Featured Post

The white-Left Part 1: The two meanings of white

Monday, April 30, 2012

#LyElect Libyans register to vote 1st time in 60 years

Follow clayclai on Twitter
Libyans started registering to vote in a national election for the first time in 60 years today, May Day, 2012. Libyan Tweet Forum reports:
The Libyan National Transitional Council will hold the first democratic elections in Libya as planned on the 19th of June. This election comes to apply a designated 200-member assembly to draft a new constitution and form a government.

The registration centers open their doors to register voters in Libya from the 1st of May until the 14th of May in all regions of the country.
Libyans overseas might also be able to vote through their respective embassies. You will find below information about voter registration for the 2012 Elections.
Voting Districts

Locations for voters inside Libya (Documents are in Arabic)

Tobruk (1) | Bayda (2) | Benghazi (3) | Ajdabiya (4) | Sirte and Jufrah (5) | Sabha and Shati (6) | Awbari and Murzuq (7) | Gheryan (8) | Misrata (9) | Khums (10) | Tripoli (11) | Aziziya (12) | Zawiya

Libyans in the United States may get Info and Forms Here.

Now I'm off to join the West Wind of Occupy LA for our May Day in LA.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Charles Taylor, Qaddafi goon, found guilty of war crimes in Sierra Leone

Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone by the Special Court established jointly the United Nations and the government of Sierra Leone today.

When the trial first started, many demanded that Mummar Qaddafi stand trial for these crimes along side of Charles Taylor because Taylor and his band were trained in Libya and his campaign of terror was backed and financed by Qaddafi. What Taylor did was just one part of a larger criminal enterprise carried out in West Africa that created turmoil in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire, and was organized and funded by Mummar Gaddafi in Libya.

The NY Times reported on the verdict this morning:

THE HAGUE — Charles G. Taylor, the former president of Liberia and once a powerful warlord, was convicted by an international tribunal on Thursday of 11 counts of planning, aiding and abetting war crimes committed in Sierra Leone during that country’s civil war in the 1990s. He is the first head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

The ruling, announced by Presiding Judge Richard Lussick of Samoa, said Mr. Taylor was guilty of involvement in crimes against humanity and war crimes including murder, rape, slavery and the use of child soldiers. The court, however, said the prosecution failed to prove that Mr. Taylor had direct command responsibility for the atrocities in the indictment.

The story is all over the news now. You'll find an Al Jazeera YouTube video, a link to the diary that broke the story on the Daily Kos and more about the Qaddafi connection below the fold.

New Africa Analysis, Monthly news & analysis on progressive Africa, wrote in March 2011:
The world is well aware of the atrocities committed by Colonel Gaddafi on his own people both in recent weeks and over his 40 year reign in the North African country. Yet, it is the sight just outside the city of Benghazi where his World Revolutionary Centre (WRC) was located that saw the start of some of his worst crimes across the continent and the globe.

The centre, at its height in the 80’s when Gaddafi was at his, was a training ground for violent dissidents who have gone on to wreak havoc, predominately across West Africa. The subversive activities, and the deadly and pernicious atrocities committed by the centre’s alumni in several countries still wreak division and political instability. Douglas Farah, senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Centre in Virginia, USA, described the WRC as the ‘Harvard and Yale of a whole generation of African revolutionaries, many of them the continent’s most notorious tyrants.’

Charles Taylor, Foday Sankoh, Blaise Compaoré, Ibrahim Bah and Idriss Deby were just a few to graduate from the WRC. They formed a powerful association that relied on the backing of Gaddafi to carry out their baneful activities. It was a criminal network that was centred on the exploitation of minerals including diamonds for the personal wealth of these individuals.

Aroun Rashid Deen, a journalist from Sierra Leone, writing in Shout Africa said:
Muammar Gaddafi was the mastermind and key financier of the brutal war that left hundreds of thousands dead in Sierra Leone in West Africa in the 1990s. The war would not have happened in the first place had it not been for the desire of the Libyan leader to punish the government of Sierra Leone for what he regarded as its siding with the West in the 1980’s when Gaddafi was at loggerhead with particularly the United States and Britain. It was also part of Gaddafi’s broader agenda including his geopolitical ambition to destabilize much of West Africa and establish satellite states in the region to be headed by puppet regimes that will be doing his biddings. The decade-long war ripped Sierra Leone apart. Thousands of its victims, whose arms and limbs were chopped off by rebels, were reduced to paupers, roaming the streets as beggars in Freetown and other cities. Children as young as a day old were also among those whose arms and limbs were hacked off by Gaddafi’s rebels. Pregnant women, too, were disemboweled with delight in their display of ghastly brutality.

As part of his criminal plans to set West Africa on the warpath, Gaddafi instituted a program of guerilla warfare in Libya for a group of disgruntled West Africans, including a group of Sierra Leoneans he had invited to Tripoli to undergo training. The men who led the war on Sierra Leone — former Liberian leader and warlord, Charles Taylor and Sierra Leone’s rebel leader, Foday Sankoh, and The Gambian Fugitive, Kukoi Samba Sanyang — were among those who trained in Libya.

The ring leaders of the Revolutionary United Front rebel group, which was fighting to overthrow the government of Sierra Leone, also received massive financial support from Libya through Gaddafi’s People’s Revolutionary Council.

Long before the government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations jointly set up the Special Court for Sierra Leone to prosecute key suspects of the war for war crimes and crimes against humanity, calls have been made for Gaddafi to face international justice for his role in Sierra Leone — like Charles Taylor now in The Hague. An opposition leader in Sierra Leone, Charles Margai, who was one of the strong advocates for Gaddafi’s indictment, was incensed when Gaddafi visited the country in 2007. In a BBC interview, he called on Sierra Leoneans to boycott the reception that was hosted for him at the national stadium.

David Crane, the first Chief Prosecutor at the Special Court, considered indicting the Libyan dictator. The former prosecutor, who now teaches law at Syracuse University, says that the direct participation of the Libyan leader in the wars in both Sierra Leone and Liberia caused the “murder, rape, maiming, and mutilation of over a million human beings…” But calls for justice were not heeded because it appears principle Western nations developed a fondness for Mr. Gaddafi following his so-called positive gestures, such as his abandoning of WMD programs.
Muammar Gaddafi bears the greatest responsibility for the brutality in Sierra Leone. The Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up at the end of the war found out that Libya contributed in a significant way to the chaos and mayhem that engulfed the country. Mr. Gaddafi’s role in the training in Libya and financing of the rebels justify his direct involvement in the mayhem.
Gaddafi’s hatred for Sierra Leone goes back to the early 1980’s when then President of Sierra Leone, Siaka Stevens, in November 1982, boycotted an Organization of African Unity conference Libya was scheduled to host. The 1982 conference lacked a quorum due to the absence of many heads of state as a result of controversies surrounding Gaddafi’s role in the rebellions that were going on in Africa at the time.

Its the Supreme Court Stupid broke this story on the Daily Kos before 5am pst;
Breaking: Charles Taylor found Guilty of 11 War Crimes

Human Rights Watch produced a 66 page report in 2005 titled Youth, Poverty and Blood which should be good on background.

Here is today's Al Jazeera English report on the Charles Taylor trial:

My other recent writings on Africa:
BREAKING: Coup topples pro-Qaddafi Regime in Guinea BissauPost-Qaddafi Malawi gets new president
People flex power in three African Countries.
BREAKING: Wade defeated in Senegal & other Africa Updates
Mali Coup is latest post-Qaddafi fallout
What the PSL got right & wrong about KONY 2012
African Spring continues in Senegal
Occupy Nigeria - 1st African fruits of Qaddafi gone?
Racism in Libya
Helter Skelter: Qaddafi's African Adventure

Monday, April 23, 2012

Once more to the anti-interventionists on Libya

Follow clayclai on Twitter
I'll try to keep this short and sweet,
its too short for a blog,
but too long for a tweet.

