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Marking a Turning Point In South African Liberation History

Sat, 03/22/2014 - 00:39

Former South African Minister of Communications, Pallo Jordan, responded to an article published in the South African press on the character of post-colonial development in Africa and Asia. Jordan contributed the response to ANC Today., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Marking a turning point in SA liberation history

Mar 20, 2014
Z Pallo Jordan
Business Day Live

Many read the Sharpeville massacre as the apartheid regime’s declaration of war on the oppressed, who were obliged to respond with armed resistance, writes Z Pallo Jordan

AFTER the declaration of the first peacetime state of emergency on March 31 1960, army and police units laid siege to Cape Town’s African townships for five months. To enter or leave them, one ran the gauntlet of police checkpoints. At one such checkpoint, just outside Nyanga, a soldier shot dead a child on its mother’s back. That was the incident that inspired Afrikaans poet Ingrid Jonker’s poem dedicated to the African child.

Nelson Mandela incorporated Jonker’s Die Kind in his inaugural address to Parliament as democratic South Africa’s first president, as an act of affirmation and a gesture to acknowledge our common humanity, so eloquently expressed in the poignancy of her words.

Human Rights Day on Friday commemorates a turning point in the liberation struggle. On March 21 1960, the apartheid regime’s police killed 69 African demonstrators protesting against the pass laws at Sharpeville and three others in Langa township in Cape Town.

The "dompas", officially known as "a reference book", was the product of the cynically named Abolition of Passes and Consolidation of Documents Act. From the mid-18th century, passes had been used as a means of labour coercion and control over indigenous people. Like the Yellow Star and Pink Triangle that the Nazis imposed first on Germany and then on countries they occupied after 1939, the dompas was an emblem of exclusion and slavery.

It was an explicit statement that the bearer was someone to be regarded with suspicion, someone there on sufferance, The dompas had to be produced for inspection on demand. It was the official stamps, scribblings, signatures and endorsements in the dompas that gave officials and employers an account of the bearer’s movements, domicile, employment record, taxes paid and explained their presence.

Default in any of these made the bearer liable to criminal prosecution. In urban areas, these laws were enforced with regular "pass raids" on African communities, roadblocks where bus passengers were subjected to pass inspections, and in ambushes for the same purpose at railway and bus terminuses. Every year, thousands of African men and women were imprisoned and then deported to a so-called homeland in terms of these laws.

The 1960 Anti-Pass Campaign was borne on the winds of change sweeping through Africa, as then UK prime minister Harold Macmillan had pronounced that January. After 12 years in office, on March 21 1960, the apartheid regime suffered its gravest moral defeat. Glaring evidence that most of the dead were shot in the back was universally seen as illustrative of the brutal nature of South Africa’s racist regime. In the annals of repression modern communications entered Sharpeville as white South Africa’s response to Macmillan’s Winds of Change speech.

Since the end of the Anglo-Boer War, with a few exceptions, white political leaders sought to foster a shared white South African patriotism. Jan Smuts devoted his political career to it. After 1960, the National Party (NP) proved more successful than Smuts. The first indication of this trend was the outcome of the referendum of that year.

As he entered Parliament after his return from the 1961 Commonwealth Conference, Hendrik Verwoerd was saluted by a phalanx of blazer-clad Maties waving a Vierkleur, flag of one of the Boer republics. For the first time since 1948, the NP was able to win an outright majority of white votes in elections.

The decimation of the Progressive Party, which resulted in Helen Suzman’s 13 years as the lone voice of South Africa’s feeble liberalism in Parliament, confirmed the rightward swing in white South African politics. These developments reflected the switch by increasing numbers of English-speaking whites to the NP. The 1966 polls made its position unassailable as South Africa’s whites defied world opinion.

March 21 1960 was a watershed for the liberation struggle. A handful of mischievous pundits would like to convince us that the South African Communist Party manipulated the African National Congress (ANC) into adopting armed struggle. But the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), composed of former ANC members who had left it complaining of "communist influence", did likewise, as did some members of the anticommunist Liberal Party and the Trotskyists of the National Liberation Front.

They all read the Sharpeville massacre as the apartheid regime declaring war on the oppressed, who were obliged to respond with armed resistance.

The shock waves of the massacre stimulated the establishment of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in the UK. After the ANC and PAC were banned on April 7 1960, both went underground and launched an international campaign to isolate apartheid South Africa. From such small beginnings, activists in various parts of the world built the powerful international solidarity movement that could compel western governments to impose sanctions on apartheid South Africa.

A terrible yet eminently avoidable tragedy inspired Jonker’s poem. The murder of an innocent is among the horrors of an oppressive system, dehumanising those who enforce it. Yet, she ends it on a note of prophetic optimism: "The child grown into a giant traverses the world, without a dompas!"

• Jordan is a former arts and culture minister.

Political Scientist Forecasted the CAR Genocide

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 23:58

French troops holds gun against civilians in the Central African Republic. The country may be occupied by another contingent of EU soldiers., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Political Scientist Forecasted the Central African Republic Genocide

Pacific Standard: The Science of Society

A conversation about the grim business of predicting mass atrocities.

After four years of intermittent peace deals between rebel groups and the government, stability in the Central African Republic (CAR) looked to be almost within reach in 2012. The qualitative evidence, at least, seemed to indicate that University of Sydney political scientist Ben Goldsmith’s Atrocity Forecasting Project modeling was deeply flawed. Using historical data from 2008 through 2010, Goldsmith and his government-funded team of computer scientists produced a 2012 analysis that ranked Central African Republic as the country with the highest risk of genocide between 2011 and 2015. Was it just a coding error?

No other prediction placed CAR so high on its rankings. One prominent model didn’t even list it. Even the Central Intelligence Agency’s preferred working group had the country positioned a good distance from the top of its fragility list.

Pacific Standard recently spoke with Goldsmith about the morbid business behind his highly accurate forecast.

How did you get interested in forecasting genocide?

One of my core areas [of research] is international conflict. I got into studying instability, internal instability within countries, and then mass atrocities or genocide, initially from an interest in the methods. And in particular, in applying various what are called machine-learning methods, that are mainly developed in computer science now. In the past, I had published one paper using the machine-learning approach and collaborating with computer scientists on international conflict. And I found it’s really quite interesting, and some of the leading political scientists who focus on statistical methods had sort of recommended machine-learning approaches, like neural networks, to study these things, instability and genocide.

I mean, for me, the biggest advantage is they’re very complex in the way they can model things in non-linear, whereas most statistical approaches sort of require you to impose linearity on the things you’re modeling. And so we got the grant [from the Australian government], and from 2010 to 2012, we worked on the forecasting project. And the forecasting aspect really also came out of what the people in the U.S. were doing with forecasting instability and forecasting genocide. So we’ve definitely built on this group, the Political Instability Task Force, and their work, and simply tried to contribute to the process. And it’s, yeah, it’s gruesome, but it’s important I think to give early warning.

You mentioned that there’s a go-to government model for this. I was looking at it earlier, and it didn’t have CAR on it. I was wondering if you could talk a little about why the models perform differently, and why yours forecasted CAR, whereas the other one didn’t.

I think the advantage of our model, or an improvement and a difference, is two things fundamentally. One is that we really tried to incorporate time-variance actors for predictors into the model more than had been done by Barbara Harff or others. And we scoured the academic literature for things that vary year in and year out, or have greater change over time, because it just seemed to me pretty clear that that could be a next step. I mean, you’re creating sort of a structural model that tells you the underlying risk, but if you’re going to forecast—which they were doing—every year, you want variables in there that vary year in and year out, so we looked at things like elections, and changes in the number of troops in the military, or changes in the economic situation—which actually didn’t prove to be very powerful—conflicts in neighboring countries, and things like assassinations of political leaders.

So one is making it much more dynamic, or time-sensitive, and another was thinking about the process in two stages. So, a lot of the recent literature on mass atrocities and genocide—and really I think it’s pretty much safe to say it’s a consensus, with the exception maybe being the Holocaust itself in World War II—but these things tend to come out of internal conflicts or deep instability and violence in a country for various reasons. So we figured we would model that directly and then include in the second stage the risk of that sort of instability as a predictor of genocide. The opposite, or the other approach, and the one that’s been taken, I think, if not universally, almost universally, is to do what’s called a conditional model. So you take only the countries that are experiencing instability, and then within that small set of countries, you try to predict which one will blow up into some sort of mass killing. And I thought that that’s really not useful, not as useful as it could be, for forecasting, because you don’t know—some countries it happens almost simultaneously, where the civil war starts and immediately they start trying to kill large numbers of a whole group based on their ethnicity or their political identity. So that happened, for example, in Cambodia in the killing fields. You know, Pol Pot knew what he wanted to do, and the civil war was all part of the same plan, basically. So you can’t forecast that if you have a conditional model.

In terms of the definition, what were you working off of? Is there a number of deaths that needs to emerge or is it something else? What exactly counts?

That really does get at one of the issues. So the definition that exists is one developed by Barbara Harff and another scholar named Ted Robert Gurr. They first published it I think in the ’80s. And it doesn’t specify a number of deaths, it specifies targeting a particular group. And it’s just based on the idea of targeting the group because of who they are. And therein sort of lies the difficulty of well … if you target three people, is that really the same as Cambodian genocide?

So people like Ben Valentino, who’s at Dartmouth, are arguing that really what’s more … what’s a better thing to study is mass killing. When there’s mass killing of civilians that reaches above a certain threshold, so a thousand people or 10,000 people, then that’s something that can be more reliably coded and we can study and forecast in a systematic way. I actually tend to disagree with that. I think that mass killing is too broad a category, and what’s distinct about some things is that, some of these events, is that they target particular groups just as you would expect from the definition of genocide, let’s say you find in the international law, which is not a very useful definition for social science, but targeting a group in whole or in part with the idea of eliminating those people for some political end.

So we use the dataset that’s been developed based on this definition, but there’s certainly room for improvement in the coding. But I don’t think just having a threshold—because say, the Russians fighting in Chechnya, they carpet-bombed the Capital city, Grozny, and killed thousands and thousands of civilians, but most of them were ethnic Russians. And it’s not the same sort of thing, and I think it doesn’t have the same causes and predictors.

Why do you think, in particular, CAR came up so high on your model versus something like Syria?

One thing, because the models are so complex, it’s a bit hard to answer that question beyond looking at the values of the different factors. But CAR stands out because they did have changes in the peacekeeping troops. So they had peacekeepers there that were, I forget the exact sequence now, but brought in and then withdrawn, or vice versa. They had an election—so this is looking at the years 2008, 2009, 2010, that are the last years of the data before we produced our forecast for 2011 onward—elections scheduled, which were then, I believe, canceled. And they were very high on some of the more structural variables as well, like the ethnic fractionalization and the infant mortality. So that combination of risk factors clearly puts it up at the top of the model.

And that’s sort of as much as we can get. One caution about the models is that they’re really designed for forecasting and not for interpretation. Because the operationalizations, you know, the way the variables are coded and the way they interact, is very complex. And so it’s actually quite difficult to say, “Well, this went up and therefore it increased the risk.” It could be one factor in combination with another, and we’ve optimized the model for forecasting on historical data, but in that process, we’re not doing what you would do in proper social science: a well-specified model based in theory that focuses on a particular variable and tries to talk about causation and causal mechanisms. So, that’s sort of a different sort of work.

It’s almost a funny curiosity that you want your model to do well, but you also maybe don’t want it to do well.

It’s an odd situation to be in. Well, I mean there are two things. One, of course, you don’t want these things to happen. And you look at cases that seem unlikely and, of course, you think, you hope they are actually unlikely. And Myanmar was another. I really thought we just missed it because we didn’t get enough of the liberalization process in our data. But actually, it’s that liberalization that seems to perhaps make it more at risk. And we had the regime change in the last few years as one of our time-sensitive variables. So it’s that—wanting the model to do well, but really not.

But then there’s also the sort of very difficult issue from a point of view of assessing the accuracy. With the rise of the norm of responsibility to protect, it seems to have some effect that states—the U.S. and European states—actually want to step in and prevent these things. So, if the states intervene, when our model says something is dangerous, does that mean our model fails? Of course, we want them to intervene, but then, you can’t assess the accuracy of the model.

Is there anything that, as you’re working on these models in the future, that you’d like to see happen?

So there’s a project that used to be at Harvard but is now, I think, based [somewhere else] called the Satellite Sentinel Project. I think George Clooney is one of their funders. And they do monitoring, in particular, in Sudan, and Darfur was one of their important cases. And they use satellite images. And so that’s sort of intensive monitoring, and they’ve developed a whole methodology to really track in real-time what’s going on. I visited them, and it’s really quite chilling. They can show you how the trucks show up, they surround the village, then the next day there are body bags stacked up. It’s really, really horrid to see. That sort of monitoring is not something you can do for every country that might be at risk based on just a qualitative assessment. But with a shortlist, like those that we produce or others produce, you can focus. The U.S. government can afford to do that for 10 or 15 countries. So it’s that sort of monitoring and then the awareness of the high risk that I think can really make a difference.

Soldiers Fire on Central African Republic Crowd

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 23:49

Youths walk towards burning houses in Bossangoa, north of Bangui January 2, 2014. , a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Soldiers Fire on Central African Republic Crowd

BANGUI, Central African Republic March 21, 2014
By STEVE NIKO Associated Press

Peacekeepers in Central African Republic opened fire on a crowd in the capital on Friday to disrupt anti-Muslim violence, injuring six people including four who were under 16, witnesses and officials said.

