Friday, April 30, 2010

South African President Jacob Zuma in Talks Over ANC Newspaper

Zuma in talks over ANC paper


The Gupta group, regarded as close to President Jacob Zuma, is considering launching a daily newspaper that sources say will be broadly sympathetic to the ANC.

Speaking on behalf of his brother, Atul, who is abroad, Tony Gupta said: "Yes, there is a feasibility study we are doing … we have hired some advisers, but nothing is decided yet."

Gupta was responding to queries from amaBhungane concerning a meeting at Atul Gupta's Saxonwold, Johannesburg, home allegedly involving Gupta, or his brother, Ajay; Zuma; and Jessie Duarte, Zuma's chief operating officer at the time.

The Gupta group controls Sahara Computers, but also publishes The Thinker, a magazine edited by Essop Pahad, a close ally of former president Thabo Mbeki.

A well-placed source claimed that Zuma and Duarte attended a meeting at Gupta's home on February 20 this year and that a newspaper was under discussion.

The source claimed that a lawyer was also present to give advice on possible legal obstacles to providing government advertising to support the publication.

On Thursday Duarte vehemently denied attending such a meeting.

"I've never been in any meeting with the president of the ANC at Mr Gupta's house and have not discussed a newspaper project with Mr Gupta."

Duarte, who officially resigned from the presidency this week, said: "I have been to Gupta's house once, before I left Luthuli House. It was in connection with The Thinker magazine.

"Essop was involved and the meeting was about setting interviews [with senior ANC figures], which was part of my role at the time. I've never been at Gupta's house in the presence of the president and I have nothing to do with Gupta at all."

She denied knowing anyone called Rob Appelbaum, the lawyer who allegedly attended the meeting.

Appelbaum confirmed that the Guptas were clients, but said: "I cannot recall such a meeting." He said that even if he had such a meeting, client confidentiality would prevent him from disclosing it.

Tony Gupta also denied Duarte or Zuma's involvement. He insisted that the newspaper idea was "not an ANC project" and that no such meeting with Zuma took place.

Questioned whether there had been any meeting with Zuma on February 20, a Saturday, Gupta said he was out of the country but would check his brothers' movements.

He later insisted there had been no such meeting with Zuma and Duarte, adding that he was "not sure" whether Zuma visited on February 20.

A detailed message sent to presidential spokespeople Vincent Magwenya and Vusi Mona was unanswered.

Gupta said the project was being led by Pahad and "has nothing to do with the ANC or President Zuma".

Pahad confirmed that he was researching the possibility of launching a daily, but appeared unaware of any consultants being hired, saying: "I do my own research." He said he had "not looked at the funding side".

The ANC has long cherished the idea of establishing a broadly sympathetic newspaper and Duarte confirmed she was involved in discussions about this last year. "We dropped it entirely because there was no money for it. I have no idea what has happened since then and I haven't even been involved in the ANC media committee."

It is understood the party engaged professional consultants and considered a variety of funding sources, including the state-owned Industrial Development Corporation and Public Investment Commission. The view was that commercial funding would also have to be found.

The Mail & Guardian has previously reported that the Guptas took Zuma's twins, Duduzane and Duduzile, under their wing after Zuma's defeat of Mbeki at Polokwane. Duduzile serves on the Sahara board, while Duduzane shares mining interests with the Guptas.

Chaotic administration

Meanwhile, Mandy Rossouw reports that this week's resignation of Duarte, second in charge in the presidency, throws the spotlight on the chaotic administration of South Africa's highest office.

Duarte quit this week to pursue "other interests", although it is an open secret that she butted heads with Zuma's long-standing confidante and aide, Lakela Kaunda, head of his private office in the Union Buildings.

Insiders said that Duarte had also clashed with presidency director general Vusi Mavimbela and claimed Kaunda and Mavimbela "teamed up against her".

After Duarte allegedly complained to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe about being "bullied", Zuma is said to have intervened, telling Duarte to "sort things out", but without supporting her claims of a plot against her.

Sources say Zuma's expanded presidency, larger and more complex than Mbeki's, is a source of tension among administrative staff.

"We have four principals -- the president, deputy president and two ministers. One minister will eventually have a separate department (monitoring and evaluation) but is also responsible for the administration of the presidency, while the planning commission remains under the presidency. This creates a difficult working environment."

The new structures have spawned confusion over mandates and who reports to whom.

Insiders said this lay at the heart of tensions between Duarte and Kaunda.

Although Kaunda is closer to Zuma and has instant access to him, Duarte, as chief operating officer and acting director general when Vusi Mavimbela was away, was the senior official.

Previously the head of the president's private office played a less significant role and Duarte assumed that she had the upper hand -- especially as she is an ANC national executive committee member.

A presidency source said that such a complex structure requires strong administrative leadership. Mavimbela, a relative political outsider, does not feel as empowered as Mbeki's former director general and close confidant, Frank Chikane.

Duarte's colleagues said she was not suited to being chief operating officer because of the "menial and tedious" nature of the job.

"She is more of a politician than an administrator," they said.

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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Greece Economic Crisis Update: IMF Promises More Aid While German Chancellor is Tested

April 28, 2010

I.M.F. Promises More Aid for Greece as European Crisis GrowsBy

New York Times

Hoping to quell its biggest crisis since the Asian woes of 1997, the International Monetary Fund promised on Wednesday to increase the 45 billion-euro aid package for Greece to as much as 120 billion euros over three years.

The fund is racing to conclude an agreement for more painful austerity measures from Greece by Monday, clearing the way for the government to receive funding and reassuring investors worldwide that European debt is safe. On Wednesday, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the I.M.F.’s forceful managing director, pledged the higher aid amount, equivalent to $160 billion, in a further bid to reassure investors. The funds would come both from the I.M.F. and from other countries using the euro.

But as has frequently been the case during Europe’s debt crisis, the promise of help was overshadowed by more disturbing news — in this case a cut in the debt rating of Spain by a major agency just a day after debt downgrades for Portugal and Greece.

The growing fear is that the fallout from Greece and even Portugal — which together compose just 5 percent of European economic activity — could be a mere sideshow if Spain, with its much larger economy, has difficulty repaying its debt.

While major stock markets stabilized after Tuesday’s sell-off and the cost of insuring the debt of Portugal and Spain declined, the euro slid further on the news of Spain’s downgrade by Standard & Poor’s. Banking stocks in some of the smaller European economies were among the biggest losers on the day. Major stock indexes in the United States rose slightly, with the Dow Jones industrial average ending up 53 points, at 11,045.27.

In many ways, the current troubles in Europe go to the heart of the fund’s new mission to serve as a firewall in the financial crisis — an objective that was bolstered by $750 billion in fresh capital from Group of 20 countries last year.

Unlike its previous efforts in smaller, emerging economies in Asia in 1997, and more recently in Hungary, Romania, Latvia and Iceland, the fund has been hamstrung in its efforts to act quickly and decisively by political concerns within the European Union, which insists on assuming a leading role.

“It is a problem,” said Alessandro Leipold, a former acting director of the I.M.F.’s European department. “It should not be that difficult — they did it in Hungary and Latvia. But the egos are different in industrialized countries.”

A case can be made that if Greece had sought help from the fund late last year after the forecast for its budget deficit doubled, the amount of support needed to reassure investors would have been much less than the 120 billion euros that even now might not be enough.

In that vein, Mr. Leipold said Portugal and Spain should ignore any stigma associated with an I.M.F. program and make the case to the European Commission in Brussels that asking proactively now for aid would soothe skeptical markets and save Europe billions in the future.

“The market has seen its worst fears come true,” he said. “What it needs is a surprise on the upside.”

Concerns have already surfaced in Congress that the broad demands of the sovereign debt crisis will quickly exhaust the I.M.F.’s reserves and leave the United States, the fund’s largest shareholder, with the bill.

Representative Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois, said such a drain could occur if Portugal, Ireland and Spain sought I.M.F. aid at the same time. Mr. Kirk worked at the World Bank during the 1982 debt crisis in Mexico, which came close to depleting the fund’s reserves.

“We have seen this movie before,” he said. “Spain is five times as big as Greece — that would mean a package of 500 billion.”

Mr. Kirk sits on the House Appropriations Committee that oversees I.M.F. funds and said that he had already asked for hearings on the fund’s ability to handle a European collapse.

In Athens, the Greek government had no choice but to seek an I.M.F. solution after its costs of borrowing skyrocketed, but that has not made the negotiations for aid any easier.

The fund has sent one its most senior staff members, Poul Thomsen, who has overseen complex fund negotiations in Iceland and Russia, to assist Bob Traa, the official responsible for Greece, to work out a solution.

According to people who have been briefed on the talks, the aim is to secure from Greece a letter of intent for even deeper budget cuts than the tough measures imposed so far, like reductions in civil service pay, in exchange for emergency funds.

