Africa summit debates Gaddafi's unity plan

auADDIS ABABA, Feb 1 (Reuters) - African leaders set aside the first day of an annual summit on Sunday to discuss Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's long-standing pet project to establish a United States of Africa.

Delegates said that although some countries are wary of the idea, and a 2007 summit in Ghana devoted to it ended with no deal because of opposition, delegates felt obliged to debate the plan because of the huge funds that the Libyan leader has poured into parts of Africa.

Gaddafi, one of the continent's longest-serving leaders, has for years pressed for a federal pan-regional government, arguing that it is essential to meet the challenges of globalisation, fight poverty and resolve conflicts without Western interference.

Some leaders, including Senegal's Abdoulaye Wade, are keen on the idea.

Erastus Mwencha, deputy chairman of the African Union (AU) Commission, said the first day of the Feb. 1-3 summit would focus on Gaddafi's proposal.

"I remain optimistic that yes, it will be a reality," he told reporters ahead of the meeting. "The question we are discussing is not whether it will be a reality, but when, and how".

Commission chairman Jean Ping said recently views on the speed of integration varied from nine to 35 years, but the continent needed to speak with a united voice to be heard in international negotiations on trade and other issues including climate change.

All 53 AU member states agree in principle with the goal of continental integration. But some -- led by economic powerhouse South Africa -- say it must be a gradual process.

"Gaddafi has given a lot of money to these leaders over the years," said one east African delegate who asked not to be named.

"Vast Challenges"

"It is important to him, so they will discuss it. But the challenges of making it work, obviously, are vast."

The official theme of this week's summit at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa is boosting infrastructure, which experts say is essential if Africa is to weather the global financial crisis.

But conflict and crisis in Sudan, Somalia, Zimbabwe and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are expected, as usual at AU summits, to overshadow the official agenda.

Delegates have been given some breathing space by positive developments in recent days in two of the most intractable problems: Somalia's two decades of violence and Zimbabwe's economic collapse.

Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a moderate Islamist leader, is attending the talks after he was sworn in as Somalia's new president at U.N.-led talks in Djibouti.

He is attending the summit in the very country whose powerful army ousted him as leader of a sharia courts movement that briefly ruled Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia in 2006. Ethiopia's troops withdrew from Somalia last month, clearing the way for new moves to end the conflict.

On Friday, Zimbabwe's opposition agreed to form a government with veteran President Robert Mugabe, ending deadlock that had deepened a political and economic meltdown. Mugabe is attending the summit but made no comment to reporters when he arrived.

AU officials say the exclusion from the summit of Mauritania and Guinea, which both suffered military coups in recent months, proved the continent had moved on from its chequered past, when leaders seldom criticised or even commented on violence and tyrannical rule.

The latest trouble has been in Madagascar, where a firebrand opposition leader said on Saturday he had taken charge. The Indian Ocean island's president denied it.

Late on Saturday, AU Commission chairman Ping told Reuters the rules of the pan-African body on coups were clear and that any attempt to seize power illegitimately would be rejected.

SECURITY DESK: Is SPLA failing its first post-war challenge?

mariar_2_0(Pittsburgh, USA) - After three years of trying to get Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to settle its war with National Resistance Movement (NRM) government through negotiation, the SPLM hierarchy finally did what was well overdue – it went for stick instead of carrots that were not yielding any measurable results. The operation had been in the work for a while and was considered a last resort should LRA fail to sign peace. Instead of using peace talks and visits to Mr. Kony’s hideout to gather credible and actionable intelligence, the SPLA assumed that it knew LRA enough to launch any operation at whim. The outcome was predictable. LRA has now been dispersed all over the South, D.R. Congo, and probably Central African Republic. Citizens of Western Equatoria State are now bearing the brunt of botched operation. The SPLA hierarchy should demote and reassign whoever is in charge of the operation against the LRA.

