Sunday, June 30, 2013

Is WikiLeaks Now An International Political Party?

6/30/2013 @ 9:31PM

Is WikiLeaks Now An International Political Party?

Earlier this month, Julian Assange marked a full year of living in political asylum within the compact confines of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. The flight from U.S. charges of NSA leaker Edward Snowden, the Booz Allen contractor assisted in his headline-making travel by WikiLeaks itself, overtook the retrospectives on Assange’s year in Knightsbridge, a self-inflicted hibernation in order to avoid the legal process inherent in accusations of sexual assault by two women in Sweden.

Yet there was an important angle about WikiLeaks’ continued evolution that was understandably ignored in the Snowden chase and WikiLeaks’ involvement in that ongoing international drama.

Asked whether he regretted seeking asylum and the resultant year living in an Embassy office, Assange responded clearly: “Strategically, it’s been exactly what I had hoped for.”

Mark those words. As a high tech anti-secrecy organization processing government leaks through a secure online dropbox, WikiLeaks’ days appeared to have been numbered in 2010. Yet Assange’s position as the global spokesman for what is (loosely) an Internet-based international political movement in opposition to the United States has never been stronger.

Indeed, it’s only grown since the secure anonymous pipeline went down. And the active partnership that Assange revealed between WikiLeaks and Ecuador in managing Snowden’s possible asylum situation and his travel made him look almost like an Ecuadorian Minister Without Portfolio, headquartered in London.

Aside from the revelations about U.S. security, perhaps that’s the story here – for those interested in WikiLeaks, the organization. What began as a social enterprise modeled along the lines of an international nonprofit organization has evolved into a political organization, perhaps a global political party. Consider these developments:

To state the obvious, WikiLeaks is already a political party. What many saw initially as a gambit to change his legal status and perhaps gain safe transit to Ecuador has grown into a small but feisty officially registered political party in Assange’s native Australia, with the WikiLeaks chief himself an absentee candidate for a Senate seat from Victoria. But even beyond the Australian elections – where the effort is being run in part by Assange’s father John Shipton under the slogan “Transparency, Accountability, Democracy” – its founder is looking internationally. According to The Australian, asked about global expansion, Assange responded: “Yes … We have had many requests from people in the US, the UK and India to start a WikiLeaks party there. Can the lessons of the Australian campaign be applied to these other countries as well? Our economic and political problems are global.”

Oppositional political language. When WikiLeaks first partnered with news organizations to released more than 250,000 U.S. State Department cables in 2010, Assange’s public statements were pretty curious. He called on President Barack Obama to resign, and attacked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with similar language.

At the time, it seemed a bit strange – the head of WikiLeaks calling on the President to resign, almost like a member of the opposition party. But it was only the beginning. Though WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson insisted as recently as yesterday (in an MSNBC appearance) that the organization wasn’t politically opposed to the U.S., Assange himself (and WikiLeaks publications over the last three years) has focused almost exclusively on the Obama Administration.

Indeed, last week Assange seemed to channel some of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign language in his statement on Snowden’s flight from U.S. charges – “Who was it who promised a generation ‘hope’ and ‘change,’ only to betray those promises with dismal misery and stagnation?” he wrote.

Political alliances. During his year in Knightsbridge exile, Assange has built what appears to be a semi-official status within the Ecuadorian government, staging visits with celebrities at the embassy and speeches from the office balcony, all with the cooperation of the administration of President Rafael Correa, whose own political positioning favors opposition to the United States.

Then came the Snowden affair, and the Booz Allen contractor’s hazy status in Hong Kong. Enter Assange and Ecuador as a coordinated team. As the New York Times‘s Eric Schmitt noted, “WikiLeaks played no role in Mr. Snowden’s disclosures, but since joining forces with him, the organization has used his case to raise its own profile again.”

While there are indications that Correa may be uncomfortable with the public perception of joint policy-making with Assange, there was the WikiLeaks founder on ABC’s This Week this morning, speaking in the carefully couched terms of a government minister: “It’s a matter of international diplomatic negotiations, so there’s little that I can productively say about what is happening directly.”

WikiLeaks apparently turned down a leak of documents about Ecuador’s own domestic spying efforts. And there’s Assange’s relationship with the administration of Russian president Vladimir Putin – his public affairs show appeared on the state-sponsored RT and the organization appeared to be in contact with Russian officialdom in the Snowden affair.

“We appreciate President Putin’s supportive comments on #Assange and # Snowden,” tweeted Wikileaks last week. That’s a politician’s tweet.

Image management. As the political side of what constitutes WikiLeaks has grown – and as Assange, the Senate candidate has emerged – so too has the organization’s interest in message control and image.

Consider the reaction to crusading progressive director Alex Gibney’s acclaimed new film We Steal Secrets, which presents a warts and all account of WikiLeaks’ rise to prominence while maintaining a generally supportive stance toward its mission.

Given Gibney’s bonafides as a cinematic muckraker – he made Taxi to the Dark Side, an Oscar-winning film about a taxi driver tortured and killed at Bagram Air Force Base - you might expect Assange and WikiLeaks to overlook some of the criticisms inherent in the film, including the suggestion that the assault charges against Assange in Sweden are serious. Instead, the organization launched a crowd-sourced attack on Gibney and his documentary that was, frankly, reminiscent of recent American political campaigns and their in-house truth squads, which leap to correct any misperceptions, errors, or slights.

So should WikiLeaks, typically described as “antisecrecy advocates” or “leaks publisher” or “open government organization” now be routinely referred to as a political party?

I think that may depend on how well Assange and his slate of candidates fares in Australian elections, and whether chapters in other countries take flight.

The Pirate Party International, a global confederation of political groups and advocates favoring radical data transparency and copyright reform (among other issues), may well be the model for a real global WikiLeaks Party.

Clearly, WikiLeaks embraces policy goals and political outcomes – not solely a commitment to telling stories and releasing data.

In the past, Assange has talked of using information to “bring down many administrations that rely on concealing reality—including the US administration.” That is unquestionably a political goal – not a journalistic mission.

Egypt Presidency Calls for Dialogue Amid Massive Anti-Government Protests

Egypt presidency calls for 'dialogue,' denies army mediation with opposition

Nada Hussein Rashwan, Sunday 30 Jun 2013
Ahram Online

Egyptian presidency urges all political forces, currently demonstrating in rival mass rallies countrywide, to commit to peaceful protest, insists 'dialogue' is only way out of impasse

The Egyptian presidency has asserted that the only way to get out of the current political crisis is through dialogue, calling on all parties to commit to peaceful protest as hundreds of thousands stage demonstrations in rival protests across the country.

"The presidency has called on political parties for dialogue more than once," said a presidential spokesman at a news conference Sunday evening.

"Dialogue is the only way to reach consensus," he added. "The presidency aims to reach serious national reconciliation to pull the country out of its current state of polarisation."

Millions of Egyptians are taking part in the widely-anticipated demonstrations calling for the resignation of President Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, and snap presidential elections.

Tens of thousands of supporters of President Morsi remain in a sit-in in Cairo's Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square. Seventeen Islamist parties, led by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, organised two mass rallies over the last week to defend Morsi's democratic legitimacy.

The presidential spokesman reaffirmed citizens' right to peaceful protest, but urged all political parties to reject violence.

"The safety of all Egyptians is the responsibility of the presidency, regardless of their affiliations," the spokesman affirmed.

Deadly confrontations between the president's supporters and opponents have taken place intermittently since Wednesday in the run up to Sunday's protests, in which at least three were confirmed dead and hundreds injured.

The presidency also strongly condemned a mob sexual assault on a female foreigner in Tahrir Square during anti-government protests on Friday.

"Such incidents are completely alien to Egyptian society and are detrimental to Egypt's image abroad," the spokesman said. "The presidency has ordered police to arrest the perpetrators immediately."

Furthermore, the presidency stressed that the president and the Egyptian people "would never accept western interference in Egypt’s internal affairs." The comment was in response to a question about US President Barack Obama’s calls for the presidency and opposition to enter dialogue.

