Pan Africa Newswire
Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Fidel Castro of Cuba. The two nations have a long record of solidarity and mutual cooperation., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Cuban envoy hails AU on golden jubilee
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 00:00
Tendai H. Manzvanzvike Foreign Editor
THE Cuban Embassy in Zimbabwe has underscored the strong ties that exist between the African continent and Caribbean nation.
Speaking on the occasion of the African Union’s golden jubilee celebrations on May 25, Cuban Ambassador to Zimbabwe Cde Enrique Antonio Prieto Lopez said in a statement,
“The Embassy of the Republic of Cuba has the honour to express its heart-felt congratulatory message to the Zimbabwean and African peoples on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity / African Union, on 25 May 2013, which makes Africa Day this year a historical celebration.”
The Cuban envoy also said, the embassy takes the opportunity “to wish for a very successful African Union summit under the theme ‘Pan-Africanism and Renaissance in the 21st century’, which becomes a special summit because of the 50th anniversary celebrations and the outstanding goals achieved during this period.”
Ambassador Lopez added that this was an occasion “to reaffirm the historical and unwavering bonds of solidarity and friendship that exist between the Cuban and African peoples cemented in the joint fight for decolonisation, for independence and against apartheid.”
The historical ties between Africa and Cuba date back to the Cuban Revolution of 1959 headed by former President Fidel Castro Ruz, a period which also saw a number of African countries attaining independence. It was also during this period that the Organisation of African Unity was established on May 25, 1963. The OAU was transformed to the AU in 2002.
Cuba played a major role in the AU through her support of Africa’s liberation struggles.
Africa and Cuba continue to enjoy strong relations both at bilateral and multilateral levels.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has been attacked by two white-dominated racist political parties in South Africa because she is listed by the African National Congress as a candidate in the upcoming elections on April 22, 2009., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Winnie Mandela forced auction cancelled
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 00:00
SOWETO — South African sheriffs cancelled a forced sale of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s possessions to pay off her debts on Tuesday because they were unable to gain access to her house.
Officials arrived at the upmarket Soweto home of Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife and knocked repeatedly but nobody opened the tall metal gate. She still owes US$2 800 in legal fees after settling a debt to Abbotts College, a lawyer for the private school told SAPA news agency.
The school went to court earlier over unpaid school fees for a relative of Madikizela-Mandela. A dining table set, 50 paintings, sculptures and a “room with books” were listed in the sale to pay the debt.
A large media contingent waited outside the walled compound when a black luxury car sped off from a side entrance.
It was unclear if Madikizela-Mandela was inside. Tour buses driving past the house of one of Soweto’s most famous residents slowed down as tourists snapped pictures of the commotion.
It was unclear if the auction will take place at a later date. Nelson Mandela married Winnie five years before he was jailed for sabotage during his opposition to apartheid in 1963.
The pair separated shortly before he became the country’s first black president after the end of minority rule in 1994.
Mandela married Graca Machel, widow of Mozambican president Samora Machel, in 1998.
Controversy has followed Madikizela-Mandela closely in recent years.
In another development, Sapa reported Monday that Nelson Mandela’s daughters are suing him for the rights to his artworks and control of his millions.
According to The Star newspaper, Zenani and Makaziwe Mandela intend fighting an April 2004 Johannesburg High Court order which gave Mandela the right to instruct Ismail Ayob, his then lawyer, to stop managing his financial, personal and legal affairs.
The court order barred Ayob from selling any of Mandela’s artworks.
The Star reported that Mandela’s current lawyer, Bally Chuene, filed an affidavit last week in response to a lawsuit brought by the sisters, who are represented by Ayob.
Last month the sisters filed papers asking for Chuene, George Bizos SC and Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale to remove themselves as directors and trustees of the
Mandela Trust and as directors of Harmonieux and Magnifique (Pty) Ltd with immediate effect.
In his replying affidavit, Chuene reportedly said he, Bizos and Sexwale had, in 2011, refused to release the trust’s money to the daughters without a legal justification.
The Star reported that Chuene was adamant Ayob was behind the women’s court action.
Congolese soldiers patrol through the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The upsurge in rebel attacks in 2008 had created the conditions for the possible intervention of the US and EU., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Congolese army, rebels clash
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 00:00
KINSHASA. — The Congolese army clashed with rebel fighters near the eastern city of Goma for a second day yesterday, threatening an uneasy six-month peace in the region ahead of a scheduled visit by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week.
Government forces and the M23 insurgents exchanged heavy weapons fire from early yesterday, with both sides reporting an unspecified number of dead and accusing the other of starting the clashes.
“The M23 tried to overrun our positions and we’re in the process of pushing them back,” army spokesman Colonel Olivier Hamuli told Reuters. “We’re very confident (of defending Goma)”.
The fighting marked the first combat since November, when M23 troops routed Democratic Republic of Congo’s army — known as FARDC — and briefly seized Goma, despite the presence of thousands of UN peacekeepers.
M23 spokesman Amani Kabasha said the rebels had come under heavy army shelling for a second day and the group’s military commander, Sultani Makenga, had given the order to respond.
Peace talks between the M23 and the Congolese government in the Kampala, the capital of neighbouring Uganda, have stalled.
During its year-long insurgency, M23 has repeatedly used alleged army aggression as a pretext to launch offensives.
Last year, UN experts accused Rwanda of sending troops and weapons across the border to support the rebels. Rwanda denies the accusation.
In recent months, the M23 has been weakened by in-fighting and defections.
The Congolese army is also struggling to re-organise after its humiliating defeat in Goma last year.
Ban is due to arrive in Goma this week with the president of the World Bank as part of a high-profile visit to push for an end to nearly two decades of violence in the mineral-rich region which has left millions dead. — Reuters.
Air Vice Marshall Titus Abu Basutu (left) chats with Namibian Brigadier General Karel Ndjoba and Malawian Colonel James Kalipinde during the Sadc Interstate Defence and Security Committee meeting in Harare on May 21, 2013. They called for greater cooperat, a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Sadc defence forces urged to increase collaboration
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 00:00
Air Vice Marshall Titus Abu Basutu (left) chats with Namibian Brigadier General Karel Ndjoba and Malawian Colonel James Kalipinde during the Sadc Interstate Defence and Security Committee meeting in Harare yesterday
Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
DEFENCE Forces in Sadc have been urged to increase collaboration to preserve peace and stability in the region. Zimbabwe Defence Forces’ Chief of Staff Service Personnel and Logistics Air Vice Marshall Titus Abu-Basutu, said this while opening the Sadc’s Inter State Defence Security Committee in Harare yesterday.
This is the second high level security meeting to be held in Zimbabwe following the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA) that was held at the Harare International Conference Centre a fortnight ago.
The Sadc defence chiefs meeting further endorses the capacity of the country’s defence forces despite calls for security sector reforms by the MDC-T.
“As defence institutions, we should therefore work together for the preservation of peace, security and stability of the region.
“We should have the capability and capacity to deal with the defence challenges in the region.
“Thus, as a security preventive measure, the intervention by AU in trouble spots, supported by regional blocs such as Sadc is of great importance,” he said.
AVM Abu-Basutu said the continuous development of human resources was of paramount importance to ensure adequate responses by both the region and AU.
He said Sadc had made great strides in having an efficient force through joint military exercises.
“The exercises are designed and aimed at preparing the Sadc region in the event that there is a need to carry out UN and AU mandated missions,” he said.
The meeting is also looking at addressing gender balance in the region’s defence forces to achieve the 30 percent target of female participation that has been adopted.
“The need for this ordinary meeting to conclude the human resources main standard operating procedures can never be over emphasised as the matter has remained outstanding for quite some time now,” AVM Abu-Basutu said.
“The establishment of an effective Reserve Force by Sadc countries is essential. The Reserve Forces serve as back-up forces when the need arises. This meeting therefore should come up with sound recommendations over this matter.”
Meanwhile, the outgoing chairman of the ISDSC Working Group on Human Resources, Brigadier General Karel Ndjoba from the Namibian Defence Forces commended Zimbabwe’s role in ensuring there was peace and security in the region.
“We really appreciate the role Zimbabwe has played in the region and the hospitality they have shown in hosting this conference.
“They have shown true brotherly spirit as our counterparts,” he said.
