Pan Africa Newswire
Filomena Delgado, Angolan Minister of Family and Gender Affairs. She attended a regional summit in Mozambique in February 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Sadc elections 2014: Case for gender parity
March 12, 2014 Opinion & Analysis
The regional elections are being held one year before the 2015 deadline for Sadc to attain the target of 50:50 representation of men and women in key decision-making positions.
The holding of elections in Southern Africa and the rest of the African continent has always created some interesting reading.
Not short of eye-catching headlines and commentaries, focus is usually on the ruling party’s election campaign to deal with service delivery and unemployment, as well as what the opposition say are the shortcomings of that government.
Little is reserved on other pressing issues such as the need to facilitate gender parity in political decision-making positions.
For example, the Sadc Gender Monitor 2013 notes that participation of women in decision-making structures across the region is low, despite the fact that women make up the majority of voters.
All Sadc member states are signatories to various regional, continental and international instruments that promote gender equality and empowerment, yet most of them continue to have fewer women in political decision-making positions.
Therefore, as the region anticipates at least five national elections this year, there is need for stakeholders to focus more on how Southern Africa could address some of the challenges affecting gender equality and parity.
The five elections in South Africa on May 7, Malawi on May 20, Botswana in October, Mozambique on October 15, and Namibia in November are very strategic as these are being held one year before the 2015 deadline for Sadc to attain the target of 50:50 representation of men and women in key decision-making positions.
According to the Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development signed in 2008 and entered into force in early 2013 after ratification by two-thirds of the signatories, Southern Africa should achieve 50:50 representation of men and women in key decision-making positions by 2015.
Only five Sadc countries are significantly close to the target of parity in parliament, having gone above the 30 percent threshold set previously by regional leaders for representation of women.
These are Seychelles (43,8 percent), South Africa (42,3 percent), Mozambique (39,2 percent), the United Republic of Tanzania (36 percent) and Angola (34,1 percent).
Zimbabwe, which introduced a quota system under the new Constitution, now has 31,5 percent representation in the National Assembly.
The average representation of women in parliament is well short of the 50 percent target agreed under the Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development, even though it is on the increase from 20,6 percent and 23 percent in 2005 and 2011 respectively to 25,8 percent as of mid-2013.
In terms of representation of women in cabinet, only South Africa has surpassed the previous 30 percent target, but more women in the region now hold a wider range of ministerial portfolios such as foreign affairs, home affairs, defence, finance, education, health, and trade and industry.
The forthcoming elections in the five Sadc countries should thus aim at consolidating the gains and improving the achievements.
Increasing women representation in political decision-making positions is necessary as it also advances the rights of children.
However, participation of Southern African women in key decision-making positions may only remain at the parliament, cabinet or judiciary levels as a few women are expected to contest in the presidential elections to be held in 2014.
These are Malawian President Joyce Banda, who became the first woman president in Sadc after succeeding Bingu wa Mutharika, who died in 2012.
She will be contesting against Peter Mutharika, brother to the late Bingu. In Malawi, the president is elected directly by the voters.
Helen Zille, leader of South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance, is another woman who is expected to contest against incumbent Jacob Zuma of the ANC.
Gender equality is firmly rooted in Sadc’s regional integration agenda and member states support the fundamental principle that both women and men must be equally engaged in decision-making at all levels and in all positions of leadership.
Dr. Charity Dhliwayo is the Acting Governor of the Zimbabwe Reserve Bank., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Fidelity owes gold producers US$50m
March 12, 2014
Tinashe Makichi Business Reporter
RESERVE Bank of Zimbabwe subsidiary Fidelity Refineries and Printers owes local gold producers about US$50 million dating back to the hyperinflation era when the company stopped operating.RBZ Acting Governor Dr Charity Dhliwayo said the debt has since been assumed by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development which will settle all payments “soon.”
“Fidelity owes local gold producers US$50 million accrued mostly during the hyperinflation era and efforts are being made to repay the money.
“The debt has been assumed by the Government and evidence is being presented to Ministry of Finance and Economic Development,” Dr Dhliwayo said.
She said payments are going to be made soon in order to restore confidence among the gold producers.
Most big gold producers were reluctant to sell their gold despite a Government directive that Fidelity is now the sole buyer of the yellow metal.
However, companies like Caledonia Mining Corporation have already sold gold worth over US$3,8 million to Fidelity Printers although it is still owed about US$4 million dating back to 2008.
Dr Dhliwayo said Fidelity Printers has secured enough funds to purchase all the gold produced in the country.
Fidelity Printers and Refiners purchased 969kg of gold in January this year alone after the unit resumed its role as the sole buyer of gold in the country and the gold has been bought mainly from primary miners.
“Fidelity has the capacity to refine gold and offer competitive prices. They can buy all gold from primary and artisanal miners.
“At present Fidelity is buying 100 percent of gold from primary mines and we wish to extend our buying to small scale miners,” Mrs Dhliwayo said.
All gold purchases at Fidelity are funded from retained funds and bank borrowings.
The resumption of gold refining at Fidelity is expected to pave way for Zimbabwe’s re-admission to the London Bullion Marketing Association.
Early this year Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa said plans were in place to make sure gold production is improved in the country through repayment of money owed to producers by Fidelity Printers.
Joyce Kazembe head of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission with ZEC chief inspector Mrs. Jane Pamhidzirai at a press conference in Harare on March 11, 2014. They will hold a post-election conference., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
ZEC to hold post-election conference
March 12, 2014
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission will next week hold a three-day post-election review conference to deliberate on key issues relating to the conduct of the 2013 harmonised elections, Chief Elections Officer Mr Lovemore Sekeramayi said yesterday.
He told journalists in Harare that the conference would discuss lessons learnt from the elections and what needed to be done to improve the conduct and management of the country’s elections.
“The objective of the conference is to focus on the role of ZEC as the main institution responsible for the management of elections in the country, the focus will also be devoted to the role it played during last year’s referendum and harmonised elections,” Mr Sekeramayi said.
“As we may all be aware that the 2013 referendum and harmonised elections were the culmination of the political process under the auspices of the GNU and we are also aware that the 2013 elections were held under the new Constitution of Zimbabwe and adopted following the referendum which was held in March 2013.
“What the commission intends to do is to sit down with all the stakeholders in the electoral process and review the conduct of the ZEC referendum and the harmonised elections.”
The conference, which will run from March 19–21, will bring together key national, regional and international stakeholders such as constitutional bodies, civil society organisations, media, political parties, development partners and representatives from the Sadc Electoral Commission Forum, African Union and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.
Issues to be discussed include preparations and conduct of the 2013 elections, Zimbabwe’s electoral legal framework and the environment and its capability to support the running of harmonised elections.
Citizens’ participation and conduct of election monitors and observers will also be discussed.
“We are holding this for the first time as we try to build our nation and strengthen the Commission’s role in managing the country’s electoral process. The conference will assess how the elections were managed by ZEC and would be looking at the full electoral cycle, the pre-election period, the election period and the post-election period,” Mr Sekeramayi said.
The AU, Sadc, Comesa, the African Caribbean and Pacific countries and the rest of the progressive world endorsed the elections as free, fair, peaceful and credible while the Anglo-Saxon alliance that conceived and sponsored the MDC-T refused to give a thumbs-up in the wake of MDC-T’s crushing defeat.
In the final reports, the AU, Sadc, Comesa and ACP countries made a number of recommendations to help improve the conduct of elections in the country.
Diamond polishing workers in the Southern African state of Zimbabwe. The country is a large repository of gems., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Pay up, diamond mining firms told
March 12, 2014
Tendai Mugabe and Lloyd Gumbo
Zimbabweans yesterday urged all mining companies to honour their pledges and operationalise the 59 Community Share Ownership Trusts launched by President Mugabe over the past three years.
The funding is in line with Statutory Instrument 114 of 2011, which requires mining companies complying with indigenisation and empowerment regulations to dispose shares to designated entities, with at least 10 percent of the shareholding going to CSOTs.
Government sources yesterday said the Office of the President and Cabinet wanted all mining companies to honour their pledges.
Community Share Ownership Trusts were established in terms of Section 14B of the Economic Empowerment (General) Regulations of 2010 which provide that local communities whose natural resources are being exploited by any ‘‘qualifying business’’ must be guaranteed shareholding in such business.
The analysts spoke in the wake of divergent comments on the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust launched by President Mugabe on July 25 2012 where all the five companies operating in the area pledged to contribute US$10 million each to the Trust.
Last week, the mining companies told Parliament that they were not aware of the Marange-Zimunya CSOT and had not made any pledges towards its implementation.
Social commentator Mr Godwine Mureriwa said the diamond mining companies had no choice but to comply with the law.
“It is not a question of what they pledged, but it is mandatory for them to give to the communities,” he said. “Zim Asset is very clear about the need to empower indigenous Zimbabweans and to indigenise the economy.
“President Mugabe has been consistent about the need to make sure locals benefit from mineral resources. People should realise that mineral resources do not reproduce. They must cater for current and generations to come.
“They should not take those things lightly. If they can’t fulfil that then I do not see why Government should be tolerant. They must know that there is competition out there. We have to be fair in sharing profits from diamonds by ensuring that communities benefit.”
Zanu-PF spokesperson Cde Rugare Gumbo said there was need to set up a taskforce that would establish facts about the Trust.
