Pan Africa Newswire
Lebanon Infrastructure Devastated by US-Backed Israeli War, a photo by panafnewswire on Flickr.
Israel may step up strikes inside Syria, military warns
Michele Chabin , Special for USA TODAY1:08 p.m. EDT May 21, 2013
Threat follows three days of Syria attacks along the border.
Israel warns that it will not tolerate attacks
Syria vows to hit Israel to avenge strikes against Hezbollah
Analysts warn of widening conflict
JERUSALEM – Syria's stepped-up targeting of Israeli forces along the border between the two countries will force Israel to take a stronger hand in the conflict if it does not cease, Israel's military warned Tuesday.
Israeli Defense Forces Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz issued his warning to Syria after an Israeli jeep was fired at during a patrol in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, a border plateau where both countries have had permanent forces since a 1967 war.
"We will not allow the Golan Heights to become a comfortable space for Assad to operate from," Gantz said. "If he deteriorates (the situation on) the Golan Heights, he will have to bear the consequences."
The Tuesday clash is the third time this week Syrian troops fired into northern Israel. Israel on Tuesday fired Tammuz missiles at a Syrian military position following three consecutive nights of Syrian gunfire toward the same Israeli military position. The IDF denied Syrian claims that the jeep wandered into Syrian territory.
Tuesday's attack was the first time the Syrian military has acknowledged targeting Israeli forces patrolling the border, which has seen almost no fighting since the 1974 Israel-Syrian disengagement agreement.
Israeli leaders worry that Syria may try and drag Israel into its civil war, in which 80,000 Syrians have died in a two-year rebellion against the dictatorship of Bashar Assad.
"I don't expect a war with Syria in the north, but the tranquility since 1974 is over," Israeli parliamentarian Nachman Shai said Tuesday. "We should be ready for a different situation in the Golan Heights."
Israel has already taken a hand in the conflict. It has launched airstrikes against convoys and depots inside Syria that it says were shipping weaponry to the anti-Israeli terrorist group Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, which is on the northern border of Israel.
Syria has vowed to retaliate. Assad said Syria is "capable of facing Israel" and would not accept violations of its sovereignty, according to the Associated Press.
Many Israeli analysts have said that Assad won't attempt an all-out war with Israel unless he achieves an all-out victory over the rebels.
Mordechai Kedar, a former IDF intelligence officer who is a research associate at Bar Ilan University's BESA Center for Strategic Affairs, said that if Assad feels he is on the verge of being ousted he could do something desperate.
"If Assad feels he is losing everything and in his last days, he could behave like the biblical Samson, who said, 'Let my soul die with the Philistines. If I'm going to die, I will kill as many as I can in the process.'"
In such a situation, Assad may launch "whatever weapons, conventional and chemical," at the rebels, Israel, Turkey and even parts of Lebanon, Kedar said.
"This is a scenario every state in the region should consider," Kedar said, adding that Israel and the United States are "closely" monitoring the situation.
Meanwhile, Israel Minister of Strategic and Intelligence Affairs and International Relations, Yuval Steinitz, said Tuesday that Syria may be trying to get Israel to take its attention away from Iran, which is pursuing a nuclear program that the United States believes is headed toward an atomic weapon. Iran has vowed to destroy Israel.
"Events and the situation in Syria, Sinai and the Gaza Strip must not displace – even for a moment – the most critical issue, which is a nuclear Iran. The Iranian nuclear project changes the situation; it will change the situation for the State of Israel, the Middle East and even that of the entire world," Steinitz said.
Walter Rodney of the Working People's Alliance and Cheddi Jagan of the People's Progressive Party both of the South American nation of Guyana. Rodney was assassinated in June 1980., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
Monday, 20 May 2013 00:00
Sabrina Smiley Book review
Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, is a classic of anti-imperialist literature. At the core is the concept of development and contemporary Marxism as the main theoretical underpinning.
Both concept and theory is utilized to explore, evaluate and explain the historical exploitation and the damage done to African development.
He denounces the global capitalist system early in the literature by “reinforcing the conclusion that African development is possible only on the basis of a radical break with the international capitalist system,” (Rodney, 1973: Preface). From a historical materialist perspective, Rodney delivers the argument that both European power politics and European economic exploitation and oppression led to the impoverishment of African societies.
The main subject matter analysed in the book has a rich socio- historical context. The book contains six chapters and at least two sections within the following chapters: Some Questions on Development, How Africa Developed Before the Coming of the Europeans up to the 15th Century, Africa’s Contribution to European Capitalist Development-The Pre-Colonial Period, Europe and the Roots of African Underdevelopment-to 1885, Africa’s Contribution to the Capitalist Development of Europe-The Colonial Period and Colonialism as a System for Under-developing Africa.
Within these chapters, political economy, popular struggles, technology, power, politics and culture are analysed, in addition to other socio-historical contexts.
The initial chapter introduces and examines the question of development and underdevelopment. Chapter two provides solid examples and an overview of the African state.
The third chapter lifts up a myriad of pre-colonial African contributions to the European capitalist system on the underdevelopment of Africa and the development of Europe into an imperialist.
Chapter four focuses on how the Europeans started the underdevelopment of Africa at the Berlin conference of 1885. Under the leadership of Chairman Otto von Bismark of Germany, the partition of Africa was done in Germany. Following this revelation, Rodney introduces the exploited and oppressed slave trade era and how the slave trade led to the decline of economic and technological development in Africa prior to and during colonization.
Chapter five discusses African contribution to the European capitalist system during the colonial period and chapter six summarizes the various strategies utilized for underdevelopment during colonization. Moreover, Rodney provides strategies to combat underdevelopment in Africa at the close of the chapter.
The main theory used for analysis is historical materialism, or Marxism. Historical materialists believe power and private ownership based in economic and material production must be abandoned because it leads to the concentration of power among the capitalists, or the elites. It also leads to alienation, the creation of ideology, class structure and social inequality.
Karl Marx is the founding father of historical materialism, for his theory would greatly influence Frederick Engels, Antonio Gramsci, V.I. Lenin, W.E.B. Dubois and Walter Rodney. Marx believes man possesses an unlimited capacity to develop and reach his highest potential under social circumstances that are equal (Zeitlin, 2001:140). He believes any social circumstance that represses man’s creative capabilities is virtually harmful and should not be (Zeitlin, 2001:140).
As a historical materialist, Walter Rodney focuses on colonialism, imperialism and liberation struggles (Katz-Fishman, Gomes and Scott, 2007:2838). With a Marxist perspective, he states that “power is the ultimate determinant in human society, being basic to the relations within any group and between groups. It implies the ability to defend one’s interests and if necessary to impose ones will by any means available.
In relations between peoples, the question of power determines manoeuvrability in bargaining, the extent to which a people survive as a physical and cultural entity. When one society finds itself forced to relinquish its power entirely, that is a form of underdevelopment,” (Rodney, 1973: Ch.6:115)
Marx openly expresses his contempt for the industrial capital system. Using the labour theory of value, Marx analysed the relationship between wage labour and productive capital. He argued that “the profit of the capitalist was based on the exploitation of the labourer,” (Ritzer, 2004: 25). Marx views industrial capital and wage labour as interdependent entities. In the industrial capital system, wages (labour power) are essentially treated as a priced commodity dictated by the supply and demand of all commodities. He thus concludes that the more the wage labour produces for the elites, the more the elites capitalize, therefore, the greater the social distinction between the two emerges.
Rodney utilises this theory throughout the book. For example, in chapter three: Africa’s Contribution to European Capitalist Development—the Pre-Colonial Period, Rodney lifts up Europe’s assumption of power to make decisions within the international trading system (Rodney, 1973: Ch.3:3).
He illustrates that “international law,” which regulated the conduct of nations on the high seas was simply European law and Africans did not participate in its conception and Africans were really exploited, for the law identified them as transportable merchandise (Rodney, 1973: Ch.3:3).
These victims known as transportable merchandise came to be known as slaves. Rodney notes that Europeans used the superiority of their ships and cannon to gain control of the world’s waterways, commencing in the 15th century. This ownership and power eventually leads to domination of the seas, transforming several parts of Africa and Asia into economic satellites (Rodney, 1973: Ch.3:3).
Rodney also utilizes Marx’s labour theory of value throughout the book. For example, chapter five: Africa’s Contribution to the Capitalist Development of Europe — the Colonial Period, Rodney highlights colonialism as not simply a system of exploitation, but a system whose essential purpose was to return the profits to the “mother country” (Rodney, 1973: Ch.5:1).
Earlier in the chapter he states that “the exploitation of land and labour is essential for human social advance, but only on the assumption that the product is made available within the area where the exploitation takes place,” (Rodney, 1973: Ch.5:1).
However, in Africa, this did not occur. Yes, there was ongoing expatriation of surplus produced by African labour out of African resources. Yet, “it meant the development of Europe as part of the same dialectical process in which Africa was underdeveloped” (Rodney, 1973: Ch.5:1).
In Chapter three, Africa’s Contribution to European Capitalist Development — the Pre-Colonial Period, Rodney discusses Africa’s contribution to the economy and beliefs of early capitalist Europe. He mentions that Karl Marx was “the most bitter critic of capitalism,” and what Europe benefited from was obtained through the relentless exploitation and oppression of Africans and American Indians (Rodney, 1973: Ch.3:8).
In addition, Rodney states that Marx noted that “the discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the turning of Africa into a commercial warrant for the hunting of black skins signalized the “rosy” dawn of the era of capitalist production” (Rodney, 1973: Ch.3:8). Now that is deep!
The use of historical materialism brings to the analysis that social change is revolutionary (anti-capitalist) and part of the solution. As noted earlier, Rodney states, “African development is possible only on the basis of a radical break with the international capitalist system” (Rodney, 1973: Preface).
The agents of this change are specifically Africans who are conscious of the international capitalist system that has underdeveloped Africa. Agents of change include other movement builders (receptive to all — race/ethnicity, class and gender) who work for the overthrow and transformation of a system that has exploited and oppressed African society.
Through the lens of scholar and academic, what is most useful about this work is its ability to enlighten and transform. Walter Rodney reveals a hidden truth on the underdevelopment of Africa by Europeans.
I find useful the method in which Rodney presented historical materialism. My critique is that Rodney could have employed a deeper analysis, connecting the current challenges plaguing Africa (infectious diseases, conflict, education, poverty, etc.) to the underdevelopment by imperialist nations.
However, I realise that this literature was written in 1973, prior to the recognition of HIV/AIDS in Africa during the 1980s.
Through the lens of the activist and movement builder, what is most useful about this work is its ability to organize and stand in solidarity with those in the struggle to redevelop Africa.
As a movement builder I would use this work to raise consciousness and collaborate with others to expose the inequality, injustice and exploitation of the capitalist system. This work was written during the 20th century; however, utilising historical materialism, it speaks to the current global economic crisis in the 21st century that is rooted in the capitalist system. This confirms that history is always in motion.
This influential work has dramatically shaped my intellectual and political worldview. My level of consciousness has been raised.
There is a call to action to maintain the legacy of this book in all spaces, including intellectual, political and movement building spaces.
Currently, my theoretical perspective and practice is being shaped as I explore the theory and practice of HIV/AIDS applied theatre and dance programs in African society. Theatre for development refers to the use of theatre as a tool for development education, often health education and community building.
In the book, Walter Rodney proclaims that “culture is a total way of life” (Rodney, 1973: Ch.2:2). He lifts up the significant roles music and dance had on African society far before the arrival of the Europeans. The society was already developed, despite what is taught by the opposition.
Music and dance was present at every occasion, be it an initiation, birth, marriage, death, etc. and “African peoples reached the pinnacle of achievement in that sphere” (Rodney, 1973: Ch.2:2). With this knowledge, rooted in Marxism, I can explore the use of issue- based (HIV/AIDS), aesthetically provocative theatre.
Source: Mosaic African Studies E-Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Winter 2010) published by: The Howard University Department of African Studies.
Nigerian military mobilized in the state of emergency declared in three northeastern states. Sectional violence has escalated in the West African state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
War against secessionists rages in North-East
SUNDAY, 19 MAY 2013 20:59
FROM MADU ONUORAH, ABUJA NEWS
• 14 more terrorists killed, 20 captured • Three soldiers die, one missing
• Jonathan thanks Nigerians for support • U.S. urges restraint by military
NIGERIAN troops in the North-East of the country fighting secessionist fighters led by Islamist group, Boko Haram, Sunday continued a mop-up of scenes of battle, killing 14 terrorists and capturing 20 others.
But the Nigerian military lost three soldiers in the encounter while seven were wounded. A soldiers was declared missing.
Defence spokesman, Brig.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, in an update in Abuja said that the troops recovered seven vehicles and 13 telephone handsets from the insurgents.
More than 2,000 people have died in violence in Nigeria since 2010, most of which is blamed on Boko Haram.
The group, whose name means “Western education is forbidden”, says its quest is to overthrow the Nigerian government and create an Islamic state.
There has been growing concern that Boko Haram is receiving backing from al-Qaeda-linked militants in other countries.
Meanwhile, Nigerians were lauded Sunday by President Jonathan for their support for the state of emergency which he declared last week in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, in a statement said: “President Goodluck Jonathan has expressed gratitude to all Nigerians for the overwhelming support they have given to the declaration of state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. The President also thanked the leadership of the National Assembly and many of its members, who have through calls and personal visitations, given solidarity and support for this extraordinary step taken by the President in order to halt the mindless killings, bombings and general insecurity that had prevailed in that part of the country.
“The President also notes with gratification the positive disposition and understanding of the governors of the federation, especially the Northern Governors Forum, Leaders and Elders in the North, traditional rulers, religious leaders, cultural and political groups nationwide, including opposition political parties, civil society organisations and the media.”
Military reinforcements have been delivered to the frontline troops, Olukolade said and confirmed that the troops have been encountering a large number of heavily armed terrorists since Saturday.
His words: “Special Forces troops have continued the advance and attack on identified terrorists’ camps in the northern part of the country. Patrols are also ongoing to secure towns and villages from infiltration, while curfews on identified flash-points are being enforced.
“Dislodged terrorists have been noted to be in disarray with a large number of them heading backwards to various borders. There bases are being deserted but they are making efforts to evacuate most of the large stock of logistics, including scores of vehicles in their holdings.
“In the course of special forces pursuits and operations, a number of encounters have ensued since yesterday. After a mop-up of scenes of battle, 14 terrorists were confirmed dead, while seven vehicles and 13 telephone handsets were recovered. A total of 20 terrorists were apprehended as they fled. Altogether, three soldiers died, while seven are wounded and are being treated in military medical facility; one soldier is missing.
“Meanwhile, the required reinforcements and logistics have been delivered to forces in front where the forces have been engaging a large number of heavily armed terrorists since yesterday.
“Defence Headquarters is quite satisfied with the high standard of compliance with operational order and strict observance of the rules of engagement so far. The forces have been directed to maintain the robustness of the patrols and enforcement of curfews where emplaced and ensure that civilians are kept out of harm’s way as much as possible.”
According to Okupe, the President is appreciative of the efforts, loyalty, commitment and sacrifice of members of the Armed Forces and other security agencies who have demonstrated commendable patriotism and gallantry in compliance with the order.
He went on: ”Mr. President also appreciates the encouragement by members of the diplomatic corps and international community and promises that as a disciplined force, members of the Armed Forces will operate according to acceptable international rules of engagement and will pay particular attention to the safety and well-being of the citizens of the affected states during this period of emergency rule.