Current ZANU-PF Party Chairman, Simon Khaya Moyo, is the former Zimbabwe Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa. He was featured in an interview with the Zimbabwe Sunday Mail on October 31, 2010 on the current political situation inside the country., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Khaya Moyo blasts West over Saharawi
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 17:44
ZANU-PF national chairman Cde Simon Khaya Moyo has blasted the Western countries for their double standards by not condemning Morocco's occupation of Saharawi but quick to attack other countries. Cde Khaya Moyo made the remarks when Saharawi Republic ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Sale Mohammed Cheij paid a courtesy call on him at the Zanu-PF headquarters today. He said it was now up to African countries to take a stand against Morocco which annexed a part of Saharawi in 1975.
"We are disturbed that the international community has not taken action against Morocco despite several resolutions that have been passed by the United Nations over the issue," he said. "But they were swift to take action in countries where it was not necessary like in Libya and Iraq where they still have problems.
It is disturbing that Western countries would just go and eliminate a leader of a country for no cause yet Morocco invaded Saharawi. We are concerned by such double standards."
Ambassador Cheij said the Polisario Front was grateful for the support it was getting from Zanu-PF. He said it was regrettable that it was now almost forty years since Morocco invaded Saharawi.
"We want to thank the consistent position of your party and your leader President Mugabe. During the past 40 years we are fighting for liberation but up to now the situation is still complicated because of Morocco.
"It is shameful that after 20 years of United Nations peace keeping mission on the ground, no progress has been made to have the referendum for self determination. We want peaceful solution to the problems there.
We showed that our people are peaceful. We hate war but Morocco with support of some Western countries doesn't have political goodwill to end this," said Ambassador Cheij.
Egyptian President Morsi with military leaders. Tensions have escalated between the government and the army after the kidnapping of seven soldiers in the Sinai., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Sinai crisis heightens tension between Egypt president, army chief: Sources
Dina Ezzat, Tuesday 21 May 2013
Last week's kidnapping of seven soldiers in Sinai – and Egypt's response to ongoing crisis – has aggravated tensions between President Morsi and Defence Minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, say military/intelligence sources
It used to be said with a great deal of caution, but is now being vocally pronounced by military sources: the president is trying to remove the defence minister who he appointed less than one year ago with the aim of ending resistance on several fronts, especially the management of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula – in terms of both security and investment.
Military and intelligence sources are openly suggesting that the president had tried to remove Defence Minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi a few weeks ago, but refrained from doing so due to fears of the military's reaction.
"He was really on the verge of doing it, but he received signals that if he was to do so, he would be faced with pronounced rejection by the army," said one anonymous military source.
Last summer, following the killing of 16 border guards in Sinai, the newly elected president removed Mubarak-era defence minister Hussein Tantawi, who had been all but a partner in power. This week, with the mysterious kidnapping of seven soldiers, the same source says, the military has become alert to a potential move against El-Sisi.
In the analysis of military and intelligence sources, who are still getting used to being under the command of a civilian president from the Muslim Brotherhood, El-Sisi has been a stumbling block against the schemes that Morsi "and his group" have been wanting to pursue in Sinai and the Suez Canal zone "without any regard to national security interests that could be undermined by an intense foreign presence in this zone."
They note the growing popularity of El-Sisi and the growing number of citizens who have expressed a wish for El-Sisi to take over running the state. Some have openly called for an outright coup d’etat against Morsi – Egypt's first-ever freely-elected president– while others have offered symbolic legal authorisation for the army to take over from the president amid a foundering economy and questionable security conditions.
Morsi has been very sensitive to public perceptions of the army as a political player. Last November, he declined mediation by the army aimed at containing an intense political confrontation over a presidential decree that provisionally granted Morsi extra-judiciary prerogatives.
El-Sisi had been confusing on the issue; he would publicly insist that the army had no political role to play, but would privately express the army's readiness to spare the country from chaos should political co-existence between the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt's political opposition develop into a crisis that might upset national stability.
"Inevitably, Morsi thought he would do to El-Sisi what he did to Tantawi, but it cannot be done twice," according to the unnamed military source. He added that, while Tantawi was not very popular among the ranks of the army, El-Sisi "is well-liked and much more in touch with the base than Tantawi was."
The sentiment is shared in intelligence quarters, where last week's kidnapping is believed to have been "allowed, if not encouraged" to discredit El-Sisi. "It was too obvious, to the point that there was a sense of alert in all the sovereign quarters of the state; I think Morsi will have to give up on this matter, at least for now," the anonymous source added.
When the kidnapped soldiers are released – most likely after a limited military campaign within the next day or two – Morsi will still be president and El-Sisi will still be defence minister. Both, however, will be equally weakened.
In the eyes of the army, Morsi – commander-in-chief of the military – will be perceived as having been defeated in the political battle to remove the defence minister due to the support of the military top brass and rank and file. But this also means that El-Sisi will owe much to his aides.
Both Morsi and El-Sisi will be perceived by the public – which has expressed its preference for a tough military campaign to secure the kidnapped soldiers' release – as hesitant leaders who took too long to act to free the captive security personnel and only began to consider military intervention, surgical or otherwise, after negotiations failed.
In the eyes of Israel, according to one diplomat, both Morsi and El-Sisi are already perceived as a president and defence minister in a bras de fer that may reduce their capacity – or, rather, Egypt's capacity – to maintain security in Sinai.
Israeli, US reactions
According to several Egyptian diplomats, this argument is already being made by Israeli diplomats in several world capitals and in the corridors of the UN.
"The Israelis express satisfaction over Egypt's commitment to observe Israeli security interests and pursue traditional security and intelligence coordination, but add that the instability within the Egyptian state could lead to unexpected chaos," said one unnamed diplomat. "They are already suggesting that there might be a need to consider expanding the MFO."
The MFO, or Multinational Force of Observers, has been stationed in Sinai to monitor the commitment of both Egypt and Israel to the 1979 peace treaty between the two countries. Members of concerned international bodies say that some MFO members have been voicing concern over the post-revolution security situation in Sinai.
The situation in Sinai is a must-discuss item in talks between senior Egyptian officials and their US counterparts. In recent meetings, both Morsi and El-Sisi independently told visiting US officials that they were committed to keeping things calm on the borders with Israel.
According to Western diplomats, Washington is not questioning this commitment, but is rather worried about the impact of the ongoing tug-of-war between the president and defence minister over their management of Sinai – and Egypt in general.
"It is no secret that there is tension between Morsi and El-Sisi, and obviously this will have an impact," said one Cairo-based Western diplomat. "The only question is what kind of impact."
Egyptian tank moves to Rafah border where seven soldiers have been held by an armed group. The incident has escalated tensions between the government and the military., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Egyptian army ready to move to free kidnapped soldiers: Sources
Ahram Online, Tuesday 21 May 2013
Military sources say that troops in Sinai are taking up their positions for an operation to liberate 7 Egyptian soldiers kidnapped last week
The Egyptian armed forces have intensified deployment of troops in Sinai on Tuesday in the areas of Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid City, in preparation for an operation to free seven kidnapped soldiers, according to Ahram's Arabic website, which cited unnamed military sources.
The report said that armoured vehicles are aiming to encircle the kidnappers and minimise their chances of escaping with the hostages. Main roads were also blocked as mobile and static police checkpoints increased.
Seven Egyptian security personnel, including one member of the armed forces, four from port security, and two from state security, have been held by unidentified kidnappers in the Sinai Peninsula since Thursday.
It is the first time Egyptian security personnel have been abducted by Sinai-based militants, though kidnappings are rife in the region.
A military source was quoted in Ahram as saying that elements from the Second and Third Army, regional divisions of the Egyptian armed forces responsible for the Sinai Peninsula and the Suez Canal, would be involved in the operation.
However, he denied that the operation is underway as reported, without mentioning when it will begin.
"Doing a military job cannot be hasty or impulsive … it comes after coordination between military and political leaders, after all means of peaceful negotiations are exhausted," he said.
"The fact that troops are moving does not mean the operation has started."
The same anonymous source also said that the police have sent forces specialised in hostage liberation to Sinai to support the deployed troops.
On Sunday, President Morsi said that "all options" remained open to secure the release of the kidnapped security personnel, stressing that Egypt would "not be blackmailed" by the captors.
Egyptian police have been the target of several violent attacks by Sinai residents over the past two years.
Residents of Sinai have often complained of neglect and marginalisation by the authorities, especially after the revolution, and some have sought to take revenge against the security forces after years of heavy-handed security policies.
