Thursday, January 29, 2015

Raul Castro Warns U.S. Against Meddling in Cuba's Affairs
Wed, Jan 28 2015
By Enrique Pretel

SAN JOSE (Reuters) - Cuba will not accept any interference from the United States, President Raul Castro said on Wednesday, warning that meddling in its internal affairs would make rapprochement between the two countries "meaningless."

His comments came after U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, the highest-ranking U.S. government official to visit the island in nearly 40 years, last week met with dissidents a day after talks with Cuban government officials.

"Everything appears to indicate that the aim is to foment an artificial political opposition via economic, political and communicational means," Castro told a summit in Costa Rica.

"If these problems are not resolved, this diplomatic rapprochement between Cuba and the United States would be meaningless," he said.

However, Castro made it clear he was committed to the talks despite his concern that Washington might try to foment internal opposition within Cuba through greater telecommunications access and the internet.

He also urged U.S. President Barack Obama to use executive powers to ease a decades-long embargo against Cuba, saying Washington could extend measures like those announced for telecoms to other areas of the economy.

Obama's new policy specifically singled out telecoms in Cuba as an area that Washington is willing to allow U.S. companies to invest in, and for its part Havana has said it is ready to let that happen.

Castro reiterated that he has no plans to budge from Cuba's single party political system, although observers say that does not rule out the possibility that independent politicians might be given space to run for election in the future.

Castro said Obama's decision to hold a debate in Congress about eliminating the embargo was "significant", adding he was aware that ending it "will be a long and hard road".

The United States and Cuba held historic high-level talks in Havana last week that are expected to lead to the re-establishment of diplomatic ties severed by Washington in 1961.

Obama needs approval from the Republican-controlled Congress to completely normalize relations with Cuba, and Republicans such as Florida Senator Marco Rubio have opposed engagement as long as Cuba maintains a one-party state, represses dissidents and controls the media.

(Additional reporting by David Adams in Miami; Writing by Simon Gardner; Editing by Gunna Dickson, Kieran Murray and Christian Plumb)
United States Military Intelligence Contractor Killed in Libyan Hotel Attack
By Dan Lamothe
January 28 at 4:32 PM

Growing up in the shadow of the Army’s Fort Huachuca in Arizona, David J. Berry wanted to join the military from the time he was a child. He studied its history, its tactics, and the intertwined relationship it had with foreign policy, his father said.

Berry, 33, was killed in an attack by militants on the luxury Corinthia Hotel in Libya’s capital on Tuesday. A private security contractor, he was a Marine Corps veteran who had served in Special Operations units and performed counterintelligence. He had been working in Libya for nearly a year, but had recently visited his family in the United States. He leaves a wife, Elizabeth, and four children between the ages of 13 and nearly 2, said his father, James Berry.

“He loved what he was doing, and he was a true American patriot,” Berry’s father said. “He had told Elizabeth and myself when he was back in the States about a week ago on a brief visit that he was very happy with what he was doing. He felt like he was making progress in Libya, in Tripoli, with the warring factions there and really felt that his presence was extremely important.”

Berry was a project security manager with Team Crucible LLC, a private security training and operations firm in Fredericksburg, Va., the company said. The company’s chief operating officer, Cliff Taylor, declined to disclose the nature of Berry’s work.

“On January 27th our company was the victim of a terrorist attack at The Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, Libya,” Taylor said in a statement. “During the attack one of our employees, David Berry was killed. Our company mourns this extraordinary loss with his family and friends.”

Berry is the only American victim to be identified following the attack, in which gunmen stormed the seaside hotel and a car bomb exploded, killing at least 10. He and his wife own a home in Gainesville, Va., about 40 miles west of Washington, and have other family in his native state of Arizona.

Elizabeth Berry was not ready to comment on her husband’s death, James Berry said. She did not return a voice mail left Wednesday morning.

Berry’s death highlights both the spiraling violence in Libya, and the quiet work that U.S. veterans sometimes do as contractors after leaving military service.

An offshoot of the Islamic State militant group in Libya claimed responsibility for the attack, saying on Twitter it was launched in solidarity with a Libyan man who was allegedly involved in al-Qaeda’s 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. That man, Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, was snatched in a U.S. Special Operations raid outside his home in Libya in 2013 and died in a New York hospital earlier this month before going to trial. He had advanced liver cancer when he was captured, authorities said

Libya has been rocked by a series of bombings and ongoing fighting between rival militias in recent months. The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli was evacuated in July. At least 156 military and diplomatic personnel left in a convoy of 39 armored vehicles for Tunisia. The operation required Air Force fighter jets and U.S. Marines in MV-22 Osprey aircraft to fly overhead in case violence erupted. Last week, the State Department warned U.S. citizens against traveling to Libya and recommended that any Americans there leave immediately.

Berry went to boot camp within months of graduating high school, serving in the Marine Corps from September 2000 to September 2012. He earned the rank of staff sergeant before leaving the service, said Yvonne Carlock, a Marine Corps spokeswoman at Quantico, Va.

Berry initially served as a rifleman in the infantry but eventually became an intelligence specialist and a Special Operations capabilities specialist. Berry deployed at least five times beginning in 2002, including twice to Afghanistan and three times to Iraq, and earned the Combat Action Ribbon after personally being involved in combat.

As a Marine, Berry liked serving in the infantry but was enamored with the counterintelligence world. He learned Arabic and noted with pride how important Fort Huachuca — in his hometown of Sierra Vista, Ariz. — was to the intelligence world as the home of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center, his father said.

“At that point in time, he became very, very happy with what he was doing,” James Berry said of his son working in the intelligence world. “He said, ‘Dad, I have a lot of stories to tell you but I can’t tell you anything about what I’m doing. But I love my job.’”

He decided to leave the service as military operations in Afghanistan drew to a close. Berry joined another private security firm, the Surveillance Reconnaissance Intelligence Group, in August 2012, and he later helped train Lebanese armed forces in Beirut while working for American Systems Corp., a firm with headquarters in Chantilly, Va., according to his LinkedIn profile.

Berry joined Team Crucible in July 2014 and worked as both a site security manager and project security manager, according to the profile. He stayed in touch with family frequently through e-mail while he was gone, his father said.

“He knew about the warring factions in the place he was at, and he knew about the conflict, and he was trying to bring a conciliatory voice into the conflict,” James Berry said. “He was trying to bring some kind of unity to that country. I would say that practicality was definitely one of his strong suits. That, and patience. He knew how to work in the system there because he knew the culture, and he expressed extreme optimism when I wanted to talk to him about what he was currently doing.”

Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.
'Friendship Nine's' Convictions for Lunch Counter Civil Rights Sit-in Vacated
Black students take part in a civil rights sit-in at the whites-only lunch counter at McCrory's in Rock Hill, S.C., in 1961 (The Herald)


Convictions are erased for the 'Friendship 9' black civil rights protesters of 1961
The old men walked into the courtroom with halting steps, grayer and a bit slower than when they were young.

They had been hauled into a nearby courtroom here 54 years ago this week. That time, a white judge, B. Drennan Hayes, convicted them of trespassing for staging a sit-in at a whites-only lunch counter in this Southern textile town.

He gave the nine men a choice: a $100 fine or 30 days on the York County chain gang.

They chose the chain gang. So began the civil rights “jail, no bail” movement, which helped galvanize opposition to public segregation in the Jim Crow South.

On Wednesday morning, seven of those men faced the judge's nephew, Judge John C. Hayes III. This time, Judge Hayes threw out their 1961 convictions as an overflow courtroom of blacks and whites erupted in a standing ovation.

“We cannot rewrite history, but we can right history,” the judge told the defendants, who minutes later rose unsteadily to acknowledge cheers from friends and strangers.

The judge's ruling was a stirring rebuke to this city's racist past. For Rock Hill, it was a belated gesture of reconciliation and an acknowledgment of its shameful treatment of its black citizens half a century ago.

For the former student activists, now in their 70s, it was vindication for a bold, youthful act of defiance that helped inspire the civil rights movement.

“My heart was leaping,” defendant Clarence Graham, 72, said minutes after Hayes vacated the convictions. “I can hold my head a little bit higher.”

The men — Graham, Robert McCullough, John Gaines, Thomas Gaither, W.T. “Dub” Massey, James Frank Wells, Willie McCleod, David Williamson and Mack Workman — became known as the Friendship Nine, after the now-defunct Friendship Junior College most of them attended.

