28.07.2014 The prosperous Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya is gone. The once vibrant country has become a failed state, ruled by militias and “jihadists” who terrorize the land and wage war on each other over the ruins of NATO’s deceitful promises of democracy. by Linda Housman It all started in early 2011, when the […]
Category Archives: Africa
By Johannes Stern 7 July 2014 In a decision amounting to a declaration of war against the Egyptian working class, the US-backed military junta announced cuts to fuel and electricity subsidies on which millions of impoverished Egyptians depend. On Friday at midnight, the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) raised petrol prices of three widely-used state-subsidized […]
By Alan Hart June 24, 2014 “ICH” - Could it be that the three Al-Jazeera journalists have been found guilty and each sentenced to seven years in jail to enable Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to pardon and free them in order to give the impression that he is a kind, forgiving man and not on […]
By Johannes Stern 23 June 2014 In a show of support for the blood-soaked military regime in Egypt, US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Cairo on Sunday. He met with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, and Egyptian President and de facto dictator Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Kerry announced that the US had released $575 […]
By Iftekhar A Khan June 12, 2014 “ICH” - The outcome of the election in Egypt hasn’t surprised anyone. General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, former chief of mukhabarat (intelligence) and defence minister, has taken over as Egypt’s president. Between Hosni Mubarak’s ouster and Sisi’s ascension to the throne was a short spell of an elected government led […]
Video Documentary Clayton Swisher from Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit explores the corrupt deals that plunged Egypt into an energy crisis and now leave it facing dependency on Israel. Egypt’s Lost Power broadcasts on Al Jazeera English on Monday, June 9th at 2000 GMT, and 1900 GMT on Al Jazeera Arabic. In Egypt’s Lost Power, Al […]
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By Audu Liberty Oseni Global Research, May 28, 2014 africanexecutive.com I have consistently maintained, the government of President Goodluck Jonathan knows more to Boko Haram insurgency than it appears on the surface. Our government finds pleasure in killing its citizens while it brands Boko Haram as the killers. A report titled we were barred from repelling Gamboru […]
By Stephen Gowans May 27 2014 “ICH” – “What’s Left” - Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former head of the military that overthrew Egypt’s legitimately elected president Mohammed Morsi in a 2013 coup d’état, is almost certain to win a landslide victory in today’s presidential election. Sisi’s victory, however, won’t be due to a groundswell of […]
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By Garikai Chengu Global Research, May 26, 2014 Water is to the twenty-first century what oil was to the twentieth century: the commodity that determines the wealth and stability of nations. People who think that the West’s interventions in Iraq, Libya and Syria are only about oil are mistaken. Broadly speaking, Western interest in the Middle […]
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By Adam Taylor May 25 2014 “ICH” – “WP” - President Obama’s announcement that United States has deployed 80 troops to Chad came as a surprise to many. But as my colleague Craig Whitlock points out, the United States already has boots on the ground in a surprising number of African countries. This map shows what sub-Saharan nations […]
By Thomas Gaist 23 May 2014 The US military launched a new deployment of 80 troops to Chad this week, in the latest expansion of a military “footprint” that stretches across the African continent. The White House is asserting that the troops, who are US Air Force personnel specializing in surveillance and drone operations, will […]
By Bill Van Auken 20 May 2014 Heavily armed militiamen reportedly loyal to a retired general with deep ties to the US Central Intelligence Agency stormed Libya’s parliament building Sunday with armored vehicles and heavy weapons, seizing its speaker and armed forces chief Nouri Abusahmain together with some 20 other officials and setting the building […]
By David Stockman ——————— Nigeria has been a failed state of corruption, outlawry, civil war and unspeakable violence and cruelty for decades. Literally millions have been starved, maimed and butchered owing to ethnic, tribal and religious clashes. And billions more have been stolen from the nation’s long-suffering people by government officials, the military and oppositionists alike in what […]
The U.S. government has become a global dictator By Jacob G. Hornberger May 17 2014 “ICH” - The kidnapping of 260 schoolgirls in Nigeria provides another example of why it is in the interests of the American people to dismantle their Cold War national-security state apparatus, including America’s overseas military empire, its gigantic standing army, […]
Kidnapped Girls Become Tools of U.S. Imperial Policy in Africa By Glen Ford “The Boko Haram, like other jihadists, had become more dangerous in a post-Gaddafi Africa – thus justifying a larger military presence for the Americans.” May 15 2014 “ICH” – “BAR” - A chorus of outraged public opinion demands that the “international community” and […]
By Jean Shaoul 10 May 2014 The United States has sent military and security “advisers” to Nigeria to help President Goodluck Jonathan’s government rescue more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Britain has also sent security forces, with the former colonial power stating Thursday that it will be working closely with […]
“Humanitarian Intervention” in Nigeria: Is the Boko Haram Insurgency Another CIA Covert Operation? Wikileaks
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By Atheling P Reginald Mavengira Global Research, May 08, 2014 African Renaissance News We have already been regaled with reports provided by Wikileaks which identified the US embassy in Nigeria as a forward operating base for wide and far reaching acts of subversion against Nigeria which include but not limited to eavesdropping on Nigerian government communication, financial espionage on leading Nigerians, support and funding of subversive groups […]
29 April 2014 A drumhead court in Egypt Monday handed down death sentences to 683 defendants—alleged members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)—after a five-minute trial in which the judge refused to allow a word uttered or a shred of evidence submitted in defense of the condemned men, most of whom were not even […]
By Danny Schechter
April 13, 2014 “ICH” - With Nelson Mandela’s death, news from South Africa seemed to have died along with the world’s most famous ex-political-prisoner-turned-president. It was as if the people there don’t deserve to be covered unless there is a larger-than-life celebrity or scandal to focus on.
Happily for the media industry there is a now an anti-Mandela in the public eye, an athletic celebrity who is now less famous for his achievements than infamous for killing his girlfriend in what was either a tragic accident or the act of an angry lover.
Oscar Pistorius’s trial is getting far more coverage than the one that Mandela and his co-defendants went through in 1962 leading to his life sentence for acts of sabotage against South Africa’s white-supremacist government.
That’s partly because of today’s celebrity culture. Pistorius was a medal-winning athlete dubbed the “blade runner” because he had been a double amputee since childhood and overcame adversity to win races while wearing prosthetic devices. His late live-in lover, Reeva Steenkamp, was a stunning blonde model well known to local media.
This story is being given the full tabloid treatment with cover stories in People Magazine and lots of hype by the networks. Unlike the days of apartheid, a black judge is hearing this case with race rarely alluded to, although it is part of the back story because of Pistorius’s claims that he thought he was shooting at an intruder.
Pistorius lived in a pricey gated community where fear of black burglars is legion, all an unstated reflection of the dramatic inequality that remains in the country. If Pistorius had killed an unknown black intruder, instead of his celebrity paramour, this trial wouldn’t be news (if there would even be a trial).
The coverage of him has been mostly negative although he has fought back with his own communications team with a Twitter feed, @OscarHardTruth, designed to give “factual updates” on the trial. Its profile reads, “Truth Shall Prevail. Innocent until Proven Guilty.” http://www.oscarpistorius.com. In just 24 hours, it had over 16,400 followers, but only follows 28 – mostly international media outlets.
South Africa’s media monitor, Media Tenor, said the local media is trying him as well as the court. According to researcher, Minnette Nieuwoudt, “my instinct tells me the media likes a damsel-in-distress type of story. The outright victim is something that resonates with a lot of people. The fact that she was very beautiful, it made her a bit of an icon. Pistorius, on the other hand, started getting increasingly negative coverage over the months after the shooting.
“There seemed to be a slight change in the tonality. Also, with regards to Oscar, he was initially compared to fallen sport heroes — then this changed to a more the general criminal comparison. First, he was an athlete who stumbled. Now, he’s a criminal, who used to be an athlete.”
But even as the world focuses on his courtroom tears and the aggressive and often bungled prosecution that aims to show the dark side of this Olympic hero, other issues of perhaps worst crimes in South Africa draw little interest from the global media machine.
The year 2014 is the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s “freedom” and the coming of democracy. It is an election year with national campaign underway pitting President Jacob Zuma, who was once part of the African National Congress’s armed struggle and is now a popular if controversial/detested politician seeking reelection, against a number of challengers.
Zuma is carrying lots of baggage because of a current theft-of-public-monies-for-private-use scandal involving lavish improvements on his home compound and an earlier rape case.
The ANC has a serious political challenge as well. On the center-right, there’s the DA, the Democratic Alliance, now transitioning from its roots in all-white politics into a multi-racial party that holds power in the Western Cape Province with Cape Town as its capital.
And, then there are two new outfits, among other players, contesting for seats in this parliamentary democracy. Businesswoman and educator Mamphela Ramphele, best known as the anti-apartheid icon Steve Biko’s girl friend, and her Agang Party is focusing on corruption and attracting women, while former ANC Youth League Leader Julius Malema has set up a militant radical sounding youth-oriented party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, and says the ANC died with Mandela.
South Africa’s powerful labor unions that have been in an alliance with the ANC for decades were expected to organize a worker’s party but they have been persuaded not to. None of these political divisions fall on strict left-right differences.
Many on all sides have strong disagreements with the ANC’s neo-liberal economic policies and complain about pervasive poverty and low growth. Outside the traditional political party structure, dissent is heard daily in noisy press stories exposing corruption and the “politics of concealment” by the ruling ANC party.
Long-time activists and ANC members are incensed by the lack of transparency and the arrogance of a political elite that seems more focused on enriching itself than serving the public.
Now, a former minister, Ronnie Kasrils, and supporters have launched a new Vote No campaign to put the issues of the ANC’s betrayal and corruption on the agenda. They have just issued this release:
“A one-time minister and a deputy minister in ANC governments are among a group of former anti-apartheid activists who are backing a campaign calling on voters to come out and vote by either spoiling their ballots or to voting tactically in protest against corruption and current government policies.
“Former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils and former deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge are among a number of prominent figures who have endorsed a statement headed: Sidikiwe! (We are fed up) Vukani! (Arise/Wake up), Vote ‘NO’ that will be released at the Press conference.”
It criticizes the economic policies of both the ANC and the main opposition, the DA, for supporting a system that has caused such alienation. Many participants are veterans of the struggle against apartheid and most of the signatories have supported the ANC throughout the years since the 1994 transition, but are appealing to the wider range of disillusioned voters. Their statement concludes:
“The ANC needs to know that it can no longer take for granted its traditional support and we would be failing South Africa and our democracy by not voting. After the elections efforts will be intensified to build an inclusive and transformative political program premised on social justice, redistribution, clean governance and democratic principles.”
All of this textured opposition politics does not meet the celebrity smell test that seems to motivate international media to pay attention. Corruption stories in Africa are widely covered although the focus is rarely ever on the corruptor, just the corruptee. It is virtually never on the disastrous impact of western corporations, banks and international financial institutions.
Years ago the anti-government song “Marching on Pretoria” was well-known. Today, with the media “marching on Pistorius,” the deeper, critical issues of a deepening economic and political crisis have been supplanted by another distraction – what looks to all the world like another OJ Simpson trial for audiences relishing more “newstainment.”
News Dissector Danny Schechter edits Mediachannel.org and blogs at newsdissector.net. firstname.lastname@example.org
In the in the context of the 20th anniversary commemoration of the Rwandan genocide the role of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank must be understood. In September 1990 at the very outset of the RPF insurgency out of Uganda, a devastating program of macroeconomic reforms was imposed on Rwanda by the IMF.
Michel Chossudovsky, April 7, 2014
The Rwandan crisis has been presented by the Western media as a profuse narrative of human suffering, while neglecting to explain the underlying social and economic causes. As in other ‘countries in transition’, ethnic strife and the outbreak of civil war are increasingly depicted as something which is almost ‘inevitable’ and innate to these societies, constituting ‘a painful stage in their evolution from a one- party State towards democracy and the free market’…
The brutality of the massacres has shocked the world community, but what the international press fails to mention is that the civil war was preceded by the flare-up of a deep-seated economic crisis. It was the restructuring of the agricultural system which precipitated the population into abject poverty and destitution. This deterioration of the economic environment which immediately followed the collapse of the international coffee market and the imposition of sweeping macro-economic reforms by the Bretton Woods institutions – exacerbated simmering ethnic tensions and accelerated the process of political collapse ….
In 1987, the system of quotas established under the International Coffee Agreement (ICA) started to fall apart. World prices plummeted, the Fonds d’egalisation (the State coffee stabilisation fund) which purchased coffee from Rwandan farmers at a fixed price started to accumulate a sizeable debt. A lethal blow to Rwanda’s economy came in June 1989 when the ICA reached a deadlock as a result of political pressures from Washington on behalf of the large US coffee traders. At the conclusion of a historic meeting of producers held in Florida, coffee prices plunged in a matter of months by more than 50%. For Rwanda and several other African countries, the drop in price wreaked havoc. With retail prices more than 20 times that paid to the African farmer, a tremendous amount of wealth was being appropriated in the rich countries.
The legacy of colonialism
What is the responsibility of the West in this tragedy? First, it is important to stress that the conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi was largely the product of the colonial system, many features of which still prevail today. From the late 19th century, the early German colonial occupation had used them wami (King) of the nyiginya monarchy installed at Nyanza as a means of establishing its military posts.
However, it was largely the administrative reforms initiated in 1926 by the Belgians which were decisive in shaping socio-ethnic relations. The Belgians explicitly used dynastic conflicts to reinforce their territorial control. The traditional chiefs in a each hill (colline) were used by the colonial administration to requisition forced labour. Routine beatings and corporal punishment were administered on behalf of the colonial masters by the traditional chiefs. The latter were under the direct supervision of a Belgian colonial administrator responsible for a particular portion of territory. A climate of fear and distrust was installed, communal solidarity broke down, traditional client relations were tranformed to serve the interests of the coloniser.
The objective was to fuel inter-ethnic rivalries as a means of achieving political control as well as preventing the development of solidarity between the two ethnic groups which inevitably would have been directed against the colonial regime. The Tutsi dynastic aristocracy was also made responsible for the collection of taxes and the administration of justice. The communal economy was undermined, the peasantry was forced to shift out of food agriculture into cash crops for export. Communal lands were transformed into individual plots geared solely towards cash crop cultivation (the so-called cultures obligatoires).
Colonial historiographers were entrusted with the task of ‘transcribing’ as well as distorting Rwanda-Urundi’s oral history. The historical record was falsified: the mwami monarchy was identified exclusively with the Tutsi aristocratic dynasty. The Hutus were represented as a dominated caste….
The Belgian colonialists developed a new social class, the so-called negres evolues recruited among the Tutsi aristocracy, the school system was put in place to educate the sons of the chiefs and provide the African personnel required by the Belgians. In turn, the various apostolic missions and vicariats received under Belgian colonial rule an almost political mandate, the clergy was often used to oblige the peasants to integrate the cash crop economy… These socio-ethnic divisions – which have been unfolding since the 1920s – have left a profound mark on contemporary Rwandan society.
Since Independence in 1962, relations with the former colonial powers and donors have become exceedingly more complex. Inherited from the Belgian colonial period, however, the same objective of pushing one ethnic group against the other (‘divide and rule’) has largely prevailed in the various ‘military’, ‘human rights’ and ‘macro- economic’ interventions undertaken from the outset of the civil war in 1990.
The Rwandan crisis has become encapsulated in a continuous agenda of donor roundtables (held in Paris), cease-fire agreements, peace talks…These various initiatives have been closely monitored and coordinated by the donor community in a tangled circuit of ‘conditionalities’ (and cross-conditionalities). The release of multilateral and bilateral loans since late 1990 was made conditional upon implementing a process of so-called ‘democratisation’ under the tight surveillance of the donor community. In turn, Western aid in support of multiparty democracy was made conditional (in an almost ‘symbiotic’ relationship) upon the government reaching an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and so on….
These attempts were all the more illusive because since the collapse of the coffee market, actual political power in Rwanda largely rested, in any event, in the hands of the donors. A communique of the US State Department issued in early 1993 vividly illustrates this situation: the continuation of US bilateral aid was made conditional on good behaviour in policy reform as well as progress in the pursuit of democracy….
The model of ‘democratisation’ based on an abstract model of inter-ethnic solidarity envisaged by the Arusha peace agreement signed in August 1993 was an impossibility from the outset and the donors knew it. The brutal impoverishment of the population which resulted from both the war and the IMF reforms, precluded a genuine process of democratisation. The objective was to meet the conditions of ‘good governance’ (a new term in the donors’ glossary) and oversee the installation of a bogus multiparty coalition government under the trusteeship of Rwanda’s external creditors. In fact multipartism as narrowly conceived by the donors, contributed to fuelling the various political factions of the regime… Not surprisingly, as soon as the peace negotiations entered a stalemate, the World Bank announced that it was interrupting the disbursements under its loan agreement.
The economy since independence
The evolution of the post-colonial economic system played a decisive role in the development of the Rwandan crisis. While progress was indeed recorded since Independence in diversifying the national economy, the colonial-style export economy based on coffee (les cultures obligatoires) established under the Belgian administration was largely maintained providing Rwanda with more than 80% of its foreign exchange earnings. A rentier class with interests in coffee trade and with close ties to the seat of political power had developed. Levels of poverty remained high, yet during the 1970s, and the first part of the 1980s, economic and social progress was nonetheless realised: real gross domestic product (GPD) growth was of the order of 4.9% per annum (1965-89), school enrolment increased markedly, recorded inflation was among the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa, less than 4% per annum.
While the Rwandan rural economy remained fragile, marked by acute demographic pressures (3.2% per annum population growth), land fragmentation and soil erosion, local-level food self-sufficiency had, to some extent, been achieved alongside the development of the export economy. Coffee was cultivated by approximately 70% of rural households, yet it constituted only a fraction of total monetary income. A variety of other commercial activities had been developed including the sale of traditional food staples and banana beer in regional and urban markets.
Until the late 1980s, imports of cereals including food aid were minimal compared to the patterns observed in other countries of the region. The food situation started to deteriorate in the early 1980s with a marked decline in the per capita availability of food. In overt contradiction to the usual trade reforms adopted under the auspices of the World Bank, protection to local producers had been provided through restrictions on the import of food commodities. They were lifted with the adoption of the 1990 structural adjustment programme.
The fragility of the State
The economic foundations of the post-Independence Rwandan State remained extremely fragile, a large share of government revenues depended on coffee, with the risk that a collapse in commodity prices would precipitate a crisis in the State’s public finances. The rural economy was the main source of funding of the State. As the debt crisis unfolded, a larger share of coffee and tea earnings had been earmarked for debt servicing, putting further pressure on small-scale farmers.
Export earnings declined by 50% between 1987 and 1991. The demise of State institutions unfolded thereafter. When coffee prices plummeted, famines erupted throughout the Rwandan countryside. According to World Bank data, the growth of GDP per capita declined from 0.4% in 1981-86 to – 5.5% in the period immediately following the slump of the coffee market (1987-91).
A World Bank mission travelled to Rwanda in November 1988 to review Rwanda’s public expenditure programme… A series of recommendations had been established with a view to putting Rwanda back on the track of sustained economic growth. The World Bank mission presented to the government, Rwanda policy options as consisting of two ‘scenarios’. Scenario I entitled ‘No Strategy Change’ contemplated the option of remaining with the ‘old’ system of State planning, whereas Scenario II labelled ‘With Strategy Change’ was that of macro-economic reform and ‘transition to the free market’.
After careful economic ‘simulations’ of likely policy outcomes, the World Bank concluded with some grain of optimism that if Rwanda adopted Scenario II, levels of consumption would increase markedly over 1989-93 alongside a recovery of investment and an improved balance of trade. The ‘simulations’ also pointed to added export performance and substantially lower levels of external indebtedness. These outcomes depended on the speedy implementation of the usual recipe of trade liberalisation and currency devaluation alongside the lifting of all subsidies to agriculture, the phasing out of the Fonds d’egalisation, the privatisation of State enterprises and the dismissal of civil servants…
The ‘With Strategy Change’ (Scenario II) was adopted, the government had no choice… A 50% devaluation of the Rwandan franc was carried out in November 1990, barely six weeks after the incursion from Uganda of the rebel army of the Rwandan Patriotic Front.
The devaluation was intended to boost coffee exports. It was presented to public opinion as a means of rehabilitating a war-ravaged economy. Not surprisingly, exactly the opposite results were achieved exacerbating the plight of the civil war. From a situation of relative price stability, the plunge of the Rwandan franc contributed to triggering inflation and the collapse of real earnings. A few days after the devaluation, sizeable increases in the prices of fuel and consumer essentials were announced. The consumer price index increased from 1.0% in 1989 to 19.2% in 1991. The balance-of-payments situation deteriorated dramatically and the outstanding external debt which had already doubled since 1985, increased by 34% between 1989 and 1992.
The State administrative apparatus was in disarray, State enterprises were pushed into bankruptcy and public services collapsed. Health and education collapsed under the brunt of the IMF imposed austerity measures. Despite the establishment of ‘Social Safety’ (earmarked by the donors for programmes in the social sectors), the incidence of severe child malnutrition increased dramatically, the number of recorded cases of malaria increased by 21% in the year following the adoption of the IMF programme largely as a result of the absence of anti-malarial drugs in the public health centres. The imposition of school fees at the primary school level was conducive to a massive decline in school enrolment.
The economic crisis reached its climax in 1992 when Rwandan farmers in desperation uprooted some 300,000 coffee trees. Despite soaring domestic prices, the government had frozen the farmgate price of coffee at its 1989 level (125 RwF a kg), under the terms of its agreement with the Bretton Woods institutions. The government was not allowed (under the World Bank loan) to transfer State resources to the Fonds d’egalisation. It should also be mentioned that a significant profit was appropriated by local coffee traders and intermediaries serving to put further pressure on the peasantry.
In June 1992, a second devaluation was ordered by the IMF leading — at the height of the civil war – to a further escalation of the prices of fuel and consumer essentials. Coffee production tumbled by another 25% in a single year…. Because of over-cropping of coffee trees, there was increasingly less land available to produce food, but the peasantry was not able to easily switch back into food crops. The meagre cash income derived from coffee had been erased yet there was nothing to fall back on. Not only were cash revenues from coffee insufficient to buy food, the prices of farm inputs had soared and money earnings from coffee were grossly insufficient.
The crisis of the coffee economy backlashed on the production of traditional food staples leading to a substantial drop in the production of cassava, beans and sorghum… The system of savings and loan cooperatives which provided credit to small farmers had also disintegrated. Moreover, with the liberalisation of trade and the deregulation of grain markets as recommended by the Bretton Woods institutions, (heavily subsidised) cheap food imports and food aid from the rich countries were entering Rwanda with the effect of destabilising local markets.
Under ‘the free market’ system imposed on Rwanda, neither cash crops nor food crops were economically viable. The entire agricultural system was pushed into crisis, the State administrative apparatus was in disarray due to the civil war but also as a result of the austerity measures and sinking civil service salaries… A situation which inevitably contributed to exacerbating the climate of generalised insecurity which had unfolded in 1992…
The seriousness of the agricultural situation had been amply documented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) which had warned of the existence of widespread famine in the southern provinces. A report released in early 1994 also pointed to the total collapse of coffee production due to the war but also as a result of the failure of the State marketing system which was being phased with the support of the World Bank. Rwandex, the mixed enterprise responsible for processing and export of coffee, had become largely inoperative.
The decision to devalue (and ‘the IMF stamp of approval’) had already been reached on 17 September 1990 prior to the outbreak of hostilities in high-level meetings held in Washington between the IMF and a mission headed by the Rwandan Minister of Finance Mr Ntigurirwa. The ‘green light’ had been granted: as of early October, at the very moment when the fighting started, millions of dollars of so-called ‘balance-of-payments aid’ (from multilateral and bilateral sources) came pouring into the coffers of the Central Bank. These funds administered by the Central Bank had been earmarked (by the donors) for commodity imports, yet it appears likely that a sizeable portion of these ‘quick disbursing loans’ had been diverted by the regime (and its various political factions) towards the acquisition of military hardware (from South Africa, Egypt and Eastern Europe). These purchases of Kalachnikov guns, heavy artillery and mortar were undertaken in addition to the bilateral military aid package provided by France which included inter alia Milan and Apila missiles (not to mention a Mystere Falcon jet for President Habyarimana’s personal use).
Moreover, since October 1990, the Armed Forces had expanded virtually overnight from 5,000 to 40,000 men requiring inevitably (under conditions of budgetary austerity) a sizeable influx of outside money… The new recruits were largely enlisted from the ranks of the urban unemployed of which the numbers had dramatically swelled since the outset of the collapse of the coffee market in 1989. Thousands of delinquent and idle youths from a drifting population were also drafted into the civilian militia responsible for the massacres. And part of the arms purchases enabled the Armed Forces to organise and equip the militiamen…
In all, from the outset of the hostilities (which coincided chronologically with the devaluation and the initial ‘gush of fresh money’ in October 1990), a total envelope of some $260 million had been approved for disbursal (with sizeable bilateral contributions from France, Germany, Belgium, the European Community and the US). While the new loans contributed to releasing money for the payment of debt servicing as well as equipping the Armed Force, the evidence would suggest that a large part of this donor assistance was neither used productively nor was it channelled into providing relief in areas affected by famine.
It is also worth noting that the World Bank through its soft-lending affiliate, the International Development Association (IDA), had ordered in 1992 the privatisation of Rwanda’s State enterprise Electrogaz. The proceeds of the privatisation were to be channelled towards debt servicing. In a loan agreement co-financed with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Caisse francaise de developpement (CFD), the Rwandan authorities were to receive in return (after meeting the ‘conditionalities’) the modest sum of $39 million which could be spent freely on commodity imports. The privatisation, carried out at the height of the civil war, also included dismissals of personnel and an immediate hike in the price of electricity which further contributed to paralysing urban public services. A similar privatisation of Rwandatel, the State telecommunications company under the Ministry of Transport and Communications, was implemented in September 1993.
The World Bank had carefully reviewed Rwanda’s public investment programme. The fiches de projet having been examined, the World Bank recommended scrapping more than half the country’s public investment projects. In agriculture, the World Bank had also demanded a significant down-sizing of State investment including the abandonment of the inland swamp reclamation programme which had been initiated by the government in response to the severe shortages of arable land (and which the World Bank considered ‘unprofitable’). In the social sectors, the World Bank proposed a so-called ‘priority programme’ (under ‘the Social Safety Net’) predicated on maximising efficiency and ‘reducing the financial burden of the government’ through the exaction of user fees, lay-offs of teachers and health workers and the partial privatisation of health and education.
The World Bank would no doubt contend that things would have been much worse had Scenario II not been adopted. The so- called ‘counterfactual argument’… Such a reasoning, however, sounds absurd particularly in the case of Rwanda. No sensitivity or concern was expressed as to the likely political and social repercussions of economic shock therapy applied to a country on the brink of civil war… The World Bank team consciously excluded the ‘non-economic variables’ from their ‘simulations’.
While the international donor community cannot be held directly responsible for the tragic outcome of the Rwandan civil war, the austerity measures combined with the impact of the IMF-sponsored devaluations, contributed to impoverishing the Rwandan people at a time of acute political and social crisis. The deliberate manipulation of market forces destroyed economic activity and people’s livelihood, fuelled unemployment and created a situation of generalised famine and social despair…
To lay the blame solely on deep-seated tribal hatred not only exonerates the great powers and the donors, it also distorts an exceedingly complex process of economic, social and political disintegration affecting an entire nation of more than seven million people… Rwanda, however, is but one among many countries in sub-Saharan Africa (not to mention recent developments in Burundi where famine and ethnic massacres are rampant) which are facing a similar predicament. And in many respects the Rwandan 1990 devaluation appears almost as a ‘laboratory test case’ as well as a threatening ‘danger signal’ for the devaluation of the CFA franc implemented on the instructions of the IMF and the French Treasury in January 1994 by the same amount, 50%.
It is also worth recalling that in Somalia iln the aftermath of ‘Operation Restore Hope’, the absence of a genuine economic recovery programme by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) mission in Mogadishu – outside the provision of short-term emergency relief and food aid – was the main obstacle to resolving the civil war and rebuilding the country. In Somalia, because of the surplus of relief aid which competed with local production, farmers remained in the relief camps instead of returning to their home villages.
What are the lessons for Rwanda? As humanitarian organisations prepare for the return of the refugees, the prospects for rebuilding the Rwandan economy outside the framework determined by the IMF and Rwanda’s international creditors seem to be extremely bleak. Even in the event a national unity government is installed and the personal security of the refugees can be ensured, the two million Rwandans cramped in camps in Zaire and Tanzania have nothing to return to, nothing to look forward to: agricultural markets have been destroyed, local-level food production and the coffee economy have been shattered, urban employment and social programmes have been erased…
The reconstruction of Rwanda will require ‘an alternative economic programme’ implemented by a genuinely democratic government (based on inter-ethnic solidarity and free from donor interference). Such a programme presupposes erasing the external debt together with an unconditional infusion of international aid. It also requires lifting the straitjacket of budgetary austerity imposed by the IMF, mobilising domestic resources, and providing for a secure and stable productive base for the rural people…
By Thabo Seseane Jr
3 April 2014
Some 500 people joined an African National Congress (ANC) march in Cape Town, Western Cape province on March 26 to demand better sanitation, housing and land from the ruling Democratic Alliance (DA).
This is the only place where the ANC can call for such demands given that Western Cape is the only one of South Africa’s nine provinces not under its rule. Everywhere else the ANC has imposed the dictates of the global banks and corporaitons, which have been ruinous for working people.
The protest was an attempt by the ANC to posture as a champion of “black rights” in advance of the general elections scheduled for May 7, which will elect a new National Assembly as well as new provincial legislatures in each province.
The march was organised in response to DA leader Helen Zille’s comments on the draft of employment equity regulations published in the beginning of March. The Employment Equity Amendment Act, passed last October by the ANC national government, is supposed to provide a guide to employers on how to use demographic figures to set targets for the racial makeup of their workforces.
The ANC policy seeks to match the racial composition of all workplaces to national demographics. For instance, since blacks constitute about 80 percent of the overall population, black employees, according to the guidelines, should make up 80 percent of workers across all levels at places of employment everywhere in the country.