Steps being discussed include closing down parts of the little-used Greek railway system, which employs 7,000 people and is estimated to lose a few million euros a day; limiting unions’ ability to impose collective bargaining agreements, which lead to ever-higher public sector pay; cutting out the two months of pay that private-sector workers get on top of their annual pay packages; increasing the retirement age and cutting back on pensions; and opening up the country’s trucking market in an effort to lower extremely high transportation rates that have hindered the country’s competitiveness.

With Greece now shut out of the debt markets, it has little leverage to resist — especially in light of the 8 billion euros it needs to repay bondholders on May 19. Analysts expect a deal by next week at the latest.

But whether a Greek resolution calms investor fears about the ability of Portugal and Spain to repay their own maturing debt remains unclear.

In a recent note to investors, Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, described the market concern as intensely focused on Spain.

“Spain’s cash flows (current-account and budget deficit) are extremely bad,” Mr. Dalio and his colleagues wrote in a February letter. “Spain’s living standards are reliant on not just the roll of old debt, but also on siApril 28, 2010

Merkel Tested as Escalating Greek Crisis Hurts Euro


BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s strategy for dealing with Greece’s untenable debt problem was to stall and hope the crisis did not demand action until after a critical state election in early May. On Wednesday, the clock finally ran out.

Mrs. Merkel’s hand was forced by mistrustful credit markets and the ratings agency that downgraded Spain, Portugal and Greece in a matter of just two days. As the crisis worsened, political calculations had to take a back seat to the more basic task of ensuring the stability of the euro currency that replaced Germany’s beloved mark.

Mrs. Merkel said after meeting with Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, that negotiations with the Greek government had to be accelerated and that Germany would do its part to safeguard the euro.

But she sounded less than happy about it. At a second news conference later the same day, Mrs. Merkel grumbled that Greece’s entry into the euro zone was not based on “sustainable factors,” making the present crisis particularly difficult to deal with. She went on to say that “we cannot allow the same situation with countries as with Lehman Brothers.”

Opinion surveys in Germany have for months shown a sizable majority of the population here opposed to any bailout for Greece, with a constant drumbeat of news media coverage about Greek profligacy helping fuel the discontent.

“If Merkel said, ‘Today we give the money to Greece,’ this would be the first domino against Europe in Germany,” said Wolfgang Nowak, a former senior adviser to Mrs. Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, and head of Deutsche Bank’s International Forum. “It would invite populists from all sides to attack.”

But the costs of not acting have also grown, and the potential risk of the instability’s spreading to the rest of Europe have become clearer as well. “Why the fire department has been scratching its head for weeks instead of operating the pumps, I don’t understand,” said the former German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, on Wednesday, according to the German news agency DPA.

According to Jürgen Trittin, one of the Green Party’s parliamentary leaders who sat in on a meeting with Mr. Strauss-Kahn on Wednesday, the cost of the Greek bailout could reach $160 billion over three years, with Germany’s share up to $32 billion. DPA quoted Economics Minister Rainer Brüderle as saying that the overall cost could be even higher, about $180 billion.

Asked about the sum cited by Mr. Brüderle, a minister in her own government, a clearly displeased Mrs. Merkel responded, “I have asked over and over again in the past days that figures not be named, as long as figures are not in conjunction with a completed program.”

Throughout the crisis, which broke out earlier this year, Mrs. Merkel has acted with an eye to the crucial local election in North Rhine-Westphalia on May 9.

The North Rhine-Westphalia election has the potential to upset the existing balance of power. At stake is not only the state legislature, but also control for Mrs. Merkel’s coalition over the little-watched upper house of Parliament, the Bundesrat, which has to sign off on legislation.

Billions of dollars in assistance for Greece may not play well with voters in a state with its own financial problems. “There’s currently a debate on the finances and budgets of local communities,” said Andreas Blätte, a political science professor at the University of Duisburg-Essen in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. “There’s a sense that money is really scarce.

“In many local communities, fountains are not switched on and flowers are not planted in the public parks because of a lack of money,” Mr. Blätte said. “Bridges that need reconstruction work are not renewed.”

From the very start of Mrs. Merkel’s second term, strategists from all the major parties were concerned about the spring vote in North Rhine-Westphalia. The state has more eligible voters than Greece’s entire population and produces nearly a quarter of Germany’s economic output.

It would not escape the attention of a master tactician like Mrs. Merkel that it was defeat in North Rhine-Westphalia, with its 18 million residents, that led to the special parliamentary election that cost her predecessor his job and cleared the way for her to take power.

For months Mrs. Merkel played for time, talking tough on Greek debt and the need for Athens to institute strict austerity measures while hoping to stave off a bailout decision that many believe is inevitable until after voters in North Rhine-Westphalia go to the polls.

But some analysts say that the German people’s desire for stability, and particularly a stable currency, will ultimately outweigh their distaste at bailing out the Greeks.

Gerd Langguth, professor of political science at the University of Bonn, said the political fallout from joining in the rescue of Greece, including on the election in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, would be less than many had predicted.

“The people in Germany know that if this operation doesn’t work, the whole euro would be damaged and this is damage for Germany,” he said.gnificant further external lending. For these reasons, we don’t want to hold Spanish debt at these spreads.”

Matthew Saltmarsh and Sewell Chan contributed reporting.

Detroit Mayor Backs Off Talk About "Downsizing" City

Posted: April 29, 2010

Bing staff backs off talk about downsizing Detroit

Instead, focus is aimed at stabilizing neighborhoods


For months, the term "rightsizing" has been tossed about Detroit as a way to rein in costs and save tax dollars.

Under a pilot program to shrink the city, residents in two east-side neighborhoods -- East English Village and MorningSide -- would see the demolition of vacant homes, and those families left in isolated blocks would be relocated, based on a preliminary report obtained by the Free Press.

"We need to provide stabilization for these streets," said Kelley Marks, president of the MorningSide neighborhood association.

Yet, the person leading the program was dismissed by Mayor Dave Bing last week, sparking questions as to the status of the project.

While on the campaign trail, during his State of the City address and in interviews with local and national news media, Bing has heralded the importance of a long-term strategy that would use the city's 140 square miles more productively, calling such a move critical to Detroit's survival.

Yet on Wednesday, Bing's staff backed away from what was first characterized as downsizing the city, saying, "We are stabilizing neighborhoods and the city as a result of a reduced population by centralizing resources, not shrinking its borders."

Dan Lijana, a Bing spokesman, said that despite a proposal that was given to the mayor last week, there is no formal plan in place to reshape the city, though additional data collection, analysis and assessments are in progress.

Before being relieved of her duties last Thursday, Darchelle Strickland Love, who was assigned to do special projects for the mayor's office, gave Bing a copy of a proposal called "Neighborhood Stabilization & Reshaping."

Strickland Love's plan includes using two neighborhoods -- East English Village and MorningSide -- in a pilot program to demolish vacant houses, clear debris from lots, identify families to move from isolated blocks to denser neighborhoods, rehabilitate and occupy viable city-owned properties and identify home-improvement opportunities for existing homeowners.

"The administration has received several proposals from internal and external sources dealing with land use and neighborhood stabilization," Lijana said. "Mayor Bing and the administration will continue to move forward to strengthen Detroit's neighborhoods and better utilize the city's 140 square miles of land."

Bing's communications team will not say why Strickland Love was asked to leave.

Strickland Love said she understands that she served at the will of the mayor, but wanted to give her proposal to him before leaving city hall. She said she is fearful that her months of work and the emerging plan crafted with faith-based, philanthropic and neighborhood groups could end up in a recycling bin.

Bing has pledged to demolish 3,000 homes by the end of this year, and 10,000 by the time his first term ends in 2013. Yet the city is dotted by neighborhoods that have only one or two standing houses on a block. The mayor has said the city was built for nearly 2 million residents, yet U.S. Census Bureau numbers are projected to show that the population is hovering around 800,000.

Urban planners have spoken with excitement about Detroit's opportunity to downsize into manageable and stable areas, and use vacant land for city farms. Such a plan would be revolutionary for a large, urban metropolis. Creating swaths of green space or farmland would mean less infrastructure to maintain, fewer streets to patrol and less garbage to pick up.

Vincent Tilford, executive director for Habitat for Humanity Detroit, said he was overjoyed when he learned the city was considering MorningSide as part of a reshaping pilot program -- even if it does not include an immediate downsizing. Habitat has built more than 60 houses and invested about $7 million in the area in the past three years.

"For us, it's about making it a neighborhood of choice and stabilizing it for families," said Tilford, who praised Strickland Love's proposal. "We recognize that there are these opportunities to stabilize the MorningSide community."

Tilford said Strickland Love brought a manageable vision to reshaping the city -- by starting small in one or two areas, learning from successes and failures and then expanding the program. Still, he said, he is hopeful that the ideas of revitalizing neighborhoods will not be lost in any political shuffle.