“The position is that we feel there should be a thorough investigation of what transpired so that facts can speak for themselves,” he said.
“The problem is that at the moment there is so much speculation which results in unfortunate judgments. The companies are making those allegations, but the minister has also said what he has said.
“We want to avoid a situation where people rush to make statements which they cannot substantiate.”
University of Zimbabwe lecturer Dr Charity Manyeruke said ignorance of the law was no defence and the mining companies should comply with the law.
“We are not worried about the past, now that they know the law, they should meet their obligations,” she said.
“They have an obligation to pay because that is the process in the whole indigenisation and empowerment process.
“We have seen it happening in Zvishavane, Unki and Chegutu, among other areas.”
Dr Lawton Hikwa from the National University of Science and Technology said the mining companies made the pledges in terms of the law and they should implement what they agreed on.
He said failure to honour the pledges was defying the country’s laws and measures should be taken.
“If they are now saying they did not pledge, it is a clear defiance towards the application of the law,” he said.
“If others have implemented it, why should some make excuses?”
Former Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere yesterday cleared the air, saying the launch of the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust was done above board and all responsible ministries were involved and represented at the launch.
However former Mines and Mining Development Minister Dr Obert Mpofu – who on Monday said he was not aware of the existence of the Trust – remained non-committal yesterday.
“Talk to the miners (diamond companies). I am Minister of Transport (and Infrastructural Development). Why don’t you talk to the minister of Mines (and Mining Development?)
“These are official issues. Miners have already spoken, so what else do you want?” he asked.
Although his response suggested that he was in agreement with the mining companies in Marange, he participated at the launch of several CSOTs launched by the President.
He attended the launch the Chegutu, Mhondoro-Ngezi and Zvimba Community trusts in 2011 where he said the mining sector had failed to transform into meaningful direct benefits to communities.
At the launch of seven community share ownership trusts in Hwange by President Mugabe in October 2012, Dr Mpofu said chiefs from Matabeleland North, especially in Victoria Falls, had approached him to express concerns over the destruction of crops and human lives by elephants and lions in their areas.
Minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister Francis Nhema could not be reached for comment, but an official at the ministry who spoke on condition of anonymity said the ministry had since instructed the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board to establish the reasons for the conflicting facts coming from the diamond mining companies and the ministers.
“What the ministry wants is to get facts. There is now confusion on what happened because of these conflicting statements,” said the source.
“NIEEB will be expected to get certificates if any or minutes of what transpired during those alleged meetings.”
Cde Justice Mayor Wadyajena (Gokwe-Nembudziya legislator – Zanu-PF) who chairs the Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Parliamentary Committee yesterday said they would produce a report and present it to the House.
“The committee will produce a report and submit it to Parliament and not to any minister, the Press or anyone else,’ he said.
“The committee advises the press to contact Minister Kasukuwere or any other minister they wish to seek clarification from.”
He was also there at the launch of seven CSOTs by President Mugabe in October 2012.
Incumbent Minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Francis Nhema could not be reached for comment but an official at the ministry – speaking on condition of anonymity – said they had already instructed the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board to establish the reasons for the conflicting facts coming from the diamond mining companies and the ministers concerned.
“What the ministry wants is to get facts. There is now confusion on what happened because of these conflicting statements.
“NIEEB will be expected to get certificates, if any, or minutes of what transpired during those alleged meetings,” said the senior ministry official.
Zanu-PF legislator for Gokwe-Nembudziya Cde Justice Wadyajena, who chairs the Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Parliamentary Portfolio Committee, yesterday said they would produce a report on their findings during deliberations on the diamond saga.
“The committee will produce a report and submit it to Parliament and not to any minister, the Press or anyone else.
“The committee advises the Press to contact Minister Kasukuwere or any other minister they wish to seek clarification from them,” he said in an emailed response to questions from The Herald.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Lavrov urges Kerry to respect Crimea’s right to independently determine republic’s fate
Russia March 11, 19:43 UTC+4
Russia's Foreign Minister urged US Secretary of State “to take into account the interests of all Ukrainians and all regions in order to search for ways to overcome the crisis
MOSCOW, March 11. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday to discuss different aspects of settling the situation in Ukraine.
Lavrov urged Kerry “to take into account the interests of all Ukrainians and all regions in order to search for ways to overcome the crisis and respect Crimean residents’ rights to independently determine their fate in compliance with the norms of international law”.
“The foreign ministers of both countries exchanged views on proposals put forth by Russia and the USA to ensure civil peace and accord in Ukraine,” the Russian Foreign Ministry reported.
Lavrov and Kerry “agreed to continue close consultations over Ukraine”, the ministry said.
Providing US financial aid to illegitimate authorities in Ukraine is unlawful, and it goes beyond the US legal framework, Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The US should consider possible consequences of reckless indulgence of radical elements with Nazi overtones in Ukraine and financial support [of such elements], the ministry added.
A Russian army officer helps armored personnel carrier in Sevastopol, Ukraine's Black Sea Port. The United States supported fascist coup is raising tensions within the region., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Crimea, democracy and responsibility
The West, as usual, has painted itself into a corner by instigating a movement it did not understand or know how to control, a movement that predictably turned into a monster rejected by so many of its "citizens". Now how democratic is it to state that the result of a free and fair referendum will not be tolerated?
The involvement of the west in the Putsch which overthrew Viktor Yanukovich is very clear to see, even at the level of personnel protesting in EuroMaidan (Independence Square) in Kiev, principally at the level of financing and advice behind the scenes from the famous NGOs (sorry, "agencies"). As usual, the west recognized the "new Government" in a predictable show of force for what?
For a start, the Putsch which placed Oleksandr Turchynov as Interim "President" was unconstitutional because the entire process did not follow the norms established under the Ukrainian Constitution. Many deputies of the Party of Regions were not present in parliament, there was multiple voting using absentee members' cards (illegal under reforms brought in by Yanukovich), so the Parliament did not have the Constitutional right to oust the Prime Minister and sack the judges of the Constitutional Court, the two legal bodies which had the powers to perform the substitution process, under four conditions, none of which were present. In any case, the coercion, threats of violence and murder against deputies during the process must surely render it void, even if all the norms of the Constitution were followed (in the event none of them were). Obama knows this, Cameron knows this, Hollande knows this.
Therefore any claim that a process of independence or autonomy following a referendum in Crimea is void because it is anti-Constitutional, is equally void when the "Government" of Ukraine itself is anti-Constitutional. And since the Government of Ukraine at present is not Constitutionally based, then any norms governing any new declaration of deliberation by the Parliament of the Republic of Crimea (a Republic within Southern Ukraine) regarding independence, are meaningless. Currently, Article 135 of the Ukrainian Constitution dictates that any Crimean Constitution must be approved by the Ukrainian Parliament.
Let us move on to the other argument, that a Referendum does not a country make. And now let us ask a question. When Britain uses a referendum on nationhood in the Falkland Islands, when it declares that ninety-nine per cent of the Falkland Islanders voted in a referendum to remain a British territory and not become an Argentinian one, where are the dissenting voices among the NATO countries now howling in disdain over Ukraine?
So, if a referendum serves London and its allies to dictate the status of the Falklands Isles, how come the situation is suddenly different when it comes to Crimea? If the process is void in one place, then what is the point of holding it in another and using it as a political justification for status and policy?
Let us then see the west's reaction to the most open and clear demonstration and manifestation of democracy, a collective will, shown in a referendum which is not only free and fair but which also garners massive public support. We see that the west is happy to use the word and notion of democracy in its carrot-and-stick modus operandi as it panders to the whims of the banking, weapons, drugs and energy lobbies which pull the strings of the politicians around whom they close ranks.
Yet when democracy, real democracy, is on the other side, the west cries blue murder and states that a referendum (a massive demonstration of public will) is insignificant. For the west, as we have seen time and time again, public will is indeed insignificant, as is its word and the promises it makes.
It comes as no surprise therefore to learn that the west was quick to shake hands with the "new Government" of Ukraine, which includes a deputy secretary of the Council for National Security who has allegedly boasted about links to al-Qaeda, the same one who fought alongside Chechen terrorists against Russia; it includes Right Sector Fascists who worship the Third Reich; it includes officers trained in the USA; it includes founders of the Ukrainian National Socialist (Nazi) Party.
And Obama, Cameron, Kerry and Hague take sides with this motley bunch and against a collective expression of will through a referendum? That speaks volumes about their own stance regarding democracy and paints their political epitaphs, does it not?
Russia, on the other hand, has acted within the law and is simply protecting the rights of ethnic Russians in a country now run by Fascists, and the first thing they did was to demote Russian language and culture as part of their new policy. After the kidnappings, rapes, murder and torture carried out by Fascist thugs against ethnic Russians in Kiev and western Ukraine, what was Russia supposed to do? Stand back and watch?
Ukraine jumped the gun by staging a Putsch, the west jumped the gun by instigating it and by recognizing Fascists and terrorists as Government, knowing that the shootings in Kiev were perpetrated by snipers who were firing at the police and at the protesters, to blame the police. If anyone has to be punished for recklessness, it is the "new Government" of Ukraine and its western supporters. The price? The Crimea. If it stops there, a shot will not have been fired.
Ukraine police have been clearing debris from demonstrators who have occupied the streets for weeks. Reports indicate that fascist pro-western groups are behind the unrest., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.Ukraine: US Launches a Fascist Government - and World War Three?
