Sunday, November 30, 2008

Detroit Meeting on the Struggle to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, Dec. 3

Detroit Meeting on the Struggle to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal

Date: Wednesday, December 3, 2008, 7:00 p.m.
Location: 5922 Second Avenue at Antoinette, Near WSU Campus
Film & Discussion: MOVE Documentary and US Political
Prisoners Today
Sponsor: Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice
Contact: Tel. 313.671.3715

Response to Nov. 21 Final Call Article on Political Prisoners

The excellent summary below, written by Saeed Shabazz and just published in the Final Call, about the current repression and brutality against our political prisoners is a very accurate and chilling picture. But there is a more positive counterpart to this story, as evidenced in the event on political prisoners the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (FMAJC) and Resistance in Brooklyn held this past Friday night, November 21st, at St. Mary's Church in New York City.

The evening was one of education and solidarity with political prisoners, on the occasion of the publication of an important new book on political prisoners, Let Freedom Ring by Matt Meyer. Former political prisoners Chairman Fred Hampton, Jr. of POCC, San Francisco 8 defendant Francisco (Cisco) Torres, Tarik Haskins, former BPP and BLA member incarcerated and tortured during a 17 year imprisonment, and Pam Africa of MOVE were among the speakers.

A one hour radio show the preceding night on this same subject was hosted by Suzanne Ross of the FMAJC, who was sitting in for Sally O'Brien on WBAI's Where We Live.

Chairman Fred Hampton, Jr. of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee and son of the late martyred BPP leader and himself a former political prisoner, Ramona Africa, former political prisoner, incarcerated after she survived Philadelphia's horrific bombing of MOVE headquarters in which 11 MOVE members were killed; Ashanti Alston, former BPP and BLA member and subsequent political prisoner; JR of Block Radio and Minister of Information of POCC; fighting and convicted attorney, Lynne Stewart; Sundiata Sadiq, of FMAJC and formerly President of the now ousted Ossining Chapter of the NAACP; and Matt Meyer -- all engaged in lively dialogue about the importance of the struggle to free our comrades, heroes and sheroes in the US dungeons, and of the need for new focus and strategy in the political prisoner movement.

At the Friday night event, there were many new and young faces, from all ethnic communities but mostly from those of color, and a significant participation from the Political Prisoners Ministry of Iglesia San Romero de las Americas in Washington Heights, including their pastor, Claudia de la Cruz, who also spoke on the panel. Rebel Diaz were present with some of their people, and the Welfare Poets opened the program with their widely loved music of high energy and tribute to our struggles which had the crowd on their feet for at least 30 minutes!

There was a sense both nights that there are new initiatives and new energy, as well as creative approaches, that young people ARE interested in participating in this struggle to define our history and make the future struggle possible, which is what freeing our brothers and sisters is about, and that the struggle must continue ... and escalate.

Suzanne Ross, Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC)

For bus information and details on Dec 6th:
212 330-8029
Repression against U.S. political prisoners ongoing

By Saeed Shabazz
Staff Writer
Updated Nov 21, 2008, 12:05 am

NEW YORK ( - A week after the Jericho Amnesty Movement held October rallies and workshops here to commemorate their 10th anniversary as a coalition dedicated to freeing political dissidents in U.S. prisons, there were charges that repression continues.

“More activism and support is needed in the campaign to free Mumia Abu-Jamal,” wrote lead defense attorney Robert R. Ryan, in an internet message to supporters of the former Black Panther and journalist. “There are new developments in the case that are the most significant and deadly since his 1981 arrest. The prosecution has advised the U.S. Supreme Court that they (will) seek reversal of the federal court decision, which granted a new jury trial on the question of the death penalty,” Mr. Ryan wrote. Mr. Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing a White police officer in 1981. Supporters said he was targeted because of his activism and was not given a fair trial.

“If the U.S. Supreme Court rules for the DA and overturns the federal court ruling, Mumia can be executed without having a new penalty phase jury trial, which would allow us to introduce new evidence which could free Mumia,” said Mr. Ryan.

The Leonard Peltier Defense/Offense Committee sent out an alert informing supporters that the Federal Bureau of Prisons was planning to move the Native American freedom fighter to another facility. “There seems to be a strategy by the federal government to disrupt Leonard’s defense committee through these transfers,” according to Betty Ann Peltier-Solana, executive coordinator of the defense committee.

Ms. Solana said attorneys asked that Mr. Peltier be transferred to a facility closer to his home reservation, either a prison in Sandstone, Minn., or Oxford, Wis. He is currently held at the federal prison in Lewisburg, Penn. Mr. Peltier was convicted of murder in connection with a shootout between FBI agents and members of the American Indian Movement in 1975.

The governors of New York and California are refusing to allow Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim, members of the San Francisco 8, to be transferred from their San Francisco County jail cells to New York for parole hearings, supporters complain. “Judge Philip Moscone signed an order in May allowing both men to return to New York state for their parole hearings. All parties agreed at the time that the move would be temporary; Herman and Jalil waived their rights to fight extradition back to Calif.,” wrote Claude Marks of the California-based Committee for the Defense of Human Rights. According to Mr. Marks, both men have served over 35 years in prison and have been called model inmates.

The San Francisco 8 are awaiting trial on charges they were involved in the 1971 killing of a police officer. “The ‘SF8’ is another example of how the government seeks to crush self-determination and any challenges to the status quo,” Mr. Marks told The Final Call.

Harold Taylor, another SF8 member, was convicted on what supporters called “bogus” drug charges in Panama City, Fla. He will be sentenced Dec. 9. Supporters contend he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Mr. Taylor was already out on bail in the SF8 case.

Karimah Al-Amin, attorney and wife of Imam Jamil Al-Amin, formerly known as Black Panther leader H. Rap Brown, told The Final Call the only thing her husband is guilty of “is fighting for the rights of African Americans and fighting for the rights of Muslims.” Her husband spends 23 hours a day in a cell. He is allowed five social visits a month and two phone calls a week. Imam Al-Amin, who led an Islamic community in Atlanta, is serving life without parole plus 35 years at the Supermax facility in Florence, Colo., for the fatal shooting of one Atlanta deputy and wounding of a second deputy in March 2000.

The imam served five and a half years in administrative segregation in the state prison at Reidsville, Ga.

Mrs. Al-Amin said on Oct. 6, the Supreme Court agreed with the Georgia Circuit Court of Appeals that the prison administration at Reidsville violated the imam’s first amendment rights by opening his legal mail and denying visits from his attorney, who is also his wife.

“The state of Georgia must settle financially with my husband, but they are hiding behind the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which prevents inmates from getting a large settlement,” Mrs. Al-Amin said. “We consider Imam Jamil to be a prisoner of war,” she said.

“When I look at the names of those in Florence with my husband, you would have to say it is a place for political prisoners,” Mrs. Al-Amin added. Also incarcerated at the federal facility are Dr. Mutulu Shakur of the Black Liberation Army and the Republic of New Africa; Sekou Odinga of the Black Liberation Army; Dr. Malachi Z. York of the Nuwaubian Nation; Imam Malik Khaba (formerly Jeff Fort), founder of the Blackstone Rangers street gang in Chicago; Larry Hoover of Growth and Development, formerly the Gangster Disciple street gang in Chicago. “They refer to the prison as the ‘stateside Guantanamo,’” she said.

Lance Tapley, a journalist who has written extensively on prisons in the U.S., has made critical observations on the use of solitary confinement. “Supermax confinement is repulsive, immoral mass torture that is historically unprecedented. I would also suggest it is illegal under international law,” he told the National Lawyers Guild at its 70th anniversary convention last October.

Solitary disrupts “profoundly the sense of personality,” meeting the Senate standard for one mark of mental torture and the Senate recognizes mental torture to be a companion of physical suffering, Mr. Tapley said.

Over the years political prisoners in the U.S. have been represented by a battery of politically astute lawyers, including Chokwe Lumumba, Lynn Stewart, Roger Wareham, Adjoa Aiyetoro, Ashanti Chimurenga and Michael Tarif Warren.

“People don’t know about the issue of political prisoners and prisoners of war in the United States,” Mr. Warren told The Final Call. “People must be educated on how the system is violating their eighth amendment rights. Take for instance, we fought to have Bashir Hameed moved to a facility with a hospital that would help with his cancer, but they let him die,” Atty. Warren said.

Mr. Hameed was the New Jersey deputy chairman of the Black Panther Party and a member of the Black Liberation Army. He was convicted in the 1981 murder of a New York policeman and attempted murder of his partner. He was given a 25-year sentence after three trials and died Aug. 30.

“This is a mean spirited system that is only concerned with retribution, because they perceive that these people are a threat to the system,” Atty. Warren said.

Mr. Hameed was the fifth political prisoner to die behind bars in this era, advocates said.

“Imam Jamil talks all the time about the need to get the issue of political prisoners back on the front burner,” said Mrs. Al-Amin.

Zimbabwe News Update: Mujuru Launches Farmer Programme; Parties Agree on Bill; 6 Soldiers Arrested, etc.

Mujuru launches Champion Farmer programme

Zimbabwe Herald
Bindura Bureau

ACTING President Cde Joice Mujuru yesterday launched the Champion Farmer programme with a donation of seed, fertilizer and farm implements in Guruve District.

Cde Mujuru gave the district 20 tonnes of maize seed, 3,5 tonnes of groundnut seed, four tonnes of cowpeas seed and 200kg of rapoko seed.

This is in addition to 89 tonnes of maize seed, 90 tonnes of Compound D fertilizer, 120 tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate and 17 800 litres of fuel already distributed by Government in collaboration with an NGO, Sustainable Agriculture Trust to the same district.

Addressing thousands of people gathered at Guruve Growth Point, Cde Mujuru expressed concern at some corrupt leaders who were abusing Government aid.

"We do not want leaders who, after receiving goods on behalf of the people, begin to think of themselves first. We want leaders who have the people at heart," Cde Mujuru said.

She said Guruve was currently preparing for the House of Assembly by-election and people should be accorded a chance to select a good leader who has their wishes at heart.

"I, as Vice President, cannot be seen pointing out at a leader for you. What would happen if that leader is lazy or maybe a sell-out who would fail to deliver during the election time?" She asked.

