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Category Archives: Africa

Lebanese ‘tortured by Mossad agents in Nigeria’

Press TV

Two Lebanese nationals, who are on trial in Nigeria, have told a court that they were subjected to torture by Israeli Mossad agents after being arrested.

Mustapha Fawaz and Abdallah Thahini together with another Lebanese national Talal Ahmad Roda were arrested in May after an arms cache was discovered in a residence in the Nigerian city of Kano.

The three Lebanese men reportedly own a supermarket and an amusement park in Abuja, which have been closed since their arrests.

Fawaz told the court on Monday that after he was arrested in Abuja, a security official told him that some “European friends” wanted to ask him some questions.

“I was taken to an interrogation room where I met three Israeli Mossad agents,” he said.

Fawaz also said the interrogators handcuffed his hands behind his back for days, noting he “lost count because they did not allow me to sleep for several days.”

He went on saying, “During the 14 days of interrogation, I was interrogated by six Israeli Mossad agents and one masked white man.”

“I was interrogated in Arabic. I asked to be interrogated in English, but they refused. Most of them are weak in English. They are not Europeans, but Israelis,” he also said, adding no Nigerian official was present during the interrogations.

Thahini gave similar account to the court, saying he collapsed five days after the interrogators did not allow him to sleep.

Ethiopia: Lives for land in Gambella

Complicity and Duplicity

by GRAHAM PEEBLES, source

To many people land is much more than a resource or corporate commodity to be bought, developed and sold for a profit. Identity, cultural history and livelihood are all connected to ‘place’. The erosion of traditional values and morality (which include the observation of human rights and environmental responsibility) are some of the many negative effects of the global neo-liberal economic model, with its focus on short-term gain and material benefit. The commercialisation of everything and everybody has become the destructive goal of multi-nationals, and their corporate governments manically driven by the desire for perpetual growth as the elixir to life’s problems.

Land for Profit

Since the food crisis in 2008 agricultural land in developing countries has been in high demand. Seen as a sound financial investment by foreign brokers and agrochemical firms, and as a way to create food security for their home market by corporations from Asia and the Middle East in particular.

Three quarters of worldwide land acquisitions have taken place in Sub-Saharan Africa, where poverty ridden and economically vulnerable countries (many run by governments with poor human rights records) are ‘encouraged’ to attract foreign investment by donor partners and their international guides. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and donor partners, powerful institutions that by “supporting the creation of investment-friendly climates and land markets in developing countries” have been a driving force behind the global rush for agricultural land, the Oakland Institute (OI) report in Unheard Voices (UV).

Poor countries make easy pickings for multi-nationals negotiating deals for prime land at giveaway prices and with all manner of government sweeteners. Contracts sealed without consultation with local people, which lack transparency and accountability, have virtually no benefit for the ‘host’ country (certainly none for indigenous groups), and as Oxfam make clear “have resulted in dispossession, deception, violation of human rights and destruction of livelihoods.”

Ethiopia is a prime target for investors looking to acquire agricultural land. Since 2008 The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) government has leased almost 4 million hectares, for commercial farm ventures. Land is cheap – they are virtually giving it away, tax is non-existent and profits (like the food grown) are smoothly repatriated. Local people are swept aside by a government unconcerned with human rights and the observation of federal, or international, law. A perfect environment then, where shady deals can be done and large corporate profits made. In their desperation to be seen as one of the ‘growth gang’ and “to make way for agricultural land investments”, the Ethiopian government has “committed egregious human rights abuses, in direct violation of international law,” OI state.

Forced From Home

Bordering South Sudan the fertile Gambella region (where 42% of land is available), with its lush vegetation and flowing rivers, is where the majority of land sales in the country have taken place. Deals in the region are made possible by the EPRDF’s ‘villagisation programme’. This is forcibly clearing indigenous people off ancestral land and herding them into State created villages. The plan has been intensely criticised by human rights groups, and rightly so – 1.5 million people nationwide are destined to be re-settled, 225,000 (over three years) from Gambella.

More concerned to be seen as corporate buddy than guardian of the people, the Ethiopian government guarantees investors that it will clear land leased of everything and everyone. It has an obligation, OI says, to “deliver and hand over the vacant possession of leased land free of impediments”, swept clear of people, villages, forests and wildlife, and fully plumbed into local water supplies. Bulldozers are destroying the “farms, and grazing lands that have sustained Anuak, Mezenger, Nuer, Opo, and Komo peoples for centuries”, Cultural Survival (CS records: and dissent, should it occur, is brutally dealt with by the government, that promises to “provide free security against any riot, disturbance or any turbulent time.” (OI) ‘Since you do not accept what government says, we jail you.’” The elder told from Batpul village told Human Rights Watch (HRW). He was jailed without charge in Abobo, and held for more than two weeks, during which time “they turned me upside down, tied my legs to a pole, and beat me every day for 17 days until I was released.”

Hundreds of thousands of villagers, including pastoralists and indigenous people are being forcibly moved by the regime, HRW reports, they are “relocating them through violence and intimidation, and often without essential services”, such as education (denying children ‘the right to education’), water, and health care facilities – public services promised to the people and championed to donor countries by the government in their programme rhetoric.

Murder, rape, false imprisonment and torture are (reportedly) being committed by the Ethiopian military as they implement the federal governments policy of land clearance and re-settlement in accordance with its ‘villagisation programme’. ”My village was forced by the government to move to the new location against our will. I refused and was beaten and lost my two upper teeth”. This Anuak man told the NGO Inclusive Development International (IDI), His brother “was beaten to death by the soldiers for refusing to go to the new village. My second brother was detained and I don’t know where he was taken by the soldiers”.

To the Anuak People, who are the majority tribal group in the affected areas, their land is who they are. It’s where the material to build their homes is found it’s their source of traditional medicines and food. It’s where their ancestors are buried and where their history rests. By driving these people off their land and into large settlements or camps, the government is not only destroying their homes, in which they have lived for generations, it is stealing their identity. Indigenous people tell of violent intimidation, beatings, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture in military custody, rape and extra-judicial killing. State criminality breaching a range of international and indeed federal laws, that Genocide Watch (GW) consider “to have already reached Stage 7 (of 8), genocide massacres”, against the Anuak, as well as the people of Oromia, Omo and the Ogaden region.

The Ethiopian government is legally bound to obtain the ‘free, informed and prior consent’ of the indigenous people it plans to move. Far from obtaining consent, Niykaw Ochalla in Unheard Voices, states that, “when [the government] comes to take their land, it is without their knowledge, and in fact [the government] says that they no longer belonged to this land, [even though] the Anuak have owned it for generations”. Consultation, consent and compensation the ‘three c’s required by federal and international law. Constitutional duties and legal requirements, which like a raft of other human rights obligations the regime dutifully ignores. Nyikaw Ochalla confirms that “there is “no consultation at all”, sometimes people are warned they have to move, but just as often OI found the military “instruct people to get up and move the same day”. And individuals receive no compensation “for their loss of livelihood and land.“ In extensive research The Oakland Institute “did not find any instances of government compensation being paid to indigenous populations evicted from their lands”, this despite binding legal requirements to do so.

‘Waiting here for death’

The picture of state intimidation in Gambella is a familiar one. Refugees in Dadaab, Kenya, from the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, recount stories of the same type of abuse, indeed as do people from Oromia and the Lower Omo valley. Tried and tested Government methodology used to enforce repressive measures and create fear amongst the people. “The first mission for all the military and the Liyuu is to make the people of the Ogaden region afraid of us”, a former commander of the Liyuu police told me. And to achieve this crushing end, they are told “to rape and kill, to loot, to burn their homes, and capture their animals”. From a wealth of information collated by HRW and the OI, it is clear that the Ethiopian military in Gambella is following the same criminal script as their compatriots in the Ogaden region.

We were at home on our farm, a 17-year-old girl from Abobo in Gambella (whose story echoes many), told HRW “when soldiers came up to us: ‘Do you accept to be relocated or not?’ ‘No.’ So they grabbed some of us. ‘Do you want to go now?’ ‘No.’ Then they shot my father and killed him”, a villager from Gooshini, now in exile in South Sudan, described how those in his settlement “that resisted…. were forced by soldiers to roll around in the mud in a stagnant water pool then beaten”.

