Pan Africa Newswire
A rebellion is spreading in South Sudan in the aftermath of a referendum held in Jan. 2011. The outcome of the vote lead to the break-up of Africa's largest geographic nation-state. The independence of the south took place on July 9, 2011., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
South Sudan will sign Nile sharing agreement
Ahram Online and MENA, Tuesday 18 Jun 2013
South Sudan will be the seventh country to sign the agreement on sharing the Nile waters, which Egypt opposes
South Sudan plans to sign an agreement that aims to replace colonial-era deals that awarded the lion's share of the Nile waters to Egypt and Sudan.
South Sudan's Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Paul Mayom Akec described the signing of the Cooperative Framework Agreement of the Nile Basin countries, sometimes known as the Entebbe agreement, as "inevitable."
"The process of joining the agreement has started at all levels of the state apparatus in South Sudan," Akec stated in a press conference.
Akec confirmed that South Sudan will start implementing the agreement as soon as parliament ratifies it.
The state of South Sudan will benefit from the agreement by using the Nile River water to construct projects that will bring "prosperity and welfare to its citizens," according to Akec.
Akec's statement comes following a statement by Mohamed Bahaa Al-Din, the Egyptian Minister of Water and Irrigation, on the agreement. Al-Din stated last Sunday that the agreement is not binding on Egypt, as Egypt did not sign it. The only way Egypt will sign the agreement, according to Al-Din, is if a few points of contention are agreed upon. One of points, for Egypt, is that Egypt be given a decision-making position in the proposed Nile River Basin Commission.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian foreign minister met with his Ethiopian counterpart to discuss their recent row on a hydroelectric dam being constructed by Ethiopia. The dam will be the largest in the continent.
The Ethiopian parliament ratified the Cooperative Framework Agreement last week.
Ethiopia will be able, according to the agreement, to build developmental projects along the Nile without prior consent from Egypt.
In a joined statement, the Ethiopian and Egyptian foreign ministers decided on another round of talks between ministers and experts in a few weeks to further discuss the dam's effect, if any, on Egypt's Nile water share.
Six riparian countries have already signed the agreement: Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi.
Citizens of Mali protest during the ECOWAS meeting where the Mali crisis and Guinea-Bissau coup were discussed in Abidjan on April 26, 2012. The regional group is set to deploy troops in both countries., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Mali government signs ceasefire deal with Tuareg rebels
Reuters, Tuesday 18 Jun 2013
Government of Mali on Tuesday signs ceasefire agreement with Tuareg rebels occupying key northern city, paving way for 28 July presidential polls
The Malian government signed a ceasefire deal with Tuareg separatist rebels on Tuesday, paving the way for government troops and civilian administrators to return to the northern, rebel-held town of Kidal before an election next month.
The agreement was reached after nearly two weeks of talks mediated by regional powers, the United Nations and the European Union in neighbouring Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou.
Egyptian opposition forces collect signatures expressing their discontent with the FJP party and President Morsi. Demonstrations were planned for June 30, 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
On frustration, anger, hope and 30 June
Bassem Sabry, Tuesday 18 Jun 2013
Whatever happens on 30 June – for good or ill – Egypt stands in dire need of a profound breakthrough, be it a leadership change through snap presidential elections or a new-found respect for national consensus
The streets are filled with Tamarrod ('Rebel') volunteers, on their feet for hours in the often scorching heat of Egypt's summer. They are from every age and every walk of life, perhaps only united by fiercely determined visages.
The volunteers are collecting signatures from very eager citizens who feel they've finally found an outlet of expression. Many of them have to cross the streets or get out of their cars in Cairo's unforgiving traffic to sign the forms, and some even take blank ones to pass along.
Two days ago, in front of my own eyes, a man had suddenly stopped his car downtown in the middle of the road, leading people to start honking their car horns in anger. When it was revealed he had come to this sudden halt to catch the Tamarrod volunteer nearby, they astonishingly began to cheer for him, and the transformation only took a few seconds.
The Tamarrod volunteers also go into cafes, social clubs and private premises, where they often find a substantial welcome. I've never seen anything like it before in the past 28 months in revolutionary Egypt. In fact, Tamarrod has recently announced that they're close to achieving their primary target of 15 million signatures.
There is visibly a genuine widespread sentiment of anger and disapproval of the Brotherhood and President Morsi, the latter soon set to mark his first year in power with what many expect to be massive protests on 30 June calling for early presidential elections, with some already dubbing the protests a 'revolution.'
A recent Zogby national poll whose surveys ended a month ago has put Morsi's popularity at a meagre 28 percent, while more than 70 percent expressed disapproval of the government and the Muslim Brotherhood's aggressive reach for power over the state institutions (so-called 'Brotherhoodisation'), while a majority surprisingly expressed disapproval of the new constitution, as well as a lack of preference or trust in holding parliamentary elections now.
The poll's results, even if we assume a radical 10 percent margin of error, are astonishing.
Ironically, as I had recently written, this potential 'second revolution' on 30 June is theoretically set to be sparked by the same people who had actually ignited the first revolution that brought Morsi to power. They seem vehemently determined and deeply enraged, and no political overtures could seemingly change their minds anymore.
The language used by people belonging to the anti-Brotherhood and anti-Morsi camp in real life and on social media appears increasingly to be one that is preparing for a defining battle of some sort. The 30 June rallies are not only likely to see people marching and chanting. Something bigger – of which I have little guess or idea – appears to be brewing, at least as it seems right now.
Alternatively, Morsi, the Brotherhood and their supporters haven't been staying idle either. They too have their own anti-Tamarrod campaign, called 'Tagarrod,' basically calling for Morsi to stay in power until the end of his constitutional term, and they too claim to have just collected around 11 million signatures.
They've been holding large-scale Islamist-only events, including a recent conference on the Egypt-Ethiopia water crisis attended only by Islamist parties, and a packed event in Cairo Stadium just a few days ago in which Morsi both severed ties with the regime in Syria and also suggested a firm hand against at least anything out of the ordinary on 30 June, to roaring crowds.
The tone of Morsi's supporters also seems more confrontational and more belligerent and presents a unique blend of alternatively citing the democratic process and threatening decisive confrontation in another.
Islamist preachers have also come out in drones to support Morsi, using every trick in the book to try and pump up support for the increasingly unpopular president. Furthermore, the president appeared to be showing signs of preparation for a potentially strong confrontation during the coming protests, with his remarkable recent selection of 17 new governors, including seven of whom who hail from the Brotherhood, seven from the military and one Salafist.
I have participated in most major marches or protests since 2011, as a citizen before being a writer, always feeling determined, focused, emotionally resolved. And yet, somehow I find myself feeling a strange blend of alternating feelings this time around.
One moment, I am fully dissociated from everything; the other I am fully invested in the conversation and what is happening; another I am inspired; and another I am filled with trepidation and anxiousness. Almost consistently though, there is a sense of dread.
The thing is, it is just utterly frustrating, disheartening and troubling to see where we are after more than two years of a revolution that was meant to end injustice, political exclusion and repression and hopefully unify most of the country around the dream of rebuilding a strong and vibrant nation.
Instead, much of that injustice, exclusion and repression still exists, albeit often in different forms and methods. What's worse, we're more disunited and polarised than ever as a people, and more exclusionary, while the voices of reconciliation and bridge-building are finding themselves more and more unpopular.
So many of the country's political elites, on every side of the spectrum, have profoundly failed the nation in varying ways down the road through an astonishing alternation (or even, at a times, a blend) of lack of vision, insufficient farsightedness, displays of ineptitude, an improper balance of idealism and pragmatism, inability to know when to lead the street and their political bases and when to defy them for a greater good if necessary, and more.
I truly and exasperatedly wish we weren't in this deeply troubling state as a nation, filled with this anxiety and this sense of upcoming potential upheaval. We could have been in a much better place, and it relatively did not require much more than greater transparency, as well as a consistent and earnest commitment towards wider national consensus by everyone during this phase.
We could have been here instead, at this point in time, with a constitution we unite around, a more inclusive and vibrant democracy, a national coalition and/or capable government, a genuine sense of hope and forward looking, a legislative agenda whose debate is filled with promise, a steadily recovering or even booming economy, and a sense that we are all truly 'in this together.'
But there is one other specific source of anxiety: the fact that we are even likely to see some violence and casualties on all sides fills me with dread, and clashes between Morsi supporters and opponents have already begun in Fayoum and Menoufiya.
More personally, the fact that so many people, including family and friends whom I deeply care for, feel they still need to put their lives on the line for their freedoms and for a better democracy, after a revolution less than two and a half year ago that was meant to achieve as much, is both inspiring – given their incredible continued determination, self-sacrifice and courage – but also quite disheartening and enraging that they still feel a true need to risk and put themselves through all of this.
