Pan Africa Newswire
SPLM delegation with Ugandan forces in Bor County, Jonglei state. They were there to investigate an alleged massacre of civilians., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
South Sudan Evacuates Oil Workers
Government Heeds Calls From Oil
Companies to Ensure Workers Aren't Caught in Crossfire
By NICHOLAS BARIYO
Feb. 22, 2014 3:12 a.m. ET
KAMPALA, Uganda—South Sudan on Saturday started evacuating scores of foreign oil workers from Upper Nile State, as government troops battled to halt a rebel advance in the flash point state, threatening a full crude production shutdown.
Military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer said that government was heeding to calls from foreign oil companies to ensure that the workers aren't caught in crossfire.
The conflict, which erupted in December following a flare up of an internal power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar now threatens to choke the world's youngest nation from its major source of revenues. Upper Nile is the only state where oil fields have been pumping since the conflict erupted. In December, South Sudan halted at least 45,000 barrels-a-day of oil production in Unity state after companies evacuated workers days after the outbreak of fighting.
"The rescue is underway, all foreign oil workers are being brought to Juba" Col. Aguer said.
An official with the state oil company, Nilepet, who declined to be named because he isn't authorized to speak for the company, told The Wall Street Journal that output at least two oil fields, Gumri and Adar, was halted Friday, cutting crude output from the state by at least 20%. The workers being evacuated are mainly Chinese, Malaysian and Indian nationals.
"Two oil fields are out of production because the engineers are being evacuated" the official said, adding that local workers are maintaining production at several other fields, which are pumping around 150,000-160,000 barrels-a-day of crude.
South Sudan, which inherited around 75% of oil fields upon its secession from Sudan in 2011, exports the bulk of its crude to Asian refiners.
The rebels attacked Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile on Tuesday, ending a lull in fighting that had lasted nearly a month. Until the attack, oil fields in the state were producing around 200,000 barrels-a-day of crude.
Col. Aguer said Saturday that government troops withdrew from Malakal on Friday to minimize civilian casualties. Fighting was continuing north of Malakal Saturday as the rebels pushed toward the oil fields, aid officials said. The oil fields are located around 100 miles north of Malakal.
Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company, majority-owned by China National Petroleum Corp and India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp are the main operators of oil fields in South Sudan. Company officials couldn't be reached for an immediate comment.
Analysts say that an abrupt halt of oil production would likely push the government side to the negotiating table, improving the chance for a truce.
Talks between the rebels and government representatives failed to restart this week, after both sides traded accusations of violations of a cease-fire deal signed in January.
A spokesman for the United Nations mission in South Sudan said Friday that peace keepers counted at least 50 bodies in various parts of Malakal following days of fighting. Thousands have been killed and nearly 1 million people displaced since the conflict erupted in December.
Ugandan troops have been fighting alongside South Sudan's government forces since late December. The Ugandans helped the national army rout rebels from key towns in January, but international pressure has since been mounting on Kampala to pull out of the conflict to allow the implementation of the cease-fire.
The foreign ministry announced early this week that Ugandan troops would start pulling out of South Sudan in April.
Write to Nicholas Bariyo at email@example.com
Malakal in South Sudan on east bank of the Nile River. Reports indicate that 200 people drowned trying to escape fighting., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
South Sudan government orders embattled oil state to keep crude flowing
By Carl Odera
JUBA (Reuters) - South Sudan has reversed a plan by local authorities to partially shut down oil production and evacuate foreign workers in its main oil-producing region after it was hit last week by the worst fighting since a January ceasefire.
Thousands have been killed and more than 800,000 have fled their homes since fighting began in South Sudan two months ago, triggered by a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, his former deputy whom he sacked in July.
The warring sides signed the ceasefire on January 23 to end weeks of fighting, but sporadic clashes have continued.
Since Tuesday, the capital of the main oil-producing Upper Nile region, Malakal, has been divided between the army and rebels after forces loyal to Machar raided the town and fought against government troops.
Local officials on Friday ordered the evacuation of foreign oil workers from the Adar and Gumri oil fields, citing security concerns, but the national government overruled them.
"This one was just an irrational decision from the (Upper Nile) state authorities without consultation with the national government," South Sudan's Minister in the Office of the President Awan Guor told Reuters via telephone.
"The presence of rebels in Malakal doesn't mean that our oil fields are in danger right now," he said.
A petroleum ministry official told Reuters on Thursday that national oil production had fallen to about 170,000 barrels per day even before the rebel strike on Malakal, a fall of around a third since the fighting erupted in December.
Upper Nile is the only state pumping oil after production in neighboring Unity state was halted earlier on in the conflict, forcing the government to cut output by about a fifth to around 200,000 bpd.
Malakal lies about 140 km (90 miles) from Paloch, an oil complex where a key crude oil processing facility is situated.
The government wants to avoid further losses from the oil fields, an economic lifeline for Juba and neighboring Sudan, which earns vital hard currency from fees received for use of its oil pipeline.
The fighting in Malakal has cast doubts over the peace talks in Addis Ababa, which have already been delayed by rebel demands for the release of four remaining political detainees and the withdrawal of Ugandan troops from the country.
(Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
A displaced person's camp in the Central African Republic. The food security crisis will worsen with the fleeing of Muslim traders., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Taliban condemn violence in Central African Republic
Press Trust of India
Kabul February 22, 2014 7:55 pm
The Taliban condemned the "merciless killings" of Muslims at the hands of "bloodthirsty militias" as the world sits "idly by."
The Taliban urged the international community including the pope to stop the bloodshed.
The Afghan Taliban on Friday called for an end to violence against Muslims in the Central African Republic in a rare statement on conflicts outside their region.
Central African Republic has been wracked by sectarian violence, with Christian armed fighters hunting down and killing Muslim civilians in recent weeks despite the presence of thousands of peacekeepers.
The violence has displaced tens of thousands of Muslims in what the United Nations human rights body has called “ethnic-religious cleansing.”
In a statement on Saturday, the Taliban condemned the “merciless killings” of Muslims at the hands of “bloodthirsty militias” as the world sits “idly by.”
It warned the situation threatens the peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Christians throughout Africa and urged the international community including the pope to stop the bloodshed.
Thousands have taken refuge at a makeshift internally displaced person's camp near Bangui airport in the Central African Republic. Muslims are fleeing out of the country., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Central African Republic militia says it will only disarm after Muslim rebels do
BANGUI — Reuters
Published Saturday, Feb. 22 2014, 12:29 PM EST
A powerful militia in Central African Republic said on Saturday it will only disarm once its main rivals, the mainly Muslim Seleka fighters, lay down their weapons, a deadlock that risks prolonging the crisis in the war-torn country.
The “anti-balaka” self-defence militia was formed last year to defend Christian communities targeted by Seleka forces who ousted the president in March, triggering cycles of revenge killings that continue to grip the country despite the deployment of thousands of foreign peacekeepers.
Seleka fighters have in recent weeks been forced out of power and scattered, mainly to the north. But Muslims who stayed behind have been targeted, and France now believes the largely Christian militia is the main obstacle to peace.
“We will lay down (our weapons) in the centre of town in front of the international community ... only on the condition that these bandits are disarmed first,” Sebastien Wenezoui, spokesman for the “anti-balaka” force said on Saturday.
Wenezoui said that fighters from around Bangui, the crumbling capital that has seen hundreds of thousands of its residents forced from their homes by street battles and lynchings, would hand over all the weapons they owned.