On Wednesday 5th March, Ukraine's Putsch "Prime Minister" Arseniy Yatsenyuk, arbitrarily sacked three senior Defence Ministry politicians, Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Oleynik, with Deputy Defense Ministers Vladimir Mozharovskiy and Arturo Francisco Babenko. According to Itar-Tass (6th March) they had drawn Yatsenyuk's ire by expressing: "sharp criticism over giving the Right Sector militants the status of regular military units."
A contact of the publication stated that one of the three had also: "told Yatsenyuk that actions of today's Kiev authorities in overtures with radical nationalist organizations would destroy national unity" and that it was simply: "harmful to involve the state military agency in such dangerous games." Their stand resulted in "management reshuffles" - in the country in which Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland has stated that the US has invested $5 Billion: "in the development of democratic institutions and skills in promoting civil society and a good form of government" and "democratic institutions."(1)
So far US multi-billion democracy-building via the man of whom Nuland opined to the US Ambassador to the Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt: "I think Yats is the guy ..."(2) has all the hallmarks of becoming a mirror of the historic tragedies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and being plotted via further humanitarian horrors committed by their proxies in Syria. Additionally the Nobel Peace Laureate American President appears to have reignited the Cold War, laid to rest with such joy across the world as the Berlin Wall fell just over 24 years ago, on the 9th November 1989.
However, if the US Administration's choice as a democratic Prime Minister is scarily woeful, the man who would be President, Dmitry Yarosh, is nothing short of astonishing. As Julie Levesque has written in a meticulous, jaw dropping article: "Dmitry Yarosh, leader of the Maidan Brown Shirts (is) on an international wanted list and charged with inciting terrorism.
"Under the new government, Yarosh is leader of the Neo-Nazi Right Sector delegation to the Ukraine Parliament. His close friend and political partner Andriy Parubiy co-founder of the Neo-Nazi Social-National Party of Ukraine (subsequently renamed Svoboda) was appointed by the new government to the position of Secretary of the National Security and National Defense Committee (RNBOU), a key position which overseas the Ministry of Defense, the Armed Forces, Law Enforcement, National Security and Intelligence. Right Sektor leaders Yarosh was appointed to the number two position at RNBOU." Levesque asks: "Have the Neo-Nazis cornered Ukraine's National Security agenda?".
The answer would appear to be a rapidly accelerating affirmative, with Robert Parry stating that Neo-Nazis are now in charge of four Ministries and: "some ten 'oligarchs' mostly run the show in shifting alliances, buying up media outlets and politicians, while the vast majority of the population faces a bleak future, which now includes more European-demanded 'austerity' ..."(4)
Meanwhile the stand-off over the Crimea continues. Train tickets between Kiev and Crimea have been suspended by the latest government shoehorned in to the latest "new democracy."
In neighbouring Russia, as the Sochi Paralympics opened with a spectacular ceremony, President Obama, Prime Minister Cameron, Chancellor Angela Merkel and their parties hurled their collective toys from their prams and failed to attend. Another chance to make peace not war in what should be the Olympic spirit, also willfully thrown away.
The opening theme was "Breaking The Ice," and "the importance of breaking down barriers and stereotypes ..." a popular 1990's Russian song called "Good-bye America" played as the Russian team closed the parade.
However for all the US posturing, Gallop shows President Putin's popularity rating at a consistent 67.8% an endorsement of which his American counterpart could only dream, fluctuating between 38% to 42%.
As this ends news comes through that the US is to send fighter jets and personnel to Poland and Lithuania by Thurday, the US Navy destroyer, the USS Truxton, one of the largest destroyers ever built for the US Navy, has crossed in to the Black Sea for "exercises" with the Bulgarian and Romanian navies (5) there are mass protests in the south and east of Ukraine about the "self proclaimed" government in Kiev and America has unleashed a possible World War Three.
Somebody in the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, please demand the return of that ill awarded Peace Prize.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich at press conference in Russia on February 28, 2014. The leader was overthrown by a United States engineered coup., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Yanukovych: Dark forces in Kiev want to unleash civil war
Anarchy in Ukrainian grows, while Kiev wants to unleash a civil war in the country, said Viktor Yanukovych. At a press conference on Tuesday, March 11, Yanukovych announced that he was the only legitimate President of Ukraine.
"The towns are patrolled by masked men with armbands. They fire top army officers - those who show resistance and do not want to use armed forces in the south-east of the country against the civilian population. Just think about it - they want to put the army under the banner of Bandera and launch a civil war," he said at the press conference.
According to Yanukovych, "dark forces in Kiev want to have armed forces of militant nationalist organizations involved, they want to give them weapons."
Viktor Yanukovych gave the press conference in Russia's Rostov, but said that he was going to return to Ukraine as soon as there was such an opportunity. He assured everyone that he was not going to resign. Moreover, Yanukovych will remain the Supreme Commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Yanukovych said that the presidential vote in Ukraine, which is to take place on May 25th, was illegal. He also referred to US laws that prohibit the funding of illegal governments. He is going to address to the US Congress, Senate and Supreme Court of the United States with a suggestion to assess illegal actions of American authorities.
"The usurpers of power will hold me, or even Russia accountable for what is happening. But I have nothing to do with that. Cutting pensions, wages and allowances is unbelievable. We are having hard times these days, the Crimea is separating, but we can survive this mess, and the fooled people will come to their senses," he concluded his speech.
Russian armored personnel carrier deployed amid rising tensions in Crimea on the Black Sea. Ukraine has experienced a pro-European and United States fascist coup., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Crimea parliament declares independence from Ukraine ahead of referendum
March 11, 2014 10:30
The parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea has adopted an independence declaration from Ukraine which is necessary for holding a March 16 referendum.
“We, the members of the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the Sevastopol City Council, with regard to the charter of the United Nations and a whole range of other international documents and taking into consideration the confirmation of the status of Kosovo by the United Nations International Court of Justice on July, 22, 2010, which says that unilateral declaration of independence by a part of the country doesn’t violate any international norms, make this decision,” says the text of the declaration, which was published by the Crimean media.
The document was adopted during an extraordinary session of parliament.
78 of 100 members of the parliament voted in favor of the declaration.
The Crimean parliament’s vote to become an independent sovereign state paves the way for the March 16 referendum for the Crimean Autonomous Republic and the city of Sevastopol to join Russia.
If the referendum is in favor, the Crimean authorities will request for their country to become a constituent republic of the Russian Federation.
The declaration was signed by the speaker of the Supreme Council of Crimea, Vladimir Konstantinov, and the head of the Sevastopol City Council, Yury Doynikov.
“We adopted the declaration of independence to make the upcoming referendum legitimate and transparent,” Konstantinov said.
“Now we declare ourselves the Republic of Crimea, we don’t add ‘autonomous."
After Tuesday’s declaration of independence, Crimea will never rejoin Ukraine, Konstantinov added.
“Crimea won’t be a part of Ukraine even if the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovich, returns to power,” he said. “The country where we lived doesn’t exist anymore. We are going our own way and we’re trying to do it quickly.”
Konstantinov said that Crimea will adopt the Russian ruble as its currency soon after the referendum.
Meanwhile, Crimean authorities are preparing for Sunday’s poll, says the speaker of the Supreme Council of Crimea. He reiterated that he believes the referendum will be passed.
“The ballots for the referendum are being printed and the election committees are being formed in all parts of Crimea," he says.
Seventy-seven percent of people in Crimea and Sevastopol will vote to join Russia in the March 16 referendum, according to the poll conducted by Crimea Republican Institute of Political and Sociological Research.
Eighty-five percent of people in Sevastopol, a city with a special status located on the Crimean peninsula, believe that it should join Russia.
According to the poll, 97 percent of the population of Sevastopol and Crimea negatively view the situation in Ukraine regarding the Kiev coup-imposed government, while 84 percent say that Ukraine is experiencing a crisis.
A total of 83 percent of the population of Crimea disapprove of the coup-appointed government in Kiev, the poll found.
Russian President Vladimir Putin overseeing military drills. Russian military forces are preparing for the possibility of further United States backed destabilization efforts in Ukraine., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
NATO starts air drills close to Ukraine's borders
March 11, 2014 15:58
NATO has begun wargames in Poland as recently dispatched US jets are set to take part in the exercises. Poor weather has delayed naval maneuvers in the Black Sea, with the US saying both drills were planned before the outbreak of unrest in Ukraine.
The air drills began on Tuesday at the Lask Air Base in central Poland. Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski was present as the exercises commenced, standing by as four Polish F-16s lifted off. A US Hercules transport plane landed with support staff, while at least 12 US F-16 fighter jets and 300 personnel are due to arrive by Thursday.
Komorowski, without directly naming Crimea, said "events to the east" provided a reason to protect military spending in an age of austerity.
"I hope events to the east of the Polish border, which is also NATO's border, will encourage tough decisions regarding Polish security," Reuters cites him as saying.
The decision to deploy the US jets followed a phone conversation between US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his Polish counterpart Tomasz Siemoniak on Sunday. Washington insisted the air exercise was planned long in advance, though Siemoniak maintains the exercise was to have been smaller, only involving transport aircraft.
Following recent events in Crimea, however, Siemoniak asked the Pentagon to send fighter jets instead.
"This was our request," Reuters cites Siemoniak as saying at a Polish Rocket Defense site. "We really appreciate that the reaction was that quick and significant."
