Pan Africa Newswire
Another media-generated radical Imam Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. The Imam, who communicated with Fort Hood shooting suspect Maj. Nidal Hasan and called him a hero, was once arrested in Yemen on suspicion of involvement with al-Qaida., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Obama to give white paper on targeted killings to Congress
By Lesa Jansen, CNN
updated 10:20 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
The U.S. MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle has been used to take out key targets in the war on terror.
Washington (CNN) -- The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning will receive a classified document that seeks to justify the administration's policy of targeting Americans overseas via drone attacks, chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said late Wednesday.
"I am pleased that the president has agreed to provide the Intelligence Committee with access to the OLC (Office of Legal Counsel) opinion regarding the use of lethal force in counterterrorism operations," the California Democrat said in a statement.
"It is critical for the committee's oversight function to fully understand the legal basis for all intelligence and counterterrorism operations."
The announcement came shortly after an administration official said that President Barack Obama had yielded to demands that he turn over to Congress the classified Justice Department legal advice that seeks to justify the policy.
The developments came the night before confirmation hearings are to be held for Obama's CIA director nominee, John Brennan, and amid complaints from senators, including several Democrats, about secrecy surrounding the drone policy.
"Today, as part of the president's ongoing commitment to consult with Congress on national security matters, the president directed the Department of Justice to provide the congressional Intelligence committees access to classified Office of Legal Counsel advice related to the subject of the Department of Justice White Paper," an administration official said.
The 16-page white paper -- titled "Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qaida or an Associated Force" -- is a policy paper rather than an official legal document.
Memo backs U.S. using lethal force against Americans overseas
The president, the official said, was turning over the information because he believes the scrutiny and debate is healthy.
In a 2012 speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, Brennan asserted that the drone strikes are legal both under the Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution passed by Congress after the September 11 attacks and because, "There is nothing in international law that bans the use of remotely piloted aircraft for this purpose or that prohibits us from using lethal force against our enemies outside of an active battlefield, at least when the country involved consents or is unable or unwilling to take action against the threat."
This does not appear to be the view of Ben Emmerson, United Nations special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, who announced plans in October to investigate U.S. drone attacks and the extent to which they cause civilian casualties.
The drone campaign against al Qaeda and its allies has been one of Brennan's biggest legacies in the four years he was the president's principal adviser on terrorism.
According to a count by the public policy group New America Foundation, at least 28 of al Qaeda's leading members have been killed in drone strikes, including the U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who played an operational role in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Human rights groups in the United States are particularly aggrieved by the targeted killing of al-Awlaki, who was killed by a drone. His teenage son died in a separate strike.
On Wednesday, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said the attack that killed al-Awlaki was justified.
"This is somebody who had said that he didn't want his U.S. citizenship anymore, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, told MNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports."
"He had officially joined al Qaeda," Rogers said. "Al Qaeda had declared war on the United States."
Rogers continued, "The legal basis of this goes back many, many years when U.S. citizens would go and fight for foreign nations that were engaging in combat with the United States. So what they were saying is, once you've made that choice, you no longer get the protections that you would. I mean, if you join the enemy overseas, you join the enemy overseas. And we're going to fight the enemy overseas."
In his speech at the Wilson Center, Brennan said that drone strikes are "ethical" because of "the unprecedented ability of remotely piloted aircraft to precisely target a military objective while minimizing collateral damage; one could argue that never before has there been a weapon that allows us to distinguish more effectively between an al Qaeda terrorist and innocent civilians."
And Obama himself defended it in an appearance last October on "The Daily Show."
"There are times where there are bad folks somewhere on the other side of the world, and you've got to make a call and it's not optimal," he said. "And sometimes you've got to make some tough calls. But you can do so in a way that's consistent with international law and with American law."
Two United States citizens killed in targeted assassinations in Yemen. President Obama claimed responsibility for the CIA actions saying it was a blow to Al-Qaeda., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Obama agrees to release legal memos on Awlaki drone strike
Senators had demanded to see the Justice Department memos authorizing the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki in Yemen.
By Ken Dilanian, Los Angeles Times
February 7, 2013
WASHINGTON — President Obama, who has championed lethal drone strikes as a major part of U.S. counter-terrorism efforts, bowed to pressure Wednesday and agreed to allow the Senate and House intelligence committees to review classified legal memos used to justify a drone strike against a U.S. citizen in Yemen in 2011.
Senators had demanded for months to see the Justice Department opinions that provided the White House legal authority to order the targeted killing of Anwar Awlaki, a New Mexico native who became an Al Qaeda leader.
Complaints by several Democrats over not receiving the documents had cast a shadow on the Senate confirmation hearing Thursday of John Brennan, the White House counter-terrorism advisor tapped to be CIA director.
An administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified material, described the decision to release the classified Office of Legal Counsel material as "part of the president's ongoing commitment to consult with Congress on national security matters."
"I think this is an encouraging first step," said Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who sits on the Intelligence Committee and was among those who had publicly complained about being denied access to the material. He said Americans must "understand the rules under which a president may make these consequential decisions."
Wyden said Obama had "assured me that all of the documents concerning the legal opinions on the targeted killing of Americans will immediately be made available" to the intelligence committees.
Brennan is likely to face questions about the drone strikes that he oversaw in the last four years.
In written answers to 40 pre-hearing questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee, Brennan said civilian casualties from CIA drone strikes had been "exceedingly rare," repeating language he used last April after published reports alleged numerous civilian casualties in Pakistan and Yemen.
Former U.S. officials say that, for a time, the intelligence community considered every military-age male killed in a CIA drone strike to have been a militant.
Brennan declined to explain how U.S. authorities conclude that a militant is "associated" with Al Qaeda or whether the threat he poses is sufficiently "imminent" to warrant being targeted for a missile strike.
Brennan said, without elaborating, that those determinations are made on a "case-by-case basis" by intelligence professionals.
Senators are expected to press for more detailed answers at Brennan's confirmation hearing, but they may be stymied because the use of CIA drones for targeted killing is highly classified, even though it is widely discussed and debated.
Brennan's confirmation hearing comes amid new scrutiny of the expanded use of drones by both the CIA and the military under the Obama White House.
As keeper of the so-called kill list of targets, Brennan has coordinated both the Pentagon and CIA efforts from the White House, running high-level meetings about potential lethal strikes.
Brennan also told the committee that he had been interviewed in connection with an investigation by the U.S. attorney's office in Maryland of possible unauthorized disclosures of information to reporters about cyber attacks against Iran, an apparent reference to stories that described U.S. cyber espionage against Iran's nuclear enrichment program.
Brennan said he also was interviewed by the U.S. attorney's office in Washington about disclosures to reporters about a foiled bomb plot tied to the group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an apparent reference to articles on an agent who infiltrated Yemen's Al Qaeda branch and tipped off Western intelligence agencies.
"My counsel has been advised by representatives of the United States attorney's offices that I am only a witness in both investigations," he said.
Mass demonstrations in Tunisia after the assassination of Chokri Belaid, a leading opposition politician. These demonstrations prompted the dissolution of the moderate Islamist government and the announcement of fresh elections., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Tunisian government out after critic's killing causes fury
By Tarek Amara
TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia's ruling Islamists dissolved the government on Wednesday and promised rapid elections in a bid to calm the biggest street protests since the revolution two years ago, sparked by the killing of an opposition leader.
The prime minister's announcement that an interim cabinet of technocrats would replace his Islamist-led coalition came at the end of a day which had begun with the gunning down of Chokri Belaid, a left-wing lawyer with a modest political following but who spoke for many who fear religious radicals are stifling freedoms won in the first of the Arab Spring uprisings.
During the day, protesters battled police in the streets of the capital and other cities, including Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the Jasmine Revolution that toppled Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.
In Tunis, the crowd set fire to the headquarters of Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party which won the most seats in an legislative election 16 months ago.
Prime Minister Hamdi Jebali of Ennahda spoke on television in the evening to declare that weeks of talks among the various political parties on reshaping the government had failed and that he would replace his entire cabinet with non-partisan technocrats until elections could be held as soon as possible.
It followed weeks of deadlock in the three-party coalition. The small, secular Congress for the Republic, whose leader Moncef Marzouki has served as Tunisia's president, threatened to withdraw unless Ennahda replaced some of its ministers.
Wednesday's events, in which the Interior Ministry said one police officer was killed, appeared to have moved Jebali, who will stay on as premier, to take action.
"After the failure of negotiations between parties on a cabinet reshuffle, I have decided to form a small technocrat government," he said.
"The murder of Belaid is a political assassination and the assassination of the Tunisian revolution," he said earlier.
It was not clear whom he might appoint but the move seemed to be widely welcomed and streets were mostly calm after dark.
A leader in the secular Republican Party gave Jebali's move a cautious welcome.
"The prime minister's decision is a response to the opposition's aspirations," Mouldi Fahem told Reuters. "We welcome it principle. We are waiting for details."
Beji Caid Essebsi, leader of the secular party Nida Touns, who was premier after the uprising, told Reuters: "The decision to form a small cabinet is a belated move but an important one."
The widespread protests following Belaid's assassination showed the depth of division between Islamists and secular movements fearful that freedoms of expression, cultural liberty and women's rights were under threat just two years after the popular uprising ended decades of Western-backed dictatorship.
"This is a black day in the history of modern Tunisia. Today we say to the Islamists, 'get out', enough is enough," said Souad, a 40-year-old schoolteacher outside the ministry.
"Tunisia will sink in the blood if you stay in power."
Calls for a general strike on Thursday could bring more trouble though Belaid's family said his funeral, another possible flashpoint, might not be held until Friday.
