Pan Africa Newswire
US-backed forces of the Somalia Transitional Federal Government and AMISOM enter the town of Wanlaweyn. The Horn of Africa nation is being occupied by imperialism utilizing proxy forces from the region., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Up to 3,000 African peacekeepers killed in Somalia since 2007: U.N.
Thu, May 9 2013
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - As many as 3,000 African Union peacekeepers have been killed in Somalia in recent years in an attempt to end an Islamist insurgency and bring stability to the Horn of Africa nation, a senior U.N. official said on Thursday.
"I want to pay tribute to the countries and to their soldiers who paid such an enormously heavy price," U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told reporters.
"You would be shocked to learn that maybe it is up to 3,000 AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) soldiers that have been killed during these years that AMISOM has been there," he said.
The 17,700 strong African Union force began deploying to Somalia in 2007. It includes troops from Burundi, Uganda, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Djibouti.
"Uganda, Burundi have paid a tremendous price," he added. "The Kenyan troops are, of course, also a large part of AMISOM."
By way of comparison, 3,096 U.N. peacekeepers have died since 1948, according to the website of the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
Somalia is only just emerging from two decades of civil war. Its government is struggling to rebuild a country riven by clan divisions and whose infrastructure and institutions are in tatters.
A newly appointed parliament last year elected a new president, the first vote of its kind since the toppling of former military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
African Union peacekeepers have been largely responsible for pushing al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab out of the capital Mogadishu and other urban centers in the past two years, but the group is still able to launch major attacks, including a suicide bombing on Sunday that killed at least eight people.
Eliasson said on the sidelines of a donor conference in London earlier this week that sought pledges to rebuild Somalia that the United Nations has given strong backing to the country's new leadership.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Philip Barbara)
Vendor on the streets of Cairo, Egypt with an enlarged US dollar advertisement in the background. Egypt is facing a renewed economic crisis due to its alliance with imperialism., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Decline and fall of Egypt's credit ratings: A history
Deya Abaza, Saturday 11 May 2013
Standard and Poor's latest downgrade of Egypt's sovereign credit rating is the sixteenth such action taken by a major international rating agency since the January 2011 revolution
Standard and Poor's (S&P) credit downgrade, reducing Egypt's foreign and domestic long-term rating to 'CCC+' and foreign and local short-term rating to 'C' is the latest in a series of such actions taken by the most prominent international rating agencies since Egypt's January 2011 revolution.
The three agencies combined have cut Egypt's sovereign debt rating a total of sixteen times since the uprising, due to successive waves of political instability, dwindling foreign currency reserves, weakening public finances and failure to reach agreement on an International Monetary Fund (IMF) rescue loan.
In cutting Egypt's grade on Thursday from 'B' to 'C', S&P became the third rating agency to do so this year.
On 21 March, Moody's Investors Service downgraded Egypt's government bond ratings from 'B3' to 'Caa1', after it had already downgraded it from 'B2' on 12 February. On 30 January, credit-rating agency Fitch cut Egypt's sovereign rating from 'B+' to 'B'.
A court verdict on 26 January sentencing 21 fans of Port Said's Masry football club to death ignited violent unrest in the Suez Canal cities, resulting in many deaths and prompting President Morsi to announce a state of emergency in Port Said, Ismailia and Suez, which was itself widely challenged.
In March, Moody's cited "the economic impact of the intensification of civil unrest, as reflected by the recent decree announcing a state of emergency" for its action. It also cited the "weakening in Egypt's external payments position" in light of the dramatic $1.4 billion drop in Egypt's foreign currency reserves in January, the largest decline in a year, according to the agency.
Egypt's central bank started auctioning US dollars in late December, after foreign currency reserves reached a critical level as the bank had spent more than $20 billion in foreign reserves to prop up the Egyptian pound in the wake of the revolution.
Concern over Egypt's economic future as cited by the agencies, has also been exacerbated by Egypt's failure to secure a $4.8 billion IMF loan after political unrest caused a preliminary agreement with the Fund to fall through in December.
"Political conditions are complicating economic policymaking, as evidenced by the backtracking on IMF fiscal prior actions in December," said Fitch in January.
On 9 December, President Morsi, caught in a constitutional battle with the opposition, had announced a raft of tax hikes as part of an economic reform programme proposed to the Fund in exchange for the loan, only to retract it later the same day in fear of a popular backlash.
“The increased polarisation between the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and sections of the population is likely to weaken the sovereign’s ability to deliver sustainable public finances, promote balanced growth and respond to further economic or political shocks,” S&P said when it cut Egypt's long-term rating from 'B' to 'B-' in late December.
Uncertainty surrounding the timing, outcome, and effect of Egypt's parliamentary elections on the IMF negotiations has also been a major factor.
When the vote was scheduled to begin in April, Fitch identified it as "a potential flashpoint" and predicted that "an IMF programme could be delayed until after the election."
Though negotiations with the IMF have shown tentative signs of progress, with officials on both sides of the negotiations expecting to conclude an agreement by the end of May, a court order has forced the delay of the elections until the autumn of this year.
A previous ruling, issued by the country's Supreme Constitutional court days before Mohamed Morsi beat Mubarak-stalwart Ahmed Shafiq in a presidential run-off vote last June, had forced the dissolution of Egypt's Islamist-led post-revolutionary parliament, causing Fitch to downgrade Egypt's sovereign credit rating to 'B+' from 'BB-'.
A few months before on 10 February, S&P lowered Egypt to 'B', five steps below investment grade, citing wariness of a turbulent transition to democracy, and the ongoing decline in the country's foreign currency reserves, which had fallen to $16.35 billion in January.
The transitional period had taken a sharp turn for the worse in late 2011. On October 9, the armed forces had brutally dispersed a protest by Coptic Christians in front of the state television building in downtown Cairo, killing 28 protesters in what became known as the "Maspero massacre."
In late November, a wave of protests unseen since the January 2011 revolution over the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' perceived botching of the transitional period ended in a week of deadly clashes on Mohamed Mahmoud Street near Tahrir Square, ahead of the country's first post-revolution legislative elections.
The events sparked a spate of downgrades, with S&P cutting Egypt's rating on 18 October then on 24 November to 'BB-' then 'B+', Moody's also lowering Egypt twice, in October then December, and Fitch catching up on 30 December, dropping Egypt's sovereign credit rating by one notch, citing "ongoing political turbulence," weakened public finances, and unfavourable "security conditions."
Moody's had previously acted on its scepticism in the earliest stage of the transition, downgrading Egypt's foreign and local currency government bond ratings by one notch in March.
At the time, the agency cited "concerns about whether a transition to an effective and stable government will be achieved," in light of the "the prolonged political uncertainty in Egypt since our last rating action on 31 January."
Moody's had been the first to cut Egypt's credit rating in January 2011, to 'Ba2' from 'Ba1', less than a week after the January 25 protests sparked a wider revolution.
It had been followed by S&P on 1 February, and Fitch on 3 February, which downgraded Egypt's sovereign debt by one notch each.
"The downgrade reflects the significant intensification of unrest, at the start of what is likely to be a volatile transition to a new government, and the increasingly negative consequences for the economy, public and external finances of the continuing disruption,"Fitch had said, days before then president Hosni Mubarak stepped down on 11 February 2011.
Palestine solidarity activists arrested by Israeli police enroute to protest conditions in the West Bank. Europe prevented many from bording flights to Israel., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Israel follows South Africa's model of apartheid against Palestinians: ECFR
Bassem Aly , Saturday 11 May 2013
The EU has to take concrete measures against Israel as its pro-peace political discourse is not enough, a European think tank report recommends
The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) has issued a report tackling the situation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, warning that Israel risks the fate of apartheid state South Africa, embodied in international isolation, if it continues to entrench its illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
The ECFR describes itself as a “pan-European” think tank that conducts research and promotes informed debate across Europe, benefiting from the political experience of more its 170+ members, including serving ministers, MPs, EU senior officials, former NATO chiefs and intellectuals.
Among these members are British former Foreign Secretary David Miliband, former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, and former EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana.
Titled“Europe and the Vanishing Two-State Option,”the report argues that the ceaseless expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, the lockdown of Gaza, and the systematic undermining of Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank, have eroded the basis for a Palestinian state “to the point of collapse.”
“Israel’s election has produced a new government with an even more pronounced annexationist bent towards the West Bank, while US President Obama’s visit to the region lived down to the minimal expectations prepared for it,” the report added.
The London-based ECFR called on the European Union (EU) to boost its support for the Palestinian Authority so as to strongly push the two-state solution forward.
“As so often, Europe issues great statements and then under-cuts them by its actual behaviour,” Nick Witney, author of the report and a senior policy fellow at ECFR, said.
“As we have thickened ties with Israel in recent years, at both the EU and national levels, so Israel has learned to regard calls for an end to settlements and for de-occupation as so much huffing and puffing. But unless Israelis wake up soon to how they are ‘losing’ Europe, the outcome will be disastrous for all concerned.”
The report stressed Israel’s need to “change course” in order to tend to the suffering of the Palestinians, as well as serving its own interests in the Arab world.
Witney pointed out that the point of a common EU position ought to be to exercise a collective weight.
What could Europe do?
Polling and recent UN votes show that Israel is "losing" Europe, the report claims.
Such argument proved correct after the UN General Assembly vote on 29 November to recognise Palestine as a non-member state, as Israel responded by announcing plans to build almost 3,000 homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
At that time, UN ambassadors from several EU state such as Britain, France, Germany and Portugal highlighted European fears over the peace stalemate and stressed that their governments "strongly oppose" Israeli settlement construction plans.
However, the report underlines that the European message is “muffled” because Europeans undercut their own calls for ending settlement construction by continuing their commercial, defence and scientific ties with Israel.
Despite this, the one billion Euros annual aid from Europe to the Palestinians has produced a “dependency economy,” with the real economy progressively “hollowed out.”
Other means of financial backing for the Palestinians are suggested, such as diverting money to economic development projects.
Thus, the ECFR suggests stopping the extension of benefits (market access, EU grants, etc) to settlement-based individuals and enterprises as though they were resident of Israel.
Also, the EU should take no further steps to associate Israel and its economy more closely with the EU without parallel moves by Israel to relax the occupation.
“Governments could usefully issue official advice against such economic activity or end the situation whereby settlers travelling on an Israeli passport benefit from the EU’s visa-waiver arrangement with Israel," the report mentioned.
“If the visa requirement were reinstated for all such settlers, it would both make sense in the context of consistency and make it easier to consider refusing admission to Europe those behind the upsurge in settler violence, as recommended by the EU Heads of Mission.”
These measures should coincide with supporting the agriculture and industrial sectors run by Palestinians, currently thwarted by Israeli authorities, so as to enable the private sector to generate jobs and tax revenue.