I have regularly said much about the opposition's substantial contribution to the mess we're in, especially their inability to help skilfully navigate the political process towards a nationally beneficial political consensus, vague vision and organisational problems, as well as a rhetoric and a set of strategic and tactical errors that often harmed the situation rather than aided in ameliorating it.
But the fact is that the defining stab that brought about this entire debacle and state of affairs was Morsi's and the Brotherhood's constitutional declaration in November and the rushing through of the divisive constitution, together with a growing unilateralism, governmental ineptitude, power overreach, lack of transparency, mounting partisanship, and a seeming lack of a sincere willingness to reach a truly deep and non-cosmetic political compromise, and more.
The truth is that despite a more promising start of this presidency, and while bearing in mind any influence of forces that might have never accepted seeing Morsi succeed, Morsi and the Brotherhood have steadily taken the country towards the opposite direction of what it truly needed after a revolution that was built upon the ideals of national unity, inclusion and freedom.
I don't know what will happen on 30 June. Maybe nothing much in the end, maybe much. Egypt needs a profound breakthrough, whether better leadership through new presidential elections as Tamarrod calls for, or some deep national political consensus that emerges in the aftermath of whatever happens. I just hope it doesn't come at too heavy a price.
Bassem Sabry is an Egyptian writer.
Hamdeen Sabbahi, former Nasserite candidate for president and now representing the National Salvation Front, says the FJP government lacks legitimacy. Egypt is facing a deeper economic crisis., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Rebel intensifies efforts amid 'crackdown' from Brotherhood
Ahram Online , Tuesday 18 Jun 2013
Following 'Rebel Week' initiative, Rebel campaign will announce results of signature drive spearheaded by Sabbahi's Egyptian Popular Current
The Rebel campaign will receive on Tuesday anti-Morsi signatures collected by the Egyptian Popular Current, the campaign's official website stated.
During a Tuesday press conference at the Egyptian Popular Current's HQ, the campaign will announce the number of signatures collected, which it expects to exceed one million. The Egyptian Popular Current, led by prominent opposition figure Hamdeen Sabbahi, is one of a number of parties from the National Salvation Front (NSF) which has given its support to 'Rebel.'
The announcement follows a recent escalation by the campaign in what they call 'Rebel Week,' which aims to collect signatures from Upper Egypt's governorates. Upper Egypt has been notably excluded from previous anti-Morsi and anti-army campaigns. 'Rebel' organisers also met with a number of tribal leaders in South Sinai to get their support.
The campaign organised a conference in Monofiya last Monday to publicise their cause.
"Monofiya is a city of more than two million 'Rebels'," Rebel spokesman Mahmoud Badr commented. No official number has been released.
The electricity went out during the Monoufiya conference, which the organisers managed to restore using electric generators. The Rebel campaign called the incident a 'crackdown' from the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, believes the Rebel cause is illegitimate because the call for early elections has no legal basis.
There have been several clashes between the Muslim Brotherhood and Rebel organisers across Egyptian governorates. Both sides have reported injuries.
The campaign has been meeting with constitutional and legal experts to discuss how to notarise Rebel signature forms before submitting them to the High Constitutional Court.
The campaign has also finalised their plans for the 30 June demonstrations. In Upper Egypt's governorates, Rebel supporters will protest in front of government buildings and in public squares, whereas Greater Cairo residents will demonstrate in front of the presidential palace.
The Rebel campaign was initiated last May with the aim to collect 15 million signatures, outnumbering the roughly 13.2 million votes with which Morsi won Egypt's first free presidential election one year ago.
In late May, the Rebel campaign announced that it had already collected seven million signatures. These numbers are expected to have increased since the start of 'Rebel Week.'
Demonstrations in the hundreds of thousands took place in Egypt on November 30, 2012. People are angry over the passage of a constitutional draft., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Two weeks before 30 June rallies, reconciliation prospects dimmer than ever
Ahram Online, Tuesday 18 Jun 2013
As opposition parties and groups brace for 30 June anti-govt rallies – and with Egypt's Islamist camp mulling parallel counter-demonstrations – the spectre of renewed political violence looms disturbingly large
As many Egyptians prepare to hit the streets nationwide on 30 June to mark the end of President Mohamed Morsi'sfirst year in office, the planned protests have come to the forefront of Egypt's domestic political scene amid mounting discontent with the country's post-revolution leadership.
The planned demonstrations, called for by Egypt's anti-Morsi 'Rebel' signature drive to demand snap presidential polls, are expected to be the largest since the 25 January uprising's second anniversary. Some campaigners are even billing the event as a 'second revolution.'
Within the last two months, the 'Rebel' campaign has become a new rallying point for discontented swathes of the public and a long-divided political opposition.
While campaigners stress that the protests will be peaceful in nature, mounting polarisation between supporters and opponents of President Morsi has prompted fears of violent clashes between the two rival camps.
The protest calls have drawn a chorus of accusations by Morsi supporters, who say that opposition forces are actively hoping for bloodshed by pushing for the ouster of Egypt's first-ever freely elected head of state. They are calling for counter-protests on 21 June to denounce any resort to political violence.
"We will express the opposing view," said Ahmed Oqeil, spokesman for the MuslimBrotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). "Namely, support for Egypt's freely elected president and defence of his democratic legitimacy and the popular will as expressed in a transparent election."
The spectre of violence
As both sides accuse one another of bracing for bloodshed, 'Rebel' campaigners appear to have ruled out any resort to violent behaviour, particularly in light of the massive turnout they are anticipating on 30 June.
"Morsi supporters won't dare attack hundreds of thousands of protesters," 'Rebel' spokesman Moheb Doss told Ahram Online. "All their recent threats and assaults on 'Rebel' campaigners show how terrified they are."
Doss was referring to frequent physical assaults on anti-Morsi campaigners and an attack on the campaign's headquarters two weeks ago by unidentified perpetrators.
Doss contends that previous spates of political violence, some of which have led to days of unrest, were typically between smaller groups of demonstrators and activists – an unlikely scenario in the event of what he predicts will be million-strong protests on 30 June.
The Muslim Brotherhood, for its part, the groupfrom which President Morsi owes his allegiance, accuses the 'Rebel' campaign of setting fire to a number of the FJP's regional offices.
"There has been information about an arrangement between certain former MPs and thugs hired by [ousted president] Mubarak's National Democratic Party to sow violence and mayhem on 30 June," FJP media advisor Murad Ali asserted on Tuesday.
Drumming up support
'Rebel' campaigners, meanwhile, have been trying to drum up public support for the planned demonstrations in several of Egypt's governorates during what it has dubbed 'Rebel Week,' which kicked off on Saturday.
Campaign organisers, who claim to have already collected almost 15 million citizens' signatures, say the planned protests will culminate in an open-ended sit-in outside Morsi's residence, where tens of thousands plan to camp out "until the departure of the regime."
Parallel demonstrations are also planned outside Egypt's embassies overseas in hopes of ratcheting up pressure on the presidency, campaigners say.
Many Egyptians have grown increasingly disillusioned with the Islamist government and with what its detractors describe as the Muslim Brotherhood's attempts to tighten its grip on state institutions.
Such claims were supported by a gubernatorialshake-up on Sunday – which saw the appointment of sevenFJP members as regional governors – and a recent spate of dismissals of high-level cultural figures by a newly appointed Islamist-leaning culture minister.
Mounting public frustration and perceived failures on the part of the Islamist government to administer the nation's affairs has also been exacerbated by an acrimonious dispute between Cairo and Addis Ababa over the latter's hydro-electric Grand Renaissance Dam project, which Egypt fears could adversely impact its supply of Nile water.
The Brotherhood-allied Wasat Party, meanwhile, adopted a conciliatory approach last week, proposing a 'national reconciliation' initiative to which most opposition and Islamist parties were invited. The move was ostensibly aimed at "sparing the country imminent turmoil, bloodletting and political rivalry."
The proposal, however, was spurned by Morsi opponents, particularly the opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) umbrella group.
Some critics argue that the outpouring of public frustration with Morsi's policies and the country'sfast-tracked constitution has reached a tipping point, which even the opposition cannot hold in check.
"The Brotherhood and their allies still do not understand that their dispute is not with the opposition or democracy advocates, but rather with large swathes of an irate public," Ahmed Fawzi, secretary-general of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and leading NSF member, told Ahram Online.
Fawzy believes the initiative is a last-ditch attempt by themoderate-Islamist WasatParty to "save the Muslim Brotherhood's doomed rule and create rifts in the opposition."
Some Islamist parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood and the hard-line Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, however, have welcomed the settlement initiative in the belief it might break the country's current political stalemate.
The Brotherhood, for its part, slammed the NSF's rejection of the initiative as an attempt to impose a "coup-minded" agenda that only serves its own interests.
Both Egypt's military and interior ministry, meanwhile, have asserted that they would secure vital installations and public facilities during the upcoming 30 June protests.
Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim made it clear, however, that police would not be dispatched to guard the Brotherhood's Cairo headquarters – a protest hotspot in recent months – or those of any other political party. He said police would only move in to keep opposing sides apart in the event that violent confrontations took place.
Last December, police were widely blamed for deadly violence that broke out outside the Presidential Palace.
Security forces were largely absent as Morsi supporters battled protesters opposed to a controversialpresidential decree, leaving dozens dead and hundreds injured in one of the worst outbreaks of violence since Morsi's assumption of the presidency almost one year ago.
The Central Bank of Egypt has urged financial institutions to keep cash on hand during the upcoming national protest demonstrations at the end of June 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.CBE urges Egypt banks to keep extra cash in run-up to 30 June rallies
In advance of upcoming 30 June anti-govt rallies, Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) tells local banks to keep extra cash on hand to avoid possible currency shortages
Ahram Online, Tuesday 18 Jun 2013
The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) has asked banks operating in Egypt to keep extra cash balances for at least five working days in order to prevent cash shortages in advance of planned anti-government demonstrations on 30 June, Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website reported on Tuesday.
The decision, signed by CBE Deputy Governor Gamal Negm, urged banks to maintain extra cash reserves at all their branches nationwide rather than concentrating reserves at their Cairo branches.
Hazem Hegazi, head of retail at the National Bank of Egypt, told Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website that the bank's 305 branches would remain open on 30 June.
"No branches will close their doors, even those located near Tahrir Square and the Presidential Palace," he said in reference to Cairo's two premier protest venues.
However, Hegazi added, branch managers "will have the authority to take any steps necessary to protect bank employees."
The call for 30 June protests was initiated by Egypt's anti-Morsi 'Rebel' signature drive, launched in May with the aim of forcing President Mohamed Morsi – Egypt's first-ever freely elected head of state – to step down.
Most opposition parties and groups, including the National Salvation Front umbrella group, have announced plans to participate in the demonstrations.
Islamist forces, including the Muslim Brotherhood (the group from which President Morsi hails), are reportedly mulling the possibility of holding counter rallies on the same day, sparking fears of possible clashes between the two rival camps.
Eric Schmidt (R), who was Google's CEO for 10 years before assuming the role of executive chairman last year, is pictured in a court sketch being questioned by Google lawyer Robert Van Nest as U.S. District Judge William Alsup (L) watches during a trial., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Google Asks Intelligence Court to Let It Release Data
By Sara Forden on June 18, 2013
Google Inc. (GOOG) asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for permission to publish the aggregate numbers and scope of national security requests it receives from the U.S. government.
The filing with the secret court, which issues warrants for collecting foreign intelligence inside the U.S., is the latest effort by Google to ease restrictions on disclosing the information the government has asked for under the surveillance program code-named Prism.
Google, along with other technology companies, including Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc., is seeking greater latitude to disclose information about the government requests for user data collected by intelligence agencies.
“We have long pushed for transparency so users can better understand the extent to which governments request their data -- and Google was the first company to release numbers for National Security Letters,” Niki Fenwick, a spokeswoman for Google in Washington, said in an e-mail. To promote greater transparency, the company is seeking “to publish aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures, separately,” she said.
Google is seeking a declaration from the court that would allow it to release the statistics without violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, according to the filing, which was provided by Google.
The role of private companies has come under scrutiny since Edward Snowden, a computer technician who did work for the National Security Agency, disclosed this month that the agency is collecting millions of U.S. residents’ telephone records and the computer communications of foreigners from Google and other Internet companies under court order.
Prism traces its roots to warrantless domestic-surveillance efforts under former President George W. Bush. According to slides provided by Snowden, Prism gathers e-mails, videos and other private data of foreign surveillance targets through arrangements that vary by company and are overseen panel of judges who work in secret.
Google, based in Mountain View-California, asked the FISA court to affirm it has “the right under the First Amendment to publish, and that no applicable law or regulation prohibits Google from publishing,” statistics on the requests, including the total number of users or accounts implicated by the requests, according to the filing.
Sheldon Snook, a spokesman for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, declined to comment on the filing.
Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO), today became the latest technology company to give details of government data collection, following disclosures by Apple Inc. (AAPL), Facebook Inc. and Microsoft Corp., all of whom have revealed thousands of warrants for data from government entities.
Yahoo!, the largest U.S. Web portal, said it got as many as 13,000 requests for information from U.S. law enforcement agencies in the six months ending in May, with the most common types related to fraud, homicides and criminal investigations, Yahoo said in a posting on Tumblr. The Sunnyvale, California-based company said it can’t lawfully break out FISA requests, and it urged the U.S. government to reconsider its stance on the issue.
Google said it’s pushing authorities to let it differentiate between varying types of government requests.
“Lumping national security requests together with criminal requests -- as some companies have been permitted to do -- would be a backward step for our users,” said Google’s Fenwick.
Intelligence-gathering efforts by the U.S. have helped prevent more than 50 terrorist attacks in more than 20 countries, including one planned on the New York Stock Exchange, government officials said in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee today.
John Chris Inglis, NSA deputy director, said at the hearing that the agency approved inquiries on fewer than 300 phone numbers in 2012.
Surveillance of communications between a known al-Qaeda extremist in Yemen and an individual in the U.S. allowed the FBI to “detect a nascent plot” to bomb the exchange and arrest those involved, Sean Joyce, deputy director of the bureau, said.
Monitoring of foreigners’ Internet activity also helped in the discovery of a plot to bomb the office of a Danish newspaper that published cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, Joyce said.
That plot involved David Headley, a Pakistani-American who was arrested in 2009 for helping to plot the 2008 shooting and bombing attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people. Headley was convicted in January in a U.S. federal court for his role in the attacks.
Government officials last week said surveillance helped the U.S. to disrupt a plot to bomb the New York City subway system.
The disclosures by Snowden, who also previously worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, have sparked a criminal inquiry by the Justice Department as well as a review by U.S. intelligence agencies of how the leak occurred.
Snowden, 29, fled to Hong Kong last month before revealing himself as the source, and U.S. lawmakers said they want to know more about what led him to act.
To contact the reporter on this story: Sara Forden in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at email@example.com
Military attacks against the US/NATO occupation are continuing in Afghanistan. A series of attacks were carried out in Kandahar as well as in the north of the country on April 15, 2010., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
18 June 2013
Last updated at 20:46 ET
Afghan attack kills US soldiers hours after news of talks
Four US soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, hours after the US announced direct talks with the Taliban.
The soldiers were killed by "indirect fire" from insurgents at Bagram air base, US officials said.
Bagram, near the Afghan capital Kabul, is the largest military base for US troops in Afghanistan.
A condition for the talks, due to begin on Thursday in Qatar, was for the Taliban to renounce violence.
In comments made before the news of the attack emerged, US President Barack Obama said the announcement of talks was an "important first step toward reconciliation".
The talks are set to take place in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban have just opened their first official overseas office.
US officials said prisoner exchanges would be one topic for discussion with the Taliban, but the first weeks would mainly be used to explore each other's agendas.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his government was also sending delegates to Qatar to talk to the Taliban.
Also on Tuesday, Nato handed over responsibility for security for the whole of the country to Afghan security forces.
International troops are to remain in Afghanistan until the end of 2014, providing military back-up when needed.
As well as renouncing violence, other conditions of the talks are that the Taliban break ties with al-Qaeda and respect the Afghan constitution - including the rights of women and minorities.
Talks between President Karzai's High Peace Council and the Taliban are due to follow a few days after those between the US and the Taliban, officials say.
The level of trust between the Afghan government and the Taliban is described as "low".
In the past, the Taliban have always refused to meet President Karzai or his government, dismissing them as puppets of Washington.
Masoom Stanekzai, secretary of the High Peace Council, would not give a specific date for their talks but said they would take place "within days".
US officials stressed that this was the first step on a very long road, adding that there was no guarantee of success.
After opening the "political bureau" in Doha on Tuesday alongside Qatari officials,
Taliban representative Mohammed Naeem told reporters the group wanted good relations with Afghanistan's neighbours.
"We support a political and peaceful solution that ends Afghanistan's occupation, and guarantees the Islamic system and nationwide security, a Taliban statement said.
The BBC's Paul Adams in Washington says these were key statements that US officials were expecting to hear.
Pakistan, which was involved in background talks for the opening of the Taliban's Doha office, said it was "ready to continue to facilitate the process to achieve lasting peace in Afghanistan in accordance with the wishes of the Afghan people".
A US official said the militant Haqqani network would also be represented by the Taliban in Doha.
However, the senior US and Nato commander in Afghanistan, Gen Joseph Dunford, said: "All I've seen of the Haqqani would make it hard for me to believe they were reconcilable."
