2011-03-17 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

ImageNext: US view of Nigeria's most influential persons

"Understanding who matters, not what matters, is often the half the battle in Nigeria. Perhaps more than any other country on the subcontinent, Nigeria has hundreds upon hundreds of politicians, businessmen, retired military generals, and traditional leaders who wield tremendous influence and can shape the outcome of whatever current crisis is threatening to unsettle the country. Nigeria is now is at a crossroads, and a rocky one at that. Leadership is lacking; elites, especially the northerners, are anxious about President Yar'Adua's health: and people are worried about the "what next?" scenario -- if Yar'Adua's election is overturned or he becomes incapacitated or dies in office. For a country with a tradition of strongmen with strong personalities as its leaders, there is some disquiet over the state of affairs at the moment However, we find that Nigerian governors and other state officials are concerned primarily with issues directly affecting their states. We see an indifference about what goes on in Abuja from a number of state leaders and governors, who have taken state autonomy to new levels. These governors, plus other members of the elite such as businessmen, military and traditional leaders, and politicians all are pieces of the puzzle. These individuals, whether they are competing against each other or uniting in pursuit of some common political or economic goal, will determine how Nigeria will weather this stormy period. As the Supreme Court nears a decision on the 2007 presidential election and predictions about the President's health become more dire, the Mission has put together a list of leaders who would play a major role in keeping Nigeria either on track, off track, or trying to put it back on track, since it has certainly lost its way over the past 12 months. Therefore, below is the Mission's back-of-the-envelope list of some three dozen Nigerians, separated into seven overarching categories, who are going to be critical in the next couple of months. (Note: the names in each of the sections are NOT/NOT listed in order of importance.)"

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Next: Jonathan missing from US list of most influential Nigerians

"Although he was the nation’s number two citizen at the time, the United States did not consider Goodluck Jonathan worthy of inclusion in a list of our country’s most influential personalities of the period. On October 24, 2008, former US ambassador Robin Sanders sent a cable to her principals in Washington detailing “a list of Nigerian leaders who would play a major role in keeping Nigeria either on track, off track, or trying to put it back on track”.

Justifying the rationale for drawing up the list, Ms. Sanders said, “Understanding who matters, not what matters, is often half the battle in Nigeria”."

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"Following a period of speculation, Nezar Al Baharna, a prominent Shia businessman and former board member of the largest Shia opposition political society Al Wifaq, confirmed to the press in late August that he planned to establish a new political society called the Society of Justice and Development. Soon after, four other prominent Shia, businessman Jala Haji Hassan Al A´ali, leading cleric Seyad Deya´a Al Mousawi, Al Wifaq founding member Jawad Fairooz, and Chairman of the Central Governorates Municipal Council Nabeel Sayed, either publicly announced or indicated to PolOFF that they also intended to join the new society. In response, members of Al Wifaq staged a sit-in at its headquarters on September 1 to protest Al Baharna´s move."

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"Minister of Interior Shaikh Rashid, in a January 16 meeting with the Ambassador, said he had been surprised by the January 12 release of terror suspect Yassir Kemal, but promised close surveillance on his activities. He urged that we move forward on setting up a CTOC, expressing hope that an FBI assistance team will come to Bahrain soon. He said that both Saudi Arabia and Iran are wary of Bahrain´s reform process, Saudi Arabia because it does not like falling behind its smaller neighbor and Iran because the reforms bring Bahrain closer to the U.S. He said it will be important to encourage Shia participation in the 2006 elections, but that a meeting by State Department officials with a Shia rejectionist risked sending the wrong message. He emphasized how much Bahrainis appreciated that President Bush received King Hamid in November just after the election."

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"Independent newspaper editor [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN], in a June 28 discussion with the Ambassador, gave a wide-ranging review of the complexities and challenges facing King Hamad as he pursues reform in Bahrain. On the one hand, the King faces challenges from his two uncles: Prime Minister Khalifa and Shaikh Mohammed. The King has been quietly trying to erode the economic power of the Prime Minister, moving PM cronies out of Cabinet positions and granting enhanced powers to the Economic Development Board (overseen by Crown Prince Salman). The PM, however, has allies sprinkled throughout the bureaucracies, and it would be wrong, [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] cautioned, to count him out just yet. The other uncle, Shaikh Mohammed, who is in a coma, has long lived outside the law and his financial interests are being ed and advanced by his children. One son, Shaikh Hamad, was at the center of a recent controversy over a wall built in a Shia village that cut off access to the sea. [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN] led the charge against the uncle, which resulted in a rare retreat by a powerful Royal Family member."

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"The Shia rejectionist Islamic Action Society (IAS) held a ceremony June 29 to "honor" 73 people convicted in the early 1980´s of attempting to topple the government. Spiritual advisor Sayed Mohammed Hadi Mudarasi telephoned in from Iran and reportedly called for an end to Shia suffering in Bahrain and urged his listeners to "gain their rights." Minister of Labor Majeed Al Alawi (a Shia) told the Ambassador July 4 that activist Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja spoke at the event and insulted the prime minister using "foul language." Al Alawi also said that leading Shia opposition society Al Wifaq Vice President Hassan Mushaima gave a speech asserting that the Al Khalifas are not Bahrainis. (Note: The family came from Qatar to Bahrain in 1783.) Al Alawi said comments like these are aimed at creating conflict between groups in society."