Cde Mujuru said Government was aware of the people’s plight especially on food and inputs, adding Government would continue distributing the little procured.

"We would like to ensure that each household manages to plant at least a hectare to avert a more serious food shortage next year," she said. Cde Mujuru said the country’s problems were a result of some opposition parties that believed politics was all about making their people suffer.

She said it was perplexing to note that as aspiring President (Mr Morgan Tsvangirai) had campaigned for sanctions against Zimbabwe.

"It is like a parent who asks a neighbour to discipline his/her own child," she said.

Zanu-PF Mashonaland Central Chairman Cde Itai Dickson Mafios, who accompanied the Acting President blasted some political heavyweights who were hijacking the Champion Farmers programme, at the expense of more dedicated ordinary farmers.

"The ruling party owes its success to the ordinary people and such programmes like Champion Farmer should be seen benefiting the ordinary man, the Zanu-PF backbone," he said.

Cde Mafios concurred with the Acting President that, in accordance to the ruling Zanu-PF principle, no one should be barred in the forthcoming Guruve by-election.

Cde Mujuru is expected to launch a similar programme in Mushumbi Pools in the same district today.

Parties agree on Bill

Herald Reporters

ZIMBABWE’S three main political parties, Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations, have reached agreement on the text of Constitutional Amendment Number 19 Bill and are expected to initiate soon the relevant parliamentary procedures for it to become law.

While officials from Zanu-PF and the Professor Arthur Mutambara-led MDC formation could not be reached for comment yesterday, MDC-T spokesperson Mr Nelson Chamisa confirmed that an agreement had been reached.

The Minister of Information and Publicity, Cde Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, last night said he was still to get confirmation of the outcome of the latest round of talks which ended on Thursday night.

However, he said reports of an agreement were welcome.

"That’s a welcome procedure, the people of Zimbabwe have long awaited this process to take place and come to conclusion.

"We now look forward to gazetting it," said Cde Ndlovu.

In a statement, Mr Chamisa said: "Dialogue resumed on Monday November 24 in South Africa and the negotiating teams from the three major political parties have since reached an agreement on the issue of the Constitutional Amendment Number 19."

The development comes on the back of attempts by MDC-T to have Cde Thabo Mbeki step down as the facilitator of the inter-party dialogue after he criticised opposition leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai for insulting Sadc leaders while pandering to the whims of the European Union and the United States.

Cde Mbeki wrote to MDC-T before the latest round of talks.

It could not be established how the opposition ended up accepting Cde Mbeki’s continued mediation, but MDC-T could have succumbed to pressure from various quarters.

Several countries and organisations have over the past week been urging Mr Tsvangirai’s party to put national interests above their sectarian preferences for the sake of progress.

Yesterday’s developments mean the Bill would soon be presented in Parliament.

Efforts to get a comment from Zanu-PF’s negotiators to the talks were fruitless as they were understood to be still in South Africa last night.

A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority for it to be forwarded to President Mugabe as Head of State, who is expected to sign the Bill into law. With all three parliamentary parties backing the Bill, it should get unanimity.

Mr Chamisa said there was still disagreement over the issues of provincial governors, permanent secretaries and ambassadors as well as the National Security Council in the negotiations for forming the inclusive government.

It is understood Zanu-PF’s position was that the latest round of talks should have focussed on Constitutional Amendment Number 19.

Sadc has since resolved that the Zimbabwean parties should form the inclusive government and moved forward.

But the MDC-T keeps bringing up new demands, a position Government says is designed to scuttle the Sadc mediation and have the matter taken over by the United Nations.

Apart from paving the way for the creation of the offices of the Prime Minister and his two deputies, the Bill will also deal with other outstanding constitutional matters such as the Zimbabwe Media Commission, the Chapter on Citizenship, the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.

Six soldiers nabbed


SIX soldiers have been arrested on allegations of beating up people and riot police at Fourth Street Bus Terminus in Harare on Thursday night.

They were among a group of about 15 soldiers that went on the rampage, destroying goods, beating up people, including vendors at the bus terminus.

Chief police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena confirmed the arrests yesterday.

"About six soldiers have been arrested for assault and are still in police custody while investigations are in progress," he said.

Snr Asst Comm Bvudzijena said police would not hesitate to arrest anyone found on the wrong side of the law.

"What they are doing is illegal and they will be arrested. If anyone commits a crime, he will be arrested," he said. The Herald understands riot police called to restore order were also beaten up by the soldiers.

The soldiers were reportedly complaining over their failure to get cash from banks.

A senior police officer yesterday said they called in armed reinforcements to contain the situation.

The soldiers later disappeared but two of them were arrested near the bus terminus.

An alert detective followed some of them up to Cranborne and arrested two after firing warning shots and ordered them to surrender.

The two complied and were taken to Harare Central Police Station for further investigations.

The Herald understands that yesterday some soldiers beat up people at Gazaland Shopping Centre in Highfield and Mupedzanhamo Flea Market in Mbare. — HR.

3 CIO operatives jailed

THREE Central Intelligence Organisation operatives were yesterday sentenced to an effective four years in jail for extorting US$6 000 from a city businesswoman who they accused of flouting Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe tender procedures.

Jacob Ropafadzo Mudarikiri (23), Blessing Tarumbwa (24) and Jim Fish Kasumba (35) had pleaded not guilty to the charge.

But Magistrate Mrs Lillian Kudya convicted them of extortion after a full trial.

She slapped the three with a seven-year jail term each but conditionally suspended one year.

The court further suspended two years on condition they each pay back US$666 by February 28, 2009.

The court heard that the three, who were employed by the President’s office at Chaminuka and Munhumutapa buildings, demanded US$100 000 from Ms Effie Zituta whose transport company was contracted to ferry some of the Farm mechanisation Programme equipment.

They were given US$6 000 on October 20.

The three were arrested two days later when they went to collect the balance from Ms Zituta at her house in Borrowdale. The CIO operatives had US$4 000 on them when they were arrested.

Policy to combine TB, HIV/Aids screening on the cards

Herald Reporter

GOVERNMENT is formulating a policy to combine Tuberculosis and HIV and Aids responses to reduce deaths and complications related to the diseases, an official in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare has said.

Addressing members of the civil society attending a TB conference held in Harare yesterday, Aids and TB Unit deputy national co-ordinator Dr Tich Nyamundaya said the policy will officialise screening of TB at HIV and Aids testing centres since an estimated 80 percent of TB patients are also HIV-positive.

"TB accelerates HIV replication resulting in immuno-suppression and opportunistic infections," he said.

Despite the fact that most people with TB are HIV positive, Dr Nyamundaya noted that responses to TB are minimal compared to HIV.

He said currently, most health facilities have stopped observing TB cure through the WHO recommended strategy — Directly Observed Therapy "short course" — yet Zimbabwe is among the 22 high TB-burdened countries.

According to the strategy, TB patients are supposed to take their medication for six months under monitoring by a health practitioner.

"This system has collapsed. Patients get a month’s supply and get back to their homes. This has resulted in increased burden of TB," he said.

Dr Nyamundaya said for Zimbabwe to combat TB effectively and record a decline as in HIV and Aids, the DOTS strategy should be revamped at all levels to ensure that TB patients are taking medication.

Statistics shared at the workshop indicated that Zimbabwe has recorded at least a 52 percent success rate for the DOTS strategy.

This means the other 48 percent are not completing their courses because they are no longer monitored and are therefore are at high risk of developing a Multi-Drug Resistant TB.

Aids service organisations attending the conference called on Government to speed up integration of the two diseases as TB has been overlooked in the past years. The two-day workshop, which started yesterday, was organised by the Zimbabwe Aids Network.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Malcolm X, Obama, Powell, Rice and 'House Negroes': El Hajj Malik Shabazz's Former Aide Responds to Al-Qaeda Spokesman

Malcolm X, Obama, Powell, Rice and ‘House Negroes’

By A. Peter Bailey
Published 11/26/2008

Malcolm X, Obama, Powell, Rice and ‘House Negroes’

The uproar caused by the statements attributed to Al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in which he labeled President-elect Barack Obama and former and current secretaries of states Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, “house Negroes” is fascinating to those of us who consider ourselves Malcolmites.

Ayman al-Zawahiri was correct in saying that Brother Malcolm X used that name to describe “Negroes” whom he considered to be basically allies of white power. While working with him as editor of the Organization of Afro-American Unity’s (OAAU) newsletter, I heard him, scornfully, use the term.

If Brother Malcolm was still with us today, I believe he would use it to describe those “Negroes” who are constantly called upon by white television and radio talk show hosts, journalists and academicians who are looking for a “house Negro” to attack black folks whom they consider insufficiently grateful for “all the good whites have done for them.”

Such people are willing weapons of mass mis-information ready to be used by white power whenever called upon. Notable examples of such “house Negroes” are Ward Connerly, Jesse Lee Peterson, Clarence Thomas and their cohorts in the political, journalistic and academic arenas.

Though Brother Malcolm, based on his speeches and writings, would strenuously disagree with many of the positions of Obama, Powell and Rice on issues of importance to the empowerment of black folks, I don’t believe he would put them in the same category as Connerly, Peterson and Thomas.

One doesn’t often see white power propagandists such as Sean Hannity, for instance, calling on them when they want to launch an attack on a black person whom they want to put in his or her place.

Some of Brother Malcolm’s beliefs on what black people must do if we are to ever achieve real power in this group-oriented society can be ascertained in the following statements from the goals and objectives of the OAAU and one of his speeches:

“The organization of Afro-American Unity will organize the Afro-American community block by block to make the community aware of its power and potential; we will start immediately a voter-registration drive to make every unregistered voter in the Afro-American community an independent voter; we propose to support and/or organize political clubs, to run independent candidates for office, and to support any Afro-American already in office who answers to and is responsible to the Afro-American community….

"And in this manner, the organizations will increase in number and in quantity and in quality, and by August, it is then our intention to have a black nationalist convention which will consist of delegates from all over the country who are interested in the political, economic and social philosophy of black nationalism. After these delegates convene, we will listen to everyone. We want to hear new ideas and new solutions and new answers….