Ennahda, like its fellow Islamists in Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, benefited from a solid organization that survived repression by the old regime, to win 42 of seats in the assembly elected in October 2011 to draft a new constitution.
And as in Egypt, the Islamists have faced criticism from secular leaders that they are trying to entrench religious ideas in the new state. A constitution is still due to be agreed before a parliamentary election which had been expected by June.
Belaid, 48, was shot at close range as he left for work by a gunmen who fled on the back of a motorcycle. Within hours, crowds were battling police, hurling rocks amid volleys of teargas in scenes reminiscent of clashes in Egypt last month.
World powers, increasingly alarmed at the extent of radical Islamist influence and the bitterness of the political stalemate, urged Tunisians to reject violence and see through the move to democracy they began two years ago, when their revolution ended decades of dictatorship and inspired fellow Arabs in Egypt and across North Africa and the Middle East.
As in Egypt, the rise to power of political Islam through the ballot box has prompted a backlash among less organized, more secular political movements in Tunisia.
Belaid, who made a name for himself by criticizing Ben Ali, led a party with little electoral support but his vocal opinions had a wide audience.
The day before his death he was publicly lambasting a "climate of systematic violence".
He had blamed tolerance shown by Ennahda and its two, smaller secularist allies in the coalition government toward hardline Salafists for allowing the spread of groups hostile to modern culture and liberal ideas.
On Wednesday, thousands demonstrated in cities including Mahdia, Sousse, Monastir and Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of the revolution, where police fired teargas and warning shots at protesters who set cars and a police station on fire.
While Belaid's nine-party Popular Front bloc has only three seats in the constituent assembly, the opposition jointly agreed to pull its 90 or so members out of the body, which is acting as parliament and writing the new post-revolution charter. Ennahda and its fellow ruling parties have some 120 seats.
Since the uprising, Tunisia's new leaders have faced many protests over economic hardship and political ideas; many have complained that hardline Salafists may hijack the revolution.
Last year, Salafist groups prevented several concerts and plays from taking place in Tunisian cities, saying they violated Islamic principles. Salafists also ransacked the U.S. Embassy in September, during international protests over an Internet video.
The embassy issued a statement condemning Belaid's killing and urging justice for his killers: "There is no justification for this heinous and cowardly act," it said. "Political violence has no place in the democratic transition in Tunisia."
Declining trade with the crisis-hit euro zone has left the 11 million Tunisians struggling to achieve the better living standards many had hoped for following Ben Ali's departure.
Its compact size, relatively skilled workforce and close ties with former colonial power France and other European neighbors across the Mediterranean has raised hopes that Tunisia can set an example of economic progress for the region.
Lacking the huge oil and gas resources of North African neighbors Libya and Algeria, Tunisia counts tourism as a major currency earner and further unrest could scare off visitors vital to an industry only just recovering from the revolution.
Jobless graduate Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in December 2010 in the city, 300 km (180 miles) southwest of Tunis, after police confiscated his unlicensed fruit cart, triggering the uprising that forced Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia less than a month later, on January 14, 2011.
President Moncef Marzouki, who last month warned the tension between secularists and Islamists might lead to "civil war", cancelled a visit to Egypt scheduled for Thursday and cut short a trip to France, where he addressed the European Parliament.
"There are political forces inside Tunisia that don't want this transition to succeed," Marzouki said in Strasbourg. "When one has a revolution, the counter revolution immediately sets in because those who lose power - it's not only Ben Ali and his family - are the hundreds of thousands of people with many interests who see themselves threatened by this revolution."
Belaid, who died in hospital, said this week dozens of people close to the government had attacked a Popular Front group meeting in Kef, northern Tunisia, on Sunday. He had been a constant critic of the government, accusing it of being a puppet of the rulers of wealthy Gulf emirate Qatar.
Human Rights Watch called his murder "the gravest incident yet in a climate of mounting violence".
Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi denied any involvement by his party in the killing.
"Is it possible that the ruling party could carry out this assassination when it would disrupt investment and tourism?" Ghannouchi told Reuters.
He blamed those seeking to derail Tunisia's democratic transition: "Tunisia today is in the biggest political stalemate since the revolution. We should be quiet and not fall into a spiral of violence. We need unity more than ever," he said.
He accused opponents of stirring up sentiment against his party following Belaid's death. "The result is burning and attacking the headquarters of our party in many areas," he said.
Witnesses said crowds had also attacked Ennahda offices in Sousse, Monastir, Mahdia and Sfax.
French President Francois Hollande said he was concerned by the rise of violence in Paris's former dominion, where the government says al Qaeda-linked militants linked to those in neighboring countries have been accumulating weapons with the aim of creating an Islamic state across North Africa.
"This murder deprives Tunisia of one of its most courageous and free voices," Hollande's office said in a statement.
(Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Writing by Alison Williams and Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Giles Elgood)
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, in graphic on Press TV News Analysis. Azikiwe is a frequent contributor to media agencies around the world., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.For Immediate
Pan-African Journal Worldwide Radio Program Now Broadcasting Over CPRMetro.org in New York City
To listen to the February 4, 2013 edition of the New York City version of the Pan-African Journal, hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, just click on the website below:
Abayomi Azikiwe is now broadcasting on CPRMetro.org radio station based in Metropolitan New York. Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, re-started the Pan-African Journal as a blogtalkradio program in October 2010.
In January of 2013 the Pan-African Radio Network was formed to better focus and promote the Pan-African Journal over blogtalkradio. During this same time period, Bernard White, a longtime New York-based radio and television producer, program director and host, invited Azikiwe to develop a version of the Pan-African Journal over this one-year-old Community Progressive Radio medium.
The program is in its third week. The most recent program, linked above, addresses the Israeli bombing of Syria, the visit to Detroit of the Venezuelan Consul General Jesus Rodriguez-Espinoza of Chicago, as well as detailed reports on the current situations in Egypt, Mali and Niger.
This edition of the program also examines the possible motivating factors for French and United States imperialist military interventions in West Africa and the continent as a whole. The program concludes with a brief tribute to the late Amilcar Cabral, founder of the PAIGC of Guinea Bissau, on the 40th anniversary of his assassination in January 1973.
These programs will be developed weekly and aired on numerous occasions over CPRMetro.org. Please listen to this broadcast and tune in to this new media outlet which also broadcasts other excellent programs dealing with political, economic, social and cultural issues from both a historical and contemporary perspective.
Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Mohamed Morsi of Egypt meeting in Cairo. This was the first visit of an Iranian leader in over thirty years., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Iran's president meets Egypt's top cleric to ease ideological tension
CAIRO, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- On his first visit to Egypt, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held talks on Tuesday with Egypt's top cleric Ahmed al-Tayyeb, head of al-Azhar Islamic institution, in an attempt to ease the ideological tension between religious leaders of Shiite Iran and Sunni Egypt.
"The points of view between the two sides are greatly close with regards to the issues related to the region and the Islamic world," Ahmadinejad told reporters at a press conference following the meeting, praising "the good relations" between peoples of the two countries throughout history.
Ahmadinejad also described his earlier talks with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and other Egyptian officials as "fruitful. "
For his part, top cleric's adviser Hassan al-Shafie expressed al-Azhar's rejection as a Sunni institution of Shiite attempts to spread Shiism in Sunni lands as well as their insult of Sunni symbols.
"We call for spreading tolerance in religious learning assemblies in both Egypt and Iran," al-Shafie said, demanding full rights of Sunni citizens in Iran.
French imperialism is bombing Mali and launching a ground invasion. The World Federation of Trade Unions have denounced the actions of Paris., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
5 February 2013
Last updated at 18:54 ET
France: Hundreds of Islamist militants killed in Mali
"Several hundred" Islamist militants have been killed since France launched an offensive in Mali last month, the French defence minister has said.
Jean-Yves Le Drian said they had been killed in airstrikes and direct combat with French troops.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said that France may begin pulling out of Mali as early as March.
In a newspaper interview, he said that "if everything goes as planned, the number of troops should diminish".
France has an estimated 4,000 troops in Mali and officials from multilateral institutions and dozens of countries have been meeting in Brussels to discuss how to replace them.
The defence minister said the last major town in northern Mali to remain in the hands of the rebels, Kidal, was now under French control.
Air attacks are continuing on suspected rebel hideouts north of the town.
The militants died in French airstrikes on vehicles carrying fighters and materials, or in ground fighting in the town of Konna at the start of the campaign and later in the town of Gao, Mr Le Drian said.
He said French troops had inflicted "great damage on the jihadist terrorist groups", saying "several hundred, a significant number" of Islamist fighters had been killed.
To put that in context, at the outset of the offensive French experts suggested that the Islamist alliance could probably muster about 3,000 fighters overall, says the BBC's Hugh Schofield in Paris.
France has suffered only one fatality so far - a helicopter pilot killed at the beginning of the operation.
Mr Le Drian said Malian forces had also taken prisoners - "some" high-ranking militants - whom he said would "have to answer to Malian courts and international justice".
French forces continue to carry out airstrikes in mountains north of Kidal where Islamists have taken refuge - and where some or all of seven French hostages are being held, our correspondent reports.
Earlier, the French military said some 1,800 soldiers from Chad had entered Kidal. Mr Le Drian said the town was now under the control of French forces with "the support of African and in particular Chadian forces".
Meanwhile, pro-autonomy Tuareg rebels in Mali said they had occupied the north-eastern town of Menaka, but their claim could not be verified.
Analysts say the rebels - who initially joined forces with the Islamist rebels in their fight for an independent state in northern Mali, but later fell out with them - are seeking to maximise their territorial claim on the region ahead of talks.