The incident began when a Muslim man tried to carry out a transaction at a bank but was attacked by an angry mob.

A bank official, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said the man was trying to transfer money to neighboring Cameroon, which has taken in thousands of refugees fleeing violence in Central African Republic this year alone.

Burundian peacekeepers responded to break up the attack, witnesses said.

An Associated Press reporter saw one of the wounded, 19-year-old Frederic Tadje, undergoing treatment at a hospital. His mother, Therese Feikouma, said Tadje sells phone credit near where the violence took place.

"We were warned by those who found my son unconscious," she said. "They took his phone to call us and tell us that he was in the hospital and had been shot."

Central African Republic descended into chaos one year ago when a mostly Muslim rebel coalition overthrew the president and committed widespread atrocities. Since the rebels' leader, Michel Djotodia, left power under immense international pressure in January, the Muslim minority population has been targeted in retaliatory violence.

On Thursday, Navi Pillay, the U.N.'s top human rights official, warned Thursday that hatred between Muslim and Christian communities in Central African Republic was "at a terrifying level" and that the country remained in a state of near-anarchy, meaning even those caught carrying bloody machetes and holding severed body parts are not arrested.

How Africa Can Own Its Resources: The Zimbabwe Example

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 01:31

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki along with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. The two leaders had worked on a power-sharing agreement for Zimbabwe., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

How Africa can own its resources: The Zim example

March 21, 2014 Opinion & Analysis
Baffour Ankomah New African

THERE is no doubt that if Zimbabwe succeeds in pushing indigenisation to its logical conclusion, it will have a huge impact on how Africa in general does business with its natural resources in the future. Africa can even rewrite the principles of a world economy that has grown fat on cheap resources sourced from Africa and elsewhere in the developing world.

This makes the former south African president, Thabo Mbeki’s recent admonition to Africa not to let Zimbabwe fail in the implementation of its indigenisation programme all the more important. Because of the critical place Zimbabwe’s example has for the future of Africa, it is crucial that we quote liberally here from a Mbeki speech given on August 23 2013.

He said: “I think we should ask ourselves the question: Why is Zimbabwe such a major issue for some people? Zimbabwe is a small country by any standard; there is no particular reason why Zimbabwe should be a matter to which The New York Times, the London Guardian and whoever else . . . why are they paying so much attention to Zimbabwe?”

Mbeki answered the question himself by telling a story: “Towards the end of last year (2012),” he said, “they asked me to speak at a conference on Zimbabwe diamonds. So I went, and what surprised me about the conference held at Victoria Falls was that everybody and anybody who has anything to do with diamonds in the world was there.

From America, from Israel, from India, from Brussels, everybody. It was not about diamonds in the world, it was about Zimbabwe diamonds. So I was puzzled, saying, but why have they all come?

“Maybe two hours before we left the conference to come back, we sat in a session which was addressed by one of the Indian diamond people. In the course of his presentation, he explained why. He gave an answer to this query in my head. He said in a few years’ time, Zimbabwe would account for 25 percent of world production of diamonds. So I said, ‘I now understand. I understand why everybody is here,”

Mbeki also understands well the resistance from the metropolitan powers when a country like Zimbabwe tries other ways to own its resources. According to him, “powerful players” say openly that the Zimbabweans “have set a bad example (with land reform) which we don’t want anybody else in Africa and the rest of the world to follow. So they must pay a price for setting a bad example.”

But bad example for whom? Mbeki responds:
“Bad in the instance of the interests of these other people, not bad in terms of the interests of the people of Zimbabwe. So I think this is part of the reason that there is so much attention, globally, on a country in a continent which is actually in itself never mind the diamonds — not particularly important, but it is important because it is setting in the minds of some a bad example which must be defeated.”

Mbeki then came to the crux of the matter, which has so much bearing on how Africa can own its resources: “I am using all of this talk about Zimbabwe,” he said, “as an example about our continent because (with) all of these things I am saying relating to Zimbabwe, you can find the same or similar examples of on the continent, but we are not challenging it as intellectuals. We are not challenging a narrative, a perspective about our continent which is wrong and self-serving in terms of the interests of our people.

“The Zimbabweans are now talking about indigenisation and I can see that there is a big storm brewing about indigenisation. But what is wrong about indigenisation?

What is wrong with saying “Here we are, as Africans, with all our resources, sure we are ready and very willing to interact with the rest of the world about the exploitation of all these resources, but what is the indigenous benefit from the exploitation of this, and even the control.

“You have seen examples of this, all of us have, when Chinese companies, in terms of all this theory about free markets, have sought to acquire US firms and they got prohibited. No, it is indigenisation of US intellectual property. We can’t allow it to be owned by the Chinese, so no.

“So when the Africans say ‘indigenisation’, why is this a strange notion? And yet when we talk about solutions to Africa’s development, one of the issues that we have to address is exactly this indigenisation. How are we utilising our resources to impact positively on African development? I am saying this because I can see that there is a cloud that is building up somewhere on the horizon when Zimbabweans say indigenisation.

But we have to, as intellectuals and thought leaders, address that and say: “yes, indeed as Africans we are concerned about our own renaissance, our own development, and we must as indigenous people make sure that we have control of our development, our future, and that includes our resources, and therefore indigenisation’s correct. We must demonstrate it even intellectually, which I am quite sure we can.” If only Africa could have 100 people with the clarity of Mbeki.

Indigenisation the answer:

So what is Zimbabwe trying to do? In 2007, President Mugabe, after 27 years in power, suddenly discovered, like the Ghanaian parliament, that the huge natural resources of the country, especially in the mining sector (Zimbabwe is said to be sitting on a “Persian Gulf of strategic minerals of our earth,” in all about 68 known strategic minerals), had been exploited for over a century by foreign owned companies but very little benefit was accruing to the people. It was the classic African conundrum of poverty in the midst of plenty.

Mugabe’s answer to this was an indigenisation and economic empowerment policy which Zimbabwe as a country would take an active, as opposed to the hitherto passive, participation in the exploitation of its natural resources. This meant Zimbabwe would now take a joint venture interest in every-none indigenously owned company in the country with a net value of US$1m, by taking 51 percent shareholding in the companies which the “foreign partners” keep 49 percent.

The Zimbabweans have since come up with a radical definition of natural resources, which include: “(a) The air, soil, waters and mineral resources of Zimbabwe”; (b) “The mammals, birds, fish and other animal life of Zimbabwe” (c) “The trees, grasses, and other vegetation of Zimbabwe”, (d) “The springs, vleis, sponges, reed beds, marshs, swamps, and public streams of Zimbabwe”, (e) “Any landscape, scenery or site having aesthetic appeal or scene, value or historic or archaeological interest”.

The above resources then become the “Capital” with which the Zimbabwe nation uses to negotiate for the 51 percent shareholding in companies, especially in the mining sector, in which “non-indigenous” (or foreign) investors are interested. Thus, instead of the traditional way of allowing foreign owned companies to exploit the natural resources and pay a royalty to the nation, the Zimbabwean state now takes an active part in the business as a joint partner, in fact the majority-shareholder.

The country then divides the proceeds coming out of its 51 percent shareholding as follows: 10 percent goes to the community in which the business (say a mining company) is located. A further 5 percent goes to the workers in the company, and the remaining 36 percent goes into a sovereign national fund to be used for the total development of the country, especially the areas which have no companies based there. The communities getting the 10 percent shares decide what projects are needed in their areas and how to spend the money on the projects. Of course their activities are monitored by two government ministries the ministries of indigenisation, and environment. The workers who get the 5 percent shares in their companies are encouraged to put them in pension and other funds, so that from time to time they will get a lump sum each from that investment. So far, the communities that have had money released from their 10 percent shares are doing well on projects such as building new school blocks, clinics, roads, irrigation schemes, repairing dams, drilling boreholes etc, while big companies like Schweppes and Meikles have given 51 percent of their shareholding to their workers.

It has been a good start overall, especially in the extractive sector where existing companies have either complied with or are about to comply with the indigenisation law. If Zimbabwe does not relax or get distracted, as African governments are wont to do, and pushes indigenisation to its logical conclusion, in a decade or two from now the business landscape in the country will have changed drastically and other African countries will have a good example to draw on.

In fact, there is a huge potential for indigenisation to become a liberating force not only for Zimbabwe but also for the whole of Africa. This must be what drove ex-President Mbeki to make the passionate plea to Africans everywhere to defend the developments in Zimbabwe. In effect, Mbeki was saying: “Don’t let Zimbabwe fail, because there is something in it for all of us and our future generations.” And Africa had better listen. Because throughout history, societies have changed through big ideas held and implemented by a few people at the micro level, which later became the norm. Such ideas were usually implemented on a pilot scale before being employed generally. In this context, Zimbabwe has unwittingly become Africa’s laboratory and sacrificial lamb; and the continent had better not look a gift horse in the mouth.

The challenges:
All said and done, Africa must not expect anything to be easy on the “alternative” course. There is bound to be resistance and spoiling tactics by the metropolitan powers and their multi-national companies, which have grown used to getting African resources on the cheap. They will do everything in and outside the book to prevent Africa freeing itself from the shackles of the current world economic order. Which should inspire the Africans to question the motivation of these powers in helping countries such as Germany, Japan, south Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and the others to rise from the ashes of the Second World War and the Cold War, while at the same time frustrating African attempts to be a Japan, South Korea, Germany, Taiwan or even miniature forms of them. Why do they resist or kill African attempts to be like these countries?

At the moment, there is stiff resistance by the metropolitan powers to indigenisation in Zimbabwe. A hefty US$1 billion was taken out of the country by investors before the recent elections, which is now making government finances difficult to handle. This is exactly what the Henry Kissinger-inspired American national security memorandum, NSSAM 200, of 1974, recommended. Thus, if Africa should embark on an “alternative” way, it should not be surprised to find multi-national companies refusing to invest or threatening to pull out of Africa, a horror that orthodox economists and other like-minded Africans will recommend that the continent should avoid, especially in this day and age where capital has many places to fly to. But if Africa collectively stands its ground and acts in the manner suggested by President Jammeh and Dr Tony Aidoo of Ghana namely letting the resources remain in the ground — the multi-national companies will come will nilly, if indeed the majority of the world’s natural resources are in Africa.

— New African.

Zimbabwe Tender Board Admits to Flouting Regulations

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 01:22

Republic of Zimbabwe Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Patrick Chinamasa. Zimbabwe has recently declined funding for the upcoming elections from the United Nations., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Tender board admits to flouting regulations

March 21, 2014
Tendai Mugabe and Lloyd Gumbo
Zimbabwe Herald

Government has established a Cabinet Committee to monitor the State Procurement Board to ensure transparency. This follows reports that some undeserving companies were being awarded multi-million-dollar projects through corrupt dealings.

The development comes as the SPB yesterday conceded it did not follow proper procedures when it allowed a Zesa subsidiary — the Zimbabwe Power Company — to engage two losing bidders for solar projects because it sought to address national security concerns.

SPB chairperson Mr Charles Kuwaza said following proper procedures would have taken longer, thus frustrating the country’s objectives of reducing power deficits.

Government has unearthed serious malpractices in the bidding system, which resulted in firms awarded tenders failing to complete projects owing to lack of capacity.

In some cases, tenders were being awarded to shelf companies that would then outsource the project and/or seek equipment from other firms after having claimed to have capacity to do the work tendered for.

The new Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure and Utilities is chaired by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa.

Addressing the media in Harare on Tuesday, Minister Chinamasa said the committee’s primary task was to ensure transparency in the tender system.

“We have set up a number of committees since we came in as a new Government,” he said.

“One of them is the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure and Utilities which I also chair. We want more transparency and we will be keeping our eye on everything that takes place: that we can assure you. We want value for money.”

Minister Chinamasa said many Asian countries preferred that if they extended a loan for a project in Zimbabwe, the contracts should be awarded to companies from their countries registered here.

“So, if we got a loan from China we tender it among Chinese companies and if we get a loan from India we tender it among Indian companies,” he said.

“I am talking here about contractors, say to put power generation, and again this is to enhance transparency in the manner in which we transact business.”

Government, Minister Chinamasa said, was going to appoint new boards for most public companies as part of the anti-graft drive.

“As we go into the future, first we should have a situation where we have increasingly new boards,” he said. “At the end of the day we are going to leave a template for each institution on the basis of which it should be guided as it moves forward.

“Some of these we are going to be legislated so that anyone who breaches these corporate governance practices will find himself or herself in trouble.”

Meanwhile, SPB chair Mr Kuwaza said the board had, in the case of the Zimbabwe Power Company solar tender, out of necessity breached procedures.

The SPB initially turned down a request by the Zimbabwe Power Company to engage Intratrek Zimbabwe and ZTE Corporation for other projects because they wanted too much money.

China Jiangxi Corporation, the lowest bidder at US$183 million, won the tender for construction of the 100MW Gwanda/Plumtree solar plant.

Intratrek Zimbabwe and ZTE Corporation had charged US$248 million and US$358,3 million, respectively.

The two firms, which were technically compliant at evaluation stage, were said to have agreed to reduce their price to US$183 million to match the lowest bid for other projects that would add 200MW to the power grid.

Mr Kuwaza said they awarded the tender to China Jiangxi Corporation because it was technically compliant and had the lowest price.

Other bidders were Lanlake Power (US$224 million), Afriven Investments (US$287,5 million) and No 17 Metallurgical Construction (US$323,3 million).