I have now taken about a year of abuse from so-called anti-imperialists and anti-interventions that have accused me of being on NATO's side in Libya.

Therefore I would like to set the record straight. As anyone familiar with my writings knows, I weighed in on the side of the Libyan Revolution months before NATO got involved.

So get it straight, NATO was on my side.

Of course, with friends like that, you've got to watch your back, but that's another story.

Let me tell it another way:

If you see me pushing a car down the street, its because I think somebody deserves a hand and I can help. I'm not going to walk away from the car because a cop or even a cia spook starts helping.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Libya's Revolution: How We Won - The Internationale in the 21st Century

After weeks of skirmishes in the Nafusa Mountains southwest of Tripoli, Sifaw Twawa and his brigade of freedom fighters are at a standstill. It’s a mid-April night in 2011, and Twawa’s men are frightened. Lightly armed and hidden only by trees, they are a stone’s throw from one of four Grad 122-millimeter multiple-rocket launchers laying down a barrage on Yefren, their besieged hometown. These weapons can fire up to 40 unguided rockets in 20 seconds. Each round carries a high-­explosive fragmentation warhead weighing 40 pounds. They urgently need to know how to deal with this, or they will have to pull back. Twawa’s cell phone rings.

Two friends are on the line, via a Skype conference call. Nureddin Ashammakhi is in Finland, where he heads a research team developing biomaterials technology, and Khalid Hatashe, a medical doctor, is in the United Kingdom. The Qaddafi regime trained Hatashe on Grads during his compulsory military service. He explains that Twawa’s katiba—brigade—is well short of the Grad’s minimum range: at this distance, any rockets fired would shoot past them. Hatashe adds that the launcher can be triggered from several hundred feet away using an electric cable, so the enemy may not be in or near the launch vehicle. Twawa’s men successfully attack the Grad—all because two civilians briefed their leader, over Skype, in a battlefield a continent away.
This is basically the Reader's Digest version of John Pollock's People Power 2.0 published on the Libyan Tweepform yesterday. I tried to include some of the best stuff here, together with my comments, but I have left a lot of good stuff out so I strongly encourage you to read the original.

World War III or Cyber War I?

The revolutionary war to overthrow Mummar Qaddafi and free the Libyan people from his brutal regime wasn't just fought in Libya. Chiefly through cyberspace, it was fought by activist from around the world that enrolled themselves, in many cases full time, in the Libyan struggle and ended up playing a role as crucial as NATO's, if not more so. In many ways, the Libyan Revolution qualifies for the title of world war, at least on the side of the revolution.

The current U.S. Army Field Manual for Operations says, “information has become as important as lethal action in determining the outcome of operations.” This was completely proven by the Libyan Revolution, and this was almost certainly the first war anywhere in which activists, working through the Internet, played such a critical role in the outcome of the military struggle. This is a very important story that is just beginning to be told.

The cyber soldiers of the revolution came from the all over the globe and the most varied walks of life.

Steen Kirby, a high school student in the state of Georgia played an important role in identifying weaponry. He also pulled together a group, through Twitter, to quickly produce English and Arabic guides to using an AK47, building makeshift Grad artillery shelters and handling mines and unexploded ordnance, as well as detailed medical handbooks which were used in the field by freedom fighters in Tripoli, Misrata, and the Nafusa Mountains.

Andy Carvin of NPR used Twitter to crowdsource weapons knowledge. In less than 40 minutes they were able to identify unusual Chinese parachute land mines found in Misrata’s port area—their first known use in a war.

Later, at Occupy Los Angeles, I was able to apply munitions identification skills I had learned by following the work of Andy Carvin, C.J. Chivers and others in the Libyan Revolution to ID the new weapons the LAPD threaten us with on the occasion of the BoA occupation [where I was arrested] on N17. At the time, we all thought they were tear gas guns but I was able to ID them that night as a new type Foam Baton gun.

Stephanie Lamy was a strategic communications consultant and a single mother living in Paris. She was using the revolutions in Egypt and Libya to explain her work to her nine-year old daughter when she Googled up Libya Alhurra TV:
“When I saw the cries for help on Livestream, I knew my skills were just perfect for this situation, and it was my duty to help,” she says. She abandoned her business and started working up to 24 hours a day. It was a situation where “each action counted.”

Among other things, she became an indispensable link in an intelligence network that provided detailed information to Mustata Abdul Jalil, the Libyan Justice Minister who joined the revolution early and became chair of the National Transitional Council, about Qaddafi's troop movements and heavy weapons, including the movement of his long armored column towards Benghazi.

Why "How We Won?"

I titled this piece "How We Won" because I believe this victory belongs not just to the Libyan thuwar, certainly not just to NATO, but equally to activist around the world that put their normal lives on hold so that they could support this struggle 24/7 by whatever means they had at hand. As Pollock said "The war against Qaddafi was fought with global brains, NATO brawn, and Libyan blood." He gives us a picture of the military struggle relating to the decisive role played by Internet activist around the world.

So it began

On February 18, three days into the protests that would swell into the successful revolt against the regime, Libya went offline. Internet and cell-phone access was cut or unreliable for the duration, and people used whatever limited connections they could. In Benghazi, Mohammed “Mo” Nabbous realized he had the knowledge and the equipment, from an ISP business he had owned, to lash together a satellite Internet uplink. With supporters shielding his body from potential snipers, Nabbous set up dishes, and nine live webcams, for his online TV channel Libya Alhurra (“Libya the Free”), running 24/7 on Livestream.
In its first six weeks, the channel served 25 million “viewer minutes” to more than 452,000 unique viewers. Nabbous had only enough bandwidth to broadcast, so volunteers stepped forward to capture and upload video. Livestream took an active role, too: it archived backups several times a day, dedicated a security team to guard against hackers, and waived its fees. Others ran Facebook groups or monitored Twitter, pasting tweets and links into the chat box. They shared first-aid information in Arabic and transcribed or roughly translated interviews in close to real time.
Stephanie Lamy was one of the channel's early international supporters.
“All of us were on a fast learning curve,”
says Lamy. “Tanks were moving in, people were getting shelled, people were getting massacred.”

On March 19, Qaddafi launched an assault on Benghazi. With shells exploding, Nabbous said, “No one is going to believe what they are going to see right now!” before heading out to report live. He was still broadcasting when a sniper shot him. Hours after Nabbous’s death, French fighter jets strafed the heavy armor attacking Benghazi. His widow, Samra Naas, pregnant with their first child, broadcast in his place: “What he started has got to go on, no matter what happens.” Along with friends and family, three women she had never met spent much of the night comforting her, as best they could, over Skype.
A worldwide community of activists developed around the Libyan Revolution, the new Internationale.

Among them was Charlie Farah, a Lebanese-American radio producer. She arranged technical support for Libya Alhurra TV, as well as two-way satellite subscriptions for freedom fighters. That required their trust. “When someone you’ve never met says they’ll pay for your satellite, they get your GPS coördinates,” she points out. “In the wrong hands, a missile could follow.”
She also trained the figthers, via the Internet.
Most freedom fighters were civilians with no first-aid or weapons training. Farah started teaching what she could about basic triage, planning escape routes, and how to fire and move. She showed people how to share files using YouSendIt, because guards at regime checkpoints were now searching for information being smuggled on portable media. (Rebels in Sabratha had hidden thumb drives in their hair; weapons were slung under their sheep.) For the fighters, discovery could mean imprisonment, torture, or execution.