The French intervened in Mali in January, fearing that al-Qaeda-linked militants who had controlled Mali's vast north since April 2012 were about to advance on the capital, Bamako.
In an interview to be published on Wednesday, Mr Fabius said French soldiers could start leaving Mali in March.
"We will continue to act in the north where some terrorist havens remain," he told Metro newspaper.
"I think that starting in March, if all goes as planned, the number of French troops could be reduced," Mr Fabius told the daily Metro.
Meanwhile, officials from the UN, EU, African Union, the World Bank and dozens of nations met in Brussels to discuss Mali's future.
They are considering how democratic elections can be held in July, as well as the financing of an international military force and humanitarian assistance.
"The point now is to win the peace," French Development Minister Pascal Canfin said at the close of talks, according to AFP news agency.
Timbuktu Ancient Islamic Manuscripts Are The Subject of Intensive Study and Interpretation, a photo by Pan-African News Wire Photo File on Flickr.
Timbuktu: What really happened to the manuscripts?
KHADIJA PATEL AFRICA
30 JANUARY 2013 02:52 (SOUTH AFRICA)
There has been some confusion in world media over the fate of the South African-funded library housing thousands of ancient manuscripts in Timbuktu. Reports this week suggested thousands of manuscripts had been incinerated by Al-Qaeda militia as they fled the city. The reality, however, is a little more nuanced.
By KHADIJA PATEL.
On Tuesday, at a donors’ meeting in Addis Ababa, South Africa pledged $10 million to the African-led Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA), the African Union’s military operation in Mali. A further €10 million in humanitarian assistance to Mali was also pledged. For those South Africans ever suspicious of government spending and quick to point out that South Africa could do with some assistance for its embattled public health and education services, the Department of International Relations and Co-Operation’s deputy director general, Clayson Monyela, explained that the money would come from the African Renaissance Fund.
When the Fund was tabled into South African law, Dirco (or the Department of Foreign Affairs, as it was known then) hailed it as historic for encapsulating that noble ideal, the “African Renaissance", into South African legislation:
“[The] Act introduces, for the first time, a framework and basis for the South African government to identify and fund, in a proactive way, projects and programmes aimed at the six regulatory framework principles… by the granting of loans or rendering of other financial assistance within the African Renaissance framework.
“[T]he Act introduces, also for the first time as far as the South African government is concerned, a mechanism through which donor (third party) funds could be channelled to recipients and/or joint tripartite projects.”
The timing of this particular act of generosity from the African Renaissance Fund comes as another South African project, in the name of the “African Renaissance” in Mali, was severely damaged by fleeing rebels in Timbuktu.
Contrary to reports that emerged on Monday, the library has not been razed to the ground. But it has, however, sustained some damage. “The building will need to be rehabilitated,” says Professor Shamil Jeppie, who heads the Timbuktu Manuscripts Project at the University of Cape Town.
The library, named the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research, after a Timbuktu-born contemporary of William Shakespeare, was one of several libraries and collections in Timbuktu containing fragile, ancient documents dating back to the 13th century. The construction of the Institute was funded by the South Africa-Mali Timbuktu Project, which funded the construction of the library and archives building, as well as all services relating to the preservation, collection and access to the manuscripts.
The fate of both the manuscripts and the library has been the object of much confusion in the last two days.
On Monday, the exiled mayor of Timbuktu, Hallé Ousmane Cissé, excited the ire of people around the world when he told journalists the Ahmed Baba Institute had ben set alight by rebels fleeing the French advance on the town.
“The rebels [set] fire to the newly-constructed Ahmed Baba Institute built by the South Africans ... this happened four days ago," Cissé told Reuters by telephone from Bamako. He said he had received the information from his chief of communications, who had travelled south from the city on Sunday.
Cissé told journalists that the militants had burned the centre’s collection of about 30,000 ancient manuscripts. “The manuscripts were a part not only of Mali’s heritage but the world’s heritage,” Cissé told The Guardian. “By destroying them, they threaten the world. We have to kill all of the rebels in the north.”
Soon enough, Cissé’s comments were being reported as fact by news agencies around the world.
Yet when French and Malian troops captured the ancient city “without a shot being fired” later on Monday, the library was still standing. On this point, at least, the mayor’s information appeared to be incorrect. The library had certainly not been set alight to the point of total destruction.
And later on Monday evening, Sky’s Alex Crawford was able to report from inside the library. While the building itself appeared relatively unharmed, Crawford was surrounded by empty cardboard boxes and small mounds of ash. The manuscripts were nowhere to be found.
In her initial report from the library, Crawford even quoted the Timbuktu mayor in her explanation of the whereabouts of the manuscripts. The mayor said the manuscripts had been burned. Cissé was also quoted on Sky’s website as saying, “They torched all the important ancient manuscripts.”
But from the first images of the library in Crawford’s reporting, some analysts believed the manuscripts may have been moved, likely through looting, from the Institute. The fact that the cardboard boxes housing the manuscripts lay strewn on the floor of the Institute suggested that the manuscripts were not actually burnt but in fact removed in some hurry. It seemed antique dealers in the market for priceless, ancient manuscripts may be in luck.
TIME magazine’s Vivienne Walt, who has been tracking the fate of the manuscripts for the last nine months, has emphatically debunked the confusion surrounding the manuscripts. She claims she has found the manuscripts to be in safe hands after all.
Preservationists in Mali told Walt that a large-scale rescue operation was executed early last year and thousands of manuscripts were hauled out of the Ahmed Baba Institute to a safe house elsewhere. “Realising that the documents might be prime targets for pillaging or vindictive attacks from Islamic extremists, staff left behind just a small portion of them, perhaps out of haste, but also to conceal the fact that the centre had been deliberately emptied,” Walt said.
Mahmoud Zouber, Mali’s presidential aide on Islamic affairs, told TIME, “The documents which had been there are safe, they were not burned. They were put in a very safe place. I can guarantee you. The manuscripts are in total security.”
What’s more, when Walt confronted Timbuktu’s mayor with official reports that the manuscripts had been moved, he conceded that, indeed, residents had worked to rescue the centre’s manuscripts before Al-Qaeda militia occupied the city last March. Still, he said that while many of the manuscripts had been saved, “they did not move all the manuscripts.”
Other reports now suggest just 2,000 manuscripts were kept at the Ahmed Baba Institute while a further 28,000 were transferred safely to Bamako last year. According to these reports, efforts to save the manuscripts began as soon as northern Mali fell to Tuareg rebels last year. So while some manuscripts may have been destroyed, or looted, by fleeing rebels, the bulk of the collection appears to have been saved.
Monday’s reports that thousands of manuscripts were burned, then, were false. That was not the story at all.
“I think there was a cascade of really bad reporting,” Jeppie says. “In instances like these, one needs to hold judgement until there is more clarity.”
Jeppie himself feels assured the manuscripts are safe. “I think the manuscripts will be okay,” he says. He does, however, caution against the fragmentation of the collection – too much movement may destroy the brittle paper, and theft and abuse are also very real threats.
“We want to know what percentage of the manuscripts were moved,” he said on Tuesday.
And while the precise fate of the manuscripts may be revealed in the coming weeks, South Africa’s investment in the Institute has placed government in a position to lead efforts to secure its preservation. Yet little appears to have been done, or said, in this regard.
One spokesperson for the Department of Arts and Culture said the department to his knowledge had not yet issued any official comment on the damage sustained to the Ahmed Baba Institute or the fate of the manuscripts it was built to protect. Maintaining the African Renaissance will certainly take a lot more than just money. It requires as well an actual interest in the fate of the investments made in the name of Renaissance.
Clashes continue in eastern Libya between the rebel army and rebel militias. The militias who are allied with the puppet General National Congress are also being attacked., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
France will host meeting on Libya
February 6 2013
Paris - Countries that helped oust Muammar Gaddafi and overthrow the Libyan government will meet in Paris next week to discuss how to stabilise the counter-revolution, which has been beset by security problems since the martyred leader was toppled, French sources said on Tuesday.
France, which led international efforts to oust Gaddafi, will convene ministers and senior diplomats from the United States, Britain, Arab nations, the United Nations and European Union to Tuesday's meeting in Paris.
The French foreign ministry said the agenda would include “security co-operation, the legal system and the rule of law”.
Libya rebels and foreign diplomats fear an exodus of Malian and foreign Islamist fighters following a French-led intervention in Mali. Unless Mali's porous borders are secured, weapons smuggling will also pose a threat.
“The Libyan security situation is a real subject of concern for its neighbours and the countries that helped the transition,” a French diplomatic source said.
“We need to help the Libyans gain the tools for their own security. It's a difficult situation because they need to rebuild everything for the state.”
French forces have been attacking Islamists in Mali for three weeks as African troops assemble ahead of a UN-backed campaign to oust insurgents who seized control of northern Mali in April.
The military operation in the former French colony has cranked up tensions in North Africa, with Islamist radicals vowing to strike back at French and Western interests.
Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents killed 38 mostly foreign hostages last month when they seized an Algerian gas plant as a riposte to French military operations in Mali.
The Malian crisis was itself in part triggered by the return from Libya of heavily armed fighters, once in alliance with the Gaddafi government, who inflated the ranks of separatists that launched attacks on Mali's army in early 2012.
European countries are also at concerned about security. They urged their nationals to leave Libya's eastern city of Benghazi on January 24, Britain citing a “specific and imminent” threat to Westerners days after the Algerian gas plant attack.
The call to leave Libya's second largest city irked Libyans keen to win foreign investment to rebuild a fractured infrastructure and boost the oil industry after the counter-revolution that toppled Gaddafi.
