Soda makes a comeback in Somalia; rebels are the new government in Syria, to Russia’s dismay; the NBA moves to Indonesia, sort of — America’s reach is far, wide and a little surprising.
Have a Coke
In a vote of confidence for a country ravaged by civil war and desperate poverty, Somalia’s local Coca Cola franchise has decided to reopen its factory in the capital city, Mogadishu. The plant first opened in 2004 before shutting down two years later in the midst of a bloody conflict between the elected government and Islamist rebels.
“We plan to reengage the old system as well as introducing new [product] lines,” the managing director of the Mogadishu Coca Cola Company tells Uganda’s Daily Monitor.
And in May a conglomerate from Djibouti announced it would invest $15 million dollars in another Coke factory in the breakaway Republic of Somaliland, 932 miles northwest of Mogadishu. It is believed to be the largest investment in the history of Somaliland, which broke away from Somalia in 1991, but is not recognized as an independent state by any other nation.
Who knew soft drinks were so popular in East Africa?
After years of strife, Somalia is slowly moving towards recovery. In September, the country elected its first president on home soil in decades (previous elections were held in neighboring Djibouti and Kenya).
“There are blades of hope growing among these cobblestones of difficult history,” explains Ahmed Ismail Samatar, a Somali scholar and member of parliament, to CNN. Samatar teaches at Macalaster College in Minnesota, the state with the largest Somali population in the U.S.
“[Somalis] are absolutely tired of a particular kind of religious Islamist militancy that wants to destroy the culture,” he continues. “They are tired of warlords who hijack particular opportunities for their own self interests . . . and destroy what is in place.”
Russia furious after Obama recognizes Syrian opposition
The U.S. angered Russia — one Syria’s few remaining allies — by granting recognition to anti-regime rebels as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tells RIA Novosti that Obama’s decision was “at odds with the agreements recorded in the Geneva communiqué calling for an all-Syria dialog between the country’s government representatives on the one hand and the opposition on the other.”
He added that the U.S.’ interference would only prolong the conflict, as Syria’s opposition has refused to negotiate and pledged not to put down its arms until it can oust President Bashar al-Assad.
Explaining his decision to ABC News, Obama said: “We’ve made a decision that the Syrian Opposition Coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime.”
The move was widely expected after Britain, France, Turkey and the Gulf nations had already recognized the Syrian rebels. After the U.S. announcement, more than 120 countries signed a similar pledge, though Obama did take criticism from the Syrian opposition after designating one rebel group, al-Nusra, a terrorist organization because of its ties to al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The Assad regime responded by firing Scud missiles at rebel targets in northern Syria. It seems to be only a matter of time before the current government falls. But with 40,000 already dead, the question is how many more will die.
The NBA to open basketball school in Indonesia
No, not that NBA. The National Basketball Academy (TNBA) — which does have close ties to several players and nine teams in America’s professional basketball league — has announced it will open an academy for basketball in Indonesia. The Jakarta Post reports the academy will be open to children as young as five, as well as professional athletes and promising Indonesia talent.
It’s TNBA’s first operation in Asia. Soccer is popular in Indonesia (population: over 237 million), but so is basketball. The country has had a pro league since 2004 and Indonesians have played basketball since at least the 1930’s.
“Soccer schools are everywhere but not basketball schools,” says Dony Munaf, an executive with TNBA Indonesia, “whereas enthusiasm for basketball is quite big in Indonesia.”
“We can see there’s a need to motivate children and to help develop new, young talent,” he adds.
And TNBA Indonesia will be about more than just basketball, according to Shane Kline-Ruminski, TNBA’s cofounder in America, who says: “If you’re successful on court, we want you to be successful in life too by working hard, being a leader and being able to overcome adversity.”
There has never been an NBA player from Indonesia, so it might be a while before that country can produce an answer to Yao Ming, the gigantic 7’6 center from China who retired from the game in 2011 because of injuries.