They were knocked off lunch counter stools by white police officers and dragged out of McCrory's Variety Store in Rock Hill on Jan. 31, 1961. It was a year after the better-known Woolworth's lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro, N.C.

On the chain gang, the convicts defied their white jailers and sang songs in protest as they dug up dirt and stones. A 10th defendant, Charles E. Taylor, was tried before them and accepted an offer by the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People to pay his fine, to avoid being stripped of an athletic scholarship.

The men's convictions haunted them for decades. Graham, a retired social worker, said it complicated his efforts to find a decent job. They were abused and spat on by local whites and, as Graham put it, “called the N-word.”

Seven of the nine were in the courtroom Wednesday. McCullough died in 2006, and one defendant was unable to attend Wednesday's hearing.

A clerk read from the original 1961 docket sheet, calling out each defendant's name and their fate: “Sent to chain gang.”

The men appeared in court with the same lawyer they had in 1961 — Ernest A. Finney Jr., who later became the first black South Carolina Supreme Court justice since Reconstruction.

Finney, 83, a retired chief justice, rose slowly in court to move to vacate the convictions. “Justice and equity demand that this motion be granted,” he said.

Hayes told the men: “Those who, like the Friendship Nine, sat down at lunch counters were in reality standing up for the best in the American dream and our most sacred values.”

York County Solicitor Kevin Brackett, a white man who was born four years after the sit-in, supported the defense motion.

After he was contacted last fall by Kimberly Johnson, a children's author who wrote a book about the Friendship Nine, Brackett and Johnson worked to get the convictions erased, aiming for the 54th anniversary of the sit-in this week.

“There is only one reason these men were arrested and charged … and that is because they were black,” Brackett told the judge.

Then Brackett turned to the defendants sitting a few feet away and offered what he called his “heartfelt apologies.”

“Our community, our country, is a better place today because of what you all did,” Brackett said. “On behalf of the state, you are my heroes.”

Brackett said that vacated convictions are usually expunged but he asked to preserve them for their historical value. The judge agreed.

Rock Hill's white mayor, Doug Echols, also spoke of the terrible injustice committed in 1961. “This history that is bent straight here … is what courage looks like when good people step forward to lead,” he told a standing-room-only courtroom of 250 people.

After Hayes' ruling, the Friendship men were hugged and backslapped by supporters. One former convict burst out in the courtroom with a vigorous rendition of Sam Cooke's 1960 ballad “Chain Gang.”

Graham wept as he described an elderly white woman who recently approached him at the lunch counter site, now called Five & Dime, to apologize for failing to intervene while at the counter that day in 1961.

While Graham, now a great-grandfather, said he felt vindication and relief, he said he also wished the ruling had come in 1968, when he returned from serving in Vietnam and couldn't find a job. The men's names were later engraved on stools at the sit-in site.

One of the Friendship Nine, Williamson, was asked whether he ever thought his name would one day be cleared. “Nope,” he said firmly. “But it's never too late, and I'm grateful.”

Finney, the retired justice, sat quietly at the defense table as the defendants accepted congratulations. It was a momentous day, he said, and one he did not think he would see in his lifetime.

Finney was asked if he thought Rock Hill and the South had made significant strides toward true racial equality.

“We'll see,” the judge said. “There's still work to be done.”

Twitter: @davidzucchino

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Zambia Appoints First Woman Vice President
Inonge Wina appointed Vice President.
Updated Jan. 26, 2015 2:24 p.m. ET

KAMPALA, Uganda—Zambia’s newly-elected President Edgar Lungu on Monday appointed the country’s first female vice president and retained the country’s finance minister in a bid to arrest flagging growth in the copper-rich southern African nation.

Inonge Wina, national chairwoman of Mr. Lungu’s Patriotic Front and the former gender minister, assumes the post vacated by Guy Scott, who became Zambia’s acting president in October after the death of President Michael Sata.

In other personnel moves, the new Zambian leader also decided to keep on Alexander Chikwanda as finance minister and Harry Kalaba as the foreign minister to foster economic and foreign policy continuity, the office of the president said.

Mr. Lungu on Sunday narrowly defeated his rival, Hakainde Hichilema of the opposition United Party for National Development, winning by about 27,000 votes the right to complete the late Mr. Sata’s term. The next general election is scheduled for September 2016.

His toughest challenge is to revive the economy of Africa’s second-largest copper producer. Zambia’s economic growth last year was estimated at 5.5%, its slowest pace in more than a decade. The slowdown has been blamed on reduced mining output and less domestic investment due to tax disputes.

During his campaign, Mr. Lungu pledged to continue Mr. Sata’s populist policies, such as improving workers’ conditions and supplying cheaper food and fuel to the country’s 15 million people.

But with global copper prices at close to their lowest level in six years and with mining companies such as Barrick Gold Corp. threatening to shut down operations over a new tax regime introduced by the government this month, it won’t be easy for Mr. Lungu to fulfill those campaign promises.

He also faces divisions within his own ruling party.

After he took over as acting president in October, becoming Zambia’s first white head of state, Mr. Scott fired Mr. Lungu from his party post. But riots the capital Lusaka forced Mr. Scott to reinstate him.

Mr. Scott, who was barred under Zambia’s constitution from running for president because his parents weren’t born in the country, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Write to Nicholas Bariyo at
We Are Witnessing a Quiet Revolution on the Political Scene’
Juliet Ibekaku is a lawyer and women's rights advocate in Nigeria.
Wednesday, 28 January 2015 00:00
Nigerian Guardian

Juliet Ibekaku, a lawyer and women’s rights advocate, says it is time for women to stand up and be counted. The pioneer staff member of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), an active member of the civil society and deputy governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Enugu State, told KODILINYE OBIAGWU in Enugu that her objective “is to be an example for other women, who would want to join politics,” as her plans are beyond the February elections.

WHAT her participation as a deputy governorship candidate means to the womenfolk and herself

MOST importantly for me, I think this is the first time in Enugu State that the political class is looking beyond the male folks to pick a woman as a running mate.

  It is exciting because potentially, this could lead to a situation where a woman could be governor.

  For women, it opens a new vista of possibilities; it raises hopes and reassures them that they could have a voice in the Government House.

On her qualification, more than any other woman, to be in the race

  Certainly, there are a lot of qualified women; some very experienced in politics. But I reckon that my background in development projects prepared me adequately for this.

  I have worked extensively on development projects, both locally and internationally — on anti-corruption programmes; building up governance structures across the world; working closely with the United Nations on drugs and crimes, and closely with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

  I have also worked with the British Department for International Development as an anti-corruption manager.

  My contribution within the development sector is essentially built up on how to develop government structures that work for the Nigerian people.

  My background cuts across governance, security, law enforcement and criminal justice. With this background, I believe that we, in APC, have a lot to offer the people of Enugu.

Exactly what the APC offers the people of Enugu

  We are critically interested in four areas of concern. They range from education, the health systems, agriculture and water.

  We want to build an enduring education system, making sure the young people can get quality education that is comparable with any system anywhere in the world.

  There are local communities without clinics or the presence of any doctor and we believe it is critical. We cannot think of having a strong system without a thriving health sector where the health of the people is secured.

  We are looking at agriculture as an alternative source of revenue instead of relying on federal allocation. One way of doing this is to build up the infrastructure in the sector and enhance the agro-based industries.

  Water offers a major challenge. Most people in Enugu don’t have access to water. The taps are always dry and people rely of water hawkers. The question is: What have successive governments have been doing on this matter?

   The development of infrastructure is tied to industrial development because we cannot talk of industrial development without a strong power base, and good road network, for example.

  Infrastructural development has to happen for us to have that boost in agricultural development, which will reduce poverty and create jobs.

Her plans for the womenfolk

I AM deeply involved in women rights, and working with women is something I have done almost all my life. I want to promote women and their capability to participate in political, social and economic agendas.

  I am concerned at those women issues such as economic empowerment, where they can have access to credit facilities and those without skills will be trained at skills acquisition centres.

  We have to think out schemes on how to empower women economically because, when you build their economic power base, you empower them to go into politics.

  I believe that women who are able should get into politics. I also believe that without a solid economic base, we can’t talk about politics.

  Politics today involves a lot of resources. A woman is more likely to participate better in politics and I encourage them to, by creating those economic bases and letting them know that with these, they can go out there and stand on their own.