“The ZPC went on to propose that, as a result of power shortages that this country was facing, which had become a matter of national security, it would recommend that the second-lowest technically compliant bidder (Intratrek) be considered with a view to speeding up power supply to the country,” said Mr Kuwaza.

He said they gave the green light to the arrangement because “tendering for complex projects” was a long and expensive process.

However, procurement experts queried how Intratrek and ZTE were suddenly able to reduce their bids by tens of millions of dollars, and by more than half in the case of ZTE.

Zimbabwe Diamond Bosses Face Perjury Charges

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 01:16

President Mugabe receives a US$1 million check from Murowa Diamonds managing director Mr Zebra Kasete while Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere looks on in Masvingo on February 15, 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Diamond bosses face perjury rap

March 21, 2014
Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Zimbabwe Herald

OFFICIALS from diamond mining firms in Chiadzwa could be charged for contempt of Parliament after they told a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee that they were unaware of the existence of the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust.

Letters in our possession show that Government wrote to the miners and the then Mines and Mining Development Minister Dr Obert Mpofu asking the companies to fulfil pledges totalling US$40 million they had made towards the trust, which President Mugabe officially launched in July 2012

The documents show that National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board chair, Lieutenant-General (Retired) Mike Nyambuya wrote to the mining firms on October 31, 2012 asking them to fulfil their pledges.

Each firm pledged US$10 million.

Two letters were also written to Dr Mpofu by the then Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere asking him to ensure the miners met their obligations.

But representatives of the mining firms two weeks ago told Parliament they knew nothing of the trust, while some diamond miners said they had only pledged US$1,5 million.

And yesterday two of the miners again denied knowledge of the letters, while others could not be reached for comment.

Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Anjin Investments, Jinan and Diamond Mining Company denied knowledge of the Trust when they appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment chaired by Gokwe-Nembudziya legislator Cde Justice Mayor Wadyajena.

Acting Clerk of Parliament Mr Kennedy Chokuda said Parliament’s Empowerment Committee could recommend to the House if it felt there were reasonable grounds to suspect that the officials had lied under oath.

“The House would then constitutes a committee if it feels that a possible breach existed,” he said.

“It is that committee that would make enquiries and make a determination, including appropriate penalties and recommend to the House for adoption,” he said.

Dr Mpofu yesterday said he did not know of any communication from Minister Kasukuwere on the matter.

“I am not aware of that letter,” he said before switching off his phone.

On September 20, 2012, Minister Kasukuwere wrote to Dr Mpofu reminding him of the pledges.

“Would you please facilitate payments by the qualifying businesses into the bank account of the Marange-Zimunya Community Ownership Trust so that it becomes operational and begins to implement priority projects in their community,” wrote Minister Kasukuwere.

On February 7, 2013 Minister Kasukuwere reminded Dr Mpofu about the matter in a letter in which he also implored him to ensure Metallon Gold Zimbabwe and Vumbachikwe Mining Company complied with the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act.

“I would also appreciate if you would facilitate the payment of seed capital into the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust by the relevant diamond mining companies,” he wrote.

And on October 31, 2013 Rtd Lt-Gen Nyambuya wrote to the diamond miners.

“We refer to the above matter and particularly to your pledge to donate an amount of US$10 million as seed capital to the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust,” he said. “We note that it has been a couple of months since the community Trust was launched by his Excellency the President of Zimbabwe and your company is yet to make payments of this amount to the trust.

“The success of the Marange-Zimunya Trust hinges on the availability of pledged funds. Without these funds, the Trust will be unable to fulfil the promises made at the launch and this will reflect badly on His Excellency who launched the Trust with the promise of the seed capital to the people of Marange and Zimunya areas.

“We would also like to think that this will also reflect negatively on your image and activities.”

He added: “We, therefore, kindly request the deposit of the pledged amounts to the community Trust account as a sign of commitment to your word and in order to ensure that the Trust may begin in earnest to undertake its much awaited activities.

“We hope that this will be done soonest and in any event not latter than mid-November. The Ministry is anxious to see the Trust receive the money. Should you have any questions relating to the above please do not hesitate to contact the compliance department.”

However, Marange Resources acting chief executive Mr Mark Mabhudhu said they did not have any such correspondences.

“I have searched for correspondences and I have not seen anything,” he said. “Our position is that we will afford US$2 million as US$10 million was going to be a big figure for us.”

Diamond Mining Company chairperson Rtd Brigadier-Gen Ezekiel Zabanyana said: “I made all the efforts to ask our management and they said no communication had been given to them.”

Last week, Minister Kasukuwere accused diamond miners of dishonesty.

On Wednesday, villagers, chiefs and trustees demanded that all diamond mining companies in Chiadzwa honour the pledges they made when President Mugabe launched the trust last year.

They said their actions should not go unpunished.

Out of the US$50 million the firms pledged in the presence of President Mugabe last year, Mbada Diamonds and Marange Resources remitted US$400 000 to the trust’s account.

Russia Without Dollar: What Are the Risks?

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 01:08

Areas in eastern and southern Ukraine where demonstrations against the fascist coup in Kiev have taken place. The United States and the European Union are supporting the seizure of power., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Russia without dollar - what are the risks?

17.03.2014 13:48

American media outlets are scaring their readers with a possibility of Russia being isolated from the dollar in light of the developments in Crimea. They report that isolating Russia from the dollar system is discussed in preparation for a meeting between Barack Obama and Arseny Yatsenyuk. The likelihood of this measure is negligible, but another question is, maybe it is time to get off the "dollar needle"?

Information that Russia may become isolated from the dollar system in the framework of sanctions from the U.S. emerged in prominent publications such as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. The possibility of introducing this sanction seems completely implausible at first glance. The dollar is a reserve currency used for international transactions and accumulation of reserves. Russia is one of the largest players in the energy market, the second largest supplier of arms, an observer in the OPEC, a member of G20 and so on and so forth.

Furthermore, Russia is the largest holder of U.S. dollars, and we must be reminded that the dollar is simply a huge bubble, currency not backed by gold but only its reputation.

Economic experts interviewed by a correspondent of Pravda.Ru think that the United States can be largely affected by the dollar isolation of Russia.

"Naturally, the use of the dollar, including as the nominal currency, adds additional branding points to this currency, encourages a more active use of the dollar in transactions. This is an additional argument in favor of the importance of the currency in the global market. IF the dollar is not used in contractual documents, it means less significance for the currency that is not used, that's all. In this regard, I believe, there will be displacement of the dollar, including from the consciousness, from business turnover, and hence, weakening of the dollar, weakening of the prestige of the dollar as the leading global currency," shared his opinion deputy chairman of the Duma Committee on Financial Markets Anatoly Aksakov.

Perhaps the only thing that may cause some difficulties in the case of Russia's isolation from the dollar is the global energy market. If the gas issue can be resolved fairly quickly because there are long-term gas contracts, and there is no alternative to Russian gas at the moment, in the oil market we would have to find new payment mechanisms. Unless, of course, Russia suggests that its partners in the oil market abandon oil prices in dollars.

"In principle, of course, it must be done. Showing such an initiative would mean striking at one of the world monetary systems established 40 years ago. This system is called petrodollar standard. Under this standard all transactions in this market are made in the U.S. dollars. Of course, it would be even a more serious impact than, say, an attempt to abandon the accumulation of dollars in foreign exchange reserves, or even an attempt to lose dollars. Dumping the dollar from gold and foreign exchange reserves is problematic, because blocking by the U.S is indeed possible. This is a very serious thing, we have to prepare for it," shared his thoughts with Pravda.Ru economist Valentin Katasonov, stressing that perhaps not all OPEC members would be willing to support the abandonment of the dollar, particularly Saudi Arabia that has militarily and politically ties with the U.S, so in this case everyone would act individually.

Yet, according to a leading expert of the Oil Union Rustam Tankaev, it would not be difficult to introduce certain mechanisms that would allow Russian energy to trade without the dollar. The U.S. will feel some loss because the base of the U.S. currency as a result of sanctions against Russia will shrink noticeably.

"There is already a tense situation in the world in relation to the dollar. We all know it very well. The dollar is not a very stable currency. In the absence of other factors, the dollar is declining, and the transition to the gold standard has been mentioned many times, and other currencies were proposed," said Rustam Tankanov. "In this situation, taking any country out of the dollar zone would simply mean bringing the dollar down.

Quite a significant number of commitments in our foreign reserves are in dollars. If they are dumped in the market, the U.S. dollar will significantly suffer."

As for the domestic Russian economy, our officials have repeatedly proposed moving away from the dollar dependency, simply abandoning the U.S. currency circulation in the country. This idea was proposed by the State Duma deputy Mikhail Dyagterev in 2013. A few days ago it was reiterated by presidential aide Sergei Glazyev, who said that in the event of the U.S. threats we will be forced to move to other currencies."

Although the Russian government has never seriously perceived such statements and initiatives, the idea to move away from the dollar system has long been in the air. For example, when Dmitry Medvedev was president, he proposed to create a reserve currency and suggested the ruble. Of course, today, in light of domestic economic problems in Russia, we cannot brag and say that the Russian currency could become a reserve currency. But thinking of the U.S. dollar as indispensable is more than wrong in the contemporary world.

"There are many reserve currencies, and the dollar in this case has the nominal function. It is simply a measure of the contract, and therefore, considering that currency can be freely traded in the market, there are no problems in the transition to trading national currencies," told Pravda.Ru Anatoly Aksenov.

"Our biggest partner is Europe, so we will trade in euros. One of the largest partners is China, so we will trade in Yuan. Yuan - ruble, euro - ruble will not use the dollar as the currency for contractual agreements. These are purely technical issues. The question of whether to abandon the use of the dollar as the currency for transactions between Russia and India, Russia and China, Russia and Europe, was raised long time ago. Why use dollar when there is euro? It is quite a respectable currency."

Russia could have had much more serious problems if it had closer ties with the United States, but since the majority of our partners are on the Eurasian and Asian continents, it would be impossible to isolate Russia from the entire economic and financial arena. In fact, Russia is not the only country that is considering abandoning the dollar, but the entire world is seeing a gradual shift away from the U.S. currency, noted in an interview with Pravda.Ru Public Chamber member and chief editor of Expert Valery Fadeev.

"If you take, for example, our Russian foreign exchange reserves, there is a large proportion of the euro there. I think the growth of China's Yuan will qualify for the first place, and the ruble is not the last currency, so far only local, of course, and real only in Russia, but nonetheless. The hegemony of the United States is over. The U.S., of course, remains the most powerful country in the world, but not hegemonic, so it can no longer dictate its financial market terms to the world."

Do you think that Russia will benefit from the dollar isolation?

Maria Snytkova

Transdniestria May Become Part of Russia

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 01:01

The flag of the unrecognized state of Transnistria which was formally a part of the Soviet Union which is now governed by Moldova. The enclave may decide to join Russia in light of developments in Ukraine and Crimea., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Transdniestria may become part of Russia

20.03.2014 15:11

The Supreme Council of the unrecognized republic of Transdniestria appealed to the State Duma of Russia to provide for the possibility of entering the region in Russia in the Russian legislation. After the events in the Crimean Republic the country is under siege. Ukraine imposed restrictions on travel for Russians in Transnistria through its territory. The border was closed for cargo as well.

The information was confirmed by Deputy Prime Minister of the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic for International Cooperation, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Nina Shtanski. "Russian citizens are not allowed in Transnistria and are not let out. Transnistria is home to nearly 200,000 Russian citizens, and not all of them can travel and leave the country through Moldova. This means that people are locked on both sides," said Nina Shtanski.

"So far this problem affects only males with Russian passports, but it has affected not only those traveling by road, people are being removed from trains," she added. The Minister said that blocking goods intended for peacekeepers was unacceptable. "Ukraine is not only a guarantor country in the normalization of the relations, but also a member of peacekeeping operations in which it acts as a military observer," said Nina Shtanski.

Border Service of Ukraine declared that this is done to not allow terrorists allegedly prepared in Transnistria on the Ukrainian territory. According to the authorities of the unrecognized republic, in the near future they face a complete isolation. Under such circumstances, an appeal on behalf of the Chairman of the Parliament of Transnistria Mikhail Burla to the Speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament Sergei Naryshkin is justified.

The letter states that the Parliament of Transnistria has adopted in the first reading a law recognizing the Russian legislation as part of Transnistrian, and recognizing Russian as a national language. There are concerns that sanctions might follow from the official Chisinau, which would further worsen the "difficult position" of Transnistria. Mikhail Burla also noted that the bill of "Fair Russia" on the facilitation of accession of new Russian territories only makes it possible for Crimea to join.

"We withdrew the bill on a simplified procedure of joining of independent states and territories because the procedure of legal resolution on Crimea has changed," explained to Pravda.Ru Tatiana Moskalkova, deputy chairman of the Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian integration and relations with compatriots. "Since Crimea has declared itself an independent state, its adoption to the Federation became possible bypassing intermediate contracts, i.e., according to the current legislation. The will of the people is what matters, and enclave status of Transnistria is not an obstacle. "

The deputy believes that Russia should first use all diplomatic instruments and demand the elimination of violations. Until these measures are exhausted, there have to be appeals, but if Moldova does not make conclusions based on the Ukrainian events, Russia is ready to take decisive steps to protect its citizens as it was done in Ukraine, she said.

Meanwhile, Vyacheslav Tobuh, the chairman of the Republican movement of Transdniestria "Recognition," member of the Supreme Council of the TMR, believes that Russia has a legal basis to accept Transdniestria to the Federation. Since there is a declaration of independence, the only thing that needs to be done is recognition of that status, as it was done in Crimea.

