Sunday, January 25, 2015

African American Liberation and the Struggle for Socialism
National oppression and class exploitation are at the root of racist state violence

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Note: The following address was delivered at a public meeting on Jan. 24, 2015 in Detroit. The forum was sponsored by Workers World Party Detroit branch.

A tremendous series of mass demonstrations across the United States, Canada and the world since last summer against racist violence and police brutality has shaken the corridors of the ruling class. Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets from Missouri and California to Boston, Toronto, London and New York City.

The U.S. government and ruling class has persistently refused to respond to the demands for justice for Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Aiyana Stanley Jones and the hundreds of other African Americans who have fallen victim to police violence over the last several years. Where are the editorials denouncing law-enforcement use of lethal force against the nationally oppressed and the judicial impunity of the legal apparatus of the state?

In the State of the Union address (SOTU) delivered by President Barack Obama on Jan. 20, he only mentioned the plight of African American youth facing police terrorism in passing. Obama said rightly that the parents of African American youth are often worried when their children face scrutiny by the law-enforcement agents across the country. In the next breathe he said that the families of cops are also concerned about the safety of personnel who work in police departments.

This is of course comes down on the side of the state. How can one say that the dangers facing the oppressed are somehow equal to those who act as surrogates of the ruling class? What this means is that the African American people are on their own as far as defending themselves against state violence.

Information was leaked later in the week indicating that the U.S. Justice Department would not file criminal charges against Darren Wilson, the white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri who killed 18-year-old unarmed Michael Brown on Aug. 9 of last year. Despite numerous eyewitness accounts, videotapes of the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the months-long outrage expressed by the African American people and their allies, there will unlikely be any legal actions taken against the cop responsible for this crime.

There was some discussion about an ongoing investigation into the police department in Ferguson. However, we should not place any real faith in such investigations because in most cases they result in the exoneration of the police and the further criminalization of the victims.

This was the case with Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, where he was accused by the media of selling cigarettes on the streets. Nonetheless, they never mentioned whether any cigarettes were found on his person after his killing.

Whether there were any or not is irrelevant since when does possession of cigarettes, which are legal in the U.S., warrant a death sentence by agents of the state? Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old child playing in a public park in Cleveland and was gunned down because someone called 9-1-1 indicating that people were frightening by a youngster playing with a toy gun.

By the time the call had been relayed by the police dispatcher to a squad car it was “a Black man with a gun in the park.” When the officer emerged from the police cruiser it took less than two seconds for him to fire into the body of Rice. Since this vicious killing no charges have been filed against the police and they remain free while a child has been buried.

What Obama did talk about was the attempts to have Congress provide further public resources to escalate the renewed war in Iraq and Syria, ostensibly against the so-called Islamic State. As a spokesperson for the Pentagon he wants the working people of this country to fund yet another “Iraqi army and rebel army in Syria.” Nevertheless, he never mentions what happened to the previous surrogate Iraqi army and rebels in Syria.

It was the U.S. and its allies which created the conditions for the emergence of the Islamic State. A proxy war against Syria since 2011 has caused tremendous dislocation and damage not only to Syria but other regional states. The U.S. through successive administrations during this century has slaughtered millions throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa.

These foreign policies have been total disasters for the oppressed nations in these regions as well as people around the world. Inside the U.S., we have seen the impact of runaway Pentagon budgets on the cities like Detroit.

Obama in the SOTU address said in essence that “America was back.” The question is: back to what? We know that wages have actually gone backwards over the last three-and-a-half decades. The prison industrial complex has grown by at least 500 percent. More African Americans are in prison than in colleges and universities. Moreover, there are no programs or even policy discussions on how to alleviate these social problems, which have profound political implications.

Detroit: A Lesson in the Ravages of Modern-day Capitalism

What does the brutal police repression of African American and Latinos communities have to do with the economic devastation caused by the banks in the city of Detroit? If we look at the history of Detroit we see clearly that the use of law-enforcement’s brutal tyranny has been a hallmark of the oppressive apparatus of the state.

Since the existence of the African community in Detroit the police have been used to suppress the people. The first popularly-known rebellion among African Americans in Detroit in 1833 arose out of the efforts of white slave catchers who wanted to kidnap and re-enslave people who had taken refuge in the city from Kentucky.

Later in 1943, police operated alongside white mobs to terrorize the African American community during World War II. In 1967, a police raid on a business establishment on 12th Street sparked the largest urban rebellion up until that time.

In the aftermath of the 1967 rebellion, police violence escalated. In 1971, the Stop the Robberies Enjoy Safe Streets (STRESS) units went on to the streets killing 33 people over a two year period, with 31 of them being African American. The rise of the Coleman Young administration grew out of the anti-police brutality struggle in Detroit during 1971-73.

Although police violence against the people seemed to decline during the Young administration, the murder of Malice Green on Nov. 5, 1992, pointed to an ongoing problem. This came in the aftermath of the Rodney King Rebellions in Los Angeles and other cities across North America.

The second “black administration” under Dennis Archer set out to repudiate the legacy of the Detroit struggle since the pre-Civil War era. Police violence against the people escalated and it became the undoing of the Archer administration. Some of the gains of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements were reversed by the racist state government, with the destruction of Recorder’s Court, the abolition of municipal residency requirements, the changing of property tax foreclosure laws and the imposition of the casinos and new stadia which were championed as the salvation of the city.

We know today that these initiatives fostered by the corporate community, the banks and their puppets in city government failed miserably. The once-championed casino tax revenue wound up as a major source of contention during the bankruptcy hearings. Mike Ilitch and his billionaire empire came right back to the poor and working people of Detroit during 2014 to extort millions more to construct yet another massive prestige project that is now destroying the old Cass Corridor and creeping into the University Cultural District, now dubbed as “Midtown.”

With the corporate media serving as cheerleaders for the rich, it is important that we escalate the distribution of our newspaper, Workers World, in Detroit. Someone has to get an alternative revolutionary analysis out among the people that uncovers the lies, ruling class propaganda and psychological warfare being waged against the people every single day through the daily press and television news stations.

They say that the bankruptcy worked, but for who? Tens of thousands of City of Detroit retirees and their families have been robbed of their healthcare programs and billions in their pension funds. The reputed “shedding of seven billion in debt” is taken directly from the pensioners in contravention to the Michigan state constitution which the federal bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes arbitrarily “impaired.” This all was a plot by the banks and corporations to set the workers back decades and to provide even more money to the rich.

No challenge was made by the Duggan administration or the City Council to “clawback” the $177 million in putative “consultancy fees” for the illegal and contrived bankruptcy. All of these entities work at the pleasure of the ruling class. They deliberately allow the workers and oppressed to be expropriated of their meagre wealth consisting of jobs, pensions, homes and communities. The false “comeback” of Detroit is a fraudulent swindle that must be exposed and opposed by people.

Moreover, we must illustrate how none of this is working for the people. Just recently, in the post-election period of 2014, the State of Michigan, it is now said, is facing a $325 million deficit derived from over $500 million in shortfalls due to the policy of not taxing corporations. I believe the situation is much deeper than this and what was revealed in the Detroit News and Free Press recently is just the tip of the iceberg.

According to the Detroit News on Jan. 16, “An unidentified business cashed in two state tax credits worth $224 million last month — helping plunge the state's general fund budget into a deficit and setting off alarm bells inside Gov. Rick Snyder's administration. Just two weeks into his second term, Snyder is facing a $325 million midyear shortfall that his budget director says will result in reduced government services and potential layoffs.”

This article continues noting “The cost of employer-luring tax credits — handed out largely under the prior administration of Democrat Jennifer Granholm — is coming into focus this year as Snyder prepares a 2016 fiscal year budget with $532 million less revenue than was expected eight months ago. It is also casting a shadow over his Tuesday State of the State speech. Next year's revenue decline is due in large part to $351 million in additional tax credit refunds to businesses for which the Snyder administration is budgeting.”