“Mr. President also notes that the efforts of the Armed Forces have already started yielding positive results, as available information confirms that the insurgents have been dislodged from their previously safe havens and camps while many have been apprehended, and their activities in the affected states have been brought to a total halt.”
Jonathan also called on all Nigerians to “rally round the Federal Government in this period of national travail in order that collectively, we will achieve success in this major fight against terror in our land, and return peace and stability to our nation with its attendant prosperity, growth and development in the affected region.”
He added: “The President has promised that at all times, the Federal Government will not relent or spare any effort that will guarantee the safety and security of all Nigerians, and that all manner of criminality in our country would be fought uncompromisingly with all the powers and might available to the Federal Government.”
And Olukolade, in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) yesterday, stated that until the country’s military realises its objective of successfully checking the insurgency in the northern part of the country, the troops deployed in the three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa would remain.
Vowing that the offensive against the militants in the north-east would continue “as long as it takes” for the military to achieve its main objective, he reiterated that the aim was to assert Nigeria’s “territorial integrity as a nation.”
Earlier, a 24-hour curfew was imposed in parts of the city of Maiduguri, where the military said it had arrested 65 ‘terrorists.’
Maiduguri has been an important base for Boko Haram militants.
Early last week, President Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe after a series of deadly attacks by militant groups.
The Military’s spokesman said the army would continue its operation “as long as it takes to achieve our objective of getting rid of insurgents from every part of Nigeria”.
He told the BBC that the offensive “knows the targets it is after, and it took a long time to plan and prepare for this.”
“It is their (insurgent) bases, their weaponry, their logistics that we are going to deal with in this operation,” he added.
Earlier, an army statement named 12 areas of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, which would now be under permanent curfew.
The neighbourhoods listed are considered strongholds of Boko Haram. The whole of Maiduguri was already subject to an overnight curfew.
Witnesses said troops were stopping lorries from entering the city.
The army also said the 65 insurgents had been arrested trying to infiltrate Maiduguri. Those held had been “fleeing from various camps now under attack”.
However, there has been no independent confirmation of the arrests. The army said 10 suspected insurgents were killed in clashes with troops in Maiduguri on Friday and weapons were seized including rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
War-planes and helicopter gunships also attacked several militant training camps in the North-East on Friday, officials said.
One plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire but officials said it had returned to base safely while the “terrorist base” was “completely destroyed.”
United States has urged the Nigerian army to show restraint and not violate human rights as it pursues the militants.
Secretary of State, John Kerry, said there were “credible allegations” of “gross human rights violations” by the Nigerian military.
Last November, Amnesty International (AI) accused Nigeria’s security forces of carrying out widespread abuses in their campaign against Boko Haram, including extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture.
US predator drone unleashing the hellfire missile. This weapon deployed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Pentagon has killed thousands. The Obama administration has increased its usage in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
France to buy American drones for Mali operation
May 18, 2013 04:24
Two of America’s medium-altitude Reaper drones will be sold to France as backup for the country’s operations against Islamist rebels in Mali.
The news comes from the ‘Air et Cosmos’ specialist magazine, which reported online that a deal had been reached between France and the United States for the sale of two non-armed MQ-9 units.
The French air force had already deployed a European-made Harfang drone to Mali, with the country now wishing to acquire more modern models quickly, although any purchase of the US Reapers directly from the manufacturer (as was done with Harfang) is expected to delay delivery by seven months.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is presently on a visit to the US, where he is expected to make the announcement, according to Air et Cosmos. The defense ministry has declined to comment.
In a bid to curb the spread of extremism and Al Qaeda-linked militants in the northern parts of its former colony, France started a military operation in January of this year. The anti-government Islamists had spread Sharia law everywhere they went, and it is widely feared that if they are successful in Mali, the country will become a hotspot for extremism and the launching of terrorist attacks against European and other African nations.
French efforts have since pushed the militants into mountain and desert hideouts. However, this changed the rules of the game in such a way that they now launch sporadic guerrilla attacks.
Operation ‘Serval’ started with a deployment of 2,500 troops and the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declaring on January 30 that they would be out of there “quickly”. Since that time, that number has risen to 4,000, while the departure date had been moved up. Currently, the idea is that half will leave by July, when Mali holds their presidential election.
Although Paris has begun withdrawal from the West African nation, ahead of the security handover to the International Mission for Support to Mali (MISMA), Le Drian’s recent visit to London paints a different picture, whereby 1,000 French troops will stay in Mali indefinitely, in case further problems arise.
"This is the reason why France will remain with roughly 1,000 troops on Malian territory for an undetermined period of time to carry out counter-terrorism operations if necessary," said Le Drian.
As the battle against extremism in Mali shows no signs of abating, international donors have pledged €3.25bn to its rebuilding, as currently the country is in a state of complete destitution.
French tanks drive through the West African state of Mali. The imperialists are occupying and bombing the country to seize control of oil, uranium and gold., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Few surprised that France will stay in Mali indefinitely
Ramin Mazaheri, Press TV, Paris
Mon May 20, 2013 2:14AM
When France surprisingly went to war in Mali last January they repeatedly promised their offensive was only temporary. But, in a declaration that’s caused little surprise internationally, the French Defense Minister said France will keep around a thousand troops in Mali indefinitely, and that the force could “intervene in neighboring countries…to intervene in any terrorist activity.”
For many, it seems that France is reverting to its longtime role as the self-appointed policeman of Africa, with the so-called “global war on terror” as justification.
France is reportedly set to buy two drone aircraft from the United States for use in Mali. Critics note that drones are often used for extra-judicial assassinations outside of outside war zones.
Many believe that France will create the same situation in Mali as they have done in Ivory Coast. For the last decade a UN-sponsored army, composed almost entirely of French soldiers, has protected French interests. In 2011, following a tightly-contested election, the force decisively protected Alassane Ouattara, ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s close personal friend, and ultimately sent incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo to the International Criminal Court.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov Stresses Need to Set Standards for the International Conference on Syria
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says that his country will not allow a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing military intervention in Syria. The Syrian government is being targeted for imperialist regime change., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Lavrov Stresses Need to Set Standards for the International Conference on Syria
May 19, 2013
MOSCOW, (SANA) – Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov said that there should not be time restrictions on the international conference on Syria.
Russia Today website quoted Lavrov as saying on Sunday that "Many of our partners say that few days or a week is enough, that is unfeasible."
Lavrov stressed that there should be standards for the conference, adding that "It is not known if the Syrian opposition will participate in the conference without making preconditions. Moscow calls for holding the conference as soon as possible."
Lavrov said that it is unlikely for the conference to succeed without the participation of Iran, adding that "If all sides admitted that Tehran have tangible influences on the events then it should be represented in the negotiations."
"I have told the US Secretary of State and it seems that he approved on Tehran's participation but he said that some of the region's countries categorically oppose this matter," he said.
President al-Assad: Basis for Any Political Solution for Crisis in Syria Is What the Syrian People Want
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad conducted an interview with the official news agency on the need for a political solution to the war inside this Middle Eastern state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
President al-Assad: Basis for Any Political Solution for Crisis in Syria is What the Syrian People Want
May 19, 2013
DAMASCUS, (SANA) – President Bashar al-Assad affirmed that the basis for any political solution for the crisis in Syria is what the Syrian people want, which is decided through ballots, saying that Syria welcomes the Russian-US rapprochement, voicing Syria's support for any suggestion which halts violence and leads to a political solution and its readiness to hold dialogue with any Syrian side which didn't deal with Israel secretly or publically and which rejects terrorism.
In an interview with Argentina's Clarin newspaper and Telam news agency, President al-Assad said that Israel supports terrorists, directs them and gives them the general plan of their movements according to its interests which intersect with those of several foreign sides including Qatar and Turkey which don't want a political solution in Syria and which support terrorism.
Following is the full text of the interview:
What has made the Syrian Crisis so complex and protracted?
Firstly, numerous factors have influenced the Syrian crisis both internally and externally, the most significant of which is foreign interference. Secondly, the calculations of confrontational states that intervened in Syria have now proven incorrect. These states perceived their plan would succeed within weeks or months; this has not materialized. What has transpired is that the Syrian people have resisted, and continue to resist and reject all forms of external intervention. For us, it is a matter of safeguarding Syria.
What is the total number of fallen victims in the crisis so far? Some sources report that the numbers exceed 70.000 people.
The death of any Syrian is a tragic loss, regardless of the numbers; but one has to examine the credibility of these sources. We cannot ignore the fact that many of those that have died were foreigners who came to Syria to kill Syrians. There are also many missing who have been accounted for as dead without real authenticity. This affects the accuracy of the quoted numbers of the death toll. How many are Syrians? How many are foreigners? How many are missing? At present, there is no precise comprehensive number to quote. These numbers are constantly changing. Terrorists kill people and often put them in mass graves. We can only discover and account for those losses after the Syrian army goes into these areas.
On this note, has excessive force been used by the government throughout the conflict?
Here it is imperative to determine the meaning of “excessive force” in order to determine whether it has been used or not. Without a clear criterion to this notion, it is inconceivable to discuss the concept.
The response of the state generally amounts to the level of terrorism perpetrated against it. With more sophisticated levels of terrorism, our response to those threats intensifies.
At the beginning of the crisis, acts of terror were carried out by local groups using local armaments. With time, these armed groups were able to source more sophisticated and destructive weaponry and fighters, which allowed them to carry out terrorist acts on a much wider scale. This warranted a similar response from the Syrian army and security forces. The response in each scenario differs according to the form or methods of terror adopted by the terrorists and in a way to repel an area from terrorist insurgents whilst protecting civilian lives.
Therefore, the factors that determine our level of force relate to the types of weapons and terrorism techniques we are dealing with as well as our ultimate goal of protecting the lives of civilians and the country as a whole.
At the start of the crisis, there were some foreigner fighters. It has been two years into the crisis now; do you believe that dialogue could have prevented foreign intervention and the evolvement of the crisis into its current shape?
It was seemingly apparent at the beginning that demands were for reforms. It was utilized to appear as if the crisis was a matter of political reform. Indeed, we pursued a policy of wide scale reforms from changing the constitution to many of the legislations and laws, including lifting the state of emergency law, and embarking on a national dialogue with all political opposition groups. It was striking that with every step we took in the reform process, the level of terrorism escalated.
This ultimately begs the question: what is the relationship between demanding reforms and adopting terrorism? Terrorism can never be the instrument to achieve reforms. What interest does an internationally listed terrorist from Chechnya or Afghanistan have with the internal political reform process in Syria? How is the legitimate demand for reform linked with terrorist activities adopted by radicalized foreign fighters? The same context applies to those external fighters from Iraq, Lebanon and others. Recent credible reports show that there are approximately 29 nationalities of foreign fighters engaged in terrorism activities within Syria’s borders.
We were staunchly committed to political reforms and have implemented them, and we have presented a broad political initiative based on a national dialogue. The essence of any political solution is the aspirations of the Syrian people, decided by the ballot boxes. States do not negotiate with terrorists. However dialogue with the political opposition has been a fundamental policy of ours, which we remain deeply committed to.
Terrorism struck in countries from the United States to Europe. Have these states ever negotiated with terrorists? Dialogue is with legitimate political entities and a conventional opposition, not with terrorist groups who maintain a code of killing, beheading and administering violence including the use of poisonous gas, which amounts to chemical weapons.
Mr. President, would these reforms bring about genuine democratic representation of the Syrian people including freedom of press and expression?
You may be aware that there is a new media law already established amongst the recent reforms adopted. We aimed at an ultimately more comprehensive process; we envisioned a national dialogue for all political entities, which would then act as a pre-requisite for a unified national charter and a new constitution with a wider range of freedoms, including political and media freedom. This new constitution would then be put to a referendum.
Freedom of press and political freedom are two inextricably intertwined concepts, which reinforce and supplement each other, the pursuit of one is impotent without the other, they must both work in tandem with each other.
Your Excellency always emphasize that the key to resolving the crisis is dialogue, which is most agreeable. How do you see the conference proposed at the end of this month in light of the initial agreement between the USA and Russia? How do you evaluate this process especially with the interference of France and UK?
We reiterate our support for all steps that would entail stopping the violence in Syria and lead to a political solution. However, the cessation of violence is paramount to reaching a political settlement.
We welcome the Russian-American rapprochement and support its potentiality of being a platform to facilitate the resolution of the Syrian crisis. We do remain skeptical of the genuine intentions of certain western administrations towards seeking a realistic political solution in Syria. This caution is based on their continued support of terrorist groups in Syria. We are dedicated to pursuing a political solution, yet there are powers who are pressing for the failure of such a solution. This is a two-way process; it needs commitment from all sides.
Are these doubts related to opposition entities or to certain countries and major international players that are hindering a political solution in Syria?
Essentially, some foreign-based opposition elements that you mentioned are far from autonomous independent decision makers, their policies are crafted by the countries that give them leverage. These opposition segments survive on the aid given to them by their patron states, in essence manipulated by the nations that provide their flow of finance. They live under the auspice and control of their intelligence agencies and thus submit to what is imposed upon them. Therefore their decisions are not self-governing; most significantly, they lack a popular base in Syria. If they believed that they had public support, they would have functioned politically from within Syria's borders, not extrinsically from abroad. We do currently have internal political opposition parties based from within, enjoying varying levels of popular intrinsic support. The Syrian government has not intimidated or been hostile to these internal political entities.
Subsequently, the resonant question here is: what justifies the presence of parts of the opposition abroad, except for the notion that they are led by external agendas? In short, are we skeptical of both these opposition groups and the countries supporting them, they are very closely linked. Importantly, these are not doubts; it is a well-documented fact that they have until last week clearly and repeatedly rejected political dialogue.
How can this dialogue be achieved when the opposition factions are fragmented? When talking about dialogue, who is the dialogue to be held with?
We have always advocated and remain vehemently committed to a comprehensive national dialogue to include all who have a genuine desire to participate, with no exclusions. We take into consideration the premise that they are dedicated towards a better Syria within the limits of its sovereignty and right to self-determination. This is subject to the fact that they have not engaged with Israel either acquiescently or in secret.
This process of course does not include terrorists. There is no state that would ever negotiate with terrorists. However, we welcome those who lay down their weapons and engage in constructive political dialogue. There are empirical examples of many who took up arms, subsequently laid down their weapons and moved into political participation and are engaging with the Syrian state. They do have legitimate demands and suggestions; the Syrian government is openly addressing them.
We reinforce the notion that a peaceful political solution would not be feasible when terrorism is supported. There is fundamental contradiction in supporting terrorism whilst claiming to support the success of a political conference at the same time. Certain countries are aiding terrorism in Syria through financing and the streaming of arms. Our assumption is that these countries would not cease this policy as their main goal is to undermine and thus weaken the Syrian state. A political resolution in Syria would help the country to develop and prosper, contrary to what these particular countries are attempting to achieve.
The Syrian people would form a vision towards the future with all the political entities drawn towards the congress, and potentially reach palpable comprehensive agreements on matters stretching from the constitution, to new laws and legislations. Also spanning issues such as discussing the desired shape of the future political structure in Syria, evoking debates regarding the most suitable system, be it parliamentarian or presidential. Such a process would correctly shape the future of Syria.
Terrorism is a separate concern. Even when we succeed in reaching a Syrian-led political agreement, certain countries such as Qatar, Turkey and others will continue to work to fuel violence and terrorism in Syria. Therefore, our main precedence from an international conference is an immediate cessation of finance and weapons that are regularly streamed into Syria, placing emphasis on preventing the terrorists and fighters from being flooded into Syria principally through Turkey, with financial support primarily from Qatar and also from other Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia.
