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Updated: 27 min 53 sec ago

BRICS Rejects Sanctions Against Russia Over Ukraine

Tue, 03/25/2014 - 23:01
Leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa known as BRICS. They have rejected the US-EU sanctions against Moscow.
BRICS rejects sanctions against Russia over Ukraine

Tue Mar 25, 2014 1:55AM GMT

The group of five major emerging national economies known as the BRICS has rejected the Western sanctions against Russia and the “hostile language” being directed at the country over the crisis in Ukraine.

“The escalation of hostile language, sanctions and counter-sanctions, and force does not contribute to a sustainable and peaceful solution, according to international law, including the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter,” foreign ministers of the BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - said in a statement issued on Monday.

The group agreed that the challenges that exist within the regions of the BRICS countries must be addressed within the framework of the United Nations.

“BRICS countries agreed that the challenges that exist within the regions of the BRICS countries must be addressed within the fold of the United Nations in a calm and level-headed manner,” the statement added.

The White House said earlier on Monday that US President Barack Obama and the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan decided to end Russia's role in the G8 over the crisis in Ukraine and the status of Crimea.

Meanwhile, the G7 group of top economic powers has snubbed a planned meeting that Russian President Vladimir Putin was due to host in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi in June.

The G7 said they would hold a meeting in Brussels without Russia instead of the wider G8 summit, and threatened tougher sanctions against Russia.

Russia brushed off the Western threat to expel it from the G8 on the same day. The Autonomous Republic of Crimea declared independence from Ukraine on March 17 and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum a day earlier, in which nearly 97 percent of the participants voted in favor of the move.

On March 21, Putin signed into law the documents officially making Crimea part of the Russian territory. Putin said the move was carried out based on the international law.

A Brief History of the Death Penalty in Egypt

Tue, 03/25/2014 - 18:24
Women in Alexandria being held for protesting against the military-backed regime in Egypt.
A brief history of the death penalty in Egypt

Zeinab El-Gundy, Monday 24 Mar 2014

How does Monday's mass death sentence for 529 people fit into the country's modern history of the death penalty?

Backed by its constitution, which considers Islamic Sharia its main source of legislation, Egypt is one of 40 countries worldwide not to have abolished capital punishment from its penal code.

According to local and international reports, at least 709 people were sentenced to death in civilian courts between 1981 and 2000, with only 249 of them reaching execution.

From 1992 to 2001, no less than 94 people were sentenced to death in terrorism-related charges in military and state security courts – at least 67 of whom were executed.

A relative increase in capital punishment became noticeable from 2009 to 2012. In 2010, 136 death sentences were pronounced, though it is unclear how many of them were carried out. At least one of the 115 death sentences from 2011 was implemented. In 2012, 91 people were sentenced to death – how many were executed is unclear, however.

In March 2013, a Port Said criminal court sentenced 21 people to death in connection with the Port Said Stadium killings. In February 2014, the court accepted the appeal and a retrial of the case began.

Capital punishment resurfaced in the news following the violent dispersal of the pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins at Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Nahda Square in August 2013. When violence spread across the country after the dispersal, public figures argued that the death penalty was a necessary tool in Egypt's escalating battle with what the government has labeled terrorists.

There are no official numbers about death sentences handed out in 2013.

Earlier in March, a Cairo criminal court sentenced 26 defendants to death in a terrorism case known in the media as the "Suez Canal cell," a trial that dates back to 2010.

The defendants were tried in absentia on charges including planning attacks on ships passing through the Suez Canal, manufacturing missiles and explosives to carry out attacks, monitoring and planning to attack security targets along with possession of guns, automatic rifles, explosives and ammunition.

The 26 defendants were charged with planning attacks on the Suez Canal, but were released due to lack of evidence. They were then referred to court in November 2013.

On Monday, a Minya court sentenced 529 people to death over the murder of a police officer in what is considered the biggest mass death sentence in the history of the Egyptian criminal court.

In 1954, following a failed assassination attempt on President Gamal Abdel-Nasser in Alexandria, seven leading Brotherhood membersincluding the group's guide Hassan El-Houdaiby were sentenced to death. The sentence was later reduced for El-Houdaiby, who was eventually released. In 1964, Nasser's regime launched a huge campaign against the Brotherhood and arrested a great number of its leaders and members, including the influential Islamist thinker Sayed Qotb.

Qotb and other five other leading members were sentenced to death for plotting to assassinate Nasser. They were executed in 1966.

In 1982, five members of the radical Islamic Jihad movement including Khaled El-Islamboly received the death sentence for the assassination of president Anwar Sadat. The sentence was carried out in April 1982.

Families Demand Answers About Malaysian Missing Flight

Tue, 03/25/2014 - 17:54
25 March 2014 Last updated at 14:09 ET
Malaysia Airlines MH370: Relatives in Beijing scuffles

Angry relatives of passengers on board the missing Malaysia Airlines plane have clashed with police outside Malaysia's embassy in the Chinese capital, Beijing.

It came after Malaysian PM Najib Razak said a new analysis of satellite data showed the plane had ended its journey in remote seas south-west of Australia.

China has asked to see the data on which Malaysia's conclusion was based.
The search for missing flight MH370 has been suspended because of bad weather.

The plane disappeared on 8 March as it flew from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, including 153 Chinese nationals.

In Beijing, relatives of the passengers released a statement accusing the Malaysian government of trying to "delay, distort and hide the truth".

Dozens then left their Beijing hotel on a protest bound for the Malaysian embassy. Police stopped their buses from leaving, so they got off and walked to the diplomatic mission.

Scuffles broke out as protesters threw water bottles and tried to storm the building, demanding to meet the ambassador.

In a BBC interview, Malaysia Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya defended his company against criticism from the families.

"I think it's unfair," he said. "I think we've done all we can within our means to help them."
Final signal

The families appear to be becoming more critical of the Chinese authorities themselves, the BBC's Celia Hatton reports from Beijing.

While some defended the authorities, others denounced the Chinese government as "corrupt".

Meanwhile acting Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the latest analysis of satellite data showed a final automatic signal - known as a "handshake" or "ping" - that was still being investigated.

"There is evidence of a partial handshake between the aircraft and ground station at 0019 UTC (GMT)," he told a news conference on Tuesday. "At this time, this transmission is not understood and is subject to further ongoing work."

If confirmed, this signal would have been sent more than seven hours after contact with air traffic control was lost, and eight minutes after the last confirmed handshake.

A multinational search effort has focused on seas some 2,500km (1,500 miles) to the south-west of the Australian city of Perth.

The transport minister said that as a result of the latest analysis, the area of search had been narrowed from 2.24m sq nautical miles to 469,407 sq nautical miles.

Operations in the northern corridor - one of two large areas where the plane might have ended its journey - had been completely called off to concentrate on the southern part of the southern corridor in the Indian Ocean, he added.

The Malaysian PM said on Monday it had to be concluded "with deep sadness and regret" that "flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean".

Mr Najib said the conclusion the plane was lost was based on new satellite analysis by British firm Inmarsat and information from the UK's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).

But Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng issued a statement saying: "We demand the Malaysian side state the detailed evidence that leads them to this judgement, as well as supply all the relevant information and evidence about the satellite data analysis.

"The search and rescue work cannot stop now. We demand the Malaysian side continue to finish all the work including search and rescue."

Malaysia Airlines has said it will make arrangements to fly relatives of those on board MH370 to Australia.

'Hazardous' search

Planes from several nations, supported by an Australian warship, have been scouring waters far off Perth for signs of the missing plane, in a search co-ordinated by Australia.

There have been several sightings of debris, but none has yet been confirmed as being linked to the plane.

In a statement announcing the suspension of search operations on Tuesday, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) said it had "determined that the current weather conditions would make any air-and-sea search activities hazardous and pose a risk to crew".

Australia's Defence Minister David Johnston said search efforts were unlikely to start again for "at least another 24 hours".

He described the search as a "massive logistical exercise" in an "extremely remote" part of the world.

Another 682 People to Stand Trial In Egypt

Tue, 03/25/2014 - 08:47

Egyptian women in Alexandria prison cage while being sentenced to 11 years for protesting military rule. The opposition to the generals is increasing., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Brotherhood Supreme Guide, 682 Morsi supporters on trial in Egypt court

Ahram Online , Tuesday 25 Mar 2014

Head of Egypt's banned Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Badie and hundreds of other pro-Morsi defendants stand trial Tuesday in same Minya court that handed mass death sentences a day prior

Hundreds of supporters of Egypt's deposed president Mohamed Morsi, including the head of his Muslim Brotherhood movement, were due to stand trial on Tuesday in the same court district that handed down death sentences to another 529 of the ousted leader's backers the previous day.

The 683 co-defendants in Tuesday's trial include Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, along with several of the Islamist movement's leaders.

Defence lawyers boycotted Tuesday's court session. Only 60 of the defendants attended the session and the rest has either been released on bail or at are at large, a judicial source told Ahram Online.

The trials' proceedings, which take place in the southern governorate of Minya, will span until Thursday when a court decides if other rounds of hearings will take place, the same source said.

Badie was not present at the session since he stands multiple trials on an array of charges including inciting murder and belonging to a terrorist group – as the Brotherhood has become designated by authorities.

The defendants face numerous charges that include murder, disrupting public order and attacking public and private property, according to judicial sources.

The allegations are related to the violence that broke out in Minya in the aftermath of the forced dispersal of two Cairo pro-Morsi protest camps on 14 August.

Monday's sentences handed to 529 pro-Morsi defendants, arguably the largest mass death sentencing in Egypt's modern history, came after two hearings that started on Saturday.

The verdict drew a chorus of condemnation from rights groups, Washington and the European Union, with many questioning the fairness of the proceedings. Experts argue the sentences are likely to be overturned on appeal.

The exceptionally swift trial and harsh sentences highlight the escalation of a sustained crackdown on Islamists since the military's 3 July, 2013 overthrow of Morsi following mass nationwide protests against his turbulent year in power.

At least 1,400 people, mainly Islamists, have been killed in street violence since Morsi's ouster, according to rights group Amnesty International, and thousands incarcerated.

The deposed leader himself faces a number of trials on a variety of charges, including inciting the murder of opposition protesters, espionage and a jailbreak during the 2011 uprising.

Most of the Brotherhood's senior leaders are behind bars, with a number standing trial on the same charges as Morsi, some of which carry the death penalty.

Meanwhile, a rising Islamist insurgency in the border Sinai Peninsula has increasingly targeted police and army, killing more than 200 policemen and army soldiers.

The government has declared the Brotherhood a "terrorist" group, blaming it for militant violence rocking the country. The group denies any links to violence and says it is committed to peaceful politics.

Afghanistan Resistance Hits Kabul Election Office, 4 Reported Killed

Tue, 03/25/2014 - 08:44

Afghanistan civilians demonstrate in Jalalabad in the aftermath of a massacre of at least 16 people when US troops left a base to commit mass murder., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Taliban hit Kabul election office, kill at least 4

By By Kathy Gannon March 25, 2014

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban launched a brazen assault in the Afghan capital on Tuesday, with two suicide bombers detonating their explosives outside an election office on the edge of Kabul while other gunmen stormed into the building, trapping dozens of employees inside.

A candidate for a seat on a provincial council was killed, along with an election worker and two policemen, said interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.

All five insurgents involved in the attack, which triggered a standoff that lasted more than four hours, were also killed, he said.

The assault was the latest in the insurgents' violent campaign against the country's April 5 elections, when Afghans are to choose their next president and local council members. The Taliban have vowed to disrupt he polls.

Fierce gunfire reverberated across the neighborhood of Karte Char throughout the afternoon as heavily armed troops from the Afghan rapid response force surrounded the election office building, located near the home of presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.

Ahmadzai was not at home at the time and was not the target of the attack, officials said, but the local office of Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission.

Police official Sayed Gul Aga Hashmi said the assault started with one suicide bomber detonating his car and the other setting off his explosives' vest. The blasts paved way for other attackers to storm inside the building, Hashimi said.