President Karzai has expressed anger at previous US and Qatari efforts to kick-start the peace process without properly consulting his government, reports the BBC's Bilal Sarwary from Kabul.
There is also concern within the presidential palace that the Taliban will use the office in Qatar to raise funds, adds our correspondent.
The US has never held direct talks with the Taliban, but did begin preliminary negotiations in Qatar last year. However, the Taliban suspended those talks, citing US efforts to involve the Afghan government as a key stumbling block.
In Afghanistan itself on Tuesday, a ceremony in Kabul marked the handover of responsibility for security from the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) to the Afghan government for the first time since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.
Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son and heir apparent to martyred Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi, appeared in a rebel court on January 17, 2013. His sham trial has been postponed., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Gaddafi son accuses Libya of blatant disregard for law over trial attempt
Lawyer condemns attempt to overturn international criminal court ruling that Tripoli would deny Saif al-Islam Gaddafi a fair trial
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 18 June 2013 15.02 EDT
A lawyer for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the ousted Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, has accused the authorities in his country of showing a "blatant disregard" for the international criminal court (ICC) by announcing they will put him on trial in August.
In an urgent submission to the Hague-based court, the British lawyer John Jones asked appeal judges to reject Libya's request to suspend an order that Tripoli surrender Gaddafi to the court.
Libyan officials are appealing against the international court's right to try Muammar's Gadaffi's erstwhile heir apparent, saying he should face justice at home, but the international court says Tripoli cannot give him a fair trial.
Jones says Gadaffi could be executed in Libya before the appeal is completed if he is not handed over to the court.
"The possible implementation of the death penalty in domestic proceedings would also create a grievous and irremediable consequence for Mr Gaddafi, and completely undermine the ability of the appeals chamber to render a determination on the appeal," Jones wrote.
Libyan prosecutors said on Monday that Gadaffi, along with the dictatorship-era spy chief, Abdullah al-Senoussi – who also is wanted by the ICC – the former premier al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi and the ex-spokesman Milad Daman, would be tried in August for crimes committed during Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year rule and the eight-month civil war that deposed him.
Jones said the announcement "could only be construed as blatant disregard" for Libya's obligations to the court.
Gaddafi is being held by a militia in the Libyan town of Zintan.
With no national army or police in place since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi's regime, successive governments have been too weak either to secure his son's imprisonment in the capital, Tripoli, or put pressure on his captors to hand him over to the government. Gaddafi is also being tried on separate charges of harming state security.
Minister for International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, speaks to journalists at United Nations headquarters following her country's election to the Security Council., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
SA urges UK to probe spy allegations
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 00:00
CAPE TOWN. — The South African government yesterday urged the British government to investigate allegations that British intelligence agents spied on South African delegates attending the 2009 Group
This followed reports by the Guardian newspaper that documents leaked by former US spy Edward Snowden showed that South African, Russian and Turkish officials, among others, were targeted by British intelligence agents who used state of the art surveillance equipment to acquire retrieved documents, including briefings for South African delegates to G20 and G8 meetings.
The South African government has noted with concern various reports, Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesperson Clayson Monyela said.
“We do not yet have the full benefit of details reported on, but in principle we would condemn the abuse of privacy and basic human rights particularly if it emanates from those who claim to be democrats,” Monyela said.
“We have solid, strong and cordial relations with the United Kingdom and would call on their government to investigate this matter fully with a view to take strong and visible action against any perpetrators,” Monyela said.
Zimbabwe diamond resources are some of the largest in the world. Imperialism has attempted to prevent the Southern African state from trading its most lucrative resource on the world market., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Miners bypass diamond cutters
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 00:00
Martin Kadzere Senior Business Reporter
A NUMBER of local diamond cutters and polishers have closed shop because they are not getting the gems from miners, a report by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee of Mines and Energy has said.
In terms of the diamond policy adopted by the Government last year, a quota of locally produced diamonds should be made available for beneficiation by local cutters and polishers. The main objective of the arrangement is to encourage a broader local participation in the sector.
But Government had been reluctant to ensure a portion of locally produced gems are reserved for the locals.
“In a meeting with the association of local cutters and polishers, the committee noted with concern that Government was not very supportive in developing this sector,” the parliamentary report said.
“This was evidenced by the vague policy by Government in terms of the quota and the quality of gems to be supplied to the local cutters and polishers. At the same time, some (diamond) local cutters and polishers lost their money to Government after paying licence fees without a corresponding duty of accessing the diamonds.
“The committee would like to implore Government to seriously consider the development of local cutters and polishers as this has the potential to create more wealth and employment for the economy. The country’s diamonds are being exported in raw form, creating more jobs and wealth for other countries. This is indeed a travesty of justice.”
Diamond cutters and polishers pay a licence fee of US$50 000, that is renewed every year. This was also impeding the growth of the sector. The committee also noted with concern some of the diamond producers have plans to actively participate in the cutting and polishing industry.
“This creates a conflict of interest and has the potential to stifle the growth of local cutters and polishers,” said the report.
“The growth of the local cutters and polishers was also being impeded by exorbitant licence fees . . . and yet there was no guarantee of receiving a parcel or reimbursement if the parcel is not delivered.
As a result a number of local cutters and polishers had to fold their operations and yet they had invested heavily through the acquisition of machinery and training of personnel.”
Zimbabwe’s diamond production from Marange rose 8,7 million carats in 2011 to 12 million carats last year. This year, production is expected to further increase to 17 million carats, according to the report.
Globally, the industry is robust and has fully recovered from the 2008 recession. India’s cutting industry is currently the largest, with one million cutters, while China’s industry has grown from nil cutters 20 years ago to 60 000 cutters today and Botswana’s cutters increased over the past years from 300 to 3 000, according to the World Federation of Diamond Bourses.
South Africa, though fairly mature, is in distress as cutters and polishers have dropped from 4 500 to less than 600.
The report has recommended that the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe should be encouraged to carry out a study on ways of developing the growth of the local cutting and polishing industry.
Government should also encourage local entrepreneurs to get involved and should deliberately put in place favourable conditions. Similarly, investment policies and fiscal regimes must be put in place to encourage foreign investments in joint ventures with local entrepreneurs in the cutting and polishing industry.
Joyce Kazembe is the acting chair of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. The country will hold a referendum on a new constitution on March 16, 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
AU 10-member observer team arrives
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 00:00
Michael Chideme Senior Reporter
A 10-member African Union (AU) pre-observer team arrived in Zimbabwe yesterday to assess the political situation ahead of harmonised elections set for July 31.
AU political officer Mr Idrissa Kamara is leading the team that includes Ms Joyce Pitso, Ms Chirambo Kondwani, Mr Gilbert Khadiagala, all of South Africa; Mr Job Akuni, Mr Crispy Praise Kaheru and Ms Hope-Mary Nsagi of Uganda; Mrs Maraetile Polaki of Lesotho; Mr Emmanuel Abegunde of Nigeria and South Sudanese national Mr Remember Miamingi.
Ms Chirambo is co-ordinating the team.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission deputy chairperson Mrs Joyce Kazembe said nine members of the team would remain in the country to observe the whole electoral process, while one would return to the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Mrs Kazembe said the electoral body would accredit the AU team tomorrow.
The AU announced the deployment through a letter to Government earlier this month.
“The Commission of African Union presents its compliments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Zimbabwe and has the honour to inform the latter that the chairperson of the African Union Commission has decided to deploy nine long-term observers to Zimbabwe to monitor the upcoming general elections tentatively scheduled for 31st July 2013,” reads part of the letter.
The arrival of the observers was further testimony of the AU’s endorsement of the date for the harmonised polls coming as it did just a day after the continental bloc stressed that only Zimbabweans can resolve any contestation over their election date as it was not proper for anyone else to second-guess the country’s courts.
Addressing a Press conference in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday, African Union Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the only question should be whether the polls are free and fair.
“The courts have said the elections must take place. And so do we listen to the courts? Or do we not listen to the courts?
“I thought a lot of you have always been talking to us about the rule of law and respect for the Judiciary,” Reuters quoted Dr Dlamini-Zuma as saying.
“So I don’t know. The Zimbabweans must sort it out, whether they listen to the Judiciary and go with what the Judiciary has said, or whether they ignore it.”
The Constitutional Court ruled, with a crushing majority of seven judges assenting to two dissenting, that harmonised elections be held by July 31 in the wake of an application by Mr Jealousy Mawarire of the Centre for Elections and Democracy who wanted the court to compel President Mugabe to proclaim the election date before the expiry of the life of the Seventh Parliament.
Republic of Zimbabwe Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Patrick Chinamasa. Zimbabwe has recently declined funding for the upcoming elections from the United Nations., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Govt files poll extension bid
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 00:00
Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Reporter
GOVERNMENT has filed an application to extend the July 31 deadline for holding harmonised elections in the wake of an appeal by the Sadc extraordinary summit in Maputo, Mozambique, last weekend.