The new settlements that make up the villagisation programme, are built on land that is “typically dry and arid”, completely unsuitable for farming and miles from water supplies, which are reserved for the industrial farms being constructed on fertile ancestral land. The result is increased food insecurity leading in some cases to starvation. HRW documented cases of people being forced off their land during the “harvest season, preventing them from harvesting their crops”. With such levels of cruelty and inhumanity the people feel desperate, “as one displaced individual told Human Rights Watch, “The government is killing our people through starvation and hunger . . . we are just waiting here for death”.

And should families try to leave the new settlement (something they are discouraged from doing), and return to their village homes, the government destroys them totally, burning houses and bulldozing the land. “The government brought the Anuak people here to die. They brought us no food, they gave away our land to the foreigners so we can’t even move back,” HRW record in ‘Waiting Here for Death’. People forced into the new villages are fearful of government assault, parents “are afraid to send their children to school because of the increased army presence. Parents worry that their children will be assaulted”. (UV)

In the face of such government atrocities the people feel powerless; but like many suffering injustice throughout the world, they are awakening demanding justice and the observation of fundamental human rights. “We don’t have any means of retrieving our land” Mr.O from the village of Pinykew in Gambella, told The Guardian (22/01/2013). “Villagers have been butchered, falsely arrested and tortured, the women subjected to mass rape”. Enraged by such atrocities, he is bringing what could be a landmark legal case against Britain’s Department for International Development (DfiD). Leigh Day & Co, solicitors based in London, have taken the case, “arguing that money from DfiD is funding the villagisation programme”, that “breaches the department’s own human rights policies.” DfiD administer the £324 million given by the British government to Ethiopia, making it the biggest recipient of aid from the country. They deny supporting forced re-location, but their own documents reveal British funds are paying the salaries “of officials implementing the programme and for infrastructure in new villages”, The Daily Mail 25/05/2013 reports. Allegations reinforced by HRW, who state that “British aid is having an enormous, negative side effect – and that is the forcible ending of these indigenous people’s way of life”. (Ibid)

In an account that rings with familiarity, Mr.O, now in Dadaab refugee camp, says he was forced from his village at gunpoint by the military. At first he refused to leave, so “soldiers from the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) beat me with guns.” He was arrested, imprisoned in military barracks and tortured for three days, after which time he was taken to the new village, which “did not have water, food or productive fields”, where he was forced to build his house.

Government Duplicity, Donor Complicity

The government unsurprisingly denies all allegations of widespread human rights abuse connected with land deals and the ‘villagisation programme’ specifically. They continue to espouse the ‘promised public service and infrastructure benefits’ of the scheme that “by and large” OI assert, “have failed to materialise”. The regime is content to ignore documentation provided by human rights groups and NGOs and until recently had refused to cooperate with an investigation by the World Bank into allegations of abuse raised by indigenous Anuak people. The Bank incidentally that gives Ethiopia more financial aid than any other developing country, $920 million last year alone. Former regional president Omod Obang Olum oversaw the plan in Gambella and assures us resettlement is “voluntary” and “the programme successful”. Predictable duplicitous comments that IDI said “are laughable”.

An independent non-profit group working to advance human rights in development, IDI, has helped the Anuak people from Gambella “submit a complaint to the World Bank Inspection Panel implicating the Bank in grave human rights abuses perpetrated by the Ethiopian Government“. The complaint alleges, “that the Anuak people have been severely harmed by the World Bank-financed and administered Providing Basic Services Project (PBS)”. A major development porgramme, which is described as “expanding access and improving the quality of basic services in education, health, agriculture, water supply and sanitation”, OI report. However IDI make clear that “villagisation is the principle vehicle through which PBS is being implemented in Gambella”, and claim “there is “credible evidence” of “gross human rights violations” being committed in the region by the Ethiopian military. Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that donors are “paying for the construction of schools, health clinics, roads, and water facilities in the new [resettlement] villages. They are also funding agricultural programs directed towards resettled populations and the salaries of the local government officials who are implementing the policy”. (Ibid)

IDI’s serious allegations further support those made by many people from the region and Mr.O in his legal action against the DfID. The Banks inspection panel have said the “two programmes (PBS and villagisation) depend one each other, and may mutually influence the results of the other.” The panel found “there is a plausible link between the two programmes but needs to engage in further fact-finding”. It is imperative the bank’s Inspection Panel have unrestricted access to Gambella and people feel safe to speak openly about the governments brutality.

All groups involved in land sales have both a moral duty – a civil responsibility and – a legal obligation to the people whose land is being leased. The Ethiopian government, the foreign corporations leasing the land and the donors – the World Bank and DfID, who, through PBS are funding the villagisation programme.

The Ethiopian government is in violation of a long list of international treatise that, in- keeping with their democratic pretentions, they are happy to sign up to, but less enthusiastic to observe. From the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and all points legal in between. Investors if not legally obliged, are certainly morally bound by the United Nations (UN) “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework, which, amongst other things, makes clear their duty to respect and work within human rights. Donor’s responsibility first and last is, to the people of Ethiopia, to ensure any so-called ‘development’ programmes (that commonly focus on economic targets), support their needs, ensures their wellbeing and observes their fundamental human rights.

To continue to turn a blind eye to widespread government abuse, and to support schemes, whether directly or indirectly, that violate human rights and cause suffering to the people is to be complicit to State criminality that is shattering the lives of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people, in Gambella and indeed elsewhere in the country.

Ban asks Rwanda for proof of links between UN peacekeepers, Hutu rebels

Press TV

Rwanda must provide evidence to support its claims that UN peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo discussed collaboration with Rwanda’s Hutu rebels, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says.

In a letter to the president of the UN Security Council this week, Rwanda’s ambassador to the UN, Eugene-Richard Gasana, said that UN intervention brigade commanders in Congo met with rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

The FDLR is made up of the remnants of Hutu fanatics who committed the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo also wrote a letter to the UN secretary general about the same issue.

In a letter to the Rwandan foreign minister, Ban “notes with deep concern the allegations that meetings have taken place between senior commanders of the MONUSCO and the Intervention Brigade and the (FDLR),” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said on Friday.

The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) has 17,000 peacekeepers in Congo — the largest UN peacekeeping force in the world.

On March 28, the UN Security Council passed a resolution, which not only renewed the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo for one year, but also created a special intervention brigade to neutralize armed groups, above all March 23 movement (M23) rebels in eastern Congo.

The M23 rebels defected from the Congolese army in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the army.

Ban said there was nothing substantial thus far to back up the allegations of the Rwandan government.

“Following initial inquiries within MONUSCO, (Ban) has no reason to believe that senior commanders of the Force Intervention Brigade would meet with the FDLR to discuss matters related to their ‘tactical and strategic collaboration’,” Ban said in the letter, according to Nesirky.

The UN spokesman added that it was “important to ensure that these allegations are properly addressed… (and) has thus requested that the Rwandan government share as soon as possible any concrete evidence it may have to substantiate these claims.”

The M23 rebels and several other armed groups are active in the eastern Congo and are fighting for control of the country’s vast mineral resources, such as gold, the main tin ore cassiterite, and coltan (columbite-tantalite), which is used to make many electronic devices, including cell phones.

Since early May 2012, nearly three million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but about 500,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.

Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.

Seeking peace in Dadaab

Walking From the Ogaden

by GRAHAM PEEBLES, source

Many people living outside Africa, most perhaps, have never heard of the Ogaden (or Somali) region of Ethiopia, they know nothing of the murders rapes and destruction that the ethnic Somali’s allege are taking place there. We all have our problems and what can I do anyway, these governments are corrupt, we – meaning western governments shouldn’t be sending them money, especially now with all the public sector cuts taking place. So runs the uninformed, albeit understandable response.

I like it here in Dadaab, “it’s peaceful”, seven year-old, Khandra Abdi told me. Do you have lots of friends? “No, what would I do with a friend…. I have an imaginary friend called Roho, she is also seven years old.” Khandra had seen her mother and other women tortured, when, as an innocent child, of an innocent mother, she was imprisoned in the regional capital Jijiga, in the infamous Jail Ogaden, with its torture rooms and underground cells. Whilst in prison, Sahro received no medical treatment for the “wounds” sustained when she was violently arrested, and was detained without charge “for three years with my daughter”. Throughout that time she says, soldiers repeatedly gang raped, beat and tortured her. The soldiers “kept a record of the girls and women they want to rape. Women that resist or refuse are beaten, then raped and then raped again and again.” Resistance then, is futile in a world devoid of common humanity and the rule of law.

In the end “they let me go because my wounds had become infected and I could not be used [raped] by the soldiers anymore”. The military get rid of the women Saro says, when they are no more use to them. The arrests are arbitrary, so too the release.

