Mali: Truth, Knowledge, History Of The West African Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Mali

Introduction The Sudanese Republic and Senegal became independent of France in 1960 as the Mali Federation. When Senegal withdrew after only a few months, what formerly made up the Sudanese Republic was renamed Mali. Rule by dictatorship was brought to a close in 1991 by a military coup – led by the current president Amadou TOURE – enabling Mali’s emergence as one of the strongest democracies on the continent. President Alpha KONARE won Mali’s first democratic presidential election in 1992 and was reelected in 1997. In keeping with Mali’s two-term constitutional limit, KONARE stepped down in 2002 and was succeeded by Amadou TOURE, who was subsequently elected to a second term in 2007. The elections were widely judged to be free and fair.
History The area now constituting the nation of Mali was once part of three famed West African empires that controlled trans-Saharan trade in gold, salt, and other precious commodities. These Sahelian kingdoms had neither rigid geopolitical boundaries nor rigid ethnic identities. The earliest of these empires was the Ghana Empire, which was dominated by the Soninke, a Mande-speaking people. It expanded throughout West Africa from about A.D. 700 until A.D. 1078, when it collapsed due to invasions by the Almoravids.

The Mali Empire later arose on the upper Niger River, reaching the height of its power in the 14th century. Under the Mali Empire, the ancient trading cities of Djenné and Timbuktu were centers of both trade and Islamic learning. The empire later declined as a result of internal intrigue, ultimately being supplanted by the Songhai Empire in the 15 century. The Songhai people originated in what is now northwestern Nigeria; they had long been a major power in West Africa, though they had remained subject to the Mali Empire’s rule. In the late 14th century, the Songhai gradually gained independence from the Mali Empire and expanded, ultimately subsuming the entire eastern part of the Mali Empire. The empire’s eventual collapse was largely the result of a 1591 Berber invasion. The fall of the Songhai Empire marked the end of the region’s role as a trading crossroads. Following the establishment of sea routes by the European powers, the trans-Saharan trade routes lost their significance.

In the colonial era, Mali fell under the control of the French beginning in the late 1800s. By 1905, most of the area was under firm French control as a part of French Sudan. In early 1959, the union of Mali (then the Sudanese Republic) and Senegal became the Mali Federation, which gained independence from France on June 20, 1960. Following the withdrawal of Senegal from the federation in August 1960, the Sudanese Republic became the independent nation of Mali on September 22, 1960, with Modibo Keïta as president. Keïta quickly established a one-party state, adopted an independent African and socialist orientation with close ties to the Eastern bloc, and implemented extensive nationalization of economic resources.

In November 1968, following progressive economic decline, the Keïta regime was overthrown in a bloodless military coup led by Moussa Traoré.[3] The subsequent military-led regime, with Traoré as president, attempted to reform the economy, but its efforts were frustrated by political turmoil and a devastating 1968-1974 drought.[3] The Traoré regime faced student unrest beginning in the late 1970s as well as three coup attempts, but it repressed all dissent until the late 1980s.[3] The government continued to attempt economic reforms, the populace became increasingly dissatisfied.[3] In response to growing demands for multiparty democracy, the Traoré regime allowed some limited political liberalization, but refused to usher in a full-fledged democratic system.[3] In 1990 cohesive opposition movements began to emerge, though the turbulent political situation was complicated by the rise of ethnic violence in the north following the return of many Tuaregs to Mali.[3]

Anti-government protests in 1991 led to a coup, a transitional government, and a new constitution. In 1992, Alpha Oumar Konaré won Mali’s first democratic, multi-party presidential election. Upon his reelection in 1997, President Konaré pushed through political and economic reforms and fought corruption. In 2002 he was succeeded in democratic elections by Amadou Toumani Touré, a retired General, who had been the leader of the military aspect of 1991 democratic uprising. Today, Mali is one of the most politically and socially stable countries in Africa.

Geography Location: Western Africa, southwest of Algeria
Geographic coordinates: 17 00 N, 4 00 W
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 1.24 million sq km
land: 1.22 million sq km
water: 20,000 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly less than twice the size of Texas
Land boundaries: total: 7,243 km
border countries: Algeria 1,376 km, Burkina Faso 1,000 km, Guinea 858 km, Cote d’Ivoire 532 km, Mauritania 2,237 km, Niger 821 km, Senegal 419 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: subtropical to arid; hot and dry (February to June); rainy, humid, and mild (June to November); cool and dry (November to February)
Terrain: mostly flat to rolling northern plains covered by sand; savanna in south, rugged hills in northeast
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Senegal River 23 m
highest point: Hombori Tondo 1,155 m
Natural resources: gold, phosphates, kaolin, salt, limestone, uranium, gypsum, granite, hydropower
note: bauxite, iron ore, manganese, tin, and copper deposits are known but not exploited
Land use: arable land: 3.76%
permanent crops: 0.03%
other: 96.21% (2005)
Irrigated land: 2,360 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 100 cu km (2001)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 6.55 cu km/yr (9%/1%/90%)
per capita: 484 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: hot, dust-laden harmattan haze common during dry seasons; recurring droughts; occasional Niger River flooding
Environment – current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; inadequate supplies of potable water; poaching
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: landlocked; divided into three natural zones: the southern, cultivated Sudanese; the central, semiarid Sahelian; and the northern, arid Saharan
Politics Mali is a constitutional democracy governed by the constitution of January 12, 1992, as amended in 1999.[5] The constitution provides for a separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.[5] The system of government can be described as “semi-presidential.”

Executive power is vested in a president, who is elected to a five-year term by universal suffrage and is limited to two terms.[5][6] The president serves as chief of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. A prime minister appointed by the president serves as head of government and in turn appoints the Council of Ministers. The unicameral National Assembly is Mali’s sole legislative body, consisting of deputies elected to five-year terms.Following the 2007 elections, the Alliance for Democracy and Progress held 113 of 160 seats in the assembly. The assembly holds two regular sessions each year, during which it debates and votes on legislation that has been submitted by a member or by the government.

Mali’s constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but the executive continues to exercise influence over the judiciary by virtue of its power to appoint judges and oversee both judicial functions and law enforcement. Mali’s highest courts are the Supreme Court, which has both judicial and administrative powers, and a separate Constitutional Court that provides judicial review of legislative acts and serves as an election arbiter. Various lower courts exist, though village chiefs and elders resolve most local disputes in rural areas.

People Population: 12,324,029 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 48.2% (male 3,004,003/female 2,937,138)
15-64 years: 48.7% (male 2,976,314/female 3,028,433)
65 years and over: 3.1% (male 150,597/female 227,544) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 15.8 years
male: 15.4 years
female: 16.2 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.725% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 49.38 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 16.16 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -5.97 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.66 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 103.83 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 113.41 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 93.97 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 49.94 years
male: 48 years
female: 51.94 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 7.34 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Mauritania: Truth, Knowledge And History Of This West African Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Mauritania

Introduction Independent from France in 1960, Mauritania annexed the southern third of the former Spanish Sahara (now Western Sahara) in 1976, but relinquished it after three years of raids by the Polisario guerrilla front seeking independence for the territory. Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA seized power in a coup in 1984 and ruled Mauritania with a heavy hand for over two decades. A series of presidential elections that he held were widely seen as flawed. A bloodless coup in August 2005 deposed President TAYA and ushered in a military council that oversaw a transition to democratic rule. Independent candidate Sidi Ould Cheikh ABDALLAHI was inaugurated in April 2007 as Mauritania’s first freely and fairly elected president. The country continues to experience ethnic tensions among its black population (Afro-Mauritanians) and White and Black Moor (Arab-Berber) communities, although the new government is attempting to ameliorate some of these tensions.
History From the fifth to seventh centuries, the migration of Berber tribes from North Africa displaced the Bafours, the original inhabitants of present-day Mauritania and the ancestors of the Soninke. The Bafours were primarily agriculturalist, and among the first Saharan people to abandon their historically nomadic lifestyle. With the gradual desiccation of the Sahara, they headed south. Following them came a migration of not only Central Saharans into West Africa, but in 1076, Moorish Islamic warrior monks (Almoravid or Al Murabitun) attacked and conquered the ancient Ghana Empire. Over the next 500 years, Arabs overcame fierce resistance from the local population (Berber and non-Berber alike) and came to dominate Mauritania. The Mauritanian Thirty-Year War (1644-74) was the unsuccessful final effort to repel the Yemeni Maqil Arab invaders led by the Beni Hassan tribe. The descendants of the Beni Hassan warriors became the upper stratum of Moorish society. Berbers retained influence by producing the majority of the region’s Marabouts—those who preserve and teach Islamic tradition. Many of the Berber tribes claimed Yemeni (and sometimes other Arab) origin: there is little evidence to suggest this, though some studies do make a connection between the two. [2] Hassaniya, a Berber-influenced Arabic dialect that derives its name from the Beni Hassan, became the dominant language among the largely nomadic population.

French colonization gradually absorbed the territories of present-day Mauritania from the Senegal river area and upwards, starting in the late 1800s. In 1901, Xavier Coppolani took charge of the colonial mission. Through a combination of strategic alliances with Zawiya tribes and military pressure on the Hassane warrior nomads, he managed to extend French rule over the Mauritanian emirates: Trarza, Brakna and Tagant quickly submitted to treaties with the colonial power (1903-04), but the northern emirate of Adrar held out longer, aided by the anticolonial rebellion (or jihad) of shaykh Maa al-Aynayn. It was finally defeated militarily in 1912, and incorporated into the territory of Mauritania, which had been drawn up in 1904. Mauritania would subsequently form part of French West Africa, from 1920.