Salafist leader offers to negotiate with Sinai kidnappers
Ahram Online , Tuesday 21 May 2013
Leader of Salafist Call in Alexandria says negotiated settlement to kidnap crisis is still possible, raises concerns over military buildup in Sinai Peninsula
A delegation from Salafist Call – Egypt's most powerful Salafist group – is seeking to communicate with the kidnappers of seven security personnel in the Sinai Peninsula, the group's leader said on Tuesday.
Salafist Call (Al-Daawa Al-Salafiya)is willing to negotiate with the kidnappers via mediators from Bedouin tribes, Abdel-Moneim El-Shahat, who is based in Alexandria, told Turkish news agency Anadolu.
"I believe the kidnappers think they have reached a point of no-return, but we [Salafist Call] have sent them a message stating there is still an opportunity [for negotiations], as was mentioned by the presidency," El-Shahat explained.
The best solution would be for the kidnappers to release the captives, El-Shahat added.
El-Shahat also expressed concern about the military buildup in the peninsula. Egyptian troops have started combing towns and villages in the region which, according to El-Shahat, could provoke anger among the local Bedouin population.
Seven Egyptian security personnel, including a member of the armed forces, four from port security, and two from state security, have been held by unidentified kidnappers in the Sinai Peninsula since Thursday.
It is the first time Egyptian security personnel have been abducted by Sinai-based militants.
On Sunday, President Morsi said "all options" remained open to secure the release of the kidnapped security personnel, stressing that Egypt would "not be blackmailed" by the captors.
Egyptian police have been the target of several attacks by Sinai Bedouins over the past two years.
Residents of Sinai have often complained of neglect and marginalisation by the authorities, especially after the revolution, and some have sought to take revenge against the security forces after years of heavy-handed security policies.
Egyptian troops search Sinai villages for kidnapped soldiers: Eyewitness
Ahram Online , Tuesday 21 May 2013
Army, police and intelligence services search remote villages in Sinai Peninsula for seven security personnel kidnapped last week, eyewitness says
Troops have begun searching a number of desert villages in the Sinai Peninsula in their hunt for seven members of the security forces abducted last week, an eyewitness told Al-Ahram Arabic news website on Monday night.
“We don't expect them to be found in Al-Qouraey [one of the targetted villages, located 20km south of Arish] because it is in an exposed location,” the eyewitness, who claimed to be a member of the Sawarka tribe, added via an online message.
The eyewitness also said he had seen helicopters patrolling south and southwest of Rafah.
Seven Egyptian security personnel, including a member of the armed forces, four port security officers, and two state security officers, have been held by unidentified kidnappers in the Sinai Peninsula since Thursday.
It is the first time Egyptian security personnel have been abducted by Sinai-based militants.
According to the eyewitness, it is the first time since the January 25 Revolution that police and intelligence work has taken place in the remote desert areas of North Sinai.
“They (police and intelligence officers) are forming checkpoints with the army,” the eyewitness said.
On Sunday, President Morsi said "all options" remained open to secure the release of the kidnapped security personnel, stressing that Egypt would "not be blackmailed" by the captors.
Egyptian police have been the target of several attacks by Sinai Bedouins over the past two years.
People in Sinai have often complained of neglect and marginalisation by the authorities, especially after the revolution, and some have sought to take revenge against the security forces after years of heavy-handed security policies.
Campaign to free kidnapped Egypt soldiers to be launched 'any minute': Spokesman
Ahram Online, Tuesday 21 May 2013
Final stage of military campaign aimed at securing release of Egyptian soldiers kidnapped in Sinai will be launched 'any minute,' according to interior ministry spokesman
A military operation to free seven Egyptian security officers kidnapped last week in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula will be launched "any minute," Egyptian Interior Ministry spokesman Hani Abdul-Latif said at a Tuesday press conference, stressing that the abductees would not be harmed.
The seven security personnel – including a member of the armed forces, four port security officers and two state security officers – have been held by unidentified kidnappers in Sinai since their abduction last Thursday.
The kidnappings represent the first time for Egyptian security personnel to be abducted by Sinai-based militants, although kidnappings – usually of foreign tourists – have become rife in the restive border region.
According to Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website, Abdul-Latif said the authorities knew the kidnappers by name.
"All but the final stage of the operation has been undertaken," Abdul-Latif was quoted as saying. "All that is left is the final confrontation, which will involve very delicate calculations."
Al-Ahram had earlier quoted a military source as saying that elements of Egypt's second and third armies – regional divisions of the Egyptian Armed Forces responsible for the Sinai Peninsula and Suez Canal – would take part in the imminent operation.
The same source went on to dismiss recent reports that the operation was already underway, while declining to reveal exactly when it would begin.
"Military operations cannot be conducted hastily or impulsively," the source was quoted as saying. "They are only carried out following close coordination between military and political leaders, after all peaceful channels – including negotiations – have been exhausted."
The source added: "The fact that troops are currently on the move doesn't mean the operation is already underway."
The same unnamed source went on to say that Egyptian police had also sent forces to Sinai specialised in hostage recovery to support military forces.
On Sunday, President Mohamed Morsi declared that "all options" remained open to the government to secure the release of the kidnapped soldiers, stressing that Egypt would "not be blackmailed" by the kidnappers.
In the two years since Egypt's January 2011 uprising, Egyptian police have been the target of several violent attacks by Sinai residents.
Sinai locals often complain of neglect and marginalisation by the central government in Cairo, especially following the revolution. Some have sought revenge against police deployed in the region following years of heavy-handed security policies under the ousted Mubarak regime.
The Egyptian military has taken actions in the Sinai in response to the killing of nearly 20 troops. The incident illustrates the still volatile character of events in the North African state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Egypt presidency faces hard choices over kidnapped soldiers: Analysts
Nada Hussein Rashwan, Ahram Online, Sunday 19 May 2013
Four days after kidnapping of seven soldiers in Egypt's restless Sinai Peninsula, President Morsi appears to be mulling a number of unpalatable options, analysts say
As the state continues to mull ways of securing the release of seven Egyptian soldiers kidnapped in the Sinai Peninsula last Thursday, all possible options appear to bear serious consequences, say local analysts.
"The presidency seems to have toughened its stance since Thursday and has now announced its refusal to negotiate with the kidnappers," Gamal Abdel-Gawad, former head of the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, told Ahram Online.
"However," he added, "any step the presidency takes now would come at a cost."
On Sunday, President Mohamed Morsi announced that "all options" remained available to the state for securing the release of the kidnapped soldiers, stressing that Egypt would "not be blackmailed" by the kidnapped soldiers' captors.
He went on to deny the existence of "any differences" between Egyptian state apparatuses regarding how to deal with the crisis, noting the "complete coordination" currently underway between the ministries of interior and defence.
Early Thursday, seven Egyptian security officers were kidnapped, including one member of the armed forces, four port security officers and two state security officers.
Abdel-Gawad does not rule out the possibility of disagreements within decision-making circles over how to respond to the crisis.
"The fact that the presidency has not taken any concrete steps since Thursday might reflect a degree of confusion over differing approaches to the crisis on the part of the presidency and security officials," Abdel-Gawad said.
He added: "The president prefers not to launch a military operation against the kidnappers, which could cost him the sympathy of hard-line Islamist supporters."
Since the kidnapping on Thursday, Morsi has held emergency meetings with Defence Minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim and General Intelligence chief Raafat Shehata.
However, said Abdel-Gawad, the president "will likely face criticism for giving in to lawlessness and chaos in Sinai in the event that he fails to take firm action."
Morsi's Sunday meeting with political figures, he added, "might not only signal that he is looking for a second opinion, but also that he may be looking for someone with whom to share responsibility."
On Saturday, North Sinai Governor Abdel-Fatah Harhour told state news agency MENA that he had received a telephone call from the president in which the latter told him that the crisis had to be solved "peacefully, with restraint and avoidance of bloodshed."
Harhour also said he was "following up" with a group of influential Sinai-based personalities in an attempt to "persuade" the kidnappers to release the soldiers unilaterally.
Following Thursday's kidnapping, a security source revealed that the perpetrators had demanded the release of Sinai-based militants detained for almost two years.
The militants were convicted of killing five security officers and one civilian during a string of attacks in June/July 2011 on an Al-Arish city police station and a North Sinai branch of the Bank of Alexandria. A total of 25 individuals were charged in the case.