After her release, in fear of her life and of her daughter’s safety, she set off, with no funds on the arduous journey to Kenya, aiming for Dadaab. With Khandra, she “firstly travelled by camel – given to me by my brother, to Danod in Wardheer. This took approximately 15 days. My brother gave me food to cook on the way and some money. Then I got a lift in a lorry to the Kenyan border.”

It’s an arid land inhabited by around five million people. Mainly pastoralists, they live simple lives tending their cattle and moving along ancestral pathways. Most have never been to school, cannot read or write and live hard but honest lives in tune with the land and the past.

There is natural gas and oil under the Ogaden or is it Ethiopian soil, first discovered when the Italians, under the dictator Benito Mussolini occupied Ethiopia for nine years.in the 1930’s.

Sahro, emotionally scarred and looking older than her 36 years, uneducated and desperately poor, she earned “some little money by making and selling tea to the villagers and pastoralists who came to the village”. The Ethiopian military and their paramilitary partners, the Liyuu police patrol the region, not all of it just the five targeted states. They move from base to village recruiting young men often at gunpoint, raping women, looting and burning homes, local people tell us. They work in five-day cycles, five on, five off, time is needed to recover I suppose, from the activities of the working week.

One evening the Ethiopian military descended upon Danod, a settlement in the district of Wardheer, where Sahro lived “in a tent… with two sisters and my daughter. I was divorced from the children’s father.” The military accused her of the heinous crime of making tea for the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). Rebel group, or freedom fighters, depending on your viewpoint, that since their inauguration in 1984 have been calling for self-determination, politically, when they made up 60% of the regional government, and post 1994, militarily and politically.

The night Sahro was arrested they took her, “with Khandra into the forest and they tried to rape me. I fought them and ran from them, the soldiers shot at me, hitting me in the leg [shows me her scar] and hand [missing finger on right hand] and I fell to the ground. There were four soldiers chasing me, and many more in the village.” It’s hard for a woman with a child to fight off four soldiers and “many more in the village”. Bundled into a car she was driven to Jijiga and incarcerated.

People from the region fleeing government persecution, are not automatically granted refugee status, instead they are required to pass through an assessment process, undertaken by The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) ‘Refugee determination Unit’. An official position that, given the level of state criminality, in my view, warrants re-evaluating. UNHCR have limited resources and filling forms often takes months, adding up to years in some cases. Three separate sites make up the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, with a total population of close to 500,000 – a small city, it is the largest refugee camp in the world. UNHCR manages it and gives basic support – shelter, blankets food and water rations to the people seeking refuge that knock on their door.

Many that arrive in Dadaab make the journey to the Kenyan border on foot, often walking in intense heat over harsh landscape for months: 40 year old Fadumu Siyad, arrived in Dadaab in August 2012 after walking for two months ”from Saga to Ceelbarda. It is a very long way; we used to walk all day and all night. At first we cooked food we carried with us, but after a month the food was finished, then we looked for pastoralists who helped us by giving us food and milk. I was walking with my three young children”, – a girl aged 14 and two boys aged 10 and 7 yrs. Another woman I met, walked with her two small children, she would carry one for 20 meters, put her down then go back for the other one. She did this for three months, until she reached the Kenya. The physical and indeed mental strength of such women is to be admired.

The inculcation of fear lies at the heart of the military methodology, “the first mission for all the military and the Liyuu is to make the people of the Ogaden region afraid of us”, said Dahhir, a divisional commander in the Liyuu force. In keeping with acts of (state) terrorism, he was told and dutifully carried out his orders, “to rape and kill, to loot, to burn their homes, and capture their animals – we used to slaughter some of the animals we captured, eat some and some we sold back to their owners.”

Rape, a weapon of war for centuries, is (allegedly) a favourite tool used by the Ethiopian forces to terrify and intimidate the people of the Ogaden, and we are told other parts of the country, Gambella and Oromo for example. In the safety of the UNHCR compound, a huge enclosure reminiscent of a French campsite, I met 18-year old Hoden on my first day in Dadaab. Dressed in a long black headscarf, she looked fragile and shy. We sat with Ahmed the translator, in a small portakabin the air conditioning on, surrounded by desks and she slowly began to answer my awkward questions.

She cried a lot as she told me her upsetting story. Brought up in Fiqq town, her family of pastoralists moved to Gode after her mother was arrested when she was 16. It was in Gode that she too was imprisoned, held for six months, caned, tortured and “raped every night by gangs of soldiers”. She was a frightened, innocent 17-year old child then, today she is a wounded, lonely mother with a one-year old baby girl – the result of one of the rapes.

Notions of Identity and freedom lie at the heart of the political and military struggle for autonomy from Ethiopia, who many regard as a foreign occupying force. The view from Addis Ababa is, unsurprisingly, somewhat different. The Government and most Ethiopians see the Ogaden as part of the federal state of Ethiopia, albeit a part given to them by the British. A detail, that whilst historically correct, is for the time being at least, largely irrelevant. The ONLF, heroes to the ethnic Somali’s, are seen by the Ethiopian regime as a band of unlawful terrorists, causing mayhem in the region, that the brave soldiers of the military, serving their country well, are trying to capture.

As the T word has now surfaced, perhaps at this point it’s worth repeating the definition of terrorism found in The US Department of Defense Dictionary of Military Terms. It is, they say “The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological”. So that would cover the rape and murder of civilians, the destruction of residential property, torture, false arrests and arbitrary executions, all of which are – we must say ‘it is alleged’, being carried out by the Ethiopian military, actions that (if true) earn the EPRDF government the international accolade of ‘State Terrorist’. An appropriate title that sits uncomfortably with the EPRDF’s democratic pretensions and the cozy relationship enjoyed with their western allies and principle donors. Western governments, who we must assume know well the level of state criminality being committed, and, to their utter shame, say nothing in support of the human rights of the people of Ethiopia.

Distressingly Hoden, is now “stigmatized amongst her own people” within Dadaab, for “having a child from an Ethiopian soldier“. Such are the narrow minded, judgmental attitudes that pervade such communities and destroy the lives of countless women, young and old. At the end of our time together, Hoden said, her “future has been ruined”. She lowered her head as she gently wept, and we sat together in silence.

Mali lifts state of emergency ahead of election

Press TV

Mali has lifted a nearly six-month-old state of emergency before the start of the campaign for the July 28 presidential election.

The central government made the announcement in a statement issued on Saturday.

The state of emergency was declared on January 12, a day after France launched a war in the West African country under the pretext of driving out militants occupying the north.

On Friday, the Malian army reestablished control over the strategic city of Kidal, which had been held by Tuareg rebels.

The Tuareg rebels had agreed to allow the army to enter the northern city in a peace deal that was signed between the government and the rebels last month.

The peace agreement — mediated by regional African powers, the United Nations, and the European Union — was signed on June 18 by Mali’s Territorial Administration Minister Colonel Moussa Sinko Coulibaly and representatives of two Tuareg movements in Ouagadougou, the capital of neighboring Burkina Faso.

The consensus was reached after nearly two weeks of negotiations between all sides.

“The signing of this agreement represents a significant step in the stabilization process in Mali,” said UN Special Representative to Mali Bert Koenders, who attended the signing ceremony.

On February 1, Amnesty International said “serious human rights breaches” — including the killing of children – were occurring in the French war in Mali.

Chaos broke out in Mali after President Amadou Toumani Toure was toppled in a military coup on March 22, 2012. The coup leaders said they mounted the coup in response to the government’s inability to contain the Tuareg rebellion in the north of the country, which had been going on for two months.

However, in the wake of the coup d’état, the Tuareg rebels took control of the entire northern desert region, but the Ansar Dine extremists then pushed them aside and took control of the region, which is larger than France or Texas.

Scandal in Nigeria over Israeli arms firm’s Internet spying contract

by Jimmy Johnson, EI

Since April, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has faced public outrage over a $40-million contract awarded to Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems.

An Elbit system would reportedly enable the Nigerian government to surveil all Internet activity in Nigeria.

The scandal is reminiscent of the much larger National Security Agency spy program recently revealed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Some NSA spy systems are known to rely on Israeli technological support.

The disclosure that Elbit’s Wise Intelligence telecommunications surveillance system will monitor all Nigerian Internet communications “sparked national outrage, with a lot of Nigerians now apprehensive that their country might be sliding back to dictatorship,” wrote Premium Times.

The Abuja-based newspaper broke the story on 25 April with the warning: “Big brother, in the form of the Jonathan administration, is watching you, and your communication is no longer safe.”