Even larger figures were revealed by “The nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency's analysis showing that an additional $1.6 billion in unredeemed tax credits has been awarded to businesses since Snyder took office in 2011. Tax credits expected to be used total $4.9 billion, a figure that has grown $3.2 billion since 2011, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency.”

One legislative politician was quoted as saying "I find it convenient that two months after the election that we now found out … there's this explosion in tax credits that are beyond those of the last administration," according to Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing…..  “For the current fiscal year, business tax credits are expected to deplete the state's general fund by $681 million, $252 million more than state budget officials estimated last May, according to the Treasury Department. In December, a single firm redeemed two tax credits worth $224 million, said Terry Stanton, Treasury Department spokesman. By law, state officials cannot disclose the name of the taxpayer.”

The most outrageous aspect of this report is that the corporate media is not filing Freedom of Information Requests (FOIA) demanding to know who these firms are. After these initial reports, the bank-directed press has been silent on this issue.

Furthermore, the Detroit Free Press reported also on Jan. 16 that “Michigan residents can expect unspecified cuts in services as the state tries to address a projected deficit of about $325 million in the state's general fund for 2015,’ Budget Director John Roberts said Friday. ‘There are going to be real reductions in services,’ Roberts told reporters after officials reached a consensus on revenue estimates. ‘I can't sit here and say yes or no to layoffs’ of state employees, he said, and it hasn't been determined what specific services or departments will be affected.”

In this same report it is saying that “Friday's (Jan. 16) revised estimates also pose a problem for the 2015-16 budget Gov. Rick Snyder is to unveil Feb. 11. Net general fund revenues for the 2016 fiscal year are now projected to come in $532 million lower than officials estimated when they last held a revenue conference, in May. Snyder will address budget fixes for both fiscal years on Feb. 11, Roberts said.”

Nevertheless, there are no intentions to hold these corporations and their benefactors in the state legislature and gubernatorial offices accountable for the decision to turn over billions of dollars to the rich while cutting meager social benefits, education, pensions, jobs and municipal services. In Detroit all areas of the public services and educational sector have been eviscerated.

The public transportation system in Detroit and throughout region is abysmal with irregular service, crowded buses, which pose a health and safety danger. The People Mover derails downtown during the auto show with barely a whimper from the lickspittle corporate media.

The Detroit Free Press stresses that “Snyder also signed into law a controversial bill that limits the ability of the Treasury Department to hold corporate officers personally liable for the unpaid taxes of corporations. That law is expected to reduce state revenues by about $295 million over the next three years, of which about $165 million will impact the general fund, the state's main checking account. Snyder said Thursday (Jan. 15) he has no misgivings about any of those cuts. He said the MBT tax credits ‘would be a problem whether we had a different tax system or not.’ Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he's not overly concerned about the projected deficits. All departments can likely make some cuts to help the state balance its 2015 budget, said Hildenbrand, who also wouldn't rule out using surpluses in the School Aid Fund to ease the picture by re-allocating some general fund dollars that currently go toward school-related expenses. ‘I don't get into finger-pointing,’ Hildenbrand said. ‘I'm more about finding a solution.’"

Well we know what those “solutions” will be. They will be what they always are: that is more austerity and repression for the working class and the oppressed.

We must demand that these corporations and politicians be forced to answer for their theft of billions in public funds from the working people of Michigan. The false notion of three percent growth in the state economy and the reduction in the unemployment rate is a ruse to conceal the actual rate of increasing profits for the corporations who pay little taxes at the expense of the majority of people in the state.

The Water and Housing Questions is a Manifestation of Capitalism

Why is the corporate-oriented city administration and governor ordering the shut-offs of tens of thousands of household water services and forcing hundreds of thousands more out of their homes due to unnecessary tax foreclosures?

These attacks on water services which reached its apex last summer were an integral part of the restructuring as said by an aide to former emergency manager Kevyn Orr. There was no reason to engage in such actions only to terrorize and drive even more people out of the city. The corporate clients such as the billionaire Illitch and their ilk owed hundreds of thousands in arrears yet they were not terminated.

The whole process was designed also to create the conditions for the regionalization of the system and its eventual privatization. With the presence of Veolia Corporation is a clear indication that there is much more to this effort. It was reported in the Detroit Free Press that water rates could increase by 14 percent for those living in the suburbs.

If the notion that regionalization would benefit the majority white suburbs at the expense of the city residents, this myth is crashing into a contrasting realization. It also illustrates that by not addressing the major question of the interest rate swaps that have ripped $537 million out of the DWSD system over the last two years is a disastrous policy that will blow up in the faces of Duggan and his cohorts.

The contradiction is that the water shut-offs exposed the real agenda behind emergency management, bankruptcy and the imposition of the Duggan administration. This struggle continues with the filing of an appeal by the legal team to continue to challenge these human rights violations in the courts. However, the movement must also take on a political character by challenging Duggan and his bosses who are promoting the fabricated narrative that Detroit is coming back. Detroit is not coming back for its majority.

Overall conditions are worsening while small businesses are still closing as people face lay-offs in both the private and public sectors. The schools will suffer even further when the impact of the tax revenue transferals to the rich is rationalized by the state government and local municipalities.

On the housing front our demand for a general moratorium on foreclosures and evictions is just as relevant today as it was eight years ago. The banks that are responsible for the 75,000 foreclosures in the first decade of the 21st century have not been held responsible for the havoc they created.

The federal government through the Congress and the Justice Department has acknowledged the role of the banks by reaching consent judgments, levying fines and the limited prosecutions of some executives. However, overall these financial institutions were in fact rewarded for their transgressions through multi-trillion dollar bail-outs since 2008. The federal government in Detroit endorsed the emergency management and bankruptcy of the city in contravention of Civil Rights laws supposedly guaranteeing the right to due process and equal protection. The Voting Act was blatantly disregarded when voters in Michigan in Nov. 2012 struck down emergency management only to have it re-instituted by the dictatorial state government.

Today we are facing 62,000 tax foreclosures in Detroit. This is taking place despite the hundreds of millions sitting in Lansing for the “Hardest Hit” program that is instead being used to drive even more people from their homes and communities. We must demand that these funds are released and all of the foreclosures be immediately halted.

What have foreclosures done for the city? All we need to do is drive or walk around most neighborhoods in Detroit. The housing stock has been destroyed due to the role of the banks, utility companies, the water department and errant politicians.

Last year amid much public hype, Mike Duggan accompanied by City Council President Brenda Jones appeared before media outlets saying they were launching a program to auction abandoned homes beginning in the area surrounding Marygrove College on the northwest side. These efforts are backed up by the illegal quasi-governmental agency known as the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA). This agency works with the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force headed by Dan Gilbert who hired a mapping firm and a team of investigators to target every single home in the city for evaluation.

Yet this auction program was doomed to be dead in the water. An initial project to transfer over 6,200 so-called abandoned homes to a private developer collapsed due to problems associated with the ownership of these structures being in supposed public hands.

Even the few hundreds homes that have been auctions have not been rehabilitated due to the ongoing predatory character of the banking institutions. The new homeowners are not able to get financing for the refurbishing of the structures.

In an article published in the Detroit News on Jan. 5, it states that “A home auction program launched amid great fanfare in May has hit some snags as buyers struggle with financing in what's been a dismal housing market in the city. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan set out with the goal of auctioning around 400 abandoned homes by the end of 2014 and met it, with a final tally of 394 on Dec. 31.”

However, this article continues “seven months into the program, figures show that sales had closed on just over a third of the properties, 37 others were delayed, and several dozen had fallen through, according to the Detroit Land Bank Authority. Of the properties auctioned, 295 had bidders who made legal disclosures and signed purchase agreements. Buyers had closed on only 138 properties.”