Nevertheless, Libyan rebels are worried that if Mali's vast desert borders cannot be secured there will be a flow of weapons and Malian and foreign Islamist fighters back through Algeria and across Libya's borders.
Its Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdulaziz said on January 24 that spillover from Mali's crisis could undermine Libyan security and urged the United Nations to deploy peacekeepers in Mali once French forces withdraw.
UN special envoy Tarek Mitri, head of the UN mission in Libya, said on January 29 the Libyan authorities faced a serious security challenge in the east, where the US ambassador and three other Americans were killed in September.
The opposition of armed radical groups to the military intervention in Mali could exacerbate the situation given ideological and ethnic affiliations and Libya's porous border.
US-backed rebels in Libya shoot up the city of Bani Walid. Thousands were forced to flee the city after a siege and bombardment with chemical weapons., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Lufthansa halts Libya flights due to security worries
By Victoria Bryan
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany's Lufthansa and its subsidiary Austrian Airlines have halted flights to Tripoli due to insecurity in Libya, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
Lufthansa, which flew three times a week to Tripoli, resumed flights to the Libyan capital in February 2012 after rebels ousted former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Austrian, bought by Lufthansa in 2009, flew to Tripoli twice a week.
"We have taken the decision given the developments in Tripoli and the tense situation in the region," the Lufthansa spokeswoman said.
It was the second time this year that flights to a Libyan city have been cancelled due to security concerns.
Air Malta said it had cancelled flights to Benghazi last month after Britain said it was aware of a "specific and imminent" threat to Westerners in the eastern Libyan city. The company resumed its flights to the city four days later.
Libyans are calling for demonstrations to commemorate the second anniversary of the start of the uprising that overthrew Gaddafi's government and security has been stepped up at international embassies and companies.
Protests planned for February 15 will be a test for Libyan authorities which have failed to rein in a myriad of heavily armed militias which have refused to join the police and army after end of the war.
(Additional reporting by Hadeel Al Shalchi in Tripoli; Editing by Jon Hemming)
Map of Mali where French imperialistic forces are bombing the country in several regions. The war is spreading to neighboring Algeria., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Tuareg rebels say they extend control in Mali's northeast
By Cheikh Diouara
KIDAL, Mali (Reuters) - Pro-autonomy Tuareg rebels in Mali said on Tuesday they had occupied the town of Menaka, extending their control of the remote northeast as they position for talks with the government after the retreat of al Qaeda-linked insurgents.
It was not possible to independently verify whether MNLA fighters had entered Menaka, some 250 km (156 miles) south of their stronghold of Kidal. Menaka was a cradle of the MNLA's separatist uprising last year that took over northern Mali but was subsequently hijacked by al Qaeda and its allies.
Malian military officials have accused the MNLA of seeking to exaggerate its presence in the north to strengthen its hand in possible talks with Bamako after a three-week French-led offensive drove the Islamist fighters into the far northeast.
"Our forces have entered Menaka," MNLA spokesman Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh told Reuters by telephone from Ouagadougou, the capital of neighboring Burkina Faso.
Ag Assaleh said the MNLA entered Menaka because there were rebels from al Qaeda's north African wing AQIM, as well as its splinter group MUJWA and Ansar Dine, operating nearby after being driven from the region's main towns, Timbuktu and Gao.
"We took Menaka to make sure the area was secure ... The Malian army do not want to leave Gao," Ag Assaleh said. "Any town which is not secured, we will take it."
Malian military sources said it was possible the MNLA had entered Menaka because Islamist rebels had fled and no other military force was occupying the town, situated some 100 km (60 miles) from the border with Niger.
The MNLA seized control of northern Mali in April, taking advantage of a power vacuum left by a coup in Bamako, but its revolt was eclipsed by a loose alliance of Islamist jihadists.
A three-week ground and air offensive by former colonial power France, however, has pushed the Islamist insurgents into northeast mountain hideouts. France said it intervened to stop the Islamists from seizing all of Mali and using it as a base for attacks in neighboring African countries and the West.
The MNLA says it has retaken control of Kidal and small towns around the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains, where many Islamists are believed to be hiding near the Algeria border.
"The MNLA's army is in control of the whole region around Kidal," said Albakay ag Ahmed, spokesman for the movement in that town. "It is here in Kidal, in Tessalit, in Aguelhok."
France, which says it has established close links with Tuareg rebels on the ground, sent special forces to seize Kidal's airport a week ago but has kept a low profile in the town. MNLA fighters drove around Kidal in pick-up trucks on Tuesday with their green, red, yellow and black flag flying.
"Azawad yesterday, Azawad today, Azawad always," shouted one group of young fighters, their hands joined in a sign of victory, using the rebels' name for northern Mali.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM-TV in Paris that Kidal was under control of French, African, and Chadian forces. He said the French troops had "functional relations" with the MNLA", who he described as "facilitators."
A French diplomatic source said France's army, already thinly stretched across the vast desert region, was coordinating its actions with the MNLA in the north.
"We're giving them tasks to carry out and it's going pretty well at the moment," said the source in Paris, adding that one of the challenges was understanding who were the leaders of the movement. "They have soldiers, weapons - more than we believed."
The MNLA said on Monday its patrols captured two senior Islamist leaders trying to flee to Algeria.
With only 4,000 troops in a region the size of Texas, France's military has appealed for urgent reinforcement from a U.N.-backed African force still being deployed.
Troops from neighboring Niger and Chad have been backing the French in their operations against the Islamist fighters.
France carried out more air strikes overnight in the desolate Saharan expanses of Mali's far north, seeking to sever the Islamist fighters' supply lines and destroy their bases.
France has urged Mali's government to open a dialogue with northern communities including the Tuaregs. Malian interim president Dioncounda Traore says he is ready to talk to the MNLA provided they drop any claim to territorial independence. Traore says his government aims to hold national elections by July 31.
"From the moment that the MNLA declares - it appears that it's doing it - that it is neither terrorist nor secessionist, and that it wishes to enter into internal dialogue on Mali, it will be at the table," Le Drian said in Paris.
Talks with the MNLA would prove deeply unpopular with many ordinary Malians particularly in the black African-dominated south. They blame the Tuaregs for the current war, which has displaced more than 400,000 people.
Failure to solve the Tuareg issue could hamper the efforts of France and its regional and international allies to establish a lasting peace in Mali's north and prevent its use by al Qaeda as a springboard for jihadist attacks.
(Additional reporting by Daniel Flynn in Dakar, Alexandria Sage and John Irish in Paris; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Pascal Fletcher/Mark Heinrich)
Youth lead march through Rosedale Park in northwest Detroit on November 10, 2012. The demonstration called for the end of the foreclosure against Gail and Jerry Cullors. (Photo: Abayomi Azikiwe), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Updated February 5, 2013, 2:57 p.m. ET
Obama Presses Plan to Delay Spending Cuts .
By JARED A. FAVOLE And JANET HOOK
Wall Street Journal
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama urged Congress to pass a small package of spending cuts and tax increases to delay the major spending cuts set to kick in next month, saying thousands of jobs and the nation's economic recovery hang in the balance.
"There is no reason that the jobs of thousands of Americans...not to mention the growth of the entire economy, should be put in jeopardy just because folks in Washington couldn't come together," Mr. Obama said in televised remarks Tuesday afternoon. A short-term measure, he said, would give Congress the room to continue work on a way to avoid permanently the cuts scheduled to begin March 1.
Congressional Republicans now reject any additional tax increases—to reduce the deficit, to postpone the impending spending cuts, or as part of an overhaul of the tax code.
Roughly $85 billion in spending cuts are scheduled to begin next month and run through Sept. 30, and then about $110 billion in annual spending cuts would begin Oct. 1 and continue for eight years. The cuts would hit defense spending and other domestic programs, such as education, transportation and housing, and would also cut certain payments to Medicare providers.
Mr. Obama said the specter of cuts is already affecting the economy and warned that further political dysfunction would derail growth. He said he is committed to take more steps to reduce the nation's deficit through modest cuts to social programs so long as they are done "hand-in-hand with a process of tax reform so that the wealthiest individuals and corporations can't take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren't available to most Americans."
He said revenue from changes to the tax code should be used to reduce the deficit.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.), who has been planning for years to overhaul the tax code, flatly rejected Mr. Obama's approach.
"Tax reform should be about making the code simpler and fairer for American families and helping employers create more jobs," Mr. Camp said. "The president's proposal is nothing more than another tax hike to pay for more Washington spending."
On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office released its latest projections about the country's deficit. The CBO said the deficit has been cut in half in the past four years, but federal debt will still hit historic levels if more isn't done.
The automatic spending cuts set to kick in next month are known in Washington as the "sequester." They were scheduled to begin Jan. 2, but they were averted for two months as part of the fiscal-cliff deal. The sequester was a product of the 2011 political agreement that raised the debt ceiling in exchange for deficit-reduction measures.
House Democrats have drafted a plan to replace all of the March 1 spending cuts with a plan that calls for both tax increases and spending cuts. The proposal, drafted by rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.), calls for tax increases on the wealthy, reducing tax breaks for oil and gas companies and a reduction in farm subsidies.
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) issued a written statement ahead of the president's speech Tuesday: "Republicans have twice voted to replace these arbitrary cuts with common-sense cuts and reforms that protect our national defense. We believe there is a better way to reduce the deficit, but Americans do not support sacrificing real spending cuts for more tax hikes. The president's sequester should be replaced with spending cuts and reforms that will start us on the path to balancing the budget in 10 years."