"It's important to have a strong and consistent partnership with the city," he said. "There's nothing that has been indicated to me that it won't go forward at this point. I'm sure there are others over there that can pick up the ball and run with it."

Marks was encouraged Wednesday to learn that her neighborhood -- with approximately 900 vacant homes -- was being considered as part of the pilot program. She said she's hopeful that however the plan evolves, she and neighbors will benefit.

"When you have vacant house after vacant house, that becomes the demise of a block," said Marks, 31, who moved to the neighborhood in late 2006 and lives next to an abandoned home. "We're constantly in touch with the mayor's office, and we don't give them a chance to forget about us."

Contact SUZETTE HACKNEY: 313-222-6678 or

Vietnamese Upbeat About Future

AP-GfK Poll: Vietnamese upbeat about future


(AP) HANOI, Vietnam — Thirty-five years after the end of the Vietnam War, the people of this country are optimistic about the future, bullish about the free market and rarely think about a conflict that still ignites political passions in America.

A new Associated Press-GfK Poll, one of the most exhaustive surveys to date of contemporary Vietnamese attitudes, underscores how rapidly life has changed in Vietnam. Under a single-party Communist government, the country has embraced market-oriented reforms and lifted tens of millions out of poverty.

Eighty-five percent said the economy is stronger than it was five years ago, and 87 percent said they expect it to be even stronger in another five years. Eighty-one percent said the country is moving in the right direction.

Their optimism stands in stark contrast to the widespread pessimism in the United States, where recent polls show many Americans believe their nation is on the wrong track.

"The country has changed so much in so many ways since the end of the war that you can't imagine," said Luong Trung Thanh, 72, a retired teacher from Hanoi. "It changes every day, right in front of your eyes. There are tall buildings going up everywhere."

The war ended on April 30, 1975, with the fall of Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City, to communist troops from the north.

Initially, hunger was widespread as the government launched a centrally planned economy and the West imposed an economic blockade. Nguyen Thi Thao, 83, remembers lining up with vouchers at government stores in Hanoi, waiting for her allotment of rice and other supplies.

But two decades ago, the communist leadership began opening up the economy, sparking a boom in this Southeast Asian nation of 86 million people.

Economic growth has averaged more than 7 percent annually over the last decade, and the share of the population living in poverty has fallen from 58 percent in 1993 to 11 percent last year. Per capita income has risen from $400 in 2000 to $1,000. Incomes are roughly twice that in the two largest cities, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, the capital.

"I have a bright future," said Ho Thu Thao, 17, a Hanoi high school student. "Things will be better for me than they were for my parents. The Vietnamese economy is on the right track."

At a shop in central Hanoi, Vietnam's upwardly mobile snap up digital cameras, iPods and other high-tech devices. The shop already has iPads on its shelves.

"The economy is much better now than it was five years ago," said salesman Tran Anh Diep. "People have more money, and they can afford to buy more. I sell about 20 to 25 iPods every week."

Nevertheless, pocketbook issues remain the top priority for most families, according to the AP-GfK Poll, ahead of issues such as the environment, crime, housing and traffic.

For those stuck at the bottom, watching Vietnam's explosive growth can be difficult.

Nguyen Thi Thanh, 47, a Hanoi fruit vendor, spends her days dodging motorbikes and cars while trying to scratch out a dollar or two of income. On the streets around her, the nouveau riche tool around in BMWs, Mercedes and even Bentleys.

"Some of them spend more on breakfast than I earn in a week," Thanh said.

Many of those surveyed expressed anxieties about inflation, which has been high in recent years.

"Twenty years ago, the Vietnamese people were worried about providing food and clothes for their families," said Nguyen Tran Bat, chairman of Investconsult Group, a business consulting firm. "Now they're not worried about subsistence but about improving their status."

The survey showed strong support for private enterprise, especially among the young. Fifty-six percent favored more private ownership of business, while only 25 percent thought there should be more government ownership.

The number of private enterprises has risen sharply over the last decade, but many are mom and pop operations. Large state-owned firms dominate the economy, with some enjoying monopolies over key industries.

"Vietnam needs to do more to continue the development of the private sector, or the nation's increased purchasing power and productivity might erode," Bat said.

Seventy-seven percent said large income differences are acceptable, because they give people an incentive to work harder. The same percentage also said competition is good, because it encourages enterprise and innovation.

"People have witnessed the development of Vietnam, and they see a lot to gain from the opening of the economy," said Pham Chi Lan, former vice chairwoman of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The AP-GfK Poll, conducted in February and March, interviewed 1,600 people in urban, suburban and rural areas across the country. The sample covers all but a very small portion of the population that lives in areas without drivable roads or where Vietnamese is not widely spoken. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

Vietnams communist government does not tolerate competition and routinely jails its opponents. In the last several months, it has sent 16 members of the countrys dissident community to jail for promoting a multi-party democracy.

Given the political context, the poll avoided questions about the Communist Party's performance.

Asked about politics generally, however, 61 percent said they were not interested, while 39 said they were.

On the Vietnam War — known here as the American War — 56 percent said they rarely, if ever, think about it. Only 11 percent said they think about it often.

"The Vietnamese have a tradition of being tolerant and forgiving and looking to the future rather than the past," Lan said.

Fifty-five percent said the war had not affected them directly, a result that may reflect how young the population is: More than 60 percent of Vietnamese were born after the war.

Large majorities disapproved of the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan — 58 percent and 55 percent, respectively. Only 3 percent said that launching those wars was the right decision. The rest didn't know or weren't sure.

President Barack Obama received the highest approval rating on a list of world figures, finishing at 35 percent, one point ahead of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Only 8 percent viewed former President George W. Bush favorably, while 36 percent disapproved of him — the highest negative rating of anyone aside from Osama bin Laden.

"Bush is kind of hawkish but Obama wants to be friends with countries around the world," said Bui Xuan Dau, 52, a motorbike taxi driver in Hanoi. "I don't know who benefits from these wars, but it's the people of Iraq and Afghanistan who pay the price."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Expanding United States Economic and Military Role in Africa

The Expanding United States Economic and Military Role in Africa

Demand for strategic minerals and political dominance still guide foreign policy

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Note: The following speech was delivered as an address to the annual Defenders Fighting Fund & Community Awards Dinner in Richmond, Virginia on April 24, 2010. The event was held at the Asbury United Methodist Church. This event was sponsored by the Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality based in Richmond.
In order to fully understand the political and economic interests that influence and determine the foreign policy of the United States towards the African continent we have to first examine the history of the country. Two factors are of utmost significance and they are the removal of the Native peoples from their traditional lands in North America and the importation, exploitation and oppression of millions of Africans who were enslaved for nearly 250 years.

These issues related to the unresolved race or national questions in the United States are often exemplified in the political and intellectual arenas of the public discourse. The most obvious example is the recent proclamation issued by Virginia’s Governor Robert McDonnell that recognized the confederate heritage of the state and initially did not mention the enslavement of many Africans between the 17th and 19th centuries.

Although this edict was somewhat altered, the damage had already been done. In response to the proclamation, various talk and news programs in the corporate media illustrated the widespread distortions and misinformation about the history of the United States that exist either deliberating or through lack of knowledge.

Various historians in the United States after the civil war sought to both downplay the economic significance of slavery to both the South and the North of the country and to deny the systematic cruel exploitative and oppressive character of the entire institution. Some whites would go as far as to say that slavery in the South was superior to the conditions under which Africans lived in the northern states where the system of human bondage had been legally abolished.

On April 11, an opinion editorial was published in the New York Times, the American newspaper of record it is often said. This editorial written by Jon Meacham, entitled “Southern Discomfort”, who is the editor of Newsweek and a Pulitzer Prize winner, stated that “If neo-Confederates are interested in history, let’s talk history.” (New York Times, April 11)

The opinion piece went on to say that “Since Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Confederate symbols have tended to be more about white resistance to black advances than about commemoration. In the 1880s and 1890s, after fighting Reconstruction with terrorism and after the Supreme Court struck down the 1875 Civil Rights Act, states began to legalize segregation.”

Meacham goes on to point out that “For white supremacists, iconography of the “Lost Cause” was central to their fight; Mississippi even grafted the Confederate battle emblem onto its state flag. But after the Supreme Court allowed segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, Jim Crow was basically secure. There was less need to rally the troops, and Confederate imagery became associated with the most extreme of the extreme: Ku Klux Klan.”

This editorial in the New York Times prompted a response from Edward H. Sebesta of Dallas, TX who wrote to the Pan-African News Wire saying that the above-mentioned opinion piece “actually has a sly defense of the Confederate “heritage.” After citing the just-mentioned quote related to the role of confederate symbols subsequent to the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court ruling of 1896, Meacham then launches an attack on the Times editorial saying that it contributes more to the confusion surrounding the history of the United States than clarifying not only the role of slavery but also the political character of the neo-confederate movement today.