However, the ratio of blacks in the Western Cape is barely a third, while so-called coloured people—a heterogeneous ethnic group of around 4.5 million people who mostly reside in Cape Town and the Western Cape region—constitute 49 percent of the population. In this context the ANC march was a deliberate provocation designed to inflame racial tensions.
Zille, the premier of the Western Cape, denounced the regulations as having a “profound impact on employment” in the province, denying coloureds access to jobs and promotion, should they be implemented.
One of the organisers of the march, ANC Western Cape Provincial Secretary Songezo Mjongile, accused the DA of “playing on the fears” of the coloured community in a ruse to win their votes. The ANC described Zille’s comments as “mere electioneering and an attempt to divide black and coloured communities in the Western Cape.”
In reality, the ANC itself has nothing other than identity politics to offer workers of the Western Cape and South Africa as a whole. In its policies of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), Affirmative Action (employment equity) and procurement favouring “historically disadvantaged” suppliers, the ANC from 1994 onwards cultivated a wealthy black capitalist class, while reinforcing the divisions in the working class, which the bourgeoisie first enshrined in the canon of “Grand Apartheid”.
Apartheid as official policy emerged following the general election of 1948. With blacks then disenfranchised, victory went to the white supremacist National Party (NP) under D. F. Malan. NP legislation classified people into four racial groups—white, coloured, Indian and black, in order of preference—and residential areas were segregated accordingly. The ANC government requires to this day that citizens be classified in these categories for employment, census and other purposes.
Apartheid sought to cover over the class divisions in capitalist society with vicious racial segregation and discrimination. This included policies that reserved skilled and managerial posts for whites while restricting blacks to more menial work.
From the first democratic elections of 1994, ANC policy has sought to address economic underdevelopment through measures that are touted as favouring blacks. Actually, these policies have showered obscene wealth on only a thin layer of individuals connected to the ANC. Since the election of the ANC and the end of de jure apartheid, poverty, unemployment, income inequality, life expectancy, land ownership and educational attainment have all worsened for blacks despite the country’s rising GDP.
Nevertheless, the ANC doggedly perpetuates the lie that racial discrimination is the root of inequality in South Africa. They are joined in this mantra by all the other tools of the bourgeois establishment.
This explains the remarks of National Union of Me tal workers of South Africa (NUMSA) General S ecretary Irvin Jim during the one-day strike on March 19. Following a march in Johannesburg against proposed legislation , which offers more subsidies to employers of young workers , Jim claimed that “non-racialism” is not working for South Africa, as blacks still form the bulk of those in poverty.
The insinuation is clearly that the ANC’s “empowerment” policies, which are predicated on the defense of capitalist property relations and therefore the further impoverishment of the working class, must continue. At the same time, NUMSA encourages illusions in its pseudo-leftist credentials, having announced its “investigation” into the feasibility of a coalition of forces to form a “socialist” political party.
The fake left provides additional cover for racialist politics promoted by NUMSA. Writing in Business Day, Sam Ashman and Nicolas Pons-Vignon enthuse that NUMSA’s mooted political party is “the most promising development that progressives—those who support substantial economic and social change in favour of the disadvantaged—could have hoped for.” According to them, NUMSA “may well succeed in building… a credible socialist alternative.”
Ashman and Pons-Vignon are senior researchers in the Corporate Strategy and Industrial Development Research programme at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). According to his Wits profile, “Nicolas has edited two [International Labour Organisation]-published books which collect articles on trade union responses to the crisis and policy directions for post-crisis economic policy.”
Ashman, the Wits profile continues, “is involved in a project based at Rhodes University, funded by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and sponsored by NUMSA, which is examining the political economy of economic policy-making in South Africa since 1994 and developing alternative policy proposals.” (The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation is affiliated with the Left Party in Germany, a party which has supported austerity, the attack on democratic rights and the remilitarization of German imperialism.)
The exploitation of racial differences among workers found expression last year in the establishment of the Patriotic Alliance, one of the parties contesting the May 7 elections. Oriented to the Western Cape, which more than any other province suffers from the scourge of criminal gangs, the Patriotic Alliance is the brainchild of ex-convicts Gayton McKenzie and Kenny Kunene. It aims to curry support from South Africa’s 160,000 prison inmates—who have the right to vote in this year’s election—whom it claims are ignored by mainstream parties.
“Back then during apartheid, coloured people weren’t white enough,” McKenzie complained to City Press in December. “Now we’re not black enough.”
The bourgeoisie continues to rely on racial differences to divide workers. Zille caused an uproar in 2012 when she applied the term “refugees” to those citizens of the impoverished, predominantly black Eastern Cape who move to the Western Cape in search of jobs.
Playing the same game but addressing a black audience, the ANC’s Jimmy Manyi complained the year before of an “over-concentration of coloureds” in the Western Cape. Manyi, then head of government communications, crudely suggested that some of them be relocated so that the racial profile of the province could more closely match national demographics.
Such thinking is no different from that which led to the traumatic forced removals of people of the “wrong” colour from areas that the apartheid state deemed them unfit for.
Among the 29 parties contesting the elections, none offer a progressive programme to oppose the capitalist system, which is the cause of poverty, social inequality and all forms of discrimination.
By Johannes Stern
28 March 2014
On Wednesday night Egyptian coup leader Field Marshall Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi officially declared his plan to run for president in upcoming elections. This is the latest effort in the US-backed junta’s carefully planned campaign to install its leader as president in order to tighten its grip over the country and brutally confront rising working class opposition.
Sisi’s televised address to the nation was a cynical mixture of nationalist phrasemongering and barely veiled threats. “I am here before you humbly stating my intention to run for the presidency of the Arab Republic of Egypt,” Sisi declared. “Only your support will grant me this great honor.” After announcing his nominal resignation from the military, he added that he considered himself “a soldier serving my country in any capacity desired by Egyptians.”
Sisi’s claim that he will act in the interests of the Egyptian people is a grotesque lie. Only a few days ago Egyptian Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour compared Sisi to the former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, demanding that “this country as it stands today needs a strongman that can pull it together… Law and order is good toward investment and toward the economy.”
As with Pinochet, Sisi is a US-backed dictator prepared to use fascistic methods to suppress the working class at the behest of its imperialist patrons and international finance capital.
In his speech, Sisi threatened the impoverished Egyptian masses with austerity and suffering. He warned: “I cannot make miracles. Rather, I propose hard work and self-denial,” in order to “restore” Egypt.
Sisi cynically sought to wrap his declaration of war against the working class in the mantle of democracy. “My determination to run in the elections does not bar others from their right to run. I will be happy if whoever the people choose succeeds,” he declared, adding that he hopes for “a nation for all without exclusion.”
This is coming from a man who has overseen bloody massacres and large-scale repression over the past several months. Since the July 3, 2013 coup, the military junta under Sisi’s leadership has violently dispersed countless sit-ins, demonstrations and strikes, killing at least 1,400 people and jailing more than 16,000. It has banned the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Egypt’s main bourgeois opposition party, issued an anti-protest law and enshrined continued military rule in the constitution.
On Monday, an Egyptian court, in an act of political mass murder, sentenced 529 MB supporters to death. Further show trials are prepared. Only hours before Sisi’s speech, Egypt’s public prosecutor ordered another 919 MB members—including the MB’s Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badie, and the leader of its political arm, Saad al-Katatni—to stand trial on charges including murder and terrorism.
While the junta is intensifying its campaign of terror, intimidation and outright political murder, the imperialist powers have combined pro forma criticism of the death sentences—European Council President Herman van Rompuy declared after meeting US President Barack Obama in Brussels on Wednesday that the US and the EU were “appalled” by the sentences—with declarations of support to install a mass murderer as president.
With consummate cynicism, White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement. “As the election process moves forward we urge the Egyptian authorities to ensure that the elections are free, fair, and transparent; that all candidates are able to campaign freely, without fear of harassment or intimidation; and that the views of all the Egyptian people are fully represented.”
The Egyptian newspaper Ahram Online quoted an “European ambassador” as saying: “He [Sisi] has a very calculating mind and I am not surprised he took such a long time—although it was rather too long—to make his announcement.”
Sisi’s run for presidency exposes the fraud of the alleged “democratic transition” promoted by the imperialist powers, the military junta and the official political parties in Egypt alike.
More than three years after the revolutionary ouster of long-time dictator and US-stooge Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian ruling elite and its imperialist backers are moving to install an even more direct brutal dictatorship to put an end to all strikes and protests.
Sisi’s speech comes amidst a deepening social crisis and a renewed explosion of working class struggles. According to Democracy Meter, an Egyptian research center, the number of strikes and protests in Egypt reached a record 1,044 in February. On Tuesday the Egyptian online newspaper Mada Masr wrote that “despite official attempts to bring an end to a wave of labor unrest… a broad range of Egypt’s labor workforce embarked on nationwide strikes on Tuesday.” It reported: “Doctors, dentists, pharmacists, postal workers, textile workers, custodial staff and others all staged walkouts during the day.”
The junta is preparing to confront the working class with brutal terror. According to reports, police forces arrested strike leaders of the 50,000-member postal workers strike in dawn raids on Tuesday in Egypt’s second largest city Alexandria. The postal chief has reportedly claimed that the workers are affiliated to the MB, which was denied by family members. During the past two days, security forces brutally cracked down on students in Cairo protesting the death sentences for MB members. At least one student was killed.
The junta’s violent attempts to crush all opposition to its rule highlight the counterrevolutionary character of the liberal and “left” political organizations of Egypt’s affluent middle class. Organizations such as the National Salvation Front (NSF) and Tamarod—and their pseudo-left supporters, most prominently the misnamed Revolutionary Socialists (RS) group—played a key role in channeling the mass protests against Mohammed Mursi behind the military.
Now most of these groups are directly supporting Sisi’s presidency. The Tamarod movement gave its full-fledged support to Sisi. In a statement published on Wednesday it claimed that “our choice for a figure like the marshal [Sisi] is representative of a big section of the Egyptian people.”
Nasserite politician Hamdeen Sabahi, a leader of the NSF and the Karama Party, and so far the only other presidential candidate, praised Sisi’s candidacy in a tweet. “I welcome Sisi’s candidacy, and we seek … democratic elections that [are] transparent and guarantee neutrality of the nation and the will of the people to choose their president freely.”
The liberal Constitution Party, formerly led by Mohammad ElBaradei, also hinted its support, declaring that “Sisi has the right to enter the race as civilian citizen after resigning from his military position.”
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26 March 2014
Monday’s death sentence handed down by a kangaroo court in Egypt to 529 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) marks a new stage in the military junta’s brutal efforts to terrorize and intimidate popular opposition.
The trial in the southern city of Minya was a travesty. Most of the accused were not present. The judge, a bloodthirsty lackey of the military, screamed insults at the few defendants who were allowed in the courtroom. Defense lawyers were barred from the court. The filthy proceedings lasted less than two days, and ended with more than 500 defendants being condemned to the gallows for the killing of one policeman.
The trial was staged for the sole purpose of providing a pseudo-legal cover for the state murder of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the main political opposition to the military dictatorship.
With consummate cynicism, the United States and the European Union combined a perfunctory criticism of the death sentences with a declaration of support for the regime of mass murderers. Their “deep concern” and “shock” would not be permitted to undermine the “important relationship” with the junta. The European Union described “the death penalty” as “cruel and inhuman”, called upon “the Egyptian interim authorities” to apply “international standards” and stressed: “This is particularly important for the credibility of Egypt’s transition towards democracy.”
The junta has murdered thousands and is about to hang hundreds of its opponents, and the European Union has the gall to still talk about Egypt’s “transition towards democracy.”
Not wishing to be outdone, the US State Department, in a declaration that might have been penned by a master of black comedy, called upon “all parties and groups in Egypt to make sure that as their democratic transition moves forward, it’s done so in an inclusive manner.” The 529 condemned must await further instructions from Secretary of State John Kerry as to how they should “move forward” to democracy as they stand on the gallows with their hands tied and ropes around their necks.
The military would not have dared hand down the death sentences were it not confident that it is acting with the support of the Obama administration. Field Marshall Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is nothing other than a modern Egyptian version of the late Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet. Like the former Chilean dictator, al-Sisi came to power in a US-backed military coup and has the support of the imperialist powers in erecting a fascistic military dictatorship and declaring war against the working class.
Following the US-backed 1973 coup against the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende, Pinochet—with the help of death squads, concentration camps and torture chambers—turned Chile into a bloody playground for international finance capital. Supported by the CIA and various US governments, Pinochet’s junta carried out killings and disappearances of political opponents, pushed through low wages and high interest rates and exploited a workforce at gun-point to generate maximum profits for a tiny ruling elite.
As in Chile, the Egyptian junta’s barbaric methods serve the interests of its imperialist patrons. The US and European governments supported the July 3, 2013 military coup and the junta’s subsequent repression of countless sit-ins, demonstrations and strikes. Since the coup—carried out amidst mass protests against Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi—the junta has banned the MB, killed and jailed thousands of its supporters, issued an anti-protest law and enshrined its privileges in a new constitution.
With the backing of Washington and Brussels, the Egyptian military junta is seeking to extend its reign of terror to the entire working class and violently crush all strikes and protests at the behest of international finance capital.
This program was clearly spelled out by Egyptian Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour. In a recent Reuters article titled “Egypt investors believe Sisi presidency will bring stability” he is quoted as saying:
“In the West, a candidacy and maybe the election of an army officer or an ex-officer to the presidency of a developing, third world country would raise eyebrows and call to mind the image of a Pinochet rather than a George Washington… a dictator rather than a reformer. [But] this country as it stands today needs a strongman that can pull it together… Law and order is good toward investment and toward the economy.”
International banks and investors have long been calling for Sisi’s installation as president. “I think most investors would say it doesn’t appear all that democratic, but it’s more stable, so my investment will be safer,” said Gabriel Sterne of Exotix, a London-based frontier market bank active in Egypt. A report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch last month described a potential Sisi presidency as “market-friendly in the near term”, and demanded a “crucial” loan from the International Monetary Fund.
Earlier this month, Sisi threatened years of austerity and suffering to the Egyptian working class: “Our economic circumstances, in all sincerity and with all understanding, are very, very difficult… Possibly one or two generations will [have to suffer] so that the remaining generations live.”
The escalation by the junta of its counter-revolutionary attempts to violently crush any opposition to its rule comes amidst growing signs of social conflict and a renewed explosion of working-class struggles. On Monday, Democracy Meter, an Egyptian research center, reported that the number of strikes and protests in Egypt reached 1,044 in February, including doctors, textile workers, public servants, bus drivers and other sections of the working class.
According to media reports, five leaders of the postal workers strike in the coastal town of Alexandria were arrested from their homes in dawn raids on Tuesday. On the same day, Sisi praised a newly formed “anti-terror unit,” threatening that the army is capable of “doing the impossible.” According to the Egyptian Daily Al-Mary Al-Youm, he declared that, “maximum effort has to be exerted to confront threats and challenges of the homeland’s national security.”
The death sentences and the junta’s preparations for an ever more direct fascistic dictatorship are a warning. It confirms that the ruling elite will stop at nothing and is ready to defend its class interests with the bloodiest measures against any challenge by the working class.
The International Committee of the Fourth International calls on the working class in all parts of the world to come to the defense of the condemned prisoners and the beleaguered Egyptian working class. Protests and demonstrations should be organized denouncing the imperialist-backed junta and demanding the annulment of the death sentences and the release of all the defendants.
By Johannes Stern
25 March 2014
Yesterday an Egyptian court sentenced 529 members of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to death. The biggest mass death sentence in recent history marks another escalation in the ruthless efforts of the US-backed military junta in Egypt to annihilate its political opponents and drown the Egyptian revolution in blood.
Since the July 3, 2013 coup—carried out amidst mass protests against MB President Mohamed Mursi—the military junta has violently attacked sit-ins, demonstrations and strikes, killing at least 1,400 people and jailing more than 16,000. It has banned the MB, Egypt’s largest Islamist organization, issued an anti-protest law and pushed through a constitution enshrining the army’s dominant role in society.
Most of the defendants were arrested during anti-coup protests in the Minya governorate that erupted after the brutal dispersal of two pro-Mursi sit-ins in Cairo by security and army forces on August 14. The charges against the group on trial included murder, attempted murder, attacking a police station and damaging public and private property. Out of 545 defendants, only 150 were present at court, while all others were tried in absentia.
The whole trial was a farce and bore the character of a show trial.
“This is the quickest case and the number sentenced to death is the largest in the history of the judiciary,” said lawyer Nabil Abdel Salam, who defends leading MB members including Mursi himself. Defense lawyer Khaled el-Koumi told the Associated Press: “We didn’t have a chance to say a word, to look at more than 3,000 pages of investigation and to see what evidence they are talking about.”
Presiding judge Said Youssef reportedly started shouting and ordered in court security when defence lawyers protested against the proceedings. Some lawyers said they were barred from entering the courthouse entirely.
Walid, a relative of one of the sentenced, told Reuters: “When the trial starts on Saturday and it is just a procedural hearing, and the judge doesn’t listen to any lawyers or witnesses and doesn’t even call the defendants, you are before a group of thugs and not the judiciary.”
Dramatic scenes unfolded after the verdict. Family members started screaming in despair, and angry protesters set fire to a nearby building, Egyptian state TV reported.
Today another mass trial will begin, with another 683 people facing similar charges. Amongst the defendants are the MB’s Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badie, and the leader of its political arm, Saad al-Katatni.
The US government and its imperialist allies in Europe responded with empty and thoroughly hypocritical statements. Marie Harf, the deputy US State Department spokeswoman, expressed “deep concern” and “shock” over “the sentencing to death of 529 Egyptians related to the death of one policemen.” At the same time she made clear that Washington’s support for the junta would continue. She stressed that the White House regards its links with Cairo as an “important relationship”, and there was no desire to “completely cut off” relations.
The EU’s High Representative Catherine Ashton reminded the Egyptian junta that the “the death penalty is cruel and inhuman” and called upon “the Egyptian interim authorities to apply “international standards”. She stressed: “This is particularly important for the credibility of Egypt’s transition towards democracy.”
As the military junta is employing the most barbaric and undemocratic methods, Washington and Brussels continue to present it as a struggle for “democracy”.
The verdict comes amidst preparations by the military junta to install coup leader and Defence Minister Field Marshall Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi as new president. The de facto dictator has overseen the mass killings and jailings in the past months and is now preparing for a direct confrontation with the working class, the main target of state repression and of the military coup itself.
Speaking at a conference of young doctors earlier this month, Sisi threatened years of austerity and suffering: “Our economic circumstances, in all sincerity and with all understanding, are very, very difficult. I wonder, did anyone say that I will walk for a little bit to help my country? The country will not make progress by using words. It will make progress by working, and through perseverance, impartiality and altruism. Possibly one or two generations will [have to suffer] so that the remaining generations live.”
There are growing signs of social conflict and working-class struggle. Egypt’s new Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb was installed at the end of last month amidst a massive strike by tens of thousands of textile workers and public bus drivers. He called on the “patriotism” of Egyptian workers, stressing that it was time for work and not for strikes. He warned that “making demands that exceed logic will destroy the country” and declared: “Security and stability in the entire country and crushing terrorism will pave the way for investment.”
The military reign of terror and its preparation for violence against all strikes and protests at the behest of international finance capital underscore the counterrevolutionary role of the liberal and pseudo-left organizations that backed the military coup.
Chief among these was the so-called Revolutionary Socialists (RS), which has worked, since the initial eruption of mass struggles in January 2011, to subordinate the protests to one or another faction of the bourgeoisie. After first encouraging illusions in the military regime established after the ouster of US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak, the RS then promoted Mursi and the MB as the “right wing of the revolution.”
During the 2013 protests, the RS enthusiastically backed the Tamarod movement, which included the National Salvation Front of liberal leaders Mohamed El Baradei, sections of the Egyptian ruling class and former members of the Mubarak regime. Tamarod played the key role in channeling mass opposition behind the military.
Tamarod is now fueling the junta’s violent nationalistic and anti-working class campaign and supporting the installation of al-Sisi as president. Tamarod leader Mahmoud Badr recently declared that Tamarod “completely supports Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as president of Egypt”, and called upon “all Egyptians” to support him “as a national and popular agreed-upon candidate.”
For their part, the trade unions are the most unabashed supporters of the junta’s nationalistic campaign. Gebaly al-Maraghy, the president of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation was merely echoing the junta’s program for a massive confrontation with the working class when he declared: “Our battle is to increase production and combat terrorism. If we don’t win, the whole of Egypt will be destroyed.”
By Jean Shaoul
20 March 2014
On Sunday, with the world’s attention focused on the Crimean referendum, President Barack Obama ordered the deployment of the US military to seize the oil tanker Morning Glory in international waters off the southeast coast of Cyprus.
The move is bound up with an attempt to prevent the complete disintegration of the Libyan state—and the profits of American corporations with stakes in Libyan oil.
Libya has been devastated by the 2011 NATO-led war using proxy forces to topple longstanding dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and establish a neocolonial regime. Libya is now under the control of rival right-wing militias, which were promoted by the US, the European powers and the Persian Gulf monarchies. The militias have plundered the country for their own enrichment.
Libya represents yet another catastrophe created by US imperialism in the Middle East and North Africa, through interventions falsely presented as bringing prosperity, freedom and democracy to the region. So bad is the situation that the influential Foreign Policy magazine acknowledged March 18, “Over the last couple of weeks, Libya has been rocked by events that have pushed the country to the edge of full-scale civil war.”
The tanker, loaded with at least 234,000 barrels of crude oil valued at $35 million, had been under the control of one of Libya’s militias in the eastern province of Cyrenaica. Having blockaded the oil ports since last summer in pursuit of greater autonomy that would enable it to control the distribution of oil wealth, the militia had sought to export oil independently of the Libyan government in Tripoli. Secessionist forces had threatened to load another tanker in the port of Tobruk.
On Monday, two dozen Navy SEALs using high-speed boats carried within range by the guided missile cruiser USS Roosevelt boarded the tanker. It is now on its way back to a government-controlled port in Libya.
Obama said the governments of Libya and Cyprus had asked for US assistance. The State Department had earlier warned that it considered the shipment a “theft from the Libyan people,” while noting that several American companies have stakes in the oil.
The ship was owned by a United Arab Emirates-based company, but operated by a Saudi Arabian-based company, flying a North Korean flag, and manned by an international, mainly Asian, crew. Pyongyang announced on the weekend that it had “cancelled and deleted” the ship’s North Korean registry, as it violated its law “on the registry of ships and the contract that prohibited it from transporting contraband cargo.”
Oil and gas, mainly located in Cyrenaica, account for 95 percent of government revenues, including the key oil ports of Es-Sider and Ras Lanuf. The declaration of “autonomy” for Cyrenaica led to an almost total collapse in oil production to less than one tenth of normal levels.
By last October, the rebels’ leader, Ibrahim Jathran, had blocked more than $5 billion in Libyan national oil exports and began threatening to sell “their oil” on the open market. This forced the government to draw on its reserves to pay the wages of many Libyans who hold jobs financed directly or indirectly by oil, and to pay for the country’s imports.
When the rebels loaded oil onto the Morning Glory, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, sought to stop them. But with Libya’s warships destroyed by NATO’s bombs and its air force in a state of mutiny, Zeidan was forced to turn to the Libyan Shield, an alliance of militias led by the Misrata militia, which allowed the Morning Glory and its cargo to slip through the blockade.
The next day, on March 11, Congress, largely made up of Islamist forces linked to the Muslim Brotherhood who had long opposed Zeidan, sacked him and appointed the former defence minister Abdullah al-Thani as replacement for two weeks, pending a vote by Congress on a new prime minister. When prosecutors charged him with corruption and imposed a travel ban, Zeidan fled the country for Germany, declaring his ouster unconstitutional, as it did not have the requisite number of votes in Congress.
Congress enjoys no authority, chiefly because it was put in place by outside powers. It has failed to address the appalling security situation, the destruction caused by the war, and the 30 percent unemployment rate that make daily life a misery for Libya’s 6 million people. Notwithstanding the corruption and social inequality that prevailed under Gaddafi, the standard of living was the highest in Africa before the NATO-led war.
When Congress sought to extend its mandate that expired last month until the end of the year, it provoked angry demonstrations. It has now agreed to hold parliamentary elections this summer, without waiting for the drafting of a new constitution. Barely one third of the 3.4 million Libyans registered to vote turned out for elections on February 20 to the 60-member Constitutional Assembly, whose task is to approve a new constitution to be drafted within four months by a three-member committee representing each of Libya’s three provinces. In this fashion, it would institutionalise the country’s divisions.
Congress dispatched Libyan Shield militias to try and seize control of the oil ports in eastern Libya, leading to armed clashes with the rebels that resulted in several deaths. On Monday, a car bomb—assumed to be planted by Islamist militants opposed to the secessionists—targeted the military barracks in Benghazi where a graduation ceremony was taking place, killing five soldiers and wounding ten.
The militia in the town of Zintan, which backed Zeidan and is opposed to the Misrata militia, mobilised in the west, near the border with Tunisia. Zintan lies alongside the pipelines carrying oil from the west to the coast. Its militia, in alliance with Berbers in the north and Tobu tribesmen in the south, has on several occasions cut the pipelines and occupied the oilfields, raising the prospect of the government in Tripoli facing an almost total oil blockade.
In the south, leaders in Fezzan met to consider whether to secede, while in Tripoli, a militia stormed, looted and burned an army headquarters.
It was the fear that the fragile Libyan regime, put in place by Washington and its allies, would descend into outright civil war that led to the decision to deploy the US Navy SEALs.
The situation in Libya is catastrophic not only for its own people. Conflict and instability have already spread beyond its borders to Mali and the Central African Republic. It has been no different in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia or Sudan, all of which faced US wars or US-backed military interventions, destabilising their neighbours.
The Morning Glory incident exposes what was always at the heart of the Libyan war—the control over the country’s rich energy resources. The imperialist powers were only able to mask the neocolonial character of the war to topple Gaddafi because they were assisted by a variety of pseudo-left forces in both Europe and the US, including groups such as the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) in France, the Socialist Workers Party in Britain and the International Socialist Organisation in the US. They cast the imperialist war against Libya as not merely a “humanitarian” intervention, but a “revolution” by the Libyans themselves.
The present-day state of Libya—its disintegration into fiefdoms of rival militia warlords, the paralysis of its economy, the displacement of more than 1 million people and the poverty of its population—provides devastating proof that the military intervention was not to support a “revolution,” but to facilitate imperialist plunder.
Its government has no real power; militias are ever more entrenched, and now the state itself is under threat
By Patrick Cockburn
March 16, 2014 “Information Clearing House - “The Independent“- The Libyan former prime minister Ali Zeidan fled last week after parliament voted him out of office. A North Korean-flagged oil tanker, the Morning Glory, illegally picked up a cargo of crude from rebels in the east of the country and sailed safely away, despite a government minister’s threat that the vessel would be “turned into a pile of metal” if it left port: the Libyan navy blamed rough weather for its failure to stop the ship. Militias based in Misrata, western Libya, notorious for their violence and independence, have launched an offensive against the eastern rebels in what could be the opening shots in a civil war between western and eastern Libya.
Without a central government with any real power, Libya is falling apart. And this is happening almost three years after 19 March 2011 when the French air force stopped Mu’ammer Gaddafi’s counter-offensive to crush the uprising in Benghazi. Months later, his burnt-out tanks still lay by the road to the city. With the United States keeping its involvement as low-profile as possible, Nato launched a war in which rebel militiamen played a secondary, supportive role and ended with the overthrow and killing of Gaddafi.
A striking feature of events in Libya in the past week is how little interest is being shown by leaders and countries which enthusiastically went to war in 2011 in the supposed interests of the Libyan people. President Obama has since spoken proudly of his role in preventing a “massacre” in Benghazi at that time. But when the militiamen, whose victory Nato had assured, opened fire on a demonstration against their presence in Tripoli in November last year, killing at least 42 protesters and firing at children with anti-aircraft machine guns, there was scarcely a squeak of protest from Washington, London or Paris.
Coincidentally, it was last week that Al-Jazeera broadcast the final episode in a three-year investigation of the Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people in 1988. For years this was deemed to be Gaddafi’s greatest and certainly best-publicised crime, but the documentary proved beyond reasonable doubt that the Libyan intelligence officer, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, convicted of carrying out the bombing, was innocent. Iran, working through the Palestinian Front for The Liberation of Palestine – General Command, ordered the blowing up of Pan Am 103 in revenge for the shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane by the US navy earlier in 1988.
Much of this had been strongly suspected for years. The new evidence comes primarily from Abolghasem Mesbahi, an Iranian intelligence officer who later defected and confirmed the Iranian link. The US Defense Intelligence Agency had long ago reached the same conclusion. The documentary emphasises the sheer number of important politicians and senior officials over the years who must have looked at intelligence reports revealing the truth about Lockerbie, but still happily lied about it.
It is an old journalistic saying that if you want to find out government policy, imagine the worst thing they can do and then assume they are doing it. Such cynicism is not deserved in all cases, but it does seem to be a sure guide to western policy towards Libya. This is not to defend Gaddafi, a maverick dictator who inflicted his puerile personality cult on his people, though he was never as bloodthirsty as Saddam Hussein or Hafez al-Assad.
But the Nato powers that overthrew him – and by some accounts gave the orders to kill him – did not do so because he was a tyrannical ruler. It was rather because he pursued a quirkily nationalist policy backed by a great deal of money which was at odds with western policies in the Middle East. It is absurd to imagine that if the real objective of the war was to replace Gaddafi with a secular democracy that the West’s regional allies in the conflict should be theocratic absolute monarchies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. This is equally true of Western and Saudi intervention in Syria which has the supposed intention of replacing President Bashar al-Assad with a freely elected government that will establish the rule of law.
Libya is imploding. Its oil exports have fallen from 1.4 million barrels a day in 2011 to 235,000 barrels a day. Militias hold 8,000 people in prisons, many of whom say they have been tortured. Some 40,000 people from the town of Tawergha south of Misrata were driven from their homes which have been destroyed. “The longer Libyan authorities tolerate the militias acting with impunity, the more entrenched they become, and the less willing to step down” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Putting off repeated deadlines to disarm and disband militias only prolongs the havoc they are creating throughout the country.”