“For European donors, the strategy should be to put the PA on notice that the days of the dependency state are numbered, but that Europe will stay around long enough to assist them in shifting their focus from state-building to economy-building,” the report concludes.
“European readiness to back Israel right or wrong is diminishing, and Israel needs to take with deadly seriousness the prospect that, with current trends, it could one day find itself exclusively reliant on the US for diplomatic support in the face of a hostile global campaign," the report states.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addressing the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2012. Abbas says he is seeking recognition by the world body of Palestine as a nonmember state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
The mirage of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations
Ahmed Eleiba, Saturday 11 May 2013
What lies behind the sudden rush to hold a new round of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations
There was recently a sudden rush to hold an Arab-US meeting in Washington to examine the possibility of resuming Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. An invitation had gone out from Secretary of State John Kerry to the chief parties of the Arab peace initiative, who are simultaneously the chief parties in the Arab League, and the invitation was accepted without hesitation.
But before heading off to Washington, the Arab parties held an urgent meeting in Doha. Qatar is a member of the Arab peace initiative committee, of course. Yet, according to observers, it plays a bigger role than that. Indeed, some observers have gone so far as to say that the Qatari role extends beyond its relative weight in this context to the additional functions it has been acquiring in the course of its bids to insinuate itself among major powers such as the US and Israel.
Atwan Shalhat, an expert at the Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies (Madar), is of this opinion. Speaking on the phone from Haifa, Shalhat, who is of Palestinian origin, told Al-Ahram Weekly that “with the help of the Arabs more than the Palestinians, the US state department has managed to furnish a cover for the possible resumption of negotiations.”
“At the same time, it has offered inducements to Israel that will probably persuade it to return to the negotiating table. Although there is a Palestinian contingent in the Arab delegation that headed off to Washington to explore the possibilities of resuming negotiations, it is not enthusiastic. It has found little to encourage it in the talks [in Washington] and in the inter-Arab consultations.”
“Undoubtedly, this is because the Palestinians are unconvinced by this approach, which by any standards is a process of concession that is filled with temptations for Israel which in turn does not find the meal on offer rich enough to arouse its appetite for serious, meaningful dialogue.”
The “inducements” boil down to a modification of the Arab peace initiative adopted at the Arab League Summit in Beirut in 2002, which had been initially sponsored by Saudi Arabia, the most influential Arab party in this context, though not one as interested in the limelight as Qatar.
The modification is to include the principle of “territorial exchange,” which according to some sources entails a bilateral land-swap between the Israelis and the Palestinians, while other sources suspect that it will entail trilateral land-swaps between Israel, the Palestinians and Egypt.
There have also been suggestions of a broader “multilateral” or “regional” exchange that would include five parties: Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Palestine and Israel. According to the Israeli political analyst Jackie Khoury as well as the Palestinians of 1948 community in Israel, this project echoes that of the former head of the Israeli National Security Council Giro Eilan.
The trilateral land-swap idea had been proposed to Egypt by Shimon Peres during his visit to former president Hosni Mubarak in August 2010. Mubarak rejected the notion out of hand, nipping any resolution to the question of Palestinian statehood at Egypt’s expense in the bud.
At the time, according to a source in Egyptian intelligence, Israel was looking for a land-swap formula in accordance with which the Palestinians would concede territory in the West Bank and Gaza in exchange for which the western borders of Gaza would be pushed some 164km into Sinai. Egypt would be able to keep Wadi Feiran.
Apparently, Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas approved the proposal, which had been put to him through secret negotiating channels with the then Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert. Cairo responded by saying that not a single inch of Egyptian territory was negotiable.
The Egyptian authorities also went further to point out that the current borders of Gaza did not in fact represent the true historical dimensions of that region. Historically, the borders of Gaza had extended up to Ashkelon, 13km north of Gaza’s current eastern border. Therefore, they said, if people were interested in expanding the land area of Gaza, which is the most densely populated area on earth, they should extend its borders into Israel, rather than in the opposite direction into Egyptian territory. Egyptians had made enormous sacrifices to recover this land, they said.
The corridor connecting the West Bank with Gaza was also up for negotiation. Although originally a Palestinian territory, the West Bank-Gaza corridor conflicts with Israeli “security arrangements” that are designed to divide the Palestinian territories into a patchwork of isolated cantons. Could the concept of land-exchange possibly mean a swap of Palestinian land in exchange for Palestinian land?
This is how Hamas perceived it in its reaction to recent rounds of talks. Ayman Taha, a member of the Hamas Political Bureau, told the Weekly that “Hamas was not consulted on this subject at any time, and it does not approve of what has been taking place in the talks.”
According to a high-level Palestinian diplomat who was present at the talks in Washington, the proposals that were placed on the table in the US had been put forward as ideas, not as a definitive project. The source, who spoke to the Weekly from New York, said that the Arabs had not reached any form of consensus over the ideas that would be discussed in Washington before heading off to the US capital.
Instead, they had only agreed among themselves to listen to what Washington had to say with regard to the possibility of the existence of common ground that would permit the resumption of negotiations in a manner consistent with the established principles of the Palestinian cause. There had been no intent to offer Israel enticements in order to lure it back to the negotiating table, he said.
The Palestinian diplomat went on to reveal that certain Arab parties had departed from what had been agreed in order to listen to the US administration’s point of view in reopening the peace process and what the common ground to build upon might be, rather than to discuss or raise proposals.
“Even if Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] made this proposal at the time of the Olmert premiership, that was in a totally different context. We had only been speaking of minor modifications to the border that would be possible through some land-swaps. The point had been to overcome certain difficulties with regard to the original 1967 borders that had arisen due to changing realities on the ground.”
“There is a difference between territorial exchanges and modifications of the borders. There is an illusion being marketed by the US-Israeli-Qatari trio in the negotiations with the purpose of superseding the supposed framework of the two-state solution, which has long been accepted by all parties,” former Palestinian minister Hassan Asfour, a member of the Palestinian negotiating team during the Oslo talks, said.
Speaking to the Weekly from Jordan, Asfour said that “the idea now is to deal with the current situation in the region in a manner that creates a new political axis to eliminate the Syrian-Iranian-Hizbullah-Hamas axis, because [President Bashar] Al-Assad might regain the initiative in Syria and Hezbollah do something in the management of the urban wars which would shift the balance in a manner that would have dangerous repercussions for the opposing double alliance of the US and Israel and the US and the Arab powers.”
Asfour added that “the trap into which the Arab delegation fell is that the Arab League does not have the right to modify the Arab peace initiative now. Not even the Arab League’s committee for this initiative has this right. This is because there has been a fundamental change in the form of the UN recognition of Palestine, which means that any negotiations that take place should be over the delineation of the borders, not over land exchanges. In overlooking this fact, the delegation is acting as though it wants to set this historic gain aside and pretend it never happened.”
Asfour believed that the US, Israel and Qatar were actively conspiring toward this end. They wanted the Palestinians and Arabs to forfeit this gain, he said, and Israel was prepared to intervene in Syria in exchange for the required modification of the Arab initiative. “Therefore, I believe that the idea that Israel favours is the ‘comprehensive regional solution’ currently being marketed by Qatar. However, Egypt, which is the most important regional party in this equation, is backing off. Even the Egyptian presidency, which hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, does not want to become involved in this, as much as the Muslim Brotherhood wants to end the Syrian question at any cost.”
The Palestinian diplomatic source in New York agreed, adding that “the most accurate observation on the Arabs’ Doha-Washington excursion was made by the Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr.”
After returning from Washington, Amr said that modifying the Arab peace initiative would require an Arab summit. This, he felt, was not the order of the day. Rather, “the time has come to reach a constructive solution based on the already established principles. The focus should shift from conflict management to the actual attainment of peace,” Amr said.
He continued by saying that “we, as Arab states, support the Palestinian position. Our position is also to support the Arab peace initiative, which calls for the full [Israeli] withdrawal from all occupied territories to the borders of 7 June 1967 and a just solution that includes the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 with its capital in East Jerusalem.”
Although Amr denied rumours regarding land-exchange proposals, stressing that no joint Arab-US statement had been issued to such an effect, sources in both Amman and Washington did confirm that the various land-swap suggestions had been mooted “as ideas”.
At the end of the meeting in Washington, Kerry apparently said that he would give the parties two months to think over what had been discussed. Developments in Washington’s stances with respect to the various situations in the Middle East, most notably its positions with respect to intervention in Syria and a possible military engagement with Iran, will certainly provide added food for thought during this period.
As Shalhat put it, “there was a lot of nodding and winking with regard to Syria during the talks that took place in Washington.”
He went on to observe that there were fundamental differences among the Arabs, who were sharply divided between those who rejected and those who were pushing for approval of the “ideas” mooted during the talks. However, he asked, “if they enter a new phase of negotiations, will Israel have anything to offer now? I doubt it. There are 40 Knesset members who form a large religious pressure group that Netanyahu has to deal with. This is why Israel will try to shift the focus to another subject over which there is a fundamental disagreement and this is to demand recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, a chord Obama obligingly plucked during his recent visit to Israel.”
Said Okasha of the Israeli Studies Unit in the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, said that the purpose of the Israeli focus on the “Jewishness” of the Israeli state at this point was to settle all current and future problems in a single stroke by exacting recognition from the Arabs that they — the Jews — had a historic right to the land before 1948.
Okasha said that the “Jewishness” the Israelis were insisting on had nothing to do with their form of government and the extent to which it is influenced by religion, as some Arabs think, but rather it relates to their claim to an exclusive and pre-existing title to the land.
Shalhat added that Israel would never consent to what the Arabs demanded and that the furthest it would go would be to offer to restart negotiations where they left off in 2008, to which they might add some “good will” initiatives such as helping to promote tourism in the Palestinian territories, freeing some Palestinian prisoners and withdrawing from various central points in the West Bank.
“This is the type of thinking that the various political parties in the Knesset can come together on, especially in view of the influence of the Jewish Home Party, the third-largest bloc in the Israeli parliament, which is in favour of developing the Palestinian Authority into an autonomous rule area. However, there will be a consensus that the need now is to focus on more pressing and sensitive issues for Israel, which are Syria and Iran, over which Tel Aviv and Washington have very different red lines.”
Clearly various parties are trying to push Washington and Tel Aviv closer together on these “red lines”. However, it appears that the keys are still in the hands of Iran and Syria and the way they respond to Israel’s succession of provocative aerial strikes inside Syria. For the moment, Israel is in waiting mode, having mobilised its missile batteries on the borders in anticipation of that response.