Meacham says that the Times' opinion editorial misrepresented history when it implied that there was a benign character to the post-confederate ideologists between the late 1890s and the conclusion of World War II. Meachan challenges this saying that “This paragraph is a total falsehood.”

Meacham, who is a co-author of “Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction”, along with Euan Hague and Heidi Beirich, continues by pointing out that “The Confederate groups promoted white supremacy in the “Confederate Veteran,” the official publication of the United Confederate Veterans, Sons of Confederate Veterans, United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the Confederate Southern Memorial Association. Not only did they promote white supremacy, they also praised the Ku Klux Klan of Reconstruction, and allowed the early 20th century KKK to march in one of their annual reunion parades.”

The author continues saying “Confederate imagery was used to promote white supremacy throughout the Nadir. Confederate “heritage” has always been about white supremacy from the end of the Civil War into the 21st century.

U.S. Origins of Slavery in Virginia

Under British colonialism in Virginia, slavery was introduced to the colony in August 1619 when some 20 Africans were brought to Jamestown. This single historical incident was by no means isolated. It represented the continuation of a process that had been underway for nearly two centuries when Spain and Portugal began to sends ships to Africa seeking goods, trade routes and cheap labor.

Colonies had already been established during the 16th century in the Caribbean and Latin America. Spain controlled sections of the southern United States prior to the British intervention and there was tremendous competition between the various European powers for control of the western territories and the trade in agricultural commodities and slaves.

A study entitled “The Negro in Virginia”, that was published by the Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Virginia in 1938, sheds light on the history of the servant-to-slave system in the state. This study came into fruition when in 1936, an African-American section of the Federal Writers’ Project was established in Virginia. The purpose of the project was to both put educated African-Americans on relief to work and to make a significant contribution to the historical literature on their history inside the state.

In the first chapter of “The Negro in Virginia” entitled “Arrival”, the authors stress that “About no other event of equal importance in American history has there been so little known as so much conjectured. Records show that the Treasurer, an English vessel, sailed from Virginia in the summer of 1618 ‘under pretense of getting salt and goats for the colony.’ It was manned, however, by ‘the ablest men of the colony’ and was loaded with ‘powder, shott, wast clothes, ordynaunce streamers, flagges and other furniture fit for the man of warr.’ (The Negro in Virginia, p. 1)

“Somewhere off the coast the Treasurer joined forces with a Dutch vessel, and whether by design or by chance, the consort ships came upon and captured a Spanish frigate loaded with Africans destined for the Spanish West Indies. Finding no gold or silver, the captors dumped the plunder of ebony into their own hatches. Adverse winds overtook them on their way to Virginia, and violent storms caused them to lose one another."

The study continues saying that “When provisions ran out, a number of the Negroes died. Finally, in the latter part of August, after several weeks at sea, the Dutch man-of-war came to Jamestown with twenty of the hundred or so Africans. “

It was not until some three decades later that the trade in Africans accelerated. The authors of “The Negro in Virginia” said that “That only a few Negroes were imported in the first thirty years was not due to the reluctance of Virginia planters to receive them. The system of white indentureship was firmly established, and Virginia planters had to take those workers the Virginia Company supplied. Beside, the supply of ‘black ivory’ was limited, since the Dutch, who enjoyed a virtual monopoly in slave-trading, found the thriving Spanish Colonies of the West Indies a more lucrative market.” (The Negro in Virginia, p. 4)

However, by 1661 slavery had become the preferred industry for the British. After the Restoration of the Crown, a strict enforcement of the Navigation Acts contributed to this transition to slavery. All ships that transported Virginia goods overseas had to pass through English-controlled ports requiring the payment of taxes. The cost of dealing in European indentured servants far exceeded the trafficking in African slaves.

The authors of “The Negro in Virginia” note that “English shippers soon saw where the greater profit lay. The collecting of prisoners from Newgate and of waifs and women from the streets of London and other cities returned but small interest on the investment. Hordes of natives were in Africa for the taking. The Company of Royal Adventurers merged with the Royal African Company; and, with the blessing of the Crown, influence was used to stifle the traffic in white servants in favor of that in black.” (The Negro in Virginia, p. 5)

During the period of the 18th century after the so-called “Revolutionary War”, the movement westward was encouraged by the new government by giving the Indian’s land to white settlers to establish farms and other commercial enterprises. Consequently slavery grew rapidly and the displacement of the Native peoples from their lands accelerated.

Yet the advent of slavery and the enormous profits that it generated met tremendous resistance from the African people. Two of the most well-known examples of African resistance to slavery were the planned revolt of Gabriel in 1800 and the rebellion led by Nat Turner in South Hampton County in 1831.

Outside the United States there was also the Haitian Revolution which started with a general rebellion in August 1791 and extended through a war until 1804 when the country was proclaimed a Black Republic. The defeat of the French military in Haiti prompted the Louisiana Purchase which extended the territorial boundaries of the United States.

Between 1804 and 1862, the United States had refused to recognize the independent African government in Haiti. Haiti played a significant role in fostering the independence movements in South America when it provided refuge and assistance to Simon Bolivar in 1815-16. Haiti also played a pivotal role in ending slavery in neighboring Dominican Republic through a military occupation in the 1820s.

It would take a series of slave revolts, the armed actions of John Brown in both Kansas and in Virginia at Harper’s Ferry, to raise the level of tensions between the slave states and Washington that would spark the civil war between 1861-65. A number of historians have written about the increasingly un-viability and un-profitability of slavery as an economic system that contributed to the desperate attempts by the confederates to secede from the United States.

Even taking into consideration the economic crisis within the slave system beginning in the 1850s, the trafficking in Africans and the super-exploitation of their labor provided the profits that fueled the industrial growth in both England and the United States. Scholars W.E.B. DuBois and Eric Williams both examined the relationship between the profitability of slavery and the rise of industrial capitalism in the U.S. and England respectively.

With specific reference to the role of slavery in the economic growth of the United States, W.E.B. DuBois in his book entitled “Black Reconstruction In America: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880”, he says that “The giant forces of water and of steam were harnessed to do the world’s work, and the black workers of America bent at the bottom of a growing pyramid of commerce and industry; and they not only could not be spared, if this new economic organization was to expand, but rather they became the cause of new political demands and alignments, of new dreams of power and visions of empire.”

DuBois underlines this point by stating “First of all, their work called for widening stretches of new, rich, black soil—in Florida, in Louisiana, in Mexico; even in Kansas. This land, added to cheap labor, and labor easily regulated and distributed, made profits so high that a whole system of culture arose in the South, with a new leisure and social philosophy. Black labor became the foundation stone not only of the Southern social structure, but of Northern manufacture and commerce, of the English factory system, of European commerce, of buying and selling on a world-wide scale; new cities were built on the results of black labor, and a new labor problem, involving all white labor, arose both in Europe and America.” (Black Reconstruction, p. 5)

DuBois then discusses the socioeconomic plight of Africans in the United States by stressing that “It became easy to say and easier to prove that these black men (and women) were not men in the sense that white men were, and could never be, in the same sense, free. There slavery was a matter of both race and social condition, but the condition was limited and determined by race.” (Black Reconstruction, p. 5)

As was stated in the Richmond, Virginia Examiner in 1854 “Let us not bother our brains about what Providence intends to do with our Negroes in the distant future, but glory in the profit to the utmost by what He has done for them in transplanting them here, and setting them to work on our plantations…. True philanthropy to the Negro, begins, like charity, at home; and if Southern men would act as if the canopy of heaven were inscribed with a covenant, in letters of fire, that the Negro is here, and here forever; is our property and our's forever;…they would accomplish more good for the race in five years than they boast the institution itself to have accomplished in two centuries….” (Black Reconstruction, p. 5)

Colonialism, Nationalism & the U.S. Role

Over four centuries of the Atlantic Slave Trade so weakened Africa that the colonization of the continent during the latter decades of the 19th century became inevitable. In the Portuguese controlled areas of the continent in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, the Europeans had long been a permanent presence in these territories. In South Africa, the European settlers from the Netherlands had begun to migrant to this area after 1652. In Algeria the French took control after 1830 and established a vicious and highly exploitative system in this North African territory.

In Congo the people had traded and established diplomatic ties with the Portuguese going back to the 16th century. However, in 1876, the Belgium King Leopold I took control of key sections of the Congo and administered the area as the private property of the monarchy. The King hired Henry Morton Stanley to enter the area as an explorer that would make contact and negotiate treaties with traditional leaders on behalf of the colonialists.

According to African historian Joseph E. Harris: “This chain of events, set in motion by King Leopold’s efforts to carve out an empire in the Congo, represented a culmination of years of efforts by missionaries, explorers, merchants, and others to map out and assess various areas in Africa.