When major international powers act ardently to stop the financing, training and streaming of terrorist, fighting terrorism in Syria becomes considerably simpler and then a real political solution would generate genuine results. New constitution and new laws, while the Syrian people are being victims of indefensible terrorism would not produce any real realistic solution.
So would you talk to foreign –based entities?
We would engage in dialogue with all political entities, internal or external with no set pre-conditions. This also includes the armed groups who lay down their weapons and renounce terrorism. Guns and dialogue are clearly incompatible.
As a matter of fact, there are certain groups and entities, which are subject to legal prosecution; up until this point we have not initiated formal legal proceedings against them in any capacity, in order to facilitate the proposed dialogue. This will culminate with the Syrian people eventually judging their agendas; they themselves will decide who is credible and who is fraudulent. We have not administered a state-imposed recipe for the solution; this in its entirety has been left for the Syrian people to decide.
What role is Israel playing in the Syrian crisis, especially after the Israeli air strikes on sites inside Syria?
Israel directly supports the terrorist movements in two ways. Firstly, through logistical means manifested by them publicly providing medical aid and hospital facilities to the injured terrorist fighters in the Golan Heights. Secondly, they provide them with directions and navigational support, regarding how to mount their attacks and which sites to target. For instance they attacked Radar sites, which are strictly related to the air defense systems that would detect and intercept any foreign air force activity. They have mobilized them to attack these air defense systems since they are an important deterrent in any military confrontation between Syria and Israel.
Therefore the Israeli support for the terrorists is twofold, logistical assistance and navigational help to direct the terrorist movements and operations on the ground.
You condemn the presence of foreign fighters in Syria. Some would argue that fighters from Hezbollah and Iran are fighting alongside the Syrian army. What do you say on that?
This narrative was crafted in the West when we documented the presence of foreign jihadists fighting in Syria. They created this notion that Hezbollah and Iran are also fighting in Syria as a counterweight.
Syria can rely on a population of 23 million; it does not require manpower sustenance from any country. We have at our disposal an army, security forces and the Syrian people to defend our country. Therefore, we have no necessity for any other group to fight on our behalf regardless of whether they are from Iran or Hezbollah. Our relations with Iran and Hezbollah are well known and span decades. It is well known that we exchange expertise on many fronts.
Regarding the claims that there are fighters from these entities in Syria, this would be a matter that is practically impossible to hide. First and foremost, the Syrian people would have identified them. So where could they possibly be? If there is ever a need or a requirement, we will be transparent and announce it formally. We are certainly not utilizing any external fighters in Syria from any Arab or foreign nationality. Personnel from Iran and Hezbollah have existed in Syria for years before the crisis, under agreements they do come and go into Syria formally.
If no progress is made on dialogue, do you anticipate that the armed opposition would lay down their weapons and reach an agreement? Would your government take political steps to resolve the crisis; would Your Excellency relinquish power?
The Syrian people will decide whether I remain in office or not. As a president, it is not for me to decide whether I stay or go, this is the decision of the electorate. It is impossible to lead when you are not desired by the public; this is essentially common sense and doesn't need much debate. Through the constitution and the presidential elections in 2014, the people will decide.
As for the armed groups you cited, they are not one single autonomous group. We are dealing with hundreds of small fractured militias. One of the fundamental reasons for Kofi Annan’s resignation was that he did not know whom to negotiate with from the other side.
From our perspective, there is one state with one president and one prime-minister and a clear coherent political structure. As for the terrorist entities, they are in groups and militias with a constellation that includes convicted criminals, drug smugglers, and fundamentalist movements. Each anarchical movement has its local leader. Therefore we are talking about thousands of differentiating personalities. The logical question is: who can unite these? One cannot conceivably account for and build a roadmap with these ambiguous groups who have no political agendas. As noted previously, not all of these groups are extremists. Some of them are thieves, some are building material wealth out of the crisis and others are outlaws or opportunists with a direct interest in prolonging the crisis. Building a tangible political process with these groups is a complex task. If they had a conventional structure, it would have been more feasible to envisage a way of doing so.
This reality means we deal with each case individually and according to its circumstances. Once an armed individual or group lay down their arms, we automatically engage with them and move towards dialogue. We recognize that this is not a conclusive comprehensive dialogue; however, we do not believe in a policy of “all or nothing”. We are incrementally building on this strategy, which has indeed helped to attenuate the crisis in several parts in Syria.
So, Mr President, you continue to reject stepping down?
As I previously specified, remaining or leaving my position is not my individual choice. As President, I was elected by the Syrian people and therefore only the Syrian people have the authority to decide on this matter, through dialogue or the forthcoming presidential elections as I mentioned earlier. But to ascertain that the Syrian President must step down because the United States wants him to or because terrorists and certain countries desire so is totally unacceptable. This matter solely relates to the electorate’s decision through ballot boxes.
The United States of America gave indications through President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry’s statements that it does not want to intervene in Syria. However Kerry stated that any dialogue should include the possibility of you leaving power. If you reach this dialogue on an international level, could this be of the cards that you may use to reach a solution to the crisis?
I do not know if Mr. Kerry or others like him have a mandate from the Syrian people to speak on their behalf as to who stays and who leaves. We clearly stated from the beginning of the crisis that any decision relating to internal reform or any other political activity is a Syrian internal domestic decision and the United states or any other country for that matter have no say in the matter. To be even more concise and clear, we are an independent state, we are a people who respect ourselves and our right to self-determination. We do not accept for anyone to dictate to us how to act, whether it is the United States or any other country. Therefore this possibility is to be solely determined by the Syrian people; put simply one stands for office at election time, he either wins or he loses. This is the mechanism in which a president may leave power, not that of entering a conference with pre-dictated conditions, which the people have not chosen.
The country now faces a crisis; when a ship is in the eye of the storm, the Captain does not jump. On the contrary, his duty is to face the storm and navigate the ship to safe waters. Any abandonment of my duties now is an attempt to escape from responsibility and I'm not the type of person who runs away from his responsibilities.
In addition to the early pre-condition of you stepping down particularly by France and Britain, they have accused your government of using chemical weapons. Mr. Kerry stated yesterday that there was “strong evidence” that in March 2013 the Syrian army used Sarin Gas in Aleppo. What would you say on that? Do you think that the western emphasis on this issue is a prelude to military intervention in Syria? Are you worried about such scenario transpiring?
The statements made on Syria by Western countries, whether it is regarding chemical weapons or the President stepping down, vary on almost a daily basis. One day they infer that they have evidence on the use of chemical weapons and the following day they conclude that there is no such evidence, the subsequent day they say there is evidence again. We shall wait to see if they settle on one narrative.
But we shouldn't be wasting time with empty rhetoric, what is more important is reality. Chemical weapons are weapons of mass destruction; the accusation is that we have used them in populated areas. If, for instance, a nuclear weapon is deployed in a city or populated district, is it plausible that it merely kills ten or twenty people? The use of chemical weapons in populated areas would result in the death of thousands or tens of thousands within minutes. Can this really be concealed? We need to look closer, especially at the timing. These allegations appeared after terrorist groups mounted chemical attacks in Aleppo, which we have substantiated with tangible evidence - we have the missile that was used and its chemical materials. We sent an official letter to the United Nations Security Council requesting a formal investigation into the incident. This no doubt left certain countries such as the United States, France and Britain in a difficult quandary. Soon afterwards, they began to allege that Syria had used chemical weapons against the terrorists. To avoid the investigations, they instead requested to send inspectors with unconditional and unfettered access to different locations in Syria, away from the area where the actual incident occurred. In fact, a member of the UN investigators, Carla Del Ponte, stated last week that there was evidence that the terrorists in Syria had used nerve agents.
Using these allegations as a clear pretext for military intervention in Syria is a possible scenario, as it did occur in Iraq when Colin Powell stood in the Security Council and presented what we now know to be false evidence of Iraqi WMD’s; but where were the WMD’s? It is common knowledge that western administrations lie continuously and manufacture stories as a pretext for war.
Any war against Syria will not be a picnic, the situation here is very different. Whilst it is quite plausible that they may contemplate the idea of war on Syria, we have no evidence that this is anything more than theory. We do however always keep this in mind.
At present, are you concerned about military action against Syria? Perhaps not in the form of conventional invasion like in Iraq, but a direct military strike?
This is precisely what Israel acted upon last week. It is always a standing possibility and occurs from time to time, especially when we continue to make progress across the country against the terrorist groups and shift the balance of power on the ground.
The countries cited earlier delegated Israel to commit its aggression in order to improve the morale of the terrorist groups. These nations serve to prolong the violence and bloodshed in Syria in order to significantly weaken the Syrian state. Therefore military action against us is not an improbable scenario; it may transpire at any time, even on a limited-scale.
You now say that the situation in Syria is under control, however we hear many echoes of guns and mortars, how has the crisis developed militarily in recent days especially after the armed groups have closed in on Damascus?
The term control is often used when waging a war against a foreign army on your own territory; where we can state that we dominate this region or control another. The situation in Syria differs completely; we are dealing with terrorists who have infiltrated specific areas. They could be occupying a certain building in an area, this does not mean they have full control over that particular area. Since they are not a typical army, they have the ability to hide and escape from one place to another relatively quickly. As for the Syrian Army, there has not been any instance where they have planned to enter a particular location to control the area and have not been able to do so. This is where we can use the term control.
There are areas where terrorists are able to maneuver more easily, especially since it is only normal that no army in the world that can present in every corner of any given country. Our military activities are aimed at striking terrorism, not on freeing land. We have achieved significant results in recent weeks and as such a large portion of terrorists have left Syria, whilst others have surrendered to the state. We are not looking to control a particular region or another. We are fighting a war against terrorism, the battle is long and we are making good progress.
Mr President, to what extent do you think that Obama’s foreign policy is considerably different to previous American leaders?
The United States is broadly governed by certain institutions and particular lobbies. Any new leader can contribute and leave their mark, however, they cannot draw their own autonomous policies independently from those existing institutions and lobbies. So changes in American administrations create only subtle differences in foreign policy, because the governing institutions and lobbies do not change. This makes it difficult to measure the impact of any particular President or Foreign Minister.
Most importantly to us in Syria, is that foreign policy in the United States is still profoundly biased towards Israel against the legitimate rights of the Arab people, particularly Palestinians. In the last 20 years, the United States has not taken any serious or genuine steps to push for a peace process. They invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and are still adopting the same policies. From a humanitarian perspective, they still administer and run the prison at Guantanamo. So what has changed? The rhetoric? That has no real value, what is important is action on the ground. So as I said the American administrations on this topic are very similar.
George W Bush commanded a better economy and rushed into war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama repeated it in Libya but it seems he has no real desire to intervene in Syria. Do you think this reflects a shift in American policy? Do you think this is due to the change in the world order? When I met you 7 years ago, China was not as powerful as it is currently. In light of this, do you think that American forces would invade Syria?
This question can be addressed from two viewpoints. There is a view within the United States that the current administration is not keen on wars - we have to ask ourselves why? Is it because of the economic situation, the changes in the global power structure, their failure in Afghanistan, Iraq and others? Or is it genuinely due to a matter of principles? I doubt that this change is about principles. There are changing circumstances that prevent the United States from engaging in new military adventures, especially since these have proven to be costly and have failed to achieve any benefit for them politically. However, Americans are better equipped to determine this than anybody looking in from the outside.
However, from another perspective which we see very clearly and has a direct affect on us, is their continued policy of supporting terrorism logistically and politically in our country, with so-called “non-lethal” aid. Let me ask you, were the events of 9/11 perpetrated by lethal aid? No, quite the contrary, which means you do not necessarily need to support terrorism with weapons. By simply providing financial, logistical and technological support, you make the terrorists ability to kill more lethal. Therefore, it seems as though American policy has shifted away from direct military invasion to more unconventional warfare.
Another more significant question we need to ask ourselves is whether current US foreign policy fostering international stability? Clearly not. Neither the United States nor Western governments are doing anything for international stability. Look at what is happening in North Korea, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and many other Arab countries, there is no stability; this is what we should be focusing on. War is only a tool, we are talking about principles not tools. If America has shifted away from direct military invasion, it does not mean they have changed their principles. They have changed their tools - yes, but their principles - I doubt it.
When you say war is a means, do you infer that it is a way for the West to impose a Wahhabi or extremist government in Syria? Is it to control Syria’s new gas and oil resources, or a mix of both? Do you think that America works with Qatar and Saudi Arabia so an extremist government can take power in Syria?
The primary aim of the West is to ensure that they have “loyal” governments at their disposal, similar to those administrations that existed previously in Latin America, which facilitate the exploitation and consumption of a country's national resources.
As to the West’s desire to install an extremist government, there are two distinct perspectives. The first, is that some in the West genuinely fear an extremist government and hence are pushing towards a non-extremist government that is however still 'loyal' to their agenda. The second perspective is that others do not have a problem with an extremist government, which they can 'use now and fight later on'. This policy is ultimately short-sighted. The events in Afghanistan and subsequently New York were the result of these ideas and policies implemented by the United States. They supported the Taliban at varying times and, on September 11, they paid a hefty price. Previously they entered Afghanistan using the prerogative that they are fighting terrorism, and today terrorism and extremism is much more prevalent than it was 10 years ago. In essence they invaded Afghanistan and implicitly made terrorism stronger by doing so. Whilst it was confined to Afghanistan before, today it has developed and has become more widespread in numerous parts of the world. The West works to impose puppet governments loyal to them which ardently implement their policies in whatever form that may be.
What is more dangerous however, is that the Wahhabi states in the region are looking to spread extremist ideologies to the broader public and not just at a government level. In Syria our notion of Islam is very moderate, we do not have any extremist Wahhabi orientations or Wahhabi schools of thought. We reject and resist these extremist ideologies that they are trying to instill into Syrian society. We do this by fighting it politically and through the teaching of proper religion, of the moderate Islam that is Syria is well known for.
As for the gas, this issue has never been discussed with us. However, we had planned and announced major railway transportation projects for the region, other projects linking the five seas, as well as the transfer of oil and gas, north and south, east and west. These would enhance the development process of the region and prosper the economies of all of its countries.
A country like Syria is not by any means a satellite state to the West. Syria is an independent state working for the interests of its people, rather than making the Syrian people work for the interests of the West. It is only normal that they would not want us to play a role, preferring instead a puppet government serving their interests and creating projects that would benefit their peoples and economies. Syria is strategically placed not just for oil and gas projects, but also to shift the balance of power between the major players.
Will the forthcoming 2014 presidential elections be internationally monitored? Will the international media be given free access?
Even as a president, international monitoring is not my own decision. This is subject to the national dialogue process which we are preparing for. At present we are consulting with the diverse internal political powers in Syria to initiate this national dialogue. This would then design the roadmap for the elections.
Certain segments of Syrian society reject the idea of external monitoring and believe that it undermines our national sovereignty. These groups are skeptical of western intentions in Syria and refuse any input from foreign parties on how to “rightly” conduct their own internal affairs. Differing segments feel that the topic of monitoring very much depends on the actual countries involved. If monitoring is to happen, they ask whether it shall be conducted by historically friendly countries - Russia or China for example.
I reiterate, this is not my own decision. This is exclusively a decision to be taken by the Syrian people through a comprehensive national dialogue process encapsulating all Syrian political entities.
