Friday, February 10, 2012

(NEWZIMBABWE, REUTERS) Draft constitution bars Mugabe candidacy

COMMENT - So much for the MDC as the paragons of democracy. They don't want to run against the guy who got 43% of the vote last time around.

Draft constitution bars Mugabe candidacy
10/02/2012 00:00:00
by Nelson Banya I Reuters

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe could be barred from running for another term, according to the first draft of a new constitution that also seeks to trim presidential powers. However, Mugabe, who has been accused by the West of using death squads and violence to intimidate voters, will probably muster his political might to sink the proposal, analysts said.

Mugabe, who has ruled the southern African country since independence from Britain in 1980, was forced into a power-sharing deal in 2008 after a disputed election and compelled to draft a new constitution.

"A person is disqualified for election as President if he or she has already held office for one or more periods, whether continuous or not, amounting to 10 years," according to the draft seen by Reuters.

Mugabe has been nominated as his Zanu PF party's candidate and intends to run in an election he wants held in 2012. Under the power-sharing deal with his rival and now prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, elections must be held by next year with a new constitution drawn up ahead of the poll.
A referendum on the new constitution is expected to be held later this year.

Presidential powers, including the right to make senior appointments in government and the military, would be significantly curtailed, according to the draft.

Douglas Mwonzora, a co-chairman of the parliamentary committee driving the constitutional reforms representing Tsvangirai's MDC party, said the draft was the first of several that would be produced before the referendum.
The state-owned Herald newspaper, whose views often echo those of Mugabe's Zanu PF party, denounced the proposal.

"The draft is personalised to attack President Mugabe. Here is a constitution being disqualify the leader of one of the parties," it quoted an unnamed source as saying.

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(NEWZIMBABWE) Minerals receipts oversight must extend to private mines

Minerals receipts oversight must extend to private mines
10/02/2012 00:00:00
by Tafadzwa Calvin Sengwe

THE Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association will be holding a planning session to establish a Zimbabwe chapter of the ‘Publish What You Earn’ campaign in Harare on February 15, 2012. This is indeed a noble idea.

The objective of this campaign is to lobby the government and the mining industry to make public their transactions in respect of recipients of all payments made which includes purchases, consultancy work, statutory payments etc.

This concept will, in the main, eliminate the practice of corruption. If organisations are made to publish their revenues and how they spent their money, then funds committed for vice activities like corruption will be easily identified.

Publish What You Earn then increases accountability and transparency as no organisation would like to tell the public that they are involved in corruptive activities.

It is commendable that the government of Zimbabwe has already embraced this concept. Through the Ministry of Mines, the nation has been told how much is to be expected out of the diamonds sales from Marange diamond fields, details of the foreign investors involved and quantum of diamond sold. These announcements by Mpofu are unique as they have never been made since the arrival of the Pioneer Column.

However, it is worrying to note that multinational corporations who pride themselves as champions of corporate governance claiming to uphold the principles of transparency and accountability have shunned, for a long time, this noble concept.

For example, mines around the country – despite having been in business for the past fifty years – have never published how much they have mined, how much and to whom they have sold the minerals and how much profit was remitted out of the country. No records have been proffered to the public on how much these big companies are paying in taxes to the relevant authorities. It is all shrouded in secrecy.

It is high time organisations like mines published these statistics so that local communities from where they extract these minerals know how much these companies are making. The hope is that these mines would increase investments in local communities rather than expropriate all profits to their parent companies.
Transparency and accountability should not only be demanded of the government but all organisations.

In December 1999, Global Witness published a report called A Crude Awakening, an exposé of the apparent complicity of the oil and banking industries in the plundering of state assets during Angola’s 40-year civil war. It became clear that the refusal to release financial information by major multinational oil companies aided and abetted the mismanagement and embezzlement of oil revenues by the elite in the country. The report concluded with a public call on the oil companies operating in Angola to ‘publish what you pay’.

It was clear, however, that the lack of transparency in the extractive industries was also a significant concern in other resource-rich but poor countries. Therefore, in June 2002, Global Witness along with other founding members, CAFOD, Open Society Institute, Oxfam GB, Save the Children UK and Transparency International UK, launched the worldwide PWYP campaign, calling for all natural resource companies to disclose their payments to governments for every country of operation.

The small founding coalition of NGOs was soon joined by others such as Catholic Relief Services, Human Rights Watch, Partnership Africa Canada, Pax Christi Netherlands and Secours Catholique/CARITAS France, along with an increasing number of groups from developing countries.

In Zimbabwe, coincidentally, the campaign is being launched at the height of political contestations on the Marange diamond fields receipts. This is interesting. Mining in Zimbabwe has been happening since 1890 to date. The focus on mining must not seem to be confined to the three existing diamond mining companies but an open campaign must be directed to the entire industry.

There has been deafening silence in the past by civil society on the exploitation of mineral resources by Western-owned mining houses. In fact, we started to see civil society interest in mining when the government of Zimbabwe took over the Marange diamond fields. There is nothing wrong at all with civil society having oversight on the Marange diamonds, but that oversight must not be confined to this area only.

We would want Shamiso Mutisi and Farai Maguwu, prominent civic rights activists, to do assessments at Zimplats, How Mine, Murowa diamonds etc. This noble campaign must not be abused for cheap political mileage but executed in a manner that forces all mining houses to account for their proceeds.

The launch is going to be held two days before the European Union meets to review the sanctions regime on Zimbabwe. The campaign will be contemptuously dismissed if it only focuses on mining activities where black capital is involved and ignores western-owned mining enterprises.

Tafadzwa Calvin Sengwe is a Human Rights and Environmental Law Director with Resources Exploitation Watch. You may contact him on

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(NEWZIMBABWE) Zimplats profits down 68 percent on weak prices

Zimplats profits down 68 percent on weak prices
09/02/2012 00:00:00
by Reuters

PLATINUM miner Zimplats reported a 68 percent drop in quarterly profit on Thursday, hit by the continuing decline in platinum prices. Southern Africa's platinum miners have been squeezed by the drop in the price of the metal after the 2008 financial crisis. Unlike gold, platinum - which is used in automobile exhausts - is normally not seen as a safe-haven asset.

The company, which is 87 percent owned by Implats, said October-December operating profit totalled $19.22 million versus $60.96 million previously. During the quarter average platinum prices were 13 percent lower. Revenue was $97 million, a 27 percent decrease.

All three of the firm's underground mines operated at full capacity during the quarter and production of platinum group metals in concentrate was up 2 percent at 97,174 ounces, compared to 94,952 ounces previously.

The miner said royalties for the period dating back to January 2010 had been accrued at a higher rate than provided for in its initial investment agreement with the Zimbabwe government, triggering a legal dispute which is now before the courts.

Last month, state media reported the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority issued Zimplats' bankers with a garnishee order - an order that instructs the bank to pay out of Zimplats' funds - for $28.3 million in outstanding royalty payments, a figure the miner disputes.

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(WASHINGTON'S BLOG) Independent Report Contradicts Western Portrait of Syria

Independent Report Contradicts Western Portrait of Syria
Posted on February 7, 2012 by WashingtonsBlog
Arab League Report Shows that Syria Has Been Mischaracterized

While the Western media act like the Syrian government is wantonly and indiscriminately killing its own people without provocation, an independent investigation has found a different reality on the ground.

Specifically, over 160 monitors from the Arab League – comprised of both allies and mortal enemies of Syria – toured Syria and published a report on January 27th showing that the situation has been mischaracterized.

Initially, the report noted general cooperation by the Syrian government:

The Mission [i.e. the Arab League investigative team] noted that the Government strived to help it succeed in its task and remove any barriers that might stand in its way. The Government also facilitated meetings with all parties. No restrictions were placed on the movement of the Mission and its ability to interview Syrian citizens, both those who opposed the Government and those loyal to it.

The report noted that the media has greatly exaggerated the amount of violence in Syria:

The Mission noted that many parties falsely reported that explosions or violence had occurred in several locations. When the observers went to those locations, they found that those reports were unfounded.

The Mission also noted that, according to its teams in the field, the media exaggerated the nature of the incidents and the number of persons killed in incidents and protests in certain towns.


Since it began its work, the Mission has been the target of a vicious media campaign. Some media outlets have published unfounded statements, which they attributed to the Head of the Mission. They have also grossly exaggerated events, thereby distorting the truth.

Such contrived reports have helped to increase tensions among the Syrian people and undermined the observers’ work.

Indeed, some of the observers themselves violated their oath of neutrality and exaggerated the violence:

Some observers reneged on their duties and broke the oath they had taken. They made contact with officials from their countries and gave them exaggerated accounts of events. Those officials consequently developed a bleak and unfounded picture of the situation.

While the government has exaggerated the number of detainees released, it has in fact thousands of detainees:

On 19 January 2012, the Syrian government stated that 3569 detainees had been released from military and civil prosecution services. The Mission verified that 1669 of those detained had thus far been released. It continues to follow up the issue with the Government and the opposition, emphasizing to the Government side that the detainees should be released in the presence of observers so that the event can be documented.

The Mission has validated the following figures for the total number of detainees that the Syrian government thus far claims to have released:
• Before the amnesty: 4,035
• After the amnesty: 3,569.
The Government has therefore claimed that a total of 7,604 detainees have been released.

The Mission has verified the correct number of detainees released and arrived at the following figures:
• Before the amnesty: 3,483
• After the amnesty: 1,669
The total number of confirmed releases is therefore 5152. The Mission is continuing to monitor the process and communicate with the Syrian Government for the release of the remaining detainees.

While the government has not withdrawn all of its forces, the military has withdrawn from many areas:

Based on the reports of the field-team leaders and the meeting held on 17 January 2012 with all team leaders, the Mission confirmed that all military vehicles, tanks and heavy weapons had been withdrawn from cities and residential neighbourhoods. Although there are still some security measures in place in the form of earthen berms and barriers in front of important buildings and in squares, they do not affect citizens.