“Indeed, the Congo events dramatized and climaxed the conflicting interests of Portugal, France, and Britain, and led to the convening of the Berlin Conference in 1884-85. At the conference, the powers agreed that the traders and missionaries of all countries should have free access to the African interior that the slave trade should be abolished and that European morality should be brought to Africans.

“It was also agreed that the Congo and Niger rivers should be open to all nationals. But more important than that was the stipulation that no new European colonies would be recognized unless they were effectively occupied, which meant that European officials had to established visible and effective power in the areas claimed.” (Harris, Africans and Their History, 1972)

By the time of the Berlin Conference of 1884-85, Europeans had already made significant investments in Africa and were extracting large amounts of wealth in the form of mineral and agricultural resources. During the 1880s in the southern region of Africa, the British began to engage in large-scale mining operations in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa.

At the same time in the west of the continent, the British, French, Spanish and Germans engaged in the colonization process reaping tremendous profits from the exploitation of African labor and resources. For example, in the Gold Coast, which later became known as Ghana, the British developed the cocoa, timber and gold industries which fostered the expansion of the railway system and shipping.

These efforts by the European colonialists did not go without resistance on the part of the African masses. During the 19th century a series of anti-colonial wars were fought in various parts of the continent.

In South Africa the peoples of the Cape region fought a series of battles against both the Boers and the British resulting in the deaths of thousands of people, livestock and the dislocation of millions. In Zimbabwe, which was named Rhodesia by the British imperialists after the dreaded Cecil Rhodes, the Mashona people launched a revolt against European control in 1896-97.

The Ashanti people also waged protracted struggles against the British intervention in this region that was named the Gold Coast. In Guinea, the people fought the onslaught of French colonialism for many years. The same was true of Sudan where British soldiers took serious casualties in conflicts during the late 19th century.

During this same period there was also the rise of nationalist movements that sought to petition and protest against the encroachment of European imperialism. Also in the Gold Coast the Fanti Confederation was one of the earliest anti-colonial movements that objected to the exploitation of their land and labor by British imperialism.

Atrocities committed by the Belgians in Congo, the British in southern Africa and East Africa as well as the French, Germans, Spanish and Italians in other regions of the continent, had a tremendous impact on Africans living in the western hemisphere. The descendants of Africans who were enslaved in the North America, the Caribbean and Latin America, began to hold meetings on how they could have an impact on alleviating the problems of European intervention in their ancestral home. These Africans saw a direct connection between the colonialism, national oppression, racism and race terror inflicted on people in the West and the conditions under which people were living in the homeland.

As a result in 1893 the first noted Pan-African Conference was held in Chicago. This meeting, which lasted for an entire week, is now recognized as a turning point in the struggle of Africans to build an international movement against colonialism and imperialism and for national independence and continental unity.

The 1893 Chicago Congress on Africa predated by seven years the first formal international Pan-African conference that was held in London in 1900 under the direction of Trinidadian-born Henry Sylvester Williams. This Congress was attended by such activists as Bishop Henry McNeal Turner of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) and Bishop Alexander Walters of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ).

Although notables such as Edward Wilmont Blyden of Liberia and Booker T. Washington had promised papers but did not attend, a broad range of topic were discussed including “The African in America”, “Liberia as a Factor in the Progress of the Negro Race”, and a very challenging presentation entitled “What Do American Negroes Owe to Their Kin Beyond the Sea”.”

Henry McNeal Turner utilized the Chicago Congress to advance the notion of repatriation as a mechanism for building self-determination among Africans in the West and on the continent. He had warned the African-American people some months before that France had demonstrated territorial designs on the nation of Liberia.

This conference in 1893 pave the way for the Pan-African conference held in Atlanta, Georgia some two years later in 1895 that was sponsored by the Steward Missionary Foundation for Africa of Gammon Theological Seminary.

The 1895 meeting was attended by people such as John Henry Smyth, who served as a minister resident and consul general to Liberia. In his paper presented to the Atlanta gathering he stated that “European contact has brought in its train not merely the sacrifice, amid unspeakable horrors, of the lives and liberties of twenty million Negroes for the American market alone, but political disintegration, social anarchy, moral and physical debasements.”

Some two years later the African Association was formed in England on September 24, 1897. This organization was spearheaded by Henry Sylvester Williams, a lawyer from Trinidad, who would later play an instrumental role in organizing a Pan-African Conference in London in July of 1900. This gathering is often considered as the turning point in the world-wide struggle for African unity and liberation that characterized the 20th century.

During the period of the first decade of the 20th century, there were a number of efforts to form race organizations in the United States and other parts of the Diaspora. In 1905, the Niagara Movement was formed on the United States and Canadian borders.

After the initial meetings of the Movement, the participants merged with other forces to form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. Ida B. Wells-Barnett had been a fighter for the cause of anti-segregation and anti-lynching since the mid-1880s. Her role as an organizer and propagandist in the United States and the United Kingdom can never be minimized.

Wells-Barnett worked on exposing the hypocrisy of southern violence against African people, illustrating that the charges of sexual criminality against African-American men were merely a cover to rationalize the brutal terror of the post-reconstruction system of institutionalized racism in the United States.

During the first two decades of the 20th century, there were several pogroms launched against African-Americans throughout the country. In 1904, two men who had been accused in the murder of a white family in Statesboro, Georgia, were drug from a courtroom and burnt alive by a racist white mob.

Two years later in September of 1906, a major disturbance occurred in Atlanta, Georgia over press reports alleging that several white women had been violated by African-American men in the city. In response to these false reports in the white press, mobs of white men went on a rampage attacking African-Americans at random in the city of Atlanta.

By August 1908, these acts of mob violence had spread North, when in Springfield, Illinois, two African-Americans were lynched in a racial disturbance that also left four whites dead as well. After the beginning of World War I, the United States witnessed the revitalization of the Ku Klux Klan, which was partly inspired by the racist pro-confederate film, “The Birth of a Nation.”

Race riots occurred in 1917 after the American intervention in World War I, with East St. Louis, Illinois being the focal point of this new upsurge in race terror against African-American people.

DuBois wrote an essay in 1915 entitled “The African Roots of War” which outlined the renewed attitude of resistance among the oppressed peoples of the world. In this article published in the Atlantic Monthly, DuBois states that “The Colored Peoples will not always submit passively to foreign domination. To some this is a lightly tossed truism. When a people observe liberty, they fight for it and get it…Colored People are familiar with this complacent judgement. They endure the contemptuous treatment meted out by whites to those not ‘strong’ enough to be free. These nations and races composing as they do a vast majority of humanity, are going to endure this treatment just as long as they must and not a moment longer.”

With the conclusion of World War I, the conditions were ripe for a major thrust towards Pan-Africanism on a global scale. DuBois set out to reconvene the Pan-African Congress in Paris, paralleling the peace conference that was occurring in France.

With the presence of hundreds of thousands of Africans in the colonial armies who fought alongside the French and the Americans during the War, the consciousness and determination of these communities were heightened in regard to the desire for the abolition of colonialism and racism. When the Congress was held in February of 1919, it enjoyed the participation of fifty-seven delegates from throughout the African world.

At this gathering some fifteen territories were represented including Abyssinia, Haiti, the United States, the French-controlled Caribbean, the British-controlled colonies of West Africa, Egypt, the Congo, the Dominican Republic and Liberia. There were also representatives who attended from the European colonial powers as well as the United States, which was represented by William E. Walling and Charles Edward Russell.

By 1921 DuBois had set out to convene another Pan-African Congress in London, Brussels and Paris that was more representative of the African world as a whole. After corresponding with peoples of African descent in various parts of the world, a series of meetings were held in England, Belgium and France during August and September of 1921.

At these meeting there were 113 delegates in attendance, with forty-one coming from Africa, thirty-five from the United States, twenty-four who were living in Europe and seven others representing the Caribbean.

At the 1921 gathering the question of Belgian colonial rule in Congo became a major area of concern for the authorities in Brussels. The atrocities committed by the European colonialists in Congo had been criticized and condemned by E.D. Morel, who helped expose the mass enslavement and extermination carried out by Monarch Leopold during the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Although the Belgian government protested the resolutions attacking its record in Congo, the Congress would not back away from the principles of acknowledging the full humanity of African peoples based on the findings of science, law and politics during this period. Despite the relative weakness of the 1921 Pan-African Congress, for the colonial powers of Europe, there was a concern that these meetings could influence the political mood among the masses within the imperialist outposts on the continent.

After the Congress in 1919, there was the formation of the Congress of British West Africa (CBWA), which brought together representatives of various indigenous organizations in the region. In addition, the rising influence of Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), which had established chapters in several British colonies in the Caribbean and Africa, was a cause for alarm among the post World War I imperialist powers.

In the U.S. in 1919 there were race riots provoked by whites in Knoxville, Tennessee, Elaine, Arkansas, Washington, D.C. and Omaha, Nebraska. The most violent of the disturbances occurred in late July in Chicago after the drowning of a young African-American male in Lake Michigan by a mob of racist whites.