With regards to the upcoming presidential elections in Iran, do you think there will be any change overall in Iranian policy?
Of course Iran is a vital country in the region. It is a large country with a key and integral political role. Events in Iran will inevitably have a positive or negative bearing on neighboring states and could affect the stability of the region. From this perspective, Iran is highly significant to Syria. From another perspective, the durable alliance between Iran and Syria has stretched for over three decades. As a friendly state, we closely observe their internal changes, which, one way or another, will affect Syria’s role in the region.
Similar to any other state in the Middle East, Iran has a constantly evolving internal political dynamic and it periodically undergoes political changes. The upcoming elections will reflect the changes in Iranian society, and their increasing weight and political clout in the region.
Iran today is very different from ten years ago. Today, it is one of the most essential and powerful states in the region. This will unquestionably be echoed in the elections. Most certainly, a new Iranian president would not serve the aspirations of the United States by turning the Republic of Iran into an American puppet state; they should not hedge their bets on this. The elections will reflect the changes in Iran internally and not the change that western administrations seek unscrupulously in Iran.Q 23:
When I interviewed Your Excellency in Buenos Aires, you condemned the Holocaust and denounced any form of genocide. This is different to the Iranian perception. What is the significance of this difference?
The fundamentally important question here is: how can we discuss the Holocaust whilst overlooking the mass killings that have been perpetrated for years upon the Palestinians, or the million and half Iraqis killed by the Americans or the millions of North Koreans killed in the 1950’s during the war?
Therefore, this advocates a notion denoting the utilization of the Holocaust as a specifically politicized topic, rather than a pure unadulterated documentation of history. As to its actuality, well I am not a historian to be able to determine accurately fact from fiction. Historical events are determined by those who document these events and can easily be changed or manipulated according to agendas and viewpoints. If you were to ask two Syrian historians about the history of the country, you would most likely get two differing accounts. If the Holocaust is purely a historical issue, why are countless examples of historically well renowned genocides committed against Arab and non-Arab nations totally disregarded?
Mr. President, during the interview I conducted with you in Buenos Aires, you discussed the significance of Syria to the region, particularly to Iraq where you received millions of Iraqi refugees. Now the situation is different, there are many Syrian refugees abroad. How do you see this crisis as a concern to your security and the security of your family? Are you concerned for their lives or not?
My concern is for my country, for Syria. I am a part of this country and a president cannot feel safe or comfortable when his country is in a crisis. I strongly believe that when Syria is well, then every family will be safe including my own.
Syria cannot be well when there is such a difficult humanitarian crisis with numerous refugees displaced externally and an even higher amount internally. How can I work to resolve this humanitarian crisis other than by being a part of this society?
National interests and national security should always take precedent over your own personal security. By adopting this attitude you no longer fear for yourself and your primary concern becomes the safety of the Syrian people
What would be your primary or most recent self-critique, Mr. President?
Self-critique should be a continuous process. However if we are talking about evaluating a particular period of time or incident, then it is only normal to wait until the event or period has passed. Evaluating the performance and decisions made during this crisis can only be objectively done when we have all the information available and a long term view in mind. Only then can we determine right from wrong. What we are doing at the moment is learning from day to day experiences to ensure that our effectiveness on the ground has more impact.
On the other hand, I believe that what is more important than your own evaluation of yourself is the public's view and opinion on the matter. They ultimately have the concluding say on whether you were right or wrong.
In Latin America, there are approximately 15 million descendants of Syrian origin. They are genuinely concerned over the unfolding events in Syria, and the information they receive is relatively partial. Here I have two questions: what would you like to say to them regarding these concerns? Secondly, when the crisis is over, how will history judge you?
The future will essentially determine your place in history. In a position of responsibility, as is normal in human nature, one can be right or wrong. What is important though is that your decisions were understood to be taken based on national interests. In that way people may agree or disagree with your actions, but they will understand and accept that you were working in the best interests of your country. History will then remember that you were working for your country’s interest and not your own.
As for the large expatriate community in Argentina and Latin America, we have always viewed it as a cultural bridge between two distant regions. Because of this great expatriate community, the peoples in Latin America have a better understanding of the situation in our region than those societies in countries closer to the Middle East and the Arab World.
In the current situation and the changes that are taking place on the ground in Syria and Middle East as a whole, these communities now more than ever have a vital and integral role to play. They have an excellent in-depth understanding of the nature of our societies, they are well aware of colonial policies and intentions towards our region. As such, they are able to convey and reflect an accurate account of events in Syria to people in Latin America, especially since your region underwent similar historical changes in previous decades. The countries in your region were transformed from being satellites commanded by the United States into independent and progressive nations. However, an important difference between the two experiences is that your revolutions served your national interests, however our revolutions are fundamentally externally administered, be it their imported ideologies, resources or even through foreign fighters. It is crucial that this expatriate community shares its insights and understanding of the region in a way that helps people in Latin America understand the situation as it is in reality.
Mr. President, last question. There are two journalists who are missing in Syria. The first of Italian nationality, disappeared last March, and the latter was reported missing after he entered Syria six months ago. Do you have any information about them? I would also like to ask you about the two kidnapped Syrian bishops?
There have been certain cases where journalists have illegally entered Syria without the knowledge of the Syrian government. They entered into areas that have a known presence of terrorists and according to their media organizations have gone missing. We continue to search for them through our on-going military operations, and on occasions our forces have been successful in releasing journalists who were kidnapped in areas infiltrated by terrorists. Whenever there is information regarding journalists who have entered Syria illegally, we directly communicate with the concerned country. At present we have no information about the two journalists you mentioned.
As for the two bishops, we have preliminary information that they are near the Turkish-Syrian border. We are closely following this issue and liaising with the Orthodox Patriarchate in Syria to free them from the terrorists groups who abducted them.
Israeli bombing of Syria has been supported by the Obama administration in Washington. The U.S. gives billions in assistance to Tel Aviv every year., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Fears grow of clash between Israel and Syria
By Edmund Sanders
9:48 AM PDT, May 19, 2013
JERUSALEM — Fears about a possible escalation of violence between Israel and Syria grew Sunday amid renewed Israeli threats to destroy Syrian weapons caches and Syria's warnings of retaliation.
After decades of relative calm along the two nations’ borders, some Israeli officials say tensions with Syria have reached one of the highest points since the 1973 Yom Kippur war.
During a Cabinet meeting Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would continue to act to prevent Syria’s advanced weapons from falling into the hands of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah or other organizations deemed to be terrorists.
“The Middle East is in one of its most sensitive periods in decades with the escalating upheaval in Syria,’’ Netanyahu said. “We are monitoring the changes there closely and are prepared for any scenario.”
Israel has been accused of launching three air strikes this year against Syrian weapons stockpiles and convoys, though officially the Israeli government has not acknowledged its responsibility.
But Israeli officials have said repeatedly they will not hesitate to attack if they fear weapons, including chemical stockpiles, are at risk of falling into the wrong hands.
In response, Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose regime did not retaliate for the previous three attacks, has signaled that he will not tolerate a fourth strike.
His government has reportedly trained advanced surface-to-surface missiles on the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, with instructions to fire in the event of another Israeli attack, according to information from reconnaissance satellite imagery reported Sunday by the Times of London.
Israeli military officials have insisted that they do not wish to interfere in the Syrian civil war or topple Assad’s regime, and that they would limit military actions toward halting the arms pipeline from Iran to Hezbollah.
At the same time, Israelis have warned Assad that if he strikes back against Israel, he risks losing control of Syria because Israel would respond with less restraint.
So far, the Israeli calculation that Assad is too weak and distracted to respond has been proven correct. But some Israeli defense analysts warn that Israel might be pushing its luck if it attacks again.
“We might think Israel enjoys full freedom of action in Syria because the regime knows what’s good for it,’’ said Shlomo Brom, analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. “But this is an illusion because it ignores the fact that when you push someone into a corner, they are ultimately forced to react. I am not sure Assad is so far from this mind-set. This could cause an escalation, and the question is whether such an escalation serves Israel’s interests.”
Assad, who has surprised many by holding on to power for more than two years, struck a defiant tone over the weekend, accusing Israel of helping the rebels.
Russia, which has maintained strong ties to the Assad regime, also made a strong statement of support last week, vowing to proceed with the sale of advanced S-300 air-defense missiles to Syria despite a personal appeal from Netanyahu. Israel fears such weapons will hinder its ability to launch air strikes over Syria and Lebanon.
Many in Israel see the arms sale as a message to Israel and the West that Russia will not tolerate outside intervention in Syria.
“The Russians have shown determined support for Assad,” Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, head of policy and political affairs strategy for the Israel Defense Forces, told Israel Radio on Friday. He said Syria “has become a battleground in which the defense of Assad and his regime has become a central pillar of Russian policy. That hasn’t changed and it has been the case throughout the entire duration of the period. That is a very tenaciously held position.”
For Israel, Russian support for Assad raises the stakes in its evolving military strategy.
Initially Israelis believed Assad could not be toppled and that despite his support for Hezbollah and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, his survival was preferable because he had proved to be something of a paper tiger when it came to militarily confronting Israel. Even after Israel reportedly bombed a Syrian nuclear facility in 2007, Assad did not respond.
Over the past year, Israelis came to believe that Assad could not survive, though they have been reluctant to openly support the rebels. They fear such support might backfire because of the strong anti-Israel sentiments in Syria.
Now Israeli officials appear split on which outcome in Syria will be worse for them: a victorious Assad regime that continues to support Hezbollah with help from Iran, or a takeover by Al Qaeda-affiliated rebels who might be less reluctant to strike Israel.
“Israel really has no clear preference between Assad’s regime and that of the gangs who would succeed him and tear the country to pieces,” said Mordechai Kedar, a Middle East expert at Bar-Ilan University. “Each has its own dangerous characteristics.”
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, with Dr. Rita Edozie of Michigan State University at the Dr. Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on March 9, 2013. (Photo: Leona McElvene), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.Africa and U.S. Imperialism: Post-Colonial Crises and the Imperatives of the African Revolution
Five decades since the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) while the Pentagon and NATO escalates its war drive on the continent
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Note: The following lecture was delivered at the Africa & U.S. Imperialism Conference held in Detroit on May 18, 2013. The event was sponsored by the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) and also featured presentations by Atty. Jeff Edison of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, Dr. Rita Kiki Edozie, Director of African American and African Studies at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Cheick Oumar and Moussa Rimau, two graduate students at MSU from Mali, Tachae J. Davis of Workers World Youth Fraction and a student at Macomb Community College. A special address was delivered by the Venezuelan Consulate in Chicago Jesus Rodriguez Espinoza. To watch the video of the address delivered by the Venezuelan diplomat just click on the website below:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSPXRV5YIHE&feature=youtu.be (Part 1)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M97Yu_3aot4&feature=youtu.be (Part 2)
May 25, 2013 represents the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the forerunner of the present African Union which formed in 2002. This conference today is taking place at a critical time within the history of Africa and the Diaspora.
Even though there has been tremendous progress in Africa and throughout the African world since 1963, the imperialists have devised mechanism to continue and expand the exploitation and consequent oppression of African people on the continent and indeed throughout Europe, North America and Latin America. This conference sends congratulatory messages to the AU in the midst of this anniversary.
We are following the situation surrounding the summit which begins on May 19 and extends through May 27. The meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is being held under the theme of “Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance,” in an attempt to return the continental organization back to its political origins born in the ferment of the African revolutionary struggle of the 1960s.
According to the description on the African Union website publicizing the 21st Summit of the AU, it says that “The year 2013 marks the 50th anniversary celebration of the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). It will also be a little more than a decade since the formation of the African Union, which seeks to promote ‘an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena.’ Consequently, the Heads of State declared 2013 the Year of Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance.”
This same synopsis goes on to say that “The anniversary is expected to facilitate and celebrate African narratives of past, present and future that will enthuse and energize the African population and use their constructive energy to accelerate a forward looking agenda of Pan-Africanism and renaissance in the 21st century. It provides a unique opportunity, and comes at a moment when Africa is on the rise, and must therefore build its confidence in its future. The 50th Anniversary commemorations will be anchored by the Theme Pan Africanism and the African Renaissance.” (AU website)
During the course of the following days through the Pan-African News Wire we will cover the deliberations and addresses extensively to provide the African world and the international community in general with the most comprehensive review of developments taking place in Addis Ababa. The peoples of Africa scattered throughout the globe are intensely awaiting the outcome of the summit in order to gain clearer insight into the character of the thinking and actions being advanced by the heads-of-state and other leading organs of this esteemed institution.
Nonetheless, our purpose here today is to reflect on the significance of the history of Africa and the African liberation struggles that have evolved over the last five decades. Where have we been and where are we going into the successive decades of the 21st century must be the questions that are paramount in our minds.
The Post World War II Political Situation
It has been acknowledged by the leading progressive and revolutionary African historians that the advent of the Atlantic Slave Trade and colonialism shaped the character of African societies throughout the world. Beginning in the 15th century, Africa engaged Europe coming out of the so-called “Dark Ages”, a society and culture desperately seeking to advance its own internal development at the expense of other peoples around the globe.
Between the 15th and 19th centuries, millions of Africans were subjected to super-exploitation through slavery and colonialism. This period in the history of the continent spawned the conquering by Europe of the Western hemisphere and the building of an industrial empire which intensified the exploitation of both the indigenous people of the West as well as those of the African continent, Asia and the South Pacific.
Africans and other oppressed peoples of course resisted the onslaught of slavery and colonialism with vigor. History today is revealing even more detailed accounts of the heroic role that Africans played in the struggle against imperialism in its infancy and continuing into its maturity and consequent devolution under the present system of neo-colonialism.
All exploitative and oppressed systems meet resistance from within leading to the organization and mobilization of the forces which are victimized by the ruling interests within the society. These internal struggles along with challenges from the outside result in the transformation of the system into something different that could be an advance or a step backward in the development of humanity.
Although imperialism attempted to create a system of exploitation and oppression that was insulated from internal and external attacks, these efforts proved to be futile. By the conclusion of World War I, national liberation movements and communist tendencies were well in evidence in the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and colonialism.
Rebellions and revolutionary uprisings spread throughout North America, Europe, Africa and Asia beginning in 1917 with the Bolshevik Revolution, the first total overthrow of capitalism and the replacement of this exploitative system with socialism which is based upon empowering the working class and the oppressed.
The 1920s saw additional uprising and attempts to build a worldwide alliance between national liberation movements and socialist parties. By the conclusion of the 1920s, the capitalist world would fall into its worst economic crisis which lasted for over twelve years until the entry of the United States into World War II in 1941.
This collapse of the capitalist system during the 1930s would also lead to the spreading of fascism in Europe and Japan. However, the fight against fascism in the 1930s and 1940s brought to the fore the communist and national liberation organizations which served as the decisive factor in the outcome of the war in 1945.
Beginning in 1945 the communist and national liberation movements accelerated their efforts aimed at the overthrow of capitalism and colonialism leading to decisive victories in Korea, Vietnam, Eastern Europe and eventually China. By 1947, India had gained its independence from British imperialism and the African continent had begun popular uprisings aimed at breaking the yolk of colonial rule.
The aftermath of World War II resulted in the dominance of the U.S. ruling class throughout the capitalist world. Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan had experienced extensive fighting within its borders during the 1930s and 1940s leaving the U.S. unscathed by the military impact of the war.