"If the president had agreed to offer amnesty to the convicted militants, this would have deepened the existing crisis of confidence with the police apparatus, since the convicts were sentenced for killing police officers," Abdel-Gawad said.
The restive Egypt-Gaza border region has witnessed an upswing in violence over the course of the past few months, with frequent clashes between security forces and militants.
Many Sinai residents seek revenge on security forces after years of heavy-handed security policies under Mubarak-era interior minister Habib El-Adly, who many accuse of failing to respect human rights and tribal traditions.
On Friday, Egyptian police closed the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip to protest the kidnapping of their colleagues. On Sunday, police did the same at the Ouga border crossing with Israel.
Last Thursday's kidnapping represents the first time for Egyptian security personnel to be abducted by Sinai-based militants.
Egyptians went to the polls again on December 14, 2011 in the continuing phased elections for a new parliament. The elections have scored tremendous victories for the Islamist parties., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Food insecurity in Egypt on the rise since 2009
Ahram Online, Tuesday 21 May 2013
Poverty and malnutrition increased in Egypt between 2009-2011, with spikes expected as inflation increases
The World Food Programme (WFP) in Egypt released a report on Tuesday showing that 17 percent of Egypt's population, an estimated 13.7 million people, suffered from food insecurity in 2011, compared to 14 percent in 2009.
According to the joint report by the World Food Programme, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and CAPMAS, an Egyptian state-run statistics body, a series of shocks from 2006 including the avian influenza epidemic and the food, fuel and financial crisis of 2007-09 triggered a crisis in food security.
The result has been an increase in poverty rates and of malnutrition.
Threats of increasing inflation rates in the short term might worsen the situation, according to the report.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected inflation will reach 10.9 percent by the end of the year and climb to 11.6 percent in 2014 as the Egyptian government implements subsidy cuts.
The report also finds that the average Egyptian household spends 40.6 percent of its expenditures on food, rising to more than half for the poorest.
As food prices increase, the poorest tend to buy less expensive, thus less nutritious foods, leading to malnutrition. The report noted that stunted growth in children under five years of age had reached 31 percent in 2011, up from 23 percent in 2005.
Rural Upper Egypt continues to have the highest poverty rate, at 51.5 per cent of the population, double the national average. Greater Cairo, however, has approximately 3.5 million poor and food-insecure people.
Grandson of Malcolm X, Malcolm Shabazz. He was killed in Mexico City, Mexico on May 9, 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
May 21, 2013, 11:18 p.m. ET
Malcolm X's grandson buried in NY
HARTSDALE, N.Y. — Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of slain civil rights activist Malcolm X, has been buried at a cemetery in suburban New York.
A spokeswoman for the family said Shabazz was laid to rest near his grandparents at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale on Tuesday.
Authorities say Shabazz was beaten to death earlier this month in a dispute over a $1,200 bar bill in Mexico City. Two waiters have been arrested in the case.
The 28-year-old Shabazz had a troubled life, from setting a blaze in his grandmother's apartment that resulted in the death of Malcolm X's widow, Betty Shabazz, to stints in juvenile hall and prison.
At the time of his death, he seemed to be seeking redemption with plans to write a memoir and denouncing youth violence.
—Copyright 2013 Associated Press
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe With His Family, a photo by panafnewswire on Flickr.
I won’t rule by decree: President
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 00:00
Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
PRESIDENT Mugabe has said that he does not want to rule by decree after the tenure of
Parliament expires on June 29 and the only way out is to have harmonised elections before the date to avoid a constitutional crisis.
Responding to a Supreme Court application by a Harare man, Mr Jealousy Mawarire, for an order compelling him to proclaim an election date by June 29, the President said the constitutional void to be created by the automatic expiry of the life of Parliament would be untenable.
The President responded to Mr Mawarire’s application through an affidavit deposed on his behalf by Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa.
The affidavit was filed at the Supreme Court on Monday for the case that is set to be decided on Friday.
Mr Mawarire cited President Mugabe together with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, the Attorney-General’s Office and MDC leader Professor Welshman Ncube as respondents.
The other respondents were yet to make their submissions.
“First respondent understands that he is under legal obligation in terms of the Constitution to issue a proclamation fixing a date for the harmonised elections, which date must fall before 29 June 2013,” said President Mugabe in the affidavit.
“First respondent is fully cognisant of the provisions of Section 63 (4) of the Constitution to the effect that Parliament shall stand dissolved on June 29 2013 by operation of law. This means that there will be no lawful legislative authority after that date, save the Office of President.
“First respondent is totally averse to running the country through Presidential decrees in the absence of a Parliament.
“The Constitutional void thereby created is untenable and will precipitate a Constitutional crisis and should be avoided.”
President Mugabe said he was committed to handling the matter of proclaiming the harmonised dates in terms of the Electoral Law and in accordance with the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
He said he would be guided by any order that the court might deem necessary or fit to make in the case.
President Mugabe said he had not in any way, shape or form displayed or done anything that has exhibited any inaction whatsoever with respect to the provisions of the Constitution on the subject.
PM Tsvangirai lost a bid to stop the Supreme Court from hearing the court application on an urgent basis last Friday.
This was after President Mugabe and Prof Ncube concurred with Mr Mawarire that the matter should be heard urgently.
Prof Mutambara did not attend the hearing and neither did he make any submissions on the determination of the urgency of the case.
President Mugabe will on Friday be represented by Mr Terrence Hussein of Hussein Ranchod and Company after the Attorney-General’s Office renounced urgency on representing him.
Mr Jealousy Mawarire, a member of the Centre for Election Democracy in Southern Africa, also wants the Supreme Court to declare that Parliament expires on June 29.
Mr Joseph Mandizha of Mandizha and Company are acting for Mr Mawarire.
He says that he is a registered voter in Zaka East constituency and that as a Zimbabwean citizen, he has a legal right to mount the application.
Abyei police , a photo by ENOUGH Project on Flickr.
MONDAY 20 MAY 2013
The Invasion of Abyei: two years of more agony
By Luka Biong Deng
May 19, 2013 - On 21st May 2013, the people of Abyei have spent two years of more agony and they will remember again the sad memories of how their lives and livelihoods were shattered by Bashir when he invaded Abyei in May 2011. But such memories will be bitterer this year as their Paramount Chief Kuol Deng has been assassinated not by any other person but by Bashir. Bashir seems to be specialized in selecting May as the month in which he causes suffering to the Ngok Dinka. He devastated Abyei in May 2008 and May 2011 and now assassinated its paramount chief in May 2013. This assassination happened by the time the people of Abyei are returning back to their home areas and to start afresh with a long journey of recovering from the devastation of Abyei area and trauma caused on them by Bashir. This insatiable appetite of Bashir for causing agony on Ngok Dinka has reached its climax when he killed their paramount chief on 4th May 2013.
Based on the trauma survey conducted by Kush Inc. among the displaced Ngok Dinka, about 82% of people with children had a child or children who became ill or injured as a result of the attack of Abyei by Bashir in May 2011. More than half (51%) of the displaced population became ill or injured as a result of the attack but higher among women with 58.3% of them became ill or injured. Almost 38% of the displaced population met the criteria for the Post-Trauma Stress Disorder illness but higher among women with more than half (51%) affected by the illness. This illness diminishes a person’s ability to function independently, regulate behavior, reason and solve problems such as reconciliation with former enemies. These statistics are astonishing and extremely high compared with other post-conflict contexts but they clearly reflect the amount of suffering caused by Bashir on the people of Abyei.
With the assassination of their chief, the people of Abyei are becoming even more traumatized. If one could imagine the feeling of an old woman who returned to Abyei after a long displacement in the North since mid 1980s and she got displaced in May 2008 when she was about to settle down; returned back to settle down but displaced again in May 2011 and returned back in 2013 to hear that her paramount chief has been assassinated. With the news about the death their chief, at least one adult person in every household of Ngok Dinka shed tears and even more during his burial ceremony. When Edward Lino, the prominent leader of Ngok Dinka, shed tears on the day of the burial, many Ngok Dinka and others were moved and sobbed as well. If one could imagine the amount of tears shed all over the world for the untimely death of Chief Kuol, then you can assess the level of agony and suffering inflicted again by Bashir on the people of Abyei. I shed tears that day in the same way I wept when Dr John died because I saw in their untimely death a real loss of the much-needed wisdom and leadership during critical times of peace-building in Abyei and South.