The next thirteen days were filled with wholesale attacks on the African-American community which resulted in the deaths of twenty-three Blacks and fifteen whites. In addition, it was officially reported that over 500 persons were injured during the race riots and approximately 1000 people, mainly African-Americans, were rendered homeless after their residencies were destroyed by racist gangs.

According to historians of African-American history Logan and Cohen, these attack by white mobs against the African-American community in 1919 illustrated a new level of consciousness and militancy in the response of the African population to race terror: “Like earlier race riots, the blood-baths of 1919 were the product of a basic weakness in American life—the nation’s failure to provide equality for all its citizens.

“But in at least one respect they differed from the anti-Negro outbreaks of earlier times. They were brought to an end largely by the determination of Negroes to fight back, to die for their rights as free men. Negroes were no longer willing to submit to their oppressors. Migration had fostered both self-respect and unity, while the war had given Negroes a deeper understanding of freedom. Negroes had fought and died to make the world safe for democracy; they were now fighting and dying to make America safe for freedom.”

The rise of the UNIA, the Fourth Pan-African Congress of 1927, the so-called Harlem Renaissance and the economic crisis of 1929 leading to the Great Depression, all had a profound impact on the consciousness of African people in the United States and around the world. The crisis in capitalism worldwide inevitably resulted in the rise of fascism in Europe.

The advent of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, the Spanish civil war of the late 1930s and the devastation of World War II severely disrupted European economies and governments. The United States emerged as the dominate capitalist power in the world. The Soviet Union that grew out of the Russian Revolution of 1917, represented the only world power in a position to effectively challenge U.S., British and France imperialism during the late 1940s and leading into the 1950s cold war era.

African Independence and Pan-African Struggles Worldwide

This year represents the 50th anniversary of the what is known as “The Year of Africa.” In 1960, 17 former colonial territories gained national independence on the continent. The liberation struggle had gained momentum since the independence of Libya in 1951 and the Free Officers’ Movement coup in Egypt in 1952.

In 1956, Sudan gained its independence to be followed by Ghana in 1957. Kwame Nkrumah, who was the founder and leader of the Convention People’s Party that led the Gold Coast to freedom, stated at the March 6 independence rally that the liberation of Ghana was meaningless if it was not linked to the total independence of Africa.

Later in 1958, Guinea-Conakry opted out of the French neo-colonial scheme for its territories in West Africa. The nations of Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Egypt, Algeria and Tanzania became the states which took a militant stance against the colonialists during the early 1960s.

In 1960-61, when the newly-independent Congo government under the leadership of Patrice Lumumba was overthrown in an imperialist-engineered coup which resulted in the assassination of Lumumba, the Congo became a base of operation for the Western countries bent on stifling Africa’s development. Congo would remain under the influence of the United States until 1997 when the regime of Mobutu Sese Seko was routed by an alliance of democratic forces.

There is no uniform pattern to the independence struggles in Africa. In Ghana there were rebellions and many lost their lives in the course of the movement against British rule, but the emphasis was on mass struggles including strikes, boycotts, political propaganda distribution and electoral campaigns.

The situation in Ghana was different than what prevailed in Algeria where an entrenched settler colonial class backed by the French military held out for seven years against the armed struggle of the National Liberation Front (FLN). There would be other colonial territories where people were forced to take up weapons in order to win their liberation such as Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Namibia, Zanzibar, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Eritrea and the Western Sahara (which is still not independent).

In 1963, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was formed which brought together over 30 independent nation-states on the continent. The OAU established a liberation committee which assisted with the channeling of aid to various independence movements operating against colonialism.

Nonetheless, the phenomena of neo-colonialism became the dominant imperialist force in Africa. Kwame Nkrumah wrote on this going back to the 1960s when he published a book entitled “Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism," where he documented the role of the United States in the continuing exploitation of Africa.

Nkrumah stated that “The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside.” (Revolutionary Path, p. 314)

The independent states of Africa underwent numerous coups during the period between the 1960s and 1980s. Over and above the assassination of Lumumba in 1961, the revolutionary government of Nkrumah was overthrown with the direct assistance of the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department in 1966.

A consistent policy carried out by successive U.S. administrations to support colonial states in their efforts to maintain control over the African people unfolded between the 1960s up until today. During the period of the liberation struggles in Southern Africa, the U.S. was always been on the side of the colonialists and white minority regimes that committed atrocities against the African people.

This U.S. policy has maintained a strong economic thrust with the specific targeting of progressive and revolutionary African states for regime-change designed to keep these countries in perpetual debt and political servitude to the imperialist states. The role of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Agency for International Development, all of whom are U.S.-based, have been critical in continuing the underdevelopment process.

Despite these efforts by the United States and other imperialist states to continue their exploitation and oppression of African states, the peoples of the continent have been successful on numerous occasions in fighting as well as staving off Western efforts to stifle their independence. In fact the consciousness of the African masses has grown considerably since the time of early national independence with specific reference to the dominate role of the United States in influencing and determining Africa’s priorities.

Some Examples of U.S. Interference in African Affairs

Here are some specific cases where the United States in partnership with other imperialist countries have attempted to undermine African sovereignty as well as policies to build societies that place a strong emphasis on improving the conditions of the people:

Somalia: A Focal Point of U.S. Intervention

In Somalia the United States has been intricately involved in its internal affairs since the late 1970s. Under the Carter administration the regime of Mohamed Siad Barre was encouraged to attack neighboring Ethiopia which had developed close ties with the Soviet Union and Cuba in the aftermath of the revolution of 1974. In 1977-78, the Somalia government launched an invasion into the Ogaden region of Ethiopia at the aegis of the U.S.

This invasion, which was designed to destabilize the socialist-oriented government at the time in Ethiopia, faced defeat at the hands of the Ethiopian military assisted by Cuban internationalist fighters. In the aftermath of 1978, Somalia became more impoverished and most of the aid given to the country by the U.S. was in the form of military arms.

In 1991, the government of Siad Barre collapsed under widespread opposition and the failure of the U.S. to provide adequate support in the wake of the impending collapse of the Soviet Union and its ally in the Horn of Africa at the time, Ethiopia. Then following in 1992, the Bush administration invaded Somalia under the guise of providing humanitarian assistance.

Over the next several months it became clear that the U.S. mission in Somalia was by no means humanitarian. The Clinton administration of 1993 had inherited a military situation where urban guerrillas were waging a campaign to force the U.S. out of Somalia. The Clinton administration and the United Nations pulled out their forces in 1994.

Nonetheless, since 2001, the U.S. administration of George W. Bush has labeled Somalia as a base for so-called terrorists groups. The government in Somalia has not had an internationally recognized government since 1991 and two other states, Puntland and Somaliland, have been proclaimed over the last few years. Neither of these breakaways states have gained international recognition from the United Nations or the African Union (AU).

Even though the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) that is in power now in Somalia is supported by the U.S., most states in the region and around the world are forced to question its legitimacy and the degree to which it has control over the internal situation inside the country.

In 2006, the U.S. under Bush encouraged some groups inside Somalia to fight against the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) which was bringing some semblance of stability to the country after years of civil war and outside imperialist intervention. When this strategy of fomenting civil war did not work, the U.S. backed Ethiopia to invade the country in order to displace the Islamic Courts Union and uphold the TFG.

This policy also failed when elements within the UIC fought back against the U.S.-supported occupation of Somalia. Despite denials by both the Ethiopian government of Meles Zenawi and the Bush administration that the U.S. military was directing the intervention, the Pentagon bombed areas within Somalia on several occasions under the auspices of the so-called “war on terrorism.”

When the Ethiopians withdrew from the country in January 2009 in defeat, the U.S. stepped-up its assistance to the TFG and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) which consists of troops from the Washington-friendly regimes of Uganda and Burundi. The two main Islamic resistance movements, Hizbul Islam and Al-Shabaab, are still fighting against the TFG.

In March reports indicated that the U.S. military was prepared to bomb areas of Somalia where there were strong bases of the Islamic groups fighting the TFG. The situation in Somalia can only be resolved with the participation of all the major political players, including the resistance forces, coming to an agreement.

Sudan: Oil and the Darfur Conflict

A considerable amount of attention was given to the nation of Sudan in recent years due to the fighting taking place in the western Darfur region. In analyzing this conflict, most corporate media outlets ignore the sovereignty of the Sudanese government and its right to establish its authority over all parts of the country.

Like in other geo-political regions of the world, the oil industry plays a key role in determining the foreign policy of the United States. Sudan is one of the emerging oil-producing states in Africa with over 500,000 barrels per day being produced. As a result of previous political disagreements and the bombing of the country under the Clinton administration in 1998, the U.S. oil giants are not able to exploit these abundant petroleum resources.