The spokesman also dismissed reports that top army generals were contacting opposition leaders to persuade them to respond to the presidency’s call for dialogue.

"The army is aware of its role in safeguarding the borders and state establishments. The presidency does not need mediation with opposition forces," he added.

Sunday's protests are an extension of a grassroots signature drive dubbed 'Rebel,' formed last May to collect signatures endorsing snap elections. It is backed by most opposition figures.

A spokesman for the Rebel campaign, which accuses the president of failing to improve the lives of ordinary Egyptians, announced Saturday that the campaign was able to gather over 22,000,000 signatures.

President Morsi has repeatedly dismissed calls for early presidential elections on grounds that it would be unconstitutional.

Supporters of President Morsi accuse the campaign of being unconstitutional and "an infringement of the popular will."

Morsi was elected in June 2012 in Egypt's first-ever free presidential elections, narrowly defeating Ahmed Shafiq, ousted president Mubarak's last prime minister.

Millions of Egyptians Turn Out Nationwide for Anti-Morsi Demonstrations; Seven Reported Killed

Millions of Egyptians turn out nationwide for anti-Morsi rallies; 7 dead in violence

Bel Trew, Monday 1 Jul 2013
ahram online

As unprecedented numbers turn out for mass rallies to demand President Morsi's ouster, Muslim Brotherhood finds itself under siege nationwide on day that sees at least seven people fall victim to political violence

Millions of opposition protesters hit the streets across Egypt to call for the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Sunday (which marked the end of his first year in office), with violence in leaving at least seven dead.

Hundreds of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters gathered outside the presidential palace in Cairo's Heliopolis district and in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the 2011 revolution and the prime venue of many opposition demonstrations.

There were jubilant but defiant scenes at both protests, with huge crowds of protesters chanting that the beleaguered president "must go" and stressing that they "will not leave" until their demands are fulfilled.

"We're staying put until Morsi resigns," said Hawash Heikel, a 58-year-old lawyer, as he set up camp for the night in Tahrir Square. "I have travelled all the way from [the Nile Delta governorate of] Menoufiya. We've come in a group to say that Egypt made a contract with the president when we went to the ballot box, and he has broken that agreement."

Heikel listed a number of common grievances echoed by protesters in Tahrir Square and across the country, including worsening fuel shortages and electricity cuts.

"Instead of telling us how he is going to fix these issues that are making our daily lives hell, he keeps talking about the big picture, and how Egypt is 'moving forward.' But he doesn't give specifics," he said.

The anti-Morsi Rebel campaign, which spearheaded the nationwide demonstrations, has called on all political parties and movements to leave their banners at home and unite, resulting in a sea of Egyptian flags.

Protesters carried red cards reading "Leave" in a symbolic gesture calling for the president's ouster.

"Look around you," said Ahmed Nagah, a 47-year-old teacher, gesturing to the crowds."Today is a huge success."

Nagah, who voted for Amr Moussa in last year's presidential polls, explains how Morsi "has broken the rules" and lost his legitimacy. Nagah supports the Rebel campaign's calls for the head of Egypt's High Constitutional Court to take over as interim president until snap elections are held.

Further into the mass of people banging drums and shouting slogans against Morsi, 43-year-old engineer Abdel-Rehim Kamal voiced a common grievance.

"Morsi is exactly the same as [ousted president] Hosni Mubarak. He is following in his footsteps," he said.

More protests nationwide

Similar scenes occurred in Egypt's coastal city of Alexandria, where protester Sarah Mamdouh told Ahram Online that Morsi had lost his legitimacy by "his dictatorial decisions and his inability to listen to other political opinions."

They played out elsewhere across the country – in Gharbiya, Ismailia, Sharqiya and Menoufiya – where anti-Morsi protesters blocked the Cairo-Alexandria agricultural road, declaring it "closed by order of the people."

There was a significant anti-American sentiment in Cairo's Tahrir Square, meanwhile, with US ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson the butt of numerous jokes by angry posters.

Just a few kilometres across the city from the presidential palace demonstrations, Islamist groups continue their sit-in in support of the president, spear-headed by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party.

Supporters of the president maintain that Morsi was legitimately elected through democratic elections. Therefore, they say, the only way to remove him from office is through the ballot box.

Nevertheless, those who are currently gathered for the anti-government demonstrations say they will stay put until Morsi leaves.

"The big difference between now and then is that when we first went out in January 2011, we did not start out by calling for the toppling of the president," April 6 Youth Movement founder Ahmed Maher told Ahram Online.

"But now we have a clear demand: We want the president to leave," he said.

Deadly violence in Upper Egypt

At least three protesters have been killed in Upper Egypt’s Assiut city, chief of security in the city, General Abou El-Qassem Abou El-Deif, said in a press statement. The three had been part of an anti-Morsi protest of thousands that was attacked by unknown assailants as they were marching near the Freedom and Justice Party’s headquarters.

According to Al-Ahram's Arabic-language website, one of the slain, Abanob Atef, was killed after being shot in the head by gunmen on a motorcycle.

Egyptian Health Minister Mohamed Hamed had earlier confirmed the death of 25-year-old Ammar Gouda, a protester killed in Beni Suef when unknown assailants opened fire on an anti-Morsi protest.

Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya's Building and Development Party have released a statement claiming the victim was one of their members.

Atef Marzouk, a leading member of the Islamist group in Beni Suef, accused opponents of President Morsi of initiating the attack by firing birdshot at a pro-Morsi march. "We defended ourselves until one of us was martyred," said Marzouk.

Earlier, journalist Shaimaa Mafhouz told Ahram Online that a thousand-strong anti-Morsi rally in Beni Suef was fired at.

"A number of assailants, accused by protesters of being Islamist supporters of Morsi, attacked the rally...Some clusters of protesters scattered and hid inside the mosques surrounding the square; at the same time the armed forces mobilised to contain the situation," she said.

"Assailants continued briefly to fire at the mosques where protesters were hiding, but they ran away when the army arrived," Mahfouz added.

The Beni Suef office of the Egyptian Popular Current, a leftist group led by opposition leader Hamdeen Sabbahi, also claimed in a statement that 30 members of "the jihadist movement" in Beni Suef had fired at the protest and that several protesters had been injured.

Mahfouz, for her part, told Ahram Online that she saw a child injured with a bullet to the shoulder.

Ahram Online has not been able to independently verify Sunday's events in Beni Suef.

In Fayoum, an 18-year-old teenager was killed after being shot in the head in clashes between the supporters and opponents of Morsi.

The Egyptian health ministry reported that the injury toll across the nation, meanwhile, had reached 613. Cairo, Alexandria, Daqahliya, Gharbiya, Menoufiya, Beni Suef and Beheira are among the governorates that witnessed violence.

Violence also flared between supporters and opponents of the Brotherhood in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, where Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website reported the use of firearms, birdshot and blunt weapons.

Brotherhood's Cairo HQ attacked

Back in Cairo, at least two were killed when the main headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Moqattam district came under attack in the evening.

Hundreds of people throwing petrol bombs and rocks attacked the building, which caught fire as guards and Brotherhood members inside the building, which has been the target of several similar attacks this year, exchanged gunfire with attackers.

Local TV channels showed civilians being carried away with bloody head wounds.

Eyewitnesses told Ahram Online that assailants and Brotherhood members fired birdshot at each other, resulting in a number of injured, including a police officer. Parts of the building's exterior were burnt in the melee.

Senior FJP official Gehad El-Hadad said via Twitter hinted that the assailants may be linked to the banned 'Black Bloc' group, a term used to refer to young men wearing black masks who often resort to violence during protests.

Several other Brotherhood-affiliated offices were also assaulted.

A number of Brotherhood buildings have come under attack as tensions have mounted in the lead-up to the 30 June demonstrations, with the group's offices in Alexandria and the Nile Delta governorates of Sharqiya, Gharbiya and Beheira being firebombed or ransacked.