Ahmed Maher, of the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, has had an investigation dropped by the interior ministry of the North African state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Egypt interior minister to withdraw complaint against April 6 founder
Ahram Online, Saturday 11 May 2013
Egyptian Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim offers to withdraw his earlier legal complaint against Ahmed Maher, founder of Egypt's best-known political youth group
At a Saturday press conference, Egyptian Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim voiced his willingness to withdraw a complaint filed earlier against April 6 Youth Movement founder Ahmed Maher.
Maher was arrested on Friday afternoon upon his arrival to Cairo International Airport en route from Vienna, following a visit he made to the United States.
Maher will reportedly be held by authorities for four days pending further investigation.
On Saturday, the office of the prosecutor-general ordered Maher's release, although charges against him remain in place.
According an interior ministry official cited by state news agency MENA, Maher has been charged with inciting demonstrations outside the interior minister's Cairo residence in March.
On 29 March, four April 6 members were arrested and charged with rioting and resisting police after security forces dispersed a protest organised by the youth group outside Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim's home in the capital's New Cairo district.
Protesters held up banners – along with women's undergarments – accusing the ministry of "prostituting" itself to the administration of President Mohamed Morsi.
One month later, a New Cairo court ordered the four April 6 members' release. It remains unclear, however, whether the charges against the four activists have been dropped.
Mohamed Ibrahim, the Egyptian Minister of the Interior. Three suspects have been arrested in an alleged plot to attack buildings inside the North African state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Police arrest three Egyptians suspected of planning terrorist attacks
Sayed Gamaleddine, Ahram online, Saturday 11 May 2013
Interior minister announces arrest of three Egyptians – with possible links to Syria-based militants – suspected of planning domestic terrorist attacks, including one on foreign embassy
Egyptian police have arrested three men suspected of planning attacks on targets in Cairo and Alexandria, including a foreign embassy, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim announced Saturday.
Speaking at a news conference, Ibrahim said the suspects had been in contact with an "Al-Qaeda" figure in western Asia, as well as "elements responsible for receiving terrorist fighters on Turkey's borders" – a reference to militants reportedly overseeing the flow of Islamist fighters into violence-wracked Syria.
Ibrahim, however, went on to deny the existence of "any Al-Qaeda terrorist cells" in Egypt.
According to Ibrahim, police confiscated ten kilograms of ammonium nitrate – used in making homemade explosives –found in the suspects' possession.
The minister added that the three suspects were affiliated with the ultra-conservative Gamaa Jihadiyah group, suspected members of which were arrested last October and charged with establishing a 'terrorist cell' in Cairo's Nasr City district.
State Security prosecutors have accused the three suspects – Mohamed Abdel-Halim, Mohamed Mustafa and Amr Mohamed – of being members of the group, which he described as "banned."
Mamdouh Ismail, a lawyer for the defendants, told Ahram Online that his clients were also suspected of planning to travel to Syria to join Al-Qaeda’s 'Al-Nusra Front.'
Ismail said his clients had denied all charges, describing the case against them as "fabricated."
US consulate in Benghazi, Libya which was destroyed by people angry over the role of the United States inside the country. Demonstrations were held at the same time in Egypt, Sudan and Tunisia., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Pentagon Placed On Alert As Occupied Libya Further Deteriorates
Mounting worries by the imperialist states over protests throughout Libya prompted the State Department to begin evacuating some diplomats from Tripoli, as the Pentagon put troops stationed at nearby European bases on high alert.
The response was driven in part by the controversy over the utter failure of the Central Intelligence Agency to secure U.S. diplomatic installations in Libya last year, when four U.S. government employees, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were killed in a sustained military attack. Fallout from the Sept. 11, 2012, assault in Benghazi continues to be the subject of an intense political fight, with Republicans accusing the Obama administration of being negligent and attempting to cover up embarrassing facts.
The protests that have spread in Libya over the past week stem in part from the passage of a law that bars from public office officials who served in key roles under the former Libyan government of Moammar Gaddafi. Although there is an attempt by the imperialist states to make it appear that the demonstrations and bombings are not targeting their interests, widespread disaffection has been evident since the U.S.-NATO war of 2011 virtually destroyed the state.
Still, a senior defense official said a Marine quick-response team and a Special Operations unit have been placed on alert to ensure that they can respond if they are needed to evacuate personnel. The nearest U.S. troops are stationed in Spain and Italy.
“The reason we’re able to have these forces on alert is work the Defense Department has done to have additional response options in the wake of Benghazi,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss contingency plans.
The State Department said in a statement that it has ordered the departure of a handful of “non-essential” personnel from Tripoli as a result of the “unsettled situation,” which includes mass protests outside government facilities.
“We have no indication that the current protests are directed toward Westerners,” the statement said. “However, sporadic episodes of civil unrest have occurred throughout the country.”
The British Embassy also evacuated some employees, the government said in a statement.
The State Department updated its Libya travel warning Thursday, advising against all but essential travel to Tripoli, Benghazi and other areas.
The unrest worsened after the country’s new legislature last weekend overwhelmingly passed the bill barring certain figures from serving in government. It could unseat officials who currently hold jobs in the U.S.-led puppet rebel regime.
A similar effort to ban former officials from working in the Iraqi government after the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein was one of the driving factors of the Sunni insurgency there. Diplomats and analysts have expressed concern that Libya’s law is too broad — potentially marginalizing a large segment of the population, which could resort to violence.
“The international community is observing the country with concern during this critical time in the transition,” France, Britain and the United States said in a joint statement this week, in which the imperialist regimes that toppled the Gaddafi government during the 2011 war of conquest and regime-change called for restraint.
“We support Libya’s successful transition from ruthless dictatorship to democracy, stability and prosperity,” the imperialist said. However, the imposed regime in Libya, known as the General National Congress, has failed to stabilize the country and revive the national economy, which under the Jamahiriya of the Gaddafi era was the most prosperous and stable in Africa.
President Mugabe is welcomed by Chief Chiduku while Chief Zimunya and Cde Oppah Muchinguri look on in Mutare on May 10, 2013. ZANU-PF is preparing for harmonized elections in late June of this year., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Poll dates next week: President
Saturday, 11 May 2013 00:00
Michael Chideme in MUTARE
DATES for this year’s harmonised elections will be decided next week after the Senate passes the Constitutional Bill on Tuesday, President Mugabe has said. The Bill sailed through the House of Assembly on Thursday with all the 156 legislators present endorsing it, exceeding the 144 statutory requirement which is two-thirds of the 210 members required to pass a Constitutional Bill.
Addressing the third Zimbabwe Local Government Conference at Queens Hall here yesterday, President Mugabe said Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa was now in charge of the election roadmap.
“So, we will see from next week what the date can be,” he said.
“We now await the decision of the Senate. Only when it is passed shall we be able to have a roadmap for elections.
“I was hoping to meet Chinamasa here in Mutare, but he did not come. He is now the person in charge. It’s no longer the Ministry of Constitutional (and Parliamentary) Affairs.”
The President reiterated that there would be no extension of the tenure of the Seventh Parliament when it expires on June 29.
He said the automatic dissolution of the House would pave way for the election of a new one.
“Parliament dies on 29 June,” he said. “MPs, all of them, would have lost their legislative power.”
MDC-T has been lobbying for a postponement of elections amid reports that the party had failed to draft a manifesto and had been unnerved by several recent surveys pointing to a Zanu-PF victory.
This — coupled with loss of confidence among MDC-T’s traditional western backers who have all been intensifying re-engagement with President Mugabe — has set party leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai on edge.
The President thanked House of Assembly members for “unanimously voting affirmatively” for the Constitutional Bill on Thursday.
He said once Senate approves the Bill on Tuesday, it would be taken to lawyers for scrutiny after which it would be his turn to sign it into law.
“When it is legal law of the country whatever should be done should be a matter of the new Government,” President Mugabe said as he called for peace during the election campaign.
“As all of you should be aware, the new Constitution coincides with the time in which the country is preparing for harmonised elections,” he said.
“As in any contest, there are some whose tempers may flare and others with raging emotions, to all of them, the country’s appeal is for peace, peace, peace! Violence should not have any place nor footprint in our elections.”
President Mugabe said leaders should not impose themselves and should accept a contest.
“Let us be tolerant,” he said.
“Recognise your right to stand as candidates is also others’ right to stand as candidates. We should compete and the defeated should have humility and honesty to accept defeat,” he said.
The President had the delegates in stitches when he said in the last harmonised elections Zanu-PF only won six out of 26 seats in Manicaland and he suspected the people could have voted against Zanu-PF because he was 84-years-old and was showing wrinkles consistent with that age.
But he said when he looked at his rival MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, he was convinced it was not about facial looks.
He said if the two were to go for a beauty contest, he would come out tops.
“Zvino ndikati chitadzo chingava kupi? Tikamira papapa ndiri 84 (then) ndinotariswa nemvana dzakati kuti,” he said to laughter.
President Mugabe urged elected leaders to consult with the people and not to rush to implement projects and programmes without their input.
He cited the “mistake” that was done soon after independence when Government enacted the Legal Age of Majority Act based on world trends without the consent of community elders.
When central government proclaims policies, he said, it was the duty of local authorities as the lower tiers of the State to cascade the policies to households.
He urged the delegates from different councils to espouse the virtues of honest leadership, affordability, efficiency, reliability and sustainability.
“Local government should strive to uphold these values as it tackles such bottlenecks and key services as roads, health facilities, lighting and dependable water and sanitation systems,” President Mugabe said.
He said election into office should be a commitment to serve the people and not to live lavish lifestyles at the expense of citizens.
He said local authorities should link the central government to the people.
“Once this symbiotic relationship strikes the right notes, it answers the question of decentralisation, in respect of which all citizens are empowered to actively participate in decision making in matters of local development,” he said.
The President took a swipe at MDC-T-led councils that have departed from their service delivery mandate to pursue self-serving interests.
“I am not alone in expressing alarm at the report of appalling levels of corruption and mismanagement of public funds and properties by certain councillors and council officials,” President Mugabe said.
“As public servants, your duty is to protect such public assets as are reposed in your local authorities for the improvement of the welfare of these communities.
“Kwanga kune kuchema kuti vaChombo varikubvisa vanhu vedu. Kana kune mbavha dzaonekwa vongoregerwa vachingobira vanhu. Kana vakatipa mbavha dzoga dzoga vaChombo vongoti because President vakati be even vosiya zvakadaro?” (There was an outcry that Minister Chombo (Local Government, Rural and Urban Development) had been removing corrupt councillors. He should not turn a blind eye to thieves).
President Mugabe said in the absence of corruption, councillors from Zanu-PF and MDC should be treated equally.
“But if you give vaChombo people who think that rates and rentals should be in their pockets…they are thieves,” he said.
The conference ends today with Vice President Joice Mujuru expected to address the delegates.
Traditional leaders from Manicaland, provincial governors, Government ministers, mayors, town clerks and chief executive officers are attending the conference.