The Soviet Union which had experienced some of the most intense fighting during 1942 and 1943 at the “Battle of Stalingrad” emerged from World War II as a major power internationally only second in military might and political strength to U.S. imperialism. Socialism spread throughout Eastern Europe during this period and the people of Yugoslavia had largely liberated themselves through their resistance to fascism where they later would establish a socialist system.
Despite the devastation of World War II and the founding of the United Nations in 1945 whose objective in part was to avoid another international conflagration, war erupted on the Korean Peninsula in 1950 after the establishment of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 1948. The DPRK and the people of China under Mao Tse-Tung fought to preserve their national sovereignty and socialism in Asia.
By 1954, the people of Vietnam defeated French imperialism forcing the U.S. to take total responsibility for the continued occupation of the south of that Southeast Asian nation. That same year, the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) began its armed struggle against French imperialism in North Africa, where it had occupied the country since 1830.
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the leader of the Ghana independence struggle through the Convention People’s Party (CPP), founded on June 12, 1949, and the chief strategist and tactician of the African Revolution between the late 1940s and the time of his death in 1972, pointed out that the movements led by Africans against colonialism and imperialism were not isolated but very much connected with the global struggle for freedom, justice and self-determination. Nkrumah placed the rising tide of the African liberation movements and the struggle for socialism on the continent within the context of the worldwide efforts against all forms of exploitation and oppression.
Nkrumah wrote that “A number of external factors affect the African situation, and if our liberation struggle is to be placed in correct perspective and we are to KNOW THE ENEMY, the impact of these factors must be fully grasped. First among them is imperialism, for it is mainly against exploitation and poverty that our peoples revolt.” (Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare, p. 1, 1968)
This Pan-Africanist revolutionary leader continues by pointing out that “It is therefore of paramount importance to set out the strategy of imperialism in clear terms: the means used by the enemy to ensure the continued economic exploitation of our territories and the nature of the attempts made to destroy the liberation movement. Once the components of the enemy’s strategy are determined, we will be in a position to outline the correct strategy for our own struggle in terms of our actual situation and in accordance with our objectives.” (Nkrumah, p. 2)
With specific reference to the period after World War II, Nkrumah observes that “after the war, serious economic, social and political tensions arose in both spheres” being the colonial territories and the industrialized capitalist states in Europe and North America. He notes that “Inside the capitalist-imperialist states, workers’ organizations had become comparatively strong and experienced, and the claims of the working class for a more substantial share of the wealth produced by the capitalist economy could no longer be ignored. The necessity to concede had become all the more imperative since the European capitalist system had been seriously shaken up by the near-holocaust which marked the experience of imperialist wars.”
During the same time period, he continues that “While the capitalist system of exploitation was coming to grips with its internal crisis, the world’s colonized areas were astir with the upsurge of strong liberation movements. Here again, demands could no longer be cast aside or ignored especially when they were channeled through irresistible mass movements, like the Rassemblement Democratique Africain (RDA), the Parti Democratique de Guinee (PDG) and the Convention Peoples’ Party (CPP) in Ghana. In certain areas, for example in Vietnam, Kenya and Algeria, direct confrontation demonstrated the readiness of the oppressed peoples to implement their claims with blood and fire.”
Nkrumah stresses that “Both in the colonial territories and in the metropolitan states, the struggle was being waged against the same enemy: international finance capital under its external and internal forms of exploitation, imperialism and capitalism. Threatened with disintegration by the double-fisted attack of the working class movement and the liberation movement, capitalism had to launch a series of reforms in order to build a protective armor around the inner workings of its system.”
Within the U.S. during the late 1940s through the 1970s, a deliberate division was institutionalized between the white working class and middle classes and the African American people, most of whom were working class with a shrinking number of farmers and agricultural proletarians in the rural areas. The advent of the mass Civil Rights Movement in the mid-1950s served to crack open the cloak of McCarthyism and bring broader sections of the oppressed into the struggle against racism and national discrimination.
By 1960, the student sector of the African American people would take the lead as the most militant force in the struggle against legalized segregation. These efforts by the youth led by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and others awakened a generation of young people within the Latino, Native and Asian communities along with their counterparts inside the white community. A culture of resistance and protracted programmatic struggle was born which was able to challenge U.S. imperialist militarism in Southeast Asia and in other parts of the world.
There developed during this period a movement against the status-quo which had not been experienced since the height of the Great Depression of 1929-1941. The role of the Left in building resistance to capitalist exploitation and racism created the conditions for the general strikes of 1934 and the subsequent formation of the Committee on Industrial Organizations (CIO) and the United Autoworkers Union (UAW).
The period of struggle between the Great Depression--interrupted with the force of the state during the McCarthy era of the late 1940s and early 1950s--and the burgeoning mass movements of the late 1950s leading into the early 1970s, opened up new avenues of struggle which threatened the ruling class and its system of exploitation. In response the system embarked upon a period of major restructuring by the mid-to-late 1970s which was specifically designed to preserve and enhance the world capitalist system.
Of this period, Nkrumah wrote that “To avoid an internal breakdown of the system under the pressure of the workers’ protest movement, the governments of capitalist countries granted their workers certain concessions which did not endanger the basic nature of the capitalist system of exploitation. They gave them social security, higher wages, better working conditions, professional training facilities, and other improvements. (Nkrumah, p. 4)
Nkrumah points out that “These reforms helped to blur fundamental contradictions, and to remove some of the more glaring injustices while at the same time ensuring the continued exploitation of the workers. The myth was established of an affluent capitalist society promising abundance and a better life for all. The basic aim, however, was the establishment of a ‘welfare state’ as the only safeguard against the threat of fascism or communism.”
Nevertheless, the objective was to maintain the system of ever-increasing profits for the banks and other multi-national corporations. Even with the establishment of the so-called “Welfare State” in Western Europe and North America in the aftermath of World War II extending through the early 1970s, the system of exploitation and oppression remained intact.
The world capitalist and imperialist system extended reforms not only inside the industrialized states but also within the oppressed nations outside its borders. The system began to depend to greater degrees on the extraction of strategic resources from Africa, Asia and Latin America as well as the exploitation of labor in these geo-political regions.
In assessing this strategy by imperialism, Nkrumah said that “The urgent need for such reforms was made clear by the powerful growth and expansion of the liberation forces in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where revolutionary movements had not only seized power but were actually consolidating their gains. Developments in the USSR, China, Cuba, North Vietnam, North Korea, and in Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Algeria and other parts of Africa, showed that not only was the world balance of forces shifting, but that the capitalist-imperialist states were confronted with a real danger of encirclement.” (p. 5)
Some Concrete Examples in the National Liberation Revolution
The imperialist states utilized its extensive resources and networks of global finance and political intrigue to undermine the independent African states as well as the Civil Rights, Black Power, Anti-War, Women and Left movements inside the U.S. and Western Europe. In this section we want to briefly review some of these developments which occurred between the 1950s and the 1990s in Africa and throughout the Diaspora.
These events can in no way be separated from trends within the world capitalist system. Africa is still very much integrated into the networks of finance capital making the continent dependent upon mineral extraction and the extension of credit from Western financial institutions for survival.
Ghana: The Fountainhead of Pan-Africanism
Kwame Nkrumah studied in the U.S. during 1935-1945 when he went to Britain to work with George Padmore in the organization of the Fifth Pan-African Congress in October of 1945. The outcome of the Fifth Pan-African Congress which was chaired by Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, led to the mass mobilization of the workers, farmers and youth of Africa for the national independence movement.
The Gold Coast in 1951 established a transitional government after Nkrumah was released from prison in order to move toward national independence in 1957. Nkrumah placed tremendous emphasis on state spending for education, social services, healthcare, economic plans for industrialization and unconditional support for the national liberation movements in other parts of Africa and the Diaspora along with a stated aim of building socialism in Ghana and throughout the continent.
The First Conference of Independent African States was held in Accra in April 1958 bringing together the peoples of Africa both north and south of the Sahara. In December of that same year, the First All-African People’s Conference was also held in Accra, bringing revolutionary Pan-African deliberations to the continent itself.
By 1960, when Ghana became a Republic, Nkrumah and the CPP had committed to building a socialist state where the formation of a United States of Africa was the principle foreign policy objective of the government. These actions were met with tremendous opposition by imperialism led by the U.S. in league with internal reactionaries who succeeded in overthrowing the Ghana state on February 24, 1966 through a military and police coup.
Nkrumah took refuge in Guinea where he had made an alliance with the ruling Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG) in 1958 at the time of independence under President Ahmed Sekou Toure. Nkrumah was made Co-President of the country and continued to write and organize for the realization of Pan-Africanism and Scientific Socialism in Africa.
Guinea followed similar policies as Ghana through state control of the economy and an anti-imperialist foreign policy. Like Ghana under Nkrumah, Guinea under Sekou Toure gave maximum support to the national liberation movements and progressive states on the continent.
Guinea played a key role in the liberation of neighboring Guinea-Bissau which waged an armed struggle against Portuguese colonialism and NATO during the period of 1961 to 1973. Nkrumah after the coup placed more emphasis on the class struggle taking place throughout Africa as is reflected in his writing published after 1966.
Algeria and the Armed Phase of the African Revolution
The FLN triumphed in its national campaign to win independence in 1962. What is often overlooked is the support given to Ben Bella and the Algerian revolutionaries by the All-African People’s Conference and in particular the independent government of Mali under President Modibo Keita.
The opening of a southern front in Algeria after 1960 ensured the success of the revolutionaries. Dr. Frantz Fanon, an African born in the Caribbean, Martinique, played a critical role in the foreign policy of the FLN during the late 1950s to 1961 when he died of cancer.
Algeria provided the first military training to the African National Congress military leaders known as Um Khonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) co-founded by Nelson Mandela. In fact when Mandela was arrested in 1962 he was charged with leaving the country to undergo military training in Algeria.
Algeria is rich in natural gas and oil and is strategically located in North Africa. The split within the FLN in 1965 leading to the coup against Ben Bella, although tragic, did not result in lessening the country’s commitment to the African Revolution.
Algeria played a key role in apprehending and liquidating the CIA-backed neo-colonialist agent Moise Tshombe of Congo. In 1967 Tshombe was captured and later died in an Algerian prison two years later.
In 1969, Algeria hosted the Pan-African Cultural Festival which re-ignited the international struggle of Black people in the aftermath of the coup against Nkrumah three years earlier. That same year, Algeria would grant political asylum to the Black Panther Party, then under vicious attack by the U.S. government through its counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO).
The Black Panther Party set up an international section in Algiers and remained there until 1972. Algeria continued to support the national liberation movements in the still-colonized regions of the continent.
The Congo Crisis and the Consolidation of Neo-Colonialism in Africa
Patrice Lumumba, the first elected Prime Minister of the former Belgian Congo made his international debut at the All-African People’s Conference in Accra, Ghana held during December 1958. Lumumba would win the support of the majority of people within Congo in his efforts to build revolutionary Pan-Africanism and a United States of Africa.
The imperialists saw developments in Congo in 1959-1960 as a threat to its neo-colonial designs for post-independence Africa. Lumumba was soon deposed, kidnapped, tortured and executed at the aegis of the CIA and other Western states.
For over three decades Congo remained within the orbit of imperialism serving as a vast reservoir for exploitation of its natural resources by the multi-national mining firms and international finance capital. Under Mobutu it also served as a rear base for the imperialists in their efforts to stifle and defeat the genuine liberation movements fighting for the total liberation of Southern Africa which was not realized until 1994 with the coming to power of the African National Congress in South Africa under Nelson Mandela.
Today, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains a bastion of Western intrigue and exploitation. Whole sections of the large country are still not under the control of the central government in Kinshasa.
Since 1996, it has been estimated that as many as six million people have been killed in the DRC through civil wars that are largely the result of imperialist intervention. This pattern of mass killings has its origins in Belgian colonialism where under King Leopold II, anywhere between 8-10 million were slaughtered between 1876 and 1908.
The OAU Compromise of 1963
With the efforts of the imperialist states to sabotage the African Revolution there developed to major political blocs on the continent after the Congo crisis of 1960-61. The Casablanca Group was composed of the anti-imperialist states committed to Pan-Africanism and the Monrovia Group, which encompassed the moderate and conservative forces still wedded politically to the former colonial powers and the now dominant U.S. government.
Nkrumah described the new situation in Africa as “collective imperialism.” He wrote that “The modifications introduced by imperialism in its strategy were expressed through the disappearance of the numerous old-fashioned ‘colonies’ owing exclusive allegiance to a single metropolitan country through the replacement of ‘national’ imperialisms by a ‘collective’ imperialism in which the USA occupies the leading position.” (Handbook, p. 5)
He later goes on to highlight that “The militarization of the U.S. economy, based on the political pretext of the threatening rise of the USSR and later of the People’s Republic of China as socialist powers, enabled the U.S. to postpone its internal crisis, first during the ‘hot’ war (1939-1945) and then the during the ‘cold’ war (since 1945). “ (p. 6)
Nkrumah says that “Militarization served two main purposes, it absorbed, and continues to absorb, an excess of unorganized energy into the intense armaments drive which supports imperialist aggression and many blocs and alliances formed by imperialist powers over the last twenty years. It also made possible an expensive policy of paternalistic corruption of the poor and oppressed people of the world.” (p. 7)
The formation of the OAU brought together both the majority of moderate and conservative states with the smaller number of anti-imperialist governments led by Egypt, Ghana, Mali, Guinea, Tanzania and Algeria. Such a compromise would limit the capacity of the continental organization to take a firm position against imperialism and neo-colonialism, the major enemy of the African Revolution.
Despite these limitations Nkrumah continued to call for the formation of a United States of Africa. In 1963 at the founding summit of the OAU, Nkrumah distributed his newly-completed book entitled “Africa Must Unite” in an effort to wage ideological struggle against imperialism and its agents operating within various states on the continent.
A chapter entitled “Towards African Unity” it states that “There are those who maintain that Africa cannot unite because we lack the three necessary ingredients for unity, a common race, culture and language. It is true that we have for centuries been divided. The territorial boundaries dividing us were fixed long ago, often quite arbitrarily, by the colonial powers.”(Nkrumah, Africa Must Unite, p. 132)
Yet Nkrumah goes on to stress that “All this is inevitable due to our historical background. Yet in spite of this I am convinced that the forces making for unity far outweigh those which divide us. In meeting fellow Africans from all parts of the continent I am constantly impressed by how much we have in common. It is not just our colonial past, or the fact that we have aims in common, it is something which goes far deeper. I can best describe it as a sense of one-ness in that we are Africans.”
In this book a strong emphasis is placed on the successes of the Soviet Union and China in regard to economic development. Nkrumah attributes these advances in the socialist states to national unity, state planning and the empowerment of the working class and the peasantry.
He rightfully observes that the development of Western Europe and the United States was based upon centuries of enslavement and colonization of Africa and other regions of the world. The fact that Africa needs to develop rapidly and on an egalitarian basis rooted in collective planning, there is a chapter dedicated to Ghana’s commitment to socialist construction.
Also in 1964 and 1965, Nkrumah called for the formation of a United States of Africa at the OAU summits in Egypt and Accra respectively. This same theme was later taken up by Libya under Muammar Gaddafi through the Sirte Declaration of 1999 and the opening summit of the African Union in 2002 in South Africa.
OAU Liberation Committee: A Success Amid Challenges
Perhaps the most successful aspect of the OAU’s history between 1963 and the early 1990s was the Liberation Committee which coordinated continental and international assistance to the national liberation movements. The decolonization process would reach a watershed in 1975-76 with the attempted sabotage of the national independence of Angola by imperialism.