As the battle unfolded, an election commission official told The Associated Press there were about 20 election workers trapped in the building. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media.

He said he had spoken to a colleague who was hiding inside the bathroom with seven others and who had told him there were about more employees elsewhere in the building.

Sediqqi later revised the figure to 70 people trapped, after he got more updated information. He said police eventually rescued all but two — the slain candidate for the post of provincial council member and election worker.

The Taliban claimed responsibility in a statement to media, saying their target was the election office.

The building in Karte Char is in the southwestern Kabul, near the historic war-damaged Darulaman Palace built by Afghan King Amanullah. The landmark palace was heavily damaged during the Afghan civil war and stands empty.

Also Tuesday, insurgents carried out attacks on a bank in northeastern Kunar province and on an Afghan outpost in the eastern Khost province, on the border with Pakistan.

In Kunar, three insurgents with suicide vests stormed the government-owned Kabul Bank, killing two policemen and wounding three others who were guarding the premises in the provincial capital of Asadabad.

One attacker blew himself up and the other two were shot and killed by police, said provincial police chief Abdul Habib Sayidkhili. None of the bank employees or customers was hurt, including seven policemen who were there to collect their monthly salaries. They all hid in the basement during the attack, Sayidkhili said.

And in Khost, dozens of insurgents armed with rocket propelled grenades and heavy machine guns laid siege to a border outpost. Provincial Police Chief Faizullah Ghyrat said two police border guards were killed, along with five insurgents.

The Taliban took responsibility for the Khost attack.

In other developments, Afghan police said they detained eight senior employees of a private security company that provided guards to the Kabul hotel attacked by the Taliban last week.

The interior ministry said in a statement that the company employed by the Serena Hotel was negligent, which enabled the four attackers to hide small handguns in their shoes and avoid detection to enter the premises on Thursday evening.

The gunmen opened fire inside the hotel restaurant, killing nine people, including two children and four foreigners. The attackers were killed by police.

Occupied Libya Releases Crew of Morning Glory

Tue, 03/25/2014 - 08:19

Morning Glory tanker was retrieved by the United States Navy after it left a port in eastern Libya in contravention to the interests of Washington. The puppet prime minister was removed., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Libya Releases Crew of Renegade Oil Tanker

TRIPOLI, Libya March 24, 2014 (AP)
By ESAM MOHAMED Associated Press

The crew of a renegade oil tanker seized by the U.S. Navy and handed over to Libya has been released and will be deported, a Libyan investigator said Monday.

Al-Sadik al-Sour, the head investigator for Libya's prosecutor general, did not give the nationality of the 21 crew members. He said they were referred to border police Monday to send them out of the country.

Three eastern Libya militia members who were aboard the vessel will be detained for 14 days to be interrogated by prosecutors over their role in the saga.

Al-Sour said investigations revealed that the crew members were working at gunpoint, according to witnesses interrogated at the militia-held eastern port where the vessel was loaded with an estimated 350,000 barrels of oil.

The ship remains in Tripoli and is due to be unloaded in the port of Zawiya refinery, 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Tripoli. It was originally North Korean-flagged, but North Korean officials say they have cancelled its registration.

U.S. Navy SEALs seized the Morning Glory last week in the eastern Mediterranean. It handed it to the Libyan navy, which escorted the tanker to Tripoli.

That operation brought an end to an attempt by a militia from eastern Libya to sell the crude in defiance of the central government in Tripoli.

Overhaul of NSA Data Collection Takes Shapes

Tue, 03/25/2014 - 08:14

Thousands demonstrated against the National Security Agency and spying by the United States government in Washington, D.C. The event was held on Sat., October 26, 2013, a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.


Overhaul of NSA Data Collection Takes Shape

Plans From House Committee and Obama Administration Call for Searching Data at Phone Companies Instead

Updated March 25, 2014 12:26 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON—Leaders of the House Intelligence Committee are set to unveil Tuesday a proposal overhauling the National Security Agency's phone-records program by requiring searches to be conducted at phone companies instead of having the NSA compile the records.

The bipartisan proposal is similar to one floated last month by the NSA's departing director. It has been well received by some telecommunications-industry executives, but likely will run into opposition from lawmakers of both parties who are sponsoring a competing proposal.

The Obama administration is readying its own proposal to restructure the program, which officials said would be conducted at phone companies, as well.

The proposals from the Obama administration and the House Intelligence Committee are strikingly similar, except the White House would prefer to have a judge approve each data search before as opposed to after the fact, officials said.

President Barack Obama in January set a deadline of March 28 for intelligence and law-enforcement officials to provide proposals for restructuring the phone program, which collects millions of U.S. phone records a year.

The court order authorizing the current NSA phone program, however, expires at 5 p.m. Friday. The administration will renew it as it stands now until Congress passes new legislation, a senior administration official said.

The bill from Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R., Mich.) and his Democratic counterpart, Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger (D., Md.), would ban so-called bulk collection of phone, email and Internet records by the government, according to congressional aides familiar with the negotiations. In its place, it would outsource the database queries to phone firms.

"The public feels very strongly that the NSA was infringing on their civil liberties. That was not the case," Mr. Ruppersberger said in an interview. Still, he said, the bill is needed to restore public trust and add "checks and balances" to the phone-data program.

A U.S. official said the approach would cover both landline and cellphone records, and would be more "comprehensive" than the current NSA program, which doesn't cover most cellphone data. It currently covers calling data, such as numbers called, on roughly 20% of U.S. phone calls, The Wall Street Journal reported last month, but doesn't record conversations.

The bill would require the secret national security court known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to approve the new program and re-approve its structure annually. The court's order would require phone companies to comply.

Currently, the NSA gets massive numbers of phone records in bulk from three phone companies and conducts searches of them based on numbers it suspects are related to terrorism, under a standard it calls "reasonable articulable suspicion."

Under the new bill, a phone company would search its databases for a phone number under an individual "directive" it would receive from the government. It would send the NSA a list of numbers called from that phone number, and possibly lists of phone numbers those numbers had called. A directive also could order a phone company to search its database for such calls as future records come in.

The NSA would send a copy of each directive to the surveillance court for review after records collection has begun, and companies could object to a specific directive. That approach differs from the requirement set by Mr. Obama in January in which he instituted a system that requires a court order to search the NSA's database against a particular phone number. That change went into effect in February.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the Justice Department provided the White House with four options for restructuring the program: rebuilding the program with data housed at the phone companies; housing the data at a government agency other than the NSA; housing the data at a third party; and scrapping the program altogether and obtaining data though other investigative means.

Mr. Ruppersberger said he had spoken with senior White House officials and they agreed with concepts like ending key types of bulk-data collection, but had some concerns, such as the after-the-fact judicial review of the directives. The White House declined to comment.

Mr. Ruppersberger said waiting days to obtain court approval won't work. "You can't gather intelligence that way," he said. "It takes too long."

The bill's setup, Mr. Ruppersberger said, has been "vetted" by the NSA, and officials there said the proposal would work.

Telecommunications executives reacted similarly, noting that the bill wouldn't require them to retain data longer than they already do and would provide liability protection and reimbursement for expenses.

"From what we've seen, we're good with it," said one. But the executive wondered whether it would go far enough in providing privacy protections to win over critics.

A competing bipartisan bill drafted by House Judiciary Committee member James Sensenbrenner (R., Wis.) would ban all bulk-records collection, including financial records and any other type of business records. It also would require a judicial order be obtained for any request for phone or other records and that it be connected to an ongoing international terrorism investigation.

The House intelligence committee bill doesn't require a request be part of an ongoing investigation, Mr. Ruppersberger said, because intelligence probes aim to uncover what should be investigated, not what already is under investigation.

Write to Siobhan Gorman at

Yau Yau Rebels Demand New State In Jonglei

Tue, 03/25/2014 - 00:09

David Yau Yau, a former leader in the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), who defected during the transitional phase to independence from Khartoum. His fighters have continued hostilities against Juba, the capital of the Republic of South Sudan., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.


Yau Yau rebels demand new state in Jonglei

March 23, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) - Yau Yau rebel group has demanded to establish a new state for the Murle tribe in South Sudan to better protect their pasture land and herds of livestock in the immense Jonglei state.

Delegation from the South Sudanese government and David Yau Yau rebel group resumed the South Sudanese church brokered peace talks in the Ethiopian capital on Thursday with observers from the European Union (EU) and United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

The chief negotiator of the rebel South Sudan Democratic Movement – Cobra Faction (SSDM-Cobra faction), Gen. Khalid Burtous, demanded to create a new state in the current Pipbor county in Jonglei state and to establish a development funds for the area.

Since the independence of South Sudan the Murle clashed several times with the Lou Nuer who share the same pasture and water sources. In 2012 and 2013 hundreds of Murle were killed during tribal clashes and other thousands fled the region to protect their lives.

The Murles, like other minority groups, say that their interests are not being represented within the new nation of South Sudan which declared its independence in July 2011.

The government delegation in its response to the rebel demands, on Friday, proposed to create additional counties in the greater Pibor County and to maintain the current boundary of the county as it was on the January 1, 1956.

The head of the government negotiating team, Canon Clement Janda, said the current Payams and Bomas in Pibor county can be upgrade into full county administration, provided that county creation set forth in the South Sudan Local Government Act. 2009 is adhered to.

Janda further said the governance structure shall be established with a Chief Administrator and his Two (2) assistants, adding that this chief administrator shall appoint commissioners to the newly established counties.

He further said that the government will taken into consideration the demand for development fund and pledged to file a proposal for establishment of a special development fund to be administrated by a body headed by a coordinator within the office of the president of the republic.

The chief mediator, Bishop Paride Taban adjourned the talks to Monday announcing that the rebel delegation will give its position on the government proposal on Monday.

The SSDM Cobra-faction, was a faction of the SSDM which was established in 2010 by the late general George Athor.

Like Athor, Yau Yau rebelled against South Sudan’s ruling party after losing the 2010 elections to represent the Gumuruk–Boma constituency in Pibor county at the Jonglei state assembly.

In 2011, the trained pastor signed a peace deal with the government and joined the South Sudanese army (SPLA) and was made a General despite his lack of military experience.

However, Yau Yau rebelled again in April 2012. He blamed the government for halting the disarmament process after collecting arms from his former fighters, as they remained exposed to attacks by the other ethnic groups, particularly the Lou Nuer.


Tunisian Embassy Staffer Kidnapped In Libya

Tue, 03/25/2014 - 00:04

A refugee camp burned down in Tunisia that housed African migrant workers who have been forced to leave Libya due to the actions of counter-revolutionary rebels backed-up by the United States and NATO. Many refugees have been killed and injured., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Tunisian Embassy Staffer Kidnapped in Libya

22 March 2014 7:13 pm
Tristan Dreisbach
Tunisia Live

A staff member of the Tunisian embassy in Libya was kidnapped Friday, according to a statement from the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi said that the staff member’s car was found empty, Reuters reported.

The incident occurred in the Ain Zara suburb of eastern Tripoli, the Libyan capital, according to AFP. The same source reported the victim was the secretary of the Tunisian ambassador.

The ministry says it is working with Libyan authorities to obtain more information.

Instability and violence in the country since the 2011 overthrow of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have concerned Tunisian authorities. Smuggling is also an issue, with illicit goods being trafficked across the Tunisia-Libya border.

- See more at:

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak Says Airlines Plane Went Down in Indian Ocean

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 23:54

Notice of possible debris from missing Malaysian plane sighted. Over 200 people were on the plane., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.,0,471403.story

Premier says Malaysia Airlines plane went down in Indian Ocean

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak says the conclusion is based on data from British satellite firm Inmarsat. The search for Flight 370 wreckage continues.

By Don Lee, Ralph Vartabedian and Barbara Demick
8:29 PM PDT, March 24, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The prime minister's announcement that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went down in the Indian Ocean with no survivors marked a major turn in the search for the missing jet but did little to explain why it went off course in the first place.