Rida Benfayed was an orthopedic surgeon based in Denver when the war broke out. He returned to his hometown of Tobruk with getting on-line as his first priority.
Benfayed got hold of the city’s only two-way satellite Internet connection and started accepting hundreds of requests to connect on Skype. He organized his contacts into six categories: English media, Arabic media, medical, ground information, politicians, and intelligence. His contacts included ambassadors and doctors, journalists and freedom fighters. A source of high-grade military intelligence soon turned his ad hoc operation into a control room.

Someone who claimed to be a retired European intelligence officer contacted Stephanie Lamy. The detailed intelligence he sent appeared authentic: it included the number, location, and movements of ­Qaddafi’s troops and heavy weapons.
John Pollock goes on:
For a few weeks during the period before NATO recognized the NTC, and before the source disappeared as suddenly as he had surfaced, he was a mother lode of military intelligence. He revealed that the regime’s standard operating procedure was to cut an area’s cell-phone coverage three days before an attack; suggested strategic plans to protect Benghazi if the U.N. Security Council didn’t act; and explained how and where to attack the regime’s tanks. With Jalil’s blessing, Benfayed set up ground information links with the front lines and expanded his team to around 30 people, including opposition army, navy, and air force officers; internal and foreign media liaisons; and medical and IT specialists.

Gihan Badi was a UK based architect. Before the uprising, she was so afraid of the Qaddafi regime that she deleted all talk of February 17th from her Facebook group for Libyans.
On February 15, in a call to family in Benghazi, she learned that the protests had, unexpectedly, already started. Using a kind of pseudonym, Juhaina Mustafa, she rang Al Jazeera Mubasher, the network’s live phone-in channel, to share the news. Thanks to a connection established through her brother, she arranged interviews for Nabbous with Al Jazeera and the BBC. She began giving journalists the numbers of dozens of people in Libya, making sure to verify the trust­worthiness of contacts she did not personally know. Truthful and reliable information mattered, she says, not least because “we are not faking things anymore.”

“Juhaina Mustafa” was denounced on Libyan state TV. Worried about the security of her own phone, she bought batches of prepaid phone cards. She discovered a useful rule of thumb: Qaddafi stooges making repeated Skype requests to connect with her had short fuses. “For the first three messages they are nice,” she says. “Then on the fourth they become angry and start saying, ‘We will kill you! We know who you are!’” Other contacts were patient, realizing how busy she must be. A working mother, she was now even busier and focused on a new emergency: Misrata.

Libya’s third-largest city, strategically located between Tripoli and Benghazi, was besieged. For months, heavy artillery and tanks pounded Misrata from outside. Inside, dozens of snipers—including female mercenaries from Colombia—dominated the city center. “There were dead bodies in the streets, unrecoverable because of the snipers,” says Marwan Tanton, a citizen journalist with Freedom Group Misrata, a group of students turned reporters, carrying cameras and guns. “Dogs were eating them.”

Misrata became the Stalingrad of the Libyan Revolution, and not to excuse the current treatment of people from Tawargha, who were reported to generally have supported this siege carried out from their town, but one doesn't easily get over those types of experiences.
Stephanie Lamy, Rida Benfayed, and Badi’s husband, Nagi Idris, were among many scrambling to get humanitarian supplies to Misrata and to alert the world to an unfolding disaster. They worked to ­smuggle in by sea the first international journalists, including Fred Pleitgen of CNN.
For NATO, the role of these cyber warriors in the military struggle was new and unsettling. Officially, they didn't use Twitter and had no contact with this activist network. In reality, a lot of information was passed back and forth between the thuwar on the ground and the NATO planners via Twitter and other Internet media, including precise targeting co-ordinates, always multiply sourced, and many NATO commanders began to rely on informal intelligence networks they had established with this activist network more than the official NATO sources. They simply got better intelligence that way.
on April 7, when—a week after assuming control of operations—NATO bombed a convoy of tanks and other armor captured by freedom fighters. There were several deaths.

Farah, Lamy, and many others had known for days that the tanks were in freedom fighters’ hands.
I knew.
Whether the incident was due simply to rebels’ being mistaken for pro-Qaddafi forces is somewhat murky. Some sources say that NATO may have been the victim of disinformation supplied by General Abdul Fattah Younes, a senior military defector later assassinated by opposition forces. Others say the freedom fighters had been warned by NATO not to cross a “red line.”
I was able to successfully "crowdsource" some of the intelligence I used in my influential diary The Assassination of General Abdul Fattah Younis. At the time, I also wondered if Younis might have been a double agent for Qaddafi, and after his death, as the "friendly fire" incidents died down and the months long stalemate crumbled, a story told by Martin Sheen, my favorite actor, as Captain Willard, in my favorite war movie, Apocalypse Now, kept echoing in my brain:
"Late summer-autumn 1968 : Kurtz's patrols in the highlands coming under frequent ambush. The camp started falling apart...November: Kurtz orders
the assassination of three Vietnamese men and one woman. Two of the men were Colonels in the South Vietnamese army. Enemy activity in his old sector dropped
off to nothing. Guess he must have hit the right four people.
How NATO got intel
Another Libyan civilian who contributed important intelligence is a man I will call Asim (he requested anonymity because he believes that his work, providing targeting information to NATO, led directly to the deaths of people who may still have family in Libya). An influential, well-connected Libyan working in the media, Asim smuggled most of his family out of the country and then set up “op rooms” in Tunisia, Dubai, and Spain. “I don’t think any intelligence agency in the world knows Qaddafi as well as the Libyan people,” he says.

Asim’s network of information smugglers brought thumb drives and disks out of Tripoli and got approximately a hundred Thuraya satellite phones into the country. They supplied NATO with blueprints, troop locations and movements, and a detailed diagram of Qaddafi’s family connections. His estimate of Qaddafi troop numbers in Brega, between Benghazi and Misrata, came through a contact in the catering company supplying their meals.

Asim’s op rooms conveyed their intelligence to NATO, he says, via “a super-node in Dubai.” He found himself working with people in all sorts of professions, from video editors to cartographers: he remembers one “girl” he found through Twitter who “would punch in the locations of snipers on Google Maps.” The map was shared online and on the ground.
Cynthia McKinney, who loudly supported Qaddafi, saw the war from the Rixos Hotel.
In Tripoli, Qaddafi created a gilded cage in the opulent Rixos Hotel for the closely chaperoned international media. They had access to the official voice of government, but they distrusted what they were told. Yet from the start, Qaddafi’s communications had been undermined by unofficial sources: by Mo Nabbous and the Libya Alhurra TV network, by students like Freedom Group Misrata, and by the growing number of international journalists in opposition-­held areas. On the ground, individuals were also blurring the line between journalism and fighting. Twenty-one-year-old Inas Mohamed, a student of English literature from Yefren, not only smuggled gelignite, an explosive, past Tripoli checkpoints but wrote, printed, shared, and scattered on the street hundreds of samizdat flyers.
These are the stories of but a handful of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of such activists that made victory possible.
Thanks to technology, collaborators could be anywhere. In Finland, as well as helping advise on attacking Grads, ­Nureddin Ashammakhi set up LibyaHurra.info as a direct response to Qaddafi’s disinformation campaign. A global brigade of volunteers published daily reports from Libya in 10 languages, including Chinese, Russian, and Tamazight (the language of the Berbers, who prefer to be called Amazigh—”free people”).
This is the new Internationale.

And BTW, I would like to point out to all the so-called socialists, who largely threw the Libyan Revolution under the bus, that most of the people I have describe here are what I would call working class.

