Abayomi Azikiwe (right), editor of the Pan-African News Wire, along with (right to left) David Sole of MECAWI, Mike Kelly of Finding Alternatives to Military Enlistment (FAME) and Derrick Grigsby of MECAWI. (Photo: Cheryl LaBash, WW).
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos.
WSU Law School's United Nations forum targeted in protest
By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire
DETROIT, 11 Jan.,2007 (PANW)--Two demonstrations were held in Detroit today against the rising tide of United States militarism in Iraq and Somalia.
January 11 had been designated as a day of action by the anti-war movement around the country to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the opening of the torture camps at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as well as providing an opportunity for opponents of American militarism to speak out against the Bush administration's plans to send 25,000 more troops to Iraq.
In addition to the escalation of the war in Iraq, the Bush administration has embarked upon a bombing campaign in the east African nation of Somalia which has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians. AC-130 Hercules aircraft have been utilized to destroy communities in the areas around Ras Komboni, where the US claims al-Qaeda fighters responsible for the bombing of the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998 are taking refuge.
At the Wayne State University Law School, a forum took place featuring Permanent Representatives of United Nations Missions from Iraq, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Japan, South Korea, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) called for a picket line outside the law school to express opposition to the puppet Iraqi regime's representative on campus in light of the overwhelming support inside the United States to end the war.
Also the presence of the Ethiopian Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Dawit Yohannes, provided a focus for protesting the role of the government of this Horn of Africa nation in carrying out the imperialist program of the Bush administration. Ethiopia invaded Somalia in December at the aegis of the United States, bombing its airport and causing the dislocation of tens of thousands of Somali civilians.
After the conclusion of the picket line outside the WSU Law School, members of MECAWI and others went into the auditorium where the forum was being held. This event, which was co-sponsored by the University's Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, the Detroit Council on World Affairs and Humpty Dumpty Institute, attempted to restrict debate and discussion by refusing to allow members of the audience to speak and ask questions to the Ambassadors.
Audience participants were asked to write their questions on index cards and pass them forward to the forum's moderators. Critical questions related to the ongoing occupation of Iraq and the American-backed occupation of Somalia and the bombing of that nation were ignored. After it became obvious that any criticism of the United States and its allies present at the forum would not be allowed, members of the audience including MECAWI representatives, began to shout out questions and statements in opposition to the Bush administration's policies in the Middle-East and the Horn of Africa.
The Ambassadors from Ethiopia and Kenya, then attempted to justify their pro-US actions in east Africa. According to Ambassador Dawit Yohannes of Ethiopia: "We are in Somalia based on our own interest. The US has taken a firm anti-terrorism position and we support this."
When members of MECAWI pointed out that most people viewed Ethiopia's action as part and parcel of US policy in the region, the sponsors of this forum sought to silence the activists. One woman who had began to scream and shout about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis that have been killed since the beginning of the American occupation, was asked to leave the auditorium.
MECAWI member Derrick Grigsby asked the Ethiopian Ambassador Dawit Yohannes direct questions about allegations related to an al-Qaeda presence in Somalia. "How do we know what you are saying is the truth? The US can label someone al-Qaeda and then justify their murder," Grigsby said.
MECAWI pointed out that the Bush administration has repeatedly lied about a terrorist threat and weapons of mass destruction in order to provide a rationale for the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only the Ambassador from Bangladesh, Mr. Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, conveyed an appreciation for questions asked by MECAWI representatives.
Two members of MECAWI then continued to shout out critical questions and statements related to recent events in Iraq and Somalia. After the forum was over, MECAWI approached the Ambassador from Kenya, Mr. Z.D. Muburi-Muita, and handed him a copy of a statement issued to the press which condemned American involvement in the Horn of Africa and Iraq. The statement was also handed over to the Iraqi Ambassador, Mr. Talib Hamid Al Bayati, as well as the Ethiopian UN Representative, Mr Dawit Yohannes.
The MECAWI members expressed to the Ambassadors from Kenya and Ethiopia an extreme displeasure related to their government's military and political alliance with the Bush administration in carrying out the occupation of Somalia and the bombing of civilian areas inside the country. MECAWI representatives informed the Ambassadors that the overwhelming majority of people within the United States opposed the war in Iraq and that they were aware that both the African Union and the Arab League had called for Ethiopia's military withdrawal from Somalia.
Another anti-war demonstration was held at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit later in the day beginning at 4:00 p.m. Activists gathered to demand the closure of the Guantanamo Bay torture camps which were established five years ago. These camps have engaged in the brutal torture of Muslim detainees who have been denied the right to due process.
Activists at today's demonstrations circulated leaflets for the upcoming annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Rally & March in downtown Detroit on January 15. MECAWI, which initiated the annual MLK Day March four years ago, is calling for a mass demonstration outside the offices of US Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, on Friday, January 19. MECAWI will be demanding that not one more penny be spent on the occupation of Iraq.
"We are calling for the complete unconditional withdrawal of all US military forces from Iraq," a MECAWI representative stated. MECAWI is to host a citywide mass meeting on February 17 on the ongoing Iraq war in an effort to further mobilize people to attend the upcoming national march in Washington on March 17.
For more information on MECAWI just log on to the following URL: http://www.mecawi .