The White House has pointed to the prospect of cuts as part of the reason why the nation's gross domestic product shrank for the first time in 3½ years during the fourth quarter.
Mr. Obama's proposal to avert the sequester, at least temporarily, is in line with his past proposals to reduce the deficit without across-the-board spending cuts.
Mr. Obama is seeking a combination of spending cuts and changes to the tax code that raise more revenue. If policy makers pursue a short-term fix for the sequester, they are likely to target controversial programs that members of both parties have tried to end for years.
One example could be the roughly $5 billion in direct payments the government makes to certain farmers. This program was close to being eliminated but ended up extended for another year several weeks ago.
Most Democrats agree with the president that the spending cuts should be replaced with a mix of changes to the tax code and spending cuts. Senate Democrats are expected to hash out their differences over details at a two-day retreat in Annapolis, Md., Tuesday and Wednesday.
On taxes, the White House has said it plans to go after specific tax breaks as a way to bring in more revenue. Mr. Obama on Sunday singled out so-called carried interest, which is a share of a partnership's profits that is taxed at capital-gains tax rates rather than at higher income-tax rates. In 2013, the top rate on long-term capital gains is 20% for taxpayers in the highest bracket, while the top rate on ordinary income is 39.6%.
Critics say that carried interest is actually compensation to the recipients and should be taxed at the higher rates. "This proposal would affect the 20% of profits that managing members of venture capital, hedge funds, and private-equity funds typically receive," says Stewart Karlinsky, a professor emeritus at San Jose State University in California.
—Damian Paletta and Laura Saunders contributed to this article.
Write to Jared A. Favole at email@example.com
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit on March 27, 2010. The event was a rally to demand justice in the assassination of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah by the FBI on Oct. 28, 2009., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Book Review of Claudia Jones: Beyond Containment (2011)
Edited by Carole Boyce Davies, Ayebia Clarke Publishing (241 pages)
African-Caribbean Communist defied racism, sexism and class oppression
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Professor Carole Boyce Davies of Cornell University has continued her unearthing of the life and political legacy of Claudia Vera Jones (1915-1964), a leading figure in the communist and Black liberation movements between the 1930s and 1960s. Following her previous work entitled: “Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones (2008), this book “Claudia Jones: Beyond Containment (2011), is a collection of writings by Jones herself which reveals why her impact was so profound during the period between the Great Depression and the awakening movements of the 1950s and 1960s.
The first book by Davies was more of a literary critique of Jones’ work combined with analyses of the way in which her journalism and organizing has been largely ignored by the established left and African American scholarship on the history of the struggle for a synthesis of the convergence of national oppression, gender discrimination and class struggle. This book allows Jones to more fully speak for herself over a period of three decades from the Caribbean to the United States and finally Britain.
Jones was born Claudia Cumberbatch in1915 in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, which was then a British colony. Although she came from a stable family, the economic crisis which hit the island during the 1920s prompted them to immigrate to New York City in 1922. Her mother worked in a garment factory after arriving in the U.S. but died in 1927.
A brilliant student, Jones would later join the campaign to save the life of and free the Scottsboro Nine, who were falsely accused of raping two white women in Alabama. The young African American men faced the death penalty and had it not been for the efforts of the Communist Party and later the NAACP, they would have been executed.
Although Jones was highly accomplished academically, during the 1930s opportunities were extremely limited for African-Caribbean immigrant women. Instead of attending college or university, she took on menial jobs in laundries, factories and retail outlets in New York.
In 1932, at the age of 17, she contracted tuberculosis which damaged her health for the remainder of her life. Nonetheless, after her involvement with the Scottsboro Nine case, she became deeply involved with left politics and joined the Young Communist League (YCL) in 1936.
She would also become active in cultural affairs through a drama group organized by the National Urban League. Later she would begin to write a column entitled “Claudia Comments” for a Harlem publication.
After joining the YCL, she would be recruited as a staff writer for the Daily Worker, the newspaper of the Communist Party during this period. Jones became an organizer in Harlem where she engaged in mass work through the National Negro Congress (NNC) and the Southern Negro Youth Congress (SNYC).
Her talent and dedication would result in a meteoric rise within the ranks of the Party. By the early 1940s, Jones would serve on the National Council of the YCL, directing its educational division. She sat on the editorial board of the Weekly Review and in 1943 she took control of Spotlight, the monthly magazine of the American Youth for Democracy.
Jones would become heavily involved as an organizer of youth, civil rights and religious groups as well as immigrant rights committees. In 1945, she was appointed “Negro Affairs” editor of the Daily Worker and became the youngest staff member. During the same year she was appointed to the National Negro Commission and the Party’s National Committee.
In a report to the Communist Party national convention in 1950 she stressed the need to “demonstrate that the economic, political and social demands of Negro women are not just ordinary demands, but special demands, flowing from special discrimination facing Negro women as women, as workers and as Negroes.”
Repression, Detention and Deportation
Jones’ organizing work brought her to the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In searching for background information on the young activist, government agents eventually discovered that she had applied for and been denied permanent residency and citizenship.
In the aftermath of World War II, the U.S. government began an intense campaign against the left. Thousands of people were harassed, vilified and arrested, forcing many into seclusion, exile and deportation.
During this wave of repression Jones was arrested on immigration charges in 1948. She was held at the notorious Ellis Island detention facility while a campaign was launched which halted her deportation at the time. She was represented by an African American lawyer from Detroit George Crockett, Jr., who would later become a judge and U.S. Congressman.
Eventually in 1951, she was charged with violating the Smith Act, which outlawed the “advocacy” of overthrowing the U.S. government. She was indicted along with other leading Communists including Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Simon Gerson, James E. Jackson and others.
She remained free while the case was under appeal. However, in 1955 her appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court and she was sent to federal prison in Virginia where she suffered a heart attack. Later in October 1955 she was released after a national campaign but was forced to leave the U.S. to live in Britain.
Her years in Britain were heavily centered on the fight against racism. She would publish the West Indian Gazette and initiate the Caribbean Carnival in London.
Jones traveled to the Soviet Union and China during the early 1960s. However, the conditions under which she lived in the U.S. when she had tuberculosis as a youth and a later heart attack in federal prison compromised her health in later years.
In December 1964, Claudia Jones passed away in Britain and buried in Highgate cemetery near Karl Marx. Her life contributions are becoming more well-known in the current period.
This book makes a tremendous contribution to the literature on left, feminist and Pan-African struggles during the 20th century. A new generation of activists and organizers will benefit immensely from Jones’ writings on the most pressing and burning issues of the period.
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, featured on Press TV World News discussing the Algerian military operations at the In Amenas gas field in the Sahara. The program aired on January 18, 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
France, U.S. Escalate Imperialist War in Mali and Niger
Hollande visits Timbuktu and then escalates bombing operations
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
French Socialist President Francois Hollande has visited Mali in an effort to claim victory over targeted Islamic groups based in the central and northern regions of this vast West African state. The president visited the capital of Bamako and the cities of Sevare and Timbuktu.
A staged rally in Timbuktu made it appear as if Hollande was the savior of the Malian nation. In his speech he failed to address the allegations of civilian deaths and injuries among people in the areas that have been bombed by French war planes since January 11.
The French leader told the media and crowds in Timbuktu that the war in Mali was not over. He did say that France would withdraw its troops from Mali as soon as a West African regional force was in place inside the country.
In the immediate aftermath of the Hollande visit, dozens of French war planes escalated their attacks on several areas in the north. Under the guise of disabling supply routes for the designated “terrorists” groups, the mountainous north-east region around Kidal and Tessalit was pounded.
Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister in the Hollande administration, said of the renewed airstrikes that “It is about destroying their rear bases, their depots. They have taken refuge in the north and northeast but they can only stay there long-term if they have ways to replenish their supplies.” (ninemsn.com, Feb. 4)
French Intervention Breeds Human Rights Violations
For months reports have been emanating from areas under the control of various Islamist organizations indicating that fundamental rights of the local population groups have been violated. These alleged atrocities committed by Islamist groups in northern and central Mali have been utilized as a pretext for the intervention of France which is being backed up by the United States and other NATO countries.
Nonetheless, there has been far less attention paid to the allegations made that the military invasion by France is leading to the deaths of numerous Malians through aerial bombardments and ground operations by both the French and Malian military forces. Accusations of beatings, torture and killings have been documented through organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations.
On Feb. 1, Adama Dieng, a special adviser to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the prevention of genocide, reported that there have been “serious allegations” of extrajudicial executions by the Malian army. Other stories are emerging of civilians killed by bombs and the impact of the aerial bombardments on the ability of people to have adequate food, drinking water and medical attention.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is seeking access to prisoners being held by the Malian army. Spokespersons for the Malian government have not been forthcoming with information on the status of these prisoners.
UN special adviser Adama Dieng noted that “While the liberation of towns once under the control of the rebel and extremist groups has brought hope to the populations of northern Mali, I am deeply concerned at the risk of reprisal attacks against ethnic Tuareg and Arab civilians. There have been serious allegations of human rights violations committed by the Malian army, including summary executions and disappearances, in Sevare, Mopti, Niono and other towns close to other areas where the fighting has occurred.” (AFP, Feb. 2)
Dieng continued by pointing out that “There have also been reports of incidents of mob lynching and looting of properties belonging to Arab and Tuareg communities. These communities are reportedly being accused of supporting armed groups, based simply on their ethnic affiliation. I am deeply disturbed by reports of violations committed by the army, and by reports that the armed forces have been recruiting and arming proxy militia groups to instigate attacks against particular ethnic and national groups in northern Mali.” (AFP, Feb. 2)
Uranium Mines in Niger Are of Great Concern to the U.S. and France
Right across the border from Mali in Niger, the U.S. and France have enhanced their military presence. At present Paris has deployed Special Forces units to ostensibly “protect” the uranium mines inside this West African state.