  We have been able to empower and train young women by providing leadership training to them because we know that when you are trained as a leader, you are able to go out there and participate in politics.

On the seeming singing and dancing role of women at campaigns

  The men sing and dance too; it is not really all about singing and dancing for the womenfolk. The women I work with are not there just to sing; it is wrong to deploy them as just an appendage to the political process.

  At every level of the APC structure, there is an effort to ensure the greater participation of women in the process of decision-making.

  For example, in most APC states, like Lagos, Osun and Ogun, the governors have women as running mates or deputies.

The kind of demand her first time outing on this level of politics exert on her

  It is my first time I am running a campaign on the platform of a political party as a deputy governorship candidate.

  I have run for election as a students’ union leader, a member of the Nigerian Bar Association and in different fora.

  In comparison, I think it is a different process in terms of how we negotiate and share political power, at the state or federal levels. It is different from the way you share it when you are talking about associations.

  Here, we are talking of how to ensure that everybody in Enugu is represented. What I see is defining those power dynamics and making sure every interest is catered for.

Tracing much of what the womenfolk have got to the Affirmative Action (AA), which they have religiously latched on

  Affirmative Action became necessary given that over time, men have always been in control to the detriment of the women, especially when you talk of control in terms of resources.

  In order to create at least 35 per cent level-playing field, it became necessary to enact that principle. Without AA, it would not have been possible in Nigeria to get the number of women we have today in government.

  But still, some parties do not find it necessary to have women at the highest level of governance.

  For example, except for Taraba State, where Senator Aisha Jumai Alhassan, representing Taraba North, is the governorship candidate of the APC, there is no other state where a woman is the governorship candidate. Why should that be so?

  The AA has become a way of discouraging the men from taking everything. It has created an opportunity for women but it doesn’t mean that women should just sit down and wait for the AA to be invoked before they can get positions.

  It also means that before you can give that position to the woman, it has to be a woman who has the right mix of capabilities to manage that position.

  We are looking for women with such credentials and who are able to take those positions and make a difference in the lives of other women.

What she will do differently in her work with women if the APC is elected

WORKING in government will create more opportunities for me to extend my reach. Whichever party wins in Enugu, the womenfolk will be looking forward to having a deal better than ever before.

  They are hoping that the woman that eventually comes in as deputy will have their interests at heart, look out for them and probably do more for them.

  The difference, for me, is that because I already have established a framework for engagement for women, I am looking forward to reaching out to every woman, youth, as everyone is looking up to me as a woman who has done this before and who could translate that into a government framework and development policies.

In case the APC does not win

  When you fight a good fight and lose, you don’t feel any different, because you know you have put in your best. And you look forward to another time. There will be no regrets.

On a particular thing(s) she has seen in campaigns that struck her

  The level of poverty is worrisome. If we don’t see a change in the administration of this country at all levels, Nigeria might be facing a revolution.

  We are already a failed state by some definitions, but there are some parameters that are showing that we are almost failed.

  The level of poverty is disturbing and the capability of those who are impoverished to begin to take the laws into their hands is very disturbing.

  Some people come to rallies because they expect they will be given as little as N500 or N1,000, and you wonder if people are interested in changing government or just collecting the handouts.

  I am bothered about the implication of this situation. It is obvious that those waiting for the handouts see election as a time to get something back from the government that has denied them so much.

Assessment of strength of the APC going into the election at both federal and state levels

  The impact of the APC has gone beyond the expectations of the ruling party. It is a quiet revolution and all of us are waiting to see what will happen after the February elections.

  What we have now is a strong party that can stand toe to toe with the ruling party. If the APC wins, it would mean that it has become as strong as the PDP.

  I believe that Nigerians are looking forward to the change in government because of the shortcomings of the ruling party in the last 16 years.

   I think it is a good thing for Nigeria because the political process has become more competitive. We need the sort of competition between the Republicans and the Democrats in the United States.

  Nigeria needs to have a competitive democratic process in a way that we can have enduring institutions and lasting development.

Chances of the APC in Enugu

  We want to see a transparent electoral process in terms of knowing that INEC has created a level-playing field for all parties.

  The contest is not between the PDP and the APC; there are 18 parties in this race.

  If the APC is giving the ruling party at the centre a good fight, it means that it has that capacity in the states to replicate the fight.

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Nigerian Striking Health Workers Storm Ibadan
by Oseheye Okwuofu, Ibadan
The Nation, Nigeria

•Strike goes on

The industrial action by members of the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP) and the  Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) yesterday took a new dimension as the striking  health workers  stormed Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.

They vowed to continue the over three months strike, until the government responds to their demands.

The workers, led by the National President of the Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy, Dr Taiwo Oyewumi of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, declared that President Goodluck Jonathan had been fed with lies on the strike.

Adewumi warned the Federal Government not to withhold the salaries of the striking  workers, saying such method would aggravate the situation.

Many lives, he said, have been lost, while all government hospitals have been deserted, leaving patients in agony.

Addressing reporters at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Adewumi said the workers were aware of the plan to frustrate their efforts to press home their demands.

He said the workers were eager to return to work but were yet to receive the Federal Government’s circular that would formalise the agreements reached.

“We are aware of the effect of the strike. This is because hospital services require team work. No profession can stand on its own unless the teams work together as a unit.

“The eight-point demands of JOHESU and Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals are still the same but it is disappointing that the government has refused to do the right thing.

“Since the declaration, there have been meetings with government representatives. Six meetings were held between October 15 and December 24, last year.

“The minister of Labour and Productivity, who presided over the December 22 meeting, promised to meet President Goodluck Jonathan to get approval leading to the issuance of circulars on the said matters.

“Of the 10 circulars we are expecting, only one was issued which is the one concerning consultant status of other health professionals. We are ready to call off the strike but it seems the President is being fed with wrong information on the effect of the strike.”

Adewumi said the workers have rejected some of the recommendations of the Yayale Ahmed Report because some of the issues raised were matters pending in court.

“The Yayale Ahmed Report duplicated duties and that is one of the reasons why we rejected it. We rejected the office of the Surgeon General so there is no reason for the report to introduce or recommend it again.”
Boko Haram: Regional Force Without Nigeria?
by Our Reporter on Jan 25, 2015
Nigerian Mirror

Latest reports that Cameroun, Chad and Niger, all of them French-speaking African countries, launched a new regional force against Boko Haram, without carrying Nigeria along, seem a strong indicator that there exists a major disconnect among the neighbouring francophone countries and Nigeria, whose North-East region of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe have been the thresholds of ceaseless violent assaults by the Boko Haram Islamist sect since 2009. Cameroun, Chad and Niger are said to have kicked against any major military deployment in areas occupied by the Boko Haram in Nigeria; and their aim of coming out with the regional force is to ward off Boko Haram insurgency and protect their own sides of joint borders with Nigeria, particularly in the Lake Chad region.

The three neighboring countries were said to have taken the initiative because of Nigeria’s weak response to the insurgents’ horrendous killings, abductions and destructions in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, among others. Niger’s Defence Minister, Karidjo Mahamadou, was quoted as saying, for example: “The most worrying situation for us today is Nigeria. It’s the situation of Boko Haram. Since November (2014), we have no longer been at that post (Baga in Borno State). We explained to the Nigerians that we could not stay since we did not wish to put the lives of our soldiers in danger”.  Cameroun was said to be strongly opposed to the Baga deployment option, too; and would not send any troop into Nigeria on a permanent basis henceforth. President Paul Biya, the Camerounian leader, was said to favour the exchange of intelligence reports to enable coordinated operations, instead of joint military operations with Nigerian soldiers. He is insisting that each nation – Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroun – should act on its own territory around Lake Chad, according to reports.

Cameroun has for months been complaining about Nigerian army’s lack of fighting spirit and mass desertions in the face of the ostensibly more gallant Islamists. An unnamed Camerounian military officer was quoted as saying recently that “Nigerian soldiers abandon their weapons when they desert their positions. Those are the weapons with which we are attacked.” Perhaps, Chad opted to work with Cameroun because of what was tagged as “the courageous and determined response of (Cameroun’s) armed forces against the criminal and terrorist acts of Boko Haram”.

We recall, nonetheless, that in February last year, the Boko Haram sect threatened to declare war on Cameroun if she did not cease to support Nigeria’s military campaign against it. This followed vicious attacks and casualties Cameroun’s military inflicted on members of the sect who sought refuge from the onslaughts of the Nigerian military in Cameroun, Niger and Chad. Until the latest development, however, Cameroun did not relent in repelling the terrorists. The country has, of late, reportedly killed them in their hundreds. But it is not unlikely that the latest turn of events has to do with the January 3 to 7, 2015 terrorist attacks on Baga, which led to the massive destruction of a large expanse of civilian settlements and huge loss of lives; in addition to increasing terrorist attacks on the Lake Chad Basin region along Nigeria’s borders with Chad and Cameroun; and in the northern provinces of Cameroun, especially.

But with the outcomes of the May 17, 2014 Paris Summit convened a little over a month after the abduction of over 200 school girls from Chibok, Borno State; which underscored the commitment of countries in the Lake Chad Basin region to enhance information sharing, coordination and joint operations, in addition to the support of bilateral and multilateral partners to more effectively combat Boko Haram; the follow-up London and Abuja ministerial meetings; the October 7, 2014 communiqué of the Extraordinary Summit of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) Heads of State; and the November 25, 2014 communiqué of the African Union Peace and Security Council on the efforts of the LCBC member states and Benin Republic to combat Boko Haram, etc., the decision of Cameroun, Chad and Niger to float a new regional force without Nigeria in the picture is a huge shock. It strongly indicates that LCBC Heads of State are incapable of raising a sustainable, viable and effective Multinational Joint Task Force to fight the insurgents.

Nigeria, for whatever reasons, may have been weak in tackling Boko Haram. Her soldiers may have acted cowardly, too, by deserting their duty posts at the slightest opportunity and abandoning their weapons. Yet no country in the Lake Chad Basin region is truly safe with the Boko Haram lurking around. It is bad enough that Cameroun, Chad and Niger withdrew their troops from joint border patrols with their Nigerian counterparts, when what is actually needed to hound Boko Haram out of the region is a concerted African onslaught. If Europe and America are foot-dragging in rendering assistance to Africa in the latter’s fight against Boko Haram; and a discriminatory regional force is being formed behind Nigeria, African leaders should ask themselves far-reaching questions. Cameroun, Chad and Niger should have a rethink. Besides, the Nigerian government owes its citizens detailed explanations on what is really happening.
Nigerian Federal Government, States to Cut Cost Over Oil Slump
Nigerian Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
JANUARY 28, 2015
Nigerian Punch

The Federal Ministry of Finance, the commissioners of finance and accountants-general of the 36 states of the federation have begun moves to reduce the high cost of governance in the country following the continuous decline in crude oil prices in the international market.

The need to prune expenditure, according to the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is necessitated by the persistent drop in oil prices, which has continued to have a negative impact on the revenue of government.

The minister in Abuja on Tuesday at the opening session of a three-day national treasury workshop, with the theme: ‘Optimum funds management in the midst of cash flow challenges’, called on states to align their spending with the austerity measures recently announced by the Federal Government.

Apart from the commissioners of finance, the workshop was attended by head of accounts of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the government and other relevant stakeholders in the finance and accounting subsectors of the nation’s economy.

Represented by the Minister of State for Finance, Ambassador Bashir Yuguda, Okonjo-Iweala predicted a tough fiscal year for the country but added that the Federal Government’s economic management team had the capacity to address the challenges.

She said while oil revenue accruing to the government had continued to decline, adequate measures had been put in place to shore up non-oil revenue.

For instance, she said that within the last few months, non-oil revenue receipts had increased, noting that the trend was expected to continue due to some of the reforms that had been put in place to improve tax administration.

The minister said, “The idea of the workshop is to discuss the challenges that we are having due to the fall in the revenue of the government

“How do we prioritise our products? How do we curtail unnecessary expenses? How do we reduce overheads and recurrent expenditures? How do we improve on the revenue profile in the country and diversification of the economy?

“This is the best time for us to be applying more of the knowledge that we have so that we should be able to navigate through the challenges we are having, and I believe that after this workshop, we should be able to come up with measures that align with what we have started already.

“We also called on the sub-national level of government to try to key into what we have been talking about. For us at the Federal Ministry of Finance, we are here to guide them and to share our own experiences and we are here to streamline strategy because what affects anyone of us as a nation, affects all.”

The Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. Jonah Otunla, said the workshop would not only add value to the government’s effort in keeping the treasury functional at all times, but would also assist in addressing the challenges of resource management.

He said, “The effect of dwindling oil price is not only peculiar to the country but to the entire world. This workshop is therefore coming at a very appropriate time, especially as the national budget is being processed by the National Assembly.

“It thus gives us a better opportunity to look at several other ways that will enable successful implementation of the budget and guarantee effective and efficient governance.”

Earlier, the Director, Funds, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Dikwa, said since government resources would not be able to cater for the needs of the people owing to revenue shortfall, the effects might be felt in the area of job losses, rising poverty, financial crisis and insecurity.
Nigerian Military Deploys Drones to Battle Boko Haram
Yusuf Alli, Abuja and Duku Joel, Maiduguri
The Nation, Nigeria

Sect hoists flag in Monguno

Come drones and other sophisticated equipment have been deployed in the Northeast to curtail Boko Haram’s insurgency, The Nation learnt yesterday.

It was also learnt that the military intensified air strikes on Boko Haram bases in Monguno to reclaim the town, which fell to the sect’s fighters last weekend.

The acquisition of the drones is part of the  new massive military campaign to be launched soon against Boko Haram.

A source, who spoke in confidence, said most of the equipment were sourced from the Far East, including Russia and Ukraine, following lack of cooperation by some Western countries.

The source said the arrival of the hardware has boosted the morale of troops.

The source said: “The military has deployed some drones and sophisticated hardware in the North-East in line with its timeline to end Boko Haram insurgency.

“These drones will complement ongoing air and land strikes against some bases of the sect.

“The simultaneous attacks on Monguno, Konduga and Maiduguri  by Boko Haram insurgents were pre-emptive steps against the military by the sect.

“With effective equipment, the insurgents were aware that the game is up and in annoyance, they decided to attack military installations and troops.”

The military has intensified air strikes on the insurgents’ locations in Monguno.

Another source said: “Troops will soon reclaim Monguno because the insurgents in the town have been trapped. They cannot move away from the town since troops have laid siege to all entry and exit points.

“You see, the insurgents also struck in Monguno, Konduga and Maiduguri to divert attention of the military from the relocation of some of their commanders from one of their strategic camps to another.”

Fleeing residents yesterday disclosed that the insurgents are in full control of the town.
Abdullahi Jibril, who fled to Maiduguri through Gajiganna told our correspondent that there was no military presence in Monguno.

Jibril said residents of Gajiganna, a town on the Baga/ Monguno road, were also on the run for fear of an impending attack by the insurgents.

“As I am talking to you now, there is no single soldier in Monguno. Anybody that is saying that there are soldiers fighting in Monguno is lying. The Boko Haram have put their flag in the hospital, police station and the military barracks. They are preaching in the place right now.

“I was lucky to escape after I moved my father and my mother to Gajiganna. They killed the Imam Bachila of  Bakasi area.  They also caught the chief Imam of Monguno town, Liman Modu who is the most respected in the town,” Abdullahi Jibril informed.

Hundreds of soldiers from Monguno are stranded and loitering on the streets of Maiduguri after the Sunday attack on the military formation in the area.

The soldiers were denied access to Maimalari Barracks and some of them were rather camped at AIT on Damboa Road.

Our correspondent who was on Baga Road saw many stranded soldiers among other hundred displaced civilians from Monguno, Baga and Gajiganna sitting under tree, with nowhere to go.

Some of the soldiers had their guns on their shoulders, their shuttle bags on their back.

Some of the soldiers who spoke on condition of anonymity expressed anger with the Federal Government for, according to him, not doing enough for them in the fight against Boko Haram.

“I can’t imagine that a Federal Government will abandon her soldiers to die in a fight that cannot take one hour to finish with serious commitment. We fight in the bush with Boko Haram and no one sends us any jet but when one man is coming for campaign, you see many Alpha Jets with helicopter gunships patrolling, flying in the air. Is this fair?” a soldier said.

Some of the soldiers were angry that they were denied access to the Maimalari Barracks in Maiduguri.

One said: “Can you imagine that as soldiers, we came into Maiduguri and the army authorities turned us down from entering the barracks. Where is the esprit de corps that we preach among us?”
U.S. Halts Israeli Military Aid to Nigeria
By Emeka Mamah With Agency Reports
Nigerian Vanguard

LAGOS--TWENTY-Four hours after US Secretary of State, John Kerry met President Goodluck Jonathan and former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, pledging his country's determination to work with Nigeria and other countries to end activities of the Boko Haram terrorists, the Israeli media, yesterday, revealed that the US stopped Nigeria's purchase of Chinook military helicopters from Israel to fight Boko Haram.

The sale/transfer of such aircraft required a review by the US, to determine its "consistency with US policy interests," Obama administration officials told The Jerusalem Post.

It quoted White House Assistant Press Secretary and Director for Strategic Communications, Ned Price, as saying that reviews of such kind take place in the case of "any requests for one country to transfer US-origin defence items to another country."

Nigeria's largest arms purchase ever reported was from Israel in 2007, in a deal with Aeronautics Systems worth $260 million. That company is Israeli, however, not American.

A single Chinook costs roughly $40 million to produce.

Vanguard had reported the Nigerian military in the past as saying that the country also resorted to training its security personnel on terrorist encounters in Russia and China because of the refusal of the US administration to sell arms to the government following "unfounded allegations of human rights violations by our troops," among others.

However, the reports quoted unnamed Nigerian officials as also saying that the US blocked the order "after the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had initially approved the purchase."

Policy directives

US officials told The Jerusalem Post that such transfers must be consistent with a policy directive revised by President Barack Obama in January, which outlines the criteria for conventional weapons sales.

The policy requires US transfers, including Boeing aircraft, to take into account "the risk that significant change in the political or security situation of the recipient country could lead to inappropriate end-use" of the weapons.

While the Nigerian report suggests Abuja sought the purchase of Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters, Israel predominantly uses Sikorsky CH-53 aircraft for missions involving heavy-lift transport. Both Boeing and Sikorsky are American companies.

Israeli laws concerning the export of arms is less restrictive than those in the United States. Israel, however, is a member of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and, in 2009, reported to the body that Israel, in practice, refrains from transfers "where there is imminent risk that arms might be internally diverted, illegally proliferated and re-transferred, or fall into the hands of terrorists or entities and states that support or sponsor them."

Sixteen nations operate the Chinook helicopter, none of which are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Nigerian officials were reported as saying that "we had even tried to procure arms from Russia but this was stalled because of the Ukrainian crisis, thus compelling us to turn to other nations like Israel. But even this has been frustrated by the US."

They further said it was not just in the area of arms procurement that US has been most unhelpful, adding that contrary to its public stance that it was assisting in the rescue operations of the abducted Chibok secondary school girls, it has done nothing significant to help Nigeria in this regard.

Other intelligence sources also cited the fact that the US has refused to share intelligence with Nigerian security forces in a timely manner.

They said: "When we complained, they started sharing some intelligence, but days after such intelligence is of little value".

Boko Haram gained notoriety around the world after its militants kidnapped 276 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State in April last year. The US sent military personnel to assist in finding the girls.

Amnesty connection

In August, Amnesty International said it had gathered video footage, images and testimonies that "implicates the Nigerian military in war crimes" which the Nigerian government vehemently denied.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Nigeria recently that the United States remains committed to helping the government combat Boko Haram.

"We are engaging with the Nigerian government at all levels to identify areas of counter-terrorism cooperation," other state officials earlier said.

This was contrary to what the US ambassador to Nigeria James Entwistle told reporters last October while speaking on the refusal by his country to sell high calibre weapons to Nigeria. Entwistle told reporters that "the kind of question that we have to ask is, let's say we give certain kinds of equipment to the Nigerian military and that is then used in a way that affects the human situation, if I approve that, I'm responsible for that. We take that responsibility very seriously."
Nigeria Military’s Response to Boko Haram Not Working – US Commander
January 28, 2015
Nigerian Vanguard

Turning the tide against Boko Haram will require a “huge” international effort, a top US military commander warned on Tuesday, taking a swipe at Nigeria’s response to the emboldened extremists.

Relations between the Nigerian and US militaries have been strained with Nigeria cancelling training by US advisers of a unit that was supposed to fight the militants, who have captured towns and villages in the country’s northeast and vowed to create a hardline Islamic state.

The conflict has left more than 13,000 people dead and one million homeless.

General David Rodriguez, head of US Africa Command, said the Islamists’ gains on the battlefield are cause for concern and “the number of people displaced is just staggering.”

“I think it’s going to take a huge international and multinational effort there to change a trajectory that continues to go in the wrong direction,” Rodriguez said at an event organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

“The Nigerian leadership and Nigerian military are going to have to really improve their capacities to be able to handle that.”

Rodriguez said the Nigerian military’s response “was not working very effectively and actually in some places made it worse.”

He added: “I hope that they let us help more and more.”

Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States, Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye, complained in November that his country is “not satisfied” with US support for the struggle against Boko Haram and that Washington has blocked the sale of some military hardware over human rights concerns.

In a visit Sunday to Lagos, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington was “prepared to do more” to help Nigeria counter Boko Haram.

Nigeria has the largest army in west Africa but has come under criticism at home and abroad for failing to stop the advance of Boko Haram.

The United States was working with Nigeria to build a comprehensive strategy “across the board, not just military,” that encompassed education, economic development and health care to address the needs of the population in the north, the four-star general said.

Another “big focus” was to bolster the country’s intelligence gathering, added Rodriguez.

- See more at:
Two Soldiers Killed, 7 Wounded in Hezbollah Attack Near Lebanon Border
IDF responds with artillery fire • Lieberman: Israel should respond in a 'forceful and disproportionate manner' • Number of IDF troops being treated at Sieff Hospital in Safed • UNIFIL soldier killed by Israeli response strike.

By Haaretz
Jan. 28, 2015
4:20 PM

Two Israeli soldiers were killed and seven wounded on Wednesday morning, after an anti-tank missile struck an Israel Defense Forces vehicle in the Har Dov area near the Lebanon border, as mortar shells were fired at nearby areas.

The wounded IDF troops were being treated at the Sieff Hospital in Safed and the Rambam Hospital in Haifa. Three suffered light to moderate wounds, and the rest were lightly wounded. The IDF said that no soldier had been kidnapped, despite earlier reports.

Despite the high alert in recent days, following the unconfirmed Israeli strike in Syira, the soldiers were driving in an unarmored vehicle on the Lebanon border when they were ambushed.

IDF forces responded with artilley fire, shelling several targets in southern Lebanon. A Spanish UNIFIL soldier was killed in the strikes. According to El-Mundo, the soldier is Francisco Javier Soria Toledo, 36, from Malaga, married without children.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who was meeting with China's foreign minister in Beijing, said Israel should respond in a "forceful and disproportionate manner" to the events, in the way that the U.S. or China would respond to similar events. He told his Chinese counterpart that he expects Israel to receive support from her friends in the world for such a response.

One of the mortar shells fired from Lebanon struck a home in Ghajar, a village which straddles the border, setting the structure alight. The mortar fire continued into the afternoon, aimed at the Hermon region. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for all of the attacks.

The IDF responded by shelling targets in southern Lebanon. Lebanese media quoted security officials as saying that Israel has fired at least 25 artillery shells into Lebanese territory. The officials said the shelling targeted the border villages of Majidiyeh, Abbasiyeh and Kfar Chouba near the Shebaa Farms area, according to Lebanese media.

A spokesman for UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping force deployed in south Lebanon since 1978, said the UN is looking into the circumstances of the incident in which one of the force's soliders was killed. He did not disclose the nationality of the soldier, but local media reports said he was a Spanish national.

The IDF warned that its response would only escalate if the attacks did. IDF spokesman Moti Almoz said the military views Hezbollah as responsible for the attacks, and said the IDF's shelling of targets in south Lebanon "would not necessarily be the final response to this incident."

The attacks took place as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in the southern city of Sderot, laying the cornerstone for a new neighborhood. "At these moments, the IDF is responding to the events in the north. Look what happened here. Not far from the city of Sderot, in Gaza, Hamas was hit by the strongest blow it ever received last summer… Security comes before all else. Security is the foundation for everything."

Netanyahu cut short his visit to Sderot and joined Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon for a security briefing in the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Residents in the northern city of Metula and the surrounding kibbutzim were instructed to remain indoors. The airports in Rosh Pina and Haifa suspended operations amid the ongoing fire.

The incident occured shortly after it emerged that IDF troops were digging in the same area search for possible Hezbollah tunnels. There was no apparent connection between the two incidents.

Hours earlier, the IDF launched a strike on Syrian Army artillery posts in retaliation for the four rockets fired Tuesday at Israeli territory, two of which exploded in the Golan Heights. Ya'alon said that areas targeted by the IDF in Syria were under control of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

Israeli artillery scored direct hits on Syrian targets in the Quneitra province, according to a statement released by the Israel Defense Forces' spokesperson: "The IDF holds the Syrian government accountable for all attacks emanating from its land, and will operate by any means necessary to defend Israeli civilians. Such blatant breaches of Israeli sovereignty will not be tolerated," the army statement read.

A rocket alert siren sounded in the Golan Heights before the Israeli strike, though the IDF said no rockets landed in Israeli-controlled territory.

Groups in the Syrian opposition said Wednesday morning that the overnight Israeli strikes targeted two bases belonging to the Syrian military in the Quneitra region, and one near the Damascus international airport.

Arab League Chief Nabil al-Arabi asked the UN Security Council to intervene in Lebanon to prevent deterioration in situation.

Lebanese politician Samir Geagea slammed Hezbollah's attack, saying the group has "no right to involve the Lebanese army and government in a battle with Israel," the Lebanese Naharnet reported. Geagea is the leader of the Christian party, Lebanese Forces, which is part of the March 14 Alliance which opposes Hezbollah.

Another Lebanese politician, Walid Jumblatt, warned that the rising tensions mean Lebanon will "enter a major turbulent phase," and accused Netanyahu of trying to score political points through the Israeli airstrike on the Quneitra region last week. Jumblatt is the leader of the Druze Progressive Socialist Party, formerly affiliated with the March 14 Alliance, but currently siding with Hezbollah on the Syria Civil War.

Gili Cohen, Noa Shpigel, Jack Khoury, Amos Harel, Barak Ravid, Ido Efrati and AP contributed to this report.
Violence Flares on Israel-Lebanon Frontier; Seven Israeli Soldiers Wounded
9:35am EST
By Jeffrey Heller and Sylvia Westall

JERUSALEM/BEIRUT (Reuters) - The threat of a full-blown conflict between Israel and Hezbollah increased on Wednesday after the Lebanese militant group fired a missile at an Israeli army vehicle along the frontier and wounded seven soldiers, the biggest escalation since a 2006 war.

The attack, which Hezbollah said was carried out by one of its brigades in the area, was in apparent retaliation for a Jan. 18 Israeli air strike in southern Syria that killed several Hezbollah members as well as an Iranian general.

It came hours after air strikes by Israeli jets near the occupied Golan Heights overnight, which Israel's military said was in response to rocket fire from Syria.

Tensions in the region, where the frontiers of Israel, Lebanon and Syria meet and militant groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are active, have been bubbling for months but have boiled over in the past 10 days.

There were initial reports on Lebanese media that an Israeli soldier was captured during the attack, but the Israeli army denied it, as did a Lebanese political source.

A member of a United Nations' peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon was killed as Israel conducted airstrikes after the attack, a UN spokesman said. Officials in Spain said the peacekeeper was Spanish.

Israeli medics confirmed that seven Israeli soldiers were wounded but said none of the injuries were life-threatening.

The frontier has largely been quiet since 2006, when Hezbollah and Israel fought a 34-day war in which 120 people in Israel and more than 500 in Lebanon were killed.

Since the end of a 50-day conflict with Hamas militants in Gaza last year, Israel has warned about friction on the northern border, including the possibility that Hezbollah might dig tunnels to infiltrate Israel. In recent days it has moved more troops and military equipment into the area.

A retired Israeli army officer, Major-General Israel Ziv, said he believed Wednesday's assault was an attempt by Hezbollah to draw Israel more deeply into the war in Syria, where Hezbollah is fighting alongside forces loyal to President Assad.

"Israel understands that we need to contain things," he said. "Israel needs to protect its interests but not take any unnecessary steps that may pull us into the conflict in Syria."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made security his top priority ahead of parliamentary elections on March 17, said Israel was "prepared to act powerfully on all fronts," adding: "Security comes before everything else."

His office accused Iran of being behind what was described as a "criminal terror attack". Iran is a major funder of Hezbollah, a Shi'ite group headed by Hassan Nasrallah.

In Beirut, celebratory gunfire rang out after the attack, while residents in the southern suburbs of the city, where Hezbollah is strong, packed their bags and prepared to evacuate neighborhoods that were heavily bombed by Israel in 2006.

In Gaza, Palestinian militant groups praised Hezbollah.

It remains to be seen whether Israel and Hezbollah, having both drawn blood, will back away from further confrontation. With Israel weeks away from an election and Hezbollah deeply involved in support of Assad in Syria, there would appear to be little interest in a wider conflict for either side.

(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell, Luke Baker and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem, Laila Bassam and Oliver Holmes in Beirut, Julien Toyer in Madrid and Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Amman; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

From Civil Rights to Black Power: The Significance of the Alabama Freedom Movement of 1965-66
Application of independent politics transformed the African American struggle

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
African American History Month Series

With the release of the “Selma” film tremendous interests has been generated among youth activists in the struggle for Voting Rights as it reached its apex in March 1965.

This campaign for the ballot in Dallas County, Alabama, where Selma is located, did not begin when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) intervened during early Jan. 1965.  In fact, as mentioned in the film, organizers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had been working in Selma for at least two years prior to SCLC.

In a first person account by Prathia Hall, a SNCC field secretary, she says that “In early winter 1963, SNCC field secretary Bernard Lafayette was beaten and jailed in Selma, where he and his wife, Colia, had been working alone. Immediately afterward James Forman, executive secretary of SNCC, came to Southwest Georgia and said, ‘Come on, Prathia, we need you in Selma.’“ (Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts of Women in SNCC, p. 470, 2010)

Hall went on to point out that “The members of the Dallas County Voters’ League had been working there for ages; they were part of that longtime movement struggle. They had done some voting rights work, and small numbers of schoolteachers and other middle-class black people had been registered. League members also had filed some related lawsuits.”

When SNCC workers arrived in the early 1960s, they began by working with high school students living in the projects. Hall stresses that “The 1965 Selma Movement could never have happened if SNCC hadn’t been there opening up Selma in 1962 and 1963. The later, nationally known movement was the product of more than two years of very careful, very slow work.”

The Intervention of Malcolm X

After the coming to Selma of Dr. King and SCLC in early 1965, on Feb. 3, Malcolm X, the founder of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), visited Alabama where he spoke at Tuskegee Institute, a historically African American university eighty miles away from Selma. Malcolm had broken with the Nation of Islam nearly a year earlier pledging to work in an alliance with the Civil Rights Movement, particularly the youth.

Fay Bellamy Powell, a former member of the U.S. Air Force, was recruited into SNCC during late 1964 and wound up in Dallas County, Alabama running the organization’s office and conducting press work. She found out along with Silas Norman, also of SNCC, the details of Malcolm X’s itinerary at Tuskegee.

When they arrived on Feb. 3 at the campus auditorium the place was packed with standing room only. The SNCC workers were able to get into the hall and eventually spoke with Malcolm after his lecture which consisted of an extended question and answer period.

Powell and Norman invited the OAAU leader to come to Selma the following day to address a group of youth working in the movement. Malcolm immediately agreed to come and they arrived at Brown’s Chapel A.M.E. Church on the morning of Feb. 4 where they were swarmed by both U.S. and European press reporters.

Powell wrote of the experience that “Each morning Brown’s Chapel would fill with elementary, junior high and high school students. They were the core of the Selma Movement and took part in all the demonstrations. Usually these morning sessions were lively and noisy. On the day Malcolm spoke, although the church was packed with young people, there was no noise, no shuffling of feet, no coughing, no squirming. Only Malcolm’s voice could be heard.” (Hands on the Freedom Plow, p. 474)

Later when Powell and Norman drove Malcolm to the Montgomery airport he told them that the OAAU was planning to send organizers into the South and wanted to know if SNCC would work with them. Powell said “Silas and I answered Malcolm’s question with an enthusiastic ‘Yes!’ and asked that he return in the not too distant future. Three weeks later, Malcolm was assassinated. That was a dream deferred.”

The Formation of the Black Panther Party in Alabama (1965-66)

In the aftermath of the Selma to Montgomery march, Stokely Carmichael, later known as Kwame Ture, a SNCC field secretary, became the Lowndes County project director. Working with local students and community activists, they formed the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO), an independent political party with the Black Panther as its symbol.

Gloria House, then a graduate student at the University of California, went to work in Alabama as a SNCC field secretary in the summer of 1965. The racist murder of white Episcopal seminarian Jonathan Daniels in Hayneville, located in Lowndes County, on Aug. 20, prompted House to return as a full-time Civil Rights worker for SNCC that fall.

She later wrote that “In Lowndes we organized the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, which initiated the formation of an independent black political party. Influenced by the defeat of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), we chose to create a separate political party instead of seeking admission into the Democratic Party. Jack Minnis, a researcher in SNCC’s Atlanta office, discovered a provision in the Alabama Administrative Code that allowed independent parties to enter county elections if certain stipulations were met.” (Hands on the Freedom Plow”, p. 509)

House continued later to note that “SNCC workers spread the idea of independent black political parties from Lowndes County to other Alabama counties where black people constituted sizable majorities. Later I moved into Selma to help other SNCC organizers establish the freedom party of Dallas County. The fruits of our labor in the Alabama independent parties were not immediately reaped in the 1966 elections, but rather in 1970, when black people in a handful of counties won positions in local government. These officials subsequently organized a statewide coalition of independent parties, determined to win representation for black voters on a state level.” (p. 510)

The Rise of Black Power

It was within this context that Stokely Carmichael contested and won the chairmanship of SNCC in May 1966. The following month James Merideth, who had desegregated the University of Mississippi in 1962, set out alone in a “March Against Fear” from Memphis into Mississippi on June 5.

The following day he was shot and wounded by a white racist in Mississippi. In response the SCLC, the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and SNCC, pledged to continue the march to Jackson, the state capitol.

During the course of the march through the Delta region of the state, Willie Ricks, now known as Mukasa Dada, mobilized sharecroppers and youth through the slogan Black Power. Carmichael picked up the slogan in a speech on June 16 after being released from a six hour jail stint for defying the police over erecting tents for the marchers at a local high school in Greenwood.

He said in part that evening that “We have begged the president. We’ve begged the federal government—that’s all we’ve been doing, begging and begging. It’s time we stand up and take over. Every courthouse in Mississippi ought to be burned down tomorrow to get rid of the dirt and the mess. From now on, when they ask you what you want, you know what to tell ‘em. What do you want? The crowd shouted back ‘Black Power’. Willie Ricks jumped to the stage and lead the chorus of chants saying: ‘We Want Black Power!’”
Number of Ebola Cases in Decline
Monitoring groups say that the international community must remain vigilant

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan has reported that the numbers of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) cases are in rapid decline.

Nevertheless, the United Nations affiliated agency says that this is no reason for the world community to become complacent in the efforts to contain and eliminate the disease.

This claim and others published over the last month has given hope that the worse outbreak of the dreaded disease may be coming under control. The overwhelming majority of cases have occurred in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Other countries in the West Africa region, Nigeria, Mali and Senegal were able to rapidly respond to the limited number of cases halting the outbreaks within their national boundaries. Recently Senegal reopened its border with neighboring Guinea, where the latest outbreak of EVD cases first took place over a year ago.

The Daily Mail reported from London on Jan. 26 that “Senegal reopened its land border with Guinea on Monday, pointing to the ‘significant efforts’ of its neighbor in fighting an Ebola outbreak that has claimed thousands of lives. People and goods can now ‘move freely by land between the two countries’, the interior ministry said in a statement cited by the state-run Senegalese Press Agency.”

In a statement delivered by Dr. Chan on Jan. 26, she discussed various aspects of the social conditions prevailing in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia that may have contributed to the rapid spread of the disease. The decade-long civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone during the 1990s and early 2000s, created tremendous dislocation and the breakdown of national institutions and public infrastructure.

Political instability and unrest in Guinea has not created an atmosphere favorable to internal public infrastructural development. The mineral-rich former French colony has been subjected to numerous military coups over the last three decades.

“Prior to the outbreak, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone had only 1 to 2 doctors per nearly 100,000 people,” Dr. Chan said. “The Ebola outbreak cut this number down considerably,” she continued.  (WHO Report, Jan. 26)

She also stressed that “The number of infected doctors, nurses, and other health care staff, at nearly 850 with 500 deaths, was unprecedented for Ebola, as was the fact that these infections were still occurring in December, a year into the outbreak. The entry of Ebola into two new countries via infected air travelers was also unprecedented.”

Impact Will Remain for Some Time

Recent statistics compiled by the Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that over 8,675 people have died so far from this virulent strain of the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever (VHF) and estimates indicate that 21,797 have been infected in the largest of such outbreaks since EVD was first recorded in 1976 in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), then Zaire. The epidemic has created economic and social challenges due to the dislocation in the agricultural and transport sectors of the most impacted states in the region.

Problems associated with food deficits and shortages of consumer goods are a direct result of the level of cases affecting farm workers, drivers, healthcare and educational personnel. Delays in bringing consumer goods and food stuffs to the markets in cities and towns have prompted calls for assistance from humanitarian organizations.

Yet attempts to mobilize resources in response to the epidemic has been lacking. The United States and Britain have taken more of a militarized posture towards the crisis as opposed to addressing the problems associated with healthcare treatment facility shortages, medicines and protective gear.

In addition, the social impact is destined to be felt for many years due to the increasing number of orphaned children whose parents have died from the pandemic.  In a report broadcast over TV Continental satellite news station based in Lagos, Nigeria on Jan. 26, it revealed that many of the cases involving children whose parents and other close relatives who have succumbed to EVD, there is difficulty in many instances of efforts to locate the closest relatives in order to re-integrate the youth back into their family structures.

Nonetheless, developments over the last several weeks have given reason for optimism. A statistical analysis of the growth in cases illustrates that the rate of infection is declining significantly.

Julia Belluz wrote in a report that “There's finally good news on the ongoing struggle to stamp out the world's worst Ebola outbreak: the number of new cases is falling quickly. Ebola diagnoses are now halving every 10 days in Guinea, every 14 days in Liberia, and every 19 days in Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization.” (, Jan. 26)

This same article goes on to note that “In Sierra Leone, the WHO said there were 117 new confirmed cases reported last week, compared with 184 in the previous week and 248 the week before that.  In other good news, the WHO declared Mali Ebola-free this week after a small outbreak there sparked international concern last October.”

Vaccine Sent for Trials

Also 300 doses of a vaccine have been sent to Liberia for a clinical trial. The vaccine is produced by GlaxoSmithKline, a large pharmaceutical firm.

The initial shipments of Ebola vaccines were transported to the region on Jan. 23 aboard a commercial flight from Brussels, Belgium, to Liberia. GlaxoSmithKline stated that the firm will overtime send 30,000 doses of the vaccine to Liberia which is to be utilized in the initial clinical trial testing for those who are at actual risk of catching Ebola including health care workers, close contacts of cases and burial workers.

According to Glaxo vice president Dr. Rip Ballou, "They've passed all the quality checks and now can be sent to the site. We are also working on scaling up the production of the vaccine." (, Jan. 23)

Meanwhile, the U.S. government announced that the EVD vaccine trial would begin by early February. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) assisted in the development of two vaccines which are slated to be tested.

One of the vaccines was produced by Okairos, a Swiss-Italian biotech firm which is now owned by Glaxo as well as another product manufactured through a collaborative project staffed by Canadian health experts, NewLink Genetics and licensed by Merck. "There will be another epidemic if there's not a vaccine to prevent this," Ballou noted. (, Jan. 23)

However, as it relates to the medium and long term prospects for the improvement of the healthcare infrastructures in these most severely impacted states in West Africa, a different approach to governing must come into being. The reliance on the former colonial and current neo-colonial states in Europe and North America will only result in future outbreaks of EVD as well as other infectious diseases such as polio, measles, cholera, malaria, etc., which remain extremely high.

Concern surrounding the most recent EVD outbreak relates in part to the threat the pandemic posed to the U.S. and other western countries. Cases of EVD in the U.S., including one death, created the conditions for the politicization of the disease and its victims.

With the eradication of the two U.S.-based transmissions in Dallas among nurses, the debate involving the handling of the outbreak has largely receded. Nevertheless, until the disease is tackled, controlled and eliminated, there will always remain a danger to Africa as well as the international community.
Sudanese Opposition Sceptical of Mbeki’s Ability to Achieve Breakthrough
January 26, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – The African Union chief mediator for the Sudans Thabo Mbeki met today with the opposition alliance of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) who conveyed to him their sense of a deteriorating political environment in the country particularly following the recent constitutional amendments which granted the president far reaching powers.

Sudanese lawmakers approved this month two controversial constitutional amendments introduced by the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

The first bill allows the president to appoint governors who will no longer be elected through universal suffrage. The second transforms the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) into regular force to legitimize the creation of its militia the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

NCF member Babiker Mohamed al-Hassan said they discussed with Mbeki the continued detention of NCF chairman Farouk Abu-Essa and civil rights figure Amin Mekki Madani despite president Omer Hassan al-Bashir’s promise last Wednesday to release them along with two others.

Before their detention, Abu-Essa and Madani had signed the “Sudan Call” declaration for peace and democracy with the rebel groups in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

The two lawyers are now charged with subversive activities and use of violence to overthrow the government, charges which carry the death penalty.

Sudan Tribune learnt on Monday that the justice ministry refused to allow Madani to leave briefly to attend his son’s wedding. His defense team called this decision “unprecedented” given similar cases when such relief was granted.

Mbeki pledged to bring up the matter with Bashir in his meeting with him on Monday night, al-Hassan said.

But the NCF figure said that Mbeki has a history of promising but not delivering.

“Mbeki during the last three meetings promised many things, but could not apply them on the ground,” he said.

The opposition alliance also expressed dismay that the government insists on holding elections despite the ongoing conflicts, instability in some states and existence of repressive laws. Most major opposition parties are boycotting the elections scheduled for next April.

They informed Mbeki that they reject any solution that does not address Sudan’s overall problems and asserted their determination to achieve a civil and democratic state.

The NCF also dismissed Bashir’s dialogue initiative launched last year saying that that the regime does not want to satisfy the bare minimum of requirements to make it productive.

US Security Advisor Against Arms Ban on South Sudan: Sources
January 26, 2014 (JUBA) – The United States security advisor, Susan Rice has for months resisted appeals from key allies, including Britain and France, to push for a weapons bans on South Sudan, diplomats, human rights advocates and congressional officials told Foreign Policy (FP) magazine.

President Barack Obama’s national security team, US secretary of state, John Kerry and its ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power want an arms embargo imposed on South Sudan.

Both Power and Kerry have reportedly argued internally that South Sudan’s Salva Kiir has ignored Washington’s diplomatic appeals to halt the killings in the ongoing conflict, calling for more coercive measures, including an arms embargo on the young nation.

Violence broke out in South Sudan over a year ago, pitting president Kiir’s Dinka tribe against Nuer, the country’s second largest ethnic group to which his former deputy, Riek Machar belongs.

Since then, tens of thousands of people have been killed and nearly two million displaced in South Sudan’s worst-ever violence from the time it seceded from neighbouring Sudan in July 2011.

Last year, the US, European Union and Canada imposed sanctions on military generals from both sides of the South Sudanese conflict for allegedly obstructing talks mediated by regional leaders.

There have also been several calls for an arms embargo on South Sudan from activists, local and international human rights groups.

Rice reportedly argued that an arms embargo would undermine a democratically-elected government’s ability to defend itself against an insurgency led Machar, also accused blamed for mass atrocities.

Rice also is concerned that an embargo would be ineffective because South Sudan’s neighbor and military ally, Uganda, would not enforce it even if one were imposed, sources told FP.

“I understand that the blockage came from NSC,” one UN Security Council diplomat was quoted saying, referring to the White House National Security Council.

“Both Power and Kerry are much more open to sanctions, possibly even including an arms embargo, than the NSC. We have the sense here in New York that they wanted to move forward but they were hampered by Washington.”

The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity given the confidential nature of the deliberations, reportedly said Washington recently indicated its willingness to consider such measures on Juba.

South Sudan’s rival factions, despite pressure from the international community, recently signed a re-unification agreement seeking to address root causes of the conflict destabilising the country.

An arms embargo, analysts say, would be a leeway for both warring parties to consider peace options, instead of military confrontations.

Last week, Washington reportedly sent a draft resolution to the UN Security Council members Britain, China, France, and Russia, that threatens to impose an asset freeze and a travel ban on top government and rebel leaders responsible for committing atrocities or thwarting regional efforts to strike a peace deal.

The resolution, a senior US official hinted, would also open the door to the “prospect” of an arms embargo at some time in the future.

But the draft which threatens to impose unspecified additional penalties on the warring parties for continuing violence, includes no specific reference to an arms embargo,” diplomatic sources reportedly said.

It remains unclear whether China and Russia would allow an arms embargo to pass as South Sudanese continues to lobby against it.

A coalition of 29 South Sudanese and international human rights groups recently warned of new attacks on civilians, citing the import of new weapons into South Sudan, a country already awash with weapons.

“An arms embargo would help to halt the supply of weapons to individuals and groups who have committed serious violations of human rights, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and protect civilians at grave risk,” reads the 7 January letter to Obama.

Last week, the UN peacekeeping department reportedly presented the Security Council with a confidential white paper documenting efforts by South Sudan to impede international efforts to protect civilians.

It reportedly said South Sudan government had blocked and delayed the delivery of vital military equipment for peacekeeping contingents from China, Ethiopia and Kenya.

That, in turn, has delayed those nations from deploying security forces to protect civilians, the confidential paper reportedly stated.

According to FP, Washington’s failure to act so far on UN sanctions has exposed its long-standing criticism that it applies double standards on human rights, punishing its enemies while letting its friends get away with mass murder without any consequences.

“They have been threatening to impose sanctions for a long time,” said Philippe Bolopion, the UN representative for Human Rights Watch, which has been pressing US to back an arms embargo against the South Sudanese government and the rebels.

“The threats are getting old and harder to take seriously now.”

South Sudan could lose between $22-28 billion if its ongoing conflict continues for the next one to five years, the London based Frontier Economics warned in its latest report.

South Sudan’s Kiir Convenes Meeting to Ratify Arusha Deal
January 25, 2015 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, has called for an extraordinary meeting of the ruling party (SPLM) to debate and ratify the recent Arusha pact, which aims to unite the rank and file of the membership and leadership of the three rival political factions.

Members of the SPLM’s national liberation council and political bureau are expected to attend Monday’s extraordinary meeting in the capital, Juba.

Daniel Awet Akot, a senior member of the SPLM, told reporters that the president “was serious” with the reunification of the party, but insisted the latter will not backtrack over calls for him to step down from power without proper procedures and processes.

“I would like to inform the general public through you [media] that the SPLM under the leadership of comrade Salva Kiir Mayardit would convene tomorrow morning Monday 26 January 2015, an extraordinary meeting of the national liberation council to review and approve the Arusha SPLM reunification agreement. This is a very important message you must publicize to our people,” Akot said on Sunday.

“I want our people to know that the president is very serious with reunification even though there are still contractions and voices calling for his resignation after signing the framework agreement,” he added.

The former deputy speaker expressed optimism of the reunification of the three party factions, saying SPLM has always shown ability to overcome differences and “emerges stronger after internal setbacks”.

“I am very much optimistic that the SPLM will emerge stronger than ever before because it has always shown unique leadership and ability to overcome internal setbacks,” staid Akot.

“I hope the spirit we had in Arusha would be the same spirit in the peace negotiation in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,” he added.

Last week, the three SPLM factions signed an agreement seeking to reunify the rank and file of its leadership and membership, pledging to work together to secure reforms and national unity.

The accord, dubbed the Agreement on the Reunification of the SPLM, serves as a roadmap towards ending the violent conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and uprooted millions others from their homes when political debates on reforms within the ruling party turned violent.

The deal, which was signed by Kiir, rebel leader Riek Machar and the representative of the former SPLM detainees and former cabinet minister Deng Alor in the presence of Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete seeks to address the root causes of the intra-party conflict, which plunged the country into crisis on 15 December 2013

Political in-fighting between president Kiir and Machar turned into a fully fledged conflict that has seen over 100,000 civilians seek protection at United Nation bases across the country. The crisis has uprooted an estimated 1.9 million people and placed more than seven million at risk of hunger and disease.