French and African troops - which rushed in reinforcements as 1,000 people were killed in clashes during the month of December alone - have tried to disarm gunmen in the riverside capital but the city remains awash with guns and machetes.
Militia members carrying machetes and hunting rifles and adorned with amulets patrolled around their base where Wenezoui was speaking. Nearby, French troops protect the city’s airport, which serves as their base.
At its peak, violence in Central African Republic displaced 1 million people, about a quarter of the country’s population.
Michel Djotodia, Seleka leader and interim president after the March rebel takeover, stepped aside last month under intense international pressure after failing to halt killings.
He went into exile and his men withdrew to bases in the remote north, which borders Chad and Sudan.
France now has 1,600 soldiers operating alongside 6,000 African peacekeepers in its former colony. But foreign troops have struggled to halt attacks on Muslims caught in the void.
The commander of French forces in Central African Republic said earlier this month the “anti-balaka” forces were now the “enemies of peace” in the country.
A top U.N. official warned of “ethnic-religious cleansing” as Muslim civilians fled north or into neighbouring countries, leaving the majority Christian population in the south.
“We are ready to live alongside Muslims that were born in our country but only on the condition that the government ... holds a dialogue between the two communities,” Wenezoui said, highlighting tensions with Muslims who have come from neighbouring countries, especially Chad.
The European Union says as many as 1,000 EU soldiers will be dispatched and the United Nations is mulling rolling out a peacekeeping operation.
Having originally hoped for a swift operation, France says its mission will last longer than the initial six months forecast and admits to having underestimated the depth of the hatred, which has stirred memories of Rwanda’s genocide 20 years ago.
However, many in the country believe origins of the bloodshed have little to do with religion and instead blame a political battle for control over resources in one of Africa’s weakest-governed states, split along ethnic fault lines and worsened by foreign meddling.
Nicolas Maduro being sworn in as Interim President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela on March 8, 2013. He took the oath of office at the national assembly in Caracas., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
22 February 2014
Last updated at 00:59 ET
Venezuela leader Nicolas Maduro seeks talks with Obama
Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro has invited US President Barack Obama to join him in talks aimed at resolving the problems between the two countries.
Mr Maduro said the meeting would help "put the truth out on the table".
He has accused US conservatives and media organisations of plotting to overthrow his government.
Earlier on Friday Venezuela revoked the accreditations of CNN reporters covering the country's crisis. Eight people have died in recent protests.
In a news conference on Friday, Mr Maduro said: "I call for a dialogue between Venezuela and the United States and its government.
"Let's initiate a high-level dialogue and let's put the truth out on the table."
The dialogue will be "difficult and complex", Mr Maduro said, until the American government accepted "the full autonomy and independence of Latin America".
On Sunday Venezuela expelled three US diplomats accused of meeting violent groups linked to the opposition.
Earlier Venezuela had revoked the accreditation of CNN's Caracas-based reporter, Osmary Hernandez, and those of two other CNN journalists sent to Venezuela to cover a wave of opposition marches.
The government says the protests are part of a coup attempt.
US Secretary of State, John Kerry, denounced the latest action on Friday, saying: "This is not how democracies behave.
"I call on the Venezuelan government to step back from its efforts to stifle dissent through force and respect basic human rights.
"The solution to Venezuela's problems can only be found through dialogue with all Venezuelans, engaging in a free exchange of opinions in a climate of mutual respect."
On Thursday, Mr Maduro threatened to "take action" against CNN unless it ceased what he described as "hostile coverage".
"I won't accept war propaganda against Venezuela. If they don't rectify themselves, out of Venezuela," he said.
One of the two US-based CNN journalists who had their work permits revoked, Patricia Janiot, said she had been harassed by Venezuelan officials as she left the country.
In a statement, the network said it was still negotiating with the authorities.
"We hope the government reconsiders its decision. Meanwhile, we will carry on covering events in Venezuela in a fair, accurate and balanced manner," read the statement.
A close ally of the late president, Hugo Chavez, Mr Maduro was elected by a narrow margin last April.
Political divisions have deepened since the election, and the economy has taken a downturn.
Henrique Capriles, who was defeated in last year's presidential election, and other opposition leaders have called on people to take to the streets on Saturday, in marches "against violence".
Are you in Venezuela? What are your expectations for the protests or the talks? Send us your experiences using the form below.
Seleka forces in the Central African Republic were escorted out of the capital of Bangui on January 28, 2014. The appointment of a new interim president and prime minister has not halted violence., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
UN chief urges 3,000 more troops for Central African Republic
Latest update : 2014-02-22
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the international community on Thursday to deploy an extra 3,000 troops to Central African Republic, where religious fighting has killed at least 2,000 people and displaced around one million.
Ban’s plea came amid growing fears that the conflict in CAR could spiral into ethnic cleansing.
The European Union is already set to deploy 1,000 troops to join 6,000 African Union (AU) peacekeepers and almost 2,000 French soldiers, who have struggled to stop the fighting, which began after the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel group seized power a year ago in the majority Christian country.
“The security requirements far exceed the capability of the international troops now deployed,” Ban told the UN Security Council. "We need more."
A further 3,000 troops and police would see a total of 12,000 international forces in CAR.
Ban also proposed that all international forces in CAR be brought under "a coordinated command," with a priority placed on protecting civilians and ensuring the delivery of humanitarian aid.
He suggested that $38 million in logistical and financial aid be given to the African Union mission in CAR over six months, and that the government receive financial assistance so that it can bring back some of its essential public services, such as police and courts.
UN aid chief Valérie Amos on Thursday backed up Ban's claims after a three-day visit to the country. "There are not enough troops on the ground," Amos told a news conference in Bangui.
In an interview with FRANCE 24, the ambassador of neighbouring Chad to the African Union, Cherif Mohammed Zene, said that the problem was not a lack of troops but a lack of coordination between the forces already in place.
“I don’t think the problem is how many soldiers [there are]. The current problem is a lack of coordination between the contingents on the ground. Some of those serving as part of MISCA [the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic] are lacking transportation and communication means. MISCA needs to be strengthened [on the whole],” he said.
Zene said he thought it would be unlikely that Chad, which has been accused by Human Rights Watch of supporting the Seleka rebels, would be asked to send more troops to the mission in CAR, “considering the number of operations Chad is already involved in”.
Smoke from the bomb blast at the Somalia presidential villa in Mogadishu. Nine people have been reported killed in the attack., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
SOMALIA: Permenant Secretary of Somalia Prime Minister’s Office is killed in today’s attack
Posted on February 21, 2014
The Permanent Secretary of the Somalia Prime Minister’s Office Mohamud Hussein Abdulle “Indhacase” was among two senior government officials killed in today’s terrorist attack on the presidential compound in Mogadishu.
At least 15 people were killed in a suicide car bomb attack followed by direct gunfire inside Somalia Presidential Palace today.
Colonel Nur Shirbow, the former deputy of Somalia Intelligence was also killed according to Somalia government security sources.
Both Abdulle and Shirbow were among dozens of government officials praying inside a mosque of the presidency where seemed to be the target of the attack.
According to RBC Radio reporter in Mogadishu armed men using a car loaded with explosives blew off outside a security check point that leads to the entrance of the president’s office.
“Direct gun battle could be heard after the first explosion” Our reporter says “Just up to two other explosions were heard the presidency”.
The Security Minister of Somalia Federal Government Abdikarin Hussein Guled has said that the security forces shit dead all the attackers and hold their bodies near the mosque where President Mohamud used to pray regularly.
“The president is safe and the other government top officials were all safe and unharmed.” Minister Guled confirmed.