Churches in massive campaign for Zanu-PF
Saturday, 11 May 2013 00:00
Lloyd Gumbo Herald Reporter
The Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ), one of the largest groupings of churches in Zimbabwe, yesterday launched a massive voter orientation exercise countrywide to educate Bishops from the Apostolic and Zion churches of the need to ensure their followers register to vote for Zanu-PF during the forthcoming harmonised elections.
The ACCZ has 638 members with a following over 9,5 million registered people of whom about 5 million are eligible voters.
About 400 Bishops and their spouses from all the Apostolic and Zion churches in Zimbabwe attended a conference meant to educate them on the need to register as voters to ensure an emphatic Zanu-PF victory at the forthcoming polls.
The conference that was held at the Zanu-PF headquarters and officially opened by Zanu-PF national chairperson Cde Simon Khaya Moyo, was held under the theme; “re-aligning the indigenous churches’ authority over national affairs in Zimbabwe.”
The Bishops were drawn from in and around Harare with other provinces represented by at least two bishops.
Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, ACCZ president, Archbishop Reverend, Johannes Ndanga, said the church had a role to play in shaping national affairs of all countries the world over.
“We are launching the conference for peace and voter orientation ahead of the harmonised elections. We are conscientising each other on the need for peaceful elections and the need to register. We are encouraging our bishops to register as voters first before they urge their followers to do the same.
“This is a watershed election that we should have a big say as the church because we have to remember where we came from. We have about 400 bishops and their spouses here to ensure that people like (MDC-T leader, Mr Morgan) Tsvangirai who want to steal where they did not sow do not get anything at all. We want elections as soon as possible. We don’t want the continued abuse of our leader President Mugabe who is a founding revolutionary who taught people about this independence that Tsvangirai is enjoying,” said Rev Ndanga.
Archbishop Ndanga said it was a myth that churches should be apolitical when it is the church that is supposed to bless national leadership.
Some MDC-T traditional allies among them the CNN, BBC, the New York Times, the Guardian newspaper and some research groups among them the Afro-Barometer, Mass Public Opinion, Zim Vigil, Freedom House and individuals such as National Constitutional Assembly chairman Professor Lovemore Madhuku among others have already predicted Zanu-PF victory.
Delivering his keynote address, Cde Khaya Moyo said Zanu-PF was grateful to the church for the role they played since the liberation struggle adding that without prayer, the revolutionary war may not have been won.
“As Zanu-PF we are the only party with clear policies that are people-centered. This country is not for sellouts but revolutionaries. Let’s not play with our independence and sovereignty. We are not a banana republic.
“We have clear and principled leadership in President Mugabe. He is a principled and committed revolutionary. Bishops we know you are many in terms of your followers.
Elections are coming soon. It is going to be a game of numbers. We want all the people who are committed to their country to register as voters so that Zanu-PF wins overwhelmingly. We already have one candidate whom we should all vote for who is President Mugabe,” said Cde Khaya Moyo.
For local and Parliamentary elections, he said, candidates would be determined at the primary elections reiterating that the revolutionary party would not condone candidate imposition.
“When you vote, you should know where you came from. Let’s make sure we remove these thieves from local authorities. We want clean and committed council. You should vote for Zanu-PF.
“The forthcoming elections are synonymous with the 1980 elections because the enemy is still fighting us. The Americans and the European Union are fighting to remove President Mugabe. We cannot defeat the enemy if we do not vote in our numbers. No one should just pop up and say they want to be President of this country if they don’t know where we have come from,” said Cde Khaya Moyo.
He said, the 1987 unity accord between Zanu-PF and PF-Zapu was very much alive saying no one could claim to have ended the union when they were not the ones who signed the pact.
“The unity accord of December 22, 1987 between the two parties-PF-Zapu and Zanu-PF is irreversible . . . The accord has two signatures, that of President Mugabe and the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo. It is something we must be proud of. Whoever says he is out of the accord please leave them alone because they don’t have signatures there. Please pray for such people because they know not what they are doing,” said Cde Khaya Moyo.
Zanu-PF national commissar and Media, Information and Publicity Minister, Cde Webster Shamu, Politburo member Cde Tendai Savanhu and Harare provincial chairperson Cde Amos Midzi attended the meeting.
ZEC waives voter registration requirements
Saturday, 11 May 2013 00:00
Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has waived voter registration requirements for those without documentary proof of residence as the programme intensifies ahead of its end on May 19. Thirty-seven thousand people had registered to
vote as of yesterday, up from 25 000 last week.
ZEC chairperson Justice Rita Makarau told political parties yesterday that those without documents to prove their residence would fill in an affidavit form available at registration centres as part of measures agreed upon to address concerns raised by the parties and stakeholders.
“ZEC agreed with you in this regard and as a consequence added the use of an affidavit as an additional document to prove residence.
“The affidavit is the fall-back position for all applicants and, therefore, no one citizen should be turned away for want of documentation. The affidavit will be gazetted soon, it will form part of the law of Zimbabwe.”
Justice Makarau said the affidavit form was agreed upon by ZEC and the Registrar-General of Voters Mr Tobaiwa Mudede, who attended yesterday’s meeting.
In the meeting, political parties castigated Finance Minister Tendai Biti for not adequately funding the electoral commission.
This was after Justice Makarau said although the process had been largely underfunded, it had been worthwhile.
MDC-T organising secretary Mr Nelson Chamisa complained about “skewed” distribution of voter registration centres.
He said some provinces had more centres than others and suggested the use of traditional polling stations as voter registration centres.
Zanu-PF secretary for security Cde Sydney Sekeramayi said it was interesting to note that the MDC-T now wanted polling stations to be used as voter registration centres, a suggestion it had initially spurned.
“It had been said let voter registration be done at polling stations and they had said no, people would be intimidated, but they now want the same thing they had rejected, they are now wiser,” he said.
Political parties complained that the voter registration period, April 29 to May 19, was too short.
Others complained that staff in the RG’s Office frustrated aspiring voters by demanding certain issues that ZEC had not mentioned.
Justice Makarau said ZEC would meet to review the effect of the process and establish if there was need to extend it.
ZEC, she said, envisaged another 30-day registration period provided for by Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 20 which should commence when the proposed Constitution takes effect. The 30-day period, she said, should cover up for time lost during the initial stage of the current voter registration.
“We do not have information that Section 6 (3) of the draft Constitution has been repealed, so we still have additional 30-day voter registration period provided for by the Draft Constitution,” she said
Turning to people who have turned up to register as voters, Justice Makarau said the figure rose to 36 785 from 24 940 within the last week, those that have transferred rose to 13 345 from 8 839, while those who have taken national identity documents rose to 55 654 from 42 882.
Zimbabwe diamond resources are some of the largest in the world. Imperialism has attempted to prevent the Southern African state from trading its most lucrative resource on the world market., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Latest on Bikita diamonds
Saturday, 11 May 2013 00:00
Government says it has formally received an application for a licence to start mining of diamonds in Bikita from Nan Jiang Africa Resources. But Government yesterday stressed that the firm would only get licenced if it cedes majority shareholding to Zimbabweans in line with the country’s indigenisation and empowerment laws.
Nan Jiang Africa Resources, believed to be a consortium of Chinese and Zimababwean businessmen, recently applied for a licence to start diamond mining in Bikita.
This follows the discovery of four kimberlite pipes in the Devuli Ranch in Budzi communal lands.
The area where the diamonds were discovered lies on the border with Manicaland which is home to the Chiadzwa diamond fields.
Speaking on the sidelines of a national mineral policy stakeholders’ meeting in Masvingo, Deputy Mines and Mining Development Minister Gift Chimanikire confirmed that Nan Jiang Africa Resources had formally applied for a diamond mining licence. Government, he said, was currently considering the application.
Deputy Minister Chimanikire, however, said they had already informed the company of the need to fully comply with the country’s indigenisation and empowerment laws for them to get a licence to operate.
Monument known as the Great Wall of Zimbabwe built during the Mutapa Empire. A dispute between three traditional leaders has erupted over ownership of the historic treasure., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Great Zim under threat
Saturday, 11 May 2013 00:00
The perimeter fence around the Great Zimbabwe monuments has been vandalised, a situation that has raised fears that World Heritage Site might be compromised owing to poor security. Large parts of the perimeter fence were destroyed around the monuments resulting in livestock such as cattle freely roaming into the historic site while fire outbreaks had also considerably increased.
National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe southern region manager Mr Lovemore Mandima lamented the destruction of the fence around the monuments saying the site was now difficult to secure as a result.
Mr Mandima said the perimeter fence was being repeatedly vandalised despite efforts to have it repaired in the past.
“As I speak, large parts around the monuments have no fence because the wire around was vandalised.
It has become difficult to secure this place. Livestock freely roams into the monuments thereby compromising the security of this place,’’ he said.
Mr Mandima said poor security around the monuments would result in the public accessing sensitive areas and likely to destroy some of the relics found there.
There have also been isolated cases of mugging of visitors by thieves inside the monuments owing to poor security.
Audience stands and applauds the speakers at the Moratorium NOW! Coalition rally demanding that the banks pay for the financial crisis in Detroit. The event attracted a standing room only audience. (Photo: Abayomi Azikiwe), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Banging the banksters
The debt that keeps on taking
By Curt Guyette
PUBLISHED: MAY 8, 2013
Back in the 1920s, some clever marketing guy first came up with the catchphrase “The gift that keeps on giving” to help sell phonographs. As we here at the Hits sat in a meeting Saturday, listening to an analysis of the credit swap deals that are costing the city of Detroit hundreds of millions of dollars, a spin on that slogan came to mind:
“The debt that keeps on taking.”
Held at the Central United Methodist Church downtown, the meeting attracted about 140 people willing to forgo the pleasures of a spring day to sit inside and watch a PowerPoint presentation delving into the arcana of complex financial instruments.
The information was presented by members of the Moratorium Now! coalition, which is in the process of analyzing some 3,000 documents obtained from the city through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Formed in 2007 to fight home foreclosures and evictions, the group is now looking into the causes of the city’s debt crisis as well. The link is easy enough to see: the same banks that marketed predatory loans are now reaping massive profits as the result of bad bets made back in 2005, when Kwame Kilpatrick was still mayor and the city needed to borrow $1.5 billion to cover pension obligations.
As explained by Moratorium Now! Member Mike Shane, the deal worked like this: Under normal economic conditions, interest rates rise and fall in cyclical patterns. To guard against those fluctuations, units of government issuing bonds — which is another way of saying they are borrowing money — can enter into what are known as interest rate swap agreements.
Lest your eyes begin to glaze over, we’ll dispense with the textbook explanation of what those are and simplify it (oversimplify, actually) and just say these swaps are like a bet. If you think interest rates are going to go up — which, in 2005, seemed like a distinct possibility — then a swap would work to your benefit. If the rate goes up, the bank eats the loss.