French rule brought legal prohibitions against slavery and an end to interclan warfare. During the colonial period, the population remained nomadic, but many sedentary peoples, whose ancestors had been expelled centuries earlier, began to trickle back into Mauritania. As the country gained independence in 1960, the capital city Nouakchott was founded at the site of a small colonial village, the Ksar, while 90% of the population was still nomadic. With independence, larger numbers of indigenous Sub-Saharan African peoples (Haalpulaar, Soninke, and Wolof) entered Mauritania, moving into the area north of the Senegal River. Educated in French language and customs, many of these recent arrivals became clerks, soldiers, and administrators in the new state. This, occurring as France militarily suppressed the most intransigent hassane tribes of the Moorish north, shifted old balances of power, and created new cause for conflict between the southern populations and Moors. Between these groups stood the Haratin, a very large population of Arabized slaves, who lived within Moorish society, integrated into a low-caste social position. Modern day slavery is still a common practice in this country.[1]

Moors reacted to the change, and to Arab nationalist calls from abroad, by increasing pressure to Arabize many aspects of Mauritanian life, such as law and language. A schism developed between those Moors who consider Mauritania to be an Arab country and those who seek a dominant role for the non-Moorish peoples, with various models for containing the country’s cultural diversity suggested, but none implemented successfully. This ethnic discord was evident during intercommunal violence that broke out in April 1989 (the “1989 Events” and “Mauritania-Senegal Border War”), but has since subsided. The ethnic tension and the sensitive issue of slavery – past and, in some areas, present – is still a powerful theme in the country’s political debate. A significant number from all groups, however, seek a more diverse, pluralistic society.

Geography Location: Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara
Geographic coordinates: 20 00 N, 12 00 W
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 1,030,700 sq km
land: 1,030,400 sq km
water: 300 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than three times the size of New Mexico
Land boundaries: total: 5,074 km
border countries: Algeria 463 km, Mali 2,237 km, Senegal 813 km, Western Sahara 1,561 km
Coastline: 754 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate: desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty
Terrain: mostly barren, flat plains of the Sahara; some central hills
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Sebkhet Te-n-Dghamcha -5 m
highest point: Kediet Ijill 915 m
Natural resources: iron ore, gypsum, copper, phosphate, diamonds, gold, oil, fish
Land use: arable land: 0.2%
permanent crops: 0.01%
other: 99.79% (2005)
Irrigated land: 490 sq km (2002)
Total renewable water resources: 11.4 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.7 cu km/yr (9%/3%/88%)
per capita: 554 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: hot, dry, dust/sand-laden sirocco wind blows primarily in March and April; periodic droughts
Environment – current issues: overgrazing, deforestation, and soil erosion aggravated by drought are contributing to desertification; limited natural fresh water resources away from the Senegal, which is the only perennial river; locust infestation
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: most of the population concentrated in the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and along the Senegal River in the southern part of the country
Politics Politics in Mauritania have always been determined by personalities and tribes more than ideologies, with any leader’s ability to exercise political power dependent upon control over resources; perceived ability and integrity; and tribal, ethnic, family, and personal considerations. Conflict between white Moor, black Moor (Haratine), and non-Moor ethnic groups (Haal Pulaars, Soninkes, Wolofs and Bambaras), centering on language, land tenure, and other issues, continues to be the dominant challenge to national unity.

The government bureaucracy is composed of traditional ministries, special agencies, and parastatal companies. The Ministry of Interior spearheads a system of regional governors and prefects modeled on the French system of local administration. Under this system, Mauritania is divided into thirteen regions (wilaya), including the capital district, Nouakchott. Control is tightly concentrated in the executive branch of the central government, but a series of national and municipal elections since 1992 have produced some limited decentralization.

Mauritania, along with Morocco, annexed the territory of Western Sahara in 1976, with Mauritania taking the lower one-third at the request of former colonial power, Spain. After several military losses to Polisario, heavily armed and supported by Algeria, the local hegemon and rival to Morocco, Mauritania retreated in 1979, and its claims were taken over by Morocco. Due to economic weakness, Mauritania has been a negligible player in the territorial dispute, with its official position being that it wishes for an expedient solution that is mutually agreeable to all parties. While most of the former Spanish or Western Sahara has been woven into Morocco, the UN still considers the Western Sahara a territory that needs to express its wishes with respect to statehood: a referendum is still supposed to be held sometimes in the future, under UN auspices, to determine whether the “saharaouis” wish to remain part of Morocco or not. The Moroccan authorities, on their part, wish the saharaouis to remain part of Morocco and, as such, have made significant investments in the area.

Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy signed an agreement in Washington DC, USA on October 28th,1999, establishing full diplomatic relations with Mauritania, an Islamic country and a member of the Arab League.

The signing ceremony was held at the U.S. State Department in the presence of U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright – who invited the Israeli Foreign Minister and his Mauritanian counterpart, Ahmed Sid’Ahmed, to sign the agreement in Washington DC. The United States of America views this important development as a product of, among other things, the September 24th,1999, New York City meeting initiated by the United States of America, and attended by the Foreign Ministers of Israel, Mauritania and a series of other Arab states.

Earlier this year, Israel announced its first project in Mauritania, an eye clinic operated by the Foreign Ministry’s Center for International Cooperation (MASHAV).

Both Israel and the United States view the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Israel and Mauritania as a milestone in the promotion of normalization, which is widely seen as the goal of the peace process which has evolved since the Madrid Conference. Mauritania joins Egypt and Jordan as the only members of the Arab League to post ambassadors in Israel. The Israeli Foreign Ministry will continue to work for the development and strengthening of Israel’s relations with other countries in the region. On February 1, 2008 at least one gunman opened fire on the Israeli embassy, injuring at least three people [3]

On 31 January (2008) Permanent representative of Republic of Armenia to the United Nations (New York) Armen Martirosyan has signed a protocol with Abderahim Ould Hadrami (Mauritanian representative to UN) in New York establishing full diplomatic relations with Mauritania.

The discovery of oil in 2001 in the offshore Chinguetti deposit will be a test for the current government since, according to human rights activists, it can be a blessing for one of the poorest countries in the world as well as a curse bringing corruption and violence to the country.

People Population: 3,364,940 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 45.3% (male 763,845/female 759,957)
15-64 years: 52.5% (male 872,924/female 894,980)
65 years and over: 2.2% (male 29,147/female 44,087) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 17.2 years
male: 16.9 years
female: 17.4 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.852% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 40.14 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 11.61 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.66 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 66.65 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 69.69 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 63.52 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 53.91 years
male: 51.61 years
female: 56.28 years (2008 est.)

Mauritius: The Truth, Knowledge And History Of This Island Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Mauritius

Introduction Although known to Arab and Malay sailors as early as the 10th century, Mauritius was first explored by the Portuguese in 1505; it was subsequently held by the Dutch, French, and British before independence was attained in 1968. A stable democracy with regular free elections and a positive human rights record, the country has attracted considerable foreign investment and has earned one of Africa’s highest per capita incomes. Recent poor weather, declining sugar prices, and declining textile and apparel production, have slowed economic growth, leading to some protests over standards of living in the Creole community.
History The first record of Mauritius comes from Arab and Malay sailors as early as the 10th century.[4] The Portuguese sailors first visited it in 1507 and established a visiting base leaving the island uninhabited. Three ships of the eight Dutch Second Fleet that were sent to the Spice Islands were blown off course during a cyclone and landed on the island in 1598, naming it in honor of Prince Maurice of Nassau, the Stadtholder of the Netherlands.[5] In 1638, the Dutch established the first permanent settlement. Because of tough climatic conditions including cyclones and the deterioration of the settlement, the Dutch abandoned the island some decades later. France, which already controlled the neighboring Île Bourbon (now Réunion) seized Mauritius in 1715 and later renamed it Île de France (Isle of France). Under French rule, the island developed a prosperous economy based on sugar production. This economic transformation was initiated in part by governor François Mahé de Labourdonnais.

During their numerous military conflicts with Great Britain, the French harboured the outlawed “corsairs” (privateers or pirates) who frequently took British vessels as they sailed between India and Britain, laden with valuable trade goods. In the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) the British set out to gain control of the island. Despite winning the Battle of Grand Port, Napoleon’s only naval victory over the British, the French lost to the British at Cap Malheureux three months later. They formally surrendered on 3 December 1810, on terms allowing settlers to keep their land and property and to use the French language and law of France in criminal and civil matters. Under British rule, the island’s name reverted to the original Mauritius.

In 1965, the United Kingdom split the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius to create the British Indian Ocean Territory in order to use the strategic islands for defence purposes in co-operation with the United States. Although the Government of Mauritius agreed to the move at the time,[citation needed] subsequent administrations have laid claim to the islands stating that the divestment was illegal under international law, a claim recognised by the United Nations.[citation needed]

Mauritius attained independence in 1968 and the country became a republic within the Commonwealth in 1992. Mauritius has been a stable democracy with regular free elections and a positive human rights record, and has attracted considerable foreign investment earning one of Africa’s highest per capita incomes.

Geography Location: Southern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar
Geographic coordinates: 20 17 S, 57 33 E
Map references: Political Map of the World
Area: total: 2,040 sq km
land: 2,030 sq km
water: 10 sq km
note: includes Agalega Islands, Cargados Carajos Shoals (Saint Brandon), and Rodrigues
Area – comparative: almost 11 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 177 km
Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic straight baselines
territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate: tropical, modified by southeast trade winds; warm, dry winter (May to November); hot, wet, humid summer (November to May)
Terrain: small coastal plain rising to discontinuous mountains encircling central plateau
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mont Piton 828 m
Natural resources: arable land, fish
Land use: arable land: 49.02%
permanent crops: 2.94%
other: 48.04% (2005)
Irrigated land: 220 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 2.2 cu km (2001)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.61 cu km/yr (25%/14%/60%)
per capita: 488 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: cyclones (November to April); almost completely surrounded by reefs that may pose maritime hazards
Environment – current issues: water pollution, degradation of coral reefs
Environment – international agreements: party to: Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: the main island, from which the country derives its name, is of volcanic origin and is almost entirely surrounded by coral reefs
Politics Mauritius is a parliamentary democracy based on the United Kingdom model. The head of state of Mauritius is the President, who is elected for a five-year term by the National Assembly, the unicameral Mauritian parliament. The National Assembly consists of 62 members elected directly by popular vote, with between four and eight further members appointed from “best losers” election candidates to represent ethnic minorities, if under represented after the elections. The government is headed by the prime minister and a council of ministers.

The Government is elected on a five-year basis. The most recent general elections took place on 3 July 2005 in all the 20 mainland constituencies, as well as the constituency covering the island of Rodrigues.

