Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Chadians Demonstrate Against French Charity's Attempt to Kidnap Children for Adoption

19:28 MECCA TIME, 16:28 GMT

Chadians protest against Zoe's Ark

Hundreds of Chadians protested against the detained Europeans, arguing that they be tried in Chad

Hundreds of Chadians have protested against 16 Europeans charged over a plan by a charity to fly 103 children to France from the border with Sudan's Darfur region.

The protesters in the eastern town of Abeche accused France of being involved in the attempt to take the children from Chad, demanding that the Europeans be tried in a Chadian court.

Nine French nationals - six members of the charity Zoe's Ark and three journalists – have been charged with kidnap and extortion.

Zoe's Ark says it wanted to rescue children from Darfur, but French officials and UN aid workers say they believe many were from Chad and were not orphans.

The charity had received thousands of dollars from would-be foster parents in France to receive a child.

Spain is also seeking the release of seven of its nationals, who were crew members of the aeroplane chartered for the airlift.

Relations harmed

In Chad's capital, N'Djamena, a prosecutor on Wednesday charged Jacques Wilmart, a Belgian pilot involved in the affair, with "complicity in abduction", before sending him to jail.

Wilmart, 75, made several flights ferrying the children between Adre on the Sudan-Chad border and Abeche.

The case has harmed Chadian-French relations before Paris begins its leadership of a European peacekeeping force in Chad.

The peacekeepers are there to protect thousands of Darfur refugees and Chadians displaced by a continuing rebel insurgency against the Sudanese government.

Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's president, has offered to mediate in the crisis, but Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president, rejected the offer, saying he was in direct contact with Idris Deby, Chad's president.

Sarkozy, who has condemned the airlift operation by Zoe's Ark, suggested he would seek to have the members of the charity tried in France.

"I think that by clearly putting the Chadians and the French around the table, since the investigation was first opened in France ... well, you can imagine what my preference would be," he told reporters.

Mahamat Hissene, Deby's cabinet director, said the location of the trial had yet to be decided.

"Will they be tried in N'Djamena? Will the French authorities ask for them to be tried elsewhere? No one has raised the question yet, and we have no fixed position on the matter," he said in an interview with a French radio station.

Paris is under pressure from Chad's government after it emerged the French army provided the charity members with assistance in Chad.

Source: Agencies

Spain Defends Pilots in Child Abduction Row

Inter Press Service (Johannesburg)
30 October 2007
By Tito Drago

Authorities and civil society organisations in Spain have roundly condemned an apparent case of trafficking of children from Chad.

But they defend the innocence of the seven Spanish crew members of a plane chartered by the French charity L'Arche de Zoe (Zoe's Ark) to remove 103 children from the country in north-central Africa.

Prosecutor Amat Daoud from the city of Abeche in eastern Chad ordered the arrest and prosecution last week of nine members of the French non-governmental organisation on charges of child abduction. The seven Spanish crew members were also arrested, as accessories.

On Tuesday, the prosecutor called for 20 years of forced labour for the 16 European detainees.

The arrests took place when the aid workers were loading 103 children between the ages of three and 10 on a plane that was heading to France. Officials in Chad have alleged that the children were to be sold to families in France, or may even have been sold to child sex abuse rings or used for their organs.

The seven Spanish nationals work for Girjet, a Barcelona-based charter company, which was hired by the French charity.

Spanish Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Bernardino León told IPS that the government "differs" with the measure taken by the Chadian state and has arranged to provide diplomatic assistance to the flight crew and to assign them defence lawyers.

"Of course we condemn trafficking of children, whether in Chad or anywhere else in the world," he added. "But one thing is trafficking and another is that a company was hired for a charter flight. The logical thing would be for customs officials in the airports to verify who is embarked on these or other flights, and how that occurs."

The Spanish government is urging the authorities in Chad to keep in mind the presumption of innocence and is calling for a fair trial with all due legal guarantees.

Spain's Foreign Ministry sent its consul in Cameroon, Vicente Mas, to Chad to become familiar with the case and take any necessary action.

León said that a doctor and a chaplain who had access to the two Spanish pilots and five cabin staff reported that they were in good health.

Girjet executive Antonio Cajal told the press that his company has no ties to Zoe's Ark and that this was the first time it was hired by the NGO, which told them it was a humanitarian mission involving the transfer of children with medical problems to France for treatment that they would not otherwise receive in Chad.

According to Cajal, his company did not even have direct contact with the NGO, because the charter flight was arranged through a broker. He also said the flight had previously received permission from authorities in Chad as well as France.

But reports from Chad indicate that some of the children were taken to the plane with bandages on their faces even though they had no wounds or injuries. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees delegate in Chad Annette Rehrl was one of the sources who made that allegation.

The president of Zoe's Ark, Eric Breteau, a volunteer firefighter from France who founded the amateur charity in the wake of the December 2004 Asian tsunami, initially said the aim was to evacuate 10,000 orphans from the civil war-torn region of Darfur in western Sudan and place them with foster families in France.

But he later said the group was carrying out a medical evacuation rather than an adoption campaign.

French families willing to provide the children with a home reportedly paid several thousand dollars up front to take the children in.

But U.N. and Chadian officials say many of the children were actually from Chad, not Sudan, and were not even orphans.

One boy, Osman, said his parents had gone to work in the countryside, and that several Chadian adults showed up at his village along the border with Sudan and offered the children candy if they would go with them, with the promise that they would later be returned to their homes.

They were first taken to the town of Adre and later to Abeche, where they spent more than a month and were well-fed, although they were not allowed to leave until they were finally taken to the airport.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called his counterpart in Chad, Idriss Deby, to tell him that the adoption campaign of Zoe's Ark was "illegal and unacceptable."

The Spanish air crew has been held virtually incommunicado, receiving only visits by the doctor and the chaplain.

Cajal maintains that they have been "kidnapped, held incommunicado, threatened continually by the security forces and stripped of their belongings and personal effects."

There seems to be little doubt that the transfer of the children by Zoe's Ark was illegal. French Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Rama Yade described the incident as a "clandestine operation."

Yade said that months ago, the government had warned the French charity that it was facing the risk of breaking the law, and that it was under investigation in France.

French Justice Minister Rachida Dati said "The Chadian justice system is sovereign."

U.N. agencies have expressed indignation over the actions of Zoe's Ark. UNICEF, the children's agency, said the operation was illegal and contravened national and international standards.

The children are currently being cared for at an orphanage in Abeche with support from UNICEF while investigators try to determine where the children are from.

Well-established NGOs have criticised the actions of Zoe's Ark, which they said could discredit the activities of aid agencies that have put a great deal of effort in establishing relations of trust.

However, the role of the Spanish air crew is being defended. On Tuesday, Spanish Minister of Justice Mariano Fernández Bermejo reported that "every possible effort is being made to convince officials in Chad that the Spanish nationals had nothing to do with the attempt to remove the children from the country," because they had merely been contracted by the French NGO and were not even informed of the identity, ages or conditions of the passengers.

Unicef Says Children Nearly Taken Out of Country Are in Good Health

UN News Service (New York)
30 October 2007

Following the attempt by a French non-governmental organization (NGO) to fly them out of Chad, the 103 children held in an orphanage appear to be in good health and are doing fairly well, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) reported today.

The agency has supplied food and games for the children, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe said in New York.

UNICEF has also dispatched 10 staff members - including the Head of the Child Protection Unit - to Abeche where the children are and is training 40 staff members to care for the children.

Investigators are currently trying to determine where these children are from and whether they have living relatives. UNICEF emphasizes that all process involving the movement of children should be transparent, and that proper investigations should always take place to locate their relatives and to determine available options, such as children remaining with their parents, extended family or appropriate caregivers.

According to media reports, nine French aid workers with the organization Zoe's Ark will be charged with abduction and fraud by Chadian authorities.

NGOs Work to Clear Their Name After Child 'Trafficking'

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
30 October 2007

Aid agencies and authorities in eastern Chad are urging local people not to lose confidence in the international humanitarian community, after members of a French association claiming to rescue Sudanese orphans from the war in Darfur were charged with fraud and abduction of minors.

Six members of the Paris-based group L'Arche de Zoé (Zoe's Ark) were arrested on 25 October at the Abéché airport in eastern Chad, as they were preparing to take 103 children to host families in France. The Chadian government has accused them of child trafficking. Under Chad's legal system they could face up to 20 years of forced labour.