If the rate drops, however, the city has to pay the difference to the bank. Which is why the institutions that bought those pension obligation certificates are getting a return on their investment of less than 1 percent, but the city is paying banks a rate of somewhere between 5 and 6 percent — on a $1.5 billion debt!
Members of the coalition, working with outside experts, are still trying to figure out exactly how much this bad “bet” is costing the city. Shane tells us that it is certainly tens of millions of dollars a year. And that’s just in interest payments.
Add to that so-called triggering events — such as the downgrading of the city’s credit rating, or the appointment of an emergency manager (both of which have occurred) — and attempts could be made to force the city into paying fees of more than $400 million immediately. And that’s only for this one deal involving those pension obligation bonds.
The problem for the debt collectors is the city, which is on the verge off insolvency, doesn’t have the money to cough up. If the creditors tried to force the issue, the city would be forced into bankruptcy.
So there’s a dance of sorts under way, with the question being how much blood can be wrung from Detroit without completely driving it under.
The threat of bankruptcy is the cudgel EM Kevyn Orr says he has hanging over the heads of the big creditors. There’s no telling what might happen if all this ends up in the hands of a federal judge.
It’s worth mentioning here that the city of Stockton, Calif., was declared eligible for Chapter 9 bankruptcy just last month. Its projected deficit for the next fiscal year, according to published reports, is somewhere between $20 million and $38 million. To put Detroit’s situation into perspective, its projected deficit could be as high as $380 million. Even so, folks here are keeping a very close eye on what happens in Stockton.
What the Moratorium Now! folks are saying is that focus needs to be kept on the banksters responsible for creating the crisis. They pushed predatory loans (often targeting minority communities) with low introductory rates that would balloon in a few years, knowing that the people taking out the loans wouldn’t be able to repay them. Then they bundled those “toxic” mortgages and, with the collusion of ratings agencies, sold them to investors who believed them to be low-risk. The scheme fell apart when the housing bubble burst, and the economy collapsed, resulting in massive foreclosures that devastated the tax bases of cities like Detroit (and, for that matter, Stockton). The banks got bailed out, the homeowners got kicked out, and cities across the country were left facing huge deficits.
That’s not to say that this caused all of Detroit’s problems, but there is no denying that it was a significant factor. And then, compounding the problem, were credit and interest rate swaps.
For an explanation of that, we turn to Rolling Stone magazine’s Matt Taibbi, who recently wrote a piece that begins:
“Conspiracy theorists of the world, believers in the hidden hands of the Rothschilds and the Masons and the Illuminati, we skeptics owe you an apology. You were right. The players may be a little different, but your basic premise is correct: The world is a rigged game. We found this out in recent months, when a series of related corruption stories spilled out of the financial sector, suggesting the world’s largest banks may be fixing the prices of, well, just about everything.
“You may have heard of the Libor scandal, in which at least three — and perhaps as many as 16 — of the name-brand too-big-to-fail banks have been manipulating global interest rates, in the process messing around with the prices of upward of $500 trillion (that’s trillion, with a ‘t’) worth of financial instruments. When that sprawling con burst into public view last year, it was easily the biggest financial scandal in history — MIT professor Andrew Lo even said it ‘dwarfs by orders of magnitude any financial scam in the history of markets.’”
Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson addressing the Moratorium NOW! Coalition rally holding the banks accountable for the destruction of the city. The event drew a full house at Central United Methodist Church on May 4, 2013. (Photo: Abayomi Azikiwe), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Moratorium NOW!: ‘Make the Banks Pay’
The Michigan Citizen Posted date: May 09, 2013 Front Page
By T. Kelly
DETROIT—“We can find one banker and put that banker in jail!”
With those comments, Rev. Ed Rowe, pastor at Central United Methodist Church, directed the focus of the May 4 People’s Assembly to Make Banks Pay Detroit for the Destruction They’ve Caused.
Over 250 people heard Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shutoffs explain the banks’ criminal activity and how Detroit’s emergency manager has the power to prosecute.
“It’s important to understand the history of foreclosures and see how it evolved and escalated,” attorney Vanessa Fluker said, addressing the meeting. “Financial institutions were deregulated; no one was watching the shop. Creative loans — subprime mortgages — with excessive rates, adjusted to the maximum, marketed to senior citizens and the poor, were bundled and securitized and sold on Wall Street in portfolios. Now the interest rates are so high they cannot be sustained.”
While Congress and the Obama administration bailed out the banks, they left individual homeowners without help, she said.
Fluker referred people to a case study of unregulated banking compiled from testimony before the Senate banking committee and distributed by Sen. Carl Levin.
Mike Shane from Moratorium NOW! led the audience through a presentation “Make the Banks Pay” that documents what happened to Detroit in the era of unregulated banking.
“Our only success is because we take to the streets,” said Fluker, who practices law with Jerry Goldberg, attorney and Moratorim NOW! founder, and has defended numerous clients in court.
First, the foreclosure crisis, rising from predatory mortgage loans, destroyed city neighborhoods and tax base and cut the population by a fourth. Then predatory financial instruments that now cripple city government. It can all be explained by lax federal banking regulations and little oversight, according to the presentation.
Moratorium NOW! organizers also say Gov. Rick Snyder understood that the simple declaration of a financial emergency in Detroit would further cripple the city and ensure the banks got paid.
“Just naming the EM, the debt jumped $600 million,” Goldberg said.
Banks are the only winners in Detroit’s financial crisis, said Goldberg, a fact reinforced in an article by Bloomberg news the week after Snyder called for an emergency manager.
There is help, Shane’s presentation pointed out. According to Public ACT 436, the new emergency manager law, the attorney general and the local prosecuting attorney can prosecute criminal conduct contributing to the city’s receivership status.
A report by Moratorium NOW! reads: “Municipal debt must be canceled because the banks and ratings agencies engaged in misrepresentation or fraud in the sale of the bonds and other debt instruments.”
EM Kevyn Orr “must stop paying the debt” and negotiate down the agreements between the city of Detroit and large financial instutions Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, among others, said Goldberg. To manage the city of Detroit’s finances, a good EM needs to take a tough stance with the banks, he believes.
Detroit’s financial crisis began with the foreclosure crisis. From 2005-07, 62 percent of African Americans got subprime loans compared to 28 percent for whites. In Detroit, from 2004-06, about 75 percent of loans to African Americans were subprime.
Subprime loans are lucrative for banks and almost eight times more profitable than conventional loans. The interest rate on subprime loans is typically three percent higher than conventional loans. Many borrowers were also hooked into variable rate loans that reset at interest rates of almost 16 percent, doubling and often tripling mortgage payments for homeowners.
Since the foreclosure crisis began, it was found African Americans were often steered into these loans by mortgage brokers. In 2009, the NAACP sued Wells Fargo for “institutionalized racism.” The NAACP has also worked on lawsuits against J.P. Morgan Chase and HSBC, among 14 other financial institutions.
Mortgage brokers were also found to have systematically and routinely committed fraud in underwriting the loans.
From 2000-10, Detroit lost 237,500 people, according to Census reports. In comparison, New Orleans lost 140,000 after Hurricane Katrina. State Equalized Value on Detroit real estate declined by 29 percent, cutting tax revenues to the city. Moratorium NOW! organizers say this was the beginning of Detroit’s financial crisis, its “hurricane without water, Hurricane Foreclosure.”
In 1996, Detroit had the lowest foreclosure rate of any major metropolitan area in the U.S.
“The crisis created by Wall Street destroyed communities and triggered massive loss of jobs, erosion of the property tax base, the reduction in services provided by cities and states, and many other problems,” reads a report by organizers.
Detroiters have been victimized by financial institutions, say organizers.
In an attempt to stabilize debt payments in the mid-2000s, the city entered into interest rate swaps and other derivatives to make payments to the bank. While the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates for Wall Street to near zero, the city of Detroit continues to pay six percent or more. Organizers say this is the second “tax-payer subsidized windfall for the banks.”
“The City has been put through a series of complex and convoluted financial transactions,” according to the group’s report, which includes interest rate swaps, pension obligation certificates, default and termination agreements, hedging derivatives and “onerous penalties.”
As a result, Moratorium NOW! says the city of Detroit’s total debt is about $9.4 billion. Detroit is not alone in struggling to pay the banks. Interest rate swaps are affecting municipalities, states and other public entities nationwide. The City of Chicago, dealing with a deficit of $520 million in 2010, is paying $66.9 million in annual swap payments. Philadelphia, with a deficit of $2.4 billion in 2010, is paying $94 million in annual swap payments.
Information provided at the May 4 assembly came from 3,000 documents outlining contracts and agreements the city has with financial institutions that were received after Moratorium NOW! filed a FOIA lawsuit.
“We have to empower ourselves; we know what’s going on,” Goldberg said.
It was a call to action and unity echoed by other program speakers representing a growing activist movement in the city. Speakers included: Councilwoman JoAnn Watson; St. Peter’s Episcopal Pastor Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellerman; Helen Moore, Keep the Vote No Takeover; Andrea Egypt and Abayomi Azikiwe, Moratorium Now!; Elena Herrada, elected DPS board member; Aliya Moore, Oakman School parent group chair; Rev. Charles Williams, Michigan NAN chair; B. Anthony, Conscious Coalition Collection; At Peace, spoken word artist and more.
The city’s fiscal documents are at www.detroitdebtmoratorium.org. The Moratorium Now! slide presentation is available at www.moratorium-mi.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Slides-for-May-4_v5.pdf
Black fascist corporate agents David Bing, Kevyn Orr and their white overseer Rick Snyder. The banks are enslaving Detroit to seize public assets and pension funds to gamble away on Wall Street., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
EM to offer glimpse at Detroit's 'perfect storm of financial ruin'
Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr's 45-day report on Detroit's financial condition, coming Monday, will be a series of messages to lenders, unions and pension funds. They are expected to help execute a sweeping restructuring of city government, preferably outside bankruptcy court.
"It's going to be sobering," Bill Nowling, a spokesman for Orr, said in an interview Thursday. "We want people to understand the enormous magnitude of this. People here in the city are almost immune to the notion of how bad it is because they've heard it so many times.
"This will put in one full brush stroke the breadth and depth of the financial emergency that the city is now facing. You cannot read this and go away not thinking, 'I don't know how the city has been able to hold it together for so long.' This is a perfect storm of financial ruin hanging over the city."
The most critical targets are the financial interests of Wall Street, labor and pension funds, officials and experts say, whose long-term obligations must be renegotiated or risk bankruptcy. Equally important are the Detroiters inured to the depth of the city's problems, as well as federal judges who could be called upon to oversee the largest Chapter 9 filing in American history.