Unfortunately, the militias are getting stronger not weaker. Libya is a land of regional, tribal, ethnic warlords who are often simply well-armed racketeers exploiting their power and the absence of an adequate police force. Nobody is safe: the head of Libya’s military police was assassinated in Benghazi in October while Libya’s first post-Gaddafi prosecutor general was shot dead in Derna on 8 February. Sometimes the motive for the killing is obscure, such as the murder last week of an Indian doctor, also in Derna, which may lead to an exodus of 1,600 Indian doctors who have come to Libya since 2011 and on whom its health system depends.
Western and regional governments share responsibility for much that has happened in Libya, but so too should the media. The Libyan uprising was reported as a simple-minded clash between good and evil. Gaddafi and his regime were demonised and his opponents treated with a naïve lack of scepticism and enquiry. The foreign media have dealt with the subsequent collapse of the Libyan state since 2011 mostly by ignoring it, though politicians have stopped referring to Libya as an exemplar of successful foreign intervention.
Can anything positive be learnt from the Libyan experience which might be useful in establishing states that are an improvement on those ruled by Gaddafi, Assad and the like? An important point is that demands for civil, political and economic rights – which were at the centre of the Arab Spring uprisings – mean nothing without a nation state to guarantee them; otherwise national loyalties are submerged by sectarian, regional and ethnic hatreds.
This should be obvious, but few of those supporting the Arab uprisings, for reasons other than self-interest, seem to have taken it on board. “Freedom under the rule of law is almost unknown outside nation-states,” writes the journalist and MEP Daniel Hannan in a succinct analysis of why the Arab Spring failed. “Constitutional liberty requires a measure of patriotism, meaning a readiness to accept your countrymen’s disagreeable decisions, to abide by election results when you lose.”
Even this level of commitment may not be enough, but without it only force can hold the state together. The escape of Morning Glory, the ousting of Ali Zeidan and the triumph of the militias all go to show that the Libyan state has so far neither the popular support nor military power to preserve itself.
By Fars News
February 23, 2014 “Information Clearing House - “FNA” - TEHRAN (FNA)- Saudi Intelligence Chief Prince Bandar Bin Sultan and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al-Nahayan failed to carry out a joint coup in Libya.
The Libyan coup, masterminded by Prince Bandar and funded by Sheikh Mohamed, was planned to be carried out concurrent with the 3rd anniversary of the Libyan Revolution on February 17 and to replicate the Egyptian Coup of July 3 to portray it as a “correction of the revolution’s path”, the same pretext used to justify the coup in Egypt, sources who asked to remain anonymous said.
Preliminary investigations indicate that Libyan coup d’état leader Major General Khalifah Haftar has received huge amounts of money from the Sheikh Mohamed to carry out the coup.
Major General Haftar has, in turn, paid equally huge amounts to Libyan officers and soldiers to help him carry out the coup, though unsuccessfully, sources said.
Sheikh Mohamed is reportedly dismayed by the failed coup d’état in Libya which he funded with large sums of UAE money, and for which he had planned for a long time, sources in the Libyan government told Asrar Arabeya news website.
Moreover, Asrar Arabeya obtained information indicating that renowned Libyan politician Mahmoud Gebril is currently seeking political asylum outside Libya after his involvement in the coup d’état has been exposed.
Preliminary information showed that the UAE planned the coup d’état in Libya with the help of Mohamed Dahlan, the security advisor of Al-Nahayan, and a former Palestinian official, said the sources.
Former army chief calls on Libyans to support his military campaign: A former Libyan army commander, Maj. Gen. Khalifa Haftar, has urged Libyans to support his military campaign aiming to end what he described as the political crisis in Libya.
Platinum workers continues strike while service delivery demonstrations hit townships
A date for national elections has been set in the Republic of South Africa for May 7. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) will mark two decades in power hoping to maintain control of the post-apartheid state.
Rallies for the ANC in various parts of the country have been met with enthusiasm from the people. An election manifesto is calling for a jobs-creation program for six million and the acceleration of land reform which has been stalled since 1994.
Nonetheless, there are attempts to build an electoral opposition to the national liberation movement turned political party. The Democratic Alliance (DA) headed by Helen Zille organized a demonstration to the national headquarters of the ANC at Luthuli House in Johannesburg.
The march almost resulted in serious violence between thousands of DA supporters and members of the ruling party who had come to Luthuli House to defend the headquarters from what they perceived as a hostile political attack. Some ANC Youth League members were reported to have carried bricks and police utilized crowd control tactics to restrain members from ruling party and the largest opposition bloc in parliament, the DA. (SABC, Feb. 12)
Zille is the former mayor of Cape Town and has sought to recruit Africans into the opposition party which is perceived as being a white-dominated alliance between former Nationalist Party members, liberals and opportunistic elements who are disgruntled with the ANC. The DA announced that former Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) activist, Dr. Mamphele Ramphele, a comrade of the martyred leader Steve Biko killed by the apartheid state in 1977, would run on the DA ticket after a merger with her own Agang party.
This short-lived political marriage of convenience ended before it started. Acrimony was expressed between Zille and Ramphele.
The Role of Workers and Youth in the Electoral Process
The ANC is seeking to appeal directly to the so-called “born frees” generation that came into existence after the first non-racial democratic elections of 1994. It is also essential that the party garners the majority of the working class vote throughout the country.
A strike in the main platinum-producing region in the world in the northwest is a major factor in the upcoming elections and the overall economic future of South Africa. 80,000 miners who are members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) have been on strike for nearly four weeks.
Platinum prices have declined in recent years although the impact in production during the strike may raise prices. Recently the owners of Anglo-American Platinum (Amplats) filed court papers against AMCU to end the strike.
A spokesperson for Amplats, which is the world’s largest producer of the strategic mineral, said that “There are increased costs to pay protection services staff overtime, damage to property, and losses occasioned by the loss of production because non-striking workers are being prevented from going to work,” Mpumi Sithole told Reuters. “There is evidence of illegal actions of violence and intimidation and breaching of the picketing rules,” she said. (Feb. 16)
An article published in the Financial Times illustrates that Amplats and other platinum owners are preparing for a protracted struggle with organized labor. These developments will test the ANC in its ability to resolve the current crisis in the industry where the bosses have threatened to lay-off up to 14,000 workers.
This Financial Times articles says that “The platinum price is still more than 35 per cent below its record high reached almost six years ago. The market has been weighed down by large above-ground stocks and failed attempts by miners such as Amplats, responsible for 40 per cent of world supply, to reduce output.” (Feb. 17)
With specific reference to the ruling party and its bid to remain politically dominant in South Africa, the same article notes
“Concerned by job losses set against a backdrop of an unemployment rate that is close to a quarter of the working population, the ruling African National Congress has kept pressure on companies to keep mines open. At the same time, Europe’s automotive industry has experienced the worst slump in sales for about two decades. However, the outlook has started to brighten, say analysts. “
AMCU is a staunch rival of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) which was previously the largest affiliate of the two million-member Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), an ally of the ruling ANC that was formed at the height of the liberation struggle in 1985. AMCU appears to be opposed to the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP) and their influence within the trade union movement.
Reuters observed of the situation that
“AMCU has emerged as the dominant union on South Africa’s platinum belt over the past two years after poaching tens of thousands of members from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which is allied to the ruling African National Congress. The vicious union turf war erupted into violence in the platinum sector last year and has killed dozens of people. In August 2012, police shot dead 34 striking AMCU miners at Lonmin’s Marikana mine, South Africa’s bloodiest security incident since the end of apartheid in 1994. The killings spooked investors and hit the country’s credit ratings.” (Feb. 16)
At the same time the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) secretary-general Irwin Jim said that his labor organization, which is currently the largest COSATU affiliate, would not support the ANC in the upcoming May 7 elections. It is not clear what impact the NUMSA electoral position will have on their members and supporters.
The NUMSA position on the ANC, SACP and COSATU alliance is that the interests of the working class is being subordinated to the maintenance of state power by the ruling party. NUMSA is demanding a special national congress of COSATU to address the suspension of former secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi, who has been accused of violating union rules and acting in a manner that is not above reproach.
NUMSA has nine affiliates which supports its view while other affiliates of COSATU have called for Vavi to be disciplined within the trade union federation structures. COSATU’s current leadership has severely criticized the posture of NUMSA and questioned whether it should be expelled.
These divisions within COSATU and the role of AMCU in the platinum sectors raised a number of questions in light of the upcoming elections and the future of working class politics. Will NUMSA eventually call for the formation of an independent labor party as an alternative to the ANC-SACP-COSATU alliance or is it prepared to stay within the coalition a fight for its views?
In addition, what impact will the AMCU-led strikes have on the mobilizations by the ANC for the May 7 vote? Will the working class in South Africa, which is 70 percent unorganized outside of any union, be influenced within the electoral arena by the political struggles taking place within the labor movement and the attacks on the ANC by the DA?
These debates and political struggles within the union movement are coupled with the continuing unrest in the townships over service delivery issues. The ANC is seeking to run on its record of home constructions, affirmative action within government and private industry, the building of a rapid transit train system, healthcare reforms and its influence in foreign policy areas such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC), its entry into the Brazil, India, China, Brazil and now South Africa Summit (BRICS), the hosting of the World Soccer Cup in 2010, among other developments.
Nonetheless, there are still millions which remain without adequate housing, public education, utility services, living wages, land and environmentally safe communities and municipalities. The DA is attempting to utilize these realities and channel them into an electoral campaign that will weaken the ANC’s two-thirds majority within the national parliament.
Reuters conveyed in a recent article that “Zuma, whose popularity has dipped in polls ahead of general elections on May 7, also touched on a recent wave of violent protests by residents of black townships unhappy with their living conditions. In the last three months, South Africa has seen around 30 ‘service delivery’ protests a day, but Zuma put a positive spin on the unrest, saying it was a sign of government success creating higher expectations among communities.” (Feb. 13)
This same report quotes President Zuma as pointing out that
“When 95 percent of households have access to water, the 5 percent who still need to be provided for feel they cannot wait a moment longer. Success is also the breeding ground of rising expectations.”
South Africa has the largest economy and working class on the continent of Africa. The outcome of the May 7 elections will portend much for the immediate future of the class struggle in Africa.
By Abayomi Azikiwe
February 01, 2014 “Information Clearing House - For nearly seven months in 2011, NATO planes — particularly from the U.S., France, Britain and Canada — carried out a massive bombing campaign in Libya intended to overthrow the government of Muammar Gaddafi.
After getting the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution imposing an arms embargo on Libya and then another authorizing a so-called “no-fly zone” in which only their planes could fly, the imperialists succeeded in having Gaddafi captured and brutally killed, opening the way for the establishment of a new regime that would further their interests in that oil-rich North African country.
Now, just two and a half years later, this puppet government is losing ground in southern and western Libya to pro-Gaddafi forces, who have taken back several towns and an air base.
These developments have prompted French Admiral Edouard Guillard to appeal for a renewed imperialist intervention in Libya, claiming that developments on the southern border could lead to a “terrorist threat.” (Washington Post, Jan. 27)
Guillard claimed that any intervention would require the “consent” of the neocolonial regime that these same imperialists set up in Tripoli. It is headed by Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and the General National Congress.
Since mid-January forces that remain allied with the former Jamahiriya political and economic system set up by Gaddafi have taken control of several cities and towns in the south. Clashes have also been reported around the capital of Tripoli, where nationalist forces have fought pitched battles with militias and military forces backed by the GNC regime. (Libya Herald, Jan. 20)
The withdrawal of the Tebu, who are dark-skinned Africans, from an air base at Tamenhint created the conditions for the seizure of this important location by pro-Gaddafi forces on Jan. 21.
According to a Jan. 22 Saudi Gazette report, “The Tamenhint air base 30 km northeast of Sebha is reported to be back in pro-Gaddafi hands after Tebu forces from Murzuk who were guarding it withdrew. They unilaterally pulled out Monday evening [Jan. 20] claiming that the government was deliberately exploiting clashes in Sebha between Tebus and Awlad Sulaiman in order to divert attention from moves to replace it with a new administration.”
These events have sent shockwaves throughout the GNC and Zeidan, its weak and vacillating prime minister, who is allied with the United States and other imperialist states responsible for installing the current regime. The situation in Libya has clearly shown that the current regime has failed to stabilize its rule. Militias set up to bring down the Gaddafi regime are reportedly in open defiance of Zeidan and other “authorities” in Tripoli.
Oil is the major export of the North African state. The industry has been largely shut down after workers and militias at several drilling facilities and ports took control of production and threatened to engage in trade with foreign firms without the consent of Tripoli. Zeidan has limited support even within the GNC; the Islamic Justice and Construction Party recently resigned from the government over political differences with the prime minister.
Draconian laws enacted
Nonetheless, it is in the south that the green flag of the Jamahiriya is being openly flown in defiance of the imperialist-backed regime. This is causing panic in the government, which passed a new law banning satellite television networks that have been broadcasting pro-Gaddafi news and commentaries.
According to a Jan. 26 report from AllAfrica.com, Decree 5/2014, entitled “Concerning the Cessation and Ban on the Broadcasting of Certain Satellite Channels,” instructs the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Communications and Media to “take necessary steps required” to halt the transmission of all satellite television stations hostile to the regime in Tripoli. The decree further instructs the government to “take all measures” against states or businesses in territories from which the channels are broadcast if they fail to block the transmissions.
This ban on satellite stations that have taken a pro-Gaddafi position in their editorial content includes the al-Khadra Channel and al-Jamahiriyah.
Dissatisfaction is growing among the Libyan population. Once the most prosperous nation in Africa, with a standard of living that exceeded several European countries, the conditions inside the country have drastically deteriorated since the 2011 imperialist-imposed counterrevolution. The decline in living standards, the failure of the regime to rein in the militias that terrorize the population, the collapse of the oil industry and widespread corruption have drawn broad criticism, even among the favored elites.
Another decree issued in January prohibits scholarship students and public employees from speaking out against the conditions prevailing in Libya. According to AllAfrica.com, “It calls on Libyan embassies abroad and others to draw up lists of names and refer them to the Prosecutor General for prosecution.”
Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan
There is no benefit for the masses in oppressed nations where the U.S. and other imperialist states have overthrown governments and installed puppet regimes. The situation in Libya is mirrored in Iraq, where people are dying every day from internecine conflict and the overall horrendous conditions prevailing among the majority of the population.
Over 100,000 people have died in Syria over the last three years since the U.S. and Saudi Arabia promoted a counterrevolutionary assault on the population. The current Geneva II talks in Switzerland are ostensibly designed to reach a political solution in Syria, but the U.S. and its allies are continuing to finance and coordinate those seeking the overthrow of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Anti-war and anti-imperialist groups in the Western states should oppose this military and political interference into the internal affairs of African, Middle Eastern and Asian states — such as Afghanistan, where after 12 years the Pentagon-NATO forces are no closer to victory than in 2001. The U.S. and NATO must be forced to withdraw their occupying forces and shut down their military bases.
Those oppressed nations under imperialist occupation should be paid reparations for the destruction carried out by Western military forces. The resources utilized to maintain these occupations should instead be redirected to rebuild the cities and towns here that are facing an unprecedented economic crisis through austerity and massive poverty.
This article was originally published at Workers World
Review of Cynthia McKinney’s New Book on US-NATO War Crimes Against Libya
All the wars and attacks, which were started by the U. S. and its so-called allies in the wake of 9/11, have wreaked havoc. You name it, you got it: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and perhaps even Iran. The Islamic Republic is not yet off the hook. There are strong forces in the U. S. and in the Middle East that prefer war to peace at the expense of the U. S. Right now, there is a war going on in Libya against the Western installed puppet government, without notice of the corporate media.
Cynthia McKinney, a former African-American Congresswoman has edited a book, The Illegal War on Libya (Clarity Press, Atlanta 2012), on the illegal war on Libya fought by NATO members with the support of the Arab League and some despotic Arab regimes. As a member of the Democratic Party, she served six terms in the House of Representatives before she was defeated by Denise Majette in the 2002 Democratic primary. McKinney’s loss was attributed to her support of Arab causes and to her suggestion that George W. Bush had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks.
Those whom the Western powers and their fawning media wish to destroy must first be demonised. This was exactly what happened to Libya’s leader Muammar al Gaddafi. Just before France, Great Britain and the U.S. started the war against Libya, Nicolas Sarkozy, Silvio Berlusconi and other Western politicians courted Gaddafi. When the Libyan leader visited Paris in 2007, he struck his tent in front of the guest house of the French government. His bizarre conduct and much more were accepted by Sarkozy in order to promote lucrative business with Libya. A few years later, he rewarded him with and his country with a bombing spree.
As a candidate for the U.S. Presidency, Barack Hussein Obama had nice things to say in December 2007: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” After he became U.S. President, he expanded drone attacks to an unprecedented scale. “As the U.S. fires its drones killing innocent Somalis, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Afghanis, and others around the world, it is my hope that this book will provide a rare prism of truth through which to view NATO’s illegal war in Libya, current and future events, and US foreign relations as a whole,” so McKinney in her introductory remarks.
In her book, Cynthia McKinney has gathered a large number of renowned authors who offer an alternative perspective of the events in Libya. Some authors even risked their life by reporting live during the war. Among them are Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Julien Teil, Stephen Lendman, Christof Lehman, Sara Flounders, Wayne Madsen, Bob Fitrakis, and many others. All of them illuminate the dark machinations of the U.S. in Libya and elsewhere. Their narrative reminds the readers of the overthrow of the Iranian, Guatemalan or Chilean democracy by the U.S. for corporate benefit. The same apparently held true for Libya.
The essays in McKinney’s anthology describe the horrors caused by the Western bombing campaign and the distorted picture of the events painted by mainstream media. Lizzie Phelan refers to a “full blown media war” and to the silence of Western journalists while Libya was “being bombed into extermination.” Although they witnessed these horrors, they found “all manner of justifications for their self and collective delusion.” Their behavior reminded the author of the riddle: “If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?” The Western media pundits played down the horrendous crimes against the Libyan people by cartooning Gaddafi as a “mad dog.”
Stephen Lendman designated the crimes committed by NATO against Libya as amounting to “a Nuremberg Level.” He added: “The US-led NATO war on Libya will be remembered as one of history’s greatest crimes, violating the letter and spirit of international law and America’s Constitution.” Whereas the “Third Reich criminals were hanged for their crimes. America’s are still free to commit greater ones.” Lendman invokes General Wesley Clark who was told at the Pentagon a few days after 9/11, that the Bush administration had already decided to attack seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq and finishing off with Iran. According to Lendman, the U.S. won’t tolerate democratic rule in Libya, for it needs a puppet regime that would follow the dictates of Washington. Beyond that, the U.S. generously used terror weapons in all its wars. Weapons of mass destruction, including depleted and enriched uranium munitions were widely used in the different Iraq wars, leading to miscarriages and severe deformities by newborn babies.
The anthology also reveals that Gaddafi bore no responsibility for the Lockerbie incident. Although he took the blame and had Libya pay millions of U.S. Dollars to the families of the victims in order to have sanctions lifted against his country, the west thanked him by overthrowing his regime. Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya suggests that Libya’s main “crimes” – as seen by the West – were “how (Libya L.W.) distributed and used its wealth, its lack of external debts, and the key role it was attempting to play in continental development and curtailing of external influence in Africa. Tripoli was a spoiler that effectively undermined the interests of the former colonial powers.”
Already at the International Security Conference in Munich, 2007, then President of The Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, used the strongest possible language to warn the U.S., saying that “its aggressive expansionism has brought the world closer to a third world war than it has ever been before.” So far, Putin’s diplomacy prevented U.S. aggression against Syria and Iran.
The book contains, inter alia, a scathing speech by Gaddafi, delivered at the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2009. A chronology of the NATO-led assault on Libya completes the book.
This book is a must-read. It gives its readers a premonition of things that are yet to come.
By Alex Lantier
16 January 2014
The January 14-15 referendum conducted by Egypt’s US-backed military junta on its draft constitution was a political fraud. Its aim was to provide a pseudo-legal cover for the junta’s bloody July 3, 2013 coup, carried out amid mass working class protests against Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.
Voter turnout for the referendum was low. The military carried out a massive security operation for the vote, mobilizing hundreds of thousands of police and soldiers to intimidate “no” voters and crush protests by supporters of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB).
The junta’s own minister of state for administrative development, Hany Mahmoud, said Tuesday that only 28 percent of voters had cast ballots at 40 polling stations specially chosen by the junta. Initial reports suggested that even fewer voters went to the polls yesterday.
An air of terror and intimidation hung over the referendum—a counterrevolutionary initiative the junta is using to restore the type of authoritarian regime that existed before a mass working class uprising toppled US-backed dictator President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
Army detachments and low-flying Apache attack helicopters patrolled polling stations, with troops pressing arriving voters to vote “yes.” Police were deployed on the inside of the polling stations, in line with orders issued by Major General Tawfik Abdel-Samei.
From a polling station at a stadium in Nasr City, the BBC wrote: “Outside the polling station, a group of voters and military enthusiasts wave pictures of the Armed Forces chief, General [Abdel Fattah] el-Sisi. Vendors sell posters of the general, and a white police jeep plays military songs. The security forces openly encourage a ‘Yes’ vote, which is seen as the same thing as a vote for General Sisi. ‘Sisi! Sisi!’ chanted one officer carrying a walkie-talkie… Anyone in favor of a ‘No’ vote is staying well away.”
Security forces killed 11 people nationwide during the referendum, including a 14-year-old boy gunned down Tuesday in a clash between police and MB supporters in the Upper Egyptian city of Sohag.
Yesterday, MB protesters disrupted traffic on the Cairo subway, organized human chains, and clashed with police in several cities, including Alexandria.
The junta, which last summer crushed MB protests against the coup in a series of bloody crackdowns that killed over 1,000 people and wounded thousands, remains terrified of renewed protests or a mass uprising. Security forces were placed on high alert again yesterday evening amid reports that protesters were heading to Tahrir Square.
The draft constitution issued by the junta is a reactionary document, enshrining the army as a state within the state and giving it broad powers to crush opposition. Article 203 specifies that the National Defense Council, a body dominated by the army and intelligence chiefs, controls the armed forces’ budget and decides national security issues. Article 204 states that civilians can face trials in military courts for acting against the army, its equipment, any of the many factories or installations it owns, its military secrets, or public funds.
The constitutional referendum was applauded by the Egyptian army and its imperialist backers in the United States and Europe.
Perhaps the clearest indication of the counterrevolutionary character of the referendum was its open endorsement by the former dictator, Hosni Mubarak. From his bed in the military hospital in Maadi, Mubarak issued a call via his lawyer, Fareed El-Deeb, for Egyptians to approve the junta’s constitution.
“This is the president’s wish, in order to achieve our hope of building a new state,” El-Deeb told privately-owned Al-Mehwer TV.
El-Sisi—who is expected to run for president, so that the head of state would again be an army officer, like Mubarak—called for the success of the referendum as part of his presidential bid. In a meeting on Saturday, he appealed for a large turnout “so as not to embarrass the army before the entire world.”
“If I nominate myself, there must be a popular demand, and a mandate from my army,” he said.
Washington made clear its support for the junta and its repression by including a $1.525 billion aid package for the Egyptian army in the budget passed by the US Congress on the first day of Egypt’s constitutional referendum.
According to an analysis by the Atlantic Council, the budget measure exempts Egypt from US laws barring US financial aid for military dictatorships such as Egypt. In order for Washington to pay the funds to Cairo, it would need to certify only that the junta was following its own “road map for a democratic transition,” of which the constitution is a part.
The European Union (EU) praised the junta’s counterrevolutionary referendum, in Orwellian fashion, as the dawn of a new era of democracy.
EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said: “The constitutional process—both before and following the referendum—could offer a chance for a new political dialog and interaction leading to democratic elections, a fair representation of different political views in the future parliament, accountability for the government and state institutions, and greater security and prosperity for all.”
The anti-democratic character of the draft constitution and the referendum highlights the reactionary role played by the liberal and “left” political organizations of Egypt’s affluent middle class. Fearing a revolution by the working class, organizations such as the National Salvation Front (NSF) and Tamarod, and their pseudo-left supporters, including the misnamed Revolutionary Socialists (RS) group, channeled mass working class protests against Mursi behind the army.
Now they are either directly supporting the junta’s attempts to turn the clock back to the Mubarak era or making toothless oppositional gestures.
The NSF, a coalition of liberal and Nasserite parties, applauded the junta’s constitutional referendum. After denouncing Mursi’s MB as “the dumbest political organization in history,” Ahmed Fawzy of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party enthused: “The national charter will be endorsed no matter what they do.”
Sherif Taher of the NSF’s Wafd Party told Al Ahram that he wanted as large as possible a turnout in the referendum to try to give the junta more legitimacy.
“What really matters now is that we see a high turnout,” he said. “I am afraid the media keeps saying the numbers are huge, which could make other people not bother to cast their ballots… If, for instance, the turnout does not exceed 30 percent, that would mean the public has more or less rejected the referendum.”
By Roger Annis
The military-dominated regime that seized power in Egypt in July 2013 has escalated its attacks on freedom and democracy in the country. A series of pronouncements were issued in late December, including the banning of the country’s largest political movement – the Muslim Brotherhood. By all evidence, Egypt’s economic and military elite are taking the country back to the darkest days of the rule of former dictator Hosni Mubarak or even farther into the abyss.
The regime’s new measures have been accompanied by regressive court decisions and assaults on protesting citizens by police and soldiers backed by plainclothes thugs. A harrowing prospect threatens the country – that of a violent war by the regime and its backers against the population, similar to the bloody war that was waged by Algeria’s government and military against the people of that country during the 1990s and 2000s.
Protest in Beni Suweif, south of Egypt, December 27, 2013, source Facebook page ECCD.
Courageous protests by growing sections of Egyptian society are blocking the road of civil war that the regime seems hell-bent on taking. Civilian protest and organizing offer hope that the country can return to a path of democracy and social justice that opened with the overthrow of Mubarak in February 2011.
In its most draconian political measure yet, on December 25, the regime announced a banning of the Muslim Brotherhood. The ban will be applied against the Brotherhood-led political party, the Freedom and Justice Party. The two are being proscribed as “terrorist” organizations.
Membership in the organizations is grounds for harsh punishment. Members are banned from travel abroad. “Terrorism” charges will apply to anyone who finances or promotes the two organizations “verbally and in writing.”
Hundreds of Brotherhood and FJP members have been arrested. The personal assets of many leaders have been seized by authorities, including those of the imprisoned Mohamed Morsi. He won the presidential election in Egypt in June 2012 on behalf of the Freedom and Justice Party. He was overthrown by the military on July 3, 2013. The coup unleashed a terrible wave of violence by the military regime that took power.
Publication of the Muslim Brotherhood’s newspaper, Freedom and Justice, has been outlawed. Egypt’s Interior Ministry has opened three telephone lines for citizens to snitch on their fellow citizens.
The government is preparing to seize schools operated by the movement and it says it will take over operations of Brotherhood-run hospitals and health centers. The regime also says it will take over all mosques belonging to banned organizations and replace their imams.
Interior Ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Latif told state television that henceforth anyone taking part in protests organized by the two mass organizations will be jailed for lengthy terms, up to life imprisonment. And “the sentence could be death” for those who lead the Muslim Brotherhood.
Morsi has been imprisoned since July 3 and faces serious criminal charges. His show trial had abrief, opening session November 4 and is due to resume this month.
Pretext Holds No Water
A long list of pretexts was read out by regime Prime Minister Hazem El Beblawi on December 25 to justify the banning of the Muslim Brotherhood. These included an accusation that the group was behind the assassination of then-Prime Minister Mahmoud Nuqrashi more than 60 years ago.
The key accusation was responsibility for the bombing of a police station in the city of Mansoura on December 24. The bomb killed 16 and wounded more than 100. Mansoura is a city of half a million people 110 kilometers north of Cairo in the Nile River delta.
The police station also served as a jail. At the time of the bombing, it held dozens of prisoners detained for protesting the coup regime. Some of the prisoners were women.
Egyptian officials have provided no evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood was linked to the bombing. The organization condemned the bombing and has called for its perpetrators to be brought to justice.
Human Rights Watch has condemned the banning of the Brotherhood and the pretext for doing so. It said the banning was politically driven. A statement said, “The government blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the [December 24] blast without investigating or providing any evidence.”
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch, said in the statement, “The government’s decision on the Muslim Brotherhood follows over five months of government efforts to vilify the group. By rushing to point the finger at the Brotherhood without investigations or evidence, the government seems motivated solely by its desire to crush a major opposition movement.”
Seven people were arrested January 2 for the bombing. The regime has provided no evidence that any are members of the Brotherhood or were acting under its direction.
The Human Rights Watch statement also reports that on December 23, Egypt’s Central Bank froze the bank accounts of more than 1,000 NGOs reportedly linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. Many of these organizations are essential providers of health care and education services.
Five days earlier, police stormed the office of the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights and assaulted and arrested six people – a staff researcher, staff lawyer and four volunteers. Equipment was broken, and computers were stolen. A statement of protest against the raid was issued the following day by 25 Egyptian organizations (here).
One of the complicating factors for the regime is the fact that it has no legal definition of “terrorism” with which it can charge or convict its opponents.
Attacks on Protests
The proscriptions by the coup regime follow months of low-intensity war in the streets of the country against opponents of the July coup. Half a year on, the generals have failed to establish the “order” and “normalcy” they promised. The price of protesting is high, and many have been killed or injured, but the protests continue.
Street protests, general strikes in neighborhoods and cities, massive student actions, some strikes by workers and many other forms of struggle have weakened the regime.
The regime has struck out fiercely. While there has been no repeat of the terrible massacres that marked July and August 2013, including the very worst at the Rabaa Al-Adawiyya Mosque on August 14, killings by regime thugs as well as arrests and beatings have continued. The scale of the repression has far outstripped the rights violations committed during the declining years of the Mubarak regime.
A new regime weapon is a special law against the right to protest adopted in November. A first, major test of that law concluded December 22 with the conviction of three activists of the April 6 Youth Movement – Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel. They are well-known symbols of the democracy movement. It arose in 2010 and played a key role in the overthrow of the Mubarak dictatorship.