"On September 17, 2006, the referendum on Transnistria by an absolute majority made ​​a positive decision on two issues. The first issue is the recognition of the TMR, and the second issue is the gradual entry into the Russian Federation," the expert told Pravda.Ru. "Now we have to hold this position of the people and resist Western propaganda machine that has been working in Moldova on Transnistria," said Vyacheslav Tobuh.

"I think that in Transnistria, like in Crimea, public organizations kept the momentum. We've done our part, now it's up to the leadership of the Russian Federation. We sincerely believe and hope that the will and spirit will prevail, and we will live in one country," said Vyacheslav Tobuh.

Russia's position was stated by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. According to him, the situation in Transnistria may deteriorate further if Moldova signs an agreement with the EU. "Chisinau does not think about Transnistria and all their actions show that it is not their land. We will draw conclusions based of this reality," said the Deputy Prime Minister.

"The political situation around Transnistria is different from the Crimean," told Pravda.Ru Mikhail Emelyanov, deputy head of "Fair Russia" in the State Duma.

"There's a legitimate government, Moldova observes truce, there have been no threats of armed attack on Transnistria and the lives of the Russian-speaking population. Much will depend on the leadership of Moldova. If there are further steps and even rhetoric aimed at the integration with Romania, Transnistria will immediately be part of Russia."

Moldova President Nicolae Timofti on March 18th said at a press conference that the address of TMR to RF was counterproductive, and was not intended to benefit Moldova or the Russian Federation.

If Russia took such a step it would be a wrong decision, it would not add prestige to Russia in the international arena. Timofti, however, admitted that there were similarities between the situation in Ukraine, Crimea and Transnistria.

"Russia will not move on the request for annexing this territory, however, to preserve the legal framework on the left bank of the Dniester, it may recognize Transnistria as an independent state," said an attorney Theo Kyrnats to Moldovan TV channel Publika TV.

"Moscow does not need Transnistria within the boundaries of the Republic of Moldova. According to the plan, that likely is being tested in the east of Ukraine, Russia most likely wants a federation, and not the country under the name Republic of Moldova without Transnistria," said the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania Adrian Cioroianu.

However, Moldovan and Romanian experts say that the situation in Ukraine is destroying the existing format of negotiations on the Transnistrian issue. Two of the major international mediators and guarantors of stability in Transnistria are in a state of war."

The 5 +2 negotiation format was established in 1993. Under this format Chisinau and Tiraspol are parties in conflict. Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE are mediators, and the U.S. and the EU act as observers. Russia has 400 peacekeepers in Transnistria.

"All pro-Western politicians in the CIS countries should realize that the key to their independence and integrity is not in Washington, not in Brussels, not in Berlin, but in Russia," said deputy Mikhail Emelyanov.

"Only Russia's goodwill and its desire to follow international agreements led to the fact that they were recognized painlessly, unlike Yugoslavia, were given the opportunity to develop as independent states and provided assistance, in fact, free of charge, and supplied oil and gas in the early stages. The West stimulates their aggressive behavior against Russia, but at the crucial moment gives them up. This happened in Georgia and Ukraine. Therefore, they should really think hard before performing any anti-Russian actions. "

Lyuba Lyul'ko

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Will US-EU Sanctions Against Russia Backfire?

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 00:33

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Will sanctions backfire?

19.03.2014 13:49

Russian "energy kings" Igor Sechin and Alexei Miller may be added to the list of persons whose European accounts will be frozen in light of the application of sanctions against Russia. In addition, the heads of the state companies fall under EU visa restrictions. What are the possible consequences of such pressure on the key players in the energy market for the EU?

On Monday, after the announcement of the results of the referendum in the Crimea according to which the majority of the republic's residents voted for joining the Russian Federation, the European Union announced the names of the Russians who may be "black listed."

Western European and American authorities are introducing sanctions not against ordinary citizens but high officials and businessmen whose foreign accounts will be frozen and travel restricted. The list is expected to include Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov, head of the presidential administration Sergei Ivanov, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.

Heads of Russian state-owned "Rosneft" and "Gazprom" Igor Sechin and Alexei Miller may be in the same boat, which attracted a great deal of attention in the media today.

As emphasized by the representatives of the European Union, the Russian "energy kings" may become personas non grata in the EU and the U.S., but so far (!) they are talking about sanctions for individuals and not to the officials. The Russian state monopoly responded to the EU statement with disbelief.

"Gazprom" joked that in light of such sanctions European airlines will be profiting because they will have to bring partners to Russia, and "Rosneft" stated that the EU will hurt itself. The Russian experts interviewed by Pravda.Ru expressed general uncertainty about the implementation of the threats by the West. Besides, Russia can always answer by reducing energy supply, which may lead to a lack of heat for domestic purposes during the cold season. European voters are very sensitive to the slightest loss in comfort.

"They say that the lists included the heads of state companies ... It so happened that the economy is mostly comprised of state-owned companies that operate in the foreign market, such as "Gazprom," "Rosfnet." "Transneft."

Well, they can do it, but I do not think that this will provide them any additional incentives for partnership or certain concessions and compromises with respect to these partners in the future," shared his opinion Vice Rector of MGIMO Artem Malgin. "In fact, these methods are a very serious psychological element. Crises come and go. This crisis, by and large, is not ours, it is happening in the neighboring country. So far it is developing without a single fired shot. But these threats create certain prejudices and complexes that the Russian representatives of big business may still have after the completion of this crisis. They are unlikely to go away quickly, and respectively, the general climate of the relations will be formed."

Indeed, politics aside, we should not forget that the international business continues to interact, and at the moment there are unfinished transactions in the works, such as purchase by "Rosneft" of oil trading business Morgan Stanley registered in London and headquartered in New York City. Despite the statements of American publications such as The Wall Street Journal that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. Treasury could block the deal, so far these words are just empty threats. For example, the same publication reported last week that Washington has worked out a scheme to isolate Russia from the dollar, which has been unanimously recognized by experts as fantasy. There can be multitude of such threats in the media, and it is not a given that they will be implemented and not refuted the same day.

"Sanctions are generally not a simple question, there are numerous rumors, denials, many leaks," said Anton Soroko, an analyst of the Investment Holding Finam. "I am inclined to think that sanctions can be directional. Freezing the accounts of senior officials, CEOs, maybe visa restrictions for a small group of the Russian population. But at the same time I do not expect sanctions against Russian companies. It will be very negative for the EU because there are export and import articles that would be difficult to replace for the European countries."

According to Soroko, the EU has very little leverage over Russia because of strong dependence on energy prices. It is not surprising that the representatives of "Rosneft" and "Gazprom" joked about Europe shaking its fist.

"In the event of an escalation both sides, the EU and Russia, will be hurt. But the EU may suffer more because it is still very much tied to our gas, and in the short term, if there is any interruption of supply or rise in the price of gas, they cannot replace it very quickly," said in an interview with Pravda.Ru a leading specialist of the Institute for Energy and Finance Yuri Rykov. "But I think that Russia will not agree to such steps, because it will be a very serious disaster for the EU. I think that after certain political statements this issue should be resolved, of course, if we do not assume the worst case scenario, freezing the accounts and other things. No one needs escalation. The United States may be interested in this to some extent because it would destabilize the situation in Russia."

Last Friday, the EU officials said that visa and economic sanctions would be introduced against 130 Russian officials and large businessmen. The "blacklist" already exists, but when and in what form the sanctions will be implemented remains a mystery.

Apparently, the EU officials are in no hurry to bring the threat to action, still expecting that Russia will change its position in relation to the Crimea.

Maria Snytkova

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Excerpts From the Address by the President of the Russian Federation, March 18, 2014

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 00:26

Russian President Putin signs treaty with Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov merging Crimea and Moscow. Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to join Russia., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Address by the President of the Russian Federation


Excerpts From the Address by the President of the Russian Federation


Federation Council members, State Duma deputies, good afternoon. Representatives of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol are here among us, citizens of Russia, residents of Crimea and Sevastopol!

Dear friends, we have gathered here today in connection with an issue that is of vital, historic significance to all of us. A referendum was held in Crimea on March 16 in full compliance with democratic procedures and international norms.

More than 82 percent of the electorate took part in the vote. Over 96 percent of them spoke out in favour of reuniting with Russia. These numbers speak for themselves.

To understand the reason behind such a choice it is enough to know the history of Crimea and what Russia and Crimea have always meant for each other.

Everything in Crimea speaks of our shared history and pride. This is the location of ancient Khersones, where Prince Vladimir was baptised. His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilisation and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The graves of Russian soldiers whose bravery brought Crimea into the Russian empire are also in Crimea. This is also Sevastopol - a legendary city with an outstanding history, a fortress that serves as the birthplace of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. Crimea is Balaklava and Kerch, Malakhov Kurgan and Sapun Ridge. Each one of these places is dear to our hearts, symbolising Russian military glory and outstanding valour.

Crimea is a unique blend of different peoples' cultures and traditions. This makes it similar to Russia as a whole, where not a single ethnic group has been lost over the centuries. Russians and Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars and people of other ethnic groups have lived side by side in Crimea, retaining their own identity, traditions, languages and faith.

Incidentally, the total population of the Crimean Peninsula today is 2.2 million people, of whom almost 1.5 million are Russians, 350,000 are Ukrainians who predominantly consider Russian their native language, and about 290,000-300,000 are Crimean Tatars, who, as the referendum has shown, also lean towards Russia.

True, there was a time when Crimean Tatars were treated unfairly, just as a number of other peoples in the USSR. There is only one thing I can say here: millions of people of various ethnicities suffered during those repressions, and primarily Russians.

Crimean Tatars returned to their homeland. I believe we should make all the necessary political and legislative decisions to finalise the rehabilitation of Crimean Tatars, restore them in their rights and clear their good name.

We have great respect for people of all the ethnic groups living in Crimea. This is their common home, their motherland, and it would be right - I know the local population supports this - for Crimea to have three equal national languages: Russian, Ukrainian and Tatar.


In people's hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an inseparable part of Russia. This firm conviction is based on truth and justice and was passed from generation to generation, over time, under any circumstances, despite all the dramatic changes our country went through during the entire 20th century.

After the revolution, the Bolsheviks, for a number of reasons - may God judge them - added large sections of the historical South of Russia to the Republic of Ukraine. This was done with no consideration for the ethnic make-up of the population, and today these areas form the southeast of Ukraine. Then, in 1954, a decision was made to transfer Crimean Region to Ukraine, along with Sevastopol, despite the fact that it was a city of union subordination. This was the personal initiative of the Communist Party head Nikita Khrushchev. What stood behind this decision of his - a desire to win the support of the Ukrainian political establishment or to atone for the mass repressions of the 1930's in Ukraine - is for historians to figure out.

What matters now is that this decision was made in clear violation of the constitutional norms that were in place even then. The decision was made behind the scenes. Naturally, in a totalitarian state nobody bothered to ask the citizens of Crimea and Sevastopol. They were faced with the fact. People, of course, wondered why all of a sudden Crimea became part of Ukraine. But on the whole - and we must state this clearly, we all know it - this decision was treated as a formality of sorts because the territory was transferred within the boundaries of a single state. Back then, it was impossible to imagine that Ukraine and Russia may split up and become two separate states. However, this has happened.

Unfortunately, what seemed impossible became a reality. The USSR fell apart. Things developed so swiftly that few people realised how truly dramatic those events and their consequences would be. Many people both in Russia and in Ukraine, as well as in other republics hoped that the Commonwealth of Independent States that was created at the time would become the new common form of statehood. They were told that there would be a single currency, a single economic space, joint armed forces; however, all this remained empty promises, while the big country was gone. It was only when Crimea ended up as part of a different country that Russia realised that it was not simply robbed, it was plundered.

At the same time, we have to admit that by launching the sovereignty parade Russia itself aided in the collapse of the Soviet Union. And as this collapse was legalised, everyone forgot about Crimea and Sevastopol ­- the main base of the Black Sea Fleet. Millions of people went to bed in one country and awoke in different ones, overnight becoming ethnic minorities in former Union republics, while the Russian nation became one of the biggest, if not the biggest ethnic group in the world to be divided by borders.

Now, many years later, I heard residents of Crimea say that back in 1991 they were handed over like a sack of potatoes. This is hard to disagree with. And what about the Russian state? What about Russia? It humbly accepted the situation. This country was going through such hard times then that realistically it was incapable of protecting its interests. However, the people could not reconcile themselves to this outrageous historical injustice. All these years, citizens and many public figures came back to this issue, saying that Crimea is historically Russian land and Sevastopol is a Russian city. Yes, we all knew this in our hearts and minds, but we had to proceed from the existing reality and build our good-neighbourly relations with independent Ukraine on a new basis. Meanwhile, our relations with Ukraine, with the fraternal Ukrainian people have always been and will remain of foremost importance for us. (Applause)

Today we can speak about it openly, and I would like to share with you some details of the negotiations that took place in the early 2000s. The then President of Ukraine Mr Kuchma asked me to expedite the process of delimiting the Russian-Ukrainian border. At that time, the process was practically at a standstill. Russia seemed to have recognised Crimea as part of Ukraine, but there were no negotiations on delimiting the borders. Despite the complexity of the situation, I immediately issued instructions to Russian government agencies to speed up their work to document the borders, so that everyone had a clear understanding that by agreeing to delimit the border we admitted de facto and de jure that Crimea was Ukrainian territory, thereby closing the issue.