BREAKING NEWS: An hour ago Libyan Youth Movement reported that another mass grave has been found near Tripoli. This one may have up to a thousand bodies in it.

Another mass grave was discovered on Treeg Mattar (Airport Highway), Tripoli with up to 1,000 bodies; 600 were piled in groups on top of each other, some still had their mobiles on their person others had their hands tied with wire via Breaking Tripoli
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Friday, April 20, 2012

Good News from Libya

Republished by Libyan Tweet Forum
Follow clayclai on Twitter
Slowly but surely, the revolution in Libya is bringing stability and making progress. Yesterday, the Zintan Brigade turned over control of the Tripoli Airport to the Libyan government. Two days ago, Libyan Airlines started regular flights to Malta and the Zintan Brigade are now making plans to transfer their prize catch, Saif Qaddafi, to the NTC as well.

A four day conference, Infrastructure Libya 2012, backed by the ministries of Planning and of Communications, and Oil and Gas Libya 2012, hosted by the Oil Ministry at the Tripoli International Fairground, begins on Monday. Companies from Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, UK and USA, as well as those from Libya, are expected to attend. Even the Russians and the Chinese are negotiating their return to Libya. Libya just bought 50,000 tons of Russian wheat.

Even the bad news has a good side. Last Thursday, when Amnesty International reported on the death by torture of yet another black man from Tawargha in a Misrata detention center, it was the headline in the decidedly pro-revolutionary Libyan Herald, indicating that the revolution is willing to look honestly at itself, warts and all. And while, as I have said before, even one such death is one too many, the fact that AI found only one such death in the two months since their earlier report of more than a dozen killed by torture between September and February, indicates that things are trending in the right direction.

More importantly, the root of these abuses, the make shift prisons setup by various revolutionary brigades to contain the counter-revolutionaries immediately after the victory, is being dealt with. On Wednesday, the Justice Ministry announced that it had taken over control of 30 such detention centers from the thuwar.

So while, armed clashes, continue to cause trouble, there were reports of renewed fighting in Kufra today after a seven week lull, and the flood of illegal immigrants from sun-Saharan Africa continue to be a problem without solution, the country is rebuilding. The Sirte Local Council has collected 1.5 billion LD in claims for damage caused by the heavy fighting there, and even in the heavily damaged buildings on Tripoli St. in Misrata, which saw some of the heaviest bombardment of the war, flower and dress shops can be seen to open in the bombed out remains.

As Abigail Hauslohner reported today on the Libyan Tweepforum:
all along Tripoli Street, there is also rebirth, and there is hope. New billboards and storefronts have sprung up from the city’s ashes. Uniformed traffic cops in white gloves patrol intersections—despite the absence of a fully functioning central government. And construction workers in orange vests clear rubble and tend to new flowers in the grassy medians. Stores selling wedding dresses and school supplies have re-opened their ground floor display windows; even as the gaping holes caused by rockets and tank shells remain to be fixed just above. “There are a lot of signs of war but you can see that there is life,” Yuri says. “There is life in different ways, girls on the street, boys on motorbikes, and flower shops.”

A storefront along Tripoli Street in Misrata. Credit: Yuri Kozyrev—NOOR for TIME

My next diary [barring breaking news] Libya's Revolution: How We Won

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Massive protests in Syria following Friday pray

I have just obtained this footage of a massive anti-government protest in Syria this morning after Friday pray. The half dozen UN observers are taking Friday off so as not to be involved in the political situation, so they say. Few independent journalist are operating in Syria and there are very few outlets to show what is happening on the ground now, so I wanted to share this rare find with you right away.

More later.

Demonstration in front of the Great Mosque in Douma Hailing the Syrian cities

One of my tweets from yesterday has been widely retweeted and even published by the Libya News Daily. When I saw the tweet "Top stories today via @libyans_revolt @mrzine_notes @travelguideweb @clayclai" I was curious because I haven't done a recent article about Libya. I've never has a tweet published like that before:
The only privilege of a slave is the absence of responsibility, but with freedom comes responsibility. #Libya #Feb17

"The only privilege of a slave is the absence of responsibility" was a statement made by someone name Paulo. I lifted it from a comment he made on the Libya Tweets Forum where I am also a member.

Here is a video of what began as a peaceful demonstration in Syria, April 4, 2011. It ended badly after Assad's thugs open fired. This courageous cameraperson stayed and captured all. Will this happen in Syria today? Be prepared to be shocked:

Full scene of the massacre by the Syrian regime in the shield

Just in from Lebanon News:
BEIRUT: Syrian troops fired bullets and tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters Friday, activists said, and state media reported that a roadside bomb killed 10 soldiers in the latest violence to defy international efforts to calm the country's crisis.

Protesters spilled out from mosques onto the streets in cities and towns across Syria, calling for the downfall of President Bashar Assad and chanting in support of the country's rebel forces, activists said.

A cease-fire that technically went into effect last week has been steadily unraveling, but the truce is still seen as the most viable way to end the bloodshed that has killed more than 9,000 people since the uprising against Assad began 13 months ago. The U.N. has sent a team of seven international observers into Syria, with the hopes of boosting the numbers soon.

Protest in Homs, Syria today, Google translated comment says:
Homs Deacon 4/20/2012

Demonstration, despite the military cordoned off the neighborhood cheering distinctive Revolution Revolution Forever ... until fall Assad
And a fascination with distinct bodies say

Another one from Homs today:
Rastan | | a great demonstration of Independents 20/4/2012

This one is from Idlib today:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

BREAKING: US troops posed with Afghan body parts

A US soldier sent pictures of other US soldiers posing with bodies and body parts of dead Afghans to the LA Times. The LA Times broke this story at 4:30am this morning. To it's credit, it did to in spited of objections by the Pentagon. David Zucchino of the LA Times wrote:
The 82nd Airborne Division soldiers arrived at the police station in Afghanistan's Zabol province in February 2010. They inspected the body parts. Then the mission turned macabre: The paratroopers posed for photos next to Afghan police, grinning while some held — and others squatted beside — the corpse's severed legs.A few months later, the same platoon was dispatched to investigate the remains of three insurgents who Afghan police said had accidentally blown themselves up. After obtaining a few fingerprints, they posed next to the remains, again grinning and mugging for photographs.Two soldiers posed holding a dead man's hand with the middle finger raised. A soldier leaned over the bearded corpse while clutching the man's hand. Someone placed an unofficial platoon patch reading "Zombie Hunter" next to other remains and took a picture.
You can check the LA Times story to see the pictures for yourself but the practice of US soldiers "having fun" with the bodies of the people our country has invaded and occupied has a long and ignoble history. Here is a picture from the Vietnam War, it is from my film Vietnam: American Holocaust:Carl Rippberger at the Winter Soldier hearings, 1971:
The next slide is a slide of myself. I'm extremely shameful of it. I'm showing it in hope that none of you people that have never been involved ever let this happen to you. Don't ever let your government do this to you.
Here is a five minute excerpt from Vietnam: American Holocaust [available on DVD] that discusses how they would collect the ears of dead Vietnamese and then trade them for beers.                                             Ears for BeersHere is a list of my related diaries:Haditha shows USMC is a criminal enterpriseItzcoatl Ocampo: Ex-Marine Corps Serial KillerThe Sordid Truth about the United States Marine CorpsLouis Proyect reviews Vietnam: American HolocaustNew Trailer for Vietnam: American HolocaustThe Vietnam War was a holocaustAre U.S. Forces Executing Afghan Kids?How Many Kids Did the US Kill in Yemen Last Month?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Syria is bleeding

Ammar Abduhamid wrote Wednesday on the Syrian Revolution Digest:
Nothing impresses anymore: killing entire families by smashing their skulls or slashing their throats, pounding residential neighborhood with tanks, missiles, choppers and heavy artillery, burning people alive, commanding snipers to target children… nothing! The world remains indifferent to our suffering. After all, it’s nothing people haven’t seen before. Just another dictator torturing and killing his people, so what! So what!
As of this morning, the ceasefire is said to be "relatively holding," which is to say that the killing of Syrians by the murderous Assad regime has slowed to a trickle. While the snipers continue to be a big problem, the heavy guns and rockets have been silent.