At least seven people have been killed since Wednesday in clashes between rival protesters.

Morsi supporters soldier on

At the open-ended sit-in staged outside Cairo's Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque, some five kilometres away from the presidential palace, hundreds of thousands (mainly Islamists) maintained their support for the embattled president despite mass opposition protests nationwide.

Morsi supporters remain gathered outside the mosque in Nasr City, where they held asit-in for the third consecutive day on Sunday. They continued to chant for Morsi and his democratic legitimacy, and vociferously strike out at his opponents.

"We will give up over our dead bodies," Haj Ali Ahmed Yussif, a Brotherhood member from Daqahliya, told Ahram Online reporter Eslam Omar.

"We are four million at Rabaa Al-Adawiya and we are waiting for another six million to be ten. They will have to kill us all before they violate [Morsi's democratic] legitimacy," Yussif, a merchant, insisted.

Amir Bassam, Shura Council member from the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, had earlier told Orbit TV that crowds supporting President Morsi around Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo were more than all of Egypt's anti-Morsi protesters combined.

Yet given the numbers of people reported in Tahrir Square and at the presidential palace – both of which remain packed to bursting – this seems highly unlikely.

Another Brotherhood member, Ahmed Shata, a researcher at Mansoura University, expressed indifference regarding the huge number of protesters demanding Morsi's ouster.

"We will stay [at Rabaa Al-Adawiya]. Nobody will dare touch the presidential palace, otherwise we will eat them whole," he said.

"We don't care about our headquarters. Let them burn 50 of them; we'll build another 500," Shata added. "All that matters to us now is the presidency."

Eslam Omar contributed to this report

Demonstration Against U.S. Military Intervention in Syria--Dearborn City Hall, 6:00pm Sunday

For Immediate Release

Media Advisory
Sunday, June 30, 2013

From the Syrian American Forum:

The Syrian American Forum (SAF), the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice (MECAWI) and invite you to attend a Rally to express your rejection of the US military intervention in Syria.

The Obama administration’s decision to provide lethal support, after a long time provision of financial and material support, to militants in Syria does not amount to prevention of violence. It only prolongs the killing, destruction and suffering of the Syrian people. Even more to the contrary, such support could very well amount to support of terrorism in Syria and beyond. Those same terrorist groups the Obama administration and its allies have supported in order to overthrow a legitimate U.N. member state are responsible for killing innocent school children and other civilians, car bombings in residential areas, destruction of churches and mosques, and targeting spiritual leaders and religious freedoms:

-Kidnap two prominent Bishops and murdering many others

-Behead popular Imams of a mosque in Aleppo, Baniyas and other towns.

-Murder the top Islamic scholar in Damascus.

We can all remember 9/11. Arming militants in Syria is a long-term threat to our US national security.. By arming “rebels” in Syria we will have stained our hands with the blood of innocents.

Our community and supporters are demanding that the administration:

-Stop every kind of lethal and non-lethal support to armed elements and terrorists in Syria. This could very well amount to supporting the same terrorists we claim to fight elsewhere as in Mali.

-No to military intervention in Syria. Any US role should be directed at supporting dialogue and a political solution by Syrians, for Syrians, based on the Geneva Declaration of June 2012.

-Exert all kinds of pressure on friends and allies to immediately halt their support to these groups while directing them toward support for a political process.

Rally to be held on JUNE 30th, 2013 at 6pm in front of Dearborn City Hall at 13615 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, Michigan

For further information please call Mr. Ziad Abu Fadel 1-313-584-1900
or at

Zimbabwe Now Run By Presidential Decree

Death of Parly: Zim now run by presidential decree

30 June 2013 00:00
Sunday Mail Reporters

Zimbabwe will be run under Presidential decree from today until after the harmonised elections following the automatic dissolution of Parliament last night. The new dispensation means the President is now the sole authority mandated to make laws if the need arises. In an interview yesterday, Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Cde Patrick

Chinamasa said the Presidential decree would last until the swearing in of the successful candidate in the presidential poll.

Cde Chinamasa said it was important for the country to hold elections early to ensure the three arms of the State function simultaneously.

Any further poll delays will not be healthy for a democratic society, he added.

“The life of Parliament will be terminated by operation of the law. It means that there is no authority with power to make legislation except the President,” he said.

“This will be the situation obtaining until the next President is sworn in.”

Minister Chinamasa said this year marks the first time since 1980 that Zimbabwe will operate under decree without going to elections soon after the dissolution of Parliament.

“In the history of Zimbabwe, we have never had a vacuum that has been so long between the dissolution of Parliament and the swearing in of the President.

“Normally Parliament is dissolved the midnight before elections. Of the three arms of the State which are the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, there are now going to be just two which will function.

“Even so, the Executive will be left legally limping because it needs the Legislature for it to be fully functional. This is why any further postponement of elections is unthinkable and not healthy for a democratic society.”

Constitutional law expert Professor Lovemore Madhuku said proponents of early elections have been vindicated.

“If there is an urgent law to be passed, the President has to invoke Presidential powers until we have a new Parliament.

“This is the more reason why we have been saying elections must be held as soon as possible.”

The life of the Seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe expired at midnight after the Legislature ran its five-year tenure. In terms of the law, the country should hold elections after every five years.

Analysts say the hung Parliament, a product of the inconclusive 2008 plebiscite, did not register many successes owing to the bickering that characterised it.

For instance, analysts say, the setting up of constitutional commissions was done via Parliament’s Standing Rules and Orders Committee and this presented headaches in the preliminary stages of the Parliament as suspicion between Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations took centre stage.

The same applied in the case of motions and debate.

Zanu-PF House of Assembly Chief Whip Cde Jorum Gumbo said the Parliament was ineffective in the discharge of its functions.

“Apart from Amendment which ushered in the inclusive Government, we have also passed the new Constitution. Those were the major laws we passed. However, generally, this Parliament was not productive,” he said.

“I don’t think the electorate benefited from this Parliament. We were always fighting and shouting at each other instead of crafting laws which benefit the country.

“You also need to realise that as Parliament, we were powerless because of the inclusive Government. If ever there was a disagreement it was referred to the negotiators and then the principals.”

Cde Gumbo said most parliamentarians spent the greater part of their terms campaigning because “the country has been in election mode since 2008”.

MDC-T House of Assembly Chief Whip Mr Innocent Gonese concurred with Cde Gumbo. He said the only notable achievement was the new Constitution.

“We did not do much in terms of our mandate because there was no unity and cohesion among us as legislators.

“There was a lot of disharmony among the parties. There was no consensus. There were a lot of disagreements and most laws were coming from the Executive.”

House of Assembly Speaker Mr Lovemore Moyo said haggling among the parties represented in the House inhibited progress.

Senate President Cde Edna Madzongwe said her chambers witnessed constructive debate. She said most Senator displayed maturity by bringing to the fore critical issues that benefit the nation.

“Perhaps maturity played a major part in bringing about this harmony in the House. Sittings were characterised by lively debate; there was no jeering.

“The workshops that we held were also interactive. This helped build a common understanding among the Senators. We were in the House for national development, nothing else.”

South Sudan's Vice President to Visit Khartoum

South Sudan's vice president to visit Khartoum on Sunday

Sat, Jun 29 2013

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - South Sudan's vice president will visit Sudan on Sunday, both sides said on Saturday, marking the highest-level talks between the long-time African foes since Khartoum threatened to stop cross-border oil flows.

Relations hit a new low three weeks ago when Sudan said it would halt South Sudanese oil exports passing through the north for shipment abroad within 60 days unless Juba ended support for rebels operating across the border. Juba denies the claims.

The neighbors, which fought decades of civil wars that ended in 2005, came close to war in April 2012 when tensions over oil pipeline fees and disputed territory escalated.