The SPLA is getting a lion’s share of South’s budget because it is our sole insurance from any external aggressors – especially north. However, it is also required to protect citizens of the South from terrorist groups (both domestic and foreign). If the SPLA is failing in such a spectacular way against marauding LRA, shouldn’t we worry that it will fail when the CPA is abrogated? Southerners have a right to ask why their resources are devoted to such an incompetent army. While the SPLA is probably not devoting much of its fighting force to operation against the LRA in fear that the northern front posture will be weakened, and unable to withstand any future tests, the SPLA should still be able to deter LRA from murdering citizens across WES.

An operation involving disparate forces from different countries and command structure is likely to face problems. This is probably the case with the operation against LRA. D.R. Congo army is particularly weak and unable to protect its citizens. We have been reading horrible stories about how the LRA is terrorizing civilians in D.R. Congo with impunity. Uganda People’s Defense Force does not enjoy an illustrious track record either. In fact there are stories that LRA always looked forward to its skirmishes with UPDF and dreaded any encounter with SPLA during its war in 1990s. The UPDF is corrupt and being mismanaged. Some of its generals have been convicted of misappropriating money by employing shoddy procurement practices. SPLA is not doing great either. It is still wary of North’s intentions and preparing itself accordingly. Unfortunately, it has become a gateway to quick riches and an instrument of access to power. With these three armies with rather weak record trying to coordinate their operations and command against a well-established terrorist group, the outcome was rather preordained.

For mediators who wanted to continue talking to LRA for as long as it takes without any hope of reaching peace, it is their opportunity to point out that they were right and those advocating force will regret their hasty decision. They are waiting for this operation to fail so that they can become relevant again and pursue their endless courting of Kony. From a strategy point of view, it would be a colossal mistake to run back to the negotiating table without scoring a decisive blow against the LRA. Failing to achieve this victory will embolden the LRA to make unrealistic demands. In fact, the LRA will be negotiating from the position of ‘strength’ and not weakness. So, what should be done differently to achieve victory or at least force the LRA leadership to understand that their survivable lay in a negotiated settlement?

First, the SPLA needs better intelligence than what it has been getting. That intelligence must be secured from even SPLM leaders who are probably already compromised anyway by the North’s intelligence services. LRA is not to be taken lightly and dismissed as a regular terror group confined to the jungle in eastern DR Congo. They get quality intelligence on latest developments from their handlers in the North, because the North has interest in seeing that LRA is not defeated. This is how they keep Museveni in check. It is conceivable that some NCP intelligence elements have a stranglehold on what is happening in South and what SPLA is up to. So, for any element of surprise to be effective, SPLA has to operate on what the LRA never expected them to get their hands on.

Second, SPLA should not just send regular soldiers to this fight. This is the only opportunity where SPLA can form a special force and test it against the LRA through covert operation. If you are going to wage a cat and mouse kind of fight with an experienced guerilla force like LRA, you need to train a group to act and behave like LRA. It is not that hard to recruit and train a covert force. All you have to do is find a select group of determined youth, put them through hell, and see if you have any left. This group will form the nucleus of future SPLA special force. Train them to fight under a set of conditions that an ordinary soldier might find difficult and let them loose on LRA. This is how a special force is formed in many countries. A nation’s army is usually faced with a rather unusual opponent that it realizes that it is lacking something in its arsenal. It then goes back to the drawing board and study the challenge and come up with a remedy. SPLA’s inability to deal a blow to LRA indicates that it is not prepared for task.

It is difficult to ascertain where the problem lies but one can conclude that the SPLA is losing its reputation as a disciplined force. We are no longer enjoying the protection of glorious Koryom and other units that served marvelously during a crucial period in the rebellion in late ‘80s. Vast majority of these units are either totally lost to war or maimed. Today, SPLA is populated by those seeking to protect their own and not the country or those seeking quick access to oil share dollars. SPLA needs to undergo an indoctrination policy that sensitizes service members to be non-affiliated group with a singular objective of protection the country. Recruitment standards need to be strict to weed out those signing up for economic reason and not pride in serving. When this is achieved, we can sleep soundly knowing that we have a professional army protecting citizens. At the moment, the SPLA is not up to the standards we expect from a guerilla that forced Islamists to concede to our demand for self-determination.

