Tuesday, October 31, 2006

China To Host Summit With African Leaders in Beijing

China Defends Dealings With Africa

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

(10-31) 11:33 PST BEIJING, China (AP) --Billboards of elephants, giraffes and sweeping African savannas are covering Beijing high-rises. Police have had holidays canceled to help ease gridlock in the capital. Conference centers are being carpeted with grass.

Beijing is making unusually lavish efforts to welcome leaders and officials from 48 African nations this week for a landmark summit meant to highlight China's huge and growing role in Africa.

Over the past decade, China has built an outsized presence in Africa, in a diplomatic and economic push that is helping to reshape the geo-political map. Trade has ballooned tenfold to $40 billion last year. Chinese investment has funded roads and been poured into copper mines and oil fields, helping to boost African economies and, for some, standards of living.

"China is the biggest developing country and Africa is a continent where the most developing countries are situated," said He Wenping, an Africa expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "They need each other."

In this exchange, China is picking up natural resources — oil, precious minerals — to feed its expanding economy and new markets for its burgeoning enterprises. The African countries get investment and both parties are building political alliances in a world they often see as overly dominated by the United States and other Western powers.

But China's African adventure is not friction-free. African workers have protested against what they see as ill-treatment and poor pay by Chinese companies, as well as the flood of Chinese workers who take away their jobs. South Africa, a staunch friend of Beijing, has complained that influxes of cheap Chinese clothes could devastate the textile industry.

In Zambia, a decades-old political ally, China became an issue in the September presidential election, with the opposition candidate questioning the benefit from Chinese investment. In July, scores of African workers at a Chinese-owned Zambian mine rioted over low wages.

There's a "growing perception that China's interests in Africa are very self-serving, if not predatory, that China is interested in making inroads into markets that are good for its energy needs — especially with countries that are not paragons of democratic virtue," said Garth le Pere of the Institute for Global Dialogue, a think tank based in Midrand, South Africa.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund have raised concern that freely lavished Chinese aid money is compounding Africa's debts. China's exports of oil from Angola, seen as one of Africa's most corrupt governments, and Sudan, among the most repressive governments, have raised alarms from human rights and good governance groups.

Critics also have said that China's arms exports to Sudan's Darfur region have helped fuel the conflict, which has claimed at least 180,000 lives and forced more than 2 million people from their homes over the past three years.

Chinese officials, however, insist that their country's involvement has improved the lives of ordinary Africans without meddling in political affairs — strict adherence to China's diplomatic policy of noninterference.

"Chinese investment in Africa has promoted economic growth, increased job opportunities ... and improved living standards," Deputy Commerce Minister Wei Jianguo told reporters. "It has greatly benefited the local people and is very popular among them."

Since 1956, Wei said, China has also helped set up more than 700 projects in Africa in fisheries, telecommunications, hydropower, education and health, Wei said. "They have all proven to be very successful," he said.

For Beijing, the Nov. 3-5 China-African summit offers a fresh opportunity to try to blunt the controversy while pushing deeper economically and politically.

The summit will "exert an important and far-reaching influence over the long-term development over China-Africa relations," Wei said.

Among the countries invited to the summit are Burkina Faso, Swaziland, Malawi, Gambia, Sao Tome and Principe, which have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the democratic island that China claims as its own. The two have engaged in a diplomatic tug of war, offering inducements to nations to cut diplomatic ties with the other.

A conference for 1,500 Chinese and African entrepreneurs will be held along the sidelines, along with an African product exhibition to show off food, lumber, textiles and handicrafts.

Throughout the city, billboards touting "Africa — the land of myth and miracle" have been put up in numbers unusual even for a capital used to propaganda campaigns. Some 1,800 plainclothes and uniformed police officers are being put on summit duty, organizers said. So far, there have been no threats of protests. Volunteers will also be mobilized to patrol on the streets, many of which will be closed to public traffic.

State media have run almost daily reports touting relations between the two sides.

Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president who has been criticized in the West for trampling human rights, was quoted as saying that the summit will enhance cooperation.

"We have nothing to lose but our imperialist chains," the Xinhua News Agency quoted Mugabe as saying.

To ensure success, Beijing's Communist Party Secretary, Liu Qi, has called for "all-out efforts to create a seriously friendly atmosphere for Sino-African relations," state media reported.

To some, however, the issue isn't cooperation but whether African countries are leveraging their resources to get the most out of China. And the billions of dollars in aid, forgiven debt and investment China has poured into Africa is proving controversial even among Chinese.

"African countries have got what China wants but they're not bargaining," said Francis Kornegay, a senior researcher at the Center for Policy Studies in Johannesburg, South Africa. "Is it simply going to be a mutual admiration society, or is there going to be some real given and take?"

URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi

China & Africa Build Stronger Bonds In The 21st Century

China and Africa: Friendship and Revival in the New Century


China's emergence as a key player in Africa, the impact of its presence and its challenges to traditional Western pre-eminence in African economies are one of the hallmarks of the 21st century. Two-way trade, which stood at less than $1 billion in 2000, has surged to nearly $40 billion in 2006, while in the same period China’s share of Africa’s trade has jumped from 2.6 percent to over 6 percent, making it the continent’s third largest trading partner after the United States and France. Africa has featured high on the Chinese diplomatic circuit, benefiting from no less than three major tours in the last year by Chinese leaders as well as a heads of state summit in Beijing this November. And, while a decade ago China only had a limited presence in Africa, today there are hundreds of major Chinese businesses, bolstered by tens of thousands of Chinese laborers, retailers and tourists. African businesses are also linking up with Chinese partners and, together, are exploring investment opportunities both in Africa and China itself.

China’s engagement with Africa

China’s contemporary engagement with Africa is not “new” but in fact has its roots in policies pursued since the mid-1950s as well as earlier historical precedents. Africa in the Cold War era was seen primarily by Chinese leaders as a terrain for ideological competition with the Soviet Union and the United States, as well as the remaining European influences. This took the form of Chinese diplomatic and military support in southern Africa for liberation movements and the construction of the TanZam Railway. Moreover, Chinese officials recognized that, with their numerical advantage in the [UN] General Assembly and anti-colonial perspective, independent African states held the key to removing the Taiwan [regime] from its official status as occupant of the coveted permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

The onset of the contemporary phase in China-Africa relations began in the wake of Deng Xiaoping’s domestic economic successes and the growing confidence that is instilled in the country. His successor, Jiang Zemin, toured Africa in May 1996, at which time he presented the “Five-point Proposal” that established the terms of a new relationship with Africa, centering on [the principles of] a reliable friendship, sovereign equality and non-intervention, mutually beneficial development and international cooperation. The accompanying dynamics of Chinese re-engagement with Africa that followed can be seen in three dimensions: an economic rationale, a diplomatic rationale and a broader set of concerns linked to China’s interests.

African resources and new markets

Energy resources remain the most important focus of China’s involvement on the continent but it must be recognized that other natural resources play a critical role as well. With regard to oil, China’s overall “outward movement” strategy of engaging developing countries and locking in resources through government-to-government agreements, launched in earnest after 1993, has brought about a recognition in Beijing of the dangers of political instability from Middle Eastern sources. Currently, less than 30 percent of all of China’s oil requirements are sourced from Africa and that is set to expand further with the recent purchase of stakes in West Africa.

At the same time, competition for other natural resources, including strategic minerals, timber and fisheries, as well as the opening of new markets for its products, are playing a part in diversifying the content of Chinese involvement in Africa. The commodities boom has been driven by China’s need for material such as nickel, copper, gold and titanium. West African timber in particular continues to attract Chinese investment (60 percent of Africa’s tropical timber exports are to China), while Chinese companies have moved quickly to become leaders in the area of physical infrastructure development (roads, railroads and major public buildings) as well as telecommunications development on the continent.

Though Africa represents a small market for consumer goods itself, nonetheless trade with China has had a significant impact in two ways. In the first instance, China has been able to find a market for its low-value consumer goods that are brought in by Chinese-dominated import companies and sold through a growing informal network of trading posts across urban and rural Africa. Another dimension of Chinese interests is its new investment in industries that are geared to markets based in the United States and Europe.

Development assistance and diplomacy

Development assistance, though still relatively limited in nature to date, occupies an increasingly important part of China’s relations with Africa. Africa receives the largest percentage of China’s development assistance (44 percent, or $1.8 billion), with Official Development Assistance divided between tied aid, outright grants to recipients, a limited number of loans and new mechanisms such as government guarantees for sectoral investment in the region. According to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Chinese aid in 2005 alone amounted to $44.4 million. This assistance includes funding of the civil service in the Central African Republic and Liberia, and providing a substantial loan to an Angolan Government reluctant to turn to the International Monetary Fund. Training programs in technical areas such as hydro-irrigation and small-scale agricultural production involving thousands of African farmers have served to transfer China’s experience to Africa. In addition, China has provided Algeria with a nuclear reactor and modern telecommunications equipment in Ethiopia and Djibouti, as well as accompanying training programs to maintain this equipment.