South Sudan's Vice President Riek Machar will arrive in Khartoum on Sunday for a two-day visit, Sudan's state news agency SUNA said. He will meet Sudan's First Vice President Ali Osman Taha, it said, adding that South Sudan's Oil Minister Stephen Dhieu Dau and other ministers would also join Machar.

A South Sudanese official confirmed the visit.
The dispute threatens to hit supplies to Asian buyers such as China National Petroleum Corp, India's ONCG Videsh and Malaysia's Petronas, which run the oilfields in both countries.

Diplomats said they doubted Sudan would close the two cross-border export pipelines because its economy has been suffering without South Sudan's pipeline fees.

Oil used to be the main source for Sudan's budget until the south's secession in July 2011, when Khartoum lost 75 percent of its oil production and its status as oil exporter overnight.

Both countries accuse each other of backing rebels on the other's territory, one of several conflicts stemming from the division of what was once Africa's largest country.

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Dozens Feared Dead in Somalia Unrest

Published on Otago Daily Times Online News (

Dozens feared dead in Somalia unrest


Dozens of people were feared killed in two days of fierce fighting for control of a strategic Somali port city, according to witness and militia accounts, despite efforts to prevent the clashes escalating into broader clan warfare.

Scores have died in sporadic fighting in Kismayu since Ahmed Madobe, leader of the Ras Kamboni militia, was chosen by a regional assembly to lead Somalia's southern Jubaland region, where the port is located.

The conflict between Madobe's supporters and a rival claimant to the leadership, Barre Hirale, widely seen as backed by the federal government in Mogadishu, has raised the prospect of a return of the kind of clan fighting that tore Somalia apart more than two decades ago.

A shopkeeper, Bile Mohamed, speaking to Reuters by telephone from central Kismayu, said he had counted nine dead bodies on a road, although he said shooting had stopped.

Hussein Ali, from another area of Kismayu, said he saw 12 corpses.

"I am afraid scores died in the alleys and inside houses," said Ali, speaking from the area that he said had been a stronghold of Hirale. He also said fighting had ended.

Hirale, who also spoke to Reuters by telephone, said he believed at least 50 fighters and civilians had been killed, while five people were injured in his home by shells.

Poor communications and the dangers of going outside made it impossible to ascertain the true death toll.


Worried that fighting could undermine fragile security gains secured by African peacekeepers, the United Nations called for talks.

"At the same time as this new fighting has broken out, contacts are under way to put together an inclusive process to defuse tensions," the top U.N. diplomat in Somalia, Nicholas Kay, said in a statement.

The fighting would entrench positions and "make it all the harder to achieve a settlement," Kay said.

Witnesses said Kenyan troops, part of the African Union peacekeeping force, had been deployed to the port. Hirale said Kenya, seen by many as close to Madobe, had intervened to push his forces back.

Nairobi acknowledges no such allegiance. It was not immediately possible to obtain comment from the Kenyan forces on the ground in Jubaland.

The African Union, which leads the peacekeeping force AMISOM, said the fighting "only serves to complicate and disrupt the process of stabilising Somalia".

In a statement issued during the fighting on Saturday, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud called on AU forces in Kismayu to "be neutral in the fighting between the groups" and to place themselves between the two sides to end the shooting.

What happens in Kismayu is a test of the skill of Mogadishu's new government, in place for less than a year, in building a federation in a nation torn by war, deep clan rivalries and separatism.

Regional and Western powers worry a slide back into conflict would hand an opportunity to al Shabaab Islamist militants to regroup and regain more territory.

African troops led a campaign that drove the militants out of major centres, although al Shabaab still controls swathes of countryside.

Somalia May Accept Former Islamist Warlord in Portcity

Somalia may accept former islamist warlord in portcity: diplomats

Fri, Jun 28 2013
By Drazen Jorgic

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somalia's government is expected to recognize a former Islamist warlord it had opposed as interim leader of a strategic port city, diplomats said, defusing a crisis over rival claims to the post that had raised fears of a return to clan warfare.

The threat of the kind of clan fighting that over two decades tore Somalia apart has hung over Kismayu since Ahmed Madobe, leader of the Ras Kamboni militia, was chosen by a regional assembly to lead Jubaland and its port in May.

The fate of Kismayu and the surrounding region in southern Somalia has been seen as a litmus test of whether the government can manage a federal state and cement a fragile peace in place since African peacekeeping troops drove out Islamist militants.

Western and regional diplomats, all with a close knowledge of Somalia and the workings of its government, told Reuters that Mogadishu had changed tack and was resigned to having the Ras Kamboni leader stay in charge, but on an interim basis.

"They recognize that they have to deal with Madobe," said one senior Western diplomat.

Regional capitals and Western donors are nervous about any reversal of delicate security gains made in Somalia by African troops fighting against the al Qaeda-linked militants, seen as a threat to stability in the region and beyond.

Central government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman said Mogadishu, which had widely been seen to back another candidate, was ready for a deal but it had not decided on who it would be.

"We are willing to compromise provided that the legality, the constitution, and the federal institution and mandate is protected," he said, adding senior government officials were in Kismayu for negotiations with the rival parties.

Even with the regional leader title, Madobe will only really control Kismayu and its immediate surrounds because al Shabaab Islamist militants still control much of Jubaland's countryside.


Dozens of people have been killed in Kismayu since May in sporadic clashes between Madobe's Ras Kamboni militia, opposed by the central government, and fighters loyal to Barre Hirale, another former warlord seen as having Mogadishu's backing.

Rival clans want control of port taxes, valuable charcoal exports and levies on arms and other illegal imports.

If a deal is struck, one government source said the interim administration would be in place for up to a year before a vote.

The situation has been complicated because of ambiguity over how Somalia, including its break-away regions, will be governed as a federation and because Mogadishu has little leverage as its poorly paid and trained security forces cannot impose control.

"Acknowledging that Madobe is the de facto leader in charge of an interim Jubaland administration would be pragmatic," said Matt Bryden, a director of Sahan Research think-tank who previously coordinated a U.N. monitoring report on Somalia.

"The government can't afford to become embroiled in this," he said. "It doesn't have the time, the resources or sufficient influence in Jubaland."

Madobe was a governor of Kismayu during an administration that was routed by Ethiopian forces sent into Somalia between 2006-2009 with tacit U.S. backing.

The European Union's top Africa official, Nicholas Westcott, said it was vital for a deal to improve security in Jubaland, a region which some analysts fear could otherwise break away.

"If Somalia is fragmented it will never be in position to develop or resolve all the conflicts," Westcott said.

(Editing by Edmund Blair and Ralph Boulton)

Defected Al-Shabab Leader Refuses to Surrender to the Somalia Government

SOMALIA: Defected Al Shabab leader refuse to surrender to the Somali government

The former Hizbulislam leader in Somalia, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys refused to surrender to the Federal government in Mogadishu, after he defected from the radical group Al Shabaab.
| ON JUNE 29, 2013
Aweys is currently held in the town of Adado which is controlled by the self declared autonomous region of Himan and Heeb.

Last week Hassan Dahir Aweys and his bodyguards escaped from the Al Shabaab controlled town of Barawe in southern Somalia. In a daring night-time escape Aweys and five other men took a boat from Barawe and two days later they arrived in Mudug region.

Forces loyal to the Himan & Heeb administration escorted Aweys and his men to Adado, where he is currently held under house arrest, according to the Himan and Heeb spokesman.

A delegation sent by the President of Somalia Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has arrived in Adado town. This delegation was led by MPs and former members of the Islamic courts union.

Sources in Adado town say, Hassan Dahir Aweys refused to accompany the delegation back to Mogadishu. While the administration of Himan & Heeb have requested him to leave their region.

It is not clear now where the Sheikh and his men will go next.

Horseed Media

Two Al-Shabab Commander Killed in Somalia

Two Somalia’s Al Qaeda-linked chiefs killed by own forces

June 30, 2013 01:30

Two top commanders of Somalia's Al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group have been killed by their own fighters, following power struggle inside the extremist organization.

One of the dead, Ibrahim Haji Jama Mead, also known as Al-Afghani, tops Washington’s wanted list of terrorists. Last June, the State Department placed a US$5 million bounty for information leading to his location.

The other, Abul Hamid Hashi Olhayi was also a top commander of the extremist group and one of the founders of the terrorist group.

"We have informed their widows of their deaths, as they must now wear the clothes of mourning," Shabab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab told AFP.

Al-Afghani’s sister confirmed the death but called it an execution while Shabab claimed that both men died in a battle.

"We deny reports that the men were killed after capture," Musab said. "The two men were killed in a shoot out after resisting arrest on court orders."

Al-Afghani - “The Afghan” - dubbed so for his activities in Afghanistan, held prominent positions in the Islamic extremist movement in Somalia occupying positions as first deputy leader of al-Shabab in charge of finance and also as the head of al-Shabab's Kisimayo administration.

The man was believed to be representing Shabab’s hard-line faction that focuses on global jihad. In the last few years, the insurgent movement has split into rival factions, based along clan lines and ideological differences. It is believed that Al-Afghani challenged the command of top chief Ahmed Abdi Godane, also wanted by the US.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

'Celebrating Womanhood Gives Me Joy'

‘Celebrating Womanhood Gives Me Joy’

SATURDAY, 29 JUNE 2013 00:00


At the South African High Commission, Lagos, Ms Thandi Mgxwati is the Counsellor for Political and Economic Affairs. She gives insight into her work and ‘Take a Girl-Student to Work,’ an initiative committed to improving the living standards of the Nigerian girl child.

MS Thandi Mgxwati, Counsellor for Political and Economic Affairs, South African High Commission, Lagos is a reporter’s delight on diplomatic matters. Your job is made easier as the lady is already more Nigerian than you can imagine: her day is usually made with a bowl of pepper soup, a Nigerian delicacy.

Her love for Nigeria, she explains, makes her ‘Take a Girl-Student to Work’ initiative easier.The initiative works to support efforts to raise better living standards for the Nigerian girl child.

According to Mgxwati, the idea is to expose young girls to boundless roles in the society, enhance their self-esteem, inspire and motivate them to reach their full potentials through exposure to diverse careers and positive role models to assist them to prepare for the world of work in both economic and political sector.

Despite advances in legislation, she says, there remains a big gap. A dream, she has tied to the Women’s Day that has Since August 9,1994, been commemorated yearly in her country.

In a chance encounter at the local wing of the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Mgxwati reveals to The Guardian that, “The idea is that companies, individuals and governments are encouraged to adopt a female student, and for the whole of that day, she will be exposed to the working environment and given a special treatment that will help her positively from then on. This has helped us in South Africa, and because women’s struggle is the same everywhere, it is believed it will benefit a girl child even here in Nigeria.

“Like you know, South African women participated actively in the fight against apartheid. You will also recall that on August 9, 1956, a resounding voice of women was heard as they staged a march in Pretoria against amendments to the Urban Areas Act of 1950. Their efforts morphed into over a multitude of petitions with over a 100,000 signatures at the then PM J.G Strydom’s office doors and stood for 30 minutes —- many with children on their backs. They also sang a protest song composed in honour of the occasion that spurred a turning point in South Africa’s history. Their tune “Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo!” (You strike a woman, you strike a rock” has become a symbol of female strength) has come to represent women’s courage and strength in South Africa. In 2006, a re-enactment of the march was staged for its 50th anniversary, with many of the 1956 march veterans.

Mgxwati hinted that, apart from the usual festivities, this year’s event, which is commemorated as National Women’s Day, will, as usual, come with constructive programmes that address the challenges women face in society,”

The month of August, she adds, is used to push such programmes aimed at further empowering and advancing the cause of women. “One of these was the ‘Take a Girl Student to Work.’”

Her words: “The realisation that women issues are not common to just South African shores saw to the birth of a Nigerian version in partnership with the Lagos State Government and the University of Lagos, both of whom we are very grateful to. For three years in succession, the public/private partnership has benefitted women in the state.

“Now that we have successfully introduced this to the country, as our pilot edition, we wish to take the gala nights that mark South African Women’s Day to other states of the federation, and we shall unveil the benefiting states soon. But I can say here that we will be talking with some states in the Niger Delta and some other regions in the north. My joy will be to see how we can replicate these events in all interested states of Nigeria because of its huge importance for women in our continent. We would also like to work with other women groups in Nigeria who have the same vision.”

Mgxwati added, “This event reminds us that we need a deeper interaction with each other. Let us work for other collaborations.”

Firms like South African Airways, MTN, Stanbic IBTC, MultiChoice, Shoprite, Silverbird Galleria, Topcomm, Protea Hotels, Chain Reactions Nigeria, and other notable companies have been involved in this initiative, she adds.

Her belief in Nigeria is remarkable, especially as it remains a hub for South African Tourism marketing activitieswhich caters for countries in the West African region, including Ghana, identified as a tactical market for SA Tourism marketing initiatives.

But how does she feel each time negative stories emanate about the ill treatment of Nigerians in South Africa, especially through legislations against Nigerians’ interest?

“I must sincerely tell you that most of those issues are sometimes blown out of proportion and not managed well. That was why my country tendered an apology on how the visa issue you are talking about was handled by the officials. We believe it could have been handled differently, which is the reason we apologised.”

She recalls that the bond between Nigeria and South Africa is far more important than whatever difference, “That is why we believe that the two countries who are giants of the continent should rather exert more energy on how to improve the continent’s fortune and unity. When we do that, the continent will be better because the two countries have what it takes in terms of human capital and resources and political clout to move Africa forward.

She expresses joy that high-level genuine moves by both governments aimed at improving relations have taken place with the Nigerian government officially commencing the distribution of a new encoded international certificate of vaccination and prophylaxis (yellow card) for Nigerian international travelers...

On its part, she says, South Africa may have even kicked off moves at exploring the full potential of relations with Nigeria with the official outsourcing of visa processing by the government back in 2010 following the opening of an independent South African Visa Application Centre to handle the over 50,000 yearly South African visa applications and operated by the VFS Global Services, Ikoyi, Lagos.

Still on a synergy between both countries, the Counsellor recalls that, “In October last year, the very best of Nigerian and South African traditional lifestyles and art, fashion sense, cuisine, business opportunities, among others were on show as Lagos-based Inspiro Productions with the full endorsement of The South African High Commission in Lagos presented an exposition of tourism and business in a fiesta tagged: ‘A Tale of 2 African Cities.’

“That event which featured an exposition of arts/culture, tourism and business and with participants from both countries followed in the wake of a renewed vigour to strengthen relations between the two countries after two editions of the Nelson Mandela International Day were elaborately commemorated in Lagos.

“It was an exciting cultural exchange extravaganza in Lagos that will be replicated in Johannesburg later this year by showcasing both countries’ cultures through art, music, fashion and more…

Our view is that this is an opportunity for south Africans and Nigerians to come together as Africans and share life experiences, appreciate each other’s cultures but at the same time showcasing other talents in various facets,” Magxwati says.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Nigerian Youth Arrest Boko Haram Commander, 15 Others

Youths Arrest Boko Haram Commander, 15 Others

FRIDAY, 28 JUNE 2013 19:54
Nigerian Guardian

• Terrorists Sack Seven Hill Communities, Hide in Caves

• Shettima Urges Fleeing Elders To Return

MEN of the Borno Youths Vigilance Group (BYVG) Friday in Maiduguri, the state capital, arrested four suspected Boko Haram members, including sect’s operations commander said to be close to the sect’s leader, Sheikh Abubakar Shekau. They recovered arms and ammunition near the Sanda Kyarami Park.

According to an eyewitness, the four suspects were arrested by members of BYVG while patrolling and on the “stop and search” operations in Galtimari ward, close to the Giwa Barracks on Gombale Road.