But they remain in place. Assad has not withdrawn his tanks and heavy weapons. His security forces have replaced the army in places were they have withdrawn and his gunmen still shoot protesters.

While it would be delightful to think the current lull represents a serious turn for the better, the history of the Assad regime does not encourage that. If he truly allows peaceful political protests, as the UN resolution requires, the streets all across Syria will soon be filled with millions of Syrians demanding not only his ouster but also his prosecution.

He can't allow that, so it is likely that he will soon find some excuse to return the killing to the levels of the past month.

Last August, I wrote about Syria and the left in my Daily Kos diary entry: CCDS Statement on Libya - a Critique. I printed my entire statement here at the Daily Kos precisely because CCDS deleted this and two other opening paragraphs from the version they published on their website. When I wrote this, the protesters were still trying to make non-violence work:
This Sunday I am told that 142 Syrians in Hama were slaughtered by Assad's tanks. It is estimated that as many as 1700 peaceful protesters have been massacred by Assad since the Syrian people welcomed the Arab Spring. I find it absolutely shameful that much of the left, including CCDS remain silent in the face of the Syrian people's cries for international support. I think we can do a lot better than that.
With CCDS, as with most of US left, the shameful silence on the plight of the Syrian people continues.

As I prepare to publish this I see that a UN Observer mission is going to Syria. They had better get their fast. I just received this tweet:
SaMo #Syria #Homs: Shelling on the nieghbourhoods of Homs is renewed by the tanks stationed at Souq al-Hal roundabout near the Masabigh
8:56 AM - 13 Apr 12

Warning!! This is a video of Assad's victims being burned alive in Syria. You do not want to watch this.

Michael Neumann has written an important essay on the Syrian situation, actually, it is the reason for this diary:
Getting Kofi Annan for Free*

There are two live options in Syria. The first is (at least) arming the FSA. The second is letting Assad continue to torture and murder. Since only the first option will stop Assad, there are no other choices.

Of course, no one thinks of themselves as backing the second option. They call it by many different names. Some are just slogans that don't sound like an option at all. "Don't trust the imperialists and neoliberals!" "We support the Syrian people in their nonviolent struggle." "Let negotiations take their course." "Libya was a disaster!" "There will be civil war!" "The opposition has committed human rights violations!" "The West is hypocritical!" "The Gulf States are hypocritical!" "We don't know who the opposition is!" "This may lead to a Sunni-Shia bloodbath!" "Don't fall for the warmongering press; remember Iraq!"

Some of these statements are reasonable, but that changes nothing. If you're against arming the FSA, you're for letting Assad torture and murder. You may not want to admit it, least of all to yourself, but that's what you favor. In leftist jargon, you 'objectively' support Assad. Your slogans are just excuses.

The excuses come in roughly three categories. Some deny the realities. Some fantasize about solutions. Some raise spectres.

Denying realities

Denying realities comes in two varieties, crazy and sleazy.

James Petras exemplifies crazy:

There is clear and overwhelming evidence that the uprising to overthrow President Assad of Syria is a violent, power grab led by foreign-supported fighters who have killed and wounded thousands of Syrian soldiers, police and civilians, partisans of the government and its peaceful opposition.

"Clear and overwhelming evidence"? Petras provides not one single reference to anything at all. He probably just takes the Russian newspapers as authoritative and everything else as entirely valueless. Before the internet, this might have worked. It was easy to say "nothing to see here!" when Pol Pot was in power. It's harder today, when the opposition in Syria has uploaded 190,000 (not a misprint) videos of what's happening, and journalists do manage to report from the scene.

Sleazy, as you'd expect, looks much better. Here is Matt Carr, writing for Stop the War Coalition:

[Western reporters] have, for the most part, accepted a fairytale version of the Syrian conflict in which a) an utterly evil dictator is slaughtering a peaceful and unarmed opposition that represents the 'Syrian people' in its entirety, b) crimes and atrocities are only committed by one side and c) the interests of the 'international community' in Syria are entirely driven by a humanitarian desire to 'stop the violence.'

To say that this narrative does not fully encapsulate the complexities of the conflict would be an understatement. It isn't surprising that governments whose essential goal in Syria is regime change should be peddling this version of the conflict. But the fact that so many journalists and media outlets are uncritically and unquestioningly peddling the same mythologies, is a depressing reminder that press freedom and the absence of censorship is not always synonymous with independent thought or even basic journalist [sic] standards.

The advantage of this stylish gesturing is that no questions of evidence even arise. Yes, Matt, media tend to be slanted and not to tell the whole story. Does that mean Assad is not an utterly evil dictator, or that the opposition's atrocities were on a par with his own? Human Rights Watch, talking about him, must be another one of those mainstream dummies:

The level of torture is not comparable to any other conflict I've worked on," said Anna Neistat, associate director for Program and Emergencies at Human Rights Watch, who has worked for more than a decade in crises from Chechnya to Zimbabwe to Sri Lanka.

"There are a disproportionate number of children trapped in this system. Children are tortured alongside adults and are even subject to more brutal torture as interrogators believe children could crack faster and give them names."

What's so sleazy is the suggestion that somehow, hidden facts are going to tip the balance in favor of letting Assad torture and murder some more. Hidden facts about what? In World War II, the allies had some hidden agendas and committed many atrocities. This would not have been justification for backing Hitler, or for claiming the two sides were equally bad.

Fantasy solutions

more ...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Syria: Ceasefire faltering as mass protests breakout

Just a little over an hour ago I posted this diary with the hopeful title "Syria: Cease fire takes hold as mass protests breakout", now that ceasefire appears to be faltering as new reports start streaming in of new attacks by the Assad regime on peaceful protesters in Syria.

From Al Jazeera Live Blog:
12:04pm pst - Syria Activists have uploaded a number of videos which appear to show that the government has not complied with the demand to withdraw troops and heavy weaponry from residential areas. This footage is from the centre of the city of Homs.

11:40am pst Syria - This video appears to show students being arrested in the city of Aleppo.

About 9:17am pst we received this from Al Arabiya English:
#BreakingNews: Syrian army forces fire on protesters outside the parliament in Damascus: Local Coordinating Committees #Syria

This live stream from Ahrarsy2, purporting to show Syrian forces firing on peaceful protesters in Syria went dead.

From the International Business Times we have this:
Syria Ceasefire Violations Reported in Homs, Idlib and Hama

Activists in Syria have said that Bashar al-Assad’s troops were violating conditions of a ceasefire in major cities, although no major attacks have been reported.

The Syrian government said it had agreed to fully withdraw troops and tanks from city centres and was committed to ending the violence as part of Kofi Annan’s peace plan, which came into effect at 3am GMT.

While no major attacks have been reported, activists reported violations in Homs, Idlib, Hama and Zabadan.

Witnesses reported shelling in Homs, near the Jouret Shiyah and Khaldiyeh neighbourhoods, in the Hama neighbourhood of Jabal Shahshabo-Qalaat Al Madiq and in the Al Zalah area of Zabadan. Heavy gunfire was also reported in Idlib.