According to anonymous government sources who spoke to the paper, the system would “help the Jonathan administration access all computers and read all email correspondences” in Nigeria.

Elbit Systems had announced the sale to an unnamed “country in Africa” in a press release. The details were then ferreted out by journalist Ogala Emmanuel who wrote that the deal would help the Jonathan administration “spy on citizens’ computers and Internet communications under the guise of intelligence gathering and national security.”

The ensuing public criticism pressured Jonathan to mull canceling the contract (with one report saying he has already done so). Nigeria’s House of Representatives has ordered the contract revoked.

This is at least the third major Israeli sale of surveillance systems to Nigeria, following a 2006 Aeronautics Defense Systems drone sale and 2008 contracts with NICE Systems for video surveillance.

‘Israel’s’ war industry

The deal with Nigeria is another example of technology developed by Israel’s war industry in the course of dispossessing the Palestinian people being exported around the world.

Dissent against the contract has not engaged this, but instead focuses on a lack of transparency in awarding the contract, and its implications for Nigerian civil liberties.

But BDS Switzerland explicitly invokes this history in a new petition drive against a pending drone contract. Two Israeli firms, Elbit and Israel Aerospace Industries, are the final contenders in a Swiss drone bid worth between 300-400 million Swiss Francs.

BDS Switzerland frames their petition in the language of international law and not Palestinian liberation but ties their effort directly to conditions on the ground in Palestine.

They note that: “IAI and Elbit Systems have developed and tested their aircraft through the surveillance, repression and killing of Palestinians including numerous civilians” and that “these two companies are notorious accomplices in the repression waged by the State of Israel.”

This is the same provenance as the technology in Elbit’s Nigeria contract, though the campaigners against it have yet to significantly engage this angle.

How the Western media distorts the historical legacy of Nelson Mandela

by Danny Schechter, source

There’s anger amidst the apprehension in South Africa as the numbers of “journalists” on the Mandela deathwatch grows.  Members of his family have about had it, comparing what even the New York Times called a “media swarm” to African vultures that wait to pounce on the carcasses of dead animals.

President Obama  was soon in South Africa, carrying a message that he hyped as one of “profound gratitude” to Nelson Mandela. The Times reported,

“Mr. Obama said the main message he intended to deliver to Mr. Mandela, “if not directly to him but to his family, is simply our profound gratitude for his leadership all these years and that the thoughts and prayers of the American people are with him, and his family, and his country.”

It doesn’t seem as if the South Africa’s grieving for their former president’s imminent demise are too impressed with Obama seeking the spotlight. Some groups including top unions protested his receiving an honorary degree from a university in Johannesburg.

Interestingly, NBC with its team buttressed by former South African correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault did not bother to cover the protest but relied on Reuters reporting “nearly 1,000 trade unionists, Muslim activists, South African Communist Party members and others marched to the U.S. Embassy where they burned a U.S. flag, calling Obama’s foreign policy “arrogant and oppressive.”

 ”We had expectations of America’s first black president. Knowing Africa’s history, we expected more,” Khomotso Makola, a 19-year-old law student, told Reuters. He said Obama was a “disappointment, I think Mandela too would be disappointed and feel let down.”

South African critics of Obama have focused in particular on his support for U.S. drone strikes overseas, which they say have killed hundreds of innocent civilians, and his failure to deliver on a pledge to close the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba housing terrorism suspects.” (Oddly, The South African police detained a local cameraman who used his own drone to photograph the hospital from above. He was stopped for “security” reasons.)

For symbolic reasons, as well as because of his global popularity, Nelson Mandela seems to be of special interest to the American media with the networks, nominally in an austerity mode, busting their budgets to have a dominant presence.

South African skeptic Rian Malan writes in the Spectator, “Every time Mandela goes into hospital, large numbers of Americans (up to 50) are flown here to take up their positions, and the South African network is similarly activated. Colin, (A cameraman who works for a US network) for instance, travels to Johannesburg, hires a car and checks into a hotel, all on the network’s ticket. Since last December, he’s probably spent close to 30 days (at $2000 a day, expenses included) cooling his heels at various poolsides. And he has yet to shoot a single frame.

As Colin says, this could be the worst disaster in American media history, inter alia because all these delays are destroying the story. When the old man finally dies, a lot of punters are going to yawn and say, Mandela died? Didn’t that already happen a year ago?”

Hostility to the this media is satirized in an open letter by Richard Poplak from the foreign media to South Africa that appears in The Daily Maverick:

“As you may have noted, we’re back! It’s been four long months since the Oscar Pistorius bail hearing thing, and just as we were forgetting just how crappy the Internet connections are in Johannestoria, the Mandela story breaks.

We feel that it is vital locals understand just how big a deal this is for us. In the real world—far away from your sleepy backwater—news works on a 24-hour cycle. That single shot of a hospital with people occasionally going into and out of the front door, while a reporter describes exactly what is happening—at length and in detail? That’s our bread and butter. It’s what we do.

And you need to get out of the way while we do it.”

Why all the fanatical interest? The US media loves larger than life personalities, often creating them when they don’t exist. Mandela has assumed the heroic mantle for them of Martin Luther King Jr. whose memory enjoys iconic status even as his achievements like Voting Rights Act was just picked apart by right-wing judicial buzzards in black robes. (Kings image was also sanitized with his international outlook often muzzled).

It wasn’t always like this. For many years, The US media treated Mandela as a communist and terrorist, respecting South African censorship laws that kept his image secret. Reports about the CIA’s role in capturing him were few and far between. Ditto for evidence of US spying documented in cables released by Wikileaks.

In the Reagan years, his law partner Oliver Tambo, then the leader of the ANC while he was in prison, was barred from coming to the US and then, when he did, meeting with top officials. Later, Dick Cheney refused to support a Congressional call for his release from jail.

In 1988, I, among other TV producers, launched the TV series South Africa Now to cover the unrest the networks were largely ignoring as stories shot by US crews ended up on “the shelf,” not on the air.

A 1988 concert to free Mandela was shown by the Fox Network as a “freedom fest” with artists told not to mention his name, less they “politicize” all the fun. When he was released in 2000, a jammed all-star celebration at London’s WembleyStadiumwas shown everywhere in the world, except by the American networks.

Once he adopted reconciliation as his principal political tenet and dropped demands for nationalization anchored in the ANC’s “Freedom Charter,” his image in the US was quickly rehabilitated. He was elevated into a symbolic hero for all praised by the people and the global elite alike. Little mention was made of his role as the creator of an Armed Struggle, and its Commander in Chief,

US networks also did not cover the role played by the US dominated IMF and World Bank in steering the economy in a market -oriented neo-liberal direction, assuring the new government could not erase deep inequality and massive poverty and that the whites would retain privleges.

The American press shaped how Mandela was portrayed in the US. The lawyer and anti-nuclear campaigner, Alice Slater, tells a story of her efforts to win Mandela’s support for nuclear disarmament.

 “(When)… Nelson Mandela announced that he would be retiring from the presidency of South Africa, we organized a world-wide letter writing campaign, urging him to call for the abolition of nuclear weapons at his farewell address to the United Nations. The gambit worked. At the UN, Nelson Mandela called for the elimination of nuclear weapons, saying, “these terrible and terrifying weapons of mass destruction –why do they need them anyway?” The London Guardian had a picture of Mandela on its front page, with the headline, “Nelson Mandela Calls for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.” The New York Times had a story buried on page 46, announcing Mandela’s retirement from the Presidency of South Africa and speculating on who might succeed him, reporting that he gave his last speech as President to the UN, while omitting to mention the content of his speech.”

And so it goes, with his death seeming to be imminent, he has become reduced to a symbolic mythic figure, a moral voice, not the politician he always was. He became an adorable grandfather praised for his charities with his political ideas and values often buried in the either of his celebrity.  He has insisted that he not be treated as a saint or a savior. Tell that to the media.

As ANC veteran Pallo Jordan told me,

“To call him a celebrity is to treat him like Madonna. And that’s not what he is. At the same time, he deserves to be celebrated as the freedom fighter he was.”

Watch the coverage and see if that message is coming through, with all of its implications for the struggle in South Africa that still lies ahead.

Obama go home, 100s of South Africans say

Press TV

Hundreds of South African protesters chanting “Go back, Obama” have clashed with the police in Johannesburg.

On Saturday, the police fired tear gas and stun grenades at the demonstrators gathered outside of the Soweto campus of the University of Johannesburg, where US President Barack Obama held a town hall meeting with students.