“We must establish all over the country schools of our own to train our children to become scientists and mathematicians. We must realize the need for adult education and for job retraining programs that will emphasize a changing society in which automation plays the key role. We intend to use the tools of education to help raise our people to an unprecedented level of excellence and self-respect through their own efforts.

"The political philosophy of black nationalism means the black man should control the politics and the politicians in his own community; no more. The black man in the black community has to be re-educated into the science of politics so he will know what politics is supposed to bring in him in return. Don’t be throwing out any ballots. A ballot is like a bullet. You don’t throw your ballots until you see a target, and if that target is not within your reach, keep your ballot in your pocket….’’

This doesn’t sound like a Democrat or a Republican to me.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California to Chair the Congressional Black Caucus

Barbara Lee to head Congressional Black Caucus

By Josh Richman
Oakland Tribune
11/19/2008 04:09:48 PM PST

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, was announced as chairwoman-elect of the Congressional Black Caucus at a Capitol Hill news conference Wednesday.

She takes the 42-member caucus' reins as its power seems ascendant. Members will lead the House Judiciary, Homeland Security and Ways and Means committees in the 111th Congress; another, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., will be the majority whip; and all of them will work in tandem with the nation's first black president, Barack Obama, of whom Lee was an early and ardent supporter.

"We have many, many challenges, but those challenges do present historic opportunities," she said Wednesday. "When you look at the economy and the fact that millions of Americans' lives are in shambles due to the foreclosure crisis, that's the first priority for all of us."

Obama's approach to tempering the economic crisis reflects strategies the CBC has been pursuing for years, Lee said, and she said she's confident her caucus and other House Democrats will "be able to work together to reach consensus on a common agenda with the White House."

Lee said she also relishes working in her new role with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, even as Pelosi keeps striving to keep a somewhat fractious House Democratic Caucus in line.

"Of course, a Democratic Caucus is very democratic, we all have our points of view," Lee said. "But the Congressional Black Caucus has been called 'the conscience of the Congress,' and we're going to continue to be that and to help our Speaker."

Lee's bid to head the caucus was unopposed; only the late Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, had expressed interest in the job before she died in August. Lee has helped lead the CBC for six years, first as whip and then as first vice chair, and praised outgoing Chairwoman Carolyn Kilpatrick, D-Mich., Wednesday for doing "a phenomenal job in keeping our caucus together and for the many legislative victories achieved under her leadership." Lee had wanted the chair in 2006 but bowed out to avoid a divisive race against Kilpatrick.

Lee also Wednesday congratulated the caucus' other newly elected officers. Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., will be first vice chairman; Rep. Donna Christensen, D-Virgin Islands, will be second vice chairwoman; Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., will be secretary; and Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., will be the caucus' whip.

The Congressional Black Caucus was formed after the 1970 election with 13 members; Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums was among the founding members and led the caucus for the 101st Congress. Lee was a longtime Dellums aide, working her way up through his office's ranks until she was his chief of staff, before serving in the California Legislature and moving on to Congress herself.

Lee said it's "very humbling, an honor" to follow in Dellums' footsteps to the caucus' chair. Dellums "opened the door of opportunity" to her and other women of color when few served as Capitol Hill senior staffers, she said: "He really gave me a chance to break some glass ceilings."

She also paid tribute to Shirley Chisholm, who in 1968 was the first African-American woman elected to Congress and in 1972 was the first major-party African-American presidential candidate. "This is really about those who helped me and paved the way," Lee said.

Reach Josh Richman at 510-208-6428 or Read the Political Blotter at

Barbara Lee Elected CBC Chair for 111th Congress

Press Release
For Immediate Release
November 19, 2008

Contact: Julie Nickson
(202) 225-2661

(Washington, D.C.) – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) was formally named Chair-Elect of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) at a press conference today on Capitol Hill to announce the organization’s leadership for the upcoming Congress.

Lee, who served as a member of the CBC leadership team for the past six years, first as Whip and currently as First Vice Chair, praised the leadership of outgoing Chair Congresswoman Carolyn Kilpatrick. In the 111th Congress, CBC members will chair the Judiciary, Homeland Security, and the Ways and Means Committee, and numerous subcommittees. Congressman James Clyburn (D-SC) will serve as Majority Whip of the Democratic Caucus and President-Elect Barack Obama will become the first African-American President.

“I want to thank Chairwoman Kilpatrick who has done a phenomenal job in keeping our caucus together and for the many legislative victories achieved under her leadership and to congratulate our newly elected officers. The 111th Congress will not only present unique and difficult challenges, but also historic opportunities for our caucus. I look forward to working with all of our CBC members to craft and implement a unified and bold agenda for the 111th Congress,” said Lee.

“I plan to build upon the great leadership of our former chairs and to meet our caucus challenge of ‘Changing Course, Confronting Crises, and Continuing the Legacy’ of those who paved the way for each of our members to have the honor to serve and fight for equality, justice and peace for our African-American communities and for the entire nation. The CBC is rightly called the conscience of the Congress, and I thank these brilliant and dedicated public servants for this opportunity.”

Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver II (D-MO) will serve as the First Vice Chair, Congresswoman Donna Christensen (D-VI) as Second Vice Chair, Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) as Secretary, and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D-NY) as Whip.

Congresswoman Lee Calls for Congressional Review of United States-Iraq Security Agreement

Press Release
For Immediate Release
November 28, 2008

Contact: Ricci Graham
(510) 763-0370

Oakland, CA – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee issued the following statement today in response to the Iraqi Parliament passage on Thursday of a U.S. - Iraq Security Agreement:

“Not only is this agreement fundamentally flawed in its content, but I also believe it is unconstitutional without Congressional review. If the Iraqi Parliament must review it, so should the United States Congress.

“I will continue to push for consideration of my legislation, H.R. 6846, which would prohibit unilateral action by the President and require Congressional review of this agreement, and urge President Bush to reverse course and submit the agreement to Congress for review.”

Ledisi Releases New Holiday CD; National Tour Starts December 4

Ledisi Offers Up Some 'Christmas' Cheer, Plots Tour

Entertainment Newswire, Entertainment
By Bridget Bland

Official Ledisi Web Site

It's almost that time of the year again. The holiday season is fast approaching and two-time Grammy Award nominee Ledisi is ready to spread some Yuletide cheer with her new Christmas album, 'It's Christmas,' which is in stores now.

The powerhouse singer-songwriter recently wowed the audience at "Black 2: Broadway's" benefit show last week at the historic Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City with her rendition of Louis Armstrong's classic ballad 'What A Wonderful World,' which is featured on the new Verve Music release.

"Ledisi is a divine creation of soul and song," said Kevin-Anthony, the lead producer of the philanthropic event, which promotes arts for the black theater community. "She has tremendous talent and a tremendous journey ahead of her."

On December 4, she will kick off a 10-city "Christmas" tour at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, North Carolina. Following that date, she will make stops in Atlanta, her hometown of New Orleans, and Los Angeles. Complete tour dates listed below.

"This is my first Christmas album and I'm looking forward to performing the songs live in front of an audience," Ledisi told of the upcoming jaunt.

According to the neo-soul wunderkind. she recorded her Christmas offering, which is in stores now, in just three days in July – a stark contrast from the year-long recording process of her last CD 'Lost and Found.'

Ledisi notes that she recorded her the offering with live instruments and it includes a mix of genres, like gospel, pop and R&B. It was most important for her to maintain her personality on the recordings through focusing on what music she heard during the holidays and letting her songs stand apart from traditional Christmas albums. 'It's Christmas' includes four original songs, co-written by the singer, including 'This Christmas (Could Be The One).'

Already she has recorded a Christmas special for the Gospel Music Channel and 'This Christmas (Could Be The One)' will be featured on the upcoming 'Now Christmas 2008' compilation album.

Keep an ear out for other new music from Ledisi; She' said she is currently in the beginning stages of recording her follow-up to 'Lost and Found' and meeting with different producers. There may be other surprises in store, too.

"I'm really looking forward to this next process in my life. I've made three albums, had two Grammy nominations, a beautiful fan-base, and beat all the odds against me," she shared. "God really has been good to me." That reason inspired that song, 'Thank You.'

And, if her recent success is any indicator of what's to come, Ledisi's future will continue to be bright.

Dates for Ledisi's 'It's Christmas' tour:

December 4 - Carolina Theater - Durham, NC
December 5 - Variety Playhouse - Atlanta, GA
December 7 - Dillard University - New Orleans, LA
December 10 - El Rey - Los Angeles, CA
December 11-14 - Yoshi's - San Francisco, CA
December 16 - Dedry Experience - Chicago, IL
December 18 - Fillmore - Detroit, MI
December 19 - B.B. King's - New York, NY
December 20 - Keswick Theatre - Philadelphia, PA
December 22-23 - Rams Head - Annapolis, MD

State of the Black World Conference Report: Accepting Our Responsibility

State of the Black World: Accepting our responsibility

By Ashahed M. Muhammad
Assistant Editor
Updated Nov 26, 2008, 04:11 pm

NEW ORLEANS ( - Beyond egos, competing agendas and differing ideologies, the Black Nation should unite behind common principles to more effectively serve the needs of Black people, The Honorable Minister Farrakhan said during his keynote address wrapping up the State of the Black World Conference II on Nov. 23 at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

After a stirring introduction by long-time activist and displaced Katrina survivor Mtangulizi Sanyika who described Min. Farrakhan as a “global evangelist, a theo-centric global humanist” and “a Muslim extraordinaire who loves Jesus profoundly,” the Minister immediately addressed the recent historic presidential election of Barack H. Obama and what it means to Black America.

“We have witnessed history being made and the history making event has placed on all of our shoulders a heavier responsibility,” said Min. Farrakhan. “I always try to see the hand of God in things that are happening so I can give the thing that is happening the proper respect,” said Min. Farrakhan adding that despite the fact that he cast his vote just before dawn on Nov. 4, he was “in doubt” that America would elect a Black president until late in the evening. The Minister said Mr. Obama’s victory is a sign that “God has not forsaken us,” and “is giving America a chance to redeem herself.”

“This is why I see Barack Obama as a mercy from God to the United States of America and a troubled world,” said Min. Farrakhan adding that America is in a fall from the pinnacle of power.