"Many [non-governmental organisations (NGOs)] working with children were a little bit afraid that the practices that Zoé's Ark had used would appear as the norm, which is absolutely not the case," said Aurélie Lamazière, of Save the Children UK's emergencies department.

A committee of 21 NGOs working in eastern Chad, including Save the Children, Oxfam, and Action against Hunger, has signed a joint statement expressing "profound concern" over the incident, which the committee calls a "serious violation" of the children's rights.

"Since our arrival in Chad, we have worked very closely with the Chadian and Sudanese communities to assure that their basic needs are met," the statement says. "We have always respected the rights of children in the communities we serve, and we will continue to integrate these fundamental principles into our work."

In a joint statement UN agencies operating in Chad said they learned of the attempted evacuation with "indignation" and "deplore that such acts would alter the serious work that the majority of international NGOs in Chad have been developing for decades, in respect of national laws and international standards."

Members of L'Arche de Zoé have insisted they were simply trying to save the children's lives, and that they had full authorisation from the Chadian government. None of the charges against the group has been proven in court.

In Sudan's Darfur region, on the border with Chad, armed conflict pitting government forces and allied militia against rebel groups has killed an estimated 200,000 people and displaced 2.2 million since 2003. Around 230,000 Sudanese refugees are living in camps in eastern Chad, which is itself plagued by violence that has displaced 180,000.

Save the Children estimates that at least half of the Chadian displaced and Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad are children.


Locally, L'Arche de Zoé is reported to have another name, Children Rescue, which translates in Arabic (one of two official languages in Chad) to Save the Children.

"There was some confusion at the beginning," Lamazière said. "We clarified that immediately with the local authorities," who then broadcast messages on local radio clarifying that Save the Children and other NGOs "had nothing to do with these activities."

Pahimi Padacké Albert, Chadian Minister of Justice, told IRIN: "This act should not be confused with all the important humanitarian work being done for the Chadian people. It's an NGO that operated outside of the norms."


Some humanitarian workers had expressed fear that this event would make their work more difficult, as local populations would paint all NGOs with the same brush.

"People are hearing that a Western NGO is trafficking children. It's a real problem," said Makbidji Henri, a Chadian national who has worked with various international aid organisations. "When we want to work with children or the elderly, people will ask if there isn't a hidden agenda."

But according to Roland Van Hauwermeiren, Chad country director for Oxfam Great Britain and spokesperson for the committee of NGOs, in the days following the arrests, the activities of other NGOs have not been affected.

"We continue delivering services as ever before," he said. "The population is smart enough to make differences."

The children are now in an orphanage in Abéché, in the care of the Chadian Ministry of Social Affairs, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the International Committee of the Red Cross. They have received food, clothes and recreational materials, and will be returned to their families in Tiné, Adré and Goz Béïda, an aid official said.

This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the Pan-African News Wire

Zimbabwe Update: President To Get Invitation For EU Summit; Namibia, Angola Calls for Lifting of Sanctions

President to get invite: Portugal

Herald Reporter-AFP

PRESIDENT Mugabe will be invited to the second European Union-Africa Summit slated for Lisbon, Portugal, in December, a Portuguese official has said.

"Everyone will receive the same invitation," Mr Pedro Courela, advisor to Portugal’s Secretary of State for Co-operation Mr Joao Gomes Cravinho, told reporters yesterday when asked whether Zimbabwe was included.

Mr Courela said the invitations would be issued "in the next few days", while speaking by telephone on the way to Accra for a meeting between Portugal, which holds the rotating EU presidency, and Ghana, which has the African Union presidency.

Mr Courela’s statement follows a recent decision by EU parliamentarians and their African counterparts to invite President Mugabe to the summit.

The Minister of Information and Publicity, Cde Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, yesterday said he expected Cde Mugabe’s invitation to come through the AU chairman and Ghanaian President John Kufuor.

He scoffed at moves by some media organisations making queries through his office as to whether Cde Mugabe’s invitation had come through.

Cde Ndlovu said he found the questions about the invitation strange, as they were not being asked about other African presidents.

"The invitation was something that we never doubted as the position with other Sadc and EU countries has been consistent. We appreciate the support that we received from these states."

Head of the EU parliamentary delegation Mr Michael Gahler and Pan African Parliament chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee on Relations with the European Parliament Mr Marwick Khumalo announced this at a joint Press conference in South Africa.

They had discussed and resolved that Cde Mugabe should attend the summit to give Zimbabwe’s side of the story and discuss problems facing Harare.

The two bodies have previously been against Zimbabwe and made a number of attempts to sponsor anti-Zimbabwe resolutions in their meetings.

Portugal has consistently said Zimbabwe should be invited because it is part of Africa.

Early this month, Lisbon said it respects Africa’s position that President Mugabe should attend the summit while the EU said Britain’s stance on Zimbabwe was against European interests.

Portuguese Foreign Minister Mr Luis Amado said Cde Mugabe could attend the EU-Africa Summit if that is what African nations want.

Despite Zimbabwe’s problems, no country "can be pushed aside from dialogue and from the development of long-term strategic relations between the EU and the continent", Mr Amado said.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he may boycott the summit if Cde Mugabe is present.

But Mr Amado said the summit — scheduled for December 8-9 in the Portuguese capital — at the end of Portugal’s six-month preside- ncy, could not be run by special cases.

The 12-member EU — at the instigation of Britain — has imposed illegal economic sanctions against Zimbabwe, which have hurt the economy and ordinary Zimbabweans.

— Herald Reporter-AFP

Lift Zim sanctions, say leaders

The Southern Times-Herald Reporter

Windhoek--Namibian and Angolan presidents Hifikepunye Pohamba and Jose Eduardo dos Santos have declared that economic sanctions which the West imposed on Zimbabwe are illegal and unjustifiable and urged Western countries to immediately lift them.

In a communiqué issued at the end of a two-day State visit by Angolan President dos Santos last Friday, the two leaders said they were concerned about the economic embargo against Zimbabwe.

President dos Santos jetted into Namibia last Wednesday for a State visit, which culminated in the signing of 11 bilateral agreements ranging from power generation to security matters and law enforcement.

A statement issued at the end of the visit said the two leaders exchanged views on economic and political developments in Zimbabwe and the Southern African region in general.

President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa was appointed by Sadc to spearhead talks between Zanu-PF and both factions of the opposition MDC.

Progress has been made in the talks, resulting in a landmark agreement on the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 18) Bill.

Both parties are still at the negotiating table.

"The presidents reiterated their concern over the economic sanctions and other harsh measures imposed on Zimbabwe, which are causing socio-economic hardships to the people of Zimbabwe," the statement said.

"The presidents (Mr Pohamba and Mr dos Santos) called for the immediate lifting of these sanctions as they are illegal and unjustifiable," said the joint communiqué.

The call by the two leaders — which reaffirmed the position taken by Sadc at the extraordinary summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on March 31 — comes at a time when the whole of Africa and much of the European Union have closed ranks with Zimbabwe in its bilateral stand-off with Britain.

African countries — speaking through the African Union, Sadc and Comesa — have vetoed Britain’s attempts to have President Mugabe barred from the EU-Africa Summit set for Lisbon, Portugal, on December 8 and 9, saying the summit can only take place if the whole of Africa is invited to engage with the EU.

Summit host Portugal, France and Germany are among key EU states that have said the dispute between Harare and London should not be allowed to scupper the summit that has been on ice since 2003 when Africa refused to give in to British demands to hold the summit minus Zimbabwe.

The only support for the British position has come from some Scandinavian states that have, however, not indicated they will support British Premier Gordon Brown’s threats to boycott the summit if Cde Mugabe attends.

To this end, EU parliamentarians have since invited President Mugabe to the summit, saying he should be afforded the chance to give his side of the story and discuss problems in Zimbabwe with other world leaders.

Presidents Pohamba and Dos Santos also expressed concern at the security situation in the volatile eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which they attributed to rebel military activities.

They encouraged Sadc member states to continue supporting the government of the DRC to consolidate peace and stability.

The Southern Times-Herald Reporter.

Lift barrier on Cuba, UN assembly votes

UNITED NATIONS--The UN General Assembly yesterday voted overwhelmingly for the 16th year in a row in favour of lifting the 45-year-old US trade embargo against communist-ruled Cuba.

By a vote of 184 in favour, four against one abstention, the 192-member assembly reiterated its "call upon all states to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures (such as those in the US embargo) in conformity with their obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and international law."