Despite the reported sightings of debris that may have come from the Boeing 777, crews had been unable to recover any of it.

Australian maritime officials suspended the search again Tuesday because of high waves and powerful gales.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said his announcement late Monday was based on an analysis by the British satellite company Inmarsat, fixing the plane's last known location southwest of Perth, Australia, in one of the world's most remote areas. But experts were critical of the announcement of such a conclusion without confirmed physical evidence of wreckage.

The airliner went off course and disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.

Time was increasingly a concern because the plane's flight and data recorders have a battery life of about 30 days. Without the so-called black boxes, investigators have little or no evidence to support either of the two main theories about what happened to the jet, which carried 239 passengers and crew: that a mechanical failure killed or incapacitated the crew, or that a crew member or hijacker took over the plane. In either case, its last known location indicates it may have flown for hours until it ran out of fuel.

The hunt for the plane intensified Monday as search crews reported more sightings of possible debris in the southern Indian Ocean, including two objects they said could be retrieved shortly by the Australian naval vessel Success. One was described as circular and gray or green in color. The other was said to be rectangular and orange.

With China and Japan joining an Australian-led team of American and New Zealand planes, 10 military and commercial aircraft in all combed an area of about 20,000 square nautical miles. Earlier in the day, one of two Chinese Ilyushin 76 aircraft reported seeing "two big floating objects with many white smaller ones scattered within a radius of several kilometers," according to the official New China News Agency.

But with the forecast calling for heavy rain, huge swells and gales of up to 50 mph, Australian officials said the Success had been forced to withdraw to a safer area.

"The current weather conditions would make any air and sea search activities hazardous and pose a risk to crew," maritime officials said in a statement. The Success had been unable to locate the two objects, which the defense minister has said would be retrieved by Tuesday morning.

Inmarsat previously reported that it had received "handshake" signals from the plane, attempting to establish communication with the company's satellite. Analysis of those signals led investigators to believe the plane followed one of two tracks, one as far north as Central Asia or to the far south into the Indian Ocean.

The company told British media that it had eliminated the northern route by analyzing frequency shifts in the signal.

"We looked at the Doppler effect, which is the change in frequency due to the movement of a satellite in its orbit," said Chris McLaughlin, Inmarsat's senior vice president of external affairs. "What that then gave us was a predicted path for the northerly route and a predicted path for the southern route. That's never been done before; our engineers came up with it as a unique contribution."

Most of the passengers on Flight 370 were Chinese, and after Najib's announcement, paramedics rushed to the Lido Hotel in Beijing to help family members who might be overcome with grief.

Some have held out faint hope that the flight might have been hijacked, with the passengers being held somewhere for ransom.

Heavy sobs could be heard from inside a conference room at the Lido, where family members have been gathered these last two weeks. Occasionally somebody would emerge with puffy eyes and a swollen face. One man was taken away on a stretcher.

Many families have had a hard time accepting the finality of the investigation, given the lack of physical evidence.

"The announcement is on data only, no confirmed wreckage so no real closure," Sarah Bajc, a 48-year-old Beijing-based teacher whose partner, Philip Wood, was a passenger on the flight, said in an email.

There have been several reported satellite sightings of debris in the general area where the plane is thought to have gone down, but experts have noted the lack of any such announcements from the National Reconnaissance Office, the U.S. agency that operates what are generally considered the most capable satellites.

They infer that the U.S. has not found credible evidence of debris. If it had, it probably would have directed U.S. military planes and ships to the location rather than releasing images or making public statements.

The Navy said Monday that it had dispatched an apparatus that can be towed behind a ship at slow speed to listen for "pings" from the black boxes. The device is capable of hearing a signal from a maximum depth of 20,000 feet, the Navy said.

"We just want to have this ready because time is not on our side," said Lt. Dave Levy, a spokesman for the U.S. 7th Fleet.

Absent the black boxes, intense speculation has focused on whether mechanical failure or human action caused the plane to disappear.

"We are going to have to pray those recorders are found," Jim Hall, former chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, said in an interview. Hall and other experts were sharply critical of the Malaysian-led investigation.

"This investigation has been an ABC of what not to do," said Hall, citing lack of coordination, frequent revision of facts and the involvement of politicians.

Some experts cited the possibility of a mechanical failure leading to decompression of the plane and turning Flight 370 into a "ghost flight" in which everyone on board was incapacitated or dead and the aircraft flew until it ran out of fuel. Investigators concluded that is what happened to a Helios Airways Boeing 737 that crashed into a mountain near Athens in 2005, killing all 121 people aboard. The NTSB concluded that also happened to a private flight that led to the death of golfer Payne Stewart in 1999.

But Robert Ditchey, a former Navy pilot and retired U.S. airline executive, said he did not believe that any type of mechanical problem could account for the loss of the jet's transponder, the failure to switch to a backup, the failure to respond to efforts to contact the plane and other abnormalities.

"There is too much redundancy on that jet to lose navigation, transponders and radios," said John Russell, a commercial airline captain who has flown both 747s and 777s.

Lee reported from Kuala Lumpur, Vartabedian from Los Angeles and Demick from Beijing. Times staff writer W.J. Hennigan in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Egypt Considering Importing Weapons From Russia

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 13:26

Mohamed Ibrahim, the Egyptian Minister of the Interior. Three suspects have been arrested in an alleged plot to attack buildings inside the North African state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Egypt considering importing weapons from Russia: Interior minister

Ahram Online, Sunday 23 Mar 2014

Mohamed Ibrahim says there are talks with
Russia to import arms, to make up for a shortfall

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said on Sunday that Egypt was facing an arms supply problem and was considering importing weapons from Russia.

"There is a problem because there has been a stifling of arms imports from the United States and the European Union" after the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi last summer, Ibrahim told a group of journalists at a meeting.

The interior minister, who was appointed by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi and kept his position after his ouster, also told journalists that security forces had managed to foil an attempt to bomb the railway in the town of Shabin El-Kom in Menoufiya “before a train passed through.”

He described the attempt as an escalation by the Muslim Brotherhood against the Egyptian people.

The Brotherhood was designated a terrorist organisation by the government in December. The group has denied links to the ongoing militant attacks that have hit Egypt, and particularly its security forces, since Morsi’s ouster.

While attacks by armed men, bombings and drive-by shootings first broke out in the restive Sinai Peninsula, in late 2013 violence spread to different governorates, including the capital.

In response, the army and police launched a crackdown on militants, reportedly leaving hundreds dead.

"The terrorist groups are hiding in rural areas and shanty towns and so we need adequate investigations and preparation in order to make a proper attack plan for such places," Ibrahim told journalists.

Last week army and police force raided a militant hideout in Al-Kanater Al-Khayreya in Qalioubiya governorate. Two army officers were killed in the raid.

Ibrahim also stated that an attack against a military police checkpoint in Qalioubiya governorate which killed six army conscripts last week was actually an operation to avenge the murder of a militant known as Abu Obedia, who the ministry of interior accused of bombing the Cairo security directorate in January. Abu Obedia was killed during a raid to arrest him in early March.

"After the 25 January Revolution, the Egyptian police had a tough two years, leading to a proliferation of weapons and also giving terrorist groups the time to reorganise themselves,” Ibrahim said.

"We will not allow another Rabaa sit-in," he said, referring to attempts by some Morsi supporters to start new sit-ins in areas like Haram and Helwan.

"The Muslim Brotherhood uses the shanty towns and working class areas because it is hard to deal with these places," he said.

Military-backed Regime in Egypt Sentences 529 to Death

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 09:17

The 50-member Egyptian constitutional committee set up by the military regime to draft a new constitution. The Muslim Brotherhood was recently banned., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Egypt's Minya criminal court sentences 529 Brotherhood supporters to death

El-sayed Gamal Eldeen, Monday 24 Mar 2014

In the largest set of death sentences handed to defendants in the modern history of Egypt, court orders capital punishment for 529 supporters of ousted president Morsi over murder of police officer

The Upper Egypt court sentenced on Monday 529 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood to death on charges of murdering Mostafa El-Attar, the deputy commander of the Matay district police station in Minya, during riots in the aftermath of the dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in in August. The court also acquitted 16 other defendants.

Only 147 defendants were present at the hearing, while the rest are on the run and being tried in absentia, according to Aswat Masriya.

According to state news agency MENA, Morsi supporters are accused of killing the police officer and attempting the murder of two others, as well as attacking public property, torching the Matay police station, seizing police weapons and disrupting public order.

The trial began on Saturday with the defence lawyers demanding the recusal of the judges' panel and its replacement with another, "unbiased", panel. Their request was rejected.

On Monday, the court issued its sentence -- the biggest capital punishment verdict in the history of the Egyptian judiciary -- without hearing the defence arguments.

The defendants' papers will be transferred for perusal to the office of the grand mufti, the country's official authority for issuing religious edicts, as Egyptian law stipulates that all death sentences be reviewed by the mufti for ratification.

The court has set 28 April for the final verdict to be passed, once the grand mufti pronounces his final say.

The law allows the verdict to be appealed.

Shocked reactions

According to Haggag El-Hosseiny, Al-Ahram reporter in Minya, families of the defendants broke down when the verdict was issued, but no violence took place.

Meanwhile, security forces have intensified in Matay, hometown of the majority of the defendants. Numerous families took their children home from schools after rumours of a potential reaction by Muslim Brotherhood loyalists began to circulate.

Lawyer Gamal Eid, director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, described the court's verdict to Ahram Online as "a disaster" and "a scandal" for Egypt.

"Even if they are tried in absentia, you do not sentence 529 defendants to death in three days," Eid exclaimed, adding that the court proceeding was a scandal in its own right.

Nasser Amin, a member of the semi-governmental National Council for Human Rights said on his official Twitter account: "This court ruling will be overturned as soon as the defendants demand a retrial," adding that the verdict was unprecedented.

"This verdict is a first in the history of Egypt and will remain in [the nation's record] for good," lawyer Mohamed Zarie, who heads the Arab Penal Reform Organisation rights centre, told Ahram Online.

"We need to see if such numbers [of collective capital punishment] are found during the times of Hitler, [Iraq's] Saddam [Hussein] and Joseph Stalin," he added.

In a sharply contrasting verdict, a Cairo court last week sentenced a police officer to 10 years in prison with labour in connection with the deaths of 37 Islamists in a crammed police van last year. Three other policemen were given one-year suspended sentences.

"Both verdicts are historic," Zarie said.

However, founder of the anti-Morsi Rebel campaign Mahmoud Badr dissented with critics of the ruling on his facebook page. "Whoever does not like the verdict needs to stand in front of the mirror and ask themselves: would that be your reaction if the same verdict was issued against Mubarak and 528 of his regime loyalist?" Badr wrote.

A verdict after months of turbulence

The exceptionally swift trial and harsh sentences highlight the escalation of a sustained crackdown on Islamists since the military's 3 July, 2013 overthrow of Morsi following mass nationwide protests against his turbulent year in power.

On 14 August, Egyptian security forces moved in on two sizeable protest camps by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi in Cairo, leaving hundreds dead, including 11 police officers, and unleashing days of deadly street showdown.

Police stations across Egypt came under attack in the aftermath of the dispersal leaving more than two hundred police officers dead, and dozens of churches – mainly in Upper Egypt's Minya, Sohag and Assiut – torched or damaged.

At least 1,400 people, mainly Islamists, have been killed in street violence since 3 July, according to rights group Amnesty International, and thousands incarcerated.

The deposed leader himself faces a number of trials on a wide array of charges, including inciting the murder of opposition protesters, espionage and a jailbreak during the 2011 uprising.

Most of the Brotherhood's senior leaders are behind bars, with a number standing trial on the same charges as Morsi, some of which carry the death penalty.

Meanwhile, a rising Islamist insurgency in the border Sinai Peninsula has increasingly targeted police and army, killing tens of policemen and army soldiers.