“Security forces are still here, the snipers are still here, the tanks are still here. Nothing has changed and the shelling is continuing”, a Syrian activist for the Syrian Network for Human Rights told IBTimes UK from Homs.

Although the Syrian Army has failed to remove its army and heavy weapons as called for by Kofy Annan's peace plan, they do appear to be honoring the ceasefire that started at 6:00am Syria time. Activist plan to test the ceasefire by calling mass protests in many areas of the country. These are expected to build towards the time after Friday prays, the traditional time of protests. Already mass protests have been reported in four areas. Armed conflicted began in Syria only after the regime had been firing upon peaceful protesters for months.

Here is your basic AP story from the Huffington Post:
Syria Ceasefire Deadline Observed, Assad Regime Forces Remain In Place

BEIRUT — A fragile cease-fire brokered by the U.N. took hold in Syria on Thursday with regime forces apparently halting widespread attacks on the opposition. But there were reports of scattered violence and the government defied demands to pull troops back to barracks.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the onus was on President Bashar Assad's regime to keep the peace.

"As of this moment, the situation looks calmer," he told reporters in Geneva. But the cease-fire is "very fragile" and a single gunshot could derail the process, he added.

Ban will now ask the U.N. Security Council for speedy deployment of an observer mission, said special envoy Kofi Annan, who brokered the truce.

In the hours after the 6 a.m. deadline, a civilian was reported killed and the state-run news agency said "terrorist groups" launched a roadside bomb that killed a soldier. But there was no sign of the heavy shelling, rocket attacks and sniper fire that have become routine.

If the truce holds, it would be the first time the regime has observed an internationally brokered cease-fire since Assad's regime launched a brutal crackdown 13 months ago on mass protests calling for his ouster.

Here is a livestream that shows anti-regime protest rally in Deir ez-Zour. It is active as I publish this. It is coming from an Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S:

Meanwhile there are many more deflections from the Syrian Army. Both of these videos were posted to YouTube yesterday:

There have been massive deflections from the Syrain army in countryside of Aleppo. Does the ceasefire mean that Assad has to stop shooting his own troops?

These soldiers are from the city of Deraa:

From the New Syria: #Bayyadah? ?#Homs? ?#Al? Assad thugs killed a mother with her baby after the announcement of the cease-fire!!!

In Damascus tonight....

More later.....

More from Libya:

Libya has its ceasefires too, and it is reported that as of this morning fragile peaces negotiated by the NTC in Sabha and Zawara continue to hold. Ismael reports that the Libyan army just secured Qatrun and Traghen, two of the most remote southern towns in Libya, after the recent Sabha clashes and that there have been no clashes or problems have occurred in Sabha or the south since the Libya army deployment but the situation is still tense with reconciliation efforts on going. As for Zawara, the Rigdalin council is taking good steps towards reconciliation and talks are still ongoing between sides to solve old issues.

Also in this morning's mail I found this piece by Lindsey Hilsum on the role of women in the Libyan Revolution:
ON THE face of it, Libya’s was a very male revolution. Covering the armed rebellion in the east of the country, I came across thousands of young men firing their Kalashnikovs into the air and talking excitedly about the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi. Their sisters, they told me, were at home. The National Transitional Council, the political body which formed itself in March 2011 to represent the rebels internationally, was composed almost entirely of men. Yet, when I returned to Libya last September to research my new book Sandstorm: Libya in the Time of Revolution, I learnt that behind the scenes, women had been playing a crucial and largely unreported role.

Enas Dokali, a twenty-six-year-old computer programmer in the government mapping department, had loathed Gaddafi since, as a little girl, she was taken to visit her uncle in the notorious Abu Salim prison. Alongside more than 1200 other political prisoners, he was killed in a prison massacre in 1996, the signature atrocity of the Gaddafi regime. Most of those killed were Islamist opponents to the regime. Coming from a devout family, Enas’s appearance made her an effective spy for the rebels. In her long coat and headscarf she could walk around town drawing little attention. She noted where military units were based and spotted important regime members going in and out of buildings. The sister of a friend was travelling backwards and forwards to Tunisia taking the information to friends working with the rebels. Enas collected money and clothes to send to the fighters and coordinated shipments of weapons. She and her friends had no secure communications, so they used the mobile phone network and talked in code: an important person was “Mr Chips”; weapons and ammunition were “sandwiches”; videos were “underwear.”

In July, as the uprising reached its final stages, Enas was caught. She spent the last month before Gaddafi was ousted in prison, enduring not only confinement but also sexual abuse, narrowly avoiding rape. She ended up in Abu Salim, where her uncle had been murdered, and was liberated by the rebels as they took the prison. Afterwards, with the support of her family, she decided to go public about her experiences in prison, giving interviews to Arabic TV stations, only to find that for every person who sympathised with her experience there was another who blamed her. “Some people say I took money to go on TV, and that I’m running after fame. Others don’t believe I wasn’t raped,” she said. “But just because you’re arrested you shouldn’t feel shame. Even women who were raped should say so, they shouldn’t be ashamed.”


BREAKING: Coup topples pro-Qaddafi Regime in Guinea Bissau

Follow clayclai on Twitter
The regime that famously told Libya's Mummar Qaddafi what he was welcome to flee to Guinea Bissau in September has apparently been overthrown in a military coup as another African country feels the winds of change that are following the Libyan revolution. Reuters is reporting:
BISSAU (Reuters)- - Heavy weapons fire echoed through the capital of Guinea-Bissau on Thursday, witnesses said, and soldiers surrounded the residence of former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, the frontrunner in a presidential election in the small West African state.

The reason for the military action and Gomes Junior's whereabouts were not immediately known. Armed soldiers stopped journalists from approaching the residence, which is located almost opposite the Angolan embassy in the capital Bissau.

Witnesses said the firing later subsided.
Guinea-Bissau has not been your most stable African countries and has a long history of coups.

From the Washington Post:
The West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS said it “formally condemns any attempt at a coup d’etat,” said Daniel Kablan Duncan, president of the body’s Council on Mediation and Security.

The violence comes just weeks before the country’s presidential runoff vote, which Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Jr. was favored to win. There have been fears of a coup ever since Guinea-Bissau’s president died of complications from diabetes in January, leaving an interim leader in charge of the chronically unstable country known for cocaine trafficking.

On September 10, 2011 Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior of Guinea Bissau said on Radio Diffusion Portuguese (RDP):
"If Gaddafi asks to come to Guinea Bissau we will welcome him with open arms and we will ensure his security,"

Earlier, in August, as the siege of Tripoli was being launched, he said,

"Gaddafi and Libya are friends of Guinea Bissau. If the Libyan leader wants to come to Guinea Bissau we will receive him with open arms."
Guinea-Bissau is not a member of the International Criminal Court and so Qaddafi would have been beyond the court's reach there.

According to Al Jazeera English, some had good reason to welcome Qaddafi:
The west African nation had strong ties with Gaddafi's regime, which invested widely in hotels, agriculture and cashew nuts - the country's main export.

Gaddafi visited the country in 2009, and provided support to the presidential campaign of President Malam Bacai Sanha. He has also provided uniforms to the Bissau Guinea army and renovated several of its military barracks.

This coup d’etat is only hours old as I write this and it is far to early for me to have an opinion as to who these actors are or what are their motivations. I also know little about the Guinea-Bissau Qaddafi connection, but at first Google there is one and a very strong one at that. Already we can see he was involved with both the civilian politicians and the military, buying uniform, building barracks, and now the military has overthrown the president.

However is does fit the pattern of much needed political upheaval, I expected in Africa if Mummar Qaddafi were overthrown. What has surprised me most is how rapidly these have been coming.