Mariar Wuoi is a New Sudan Vision columnist. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Obama's rise to US presidency

(Alberta, Canada) - “Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?” asked the then little known state senator from Illinois, President Barack Obama, in his famous speech that catapulted him into the American national spotlight.

“I'm not talking about blind optimism here -- the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. No, I'm talking about something more substantial,” Obama told a jubilant audience at the 2004 democratic convention.

“It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope.”

Many people now, me included, consider Obama’s rise to the US presidency not only as a triumph of hope over the politics of cynicism but also as a realization of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream that one day individuals would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

But have you ever thought that one day America would live to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr? I consider myself an optimist, a believer of King’s words not only in America but everywhere in the globe, including in the Sudan. Indeed, those who believe in human potential to perfect things believe King’s words would one day be realized in America and also among all nations of the world. However, for the cynics – the ones who surrender hopes for better human society to the forces of tyranny – it was not something America could ever do.

In Obama’s case, you would even look like a fool in the eyes of cynics if you were a faint hearted optimist because Obama was an obscure candidate unlike his main rivals who had been well established in American political system. His exotic name was an added disadvantage for the cynics to dismiss his message, let alone his much pronounced inexperience and whether Americans were ready for an African American president.

Nevertheless, humanity is progressing in the unyielding journey to maturity, and American people seem to have accepted the lead to the promise land of maturity where bigotry, racial, religious and ethnic prejudices would be the things of the past. Americans trusted their guts and instincts to take the message of hope over fear of the unknown, and have given a resounding answer to the cynics. And President Obama expressed that answer very well in his victory speech.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” Obama told a joyful audience at the night of his victory, adding that “It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.”

Individuals, regardless of race, have had Obama’s ability and desire to create a better world, but attempts to do that have been bogged down by the notion that we can’t do anything we aspire to achieve, as Obama alluded to in his victory speech.

So, don’t you still believe that we can create a better world where individuals are judged based on their ability to do things not because they belong to a particular race or a particular ethnic group? If you don’t, you are still a cynic!

Don’t you still believe that humans of all races have the ingenuity to create a better world for all if given an opportunity? If you don’t, you are still a cynic!

Don’t you still believe that one day your enemy will not be a fellow human being but dangers like climate change, poverty and disease and that we, as humans, will one day triumph over them? If you don’t, you are still a cynic!

Don’t you still believe that even in Sudan where democracy and rule of law have been killed and buried by the military juntas that we can create a better Sudanese society, whether as separate North and South or United Sudan? If you don’t, you are still a cynic!

Don’t you still believe that voting for independence of South Sudan is not a solution if we are not united as Southerners in building a prosperous nation for ourselves and future generations? If you don’t, you are still a cynic!

Don’t you believe that in South Sudan, your real enemy is not your fellow human-being but poverty, diseases, ignorance and natural disasters and that if we are united we will one day defeat them? If you don’t, you are still a cynic!

I can go on and on. But get one thing. Obama’s rise to the US presidency proves to us that we don’t need someone we can relate to as a means to achieve better things for ourselves but someone who can inspire the best in us like Obama said,“we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren.” Those who voted for Obama might have done so because he was born to a man who looked like them or to a woman who looked like them. But we should know that his message, which has inspired hope in people across the globe instead of cynicism and fear, made him who he has become. Now the world is proud to have a leader from the world most powerful nation, who believes in the essence of the unity of humanity to solve the dangers of the 21st century of poverty, diseases and climate change.

With two wars and worse economic crisis since great depression, America surely does not need cynicism but the “hope of a skinny kid with a funny name, hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope.”