Mind you these are figures supplied by the DLBA and the corporate media who are no friends of the people in Detroit. The mere paucity of these numbers in relationship to the over 80,000 abandoned and vacant structures in the city indicates that these initiatives are designed merely for public relations purposes.

The same report says “Circumstances vary, but the vast majority of non-closings are attributed to financing issues, and in some cases, buyer's remorse, says Craig Fahle, a spokesman for the land bank. Some sales remain delayed, but are intended to go through, he added. The auction process, Fahle says, is intended to be an economic driver, not a long-term strategy for Detroit.”

"It's important that people recognize that the auctions are one tool in a big tool kit to help stabilize neighborhoods and rebuild the value there. It takes that kind of a kick-start when the market is as dysfunctional as Detroit has become,” the former local NPR-affiliate news announcer told the paper.

Continuing the Detroit News notes that “The figures come as the City Council is expected to take up a resolution as early as next month to authorize Detroit's Planning and Development Department to transfer 30,000 vacant residential properties to the land bank, which would bring its inventory up to more than 70,000 for its various programs…. Part of the problem rests with the appraisal process, since comparisons are being based on homes sold nearby, often times at values that are disproportionate. That, Fahle said, is the primary reason that some deals have fallen through. To address it, the land bank is working closely with lenders and independent appraisers. It also stepped up efforts to educate prospective buyers on financing and mortgage options and to encourage responsible bidding.”

We all know that this is complete rubbish. The housing stock in Detroit has been rendered worthless as a result of the banks and to go back to these same institutions to seek financing for rehabilitation is counter-intuitive.

Later in the Detroit News article it attempts to clean up this fiasco by suggesting that the program is only in its infancy and has to correct these problems. The reality is that this program is doomed to failure like other such projects because it relies on the same capitalist methods of operation that drove the city into ruin.

This failed program of seizure, demolition and auctioning should be condemned outright by housing activists. The initiatives must be stopped immediately and a more rationalize plan for reconstruction be discussed and developed.

The collapse of this auctioning system combined with the tens of thousands of tax foreclosures connotes further doom for the people of Detroit. The Duggan-Snyder-Gilbert so-called “recovery and rebuilding” program for the city will inevitably, if not halted, drive hundreds of thousands more African Americans and others from the city of Detroit.

Why the “Plan of Adjustment” Is Failing

How can the ruling class backed up by the courts justify the attacks on retirees and the wholesale theft of public assets, while the public sector is being privatized with billions of dollars being turned over to banks and corporations under the guise of an illegal bankruptcy that has further institutionalized national oppression and economic inequality in majority African American cities in Michigan?

The answer to this question lies within the exigencies of the capitalist system in its present phase. Objectively the wealthiest corporations have reaped profits at the expense of an expanding majority including the nationally oppressed and the working class as a whole.

An illegal implementation of austerity provides no solution to the crisis impacting the people of Detroit and the state of Michigan. Gov. Snyder’s state of the union address on Jan. 20 did not address the real problems facing people throughout the state including workers, youth, retirees, women and the oppressed nations.

His outright misrepresentations of the economic situation in the state will not shield public and private sector workers from further lay-offs and impoverishment. As the bogus “plan of adjustment” imposed by the federal courts in Detroit continues to implode, the ruling class interests and their surrogates in government will have no other choice than to cut salaries, resources and services.

The theft of retiree pensions and public assets may not be complete. What will stop the politicians and courts from coming back to steal even more of the deferred wages and municipal wealth from the people? The only force that can stop them is an organized, mobilized and militant movement pointing to the source of the problem and determined to challenge the ruling class for control of the future of the city and the state.

This movement must link up with other municipalities throughout the country that are facing similar difficulties. The escalation in repressive violence by the police is clearly connected with the overall economic crisis.

In Ferguson, African Americans face massive unemployment, poverty that is reinforced by law-enforcement use of lethal force along with judicial impunity. On average, Ferguson households have two outstanding warrants making the majority of people in the St. Louis suburb subjected to arrest, excessive fines and detention.

The only solution to these problems is the adoption of an anti-capitalist program that guides the mass movement. There is no solution found within the capitalist system that breeds racism, national oppression and social dislocation.

Whether the narrative is coming from the White House and the Congress or the state and local governments, none of it makes any sense to the growing majority in U.S. society. The wealth generated by the working class must be taken in order to ensure the survival and prosperity of the people.

We cannot allow the forces responsible for the crisis to dictate the terms under which the problems should be solved. The capitalist have no solution to the crisis of the working class and the oppressed.

Reading any editorial page or news story from the corporate media gives one clear indications that these problems of joblessness, underemployment, poverty and homelessness are not even being addressed. The same failed policies of “trickledown economics” are still being advanced, a holdover from the Reagan-era of the 1980s.

What we have seen are more false promises and failed initiatives. Building new sports arenas, restaurants, hotels and bars, provide no prospects for salvation among the working class and nationally oppressed. As Dr. King said in 1967-68, once you tear down the segregated facilities, where does the money come from to visit these non-segregated businesses?

Dr. King worked during the last year of his life to end poverty and imperialist war. We must continue his efforts for a society and world where people come before profits and the masses control their destiny based upon the needs of the majority.
LETTER FROM PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA
Thank you to all ANC members for a landmark celebration!

Letter from President Jacob ZumaWe have started the year with massive, colourful and highly successful celebrations of the 103rd anniversary of our glorious movement, the African National Congress in Cape Town on the 10th of January 2015.

The celebrations befitted an organization that is the oldest liberation movement in Africa. The ANC is 103 years old, but younger than ever!

It is old in terms of its unmatched political experience and wisdom yet it is young in terms of its enviable energy, militancy and political will to act decisively to change the lives of our people for the better.

It is young in the manner in which it still manages to capture the excitement and imagination of all young and old.

The celebrations of the 103rd anniversary took place under the general context of the Imvuselelo campaign which gives us the opportunity to interact with our people on the ground. The leadership undertook an intensive door to door programme as well as mini-rallies throughout the whole week.

The positive reception of our people was overwhelming and proved to us just how deeply rooted the ANC is in the hearts and minds of all South Africans. They also indicated clearly that the people needed the ANC. They need this glorious movement to come and change their lives in the Western Cape.

Let me thank all the tens of thousands of our people from the Western Cape Province and other provinces, members and supporters alike, who braved the heat and came to celebrate 103 years of an organization whose fundamental aim, when it was founded in 1912, was to unite the people of South Africa against racism and discrimination and to build a democratic, inclusive and prosperous South Africa. We thank the volunteers who worked tirelessly to make the rally a success.  We thank all our members for the loyalty to the ANC and for the utmost revolutionary discipline they displayed throughout the proceedings of the day. You all made the rally such a huge success.

We thank also those who endured travelling long distances using buses, taxis and trains in order to be part of the festivities marking 103 years of this liberation movement. Your efforts towards making our rally the success that it was have not gone unnoticed. In you, we know we have dependable cadres who work to make the  ANC an even stronger organization. May you continue demonstrating this exemplary dedication to our Movement.

We once again extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Cape Minstrels who came out in their numbers to join our rally as a sign of support to the ANC, proving that the ANC belongs to all. Indeed 10 January 2015 is a day to remember for many many years to come.

We thank the law enforcement agencies for hard work which ensured that the rally takes place without any untoward behavior, and our members for iron discipline which made the work of the law enforcement agencies easy. We thank the veterans of uMkhonto weSizwe and our marshals, who worked extremely hard to maintain order solely to guarantee the safety of the tens of thousands who attended the rally. We salute you!  

I also want to extend our sincere gratitude on behalf of the leadership of the ANC to all ANC staff members who sacrificed their festive season and left their families behind to respond to our call to descend on Cape Town to do organizational work without which the celebrations would not have happened. We thank everyone including those who participated in door to door work, handing out pamphlets and flyers, putting up posters, loud-hailing, and using all other means to convince people to come to the stadium.