On Monday, NATO also gave the green light to Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) for reconnaissance flights over Poland and Romania in order help monitor the crisis in Ukraine. The planes are slated to fly from their home airbases in Geilenkirchen, Germany and Waddington in Britain, from where they will cross Romanian airspace on Tuesday.
That follows a decision made by the US last week to send a KC-135 aerial refueling plane and six F-15 fighter jets to Lithuania to bolster NATO’ air patrol over Baltic airspace. Those ships will reinforce four F-15s, which arrived on January 1 to fill NATO’s Baltic Air Policing rotation. The rotations is scheduled to end April 30.
Baltic allies had requested the assistance amid a growing standoff between Ukraine and Russia on the Crimean Peninsula. Following the deployment, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the modest US military deployment should be viewed as “concrete steps to reassure our NATO allies.”
Meanwhile, strong winds and high seas have caused the US and its NATO allies Bulgaria and Romania to delay the naval portion of its military exercises by 24 hours, the Bulgarian defense ministry said.
“The weather is now improving, the sea is not that rough and I don't expect another postponement," Reuters cites Lieutenant-Colonel Dimitar Titev as saying.
Washington said both the air drills and the joint Black Sea exercises with Romania and Bulgaria, which were delayed due to bad weather, were scheduled long before crisis struck Ukraine.
On Saturday, US Navy destroyer, the USS Truxtun, crossed Turkey's Bosphorus strait and entered the Black Sea. The ship, with around 300 crew, was heading to “previously planned” training exercises with the Bulgarian and Romanian navies. The exercise is not expected to entail any live-fire component.
The USS Truxton, one of the largest destroyers ever built for the US Navy, had been expected to visit the Bulgarian port of Varna March 12-14. However, Titev said he was presently unable to predict what its estimated time of arrival would now be as a result of the inclement weather.
The Bulgarian naval frigate Drazki, and three Romanian naval vessels will take part in the drill, which will be held in international waters southeast of the Romanian port of Constanta. Constanta lies about 220 miles from the Crimean port of Sevastopol, where Russia's Black Sea fleet leases a base.
The exercises come as the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea adopted an independence declaration from Ukraine which precedes a referendum slated for March 16.
The United States says it will not recognize the referendum on Crimea, while Russia’s State Duma has said it will only debate the issue of Crimea joining Russia only after the referendum takes place.
The crisis first erupted on February 28 when forces with no national insignia occupied airports and other strategic locations in Crimea. The West says the troops are under Russian control, a claim Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied. Local authorities have said the troops belong to local 'self-defense squads'. Under a current agreement with the Ukrainian government, Russia is allowed to have 25,000 troops stationed on the Crimean Peninsula.
Washington has accused Moscow of committing outright military aggression in Ukraine, while Russia denies invading the region, saying any action would take place within a framework of international law to protect Russian citizens from attack.
Putin said that Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine would take place only as a “last resort.”
Hopes of a diplomatic solution to the crisis were severely dampened after Kerry decided to cancel a visit to Moscow on Monday to discuss the issue with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
Central Intelligence Agency operatives have destroyed at least two tapes documenting torture against detainees. The admission has prompted an investigation., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
CIA accused of spying on Congress over torture report
March 11, 2014 13:29
The Central Intelligence Agency secretly removed classified documents from a computer system used by Congress, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) said Tuesday morning, and may have violated the United States Constitution as a result.
Feinstein — the chair of the United States Senate Intelligence Committee — critiqued the CIA’s supposed conduct on the floor of the US Capitol Building early Tuesday in Washington, DC, and said that the agency’s alleged actions may have violated the constitutional principle of congressional oversight, as well as both the Fourth Amendment and a presidential executive order that prohibits the CIA from engaging in domestic search and surveillance.
The chairperson’s unexpected remarks early Tuesday came amid multiple requests for the Department of Justice to investigate allegations of misconduct between the chairperson’s panel and the secretive spy agency.
According to the Associated Press, Sen. Feinstein said the CIA improperly searched a stand-alone computer network at the agency’s Langley, Virginia headquarters that was put in place so that Intelligence Committee staffers could view sensitive documents.
As RT reported earlier, the CIA and Senate Intelligence Committee has been at odds in recent weeks after congressional staffers were accused of removing a draft document without authorization from the Northern Virginia facility while at work on an investigation pertaining to the agency’s use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques during the George W. Bush administration. The Senate committee finished their 6,300-page, $40 million study on the CIA’s torture program in late 2012, but the agency has yet to approve of a completed draft.
Previously, the CIA said someone affiliated with the Senate’s investigation took a document in violation of a user agreement between both parties. Members of Congress fired back, however, and accused the CIA of spying on Senate staffers in order to make such a determination.
On Tuesday, Sen. Feinstein threw her weight behind those allegations and said she had "grave concerns that the CIA's search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the US Constitution.”
There is “no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime,” Feinstein said, adding that she viewed the CIA’s request for an investigation as a “potential effort to intimidate this staff.”
“I am not taking it lightly,” Feinstein said.
Following her remarks, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) told the Washington Post: "In 40 years here, it was one of the best speeches I'd ever heard and one of the most important.”
"There is no one who has more courage and conviction than Dianne Feinstein,” added Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nevada).
John Brennan, the current director of the CIA, spoke of the scandal during a previously-scheduled discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations later Tuesday morning.
“[W]e are not in any way shape or form trying to thwart” the release of the torture report, Brennan said.
With regards to allegations that the CIA “hacked” into the Senate-used computer, Brennan said: “Nothing can be further from the truth.”
“We wouldn’t do that,” Brennan said. “That’s just beyond the scope of reason.”
Shortly after, White House press secretary Jay Carney said during a news briefing that Pres. Barack Obama "has great confidence in John Brennan and confidence in our intelligence community and in our professionals at the CIA."
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, speaking on RT worldwide satellite television news on the current situation in Libya. Azikiwe is a frequent guest of several international media outlets., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Neo-Colonial Regime in Libya Faces War Over Oil Exports
Saadi Gaddafi extradited from Niger cannot get fair trial three years after Pentagon-NATO bombings
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
On March 19, 2011, the United States and allied NATO war planes began a massive bombing campaign against the North African state of Libya. Under the guise of protecting the lives of civilians, the imperialist war machine was unleashed onto a country of six million people.
Three years later the conditions for working and oppressed people in Libya is back to where it was under the monarchy of King Idris I who was installed by the Italian colonial regime which ruled the oil-rich nation between 1911-1951. Col. Muammar Gaddafi along with the Revolutionary Command Council overthrew the feudal system on September 1, 1969 and proclaimed Libya as a genuinely independent territory in solidarity with oppressed and struggling people throughout the world.
During the period of the Jamahiriya, the political system under Gaddafi after 1977, Libyan development strategies had created the highest standard of living of any other country in Africa. Libya’s support for national liberation movements and progressive governments around the world made it a target for successive U.S. administrations from Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan, who bombed Tripoli and Benghazi on April 15, 1986, to the current Obama government which justified the war in 2011 and created the conditions for the brutal assassination of Gaddafi.
Libya was producing 1.6 million barrels of oil per day during the Gaddafi era where today the flow of crude has been reduced to a near trickle. Disgruntled rebel factions and oil workers have shut down the ports in the east of country.
Since mid-2013 the situation has reached crisis proportions with threats by militias based in the eastern region where the counter-revolution against the Jamahiriya began in Feb. 2011. These eastern-based rebels have pledged to export oil without the permission of the U.S.-backed regime in Tripoli, the capital, in the western region of the country.
Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and his weak constituency inside the so-called General National Congress (GNC) parliament do not have control of the strongest militias in the east. Even within the capital itself, the GNC parliament is often invaded and taken over by angry rebels who complain of payless paydays and other conditions prevailing under the existing political dispensation.
North Korean-flagged Tanker Threatened
Exemplifying the oil crisis, a standoff arose at the Es Sider terminal on port Ras Lanuf over the loading of a North Korean-flagged tanker. The Zeidan government in Tripoli warned the rebels at the eastern ports that they would destroy any vessel sailing away from Libya with oil shipments unauthorized by Tripoli.
Reuters news agency reported that “Libya's parliament has ordered a special force be sent within one week to ‘liberate’ all rebel-held ports in the volatile east, officials said on Monday, raising the stakes over a blockage that has cut off vital oil revenues. The rebels, who have seized three ports and partly control a fourth in the OPEC member country, said they had dispatched forces to deal with any government attack.” (March 10)
One eastern-based militia leader said "We have sent land forces to defend Cyrenaica to the west of Sirte ... and we also have boats patrolling regional waters," Essam al-Jahani, a member of the rebels' leadership group, told Reuters. The potential for a full blown military conflict between the forces loyal to the GNC in Tripoli and other western cities and the militias in the east are accelerating.
Later on March 10 another publication reported that a “Spokesperson for the General National Congress (GNC) Omar Hmaiden confirmed to the Libya Herald that the tanker, named Morning Glory, had been intercepted and was now being escorted to Misrata port. A shipping source said the tanker set sail with members of federalist groups operating under Ibrahim Jadhran on board. Morning Glory successfully sailed a few miles away from the coast before there was an exchange of fire with Libyan vessels.” (Libya Herald)
Much speculation has surrounded the North Korean-flagged vessel. It was not clear at the time of this writing whether the tanker was actually owned by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) or another country.