Perhaps most importantly, the report notes that the Syrian people do not want foreign intervention:

However, the citizens believe the crisis should be resolved peacefully through Arab
mediation alone, without international intervention. Doing so would allow them to live in peace and complete the reform process and bring about the change they desire.

The report condemns violence by both sides, but stresses that much of the violence has been perpetrated by the rebels against government forces:

In Homs and Dera‘a, the Mission observed armed groups committing acts of violence against Government forces, resulting in death and injury among their ranks. In certain situations, Government forces responded to attacks against their personnel with force. The observers noted that some of the armed groups were using flares and armour-piercing projectiles.

In Homs, Idlib and Hama, the Observer Mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against Government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of those acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed.


Recently, there have been incidents that could widen the gap and increase bitterness between the parties. These incidents can have grave consequences and lead to the loss of life and property. Such incidents include the bombing of buildings, trains carrying fuel, vehicles carrying diesel oil and explosions targeting the police, members of the media and fuel pipelines. Some of those attacks have been carried out by the Free
Syrian Army [the main opposition group] and some by other armed opposition groups.

Why Hasn’t The Report Received Media Coverage?

Why hasn’t the Arab League report received any press, given that it provides a much more reassuring and less apocalyptic picture of what is going on in Syria?

Pepe Escobar reports in the Asia Times:

When the over 160 monitors, after one month of enquiries, issued their report … surprise! The report did not follow the official GCC [i.e Arab League] line – which is that the “evil” Bashar al-Assad government is indiscriminately, and unilaterally, killing its own people, and so regime change is in order.

The Arab League’s Ministerial Committee had approved the report, with four votes in favor (Algeria, Egypt, Sudan and GCC member Oman) and only one against; guess who, Qatar – which is now presiding the Arab League because the emirate bought their (rotating) turn from the Palestinian Authority.

So the report was either ignored (by Western corporate media) or mercilessly destroyed – by Arab media, virtually all of it financed by either the House of Saud or Qatar. It was not even discussed – because it was prevented by the GCC from being translated from Arabic into English and published in the Arab League’s website.

Until it was leaked.


Still [the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar - what Escobar calls the NATOGCC], blocked from applying in Syria its one-size-fits-all model of promoting “democracy” by bombing a country and getting rid of the proverbial evil dictator, won’t be deterred. GCC leaders House of Saud and Qatar bluntly dismissed their own report and went straight to the meat of the matter; impose a NATOGCC regime change via the UN Security Council.

So the current “Arab-led drive to secure a peaceful end to the 10-month crackdown” in Syria at the UN is no less than a crude regime change drive. Usual suspects Washington, London and Paris have been forced to fall over themselves to assure the real international community this is not another mandate for NATO bombing – a la Libya. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described it as “a path for a political transition that would preserve Syria’s unity and institutions”.

But BRICS members Russia and China see it for what it is. Another BRICSblank Independent Report Contradicts Western Portrait of Syria member – India – alongside Pakistan and South Africa, have all raised serious objections to the NATOGCC-peddled draft UN resolution.

There won’t be another Libya-style no fly zone; after all the Assad regime is not exactly deploying Migs against civilians. A UN regime change resolution will be blocked – again – by Russia and China [this happened last week]. Even NATOGCC is in disarray, as each block of players – Washington, Ankara, and the House of Saud-Doha duo – has a different long-term geopolitical agenda. Not to mention crucial Syrian neighbor and trading partner Iraq; Baghdad is on the record against any regime change scheme.

Sound familiar? No wonder.



Thursday, February 09, 2012

(LUSAKATIMES) Government lost K3 trillion through maize marketing and fertiliser subsidies-Guy Scott

Government lost K3 trillion through maize marketing and fertiliser subsidies-Guy Scott
TIME PUBLISHED - Thursday, February 9, 2012, 4:53 am

Vice President GUY SCOTT has said that government lost three trillion kwacha through scams under the maize marketing and fertiliser subsidies last farming season. Dr. SCOTT, who is also PF party Vice President, said that the money, which government lost could have been enough to provide free education for many Zambians from grade one to twelve.

The Vice President was speaking in an interview with ZNBC news in Msanzala constituency in Petauke District in the Eastern Province shortly before he left for Lusaka.

Dr. SCOTT explained that the money that has been lost is much more than the budget for health, military and the Zambia Police Service.

He further explained that the Food Reserve Agency-FRA staff have been taking out Tarpaulins so that the maize can go to waste.

Dr. SCOTT said the FRA staff have been puling out tarpaulins so that the money they steal can not be audited.

And Dr SCOTT said that government will prioritise infrastructure development in rural areas.

Dr. SCOTT said that because most roads in rural areas are impassible and people travel long distances to access health facilities and schools.

The vice president also urged Zambians of Asian origin to be more involved in the country’s economy. Dr. SCOTT who is also PF party vice president says Zambians of Asian origin have been very useful, but that they need to increase their participation.

The vice president was speaking last night when he met the business community in Petauke, the Eastern province.

Dr Scott said government is happy that the Asian community is providing employment to Zambians and assured them that their investment is safe.

He explained that people who thought PF was radical towards investments from the Asian community have been proved wrong.

Agriculture EMMANUEL CHENDA said the PF government has an open door policy and is inclusive.

AND proprieter of GOOD LUCK bakery RIZWAAN PATEL said the business community in Petauke is happy with the positive step that the govenment has taken.

And proprieter of Petauke Bargain centre RASHID LULAT urged the PF government to seriously look at the way the constituency development fund is being used.

Dr. SCOTT has described his three-day campaign trail in Petauke District as sucessful.

The Vice President wound up his campaign Wednesday after he held two public rallies at Sandwe and Chiwale Basic Schools.

He was in Petauke District to drum up support for PF Msanzala candidate Colonel Joseph Lungu.

The MMD is fielding Peter Daka, Shadrick Banda is standing on the the UNIP ticket and Usuman Maumba is contesting the seat as an independent candidate.

The seat fell vacant after Colonel JOSEPH LUNGU resigned and joined the Patriotic Front party.

The Msanzala parliamentary by-election takes place on 16th February, next week.


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(LUSAKATIMES) Kunda wrote letter over Varun tax

Kunda wrote letter over Varun tax
TIME PUBLISHED - Thursday, February 9, 2012, 11:00 am

FORMER Republican vice-president George Kunda allegedly wrote a letter to former Finance minister Situmbeko Musokotwane objecting to the decision to award a tax deferment facility to Varun beverages, it has emerged.

Mr Kunda, in his letter a few days before former president Rupiah Banda summoned a meeting at State House on March 15, advised that companies that wanted a tax holiday should arrange with the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA).

He had contended in the letter that a “face-less” tax deferment was illegal. Mr Kunda was also Justice minister at the time.

Sources said when he appeared before a team of law enforcement officers, Mr Kunda was asked to read the letter and confirmed that he authored it because it was his duty.

A letter from Mr Banda to Dr Musokotwane in April 2010 directing the ministry to facilitate the awarding of tax holiday was written after Mr Kunda’s advice against the deferment facility.

The former president’s letter has, however, allegedly disappeared from the Ministry of Finance in unexplained circumstances.

The special combined team of security personnel investigating allegations of corruption has attempted in vain to trace the letter dated April 24, 2010.

The letter was a follow up to a meeting that allegedly took place at State House on March 15, 2010 called by Mr Banda in which he allegedly asked Dr Musokotwane to ensure that the tax holiday was granted.

Those who attended the State House meeting included Dr Musokotwane, former Commerce minister Felix Mutati, and Mr Kunda.

Others were Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) Director-General Andrew Chipwende and former chief budget analyst in charge of tax revenue who is now director of economic management, Felix Nkulukusa.

In an interview in Lusaka on Tuesday, Mr Chipwende said he was just called to attend the State House meeting and could not discuss the matter in detail.

“We do not operate like that. I was called to that meeting and what is said is for the Government and not for the public,” Mr Chipwende said.

Mr Kunda declined to comment on the matter saying it would be hard for him because a warn and caution statement had been recorded from Dr Musokotwane.

Value Added Tax (VAT) is not on the list of taxes available for deferment to companies according to the Zambia Development Agency Act (ZDA), but was offered to Varun.

[Times of Zambia]

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(AL JAZEERA) How neoliberalism created an age of activism

How neoliberalism created an age of activism - Decades of neoliberal economic policies have concentrated wealth and are now spurring a global backlash.
Juan Cole
The family of deposed Tunisian President Ben Ali is part of the global one per cent elite [EPA]

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN - From Tunis to Tel Aviv, Madrid to Oakland, a new generation of youth activists is challenging the neoliberal state that has dominated the world ever since the Cold War ended. The massive popular protests that shook the globe this year have much in common, though most of the reporting on them in the mainstream media has obscured the similarities.

Whether in Egypt or the United States, young rebels are reacting to a single stunning worldwide development: the extreme concentration of wealth in a few hands thanks to neoliberal policies of deregulation and union busting. They have taken to the streets, parks, plazas and squares to protest against the resulting corruption, the way politicians can be bought and sold, and the impunity of the white-collar criminals who have run riot in societies everywhere. They are objecting to high rates of unemployment, reduced social services, blighted futures and above all the substitution of the market for all other values as the matrix of human ethics and life.

Pasha the Tiger

In the "glorious thirty years" after World War II, North America and Western Europe achieved remarkable rates of economic growth and relatively low levels of inequality for capitalist societies, while instituting a broad range of benefits for workers, students and retirees. From roughly 1980 on, however, the neoliberal movement, rooted in the laissez-faire economic theories of Milton Friedman, launched what became a full-scale assault on workers' power and an attempt, often remarkably successful, to eviscerate the social welfare state.

Neoliberals chanted the mantra that everyone would benefit if the public sector were privatised, businesses deregulated and market mechanisms allowed to distribute wealth. But as economist David Harvey argues, from the beginning it was a doctrine that primarily benefited the wealthy, its adoption allowing the top one per cent in any neoliberal society to capture a disproportionate share of whatever wealth was generated.