Summit urged the inclusive-Government to approach the court to ask for time beyond July 31.
Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa yesterday filed the application on behalf of the inclusive Government.
He said President Mugabe has much respect for the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe’s judgment and had already complied with it by fixing the election date for July 31.
Minister Chinamasa said pressure from MDC formations and other political parties in Zimbabwe culminated in Sadc urging Government to seek an extension of the poll date.
Mr Jealousy Mawarire of the Centre for Elections and Democracy (who obtained the order for the July 31 deadline), Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, MDC leader Professor Welshman Ncube and the Attorney-General were cited as respondents in the application.
Minister Chinamasa said he was specifically directed by the Sadc summit to make an urgent application for the extension of the election date.
“During the proceedings at the said summit, I, in particular, was directed to make an urgent application before this Honourable Court (Constitutional Court) to seek a postponement of the date for the harmonised general election from July 31 2013 to August 14 2013,” he said.
“In view of the above and in my capacity as the minister responsible for the administration of the Electoral Act, I pray for an order for the extension of the elections to the 14th of August 2013.”
The relevant part of the communiqué directing Zimbabwe to seek extension of the election date reads: “Summit acknowledged the ruling of the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe on the election date and agreed on the need for the Government of Zimbabwe to engage the Constitutional Court to seek more time beyond the July 31, 2013 deadline for holding the election.”
Minister Chinamasa emphasised that the application was filed despite the fact that President Mugabe had complied with the court order.
“I reiterate that His Excellency, the President, Cde RG Mugabe, is respectful of the ruling by this Honourable Court that the rule of law should be restored as regards the electoral process and thus has fully complied with the order of this court in terms of the law without any legal difficulties or impediments,” he said.
“It is only the development referred to above, initiated by the second and fourth respondents (PM Tsvangirai and Prof Ncube) precipitating a directive of the extraordinary summit of Sadc held in Maputo on June 15 2013.
“In compliance with the order of this Honourable Court, His Excellency the President promulgated the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures Amendment of Electoral Act) Regulations 2013, which align the Electoral Act with the new Constitution. The regulations were published in the Gazette on the 12th of June 2013 . . .”
The President fixed July 31 as the elections date, with the Nomination Court sitting on June 28 in a proclamation issued on June 13 in terms of Statutory Instrument 86/2013.
Minister Chinamasa said PM Tsvangirai and Prof Ncube had some misgivings about the order of the Constitutional Court and lobbied Sadc, inviting the regional body to intervene and set aside the court order.
“Unilaterally, second respondent (PM Tsvangirai) sought an extension to the 31st of October 2013, while fourth respondent (Prof Ncube) suggested an extension to the 9th of September 2013,” said Minister Chinamasa. They both latter changed their positions with the second respondent suggesting the 12th of August and the fourth respondent suggesting the 14th of August 2013.
That, according to Minister Chinamasa, invited Sadc intervention and Government got a directive to seek extension of the Constitutional Court’s deadline of July 31.
Sadc, however, acknowledged that it was up to the Constitutional Court to extend or throw out the application and whatever decision the Court made was to bind all the parties.
Republic of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe speaks with students from the University. He urged the youth to maintain the revolutionary principles of the national liberation struggle., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.Zim: The revolution examined
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 00:00
As I sit down to write the second part of my series on Zimbabwe, I am struck by the difficulty of the task before me. In the first article, Zimbabwe: The Revolution Continues, I attempted to illustrate the political and economic policies that
have made President Mugabe and Zanu-PF the hated enemies of Washington and London. In so doing, I attempted to position myself as a steadfast supporter of the revolution and unabashed enemy of the neo-liberal capitalist counter-revolution personified by Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC-T.
The juxtaposition between these two opposing forces is critical in determining who is on the side of true independence, and who is on the side of the exploiters with their myriad, multi-coloured masks.
However, it is important to note that I am an observer and partisan, analyst and revolutionary. As such, I write from that perspective. I make no pretence, as many so-called journalists seem to be fond of doing, to objectivity: itself a fabrication of self-serving sycophants who aim to justify their corporate-imperialist propaganda by calling it “objective”.
In stating this at the outset, it is my desire to speak to those who, like me, support the decades-long revolutionary struggle and who understand that liberation is more than a cosmetic change of government. It is to these fellow revolutionaries and to the people of Zimbabwe that I write these words, hopefully outlining how I can be at once supporter and critic, advocate and counterpoint.
How does one position oneself as a critical supporter without alienating precisely those courageous revolutionaries who continue the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe and throughout the Diaspora? How does one address the inequities and mistakes while simultaneously countering the Western propaganda? These are questions that I cannot sufficiently answer. Rather, I defer to one of the greatest minds of modern civilisation to answer for me: — Karl Marx, 1843.
Mugabe and the Charge of Genocide
One of the most common attacks on Mugabe and Zanu-PF is the charge of mass killing and genocide. However, in order to examine these charges, they must first be placed into a political context. In doing so, one can begin to formulate a constructive critique rather than resorting to the usual Western propaganda: ‘‘Mugabe is Hitler in African nationalist’s clothing.’’
The most often cited example of what is termed “genocide” at the hands of Mugabe is what is known as the Gukurahundi — an operation by Mugabe’s 5th Brigade, which sought to put an end to the domestic insurgency led by supporters of Mugabe’s rival Joshua Nkomo. Mugabe’s detractors, especially those in support of Western puppet Morgan Tsvangirai, are fond of referring to the violence which took place during this period (mid to late 1980s) as genocide and the repression of domestic opposition.
There can be no doubt that there was political motivation in carrying out the operation, however, it is dishonest to pretend as if the entire operation were solely an effort by Mugabe to consolidate power. Rather, it must be understood that the offensive by Mugabe’s forces was part of a broader campaign to pacify a region that had been used both as a centre for destabilisation by the apartheid government of South Africa and as a base of operations of, what we might call today, and domestic terrorists.
As Andrew Meldrum of the New York Times reported back in 1987, “Olive Tree and neighbouring New Adam Farm, where eight other white Pentecostal missionaries or children died, were the scenes of massacres early Thursday by insurgents opposed to the Zimbabwe Government . . . The anti-government rebels have operated in the Matabeleland countryside surrounding this city since 1982, generally with violent protests against what they assert is Mugabe’s unfair treatment of the opposition leader Joshua Nkomo’s Zimbabwe African People’s Union and the Ndebele ethnic group supporting it.’’
This excerpt is telling because, contrary to the popular mythology constructed around this period, it shows that the killings that took place at the hands of the 5th Brigade were part of a larger political and military conflict that had its roots in the struggle for power in Zimbabwe after liberation. Rather than being clear evidence of genocide, reports from the ground at the time indicate that a complex political struggle was taking place, with various interested parties, including the apartheid government of South Africa, becoming involved.
In fact, the same New York Times article notes that, “Western diplomats in the region say the dissidents are believed to be receiving supplies and training from neighbouring South Africa. Some weapons have been traced to South Africa, and Radio Truth, a station that supports the dissidents, is beamed into Zimbabwe from South Africa.”
Essentially, the Matabeleland region had been made into ground zero of a regional destabilisation campaign using political dissidents as proxies. This is, of course, the usual strategy of white imperialists in Africa who have long since used ethnic and tribal divisions to execute their political, economic and military agendas.
Perhaps the most often cited study into what happened in the Gukurahundi is known as “Breaking the Silence, Building True Peace” conducted by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJPZ). In this study, the authors meticulously document many of the atrocities committed during the conflict.
However, it mustn’t be forgotten that the study’s very first paragraph establishes the most important fact of all, “Zimbabwe was a seriously divided country at Independence in 1980. Ten years of war had not only served to liberate Zimbabwe but had created divisions within it. South Africa was also a hostile neighbour who wanted to weaken Zimbabwe.
There were problems between Zipra and Zanla, and outbreaks of violence (that) spilled over, such as at Entumbane in 1981.
By early 1982 there were groups of bandits in Matabeleland. Armed men were killing, robbing, and damaging property. The Government responded by launching a double attack in Matabeleland. The first attack was on the dissidents . . . The second attack was on Zapu, mainly in rural areas and at times in the cities . . .”
Many who have written about this period conveniently leave out the political and geopolitical context for the brutal violence in Matabeleland. This is of course because it is much easier, and more beneficial to Western propagandists who seek the destruction of Mugabe and Zanu-PF, to lay all the blame at the feet of Zimbabwe’s government.
However, a more nuanced understanding is needed. It should be noted that, given the chaotic nature of the conflict on the ground, undoubtedly atrocities were committed by both sides.
Universally recognised war crimes such as collective punishment — a violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention — were committed and those responsible should be held to account. However, to equate the fact that war crimes may have occurred with the idea that only one side was engaged in these crimes, is a gross distortion of the historical record.