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"Eight political societies, including the boycotting opposition and two somewhat pro-government groups, held a silent protest July 29 against the recently passed Political Societies Law. Leading Shi´a clerics set a precedent by canceling their Friday prayers July 29 in protest against the new law, which they labeled as anti-reform. Youth societies have organized a campaign to amend the section of the law requiring political society members to be at least 21 years old. The Islamiya bloc in parliament vowed to present amendments to the law in the upcoming parliamentary session."

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"King Hamad, during a March 13 luncheon, had high praise for the U.S. and its positive role in maintaining stability in the Gulf. "Without you," he stated, "we´d be squashed." He made clear his concern for Iran, both as a regional power and as a meddling force inside Bahrain. Iran can be expected to bluster, but it is important to stand strong and deal with Iran from a position of strength. Kuwaiti Amir Shaikh Sabah´s initial tour of the Gulf (he visited Bahrain March 12) was aimed in part at continuing his mission of improving relations between Saudi Arabia and its smaller GCC partners. The King lamented that his relationship with the UAE was not as personal or as close following the death of Shaikh Zayid. Domestically, the King welcomed expected participation by leading Shia opposition society Al-Wifaq in this year´s parliamentary elections, and recounted that he had recently tried to encourage one of the few remaining opposition figures still in exile in London to come back. He stated that it was high time to pass a family law aimed at providing legal protection to women in Bahrain."

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"In separate discussions, Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid and Industry and Commerce Minister Fakhro both told the Ambassador that the government arrested Shia activists Mushaima and Al Khawaja to rein in their unlawful activities, which the government believes have become increasingly defiant. Shaikh Khalid stressed the arrests had nothing to do with the government´s relations with the broader Shia community and cited the helpful role Shia political society Al Wifaq has played. A journalist told the Ambassador that elements within the ruling Al Khalifa family are furious at the activists for their continuing to "carry on," and are angry at the King for allowing this to happen and for his previous leniency with Shia hardliners. In a press conference, Mushaima and Al Khawaja shifted the focus from their alleged crimes to their right of freedom of speech and calls for an investigation of accusations against government figures contained in the September 2006 Al Bandar report. With battle lines hardening on this case, and an already difficult regional environment, relations between Bahrain´s Sunni and Shia communities could become increasingly tense."

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"This message describes the leading political groupings in Bahrain. The Wifaq party remains the most popular party among the majority Shi´a underclass and advocates non-violent political activism on behalf of the Shi´a community. Two Islamist parties dominate the Sunni side of the political scene. Secular liberals and leftists did poorly in the 2006 elections and have demonstrated little recent evidence of street appeal, but continue to maintain high media profiles."

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"Bahrain´s leading Shi´a parties Wifaq and Haq compete for the support of the Shi´a community, which constitutes 60-70 percent of Bahrain´s citizen population. Wifaq engages and cooperates with the government and is at pains to stay on the right side of the law. Some Haq leaders, by contrast, inspire low-level street violence, and call demonstrations that often get out of hand. The GOB and many mainstream Bahraini politicians believe Haq seeks to provoke the authorities and create martyrs. Relations between leaders of Wifaq and Haq, once cordial, are now strained. While Wifaq has the support of most of the Shi´a community, Haq gains strength whenever Wifaq is perceived as ineffective at obtaining redress for Shi´a grievances against the government."

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"The new Shia opposition grouping Wafa´ ("loyalty") is competing with an older radical group for the leadership of the minority of Bahraini Shia who oppose participation in parliament. It poses little threat for the foreseeable future to Wifaq, the mainstream Shia opposition party."

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"Freedom House announced January 12 that Bahrain had been demoted from "partly free" to "not free" in its 2010 global survey of political rights and civil liberties. Bahrain´s political rights score fell from 5 to 6 (out of 10), triggering the "not free" designation; civil liberties remained at 5. Freedom House asserts that political rights suffered as a result of "harassment of opposition political figures," namely "the arrests of prominent members of the Haq political society," and "worsening sectarian discrimination." The demotion to "not free" surprised officials, politicians, and other embassy sources. Post believes that human rights activists with close ties to the Haq Movement, a Shia rejectionist group, were successful in lobbying Freedom House´s researchers to downgrade Bahrain."

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La Jornada: Monopolios de tv y telefonía manipulan al gobierno: EU (Monopolies of television and the industry of communication manipulate the [Mexican] government: United States)

"Los ahora enfrentados gigantes de la telefonía y la televisión tienen algo en común cuando de defender sus intereses se trata. Un despacho de la embajada de Estados Unidos en México lo pone en estos términos: "como ocurre en las telecomunicaciones, existe preocupación de que las dos compañías de televisión dominantes en el país, Televisa y Tv Azteca, que forman un duopolio en el sector, continúen ejerciendo influencia sobre el sistema judicial, el Poder Legislativo y los organismos reguladores para impedir la competencia"."

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La Jornada: Enlistan los sectores con privilegios (United States makes a list of the privileged sectors)

"Unas cuantas empresas se reparten jugosas ganancias en nichos clave de la economía. (A few companies share the juicy profits from key spots of the [Mexican] economy.)"

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La Jornada: “El Ejército se siente cómodo al dejar que cárteles hagan la guerra” ("The [Mexican] Army is confortable allowing the cartels to make the war")

"Informó cónsul de EU sobre paramilitares en Ciudad Juárez. (The American consul informed about para-militars in Juárez.)"

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(Image Credit: Dali Rău)

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