In the global South, countries that gained their independence from European colonialism after World War II tended to create large public sectors as part of the process of industrialisation. Often, living standards improved as a result, but by the 1970s, such developing economies were generally experiencing a levelling-off of growth. This happened just as neoliberalism became ascendant in Washington, Paris and London as well as in Bretton Woods institutions like the International Monetary Fund. This "Washington consensus" meant that the urge to impose privatisation on stagnating, nepotistic postcolonial states would become the order of the day.

Egypt and Tunisia, to take two countries in the spotlight for sparking the Arab Spring, were successfully pressured in the 1990s to privatise their relatively large public sectors. Moving public resources into the private sector created an almost endless range of opportunities for staggering levels of corruption on the part of the ruling families of autocrats Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunis and Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. International banks, central banks and emerging local private banks aided and abetted their agenda.

It was not surprising then that one of the first targets of Tunisian crowds in the course of the revolution they made last January was the Zitouna bank, a branch of which they torched. Its owner? Sakher El Materi, a son-in-law of President Ben Ali and the notorious owner of Pasha, the well-fed pet tiger that prowled the grounds of one of his sumptuous mansions. Not even the way his outfit sought legitimacy by practicing "Islamic banking" could forestall popular rage. A 2006 State Department cable released by WikiLeaks observed, "One local financial expert blames the [Ben Ali] Family for chronic banking sector woes due to the great percentage of non-performing loans issued through crony connections, and has essentially paralysed banking authorities from genuine recovery efforts." That is, the banks were used by the regime to give away money to his cronies, with no expectation of repayment.

Tunisian activists similarly directed their ire at foreign banks and lenders to which their country owes $14.4bn. Tunisians are still railing and rallying against the repayment of all that money, some of which they believe was borrowed profligately by the corrupt former regime and then squandered quite privately.

Tunisians had their own one per cent, a thin commercial elite, half of whom were related to or closely connected to President Ben Ali. As a group, they were accused by young activists of mafia-like, predatory practices, such as demanding pay-offs from legitimate businesses, and discouraging foreign investment by tying it to a stupendous system of bribes. The closed, top-heavy character of the Tunisian economic system was blamed for the bottom-heavy waves of suffering that followed: cost of living increases that hit people on fixed incomes or those like students and peddlers in the marginal economy especially hard.

It was no happenstance that the young man who immolated himself and so sparked the Tunisian rebellion was a hard-pressed vegetable peddler. It's easy now to overlook what clearly ties the beginning of the Arab Spring to the European Summer and the present American Fall: the point of the Tunisian revolution was not just to gain political rights, but to sweep away that one per cent, popularly imagined as a sort of dam against economic opportunity.

Tahrir Square, Zuccotti Park, Rothschild Avenue

The success of the Tunisian revolution in removing the octopus-like Ben Ali plutocracy inspired the dramatic events in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and even Israel that are redrawing the political map of the Middle East. But the 2011 youth protest movement was hardly contained in the Middle East. Estonian-Canadian activist Kalle Lasn and his anti-consumerist colleagues at the Vancouver-based Adbusters Media Foundation were inspired by the success of the revolutionaries in Tahrir Square in deposing dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Their organisation specialises in combatting advertising culture through spoofs and pranks. It was Adbusters magazine that sent out the call on Twitter in the summer of 2011 for a rally at Wall Street on September 17, with the now-famous hash tag #OccupyWallStreet. A thousand protesters gathered on the designated date, commemorating the 2008 economic meltdown that had thrown millions of Americans out of their jobs and their homes. Some camped out in nearby Zuccotti Park, another unexpected global spark for protest.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has now spread throughout the United States, sometimes in the face of serious acts of repression, as in Oakland, California. It has followed in the spirit of the Arab and European movements in demanding an end to special privileges for the richest one per cent, including their ability to more or less buy the US government for purposes of their choosing. What is often forgotten is that the Ben Alis, Mubaraks and Gaddafis were not simply authoritarian tyrants. They were the one per cent and the guardians of the one per cent, in their own societies - and loathed for exactly that.

Last April, around the time that Lasn began imagining Wall Street protests, progressive activists in Israel started planning their own movement. In July, sales clerk and aspiring filmmaker Daphne Leef found herself unable to cover a sudden rent increase on her Tel Aviv apartment. So she started a protest Facebook page similar to the ones that fuelled the Arab Spring and moved into a tent on the posh Rothschild Avenue where she was soon joined by hundreds of other protesting Israelis. Week by week, the demonstrations grew, spreading to cities throughout the country and culminating on September 3 in a massive rally, the largest in Israel's history. Some 300,000 protesters came out in Tel Aviv, 50,000 in Jerusalem and 40,000 in Haifa. Their demands included not just lower housing costs, but a rollback of neoliberal policies, less regressive taxes and more progressive, direct taxation, a halt to the privatisation of the economy, and the funding of a system of inexpensive education and child care.

Many on the left in Israel are also deeply troubled by the political and economic power of right-wing settlers on the West Bank, but most decline to bring the Palestinian issue into the movement's demands for fear of losing support among the middle class. For the same reason, the way the Israeli movement was inspired by Tahrir Square and the Egyptian revolution has been downplayed, although "Walk like an Egyptian" signs - a reference both to the Cairo demonstrations and the 1986 Bangles hit song - have been spotted on Rothschild Avenue.

Most of the Israeli activists in the coastal cities know that they are victims of the same neoliberal order that displaces the Palestinians, punishes them and keeps them stateless. Indeed, the Palestinians, altogether lacking a state but at the complete mercy of various forms of international capital controlled by elites elsewhere, are the ultimate victims of the neoliberal order. But in order to avoid a split in the Israeli protest movement, a quiet agreement was reached to focus on economic discontents and so avoid the divisive issue of the much-despised West Bank settlements.

There has been little reporting in the Western press about a key source of Israeli unease, which was palpable to me when I visited the country in May. Even then, before the local protests had fully hit their stride, Israelis I met were complaining about the rise to power of an Israeli one per cent. There are now 16 billionaires in the country, who control $45bn in assets, and the current crop of 10,153 millionaires is 20 per cent larger than it was in the previous fiscal year. In terms of its distribution of wealth, Israel is now among the most unequal of the countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Since the late 1980s, the average household income of families in the bottom fifth of the population has been declining at an annual rate of 1.1 per cent. Over the same period, the average household income of families among the richest 20 per cent went up at an annual rate of 2.4 per cent.

While neoliberalism has produced more unequal societies throughout the world, nowhere else has the income of the poor declined quite so strikingly. The concentration of wealth in a few hands profoundly contradicts the founding principles of Israel's Labour Zionism, and results from decades of right-wing Likud policies punishing the poor and middle classes and shifting wealth to the top of society.

The indignant ones

European youth were also inspired by the Tunisians and Egyptians - and by a similar flight of wealth. I was in Barcelona on May 27, when the police attacked demonstrators camped out at the Placa de Catalunya, provoking widespread consternation. The government of the region is currently led by the centrist Convergence and Union Party, a moderate proponent of Catalan nationalism. It is relatively popular locally, and so Catalans had not expected such heavy-handed police action to be ordered. The crackdown, however, underlined the very point of the protesters, that the neoliberal state, whatever its political makeup, is protecting the same set of wealthy miscreants.

Spain's "indignados" (indignant ones) got their start in mid-May with huge protests at Madrid's Puerta del Sol Plaza against the country's persistent 21 per cent unemployment rate (and double that among the young). Egyptian activists in Tahrir Square immediately sent a statement of warm support to those in the Spanish capital (as they would months later to New York's demonstrators). Again following the same pattern, the Spanish movement does not restrict its objections to unemployment (and the lack of benefits attending the few new temporary or contract jobs that do arise). Its targets are the banks, bank bailouts, financial corruption and cuts in education and other services.

Youth activists I met in Toledo and Madrid this summer denounced both of the country's major parties and, indeed, the very consumer society that emphasised wealth accumulation over community and material acquisition over personal enrichment. In the past two months Spain's young protesters have concentrated on demonstrating against cuts to education, with crowds of 70,000 to 90,000 coming out more than once in Madrid and tens of thousands in other cities. For marches in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement, hundreds of thousands reportedly took to the streets of Madrid and Barcelona, among other cities.

The global reach and connectedness of these movements has yet to be fully appreciated. The Madrid education protesters, for example, cited for inspiration Chilean students who, through persistent, innovative, and large-scale demonstrations this summer and fall, have forced that country's neoliberal government, headed by the increasingly unpopular billionaire president Sebastian Pinera, to inject $1.6bn in new money into education. Neither the crowds of youth in Madrid nor those in Santiago are likely to be mollified, however, by new dorms and laboratories. Chilean students have already moved on from insisting on an end to an ever more expensive class-based education system to demands that the country's lucrative copper mines be nationalised so as to generate revenues for investment in education. In every instance, the underlying goal of specific protests by the youthful reformists is the neoliberal order itself.

The word "union" was little uttered in American television news coverage of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, even though factory workers and sympathy strikes of all sorts played a key role in them. The right-wing press in the US actually went out of its way to contrast Egyptian demonstrations against Mubarak with the Wisconsin rallies of government workers against Governor Scott Walker's measure to cripple the bargaining power of their unions.

The Egyptians, Commentary typically wrote, were risking their lives, while Wisconsin's union activists were taking the day off from cushy jobs to parade around with placards, immune from being fired for joining the rallies. The implication: the Egyptian revolution was against tyranny, whereas already spoiled American workers were demanding further coddling.

The American right has never been interested in recognising this reality: that forbidding unions and strikes is a form of tyranny. In fact, it wasn't just progressive bloggers who saw a connection between Tahrir Square and Madison. The head of the newly formed independent union federation in Egypt dispatched an explicit expression of solidarity to the Wisconsin workers, centering on worker's rights.