How Mayor Dave Bing, City Council and residents react over the coming days and weeks will be important and widely covered in the news media. But the cold, hard reality is that their collective action — or refusal to act — is secondary to moving in what Orr behind the scenes is calling "another direction" for the city.
In theory, anyway. Whatever Orr's powers as emergency manager under Public Act 436, the Washington lawyer cannot force interests opposed to his office to accept uncritically a grim financial diagnosis drafted with the help of outside consultants hand-picked by the state Treasury.
"Any reasonably intelligent person would not argue that Detroit does not have serious financial problems," said Patrick O'Keefe, founder and CEO of O'Keefe LLC, a Bloomfield Hills-based firm specializing in turnaround consulting and bankruptcy services. "Creditors will push back. But … they will take a haircut or restructuring of their indebtedness if it makes economic sense."
Reviews by Treasury, culminating in March with Gov. Rick Snyder's declaration of a financial emergency in Detroit, found the city's deficit to be running close to $380 million on a $1.1 billion budget. Long-term liabilities exceed $14 billion, with $1.5 billion due over the next five years. Credit ratings are wretched, blocking the city's ability to borrow.
Orr has spent much of the past six weeks burrowing more deeply into the city's books and its operations, pushing beyond the facts of Detroit's dysfunction in an effort to explain it and begin to propose solutions. He will need to build his case in plain, unvarnished English devoid of legalese, fancy financial terms and politicized blame.
He'll argue why the city cannot afford to fund 20 separate health insurance plans for its employees, as the report will show; how Detroit's total spending on police and fire, not necessarily wages, is wildly out of step with similar cities; how pension and retiree health care obligations are unsustainable and must be renegotiated.
As difficult as an actual restructuring is likely to be, Orr and his team also believe they face a daunting task to illustrate unambiguously the depth of Detroit's problems and the need for comprehensive, even radical, solutions.
City residents, employees and elected officials are chronically unmoved by predictions of impending calamity that never seems to arrive. Interested bystanders in the suburbs and across the state may know little concrete about Detroit's problems, except that they don't want to pay for its rescue.
And New York financial types may be ready to finance a risky interest-rate swap deal engineered by the Kilpatrick administration — and reap millions in fees. But Orr and his team are less certain even those holding Detroit debt appreciate the scale of the city's financial problems or how much bondholders will be asked to sacrifice to help fix them.
The 50-page report, required 45 days into an emergency manager's tenure, is intended to be "a very detailed snapshot" of the challenges facing the city, Nowling said. It will be more a "punch list of what needs to be done," and less a series of directions for how to do it.
"Bear in mind, whatever plan he submits is going to change," said Doug Bernstein, managing partner of Plunkett Cooney's banking, bankruptcy and creditors' rights practice group. "Bankruptcy is a constant series of negotiations."
Monday's EM report amounts to Orr's first public gambit in those multi-pronged talks. The complicated series of bargaining sessions would air Detroit's bad habits to a world already largely convinced of its dysfunction, determining whether it is destined to negotiate the obligations of its past outside a federal courtroom or litigate it within.
"This is the largest city to ever stare bankruptcy in the face," Nowling said. "We don't think that's a foregone conclusion, but we have to be cognizant of the reality we face."
Apartment building damaged in explosion at a nearby fertilizer plant in West, Texas. There are reportedly over 200 casualties so far., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
May 10, 2013
E.M.T. in West, Tex., Faces Charges of Possessing Bomb Parts
By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS and MANNY FERNANDEZ
New York Times
Texas authorities said on Friday that they had opened a criminal investigation into last month’s deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant that killed 14 people and injured some 200 others.
The announcement came hours after a paramedic who responded to the explosion was arrested on a charge of possessing the components of a pipe bomb, though law enforcement officials declined to say whether the charge was related to the blast.
Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said he had directed the Texas Rangers to work with the McLennan County sheriff’s office to conduct the criminal inquiry, which comes more than three weeks after the explosion at the West Fertilizer Company plant outside West, Tex., about 20 miles north of Waco.
“This disaster has severely impacted the community of West, and we want to ensure that no stone goes unturned and that all the facts related to this incident are uncovered,” Mr. McCraw said in a statement on Friday.
Earlier Friday, Bryce Reed, 31, an emergency medical technician who has said he helped evacuate people after the April 17 blast, was taken into federal custody, according to the United States attorney’s office.
Mr. Reed appeared briefly in Federal Court in Waco on Friday but did not enter a plea, the authorities said.
An affadavit sworn out by Douglas J. Kunze, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said that the authorities had found the parts of a pipe bomb, including potassium nitrate powder, which is used in fertilizers and gunpowder. Though Mr. Reed was not in possession of the material, he admitted to having possessed them, according to the affadavit.
Investigators have said the explosion was caused by ammonium nitrate, which was being stored at the fertilizer plant, but have not said whether a fire that preceded the blast had ignited the chemical. Ammonium nitrate, which is commonly used as a fertilizer, is difficult to ignite if handled carefully and properly stored, but it has also been used in a number of terrorist attacks, including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
The explosion, so powerful that the United States Geological Survey measured it as a 2.1-magnitude earthquake, left a trail of devastation over a wide area.
The Texas fire marshal’s office, which has been investigating the case along with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, has not said whether the fire appeared to have been accidental or intentionally set.
Mr. Reed spoke to various news organizations after the explosion and gave a videotaped eulogy at a memorial service for victims that was attended by President Obama. His Facebook page indicated that he had been criticized for seeking publicity and also pointed to personal problems.
In a posting dated May 7, he referred to Cyrus Reed, a paramedic who died in the explosion, as his brother, because of their close friendship.
“I have not been paid by the media, by press, I made nothing for delivering my brothers eulogy, and made NOTHING off of this tragedy,” Bryce Reed wrote. “I was a shoulder to cry on, I found a GREAT new family, and was blessed to get to tell them about their son. THIS IS NOT ABOUT ME!!! IT IS ABOUT 12 HEROS THAT DIED TO SAVE LIVES!!!!!”
The message continued: “I loved and still love Cyrus A. Reed, and he loved me. I did and will do what I thought was right. Was I emotionally devistated? Hell yes I was. Have your brother die, your town explode, your crew be emotionally wrecked, and in the midst of it have your wife leave you because you are lost in your own emotions: ALL IN THE SAME WEEK, and see how you fare. People I am doing my BEST to hold myself together, but please for the love of God quit picking me apart. I have to bury yet ANOTHER friend tomorrow. God Bless.”
At the April 25 memorial service in Waco, videos in which relatives of the victims recalled the lives of those who died were played for the audience. One of those eulogies was given by a man who identified himself as Cyrus Reed’s brother — later identified as Bryce Reed — and it was one of the most powerful and poetic shown that day. (Members of Cyrus Reed’s family have subsequently said that the two were not related.)
“In death, we focus on the day one was born and the day they pass,” Bryce Reed said. “The only representation of a profound life lived on a marble marker is the dash which resides between the two dates. My brother lived his dash. He lived as a man with a passion and a zeal for life which could not be contained and was contagious to all who knew him. Cy’s dash should extend well past any length that marble could ever contain.”
He added: “My brother would disagree, but I firmly believe that all privy to this incident can attest — that my brother, and all those who lay with him —are heroes now and forever. I would like you all to learn from my brother.”
Ian Urbina and John Schwartz contributed reporting.
Police station bombings in Benghazi on May 10, 2013. The government in London later announced it was scaling down its diplomatic staff inside the country., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Police stations bombed, British embassy cuts Libya staff
By Jessica Donati and Ghaith Shennib
TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Bombs exploded outside two police stations in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi on Friday and Britain temporarily cut staff at its embassy in Tripoli because of security fears.
The blasts, which caused damage but no casualties, were the latest signs of insecurity in Benghazi, the birthplace of the uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The government has also struggled to keep order in the capital Tripoli, where the French embassy was bombed less than three weeks ago. Armed groups seized control of two government ministries a few days later to press demands on parliament and have refused to leave until the prime minister steps down.
"Given the security implications of the ongoing political uncertainty, the British Embassy is temporarily withdrawing a small number of staff," an embassy statement said, adding that the mission would continue to operate as usual.
A British embassy source said the decision was prompted by the ministry sieges, along with concerns that rival armed groups could clash at demonstrations organized in the capital.
Hundreds of government supporters marched on the Foreign Ministry in Tripoli on Friday chanting: "We will sacrifice our souls and blood for legitimacy."
A Reuters witness said that members of the armed group that has held the building under siege for almost two weeks scattered from its gates, while others retreated to the ministry grounds.
On Thursday, the U.S. State Department issued a new travel warning for Libya and said it had ordered a number of U.S. government personnel to leave Tripoli for security reason.
The warning "strongly advises against all but essential travel to Tripoli and all travel to Benghazi, Bani Walid, and southern Libya, including border areas and the regions of Sabha and Kufra".
Benghazi has experienced a wave of violence against diplomats, military and police, including an attack in September that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
The killings failed to inflict much political damage on the Obama administration but a congressional hearing this week provided an airing for opposition Republican accusations of negligence and a cover-up.
France, the United States and Britain, in an unusual joint statement on Wednesday, said Libyan institutions and elected representatives must be able to work free of armed intimidation.
"We call on all Libyans to refrain from armed protest and violence during this difficult time in the democratic transition," the three Western nations said.
The government turned to Europe's development bank on Friday for help in building institutions to fill the administrative vacuum left by more than four decades of Gaddafi's one-man rule.
For the time being, Libya is seeking only technical cooperation with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development - a relatively low-level relationship with the bank.
Libya is not short of cash, but lacks the institutions and processes for spending the vast oil wealth it has accumulated. More than two years after Gaddafi was slain, armed groups that helped topple him are still more powerful than the state in large swathes of the oil-producing North African desert country.
"The central bank governor said they have $130 billion in reserves but no state institutions," said a source close to Libya's discussions with the EBRD bank.
(Additional reporting by Carolyn Cohn in Istanbul and Feras Bosalum in Benghazi; Editing by Michael Roddy)
Inside the former US Consulate in Benghazi in the aftermath of an attack that resulted in the death of the American ambassador and other personnel. Rebel government forces say the attack was planned., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
May 10, 2013, 5:42 PM
Emails reveal a flurry of changes to Benghazi talking points
As House Republicans piece together the events in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012, that led to the death of four Americans, the focus has fallen on the talking points the Obama administration used to describe the attack in the days following.
The talking points were revised numerous times before United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice used them on political talk shows on Sept. 16. While the White House says the changes were merely stylistic, the changes suggest administration officials were interested in sparing the State Department from political criticism in the wake of the attack.
CBS News has learned there was a flurry of approximately 100 interagency government emails on Sept. 14 and Sept. 15 regarding the content of the talking points to be released to members of Congress regarding the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others in Benghazi. The email list included officials from the White House, State Department, CIA, FBI and others reviewing the talking points.