The situation now was calm as the government security forces backed by the AMISOM cordoned off the whole area.
In a press release posted online, the militant group of Al Shabab immediate claimed the responsibility if the attack.
Puntland Presidents Abdiweli Mohamed Ali (Gas), who was recently elected, with Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, the outgoing leader of the breakaway northern region., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Puntland President condemns the terrorist attack at Villa Somalia
Posted on February 21, 2014
The President of Puntland State of Somalia H.E. Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali strongly condemns the terrorist attacks carried out by Al-Shabaab terrorists earlier today on Villa Somalia.
The President expresses his sympathy and extends his deepest condolences to the victims who died and those injured in the barbaric act of terror.
Through a telephone call, President Abdiweli shared the feelings and prayers of the people of Federal State of Puntland with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
The President also called on all peace-loving Somalis and leaders across the country to stand together against this menace. He urged for stronger collaborations and intelligence sharing to deter such horrific actions.
Dr. Abdiweli said “The resurgence of Al-Shabaab in the South and their movement to the Northern Regions of Somalia is alarming and a concern to all Somalis. Efforts on information sharing and effective coordination domestically and internationally should be doubled”.
“Essentially, peace, stability and development are the way forward for our country and people”. Continued the President.
Damage from a Somalia bomb blast on Feb. 21, 2014. The attack took place outside the presidential palace in Mogadishu., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
9 attackers dead in Somalia president palace attack
Abdi Guled, Associated Press 10:56 a.m. EST February 21, 2014
Somali soldiers stand guards by the carcass of a huge car bomb, on Feb. 21, 2014 in Mogadishu.
Al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabab has been waging war in Somalia for years
Attack against compound where president and prime minister live began with a car bomb explosion
U.N. report found many weapons given to Somalia's military can no longer be accounted for
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Nine al-Shabab militants wearing military fatigues and carrying guns and grenades died after attacking the presidential palace with two car bombs on Friday, in an assault the president called a "media spectacular" by a "dying animal."
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was unharmed, but two government officials were killed, the interior ministry said.
The attack underscores a worrying new trend in Mogadishu: That despite a period of relative calm following al-Shabab's ouster from Mogadishu in August 2011, militants have carried out a series of deadly assaults in recent weeks that have seen the city hit with mortar fire and pitched battles.
Weapons meant for the Somali army could have been used by the militants in Friday's attack. A confidential U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea reported this month that the country's military is selling weaponry in markets where the al-Qaeda-linked militants buy weapons.
In at least one case weapons were sold by a military commander directly to an al-Shabab commander, the confidential report said.
Friday's attack against the compound where the president and prime minister live began with a car bomb explosion, followed by an assault by gunmen on palace guards, said police Capt. Mohamed Hussein. Al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-linked group, claimed responsibility.
"President just called me to say he's unharmed. Attack on Villa #Somalia had failed. Sadly some lives lost. I condemn strongly this terrorism," the U.N. representative to Somalia, Nick Kay, said on Twitter. He added later: "The Somali people are tired of shootings, bombings and killings. It's time for a new chapter in Somalia's history."
The Interior Ministry displayed the seven bloodied and dead bodies of the attackers and said two others blew themselves up. The wreckages of two car bombs lay nearby.
The two others killed included a former intelligence commander and an aide to the prime minister, a Somali-American named Mohamud Hersi Abdulle, said Hussein.
"Apart from media headlines, #Shabaab will achieve nothing from it," a Twitter account run by the office of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said. 'Don't be fooled by this "media spectacular'. This is another act of desperation from a dying animal."
Al-Shabab has been waging war in Somalia for years as it tries to oust a Western-backed government. Weakened from its apex of power, the militants are still able to launch vicious attacks.
The U.N. Monitoring Group report, published Feb. 6 and obtained by The Associated Press, found that many weapons given to Somalia's military can no longer be accounted for, including rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and bullets. The Monitoring Group "has developed serious concerns that the 1,000 AK-47s delivered from Uganda" are no longer in government control, it said.
The report said that two separate clan-based power bases in the government are procuring weapons with a clan-based agenda that works against peace in Somalia, including by distributing weapons to clan militias. A sub clan of the president's dominates weapons procurements and funnels them to Abgaal milita forces, it said.
"In addition, the Monitoring Group has also obtained documentary evidence corroborating information that a key advisor to the President, from his Abgaal subclan, has been involved in planning weapons deliveries to Al-Shabaab leader Sheikh Yusuf Isse 'Kabukatukade', who is also Abgaal," the report said.
The report also said that ammunition supplied to Somalia's army have been leaked in large quantities to arms markets. Weapons and ammunition not sold at a market during the day are taken back for storage in garages and houses owned by Somalia army officers, the report said.
"Al-Shabaab are known to frequent the market to purchase weapons and ammunition and were easily identifiable by the salesmen there," the report said.
Somalia's government has not responded publicly to the report and did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
Ken Menkhaus, a Somalia expert at Davidson College, wrote in a new paper on al-Shabab being published Monday in the CTC Sentinal, Westpoint's anti-terrorism publication, that al-Shabab has been weakened as a political movement and will not be able to establish an Islamic state, but that it's secret service — "Amniyat" — can still unleash devastating attacks against African Union forces and the Somali government.
In Friday's attack, a speeding car full of explosives rammed into a barricade erected by soldiers protecting the presidential palace, causing an explosion and sending plumes of smoke into the sky. Amid the mayhem, gunmen chanting "God is great" then moved toward a second gate and tried to force their way into the complex.
Clashes continue in eastern Libya between the rebel army and rebel militias. The militias who are allied with the puppet General National Congress are also being attacked., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Disillusionment in Libya Over Vote on Charter Assembly
By CARLOTTA GALLFEB. 19, 2014
TRIPOLI, Libya — For the second time since the overthrow of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi two and a half years ago, Libyans are being asked to go to the polls to elect lawmakers responsible for preparing a new constitution. On Thursday, increasingly frustrated voters will directly elect a 60-member assembly to draft the charter after Parliament failed to appoint the body as originally planned.
“People are saying: ‘What happened?’ ” said Claudia Gazzini, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group who is based in Libya. Disillusioned with the lack of progress, Libyans are disinclined to come out and vote, she said. “They are saying: ‘I’m not going to dip my hand in the ink this time.’ ”
Precious little has been achieved in Libya since the war that killed Colonel Qaddafi and ended his 42 years of autocratic rule. The country held its first free elections amid much euphoria in 2012, creating a General National Congress that then appointed a new government.
But both bodies have come under criticism for failing to manage the country effectively. Security is deteriorating amid growing corruption and perceived incompetence, and the Congress has been frequently gridlocked by a strong divide between Islamist parties and the more liberal groups that are nervous about the growing power of the Islamists.
Tensions have been rising in recent weeks as the militias that fought the war against Colonel Qaddafi have tried to influence the political process. Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was abducted from his hotel and held for hours in October by militia members who wanted to force his resignation. On Tuesday, two militia groups demanded that the Congress dissolve itself or face the arrest of its members.
The government and lawmakers have resisted the threats so far, but in a major concession they have agreed to move the date for new general elections to June from December. Legislators are hoping that Thursday’s election for the new constitutional-drafting assembly, itself a concession to those seeking greater autonomy in eastern Libya, will help ease frustrations.
Voter registration has been low — just over one million, out of three million eligible — and dismal turnout is expected. There has been little fanfare around the vote and, despite a few billboards posted around town, the 649 candidates are little known. Some minority groups have threatened to boycott the election despite seats reserved for them.