The Muslim Brotherhood and the Anti-Coup Pro-Legitimacy National Alliance have issued a statement condemning the conviction of the three young activists. The alliance is the broad coalition that has spearheaded the ongoing protest movement against the military regime.
A broad coalition of human rights groups in Egypt issued a statement in November condemning the anti-protest law.
Ahmed Maher, a founder of the April 6 movement, lashed out at Egypt’s National Council of Human Rights in a note smuggled out of prison December 18. His note harshly criticized members of the Council.
Maher charged that some members of the council were “agents for the state who used to report about activists to security before the revolution.” He wrote further, “There is no difference between this council and Mubarak’s mock councils.”
The Middle East Monitor has broadcast and transcribed into English an interview with Maher in which the activist reflects very critically on the Tamarod movement, in which the April 6 Movement participated. He says it was a mistake to take part in the mass demonstration June 30, 2013, that called for the removal of Morsi. That action was understood by his movement to be a call for “correction” of the course of the Morsi government, not its overthrow by the military. “We do not deny that Morsi did wrong. … But what is happening now is seriously a return to the old regime. … ”
“Everything we rose against in the January 25 revolution is back and is even worse than before.” The interview is undated.
The MENA Solidarity Network is reporting that six activists in Alexandria, including two members of the Revolutionary Socialists, have just been sentenced to two years of hard labor and fines for contesting the same law.
Three other activists are facing convictions for political accusations dating back to 2012 in a case being followed closely by Amnesty International. One of them, Ahmed Abdallah, was also a prominent member of the April 6 Youth Movement.
Students Particularly Targeted
Students have waged especially courageous and sustained protests against the coup regime. Breaking with past precedent, the regime repeatedly has invaded campuses with its repressive forces. But students are continuing their resistance.
Campuses across the country once again were rocked by protest December 27, this time against the decision to ban the Muslim Brotherhood. Students joined a national day of protest that day called by the Anti-Coup Alliance.
The regime lashed out, killing some 19 people that day, including three students. Women students at Al-Azhar University in Cairo came under attack by pro-regime thugs (see a short video here). Some university buildings in Cairo were torched.
In response to the attack at Al-Azhar, the group Students Against the Coup organized a march to the campus the following day. Madr Masa reports that they protested at entrances to the university against the holding of exams in the violent climate created by the regime. Once again, police and thugs attacked. Some 60 students were arrested.
Youssof Salhen, 21, spokesperson for Students Against the Coup, told the UK Observer that 14 of those arrested on Saturday were women. He said, “We are not going to stop [protesting] until we achieve justice for those who have died and those who have been jailed.
“The security forces and the coup forces will continue to try to frighten students for trying to exercise their rights to peaceful protest, but we will continue.”
Crackdown on Journalists
Press freedom is under heavy attack. Journalists at the banned newspaper of the Freedom and Justice Party have taken their campaign to reopen the newspaper to the Press Syndicate, the union of journalists in Egypt. The Syndicate has opposed the banning, saying that the FJP is a legitimate political party that cannot be banned on a whim.
Also condemning the newspaper banning is the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression. It says the measure is a “blatant assault on freedom of expression.”
Four journalists of Al Jazeera’s English broadcast were arrested at the news agency’s office in a hotel in Cairo on the night of December 29. One was later released. Three are charged with belonging to a terrorist organization, including bureau chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and veteran correspondent Peter Greste. Fahmy is a Canadian citizen, and his detention was reported in theToronto Star on January 7 by the Cairo-based journalist Sharif Abdel Kouddous. Greste is Australian.
The Arab Network For Human Rights Information (ANHRI), a Cairo-based human rights watchdog, has condemned the Egyptian regime for the Al Jazeera arrests and for “ongoing use of gag policy.” Press freedom organizations internationally also have called for the release of the three.
Two other Al Jazeera journalists, Abdulla al-Shami and Mohamed Badr, have been held without charge for more than five months.
The regime is revising Egypt’s post-Mubarak constitution that was approved in a referendum in December 2012. They will put the revised document to a referendum January 14-15. Among many regressive measures in it, the revised document will remove civilian oversight of the military, require that the defense minister be a military officer, and fully restore trials of civilians by military courts.
The Freedom and Justice Party and the Anti-Coup Alliance have announced they will boycott the constitution referendum. So, too, will the April 6 Youth Movement and other political parties and social movements. (For a detailed look at the proposed constitution, see this analysis by FIDH.)
Human rights organizations and a broad cross-section of Egyptian society have long demanded an end to military trials of civilians.
Peaceful but Uncompromising Resistance
The Anti-Coup Alliance has, from the outset, affirmed that it will wage peaceful but unrelenting opposition to the regime. It rejects armed resistance. Anti-coup resistance is growing as social and economic conditions deteriorate and the regime demonstrates that it is utterly bereft of plans to move the country forward. It has only violence and dictatorship to offer.
The sustained civil protests have encouraged growing sections of the population to see through the phony claim by Egypt’s elite and sections of the country’s middle class that the coup represented some kind of “salvation” for the nation from Islam-inspired political movements.
Egyptians hope and quite reasonably expect that world opinion will support their struggle for democracy. But the big powers of the world are playing coy, quietly backing the regime while at the same time keeping some distance to avoid being tainted with the worst of its abuses.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced December 24 that he was “seriously concerned” about the deteriorating human rights situation. He has made no announcement about the banning of the Muslim Brotherhood and related measures.
The US State Department stated a “concerned” posture at a news briefing December 30. Canada has said nothing.
Back in August in an online story in the Ottawa Citizen that has since been removed from the newspaper site, minister of foreign affairs John Baird spoke about the July coup to reporters while visiting a Coptic church in Ottawa. He said, “The former president became autocratic and did not want to build a peaceful, inclusive society.”
He went on, “We’re certainly not calling for them to be restored to power.” (See a report on Baird’s statement by the present author included here in an August 2013 news posting.)
Canada’s statements on Egypt have been limited to cautionary calls upon unnamed agencies in Egypt to cease “violence.” At the time of the July coup against the elected president and government, Baird smoothly stated, “Canada urges all parties in Egypt to remain calm, avoid violence and engage in meaningful political dialogue.”
Leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood are seeking to convince the International Criminal Court in The Hague to prefer charges of crimes against humanity against the coup regime.
The big powers’ aloofness to the ongoing assaults on people and democracy is a sharp contrast to the hailing of the “Tamarod” movement in the spring and summer of 2013. The quite legitimate grievances of many participants in that movement against the government of President Morsi were cynically manipulated to help set the stage for the coup.
Sara Khorshid, an Egyptian journalist, recently penned a commentary in The New York Times aboutEgypt’s counter-revolution. She writes about the illusions of her fellow citizens in believing that the July 2013 coup and army rule could bring improvement to the country. Her views are also a useful reminder to those actors outside Egypt whose dislike of a Muslim Brotherhood-led government clouded their political judgment and their defense of democratic rights for all.
Khorshid concludes her commentary, “Ultimately, those who saw the military as a better alternative to the Brotherhood will realize the magnitude of injustice that the military’s wide-ranging authorities could bring to all aspects of Egyptian life.”
The MENA Solidarity Network is urging concerned people to sign a petition it has initiated against the anti-protest law in Egypt. The petition is here. You can also download a print version to circulate. The names of signatories will be delivered to the Egyptian Embassy in the UK on January 25, 2014.
The Egyptian-Canadian Coalition for Democracy is holding activities across Canada to build solidarity with the Egyptian people. Read about its work on its web site, eccd-cecd.ca. The coalition is a co-founder of the recently launched Egyptians Worldwide for Democracy and Justice. Read its founding statement here. •
Roger Annis is a writer in Vancouver BC. He publishes a website featuring his writings and those of others at A Socialist in Canada.
By Bill Van Auken
15 January 2014
In what is likely the worst single mass fatality incident since the outbreak of fighting in South Sudan last month, as many as 300 people drowned when an overloaded ferry that they had boarded to flee renewed clashes sank Tuesday in the White Nile. Many of the victims were women and children.
The victims had been attempting to escape Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile, an oil-rich state in the country’s northeast on the border with Sudan. Control of the area has been in continuous flux since the political conflict between President Salva Kiir and ousted Vice President Riek Machar erupted into armed conflict on December 15.
The mass drowning came amid growing indications of a humanitarian catastrophe unleashed by the month of fighting, which has seen ethnic-based massacres carried out both by forces loyal to the government of Kiir, from the Dinka tribe, the country’s largest ethnic group, and those backing Machar, who is from the Nuer, its second largest.
According to UN figures, nearly half a million people have been forced from their homes by the fighting, with 413,000 internally displaced and at least 75,000 having fled to neighboring countries.
While the UN last put the number of fatalities at “substantially more than 1,000 dead,” the International Crisis Group estimated last week that the figure had grown to nearly 10,000. The UN has reported atrocities on both sides.
The conflict has its roots in a bitter power struggle within the ruling SPLM (Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement) that has been developing since President Kiir sacked Machar as vice president, dismissed his entire cabinet and suspended the secretary-general of the SPLM, Pagan Amun, who was placed under investigation for allegedly inciting unrest. Machar made it known that he intended to challenge Kiir for the party leadership and run for president in the 2015 election. Machar also drew support from a number of senior military officers who were summarily dismissed.
The moves represented a consolidation of near-dictatorial powers and were accompanied by a turn toward stepped-up state repression. In removing Machar and all other Nuer representatives from the government, Kiir also set the stage for the political power struggle to become enmeshed in ethnic-based violence.
The fissures within the ruling party go back a long ways to the protracted civil war in the Sudan that culminated in the South Sudan’s separation as an independent state, which took place three years ago with strong US backing.
Machar had split from the SPLM in the 1990s, advocating an independent South Sudan, while at the time the SPLM backed a secular and democratic united Sudan, with full rights for southerners. The result was a civil war within the South Sudanese factions, including ethnic-based bloodletting, most infamously a 1991 massacre of some 2,000 Dinkas by Machar’s forces in the city of Bor. In 2002, he rejoined the SPLM military force; in 2005, after the southern Sudan became semi-autonomous as part of a peace deal, he became vice president—a position he maintained in 2011 when South Sudan became formally independent.
The fault lines remained, however, in what was ostensibly a unity government, as well as within the army, which was formed by bringing together separate militias that had fought under the umbrella of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army before independence.
The December 15 clash began as an armed confrontation between rival groups of soldiers in the capital, Juba, that quickly spilled over into broader clashes. Kiir claimed that the incident was part of an attempted coup and arrested a number of his rivals within the SPLA.
Forces loyal to Machar claimed on Tuesday that they had recaptured Malakal, but a spokesman for the government dismissed the claim as “mere propaganda,” insisting that its forces had regained control of the city. There were multiple reports of heavy fighting in and around the city.
Fighting has also resumed around the city of Bor in the center of the country, which is apparently still in the hands of the rebel forces. Government troops were reportedly preparing an offensive to seize it.
Machar, meanwhile, told the Sudan Tribune that forces supporting him were preparing a fresh attack on Bentiu, the capital of Unity state—also a center of oil production—from which they had earlier made what he called a “tactical withdrawal.”
Machar also claimed that his forces were fighting not only South Sudanese government troops, but also Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) forces, which have been ordered into South Sudan by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on the pretense of protecting Ugandan nationals in the country.
Ugandan attack helicopters have reportedly bombed villages, killing civilians, while Ugandan troops have taken up positions at the presidential palace and the international airport in Juba.
The Ugandan parliament began a debate Tuesday on sending even more military forces into the country, amid criticism by Museveni’s opponents that he had violated both South Sudanese sovereignty with the military deployment and the Ugandan constitution by failing to seek prior approval from the parliament before the first Ugandan units were sent in. Uganda, which shares its northern border with South Sudan, is the country’s largest African trade partner.
The Ugandan intervention underscores the danger of the conflict in South Sudan becoming joined in a wider regional war. Both the Central African Republic to the west and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the south have been torn by armed conflict. French troops have been sent into the CAR along with Rwandan forces airlifted in by the US.
The US last month also deployed about 50 members of its recently created East Africa Response Force, based in Djibouti, to South Sudan, ostensibly to aid in the evacuation of US personnel.
Even as the fighting continues in South Sudan, talks aimed at achieving a ceasefire are taking place in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa under the auspices of the East African regional bloc, the Inter-Governmental Agency on Development (IGAD).
The US played the major role as the midwife of independent South Sudan, which enjoyed enthusiastic backing from both the Bush and Obama administrations and US constituencies ranging from evangelical Christians to Hollywood liberals. All of them blithely ignored the gross corruption, authoritarianism and bitter divisions that dominated the new state.
Washington, which poured billions of dollars in aid into the South Sudan, saw the creation of the new country of just 9 million people as a means of increasing US influence in the region, particularly against that of China, which was a major trading partner with Sudan. The talks in Addis Ababa, however, have seen the Chinese government take the more prominent role.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in the Ethiopian capital on Monday to participate in the ceasefire talks. The US representative at the negotiations is Donald Booth, the State Department’s Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan.
Since independence three years ago, China has emerged as the new country’s biggest trading partner and foreign investor, accounting for 80 percent of South Sudan’s oil exports. Since the fighting began, production in the largely Chinese-run oil fields has declined by 30 percent, and hundreds of Chinese workers have had to leave the country.
By Kumaran Ira
13 January 2014
France and Japan agreed to cooperate on military and economic issues after Japan’s foreign and defense ministers visited Paris for “two-plus-two” talks with their French counterparts on Thursday.
Speaking in Paris, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said, “The agreement will open up a new dimension for our cooperation on security and defense.”
Paris and Tokyo agreed to set up a joint committee to discuss the development of military equipment and management of weapons exports. Japan is reportedly interested in particular in French military technology such as next-generation helicopters, submarine propulsion and underwater drones.
The “two-plus-two” talks follow an accord signed by Paris and Tokyo last June, when French President François Hollande officially visited Japan. During Hollande’s visit, both countries agreed to deepen cooperation on nuclear reactor exports and to prepare to work together on the development of military equipment.
The current France-Japan talks focused largely on a stepped-up imperialist intervention in Africa, to destroy China’s rising influence in the continent. Japan pledged to support ongoing French wars in two former French colonies, Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR).
Japan has contributed €735 million to the French military intervention in Mali. Paris also expects that Tokyo will also provide financial assistance for France’s war in CAR.
The new defense cooperation between Paris and Tokyo comes amid escalating military tensions between the major powers that, as is remarked even in the bourgeois press, directly pose the risk of global war. (See: Geo-political tensions raise spectre of 1914 Great War )
Japan and China are embroiled in a bitter dispute over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. These tensions have been largely driven by the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia”—a US policy of forming strategic and military alliance with Japan, Australia, India and other regional powers to surround China and contain its rising economic influence.
Following the talks between French and Japanese ministers, a joint statement was issued apparently criticising China’s declaration of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) last year that covers the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. The statement emphasized the importance of ensuring the freedom of flight above the open sea and exclusive economic zones, as well as securing the safety of civilian aircraft.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said, “The tensions [between China and Japan] are a source of concern. We want this part of the world to find solutions to ease tensions.”
Far from easing tensions, the accords between Paris and Tokyo are sharpening international conflicts and bringing into the open the great-power calculations behind France’s escalating wars in sub-Saharan Africa.
Fearing rising Chinese influence and declining French business competitiveness against Chinese firms in Africa, French imperialism has escalated military intervention in its former African colonies. In its wars in the Ivory Coast in 2011 and Central African Republic (CAR) in 2013, France targeted regimes that were developing closer ties with China.
Over the past years, China has increased its trade with Africa, becoming the continent’s single largest trading partner. It is a significant investor in Africa’s resources sector, and the biggest importer of oil and minerals from many African countries. It is also heavily involved in building infrastructure including highways, railways, and transit systems across Africa.
While it has focused on competing with China in Asia, Japan is also challenging Chinese influence in Africa. While Japan’s foreign and defense minsters visited Paris, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe began his five-day tour of sub-Saharan Africa, the first such visit by a Japanese prime minister in eight years. Abe will visit the Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Mozambique.
Reacting to Abe’s visit to Africa, China’s state-owned China Daily noted that the Japanese leader is seeking to “contain” China’s influence in Africa.
The Franco-Japanese alignment against China is a reactionary agreement between two regimes desperate to step up militarist policies to ram through attacks on workers’ social rights at home, and on their great-power rivals abroad.
Officials in the administration of French President François Hollande have openly commented that they are modelling their African wars on the 1982 British Falkland Island war—in which Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher played the war card to boost support for her government and prepare for austerity measures, including the crushing of the 1984-5 miners strike. (See:France seizes on murder of RFI journalists to intensify Mali war )
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pressing ahead with moves to undermine remaining barriers to overseas war in Japan’s post-war constitution. It recently issued a new national security strategy, compiled last year in order to strengthen its military independence and serve as a basis for Japan’s foreign policy over the next ten years.
Abe’s government is euphemistically presenting the stepping up of Japanese militarism as a policy of “proactive pacifism.”
While initially these policies are initially directed at Chinese interests, there are numerous indications that the rising tensions in Asia and Africa will also provoke political clashes between the European powers.
Indeed, it was noteworthy that Japanese officials—who stopped in France after holding talks in Spain focusing on economic cooperation in Latin America—did not stop in Europe’s leading economy and most powerful state: Germany. There are, moreover, definite indications of policy disagreements between Germany and France, the euro zone’s two largest economies, on the Senkaku/Diaoyu island dispute.
While France has aligned itself more directly on the “pivot” and on Japanese claims, the German government allowed Chinese premier Li Keqiang to issue a remarkable public claim to the islands last May, while he was visiting Berlin.
Speaking in Potsdam, near Berlin, Li referred to the post-World War II Potsdam Proclamation on which China stakes its claim to the islands: “The site of the Potsdam meeting is a place of historic significance. The Potsdam Proclamation clearly states that Japan must return China’s territories of Northeast China, Taiwan and other islands after surrendering. The victory and international order had been achieved at the cost of sacrifices of tens of millions of lives.”
For the European powers, including both Germany and France, the revival of Japanese militarism and the rising regional tensions stirred up by the US “pivot to Asia” are a lucrative opportunity to compete for military export markets.
Taking note of the “arms race in the Pacific,” German news magazine Der Spiegel commented that it “promises big business for the German defense industry. Next to the Gulf region, the Pacific is increasingly becoming one of the few global growth markets for defense firms. According to a 2013 report published by the Swedish research institute SIPRI, three of the world’s five biggest arms importers are West Pacific states: China, South Korea and Singapore. For the German economy, the sale of large submarines is especially lucrative.”
By Karen Piper
“Welcome to the Greener Side of Life” beckoned the billboard on Cairo’s Ring Road, which showed a man in a jaunty hat teeing off on a verdant golf course flowing into the horizon. I was stuck in traffic, breathing that mix of Saharan dust and pollution also known as “air,” so I could see the appeal. Somewhere outside the city, in a gated community called Allegria — Italian for “cheerfulness” — a greener life awaited.
“Over 80% of Allegria’s land is dedicated to green and public spaces,” boasts the developer’s brochure, “meaning you’ll never lose the peace and tranquility which goes hand in hand with outdoor living.”
Top: Promotional image for Allegria, a gated community in Sheikh Zayed City, a suburb of Cairo, Egypt. [Image by SODIC] Bottom: Neighborhood in Cairo. [Photo by Brandon Atkinson]
It was a scorching hot summer, several months before the Egyptian revolution. Beneath the expressway sprawled the informal settlements where an estimated 60 percent of metropolitan Cairo’s 18 million residents live.  Some were using billboard poles to keep the brick structures from collapsing. Many did not have running water, and those who did found the taps drying up as water was diverted to the lavishly landscaped suburban developments with names like Allegria, Dreamland, Beverly Hills, Swan Lake, Utopia — a diversion that was straining the capacity of state-run water distribution networks and waste treatment plants. 
When Tahrir Square erupted in the winter of 2011, the international news media proclaimed a “social media revolution” spurred by pro-democracy Egyptians seeking to overthrow the repressive regime of President Hosni Mubarak.  To a large extent unreported was the fact that the country was also in a water crisis, having dropped below the globally recognized “water poverty” line of 1,000 cubic meters per person per year, down to 700 cubic meters per person.  It is no exaggeration to say that the January 25 Revolution was not just a revolution of the disenfranchised; it was also what some have called a “Revolution of the Thirsty.”  In a land almost without rain, the Nile River supplies 97 percent of renewable water resources, and these days an increasing share of that water is being directed to the posh suburban compounds — where many of Egypt’s political elite lives — to support that “greener side of life.” Meanwhile, in the years before the revolution, the state water utilities had dramatically hiked rates for residents in downtown Cairo, where some 40 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day. 
Later that year, back home in the Midwest, as images of the uprising filled my television screen, I was surprised that commentators seemed unaware of the water crisis, and of the global geopolitical pressures that had made the crisis all but certain. The American media focused mainly on internal corruption and oppression. They did not report on the role of the international superpowers in influencing the Mubarak regime to privatize the country’s public land and water; they did not report, for instance, that since the 1990s the World Bank has argued that privatization enhances “efficiency” and has mandated the policy as a condition for making loans; and that in 2004 this mandate led the Egyptian government to privatize its water utilities, transforming them into corporations which were required to operate at a profit, and which thus began to practice “full cost recovery,” passing along the cost of new infrastructure through rate increases. 
Within months of privatization, the price of water doubled in some areas of the capital, and citizens started to protest. At one demonstration in northern Cairo, in 2005, “angry residents chased bill collectors down the streets.”  Those who could not afford the new rates had little choice but to go to the city’s outskirts to collect water from the dirty Nile River canals.  In 2007, protestors in the Nile Delta blocked the main coastal road after the regional water company diverted water from farming and fishing towns to affluent resort communities. “The authorities sent riot police to put down these ‘disturbances,’” wrote Philip Marfleet, a professor at the University of East London, even as “water flowed uninterrupted to the gated communities, and to country clubs and upmarket resorts of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.”  In the next few years such demonstrations only grew in intensity. As activist Abdel Mawla Ismail has noted, “Thirst protests or intifadas, as some people have called them, started to represent a new path for a social movement.” From this path the revolution that consumed the nation in 2011 seems inevitable. People can live in poverty for a long time; they cannot live without water.
Cairo (center) and the Nile River Valley. [Satellite image by NASA]
To understand the growing inequity of water access in Egypt, let’s return again to the “Greener Side of Life.” Established in 2007, Allegria is one of dozens of gated suburbs that have sprouted in the Sahara in the past decade. Created by the Sixth of October Development and Investment Company (SODIC) — the name recalls a victorious battle in the Yom Kippur War — Allegria is a cosmopolitan community organized around golf and swimming. It boasts a “happier and healthier lifestyle” and proudly advertises a Greg Norman Signature golf course with 18 holes and “views of the Great Pyramids of Giza.” Prospective buyers can choose among 30 villa plans, all designed by a renowned international architect. Each villa or apartment complex has its own private pool and gardens. Four corporations manage upkeep of the landscape alone.
Golf is not a new sport in Egypt — it was introduced in 1882, when the British colonial rulers built the Gezira Sporting Club — but it has gained wide popularity only in the last decade as developers began to promote the “golf holiday” to foreign tourists. Since then it has swept the Saharan suburbs, becoming a status symbol signifying the ability to conduct business anywhere in the world as long as there’s a good fairway. In Egypt, learning to golf is now seen as a necessary step toward joining the global elite. Allegria capitalizes on the mystique, offering workshops and posting daily golf quizzes on its Facebook page. It hosts endless golf tournaments and themed parties, like “Allegria Basil Ladies Day,” where, for around $150, women receive a welcoming basil drink, an “Italian Basil Menu” lunch, and a round of golf enhanced with “basil-scented face towels.” At the annual BMW tournament, new cars are displayed around the fairways and available for test drives.
As in many far-flung exurbs, life in Allegria is necessarily self-contained. Women are encouraged to walk to the upscale shopping and restaurants in the private city of Westown (also owned by SODIC) or take the free shuttle to Designopolis (ditto) to buy home furnishings. On weekends, families can visit one of the nearby amusement parks; DreamPark — designed by the company that created both the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, and Universal Studios in Los Angeles — provides relief from the desert heat with water-themed entertainments, including a dolphin show, jungle cruise and log-chute rides. When the children are old enough, they can enroll in the prestigious British International School, which recently moved to Allegria from downtown Cairo.
Egypt’s boom in luxury suburbs began in the 1990s with the first wave of privatization of government agencies and public land. Vast swaths of desert were sold at bargain prices to friends and relatives of President Mubarak, who also received guarantees of infrastructure like roads, electricity and water lines.  These insider deals led to outrageous claims of water rights, like the assurance of unlimited fossil groundwater to a Saudi prince who wanted to grow food in the Sahara. International companies vied for contracts to build water treatment facilities. To be sure, life in the Saharan suburbia was not always as idyllic as advertised; developers of gated communities typically promised reverse osmosis filtration, but many found it cheaper to hook up to municipal water lines — and notoriously unreliable state-run water treatment plants — than to build dedicated facilities.  Still, residents paying up to $350 monthly in maintenance and utility fees expected clean water to flow freely when they turned on the tap, and more often than not it did. A recent study of two Cairo suburbs found that 69 percent of residents in Sixth of October City and 42 percent in New Cairo had tap water available at all times. 
All the while, as water was flowing and taxpayer money shifting to the exurban oases, millions of residents of old Cairo struggled with little access to sanitary facilities. The ostentatious water wealth that made possible the “greener side of life” was becoming a symbol of government corruption. The Revolution of the Thirsty was gathering strength.
Rooftop sorting of garbage and recyclable materials in Manshiyet Nasir, Cairo. [Photo by Joseph Hill]
Cairo is an extraordinarily congested metropolis, with twice the density of Manhattan, mainly because of its growing informal districts. Unlike some of the tin-and-plywood squatter settlements in some African cities, informal Cairo is a visually coherent environment of four- and five-story red-brick buildings, many with reinforcing bars jutting from the roof, awaiting the next floor. The planned and unplanned areas of the city are both crowded with markets and cafés; but in informal areas the under-the-table economy is dominant, and infrastructure must be bartered for and self-built because it is usually not provided by municipal authorities. In some neighborhoods, community-built roads are so narrow they can’t accommodate emergency traffic, only tuk-tuk taxis. Plumbing services range from a trench in the road to a hole in the ground, both emptied by sewage trucks that sometimes discharge their waste into the Nile canals from which people draw their drinking water when the tap runs dry. 
In the informal area of Manshiyat Naser — known as “Garbage City” because its economy is based on garbage collection — an estimated one million people live in just four and a half square miles, making it one of the most densely populated districts in Africa.  Here less than 15 percent of clean water needs are met by the municipality; most residents depend upon “hundreds of small private wells which draw from contaminated shallow aquifers” fed by the Nile.  Analyzing the area’s water supply, an NGO found that 75 percent of the samples “did not meet the minimum acceptable standards for drinking water in Egypt.” Yet because districts like Manshiyat Naser are extra-legal, residents can’t demand better infrastructure. They collect water in jerrycans, dig holes for toilets, connect to electricity illegally.  One resident complained: “Can you tell me why those people over there [in the formal areas] get better streets, better water, and better everything than us? Are they worth more?”  And another: “If a pipe bursts in [an upscale neighborhood] it’s fixed the same day. When pipes burst here, we go a week without water. Officials consider it a blessing — an opportunity to sell our water share to one of their cronies.” 
Like many Manshiyat Naser residents, Umm Amr works as a zabbaleen, or trash collector, sorting during the day the trash that her husband brings home at night; the trash is then packaged and sold for recycling, providing the family’s main source of income. As described in a poignant article by journalist Julia Gerlach, Umm, who is in her thirties, lives in a tiny room on the ground floor of an old house where she and her daughter sleep on the floor. Her husband sleeps on a bench; her two sons have the best accommodations — the one bed in the house. All the families in her three-story building share one bathroom, and Umm gets water from a neighbor across the street. Some days she simply goes without. “We wanted to build water pipes,” she says, “but they said we shouldn’t because the house is too old and the walls are rotten. The water would [cause] the house to collapse.” 
Manshiyet Nasir, “Garbage City,” Cairo. [Photo by Geson Rydén]
In 2008, Umm Amr’s problems became more pressing when rockslides killed at least 199 people and injured 55 others in Manshiyat Naser, due to untreated sewage soaking into the cliffs above her house. Afterward the national government designated certain areas as “unsafe” and required residents to relocate to a housing project 20 miles west of Cairo.  Once there, the lucky ones got jobs as housekeepers or landscapers at places like Allegria, but others had no employment or income in the suburbs and found that there was no public transportation back to the city. As a result some residents defied the relocation order, provoking a swift and ruthless official response; in an extreme case, a bulldozer was driven into a house in Manshiyat Naser with the family still inside. 
The story of the ongoing Egyptian Revolution is in many ways the story of Manshiyat Naser writ large. By the summer of 2010, in neighborhoods across Cairo, frustration with the lack of civic infrastructure, the scarce water and poor sanitation, had already begun to boil over. But revolutions do not happen unless people are capable of organizing; and by this point millions of Cairenes in extra-legal communities had amassed decades of experience in self-organization. Urban planner Kareem Ibrahim has described the situation: “Basically, there is no urban planning aside from what people, primarily lower socioeconomic classes, have informally taken upon themselves to address. … It’s as if people have accepted that they’re not really citizens of a country that has responsibilities towards them.”  During the “Friday of Anger” protests on January 28, 2011, Manshiyat Naser residents set the neighborhood authority office and local police stations on fire; both groups had been responsible for the mass evictions. Families then occupied the empty government buildings until they were evicted by riot police.  Mini-revolutions like this occurred around the country but were rarely televised or even tweeted.