Historically, elections have always had a tendency to adhere to a system comprising two major coalitions of parties.

In international affairs, Mauritius is part of the Indian Ocean Commission, the Southern African Development Community and the Commonwealth of Nations and La Francophonie (French speaking countries) amongst others. A more complete list can be found in the main Politics of Mauritius article.

In 2006, Mauritius asked to be an observing member of Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) in order to become closer to those countries.

People Population: 1,274,189 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 23% (male 148,573/female 143,859)
15-64 years: 70.1% (male 443,968/female 449,670)
65 years and over: 6.9% (male 35,269/female 52,850) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 31.5 years
male: 30.6 years
female: 32.3 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.8% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 14.64 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.55 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.09 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.67 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 12.56 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 14.94 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 10.06 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73.75 years
male: 70.28 years
female: 77.4 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.83 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Mexico: Truth, Knowledge And The History Of This Great Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Mexico

Introduction The site of advanced Amerindian civilizations, Mexico came under Spanish rule for three centuries before achieving independence early in the 19th century. A devaluation of the peso in late 1994 through Mexico into economic turmoil, triggering the worst recession in over half a century. The nation continues to make an impressive recovery. Ongoing economic and social concerns include low real wages, underemployment for a large segment of the population, inequitable income distribution, and few advancement opportunities for the largely Amerindian population in the impoverished southern states. The elections held in 2000 marked the first time since the 1910 Mexican Revolution that an opposition candidate – Vicente FOX of the National Action Party (PAN) – defeated the party in government, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). He was succeeded in 2006 by another PAN candidate Felipe CALDERON.
History Pre-Columbian civilizations

Human presence in Mesoamerica has been shown to date back 40,000 years based upon ancient human footprints discovered in the Valley of Mexico (previous evidence substantiated indigenous inhabitants at 12,500 years ago). For thousands of years, Mesoamerica was a land of hunter-gatherers. Around 9,000 years ago, ancient indigenous people’s domesticated corn and initiated an agricultural revolution, leading to the formation of many complex civilizations.

These civilizations revolved around cities with writing, monumental architecture, astronomical studies, mathematics, and militaries. For almost three thousand years, Aridoamerica and Mesoamerica were the site of several advanced Amerindian civilizations.

In 1519, the native civilizations of Mesoamerica were invaded by Spain; among them the Aztecs, Mayans, Olmecs, etc. This was one of the most important conquest campaigns in America. Two years later, in 1521, the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan was conquered by the Spaniards along with the Tlaxcaltecs, the main enemies of the Aztecs, marking end to the Aztec Empire and giving rise to the Viceroyalty of New Spain in 1535, it became the first and largest provider of resources for the Spanish Empire, and the most populated of all Spanish colonies.

Colonial era and independence

Almost 300 years after the New Spain was created, on September 16, 1810, independence from Spain was declared by Priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, in the small town of Dolores, Guanajuato.[18] This was the catalyst for a long war that ended in 1821 which eventually led to the independence and creation of the ephemeral First Mexican Empire. Agustín de Iturbide was the first and only emperor. Two years later, he was deposed by the republican forces. In 1824, a republican constitution was drafted creating the United Mexican States with Guadalupe Victoria as its first President.

The first four decades after the creation of the country were marked by a constant strife between liberales (those who supported the federal form of government stipulated in the 1824 constitution) and conservadores (who proposed a hierarchical form of government in which all local authorities were appointed and subject to a central authority).[19] General Antonio López de Santa Anna was a strong influence in Mexican politics, a centralist and a two-time dictator. In 1836, he approved the Siete Leyes, a radical amendment to the constitution that institutionalized the centralized form of government. Having suspended the Constitution of 1824, civil war spread across the country, and three new governments declared independence; the Republic of Texas, the Republic of the Rio Grande (recognized by the United Kingdom) and the Republic of Yucatán. Only Texas was able to defeat Santa Anna, and later the annexation of Texas by the United States created a border dispute that would cause the Mexican-American War. Santa Anna played a big role in trying to muster Mexican forces but this war resulted in the resolute defeat of Mexico and as a result of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), Mexico lost one-third of its surface area due to civil war with Texas, and later war with the United States.

Dissatisfaction with Santa Anna’s return to power, and his unconstitutional rule, led to the liberal Revolution of Ayutla, which initiated an era of liberal reforms, known as La Reforma, after which a new constitution was drafted that reestablished federalism as the form of government and first introduced freedom of religion. In the 1860’s the country again underwent a military occupation, this time by France, which established the Habsburg Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria on the Mexican throne as Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico with support from the Catholic clergy and the conservative Mexicans. This Second Mexican Empire was victorious for only a few years, when the previous president of the Republic, the Zapotec Indian Benito Juárez, managed to restore the republic in 1867.

20th and 21st centuries

Porfirio Díaz, a republican general during the French intervention, ruled Mexico from 1876–1880 and then from 1880–1911 in five consecutive reelections. The period of his rule is known as the Porfiriato, which was characterized by remarkable economic achievements, investments in art and sciences, but also of huge economic inequality and political repression.[20] An obvious and preposterous electoral fraud that led to his fifth reelection sparked the Mexican Revolution of 1910, initially led by Francisco I. Madero. Díaz resigned in 1911 and Madero was elected president but overthrown and murdered in a coup d’état in 1913 led by a conservative general named Victoriano Huerta after a secret council held with the U.S. ambassador Henry Lane Wilson. This re-ignited the civil war, with participants such as Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata who formed their own forces. A third force, the constitutional army led by Venustiano Carranza, managed to bring an end to the war, and radically amended the 1857 Constitution to include many of the social premises and demands of the revolutionaries into what was eventually called the 1917 Constitution. Carranza was killed in 1920 and succeeded by another revolutionary hero, Álvaro Obregón, who in turn was succeeded by Plutarco Elías Calles. Obregón was reelected in 1928 but assassinated before he could assume power. In 1929, Calles founded the National Revolutionary Party (PNR), later renamed the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) which became the most influential party during the next 70 years.

Between 1940 and 1980, Mexico experienced substantial economic growth that some historians call “El Milagro Mexicano”, the Mexican Miracle.[21] The assumption of mineral rights by the government, and the subsequent nationalization of the oil industry into PEMEX during the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas del Río (1938) was a popular move, but sparked a diplomatic crisis with those countries whose citizens had lost businesses expropriated by the Cárdenas government.

Although the economy continued to flourish, social inequality remained a factor of discontent. Moreover, the PRI rule became increasingly authoritarian and at times oppressive.[22] An example of this is the Tlatelolco Massacre [23] of 1968, which according to government officials claimed the life of around 30 protesters, while according to many reputable international accounts around 250 protesters were killed.

In the 1970s there was extreme dissatisfaction with the administration of Luis Echeverría which took missteps in both the national and international arenas. Nonetheless, it was in this decade that the first substantial changes to electoral law were made, which initiated a movement of democratization of a system that had become electorally authoritarian.[24][25] While the prices of oil were at historically high records and interest rates were low, Mexico made impressive investments in the state-owned oil company, with the intention of revitalizing the economy, but overborrowing and mismanagement of oil revenues led to inflation and exacerbated the crisis of 1982. That year, oil prices plunged, interest rates soared, and the government defaulted on its debt. In an attempt to stabilize the current account balance, and given the reluctance of international lenders to return to Mexico given the previous default, President de la Madrid resorted to currency devaluations which in turn sparked inflation.

Former President Vicente Fox and U.S. President George Bush at the signature of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.

The first small cracks in the political monopolistic position of PRI were seen in the late 1970s with the creation of 100 deputy seats in the Chamber of Deputies assigned through proportional representation with closed party-lists. Even though at the municipal level the first non-PRI mayor was elected in 1947,[26] it was not until 1989 that the first non-PRI governor of a state was elected. However, many sources claimed that in 1988 the party resorted to electoral fraud in order to prevent leftist opposition candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas from winning the national presidential elections who lost to Carlos Salinas, which led to massive protests in the capital.[27] Salinas embarked on a program of neoliberal reforms which fixed the exchange rate, controlled inflation and culminated with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which came into effect in 1994. However, that very same day, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) started a two-week-lived armed rebellion against the federal government, and has continued as a non-violent opposition movement against neoliberalism and globalization. Being an election year, in a process that was then called the most transparent in Mexican history, authorities were reluctant to devalue the peso, a move which caused a rapid depletion of the National Reserves. In December 1994, a month after Salinas was succeeded by Ernesto Zedillo, the Mexican economy collapsed.

With a rapid rescue packaged authorized by United States President Bill Clinton and major macroeconomic reforms started by president Zedillo, the economy rapidly recovered and growth peaked at almost 7% by the end of 1999.[28] After a comprehensive electoral reform to increase party representation during Zedillo’s administration, as well as discontent with PRI after the economic crisis, led the PRI to lose its absolute majority in the Congress in 1997. In 2000, after 71 years the PRI lost a presidential election to Vicente Fox of the opposition National Action Party (PAN). Neither party had absolute majority in the Congress.

On March 23, 2005, the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America was signed by Vicente Fox. During the 2006 elections, the position of PRI in the Congress was further weakened and became the third political force in number of seats in the Chamber of Deputies after PAN and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), even though the party still has the plurality of state governorships. In the concurrent presidential elections, Felipe Calderón, from PAN was declared winner, with a razor-thin margin over Andrés Manuel López Obrador PRD. López Obrador, however, contested the election and pledged to create an “alternative government”.