The divisions between the three liberation groups provided an opening for the U.S. in alliance with the-then racist apartheid regime based in South Africa and Namibia to intervene in coordination with the CIA to impose a reactionary leadership over the state. The appeal by Dr. Agostinho Neto, leader of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), to the Cuban government under President Fidel Castro resulted in the deployment of 55,000 Cuban internationalist forces.
These forces in cooperation with anti-imperialist states in Africa such as Guinea-Conakry resulted in the first military defeat of the racist South African Defense Forces in early 1976. Cuban internationalists remained in Angola until 1989 when a comprehensive agreement for the withdrawal of South African Defense Forces from the country and the liberation of Namibia along with the release of political prisoners in South Africa and the beginning of negotiations to end the apartheid system was assured.
Earlier in Zimbabwe, the armed revolutionary forces of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriot Front and the Zimbabwe African People’s Union-Patriotic Front led to the national independence of the country formerly known as Rhodesia in April 1980. Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania and Lesotho all served as rear bases for the ANC military and political forces which fought for the liberation of South Africa.
Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) Reveal the Economic Face of Neo-Colonialism
After the overthrow of the CPP in Ghana in 1966, the country no longer took a progressive stand in regard to building socialism and Pan-Africanism on the continent. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank virtually took over the management of the state leading to the abandonment of state enterprises and the emphasis on industrialization and a progressive foreign policy.
By the 1980s this method of restructuring post-independence African states began to spread throughout the continent. In Ghana, the so-called Economic Recovery Program (ERP) was instituted in 1983 under military leader Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings who had come to power for a second time in a military coup on January 31, 1981.
The ERP would later be named the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) and these methods were managed by the IMF and the World Bank in various African states. Uganda, after the coming to power of National Resistance Army leader Yoweri Museveni, the East African state moved in the same direction as Ghana.
Both Ghana and Uganda had been at the forefront of the Pan-African states attempting to advance continental unity and socialism during the 1960s. Ghana under Nkrumah was closely allied with Uganda under President Milton Obote who was overthrown by Gen. Idi Amin in a Western-backed coup in 1971.
Today there are many reports that would suggest that Africa is undergoing an economic revival. Nonetheless, there is still a heavy reliance on foreign exchange earnings from exports and unemployment and poverty remains high although there has been a reduction in poverty in several states.
During the so-called “Arab Spring” of late 2010 and early 2011, the underlying causes of the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria were related to the failure of these governments to provide employment to youth and workers in general. The governments of Tunisia and Egypt were forced to resign in January and February 2011 respectively where Algeria was able to weather the demonstrations which seemed to be related to the country’s long term positions that were independent of the West.
In Libya, even though the imperialists and the corporate press attempted to link the western-backed rebellion which erupted in February of 2011 to developments in Tunisia and Egypt, the character of these demonstrations quickly proved to be of a totally different character politically. When the Libyan rebellion took up arms against the Jamahiriya, the revolt was suppressed by the Gaddafi government.
Utilizing the successful military and political defense of the Jamahiriya as a pretext, the imperialist states rapidly went to the United Nations Security Council to pass two resolutions, 1970, placing an arms embargo on the Gaddafi government but not the CIA-trained rebels and defectors and 1973, which imposed a so-called “no-fly zone” over Libya which was a code name for a massive bombing operation that lasted for seven straights months and was carried out by the U.S. and NATO. In addition to an arms embargo and blanket bombing of Libya, the country foreign assets were frozen and the CIA was sent into the country to identify targets for aerial bombardment.
Several attempts were made on the lives of Gaddafi and his family during the course of the war. His family members were killed in airstrikes and eventually on October 20, 2011 Gaddafi’s convoy was struck by bombs in Sirte. He was later captured, brutally beaten, tortured and shot to death by an alleged militia group that was supported by the Pentagon, the CIA and NATO.
Since the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya, the oil-rich North African state has sunk into chaos. Four U.S. CIA officers were killed in Benghazi last September 11 posing as Washington diplomats. The New York Times reported that the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the other three Americans was the greatest blow to the CIA in three decades.
AFRICOM-NATO and the Militarization of Africa
The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was formed officially in early 2008 with its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Attempts to place the AFRICOM headquarters in Africa was met with substantial resistance from individual states and the African Union. However, the U.S. does have a military base in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti.
In addition to this base, there are drone stations, CIA stations and other joint operations between the U.S. and various African states in Somalia, Ethiopia, Seychelles, South Sudan, Uganda, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ghana and other states. Obama announced in December of 2012 that his administration was dispatching 3,500 Special Forces and military trainers to 35 African states in purported efforts to assist in the fight against “terrorism.”
Yet the horrendous war crimes carried out by the U.S. under Obama gets relatively no opposition within the U.S. Congress even among the Congressional Black Caucus. In Libya some two million people were displaced and anywhere between 50,000-100,000 people were killed by the U.S.-NATO war of aggression and regime-change.
Thousands of Africans remain in post-Gaddafi Libyan jails that are run by militias who are given free reign by the U.S.-NATO backed General National Congress (GNC). An International Criminal Court (ICC) delegation which visited Libya during 2012 to investigate the conditions surrounding the detention of Seif al-Islam, the oldest son of Gaddafi and his heir apparent, was detained by the Zintan militia holding this political prisoner.
The ICC, commonly referred to as the “African Criminal Court” due to its sole preoccupation with African statesmen and rebel leaders, had indicted Gaddafi and members of his government during the imperialist war against Libya in 2011. These leaders were indicted on false charges related to the efforts to defend the country against the western-led rebels who had terrorized the country for months but have escaped the scrutiny of the ICC based in The Hague.
The United Nations and other international bodies have remained largely silent on the crimes against humanity being committed in counter-revolutionary Libya. This also holds true of developments in Somalia, where the CIA and the Pentagon has carried out drone and airstrikes that have resulted in the murder of thousands of people.
Africans have continued to resist the onslaught of AFRICOM and its surrogates on the continent. It was reported in May 2013 that at least 3,000 AMISOM troops have been killed in Somalia in efforts to attempt to suppress the resistance by Al Shabaab to imperialist-backed interference in this Horn of Africa state.
The wars in Libya and Somalia have spilled over into neighboring Mali, Niger and Kenya respectively. Kenya has 2,000-3,000 troops occupying southern Somalia at the aegis of the U.S.
The military intervention by the Pentagon, the CIA and NATO countries will escalate in the short term due to the growing strategic role Africa is playing within the world capitalist system. Throughout East and Central Africa there have been large finding of oil, natural gas and other strategic resources. At present at least 25 percent of the oil that is imported into the United States is coming from the African continent, which now exceeds the amount of petroleum that is exported to the U.S. from the entire Arabian Peninsula.
The Way Forward For Africa and the Diaspora
In order for Africa and its people to develop there must be decisive a break with the imperialist system of finance capital. With the deepening crisis of the world capitalism, the economic system is providing no real solutions to the problems of Africa, nor for its own peoples in Europe and North America.
Europe remains in deep recession with the countries of the South facing astronomical unemployment rates that exceed 25 percent. Even in France, Britain and Germany, the economic crisis has drained the national reserves compelling the central banks to bailout the financial institutions in order to stave off a total collapse.
In the U.S. the rates of poverty and unemployment in real terms are staggering. Nearly half of the people in the U.S. consider themselves to be living in poverty or near poverty.
This economic crisis has become a political one since the White House, Congress, Downing Street, Brussels and Paris are providing no alternative ideas on how to extricate the capitalist system from the economic malaise impacting hundreds of millions of workers, farmers and youth. The only proposals coming out of the halls of the ruling class and their surrogates in government call for greater austerity measures and mechanism to limit any semblance of democratic debate, discussion and collective action.
Our task relates to political education, mobilization and organization of the masses of people to work towards the solutions of these challenges. The crisis in Africa and the Diaspora is by no means isolated from the broader struggle of the peoples of the world.
In Africa there has been a tremendous degree of movement towards alliances with other states on the continent and throughout the so-called Global South. The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has held five summits since 2000 resulting in an escalation of both economic and political cooperation between the two regions. Africa is now the largest trading partner with the People’s Republic of China.
In Zimbabwe the ZANU-PF government in 2000 took decisive action by seizing the land which the people fought long years for during the armed revolutionary struggle. The government of President Robert Mugabe was vilified by the West and its allies where today research has shown that the land seizures have improved both productivity and income for the African agricultural workers and farmers.
This experience in Zimbabwe is being looked at by other African states in the Southern Africa region and other areas. In South Africa and Namibia the masses of workers, youth and farmers long for the full realization of the objectives of the national democratic revolutions.
South Africa has the largest and most organized working class on the continent. The unrest in the mining industry and the agricultural sector is pushing the country towards looking at nationalization and seizure of the land and the means of production.
The African Union must take action to remove the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Israel and other imperialist states and their partners from the continent. The ongoing problems of Africa can be traced back to the dominance of the imperialist system throughout the continent.
With reference to the African Diaspora in North America and Europe, the struggle against racism and national oppression takes on critical significance. The forces of the African Diaspora, motivated by Pan-African ideals has and can continue to play a decisive role in the overall consolidation of the African independence movement and the move towards Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance.
Nkrumah in Africa Must Unite wrote that “The expression ‘Pan-Africanism’ did not come into use until the beginning of the twentieth century when Henry Sylvester Williams of Trinidad, and William Edward Burghhardt Du Bois of the United States of America, both of African descent, used it at several Pan-African Congresses which were mainly attended by scholars of African descent. A notable contribution to African nationalism and Pan-Africanism was the ‘Back to Africa’ movement of Marcus Garvey.” (p. 133)
Since 1963, the African American and Caribbean African people have played a pivotal role in the struggle to popularize the concept of African liberation. During the 1980s and early 1990s, the Southern African solidarity struggle influenced by African Americans brought into existence the first legislative and administrative actions against the apartheid regime.
With the advent of the Obama administration the need to emphasize a class character to the Pan-African struggle is essential. Africa is not the backyard of U.S. imperialism and must be given the opportunity to exercise full and genuine independence and sovereignty.
In the U.S. the cities in which African Americans reside are facing monumental economic crisis and the evisceration of political power won through the popular struggles of the post-World War II period. Principled alliances with progressive African states and mass organizations will provide avenues for the struggle to eradicate underdevelopment and neo-colonialism from the continent and among the oppressed nations held captive by the West.
Therefore as Nkrumah stressed in the Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare “African unity implies that imperialism and foreign oppression should be eradicated in all their forms. That neo-colonialism should be recognized and eliminated and that the new African nation must develop within a continental framework.” (p. 27)
Nkrumah goes on to say that “At the core of the concept of African unity lies socialism and the socialist definition of the new African society. Socialism and African unity are organically complementary. There is only one true socialism and that is scientific socialism, the principles of which are abiding and universal. “(p. 29)
Short of revolutionary Pan-Africanism based on scientific socialism, Africans and their allies throughout the world must work toward defining and exercising the maximum degree of organization and mobilization aimed at the transformation of capitalist society and the world imperialist system. These are the lessons of the last five decades and they must be assessed in order to move forward with the total liberation of Africa and its people.
Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast of the Africa & U.S.Imperialism Conference, May 18, 2013
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, with Dr. Rita Edozie, director of African American and African Studies, Michigan State University. They were speaking at the Dr. Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on March 9, 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.For Immediate Release
MECAWI Hosts Africa & Imperialism Conference in Detroit
Listen to the Pan-African Journal Worldwide Radio Broadcast which covered three hours of this historic conference. Presentations were broadcast of Dr. Rita Kiki Edozie, director of the African American and African Studies program at Michigan State University, Atty. Jeff Edison of the Detroit chapter of the National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL), MSU graduate students from Mali, Chieck and Moussa, and part of the presentation made by Tachae J. Davis of Workers World Youth Fraction and a student at Macomb Community College.
Just click on the website below to hear the Pan-African Journal for May 18, 2013
Please look at the schedule below to get a clearer insight in the issues discussed at the Conference.
Africa & U.S. Imperialism Conference—Honoring the 50th Anniversary of the Founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Forerunner to the African Union
Schedule of Events:
Noon—Video Clips and Introductory Remarks by Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor of the Pan-African News Wire and Co-founder of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI)
12:30—Presentation by Dr. Rita Kiki Edozie, Director of the African American & African Studies Program at Michigan State University, East Lansing
Topic: The Evolving African Supra-State: Accomplishments, Pitfalls and Continuing Challenges for the African Union
1:30—Presentation by Cheick Oumar and Moussa Rimau, Graduate Students
at Michigan State University, Lansing (Agribusiness Management and
Topic: 50 Years of Pan-Africanist Mali: Modibo, Konare and ATT
2:30-2:45---Break and Video Clips
2:45—Presentation by Tachae J. Davis, Workers World Youth Fraction,
Student at Macomb Community College
Topic: The Revolutionary Legacy of Dr. Walter Rodney and African Historical Struggles
3:00—Presentation by Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor and MECAWI Co-founder
Topic: Africa and U.S. Imperialism: Five Decades Since the Formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU)
3:45---Statements of Solidarity Read by Abayomi Azikiwe
4:00—Presentation by Venezuela Consul General Jesus Rodriguez Espinoza
Topic: Venezuelan Foreign Policy in Africa: Opposition to Intervention and International Solidarity
4:30—Presentation by Atty. Jeff Edison of the National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL)
Topic: The U.S. Military in Africa: Unwanted and Unlawful
5:00—Concluding Remarks and Resolutions by Abayomi Azikiwe
Special thanks to MECAWI, Moratorium NOW! Coalition, Spyghana.com, the
Center for Research on Globalization (Montreal), The 4th Media (China), and Libya 360 for publicizing this Conference.
Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Featured on Press TV World News: 'Refugee Situation Worsening In Syrian War'
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, was featured on Press TV News Analysis discussing US foreign policy toward Syria. The program aired on December 30, 2011., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.Refugee situation worsening in Syrian war
To watch the interview with Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, conducted by Press TV World News, on the situation in Syria, just click on the website below:
Sat May 18, 2013 5:59PM GMT
Press TV has conducted an interview with Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, Detroit, about the issue of Syrian refugees as a consequence of the foreign-backed invasion of the country.
The following is an approximate transcript of the interview.
Press TV: It’s obvious to know that people would be collateral damage of such a war and such a crisis in a country like Syria, but what should be done to address the refugee crisis?
Azikiwe: I think this goes back to the countries and institutions who are financing the armed opposition groups who have been destabilizing Syria for over two years now.
It’s interesting that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has made this statement that some 1.5 million people have been displaced as a result of this horrific situation that has been developing in Syria now for over two years.
I believe that the United States, the NATO countries, as well as their allies in the region particularly those in the Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf are responsible for this crisis that exists.
A lot of the onus of the attacks that have been leveled against the people in the region is exclusively being targeted at the Syrian government.
But if it was not for the obstinacy of these armed opposition groups who are refusing to negotiate with the Syrian government or other governments in the region to bring about some type of political solution, we would not have this crisis that seems to be worsening not only in Syria, but it is spilling over into Jordan as well as Lebanon and also impacting Turkey and other states in the region as well.
Press TV: We know that many of these refugees’ homes have been destroyed and they were forced to flee their country as a result. How can they be sent back to their country and of course be accommodated once again?
Azikiwe: It has to be a political solution in the crisis. We’ve noticed that many of the refugees who were in Turkey have come under attack by Turkish nationals particularly since the war is spilling over into Turkey, which is a NATO country.