An early set of talking points was ready for interagency review at 11:15 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 14.:
11:15 a.m. talking points: "....we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qa'ida participated in the attack."
4:42 p.m. talking points: Changed "attacks in Benghazi" to "demonstrations in Benghazi."
Added: "On 10 September we warned of social media reports calling for a demonstration in front of the Embassy [in Cairo] and that jihadists were threatening to break into the Embassy." This news that a warning had been given was later removed.
Added: "The Agency [CIA] has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa'ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya. These noted that, since April, there have been at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi by unidentified assailants, including the June attack against the British Ambassador's convoy. We cannot rule out the individuals has previously surveilled the U.S. facilities, also contributing to the efficacy of the attacks." This news of advance warning of a threat was later removed.
Removed reference to "ties to al Qa'ida" and again changed "attack" to "violent demonstrations."
In a 6:52 p.m. email: John Brennan, then-Deputy National Security Advisor (now head of CIA) asked for removal of "the crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libya society."
7:39 p.m. email: State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland expressed the most sweeping concerns. "I have serious concerns about all parts highlighted below in arming members of Congress with information to start making assertions to the media that we ourselves are not making because we don't want to prejudice the investigation... Why do we want the Hill to be fingering [al-Qaeda linked] Ansar al-Sharia when we aren't doing that ourselves until we have investigation results? And the penultimate point is a paragraph talking about all the previous warnings provided by the Agency [CIA] about al-Qaeda's presence and activities of al-Qaeda...[which] could be abused by members of Congress to fault the State Department for not paying attention... so why would we want to cede that, either?"
8:59 p.m. email: A facilitator of the email threads answers Nuland's concerns about "prejudicing the investigation" by stating "The FBI did not have major concerns with the points and offered only a couple of minor suggestions." Nonetheless, they remove a paragraph referring to Ansar al-Sharia from the next version.
8:59 p.m. talking points: Changed "we do know" to "there are indications that" Islamic extremists participated in the violent demonstrations."
Removed "Initial press reporting linked the attack to Ansar al-Sharia. The group has since released a statement that its leadership did not order the attacks, but did not deny that some of its members were involved. Ansar al-Sharia's Facebook page aims to spread Sharia in Libya and emphasizes the need for jihad to counter what it views as false interpretations of Islam, according to an open source study.
9:24 p.m. email: Nuland responds: "These don't resolve all of my issues or those of my building leadership. They are consulting with NSS [National Security Staff.]"
9:25 p.m. email: Jake Sullivan, then-Secretary of State Clinton's Deputy Chief of Staff (now National Security Advisor for Vice President Biden) tells the group "I spoke with Tommy (Vietor-then-spokesman for the White House National Security Council)... we'll work this through in the morning."
9:32 p.m. email: Sullivan to Nuland: "Talked to Tommy (Vietor). We can make edits."
9:34 p.m. email: Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Adviser to President Obama regarding a federal agency Deputies meeting that's been called the next morning to discuss the talking points: "...we don't want to undermine the investigation...we want to address every department's equities including the State Department, so we'll deal with this at the Deputies meeting."
The CIA's legislative affairs representatives loops in then-CIA chief David Petraeus, notifying him of "major coordination problems... State has major concerns... the Bureau [FBI] cleared the points but [Ben] Rhodes said they will be reviewed in the Deputies meeting."
Kenyan President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta won the elections with just over 50 percent of the national vote. With over 50 percent there will not be a run-off., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Scrap ICC charges, Kenya urges UN
Friday, 10 May 2013 00:00
NAIROBI. — Kenya has written to the UN Security Council seeking to scrap the international crimes against humanity trials for President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Vice President William Ruto, according to a letter seen yesterday.
Kenyatta (51), voted into power in March elections, is to go on trial in July at the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes against humanity relating to post-election violence in 2007-08.
Ruto (46), faces three counts of crimes against humanity for his role in deadly violence.
“What this delegation is asking for is not deferral,” Kenya’s ambassador to the UN, Macharia Kamau, wrote in a letter to the Council seen by AFP.
“What this delegation is asking for is for the immediate termination of the case at The Hague.”
The letter, dated May 2 and stamped confidential, is the first such official request for the cases to be dropped.
However, while the Security Council can ask for a case to be deferred for a year, it does not have the authority to order the ICC to drop a case comple- tely.
Kenya however, appealed to “friendly nations to use their good offices and prevail upon the International Criminal Court to reconsider the continued process”.
The letter warned that continuing with the trials would risk destabilising Kenya.
“Kenyans . . . spoke with a loud, clear, concise voice when they overwhelmingly elected Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto as president and deputy president,” it said.
“It is obvious that their absence from the country may undermine the prevailing peace and any resultant insecurity may spill over to neighbouring countries.”
Meanwhile, President Uhuru Kenyatta was expected to leave the country for South Africa yesterday.
In a brief statement, the Presidential Press Service said President Kenyatta will be on a four-day official visit.
During the visit, Kenyatta will attend the World Economic Forum on Africa and hold a bilateral meeting with South Africa President Jacob Zuma.
Earlier yesterday, Kenyatta arrived from a London trip where he attended a conference on Somalia accompanied by his wife Margaret.
— AFP/Daily Nation.
Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana waving to crowds at the Accra Stadium. This year represents the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Pan-Africanist and Socialist leader., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
From OAU to AU: The flame of hope
Friday, 10 May 2013 00:00
On May 19 2013, the African Union (AU) will lead the continent in a year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which morphed into the AU in June 2002. Because of its historical
importance, the AU has turned the commemoration into a year-long series of events that will focus the minds of Africans on the course the continent has taken since decolonisation in the 1960s, and the challenges that still lie ahead.
As the AU Commission chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, puts it: “The convening of 32 independent nations in the Conference of Independent African States in May 1963, remains perhaps one of the most important statements undertaken by Africans towards self-determination and prosperity”.
On May 25 1963, exactly 50 years ago this May, the founding fathers of African liberation met in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, and established what became the continent’s premier institution, the Organisation of African Unity. “Fifty years on from that watershed moment,” says Dr Dlamini-Zuma, “we are favoured with the opportunity to reflect on the road travelled by Africans towards securing unity, prosperity and peace.”
In this regard, the AU Commission — in conjunction with member states, regional economic communities, and non-state actors — has put together a “bouquet of events” that will make Africans sit up and reflect on critical actions required to secure unity and shared prosperity.
“These reflections,” says the AU Commission chairperson, “are opportune because the year 2013 has been declared the Year of Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance. It is our view that this year has the potential of being a watershed year, since never before in our history has so much been in our favour. Never before have we had so much potential and growth. Never before has the continent been favoured with such a young, vibrant and relatively more educated population. It is these comparative advantages that must be turned into meaningful opportunities towards a shared prosperity and lasting peace.”
On April 8, at a colourful ceremony at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Dr Dlamini-Zuma handed out special “50th Anniversary Torches” to delegations from the 53 AU member countries to be lit when the year-long commemorative events kick off on May 19.
According to Dlamini-Zuma: “Through the symbolic lighting of these torches, we hope that the flame of hope shall shine through the continent . . . The torches symbolise our desire to reverse the current storyline of despair into the real narrative of opportunity and potential. (They) are also a symbol of our collective will to brighten Africa’s future; (they) are a symbol of our achievements with regard to development, democracy and governance; (they) are a symbol of our pride to belong to Africa.”
Unlike the OAU before it (which was widely misunderstood), the AU was founded in June 2002 to promote an “integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena”. Eleven years on, the AU is still lumbering along, its mission far from achieved.
The “integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa” is still way in the future, its path probably needing illumination by the golden rays of the new “flame of hope”.
Nevertheless, the mission assigned the AU still remains a noble one — to deliver an Africa driven by its citizens. How far it is succeeding, after 11 years’ work, is open to critical debate. But that in no way diminishes the importance of the mission, as illustrated by Dlamini-Zuma when handing out the 50th Anniversary Torches on 8 April. Employing the words of the great Chinua Achebe, who died on 22 March, Dr Dlamini-Zuma exhorted Africans to do more: “Nobody can teach me who I am,” she quoted Achebe.
“You can describe parts of me, but who I am and what I need is something I have to find out myself.”
Now choosing her own words, she continued: “Consequently, the current realities and the future of Africa can only and must be developed by Africans for Africans. In so doing, we must emphasise solidarity, unity, shared prosperity, and lasting peace.”
According to Dlamini-Zuma, the impact of the main anniversary events (from 19 to 27 May) and the year-long activities will be assessed against the extent to which Africans are able to promote and define Pan-African values. “These values,” she explained, “will underpin the African agenda over the next five decades. For that reason, I hope that all delegations will bring these messages back home so that, in unison with each African from within and outside the continent, we will memorably celebrate the golden jubilee of the OAU-AU.”
Viewed through the prism of the AU mandate of building an “integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by Africans”, the OAU’s 50th anniversary takes on a special hue, one that gives the AU the pleasure of rallying the entire continent to reflect on the past, present and the future.
“We hope to enthuse and energise the African population,” promises Dlamini-Zuma, “and use their constructive energies to accelerate a forward-looking agenda of Pan-Africanism and Renaissance in the 21st century. To effectively develop this forward-looking agenda, we will engage all sectors of our societies here at home and in the Diaspora. We have adopted thematic focus areas in our year-long programme to provide a platform (for) discussion. These themes recognise the areas in which we have recorded progress, and the challenges we face.”
Enter New African
Having been the undisputed “voice of Africa” for the past decades, and the bestselling Pan-African magazine in English, New African is joining the African leadership in commemorating the OAU 50th anniversary in a special way — via this Special “Hors-Série” Edition, which looks back on the days of the OAU, its achievements and failures, and what lies ahead of the continent with the AU now in charge.
With George Orwell’s dictum, “he who controls the past, controls the future; and he who controls the present, controls the past” ringing in our ears, we have gone over the OAU with a fine toothcomb and have come up with a special edition that we hope readers will want to keep for future generations.
As the editor in charge of this project, I have been substantially educated by the research that went into this Special Edition, and I hope readers will be educated too. I was six years old, a mere sapling, when the OAU was founded on May 25 1963. I grew up hearing criticisms upon high-sounding criticisms of the OAU. It was a “useless organisation”, the critics said, “a toothless bulldog” that did nothing while Africa burned.
I, and certainly many of my age group, and even the generations that came after us, grew up firmly believing the accusations levelled against the poor OAU. But editing this special edition, using both new and New African’s own archival material, has been an epiphany for me. The scales could not have fallen faster from Saul’s eyes on the road to Damascus than they did for me while working on this special edition. All of a sudden, I see the OAU not as the critics of yore did, but as an organisation totally misunderstood by the people whose interests it was set up to serve.