The demonstrators shouted slogans denouncing Obama’s record on surveillance and foreign policy.

The protesters voiced their disapproval of the US president’s use of CIA-run assassination drone strikes, the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and the US economic blockade of Cuba.

Some protesters held posters that depicted Obama as Adolf Hitler and demanded that the US lift the trade embargo on Cuba.

The Muslim Lawyers Association of South Africa, leftist national organizations, student groups, trade unions, and the South African Communist Party formed the “NO-Bama Coalition” to protest against Obama’s trip to South Africa.

“Our rejection is based on the USA’s arrogant, selfish and oppressive foreign policies, treatment of workers, and international trade relations that are rooted in warmongering, neoliberal super-exploitation, colonial racism, and the disregard and destruction of the environment, thus making the realization of a just and peaceful world impossible,” the “NO-Bama Coalition” said in a statement issued on Saturday.

The US president arrived in South Africa on Friday evening for a visit to pay homage to his “personal hero”, Nelson Mandela, who is critically ill in the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria.

Mandela’s ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, said on Friday that the 94-year-old had made “a great improvement” in recent days, but was “still unwell,” adding that she felt it would not be right for Obama to visit Mandela while he was in critical condition.

During his weekend trip, Obama is also scheduled to visit Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years of the 27 and a half years he spent in prisons during the apartheid era.

On June 8, Mandela was taken to hospital to be treated for a recurring lung infection.

On June 25, South African President Jacob Zuma issued a statement, saying that doctors are doing their best to ensure Mandela’s recovery and comfort.

The Nobel Peace laureate, who led the country to democracy in 1994, left office in 1999 after serving one term as president.

Seen as South Africa’s moral compass, the highly revered leader announced his retirement from public life in 2004, but continued to make a few public appearances.

Commercial colonization of Africa: The new wild West

(African farmers-file photo)

by GRAHAM PEEBLES, source

Dancing to the tune of their corporate benefactors, governments of the ruling G8 countries are enacting complex agriculture agreements delivering large tracts of prime cut African soil into the portfolios of their multinational bedmates.

Desperate for foreign investment, countries throughout Africa are at the mercy of their new colonial masters – national and international agrochemical corporations, fighting for land, water and control of the world’s food supplies. Driven overwhelmingly by self-interest and profit, the current crop of ‘investors’ differ little from their colonial ancestors. The means may have changed, but the aim – to rape and pillage, no matter the sincere sounding rhetoric – remains more or less the same.

Regarded by her northern guides as agriculturally underperforming, Sub-Saharan Africa is seen, The African Centre for Bio-diversity (ACB) relate, as a “new frontier”, a place to “make profits, with an eye on land, food and biofuels in particular”. Africa, then, is the new Wild West; smallholder farmers and indigenous people are the natives Indians, the multi nationals and their democratically elected representatives – or salesmen – the settlers.

Various initiatives offering what is, indisputably much needed ‘support and investment’ are flowing north to south. Key amongst these is The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa (NAFSNA), designed by the governments of the eight richest economies, for some of the poorest countries in the world. The New Alliance was born out of the G8 summit in May 2012 at Camp David and, according to, WoW, “has been modelled on the ‘new vision’ of private investment in agriculture developed by management consultants McKinsey in conjunction with the ABCD group of leading grain traders (ADM, Bunge, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus) and other multinational agribusiness companies.”(Ibid) It has been written in honourable terms to sit comfortably within the Africa Union’s Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), bestowing an aura of international credibility.

The New Alliance… In Land and Seed Appropriation

At first glance, The New Alliance, with its altruistically-gilded aims, appears to be a worthy development. Who amongst us could argue with the intention, as reported by the United Nations (UN), to “achieve sustained and inclusive agricultural growth and raise 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years”. The means to achieving this noble quest however, are skewed, ignoring the rights and needs of small-holder farmers and the wishes of local people – who are not consulted during the heady negotiations with government officials local and national, and the multi zillion $ corporations who are swarming to buy their ancestral land. Alliance contracts and deals-done favour wealthy investors, revealing the underlying, unjust G8 initiatives objective, to “open up African agriculture to multinational agribusiness companies by means of national ‘cooperation frameworks’ between African governments, donors and private sector investors”, WoW report.

Poverty reduction (the principle stated aim of the Alliance), will be achieved we are told, not by rational methods of sharing and re-distribution, but USAID 18/05/2012 reveal, by “aligning the commitments of Africa’s leadership to drive effective country plans and policies for food security”. ‘Plans and policies’, drafted no doubt in the hallowed meeting rooms of those driving the ‘New Alliance’: the G8 governments and their cohorts including The World Bank and, pulling the policy strings, the agriculture companies sitting behind them, nestling alongside the pharmaceutical giants and the arms industry magnates. With African governments anxious to eat at the head table, or at least be invited into the cocktail chamber they have little choice but to sign up to such unbalanced ‘plans and policies’.

To date, nine African countries (from a continent of 54 nation states), have committed to The New Alliance. First to sign up were, Tanzania, Ghana and the West’s favoured ally in the region Ethiopia – where wide ranging human rights violations, including forced displacement and rapes have reportedly accompanied land sales, and where over 250,000 people in Gambella have been forced into the Orwellian sounding ‘Villagization Programmes’. Then came Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Cote d’Ivoire, followed by Benin, Malawi, and Nigeria. It is an agreement dripping with strings that promise to entangle the innocent and uninformed. After “wide-ranging consultations on land and farming”, with officials from potential partner countries, the results of which were “ignored in the agreements with the G8”, deals “between African governments and private companies were facilitated by the World Economic Forum”, behind, The Guardian report, firmly closed doors.

Conditional to investment promised by The New Alliance, African leaders, USAID tell us are ‘committed’ – forced may be a better word – “to refine [government] policies in order to improve investment opportunities”. In plain English, African countries are required to, change their trade and agriculture laws to include ending the free distribution of seeds, relax the tax system and national export controls and open the doors wide for profit repatriation (allowing the money as well as the crops to be exported). In Mozambique, as elsewhere across the continent, local farmers have been evicted from their land under land sales agreements, and The Guardian 10/06/2013 report, “is now obliged to write new laws promoting what its agreement calls “partnerships” of this kind”. A polluted term, disguising the real relationship between African governments and the multi-national ‘investors’, which is closer to master and maid than equal collaborators.

The Alliance offers a combination of public and private money to African countries willing to take the G8 plunge into international political-economic duplicity, with, ACB relate “the large multinational seed, fertiliser and agrochemical companies setting the agenda … and philanthropic institutions (like AGRA and others) establishing the institutional and infrastructural mechanisms to realise this agenda”. Britain has pledged £395 million of foreign aid whilst, according to the UN “over 45 local and multinational companies have expressed their intent to invest over $3 billion across the agricultural value chain in Grow Africa countries [a Programme of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) established by the African Union in 2003.].”

In order to get their hands on some of the corporations billions however, African nations are required to “change their seed laws, trade laws and land ownership in order to prioritise corporate profits over local food needs”, Mozambique e.g. is contracted, The Guardian tell us to “systematically cease distribution of free and unimproved seeds”, and is drawing up new laws granting intellectual property rights (IPR) of seeds, that will “promote private sector investment”. In other words, laws are being written that allow foreign companies – ‘investors’ (a word used to mislead and bestow legitimacy) – to grab the land of their African ‘partners’, patent their seeds and monopolise their food markets. In Ghana, Tanzania and Ivory Coast, similar regulations sit on the table waiting to be rubber-stamped.

The re-writing of seed laws, along with the fact that these unbalanced deals allow “big multinational seed, fertiliser and agrochemical companies such as Yara, Monsanto, Syngenta and Cargill to set the agenda”, is a major concern expressed by environmental NGO’s and campaigners, Reuters 20/06/2013 report. These are concerns that the initiating G8 governments, were they at all troubled by the impact of their meddling, should share.

The wide ownership, by a small number of huge agro-chemical companies of the rights to seeds and fertilisers, is creating, the UN in their report on the Right to Food, state: “monopoly privileges to plant breeders and patent-holders through the tools of intellectual property”. This growing trend, facilitated through the support of the G8 governments is placing more and more control of the worldwide food supply in their hands, and is causing, “the poorest farmers [to] become increasingly dependent on expensive inputs, creating the risk of indebtedness in the face of unstable incomes.” India is a case in question where farmers strangled by debt are committing suicide at a rate of two per hour.