Deadly bombings and shootings have recently also spilled over into mainland cities, including the Nile Delta and the capital Cairo.

Officially designated a terrorist organisation by the state, Morsi's Brotherhood – the country's largest and oldest Islamist group – is accused by authorities of links to the militant violence rocking the country. The Brotherhood vehemently denies any such links,Insisting that it is a peaceful group.

Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, an Islamist militant group, has claimed responsibility for several attacks on security forces.

In one of the harshest verdicts since the authorities' crackdown on Islamists began last summer, an Egyptian court last week sentenced 17 students to 14 years in jail on charges that include rioting and damaging public property during protests at Cairo's Al-Azhar University in 2013.

A similarly unprecedented verdict last November drew widespread fury when 14 Islamist women, including seven minors, were sentenced to 11 years behind bars over similar charges during a pro-Islamist protest. The sentences were later slashed to one-year suspended terms.

Defeating Fascism In Venezuela and Around the World, Before It's Too Late

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 02:12

Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro has called upon the people to defend the Revolution. Anti-government protests have taken place inside the country., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Defeating Fascism in Venezuela and Around the World, Before It’s Too Late

By James Petras
Libya 360°


Captain Jose Guillen Araque, of the Venezuelan National Guard, recently gave President Maduro a book on the rise of Nazism, warning that “fascism has to be defeated before it’s too late”! In retaliation for his prophetic warning, the patriotic young captain was shot by a US-backed assassin on the streets of Marcay in the state of Aragua on March 16, 2014.

This raised the number of Venezuelan soldiers and police killed since the fascist uprising to 29. The killing of a prominent, patriotic officer on a major street in a provincial capital is one more indication that the Venezuelan fascists are on the move, confident of their support from Washington and from a broad swath of the Venezuelan upper and middle class. They constitute a minority of the electorate and they have no illusions about taking power via constitutional and democratic means.

Captain Guillen Araque had stepped forward to remind President Maduro that the road to power for Nazi and fascist totalitarian groups has been littered with the corpses of well-meaning democrats and social democrats throughout contemporary history because of their failure to use their constitutional powers to crush the enemies of democracy.

The History of the rise of Fascism under Democracies

The term “fascist” in Venezuela is appropriately applied to the organized violent political groups currently engaged in mass terror in a campaign to destabilize and overthrow the democratically-elected Bolivarian government. Academic purist might argue that the Venezuelan fascists lack the racist and nationalist ideology of their German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese predecessors. While true, it is also irrelevant. The Venezuelan brand of fascism is highly dependent on, and acts as a proxy for, US imperialism and their Colombian warlord allies. In one sense however, Venezuelan fascism’s racism is directed against its multiracial African-Amerindian Venezuelan working and peasant classes – as demonstrated by their vitriolic racism against the deceased President Hugo Chavez. The essential connection with earlier fascist movements is found in its (1) profound class hostility to the popular majority; (2) its visceral hatred of the Chavista Socialist Party, winner of 18 of the last 19 elections; (3) its resort to the armed seizure of power by a minority acting on behalf of the domestic and US imperial ruling classes; (4) its intention to destroy the very democratic institutions and procedures which it exploits in order to gain political space; (5) its targeting of working class institutions – communal councils, neighborhood associations, public health and dental clinics, public schools, transport, subsidized food stores, political meeting places, public credit unions, trade union organizations and peasant co-operatives; (6) and its support of capitalist banks, huge commercial landed estates and manufacturing firms.

In Germany, Italy, Spain, France and Chile, fascist movements also began as small terrorist groups, who gained the financial backing of the capitalist elite because of their violence against working class organizations and democratic institutions and recruited primarily among middle class university students, elite professionals (especially doctors) and active and retired higher military officers – united in their hostility to the democratic order.

Tragically and all too often, democratic leaders, operating within a constitutional government, tended to regard fascists as “just another party”, refusing or unwilling to crush the armed thugs, who combined terror in the streets with elections to gain state power. Constitutionalist democrats have failed or were unwilling to see the political, civilian arm of the Nazis as part and parcel of one organic totalitarian enemy; so they negotiated and debated endlessly with elite fascists who meanwhile destroyed the economy while terrorists pounded away at the political and social foundations of the democratic state. The democrats refused to send out their multi-million mass supporters to face the fascist hordes. Worse, they even prided themselves on jailing their own supporters, police and soldiers, who had been accused of using ‘excessive force’ in their confrontation with fascist street thugs. Thus the fascists easily moved from the streets to state power. The elected democrats were so concerned about criticism from the international and capitalist media, elite critics and self-appointed ‘human rights’ organizations, that they facilitated the takeover by fascists. The people’s right to the armed defense of their democracy had been subordinated to the pretext of upholding ‘democratic norms’ – norms that any bourgeois state under assault would have rejected! Constitutional democrats failed to recognize how drastically politics had changed. They were no longer dealing with a parliamentary opposition preparing for the next election; they were confronted with armed terrorists and saboteurs committed to armed struggle and the seizure of political power by any means – including violent coups-d’états.

In the lexicon of fascism, democratic conciliation is a weakness, a vulnerability and an open invitation to escalate violence; ‘peace and love’ and ‘human rights’ slogans are to be exploited; calls for ‘negotiations’ are preambles for surrender; and ‘agreements’ preludes to capitulation.

To the terrorists, the democratic politicians who warn about a “threat of fascism” while acting as if they were engaged in ‘parliamentary skirmishes’, become an open target for violent attack.

This is how the fascists came to power, in Germany, Italy and Chile, while the constitutionalist democrats, to the last, refused to arm the millions of organized workers who could have throttled the fascists and saved democracy and preserved their own lives.

Fascism in Venezuela: A Mortal Threat Today

The martyred hero, Captain Guillen Araque’s warning of an imminent fascist danger in Venezuela has a powerful substantive basis. While the overt terrorist violence ebbs and flows, the underlying structural basis of fascism in the economy and society remains intact. The subterranean organizations, financing and organizing the flow of arms to fascists-in-waiting remain in place.

The political leaders of the opposition are playing a duplicitous game, constantly moving from legal forms of protest to sub-rosa complicity with the armed terrorists. There is no doubt that in any fascist putsch, the political oligarchs will emerge as the real rulers – and will share power with the leaders of the fascist organizations. In the meantime, their ‘respectability’ provides political cover; their ‘human rights’ campaigns to free incarcerated street thugs and arsonists earn ‘international media support’ while serving as ‘intermediaries’ between the open US funding agencies, and the clandestine terrorist underground.

In measuring the scope and depth of the fascist danger, it is a mistake to simply count the number of bombers, arsonists and snipers, without including the logistical, back-up and peripheral support groups and institutional backers who sustain the overt actors,

To ‘defeat fascism before it is too late’, the government must realistically assess the resources, organization and operational code of the fascist command and reject the overly sanguine and ‘upbeat’ pronouncements emanating from some ministers, advisers and legislators.

First, the fascists are not simply a small band confined to pounding on pots and attacking municipal workers in the upper-middle class neighborhoods of Caracas for the benefit of the international and corporate media. The fascists are organized on a national basis; their members are active throughout the country.

They target vital institutions and infrastructure in numerous strategic locations.

Their strategy is centrally-controlled, their operations are decentralized.

The fascists are an organized force; their financing, arming and actions are planned. Their demonstrations are not ‘spontaneous’, locally-organized actions, responding to government ‘repression’ as depicted in the bourgeois and imperial media.

The fascists bring together different cross currents of violent groups, frequently combining ideologically-driven right-wing professionals, large-scale smuggling gangs and drug traffickers (especially in border regions), paramilitary groups, mercenaries and known felons. These are the ‘frontline fascists’, financed by major currency speculators, protected by elected local officials, offered ‘sanctuary’ by real estate investors and high-level university bureaucrats.

The fascists are both ‘nationals’ and internationals: They include locally paid thugs and students from upper-middle class families; paramilitary Colombian soldiers, professional mercenaries of all sorts, ‘contract killers’ from US ‘security’ outfits and clandestine US Special Forces Operatives; and fascist ‘internationalists’ recruited from Miami, Central America, Latin America and Europe.

The organized terrorists have two strategic sanctuaries for launching their violent operations – Bogota and Miami, where prominent political leaders, like ex-President Alvaro Uribe and US Congressional leaders provide political support.

The convergence of highly lucrative criminal economic activity and political terrorism presents a formidable double threat to the stability of the Venezuelan economy and the security of the state . . . Criminals and terrorists find a common home under the US political tent, designed to overthrow Venezuela’s democratic government and crush the Bolivarian revolution of the Venezuelan people.

The backward and forward inter-linkages between criminals and terrorists inside and outside the country, between Washington senior policymakers, street drug pushers and contraband ‘camels’, provides the international elite mouthpieces and the muscle for street fighters and snipers.

Terrorist targets are not chosen at ‘random’; they are not products of an enraged citizenry protesting social and economic inequities. The carefully chosen targets of terrorism are the strategic programs which sustain the democratic administration; first and foremost the mass social institutions forming the base of the government. This explains why terrorists bomb health clinics for the poor, public schools and centers for adult education in the barrios, the state subsidized food stores and the public transport system. These are part of the vast, popular welfare system set up by the Bolivarian government. They are key building blocks in securing massive voter support in 18 out of the last 19 elections and popular power in the streets and communities. By destroying the social welfare infrastructure, the terrorists hope to break the social bonds between people and government.

Terrorists target the legitimate national security system: Namely, the police, National Guard, judges, public prosecutors and other authorities in charge of safeguarding citizens. The assassinations, violent attacks and threats against public officials, the fire-bombing of public buildings and public transport are designed to create a climate of fear and to demonstrate that the state is weak and incapable of protecting the everyday life of its citizens. The terrorists want to project an image of ‘dual power’ by seizing public spaces and blocking normal commerce… and by ‘governing the streets through the gun’. Above all the terrorists want to demobilize and curtail popular counter-demonstrations by blocking streets and sniping at activists engaged in political activity in contested neighborhoods. The terrorists know they can count on their ‘legal’ political opposition allies to provide them with a mass base via public demonstrations, which can serve as a shield for violent assaults and a pretext for greater sabotage.


Fascism, namely armed terrorism directed at violently overthrowing a democratic government, is a real and immediate threat in Venezuela. The day-to-day, ups and downs of street fighting and arson are not an adequate measure of the threat. As we have noted, the in-depth structural and organizational supports underlying the rise and growth of fascism are far more important. The challenge in Venezuela is to cut-off the economic and political basis of fascism. Unfortunately, up until recently the government has been overly sensitive to hostile criticism from overseas and domestic elites who rush to defend fascists – in the name of “democratic freedom”. The government of Venezuela has enormous resources at its disposal to root out the fascist threat. Even if firm action causes an outcry from overseas liberal friends, most pro-democracy advocates believe it is incumbent upon the government to act against those opposition officials who continue to incite armed rebellion.

Most recently, there have been clear signs that the Venezuelan government, with its powerful democratic and constitutional mandate, is moving with awareness of the fascist danger and will act with determination to stamp it out in the streets and in the suites.

The National Assembly has voted to strip Congresswoman Corina Machado of her immunity as a deputy in the National Assembly so she can be prosecuted for inciting violence. The President of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello has presented detailed documentary evidence of her role in organizing and promoting armed rebellion. Several opposition mayors, actively involved in promoting and protecting snipers, street thugs and arsonists, have been charged and arrested.

The majority of Venezuelans confronted by the rising tide of fascist violence support the punishment of these high officials engaged in or supporting sabotage. Without firm action, Venezuelan intelligence agencies as well as the average citizen agree that these ‘opposition’ politicos will continue to promote violence and provide sanctuary for paramilitary assassins.

The government has realized that they are engaged in a real war, planned by a centralized leadership and executed by decentralized operatives. Legislative leaders are coming to grips with the political psychology of fascism, which interprets Presidential offers of political conciliation and judicial leniency as weakness to be exploited by further violence.