Yet there is much to debate in writing a new constitution for Libya. Earlier constitutions, from 1951 when the country was a monarchy, and an amended version from 1963, are outdated. After Colonel Qaddafi seized power in 1969, he ignored the Constitution and ruled by a series of odd and draconian laws, some of which are still in force.
“There’s no doubt a new constitution is a must have,” said Muhammad Toumi, a law professor and lawyer who is a candidate from Tripoli for the constitutional assembly. “There is no constitution that defines the rights and duties of citizens and the freedoms of citizens, what will be protected, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion.”
Universal rights of women, children and those with disabilities all needed to be recognized, he said in a telephone interview. “There are so many values that need to be defined for Libyans — how their country will be governed, what form of legislature and government, and what will be their limits and responsibilities.”
Libyans had no interest in returning to a monarchy, he said, but there would be debate over a presidential system or a mixed one with a president and a prime minister, which Mr. Toumi favors. He said he was undeterred despite surviving a bomb attack on his car in January for which he blamed Islamic extremists who did not want to see a constitutional democracy in Libya.
With bombings and assassinations in the east, armed clashes between rival militias and general crime and kidnappings all over the country, there are calls from the public for a strong leader who can bring stability.
Yet, after more than four decades under the domineering rule of Colonel Qaddafi, Libyans will need time to learn how democracy works, said Abdulaziz Hariba, a member of the Congress. “Under a dictatorship, you always wait for someone to tell you what to do,” he added. “It takes time to adapt.”
The type of Islamic system and the role of Shariah law will most likely be a central issue, as they were in new constitutions drawn up in Tunisia and Egypt since the Arab Spring. The Congress voted in December that Shariah law be declared “the source of legislation,” apparently an attempt to pre-empt any move to declare a secular or civic state.
Another critical issue is the dismantling of Colonel Qaddafi’s centralized state. Citizens complain about the vast distances they have to travel to the capital for the smallest bureaucratic task, like getting papers to open a business or a subsidy to travel for health care abroad.
Analysts and legislators warned that drafting the constitution would take longer than the four months now allotted. “There are so many things individuals can blow up,” said Diederik Vandewalle, a professor from Dartmouth College who is part of an expert mission following the elections in Libya.
Nevertheless, he predicted the constitutional assembly would gain traction. “This has not degenerated into a civil war,” he said.
“Libyans are still talking to each other.”
Fighting continues between various rebel factions in eastern Libya. Dozens of people have so far been reported killed., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
11 killed as Libyan military plane crashes in Tunisia
By Laura Smith-Spark and Jomana Karadsheh, CNN
updated 8:16 AM EST, Fri February 21, 2014
NEW: A Libyan deputy minister and senior Islamist figure is among those killed
NEW: An investigation shows that one of the engines was on fire, Libyan culture minister says
All 11 people on board the Libyan military plane died when it crashed in Tunisia
The Antonov aircraft was flying from Mitiga Airport in Libya, state media report
(CNN) -- A Libyan military plane crashed in Tunisia's Nabeul province Friday, killing all 11 people on board, the Libyan government said.
The plane was carrying five crew members, a doctor, three patients and two others who were accompanying them on the flight, Libyan officials said.
Among those killed was Sheikh Muftah Mabrook al Dwadi, a senior Islamist figure and deputy minister of Libya's Ministry of Martyrs' Affairs, the Libyan air force said.
Col. Ali Sheikhi, a Libyan military spokesman, said the plane crashed amid "mysterious circumstances."
The Libyan air force said an engine caught fire as the plane made a gradual descent into Tunis Carthage airport and the pilot tried to land it before reaching the airport.
Libya's culture minister, speaking on behalf of the government, confirmed the death of all 11 on board and also said an initial investigation indicated one of the engines was on fire, leading the whole plane to catch fire and crash.
A plane is being sent to bring the bodies of the victims home, the minister said in a post on the official Twitter account of Libya's interim government.
The director of Libya's civil aviation authority has been dispatched to Tunis to coordinate the investigation with Tunisian authorities, he said.
"We express our condolences to victims' families and hope investigations will reveal reasons behind the crash," he tweeted.
The Libyan aircraft came down about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the capital, Tunis, near the town of Grombalia, Tunisian state news agency TAP reported.
Army units, a military medical team and civil protection workers were sent to the scene of the crash, the news agency said.
The plane was an Antonov An-26, which was flying from Mitiga Airport in Libya, TAP said.
Libyan officials said the plane, part of the country's air force, was used as an air ambulance to transport patients inside and outside of Libya.
Many Libyans are sent outside the country for treatment because of the poor state of health care in Libya. Libya borders Tunisia to the east.
China foreign ministry official Hong Lei at press conference on January 14, 2013. Chinese workers have bee abudcted by Darfur rebels in western Sudan., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
China demands Obama cancel Dalai Lama meeting
By William Wan, Updated: Friday, February 21, 9:55 AM
BEIJING — China has demanded the White House cancel a meeting between President Obama and the Dalai Lama scheduled for Friday, warning it would severely harm U.S.-China relations.
It will be Obama’s third such meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader since becoming president. Each has drawn severe criticism from China, which considers the Dalai Lama an anti-China separatist.
“The Dalai Lama is a political exile who has long been engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said in a statement Friday. “By arranging a meeting between the President and the Dalai Lama, the U.S. side will grossly interfere in the internal affairs of China, seriously violate norms governing international relations and severely impair China-U.S. relations.”
On Thursday, the White House played down the political aspect of the visit.
“The president will meet with the Dalai Lama in his capacity as an internationally respected religious and cultural leader,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden in a statement to news organizations.
“The United States supports the Dalai Lama’s ‘middle way’ approach of neither assimilation nor independence for Tibetans in China,” she said. “We will continue to urge the Chinese government to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, without preconditions, as a means to reduce tensions.”
China has long history of angry reactions to foreign leaders’ meetings with the Dalai Lama. Among its more dramatic responses, China curtailed some diplomatic ties with Britain in 2012 after Prime Minister David Cameron met the Dalai Lama.
But with the United States, China has not followed through with equally strong measures.
On Friday, hours after China issued its demands for Obama to call off the meeting, U.S. and Chinese military leaders announced separately that they planned to establish regular dialogue between their armies.
The announcement came during a visit to Beijing by Gen. Ray Odierno, the U.S. Army chief of staff.
“I have a very positive opinion on our future relationship as we develop the army dialogue,” Odierno told Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, according to the Associated Press.
Among the issues the two military leaders hope to discuss is increased educational exchanges and cooperation in peacekeeping.
Crowds took over the streets in Detroit demanding that the banks be held accountable for the financial ruin of the city. "Make the Banks Pay" the people chanted., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Court allows appeals of Detroit bankruptcy eligibility
(Reuters) - A court on Friday said it will hear direct appeals by seven groups of petitioners, including pension plans for Detroit's police and firefighters, regarding the city's eligibility for bankruptcy.
"Upon consideration of the petitions to appeal and the responses thereto, a direct appeal to this court is warranted," the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said in an order filed on Friday. It said it would not expedite the appeals for the time being.
A federal bankruptcy judge in a landmark December ruling said Detroit was eligible to pursue its bankruptcy case. [ID:nL2N0JI1QS] In his ruling, Judge Steven Rhodes said Detroit met federal requirements for bankruptcy protection primarily because it was insolvent and negotiations with its thousands of creditors were not practical.