The BBC reported on February 3 that “Niger has confirmed that French Special Forces are protecting one of the country’s biggest uranium mines. President Mahamadou Issoufou told French media that security was being tightened at the Arlit mine after the recent hostage crisis in Algeria.”
Areva, a French-owned firm, plays a major role in mining uranium in Niger. The country is the world’s fifth largest producer of the strategic resource used in the technology, energy, medical and military industries.
President Issoufou told French TV 5 that “We decided, especially in light of what happened in Algeria…not to take risks and strengthen the protection of mining sites.” Areva obtains a large portion of its uranium from two mines in Niger located at Arlit and Imouraren.
At the same time, the U.S. government has announced two agreements with the Niger government for the deployment of troops as well as a drone base inside the country on the border with Mali. The drone base is designed to enhance the intelligence gathering capability of the Pentagon in West Africa.
One unnamed military official said that the U.S. presence in Niger “is directly related to the Mali mission, but it could also give AFRICOM (U.S. Africa Command) a more enduring presence for ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance).” President Issoufou said in an interview the agreement was part of “a long-term strategic relationship with the U.S.” (World War 4 Report, Jan. 30)
These military agreements and adventures are taking place within the context of a worsening economic crisis in Europe and the U.S. The French economy is suffering from escalating debt and rising unemployment and the U.S. is facing a mounting fiscal crisis along with a negative growth rate.
British Prime Minister David Cameron also visited Algeria and Libya just prior to the trip by Hollande to Mali. Cameron’s visit to Libya came amid a warning by London that British citizens should leave the same country which was bombed extensively by the Royal Air Force along with Pentagon and NATO forces in 2011.
In Algeria, armed combatant seized the In Amenas gas field in January that resulted in the deaths of over 80 people and the injuring of many more. Britain, France and the U.S. are all seeking to protect their economic interests in both West and North Africa.
Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Quoted in the Daily Nebraskan: Aid to Africa Relies on Western Interests, Not Human Rights
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, speaking at the Dr. Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on April 5, 2008. The event commemorated the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
BEN TALEB: Aid to Africa relies on Western interests, not human rights
Baligh Ben Taleb | Posted: Monday, February 4, 2013 1:00 am
With neocolonial projects in Afghanistan, Iraq and the new “scramble for Africa,” it seems colonial appetite hasn’t been entirely eradicated with the collapse of European empires. Mali, in this regard, is not an exception, but another case of post-colonial experience. Before getting there, historical context is essential.
In fact, the lights of colonialism have not tersely turned off with the existence of a “collaborator system” in place–colonial agents, like a puppet operating on behalf of their colonial power. But, if that string-puppet is endangered by popular revolt or local resistance it drives the colonial power nuts. It may cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives for the sake of maintaining that agency in place.
Take for example the former French foreign minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, who initially offered French help to quell the uprising in Tunisia.
When colonial powers do intervene, think of the narrative that is often wrapped within a ‘benevolent’ attitude of liberalism and humanism. You can think of Libya as another case in point, where thousands of people benignly thought of the military intervention as catalyzed by humanitarian cause. Yet the recent declarations of former Italian Prime Minister and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi demystified that normative sentiment when he admitted that “NATO’s intervention in Libya was orchestrated by then French President Nicolas Sarkozy who wanted to get a share of Libya’s natural gas and oil.”
Iraq offers another case where many people swallowed the humanitarian hemlock of the Bush administration while the daily events made human tragedies a diurnal experience, to say the least.
These examples and many others render the idea of full independence a sham.
Any military action brings in a political disaster more than it solves any putative crisis.
So, it would be farcical to think of the end of European colonial rule in Africa as a break from external influence and a springboard toward sovereignty.
During the last few weeks, the western African state of Mali has been enduring another colonial experience. To set the stage, the story has been wrapped within the old cliché of humanitarianism — protecting Malian people from regional threats, including local “Touaregs.” You may not be the only one who shrugs your shoulders to this narrative because numerous observers of colonial rhetoric are sick of listening to the same colonial jargons.
France and its Western allies claim the overarching purpose behind the military intervention was to allegedly halt the advance of the rebels, or members of Touaregs, who control the northern parts of the West African nation and protect the Malian government and its people. But it’s really to do with uranium and Western corporations in West Africa.
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, asserted that “the French are there to serve the interests of not only their own government, but also in an attempt to prop up an unstable military regime that had taken power last year in Mali.”
By the same token, member of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives Laurent Louis stood up in parliament and exposed what the war is all about.
“Today in the name of democracy and the fight against terrorism, our states grant themselves the right to violate the sovereignty of independent countries and to overthrow legitimate leaders,” he said.
Mali can’t be an exception in front of imperial projects.
They say truth is the first casualty of war.
Indeed, a satisfactory interpretation of colonial history in the region holds the key to understanding such neocolonial reality.
The equation has exponentially turned enigmatic, particularly with the hostage operations in Algeria, as it deteriorates the stability of the entire region. But this is not a novelty per se, since Africa has a history as a playground for imperial dominance.
China is now Mali’s largest export trading partner and no doubt, to counter its growing economic presence in Africa, the U.S., under its Africa Command, or AFRICOM, is politically and militarily invested in the region as well. The “neo-scramble for Africa” is about securing geopolitical interests and keeping the upper hand on the areas of vast natural resources.
This is not a Marxist-Leninist approach on historical analysis. But wherever there is a colonial act, the first question should be, “why?”
Why a swift military intervention in Mali in this particular time while more than 60,000 people were massacred in Syria? Neither France nor any “benevolent” power intervened to end that bloody quagmire.
Has the Syrian blood become cheaper than the Malian uranium?
In some eyes, yes!
The irony is that these powers have been identifying the same group deemed “extremist” through a zero-sum game in which the collaboration of some signifies the demonization of others.
There are always unattended consequences for military action, but the question now is how long will Africa be under the Western “scramble”?
Baligh Ben Taleb is a former Fulbright scholar from Tunisia and a PhD student in history, reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Col. Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. The two states were anti-imperialist pioneers in Africa., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Africa needs a superstate
Tuesday, 05 February 2013 00:00
While French military airplanes bomb militant targets in the deserts of northern Mali, the president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has again asserted his long-held dream of a “United States of Africa.”
Echoing similar entreaties from the former leader of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, President Mugabe called for the formation of a giant continental superpower in order to compete better with the more advanced nations on earth, to end chronic regional wars, and to finally block Western interference and intervention in Africa.
“Get them (African states) to get out of the regional shell and get into one continental shell,” President Mugabe said in Harare, after a meeting with Thomas Boni Yayi, Benin’s president and the outgoing chairman of the African Union (AU), according to the Herald .
“The continent of Africa: this is what we must become. And there, we must also have (one) African head. Yes, we need one. We are not yet there. This is what we must go and discuss, but we must also discuss the issues that divide us.”
Yayi himself called for a Pan-African movement.
“Our vision now is what we can do to strengthen the unity and stability because without it we cannot move to the prosperity of our people in our continent,” he said.
“Pan-Africanism is necessary for us to be together. Our regional communities have to move together, to work together and to strengthen the unity of the continent. We need to strengthen democracy in our countries. We need to strengthen good governance. We need to strengthen the peace and stability and unity of our countries.”
Gaddafi’s original proposal, which he offered publicly in 1999, fell apart quickly, failing to gather much traction. Some feared that the Libyan leader was simply making a play to expand his own ‘personal empire’ and crown himself the King/Emperor of Africa.
But the Colonel was undeterred.
“I shall continue to insist that our sovereign countries work to achieve the United States of Africa,” Gaddafi said as late as 2009 during an AU meeting.
During a festival celebrating African culture and identity in Senegal, Gaddafi grandly declared: “Down with imperialism! Africa must unite, so that we do not again become serfs or slaves. It is necessary to establish a unity government for the African continent and that Africa has one army . . . which could consist of a million soldiers.”
Gaddafi also blasted African leaders who were opposed to the idea of a united continent, calling them “agents of imperialism, myopic or traitors who do not think about the future of Africa.”
“It is not enough to dwell on the past of the continent, we were treated like animals, we were hunted in the forest, they enslaved us . . . they appropriated Africa,” Gaddafi added.
“But why fight for liberation, if we remain satellites of our colonial powers?”
Gaddafi, never short on fanciful ideas, even suggested that this African superstate could include nations in the Western hemisphere, like Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, with large African-descended populations.
Critics, both in Africa and elsewhere, have countered that uniting 54 nations of hundreds of different tribes, a multitude of languages and economies at vastly different stages of development, would be an unrealistic goal.
President Mugabe seemed to concede this when he took an obvious stab at the AU for failing to create the unity among Africans originally envisioned by the founders of its predecessor entity, the Organisation of African Unity, 50 years ago.
“We really have not become integrated as an African people into a real union,” President Mugabe said. “And this is the worry, which my brother (Yayi) has, and the worry I have; the worry perhaps others also have. That we are not yet at that stage which was foretold by our fathers when they created this organisation.”
But he added that Africans share enough in common to overcome whatever issues divide them.
“We are not there yet,” President Mugabe said. “As we stand here people will look at us, as me (as an) Anglophone, him (Yayi) Francophone, you see. There is also Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking), but we are Africans first and foremost. Africans, Africans. Look at our skin. That’s our continent, we belong to one continent. We may, by virtue of history, have been divided by certain boundaries and especially by colonialism. But our founding fathers in 1963, showed us the way and we must take up that teaching that we got in 1963. That we are one and we must be united.”