Confirming the incident in Maiduguri, Chairman of the vigilante group, Abubakar Mallum, said: “We were able to arrest four suspects this (Friday) morning, including one of the sect’s top commanders.

“You can see that the commander has already been taken into this vehicle to the place where the arms and ammunition were hidden for operations by these terrorists.”

Mallum claimed that the arrested commander was close to the sect’s leader and would assist the youths to identify the location of hidden arms for retrieval before being handed over to the local commander of the military Joint Task Force (JTF).

On the group’s modus operandi, he said unlike the JTF which operates with patrol vehicles and rifles, the volunteers rely on God’s protection and the prayers of people, saying they only use sticks, knives and cutlasses for the “stop and search” operations in Maiduguri.

He stated that the intervention of youths in hunting down Boko Haram sect members was to end their incessant attacks and killings of innocent people, including the youths’ parents, brothers, sisters and other top government officials, traditional and religious leaders in the state.

However, despite yesterday’s arrest in Maiduguri, suspected members of the sect attacked seven hill communities in Gwoza council of the state with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and petrol-bombs yesterday, torching many houses and carting away food items and livestock into caves in the hills.

Although the exact number of people killed and houses destroyed in the multiple attacks could not be ascertained, an anonymous community leader of Kunde, said 15 people were killed by the armed terrorists, when they overrun six other communities of Gathahure, Hwa’a, Tihezeh, Hrazah, Hembe and Gjigga on the Mandara Hills which stretches for 16 kilometres east of Gwoza, the council headquarters.

He said residents of his community, and six others fled to Gwoza town, Barawa, Agaplawa, Kurana Bassa, Kwatara, Limankara and Ngoshe Ndahang, a hill community also on Mandara Hills.

The six other communities ransacked by terrorists, he said, border the Republic of Cameroun, where some of the residents had fled with their wives and children.

In Maiduguri, Mallum further disclosed that 15 other suspects were also arrested and handed over to the local JTF commanders at Giwa Barracks for further investigation.

The arrests, which were made on Wednesday and Thursday, he added, were in four wards of Zajeri, Gwange I and II and Bulabulin, one of the black spots identified by the JTF in 2011.

There was no immediate confirmation from the JTF in Maiduguri on the group’s claims.

The Presidency and military authorities in Abuja and the JTF spokesman in Maiduguri, Lt. Col Sagir Musa, had last week commended the group for fighting the Boko Haram insurgency in the state.

Confirming the Gworza council incident yesterday in Maiduguri, a top military officer of the Special Operations Forces (MISOF) at Barawa, a border village and foot hills settlement, said: “Some of the villages on Gwoza Hills cannot be accessed by our men because of the difficult terrain. Our men can only be stationed at this village for our operations with fighter jets that could bombard the hills with cannons to destroy the training camps and hideouts of Boko Haram sect members.”

He said the local reports they had been getting from the fleeing residents indicated that many houses and property, including livestock and grains had been looted by the rampaging terrorists.

The MISOF source, also told The Guardian that all the routes and roads leading to the mountain tops and hill settlements had been closed and are being patrolled and monitored to prevent suspects from fleeing the mountain tops of Mandara Hills which are under the surveillance of soldiers for 24 hours.

Meanwhile, the state governor, Kashim Shettima has appealed to fleeing members of the Borno Elders Forum (BOEF) to return, despite the ongoing security challenges in rebuilding the state.

Shettima made the call yesterday in Maiduguri while distributing relief materials donated by the Borno Elders Forum for Boko Haram victims in Maiduguri metropolis.

According to him, the fleeing elders must return home to assist government chart a new course for the rapid development of the state.

His words: “We know that some of the elders have remained in Maiduguri inspite of the numerous happenings. But some others could not withstand the pressures of the insurgency and they left along with members of their families to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

Eyewitness Describes Trayvon Martin's Fatal Struggle to Florida Jury

Eyewitness describes Trayvon Martin's fatal struggle to Florida jury

8:46pm EDT
By Barbara Liston

SANFORD, Florida (Reuters) - A witness in the murder trial of neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman testified on Friday that he saw Trayvon Martin on top of Zimmerman during a struggle that led to the unarmed black teenager's shooting death in a central Florida gated community last year.

But Jonathan Good, a former resident at the townhouse complex, told the jury in Seminole County criminal court that he never saw Martin slam Zimmerman's head into the concrete sidewalk, undermining a key element in Zimmerman's defense.

"I did not see that," Good told the court under questioning by a state prosecutor about the racially charged case that triggered civil rights protests and debates about the treatment of black Americans in the U.S. justice system.

Police did not arrest Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, for 44 days. Zimmerman does not deny killing Martin but he says he did so in self-defense after he was attacked and Martin smashed his head repeatedly into the sidewalk.

Good was the fourth former neighbor who partially witnessed the death of Martin on February 26, 2012 to testify in the trial. Each has given a slightly different account, but Good is the first to state that Martin was on top during the struggle.

Zimmerman, 29, was a neighborhood watch volunteer in the Retreat at Twin Lakes community in Sanford at the time of the killing. He has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and could face life imprisonment if convicted.

Martin, 17, was a student at a Miami-area high school and a guest of one of the homeowners. He was returning after buying snacks at a convenience store when he was shot in the chest during a confrontation with Zimmerman.

Several former Twin Lakes residents have testified for the prosecution that they heard and caught glimpses of the fight between Zimmerman and Martin, and heard cries for help, on a dark and rainy night near a walkway between units in the community of townhomes.

Good said he was watching TV with his wife when he heard a noise outside and saw two people wrestling on the ground, with "a lighter-skinned man" on the bottom. He identified the other man, Martin, by his race and clothing.

Good initially told police the person on top was pummeling the other in mixed martial arts style, but backed off that account, later saying the person on top was straddling the other man, but his arms might have been holding the other down rather than punching.

Asked by state prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda if he saw the "person on top" grabbing the head of the lighter skinned man and slamming it into the concrete, Good replied "No."

In opening statements, defense attorney Don West told the court "Trayvon Martin armed himself with the concrete sidewalk and used it to smash George Zimmerman's head ... That is a deadly weapon."

Under cross-examination Good was asked why he had clarified his initial description about blows being struck. "That's what it looked like," Good said. But because it was dark outside, Good said "I can't 100 percent confirm that that was happening."

Good also said that he was not sure who made the cries for help that several neighbors have described, although he said "the yelling sounded like it was coming from the person on the bottom."

Three residents have told the court that they saw someone who appeared to be Zimmerman on top during the incident.

Even though several were close enough to hear the struggle, the prosecution has highlighted the fact that none of them heard a crude death threat that Zimmerman says Martin made moments before he shot him.

Jonathan Manalo, another former neighbor who was the first person to make contact with Zimmerman immediately after the shooting, also testified on Friday.

Manalo said he grabbed a flashlight and went outside after he heard a gunshot. He used his cellphone to take pictures of Martin's body and the bloodied back of Zimmerman's head.

Manalo said Zimmerman was breathing hard and staggering when he initially saw him but did not appear to be in shock. "He was coherent," Manalo said. "He was responding to my questions like any other person."

Manalo said he asked Zimmerman what happened and the neighborhood watch volunteer responded, "This guy was beating me up ... I was defending myself and I shot him."

The extent of Zimmerman's injuries were the focus of questioning from lawyers to several witnesses, including an emergency medical technician, who took the stand on Friday.

Lindzee Folgate, a physician assistant who treated Zimmerman the day after the shooting, said his nose was "likely broken" but could not say definitively because no X-rays were taken. She said cuts he suffered on his head did not require any stitches.

Prosecutors say Zimmerman profiled Martin, suspecting him of being up to no good, and killed him in an act of vigilante justice. The defense says Zimmerman was doing his job as part of the neighborhood watch and simply trying to investigate something that he perceived as suspicious.

The prosecution faces a tall order to win a conviction for second-degree murder, and under Florida law must convince all six jurors that Zimmerman acted with "ill will" or "hatred" and "an indifference to human life."