Rhodes subsequently allowed the pension funds, city labor unions and retirees and other parties objecting to his ruling to bypass U.S. District Court and seek a hearing before the federal appeals court. However, he recommended that the appeals court reject the appeals so his court could to continue to work on resolving the city's massive financial problems.
The city was expected to file later on Friday a court-ordered blueprint detailing how it will deal with some $18 billion in debt.
The appeals took issue with Rhodes' contention that city pensions could be cut as part of the restructuring. They argued that such a move is prohibited by the Michigan Constitution, which protects public worker pensions from impairment.
The petitioners had sought an expedited hearing.
(Reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago and Steven C. Johnson in New York; editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis)
Ukrainians line up at banks due to the political crisis inside the country. Dozens have been killed in a western-backed rebellion against the government., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Ukraine's President Yanukovich declares early elections, constitutional reforms
Published time: February 21, 2014 10:54
Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich has announced early presidential elections. He also said that the constitution of 2004, which limits presidential powers, will be returned. This was one of the main demands by the opposition.
Yanukovich also said he will start the process of creating a national unity government.
The government and the opposition leaders have been negotiating a deal throughout the night, following two days of violence that has seen 80 people killed. One of the conditions for the deal’s implementation is an end to the violence that has engulfed the country.
The Ukrainian constitution of 2004 limits the powers of the president and gives more authority to the parliament.
“I declare the initiation of early presidential elections. I also invoke a return to the Constitution of 2004 with the redistribution of powers in the direction of a parliamentary republic,” says the official statement on the presidential website.
“I summon to begin formation of the government of national trust,” declared the Ukrainian president.
Ukraine opposition leader, Vitaly Klitschko, has told the German media outlet, Bild, that the united opposition is ready to sign a EU-brokered deal with Viktor Yanukovich, if the president agrees to continue talks with protesters.
"We will sign the deal," Klitschko told Bild as quoted by Reuters.
"We are prepared to do everything to obtain a peaceful solution. I told the German foreign minister I would personally appeal to protesters before signing," Klitschko said, adding that "All arguments must be considered before it comes to a signature."
The president’s ruling Party of Regions has spoken in favor of both presidential initiatives.
“We do support all the decisions of the president. This is a compromise solution,” MP Vladimir Oleinik told Itar-TASS news agency, adding that the parliamentary faction of the Party of Regions is going to vote in favor of the decision.
Oleinik stressed that such support is a step which was unimaginable yesterday, because it would have ended up with the formation of two governments, one by the president, another one by the parliament.
“That would be diarchy,” Oleinik said.
The governors of the western regions of Ukraine have come to the presidential administration in Kiev to elaborate a plan of ensuring the normal functioning of administrations in the given conditions of domestic political crisis.
“We are aiming at stopping the escalation of the conflict, ensuring public security, maintaining dialogue with the protesters, finding compromises and supporting the efficiency of emergency services,” a source in the presidential administration told the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski commented on Friday that after President Yanukovich announced his readiness to hold early presidential elections, Ukraine was at a “delicate moment.”
Earlier the Ukrainian LB.ua news outlet published the main details of the draft peace agreement between the Ukrainian authorities and the united opposition. The conciliation agreement was discussed yesterday by leaders of the united opposition and President Viktor Yanukovich.
The document specifies the major steps needed to be taken towards national reconciliation.
First and foremost it declares that the “constitutional takeover” of 2010 must be eliminated within 24 hours and the previous variant of the constitution adopted in 2004 must be returned. The document considers it necessary to “polish up” the 2004 constitution designed for the transition of Ukraine from a presidential form of government to a parliamentary one.
Formation of a new coalition government must be fulfilled within 10 days.
Official Kiev must undertake an obligation to conduct a joint investigation together with the EU of the “crimes against peaceful civilians” in downtown Kiev in December 2013 – February 2014 that took the lives of approximately 80 people.
Panic-stricken Ukrainians storm shops, banks and gas stations
Published time: February 21, 2014 11:56
Bloodshed on Independence Square (Maidan) and rumors of worst yet to come have prompted panic among Ukrainians, with many fleeing the country and those who stay emptying shop shelves, queuing for gasoline and making big cash withdrawals from banks.
The mood is a pre-war one in most Ukrainian cities, where people, afraid of the country falling deeper into economic paralysis, are trying to buy up as many essential foods and goods as they can. Fearing stampedes, some Kiev shops have started limiting the amount of shoppers at any one time.
Some shop-owners confess they are running out of stocks to refill the fast-emptying shelves, and new deliveries are not expected anytime soon amid the current turmoil.
Social media is swarming with pictures of over-crowded stores and scarce supplies.
“This is not a joke. No bread, no eggs, only expensive imported spaghetti left, huge lines and this is in a small local village shop,” Instagram user @iartemka says, adding up a #PrayForUkraine hashtag.
“People in the shops have gone mad. Huge queues, empty shelves,” Twitter user @Helen_Marlen writes.
Kiev is witnessing a mass exodus. The number of those, who left the country this Thursday is reportedly twice as many as on the Thursday of the week before. Most people are heading for Odessa, Simferopol and Kharkov, the Ukrainian cities largely loyal to the government and less affected by the turmoil, according to Airticket UA, online travel agency, cited by The Kiev Times.
"Because of the instability in Ukraine I had to dismiss my employees and leave Kiev for Moscow with my family,” a Ukrainian entrepreneur told Gazeta.ru. “I don’t think my firm will resume any activity before things get better in the country,”
With the local currency, the hryvnia, plunging to new lows with each ensuing day of the unrest, people are desperate to withdraw whatever money they can from their accounts. In many cities around Ukraine people are queuing for cash.
What is aggravating the situation is the fact that many shops have stopped accepting credit cards.
That creates fertile ground for rumors.
“They will freeze all of the accounts tomorrow, everybody’s withdrawing, people are fighting in banks,” an instagram user writes.
Banking experts are dismissing the rumors as absurd, but the people aren’t listening, preferring to get their cash out of the banks just to be on the safe side.
The shops and banks frenzy is accompanied by another one at the gas stations. Kilometer-long lines of cars can be seen waiting for fuel amid rumors of a gas shortage supply. The huge leap in demand for gas immediately led to an increase in its price.
While the panic has spread all over Ukraine, it is worst in Kiev, where fierce fighting continues. There are reports of shops being looted in the center.
Residents of the Ukrainian capital have meanwhile started forming self-defense brigades, patrolling their own houses.
"Criminals are walking around Kiev, we must defend our own neighborhoods,” Nikita, an activist from the Dneprovsky district of the capital told Ukrainian online magazine “Vesti”.
Kiev's Maidan in surreal 'Before & After' images
Published time: February 20, 2014 20:19
The blackened ruins and gaping windows of Ukraine’s landmark Independence Square have left Kiev looking like a warzone for the first time since WWII. The square has always served as a main stage for Ukrainian politics – but not a literal battleground.
Featured on every postcard, the grandiose post-war complex of monuments has been the true – if slightly touristy – heart of Kiev.
But now, the square is divided by ad hoc barricades built from paving stones, wooden debris, and tires. The iconic Trade Union building, which has served as the protesters' headquarters, was set on fire earlier this week and is now just a shell, after its floors and walls collapsed one by one.
In contrast to the normal, everyday hustle and bustle, the square is currently filled with hastily-appointed leaders deciding who mans the entrances and who is responsible for food and barricade building. But regardless of security measures, people in the area are an easy target for snipers lurking in the buildings that surround the square from all sides.
Police dressed in riot gear are stationed several blocks away, taking turns between sitting in their vehicles and patrolling the perimeter. Journalists with the world 'PRESS' written on their jackets float between the two sides, but find themselves in the crossfire once skirmishes begin.