Geography Location: Middle America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, between Belize and the US and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Guatemala and the US
Geographic coordinates: 23 00 N, 102 00 W
Map references: North America
Area: total: 1,972,550 sq km
land: 1,923,040 sq km
water: 49,510 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly less than three times the size of Texas
Land boundaries: total: 4,353 km
border countries: Belize 250 km, Guatemala 962 km, US 3,141 km
Coastline: 9,330 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate: varies from tropical to desert
Terrain: high, rugged mountains; low coastal plains; high plateaus; desert
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Laguna Salada -10 m
highest point: Volcan Pico de Orizaba 5,700 m
Natural resources: petroleum, silver, copper, gold, lead, zinc, natural gas, timber
Land use: arable land: 12.66%
permanent crops: 1.28%
other: 86.06% (2005)
Irrigated land: 63,200 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 457.2 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 78.22 cu km/yr (17%/5%/77%)
per capita: 731 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: tsunamis along the Pacific coast, volcanoes and destructive earthquakes in the center and south, and hurricanes on the Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean coasts
Environment – current issues: scarcity of hazardous waste disposal facilities; rural to urban migration; natural fresh water resources scarce and polluted in north, inaccessible and poor quality in center and extreme southeast; raw sewage and industrial effluents polluting rivers in urban areas; deforestation; widespread erosion; desertification; deteriorating agricultural lands; serious air and water pollution in the national capital and urban centers along US-Mexico border; land subsidence in Valley of Mexico caused by groundwater depletion
note: the government considers the lack of clean water and deforestation national security issues
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: strategic location on southern border of US; corn (maize), one of the world’s major grain crops, is thought to have originated in Mexico
Politics The United Mexican States are a federation whose government is representative, democratic and republican based on a congressional system according to the 1917 Constitution. The constitution establishes three levels of government: the federal Union, the state governments and the municipal governments. All officials at the three levels are elected by voters through first-past-the-post plurality, proportional representation or are appointed by other elected officials.

The federal government is constituted by the Powers of the Union, the three separate branches of government:
Legislative: the bicameral Congress of the Union, composed of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies, which makes federal law, declares war, imposes taxes, approves the national budget and international treaties, and ratifies diplomatic appointments.[30]
Executive: the President of the United Mexican States, who is the head of state and government, as well as the commander-in-chief of the Mexican military forces. The President also appoints, with Senate approval, the Cabinet and other officers. The President is responsible for executing and enforcing the law, and has the authority of vetoing bills.[31]
Judiciary: The Supreme Court of Justice, comprised by eleven judges appointed by the President with Senate approval, who interpret laws and judge cases of federal competency. Other institutions of the judiciary are the Electoral Tribunal, collegiate, unitary and district tribunals, and the Council of the Federal Judiciary.[32]

All elected executive officials are elected by plurality (first-past-the-post). Seats to the legislature are elected by plurality and proportional representation at the federal and state level.[33] The Chamber of Deputies of the Congress of the Union is conformed by 300 deputies elected by plurality and 200 deputies by proportional representation with closed party lists[34] for which the country is divided into 5 electoral constituencies or circumscriptions.[35] The Senate is conformed by a total of 128 senators: 64 senators, two per state and the Federal District elected by plurality in pairs; 32 senators assigned to the first minority or first-runner up (one per state and the Federal District), and 32 elected by proportional representation with closed party lists for which the country conforms a single electoral constituency.[34]

According to the constitution, all constituent states must have a republican form of government composed of three branches: the executive, represented by a governor and an appointed cabinet, the legislative branch constituted by a unicameral congress and the judiciary, also called a Supreme Court of Justice. They also have their own civil and judicial codes.

In the 2006–2009 Congress of the Union, eight parties are therein represented; five of them, however, have not received neither in this nor in previous congresses more than 4% of the national votes.[36] The other three parties have historically been the dominant parties in Mexican politics:
National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN): a center-right conservative party founded in 1939.
Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI): a center party that ascribes to social democracy, founded in 1929 to unite all the factions of the Mexican Revolution. Prominent right-wing as well as left-wing Mexican politicians have been members of the party.
Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD): a center-left party founded in 1989 by the coalition of socialists and liberal parties, the National Democratic Front which had presented the candidacy of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas in the 1988 elections.

The PRI held an almost hegemonic power in Mexican politics since 1929. Since 1977 consecutive electoral reforms allowed opposition parties to win more posts at the local and federal level. This process culminated in the 2000 presidential elections in which Vicente Fox, candidate of the PAN, became the first non-PRI president to be elected in 71 years.

In 2006, Felipe Calderón of the PAN faced Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the PRD in a very close election (0.58% difference), in a system without a second-ballot. On September 6, 2006, Felipe Calderón was declared President-elect by the electoral tribunal. His cabinet was sworn in at midnight on December 1, 2006 and Calderón was handed the presidential band by outgoing Vicente Fox at Los Pinos. He was officially sworn as President on the morning of December 1, 2006 in Congress.

People Population: 109,955,400 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 29.6% (male 16,619,995/female 15,936,154)
15-64 years: 64.3% (male 34,179,440/female 36,530,154)
65 years and over: 6.1% (male 3,023,185/female 3,666,472) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 26 years
male: 24.9 years
female: 27 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.142% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 20.04 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 4.78 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -3.84 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.82 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 19.01 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 20.91 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 17.02 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 75.84 years
male: 73.05 years
female: 78.78 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.37 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Monaco: Truth, Knowledge And Understanding If This Tiny European Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Monaco

Introduction The Genoese built a fortress on the site of present-day Monaco in 1215. The current ruling Grimaldi family secured control in the late 13th century, and a principality was established in 1338. Economic development was spurred in the late 19th century with a railroad link up to France and the opening of a casino. Since then, the principality’s mild climate, splendid scenery, and gambling facilities have made Monaco world-famous as a tourist and recreation center.
History Monaco first gained its name from the nearby Phocaean Greek colony, in the sixth century BC, which referred to the Ligurians as Monoikos, from the Greek Μόνοικος “single house”, from μόνος “alone, single” + οίκος “house”, which bears the sense of a people either settled in a “single habitation” or of “living apart” from others. According to an ancient myth, Hercules passed through the Monaco area. A temple was constructed there by Phocaeans, the temple of Hercules Monoikos.[4]

Following a land grant from Emperor Henry VI in 1191, Monaco was re-founded in 1228 as a colony of Genoa. Monaco has been ruled by the House of Grimaldi since 1297, when François Grimaldi (“Malizia”, Italian for “The Malicious”) and his men captured the fortress protecting the famous Rock of Monaco while he was dressed as a Franciscan monk – or, in Italian Monaco, although this is a coincidence as the area was already known by this name.

From 1793 to 1814, Monaco was under French control. The Congress of Vienna designated Monaco as a protectorate of the Kingdom of Sardinia from 1815 until 1860 when the Treaty of Turin ceded to France the surrounding county of Nice (as well as Savoy). During this time there was unrest in the towns of Menton and Roquebrune, which declared independence, hoping for annexation by Sardinia. The unrest continued until the ruling prince gave up his claim to the two towns (some 95% of the country) to France in return for four million francs. This transfer and Monaco’s sovereignty was recognised by the Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861.

Until the 1911 constitution, the princes of Monaco were absolute rulers. In July 1918, a treaty was signed providing for limited French protection over Monaco. The treaty, part of the Treaty of Versailles, established that Monegasque international policy would be aligned with French political, military, and economic interests.

In 1943, the Italian army invaded and occupied Monaco, setting up a Fascist administration. Shortly thereafter, following Mussolini’s collapse in Italy, the Nazi German Wehrmacht occupied Monaco and began the deportation of the Jewish population. Among them was René Blum (Paris, 13 March 1878 – Auschwitz, 30 April 1943), who founded the Ballet de l’Opera in Monte Carlo. He was held in the Drancy deportation camp outside of Paris, France from where he was then shipped to the Auschwitz concentration camp where he died.

Rainier III, Prince of Monaco acceded to the throne following the death of his grandfather, Prince Louis II, in 1949. A new constitution, proclaimed in 1962, abolished capital punishment, provided for women’s suffrage, and established a Supreme Court of Monaco to guarantee fundamental liberties. In 1993, the Principality of Monaco became a member of the United Nations, with full voting rights.

In 2002, a new treaty between France and Monaco specified that, should there be no heirs to carry on the Grimaldi dynasty, the principality would still remain an independent nation rather than revert to France. Monaco’s military defense, however, is still the responsibility of France.

On 31 March 2005, Prince Rainier III, too ill to exercise his duties, relinquished them onto his only son and heir, Prince Albert Alexandre Louis. Prince Rainier died on 6 April 2005, after a reign of fifty-six years, and his son succeeded him as Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco.

Following a period of official mourning, Prince Albert II formally assumed the princely crown on 12 July 2005, in a celebration that began with a solemn Mass at Monaco cathedral, where his father had been buried three months earlier. His accession to the Monegasque throne was a two-step event, with a further ceremony, drawing heads of state for an elaborate levée, held on 19 November 2005 at the historic palace in Monaco-Ville. Albert II is also the son of the late princess Grace, once the actress, Grace Kelly.

Geography Location: Western Europe, bordering the Mediterranean Sea on the southern coast of France, near the border with Italy
Geographic coordinates: 43 44 N, 7 24 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 1.95 sq km
land: 1.95 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: about three times the size of The Mall in Washington, DC
Land boundaries: total: 4.4 km
border countries: France 4.4 km
Coastline: 4.1 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 12 nm
Climate: Mediterranean with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers
Terrain: hilly, rugged, rocky
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mont Agel 140 m
Natural resources: none
Land use: arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (urban area) (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: NA
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: second-smallest independent state in the world (after Holy See); almost entirely urban
Politics Monaco has been governed as a constitutional monarchy since 1911, with the Sovereign Prince of Monaco as Head of state. The executive branch consists of a Minister of State (the head of government), who presides over a four-member Council of Government (the Cabinet). The minister of state is a French citizen appointed by the prince from among candidates proposed by the French government. Under the 1962 constitution, the prince shares his power with the unicameral National Council (parliament). The twenty-four members of this legislative body are elected from lists by universal suffrage for five-year terms. The principality’s local affairs are directed by the Communal Council, which consists of fifteen elected members and is presided over by the mayor.
People Population: 32,796 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 14.8% (male 2,488/female 2,369)
15-64 years: 62.4% (male 10,110/female 10,353)
65 years and over: 22.8% (male 3,048/female 4,428) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 45.5 years
male: 43.5 years
female: 47.5 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.375% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 9.09 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 12.96 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 7.62 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 0.91 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 5.18 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 6 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.33 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.96 years
male: 76.14 years
female: 83.97 years (2008 est.)