These are indeed the basic tenets of organizing, which you have perfected and we are proud that we have in our ranks skilled organizers of your calibre. Your hard work, commitment and love for your organization serve as a reminder to all and sundry of the age-old principle that being a member of the ANC means being a servant of the people. You continue to prove that self-sacrifice and service to the people are two sides of the same coin.

The organization of this rally was not without challenges. The fact that it happened and it was a success is indicative of our innate capacity as ANC members to overcome challenges and forge ahead to implement our programme.

Holding the rally in Cape Town reminded our people in that province of what we said in our 2009 election Manifesto, which remains relevant as we head towards local government elections in 2016.

We said:
“In the period ahead South Africa will need a government with both experience and political will, a government that fully understands what needs to be done to address our apartheid past, a government that puts people first (batho pele) and builds a participatory democracy. The ANC, working together with the people, can form such a government’’.

Every ANC member in the Western Cape and beyond should work tirelessly to ensure that the local government elections result in a caring government that will understand the needs of the people of the Western Cape, especially the poor, and that is an ANC government.

Going forward, the tasks of the movement are very clear as outlined in the January 8, 2015 statement and branches should ensure that the tasks outlined in the statement are carried out as we advance towards a National Democratic Society, informed by the Freedom Charter which marks 60 years this year.

As the January 8 statement points out, we should use the Imvuselelo campaign to draw more people to the ANC and to grow the Movement.  Our primary message to all members and branches is that the ANC belongs to all the people of South Africa, that is why it is called a Liberation Movement.

The duty of members is to organize people and draw them into the ANC, and not to chase them away.

The problems that we have identified in our branches such as gatekeeping or membership buying must be nipped in the bud. All ANC members must report such malpractices to the leadership as we build an ANC that belongs to all.

Recruitment should go with political education and conscientisation. We should also renew and restore the values and principles of our Movement among all members - unity, selflessness, sacrifice, collective leadership, humility, honesty, discipline, hard work, internal debates, constructive criticism and self-criticism and mutual respect.

Let me remind you that we must build a caring ANC.  ANC branches must champion the interests of communities wherever they are found. Our people need to know that the ANC is their trusted ally and there is no issue that is too big for the ANC to resolve nor too small to warrant its attention.   We have launched the popular Back to Basics local government campaign. Our branches should participate in this campaign aimed at revitalizing local government and improving efficiency and effectiveness.

We should also move swiftly to implement the Polokwane conference resolution to establish street committees which will assist in handling community issues. The committees also have a key role to play in the fight against crime, including crimes against women and children, which are an apex priority.

This year we will hold our National General Council, (NGC), a platform of the organization where we reflect on the implementation of congress resolutions since the last conference. We must give ourselves time to scientifically analyze the implementation of our policies and determine whether or not they have achieved their intended noble objectives.

The branches of the ANC must make sure that the organisation emerges from the NGC as a renewed organization with the organizational capacity and direction to improve the lives of South Africans and move our country forward.

We once again thank all comrades and supporters for painting the City of Cape Town black, green and gold on the 10th of January and giving hope in the future for  the people of Cape Town and theWestern Cape!

Let us begin working on programmes to implement the directives in the January 8 Statement.

The leadership wishes you all a prosperous and successful 2015.

Let us work hard in unity, during this year of the Freedom Charter and Unity in Action for economic freedom!

Amandla!

Jacob Zuma is the President of the African National Congress
African National Congress Statement on the Passing of Comrade Jackie Selebi
23 January 2015

The African National Congress has learned with sadness the passing this morning of a giant and leader of our people Comrade Jacob Sello Selebi following a long illness. Comrade Selebi has been a long standing member of the African National Congress and the ANCYL. He has served both in the NEC of the ANC and had been the Chairperson of the ANC`s Youth Section which he represented at the World Federation of Democratic Youth for four years. He served as NEC member for 23 years. As an NEC member he was Chairperson of the Welfare Department.

His commitment to the liberation of our people had been his obsession which accounted for his unquestionably and undivided contribution.

Comrade Selebi emerged as one the individuals who embodied a singular focus in ensuring that South Africa become an example of a country that could occupy its place amongst nations. He served as Member of Parliament for the first term of the democratic government under President Mandela. In the post apartheid South Africa he served as the Permanent representative of the country at the United Nations. He was Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission United Nations, he was Chair of the Anti-landmine Conference, he later became the Director General of Foreign Affairs. In 2002 he was Vice President of Interpol in the African Region, In 2004 he became the President of Interpol which he served for a four year term. Comrade Selebi also served as the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service.

As we close the chapter of his life we are opening the chapter of his legacy which will inspire generations to come to serve this nation with loyalty and steadfastness. The ANC will continue to pursue the noble ideals and the society that Comrade Selebi pursued in his entire life to achieve. We dip our revolutionary banner in honor of this outstanding revolutionary. We convey our condolences to the family and kin at this difficult moment. His spirit and legacy will live on.
Issued by:

Zizi Kodwa
National Spokesperson
African National Congress

For Enquiries:
Keith Khoza :
082 823 9672
Khusela Sangoni :
072 854 5707
Greece Begins Voting in Make-or-break Election
AFP, Sunday 25 Jan 2015

Greece began voting Sunday in a crucial general election that could bring the anti-austerity Syriza party to power and lead to a re-negotiation of the country's international bailout.

Syriza, led by 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, leads the incumbent conservative New Democracy party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras by around four points, according to pre-election opinion polls.

Some 9.8 million people are eligible to vote. Polling stations close at 1700 GMT, followed immediately by the results of exit polls.

Tsipras wants to renegotiate Greece's massive 318-billion-euro ($356 billion) debt and end the wage cuts and public spending reductions linked to its bailout by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

The possibility of a victory for the radical left-wing party has sparked fears that Greece could default on its debt repayments and quit the group of 19 countries using the single European currency -- a so-called "Grexit".

Elli, a 20-year-old student casting her ballot in the middle-class Athens suburb of Nea Smyrni, said she would vote for Syriza, but admitted she had concerns.

"I was undecided until this morning because I'm afraid that the outcome of a Syriza win could be a default," she told AFP. "We need to stay in Europe."

Yannis Papacostas, a 50-year-old self-employed man, said he wanted the Greek people to "wake up" after six years of economic hardship.

"The worst scenario is that the parties will not cooperate," he said.

He said he would vote for To Potami (The River), a new party that could form part of a coalition government.

Tsipras has pledged to restore "dignity" to Greece and confront the so-called troika -- the EU, IMF and European Central Bank (ECB) -- which imposed the conditions linked to a 240-billion-euro bailout deal that began in 2010.

The Syriza leader says Greece has been put in an "unsustainable" position, forced to make spiralling debt repayments while the economy shrinks.

The IMF, meanwhile, has warned Greece that failure to repay its debts will carry "consequences".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country is seen as the driving force in the EU's austerity drive, said she hoped Greece would stay in the eurozone.

"I want Greece, despite the difficulties, to remain part of our story," Merkel said Friday.

Greece has seen a rapid economic decline since the eurozone crisis began, pushing unemployment above 25 percent.

Samaras argues it would be disastrous if voters bring Syriza to power just as the fiscal reforms he has supported could be about to bear fruit.

The 63-year-old Harvard-educated prime minister came to power after back-to-back elections in 2012 that routed the once-dominant Pasok socialist party.

Samaras initially argued for an easing of the terms of the bailout, but once in office he agreed to implement the deep cuts demanded by lenders.

He took a gamble last December by attempting to push forward a presidential election, but when lawmakers failed to agree on a candidate he was forced to call parliamentary elections.

Tsipras, a middle-class boy from Athens who trained as a civil engineer, says Syriza wants to smash the "oligarchy" that has traditionally dominated Greek politics and the media.

A Syriza official told AFP on Saturday the party was confident of victory. If it fails to gain the 151 parliamentary seats needed for an absolute majority in the 300-seat parliament it believes it would have little difficulty in forming a coalition government, the official said.

"Polls show we are five to 10 points ahead of New Democracy. What remains to be seen is whether we will have a clear majority," he added.

A likely coalition partner is To Potami, a pro-European party founded last year by investigative journalist Stavros Theodorakis.

Tsipras has said he wants to slash the debt in half and reach a new deal with the ECB by July.

A victory for Syriza could pave the way for other anti-austerity parties to break through in Europe. The leader of Spain's radical Podemos movement, Pablo Iglesias, appeared with Tsipras at his final campaign rally in Athens on Thursday.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/121224.aspx
Egypt Poised For Less Eventful Uprising Anniversary
Ahram Online, Saturday 24 Jan 2015

Dwindling support for the Muslim Brotherhood and days of mourning declared following the death of Saudi King Abdullah suggest that this year's anniversary of the 2011 revolution will be quiet

The fourth anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, which instigated the ouster of longstanding president Hosni Mubarak, is expected to be less eventful Sunday than the past three years.

On the one hand, Egypt's government postponed celebrations marking the 18-day 2011 uprising in mourning for Saudi King Abdullah, who died in the early hours of Friday.

Similarly, the interior ministry said it would call off celebrations of Police Day, also on 25 January, as the country declared a week of mourning for the late monarch.

On the other hand, calls for protests and rallies, akin to those marking past uprising anniversaries, have been negligible.

The Muslim Brotherhood, from which Egypt's second toppled president Mohamed Morsi hails, is expected to stage protests along with allies. Such gatherings are expected to be limited.

Since Morsi was ousted in July 2013 following nationwide demonstrations against his rule, the Brotherhood and supporters have been staging protests against what they describe as a "military coup."

However, a systematic crackdown on the Brotherhood and its allies, as well as the arrest of its leadership and many members, took a toll on the group's mobilisation.

The clampdown has been persistent, leaving the group with minimal ability to instigate noticeable protests ahead of 25 January.

Morsi's loyalists' weak position these days can also be put down to a loss in backing from non-Islamist political forces over the past three years.

Non-Islamist demonstrators in 2012's anniversary were angry with the Brotherhood for supporting the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) during its post-Mubarak interim rule.

Many other political forces at the time were outspoken in their condemnations of how the military was "ignoring revolutionary demands."

On 25 January 2013, when Morsi was still in power, demonstrators more blatantly hit out at the Brotherhood, deploring what they described as the "rule of the supreme guide."

At the time, the group's spiritual leader, Mohamed Badie, was widely believed to be the country's de facto ruler, with Morsi simply serving as a conduit for his commands that opponents believe also didn't fullfil the revolutiion demands.

The 2014 anniversary, which came months after Morsi's 3 July ouster following nationwide protests against his rule, saw mass rallies in support of then army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and less calls for revolutiion demands to be fulfilled.

Protests were staged against now President El-Sisi, the Brotherhood's arch-foe who they believed masterminded Morsi's ouster though the latter appointed him army chief.

On that day, the Way of the Revolution Front, which was considered the only potent non-Islamist opposition group, staged protests against the post-Morsi interim authorities as well.

Yet the umbrella group refused to stand side by side with the Brotherhood.

In the months leading up to the fourth anniversary of the 2011 revolution, protests marches and road blocking have be far less common in Egypt than in previous years.

But Morsi's loyalists have continued to stage regular rallies in defiance of a protest law passed by interim authorities late 2013 that bans all demonstrations not pre-approved by the police.

Protests would usually turn deadly between Morsi's supporters and opponents, whether civilian or from the security apparatus, for almost a year and half.

Although streets have grown calmer in the past months, Egypt has been hit by a cluster of bombings since Morsi's toppling.

Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, a jihadist group that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, claimed responsibility for many of these attacks amid its hostility towards the incumbent Egyptian authorities.

In general, Egypt still witnesses violent attacks, which usually target police facilities and personnel, but won't be prone to terrorism on 25 January, said security expert Ehab Youssef.

Youssef stressed that the police are more effective now than over the past three years. "Their presence on the street is more tangible, and that minimises chances for violence."

"But they still need a new strategy to preempt terrorism and not just respond to it," Ehab said.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/121184.aspx
Egypt Prosecutor Orders Investigation Into Killing of Socialist Protester
Ahram Online, , Sunday 25 Jan 2015

Shaimaa El-Sabag was shot dead with birdshot when police dispersed a peaceful march to commemorate the January 2011 revolution

Egypt's prosecutor general has ordered an investigation into the killing of a female protester in Cairo.

Shaimaa El-Sabag, 33, one of several dozen protesters at a march organised by the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, was shot dead with birdshot near Talaat Harb Square in downtown Cairo on Saturday.

The prosecutor summoned police personnel who dispersed the demonstration for questioning and subpoenaed police records of the event.

The records include the number of police present and the weapons they had been issued.

El-Sabag was an advocate for workers' rights and a leading member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party in Alexandria, a group which supported both the January 25 revolution and the June 30 anti-Brotherhood protests.

She is survived by her five-year old son and husband.

Marchers were heading to Tahrir Square to lay flowers for protesters killed during the January 2011 revolution, one day before its fourth anniversary.

Following the incident, the interior ministry denied that a policeman had gunned El-Sabag down, saying marchers used fire crackers.

"And later," the statement reads, "a woman was injured and hospitalised, but she died after succumbing to her injuries."

However, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party said in a statement that their march was peaceful.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said he had faith that whoever made a mistake would be convicted by a fair investigation and a just judiciary.

"The post-January 25 state respects the law, and apples it to everyone," he added in a press communiqué.

MoatazEl-Shenawy, Secretary General of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, deplored the "excessive force" used by the police to disperse the march.

El-Shenawysaid the march was not authorised by the police but was announced in advance.

A law passedby the interim authorities in late 2013 bans all demonstrations not pre-approved by the police, resulting in the arrest of many protesters despite condemnation from freedom of expression advocates.

The minister of interior had recently said that all violations of the law on fourth the anniverssary of the revolution that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak would be dealt with swiftly and firmly by the police.

On Friday, a 15-year-old teenage girl was killed in Alexandria after sustaining birdshot wounds in clashes with the police and pro-Muslim Brotherhood protesters.

Shaimaa's murder produced considerable anger which was reflected on social media outlets.

In Facebook post, former Nasserist presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi held the ministry of interior responsible for Shaimaa's death.

"It is unreasonaable and unacceptable that the blood of Egyptians who want to express their views peacefully continues to be spilled four years after the glorious revolution."

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/121229.aspx
Woman Shot Dead in Cairo as Police Disperse Leftist March
Ahram Online, Saturday 24 Jan 2015

A woman was killed as security forces dispersed a march by the Socialist Popular Alliance Party on Saturday in central Cairo.

Shaimaa El-Sabag, one of dozens of marchers, was shot by pellets at close range, according to a statement issued by the party. The health ministry has confirmed her death.

In a statement, the interior ministry denied that a policeman had gunned her down, saying marchers used fire crackers. "And later," the statement reads, "a woman was injured and hospitalised, but she died after succumbing to her injuries."

The ministry went on to warn against such gatherings, warning that "terrorist groups" would infiltrate them with the intention of causing strife.

El-Sabag's body has been transferred to the morgue, while prosecutors have opened investigations into her death.

A number of videos have been circulating online showing the deceased bleeding from the mouth. None of them show her being shot.

Others were injured in the clashes which reportedly saw teargas fired by police,one day before the fourth anniversary of the 25 January uprising.

The march was heading to Tahrir Square from the nearby Talaat Harb roundabout, before it was interrupted by police forces.

Al-Ahram's Arabic website reported that at least six were arrested in the violence.