At least, Commentary did us one favour: it clarified why the story has been told as it has in most of the American media. If the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were merely about individualistic political rights - about the holding of elections and the guarantee of due process - then they could be depicted as largely irrelevant to politics in the US and Europe, where such norms already prevailed.

If, however, they centred on economic rights (as they certainly did), then clearly the discontents of North African youth when it came to plutocracy, corruption, the curbing of workers' rights, and persistent unemployment deeply resembled those of their American counterparts.

The global protests of 2011 have been cast in the American media largely as an "Arab Spring" challenging local dictatorships - as though Spain, Chile and Israel do not exist. The constant speculation by pundits and television news anchors in the US about whether "Islam" would benefit from the Arab Spring functioned as an Orientalist way of marking events in North Africa as alien and vaguely menacing, but also as not germane to the day to day concerns of working Americans. The inhabitants of Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan clearly feel differently.

Facebook flash mobs

If we focus on economic trends, then the neoliberal state looks eerily similar, whether it is a democracy or a dictatorship, whether the government is nominally right of centre or left of centre. As a package, deregulation, the privatisation of public resources and firms, corruption and forms of insider trading and interference in the ability of workers to organise or engage in collective bargaining have allowed the top one per cent in Israel, just as in Tunisia or the US, to capture the lion's share of profits from the growth of the last decades.

Observers were puzzled by the huge crowds that turned out in both Tunis and Tel Aviv in 2011, especially given that economic growth in those countries had been running at a seemingly healthy five per cent per annum. "Growth", defined generally and without regard to its distribution, is the answer to a neoliberal question. The question of the 99 per cent, however, is: Who is getting the increased wealth? In both of those countries, as in the US and other neoliberal lands, the answer is: disproportionately the one per cent.

If you were wondering why outraged young people around the globe are chanting such similar slogans and using such similar tactics (including Facebook "flash mobs"), it is because they have seen more clearly than their elders through the neoliberal shell game.

Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History and the director of the Centre for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan. His latest book, Engaging the Muslim World, is just out in a revised paperback edition from Palgrave Macmillan. He runs the Informed Comment website.

A version of this article was first published on Tom Dispatch.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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(DEMOCRACY NOW) oup in Maldives: Adviser to Ousted Pres. Mohamed Nasheed Speaks Out from Hiding as Arrest Sought

COMMENT - (Former) President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives looks like another neoliberal chancer, like Morgan Tsvangirai. Even the names of their parties are extremely similar - the Maledives Democratic Party (MDP) and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). His 'advisor' Paul Roberts is even British. As always, the way to know who they are and who they represent is to look at their economic platform - follow the money. His 'routine' is 'climate change'. From Democracy Now!:

The first democratically elected president of the tiny Indian Ocean state of Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, has been ousted in what he has described as a coup d’état at gunpoint. A longtime pro-democracy activist who was jailed for six years, Nasheed has achieved international prominence as a leading campaigner to save island nations from global warming. Earlier today, Nasheed said an arrest warrant has been issued for him following two days of street protests against the coup. We speak with Paul Roberts, who served as Nasheed’s communications adviser and was with him on the day of the coup. Roberts says he fears a warrant has been issued for his own arrest and speaks to us from an undisclosed location. [includes rush transcript]


Paul Roberts, adviser on international media and communications, the President’s Office, Republic of Maldives. He is currently in an undisclosed location as he fears his own arrest.
Related stories

* Ousted Maldives Pres. Mohamed Nasheed a Leading Voice for Island States Threatened by Global Warming
* "Would You Commit Murder?"–15-Year-Old Maldives Climate Ambassador Asks World Leaders to Take on Climate Change
* Island Nation of Maldives Holds Cabinet Meeting Underwater to Highlight Danger of Global Warming
* Obama’s Support for Natural Gas Drilling "A Painful Moment" for Communities Exposed to Fracking
* "Gasland" Director Josh Fox Arrested at Congressional Hearing on Natural Gas Fracking

Rush Transcript

This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.
Related Links

* Maldives Independent News Site "Minivan News"
* "The Dregs of Dictatorship" by Mohammed Nasheed (New York Times Guest Opinion, Feb. 8, 2012)

JUAN GONZALEZ: We begin today’s show looking at the tiny Indian Ocean state of Maldives, where the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, has been ousted in what he has described as a coup at gunpoint.

In 2008, Mohamed Nasheed beat the longtime ruler of Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, in the country’s first free and open election. Prior to the vote, Nasheed was a longtime pro-democracy activist who was jailed for six years. At the time, he was described as the "Mandela of the Maldives."

Once in office, Nasheed became an internationally recognized leader on climate issues, as he urged the world to do more to save small island states from rising sea waters.

MOHAMED NASHEED: If it was important for countries to defend Poland in the 1930s because it was a frontline state, it’s very important to take care of the Maldives now, because the Maldives and many other small states are in the frontline of what is happening to the world, to climate today. If you can’t defend the Maldives today, you won’t be able to defend yourself tomorrow.

AMY GOODMAN: Ousted Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed once held a cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the threat of global warming to the Maldives. He also pledged to make the Maldives the first carbon neutral country and installed solar panels on the roof of his presidential residence.

Nasheed’s rise to power is the focus of a new documentary called The Island President. This is an excerpt.

MOHAMED NASHEED: If we can’t stop the seas rising, if you allow for a 2-degree rise in temperature, you are actually agreeing to kill us. I have an objective, which is to save the nation. I know it’s a huge task. I’ve been arrested 12 times. I’ve been tortured twice. I spent 18 months in solitary.

We won our battle for democracy in the Maldives. A year later, there are those who tell us that solving climate change is impossible. Well, I am here to tell you that we refuse to give up hope.

JUAN GONZALEZ: The trailer for the new documentary, The Island President.

It now appears Nasheed may be jailed again after being ousted from office by the police and military, who accused him of unjustly arresting a senior judge. Earlier today, Nasheed said an arrest warrant has been issued for him, following two days of street protests against the coup. Police said on state TV Wednesday night that protests led by Nasheed after his ouster were, quote, "an act of terrorism."

Nasheed spoke earlier today outside his home.

MOHAMED NASHEED: They have issued an arrest warrant to arrest me. Now, the new home minister has pledged that I will be the first former president to spend all my life in jail. So, I think he is working on his delivery of his pledge. I hope that the international community will take note of what is happening in the Maldives. And if they can, do something right now; it certainly will be late tomorrow.

REPORTER: Why do you say that?

MOHAMED NASHEED: Well, we tend to work with facts on the ground. And tomorrow, the fact on the ground would be that I will be in jail, so it’s going to be difficult to rewind from there on. But it would be rather much more easier if people can start work now.

AMY GOODMAN: That is the ousted president of the Maldives.

We’re joined by several guests to talk more about the situation there and President Mohamed Nasheed, as well. We’re beginning with Paul Roberts. He served as Nasheed’s communications adviser. He was with Nasheed on the day of the coup. He’s joining us from an undisclosed location.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! Can you talk about exactly what has happened, Paul?

PAUL ROBERTS: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Amy.

Let me tell you what I saw on Tuesday, when I went into work at about 7:00 in the morning. There was an almighty fight going on just outside the President’s office by the military barracks, where some protesters—I’d say about 500—had been joined with mutinying police officers, and they were trying to break into the main army headquarters, which is also the armory. Later that morning, we heard that the military police and other members of the military were joining the protesters, calling for the overthrow of the government. A little later, we heard that one of the ruling party offices had been ransacked by police, and then the national television and radio station had been stalled by police. The journalists had been rounded up and locked in a room, and the cables had been pulled. And they pulled off the state television from the air.

But the thing that was my striking for me was, at just about 11:00—or, I’d say, just before 12:00 noon, the gates of the President’s office opened, and about three sedan cars swooped in with a jeep at the back. Nasheed got out of one car, the defense minister out of another. He was surrounded by 40 or 50 soldiers, some of whom were armed, and shepherded into a room. And I spoke to Nasheed this morning, and he told me that in that room army officers, who were carrying loaded weapons, told him that if he did not resign now, they would use force against him and his staff. So he wrote a letter of resignation, which the military kept. He was frogmarched to a press conference to declare his resignation. And he was taken to his house, where he was placed under military custody, while the Vice President, Waheed, quickly declared himself the new president. It was—it was deeply, deeply shocking.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, President Nasheed wrote a short piece that was posted on the New York Times website Wednesday titled "The Dregs of Dictatorship." He began by writing, quote, "Dictatorships don’t always die when the dictator leaves office. The wave of revolutions that toppled autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen last year was certainly cause for hope. But the people of those countries should be aware that, long after the revolutions, powerful networks of regime loyalists can remain behind and can attempt to strangle their nascent democracies."

He goes on to say, quote, "Let the Maldives be a lesson for aspiring democrats everywhere: the dictator can be removed in a day, but it can take years to stamp out the lingering remnants of his dictatorship." And he was referring, of course, there to the former—the former leader of that country. Could you talk about the ties, if any, between the protesters and the former leader?

PAUL ROBERTS: Well, yeah, sure. The former leader was a man called Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. And he was a brute, in a word. He led the Maldives for 30 years with an iron fist. Political parties were banned. There was no freedom of expression. Every election, he won with 99 percent of the vote, and his was the only name on the ballot paper. And Nasheed led a nonviolent resistance movement against him that ultimately ushered in the democracy, which culminated in the 2008 elections, which Nasheed won, the first multi-party elections in the country’s history.

And now the protesters involved in Tuesday’s—well, it is like—the coup were members of Gayoom’s party. But I stress again: there were only a few hundred protesters on the streets, which, in the Maldives, isn’t much. Nasheed and other parties regularly get a couple of thousand people to their normal rallies. So, this was not a revolution. Neither was it led by the rabble. It was a police mutiny, followed by a mutiny in the military. And it was the use of force that—it was something that Nasheed is saying—that forced him to leave office.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to what Mohamed Nasheed said on Tuesday, the day he announced his resignation.