Montserrat: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Tiny Caribbean Island Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Montserrat

Introduction English and Irish colonists from St. Kitts first settled on Montserrat in 1632; the first African slaves arrived three decades later. The British and French fought for possession of the island for most of the 18th century, but it finally was confirmed as a British possession in 1783. The island’s sugar plantation economy was converted to small farm landholdings in the mid 19th century. Much of this island was devastated and two-thirds of the population fled abroad because of the eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano that began on 18 July 1995. Montserrat has endured volcanic activity since, with the last eruption occurring in July 2003.
History Montserrat was populated by Arawak and Carib people when it was claimed by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage for Spain in 1493, naming the island Santa María de Montserrate, after the Blessed Virgin of the Monastery of Montserrat, which is located on the Mountain of Montserrat, in Catalonia. The island fell under English control in 1632 when a group of Irish fleeing anti-Roman Catholic sentiment in Saint Kitts and Nevis settled there. The import of slaves, common to most Caribbean islands, mainly coming from West Africa, followed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and an economy based on sugar, rum, arrowroot and Sea Island cotton was established.

In 1782, during the American Revolutionary War, Montserrat was briefly captured by France. It was returned to the United Kingdom under the Treaty of Paris which ended that conflict. A failed slave uprising on 17 March 1798 led to Montserrat later becoming one of only four places in the world that celebrates St Patrick’s Day as a public or bank holiday (the others being the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador). Slavery was finally abolished in Montserrat in 1834, presumably as a result of the general emancipation of slaves within the British Empire in that same year.

Falling sugar prices during the nineteenth century had an adverse effect on the island’s economy and in 1869 the philanthropist Joseph Sturge of Birmingham formed the Montserrat Company to buy sugar estates that were no longer economically viable. The company planted limes starting production of the island’s famous lime juice, set up a school, and sold parcels of land to the inhabitants of the island, with the result that much of Montserrat came to be owned by smallholders.

From 1871 to 1958 Montserrat was administered as part of the Federal Colony of the Leeward Islands, becoming a province of the short-lived West Indies Federation from 1958 to 1962.

With the completion of Beatles producer George Martin’s AIR Studios Montserrat in 1979, the island attracted world-famous musicians who came to record in the peace and quiet and lush tropical surroundings of Montserrat.[4] The last several years of the 20th century, however, brought two events which devastated the island.

In September 1989, Hurricane Hugo struck Montserrat with full force, damaging over 90 percent of the structures on the island. AIR Studios closed, and the tourist trade upon which the island depended was nearly wiped out. Within a few years, however, the island had recovered considerably—only to be struck again by disaster.

In July 1995, Montserrat’s Soufriere Hills volcano, dormant throughout recorded history, rumbled to life and began an eruption which eventually buried the island’s capital, Plymouth, in more than 40 feet (12 m) (12 m) of mud, destroyed its airport and docking facilities, and rendered the southern half of the island uninhabitable. This forced more than half of the population to flee the island because they lacked housing. After a period of regular eruptive events during the late 1990s including one on June 25, 1997 in which 19 people lost their lives, the volcano’s activity in recent years has been confined mostly to infrequent ventings of ash into the uninhabited areas in the south. However, this ash venting does occasionally extend into the populated areas of the northern and western parts of the island. As an example, on May 20, 2006, the lava dome that had been slowly building collapsed, resulting in an ashfall of about an inch (2.5 cm) in Old Towne and parts of Olveston. There were no injuries or significant property damage.

Long referred to as “The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean” for both its Irish heritage and its resemblance to coastal Ireland, Montserrat today remains lush and green. A new airport, opened officially by the Princess Royal Princess Anne in February 2005, received its first commercial flights on July 11, 2005, and docking facilities are in place at Little Bay where a new capital is being constructed out of reach of any further volcanic activity.

The people of Montserrat were granted full residency rights in the United Kingdom in 1998, and citizenship was granted in 2002.

Geography Location: Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, southeast of Puerto Rico
Geographic coordinates: 16 45 N, 62 12 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 102 sq km
land: 102 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: about 0.6 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 40 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical; little daily or seasonal temperature variation
Terrain: volcanic island, mostly mountainous, with small coastal lowland
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: lava dome in English’s Crater (in the Soufriere Hills volcanic complex) estimated at over 930 m (2006)
Natural resources: NEGL
Land use: arable land: 20%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 80% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: severe hurricanes (June to November); volcanic eruptions (Soufriere Hills volcano has erupted continuously since 1995)
Environment – current issues: land erosion occurs on slopes that have been cleared for cultivation
Geography – note: the island is entirely volcanic in origin and comprised of three major volcanic centers of differing ages
Famous Montserratians Alphonsus “Arrow” Cassell, MBE born in Montserrat is well known for his soca song “Hot Hot Hot” which has sold over 4 million copies.
Shabazz Baidoo—A football player of Montserrat descent, plays in Football League 2 for Dagenham & Redbridge.
Tesfaye Bramble—A football player, currently unattached, but who most recently played in the Conference National in England for Stevenage Borough.
Junior Mendes—A professional footballer who has represented Montserrat twice in international games, currently playing for Aldershot Town in the Conference National League.
Jim Allen—A former cricketer who represented the World Series Cricket West Indians.
People Population: 9,638
note: an estimated 8,000 refugees left the island following the resumption of volcanic activity in July 1995; some have returned (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 23.5% (male 1,159/female 1,108)
15-64 years: 65.9% (male 3,027/female 3,323)
65 years and over: 10.6% (male 521/female 500) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 29.7 years
male: 29.3 years
female: 30.2 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.038% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 17.33 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.95 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.91 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.04 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 6.86 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.95 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.71 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.15 years
male: 76.93 years
female: 81.47 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.76 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Netherlands: Truth Knowledge And History Of This Great Nation

( THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Netherlands

Introduction The Dutch United Provinces declared their independence from Spain in 1579; during the 17th century, they became a leading seafaring and commercial power, with settlements and colonies around the world. After a 20-year French occupation, a Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed in 1815. In 1830 Belgium seceded and formed a separate kingdom. The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I, but suffered invasion and occupation by Germany in World War II. A modern, industrialized nation, the Netherlands is also a large exporter of agricultural products. The country was a founding member of NATO and the EEC (now the EU), and participated in the introduction of the euro in 1999.
History Under Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and king of Spain, the region was part of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands, which also included most of present-day Belgium, Luxembourg, and some land of France and Germany. 1568 saw the start of the Eighty Years’ War between the provinces and Spain. In 1579, the northern half of the Seventeen Provinces formed the Union of Utrecht, a treaty in which they promised to support each other in their defense against the Spanish army. The Union of Utrecht is seen as the foundation of the modern Netherlands. In 1581 the northern provinces adopted the Oath of Abjuration, the declaration of independence in which the provinces officially deposed Philip II. Philip II the son of Charles V, was not prepared to let them go easily and war continued until 1648 when Spain under King Philip IV finally recognised Dutch independence in the Treaty of Münster.

Dutch Republic 1581-1795

Since their independence from Phillip II in 1581 the provinces formed the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. The republic was a confederation of the provinces Holland, Zeeland, Groningen, Friesland, Utrecht, Overijssel and Gelre. All these provinces were autonomous and had their own government, the “States of the Province”. The States-General, the confederal government, were seated in The Hague and consisted of representatives from each of the seven provinces. The very thinly populated region of Drenthe, mainly consisting of poor peatland, was part of the Republic too, although Drenthe was not considered one of the provinces. Drenthe had its own States but the landdrost of Drenthe was appointed by the States-General.

The Republic occupied a number of so-called Generality Lands (Generaliteitslanden in Dutch). These territories were governed directly by the States-General, so they did not have a government of their own and they did not have representatives in the States-General. Most of these territories were occupied during the Eighty Years’ War. They were mainly Roman Catholic and they were used as a buffer zone between the Republic and the Southern Netherlands.

The Dutch grew to become one of the major seafaring and economic powers of the 17th century during the period of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. In the so-called Dutch Golden Age, colonies and trading posts were established all over the globe.

Many economic historians regard the Netherlands as the first thoroughly capitalist country in the world. In early modern Europe it featured the wealthiest trading city (Amsterdam) and the first full-time stock exchange. The inventiveness of the traders led to insurance and retirement funds as well as such less benign phenomena as the boom-bust cycle, the world’s first asset-inflation bubble, the tulip mania of 1636–1637, and according to Murray Sayle, the world’s first bear raider – Isaac le Maire, who forced prices down by dumping stock and then buying it back at a discount.[2] The republic went into a state of general decline in the later 18th century, with economic competition from England and long standing rivalries between the two main factions in Dutch society, the Staatsgezinden (Republicans) and the Prinsgezinden (Royalists or Orangists) as main factors.

Under French influence 1795-1815

On 19 January 1795, a day after stadtholder William V of Orange fled to England, the Batavian Republic (Bataafse Republiek in Dutch) was proclaimed. The proclamation of the Batavian Republic introduced the concept of the unitary state in the Netherlands. From 1795 to 1806, the Batavian Republic designated the Netherlands as a republic modelled after the French Republic.

The Kingdom of Holland 1806 – 1810 (Dutch: Koninkrijk Holland, French: Royaume de Hollande) was set up by Napoleon Bonaparte as a puppet kingdom for his third brother, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, in order to control the Netherlands more effectively. The name of the leading province, Holland, was now taken for the whole country. The kingdom of Holland covered the area of present day Netherlands, with the exception of Limburg, and parts of Zeeland, which were French territory. In 1807 Prussian East Frisia and Jever were added to the kingdom. In 1809 however, after an English invasion, Holland had to give over all territories south of the river Rhine to France.

King Louis Napoleon did not meet Napoleon’s expectations — he tried to serve Dutch interests instead of his brother’s — and the King had to abdicate on 1 July 1810. He was succeeded by his five year old son Napoleon Louis Bonaparte. Napoleon Louis reigned as Louis II for just ten days as Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte ignored his young nephew’s accession to the throne. The Emperor sent in an army to invade the country and dissolved the Kingdom of Holland. The Netherlands then became part of the French Empire.

From 1810 to 1813, when Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated in the battle of Leipzig, the Netherlands were part of the French Empire.

Kingdom of the Netherlands

In 1795 the last stadtholder William V of Orange fled to England. His son returned to the Netherlands in 1813 to become William I of the Netherlands, Sovereign Prince of the Netherlands. On 16 March 1815 the Sovereign Prince became King of the Netherlands.