Moataz El-Shenawy, Secretary General of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, deplored what he described as "excessive force" by the police to disperse the march.

He said marchers wanted to place roses in Tahrir Square, to commemorate protesters who had been killed there during the 2011 uprising.

Over 800 people were killed in clashes during the 18-day uprising in 2011, which began on 25 January.

A law passed by interim authorities in late 2013 bans all demonstrations not pre-approved by the police, resulting in the arrest of many protesters despite condemnation from freedom of expression advocates.

El-Shenawy says the march was not authorised by the police but was announced in advance

Protesters held placards bearing one of the famous revolutionary slogans: "bread, freedom and social justice." They also called for retribution against the "killers of the martyrs."

Earlier in the day, amicrobus driver died during clashes between police and pro-Muslim Brotherhood protesters in Giza's Faisal district.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/121195.aspx
Bomb Wounds Two Policemen on Anniversary of Egypt Uprising
3:36am EST
By Ali Abdelaty

CAIRO (Reuters) - A bomb wounded two Egyptian policemen in Cairo on Sunday and security forces moved quickly to disperse small protests on the anniversary of the popular uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011, officials said.

The blast targeted policemen stationed outside a sports club in Cairo's Heliopolis area, the security sources said.

Supporters of deposed president Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood gathered near Tahrir Square -- symbolic heart of the 201 revolt -- and held up photographs of him, a Reuters witness said.

Security forces rounded them up. They also teargas to disperse a protest in Cairo's Ramses Square, officials said.

Tensions have been rising in Egypt. A woman protester was shot dead on Saturday near Cairo's Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the revolt that ended Mubarak's 30 years of rule. Dozens of protesters were killed during last year's anniversary.

State news agency MENA said 22 armored vehicles were parked around Tahrir Square and roads to the square were sealed off.

Security forces were also dispatched to Rabaa Square in northeast Cairo, where hundreds of Mursi supporters were killed in August 2013, one month after the army toppled him.

Mursi and other Brotherhood leaders are standing trial on a range of charges, from inciting violence to conspiring with the Palestinian militant group Hamas against Egypt. They deny the charges.

Although a security crackdown has virtually ended street demonstrations, several took place this week in Cairo and Egypt's second city, Alexandria.

In a televised address on Saturday, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi praised the desire for change Egyptians showed four years ago but said it would take patience to achieve all of "the revolution's goals".

Sisi announced a roadmap to democracy after toppling Mursi when mass protests against his rule erupted, and the government says it is committed to democracy. But human rights groups accuse the former military intelligence chief under Mubarak of restoring authoritarian rule to the most populous Arab state.

Opponents say new laws, including one restricting protests, have rolled back freedoms won in the uprising, when hundreds died as security forces clashed with protesters. Islamists and liberal activists, including many who supported removing Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood, have been jailed.

An Egyptian court ordered the release of Mubarak's sons Alaa and Gamal on Thursday pending a retrial in a corruption case. In November, a court dropped charges against Mubarak of conspiring to kill protesters in the uprising.

(Additional reporting by Malak Ghobrial; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Larry King)
Gunmen Kill Policeman Guarding United Nations Building in Libya’s Capital
Men with an armed group of Libyan people hold weapons to defend their local area from Islamic militias in Benghazi, Libya. (File Photo: AP).

By Ulf Laessing | Reuters, Tripoli
Saturday, 24 January 2015

Gunmen opened fire on Libyan police guarding a U.N. building in the capital Tripoli, killing one officer, state media and the U.N. said on Saturday.

On Friday gunmen shot from a passing car at policemen on duty outside the office of the U.N. development agency UNDP in Tripoli, a state news agency and the U.N. mission to Libya (UNSMIL) said.

One officer died of his wounds in hospital.

"U.N. staff were not involved in the incident," the U.N. said in a statement.

Tripoli is controlled by a faction called Libya Dawn, which has set up a rival government and forced the internationally recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni to the east.

The United Nations and most Western and Arab countries evacuated their diplomats in the summer during fighting between rival factions who are battling for control of the oil-producing state four years after the fall of Muammar Qaddafi.

Bombs exploded in November near the Egyptian and United Arab Emirates embassies and last week outside Algeria's mission.

Last Update: Sunday, 25 January 2015 KSA 23:55 - GMT 20:55
Libyan Militant Group Says Its Leader, Mohammed al-Zahawi, Was Killed
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
JAN. 24, 2015

CAIRO — The Islamist group Ansar al-Shariah, based in Benghazi, Libya, said Saturday that its leader, Mohammed al-Zahawi, had been killed.

Unconfirmed reports that Mr. Zahawi was wounded or killed in an attack late last year had circulated on jihadist websites for months, although the group dismissed them at the time.

The statement, posted on the group’s official Twitter account on Saturday, gave no details about how or when Mr. Zahawi was killed.

It gave condolences and vowed to take revenge and “shake the seat of power.” The statement included a photograph that was said to show Mr. Zahawi after his death.

The group has been blamed for attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi in 2012 that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

In the attack, gunmen fired rocket-propelled grenades and stormed the mission, many waving the black banners of Ansar al-Shariah. The compound’s main building was set ablaze. Mr. Stevens suffocated to death inside and another American was shot dead. Later in the evening, gunmen attacked and shelled a safe house, killing two more Americans.

The United States designated the group a terrorist organization in January 2014, saying that it emerged after the imperialist war of regime-change that led to the overthrow and assassination of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011. The group has been involved in “terrorist attacks against civilian targets, frequent assassinations, and attempted assassinations of security officials and political actors in eastern Libya,” American officials said.

The United Nations also listed Ansar al-Shariah as a terrorist organization in November 2014, saying that it runs training camps for foreign fighters traveling to Syria, Iraq and Mali.

Ansar al-Shariah is part of the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, an umbrella group for the city’s hard-line militias. Last spring Khalifa Hifter, a Central Intelligence Ageny asset and renegade former army general, led a unilateral offensive against extremist militias in Benghazi. On Oct. 15, General Hifter and the elected government joined ranks against the militias.

Widespread militia violence has plunged Libya into chaos less than four years after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed Colonel Qaddafi.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Boko Haram Releases About 190 People in Nigeria's Yobe State
8:23pm EST

BAUCHI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Nigerian Sunni jihadist group Boko Haram released about 190 captives, who returned to their community in the northeast state of Yobe between Friday and Saturday, while other people were still being held, local and state officials said.

"The people will be presented to the government tomorrow (Sunday) for assistance as their houses were set ablaze when the insurgents attacked the village, Katarko in the Gujba local council," Goni Mali, a community leader of Katarko said.

Abdullahi Bego, spokesman for the state governor, said the militants released young men, women and children who were kidnapped on Jan 6. At least 20 other people were still being held.

Boko Haram has been waging a five-year insurgency to establish an Islamic state in the northeast of the country. Borno state is the worst hit followed by Adamawa and Yobe.

Some of the women who were released said the militants let them go after they resisted following the rules of the group.

"They say since you have refused to accept our mode of religious teachings, go and follow your 'Infidels', we hereby order you to leave," one of the women said.

The group frequently raids towns and kidnaps young men, women and children as well as some foreign workers. A German national was freed in Cameroon last week after being abducted in Nigeria's Adamawa state in July.

In neighboring Borno state, at least 14 people were killed and houses set on fire on Friday in a suspected Boko Haram attack on the village of Kambari, 5 kilometers from state capital Maiduguri, a military source and eye witnesses said.

(Reporting By Ardo Abdullah, Writing by Julia Payne; Editing by David Gregorio)
Erdoğan Resumes African Tour, Heads to Somalia, Djibouti
DAILY SABAH WITH ANADOLU AGENCY
ISTANBUL

Not cancelling his Somalia trip due to a bombing in Mogadishu, President Erdoğan is expected to visit several Turkish projects, an ultra-modern hospital and will also inaugurate Mogadishu's renovated airport

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is scheduled to visit Djibouti on Saturday and Somalia on Sunday despite a deadly car bombing near a hotel in the Somali capital on Friday where a Turkish delegation was staying. Following his Ethiopia trip on Thursday, Erdoğan was first going to visit Somalia, however his trip has been delayed after the president decided to join the funeral ceremony for Saudi Arabian King Abdullah. Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on Friday confirmed that Erdoğan had postponed his official visit to the country. "President Mohamud has confirmed that the visit of President Erdoğan has been postponed. This is due to the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia," Somali presidential spokesman Daud Aweis said. In Davos, Switzerland Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğan said three Somalis were killed in the attack that targeted the hotel in Mogadishu.

Erdoğan denounced the attack during a speech he delivered at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. "There was again a terrorist act in Somalia today. In whose name are they doing this? If it's in the name of Islam, I am a Muslim and there is no such thing in Islam. Firstly, a Muslim cannot commit suicide," Erdoğan said. "In our religion there is no such thing as going and killing people."

A Somali intelligence official said that the Turkish delegation of around 70 members were staying at the hotel at the time of the attack but were unharmed. He insisted on not being named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Davutoğlu said it was not clear if the Turkish delegation was the target of the attack and that Erdoğan would go ahead with the visit. Somali police Captain Mohamed Hussein said the bomber drove his explosives-laden car into the gate of the SYL hotel.

Security in the Somali capital Mogadishu has been beefed up significantly ahead of Erdoğan's scheduled arrival. "We are ready for Erdoğan's visit," Mohamed Osman, a senior official at the Interior Security Ministry told press.

"The police, army and the African Union Mission in Somalia [AMISOM] have been deployed at various points in the city to improve security," he said. For instance, the main road linking Mogadishu to Aden Abdille International Airport has been closed. "The road will remain closed until the conclusion of President Erdoğan's visit," Osman said.

Erdoğan is also expected to visit several Turkish projects in the capital, including the Mogadishu Port and a new, ultra-modern hospital. The Turkish leader will also inaugurate Mogadishu's newly renovated airport.

It will be Erdoğan's second visit to Somalia. He first visited the country in 2011 at the height of the Somali famine. Turkey has since been the most visible foreign country to help war-torn Somalia rebuild its crumbling infrastructure.

Somalia has remained in the grip of on-off violence since the outbreak of civil war in 1991. Last year, the fractious country appeared to inch closer to stability after government troops and African Union forces that were deployed in Somalia since 2007 drove al-Shabaab from most of its strongholds.

However, the militant group has continued to carry out regular attacks on government forces and African peacekeepers. 
Tunisia’s New Premier Announces Cabinet
Tunisia's Prime Minister Habib Essid presented his cabinet to President Beji Caid Essebsi on January 23, 2015 in Tunis.

New Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid has formed his cabinet without handing any posts to the Islamist party, Ennahda, which led the previous government.

The premier, a former interior minister, announced the cabinet line-up on Friday which is mostly made up of figures from Tunisia’s secular party Nidaa Tounes and other smaller partners in the parliament.

"This government is a government of national competences that comprises politicians...civil society figures and people who have experience and expertise," Essid told reporters.

The premier added that he had formed the cabinet after holding consultations with political party chiefs and civil society figures.

He emphasized that the ministers would work based on Nidaa Tounes’ program in cooperation with other parties, saying, “It is a government for all Tunisians to apply democracy.”

The full assembly must now vote to ratify the new cabinet.

On January 5, Essid was tasked with forming a new government by President Beji Caid Essebsi, who won Tunisia's first free presidential election in December since independence from France in 1956.

The Ennahda party, which has the second largest number of seats in the assembly, had sought a unity government with Nidaa Tounes. However, the seculars have already made it clear that they have been against any alliance with the Islamists.

Essebsi, from the Nidaa Tounes secular political party, garnered 55.68 percent of the votes to overcome former President Moncef Marzouki, who collected 44.32 percent of the ballots, in the December 21 run-off.

Tunisia, the birthplace of pro-democracy protests across North Africa and the Middle East, revolted against the Western-backed dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in 2011.

According to the UN figures, more than 300 people were killed and hundreds injured in the security forces' crackdown on popular protests that led to Ben Ali's ouster.
Congo Senate Bows to Protests, Drops Reforms
Sat Jan 24, 2015 3:18AM
presstv.ir

The upper house of the parliament, Senate, in the Democratic Republic of Congo has scrapped a proposed change to a controversial election law that would allow President Joseph Kabila to extend his stay in power.

The senators on Friday agreed to modify the proposed law, which had already been passed by the lower house -- the National Assembly -- in its original form.

"We have listened to the street. That is why the vote today is a historic vote,” media outlets quoted Senate President Leon Kengo Wa Dondo as saying.

Sources say a parliamentary committee will now seek to reconcile the two chambers' bills before a possible final vote.

This comes as opposition parties have been holding protests against the new electoral bill, which aims to delay presidential and parliamentary polls beyond 2016.

On Monday, violent clashes left at least four people dead and ten others wounded in the capital Kinshasa.

A coalition of opposition parties called on protesters to occupy the parliament building to stop passing any laws affecting the election.

They are demanding that the 43-year-old president step down.

Kabila came to power after the assassination of his father Laurent-Desire Kabila in 2001. Five years later, Kabila won the country’s first free election since its independence from Belgium back in 1960.

The leader began his second and last five-year constitutional term following a disputed vote in 2011.
Thousands of Yemenis Rally Across Country in Support of Houthis
Fri Jan 23, 2015
Presstv.ir

Thousands of people have taken to the streets across Yemen to support Shia Ansarullah revolutionaries of Houthi movement.

On Friday, the Yemenis attended massive rallies all over the country to express their support for the Shia fighters, chanting "death to America” and “death to Israel” slogans.

Another rally

Meanwhile, the southern Yemen separatists launched rallies in the city of Aden, calling for independence from the central government in the country’s capital, Sana’a.

According to reports, the separatists raised the flag of Southern Yemen over the airport and some of the government buildings in Aden.

Southern Yemen was formerly an independent country which merged with the northern Yemen Republic to form present-day Yemen in 1990.

Latest developments

The demonstration came a day after the Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the cabinet of Prime Minister Khaled Bahah resigned over pressure from Ansarullah revolutionaries.

Reports say the Yemeni parliament rejected Hadi’s resignation, calling for an emergency session.

The parliament’s move greatly infuriated Ansarullah supporters who surrounded the parliament in Sana’a in an attempt to pressure the legislative body to reconsider its decision.

Some representatives of Ansarullah revolutionaries said the Shia group welcomes the resignations of the Yemeni president and cabinet and may form a "salvation council" with members from different political groups from the country’s north and south.

Source of conflict

Yemen has been the scene of tensions after the Shia fighters arrested Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, Hadi’s chief of staff, at a checkpoint in the western district of Hada on January 17.

The impoverished Arab country is currently grappling with a severe political crisis between the central government and Ansarullah fighters.

In September 2014, Ansarullah revolutionary fighters gained control of Sana’a following a four-day battle with army forces loyal to General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the half-brother of the country’s former dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In the same month, Ansarullah fighters and the Yemeni government inked the UN-backed ceasefire deal that called for the withdrawal of the revolutionaries from the capital once a neutral prime minister was picked. The deal has failed to deliver any practical results so far.
Yemen Crisis: A Coup in All But Name
By Danya Greenfield
Atlantic Council

Less than 48 hours had passed after the latest agreement between the Houthi rebel movement and the Yemeni government, and the ground had shifted once again.

The resignations of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, newly-appointed Prime Minister Khaled Bahah, and the entire cabinet were quickly followed by reports that the parliament had rejected their requests.

Given Yemen's mercurial political playing field, another new configuration could be just around the corner.