Chief Kuol Deng inherited the Ngok Dinka Chieftainship from his brother Chief Moyak Deng who was also assassinated in 1970 by Sudan Government in Abyei town with others including his two brothers (Bulabek and Chan) and his uncle (Arop Mahdi). Chief Moyak was accused of supporting Abyei Anya Nya insurgent initiated in 1964 and headed by his brother Arop Deng as a reaction to the atrocities committed by the Government of Sudan in Abyei. These atrocities included the massive devastation and displacement of the Ngok Dinka from their villages along Ngol River and the burning to death of more than 200 Southern Sudanese including the mother of Minister Deng Alor in the presence of government officials and the paramount chief of Misseriyia in their major towns of Muglad and Babanusa.
After his assumption of chieftainship in 1976, Chief Kuol provided a solid and people-servant leadership during the relative peace after Addis Ababa Peace Accords in 1972 but also during the most difficult times of prolonged second civil war that ended in 2005. He managed to keep the voices of people Abyei alive during the difficult times such as the 1977 massacre when more than 100 Ngok Dinka including the late Mijak Abiem who were travelling to Abyei town from Muglad and wiping out any presence of Ngok Dinka in Abyei area in the mid 1980s. He survived assassination attempt in Abyei town in 1981 when Sudan Government attacked him with some members of his family who gathered for a dinner and that resulted in the killing of his cousin Alor Arop. He was arrested in December 1982 by Sudan Government with other leaders of Ngok Dinka as they were accused of organizing Anya Nya II insurgency in Abyei and Bahr el Ghazal region under the leadership of his brother Miokol Deng.
Ten days before his assassination, two Misseriyia delegations from traditional authorities and senior officers of the notorious Popular Defence Force went to Khartoum and met with national government (National Security, Presidency, Defense, Misseriyia clique around Bashir) to discuss their settlement plan in Abyei and ways of discouraging the return of Ngok Dinka to their home areas. In these meetings the role of Chief Kuol was discussed as the symbol of the return of Ngok Dinka to their home areas and hard supporter of the conduct of Abyei Referendum to ensure Abyei joining the South. His presence in Abyei area was seen by Sudan Government as an obstacle to its settlement plan in Abyei. In fact his assassination was part of a mega plan developed by the Sudan Government to settle Arab nomads in Abyei area while destabilizing the return of Ngok Dinka to their home areas.
As Sudan Government is trying to twist facts around the incident, it is important to put some of these facts straight. Chief Kuol and other members of Ngok Dinka were moving with UN on 4th May as part of their normal visit to inspect the areas of Abyei, particularly the northern areas. On their way back to Abyei town, the armed militias supported by Sudan Government stopped the UN vehicles and asked instead the UN to hand them the Ngok Dinka passengers in the UN vehicles, particularly the Paramount Chief with clear intention of assassinating them. The UN force commander refused their demand and negotiated with them for almost six hours to allow them to proceed to Abyei town. During the six hours negotiation, the armed militias used all possible means to provoke and humiliate UN forces and Ngok Dinka passengers. When the UN force commander accepted their demand to return back with UN vehicles to the oilfield area of Kec (Differa), one of the armed militia singled out Paramount Chief and shot him in the UN vehicle and died instantly.
The reaction to the death of paramount chief was overwhelming. In Abyei, the Ngok Dinka showed special respect to their leader by the huge presence of almost every Ngok Dinka adult during the burial. I have never seen Ngok Dinka so united as they put behind their minor differences. The people of the South in all ten states remarkably showed their solidarity with the people of Abyei and mourned the death of Chief Kuol almost in the same way they mourned the death of their founding leader; Dr John Garang. In fact President Salva expressed it all the overwhelming feeling of the people of the South in his powerful and emotional statement on the death of Chief Kuol. This reaction of the South to the death of Chief Kuol was a real public plebiscite of how the people of the South see Abyei as an integral part of the South.
While Government of Sudan, unsurprisingly, embarked on blaming the deceased for provoking the armed nomads to overact, the Sudanese people, civil society organizations and other political parties abhorred the assassination of paramount chief and some even held the Sudan Government responsible. The reaction of African Union, UN, European Union, leaders of the neighbouring countries and some other leaders was spontaneous and with one key message not to delay again the resolution of the final status of Abyei.
There is no doubt that Chief Kuol Deng has been exceptionally honoured by his people in Abyei, people of the South, people of Sudan and indeed the international community. If Chief Kuol were to rise to see how he was mourned, he would know how much legacy he left behind. As Chief Kuol was a source of hope, resilience and endurance for the people of Abyei area, his death should make the people of Abyei more determined to protect their ancestral land and to ensure Abyei remaining as part and parcel of the South and to nurture the values and principles for which he fought for during his life. The real redemption for the death of Chief Kuol is to mobilize all available efforts to ensure Abyei is peaceful and prosperous within the Republic of South Sudan by May 2014. In fact the assassination of Chief Kuol Deng was by itself a referendum for the final status of Abyei.
The author is a fellow at Harvard Kennedy School. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . This article is published also by the New Nation Newspaper.
UGANDA ADAPT 2010, a photo by US Army Africa on Flickr.
Ugandan soldiers complete tour of duty in Somalia
May 21, 2013
Soldiers in Uganda's Battle Group 9+ contingent are returning home after completing a 13-month tour of duty under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Sunday (May 19th), AMISOM announced in a press release.
The soldiers were presented with peacekeeping medals at a ceremony at Mogadishu's Aden Adde International Airport, attended by senior AMISOM officials and Ugandan contingent commander Brigadier General Michael Ondoga.
Since April 2012, Ugandan troops have helped expand territorial gains from Mogadishu, increasing the area of Somali government control to 120 kilometres, spanning from Maslah to Jowhar and Huriwa to Port Elman.
The expanded area of security has set the stage for infrastructure improvements, economic development, and the return of internally displaced persons to their homes. Free medical treatment has been extended, and road repairs, improvements to clean drinking water provision and returns to large scale farming have begun, AMISOM said.
Battle Group 9+ has been replaced by Battle Group 11+, under the command of Colonel Hassan Kimbowa.
Ghana President John Mahama at Aburi Festival 2012, a photo by paulinuk99999 (back in Ghana) on Flickr.
Ghana to Support Peace Efforts in Somalia
BY MAALIK_ENG, 20 MAY 2013
President John Dramani Mahama has affirmed Ghana's commitment to support efforts at restoring peace and security in Somalia.
He said he would make the issue of peace in Somalia an important agenda at the next African Union (AU) Summit in Ethiopia later this month.
President Mahama gave the assurance yesterday when the Vice-President of Kenya, Mr William Samoei Ruto, delivered a special message to him at the Golden Jubilee Lounge of the Kotoka International Airport (KIA).
Somalia, officially the Federal Republic of Somalia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Ethiopia to the west, Djibouti to the northwest, the Gulf of Aden to the north and Kenya to the east.
The country has been beleaguered by civil war since 1991. It started when a coalition of clan-based armed opposition groups toppled the nation's long-standing military government.
Various factions began competing for influence in the power vacuum that followed, which precipitated an aborted UN peacekeeping attempt in the mid-1990s.
Ghana's former President, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, has been appointed AU High Representative for Somalia.
Touching on trade in Africa, President Mahama said he would be working with other African leaders to promote trade among the countries on the continent.
He said it was through such collaboration among African leaders that the continent could become competitive on the global market.
The President commended Kenya for the successful conduct of its presidential election and welcomed that country's decision to establish a mission in Ghana.
For his part, Mr Ruto said President Mahama was one of the emerging voices in Africa because of his views on important issues.
He said the Kenyan Government thought it prudent to approach him to seek his support for the AU Summit to treat the Somalia issue as an important agenda.
He said Kenya wanted a collective approach to shape an African response to the Somalia situation.
Mr Ruto said the decision by the Kenyan Government to establish a mission in Ghana was part of efforts to strengthen ties with Ghana.
Somali Masses Demand Ethiopian Troop Withdrawal, a photo by panafnewswire on Flickr.
Diplomatic Fallout: The Next Phase of U.N. Engagement in Somalia
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 14:31
By Megan Gleason-Roberts & Alischa
Somalilandsun - June will be the start of a new phase of United Nations engagement in Somalia, when the new U.N. Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) will replace the long-standing U.N. Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS), in place since 1995.
