recent mass casualty attack in the capital only last week. Such violence is presumably intended to invite a conflagration against PM Maliki from his Shiite support base at a time when the premier is garnering grassroots support for next year’s elections.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

South Sudan- Austerity or Normality?

We have spent the last week in South Sudan looking at the risks and vulnerability associated with the ongoing violence coupled with the Governments lack of income due to no oil based revenues and significant inflationary pressures.  Through this period there seems two clear, and perhaps even somewhat linked, possibilities:

Possibility 1.  Current austerity measures are not able to survive the next few months. This has the potential to lead to a wide range of problems including humanitarian challenges (some are mooting a 'disaster') and the likelihood that Government salaries are not able to be met. Inside the security forces this could be catastrophic, if soldiers and police pursued other sources of illegitimate income.

Possibility 2. Austerity measures actually do work..... after all South Sudan have, in reality, been managing tiny budgets for many, many years. That said, there is an increased and improved spending appetite inside the Government that will need to be moderated.

One thing is clear. The tiny capital of Juba is conjuring much as we close up on the first anniversary of independence.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

'Lights for Learning' Project- Northern Kenya

Our team had the great privilege in visiting Chumvi Village School yesterday as part of our sponsoring the Nancy Ellen Crook’s Foundation “Light for Learning” Project in Northern Kenya. 

In an incredibly impoverished rural area with no electricity the Project focuses on the provision of solar powered lamps to children, to assist with their nightly homework. 

The children receiving the lights will be monitored throughout the school year to assess the impact the light source has on their ability to study and end of term test scores.

An incredible day and an honor to visit such a wonderful school in a beautiful area. A special moment to also meet Mr Howard Crooks, Nancy's husband, whose drive and energy is inspiring.

There is no more important contribution that we can make to the education and development of children.

The School has over 800 Students

Jim LeBlanc (VP- Americas) Presents a Solar Light to one of the School Mothers
Unity's Team with Mr Howard Crooks

For more information: