Monday, December 31, 2012

United States Announces Deployment of Additional Forces to 35 African States

United States Announces Deployment of Additional Forces to 35 African States

Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Obama administration’s second term escalates militarism throughout the continent

On December 24, the Obama administration revealed plans to deploy 3,500 troops to nearly three dozen African states to purportedly address a looming “al-Qaeda threat.” The soldiers being dispatched are part of the 2nd Brigade’s Heavy Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division based in Fort Riley, Kansas.

Official reports indicate that the Pentagon forces will operate in small units in conjunction with various governments including Libya, Somalia, Niger, Mali and others. Gen. Carter L. Ham, Commander of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) made it appear as if this is a new initiative on the part of Washington, yet it is a continuation of the ongoing policy that has accelerated under the current administration.

A key figure in this project which the administration says will begin in March, is Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who has served as the Commanding General, III Corps, in addition to later heading the Multi-National Force during the later years of the Iraq occupation.

According to reports emanating from the White House, the military teams will only be involved in training and equipping efforts and cannot engage in direct military combat operations.

In a recent interview Gen. Odierno said “It’s about us moving towards a scalable, tailorable capability that helps them to shape the environment they’re working in, doing a variety of tasks from building partner capability to engagement, to multilateral training to bilateral training to actual deployment of forces, if necessary.” Odierno mentions that the idea for this type of mission came to him while he was commanding U.S. and allied forces in Iraq, an overall operation that lasted for nearly nine years. (Washington Times, December 23)

Despite the claims that this is merely a training operation carried out in conjunction with various African states, the mission, according to Odierno, will represent a different military orientation toward the continent. He claims that “In the past, we just said, ‘Hey, if you need us, call us and we’ll be there,’ but now it’s much more specific.. It’s much more detailed, which gives more confidence to the combatant commanders that, in fact, the people they get will understand their area, will be understanding of the culture, of the physical terrain, of the virtual terrain, of the human terrain that they’ll have to operate in. I think that makes a big difference.”

Such a statement by the former commanding officer in Iraq suggests a more aggressive military role for the Pentagon in Africa. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the same type of rhetoric was feed to the public in regard to the character of the occupations.

Odierno, who has served in the U.S. military since the days of the war against Vietnam and southeast Asia, typifies the imperialist notions that the Pentagon can deeply penetrate the societal cultures in order to win over large segments of various population groups in their efforts to maintain and advance Washington’s aims and objectives. Even though this was the game plan as well in Iraq and Afghanistan, the level of resistance to foreign occupation grew substantially over the period of the Pentagon’s engagements.

Utilizing what the Pentagon calls a “Regionally Aligned Forces” model, it is designed to train and coordinate military structures from the African states in order to attack what the U.S. considers elements operating contrary to its economic and political interests. This effort will also draw in other imperialist-allied states from NATO, including Britain.

British Col. James Learmont, an exchange officer working with the Pentagon on the deployment project, said that “Responsiveness is a pretty key component of this because everybody wants us to be more responsive — in other words, quicker. So what’s happening is you’re finding that we have to be prepared to react to many small-scale potential contingencies, and so by aligning ourselves with combatant commands, it gives them more capability capacity and the ability to respond quicker.” (Washington Times, December 23)

Although the official line is that the U.S. and its NATO allies will not take on direct military offensive operations, Col. Learmont exposes this false characterization by saying “if their combatantcommander does require something that falls into the operationalbandwagon, then we have the facilities to react to that with the approval of the secretary of defense and the Joint Staff.” Consequently, if the mission deems it necessary, there will be actions carried out that are solely dependent upon U.S. capabilities.

Continuation of Existing Policy

With the formation of AFRICOM in 2008, the U.S. has intensified its military interventionist policies in Africa. The war against Libya in 2011 represented the first full-scale AFRICOM operation on the continent.

This operation in Libya resulted in a partnership with NATO and other allied states in the region including Egypt and Qatar. Over the course of the operation, some 26,000 sorties were flown over Libya and some 9,600 air strike were carried out resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of people and the displacement of up to two million Libyans and foreign nationals working and living in the oil-rich state.

Nonetheless, the Libya war has not brought peace and stability to the country and the region. Internal political divisions among the pro-U.S. rebel units and the ongoing resistance by the loyalist forces, has required the escalation of Pentagon and intelligence personnel on the ground.

The attacks on September 11, 2012 that destroyed the so-called U.S. Consulate and annex in Benghazi was a clear indication of the failed nature of the Libya project. The attacks resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and other personnel which included CIA and Navy Seal operatives.

In the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attacks, the Obama administration announced the deployment of at least 50 marines, a team of FBI agents, the dispatching of additional warships in the Mediterrean off the coast of Libya and the placing of more drones over this North African state.

The political fallout in the aftermath of the Libya attacks exposed the administration’s cover-up of the circumstances surrounding the destruction of the U.S. compound. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was forced to take the fall in the subsequent scandal that revealed the false information and characterization promoted by the White House.

In Mali, where a military coup took place in March 2012, the administration through AFRICOM is seeking to deploy regional forces through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in an effort to supposedly curtail and eliminate al-Qaeda linked groups operating in the north of the country which has been effectively partitioned by Tuareg elements divided between nationalists and Islamists. However, the Malian government had maintained agreements with the Pentagon for several years leading up to the coup which involved joint-training and war games.

The U.S. military cooperation with the Malian armed forces did not provide the capacity for the government to halt the Tuareg insurgency in the north or to prevent the coup. Additional Pentagon intervention can only lead to further instability.

Somalia has been a battleground for U.S. military forces for the last two decades when in 1992 the Pentagon under the presidency of George Bush, Sr. deployed 12,000 marines in what was called “Operation Restore Hope.” In a matter of months, the country was mobilized in an anti-occupation resistance war that led to the deaths of U.S. troops and thousands of Somalians.

Both U.S. military forces and U.N. troops were withdrawn under the administration of Bill Clinton. Nevertheless, U.S. intervention in Somalia has continued and intensified over the last six years through the deployment of Ethiopian troops, a staunch ally of Washington, in 2006 and in more recent years with the occupation by the African Union Mission to the Somalia (AMISOM), and the Kenya Defense Forces since 2011.

At present over 17,000 African troops allied with the Pentagon and the CIA are occupying Somalia. This as well has not fully stabilized the Horn of Africa state.

On December 30, the Obama administration announced that it was deploying 50 troops to Chad in order to assist in the evacuation of U.S. personnel from neighboring Central African Republic (CAR) now undergoing a civil war against the government of President Francois Bozize. The CAR had already been targeted for U.S. intervention in October 2011 when the White House anounced the dispatching of Special Forces and advisors to ostensibly assist in the tracking down of members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the rebel group started in northern Uganda, a close ally of Washington. (Press TV, December 30)

In the October 2011 deployments, four states were targeted: the CAR, Uganda, South Sudan and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). All of these states have natural resources that are key to the U.S. and world capitalist system and this is the underlying reason behind the escalation in Pentagon and CIA involvement on the continent.

Imperialism in Crisis

The continuing economic malaise in the capitalist countries is compelling the imperialists in their interventionist polices in Africa. Led by the U.S., France, the British and other NATO states, are escalating their involvement to secure oil and other strategic resources which are in abundance throughout all regions of the continent.

Also the growing role of the People’s Republic of China in their economic partnership agreements with various African states is perceived by Washington and its allies as a threat to imperialist interests. The Conferenece on China-Africa Cooperation founded in 2000, has held five summit meetings with the most recent taking place in Beijing during 2012.

China is the largest trading partner with the African Union bloc and this cooperation is poised to grow over the coming period. Africa, impacted severely by the global crisis, will continue to be a battleground for the West in their futile efforts aimed at maintaining economic, military and political dominance.

These developments require the intervention of the anti-war and peace movements based in the U.S. The United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC), the largest and most representative of the anti-interventionist alliances, will be issuing a statement opposing the most recent Pentagon initiatives in Africa.

UNAC has held two national conferences that have drawn huge participation from throughout the U.S. and internationally since 2010. A mass demonstration in 2011 in New York City against the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and Iraq attracted thousands.

It was UNAC that called and led the anti-NATO demonstrations that attracted 15,000 people to Chicago during the military alliance’s summit during May 2012. The organization is seeking to hold a national campaign against drones in 2013 as a continuation of its participation in a delegation to Pakistan during 2012 aimed at building solidarity with the peoples of Central Asia in their fight against U.S. imperialist intervention.

Mai Mai Militia Wants to Join DRC Peace Talks

Mai Mai militia wants to join Congo peace talks

Tue Jan 1, 2013 12:56AM GMT

The Mai Mai militia of eastern Congo says they should also be included in the peace talks between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government and the March 23 (M23) rebel movement.

"The Mai Mai have several well-founded demands… We want to be and should be part of the talks," Joseph Assanda, who represents 11 Mai Mai groups based in South Kivu province, said on Monday, AFP reported.

The DRC government and the M23 movement have been holding peace talks in the Ugandan capital Kampala since early December. However, the talks were suspended on December 21, after the parties failed to agree on an agenda.

But the two sides agreed to resume negotiations in January after the New Year holidays.

The Kampala talks have been focusing on a 2009 accord that applied to dozens of armed groups operating in the eastern DRC and was meant to end a violent rebellion in the mineral-rich region that sucked in neighboring Uganda and Rwanda.

"We are Congolese, and the agreement was signed in (DR) Congo. We want talks that will include us to take part in Congo," Assanda added.

The Mai Mai militia groups are indigenous to the region and insist that they are Congo’s true patriots. Since the 1990s, the Mai Mai fighters have forged and broken alliances with a variety of domestic and foreign government and guerilla groups in a country that has experienced interminable cycles of violence for nearly 15 years.

Since early May, over 900,000 people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. Most of them have resettled in Congo, but tens of thousands have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.

Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.

Detroit Economic Crisis: More Layoffs Mean Fewer City Services, Unions Say

December 31, 2012 at 1:00 am

More layoffs mean fewer city services, unions say

Mayor Dave Bing's plan to cut work force will lower costs, but still hurt taxpayers, they say

By Darren A. Nichols
The Detroit News

Detroit — As the city struggles to stay financially solvent, the looming threat of employee furlough days and layoffs means Detroit soon may be unable to deliver basic services, employees and union leaders warn.

The city, which faces a deficit as high as $113 million by June 30, is working to restructure itself under a consent deal with the state.

But even with the infusion of millions in anticipated bond funds over the next few weeks, Mayor Dave Bing has said the city's work force must be reduced to reflect the reality of a plummeting population.

Leamon Wilson, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 312, said the city is operating with at least 100 fewer bus mechanics than it did about a year go.

He worries that with another round of layoffs, there won't be enough employees to keep the bus fleet running. The result is the fleet will get smaller and buses will not run on time.

"You can't deliver the service. It's crippled already," said Wilson, who represents the city's bus mechanics. His union had about 240 mechanics a year ago and now has 140. "It was already functioning at a bare minimum. I don't see how anything is going to be functioning."

Bing is in the process of implementing 400 to 500 layoffs in departments across the city. Officials are combing departments to determine exactly where the personnel will come from. If implemented, they could take effect sometime in February.

Bing spokesman Robert Warfield said because the list of layoffs is still being compiled, it's too early to assess the impact.

Bing called for the layoffs while in a dispute with the City Council over the stalled Miller Canfield contract. Bing initially said that if the contract was not approved, the city would need to implement the layoffs and institute furlough days to offset the $30 million it was expected to lose in state bond funding.

Two weeks later, officials backtracked and said they needed the layoffs to reduce the deficit. The state released $10 million last week.

Cutting jobs may not work

The Bing administration has been criticized by council members and others for its reluctance to pare the work force. But it has followed through on the nearly 2,500 jobs cuts called for in this year's budget.

Since November 2011, Detroit has dropped from 11,898 to 9,898 employees, according to a report delivered to the Financial Advisory Board earlier this month. That includes a drop of about 900 city employees in the last five months. The moves save about $58 million, officials said.

Sally Petrella, who lives on the west side, is bracing for the cuts she said will only make Detroit's situation worse. Petrella wants to see a more regional approach to delivering services, similar to how the Detroit Zoo and the Detroit Institute of Arts operate.

"I'm extremely concerned," she said. "It's already very difficult to get a police officer when any sort of crime occurs, and this will certainly worsen the problem. Layoffs are going to cause more problems with residents with any sort of services. The city is stretched so thin to provide services for residents."

Political analyst Steve Hood acknowledges there may be fat on the city's employment rolls, but he is hesitant to say slashing another 500 jobs is the answer. Cutting more employees is putting the city "in a death spiral" because each person is a taxpayer at a time when revenue is at a premium, he said.

Hood instead said he would prefer the City Council go part-time. He also suggested conducting an operational audit to determine which areas should be cut, and other alternatives such as collecting garbage once a week and even shutting down all city operations a few days a week.

"Less pay is better than having (city employees) be totally out of work," said Hood, whose brother and father served on the Detroit City Council. "Let's do anything than put them totally out of work.

"You can only cut so far, and they may be at that point. If you have fewer people, you have (less) money to deal with. (By cutting workers), you cut money flowing throughout the city."

Union leaders criticize Bing

Greg Murray, a longtime City Hall critic and former union leader, said layoffs will cause a brain drain because the people who are leaving are the most experienced and know the nuances of city government.

"The debt gets serviced and the residents don't," said Murray, former vice president of the Senior Accountants, Analysts and Appraisers Association. He was laid off from his job last fall.

"This is a formula that is affecting the quality of life for Detroit residents. Dave Bing's legacy will be a dismantling of vital services that Detroiters need. He's strangling the bureaucracy by getting rid of people," he said.

"The further decline of the city's efficiencies gives the state more reason to interfere. It's a recipe for increased state intervention."

City Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown, a longtime proponent of the job cuts, has called for a better use of technology and training so services are delivered in a more efficient way. He believes there are enough people to deliver services, but services must be prioritized and employees properly managed.

The city needs to revamp "every department in city government on top of prioritizing the services (the city) is going to deliver," Brown said. "We're not shedding bodies because we want to; we're shedding bodies because we have to. We need to restructure our departmental functions and their processes so they will be able to deliver service with less people. We have to figure out how to deliver it more efficiently."

Meanwhile, city union leaders in Detroit continue to bristle over the Bing administration's decision not to implement tentative concessions approved last spring they say would have saved some $180 million.

The deal included hiring about 90 employees who would go after uncollected revenue owed to Detroit. It included about $28 million in parking and traffic tickets. Union leaders said about $80 million is outstanding in other areas, including false burglar alarms and code and blight violations.

Bing recently announced an initiative to go after uncollected revenue without hiring union workers. The proposal included creating an amnesty program for delinquent income tax debtors and recouping more unpaid city fees.

'A retaliatory mayor'

Most of the ideas had been part of the tentative agreements with the unions. The proposals were never implemented and city and state leaders decided to impose contracts under the terms of the consent agreement.

"I don't want to even respond to (Bing's) threats of layoffs," said Catherine Phillips, lead negotiator for AFSCME, the city's largest union.

"He's going to lay off anyway. He's a retaliatory mayor. This is a dictatorship from Lansing to Detroit. Folks ought to be pressuring him (to ask) what happened to the $180 million in savings. Why are you not dealing with that?"

(313) 222-2073

From The Detroit News:

DPRK Celebrates New Year, Scientific Accomplishments

Tuesday, Jan 1, 2013 1:00 AM UTC

NKorea’s Kim wants better living standards, arms

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says his people must pursue economic improvement with the same urgency scientists put into the launch of a long-range rocket last month.

Kim said in a speech Tuesday that boosting living standards is the new year’s most important task. But he’s also calling for the development of more advanced weapons.

North Korea struggles to grow enough food for its 24 million people.

Last year saw plunging inter-Korean ties, the collapse of a U.S.-North Korean food-aid-for-nuclear-freeze deal and two North Korean long-range rocket launches that Washington and others called covers for banned ballistic missile tests.

Kim took over after his father Kim Jong Il’s Dec. 17, 2011, death.

He also called for a “revolution” in science and technology and more amusement parks.

Choe Yong Rim Visits Lodgings of Contributors to Satellite Launch

Pyongyang, December 27 (KCNA) -- DPRK Premier Choe Yong Rim Thursday visited the lodgings of scientists, technicians, workers and officials who contributed to the successful launch of satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2.

He warmly congratulated the space conquerors of thriving Korea who successfully launched the scientific and technological satellite this year marking the centenary of birth of President Kim Il Sung true to the behests of General Secretary Kim Jong Il.

The successful launch of Kwangmyongsong 3-2 is a special event which demonstrated the overall national power of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il's Korea before the world, he said.

He said that scientists, technicians, workers and officials should continue to display their loyalty and repay to the respected Marshal Kim Jong Un in the future, too, not forgetting even a moment his great benevolence.

He asked them to make positive contributions to demonstrating the might of space power over the world by steadily achieving great successes in science and technology with their tireless study and enthusiasm.

Iraq Attacks Death Toll Reaches 22 In One Day

Iraq attacks death toll reaches 22 in one day

Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:15PM GMT

Nearly two dozen people have been killed and over 80 others wounded in a wave of attacks in several cities and towns in Iraq, police and medical sources say.

A total of 15 shootings and bomb attacks struck 13 cities and towns across the country on Monday. At least 22 people were killed.

Three women, two children and two men were killed and four others were wounded in bombings targeting three houses in the town of Mussayib, south of the capital, Baghdad.

A roadside bomb in Kirkuk killed five policemen.

Four people died in a car bombing in Baghdad. One person was killed in Latifiyah and another died in an attack in Tuz Khurmatu.

Attacks in the cities of Hilla and Mosul killed two people each.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Bombings and shootings have recently intensified across Iraq.

On December 24, at least 48 people were killed and over 110 others wounded in similar attacks targeting both security guards and civilians across the country, marking the deadliest day in Iraq since November 29, when at least 50 people lost their lives.

The Iraqi government has stepped up efforts to increase security across the country over the past few months.

Attacks kill 16 across Iraq as sectarian tensions grow

From Mohammed Lazim , For CNN
Mon December 31, 2012

Iraqis throw stones after protesters attacked Iraq's deputy premier Saleh al-Mutlak on Sunday, December 30.

Baghdad (CNN) -- At least 16 people were killed and dozens were injured in attacks across Iraq Monday amid an apparent uptick in sectarian tensions.

Most of the attacks targeted Shiites, including bomb blasts that injured pilgrims traveling to shrines just days before a religious celebration.

Four Shia pilgrims were killed and six were injured when a car bomb exploded in Baghdad's Karrada district, Iraq's Interior Ministry said.

And four Shia pilgrims were injured when three car bombs exploded simultaneously in the town of Balad Rouz, said Muthana Altimimi, head of the security and defense committee in Diyala province.

Thursday will mark 40 days after Ashura, which commemorates the death of the Prophet Mohammed's grandson. Shiite pilgrims often mark the occasion by traveling to shrines.

Violence also erupted outside Baghdad. Seven people were killed and four were injured after their houses were bombed in the city of Mussyab, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of the Iraqi capital, the Interior Ministry said. It was unclear who was responsible for the blast or why the houses were targeted.

Monday's attacks come amid rising sectarian tensions, as tens of thousands of Sunni demonstrators nationwide protest what they say is second-class treatment by Iraq's Shiite-led government.

Sunnis largely boycotted Iraq's 2005 elections, leading to the emergence of a Shiite-led government. The move left the once-ruling minority disaffected, which contributed to years of bloody insurgency and sectarian warfare.

The arrest of a group of bodyguards for Iraq's Sunni finance minister fueled a surge in protests last week in Ramadi, about 110 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, and in several other Iraqi cities.

At least five people were injured Sunday when bodyguards for a top Iraqi official opened fire on stone-throwing Sunni demonstrators, the country's Interior Ministry said.

The clashes broke out after Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, who is Sunni, arrived to address crowds protesting in a plaza in Ramadi.

In the wake of the protests, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has defended his government.

"Nobody in Iraq has privilege over others," he said Friday, calling for increased dialogue.

"When we want to express an opinion, we have to do it in a civilized, humane and patriotic manner," he said. "It is not expected to express your opinion by cutting off roads, steering strife and sectarianism, fighting, bragging about wars and dividing Iraq."

CNN's Yousuf Basil and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report from Atlanta.

'Grevious' U.S. Mistake to Have Kept Open Libya Outpost

‘Grievous’ U.S. Mistake to Have Kept Open Libya Outpost

By David Lerman - Dec 31, 2012

The State Department failed to fill a “security gap” at the U.S. mission in Benghazi before the Sept. 11 attack even though it knew the Libyan government was incapable of protecting the compound, a Senate report said today.

The report by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said the State Department failed to meet staffing requests from its own security personnel and made the “grievous mistake” of not closing the Benghazi compound at least temporarily because of growing threats.

“The system was in fact flashing red in Libya and Benghazi” before the attack, said Senator Joseph Lieberman, the committee chairman, at a news conference today. U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack on the mission compound and a nearby annex.

The Democrat-turned-independent lawmaker from Connecticut, who is retiring from the Senate, said the reaction from the U.S. government to the security situation in Benghazi before the attack “was woefully inadequate to the dangers the flashing light was indicating.”

The report is largely consistent with the criticism of an independent review panel appointed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. That panel, in a Dec. 18 report, found the State Department had “grossly inadequate” security in Benghazi and must correct “systemic failures” in the protection of diplomats.

‘Insufficient Assets’

Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the committee’s ranking Republican, said the Defense Department couldn’t have responded with military forces in time to the initial attack that resulted in the death of Stevens and information specialist Sean Smith.

Yet Collins questioned why U.S. troops couldn’t have responded in time to the second attack at a CIA annex that occurred several hours later. That attack killed two former Navy SEALs, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, who were working as security personnel.

Collins said the Pentagon “has insufficient assets to respond to attacks of this type.”

The committee’s report calls for the Defense Department to station more troops and other assets “within range on land and sea to protect and defend both Americans and our allies on the African continent.”

‘Mid-Level Managers’

Clinton, who is in the hospital for a blood clot related to a concussion she suffered, has agreed to testify to Congress on the Benghazi security lapses in January.

Lieberman said there was no evidence of “direct responsibility by Secretary Clinton” for the security lapses. Echoing the finding of the independent review panel, Lieberman said, “It stopped, as far as we can see, at the mid-level managers.”

An assistant secretary in charge of diplomatic security resigned from that post and three other officials were placed on administrative leave in the wake of the investigation, the State Department said Dec. 19.

Collins said it’s “likely there are others that do need to be held accountable,” though she said that decision should rest with Clinton.

The report also faults the Obama administration for giving “inconsistent” descriptions of the attack when it was clear to the intelligence community “from the beginning” that it was a terrorist act.

Initial “talking points” drafted by intelligence officials that were used in the initial days following the attack described the event as a spontaneous protest that spiraled out of control. Lieberman said the intelligence community should no longer be responsible for drafting unclassified “talking points” that other administration officials might use.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Lerman in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at

Egypt Foreign Ministry Denounces Libya Coptic Church Bombing

Aswat Masriya (Cairo)

Egypt: Foreign Minister Denounces Libya Coptic Church Bombing

30 December 2012

Egypt's Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr on Sunday denounced the bombing of a Coptic Orthodox church's service centre in Libya's Mesrata late Saturday.

Two Egyptians working at the church were killed while two others were wounded.

Amr extended his condolences to the families of the victims.

Mohamed Sawan, head of the Libyan Justice and Construction Party which represents the country's Muslim Brotherhood, condemned the boming as well and expressed the party's outrage over the attack.

There are no tensions which could possibly justify such actions, Sawan said.

At a press conference held on Sunday evening, Sawan held the Libyan government accountable for the attack and urged it to find the perpetrators.

Consul of the Egyptian Embassy in Tripoli headed to Mesrata once the embassy was notified of the bombing, the ministry's spokesman Amr Roshdi said.

The consul met with Morkos Zaghloul, the church's priest, as well as security bodies in the city, Roshdi added.

Bomb Hits Prosecutor's Office in Libyan City of Benghazi

Bomb hits prosecutor's office in Libya's Benghazi

31 December 2012 1321 hrs (SST)

BENGHAZI, Libya: An improvised bomb exploded outside the headquarters of the public prosecutor in the Libyan city of Benghazi causing material damage but no fatalities, a security source said Monday.

"Initial evidence suggests the device was a suitcase packed with high yield explosives (TNT)," an investigator at the scene told AFP, adding that there were no casualties.

The overnight blast marked the third attack on the site in 2012, he said.

It damaged the front of the recently renovated building, which once held the people's court, a special tribunal created by the former regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi to crack down on opponents, particularly Islamists.

The bomb also punched a hole in the ground and shattered the glass of adjacent vehicles and properties.

December marked a tumultuous month for Benghazi, cradle of the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled the Gaddafi regime and ended in the killing of one of the region's veteran dictators.

A spate of attacks targeting police stations claimed the lives of seven officers this month and pushed the chief of staff to send reinforcements to bolster security there.

In 2012, Libya's second city witnessed a series of assassinations targeting security officials and judges, many of whom had served under the previous regime.

Benghazi has also emerged as a hub for jihadist groups, including militants who killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in a September 11 attack on the US consulate.

In a separate incident late Saturday, an explosion rocked a Coptic church near the city of Misrata, killing two Egyptians and wounding two others, according to local and diplomatic sources.

Egypt Opposition Leader Sabbahi Says Constitution Lost Its Legitimacy

Opposition leader Sabbahi says Egypt's constitution lost its legitimacy

Former presidential candidate Sabbahi accepts the results of the referendum on the constitution, but says any charter that divides the nation cannot claim legitimacy

Salvation Front will continue fight against constitution: Spokesperson

Ahram Online

Hamdeen Sabbahi, a leading member of the National Salvation Front (NSF), says he accepts the results of Egypt's referendum on the constitution, but adds that the newly-ratified constitution lost its legitimacy.

"This is the opinion of the Egyptian population, although I have reservations about the fraud and violations witnessed during the referendum's first and second stage," the former presidential candidate told Kuwaiti paper Al-Seyassah.

"But the constitution has lost its legitimacy because it has separated the people into two teams after the revolution unified them," he added.

The contentious constitution was approved by President Mohamed Morsi late Tuesday. The Supreme Electoral Commission announced that nearly 64 per cent of voters in the recent referendum had endorsed the national charter.

Opposition groups have been saying that the constitution lacks national consensus, describing it as "unrepresentative."

The Islamist-led Constituent Assembly, which was tasked with drafting the constitution, saw walkouts by church representatives, liberals, leftists and others in protest at Islamist members' demeanour, saying they had been trying to suppress many freedoms, among other complaints.

No dialogue

Early this month, Morsi invited the opposition, led by the NSF, to a dialogue in order to reach national consensus before the referendum. The NSF and other opposition groups, however, turned him down, arguing that such a meeting would be "pointless."

During a recent speech, Morsi once again invited the opposition to a dialogue in order to reach an agreement over contentious articles in the constitution.

For his part, Sabbahi remains resolute not to engage in such a meeting, saying: "We have responded to his invitation once, and attended his meetings and nothing has changed."

He added: "Any national dialogue must be conducted on a certain basis to be successful; it must have an agenda, and include all national forces so as no decision would be made without the involvement of a certain category of people."

Egypt Economic Update: Pound Falls to the Dollar; Crisis Looms Over Currency Depreciation

Egypt pound falls to 6.36 to US dollar

Ahram Online, Sunday 30 Dec 2012

New currency regime aimed at conserving reserves sees Egyptian pound fall to an eight year low Sunday afternoon

The Egyptian pound plummeted to an eight year low against the US dollar on Sunday afternoon, following a currency auction in which the Central Bank sold $75 million to local banks.

The dollar is currently priced to customers at LE6.365 plus a 2 per cent administrative fee, one banker told Ahram Online, Sunday.

At a maiden foreign currency auction on Sunday morning, the Central Bank sold US dollars to banks at a cut-off price of LE6.2425.

The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) had announced earlier on Sunday several procedures to preempt a looming foreign currency crisis, including putting a limit on corporate cash withdrawals at $30,000 per day, Reuters reported.

It also placed a two per cent administrative fee on individuals who purchase foreign currencies.

"The new fee is curbing the demand on the US dollar a little bit, but a lot of people are coming to buy it at any price," a bank manager in downtown Cairo said.

The local currency is currently trading at a price between LE6.32 to LE6.38 in banks and currency exchange shops. The previous low for the pound, in October 2004, was about 6.26 to the dollar.

Egypt's currency market has been prey to uncertainty since a $4.8 billion loan with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was postponed earlier in December. Rumors about a looming crisis and possibilities of Egypt 'going bankrupt' have prompted individuals to rush to exchange offices to buy up the hard currency.

The frenzy is augmented by the fact that Egypt's net international reserves, which have helped keep the exchange market stable since January 2011, currently stand at $15.03 billion.

The CBE said on Saturday it was introducing the new exchange regime to conserve foreign reserves, which it said had fallen to a critically low level.

The new regulations also put a limit on the amount of US dollars banks can hold. Under the new rules, Egyptians banks are not allowed to hold long positions in US dollars of more than one per cent of their capital.

EFG-Hermes, the largest investment bank in Egypt and the Middle East, published a report on 19 December expecting the pound to drop by the end of 2013 and reach 6.6 to the dollar.

Egypt Central Bank announces new procedures on foreign currency

Reuters and Ahram Online, Sunday 30 Dec 2012

Egypt's Central Bank places a $30,000 daily foreign-currency withdrawal cap on corporates, charges extra fees on currency exchange for individuals

The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) announced on Sunday several procedures to preempt a looming foreign currency crisis, including putting a limit on corporate cash withdrawals at $30,000 per day, Reuters reported.

The new regulations also put a limit on the amount of US dollars banks can hold. Under the new rules, Egyptians banks are not allowed to hold long positions in US dollars of more than one per cent of their capital.

The Central Bank will place a one to two per cent administrative fee on individuals who purchase foreign currencies.

The CBE is offering $75 million at its first foreign currency auction on Sunday, with a maximum $11 million per bank.

The auction is part of a new currency regime the bank announced on Saturday to conserve its foreign reserves, which it said have fallen to a critical level.

Egypt gov't launches 'economic development' initiative

Ahram Online, Sunday 30 Dec 2012

Prime Minister Hisham Qandil sets economic goals, invites societal and opposition figures to an 'economic development dialogue'

An initiative aimed at tackling Egypt's key economic challenges and promoting dialogue between all societal factions and political forces is to be launched in a series of "societal dialogues," announced Prime Minister Hisham Qandil at a press conference Sunday.

"Our top economic priorities today are to achieve social justice, fight rising unemployment, end corruption, promote investments and revive the tourism sector," said Ashraf El-Arabi, minister of economic cooperation.

Overcoming economic challenges will only happen if society as a whole takes a unified stand and addresses the same economic concerns: this is the goal of the initiative, said Qandil.

"The initiative is not solely addressed at economic experts and academic research centres. We invite the opposition to an open dialogue on the country's economy, and we believe in their patriotic intentions and good faith," Qandil stated.

Qandil underlined that the economy's structural problems need to be addressed with swift reforms that sometimes can be perceived as harsh and burdensome on citizens, but are nonetheless prerequisites to fight chronic deficiencies such as the budget deficit.

The "economic development" initiative comes in light of President Morsi's speech Saturday before the newly reconstituted upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, where he announced that the government would set up a new state body, the Council on Economic Development. The new body would be tasked with restarting Egypt's economy, reaching higher growth rates and curbing public debt.

Egypt to resume talks with IMF in January, currency will not be floated: PM

Ahram Online, Sunday 30 Dec 2012

January will see new talks with the IMF over a $4.8 billion loan, says Prime Minister Hisham Qandil

Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil announced Sunday that talks with the International Monetary Fund will be resumed in January over the $4.8 billion loan, which was suspended due to political tensions that followed the presidential constitutional decree in November.

Qandil was speaking at a Cabinet press conference, denying rumours about the devaluation of the Egyptian pound, especially after it reached its lowest value, recording 6.36 to the US dollar.

"The Central Bank of Egypt can handle the monetary policy of the state and it will never allow the local currency to be floated," Qandil commented.

Speaking on recent tax hikes that were immediately rescinded, the prime minister assured, “The new taxes will not touch vital and basic commodities such as fuel and bread. I want to reassure Egyptians that there is no governmental intention to increase fuel prices in the coming period.”

The prime minister stated that 5.2 million households received natural gas between 1982 (when natural has was first introduced domestically) until 2012. The government plans to deliver natural gas to a further 750,000 households by the end of 2013 in order to reach two million units by July 2014.

Natural gas is the alternative to butane cylinders, which saw several shortages over the last year. According to Qandil, natural gas pipelines will save Egypt roughly LE1.2 billion ($19 million).

Turning to political matters,Qandil refused to give details on an awaited ministerial shuffle.

Egypt starts currency auctions to boost foreign reserve levels

Reuters and Ahram Online
Saturday 29 Dec 2012

Egypt's Central Bank announced Saturday it would implement currency auctions as reserves reach critical levels

Egypt's Central Bank has introduced a new auction system for buying and selling US dollars to help conserve foreign reserves, which it says have reached a critical level.

Political turmoil over the last month has prompted a rush by investors and ordinary citizens to switch their Egyptian pounds into foreign currency on concerns that the government might devalue the pound or bring in capital controls.

The Central Bank has spent more than $20 billion in foreign reserves to support the pound since a popular uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak in early 2011. Political turmoil has chased away tourists and foreign investors since.

Reserves fell by $448 million in November to $15.04 billion, enough to cover only three months of imports, and bankers said the rush to buy dollars was certain to have drained foreign reserves even further in December. The Central Bank is expected to report December figures in the first week of January.

"The current level of foreign currency reserves represents the minimum and critical limit," the Central Bank said on its website Saturday.

"This requires their being conserved for critical uses, as represented in fulfilling foreign debt obligations to preserve Egypt's reputation in international financial markets, and to cover imports of strategic commodities," it added.

The new system will take effect Sunday, 30 December, and run alongside and not affect the current interbank currency market, the Central Bank said.

