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Sign Language: Dazzled by Atrocity’s Distant Mirror June 4, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Nigeria.
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Roger’s note:

‘”Bring back our girls!” The girls who were kidnapped from that place somewhere in Africa by that group I’d never heard of before the story about this thing was on the news and started trending on Twitter. They took “our girls,” the girls who belong to us — our girls, the girls we have cared about for so long, living there in that country in Africa where nothing has ever happened until this thing happened and got tweeted about the other night’

Here you have it.  An example of the mass media inspired in depth analysis of a world event.  I think it’s like really cool, like.

(about the author)   

OpEdNews Op Eds 6/3/2014 at 15:58:16


Bring Back Our Girls
(image by Marie Claire)
Can you see me? Can you see me? I’m holding up a sign. It’s a sign expressing my outrage at an atrocious event in a country far away. It’s a sign showing my solidarity with the victims of violent extremism.

I took a picture of myself with this sign. I posted the picture on social media, so everyone can see it, so everyone can know how outraged I am at this thing that has happened that I heard about on the news. I want everyone to know that I am taking responsibility — no, I am taking ownership of this situation. It is happening to me just as certainly as it is happening to the victims. In fact, the victims actually belong to me. They are “ours” — that’s what my sign says.

“Bring back our girls!” The girls who were kidnapped from that place somewhere in Africa by that group I’d never heard of before the story about this thing was on the news and started trending on Twitter. They took “our girls,” the girls who belong to us — our girls, the girls we have cared about for so long, living there in that country in Africa where nothing has ever happened until this thing happened and got tweeted about the other night.

And when I saw other people were taking pictures of themselves holding up a sign about “our girls” — including Michelle Obama; how cool was that! — I downloaded a sign from this website and printed it out and I made a picture of myself with it and put it on the internet to make that group give me back the girls who belong to me and the other people who made signs about this thing.

Then I saw somebody on Facebook said there was this rally for the girls who belong to us because we have always cared about people like them so deeply for so long — anyway, there was this rally down at the park to show that group that sounds like that Sixties band but of course is actually much worse than them that their evil will not stand. And they said that Anne Hathaway — from Les Mis! — was going to be at the rally with a megaphone and one of the signs like the one I’d made a picture of myself holding and put on the internet, where I hope you’ve seen it and retweeted it to all your friends.

And so I went down to the park and sure enough there was Anne, with a megaphone and this great Mexican-looking scarf and some really killer designer shades and she was standing next to her husband, who was holding a sign telling the Bokos to bring back our girls — because they are our girls just as much as they are the girls of that country where this thing happened — and Anne is shouting into the megaphone, asking all of us: “Do we agree with these cowards?”

And do you know what? There was not a single person in the whole crowd who agreed with raiding a school and kidnapping girls and holding them captive. Not even one person agreed. And so we shouted back to Anne: “No, Anne, we don’t agree!” And while we shouted we waved our signs about bringing back our girls, and took pictures of each other waving our signs and then posted those pictures on the internet. And that showed those Harum Scarum people that they cannot keep what belongs to us — those girls from that place — because we care so much and we do not accept violent extremism in any form.

But hey, L.A. was a great place to stand up for human rights that week. The night before the thing with Anne Hathaway and our girls, President Obama himself was in town, at the Hyatt in Century City. Some kind of Holocaust foundation thing was giving him an award as an “Ambassador for Humanity” for all his efforts to protect human rights.

I wasn’t invited of course and anyway, I was printing out my sign that night and taking my picture, but I saw on the internet that all kinds of important people were there, like Steven Spielberg and Liam Neeson (the German guy who saved all the Jews) and Kim Kardashian and also even Bruce Springsteen. And Obama gave a speech and got all choked up talking about our girls in Africa and in Syria, I think; or maybe it was Iraq, but I don’t think he mentioned Iraq.
I did see way down in the Twitter feed about the story — people had been tweeting the jokes Conan O’Brien made at the award thing — somebody started talking about Yemen, I think it was, and droning on about drones and death squads or something but then they got blocked because the feed was meant to be honoring the president for protecting human rights, not ragging on the guy about every little thing.

I think it would have been cool if the President had held up a sign that night about our girls like Michelle did, but of course it was a solemn occasion — except for Conan’s funny bits! — about respecting the sacredness of all human life. But I know he was holding a sign in his heart and like Anne Hathaway was not agreeing with those cowards killing people and terrorizing innocent lives.

Chris Floyd is an American journalist. His work has appeared in print and online in venues all over the world, including The Nation, Counterpunch, Columbia Journalism Review, the Christian Science Monitor, Il Manifesto, the Moscow Times and many (more…)

Can you see me? Should I post it again?

Kidnapped Girls Become Tools of US Imperial Policy in Africa May 14, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Central African Republic, Congo, Genocide, Human Rights, Women.
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Roger’s note: the average North American’s lack of knowledge and understanding of Africa the the United States’ continued role there is astounding, present company included.  Here is a bit of eye opening reporting for the always reliable Black Action Agenda’s Glen Ford.

In video footage released on May 12, 2014, Boko Haram purported to show dozens of girls recently kidnapped in Nigeria. (Public domain)

A chorus of outraged public opinion demands that the “international community” and the Nigerian military “Do something!” about the abduction by Boko Haram of 280 teenage girls. It is difficult to fault the average U.S. consumer of packaged “news” products for knowing next to nothing about what the Nigerian army has actually been “doing” to suppress the Muslim fundamentalist rebels since, as senior columnist Margaret Kimberley pointed out in these pages, last week, the three U.S. broadcast networks carried “not a single television news story about Boko Haram” in all of 2013. (Nor did the misinformation corporations provide a nanosecond of coverage of the bloodshed in the Central African Republic, where thousands died and a million were made homeless by communal fighting over the past year.) But, that doesn’t mean the Nigerian army hasn’t been bombing, strafing, and indiscriminately slaughtering thousands of, mainly, young men in the country’s mostly Muslim north.

The newly aware U.S. public may or may not be screaming for blood, but rivers of blood have already flowed in the region. Those Americans who read – which, presumably, includes First Lady Michelle Obama, who took her husband’s place on radio last weekend to pledge U.S. help in the hunt for the girls – would have learned in the New York Times of the army’s savage offensive near the Niger border, last May and June. In the town of Bosso, the Nigerian army killed hundreds of young men in traditional Muslim garb “Without Asking Who They Are,” according to the NYT headline. “They don’t ask any questions,” said a witness who later fled for his life, like thousands of others. “When they see young men in traditional robes, they shoot them on the spot,” said a student. “They catch many of the others and take them away, and we don’t hear from them again.”

The Times’ Adam Nossiter interviewed many refugees from the army’s “all-out land and air campaign to crush the Boko Haram insurgency.” He reported:

“All spoke of a climate of terror that had pushed them, in the thousands, to flee for miles through the harsh and baking semidesert, sometimes on foot, to Niger. A few blamed Boko Haram — a shadowy, rarely glimpsed presence for most residents — for the violence. But the overwhelming majority blamed the military, saying they had fled their country because of it.”

In just one village, 200 people were killed by the military.

In March of this year, fighters who were assumed to be from Boko Haram attacked a barracks and jail in the northern city of Maiduguri. Hundreds of prisoners fled, but 200 youths were rounded up and made to lie on the ground. A witness told the Times: “The soldiers made some calls and a few minutes later they started shooting the people on the ground. I counted 198 people killed at that checkpoint.”

All told, according to Amnesty International, more than 600 people were extrajudicially murdered, “most of them unarmed, escaped detainees, around Maiduguri.” An additional 950 prisoners were killed in the first half of 2013 in detention facilities run by Nigeria’s military Joint Task Force, many at the same barracks in Maiduguri. Amnesty International quotes a senior officer in the Nigerian Army, speaking anonymously: “Hundreds have been killed in detention either by shooting them or by suffocation,” he said. “There are times when people are brought out on a daily basis and killed. About five people, on average, are killed nearly on a daily basis.”

Chibok, where the teenage girls were abducted, is 80 miles from Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.

In 2009, when the Boko Haram had not yet been transformed into a fully armed opposition, the military summarily executed their handcuffed leader and killed at least 1,000 accused members in the states of Borno, Yobe, Kano and Bauchi, many of them apparently simply youths from suspect neighborhoods. A gruesome video shows the military at work. “In the video, a number of unarmed men are seen being made to lie down in the road outside a building before they are shot,” Al Jazeera reports in text accompanying the video. “As one man is brought out to face death, one of the officers can be heard urging his colleague to ‘shoot him in the chest not the head – I want his hat.’”

These are only snapshots of the army’s response to Boko Haram – atrocities that are part of the context of Boko Haram’s ghastly behavior. The military has refused the group’s offer to exchange the kidnapped girls for imprisoned Boko Haram members. (We should not assume that everyone detained as Boko Haram is actually a member – only that all detainees face imminent and arbitrary execution.)

None of the above is meant to tell Boko Haram’s “side” in this grisly story (fundamentalist religious jihadists find no favor at BAR), but to emphasize the Nigerian military’s culpability in the group’s mad trajectory – the same military that many newly-minted “Save Our Girls” activists demand take more decisive action in Borno.

The bush to which the Boko Haram retreated with their captives was already a free-fire zone, where anything that moves is subject to obliteration by government aircraft. Nigerian air forces have now been joined by U.S. surveillance planes operating out of the new U.S. drone base in neighboring Niger, further entrenching AFRICOM/CIA in the continental landscape. Last week it was announced that, for the first time,AFRICOM troops will train a Nigerian ranger battalion in counterinsurgency warfare.

The Chibok abductions have served the same U.S. foreign policy purposes as Joseph Kony sightings in central Africa, which were conjured-up to justify the permanent stationing of U.S Special Forcesin the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, in 2011, on humanitarian interventionist grounds. (This past March, the U.S. sent 150 more Special Ops troops to the region, claiming to have again spotted Kony, who is said to be deathly ill, holed up with a small band of followers somewhere in the Central African Republic.) The United States (and France and Britain, plus the rest of NATO, if need be) must maintain a deepening and permanent presence in Africa to defend the continent from…Africans.

When the crowd yells that America “Do something!” somewhere in Africa, the U.S. military is likely to already be there.

Barack Obama certainly needs no encouragement to intervention; his presidency is roughly coterminous with AFRICOM’s founding and explosive expansion. Obama broadened the war against Somalia that was launched by George Bush in partnership with the genocidal Ethiopian regime, in 2006 (an invasion that led directly to what the United Nations called “the worst humanitarian crisis is Africa”). He built on Bill Clinton and George Bush’s legacies in the Congo, where U.S. client states Uganda and Rwanda caused the slaughter of 6 million people since 1996 – the greatest genocide of the post War World II era. He welcomed South Sudan as the world’s newest nation – the culmination of a decades-long project of the U.S., Britain and Israel to dismember Africa’s largest country, but which has now fallen into a bloody chaos, as does everything the U.S. touches, these days.

Most relevant to the plight of Chibok’s young women, Obama led “from behind” NATO’s regime change in Libya, removing the anti-jihadist bulwark Muamar Gaddafi (“We came, we saw, he died,” said Hillary Clinton) and destabilizing the whole Sahelian tier of the continent, all the way down to northern Nigeria. As BAR editor and columnist Ajamu Baraka writes in the current issue, “Boko Haram benefited from the destabilization of various countries across the Sahel following the Libya conflict.” The once-“shadowy” group now sported new weapons and vehicles and was clearly better trained and disciplined. In short, the Boko Haram, like other jihadists, had become more dangerous in a post-Gaddafi Africa – thus justifying a larger military presence for the same Americansand (mainly French) Europeans who had brought these convulsions to the region.

If Obama has his way, it will be a very long war – the better to grow AFRICOM – with some very unsavory allies (from both the Nigerian and American perspectives).

Whatever Obama does to deepen the U.S. presence in Nigeria and the rest of the continent, he can count on the Congressional Black Caucus, including its most “progressive” member, Barbara Lee (D-CA), the only member of the U.S. Congress to vote against the invasion of Afghanistan, in 2001. Lee, along with Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and fellow Californian Karen Bass, who is the ranking member on the House Subcommittee on African, gave cart blanch to Obama to “Do something!” in Nigeria. “And so our first command and demand is to use all resources to bring the terrorist thugs to justice,” they said.

A year and a half ago, when then UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s prospects for promotion to top U.S. diplomat were being torpedoed by the Benghazi controversy, a dozen Black congresspersons scurried to her defense. “We will not allow a brilliant public servant’s record to be mugged to cut off her consideration to be secretary of state,” said Washington, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.

As persons who are presumed to read, Black Caucus members were certainly aware of the messy diplomatic scandal around Rice’s role in suppressing United Nation’s reports on U.S. allies’ Rwanda and Uganda’s genocidal acts against the Congolese people. Of all the high profile politicians from both the corporate parties, Rice – the rabid interventionist – is most intimately implicated in the Congo holocaust, dating back to the policy’s formulation under Clinton. Apparently, that’s not the part of Rice’s record that counts to Delegate Norton and the rest of the Black Caucus. Genocide against Africans does not move them one bit.

So, why are we to believe that they are really so concerned about the girls of Chibok?

It’s Not Just Uganda: Behind the Christian Right’s Onslaught in Africa April 3, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Human Rights, Kenya, LGBT, Nigeria, Religion, Right Wing, Zimbabwe.
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For years now, evangelical activists from the United States have been speaking out against homosexuality and cheering on antigay legislation all over Africa.

As their influence has waned at home, antigay evangelists from the United States have been flexing their sanctimonious muscles influencing policymakers in Africa. (Photo: Travis Lupick / Flickr)

In Uganda, being gay can now earn you a lifetime in prison.

Last month, the East African country was again thrust into the international spotlight after President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a draconian bill that criminalized homosexuality. The high profile, on-and-off battle over the so-called “kill the gays” bill has drawn headlines for years as the most extreme example in a wave of antigay legislation on the continent. But homophobia in Africa is not merely an African problem.

As the gay rights movement has gained traction in the United States, the more virulently homophobic ideologies of the religious right have been pushed further out of the mainstream and into fringe territory. But as their influence has waned at home, right-wing evangelists from the United States have been flexing their sanctimonious muscles influencing policymakers in Africa.

For years now, evangelical activists from the United States have been injecting themselves into African politics, speaking out against homosexuality and cheering on antigay legislation on the continent. The influence of these groups has been well documented in Uganda. The now-defunct Exodus International, for example, sent Don Schmierer, a board member, to Uganda in 2009 to speak at a conference alongside Scott Lively, a pastor who was later sued by a Ugandan gay rights group for his role in promoting human rights violations against LGBTQ people. The two participated in a disturbing anti-gay conference, where speakers blamed homosexuals for the rise of Nazism and the Rwandan genocide, among other abhorrent acts. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, a hard-right Christian group that is active in U.S. politics as well, similarly supported anti-gay laws in Uganda. At the peak of controversy over the “kill the gays” bill, Perkins praised the Ugandan president for “leading his nation to repentance.”

But such groups aren’t just active in Uganda. They have promoted antigay legislation in Kenya, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe, just to name a few other places. The support ranges from popular agitation and sideline cheerleading to outright intervention.

In 2010, for example, when Zimbabwe began the process of drafting a new constitution, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ)—a Christian law firm founded by evangelist Pat Robertson—launched a Zimbabwean counterpart called the African Centre for Law and Justice. The outpost trained lawyers for the express purpose of putting a Christian stamp on the draft of the new constitution.

The African Centre joined forces with the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), an indigenous organization, to promote constitutional language affirming that Zimbabwe is a Christian nation and ensuring that homosexuality remained illegal. These and other hardline views are outlined in a pamphlet distributed by the EFZ and ACLJ. Jordan Sekulow, the executive director of ACLJ, announced that his organization would lobby for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in political and religious circles in the event of any controversy over the provisions, despite the fact that the Zimbabwean president has been sanctioned by the United States and the European Union for violating human rights. Last year, Zimbabwe’s new constitution, which includes a ban on gay marriage, was approved by an overwhelming popular vote.

ACLJ’s Kenyan-based offshoot, the East African Center for Law and Justice (EACLJ), made an effort to lobby against Kenya’s progressive new constitution as well. In April 2010, a report on the group’s website called homosexuality “unacceptable” and “foreign” and called for the Kenyan constitution to clearly define marriage as between a man and a woman, thus closing the door on future laws that could attempt to legalize same-sex marriage. In this case the ECLJ was unsuccessful, and the new constitution was approved without any language regarding same-sex marriage.

Pat Robertson’s entanglements in Africa go well beyond Zimbabwe and Kenya.

In 1960, Robertson created The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), which broadcasts through cable and satellite to over 200 countries. Robertson is a co-host on the 700 Club, arguably CBN’s most popular show. From his perch on the show, Roberts has made a seemingly endless variety of inflammatory remarks about LGBTQ people and just about everyone else that does not fall in line with his own religious thinking.

In the United States, Robertson’s vitriol can be brushed aside as the antiquated ravings of a fringe figure. Not so in much of Africa. A survey conducted in 2010 found that 74 million people in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, had watched at least one CBN show in the previous year. That’s a remarkable reach considering Nigeria is home to over 80 million Christians.

Robertson’s influence plays into an increasingly hostile political climate for gays in the country. Last January, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which provides punishments of up to 14 years imprisonment for a gay marriage and up to 10 years for membership in or encouragement of gay clubs and organizations. The enactment of the law was followed by a wave of arrests of gay men—and widespread denouncement from the international community.

The religious right, however, doesn’t see Nigerian laws regarding homosexuality as a gross violation of human rights, but rather as protection of “traditional marriage.” In 2011, on the heels of the Nigerian Senate passing an earlier version of the anti-gay law, President Barack Obama announced that the United States would officially promote LGBTQ rights abroad as part of its development framework. In response, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute denounced the administration’s directive for putting “U.S. foreign policy on a collision course with religious freedom.”

MassResistance, a Massachusetts-based organization that bills itself as a “pro-family” activist group, praised Nigeria when the Nigerian House passed an earlier version of the bill that President Jonathan signed into law on January 7. In a statement, the group said that African nations are “feeling the brunt” of the gay rights movement, claiming that the “huge spread of AIDS” and the “breakdown in society caused by the homosexual movement seems to bring more general social destruction in African cultures than in the West.” Anti-gay laws in Nigeria have enjoyed unequivocal support from some hardline evangelical groups in the United States, with some going so far as to travel to Nigeria to spread anti-gay sentiment.

One such group is Family Watch International (FWI), another U.S.-based “pro-family” advocacy group. Formed in 1999 and headed by Sharon Slater, FWI boasts members and supporters from over 170 countries. In 2011, Slater was the keynote speaker at a meeting of the Nigerian Bar Association, where she touted her beliefs on homosexuality, telling delegates that they would no longer have religious freedom and homosexuals would prey on their children if they supported “fictitious sexual rights.” To Slater and her ilk, the rights of LGBTQ persons are imaginary.

FWI even wields influence within the United Nations. In early 2011, FWI co-hosted a “Global Family Policy Forum” in Phoenix, Arizona. Over the two-day event, FWI coached 26 UN staffers from 23 different countries in attendance on how to resist UN initiatives on gay rights. An FWI newsletter claimed that conference attendees were finally hearing scientific and clinical “evidence” that homosexuality was not genetically determined and could be cured by therapy.

To some, the belief that homosexuality is a disease that needs to be cured may seem too ridiculous to even entertain. But if the devout can’t win at home, they’ll take their message abroad. It’s up to the international community and African activists dedicated to human rights to put an end to this export of hate.

The Obamas Do Africa June 27, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, Kenya, South Africa.
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obama-africom

Tue, 06/25/2013 – 22:57 — Glen Ford

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

President Obama claims he’s off to Africa in search of trade. But the Chinese have eclipsed the U.S. in that arena by offering “far better terms of trade and investment than the Americans.” Obama talks trade for public consumption, while the U.S. military locks Africa in a cage of steel.

“The U.S. is not in the business of fair and mutually beneficial trade – it’s about the business of imperialism.”

The President and his family are spending a week in sub-Saharan Africa, with Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa on the itinerary. The focus of the trip, if you believe the White House, is trade, an arena in which the United States has been eclipsed by China since 2009. China, by some measurements, now does nearly twice as much business with Africa as the U.S., and the gap is growing. It is now commonly accepted that the Chinese offer far better terms of trade and investment than the Americans, that they create more jobs for Africans, and their investments leave behind infrastructure that can enrich their African trading partners in the long haul.

No one expects Obama to offer anything on this trip that will reverse America’s declining share of the African market. That’s because the U.S. is not in the business of fair and mutually beneficial trade – it’s about the business of imperialism, which is another matter, entirely. The Americans ensure their access to African natural resources through the barrel of a gun.

So, while the Chinese and Indians and Brazilians and other economic powerhouses play by the rules of give and take, the U.S. tightens its military grip on the continent through its ever-expanding military command, AFRICOM.

To justify its rapid militarization of Africa, Washington plunges whole regions of the continent into chaos. U.S. policies, under presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, have utterly destroyed Somalia, made the Horn of Africa a theater of war, drawn the northern tier of the continent into America’s cauldron of terror, and killed six million people in the eastern Congo.

“The Americans ensure their access to African natural resources through the barrel of a gun.”

The face of America in Africa is war, not trade; extraction of minerals by military intimidation, not conventional commerce. Washington’s priority is to embed AFRICOM ever deeper into the militaries of African states – rather than configuring more favorable trade relationships on the continent. But you won’t learn that from the U.S. corporate media, which chooses to focus on the $100 million cost of Obama’s African trip, or to look for human interest angles on Obama’s decision not to touch down in his father’s homeland, Kenya. However, even that angle is too sinister for deeper exploration by the corporate press, because Kenya’s absence from the itinerary is meant as a threat.

The United States is angry because Washington wanted the Kenyan people to elect a different president, one more acceptable to U.S. policymakers. The Americans expected the whole of Kenyan civil society to bend to Washington’s will, and reject the candidacy of Uhuru Kenyatta, simply to please the superpower. When that didn’t happen, it was decided that Kenya must be shunned, despite its past services to U.S. imperialism.

Skipping Kenya was a warning that more serious repercussions may lurk in the future – which is a potent threat, because the U.S. controls most of the guns of Africa. As the U.S.-backed warlord in Somalia said in Jeremy Scahill’s excellent film The Dirty War, “The Americans are masters of war.” War, and the threat of war, is the reality behind every U.S. presidential visit, to Africa and everywhere else. Whether the terms of trade are good or bad, the declining U.S. empire will get access to the resources it needs, or thousands – millions! – will die.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Listen to us on the Black Talk Radio Network at http://www.blacktalkradionetwork.com

A Second Wave of Genocide Looms in Congo, with Susan Rice on Point November 28, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Congo, Foreign Policy, Genocide, Libya, Rwanda, Uganda.
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Roger’s note: Susan Rice, who is Obama’s current nominee to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, is appaently as hawkish as they come and would fit comfortably into a McCain or Romney Republican administration.  To distinguish between Obama’s foreign policy and that of the Republicans would require a pretty powerful microscope.  Elsewhere, Glen Ford compares her to Clearance Thomas.  But she has served only under Democrat presidents.  It’s called our two party system.  Recent reports indicate that she holds significant investments in more than a dozen Canadian oil companies and banks that would stand to benefit from expansion of the North American tar sands industry and construction of the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline (cf. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/28/susan-rice-keystone-pipeline_n_2207861.html)

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford, Wed, 11/28/2012 – 13:14

Susan Rice has abetted the Congo genocide for much of her political career.”

The invasion of the Democratic Republic of Congo by U.S. allies Rwanda and Uganda, in 1996, set in motion a genocide that left six million Congolese dead. Another wave of mass killings now looms with this month’s capture of Goma, an eastern Congolese city of one million, by “rebels” under Rwandan and Ugandan control. “People need to be clear who we are fighting in the Congo,” said Kambale Musavuli, of Friends of Congo. “We are fighting western powers, the United States and the United Kingdom, who are arming, training and equipping the Rwandan and Ugandan militaries.” The main player in suppressing information on Congo’s neighbors’ role in the ongoing genocide, is U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice.

Rice has fought a two-front battle to protect Washington’s murderous clients, delaying publication of a UN Group of Experts report on Washington’s clients’ depredations in Congo, and at the same time subverting efforts within the State Department to rein in Uganda and Rwanda. Last week, Rice blocked the UN Security Council from explicitly demanding that Rwanda immediately cease providing support to M23 rebels who vowed to march all the way to Kinshasa, the Congolese capital.

Susan Rice has abetted the Congo genocide for much of her political career. Appointed to President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council in 1993, at age 28, she rose to assistant secretary of state for African affairs in 1997 as Rwanda and Uganda were swarming across the eastern Congo, seizing control of mineral resources amid a sea of blood. She is known to be personally close to Rwanda’s minority Tutsi leadership, including President Paul Kagame, a ruthless soldier trained at the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and mentored by Ugandan strongman (and Reagan administration favorite) Yoweri Museveni, who is believed to have pioneered the use of child soldiers in modern African conflicts.

Rice said not a word about ethnic cleansing and racial pogroms against black Libyans and sub-Saharan African migrant workers.”

On the outside during the Bush years, Rice became a fierce advocate of “humanitarian” military intervention in Africa, urging air and sea attacks on Sudan and championing the U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, in 2006. A senior foreign policy advisor on Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign team, Rice made it no secret she hoped to be named secretary of state. As UN ambassador, she is the administration’s top gun on Africa, the focus of her outsized aggressions. Rice is widely credited with convincing Obama to launch NATO’s bombing campaign for regime change in Libya. She parroted false media reports that Muammar Gaddafi’s troops were raping Libyan women with the aid of massive gulps of Viagra, refusing to back down even when U.S. military and intelligence officials told NBC news “there is no evidence that Libyan military forces have been given Viagra and engaging in systematic rape against women in rebel areas.” Yet, Rice said not a word about ethnic cleansing and racial pogroms against black Libyans and sub-Saharan African migrant workers, including the well-documented erasure of the black city of Tawergha.

Susan Rice’s “humanitarian” instincts, like her boss’s, are highly selective – so much so, that a genocide equal to or greater than the Nazi’s liquidation of European Jewry is invisible to her. More accurately, Rice labors mightily to render the genocide in Congo invisible to the world, suppressing release or discussion of reports on Rwanda and Uganda’s crimes.

Rice labors mightily to render the genocide in Congo invisible to the world.”

The first document, a “Mapping Report,” described human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 1993 through 2003. Finally published by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in October of 2010, after long delays, the document specifically charges Rwandan troops with engaging in mass killings “that might be classified as crimes of genocide.” The more recent report by a UN Group of Experts concludes that M23, the Congolese “rebel” group that captured Goma, is actually “a Rwandan creation,” embedded with Rwandan soldiers that take their orders from Paul Kagame’s military. Uganda also supports M23.

Susan Rice, as an energetic protector and facilitator of genocide, should be imprisoned for life (given that the death penalty is no longer internationally sanctioned). But of course, the same applies to her superiors, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. One would think that the Congressional Black Caucus would be concerned with the threat of a second wave of mass killings in Congo. Not so. A Google search fails to reveal a word of complaint from the Black lawmakers about genocide in Congo or suppression of documentation of genocide – or much of anything at all about Africa since the death of New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne, ranking member of the House Subcommittee on African Affairs, in March of this year.

One would think that the Congressional Black Caucus would be concerned with the threat of a second wave of mass killings in Congo. Not so.”

Instead, incoming Congressional Black Caucus chair Marcia Fudge, of Cleveland, held a press conference with female Caucus members to defend Rice, “a person who has served this country with distinction,” from Republican criticism of her handling of the killing of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya. “We will not allow a brilliant public servant’s record to be mugged to cut off her consideration to be secretary of state,” said Fudge.

In the Congressional Black Caucus’ estimation, Rice’s “record” as chief warmonger in Africa and principal suppressor of the facts on genocide in Congo makes her a role model for African Americans, especially young Black women.

Her relationship to the women of Congo is more problematic. Said Kambale Musavuli, of Friends of Congo, which works tireless on behalf of victims of mass rape in eastern Congo: “Why should you want to help a Congolese woman who is raped, when your tax money is supporting the ones that are doing the raping? That’s a contradiction”

In the Age of Obama, the Black American relationship to Africa is suffocating from such contradictions.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Rwanda, Uganda and the Congo Genocide June 25, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Congo, Foreign Policy, Genocide, Rwanda, Uganda.
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Mon, 06/18/2012 – 22:28 — www.blackagendareport.com

 

 

by Antoine Roger Lokongo

Six million Congolese have died since 1996 so that western corporations could retain unfettered access to the region’s mineral wealth. Rwanda and Uganda turned the eastern Congo into a cauldron of death – with impunity, protected by their patrons, the U.S. and Britain. Although the evidence of Rwanda’s role in the Congo genocide is irrefutable, Tutsi strongman Paul Kagame’s regime “will simply get away with it and recommence again tomorrow – as long as minerals need to be supplied to the West.”

 

Rwanda, Uganda and the Congo Genocide

by Antoine Roger Lokongo

This article appeared in Pambazuka News.

Britain, America and the European Union are now caught red-handed and cannot claim not to be aware of the plot of annexing eastern Congo to Rwanda and Uganda.”

The carnage that is lived daily by the Congolese people in eastern DRC is what the Congolese daily Le Potentiel calls a “forgotten genocide”[1] by the will of the international community. In fact, the international community has witnessed the atrocities being committed in eastern Congo by both Rwandan Hutu and Tutsi armed groups, with the complicity of some Congolese, since the UN peacekeeping mission was deployed in the DRC over a decade ago.

Britain, America and the European Union can no longer turn a blind eye to the complicity of Rwanda and Uganda in both supplying arms and soldiers to Tutsi rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda (both him and his predecessors are already indicted by the ICC) in the troubled North Kivu of the DRC. Britain, America and the European Union are now caught red-handed and cannot claim not to be aware of the plot (of annexing eastern Congo to Rwanda and Uganda, encouraged by the Sudanese experience) that is being weaved by Rwanda and Uganda in the eastern DRC.

Three official reports issued by the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo as reported by the BBC[2], by Human Rights Watch[3] and by the Congolese government (after conducting its own thorough investigation, including interviewing Rwandan fighters caught in the frontline[4]) have all confirmed that Rwanda, for the umpteenth time, is yet again on the front line in eastern Congo. According to Congolese Minister of Information, Lambert Mende Omalanga:

200 to 300 rebels were recruited in Rwanda in order to be infiltrated in the DRC. They underwent a brief military training before being deployed against the armed forces of the DRC.”[5]

Anyway, for the Congolese people there was nothing new. A year before Rwanda joined the Commonwealth (November 2009), The Telegraph, a British daily close to the Conservative Party in Britain and therefore close to the British Crown, revealed that Congolese Tutsi rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda was recruited from the Rwandan army. Rwanda was therefore allowing its territory to be used as a recruiting ground for the rebel movement behind the DRC’s bloodshed, according to first-hand accounts and evidence gathered by The Telegraph.

Rwanda, for the umpteenth time, is yet again on the front line in eastern Congo.”

A 27-year-old fighter in Nkunda’s movement said that he served as a platoon commander in Rwanda’s army:

There are many former Rwandan soldiers with the CNDP [Gen Nkunda’s rebels]. When I was still in the Rwandan army, I was in touch with them. They wanted me to join the CNDP,” he said. “I decided to join them because fighting for the CNDP is like fighting for Rwanda.”[6]

The US Department of State is said to have issued “a firm statement”[7] warning governments against supporting rebel groups and mutineers operating in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo – without naming Rwanda. In a statement published on 6 June 2012 titled “Situation in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo,” US State Department spokesperson Marck C. Toner, said:

The United States is concerned by the continued mutiny of officers and soldiers formerly integrated into the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and now operating in North Kivu province as an armed group under the name M23, and by recent reports of outside support to M23.”[8]

The European Union for its part, is said to be “strongly concerned” about an army mutiny in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the bloc’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The EU is strongly concerned by recent developments in the Kivus and the deterioration of the security situation. The current developments require the attention of all countries in the region. Recent cooperation between Rwanda and the DRC on this matter is necessary and positive. The EU is worried by information that this dynamic might be endangered,” Ashton said in a statement.[9]

Rwanda was therefore allowing its territory to be used as a recruiting ground for the rebel movement behind the DRC’s bloodshed.”

The Tutsi continued to use the war against Hutu ‘genocidists’ as a pretext for occupying mining concessions and systematically exploiting them.”

Kagame, Museveni and their Western backers have been uncovered. The whole world can now see that they are the main force driving this conflict. As Jacqueline Umurungi writes, some of Kagame’s greatest admirers are Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and Starbucks magnate Howard Schultz. American evangelist Rick Warren considers him something of an inspiration and even Bill Gates has invested in what has been called Africa’s success story. Yes, Western liberals, reactionary evangelicals, and capitalist carpetbaggers alike tout Paul Kagame as the herald of a new, self-reliant African prosperity. Britain annually subsidizes 50 per cent of Rwanda’s national budget.[10] Now you understand why the war in mineral-rich eastern Congo never ends and why, mockingly according to the BCC, “there is no end to the tears in the DRC.”[11]

What Kinshasa did was to integrate all the Tutsi Congolese into the national army, even those wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity like General Bosco Ntaganda, “who was born in Rwanda where he fought with the ethnic Tutsi rebels who brought current President Paul Kagame to power and ended the genocide in 1994,” according to the BBC.[12] The CNDP (The National Congress for the Defence of the People or Congrès national pour la défense du people), a former rebel movement, was transformed into a political party and integrated into President Kabila’s coalition in power.

President Kabila put them in charge of military operations against Hutu militia accused of having committed the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Kinshasa even made a deal with Kigali to allow the Rwandan army to enter Congo and hunt Hutu militia. By the way, The ICC recently confirmed the dismissal of charges against Callixte Mbarushimana, a Hutu, of responsibility for atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009.[13] Then the people of Congo realized that the Tutsi continued to use the war against Hutu “genocidists” as a pretext for occupying mining concessions and systematically exploiting them. That is why the Congolese Tutsi soldiers refuse categorically to be transferred to other parts of Congo to serve there. They just want to be posted in eastern Congo near the Rwandan border. But the Congolese army is supposed to be a national army, not an ethnic army. When President Kabila ordered the transfer of all soldiers from eastern Congo to serve in other parts of Congo, rumor went around that Ntaganda was going to be arrested and transferred to the ICC (Kabila has said he would be tried in Congo). He launched a mutiny known as the 23 March movement (a new name for the CNDP) because they joined the Congolese army under a March 2009 peace deal but have defected “complaining of poor treatment.”

Enough is enough. The well-armed and Western-backed Tutsi regimes of Rwanda and Uganda must understand that there is a saying which goes like this: “Lie! Lie! There will always be something left to lie about: the truth.” The “international community” will yet again confirm its complicity in the plot against the DRC if Rwanda and Uganda yet again get away with it this time. Is the ICC there just for Charles Taylor and Laurent Gbagbo, but not Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Museveni and Kagame?

References:

[1] Le Potentiel. 2012. Face à l’indéniable implication du Rwanda dans la guerre au Kivu, les Etats-Unis, la Grande-Bretagne, l’UE… mis devant leurs responsabilités !, Kinshasa, 11/06/2012.
[2] BBC. 2012. Rwanda ‘supporting DR Congo mutineers. BBC News Africa. 28 May 2012.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-18231128
[3] Smith, David. 2012. Rwandan military ‘aiding war crimes suspect’ in Congo – Human Rights Watch. The Guardian, World News, Rwanda. 4 June 20. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/04/rwandan-military-war-crimes-suspect
[4] Groupe L’Avenir. 2012. Est de la Rd Congo : Enfin le Rwanda démasqué. lundi 11 juin 2012. http://www.groupelavenir.cd/spip.php?article45903
[5] Le Potentiel. 2012. Face à l’indéniable implication du Rwanda dans la guerre au Kivu, les Etats-Unis, la Grande-Bretagne, l’UE… mis devant leurs responsabilités !, Kinshasa, 11/06/2012.
[6] Blair, David. 2008. DR Congo rebels recruited from Rwanda army. The Telegraph. 20 Nov 2008.

http://bit.ly/MHp9pI
[7] AfroAmerica Network. 2012. US Government Warns Governments Supporting Rebellions in DRC. 8 June 2012. http://bit.ly/Kvzquo
[8] Toner, Mark C. 2012. Situation in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Press Statement. US Department of State, 6 June 2012. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/06/191902.htm
[9] AFP. 2012. EU ‘concerned’ over army mutiny in DRC. News24. 8 August 2012. http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/EU-concerned-over-army-mutiny-in-DRC-20120607
[10] Umurungi, Jacqueline. 2012. The Untold Stories: Again Rwanda is on the front line in the Congo Conflict.Who is fooling who? Inyenyeri News. NYENYERI NEWS, 28 May 2012.
http://bit.ly/OFjumW
[11] Hubert, Thomas . 2012. Havoc as Congolese flee the ‘Terminator’. BBC News Africa. 11 May 2012.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17994753
[12] BBC. 2012. Congo warlord Bosco ‘Terminator’ Ntaganda ‘replaced’. BBC News Africa, 8 May 2012.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17992994
[13] Reuters. 2012. ICC confirms release of Congo war crimes suspect.
http://yhoo.it/K46RxR

Canada Mines African Discontent June 7, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Canada, Tanzania.
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Published on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 by The Toronto Star

While Canadians may think of ourselves as best known for owning the Olympic podium, among Africans we may actually be better known — and not particularly liked — for owning their natural resources.

Once beloved on the continent, Canada is no longer so fondly regarded in Africa.

The new, less enthusiastic view of Canada was vividly illustrated last month when more than 1,500 desperately poor Tanzanian villagers picked up machetes, rocks and hammers and stormed the mining compound of Canadian-owned African Barrick Gold.

The uprising — leading to the shooting deaths of seven of the villagers by police and security forces at the mine — is a startling reminder that theories widely held in the West about the benefits of foreign investment for the developing world are not always shared by people on the receiving end.

In theory, Barrick’s arrival in the 1990s has been a boon to the Tanzanian economy, pushing it toward development.

In reality, Tanzania has collected only a pittance in taxes and royalties from Barrick and other foreign multinationals through contracts that are shrouded in secrecy. So, although it sits on massive gold reserves worth more than $40 billion, Tanzania remains one of world’s 10 poorest countries.

A 2008 investigation funded by Norwegian church groups concluded that Tanzania collected an average of only $21.7 million (U.S.) a year in royalty and taxes on more than $2.5 billion worth of gold exported over the previous five years. The investigation also estimated some 400,000 Tanzanians, who formerly mined for gold with nothing but their own picks, shovels and ropes, have been left unemployed by the giant mining operations.

Two months after that report, a government-appointed commission headed by retired Tanzanian judge Mark Bomani strongly urged imposing higher royalties and taxes on the foreign mining companies.

With growing popular pressure for tougher legislation, the Canadian government intervened on the side of the multinationals, pressuring the Tanzanian government and parliament to oppose Bomani’s proposed reforms.

Officials from the Canadian High Commission launched an “intense” lobbying mission with Tanzanian legislators aimed at blocking the reforms, according to reports in the Tanzanian newspaper ThisDay.

Ottawa also sought to head off potentially tougher rules governing Canadian mining companies by pressing for stronger investor protections in trade talks with Tanzania, aimed at securing what Canada calls a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA).

“Canada’s objective in entering these negotiations is to secure a comprehensive, high-quality agreement to protect investors through the establishment of a framework of legally binding rights and obligations,” says a posting on the website of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

The FIPA is “purely an instrument aimed at protecting the interests of Canadian companies in Tanzania,” according to Zitto Kabwe, a Tanzanian parliamentarian.

All this seems to be a departure from the way Canada used to operate in Africa.

Back in the 1970s, Canada actually gave African countries help, teaching them how to negotiate better deals with foreign multinationals, says Linda Freeman, a political scientist at Carleton University who specializes in African political economy.

Today, Freeman notes, Canada is solidly on the side of the multinationals, pressuring vulnerable African nations to accept deals favourable to multinationals, with negative implications for their own populations.

Do Canadians care about any of this? Apparently not, according to Canadian parliamentarians, who last fall narrowly voted to defeat a private member’s bill aimed at holding Canadian companies operating abroad more accountable here in Canada.

The bill would have made a significant difference in how last month’s violence in Tanzania will be investigated, according to Jamie Kneen, with the Ottawa-based watchdog group Mining Watch.

The killings — and additional allegations of rape — are being investigated by Tanzanian police and by Barrick.

But the private member’s bill would have entitled villagers to a Canadian government investigation, with potential repercussions for Canadian companies found to have behaved improperly.

The tragic defeat of that bill — and the Harper government’s intense focus on championing rights for Canadian corporations — has left Canada flexing its muscle against some of the world’s most impoverished people.

© Copyright Toronto Star 1996-2011

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Linda McQuaig

Linda McQuaig is a columnist for the Toronto Star.

Evangelical Homophobia-Planting in Uganda: A Tough Seed With Poisonous Fruit May 10, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Human Rights, LGBT, Uganda.
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Tuesday 10 May 2011

by: Valerie Tarico, Away Point

Christian extremists in Uganda’s parliament are hoping that hunger and high gas prices will provide the cover they need to finally subject gay men to punishment of biblical proportions.  They haveintroduced a bill, up for vote on May 11, that seeks life imprisonment for gay sex and, for repeat offenders, the death penalty.  Last year, similar legislation was averted by international outrage.  President Museveni was afraid of losing valuable aid dollars, and after outcry arose across the West, with Barack Obama calling the law “odious,” Museveni prevented the bill from coming to a vote. 

Stopping the bill was insufficient to save the life of one Ugandan,David Kato, who was beaten to death with a hammer in January.  Kato was Uganda’s most outspoken gay rights advocate and had received many death threats before he was killed.  In the winter months before his death, one newspaper ran a front page photo of Kato with an anti-gay rant and a banner urging “Hang them.”   Last spring I traveled in Mozambique, where a full-page article in a local paper interspersed Bible verses, exhortations to spiritual living, and similar anti-gay vitriol.  Although leading fundamentalists like Albert Mohler appear increasinglyresignedto “tolerance” here at home, across Africa the marriage of Christianity and homophobia appears to be thriving—thanks in part to an American tendency to take our outdated wares and social movements overseas. 

Two years ago, I wrote an article that asked, “If the Bible Were Law, Would You Qualify for the Death Penalty?”  It described some of the thirty six causes for capital punishment listed in the Good Book, including cursing parents, witchcraft, being raped (only within the city limits), adultery, and of course, homosexual sex.   Mercifully, even the most old school American Christians seem to ignore the Bible on these points.  But one of the unfortunate consequences of Americans exporting biblical literalism to developing countries is thatpeople in those countries take the Bible literally– including the parts we all, missionaries included, wish they wouldn’t.  In Nigeria, American Pentecostalism has fused with local animism and resulted in children being beaten and burned as witches, just like the Bible prescribes.

In Uganda, American evangelism may besimilarly responsiblefor Kato’s death and the proposed law.  In March 2009, frustrated by their inability to block the gradual inclusion of gays in the universal human rights umbrella at home, Evangelical leaders traveled to Uganda and led incendiary workshops seeking to increase Ugandan fear that gay men are a threat to straight marriages and children.  It would appear that Uganda’s already fractured and restive society is reaping what the American missionaries have sown:  further contention and violence. 