We accommodated Ukraine not only regarding Crimea, but also on such a complicated matter as the maritime boundary in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. What we proceeded from back then was that good relations with Ukraine matter most for us and they should not fall hostage to deadlock territorial disputes. However, we expected Ukraine to remain our good neighbour, we hoped that Russian citizens and Russian speakers in Ukraine, especially its southeast and Crimea, would live in a friendly, democratic and civilised state that would protect their rights in line with the norms of international law.

However, this is not how the situation developed. Time and time again attempts were made to deprive Russians of their historical memory, even of their language and to subject them to forced assimilation. Moreover, Russians, just as other citizens of Ukraine are suffering from the constant political and state crisis that has been rocking the country for over 20 years.

I understand why Ukrainian people wanted change. They have had enough of the authorities in power during the years of Ukraine's independence. Presidents, prime ministers and parliamentarians changed, but their attitude to the country and its people remained the same. They milked the country, fought among themselves for power, assets and cash flows and did not care much about the ordinary people. They did not wonder why it was that millions of Ukrainian citizens saw no prospects at home and went to other countries to work as day labourers. I would like to stress this: it was not some Silicon Valley they fled to, but to become day labourers. Last year alone almost 3 million people found such jobs in Russia. According to some sources, in 2013 their earnings in Russia totalled over $20 billion, which is about 12% of Ukraine's GDP.

I would like to reiterate that I understand those who came out on Maidan with peaceful slogans against corruption, inefficient state management and poverty. The right to peaceful protest, democratic procedures and elections exist for the sole purpose of replacing the authorities that do not satisfy the people. However, those who stood behind the latest events in Ukraine had a different agenda: they were preparing yet another government takeover; they wanted to seize power and would stop short of nothing. They resorted to terror, murder and riots. Nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites executed this coup. They continue to set the tone in Ukraine to this day.

The new so-called authorities began by introducing a draft law to revise the language policy, which was a direct infringement on the rights of ethnic minorities. However, they were immediately 'disciplined' by the foreign sponsors of these so-called politicians. One has to admit that the mentors of these current authorities are smart and know well what such attempts to build a purely Ukrainian state may lead to. The draft law was set aside, but clearly reserved for the future. Hardly any mention is made of this attempt now, probably on the presumption that people have a short memory. Nevertheless, we can all clearly see the intentions of these ideological heirs of Bandera, Hitler's accomplice during World War II.

It is also obvious that there is no legitimate executive authority in Ukraine now, nobody to talk to. Many government agencies have been taken over by the impostors, but they do not have any control in the country, while they themselves - and I would like to stress this - are often controlled by radicals. In some cases, you need a special permit from the militants on Maidan to meet with certain ministers of the current government. This is not a joke - this is reality.

Those who opposed the coup were immediately threatened with repression. Naturally, the first in line here was Crimea, the Russian-speaking Crimea. In view of this, the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol turned to Russia for help in defending their rights and lives, in preventing the events that were unfolding and are still underway in Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkov and other Ukrainian cities.

Naturally, we could not leave this plea unheeded; we could not abandon Crimea and its residents in distress. This would have been betrayal on our part.

First, we had to help create conditions so that the residents of Crimea for the first time in history were able to peacefully express their free will regarding their own future. However, what do we hear from our colleagues in Western Europe and North America? They say we are violating norms of international law. Firstly, it's a good thing that they at least remember that there exists such a thing as international law - better late than never.

Secondly, and most importantly - what exactly are we violating? True, the President of the Russian Federation received permission from the Upper House of Parliament to use the Armed Forces in Ukraine. However, strictly speaking, nobody has acted on this permission yet. Russia's Armed Forces never entered Crimea; they were there already in line with an international agreement. True, we did enhance our forces there; however - this is something I would like everyone to hear and know - we did not exceed the personnel limit of our Armed Forces in Crimea, which is set at 25,000, because there was no need to do so.

Next. As it declared independence and decided to hold a referendum, the Supreme Council of Crimea referred to the United Nations Charter, which speaks of the right of nations to self-determination. Incidentally, I would like to remind you that when Ukraine seceded from the USSR it did exactly the same thing, almost word for word. Ukraine used this right, yet the residents of Crimea are denied it. Why is that?

Moreover, the Crimean authorities referred to the well-known Kosovo precedent - a precedent our western colleagues created with their own hands in a very similar situation, when they agreed that the unilateral separation of Kosovo from Serbia, exactly what Crimea is doing now, was legitimate and did not require any permission from the country's central authorities. Pursuant to Article 2, Chapter 1 of the United Nations Charter, the UN International Court agreed with this approach and made the following comment in its ruling of July 22, 2010, and I quote: "No general prohibition may be inferred from the practice of the Security Council with regard to declarations of independence," and "General international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence." Crystal clear, as they say.

I do not like to resort to quotes, but in this case, I cannot help it. Here is a quote from another official document: the Written Statement of the United States America of April 17, 2009, submitted to the same UN International Court in connection with the hearings on Kosovo. Again, I quote: "Declarations of independence may, and often do, violate domestic legislation. However, this does not make them violations of international law." End of quote. They wrote this, disseminated it all over the world, had everyone agree and now they are outraged. Over what? The actions of Crimean people completely fit in with these instructions, as it were. For some reason, things that Kosovo Albanians (and we have full respect for them) were permitted to do, Russians, Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars in Crimea are not allowed. Again, one wonders why.

We keep hearing from the United States and Western Europe that Kosovo is some special case. What makes it so special in the eyes of our colleagues? It turns out that it is the fact that the conflict in Kosovo resulted in so many human casualties. Is this a legal argument? The ruling of the International Court says nothing about this. This is not even double standards; this is amazing, primitive, blunt cynicism. One should not try so crudely to make everything suit their interests, calling the same thing white today and black tomorrow. According to this logic, we have to make sure every conflict leads to human losses.

I will state clearly - if the Crimean local self-defence units had not taken the situation under control, there could have been casualties as well. Fortunately this did not happen. There was not a single armed confrontation in Crimea and no casualties. Why do you think this was so? The answer is simple: because it is very difficult, practically impossible to fight against the will of the people. Here I would like to thank the Ukrainian military - and this is 22,000 fully armed servicemen. I would like to thank those Ukrainian service members who refrained from bloodshed and did not smear their uniforms in blood.

Other thoughts come to mind in this connection. They keep talking of some Russian intervention in Crimea, some sort of aggression. This is strange to hear. I cannot recall a single case in history of an intervention without a single shot being fired and with no human casualties.

Russian President Putin to Attend Interior Ministry Board Meeting Today

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 00:17

Russian President Vladimir Putin overseeing military drills. Russian military forces are preparing for the possibility of further United States backed destabilization efforts in Ukraine., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Putin to attend Interior Ministry’s board meeting Friday

March 21, 6:29 UTC+4

He instructed the police to enhance law enforcement at public places and to take a hard line against extremist organizations and provide a prompt response to any manifestations of extremism

Alexey Nikolsky
MOSCOW, March 21. /ITAR-TASS/.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday will attend an enlarged board meeting of the Interior Ministry, which, according to the Kremlin’s press-service will look back on last year’s activities by police and Interior Troops and identify priorities for this year.

The president, who is personally responsible for overseeing the operation of the key law enforcement bodies, is invariably present at annual Interior Ministry board meetings. Last year he urged the Interior Ministry’s senior personnel to step up the quality of detective and investigation work.

Also, he instructed the police to enhance law enforcement at public places and to take a hard line against extremist organizations and provide a prompt response to any manifestations of extremism whoever might be responsible, from rampaging sports fans to nationalist and radical opposition groups.

“Ensuring the security of individuals and society and pro-active struggle against crime are the top priorities,” Putin said.

He emphasized the importance of efforts against organized crime, in particular, trans-national and ethnic groups, as well as white collar crime and urged the police to protect “law abiding businessmen from any criminal encroachments.

Shoigu urges Hagel to objectively assess situation on Ukrainian border

Russia March 20, 23:56 UTC+4
Shoigu urged Hagel "not to whip up tensions”

ITAR-TASS/Dmitry Astahov

MOSCOW, March 20. /ITAR-TASS/.

U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel called Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Thursday, March 20, to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

The minister and the secretary exchanged views on the situation in Crimea and Ukraine and ways to ease tensions in the region.

“Sergei Shoigu stated in detail Russia’s vision of the situation on the Crimean Peninsula in the light of the new realities there,” the Defence Ministry said.

The Russian minister also commented on Hagel’s concerns about the massive build-up of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border.

“In particular, the Russian defence minister drew the attention of his interlocutor to the maximum transparency of our military activity in the regions adjacent to the Ukrainian border. He stressed that as part of their obligations under the Open Skies Treaty and the Vienna Document on Confidence and Security Building Measures of 2011, Ukrainian inspection groups had the opportunity to visit military facilities and make observation flights in the Western and Southern Military Districts. The same opportunity was given to several Western inspection groups.”

“The international inspectors did not notice any undeclared military activities or activities threatening Ukraine’s security,” the Defence Ministry said.

Shoigu urged Hagel to “make an objective assessment of Russia’s military activity in regions adjacent to the Ukrainian border and not to whip up tensions”.

The Treaty on Open Skies entered into force on January 1, 2002, and currently has 34 States Parties. It establishes a programme of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants. The treaty is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern to them.

The Vienna Document on Confidence and Security-Building Measures and Disarmament in Europe was adopted by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in November 2011.

It calls for inspections of specific areas and units in order to oversee military activities and make annual assessments of information provided by each member state. The U.S. is a member of the OSCE since 1973, Russia since 1992.

West’s sanctions against Russia leave trade with Japan unhampered

Japan’s Minister of Finance Taro Aso told reporters that “sanctions against Russia have a limited effect on Japan’s economy”

TOKYO, March 20. /ITAR-TASS/.

Sanctions against Russia imposed by western countries after the referendum on the accession of Crimea do not hamper trade relations between Tokyo and Moscow, says Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Toshimitsu Motegi.

“To date, we see no negative effect on bilateral trade or on implementation of concrete projects,” he told a news conference on Thursday. “Nevertheless, our government continues to keep a close watch on changes in the international situation.”

Japan’s Minister of Finance Taro Aso told reporters that “sanctions against Russia have a limited effect on Japan’s economy”. “At present, the nature of sanctions seems limited,” he added.

After Russia signed the agreement on accession of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol on March 18, Tokyo suspended talks with Moscow on easier visa rules and froze talks on possible conclusion of three treaties - on cooperation in investments, space exploration and prevention of dangerous military activities.

According to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, in 2013 the Russian-Japanese trade reached a record high of $34.8 billion. Japan actively buys Russian fuel. In particular, Russia accounts for 10% of Japan’s total liquefied natural gas imports.

Threat of Russia’s expulsion from WTO hypothetical — industrial official

The Russian economy would not feel any considerable upheavals if its membership was suspended, says First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Industry

Vladimir Gutenev

Russia’s industry development fund may be created within VEB

MOSCOW, March 20. /ITAR-TASS/.

Russia’s expulsion from the World Trade Organization (WTO) is purely hypothetic, First Deputy President of the Russian Engineering Union, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Industry Vladimir Gutenev said on Thursday commenting on collection of signatures in favor of the initiative launched in the US.

“Our country has a sufficient number of business partners in European Union countries, and they are now even more sympathetic, after Russia demonstrated its capability of asserting its national interests,” said Gutenev.

Furthermore, he said the terms, on which Russia hastily joined the WTO, were not so advantageous, and the Russian economy would not feel any considerable upheavals if its membership was suspended.

Ministers of WTO countries officially adopted Russia as a WTO member on August 22, 2012 after 18-year negotiations. Russian export-oriented companies were supposed to be the first beneficiaries of the accession, among them metallurgical, chemical and energy companies. Previously, barriers in the way of Russian goods to WTO markets had caused more than $2 billion losses.

“Most regrettably, over the 1.5 years that passed since Russia’s accession to the WTO, energy resources and commodities remained our main exports since access to mature markets for Russian goods is still restricted with non-tariff methods. These are both quantitative limitations and special requirements for certification and licensing,” said Gutenev.

In an answer to urges of some Russian politicians for Russia to voluntarily leave the WTO before any sanctions have come into force, Gutenev said Russia should not do that, especially given possible import substitution.

“We should yet master the mechanisms at the disposal of the most developed countries to turn Russia’s WTO membership from a burden into a key to resolution of financial problems and creation of new opportunities,” Gutenev believes.

US-EU Expands Sanctions Against Russia

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 23:59

Russian tank units conducted exercises in the aftermath of the fascist coup in neighboring Ukraine. The coup in Kiev was engineered by the United States., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

EU expands Russia sanctions list to 33 people, cancels EU-Russia summit

March 20, 2014 23:46

The EU has agreed to expand its sanctions list over the Crimea referendum by 12 more people, bringing the total to 33, said European Council President Van Rompuy.

The EU also canceled the upcoming EU-Russia summit, along with other bilateral summits.

The second round of sanctions includes asset freezes and travel bans.

The EU expanded the list of people affected by the sanctions following a summit in Brussels on Thursday and stated that more economic measures could be introduced if the situation in Ukraine escalates.

"We are ready to start stage three if there is further escalation with a view to Ukraine, those are economic sanctions and we asked the European Commission today to do preparatory work for possible economic sanctions," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

French President Francois Hollande declined to give details of the names added to the list, but stressed that it included Russians and Crimeans.