They are willing to go back to Syria based upon the insecurity that they’re facing in Turkey, but there has to be some negotiated resolution to this conflict, otherwise, we’re going to continue to have people fleeing Syria and the conditions that have been described by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are deplorable.
In the camps there is a lack of clean drinking water; relatively no medical facilities or medical personnel to address their needs; they also need counseling in regard to reorganization of their own personal lives and family issues - and of course this is really not available to the people in the area.
So I think that those who are continuing this war, who have in fact given political cover, material assistance as well as military aid and public relations support to the opposition groups who are armed who are fighting the Syrian government, they themselves are the ones who should be responsible for taking care of these 1.5 million people who have been displaced by this war.
We hope that the proposed talks that are scheduled for next month between Russia and the United States will bear some fruit and hopefully they’ll be willing, particularly the US, to bring in Iran and other countries in the region who are profoundly impacted by this conflict as well.
Vice President Joice Mujuru and Bishop Eben Kanukai Nhiwatiwa of the United Methodist Church sing a hymn at her Chisipite home in Harare yesterday., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Promote peace, church leaders urged
Sunday, 19 May 2013 00:00
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail
Vice-President Joice Mujuru has called on
church leaders to support efforts aimed at promoting unity and peace in the country ahead of theforthcoming harmonised elections.
Speaking at a Ministers’ Fraternal for Churches and Denominations prayer meeting at the Civic Centre in Gweru yesterday, Cde Mujuru, who was the guest of honour, said the church should actively advocate national unity since it brings together people of various political and socio-economic backgrounds.
She urged churches to continue working with Government to promote peace.
“The church is one social institution where there is no discrimination based on political affiliation or socio-economic backgrounds.
The role of the church is bringing people together as one family,” she said.
“Church and politics should work hand in hand. It is the duty of the church to unite people from all walks of life. That spirit of oneness has always been there and was further cemented by the liberation struggle which brought people of different tribes and cultural backgrounds together.
“For that reason, Zimbabweans should remain united. The church also has been supportive even during the liberation struggle. Therefore, the church should also take part in jealously guarding the gains of the revolution.
“Vafundisi vanofanira kubata pamwe neHurumende. Ndizvo zvinoita kuti munyika muve nerunyararo (Church leaders should work with Government. This is what helps bring about peace in the country).”
The Vice-President also encouraged politicians to embrace humility in their dealings with the electorate.
She added that the country should remain united by the foundation of the liberation struggle. “People should all come together.
We must bury our differences because we were brought together by the war of liberation that we fought as a family for the cause of each and every Zimbabwean.
“No one is superior to the other. Therefore, no one should be discriminated against based on religion, race, political affiliation, tribe or social background. Politicians must humble themselves before the electorate instead of instilling fear and intimidating them. A leader should be respected rather than being feared.”
Cde Mujuru said church leaders should embrace Government empowerment initiatives such as the land reform and the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment programmes.
She said both programmes were open to all Zimbabweans.
“Churches and their leaders must benefit from all Government-initiated empowerment programmes.
Churches and their leaders must benefit from the land reform and the indigenisation programme. You deserve that land. No one is more superior to the other,” she said.
“Church leaders should be allocated land. We are going to set up a meeting with the mining commissioner so that churches can also venture into mining as part of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Programme.”
Yesterday’s prayer meeting was also attended by Midlands Governor and Resident Minister Cde Jason Machaya; the Ministers of State in the Vice-President’s Office, Cdes Sylvester Nguni and Flora Buka; Zanu-PF secretary for information and publicity Cde Rugare Gumbo and Zvishavane-Ngezi legislator Cde Obert Matshalaga, among other dignitaries.
Imperialist Sanctions Against Zimbabwe a Blessing In Disguise, Says Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono
The Zimbabwe Herald is the leading state newspaper in the Southern African state. The headline reveals its anti-imperialist political character., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Sanctions a blessing in disguise: Gono
Sunday, 19 May 2013 00:00
Sunday Mail Reporter
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr Gideon Gono has described the illegally imposed sanctions by some Western countries as a blessing in disguise as the move opened up some new avenues for him to engage in the production of locally consumed products that are beneficial to Zimbabweans.
Addressing a group of visiting Ugandan parliamentarians during a tour of his farm along Mutoko Road on Friday, Dr Gono, who is also the managing director of Lunar Chickens, said prior to the imposition of the embargo which saw him being put on the travel ban in 2000, he was a successful horticulture farmer with his produce finding its way onto the international market.
However, things changed for the worse after the travel ban as his farm produce was also banned on the international market. This saw production on the farm going down thereby forcing him to venture into new avenues of rearing chickens.
“When they put me on sanctions, production on my farm went down to zero since they were now refusing to buy my horticulture products but that was the dawn of a better idea where I then ventured into chicken rearing,” Dr Gono said.
He said he was glad that the sanctions gave him a rude awakening as he immediately came up with a new idea that benefited the local people, that of chicken production.
He said he acquired his farm way back in 1998 before the land reform programme. His success on the farm saw him wishing to assist other black Zimbabweans who were into farming to also succeed in their ventures.
That was how he derived the idea to mechanise the whole country when he was appointed Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor.
“I bought my land before the land reform programme and given that I was doing it successfully, it became an idea to mechanise the whole country and empower the majority when I was appointed Reserve Bank Governor,’’ he said.
Dr Gono said the Microfinance Bill which was still before Parliament could be used to empower even those without much land as they were able to engage in ventures that could realise profits quickly and thus be able to pay back the loans.
“If you want to empower people in the mining sector they must wait until at least fours years to get some profits, for tobacco at least a year while for chickens it is just 40 days and which can be easy for those without much land,” he said.
Global Poultry consultant Mr Peter Ramgolam, who was among the touring delegates, expressed his appreciation of Dr Gono’s successful venture, saying it was impressive to see that blacks were doing well on the farms.
“Although production differs from one place to the other, what you see at Dr Gono’s farm is exceptionally impressive. This is a true example of how the blacks are managing on the farms in Zimbabwe. I have travelled to a lot of countries and what we see here at Dr Gono’s farm resembles the world-class standards,” said Mr Ramgolam. One of the Ugandan parliamentarians from Kalunga East constituency, Mr Vincent Ssempijja, said what they had witnessed at Dr Gono’s farm was far removed from the negative stories they read in the media in recent years. “We heard that Zimbabweans almost died due to sanctions but now I am proud to see that our black folk were able to steer their country.
Since Uganda has a similar past as that of Zimbabwe, the idea of empowering our masses is a good one which we hope we would be able to do as successfully as you have done it here,” said Hon Ssempijja.
He said he was glad to see the situation on the ground and see how Zimbabweans who benefited from the land reform programme were utilising the land.
Republic of South Africa Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was elected as the African Union Commission Chair at the Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on July 15-16, 2012. She is the first woman and Southern African to be elected to the post., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
African renaissance: Bidding begins now
Sunday, 19 May 2013 00:00
Reprinted From the Zimbabwe Sunday Mail
The OAU was formed to, among other functions, “co-ordinate and intensify the co-operation of African states and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa”
As Africa sets the stage to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity this week, many hearts across the
continent are bleeding.
For decades, progressive Africans eagerly awaited the emergence of revolutionary leaders who would transform this haven of infinite resources into a towering economic and political skyscraper.
However, only a few of the available office bearers have stepped forward to champion the cause of Africa.
The rest are bogged down in the dark corner of the lily-livered.
The latter still believe in aligning economic and political policies with foreign interests. Imbedded in their colonially conditioned psyche is a deep fear of reprisal from dominant states.
But for all the “cautious treading” of such leaders, many African countries are stuck in the depths of backwardness despite sitting on swathes of natural resources.
The time has now come for Africa to assert itself on the global stage with the African Union, the OAU’s successor, leading the way.
Leaders of the 54 AU member states must introduce the continent to a new economic and political dispensation that rides on the global interest firming African economies have generated today.
Latest figures show the cumulative African economy has grown by 5 percent per annum over the last two years. Projections indicate it will expand further, positioning the continent on the pedestal of the second-fastest growing economy in the world.
Africa has suddenly been thrust on to the investment radar on account of its lucrative investment opportunities. The “cradle of mankind” is being buffeted from all directions.
Interest ranges from mining to agro-products.
If African leaders needed an action indicator, then there it is. They should expeditiously take full advantage of this position of strength to finally guarantee Africa’s long-deserved recognition.
They should seriously consider harmonising approaches to derive economic and political benefits to the continent as a bloc.
In these modern times, the position of countries in international relations is predicated on economic and defence strengths. The greater the two, the more powerful a country becomes.
Africa has been lagging behind on both fronts. This, of course, has its roots in colonialism. The partitioning of the continent did not only set colonial geographic boundaries, it separated ideologies, cultures and peoples. It also drove a wedge of sorts among economies. This clichéd “divide-and-rule tactic” remains the modus operandi of former colonial powers.
They constantly seek to protect their interests on the continent by preserving this fragmentation. Most African states still depend on foreign financing largely because they are hardly the proprietors of their own economies.
For fear of pushing themselves into invidious positions, the heads of such countries capitulate under the slightest of external pressures. They cannot formulate independent opinion without minding foreign interests.
Look at Francophone nations in West and Central Africa, for instance. France granted them “political independence”, but audaciously kept a colonial pact in force.
It is under the auspices of this document that the economic stagnation of these states was orchestrated.
Apart from having French troops stationed in their backyards, the 14 former colonies are required to deposit 85 percent of their hard currencies in the French Treasury annually.
The money is invested away from Africa. And to top it all, they are not given an accounting of the funds! Former Senegalese leader Abdoulaye Wade is said to have raised questions around the matter.
He never got an answer.
Former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo was quickly shoved through the exit door after daring to go against the grain. His position had remained secure as long as he sang from the Pacte Coloniale hymn book.
Just one step outside cost him the presidency. He is now before the International Criminal Court, facing charges of crimes against humanity. He stands accused of causing the heavy carnage that followed political fighting in his country.
Clearly, lack of economic freedom is the bane of Africa. The AU must ideally work out formulae to nudge all member states around a common goal, more so as the continent rises cumulatively.
Individual nations cannot be left to fight imperialism alone. A collective effort anchored on a common strength and standpoint clears the way for successful endeavours.
The OAU was formed to, among other functions, “co-ordinate and intensify the co-operation of African states and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa”.
Most of the continental grouping’s founding fathers did not live to witness the fruition of this objective, but their spirit was in the right place. They held a strong conviction that Africa could only progress through synchronised efforts. And thanks to this line of thought, a good number of African countries owe their independence to them.
The OAU, through its co-ordinating committee for the liberation of Africa, worked diligently to decolonise the continent. It garnered diplomatic support for liberation movements.
Financial, military and logistical aid was also shunted to independence aspirants. This joint initiative undoubtedly leveraged decolonisation efforts. The liberation struggle gathered momentum. Its mood was palpable to the extent that the United Nations recognised its legitimacy.
In the meantime, the grouping of African states directed international support to liberated countries through an established fund. It pressed legally to guarantee the independence of particular states.
A report on OAU activities states that the founding fathers “brought every pressure to bear on Great Britain, which, as a colonial power at the time of Smith’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence (1965), has to live by its constitutional and moral responsibility towards African majority in Rhodesia”.
They also periodically “harassed and condemned” Portugal, South Africa, Rhodesia and their Nato allies “for their colonialist and racist policy in Africa”.
Such harassment and condemnation took place at the United Nations. Examining the potency of each strategy is a subject for another day, but what clearly stands out is the African leaders’ unity of purpose.
They set out to dismantle colonial effigies across the continent.
Like a band of archers, they shot every arrow in their quiver with deadly precision. The resultant effect was the fall of minority rule.
This victory was premised on common principles and objectives.
It was the fruit of Pan-Africanism.
Sadly, the same ideals were somehow lost along the way as the fight took on an economic character. The present crop of African leaders appears to have gone way off tangent. “Efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa” are no longer a joint priority. That oneness espoused by the founding fathers of African unity is hardly evident.
Deliberate moves should be taken to ensure the continent reverts to the principles of the OAU principals. It is time African leaders mastered the courage to determine the best for their people.
Africa has been soft for far too long. Not only has it been turning the other cheek, it has also gone further to become the doormat of sorts to the world. This must stop. It can only stop if unity of purpose prevails.
The continent holds 12 percent of the world’s oil and gas reserves. About 40 percent of its gold reserves are yet to be fully exploited.
Nearly 90 percent of chromium/platinum group metals are also found here. Experts put Africa’s arable farming land at 64 percent of its total land area.
The challenge remains for AU leaders to translate this vast wealth into tangible benefits for the entire continent.
Only then will African nations no longer be treated as inferior. The time for Africa is now.
Scale of Zimbabwe tobacco exports. The Southern African state is a major producer of the crop., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
‘Evicted whites barking up wrong tree’
Sunday, 19 May 2013 00:00
Former white commercial farmers should desist from demonising President Mugabe and blaming him for their failure to receive compensation during the land reform programme, the chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe Mining, Agriculture, Residential and Tourism Trust, Mr David Mutingwende, has said.
He made the call at a Land and Agrarian Transformation Programme Zimbabwe Policy Dialogue meeting convened by the African Institute for Agrarian Studies in Harare on Friday. In his contribution, Mr Mutingwende highlighted that it was Britain’s duty to compensate the white farmers.
“Ex-white commercial farmers should stop the habit of demonising the President as if he is the one at fault in this matter,” said Mr Mutingwende.
“The British government agreed at Lancaster House to finance the land reform program and compensate the white farmers.
“Unfortunately, they kept making excuses and President Mugabe was left with no option but to surge ahead with the agrarian reform programme because the people were growing restless. It’s very unfair for these farmers to blame our President for carrying out the programme without Britain’s assistance.”
Mr Mutingwende added that the land reform programme was a revolution meant to address colonial injustices.
“Land reform was done to correct those injustice systems of governance created by the British; it was never meant to racially abuse the whites.
“For your own information, there are a number of white farmers who have already been compensated out of our will . . . This demonstrates how the Government is committed to empower Zimbabwean people.
Graham Mallet, the president of Evaluation Consortium, a group which is lobbying for the compensation of white farmers, admitted that the land reform programme was a closed chapter which will never be reversed.
“We do not come with any aggression or political agenda, legally we expect farmers to be compensated but we also understand that land reform programme is irreversible,” he said. The policy dialogue drew participants from various sectors of the economy.
Namibian graduates in Zimbabwe academy of military affairs. President Mugabe recognized the link between Southern African liberation movements and current developments in the sub-continent., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Liberation struggle to shape nation’s destiny: President
Saturday, 18 May 2013 01:35
Farirai Machivenyika in GWERU
THE liberation struggle remains critical in shaping the country’s future, the President has said. He urged Zimbabweans to appreciate the sacrifices made by freedom fighters in liberating Zimbabwe.
The Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces said this during the pass-out parade of regular officer cadets (Course Number 3/29/11) at the Zimbabwe Military Academy in Gweru yesterday.
“We should always remember that thousands paid the supreme sacrifice with their lives, while others are still living with visible physical and mental scars arising from brutalities perpetrated by the white settler regime.
“All Zimbabweans must understand that our liberation struggle remains a permanent rallying point in shaping the country’s destiny.
It is therefore important that we must pay tribute to the role played by these heroes, both living and deceased, who sacrificed their lives by participating in the liberation struggle.”
The President commended the military academy for its role in moulding competent military personnel.
“Today’s graduation ceremony demonstrates yet again the ZMA’s resolve, commitment and strides made in fulfilling its mandate and mission of identifying and moulding young men and women of our country into competent and professional junior officers in the ZDF.