In 1815 the Congress of Vienna formed the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, by expanding the Netherlands with Belgium in order to create a strong country on the northern border of France. In addition, William became hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg. The Congress of Vienna gave Luxembourg to William personally in exchange for his German possessions, Nassau-Dillenburg, Siegen, Hadamar and Diez.

Belgium rebelled and gained independence in 1830, while the personal union between Luxembourg and the Netherlands was severed in 1890, when King William III of the Netherlands died with no surviving male heirs. Ascendancy laws prevented his daughter Queen Wilhelmina from becoming the next Grand Duchess. Therefore the throne of Luxembourg passed over from the House of Orange-Nassau to the House of Nassau-Weilburg, another branch of the House of Nassau.

Colonies

The largest Dutch settlement abroad was the Cape Colony. It was established by Jan van Riebeeck on behalf of the Dutch East India Company at Capetown (Dutch: Kaapstad) in 1652. The Prince of Orange acquiesced to British occupation and control of the Cape Colony in 1788. The Netherlands also possessed several other colonies, but Dutch settlement in these lands was limited. Most notable were the vast Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and Suriname (the latter was traded with the British for New Amsterdam, now known as New York). These ‘colonies’ were first administered by the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company, both collective private enterprises. Three centuries later these companies got into financial trouble and the territories in which they operated were taken over by the Dutch government (in 1815 and 1791 respectively). Only then did they become official colonies.

Industrialisation

During the 19th century, the Netherlands was slow to industrialize compared to neighbouring countries, mainly due to the great complexity involved in the modernizing of the infrastructure consisting largely of waterways and the great reliance its industry had on windpower.

World War I

Many historians do not recognise the Dutch involvement during World War I. However, recently historians started to change their opinion on the role of the Dutch. Although the Netherlands remained neutral during the war, it was heavily involved in the war. [3] Von Schlieffen had originally planned to invade the Netherlands while advancing into France in the original Schlieffen Plan. This was changed by Helmuth von Moltke the Younger in order to maintain Dutch neutrality. Later during the war Dutch neutrality would prove essential to German survival up till the blockade integrated by the USA and Great Britain in 1916 when the import of goods through the Netherlands was no longer possible. However, the Dutch were able to remain neutral during the war using their diplomacy and their ability to trade. [4]

World War II

The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I and intended to do so in World War II. However, Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940 in the Western European campaign of the Second World War. The country was quickly overrun and the army main force surrendered on May 14 after the bombing of Rotterdam, although a Dutch and French allied force held the province of Zeeland for a short time after the Dutch surrender. The Kingdom as such continued the war from the colonial empire; the government in exile resided in London.

During the occupation over 100,000 Dutch Jews [5] were rounded up to be transported to Nazi concentration camps in Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia. By the time these camps were liberated, only 876 Dutch Jews survived. Dutch workers were conscripted for forced labour in German factories, civilians were killed in reprisal for attacks on German soldiers, and the countryside was plundered for food for German soldiers in the Netherlands and for shipment to Germany. Although there are many stories of Dutch people risking their lives by hiding Jews from the Germans, like in the diary of Anne Frank, there were also Dutch people who collaborated with Nazi occupiers in hunting down and arresting hiding Jews, and some joined the Waffen-SS to form the 4th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Brigade Netherlands, fighting on the Eastern Front.

The government-in-exile lost control of its major colonial stronghold, the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia), to Japanese forces in March 1942. “American-British-Dutch-Australian” (ABDA) forces fought hard in some instances, but were overwhelmed. During the occupation, the Japanese interned Dutch civilians and used both them and Indonesian civilians as forced labour, both in the Netherlands East Indies and in neighbouring countries. This included forcing women to work as “comfort women” (sex slaves) for Japanese personnel. Some military personnel escaped to Australia and other Allied countries from where they carried on the fight against Japan.

After a first liberation attempt by the Allied 21st Army Group stalled, much of the northern Netherlands was subject to the Dutch famine of 1944, caused by the disrupted transportation system, caused by German destruction of dikes to slow allied advances, and German confiscation of much food and livestock and above that all a very severe winter made the “Hunger Winter” of 1944-1945 one in which malnutrition and starvation were rife among the Dutch population. German forces held out until the surrender of May 5, 1945, in Wageningen at Hotel De Wereld.

After the war

After the war, the Dutch economy prospered by leaving behind an era of neutrality and gaining closer ties with neighbouring states. The Netherlands became a member of the Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) grouping. Furthermore, the Netherlands was among the twelve founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and among the six founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community, which would later evolve, via the EEC (Common Market), into the European Union.

Geography Location: Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between Belgium and Germany
Geographic coordinates: 52 30 N, 5 45 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 41,526 sq km
land: 33,883 sq km
water: 7,643 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey
Land boundaries: total: 1,027 km
border countries: Belgium 450 km, Germany 577 km
Coastline: 451 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
Climate: temperate; marine; cool summers and mild winters
Terrain: mostly coastal lowland and reclaimed land (polders); some hills in southeast
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Zuidplaspolder -7 m
highest point: Vaalserberg 322 m
Natural resources: natural gas, petroleum, peat, limestone, salt, sand and gravel, arable land
Land use: arable land: 21.96%
permanent crops: 0.77%
other: 77.27% (2005)
Irrigated land: 5,650 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 89.7 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 8.86 cu km/yr (6%/60%/34%)
per capita: 544 cu m/yr (2001)
Natural hazards: flooding
Environment – current issues: water pollution in the form of heavy metals, organic compounds, and nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates; air pollution from vehicles and refining activities; acid rain
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
Geography – note: located at mouths of three major European rivers (Rhine, Maas or Meuse, and Schelde)
Politics The Netherlands has been a constitutional monarchy since 1815 and a parliamentary democracy since 1848; before that it had been a republic from 1581 to 1806 and a kingdom between 1806 and 1810 (it was part of France between 1810 and 1813). The Netherlands is described as a consociational state. Dutch politics and governance are characterised by an effort to achieve broad consensus on important issues, within both the political community and society as a whole. In 2007, The Economist ranked The Netherlands as the third most democratic country in the world.

The head of state is the monarch, at present Queen Beatrix. Constitutionally the monarch still has considerable powers, but in practice it has become a ceremonial function. The monarch can exert most influence during the formation of a new cabinet, where he/she serves as neutral arbiter between the political parties.

In practice the executive power is formed by de ministerraad Dutch cabinet. Because of the multi-party system no party has ever held a majority in parliament since the 19th century, therefore coalition cabinets have to be formed. The cabinet consists usually of around thirteen to sixteen ministers of which between one and three ministers without portfolio, and a varying number of state secretaries. The head of government is the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, who is often, but not always, the leader of the largest party in the coalition. In practice the Prime Minister has been the leader of the largest coalition party since 1973. He is a primus inter pares, meaning he has no explicit powers that go beyond those of the other ministers.

The cabinet is responsible to the bicameral parliament, the States-General which also has legislative powers. The 150 members of the Second Chamber, the Lower House, are elected in direct elections, which are held every four years or after the fall of the cabinet (by example: when one of the chambers carries a motion of no-confidence, the cabinet offers her resignation to the monarch). The provincial assemblies are directly elected every four years as well. The members of the provincial assemblies elect the 75 members of the First Chamber, the upper house, which has less legislative powers, as it can merely reject laws, not propose or amend them.

Both trade unions and employers organisations are consulted beforehand in policymaking in the financial, economic and social areas. They meet regularly with government in the Social-Economic Council. This body advises government and its advice cannot be put aside easily.

While historically the Dutch foreign policy was characterised by neutrality, since the Second World War the Netherlands became a member of a large number of international organisations, most prominently the UN, NATO and the EU. The Dutch economy is very open and relies on international trade.

The Netherlands has a long tradition of social tolerance. In the 18th century, while the Dutch Reformed Church was the state religion, Catholicism and Judaism were tolerated. In the late 19th century this Dutch tradition of religious tolerance transformed into a system of pillarisation, in which religious groups coexisted separately and only interacted at the level of government. This tradition of tolerance is linked to the Dutch policies on recreational drugs, prostitution, LGBT rights, euthanasia, and abortion which are among the most liberal in the world.

The Binnenhof is the centre of Dutch politics.

Since suffrage became universal in 1919 the Dutch political system has been dominated by three families of political parties: the strongest family were the Christian democrats currently represented by the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), second were the social democrats, of which the Labour Party (PvdA) is currently the largest party and third were the liberals of which the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) is the main representative. These cooperated in coalition cabinets in which the Christian democrats had always been partner: so either a centre left coalition of the Christian democrats and social democrats or a centre right coalition of Christian democrats and liberals. In the 1970s the party system became more volatile: the Christian democratic parties lost seats, while new parties, like the radical democrat and progressive liberal D66, became successful.

In the 1994 election the CDA lost its dominant position. A “purple” cabinet was formed by the VVD, D66 and PvdA. In 2002 elections this cabinet lost its majority, due to the rise of LPF, a new political party around the flamboyant populist Pim Fortuyn, who was shot to death a week before the elections took place. The elections also saw increased support for the CDA. A short lived cabinet was formed by CDA, VVD and LPF, led by the leader of the Christian democrats, Jan Peter Balkenende. After the 2003 elections in which the LPF lost almost all its seats, a cabinet was formed by the CDA, the VVD and D66. The cabinet initiated an ambitious program of reforming the welfare state, the health care system and immigration policies.

In June 2006 the cabinet fell, as D66 voted in favour of a motion of no confidence against minister of immigration and integration Rita Verdonk in the aftermath of the upheaval about the asylum procedure of Ayaan Hirsi Ali instigated by the Dutch immigration minister Verdonk. A care taker cabinet was formed by CDA and VVD, and the general elections were held on 22 November 2006. In these elections the Christian Democratic Appeal remained the largest party and the Socialist Party made the largest gains. The formation of a new cabinet started two days after the elections. Initial investigations toward a CDA-SP-PvdA coalition failed, after which a coalition of CDA, PvdA and ChristianUnion was formed.