From our research, we now know that because it was misunderstood, the OAU was maligned for not doing what it had no power, or limited power, to do. An organisation can only be as powerful as the members who established it want it to be.
In this regard, the OAU had the misfortune of having members who could not quite see beyond their comfortable noses and therefore invested it with limited powers that could not achieve much of what its critics accused it of not doing.
In fairness, therefore, the criticisms ought to have been levelled at the member countries instead of the OAU as an organisation. For example, if the member countries refused to pay their membership fees on time or not at all, as they did most of the time during the 39 years of the OAU (and still do since the AU took over), one could not in fairness accuse the OAU of negligence of mission if it had no money to execute its programmes. That accusation should go to the member countries, whose unpatriotic penny-pinching continues to ensure that the AU today relies on foreign begging to finance over 80 percent of its programmes. And we still want to build an “integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena”! Only God can bless our poor hearts!
As discerning Africans it is hard to admit, but our research clearly shows that the men we call the “founding fathers” of the OAU allowed themselves to be divided, even used, by external forces and as a result the OAU was hobbled at birth. The external forces, mainly Western, feared that a strong continental union would move Africa out of their sphere of influence, and thus did not want the continent to have a really strong and viable unity project.
So they played the “founding fathers” against one another, and at the end of the day the so-called “conservatives” in their ranks, acting on the promptings from outside the continent, won a Pyrrhic victory, on May 25 1963, when the OAU was formally established.
With the momentum thus lost, the OAU never really recovered to become the organisation that the masses of Africa thought it would be.
That, in sum, was the beginning of the “disappointments” felt all around Africa during the 39 years the OAU lasted.
In this Special Edition, we have included two speeches, one made by Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah in Addis Ababa at the founding of the OAU, and another by Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere (which he gave 34 years after the founding of the OAU). Reading both side by side, one cannot fail to see how badly the “founding fathers” let the continent down on May 25 1963 by allowing the “conservatives” to win on that day, thus throwing away the bright future that Africans had hoped to have for themselves.
Perhaps, as President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda puts it, “Nkrumah’s notion of a union of the whole of Africa (was) an impractical idea which would never happen”, yet the role played by Western countries in preventing Nkrumah’s idea from coming to fruition (as illustrated in the article in this issue, “OAU and Western penetration efforts”) should be a constant reminder to the continent to be vigilant if the AU’s mission of an “integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena”, is to be achieved.
Old and new
To bring a better understanding to the affairs of the OAU, and especially to help the new generations of Africans who were too young at the time of the OAU to properly understand what was going on, we have used a mixture of old and new material in this Special Edition to make things clearer. The new material has come from people who either worked with the OAU or saw it at work.
The old material has come from New African’s own rich archives — we have taken a selection of articles from there published by the magazine on and about the OAU during the 39 years it lasted. The dates on which these articles were originally published are clearly marked in italics in the standfirsts or intros at the top of the reprints.
Going through this Special Edition, readers will find that while the anti-OAU articles expose its shortcomings, and there were many of these, the pro-OAU articles bring a proper contextual feel to the organisation, making anybody who comes to the subject with an open mind properly understand the dynamics that were in play at the time — and especially, why the OAU achieved what it achieved, and could not achieve what its limited powers would not allow.
So dear readers, sit back and enjoy. As Africans, we should all remember to play our part in the year-long events lined up to commemorate the OAU’s 50th anniversary.
Happy Golden Jubilee! — New African.
Dr. Olivia Muchena, the Zimbabwe Minister of Women's Affairs, Gender and Community Development., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Poverty has the face of a woman
Friday, 10 May 2013 00:00
Gender Forum Ruth Butaumocho
SCORES of people from civic society dealing with gender, representatives from different ministries, local and international non-governmental organisations met in Harare on Wednesday, to validate the revised
national gender policy. The meeting was also meant to look at ways to enhance the second national gender policy which is expected to be implemented by 2017.
During the deliberations that took centre stage, participants to this validation workshop applauded some of the achievements that have been made since 2004, national gender policy during its eight-year implementation period.
They noted that within that implementation period, quite a number of achievements were recorded and the results were there for every one to see. Some of the achievements were the passing of a number of legislative pieces to operationalise the gender policy itself, fundamental changes and mindsets that resulted in the creation of a separate ministry responsible for gender and women’s affairs.
The same period also saw the development and launch of the framework for broad-based women’s economic empowerment, which has largely remained a white elephant and has not been fully implemented, let alone benefit the majority of people.
In her speech, the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Cde Olivia Muchena, said although the country was working on the second national gender policy to address emerging issues as a result of changing political, economic and social contexts locally and across the globe, women’s empowerment remained a contentious issue.
“Patriarchal norms and attitudes constitute major barriers to women’s empowerment and the feminisation of poverty remains an area of concern,” she said.
I couldn’t have agreed with Cde Muchena more, having witnessed the levels of poverty among the generality of women, who are confronted with a myriad of challenges on a daily basis, making it practically impossible for the majority to break off from this vicious cycle.
While women civic organisations and other like-minded people have tried to elevate the economic standing of women by coming up with different projects and income generating projects to empower them, the progress has been quite insignificant.
Women constitute the huge percentage of people who are unemployed with the majority living below the poverty datum line, be it in the cities or in rural areas. Because of lack of education, limited employment opportunities and their inability to access funding to start income generating projects of note, they are badly disadvantaged and often have to resort to the end of the ladder means of survival to put food on the table.
If you walk around any part of the city — anywhere in the country, visit any border post or walk across any open space anywhere where vending activities take centre stage, you are confronted by hordes of women, selling all sorts of wares from toothpicks to any saleable item you can think of. On the other side of town, the majority of women would also be busy doing all sorts of menial jobs, while others have become daring enough to join syndicates of contraband dealings of cigarettes and drugs in neighbouring countries.
The situation is even worse in the rural areas where women work downstream, fishing, brick moulding, gold panning, weeding, fetching riverbed water (mvura yemufuku) and still have the dexterity and temerity to manage a household with little or no resources.
The burden to keep afloat in light of such a hostile environment becomes unbearable for the majority of women who continue to labour right into the grave.
In addition to economic factors, where women fail to get financial assistance from banks and other financial institutions due to lack of collateral, the rigidity of socially ascribed gender roles and women’s limited access to power, education, training and productive resources as well as other emerging factors such as domestic violence further increase women’s woes.
The reasonable portion of enlightened women who have fought their way to the top will attest that it is also not rosy up there because they also have to battle with boardroom politics and coup d`etat from their male colleagues, who often perceive them as incompetent and products of all forms of affirmative actions including sleeping their way to the top.
Even in parts of society where education and economic empowerment are accepted and promoted, women are expected to perform majority of household chores, leaving them with little or no time to meet up with the “girls” to strategise, like what men do over a tot of whisky and a glass of beer, in some fancy club house, away from the household madness.
Given such kind of environment, where women naturally would have to compete with the “boys club” to clinch big deals like mining concessions, diamond ventures, and tenders to construct the multi-million dollar shopping complexes, where then are women’s chances of breaking the cycle of poverty?
It is within that background that the stakeholders on women empowerment should stop paying lip service to women’s problems but instead expedite the implementation of existing empowerment vehicles for women.
I have often said the country boasts of numerous empowerment vehicles that were crafted by technocrats with the support of the Government, but they continue to gather dust instead of being implemented for the benefit of the majority.
Anywhere in the world, it is an undisputable fact that women are key to food security and agriculture; essential players in the promotion of the rights of the child; major actors in health care provision and peace makers in times of conflict. The nature of a woman also places her on a better pedestal in society as she serves as a role model both to the child and the society as mother and wife respectively. Yes, poverty has remained with the face of a woman, but sadly though, the features have not been frightening enough to warrant any immediacy on the part of our policymakers.
South African President Jacob Zuma congratulates Nigerian Njideka U. Harry, the founder and CEO of Youth for Technology Foundation, one of the winners of the Social Entrepreneurs Awards May 9, 2013 during the World Economic Form on Africa in Cape Town., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
‘High growth possible in Africa’
Friday, 10 May 2013 00:00
Victoria Ruzvidzo and Martin Kadzere in Cape Town, South Africa
Africa needs to leverage on its greatest asset - human capital - to attain high levels of prosperity, expected within the next 50 years, African Union Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has said. Speaking at the opening plenary of the World Economic Forum on Africa meeting here yesterday, Dr Dlamini-Zuma said she was confident the continent had the potential to achieve high growth levels if it capitalised on its strengths while working on challenges such as conflicts that have dogged Africa for long.
“The most precious asset is our people,” she said. “We need to invest in our people and this means investment in health, education, skills, science and technology and research and innovation.
“Singapore is at the same level, yet they don’t have many resources but concentrate on the skills that their people have. They have US$29 000 per capita.”
Peace on the continent was of the essence, said Dr Dhlamini-Zuma.
The future of the continent also lay in agriculture, she said, given Africa’s land and its resources. Africa could feed the United States of America, Europe and other parts of the globe if it made use of all its land.
Presently, at least 60 percent of the continent’s arable land is unused.
“We can sell food to the world and create jobs, even in downstream industries where we can export processed foods.
“The development of key infrastructure, such as transport networks, could feed into the creation of transport networks to link all capitals either by rail or road. The introduction of speed trains would provide a formidable solution. It’s possible. We must set our minds to it . . . it’s possible,” she said.
So much potential lay in young people and women who had the capacity to help transform the continent.
The AU will from May 25 celebrate 50 years in existence. This whole year will be targeted towards the celebrations as all spheres that make the continent position itself toward Vision 2063.
“Our business people should define what they want to be,” she said. “Africa’s development cannot just be only the business of governments, but also of its citizens as well.
“In the next 50 years, Africa should well be described as a prosperous continent.”
Speaking during the opening plenary, South African President Jacob Zuma urged African countries to deal with political conflicts if sustainable economic growth were to be achieved.
“As long as we have conflicts, Africa will not develop,” he said. The membership of South Africa in Brics placed the African continent in the mainstream of global economics.
He said the Brics provided the continent an opportunity to speak with one voice when global economic matters come into play.
For long, he said, Africa had been overlooked when it came to participation on the global economic events.
The Brics is a grouping of the world’s fastest emerging economies - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
“Our belief is that, the SA membership represents one billion people in the continent. The Brics link indicates that Africa cannot be by-passed by events that are changing the landscape economically, socially and politically in the world. Africa’s attitude to itself and how it should interact towards the world has changed.”
President Zuma said finance ministers of the Brics nations were working on modalities on how the proposed “ Brics Bank” could be capitalised. During the Durban Brics summit last month, member countries agreed to set up a US$50 billion bank to mobilise resources for infrastructural projects.