In a virtual repeat of last year’s vote, the United States, Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands voted against the resolution, while Micronesia abstained.

The resolution again urged "states that have and continue to apply such laws and measures to take the necessary steps to repeal or invalidate them as soon as possible in accordance with their legal regime."

The vote came less than a week after US President George W. Bush vowed the US economic sanctions against the Cuba would remain in place. "As long as the regime maintains its monopoly over the political and economic life of the Cuban people, the United States will keep the embargo in place," Bush said. — AFP.

Empower women, girls to take charge

EDITOR — I watched a very interesting movie on South African e-TV on October 25 2007, and encourage ZBCTV to air it for the benefit of all Zimbabwean women with access to television.

I believe the movie, Enough starring Jennifer Lopez, it is quite relevant, particularly as we enter the 16 Days of Activism against Domestic Violence.

With the current debate on the Miss Rural saga, I couldn’t help but realise how important it would be for all concerned citizens and responsible authorities to learn the power of the individual’s inner strength — how important it is to empower women and girls to be able to draw the line and respect it.

To be able to declare and take the responsibility to say "Enough" — for themselves and also to take the necessary action to support their stance. I have heard cases of women in truly abusive environments, who get "rescued" and offered shelter only to return to the abusive environment again at times with tragic consequences.

Not that I condone the violent killing of abusive people, but I truly learnt something about the power of the self against all odds. We could declare all rural girls vulnerable and build safe houses for them. But they still need to be re-integrated, what then? This year’s theme for the 16 Days of Activism against Domestic Violence is "Demanding Accountability and Implementation".

In my opinion, as concerned citizens we should be demanding that accountability of ourselves as women and as mothers to say where are we going wrong?

With all the information about abuse and indeed all the resources that are being channelled towards the empowerment and protection of women and girls, why then are our girls still being taken advantage of? Why are the various messages and programmes not effectively reaching them? Where do we need strengthening and how? Vast resources are being channelled towards the empowerment of women and girls as well as activities towards that effect. Perhaps we should be demanding more, given the level of need existing in the rural settings.

The current popular position towards the Miss Rural Zimbabwe pageant seems to be "the problem is out there". Rather I would encourage more effort to be directed towards the girls themselves.

I believe there is more strength and focus when it is directed from within.

Effort therefore should be to enable the woman or girl to know when lines have been crossed and where to turn to when lines have been crossed and what course of action to take when such lines have been crossed.

Equip the women and girls with the necessary strength of character to face the challenges of life head on without settling for compromises. Yes, we say they are reduced to beggars and then fall victim to those with money. Our women and girls should know that not having money is not an excuse to lose one’s integrity.

Not having money is not an excuse either for one to lose sight of their life goals. There are so many organisations that are currently dependent on donations from individuals and corporations, teach the girls the safe ways of receiving such funds without compromising themselves.

I appreciate that we all mean well and want to keep women and girls safe. But one thing that I have also learnt is that in many cases, women and girls are highly abused in their own homes. Here we are calling for the young girls to be teaching other girls about home-based care. Not that there is anything wrong with learning home-based care since already women are the designated caregivers and nurturers of families. But then what are we saying about their aspirations, their outlook towards improving rural life, interaction at levels beyond rural settings?

What are we saying about their ability to impact city girls and being role models for the city girls on the morals and behaviour of ideal rural Zimbabwean girls.

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs tells us that beyond a certain level, it ceases to just be about the basic daily issues that we deal with.

As human beings develop and fulfil the lower needs, it then becomes necessary for them to pursue even higher needs.

Our Miss Zimbabwes and other City Misses do not remain confined to being role models of Zimbabwean girls and perhaps teaching them how to dress appropriately. They get to travel the world, interacting and networking at higher levels.

Let’s put an end to the Cinderella complex and empower women and girls to take charge of their own lives.


US Supreme Court Justices Stay Execution of Mississippi Prisoner, a Signal to Lower Courts

PANW Editor's Note: This decision by the US Supreme Court may have an impact on death penalty cases around the country. Mumia Abu-Jamal has been on death row for over 25 years. His case is now being considered in federal appeals court in Pennsylvania.

Jamal's supporters have proclaimed his innocence and are demanding his immediate release.

Abayomi Azikiwe

October 31, 2007

Justices Stay Execution, a Signal to Lower Courts

New York Times

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 — Moments before a Mississippi prisoner was scheduled to die by lethal injection, the Supreme Court granted him a stay of execution on Tuesday evening and thus gave a nearly indisputable indication that a majority intends to block all executions until the court decides a lethal injection case from Kentucky next spring.

There were two dissenters, Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr., but neither they nor the majority gave reasons for their positions. Because only five votes are required for a stay of execution, it is not clear whether all the remaining seven justices supported it.

The stay will remain in effect until the full court reviews an appeal filed Monday by lawyers for the inmate, Earl W. Berry, who is on death row for killing a woman 20 years ago.

While there is no schedule for that review, it will almost surely not take place until the court decides the Kentucky case, Baze v. Rees, which will be argued in January. The issue in that case is not the constitutionality of lethal injection as such, but rather a more procedural question: how judges should evaluate claims that the particular combination of drugs used to bring about death causes suffering that amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Even without a written opinion, the Supreme Court’s action on Tuesday night clarified a situation that had become increasingly confusing as state courts and the lower federal courts, without further guidance from the justices, wrestled with claims from a growing number of death-row inmates that their imminent executions should be delayed.

State and lower federal courts are likely to interpret the Supreme Court’s action as a signal that they should postpone executions in their jurisdictions. As a result, the justices will probably not have to consider any more last-minute applications from inmates while the de facto moratorium is in effect.

Of these inmates, Mr. Berry had perhaps the weakest case. He had run through many appeals in the 19 years since he was sentenced to death, but had not challenged the method of execution until recent days. His federal court lawsuit on which the justices acted was not filed until Oct. 18. The Federal District Court in Jackson, Miss., dismissed it as untimely on Oct. 24 in a ruling that the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed last Friday.

The appeals court said that, under its own precedent, a late-filed challenge to a method of execution warranted automatic dismissal. The pending Supreme Court case was irrelevant to its determination, the appeals court said, adding that if the justices had a different view of the matter, they should say so.

In the application for a stay of execution, filed Monday afternoon, Mr. Berry’s lawyers acknowledged that the Supreme Court itself has been critical of last-minute requests from death-row inmates, “especially if the petitioner has been trying to manipulate the legal process.” But the lawyers urged the court to look beyond that issue and to consider “a balancing of the equities and hardships of the respective parties.”

In this instance, the lawyers said, Mississippi “will suffer no prejudice other than a delay if Mr. Berry’s execution is stayed,” while Mr. Berry “on the other hand, will suffer the risk of being put to death by an unconstitutional means.” They added, “It is clear that irreparable harm will result if no stay is granted.”

David P. Voisin, one of the defense lawyers, said the Supreme Court’s action was “a positive sign that as long as this issue is under consideration, the court is going to hold executions.”

Even before the court acted, executions had dropped to the lowest level in more than a decade. There have been 42 executions this year, including one last month in Texas, which the Supreme Court declined to block hours after granting review in the Kentucky case. That execution, of Michael Richard, now appears likely to be the last for months, perhaps until next summer or later if the court’s decision in Baze v. Rees results in new protocols for lethal injections.

While the de facto moratorium now in place is reminiscent of a similar period of no executions in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the resemblance is largely superficial. During the earlier period, legal challenges to the basic constitutionality of capital punishment were moving toward the Supreme Court, which in 1972 invalidated the death penalty laws that then existed. In 1976, the court allowed capital punishment to resume under reformulated statutes.

In the current cases, by contrast, the constitutionality of the death penalty is not at issue, and the inmates are not challenging the validity of their death sentences. Delays of some months in carrying out executions may seem relatively minor given the many years that most of the inmates have already spent on death row. Mr. Berry was sentenced in 1988 for the beating death of a 56-year-old woman, Mary Bounds, whom he had kidnapped as she was walking home from choir practice.

Mr. Berry, who is now 48, had two earlier appeals in which he challenged the validity of his death sentence turned down by the Supreme Court. The most recent was on Oct. 1.

In Mississippi, officials at the state prison at Parchman said they were notified of the stay 19 minutes before the scheduled execution, which was set for 6 p.m. Central time. Mr. Berry had eaten what he thought was a last meal of barbecued pork chops and had taken a shower before the call came. Chris Epps, commissioner of the state Department of Corrections, told reporters that Mr. Berry had “cried quite a bit” earlier in the day.