The announcement of debt forgiveness to 31 African countries, amounting to $1.27 billion, at the second China-Africa Cooperation Forum in 2003 and aid donations to a number of states, are a further expression of this symbolic drive. This was supplemented by a decision to exempt duties on 190 export items from Africa’s poorest countries.

Finally, in the area of humanitarianism, China has broken its own past precedents and sent 600 peacekeepers into Liberia, representing recognition of the importance of participating in UN-sanctioned operations that promote stability. It has also provided financial support to combat drought on the Horn of Africa amounting to $200,000 in 1999 and $610,000 in humanitarian assistance in 2004 to address the Darfur crisis. In a dramatic step aimed at countering critics of its role in Sudan, the Chinese Government announced in 2006 that it would be providing $3.5 million in support of African Union peacekeeping operations in that strife-torn region.

Forging strategic partnerships

A key dimension of Chinese foreign policy at the global level is an overriding concern with Western hegemony. This concern has manifested itself in a search for strategic partners with whom Beijing can make common cause around issues that reflect their shared interests. These interests center on mutual respect for state sovereignty as a guiding principle of the international system and the non-intervention in domestic affairs of states. As significant players in multilateral organizations, African states have demonstrated a long-standing commitment to international institutions and the ideas of multilateralism. In the words of Premier Wen Jiabao in Addis Ababa last December, “China is ready to coordinate its positions with African countries in the process of international economic rules formulation and multilateral trade negotiations.”

Forging future partnerships

Africa has responded with enthusiasm to the return of the Chinese to a position of prominence in continental affairs. Underlying the positive attitude adopted by African governments and society is the recognition that China provides new sources of foreign direct investment (FDI) and development assistance, actively supports existing regimes irrespective of their political orientation, and can serve as an important strategic partner that can counter Western influence on the international stage. For those Africans concerned about aspects of Chinese engagement, however, there are worries about job losses due to competition with Chinese industry. Some concerns at the use of Chinese labor for large infrastructure projects and, in some selected instances, poor labor practices by a few Chinese businesses.

In tourism, the rise of a Chinese middle class with spending power and interest in leisure travel has broadened the pool of tourists in an area of great importance to many African economies. For instance, South Africa has benefited from this official status, with the number of Chinese tourists more than tripling in June 2003 alone from 962 to 3,423.

Linked to the positive response to growing Chinese economic involvement has been the effect that Beijing’s Africa policy has had for African governments. Chinese engagement has provided a new source of regime stability in Africa. Governments in Sudan and Zimbabwe, which have been subjected to a variety of international sanctions over their human rights policies over a period of years, have benefited from China’s explicit “no conditionalities” policy toward the continent. At the same time, while much of the attention has been on China’s willingness to provide diplomatic succor to international--or perhaps more to the point, Western designated--pariah regimes, the fact of the matter is that this unprecedented level of attention is having an impact on all African governments. The spectacle of the leaders of one of the world’s powers regularly visiting the continent and meeting with African leaders makes a strong impression on African governments and the public at large.

The Third Forum on Sino-African Cooperation provides an opportunity to highlight the progress made in relations over the last decade. The symbolic attractive power of China, a once impoverished country victimized by Western imperialism and later held back by its own pursuit of inappropriate forms of socialism, clearly resonates with African elites looking for a positive development model from the “Third World.” The 21st century is sure to see a strengthening of ties between the two regions.

(Views in this article may not necessarily represent those of Beijing Review)
Chris Alden is an author and lecturer in international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He has written extensively and is widely published.

Elizabeth Sidiropoulos is the national director of the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), an independent foreign policy think-tank based in Johannesburg. She is also editor of the South African Journal of International Affairs.

The International Influence of Chairman Mao Zedong of China

Influence of Chairman Mao


Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Mao Zedong’s portrait has gazed down from the symbol of state power, the Tiananmen Rostrum (entrance to the Forbidden City).

Every year, master painters touch up the painting. For the past 30 years, since he passed away, this tradition has remained, keeping the enduring image of Mao pristine in the minds of the Chinese nation. He seems to be watching the changes the country is passing through, aware of the growing pains and the rapid development all around him.

The architect of the Communist Party of China (CPC), as well as the founder of the People’s Republic, Mao not only changed the destiny of the Chinese people, but also the pattern of the world. Today, his political ideas and determination still influence not only China, but also people all over the world who fight for liberty.

Mao demonstrates China’s growing influence on the world stage. Adherence to the Mao Zedong Thought has been inscribed in the Constitution of China. It is also to be found in the CPC’s constitution, forming the fundamental principles of the ruling party.

However, for all his greatness, Mao was just a man, with the same hopes, emotions and human foibles as all of us. In retrospect, he made mistakes, as people do. As the Chinese know, in his late years, he initiated the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) in a bid to “purify” the Party and state leadership. Unfortunately, the sweeping political campaign went beyond its original intention, resulting in the tremendous losses in almost all aspects of social life and a cult following.

Today, the opening of Chinese society allows the people to broaden their views and reconsider Mao’s dominating influence. Giving an objective evaluation of Mao in history, more and more Chinese people admit that, apart from his wrongdoings, he was a great charismatic leader with numerous achievements to his name. Undoubtedly, he contributed to an important chapter of world history in the 20th century along with other influential men of his generation.

“For most of his life, Chairman Mao did very good things. Many times he saved the Party and the state from crises. Without him the Chinese people would, at the very least, have spent much more time groping in the dark,” said Deng Xiaoping, another great Chinese leader, in his talks with Oriana Fallaci, an Italian journalist.

As peace and harmonious coexistence remain the mainstream goal of the modern world, Mao’s overemphasis on “class struggle” today seems out of date. Nonetheless, the emerging social problems such as widening wealth gap, inefficient social security system, growing unemployment rate, soaring education and medical costs and increase in corrupt officials remind people of Mao’s motto: to wholeheartedly serve the people, which has been the backbone of daily Chinese moral values for generations.

For most Chinese, Mao is immortal in a spiritual sense. The new round of Mao’s commemoration reflects people’s good wishes for the future—the desire for sound social order and friendly human relationships. Nurtured by Mao’s philosophy, people seek the truth in a modern China.

Mao will never be forgotten in Chinese history, and his legacy will remain.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Detroit & Other National Demonstrations Against the Siege of Oaxaco, Mexico To Be Held on Tuesday, October 31

Please join us to oppose the Mexican government's crackdown on the teachers' protest in Oaxaca.

Tuesday October 31 at 12:00 noon
Mexican Consulate office in Detroit at the Penobscot Building, 645 Griswold

There will be solidarity protests at the Mexican Embassy in DC and Consulate offices across the U.S.

International Protest Against the Killings in Oaxaca, Mexico & Latest News

Americas Watch - Projects of Peace No War Network

Lists of Protest Cities

URGENT -- Using Brad Will's murder as a pretext, federal troops have been ordered to invade and violently suppress the social movements in Oaxaca. APC's, helicopters, airplanes, armed troops and undercover infiltrators are now attempting to enter Oaxaca. The social movement intends to hold their ground. Indymedia is giving minute-by-minute breaking news and APPO radio is broadcasting as possible -- pick a stream mirror: one two three four

Mexican embassies and consulates around the world are hearing our outrage and grief about the deaths in Oaxaca. There is an international call to action. Email us info we're missing at bradwillprotests@yahoo.com. Find a Mexican embassy in the US/Canada, join the cyber-protest, email the Mexican government

10/29: The circle of police, military and paramilitaries closes over Oaxaca

[Independent Media Center] Currently the people of Oaxaca organized in the Peoples Poplular Asembly of Oaxaca (APPO) are under attack by the mexican federal government. More than 10 thousand milatary sweep the streats of Oaxaca. Headed by water tanks follows by lines of 3,500 riot cops with batons and behind them 3,000 military police with automatic rifles; 5,000 army troups await in the outskirts of the city while paramilitaries continue attacking. There are reports of military tanks a few meters from the pacific protests and urban trucks without logo of the Federal Bureau of Inviestigations of Mexico which remain in the International Airport of Mexico, now converted into military base. Since the morning there are reports of one death.

The air space has been closed for the last two days to comercial and civil flights, only permiting the entry of federal and military agents. Since the morning the army has closed allo roads in and out of oaxaca.

10/30: International Protest Against the Killings in Oaxaca, Mexico

International Call to Action:

Chile, Santiago: 11/1 12PM - general meeting, meet outside the Mexican Embassy at Felix de Amesti 128, Las Condes.

Germany, Berlin: 11/1 more info

United States

Los Angeles, CA:
10/30 Monday 12 pm -- Press Conference -- APPO LA in front of the Mexican Consulate -- 6th St and Park View - Pico Union

11/1 Wednesday at 6pm - Action at the Mexican Consulate - Stop the Repression - Support the Liberation of Oaxaca -- Ulises ya Cayo - Ulises out of Oaxaca, 6th and Park View

11/2 Thursday(?)
Planton - Encampment/Sit In in front of the Mexican Consulate - Dia De Los Muertos -- Stop the Repression in Oaxaca - Ulises Fuera de Oaxaca/ Ulises Out of Oaxaca
10am-9pm, 6th and Park View

San Francisco, CA: 10/31 5pm Tuesday - Mexican Consulate more info

San Diego, CA: MONDAY 10/30 AT &:00 AM and 10:00 AM AT THE MEXICAN COSULATE. 1549 INDIA ST SAN DIEGO CA 92101.
MORE INF 619- 422-0628

Washington, DC: 10/30 5pm The IWW will host a picket of the Mexican Embassy at 1911 Pennsylvania.

New York, NY: Mexican Consulate in New York City
27 E. 39th St between Park and Madison
Monday, October 30th 2006 at 9 am
[Directions: #4, 5, 6, 7 or S to 42nd St.-Grand Central;
B, D, F, or V to 42nd St.-Bryant Park]

Class struggle in Oaxaca, Mexico, raises people’s power

By Teresa Gutierrez
Published Oct 13, 2006 10:20 PM

Revolutionary or mass political and social developments in Mexico are perhaps one of the most important signs that imperialism is in crisis. A question always on the minds of the U.S. ruling class is can imperialism detain and control the class struggle there, can it keep it from bursting into revolutionary upheaval that would inevitably spill over the border, forever changing the political landscape in this country.

So it is with great interest that progressives and revolutionaries monitor the events that have been sweeping Mexico in the recent period. A massive upsurge in Mexico City after fraudulent elections and the advent of people’s power in Oaxaca are two indications that Mexico is in the throes of a massive upheaval.

Which way it will go, no one knows. But the unfolding events are generating great optimism and excitement.

People’s power in Oaxaca

Some alternative media are calling the people’s occupation that has been taking place in Oaxaca since May 22 “the Oaxaca Commune.” They point out that the occupation in Oaxaca has lasted more than twice as long as the Paris Commune of 1871.

The movement against oppression and exploitation in this Mexican state has reached the level that some are saying there is now dual power in Oaxaca. The masses have occupied the center of government and are in control of much of the capital. The governor of the state, Ulises Ruíz Ortíz, who is the prime target of the protests, has, in the words of the Financial Times, been “forced to live out of a suitcase.” The Ruíz administration has gone underground.

The Financial Times declares that Oaxaca has been in a state of “anarchy” for several months.

Behind the crisis in Oaxaca

Oaxaca is one of the three poorest states in Mexico. The other two are Chiapas in southern Mexico and Guerrero on the Atlantic side. The population of Oaxaca is about 3.5 million. It has the largest number of people with indigenous ancestry, about two-thirds of the population. Oaxaca is Mexico’s most indigenous state, home to 17 distinct Indian cultures.

According to a Mexican human rights network, the richest 10 percent of households receive 13 times the income of the poorest 10 percent.

The 70,000 teachers who opened up the struggle with their strike are by far not the poorest. In fact, they can be considered part of the so-called middle class. They are members of the National Union of Educational Workers—El Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Educativo (SNTE)—a large and powerful union but very much a company union, entrenched with the capitalist government historically.

But in Oaxaca the teachers are members of Section 22 of SNTE, which has much more of a radical and militant history. Their strike affects 14,000 schools. It was spurred on by Ruíz, who became governor in 2004 in elections that the people charge were fixed. He is accused of corruption and human rights abuses, brutally cracking down on protests, and encouraging the police to form paramilitary groups to squelch dissent and opposition. The movement charges that Ruíz has ruled with excessively overt terror, carried out kidnappings and jailed people for no reason at all. Charges include torture, killings and impunity for those who carried out these atrocities.

For 25 years, the teachers have gone out on strike every May. But this year was different. The demands of the strikers resonated among a wider section of the population and a movement was sparked.

According to an article by George Salzman, between May 15 and June 17 demonstrations grew from about 50,000 to 400,000. When negotiations between the union and the government stalemated, the strikers and supporters began to occupy the center of the city. (Counterpunch, Aug. 30)

The strikers and their families, including children, along with many supporters, began to camp out. Business as usual was thoroughly disrupted. The movement gelled to the point of forming a massive, statewide people’s assembly. A convention was organized. Out of it, the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO) was born.

Independent news accounts report that protesters, grouped in more than 350 different social organizations, who had been camping out in the parks and on the streets for over four months, are governing through people’s assemblies. They have taken over radio stations and have expelled public officials from local government posts. Many protesters have armed themselves with sticks and slingshots. Local residents stand guard behind barriers of sandbags, rocks, scrap metal and burnt-out buses. Buses have been commandeered—commercial, police and government vehicles—and are being used to block roads.

“Should federal troops attempt to wrest control of this southern capital from strikers, they’ll face scores of avenues like Calle Almendros, now a gantlet of obstacles designed to slow an advance. Strikers have prepared a 200-yard-long segment by stretching wires across it at neck, ankle and waist height, placing large rocks side-by-side and parking a commandeered school bus sideways to block traffic in both directions. Like many other streets, it has been fortified with small bunkers made of sandbags and stocked with dozens of bottles for Molotov cocktails. Hundreds of smaller rocks were piled up to be thrown or launched by slings.” (San Antonio Express-News, Oct. 4)

In another sign of people’s power, while TV Azteca was interviewing two lawmakers at a hotel, they were hustled out a back door, their departing car pelted with rocks. Unrest has scared most tourists away. Business leaders put losses at more than $300 million.

Crisis for the state

This incredibly untenable situation for the Mexican government takes place amid one of the biggest political scandals in decades. The July presidential elections were tainted with fraud and corruption. All indications are that popular candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador was cheated out of the presidency.

But he did not go back and hide in the corridors of government buildings. Instead, he embraced the mass movement. Since July millions of Mexicans have occupied the Zócalo square in Mexico City and have called for a parallel government headed by López Obrador, the true president of the people.

Militarizing Oaxaca

The situation in Oaxaca is very tense. Every day the possibility that federal troops could be called in to break up the movement becomes more real. APPO refused to attend talks in Mexico City on Oct. 4, called by out-going President Vicente Fox. There have been three failed attempts at talks between APPO and the government in the past few months. Fox has declared the crisis will be over before a new president is inaugurated on Dec. 1.

On Oct. 1 Prensa Latina began to report a strong concentration of troops and military equipment nearing Oaxaca city. Planes flew over Oaxaca’s capital and at least 10 Puma helicopters and two Mexican Army transportation aircraft were parked at the Salina Cruz naval heliport in the international airport.

According to news broadcasts by local media, an indeterminate number of armored personnel carriers, tank commandos and four-wheel vehicles have been sighted, along with Marines. APPO considers the troop movement a prelude to federal intervention. The troop movement takes place in a country whose history is filled with bloody repression. The people occupying Oaxaca’s central square know their lives are literally on the line.

“Compañeros, we don’t want anybody to die, but we’re ready to accept casualties if that’s the way the government wants it,” said one of the movement’s spokespersons on La Ley radio, which has been under the control of APPO since June.

On Radio 710 AM, a pleasant voice says keep calm, there are 3,000 people at each barricade, the troops are probably more afraid than we are, we are on our own turf and they are strangers here.

The helicopters are doing military reconnaissance and are certainly trying to terrorize. A press conference at 6:30 in the Zocalo by the APPO said pretty much the same: We’re ready. Keep calm, don’t give in to provocations.

When the helicopters landed, “¡Bienvenidos, cabrones!” “¡Bajen, aquí los esperamos!” were shouted at them by people carrying sticks and pipes. “Welcome, bastards! Come on down, we’re here waiting for you!”

At 9:00 p.m. on Oct. 7, Saturday night, the APPO closed off the historic downtown area, telling people who were caught away from home to pass as rapidly as possible through the barricades. APPO was determined to fight off any attack, asking people to unite in support, and at the same time telling those outside the city and around the state to organize their defense.

On Oct. 3, APPO issued a communiqué on behalf of the Encampment for Dignity and Against Repression in Oaxaca. It read in part: “The undersigned social organizations and Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) members make an urgent call to the people of Oaxaca, of Mexico, and of the world to come and form an ‘Encampment for Dignity and Against Repression in Oaxaca’; to come out and defend the Oaxacan people and avoid bloodshed due to the lack of vision on the part of our politicians.

“We cannot allow repression to be the solution. Let us all participate in the encampment for dignity and against repression dressed in white, as a clear signal that we are in favor of a peaceful movement and of a political and dignified resolution. Let us also go out into the streets with bandanas of different colors, to send the signal that we are a movement of many diverse actors that are willing to protect our compañeras and compañeros.” Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatista National Liberation Army stated: “Oaxaca is not just an emergency, it is also an example to follow.”

Leaders of López Obrador’s national movement pledged to mobilize their followers around the issue and go to Oaxaca as “human shields” in the event of a military intervention.

On Oct. 10, thousands of Oaxacans streamed into Mexico City after marching for several days to take their struggle into the capital. They marched about 300 miles but were not deterred. At least five of their compatriots have been killed since the strike.

U.S. on pins and needles

Not a single economic, political or social development occurs in Mexico without Washington not only paying close attention to it but also interfering so that each outcome is to imperialism’s benefit.

And so it must be with great trepidation that the Bush administration and the entire U.S. ruling class monitor the situation in Mexico today.

All history is the history of class struggle. Right now, the Mexican people are writing a page in history that is putting in jeopardy all those complex financial, agricultural, transportation and other capitalist relations that U.S. imperialism has fine-tuned so well in Mexico.

Despite NAFTA and the U.S. ability to manipulate a constant parade of Mexican leaders who “understand the need for friendly relations,” right now the workers’ struggle is taking center stage.

Once again history shows that the imperialists can write up their economic plans to reap super-profits, but when the masses rise up, those agreements can be thrown into the trash can of history where they belong.

All out to support the people of Oaxaca and all of Mexico.

An Open Letter to the Progressive Movement on the Stop the War Slate

Dear fellow anti-war activists,

The last couple of weeks have made clear that the war in Iraq is the critical issue in the elections nationwide. With 65% of the population opposed to the war, the Democrats are demagogically trying to divert this opposition to the war into support for their candidates. And the media is generally going along with this ploy.

The fact of the matter is that the Democrats have consistently supported Bush’s war in Iraq. The last Senate vote on the military budget and appropriations for the war was 100-0. To this date, the Democrats stand opposed to the only real solution to the war – to end it now by withdrawing all U.S. troops from Iraq immediately.

Debbie Stabenow, incumbent Democrat for Senate, has voted for every appropriation for the war. She echoes the Bush-Rumsfield line about the Iraqis assuming more responsibility for the war, a universally discredited position in light of the massive defections by the Iraqi military and police whenever faced with resistance.

Last week the Michigan Citizen, Detroit’s largest and most progressive African American weekly newspaper, endorsed David Sole for U.S. Senate. I urge all anti-war activists to support the Sole for Senate campaign. Don’t throw away your vote on Debbie Stabenow, a pro-war, anti-immigrant, anti-civil liberties and anti-worker candidate who will betray every progressive principle.

With regard to his program, David Sole states: “I call for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. I call for using the billions wasted on the Pentagon’s wars to fund health care, housing, jobs at living wages, and to rebuild our cities. I am for amnesty and legalization for undocumented workers, not the racist fence to keep out immigrants supported by Stabenow and Bouchard. I am for protecting civil liberties and for repeal of the Patriot Act and Military Commission Bill, in contrast to Stabenow and Bouchard’s support for torture and detention without due process. And I am for genuinely protecting workers’ pensions by not allowing corporations to use the bankruptcy process to eliminate the pensions and benefits of the workers, unlike Stabenow and Bouchard who both supported last year’s anti-worker bankruptcy act.”

Please help get out the word about the Sole for Senate and Green Party campaign over the next week Come to a campaign rally next Saturday, November 4, 2006, 5:00 p.m., at Central United Methodist Church, 23 E. Adams in Detroit. The leaflet is attached. Donations are desperately needed. Send donations to Sole for Senate Campaign, 5922 Second Ave., Detroit, MI 48202. For more information about the campaign, visit the following Urls: http://www.stopthewarslate.org, and for information on the entire Green Party campaign, visit http://www.migreens.org

Jerry Goldberg for the Sole for Senate Campaign

The Crime of Punishment: Pelican Bay Maximum Security Prison

The Crime of Punishment: Pelican Bay Maximum Security Prison

by Corey Weinstein and Eric Cummins
from the book
Criminal Injustice
edited by Elihu Rosenblatt
South End Press, 1996

With imprisonment rates towering grimly over those of the most infamous police states, the United States has abandoned the goal of rehabilitation touted from the 1950s through the 1970s, and turned to high-tech dungeons that violate basic standards of human decency and international law.' A recent survey by the Federal Bureau of Prisons found that 36 states now operate some form of super-maximum-security prison or unit within a prison. These "maxi-maxi" prisons have become social control tools to manage the nation's disposable populations. Ostensibly designed to control disruptions, punish inmates, and break up prison gangs, these new facilities actually engender more violence. By exploiting racial tensions, they are deepening the already profound fissures in the U.S. social order. The rage they spawn is unleashed first on the prison yard and then onto the public streets when the prisoners are paroled. This prison system makes visible, through the still-smoking embers of South Central L.A., the tinderbox we are creating for the 21st century.

The California Model

In the race toward mass imprisonment, no state has outdone California, the nation's leading jailer. Home to 11 percent of the U.S. population, California incarcerates more people than any other state, has more than twice as many inmates in its jails as any other state in the country, and confines an astounding 20 percent of this country's juvenile prisoners. From 1982 to 1990, while spending for schools and other social programs was savagely reduced, funding for the state's prisons soared 359 percent, doubling the number of prisons and tripling the number of prisoners.

California also leads in the trend to isolate prisoners in high security prisons with special control units. Security Housing Unit (SHU), Level Four, maximum-security, administrative segregation and other high-security cells housed about 10 percent of the California Department of Corrections (CDoC) prisoners in 1991.

In the seven prisons recently opened or scheduled for opening in California, 25 percent of the cells are high security with 750 SHU cells and 3,000 more maximum-security cells. This allocation ensures that punitive warehousing will remain the function of prisons well into the future.

Isolation and Violence

In 1989, the CDoC unveiled its state-of-the-art weapon against crime: a 1,056-cell SHU at Pelican Bay State Prison near Crescent City Within the main unit, the X-shaped SHU is a high-tech replica of the nation's earliest prisons, which featured solitary cells. These bleak gray torture chambers are now showcased nationwide as a 21st-century prototype.

As with its 18th-century ancestor, the key to control within the SHU is to minimize human contact and maximize sensory deprivation. A Pelican Bay SHU inmate is guaranteed at least 22'/~ hours of bleak confinement. Almost half of the cells, designed for one prisoner, are now overcrowded with two men per cell. The SHU prisoner has little or no face-to-face contact with others-not even with guards who have been largely replaced by round-the-clock electronic surveillance. The inmate sits in a windowless cell with a poured concrete sleeping slab, immobile concrete stool, small concrete writing platform behind a thick, honeycombed steel-plated door. Guards monitor him from control booths with video cameras and communicate through speakers. A SHU prisoner never sees the light of day. He may not decorate his white cell walls. He has no job, educational classes, vocational training, counseling, religious services, or communal activities. No hobbies are permitted to help pass the time. The prisoner eats in his cell from a dinner tray passed through a slot in the door Once a day he may exercise alone in a small, indoor, bare "dog walk'; without exercise equipment, toilet, or water. He is strip-searched before and after this strictly monitored exercise. Because each of the 132 eight-cell pods has its own exercise area, this procedure is more a ritual of humiliation than a security precaution. Whenever a prisoner is moved from place to place, he is handcuffed before exit from his cell, shackled hands to waist, hobble-chained ankle-to-ankle, accompanied by two guards, and observed on video monitors.

Isolation is strictly enforced. The eight-cell pods are unconnected. The eight to twelve prisoners within each pod cannot pass anything from cell to cell or communicate easily. Even the tier tender, a SHU prisoner who sweeps the pod walkways, is not allowed to speak to anyone as he passes the cells.

Outside communications are also tightly controlled. Prison authorities delay mail for weeks, withhold it for trivial or inconsistent reasons, and open privileged attorney-client communication. Televisions and radios are available for purchase, but since the TV brings in six Colorado cable stations and the radio only gets local stations, prisoners have a hard time getting hometown or even general California news. Authorities also severely restrict access to news and books; the Seattle-based Books to Prisoners protests, "We're unable to send books in there."

Guards and administrative staff also leak false information to the media. In the late summer of 1992, for example, after a prisoner was murdered by another inmate at Pelican Bay, prison staff tried to deflect an investigation by blaming gang drug wars.

The Silence of the Cells

CDoC authorities defend the near absolute control of communications and environment as necessary to suppress violence. And while inmate-to-inmate violence is certainly reduced within the SHU, the level of physical and mental abuse perpetrated by guards against prisoners is extreme. Minor offenses, such as refusing to return a cup in protest of cold coffee or declining to attend an optional hearing, can result in "cell-extraction." In this brutal procedure, a team of six to eight guards in combat gear-with face visors and riot shields-often shoots and wounds the prisoner with a pellet gun and then with a taser stun-gun before opening the cell door. Once the door is open, the guards rush inside, beat the prisoner, and fully restrain him with chains. Once restrained, the inmate is often beaten again, and then left hog-tied for hours in the corridor or a cell.

Verbal harassment is another common form of abuse. Guards taunt prisoners with threats, denial of simple requests, or by boasting about their latest beating. The largely Latin-American (approximately 59 percent) and African-American (approximately 23 percent) SHU population complain that the predominately white guards also commonly direct racial slurs against them.

Faced with constant harassment, sensory deprivation, and isolation, some prisoners become enraged and aggressive. Others retreat into themselves, choose to sleep most of the day, refuse exercise, stop writing to family and friends, and turn on their lights only to get food or medication. Some enter a private world of madness, scream incessantly in their cells, and even cover themselves with their own feces This psychological decay is worse for prisoners who cannot afford a state-issued TV or radio. The often confused and delusional prisoners who are on psychiatric medication and housed in what is called the "ding-block" are victims of an even higher frequency of abuse.

The devastating consequences of long-term solitary confinement are predictable and well-documented. In his 1980 study at Walpole, Massachusetts prison, Dr. Stuart Grassian confirmed the impact of isolation. Prisoners developed:
...vivid hallucinations of sight, sound, smell and touch; dissociative features including sudden recovery as from a dream" with amnesia for the events of the psychosis; agitation and motor excitement with aimless violence; delusions, usually described as persecutory.

Grassian's study suggests an ominous self-fulfilling prophecy: SHU will drive men mad, predispose them to violence, and thus legitimize their solitary confinement.

Snitch, Parole, or Die

The Institutional Classification Committee at Pelican Bay-essentially a kangaroo court-decides which prisoners are confined in the SHU. Their decisions range from vindictive to arbitrary, and are often based on vague information from confidential informants. Some SHU inmates have attacked guards and participated in fights (often after deliberate provocation), or have been caught with weapons. Other prisoners are consigned to the SHU as punishment for exercising their legal rights, such as filing suits against the CDoC or engaging in political activity and resistance. Still others were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In about half the cases, however, the decision to send a man to a SHU is based on a charge of gang affiliation or membership. Consistent with the CDoC's intent to make the Pelican Bay SHU its first-line weapon against prison gangs, all gang-linked inmates receive an indeterminate sentence. Once linked to a gang, the prisoner's only hope for release from the SHU is to snitch, wait to be paroled, or die. Snitching requires that a prisoner confess violations of prison rules to the Criminal Activities Coordinator and implicate gang members in illegal acts. Since it is illegal, even in wartime, to isolate a prisoner to extract information, this policy violates not only U.S. law but the Geneva Convention.

The SHU prisoner with an indeterminate sentence is in an untenable situation: if he snitches, he becomes a target for retaliation by those he implicates and must become a regular informant to maintain the protection of the guards. SHU inmates who choose not to snitch or have no information to trade for freedom remain confined indefinitely. Others use snitching to their advantage by falsely accusing enemies of being gang members, and recruit new inmates into gangs by threatening to snitch. Many who are pressured into snitching just try to name the lone wolf, the mentally unstable, the individual entrepreneurs (inmates who collect debts or sell drugs, sex, condoms, etc.) or anyone too weak to retaliate.

Inmates released from SHU are automatically assumed to have gotten out because they snitched. The frequency of retaliation against inmates suspected of complicity has helped give B Yard (the exercise area in Pelican Bay's adjacent 2,200-man maximum-security section) the reputation as the most violent in California's 106,000-person prison system. Guards reported 67 stabbings there in a single three-month stretch during 1992. In 1993, one inmate died and 21 were injured in Pelican Bay's largest gang fight to date, involving 23 men.

"The way the system works," said one Pelican Bay prisoner, "is that the guards run it. Prisoners have no more power. Back in '84 to '85, prisoners had power, they ran the prisons, and the guards had to treat prisoners with respect. That's all changed because of Pelican Bay. Now you have to snitch to get any favors at all, even a phone call. Snitch or stay here [in SHU]. This is an atmosphere of total fear.''

Rehab and Race

Pelican Bay as prototype prison of the future is a clear repudiation of the "treatment era" prison. What is more, its misguided efforts to control gangs and violence in CDoC by returning to the tortures of the pre-treatment past have backfired and made Pelican Bay an extraordinarily violent place. The forces that sent the rehabilitative model to an early grave are complex. Perhaps the most important component-the racial inequity that pervades society-is reflected in the justice system, and then reproduced in prison.

Prisons are increasingly and disproportionately non-white, with the Pelican Bay SHU particularly targeting Latino-Americans. While. only about 15 percent of the state population, in 1992 Latinos made up 37 percent of the CDoC prisoners and 59 percent of the Pelican Bay SHU population. One rumored explanation for this dramatic discrepancy in the SHU is that in 1989 just before Pelican Bay was opened officials at Folsom Prison cut a deal with African-American gangs. if they would control yard violence at Folsom, rival Latino gangs would be transferred to Pelican Bay.

The percentage of Blacks in California prisons also far exceeds their representation in the population and the pattern goes back decades. Around World War II, a disproportionate number of African Americans-many of whom migrated to California for jobs in the aircraft and shipbuilding industries-ended up in prison. By 1970, African Americans made up only 7 percent of the state's population yet prisons were 29.8 percent black. By 1993, in the United States as a whole, African-American men suffered an incarceration rate of over 3,000 per 100,000, six times the national average. South Africa was able to maintain apartheid at the much lower rate of 729 per 100,000.
At every stage in the justice system-arrest, pre-trial hearing conviction, sentencing, classification hearing during imprisonment and parole hearing-California's African Americans and other minorities received harsher penalties than whites. At the same time, no other group of prisoners showed more rage at the persecuting machinery of the state than California's Black inmates. In the early 1950s, in the relatively freer atmosphere of the "treatment era" prison, Black prisoners began to seize and dominate the state's prison yards as a means of fighting segregation and reversing their position at the bottom of the convict caste system. As the 1950s civil rights movement heated up outside the walls, the Nation of Islam mounted a nationwide prisoner recruitment drive that made it the movement's in-prison arm. By 1960, the Nation had 65,000 to 100,000 members, many in prison. Although the group originally advocated submission to authority, prison officials overreacted. They banned the group, broke up Muslim meetings, and segregated militants in solitary cells called Adjustment Centers (ACs). These ACs were predecessors to the SHU.

The Risk of Prison Gangs

In the early 1960s, these Adjustment Centers were showcased as humane alternatives to dungeons of the past. The state considered them the ultimate rehabilitative tool through which incorrigible prisoners could receive intensive daily rehabilitative psychiatric assistance as well as group counseling, quality education, and a specially designed work program. ACs soon evolved into prisons within prisons, with their own exercise yards, dining rooms, and schools. Although designed for a maximum of three-month
"rehabilitation," they soon became a long-term solution to undermine inmate organization and isolate political agitators such as Muslims.

This repression peaked when Muslim temple minister Booker T. (X) Johnson was killed in 1963 by a gun-rail officer in San Quentin's AC. His successor, Eldridge Cleaver, established links to radicals outside San Quentin, proving to California's prisoners that a radical convict political union could change power relations within the prison. A year later, as if inspired by this insight, the California prison gang system emerged. An increasingly vocal minority of politicized prisoners formed political "gangs" in an emerging revolutionary convict culture. They founded groups like the Black Family/Black Guerrilla Family, and the San Quentin chapter of the Black Panther Party. These prison gangs were an attempt by the disenfranchised to exercise control over their immediate environment and to reverse the effects of racial discrimination. Other gangs, including the Aryan Brotherhood, La Nuestra Familia, and La Eme (the Mexican Mafia), were political only to the extent that controlling the yard and the inmate sub rosa economy entailed reshuffling power relations within the prison.

All the gangs provided crucial social, economic, and security services that helped prisoners survive the human degradation, deprivation, violence of incarceration, and endemic racism.
With the advent of the California prison gang system, inmate fights and yard attacks escalated, resulting in the deaths of guards and prisoners. Inmate assaults against guards jumped from 32 system-wide in 1969 to 84 in 1973.

Gang members, revolutionaries, prisoner union organizers, and jailhouse lawyers joined the radical Muslims in the AC. This AC was now a transformed unit, which no longer sought to rehabilitate, but to punish, to limit treatment and education, and to restrict human contact. By the end of the 1960s, the ACs-which became the prototype for Pelican Bay-were filled with political "troublemakers."

In 1970, a Soledad, California prison AC gun-rail officer killed three Black prisoners. Inmate George Jackson declared one-for-one vengeance on guard staff. Almost immediately, a young white guard's corpse was thrown from a cell tier. Responding in kind, California prisons came down swiftly on prisoners by beginning to control movement, access to information, visitors, and legal services. From his cell in San Quentin's AC, which was by now a hotbed of revolutionary thought, George Jackson secretly composed his book, Blood In My Eye, a call to guerrilla action.