Under Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which was approved in 2005 and has since been copied by about 30 other states, people fearing for their lives can use deadly force without having to retreat from a confrontation, even when it is possible.

(Additional reporting by Kevin Gray in Miami, Writing by David Adams and Kevin Gray; Editing by Grant McCool and Bernard Orr)

Libya Disruption Hits OPEC Production

Libya disruption hits Opec production

Saturday, June 29, 2013
Gulf Daily News

LONDON: Opec crude output has fallen in June due to disruptions in Libya and Nigeria, a Reuters survey found yesterday, inadvertently bringing supply closer to the organisation's target.

Supply from Opec has averaged 30.38 million barrels per day (bpd), down from a revised 30.46m bpd in May, the survey of shipping data and sources at oil firms, Opec and consultants found.

The survey shows violence is making African producers Opec's weakest supply link and the ambitious plans of Iraq, its second-largest producer, to expand exports are facing headwinds.

In June, largely involuntary curbs by smaller Opec producers have outweighed extra crude from its top exporter, Saudi Arabia, which has ramped up supply in response to a seasonally higher requirement for crude in domestic power plants.

"It's Nigeria, Libya and Angola mainly," said a participant in the survey. "This decline should support prices and you could make a case for it continuing for the next few months."

Opec's June output is the lowest since March 2013, when the group pumped 30.18m bpd, according to Reuters surveys, and leaves supply a mere 380,000 bpd above its output target of 30m bpd.

With oil just above Saudi Arabia's preferred level of $100, Opec at a meeting on May 31 in Vienna agreed to maintain the 30 million bpd target.

The most notable drop in Opec output has come from Libya. Protests at oilfields and terminals led to supply falling below 1m bpd earlier in June.

Anti-US Protests Continue in South Africa During Obama Visit

Obama protesters rally near hospital treating Mandela

Reuters, Friday 28 Jun 2013

About 200 trade unionists, student activists and South African Communist Party members gathered in Pretoria to protest Obama's visit this weekend, lamenting high expectations they had of the US president when first elected

South Africans protesting a visit to their country by U.S. President Barack Obama rallied on Friday a few blocks from well-wishers at a hospital in Pretoria where anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela is critically ill.

Obama, on a three-nation tour of Africa, was due to arrive in South Africa on Friday with White House officials saying they will defer to Mandela's family on whether the first African-American president of the United States will visit South Africa's first black president.

Mandela, 94, is fighting a lung infection that has left him in a critical condition and in hospital for nearly three weeks.

His fourth hospitalisation in six months has focused attention in South Africa and globally on the faltering health of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who is admired as a symbol of resistance against injustice and of racial reconciliation.

President Jacob Zuma has said Mandela's condition improved over Wednesday night but he remained critical.

About 200 trade unionists, student activists and South African Communist Party members gathered in the capital Pretoria to protest Obama's visit this weekend, calling his foreign policy "arrogant, selfish and oppressive".

"We had expectations of America's first black president. Knowing Africa's history, we expected more," said Khomotso Makola, a 19-year-old law student.

"He has come as a disappointment, I think Mandela too would be disappointed and feel let down," Makola said.

South African critics of Obama have focused in particular on his support for U.S. drone strikes overseas, which they say have killed hundreds of innocent civilians, and his failure to deliver on a pledge to close the U.S. military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba housing terrorism suspects.


A few blocks away at the Pretoria heart hospital where Mandela is being cared for, well-wishers paying tribute to the legendary retired statesman had words of praise for Obama, who met Mandela in 2005 when he was still a U.S. senator.

Nigerian painter Sanusi Olatunji, 31, had brought portraits of both Mandela and Obama to the wall of the hospital, where flowers, tribute notes and gifts for Madiba, as Mandela is affectionately known, have been piling up.

"These are the two great men of my lifetime," he said.

"To me, Mandela is a prophet who brought peace and opportunity. He made it possible for a black man like me to live in a country that was only for whites."

During his weekend trip to Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, Obama is scheduled to visit Robben Island, the former penal colony where Mandela passed 18 years of the 27 years he spent in apartheid prisons.

Starting off his Africa trip in Senegal on Wednesday, Obama praised Mandela as "a personal hero".

"If and when he passes from this place, one thing I think we'll all know is that his legacy is one that will linger on throughout the ages," he told reporters in Dakar.

Obama, who has been in office since 2009, is making his first substantial visit to Africa following a short trip to Ghana at the beginning of his first term.

South Africans held prayer meetings and vigils outside the Pretoria hospital and at Mandela's former Soweto home through Thursday night.

But as his health has deteriorated this year, there is a growing realisation among South Africa's 53 million people that the man who forged their multi-racial "Rainbow Nation" from the ashes of apartheid will not be with them forever.

Excavation of 4,500-Year-Old Boat at Giza Pyramids Begins

Excavation of 4,500-year-old boat at Giza pyramids begins

Nevine El-Aref, Tuesday 25 Jun 2013

The first wooden beam of king Khufu's second boat is removed from the pit where it is buried in Giza

A joint Japanese and Egyptian team began on Tuesday the work of removing a 4,500 year old pharaonic boat from the pit on the Giza pyramid plateau where it is buried.

Restorers removed a wooden beam, part of a boat built for King Khufu which was buried in approximately 2,500 BC. The boat was discovered in 1954 along with another identical boat in a separate pit; the latter was removed and restored, and is now on display in a purpose-built museum on the site.

The beam is the first of several which will be removed for restoration.

Since 2009, the boat's wooden beams inside the pit have been subjected to laboratory analysis to determine the types of fungi, insects and viruses that are affecting the boat, as well as the amount of deterioration that has taken place, so that an appropriate method can be selected to restore it and place it on display beside the other boat, known as the Khufu ship.

"The lifting of the beams is the third phase of a long restoration project carried out by an Egyptian and Japanese scientific and archaeological team from Waseda University, in collaboration with the Japanese government," said Ahmed Eissa, minister of state for antiquities.

He explained that the cedar beams of the boat will be removed and restored in a special laboratory constructed at the site, and when all the beams are restored, Khufu's second solar boat is to be reconstructed and put beside its twin at the entrance to the Grand Egyptian Museum which is being built overlooking the Giza plateau.

Eissa said that over the last five years the team had cleaned the pit of insects, but found that water had leaked from the nearby museum which housed the first boat. This had affected a small section of the wood, hence the necessity to finish the studies quickly and restore the wood.

The Japanese team inserted a camera through a hole in the chamber's limestone ceiling to transmit video images of the boat onto a small television monitor on the site.

Images screened showed layers of wooden beams and timbers of cedar and acacia, as well as ropes, mats and the remains of limestone blocks and small pieces of white plaster. The camera allowed an assessment of the boat's condition and the possibility of restoration.

A large hangar has been constructed over the area surrounding the second boat pit, with a smaller hangar inside to cover the top of the boat itself. The structures were put in place to protect the wooden remains during analysis and treatment. A laser scanning survey also analysed the area and the wall between the Great Pyramid and the boat pit.

The second was discovered along with the first one in 1954 in a different pit, when Egyptian architect and archaeologist Kamal El-Malakh along with Zaki Nour was carrying out routine cleaning on the south side of the Great Pyramid.

The first boat was removed piece by piece under the supervision of master restorer Ahmed Youssef, who spent more than 20 years restoring and reassembling the boat.

The second boat remained sealed in its pit up until 1987, when it was examined by the American National Geographic Society in association with the Egyptian office for historical monuments. The excavators bored a hole into the limestone beams that covered it and inserted a micro camera and measuring equipment. The void space over the boat was photographed and air measurements taken, after which the pit was resealed.

Egypt prepares to safeguard heritage before 30 June

Nevine El-Aref, Friday 28 Jun 2013

Broad range of actors join call to protect Egypt heritage from looting during upcoming protests; enact tight security measures around sites

In advance of mass protests planned for 30 June, fears of looting in Egypt's archaeological landmarks, museums, and sites are growing.