Nonetheless, by emphasizing that the oil tanker was North Korean-flagged the western press could be attempting to justify the aggressive stance taken by the regime based in Tripoli. Washington maintains a hostile position against the DPRK where it conducted joint military exercises recently on its borders with occupied Korea in the South.
Saadi Gaddafi Sent Back to Libya From Niger
Another son of the late Col. Gaddafi was extradited by the French and U.S.-backed regime in Niger. Saadi Gaddafi, a professional soccer player, had taken refuge in Niger in the aftermath of the collapse of his father’s government.
Niger is a major producer of uranium where the facilities are owned by the Areva firm based in France. At present the U.S. maintains a drone station in Niger as well as hundreds of Special Forces.
The Libyan rebel regime in Tripoli says that it will put Gaddafi on trial for alleged crimes committed in Benghazi during the early days of the counter-revolution in 2011. Saadi Gaddafi, unlike his brother, Seif, who is being held by a militia group in Zintan, is not wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Even though the ICC has a warrant out for the arrest of Seif al-Islam, the Netherlands-based entity, which focuses almost exclusively on African leaders, has backed away from any conflict with the GNC regime in Tripoli over the ongoing detention and possible trial of Gaddafi’s oldest son and political successor. Although Seif has been held by the rebels for over two years, he has still not been brought to trial.
Judicial institutions in Libya are virtually non-existent. Violence and targeted assassinations take place frequently without legal redress. Under such circumstances no top leaders of the previous government could get a fair and impartial trial.
The current social and security situation in Libya is a manifestation of the failure of Washington, London and Brussels in their regime-change project for Libya. Having flown 26,000 air missions over Libya between March and October of 2011, and deploying Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives along with Special Forces units from the allied regimes in Egypt and Qatar, these events have resulted in the destruction of any semblance of normality and stability inside the country.
It will take the organized will of the Libyan people to stabilize the country through a revolutionary movement designed to overthrow the U.S.-backed clique in Tripoli and other regions of the country. Several towns and cities in the South of Libya were seized by loyalist forces in recent months that are still committed to the Gaddafi-era form of politics and economics.
Based upon developments in Libya over the last three years it is quite obvious that the imperialist states which engineered the overthrow of the previous Jamahiriya government have no program for the reconstruction and unity of the once prosperous and respected state. Other states from Ukraine and Syria to Venezuela and Cuba are facing similar challenges necessitating a clear anti-imperialist stance on the part of progressive and left organizations based in the western industrialized states.
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, at the Detroit Bead Museum on the west side during September 2008. (Photo: Omorose), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.U.S. Political Prisoner Marshall Eddie Conway Released After 44 Years
Many more await justice absent of a general amnesty
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Baltimore Black Panther Party member Marshall Eddie Conway was released from 44 years of imprisonment on March 4. Conway had been a target of the FBI Counter-intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) which sought to destroy the revolutionary African American movement in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s.
Conway had maintained his innocence over the decades and while in prison had administered programs that assisted youth inmates coming into the system. His release has been welcomed by veterans of the Black Liberation Movement and younger activists.
The release of this former Panther organizer illustrates the injustice of the U.S. political and legal system but also draws attention to the fact that there are many other political prisoners detained inside a country which claims to be the citadel of democracy across the world. In addition to exposing the continued detention of hundreds of political leaders and activists, the release of Conway places in stark reality that the U.S. overall has the highest per capita prison population in the world.
After his release from prison Conway said that "I am filled with a lot of different emotions after nearly 44 years in prison. I want to thank my family, my friends, my lawyers and my supporters; many have suffered along with me." (Truth-Out, March 5)
The circumstances surrounding Conway’s arrest and consequent conviction was described as follows: “On the night of April 21, 1970, two Baltimore police officers, Donald Sager and Stanley Sierakowski, were shot as they responded to a domestic disturbance call. Sierakowski was wounded seriously, and Sager died of his wounds. Two members of the Black Panther Party, Jack Ivory Johnson and Jackie Powell, were apprehended close to the scene soon after the shooting. Other police officers spotted a third African-American man and chased him for several blocks as the man fired back at them, finally escaping. A police officer later testified that the man he chased and who shot at him as he fled was Marshall Eddie Conway, a prominent Panther activist in the community.” (Truth-Out, March 5)
Due to the federal government hostility towards the Civil Rights, Black Power and Black Revolutionary movements of the period it was almost impossible for Conway and other leading Panthers and members of organizations such as the Republic of New Africa (RNA) to get fair trials. Hundreds of leading activists were framed in the courts and sentenced to long prison terms.
Many other members of the Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army (BLA) were assassinated between 1968 and 1973. Figures such as Bobby Hutton, Fred Hampton, Mark Clark, John Huggins, Alprentice Bunchy Carter, Spurgeon Jake Winters, Malik Zayd Shakur and many more sacrificed their lives to the struggle.
Many more were driven into exile in Cuba, Algeria, China, Tanzania and other countries. People such as Robert Williams, Assata Shakur, Nehanda Abiodoun and Don Cox spent years in exile. Today other political prisoners such as Mumia Abu-Jamal, Sekou Odinga, Mutulu Shakur, Leonard Peltier, Oscar Lopez Rivera, the MOVE 9, the Cuban Five (now three), continue to remain imprisoned suffering torturous conditions.
Impact of the COINTELPRO Project on the African Liberation Struggle
Of course the targeted assassinations, unjust imprisonment, forced-exile and political neutralization of leading organizers and spokesperson within the African American Civil Rights, Black Power, Black Revolutionary and Pan-African movements would have a detrimental effect over the decades. A culture of resistance which was a continuation from the colonial and antebellum slave periods to the 1960s and 1970s came under assault both through the might of the state and the utilization of psychological warfare technics in the corporate media and the educational system.
This manifests itself in the current ideological struggle within the African American community. There should be a re-opening of a discussion on how to rejuvenate the movement to win a general amnesty for all political prisoners held captive by the U.S. government. Until justice is brought to these cases it will not be possible to rebuild the type of revolutionary movement needed in the 21st century to effectively challenge national oppression, capitalist exploitation and imperialist war.
The ruling class is waging an intensified class war against the oppressed and working people of the U.S. They, the ruling class, are themselves facing the worst economic and political crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
This crisis becomes political when the pundits for the Wall Street bankers have no solutions to the most burning and pressing issues of the day i.e., mass poverty, unemployment, environmental degradation, quality housing, education, etc. They must recognize themselves that the capitalist and imperialist system is based solely on the oppression and exploitation of the vast majority of humanity around the world.
Nonetheless, the key to the historical advancement of the African American liberation struggle for self-determination, independent nationhood and full equality is the recognition that the current system is incapable of providing the necessary solutions. A system of self-organization, the equal distribution of wealth and the end to imperialist war is only alternative to the mad race to the bottom engendered by capitalism.
Marshall Eddie Conway, right, with Paul Coates of Black Classic Press.
Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast for Saturday March 8, 2014--Hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, spoke to a standing room only audience in Boston on the role of imperialism in Africa. The lecture was in honor of African American History Month on Feb. 22, 2014., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.For Immediate Release
Tues. March 11, 2014
Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast for Sat. March 8, 2014--Hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe
To listen to this broadcast hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, just click on the website below:
International Women's Day, March 8, is being celebrated throughout the world to honor the contributions of women to world history and contemporary affairs. Today women are playing larger roles in modern civilization, nonetheless, the struggle for true equality and self-determination continues in the 21st century.
The offensive carried out by the United States and the European Union against the nations of Ukraine and Russia is continuing. The parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea voted to join Russia in light of developments in Kiev. A referendum on the issue will be conducted later in the month.
A recent round of violence in the Republic of South Sudan was sparked by the preferential treatment awarded to the military forces from neighboring Uganda. Meanwhile the South Sudanese security forces have reported that a huge weapons cache was uncovered in an United Nations convoy.
Finally, questions are being raised about the capacity of the administration of Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza in resolving the internal security crisis inside the mineral-rich state. Attacks against the Muslim population are ongoing while the UN has authorized the deployment of thousands of more foreign troops.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir attends the opening session of the Arab Summit in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, March 29, 2009. The president was issued an arrest warrant by the ICC. The action has been rejected by the AU and the Arab League., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
TUESDAY 11 MARCH 2014
Arab League rejects continuation of US sanctions on Sudan
March 10, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Arab League Ministerial Council has reiterated at the end of its 141st regular session on Monday rejection for the continuation of the US economic sanctions on Sudan.
The Pan-Arab body stated in its resolution titled “the unjust embargo imposed on Sudan by the US” to the negative impact of the sanctions on the civil aviation security and safety regarding spare parts and purchase or lease of airplanes.
The council also stressed in a separate resolution titled “Supporting peace and development in the Republic of Sudan” its support for the Sudanese government’s stance with regard to the implementation of cooperation agreements signed with South Sudan besides backing Sudan’s negotiating position in resolving border issues including the contested Abyei area.
The council also called upon member states and the international community to meet international pledges to shore up Sudan’s economy and cancel its external debts following secession of South Sudan.
It welcomed the peace accord signed between the Sudanese government and the rebel Justice and Equality Movement/Bashar (JEM-Bashar) on April 6 2013, underscoring the need for non-signatory rebel groups to join the peace process.
The council further called upon Arab states to exert efforts with the United Nations (UN) and the international organizations to ensure that rebel groups don’t get aid and support and convince them to join the peace process.