As we critically examine these crimes, we should keep in the forefront of our thinking, US-Nato imperialist war against Libya, a war waged under the cover of humanitarian intervention. Left liberals were sold the war narrative under the illusion that, were they not to support war, great atrocities and genocide would follow. Naturally, genocide did follow, but it was at the hands of the “freedom fighters” US-Nato supported and equipped. The same narrative is now being sold vis-à-vis Syria where we’re told Assad is Hitler and the opposition are merely “freedom fighters”.
How will these stories be told 25 years from now and will the divide between reality and the narrative be as great as that in Zimbabwe? Mugabe, because of his land redistribution, indigenisation and self-sufficiency policies, has become the quintessential villain in the West, representing everything from brutal dictator to genocidal madman. As the demonisation continues, one must begin asking the most important question: Do they hate Mugabe because of his crimes, or do they hate Mugabe because he didn’t commit the right crimes?
Zimbabwe and the Plunder of the Congo
Another often cited criticism of Mugabe and Zanu-PF is their participation in the looting and plunder of the mineral resources of the DRC. This is a charge that must be understood in its larger, geopolitical context.
The on-going war and consequent genocide in the DRC, which have been more or less on-going since 1996, divided Africa along clear geopolitical lines. The major players involved in the plunder of the natural resources (especially mineral wealth) of DRC were Rwanda and Uganda (led by Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni), both clients of the United States.
They, along with their junior partner in Burundi, using smaller proxy forces inside Congo, instigated a bloodbath that continues to this day. It is against this backdrop of US puppets exercising regional hegemony with the American bully on the block supporting them that Zimbabwe entered into the conflict.
Intervening initially on the side of current DRC President Joseph Kabila and against former president Mobutu Sese Seko, Mugabe’s Zimbabwean forces essentially formed part of the core group of military advisors and officers aiding the Congolese in their fight against Rwandan and Ugandan proxy forces. Seen in this way, the involvement of Harare should be understood as neither purely humanitarian nor entirely self-interested. Mugabe genuinely wanted to aid Kabila and prevent the imperialist exploitation of his northern neighbour by the puppets of Western finance capital.
As noted in the United Nations “Report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo”, “Zimbabwe has financed its involvement in the conflict in two different ways: (a) by using the defence budget — the bulk of Zimbabwe’s military expenses seem to be covered by the regular budget; (b) by indirect financing of the war through direct payment by some Congolese entities, mainly companies . . . the Panel has noted a practice (known as) “incentives for assistance” (in which) the former Government of the DRC used the potential of its vast resources in the Katanga and Kasai regions to secure assistance from its allies . . . Zimbabwean companies and some decision-makers have benefitted most from this scheme.”
The involvement of Zimbabwe in the conflict in DRC is not as straight-forward as some would believe, at a basic level, it was a defensive posture. Harare understood from the very beginning that the advances made by Rwandan and Ugandan proxies could represent an existential threat to Zimbabwe as they would be little more than US client regimes. Moreover, there is undoubtedly an element of real-politik — Mugabe saw collaboration with capitalist financier elements as a necessary evil in order to leverage these relations to the ultimate benefit of Zimbabwe.
One must be careful not to fall into the trap of Western propagandists who make the case that Mugabe was intimately involved in the actual genocide in DRC. My critique of that line of thinking would simply be that one must make a distinction between the real perpetrators of the genocide (Rwanda, Uganda, the US, European corporations, et al) and the minor actors such as Zimbabwe which was involved to a much lesser degree and had a real, strategic interest in maintaining stability on its border.
Domestic Repression & the Politics of Intolerance
Perhaps the most common criticism of Mugabe and Zanu-PF is that they have engaged in systematic repression of political opposition dating back to the early 1980s and the struggle for power between Mugabe’s Zanu and Nkomo’s Zapu factions. Leaving aside the conflicts surrounding the fast-track land redistribution programme, which are far too often cited as examples of Mugabe’s “crimes”, there are other examples that bear close scrutiny.
A recent example of a programme widely regarded by Western media and their so-called “experts” on Zimbabwe as domestic repression, is the programme known as Operation Murambatsvina which, as Michael Bratton and Eldred Masunungure note, was “A massive ‘urban clean-up’ campaign that was justified as a strategy to eradicate illegal dwellings and eliminate informal trade . . . Analysts and observers inside and outside the country commented that the crackdown was performed in an indiscriminate manner and with excessive force.” Such a programme is not one that should be justified or apologised for.
However, it must be understood in its proper context. When compared to the repression of the landless poor in South Africa, who have had their shacks and other dwellings demolished repeatedly by South Africa’s ruling ANC government, Operation Murambatsvina seems similar by comparison.
While the ANC has managed to maintain a squeaky clean image in the Western media despite the deadly violence visited upon the peaceful strikers at Marikana, Mugabe and Zanu-PF continue to be vilified for actions that, in many ways, pale in comparison. This is not to equate every situation in the two countries, as they are vastly different.
This article is the second in a three-part series of articles examining the political and economic landscape of Zimbabwe as elections approach. Eric Draitser is the founder of StopImperialism.com. He is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City. This article is reproduced from Counterpunch.
SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomao with Chinese Vice Premier Huang Ju at a meeting in Botswana during November of 2005. Salomao has recently visited Zimbabwe., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Court appeal ruling final, says Sadc
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 00:00
Felex Share Herald Reporter
SADC will respect any decision taken by the Constitutional Court regarding the possible extension of election dates as it will not create a precedent of contesting the rulings of courts of any member-state, the bloc’s executive secretary, Dr Tomaz Salamao, said yesterday.
At the extraordinary summit of Heads of State and government in Maputo, Mozambique, at the weekend, Sadc urged Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa to seek an extension of the poll deadline to accommodate MDC formations’ proposed reforms.
Minister Chinamasa, who filed the application yesterday, said the only reforms that will be entertained will have to be agreed as no disagreements can be implemented.
Sadc executive secretary Dr Salamao said in an interview that decisions of the courts had to be respected and the regional bloc would welcome any court ruling made in any Sadc member-state.
This comes as African Union Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Monday said only Zimbabweans could resolve any contestation over their election date, adding that it was not proper for anyone to “second-guess” the country’s courts.
Dr Salamao said last weekend’s extraordinary Sadc summit only made recommendations to Zimbabwe to seek an extension to the July 31 deadline and it was up to the courts to reject or accept the appeal.
“To us, any court ruling made in any Sadc member-state is a supreme decision that has to be respected.
“If President Mugabe decides to task his Justice Minister to make any application and the court discusses the application and either sticks to the original decision or makes any changes, it means anyone has to abide by that court ruling. Who are we to change that decision?
“As Sadc, we will never create a precedent and will obviously not go against a court order.”
During the weekend summit, the regional bloc upheld the Constitutional Court ruling that elections be held by July 31 and appealed to Government to seek an extension for parties in the inclusive Government to implement any agreed reforms.
The ruling was made following an application by Mr Jealous Mawarire of the Centre for Elections and Democracy who wanted the court to compel President Mugabe to proclaim the election date before the expiry of the life of the Seventh Parliament on June 29.
Legal experts have already indicated that Government has no legal basis to approach the Constitutional Court seeking an extension to the election date that it has already complied with.
They said the appeal to President Mugabe by Sadc was out of sync with the local constitutional provisions.
The law experts said the Constitutional Court was not answerable to Sadc or any other body and that it would make its decisions on legal basis.
In a bid to delay the elections, the MDC formations have been accused of making “generalised calls” for reforms in various sectors as they have failed to make specific proposals on reforms they need to be attended to.
Minister Chinamasa recently said the three parties in Government had collectively implemented reforms to Aippa, Posa and the Broadcasting Services Act in 2007, but the MDC formations continued generalising things to mask their fear of elections.
Current ZANU-PF Party Chairman, Simon Khaya Moyo, is the former Zimbabwe Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa. He was featured in an interview with the Zimbabwe Sunday Mail on October 31, 2010 on the current political situation inside the country., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Politburo to finalise Zanu-PF nominations
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 00:00
Takunda Maodza Senior Reporter
THE Zanu-PF National Elections Directorate yesterday scrutinised applications by aspiring candidates seeking to stand on the party’s ticket in the harmonised elections and is expected to present a reporton its findings to the Politburo today.
The Politburo is expected to approve the final list of candidates who will contest primary elections on Monday next week in preparation for the harmonised elections on July 31.
Zanu-PF national chairman Cde Simon Khaya Moyo confirmed the development in an interview with The Herald last night.
“We met for the whole day,” he said. “The provincial elections directorate led by their respective chairpersons presented applications for nominations from the provinces.
“The National Elections Directorate deliberated on each province’s submission.
“It was a very robust scrutiny of all the applications presented and in the end the National Elections Directorate concluded the discussions and we are now preparing our report for presentation to Politburo tomorrow (today) afternoon.”