The most significant advance toward stopping the fascist threat lies in the government’s recognition of the links between the parliamentary and business elite and the fascist terrorists: financial speculators, smugglers and big-time hoarders of food and other essential commodities are all part and parcel of the same fascist drive for power together with the terrorists who bomb public food markets and attack the trucks transporting food to the poor neighborhoods.

One revolutionary worker said to me after a street skirmish:

“Por la razon y la fuerza no pasaran!”

Through reason and force they will be defeated…

Colonization, Ideology and Aesthetics In African Drama

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 01:12

Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Kenyan playwright and novelist has gained international acclaim through his publications which have been translated into many different languages., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Colonisation, ideology and aesthetics in African drama

March 24, 2014 Opinion & Analysis
Elliot Ziwira The Book Store
Zimbabwe Herald

COLONISATION, a human creation which is a manifestation of avarice and malice, has inspired African writers to experiment on ideology and aesthetics in their exploration of the vice.Aesthetics, according to Jefferson and Robey, encompasses “philosophical speculations about poetry and literature . . . Concerned with literature from a philosophical point of view, in relation to general concepts of art, beauty and value”.

Ideology, as posited by Cayne et al, is a body of ideas used in support of an economic, political or social theory; the way of thinking of a class, culture or individual; and drama which reflects elements of black vernacular traditions, is characterised by ritual, mime and the element of spectacle.

Wole Soyinka’s “Kongi’s Harvest” (1974), and Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Micere Mugo’s “The Trial of Dedan Kimathi” (1976) contribute immensely to African drama in that the plays do not only conform to the three-part structure embraced by Allison (1986), but they also exhibit the phenomenon of ritual characteristic of African drama.

This tripartite structure espoused by Allison examines how ideological conflict affects African societies.

As is the case with “Kongi’s Harvest”, such a structure uses a basic plot: Hemlock/Exposition, which is the first part and the first half of the second part; Complication: second part; and Hangover, which is the resolution.

In “The Trial of Dedan Kimathi” this tripartite structure is exploited in three movements, which capture the ideological conflict leading to slavery, colonisation and exploitation evident in the plantations; and subsequently, the liberation struggle masterminded by Dedan Kimathi.

African drama is also characterised by dance, dress, ritual and music which are manifest in the everyday life of Africans evident at weddings, funerals, and marriage as well as harvest ceremonies where music occupy centre stage.

Though in most African societies, the drum is used at most functions, its tone or pitch can be altered to suit a particular situation. Messages can be deciphered by just interpreting the sound of the drum as is culturally accepted by a people or society.

Music therefore, plays a significant role in drama and society as norms and values are usually present in its different genres.

Although language is distinctively used to effect in “Kongi’s Harvest”, it is, however, non-realistic, contrary to what obtains in “The Trial of Dedan Kimathi”, which conforms to realistic speech patterns. Aesthetically, Soyinka contributes remarkably to African drama, but the traditional elements that he incorporates have an artistic intention which is questionable, and seem to draw inspiration from non-African aspects.

The ideological conflict in the play also remains unresolved, as it tilts in favour of Kongi, a modernist, suggesting the futility of traditionalism — thus betraying society.

The rationale of the artist as the voice of his people embraced by Chinweizu et al obtains in “The Trial of Dedan Kimathi”. This is also echoed by the playwrights in the preface to the play when they question: “Why was Kenyan literature on the whole so submissive and hardly depicted the people, the masses, as capable of making and changing history?”

Ideologically, Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Micere Mugo “believe that good theatre is that which is on the side of the people . . . gives people courage and urges them to higher resolves in their struggle for total liberation”.

The fact that proponents of imperialism subscribe to the ideological mannerisms of imperialists, averse to all that embraces African experiences, hoists another feather in the cap of “The Trial of Dedan Kimathi” as a piece of art, as it seeks to portray the African toil as seen through the eyes of the Africans whose ideological values and mores are shaped by what is lived and not what is hoped.

Ideologically and aesthetically, Henderson’s “The Hunt of Dedan Kimathi”, cannot capture the African mood or experience appropriately or without bias as he is alien to the African culture which he attempts to explain.

Neither is Huxley’s “A Thing of Value” or “A Thing of Love” an appropriate record of African aspirations; nor is Ruark’s “Uhuru” ideologically appropriate in the African context. Because of these ideological and aesthetic differences evident in African literature, “The Trial of Dedan Kimathi” is an eye-opener to serious followers of African drama, as it touches on the sensitive ideologies of Negritude, culminating from the brutalities of slavery — which Africa witnessed first-hand – Pan-Africanism, and Marxism.

Unlike Soyinka who uses non-realistic dialogue to contrast the ideologies embodied in Kongi and Danlola, wa Thiong’o and Mugo use realistic dialogue to express their disgust and bitterness at how the real owners of the means of production have their cake usurped from their mouths by a minority gang of thieving aliens who feed on their gullibility and submissiveness.

To them white oppression is the worst of all forms of oppression, as it seeks to displace everything African and replace it with everything European.

It is these ideological differences that lead to the spirit of revolution epitomised by Kimathi wa Wachiuri.

Kimathi, like Danlola in “Kongi’s Harvest”, is an embodiment of societal values and norms as he represents the people’s suffering and oppression.

Unlike Danlola, however, Kimathi’s world is a real world and not a satirical one. Wa Thiong’o and Mugo do not only look at the oppressive tendencies inherent in humanity like Soyinka, but they take a step further into that ancient part of the human mind which is excited by trauma. The destructive tendencies of imperialism are explored in an interesting dimension in the dialogue between the two soldiers in the play.

In the mould of the members of the Reformed Aweri Fraternity, the Carpenters’ Brigade, the second soldier, who is clearly hog washed, sees life through the eyes of the oppressor, and espies him as superior, as illuminated in the following: “You think the Mzungu is a fool?” and “it will be end of this bloody struggle. Mzungu! Don’t play with him.”

Ideologically, however, like Soyinka, wa Thiong’o and Mugo are conscious of how the oppressive machinery fail to completely forestall the functioning of the minds of the oppressed as suggested by the Fifth Aweri in “Kongi’s Harvest” and The First Soldier in “The Trial of Dedan Kimathi”, as illustrated here: “The way Mzungu makes us thirst to kill one another”, and “Kimathi is a hero to the people. They love him like anything, say what you will.”

The ideological conflict expressed thus, pitting two black soldiers fighting in the corner of the imperialist, plays a pivotal role on how African aesthetics should be examined. sThe playwrights do not only proffer a panacea to the problem besetting their society, as they mirror their people’s experiences, but they also offer an exit to African aesthetics and drama which has been distorted by Eurocentric critics.

As is the case in “Kongi’s Harvest”, music is exploited in highlighting the existence of contrasting ideologies, as well as for celebration; the celebration of the blackness of black. In the first movement, music introduces the ideological conflict between black and white. The drums used are symbolic of African “aggression and firm determination”.

The guns — another source of “music” — symbolise white supremacy, brutality and violence. This ideological conflict is illustrated thus: “Staccato burst of gunfire. The drums respond with deafening, rhythmic intensity.”

Music is also used to celebrate the unity of the African family, as in the end although Kimathi is sentenced to death, instead of being silenced, the masses led by the embodiments of youth, vitality, regeneration, love and life in the Boy and Girl, break into song to celebrate the triumph of the voice of reason; the voice of the incarcerated; the voice of the oppressed.

Hence, unlike in “Kongi’s Harvest” where dictatorship prevails, the seeds of success and independence are evident in “The Trial of Dedan Kimathi”.

Language is also used to contrast ideologies and for dramatic effect in “The Trial of Dedan Kimathi”. The language used in the dialogue between Johnnie and Woman does not only have an element of suspense, but it is also dramatic and conforms to the aspect of spectacle characteristic of drama.

Kimathi uses blatant expressions, undisguised and uncamouflaged as the following suggests: “By what right dare you, a colonial judge, sit in judgment over me?” Henderson on the other hand, uses flattery in his many disguises.

However, although “The Trial of Dedan Kimathi” explores ideological conflicts inhering in humanity in an attempt to express African aesthetics and drama, from an African point of view, its glorification of armed resistance smacks of bias.

The Mau Mau rebellion, glorified in the play and epitomised by Kimathi, is said to have cost 11 000 lives among their ranks, and 100 Europeans and 2 000 African loyalists by the end of 1956. It is also said to have caused ethnic divisions in Kenya as the Mau Mau were drawn, mainly, from the Kikuyu.

The element of time as central to drama is also problematic in the play.

The use of flashbacks and a time span of more than 400 years, limits spectacle as it stretches the concentration span of the audience. On the whole, however, “Kongi’s Harvest” and “The Trial of Dedan Kimathi” contribute ideologically and aesthetically to African drama and society in that they enhance the understanding of African tradition, values and experiences from an African vintage point.

Zimbabwe Labor Act Review Sparks Debate

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 01:06

Sam Nujomo of SWAPO, Pres. Kenneth Kuanda of Zambia, Pres. Samora Machel, Mozambique, Pres. Julius Nyerere, Pres. Robert Mugabe and Pres. Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Labour Act review sparks debate

Sunday, 23 March 2014 00:00
Zakeyo Mutimutema

The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Honourable Patrick Chinamasa, is at it again, joining hands with the so- called industrialists, consultants and employment councils to advocate neo-liberal policies.

On 20 March 2014, the minister was quoted in a number of newspapers advocating to change the labour laws of the country to allow employers to hire and fire workers willy-nilly, retrench workers by paying peanuts, cutting workers’ benefits, dealing with labour arbitrators and dealing with working hours, etc.

This is not the first time such calls have been made in Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans must remember what happened during the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap) in the 1990s where similar calls were made and the labour laws were changed under the guise of economic growth and employment creation.

For the benefit of the proponents of labour market flexibility, which is a concept borrowed from the West whom the Government demonises at will, please be reminded that at the heart of resolving world peace after the outbreak of World War I, labour protection was part of the issue that was on the table to end slavery that had caused misery the world over. There was a realisation that social justice and peace would not be achieved if there was no labour justice and peace.

This culminated in the formation of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 1919.

At its inception the ILO observed that “universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice, and whereas conditions of labour exist involving such injustice, hardship and privation to large numbers of people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperilled and an improvement of those conditions is urgently required . . .

“Whereas also the failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labour is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve the conditions in their own countries”

In 1944 the ILO adopted the Philadelphia Declaration in which member states affirmed that there will be no return to slavery and suppression of labour.

The declaration stated that “Labour is Not a Commodity”, freedom of expression and association are essential to sustained progress, and that poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere.

Since then the ILO has been setting labour standards through the participation of governments, trade unions and employers’ organisations.

These international labour standards are the sources of our labour legislation.

Zimbabwe is a member of the ILO and is bound by the ILO Constitution and all international conventions, declarations, and recommendations that are made at international level.

Now, for certain groups to advocate flexibility to hire and fire workers is inciting the country to breach its international labour obligations which advocate humane conditions and the promotion of freedom of association and collective bargaining, among other international standards.

Turning to our own struggle, during the colonial era, the Master and Servant Ordinance of 1901 was put in place granting the capitalist-colonisers all the power to hire and fire and do what they deemed fit to the natives. The workers’ struggle for workplace justice, equity and non-discrimination became part and parcel of the liberation struggle.

In 1980, the Zanu-PF Government intervened in the labour market by adopting a number of policies to promote and protect the workers. It enacted the Labour Relations Act No. 16 of 1985 which protected workers.

However, in the 1990s the Zanu-PF-led Government accepted a concoction from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to implement labour market flexibility.

It was argued that the labour laws are rigid; they hinder productivity and company competitiveness.

It was also said the economy will grow tremendously and employment will increase.

However, by his own admission, His Excellency, President Robert Mugabe, admitted at the burial of the late Vice- President Dr Joshua Nkomo, that the concoction had not worked and his government was deceived.