Once the conflict ends, the square will have to be rebuilt. It may be more difficult to do the same with the country that surrounds it.
Zimbabwe Vice-President Joice Mujuru with Minister of Energy Dzikamai Mavhaire (left) and Minister of State for Masvingo Provincial Affairs Kudakwashe Bhasikiti at the Tokwe-Mukosi floods on Feb. 19, 2014 ., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Mujuru comforts flood-hit families
February 20, 2014
From George Maponga at CHINGWIZI, Mwenezi
ACTING President Joice Mujuru yesterday paid tribute to the Civil Protection Unit and other partners for working round the clock to avert loss of life at Tokwe-Mukosi following the flooding of the dam basin and downstream areas owing to incessant rains.
Cde Mujuru said a total disaster, claiming thousands of lives, could have obtained at Tokwe-Mukosi and surrounding areas had Government, through the CPU and the country’s allies from the region not speedily responded to evacuate families from the dam’s flood basin.
Addressing hundreds of families relocated from Tokwe-Mukosi at Chingwizi in the Nuanetsi Ranch after first touring the dam, Cde Mujuru said in other countries, the flooding could have claimed many lives.
“The Tokwe-Mukosi Dam was not built to bury people but to transform the lives of people through provision of irrigation water. I am happy that when we toured the dam we were not counting graves of people swept away by floods, but were witnessing the fulfilment of a dream for the people of Masvingo to finally be able to produce their own food through irrigation.’’
“I want to give special mention to our Cabinet ministers, senior Government officials, our soldiers and police officers and even all our friends from other countries such as Namibia and Mozambique who worked tirelessly to make sure that we did not lose any life at Tokwe-Mukosi.’’
She appealed to the relocated families not to despair because of the hardships they were currently experiencing saying the dam would transform their lives and make them masters of their own destiny.
“We want the whole of Chingwizi to turn into sugarcane plantations where families will be specialising in sugarcane production. We do not want you to be dependent on handouts forever.
“I want to assure you that you are not alone. We are with you and everyday we are busy planning and trying to work out ways of making your lives better. We will never abandon you.’’
She said Government would soon approach President Mugabe with a request for at least 84 000 hectares to resettle the families at Chingwizi where proper houses would be built by the State.
She said once President Mugabe has given the nod for that land to be acquired, pegging of permanent plots for the families would start immediately.
“We have already sat down and agreed that we shall approach President Mugabe upon his return this weekend with a request for land where permanent plots for the families will be demarcated,’’ she said.
“We do not want haphazard and poorly planned settlements here. We want properly planned settlements with irrigated fields at one end and good permanent houses at the other end. We want even our private companies and banks to come and assist our people here and take advantage of this situation to also grow big.’’
Cde Mujuru said that Government would ensure that no one starved at Chingwizi by providing food until families there are able to produce their own.
Earlier on Cde Mujuru was accompanied by several Cabinet ministers and Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti.
Zinwa engineers at the dam told her that they now expect to complete it in August this year.
She handed over 60 tonnes of maize and maize-meal, 20 000 litres of fuel, 2 000 packets of kapenta fish, 2 000 blankets, 4 000 packs of sanitary ware among other items donated by mainly local companies to assist the flood victims.
Zimbabwe tobacco farmers harvesting their crops in 2013. The white-dominated Commercial Farmers Union has realized that the MDC-T will not be able to form a government inside the country., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Tobacco farmers must reap their rewards
February 20, 2014 Opinion & Analysis
herald most readThe 2014 tobacco selling season opened yesterday with the first batch of the lucrative crop going for US$4,85 per kilogramme compared to US$4,50 in 2013, raising hope among farmers that they might reap good rewards from their sweat this year.
The land reform programme has recorded tremendous success in the tobacco sector, which has seen at least 90 000 farmers venturing into the growing of the golden leaf, up from about 4 000 white former commercial farmers.
As the selling season begins, we implore Government to ensure some monitoring mechanisms are put in place to ensure buyers and merchants do not fleece hapless farmers by offering ridiculously low prices.
Some unscrupulous players in the sector have a tendency of offering impressive prices in the presence of the Agriculture Minister during the official opening, but slash the prices as soon as they are gone, resulting in the situation degenerating into violence in some instances.
There are cases where merchants offer as little as US 10 or 60 cents per kilogramme to farmers for the early crop, prices that any sane farmer should reject. However, some poor farmers from rural areas, who do not have accommodation in Harare and also use hired transport, are normally taken advantage of by the merchants and surrender their crop for a song.
We call upon the Government to stop this practice because it has been happening ever since the advent of the land reform when ordinary black farmers ventured into this sector, which for decades, had been mystified and regarded as a preserve for white commercial farmers only. Our farmers need protection from this unfair practice.
The economy is under siege and the tobacco sector is one of the biggest foreign currency earner for new farmers and rural Zimbabweans who are battling to make ends meet under the backdrop of devastating and diabolic illegal sanctions that have been torturing the country for the last decade.
At least 185 million kilogrammes of tobacco are expected to go under the hammer this season, up from the 166,6 million kg sold last year and we hope the farmers are going to earn over US$600 000 cumulatively compared to last season. The tobacco sector has become one of the most effective empowerment tools for previously disadvantaged Zimbabweans, who can now independently implement their development programmes unlike in other countries where people rely on Western aid that normally comes with strings attached.
This therefore calls for our agronomists countrywide to do massive research in other provinces that were shunned by former farmers to establish if new tobacco varieties, that are being developed, do not do well in those areas so that all Zimbabweans enjoy the fruits of the land reform form programme.
If the farmers could receive up to US4.85 for lower leaves that are normally of poor grade, then prospects are huge that this year that they might earn more than the maximum price of US$5 offered at auction floors last selling season.
The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board should be commended for licensing over 20 auction floor buyers this season, compared to 15 last year and we are optimistic that farmers will get quality services as the players compete for customers.
The board also licensed 15 contractors with Mashonaland Tobacco Company, the country’s biggest contractor, licensed to buy the crop from Karoi, Mvurwi and Rusape, bringing the market closer to farmers who have been fleeced of huge amounts of money by transporters.
We would like more companies to be licensed to buy tobacco in smaller towns in the future so that they also benefit the downstream industries with the proceeds of the crop. We also want the tobacco companies operating in smaller towns to engage in corporate social responsibility and develop the areas they are tapping the lucrative crop.
There are poor roads in most districts, hospitals do not have drugs, while deforestation is threatening to turn areas into deserts and these areas that need support from tobacco companies.
We also challenge huge players in the farming sector such as fertiliser, chemicals and seed companies to establish distribution points in smaller towns to ensure the inputs are accessed at reasonable prices to reduce operating costs for farmers.
Planning is key in all businesses and we implore new farmers to ensure they immediately buy farming inputs as soon as they receive their money to avoid ad hoc planning that has cost some in the past.
Malcolm X being held by Yuri Kochiyama, supposedly being given cpr by undercover police infiltrator Gene Roberts and viewed by wife Betty Shabazz., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.Salute to Yuri Kochiyama
By Henry Hagins on February 19, 2014
With raw courage on one hand, and a comrade’s love in the other, she rushed onto the stage, literally, before the gun smoke had cleared, and cradled the head of “Our Shining Black Prince,” as he lay dying at the Audubon Ballroom, that fateful Sunday afternoon of Feb. 21, 1965. Urgently, she pleaded with her comrade and friend Malcolm X not to die, as she tried to comfort him. This heroic gesture was captured in the photo that appeared in Life magazine and once in the hardcover edition of Malcolm’s autobiography.