Cde Khaya Moyo said the process went on well.
“We discussed even those who were disqualified,” he said.
“Some of them were accepted, while some were not accepted as they could not meet all the requirements as stipulated in the rules and regulations governing the conduct of primary elections.
“We have to present our report to Politburo tomorrow (today) and Politburo will bring finality to the exercise.”
Cde Khaya Moyo said as the Zanu-PF chairman, he was impressed by the applications.
“The submissions clearly demonstrate that the party is in good stead,” he said.
“There is thriving democracy in our revolutionary party.
“Given the sentiments expressed by the submissions from various provinces, it is quite evident that we are heading for a resounding win in the coming harmonised elections.
“We are poised for a thunderous win.”
Sitting and aspiring Zanu-PF legislators presented their curriculum vitaes and applications over the weekend at various districts across the country.
The applications were scrutinised by respective provinces before they were submitted to the national elections directorate chaired by Cde Khaya Moyo for further vetting.
Approval by Politburo of the aspiring candidates will pave way for the primary elections that would be held in one day on Monday across the country.
Detroit Moratorium NOW! Coalition protest outside the Wayne State University Law School on June 10, 2013. The demonstrations called for the end of emergency management and a moratorium on debt service. , a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
June 17, 2013
In Embattled Detroit, No Talk of Sharing Pain
By MARY WILLIAMS WALSH and STEVEN YACCINO
New York Times
When New York City threatened to declare bankruptcy in 1975, the idea so terrified everyone that it forced the city, its workers and its recalcitrant bankers to sit down and find ways to share the pain.
Now another large city, Detroit, appears to be on the brink of filing for bankruptcy, but there is little talk of sharing the pain. Instead, the fiscal crisis in Michigan is setting up as a gigantic clash between bondholders and city retirees.
The city’s proposals, which could give some bondholders as little as 10 cents on the dollar, are making some creditors think they would be better off in bankruptcy. They see the specter of a federal judge imposing involuntary losses as less ominous than it was for New York.
“The haircut is so severe,” said Matt Fabian, a managing director of Municipal Market Advisors, “I think it’s scaring them into bankruptcy, rather than away from bankruptcy.”
But city retirees, facing the prospect of sharply reduced benefits whether in bankruptcy or under Detroit’s restructuring proposal, think they stand squarely on the moral high ground because despite the poverty of many current and retired members, they have already offered big concessions.
“It’s not the employees that are costing the city money,” said Edward L. McNeil, an official with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees who is leading a coalition of 33 unions that will be affected by any restructuring of Detroit’s debts, which total roughly $17 billion. Just last year, he said, those unions offered concessions that could have saved the city hundreds of millions of dollars a year. But Detroit “botched the implementation,” he said.
And Michael VanOverbeke, interim general counsel for the general workers’ retirement plan, said bondholders were investors hoping for returns, who should expect “a certain amount of risk.”
“Planning for retirement and working for employers was not an investment into the market,” he added. “These are people who are on a fixed income at this point in their life. They can’t go back to work and start all over again.” He said it was unthinkable to cut retirees’ pensions outside of bankruptcy.
A bankruptcy in Detroit would have no precedent, despite an unusual flurry of municipal bankruptcies after the financial crisis. Rhode Island hurriedly passed a law giving municipal bondhholders priority over other creditors, including retirees, just before the small city of Central Falls filed for bankruptcy. That helped Central Falls resolve its bankruptcy quickly, but no one thinks Michigan could pass such a law. In Jefferson County, Ala., a large majority of the financial trouble grew out of debt issued to rebuild a sewer system, not pensions or other employee benefits. The rights of public workers and bondholders are in conflict in the bankruptcy of Stockton, Calif., but that case is not yet far enough along to be of any guidance to Detroit.
With talks on labor issues scheduled for Thursday, municipal bond market participants say one of their main concerns is that the city’s proposal would flatten the traditional hierarchy of creditors, putting say, a retired librarian on par with an investor holding a general obligation bond. That does not square with the laws and conventions of the municipal bond market, where for decades small investors have been told that such bonds are among the safest investments and that for “general obligation” bonds cities could even be compelled to raise taxes, if that’s what it took to make good. The “full faith and credit” pledge was supposed to make such bonds stronger than the other main type of muni — revenue bonds, which promised to pay investors out of project revenue.
Public finance experts have warned that broad societal problems could follow a loss of faith in municipalities’ commitments to honor their pledges. In a major report on the state of the muni market last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission warned that communities would find it increasingly costly to raise money, throwing into question the time-honored practices of building and financing public works at the local level.
Detroit’s proposal shows how much things have changed since the days when the municipal bond market consisted of two types of debt and little else. The emergency manager, Kevyn D. Orr, issued a complicated list of debts with a wide range of gradations, with general obligation bonds now inferior to revenue bonds.
Mr. Orr classified Detroit’s general obligation bonds into two groups — secured and unsecured — with the secured ones backed by outside sources of money, like state aid or federal block grants. The unsecured bonds are those that rely only on Detroit’s “full faith and credit” pledge. As a practical matter, much of Detroit’s bond debt is insured, so bondholders will feel no immediate pain as the city moves forward with its planned defaults. But the bond insurers have the right to do battle in the bondholders’ place, and other market interests are likely to join them.
Mr. Fabian said bondholders knew perfectly well that Detroit was broke and could not raise taxes and fees enough to cover all its bonds, but were still shocked by the proposed treatment.
“It’s not that people just want to get more money out of Detroit,” he said. “It’s the violence that’s being done to the city’s capital structure. It creates a new paradigm for investing in Michigan bonds.”
In the past, he said, the ratings agencies included the various debt structures in their evaluations of municipal bonds. An “unlimited-tax general obligation bond,” for instance, might be rated one or two notches higher than a “limited tax” version of the same bond. Investors would look at the rating, know what they were getting and pay more for the safer debt.
“Michigan is saying all that will go out the window,” Mr. Fabian said. “In effect, they’re saying that structure only matters when you don’t need it” — when everything is normal and the debt is being repaid.
“And when you need to rely on those legal differences, then they don’t matter,” he added. “It’s distressing.”
Municipal market participants are also rattled by a big, sudden increase in Mr. Orr’s measurement of Detroit’s pension shortfall, which he is also classifying as unsecured, leaving workers and bondholders to compete for whatever pool of money is left over. As of June 30, 2011, the city’s most recent actuarial snapshot showed that its two big pension funds were in pretty good shape — short by just $644 million, because the city had issued securities called “certificates of participation” in 2005 and 2006, and put the proceeds into the pension funds.
But Mr. Orr’s report said that estimated shortfall had been “substantially understated” through aggressive assumptions and other distortions. After correcting those, the two funds’ shortfall was closer to $3.5 billion.
And as for those certificates of participation, issued to produce money for pensions, they turn out to be among Detroit’s shakiest debts. The city already skipped a payment due last Friday, and Mr. Orr said the city had found “certain issues related to the validity and/or enforceability” of the debt. His report did not specify what the issues were, but said further investigation might be warranted.
The report said that to some extent, the trustees who sit on Detroit’s pension boards had worsened the pension trouble by promising workers “ad hoc sweeteners” and diverting investment income to other uses. As state-appointed emergency manager, Mr. Orr has authority to remove pension trustees.
But Mr. VanOverbeke said the trustees were not going anywhere. In fact, they have already set aside $5 million for a legal challenge in case Mr. Orr puts them “in a position that they would not have the resources necessary” to protect the pensioners, Mr. VanOverbeke said.
“It wasn’t put aside to do battle,” he said. “They were set aside so that as fiduciaries they can make the appropriate decisions and take the necessary actions as it is deemed appropriate.”
Zimbabwe farmers marketing tobacco. The production of the crop has increased in recent years due to the land redistribution program., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Research on land reform on
Tuesday, 18 June 2013 02:19
Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
THE Tobacco Industry Development Support Institute (TIDSI) is in the process of carrying out research to verify the impact of the land reform programme on tobacco growing in the country. The major objective of the study is to critically assess developments in the tobacco sector from 2000 to date to provide relevant updated information for use by various stakeholders for academic, planning and policy making purposes.
The results would be useful to stakeholders that include farmers, Non Governmental Organisations and farmers’ unions among others. The TIDSI executive director, Mr Jeffrey Takawira, said the results of the research would be used to justify production of tobacco in Zimbabwe.
“The results will be used as evidence at regional and international forums to advance arguments that Zimbabwe is a tobacco dependent economy and as such should be allowed to grow the crop,” he said.
Mr Takawira said the study was motivated by the developments in the tobacco industry in relation to the contribution to the economy and the welfare of the farmer since 2000.
This would be in relation to key variables such as national output, export generation, employment creation and retention, and linkages with upstream and downstream industries.
The research proposal notes that tobacco performs well on less fertile soils and sometimes there were no better cash crops in most environments compared to tobacco.