MOHAMED NASHEED: [translated] The way I saw it, if I were to keep the government in power, I would have had to use excessive force, which would have resulted in a lot of people getting hurt, which is the reason I came to the conclusion I did. At the same time, if I were to have taken steps to sustain the government, there is a strong likelihood of external influences.

AMY GOODMAN: During a short interview with Al Jazeera the following day, Mohamed Nasheed said he was forced to resign in what he described as a coup.

MOHAMED NASHEED: I was forced to resign.

AL JAZEERA REPORTER: You were forced to resign.

MOHAMED NASHEED: I was forced to resign.

AL JAZEERA REPORTER: And in your perspective, this is a coup.

MOHAMED NASHEED: This is a coup. It definitely is. If you find any definition of a coup anywhere, this is a coup. This is not—this is a bloodless coup, because I did not take part in it. I did not want to defend. That is why there was no blood.

AL JAZEERA REPORTER: Why resign, though, even under—

MOHAMED NASHEED: Because I didn’t want them to go shooting our people.

AL JAZEERA REPORTER: And they were threatening.

MOHAMED NASHEED: They were threatening me, and they were threatening the people. So I didn’t want that.

AL JAZEERA REPORTER: And where do you go from here?

MOHAMED NASHEED: Another election.

AL JAZEERA REPORTER: And you’re still hopeful?

MOHAMED NASHEED: We are certain that the people of this country are with us.

AMY GOODMAN: That is ousted President Nasheed. The State Department here in the United States has defended the ousting of President Nasheed and has confirmed the new leadership has been in contact with the Obama administration. Robert Blake, the assistant secretary of state for South Asia, is expected to visit Maldives this weekend. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland was questioned about the U.S. stance and Blake’s visit Wednesday.

REPORTER: Are you going to withhold—I mean, are you taking any position on the suggestions that it might have been a military coup? Are you going to investigate that? Is Blake going to check that out? Or do you think that that’s not a sort of a reasonable suggestion here?

VICTORIA NULAND: Well, obviously, we are talking to all parties. That’s why we’re sending our folks down. But that is not the information that we have at the moment. But Assistant Secretary Blake will have a chance to be there and talk to everybody on Saturday. But in the interim, we are urging calm, we’re urging dialogue, we’re urging the—President Waheed, as you know, has committed to forming a national unity government, and we think that will also be an important signal to political factions across the Maldives.

REPORTER: Does that mean that a determination on whether this was an unconstitutional change in power is going to wait until after Blake’s visit?

VICTORIA NULAND: Well, our view, as of yesterday—and I don’t think that that has changed; obviously we’ll collect more information going forward—was that this was handled constitutionally.

AMY GOODMAN: That was State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland. Paul Roberts, you’re the adviser to the ousted president, Mohamed Nasheed, speaking to us from an undisclosed location. Your response?

PAUL ROBERTS: I think—in fairness, I don’t think the State Department are being malicious or [inaudible] anything more than and announces on what the information they were given on Tuesday. It was a cleverly orchestrated coup, because the army effectively put a gun to the President’s head and said, "Resign, or we’ll pull the trigger," and therefore he resigned. They then placed him under military house arrest and didn’t allow him to speak, whilst the former vice president, Waheed, who we believe was involved in plotting the coup, was quickly ushered into office. So, from the outside world, who were unable to speak to Nasheed for much of Tuesday—certainly only in the very [inaudible] on Tuesday—it looks like the President had resigned and, as per the Constitution, the Vice President was sworn in. But it was only on Wednesday, when Nasheed was able to talk and some of his officials were able to flee the Maldives and tell the international community what actually happened, that the truth is starting to filter out.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And what about the supposed pretext for these actions by the military: the government’s arrest of a senior judge? Could you talk about that judge and what the issue was that involved the judge and these protests that erupted in response to that?

PAUL ROBERTS: Yeah, sure. This judge was—he was the chief judge of the Criminal Court, which is one of the middle-ranking courts in the Maldives. And the government had accused him of defending the former dictatorship of Gayoom. There was a number of cases against former regime members for [inaudible] and corruption, and some involving hundreds of millions of dollars. And the government contended that this judge was essentially preventing those cases from ever reaching fruition. There also had been a Judicial Services Commission, which is a constitutionally appointed body to look into judges’ conduct. It also ruled that this judge was behaving in a way that wasn’t proper, and it asked for him to be disciplined. And the judge, effectively, was refusing to go and had even quashed his own summons by the police to come in for questioning. So at that point, the police turned to the military and asked for him to be detained. And, you know, this was the excuse for some of the protests that we then saw.

But again, I stress that the protests, while they were noisy and loud, there were a maximum 400 or 500 people every evening. That’s not enough to bring down a government. There’s 100,000 people in Malé, and Malé is a sort of a wealthy, urbane community that leans very, very heavily towards Nasheed. And in fact, in the local elections last year, Nasheed’s party one nine out of the 11 seats there. So, this was not a popular uprising. This was done by the security forces.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re speaking to Paul Roberts, adviser to the ousted Maldives president, Mohamed Nasheed. We’re going to go to break. When we come back, we’ll also be joined by the founder of, Bill McKibben, as well as the filmmaker who just finished a film called The Island President about President Mohamed Nasheed. Jon Shenk will be joining us, as well. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking about the coup in the Maldives and the ousting of the president there. In October 2009, Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed held a cabinet meeting underwater in an attempt to bring attention to the dire consequences of global warming. Nasheed and 11 of his government ministers wore scuba gear and plunged nearly 20 feet into the Indian Ocean.

PRESIDENT MOHAMED NASHEED: We are actually trying to send our message, let the world know what is happening and what might—what will happen to the Maldives if climate change is not checked. This is a challenging situation. And we want to see that everyone else is also occupied as much as we are and would like to see that people actually do something about it.

AMY GOODMAN: That is the ousted president, Mohamed Nasheed, of the Maldives. Bill McKibben, you’re founder of Talk about what has happened this week.

BILL McKIBBEN: Sure. Look, Nasheed, who I know a little bit, is a remarkable man for two reasons. One, he was the—in certain ways, the first precursor of the Arab Spring, the Mandela of the Indian Ocean, you know, who really brought democracy to a country where it hadn’t been before. Second, he’s been the most outspoken head of state around the issue of climate change on our planet. He has provided the leadership, both symbolic and practical, that we desperately need. You know, until Tuesday, the Maldives was on target to become the first carbon neutral nation on earth. That won’t save the climate, but it’s the kind of thing that should shame the West into beginning to act itself. They also were—he and his government did a tremendous job of cooperating with activists around the world to try and bring attention to this most desperate of problems.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Bill, the denial of the State Department that this is even a coup?

BILL McKIBBEN: You know, it’s so depressing to hear that. Let’s hope that the State Department is getting new information. We’re sending more than 30,000 signatures over there today that we’ve gathered in the last few hours from people around the world in the network who are incredibly upset at what’s going on.

I was at the Maldives 20 years ago, at the height of the Gayoom thugocracy, and it was an unpleasant place—people with machine guns on corners and things. Malé, the capital, during the Nasheed years was a very different place: open, vibrant, alive democratic, humming with people trying to make a difference in the world. It’s just the saddest of thoughts to think that we might be moving backwards and that the State Department—I mean, one trusts that they’re not—you know, that they’re taking this seriously.

Clearly, in certain ways, Nasheed was a thorn in their side, because he kept bringing up the topic of climate change, a topic they’re not that keen on. On the other hand, he, almost to a fault, was cooperative with U.S. efforts to try and do something—you know, what little we’re doing—about climate change. The State Department owes him, and I hope that they take this seriously.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me turn to a new documentary, The Island President, about Mohamed Nasheed, the one we just played a clip of, directed by Jon Shenk. This part looks at Nasheed’s time as a political dissident under the old regime.

PRESIDENT MOHAMED NASHEED: After graduation, I came back to the Maldives. By this time, the state had become more and more repressive. So we decided that it would be good to come up with a magazine.

MOHAMED ZUHAIR: Nasheed and I and a few others began a publication called Sangu, which was a political publication.

PRESIDENT MOHAMED NASHEED: It was talking about two things: corruption and human rights abuse. It was very critical of the regime. One night, at about 3:00 in the morning, they came to my house. They raided my home and took a whole lot of papers.

LAILA ALI: They came in. They took him away. It was in the middle of the night. I mean, we had heard so many stories of what they were doing in the jails and all that, so it was terrifying, you know, really.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Mohamed Nasheed’s wife.

PRESIDENT MOHAMED NASHEED: I refused to give a confession. So, because of this, I was taken to a corrugated iron sheet cell. The whole cell is five feet by three feet. You had a mat. That’s all.

AMY GOODMAN: Mohamed Nasheed eventually went into exile but returned to Maldives to lead a fledgling pro-democracy movement. Here is another excerpt from The Island President.

PRESIDENT MOHAMED NASHEED: The Maldives was looking very much like an occupied country.

MOHAMED ASLAM: I would be lying if I tell you that I wasn’t afraid. But—and he keeps telling us all the time, you know, "You must get courage from each other. So, stand by together."

PRESIDENT MOHAMED NASHEED: Demonstrations were taking place all throughout the country. There were huge demonstrations in Fares-Maathodaa, Thinadhoo, Kinbidhoo, Ukulhas—you know, many, many, many islands. This was spreading like wildfire. It just finally came to a point that Gayoom had to relent, and he had to allow free and fair elections.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt from the new documentary, The Island President. We are joined by Jon Shenk, who’s its director. This news—you have spent a good deal of time with the ousted president in the Maldives. This history—he has been held, he has been beaten and tortured by the ousted—by the former dictator. What about what’s happening now, Jon?

JON SHENK: Well, thanks for having me.

You know, when I arrived in the Maldives in 2009, a few months after the first-ever democratically presidential held election there, it was a—it was a very strange place. You know, on one hand, you had people who were clearly still looking over their shoulders from, you know, decades of having lived in a police state. And then you had, on the other hand, Nasheed and the new fledgling democratic government there, you know, acting in the most open, kind of democratic, transparent way that you can imagine a good government acting.

So, what is happening now, in some ways, is obviously shocking and stunning and, to those of us who know Nasheed well, very sad—but not surprising, given just the kinds of things that we heard during the making of the film, which is that, you know, it’s in a small country that was ruled for so long by an entrenched dictatorship. You had so much of society, you know, sort of, quote-unquote, "in his pocket," or, you know, sort of—or at least fearful of repercussions that might occur, you know, speaking out against him.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I’d like to ask Paul Roberts, the adviser to the ousted president, Nasheed, about this—the Maldives and the WikiLeaks documents concerning the Copenhagen climate talks. In 2010, The Guardian newspaper published an article titled "WikiLeaks Cables Reveal How US Manipulated Climate Accord." The Guardian reported that within two weeks of the Copenhagen—the climate change conference, "the Maldives foreign minister, Ahmed Shaheed, wrote to the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, expressing eagerness to back [the accord]."

By February 23rd, 2010, "the Maldives’ ambassador-designate to the US, Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, told the US deputy climate change envoy, Jonathan Pershing, his country wanted [quote] 'tangible assistance', saying other nations would then realise [quote] 'the advantages to be gained by compliance' with the accord."

According to a leaked cable, "Ghafoor referred to several projects costing approximately $50 [million]."

Your response to those WikiLeaks documents?

PAUL ROBERTS: Yeah, sure. I mean, I was in Copenhagen with Nasheed, and I saw him battling very vigilantly to get a deal. We were very nervous at that point that there would be no deal, with this almighty row that was breaking out between America and China. And eventually we did get a deal. It was a very bad deal. It was a very poor deal. It was a compromised deal. But it was a deal. And Nasheed played an instrumental part in that and in preventing those talks from collapsing. And then, you know, we’ve—since then, we’ve had some baby steps forward in Cancún and Durban, which seems to sort of justify his decision to keep the U.N. talks on the road. But, I mean, the last day of Copenhagen, Nasheed said publicly, and in writing, that the Maldives had written—sorry, had supported the Copenhagen Accord. So this was two months before these meetings.

But the—you know, one of the key parts of any U.N. accord is that some of the poor, vulnerable countries, like the Maldives, but like many others in Africa, have to spend an increasing proportion of their budgets on adaptations. In the Maldives, this is tens of millions of dollars on sea walls and beach revetments and stuff to protect these islands from the rising seas. So, you know, what the Maldives was saying was that, you know, if we can have some help, then—you know, then that’s great, and for other developing countries, too, that needs to be part of the accord. And suddenly there’s at least $50 million worth of sea walls and revetments and water breakers that are in need of building in the Maldives alone.

But I think one thing where some of the analysis is incorrect is that somehow the Maldives kind of used money as a bargaining chip to sign on to the accord. That’s not true. We had already signed on to the accord a month, months or weeks before any of these meetings took place.

AMY GOODMAN: And did the U.S.—


AMY GOODMAN: Did the U.S., Paul, deliver the money, the $50 million?

PAUL ROBERTS: Well, we never asked them for $50 million. If you look at the cable in detail, what it says is we have $50 million worth of adaptation that we need doing, and so, if anybody would like to help, that’s great. And, you know, of course, one of the big things at Copenhagen was that there was supposed to be this transfer from the rich to the poor to help pay for these sorts of things. But no, Amy, no, they didn’t deliver a cent. There’s been no financing from the U.S. for any adaptation in the Maldives.

AMY GOODMAN: So what’s going to happen now, Paul Roberts? You know, we go back to different attempted coups. In Venezuela, Chávez refused to sign a resignation letter, which seemed very important to the coup makers. He remained in office. President Aristide in Haiti was being pushed to sign a resignation letter by the—one of the U.S. officials from the U.S. embassy before he was ousted the second time. He did sign, and he was ousted and could not return. What’s going to happen now to your president, as we wrap up?

PAUL ROBERTS: Well, we’re very concerned. We think—you know, the new regime have got the—they already had—they always had the judiciary in their pocket. They’ve now stormed the state TV, so they have—they basically have most of the fourth estate in their pocket. They now have the executive in their pocket. And they’ll probably be able to get the legislature in their pocket, as well. The only thing they don’t have in their pocket is the fact that Nasheed is still extremely popular, then likely to win any new election. But this is where I think there’s another insidious thing going on. I think they are trying to arrest him. They’ve said they’re going to have 14 cases for his arrest. And I think what they will do is they’ll try and charge him with anything, with something, so he’ll have a criminal record, and that will prevent him standing in any future election.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we thank you very much for joining us, Paul Roberts, adviser to the Maldives. Can you say where you are?

PAUL ROBERTS: I’d rather not. There’s been arrest warrants out for all of Nasheed’s former aides.

AMY GOODMAN: As well as yourself?

PAUL ROBERTS: I believe so.

AMY GOODMAN: Paul Roberts, speaking to us from an undisclosed location, an aide to the ousted president, Mohamed Nasheed, of the Maldives. Jon Shenk, thanks for being with us. His new documentary film, The Island President, has premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Before we go, Jon, what will you do with this film now? It seems this is the point, more than ever, to get this information out.

JON SHENK: Yes, absolutely. You know, the film is being distributed in the U.S. by Samuel Goldwyn Films, and we’re moving ahead with our release next month, and obviously trying to get the word out. I think that, you know, one remarkable thing about the film is that it really is an unprecedented look at a sitting head of state. To my knowledge, no other project has ever followed a head of state with such transparent access. So I think, just by the nature of watching the film, I think people will get a sense of who the real Nasheed is. It’s kind of undeniable that he approaches his presidency, and pretty much everything he does, with just, you know, honesty and openness and a can-do attitude.

AMY GOODMAN: Jon Shenk, director of The Island President. And Bill McKibben, thanks very much for being with us, founder of, among his books, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

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(GLOBALRESEARCH) Syria Assassination Plot: 1957 Intel. Documents Reveal How Eisenhower and Macmillan Conspired against Syria

Syria Assassination Plot: 1957 Intel. Documents Reveal How Eisenhower and Macmillan Conspired against Syria
by Ben Fenton
Global Research, February 9, 2012
Guardian - 2003-09-27

Nearly 50 years before the war in Iraq, Britain and America sought a secretive "regime change" in another Arab country they accused of spreading terror and threatening the west's oil supplies, by planning the invasion of Syria and the assassination of leading figures. Newly discovered documents show how in 1957 Harold Macmillan and President Dwight Eisenhower approved a CIA-MI6 plan to stage fake border incidents as an excuse for an invasion by Syria's pro-western neighbours, and then to "eliminate" the most influential triumvirate in Damascus.

The plans, frighteningly frank in their discussion, were discovered in the private papers of Duncan Sandys, Mr Macmillan's defence secretary, by Matthew Jones, a reader in international history at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Although historians know that intelligence services had sought to topple the Syrian regime in the autumn of 1957, this is the first time any document has been found showing that the assassination of three leading figures was at the heart of the scheme. In the document drawn up by a top secret and high-level working group that met in Washington in September 1957, Mr Macmillan and President Eisenhower were left in no doubt about the need to assassinate the top men in Damascus.

Part of the "preferred plan" reads: "In order to facilitate the action of liberative forces, reduce the capabilities of the Syrian regime to organise and direct its military actions, to hold losses and destruction to a minimum, and to bring about desired results in the shortest possible time, a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals. Their removal should be accomplished early in the course of the uprising and intervention and in the light of circumstances existing at the time."

The document, approved by London and Washington, named three men: Abd al-Hamid Sarraj, head of Syrian military intelligence; Afif al-Bizri, chief of the Syrian general staff; and Khalid Bakdash, leader of the Syrian Communist party.

For a prime minister who had largely come to power on the back of Anthony Eden's disastrous antics in Suez just a year before, Mr Macmillan was remarkably bellicose. He described it in his diary as "a most formidable report". Secrecy was so great, Mr Macmillan ordered the plan withheld even from British chiefs of staff, because of their tendency "to chatter".

Concern about the increasingly anti-western and pro-Soviet sympathies of Syria had been growing in Downing Street and the White House since the overthrow of the conservative military regime of Colonel Adib Shishakli by an alliance of Ba'ath party and Communist party politicians and their allies in the Syrian army, in 1954.

Driving the call for action was the CIA's Middle East chief Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of former president Theodore Roosevelt. He identified Colonel Sarraj, General al-Bizri and Mr Bakdash as the real power behind a figurehead president. The triumvirate had moved even closer to Nikita Khrushchev's orbit after the previous year's disastrous attempt by Britain and France, in collusion with Israel, to reverse the nationalisation of the Suez canal.

By 1957, despite America's opposition to the Suez move, President Eisenhower felt he could no longer ignore the danger of Syria becoming a centre for Moscow to spread communism throughout the Middle East. He and Mr Macmillan feared Syria would destabilise pro-western neighbours by exporting terrorism and encouraging internal dissent. More importantly, Syria also had control of one of the main oil arteries of the Middle East, the pipeline which connected pro-western Iraq's oilfields to Turkey.

The "preferred plan"adds: "Once a political decision is reached to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria, CIA is prepared, and SIS [MI6] will attempt, to mount minor sabotage and coup de main incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals.

"The two services should consult, as appropriate, to avoid any overlapping or interference with each other's activities... Incidents should not be concentrated in Damascus; the operation should not be overdone; and to the extent possible care should be taken to avoid causing key leaders of the Syrian regime to take additional personal protection measures."


The report said that once the necessary degree of fear had been created, frontier incidents and border clashes would be staged to provide a pretext for Iraqi and Jordanian military intervention. Syria had to be "made to appear as the sponsor of plots, sabotage and violence directed against neighbouring governments," the report says. "CIA and SIS should use their capabilities in both the psychological and action fields to augment tension." That meant operations in Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon, taking the form of "sabotage, national conspiracies and various strong-arm activities" to be blamed on Damascus.