In a wide-ranging message also dealing with the state of Black leadership, organizations and the slave trade, Min. Farrakhan’s words brought laughter at times. His stern words filled with wisdom and guidance caused deep contemplation and reflection throughout.

The SOBWC II was first major gathering of Black leaders, thinkers, activists and scholars since the historic election of America’s first Black president.

Despite a severe economic downturn, and the typical financial challenges faced by many Black organizations, committed grassroots activists and legendary pillars of the Black Nationalist community made the journey to New Orleans, the symbol of Black suffering and poverty which came to the world’s attention after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Min. Farrakhan said the world’s recent events bring to mind the Biblical story of Moses who made a special prayer to God asking that He would “touch the wealth” of Pharaoh because the Children of Israel were so enamored with Pharaoh’s wealth, that they did not want to leave him.

Citing the recent collapse of several banking and financial giants, the “begging with a tin cup” by the “Big Three” American automakers—General Motors, Chrysler and Ford—and the fact that America is 10 trillion dollars in debt, it is clear that the wealth of America is in fact, being touched.

Well loved by the people of New Orleans, Min. Farrakhan has been a vocal and consistent advocate for those displaced by Hurricane Katrina. He conducted a fact-finding mission immediately following the disaster and then shortly thereafter commissioned The Final Call to produce a documentary telling the hidden truth about what happened before, during and after Katrina.

Minister Farrakhan chided the crowd for always being victimized by those who consistently work to “destroy our meager efforts for (financial) independence” with a system of laws to keep Black men and women as share croppers. The enemy kept Blacks picking cotton using education, labor laws, other legal shenanigans and actual lynchings to prevent “true emancipation.”

Unknown to many in the audience, The Minister informed them that New Orleans was at one time the hub of the American economy and considered “ground zero” of the cotton and sugar trade.

“The ugly secret of America is that this is where many of the rich bankers obtained their extraordinary wealth and power,” said Min. Farrakhan adding that during slavery, cotton was to the world economy what oil is now. He also said many Blacks found themselves in a state of perpetual slavery by wicked and deceitful slave masters.

However, even after all of that, many of us are like the Children of Israel who did not want to follow Moses when he said “Let my people go!”

“We don’t want to let him go. He has already let us go, but he is not giving us a good send off,” said the Minister. “No one can dig America out of the abyss of economic collapse” due to the wrong headed policies of the Bush administration.

“You are the only people who seek political strength on the basis of nothing,” said Min. Farrakhan noting that the Italians, the Irish and the Jewish people all established economic power then began to exert political power. He said every time we achieve one milestone, whether it is education, business ownership or voting, Black people collectively still end up in a bad condition primarily because we need to “flush out” envy, stupidity, ignorance, jealousy and envy among our people.

Speaking of his long-time allies in the struggle for Black liberation, such as Dr. Conrad Worrill and Dr. Haki Mahdubuti, the Minister told the crowd that those men helped him the most, when he first set out to rebuild the work of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin sat in the front row and listened intently nodding in agreement many times during Min. Farrakhan’s message of self help and responsibility.

“I think it is tremendous what he said,” Mayor Nagin told The Final Call. “We as Black leaders throughout the country need to come together in unity to inspire our people to be positioned for all of the opportunities the President-elect is going to bring us. Forcing us to think differently and to get off of our duffs and move the state of Black America forward, and I got it. I received it.”

African scholar-warrior Dr. Leonard Jeffries recalled how during his travels, when he was under attack, Min. Farrakhan ensured that members of the Fruit of Islam protected him understanding the importance of “security for outspoken Black people.”

“The Minister has been a blessing. I appreciate him building on the foundation he got from Malcolm X, I appreciated him going back into the wilderness and rebuilding the work of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad,” said Dr. Jeffries in between teaching sessions, photos and autographs. “I never fail to be inspired.”

“The State of the Black World Conference is the continuation of the tradition of Black people convening to find strategies and tactics to fight the challenges of Black people in America and African people worldwide,” said Dr. Conrad Worrill of the National Black United Front. “It goes back to the 19th century—the Negro Convention Movement—and this follows in that tradition and its significance with the recent election of President Elect Barack Obama finds us challenged to rise to the occasion in our organizing efforts to find solutions.”

During the five day conference, several working sessions were held calling together the great scholarship and leadership within the Black community.

A Black agenda

A town hall meeting on Nov. 20 brought together those interested in crafting a Black agenda to be addressed by the Obama administration.

“We’re here today to discuss a new way and come together like we have never come together before,” said Radio talk show host Bev Smith.

Political scientist and author Dr. Ron Walters said that for the first time, Blacks voted at a higher level than Whites in an election and remarked that Black people have “turned a corner” and that the success of Barack Obama is one that Black people can look to with a source of pride.

Bennett College president Dr. Julianne Malveaux remarked that agendas have been presented to the Obama administration by other ethnic groups, why not a Black agenda?

“The celebration is about the symbolism, but what is the substance?” asked Dr. Malveaux. “We need to lay out an agenda and that agenda is jobs, jobs, jobs. The words ‘poverty’ and ‘urban’ were banned from the (presidential) campaign. It’s up to us to raise them again,” she added.

CEO of the National Urban League Marc Morial, who also served as mayor of New Orleans from 1994 to 2002 said he had faith in President Elect Barack H. Obama because he knows the reality of urban life, having spent time as an organizer in Chicago. He also cautioned against unrealistic expectations or complacency now that a Black man is headed to the White House.

“We made history (but) we didn’t elect a messiah,” said Mr. Morial “We didn’t elect a savior. We expect him to live up to the things that he committed to, but civic engagement does not end on Election Day,” he added.

Solutions and strategies

In the Pan-African policy forum titled “The Role of the Diaspora in the Development of Africa and the Caribbean” those interested came together to discuss ways to strengthen the relationship between Africa and Blacks in America.

Ambassador Dudley Thompson defined the term Diaspora as people of African descent who are not living in Africa and said that all Black people—especially in America—should refocus their thinking on their origins.

“Think of yourself as a non-residential African who happens to be living somewhere else,” said the 92-year-old Pan-African scholar pointing out that Africa’s financial situation keeps it powerless and still victimized by neo-colonialism. “If you are broke, you cannot be free whether you are a man or a country and that even applies to large (African) countries under the control of multi-national corporations,” he added.

As a board member of the TransAfrica Forum, moderator and award winning actor Danny Glover said Black people in America have a responsibility to do what they can to help the continent by involving themselves in “strategic and important dialogue” along with action. He also pointed to the youth as a key component in improving the educational and economic conditions in places like Haiti and on the African continent.

“Paul Robeson once said that every generation makes its own history. I think the generation of young people was represented by the election of Barack Obama,” said Mr. Glover. “But I think it’s more than just that. There are young people out here doing great and extraordinary work in the fight for justice. We need to invest in young people and young people need to stand up to make their own history.”

The importance of Black arts

In the intergenerational workshop titled “Reviving the Black Arts and Culture Movement” several members of the Black arts community participated in an intergenerational dialogue on the future of Hip Hop and the Black freedom struggle held on Nov. 22.

“I have been blessed to impact a lot of artists that exist today. That’s why I spend my time helping up-and- coming artists deal with having lots of money and their new found fame because many people don’t know how to handle it. I feel obligated to teach,” said Kangol Kid from the legendary rap group UTFO.

Poetess Sonia Sanchez added context to the freedom struggle of the sixties which continues to this day. “Back in our day, we had to fight so we challenged the system with our words,” said Ms. Sanchez. “We were told at times that our music and poetry wasn’t real but we kept pressing on. Our two greatest influences were Malcom X and (John) Coltrane. Those two men fed us and inspired us to write in the way that we did”.

Wordsmith NYOIL also weighed in on the current state of hip hop and the bias against rappers interested in social commentary.

“There are institutions out there that only pay big money for artists with a certain celebrity status, but those artists get on the stage and say anything. They won’t invite conscious rappers like myself and others who have something to say. We as younger people need guidance from our elders,” said NYOIL. “We can’t do this without you all and sometimes I feel alone in New York. Will you help us?” he asked.

Hip hop journalist Davy D has solutions for those who feel as though that which currently exists does not represent them or provide sufficient outlets for displaying their skills and talents.

“I believe it is that aloneness that people experience at times that creates institutions. If the goal for us is only to be on BET or CNN, then we are off in our thinking,” Davy D said. “We don’t have to depend on mainstream media to put out our story, when we can do it. There are people off the block and in the hood who can do great things if we start falling back in love with one another. We need to start utilizing the resources that we all have and network to build institutions

Jasiri X, who has done a lot to infuse real world events into his lyrics by creating anthems related to the “Jena Six” case and the case of Sean Bell, had several recommendations.

“If you or anybody you know is connected to institutions, why not invite positive rappers in? I have witnessed how organizations have certain positive initiatives that we offer to represent from a hip hop standpoint and we get shut down. It would make sense to use an artist who can reach young people with their message.”

Workshop moderator Dr. Kimberly Ellis, also called Dr. Goddess brought it all home in a unified manner.

“We are not going anywhere without our elders who paved the way for us,” said Dr. Ellis. “I believe our generation is powerful and if we have the guidance of those before us we will do even more. But there must be communication between the two and a level of respect.”

On the evening of Nov. 22, the Institute of the Black World held the Legacy Awards ceremony honoring those consistently on the front lines of the struggle for Black liberation. Among those honored was Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright. After graciously thanking many of those joining him on the stage, he delivered special words of thanks and appreciation on behalf of Black people for Minister Farrakhan and the two men embraced to the cheers of the crowd.

“One of many things that the media got angry about back in April is that I would not let them tell me who my friends were, and because the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is a friend of mine,” said Rev. Wright adding that during the controversy, the Fruit of Islam provided security for him and other Nation of Islam members stood in support of him. “While they were using me as the whipping boy, they were waiting on him (Farrakhan) to say anything. Anything. He held his peace in order that Barack may be our president. My brother, we owe a debt of gratitude that we can never repay.”

Dr. Ron Daniels, president of the Institute of the Black World called it an “incredible and powerful moment” that many at SOBWC II will not soon forget.

Though not talking much to the media over the past few months, Rev. Wright told The Final Call that it was an evening of “mixed emotions” the night he heard the news that Barack H. Obama had been elected president.