Republic of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe donates outside broadcast van from the People's Republic of China. China has been a long time ally of the Southern African state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
20 teachers set to visit China
Tuesday, 18 June 2013 02:22
Cathrine Biswick Herald Reporter
Twenty teachers from local schools will travel to China in August as part of the country’s on-going participation in a bilateral cultural exchange programme, a senior Government official said yesterday. Education, Sports, Arts and Culture Deputy Minister
Lazarus Dokora told The Herald that the selected teachers would leave for China by mid or end of August this year to enhance their skills in Wushu martial arts.
The teachers would be in China for one year.
China sent Wushu experts in February to train 63 local teachers in this form of martial arts at Chaminuka Training Centre in Mashonaland Central province.
“We are sending the top 20 teachers to China to sharpen their skills in the Wushu martial arts,” he said.
The teachers would undergo training in culture, sport and education under the cultural exchange programme between Zimbabwe and China.
Deputy Minister Dokora said the move to send the teachers to China reflected the good ties that the two countries enjoyed.
“This is reciprocal and they too will be benefiting from English classes given by the Zimbabwe nationals,” he said.
He said the programme was being implemented in fulfilment of the China–Africa co-operation framework.
President to launch National Youth Policy
Tuesday, 18 June 2013 02:23
Norah Mutale Herald Reporter
President Mugabe is this week expected to launch the National Youth Policy which aims to empower youths to participate and contribute to the social, economic and political development of the country.
Mr Livingstone Dzikira told The Herald last Friday that President Mugabe would launch the policy at the Harare International Conference Centre.
“We are happy about the launch of the revised National Youth Policy. The policy will ensure that young people are represented properly and that their needs are met,” he said.
He said the launch of the policy demonstrated the government’s commitment to empowering and addressing challenges facing the youth in the country.
The National Youth Policy represents a declaration of the priority areas for addressing youth issues and outlines strategic interventions that the Government intends to provide for the development of young women and men.
Furthermore, the policy provides a framework for the involvement of different organisations and sectors in supporting the development of young people in Zimbabwe.
The policy seeks to empower the youth in a comprehensive, co-ordinated multi-sectoral manner by creating an enabling environment and marshalling resources necessary for undertaking programmes to fully develop their potential and quality of life.
The National Youth Policy, among other issues, reserves and ensures that government approves a 25 percent quota of all economic indigenisation and empowerment facilities in agriculture, mining, commercial, tourism, and industrial economic activity for youth.
It also pays particular attention to the empowerment of young people with disabilities.
The National Youth Policy was approved by cabinet in June last year.
Armed and Dangerous: Occupied Libyan Weapons Fuel Illicit Exportation of Destabilization and Regional War
The French embassy in Tripoli, Libya was bombed on April 23, 2013. It was the first attack on the French embassy in the capital., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Libya, Armed And Dangerous: Piles Of Weapons Fuel Illicit Exportation Of War
June 18 2013
One of the last things the former Libyan government under Col. Gaddafi did before its overthrow by the combined imperialist forces of the Pentagon, NATO along with the CIA in 2011 was to distribute stockpiles of arms all across the country.
The late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi intended to disperse the weapons so they would not be easily targeted by opposition forces and their international allies. Mines and mortars were stashed in old factories. Heaps of artillery and ammunition were hidden away on private properties. Anti-tank missiles were stockpiled in abandoned buildings.
This weekend, the Sunday Times of London reported an alarming figure: “It is understood [British intelligence agency] MI6 estimates there are a million tons of weaponry in Libya — more than the entire arsenal of the British Army — and much of it is unsecured.”
Much of the government's weaponry was found and seized by rebel militias, who are still using it to enforce security in places where the new government remains incapable of asserting itself. Other munitions had been used to outfit loyalist fighters from Africa, many of whom brought their weapons home -- to countries including Mali, Niger and Algeria -- when the war was over.
Some Libyan weapons went even farther afield, and MI6 officials have reportedly warned UK Prime Minister David Cameron that Libya has become a “Tesco” for terrorists. But whether the Libyan arsenal actually amounts to 1 million tons is impossible to say.
“It’s not outside the realm of possibility, though it depends on the context,” said Matt Schroeder, an arms trade analyst with the Federation of American Scientists. He points to Iraq, which had a similar problem with widespread arms caches following the 2003 invasion, at which time military officials made the same million-ton estimate.
The risks posed by Libyan stockpiles extend far beyond North Africa. MI6’s warning has sparked fears about the extent to which Gadhafi stockpiles are flowing into war-torn Syria, and whether the unregulated proliferation threatens to prolong an increasingly sectarian conflict there.
A Cautionary Case Study
Libya is often held up as a cautionary tale for Syria, which is embroiled in a 27-month conflict that has killed at least 93,000 people and displaced millions more. Even if the Assad government does fall to opposition forces, tensions between religious and ethnic groups, or between extremists and moderates, may continue to erupt into deadly violence.
Libya is suffering the aftereffects of its own bloody conflict, which killed tens of thousands of people. Two years after the U.S.-NATO imperialist forces ousted Gadhafi, Libya’s central government -- a transitional body called the General National Congress -- remains weak. The bloodshed has not stopped; this weekend, a senior judge was killed in the eastern town of Derna, and at least 27 people died in the southwestern town of Sebha during a confrontation between protesters and the members of a pro-government militia called Libyan Shield.
These struggles present a timely warning, since Western countries have lately warmed to the idea of arming the opposition in Syria. The European Union allowed its arms embargo against Syria to expire in late May, and the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama announced its decision to arm the rebels just last week. Critics of this policy shift argue that Western powers can’t stop the weapons from falling into the wrong hands, especially since designated terrorist groups have infiltrated both sides. Jabhat al-Nusra, a group linked to al-Qaeda, is fighting for the opposition. Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shi'ite organization backed by Iran, has sent its troops to defend the regime.
Ensuring munitions’ ultimate destinations is no easy task, which is why Western powers will be hesitant to supply the Syrian rebels with sophisticated weaponry. In fact, efforts to deliver arms into the right hands may have already faltered. The New York Times reported in March that CIA agents have been working covertly to help Gulf states like Qatar and Saudi Arabia steer arms toward favored brigades of the Free Syrian Army. Many of these arms came from stockpiles in the former Yugoslavia. But shortly thereafter, statements from Jabhat al-Nusra included photographs of its fighters using anti-tank missiles with Yugoslavian origins, suggesting that the arms benefited jihadist groups despite the best intentions of U.S. operatives.
That Libya’s plentiful munitions are also finding their way to Syria only heightens the risks for all parties involved.
From Libya to Syria?
Given the nature of underground markets, it is impossible keep accurate track of all weapons flows into Syria.
“It’s very difficult to separate which weapons in Syria might have been looted from Libya,” said Schroeder. “Some of those weapons are so ubiquitous that their presence tells us little or nothing about where they came from.”
Of the various kinds of weaponry that have lately turned up in Syria, man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS, are particularly alarming. MANPADS are missiles that can be launched by a single fighter or small team. They need not be mounted to vehicles, are easily smuggled, and can be very difficult to track and target.
Recent videos from Syria have shown some sophisticated MANPADS in action, such as the FN-6, a Chinese-made surface-to-air missile, and the SA-24, a Russian product. Both are fairly recent models with heat-seeking capabilities, making them very dangerous not only to military craft, but also to civilian planes.
While Libyan anti-aircraft missiles were typically of the vehicle-mounted variety, it is possible that some of the SA-24s in Syria came from Gadhafi’s scattered stockpiles. Human Rights Watch reported that empty boxes that had apparently contained SA-24s were found in Libya in 2011, collecting dust in a schoolbook printing facility.
Most of Libya’s Gadhafi-era anti-aircraft missiles were of older and less sophisticated than SA-24s. But the numbers nonetheless paint a worrisome picture; of the more than 20,000 MANPADS stockpiled by the regime, about 3,000 remain unaccounted for. That’s to say nothing of the other weapons – tank rounds, mortars, land mines, rifles and more – that have been at risk of theft since the regime fell.
Of course, Syria is not the only potential destination for these tools of war; Libyan arms have also helped to destabilize the African Sahel – home to many of Gadhafi’s one-time loyalists – especially in Mali, where militant separatists took over more than half the country and spurred a French-led intervention in January. An April report for the U.N. Security Council found that “illicit flows from [Libya] are fueling existing conflicts in Africa and the Levant and enriching the arsenals of a range of non-state actors, including terrorist groups.”
Libyan rebels and international leaders are hard-pressed to smother the underground economy that has sprung up to take advantage of Libya’s vulnerabilities as it rebuilds, and now Syria presents another opportunity to address weapons proliferation issues head on. Regional and global powers are watching closely to make sure that the Libyan weapons debacle isn’t repeated this time around.