It added the auctions would be held regularly and that banks would be asked to submit bids, but gave few other details.

Egypt said it would continue to meet instalments and interest payments on its foreign debt and allow transfers by foreigners who had invested on the stock exchange.

The Central Bank said the banking system's finances remained "strong and secure," but called on Egyptians to "rationalise their use" of foreign currency and not to speculate.

Egypt Readies for Backlash Over Austerity

Egypt readies for backlash over austerity measures

By Abigail Hauslohner
Sunday, December 30, 4:59 PM

CAIRO — Egypt’s government is readying itself for the potential political fallout of impending austerity measures as it seeks to guarantee a badly needed $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund next month.

As the Egyptian pound hit a record low Sunday, Prime Minister Hesham Kandil told reporters that the loan might be the only way out of Egypt’s economic crisis.

Kandil’s comments came one day after Egypt’s central bank implemented a new system of buying and selling dollars, which it said would slow the depletion of the country’s dwindling foreign-currency reserves. Egypt is facing a rising budget deficit and mounting public frustration two years after popular demands for more jobs, economic equality and social justice led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

In a speech Saturday before the upper house of parliament, President Mohamed Morsi urged Egyptians to accept coming reforms and get on board with “stability” after a month of political unrest.

But the reforms will be no easy sell. Economists say there will be little gain without pain in the Arab world’s largest country, where about 40 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day per person.

And many say the government is running out of time. Political turmoil since Mubarak’s overthrow has caused revenue from tourism and foreign investment to plummet. Egypt has more than halved its foreign-currency reserves to keep up with debt and budget obligations.

Egyptian officials say they are on track to sign the IMF loan by the end of January. But meeting the IMF’s expectations in the weeks ahead will be no less challenging than they were earlier this month, when preliminary plans to sign the deal were derailed by political unrest.

The government requested a delay as mass protests against a ratified constitution flared into violence.

An attempt to introduce spending cuts and tax reforms during the crisis was almost immediately shelved, underscoring the dis­order that the government’s critics, and even some of its officials, say has prevailed in the upper ranks of Egypt’s recently elected Islamist government.

Government officials said the tax increases on income and key commodities, including gas and cement, would be reintroduced in time.

“We need to explain the economic facts to the people, and we need to explain that these [measures] will spare the poor and will only affect the rich,” said Mohamed Gouda, who heads the economic committee of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, which advises Morsi on economic policy. “If we can convey that, then the people will cooperate with any procedures that we take.”

The IMF loan will not cover Egypt’s $21.6 billion deficit, but economists say it will open the door to more loans and give Morsi’s administration a boost of credibility in international markets.

“If we don’t get the IMF, it will discourage a lot of potential donors,” said Hazem el-Beblawi, who recently served as Egypt’s finance minister. The IMF did not respond to a request for comment Sunday.

The crisis comes at a critical time for Egyptian politics. The constitutional crisis expanded and embittered political opposition to Morsi and his Islamist allies, and opponents say they are prepared to continue their fight as the country heads into parliamentary elections two months away.

Public anger has risen alongside prices and unemployment over the past two years, and many Egyptians say the revolution’s demands have been ignored by the country’s new leadership. Rumors of an impending plunge in the pound’s value led to a rush on banks and a shortage of U.S. dollars.

Morsi’s government has been at pains to play down the crisis, blaming the dollar shortage on political tumult and rumors spread by the opposition.

In his address Saturday, Morsi urged Egyptians to avoid further political unrest and denounced rumors of looming bankruptcy.

Kandil, making the case for loans Sunday, compared the country’s budget situation to a family that has been spending well beyond its means.

Economists say the analogy is apt, but the problems, rooted in decades of corrupt authoritarian rule, will take years to address.

Mubarak cultivated a bloated bureaucracy and national subsidy system while allowing government cronies to profit off selective privatization measures during the latter years of his rule. The patronage and subsidies kept swathes of the population quiet but did not create basic safety nets for the public at large, which rebelled as inflation and unemployment grew.

“There is the need for some serious and probably painful reforms,” said Mohamed El Dahshan, a Harvard University researcher and lecturer on development economics at Cairo’s Ain Shams University. “On the other hand, you have a people that has been suffering for the past decade from a policy that has been very pro-market, without any social aspect.”

Government officials and Brotherhood economists say they have discussed ways to cushion the blow by creating a welfare database and refining the distribution of subsidies so that only the poor benefit. But officials have not presented a detailed plan and time frame.

The potential for political backlash, particularly from the middle and lower classes that economists say are likely to feel the immediate blow, has opened an opportunity for the political opposition.

Some opposition leaders have argued against the IMF loan and any associated austerity measures as policies that would invariably work against the social justice demands of Egypt’s 2011 revolution.

The last serious effort to cut bread subsidies sparked nationwide riots in 1977.

Kandil on Sunday called on Egyptians to participate in a “national dialogue” on the economic program in the coming days.

“Our options to cover this deficit are limited because it is a cumulative problem, and therefore we are trying to take fast, quick decisions,” Kandil said.

Sharaf al-Hourani and Ingy Hassieb contributed to this report.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Venezuelan President Chavez Suffers From 'New Complications' After Surgery

Hugo Chávez suffers from 'new complications' after surgery

Vice president Nicolas Maduro tells Venezuelan people the president's health is delicate following cancer operation

Associated Press in Caracas, Sunday 30 December 2012 21.47 EST

Hugo Chávez has suffered "new complications" following his cancer surgery in Cuba, his vice president said, describing the Venezuelan leader's condition as delicate.

Vice president Nicolas Maduro delivered a solemn televised address from Havana, saying he had spoken with Chávez and that the president sent greetings to his homeland. Maduro did not give details about the complications, which he said came amid a respiratory infection.

"Several minutes ago we were with president Chávez. We greeted each other and he himself referred to these complications," Maduro said, reading from a prepared statement. Maduro was seated alongside Chávez's eldest daughter, Rosa, and son-in-law Jorge Arreaza, as well as attorney-general Cilia Flores.

The vice president's comments suggest an increasingly difficult fight for the ailing president. The Venezuelan leader has not been seen or heard from since undergoing his fourth cancer-related surgery on 11 December, and government officials have said he might not return in time for his scheduled 10 January inauguration for a new six-year term.

"The president gave us precise instructions so that, after finishing the visit, we would tell the (Venezuelan) people about his current health condition," Maduro said. "President Chávez's state of health continues to be delicate, with complications that are being attended to, in a process not without risks."

Maduro held up a copy of a newspaper confirming that his message was recorded on Sunday.

"Thanks to his physical and spiritual strength, Comandante Chávez is facing this difficult situation," Maduro said.

Maduro said he had met various times with Chávez's medical team and relatives. He said he would remain in Havana "for the coming hours" but didn't specify how long.

Maduro, who arrived in Havana on Saturday for a sudden and unexpected trip, is the highest ranking Venezuelan official to visit Chávez since the surgery.

Before Chávez left for Cuba, he acknowledged risks in the operation and designated Maduro as his successor, telling supporters they should vote for the vice president if a new presidential election was necessary.

Chávez said his cancer had come back despite previous surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. He has been fighting an undisclosed type of pelvic cancer since June 2011.

Maduro's latest update differed markedly from last Monday, when he had said he received a phone call from the president and that Chávez was up and walking.

The vice president spoke on Sunday below a picture of 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar, the inspiration of Chávez's leftist Bolivarian Revolution movement.

Maduro expressed faith that Chávez's "immense will to live and the care of the best medical specialists will help our president successfully fight this new battle." He concluded his message saying: "Long live Chávez."

Bomb at Egyptian Coptic Church in Libya Kills Two

Bomb at Egyptian-Run Church in Libya Kills 2

By By ESAM MOHAMED Associated Press
TRIPOLI, Libya December 30, 2012 (AP)

Egypt's Foreign Ministry says an explosion at an Egyptian Coptic church in Libya's third largest city, Misrata, has killed two people and wounded two others.

The statement by the Foreign Ministry says Sunday's explosion killed two Egyptian citizens working at the church in preparation for traditional New Year's Eve mass.

Egypt's ambassador visited the church in the coastal city after the attack and urged Libyan security forces to ensure the property is guarded.

A Libyan security official says the deadly attack was caused by a bomb made from an explosive material that typically requires a detonator. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the incident is still under investigation.

Tens of thousands of Egyptian workers have returned to work in Libya following last year's civil war, despite security dangers.

Two Egyptians killed in Libya church blast: Officials

Published December 30th, 2012 - 20:35 GMT via

Two dead in blast in Misrata.

At least two Egyptians have lost their lives and two others wounded in a bomb attack on an Egyptian Orthodox Church near the Western Libyan city of Misrata, officials say.