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Dealing away with tribalism in South Sudan: Should we fix the people or the system?

manyok_0_1_18(Abeliene, Texas) - There are reasons behind everything that human beings do in this world. Some reasons are sometimes misplaced. So they work against those who generate them rather than working for them. What I learned recently about the motive behind the reasoning of people who demonize other tribes is that they are doing it for propaganda’s sake. I read one comment to my recent article in which my fellow Sudanese disputed my view about what causes low self-esteem. He argued that the reality about the causes of low self-esteem was opposite to my view. He said that what other tribes said against Dinka “will bring the Dinka to low self-esteem finally and soon” if Dinka does not turn around and change. He might be right because that is the reason why he can hardly recognize anything positive about the tribe he does not like. But I believe beyond doubt that no social scientist would buy into the idea that people who are blamed lose their self-esteem. Research has repeatedly confirmed that low self-esteem is caused by feeling of worthlessness. Nobody feels worthless when he or she is blamed. Instead, those who blame other people for everything are the ones that develop the feeling of worthlessness in them because they regard themselves powerless. This idea is also true when it comes to gossiping. Those who gossip fear to be part of what they see as the problem that they do not have control over. So they relieve their feeling of worthlessness through gossiping. Those who are blamed for everything even when they do something good sometimes develop the feeling of denial. They always count themselves as not part of the problem when you blame them. So their self-esteem remains higher but they become resistant to change. This article will be in two parts and will explain the techniques that sometimes work for change when it comes to racism or tribalism. If we want to effectively fight tribalism in South Sudan, then we need to fix the system, not the people.

The reason why it is better to fix the system and not the people is that power does change hands. No one tribe in South Sudan is going to always be in power. So if you fix one tribe today, then tomorrow South Sudanese will elect another competent person from another tribe that might have been the arch critic of the tribe that was in power yesterday. So what all the other tribes, including the one who was in power yesterday, will do is to turn and demonize the tribe that now has its member in the highest office in the nation. So the nation becomes the nation of those who know how to blame tribes but do not know how to solve problems.

Some people might think that there is one bad tribe as we always read on the website where some fellow citizens do not even have shame to declare their tribes spotless, non-corrupt, and even non-tribalists, not knowing that not all their readers were born yesterday. Sometimes, I laugh wholeheartedly when I read these comments. There is no way one cannot be amused to read such comments. Some even appear to know what they are talking about today because their tribe is not feeling what other people from other tribes are feeling. Then tomorrow those same people become serious critics of what they condoned yesterday. For example, last year, some people wrote that the event of 1991, in which thousands of civilians in Bor area were massacred by those who were meant to protect them, was a blessing to South Sudan. This year when civilians from their tribes were killed in Malakal, they became the first to condemn the killing with all strong terms they had in their memory. This makes me wonder whether we are really in our real senses in South Sudan! I thought that informed people would have a stand when it comes to human rights in relation to what they perceive to be of national importance. If they believe in killing of innocent people so that the nation is blessed, then I expect them to be consistent. Those of us who believe that the killing of innocent people is bad even if they are on the enemy side would remain consistent forever. For accuracy’s sake, let me quote the whole paragraph that one of those who recently condemned the killing of civilians in Malakal supported the same thing not long time ago. This man wrote in support of the article on the topic that some of us had condemned.

“The clear message I want to send to those who might have been blinded by tribal sentiments and cheap propaganda against leaders who have greatly contributed or actually revolutionized our way forward as the people of Southern Sudan is that they should get realistic and honour these great leaders like Dr. Machar with utmost respect,” He wrote. “28th August 1991 Declaration should not be used for negative propaganda, but instead be remembered as a blessed birth day on which a clear path for the liberation and freedom of the people of Southern Sudan was set. The road to our freedom is still long and painful! We need to get united as one people with one objective that will lead us to our desired destiny. Propagating on the so-called Dinka Bor massacres with fabricated negative stories attributed to innocent and great leaders like Dr. Riek Machar will not help the cause the Dinka Bor want to achieve in Southern Sudan or in a united Sudan” (Sudan Tribune, Friday 4 July, 2008).

People who write like this about moral issues do not even fear to become the first to condemn what they support against other civilians. This makes you wonder whether there is a sweet innocent blood and the bitter one in their philosophy! If there are innocent civilians who are supposed to be killed so that the nation is blessed, then what criteria do they use to identify them?