80 percent of the oil concessions granted by the Sudanese government are held by the firms operating out of the People’s Republic of China. At the root of the disagreement between Washington and Khartoum is the access and control over these oil fields.

Since the first Gulf War in 1991, where Sudan refused to support U.S. military intervention in that region, successive administrations have been on a collision course with President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Indictments have been issued by the International Criminal Court in The Hague against the president and other leading governmental officials in Sudan.

These indictments against a sitting African head of state have been condemned by both the African Union and the Arab League as being detrimental to the resolution of the conflict in Darfur and the peace agreement signed with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement based in South which waged a twenty year battle against the central government in Khartoum.

A recently held election in Sudan illustrated the different views held about the country among both the western imperialist states and the African Union and the Arab League. The AU, the Arab League and the Russian government observers concluded that the election results were fair and representative of the popular will of the Sudanese people. Whereas the U.S. and other opposition forces questioned the results and the legitimacy of the victory won by the ruling National Congress Party headed by President Al-Bashir.

Under the Obama administration a special envoy has been appointed and there are some efforts underway to improve relations, however, the same general policy orientation is prevailing and that is to oppose any African state that pursues an independent line divergent from the foreign policy imperatives of the United States.

Zimbabwe: The Land Struggle and the Impact of Sanctions

Another country in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe, has come under fire as well by both the United States and Britain over the last decade. It was in 2000 that revolutionary war veterans and supports of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) marched on to white-controlled farms and seized the land.

This land question was the most pressing unresolved post-independence issue in Zimbabwe, which won its national liberation thirty years ago this month. Since the land reform process, the country has been subjected to harsh economic sanctions, destabilization attempts through an imperialist-financed opposition movement as well as a concerted propaganda campaign designed to undermine the legitimacy of the Zimbabwean state headed by President Robert Mugabe.

Other states in the Southern African region were pressured by the U.S. and Britain to cut ties with Zimbabwe and to reinforce the western-imposed sanctions. However, all of these efforts failed over a ten year period. The ZANU-PF government reached a Global Political Agreement with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change factions and formed a ruling coalition in 2009. This represented a major blow to the imperialist program aimed at removing President Mugabe from office and installing neo-colonialist regime in Zimbabwe.

Nonetheless, the sanctions against Zimbabwe by the U.S., U.K. and the EU remain intact. This illustrates that the West wants to determine the future of not only Zimbabwe but South Africa and the other countries in the region who would not go along with the regime change policies of the imperialist states.

Mali, Ghana & Gabon: AFRICOM and the War Games

During 2009, war games by the United States military were carried out in West Africa. These games are part and parcel of the escalating military role of the U.S. in Africa. In 2008, the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was formed and numerous attempts to place its headquarters on the continent has failed. The AFRICOM headquarters is still located in Stuttgart, Germany.

In Mali, the U.S. is using an ongoing conflict between the Tuareg people of Mali and Niger with their central governments as an excuse to maintain military and political influence in the region. There are also military operations and training programs taking place in Ghana, which was largely behind the 2009 visit of President Barack Obama to that country.

Ghana has been a test case for the United States since the overthrow of Nkrumah in 1966. During the mid-1980s, the country was the first to adopt the dreaded Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) engineered by the IMF and World Bank. These SAP reduced the size of governments and educational institutions as well as jeopardized the public health of the people and caused widespread unemployment and poverty on the African continent.

In Gabon, a previous French colony, the current government in Paris has maintained a military presence inside the country to prevent unrest that could jeopardize the flow of oil to the western countries. Gabon was also a participant in the recent war games conducted by the Pentagon in the Gulf of Guinea and other areas in West Africa.

Africa and the Anti-Imperialist Movement

It is important that anti-war, peace and anti-imperialist forces in the United States pay close attention to the current situation in Africa. The U.S. conducts extensive trade with numerous African states such as Nigeria, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Egypt among others. Along with Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. has substantial military presence in and around the continent, most notably a military base in Djibouti and a flotilla war ships off the coast of Somalia and Kenya in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

Anti-imperialists and peace advocates must oppose direct and indirect U.S. military involvement in Africa since it does not benefit the majority of the people living in these countries. In Somalia, despite the large scale military assistance to the TFG, the people remain in a chronic humanitarian crisis. This is also true of neighboring Ethiopia, which receives substantial military aid from the U.S.

Solidarity with the African peoples and other peoples suffering under the yoke of U.S. militarism and economic exploitation enhances and strengthens the movements of the working class and oppressed inside this country. The over $700 billion Pentagon budget cannot be justified in light of the growing economic crisis inside the United States itself.

The people of the U.S. need jobs, income, health care, environmental and food security, quality education and housing just like the peoples of Africa and other parts of the world. Our united struggle can create the conditions for a peaceful and just world for all.

May Day and the Plight of African Immigrants in the U.S. and Europe

The Plight of African Immigrants in the U.S. and Europe

Discrimination, repression and the struggle against world imperialism

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

This year’s May Day commemorations are taking place amid an escalation of racist and xenophobic attacks against immigrant communities in the United States and Western Europe. The recent passage of a new Arizona law that legalizes racial profiling and the electoral campaigns by right-wing, anti-immigrant parties in Hungary, France, Italy and the Netherlands, illustrates the need to intensify efforts aimed at building international solidarity among workers and the oppressed throughout the world.

These attacks against immigrant communities in the Western countries coincide with the burgeoning economic crisis that has resulted in the massive layoffs of millions of workers of all nationalities and the worsening of the social conditions faced by people in both the industrialized and underdeveloped states. The decline of the capitalist system that has been characterized by massive bank bailouts, plant closings, the shrinking of the public sector, cutbacks and denial of healthcare and the privatization of education, has intensified the assaults on trade unions, poor people of color, women and other historically exploited and marginalized groups.

Inside the United States since 2006 the immigrant rights struggle against the draconian laws passed by Congress since the 1990s, has created the social conditions for the revival of May Day. Millions of workers led by the Latino communities throughout the country has challenged unjust policies that scapegoat the immigrant population groups both documented and undocumented.

It should not be surprising that the reemergence of May Day has been initiated by Latino immigrants. During the period between the late 19th century and the Great Depression, it was workers from various Eastern European states and the nationally oppressed who played a decisive role in struggles to win the eight hour day, the ending of child labor and the securing of collective bargaining rights.

Even though the Latino working class in the U.S. has been at the forefront of the massive demonstrations and campaigns to highlight the plight of the undocumented, the overall decline in the social wage of labor in general necessitates the broadening of the conception and realization of the independent and militant action to defeat the intensifying war on people from all segments of society.

Although the corporate media has placed a brown face on the recent plight of the immigrant communities, the conditions of immigrants of African descent have been just as precarious in both the United States and Europe. The discrimination and repression leveled against African immigrants cannot be separated from the legacy of racism and national oppression against Black people in the United States who are ostensibly “citizens” of the country. This same contradiction also exists in Europe where the conditions of immigrants must be viewed within the context of the ongoing subordinate position of people of color who are supposed to be protected under the laws governing the various states.

The Conditions of African Immigrants in the United States

Over the last several decades there has been a significant increase in the number of immigrants from the Caribbean and the African continent living inside the United States. Nonetheless, there was a decline in the number of Caribbean nationals who were granted naturalized citizenship during 2009. In 2008 some 131,935 people from the Caribbean gained citizenship in the U.S. in comparison to a significant decline to 84,917 in 2009. (, April 23, 2010)

This reduction in the number of people from the Caribbean becoming citizens follows a broader pattern where in 2008 some 1,046,539 became naturalized, while in 2008, there were only 743,715. It is not surprising that the immigrants from Cuba topped the list of those from the Caribbean becoming naturalized with 24,891.

The United States has favored and even encouraged immigration from Cuba in the five decades-long destabilization campaign against the revolutionary government on the island. Nonetheless, even the number of Cubans being granted citizenship declined from the 39,871 who became naturalized in 2008.

Interestingly enough, the group showing an increase in naturalization are nationals from the African continent. However, the conditions under which they are living inside the U.S. are not free of discrimination and racism.

For example, several years ago the Mayor of Lewiston, Maine, Laurier T. Raymond, Jr., stated publicly that the Somali immigrant community should look elsewhere to live. The Mayor voiced sentiments of the largely white city that the presence of immigrants from East Africa would adversely impact the living standards and culture of the broader community.

Jonathan Rogers, a Portland resident, asked recently in response to this form of anti-immigrant racism, that “Can you imagine a city mayor turning away hoards of new residents and their contributions to the local economy in today’s economic climate? Mayor Raymond wasn’t alone, however. Many Mainers still harbor a sentiment of distrust, disapproval and hostility toward unfamiliar immigrants.” (Portland Press Herald, April 14)

Rogers continues saying that “Xenophobia can make you believe all sorts of things; that these new families are a drag on the economy, that they all live in public housing and are unemployed or that the low-income neighborhoods they may inhabit are the most crime-ridden in town.”