“I am indeed gratified to note that since the attainment of our independence and sovereignty in 1980, this is the 29th commissioning parade of the regular officer cadet course to take place at this institution of military excellence,” he said.
A total of 73 officers, including eight females and five others from the Namibian Defence Forces, graduated yesterday.
“To our Namibian friends, you came, you saw and emerged victorious. Today you are officers in your own right. You return to Namibia as our ambassadors since you now have a better understanding of the ZMA, the ZDF and indeed Zimbabwe as a whole.
“Zimbabwe and Namibia share a common history and remain bound together by our strong principles of self-determination and democracy.”
The President commended the ZMA administration for continuing with its work in the face of resource constraints.
“It is most pleasing to note that the ZMA continues to carry out its mandate and responsibility of educating and training junior officers in order to provide the nation with future military leaders of exemplary character and loyalty.
“This is despite the economic challenges facing our country which have resulted in reduced funding for many Government programmes. I am aware that these challenges also affected the Academy, but due to the commitment by the Academy’s staff, you have soldiered on,” he said.
The course was divided into three phases, among them soldering skills, conventional warfare and low intensity operations.
Subjects covered include drill, field craft, map reading, communication, command and leadership, administration, military law, service writing, first aid and civil military relations.
Yesterday’s graduates became the third to attain Diplomas in Military Training and Education done in conjunction with the Midlands State University.
“This is a positive development for the academy which should in the near future enable cadets to graduate with degrees.
May I applaud the MSU for maintaining good relations with the ZMA, I urge both institutions to continue their close collaboration and come up with a degree programme for the officer cadets in the not too distant future,” President Mugabe said.
Second Lieutenant Tafadzwa Carter Gunje emerged the best student and received the Sword of Honour from President Mugabe.
The course started with an initial enrollment of 165 on August 15, 2011 and 86 dropped out after failing to cope with the gruelling physical demands, academic inadequacies, indiscipline and illness.
Four other officer cadets, Blessings Doba, Desire Mapedze, Tafadzwa Manhobo and Thamsanqa Hakatani died during the early stages of the course.
President Mugabe consoled the families of the deceased saying the ZDF and nation had lost as a whole.
Meanwhile, President Mugabe commended the ZMA for running a basic officers’ course for Mozambican Armed Forces from October 29, 2012 to April 12, this year.
Egyptians rally against the government of Mohamed Morsi on May 17, 2013. Despite the ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) neo-colonialism still prevails in this North African state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Several thousand rally in Tahrir to 'rebel' against Morsi
Ahram Online , Friday 17 May 2013
Tensions boiled over into minor scuffles when some anti-Morsi protesters started shouting pro-army slogans
Thousands of protesters converged on Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday to join a planned rally in solidarity with the recently-launched "Rebel" campaign, which aims at "withdrawing confidence" from Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and bringing about early presidential elections.
Hundreds of marchers coming from Sayyeda Zeinab Mosque and Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque arrived in the square, before hundreds more arrived from Shubra, carrying mock coffins and raising aloft crosses in a symbolic gesture of remembrance of recent victims of sectarian violence.
Before the march at the Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque set off, some worshippers had expressed their dissatisfaction when the mosque's imam included a prayer in support of Morsi in his sermon.
As numbers swelled in Tahrir, the epicentre of the 2011 revolution, fights broke out between groups of protesters in a street off the square.
A fist-fight erupted in Mohamed Mahmoud Street after some protesters shouted "the army and people are one hand," provoking others who oppose any military intervention in the country's political affairs, reported Ahram Online's Mai Shaheen.
Another fight broke out in front of the Egyptian Museum on the other side of the square, albeit on a smaller scale, for the same reason, Shaheen added.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) was in charge for a year and a half after the fall of former president Hosni Mubarak. During its tenure, SCAF was frequently criticised for policies opponents described as repressive, such as holding military trials for civilian defendants.
Several protesters also threw stones towards the interior ministry's headquarters from behind one of the walls blocking the roads leading to the building. The police did not respond however, and the protesters soon returned to Tahrir.
Many clashes have taken place between police forces and civilians since the 2011 revolution.
Officially launched on 1 May, the 'Rebel' campaign is a grassroots movement aimed at registering opposition to President Morsi and forcing him to call early presidential elections by collecting as many as 15 million signatures by 30 June. The group says it has already collected two million names.
Campaigners for the signature drive said they aim to intensify their presence in the square to collect the maximum number of signatures, Egyptian state news agency MENA reported.
Protesters put up a platform in the square, and pictures of slain protesters were displayed in the square's central garden. By sunset, the numbers in the square and the surrounding streets had reached several thousand.
Security has been tightened around the usual protest hotspots, including the interior ministry, the Cabinet headquarters, the Shura Council, the presidential palace and the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood, from which President Morsi hails.
A number of political parties have participated in the protests, including the Constitution Party, the Free Egyptians Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance, the Karama party, the Free Front for Peaceful Change, the Popular Current, the Kefaya movement, and the April 6 Youth Movement.
Major demands of the anti-government demonstration include snap presidential elections, the release of detained political activists, and a new constitution.
Egyptian electrical workers rally in Cairo. Their actions could caused power outages in the capital., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
North Cairo may face power outages as workers strike
Bassem Abo Alabass, Friday 17 May 2013
Workers at a state-owned electricity company are holding a sit-in to demand the release of 17 detained colleagues
Operations at Egypt’s North Cairo Electricity Distribution Company (NCEDC) have been on hold for the fifth day in row due to a sit-in by workers demanding the release of 17 of their colleagues who are currently under arrest.
The workers are threatening to escalate their protest by cutting off electricity to districts of Cairo supplied by the state-run company, protesting worker Ahmed Adel told Ahram Online on Friday.
The company serves more than 3.8 million Egyptians.
Last week, around a thousand workers gathered at the main headquarters of the company in Cairo to protest the management’s decision to remove a 50 percent bonus from their monthly pay cheques.
Security forces attempted to stop the protests, arresting 15 of the workers on charges of blocking the street and damaging public property.
“It was a peaceful protest, and there wasn’t any need for the security forces' violence against us,” Adel said.
“The police forces arrested 15 people on Monday, then they released three on bail, but they returned two days ago to call five new workers to be questioned.”
According to Adel, thousands of workers in five subsidiaries of NCEDC have showed solidarity with the detained workers, announcing strikes and halting operations of their branches.
“If residents of these districts face electricity blackouts, they won’t find maintence workers who are responsible for fixing failures,” Adel warned.
The workers’ protest has become a dispute with the police, rather than the management, a source within the company’s management, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Ahram Online.
“The chairman, for his part, vowed that no one would touch the workers’ bonuses and he assigned a lawyer to defend the arrested,” the source said.
No one at the electricity ministry was available for comment.
Over the last two years, Cairo has endured repeated power outages due to fuel shortages. Its expected that outages will continue during the summer as the national electricity grid is estimated to be overloaded by around 2,500 megawatts on rush days and on days that see heat waves.
Egypt’s electricity consumption during the summer is expected to rise to 29,500 megawatts per day, exacerbated by the hot weather and the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in July. Egypt's daily capacity for generating electricity currently stands at around 27,000 megawatts.
Egyptian workers played a critical part in the protests leading up to the removal of former president Mubarak, but in the two years since the uprising, many have complained of few improvements in their working conditions.
Labour rights advocates accuse President Mohamed Morsi’s government of taking a tough stance on striking workers, by using riot police to break up strikes and arrest strike organisers, and firing or disciplining public sector workers engaged in labour action.
An Egyptian watch tower is seen close to the construction site of a fence on the border between Occupied Palestine and Egypt along Israel's Highway 12, a desert road north of the Red Sea resort of Eilat, February 15, 2012., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Forgotten in enemy cells: Egyptians detained in Israel
Randa Ali, Tuesday 14 May 2013
Largely forgotten by officials in Cairo, scores of Egyptians continue to languish in Israeli prisons - some of whom were reportedly detained for aiding Palestinian resistance
Inspired by the battle of empty stomachs launched in April 2011 by Palestinians languishing in Israeli jails, Egyptians likewise detained in Israel began their own hunger strike on 1 May as a means of protesting harsh prison conditions and attracting their native country's attention.
While the struggle of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel has succeeded in winning media attention and challenging the jailer – one example is Samer Issawi, who recently ended a nine-month hunger strike after striking a deal with the Israeli authorities – the dilemma of Egyptian prisoners, by contrast, remains largely overlooked.
Egyptian prisoners: Numbers, charges
Mostafa El-Atrash, one of many Sinai-base activists campaigning for the release of detained Egyptians in Israel, told Ahram Online that there are currently around 80 of them, most of whom face criminal charges in Israel for 'infiltrating' the country or smuggling drugs.
Al-Atrash, a member of the Sawarka tribe near the border with Israel, however, says this number includes at least 17 arrested due to 'security concerns.' He refers to these as 'political prisoners.'
Many have been in prison for years with no trial, Al-Atrash asserted, adding that the two oldest prisoners had been captured during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and are charged with espionage and posing a threat to Israeli security.
Notably, when Ahram Online spoke to an informed government official – who requested anonymity – he vehemently denied the presence of any Egyptian 'political prisoners' in Israel, insisting that all those detained had been arrested on criminal charges.
However, the same source put the total number of Egyptian prisoners at 78, adding that they were being treated "very well, because they're Egyptians."
Harsh conditions, state negligence
Al-Atrash, however, challenges this assertion, contending that Egyptian prisoners in Israel "face the worst possible treatment and conditions."
In April, Ahram Online spoke to Palestinian activist Ayman Al-Sharawna following his release from Israeli detention. He asserted that Egyptian prisoners were subject to the same torture and humiliation faced by their Palestinians counterparts.
"They treat them maliciously; give them harsh sentences. For the Israelis, that the Egyptians have came all the way to resist the occupation is a huge crime, even bigger for them than resistance by Palestinians," said al-Sharawna, who ended his eight-month hunger strike – launched to protest his illegal detention by Israel – on 17 March.
Speaking from Gaza, Al-Sharawna added that Egyptian prisoners were continuously complaining that they had been forsaken by the Egyptian government.
Saeed Abdel-Hadi of the Sawarka tribe in Northern Sinai, for his part, accused Egyptian authorities of deliberately refusing to acknowledge prisoners detained by Israel for supporting the Palestinian resistance.
"There are at least 15 Egyptians detained on security charges, which the country never speaks of," said Abdel-Hadi, one of whose relatives was detained by Israel for directly supporting and arming the Palestinian resistance."But Egypt has no pan-Arab stance regarding the Palestinian issue. That's why it chooses to ignore them."
Ashraf Ayoub of revolutionary-socialist movement Yanayr in the North Sinai city of Al-Arish echoed Abdel-Hadi's complaint.
"Since the Mubarak era, the Egyptian regime has never cared about those working with the resistance," Ayoub said. "But we're still demanding the release of all our children; they can't remain in the prison cells of the enemy."
Al-Sharawna is credited for bringing the controversial case back under the spotlight when he spoke about it at a Cairo press conference co-organised by the Egyptian Doctors Syndicate in April. He revealed that there were over 65 Egyptians languishing in Israeli prisons, 25 of whom had been detained for 'security concerns.'
Syndicate member Abdullah El-Kirioni told Ahram Online: "We've sent letters to the presidency and foreign affairs ministry calling for their release and demanding the reasons and circumstances of their detention." El-Kirioni added, however, that their letters had been met with silence by the authorities, but that they nevertheless intended to "continue to press" for the Egyptian detainees' release.
"There has always been government negligence; the ministry of foreign affairs doesn't care, the ambassador doesn't care – they offer nothing but empty promises," said Al-Atrash.
He went on to voice disappointment in Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who he accused of perceiving detained Egyptians in Israel as "nothing but drug dealers."
Al-Atrash told Ahram Online that this negligence was reinforced by long-held misconceptions about the Bedouin of the Sinai Peninsula; misconceptions that intensified during the era of Hosni Mubarak, "who succeeded in alienating Egyptians from the people of Sinai."
"I swear that all Egyptians are convinced that in 1967 Bedouin tribesmen took Egyptian soldiers' guns in return for cups of water," said Al-Atrash, citing a claim that saw wide circulation.
Such ideas take hold due to the ignorance of Egyptian youth, many of whom "can't even find Sinai on a map," or the media, which "portrays Sinai as a war zone," he added.
He asked: "In such an environment, how can you expect the average Egyptian to understand the real situation in Sinai?"
Last year, a delegation of Israeli officials visited Cairo to negotiate a prisoner-exchange deal in which 65 Egyptians imprisoned in Israel would be swapped for captured Israeli spy Ouda Trabin, who has been held in Egypt for 13 years.
The anonymous official source, however, told Ahram Online that talks were no longer ongoing, stressing the unlikelihood of any such deal being reached.
Said Okasha, an expert on Israeli affairs at the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, told Ahram Online: "Tarabin is accused of spying on Egypt, which will never exchange him for criminal prisoners."
"I'm opposed to such a deal; Ouda infringed on Egyptian national security. A spy must be punished according to the law. It would be a shame if we exchanged our children – who committed no crime – for Ouda Tarabin,” said Abdel-Hadi.
He added, however, that the status quo could not continue forever, stressing that "Israel cannot achieve security at the expense of the people of Sinai or at the expense of Egypt's sovereignty."
Nada El-Kouny contributed to this report
Rafah bordering crossing into Gaza region of Palestine. The abduction of several Egyptian police has raised tension in the region., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Outraged by kidnappings, Egyptian police block Gaza crossing for second day
Reuters and Ahram Online, Saturday 18 May 2013
Police block Rafah's Gaza crossing for the second day in protest at kidnapped colleagues; Palestinians stranded
Egyptian police angered by the kidnapping of seven colleagues by Islamist gunmen kept a crossing into the Gaza Strip closed again on Saturday, stranding hundreds of Palestinian travellers, witnesses said.
The protest began Friday when police strung barbed wire across the Rafah border post and chained up the gates, local residents said, a day after the abductions.
"We will not open the crossing until the kidnapped soldiers are freed and the interior minister arrives to listen to our demands so that these attacks on us are not repeated," said one of the protesting policemen Saturday.
On Thursday,seven Egyptian security personnel, including one member of the armed forces, four port security officers, and two state security officers,were kidnapped by unknown assailants in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
A security source has revealed that the kidnappers of seven Egyptian security personnel in Sinai have demanded the release of Islamist militants detained for almost two years.
The militants, who allegedly belong to the Tawhid wal-Jihad group, were convicted of killing five security officers and one civilian during a string of attacks in June/July 2011 on an Al-Arish city police station and a North Sinai branch of the Bank of Alexandria. Twenty-five individuals were charged in the case.
The security source, who asked not to be named, added that the kidnappers had accused Egyptian security forces of torturing one of the detained men.
The policemen were abducted at a checkpoint near the 'Green Valley' region on the Rafah-Arish road in North Sinai, Reuters reported.
Gaza-based Palestinian resistance faction Hamas has declared plans to tighten border security and has offered to help Egyptian security forces find and arrest the kidnappers.
A number of tourists have been kidnapped in Sinai this year, after which abductors usually demand the release of detained colleagues in return for the tourists' release.
Thursday's kidnapping, however, represents the first time for security personnel to be abducted by Sinai-based militants.
The restive Egypt-Gaza border region has witnessed an upswing in violence over the course of the past few months, with frequent clashes between security forces and militants.