The oppressive state had finally succeeded in carrying out its cowardly plan, beyond contempt, that had been years in the making. A body of work out there underscores the fact that this “executive action” was government created.
Never a headline grabber, Yuri Nakahara Kochiyama has spent more than 50 years in the trenches, fighting on the illustrious side of human decency and liberation. These roots run deep and include fraternal connections to Workers World Party. And I’m sure editor Deirdre Griswold can share some awesome anecdotes about this with today’s cadre.
It is important to note that Yuri Kochiyama is of Japanese ancestry. She was born May 19, 1921, sharing a birth anniversary with the venerable Vietnamese revolutionary Ho Chi Minh and with Malcolm X, among notable others. Her numerous admirers always mention this fact with unrestrained pride. And rightly so. She is historically linked to both giants.
During World War II, the anti-Japanese internment laws led to Yuri Kochiama’s family being forced from California to a concentration camp in Hattiesburg, Ala. Child at right is one of many relocated to an internment camp.
During World War II, the anti-Japanese internment laws led to Yuri Kochiama’s family being forced from California to a concentration camp in Hattiesburg, Ala. Child at right is one of many relocated to an internment camp.
Her legendary activism spans a multitude of countries, too numerous to mention here; they include countless progressive movements and remarkable personalities. Folks still sing her praise. She is an exemplary participant in the People’s History.
Some of her signature works include supporting political prisoners like Assata Shakur, now refuged in Cuba; Black Panther Safiya Bukhari; Native leader Leonard Peltier; Lolita Lebron of the Five Puerto Rican Nationalists; David Wong; Herman Ferguson; the NY Panther 21; and, of course, Mumia Abu-Jamal.
During World War II, the anti-Japanese internment laws led to her family being rounded up in California and sent to a concentration camp in Hattiesburg, Ala. This experience further fed her developing political education about “real” life in these United States. Her sympathy and bond with the oppressed was strengthened by her desire to combat the racism and gross unfairness that her family and people faced with internment.
She was well-regarded by the late Amiri Baraka and his family, and she supported the Black Arts Movement back in the 1960s. As quiet as it’s kept, before moving to Harlem, she and her family lived in the same apartment building as jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk and his spouse, Nellie Smith Monk.
Yuri Kochiyama’s life is best recorded in two great works: “Passing It On,” an autobiography, and “Heartbeat of Struggle,” by Diane Fujino, both published by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press in 2004, and both “must reads.” Yuri Kochiyama, now over 90 and living in California, is more than worthy of prolonged applause. All of us would do well to embrace her outstanding, internationalist example.
Building set alight by protesters in Tuzla, Bosnia. People are rebelling against unemployment rates of over 44 percent., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Mass workers’ actions shake Bosnia
By Sara Flounders on February 19, 2014
Almost every city in Bosnia-Herzegovina has been shaken by a series of mass demonstrations that started Feb. 4.
Government officials have been forced to resign amid mass workers’ uprisings and assemblies in a country that was once part of the former (socialist) Yugoslavia.
Protests started in the industrial city of Tuzla.
Since Feb. 4, almost every city and even large towns in Bosnia-Herzegovina have been shaken by a series of mass demonstrations and mass assemblies calling for an end to the privatizing and looting of the remaining industry. These mass actions have forced government officials to resign.
The upsurge began in Tuzla, a major industrial city of Bosnia-Herzegovina, against the privatization and closing of formerly state-owned factories. Thousands of largely unemployed workers took to the streets and stayed in the streets in a massive and determined occupation. (BBC News, Feb. 7)
Demonstrations and mass protests quickly spread to more than 30 cities of Bosnia, including Sarajevo, the capital, and Zenica, Mostar, Jajce, Brcko, Doboj and Srebrenik. The heads of four regional cantons — Tuzla, Zenica, Sarajevo and Bihac — have been forced to resign. Government buildings were set on fire in Zenica, Tuzla, Mostar and Sarajevo.
The contrast between the imperialist posture regarding Ukraine on the one hand and Bosnia on the other indicates the different content of those two distinct struggles. Top United States and European Union politicians back the Ukraine rightists’ violence against the state, and the corporate media give the protests favorable coverage. For Bosnia there is only limited corporate media coverage of the mass assemblies and as of now no political support.
In Ukraine, once a republic of the former Soviet Union, rightist demonstrators demand alignment with the EU and NATO, the U.S. commanded military alliance. Thousands of Western supported and well-funded nongovernmental organizations and right-wing, religious and even fascist groupings — back the protesters.
In Bosnia, a country of 3.8 million people, and throughout the former Yugoslav Federation, there are few illusions that economic and political integration into the economies of the EU and U.S. imperialists will improve life.
In the two decades since the U.S. imposed the Dayton Accords, U.S. and EU imperialism has fractured the former sovereign Yugoslavia into seven puppet ministates and systematically looted it of almost all of its industries and resources. In Bosnia, the violent process of privatization and the selling off of entire industries for scrap metal has resulted in an official unemployment rate of 44 percent, with youth unemployment of over 75 percent, according to a United Nations survey a year ago. (BBC, March 4, 2013)
What has marked the recent mass actions in Bosnia is the working-class character of the demands, the calls for unity and against ethnic and nationalist divisions. This is an important departure from the chauvinist and separatist political movements that German and U.S. imperialism backed during the Bosnian Civil War of 1992 to 1995.
The current protests started in the industrial town of Tuzla after four state-owned companies were privatized and sold off after promises that Western capital investments would modernize factories. As in industries throughout the Balkans and Eastern Europe, however, the new owners quickly downsized, declared bankruptcy, moved the equipment and sold the remains for scrap, leaving workers unpaid and without jobs or pensions.
Workers who had been picketing for months against the selling of their factory took to the streets on Feb. 4 to demand a reversal of privatization and payment of their health care benefits and pensions. Thousands of workers responded in an action that grew into a mass occupation. By Feb. 7, workers had seized the government building and demanded that the local government resign. (Reuters, Feb. 7)
After the local government resigned, a mass assembly put forth a “Declaration by the Workers and Citizens of the Tuzla Canton (tinyurl.com/mrtqo2a)
The declaration called for annulling the privatization agreements, restoring production, returning the factories to workers’ control, confiscating illegally obtained property, recognition of seniority and secure health insurance for the workers, and equalizing the pay of high-paid government officials to that of workers in the public and private sector.
News of the workers’ action and the Tuzla declaration spread quickly to other cities. Graffiti and signs reading “EU Out” and “Death to Nationalism” plus red flags are the symbols in many cities. At this time the call is for unity among the ethnic groups that have been brutally divided.
A danger that this mass workers’ uprising faces is that many political operatives and Western funded NGOs and “civil society” groups will attempt to hijack the movement and refocus the mass anger. Some groups have already raised slogans calling for faster and more complete integration into the EU as the solution. Maintaining independent workers’ demands is the challenge of every revolutionary movement and spontaneous upheaval.
The other immediate threat is of U.S. and EU military intervention. A U.S./EU appointee, the “High Representative,” currently Austrian bureaucrat Valentin Inzko, oversees all the multiple layers of government in Bosnia. This appointed, foreign official holds almost absolute authority to remove any public official at his personal whim or to enforce binding decisions. This dictatorial power has functioned for two decades to create favorable conditions for foreign businesses.