“Two Egyptians were killed and two were wounded," said an unnamed diplomat at the Egyptian Embassy in Libyan capital, Tripoli, on Sunday.

Those wounded were rushed to a nearby hospital for medical treatment, he added.

The attack took place on Saturday in Dafniya, a Mediterranean village situated some 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) west of Misrata, after two unknown assailants threw a homemade explosive at the church.

Following the attack, Egyptian ministry’s spokesman Amr Rushdi issued a statement saying that “The Egyptian Embassy in Tripoli is holding contacts with the Libyan interior and foreign ministries to take urgent measures to secure buildings belonging to the Egyptian Church in Libya.”

Reports say that Libyan officials have launched an investigation into the deadly incident.

African Union Head Visits Central African Republic

African Union head visits Central African Republic

Associated Press December 30, 2012

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — The leader of the African Union, Benin's President Thomas Boni Yayi, has proposed a government of national unity to resolve the rebel conflict in Central African Republic.

Boni Yayi arrived here Sunday to try to find a negotiated resolution to the country's crisis. The president of the African Union met with President Francois Bozize and then made an appeal to the rebels.

"I beg my rebellious brothers, I ask them to cease hostilities, to make peace with President (Francois) Bozize and the Central African people," said Boni Yayi at a press conference in Bangui, the capital. "If you stop fighting, you are helping to consolidate peace in Africa. African people do not deserve all this suffering. The African continent needs peace and not war."

Boni Yayi said that Bozize had pledged to have an open dialogue with the rebels with the goal of establishing a government of national unity, which would include representation from the rebels and the Bozize government.

Bozize also addressed the conference and said, although he plans to stay in power until his term ends in 2016, he is not against having the rebels enter a coalition government with him.

"We'll probably be able to set up a national unity government. I apologize to the suffering Central African people," said Bozize. "It is a message of peace to my brothers of Central African Republic, "said Bozize.

France Sends 150 More Troops to Central African Republic Capital

France Sends 150 More Troops to Central African Republic Capital

By Antoine Lawson - Dec 30, 2012

France sent about 150 more troops to Bangui to support a peace-keeping mission and help protect the 1,200 French citizens living in the Central African Republic capital.

The soldiers were deployed yesterday morning from Gabon to join 250 troops already at the Bangui airport, said Michel Delannoy, a spokesman for the French troops at Camp de Gaulle in Libreville, Gabon’s capital. Delannoy spoke by telephone today.

France has had armed forces in Gabon since the country’s independence in 1960. About 900 French soldiers are stationed in Gabon.

Central African Republic’s President Francois Bozize has invited rebels to enter a coalition government and they are set to start peace talks in Gabon, Gabon’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement read on national radio today.

Rebel forces say Bozize hasn’t complied with the terms of a peace agreement in 2007, and oppose his plans to seek a third term in office. They took up arms on Dec. 10 and continue to travel toward Bangui.

The U.S. embassy in the Central African Republic suspended operations last week.

To contact the reporter on this story: Antoine Lawson in Libreville at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at

Zimbabwe War and Independence: Amai Tongo's Life of Pain and Tragedy

Amai Tongo’s life of pain and tragedy

Sunday, 30 December 2012 00:00
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

Last week, Ms Angeline Kumbirai Tongogara known by many as Amai Tongo narrated in graphic details how she met Cde Josiah Magama Tongogara and they went on to have four children.

This week, Amai Tongo tells our Assistant Editor Munyaradzi Huni (MH) how her husband was severely tortured by the Zambian government following chairman Chitepo’s death, she tells the bone-chilling story of how her third born son Bvumai could have saved General Tongogara from death and how President Mugabe broke the tragic news about her husband’s death in 1979.

This is the touching and painful story of a strong woman who lived from one tragedy to the other.

MH: Now we know how you met the war commander with rolling eyes and how you went on to live with him. Let’s talk a bit about the death of chairman Chitepo because it really affected your family. When this happened, where were you?

Mai Tongo: I was in Lusaka. That’s 1975. The death was announced on the Zambian radio. So we went to Chilenje for a week for the funeral. But there were these squabbles between the Karangas and the Manyikas.

There were two camps at the funeral. The other camp, the funeral was held at Sanyanga’s house and the other one was for us the povho in Chilenje.

MH: Who was leading this other camp in Sanyanga?

Mai Tongo: There was Sanyanga, he is the one who provided the house for the funeral.

There were also people like Mutambanengwe, Noel Mukono, Santana and others.

They were saying they were the Manyikas and they were not happy that Cde Tongo was elected as the Chief of Defence.

Noel Mukono was the Chief of Defence before the elections that ushered in Cde Tongo. They felt that the Karangas were hijacking the struggle.

MH: How did Cde Tongo receive the news about Cde Chitepo’s death?

Mai Tongo: He was sad. Very, very sad. He went to the funeral in this other camp of ours where there was the povho. He used to say imperialists have killed our chairman.

MH: So you went to chairman Chitepo’s funeral and after that several Zanu leaders including Cde Tongo were arrested?

Mai Tongo: When we went for the funeral, the security people warned us that you must be careful now because the Zambian government is going to arrest everybody. So from the graveyard, I went home. As we had been told that the Zambian government was going to arrest the Zanu leaders, when I got home, I took some guns that were in the house, dug a pit in the chicken run and put the guns there.

When Zambian police came, they started searching the house and they could not find anything. I knew that the Zambian police would have taken the guns if they found them inside the house. These guns were important for us to carry on the struggle. The Zambian police left me at the house but they took all the comrades I was staying with.

MH: So how was Cde Tongo arrested?

Mai Tongo: On the day Cde Chitepo was buried, all the people in Dare reChimurenga had their meeting and Cde Tongo was told to go to Chifombo. So he was not arrested together with the others. For him to be arrested, Kaunda had to go through President Machel. He requested that Cde Tongo should come back to Zambia. So President Machel asked Cde Tongo to come back.

I don’t know whether he knew that he was going to be arrested. When he came back he didn’t come to the house. It took me some two to three weeks before I could even see him. I only heard news that he had come from Mozambique and he was in jail.

The first time I was allowed to see him, he could not walk. All his nails were out, his legs were swollen and they looked like something else. He was beaten. If it was a woman I would say she was battered. He was beaten, beaten, beaten badly.

MH: And so when you met him for the first time, what did he say?

Mai Tongo: He just said politics. He had to whisper that to me because the authorities were standing close by. I had this baby Bvumai so I gave him the baby and that’s when he whispered “politics.” So what I went on to do was that if he wanted something, he would write a letter and put it in the baby’s napkin.

It was the same thing if say Cde Kombayi wanted something, he would write a letter and I would put it in the napkin so that Cde Tongo could take it from there. Most of his letters were addressed to Cde Patrick Kombayi. Cde Kombayi worked so hard during those difficult times.

MH: So Bvumai became sort of a mujiba at such a tender age?

Mai Tongo: (laughs) You could say that. We made him a mujiba at that young age because he didn’t know what he was doing.

MH: How did you feel seeing your husband in that state? Didn’t you feel that maybe this struggle was not worth it?

Mai Tongo: It was terrible. I could not even cry because someone was standing there holding a gun. I could not ask questions and could not say anything. It was just eyes talking. This really pained me, but I could not abandon the struggle. It was too late for that.

Every day I would say this is a phase and it will pass. As long as God is with us and no one is dead, it will pass. We could not even bring them anything in the jail.

I would go and see him maybe after a week and most of the days we would be told “no, you are not seeing them today” and we would go back home. When we were allowed in, we were allowed to see them for a very few minutes, about five minutes.

MH: So he was in detention for how long?

Mai Tongo: I think almost a year because the war stopped for a year. Before he was released there was this court case and before this court case there was this Commission of Inquiry into the death of Chitepo which was set by the Zambian Government.

Ms Mtetwa and Cde Simbi Mubako were some of the lawyers who represented them.

While this was happening, they were taken to Mpima Prison which is in Kabwe where we could go and see them freely.

We could bring them food there. This is where we used to visit them with Cde Muzenda. Cde Kombayi had bought a car for Cde Muzenda at that time.

MH: When you look back, are you bitter at what the Zambian government did to your husband?

Mai Tongo: Of course I am bitter. Who wouldn’t be bitter? The Zambian government was very, very unfair . . . President Kaunda at first he was alright but during this time, no, no he was just too unfair to Zanu. He was just trying to stop the war but he failed anyway. I am very, very sure that if these comrades had not been arrested, Zimbabwe would have achieved its independence much, much earlier.

MH: How was Cde Tongo released?