President Mugabe even referred to conflicts within his own nation.
“In my country, yes, we have also had divisions, political divisions, but I am glad that we all appreciate that whatever political affiliations we belong to, we are Zimbabweans,” he declared.
But the revival of this dream of African unity was panned by others.
“I don’t foresee a single United States of Africa with a single president because we are so diverse politically and otherwise,” said Lindiwe Zulu, international relations adviser to Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, according to the Guardian newspaper.
“It is very desirable in the long term, but I don’t see it any time soon. There is a lot more to be done. We are still agonising over sovereignty.”
Zulu discussed obstacles to the idea.
“When you call for one president, you are calling for ministers to serve under them, one parliament and one legislative process,” she added.
“There are too many things that divide us on political, social and economic levels. We need to have a common agenda and approach to human rights and development before we can talk about one president. We need to deal with democracy on the continent and leaders who think beyond themselves.”
Richard Dowden, director of the Royal African Society, took an even more sceptical view of African unity.
“The idea that one government could rule the whole of Africa at this stage is silly and unworkable,” he told the Guardian.
“They need to build from the bottom economically rather than imposing a notion of unity from the top down; it’s absurd. It is a dream of totalitarian fantasists, not the people.
“Africa is becoming increasingly local. I’m in Kenya at the moment and the forthcoming election is all about ethnic arithmetic.”
Alpha Oumar Konaré, former President of Mali and former chairperson of the African Union Commission, supported the notion during the commemoration of Africa Day in 2006.
The former President of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, even set a target date for the formation of the United States of Africa — as early as 2017.
“We ask . . . for the establishment of the United States of Africa, the only solution to free our peoples and . . . make Africa a major cultural, economic, political and social whole, which will be respected,” Wade once said.
Trevor Manuel, South Africa’s Minister in the Presidency in charge of the National Planning Commission, said unifying Africa — at least economically — would be crucial to the continent’s survival.
“It’s not about EU, not about the US (United States), not about the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and World Bank, its about us and the way we relate to each other, and in this context it is fundamentally important that we talk to each other as Africans about some of the hard truths that confront us,” he said at a conference in Harare last November.
“As individual countries, we will not make it in the world. We will be picked off and become markets for the rest. So we can’t look to the rest of the world. We have to look to each other in our neighborhood and understand that’s where change will be driven from. As we learn from Europe we look at ourselves in understanding what we should not do.”
In the event the African continent united into a single sovereign state, geographically it would comprise the world’s largest nation (even bigger than the Russian Federation). In terms of population, Africa’s 1 billion people would rank it third in size behind China and India.
However, such vital statistics as population and economic power are wildly uneven across the continent.
For example, almost one-third of the continent’s entire population currently lives in just three states: Nigeria, Ethiopia and Egypt.
In 2011, according to the IMF, Africa produced a total GDP of about $1.9 trillion (roughly equal to that of India or Russia). However, just three countries — South Africa, Nigeria, and Egypt — account for almost half of that amount, suggesting that economic power is concentrated in very few hands and many nations lag behind.
For example, consider that the Democratic Republic of Congo, which boasts a large population of some 68 million and some of the world’s richest natural resources, delivered a GDP in 2011 of only US$16 billion — meaning South Africa (with a population of about 51 million) has an economy 25 times bigger.
Thus, in a “United States of Africa,” South Africa would likely enjoy far greater economic and political influence over continental affairs than DR Congo would.
On the whole, 40 percent of all people on the continent — some 400 million people — live below the poverty level, according to the African Development Bank Group. Again, poverty rates diverge wildly across the continent — for example, in Chad and Liberia, close to 80 percent of the population live below the poverty line, while in North African countries, such rates are much lower.
— International Business Times/Southern Times.
Acting Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander Lieutenant-General Phillip Valerio Sibanda chats to Colonel Joseph Mathambo of Botswana and Brigadier-General Christopher Chellah during a training workshop in Harare., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Sadc begins training Standby Force inspectors
Tuesday, 05 February 2013 00:00
SADC has started training inspectors to improve the operation and proficiency of the military component of the Sadc Standby Force in war times.
The inspectors, drawn from all Sadc countries, include civilians and will inspect different countries’ preparedness for any eventuality.
This is the first group to be trained for the inspectorate job.
Members of the group would in turn train their colleagues in their respective countries.
Their duty will be to inspect physical military equipment of all countries that pledged to contribute to the brigade.
Sadc Defence Inspectorate Working Group chairperson Colonel Joseph Mathambo of Botswana said the inspectors would physically examine military hardware and personnel to be deployed at the shortest possible time when needed.
“We have instances where pledging countries were found lacking when it was time for deployment and this inconvenienced the whole brigade so we decided that we inspect and see the actual troops and equipment on the ground.
“They will also train the civilian component of the brigade who comprise the police, non-governmental organisations who will be providing critical services to the brigade such as humanitarian assistance, dealing with children and other vulnerable groups.”
The Sadc DIWG trainer’s trainer course began yesterday and would end on February 15.
In 2007, regional countries resolved to contribute troops under the SSF to defend members states from revolts and aggression
The brigade, under the command of Tanzania, is in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where M23 rebels had launched an onslaught against President Joseph Kabila’s government.
Officially opening the course in Harare yesterday, acting Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander Lieutenant General Valerio Sibanda said there was a need for Sadc member states to speak with one voice.
He said Sadc members states should be prepared for any eventuality.
“For this to be effective, we have to be united and speak with one voice,” he said.
“In your various countries you have your own inspectorate format but with this working group it was found necessary that you should adopt the same format regionally. The course is designed to ensure that we have a common understanding of the inspectorate procedure so that you can train others in your respective countries. If we are to harmonise our operations we have to harmonise our training first.”
He said the courses should have began long back but had been delayed due to financial constraints.
The programme had been on the cards for sometime but failed to take off because of lack of resources, he said.
“I urge you to take the course seriously and work hard to achieve the objectives of the whole programme.
“I am informed some of the courses you will take up include operational readiness and quality assurance and I think these will help us a lot.”
Lt Gen Sibanda said Zimbabwe expected to hold elections before the end of June.
“You are aware of the current political and economic developments in our country. I shall not comment much on that, suffice to say the inclusive Government brought after the mediation of Sadc is operating fairly well,” he said.
“We are currently formulating a new constitution and the parties are free to consult and influence the process as much as they can. Our desire is to have a new constitution before elections that are due before June.”
He said the indigenisation programme being carried out countrywide was fair and transparent.
“As a country we have made endeavours to empower our people through the Indigenisation Act,” he said. About 30 participants drawn from Sadc countries are attending the course.
Armored police vehicles monitor the ongoing anti-US demonstrations in Cairo, Egypt. Thousands protested, burn American flags and fought riot police on September 14, 2012., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Police brutality persists two years after Egypt revolution: Rights activists
Ahram Online , Tuesday 5 Feb 2013
Egyptian activists release report detailing persistent police abuse, illegal detention and torture; rights lawyers say police brutality remains widespread two years after Mubarak's ouster
Following the recent death of activist Mohamed El-Gendy, who allegedly died after being subject to torture by police, several Egyptian rights activists issued a report on Sunday detailing what they see as the persistence of oppressive police tactics employed by the state.
According to the report, 225 people have been detained from the vicinity of Cairo's Tahrir Square since the second anniversary of Egypt's January 25 Revolution, which coincided with mass rallies against the government and President Mohamed Morsi.
Those detained have included minors who were subject to torture and days-long incarceration at Central Security Forces (CSF) training camps, the report asserts. Detentions were officially said to have been "pending investigation," but according to the report's authors, detentions were generally employed as punishment and were unnecessary to investigations.
The report notes one case in particular in which 12 young people – including eight minors – were referred to the Abbasiya prosecutor's office. The young people had reportedly suffered injuries as a result of police torture and were therefore detained for four days "pending investigation."
Egypt's April 6 Youth Movement also released a statement on Sunday asserting that one of its members, Hossam El-Din Abdel-Hamid, had gone missing. The youth group alleged that Abdel-Hamid had been detained, suggesting that that the interior ministry had refrained from referring him to prosecutors – along with others who had been detained with him – in order to conceal the torture he had been subject to at the hands of police.
"Abdel-Hamid was brutally beaten and is suffering from a severe injury and has not been referred to the prosecution until this minute," April 6 stated. "When we asked about him we were told by a police officer that he had been moved to the Khalifa Police Station…but when we went there to ask about him we were told he was at the Qasr El-Nil Police Station and there they again denied his presence."
The rights activists' report echoed the youth group's allegations, stating that many of those reported missing were later found to have been illegally detained, mostly in the Gabal El-Ahmar and Tora CSF training camps. Unlike prisons or police stations, neither of these facilities represent official detention centres.
"Most of those arrested [estimated at more than 600 since 25 January] are now being detained in CSF camps that are not made or equipped for detention," Malek Adly, a rights lawyer and one of the report's authors, told Ahram Online. "Unlike prisons or police stations, these camps aren't equipped to provide prisoners with meals, so detainees are often left without food or water for long periods."
The report added that since detainees were not referred to prosecutors they lacked any access to family members or lawyers.
Only after the media had exposed cases of missing persons, the report continued, eight of them were finally referred to the Qasr El-Nil prosecutor's office on 30 January – following five days of illegal detention. Abdeen's criminal court later ordered their immediate release, arguing that the means by which they were detained had been illegal.
Another five detainees were also allowed to return to their homes after four days of being illegally held, the report added.