Hollande also told reporters after the meeting that he is urging Russia to pursue dialogue.

"Russia must understand that it cannot continue, that it must take the path of dialogue," Hollande said. "Borders cannot be redrawn and a region allowed to pass from one nation to another without a response.”

EU leaders asked the European Commission to look into the impact that broad economic sanctions could have on Russia, Van Rompuy told reporters.

"We strongly condemn the unconstitutional referendum in Crimea; we will not recognise it, nor will we recognise the
annexation," he said in his statement.

The EU will also be organizing its own observer mission to Ukraine if the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) does not send its own mission.

The canceled EU-Russia summit was scheduled for June 3 in Sochi, Russia.

The US also expanded its sanctions list on Thursday by adding 20 more names. US President Barack Obama announced a new executive order imposing further sanctions on top Russian officials and businessmen. The order also allows for measures against Russian energy, mining, defense, and engineering sectors.

"We're imposing sanctions on more senior officials of the Russian government. In addition, we are today sanctioning a number of other individuals with substantial resources and influence who provide material support to the Russian leadership, as well as a bank that provides material support to these individuals," Obama said.

The measure was slammed by Russia. “We are puzzled to see any names on the list but even if there were none, lists like that are totally unacceptable to us,” presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said. “In any case, it won’t take Russia long to react.”

Reacting to US actions, Russia’s Foreign Ministry published a reciprocal sanctions list of US citizens, consisting of 10 names, including: House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, Senator J. McCain; and advisers to President Obama D. Pfeiffer and C. Atkinson.

“In response to sanctions imposed by the US Administration on 17 March against a number of Russian officials and deputies of the Federal Assembly as a “punishment” for support of the referendum in Crimea, the Russian foreign Ministry announces the introduction of reciprocal sanctions against a similar number of US officials and lawmakers,” reads the statement published on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

The ministry reiterated that Russia has “repeatedly” stressed that using sanctions is a “double-edged thing” and it will have a “boomerang” effect against the US itself.

Sanctions tit-for-tat: Moscow strikes back against US officials

March 20, 2014 15:37

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has published a reciprocal sanctions list of US citizens, consisting of 10 names, including: House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, Senator J. McCain; and advisers to President Obama D. Pfeiffer and C. Atkinson.


These officials, along with another five named by the Foreign Ministry, are banned from entering the country.

The move comes in response to US sanctions imposed against Russian officials after the March-16 referendum in Crimea, which Washington considered “illegitimate.”

“In response to sanctions imposed by the US Administration on 17 March against a number of Russian officials and deputies of the Federal Assembly as a “punishment” for support of the referendum in Crimea, the Russian foreign Ministry announces the introduction of reciprocal sanctions against a similar number of US officials and lawmakers,” reads the statement published on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

The Ministry reiterates that Russia has “repeatedly” stressed using sanctions is a “double-edged thing” and it will have a “boomerang” effect against the US itself.

“Treating our country in such way, as Washington could have already ascertained, is inappropriate and counterproductive,” the statement said.

The statement continued: “Nevertheless, it looks like the American side continues to blindly believe in the effectiveness of such methods, taken from the arsenal of the past, and does not want to face the obvious: the people of Crimea, in a democratic way in full accordance with international law and UN regulations, voted to join Russia, which respects and accepts this choice. You may like this decision or not, but we are talking about a reality, which needs to be taken into consideration.”

On Thursday US President Barack Obama announced a new executive order imposing further on key sectors of the Russian economy and top Russian officials and businessmen. The measures will impact Russian energy, mining, defense and engineering sectors.

The Russian presidential administration has focused on analyzing new sanctions the US imposed against top officials, according to presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.

He said that seeing certain names on the US sanction list “is puzzling.”

“But whatever the names are, the presence of any of the lists is unacceptable for us,” Peskov continued.

“In any case, it will not take long for Russia to react,” he added.

Earlier on Thursday, 443 of 446 Russian lower house MPs voted to ratify the acceptance of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as new parts of the Russian Federation.

However, just like the US, the EU does not recognize the results of the referendum, in which over 96 percent of citizens voted to join Russia.

The referendum was followed by EU sanctions against 21 Russian and Crimean officials. The sanctions are due to be expanded when EU leaders meet for a two-day summit in Brussels on Thursday.

Also on Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the EU will impose more sanctions on Russia and will suspend all G8 meetings until the political situation changes.

US blacklists 20 Russian officials and businessmen, threatens to sanction economy

March 20, 2014 15:11

US President Barack Obama has announced a new executive order imposing further sanctions on top Russian officials and businessmen. The order also allows for measures against Russian energy, mining, defense, and engineering sectors.

"We're imposing sanctions on more senior officials of the Russian government. In addition, we are today sanctioning a number of other individuals with substantial resources and influence who provide material support to the Russian leadership, as well as a bank that provides material support to these individuals," Obama said.

The new list of sanctioned officials includes 20 names, according to the list published by the US Department of Treasury.

Aleksey Gromov, First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration; Sergey Ivanov, Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office; and Sergey Naryshkin, Speaker of the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian Parliament, are among those mentioned.

Prominent businessmen Arkady and Boris Rotenberg are also on the list - as well as the Russian Railways president, Vladimir Yakunin and businessman Gennady Timchenko, head of the Volga Group.

Yakunin reflected on the decision, saying he is surprised that “a country which calls itself democratic could punish for an honest position and sincere comments.”

Bank Rossiya identified by the Treasury Department as the sanctioned entity will be "frozen out of the dollar," Reuters reports quoting US officials. Bank Rossiya, headquartered in St. Petersburg, has some $10 billion in assets. Several senior government officials are known to use the bank, and Kovalchuk, who is its head, has also been sanctioned individually.

While the US president didn’t specify the ‘key sectors of Russian economy’ authorized by the order, a senior administration official mentioned those which could be hit shortly afterwards. ‘Broader’ sanctions could restrict Russian financial services, energy, mining, defense and engineering sectors.

The measure was slammed by the Kremlin.

“We are puzzled to see any names on the list but even if there were none, lists like that are totally unacceptable to us,” presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said. “In any case, it won’t take Russia long to react.”

Peskov added that Ivanov took the US decision with humor, since he used to be banned from entering various Western countries throughout his political career. "There's nothing new for him (Ivanov) in that," he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told his US counterpart Kerry that the decision to reunify Crimea and Russia must be respected and “is not subject to review,” according to Interfax. The US considers the reintegration of Crimea into the Russian Federation an illegal annexation on Russia's behalf.

Washington's new penalties mark the second round of economic sanctions the US has levied on Russia this week. Obama noted that the measures were being taken in the full knowledge that the move could be “disruptive to the global economy”.

The US president made the announcement just under two hours after the Russian Duma ratified the Treaty for the Accession of Crimea and city of Sevastopol to the Russian Federation.

Last Sunday, Crimea voted to join Russia, with some 95.7 percent of voters saying 'yes' to the reunion of the republic with Russia as a constituent unit of the Russian Federation. The overall voter turnout in the referendum on the status of Crimea was over 80 percent, according to the head of the Crimean parliament’s commission on the referendum, Mikhail Malyshev.

On Monday, the US introduced similar visa bans and asset freezes on 11 Russians and Ukrainians. The same day, some 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials fell under the impact of travel bans and asset freezes from the EU.

South African Communist Party Criticizes Mandonsela Over Nkandla Report

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 13:41

South African Communist Party Central Committee Meeting Feb.-March 2014., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.SACP criticises Madonsela over Nkandla report

The South African Communist Party says it is "extremely concerned" at the manner in which Thuli Madonsela handled the Nkandla investigation.

20 Mar 2014 12:44 Sapa

The South African Communist Party (SACP) says it is "extremely concerned" at the manner in which Public Protector Thuli Madonsela handled her investigation into upgrades at President Jacob Zuma's private residence at Nkandla.

This had compromised certain fundamental principles of justice, fairness, and therefore the credibility of the investigation, it said in a statement on Thursday, a day after Madonsela released her report on the matter.

"The use of the media in particular to leak the earlier report, and the habit of making comments on an incomplete process, have all negatively affected and unnecessarily cast aspersions on the person of President Jacob Zuma."

The SACP also questioned the presence of the media at the release of the report in Pretoria on Wednesday, as well as the timing of the release.

"The media was 'locked up' in a board room ... for about three hours to go through the final report prior to its release via a press conference, while the affected persons were never given such adequate opportunity.

"The public protector does not report to the media, but to Parliament, and therefore her media-driven strategy is seriously flawed and shows a complete misunderstanding of the office of the public protector."

It called for "abuses of power and the leaks" from Madonsela's office to be investigated and addressed decisively.

'Cannot be ignored'

On the timing of the release, it said this could not be ignored.

"The release of the report, some seven weeks before the elections, is a matter of serious concern to us."

The SACP said crucial observations in the report included that the president had never requested security valuations and any upgrades by the state at his Nkandla residence in KwaZulu-Natal. Also, Zuma had never misled Parliament.

"The president never misled the Parliament when he said that the state never built his and any of his family members any house, and that his family was responsible for payment of all the houses they built for themselves at his residence," it said.

In her report on Wednesday, Madonsela found that Zuma had "unduly benefited from the enormous capital investment" in the Nkandla upgrades. These had totalled R246-million.

– Sapa

The Public Protector`s Report into Nkandla upgrades: SACP`s preliminary response

20 March 2014

Yesterday the Public Protector released a report of investigation into the security upgrades at President Jacob Zuma`s Nkandla residence. We welcome the fact that at last this report has been released. The SACP will study the report in detail and respond comprehensively at an appropriate time, save for some preliminary observations for now.

Crucial observations

The Public Protector`s report, consistent with the report of the government`s Inter-Ministerial Task Team, confirms several crucial findings.

In the first place the President never requested for security evaluations and any upgrades by the state at his Nkandla residence. The President had his own upgrades taking place prior to the security installations by the state. No state resources were used to build any house for the President or any member of his family at his residence. The President never misled the Parliament when he said that the state never built his and any of his family members any house, and that his family was responsible for payment of all the houses they built for themselves at his residence. The President was not and did not have to be involved operationally and in any line function in the project undertaken by the state. Neither did he influence or prefer the appointment of any service provider or contractor.

Negative impact on principles of justice

The SACP is extremely concerned at the manner in which the Public Protector has handled this investigation which, we believe, has compromised certain fundamental principles of justice, fairness and therefore the credibility of the investigation. The use of the media in particular to leak the earlier report and the habit of making comments on an incomplete process have all negatively affected and unnecessarily cast aspersions on the person of President Jacob Zuma.

The media was “locked up” in a board room approximately for about 3 hours to go through the final report prior to its release via a press conference; whilst the affected persons were never given such adequate opportunity. Before the Public Protector released the report, already journalists were tweeting its contents.

The Public Protector does not report to the media, but to Parliament, and therefore her media driven strategy is seriously flawed and shows a complete misunderstanding of the Office of the Public Protector. We reiterate abuses of power and the leaks from the Office of the Public Protector must be investigated and addressed decisively.

The timing of the release of the report cannot be ignored

Like the Public Protector`s comments that have since August 2012 become increasingly laced with those of one opposition party that she addressed at its Women`s Day Rally, the timing of the release of the report is consistent with frequent utterances by the same party. This cannot be viewed in isolation from electioneering agendas. The release of the report some seven weeks before the elections is a matter of serious concern to us.

The duration spent by the Public Protector in what constituted a parallel investigation is lengthy compared to the Inter-Ministerial Task Team`s investigation into the same matter. The team timeously conducted, completed and released its report. Action to process its recommendations was similarly implemented decisively. Already the President signed a proclamation for the Special Investigation Unit to take up matters that were referred to it by recommendations of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team report.

Nothing in the Public Protector`s report suggests the findings and recommendations of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team report were wrong.

The recommendations of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team report are broader and address structural issues.

As the SACP we have accepted the Inter-Ministerial Task Team report. We commend government for taking a lead and reiterate that relevant government departments and state institutions must move decisively with appropriate speed in bringing any person who committed wrongdoing to book.

Our commitment to fight against corruption

The SACP reiterates its commitment to fighting against corruption and maladministration in both the public and private sectors. We shall continue to campaign against this scourge as part of our ongoing political work.

We reaffirm our support to government institutions fighting against corruption. We will guard against the abuse or misuse or capture of these institutions including the Constitution`s Chapter 9 institutions by political interests.

We particularly commend the Minister of Public Works for the vigorous drive that he has been leading in dealing with corruption in that department. The department has over the years been plagued by widespread abuse of procurement processes, inflation of prices and unnecessary additional measures on projects. The department is on record about this, and its efforts to address the problem are visibly being implemented.

The SACP reaffirms its commitment to the upholding of the rule of law. At the same time, we believe that matters relating to the security of the President are best suited to be handled by the relevant state security organs.

Released by the SACP


Alex Mashilo – Spokesperson

Mobile: 082 9200 308
Office: 011 339 3621
Twitter: @2SACP

NKandla Report: South African Ministers Defend President Zuma

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 13:28

South African President Jacob Zuma speaking at his inauguration on May 11, 2009 in Pretoria. He announced members of his cabinet as well as structural changes in the government., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Nkandla report: Ministers defend President Zuma

TVC NEWS [PRETORIA]- South Africa's senior government ministers defended President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday following the release of the damning Nkandla report.

At a briefing in Pretoria, Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe said that, despite Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s findings that Zuma benefited improperly from the security-upgrade project, the government maintained that all renovations at his private home were related to security and no public funds were used.