Yet even as revolutionary fervor was intensifying, and right up to the final days of the Mubarak regime, international investors and the World Bank were lauding the success of Egypt’s privatization program. As a Forbes advertorial sponsored by major banks and developers had declared: “Despite the global economic crisis in 2009, Egypt managed to sustain a 4.7% growth in GDP — an enviable rate for most countries — largely due to strong growth fundamentals [and] effective market reforms.” The market reforms — that is, the privatization programs — had indeed raised the country’s GDP, but only by creating an enormous real estate and water speculation bubble for those with the right connections. In 2010, the World Bank praised Egypt as “among the world’s ten most active reformers,” citing “impressive poverty reduction” and “rapid economic growth.” The Bank promised to continue supporting “Egypt’s reforms in the water supply and sanitation sector,” including its policy of cost recovery and privatization.  Then, in January 2011, the nation rose up, and many wondered how the World Bank could have gotten it so wrong. 
After the early success of the revolution in the winter of 2011, in the heady days after Mubarak’s resignation, former government officials and land developers were brought up before the interim authorities to answer for their allegedly corrupt privatization deals. Magdy Rasekh, the founder and former chair of SODIC — and the father-in-law of Hosni Mubarak’s elder son — fled the country to avoid arrest. He was tried in absentia and convicted this spring of illegally seizing public lands, and sentenced to five years hard labor and a $330 million fine, along with Mohamed Ibrahim Suleiman, Mubarak’s longtime housing minister. Another developer of a gated community was sentenced to 10 years in prison. According toThe National, “Thousands of corruption allegations have surfaced and some of the country’s best-known businessmen have gone on trial.” Mubarak himself was accused of receiving direct kickbacks from developers as well as investments in the new suburban developments, and his assets — by some estimates as much as $70 billion — were frozen as Egypt tried to track down the sources of his wealth.
Today, as corruption charges progress through the courts, market analysts worldwide are watching closely. The looming question is whether or not the land and water requisitioned to create projects like Allegria will be returned to the government and re-nationalized. Most foreign financial analysts remain certain that this will not happen. According to Dubai analyst Ankur Khetawat, “We don’t think the government will take all the land back. They will prefer to settle because it’s all about money at the end of the day.”  The consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, headquartered in California, has predicted that private water companies, which made $1.35 billion in Egypt in 2010, would earn double that figure by 2015; as the firm’s report concluded: “The water scarcity in Egypt is one of the most critical in the region … This has created a lot of opportunities for development.” 
Meanwhile, the World Bank, along with the International Monetary Fund, has maintained a largely business-as-usual attitude toward the interim government, offering 4.5 billion dollars in loans over two years to aid in “recovery.” According to the World Bank, “About two billion dollars in loans would be linked to progress in government reforms,” including privatization.  In response, several dozen civil society groups in Egypt released a statement claiming that “IMF and World Bank policies had helped to facilitate the oppressive regimes in the region,” and demanding instead a “people-led process of development.” 
New campus of the American University in Cairo, in New Cairo. [Photo by Lorenz Khazaleh]
The British geographer James Duncan has described the colonial city as “a political tract written in space and carved in stone. The landscape was part of the practice of power.”  Today the green and gated suburbs of Cairo have become a political tract for the neoliberalism that undergirds the growing power of a global elite (never mind the corruption involved in their development). They are products of the corporatized and privatized paradigm that has dominated Egypt for many years; there in the desert the market logic is made manifest in extravagant and thirsty communities of air-conditioned villas and velvety lawns — in the promise that money can buy all the water in the world.
More than a year after the revolution, downtown Cairo’s water is still flowing to the suburbs, and along with it the life of the capital. At the new campus of the American University in Cairo, in the suburb of New Cairo, there are 27 fountains and “water features”; meanwhile, at the old campus in Tahrir Square, the library was recently set on fire, revolutionary graffiti covers the walls, and week-long skirmishes sometimes break out between rioters and police.  All the while Allegria’s profits are climbing, seemingly unassailable, after taking a brief dive in response to the fall of the Mubarak government. On the first anniversary of the revolution, Allegria announced: “To commemorate 25th January, we will offer 50% green fees.” That month SODIC signed new real estate development contracts worth $36 million, and share prices doubled within six weeks.
Karen Piper is a professor of English at the University of Missouri in Columbia.
1. The settlements are known as ashwai’yat, an Arabic word that means random or haphazard. According to urban planner David Sims, 11 million people live in informal areas. See David Sims, Understanding Cairo in Revolutionary Times (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2011). To understand the complexity of estimating population figures for informal areas, see Cairo’s Informal Areas: Between Urban Challenges and Hidden Potentials, eds. Regina Kipper and Marion Fischer (Cairo: German Technical Cooperation, June 2009).
2. Reem Leila, “No Flow,” Al-Ahram Weekly Online, September 11-17, 2008.
4. See Shahira Amin, “Egypt’s Farmers Desperate for Clean Water,” CNN, November 10, 2010.
5. Philip Marfleet and Rabab El-Mahdi, “Egyptians Have Removed a Dictator; Can They Remove a Dictatorship?” ZNet, February 22, 2011.
6. Alya Kebiri, “Egypt Water Pricing: A Viable Solution for Egypt’s Water Crisis?,”World Environment Magazine No. 3, June 2009, 70-74.
7. The mandate for the newly privatized water utility reads: “Just like a private company, the Holding’s aim is to create profits.” The mission statement now reads: “The purpose of the Holding company is to purify, desalinate, transfer, distribute and sell potable water, collection, treatment and safe disposal of wastewater whether by itself or through any of its subsidiaries as well as formation and management of a securities portfolio which may include shares, bonds and any other financial tools.” See The Arab Republic of Egypt Public-Private Partnership Program: 6th of October Wastewater Treatment Plant Project: Information Memorandum (November 2009), 24. See also Alya Kebiri, op cit.
8. See Alya Kebiri, op cit.
10. Marfleet and El-Mahdi, op cit.
11. In those years the government of Egypt sold land for the price it would take to supply infrastructure like waste and water treatment, free from customs and state taxes. Alternatively, a developer could build the infrastructure and get the land for free. See the website of the New Urban Communities Authority, the government agency responsible for the development of the “New Towns.”
12. One Allegria homeowner complained on Facebook, “There is no Main Tank & pumping station for Allegria & it is directly connected to the municipality water line!?” The Allegria Homeowner’s Facebook page, accessed on October 30, 2011, appears to have been shut down following legal negotiations with the owners.
13. In 2010, SODIC listed “amounts collected” for “operation and maintenance of Allegria project” as $9 million. Homeowners pay for “basic services,” including “security, waste collection and pest control, as well as maintenance of streets, street lighting, electricity, water, sewage infrastructure, and public gardens and landscape.” See “Allegria: Property Management” SODIC, 2007. On the issue of water availability, see Salwa Abdel Maksoud Abdullah Eissa, Intra-Urban Migration to the New Cities in the Greater Cairo Region: Cause and Consequences, Master’s Thesis, American University of Cairo, Spring 2011. See also Sixth of October Development and Investment Company, Consolidated Financial Statements for the Financial Period Ended June 30, 2010, 32.
14. Susana Myllylä, “Cairo: A Mega-City and Its Water Resources,” Presentation at “The third Nordic Conference on Middle Eastern Studies: Ethnic Encounter and Culture Change,” Joensuu, Finland, June 19-22, 1995.
15. Amnesty International, “We Are Not Dirt”: Forced Evictions in Egypt’s Informal Settlements, No. MDE 12/001/2001, London: Amnesty International, 2011, 12.
16. In contrast, “The Housing Study for Urban Egypt,” conducted in 2008 for USAID, showed that 96.7 percent of households in Greater Cairo had access to a water faucet inside the dwelling and that 98 percent had access to proper sewerage lines.” (See Steven Viney, “Minimalist ‘Urban Planning’ Keeps Cairo Afloat, But Not without Drawbacks,” Cairo Observer, September 11, 2011.)
See also Sarah Sabry, “Poverty Lines in Greater Cairo, Underestimating and Misrepresenting Poverty,”Poverty Reduction in Urban Areas Series, Working Paper 21 (London: Human International Institute for Environment and Development, May 2009), 31. See also R.S. Nakashima, G.Z. Bisada, O.F. Gergis, A. Gawigati, and J.H. Hendrich, Making Cities Work: The Greater Cairo Healthy Neighborhood Program, An Urban Environmental Health Initiative in Egypt, Activity Report EHP No. 142 (Arlington, VA, USA: Environmental Health Project, September 2004), xiv.
17. See R.S. Nakashima, et. al, Making Cities Work: The Greater Cairo Healthy Neighborhood Program, An Urban Environmental Health Initiative in Egypt.
18. Julia Gerlach, “Me and My Neighborhood,” in Cairo’s Informal Areas: Between Urban Challenges and Hidden Potentials, 55.
19. Cam McGrath, op cit.
20. Quoted in Julia Gerlach, “Me and My Neighborhood,” 53-59.
21. Also in 2008, the Mubarak regime passed a law stating that if a building were found in violation of code, it would automatically be demolished. (Previously, a 1976 law allowed for the builder to reconcile with authorities by paying a fine, which led to corruption.) Mubarak’s new law, which had the greatest impact in Cairo, appeared to be a plan for the de facto demolition of sections of the city.
22. Amnesty International, “We Are Not Dirt,” 42.
23. Quoted in Steven Viney, “Minimalist ‘Urban Planning’ Keeps Cairo Afloat, But Not without Drawbacks,”Egypt Independent, September 11, 2011.
24. Amnesty International, “We Are Not Dirt,” 3.
25. See World Bank, “Most Improved Business Reformers in DB 2010.” See also Daniela Marotta, Ruslan Yemtsov, Heba El-Laithy, Hala Abou-Ali, Sherine Al-Shawarby, “Was Growth in Egypt Between 2005 and 2008 Pro-Poor? From Static to Dynamic Poverty Profile,” Policy Research Working Paper, World Bank Report No. WPS5589, March 1, 2011; and “The World Bank Supports Egypt’s Reforms in the Water Supply and Sanitation Sector.”
26. According to sociologist Sarah Sabry, the World Bank estimates have been politically motivated and used as evidence of the success of privatization policies. Just after the revolution, an Al Jazeera article cited neo-liberalism and privatization as among the chief causes of the revolution. Walter Ambrust wrote, “Egypt did not so much shrink its public sector, as neoliberal doctrine would have it, as it reallocated public resources for the benefit of a small and already affluent elite. Privatization provided windfalls for politically well-connected individuals.” See “A Revolution Against Neoliberalism?” Al Jazeera, February 24, 2011.
The pro-privatization magazine Global Water Intelligence immediately countered: “It is an absolute travesty to suggest that privatisation is the root of the problem … [and] incorrect to associate the privatisation programmes in North Africa with corruption and incompetence.” Instead, the article claimed, privatization led only to “transparency” and “competitive bidding.” See “Winning the War on Corruption and Incompetence,”Global Water Intelligence, March 3, 2011.See also Sarah Sabry, “Poverty Lines in Greater Cairo: Underestimating and Misrepresenting Poverty,” 5.
27. Zainab Fattah and Mahmoud Kassem, “Egypt’s Developers Pay the Price for Ties to Mubarak’s Regime,”Bloomberg, June 7, 2011.
28. See Frost & Sullivan, Assessment of Water and Wastewater Sector in Egypt, Report No. P541, May 2011.
29. “Investing in the Arab Spring,” Voice of America, May 26, 2011.
30. Cairo journalist Wael Kahlil wrote, “I recall repeatedly demonstrating over the past 10 years against the Hosni Mubarak regime and chanting against the ‘Fund’ and the ‘Bank,’ meaning the IMF and the World Bank. ‘We will not be governed by the Bank, we will not be governed by imperialism,’ we chanted, ‘and here are the terms of the Bank: poverty, hunger and rising prices.’” See Rosemary D’Amour, “Looking for Democracy in the Wake of Arab Spring,” IPS, Sept. 23, 2011. See also Wael Khalil, “Egypt’s IMF-Backed Revolution? No Thanks,” The Guardian, June 7, 2011.
Recently, during a personal interview conducted at the World Water Forum in Marseille, France, on March 17, 2012, I asked Mohamed Ahmed, Deputy Manager in the Planning Sector of the Ministry of Water Resources, if he thought Egypt’s water policies would change, post-revolution. He replied, “I’m not at the top level of the Ministry, but — and this is my personal opinion — I don’t expect major changes in [national] water policy.” When I pressed him about the future of Cairo’s new suburban developments, he became defensive, asking what I meant by “new developments.” When I mentioned places like Dreamland, he replied, “These are not very new developments. I can’t think of any new developments.” (Dreamland’s website claims it was “conceived” in 1995 and is still partly under construction.) I finally asked if he was aware of the litigation over land sales or the possibility of land being returned to the government. Ahmed replied, “I know what you’re talking about, but I’m not involved in this. I think if the land is taken back, maybe there would be some change in terms of providing water, but I’m not sure.” To his credit, he truly did seem unaware of the situation.
31. James Duncan, “Re-Presenting the Landscape: Problems of Reading the Intertextual,” Paysage e crise de la lisibilite, eds L. Mondada, F. Panese, and O. Soderstrom (Lausanne: Universite de Lausanne, Institut de Geographie, 1992), 86.
32. See “Street Art and the Power to Mobilize,” Daily News Egypt, April 10, 2012; Amany Aly Shawky, “Streets of Cairo: From AUC Crossing to Battlefield at Mohamed Mahmoud,” Egypt Independent, November 23, 2011; and “Letter from Lisa Anderson, President of the American University in Cairo to the AUC Community,” dated November 21, 2011.
By Linda Housman
January 05, 2014 “Information Clearing House - “Question. Why was Mandela’s life celebrated by the world while Gaddafi after everything he did for Africa was gunned down like a dog?”, a Twitter user wondered days after Nelson Mandela’s passing.
This question becomes even more valid in light of what the mainstream media, in the wake of the former South African president’s death, have been anxiously hiding from the public: the actual close and crucial alliance between Mandela and Gaddafi. Back in the 70s and 80s, when the West refused to allow sanctions against Apartheid in South Africa and used to call Mandela a terrorist, it was none other than Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi who kept supporting him. Gaddafi funded Mandela’s fight against Apartheid by training ANC fighters and by paying for their education abroad, and their bond only became stronger after Mandela’s release from prison on February 11, 1990.
Nevertheless, one of them ended up being “gunned down like a dog” and his death was celebrated by the entire elite of the imperialist world, which celebrations were significantly summarized by Hillary “Warzone” Clinton in a now infamous interview in which she exults: “We came, we saw, he died!”
As for the other one, the same entire elite of the imperialist world crowded into the FNB stadium in Soweto, South Africa, to attend the funeral of their hero, and to verbosely praise Mandela and his achievements with all possible superlatives.
Mandela on Gaddafi
So how did the branded Saint Mandela really feel about the branded Mad Dog Gaddafi? Let’s hear straight from the horse’s mouth what the mainstream media have left out of their laudatory picture of the former ANC leader.
Right upon his release from prison, after more than 27 years behind bars, Mandela broke the UN embargo and paid a visit to the Libyan capital of Tripoli, where he declared: “My delegation and I are overjoyed with the invitation from the Brother Guide [Muammar Gaddafi], to visit the Great Popular and Socialist Arab Libyan Jamahiriya. I have been waiting impatiently ever since we received the invitation. I would like to remind you that the first time I came here, in 1962, the country was in a very different state of affairs. One could not but be struck by the sights of poverty from the moment of arrival, with all of its usual corollaries: hunger, illness, lack of housing and of health-care facilities, etc. Anger and revolt could be read in those days on the faces of everyone.
Since then, things have changed considerably. During our stay in prison, we read and heard a great deal about the changes which have come about in this country and about blossoming of the economy which has been experienced here. There is prosperity and progress everywhere here today which we were able to see even before the airplane touched ground. It is thus with great pleasure that we have come on a visit in the Jamahiriya, impatient to meet our brother, the Guide Gaddafi.”
When Mandela was taken to the ruins of Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli, which was bombed by the Reagan administration in 1986 in an attempt to murder the entire Gaddafi family, he said:
“No country can claim to be the policeman of the world and no state can dictate to another what it should do. Those that yesterday were friends of our enemies have the gall today to tell me not to visit my brother Gaddafi. They are advising us to be ungrateful and forget our friends of the past.”
In response, Gaddafi thanked Mandela for his friendship, saying: “Who would ever have said that one day the opportunity for us to meet would become reality. We would like you to know that we are constantly celebrating your fight and that of the South African people, and that we salute your courage during all of those long years you spent in detention in the prison of Apartheid. Not a single day has passed without us having thought of you and your sufferings.”
Eight years later, when then U.S. president Bill Clinton visited Mandela in March 1998, Clinton criticized the South African president’s meeting with Muammar Gaddafi. In reaction to that criticism, Mandela straightforwardly replied:
“I have also invited Brother Leader Gaddafi to this country. And I do that because our moral authority dictates that we should not abandon those who helped us in the darkest hour in the history of this country. Not only did the Libyans support us in return, they gave us the resources for us to conduct our struggle, and to win. And those South Africans who have berated me for being loyal to our friends, can literally go and jump into a pool.”
Mandela on the West
Subsequently, let’s hear the ANC leader’s real thoughts on the West that has put him on a posthumous pedestal, and on topics that, to say the least, are not exactly popular among Western leaders.
On the U.S. preparing its war against Iraq in 2002: “If you look at those matters, you will come to the conclusion that the attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace. If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the USA. They don’t care for human beings.”
In a 1999 speech: “Israel should withdraw from all the areas which it won from the Arabs in 1967, and in particular Israel should withdraw completely from the Golan Heights, from south Lebanon and from the West Bank.”
“The UN took a strong stand against apartheid; and over the years, an international consensus was built, which helped to bring an end to this iniquitous system. But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” (RT)
The revolutionary Mad Dog
On the day of Mandela’s funeral, December 15, 2013, a citizen from Accra, Ghana, expressed:
“All day long here in Ghana they have been broadcasting live the Memorial Service of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Courtesy, of course, of the BBC and Deutsche Welle? Why on earth doesn’t Africa have its own Broadcasting Network in this day and age? The news coverage on the BBC is always distorting according to their own interest, and that on Deutsche Welle a bit less, but still not African! And in all of Ghana – a nations with so many media resources – there is not a single foreign correspondent in the lot! Why must Africans always depend on others to tell their own stories to them?! Shame! Shame! Shame!”
In fact, there actually was someone working on an African broadcasting network. Someone who already connected the entire African continent by radio, television and telephone. In the early 90s, this person funded the establishment of the Regional African Satellite Communication Organization, which eventually provided Africa with its first own communications satellite on December 26, 2007. A second African satellite was launched in July 2010 and advanced plans for a continental broadcasting network were made. The person who funded at least 70% of this revolutionary project was the revolutionary leader of the Libyan Jamahiriya, Muammar Gaddafi.
Gaddafi thus angered the Western bankers, since Africa no longer would pay the annual $500 million fee to Europe for the use of its satellites, and of course no “self-respecting” banker was willing to fund a project that frees people from their claws. And this was not the only way in which Gaddafi angered the West to the point that he had to be eliminated from their agenda. The leader of the Libyan Al-Fateh Revolution worked hard and came close to embody the famous 1865 quote by American economist Adam Smith, saying: “The economy of any country which relies on the slavery of blacks is destined to descend into hell the day those countries awaken.”
On the eve of the NATO-led war against Libya, Gaddafi’s booming country largely co-funded three projects that would rid Africa from its financial dependence on the West once and for all: the African Investment Bank in the Libyan city of Sirte, the African Monetary Fund (AFM), to be based in the capital of Cameroon, Yaounde, in 2011, and the African Central Bank to be based in the capital of Nigeria, Abuja. Especially the latter angered France – not coincidentally also the main orchestrator of the war on Libya – because it would mean the end of the West African CFA franc and the Central African CFA franc, through which France kept a hold on as much as thirteen African countries. Only two months after Africa said no to Western attempts to join the AFM, Western organized “protests” against the AFM’s benefactor, Muammar Gaddafi, started to erupt in Libya… ultimately resulting in the freezing of $30 billion by the West, which money mostly was intended for the above mentioned financial projects.
But Gaddafi helped the African continent in more than just material ways. More than any other African leader, he supported Mandela’s ANC’s struggle against the racist regime in South Africa. Above that, many Black Africans, especially sub-Saharan African migrants and refugees, found a new home in Gaddafi’s prosperous Libya.
Gaddafi understood that in order to develop a strong Africa that would be able to finally throw off the shackles of imperialism, unity was the first requirement. The 2009 Chairperson of the African Union also understood the African culture and recognized that African problems need African solutions. During a 2010 meeting in Tripoli, in which he addressed dozens of leaders from across Africa, he told: “African traditions are being replaced with Western culture and multiparty politics is destroying Africa.” Instead, Gaddafi promoted the establishment of a People’s Government (Jamahiriya) in which the power would not belong to (puppet) governments, but to the African people. And nothing scared the Western capitalists more than a united Africa – Muammar Gaddafi’s dream that was about to come true by the end of 2010.
The lukewarm Saint
When Nelson Mandela endured 27 years of isolation in prison, he paid the price of being the socialist revolutionary and the racial equality fighter that he was. His freedom was taken away by the South African Apartheid regime, a regime that was the result of the infiltration of South Africa by European colonial powers. How come the same colonial powers now consider him to be a hero and a saint? Did the Western elite have a massive change of mind, and thus all of the sudden embraced the exact same ideology that made them put Mandela behind bars a few decades ago?
We only have to take a look at the current situation of the Blacks in NATO-led Libya to understand that this was not quite the case. Libya, in 1951 officially the poorest country in the world, under Gaddafi attained the highest standard of living in Africa. The country’s prosperity attracted many Black African immigrants, during the 2011 war on Libya by the mainstream media purposely misnamed as being “black sub-Saharan African mercenaries”. Gaddafi provided them with work and education. Those immigrant workers, to whom Gaddafi wasa hero, a father and a friend, now face the cruelest forms of racism by the Western-installed Libyan puppet regime. Just one telling example is a video in which Libyan “rebels” force Black immigrants to eat the green flag of the Libyan Jamahiriya.
Then why the 180 degrees change of attitude of the West towards Mandela after his release from prison?
Statistics show that still 65% of the Blacks in South Africa remain unemployed, while 90% of the Whites own 90% of South Africa’s wealth. Over the last decades, Apartheid may have disappeared for the visual scene, fact is that Blacks remain poor while Whites remain rich.
Yet the West regards Mandela as the protector of the South African economy. According to a Financial Times journalist, Mandela’s ANC “proved a reliable steward of sub-Sahara Africa’s largest economy, embracing orthodox fiscal and monetary policies.” Canadian The Globe and Mail recently added that Mandela did this “without alienating his radical followers or creating a dangerous factional struggle within his movement”.
In other words, Mandela ran with the hare and hunted with the hounds… mainly economically – and nothing interested, interests and will interest the Western capitalist countries more than economics.
As aptly stated by independent writer Stephen Gowans,
“Thus, in [The Globe and Mail journalist Doug] Saunder’s view, Mandela was a special kind of leader: one who could use his enormous prestige and charisma to induce his followers to sacrifice their own interests for the greater good of the elite that had grown rich off their sweat, going so far as to acquiesce in the repudiation of their own economic program.”
“”Here is the crucial lesson of Mr. Mandela for modern politicians,” writes Saunders. “The principled successful leader is the one who betrays his party members for the larger interests of the nation. When one has to decide between the rank-and-file and the greater good, the party should never come first.”
“For Saunders and most other mainstream journalists, “the larger interests of the nation” are the larger interests of banks, land owners, bond holders and share holders. This is the idea expressed in the old adage “What’s good for GM [General Motors], is good for America.” Since mainstream media are large corporations, interlocked with other large corporations, and are dependent on still other large corporations for advertising revenue, the placing of an equal sign between corporate interests and the national interest comes quite naturally.”
I believe the dictionary has a word for that: lukewarm.
What if Mandela had not danced to the tune of the imperialists?What if he did have said words and did have made plans that were too threatening to the interests of the corporate financiers who run the planet – the reason why Gaddafi had to be killed? Then South Africa under his leadership quite likely would have become what Iraq and Libya currently are: a country in turmoil, torn apart by imperialist powers that Mandela, not inconceivable even out of fear for what they are capable of, preferred to side with.
Also the inevitable question arises: where was Mandela when his brother Gaddafi’s country was bombed for nine months by the most powerful military alliance in modern history? Sources have declared by that time his health was too fragile and he was in a too vulnerable state of mind, for which reason his family deliberately kept him away from news that would severely upset him. Whatever the case may be, the significant fact remains that no ANC member stood up for Gaddafi during the war on Libya the way Gaddafi stood up for his friend Mandela during his imprisonment and afterwards.
The lesson for us
At the beginning of a new year, let us allow ourselves to take a few moments to reflect on our destiny and on that of the post-Mandela and post-Gaddafi world we live in. We live in a time of transition on all fronts. More than ever we are faced with the choice of being guided by fear – especially by the fear of losing credibility with the public and being punished by “authorities” when we challenge the powers-that-be – or being guided by the freedom of thought. The latter will result in a higher level of understanding of both ourselves and the world around us, which is the main condition for a much needed (r)evolution and for the establishment of true democracy.
What the world needs now, are “Mad Dogs”. Revolutionaries with a vision who dare to be unconventional and dare to be so all the way. It is time for us to become a Gaddafi rather than a Mandela. It is time to let the walls of fear around our thinking fall away. It is time to break free from the fear of not being liked, of no longer being accepted, of being looked upon differently, of being branded an outcast, a lunatic, a conspiracy theorist or anything bad when we raise our voices.
We need to dare to totally tear aside the veil of Apartheid that mights and media use to cover up what is really going on in the world. Only then real progress can be achieved.
“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our mind.” – Bob Marley
By Lawrence Davidson
January 03, 2014 “Information Clearing House - This past week the confrontation between Egypt’s ruling regime and the country’s Muslim Brotherhood intensified. In an act that should make anyone familiar with this ongoing struggle sit up and shake their head, the “military-backed government” in Cairo declared Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist organization.” In case anyone is inclined to get the sides mixed up, it is the Muslim Brotherhood that is defending democracy in this confrontation, and the media’s use of the euphemism “military-backed government” is to be understood as whitewash for military dictatorship.
The truth is that the Muslim Brothers have behaved in a civil fashion. Indeed, they have shown great restraint in the face of the violent, sometimes terrorist-style provocations of the Egyptian military and police. Always advocating nonviolent demonstrations against the military coup that brought down Egypt’s first honestly elected government in modern times, the Brothers and their supporters have been met with murderous official violence that has killed, wounded and jailed thousands. Thus, when the generals brand the Muslim Brothers “terrorists,” they are using an Orwellian propaganda ploy. As is so often the case, it is the dictatorship that practices terrorism and many of those who are resisting are destined to be its victims.
This doesn’t mean that there has not been violent resistance to the dictatorship. There have been steadily increasing instances of this, such as car-bombings of government buildings and attacks on police and military posts. The violent resistance started in the Sinai region of Egypt and has now spread across the Nile into the country’s heartland. For instance, on 25 December 2013 the police headquarters at Mansoura, a city northeast of Cairo, was destroyed and 15 people died. However, it was not the Brotherhood that launched this or other attacks like it. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (roughly translated as “Defenders of Holy Jerusalem”), a group unaffiliated with the Muslim Brothers, has taken responsibility. None of this matters to the dictatorship in Cairo. It has taken advantage of the violence to attempt to destroy the Brotherhood. This is probably an impossible goal and its pursuit risks civil war.
It is interesting that Ansar Beit al-Maqdis’s violence has been described in the Western media as “extremist.” Violence can be considered extreme by definition and this group’s violence is spreading. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis has warned that police, soldiers and anyone else associated with the dictatorship is now a target. On the other hand, rarely have the actions of what now passes for a government in Egypt been labeled “extremist” in the media, although the generals have repeatedly killed and maimed nonviolent protesters. In truth it is the dictatorship itself which has set down the options for those who resist it: either give up entirely or pick up the gun. This stands as a lesson in ends and means – the means employed by dictatorial regimes usually don’t allow for peaceful protest and thereby steer the end that is resistance in the direction of violence.
Abandoning the Democratic Road
There will be many who rationalize Egypt’s military dictatorship by pointing to the flaws of the deposed Morsi government. Some will point out that, even though freely and fairly elected, the Morsi government was soon rejected by growing numbers of Egyptians. Thus, before the coup there were large demonstrations against the elected government. This is true, though the assertion that the protests represented a majority of the population is a politically motivated exaggeration. The problem with this rationale is that, unlike conditions under a dictatorship, there were democratic options open to the those who disliked the elected government. They likewise could have kept up the demand for broader input into government policy until the government compromised. Just before the coup, there were signs that this point was being reached. They could have waited until the next election cycle to attempt to turn the Morsi government out. There is no evidence that Morsi would have prevented future free and fair elections. It is to be noted that one thing the elected government did not do is shoot down protesters in the streets.
It might be that, except for a relatively small youth movement, most of the anti-Morsi coalition were never seriously interested in democracy. From the start of the demonstrations against the elected government, there was little or no hesitation by this coalition to abandon democratic practices. The regulations and procedures put in place by the prior Mubarak dictatorship were repeatedly used to stymie Morsi’s administration. Prominent in the use of this tactic were the courts and judges appointed by Mubarak. It soon became apparent that the anti-Morsi coalition did not have the patience to follow a democratic/electoral route to settling the question of Egypt’s ultimate character. Theirs was an all-or-nothing attitude which quickly led them to call on the military to “save the nation.” What was salvation to look like? One thing that is certain is that the Egyptian military lacks the skill to save, and indeed any interest in saving, Egyptian democracy.
What did this strategy get the anti-Morsi coalition? Did it get them a secular government that respects civil and human rights? Did it get them a government that can be trusted to hold free and fair elections? Certainly not, for the means they employed could not lead to such ends. It got them relief from the maybe of Sharia law in exchange for the certainty of a military coup and the violence through which all military dictators rule.
What do the military dictators of Egypt think their arbitrary and violent use of power will accomplish? Do they think that the country will return to the situation under Nasser-Sadat-Mubarak when authoritarian intimidation kept religious organizations under control and civil society quiet? Do they think that anyone will really be fooled by the rigged elections they are planning for 2014? If so, they have failed to consider the possibility that the democratic election of Mohammad Morsi may well have changed the historical equation. In terms of history, what they should be referencing is not their own dictatorial past but the events of Algeria in the 1990s. In that place and time, another military regime shut down the pro-Islamic results of a democratic election and triggered a decade of savage civil war. This is an end that is quite consistent with the means used by the Egyptian generals in 2013.