Share the Land, Seeds and Water

African farmers, and civil society along with 25 British campaign groups including War on Want, Friends of the Earth, The Gaia Foundation and the World Development Movement, have declared their objections to the New Alliance and asked that the government withhold the £395 million so generously pledged by Prime Minister Cameron. The African civil society see clearly that “opening markets and creating space for multinationals to secure profits lie at the heart of the G8 intervention”, they “recognise the New Alliance is a poisoned chalice, and they are right to reject it”, asserts Kirtana Chandrasekaran of Friends of the Earth (FoE).

Having made a continental mess of their own countries’ economies, not to mention the environmental mayhem caused by their policies, It is with unabashed colonial arrogance that the G8 governments deem to tell African countries what to do with their land and how best to do it. Not only do they have no genuine interest in Africa, save what can be gained from it, but they have “no legitimacy to intervene in matters of food, hunger and land tenure in Africa or any other part of the world”, WoW make clear. The New Alliance, according to David Cameron, is “a great combination of promoting good governance and helping Africa to feed its people”. He and the rest of the G8 sitting comfortably club, are, FoE state, “pretending to be tackling hunger and land grabbing in Africa while backing a scheme that will ruin the lives of hundreds of thousands of small farmers”, the New Alliance is “a pro-corporate assault on African nations”.

The ‘investment and support‘ opportunities are laid at the door of investors, to further expand their corporate assets and with the support of participating governments, obliged to provide a selection box of state incentives.

The ending of hunger in sub-Saharan Africa, India and elsewhere, will not be brought about by allowing large tracts of land to be bought up by corporations whose only interest is in maximizing return on investment and, as ACB report these governments believe. The Alliance, far from providing investment and support for the people of Africa, is a mask for exploitation and profiteering: True investment built on relationships, is investment in the people of Africa; the smallholder farmers, the women and children, the communities across the continent. It involves working collectively, consulting, encouraging participation, cooperating instead of competing, and crucially sharing. Sharing of knowledge, experience and technology, sharing the natural resources – the land, food and water, the minerals and other resources equitably amongst the people of Africa and the wider world. Such radical, commonsense ideas would go a long way to creating not only food security but harmony, trust and social justice which just might bring about peace – the ultimate security.

Seeds of change in Ethiopia

Organizing the Determined

by GRAHAM PEEBLES, source

Thousands march in the capital

The people of Ethiopia have been suppressed and controlled for generations. Under the current EPRDF government, freedom of expression has been curtailed and an atmosphere of fear and intimidation fostered. Peaceful assembly has not been allowed, contrary to the constitution, and all political dissent stamped on.

In 2005, after parliamentary elections that many, including the European observers, deemed to be unfair, students took to the streets in the capital Addis Ababa to demonstrate against what they saw as electoral fraud. The regime responded to this democratic display by deploying armed security personnel who killed, Human Rights Watch (14/06/2005) reported, “dozens of protesters and arbitrarily detained thousands of people across the country.” Some estimate that up to 200 people were killed by government forces.

Unsurprisingly, since then the streets of Addis Ababa and other major towns and cities have been quiet, and people have felt unable to protest, until Sunday 2nd June 2013, when the relatively new Smayawi (Blue) Party, to their credit, organized demonstrations at various sites across the capital. Reuters report that around 10,000 people participated, although local people put the figure much higher. Throngs of mainly young people marched through the city, demanding, The Guardian (2/06/2013) state, that the “government releases political leaders and journalists, and tackles corruption and economic problems”. Protesters carried banners reading “Justice! Justice! Justice!” Some held “pictures of imprisoned opposition figures,” others chanted: “We call for respect of the constitution.”

Members of opposition parties and journalists critical of the government are amongst those who have been falsely arrested and charged under the universally condemned Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. Human Rights Watch (HRW) report that “thirty journalists and opposition members were convicted” in 2012 under, the “vague” law introduced in 2009, granting the Ethiopian authorities what Amnesty International (7/07/2009) described as “unnecessarily far-reaching powers”. They went on to make clear that the legislation “restrict[s] freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and the right to fair trial.” It contains an easily distorted, ambiguous definition of terrorism, covering legitimate political dissent and “damage to property and disruption to any public service, for which an individual could be sentenced to 15 years in prison or even the death penalty.” (Ibid)

Under this draconian law that is being used, HRW says, “to target perceived opponents, stifle dissent, and silence journalists… freedom of expression, assembly, and association have been increasingly restricted.” Allied to the Charities and Societies Proclamation, which regulates nongovernmental organisations and “the government’s widespread and persistent harassment, threats, and intimidation of civil society activists, journalists, and others who comment on sensitive issues or express views critical of government policy”, a cocktail of suppression and fear has been created, the effects of which have “been severe”. Human rights workers have been forced to flee the country, groups have closed down and/or “scaled-down” their operations to exclude human rights work. Independent media have also been effected “more journalists have fled Ethiopia than any other country in the world due to threats and intimidation in the last decade—at least 79, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)”. Such unjust laws have been employed by the EPRDF government to control the people, who are at long last demanding such means of repression be repealed.

The time for change is now

2011 saw the rise and pragmatic, peaceful expression of ‘people power’, as mainly young people across Northern Africa rose up against injustice, demanding freedom and an end to war. It was the year Time magazine named ‘The Protestor’ their person of the year, people they said, “dissented; they demanded… they embodied the idea that individual action can bring collective, colossal change.” Since what became known as the ‘Arab Spring’, Greece, Spain, Russia, Syria of course, currently Turkey, even Iran, have all seen popular uprisings against injustice, corruption and suppression. Unified actions, consistently spearheaded by young people, the occupy movement in America, Britain and elsewhere, calling for economic justice, sharing and social equality.

Extraordinary events, in what seems to be a unique time, “unlike anything in any of our lifetimes” as Time magazine described the historic happenings of 2011. A time in which it is not only possible to imagine the realisation of perennial ideals of old: the brotherhood of man, universal happiness and peace but a growing necessity. Such perennial jewels, held firmly within the hearts and minds of many throughout the world and dependent upon the inculcation of pure democratic principles: sharing, (social) justice and freedom, require new and inclusive political/economic/social forms to be built in order to accommodate the demands for change. The old structures, built on divisive foundations, are worn out and inadequate, and they do not serve the needs of the vast majority of people (“the 99.9%”). Governments like the EPRDF, that reinforce injustice, violate human rights and deny their citizens freedoms are out of step with the times and must be swept aside.

With over 65% of the population of Ethiopia under 25 years of age, and a median age of just 17, the young are an army; peaceful, unified and motivated, these young men and women are the great hope for the country. They know well that sharing and justice are the keys to peace and freedom, common-sense truths that the men of the past, acting from narrow ideological positions that distort and corrupt, do not understand. They cling to power and privilege, fearful of the changes that the people demand.

Unity is the key

The need for unity is a worldwide need; in a country where over 70 different ethnic tribal groups speaking dozens of dialects, make up a population of 85 million, unity is essential if there is to be fundamental social change in Ethiopia.

A single demonstration as seen in Addis Ababa on Sunday 2nd June, rightfully calling for justice – long overdue and the release of political prisoners, whilst highly significant and encouraging, will have little effect unless it serves as the beginning of a coordinated, strategic movement. Dictatorships such as the one enthroned in Addis do not suddenly renounce brutality and, seeing the light, embrace democratic ideals of freedom and participation. Relentless, orchestrated peaceful calls for liberty, for justice and the observation of human rights need to be made by the people of Ethiopia, establishing an unstoppable movement, a peoples tsunami, that will wash away all opposition to change. Let Meskel square in Addis Ababa become the Ethiopian Tahrir Square of Egypt’s protests. A unified, inspired response to the impulse for change is needed, led by the young people of Ethiopia, organised and determined, uniting under one banner; justice, freedom and peace for all.

Putin: West supports in Syria forces he fights in Mali

Al Manar

The Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday the Western powers are fighting in the African state of Mali the same forces they are supporting in Arab state of Syria against the President Bashar al-Assad.

“The West is supporting some forces in Syria while fighting them in Mali,” he stated in an interview with the state-run “Russia Today” channel.

Putin, moreover, stressed that the Syrian government should have recognized the need for fundamental changes in the appropriate time in order to prevent what happened in the country.

“Radical transformations have been matured in Syria, and the Syrian government had to touch it at that time and take the initiative to make the required changes.”

“If they have done so, what happened wouldn’t have been happened,” Putin said.

During the interview, the Russian leader reiterated that his country is not “a lawyer for the current Syrian government and President Bashar al-Assad,” yet “any opposition is acceptable if it behaves within the framework of Law,” he stressed.

