"You sued a country?"
Says mostly everybody to me now.
Indeed, we are the plaintiff in a Federal Lawsuit against the Republic of Mozambique for fraud, corruption by government officials and non government officials, broken contract and monies owed as well as misuse of my company's intellectual property and interests. This was not a choice entered into lightly, nor was the choice to create the "Educate Mozambique" project in the first place in 2011. But the situation is clear and demands that in the future Governments have to abide by their own executed contracts, and not rip off private corporations. The international rules of law and trade demand accountability.
In late 2010, I was approached by a businessman here in California with extensive international businesses. I have worked with him in the past. He had a request:
Would I be willing to get on the phone with him, and Celio Mondlane, the grandson of the First President of modern day Mozambique, and currently the chief aide to another former President of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano?
I asked what for?
"They have a huge problem with their schools all across the country. When the country was in a civil war a few decades back, much of the infrastructure was debilitated or destroyed in the fighting, and poor conditions. Additionally, their education system is continually plagued by horrid conditions, especially for girls. They were promised $500 million in grant monies to rebuild schools. They got some of it, then it just stopped. They would like to exert pressure on those organizations who were the partners on the grants to get them paid without ruffling political feathers. They want to do something using your skills, the new media stuff."
All along my position was: "if the contract (Mandate) were not signed by a current Government Official of the Republic of Mozambique I would not sign or be a party to it and would walk away from the negotiations." I felt this was the only way for the project to be accountable in the international arena.
After months of research and very deliberate due diligence on the part of my company and our legal counsel, as well as prominent outside advisors; we decided to commit our corporate resources and even some personal relationships to creating a first time ever use of social media and traditional media in a combined way to put pressure on international grant originators to pay out on already been promised grants.
First time -- Especially to the Education Ministry of the Republic of Mozambique.
Ultimately, we ended up with a contract with the Education Ministry and Zeferino Martins; the Education Minister of the Republic of Mozambique, complete with both email confirmations and two copies of a hand signed, hand stamped contract "mandate" with the embossed seal of the Education Ministry of the Republic of Mozambique.
My company researched, created, published and got worldwide attention for both some very public blog posts, tweets and pictures as well as stories in the international media, replicated into other languages and repeated across the internet.
Our work had the effect of permanently changing the appearance of the discussions around the Education System and Ministry of the Republic of Mozambique in both Google and Bing searches. We also brought them international attention including CBS News, Talk Radio stations and internet outlets globally.
Instead of the stories of horrible mistreatment of young girls, of the overwhelming bribery of some teachers and administrators by parents to ensure their children get a place in a classroom; and of the horrible conditions of many of the schools, including being outdoors with no shade or air conditioning even in the heat of summer.
These results now reflect an Education Ministry that is using modern social media tools to tell the story of how they were promised grant monies from international obligators; that led to them starting construction on new schools, and shifting money from other projects - then the grant monies stopped being paid. But the projects continued. So this created quite a problem for the central bank, the Finance ministry and the Education Ministry in that the grant monies un paid were now creating liquidity problems elsewhere. But no one wanted to "rock the boat" and upset any of the grant makers and so they looked for a way to put pressure without going to the UN, or the international media directly.
So my company devised a layered approach of social media, using blogs, twitter, facebook and linked in as ways to have more decision makers see it directly. We also researched quite heavily how we could nuance the demand for money against the country not being embarrassed or upset during the process.
At stake was not just the $500 million in unpaid grants, of which ultimately, we were contracted "mandated" by the Education Ministry of the Republic of Mozambique to create the conditions for which $360 million (U.S. dollars) in unpaid to the Republic of Mozambique would be paid; using our intellectual property and strategy to see them get paid. The grants to build the schools. To help millions of school children. Of the $360 Million in unpaid grants we were mandated to focus on; we are sure $130 million dollars worth was paid in December 2011 as this was reported to us via email to my company, via a phone call to me, and, on the floor of their Parliament and in the media in December 2011. Of the rest, there has been zero accounting to date from the Education Ministry or anyone else in the Government of the Republic of Mozambique.
No. The Stakes, are much, much higher. As Mozambique has recently been the beneficiary of several hundred BILLION dollars worth of natural gas and oil deposits off shore but within their territorial waters and legal authorities.
In fact these deposits are so large that the Republic of Mozambique is soon going to propel itself on every global list from one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the richest. Think Kuwait. Think Saudi Arabia. Think Russia.
Indeed my company's work was the media and social media backdrop for intense negotiations going on by none other than Celio Mondlane and former President Joaquim Chissano to become the lease holder of the largest natural gas transshipment facility in Mozambique, with a 20 year lease, and up to twenty sub vendors they would appoint/control. They won the mandate from their Government to become the lease holder of this terminal in late 2011. This was not disclosed to me until after our company was proven to be very successful at our work.
Indeed, we were responsible for $130 million (U.S. Dollars) that got paid on the outstanding grants. This amount is the amount we know of. It is quite possible given the circumstances that the amount is far greater, closer to the actual $360 Million. The $130 million amount was announced to the Republic of Mozambique in the media and on the floor of their Parliament.
In fact the Education Minister, the Finance Minster and the former President of the Republic of Mozambique were frequently mentioned, cited and apparently were met with in regard to "Educate Mozambique." This was repeated often in email communications to my company as well as phone calls to my company from the defendants in this case.
My company was simply never paid for our work. Not for the media, or social media or monies paid out on the grants or our success fee. We were never paid by a Government that signed and executed our contract "Mandate" with the signature of their then current Education Minister and the embossed (pressed with a stamp) seal of the Republic of Mozambique. We successfully executed on our job as hired to do. We are simply asking for the Republic of Mozambique to do the right thing and pay us for the work they themselves never challenged, objected to or ever asked us to delay, put on hiatus or stop.
Now this case is in Federal Court awaiting rulings. My company is represented in this litigation by Obagi Stodder, LLP
Follow Alan W. Silberberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Ideagov