The department issued a statement, saying that “the agency will work within any newly established guidelines to ensure that executions are carried out in a constitutional manner.”

Brenda Goodman contributed reporting from Atlanta.

China Responds to Attacks By British Lawmakers Over Sudanese Policy

BEIJING 30 October 2007 Sapa-AFP


China on Tuesday criticised a group of British politicians for linking Beijing's hosting of next year's Olympics with the violence in Sudan's Darfur region.

"This is not responsible at all, they disregard China's constructive efforts and role (in Sudan)," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said when asked to comment on the pressure from the British politicians.

In a letter sent to the Chinese embassy in London on Monday, 100 current and former British lawmakers urged Beijing to back a peacekeeping force for Darfur.

They also called on China to stop selling weapons to the Khartoum government that is accused of fanning the violence.

"The 2008 Olympics will celebrate the dramatic transformation
undergone by China," said former foreign minister David Owen as the letter was released.

"Over the coming months, China has a real opportunity to exert global leadership on Darfur.

"Beijing's active involvement in providing for an effective
peacekeeping force and bringing an end to the suffering would be the ideal prelude to a successful Games."

China, which is the biggest buyer of Sudan's oil, has consistently rejected accusations it is worsening Darfur's agony by supporting the Sudanese government.

Liu again defended the nation's Sudan policy.

"China plays a constructive role in the Darfur issue. The
constructive role of China can be seen by all," he said.

The violence in Darfur has led to the deaths of an estimated 200,000 people in four years, with another two million displaced.

US Diplomat to Help Lead Africa Command (Africom); Warships Attack Vessels Off Coast

U.S. diplomat to help lead Africa Command

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP)--The U.S. military has named a senior American diplomat to serve alongside a Navy admiral as deputies to the general leading its new Africa Command, an acknowledgment of the importance of the civilian aspects of the operation.

Mary Carlin Yates, a former ambassador to Ghana and Burundi, is the first senior government civilian who is not part of the Defense Department to be named to a top-level job at a U.S. military regional command.

"Certainly it's a first among the unified combat commands," said Vince Crawley, a spokesman for Africa Command, where Yates will supervise coordination between U.S. government agencies and the U.S. military.

The command began operations Oct. 1 with a staff of 175 under Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward and will increase to about 800 through 2008.

"It's been our intent from the beginning to have a civilian aspect to the command,"" Africa Command spokesman Maj. Steven Wollman said. ""The appointment of Ambassador Yates signifies ... the resolve behind the intent to make that happen."

Vice Admiral Robert T. Moeller was appointed deputy for military operations.

"The appointment of Ambassador Yates signals the Department of State's commitment to the success of Africom," Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said in a statement.

The Africa Command headquarters, which started operations earlier this month, is meant to help African security forces tackle regional crises and terrorist threats — recognizing the continent's increasing strategic importance.

It works closely with African nations on joint military exercises, but also on aid and other humanitarian operations.

The Africa Command operates from the U.S. Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart, with diplomatic efforts still under way to find a permanent location in Africa.

Liberia is the only country to publicly offer to host the command, though U.S. officials say other nations have made private offers.

While some countries are receptive to having the command based on the continent, the plans have met with sharp resistance from many other African nations — most recently Nigeria, which worked to block the headquarters from being established in the Gulf of Guinea region.

In August, South African Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota said that there was widespread hesitance among African nations to host the headquarters.

Eric S. Edelman, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said in a statement "the goal of Africom is to provide the most effective support possible for those who seek African solutions for African security."

It is a so-called "unified combatant command" made up of all branches of the military, as well as civilians from not only the Defense and State Departments, but also the Agriculture, Treasury and Commerce Departments, along with USAID.

Under the U.S. military's system of regional headquarters, responsibility for Africa previously was split between the Pacific Command, Central Command, and European Command.

The U.S. plan foresees a small headquarters, and five regional teams spread around the continent. The Pentagon has emphasized that it is not building new military bases.

U.S. Gunships Battle Pirates Who Seized Tanker Off Somali Coast

FOX News, Staff
Magic on Tuesday, October 30 - 09:19 AM

A pair of American warships battled pirates Tuesday who had seized a tanker off the coast of Somalia, reportedly sinking two pirate vessels and pursuing a hijacked skiff carrying some of the fleeing hijhackers.

The crew of the tanker Golden Mori, which was hijacked Monday night, reportedly fought back and overpowered their attackers, regaining control of the vessel, maritime officials said.

On Sunday, the destroyer USS Porter responded to a distress call from the Golden Mori that it was under attack from two pirate skiffs in international waters off the coast of Somalia near the Socotra islands in the Indian Ocean. The destroyer, on loan to an international task force aimed at stopping piracy and terror in the region, responded with deadly force, sinking both vessels, officials said.

The Porter's sister ship, the USS Arleigh Burke, reportedly was pursuing the escaping hijackers and providing an escort for the Japanese-owned tanker.

There were conflicting reports regarding the Golden Mori's registry, with reports saying it was flying a Panamanian flag, while other reports saying it either was a North or South Korean registered ship.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

ANC Statement on Attacks by COSATU's Zwelinzima Vavi


29 October 2007

The African National Congress is disturbed by what appears to be a sustained and irresponsible campaign by COSATU General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi to undermine the members and leadership of the ANC.

His continued unwarranted attacks on the leadership of the ANC is a matter of concern to all those who want to see the Alliance united to further its primary objective of improving the living conditions of our people.

Leaders of the Alliance are expected to act responsibly and conduct themselves in an exemplary manner befitting of a leader of the mass democratic movement.

We find as unfortunate, unfounded and divisive statements attributed to Vavi suggesting that the re-election of ANC President Thabo Mbeki as party leader will divide the Alliance.

The ANC expresses its unequivocal rejection of this totally unacceptable attempt to tell the ANC how it should constitute its leadership.

We wish to state once again that the decision of who should lead the ANC is the exclusive right of ANC branches and should be respected.

We urge Vavi to desist from theatrical gimmicks that have nothing to do with the future of the Alliance.

The ANC further advises anyone wishing to participate in the process of electing ANC leaders to do so through the appropriate channels, as members of ANC branches.

Issued by African National Congress

For more information contact: Smuts Ngonyama on 082 994 2112 or Tiyani Rikhotso on 0798 79 79 74


ANC lambastes Vavi for 'theatrics'

Tue, 30 Oct 2007

Congress of South African Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi's statement that President Thabo Mbeki's re-election to the ANC presidency would divide the tripartite alliance was unfounded and divisive, the ANC said on Monday.

"The ANC is disturbed by what appears to be a sustained and irresponsible campaign by Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi," the party said in a statement.

"We urge Vavi to desist from theatrical gimmicks that have nothing to do with the future of the alliance," it said.

On Saturday, Vavi told the 63rd anniversary celebrations of the ANC Youth League in Galeshewe that a status quo in the ANC leadership would ruin the alliance.

"We shouldn't say don't interfere in our affairs when we in fact work together all the time. We want to close the chapter of division," Vavi said.

He said he was not mistaken when he said a Jacob Zuma presidency was an unstoppable tsunami.

In an unprecedented move last month, Cosatu's central executive committee released names of the ANC leadership they envisaged working with after the party's 52nd congress in Limpopo.

The list did not include Mbeki and had Zuma as president.

"His continued unwarranted attacks on the leadership of the ANC is a matter of concern," the ANC said.

It said: "Leaders of the alliance are expected to act responsibly and conduct themselves in an exemplary manner befitting a leader of the mass democratic movement.

"We wish to state once again that the decision of who should lead the ANC is the exclusive right of ANC branches and should be respected."


Monday, October 29, 2007

Somali Update: US-backed Puppet Regime Splits Over Factional Power Struggles

Somali premier resigns amid power struggle

Nation thrown into further disarray as it struggles with Islamic insurgency

Former Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi clashed with the president over the balance of powers.

Updated: 7:16 p.m. ET Oct 29, 2007

MOGADISHU, Somalia - A long-brewing power struggle between the Somali prime minister and its president ended Monday with the premier’s resignation, throwing the government into further disarray as it struggles with an Islamic insurgency.

Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi and President Abdullahi Yusuf have been at loggerheads for months in the Horn of Africa nation. Meanwhile, the government has drifted as Islamic insurgents attack against government troops and allied Ethiopian forces in the capital, Mogadishu.

“Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi has tendered his resignation,” said Salad Ali Geele, deputy defense minister and a close friend of the prime minister. Yusuf later accepted the resignation.

Gedi and Yusuf clashed over the balance of powers between the presidency and the premiership. Yusuf signed several oil-exploration deals with Chinese companies, angering Gedi, who believed that usurped his constitutional role. Gedi believed the presidency was a figurehead position, while Yusuf said that he was the head of state.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said it believed Gedi’s resignation “was made in the spirit of continued dialogue and national reconciliation among all Somali stakeholders.”

Both men jockeyed for position with Ethiopia, a regional power broker and prime backer of the weak government, and they come from rival clans. That brought Somalia’s long clan struggles and suspicions into the heart of the federal government.

Gedi’s departure means the government will be able to refocus its efforts on installing security in Somalia. But if members of Gedi’s Abgal clan — among the country’s largest — refuse to support the government, it could be further weakened. Many believe another prime minister from the clan will be named following Gedi’s resignation, which had been expected.

Protesters block roads, burn tires

In Mogadishu, hundreds of demonstrators marched through the streets in a second day of protests against the presence of the Ethiopian troops in the country.

Protesters, mainly women, children and young men, were burning tires, blocking roads with stones and logs, and shouting anti-Ethiopian slogans in parts of south and north of the conflict-wracked city, witnesses said.

Sporadic gunfire was heard in the city, and several shells could be seen flying through the air. It was unclear where they landed, or who fired them. At least one person was reported dead.

Pirate attacks up 14 percent worldwide

The body of a woman, who sells gas on a street in the south of the capital, was torn into pieces when a shell slammed into her, said resident Osman Ali, who had helped collect the pieces.

Dahir Dhere of Medina hospital said six civilians with gunshot wounds were brought to his facility.

Mogadishu has been plagued by violence since government troops and their Ethiopian allies chased out the Council of Islamic Courts in December. For six months, the Islamic group had controlled much of southern Somalia, and remnants have vowed to fight an Iraq-style insurgency.

Thousands of civilians have been killed in the fighting this year.

U.N. describes nation wracked by violence

Some 1.5 million Somalis are now in need of food aid and protection — 50 percent more that at the start of the year — because of inadequate rains, continuing internal displacement and a potential cholera epidemic, the United Nations said.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, when rival warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other.

The lawlessness has extended off Somalia’s coast, where pirates have attacked more than two dozen vessels this year, including a Japanese chemical tanker and its 23 crew seized late Sunday in the Gulf of Eden, a global maritime watchdog said Monday.

This was the second hijacking since Oct. 17 after pirates opened fire and seized a general cargo ship flying under a Comoros Island flag and operated by a Dubai-based company, said Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur.

Pan-African Parliament Criticises EU Over Bulgarian Nurses Charged in Libya

African MPs Criticise European Parliament Over 'HIV Nurses'

Mmegi/The Reporter
26 October 2007
By Bame Piet

The relationship between the Pan African Parliament (PAP) and the European Parliament is on the verge of collapse after the latter earlier this year rolled out the red carpet for Bulgarian nurses convicted for infecting Libyan children with HIV, the Assistant Minister of Local Government, Ambrose Masalila, has confirmed.

PAP on Wednesday resolved to demand a written explanation and an apology from the European Parliament, failing which relations between the two will be suspended.

This follows a motion tabled by Libyan MP, Dr Mohammed Alourafy, requesting PAP support for the children of Libya. Alourafy said after Libya commuted the death sentence imposed on the nurses to a life sentence, Libya had agreed to release the nurses on the basis of an agreement with Bulgaria that the convicts would serve their sentences in their home country.

But the nurses were treated to a heroes' welcome instead, disregarding the seriousness of the crime they had committed. "They were even invited to the European Parliament where they also received a heroes' welcome," Alourafy said. Libya was dismayed at this, wondering what message was being conveyed to them and the rest of the world.

Members of the Pan African Parliament said this was yet another example of how Europeans disregard Africans. They characterised it as betrayal, saying Africans need to be careful when dealing with Europeans in future.

Another motion adopted by PAP was one tabled by Micheal Temple of Swaziland requesting the protection of African heritage and indigenous knowledge systems. However, Botswana's MP for Palapye, Boyce Sebetela, successfully introduced an amendment to the motion, arguing that it would be suicidal for Africans to try to fight to protect their creative work while they also want to benefit from the creative work of others.

Sebetela said drugs for malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS are very expensive because their producers want to recover the costs of producing them while African countries are negotiating for cheaper generic drugs. The MPs noted that Africans have long been abused by developed nations which stole African flora and fauna, its knowledge and even its identity in the form of languages.

An MP from Ghana said it was time Africa identified a common language, giving the example of KiSwahili in East Africa. He said that Europeans had so colonised Africans that Africans go to Europe to study African languages at considerable costs. Chief Charumbira from Zimbabwe said Africans lack self-esteem, hence they want to speak, live and behave like Europeans as a mark of 'civilised standards' while Europeans do not want to lose the slightest bit of their culture.

"We want to look like Europeans to feel better," he said. The 80-member House continued with Committee reports yesterday (Thursday), before concluding business today.

Libya Calls For Day of Mourning to Remember 1911 Colonial Deportations

NICOSIA 26 October 2007 Sapa-AFP


Libya cut itself off from the world on Friday for a national day of
mourning to mark the deportation of thousands of Libyans after the
Italian invasion of 1911.

Authorities called on Libyans to wear black, while all international
communications as well as bus services, planes, trains, post and
telephone networks were suspended from dawn until 6 pm (1600 GMT), according to a government statement.

Libyans were told to cut all links to the outside world during the
day of mourning, which commemorates the deportation of thousands of Libyans to Italian islands following the invasion of northern Libya in October 1911.

The commemoration is marked every year.

Flags were to be flown at half mast to mark the Italian declaration
of war against Turkey and the occupation of the regions historically
known as Cyrenaica and Tripolitania on the Mediterranean coast.

The conflict finished in October 1912 and saw Libya later become an
Italian colony until it won independence in 1951, following a short
period of Anglo-French rule under an UN mandate.

According to Libya's state news agency JANA, more then 5,000 Libyans were deported to Italian islands in the Adriatic between 1911 and World War II in an effort to break the resistance.

Relations between Italy and Libya have been strained mostly due to
disputes dating back to the colonial period.

Libya is claiming compensation from Italy through the construction
of a new six-billion-euro (8.5 billion-dollar) motorway stretching
across Libya from its border with Tunisia to the Egyptian frontier.

Chadian President Idriss Deby Expresses Outrage Over French Group's Attempt to Kidnap and Sale African Children

N'DJAMENA 26 October 2007 Sapa-AFP


Chadian President Idriss Deby vowed Friday to punish those responsible for a failed attempt by a French charity to fly out more than 100 children from Chad.

Nine French people, mostly members of the l'Arche de Zoe (Zoe's Ark) charity, were arrested in Chad on Thursday on suspicion of child trafficking after they attempted to put 103 children on a flight to France.

"Those responsable will be severely punished," Deby said, according to the president's office.

Deby went to visit the children on Friday and he called the plan to fly them out of the country "inhumane," "unthinkable" and
"unacceptable," the president's office said.

French authorities begun an investigation of the charity on Friday and the operation was condemned by French foreign ministry.

But Stephanie Lefebvre, secretary-general of l'Arche de Zoe,
insisted the charity acted out of purely humanitarian motives and denied there was any plan to sell the children for adoption.

PARIS 26 October 2007 Sapa-AP


The warning was dire: "The children will be dead in a few months," said the French charity, speaking about orphans in Darfur. It asked people to help by paying thousands of euros (dollars) to fly them out of the region's turmoil.

Dozens of French families came forward, offering money for the group and a home for the children. But the French government says the scheme was illegal.

The organizers were arrested Thursday in Africa, leaving a swirl of questions: Were they volunteers for a genuine charity, child traffickers - as authorities in Chad who arrested them claim-or simply misguided people driven by a desire to help?

The group, L'Arche de Zoe (Zoe's Arc), says it is a 3-year-old
charity that only wanted to save orphans from Sudan's Darfur region by placing them with French host families. It says it asked host families for 2,400 (US$3,400) to help with logistics and chartering a plane, though some contributed smaller or larger amounts.

"This was about saving children, welcoming them into France,
declaring them to authorities and placing them with host families so they could get on with their lives," said Christophe Letien, a spokesman for the group in France.