Warning of the risks waged by the so-called al-Nusra Front, which fights in Syria alongside the Syrian opposition, and does not hide its link to al-Qaeda terrorist movement, Putin pointed out that the West lacks a clear policy toward the group.

“Al-Nusra Front is a major component of the armed opposition and is blacklisted by the U.S.,” he said, while recalling the military support the group has gained from the west.

Putin also expressed hope that the international initiatives, including the Egyptian, the British and the American-Russian ones, will contribute to the creation of new opportunity for a political solution in Syria.

Touching on the US war on terrorism, the Russian President noted that there is a terrorism axis waging in the region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“This worries us. The region is close to our borders,” he stated.

However, Putin indicated that the United States “does not seek to avoid civilian casualties in its battle against terrorism,” stressing the need to impose control on drone attacks.

Regarding the world development during last week, Putin said he notices escalating tension in the Middle East, making it clear that the West criticizes Russia and the eastern countries on how they deal with their oppositions, “knowing that it (the West) deals with its opposition in the same way.”

“We don’t want to interfere in relations between Sunnis and Shiites,” he voiced.
As for the Iranian peaceful nuclear program, the Russian leader denied his country has any evidence that the Islamic Republic violates the international law in developing its nuclear program.

Profiting from Congo’s plunder

Making Fortunes from Pillage

by DAVID CRONIN, source

Having lived in Belgium for 18 years, I figured it was time to start learning about the country’s colonial past. Or should I say present?

My research is at an early stage but it has lead to an unavoidable conclusion: the Belgian elite still behaves as if it calls the shots in Congo.

The French-language magazine Marianne recently published the names of 10 men implicated in the 1961 assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the first Congolese prime minister after its independence. The list — compiled by Lumumba’s family for a legal investigation opened in Brussels two years ago — include Etienne Davignon, a former member of the European Commission and chairman of that “gentlemen’s club” for global capitalism, the Bilderberg Group. Davignon worked for the Belgian foreign ministry at the time of Lumumba’s murder and reportedly drew up a telegram recommending the prime minister’s “removal”.

Now in his 80s, Davignon remains a high-flying corporate lobbyist. His appearance on the Lumumba list prompted me to check if his commercial activities are in any way connected with Congo. The short answer is “yes, they are”.

Davignon’s profile on BusinessWeek states that he has held the posts of director and vice-president with Umicore. This mining company was previously known as Union Minière du Haut Katanga and began extracting Congo’s rich mineral resources in the early twentieth century. It has good political connections. Jean-Luc Dehaene, a long-serving Belgian prime minister, has served on Umicore’s board too.

Patrice Lumumba had the audacity to advocate that “the soil of our country should really benefit its children”. That was in June 1960. Fifty-three years after he made that pledge, the soil of Katanga province is being used for the benefit of Umicore.

There is a strong likelihood that my smartphone – or yours, if you have one – contains material from Congo. Umicore regularly buys cobalt from mines and suppliers in Katanga for batteries, computers, chemicals and cars. Umicore brags that it shares 50% of the global market in materials for lithium-ion batteries (a key power source for electronic equipment) with just one other firm.

Corporate Knights – an insert with The Washington Post that promotes “clean capitalism” (an oxymoron if ever there was one) – has put Umicore in its “100 most sustainable companies” table for 2013.

Only someone with a warped sense of humour could praise firms active in Congo’s mines for being “sustainable”. The International Monetary Fund – not a friend of the downtrodden – has calculated that the value of Congo’s mineral and oil exports come to $4.2 billion in 2009. Yet the Kinshasa government collected just $155 million in tax that year – 4% of the value of those sales.

This is in a country where – as the “Africa progress report” published by Kofi Annan recently notes – some of the world’s worst malnutrition can be found and seven million children are out of school. Congo is at the bottom of the United Nations “human development index”; it has also been plagued by a war, in which the question of who should control Katanga’s mines has played a significant part.

Far from having its reputation damaged by its involvement in Congo, Umicore’s advice is much in demand. The European Commission has appointed Umicore representative Christian Hagelüken to an “expert group” on ensuring access to raw materials for entrepreneurs. A 2010 paper drawn up by that group identified cobalt and tantalum from Congo as being among 14 “critical” minerals, underscoring their importance for the electronic industry. The paper urged that action be taken against “trade distortions” – code for measures designed to use resources for the benefit of a nation’s children (as Lumumba envisaged), rather than for MP3 players.

Needless to say, the “experts” have made all the right noises about “sustainability” and protecting the environment. If we ignore this spin, however, we will see that the determination of Europeans to control Congo has not changed.

When Belgium conceded in the 1950s that it would have to grant independence to Congo, it resolved to retain a grip on Katanga’s mines. It did so by supporting Lumumba’s rival, Moise Tshombe, as the province’s chief. Belgium tried to encourage Katanga’s secession from the rest of Congo.

Davignon’s reported call for the removal of Lumumba bears a chilling similarity to a message conveyed by Dwight D Eisenhower, the American president, to Allen Dulles, head of the CIA. In it, Eisenhower pleaded for Lumumba to be “eliminated”.

In 1884, America was the first country to recognise Belgium’s claim to the Congo. This set in train a process which wiped out at least half of the Congolese population by 1920, according to Jan Vansina, an anthropologist who specialises in Central Africa. This could mean that 10 million lives were destroyed during the reign of Leopold II – the Belgian king who colonised the Congo – and the 10 years after his death.

David Van Reybrouck’s recently published history of Congo traces how the agri-food giant Unilever had its origins in the exploitation of Congolese palm oil. Vast fortunes have been amassed for wily businessmen at the expense of the Congolese people. Despite apologising for its role in Lumumba’s murder a decade ago, Belgium has never atoned for the suffering it inflicted on the Congolese. One explanation for why it has never atoned is that some affluent Belgians are doing nicely from the ongoing pillage of Congo’s resources.

‘The caring facade of french imperialism’

by David Cronin, source

The “public relations” accompanying wars has become wearily predictable. Whenever one of its governments or allies conducts a military action, there is a near certainty that the European Union will host or participate in a “donors’ conference”.

One of these grotesque events has been dedicated to Afghanistan each year since it was invaded by the US in 2001. After Gaza was bombed for three weeks in late 2008 and early 2009, the EU rushed to foot the bill for damage caused by Israel (often to infrastructure previously built or equipped with Western aid). And now the European taxpayer is expected to pick up the tab for destruction wrought by France during its military expedition in Mali.

Let me be absolutely clear: I’m fully in favour of increasing aid to healthcare and education in Mali, one of the world’s poorest countries. Yet this Wednesday’s donors’ conference – jointly organised by France and the EU – is not really designed to reduce hardship in Africa. Rather, its purpose is to cover French imperialism with a veneer of benevolence.

At this juncture, there can be no doubt that France’s “intervention” was motivated primarily by its determination to control natural resources in Mali and Niger. An analysis published in February by in-house researchers at the defence ministry in Paris points out that these two neighbouring countries possess 60% of global uranium reserves. While exploitation of these reserves by Areva, the French nuclear firm, is “certain,” according to the researchers, “instability in the Sahel has an impact on economic projects in the whole region”.

Less than a month after he was sworn in as president last year, François Hollande hinted that he regarded this uranium as effectively Areva’s property. Following talks with Mahamadou Issoufou, his counterpart from Niger, Hollande said that Areva must be allowed to extract uranium from the giant mine of Imouraren at the earliest possible date.

As the former colonial power, it was France which set the border between Mali and Niger. The Touareg people who straddle this artificial frontier have been striving for autonomy since the 1960s. Hollande has been eager to quell the recent resurgence in the Touareg struggle and to bolster the Malian authorities.

His efforts have been sold as being part of a fight against “terrorism”. A more plausible explanation is that he wishes to make sure that the uranium in this area doesn’t fall into the “wrong” hands. It is no accident that French troops were deployed earlier this year in both Mali and around the Arlit mine – a key source of uranium for Areva – in Niger.

There is a fundamental dishonesty behind this week’s donors’ conference. Briefing material prepared by its organisers gives the impression that it is part of the EU’s overall development aid activities. The objective of development aid is defined in the EU’s Lisbon treaty as reducing and eventually eliminating poverty (indeed, the inclusion of this principle is one of the few positive things in a treaty that has a right-wing ideological orientation). Raiding the aid budget to help a resource grab in Mali runs counter to that objective. It can, therefore, be considered as illegal.

This is not the first time that the EU is violating its own law. A 2011 EU strategy paper on the Sahel blurs the distinction between military and development aid.