On August 21, 1971, the San Quentin AC inmates tried a takeover, ending in the deaths of Jackson, two other inmates, and three guards. Three wounded guards recovered. That autumn, prison riots swept the country. In the bloodiest of these, at Attica Correctional Institution in New York State, 32 prisoners and 11 staff died when police and a National Guard army put down the uprising with gas, helicopters, and heavy gunfire.

Authorities cracked down hard around the country. By 1972 cell-blocks at San Quentin were subdivided for closer inmate scrutiny and inmate contact with outsiders was severely cut back. From the AC, reports of widespread beatings and other prisoner abuses began to reach the courts. That same year, Governor Ronald Reagan called for the development of new, high-tech, maximum-security prisons to deal with what he termed "troublemakers." Moe Comacho, then president of the California Correctional Officers Association, seconded the call. And in 1973, the House Internal Security Committee began conducting hearings on revolution in U.S. prisons, Attica and San Quentin in particular, with a mind to devising ways of putting down the ongoing turmoil.

The legacy of the August 21 San Quentin takeover and the subsequent uprisings fed the official drive to build the largest solitary confinement prison in the United States-the SHU at Pelican Bay.
Pelican Bay is a nightmare fulfillment of widespread demands for more punitive prisons. This abandonment of rehabilitation imprisonment is the apotheosis of the Adjustment Center concept gone bad-the AC without treatment. The SHU demonstrates that the more cruel and overcrowded our prisons, the more violent the prison yard will become. Indeed, prisoners subjected to imprisonment in a SHU return to their communities untrained, untreated, poorer, and more disenfranchised than when they left. This system of dehumanizing, high-tech torture promotes violence, exacerbates gang activity, and deepens the fissures of race and class that already divide the United States.

Mumia Abu-Jamal Has Filed New Legal Papers on Constitutional Violations

To read the brief in full (89 pages): http://www.freemumia.com/pdfs/2006OC~5.PDF

Dear Friends:

On October 23, 2006, the Fourth-Step Reply Brief of Appellee and Cross-Appellant, Mumia Abu-Jamal was submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia. (Abu-Jamal v. Horn, U.S. Ct. of Appeals Nos. 01-9014, 02-9001.) It is attached.

Oral argument will likely be scheduled during the coming months. I will advise when a hearing date is set.

The attached brief is of enormous consequence since it goes to the essence of our client's right to a fair trial, due process of law, and equal protection of the law, guaranteed by the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The issues include: Whether Mr. Abu-Jamal was denied the right to due process of law and a fair trial because of the prosecutor’s “appeal-after- appeal” argument which encouraged the jury to disregard the presumption of innocence and reasonable doubt, and err on the side of guilt.

Whether the prosecution’s exclusion of African Americans from sitting on the jury violated Mr. Abu-Jamal’s right to due process and equal protection of the law, in contravention of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986).

Whether Mr. Abu-Jamal was denied due process and equal protection of the law during a post-conviction hearing because of the bias and racism of Judge Albert F. Sabo, who was overheard during the trial commenting that he was “going to help'em fry the nigger."
That the federal court is hearing issues which concern Mr. Abu- Jamal's right to a fair trial is a great milestone in this struggle for human rights. This is the first time that any court has made a ruling in nearly a quarter of a century that could lead to a new trial and freedom. Nevertheless, our client remains on Pennsylvania's death row and in great danger.

Mr. Abu-Jamal, the "voice of the voiceless," is a powerful symbol in the international campaign against the death penalty and for political prisoners everywhere. The goal of Professor Judith L. Ritter, associate counsel, and I is to see that the many wrongs which have occurred in this case are righted, and that at the conclusion of a new trial our client is freed.

Your concern is appreciated.

With best wishes,

Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123

Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal

PAM AFRICA Turns Sixty!

Saturday, November 18th from 5-9pm
at the Salem United Methodist Church
on 129th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd in Harlem

Come celebrate revolutionary sister/warrior Pam Africa in a fundraiser on her 60th birthday. BRING YOUR CHECKBOOKS!

Send Checks payable to:
Pam Africa
PO Box 19709
Philadelphia, 19143

Program will include Camille Yarbrough, The Welfare Poets, and many others.

Dinner will be available between 5 and 6pm

For more information visit http://www.freemumia.com or call (212)330-8029

Democratic Republic of Congo Election Update: Vote Counting Underway

DR Congo counting landmark vote

Election officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo are counting the votes from one of Africa's most significant elections for many years.

Voting was mostly peaceful but a drunken soldier shot dead two election workers on Monday, sparking riots.

At least one person died in protests over alleged fraud in the north-east.

Congolese hope the election will end years of conflict and abuse of power. President Joseph Kabila faced ex-rebel Jean-Pierre Bemba in a run-off.

Results are not expected to be announced for about a week.

Sunday's run-off concludes DR Congo's first fully democratic polls since independence in 1960 and is supposed to draw a line under a five-year conflict.

'Well organised'

The election officials were killed in the north-eastern town of Fataki in Ituri district, which remains one of the most unstable parts of DR Congo.

The soldier has been arrested, UN officials say.

Following the shootings, local people attacked some 43 polling stations and burnt the ballot papers, reports Reuters news agency.
There were some 50,000 polling stations spread across DR Congo, which is two-thirds the size of Western Europe.

Many Congolese fear that whoever loses the elections will resort to violence, as both men have considerable numbers of armed men and weapons at their disposal.

Both men have said they will accept the results, as long as they are free and fair.

The BBC's Mark Doyle in the capital, Kinshasa, says the short-term period, especially the announcement of the results, is going to be very dangerous.

British election observer and MP Judy Mallaber told the BBC's Network Africa programme that the polls had been "very well organised" in the eastern region of Maniema where she had been.

She said that she had been "very impressed" with the counting process, which was being watched by representatives of all political parties.

She said the count was taking a long time because officials were being so careful to make sure it was transparent.

Turn-out is reported to be lower across the country than in July's first round.

"From now on, leaders will rule for the people, not just possess power forever," Theoneste Mpatse-Mugabo told the AP news agency in the eastern city of Goma.

Voting was extended for several hours in the capital, Kinshasa, and other western areas because of delays following a violent thunderstorm in the morning, which turned streets into rivers.

In the north-eastern town of Bumba, supporters of Mr Bemba on Sunday burnt ballot boxes, after claims of vote-rigging, leading police to open fire, killing at least one person.

Shots were also fired at a polling station in Kinshasa following claims of attempted fraud.

Regional divide

Our correspondent says it is impossible to exaggerate how the destiny of DR Congo could shape the future of Africa.

Nine states border the country and all were affected by the wars caused by the long lack of real government in DR Congo, the power vacuum at the heart of Africa, he says.

1998 - 2002
4m dead
At least 8 armies, many rebel groups
2003: Rebels join unity government
East remains unstable
17,000 UN peacekeepers

Some four million people are thought to have died.

Its rich reserves of minerals such as gold, diamonds and coltan - used in mobile phones - have attracted a series of armed groups, both Congolese and foreign, intent on looting.

UN officials say the polls are the most important on the continent since the 1994 election that ended apartheid in South Africa.

Mr Kabila has strong support in the east of Congo; Mr Bemba is popular in the west.

Many easterners credit Mr Kabila with ending the war and blame the conflict on rebels such as Mr Bemba.

Those in the west say Mr Kabila, who grew up in Tanzania, is not a true Congolese, unlike Mr Bemba.

Mr Kabila won first round polls on 30 July, but fell just short of the 50% needed for outright victory.

He has also gained the support of the candidates who came third and fourth - veteran nationalist Antoine Gizenga and Nzanga Mobutu, son of the country's long-time leader, Mobutu Sese Seko.

Extra UN peacekeeping troops are on standby in the east of the country.

In Kinshasa, the UN is being backed up by a special European Union military force.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/10/30 12:22:25 GMT

Police open fire as Congolese vote

David Lewis
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
29 October 2006 09:23

Police killed two rioters in poll violence on Sunday as Congo voted in a presidential run-off intended to end decades of war and pillage that have left the country devastated despite its mineral riches.

The governor of the northerly Equateur province, Yves Mobando, told Reuters: "Two people were killed when the police opened fire to disperse the crowds."

He said the police intervened in the town of Bumba, 800km, from Kinshasa when supporters of presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba destroyed a polling station after alleging a ballot box had been stuffed with votes for his opponent, the incumbent President, Joseph Kabila.

He said the official electoral commission had dismissed the allegation.

International election monitors, who did not want to be identified, said turnout seemed lower around the country than at the same time in the first round on July 30.

A thunderstorm and heavy rain turned Kinshasa's streets into rivers and slowed voting. The sprawling capital is a Bemba stronghold, and a low turnout could hurt his chances of overtaking Kabila, who won 45% in the first round.