The same concoction is now being prescribed by the so-called industrialists, consultants and our Honourable Minister Chinamasa.

My question is, Honourable Minister, what is the difference between the 1990 concoction and the current labour law changes you are championing?

The concoction now looks nice because it is prescribed by a black person. Who said firing a worker without a reasonable package will increase economic growth? Or promoting casualisation of workers stimulates economic growth?.

This is wrong advice, Honourable Minister. There is a tendency in this country of running away from the truth or prescribing medicine for an ailment without proper diagnosis.

The “salarygate” scandal was approved by Government and those people cannot be fired because it is contractual. Though I don’t condone the mega salaries paid, at law there is no case if the employer approved the salaries. If it was an illegal act, why is the Government not firing them?

Linking wages to productivity while the same workers do not control the other means of production is a wrong prescription.

Production has a lot of variables of which one is labour. What are the industrialists and the Government doing with the rotten equipment left by Rhodes which has outlived its lifespan?

How much capital is being injected into the economy to stimulate growth? Where and how are the raw materials procured? Who decides the managerial team and style? What formula will be used to ascertain the contribution of each worker in the production process?

The productivity-linked wages issue was resolved way back in 1944 in Philadelphia when it was agreed that “Labour is not a commodity”. You can do what you want with a commodity but you cannot relate the same to a human being.

Changing working conditions and wages anytime you feel comfortable under the guise of promoting economic growth and company competitiveness is inhumane.

How come a liberation movement like Zanu-PF wants to advocate the suppression of workers it claims it liberated? In Zim Asset, it advocates employment-creation but at the same time advocates labour market flexibility.

How can you create employment and at the same time refuse to protect the same jobs you have created? These two concepts are parallel; you cannot have both.

The advocates of flexibility and productivity-linked wages must know that in 2013, Zimbabwe adopted a new Constitution.
Section 24 of the Constitution provides as follows: “The State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level must adopt reasonable policies and measures, within the limits of the resources available to them, to provide everyone with an opportunity to work in a freely chosen activity, in order to secure a decent living for themselves and their families.

“The State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level must endeavour to secure full employment; the removal of restrictions that unnecessarily inhibit or prevent people from working and otherwise engaging in gainful economic activities”.

Is this Government going to achieve full employment, decent living by hiring and firing workers and paying peanuts and retrenching without packages and turning collective bargaining into directives?

More importantly, Section 65 (1) of the Constitution provides that “every person has the right to fair and safe labour practices and standards and to be paid a fair and reasonable wage”.

Labour market flexibility is contrary to this provision, because it encourages non- payment of fair and reasonable wages, it sets out poor labour standards and more unsafe work.

Furthermore, section 34 of the Constitution provides that “the State must ensure that all international conventions, treaties and agreements to which Zimbabwe is a party are incorporated into domestic law.

My view, which I know will be supported by reasonable, fair-minded and sober-minded people, is that labour legislative reform must be undertaken to comply with the Constitution and international treaties or conventions to which Zimbabwe is a party.

More so the country adopted the Decent Work Country Programme for 2012-2015, which prioritises the following four areas: Promoting productive employment and decent jobs, improving the application and implementation of international labour standards, strengthening social dialogue capacities and processes for sustainable socio-economic development and increasing the coverage of social protection. Before this is achieved, another policy on relaxing labour laws, which is opposed to the decent work agenda, has emerged. This policy is inconsistent on the part of Government.

The reforms being incited by the industrialists do not conform to the dictates of our Constitution and our international obligations but will take us into slavery.

According to the ILO’s international research and monitoring mechanisms of economies of the world, there is little evidence to support the myth that labour law flexibility improves economic performance and creates employment. The ILO observed that protective legislation increases labour market stability and workers’ security, possibly mitigating social conflict. (ILO, 2012). The minimum wage has also been shown to be an effective policy tool for reducing wage inequality and poverty (see Eyraud and Saget, 2005).

All those clamouring to relax labour laws are missing the point or lack an appreciation of how the labour system functions.

The primary function of any labour legislation is to regulate the inequality of the bargaining power inherent in employment.

The law must support the weak party and ensure justice. Our labour law allows employers to retrench subject to following due processes.

The problem is that these advocates want a short cut as they do not want to comply with the law and are only interested in retrenching without a just cause.

The Way Forward

There is no best way forward other than that the monetary, fiscal, social, economic, labour, gender and environmental policies are geared towards the objective of reducing inequality, strengthening democracy in society and in the workplace, provide income security and employment opportunities.

Government must regain fiscal space through a solid tax base. If employment is unpredictable and companies are allowed to hire and fire, Government will also lose revenue and its budget targets will not be realised. Those losing jobs will look up to the same Government for support, thereby creating a dependency syndrome.

Labour reforms must conform with the new Constitution and international labour standards, instead of taking us back to slavery.

Zakeyo Mutimutema is a labour law expert and advisor to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

Rhodesia: The Case For Action

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 00:57

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana who led the national independence and Pan-African movements of the post World War II period. 2009 marked the 100th anniversary of his birth., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Rhodesia – the case for action

Sunday, 23 March 2014 00:00
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

In three weeks’ time, Zimbabwe celebrates its 34th Independence Day Anniversary and among those who contributed immensely to the realisation of this day is Tanzania’s founding President, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who also helped liberate many other African nations. Last month, President Mugabe implored Africa to recognise Dr Nyerere in a special way. As part of this effort, The Sunday Mail is running a series of articles, detailing the late Dr Nyerere’s contribution to Zimbabwe’s independence. Today, we begin with Dr Nyerere’s riveting appeal to Africa, at an Organisation of African Unity Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1966, to stand up to Britain and the rebel Smith regime in order to liberate four million Zimbabweans in Southern Rhodesia.

In October 1965, at the time of the OAU meeting at Accra, there was a clear basic opposition between the Southern Rhodesian authorities on the one hand, and free Africa on the other, with the United Kingdom’s position being ambiguous.

Africa objected to the continuation of the white minority rule in the British colony of Southern Rhodesia and demanded independence on the basis of majority rule. In other words, Africa wanted two things: firstly, some form of democratically elected government responsible to the majority of the people, and secondly, independence. We recognised that independence without majority rule was useless, and would represent a worsening of the situation.

The Rhodesian whites’ position was that their domination was not sufficiently secure while they remained a British colony. The fact that they had gradually secured complete control of Rhodesian internal affairs, and even had their own army, air force and armed police force did not satisfy them. They resented Rhodesian affairs being subject even technically to the British parliament. The real position of Britain was, in October 1965, a matter about which there was some argument.

Although their post-war policy position had been that all their colonies should achieve independence on a democratic basis, there were many grounds for the suspicion of certain African countries that Rhodesia was being regarded as an exception. In particular, at the Commonwealth Conferences of 1964 and 1965, successive British governments had refused to give a British commitment that there would be no independence for Southern Rhodesia before majority rule existed.

Further, negotiations with the Smith government had been proceeding for many months in the face of public threats of a Unilateral Declaration of Independence, and the threats themselves had not called forth any response in action from Britain. In October 1964, on coming to power, Prime Minister Harold Wilson had said “a declaration of independence would be an open act of defiance and rebellion and it would be treasonable to take steps to give effect to it”; but statements had also been made, subsequent to that, indicating clearly that military measures would not be used to suppress such a rebellion.

At the Accra OAU meeting, African heads of government therefore spent some considerable time discussing the Rhodesian situation. At the end of this discussion they agreed to a conditional resolution which specified various steps which might be taken in the event of a declaration of independence by Rhodesia and an inadequate British response to it.

One of these steps was reconsideration of the African states’ diplomatic relations with Britain under certain circumstances.

The events since the Accra Conference

1. Further British-Rhodesian negotiations.

Almost simultaneously with the ending of the OAU Conference, the British prime minister flew to Salisbury for further discussions with the Smith regime. The content of these discussions has since been published by the British government, the document shows that the suspicions of some African states were justified. The British willingness to compromise on the basic principle is clear and during these discussions, the British government even weakened the effect of their own “principle number 5”, by saying that “the opinion of the people of Rhodesia as a whole” could be ascertained by a joint British and Rhodesian Royal Commission instead of through a democratic vote. The only thing they insisted upon was that the royal commission report was to be unanimous. After his return to London, Prime Minister Wilson continued his efforts to avoid UDI by refusing to accept deadlock and always making new proposals when Smith refused earlier ones. Then, however, on the 1st of November, Mr Wilson specifically told the British parliament that force would not be used against Rhodesia, even to deal with an illegal assertion of independence. This had been indicated earlier, but never in such unambiguous terms.

2. UDI and the British Reaction

On the 11th of November 1965, the Smith regime declared Southern Rhodesia to be independent. It immediately became apparent that the British were not prepared for it! Strong words were spoken, and a series of totally ineffective sanctions were introduced. All of these sanctions were imposed gradually (it was not until February that Britain banned all purchases from Rhodesia), and in such doses that Rhodesia was able to adjust itself. It is also relevant that immediately after UDI, the British Foreign Secretary flew to the United Nations in order to ask for support for the British measures and to prevent the United Nations itself intervening. He succeeded in this endeavour.

Late in November, Zambia asked Britain for an air force unit to protect her air space, and for British ground troops to occupy the Kariba Dam (which was jointly owned with Rhodesia and which supplied most of the electric power for the Zambia Copperbelt). Zambia received an air force unit, which was stationed at the Lusaka and Ndola airports. Britain replied to the request for ground troops at Kariba by offering to station troops in the Zambia capital and in the north of Zambia on the Copperbelt.

3. OAU Foreign Ministers meeting in Addis Ababa

On the 2nd of December, the foreign ministers agreed on certain steps to be taken by all independent African states. They were:
(a) a complete boycott of Southern Rhodesian goods and the ending of all communications with that colony; and
(b) the breaking of diplomatic relations with Britain if, by the 15th of December, she had not crushed the rebellion and restored law and order in Rhodesia.

Before coming to this decision, the foreign ministers had considered all the steps which Britain had taken to end the illegal regime. They had noticed the reluctance with which sanctions had been imposed, and the fact that no action was being taken to prevent Portugal and South Africa pouring goods into the colony. They had also considered the difficult position of Zambia, and the British unreadiness — and apparent unwillingness — to relieve that independent African State of the consequences either of the rebellion or the method by which Britain had chosen to deal with it.

To this African ultimatum, Britain’s only response was to accuse free Africa of irresponsibility. And in the event only nine of the African states represented at Addis Ababa honoured the resolution — two of whom have since resumed diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom.

On the 17th of December, however — that is, two days later — the British government announced oil sanctions against Rhodesia. In the following week, a British air-lift of petrol and oil products for Zambia was instituted from Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and the Congo. At the same time much greater supplies began to flow from Tanzania by road to Zambia. There had, however, apparently been no steps taken to enforce the oil blockage against Rhodesia. After an initial hesitation by the South African government, supplies in large quantities began to pour in from South Africa. At one time (the present position is unclear) some oil supplies were even going to Rhodesia on the rail running through the then British Protectorate, of Bechuanaland!

4. Lagos Commonwealth Conference

Held in January, this special Commonwealth Conference on the subject of Rhodesia was called on the initiative of the Prime Minister or Nigeria, the late Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. The conference was most notable for the British prime minister’s statement that sanctions would bring down the Smith government in weeks rather than months — a statement which those attending assumed was being made on the basis of British intelligence work and therefore accepted in good faith. Nonetheless, they insisted upon the setting up of a special Commonwealth Sanctions Committee and an undertaking that a further meeting would be held in July (ie six months later) if the rebellion had not by then been brought to an end.

5. Security Council Resolution of April, 1966

The sanctions committee met regularly in London from February until September. It may have had some influence on the British decision in April, to ask the Security Council for authority to stop oil tankers bringing crude oil to Beira for pumping through pipe-line to the refinery in Rhodesia.