That Inzko is Austrian recalls the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s rule over much of the former Yugoslavia, including Bosnia, before World War I. High Representative Inzko has ominously warned of sending EU troops to prevent Bosnians “from looting.” (Radio Free Europe, Feb. 17)
Roots of the protests
The roots of the present protests in Bosnia-Herzegovina go back to the breakup of the Yugoslav Socialist Federation, which was based on the socialist idea of “brotherhood and unity” among the distinct nationalities of six republics and two autonomous provinces.
In 1991, the imperialists recognized separatist demands for independence from the Yugoslav Federation by right-wing nationalist groups in Croatia and Slovenia. As in Syria today, the U.S., German and French governments funded chauvinist militias and separatist movements to inflame ethnic and religious differences. In multiethnic Bosnia this spiraled into a devastating civil war. Bosnia’s Serbian-origin population was especially targeted and demonized. The resulting civil war ripped apart relations among the many nationalities of the Yugoslav Socialist Federation.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. imperialism was particularly anxious to justify the expansion of NATO, a U.S. commanded military alliance, into Eastern Europe. The wars in Yugoslavia, especially the civil war in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995, were the immediate pretext for NATO’s expansion.
In 1995, the Clinton Administration carried out 3,515 bombing sorties against Serb targets in Bosnia, declaring that this was a “humanitarian war,” and then forced the various sides into “Peace Talks” in Dayton, Ohio. The Dayton Accords stationed a U.S./NATO force of 60,000 in Bosnia.
Claiming that the only way to end “ancient ethnic hatreds” was to set the most divisive ethnic relations in stone, the U.S. created a totally fragmented and powerless political landscape.
The Dayton Accords established in Bosnia two autonomous regions, the Muslim Croatian “Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina” and in two separate pieces, a Serbian “Republika Srpska” (not to be confused with the neighboring country of Serbia). The Federation was divided into ten cantons, each with a full-fledged government, and one separate city, Brčko District, which officially belongs to both entities but is governed by neither.
Over the entire convoluted structure is an appointed “High Representative” who can overrule any law passed by any of the 150 competing ministries. The entire structure was built in order to keep those who actually live in Bosnia as far away as possible from the political process.
In 1999, after 78 days of NATO bombing in the neighboring Republic of Serbia, the province of Kosovo was ripped from Serbia and thousands of NATO forces were stationed in five separate segments of Kosovo. This was once again colonial reconquest through endless fragmentation.
Today’s mass actions are challenging the violence of corporate looting, ruin and desperation. Can this new movement stay united and focused against EU and U.S. corporate power? Will it be able, through united actions of all the nationalities, to raise the struggle to get NATO out of Bosnia and out of the Balkans?
This is a big challenge. But the demands and example of the workers in Tuzla may become a new chapter in the long history of resistance in the Balkans. Only a united workers’ movement can challenge imperialist division and ruthless capitalist exploitation.
Sara Flounders, who was in Yugoslavia with an International Action Center solidarity delegation during the 1999 US/NATO bombing, is a co-author and editor of the books “NATO in the Balkans: Voices of Opposition” (IAC, 1998) and “Hidden Agenda: U.S./NATO Takeover of Yugoslavia” (IAC, 2002).
Former political prisoner Atty. Lynne Stewart with Ralph Poynter and Dolores Cox at a fundraiser for Stewart on Feb. 14, 2014. Stewart was recently released from federal prison., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Love and liberation for Lynne Stewart
By Workers World staff on February 19, 2014
By Dolores Cox and Sara Flounders
WW photo: Brenda Ryan
New York — Some 500 people gathered here at St. Peters “Jazz” Church on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, to celebrate the Dec. 31 release of 74-year-old people’s lawyer Lynne Stewart from maximum security at Carswell Federal Medical Center prison in Fort Worth, Texas, after four years behind bars.
Many of those gathered had packed courtrooms, signed petitions and attended demonstrations for Lynne Stewart over the past 12 years following her arrest in 2003, during her nine-month trial in 2005 for writing a press release and since her harsh resentencing in 2010. For the past year, they have mobilized to fight for her “compassionate release” based on the existence of 4th stage cancer.
Besides celebrating, Stewart’s supporters aimed to raise funds for her urgently needed medical care, as she was told she must wait six months before she becomes eligible for Medicare and medical care cannot begin until she is enrolled.
The highlight of the evening was the talk by Lynne Stewart herself, urging unity and increased support and solidarity for all the many political prisoners. Waves of a standing ovation and cheers greeted her. Several times during the evening, Stewart, sitting facing the audience and smiling and laughing, came to the podium to add her own comments and memories.
There were speakers and representatives from many social justice organizations, a special tribute to political prisoners and a phone message to the meeting from political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Stewart read one of her favorite poems by Seamus Heaney and commented on how it spoke to her. She spoke briefly about her health, her commitment to that struggle and to the ongoing struggle to free all political prisoners. But her sense of humor was also still evident.
Stewart’s spouse, Ralph Poynter, worked to coordinate the evening in the same hands-on way that he has kept the defense efforts alive for her during her four years in federal prison.
Stewart’s family, her children and her grandchildren also participated, along with many people she has defended in past trials.
The event was streamed on CPRMetro.org radio and WBAI Pacifica Radio.
It was a successful and festive event. And donations were generous; however, Lynne Stewart is still in need of support. She can be reached by mail at the Lynne Stewart Organization, 1070 Dean St., Brooklyn, NY 11216. For information on how to help, go to the LynneStewart.org website.
Clashes with anti-military protesters in Egypt resulted in two deaths on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. Despite the claims of the military regime unrest continues throughout the North African state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Cairo University takes measures to pre-empt campus violence in 2nd semester
Ahram Online, Wednesday 19 Feb 2014
150 students have been expelled from university dorms, professors who worked in the presidential team of Mohamed Morsi are be interrogated, and security campus trained, says head of Cairo University
Ahead of the beginning of the new academic year, postponed two weeks to start 8 March, head of Cairo University Gaber Nassar announced several decisions, including expelling students found to have been involved in violence from university dorms, and referring professors previously working with ousted president Mohamed Morsi to interrogation.
Cairo University witnessed last semester months of clashes between supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi and security that left one student dead and hundreds injured. Nassar's own son, meanwhile, was stabbed by unknown assailants who he announced to be Morsi loyalists.
In statements to media, Nassar said Wednesday that Cairo University decided to expel 150 students from the university dorms for involvement in acts of violence.
Nassar also stated that professors who worked in Morsi's presidential team would be referred to interrogation for not getting a permit from the university before embarking on their work.
The professors include Abdallah Shehata, Yasser El-Serafy of the Law Faculty, Pakinam El-Sharkawy and Seif Abdel-Fattah of the Political Science and Economics Faculty, and assistant professor Sarah Lotfy, also from the Faculty of Political Science and Economics.
Nassar also announced that the Supreme Council of Universities agreed on signing a protocol with the interior ministry to train security on campus. According to this agreement, police will also be available outside university gates to allow university administrative security to work on campus in times of security threats.
He underlined that the university will apply Article 184 of the University Regulations Law recently amended and approved by the presidency that states that any student found involved in acts of violence can be expelled after sufficient investigations.
The Supreme Council of Universities approved last month the addition of the article allowing university heads to expel students involved in acts of sabotage or terrorism, reported Al-Ahram's Arabic news website.
Meanwhile, Nassar also assured that necessary precautions are being taken to limit the spread of flu amid a recent spike in cases of swine flu in Egypt. A doctor and medical team are always available on campus, he said.
Egypt's death toll from the swine flu outbreak since December has reached 52 according to the most recent health ministry statement.