France's Foreign Ministry denounced the operation, saying children simply could not be swept out of a country without following the right procedures, including strict international regulations to verify they had no living family members.

Starting months ago, "we told (Zoe's Arc) that we had major
reservations every time they talked to us," Foreign Ministry
spokeswoman Pascale Andreani said. The ministry said it warned
prosecutors about the group's operations in July, and that an
investigation has been opened.

Zoe's Arc recruited support on its Web site with a message reading: "The survival of these children depends on action. Now! The children will be dead in a few months."

The spokesman for Zoe's Arc said it heard that Chadian authorities beat those in custody, including nurses and paramedics. He also said Chad was well aware of its operations and that it had letters from Sudan officials documenting that the children were orphans.

Following the arrests, the children have been taken into the care of Chadian authorities with the support of UNICEF, the International Red Cross and the U.N. refugee agency, French officials said.

French diplomats said there were many questions about the children involved- including their nationalities, and even whether all were truly orphans. The foreign ministry spokeswoman said some host families had initially been told they could adopt the children, though neither Sudan nor Chad authorized such adoptions.

Rama Yade, France's junior minister for human rights, told Le
Parisien newspaper, "Taking them away like that is, from my point of view, illegal and irresponsible."

Nicolai Panke of the International Committee of the Red Cross said the children were being checked for health problems. Next week, authorities will begin searching for surviving relatives who could take them in.

"With the experience we have in Sudanese refugee camps ... there are rarely orphans who are separated from their whole families," he said.

Meanwhile, France's Foreign Ministry expressed sympathy for families who had expected to welcome children into their homes. Dozens of them slept in tents overnight at an airport in Vatry, east of Paris, where they had waited for the children to arrive Thursday.

Pascale Moreau, a mother of five, said she gave the organization 2,000 (US$2,861) to help with logistics, and that she had planned to take in a child.

"Why did I take action?" she said. "Because (the conflict) in Darfur has been going on for four years, and all the humanitarian groups say the same thing, that nothing is improving there."

DRC News Update: President Kabila Sends Envoy to Angola; Refugees Return Home

DRC President Sends Messenger to Angola

Angola Press Agency (Luanda)
29 October 2007

The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has sent to Angola a special envoy that will analyse with the Angolan Head of State, the current situation in that neighbouring country.

The messenger is the Congolese Defence minister, Chikez Diemu, who arrived in Luanda this Monday.

During an audience with the Angolan Head of State, José Eduardo dos Santos, to be happen this Monday, the DRC's presidential envoy will hand over to the Angolan statesman a message from President Joseph Kabila, relating to the prevailing situation in that country.

Chikez Diemu, who did not speak to the press on his arrival in Luanda, is due back to his country still this Monday.

Meanwhile, on 25 October, the African Union (AU)'s Peace and Security Council, gathered in Addis Ababa, analysed the prevailing situation in the DR Congo.

Currently, the DRC authorities are facing an armed rebellion in the eastern part of that country, in the region of Kivu, led by the dissident general Laurent Kunda.

DRC: Refugee repatriation from Congo gathers pace

The refuges have returned to their homes in Equateur province

KINSHASA, 29 October 2007 (IRIN) - Some 16,000 Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) citizens who fled their country during the 1997-2002 conflict to seek refuge in neighbouring Congo have returned to their homes in the northwestern Equateur province this year, under a repatriation programme managed by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

"The surge in the number of returns to the rainforests of northwest DRC – almost all from the neighbouring Republic of Congo across the Ubangui River – comes as UNHCR prepares to phase out assisted voluntary repatriation to this area in mid-2008. The increase was possible because the agency had stepped up river return trips and was now taking people to two destinations simultaneously – Buburu and Imese," Jens Hesemann, UNHCR spokesman in Kinshasa, said on 26 October.

UNHCR expects a total of 18,000 citizens will return to the province in 2007, compared to 1,946 in 2004 when the repatriation programme began, 7,286 in 2005, and 10,655 in 2006.

"Almost 36,000 refugees have returned peacefully to Equateur province since we launched organised repatriation in 2004," UNHCR regional representative Eusebe Hounsokou said in a statement after watching returnees board boats at the Congolese town of Impfondo, on the northern bank of the River Ubangui on 19 October.

The river forms a natural boundary between the two Congos, cutting through hundreds of kilometres of thick tropical rainforest until it feeds into the River Congo.

"UNHCR faces logistical challenges in delivering aid to the returnee communities dispersed in small villages along the river. The refugee agency works with a flexible 'phase in, phase out' approach," said Hesemann.

"Those returning still face hardship in an area lacking infrastructure and basic services. Dug-out canoes are the main form of transport in an area with few roads, while many health centres are in a poor condition after years of neglect," he added.

The refugee agency has been carrying out medical screening at the transit centres and vaccinating children against measles. Partner agencies counsel returnees on HIV/AIDS and the danger posed by landmines.

UNHCR has also rehabilitated health centres and schools in the main return areas and supported income-generating projects such as fishing and carpentry.

Report can be found online at:

WASHINGTON 26 October 2007 Sapa-AFP


US President George W. Bush and visiting Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila on Friday discussed efforts to stabilize the DRC amid clashes in the eastern part of the country.

During a brief joint public appearance at the White House, Bush also congratulated Kabila on winning office last year in the first free presidential election in more than four decades since his country won its independence.

"Basically our priorities have now changed from elections, it's now stability, and with stability, peace and development," Kabila said.

"I emphasized and insisted on the fact that we need continued
support by the United States in order to achieve these two remaining goals, which is basic stability throughout the whole country and embark on a very, very long journey of development and really try to combat poverty," added the visiting leader.

Bush said that they had discussed the eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo, an apparent reference to a bloody and confusing new round of clashes in August in the province of Nord-Kivu.

"He shared with me his strategy to make sure that the government's reach extends throughout the entire country and that there is stability throughout the country," said Bush. "Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts."

The fighting pits supporters of dissident ex-general Laurent Nkunda against government forces - as well as against local Mai Mai militias and Rwandan Hutu rebels who also oppose Nkunda.

The United Nations estimates that at least 750,000 civilians are displaced by violence and atrocities committed by armed men from all sides.

The dissident, sacked general claims to represent the ethnic Tutsi minority in eastern DR Congo and to be protecting them. He runs his own administration and demands negotiations with the Kinshasa government, which has declared him a wanted "war criminal."

South African Minister of Land Affairs Blames White Farmers For Problems in Redistribution

JOHANNESBURG 26 October 2007 Sapa


The Department of Land Affairs on Friday extended the deadline for public comment on the Policy on Land Ownership (PLOF) by Foreigners.

Spokesman Eddie Mohoebi said the deadline was extended from November 14 to December 14.

"The reason behind the extension is to allow the public more time for deliberation on this matter, said Mohoebi.

The consultation sessions were approved by Cabinet, while the launch of the PLOF report was approved by the Minister for Agriculture and Land Affairs Lulama Xingwana on September 14.

"There has been a widely-held concern that the phenomenon of
foreigners owning South African land, especially coastal and inland prime tourism and game reserves land, is materially influencing effective land reform."

Mohoebi said if this trend continued undebated, the government's ability to meet its constitutional duties around land reform, housing and access to related resources such as water, health, food and social security would become increasingly difficult.

"Instead of benefiting, the previously disadvantaged South Africans will be the losers. Not only in respect of access to land and resources, but also concerning the dignity and self-worth resulting from an effective service delivery," he said.

Mohoebi said this trend would also further restrict the ability to lift the poorest of the poor out of the existing poverty trap.

He said that government would be failing in its duty if it did nothing about this phenomenon.

It was therefore imperative for the public to keep commenting on this report to make sure that the government did not leave their needs unattended, he said.

JOHANNESBURG 27 October 2007 Sapa


Land and Agricultural Affairs Minister Lulu Xingwana said farmers are delaying land restitution in South Africa, reported SABC News on Saturday.

"They (farmers) increase land prices so that the state cannot afford to buy it," she said.

Xingwana said abuse and eviction of farm dwellers also remained the main stumbling blocks in making progress in the land restitution programme.

She was speaking at the launch of the Land Rights Awareness Campaign at Edumbe in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

Cuba and the United States: The Claims Game

10/24/07 - Cuba-L Analysis (Albuquerque) -

Cuba and the United States: The Claims Game

By Robert Sandels

In 2005, the United States Agency for International Development
(USAID) awarded Creighton University a $750,000 contract to study how to collect on claims against the Cuban government for property
confiscations, most of which were carried out in 1959 and 1960.