This authority was granted, and one ship was stopped from entering Beira harbour, and another was prevented from discharging her oil. The resolution, which was framed by Britain, made no mention of oil supplies through South Africa, nor those landed at Lourenco Marques in Mozambique. Britain refused to accept any amendments which covered these points.

6. Talks with the Smith regime

Later in the month of April, at the request of the Smith regime, British officials were sent to Salisbury to begin what has turned out to be a protracted series of “talks about talks”. Great secrecy has been maintained as to the content of these talks, and the British government has maintained the pretence that no negotiations are being carried on with the illegal regime. Four months later, however, the British government ostentatiously withdrew its officials just before the delayed Commonwealth Conference was held in September, 1966. They did this on the grounds that new Rhodesian “legislation” contravened the “entrenched clauses” of the 1961 Constitution.

After the Commonwealth Conference, on the grounds that the decisions there had to be explained to the people of Rhodesia, the British government first sent officials back to Salisbury and later sent two senior ministers for discussions with Mr Ian Smith. They are reported to have had three separate long meetings with the white minority leader.

7. Commonwealth Conference, September 1966

At this conference, held in London, almost a full week was spent discussing the Rhodesian situation. African members first directed attention to the objective in Rhodesia. But despite the almost unanimous demands from Afro-Asian and Caribbean members, supported by Canada; for a British commitment to the principle of majority rule before independence, the meeting concluded without such commitment. What was obtained from Britain was the admission that Britain is prepared to grant independence to Rhodesia on the basis of a racial minority government; and would only withdraw this willingness under certain conditions.

The British government stated, in the conference communiqué and afterwards, that Smith would be offered a last chance to accept the proposed terms of independence on the basis of racial minority rule. If Smith rejects those terms, Britain would take two steps. Firstly, Britain would “before the end of the year” go to the United Nations and ask for selective mandatory sanctions against Rhodesia on condition that she received the “support of the Commonwealth as a whole” for her request. Secondly, if this condition were fulfilled, but not otherwise, Britain would at the same time declare that independence for Rhodesia would only be granted on the basis of majority rule.

The Current Position

Thus, one year after the white racialists declared themselves independent, they are still in power, with no obvious likelihood of their falling in the near future. Sanctions against them have undoubtedly caused some difficulty, and may have some long-term effects. But they have not had the desired effect. Goods of all kinds seem to be coming through to Rhodesia from South Africa and Mozambique, and the trade statistics of at least one European country (Germany) have revealed an increase in trade with Rhodesia since UDI. In fact, although we are constantly promised that the economy of the colony will become bankrupt because of unsold tobacco, lack of foreign exchange, etc, or that the whites will begin to leave the country, the truth is that the white Rhodesians seem to be remarkably unaffected. Most of all, they are clearly convinced that if they can only hold on a little while their position will be accepted.

Neither has there been any mass unrest from the African population. Both nationalist political parties had been effectively broken even before UDI and the continued detention of leaders, combined with ruthless suppression of the first sign of discontent, has effectively controlled the position.

Incursions of freedom fighters from outside have been few, and although censorship prevents an accurate assessment, it would appear that most groups have been picked up soon after arrival.

The effect of this activity has therefore been very limited up to now — except to provide a “public-relations” excuse for further oppression. The independent state of Zambia, on the other hand, has suffered considerably — both from the rebellion itself and the measures which have been selected to deal with it. Her power supplies are at constant risk, as is the fuel she needs for her vital copper industry, and her imports now have come through Beira and Malawi or through the long northern route, unless she is to break the boycott completely.

In addition, the inherited structure of her economy and the lack of indigenous skilled personnel means that many or the people in industrial key positions are sympathetic to the racialist governments of Southern Rhodesia and South Africa. The Zambian government has faced these difficulties with remarkable courage and political skill. The British failure to give her unstinting support has, however, inevitably reduced the extent to which this border country can take active steps against Rhodesia.

The Case for Action

In October and early December 1965, all African meetings determined on certain actions which it was hoped would cause a speeding up of movement towards democratic independence for Rhodesia. After the Addis Ababa meeting, however, the majority of states had second thoughts about the wisdom and efficacy of one of the actions agreed. In particular, these states felt that the resolution to break diplomatic relations with Britain betrayed an unnecessary suspicion of British intentions, that it gave insufficient time for Britain to bring down the Smith regime, and possibly that the action proposed would not have the desired result.

Eleven months have passed since the foreign ministers passed their resolution. Do these considerations still apply?

It is worth considering the position in some detail.

1. First and foremost, the majority of African states were, at the time of the Accra Conference, working on the assumption that Britain’s refusal to commit herself to majority rule before independence was a tactical move designed to avoid UDI. The refusal to give such an assurance even privately was discounted on the grounds that a private assurance to so large and disparate a group as the Commonwealth Conference might not have remained private. Quite apart from the temptations to which African leaders under pressure from radical elements might be subject, the fundamental opposition to Smith of some other Commonwealth leaders was thought to be a matter for doubt. Britain’s willingness to concede independence before majority rule is not any longer a matter for dispute. The British prime minister has himself agreed that “if the people of Rhodesia as a whole” are shown to be in favour of independence before majority rule, then the British government will agree to it.

Further, the British government has made it clear that this agreement or otherwise will not be tested by a referendum. Finally, the British government has said that Britain will make the demanded commitment “before the end of the year” if (a) by that time the Smith regime has not accepted the terms he is now offering them; and (b) if the “Commonwealth as a whole” supports the promised British proposals for selective mandatory economic sanctions. In other words, Britain has said that she will make this fundamental commitment on principle if the Smith regime does not accept the British terms for betraying the principle, and if Africa “behaves itself” by allowing Britain to determine the pace of action against Southern Rhodesia.

2. In December 1965, the foreign ministers’ resolution rested on the assumption that Britain was not acting with determination against the rebellion. Some countries questioned this; they said that Britain’s policy of sanctions had not had time to have their effect, that the gradual “tightening of the screw” was aimed at giving encouragement and opportunity to white opposition groups within Rhodesia and that the British prime minister in particular was fully committed to the downfall of the Smith regime.

These questions may have been reasonable less than a month after UDI. Are they reasonable after 12 months? A whole year has gone by without sanctions bringing the Smith government even into disrepute among the whites of that colony. Few have left the country, and the Southern Rhodesian government budget was less severe than that of the British government, which does not suggest national bankruptcy!

The expected “white liberals” have also failed to materialise in any significant numbers. A few individual white people have been placed in restriction, detained, or trumped-up charges; any others are so overwhelmingly outnumbered that they are clearly helpless in the present situation.

But it is British determination to bring this situation to an honourable and quick end which is really in question now.

The British government has consistently refused to say that it will take whatever action is necessary to bring the Smith regime down. It has repeated on every conceivable occasion that force will not be used to achieve a constitutional settlement. It has objected to mandatory United Nations economic sanctions on the grounds that they would lead to force (which would, of course, only happen if the economic sanctions were ineffective for their purpose).

Further, the British opposition party is constantly attacking the British government for taking “punitive” action against the rebels, and sending its leaders to Rhodesia to “try and bring about a peaceful settlement of the dispute”. Thus the Rhodesian government might reasonably believe that if they can only negotiate the present difficulties and be seen to be firmly in control, then they will gradually secure “de jure” recognition internationally and the boycott will collapse.

This is a very different prospect from knowing that if the present economic measures do not lead to surrender then military force will be used. But British policy up to this moment precludes such knowledge.

3. A further objection which may have been raised by African states in December 1965, is that it was unrealistic to expect the British government to act in response to an ultimatum. In support of this argument, they can point to the fact that oil sanctions were imposed on the 17th of December — two days after Africa’s deadline — and suggest that the OAU Resolution might even have had the effect of delaying this action.
This argument would betray a rather naïve and one-sided view of national prestige. For it would not have been very good for British prestige if 36 diplomatic missions from Africa had returned to Whitehall together.

But even if this argument were valid, and even assuming that British pride made it impossible for her to give advance notice to the countries whose support she would need in this operation, this does not account for the failure to take effective action since that date. There has been no ultimatum since December 1965. Why then has there been such a continued reluctance to take strong action against the Rhodesian regime?

4. Some African countries pointed out that at the time of the Declaration of independence, and in December 1965, the British government had a parliamentary majority of three and was consequently unwilling to take any action which would have been very unpopular with the British public. This fact was used to account for Britain’s promise not to use force, and the initially mild form of sanctions. On 30th March 1966, however, a new general election returned the same government with a majority of almost 100 Members of Parliament.

The April appeal to the United Nations for authority to stop oil tankers going into Beira appeared at first glance to be the kind of action which the previous political situation had inhibited. It may have been. But, if so, it is difficult to understand why the switch of Rhodesian oil supplies to South African ports and to Lourenco Marques (which could have been foreseen) has not brought a similar response. The British government’s parliamentary majority is still nearly 100, but Rhodesia is clearly in no particular difficulty about oil supplies. If the British government were anxious to bring down the regime, would this situation be allowed to continue?

5. In recent months, a new reason for British inaction has been advanced and that is the British international monetary crisis. It is said that this makes it impossible for the British government to take any action which would not meet with the approval of international bankers, or which might lead to a further run on sterling. This may be a good reason why Britain could not itself undertake an expensive military exercise without at least American support. It is also a good reason why Britain should be willing to hand the whole Rhodesian issue over to the United Nations. But, in fact, she has strongly resisted any suggestion that this should be done. Why does she do this if her reason for inaction is real economic inability?

The answer can only be that this is an excuse not a reason.

6. In 1965, it was argued that Britain’s reluctance to invoke Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter arose from her belief that South Africa could be induced to co-operate or at least to remain passive in any economic campaign against the Smith regime. It is also true that at the beginning of the rebellion South Africa desisted from open and large-scale assistance. But this is no longer true. The evidence suggests that South Africa watched to see how strong and effective the steps against Rhodesia would be, and only after being reassured on that matter did she begin to risk her own internationally correct legal position in order to give practical support to the Smith regime. The position now is clear. South African support has made nonsense of the oil blockade, there are strong reasons to believe that she is giving financial and foreign exchange assistance, that she is acting as agent for certain kinds of Rhodesian exports and that she is in other ways assisting the rebel regime to overcome its difficulties. There can no longer be any hope that South Africa will voluntarily co-operate in any action against Smith — partly because the South African authorities are not convinced that Smith will really be brought down.

7. Finally, in September 1966, when Britain insisted upon a “last chance” for Smith, there were British sympathisers who argued that this was simply a “time-wasting device” while Britain waited for the mid-term United States elections to be completed. The argument was that Britain could not afford to take strong action until she had positive American support, and that it is impossible for an administration to give such support immediately prior to the elections. In fact, Britain has had consistent American support since 1965. From outside it would appear that Britain and America had tacitly agreed that the former would support the USA in Vietnam in return for an acceptance of British leadership in Rhodesia. There is no reason to believe that American support would not be forthcoming for tougher British action; on the contrary, there is much to suggest that the Americans would like the Rhodesian question settled quickly.


In October, and even December 1965, there may have been valid arguments against strong and immediate action in the Rhodesian situation. These arguments could be used to excuse the British position, and by those African states which failed to implement the resolution their representatives had passed.

Not one of these arguments has any validity now, in November 1966. The question before us now is “What is Africa going to do about Rhodesia?” Are we going to acquiesce in the betrayal of four million people in Southern Rhodesia? And are we going to agree to the continuation of Zambia’s intolerable position?

It was Great Britain which created South Africa 50 years ago. It is Great Britain which now clearly wants to create a second South Africa. Fifty years ago, only Ethiopia and Liberia were independent African states. Today Africa has nearly 40 independent states.

Individually African states are weak. Collectively we are not weak. It is only failure to work together which now makes us weak.
Collectively we are quite capable of making a meaningful statement to Britain.

We shall be doing this if we all say, and mean, “You cannot now create another South Africa and still hope to remain on friendly terms with independent Africa”.

This voice we can raise. It is the least we can do to restore the honour of Africa.