“It was like it was all worth it,” said Rev. Wright. “I told one of the reporters from the Los Angeles Times, that I had been supporting Barack for years long before many of them could even pronounce his name and to see all of that hard work come to fruition was a sign of hope with my biggest hope being that all of those that worked so hard to get him elected will continue to work (because) he can’t do this all by himself,” Rev. Wright added.

Rev. Wright also said that on the night of the election, when his family was celebrating Mr. Obama’s victory, it was painful when his name was still being tarnished in the media and that he could not be present in Grant Park for the celebration.

“It was great feeling—it was painful in that I couldn’t be there because of his support(ers) hating me—many of them—and my presence being something that would hurt him, that was painful because long before they knew him, I was pushing him and supporting him. It was like seeing one of your children finally make it to the big stage, but you can’t be there with him. It was a mixed emotion kind of night. In fact, as I was celebrating and enjoying the moment CNN mentioned my name in a negative light—that night! They won’t let it go, but it was good seeing that come to pass.”

“To see these giants coming together and to show these two men that we have their backs to see that they have each other backs,” said Dr. Daniels “We may never see that in a collective setting like this again, it was just incredible.”

Reflecting on Min. Farrakhan’s Sunday message, Dr. Worrill said Min. Farrakhan’s participation in this event as a representation of the continuation of the struggle for Black liberation, and at the same time, preparation for the passing of the torch.

“In 1970 Minister Farrakhan was the keynote speaker at the Congress of African People meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Ron Daniels, Mtangulizi Sanyika and myself, Conrad Worrill were there, and these same activists are still on the front lines, trying to make the connection with the next generation to take our place, so it is prophetic and profound that the Honorable Minster Louis Farrakhan would be speaking at a gathering that has such great tradition in our movement,” Dr. Worril added.

(Jesse Muhammad contributed to this report. Look for more coverage of the State of the Black World Conference II in the next edition of The Final Call.)

Moratorium Now! Activists Continue to Pressure Michigan Governor to Halt Foreclosures; Ohio Coalition Formed

Activists press Mich. guv to stop foreclosures

By Kris Hamel
Published Nov 24, 2008 5:20 PM

Union and community activists came out despite a brutally cold wind on Nov. 20 to demand Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm use her executive authority to implement an immediate moratorium stopping foreclosures. The demonstration, which targeted the State building in Detroit, was called by the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions.

On Nov. 6 Granholm announced deep budget cuts at the same time that she ordered $150 million to be released from the state treasury to go to banks and credit unions “to help spur economic growth throughout Michigan.” She also stated she wanted the legislature to enact a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures “to allow the homeowner and the lender to work out terms.” (

For two years Granholm had steadfastly refused to acknowledge the foreclosure catastrophe and had opposed the grassroots struggle demanding a moratorium. Her answer to the extreme economic crisis in Michigan has been to give more money to the corporations and ignore the people.

Coalition organizers were stunned by Granholm’s statement supporting a moratorium, and considered it a victory in the people’s struggle. Organizers noted, however, that Granholm still refused to use her executive authority and instead called for the state legislature to pass a moratorium.

SB 1306, a two-year foreclosure moratorium law, has been before the state Senate since May 2008. Other bills have been introduced for a one-year moratorium.

In a speech to a “poverty summit” held in downtown Detroit on Nov. 13, Granholm didn’t refer to her moratorium proposal and reverted back to her rose-tinted view of Michigan’s economic prospects. She reiterated her refrain, “We may be down, but we’re not out!”

In a press conference, reporters from Telesur asked her if she would use her executive authority to order a moratorium on foreclosures. Granholm said, “No.” They asked if she supported SB 1306, and again she said, “No.”

The Moratorium NOW! Coalition is vowing to keep up the pressure on all fronts in this struggle—on the governor, the City of Detroit and other municipalities—for a workers’ bailout and for defending peoples’ right to their homes by any means necessary.

On Dec. 6 the coalition is hosting a statewide organizers conference from 12 noon to 4 p.m. on the second floor of Central United Methodist Church, 23 East Adams at Woodward in downtown Detroit. Call 313-887-4344, email, or visit for more information or to send a donation.

Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Page printed from:

Cleveland activists launch moratorium campaign

By Martha Grevatt
Published Nov 24, 2008 5:17 PM

Activists in Cleveland have formed the Ohio Moratorium Now! Coalition to Stop Evictions, Foreclosures and Shutoffs using the Moratorium NOW! Coalition in Michigan as a model.

The Nov. 18 founding meeting was called by the Peoples Fightback Center, the Cleveland Chapter of the New Black Panther Party, the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network (formerly the Cleveland Lucasville Five Defense Committee) and the Baldwin Wallace College Chapter of Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST).

The call to “join a nationwide movement that is keeping people in their homes and keeping their utilities from being shut off” drew additional community activists from outside the original sponsoring groups.

Those present were inspired by a reading from the classic book “Labor’s Untold Story.” The passage told the story of Peter Grossup, a cabinetmaker laid off in 1930 who eighteen months later faced foreclosure.

When the sheriffs finally came and threw the Grossup family’s possessions on the street, the Unemployed Council came and moved everything back in. Grossup, who until that day dismissed the Council as “a bunch of Communists,” was lifted from despondency, and subsequently became a Council activist in his own right.

The initial Moratorium Now! meeting was held in the Glenville neighborhood, a predominantly African-American community on Cleveland’s east side where the foreclosure crisis is the most severe. The group agreed to hold the second meeting in the west side suburb of Lakewood, which has a large lesbian, gay, bi and trans population and where a Lutheran minister asked the coalition to come to her church.

By going to different neighborhoods, Ohio Moratorium Now! plans to launch a countywide and eventually a statewide campaign to save people’s homes and prevent utility shutoffs.

Organizers will employ a two-pronged approach and push for a moratorium through legislative or other governmental action while at the same time building a rapid-response strike force to keep people from being thrown out on the street.

Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Page printed from:

Somali News Bulletin: Ethiopian Troops to Leave By End of December; More Ship Seizures in the Gulf of Aden

Ethiopian troops to leave Somalia

The Islamists once again control much of southern Somalia

All Ethiopian troops will leave Somalia by the end of the year, a foreign ministry spokesman has announced.

Ethiopia sent thousands of soldiers into Somalia two years ago to help government forces oust Islamists from the capital, Mogadishu.

But their presence has been deeply unpopular with many Somalis.

Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf recently admitted that his forces only control parts of the capital and the central town of Baidoa.

Despite being forced from power in Mogadishu, Islamist forces have rallied and stage frequent attacks against Ethiopian and government soldiers.

Hardline Islamists have refused to take part in peace talks until the Ethiopians left Somali territory - the two countries have twice fought border wars.

The government is also deeply divided between President Yusuf and Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein.


Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman Wahide Belay said that the deadline for the pull-out was in a letter sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping on Tuesday.

"We have done our job and we are proud of it, but the expectations that we had from the international community were never fulfilled. But that said, we will withdraw in a responsible manner," he told the AFP news agency.

The US supported the Ethiopian move into Somalia but calls for UN peacekeepers to be sent have never materialised.

This is not the first time the Ethiopians have said they would withdraw but the BBC's Elizabeth Blunt in Addis Ababa says what is new is the lack of conditions or provisos.

It has previously said it would not pull out in a way that would leave a vacuum or destabilise the situation.

There are believed to be about 2,000 Ethiopian troops in Somalia - sharply down from the 12,000 who first intervened.

The Ethiopian withdrawal was also part of a peace deal agreed recently between the government and moderate Islamists.

Some analysts fear fighting could increase after the Ethiopians leave.

There is a small African Union peacekeeping force in Mogadishu but analysts say they are unlikely to fight off the advancing Islamists.


The AU Commission Chairman warned that the AU force could also leave if government in-fighting continues.

"If the transitional government continues to quarrel, if those we came here to help can't agree and the Ethiopians pull out lock, stock and barrel... and African troops too decide to leave, then we have the worst possible scenario," he said, reports the AFP news agency.

Horn of Africa analyst Roger Middleton, from the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA), says morale is low in Ethiopia's army and troops are needed on the border with Eritrea.

But he said the situation may not improve and could become more complicated.

"It is possible that the government and ARS [moderate Islamists] form a broad-based government," he said.

"But a more likely scenario is a proliferation of armed groups fighting each other."

Rashid Abdi, a Somalia analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG) think-tank, said the Ethiopians may now use troops and air power against the Islamists, instead of having troops on the ground, who are vulnerable to attack.

"The Ethiopians are at the end of their tether because of the squabbling in the interim government, which they have backed at such enormous human and financial cost," he told Reuters news agency.

Some 10,000 civilians have been killed since 2007, Reuters reports.

Donors say that up to three million people - almost half the population - need food aid.

Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991.

The anarchy has also spread to the seas, which attacks by pirates have made the most dangerous in the world.

Somalia: Somali pirates hijack Liberian flagged tanker

Fri. November 28, 2008 07:09 am.- By Bonny Apunyu.

(SomaliNet) A regional maritime official confirmed on Friday that armed Somali pirates have hijacked a Liberian-flagged chemical tanker in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.

Andrew Mwangura, East Africa's coordinator of the Seafarers Assistance Program (SAP), said the seized vessel has 30 crew members, mostly Indians onboard.

"The pirates seized the Liberian flagged chemical tanker in the Gulf of Aden with 30 crew members mostly Indians. There are three Indonesians, about 25 Indians and the remaining could be British," Mwangura told Xinhua by telephone.

"I received the report of the hijack today and I have not established the name of the vessel and where it was sailing to and when exactly the tanker was seized," Mwangura said.

The Somali pirates have caused mayhem this year in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

The hijacked ships included a Saudi Arabian supertanker loaded with 100 million U.S. dollars worth of oil, the biggest hijacking in history.

The tanker, the Sirius Star, belongs to Saudi Arabia's state-owned Vela International and is carrying 2 million barrels of oil.