This same author encourages people living in Portland to “Take a tour of the neighborhoods with public housing developments in Portland, many of which are home to Somalis and other East African families. Compared to areas of similar income, you will find stronger communities, more thriving social networks and more civic-minded people there than anywhere else in the city.”

At a conference held on February 28 on the African Diaspora in Washington, D.C., people from 19 countries and 137 organizations meet to discuss how resources could be mobilized to assist in the economic development of the African continent. The conference examined several areas of concern including governance and capacity development, women’s empowerment, information technology and economic development.

This event reported the World Bank estimates that “African immigrants living abroad mostly in North America and Europe send home between $32 and $40 billion every year. This figure far exceeds the money that is given to Africa through formalized development aid channels. “(Modern Ghana News, April 5)

Despite the constructive role played by African immigrants in the United States, many people from this community are subjected to racial profiling and discrimination. There have been numerous cases of African immigrants who have been harassed, brutalized and murdered by law-enforcement.

The Somali community in Minneapolis has been targeted as suspects in the so-called “war on terrorism.” During the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009, the FBI questioned Somali student activists about an alleged plot to assassinate the president. Mosques frequented by Somalis have been infiltrated by government informants and recently there have been reports in the corporate media claiming that youth are being recruited to go and fight against the U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu.

The Plight of African Immigrants in Europe

As a result of the impact of the world economic crisis on the African continent, more workers and youth have fled as refugees to Europe in search of employment and a higher standard of living. However, these workers have been subjected to gross discrimination and violence from various European governments and racist vigilantes.

This anti-immigrant bias has been reflected in the electoral campaigns of various right-wing political parties who have openly advocated reprisals targeting African workers who are seeking asylum in European states. In Hungary in April, the right-wing Jobbik party gained 16 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections.

The same sentiment is reflected in France with the growth of the racist National Front Party and in the Netherlands where the Party of Freedom enjoyed gains in the recent elections. In Italy the anti-immigrant Northern League has openly spread racist sentiment against workers from Africa and other parts of the world.

In January in a town in southern Italy, two African immigrant workers were shot when air guns were fired from a moving vehicle. The incident sparked mass demonstrations and a rebellion when the workers took to the streets demanding that they be treated like human beings.

According to a report broadcast over Germany Television “More than 2,000 immigrants protested with banners in front of the town hall, highlighting what they say is racist treatment at the hands of locals. ‘We are not animals,’ some shouted.

“Schools and shops were closed due to the tense atmosphere, and there were reports of one white resident firing ammunition into the air. Immigrants in the town work picking fruit and vegetables, with about 1,500 living in abandoned factories with no running water.” (Deutsche Welle TV, Jan. 8)

According to an article in the Ethiopian Review, the rise in racism in Europe is closely linked with the deepening economic crisis within the western capitalist states. The journal says that “Although right-wing ideology takes different forms across Europe, it shares a common strategy: exploiting the fears of voters in times of crisis. Right-wing populists focus on their follower’s discontent.” (Ethiopian Review, April 13)

“They offer easy answers to complicated problems: the economic situation, unemployment or social security,” said Wofgang Kapust of German National Radio (WDR). “Above all, they want to rid of, deport or ‘send home’ foreigners and ‘the others’.” (Ethiopian Review, April 13)

Workers Have No Borders: The Need for Solidarity With Immigrant Workers

Inside the United States it is important that labor organizers, anti-racists and civil rights groups condemn acts of discrimination and violence against immigrant workers. These attacks are not just directed against the foreign-born and their descendants but are designed to weaken and intimidate the proletariat and the nationally oppressed as a whole.

The emergence of the so-called “Tea Party” movement in the U.S. represents another manifestation of an age-old phenomena of the ruling class attempts to divide and conquer the working class and the oppressed. These angry workers and displaced middle-class whites are being encouraged by sections of the capitalist class to attack immigrants, African-Americans, Latinos, women, the LGBTQ communities, unions and progressive forces as a whole.

In fostering international solidarity with immigrant workers, the progressive forces inside the United States and Europe can build a united front against a potentially dangerous neo-fascist movement that is supported and promoted by the ruling class and its corporate media outlets. Only a broad-based alliance of working people, immigrants and the nationally oppressed can effectively counter efforts by the capitalist class to further impoverish and politically isolate the struggle against the economic austerity imposed on the majority of people inside the United States and around the world.

Detroit Judge Temporarily Halts Schools Closings Amid the Release of City Austerity Budget

Detroit Judge Issues Preliminary Injunction to Halt School Closings Amid the Release of Austerity Budget for the City

Moratorium NOW! Coalition calls for halt to debt service payments to the banks

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

DETROIT—Two major developments in the city of Detroit have highlighted the current struggle against the ruling class attempts to both privatize the public education system and to impose a massive “rightsizing” plan that would dislocate thousands of residents from the area.

Judge Wendy Baxter of the Wayne County Circuit Court ruled on April 16 that the state-appointed emergency financial manager Robert Bobb could not proceed with plans to close over 40 public school buildings without consulting with the elected Detroit Board of Education. The ruling was handed down in response to a lawsuit filed on March 2 on behalf of several school teachers, parents and students in opposition to the arbitrary decisions being made by an appointee of Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

On March 23, the suit was enjoined by the Board of Education after plans were announced to shut down 45 schools throughout the city of Detroit. Judge Baxter’s ruling declared that the responsibilities of the state-appointed emergency financial manager did not include the right to make unilateral decisions that impacted the academic policy of the school district.

The proposal to close the schools would have a devastating impact on both the public education system as well as the neighborhoods affected by the changes. Thousands of parents, community members and students have attended numerous public hearings called by the emergency financial manager over the last several weeks where education advocates made their case for keeping the school buildings open.

These plans targeted some of the most academically successful schools within the district where students have made significant progress over the last several years in regard to performance on standardize tests as well as enhancing parental and community participation in education programs.

Demonstrations have taken place over the last several weeks in opposition to the closings of several schools including Northwestern, Cooley and Western. Atty. George Washington, who filed the lawsuit against the emergency financial manager on behalf of the teachers, parents and students, was interviewed April 18 on the “Fighting for Justice” radio program aired weekly on WDTW AM 1310.

Washington considered Judge Baxter’s injunction a temporary victory on behalf of public education and local control of Detroit schools.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, who is running for Governor on the Republican ticket, immediately filed an appeal to overturn Judge Baxter’s order. Both the Democratic Governor Granholm and Cox are arguing that to restrict the decision making power of the emergency financial manager over the Detroit Public Schools would stifle the so-called reform efforts.

Since the appointment of the emergency financial manager in 2009, the DPS has fallen more than $100 million more in debt. On April 16, the emergency financial manager also issued over 2,000 lay-off notices to teachers in the school district.

Moratorium NOW! Coalition member Andrea Egypt, who is a city employee, asked in response to the plans to close schools in Detroit that “What is the purpose of laying-off teachers, closing schools, leaving students to find a way to an overcrowded school further away from home? How is that an improvement?”

Egypt continued by stating “Once the children in the community are being targeted it’s time for the people in Detroit to stand up and fight back. We have seen this recently with the protests by students and teachers on March 4 across the country.”

Mayor Issues Budget Calling for Lay-offs and Service Cuts

Meanwhile Mayor Dave Bing issued his 2010-2011 budget which raises more questions than answers. The $2.9 billion budget indicates that over 300 workers are scheduled for lay-off and more services to city residents will be cut.

On April 20 the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs held a demonstration in front of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in downtown Detroit. The protest pointed out that hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are slated to be turned over to the banks in order to pay the mounting debt service obligations to various financial institutions.

The Moratorium NOW! Coalition is demanding the immediate halt to the paying of debt service to the banks saying that these funds should be utilized to help people stay in their homes and to prevent lay-offs and restore city services.

Ruling class elements through a report issued by the so-called “Citizens Research Council”, which is directed by representatives of the banks, multi-national corporations and capitalist-oriented academics, openly called for the implementation of a plan to restructure the city.

This report entitled “The Fiscal Condition of The City of Detroit” stated that if the Mayor and City Council are not willing to enact the proposed austerity plans, “an emergency financial manager should be appointed under the Local Government Fiscal Responsibility Act in order to negate the authority of the mayor and city council in order to implement changes and renegotiate contracts.” (The Fiscal Condition of The City of Detroit, April 2010, Introduction)

The report continues by saying “If an emergency financial manager recommends, and the state approves, reorganization and restructuring can occur under protection of bankruptcy, which does allow contracts to be abrogated. No Michigan municipality has ever filed under federal bankruptcy laws.”

The Moratorium NOW! Coalition is committed to building a broad-based united front to link all the important issues facing the city. A massive outreach campaign is being planned for the next few weeks and months to take on the banks, corporations and their agents in government in efforts to halt the downsizing and the further disempowerment of working people of the city of Detroit.