Isidor Kaombe waited impatiently at a Kinshasa poll station that opened late because of the rain. "We need this vote to put an end to the mess. With God's help we will," he said.

One thousand six hundred kilometres away in eastern DRC, where polls opened an hour earlier because of a time difference, voters queued patiently in the Ituri district, ravaged by war.

Jules Katasko (34) could not hold back a smile as he walked away after pushing his paper into the bright orange ballot box in the town of Bunia:

"For most of my life we had Mobutu Sese Seko, a dictator. He said 'Yes', we all had to do it; he said 'No', we all had to stop it. Now it's us who decide whether it's 'Yes' or 'No'."

About 25-million Congolese are registered to vote. The election, the country's first democratic poll in 40 years, is accompanied by provincial elections. Results are not expected for up to three weeks.

Peace process

The election is the final step in a peace process after five years of the bloodiest conflict since World War II.

More than four million people died in the humanitarian catastrophe caused by the war, which ended in 2003, and 1,200 still perish every day. Thousands of gunmen roam the country.

Another voter in Bunia, 44-year-old Rachael Orocha, told Reuters: "This isn't a happy day for me. "Two of my children died of hunger, militiamen destroyed my home -- I've lost everything because of this war. I'm voting because we are sick of it. Something big has to change."

As she spoke, UN peacekeepers patrolled the streets in armoured personnel carriers while a helicopter watched overhead.

At a polling station in a Kinshasa school, an elderly man, Jean Ntando, was voting with his wife. "I haven't voted since independence, so even if it is raining I had to come," he said, hitching up his trousers as he walked back into the flood.

Many of the country's 60-million people hope the election will end their suffering and enable the country to fulfil its rich potential.

But there are widespread fears it will spark more bloodshed.

Supporters of Kabila and Bemba have clashed several times since the first round, and in August their private armies fought three days of battles in the capital. More than 30 people died.

They have brought in more arms and reinforcements since then. Bemba is believed to have 600 fighters in the chaotic capital, where Kabila is widely detested, and the president has 5 000 members of his personal guard in the city.

Kabila is the son of the assassinated president Laurent Kabila, who overthrew the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, perpetrator of 32 years of kleptocratic rule. - Reuters

DRC holds poll to end decade of war

Tim Cocks
Bunia, Democratic Republic of Congo
29 October 2006 07:07

The Democratic Republic of Congo began voting on Sunday in a presidential election run-off intended to end decades of war, pillage and kleptocracy that have left the huge country devastated and poor despite vast mineral riches.

About 25-million people are registered to vote in the run-off between incumbent Joseph Kabila and former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba, the top two candidates in the first round held on July 30.

Kabila received 45% of the votes in the first round and is expected to win the poll in the former Belgian colony.

The vote, the first democratic poll in the DRC for 40 years, will be accompanied by provincial elections but results are not expected for three weeks. It is meant to be the final step in a peace process after a 1998-2003 war, the bloodiest conflict since World War II.

More than four million people died in a humanitarian catastrophe unleashed by the war and 1 200 people still die every day mostly from hunger and disease.

Thousands of gunmen still roam the country and tension is high in the capital Kinshasa.

The 60-million Congolese population is desperate for peace and has high hopes the election will end their suffering and enable the country to fulfil its rich potential.

"The elections are going to change everything," said 25-year-old former teacher Gerard Avedo-Kazi, who fled to the Gety refugee camp in the northeast Ituri area after militiamen slit his aunt's throat in a rampage through his remote village.

"We are traumatised by this war. People are yearning to vote because that means the fighting will stop," he said.

Bloodshed fears

There are widespread fears the poll will spark more bloodshed instead of ushering in peace and reconstruction.

Supporters of Kabila and Bemba have clashed several times since the first round and in August their private armies fought three days of battles in the capital in which more than 30 people were killed.

They have brought in more arms and reinforcements since then. Bemba is believed to have 600 fighters in the chaotic capital, where Kabila is widely detested, and the president has 5 000 members of his personal guard in the city.

In a pre-election interview, Kabila warned he would crack down on any provocation during the vote, a thinly veiled warning to Bemba.

Describing the state of the country as precarious, Kabila said: "The situation is grave...there will be a response to any provocation, all measures have been prepared."

Kabila is the son of assassinated President Laurent Kabila, who overthrew former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

The latter's 32-year kleptocratic rule looted the country of many of its rich resources.

Despite high hopes from the poll, many Congolese believe it has left them with only a bad choice between two men too compromised by their past to put the nation on the road to recovery.

Local media have described it as a choice between "cholera and plague".

"I don't expect much from these [two candidates]," said Dr Mbwebwe Kabamba, head of surgery at Kinshasa's general hospital. "There will be a lot of disappointed people," he said. - Reuters 2006


Here are the major events in Congo's history:

- 1960: Congo declares independence from Belgium on June 30;
Joseph Kasavubu becomes president and Patrice Lumumba prime
minister. Within months, Lumumba is assassinated by Congolese

- 1960: Mobutu Sese Seko, then an army colonel using the name
Joseph Mobutu, seizes power in a coup, but returns Kasavubu to
power the following year.

- 1965: After years of political infighting, Mobutu seizes power
in another coup, beginning a 32-year rule.

- 1970: Presidential elections held nationwide; Mobutu is only

- 1997: Rebel leader Laurent Kabila declares himself president
after being propelled to power by Rwandan-backed forces that swept
across Congo. Mobutu flees into exile.

- 1998: Rebel forces backed by Rwanda and Uganda rise up in east
against Kabila. The war draws in half a dozen foreign armies and
divides the north and east into rebel-controlled fiefdoms.

- 2000: U.N. Security Council authorizes 5,500-strong U.N. force
to monitor 1999 cease-fire among five foreign armies and
government, but fighting continues. The U.N. force later grows to
17,000, the largest in the world.

- 2001: Laurent Kabila is killed by his bodyguard and succeeded
by son Joseph.

- 2002: Peace deal signed in South Africa by warring parties
brings broader war to a close, though local militia groups continue
sporadic skirmishes in east. Foreign armies withdraw.

- 2003: Joseph Kabila names transitional government to lead
Congo until elections. Leaders of main former rebel groups sworn in
as vice presidents. Interim parliament inaugurated.

- Dec. 18, 2005: Referendum on constitution that limits
president to two five-year terms passes. The vote is country's
first national ballot since 1970 and the first democratic vote
since independence.

- July 30, 2006: Congo holds presidential elections, its first
democratic vote for a new leader since 1960. Nobody wins majority
necessary to avoid runoff, and forces loyal to President Joseph
Kabila battle those of main challenger and ex-rebel leader
Jean-Pierre Bemba in Kinshasa for three days in August as results
are announced.

- Oct. 29, 2006: Congo scheduled to hold presidential runoff
between Kabila and Bemba.


Facts and figures about Congo:

THE PEOPLE: A population of more than 58 million of whom about
25 million are registered to vote. Of more than 200 ethnic groups,
about 70 percent are Christian, 10 percent Muslim and the rest
adherents of indigenous beliefs. French is the official language,
but dozens of African languages and dialects are widely spoken.

HISTORY: Gained independence from Belgium in 1960 after 75 years of colonial rule. Its first elected prime minister, Patrice
Lumumba, was assassinated, and its first president, Joseph
Kasavubu, was overthrown in 1965 by Mobutu Sese Seko, who then
ruled for 32 years.

Widespread corruption and mismanagement ravaged the nation's infrastructure during Mobutu's reign, which ended in 1997 when rebel leader Laurent Kabila was propelled to power by Rwandan forces after. In 1998, Rwandan-backed rebels rose up again and the country became embroiled in a war that drew in the armies of half a dozen African nations and left rebels ruling rival fiefdoms in the east and northeast. Kabila was assassinated by a bodyguard in 2001, and his son Joseph inherited the presidency.

A 2002 peace deal ended the war, paved the way for the withdrawal of foreign forces, reunited the country and brought rebel leaders into
a transitional government. The transition culminates with the
elections. The first round, July 30, marked the nation's first
democratic vote for a new leader since 1960.

THE VOTE: Incumbent President Joseph Kabila faces Jean-Pierre
Bemba, an ex-rebel leader and current vice president, in Sunday's

Lula Wins Second Term as President of Brazil

Brazil re-elects President Lula

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been re-elected in a clear victory, polling more than 60% of the vote against rival Geraldo Alckmin.

In a victory speech, Lula said he would govern for all Brazilians and intensify efforts to alleviate poverty during his second four-year term.

"We will give attention to the most needy. The poor will have preference in our government," he said.

Lula narrowly failed to win in the first round, forcing Sunday's run-off.

In a speech in Sao Paulo, Lula promised to boost growth and reduce inequality to put Brazil on track to reach the ranks of developed nations.

"The foundation is in place, and now we have to get to work," he told crowds of supporters who had taken to the streets in celebration, waving Workers' Party flags.