The Evolving U.S. Response
The United States government had been a consistent backer of Egyptian dictatorships ever since Anwar Sadat made his historic peace with Israel in March of 1979. From that time on the U.S. treasury has been paying out at least $1.55 billion dollars (the publicly used low figure) in mostly military aid to Egypt. That aid has helped sustain a corrupt Egyptian officer corps that now controls a good part of the Egyptian economy and has no one to fight except its own people.
In February 2011 a genuinely popular and mostly nonviolent revolt forced the collapse of the Mubarak dictatorship. This led to Egypt’s first internationally monitored, free and fair election. For a while it looked like the Egyptian military would be forced out of politics, and U.S. President Barack Obama seemed to accept this turn of events. Even when the Egyptian generals returned to form and pulled off their coup in July 2013, the Obama administration reacted with displeasure and cut off some of the annual aid payments. The only ones in the Middle East who found this objectionable were other U.S.-supported dictatorships such as those in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates.
However, now the U.S. government might be considering to once more support an Egyptian dictatorship. Suggestions that this might be the case came recently from Secretary of State John Kerry in a speech delivered on 20 November 2013 to the State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council. Here Kerry showed an embarrassing lack of knowledge about the events that brought down the Mubarak dictatorship and a remarkably naive notion of what it takes to make and sustain a revolution. Thus:
“Those kids in Tahrir Square, they were not motivated by any religion or ideology. They were motivated by what they saw through this interconnected world, and they wanted a piece of the opportunity and a chance to get an education and have a job and have a future, and not have a corrupt government that deprived them of all of that and more. And they tweeted their ways and Facetimed [sic] their ways and talked to each other and that’s what drove that revolution. And then it got stolen by the one single most organized entity in the state, which was the Brotherhood.”
The fact that Kerry could make such a diagnosis to a group of allegedly knowledgeable security advisers is chilling. Kerry is way off the mark and here is why:
- The very brave youths of Cairo and Alexandria who began the 2910-2011 protests against the Mubarak dictatorship laid the basis for the conditions that eventually brought down that regime. But they alone could not and did not achieve that goal.
- These youth were not devoid of either religion or ideology. Most were Muslims of varying degree of practice and almost all of them believed in a democratic ideology.
- Despite their use of social networking and other technologies, the youth groups were too small to make a revolution.
- The revolution became possible only when much greater numbers were introduced into the streets to transform the demonstrations from large to massive. The decision to bring out those numbers was taken by the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that is religious but was also willing to follow a democratic path.
- The Brotherhood could manage to bring out the large numbers not just because it was “the most organized entity in the state” but because for decades it has also been the most effective and popular social service organization in Egypt.
The truth then is that the Brotherhood did not “steal” the revolution, it made it possible.
Today’s Egypt is a mess. It is an economic mess thanks to decades of military dictatorship, corruption and greed. It is a political mess for the same reason. Whatever faults might be laid at the feet of the elected Morsi government, none of them warranted a return to thuggish military rule – an action which, for all practical purposes, brought the ideals of the Arab Spring to a tragic end.
One can only hope that the U.S. government, rising above the historical ignorance of John Kerry and his speech writers, will hold to principle and have as little as possible to do with the regime in Cairo. It is a nasty regime, brutal to its own people, barbaric in its policy toward the imprisoned population of Gaza and, not surprisingly, in bed with the Zionists and autocratic Gulf monarchs. As for Egypt’s democratic revolution that almost was, one can hope that it survives as a precedent for the future.
Lawrence Davidson is a retired professor of history from West Chester University in West Chester PA. His academic research focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He taught courses in Middle East history, the history of science and modern European intellectual history.
By Carla Stea
On December 24th 2013, the United Nations Security Council voted to increase peacekeeping forces in South Sudan, whose independence from the North US-NATO powers celebrated only recently. Democratic elections in South Sudan did not, however, lead to peace and stability. Now, two ethnic groups, in South Sudan, the Dinka and Nuer are slaughtering each other. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated:
“We have reports of horrific attacks. Innocent civilians are being targeted because of their ethnicity. This is a grave violation of human rights, which could fuel a spiral of civil unrest across the country.”
South Sudan, which contains vast oil reserves, borders Ethopia, Uganda, Kenya, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Spread of its crisis would further destabilize a significant part of Africa. Clearly, Western-style “democratic elections,” the panacea touted by Western agencies such as National Endowment for Democracy, and related Western NGOs, have not only failed to provide stability and enhanced standards of living for many countries where they have been implemented (or imposed, militarily by US-NATO intervention, such as in Iraq and Libya and Afghanistan), but are beginning to appear to be the precursor of ethnic and social violence and disintegration in many notable instances in Africa, and not only in Africa.
On September 20, 2013, at the opulent Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya endured a deadly terrorist attack that slaughtered more than 40 people, including several Europeans. The Al Qaeda affiliated Shabab, the Islamic jihadist group based in Somalia took responsibility for the attack, ostensibly in reprisal for Kenya’s participation in the African Union’s mission to combat Shabab’s domination of large areas of Somalia.
Less than two months later, in Security Council action – or more accurately described – inaction) on November 15, the Security Council failed to support a resolution submitted by the African Union, in accordance with Article 16 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, to defer, for 12 months, prosecution of Kenyan President Kenyatta and Deputy-President William Ruto. The deferral would enable President Kenyatta to concentrate his efforts on combating the terrorism that is destabilizing Kenya, terrorism by the jihadist group who imposition of barbaric Sharia law includes the burial of young girls up to their necks in sand, and then stoning these innocent children to death.
The African Union pleaded for this deferral to prevent the serious distraction of the Kenyan President’s attention from his efforts to combat this recent upsurge of terrorism in Kenya. The Security Council failed to adopt this resolution, thereby abdicating its primary responsibility to protect peace and security. The Security Council’s failure to adopt this African Union resolution could also be perceived as a “double message” in the effort to eliminate terrorism. Following the vote, in explanation, each country spoke.
Mr. Mehdiyev (Azerbaijan):
“Our decision to vote in favour of the draft resolution before us today is based on the following understanding. First, Kenya and the region in which it is situated are facing complex security challenges. Kenya is a front-line State in and one of the key regional contributors to the fight against international terrorism. In that connection, the judicial proceedings against the country’s senior officials would undoubtedly create serious obstacles to the normal functioning of State institutions in Kenya and thereby pose a threat to the ongoing efforts to ensure and promote peace and stability in the region. Azerbaijan understands the concerns of Kenya and the African Union, and deems them legitimate and reasonable.”
Mr. Gasana (Rwanda):
“Terrorism is the most serious threat to international peace and security. It affects all the people of the world, without discrimination, from the World Trade Center in New York to the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Fortunately, we have countries; we have leaders. We are committed to the fight against terrorism, and Kenya and its President and Deputy President are with us. They are at the forefront of the fight against international terrorism, and we are greateful for their commitment and determination in the fight against Al-Shabaab in Somalia – a country where African blood is shed on behalf of this Council, which is supposed to bear the primary responsibility in the maintenance of international peace and security.
In that regard, His Excellency President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Roto should be respected, supported, empowered at this time – not distracted and undermined. That is why, after the vote this morning, Rwanda is expressing its deep disappointment over what transpired regarding the request for the deferral of the cases against the President and Deputy President of Kenya, despite the proactive efforts of Africa to engage the Security Council in a legitimate process in the interest of the maintenance of international peace and security.
That is why this is actually the right place, The failure to adopt the draft resolution before us today, which has been endorsed by the countries of the entire African continent, is a shame; indeed, it is a shame. Let it be written today in history that the Security Council failed Kenya and Africa on that issue.”
“It is not that, in coming before the Council today, we have sought confrontation. No we have not. We believed that the request was reasonable. We believed that the request was legitimate, as it was based on the provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). …We were therefore hoping that, after extensive consultations, the Council would express solidarity with Kenya and with Africa, by negotiating in good faith and adopting the draft resolution. That did not happen, as some members of the Council even refused to negotiate on any single paragraph. We profoundly regret that.
Our colleagues who did not vote in favour of the draft resolution have argued – as members have heard – that the Kenyan situation does not meet the threshold needed to trigger the application of Article 16 of the Rome Statute. They have explained that article 16 shall be applied only when the investigation and prosecution could create, or worsen, a situation threatening international peace and security.
I am here and I am wondering: If a terrorist attack by members of Al-Shabaab – an Al-Qaida-linked movement that has killed more than 70 innocent victims and wounded 200 others – does not meet the threshold line that other situations have crossed, then which one would? If a clear and present threat of terrorism against the Kenyan people, resulting from their determination and courageous intervention in Somalia, does not meet the threshold, what other threat can be alleged to do so? Are we in the wrong place today? No.”
“May I request that all members of the Council recall why article 16 of the Rome Statute was proposed in the Council more than 10 years ago. Let me repeat that question. May I request that all members of the council recall why article 16 of the Rome Statute was proposed more than 10 years ago. That article was not proposed by an African State – not at all. It was proposed by some of the Western Powers present at the Council table to be applied solely in their interest. In other words, article 16 was never meant to be used by an African State or any of the developing countries. It seems to have been conceived as an additional tool for the big Powers to protect themselves and protect their own. Is that not so? That is how it appears here today.”
The [UNSC] President (spoke in Chinese)
“Kenya has long been at the forefront of the fight against terrorism and has been playing an important role in maintaining peace and stability in the Horn of Africa, Eastern Africa and the entire African continent. Deferring the ICC proceedings against the leaders of Kenya is not only a matter of concern to Kenya, but also a matter of concern for the entire African continent. It is in fact an urgent need in order to maintain regional peace and stability. It is therefore a matter of common sense that the international community should help the Kenyan leaders to focus their attention on discharging their mandate and to continue their role in maintaining peace and stability in Kenya and the wider region, in exercising their jurisdiction, international judicial institutions should abide by the norms of international relations, follow the principle of complementarity and respect the judicial sovereignty, legal traditions and current needs of the countries concerned. …. China believes that the request of the African countries is reasonable and well founded on the basis of the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. Their objective is to maintain peace, stability and security in the region and to effectively fight terrorism. They request that the democratically elected leaders of Kenya be accorded basic respect in matters of African peace, security and stability. …The Council should therefore heed and positively respond to the common call of the African Union and the vast majority of African leaders. China will continue to support the efforts of Kenya, the African Union and most African countries to find a real solution to the issue under consideration.”
Not only have democratic elections failed to enhance the quality of life and standard of living in numerous African countries – and elsewhere; Kenya is a country in which democratic elections in December 2007 unleashed horrendous inter-ethnic slaughter and violent destabilization in a country that had hitherto been a model of stability and economic and social development for Africa and the developing world. How can the sudden eruption of such clan and tribal warfare be explained in a country that had, for decades, not undergone such violent inter-ethnic conflict and destabilization?
Recently a highly placed diplomatic source accredited to the United Nations observed a pattern emerging in African countries where western NGOs with links to U.S. intelligence were based and operating: previously non-existent inter-ethnic violence suddenly erupted, and this phenomenon was occurring in even the most stable countries. One of these western NGOs, in particular, was based and operating in Kenya since 2003, a full four years before the sudden eruption of inter-ethnic warfare and violent destabilization that followed the December, 2007 democratic elections.
One can only question the “coincidental” nature of these violent inter-ethnic occurrences in many previously stable African countries. Recalling that Russian President Putin prohibited USAID and particular Western NGO’s from operating in Russia, one can only conclude that he was trying to spare Russia from the fate observed in too many African countries, and elsewhere.
In his book “The Grand Chessboard,” (1997) Brzezinski openly states, in Chapter 1:
“Hegemony of a New Type,”: “The American global system emphasizes the technique of co-optation (as in the case of defeated rivals – Germany, Japan and lately even Russia) to a much greater extent than the earlier imperial systems did. It likewise relies heavily on the indirect exercise of influence on dependent foreign elites.”
This “indirect exercise of influence on dependent foreign elites” could be the hidden trigger provoking and inciting the violent ethnic and political conflict that appears to be rapidly spreading, undermining previously functioning economies and national structures and institutions.
Who benefits? A substantial part of China’s oil supply comes from Africa. Chinese contracts with African nations are more equitable than those of US-NATO countries, and therefore have preferential status in many African countries, with China contributing to the construction of infrastructure, and offering considerably higher payment for oil extracted. It is, however, very much in China’s interest that internal stability prevail in these African countries, in order to perpetuate this arrangement. Chaos, spreading terrorism, civil conflict disrupt the functioning of these arrangements, and may ultimately serve the purpose of driving China out of Africa.
In the corridors of power at the United Nations, and elsewhere, is whispered that it is part of large-scale geopolitical engineering to to disrupt and deprive China of its oil supply in Africa, thereby implementing the first part of “hegemony of a new type.” What follows this “new type of hegemony” is a Machiavellian intrigue of colossal proportion.
He’s Washington’s man in Cairo. Since August 2012, he’s been top military commander.
He’s Defense and Military Production Minister. He’s a 1977 Egyptian Military Academy graduate. He got US training. He’s a US War College graduate.
He maintains close Pentagon ties. Washington manipulated Mubarak’s ouster. It was complicit in toppling Mohamed Morsi.
It deplores democracy. It opposes it at home and abroad. It’s governed by a homeland police state apparatus.
It backs pro-Western fascist despots globally. Doing so reflects business as usual.
Egyptian civilian officials have no legitimacy. They’re appointed. They’re figureheads. They’re puppets. They’re convenient stooges.
Elections when held won’t matter. Brute force runs Egypt. Ousting Morsi on July 3 was reminiscent of September 11, 1973. Chileans old enough to remember won’t forget.
A reign of terror followed. Pinochet’s “Caravan of Death” reflected it. A climate of fear included mass arrests, disappearances, torture and murder.
Opposition government officials, academics, union heads, independent journalists, student leaders, activists, and other suspected regime opponents were targeted.
US citizens Charles Horman, Frank Teruggi, Boris Weisfeiler and Ronni Moffit were killed.
Horman’s death was the subject of a 1982 Hollywood film. It was titled “Missing.” He and thousands of others were Caravan of Death victims.
Nixon vowed to make Chile’s economy scream. Kissinger was his national security advisor. He and CIA operatives orchestrated Salvador Allende’s ouster.
After his 1970 election, Kissinger said:
“I don’t see why we need to stand idly by and let a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”
Allende was a progressive democratic leader. He was no communist. Junta head General Augusto Pinochet put General Sergio Arellano in charge of assuring provincial commanders complied with hard-line policies.
He was told to establish a uniform criteria of justice. He later explained, saying:
“With no concern for the guise of legality, as in the case of some War Councils, prisoners were taken out and shot under the cover of night. Most executions were attributed to attempts to escape.”
Retired Lt. Col. Marcos Herrera Aracena said:
“General Arellano informed me that what Pinochet wanted was to bring an end to the remaining legal processes. In other words, finish with them once and for all.”
Death squad justice was instituted. At issue was terrorizing Chileans. Instilling fear and crushing resistance were prioritized. Military commanders were ordered to go all out to solidify junta power.
Victims were buried in unmarked graves. Some were mutilated before being executed. General Joaquin Lagos explained why he didn’t return some bodies to family members, saying:
“I was ashamed to see them. They were torn into pieces. So I wanted to put them together, at least leave them in a human form.”
“Yes, their eyes were gouged out with knives, their jaws broken, their legs broken.”
“At the end, they gave them the coup de grace. They were merciless. The prisoners were killed so that they would die slowly.”
“In other words, sometimes they shot them by parts. First, the legs, then the sexual organs, then the heart. In that order, the machine guns were fired.”
Death squads killed thousands. Chile remains one of Latin America’s most unequal societies. Chicago School fundamentalism creates wastelands.
Chile remains a model of economic unfairness. Crony capitalism reflects out-of-control corruption, inequality and injustice.
General el-Sisi is Egypt’s Pinochet. Since usurping power, he instituted reign of terror justice. Sweeping crackdowns continue.
Muslim Brotherhood (MB) members are targeted. So are supporters and others challenging junta authority. Thousands were arrested. Others were disappeared, tortured and murdered.
Over 1,000 nonviolent street protesters were killed. Everyone suspected of supporting MB is threatened. So are activists demanding democracy.
President Morsi is charged with murder, treason, espionage, and sponsoring terrorism. He’s accused of collaborating with Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and anti-regime groups. Bogus charges claim he did so to destabilize Egypt.
Kangaroo court justice awaits him. He faces possible capital punishment. Around three dozen other MB officials face similar charges.
Morsi remains in maximum security prison confinement. He’s held incommunicado. Attorneys and family members are denied access. Some MB co-defendants remain at large.
On December 25, Egypt’s so-called cabinet declared MB a terrorist organization. It did so unconscionably.
It did it following Dakahlia Governate’s Security Directorate headquarters bombing. Sixteen died. MB officials denied involvement.
A group named Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem) claimed responsibility. Crackdowns on MB members continue. According to journalist Shahira Amin:
“This is a new escalation in a long-running feud between the security state and the Muslim Brotherhood.”
“What they are trying to achieve is to crush the Islamist group altogether and not to leave any room for that group to enter into political life again.”
“Declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terror group will mean criminalizing their activities, criminalizing their financing, and also criminalizing their membership.”
“Their protests are already outlawed. Their leaders are already behind bars and thousands of their supporters languish in prisons.”
IKHWAN WEB is MB’s official English language web site. On December 27, it headlined ’Muslim Brotherhood Legal Committee: Classifying Group as Terrorist Legally Null and Void.”
“This classification came without investigation, without evidence.”
“No entity should be so classified or disbanded, except through legal procedures.”
“Thus naming the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization is completely groundless in the absence of any evidence to prove this description which is vehemently rejected by the group.”
“(T)he decision is invalid and illegal, because so far no court made any definitive judgments about the group and its leaders.”
“The Brotherhood’s Legal Committee is considering an appeal of this decision. It will announce its course of action and legal position later.”
Egypt Court of Cassation is its highest judicial authority. Seven appeals courts are next in importance.
Tanta Court of Appeals Judge Walid el Shaf’i called designating MB a terrorist organization illegal. If challenged in court, it’ll be declared so, he said.
He cited Article 86 of Egypt’s Penal Law. It can only be enforced by court order. Egypt’s cabinet acted by executive decision. Doing so is illegal, he added.
On Thursday, dozens more MB members were arrested nationwide. Their land, funds, and other resources were confiscated.
Egypt’s Islamic Medical Association hospitals are affected. An MB leader established them in the 1970s. They serve over two million patients annually.
They’re mostly in poor neighborhoods. They’re highly regarded. They considered preferred alternatives to poorly run government hospitals.
Since Morsi’s ouster, government funding was cut. Admissions at Cairo’s Nasr City district Central Hospital dropped by half. Many people fear seeking treatment. Doing so might suggest MB support.
Other network hospitals were forced to reduce services to save money. Central Hospital director Medhat Omar expressed concern, saying:
“If it goes on like this, we won’t be able to take on any patients.” Funds aren’t available to pay salaries or other expenses.
Egypt’s “war on terrorism” targets its own. It does so ruthlessly. It does it lawlessly. It aims to terrorize Egyptians into submission.
El-Sisi vowed to eradicate everyone challenging his power from “the face of the earth. Don’t let these treacherous terrorist incidents affect your spirits,” he said.
He referred to several recent bombings. “We’re on the side of pronounced righteousness,” he claimed.
Many, perhaps most, Egyptians believed it last July. Fewer do today. Police state viciousness makes everyone fearful.
Public demonstrations are banned. Anyone criticizing government policies risks arrest and imprisonment.
Dozens handing out pro-MB leaflets were arrested. One death was reported. During a Thursday army graduation ceremony, el-Sisi said:
“Egypt will stand firm in confronting terrorism and the people will never be afraid as long as the army is present.”
Anyone charged with supporting MB “verbally or in writing” faces five years imprisonment. US expressed concern is too muted to matter.
Washington endorses coup d’etat harshness. A previous article asked when is a coup not one? It’s when US officials suggest otherwise.
Reign of terror ruthlessness is official Egyptian policy. Rule of law principles don’t matter. Government by diktat rules. No ones is safe from rampaging government forces.
MB officials risk being disappeared, tortured and murdered. Others face potential life in prison. So does anyone providing funding. Supporting MB publicly is considered terrorism.
Regular protests continue. People involved do so at great risk. One MB supporter perhaps spoke for others, saying: “People don’t have anything to lose.”
Rights can’t be gotten without sustained struggle. Conditions today are far worse than under Mubarak.
State terror more than ever is official policy. Anyone challenging regime authority is vulnerable. Pinochet’s ghost resides in Egypt. Same old, same old repeats.
London Guardian editors headlined ”Egypt: back with a vengeance,” saying:
“The skies are darkening over Egypt…How miserably different this is from” what most Egyptians hoped for.
Revolutionary change “is now being torn up by its roots…Mubarak regime (opponents) are now being victimized by its successor.”
Egypt’s rulers “are determined” to stamp out all opposition. “It is now evident that the Egyptian military, behind its unconvincing civilian facade, is ready to be as hard on its secular as on its religious opponents.”
Mubarak’s removal changed nothing. Junta power bided its time. It “gr(ew) a new head,” said Guardian editors. “(N)ow (it’s) back, quite literally, with a vengeance.”
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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By Johannes Stern
28 December 2013
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s bomb blast in front of the Daqahliya Security Directorate in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura—in which at least 16 were killed and 134 wounded—Egypt’s military junta is widening its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and, ultimately, on all opposition to its dictatorial regime.
On Friday, security forces arrested 265 MB members and crushed protests called by the MB-led National Alliance for Legitimacy in Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, Sohag, Fayoum, Bani Souef, Damietta, Behaira and other parts of the country. At least three people were reported killed.
In the Upper Egyptian city of Luxor, police dispersed protesters with teargas. In Cairo’s Zeitoun district, security forces prevented protesters from marching to the Al-Qoba presidential palace. At Al-Azhar University’s Nasr City campus, police attacked university students protesting outside their hostels in solidarity with a classmate killed the day before.
On Thursday, scores of MB members were arrested. Fifteen were detained in Alexandria, sixteen in the Nile Delta governorate of Sharqiya, and eleven in Zagazig on charges of belonging to a “terrorist organization” and “inciting violence against the army and the police”. The same day, the junta blocked the MB’s Freedom and Justice Newspaper from publication. It also froze the MB’s funds and those of social and charitable organizations it accused of having MB ties.
Immediately after the bombing, the regime and media blamed the MB for the attack. Speaking at the scene, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim claimed that the MB was retaliating for massacres at two Islamist protest camps on August 14, when security forces shot hundreds of Islamist opponents of the July 3 military coup that toppled MB President Mohamed Mursi.
The MB—Egypt’s largest Islamist organization, which has faced a massive crackdown since the coup, including the killing of thousands of members and the arrest of its top leadership—denied any connection to the attack. Issuing a statement from its London office, the MB condemned the blast as “a direct attack on the unity of the Egyptian people.” It demanded an “inquiry so that the perpetrators of this crime may be brought to justice.”
An Egyptian Islamist militant group, Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility for the bombings. A statement published Wednesday boasted that the attack had been carried out by a suicide bomber named “Abu Maryam”.
Under the cover of its so-called “fight against terrorism,” the junta is seeking to annihilate the MB and restore the military-police state as it existed prior to the mass uprising that overthrew former dictator Hosni Mubarak in early 2011. In the past weeks the junta issued an anti-protest law and drafted anew constitution effectively enshrining military dictatorship.
On Wednesday, Hossam Eisa, deputy prime minister and minister of higher education, announced at a news conference “Egypt’s cabinet has decided to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization subject to Article 86 of the penal law.”
Eisa said, “Punishments of terrorism acts stated by the law would be applied to anyone participating in the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood group or organization, anyone promoting it verbally or by writing, and everyone financing it. Punishments would be applied to anyone who joins the Muslim Brotherhood group or organization, or continues to be a member of both since the declaration.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Latif threatened on state television that from now on, anyone taking part in MB-protests will be jailed for five years. Jail terms for those accused of belonging to a terrorist organization could stretch up to life imprisonment. “The sentence could be death for those who lead this organization,” he added.
Speaking at an army graduation ceremony on Thursday, coup leader and de facto dictator General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi vowed to intensify the crackdown. He declared that “freedom and stability” will not come easily and demanded that Egyptians “put their trust in God, the army and the police.” He threatened that the “Egyptian army will sacrifice itself for Egypt and Egyptians, and those who harm you will vanish from the face of the earth.”
The junta is trying to impose an atmosphere of fear and terror to pre-empt a new eruption of mass protests in the working class, the main force behind the revolution. Recent months have seen several significant industrial actions, including October’s strike by Mahalla textile workers and this month’s protests by temp gold miners at the Sukhari mine, demanding permanent contracts. The miners were attacked and dispersed by police on December 15.
The junta is also launching a reactionary crackdown on students, youth movements, and pseudo-left parties—the April 6 Youth, the Revolutionary Socialists (RS), and various NGOs and human rights groups linked to them.
On Friday the High Council of Universities banned all student protests during midterm exams and said police would be deployed on campuses to enforce the ban. Anti-government protests have swept across Egyptian universities this semester, often organized by pro-MB students. Many students have been killed by the security forces.
Last Sunday a misdemeanor court sentenced the founders of the April 6 Youth Movement Ahmed Maher, Mohamed Adel and Ahmed Douma to three years in jail for violating the anti-protest law and allegedly assaulting police officers. On December 18, heavily-armed security forces stormed the offices of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights and detained Mohamed Adel, another leading April 6 member.
Arrest warrants were reportedly also issued earlier this month for RS member Haitham Mohamadein and Sharif al-Roubi, a leader of the 6 April Democratic Front group.
These arrests are an indictment of the bankrupt, counterrevolutionary politics of the April 6 Youth and the RS. They worked with the Tamarod (“Rebel”) political coalition that backed the July 3 coup—supporting the installation of the junta that is now moving against them—in order to channel mass anger in the working class with Mursi and the MB behind the army.
They are now assembling a so-called Revolutionary Path Front, together with the Islamist Strong Egypt Party, promoting a reactionary perspective of reconciliation between the junta and the MB. The aim of this maneuver is to build a better mechanism to suppress an independent movement of the working class.
Strong Egypt Party spokesman Ahmed Imam warned that labeling the MB as terrorist “leaves the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters only one choice, which is violence.” He complained that both sides are showing “a great deal of stupidity”. While blaming the MB for failing to strongly distance itself from violence, he blamed the government for closing the doors to reconciliation.
The reactionary character of the affluent middle class milieu in Egypt is most openly expressed by the liberal and “left” organizations that are applauding the junta’s steps to tighten its grip over the country.
The Tamarod movement praised the junta’s labeling the MB a terrorist organization, saying it was “better late than never”.
The liberal Free Egyptians Party funded by billionaire tycoon Naguib Sawiris welcomed the “historic decision” that puts an end to “one of the most horrible fascist and racist groups.”
Former presidential candidate and Nasserite leader Hamdeen Sabahi cynically described “the blood of the Mansoura martyrs” as an invitation “to unite on a comprehensive strategy to uproot terrorism.”
We ran across dirt roads, pausing every so often to seek shelter behind mud-brick walls and giant tree trunks as the sounds of heavy machine guns echoed all around. We couldn’t tell where the bullets were coming from, or whether the main roads were safe. Behind us in the creeping dark, two critically injured men lay bleeding in the back of our pickup truck. We’d had to abandon it, and them, as the firing drew closer.
Watch “Crisis in the Central African Republic: Dispatch One” here: http://youtu.be/7-9F3hbYpAE
Nelson Mandela’s life, included violence and controversy but he “walked the walk” paying the price of twenty seven years in jail for the racial equality he fought for South Africa. For all the country’s complexities, imperfections and astonishing betrayals (i) the concept of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission surely averted a cycle of vengeance which would have dwarfed the country’s continuing turbulence.
In death, however, he has uniquely highlighted the monumental paucity of integrity, intelligence, introspection and vision of a swathe of Western politicians.
On Monday December 9th, four days after his death, eight hours of tributes were paid in a special sitting of London’s Houses of Parliament. Mandela’s statue stands just yards away, in Parliament Square.
Prime Minister David Cameron led the session reminding:
“We must never forget the evil of apartheid and its effect on every day life. Separate benches, separate buses, separate schools … Inter-racial relationships criminalised, pass laws and banning orders, a whole language of segregation (expressing) man’s inhumanity to man.”
He might ponder on his words when he, his Foreign Secretary or Party Members next jet off on a Conservative Friends of Israel junket to that apartheid State, which behaves as he described, additionally seizing lands, demolishing homes, that “temple of the family”, as described by David Halpin (ii) who nearly lost his own life at Israel’s State hands in his commitment to Palestine. Olive and apricot groves are razed, as orchards, farms, livelihoods. Even fishing is restricted and fishermen shot from Israeli gun boats – in Palestine’s territorial waters.
Having spouted sanctimonious insincerity, Cameron flew to attend the Memorial the following day, Tuesday 10th December – the twentieth anniversary of Mandela and South Africa’s last apartheid-era President, F.W. de Klerk, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize: “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime …”
It has to be wondered whether the Prime Minister reflected on his 1989 “all expenses paid trip” to South Africa “funded by a firm that lobbied against the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime”- or the “Hang Nelson Mandela” badges that aspiring Conservative MPs wore at the time – some now actual MPs in his Party. (iii)
President Obama’s address was a masterpiece of oiled humbug:
” … while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be better. He speaks to what is best inside us . . . we can change . . . We can choose to live in a world defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes … a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice … “
He reminded that:
” … there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us”, and that: ” … we, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace.”
The previous day, missiles fired from a U.S. drone killed at least three people traveling in a car in eastern Yemen. Two days later, seventeen people in a convoy heading for a wedding party were killed, ten instantly, seven dying shortly afterwards and in differing reports, between five and twenty two remain seriously injured. The President, it is reported, personally signs off on these obscenities, weekly.