The resulting report, issued in October, reinforces the suspicion that
the claims were never meant to be resolved but simply added to the
store of weapons useful for the giant Cuban makeover that is supposed to happen after the death of Fidel Castro.

The report is also likely to be soon forgotten. Even USAID appears not to take the study seriously since it cut the project from two years to one and halved its budget.

But no matter, the report is not worth the money. To begin with, it lists as its outside advisors five organizations of dubious acquaintance with objectivity on Cuban issues. They are, the US military (Southern Command) and four anti-Castro NGOs: the Cuban American Bar Association; the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy; the Cuba Study Group; and the Cuba Transition Project, another recipient of USAID money.

One need look no further than the first paragraph of the report's executive summary to see that the Creighton scholars hurried to surrender their credibility by associating their proposals with the US campaign to overthrow the Cuban government.

The model they propose for adjudicating property claims is "a central feature in the U.S. Government's proactive planning for Cuba's transition to democracy," and "responds to the
requirement of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity
[Helms-Burton] Act."[1] This legislative confection is, of course,
the imperial blueprint for eliminating the Cuban government and
imposing a US-dictated market economy.

No claimant left behind

In 1972, the Justice Department's Foreign Claims Settlement
Commission (FCSC) registered 5,911 claims for confiscated personal and business property with an estimated value $6 billion.[2] To register, all claimants must have been US citizens or businesses owned by US citizens at the time of the confiscations. The Creighton report follows general historical precedent by proposing that a settlement be negotiated through a bilateral claims tribunal.

Comprising a second category are claimants the FCSC refers to as
Cuban-Americans - those who were Cuban citizens at the time their
property was confiscated and therefore not covered by international
law on restitution. Their only option is to apply to the Cuban
government for redress.

However, even while recognizing that the United States has no jurisdiction over these claims, the Creighton scholars offer a non-legal justification for including them somewhere in their compensation scheme. "Politically and economically," says
the report, "their claims should not be ignored." Why not? Because
their influence over policymakers in Washington "brought about the
Libertad Act...achieved special immigration status for Cubans leaving
the island [Cuban Adjustment Act], sustained Radio Marti programming, and leveraged millions of dollars in federal money to support democracy programming for Cuba."[3]

For this group, the Creighton scholars propose that Cuba set up a special independent claims court within its judicial system. Curiously, they recommend that this independent court should consist of 12 judges appointed "in consultation with the United States," and that only six of the judges should be of the same nationality.[4]

Consequently, might such an independent Cuban court consist of six judges from Miami and six from Poland? Could such a court be independent or even legal within the Cuban judicial system if rules for its makeup were determined by a foreign power? Perhaps USAID should commission another study to find out.

No claimant left behind except Cuba

A third claimant category could be added. The Cuban government seeks compensation for damages inflicted on Cuban lives and property by decades of economic blockade, invasions, sabotage and terrorist acts carried out directly or indirectly by the United States. A Cuban court in 1999 assessed the damage at more than $181 billion.

The report does not suggest a model for addressing these claims except for specific property losses such as personal bank accounts frozen in the United States. "Other Cuban claims, including tort claims, should be undertaken within the domestic Cuban judicial system and treated as normal litigation."[5]

The scholars seem to forget that in 1996, the US Congress showed how citizens of one country could sue governments of another country by claiming they were victims of terrorism. In that year, President Bill Clinton signed the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which expanded "the circumstances under which foreign governments that support terrorism may be sued for resulting injuries, and increases the assistance and compensation available to the victims of terrorism."[6] The law blew a hole in the immunity nations generally have from such lawsuits under the Foreign Sovereignty Immunity Act of 1976.[7]

Claims & how not to resolve them

Cuba long ago settled the claims of Canada, France, Italy, Mexico,
Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

In 1960, Cuba offered to compensate US claimants through a bond issue funded with income from sugar sales to the United States, which were assured by yearly import quotas allotted to Cuba since 1934. President Dwight Eisenhower responded to the offer by suspending the sugar quota for the rest of his term, and his successor, John F. Kennedy, reduced it to zero in 1961.

The effect was to cut off the chief source of dollars Cuba
needed to back the bonds.[8] Thus, the claims issue persists nearly
50 years after most of the confiscations took place even though there
are well-established mechanisms in international law and common
practice to settle them.

There are historical precedents that could be followed without recourse to the foolish Creighton model. The United States could simply advise the Cuban government to ignore the claims just as the government of George Washington ignored the claims of dispossessed Tories and Loyalists after the War of Independence.

Or, the United States could negotiate a settlement as it did four
years after the Mexican oil expropriations of 1938. But Cuba is
different. The claims serve a political purpose by remaining

The US refusal to accept the Cuban offer was not based on a consideration of what was good for the claimants but rather on the usefulness of unresolved claims to help justify US Cuba policy and on the value of maintaining a permanent class of angry claimants in Miami who support that policy.

The claims competition game

The appointment in 2002 of Mauricio Tamargo as head of the FCSC
worried lawyers for some of the registered corporate claimants that
he might set up a special program to accept claims from the
Cuban-American category, greatly increasing competition for
compensation from the roughly $270 million in Cuban funds frozen in
the United States since 1963. That suspicion was based on Tamargo's history as a Bush appointee who had worked for 20 years on the staff of the reflexively anti-Castro Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

While Tamargo created no such program, he managed to increase the competition by opening a second round of certification in 2006 at the request of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, 34 years after all
claims were supposed to have been submitted.

Five more claims were certified, but the most important one, which apparently was the reason for Rice's intervention, was that of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide of White Plains, NY. Starwood's claim was based on confiscations in 1968 and 2003 of land and bank accounts in Havana previously owned by Radio Corporation of Cuba, a subsidiary of the International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT).

Starwood acquired ITT's interest in the assets in 1998. "It is extraordinary that a program would be created for a single company," said Robert Muse, an attorney for some of the corporate claimants.[9] But, the real threat to the registered claimants came not from Tamargo's FCSC but from Miami courtrooms.

The frozen-fund raiders

The Eisenhower, Kennedy and subsequent administrations effectively turned matters of sovereign state policy over to private citizens and civil courts in Miami. The Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789, revived in modern times primarily as a tool for redress in human rights cases abroad, was made available to plaintiffs in the United States who could convince a court that they were victimized by a foreign country.

The Anti Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act then
comes into play allowing plaintiffs to argue that their victimization
was the result of state-sponsored terrorism. These two laws were
successfully employed in the Brothers to the Rescue case.[10] In
1997, a Miami court awarded $187 million in compensatory and punitive damages to the families of two pilots of the Miami-based organization who were shot down by Cuban jet fighters the previous year over waters near Cuba.

The award was to be paid from the frozen funds, but the Clinton administration regarded control of the funds as the prerogative of the executive branch and opposed taping into them to satisfy court judgments.

Nevertheless, in 2001, he authorized a $93 million payout from the funds to compensate the families. This was in addition to $1.2 million in US taxpayer funds they were given in 1998.

Later in 2001, Congress legislated further access to the funds
by permitting claimants to collect on compensatory (but not punitive)
damage awards from the frozen funds in cases against countries the
United States declared "rogue states."

In another case, Ana Margarita Martinez won a judgment against Cuba under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. Martinez was the wife of Cuban pilot Juan Pablo Roque, who defected in 1992 and joined the Brothers to the Rescue.

Just before the shootdown in 1996, he turned up on Cuban
television denouncing the Brothers as a terrorist organization. He
denied having been a Cuban agent, but the Martinez suit rested on the official Miami assumption that he was. Martinez based her suit on
allegations that Roque had married her under false pretenses, and
that the Cuban government was therefore an accessory to rape because at the time of the marriage Roque was allegedly working for Cuba.

Technically, she won the settlement as a victim of terrorism and the
court ratified the claim by declaring Roque a spy, a terrorist and an
accessory to murder. In 2001, Martinez was awarded $27 million. In
2003, her lawyers took possession of two Cuban-owned planes that had been hijacked and flown to Key West. Proceeds of $19,000 from the sale of the planes went to Martinez in partial payment of her award. In 2005, Bush authorized a further $198,000 payment from the frozen funds.