Supporter Danusia Alves said: "For me it is a great happiness because we have a wonderful government. The people who were never taken care of now are being taken care of."

'Resounding victory'

Votes in Sunday's run-off were cast using electronic ballot boxes, allowing officials to deliver a swift result.

A partial count showed the incumbent president had 60% of the vote - an insurmountable lead. Shortly after, the head of Brazil's electoral court declared Lula re-elected.

The BBC's Steve Kingstone in Sao Paulo says it is a resounding victory for a man who was written off by many just over a year ago, when his Workers' Party was at the centre of a cash-for-votes scandal.

But Lula weathered that storm and another during the first phase of this campaign when party colleagues were again accused of corruption, our correspondent says.

Lula narrowly failed to win outright in the first round of voting on 1 October.

During the ensuing campaign the president suggested to voters that Mr Alckmin might scrap welfare benefits for the poor and privatise Brazil's remaining state companies.

Privatisation is generally viewed with suspicion in Brazil. Despite repeated denials by Mr Alckmin, the accusation undoubtedly cost him votes, our correspondent adds.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/10/30 01:28:54 GMT

Profile: Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has won a second four-year term as Brazil's president, in a resounding victory over his challenger Geraldo Alckmin.

In his victory speech on 29 October, Lula, as the 61-year-old politician is known, promised that his second term would be "better than the first".

He told cheering supporters in Sao Paulo: "The foundation is in place, and now we have to get to work."

Lula has promised to boost economic growth and reduce inequality to put the country on track to reach the ranks of developed nations.

Four years ago, he became the first left-wing contender to hold the country's highest office in nearly half a century, following an landslide victory.

It was a win that marked the end of an unprecedented journey-from abject poverty to the presidency of Brazil.

Lula came to power promising major reforms to the country's political and economic system.

He vowed to eradicate hunger and create a self-confident, caring, outward-looking nation.

Analysts say that it is because of some of his government's social programmes - which benefit tens of millions of Brazilians - that Lula maintained huge popularity among the electorate.

But in the last 18 months he has had to fight hard to avoid the taint of corruption claims that have engulfed his Workers' Party (PT).

Smear allegations

The latest scandal, over alleged dirty tricks, led Lula to sack his re-election campaign chief and PT president, Ricardo Berzoini, with less than two weeks to go before the first round of voting.

Commentators say the allegations may have reawakened disillusionment sparked last year by a controversy over alleged bribes for votes in congress, which led to the resignation of the party leader, Jose Genoino, and several high-level colleagues.

Lula narrowly failed to win outright on 1 October, leading to a run-off vote.

During the ensuing campaign the president suggested to voters that his rival might scrap welfare benefits for the poor and privatise Brazil's remaining state companies.

Privatisation is generally viewed with suspicion in Brazil. Despite repeated denials by Mr Alckmin, the accusation undoubtedly cost him votes and contributed to Lula's resounding second-round victory, correspondents say.

Lost a finger

October's presidential election was the fifth that Lula had fought. But he began life in altogether more humble circumstances.

The son of a poor, illiterate peasant family, Lula worked as a peanut seller and shoe-shine boy as a child, only learning to read when he was 10 years old.

He went on to train as a metal worker and found work in an industrial city near Sao Paulo, where he lost the little finger of his left hand in an accident in the 1960s.

Lula was not initially interested in politics, but threw himself into trade union activism after his first wife died of hepatitis in 1969.

Elected leader of the 100,000-strong Metalworkers' Union in 1975, he transformed trade union activism in Brazil by turning what had mostly been government-friendly organisations into a powerful independent movement.

Road to pragmatism

In 1980 Lula brought together a combination of trade unionists, intellectuals, Trotskyites and church activists to found the Workers' Party (PT), the first major socialist party in the country's history.

Since then the PT has gradually replaced its revolutionary commitment to changing the power structure in Brazil with a more pragmatic, social democratic platform.

Before his 2002 election victory, Lula had previously lost three times, and he began to believe his party would never win power nationally without forming alliances and keeping powerful economic players on side.

So his coalition in that election included a small right-wing party, and he carefully courted business leaders both in Brazil and abroad.

The Workers' Party manifesto reflected its sometimes conflicting instincts. It remained committed to prioritising the poor, encouraging grassroots participation and defending ethical government.

Performance in power

In the four years since, Lula has pumped billions of dollars into social programmes and can reasonably claim to be reversing Brazil's historic inequalities.

By increasing the minimum wage well above inflation and broadening state help to the most impoverished with a family grant programme, the Bolsa Familia, he has helped some 44 million people and cemented his support among the poor.

However, many commentators argue that the programme fails to address the structural problems that underpin poverty, such as education.

There is also some criticism of the country's economic performance under Lula. Although Brazil has seen steady annual growth, some business leaders argue it is losing the competitive edge against international rivals.

Nonetheless, his government has quelled the initial fears of the financial markets by keeping the economy stable and achieving the budget surplus required by the International Monetary Fund.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/10/30 00:40:48 GMT

Brazil press looks to future

Leading newspapers in Brazil welcome the re-election of incumbent President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and focus on his pledge to push ahead with political and economic reforms.

A report in O Globo quotes top analysts as calling for the speedy introduction of reforms as a way of raising living standards for the tens of millions of Brazilians who still live in poverty.

Tadeu Monteiro, president of the Brazilian Social Research Institute, says the beginning of Lula's second term in office is the best time to implement the reforms.

"It is important to make the most of the call for reform. We need reform - that is fundamental," says Mr Monteiro .

O Globo quotes Rogerio Schmitt of Tendencias Consultoria as saying that "next year will bring the biggest window of opportunity to approve the tax and other reforms.

"The beginning of a new mandate is seen as the best time, not just because the president has just been re-elected but also because the next elections are a long way away."

'Why Lula won'

Jornal do Comercio says that the president called on his adversaries "to join the new government to ensure vigorous economic growth and the implementation of reforms the nation is demanding".

It publishes a front-page banner headline with the word "Victory" under a picture of a waving president.

Folha de Sao Paulo carries a headline "Why Lula won."

"Lula won for a simple reason: he managed to link his humble beginnings in the north-east with the social progress of the four years of his mandate, creating a strong identification with voters, most of them poor.

"The figures show that in the last four years, the poorer enjoyed a clear increase in their income. Whether this is sustainable is another matter. Brazil is mostly a country of poor people - and the poor have felt less poor."

According to a report in Jornal do Brasil : "Lula said Brazil would grow more in the second term, but the poor would continue to be a priority."

The paper also appears impressed that "the president gave the first sign he wishes to improve his relationship with the media".

"Lula did not give many collective interviews in the first mandate, which led to many complaints among journalists."

Estado de Sao Paulo describes the elections as "one of the most peaceful since the return of democracy".

Folha de Sao Paulo also looks ahead to the 2010 elections, for which Lula will be ineligible, but believes he will be in a powerful position to influence the outcome "if he does a good job in his second mandate".

"Lula's succession is already at the centre of every major party's tactics," it writes.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/10/30 12:55:35 GMT

Zimbabwe Government Says New Economic Policy Bears Fruit

Zimbabwean vice president says Look East policy bearing fruit

Zimbabwean Vice President Joseph Msika has said despite the usual skepticism from some quarters, the government's dynamic Look East policy is bearing fruit, The Sunday News reported.

Speaking during the commissioning of new machinery and the official opening of Chaba Mine, Msika called upon the country to "diversify from the traditional Western markets and Look East instead."

He said the economy is set for a major boom following the increase in coal production at Hwange Colliery which will have a positive downstream effect on the country's energy, agricultural and manufacturing sectors.

Coal output at the colliery has doubled in the past two months following the opening of the new opencast mine at Chaba and the acquisition of state-of-the-art machinery worth 6.2 million U.S. dollars from a Chinese company, China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO).

"I am sure that most of us are aware that our economy is presently ravaged because of illegal sanctions imposed on us by our erstwhile colonial masters, Britain and her allies. As we strive to maintain our sovereignty as a democratically elected Government, and to economically emancipate our nation, I am one of those who is proud to be associated with our friends from China and other friendly countries from the East who stood by us during our protracted struggle for Independence, and are still standing by us today and sharing in our vision to socially and economically emancipate ourselves," he said.

Coal output from the opencast mine, which became operational in February this year, increased from 500 tons a day to 1,000 tons per day while the underground mine, which used to produce 800 tons a day, now has a daily output of 1,600 tons.

Msika said Hwange Colliery Company played a pivotal role in the country's economic development and the acquisition of the machinery could not have come at a more appropriate time than when the government was implementing the National Economic Development Priority Program.

The vice president said the Look East policy has seen other State enterprises such as the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority Holdings, the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company and the National Railways of Zimbabwe acquiring equipment for their respective recapitalization programs.

Source: Xinhua