People Population: 16,645,313 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 17.6% (male 1,496,348/female 1,427,297)
15-64 years: 67.8% (male 5,705,003/female 5,583,787)
65 years and over: 14.6% (male 1,040,932/female 1,391,946) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 40 years
male: 39.2 years
female: 40.9 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.436% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 10.53 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 8.71 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 2.55 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 4.81 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 5.34 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.25 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.25 years
male: 76.66 years
female: 81.98 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.66 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Netherlands Antilles: Truth Knowledge And The History Of these Island Nations

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Netherlands Antilles

Introduction Once the center of the Caribbean slave trade, the island of Curacao was hard hit by the abolition of slavery in 1863. Its prosperity (and that of neighboring Aruba) was restored in the early 20th century with the construction of oil refineries to service the newly discovered Venezuelan oil fields. The island of Saint Martin is shared with France; its southern portion is named Sint Maarten and is part of the Netherlands Antilles; its northern portion, called Saint Martin, is an overseas collectivity of France.
History Both the leeward (Alonso de Ojeda, 1499) and windward (Christopher Columbus, 1493) island groups were discovered and initially settled by Spain. In the 17th century, the islands were conquered by the Dutch West India Company and were used as military outposts and trade bases, most prominent the slave trade. Slavery was abolished in1863.

In 1954, the status of the islands was up-graded from a colonial territory to a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands as a separate country within the kingdom. The island of Aruba was part of the Netherlands Antilles until 1986, when it was granted status aparte, becoming yet another part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands as a separate country within the kingdom.

Between June 2000 and April 2005, each island of the Netherlands Antilles had a referendum on its future status. The four options that could be voted on were:
closer ties with the Netherlands
remaining within the Netherlands Antilles
autonomy as a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands (status aparte)
independence

Of the five islands, Sint Maarten and Curaçao voted for status aparte, Saba and Bonaire voted for closer ties to the Netherlands, and Sint Eustatius voted to stay within the Netherlands Antilles.

Geography Location: Caribbean, two island groups in the Caribbean Sea – composed of five islands, Curacao and Bonaire located off the coast of Venezuela, and Sint Maarten, Saba, and Sint Eustatius lie east of the US Virgin Islands
Geographic coordinates: 12 15 N, 68 45 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 960 sq km
land: 960 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: includes Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten (Dutch part of the island of Saint Martin)
Area – comparative: more than five times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: total: 15 km
border countries: Saint Martin 15 km
Coastline: 364 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 12 nm
Climate: tropical; ameliorated by northeast trade winds
Terrain: generally hilly, volcanic interiors
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mount Scenery 862 m
Natural resources: phosphates (Curacao only), salt (Bonaire only)
Land use: arable land: 10%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 90% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: Sint Maarten, Saba, and Sint Eustatius are subject to hurricanes from July to October; Curacao and Bonaire are south of Caribbean hurricane belt and are rarely threatened
Environment – current issues: NA
Geography – note: the five islands of the Netherlands Antilles are divided geographically into the Leeward Islands (northern) group (Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten) and the Windward Islands (southern) group (Bonaire and Curacao); the island of Saint Martin is the smallest landmass in the world shared by two independent states, the French territory of Saint Martin and the Dutch territory of Sint Maarten
Politics The head of state is the ruling monarch of the Netherlands, who is represented in the Netherlands Antilles by a governor. A council of ministers, chaired by a prime minister, forms the local government. Together with the governor, who holds responsibility for external affairs and defense, it forms the executive branch of the government.

The legislative branch is two-layered. Delegates of the islands are represented in the government of the Netherlands Antilles, but each island has its own government that takes care of the daily affairs on the island.

The Netherlands Antilles are not part of the European Union. Since 2006 the Islands have given rise to diplomatic disputes between Venezuela and the Netherlands. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez claims that the Netherlands may allow the United States to install military bases that would be necessary for a planned U.S. invasion of Venezuela. On May 23, 2006 an international military manoeuver known as Joint Caribbean Lion 2006, including forces of the U.S. Navy, began.

People Population: 225,369 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 23.2% (male 26,749/female 25,467)
15-64 years: 67.5% (male 73,319/female 78,842)
65 years and over: 9.3% (male 8,541/female 12,451) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 33.4 years
male: 31.6 years
female: 35.2 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.754% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 14.37 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.43 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.39 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.93 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 9.36 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 10.04 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 8.64 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 76.45 years
male: 74.15 years
female: 78.87 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.98 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Niger: Truth Knowledge And The History Of This Poor West African Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Niger

Introduction Niger became independent from France in 1960 and experienced single-party and military rule until 1991, when Gen. Ali SAIBOU was forced by public pressure to allow multiparty elections, which resulted in a democratic government in 1993. Political infighting brought the government to a standstill and in 1996 led to a coup by Col. Ibrahim BARE. In 1999 BARE was killed in a coup by military officers who promptly restored democratic rule and held elections that brought Mamadou TANDJA to power in December of that year. TANDJA was reelected in 2004. Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world with minimal government services and insufficient funds to develop its resource base. The largely agrarian and subsistence-based economy is frequently disrupted by extended droughts common to the Sahel region of Africa. A predominately Tuareg ethnic group emerged in February 2007, the Nigerien Movement for Justice (MNJ), and attacked several military targets in Niger’s northern region throughout 2007. Events have since evolved into a budding insurrection.
History While most of what is now Niger has been subsumed into the inhospitable Sahara desert in the last two thousand years, five thousand years ago the north of the country was fertile grasslands. Populations of pastoralists have left paintings of abundant wildlife, domesticated animals, chariots, and a complex culture that dates back to at least 10,000 BCE.

One of the first empires in what is now Niger was the Songhai Empire. During recent centuries, the nomadic Tuareg formed large confederations, pushed southward, and, siding with various Hausa states, clashed with the Fulani Empire of Sokoto, which had gained control of much of the Hausa territory in the late 18th century.

In the 19th century, contact with the West began when the first European explorers—notably Mungo Park (British) and Heinrich Barth (German)—explored the area, searching for the source of the Niger River. Although French efforts at “pacification” began before 1900, dissident ethnic groups, especially the desert Tuareg, were not fully subdued until 1922, when Niger became a French colony.

Niger’s colonial history and development parallel that of other French West African territories. France administered its West African colonies through a governor general in Dakar, Senegal, and governors in the individual territories, including Niger. In addition to conferring French citizenship on the inhabitants of the territories, the 1946 French constitution provided for decentralization of power and limited participation in political life for local advisory assemblies.

Early independence

A further revision in the organization of overseas territories occurred with the passage of the Overseas Reform Act (Loi Cadre) of July 23, 1956, followed by reorganizing measures enacted by the French Parliament early in 1957. In addition to removing voting inequalities, these laws provided for creation of governmental organs, assuring individual territories a large measure of self-government. After the establishment of the Fifth French Republic on December 4, 1958, Niger became an autonomous state within the French Community. Following full independence on August 3, 1960, however, membership was allowed to lapse.

Geography Location: Western Africa, southeast of Algeria
Geographic coordinates: 16 00 N, 8 00 E
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 1.267 million sq km
land: 1,266,700 sq km
water: 300 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly less than twice the size of Texas
Land boundaries: total: 5,697 km
border countries: Algeria 956 km, Benin 266 km, Burkina Faso 628 km, Chad 1,175 km, Libya 354 km, Mali 821 km, Nigeria 1,497 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: desert; mostly hot, dry, dusty; tropical in extreme south
Terrain: predominately desert plains and sand dunes; flat to rolling plains in south; hills in north
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Niger River 200 m
highest point: Mont Bagzane 2,022 m
Natural resources: uranium, coal, iron ore, tin, phosphates, gold, molybdenum, gypsum, salt, petroleum
Land use: arable land: 11.43%
permanent crops: 0.01%
other: 88.56% (2005)
Irrigated land: 730 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 33.7 cu km (2003)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 2.18 cu km/yr (4%/0%/95%)
per capita: 156 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: recurring droughts
Environment – current issues: overgrazing; soil erosion; deforestation; desertification; wildlife populations (such as elephant, hippopotamus, giraffe, and lion) threatened because of poaching and habitat destruction
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography – note: landlocked; one of the hottest countries in the world; northern four-fifths is desert, southern one-fifth is savanna, suitable for livestock and limited agriculture
Politics For its first fourteen years as an independent state, Niger was run by a single-party civilian regime under the presidency of Hamani Diori. In 1974, a combination of devastating drought and accusations of rampant corruption resulted in a coup d’état that overthrew the Diori regime. Col. Seyni Kountché and a small military group ruled the country until Kountché’s death in 1987. He was succeeded by his Chief of Staff, Col. Ali Saibou, who released political prisoners, liberalized some of Niger’s laws and policies, and promulgated a new constitution. However, President Saibou’s efforts to control political reforms failed in the face of union and student demands to institute a multi-party democratic system. The Saibou regime acquiesced to these demands by the end of 1990. New political parties and civic associations sprang up, and a national peace conference was convened in July 1991 to prepare the way for the adoption of a new constitution and the holding of free and fair elections. The debate was often contentious and accusatory, but under the leadership of Prof. André Salifou, the conference developed consensus on the modalities of a transition government. A transition government was installed in November 1991 to manage the affairs of state until the institutions of the Third Republic were put into place in April 1993. While the economy deteriorated over the course of the transition, certain accomplishments stand out, including the successful conduct of a constitutional referendum; the adoption of key legislation such as the electoral and rural codes; and the holding of several free, fair, and non-violent nationwide elections. Freedom of the press flourished with the appearance of several new independent newspapers.

The results of the January 1995 parliamentary election meant cohabitation between a rival president and prime minister; this led to governmental paralysis, which provided Col. Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara a rationale to overthrow the Third Republic in January 1996. While leading a military authority that ran the government (Conseil de Salut National) during a 6-month transition period, Baré enlisted specialists to draft a new constitution for a Fourth Republic announced in May 1996. Baré organized a presidential election in July 1996. While voting was still going on, he replaced the electoral commission. The new commission declared him the winner after the polls closed. His party won 57% of parliament seats in a flawed legislative election in November 1996. When his efforts to justify his coup and subsequent questionable elections failed to convince donors to restore multilateral and bilateral economic assistance, a desperate Baré ignored an international embargo against Libya and sought Libyan funds to aid Niger’s economy. In repeated violations of basic civil liberties by the regime, opposition leaders were imprisoned; journalists often arrested, and deported by an unofficial militia composed of police and military; and independent media offices were looted and burned.