It is already clear that Qaddafi had his fingers deep into little Guinea-Bissau, so watch this diary for updates on the situation in Guinea-Bissau and we'll see what happens next.

My other recent writings on Africa:
Post-Qaddafi Malawi gets new president
People flex power in three African Countries.
BREAKING: Wade defeated in Senegal & other Africa Updates
Mali Coup is latest post-Qaddafi fallout
What the PSL got right & wrong about KONY 2012
African Spring continues in Senegal
Occupy Nigeria - 1st African fruits of Qaddafi gone?
Racism in Libya
Helter Skelter: Qaddafi's African Adventure

Monday, April 9, 2012

BREAKING: Wade defeated in Senegal & other Africa Updates

BREAKING News: Senegalese president for 12 years Abdoulaye Wade has conceded defeat to Macky Sall in today's run off election. See more below:
Follow clayclai on Twitter
There are a bunch of things happening this weekend with some of the stories from Africa that I have been covering lately and I need to update these diaries but I didn't want them to get lost at the end of past diaries, so I thought that I would also gather them up here. The diaries that I'm updating are:
Mali Coup is latest post-Qaddafi fallout Fri Mar 23
What the PSL got right & wrong about KONY 2012 Sat Mar 10
African Spring continues in Senegal Mon Feb 27
Occupy Nigeria - 1st African fruits of Qaddafi gone? Tue Jan 10

Mali: Mali Coup is latest post-Qaddafi fallout

The self-declared leader of the military coup Army Captain Amadou Sanogo appeal for calm and denied reports that his soldiers were looting petrol stations and state buildings. The whereabouts of President Amadou Toumani Toure are still unknown but he is rumored to be hiding on a Red Beret Army base and under the protection of loyal troops. Rumors of an imminent counter-coup are also being heard.

A joint mission of the AU and the West African regional bloc ECOWAS arrived in Bamako on Friday for negotiations with the rebels, Paul Lolo, the chairman of the Peace and Security Council, told Al Jazeera on Saturday.

"[The mission] is in negotiations with the rebels and it is our hope that they will listen to reason and return Mali to constitutional order without delay," he said.

"This [coup] has been an insurgency, a seizure of power by force. There was a legitimate government in Mali. That government is still legitimate in our view because that is the government we know according to our instruments."

Meanwhile the Tuareg are using of this disorder to make military gains in the north. They have launched a new offensive and could soon be marching on Timbuktu if not opposed.

Uganda: What the PSL got right & wrong about KONY 2012

The KONY2012 video has been viewed more than 85 million times and now the African Union is deploying a military force of 5,000 to hunt down Joseph Kony in Uganda. Like the special team tasked with tracking down Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid they have announced that they will be there for as long as it takes to capture or kill Kony. Kony is believed to be in the Central African Republic. The US already has a hundred special forces soldiers hunting Kony and the US will also be strongly supporting this AU effort. See BCC: African Union force steps up hunt for Joseph Kony for more.

The push is on big time to bag Kony before November IMHO.

Senegal: African Spring continues in Senegal

The presidential elections that resulted in a run off the last weekend in February are being held today. Unlike the February contest, in which the 85 year old long time incumbent Abdoulaye Wade, faced a dozen challengers, in today's vote all the opposition has united around its strongest candidate, Macky Sall who is widely expected to unseat the long time Qaddafi crony.

France24 has more details: Wade under pressure as Senegal holds run-off vote
In depth analysis on Al Jazeera: Senegal's game of thrones

This just in: Senegal's Wade concedes election defeat
Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade, 85, has conceded election defeat as results gave an overwhelming lead to his rival Macky Sall.

"We have confirmation now from the presidential office that Abdulaye Wade has telephoned Macky Sall to concede defeat," said Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons, confirming a state television report that Wade had made a congratulatory phone call to Sall at 21:30GMT (9:30pm local time).

An appreciation of Abdoulaye Wade: Wade was president of Senegal for 12 years. Although he was Mummar Qaddafi's closest collaborator on his United States of Africa plans, he was never the sort of totalitarian ruler that Qaddafi was and when the Arab Spring reached Libya, we was among the first African leaders to advise Qaddafi to step down. Likewise in 2007 he publicly told Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo it was time for him to go when he met with overwhelming public opposition.

So he was widely ridiculed for insisting on running for a third term at the age of 85 in a country were the constitution imposes a two term limit. I ridiculed his "new math" here. Before today's vote, many feared that he would somehow steal the election, or refuse to go and challenge the outcome no matter what.

But instead he conducted himself as a gentleman and a true democrat, within three hours of the polls closing, and seeing that the vote was going strongly against him, he called Sall and conceded. In doing so he gracefully avoided prolonging a struggle that had already cost more than a half-dozen lives, and it was good that he did so. It is time for new blood, but he has left Macky Sall with some big shoes to fill.

Nigeria: Occupy Nigeria - 1st African fruits of Qaddafi gone?

In the north, the struggle against Boko Haram is getting fiercer. This was just yesterday:
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — An hours-long gun battle raged Saturday in a northern Nigerian city that's the spiritual home of a radical Islamist sect, and a car bomb exploded during a gun fight with members of the group in another city in the restive region, authorities said. At least six people were killed.
Recently the sect rejected efforts to began indirect talks with the government and now the government is pressing its military campaign against them with renewed vigor.

Meanwhile the Occupy Nigeria movement, like the occupy movement everywhere, continues its growth outside of the lime light, as example by this article two days ago:Occupy Nigeria: Nneka on the "Vagabonds in Power"
or this one from five days ago: Occupy Yourself, Occupy Nigeria By Malcolm Fabiyi

If you want to own slaves, then you'd better arm yourself.

Follow clayclai on Twitter

"If you want to own slaves, then you'd better arm yourself."

This is the one truth that ties America's perchance for gun violence to its history of racial slavery and racism. It is no accident that Trayvon Martin and the five black people shot in Oklahoma were attacked in the former Confederate States or allied territories.

Certainly, the hundred year push west against an often hostile indigenous people was another reason Americans became a uniquely armed people but that was mainly done by bodies of armed men, militias, and mainly at the frontier.

Maintaining slavery required a much finer integration of fire arms into the society, essentially, they aways had to be as close at hand as the slaves were.

I have to go now and really tend to business or else I may become another one of those homeless old black men that America is so good at creating. I can't do my usual in-depth dairy on this or be around for responses. I just wanted to follow up on what I said in an update to yesterday's diary, which I will repeat below the fold, with one example.

I don't have time to do the research and present you with the facts but I'll bet if you look into it [Google is your friend] you will find all things guns, # owned, # of deaths, etc. concentrated in the Ole Confederacy.

From Racist killers arrested in Tulsa
I'm going down to the beach now. Easter and Venice Beach is in it's glorious. Eighty degrees and the Venice Drum Orchestra is playing in front of the Venice Bistro. I badly need this right now so I won't pass it up.

But before I take my leave I want to apologize. I think I was a little too hard on Horace. He broke the story here in the middle of the night, that's the main thing.

I just think racism side must not be ignored. IMHO, more than any other single question. I believe that this whole enterprise known as the United States of America, succeeds or fails depending on how we resolve this question. To me that means, and to this extent I am an American exceptionalist, that this whole experiment known as humanity on the planet Earth, hangs in the balance.

The reason for that has mainly to do with slavery, by which I mean the most primitive form of human exploitation incorporated into the foundations of the most advanced capitalist country in the world. Racism is the whole social, political, cultural and most importantly ideological product of that economic engine.

Anyone who thinks that we have somehow put this question behind us is a fool.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Post-Qaddafi Malawi gets new president

Yesterday, prominent women rights activist Joyce Banda became the first female head of state in Southern Africa. Bulawayo24 wrote:

Malawian Vice-President Joyce Banda took over the running of the country on Saturday after the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika, and fears of a succession struggle receded as state institutions backed the constitutional handover.