TVC NEWS Correspondent reliably gathered that this took place as the DA moved to impeach Zuma, while other opposition parties called for criminal charges to be laid against government officials implicated in the report.

“The private house of the president was built by the president and his family. The retaining wall, cattle kraal and culvert, fire pool and
water reservoir, accommodation for security personnel and visitors’ waiting area are all essential security features which ensure physical security and effective operation of security equipment,” Radebe said.

He said Zuma started building the home in 2008 and was paying a bond. Zuma became president in 2009.

Radebe said the government was already taking action to recover money that may have been wasted on the project.

The cost for the renovations have ballooned to R215 million from the initial budget of R27m.

“The Department of Public Works has finalised the cost of apportionment of the project for recovery of funds from the SAPS and the Department of Defence.”

The Department of Defence had set up a board of inquiry to investigate any irregularities that may have been committed during this project, Radebe said.

He said Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who have been implicated in Madonsela’s report, would not be fired or resign until Zuma pronounced on the issue.

According to Madonsela’s report, Zuma unduly benefited from the Nkandla upgrades.

“President Zuma improperly benefited from the measures implemented in the name of security, which include non-security comforts such as the visitors’ centre, the swimming pool, amphitheatre, cattle kraal with culvert and chicken run. The private medical clinic at the family’s doorstep will also benefit the family forever.

“The acts and omissions that allowed this to happen constitute unlawful, improper conduct and maladministration.”

Rejecting what seems to be Zuma’s “I saw nothing or heard nothing” approach to the Nkandla saga, Madonsela said he should have been circumspect. She recommended he repay the costs incurred on the non-security upgrades.

Madonsela also found there was no lease agreement with the Ingonyama Trust over land used to build a helipad, among other things - but Radebe denied this.

Madonsela also complained that her staff were intimidated by ministers’ interference during the investigation. But Basic Education Angie Motshekga said Madonsela should develop a thick skin.

“There should be no holy cows. We have always said she is free to conduct her investigation, but people also have the right to defend
themselves,” Motshekga said.

Radebe said the government would set up a team to read the report and formulate a full response.

Zuma had made a proclamation that the Special Investigating Unit probe the Nkandla upgrades, he said, adding the report was expected soon.

“This report will form a basis for disciplinary action and/or criminal charges against implicated individuals.

“The report will be forwarded to the National Prosecuting Authority for prosecutorial consideration.”

Apart from condemning Zuma, opposition parties also tried to take advantage of the Madonsela report ahead of the elections.

DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said she would ask Parliament Speaker Max Sisulu to recall the National Assembly and initiate the process of impeaching Zuma.

“Today is a historic day in our fight against the corruption, cronyism and nepotism which have run rampant during President Jacob Zuma’s term of office,” she said.

DA Gauteng premier candidate Mmusi Maimane said he would travel to Nkandla on Thursday to open a case against Zuma.

South Africa: ANC says 'won’t ignore Nkandla report’

TVC NEWS [JOHANNESBURG]-- South Africa's ruling African National Congress, ANC, says it did not intend to undermine the validity of the public protector's Nkandla report. The party's secretary general Gwede Mantashe said on Thursday.

“We are neither intending to ignore or undermine the validity of the report. There is no such intention within the ANC,” Mantashe told reporters in Johannesburg.

TVC NEWS Jody Jacobs quotes Mantashe saying the African National Congress was “relieved” that the report had “finally been released to the public”.

But the timing of the release of the report remained a concern “in terms of the disruptive effect” it would have on all political parties in their campaigning ahead of general elections in May, said Mantashe.

A call for President Jacob Zuma's impeachment was a premeditated decision by opposition parties, the ruling party said.

Mantashe said the opposition had decided to call for his impeachment prior to the release of the Nkandla report by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

"The call by some opposition parties for impeachment is a premeditated decision," Mantashe told reporters in Johannesburg.

He said the biggest problem with the cost security upgrades at Zuma's Nkandla home in KwaZulu-Natal was "inflation of prices".

"This project is a sample to say we should look at whether prices aren't inflated in other areas."

All officials involved "must be brought to book" and all funds acquired inappropriately must be paid back, said Mantashe.

- See more at:

African American Radical Tradition Often Missing From Campus Narratives

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 11:21

Detroit in flames on 12th Street during the 1967 Rebellion. African-Americans attacked symbols of racism and national oppression during July of that year. People commemorated the 40th anniversary of the uprising four years ago., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Missing from National African American History Month? Radical Black Tradition, Muslims.

Omid Safi
Feb 21, 2014

February is the National African American History month, and many college campuses and communities honored this month with a series of lectures, performances, discussions.

Included in many of these commemorations are a wide set of performances ranging from commemorating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to the impact of black scientists and musicians to that of the NAACP.

The National African American History Month has developed in face of great resistance, and done so in an incremental fashion.

Yet even today’s celebration leaves out significant aspects of the overall African American experience, and it is worth thinking about why:

We tend to treat the history of Islam in America as a separate category from African American history.

Often the presence of American Muslims is linked back to the demographic changes brought after the 1965 immigration laws which opened up immigration to South Asians, Arabs, Iranians, Turks, and other Muslims.

Yet the truth of the matter is that depending on the time period, between 15-20% of all African slaves stolen and brought to America were of Muslim background.

They were systematically robbed and dispossessed of their Muslim heritage, as they were of their linguistic and cultural heritages, yet no overview of African American history is complete without engaging this Muslim heritage.

One such example of the remembering of the African American Muslim legacy is that of the Senegalese Muslim scholar who was stolen and brought to American, Omar ibn Said. Omar left behind a copy of the Qur’an in his own handwriting.

There is a mosque named after him in North Carolina.

A great essay by Abdullah Antepli raises this same point with great clarity. Antepli states:
“The few events that have been organized to highlight the story of black Muslims in America are often, if not always, organized by Muslims themselves, not by centers or departments, the civic and governmental organizations who usually organize all Black History Month events."

If you think I exaggerate, please do a simple Google search and check out the last couple of years’ Black History Month events on college campuses, in public school systems, events in Washington, D.C. or state capitals and so on.

The absence of the ‘Black Mosque’s voice’ in those conversations is hard to go unnoticed, and to me is unacceptable.”

Somewhat linked to the above, and also distinct from it, is the large absence of the radical black experience from the African American History Month celebration.

Where are the Black Panthers? Where is Stokely Carmichael? Where is Malcolm X? Where is the late Martin Luther King? Where is the prophet tradition calling out America’s racism, poverty, colonialism, and sexism?

On some college campuses this radical black tradition of critique is presence, but all too often the African American History month is reduced to a mantra of “integration” and “co-existence” rather than one of liberation.

All are important strands in the American experience, but they have existed side by side, and should not be used to obliterate one another.

- See more at:

Black Doctors See Devastating Impact of Tobacco Advertising

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 10:48

Jimi Hendrix in a 1968 photograph taking a smoke. A new energy drink will utilize his name and image starting in April of 2007., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Black doctors see devastating impact of tobacco advertising

March 20, 2014

More than 15-years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the nation’s major cigarette manufacturers for their gross misrepresentation of the hazards of smoking to the public. Finally, after years of wrangling and continued resistance, the Justice Department and the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund reached an agreement with the four major tobacco companies.

Part of this settlement requires these tobacco companies to spend up to $45 million placing “apology” or “corrective” ads in the media; primarily with television and radio networks and stations, newspapers and magazines.

This is a gesture meant to make amends for the countless millions of lives that have been either lost or harmed beyond repair due to the consumption of tobacco products. Still, nearly a half million people will die from smoking-related diseases just in this year alone.

I’m sorry, but not to you

Unfortunately, the “apology ad” gesture forced upon the tobacco companies does not appear to be designed to offer any sort of “apology” to the African-American community.

Not one African-American newspaper, radio station, television station or magazine has been included in the $45 million ad campaign, even though many of these same outlets were used to aggressively influence African-American smokers. As the “front line” for healthcare in the African-American community, members of the National Medical Association find this oversight to be an egregious error that needs to be corrected.

Without question, African-Americans make up a significant number of those who are suffering from the pain and death caused by smoking. A recent report published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 25 percent of African-American males over the age of 18 currently smoke cigarettes and 17 percent of African-American women over the age of 18 smokes.

Health concerns

According to the most recent report issued by the U.S. Surgeon General, these individuals who smoke expose themselves to more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds; hundreds are toxic and at least 69 are known to cause cancer. Nearly one-third of all cancer deaths each year are directly linked to smoking. Smoking causes about 85 percent of all lung cancers in the U.S.

In addition, exposure to tobacco smoke quickly damages blood vessels throughout the body and makes the blood more likely to clot; damage that can cause heart attacks, strokes, and even sudden death. The chemicals in tobacco smoke can also inflame the delicate lining of the lungs and can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Finally, the recent Surgeon General’s report also adds more entries to the already-known list of smoking-caused diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, erectile dysfunction, and two additional cancers – liver and colorectal.

Exasperates other health issues
Because of the African-American community’s propensity to smoke, all of these diseases and conditions have been common and prevalent in Black households for decades. And the nation’s Black doctors are the individuals who are on the “front lines” of healthcare, treating these millions of suffering and dying patients annually.

Also for decades, this propensity to consume cigarette products by the African-American community was strongly driven by the heavy-handed marketing and advertising practices of the tobacco companies relentlessly targeting our communities; flooding them with radio, newspaper and magazine ads depicting “cool” men and women, puffing on Kools, Winstons, Pall Malls or other dangerous brands. Yes, the ad agencies and media outlets made money, but thousands of African-Americans were, and are, suffering and dying.

We totally support the Black publishers (National Newspaper Publishers Association) and the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters in their efforts to have their outlets added to the media list designated to run the tobacco industry’s “apology ads.” As the individuals who have witnessed and treated, first-hand, the victims of smoking’s devastating incursion into our communities, the National Medical Association urges U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler to strongly consider altering the media plan, as proposed in United States v. Phillip Morris, et al, to include African-American media outlets so that, in Judge Keller’s own words, the apology message reaches “everyone it needs to reach.”

Michael A. LeNoir, M.D. is president of the National Medical Association.

George Washington Jones (1846-1914), Pioneer African American Recording Artist, to be Honored at Queens Cemetery

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 10:28

George Washington Jones, (1846-1914), reputed to be the first African American recording artist during the 1890s and early 1900s. A marker for his grave has been secured., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.Pioneer African-American Recording Artist to be Honored at Queens Cemetery

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska on March 19, 2014 6:21pm

Listen to this 1891 recording of George Washington Jones by clicking on the website below:

QUEENS — A 19th century African-American singer and recording pioneer, who is buried in a pauper's grave at Maple Grove Cemetery, will get a special plaque at his gravesite to mark the 100th anniversary of his death.

George Washington Johnson, who was born in Virginia as a slave in 1846, came to New York after the Civil War and recorded songs on some of the earliest recording instruments roughly 120 years ago, according to Carl Ballenas, a local teacher and Queens historian, who is also president of the Friends of Maple Grove.

Johnson was “the first successful African American to record music,” Ballenas said. “He recorded music with Thomas Edison."

Ballenas said a group of his students in the Aquinas Honor Society of the Immaculate Conception School in Jamaica Estates wrote the text for the bronze plaque that will be unveiled at the cemetery in April.

The plaque states that Johnson, who specialized in popular tunes, had “a talent for whistling and laughing in time with music."

"He recorded songs in 1890 for the Metropolitan Phonograph Company and with Thomas Edison on wax cylinders," the plaque states, noting that more than 50,000 copies of his songs were sold.

But the lyrics of some of his songs contained terms that are derogatory for African-Americans, according to information provided by Ballenas.

As Johnson's popularity declined, he struggled with a number of issues, including alcoholism and a murder charge for which he was found not guilty.

Johnson died in 1914 at the age of 67, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Kew Gardens, Ballenas said.

Tim Brooks, a television and radio historian, who wrote about Johnson in his book “Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1891-1922,” will be at the unveiling, Ballenas said.

A CD published with Brooks' book, which included songs performed by Johnson, won a Grammy Award in 2007 for Best Historical Album.

The MusiCares Foundation, Inc. provided the funding for the plaque, which will be unveiled on April 12, Ballenas said. A lecture and workshops are also being planned for that day.

The MusiCares Foundation and Tim Brooks did not immediately return phone calls and emails seeking comment.

Detroit Public Schools Under Emergency Management Continues to Run Deficits, Close Buildings

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 10:03

Detroit Public Schools union members and supporters rallied March 23, 2010 outside the Fisher Building in the New Center near headquarters and the Emergency Financial Manager's office. (Photo: Abayomi Azikiwe), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.March 20, 2014 at 7:44 am

Detroit schools' deficit jumps $39 million in 3 months

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Emergency Manager Jack Martin thinks DPS is two to three years away from resolving its deficit. 'I would like to be the last emergency manager,' he said.

Five years after it fell under state control, Detroit Public Schools is still struggling to fix its finances, with its deficit ballooning $38.8 million in the past three months, to a projected $120 million.

Since the state took control March 2, 2009, DPS has shrunk steadily: It lost 37,000 students, shut 100 school buildings and shed 5,000 employees. Annual budgets have been slashed by $500 million in five years. Deficits have risen and fallen; borrowing continues.

DPS partly attributes the rising debt to shortfalls of $10.7 million thisyear in property tax revenue and $21 million in Title I aid.