Cuba ordered to pay invaders

Various non-property claims arose from cases involving the deaths of US citizens taking part in attempts to overthrow the Cuban
government. In one such case, a Miami court in 2006 awarded $400
million in compensatory and punitive damages in a wrongful death suit against Cuba to the survivors of Robert Fuller, a US citizen who took part in an armed incursion into Cuba and was tried and executed in 1960.

The plaintiffs' brief said that Fuller had "ventured to Cuba in
an effort to protect his family's land, businesses and other
interests." [11] The expedition was actually ordered and outfitted in
Miami by Rolando Masferrer, generally regarded as a
counter-revolutionary terrorist. Fuller and two dozen others aboard
four boats took part in the "venture."

OfficeMax versus dead pilots' daughter

Another case involved CIA contract pilot Thomas Ray, shot down in his B-24 while assisting the US Bay of Pigs invasion force in 1961. He was tried and executed the same year. If there are any Cuban victims of his attack on the town of Central Australia in 1961, they might try suing his daughter Janet Ray Weininger, who won a judgment from a Miami court in 2004.

Using the legal legerdemain cited in various US tort cases against Cuba, they might consider themselves victims of terrorism and try suing the estates of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy.

OfficeMax Inc. tried to block payment to Weininger arguing
that its $267 million claim was the biggest one registered with the
FCSC and should be first in line to get at the frozen funds.
OfficeMax took over a claim from Boise Cascade for the loss of its
interest in the expropriated Cuban Electric Company.

The competition between OfficeMax and Janet Ray Weininger illustrates one of the problems caused by a succession of US administrations surrendering issues of sovereign prerogative to private interests for foreign policy advantage. None of the court awards in these cases was grounded in property claims, which casts doubt on the seriousness of the government's pledges to support the duly registered claimants.

The major legislative remedies Congress made available to plaintiffs
create a kind of closed system, a legal black hole from which nothing
can emerge, as illustrated by the logic of Helms-Burton. It prohibits
resumption of full economic and political relations between Cuba and the United States until the property claims are settled.[12] But
there is a catch: There can be no resolution of the claims until
relations are resumed. That requires the destruction of the Cuban
revolution, for the benefit of which the confiscations were ordered
in the first place.


[1] Executive Summary, Creighton report, Sec.I(A)(2), 09/13/07.
[2] There is also a private Miami-based Cuba Claims Registry
Assistance firm set up 1999. Its purpose is to connect potential
buyers of the claims with the claimants and to scare off potential
investors in the property. El Nuevo Herald, 08/04/99.

[3] Executive Summary, Creighton Report, I (A)(2).

[4] Ibid., Sec.I(D).

[5] Ibid., Sec.I(B).

[6] Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, Title II

[7] Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, Suits
Against Terrorist States by Victims of Terrorism, 06/07/05.

[8] For a full history, see Cuba vs. Blockade,

[9] The Miami Herald, 08/25/05.

[10] Citing the Alien Tort Act, Lawyers in Miami tried to sue
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez alleging he caused the deaths of opposition demonstrators during the failed 2002 coup attempt.
Law.Com, 07/13/03.

[11] Estate of Robert Otis Fuller vs. The Republic of Cuba, Claim
Under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act 2002, In the Circuit of
the 11TH Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Florida,
Cuban Information Archives.

[12] "It is the sense of the Congress that the satisfactory
resolution of property claims by a Cuban Government recognized by the United States remains an essential condition for the full resumption of economic and diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba." Helms-Burton Act, Sec.207 (d).

Thousands Demonstrate Against the War Across the US; Detroit March and Rally Report

Thousands Demonstrate Against the War Across the US

PANW Editor's Note: Yesterday's demonstrations against the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan mobilized thousands of participants. It was stated that the largest marches took place in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

In Detroit, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) organized a local demonstration that marched through the heart of the African-American community on the west side of the city. Marchers gathered at Zussman Playground (in the pouring rain) on West Davison and continued down Dexter to Joy and Linwood, where a rally was held at the Historic New Bethel Baptist Church.

Sandra Hines of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality and a candidate for the Detroit Board of Education in the Fifth District, greeted marchers before they left from Zussman Playground. Hines, who is running a grassroots campaign against a corporate-backed incumbent, has gained the support of MECAWI and other progressive organizations throughout the city.

After arriving at New Bethel rally participants heard numerous speakers talk about the relationship between the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the growing crisis in the state of Michigan. Jerry Goldberg of MECAWI called for Gov. Granholm to evoke her emergency powers under the state constitution to declare an economic state of emergency in order to stop foreclosures. Michigan has one of the highest rates of foreclosures in the country.

Malik Shabazz of the New Marcus Garvey Movement spoke to the audience on the lack of political representation in the current presidential campaigns of both democratric and republican candidates. "As a black nationalist I would like to support Obama, but I cannot," Shabazz declared. Clinton does not represent the interest of black people either."

Debbie Johnson of the Detroit Action Network for Reproductive Rights (DANFORR) discussed the contradictions in the supposed pro-life positions of conservatives who often refuse to support social programs for women and children who need assistance.

A representative of the Green Party of Detroit brought a message of solidarity stating that "we are the only anti-war party that has nationwide ballot status in the United States."

Anti-war activists also spoke from Wyandotte and Ann Arbor. They traveled to Detroit to participant in the demonstrations which focused on both domestic racism as well as the American intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Marchers were greeted in the streets with salutes and honking horns of support. A sound car leading the march projected anti-war slogans along with progressive music. MECAWI activists distributed t-shirts and buttons calling for the ending of racism and the immediate withdrawl of United States troops from Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Colombia.

MECAWI encouraged rally participants to attend their weekly meeting that are held at 5922 Second avenue every Wednesday evening beginning at 7:00pm.

Attached below is an article released on the October 27 demonstration from the Associate Press in San Francisco.

For more information on MECAWI just log on to the following URL:

Thousands Protest Iraq War Across U.S.

Associated Press Writer
12:05 AM EDT, October 28, 2007

Thousands of people called for a swift end to the war in Iraq as they marched through downtown on Saturday, chanting and carrying signs that read: "Wall Street Gets Rich, Iraqis and GIs Die" or "Drop Tuition Not Bombs."

The streets were filled with thousands as labor union members, anti-war activists, clergy and others rallied near City Hall before marching to Dolores Park.

As part of the demonstration, protesters fell on Market Street as part of a "die in" to commemorate the thousands of American soldiers and Iraqi citizens who have died since the conflict began in March 2003.

The protest was the largest in a series of war protests taking place in New York, Los Angeles and other U.S. cities, organizers said.

No official head count was available. Organizers of the event estimated about 30,000 people participated in San Francisco. It appeared that more than 10,000 people attended the march.

"I got the sense that many people were at a demonstration for the first time," said Sarah Sloan, one of the event's organizers. "That's something that's really changed. People have realized the right thing to do is to take to the streets."

In the shadow of the National Constitution Center and Independence Hall in Philadelphia, a few hundred protesters ranging from grade school-aged children to senior citizens called on President Bush to end funding for the war and bring troops home.

Marchers who braved severe wet weather during the walk of more than 30 blocks were met by people lining the sidewalks and clutching a long yellow ribbon over the final blocks before Independence Mall. There, the rally opened with songs and prayers by descendants of Lenape Indians.

"Our signs are limp from the rain and the ground is soggy, but out spirits are high," said Bal Pinguel, of the American Friends Service Committee, one of the national sponsors of the event. "The high price we are paying is the more than 3,800 troops who have been killed in the war in Iraq."

Vince Robbins, 51, of Mount Holly, N.J., said there needed to be more rallies and more outrage.

"Where's the outcry? Where's the horror that almost 4,000 Americans have died in a foreign country that we invaded?" Robbins said. "I'm almost as angry at the American people as I am the president. I think Americans have become apathetic and placid about the whole thing."

In New York, among the thousands marching down Broadway was a man carrying cardboard peace doves. Some others dressed as prisoners, wearing the bright orange garb of Guantanamo Bay inmates and pushing a person in a cage.

Chicago police said about 5,000 people marched through city streets to protest the war.

Police spokeswoman JoAnn Taylor said three protesters were arrested before the march started. They face charges including resisting arrest, failure to obey a police officer, criminal damage to property and aggravated battery to a police officer.

In Seattle, thousands of marchers were led by a small group of Iraq war veterans.

At Occidental Park, where the protesters rallied after the march, the American Friends Service Committee displayed scores of combat boots, one pair for each U.S. solider killed in Iraq.

Associated Press writer Bob Lentz in Philadelphia contributed to this report.