The government only officially confirmed 78-year-old Mutharika's death earlier on Saturday, two days after he had died following a heart attack.

His body had been flown to a military hospital in South Africa.

The delay in the announcement had raised worries about a political crisis because Banda had been expelled from Mutharika's ruling DPP party in 2010 after an argument about the succession, though she retained her state position.
Many Malawians believed that Mutharika, who's rule had become increasingly dictatorial in recent years, was grooming is son to take over, which would have been a complete violation of the constitutional process.

Last July, protests over high prices, devolving foreign relations and poor governance left 18 people dead and 44 others injured by gun shot wounds as Mutharika started emulating his old African Union rival, Mummar Qaddafi, in methods of protest suppression.

Because of this history, before she was sworn in there was great concern that the constitutional process would be upstaged by something like a coup. The Guardian reported earlier:
The Malawian government's prolonged silence on the president's condition raised fears of an attempt to subvert the constitution in the southern African country, said to be sliding towards tyranny and economic disaster on Mutharika's watch.

"Malawi's constitution lays out a clear path for succession and we expect it to be observed. We are concerned about the delay in the transfer of power," the US state department said in a statement. "We trust that the vice president who is next in line will be sworn in shortly."

Joyce Banda, vice-president since 2009, is first in line to take over and become Malawi's first female president. The award-winning gender activist, who turns 62 next week, founded the National Association of Business Women of Malawi. Married to retired chief justice Richard Banda, she went into politics in 1999. As foreign minister she oversaw the severing of relations with Taiwan after 41 years to switch to China for "economic benefits".

But Banda was expelled from the ruling Democratic Progressive party in 2010 in a row over succession. She set up her own People's party and recently told the BBC she had not spoken to Mutharika for more than a year.
This tiny land-locked southern African country of 16 million is one of the poorest in the world. The economy is heavily based in agriculture, with a largely rural population. Far from the social media that helped spark the Arab Spring, less than 2% of the population has computers and only 6% even have electricity. From Wikipedia:
In 2007, Malawi established diplomatic ties with China, and Chinese investment in the country has continued to increase since then, despite concerns regarding treatment of workers by Chinese companies and competition of Chinese business with local companies. In 2011, relations between Malawi and the United Kingdom was damaged when a document was released in which the British ambassador to Malawi criticized President Mutharika. Mutharika expelled the ambassador from Malawi, and in July 2011, the UK announced that it was suspending all budgetary aid because of Mutharika's lack of response to criticisms of his government and economic mismanagement. On July 26, 2011, the United States followed suit, freezing a US$350 million grant, citing concerns regarding the government's suppression and intimidation of demonstrators and civic groups, as well as restriction of the press and police violence

Mummar Qaddafi's Influence

Yet even here, they have not been free of the detrimental influence of Libya's Colonel Qaddafi. After an earlier president who favored Qaddafi, Bakili Muluzi, established diplomatic relations with Libya in 2001, Qaddafi began building a string of roadside mosques. He had even promised to build a hospital but this project was stalled when Muluzi left office in 2004 and Mutharika, a former World Bank economist, took over and proved to be less enthusiastic about Qaddafi. That may be why, according to Nyasa Times:
There has been jubilation amongst Malawians after reports trickled in that Libya’s deposed dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi died after being captured with many people seeing it as a good omen for a hopeful Malawi which is undeniably reverting to dictatorship.
Malawians over the cyber sphere are eager to see what this means for Malawi. Already Zimbabweans are tweeting that Robert Mugabe should be next and some Malawians are saying that its president Bingu wa Mutharika should also be deposed since he has become a ‘mad dog’ of some reputation.

“It shows that the world is running out safe heavens for dictators. We have one in Malawi,” said Jimmy Kainja, a passionate academician and blogger.

“Gaddafi reportedly captured, Malawi’s Bingu wa Mutharika change your agenda for dictatorship or change will change you,” tweeted Nyasa Times editor Thom Chiumia from UK where he is coordinator of Malawi Diaspora Forum.

Former Malawi Defence Force brigadier Marcel Chirwa commented: “One by one dictators on the continent are being removed.”
There is good reason to believe that Malawi's succession would not have gone as smoothly as it did if Mummar Qaddafi was still in power because his record of interference with the internal politics of countries in Africa is well known.

It has been reported that the first president of Malawi, Hasting Banda, who established one party rule and is no relation to the current President Banda, once received $100,000 in a brown paper bag from Qaddafi.
Col. Gadhafi plotted coups and countercoups all over sub-Saharan Africa. Armed with petrodollars, he established himself as Africa's supremo. One great news photo shows him looking bored and reading a newspaper on a large couch in Tripoli with four African heads of state — two on each side — sitting with him,
writes Arnaud de Borchgrave, who interview Qaddafi six times in the past four decades.

They didn't always feel that way about the Colonel. In 2002, he flew to Malawi with a large entourage and several bullet proof vehicles on two 747s. As the Guardian reported:
As part of a bizarre, cross-continental crusade to promote his dream of a United States of Africa, the Libyan leader, in a 100-vehicle convoy, traversed the pot-holed roads of Malawi greeted by an estimated half a million peasants. His reception was described by officials as ecstatic.

The delight of the impoverished Malawian population, some cynics suggested, may have had more to do with the fact that Gaddafi's armed entourage was hurling bundles of US dollar bills from the windows of the bullet-proofed limousines than a desire to share his vision of leadership of a one-nation Africa.
Because of Qaddafi's dream of being crowned "King of all African Kings." A struggle broke out between Mutharika and Qaddafi when the time came for the later to relinquish the presidency of the AU.

The BBC wrote in 2010:
Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi has failed in his bid to stay on as president of the African Union for another year.

At the annual AU summit in Ethiopia, leaders from 53 African countries chose the president of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika, to take his place.

A BBC correspondent at the summit says Col Gaddafi was very reluctant to stand down, causing considerable resentment.
Libya has chaired the AU for the past year, and under the system of rotating regional blocs, the job was due to go to a southern African leader.

However, Mr Gaddafi wanted to extend the term. He had the support of Tunisia, and is said to have won over some smaller countries by paying their AU membership dues.

Mutharika was so strongly supported to replace Qaddafi because the other leaders were tired of Qaddafi pushing for them to adopt his United States of Africa plan immediately. After he replaced Qaddaf,i he said:
“Why should we create one Africa when in our countries and our regional groupings we are not united? Libya is pushing these matters too much,” said Mutharika when briefing the press upon arrival from the AU meeting in Ethiopia yesterday.

This follows Gaddafi’s call at the meeting for Africa to unite soon.

He added, “We all know why Gaddafi wants the formation of OAU now, it is because he wants to be the first leader. Some of us don’t like other things but we choose to be silent deliberately. We just look at other things when we know they are nonsense,”
This April, Malawi cut diplomatic ties with Qaddafi, expressing concerns about “the prevailing hostilities and armed violence in Libya which have caused grave loss of civilian life”.

The people of Malawi and it's new president, still have a great many hurdles to rise above to improve the situation in their country but with Mummar Qaddafi gone, they have a big boulder removed from their path.

My other recent writings on Africa:
People flex power in three African Countries.
BREAKING: Wade defeated in Senegal & other Africa Updates
Mali Coup is latest post-Qaddafi fallout
What the PSL got right & wrong about KONY 2012
African Spring continues in Senegal
Occupy Nigeria - 1st African fruits of Qaddafi gone?
Racism in Libya
Helter Skelter: Qaddafi's African Adventure