It was hijacked Nov.15 about 833 km off Somalia, along with 25 crew members from Britain, Poland, Croatia and Saudi Arabia. - (Xinhua)

Somali pirates hijack chemical tanker with dozens of Indian crew members

Fri. November 28, 2008 07:06 am.- By Bonny Apunyu

(SomaliNet) Officials said Somali pirates hijacked a chemical tanker with dozens of Indian crew members on board Friday, and three British security guards were rescued by helicopter after jumping into the sea.

Speaking on conditions of anonymity, diplomatic officials said a warship on patrol nearby had sent helicopters to intervene in the attack, but they arrived after pirates had taken control of the Liberian-flagged ship.

The diplomats said, still on board were 25 Indian and two Bangladeshi crew members, after the British security guards escaped by jumping into the water.

It was the 97th vessel to be attacked this year off Somalia, where an Islamic insurgency and lack of effective government have helped facilitate an increase in pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden.

The ship was being operated out of Singapore, according to Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Malaysia.

The ship master had sent a distress call to the center, which relayed the alert to international forces that have been policing Somali waters this year, Choong said.

There were no immediate details about how the pirates attacked or the condition of the crew.

Pirates have become increasingly brazen in the Gulf, a major international shipping lane through which some 20 tankers sail daily.

So far this year, 97 ships have been attacked and 40 hijacked, including the seizure of a Saudi supertanker loaded with $100 million worth of crude oil earlier this month.

Pirates demanding multimillion-dollar ransoms are currently holding 15 ships, with nearly 300 crew, Choong said.

Warships from Denmark, India, Malaysia, Russia, the U.S. and NATO have started patrolling the vast maritime corridor, escorting some merchant ships and responding to distress calls.

Ships "must continue to maintain a 24-hour vigil and radar watch so they can take early measures to escape pirates. Even though there are patrols, the warships cannot be everywhere at the same time," Choong said.

Somalia, an impoverished nation in the Horn of Africa, has not had a functioning government since 1991. -AP

DRC News Update: Rebels Take Another Town; China Concerned Over Situation; Problems on the Zambian Border

DRC rebels take new town, says UN

Nov 28 2008 12:06

Rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have captured a new town in an area where they had clashed with pro-government rebels, the United Nations mission in the country said on Friday.

"There is a small CNDP presence in Ishasha," Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich, spokesperson for the UN mission in DRC (Monuc), said, referring to members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People rebel group.

"A Monuc patrol is in the process of travelling to the location," he said.

The moves came as UN special envoy Olusegun Obasanjo was set to meet this weekend with Congolese President Joseph Kabila and rebel chief Laurent Nkunda in a new peace bid.

The town is located along the Ugandan border, about 130km north-east of Goma, the capital of DRC's Nord-Kivu province, where the conflict between rebels led by Nkunda and government forces is centred.

The rebels said on Thursday they had taken control of the town.

In taking Ishasha, the rebels have now advanced more than 30km north in less than 24 hours.

About 13 000 people have fled across the border to Uganda over the last two days to flee fighting in the area, the UN's refugee agency said.

The rebels now control two Nord-Kivu border post towns on the Ugandan frontier. The towns are significant sources of revenue for provincial authorities because of customs duties.

The other town under their control is Bunagana, 60km north-east of Goma.

Tensions between Kinshasa and Nkunda boiled over in August, propelling more than 250 000 people towards refugee camps or into hiding in the bush, beyond the reach of aid agencies. -- AFP

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address:

09:28, November 29, 2008

China concerned over situation in DR Congo

China is extremely concerned over the current situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), a senior Chinese diplomat said here on Friday.

"Judging from the current situation, a long-term process is needed in order to settle the situation and to effectively implement all signed agreements," said Li Baodong, Chinese ambassador to the UN Office in Geneva.

Li was addressing a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights in the east of the DR Congo, where hundreds of thousands of people have reportedly displaced by fighting between government and rebel forces.

China supports UN and EU mediation efforts in the country, and it has been supportive of the peacekeeping process there since the beginning, he said.

He also expressed China's willingness to work together with the international community to achieve a long lasting peace in the region.

Source: Xinhua

Published on Taipei Times

Congo refugees flee to Uganda

FRESH SKIRMISHES: UN officials said about 13,000 people had fled to the frontier town of Isaha in the last two days after the latest hostilities broke out in the east of DR Congo

Saturday, Nov 29, 2008, Page 6

About 10,000 refugees fled across the border with Uganda on Thursday following fresh skirmishes between rebels and pro-government fighters in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said about 13,000 people had made for the frontier town of Ishasa over the last 48 hours, escaping hostilities pitting the main rebel army against Mai-Mai militia and exiled Rwandan Hutu fighters.

“UNHCR staff at the south-west Ugandan border town of Ishasha said that since Tuesday afternoon an estimated 13,000 Congolese refugees had crossed the border from the eastern province’s Rutshuru district, including some 10,000 on Thursday,” a statement said.

Yumiko Takashima, the leader of a UNHCR emergency team, said about 1,000 refugees were moved on Thursday to a safer location at Nakivale, some 350km to the east. Several thousand more were expecting to leave yesterday.

The new arrivals told UNHCR team members that they were fleeing fresh fighting in the area around Rutshuru.

“The assailants killed everybody in my village. They took the young boys with them and killed all the rest of the population,” said 25-year-old Daudi, who walked 60km from Kiwanga to the border, without specifying who the assailants were.

Rebels said their positions around Kiwanga were challenged by pro-Kinshasa allies.

“In the face of this threat, we took preventive action,” said Bertrand Bisimwa, spokesman for Tutsi ex-general Laurent Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), although Bisimwa underlined that there had been “skirmishes rather than fighting.”

He said the Mai-Mai and the Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda had been halted some 4km north of Kiwanja, which lies some 80km from the regional capital of Goma.

The Mai-Mai spokesman in Nord-Kivu Province, Didier Bitaki, said the CNDP was “trying to advance toward Ishasha.”

Bisimwa later said that Ishasa “is in our hands,” adding that “several days of [CNDP] military police operations” had secured the Kiwanja-Ishasa corridor.

The UN mission in DR Congo, known as MONUC, said on Wednesday that the CNDP had launched new military operations in the area, amounting to a “ceasefire violation.”

UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy Olusegun Obasanjo will meet with Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Nkunda for a second time this weekend.

Obasanjo is due to be joined at talks by former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa. A senior Libyan foreign affairs official, Abdel Salam Triki, is also in town.

The 47-member UN Human Rights Council was also due to hold a special session yesterday to discuss the conflict.

Ahead of the session, called by western countries and campaigners, Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay urged an end to the “cycle of sexual violence, bloodshed and destruction” in the sprawling central African nation.

“Recent reports suggest an escalation of sexual violence in its most brutal forms — committed by all sides in the conflict, including soldiers belonging to the national army,” Pillay said.

“Thousands upon thousands of women have been raped over the past decade and hardly any of their attackers have been brought to justice,” he said.

DRC-ZAMBIA: Kivu fighting slows refugee repatriation

LUSAKA, 26 November 2008 (IRIN) - Fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is jeopardising a voluntary repatriation programme for Congolese refugees in neighbouring Zambia, a senior UN refugee agency (UNHCR) official has said.

"Just before the fighting erupted in the [eastern] Kivu region [of DRC], the number of refugees registering for voluntary repatriation in the Mwange and Kala camps [in northern Zambia] had shown a significant increase. But now, very few are coming forward to register, and even some of those who register are opting out at the last minute," said James Lynch, the UNHCR [UN refugee agency] country director in Zambia.

"Most of the refugees are able to obtain information on what is happening in the DRC through shortwave radios and other sources. What they glean, they share with other refugees in the camps."

UNHCR has been repatriating Congolese refugees, mostly to Katanga Province in southern DRC, since 2007. A total of 7,323 were repatriated in 2007 and some 9,001 returned this year; a further 11,572 refugees were expected to repatriate before the end of 2008.

When clashes broke out recently in DRC between rebels loyal to renegade General Laurent Nkunda and government forces, UNHCR said the fighting would not affect the repatriation programme, as Katanga was some distance from the conflict zone.

"But [now] the refugees are citing fear of the conflict spreading from eastern Congo to other areas as the reason for not registering for voluntary repatriation ... since reports of the resumption of the armed conflict in eastern Congo began to come in, numbers [of refugees willing to repatriate] have gone down," Lynch said.

Zambia is home to some 45,253 Congolese refugees; of these, 28,571 reside in camps and settlements, 1,682 in urban areas, and an estimated 15,000 are self-settled.

A fluid situation

Ronnie Shikapwasha, Zambia's chief government spokesperson, this week announced that the country was preparing for a major influx of refugees from its giant northern neighbour.

"Zambia is ready to welcome refugees from DRC. It is a fluid situation; naturally, it will affect Zambia. A number of refugees will start trickling to Zambia and we will have to work out a situation where the United Nations, under the UNHCR, should be able to help looking after the refugees," Shikapwasha told the local media.

A possible new influx would exert even more pressure on the UNHCR, already struggling after the UN World Food Programme announced that a funding shortfall was forcing it to cut feeding programmes to vulnerable refugees.

Zambia also hosts thousands of asylum seekers from Angola, Rwanda, Burundi and Somalia.

Report can be found online at:
This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the Pan-African News Wire

Friday, November 28, 2008

Latin America News Update: Medvedev, Chavez Visit Russian Warships; Nuclear Deal Signed; Meeting With Raul Castro; Bolivia Condemns US

Medvedev, Chavez visit Russian warships at Venezuela port

Friday, November 28
LA GUAIRA, Venezuela

(AFP)--Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday visited Russian warships in a Venezuelan port with President Hugo Chavez, giving a symbolic kickstart to joint maneuvers in the US backyard.

Medvedev arrived in Caracas late Wednesday and was due to travel to communist Cuba later Thursday, the last stop in a four-nation trip.

The Russian leader's tour sought to boost Cold War-era ties with left-leaning countries and was seen as a rebuff to US moves in formally Communist-ruled parts of Europe, such as planned missile defense facilities.

Hundreds of white-clad navy forces welcomed the two leaders in the blazing Venezuelan sunshine in the northern port of La Guiara for the symbolic start of exercises with Russian warships not seen in the region since the Cold War.

Medvedev and strong US-critic Chavez toured destroyer "Admiral Chabanenko," as Chavez joked to reporters from the deck: "We're going to Cuba!"