These fears have roots in the January 2011 revolution, during which looting occurred in Tahrir's Egyptian Museum as well as in archeological sites across the country. Although several objects were recovered, many others are still missing.

“I am very worried about Egypt’s archaeological sites,” said Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, deputy of the head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Section at the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA).

Abdel Maqsoud told Ahram Online that since the 2011 revolution, the lack of security in the country has posed many problems for the protection of antiquities.

While the 2011 revolution lootings were carried out haphazardly by thugs and vandals, Abdel Maqsoud fears that the 30 June protests will be different because antiquities thieves and traders had enough time to plan their robberies, especially of archeological sites in remote areas.

Abdel Maqsoud called on residents who live nearby archaeological sites and monuments to protect Egypt’s heritage.

“Protecting Egypt’s heritage is your responsibility to our civilisation and our beloved country,” said Abdel Maqsoud. He also asked citizens to collaborate with the police in order to protect the sites from illegal excavations.

Abdel Maqsoud told Ahram Online that the MSA, in collaboration with the Tourism and Antiquities Police (TAP), has established an archaeological committee to secure archaeological sites, museums and monuments across Egypt in preparation for potential turmoil during the 30 June rallies.

MSA minister Ahmed Eissa told Ahram Online that he has ordered all employees to undergo periodical inspections of the sites during this period.

He also asked for the support of Egyptians in this effort, as they did during an attack on the Egyptian Museum during the 2011 revolution.

On 28 January 2011, protestors at Tahrir Square formed a human chain around the museum in order to protect it from thugs and vandals trying to enter. Protestors also managed to detain thieves with stolen artifacts and hand them over to the police.

Egyptian museum director Sayed Amer explained that the museum’s security personnel are working in collaboration with the Public Security Agency (PSA) to protect the museum from all angles. The external wall of the museum has been heightened and barbed wired has been installed. The museum's surveillance cameras have also been inspected.

Director General of the Giza Plateau Mohamed Shiha also detailed security measures being undertaken at the plateau and at Khufu's solar boat museum, including surveillance camera tests.

Similar security measures were also enacted in Luxor and Aswan in order to safeguard its archaeological sites and monuments.

Major General Abdel Rahim Hassan, director of the TAP’s general administration, asserted that the TAP has drawn up a plan to protect monuments, archaeological sites and museums all over the country in collaboration with central security and MSA guards.

According to Hassan, these plans were designed to accommodate rumors that the well organised antiquities 'Mafia' will take advantage of 30 June protests.

Hassan asserted that tight security measures were being undertaken in all zones of interest, including security checkpoints equipped with armed forces, ambulances and fire brigades

“The Ministry of Interior is capable of safeguarding Egypt’s heritage, history and future from any risk,” confirmed Hassan.

The Tour Guides Syndicate has called on tour guides to protect Egypt’s sites, especially the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, according to syndicate head Mootaz El-Sayed.

The Revolution Youth Union (RYU) has asked protesters and the military to protect the country’s archaeological sites and museums ahead of anticipated protests.

The union's media spokesman Omar El-Hadary stated in a press conference that archaeological sites are no less important than banks and governmental institutions, which the police and army have planned to secure during30 June demonstrations.

“Archaeological sites can be looted, as was the case in the January 2011 revolution. The purpose of securing these areas is to preserve Egypt’s distinguished heritage,” El-Hadary stated.

In a related move, the Independent Union of Archaeological Workers announced the formation of committees to protect museums and other historical sites, asking individuals to volunteer through Facebook.

Intellectuals participating in the culture ministry sit-in have called on the army to protect monuments. They have also formed a committee in collaboration with junior archaeologists, curators and concerned citizens to hold tours around Egypt’s archaeological sites in order to raise awareness and to urge the public to play a role in securing the nation’s heritage.

'We Will Not Allow for Return of Mubarak Officials Or Military', Says Egyptian Opposition

'We will not allow for return of Mubarak officials or military': Opposition groups

Ahram Online, Friday 28 Jun 2013

Opposition statement asserts that revolution did not end when Mubarak stepped down; will not accept return of Mubarak-era officials to power; commits to peaceful methods to achieve goals

Several opposition forces released a statement on Thursday asserting that they would not accept the return of former Mubarak-era officials to power as an alternative to President Morsi and his regime.

"The revolution will not tolerate any opportunists who aim for personal gain," the statement read, adding "We will not allow for the return of Mubarak [officials] or the military."

The opposition forces, which include the April 6 Youth Movement, the Revolutionary Socialists, and the Strong Egypt Party lead by Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, said that the January 25 Revolution did not end when the Egyptian people brought down Mubarak in 2011.

"The struggle did not stop because we continue to face the same regime, even if it has a military or a religious facade," the statement read.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), headed by former field marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, assumed power between February 2011 and June 2012 after former president Hosni Mubarak's ouster. SCAF rule was followed by the election of Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, to the presidency.

Egypt is anticipating nationwide protests on Sunday 30 June, which will call for Morsi to step down in addition to early presidential elections.

Supporters of the president, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), assert Morsi's "constitutional legitimacy" to continue his term as president. They claim that opposition protests are supported by ex-Mubarak officials who want to reclaim power.

The opposition statement described Sunday's protests as a "completion of the revolution and the fulfillment of its goals, from which the president strayed."

"We commit to peaceful and popular means to achieve our goals," the statement concluded.

A number of public figures also signed the statement, including ex-MP Amr Hamzawy, writer Alaa El-Aswany, political scientist Rabab El-Mahdi, and former presidential contender Khaled Ali, among others.

Islamist forces are holding an open-ended sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo's Nasr City on Friday in support of Morsi. They held a similar rally last week, which numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

Tensions have been building between opponents and supporters of the president after clashes in several governorates – including Daqahliya, Sharqiya and Zagazig – left three dead and scores injured in the past week.

A three-hour speech by the president on Wednesday night offered limited concessions and called for national reconciliation but was not well-received by the opposition.

US Reduces Official Presence at Cairo Embassy, Warns Americans on Travel to Egypt

US reduces official presence at Cairo embassy, warns Americans on travel to Egypt

AP, Saturday 29 Jun 2013

US warns Americans on travel to Egypt, moves to reduce official presence at Cairo embassy

The Obama administration on Friday warned Americans against all but essential travel to Egypt and moved to reduce the official U.S. presence in the country amid fears of widespread unrest.

Just hours after Egyptian officials said an American had been killed in clashes between government supporters and opponents in the city of Alexandria, the State Department said Americans should defer nonessential travel to Egypt, citing the uncertain security situation. It also said it would allow some nonessential staff and the families of personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to leave Egypt until conditions improve.

"Political unrest, which intensified prior to the constitutional referendum in December 2012 and the anniversary in 2013 of Egypt's 25th January Revolution, is likely to continue in the near future due to unrest focused on the first anniversary of the president's assumption of office," it said.

"Demonstrations have, on occasion, degenerated into violent clashes between police and protesters, resulting in deaths, injuries and extensive property damage."

"Participants have thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails and security forces have used tear gas and other crowd control measures against demonstrators. There are numerous reports of the use of firearms as well," it said.

The department added that it had authorized the departure of "a limited number of nonemergency personnel" in addition to family members.

That move doesn't require anyone to depart but encourages them to go by allowing them to do so at government expense. Officials said dependents and nonessential staff could be ordered to leave if the situation deteriorates.

The U.S. is deeply concerned by developments in Egypt, where clashes have broken out ahead of planned mass protests against the government headed by Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. At least six Egyptians have been killed in days of clashes ahead of nationwide protests Sunday demanding Morsi's removal.

On Friday, an American was killed Alexandria while photographing battles between supporters and opponents of Morsi, according to security and medical officials.

The State Department's previous travel alert for Egypt, released on May 15, alerted Americans to the continuing possibility of political and social unrest. It urged them to keep abreast of local security conditions and exercise vigilance but did not warn them against any travel to the country.