The plan called for funding of a "Free Syria Committee", and the arming of "political factions with paramilitary or other actionist capabilities" within Syria. The CIA and MI6 would instigate internal uprisings, for instance by the Druze in the south, help to free political prisoners held in the Mezze prison, and stir up the Muslim Brotherhood in Damascus.

The planners envisaged replacing the Ba'ath/Communist regime with one that was firmly anti-Soviet, but they conceded that this would not be popular and "would probably need to rely first upon repressive measures and arbitrary exercise of power".

The plan was never used, chiefly because Syria's Arab neighbours could not be persuaded to take action and an attack from Turkey alone was thought to be unacceptable. The following year, the Ba'athists moved against their Communist former allies and took Syria into a federation with Gen Nasser's Egypt, which lasted until 1963.

Global Research Articles by Ben Fenton

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(GLOBALRESEARCH) SYRIA: CIA-MI6 Intel Ops and Sabotage

SYRIA: CIA-MI6 Intel Ops and Sabotage
by Felicity Arbuthnot
Global Research, February 7, 2012

“In order to facilitate the action of liberative (sic) forces, ...a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals. ...[to] be accomplished early in the course of the uprising and intervention, ...

Once a political decision has been reached to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria, CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main (sic) incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals. ...Incidents should not be concentrated in Damascus …

Further : a “necessary degree of fear .. frontier incidents and (staged) border clashes”, would “provide a pretext for intervention... the CIA and SIS [MI6 should use … capabilitites in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.” (Joint US-UK leaked Intelligence Document, London and Washington, 1957)

“'The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history." (George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair, 1903-1950.)

For anyone in two minds about what is really going on in Syria, and whether President Assad, hailed a decade ago as “A Modern Day Attaturk”, has become the latest megalomaniacal despot, to whose people a US-led posse of nations, must deliver “freedom”, with weapons of mass, home, people, nation and livelihood destruction, here is a salutary tale from modern history.

Have the more recent sabre rattlings against Syria* been based on US-UK government papers, only discovered in 2003 - and since air brushed (or erroneously omitted) from even BBC timelines, on that country?(i)

In late 2003, the year of the Iraq invasion, Matthew Jones, a Reader in International History, at London’s Royal Holloway College, discovered “frighteningly frank” documents:1957 plans between then UK Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, and then President, Dwight Eisenhower, endorsing: “a CIA-MI6 plan to stage fake border incidents as an excuse for an invasion (of Syria) by Syria’s pro-western neighbours.” (ii)

At the heart of the plan was the assassination of the perceived power behind then President Shukri al-Quwatli. Those targeted were: Abd al-Hamid Sarraj, Head of Military Intelligence; Afif al-Bizri, Chief of Syrian General Staff: and Khalid Bakdash, who headed the Syrian Communist Party.

The document was drawn up in Washington in the September of 1957:

“In order to facilitate the action of liberative (sic) forces, reduce the capabilities of the regime to organize and direct its military actions … to bring about the desired results in the shortest possible time, a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals.

“Their removal should be accomplished early in the course of the uprising and intervention, and in the light of circumstances existing at the time.”

In the light of President Assad’s current allegations of foreign forces and interventions, cross border incursions (as Colonel Qadafi’s before him, so sneered at by Western governments and media – and, of course, ultimately proved so resoundingly correct.) there are some fascinating, salutary phrases:

“Once a political decision has been reached to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria, CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main (sic) incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals.

“Incidents should not be concentrated in Damascus … care should be taken to avoid causing key leaders of the Syrian regime to take additional personal protection measures.”

Further : a “necessary degree of fear .. frontier incidents and (staged) border clashes”, would “provide a pretext for intervention”, by Iraq and Jordan - then still under British mandate.

Syria was to be: “made to appear as sponsor of plots, sabotage and violence directed against neighbouring governments … the CIA and SIS [Her Majesty's Secret International Serivce, MI6] should use … capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.”

Incursions in to Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, would involve: “sabotage, national conspiracies, and various strong arms activities”, were, advised the document, to be blamed on Damascus.

In late December 2011 an opposition “Syria National Council” was announced, to “liberate the country”, representatives met with Hilary Clinton. There now seems to be a US – endorsed “Syrian Revolutionary Council.”

The Eisenhower-Macmillan plan was for funding of the: “Free Syria Committee” and “arming of political factions with paramilitary or other actionist capabilities”, within Syria.

CIA-MI6, planned fomenting internal uprisings and replacing the Ba’ath-Communist-leaning government, with a Western, user-friendly one. Expecting this to be met by public hostility, they planned to: “probably need to rely first on repressive measures and arbitrary exercise of power.”

The document was signed off in both London and Washington. It was, wrote Macmillan in his diary: “a most formidable report.” A Report which was: “withheld even from British Chiefs of Staff …”

Washington and Whitehall had become concerned at Syria’s increasingly pro-Soviet, rather than pro-Western sympathies - and the Ba’ath (Pan Arab) and Communist party alliance, also largely allied within the Syrian army.

However, even political concerns, were trumped by Syria then controlling a main pipeline from the Western bonanza of Iraq’s oil fields, in those pre-Saddam Hussein days.

Briefly put: in 1957, Syria allied with Moscow (which included an agreement for military and economic aid) also recognized China - and then as now, the then Soviet Union warned the West against intervening in Syria.

Syria, is unchanged as an independent minded country, and the loyalties remain. It broadly remains the cradle of the Pan Arab ideal of Ba’athism, standing alone, since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

In 1957, this independent mindedness caused Loy Henderson, a Senior State Department official, to say that:“the present regime in Syria had to go …”

Ultimately, the plan was not used, since, British mandate or not, neighbouring countries refused to play. However, the project, overtly, bears striking similarity to the reality of events over the last decade, in Syria – and the region.

In a near 1957 re-run, Britain’s Foreign Minister, William Hague has said President Assad “will feel emboldened” by the UN Russia-China vote in Syria’s favour.

Hilary (“We came, we saw, he died”) Clinton, has called for: “friends of a democratic Syria”, to unite and rally against the Assad government:

“We need to work together to send them a clear message: you cannot hold back the future at the point of a gun”, said the women filmed purportedly watching the extrajudicial, illegal assassination of may be, or may be not, Osma Bin Laden and others – but certainly people were murdered - by US illegal invaders – at the point of lots of guns.

Supremely ironically, she was speaking in Munich (5th February) historically: “The birth place of the Nazi party.”

The Russia-China veto at the UN on actions against Syria, has been condemned by the US, varyingly, as: “Disgusting”, ‘shameful”, “deplorable”, “a travesty.”

Eye opening, is the list of US vetoes to be found at (iii). Jaw dropping double standards can only be wondered at (again.).

Perhaps the bottom line is: in 1957, Iraq’s oil was at the top of the agenda, of which Syria held an important key. Today, it is Iran’s - and as Michel Chossudovsky notes so succinctly: “The road to Tehran is through Damascus.”(iv)






Felicity Arbuthnot is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Felicity Arbuthnot



(HERALD) A dairy farmer par excellence

A dairy farmer par excellence
Thursday, 09 February 2012 00:00
Fortious Nhambura Features Writer

"I had to quit my job to focus on my passion - dairy farming - and I had to make a tough decision that meant relocating from the bright lights of the city to the farm," said Mr Lovemore Mugabe as he supervised the afternoon milking session of his 350 dairy cows.

Located about 50km west of Hwedza Centre, Magure Farm has lived to become a testimony of hard work and perseverance. It is a clear example of what a Zimbabwean can do when presented with an opportunity.

In the past, dairy farming was an elitist activity restricted mostly to white farmers, people like Mr Mugabe have helped to disabuse this thinking that large- scale dairy farming is for the rich.

Mr Mugabe's decision to leave a thriving transport business has not led him to a dead end but has helped in improving his social and economic life in a big way.

Starting with less than 20 commercial dairy cows in 2002, Mr Mugabe has grown to establish a herd of 900 cattle with a total of 350 cows going under the milk shed, 400 being heifers and the remainder comprising dry cows.

He got the Magure Farm under the land redistribution programme, moving from a small plot in the same area.

Immediately he sought to improve the operations at the farm as an example to other farmers in the area.

"I started by improving the working conditions of my workers because one will never be successful with a hostile workforce. I took everything within my stride since money was not readily available.

"I took the opportunity because dairy farming is my passion. This is now my everyday life. That's why I relocated with my family from Marondera to this farm. At first it was difficult convincing my wife and children but they are now solidly behind me. This business does not need ‘cellphone farmers'.

"I started small but picked up over the years. From a small herd of 13, my herd has grown to over 900 cattle. The herd consists of Holsteins and Jerseys and milking short cows."

Mr Mugabe said business was affected during the hyperinflationary period and only started picking up in 2010. He said "cellphone farming" was not ideal for any type of farming.

"The business requires the presence of the farmer for proper monitoring of animals and milking otherwise the investment will be lost.

"Mind you, dairy farming is a capital-intensive project. Just like any other businesses you need to be seriously involved with the entire production line otherwise you will not survive for long.

"That is all it takes to be a successful farmer. In fact, this is true for any field one might be in," Mr Mugabe said.

His "never-say-die" attitude has rewarded him handsomely. For his efforts, Mr Mugabe has already scooped the Nestle Milk Producer of the Year twice, in 2005 and 2010, beating a host of others including established white farmers, in recognition of his hard work.

Mr Mugabe produces 800 000 litres of milk a month.

On the farm, Mr Mugabe does not only focus milk production, he is also into cash crops to feed the nation and capital assets to finance occasional expenditure.

He produces the bulk of the stockfeed on the farm as grazing alone will not bring the desired production quality hence the need for supplementary feeding.

"The animals need good and sufficient food to remain healthy and productive. As such, I always give supplements during the wet season and silage during the drier months.

"I have 103 hectares of maize that we process for silage to feed the livestock, food for the family and workers.

"I have a full complement of workers divided into six categories that include fields, veterinary services, milkmen, herdboys, security and machinery," he said.