They also signed a pre-accord for the sale of two Russian passenger planes.

The two leaders vowed closer cooperation to establish what they called a "multi-polar" world after signing a string of deals the previous night, including on a project to build a joint nuclear reactor for peaceful purposes.

Officials also signed a deal on cooperation in the fossil fuel sector, aimed at stepping up existing exploration projects in Venezuela by companies such as Russian energy giant Gazprom.

The fiercely anti-liberal Chavez also denounced what he called the "dictatorship of the dollar" after announcing efforts to move away from dollar transactions in trade with Russia.

Chavez and a handful of leftist Latin American leaders agreed Wednesday to create a joint monetary zone to confront the international financial crisis and reduce dollar dependency.

Although Russia and Venezuela signed no new arms deals, Medvedev defended Russia's growing arms sales to Venezuela -- criticized by the United States and neighbor Colombia as potentially destabilizing -- and said military cooperation with firebrand leftist Chavez would continue.

The two countries have signed 4.4 billion dollars in bilateral arms deals since 2005, including radars, 24 Sukhoi-30 planes, 50 helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikovs.

Russian military cooperation with Venezuela "is not a market relationship or aimed at any other state but is based on partnership," Medvedev said.

The warship maneuvers, dubbed "VenRus 2008" and including some 1,600 Russian forces and 700 Venezuelans, are due to take place between December 1 and 3.

"This is against no one, we're practicing our right. And we'll keep working with Russia on strategic defense," Chavez said ahead of the exercises.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the arrival of Russian ships could hardly reflect a change in the regional power balance.

"A few Russian ships is not going to change the balance of power," she said.

Some analysts also detected an element of bluff in the Russian moves, saying that the economic crisis was likely to hinder Russian plans such as possible involvement in a South American gas pipeline.

Others have criticized the timing of Russia's show of defiance given a wave of international goodwill towards the United States after Barack Obama won the country's presidential election.

Thursday, November 27, 2008
17:39 Mecca time, 14:39 GMT

Medvedev and Chavez in nuclear deal

Chavez says US 'hegemony' was the source of global

Russia and Venezuela's leaders have signed a deal for Moscow to help the South American country to build a nuclear energy plant, during a visit to Caracas by Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's president.

Medvedev and Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president, also vowed to work together to establish what they called a "multi-polar" world and agreed to continue arms deals between the two countries.

Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Rosatom, the Russian atomic energy corporation, said Venezuela had the right to peaceful nuclear energy and had given no cause for "questions" about its fitness for nuclear energy.

Officials said they had also signed an agreement on co-operation in the fossil fuel sector, aimed at stepping up existing exploration projects in Venezuela by Russian energy companies such as Gazprom.

Military co-operation

Chavez greeted Medvedev at an elaborate event in the Venezuelan capital on Wednesday.

The welcoming ceremony featured scarlet-clad soldiers carrying spears, in a courtyard decorated with palm trees, fountains and statues of classical gods and dolphins.

Following talks between the two men, Medvedev said military co-operation between the two countries would continue.

Russia has been a major arms supplier to Venezuela, providing radars, fighter jets, helicopters and tens of thousands of Kalashnikov rifles.

Medvedev defended the arms sales, which have been criticised by the US and Colombia as potentially destabilising for the region.

The Russian president said military co-operation with Venezuela "is not a market relationship or aimed at any other state but is based on partnership... It should strengthen multi-polarity in the world including in South America and Latin America".

'Dollar dictatorship'

Meanwhile, Chavez said US "hegemony" was the source of global "catastrophes".

He denounced what he called the "dictatorship of the dollar" and announced efforts to move away from dollar transactions in future trade deals with Russia.

"We should fight to make a world of catastrophes caused by hegemony and unilateralism a thing of the past," Chavez said.

Medvedev and Chavez went on to dine with leaders of several South and Central American countries, some of which have formed an economic group designed to counterbalance US influence in the region.

Medvedev is set to inspect Russian warships that arrived in Venezuela this week to carry out exercises in the Caribbean Sea close to US waters.

His visit is part of a tour aimed at revitalising Russia's Cold War-era ties with left-leaning countries in Latin America and is seen as a counter to US moves in Eastern Europe where Washington is introducing a missile defence system.

Medvedev earlier visited Brazil, which announced it had agreed to buy 12 attack helicopters from Russia.

Source: Agencies

Raúl receives President Medvedev

PRESIDENT Raúl Castro received Dimitri A. Medvedev, president of the Russian Federation on Thursday afternoon at the Palace of the Revolution, shortly after his arrival in Cuba on a working visit.

In an initially private meeting, the two leaders discussed the progress of bilateral relations and shared opinions on various issues of general interest.

Both subsequently moved on head official talks that took place in an atmosphere of friendship, comprehension and mutual respect that characterizes relations between the two countries, reflecting the long and solid fraternity between the Cuban and Russian peoples.

Raúl and Medvedev agreed on the importance of continuing to develop links in different fields, the economic one in particular, on the basis of shared benefit, and exchanged views on the international situation; in particular, the current world economic crisis and its consequences.

The Cuban president expressed thanks for Russian aid after three hurricanes struck the island within a space of just two months.

For his part, Medvedev ratified the disposition of the Russian people, government and business sector to increase their participation in the development of the Cuban economy.

Also present at the meeting were José Ramón Machado Ventura, first vice president; Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, vice president of the Council of Ministers; Igor Sechin, vice president of the Russian Federation; and Serguey E. Prikhodko, President Medvedev’s advisor; and other senior Cuban and Russian officials.

Translated by Granma International

Evo Morales condemns Bush government decision against Bolivia

LA PAZ, November 27.— Bolivian President Evo Morales today described as "political revenge" the U.S. government’s decision to exclude his country from unilaterally conditioned tariff benefits related to combating drug trafficking.

"What we are seeing is an attempt to terrify the Bolivian people and trample on their dignity," stated the president during a press conference at the Government Palace, and described the arguments put forward by the White House to justify the measure as "false".

The previous day, U.S. President George W. Bush announced the indefinite exclusion of the Andean nation from the aforementioned commercial instrument - Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) – charging Bolivia of failing to combat drug trafficking.

During the last 11 months, Bolivia has already seized 27 tons of cocaine, three times more than the total retained in 2005, prior to Evo’s victory in the presidential elections.

These elements confirm the criterion of political revenge, Evo affirmed, also reiterating Bolivia’s commitment to the international community with respect to this blight.


Businesspeople from Bolivia and Venezuela initiated in this city the close of contracts signed this month during a trade forum, developed as an alternative to U.S. obstacles to exports from the Andean nation.

The state Suministros Venezolanos Industriales (SUVINCA) company and Bolivian producers are to organize the purchase and sale of Bolivian items such as clothing, textiles, timber and jewelry to a value of $47 million, agreed during the 1st Bilateral Round of Exchange and Integration, according to PL.

Translated by Granma International

Mumbai Battle Leaves Over 150 Dead: Guerrilla Attacks Increase Tension Between India and Pakistan

Mumbai hostage buildings taken

By James Lamont in New Delhi and and Joe Leahy in Mumbai
November 28 2008 19:10

Indian commandos on Friday night managed finally to wrest control of two of the three buildings taken by militants in one of the worst terror attacks on Indian soil.

The siege of Mumbai’s Oberoi hotel and a Jewish centre ended, as officials reported that the death toll had risen to 155 at nine locations with about 327 wounded. Nine gunmen and eight foreigners were among the dead.

A day-long effort to regain control of the Jewish community centre, Nariman House, ended with the news that at least five hostages including a young rabbi and his wife had been killed.

The attempt to storm the building had seen gun battles through the day and commandos sliding down ropes from helicopters hovering above the centre’s roof. At one point the Indian forces blew a hole in the outer wall of the centre.

Fierce battles also continued with militants who were still holed up in one of India’s most famous luxury hotels, the Taj, hours after senior Indian officials said the conflict would end.

Elite Indian commandos spoke of fierce battles through the maze of corridors and rooms of the 100-year-old hotel in which the terrorists had a better knowledge of the layout than security forces.

A senior marine commando officer, dressed in a black balaclava to obscure his identity, said the “very determined and remorseless” militants were well armed and had smuggled weapons into the hotels ahead of their attack, including plastic explosives.

“There is blood all over, bodies all over. We are not looking at those who have been killed, just looking at who is exchanging fire,” he said. “They can go on and on [resisting]”.

Earlier, 143 people were freed and the Oberoi Police confirmed that at least 30 guests and two others had died in the attack.

Analysts said the terrorists had achieved a “significant success” by managing to keep the Indian security forces at bay for so long since the attack began on Wednesday night.

“The attackers received as much attention as they could possibly have hoped for, and the Mumbai outrage can only be described as a very significant terrorist success,” said Paul Cornish, head of the international security programme at Chatham House in London.

Ashok Mehta, a retired army commander, said the casualty count in Mumbai could have been halved if the elite National Security Guard had arrived on the scene earlier.

A little-known group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attacks.

A militant claiming to be one of those holding the Jewish family rang an Indian television channel to offer talks on the release of the hostages while complaining about India’s actions in Kashmir. India and Pakistan are at odds over the disputed territory.

Condemnation has flooded in over the attacks, which have brought India’s financial capital to a halt, with most businesses closed on Friday.

Those killed included: Ashok Kapur, chairman of India’s YES Bank, Loumia Hiridjee and Mourad Amarsy, founders of Princess Tam Tam, a French lingerie label.

The Indian government increased its pressure on Pakistan as the suspected source of the attacks.

Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, summoned the head of Pakistan’s military spy agency to help assist with the investigation into the identity and motives of the terrorists, which is so far unknown.

Pranab Mukherjee, India’s external affairs minister, said preliminary investigation pointed towards Pakistani involvement, in spite of assertions by President Asif Ali Zardari that land under Pakistani control would not be allowed to launch attacks on India.

Pakistan denied involvement.

The attacks have brought into question the future of Mumbai as a global financial centre.

Senior Indian business executives have criticised the government for not taking heed of earlier attacks on the city in 2006 and 1993 to improve the city’s infrastructure and emergency services.

The attacks come at a critical time for the Congress party-led government, which faces an election by next May.