In late-April, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon tapped Nicholas Kay, a former British ambassador and Africa director at the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as the secretary-general's new special representative in Somalia.
When Kay takes up his duties as the head of UNSOM on June 3, he will be presented with both risks and opportunities at a crucial time of renewed hope and momentum for Somalia.
Somalia, with the help of the international community, has achieved important political and security milestones over the past year.
Bolstered by additional resources, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), alongside Somali security forces, regional countries and allied groups, has made crucial security advances against the Islamist group al-Shabab. These gains have been matched with political achievements including the adoption of a provisional constitution and the election of a new federal parliament and president, thereby concluding the fraught eight-year transitional period. Concerted engagement to tackle piracy in the Horn of Africa has contributed to a decline in piracy attacks off the Somali coast.
Major risks still exist, both for international actors, as evidenced by the recent deadly attack on a convoy of Qatari officials, and the new government. Only two days after his election in September 2012, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud escaped an assassination attempt. More recently, militants targeted judicial officials, including in an April 15 attack on the Mogadishu courthouse that killed more than 35 people and the assassination of the deputy state attorney later the same month.
The African Union (AU) has also paid a heavy price for the advances over the past year, with the total AMISOM death toll recently reaching 3,000 troops. These attacks show that while security in Mogadishu overall has improved, al-Shabab still poses a significant risk, through asymmetrical attacks in the capital and its continued presence in the country's south.
With UNSOM, which will be headquartered in Mogadishu and deployed across Somalia, the U.N. drastically increases its visibility in Somalia. (UNPOS operated out of Nairobi for 17 years before relocating a limited number of staff to Mogadishu in January 2012.) While this will undoubtedly increase the mission's ability to perform its good office functions, it also puts mission staff at considerable risk. The volatile operating environment could restrict staffers' mobility, which in turn can negatively impact the mission's role as a key interlocutor at a time when expectations from Somali society, the government and the international community on UNSOM are high.
The U.N. will rely on AMISOM troops, including a 300-strong force for the protection of U.N. and international community staffers, to create secure conditions for the government's peace and reconciliation process and stabilization efforts across Somalia. Furthermore, UNSOM is mandated to "work in a coordinated manner with AMISOM." This closer alignment of the two actors may prove challenging, as in the past there have been considerable differences between the U.N. and AMISOM over the political implications of military actions.
There have also been sensitivities regarding the role of the AU and U.N. civilian components in assisting the government to extend state authority beyond Mogadishu. The AU has requested and received Security Council authorization for an enhanced civilian component for AMISOM to support the government's stabilization and reconciliation efforts. Some U.N. officials, however, are skeptical of the AU's eagerness to develop its multidimensional civilian capacities, particularly in areas where the U.N. sees itself as having established expertise and a comparative advantage. The trust deficit reflects larger issues about strategic vision and partnership between the organizations. It remains to be seen how the dynamic plays out in Somalia, where UNSOM is mandated to provide strategic policy advice to the government and AMISOM on peacebuilding and statebuilding tasks, including on security sector reform. The U.N.'s larger and more visible role in Somalia also runs the risk of antagonizing other regional actors, including the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, which may see their involvement restricted, thereby contributing to turf wars between the organizations.
UNSOM's human rights monitoring mandate may further add to the tension in the relationship between the AU and the U.N. on the ground. Although the AU has taken measures to minimize civilian harm during its operations, including developing an indirect fire policy aimed at better controlling the use of mortars and artillery, civilians are often caught in the crossfire, and human rights groups have criticized AMISOM over civilian casualties. Currently, AMISOM is probing the death of several civilians, including children that were allegedly shot by its troops in January in a village west of Mogadishu.
In addition, despite a slight improvement in early 2013, the humanitarian situation in Somalia remains dire. As of January, 3.8 million Somalis required humanitarian assistance (.pdf). An estimated 1.1 million are internally displaced and a million more are living as refugees in neighboring countries.
As an integrated mission, UNSOM will combine the roles of the U.N. humanitarian and resident coordinator under one roof and will coordinate the activities of the U.N. Country Team, a move that humanitarian groups have resisted for years. The current head of UNPOS, Augustine Mahiga, has done much to improve the relationship between the humanitarian community and U.N. staffers in Somalia that was strained under his predecessor, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah. Nonetheless, integration remains a contentious issue. Humanitarian actors raised concerns that merging humanitarian operations with the U.N.'s political work would jeopardize the principle of impartiality. UNSOM will have to show that it can preserve the humanitarian space, while helping to advance state authority and services across Somalia.
Donor countries pledged more than $350 million at an international donor conference in London on May 7 to bolster the Somali government, particularly its security, justice and financial institutions. Ahead of the meeting, the U.N. announced plans to shift its focus from humanitarian aid toward development work. Both actions signal faith in the government's ability to consolidate gains and govern effectively. They also illustrate the careful line the U.N. mission will walk in Somalia, tasked with coordinating the growing and increasingly active donor community, while also creating space for the new government to drive policy, including through its work on the New Deal for International Engagement in Fragile States.
Kay will take office in two weeks. His experience in the region, having served as U.K. ambassador in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, as well as his experience in fast-moving and insecure environments, including in Afghanistan, will serve him well in his new position. He also has considerable international backing: The Security Council is united in its support of the new mission, and Somalia is a key focus for the G-8 this year under the U.K.'s presidency. But as the U.N. enters a new phase of engagement in Somalia, Kay will have a limited window to take on these new challenges and capitalize on the security and political achievements over the past year to support Somalia in achieving durable peace.
Megan Gleason-Roberts and Alischa Kugel are senior program officers in the Global Peace Operations program at New York University's Center on International Cooperation. They are the volume editors and lead scholars for the forthcoming "Annual Review of Global Peace Operations 2013."
Somali Port at Kismayo Falls to Forces Against US Intervention, a photo by panafnewswire on Flickr.
Fight for Somalia turns town to dust
Once a bustling haven, Elasha Biyaha has almost become a ghost town as residents flee.
Hamza Mohamed Last Modified: 21 May 2013 08:46
The town's main shopping mall has only eight shops open after more than 50 closed
Elasha Biyaha, Somalia - In a town not far from Mogadishu, vehicles slow to a crawl to negotiate the potholes that dot the town's only tarmac road; ownerless donkeys wander about, scavenging for food; once-elegant villas with shining rooftops are now abandoned, with overgrown vegetation taking over their compounds.
This is Elasha Biyaha - a town 16 kilometres southwest of the capital that was once home to more than half a million residents at the height of Somalia's civil war. People escaping the battles raging on the streets of Mogadishu fled here during the past fifteen years; schools, universities, hospitals and shopping malls soon followed.
Last May, the tides turned on the town, as al-Shabaab, an armed group fighting to turn Somalia into an Islamic state, withdrew from the area under pressure from the Somali National Army and African Union forces (AMISOM).
The aftermath has seen an ongoing fight for control of the town. Most people have fled, leaving a mere several thousand residents, and a formerly bustling town lies nearly vacant.
"The media told the town residents there will be a bloodbath, that al-Shabaab will fight the government soldiers and AMISOM in the town," said Abdullahi Jama Siyat, the local district commissioner.
"Everyone fled. When we took over the town was empty. Only dogs, donkeys and cats were left."
The safety of residents is precarious, with only four police officers employed - and no police station.
"Security is at best 50 percent of what it was before. 90 percent of the people haven't come back because of safety fears," said Nurdin Mohamed Jibril, a resident who has remained with his two children.
Faltering livelihoods and services
As a result, residents say their livelihoods and the town's basic services have collapsed.
The town's eight universities, which boasted students from across the entire region, have all shut down as students stopped attending. The town's primary schools have suffered a similar fate. Twelve months ago there were seventeen primary schools, but now only one has students attending classes.
"Because of the safety situation all the parents left the town with their children," said Omar Maalin Abdi, the principle of Iftin - the only open primary school. He explained that the school's 650 students had dwindled to a mere 39.
Jobs have likewise been lost, and the local electricity plant said it has laid off 70 percent of its staff.
"We used to supply electricity to 2,300 families, but supply only 250 families now so we had to lay off 21 employees," said Abdullahi Sheekow of Somali Ilys Energy Company.