It praised the role of the Arab League general secretariat and its efforts to address the humanitarian situation in Darfur through the joint mechanism.
The council also called upon member states and the Arab investment and finance funds to activate the resolutions of the extraordinary meeting of the economic and social council which was held in Khartoum on January 20, 2014.
It stressed importance for expanding tasks of the joint mechanism between the government of Sudan and Arab League general secretariat in order to continue its efforts at the humanitarian and developmental levels throughout the country.
The council agreed to include the support for peace and development in Sudan as a permanent item in the agenda of Arab League ministerial council.
Hilde Johnson, director of the United Nations Mission to South Sudan (UNMISS), has been asked to resign by Juba. The UN is under fire for a weapons cache found in a convoy., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
TUESDAY 11 MARCH 2014
Calls for UNMISS boss to resign after weapons seizure
March 10, 2014 (RUMBEK) - The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has faced heavy criticism after security agents intercepted a weapons shipment in Lakes state, with calls for boss Hilde Johnson to stand down.
Officials seized an assortment of firearms and military uniforms in Lakes state capital Rumbek on Thursday after intercepting 11 UN trucks en route to Unity state.
UNMISS said the cargo was transported due to labelling error and was intended for its Ghanaian peacekeepers recently deployed as additional forces in the country following the mid-December outbreak of violence.
However, authorities allege the items were being transported secretly to aid rebels fighting in Unity state, and have now instituted an investigation into the matter.
“There were all type of weapons, ammunition and blankets. Those items were on route to Unity state and rebel-controlled areas,” a senior military official told Sudan Tribune, without providing further details.
In a press statement released after the incident, UNMISS said that the error occurred after several containers with weapons were inadvertently labelled as ‘general goods’, describing the mistake as “regrettable”.
“It is the policy of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan that during the crisis in South Sudan all arms and ammunition for peacekeeping contingents are flown into respective areas of deployment and not taken by road. This is an important security measure,” the statement said.
Lakes state MP Taban Abel Aguek said Johnson must stand down, saying the mission’s mandate had gone from supporting the host government to supporting rebel actors seeking regime change.
Aguek said the evidence was irrefutable and that Johnson must accept responsibility for the error committed under her leadership.
“We have got all the proofs. The trucks we have got here and labelled [by the] UN and whose waybill is properly signed as ‘construction materials’ were found to contain not even single bag of cement. What they contain there are war weapons, not peace keeping weapons. The excuse [the] UN now gives does not marry up with any reality on the ground,” he said.
“Hilde Johnson has tarnished the name and image of [the] UN. If Hilde Johnson does not resign, after what we have seen now in Rumbek, then even UNMISS will have no meaning,” he added.
Paul Dhel Gum, acting minister of information and telecommunication, said his Warrap state government condemned UNMISS’ involvement in the transportation of arms to rebel areas.
“[The] Warrap state government and the entire population of Warrap state condemn with strongest terms possible the barbaric act of UNMISS in the recent attempt to smuggle arms to rebel areas in Unity state,” Gum said in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune.
Gum said the latest incident was among a series of deliberate violations against the sovereignty of South Sudan.
“It has become clear now that [the] UN is responsible for the escalation of war and suffering of the people in South Sudan by taking sides. The possession of land-mines, anti-aircraft and anti-tank [weaponry] shows clearly that the weapons were for rebels in Unity state,” he said, adding that the use of heavy weaponry had not been agreed by the government.
Warrap shares a border with Unity state and as such all the loads passing through its territory are subject to screening and security checks, even if they belong to humanitarian movements.
Relations between the South Sudan government and UNMISS have been increasingly fraught in recent months, with president Salva Kiir accusing the agency of seeking to take over the young country, although he later softened his stance.
TUESDAY 11 MARCH 2014
S. Sudan advocacy group decries conditions in UN camps
March 10, 2014 (KAMPALA) – Rally for Peace and Democracy (RPD), an indigenous non-governmental entity in South Sudan has openly decried the worsening conditions in the various United Nation camps sheltering the displaced people.
RPD, In a statement to Sudan Tribune on Monday, claimed children were daily dying from causes related to undernourishment, waterborne and airborne diseases.
The organisation mainly attributed the worsening conditions in the camps to what it described as “continued targeted killing” of citizens, while cases of acute food shortage have reportedly persisted thus aggravating the situation.
“Most of IDPs reported that their food security situation in the camps is deteriorating further and that their repeated complaints are falling on deaf ears! It is mid-Summer in South Sudan. Heat rages ominously in Juba, Bor and Malakal, where the greatest count of Internal Displace Peoples,” its statement reads in part.
“Domestic flies, mosquitoes and cockroaches infest the camp dwellings as the rainy season almost approaching. This has driven fear for reason of high morbidity and fatality caseloads of bacterial diseases – bloody and watery diarrhea (dysentery), malaria, typhoid, pneumonia and warm infestations,” it added.
The local entity, in its report, also the daily patient workload, which it says was simply too overwhelming for the few medical personnel serving in the camps. “Sanitary facilities constructed for the IDP camps are not only unsightly, but horribly unhygienic disease traps,” it observed.
Unconfirmed reports also cited some insecurity concern within the UN facilities, with RDP highlighting an incident in which armed government security forces allegedly ransacked the makeshift toilets erected outside the perimeter fence of the IDP camps in Juba.
“This obviously worsened the condition and the over forty thousand displaced persons have to scramble for toilets and bathroom shelters. This sadistic, heartless act of the security forces is evidence that the government wants the IDPs dead at all costs”, the organisation stressed in its report.
Recently, it said, some hard-hearted armed security personnel feeling no restrain, shot randomly inside the camps, killed and wounded the IDPs, further warning of the consequences of “ominous government media propaganda that the IDPs are rebels.”
The organisation, however, urged the United Nations to consider finding a more radical solution toward mitigating the escalating crisis at the IDP camps.
“It [UN] should be borne in mind that on top of the unspeakable sanitary, health and living conditions, the camps are fast becoming insecure and too dangerous, armed conflicts between disgruntled securities,” it noted.
Stephane Dujarric, the new spokesman for the UN Secretary-General told a briefing on Monday about the continued influx of those displaced from Jonglei state into Upper Nile’s Melut county.
"Local officials also highlighted food shortages in the area that are causing tensions with local communities," Dujarric said in a statement.
Up to 75,000 South Sudanese, according to the UN, are currently being sheltered in eight of its camps within the country, with the numbers expected to rise.
Meanwhile, several of those displaced told Sudan Tribune they were forced to flee the UN premises due to the ill-treatment from security forces in the country.
Nyakuoth Thuok, a 30-year old mother of five children says she was forced to flee the UN camp in South Sudan due of fear from ethnicity cleansing that erupted in mid-December last year.
“Our lives are always under threat from enemies whenever some of us go out from this camp. So we have decided to stay in this camp for our safety,” she said, adding that most women and children feared to return home due to alleged continued killings in Juba.
Makuil Betiem, another displaced citizen said most women and children were suffering a lot from hunger, despite the small ratios delivered by aids workers.
“Most of us received support from international aids agencies, but a time this assistant does not reach all of us. What is given is not enough for the whole family at a times it takes long for distribution among people which is life threatening,” he confessed.
He also claimed that shootings of those displaced at UN camps was the order of the day, but insisted this was a clear message for those affected to flee.
About 10,000 people have reportedly been killed and nearly a million displaced in the country’s worst-ever violence outbreak since it seceded from Sudan in July 2011.
Former SPLM officials who were held in detention hold press conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia amid peace talks. The ruling party is deeply split., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
TUESDAY 11 MARCH 2014
South Sudan rebels deny forming ‘interim cabinet’
By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
March 10, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) - Chief negotiator of the SPLM/A-In-Opposition, Taban Deng Gai, on Tuesday dismissed reports alleging that South Sudanese rebel leader, Riek Machar has formed an interim government-in-waiting under his leadership.
In a press statement extended to Sudan Tribune Monday, Gai downplayed the reports which were recently disseminated in South Sudanese online discussion forum.
According to the rebel top negotiator, the intention was to tarnish the image of the SPLM-In-Opposition group and its leader Machar.
He blamed President Salva Kiir’s government and his "die-hard supporters" of intentionally circulating those "fabricated" information as part of their attempts to discredit the ongoing revolution that has erupted on mid December.
"The intention of the regime is ostensibly to upset the spirit of the growing number of our supporters, especially from the Greater Equatoria and Greater Bahr-el-Ghazal regions," said Gai.
The alleged ’interim cabinet’ named 21 ministerial post holders’ which is same number to that of the current cabinet.
Rebels said the fabricated would-be cabinet is said to comprise mainly of Nuer ethnicity to give it a tribal tone.
"This is of course false and mere smear politicking," said Gai.
He said some people who received this email, have began to show sign of despair and to lose hope but he called up on South Sudanese not to be misled by what he said were cheap propaganda.
The SPLM/A-In-Opposition "hereby assures its body of sympathizers and the entire citizenry of South Sudan that it has not even met officially to form any movement structures, as it is giving the ongoing peace talks mediated by IGAD a chance," he stated.
The rebel official further stressed they believes strongly in democracy and that the SPLM-In Opposition leader Riek Machar Teny "would not be falling into the same cheap and undemocratic methods of Salva Kiir of ruling by decrees".