The Hindu nationalist opposition Bharatiya Janata party has campaigned relentlessly against the government’s record on security, as police struggling to bring militants to justice despite almost monthly attacks on major cities.

Additional reporting by James Fontanella-Khan in Mumbai
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Fears of return to guerrilla-based terrorism

By James Blitz and Roula Khalaf in London
November 28 2008 19:20

As western intelligence officials study links between the Mumbai gunmen and external groups, a question reverberating in intelligence circles is: do the Mumbai killings mark the start of a new chapter in the story of global terrorism, in which jihadists revert to the use of machine guns and grenades in crowded places rather than cooking up technically ­ambitious plots?

Ever since the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001, al-Qaeda and those influenced by its jihadist ideology have focused on trying to carry out another complex spectacular, often seeking to blow up several bombs simultaneously. In Madrid in 2004 and in London in 2005, multiple bomb attacks were synchronised across transport systems. In 2006, British jihadists tried – and failed – to blow up airliners over the Atlantic. A big fear in western intelligence agencies, meanwhile, has been that al-Qaeda and its affiliates will eventually get hold of weapons of mass destruction.

In Mumbai, however, the tactics have been different. The Mumbai terrorists have used some ideas that come out of the “al-Qaeda handbook,” such as mounting synchronised attacks across a city and targeting US and UK citizens. But while the attack was sophisticated, some intelligence analysts believe it suggests terrorists are going “back to basics,” using guns and grenades rather than airliners or bombs.

“This is very reminiscent of the kind of the thing carried out by terrorists like Abu Nidal and Carlos the Jackal some 20 or 30 years ago,” says one intelligence analyst, pointing to the similarity, for example, to the atrocity at Rome airport in 1973 when Arab terrorists killed 31 people in multiple attacks on check-in desks and an aircraft. “It is terrorism that is more in the realm of guerrilla warfare – and while the terrorist in the Mumbai case is prepared to die, suicide is not his weapon.”

Nigel Inkster, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, suggests that the methods used by the Mumbai terrorists do not necessarily reflect a strategic rethink by jihadists. “The kind of storming technique we have seen, using firearms and grenades, is characteristic of Kashmiri terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba,” he says.

However, others believe it might reflect a broader change of thinking among international terror groups. The intelligence community has been thinking for some time that al-Qaeda and its affiliates make their task a great deal more difficult by trying to accomplish complex spectaculars that are often discovered by the authorities. This may be one of the reasons why al-Qaeda has failed to inspire any big attack in Europe since the London bombings – and why it has been deemed this year to be on the back-foot.

“One of the perplexing things about al-Qaeda is why they have been focused on this one modus operandi of doing spectacular bombings when there are other more basic ways of terrorising populations,” says one intelligence expert.

His argument is that it is far easier to train terrorists to use firearms than to build bombs, and that guns are far easier to transport around a city than explosives. This is a subject on which few in intelligence will want to say much publicly. But one of the lessons of global terrorism in recent decades is that it mutates in terms of tactics. One of the dangers of this week’s atrocity is that other jihadists, whether connected to the Mumbai attackers or not, will learn this lesson.

Radicals threaten India’s global ambitions

By Jo Johnson
November 27 2008 22:27

This is not the face that India likes to show the world. The faster it rises up the ranks of the world’s nations and the closer it comes to being a global power, the more India objects to being bogged down in a sub-regional conflict with Pakistan, its rival for the past six decades.

If there is one thing that the Indian elite fears could derail the country’s rise, it is that agents provocateurs acting on behalf of rivals could disrupt its delicate religious and ethnic balance.

Manmohan Singh, who as prime minister since May 2004 has presided over a spectacular transformation of India’s global standing, was quick to blame the country’s neighbours for the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

Whenever terror strikes, the Indian elite instinctively looks for scapegoats beyond its borders, almost always blaming the Pakistan-based militant groups that are opposed to the peace process between the two nuclear-armed rivals. They point out that big terrorist attacks often coincide with periods of rapprochement.

“Unless the national security adviser had told the prime minister – a circumspect man not given to rash statements – that there was evidence of foreign involvement, he wouldn’t have gone on television and said this, especially when he’s trying to work with [Pakistan president] Asif Ali Zardari,” says Sumit Ganguly, professor of political science at Indiana University. “The Pakistani president has made a series of extraordinary gestures that the Indian prime minister is extremely keen on reciprocating.”

But the speed with which India blames Pakistan, or groups operating under the direct or indirect control of Islamabad’s main intelligence agency, worries those who believe that terrorism on Indian soil also has indigenous roots.

Human rights groups have long pointed out the risk that India’s most marginalised and vulnerable communities could prove susceptible to radicalisation. The spread of revolutionary Naxalism, a violent Maoist movement, has shown the appeal of radical ideologies to India’s castes and tribes.

Academics believe that the roots of India’s terrorism problem can be found in a complex fusion of greed and grievance. While a Muslim-dominated underworld plays a part in facilitating and carrying out terror attacks, that is just part of the story.

In spite of four years of turbo-charged growth, there are still hundreds of millions living in abject poverty, with next to no stake in an otherwise newly wealthy and self-confident society. Of all the groups yet to benefit from spectacular growth, none, apart from so-called dalits (once known as “untouchables”) and tribals, have fared as poorly as Muslims.

Some, inevitably, succumb to the blandishments of recruiters from the country’s myriad insurgencies and extremist movements.

The Muslim community, although far from monolithic, forms the second largest religious group in the country and represents just under 14 per cent of the 1.1bn population.

Sociologists describe the relationship of India’s Muslims to the rest of Indian society as one of “upper class inclusion and mass exclusion”. While a small elite – typified by the Khans of Bollywood, the aristocratic Nawabs and businessmen such as Azim Premji, chairman of Wipro, a leading software group – thrives in the new India, a far larger number of Muslims, in many cases low-caste converts from Hinduism, often face marginalisation.

A government report into the community’s socio-economic condition found India’s Muslims constantly battling perceptions that they were “anti-national”, “unpatriotic” or “belonged in Pakistan” and either withdrawing or being pushed into ghettos.

Markers of their identity, such as the burka, the purdah, the beard and the topi, a Muslim cap, produced ridicule and harassment. Bearded men said they were routinely picked up for interrogation:, hijab-wearing women that they struggled to find jobs.

The integration of India’s Muslim population into the economic mainstream has strategic importance for the subcontinent and for the west. Unless this underlying susceptibility to terrorism is addressed, India’s path to superpowerdom could be bumpier than almost everyone predicts.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Assault on India’s fabled city of dreams

By Ashutosh Varshney
November 28 2008 20:46

Terror has rocked India before but never have terrorists been so audacious. South Mumbai is India’s economic heart. This attack is “India’s 9/11”.

Mumbai is no routine urban agglomeration. It is a fabled city, where millions of Indians, migrating from poor hinterlands, seek a living; where rags-to-riches stories are not uncommon; where vast business deals are struck. It is where dreams are manufactured by a film industry that gives countless Indians relief from the struggles of life. Millions identify with the city.

Mumbai is a paradox. It has areas of appalling squalor but is India’s city of hope. It is in south Mumbai that the Tatas honed world-class business skills, Zubin Mehta learnt how to conduct Beethoven’s Fifth and Salman Rushdie understood how to turn the drama of everyday life into novels.

By targeting south Mumbai, the terrorists have not only attacked the economic symbol of a rising India but also its most globalised quarters.

A big hypothesis beckons: India is a highly unequal democracy in a bad neighbourhood, and as long as its democracy, inequalities and regional misfortunes remain unreformed, it will be vulnerable to terrorism.

Consider how Indian democracy has addressed terrorism. India’s politicians have asked: are terrorists simply terrorists, or are they Muslim or Hindu terrorists?

This question is tied up with electoral politics. Muslims comprise about 13 per cent of India’s population. Given how they are geographically distributed, they form a crucial electoral segment of at least a quarter of India’s parliamentary seats.

Seeking Hindu votes, some politicians have been quick to equate terror with Islam. Others, especially pro-Muslim political parties, focus on the unfair treatment of Muslims by the police rather than the fight to eliminate terror.

Recently Indian democracy has been treated to the obverse of “Muslim terror”. Prima facie evidence and intelligence suggest the rise of Hindu networks practising terror against Muslims. In India’s democracy, terror has become identified not as an evil but as an outgrowth of the grievances of Muslims or Hindus, or as a sign of whether the Indian state is unfair to Muslims or Hindus. That is a recipe for further disasters.

Inequalities are the second part of the problem. The Indian economy has been booming, but while some business leaders, film stars and sports icons are Muslim, Muslims mostly come from the poorest, least educated and most poorly skilled communities.

Nowhere is this contradiction more evident than in Mumbai. It has some of the richest Indian Muslims but there is a huge Muslim underclass and a connection between Mumbai’s underworld and its poor Muslims has been noted. Muslim gangs are among the most powerful players in Mumbai’s organised crime. To many, crime appears to offer greater and easier rewards than a dogged pursuit of regular employment.

Finally, Indian democracy functions in a region, whose failings are second only to the Middle East’s. Recent works by Pakistani scholars make it clear that the state in Pakistan has long been fractured between agencies that support terrorism and those that seek to control it.

India has its troubles in Kashmir and the north-east, but these conflicts have never reduced the Indian state to a shambles. Alone in south Asia, India has had sufficient institutional strength to hold regular elections.

India has to ask how long it can continue to be institutionally strong if the neighbourhood is so violent. Its borders are porous and the prospect of maritime terrorism, raised by the Mumbai carnage, makes them more so. Foreign policy and national security are increasingly tied up with India’s political health, with potential consequences for India’s economic resilience.

What can be done? How to include India’s Muslims in the economic mainstream is key. India’s political parties need to learn that terrorism cannot be seen as a vote-winner. It is an evil and a security threat. If political parties link terrorism with Muslims or Hindus, they will only bring greater catastrophe closer. Finally, India must vigorously cultivate peace with Pakistan. Luckily, a government today exists in Pakistan that has made the most resolute gestures towards peace in decades. President Asif Ali Zardari has opened up a unique opportunity for regional peace. After Mumbai, India needs to respond.

The writer is professor of political science at Brown University

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008