"We will have to lay off some of the remaining nine staff if the situation doesn't improve."
And at Marwa Shopping Centre, the town's main shopping mall, only eight shops still remain opened with more than fifty closed. Rent prices for shops have likewise nosedived, but some see this as a new opportunity for those who couldn't previously afford it.
"Before, the monthly rent for the cheapest shop was $600, but now the most expensive rent for a shop is $100 a month," said shop owner Bashir Nur Mohamed.
Many of those businesses have moved to Mogadishu, with a number of them planning not to return to Elasha Biyaha.
"I moved to Mogadishu after 85 percent of my customers moved here," said Adullahi Mustaf Shiino from behind the counter of his new shop in the capital's Hodan District. "I go where my customers go, and now almost all of them are here."
The local district commissioner blames the media for scaring away the locals. "Yes, the town is not what it was, but [the media] needs to tell them al-Shabaab aren't here anymore," said Siyat.
"They should return to their homes and not live in IDP (internally displaced person) camps in Mogadishu."
But for Safiya Mohamed Hassan, a mother of six who now lives in one of the capital's IDP camps, moving back to Elasha Biyaha is not an option.
"I will only move back if things get back to how they were before or better," she said. "First the shops closed, then the schools, then, no water or electricity. Then they started fighting and we couldn't move freely. I will not go back until things get better."
Back in the town, residents hope their homes can be revived.
As the imam at the town's main mosque finishes Friday prayers, he leads the small congregation in praying for peace and the return of the town's residents.
Haji Ali Ahmed, an elder in the congregration, speaks on their behalf.
"This town needs its residents. A town without people is not a town. We ask our brothers and sisters to return to their homes and shops."
Follow Hamza Mohamed on Twitter: @Hamza_Africa
African American Woman, a photo by Black History Album on Flickr.
African Americans support immigration reform and an inclusive vision of America (opinion from Bernard Simelton)
Special to AL.com By Special to AL.com
on May 21, 2013 at 10:04
By Benard Simelton
Most African Americans understand why today’s immigrants immigrated to the United States: They moved here for decent jobs, housing, schools and better economic opportunities for them and their children.
Despite being the descendants of slaves who were brought to America against their will, African Americans understand immigrants’ struggle for equal treatment under the law because we too have struggled to attain equal rights that white Americans could generally take for granted. We have spent much of our history fighting for equality and justice, for the right to vote, and the right to live, eat, go to school and shop where we want.
We get the struggle of immigrants for a better life and racial equality. That’s why two-thirds of African Americans support comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, a recent poll showed.
The undocumented, like African Americans, have made great sacrifices to attain their dream. African Americans left the South—during the last century, to pursue greater economic opportunities in the North.
Similarly, millions of immigrants left families, friends and a culture behind when they moved to the U.S.
However immigrants find, today, in places like Alabama that they are being increasingly targeted, stopped, detained and deported because Congress has not passed comprehensive immigration legislation.
With the federal government deporting 400,000 people each year, immigrant families find their American Dream turning to a nightmare as mothers and fathers are separated from their children.
These problems have been magnified by states that have passed anti-immigrant laws like Alabama’s HB 56, which allows police to stop an individual based on how they look. African Americans know that law is nothing more than an excuse for law enforcement agencies to conduct racial profiling.
Many of the supporters of laws like HB56, including Sen. Jeff Sessions, have a long history of opposing laws that would lead to a more inclusive and equitable society for people of color.
Session’s nomination to the federal bench in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan provides valuable insights into Sessions views of race.
In fact, the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected his nomination after learning of Session’s civil rights record and his past racially offensive remarks. During senate confirmation hearings, it was revealed that Sessions called the NAACP “un-American,” a statement he defended during the hearings.
Sessions also admitted calling the Voting Rights Act “a piece of intrusive legislation.”
In 1984, Sessions prosecuted three civil rights workers for voter fraud. The three workers were quickly acquitted but the case raised significant questions during those confirmation hearings about whether Sessions’ real motivation for the prosecutions was intimidating those who engaged in voter turnout efforts in black communities.
Sessions, according to testimony at that hearing, called a black assistant U.S. attorney “boy” and made jokes about the Ku Klux Klan.
It is pertinent to ask—given his civil rights record--whether the growth of the United States’ 50.5 million Latinos is a problem for Sessions.
Sessions proposed an amendment this month during the mark up phase of Senate consideration of the Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform bill that would limit future legal immigration to the U.S. Sessions is also on record backing the policy of self-deportation, which is designed to create laws and policies so hostile for undocumented people that they would voluntarily leave the country to avoid poor treatment.
His support for anti-immigrant organizations, such as the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), Numbers USA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which includes quoting their work, appearing at their events and receiving awards from these organizations is well known. John Tanton who founded FAIR has warned of the “Latino onslaught” moving to the U.S. and has said that maintaining a European-American majority is necessary for the maintenance of European-American society and culture.
Fortunately, African Americans and I suspect the majority of Americans see immigrants as people coming here to simply better their lives. We do not fear immigrants or Latinos and reject the voices of exclusion that see each racial group with competing interests and at odds instead of each group working together for a better, fairer America.
Senator Sessions, it is not too late. I ask you to revisit your perspective and ask how you can best represent Alabamians of all races, creeds colors and nationalities.
Benard Simelton is president of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP.
The irony of Katrina victim wrapped in the American flag represents the failure of US Imperialism to solve the elementary needs of the people., a photo by Pan-African News Wire Photo File on Flickr.
May 20, 2013
Aiming Autism Ads at Hispanic and African-American Parents
By JANE L. LEVERE
AUTISM Speaks, the autism and science advocacy organization, this week is introducing a new public service advertising campaign aimed at Hispanic and African-American parents.
The campaign, developed with the Advertising Council, which has worked with Autism Speaks since 2005, was created by the New York office of BBDO and LatinWorks of Austin, Tex., both part of the Omnicom Group. The campaign describes early signs of autism in detail and encourages parents to take immediate action if their child does not meet standard developmental milestones.
The new campaign is geared specifically at Hispanic and African-American parents because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the current age of diagnosis among these groups, as well as among low-income families, is higher than that of the general public. According to the C.D.C., although the average age now of diagnosis in the United States is 4 to 5 years, a reliable diagnosis can be made as early as 18 to 24 months. And if the disorder is treated from the ages of 3 to 5, from 20 percent to 50 percent of children with autism will be able to attend mainstream kindergarten, according to studies by The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology and The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disorder in the United States. According to a study released last year by the C.D.C., in 2008, one in 88 children was diagnosed with autism by a doctor or other medical professional, a 78 percent increase over 2002. For boys, the ratio was one in 54.
Dr. Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer of Autism Speaks, said the increase in autism diagnoses was partly because of a broadening of the definition of the disorder. She also said environmental risk factors probably affected the increase.
Autism Speaks, founded in 2005 by Bob Wright, former chairman of NBCUniversal, and his wife, Suzanne, whose grandson has autism, took a different tack than before with the new Ad Council campaign. Messages of previous campaigns, also created by BBDO, focused on the numerical odds of children being found to have autism, some with celebrities whose children have autism.
Peggy Conlon, president and chief executive of the Ad Council, said previous advertising had effectively increased awareness among the general public about the early signs of autism and encouraged parents to speak to their doctors about their children. The new campaign features “realistic situations parents will identify with. I believe they will help more minority parents speak to their doctors if they see the signs and get their children the intervention they need,” she said. So far, autism ads have run in donated time and space worth more than $350 million.
Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks, also said there were “cultural barriers to diagnosis and cultural barriers to access to care among minority communities. We wanted to break down these barriers.”
New print and outdoor advertising features photos that zoom in on the eyes and mouth of infants. One ad says, “You think something may be wrong. The answer is not staring you in the face. Avoiding eye contact is one early sign of autism. Learn the others today at autismspeaks.org/signs. Early diagnosis can make a lifetime of difference.”
Another ad, featuring the closed eye and eyelashes of an infant, asks, “How can a 12-month-old keep you up at night without ever making a sound? No babbling is one early sign of autism,” while a third ad, showing an infant’s mouth, says, “It’s been nearly six months without any big smiles. For either of you. No big, joyful smiles is one early sign of autism.”
TV ads, made in 15- and 30-second versions, show parents and infants. In all cases, the parents offer a variety of excuses for the child’s behavior, like “maybe he’s not a smiler” or “maybe he needs more stimulation.” All spots end with the voice-over saying, “Maybe is all you need to find out more about autism.”