According to Tom Dispatch, this may be the eighth Yemeni wedding party to be decimated – families heading to a joyous celebration rendered unidentifiable charred remains.(iv)
Two days later, Saturday 14th, six people in a boat on Afghanistan’s Kabul river were reported killed by a Drone attack, two were injured. They were, of course “suspected militants.” In a sane world, suspects are subject to legalities, not assassinations of an obscene, for real computer game.
In contrast, Obama traveled in the security of Air Force One, arrived at the memorial stadium in “The Beast”, his great armoured, multi-reinforced vehicle, flanked by a protective motorcade, all flown in for the occasion, as when ever he travels. The ultimate protection for one who decides, from half a world away, who lives or dies by computer, whether they be wedding or funeral parties, in tents or pick up trucks, kids collecting firewood, or babes in arms.
So much for ” peace and justice’ and the “oneness to humanity.” Norman Pollack peerlessly summed up the address as: “Honeyed words on serpent’s wings.”
Senator John McCain, who as Republican Presidential contender, sang “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”, to the tune of the Beach Boys classic “Barbara Ann”, at an appearance in South Carolina, in April 2007, said of Mandela’s enduring friendship with one of his guards when a prisoner on Robben Island, it was: “a mutual regard that ancient hatreds could not prevent. Love, you see, comes more naturally to the human heart than hatred.” Serpents rule. Fortunately he did not pitch up for the Memorial.
McCain is an enthusiast for an Iraqi type blood bath in Syria. In May he illegally entered Syria and met with terrorist factions whose propensity for beheading, cannibalism and dismemberment of others are proudly loaded on You Tube.
Currently he is in Ukraine, to “hasten regime change” there.(v) So much for “love” trumping “hatred” in the human heart.
One report claims that in his commitment to an “Arab Spring” in Russia’s orbit, John McCain dined in Kiev, with the leaders of the pro-EU opposition parties. Allegedly,one an open neo-Nazi, the other a barely covert neo-Nazi, the third a right-wing Zionist. “While their democratic and revolutionary quality is fake, their fascism isn’t.”(vi)
Other notable no-shows at Mandela’s Memorial ceremony were Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres (born Szymon Perski in Wiszniew, Poland, former Haganah militia member, and instrumental in the planning, with Britain and France, of the 1956 Suez war.)
It was the expense, explained the Prime Minister. Frugality ruled the day, the cost an estimated $ two million, just for transport and security. In fact on the Monday morning Netanyahu had confirmed traveling, with his wife, Sara. By the afternoon he had been hit with the cost-cutting bug. Larry Derfner, writing in 972 Magazine called the decision “a jaw-dropper” their spending of public moneys making them: “Israel’s Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.”
Netanyahu’s chosen stand in, President Peres pulled out suffering a lingering bout of a virulent ‘flu – appearing publicly later seemingly symptom free.
Derfner doesn’t buy the economy ruse, quoting Yediot Ahronot columnist Eiran Haber’s take:
“Israel in the ’70s and ’80s was a full, enthusiastic partner of the apartheid regime. Until this day, millions of South African citizens have not forgotten nor forgiven Israel’s role. …(the) announcement of the cancellation of Netanyahu’s flight … shouldn’t have surprised anyone. The leader has not yet been born who will knowingly step into a boiling pot of hatred and contempt.”
Prime Ministerial expenses, incidentally have included a $140,000 custom built bed for a flight to Europe, $one million for maintenance of his three private residences; a $75,000 electricity bill for his villa in Caesarea and bill for ice cream $3,000.(vii) Omitted is the filling of a swimming pool at $23,000, wine and flowers. Scented candles were quoted at $1,700.
Mondoweiss.net rose to Bibi’s sudden financial dilemma with an admirably tongue in cheek appeal: “Help send Netanyahu to the Mandela Memorial.” Their internet trawl discovered a Turkish Airlines flight (economy) for a mere $3,443. Chip in, “help him save face”, they pleaded.
In the event, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein led a small delegation to the Memorial. Edelstein, lives in a settlement, opposes a Palestinian State, and said of Mandela: “he was a man (who) knew that you do not correct an injustice with another injustice and violence with more violence.”
Further: “I hope our region will have (such) leaders, who will say no more violence, no more armed battle, it’s time for peace.” Indeed. One can imagine that the helpless Palestinian victims of Israel’s December-January 2008 Operation Cast Lead, or the November 2012 Operation Pillar of Cloud would endorse his sentiments whole heartedly.
A minutely detailed Report (viii) on Cast Lead states: “The ferocity of the attack was unprecedented in the more than six-decade-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians … ” The facts are eye- watering, shaming and crimes against humanity.
Also erased is the close co-operation between Israel and South Africa. The apartheid regime was implemented in South Africa the year of the establishment of Israel, 1948. In the 1960s a political and military alliance was formed. In 1975 the: “Joint Secretariat for Political and Psychological Warfare” was created to facilitate the apartheid South Africa-Israel alliance, including “propaganda and psychological warfare … championed by Shimon Peres, then Defence Minister …”(ix)
Apartheid in South Africa and Israel were uncannily mirrored over the decades, until apartheid’s wall began to disintegrate, however imperfectly, in South Africa. In Israel it remains, also physically at eight metres high, three metres thick, approximately six hundred kilometers long and still a work in progress.
The two countries closely co-operated in the development of nuclear weapons.
When Mandela was finally released from prison invitations arrived: “from almost every country in the world, except Israel.” When they finally came, he finally accepted in 1999. Prime Minister Ehud Barak seemed close to peace agreement with the Palestinians – perhaps Mandela hoped his presence might aid the process.
It did not. He visited the Israeli Foreign Ministry and was quoted as saying: “Talk of peace will remain hollow if Israel continues to occupy Arab territories … if there is going to be peace, there must be complete withdrawal from all of these areas.” (BBC 6th December 2013.)
Mandela’s memorable bottom line, was, of course: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” That a settler, living on stolen land, represented Israel at his passing is a multi-dimensional irony
George W. Bush, responsible for Iraq’s unending carnage and illegal invasion, who with Hilary Clinton hitched a free ride on Air Force One, said of the death: “President Mandela was one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time … our world is better off because of his example.”
Even with nil transport costs he had hardly come to grieve a man who said, with searing accuracy of him and his nation, shortly before the Iraq invasion:
“What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust. … If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care.” (30th January 2003.)
For Tony Blair, the Memorial was, as ever, a business opportunity. Advisor to the Romanian government, he used the opportunity to introduce the country’s Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, to President Obama, in an exchange that seemingly lasted fifteen minutes.
In context: “In October, Mr Ponta indicated that Romania was also preparing to join Mr Blair’s Global Network of Delivery Leaders, which aims to help members improve the ‘delivery’ of services such as education, health and construction.”
Photographs show Blair seemingly crouching behind the seated Obama, prompting the President to turn around to greet him and shake Mr Ponta’s hand.
The: “encounter, however, could prove awkward. On the same day, the Romanian parliament approved controversial new changes to the country’s criminal law to help protect MPs against corruption charges.”(x)
Bill Clinton shares Blair’s shamelessness. On hearing of the death, he tweeted: “I will never forget my friend Madiba.”
An instant response was: “Then why was he on the US Terrorist Watch List during your Presidency?”
Mandela was, in fact, on the US Terrorist Watch List until 1st July 2008, nearly a year after his statue was unveiled in London’s Parliament Square (29th August 2007) and twelve years after he was hosted at a banquet given by the Queen.
The statue had been virulently opposed over years by many of the “great and the good.”
One such was John Bercow who had been Chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students when “Hang Nelson Mandela” and similar slogans had been all the rage amongst FCS Members.
He is now Speaker of Parliament, who presided over the eight hour special sitting, in tribute to Mandela, opening with: “This is a special day for special tributes to a special statesman …”
Hypocrisy über alles.
By Johannes Stern
19 December 2013
On Saturday, military-backed interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour announced a national referendum on a new constitution for January 14 and 15.
In a speech broadcast on state TV, Mansour urged Egyptians to vote for the text which was worked out in secret by a hand-picked, 50-member committee, “Let this constitution be a word of justice, that unites and doesn’t separate… for hatred is a tool for destruction… disagreement is legislated, as long as it adopts peacefulness and is in the country’s interest.”
Standing next to Mansour, Amr Moussa, the head of the constitutional committee and former stalwart of the Mubarak regime, claimed “this is a constitution that clearly criminalises any form of discrimination against all citizens and ensures national unity.”
Also attending the ceremony at Ittihadiya presidential palace in Cairo were coup leader and Defence Minister General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim, Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, and a representative of Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic Orthodox church.
What is cynically presented as an exercise in national unity and democracy is in reality a desperate attempt by a blood-stained junta and its supporters to legitimize its July 3 military coup and enshrine continued military dictatorship in the constitution.
The most significant part of the new constitution is its effort to defend the power and privileges of the military. It aims to strengthen the army’s role as the last bulwark of capitalist rule and of the bourgeois state in Egypt, on which the Egyptian bourgeoisie directly depended during the mass working class uprising that ousted former dictator Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
The constitution basically enshrines autonomy for the military, which has been the dominant political force in Egypt since the Free Officers coup led by Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1952.
The new constitution goes beyond even the 1971 constitution which formed the basis for the Mubarak dictatorship and the 2012 constitution, which was the result of the temporary alliance between the military and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB). While the former constitutions already granted the military a high degree of autonomy, it is now effectively acquiring the “legal” status of a state within a state.
Article 234 of the constitution stipulates that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) will approve the appointment of the Minister of Defence for two presidential terms. Article 203 establishes that the National Defence Council—a body dominated by the army brass and intelligence chiefs—will decide on the armed forces’ budget and on national security issues.
The new constitution also continues to allow the military prosecution of civilians. Article 204 states that civilians can face military trials for “crimes that represent direct assault on military establishment, the armed forces’ camps and the like, or the military areas or its border zones, its equipment, vehicles, weapons, ammunitions, documents, military secrets, public funds, factories, or crimes related to conscription or crimes that constitute a direct assault against its officers and personnel while performing their work.”
These formulations are so broad and general that military trials “based on the constitution” can easily be applied against striking workers or protesters.
Since mass revolutionary struggles broke out in Egypt in January 2011, various governments—the Mubarak regime, the SCAF junta and then Islamist president Mohamed Mursi—used military trials to suppress protests and strikes by workers and youth fighting for their social and democratic aspirations.
According to a study by Human Rights Watch, some 12 000 civilians were tried in military tribunals only between January 28, 2011—the famous Friday of anger when the military was deployed to replace the security forces after they have been defeated by protesters—and September 10, 2011. This amounts to more than the number of civilians who were sent to military trials in the three decades of dictatorial rule under Mubarak alone.
The new constitution also strengthens the police and broader security and intelligence apparatus. A Supreme Police Council is to decide on any law concerning the police and general intelligence officers will not be subject to civilian law, but to military courts. This effectively guarantees that the notorious police security and intelligence complex will all remain essentially immune from civilian oversight and prosecution.
Article 237 further demands that the state and its institutions fight “terrorism”. Political organizations and parties based on religion will be banned.
There could hardly be a clearer statement for continued military repression. Since the July 3 military coup the regime has been using the cover of an alleged “fight against terrorism” to intensify its crackdown against any opposition to its rule. The army has killed, wounded, and jailed thousands of supposedly “terrorist” opponents of the coup—mainly adherents of the Muslim Brotherhood of ousted President Mohamed Mursi—but also striking workers and protesting youth and students.
The anti-democratic character of the constitution highlights the reactionary character of the affluent middle class milieu in Egypt. Many of the liberal and “left” groups which first played a crucial role in channeling the mass working class discontent against Mursi and the Islamists behind the army are now an integral part of the military regime. They have been directly involved in drafting the constitution.
The constitutional committee included Tamarod leaders Mahmoud Badr and Mohamed Abdel Aziz, Egyptian Social Democratic Party leader and co-founder of the National Salvation Front Mohamed Abul Ghar, the head of the Nasserite Karama Party Mohamed Sami, and the deputy head of the National Progressive Unionist Party (Tagammu) Hussein Abdel-Razek. They were joined by a number of writers, artists, university professors, judges, religious figures, businessmen, representatives of the military and Interior Ministry, and various trade union leaders.
The military and its liberal and “left” supporters seek to push through the constitution by any means. Interior minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, warned last week that any attempt to disrupt the referendum will be thwarted, if necessary “using firearms.”
Las month, Mansour signed a new anti-protest law that effectively “legalizes” the junta’s violent crackdown on protests and strikes threatening participants with extensive jail time and high fines.
As the military regime is seeking to use the referendum to tighten its grip over the country before the third anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution on January 25, there are increasing signs of mass working class discontent. Polls conducted by the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion research (Baseera) show that approval rates for the government are falling, from 37 percent in October to 20 percent in December.
The class gulf separating the regime and its supporters from the working class on the other was starkly revealed at a recent press conference of the pro-regime Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF).
ETUF chairman Abdel Fatah Ibrahim said “workers have a national duty to vote ‘Yes’” and called “on all political forces to unite for the success of the roadmap.” When laid-off workers interrupted Ibrahim and chanted against the constitution, Daily News Egypt reported, Ibrahim “ordered their removal from the hall, accusing them of being ‘terrorists’ and belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood.”
By Kumaran Ira
16 December 2013
On Friday, French Defense Minister Jean Yves Le Drian visited Central African Republic (CAR) to hold talks with the country’s interim leaders amid the ongoing French intervention and escalating violence in the country. He spoke with French soldiers and also with CAR President Michel Djotodia, who is supported by the Seleka militia.
France’s Operation Sangaris began after the UN Security Council voted a France-sponsored resolution on December 5, authorizing French and African intervention ostensibly to prevent humanitarian crises and halt rising sectarian violence. Some 2,500 African Union (AU) troops functioning as French proxies have been deployed—a number slated to increase to 6,000.
Speaking to French soldiers in the CAR capital, Bangui, Le Drian said that the “spiral of confrontation has seriously worsened,” producing a “humanitarian crisis” and the risk of “anarchy” in the region if it attracted criminal and terrorist groups.
Le Drian’s statement was a tacit admission that the basis of the French intervention in CAR is a political fraud. Supposedly launched to halt violence between majority Christians and minority Muslims, France’s war in its resource-rich, strategically located former colony is fuelling violence between Christian militias and the Muslim Seleka forces backed by Paris.
Le Drian’s visit came after French President François Hollande’s December 10 visit and the death of two French soldiers on December 9 amid heavy clashes with militias in Bangui.
French military spokesman Colonel Gilles Jaron explained, “The two soldiers had been part of a team inspecting an area east of Bangui’s airport close to midnight on Monday before a disarmament operation.” According to Jaron, “gunmen fired on the French patrol, which returned fire.” Both soldiers subsequently died at the hospital.
Speaking in the CAR, Hollande claimed that his administration’s policy of disarming warring groups and restoring stability is essential to avoiding more bloodshed: “France knew it would be dangerous, but it is necessary to avoid carnage.”
Covering up French imperialism’s predatory interests in the region, Hollande cynically added: “France is not here in the Central African Republic out of any self-interest… France has come to defend human dignity.”
Hollande’s comment epitomizes the Orwellian propaganda of his Socialist Party (PS). Rather, French imperialism—having intervened in Syria to support criminal and terrorist forces linked to Al Qaeda, that Le Drian claims to be fighting in CAR—is intervening yet again in an impoverished former colony where it has a long history of reactionary intrigue.
This history includes French support to the dictatorship of Jean-Bédel Bokassa, whom French imperialism ousted in the 1979 coup codenamed Operation Barracuda; the 2002 installation in Operation Boali of Bozizé, whom it defended with 2006 bombings aimed at Djotodia’s forces; and finally France’s latest swing behind the Seleka forces.
While Hollande tries to wrap his wars in the tattered mantle of “human rights,” other political representatives of French imperialism make no bones about the strategic interests Paris is advancing. Christian Jacob, who heads the right-wing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) group in France’s National Assembly, told a radio interviewer on Wednesday: “The CAR military operation is essential, given the country’s strategic location in the heart of Africa.”
The humanitarian crisis and sectarian violence devastating the CAR are primarily the result of Paris’ bloody pursuit of its imperialist interests in its former colony, backing Seleka’s ouster of CAR President François Bozizé in March. Paris aimed to seize the strategically located country in the centre of the African continent and destroy China’s rising influence in Bangui. China had made several key deals with the CAR under Bozizé, including on oil contracts and military cooperation.
France’s direct intervention into the CAR has intensified the violence. More than 600 people have been killed in the last week and over 160,000 people had fled their homes in Bangui alone, according to UN reports.
CAR Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye acknowledged, “Religious communities that have always lived together in perfect harmony are now massacring each other. The situation must be stopped as soon as possible.”
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Adrian Edwards said: “There are frequent reports of indiscriminate attacks against civilians, recruitment of child soldiers, sexual and gender-based violence, looting and destruction of property.” He added that 160 people were also reported to have been killed in other parts of CAR.
Sectarian clashes were also reported in several towns, including Bouca, Bossangoa and Bozoum, with 27 Muslims reported to have been killed by Christian self-defence militias, known as anti-balaka, in the village of Bohong on December 12.
Contacts have reportedly begun between Djotodia and the “anti-balaka” militias in an effort to negotiate some type of truce. Djotodia told RFI radio that “he was ready to extend his hand” to rival Christian forces.
France’s intervention is supported by Britain and the United States. Britain’s Royal Air Force has offered two large C-17 transport planes to help deploy French troops and armoured cars to the CAR.
Washington is deploying two aircraft and a command team to nearby Uganda in support of French operations in the CAR. US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has authorized military transport aircraft to carry troops from Burundi to the CAR.
On December 9, a US official told Reuters the Pentagon has received requests for logistical support to bolster French and AU troops. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said US military support would likely resemble the assistance that the Pentagon has provided France during its war in Mali. That included airlift assistance and intelligence sharing.
Yesterday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that France would ask for more help from European Union (EU) member states to help it wage war in CAR. “That is a real, big problem,” Fabius told Europe1 radio. “Tomorrow, I’ll go to the Council of Foreign Ministers and I will ask for stepped-up, more robust aid, including on the ground.”
When it launched its military intervention in the CAR a week ago, the Hollande administration claimed that it would only last about six months. However, analysts pointed out that it could last far longer.
African specialist Roland Marchal of the Paris-based National Centre for Scientific Research said “It’s an illusion—as it was an illusion in Mali to declare the war was over, that French soldiers would be back home soon… We have more than 2,000 soldiers [still in Mali], though Francois Hollande promised that only 1,000 would be there by the end of the year.”
Up to 500 people have reportedly been killed over the past week and tens of thousands have fled their homes to escape further deadly clashes.
The impoverished state of 4.6 million people was already suffering from a food crisis, with a quarter of the population said to be without supplies. Now the fear of sectarian fighting is adding to the plight of this African country.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, on a visit to the CAR capital, Bangui, at the weekend, warned that “violence is spiraling out of control” and that the country is facing a “humanitarian crisis”.
But this is exactly the kind of bloody chaos that some analysts were predicting would take place – precisely because of France’s reckless military intervention in its former African colony.
Earlier this week, French President Francois Hollande, also on a visit to the CAR, paid tribute to two French paratroopers killed in a gun battle in Bangui. He said the French intervention was necessary “to avoid a bloodbath”.
Hollande is distorting the facts. The carnage in the CAR erupted after heavily armed French soldiers began patrolling the streets. French troops are not preventing mayhem; they are inflaming it.
The upsurge in inter-communal bloodletting occurred days after French troops began arriving in the CAR on 2 December. The violence reached a peak three days later when nearly 400 people were killed in the capital. Prior to France’s troop intervention there were reports of sporadic violence in remote parts of the country, but not in the capital itself nor on such a massive scale.
There are now 1,600 French troops in the CAR along with some 3,000 African Union forces, but the bloodshed shows no sign of abating.
This is because the French military intervention is fuelling sectarian tensions and is giving a free hand to militia groups from the dominant Christian population, known as “anti-Balaka”, which are launching attacks on defenceless Muslim communities.
In several incidents in Bangui over the past week, French military checkpoints were seen to be disarming Muslim militias while ignoring the armed Christian groups. There are also reports of Christian gangs looting Muslim businesses as gun-toting French soldiers stand idly by watching.
This is creating an atmosphere of fear and insecurity among the minority Muslim community. Not surprisingly, there are reports of deadly reprisal attacks by Muslims on Christians. But it seems fair to say that the preponderance of violence is being meted out against
One French army captain told the BBC that it is “easier to disarm Muslim militia than Christian because the former have been largely confined to barracks”. This one-sided approach by the French is leaving the Muslim community feeing vulnerable to attacks.
In one of the latest atrocities, 27 Muslims in the northern town of Bossangoa were slain on Thursday, according to the UN. In another massacre, six Muslims were killed in a house in the village of Bohong, in the West of the country.
The precise identity of the attackers is not known, but various sources attribute the killings to the anti-Balaka militia, which have
recruited former soldiers who were loyal to the ousted Christian president Francoise Bozizé.
Bozizé was kicked out of office in March earlier this year by a rebel alliance known as Seleka. The Seleka are mainly Muslim and the new interim president, Michel Djotodia, is the first Muslim leader of the mainly Christian country. Christians comprise about 40 per cent of the population, Muslims 15 per cent, and the rest profess aboriginal beliefs.
The deposed Bozizé, who is reportedly living in exile in France, was backed by the French, who put in him in power in 2003 by orchestrating a coup against an elected leader, Ange Felix Patassé. Bozizé was notoriously corrupt and hardly has a popular mandate, but remnants of his army have remained loyal and filled the ranks of the anti-Balaka militia.
One can safely assume that if Bozizé or a lackey were reinstated to the presidency that would suit French interests.
Western media narrative, influenced by French government spin, has tended to blame the chaos and violence in the CAR on the Seleka rebels, without substantiation.
However, various sources contend that it was the Christian-based anti-Balaka who began inciting violence against Muslim civilians during September.
Then French government officials started issuing dire warnings to the media of genocide looming in the CAR. These warnings and clamoring for “humanitarian intervention” paved the way for Paris to push the UN Security Council to vote for a French-led “peacekeeping mission”.
With suspicious haste, the French government pre-empted the UNSC authorization given on 5 December when it began sending hundreds of its troops three days before that date.
Of significance is the sudden recall by Paris of its ambassador to the CAR at the end of last month. Serge Mucetti had only served less than two years in the post. His recall under orders from French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was not given any official explanation but it seemed strange at a time when the French were about to embark on a major military operation in the CAR.
Mucetti had previously worked for many years as a French government advisor on expatriate matters. One can assume that he had accurate knowledge of situations on the ground.
Added to this is the widely acknowledged fact that sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims in the Central African Republic was unheard of prior to this recent upsurge.
The bets are that the former French ambassador was not toeing the official Paris government line that the CAR was “on the brink of genocide” and he was pushed out of his post so as not to spoil the upcoming narrative underpinning French intervention.
The narrative of chaos and sectarian violence has been talked up by France for the past several weeks, and now tragically is becoming reality. This chaos is providing France with a convenient cover for its intervention in this resource-rich African country.
With the same land area as France and with only seven per cent of France’s population, the CAR is a treasure trove for exploitation. It is abundant in oil, hydropower, agriculture, forestry, gold, diamonds,copper and other minerals, prime among them uranium ore, the fuel of choice for nuclear energy. Some 80 per cent of all French electricity production comes from nuclear power.
Rather tellingly, French President Hollande asserted this week: “France is not here in the Central African Republic out of any
self-interest… France has come to defend human dignity.” That assertion sounds suspiciously guilt-ridden.
The plain truth is France has intervened in CAR for a neo-imperialist bonanza. But it needs a pretext of humanitarianism and sectarian chaos to cover up its naked criminality. This would explain who is engineering the bloodletting in that unfortunate country; and the blood trail goes all the way to Paris.
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. The author was deported from Bahrain in June 2011 because of his critical journalism in which he highlighted systematic human rights violations by regime forces. He is now a columnist on international politics for Press TV and the Strategic Culture Foundation.
This article was originally published at “Presss TV“
By David Edwards
December 13, 2013 “Information Clearing House - “Media Lens” - What does it mean when a notoriously profit-driven, warmongering, climate-killing media system mourns, with one impassioned voice, the death of a principled freedom fighter like Nelson Mandela?
Does it mean that the corporate system has a heart, that it cares? Or does it mean that Mandela’s politics, and the mythology surrounding them, are somehow serviceable to power?
Consider, first, that this is what is supposed to be true of professional journalism:
‘Gavin Hewitt, John Simpson, Andrew Marr and the rest are employed to be studiously neutral, expressing little emotion and certainly no opinion; millions of people would say that news is the conveying of fact, and nothing more.’ (Andrew Marr, My Trade – A Short History of British Journalism, Macmillan, 2004, p.279)
Thus, Andrew Marr, then BBC political editor, offering professional journalism’s version of the medical maxim, ‘First, do no harm’. First, do no bias.
The reality is indicated by Peter Oborne’s comment in the Telegraph:
‘There are very few human beings who can be compared to Jesus Christ. Nelson Mandela is one… It is hard to envisage a wiser ruler.’
Responding to 850 viewers who had complained that the BBC ‘had devoted too much airtime’ to Mandela’s death, James Harding, the BBC’s director of news, also expressed little emotion and certainly no opinion when he declared Mandela ‘the most significant statesman of the last 100 years, a man who defined freedom, justice, reconciliation, forgiveness’.
In other words, the corporate media had once again abandoned its famed Hypocritical Oath in affirming a trans-spectrum consensus. As ever, a proposition is advanced as indisputably true, the evidence so overwhelming that journalists simply have to ditch ‘balance’ to declare the obvious.
The motive is always said to be some pressing moral cause: national solidarity and security at home, opposition to tyranny and genocide abroad. In these moments, the state-corporate system persuades the public of its fundamental humanity, rationality and compassion. But in fact this ‘compassion’ isalways driven by realpolitik and groupthink.
‘Emotionally Potent Over-Simplifications’
Because it is an integral part of a system whose actual goals and methods would not be acceptable to the public, the corporate media cannot make sense of the world; it must deal in what US foreign affairs advisor Reinhold Niebuhr called ‘emotionally potent over-simplifications’.
Thus we find the endlessly recurring theme of the archetypal Bad Guy. When bin Laden is executed, Saddam Hussein lynched and Gaddafi bombed, beaten and shot, it is the same Enemy regenerating year after year, Doctor Who-like, to be ‘taken down’ by the same Good Guy archetype. This is the benevolent father figure who forever sets corporate hearts aflutter with hope and devotion.
In 1997, the Guardian declared the election of Tony Blair ‘one of the great turning-points of British political history… the moment when Britain at last gave itself the chance to construct a modern liberal socialist order’. (Leader, ‘A political earthquake,’ The Guardian, May 2, 1997)
The editors cited historian AJP Taylor’s stirring words: ‘Few now sang England Arise, but England had risen all the same.’
In October 2002, the Guardian’s editors were ravished by a speech by former president Bill Clinton:
‘If one were reviewing it, five stars would not be enough… What a speech. What a pro. And what a loss to the leadership of America and the world.’ (Leader, ‘What a pro – Clinton shows what a loss he is to the US,’ The Guardian, October 3, 2002)
Of Barack Obama’s first great triumph, the same editors gushed:
‘They did it. They really did it… Today is for celebration, for happiness and for reflected human glory. Savour those words: President Barack Obama, America’s hope and, in no small way, ours too.’
Impartiality? Nowhere in sight. Why? Because these are obviously good men, benign causes of great hope. The media are so passionate because they are good men. From this we know who to support and we know that these media are fundamentally virtuous.
In identical fashion, the media have covered themselves in reflected moral glory by hailing Nelson Mandela as a political saint. The Daily Mirror declared: ‘He was the greatest of all leaders,’ (Daily Mirror, December 7, 2013). He ‘showed a forgiveness and generosity of spirit that made him a guiding star for humanity’, an ‘icon’, ‘a colossus’.
Forgiveness was not a major theme in the title of the Mirror’s October 21, 2011 editorial, following the torture and murder of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi: ‘Mad Dog’s Not A Loss.’ The editors commented: ‘Libya is undoubtedly better off without Mad Dog on the loose.’
Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Channel 4 News agreed that Mandela was a ‘colussus [sic], hero and rare soul’. (Snowmail, December 6, 2013)
For the Telegraph, Mandela was ‘regal’. Indeed, ‘his life had a Churchillian aura of destiny’. He was ‘the kind of man who comes upon this earth but rarely.’
For the equally impartial Guardian, Mandela was, ‘A leader above all others… The secret of [his] leadership lay in the almost unique mixture of wisdom and innocence’.
The paper managed to hint at a darker truth to which we will return; as president, Mandela had ‘discarded his once radical views on the economy’.
For the Gandhians at The Times, Mandela was a near-mythological figure: ‘a man of unyielding courage and breathtaking magnanimity, who defied the armed enforcers of a white supremacist state, made friends of his jailers and could wear a mask of calm on a plane that seemed about to crash’. (Leading article, ‘True Valour,’ The Times, December 6, 2013)
Although: ‘Critics point to his consistent support for Fidel Castro and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi as proof that his judgment was not infallible.’
Indeed, it ought to be surprising that the media would so readily forgive a man who had supported armed violence, and who was close to some of the West’s foremost enemies. In March 1998, as South African president, with US president Bill Clinton at his side, Mandela said:
‘I have also invited Brother Leader Gaddafi to this country [South Africa]. And I do that because our moral authority dictates that we should not abandon those who helped us in the darkest hour in the history of this country. Not only did they [Libya] support us in return, they gave us the resources for us to conduct our struggle, and to win. And those South Africans who have berated me, for being loyal to our friends, literally they can go and throw themselves into a pool.’
The capitalist, Russian oligarch-owned Independent on Sunday helped explain media enthusiasm for Mandela when it hailed his views on big business:
‘For all his left-wing rhetoric, he recognised that capitalism is the most important anti-poverty policy.’
As for Africa’s environmental problems, ‘Ultimately, as with human poverty, economic growth is the solution.’