“I don’t want anyone killed,” said Mr. Schmierer, one of the Evangelical leaders who traveled to Uganda two years ago.  “But I don’t feel I had anything to do with that [Kato's death].”  Many evangelicals, those who see the Bible as literally perfect, find it almost impossible to imagine that the Bible itself could be responsible for inciting violence or that those who preach biblical inerrancy could be complicit in that violence.  And yet other Christians, those who see the Bible as the imperfect record of the imperfect struggle of our spiritual ancestors, find this causal chain quite plausible.  According to theologian Thom Stark (The Human Faces of God),the biblical record attributes divine sanction in places to some of the worst of Iron Age impulses, including human sacrifice.  Unless we understand those writings in their human context we are bound to glorify passages that instead should teach us about the darkness in the human spirit.  And glorifying human darkness puts us at risk of enacting it. 

It is troubling that of the many offerings that might have been carried by American Christians to Africa in the service of theGreat Commandment, what has been carried instead are the seeds of homophobia—fear, hatred, and death.  It will take many voices raised together to reverse the damage done by a few misguided missionaries.  I hope those voices will be raised this week (petition here)and again next year, and for as many years as are needed until Uganda’s gay community can live in love and peace

 Valerie Tarico is a psychologist. She is the author of ‘Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light’. She is also the founder of WisdomCommons.org.

Niger Delta Women Act Against Abuses by Big Oil November 10, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Environment, Human Rights, Nigeria.
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In several separate incidents, Nigerian women have engaged in peaceful struggle against the oil multinationals wrecking their environment, livelihoods and those of their families and their future.
 
Stella_and_Kids
 
Hundreds of women took over the Escravos Chevron-Nigerian government gas pipeline project in mid-August 2010 over failure of Chevron and the government to address their concerns. The women demanded shore protection (oil company operations lead to erosion and loss of community land) and local electrification as well as jobs.

“The reason why we filed this protest is that the affected communities want shore-piling for erosion control. We also need step down line for industrial electrification for the entire Ugborodo communities”. -Chief Thomas Ereyitobi, Chairman of Ugborodo community

“Madam Mercy Olowu, Ugborodo woman leader, lamented the devastating impact of decades of oil exploration and exploitation on the communities. ‘Things have remained the same here since I was 15 years old. Nothing has changed except that the oil companies’ activities has spoilt our land and caused untold hardship to the people. We can no longer bear this brunt.'”
 
In the series of actions the women also threatened to halt the operations of Chevron’s Escravos-Gas-to Liquid plant due to the impact of the company’s operations in the state if the government failed to address their situation.
“In less than three years from now the surging Atlantic Ocean would have wiped away our communities from the face of the earth and in spite of our crying out loudly everyday in the media to call the attention of the Federal Government to our plight, the Niger Delta Ministry did not deem it fit to include the Ugborodo shore protection project in the recently advertised job showing clearly that we are not part of the Nigerian project.”
Similarly for two days in late August two Shell flow stations were shut down while occupied by local women protesting lack of development.
 
In early September hundreds of Ijaw women from Bayelsa State laid siege to the Shell facility at Torugbene community. Not uncommon in Nigeria is the militarized response to peaceful protest.
“The Sector 2 Commander admonished the troops deployed to the facility and other areas of the council area to ensure “the use of proper tactical, overt and covert operations to protect the vast infrastructure and equipment at the rig site as well as protection of the rig staff.”

Malawi: Judge convicts gay couple May 18, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, LGBT.
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By RAPHAEL TENTHANI

Associated Press, May 18, 2010

BLANTYRE, Malawi — A judge convicted a gay couple in Malawi Tuesday of unnatural acts and gross indecency after a trial that drew worldwide condemnation of this southern African country’s colonial-era laws on homosexuality.

Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, had been jailed since their arrest Dec. 27, the day after they celebrated their engagement with a party that drew crowds of curious, jeering onlookers.

Blantyre Chief Resident Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa said the sentencing will take place on Thursday. The couple could be imprisoned for up to 14 years.

Hearings in the trial have drawn Malawians who have ridiculed the couple, an indication of views on homosexuality in this traditional society — and elsewhere in Africa.

Undule Mwakasungula, a gay rights activist in Malawi, said the couple’s decision to declare their relationship with an engagement ceremony, a first in Malawi, appears to have been personal, not political. Mwakasungula said others have been prosecuted under the law, but this case was different because the two men were open about their homosexuality.

“This is the most publicized case related to that penal code,” he said.

Mwakasungula said he did not know the couple before their arrest, but that he and other activists have supported them since. He said they were relaxed before the verdict, but concerned that if they were released, they could be attacked by Malawians who have threatened them.

Mwakasungula said activists had planned to take the two to a safe house if they had been found innocent, but that given the laws and the climate in Malawi, a guilty verdict had been expected.

“It’s a challenge in terms of us pushing for legal reform,” Mwakasungula said. “We can’t be using a law that was enacted in 1940.”

The verdict is “extremely disturbing,” said Michaela Clayton of the Namibia-based AIDS & Rights Alliance for Southern Africa, saying it could encourage anti-gay sentiment in the region as well as set back the fight against AIDS. Gay people forced underground in Africa are unlikely to seek counseling and treatment for AIDS, she and other activists said.

Homosexuality is illegal in at least 37 countries on the continent. In Uganda, lawmakers are considering a bill that would sentence homosexuals to life in prison and include capital punishment for “repeat offenders.” Even in South Africa, the only African country that recognizes gay rights, gangs have carried out so-called “corrective” rapes on lesbians.

Clayton said gays and other minorities in Africa had in recent years become more assertive about their sexual orientation and about claiming their rights, which could have led to the backlash.

“We have to keep on being strategic about the way we push this agenda forward,” she said.

Priti Patel of the Southern African Litigation Centre, an independent rights group, said Monjeza and Chimbalanga could appeal on the grounds that the laws under which they were prosecuted violate the country’s 1994 constitution. But an earlier attempt by their lawyer to have the case thrown out on those grounds was rejected.

Malawi’s government has been defiant in the face of international criticism over the prosecution of Monjeza and Chimbalanga. Months before the verdict, Information Minister Leckford Mwanza Thoto said it was clear the two had broken the law.

Malawi church leaders have backed the government, saying homosexuality is “sinful” and the West should not be allowed to use its financial power to force Malawi to accept homosexuality. Malawi relies on donors for 40 percent of its development budget.

The controversy, though, has emboldened some human rights activists in Malawi. The Center for the Development of People was recently formed to fight for the rights of homosexuals and other minorities.

Associated Press Writer Donna Bryson in Johannesburg contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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