Besides advertising, Autism Speaks will also work with clergy, local community groups, volunteer clinicians and federal and state partners to spread the message to African-American and Hispanic parents. The group also will use text-messaging to encourage parents to learn the signs of autism.
All advertising and texting initiatives have been created in both English and Spanish. LatinWorks advised BBDO on the campaign.
Kirsten Flanik, managing director of BBDO New York, said the new advertising was intended to “reflect the emotions the parents are feeling in an honest way, while still being able to educate them on the signs.”
The advertising also “takes the shame or guilt out of the equation. Parents’ excuses are transformed into an achievable, empowering message of hope,” said Sergio Alcocer, president and chief creative officer of LatinWorks.
Thomas H. Hayden, a lecturer on integrated marketing communications at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, said the campaign’s message was “quite clear and very focused,” since it “presents very specific things that parents of infants and toddlers may be concerned with.”
Autism Speaks’ integration of “the media campaign with community-based resources, combined with increasing access to screening, is state-of-the-art,” said Kasisomayajula Viswanath, an associate professor of health communication at the Harvard School of Public Health. He also predicted it would most likely “be effective in not just promoting awareness, but also facilitating action.”
Dr. Patricia Manning-Courtney, director of the Kelly O’Leary Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, said the advertising was the first she had seen “with information presented in such a direct manner. It hits home a lot harder for parents who may have these questions in their mind.” Autism Speaks helps finance the center’s research.
She expressed concern, however, about the medical system’s ability to handle additional queries about autism by parents, since she said it was already “over-demanded and undersupplied.”
Sudan President Omar al-Bashir meeting revolutionary leader Khaddafi of Libya, a photo by Pan-African News Wire Photo File on Flickr.
Libya: Security Crisis Intensifies
BY ESSAM MOHAMED, 20 MAY 2013
Tripoli — Libyan security services defused several car bombs and other explosives in the past two days, Prime Minister Ali Zidan said on Sunday (May 19th).
The prime minister's press conference came in the wake of a string of bombings in both Benghazi and Tripoli. The attacks accelerated after the May 5th passage of the controversial political isolation law, which bars former Kadhafi government members from serving in government.
Several new blasts hit Benghazi at the week-end, including one on Saturday that targeted the already-desecrated Orthodox Church. The new attack damaged the church entrance and nearby cars but left no casualties.
Another bomb exploded at 2 am Saturday near a patrol on Dubai Street, slightly wounding a soldier. Another homemade bomb went off in a garden next the diabetes hospital in Sidi Hussain, but there were no casualties. A separate blast targeted a patrol but no injuries were reported, a security source in Benghazi said.
Tripoli also saw violence, with two small bombings occurring on Saturday. The first device was planted under a car parked in the street where the embassies of Greece, Saudi Arabia and Algeria are situated. The second bomb was set off in a car park on al-Nasr Street.
Essam al-Naas, media spokesperson for the joint force in Tripoli, said that two men were arrested, including one who allegedly hurled the bomb near the embassies. The other suspect allegedly threw the bomb at al-Nasr Street near the security forces' information centre.
The latest attacks come just a month after a large bomb blast struck the French embassy, wounding several.
The continuing instability led the UK to announce May 10th that it was reducing diplomatic staff in Tripoli. The United States soon followed suit, ordering the departure of non-emergency personnel from Libya.
Meanwhile, Italy said last week that the US was moving 200 Marines to Sicily so they could deploy in Libya in case diplomats came under attack, AFP reported.
The issue of public safety in Libya led Benghazi tribal elders to meet Saturday evening with officials from the defence and interior ministries, including Defence Minister Mohamed Mahmoud al-Barghati.
"We have given confidence to the General National Congress (GNC), which is the legitimate entity here and which has chosen the government," Sheikh Solayman said.
"What have you done so far about building the army, although you have money and budget?" he asked. He added, "If we continue like this, we will lose our country and become refugees."
A dignitary from al-Hadaek, where the police station was attacked several days ago, called for forming popular security committees to guard the entrances to the area.
"People are worried for their own safety and livelihoods, and therefore, they have weapons," commented Ahmed Salem, a government employee. "When things settle down, they will turn them in."
Abdul Karim Khalifa, a trader in Benghazi, said that he hoped the security campaign would "continue and not stop after a certain period of time so those abusers may not return".
Meanwhile, scores of civil society organisations demonstrated Friday in the eastern part of country to demand that the army and police play an effective role in securing the people and enforcing state authority and legitimacy.
They carried banners in support of army and police and in rejection of armed militias.
"Benghazi is not Kandahar!" one banner read.
On Sunday, meanwhile, Prime Minister Ali Zidan discussed an impending government reshuffle involving a number of ministries. He noted that three ministers have already tended their resignations.
"We're still talking to the ministers concerned, and after that, we'll know the cabinet reshuffle," AFP quoted Zidan as saying.
Lebanon Infrastructure Devastated by US-Backed Israeli War, a photo by panafnewswire on Flickr.
Israel may step up strikes inside Syria, military warns
Michele Chabin , Special for USA TODAY1:08 p.m. EDT May 21, 2013
Threat follows three days of Syria attacks along the border.
Israel warns that it will not tolerate attacks
Syria vows to hit Israel to avenge strikes against Hezbollah
Analysts warn of widening conflict
JERUSALEM – Syria's stepped-up targeting of Israeli forces along the border between the two countries will force Israel to take a stronger hand in the conflict if it does not cease, Israel's military warned Tuesday.
Israeli Defense Forces Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz issued his warning to Syria after an Israeli jeep was fired at during a patrol in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, a border plateau where both countries have had permanent forces since a 1967 war.
"We will not allow the Golan Heights to become a comfortable space for Assad to operate from," Gantz said. "If he deteriorates (the situation on) the Golan Heights, he will have to bear the consequences."
The Tuesday clash is the third time this week Syrian troops fired into northern Israel. Israel on Tuesday fired Tammuz missiles at a Syrian military position following three consecutive nights of Syrian gunfire toward the same Israeli military position. The IDF denied Syrian claims that the jeep wandered into Syrian territory.
Tuesday's attack was the first time the Syrian military has acknowledged targeting Israeli forces patrolling the border, which has seen almost no fighting since the 1974 Israel-Syrian disengagement agreement.
Israeli leaders worry that Syria may try and drag Israel into its civil war, in which 80,000 Syrians have died in a two-year rebellion against the dictatorship of Bashar Assad.
"I don't expect a war with Syria in the north, but the tranquility since 1974 is over," Israeli parliamentarian Nachman Shai said Tuesday. "We should be ready for a different situation in the Golan Heights."
Israel has already taken a hand in the conflict. It has launched airstrikes against convoys and depots inside Syria that it says were shipping weaponry to the anti-Israeli terrorist group Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, which is on the northern border of Israel.
Syria has vowed to retaliate. Assad said Syria is "capable of facing Israel" and would not accept violations of its sovereignty, according to the Associated Press.
Many Israeli analysts have said that Assad won't attempt an all-out war with Israel unless he achieves an all-out victory over the rebels.
Mordechai Kedar, a former IDF intelligence officer who is a research associate at Bar Ilan University's BESA Center for Strategic Affairs, said that if Assad feels he is on the verge of being ousted he could do something desperate.
"If Assad feels he is losing everything and in his last days, he could behave like the biblical Samson, who said, 'Let my soul die with the Philistines. If I'm going to die, I will kill as many as I can in the process.'"
In such a situation, Assad may launch "whatever weapons, conventional and chemical," at the rebels, Israel, Turkey and even parts of Lebanon, Kedar said.
"This is a scenario every state in the region should consider," Kedar said, adding that Israel and the United States are "closely" monitoring the situation.
Meanwhile, Israel Minister of Strategic and Intelligence Affairs and International Relations, Yuval Steinitz, said Tuesday that Syria may be trying to get Israel to take its attention away from Iran, which is pursuing a nuclear program that the United States believes is headed toward an atomic weapon. Iran has vowed to destroy Israel.
"Events and the situation in Syria, Sinai and the Gaza Strip must not displace – even for a moment – the most critical issue, which is a nuclear Iran. The Iranian nuclear project changes the situation; it will change the situation for the State of Israel, the Middle East and even that of the entire world," Steinitz said.