Federal Title I aid goes to schools with lots of low-income students. DPS had budgeted $130 million in Title I money for 2013-14 but now expects only $109 million. It originally expected $68.4 million in property tax revenue, but now says it will receive just $57.7 million because collection rates have fallen.

In the meantime, as revenue falls short of targets, some operating costs are rising — $19 million in extra maintenance and operations spending, for example.

DPS spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said the district’s chief financial officer is “closely reviewing” the Title I cut, a decision she said came from the state. Zdrodowski said DPS cut its property tax collection rate to match that of the city, because Mayor Mike Duggan reduced residential property assessments.

The financial problems mean DPS is not close to leaving state control. Emergency Manager Jack Martin thinks the district is two to three years from resolving its deficit.

“I’ve always said I would like to be the last emergency manager,” Martin said Wednesday. “There will have to be something in place that, if not an emergency manager, something that maybe looks like or functions with emergency manager powers.”

Martin believes finances are intrinsically tied with enrollment and academic performance in DPS, which once had 300,000 students.

Martin, whose 18-month term ends Jan. 15, said improving enrollment is key to improving finances. And the way to boost enrollment, he says, is to improve academics.

In that area, DPS students have made minimal progress and remain in the bottom for state and national test scores. In 2009, DPS students earned historically low math and reading scores on a test given to urban districts — the worst in the exam’s 40 years. Four years later, DPS scored the lowest in the nation in math and tied for lowest in reading.

Doug Ross, who ran DPS’ self-governing schools — buildings that control their own budgets, operations and hiring — in 2012, said the emergency managers have made progress on finances, but not academics. “However, it really is unfair for us to expect them to produce significant educational gains given their (business) background,” Ross said.

Dan Varner, chief executive officer of Excellent Schools Detroit and secretary of the State Board of Education, said public education at DPS and other city schools has not improved. “I remain disappointed with the lack of progress and think the situation is as urgent as it was five years ago,” he said. “ ... kids in Detroit are still getting a mediocre education.”

Enrollment key for district

Rising red ink and years of mismanagement led the state to take over DPS. In the spring of 2009, then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm named Washington, D.C., insider Robert Bobb to run the 87,000-student, 200-school district. In his early months, DPS’ deficit fluctuated from $259 million to $327 million, as waste, corruption and overspending were uncovered.

Bobb closed more than 30 schools, requiring security guards to escort him in and out of meetings where irate parents demanded his removal.

Reflecting on his two years at DPS, Bobb thinks EMs should be renamed emergency financial and academic managers. “The relationship should be with Michigan Department of Ed and not the Treasury department. As someone who looked at financials, we can fix the financial issues. But what do we do with children?” Bobb said.

In May 2011, ex-General Motors executive Roy Roberts took over and acted quickly to remake DPS. He broke union contracts by imposing a 10 percent wage cut, reduced central office staff and created self-governing schools.

He also turned over 15 DPS schools to the Education Achievement Authority, a new state-run district for low-performing schools.

Roberts retired and was replaced in July 2013 by Martin.

Under Martin, the deficit has swung from $49.8 million as of Oct. 15, to $81.4 million as of Nov. 25, to $120.3 million last month. Enrollment losses slowed this school year, and high school enrollment actually climbed.

Martin says an early retirement plan being offered this spring could save $12 million and health care changes could save $10 million.

“Enrollment is the 1,000-pound gorilla in the room,” he said. “If we can stabilize and increase our enrollment, it really takes care of most of the other problems, the deficit. One way to get to the enrollment numbers we need is through strong academic performance.”

Keith Johnson, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said DPS is better off financially because budgeting and spending controls have been improved since 2009.

Johnson, who leads more than 4,000 union members, said each emergency manager has impacted DPS differently. “Roy Roberts’ tenure as EM did a lot to destroy the culture of DPS,” Johnson said. “ ... He wasn’t willing to negotiate and work collaboratively.”

Roberts says he was a businessman, not an educator, and the district needed a business solution. “There is no question that DPS is better today than it was five years ago — considerably better,” he said Wednesday.

Gov. Rick Snyder, who appointed Roberts and Martin, believes DPS has made progress “both financially and academically,” spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said in a statement.

“Given the financial and population/enrollment free fall DPS was in at the time, it’s hard to fathom where we’d be otherwise absent emergency managers,” Wurfel said.

Differences of opinion

Detroit school board President LaMar Lemmons said state control has hurt DPS. He points to the loss of schools to the EAA and Bobb’s move to take academic control from the board. “It was five years of dictatorship. ... 30,000 students lost,” he said.

Not everyone is disappointed.

Parent Edward Long says he is happy with the education his two children are getting at Cass Tech High School. He sees a future at DPS when there is no emergency manager.

“Five years sounds like a very long time,” Long said. “As a person born and raised here, Detroit has some historical issues — that is the reality of it. My concern isn’t the length of it. I just want the job to get done.”

DPS’s growing deficit

The district saw its deficit increase by $38.8 million over the past three months. Factors include:
■$21 million shortage in Title 1 money
■$10.7 million drop in property tax collections
■$19 million in additional spending for maintenance and operations
Source: DPS budget
(313) 222-2269

From The Detroit News:

EU Wants to Deploy Troops to the CAR by Late April

Wed, 03/19/2014 - 23:58

A French military convoy rolls through the Central African Republic. Violence has continued after the forced resignation of Michel Djotodia., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.EU aims to deploy Central Africa mission by end-April: general

4:04am EDT

PARIS (Reuters) - The European Union wants to deploy troops to Central African Republic by the end of April, the general picked to lead the proposed mission said on Wednesday, adding the crisis in Ukraine had delayed its launch.

France has accused the EU of shirking its responsibility for international security after a plan to send up to 1,000 troops to Central African Republic this week seemed set to collapse.

EU diplomats have said there is a link between the problems facing the Central African Republic force and the political crisis in Ukraine, where Russian forces have occupied the Crimea region, raising tensions between Moscow and the West.

"I think the international situation today in part explains why the process isn't going as fast as expected," General Philippe Ponties told RFI radio.

"We can't neglect its role in slowing down the process, but unlike what has been said this mission is not blocked. The objective is to send the complete force by the end of April."

Ponties said so far two brigades of about 300 soldiers as well as special forces and police units had been committed to the EUFOR mission, but that it still lacked around 100 men and key logistical support before it could be deployed.

France, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Portugal and Spain have agreed to contribute to the mission, he said.

"The launch still needs logistical support of about 100 soldiers, ranging from medical to transport needs" Ponties said.


The EU has drawn up plans to send 800 to 1,000 soldiers to Central African Republic to join 6,000 African and 2,000 French troops, who have struggled to stop the fighting that started when the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power a year ago in the majority Christian state.

The goal of the EU force would be to provide security in the capital Bangui and at Bangui airport, where around 70,000 people who have fled the violence are living in dire conditions.

The EU has so far held four conferences at which member states as well as some countries outside the 28-nation bloc offered troops and equipment for the operation.

Failure to send the force to Africa would be an embarrassment for the EU, which has been trying to burnish its credentials as a security organization, and a setback for France, which has sought more European support for its efforts in Central African Republic, a former French colony.

"Given the humanitarian and security situation in CAR it's urgent that we deploy to support the African Union and French mission and to ease the humanitarian task," Ponties said.

"It's a transition mission that should last six months which would be a bridge between the current situation and a multinational force that should be strengthened by year-end."

(Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Africa's Declining Capacity to Manage Conflicts

Wed, 03/19/2014 - 23:52

Catherine Samba-Panza and François Hollande during the imperialist leader's visit to Bangui on Feb. 28, 2014. France has thousands of troops inside the CAR., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Africa’s Declining Capacity To Manage Conflicts

On March 18, 2014 @ 12:53 pm
By Makinde Collins

At a recent debate in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, organized by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a political think-tank with ties to Germany’s Social Democratic Party, stakeholders called on the leadership of Africa, especially ECOWAS to address its declining capacity to manage conflicts.

Although views were expressed by different panelists at the debate, Jibrin Ibrahim, a senior fellow at the Centre for Democracy and Development, observed that in the past ECOWAS had achieved a lot of successes on conflict management.

He cited the successful interventions in Liberia and Sierra Leone as defining moments in the capacity, history and political will of ECOWAS to intervene in crisis situations.

According to him, “When we intervened so successfully in these countries, there was a leader for the region and that leader was Nigeria. Today we find ourselves in a situation where Nigeria itself is facing its own challenges.”

Ibrahim lamented that capacity question of ECOWAS member states had also been exacerbated by the paucity of funds to finance military operations.

According to him, the crisis of governance in several ECOWAS member states has also undermined their capacity to intervene in conflict situations in the region.

Last month, Nigeria’s National Security Adviser Dasuki made a point that Nigerian troops were currently deployed in 32 states out of 36. No doubt that in addition to those deployments, the country is facing active insurgencies in some parts of the country.

Our declining capacity to manage some of these conflicts which have threatened the foundations of several African nations forced most countries to seek support from western countries.

Unfortunately to Africa, these western countries exaggerate for their purpose the level of terrorist threat in Africa towards promoting their own interests on the continent including increase of their military presence in the region.

Some security experts are of the view that jihadists “do not pose a very serious threat for Africa because, for example, of their small number of troops: ‘Al-Shabab’ – some thousands of fighters, ‘Boko Haram’ – some hundreds of members, different Mali groups – not more then one thousand each.

Last month, some world leaders who were in Abuja for Nigeria’s Centenary celebration, pledged their support to Africa’s most populous country in its fight against terrorism.

According to EU President, Jose Manuel Barroso, the bloc had contributed one billion U.S. dollars to support peace and security in Africa.

Barroso also reiterated EU’s commitment to share counter-piracy knowledge with African countries, to strengthen their efforts to overcome threats to maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.

The EU president described Africa as a continent of hope, saying that in 2012 alone, eight out of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies were on the continent.

He cited that the IMF predicts Africa’s economic growth to be six percent in 2014, the highest rate since after the global financial crisis.

Also speaking was UK’s Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, who said the British Government would partner Africa in seeking the eradication of violent extremism.

He said it was the right of Nigeria and African governments to defend their territory and people from terrorism, but called for respect for human rights in doing so.

Simmonds told African leaders attending the Centenary celebration that democracy, prosperity and stability were vital ingredients for peace and development in the continent.

He challenged African leaders to allow their countries to flourish, noting that the choices they make could determine the fate of over one billion people.

“If African nations are to avoid in the next century the mistakes European nations made over the last 100 years, then ultimately, African leaders – you here today – must make the right choices,” he added.

Also speaking, French President Francois Hollande promised support for Nigeria in the battle against Boko Haram in defence of democracy.

Hollande, who`was the only European president at the conference said: “Your struggle is also our struggle.

We will always stand ready not only to provide our political support, but also our help every time you need it, because the struggle against terrorism is also the struggle for democracy.”

Hollande noted that in spite of the crises in the continent, there was reason for optimism in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

“Africa has a great future. It’s the continent of tomorrow,” he said.

The French president, however warned, that such promise could be impeded by insecurity.

He also pledged that France would double its overseas development aid to the continent within the next five years.

It is important to state here that African states are interested in the external support to fight terrorism at the level of national armies and military equipment and not the idea of westerners insisting on the increase of their military presence on the continent.

African regional organisations welcome western aid in this sphere of military and special training, logistics, exchange of intelligence information.

Countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Algeria and Nigeria need trainings of police forces and special services, army troops to secure national borders which will be prepared for activity against extremists with the new actual methods of field work but not the western troops distribution on their soil.

It’s important to mention that US direct their counter terrorism aid to Africa with the possibility to involve American army and special troops on the African land. Also they insist on the additional deployment of troops and elements of Africom under the pretext of fighting terrorist groups in Africa.

Most African countries oppose the idea of western military presence on the continent, besides there is an increase in the anti-western attitude in the African society.

There is a need to search “African decisions for African problems.” The most part of Central, West and South Africa protest against “military intervention of the West in the continent under the pretext of war against terrorism”;

Also they insist on the deployment of additional forces and elements of AFRICOM on the continent under the pretext of strengthening fight against terrorist cells.

The West continues conducting a policy of double standards in different parts of the world applying not only political, economic and informational methods, but also using terrorist groups in the places of its interests.

The westerners for example prefer calling extremists in Mali as “terrorists” but the same type of guerrillas in Syria they hypocritically define as “fighters for democratic values“ forgetting that these so-called “fighters for freedom” use all methods of terrorist activities resulting in heavy casualties.

So the West divides terrorism into two types: one which is acceptable (answers its goals and interests), another – unacceptable (which threatens its citizens and interests).

During the military operation in Mali the West (through Paris) gained control over important uranium mines in Niger. Now the same agenda is for Algiers because of its vast gas resources which is not under US control still and not touched by “Arab spring”.

Syria is not so important to the US because it’s not so rich in mineral resources as for example Maghreb or Sahel zone, that’s why Washington isn’t inclined to give an active and widespread support to the Syrian opposition.

This is the reason Syrian conflict has snowballed into a permanent war with Islamic mercenaries joining the fray since 2011.

It’s clear that some of the Syrian rebel fighters have gone to Mali where “the price for Jihad war” is more than in Syria. Taking into consideration the words of the French President Francois Holland that the “operation in Mali will be continued as long as it needs”, one can suggest that the scale of war would be higher and lead to escalation of the conflict.

This crisis could have “domino effect” in neighbouring countries and involve different states in the region including Nigeria where is a possibility of increase in Boko Haram attacks.

•Collins is Lagos-based public affairs analyst. E-mail:

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