Mai Tongo: They went to court and for some days the court went on and on. We were then told that they had been acquitted. I fainted. I couldn’t believe it. When l saw how they had tortured him saying he was the one who had killed Chitepo and now they let the law take its course, and the law says he is not guilty, I couldn’t believe it. I just fainted.

When he was released, Cde Tongo was happy because he had not killed Cde Chitepo. I remember he was talking I think it was David Martin, he said I have been cleared by the Zambian courts, but I want to be cleared by Zimbabweans because I did not kill Chitepo.

MH: After his release, did he show that this was haunting him because some people were blaming him?

Mai Tongo: He was not happy at all. It was worrying him very much.

MH: We are talking about an icon here. Tell us, how do you console such a man when he is feeling low?

Mai Tongo: (pauses and takes a deep breath) You know what happens, kana vanhu muri mumbaso, I would tell him, you see people are blaming you but you didn’t kill Chitepo. Time will tell. As long as you are convinced yourself that you did not kill him, time will tell. Chokwadi chichabuda pachena kuti Chitepo akaurayiwa nani. So move on and continue with the war until you liberate Zimbabwe. As for the kids, this situation was really bad. They could not understand why their father was in jail.

MH: Let’s talk a bit about Cde Tongo when he went to the war front. How did that impact on the family?

Mai Tongo: It was difficult during the first days but as time went on, I knew he was going and coming back. I kept myself busy at work so that I could not think about the war that much.

MH: When he came back did he show you that he was enjoying the war?

Mai Tongo: Of course. Even while at the war front he would come across an animal, kill it and bring nyama yakaomeswa kumba.

MH: This general was spoiling you?

Mai Tongo: Why not? I ate lots of dried meat maybe ndakatodyiswa mutupo wangu.

MH: How were you explaining to the kids that daddy has gone to war?

Mai Tongo: Most of the time I would just tell the kids that baba vaenda kubasa vachadzoka.

When he went to war I would say “Mbuya Nehanda ndimi makati mapfupa angu achamuka. Vana venyu varikuedza kuti mapfupa enyu amuke, chivatungamirirai. This was my prayer. When he came from the war front, he would not talk much about the war. He would talk only about the light stuff but he would not say much. It was even difficult to see whether they were winning at the war front.

MH: We hear that during the liberation struggle, you looked after some children who belonged to other comrades. Tell us about this role and why you had to do this?

Mai Tongo: What happened was that, when some comrades were injured at the war front, they would be brought to my house. I would then take the injured comrades to hospital and monitor whether they were receiving good treatment because that’s where I was working.
It so happened that among those who were brought to my house, Teurai (VP Mujuru) was one of them. That’s when I started staying with Teurai.

While staying with her, Cde Tongo and Cde Rex would come to the house. That’s when and how Teurai met Rex at my house.  Vatsvetsvana vadanana, havo vazoenda.

So when they went, they had their child Kumbirai. Teurai actually said we want to name this child after you. So things were not well in Chimoio, so ndakaunzirwa vana vanoti Maidei naCharity together with Kumbirai. All these were Mujuru’s children. Kumbirai was two months old when they were brought to my house. I was still in Zambia then as I was furthering my nursing course while others were relocating to Mozambique. When I finished my course, that’s when I moved to Maputo.

MH: So you moved over to Maputo with all these children?

Mai Tongo: Yes, I moved to Maputo with my seven children. There was Hondo, Tichafa, Bvumai, Maidei, Charity, Kumbirai and Sukai akanga ari mwana wababamukuru who is now at the Anti-Corruption Commission. This was my family.

MH: People would want to know, what little things, some would say what silly little things would you do with Cde Tongo away from politics and away from the public?

Mai Tongo: Taivharirana mumba totamba macards. He used to call it casino. He would win most of the times. Sometimes we would take the kids and go to the farms where workers would be milking cows. Cde Tongo used to say I want my kids to grow up knowing all these things. So we would go there as a family and see how it’s done. He would teach his children how to milk the cows.

If there were functions somewhere, we would go tongokwana-kwanawo so. Tichienda takangopakatirana. At home, our kids were not allowed to speak Nyanja while inside the house because he would say kana tazoenda kumusha, vana mbuya havagone kuverenga chirungu so inside the house the children spoke in Shona.

MH: What was Cde Tongo’s favourite music?

Mai Tongo: Besides masongs echimurenga, he liked Dobby Gray.

MH: Was he a good dancer?

Mai Tongo: Oohh yes, kwazvo. He was a good dancer. Taingobatana tozeya paya.

MH: Which Chimurenga song or songs did he used to like a lot?

Mai Tongo: He liked a lot the song “Nyika yedu yeZimbabwe ndimo matakazvarirwa.” He was also a good singer. While he was young, he was in the school choir.

MH: There were a number of massacres that took place during the liberation struggle that were committed by the Smith regime like Chimoio, Nyadzonia massacres. Where were you when these massacres happened?

Mai Tongo: I was still in Lusaka but before the Chimoio attack, Cde Tongo had an accident when he hit a buffalo. When I was told this, I came from Lusaka and went to Chimoio to see him. I stayed in Chimoio and when it was time for me to go back to work, I went back to Zambia. He also had heard information that Smith was coming to bomb the place where they wanted to have a meeting. That meeting was moved to Maputo. Four days after I left, that’s when the Chimoio attack happened.

I was really, really hurt. Pane mwana waVP Mujuru ainzi Theresa who I had looked after while in Zambia. She was killed at Chimoio.

MH: Let’s turn to the Lancaster House talks. Did you accompany your husband?

Mai Tongo: No, I accompanied him to the Geneva conference. While going to Geneva, he was not optimistic that they would achieve anything. He was saying Smith haasati aibva saka hatina chatinonobura ikoko. That was the time he had just come out of jail in Zambia.

I had to cut short my trip to Geneva because I was rushing to Zambia to start my nursing course that I spoke about earlier. So I came back from Geneva with Cde Mutumbuka.

We passed through UK. Cde Tongo and the Zanu delegation later followed and he proceeded straight to Mozambique after passing through Zambia.

MH: You said you didn’t go to Lancaster. You were saying you were now heavily pregnant?

Mai Tongo: Yes, I was heavily pregnant so I couldn’t go. While Cde Tongo was in Lancaster we used to communicate a lot. He would send me money and say go to the diplomatic shop that was in Maputo. I would go there to buy what I wanted as a pregnant woman.

MH: So he comes back from Lancaster . . .

Mai Tongo: He comes back from Lancaster, came home and he told me he was the one going with the first group of comrades home to Zimbabwe. After this they went for their meetings. When he came back he said chindigadziriraiwo mbuva nekuti ini handichaenda kumusha. I am going to the camps to tell the comrades that the war is over.

He said he wanted to also tell the comrades what had happened during the Lancaster talks.
He took all his suits and said please take these suits to the dry cleaner so that kana ndaakuenda kumusha ndoenda nehembe dzakachena. Ndiko kuoneka kwavakaita.

MH: What was his mood as he was going? Did you have a feeling that he is going and you would never see him again?

Mai Tongo: I did not have that feeling but his son, Bvumai, as he was bidding us farewell, Bvumai akachema. He cried saying handisikuda kuda kuti muende. He asked why, but Bvumai said I don’t want you to go because if you go you won’t come back.

He just brushed it aside saying aahh nhai Mai Hondo can you hear what this child is saying?

He laughed and he went away.

MH: What were his last words to you?

Mai Tongo: (tears rolling down her eyes) He just said tokuonai tadzoka.

MH: So he went away. How did the news that he had passed on reach to you? How did you know he had died?

Mai Tongo: (sobbing uncontrollably) When he went away, we were taken to the airport to see Cde Rex who was leading the first group to come back to Zimbabwe. From the airport I was driven back home. While at home, VaMuzenda arrived. He sat there and started talking tunyaya twavaisingambotaura.

He asked about the kids and so on. While he was still talking Teurai arrived and started talking about different issues. After a few minutes, President Mugabe arrived. That’s when my heart started beating. This was unusual. After a while, President Mugabe broke the news to me.

MH: What exactly did he say?

Mai Tongo: He said haaah, mai Hondo tine hurombo zvikuru eehhh, Cde Tongo vaita tsaona nemotokari asi vabva vatsakatika. (deep breath, tears still rolling down her eyes) I don’t know whether he finished what he wanted to say or what but I fainted only to wake up with my whole body wet. People had to pour water on me after I fainted.(long and deep pause) I could not even understand what was going on. Nothing made sense. (long pause, sobbing)

MH: So when you gained composure, what went through your mind?

Mai Tongo: I just said to myself dai vakaterera zvakataurwa nemwana. Handiti kunonzi vana vadiki vanoshopera. Maybe he would be alive today. (pause) The person who looked after me during those extremely hard times was Suzan Rutanhire. (Cde George Rutanhire’s wife who he is still married to up to this day) She would feed me and bath me.