Gai, however, expressed the group’s willingness to sign the Declaration of Principles in the peace talks, which includes a provision for a popularly-elected interim government.
"We are, therefore, aware that forming any government at this early stage is ambitious and unwarranted," he added.
Other members of the rebel group in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, told Sudan Tribune that the next government will be formed by all South Sudan political parties will be part of the interim arrangement.
The rebels said they are looking for democracy and equal participation of all political parties in determining the future of South Sudan where fundamental principles of human rights, justice, equality and prosperity for all is guarantee.
TUESDAY 11 MARCH 2014
Thousands attend SPLM rally in S. Sudan’s Yambio
March 10, 2014 (JUBA) – Thousands of people attended a rally on Saturday organised by the Youth League of South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the Western Equatoria state capital, Yambio, calling for peace and unity.
The rally was led by a delegation that included deputy speaker of the national legislative assembly, Daniel Awet Akot, and three top party members of the political bureau.
Youth League chairman Akol Paul Kordit called on youth to reject tribalism and unite under the umbrella of peace and unity.
The youth leader also blasted the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) for interfering in the country’s internal affairs and accusing the body of smuggling arms to rebel forces.
In a well-received speech, Kordit called for youth to avoid hart words and tune for tribalism within the society of South Sudanese.
He also cautioned the UN to be more careful in its handling of sensitive matters in the country, calling on the body to respect the sovereignty of South Sudan.
“Those dying in South Sudan are not white people, they are black people from South Sudan – we are the nation, although we are very poor nation, you [must] respect [our] sovereignty,” he said.
An estimated 10,000 people have been killed and close to a million people displaced after political tensions erupted in violence in mid-December. The conflict has pitted forces loyal to the Salva Kiir-led government against rebels aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar, who was removed from his position in July last year.
Kordit urged South Sudanese youth not to get caught up in the cycle of war, saying that while rebel leaders sent their families abroad, the country’s poor were left to bear the brunt of the suffering.
“Do not allow yourself to join [a] war because [of] those people. The leaders of [the] rebellion [do] not have their children or women present in South Sudan to suffer with you – they are fighting [the] government and poor families such as children and women in South Sudan are suffering here and the rebellion leaders send their children and women outside the country for a better life,” he said.
“Our mothers, children, elderly people and youth are seeking for development and not war without objective – we need education, health and agriculture and not war,” Kordit continued to wild applause and cheers from the crowd.
He described Machar as “a master of messes”, accusing the rebel leader of being involved in a cycle of killings since 1991.
“Our public in rural villages of South Sudan are thinking where to get a meal for a day, not who to kill per day like comrade Riek Machar, [who] has chosen to killing innocent people without reason,” he said.
State SPLM chairperson Jemma Nunu Kumba and governor Joseph Bakasero were also in the attendance at the rally, which was held as a show of support for the elected government and to help promote harmony within the communities of Western Equatoria.
Catherine Samba-Panza and François Hollande during the imperialist leader's visit to Bangui on Feb. 28, 2014. France has thousands of troops inside the CAR., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
10 March 2014
Last updated at 09:28 ET
BBC World Service
Central African Republic: UN launches human rights probe
The United Nations has launched a human rights investigation into the violence in the Central African Republic.
Inquiry head Bernard Acho Muna said he hoped the presence of investigators in CAR would help prevent a genocide.
The UN Security Council ordered the inquiry in December to identify suspects who could be prosecuted for the violence.
Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict between Muslim and Christian militias.
The UN's World Food Programme says that about 1.3 million people - a quarter of the population - are in need of aid.
Some 7,000 troops - from France and African countries - have been mandated by the UN to help restore order.
"We have to put an end to the impunity," said Bernard Acho Muna, the Cameroonian judge who is heading the inquiry, Reuters news agency reports.
He said the "hate propaganda" in CAR was similar to that in Rwanda before the 1994 genocide that killed about 800,000 people.
"We don't wait until genocide is committed and then we call for prosecution," Mr Muna said at a press conference in Geneva, before heading for CAR.
"I think it is in our mandate to see how one can stop any advances toward genocide," he added.
Tens of thousands of Muslims have fled as Christian militias have stepped up their attacks since the forced resignation of CAR's first Muslim ruler, Michel Djotodia, in January.
Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza, a Christian, has appealed for an end to the bloodshed, but with little success.
The militias claim to be taking revenge for atrocities committed by mainly Muslim rebels after Mr Djotodia seized power in March 2013.
Many Muslims have crossed the borders into neighbouring Cameroon and Chad, while thousands more are living in camps inside CAR.
CAR is rich in gold, diamonds and other natural resources but decades of unrest and mismanagement have left most of its people stuck in poverty.
A French military convoy rolls through the Central African Republic. Violence has continued after the forced resignation of Michel Djotodia., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Christian militias take bloody revenge on Muslims in Central African Republic
Children are reportedly targeted by Christian anti-balaka gangs set up in wake of attacks by Muslim Seleka rebels
David Smith in Bangui
theguardian.com, Monday 10 March 2014 10.51 EDT
They brought in the bodies one by one, laying them down on a white sheet concealed behind a flimsy black curtain. Among them was a man, probably in his 20s, his head twisted leftward, the skull dented on one side and cracked open on the other. The others also had fatal head injuries that stained the sheet crimson. The first flies began settling on the five corpses.
In the courtyard outside, voices were raised in anger and bewilderment. Mothers in pink and purple hijabs sobbed and wailed and a middle-aged man, possibly unused to naked shows of emotion, sat and gently wept.
Finally the iron gate of the mosque was thrown open and the mourners surged forward to gaze at the dead. An imam, donning a plastic smock over his white robe, prepared to wash them while another man began cutting cotton shrouds for the day's burials.
The macabre scene in an area known as PK5 has become almost commonplace in Bangui, the humid and decaying capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), where Muslims are under siege. It has also been played out in towns and villages in the west of the country, redrawing the demographic map.
Muslims came here to trade in the early 19th century and made up 15% of the CAR's population a year ago, but since then untold thousands have been killed or displaced or have fled to neighbouring countries. The UN said last week that while 130,000 to 145,000 Muslims normally lived in the capital, Bangui, the population had been reduced to around 10,000 in December and now stood at just 900.
Amnesty International has called it "ethnic cleansing" and warned of a "Muslim exodus of historic proportions".
As Africa prepares to mark next month's 20th anniversaries of the Rwandan genocide and the end of South African apartheid, what is happening in this long-neglected state is a reminder that forgiveness and reconciliation are easy words but hewn from rock over generations. Christian militias freely admit that theirs is an exercise in vengeance, an eye for an eye, and they will not stop until they have "cleaned" the country of Muslims.
On Monday, UN human rights investigators in CAR announced they would investigate reports of genocide.
The seeds were sown in March last year when the Seleka, a largely Muslim rebel group, seized Bangui in a coup, installed the country's first Muslim president, Michel Djotodia, and terrorised the majority Christian population, killing men, women and children.
In response, predominantly Christian forces known as the anti-balaka (balaka means machete in Sango, the local language) launched counterattacks against the Seleka and perceived Muslim collaborators.
International pressure forced Djotodia to step down in January and soon the Seleka, who once strutted confidently about the capital, were retreating north where they continue to persecute Christians. But as the anti-balaka gained the advantage elsewhere, village after village lost its Muslim population, their homes looted and mosques razed to the ground. The turning of the tide has left many Muslims feeling bitter towards French peacekeepers and the new president, Catherine Samba-Panza, a Christian.
Bangui neighbourhoods such as PK5, once thriving with Muslim businesses, now resemble ghost towns. On a recent Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of market stalls and small shops were empty and deserted as a body lay in the road and gun-toting African peacekeepers patrolled in an armoured vehicle. Down side streets there were vehicles piled high with personal belongings. It is estimated that the Muslim population has dropped from around 7,000 to just 1,000 here.
At the mosque where the five bodies lay, there was rage, coupled with confusion over whether the anti-balaka or Burundian peacekeepers were responsible for the deaths. "It is happening every day," said Abdouraman Saudi, 45, who has lost numerous businesses. "If you're Muslim and you try to leave PK5, you're a dead man. It's a prison."
He vowed: "For me, it's finished. From today, we will not be the victims because we will attack the Christians. We are going to defend ourselves. From today with the international community, we don't care. We are not protected by them so we will attack them also."
In another largely Muslim neighbourhood, PK12, families camp out in grass and mud with buckets, carpets, mattresses, discarded rubbish, cooking pots over charcoal fires and a constant fear of lobbed grenades. Convoys that try to get out of here must run the gauntlet of taunting Christian mobs. In one incident, a Muslim who fell from a vehicle was summarily lynched. In another, five children suffocated in an overcrowded truck and were found dead when the convoy arrived at Bangui's military airport.
Ibrahim Alawad, 55, a lawyer, pointed to a trench and fresh burial mounds and said he had buried a 22-year-old student hours earlier. The area's population had shrunk from 25,000 people six months ago to 2,700 today, he said, while four mosques had been destroyed. "They're not killing the Muslims, they're sweeping them. Imagine someone wants to kill you, roast you on the fire and eat you. It's the hell of the hell. There are no living conditions here."
French peacekeepers stood by at a near checkpoint but there was growing Muslim hostility towards them too. "Our problem is the French," Alawad said. "They are the white anti-balaka. It's like Rwanda, they want to do it again, but we won't let them."