The only reason behind this moral contradiction in our educated elites is propaganda. Some of us in South Sudan are more willing to destroy our fellow brothers and sisters than we are willing to protect them. Some of the people that called the killing of Bor civilians in 1991 “a blessing for South Sudan” did not only condemned the killing of innocent civilians in Malakal (which is a right thing to do), they went far to send selected photos of the innocent victims from one side of the conflict to foreigners so that they can turn them against the Dinka. When these foreigners tried to analyze the situation with objective eyes of the outsiders to the conflict, the Sudanese who initially extended their arms to involve the foreigners into the problems jumped onto the throats of the objective foreigners, accusing them of being the enemies of peace.

What I am trying to say in all this is that we are still far away from being objective in how we deal with issues in South Sudan. This tells us something about what we should do if we are to end tribalism in our country. There are many tribes in Sudan, 597 tribes, to be specific, that speak over 400 languages and dialects. These tribes have capable individuals who will be our presidents in the near future. Therefore, what we need to do is to fix the system instead of trying to fix tribes. Dr. Adwok Nyaba in his article that was published by South Sudan Nation recently argued convincingly that the problems that we have in South Sudan today are in the system, not with the people. The system, to me, is larger than one tribe, however much that tribe might be controlling the government.

My next article will deal with the importance of fixing the system in order to minimize tribalism in South Sudan.

The writer of this article is a Graduate Student at Abilene Christian University, Texas, USA, and a regular contributor to The New Sudan Vision. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Let’s fight tribalism together in South Sudan

(Juba, South Sudan) - The tribalism, which is creeping into the politics of South Sudan today will cause headaches for all well-meaning South Sudanese people [sooner or later]. As South Sudanese one would have thought that we have seen enough of what senseless engagement in tribal politics can do to our nation. Most of us are living witnesses to the carnage that went on in Rwanda and Somalia. These countries all fell into the abyss due to tribalism and ethnicism. I believe South Sudan is highly enlightened not to descend that low but our current behaviors show that things that happen in other countries can also happen in our country. Military coup which started in Togo and Congo spread through Africa like a tsunami. And that is why it is expedient that we safeguard our dear country against any attempt to inject tribalism into our infant democracy.

The question one is tempted to ask is what is tribalism? What are the reasons behind why some people feel so strong about the superiority of their tribes over others in South Sudan? Why do learned people who should know better also engage in this uncivilized tradition? It is the hope of the author of this article to examine these questions.

The dictionary defines tribalism (among other definitions) “as the exaltation of ones tribe above others.” In other words tribalism is the feeling that ones tribe is superior to some other tribes or all tribes. As a result the tribalists have a disdain and often disrespect for the tribes they think are inferior to theirs. Such people therefore discourage association in any form be it marriage, work or friendship with tribes they deem to be inferior. In most cases they have derogatory names for the tribes they deem to be inferior. In South Sudan almost every tribe has such names for other tribes. The reasons for tribalism and tribal discrimination may include the following:

The first reason is history. Many a tribalist traces the superiority of their tribes to history. They will recount how their forbears defeated the other tribes in a war or a series of wars. They will recount how their forebears enslaved the other tribes. Such people take pride in their history and no amount of persuasion can persuade them to see today’s reality. They believe that since their ancestors were "better" than the other tribes so also are they now. Linked to the above is indoctrination. In most homes children are taught to discriminate against people from tribes their parents feel are inferior. Such parents will continuously bombard their children with the virtues of their tribes and the vices of the so-called inferior or despised tribes. Some parents persistently warn their kids not to take friends from some tribes. Children who grow up with such training turn to be adult tribalists.

Another reason for tribalism is geographical location in relation to national resources and power. By this, I mean that tribes which are endowed with resources and jobs often tend to disrespect people from other tribes who come to seek work on their land. Similarly tribes which have the seat of power tend to think that they are better than the other tribes and sometimes look down upon them. The foregoing has been aggravated by politics. It is sad to say that most of our politicians either publicly or privately try to whip tribal sentiments for their own political purposes.