The pretext cited is that security is a prerequisite for progress. This ignores how it is poverty and oppression that beget conflict.

With some rare exceptions, the EU’s governments have reneged on a decades-old commitment to earmark at least 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) for tackling global poverty. Diverting some of the already inadequate development aid budgets to military training exercises is tantamount to blowing raspberries at the hungry.

Apart from tiny Luxembourg, all of the EU’s governments spend a higher proportion of GDP on the military than on international development. Not content with that manifest injustice, corporate-funded think tanks have pounced on the French intervention in Mali to advocate that Europe’s military expenditure should be even higher.

Nick Witney, the first head of the European Defence Agency – a body tasked with boosting military cooperation between both private firms and nations – has written an especially opportunistic tract for his current employer, the European Council on Foreign Relations. Witney laments that the “crisis in Mali once again exposed the hollowness of Europe’s military pretensions”. France was “left to do the job alone,” he writes, because of the lack of a “shared strategic culture in Europe”.

His proposed solution is to have a similar level of scrutiny for the military spending of EU governments as that introduced for other types of expenditure over the past few years. This is despicable: the scrutiny to which he refers enables the Brussels bureaucracy to insist that countries eviscerate their schools and hospitals in the name of deficit reduction. Witney advocates that the same bureaucracy can simultaneously demand greater expenditure on drones.

Meanwhile, a pamphlet by Notre Europe – an institute headed by one-time European Commission chief Jacques Delors – labels many of the EU states as “free-riders” because they did not deploy fighter jets in Libya during 2011 or help France in Mali this year.

These pamphlets have been produced as part of a concerted effort to step up the pace of the EU’s militarisation. You can be sure that they won’t be allowed gather dust.

France to buy US-made Reaper drones for use in Mali: Report

(File photo)

Press TV

France has plans to purchase US-made unarmed Reaper surveillance drones in a bid to back up its military operations against fighters in the crisis-hit African country, Mali, a report says.

According to the report published by Air et Cosmos specialist magazine on Friday, France will buy two American medium-altitude Reaper drones following a deal reached between Paris and Washington.

The report added that the French Air Force, which has already deployed Israeli-made armed unmanned drones to the West African nation, intends to acquire more modern drones rapidly.

In February, a report published by the World Tribune indicated that the French military has used “Harfang” medium-altitude long endurance (MALE) drones manufactured by Israel in the war-torn country.

The Air et Cosmos report also stated that the French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who is currently on a visit to the US, is set to make an official announcement in this regard.

France launched its war on the resource-rich West African country in January under the pretext of fighting al-Qaeda-linked extremists.

The French-led war on Mali has caused a serious humanitarian crisis in the northern areas of the country and has displaced thousands of people, who now live in deplorable conditions.

Amnesty International said on February 1 that serious human rights breaches including the killing of children were being conducted in Mali.

Some political analysts believe Mali’s abundant natural resources, including gold and uranium, are among the reasons behind the French war against the African country.

Colonial Reoccupation of West Africa?

(File photo)

Colonial Reoccupation of West Africa? French Troops Will Stay in Mali Even After United Nations Forces Arrive. Paris has been re-occupying the West African state since January

by Abayomi Azikiwe, source

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has visited the West African state of Mali where his troops have been fighting since January. France intervened in the central and northern regions of Mali in a purported campaign to remove the presence of several Islamic organizations which have been designated as terrorists by Paris and other imperialist states.

Recently the United Nations Security Council authorized the deployment of approximately 12, 500 peacekeeping troops which will establish bases at various points in these contested areas of Mali. This UN force is also structured to take the place of a 6,000-person regional African force which has been fighting alongside the French troops against three armed Islamist groups in the north.

Although Francois Hollande’s government said in January that the French operation in Mali would be short-lived, the plans have now been revised. France claims that it has drawn down some its troops leaving 4,000 in the country.

According to reports from the French defense ministry at least 1,000 troops will remain in Mali until the end of the year. 250 of these soldiers are specifically slated to be involved in a training mission with the Malian army, while the other 750 are to continue combat operations.

A major area of the fighting has been in Gao where the French Defense Minister Le Drian visited. The official announced that several hundred troops would be transferred from Timbuktu to Gao, leaving only 20 behind in the ancient city which centuries-ago was a center of Islamic scholarship and international trade.

In addition to the presence of French soldiers, a contingent of troops from neighboring Burkina Faso is operating in Timbuktu. These Burkinabe soldiers are part of the West African regional force mobilized by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

According to French Colonel Cyrille Zimmer, the Burkinabe troops are taking over control of military operations in Timbuktu. He said that “We are leaving a small detachment of 20 men who are going to operate with the Burkinabe battalion. This detachment is going to stay in Timbuktu while the Burkinabes are there.” (Associated Press, April 29)

There have also been efforts to draw more western states into the war in Mali. Germany has committed to supplying military trainers through the European Union.

The United States has been involved in Mali for many years with the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) supplying training, equipment and monetary resources. However, these efforts have only created instability inside the country.

When the junior military officers seized power in March 2012 from the elected President Amadou Toumani Toure, these soldiers were led by a U.S.-trained colonel, Amadou Sanogo, who had studied in several academies set up by the Pentagon. The Pentagon has been transporting French troops into the battle in Mali and has recently deployed 100 Special Forces in neighboring Niger in addition to establishing a drone station there.

There has also been a call made by Michael Byers, Chair of Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia in Canada, to have Ottawa become more involved in the Malian crisis. Byers in an editorial published in the Globe and Mail, Canada’s leading newspaper, attempted to make an argument for the deployment of troops to Mali.

Byers wrote on April 29 that “Canadian soldiers would be highly valued as ‘force-multipliers’ who maximize the impact of other, less well-trained troops. For nearly half a century, Canada filled this niche in every UN peacekeeping mission.”

He continued saying “Although Canada has disengaged from peacekeeping in recent years, that shift was a political decision. When Canada’s military leaders sought to have General Andrew Leslie appointed commander of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo in 2010, it was the Harper government that intervened and claimed that Canada’s commitments to the NATO mission in Afghanistan precluded his taking part.”

Therefore, the priority of the Harper government was to engage in more direct occupation efforts in Afghanistan as opposed to what would be considered a neutral stance in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nonetheless, the UN forces being placed in Mali could very well be subjected to hostile fire and other military actions by locals.

This peacekeeping mission will have three obvious challenges. It will be operating as a supposed neutral force while at the same time French and Malian troops are continuing their offensive operations against Ansar Dine, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Also there is a growing degree of alienation on the part of the Malian people in relationship to both French troops and Malian soldiers. These soldiers have been accused of committing atrocities against the population where deaths, injuries and illegal detentions have taken place.

Humanitarian Situation Worsens in Mali

As a result of the military coup and the subsequent civil war in the north between Tuareg separatists and later Islamic rebel groups fighting against the national Malian army, large-scale displacements have taken place. The economic impact of the conflict has been devastating to those that have forced to flee as well as people remaining in their towns and villages.

Food prices have skyrocketed which has impacted working people and the poor. In a recent article published in the Guardian newspaper in London, it examines the growing food shortages in Mali where French troops have been the most active against the targeted rebel organizations.

According to the Guardian, “On Thursday (April 25) four international agencies warned that northern Mali will descend to emergency levels of food insecurity in less than two months if conditions do not improve. Recent food crises in the region have left many people weakened and still in a period of recovery.” (April 29)

Even the Guardian acknowledges that the French intervention has worsened conditions for people living in the combat areas. In addition to cutting off supply lines it has created shortages and therefore precipitated hyperinflation.

This same article goes on to point out that “Food distribution has been disrupted by the closure of the Algerian border – an important route for supplies into northern Mali – and the departure of many traders. Aid agencies say herders have been unable to use traditional pastures and water points, while the falling value of livestock has made it harder to buy cereals.”

With the intervention of UN peacekeepers there is still no guarantee that the situation will normalize. If the experiences of other states are of any indication, such as the DRC, Somalia and Sudan, the deployment of UN forces may very well exacerbate tensions as oppose to lessen them.

The situation in Mali requires a political solution that can only be reached between the varying parties, governments and interest groups involved. This issue portends much for the future of Africa and must be seriously addressed by the African Union (AU) at their upcoming summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

With the increasing intervention of U.S., French and other NATO military forces in Africa, the social, political and economic situations in various African states will inevitably worsen. African states and regional organizations must devise a strategy to deal with this escalation of imperialist militarism which has implications for the continent as a whole.

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