It is of course profoundly impressive that Mandela could emerge from 27 years of imprisonment with apparently no desire for revenge. And as Peter Oborne commented:
‘It took just two or three years to sweep away white rule and install a new kind of government. Most revolutions of this sort are unbelievably violent and horrible. They feature mass executions, torture, expropriation and massacres… let’s imagine that Nelson Mandela had been a different sort of man. Let’s imagine that he emerged from his 27 years of incarceration bent on revenge against the white fascists and thugs who had locked him up for so long.’
Oborne compared the results of Mandela’s strategy with those of the West’s Official Enemies: ‘Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Milosevic, Saddam Hussein. The list goes on and on.’ Although not so far as to include Western leaders, by doctrinal fiat.
Oborne noted that Mandela and Gandhi ‘embraced humanity, rather than excluded it. They sought moral rather than physical power’.
Unlike Oborne’s own newspaper, which wrote of Nato’s devastating and illegal assault on Libya in 2011:
‘As the net tightens round Muammar Gaddafi and his family, Nato deserves congratulations on having provided the platform for rebel success.’
In March 2003, the same paper declared:
‘Any fair-minded person who listened to yesterday’s [parliamentary] debate, having been genuinely unable to make up his mind about military action against Saddam Hussein, must surely have concluded that Mr Blair was right, and his opponents were wrong.’
As discussed, many journalists have rightly praised Mandela’s forgiveness. But the state-corporate system also has a generous capacity for excusing torturers, dictators, terrorists, and even former enemies like Mandela – anyone who serves the deep interests of power and profit in some way.
John Pilger noted of Mandela:
‘The sheer grace and charm of the man made you feel good. He chuckled about his elevation to sainthood. “That’s not the job I applied for,” he said dryly.’
But Mandela ‘was well used to deferential interviews and I was ticked off several times – “you completely forgot what I said” and “I have already explained that matter to you”. In brooking no criticism of the African National Congress (ANC), he revealed something of why millions of South Africans will mourn his passing but not his “legacy”.’
Once in power, Pilger explained, the ANC’s official policy to end the impoverishment of most South Africans was abandoned, with one of his ministers boasting that the ANC’s politics were Thatcherite:
‘Few ordinary South Africans were aware that this “process” had begun in high secrecy more than two years before Mandela’s release when the ANC in exile had, in effect, done a deal with prominent members of the Afrikaaner elite at meetings in a stately home, Mells Park House, near Bath. The prime movers were the corporations that had underpinned apartheid…
‘With democratic elections in 1994, racial apartheid was ended, and economic apartheid had a new face.’ (See Pilger’s 1998 film, Apartheid Did Not Die, for further analysis)
In 2001, George Soros told the Davos Economic Forum: ‘South Africa is in the hands of international capital.’
Patrick Bond, director of the centre for civil society and a professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, commented:
‘I happened to work in his office twice, ’94 and ’96, and saw these policies being pushed on Mandela by international finance and domestic business and a neoliberal conservative faction within his own party.’
Bond paraphrased the view of former minister of intelligence and minister of water Ronnie Kasrils, ‘probably the country’s greatest white revolutionary ever’, who described how ‘as a ruler Mandela gave in way too much to rich people. So he replaced racial apartheid with class apartheid’.
Bond argues that ‘big business basically said, we will get out of our relationship with the Afrikaner rulers if you let us keep, basically, our wealth intact and indeed to take the wealth abroad’.
In the Independent, Andrew Buncombe reported that ‘for many in Alexandra, and in countless similar places across the country, the situation in some respects is today little different’ from before Mandela began his liberation struggle:
‘Figures released last year following a census showed that while the incomes of black households had increased by an average of 169 per cent over the past ten years, they still represented a sixth of those of white households.’
Former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook also recognised Mandela’s ‘huge achievement in helping to bring down South African apartheid’. But:
‘Mandela was rehabilitated into an “elder statesman” in return for South Africa being rapidly transformed into an outpost of neoliberalism, prioritising the kind of economic apartheid most of us in the west are getting a strong dose of now.’
And Mandela was used:
‘After finally being allowed to join the western “club”, he could be regularly paraded as proof of the club’s democratic credentials and its ethical sensibility… He was forced to become a kind of Princess Diana, someone we could be allowed to love because he rarely said anything too threatening to the interests of the corporate elite who run the planet.’
This helps explain why Mandela is feted as a political saint, while late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who profoundly challenged economic apartheid in Latin America, was a ‘controversial’, ‘anti-American bogeymen’, a ‘people’s hero and villain’ who had ‘pissed away’ his country’s wealth, for theBBC. Chavez was a peddler of ‘strutting and narcissistic populism’ for the Guardian. Rory Carroll, the paper’s lead reporter on Venezuela between 2006-2012, commented:
‘To the millions who detested him as a thug and charlatan, it will be occasion to bid, vocally or discreetly, good riddance.’
For the Independent, Chavez was ‘egotistical, bombastic and polarising’, ‘no run-of-the-mill dictator’. He was ‘divisive’ for the Guardian, Independent and Telegraph, and ‘reckless’ for the Economist.
Chavez’s real crime was that he presented a serious threat to the state-corporate system of which these media are an integral part.
The point is a simple one. State-corporate expressions of moral outrage and approval are never – not ever – to be taken at face value. While of course there may be some truth in what is being said, the systemic motivation will always be found in the self-interested head rather than the altruistic heart.
|David Edwards: - Author of Free To Be Human – Intellectual Self-Defence in an Age of Illusions(Green Books, 1995) published in the United States as Burning All Illusions (South End Press, 1996: www.southendpress.org), and The Compassionate Revolution – Radical Politics and Buddhism (1998, Green Books).|
Copyright © 2013 Media Lens.
Video and Transcript - Democracy Now!
Why Castro was one of only five world leaders invited to speak at Nelson Mandela’s memorial. In the words of Mandela, the Cuban “destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor … [and] inspired the fighting masses of South Africa.” Historian Piero Gleijeses argues that it was Cuba’s victory in Angola in 1988 that forced Pretoria to set Namibia free and helped break the back of apartheid South Africa.
Posted December 11, 2013
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to the historic moment Tuesday when President Barack Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raúl Castro as both men participated in the memorial service for anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela in South Africa. The White House said the handshake was unscripted. It marked the first time a U.S. president has shaken hands with a Cuban leader since 2000. In Washington, Republicans expressed outrage over the exchange. During a hearing in the House, Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida sparred with Secretary of State John Kerry, who said it did not represent any change in U.S. policy toward Cuba.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Mr. Secretary, sometimes a handshake is just a handshake. But when the leader of the free world shakes the bloody hand of a ruthless dictator like Raúl Castro, it becomes a propaganda coup for the tyrant. Raúl Castro uses that hand to sign the orders to repress and jail democracy advocates. In fact, right now, as we speak, Cuban opposition leaders are being detained, and they’re being beaten while trying to commemorate today, which is International Human Rights Day. They will feel disheartened when they see these photos. Could you please tell the Cuban people living under that repressive regime that a handshake nonwithstanding, the U.S. policy toward the cruel and sadistic Cuban dictatorship has not weakened? Thank you.
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Ladies and gentlemen, today is about honoring Nelson Mandela. And the president is at an international funeral with leaders from all over the world. He didn’t choose who’s there. They’re there to honor Mandela. And we appreciate that people from all over the world and from all different beliefs and walks of life who appreciated Nelson Mandela and/or were friends of his came to honor him. And I think, as the president said—I urge you to go read his speech, or if you didn’t see it or haven’t read it, because the president said in his speech today honoring Nelson Mandela, he said, “We urge leaders to honor Mandela’s struggle for freedom by upholding the basic human rights of their people”—
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: And would you say Raúl Castro is upholding their basic human rights?
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: No, absolutely not.
AMY GOODMAN: The uproar over President Obama’s handshake with President Raúl Castro has drawn attention to the close relationship between the South African anti-apartheid movement and Cuba. In 1991, Nelson Mandela visited Cuba with then-President Fidel Castro. This is a clip when they first met.
NELSON MANDELA: Before we say anything, you must tell me when you are coming to South Africa. You see—no, just a moment, just a moment, just a moment.
PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO: [translated] The sooner the better.
NELSON MANDELA: And we have had a visit from a wide variety of people. And our friend, Cuba, which had helped us in training our people, gave us resources to keep current with our struggle, trained our people as doctors, and SWAPO, you have not come to our country. When are you coming?
PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO: [translated] I haven’t visited my South African homeland yet. I want it, I love it as a homeland. I love it as a homeland as I love you and the South African people.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more on Cuba’s key role in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, we’re joined now in Washington, D.C., by Piero Gleijeses, professor of American foreign policy at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He uses archival sources from the United States, South Africa and Cuba to provide an unprecedented look at the history in his latest book, Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991_. You can read the book’s prologuepretoria on our website at democracynow.org.
Professor Gleijeses, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about this key relationship, why Cuba was so seminal to the anti-apartheid movement.
PIERO GLEIJESES: Cuba is the only country in the world that sent its soldiers to confront the army of apartheid and defeated the army of apartheid, the South African army, twice—in 1975, 1976, and in 1988. And in Havana, when he visited Havana in July 1991—I won’t to be able to repeat exactly the words of Nelson Mandela, but Nelson Mandela said, “The Cuban victory,” referring to the Cuban victory over the South Africans in Angola in 1988, “destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor and inspired the fighting masses of South Africa. Cuito Cuanavale,” which is a victory of the Cubans in Angola, “is the turning point in the liberation of our continent and of my people from the scourge of apartheid.” So, in—
AMY GOODMAN: For a country that knows very little, Professor Gleijeses, about the Cuban experience, its military intervention in Angola, can you step back for a moment and explain what President Castro—what Fidel Castro and these Cuban soldiers did?
PIERO GLEIJESES: Sure. In 1975, you have the decolonization of Angola, Portuguese colony slated to become independent on November 11, 1975. There is a civil war between three movements: one supported by the Cubans, the Cubans that supported over the years in its struggle against the Portuguese; the other two supported by South Africa and the United States. And the movement supported by the Cubans, the MPLA, which is in power in Angola today, having won free election, was on the verge of winning the civil war. And it was on the verge of winning the civil war—a paraphrase from what the CIA station chief in Angola at the time told me—because it was the most committed movement with the best leaders, the best program. And in order to prevent their victory, the victory of the MPLA, in October 1975, urged by Washington, South Africa invaded. And the South African troops advanced on Luanda, and they would have taken Luanda and crushed the MPLA if Fidel Castro had not decided to intervene. And between November 1975 and April 1976, 3,6000 Cuban soldiers poured into Angola and pushed the South Africans back into Namibia, which South Africa ruled at the time.
And this had an immense psychological impact—talking of South Africa—in South Africa, both among whites and among blacks. And the major black South African newspaper, The World, wrote in an editorial in February 1976, at a moment in which the South African troops were still in Angola, but the Cubans were pushing them back—they had evacuated central Angola. They were in southern Angola. The writing was on the wall. And this newspaper, The World, wrote, “Black Africa is riding the crest of a wave generated by the Cuban victory in Angola. Black Africa is tasting the heady wine of the possibility of achieving total liberation.” And Mandela wrote that he was in jail in 1975 when he learned about the arrival of the Cuban troops in Angola, and it was the first time then a country had come from another continent not to take something away, but to help Africans to achieve their freedom.
This was the first real contribution of Cuba to the liberation of South Africa. It was the first time in living memory that the White Giants, the army of apartheid, had been forced to retreat. And they had retreated because of a non-white army. And in a situation of internal colonialism, this is extremely important. And after that, the Cubans remained in Angola to protect Angola from the South African army. Even the CIA acknowledged that the Cubans were the guarantee for the independence of Angola. And in Angola, they trained the ANC, the African National Congress, of Mandela. And very close relations developed between the two. I don’t know if you want me to go on and talk about the next moment, or you want to interrupt me with some questions.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Yes, Professor Piero Gleijeses, if you could speak specifically about the role of Che Guevara in Africa?
PIERO GLEIJESES: Yeah, Che Guevara had nothing to do with South Africa. The role—
NERMEEN SHAIKH: In Africa, though, in the Congo and Angola.
PIERO GLEIJESES: Yes, I understand. The role of Che Guevara in 1964, 1965—in late 1964, Che Guevara was sent by Fidel Castro as Fidel Castro’s top representative to Sub-Saharan Africa—it was the first visit by a top Cuban leader to Sub-Saharan Africa—because the Cubans believed that there was a revolutionary situation in central Africa, and they wanted to help. And Che Guevara established relations with a number of revolutionary movements. One of them, the MPLA, the Movement for the Liberation of Angola, that was based in Congo-Brazzaville. And in 1965, the first Cubans fought in Angolan territory together with the MPLA. But the major role played by Che Guevara is that he led a group of Cubans into Congo, the former Belgian Congo, where there was a revolt by the followers of the late Lumumba against the central government enforced by the United States. And the United States had created an army of white mercenaries, the White Giants, mainly South African and Rhodesians and then Europeans, to crush this revolt. And the Cubans went at the request of the rebels, at the request of the government of Egypt, Algeria and Tanzania to help the rebels.
AMY GOODMAN: Uh—
PIERO GLEIJESES: And—yes?
AMY GOODMAN: Professor, I wanted to go back to Angola—
PIERO GLEIJESES: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —and this time bring in former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. This is Kissinger explaining why the U.S. was concerned about the Cuban troops that Fidel Castro had sent to fight in Angola. After Kissinger, you’ll hear Fidel Castro himself.
SECRETARY OF STATE HENRY KISSINGER: We thought, with respect to Angola, that if the Soviet Union could intervene at such distances, from areas that were far from the traditional Russian security concerns, and when Cuban forces could be introduced into distant trouble spots, and if the West could not find a counter to that, that then the whole international system could be destabilized.
PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO: [translated] It was a question of globalizing our struggle vis-à-vis the globalized pressures and harassment of the U.S. In this respect, it did not coincide with the Soviet viewpoint. We acted, but without their cooperation. Quite the opposite.
AMY GOODMAN: That was President Fidel Castro and, before that, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger from the film CIA & Angolan Revolution. Professor Gleijeses?
PIERO GLEIJESES: OK, two points. One, Kissinger didn’t mention that the Cubans intervened in response to the South African invasion and that the United States had connived with the South Africans and urged the South Africans to invade. So here, there is a rather important issue of chronology.
The second point is that in the last volume of his memoirs, Kissinger, who in general is a very arrogant person, acknowledges that he made a mistake. And the mistake he made was in saying that the Cubans had intervened as proxies of the Soviet Union. And he writes in his memoirs that actually it had been a Cuban decision and that the Cubans had intervened and confronted the Soviets with a fait accompli. And then he asks a question in his memoirs: Why did Castro take this decision? And Kissinger’s answer is that Fidel Castro was probably—I’m quoting—”was probably the most genuine revolutionary leader then in power.” So, there are two Kissingers, if you want, and there is the Kissinger of his memoirs, where he says a few things that actually are true.
AMY GOODMAN: Piero Gleijeses, what do you make of the furor right now? You just heard Congressmember Lehtinen from Florida attacking John Kerry, you know, the significance of the handshake between President Obama and President Raúl Castro right there at the Soweto stadium at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela.
PIERO GLEIJESES: I think it’s pathetic and reflects the ethics of the United States and the policy of the United States. Obama, President Obama, was received with applause in South Africa when he spoke, etc., because he is the first black president of the United States. But the role of the United States as a country, as a government, past governments, in the struggle for liberation of South Africa is a shameful role. In general, we were on the side of the apartheid government. And the role of Cuba is a splendid role in favor of the liberation. This handshake—going beyond this particular issue, the handshake was long overdue. The embargo is absurd, is immoral. And we have here a president who bowed to the king of South Africa—of Saudi Arabia, I’m sorry, which certainly is no democracy. I mean, even Obama should know it. So it’s an absurd situation. The problem with Obama is that his speeches are good, his gestures are good, but there is no follow-up. So, unfortunately, it is just a gesture, a long-overdue gesture that does not change a shameful U.S. policy.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Professor Piero Gleijeses, before we conclude, let’s turn to Fidel Castro speaking in South Africa on his visit in 1998.
PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO: [translated] Let South Africa be a model of a more just and more humane future. If you can do it, we will all be able to do it.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Fidel Castro speaking in 1998 in South Africa, with former president, who just passed away, Nelson Mandela applauding him. Piero Gleijeses, we just have a minute. Could you talk about what most surprised you in your research in the Cuban archives about this history?
PIERO GLEIJESES: Well, there are a lot of things. One is the independence of Cuban policy vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. There are clashes between Fidel Castro and Gorbachev. There are clashes between the leaders of the Cuban military mission in Angola and the Soviet leaders, which I quote actually in my book and which make really fascinating reading. This is one thing.
But another thing that impressed me very much is the respect with which the Cubans treated the Angolan government. This is very important, because the Angolan government really depended on Cuba for its survival, the presence of the Cuban troops as a shield against South African invasion, which was a constant threat, and the very large and generous technical assistance that Cuba was providing to Angola. And the tendency would be to treat a government that’s so dependent with some kind of superiority. And this is something I’ve never found in international relations, this kind of respect with which Cuba treated what, by all objective counts, should have been a client government. And it’s particularly striking for someone who studies the United States and lives in the United States, because seriously the United States government does not treat government that depends on Washington with much respect.
AMY GOODMAN: Piero Gleijeses, thank you so much for being with us.
PIERO GLEIJESES: My pleasure.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor of American foreign policy at SAIS, the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
By Kumaran Ira
9 December 2013
France deployed troops to the Central African Republic (CAR) this weekend, after the UN Security Council adopted a France-sponsored resolution on December 5 authorising French and African intervention. They ostensibly aim to halt ongoing sectarian violence between majority Christian and minority Muslims that has escalated since France backed a coup against President François Bozizé earlier this year by Muslim Seleka rebels.
French forces, backed by tanks, helicopters and warplanes, deployed throughout the capital, Bangui, on Saturday. They also started deploying to the north and west of the country to seize key roads; pre-positioned troops crossed the border from Cameroon into the west of the Central African Republic.
The French government plans to maintain 1,600 troops in its former colony indefinitely. At a press conference closing a two-day Africa-France summit at the Elysée Presidential Palace on Saturday, French President François Hollande said that he would increase French troop levels in CAR to 1,600—400 more troops than what was announced last week.
Hollande said, “Thursday there were 600 troops, [Friday] night there were 1,000, and tonight there will be 1,600 and that level will be maintained as long as necessary for this mission.”
French forces in CAR will be working with a 2,500-strong African-Union force, which will also be boosted to 6,000.
France’s political establishment and corporate media are backing the military intervention, falsely arguing that Paris’ intervention in CAR has nothing to do with its strategic interests and is a humanitarian operation. Hollande vowed that his aim was to “prevent a humanitarian catastrophe,” after 300 civilians were reportedly killed in three days as a result of sectarian clashes in CAR.
In its Saturday editorial, Le Monde praised the military intervention as a humanitarian operation, writing: “France’s publicly stated goals, i.e. aiding to secure the country and allowing humanitarian aid to reach it, are beyond doubt.”
It added, “The former colonial power stresses today that it does not want to be directly involved in the political settlement of this crisis. France wants as quickly as possible to bring in the UN, whose actions in recent years in CAR have not been particularly well chosen.”
Such comments reek of cynicism and bad faith. France’s seizure of Bangui and of CAR will not soften but intensify the country’s ethno-sectarian divisions and conflicts—as did the NATO war in Libya and France’s intervention in Ivory Coast, which were similarly peddled to the public in 2011 as “humanitarian” exercises.
Paris bears the main responsibility for the current bloodshed in CAR. It has backed a series of military coups in CAR since the country’s independence, in order to install various reactionary proxy governments in power.
Now, French imperialism is pursuing an explosive neo-colonial policy of militarily toppling governments in its former African colonies—such as in the Ivory Coast or CAR—that have developed closer ties to China.
Before Bozizé was ousted, ties between CAR and China had been developing rapidly with initiatives on economy, trade, culture, education and health. The CAR also discussed expanding military ties with China while senior Chinese officials visited the CAR in June 2012.
Relations between Paris and Bangui deteriorated under Bozizé as he adopted a more pro-Chinese line, signing military and economic deals with Beijing. Paris was concerned over untapped natural resources in CAR including diamonds, gold, uranium, timber and oil that French corporations could lose to their Chinese competitors, and also the broader implications of China’s rising influence in the former French colonial empire.
Before Seleka took power, Bozizé suggested in a speech given on December 27, 2012 that rebel forces were attacking him because he decided to grant oil exploration contracts to a Chinese firm.
He asked, “What mistake did I make? There are no political prisoners at the moment, the press is free. Why did they start raping, killing and hurting the Central African population? … We gave them everything. Before giving oil to the Chinese, I met Total in Paris and told them to take the oil; nothing happened. I gave oil to the Chinese and it became a problem. I sent counselor Maidou in Paris for the Uranium dossier, they refused. I finally gave it to the South Africans.”
Now, France is building up not only its own military forces, but also local proxy forces across Africa, in preparation for broader wars and neo-colonial interventions across the region.
As the current military intervention in CAR began, France hosted a two-day Africa-France summit titled “Peace and security in Africa” attended by 53 African heads of state, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Noting that Franco-African relations “can no longer be what they could be in the past,” Hollande vowed to support “the creation of a rapid reaction force controlled by the African Union.” He declared that France would provide training for 20,000 African troops for five years.
French imperialism, under the UN mandate, plays a key role in pursuing its policy in the continent. The military intervention in CAR follows French intervention in Mali early this year.
France has deployed about 7,500 troops across the world, according to the Defence Ministry. It currently has more than 5,000 troops stationed at bases across Africa. The cost of maintaining them amounts to €400 million per year.
Accusing politicians or former politicians of “breathtaking hypocrisy” is not just over used, it is inadequacy of spectacular proportions. Sadly, searches in various thesaurus’ fail in meaningful improvement. The death of Nelson Mandela, however, provides tributes resembling duplicity on a mind altering substance
President Obama, whose litany of global assassinations by Drone, from infants to octogenarians – a personal weekly decree we are told, summary executions without Judge, Jury or trial – stated of the former South African’s President’s passing:
“We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again … His acts of reconciliation … set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the lives of nations or our own personal lives.
“I studied his words and his writings … like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, (as) long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him … it falls to us … to forward the example that he set: to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love …”
Mandela, said the Presidential High Executioner, had: “… bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.”(i)
Mandela, after nearly thirty years in jail (1964-1990) forgave his jailors and those who would have preferred to see him hung. Obama committed to closing Guantanamo, an election pledge, the prisoners still self starve in desperation as their lives rot away, without hope.
The decimation of Libya had no congressional approval. Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan’s dismembered Drone victims are a Presidential roll call of shame and horror and the Nobel Peace Laureate’s trigger finger still hovers over Syria and Iran, for all the talk of otherwise. When his troops finally limped out of Iraq, he left the biggest Embassy in the world and a proxy armed force, with no chance of them leaving being on even the most distant horizon.
Clearly learning, justice and being “guided by love” is proving bit of an uphill struggle. Ironically, Obama was born in 1964, the year Mandela was sentenced to jail and his “long walk to freedom.”
Bill Clinton, who (illegally, with the UK) ordered the near continual bombing of Iraq throughout his Presidency (1993-2001) and the siege conditions of the embargo, with an average of six thousand a month dying of “embargo related causes”, paid tribute to Mandela as: “a champion for human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation … a man of uncommon grace and compassion, for whom abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was … a way of life. All of us are living in a better world because of the life that Madiba lived.” Tell that to America’s victims.
In the hypocrisy stakes, Prime Minister David Cameron can compete with the best. He said:
“A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death – a true global hero.
… Meeting him was one of the great honours of my life.”
On Twitter he reiterated: “A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time.” The flag on Downing Street was to hang at half mast, to which a follower replied: “Preferably by no-one who was in the Young Conservatives at a time they wanted him hanged, or those who broke sanctions, eh?”
Another responded: “The Tories wanted to hang Mandela.You utter hypocrite.”
The two tweeters clearly knew their history. In 2009, when Cameron was pitching to become Prime Minister, it came to light that in 1989, when Mandela was still in prison, David Cameron, then a: “rising star of the Conservative Research Department … accepted an all expenses paid trip to apartheid South Africa … funded by a firm that lobbied against the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime.”
Asked if Cameron: “wrote a memo or had to report back to the office about his trip, Alistair Cooke (his then boss at Conservative Central Office) said it was ‘simply a jolly’, adding: ‘It was all terribly relaxed, just a little treat, a perk of the job … ‘ “
Former Cabinet Minister Peter Hain commented of the trip:
“This just exposes his hypocrisy because he has tried to present himself as a progressive Conservative, but just on the eve of the apartheid downfall, and Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, when negotiations were taking place about a transfer of power, here he was being wined and dined on a sanctions-busting visit.
“This is the real Conservative Party … his colleagues who used to wear ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’ badges at university are now sitting on the benches around him. Their leader at the time, Margaret Thatcher described Mandela as a terrorist.” (ii)
In the book of condolences opened at South Africa House, five minutes walk from his Downing Street residence, Cameron, who has voted for, or enjoined all the onslaughts or threatened ones referred to above, wrote:
” … your generosity, compassion and profound sense of forgiveness have given us all lessons to learn and live by.”
He ended his message with: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” Hopefully your lower jaw is still attached to your face, dear reader. If so, hang on to it, worse is to come.
The farcically entitled Middle East Peace Envoy, former Prime Minister Tony Blair (think “dodgy dossiers” “forty five minutes” to destruction, illegal invasion, Iraq’s ruins and ongoing carnage, heartbreak, after over a decade) stated:
“Through his leadership, he guided the world into a new era of politics in which black and white, developing and developed, north and south … stood for the first time together on equal terms.
“Through his dignity, grace and the quality of his forgiveness, he made racism everywhere not just immoral but stupid; something not only to be disagreed with, but to be despised. In its place he put the inalienable right of all humankind to be free and to be equal.
“I worked with him closely … ” (iii) said the man whose desire for “humankind to be free and equal” (tell that to the Iraqis) now includes demolishing Syria and possibly Iran.
As ever, it seems with Blair, the memories of others are a little different:
“Nelson Mandela felt so betrayed by Blair’s decision to join the US-led invasion of Iraq that he launched a fiery tirade against him in a phone call to a cabinet minister, it emerged.
“Peter Hain who (knew) the ex-South African President well, said Mandela was ‘breathing fire’down the line in protest at the 2003 military action.
“The trenchant criticisms were made in a formal call to the Minister’s office, not in a private capacity, and Blair was informed of what had been said, Hain added.
‘I had never heard Nelson Mandela so angry and frustrated.” (iv)
On the BBC’s flagship morning news programme “Today”, former Prime Minister “Iraq is a better place, I’d do it again” Blair, said of Nelson Mandela:
” … he came to represent something quite inspirational for the future of the world and for peace and reconciliation in the 21st century.”
Comment is left to former BBC employee, Elizabeth Morley, with peerless knowledge of Middle East politics, who takes no prisoners:
“Dear Today Complaints,
“How could you? Your almost ten minute long interview with the war criminal Tony Blair was the antithesis to all the tributes to the great man. I cannot even bring myself to put the two names in the same sentence. How could you?
“Blair has the blood of millions of Iraqis on his hands. Blair has declared himself willing to do the same to Iranians. How many countries did Mandela bomb? Blair condones apartheid in Israel. Blair turns a blind eye to white supremacists massacring Palestinians. And you insult us by making us listen to him while our hearts and minds are focussed on Mandela.
How could you?” (Reproduced with permission.)
As the avalanche of hypocrisy cascades across the globe from shameless Western politicians, Archbishop Desmond Tutu reflected in two lines the thoughts in the hearts of the true mourners:
“We are relieved that his suffering is over, but our relief is drowned by our grief. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”
By Musa Okwonga
December 07, 2013 “Information Clearing House - Dear revisionists, Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel. Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail. You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. You will try to hide his anger from view. Right now, you are anxiously pacing the corridors of your condos and country estates, looking for the right words, the right tributes, the right-wing tributes. You will say that Mandela was not about race. You will say that Mandela was not about politics. You will say that Mandela was about nothing but one love, you will try to reduce him to a lilting reggae tune. “Let’s get together, and feel alright.” Yes, you will do that.
You will make out that apartheid was just some sort of evil mystical space disease that suddenly fell from the heavens and settled on all of us, had us all, black or white, in its thrall, until Mandela appeared from the ether to redeem us. You will try to make Mandela a Magic Negro and you will fail. You will say that Mandela stood above all for forgiveness whilst scuttling swiftly over the details of the perversity that he had the grace to forgive.
You will try to make out that apartheid was some horrid spontaneous historical aberration, and not the logical culmination of centuries of imperial arrogance. Yes, you will try that too. You will imply or audaciously state that its evils ended the day Mandela stepped out of jail. You will fold your hands and say the blacks have no-one to blame now but themselves.
Well, try hard as you like, and you’ll fail. Because Mandela was about politics and he was about race and he was about freedom and he was even about force, and he did what he felt he had to do and given the current economic inequality in South Africa he might even have died thinking he didn’t do nearly enough of it. And perhaps the greatest tragedy of Mandela’s life isn’t that he spent almost thirty years jailed by well-heeled racists who tried to shatter millions of spirits through breaking his soul, but that there weren’t or aren’t nearly enough people like him.
Because that’s South Africa now, a country long ago plunged headfirst so deep into the sewage of racial hatred that, for all Mandela’s efforts, it is still retching by the side of the swamp. Just imagine if Cape Town were London. Imagine seeing two million white people living in shacks and mud huts along the M25 as you make your way into the city, where most of the biggest houses and biggest jobs are occupied by a small, affluent to wealthy group of black people. There are no words for the resentment that would still simmer there.
Nelson Mandela was not a god, floating elegantly above us and saving us. He was utterly, thoroughly human, and he did all he did in spite of people like you. There is no need to name you because you know who you are, we know who you are, and you know we know that too. You didn’t break him in life, and you won’t shape him in death. You will try, wherever you are, and you will fail.
Musa Okwonga is a poet, author, sportswriter, broadcaster, musician, communications adviser and commentator on current affairs, including culture, politics, sport, race and sexuality. A scholarship student at Eton College, Musa studied law at Oxford University and then trained as a solicitor in the City before leaving the legal profession to pursue a career as a poet. http://www.okwonga.com/