As part of an initiative started under the 1991 national conference, however, the government signed peace accords in April 1995 with all, meaning Tuareg and Toubou groups that had been in rebellion since 1990. The Tuareg claimed they lacked attention and resources from the central government. The government agreed to absorb some former rebels into the military and, with French assistance, help others return to a productive civilian life.

On April 9, 1999, Baré was killed in a coup led by Maj. Daouda Malam Wanké, who established a transitional National Reconciliation Council to oversee the drafting of a constitution for a Fifth Republic with a French style semi-presidential system. In votes that international observers found to be generally free and fair, the Nigerien electorate approved the new constitution in July 1999 and held legislative and presidential elections in October and November 1999. Heading a coalition of the National Movement for a Developing Society (MNSD) and the Democratic and Social Convention (CDS), Mamadou Tandja won the election.

Niger’s new constitution was approved in July 1999. It restored the semi-presidential system of government of the December 1992 constitution (Third Republic) in which the president of the republic, elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term, and a prime minister named by the president share executive power. As a reflection of Niger’s increasing population, the unicameral National Assembly was expanded in 2004 to 113 deputies elected for a 5 year term under a majority system of representation. Political parties must attain at least 5% of the vote in order to gain a seat in the legislature.

The constitution also provides for the popular election of municipal and local officials, and the first-ever successful municipal elections took place on July 24, 2004. The National Assembly passed in June 2002 a series of decentralization bills. As a first step, administrative powers will be distributed among 265 communes (local councils); in later stages, regions and departments will be established as decentralized entities. A new electoral code was adopted to reflect the decentralization context. The country is currently divided into 8 regions, which are subdivided into 36 districts (departments). The chief administrator (Governor) in each department is appointed by the government and functions primarily as the local agent of the central authorities.

The current legislature elected in December 2004 contains seven political parties. President Mamadou Tandja was re-elected in December 2004 and reappointed Hama Amadou as Prime Minister. Mahamane Ousmane, the head of the CDS, was re-elected President of the National Assembly (parliament) by his peers. The new second term government of the Fifth Republic took office on December 30, 2002. In August 2002, serious unrest within the military occurred in Niamey, Diffa, and Nguigmi, but the government was able to restore order within several days.

In June 2007, Seyni Oumarou was nominated as the new Prime Minister after Hama Amadou was democratically forced out of office by the National Assembly through a motion of no confidence.

From 2007 to 2008, the Second Tuareg Rebellion took place in northern Niger, worsening economic prospects and shutting down political progress.

People Population: 13,272,679 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 47% (male 3,174,834/female 3,057,003)
15-64 years: 50.6% (male 3,450,393/female 3,267,496)
65 years and over: 2.4% (male 159,945/female 163,008) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 16.4 years
male: 16.5 years
female: 16.4 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.878% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 49.62 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 20.26 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.57 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.98 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 115.42 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 119.3 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 111.42 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 44.28 years
male: 44.3 years
female: 44.26 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 7.29 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 1.2% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 70,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 4,800 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: malaria
respiratory disease: meningococcal meningitis
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2008)
Nationality: noun: Nigerien(s)
adjective: Nigerien
Ethnic groups: Haoussa 55.4%, Djerma Sonrai 21%, Touareg 9.3%, Peuhl 8.5%, Kanouri Manga 4.7%, other 1.2% (2001 census)
Religions: Muslim 80%, other (includes indigenous beliefs and Christian) 20%
Languages: French (official), Hausa, Djerma
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 28.7%
male: 42.9%
female: 15.1% (2005 est.)

Paracel Islands: The Truth And History Of The Vietnamese Islands That China Stole

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Paracel Islands

Introduction The Paracel Islands are surrounded by productive fishing grounds and by potential oil and gas reserves. In 1932, French Indochina annexed the islands and set up a weather station on Pattle Island; maintenance was continued by its successor, Vietnam. China has occupied the Paracel Islands since 1974, when its troops seized a South Vietnamese garrison occupying the western islands. China built a military installation on Mischief Reef in 1999. The islands are claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.
History From 1460 – 1497, under the reign of King Le Thanh Tong, Vietnamese began to organize the exploitation of both the Truong Sa and the Hoang Sa Archipelago farther to the north.This exploitation consisted of harvesting valuable sea-products and conducting salvaging operations to collect cargoes from vessels shipwrecked in the treacherous waters of the Truong Sa.
From 1680 – 1705, Do Ba Cong Dao issued Route Maps from the Capital to the Four Directions This is the first Vietnamese documentation of formal exercise of authority over the Hoang sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly)
In 1700s, State-sponsored occupation of the islands can also be traced to the reign of the Nguyen lords. Salvaging operations became formalized with the establishment of the Hoang Sa detachments or brigades, units of 70 men from the village of An Vinh, the recruitment and organization of which were regulated by the Vietnamese government.Portuguese and Dutch maps drawn by navigators in the early 17th century identify the islands as Vietnamese.
From 1802,During the reign of the Nguyen emperors, documentation was produced that distinguished the Truong Sa archipelago from the Hoang Sa Islands and identified both as Vietnamese possessions.
In 1816,the Vietnamese flag was planted in a formal ceremony on the Paracels
In 1836, emperor Minh Mang received a report from his Ministry of Public Works that recommended a comprehensive survey of all the East Sea islands because of their “great strategic importance to our maritime borders.”
In 1838,Phan Huy Chu published the “Detailed Map of the Dai Nam. The map “expressly mentioned the Paracel and Spratlys, under the name Hoang sa , Van Ly Truong Sa , as part of Vietnamese territory. Also in thí year, Bishop Jean-Louis Taberd published the ” Map of Great Annam” (Annam Dai Quoc Hoa Do) confirmed Paracel -Bai Cat Vang – Hoang sa as part of Vietnamese territory.
During 1800s,the Nguyen dynasty continued to exercise jurisdiction over the Truong Sa Islands without protest from any country until the French protectorate was established over Vietnam in 1884.
1932, Paracel Islands was placed on the map of Vietnam by the Nguyen Dynasty. The Paracel were controlled by Nguyen Dynasty of Vietnam.[citation needed]
In 1932, French Indochina and Nguyen Dynasty in Vietnam annexed the islands and set up a weather station on Pattle Island.
In 1939, Empire of Japan invaded and occupied from the French. Ironically, the official reason for the Japanese invasion was that the islands were Chinese territory.
After World War II, the Republic of China government reaffirmed the Chinese sovereignty over the islands like other islands in the South China Sea, and dispatched patrol force to the islands, but this was challenged by the French. However, the dispute was only political and diplomatic as both sides attempted to gain US backing.
In the latter half of 1940s, French reclaimed the Paracel Islands. The Republic of China has never accepted the French claims.
In 1951, at the San Francisco Conference on the Treaty of San Francisco with Japan, which formally nations are sovereign over these islands, Vietnam’s representative claimed that both the Paracel and Spratly Islands are territory of Vietnam, and was met with no challenge from the nations at the conference. However, neither the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China were invited. They were busy fighting a civil war, and both considered the claim was a violation of Chinese sovereignty and neither had accepted it. Both the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China condemned the decision and reaffirmed their control over the islands politically and diplomatically.
After the fall of the nationalist regime in China, the Chinese controlled eastern half of the Paracel islands also fell into the communist hands. Several small clashes occurred between the French and the communist Chinese naval forces during this period but was eventually settled along the actual line of control with the Chinese occupying Woody Island and the Macclesfield Bank while the remainder were held by Franco-Vietnamese forces. Although,there had been no recognition of any country about China claim of the island.
After the French left in 1956, South Vietnam replaced the French in controlling the islands. Again, both the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China politically and diplomatically condemned the decision and reaffirmed their control over the islands. Although the South Vietnamese inherited the same French claim over the entire Paracel Islands, the period was marked by the peace and both sides held on what was in their control without venturing into other’s domain. At the same time, the maps and other official documents of the North Vietnam government during this period had shown that the islands belong to China, mainly due to the fact that China was the largest backer of North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
The political and diplomatic dispute became an armed conflict on January 20, 1974 in the Battle of Hoang Sa 1974 when the South Vietnamese Government unilaterally declared its intention to survey the island territory for petroleum extraction in early January 1974. During the same time, the South Vietnamese Navy sent a fleet of frigates to the area and positioned the fleet over the line of control. The South Vietnamese fleet fired at and killed several Chinese fishermans operating in the area at the time, as well as firing at patrolling Chinese ships and injuring Chinese Navy personnel. In response, Chinese Naval forces departed from China under order on January 20, 1974 for the Paracel Islands and swiftly overran the South Vietnamese positions on the islands in addition to the defending surface fleet. With the ensuing civil war embroiling South Vietnam’s attention, no military attempt was made to retake the islands from the People’s Republic of China following its defeat, and has been administered by the People’s Republic of China since.
Geography Location: Southeastern Asia, group of small islands and reefs in the South China Sea, about one-third of the way from central Vietnam to the northern Philippines
Geographic coordinates: 16 30 N, 112 00 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: NA sq km
land: NA sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: NA
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 518 km
Maritime claims: NA
Climate: tropical
Terrain: mostly low and flat
Elevation extremes: lowest point: South China Sea 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Rocky Island 14 m
Natural resources: none
Land use: arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (2005)
Irrigated land: 0 sq km
Natural hazards: typhoons
Environment – current issues: NA
Geography – note: composed of 130 small coral islands and reefs divided into the northeast Amphitrite Group and the western Crescent Group
People Population: no indigenous inhabitants
note: there are scattered Chinese garrisons
Government Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Paracel Islands
Economy Economy – overview: China announced plans in 1997 to open the islands for tourism.
Transportation Airports: 1 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2007)
Ports and terminals: small Chinese port facilities on Woody Island and Duncan Island being expanded
Military Military – note: occupied by China
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: occupied by China, also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam