Pan Africa Newswire
A map of Jonglei area where several United Nations personnel were killed in an ambush on April 9, 2013. The region of South Sudan has been a flash point since the country gained independence in 2011., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
‘S Sudan soldiers ransacked UN stores’
Sun May 12, 2013 10:27PM GMT
South Sudanese soldiers have ransacked stores of the United Nations in the east of the country, humanitarian sources say.
The uniformed men of the (South) Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) raided UN stores in Pibor town in troubled state of Jonglei late on Saturday and Sunday, AFP reported on Sunday.
They also looted a hospital and premises of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and "flattened" premises of the Italian humanitarian aid organization INTERSOS.
"The SPLA (army) went to INTERSOS and looted things there and then went to the World Food Programme and looted," said Beko Konyi, the coordinator for the state-run Relief and Rehabilitation Commission in Pibor.
An eyewitness working for MSF said that, "All the items from MSF are looted, everything, drugs and all the assets, and again INTERSOS.”
"MSF is deeply concerned about reports we are receiving that our health center in Pibor town has been looted today," said Vikki Stienen, the MSF head of mission in South Sudan, adding, "We suspended medical activities in Pibor town on April 19 as the security situation had made it impossible to provide impartial medical care there."
He stated that the population of Pibor relied almost entirely on MSF for medical services before the suspension.
"We know that the consequences for the population of the loss of access to healthcare are devastating," he noted.
Many international aid workers left Pibor on Friday over concerns of possible attacks.
South Sudanese military spokesman Philip Aguer said he did not have any knowledge of the attacks.
"Why would they go and do that? I doubt these are SPLA soldiers. These may be rebels," he said.
Sudan accuses South Sudan of supporting anti-government rebels operating in the Darfur region and the states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
South Sudan seceded from the Republic of Sudan on July 9, 2011, after decades of conflict with the north. The new oil-rich nation is one of the least developed countries in the world, with one in seven children dying before the age of five.
AMISOM troops under the banner of the African Union have been accused of deliberately bombing civilian areas of Mogadishu, including the Bakara market. Scores were reported killed on October 22, 2009., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Sunday, May 12th, 2013 at 06:55 pm
Somalia: Amisom officials meet truck drivers amid second day strike in Lower Shabelle region
By Abdalle Ahmed
Officials of the African Union Forces in Somalia [AMISOM] have met with truck drivers in Afgooye town on Sunday following a second day strike by the local truck and bus drivers in the region to protest against illegal roadblocks, RBC Radio reports.
The meeting took place at Afgooye on Sunday morning after hundreds of drivers used their cars to block the road that link between Mogadishu, the country’s capital to Afgooye, a district 30-km away from Mogadishu and the main highway that links Afgooye town to the other main districts of the Lower Shabelle region including the region’s capital of Marka.
Mohamud Nuur, a member of the truck-drivers’ committee met with the AMISOM officials told RBC Radio that the AU forces undertook to do something immediately on their complaints against illegal roadblocks set up by the government forces which forcibly embezzle cash from them.
“We have raised our complaints and the aim that we protested. We said we want the roadblocks to be removed from the highways.” Nuur said speaking to RBC Radio today.
“The problems we have are so common, the government troops loot us, they sometimes kill the drivers if they fail to pay the cash to them or even rape if there are women on the passengers.” he added.
The drivers of the local buses between Mogadishu and Afgooye also complained that the government and the Lower Shabelle regional administration did not listen them despite several calls they made previously.
There were no immediate comments from the African Union command at the Sector one which is based in Mogadishu.
RBC Radio reporter says AMISOM troops conducted this morning the first anti-roadblocks operation between Afgooye and Marka where they have dispersed armed militias from the main roads allowing free transportation.
Somali military chief has earlier warned that any soldier found on putting roadblocks will face harsh punishment but local media report even more roadblocks being set up these days by uniformed government soldiers.
US-backed military forces terrorize Somalians in the southern port city of Kismayo. Resistance to the occupation has continued since Kenyan Defense Forces entered the town., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Sunday, May 12th, 2013 at 10:06 pm
Somalia: A plane carrying delegation to Kismayo unexpectedly returns back to Mogadishu
By Abdalle Ahmed
Local flights between Kismayo and Mogadishu were blocked in the past three weeks due to undefined reasons
KISMAYO (RBC) A commercial plane carrying at least 40 persons delegation including politicians, former MPs and elders has unexpectedly jetted back to Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia after authorities in Kismayo rejected to allow to land at Kismayo airport, RBC Radio reports.
Former parliament member, Mohamed Amiin Abdullahi who was leading the delegation from Mogadishu said they were heading to Kismayo but while on air the pilot received a call from Kismayo saying the plane was not authorized to land the airport.
“Before leaving from Mogadishu we have consulted with civil aviation and the AMISOM office in Mogadishu, there were nothing wrong to go there, but unfortunately when we reached Kismayo we were informed that our aircraft could not land the airport.” Mohamed Amiin said upon his return to Mogadishu on Sunday afternoon.
He blamed that the Kenyan forces under AMISOM mission in Kismayo gave the order.
“The Kenyan forces asked us on air who gave us the authorization to land the airport and when we told them that AMISOM and Somalia government permitted us they rejected and for our safety we returned back.” the former MP added.
He called the interior minister of Somali government to investigate the case as he he warned AMISOM to hinder the movement of the Somali people.
There were no immediate comments from the Kenyan forces in Kismayo but the interim administration of Kismayo denied the accusations.
Meanwhile a freelance journalist in Kismayo told RBC Radio that there was a local flight returned back to Mogadishu before it landed bur it was unclear the official cause.
In the past three weeks local flights between Kismayo and Mogadishu were blocked due to undefined reasons as Kismayo hosts the ongoing Jubbaland conference since February 28th.
New Orleans shooting on May 12, 2013 where 17 people were wounded. The incident took place during a Mothers' Day gathering., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
May 12, 2013
19 Wounded in New Orleans Shooting
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Gunmen opened fire on people marching in a neighborhood Mother’s Day parade in New Orleans on Sunday, wounding at least 19.
The shooting — described by the F.B.I. as a flare-up of street violence — shattered the festive mood surrounding the parade, which drew hundreds of people to the Seventh Ward, not far from the French Quarter. Video taken in the aftermath showed victims lying on the ground, blood on the pavement and people comforting the wounded.
At least three of the victims were seriously wounded. Of the rest, many were grazed and the authorities said that over all, most of the wounds were not life-threatening. No deaths were reported.
The victims included 10 men, 7 women, a boy and a girl. The children, both 10 years old, were grazed and in good condition.
The police saw three suspects running from the scene. No arrests had been made as of early evening.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged witnesses to come forward with information. “These kinds of incidents will not go unanswered,” he said. “Somebody knows something. The way to stop this violence is for you all to help.”
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, sitting at the Labor Monument in Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit on September 27, 2008. (Photo: Alan Pollock)., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.The Struggle Of African Americans Against Corporate Racism & Oppression In The USA & The Case Of Assata Shakur With Abayomi Azikiwe & Bernard White
To listen to this week's Heart of Africa featuring Abayomi Azikiwe and Bernard White, that is hosted by Kudakwashe Cayenne, just click on the website below:
On this week’s programme, Kudakwashe hosts African Historian, Political Analyst, & Editor of Pan-African News Wire, Abayomi Azikiwe & Media Veteran & Co-founder of Community Progressive Radio Metro (CPR Metro), Bernard White, in a very crucial progressive discussion on “The Struggle of African Americans Against Corporate Racism & Oppression In the USA“.
Relevant to this topic, the case of African American freedom fighter Assata Shakur, and the impact of Barak Obama’s presidency on African Americans, also comes under scrutiny. The panel additionally discusses the important role of Africa’s intelligence, a reflection of the Conference of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa hosted by President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe this week.
At a recent public address, Abayomi Azikiwe reported that since end of March this year, the city of Detroit has been under a “financial emergency”, a direct consequence of the havoc that has been wreaked by financial institutions. This has caused, flight of employment, loss of homes through predatory lending – affecting 237 000 people, repression, and shutting off of utility services, among others.
The imposed financial emergency management has been instated in all of
the major areas where African American people live across the state.
This exposes that the African American people of Michigan are currently under “dictatorial rule and corporate fascism.” In this nation-wide pattern directly affecting African Americans in the USA, increased numbers of people are being driven out of cities.
Though the corporate media would impress the public to believe that the reason behind the underdevelopment and impoverishment of African Americans (and Africans as a whole), is because we Black skinned, racism is used in a relentless attempt to isolate and alienate people of colour, even from suburbs also facing similar crises of foreclosures, cuts to public education, job losses and business closures.
The discussion brings gut-wrenching realities of the plight of African Americans in the USA, an illustration of the exploitation of Africans world-wide, especially on the motherland of Africa. Abayomi and Bernard bring intriguing facts of how the position of the American government in the oppression of people of colour is on a trajectory that began in historical eras, like during the slave trade.
They bring to light the significant role of African Americans in the formation of the modern day USA , from its origins to the industrial giant and military power, that wields its influence across the world. The labour of African American ancestors was pivotal in the growth of the USA’ present ruling elite too.
African Americans have made all this enormous progress under relentless racism and oppression, where they have been treated as “capital” and “property” in every area of life, including the film and music industry. Abayomi and Bernard make a point that this is a world-wide problem against Africans not only confined to the USA.
Many hoped that President Obama’s presidency would progressively improve the livelihood of African Americans in the USA, but the discussion reveals that exact opposite, where a lot of rights and opportunities for African Americans have become more and more compromised. It is explained that this is for the sake of consequentially eliminating African American political power.
Blacks are effectively classed as second class citizens, were basic rights like health, social and education services are at a very low standard that worsens the livelihood of African Americans. The rich have all their rights, but for Blacks and the poor, rights if any, are very limited.
In light of this topic, the case of the 65 year old Assata Shakur was relevant to discuss from its roots. The African American freedom fighter who has been living in Cuba in exile since 1984, was placed on the FBI’s most wanted list on the 40th anniversary of her shooting and capture, the 2nd of May. A bounty of $US2 million has been offered by the USA, an increase from a sum of $US1 million instituted about 15 years ago.
Abayomi & Bernard illustrate how Assata’s case is being used by the USA government to intimidate Black activists from protesting for their freedoms, through a clear signal that there will be repercussions against those who would pursue revolution and progressive politics. It is explained that the aim is to keep Americans, politically confined. This has however not stopped African Americans for looking for political alternatives.
The discussion concludes projecting a strong message on the importance of authentic information gathering for Africa, developed, managed and disseminated by Africans. This is aligned with message reverberating from the Conference of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa hosted by President Robert Mugabe in Harare this week.
Transparent information yields to true power, and Africans must find their own plausible ways of information gathering for the benefit of Africa’s freedom, security and advanced development, while protecting our resources so that they are used for the interests of the African people.
The programme was concluded by Kudakwashe with a fundamental biblical
message on the role of Christianity in building highways of freedom.
Emphasising that giving freedom is the primary ministry of true Christianity, she speaks on the role of leaders and citizens in the pursuit of freedom – with the heart of Christ.
Abayomi Azikiwe’s work is mainly available from Pan-African News Wire at panafricannews.blogspot.co.uk/.
The Pan-African News Wire is an international electronic press service designed to foster intelligent discussion on the affairs of African people throughout the continent and the world.
Since January 1998, this press agency has published thousands of articles and dispatches in newspapers, magazines, journals, research reports, blogs and websites throughout the world. Abayomi is also a frequent commentator on global political matters across various international media, including Press TV & Russia Today. He is available on facebook and twitter too.
Bernard White has been a Media Veteran for 35 years. He is the former Program Director of the listener sponsored WBAI radio based in New York City. As the Co-founder of CPR Metro, he is passionately involved exposing the truth of diverse matters, especially, affecting African Americans, through relevant media. Because of this, he also hosts a daily magazine of issues of particular significance to the African American community, dubbed, Emanations.
CPR Metro is a community-based multi-media organization created to remedy the lack of media attention devoted to critical issues affecting our lives. It also provides an opportunity for listeners and supporters to learn media skills and construct a media organization that will serve community interests.
Heart of Africa is broadcasted live every Wednesday night at 2000 hours Central Africa Time on www.morelightradio.com .
It is dedicated to examining matters that affect Africa from a Pan-African Christian perspective, as we envisage the revival of the African dream. Comments and questions welcome here or via twitter @HeartOfAfrica55. All rights reserved.
Zimbabwe Vice-President Mujuru blasts retrogressive political parties that are stalling progress at Chisumbanje Ethanol Plant while officially closing the third biennial Zimbabwe Local Government Conference in Mutare on May 11, 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Govt not for selfish people: VP Mujuru
Sunday, 12 May 2013 00:00
Michael Chideme in Mutare
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail
Vice-President Mujuru has branded those resisting the reopening of the
Chisumbanje Ethanol Plant in Chipinge as number one enemies of the people. Officially closing the third biennial Zimbabwe Local Government Conference here yesterday, Cde Mujuru said the people of Chipinge were suffering because of individuals who are jealous that the project is the brain-child of Zanu-PF.
In apparent reference to the MDC-T, Cde Mujuru said the party was scoring own goals because the people in the area were suffering.
“There is no scoring points when the people are suffering. There should be no politics that destroys the people.
“Do not stop the project because it is being spearheaded by Zanu-PF,” she said. Cde Mujuru said it was unfortunate that the MDC-T had decided to fight the project at the expense of thousands of families that directly benefit from the operation of the plant. The plant has been closed for the past 14 months, rendering workers redundant and causing the suffering of their families.
The Vice-President implored Zilga to fight in the corner of Zanu-PF and progressive elements in Government who want to see the project succeed.
“I am eating sadza at my house.
“Kana mhuka inonzi Zanu-PF iriko (Zanu-PF also exists). It is also eating, but the people in Chisumbanje are suffering,” she said. She also urged the various councils that attended the conference to initiate similar projects in their areas but warned that jealous people in Government may frustrate their projects. Cde Mujuru said delays in opening the plant affected irrigation, resulting in sugar-cane and maize being destroyed. She urged delegates to the conference to implement what they learnt, adding that their respective constituencies expected them to ably execute their mandate.
“We need to be innovative, as the theme of this year states, in order to satisfy their demands. Your duty as local authorities is to ensure the provision of such services to the people at affordable rates,” she said.
Vice-President Mujuru also encouraged local authorities to ensure the country’s roads are in good condition ahead of the harmonised elections to allow for easy access to all areas and to afford all prospective voters the chance to cast their ballots.
The conference deliberated on a number of issues, key among them service delivery and the welfare of councillors. Local authorities want to be exempted from paying road toll fees, arguing that they are planning authorities. Delegates called for an end to intra-party violence and also acknowledged the importance of community share ownership schemes.
They were, however, unhappy about the slow pace at which the schemes were being operationalised.
The conference was attended by Government ministers, chiefs, mayors, town clerks, chief executive officers, councillors and captains of industry.
President Mugabe officially opened the conference on Friday.
ZANU-PF politburo meeting May 3, 2013. Zimbabwe is preparing for national elections in the Southern African state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
British paper predicts Zanu PF victory in elections
Sunday, 12 May 2013 00:00
Widely-read British newspaper The Guardian on Friday predicted a victory for President Mugabe and Zanu-PF in the forthcoming harmonised elections while also revealing that MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai has been branded “a disaster” by some of his close allies. This comes as the embattled Prime Minister continues to receive his worst criticism from Western media since he became leader of the party.
The newspaper also predicted that the victory for President Mugabe will leave the West with no choice but to lift the sanctions on Zimbabwe.
In an article titled, Robert Mugabe: The Rehabilitation, the publication said President Mugabe will most likely retain power after peaceful, free and fair elections.
“The following scenario, once unthinkable, is now just conceivable. The Zimbabwean president will retain power in this year’s elections through fair means or foul; the poll will be relatively peaceful and deemed ‘credible’ by the West; then sanctions will be lifted against Mugabe and his inner circle, ushering him back in from the cold.”
The newspaper also quoted an unnamed senior MDC-T official as saying Mr Tsvangirai had become a “total disaster” that had dismally let the party down.
“I think he’s been a total disaster. He’s let us all down. But the important thing to remember is the MDC is bigger than Morgan Tsvangirai,” the unnamed MDC- T stalwart is quoted as saying. The publication also reported that the MDC-T had disappointed its members following Mr Tsvangirai’s messy sex scandals and the shocking levels of corruption which the party has admitted.
It said the visit to Zimbabwe by senior American emissaries Ambassador Andrew Young and Reverend Jesse Jackson had shown that the international community is eager to work closely with President Mugabe.
The President’s foes have even begun to accept that the land reform programme, which attracted the imposition of sanctions at the behest of former colonial master, Britain, has yielded tremendous success, the newspaper added. “The MDC stands accused of the sins of incumbency, its leadership seduced by ministerial houses and luxury cars; the party has been forced to discipline some councillors for corruption. It has failed to heal a factional rift that could divide its support.
“Leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who serves as prime minister in the unity government, has been criticised for becoming too close to Mugabe and for an unseemly run of sex scandals.
“. . .Most contentiously of all, researchers have begun to challenge the orthodoxy that Zimbabwe’s land reform programme was an unmitigated disaster.” In the article, a fierce critic of President Mugabe, Petinah Gappah was quoted as saying: “Even non-supporters believe this reassessment is a necessary corrective after years of demonisation.
“He was overtoxified in the first place. This idea of Mugabe as Hitler? He’s extremely charming and intelligent. This idea of a mindless thug underestimates his intelligence.
“This cartoonish, caricatured Idi Amin figure fails to recognise his insidious effect on the country. If he didn’t exist, they would have had to invent him.”
The latest round of criticism of Mr Tsvangirai comes after several other Western media houses including The New York Times, CNN and The Telegraph concurred that he is unlikely to win the forthcoming harmonised elections.
Delegates at the South African Communist Party (SACP) Congress held in July 2012., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Analysis: Workers’ struggle not over yet
by Phatse Justice Piitso
Leaders should use the opportunity of the celebrations of Workers Day to unite the common struggles of our people against oppression and exploitation.
Tomorrow the world will celebrate the most magnificent day in the calendar of the history of the struggles of the working class movement. We are celebrating International Workers Day throughout the world. The world is celebrating the achievements and victories of workers against imperialism and colonialism.
International Workers Day is primarily about the common struggles of our people against imperialism and colonialism. It is about working class solidarity and internationalism. It is an important day that signifies the most revolutionary notion that the struggles of mankind throughout history is one and indivisible.
We celebrate this glorious chapter of the history of the world working class struggles 209 years after the declaration of the independence of the first slave republic in the world and the first independent nation in the Latin America and the Caribbean, the Republic of Haiti.
We celebrate the achievements and the victories of the working class struggles 134 years after the historic declaration of the first workers republic during the Paris commune. The commune was a turning point in the history of the working class struggles in the world.
We are celebrating this important day in the calendar of the history of the working class struggles 96 years after the declaration of the great October socialist revolution. We celebrate this day 23 years after the collapse of socialism in the Soviet Block and the communist states in eastern Europe.
We celebrate this historic day 101 years after the formation of the oldest liberation movement on the African continent and probably the whole world, the African National Congress. We celebrate this important day 92 years after the birth of the South African Communist party. We celebrate Workers Day 28 years after the formation of the Congress of the South African Trade Unions.
We celebrate epic years of worldwide selfless struggles led by our people against the vestiges of imperialism and colonialism.
We join the revolutionary slogan of the world working class movement as we say: “Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains.”
The triumph and the victories of the struggles of our people is the victory of our national democratic revolution and our struggles to construct a new world social order.
However we are celebrating this glorious page of our history book during the most difficult period in the history of the struggles of the working class movement.
The international balance of forces has tilted dramatically against the progressive movement of the people of the world. The collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent communist states in eastern Europe has mounted a severe setback to the struggles of the working class across the globe.
The working class movement finds itself having to propel the struggle for emancipation under the most hostile and complex material circumstances dominated by the aggressive unipolar world.
The dominant capitalist mode of production is deeply redefining the economic and social relations of the world. Capitalism has reached its highest stage of development.
The dominant world of capitalism is unable to salvage itself from its own contradictions. The world capitalist powers have failed dismally to resolve the perpetual socio-economic crisis imposed on the shoulders of the working class. The challenges of the capitalistic world economy has become the defining feature of the deepening struggles waged by the working class.
The world and its people are confronted by an unprecedented proportions of an economic crisis ever in the history of capitalism. The massive scales of poverty, disease and under-development have become the principal characteristic defining the vast majority of the people of the world.
This has as a result sharpened the worldwide struggle to resolve the national, class and gender contradictions in our society.
Marxist Leninist theory teaches us that the foundations of the success of any revolution lies in the bedrock of the unity of its own people. Unity and cohesion is our foremost principal task to ensure the success of the struggles of our people.
It is therefore important that we use this day to foster and consolidate the unity of the struggles of the people of the world and our national democratic revolution.
The fundamental principle of unity and cohesion is the highest expression and irreplaceable instrument to advance and deepen the struggles of the working class across the world. The unity of our national democratic revolution is the unity of the struggles of the people of the world against imperialism and colonialism.
Our main task is to use the occasion of the celebration of Workers Day to educate our people that unity and cohesion of our revolutionary alliance led by the ANC is the necessary condition for the success of our national democratic revolution.
That unity of the South African working class movement is the unity of the working class solidarity and internationalism.
The South African working class is traversing this difficult period of our struggles under much improved political conditions led by our national liberation movement, the ANC. Our national liberation movement is still consistent with the anti-imperialist and anti-colonial traditions of the international working class movement.
In other words the struggles for the liberation of our people led by the ANC is still consistent with the traditions and principles of the struggles of the international working class to confront the domination of imperialism and colonialism.
Our national liberation movement is still committed to improving the living conditions of the people of our country and the world.
The world economic crisis has a devastating consequence to the struggles of the people of our country. But at the same time we have to educate our people that some of the socio-economic contradictions we face are the inevitable outcomes of our struggles.
We need an extraordinary effort by our people to resolve the pandemic centuries-old contradictions imposed by imperialism and colonialism on our people.
Imperialism and colonialism have caused more misery to all mankind in the history of the struggles of the working class. Millions of the people of the world still shed their blood today in the name of imperialism and neo-colonialism.
Revolutionaries have an immediate task to ensure that they unite the people of the world against our common enemy and therefore make the world a better place for humanity.
In our country the DA has distinguished itself to be a force of negation against the common struggles of our people to improve their socio-economic conditions.
Counter-revolution is determined to reverse the achievements and the victories of the struggles of our people. There is a concerted effort by the enemy of our revolution to use the challenges of the present world economic crisis against our democratic government led by the ANC.
We hope that the celebrations will bring much sense to imperialist powers and monopoly capital. The world and its people needs peace and tranquility.
We need peace and stability in Syria, in the Korean peninsula, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Palestine, Libya, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, DRC, Ivory Coast, Mali, Central African Republic, Sahrawi Republic, Swaziland, Cuba, Haiti, Venenzuela, Columbia, in the euro zone and many other parts of our mother earth.
Piitso is former ambassador to the Republic of Cuba and former provincial secretary of the SACP. He writes in his personal capacity
Former National Union of Mineworkers secretary general turned mining magnate, Cyril Ramaphosa, says that he is willing to testify before a governmental-appointed commission investigating the police massacre of 34 miners at the Lonmin PLC facilities., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Ramaphosa: Normal people are not interested in factional battles
Cyril Ramaphosa has told delegates at the Free State ANC's elective conference that divisions within the party would undermine its functioning.
11 May 2013 14:57 - Andre Grobler
"Unity and discipline combined constitute the cornerstone on which our movement was founded and sustained," the party's deputy president told delegates at the rerun of the conference on Saturday.
"The conference must lead to unity in the ANC."
Ramaphosa urged delegates to strive for values supported by the African National Congress's leaders in the past.
He said members should understand that divisions within the party would inevitably undermine the effective functioning of the organisation to the benefit of its enemies.
Ramaphosa said the lack of unity and discipline in the province was evident by the court order that declared the Free State leadership illegal in 2012.
"Taking the ANC to court must be discourage and must end."
The ANC leader said even the courts themselves had indicated that they did not want to get involved in how the ANC was run.
Allow the views of the majority
Ramaphosa said members had to allow the views of the majority and the decisions of higher structures to prevail at all times.
He told delegates the ANC wanted to run its own organisation and invited those members who felt to be outside it, back so that problems could be resolved.
Referring to leadership elections, Ramaphosa said leadership in the ANC must not be seen as a vehicle to self-enrichment.
He said the ANC, due to it popularity, had attracted people who did not share its vision of creating a better life for all.
He said those members were only interested in self-enrichment programmes which came about through corruption, patronage, political killings, careerism, factionalism and ill discipline.
"We must take bold action to reverse these negative trends."
Ramaphosa told the Free State members that normal people were not interested in factional battles or who their leaders would be.
"They are only looking for answers on how service delivery could be accelerated [for] water [and] electricity and how their schools could work better."
'Deliver what the community wants'
Ramaphosa said normal people pinned their hopes on delegates to elect people who were servants of the people, not their bosses.
"Today, go into that booth, choose people you know would deliver what the community wants," he said.
A provincial task team was appointed by the ANC's national executive committee (NEC) in December to rerun the conference after the Constitutional Court held that the province's 2012 conference was illegal.
A group of six local ANC members successfully challenged the legality of the previous Free State leadership after the last conference.
The group succeeded in getting the Constitutional Court to declare the provincial executive committee's (PEC) decisions and resolutions unlawful and invalid, because the ANC had not addressed certain irregularities about the conference.
As a result, the PEC was dissolved.
Earlier this week, the provincial task team and NEC members deployed to the province announced that they were ready to rerun the conference.
Unions pledge support for ANC
Early on Saturday hundreds of party delegates and provincial and national leaders of the party gathered at the Phakisa Raceway near Welkom for the new conference.
Various speakers from organisations gave messages of support and called on party members to put their differences aside and work for a united African National Congress.
Youth leaders commended Free State premier Ace Magashule for what he had done for the youth.
A South African Students' Congress representative commended the ANC leadership for helping youth to get access into higher education. He was referring to some 7 000 student bursaries the Free State government had given young people.
Speakers from South African National Civic Organisation, the Congress of South African Students, the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions also pledged their support for the ANC.
Workers from the Anglo American Platinum mines are on a wildcat strike where they have defied the ultimatum by management to return to the job. The mining industry has been hit by such strikes for months., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
NUM: Amplats showed its stakeholders the middle finger
The National Union of Mineworkers will oppose the retrenchment of 6 000 workers at Anglo American Platinum, the union has said.
11 May 2013 12:18 - Sapa
"The NUM [National Union of Mineworkers] is opposed to any retrenchment irrespective of the numbers involved. The union is highly perturbed by Anglo's decision to bypass the stakeholder meetings scheduled for next week and go ahead with such an announcement," NUM general secretary Frans Baleni said in a statement on Saturday.
"The NUM will do everything within the framework of the law to oppose these retrenchments and is determined to even mobilise for strike to show its disapproval."
Baleni said Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) decided to show its critical stakeholders "the middle finger" which undermined sound industrial relations and labour peace.
NUM said it intended approaching the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration to declare a dispute, and it would strike.
On Friday, Amplats announced that it would cut 6 000 jobs instead of the 14 000 it predicted earlier.
"Anglo American Platinum expects that the revised proposals have the potential to reduce the number of mining and processing jobs affected to approximately 6 000," it said in a statement.
This would be done in line with the Labour Relations Act, and consultations with unions and employee representatives would start in due course, it said.
In January, the company said it would review its business in response to demand for platinum and because of "challenges" which had eroded profitability.
This was in the aftermath of 44 deaths – 34 of them at the hands of the police – near Lonmin Platinum's Marikana operations during a pay strike, and a prolonged industry-wide strike last year.
Of the estimated 14 000 job losses, at least 13 000 would have been in the Rustenburg area.
Earlier in the year, the company said it suspended the Act's section 189 consultations on retrenchments, for negotiations with the department of mineral resources and unions.
At the request of the department, this became a "bilateral engagement" between the company and the department of mineral resources.
The company's other proposals included consolidating Rustenburg operations into three operating mines through the integration and optimisation of Khuseleka Two and Khomanani One and Two mines into the surrounding mines.
Khuseleka One remains operational, which was the principal revision to the previous proposal.
This would result in a reduction of production capacity of approximately 250 000 ounces a year in 2013, and by about 100 000 ounces a year more in the medium term.
Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Michigan director Dawud Walid, right, with Malcolm Shabazz, right, during a visit to the Detroit area in July 2010. Shabazz was killed in Mexicio City, Mexico on May 9, 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of Malcolm X, remembered in metro Detroit
By Niraj Warikoo
Detroit Free Press Staff
Muslims and African-Americans in metro Detroit are mourning the death of Malcolm Shabazz -- Malcolm X's oldest grandson -- as they remember his warmth and activism. Shabazz, 28, was reportedly killed in Mexico City on Thursday, according to his family in a statement released Friday.
On Saturday, a special service will be held at 10 a.m. at Historic King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit to remember Shabazz; his grandfather delivered noted speeches at the Detroit church in the 1960s.
"I'm praying for his family, mother, and all those who are affected by his death," said Rev. Charles Williams II, pastor of the church.
After years of troubles with the law -- most notably, he set a fire in 1997 that killed his grandmother Betty Shabazz, widow of Malcolm X -- Shabazz was working on turning his life around, say local Muslims.
In recent years, Shabazz had visited Michigan several times to speak in local mosques and attend services. His grandfather, an iconic black leader, was raised in Michigan, where the Nation of Islam started.
Given Michigan's sizeable Muslim and African-American communities, his death has been felt by many in the area. He was mentioned at some mosques Friday during their weekly sermons.
His recent conversion to the Shia branch of Islam connected him with Shia Muslims in metro Detroit. On his Facebook page, Shabazz had links to Shia clerics as well as Detroit rapper Eminem.
"I see his death as very tragic," said Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "He had difficulties earlier in his life, but he made great strides to move past his mistakes and benefit the community."
Shabazz had spoken at the Muslim Center in Detroit and at the Muslim Congress' annual Shia conference last year, which was held in Dearborn. He also attended services at a mosque in East Lansing.
Walid said he first met Shabazz at an Islamic conference three years ago in Florida. At the time, Shabazz had recently returned from a stay in Syria, where he had studied.
"We discussed a number of issues, including the time he spent in Syria, his other travels in the Muslim world...his pilgrimage to Mecca."
Shabazz converted to the Shia branch of Islam before his 2010 pilgrimage to Mecca. He was born into a Sunni family; Malcolm X embraced Sunni Islam after leaving the Nation of Islam.
But Shabazz became Shia after meeting a Shia Muslim in prison, according to a 2011 article in the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
Mariam Jafri, who attends a Shia mosque in Walled Lake, said she met Shabazz on hajj in 2011.
"It's a deeply saddening event," Jafri said of Shabazz's death. "It's a great loss for everyone."
In addition to hajj, Jafri met Shabazz at Shia Muslim conferences.
"He was very kind," she said. "He smiled whenever you talked to him. You just felt a warmth coming from him."
Shabazz was "amenable," Walid recalled. "He smiled a lot, had a pleasant disposition. A lot of the young Muslims really liked him. The children of immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia connected well with him."
Shabazz's challenges in his life, which included stays in prison, will be addressed Saturday at the Baptist church holding a service in his memory.
"His story represents the struggles that so many young African-American men face in trying to stay out of the justice system, the prison pipeline" said Rev. Williams. "It pushes us to do more, to make sure we keep young people away from mischievous acts and out of jail."
May 10, 2013
Troubled Life in Malcolm X’s Shadow Comes to a Violent End
By KIA GREGORY and DAMIEN CAVE
New York Times
Last week, Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of Malcolm X, was talking to his friend Daniel Stevens when he learned that Mr. Stevens was worried that his fledgling rap career was going nowhere. Mr. Shabazz vowed to help, saying that he could get Mr. Stevens’s music into the right hands.
“I know a lot of people,” Mr. Shabazz said, Mr. Stevens recalled.
Mr. Shabazz, who earned notoriety as a 12-year-old when he set a fire that killed his grandmother, Malcolm X’s widow, pulled out his phone and made some calls. Twenty minutes later, Mr. Stevens said, Mr. Shabazz told him he had a plane ticket to Los Angeles for the next day, and an appointment to see a Hollywood producer in Beverly Hills on Mr. Stevens’s behalf.
Mr. Stevens, 34, drove Mr. Shabazz to the airport.
But Mr. Shabazz soon ended up in Mexico City, where he died early Thursday morning in a popular tourist area after being assaulted outside a bar, the authorities said. It was a violent end to a young and tumultuous life.
Mr. Shabazz had apparently decided to detour to Mexico to meet with a labor activist and a friend who had been deported in April. They were hoping to use Mr. Shabazz’s name to attract attention from the local press, apparently about the deportation, the friend said in a Facebook post.
Mr. Shabazz, 28, spent much of his life seeking to make peace with his past. After pleading guilty to the juvenile equivalent of manslaughter and arson in his grandmother’s death in 1997, he was sentenced to institutions for many of his teenage years, followed by later stints in prison for other crimes.
He lived in the shadow of his grandfather, whom he never knew, and whose legacy he tried to understand. He embraced his famous heritage and, at times, recoiled from the expectations that came with it.
On his personal Web site, he called himself “the first male heir to Malcolm X,” who had overcome “obstacle after obstacle in his life,” and since his release from prison had “been traveling throughout the U.S. and around the world speaking to different audiences about the struggles that confront this generation.”
In a prison interview with The New York Times in 2003, when he was serving time for attempted robbery, he acknowledged the power of his name.
“People know Malcolm Shabazz, whether you like me or not,” he said.
Kinte Burrell, 34, one of Mr. Shabazz’s friends from Middletown, N.Y., north of New York City in the Hudson Valley, where he had a home, said in an interview on Friday that he first met Mr. Shabazz when he was about 18.
“People would ask for his autograph and take pictures with him,” he said. “Other times, they would be like, you should have gotten more time, just because who you are, you shouldn’t get away with this.”
Such tension, Mr. Burrell said, sometimes led to fistfights. “I can see him just wanting to get away,” he said.
Friends said that in recent years, he had often ventured abroad, mostly to the Middle East. The trips, for conferences or Muslim pilgrimages, allowed him to escape his tabloid youth and to step into a role that Malcolm X also played later in life — that of an activist, shedding light on injustice and rallying for black causes worldwide.
“He wanted to be himself, but in connection with what his grandfather had been,” said Randy Short, an activist in Washington who works with groups like the International Human Rights Association of American Minorities.
Mr. Short said he had been helping Mr. Shabazz complete an autobiography.
Because he had no relationship with his father, “he saw his grandfather as his dad, and in many conversations he would say, ‘People need to understand I have a lot of him in me,’ ” Mr. Short said.
He never seemed short of patrons who were eager to help.
David N. Dinkins, the former mayor of New York, and Percy E. Sutton, a former Manhattan borough president who had been Malcolm X’s lawyer, stepped in to represent him after the fire. Most recently, Cynthia McKinney, the former Democratic congresswoman from Georgia, said she “had taken him under my wings,” in an attempt “to help and look out for him.”
In 2011, he joined Ms. McKinney on a trip to Libya, shortly before the country erupted in civil war. In one photo, he can be seen smiling in dark sunglasses in front of a large portrait of Muammar el-Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, who was later deposed and killed. In a blog post on March 9, he wrote that he had met Mr. Qaddafi.
He also wrote on Facebook that he had studied in Damascus for more than a year, and that he had been making plans to go to Iran for a film festival and to give a lecture on violence in cinema.
The trip never happened.
Mr. Shabazz wrote on his blog that soon after he began appearing on Press TV, a news outlet based in Iran, the police in and around Middletown began to harass him.
He claimed that he was being investigated by a counterterrorism team with the F.B.I.
“I was picked up by authorities after I filed for a visa to Iran, and two days before my departure,” he wrote.
In Middletown, he was known to come and go, his friends said.
Mr. Stevens met him about two years ago when Mr. Shabazz came into the barbershop where he worked. Mr. Shabazz saw the tattoo of Malcolm X on Mr. Stevens’s forearm.
“He told me who he was, and we started talking, and we had a lot of things in common,” Mr. Stevens said.
Last week, he recalled, Mr. Shabazz had pressured him about why he was not “doing anything with your music.”
“It’s the kind of business where you got to know somebody,” Mr. Stevens told him.
After going to Los Angeles, Mr. Shabazz texted Mr. Stevens, joking that the people he was with in California did not like New Yorkers.
Within days, he was in Mexico City.
He was taken to a hospital early Thursday morning after a night out near Plaza Garibaldi, a tourist area in the historical center of Mexico City, filled with bars and restaurants, where foreign tourists are known to often be taken advantage of.
Officials said they were investigating the case.
On Friday, his family released a statement. “He now rests in peace in the arms of his grandparents and the safety of God,” the family said.
Kia Gregory reported from New York, and Damien Cave from Mexico City. Karla Zabludovsky contributed reporting from Mexico City. Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.
Grandson of Malcolm X, Malcolm Shabazz. He was killed in Mexico City, Mexico on May 9, 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of Malcolm X, killed in Mexico; friend blames fight over bar tab
BY ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON AND E. EDUARDO CASTILLO, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS MAY 11, 2013
MEXICO CITY - Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of political activist Malcolm X, died in Mexico City after a violent dispute in a bar, Mexican authorities said Friday. He was 28.
City prosecutors are investigating the attack that sent Shabazz to a nearby hospital where he died Thursday of blunt-force trauma injuries. United States officials confirmed that Shabazz was killed in Mexico City.
Much like his grandfather, Shabazz spent his youth in and out of trouble. At 12, he set a fire in his grandmother's apartment, a blaze that resulted in the death of Malcolm X's widow. After four years in juvenile detention, Shabazz was later sent back to prison on attempted robbery and assault charges.
In recent years, the first male heir of Malcolm X seemed to seek redemption, saying he was writing a memoir and travelling around the world speaking out against youth violence. Before his trip to Mexico, he reached out to a group of Mexican construction workers in the U.S. and then visited in Mexico with a leader who had been deported.
Malcolm X, who inspired books and the 1992 Hollywood movie named after him, was shot to death as he delivered a speech in a Harlem ballroom in 1965. Shabazz's mother was only 4 at the time.
The Shabazz family said in a statement they were saddened to hear of the death of Malcolm X's grandson.
"To all who knew him, he offered kindness, encouragement and hope for a better tomorrow," said the statement. "We will miss him."
Labour activist Miguel Suarez, who was travelling with Shabazz, told The Associated Press that his friend was beaten up at a bar near Plaza Garibaldi, a downtown square that is home to Mexico City's mariachis.
Plaza Garibaldi is popular with tourists, but the pair were at a bar across the street from the plaza in an area of rough dive bars tourists are warned against going to.
Suarez said he and Shabazz were lured to the bar on Wednesday night by a young woman who made conversation with the American in English. The Palace bar is on one of Mexico City's busiest avenues.
"We were dancing with the girls and drinking," said Suarez. Then the owner of the bar wanted them to pay a $1,200 bar tab, alleging that they should pay for music, drinks and the girls' companionship.
"We pretty much got hassled," he said. "A short dude came with a gun."
Suarez said he was taken by the man to a separate room. Shabazz stayed in the hall. Suarez said he heard a violent commotion in the hall and escaped from the room and the bar altogether as he saw half-naked girls running away, picking up their skirts from the dance floor.
Minutes later, Suarez came back in a cab to look for Shabazz and found him on the ground outside the bar severely injured.
"He was in shock. His face was messed up," said Suarez. "He was alive."
"I grabbed him, and I called the cops," said Suarez, who was recently deported from the United States.
He said he took Shabazz to a hospital but his friend died hours later of blunt-force injuries.
Suarez said Shabazz had travelled to Mexico to support him and his movement advocating for more rights for construction workers. He crossed the border from San Diego to Tijuana with Suarez's mother and then the pair took a bus all the way to Mexico City.
"We were planning to go to Teotihuacan, to see the Aztec pyramids," he said.
U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell did not offer details on whether they are working with Mexican investigators.
"We've been in contact with family members and have been providing appropriate... assistance," Ventrell said. "At their request, we have no further comment at this time."
Ruth Clark, Shabazz's godmother, said that her heart was heavy, but that she believes he is now "among angels."
"Malcolm is part of a welcoming kingdom, sharing his bright smile, intelligence, and wisdom."
Shabazz was born on Oct. 8, 1984 to Qubilah Shabazz, one of six daughters of Malcolm X and his wife Betty Shabazz.
In June 1997, Malcolm Shabazz set the fire at his grandmother Betty Shabazz's home. She died from severe burns, and he served four years in juvenile detention.
He later expressed regret for his actions, telling The New York Times in 2003 that he would sit on his jail cot and ask for a sign of forgiveness from his dead grandmother.
"I just wanted her to know I was sorry and I wanted to know she accepted my apology, that I didn't mean it," he said. "But I would get no response, and I really wanted that response."
Despite the encouragement and support by his family's numerous supporters in New York, he struggled. He joined the Bloods street gang and after moving to the small city of Middletown, near New York's Catskills region, he had additional legal scrapes.
Shabazz also served time on a 2002 attempted robbery conviction, and was released in 2005. In 2006, he pleaded guilty to criminal mischief for smashing the window of a Yonkers doughnut shop.
More recently, Shabazz had taken on public speaking engagements and travelled, describing himself as a human rights activist. On his Facebook profile, he said he was attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
Yet his entanglements with law enforcement continued.
In one of the last posts on his blog, in March, Shabazz had complained that FBI agents had recently questioned him about his international travels. He also accused officers with the Middletown police department of harassing him since the fall, and said an arrest in the city over the winter prevented him from travelling to Iran in February to participate in a film festival.
Shabazz also wrote about travelling to Damascus, Syria to study and to Libya as part of a delegation of Americans who met with Muammar Gaddafi, prior to his ouster and death.
Police officials in Middletown didn't return phone messages Friday. An FBI spokesman in New York had no immediate comment.
He proudly embraced the legacy of his grandfather, one of the most influential Black people in history who had a more radical, angry approach than Martin Luther King Jr.'s nonviolent movement in the 1950s and into the 1960s.
On his Twitter page, Shabazz posted a picture of himself mimicking the famous photograph of his grandfather, peering out at a window with a rifle in one hand.
"Grandson, name-sake and first male heir of the greatest revolutionary leader of the 20th century," he wrote.
Associated Press writer Bradley Klapper contributed to this report from Washington; and David Caruso from New York City.
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Malcolm+Shabazz+grandson+Malcolm+killed+Mexico/8366862/story.html#ixzz2T2dJk8Mq
Sudanese waving at Iranian warship as it leaves the country. The two nations are under attack by US imperialism and Israel., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
SATURDAY 11 MAY 2013
Iran to train Sudanese naval force
May 10, 2103 (Khartoum) - The Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari voiced Iran’s enthusiasm for stronger naval cooperation with Sudan and announced that his forces are prepared to train Sudanese naval forces.
The Iranian military official made these statements on Thursday after a meeting with the commander of Sudanese Navy, General Dalil al-Daw Mohamed Fadal-Allah who is on a visit to Teheran.
Sayyari, who spoke upon receiving his Sudanese counterpart on Thursday, also said that unity between the two countries’ forces will be effective in confronting their common enemies.
The Iranian news agency Fars quoted Sayyari as saying that the strategic location of Iran in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and northern Indian Ocean and the strategic location of Sudan in the Red Sea and the Strait of Bab Al-Mandeb, would enable the two countries to build close relationships to secure the region.
Sayyari further noted the two visits of the Iranian warships to Port Sudan last year pointing out that his country plan to conduct similar docking in the future.
Fadal-Allah for his part, called for the transfer of Iran’s naval experience to his country in a bid to protect the security of the Red Sea.
He disclosed that Iran agreed to provide the Sudanese Navy with military equipment to secure its coastlines but did not elaborate.
Iranian warships, which regularly patrol the Red Sea, docked in October and December 2012 in Port Sudan. The first visit took place days after the bombing of a weapons factory in Khartoum. Sudanese officials at the time accused Israel of conducting the airstrike.
The docking of the Iranian warships, however, was criticised by the Arab press and the Sudanese opposition.
Reacting to this visit, the Sudanese opposition considered the Iranian-Sudanese military cooperation a threat to Sudan’s relations with the international community, Washington, and the Arab gulf countries.
The media spokesperson for the Sudanese opposition, Kamal Omer, said that the move represents a threat to Sudan’s foreign relations and stressed that it undermines any possible rapprochement with the international community and the United States.
"Khartoum is placing itself into the brink of the abyss", he added.
President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan has been targeted by the Western imperialist countries over the conflict in the Darfur region. The oil magnates, who dictate US policy, want to seize the petroleum resources and deny the right of self-determination., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
40 000 flee rebel assault in Sudan
Khartoum - Up to 40 000 people have fled since rebels launched a major assault in central Sudan, the UN said on Friday, amid signs of a new insurgent campaign to push closer to the capital.
The Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), an alliance of four rebel groups from the western Darfur region and zones in the south, attacked the central city of Um Rawaba, a usually placid commercial hub, and other areas two weeks ago.
Their brief occupation of the city in North Kordofan state was the closest insurgents bent on toppling President Omar Hassan Bashir, have got to Khartoum since one rebel band launched an unprecedented raid on its suburb Omdurman in 2008.
Sudan has been plagued for decades by clashes between the government and rebels from its peripheries, fighting against what they say is exploitation by a Khartoum elite.
Simmering rebellions have frustrated efforts to bring stability to a country in one of Africa's most unstable neighbourhoods.
Over the past two weeks, both rebels and government forces have also reported clashes in the north-eastern tip of South Kordofan, an oil-producing state close to Kosti, Sudan's biggest Nile River port, and key sugar plants.
The latest battle was reported on Sunday.
Almost 40 000 people had fled clashes in different areas of South Kordofan, and most of them had taken refuge in the town of El Rahad, the UN said in a report.
"HAC [the Sudan government's Humanitarian Aid Commission] expects more people to arrive in El Rahad in the coming days," the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
Sudanese authorities said only a few families were displaced by the original attack on Um Rawaba, 500km south of Khartoum.
Regaining the city
The army regained control of the city the same day but the co-ordinated attack prompted fears the insurgents could resume their push on the capital.
The SRF is made up of three rebel groups from Darfur, scene of a decade-long insurgency, and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), fighting along the border with South Sudan.
SPLM-N is made up of fighters who sided with south Sudan during decades of civil war that ended in a 2005 peace deal.
When South Sudan seceded in 2011 the SPLM-N fighters were left on the Sudanese side of the border, and continued of complain of discrimination from the Khartoum government.
Analysts say the rebels are unlikely to try and take Khartoum but might force the army into a war of attrition on several fronts, draining state resources at a time when Sudan is struggling with an economic crisis.
President Salva Kiir of the Republic of South Sudan hosts President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of the Republic of Sudan. President Bashir visited Juba on April 12, 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Sudan says South Sudan helped rebels attacking major town
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan accused South Sudan of having supported rebels who launched a major assault two weeks ago, warning this could derail recent oil and security agreements between the African neighbors, state media said on Saturday.
The two countries agreed in March to resume cross-border oil flows and end tension that has plagued them since South Sudan's secession in 2011.
Since then ties have improved with Sudan receiving last week the first oil exports from the landlocked South, which had shut down its production in January 2012 in a dispute over pipeline fees.
But in a new setback, Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) said South Sudan had helped rebels who two weeks ago attacked the central city of Um Rawaba. It was the worst assault since a raid on Khartoum in 2008.
"The support for the (rebel) forces ... included fuel supplies and the opening of military hospitals in the South to receive wounded Sudanese rebels," SUNA said, quoting NISS.
South Sudan also had recently supported rebels from the western region of Darfur and two border states with vehicles, SUNA said, adding South Sudan also has provided weapons, ammunition and training at several camps in its Unity state to form a "another force" to send into Sudan.
"NISS has confirmed that Juba has supported rebels against Khartoum since the cooperation agreement (to resume oil flows)," SUNA said.
South Sudan also had issued emergency travel documents for wounded rebels to receive medical treatment in some African countries and hosted some of their leaders in the capital Juba, SUNA said.
The security services "urged the South's government to stop any involvement in support of Sudanese rebels which threatens the implementation of all cooperation deals between Khartoum and Juba," SUNA said.
There was no immediate comment from Juba, which has long denied it was supporting rebels on Sudanese territory.
Khartoum had since the March deal stopped accusing Juba of backing any rebels but mistrust runs deep between the two sides, which fought one of Africa's longest civil wars before a 2005 peace deal.
The Um Rawaba attack, a normally placid commercial hub, was conducted by an alliance of three rebel groups from Darfur, scene of a decade-long rebellion of tribes, and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North).
The SPLM-North is made up of fighters who sided with the south during civil war and ended up with southern secession in Sudan.
They complain like the Darfur rebels of marginalization in a country controlled by the government in Khartoum.
Sudan and South Sudan came close to war in April 2012 when border skirmishes broke out over oil exports fees, rebel support and disputed territory.
Under international pressure, both agreed in March to set up a buffer zone on both sides of their border, a condition for Sudan to allow through South Sudan's oil exports.
(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Bill Trott)
Poster held symbolizing the imperialist-backed conference in London to chart the future of the Horn of Africa nation of Somalia. The state has been a U.S. neo-colony under the current AMISOM and CIA occupation., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
SOMALIA: The new government in Mogadishu has yet to prove its mettle
MAY 11, 2013
AT THE end of the colonial era Somalia was arguably in ethnic terms the most homogeneous country in sub-Saharan Africa. The nearest to it was probably Botswana, which is four-fifths Tswana—and turned out to be peaceful and prosperous, suggesting to some that countries populated and run by a single big tribe have a better chance of stability than those with a hotch-potch of smaller ones.
Somalia, however, became a byword for conflict, poverty and ungovernability. Yet its ethnic homogeneity is misleading. Despite also sharing a single language and religion, it is divided into more than 500 clans and sub-clans, who are notoriously fractious and competitive. This, as well as their largely nomadic way of life, has made many Somalis fiercely loth to accept the edicts of a central government.
The last man to exert real authority from the capital, Mogadishu, was a military dictator, Siad Barre, who was ousted in 1991. His downfall was the cue for two decades of civil war. Can the country’s latest president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was elected by parliament last September, do any better, while using democratic methods?
So far, so good. An uneasy peace holds in much of Somalia, thanks largely to a promise of federalism and decentralised power. Under the prodding of Britain, which has been leading a foreign push to put Somalia on its feet again, the new government accepts that the half a dozen or so of Somalia’s fiefs that enjoy a measure of autonomy should be given their head—and should be only gradually drawn back, if possible, into accepting central authority. So far the mosaic of clans, with their shifting alliances, have mainly held back from openly challenging Mr Mohamud’s government while they wait to see how resources and authority will be shared.
But Mohamed Omar, the foreign minister of Somaliland, a northern breakaway from the rump of Somalia, says the government in Mogadishu has achieved little despite its international backing. Both Somaliland and Puntland, a semi-autonomous north-eastern region, cold-shouldered a grand international conference on Somalia in London on May 7th. “The days when Somalia could be governed from the centre are over,” he said. “Anyone who brings them back will not bring peace.”
A former university dean and civil-rights activist, Mr Mohamud is well liked by foreign governments. In London they pledged $300m in aid in return for his promise of a “new Somalia”. But at home his writ only runs in the areas controlled by forces (mostly Ugandans, Kenyans and Ethiopians) under the aegis of the African Union. He is being closely watched for any signs of breaching his federal pledge.
Some worry that big tasks, such as completing a new constitution, outlining how power will be shared and setting up commissions to define boundaries and electoral systems, have yet to begin. Matt Bryden, a Canadian who runs Sahan Research, a Somali-oriented think-tank in Nairobi, notes that “none of the work has been done towards federalism,” letting critics allege that the government is more centralist than it admits. They fret that the new security forces and police will be dominated by Mr Mohamud’s powerful Hawiye clan.
Abdi Aynte, the head of the Heritage Institute, a think-tank based in Somalia, complains that too many conspiracy theories abound. The president has no hidden agenda, he says, and “an incredibly hard job”. Still, some of Mr Mohamud’s opponents in rival clans are still backing the Shabab, the armed Islamists linked to al-Qaeda that previously dominated the country, to destabilise him. In the past month, scores of people were killed in two Shabab suicide-attacks in Mogadishu.
The United States, which has spent $1.5 billion channelled through the African Union to bring better security, and Britain, which promised another $280m in aid this week, are keen to take credit for gains in Somalia. “Somalia has begun a rapid recovery in the last year,” said Justine Greening, Britain’s development minister, at the conference. “But this will be put at risk if the Somali government cannot manage its own public finances properly, avoid future famines or tackle terrorism and piracy.” Quite so.
Press Relations--U.S. State Department
Office of the Spokesperson
May 7, 2013
U.S. assistance to Somalia aims to: help develop a stable government; ensure Somalia is not a safe-haven for terrorists; respond to and mitigate humanitarian crises; combat piracy; and prevent instability in Somalia from destabilizing the region. On January 17, 2013, the United States formally recognized the Federal Government of Somalia as an acknowledgement of the recent political and security gains in Somalia.
Thanks to the hard-won successes of Somali and international security forces in Somalia, U.S. assistance reaches some areas previously inaccessible due to security concerns. The U.S. strategy in Somalia focuses primarily on supporting the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somalia’s National Security Forces (NSF) and supporting stabilization and development opportunities.
The United States is committed to assisting Somalia. At the second London Conference on Somalia on May 7, Deputy Secretary William J. Burns announced plans to provide, subject to Congressional notification, an additional nearly $40 million for Somalia. Since 2009, the United States has provided over $1.5 billion in assistance to Somalia, including $545 million in FY 2012. The U.S. Government hopes to continue substantial financial support to Somalia in future years that will support Somalia’s progress and transition to longer-term development. U.S. foreign assistance programs support security, development and humanitarian objectives, as outlined below.
Security Assistance – Security assistance is focused on two key efforts: support for peacekeeping operations, including the provision of training, equipment, and transportation to the troop contributors to AMISOM, and support to security sector reform activities and related mentoring, training, equipment, and logistical support for the NSF. Programs support the international community’s ongoing Security Sector Reform effort by building the capacity of civilian authorities to oversee Somalia’s new security institutions. As part of its stabilization strategy, the United States maintains operational support and capacity development of conventional weapons destruction programs in northern Somalia. The United States utilizes law enforcement, military, development, and public diplomacy expertise and resources to support the efforts of Somalia and other regional partners to build and sustain their own counterterrorism capabilities.
Development-related Assistance – U.S. assistance supports stabilization activities, democracy and governance, education, health, economic growth, and institutional capacity building in line with U.S. and Somali priorities. Assisting Somalis in the reestablishment of viable governance institutions is essential to support post-transition efforts, alleviate the humanitarian suffering there and in neighboring countries, and to reduce the appeal of extremism and piracy. In addition, U.S. assistance supports local authorities and private sector groups to improve the enabling environment for investment, generate more productive employment, and improve livelihoods in the targeted regions.
Humanitarian Assistance – The United States continues to provide needs-based humanitarian assistance in response to the ongoing emergency. These interventions include food assistance, health, nutrition, water, sanitation, and livelihoods programming to address immediate needs and, where appropriate, build the resilience of vulnerable households to recurrent shocks.
US-backed forces of the Somalia Transitional Federal Government and AMISOM enter the town of Wanlaweyn. The Horn of Africa nation is being occupied by imperialism utilizing proxy forces from the region., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Up to 3,000 African peacekeepers killed in Somalia since 2007: U.N.
Thu, May 9 2013
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - As many as 3,000 African Union peacekeepers have been killed in Somalia in recent years in an attempt to end an Islamist insurgency and bring stability to the Horn of Africa nation, a senior U.N. official said on Thursday.
"I want to pay tribute to the countries and to their soldiers who paid such an enormously heavy price," U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told reporters.
"You would be shocked to learn that maybe it is up to 3,000 AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) soldiers that have been killed during these years that AMISOM has been there," he said.
The 17,700 strong African Union force began deploying to Somalia in 2007. It includes troops from Burundi, Uganda, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Djibouti.
"Uganda, Burundi have paid a tremendous price," he added. "The Kenyan troops are, of course, also a large part of AMISOM."
By way of comparison, 3,096 U.N. peacekeepers have died since 1948, according to the website of the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
Somalia is only just emerging from two decades of civil war. Its government is struggling to rebuild a country riven by clan divisions and whose infrastructure and institutions are in tatters.
A newly appointed parliament last year elected a new president, the first vote of its kind since the toppling of former military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
African Union peacekeepers have been largely responsible for pushing al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab out of the capital Mogadishu and other urban centers in the past two years, but the group is still able to launch major attacks, including a suicide bombing on Sunday that killed at least eight people.
Eliasson said on the sidelines of a donor conference in London earlier this week that sought pledges to rebuild Somalia that the United Nations has given strong backing to the country's new leadership.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Philip Barbara)
Vendor on the streets of Cairo, Egypt with an enlarged US dollar advertisement in the background. Egypt is facing a renewed economic crisis due to its alliance with imperialism., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Decline and fall of Egypt's credit ratings: A history
Deya Abaza, Saturday 11 May 2013
Standard and Poor's latest downgrade of Egypt's sovereign credit rating is the sixteenth such action taken by a major international rating agency since the January 2011 revolution
Standard and Poor's (S&P) credit downgrade, reducing Egypt's foreign and domestic long-term rating to 'CCC+' and foreign and local short-term rating to 'C' is the latest in a series of such actions taken by the most prominent international rating agencies since Egypt's January 2011 revolution.
The three agencies combined have cut Egypt's sovereign debt rating a total of sixteen times since the uprising, due to successive waves of political instability, dwindling foreign currency reserves, weakening public finances and failure to reach agreement on an International Monetary Fund (IMF) rescue loan.
In cutting Egypt's grade on Thursday from 'B' to 'C', S&P became the third rating agency to do so this year.
On 21 March, Moody's Investors Service downgraded Egypt's government bond ratings from 'B3' to 'Caa1', after it had already downgraded it from 'B2' on 12 February. On 30 January, credit-rating agency Fitch cut Egypt's sovereign rating from 'B+' to 'B'.
A court verdict on 26 January sentencing 21 fans of Port Said's Masry football club to death ignited violent unrest in the Suez Canal cities, resulting in many deaths and prompting President Morsi to announce a state of emergency in Port Said, Ismailia and Suez, which was itself widely challenged.
In March, Moody's cited "the economic impact of the intensification of civil unrest, as reflected by the recent decree announcing a state of emergency" for its action. It also cited the "weakening in Egypt's external payments position" in light of the dramatic $1.4 billion drop in Egypt's foreign currency reserves in January, the largest decline in a year, according to the agency.
Egypt's central bank started auctioning US dollars in late December, after foreign currency reserves reached a critical level as the bank had spent more than $20 billion in foreign reserves to prop up the Egyptian pound in the wake of the revolution.
Concern over Egypt's economic future as cited by the agencies, has also been exacerbated by Egypt's failure to secure a $4.8 billion IMF loan after political unrest caused a preliminary agreement with the Fund to fall through in December.
"Political conditions are complicating economic policymaking, as evidenced by the backtracking on IMF fiscal prior actions in December," said Fitch in January.
On 9 December, President Morsi, caught in a constitutional battle with the opposition, had announced a raft of tax hikes as part of an economic reform programme proposed to the Fund in exchange for the loan, only to retract it later the same day in fear of a popular backlash.
“The increased polarisation between the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and sections of the population is likely to weaken the sovereign’s ability to deliver sustainable public finances, promote balanced growth and respond to further economic or political shocks,” S&P said when it cut Egypt's long-term rating from 'B' to 'B-' in late December.
Uncertainty surrounding the timing, outcome, and effect of Egypt's parliamentary elections on the IMF negotiations has also been a major factor.
When the vote was scheduled to begin in April, Fitch identified it as "a potential flashpoint" and predicted that "an IMF programme could be delayed until after the election."
Though negotiations with the IMF have shown tentative signs of progress, with officials on both sides of the negotiations expecting to conclude an agreement by the end of May, a court order has forced the delay of the elections until the autumn of this year.
A previous ruling, issued by the country's Supreme Constitutional court days before Mohamed Morsi beat Mubarak-stalwart Ahmed Shafiq in a presidential run-off vote last June, had forced the dissolution of Egypt's Islamist-led post-revolutionary parliament, causing Fitch to downgrade Egypt's sovereign credit rating to 'B+' from 'BB-'.
A few months before on 10 February, S&P lowered Egypt to 'B', five steps below investment grade, citing wariness of a turbulent transition to democracy, and the ongoing decline in the country's foreign currency reserves, which had fallen to $16.35 billion in January.
The transitional period had taken a sharp turn for the worse in late 2011. On October 9, the armed forces had brutally dispersed a protest by Coptic Christians in front of the state television building in downtown Cairo, killing 28 protesters in what became known as the "Maspero massacre."
In late November, a wave of protests unseen since the January 2011 revolution over the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' perceived botching of the transitional period ended in a week of deadly clashes on Mohamed Mahmoud Street near Tahrir Square, ahead of the country's first post-revolution legislative elections.
The events sparked a spate of downgrades, with S&P cutting Egypt's rating on 18 October then on 24 November to 'BB-' then 'B+', Moody's also lowering Egypt twice, in October then December, and Fitch catching up on 30 December, dropping Egypt's sovereign credit rating by one notch, citing "ongoing political turbulence," weakened public finances, and unfavourable "security conditions."
Moody's had previously acted on its scepticism in the earliest stage of the transition, downgrading Egypt's foreign and local currency government bond ratings by one notch in March.
At the time, the agency cited "concerns about whether a transition to an effective and stable government will be achieved," in light of the "the prolonged political uncertainty in Egypt since our last rating action on 31 January."
Moody's had been the first to cut Egypt's credit rating in January 2011, to 'Ba2' from 'Ba1', less than a week after the January 25 protests sparked a wider revolution.
It had been followed by S&P on 1 February, and Fitch on 3 February, which downgraded Egypt's sovereign debt by one notch each.
"The downgrade reflects the significant intensification of unrest, at the start of what is likely to be a volatile transition to a new government, and the increasingly negative consequences for the economy, public and external finances of the continuing disruption,"Fitch had said, days before then president Hosni Mubarak stepped down on 11 February 2011.
Palestine solidarity activists arrested by Israeli police enroute to protest conditions in the West Bank. Europe prevented many from bording flights to Israel., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Israel follows South Africa's model of apartheid against Palestinians: ECFR
Bassem Aly , Saturday 11 May 2013
The EU has to take concrete measures against Israel as its pro-peace political discourse is not enough, a European think tank report recommends
The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) has issued a report tackling the situation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, warning that Israel risks the fate of apartheid state South Africa, embodied in international isolation, if it continues to entrench its illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
The ECFR describes itself as a “pan-European” think tank that conducts research and promotes informed debate across Europe, benefiting from the political experience of more its 170+ members, including serving ministers, MPs, EU senior officials, former NATO chiefs and intellectuals.
Among these members are British former Foreign Secretary David Miliband, former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, and former EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana.
Titled“Europe and the Vanishing Two-State Option,”the report argues that the ceaseless expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, the lockdown of Gaza, and the systematic undermining of Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank, have eroded the basis for a Palestinian state “to the point of collapse.”
“Israel’s election has produced a new government with an even more pronounced annexationist bent towards the West Bank, while US President Obama’s visit to the region lived down to the minimal expectations prepared for it,” the report added.
The London-based ECFR called on the European Union (EU) to boost its support for the Palestinian Authority so as to strongly push the two-state solution forward.
“As so often, Europe issues great statements and then under-cuts them by its actual behaviour,” Nick Witney, author of the report and a senior policy fellow at ECFR, said.
“As we have thickened ties with Israel in recent years, at both the EU and national levels, so Israel has learned to regard calls for an end to settlements and for de-occupation as so much huffing and puffing. But unless Israelis wake up soon to how they are ‘losing’ Europe, the outcome will be disastrous for all concerned.”
The report stressed Israel’s need to “change course” in order to tend to the suffering of the Palestinians, as well as serving its own interests in the Arab world.
Witney pointed out that the point of a common EU position ought to be to exercise a collective weight.
What could Europe do?
Polling and recent UN votes show that Israel is "losing" Europe, the report claims.
Such argument proved correct after the UN General Assembly vote on 29 November to recognise Palestine as a non-member state, as Israel responded by announcing plans to build almost 3,000 homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
At that time, UN ambassadors from several EU state such as Britain, France, Germany and Portugal highlighted European fears over the peace stalemate and stressed that their governments "strongly oppose" Israeli settlement construction plans.
However, the report underlines that the European message is “muffled” because Europeans undercut their own calls for ending settlement construction by continuing their commercial, defence and scientific ties with Israel.
Despite this, the one billion Euros annual aid from Europe to the Palestinians has produced a “dependency economy,” with the real economy progressively “hollowed out.”
Other means of financial backing for the Palestinians are suggested, such as diverting money to economic development projects.
Thus, the ECFR suggests stopping the extension of benefits (market access, EU grants, etc) to settlement-based individuals and enterprises as though they were resident of Israel.
Also, the EU should take no further steps to associate Israel and its economy more closely with the EU without parallel moves by Israel to relax the occupation.
“Governments could usefully issue official advice against such economic activity or end the situation whereby settlers travelling on an Israeli passport benefit from the EU’s visa-waiver arrangement with Israel," the report mentioned.
“If the visa requirement were reinstated for all such settlers, it would both make sense in the context of consistency and make it easier to consider refusing admission to Europe those behind the upsurge in settler violence, as recommended by the EU Heads of Mission.”
These measures should coincide with supporting the agriculture and industrial sectors run by Palestinians, currently thwarted by Israeli authorities, so as to enable the private sector to generate jobs and tax revenue.
“For European donors, the strategy should be to put the PA on notice that the days of the dependency state are numbered, but that Europe will stay around long enough to assist them in shifting their focus from state-building to economy-building,” the report concludes.
“European readiness to back Israel right or wrong is diminishing, and Israel needs to take with deadly seriousness the prospect that, with current trends, it could one day find itself exclusively reliant on the US for diplomatic support in the face of a hostile global campaign," the report states.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addressing the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2012. Abbas says he is seeking recognition by the world body of Palestine as a nonmember state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
The mirage of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations
Ahmed Eleiba, Saturday 11 May 2013
What lies behind the sudden rush to hold a new round of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations
There was recently a sudden rush to hold an Arab-US meeting in Washington to examine the possibility of resuming Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. An invitation had gone out from Secretary of State John Kerry to the chief parties of the Arab peace initiative, who are simultaneously the chief parties in the Arab League, and the invitation was accepted without hesitation.
But before heading off to Washington, the Arab parties held an urgent meeting in Doha. Qatar is a member of the Arab peace initiative committee, of course. Yet, according to observers, it plays a bigger role than that. Indeed, some observers have gone so far as to say that the Qatari role extends beyond its relative weight in this context to the additional functions it has been acquiring in the course of its bids to insinuate itself among major powers such as the US and Israel.
Atwan Shalhat, an expert at the Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies (Madar), is of this opinion. Speaking on the phone from Haifa, Shalhat, who is of Palestinian origin, told Al-Ahram Weekly that “with the help of the Arabs more than the Palestinians, the US state department has managed to furnish a cover for the possible resumption of negotiations.”
“At the same time, it has offered inducements to Israel that will probably persuade it to return to the negotiating table. Although there is a Palestinian contingent in the Arab delegation that headed off to Washington to explore the possibilities of resuming negotiations, it is not enthusiastic. It has found little to encourage it in the talks [in Washington] and in the inter-Arab consultations.”
“Undoubtedly, this is because the Palestinians are unconvinced by this approach, which by any standards is a process of concession that is filled with temptations for Israel which in turn does not find the meal on offer rich enough to arouse its appetite for serious, meaningful dialogue.”
The “inducements” boil down to a modification of the Arab peace initiative adopted at the Arab League Summit in Beirut in 2002, which had been initially sponsored by Saudi Arabia, the most influential Arab party in this context, though not one as interested in the limelight as Qatar.
The modification is to include the principle of “territorial exchange,” which according to some sources entails a bilateral land-swap between the Israelis and the Palestinians, while other sources suspect that it will entail trilateral land-swaps between Israel, the Palestinians and Egypt.
There have also been suggestions of a broader “multilateral” or “regional” exchange that would include five parties: Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Palestine and Israel. According to the Israeli political analyst Jackie Khoury as well as the Palestinians of 1948 community in Israel, this project echoes that of the former head of the Israeli National Security Council Giro Eilan.
The trilateral land-swap idea had been proposed to Egypt by Shimon Peres during his visit to former president Hosni Mubarak in August 2010. Mubarak rejected the notion out of hand, nipping any resolution to the question of Palestinian statehood at Egypt’s expense in the bud.
At the time, according to a source in Egyptian intelligence, Israel was looking for a land-swap formula in accordance with which the Palestinians would concede territory in the West Bank and Gaza in exchange for which the western borders of Gaza would be pushed some 164km into Sinai. Egypt would be able to keep Wadi Feiran.
Apparently, Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas approved the proposal, which had been put to him through secret negotiating channels with the then Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert. Cairo responded by saying that not a single inch of Egyptian territory was negotiable.
The Egyptian authorities also went further to point out that the current borders of Gaza did not in fact represent the true historical dimensions of that region. Historically, the borders of Gaza had extended up to Ashkelon, 13km north of Gaza’s current eastern border. Therefore, they said, if people were interested in expanding the land area of Gaza, which is the most densely populated area on earth, they should extend its borders into Israel, rather than in the opposite direction into Egyptian territory. Egyptians had made enormous sacrifices to recover this land, they said.
The corridor connecting the West Bank with Gaza was also up for negotiation. Although originally a Palestinian territory, the West Bank-Gaza corridor conflicts with Israeli “security arrangements” that are designed to divide the Palestinian territories into a patchwork of isolated cantons. Could the concept of land-exchange possibly mean a swap of Palestinian land in exchange for Palestinian land?
This is how Hamas perceived it in its reaction to recent rounds of talks. Ayman Taha, a member of the Hamas Political Bureau, told the Weekly that “Hamas was not consulted on this subject at any time, and it does not approve of what has been taking place in the talks.”
According to a high-level Palestinian diplomat who was present at the talks in Washington, the proposals that were placed on the table in the US had been put forward as ideas, not as a definitive project. The source, who spoke to the Weekly from New York, said that the Arabs had not reached any form of consensus over the ideas that would be discussed in Washington before heading off to the US capital.
Instead, they had only agreed among themselves to listen to what Washington had to say with regard to the possibility of the existence of common ground that would permit the resumption of negotiations in a manner consistent with the established principles of the Palestinian cause. There had been no intent to offer Israel enticements in order to lure it back to the negotiating table, he said.
The Palestinian diplomat went on to reveal that certain Arab parties had departed from what had been agreed in order to listen to the US administration’s point of view in reopening the peace process and what the common ground to build upon might be, rather than to discuss or raise proposals.
“Even if Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] made this proposal at the time of the Olmert premiership, that was in a totally different context. We had only been speaking of minor modifications to the border that would be possible through some land-swaps. The point had been to overcome certain difficulties with regard to the original 1967 borders that had arisen due to changing realities on the ground.”
“There is a difference between territorial exchanges and modifications of the borders. There is an illusion being marketed by the US-Israeli-Qatari trio in the negotiations with the purpose of superseding the supposed framework of the two-state solution, which has long been accepted by all parties,” former Palestinian minister Hassan Asfour, a member of the Palestinian negotiating team during the Oslo talks, said.
Speaking to the Weekly from Jordan, Asfour said that “the idea now is to deal with the current situation in the region in a manner that creates a new political axis to eliminate the Syrian-Iranian-Hizbullah-Hamas axis, because [President Bashar] Al-Assad might regain the initiative in Syria and Hezbollah do something in the management of the urban wars which would shift the balance in a manner that would have dangerous repercussions for the opposing double alliance of the US and Israel and the US and the Arab powers.”
Asfour added that “the trap into which the Arab delegation fell is that the Arab League does not have the right to modify the Arab peace initiative now. Not even the Arab League’s committee for this initiative has this right. This is because there has been a fundamental change in the form of the UN recognition of Palestine, which means that any negotiations that take place should be over the delineation of the borders, not over land exchanges. In overlooking this fact, the delegation is acting as though it wants to set this historic gain aside and pretend it never happened.”
Asfour believed that the US, Israel and Qatar were actively conspiring toward this end. They wanted the Palestinians and Arabs to forfeit this gain, he said, and Israel was prepared to intervene in Syria in exchange for the required modification of the Arab initiative. “Therefore, I believe that the idea that Israel favours is the ‘comprehensive regional solution’ currently being marketed by Qatar. However, Egypt, which is the most important regional party in this equation, is backing off. Even the Egyptian presidency, which hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, does not want to become involved in this, as much as the Muslim Brotherhood wants to end the Syrian question at any cost.”
The Palestinian diplomatic source in New York agreed, adding that “the most accurate observation on the Arabs’ Doha-Washington excursion was made by the Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr.”
After returning from Washington, Amr said that modifying the Arab peace initiative would require an Arab summit. This, he felt, was not the order of the day. Rather, “the time has come to reach a constructive solution based on the already established principles. The focus should shift from conflict management to the actual attainment of peace,” Amr said.
He continued by saying that “we, as Arab states, support the Palestinian position. Our position is also to support the Arab peace initiative, which calls for the full [Israeli] withdrawal from all occupied territories to the borders of 7 June 1967 and a just solution that includes the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 with its capital in East Jerusalem.”
Although Amr denied rumours regarding land-exchange proposals, stressing that no joint Arab-US statement had been issued to such an effect, sources in both Amman and Washington did confirm that the various land-swap suggestions had been mooted “as ideas”.
At the end of the meeting in Washington, Kerry apparently said that he would give the parties two months to think over what had been discussed. Developments in Washington’s stances with respect to the various situations in the Middle East, most notably its positions with respect to intervention in Syria and a possible military engagement with Iran, will certainly provide added food for thought during this period.
As Shalhat put it, “there was a lot of nodding and winking with regard to Syria during the talks that took place in Washington.”
He went on to observe that there were fundamental differences among the Arabs, who were sharply divided between those who rejected and those who were pushing for approval of the “ideas” mooted during the talks. However, he asked, “if they enter a new phase of negotiations, will Israel have anything to offer now? I doubt it. There are 40 Knesset members who form a large religious pressure group that Netanyahu has to deal with. This is why Israel will try to shift the focus to another subject over which there is a fundamental disagreement and this is to demand recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, a chord Obama obligingly plucked during his recent visit to Israel.”
Said Okasha of the Israeli Studies Unit in the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, said that the purpose of the Israeli focus on the “Jewishness” of the Israeli state at this point was to settle all current and future problems in a single stroke by exacting recognition from the Arabs that they — the Jews — had a historic right to the land before 1948.
Okasha said that the “Jewishness” the Israelis were insisting on had nothing to do with their form of government and the extent to which it is influenced by religion, as some Arabs think, but rather it relates to their claim to an exclusive and pre-existing title to the land.
Shalhat added that Israel would never consent to what the Arabs demanded and that the furthest it would go would be to offer to restart negotiations where they left off in 2008, to which they might add some “good will” initiatives such as helping to promote tourism in the Palestinian territories, freeing some Palestinian prisoners and withdrawing from various central points in the West Bank.
“This is the type of thinking that the various political parties in the Knesset can come together on, especially in view of the influence of the Jewish Home Party, the third-largest bloc in the Israeli parliament, which is in favour of developing the Palestinian Authority into an autonomous rule area. However, there will be a consensus that the need now is to focus on more pressing and sensitive issues for Israel, which are Syria and Iran, over which Tel Aviv and Washington have very different red lines.”
Clearly various parties are trying to push Washington and Tel Aviv closer together on these “red lines”. However, it appears that the keys are still in the hands of Iran and Syria and the way they respond to Israel’s succession of provocative aerial strikes inside Syria. For the moment, Israel is in waiting mode, having mobilised its missile batteries on the borders in anticipation of that response.