Somalia Workers Most Severely Affected by Crisis

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 00:45

Abdi Sheikh Ahmed has been appointed as the prime minister of the western-backed federal government in Somalia. The country is occupied by over 20,000 U.S.-EU backed troops., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Gov’t says workers of Somalia are the most severely affected by the crisis in the country

Posted on March 22, 2014
Geneva (RBC)

Addressing the International Labour Organization at their headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland the Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, said that workers of Somalia are the most severely affected by the crisis in the country.

It is a great privilege for me to address the Governing Body of ILO which discusses and decides on the future of this important organisation and its crucial role in fragile states and disaster settings.

Allow me first to thank the Director General of the ILO H.E. Mr. Guy Ryder for giving me the opportunity to proactively engage with the ILO and to speak at the high-level panel on decent work in fragile states organized by the Permanent Missions of New Zealand and Timor Leste. In this regard on behalf of my Government I would like to take this opportunity to extend our appreciation to the Governments of New Zealand and Timor Leste for the organization of this high-level and timely interactive dialog.

I would also like to commend the ILO for its commitment to respond to the challenges facing the Fragile States, such as my country, Somalia.

In September last year, Somalia signed a New Deal Compact in Brussels with the EU and broader international community to help support the peace and state-building efforts together with economic recovery. This new deal is exactly the same as the Busan New Deal.

As you would probably know, my country has been affected by an over two decade-long civil war, which paralyzed the economy, caused the collapse of public services, destroyed the country’s infrastructure and disabled government institutions.

Since the formation of the first federal government, which is not an interim establishment, the security situation in many regions of the country has progressively improved by dislodging terrorist groups with the support of the African Union forces and the economy has started to recover.

However, Somalia remains one of the poorest countries in the world, where income inequality is relatively high. 70% of the population live below the poverty line and more than 25% in extreme poverty.

Somalia has vast natural and untapped resources, however, the poorly diversified economy, underdeveloped infrastructure, weak education system, lack of markets and weak capacity to manage these resources in a sustainable way, leave the economy’s full potential still untapped.

The federal government of Somalia believes that broad-based economic growth both at federal & regional levels, which can deliver employment, raise incomes and reduce inequality, is critical to Somalia’s future. My government is particularly committed to contribute to the creation of an institutional framework enabling sustainable economic and social development to promote pro-poor sustainable growth for job creation.

While some milestones have been achieved and post-conflict recovery appears to be gathering pace in the country, major challenges remain whose tackling are also vital for peace consolidation and the march towards inclusive development. Among them is the alarmingly high level of poverty, unemployment and underemployment, especially among the youth.

The youth population in Somalia is substantial and makes up to 40% of the total population. Of this group, 70% are underemployed or unemployed and 50% illiterate and unskilled. There is visible unemployment, particularly among young men, who can be found in the streets of Somali districts and regions.

During the armed conflicts young men and women felt exclusion from family life, society, jobs and the decision making processes as well as living under oppressive forces.

Large numbers of unemployed youths are a potential source of insecurity given their vulnerability to recruitment into criminal and violent activities by terrorist groups and warlords.

We believe that to move ahead by cultivating peace and social justice in our nation, a new pattern of development is required to meet the formidable challenge of job creation.

We think that we can respond to this challenge through three tracks that focus on 1) SHORT-TERM responses like temporary jobs, cash-for-work and labour intensive public works;

2) MEDIUM-TERM responses that focus on local recovery for employment opportunities and reintegration including the building of government capacities both at federal & regional levels, community driven development and local economic development; and

3) LONG-TERM response that focuses on sustainable employment creation and decent work, and which includes support to macroeconomic and fiscal policies, business development services and promoting labour related institutions.

This means placing decent work at the heart of peace and state building. We need integrated policies for growth with clear targets for timely and effective job creation. Employment and decent work for youth are of utmost concern for my government.

This is the reason that my government is ready to conclude, sign and implement Decent Work programme for Somalia.

But the challenge has taught us one key lesson: nobody can do it alone.

We need to build trust through tripartism and social dialogue. My government is fully committed to institutionalise tripartite dialogue (between government, employers and workers) otherwise we won’t achieve social peace based on social justice. This will allow us to guarantee a permanent pluralism of views rather than a common voice; helping to create dynamic and healthy society.

Within the framework of its institutional mandate, I wish to appeal to the ILO to strengthen the institutional capacities of its constituents to effectively contribute to governance for an integrated economy and a healthy labour market, particularly the federal government, the workers through the Federation of Somali Trade Unions and employers through the Somali Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

Workers of Somalia are the most severely affected by the crisis in the country. Our trade unions aspire to participate in the social and economic policy making processes. Their voices need to be heard in national social dialogue as they call for a fair environment where they enjoy equal opportunities.

I ask the ILO to provide maximum support to workers of Somalia through federation of Somali trade unions so that they play leading role in the recovery of our nation.

As a sub-region we must continue to work together to strengthen the economic integration to ensure continued strong economic growth and stability in the region.

Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want to take this opportunity to briefly update you on the most current situation in Somalia. In the past two weeks Somalia National Armed Forces in partnership with our AMISOM brothers have liberated eight key strategic towns from Al-Shabaab, with operations continuing apace.

As Al-Shabaab retreated they destroyed local infrastructure, including: water points, power plants, left IEDs and there is a growing humanitarian crisis with a particular need for food aid in the liberated regions. Just today I have received reports that food producers and distributors are being threatened by Al-Shabaab.

My government is rolling out stabilisation plans in the short term to respond to the immediate humanitarian needs and in the long-term restart local services and administrations and begin rebuilding of infrastructure. Job creation is a key part of our stabilisation plans as we must prove to the people that there is a political dividend now that Al-Shabaab has been driven out.

Investing in job creation is much more productive, sustainable and cost effective than peace-making, peacekeeping or any other conventional military operations.

While we engage in military operations we must continue to address the main challenges which allowed the collapse of the state, ultimately allowing Al-Shabaab to rise. We must make efforts to:

-Harmonise our traditional setting
-Ensure fair access to resources and fully inclusive political engagement
-Implement sustainable Somali owned state building process for peace
-Institutionalisation of protection and promotion of Human Rights in harmony with the Paris principles
-Integration of the Post Transition Human Rights Road Map, New Deal Compact, National Stabilisation Plan and Decent Work Program

I thank our international partners for their efforts in helping the security and peace building process in Somalia.

My government will not rest till all Somalis and all Somalia is free from the horrors and oppression of life under Al-Shabaab and any threats of terrorism. My government will make all efforts to help create and invest in alternative engagements for young people.

Finally, Members of the Governing Body of ILO I’m today pleased to ratify
1) Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention
2) Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention
3) Ratification of the Worst Forms of Child Labour

My country is recovering after 23 years of war, our government institutions need to be rebuilt or in some cases started from scratch and because of that I ask of you to kindly exonerate Somalia’s membership fees and for its voting rights to be re-instated.

I will instruct my Ambassador to begin the demarche towards Somalia’s membership of ILO’s Governing Body. In this regard I’m kindly asking the ILO Secretariat to extend its technical support.

Al-Shabaab Attacks Bases of AMISOM Forces

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 00:38

Somalia's Al Shabab Islamic resistance movement marched through the streets of a town inside the Horn of Africa country. Despite claims by the US-backed transitional regime, the resistance to imperialism continues., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Mortar shelling and armed attack in Qoryoley, 4 civilians killed

Posted on March 23, 20

Heavy gun battle has erupted in the town of Qoryoley today, as the joint forces of Somalia National Army and the African Union Forces [AMISOM] took the town from Al Shabab on Saturday, RBC Radio reports.

The fighting started after Al Shabab fighters attacked the town where they were forced to flee yesterday.

According to residents at least four civilians including women and children were killed after a mortar shelling hit their homes. The four were from two families.

Pro-Al Shabab website reported that the fighters of the Al Qaeda linked group attacked bases of the African Union Forces and Somali government forces.

There were no immediate response from Somalia government officials and the AMISOM officials regarding the attack in Qoryoley.

RBC Radio

Puntland Fishermen Quit Job Due to Threats From Foreign Vessels

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 00:32

Areas shown on map of breakaway regions in northern Somalia known as Puntland. Explosions rocked the area on October 29, 2008., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Somalia: Fishermen in Puntland quit Job due to ‘threats’ from Foreign Vessels

March 23, 2014

Fishermen in Puntland region, Somalia have announced that they have stopped their work after facing ‘’dangerous threats’’ from illegal foreign fishing vessels, who are illegally plundering the semi-autonomous region’s resources.

Most of the fishermen who are based in Alula and Bareda districts of Bari region, said they had faced continuous threats from Yemeni fishing boats who are equipped with weapons.

‘’Our job is in jeopardy… we have been several times chased by them [Yemeni vessel], which are illegally taking our sea resources. And we have submitted our complains to our authority. They are not just robbing our fish. They are ramming our boats and taking our nets,’’ said one of the Fishermen.

Puntland is battling to curb illegal fishing, which is threatening fishing stocks and lives of hundreds of local fishermen.

Earlier this month, Puntland Maritime Police forces seized an illegal foreign fishing vessel together with several Yemeni nationals fishermen for illegally fishing in its waters.

Fisheries and marine Resources minister called an end to illegal foreign fishing in Puntland Sea and warned that if any vessel without license caught will be heavily penalized.

Local Fishermen have continuously complained about foreign trawlers who are doing the illegal fishing and dumping waste. Some fishermen have gone missing while others are tortured by the trawlers who at times spray boiling water from cannons.

Horseed Media

Invasion of Qoryooley by Pro-US Forces in Somalia

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 00:29

US-backed forces of the Somalia Transitional Federal Government and AMISOM enter the town of Wanlaweyn. The Horn of Africa nation is being occupied by imperialism utilizing proxy forces from the region., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

SOMALIA: The capture of Qoryooley is critical for the operations to liberate Barawe, Amisom head says


In an operation early this morning, Somali National Army backed by African Union forces overran Al Shabaab outposts to capture the key town of Qoryooley in Lower Shabelle.

Located 120 kilometers Southwest of Mogadishu, Qoryooley has been under the brutal rule of the terrorists for five years. In the last one month, many of the al Shabaab’s commanders have been fleeing towards the town following a string of defeats by the SNA and AMISOM forces.

The capture of Qoryooley is also critical for AMISOM future operations to liberate the port city of Baraawe, one of the remaining sources of illicit revenue for extremist group.

The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia, Ambassador Mahamat Saleh Annadif congratulated Somali National Army and AMISOM troops on the achievement noting that this operation demonstrates AMISOM’s continuing determination to support the people of Somalia as they embark on a new path of renewal and reconstruction.

“AMISOM will continue to bring security to more areas of Somalia so that local people can live their lives and pursue their livelihoods in freedom”

The joint operations between the Somali National Army and AMISOM which began this month have so far liberated the eight towns in the various regions around the country, the most recent being Qurunlow town in Middle Shabelle.

Since the UN Security Council boosted AMISOM troop numbers to over 22,000, the forces who are working closely with Somali National Army have been expanding to new areas and have helped the Somali government by providing a secure environment and recovering more territory, as well as ensuring law, order and justice.

Calm returns to Qoryoley town as Al Shabab attacks Janale

Posted on March 23, 2014

Calm is reportedly returning to the town of Qoryoley, 120km south of Somalia capital a day after African Union Forces and the Somalia Government Army took the town from Al Shabab, RBC Radio reports.

According to residents at least four civilians from the same family were killed after a mortar shelling hit their home in the town of Qoryoley during heavy gun battle on Saturday.

The early morning assault has forced Al Shabab fighters to flee from the town. The Somalia military command and the African Union Mission in Somalia [AMISOM] announced the town was liberated on Saturday.

Meanwhile the fighters of the Al Qaeda linked group of Al Shabab attacked Janale town which is few kilometers away from Qoryoley. It was unclear if there were any casualties resulted from the nighttime ambush.

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by Dr. Radut