No amount of Muslim suffering appears to elicit mercy from the anti-balaka, who believe they are meeting a fitting punishment for the crimes of the Seleka. Dr Jean Chrysostome Gody, director of the country's sole paediatric hospital, which is supported by Unicef, recalled: "I saw mothers whose children had been killed or injured and they had hate in their heart."
As the anti-balaka responded, he added, children were no longer caught in the crossfire but deliberately targeted. "There were bullets in the heads and chests of children. It's not possible they were there by accident. It's as if people are trying to finish off another race. It's about extreme revenge and it's brutal."
One anti-balaka base is nicknamed "Boeing" because it is within close sight and sound of air traffic at Bangui airport. In a clearing shaded by trees amid modest mudbrick houses, six of the militia men sprawled on two squashy sofas. One wore a Barcelona football shirt with the name Messi on the back; another carried a bow and arrow; several had machetes. When a French patrol comes to disarm them every few days, they hide their weapons in the bush.
Forgiveness is not in the lexicon here. Sebastien Wenezoui, 32, a civil engineer, said he helped instigate the anti-balaka after his parents and brothers were killed by the Seleka and their house torched. "I was shocked. Today you can see my feelings in what I'm doing now. I had to express myself. If you were me, would you be comfortable with those things?"
Asked if he felt this justified the killing of innocent women and children, Wenezoui replied: "For me it's a response to what the Seleka have done. They started killing our children and wives and destroyed our homes. Revenge is good sometimes and bad sometimes. But we have to do it."
Wenezoui expressed no regrets about the Muslim exodus. "I'm not sad at all because when Seleka took power the Muslims, who were our best friends, were the ones destroying the houses and killing people. It's a kind of lesson. They acted like betrayers so they have to go and learn something and come back with respectful behaviour."
Yet sitting with Wenezoui and his colleagues was a Muslim: Ibrahim Amadou, 22, who said he joined the anti-balaka after his wife, three children, parents and seven siblings were shot dead by the Seleka. He still prays on Fridays but does so at home because fellow Muslims would recognise him at a mosque.
"I cannot give all the details of what I'm doing," said Amadou, wearing an array of animal skin and leather charms around his neck and shoulders that he believes make him invisible to enemies. "I'm working for the country. A soldier is a soldier: he cannot give his secrets."
Nearby, there is no sign of respite for tens of thousands of people squatting outside the international airport, fearful of going home in a city where the Red Cross said more than 10 people were killed in February, some found with their genitals stuffed in their mouths, and where grenades are said to be available at street markets for 250 CFA (31p) and Kalashnikov rifles for 10,000-15,000 CFA (£12-£18). There is a threat of the country splitting in two, and a fully fledged UN peacekeeping mission may be required to stop it.
In the town of Boali, 60 miles to the north, the Catholic priest Xavier-Arnauld Fagba went from house to house and into the bush to offer Muslims sanctuary in his church. "When the Muslims were attacked, the people didn't help them," said Fagba, 31, who became a priest four months ago. "That's when I decided to look for them and bring them here. I did it in the name of my faith. My faith asks me to transcend the most difficult obstacles."
Nearly 700 people took up his offer and moved into the church.
But most local Christians disagreed with Fagba's courageous stand and one day his car was surrounded by anti-balaka armed with knives and machetes. He got out to show that he did not fear them and, just then, their commander called off the assault.
In another incident last month, more than 300 anti-balaka surrounded the church and opened fire through its thinly protected walls. Fagba hurled himself to the ground and shouted at everyone else to do the same – and no one was killed or injured. He says some 30 bullet holes can still be seen in the church walls.
The Muslims held prayers every Friday in the grounds of the 54-year-old church, and cleaned it early on Sunday mornings for the Christian service, which some even attended.
But rebuilding bridges is a slow and painful process. Local officials tried to organise a peace march in which Muslims and Christians would walk together through the town, but when the Muslims arrived, the anti-balaka refused. "It's very sad because I thought it was the beginning of peace," Fagba said.
On 1 March a convoy of trucks protected by African peacekeepers evacuated the inhabitants of the church, and took them to safety in Cameroon, leaving Boali with no Muslim inhabitants.
An artistic depiction of enslaved Africans on a sugar plantation in New Orleans during the antebellum period. Millions of Africans were kidnapped and enslaved in North America., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
How Slaves Shaped American Cooking
for National Geographic
PUBLISHED MARCH 1, 2014
Growing up on Sapelo Island, Georgia, Cornelia Walker Bailey never thought of red peas as anything special. Sapelo, a barrier island about the size of Manhattan, has about 50 residents, primarily descendants of African slaves who settled here after slavery was outlawed. In Bailey's family, the tiny red legume, with its thin, firm shell; creamy interior; and sweet, buttery flavor was just another staple she and her family planted, harvested, and cooked.
This red pea, which originated in Africa and is the original ingredient in the region's quintessential rice-and-beans dish Hoppin' John, is just one of the many heritage crops from the African continent receiving new attention from farmers, chefs, scientists, and food historians. Growing numbers of researchers, many of them African-American, are bringing to light the uncredited ways slaves and their descendants have shaped how Americans eat.
Red peas are a tangible connection to her own African heritage, Bailey says, and one reason why she has started to grow the crop commercially. "Slave owners sent back and got seeds for what the slaves were used to eating, because they weren't used to the food here in America. That meant the slaves could plant for themselves," says Bailey, who has recruited other local farmers to plant the crop this spring. "We have a waiting list that's almost a yard long," she says, adding that they should have enough to go around, at least this year.
"We Eat This Back Home"
At the top of that list is Atlanta chef Linton Hopkins, who has concocted several ways to serve her peas at his acclaimed southern-upscale Restaurant Eugene, including in his version of Hoppin' John. But Bailey says her favorite way to eat the peas is in a traditional dish with stewed meat and okra, another plant that originated in Africa. "I had quite a few okra dishes when I went to West Africa.
They had it in stews and stuff—very, very similar to what we eat here," she says. "The strange dishes they were serving us weren't strange to me, because I was going, 'Hey, we eat this back home.' "
Culinary historian and author Jessica Harris says food traditions hold symbols and meaning that serve as a historical roadmap.
For decades she has used an image of okra on her business cards as a symbol of her family's African roots and her own connection to the continent's cuisine. But as the green, finger-shaped vegetable pops up on menus across the United States as an emblem of southern American cooking, the true narrative of the plant is at risk of disappearing, Harris says, speaking at a recent conference on food culture and history at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro.
"Okra is connected indelibly with the American South," says Harris. While gumbo, the flagship dish of New Orleans, is usually thickened with okra, the technique is actually an adaptation of soupikandia, a Senegalese soupy stew slave cooks prepared in plantation kitchens for both themselves and their owners. "Yet gumbo has become totemic," says Harris, "linked forever in the American mind, particularly with southern Louisiana."
Revealing Black Contributions
Her own mission is to make sure that the contribution of slaves to America's culinary traditions isn't forgotten. The primary challenge, Harris says, is reconstructing history when one group of people—in this case, white slave owners—did their best to subjugate Africans to the point where they were nearly left out entirely. "Black people have been in the room, but for so long they were so good at being invisible" that they were easy to leave out of the historical record, Harris says.
David Shields, a professor at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and an expert in early American literature and food revivals, points to Emeline Jones as an example.
Jones was a slave who started as a house servant and rose to the pinnacle of American culinary life with her extravagant multicourse meals. She earned admiration—and job offers—from Presidents Garfield, Arthur, and Cleveland, who sampled her fabulous meals of terrapin and canvasback duck, Lynnhaven oysters and crab salad, hominy cakes and fabulous confections, prepared when Jones worked as a cook at New York clubs in the late 1870s. Her story might have been lost if Shields had not dug through news articles and obituaries to re-create her life.
Researcher Alicia Cromwell says one major challenge is "studying the silences," a phrase coined by Harris, which forces researchers to engage in detective-style deductions to piece together a more complete view of history in the absence of primary documents like diaries and letters written by slaves.
When working on her master's thesis, Cromwell buried herself in documents—legislative records, tax rolls, newspaper clippings, and primary sources other scholars had reviewed hundreds, if not thousands of times before—and was able to discern that female Muslim Nigerian slaves, working as fruit sellers and market vendors on behalf of their owners, helped shape the overall economic structure of the American South with long-distance price fixing and aggressive sales techniques.
"I'm trying to teach my students, black and white, a different kind of history about slavery," says Cromwell, who is still researching the subject at the University of Georgia. "If we want to understand current relationships, then we need to go back to these very uncomfortable pasts and explore how Africans actually contributed to American culture."
Georgia chef and farmer Matthew Raiford is able to reconstruct his family's past through his farm, which has been in his family since 1874. He came to the North Carolina conference with a yellowed letter, a rare piece of history addressed from his great-grandmother to his grandmother, detailing how and where to plant corn, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, and watermelon. His great-great-great grandfather Jupiter Gilliard, the man who purchased the farm, was born a slave in 1812. "It's important to continue this conversation, about who brought what [to America] and why we eat what [we eat]," he says. "Those conversations need to happen so everyone has a voice at the table."
Bailey, back on Sapelo, agrees. "Everybody needs to keep in touch with their ancestors, and through food is one of the best ways to get close," she says. "They could have been gone 300 years ago, but to say my great-great-great-grandparents used to use this and cook this and plant this, that gives you a good feeling."