On Monday, thousands of protesters marched in the funeral of slain activist Mohamed El-Gendy, who allegedly died from torture sustained while in police custody. The young activist's death has reignited debate on police brutality, against which large swathes of the Egyptian public rose up in the revolution two years ago.
"While many have been shocked by El-Gendy's death, he is not the first to die of torture during Morsi's rule," human rights activist Hossam Bahgat said via Twitter. "You only know his name because he's a political activist."
In January, the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) – of which Bahgat is a founding member – released a report documenting 16 cases of police violence. The report noted that, since Morsi's assumption of the presidency last summer, 11 people had been killed and ten tortured inside Egyptian police stations.
"Police still use excessive force and torture is still systematic, just as it was under the Mubarak regime," the report stated.
In response to the EIPR's study, an interior ministry official – speaking anonymously – told AP that such claims were "untrue" and "full of exaggerations."
In response to El-Gendy's case, the presidency released a statement in which it insisted: "There has been no return to human rights abuses or violations of citizens' freedoms since the January 25 Revolution, especially now with the establishment of a constitutional state."
Nevertheless, a video has recently circulated online showing a man – later revealed to be 50-year-old Hamada Saber – being beaten and dragged naked by CSF personnel. The incident was filmed during Friday's clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces outside the Presidential Palace in Cairo.
The interior ministry has since issued an official apology, asserting that the incident had constituted an "individual act" and did not reflect ministry policy. Public prosecutors are currently investigating the case.
The presidency, too, has condemned the police violence depicted in the footage.
"We are awaiting the outcome of the investigation, which should be released with transparency in accordance with the objectives of the January 25 Revolution," the presidency declared in a statement.
The statement went on to assert that the presidency was currently working "for the enforcement of constitutional articles that prohibit torture, intimidation, or causing individuals physical or psychological harm."
Demonstrators in Cairo, Egypt protest the constitutional decree issued by President Morsi demanding it be withdrawn. Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets saying that the revolution not be hijacked., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Egypt's presidential palace clashes take toll on local businesses
Bassem Abo Alabass, Monday 4 Feb 2013
Owners of shops and restaurants near Presidential Palace – Egypt's newest protest venue – say recent anti-govt rallies in area have severely impacted their once-thriving businesses
Once a thriving retail neighbourhood teeming with shops, restaurants and cafes serving patrons well into the evening, the area surrounding Egypt's Presidential Palace in Cairo's upscale Heliopolis district now looks like a ghost town.
Last Friday, the area saw renewed clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces, with the former hurling Molotov cocktails at the palace and the latter caught on video beating a demonstrator. While such ugly scenes serve to hurt economic activity nationwide, businesses in the immediate vicinity of the palace have, naturally, been most severely affected.
While the violence has since abated, businesses in the area remain closed for the most part, with local entrepreneurs voicing pessimism regarding the neighbourhood's short- and medium-term business prospects.
Most of the shops located on the corner across from the Presidential Palace have been colossally impacted. But the lack of customers is not the only serious problem facing local businesses.
"I have to pay my employees LE120 per day even though there isn't any business," said restaurant owner Adel Hashim. "On Friday, for instance, I was only open for two hours."
"What's more," he added, "only two of my four employees have shown up to work in the last couple days because of the recent violence."
"From December to February, my restaurant has probably been closed for a total of 30 days owing to the frequent demonstrations and clashes," said Hashim.
He went on to point out that restaurants on the far side of the Presidential Palace appeared to be doing just fine. "They always have customers since they're not subject to frequent rock-throwing, birdshot and teargas," he said.
Hashim also noted that street vendors – unlike shop owners –appeared to benefit from the turbulence. "They find their market amid the instability and clashes, hawking 'Black Bloc' masks, cigarettes, snacks and laser pointers," he said.
"I'm considering starting a delivery service since customers are finding it difficult to come to the restaurant," he added.
Hashim has until now carefully avoided taking sides in the conflicts that have erupted outside the Presidential Palace.
"On Saturday, two thuggish-looking protesters asked me to light their Molotov cocktails," Hashim recalled. "Since I refused, I was afraid they might take revenge on me the following day."
Ayman Saber, a barber who has worked near the palace for 16 years, told Ahram Online that recent disturbances in the area –which has been traditionally known for its relative tranquillity – were unprecedented.
"My shop was working well; I was making good money because of the area's high-income clientele," he said. "But since the election of President Morsi, the area has become a flashpoint protest venue – fuelled largely by the media – that has partially paralysed local business and trade."
Saber told this reporter: "You're the first one to come into my place for five days, and you're not even a customer."
He went on to stress that he was not "anti-protest" per se. "On the contrary," he said, "I've participated in several demonstrations. But, that being said, all forms of protest must remain peaceful nature."
Mohamed, who works at sporting goods shop in the area, voiced similar complaints.
He said that the shop's monthly revenue had been cut in half since disturbances outside the palace began in early December.
"Under normal circumstances, we would make about LE50,000 a month because of our proximity to the nearby Heliopolis Club," he said. "Now we can expect to pull in about half that."
The shop, Mohamed went on to point out, had also sustained physical damage during recent protests and clashes.
"The shop's glass façade was smashed by a teargas canister during the demonstrations last Friday," he said. "Fortunately, fearing looters, we removed all the goods the day before."
Sameh Atteya, a worker at a clothing shop in the area, told a similar story.
"Since December, the shop has been shut most of the time," he said. "Even the few times it was open, no one came in – even to say hello."
"I've had to borrow more than LE2,000 in the last two months, because I've received no commissions, no tips," Atteya said. "And this is because there has been no selling amid all the recent demonstrations and street fighting."
He added that the owner of the shop was seriously considering moving his business out of the troubled district.
According to Ahmed Hassan, a colleague of Atteya's, business at the shop had declined by some 90 per cent within the last three months.
Hassan also expressed fear that the area around the Presidential Palace was set to become a permanent venue for political protest actions.
"Even if the protesters accomplish their aim and manage to topple President Morsi, Egypt's next president will face similar protests outside the palace," he said.
A Pan-African Conference on Trade Union in Sudan. President Bashir Hassan al-Bashir standing in attention., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Sudan Vision News Daily
Al Bashir: Development Vital for Peace, Stability in Africa
Zuleikha Abdel Raziq and Hafiya Elyas
Khartoum – President Omer Hassan Ahmed Al Bashir has reiterated Sudan's commitment to work in all fronts to achieve development and stability in Africa.
The trade unions' work is complementary to political work to achieve development in Africa, said President Al-Bashir in his address yesterday to the second forum of the International Trade Unions in Africa.
Workers' efforts are important to achieve economic development and contribute towards the advancement of communities, he said. It is development in Africa that will bring about peace and stability, and Sudan is handling these two issues on a priority basis, he added.
Al-Bashir said today the world is facing pressing challenges that must be resolved, especially poverty, wars, food gaps and social disparities. He underlined the need for an international social contract to address the crises the world is facing, citing the role of Sudanese and African trade unions as vital to that end.
The strength of trade unions lies in their unity, and Sudan values trade union activities, he added. He said the state responds to the dreams of workers, whom he described as the mainstay of development in the country.
He reiterated his trust in Sudanese trade unions and their remarkable role in liberating Sudan and battling colonialism. He praised the support of international trade unions.
The president highlighted the importance of the forum in strengthening relations between trade unions, reviving the spirit of partnership and sending a message to the world for security and stability.
Prof. Ibrahim Ghandour, chairman of the Sudanese Trade Unions Federation, said African organisations and trade unions will defend Africa's economic, political and cultural independence.
He warned African countries against the danger of the recipes put up by international economic organisations, including the IMF, stating that they are the main causes of crises in the African continent.
He said the Sudanese trade unions will remain in the same trench with the armed forces and other organised forces in defence of the land.
Ms Ishraqa Sayed Mahmoud, the minister of human resources development and labour said the world is in dire need of balance and justice and that such challenges could be confronted through the unity of trade unions.
The minister highlighted Sudan's efforts to address unemployment through microfinance and jobs.
Kenyan Defense Forces occupying the Horn of Africa nation of Somalia. The Kenyan government has invaded their neighbor in conjunction with an imperialist onslaught into the strategic state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Kenya resumes airstrikes against Al Shabaab targets in South Somalia
Nairobi, Kenya - Kenyan forces operating within the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have intensified their aerial strikes in Southern Somalia, vowing to stop the Al Shabaab militia from re-grouping in the Gedo region.
The Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) Spokesman, Col. Cyrus Oguna, said the latest airstrikes in the town of Garbaharey, in the Gedo region, targeted an Al Shabaab commander, believed to be behind a series of bomb attacks against civilian targets.
Al Shabaab's Buurdub Region Commander Sheikh Nuur Dhere, believed to have organised a series of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) in the region, was killed.
The forces are operating in Sector II (Somalia), where they have vowed to continue with efforts to pursue Al Shabaab militants and disrupt any attempts by the militants to re-group.
The efforts to curtail the group's movements include a series of airstrikes and ground attacks in the last few days, Col. Oguna said in a statement over the weekend.
The first of the airstrikes by the KDF jets were launched on 31 January 2013, targeting an Al Shabaab logistic base in the area of Garbaharey.
'Initial reports from the ground confirmed that two technical vehicles and three trucks loaded with ammunition were destroyed. Several members of the militia groups perished with many others injured,' the KDF operations commander said.
The logistical base had been set up for planned Al Shabaab atrocities within the Gedo Region, KDF said.
The KDF and other local forces are currently conducting operations in the area to flush out the fleeing militia remnants.
'KDF will sustain the pressure against the militants until they are completely destroyed,' Col. Oguna said.