Specialisation of duties has enabled his workers to concentrate on their different sections and produce the best results.

"Imagine when you have to milk the cows twice a day, that requires a lot of manpower," he said.
Mr Mugabe said there was no way one could be involved in animal production and have nothing to do with crop productions.

Over the years he has strived to improve the quality of milk from his farm.

For him, maintaining good quality requires maintaining standards within the milk production line.
"The prices of milk are favourable but every farmer must always seek to produce a better quality product. We are getting US$0,45c per litre but there is 25 percent premium for good butter quality. So one can get above US$0,70c if he gets his quality right and if one does not get these premiums, the overheads will bring him down," Mr Mugabe said.

Through the assistance of Nestle Zimbabwe, Mr Mugabe was able to expand his byre to milk 24 cows at a time.

He said Nestle was playing a major role in reviving the dairy industry through financing of mechanisation and improvement of farmers' herd.

"We have not set on laurels. We are working together as dairy farmers in the area to ensure that we improve milk production. We always meet to discuss production quality and hygiene.

"To ensure we improve our herd, we always sell heifers amongst ourselves. The aim is to ensure that all dairy farmers in the area have high yield cows," he added.

Just like others dairy farmers, Mr Mugabe's biggest worry is the erratic electricity supply.
He said: "Our biggest worry is the persistent power outages, but I believe this is a national problem. Zesa used to give us schedules for loadshedding but not any more. We used to have four days of power per week but this is now distorted.

"Consequently we have to rely on two high powered generators to power the milking machines and cool storage tanks but at a huge cost. The generators have a capacity of 1000kva."
Mr Mugabe urged other farmers to work together with police to curb stock theft.

Owing to the good rapport with the community, he has not recorded theft over the past eight years.

With the country's dairy herd estimated below 40 000, down from a peak of 192 000 in 1992, it is the work of people like Mr Mugabe that can lead the revival of dairy farming.

According to statistics from the National Association of Dairy Farmers, Zimbabwe's milk production rose from about 3,6 million litres a month to 4,6 million last year.

Capacity utilisation among dairy processors is below 30 percent owing to reduction in farm production.

The Zimbabwean dairy industry is aiming to improve milk production from the current 50 million litres to over 200 million litres annually over the next five years.

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(HERALD) LRA - Small but ruthless to Uganda

COMMENT - The LRA is a front group for the Ugandan government, which itself is a proxy of the US/UK presence in Africa, like Kenya or nowadays Ethiopia. President Yoweri Museveni has been providing housing, jobs and protection for Joseph Kony's parents since 1994 (the year Uganda also happened to invade Rwanda, through Paul Kagame). From the Wikileaks Cables:

¶4. (C) Senior Advisor Shortley asked Museveni for his views on how Kony would be handled if he agreed to a deal. Museveni described his provision of protection, livelihood, and homes for Kony,s mother (and now deceased father) since 1994. Museveni was flexible on Kony,s future, saying that the LRA leader could live anywhere in Uganda where he had not committed atrocities.

LRA: Small but ruthless to Uganda
Thursday, 09 February 2012 00:00
Prof Mungai wa Muthaithai

THE belief that the end is nigh for Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army - a small but ruthless transnational armed group operating in four African states - underestimates its resilience and overestimates the unity and capability of the forces ranged against it.

The LRA is seen as being in "survival mode". It has a lightly armed 1 000-strong militia dispersed across a territory half the size of France, and uses "terror" tactics to subdue local populations and is facing a coordinated response from the armies of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Uganda and the USA.

In recent weeks African Union special envoy for affairs relating to the LRA Francisco Madeira, and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Abou Moussa have toured Kinshasa, Bangui, Juba and Kampala to discuss regional military cooperation, following authorisation from the AU Peace and Security Council in November 2011, with the support of the UN, for them to deal decisively with the LRA.

Ashley Benner, a policy analyst at the Enough Project - a US NGO lobbying for an end to mass atrocity crimes - told IRIN: "The proposed AU intervention force will consist of approximately 3 500-5 000 troops from the four affected countries. The mandate and goals of the mission are to end the LRA, protect civilians, and lead to security and stability in the affected countries."
The USA has deployed about 100 military advisers - they carry weapons for self-defence only - to assist the region's military forces, but Benner said this would not be sufficient.

"The advisers need to be bolstered by more capable troops, greater intelligence and logistical capabilities, including helicopters, improved collaboration between regional forces, and increased efforts to encourage LRA members to leave the group," she added.

The Shadows of Peace Sandra Adong Oder, a senior researcher at the conflict management and peace building unit at Pretoria-based think-tank the Institute for Security Studies, told IRIN the same military actors involved in previous and failed attempts to eradicate the LRA were involved in the AU initiative, and asked: "It (the initiative) may be doing more, (but) is it any different?"

The LRA was also not a top priority for the four affected countries: Kony's forces, were no longer operating in Uganda; they were more than 1 000 km from Kinshasa and so not seen as a key security issue for the DRC; they are not threatening any economic interests or political constituencies in CAR; and South Sudan was grappling with more urgent security considerations, said Oder.

In a research note entitled The AU's Regional Initiative Against the LRA: Prospects and Implications published on 30 January, Oder said: "The regional intervention force . . . is based on some assumptions that the LRA is an easy problem to solve, and that the insurgent group's threat capability has been reduced. This may prove to be a grave mistake . . .

"The new force should therefore not merely improve on existing military operations, but needs to refrain from merely duplicating operational structures and techniques that do not work, while at the same time leaving the military command in the hands of national governments, which could fuel suspicion and intra-regional tensions within the alliance, which in turn could severely limit cooperation and coordination - and hence the AU's overall ownership of the mission . . .

"This time round, the consequences of another failure will be prohibitive, in the sense that once committed, the AU mission would then have to use all necessary force to avoid failure, and would be under immense pressure to escalate military involvement to ensure success," the note said.
It should be remembered that the LRA only has to survive to succeed The International Working Group on the LRA, in a World Bank June 2011 report entitled: Diagnostic Study of the Lord's Resistance Army, written by Philip Lancaster and Guillaume Lacaille, said: "It should be remembered that the LRA only has to survive to succeed . . .

"As long as it (the LRA) is present, it is capable of generating insecurity in the region. To survive, it needs only to avoid, as much as possible, direct contact with superior armed forces and continue to resupply itself from vulnerable civilians. As long as it retains the freedom to choose the time and place of its attacks, it retains the tactical and strategic initiative," the World Bank report said.

In the past month, LRA Crisis Tracker, a real-time mapping platform for crimes committed by Kony's forces, has attributed six deaths and 14 abductions to the armed group.

Uganda, the regional military power, is expected to take the lead role in the military operations by virtue of its acknowledged professionalism compared to the region's other forces, and its close working relationship with US forces over the past few years, although its dominance in an intervention force could increase regional tensions, especially between Kampala and Kinshasa.

Last year DRC President Joseph Kabila asked his counterpart Yoweri Museveni to halt operations in his country against the LRA by the Uganda People's Defence Force and it is unclear how this impasse will be resolved.

Oder said although the Ugandan army was "overstretched" with its commitments to the AU Mission in Somalia it had a personal score to settle with the LRA, after previous encounters had exposed the "weaknesses, corruption and competence" of the UPDF.

"It's about saving face and pride," she said.

A 2 February 2012 Enough Project report entitled Ensuring Success: Four Steps Beyond US Troops to End the War with the LRA by Sasha Lezhnev, said Uganda's best troops were in Somalia and it did not have any bases in the DRC.

"Some 90 percent of LRA attacks over the past six months have taken place in DRC . . . The shortage of troops is also hurting civilian protection efforts, which are in urgent need of a boost."

The bush fighting skills of LRA fighters have been masked and overshadowed by their reputation as a ragtag bunch of bandits, marauding and raping, reliant on abducted children brainwashed into soldiering under Kony, and with an absolute disregard for human rights. The LRA is responsible for thousands of deaths and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people across the four-country region.

"We have ample evidence from reports of the past 20 years that the LRA are a force to be reckoned with. Ruthless as they are, their tactics are well adapted to the terrain and the nature of the forces they face," Philip Lancaster - former head of the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration division of the UN Mission in the DRC , the predecessor of the current UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC, and coordinator of the UN Group of Experts on the Congo - said in an August 2011 article entitled the Lord's Resistance Army and US.

"The LRA make deliberate use of terror to tie up military forces and survive by hit-and-run attacks that are well-planned and flawlessly executed," he wrote.

Their extraordinary ability to survive, even when constantly on the move, gives LRA fighters an edge over all pursuing armies. LRA fighters value reconnaissance, are skilled in ambush techniques and the evasion of air surveillance, are trained in both irregular and regular forms of warfare and have adapted to different climatic regions from rainforests to arid wastelands.

"Their extraordinary ability to survive, even when constantly on the move, gives LRA fighters an edge over all pursuing armies," the World Bank report said.

The notion that the LRA's estimated 250 fighters and their dispersal into small cells indicates weakness, is misleading, the World Bank report said.

"While the LRA has been weakened over the past two years, it is premature to regard them as lacking capacity, since the number of the core fighters is not much lower now than what it has been throughout the years."

The response to any concerted military effort against them is likely to be accompanied by the LRA's "very crude way of operating" in using civilians as targets, Oder said.

The Ugandan 2008 offensive against the LRA, Operation Lightning Thunder, resulted in a sharp rise in the number of LRA attacks on civilians, rather than a drop-off: There were two successive Christmas massacres in 2008 and 2009.

"These events, particularly the massacre of December 2009 in the Makombo area of Haut Uélé, DRC, provoked questions about the wisdom of offensive operations against the LRA without adequate accompanying measures to protect civilians in the area of operations," The World Bank report said.

The UN Disarmament, Demobilisation, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement exercise has been viewed as a major weapon in deconstructing the LRA through its propaganda campaign to encourage defections.

- DayAfrica.Com

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