They try to concert stories that will infuriate one tribe or the other so that they may not vote for certain parties. Scavengers as they are, these corrupt politicians know that they have nothing better to offer when it comes to issues of national development so by playing the tribal card they are able to skip the issues at stake. They fail to recognize that their actions cause more harm to the very state they want to govern. Perhaps one will be able to forgive these politicians a little if one considers the fact those politicians are like vultures who feed on peoples vulnerabilities.

However, the innocent citizens of South Sudan cannot forgive journalists who engage in tribalism. It is the most worrying trend in politics of South Sudan today. The media, which is the objective fourth arm of government is supposed to be an objective observer of politicians and put them on their toes. The media is the ear of society and its work impacts greatly on the national psyche. The media's objective reportage of the news helps the electorate to know the going on in the government and the realms of politics. Therefore, it’s just so sad that some of our journalists have thrown good journalism to the dogs and have chosen to join the tribal bandwagon. It is a pity that our journalists have not learnt from Rwanda and other nations who went down the drain because of their engagement in senseless tribal journalism. There is no justification for a journalist to engage in tribalism and our journalists who have chosen that cause should bow their heads in shame and desist from the practice.

The negative effects of tribalism in South Sudan are not far fetched.
First of all tribalism breeds nepotism. Once people feel that their tribesmen are better than people from other tribes they tend to surround themselves with their tribesmen when get into positions of trust. The tribalists are willing to hire people from their tribe who may not otherwise be the best candidates for a given job. Such actions deprive the nation of the right people for the right job.

Secondly tribalism affects South Sudan national cohesion. To the tribalists their allegiance is first to their tribe before the nation. They do not see themselves as South Sudanese but as a member of tribe A or B. Therefore they do not look for ways that can benefit the whole nation but rather they look for ways that will strengthen their tribes at the expense of the nation. And this does not bode well for the nation. To some extent they try as much as possible to create hegemony when they have power or are put in a position of trust. Also petty tribal conflicts divert national attention and resources. The amount of money and personnel that are used to quell such chemises could have been used for other pressing and important needs. Above all tribalism can be a prelude to a struggle war.

How can we control the spread of tribalism? First of all, the GoSS Ministry of Information and civil society leaders should make fighting tribalism one of its major priorities and means to fight it. They can device radio and TV programmes that will let people see themselves as South Sudanese first. They can also device programmes that will tout our common identity and what brings us together as a people of one nation.

Secondly, our educators and policy makers should incorporate subjects that will teach our young ones the need to respect one another in the school curriculum since the seed of tribalism is sowed in the kids at very tender age; it’s equally important that our educational system cultivate a sense of oneness and nationhood in our kids. Our schools, colleges and universities should also discourage the formation of [dangerous] tribal based associations. These associations which are recipe for tribalism could give way to regional associations that embrace all people from the particular region. Our Kings, chiefs and traditional leaders should also be utilized to help fight the spread of tribalism.

Since our chiefs are the so-called custodians of our culture, the onus lies on them to teach their subjects about our common ancestry. They should try and eschew tribal pride a little and embrace other tribes in their functions and also encourage inter-tribal co-operations, marriages and associations.

On the individual level we should all do well to see people we meet and work as individuals and not as a microcosm of one’s tribe. The fact you met one uneducated tribe A does not mean all tribe A are uneducated. The fact that one tribe B stole a goat does not mean all tribe B are thieves. There are good and bad people in every race, tribe or family.

We owe it as a duty to leave a peaceful South Sudan to our children just as we inherited it. All the tribes in South Sudan have more things in common than things that divide us. I could not help but to recognize the importance of peaceful tribal co-existence. In the end we must all pray that our mother South Sudan will continue to be a safe and a secure haven for all. May GOD bless South Sudan and its people.

*The author is a GoSS employee Deputy Director for planning and Development, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, MCI. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.