MH: Who told the kids about this tragedy?

Mai Tongo: The kids just came rushing to me when they heard me crying. They could not understand what was going on. I was about six months pregnant so you can imagine. (tears still rolling down her eyes)

MH: Where you later told in detail what had actually happened?

Mai Tongo: I was just told he was involved in an accident. His usual driver, the one I knew, didn’t go with him on this day. He went with another driver. His secretary was Oppah Muchinguri and she was in the same car with him when the accident happened. I was told that he was the only one who had died.

MH: After being told that he had passed away, what happened next?

Mai Tongo: I was never taken to the accident scene up to this day. They said no one was allowed to go there because Samora had given orders that no one should ever drive again.

At the hospital, I didn’t see much. When I went to the mortuary, I was told that there were some undertakers who had been hired from home to embalm his body. So when I got to the mortuary, ndakanga ndakashinga ndichida kuona kuti chii. (pause, still sobbing) I removed the cloth starting from the head and I saw the wounds, but as I was about to pull away the whole cloth so that I could see the whole body, Josiah Tungamirai came and said why are you letting her touch this body yaiswa mishonga and so on.

Ndakabva ndabatiranwa hameno kwandakanoiswa ndichibva ndabaiwa injection. I passed out. I don’t know what happened from there. When I woke up, I was now kumba kwaPresident. Thats when I saw Mai Sally Mugabe. She consoled me and I said please take me to my house.They said I could not go to my house because there were too many people there and this would not be good for me as a pregnant woman. I said those people vakatowunganira ini because ndini ndafirwa.

I was later taken to my house. I still don’t know what that injection was meant to do. No one explained anything to me.

MH: So when you got home, what happened?

Mai Tongo: I joined others who were there. I was told that arrangements were being made to bring over our relatives and baba mukuru came with his wife from Zambia. When they arrived, they again started torturing me.

MH: What do you mean?

Mai Tongo: When they arrived, like I told you, Suzan was the one who was looking after me. So when they arrived they were not allowing me to go to my bedroom. They took keys to my bedroom. If I wanted anything from the bedroom, Suzan had to go and ask them for permission to get anything from my bedroom.

Ndakangogara zvangu paya vachiita zvavaiita. Kwakazonzi nguva yekurongedza mbatya yasvika saka mudzimai ngaachinotiratidza mbatya dzacho. Ndikati ahh, vane makey avo ndivo mudzimai wacho ngavaende vanokuratidzai. They took away my keys saying ndinozorasa or kutengesa mbatya dzacho saka ngavakuratidzei.

MH: Did this treatment make you angry?

Mai Tongo: I was very angry. I did not even ask them why they were doing this. I had a much bigger problem of losing a husband. I was also worried about mwana akanga ari mudumbu. (pause, tears rolling down the eyes)

Can you imagine we used to talk about Zimbabwe where there is milk and honey with my husband and now just as we were about to get into that Zimbabwe, he was gone. Can you imagine the pain? Cde Tongo was not buried in Mozambique. After the body was embalmed, it was put in a mortuary in Maputo.

Independence Day had been set for 18 April and so very few people were left in Mozambique manning the Zanu offices. While they were manning the offices, I was looking after my husband’s body. It was agreed that Cde Tongo would be buried in Zimbabwe.

So as I remained behind, Cde Rex Nhongo came to Zimbabwe with my kids so that they could start going to school. During those days my kids were staying with Cde Rex and Teurai.

MH: So Cde Tongo was later buried in independent Zimbabwe?

Mai Tongo: After independence, I think things were not yet in order as people who had just got into Government, so I had to leave my husband’s body in Maputo and came to Harare as preparations for the burial were being finalised. I was staying in Belvedere waiting for the burial that was set for August.

Later we were taken back to Mozambique to collect the body but still so many things were not yet in order. Cde Tongo’s body spent about ten minutes at the house where I was staying and after that the body was taken to Stoddart Hall in Mbare where it spent a night. The next day Cde Tongo was buried at the National Heroes Acre.

MH: We hear that after some time, his body was exhumed and buried at another place. How did this happen?

Mai Tongo: After some time, I was told that the place where Cde Tongo, Cde Chitepo and Cde Jason Moyo were buried was too close to the road that people use while going up the national shrine so they were to be moved to another secure place. So I was asked to go and inform Cde Tongo’s parents about this and I said ahh, veduwe ko mandiomesera kudaro zvaita sei? Is it my responsibility to do that or it’s the government’s responsibility?

I said once you tell them, I will then join them to come for the reburial. I am told that the parents were later taken from their rural home and they were booked in a hotel.

As for me, no one remembered me when the reburial took place. The reburial was done and my husband was reburied where he is now in my absence. There was no one for me to ask why this was done just like up to now I haven’t been to the place where my husband had the accident. (still sobbing) Who was I supposed to go and ask all these troubling questions?

MH: How did this death affect you, considering that you were pregnant and you were about to get into a free Zimbabwe?

Mai Tongo: I really got sick. I actually thought I was going to give birth to a premature baby.

This really troubled me. What really, really troubled me when we got into independent Zimbabwe, those who used to be my friends, no one came to be with me at this trying time.

No one could remember kuti kuna Mai Hondo. This coupled with the fact that the children were supposed to go to school and I didn’t have school fees. It really was a tough, rough and very painful time.

MH: When you look back at the death of Cde Tongo, who do you blame for the death?

Mai Tongo: I blame God because he allowed whatever took place to happen. I was not there so I can’t lift my finger and say I blame so and so. I only blame God because whatever happened, he allowed it.

MH: Now, after all these years, is there anything that is still haunting you about this death?

Mai Tongo: (pause and deep breath) Zvinhu zvinonetsa izvi mwanangu. Zverufu rwavo zvinotozobudawo mandiri when I die.

As long as I am alive, it still troubles me. Now these days when we are called for the heroes functions, I am expected to park my vehicle kure uko and walk a long distance to where we will be seated. That’s why now, I no longer attend those functions.

MH: Do you have some troubling unanswered questions?

Mai Tongo: When Cde Chitepo died, there is a book that was published showing who killed him. Why can’t this be done also for my husband? I really would want to die knowing how my husband died.

MH: We hear that after independence you were later given a rank in the army. How did this happen?

Mai Tongo: When we came from the struggle, I went home and stayed there for two months. I then later decided that I should go to work for my children. I went and spoke to vaMuzenda that I now want a job.

He said to me if you want to work, you go to hospital and apply to be a nurse there. I said really, zvakanaka. I didn’t want to go and work as a nurse because I had a young kid who needed my attention, especially during the night. So I later went to KG6 and spoke to Cde Felix Muchemwa. He was the director of medical services in the army. This was in 1981.

He knew me and so when I told him that I was looking for a job, he said you have gotten the job already. That’s how I got employed in the army first as a captain. I was later given the duty to head the department of nursing services. Later I applied to do a diploma in nursing administration at Parirenyatwa and got a place there. After finishing my diploma, that’s when I went to 5 Brigade for military training.

MH: When did you retire from the army and why?

Mai Tongo: I left the army on a very sad note. I was at home and I was called by Rex who asked me in his usual stammering voice whether I had read the paper. I had not yet seen the paper. So I later bought The Herald and it was reported that the army was saying there are some soldiers that had been retired from service and were being re-assigned to work at Parliament. There was Cde Maseko, Cde Mahlaba, myself and a fourth person I can’t remember his name. This was done without consulting me at all. So that’s how I left the army.

When I left the army I was now a Major. So when you retire the system in the army is that you are given one rank up so I became Lieutenant Colonel Tongogara on retirement.

MH: As we conclude this interview, can you briefly tell us how you would want people to remember Cde Tongo?

Mai Tongo: When a decision was taken to give war veterans those packages, I went and told the authorities that these financial packages, won’t help that much because people will spend them and forget about them. I said let’s get this money and equip the people so that they will be able to fend for themselves.

Cde Tongo used to discourage the giving out of hand-outs. He wanted people to be free to work on their own after being empowered and given knowledge like what is now happening through Indigenisation and economic emancipation. If these programmes are implemented and not end up as mere talk, I know that one of Cde Tongo’s objectives would have been fulfilled. As the wife of Cde Tongo and as the mother of his four children, my request is that please, please can you arrange for me to go and see where my husband died.

I want a plaque to be erected there and I will tell you what to write on that plaque because ndini muridzi wemurume. The history of Zimbabwe will be incomplete if people don’t know where this iconic general passed away.

Second point is that Cde Tongo died in a car accident, can you please go and tow that car so that we put it in our museum here.