The tension from four days of fighting and negotiation between the rebels and Yemeni security forces seemed to have reached a resting point, with President Hadi and Houthi leaders reaching an agreement on Wednesday.

That agreement essentially saw Mr Hadi capitulate to rebels' demands in exchange for a ceasefire, release of a kidnapped presidential adviser, and the withdrawal of rebel forces from some key positions in Sanaa.

Yet a day later, the presidential adviser had not been released and rebels still surrounded the presidential palace and Mr Hadi's private residence.

Empty promises

Judging from their mass resignation, Mr Hadi and his government decided that operating under the rebels' thumb was untenable and found little reason to believe the Houthis would ever fulfil their end of the bargain.

Either they have given up entirely, or they are now playing their strongest card.

The Zaidi Shia movement, whose traditional stronghold is the northern province of Saada, led massive anti-government rallies over the summer and then suddenly infiltrated the capital with its heavily-armed militia and tribal supporters, taking de-facto control Sanaa by mid-September.

The government, political parties, and the Houthi movement signed the Peace and National Partnership Agreement (PNPA) on 21 September, but it has largely gone unimplemented.

Picking fights

Over the past year, Houthi leaders rightly concluded that they can use military might to change the political map and balance of power in their favour.

The true extent of Houthi ambition is unclear; but the fact that they did not kick Mr Hadi out of the presidency or claim the premiership indicates they prefer to control from behind the scenes by placing their members in ministries and high-level government positions.

This allows them to consolidate power, but without being saddled with ultimate responsibility.

But the resignations of Mr Hadi and Mr Bahah now turn the table on their strategy.

Sadly, the rebels' tactics affirm the power of the gun over the power of persuasion, and it marks a massive setback for the democratic transition process that began in 2011 with a youth-led uprising against longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a new government, and a successful National
Dialogue Conference that produced agreement on the country's most pressing problems.

The Houthis were included in the 10-month national dialogue process, and their representatives actually participated quite constructively in the working groups.

But they were ultimately unhappy with the agreement of a six-state federal system they perceived would erode their power and autonomy.

Since they did not win that fight politically, Houthi fighters set out to change the facts on the ground.

They systematically pushed into new territory, aggressively picking fights with tribal militia, government forces, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants, and established some degree of control in at least nine of Yemen's 22 provinces.

Rhetorical flourish

The latest conflagration in Sanaa was prompted by the newly-drafted constitution, written by a 17-member committee including a Houthi representative, which established a framework for the federal system that the Houthis vehemently oppose.

In his widely-watched speech on Tuesday, the movement's leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi outlined his demands, including revision of the new constitution and full implementation of September's peace deal, and advised the president to "stop delaying and being stubborn".

But it is difficult to take Abdul Malik al-Houthi at face value since the Houthis themselves have not implemented the most critical component - withdrawal of their forces and demilitarisation.

Waving the fig leaf is a rhetorical flourish, but his anti-corruption message certainly resonates and may gain supporters among average Yemenis.

If the president and his prime minister are convinced to return and survive politically, they will emerge a far weaker and less empowered duo.

Mr Hadi's inability to stem the Houthi aggression over the past five months had already eroded his quickly evaporating credibility and public support, but this latest action might just be the end of this charade.

When the Houthis forced a change in government and prime minister last year, there was some hope that a competent technocrat like Mr Bahah - a massive improvement over his predecessor - would manage to provide some leadership and momentum for the new government to fulfil its promises.

But the internal tribal divisions, meddling by the former president, threats from AQAP, and the Saudi-Iranian proxy war have proved too much for Mr Hadi and Mr Bahah to handle.

Fight for survival

For the United States and its allies, the recent events and ascendency of the Houthis are deeply troubling.

The fact that President Hadi can control or claim loyalty from very little of Yemen's military is indeed worrisome, and AQAP is already capitalizing on the distraction, chaos, and unaddressed grievances in tribal areas to wreak havoc and grow its ranks.

Saudi Arabia has halted its financial support, refusing to bank-roll a country dominating by an Iranian-supported, Shia-affiliated group, and this could lead to an absolute economic collapse with salaries unpaid and currency scarce.

President Hadi has been a loyal and consistent ally in the US counterterrorism campaign - far better than his predecessor - but he is now fighting for his very survival.

If the Houthis are now the real power brokers, the US will have few allies to rely on for security co-operation, fewer intelligence assets, and fierce resistance to US drone strikes on Yemeni soil.

At present, the Houthis are sailing high - riding on their alliance with Mr Saleh and his loyalists in the military and their alleged financial and ideological backing from Iran.

President Hadi might be able to prompt a public outcry for his return, but that would be a far stretch for someone who lacks broad support.

This may not qualify technically as a coup, but the result may be the same, and the Houthis are unlikely to stop until they have full control, at least over the north of the country.

And unless external events shift the course, or alliances erode, we should expect to see Houthis calling the shots for some time to come.

Danya Greenfield is the deputy director of the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
Who Are The Houthis Of Yemen?
JANUARY 23, 2015 5:03 AM ET
NPR STAFF

The Houthis of northern Yemen were an obscure group until recently. But they surged to prominence in September, when the Houthi militia took over parts of Yemen's capital, Sanaa.

Yemen's president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, was weakened by the Houthi advance and agreed to a deal that allowed the militia to keep control in a number of key areas in Sanaa.

The fragile deal fell apart this week as the Houthis seized the presidential palace and placed more demands on Hadi, who resigned on Thursday. This has plunged Yemen into uncertainty.

Letta Tayler, a senior researcher on terrorism at Human Rights Watch who has closed followed Yemen, spoke to NPR's David Greene about the Houthis, a minority in Yemen who practice an offshoot of Shiite Islam known as Zaidism.

DAVID GREENE: Who are the Houthis?

LETTA TAYLER: They are a real wild card. They're a rebel group from northern Yemen. They have rapidly morphed into the armed faction of a full-fledged political movement. And I guess the most important thing for Americans to know is that part of the Houthi slogan is "God is great." But then it continues, "Death to America, death to Israel."

Does this suggest Yemen is moving into a very dangerous place?

Well, it could indeed be moving into a very dangerous place. But despite the slogan, the Houthis have not harmed Americans, nor have they harmed Israel. It's AQAP [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] in Yemen ... that is kidnapping and in some cases killing, foreigners. It's not the Houthis. So again, they're a wild card. We really don't know which direction they might go.

Does the U.S. fight against al-Qaida in Yemen fall apart?

Well, ironically, the one thing that we know that the Houthis and the U.S. government have in common is that they both want to get rid of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. So it may actually work out. It may not be entirely implausible to envision the Houthis and the United States joining in the fight against AQAP. So even marginal but sincere action against the AQAP by the Houthis might be a step forward.

There's something incredibly striking about this narrative.

This is often the way Yemen is. Yemen's politics and intrigue makes the word "Byzantine" seem simplistic. We don't know if Yemen is really sliding into chaos or if it's just continuing to hover on the brink. But we do know that this is a serious challenge for the U.S. government. ...

Combating terrorism is a priority for the Yemeni people, but it is not nearly as high on the priority list as ending government corruption, creating jobs, providing a good education system, ensuring that the country does not run out of water.

So these are the concerns of Yemenis. Yes, AQAP is one of those concerns, but most Yemenis see AQAP as more of a problem for the U.S. government. And they see the U.S. government coming in, not to help fix its own problems, but rather to take out elements of AQAP that may be a threat to the U.S., but not to resolve any of the deep problems of Yemen.

Does anything give you hope for the future of this country?

Every time I go to Yemen, I think, "Can things really get worse?" And then somehow they pop back up. I think the thing that gives me the most hope is the Yemeni people. There are so many people filling the squares and the streets of Yemen who genuinely want change, who will continue to press their demands peacefully, no matter how often they are tempted to try to shed blood. Let's not cross this country off just yet as a failed state.
Yemen, a U.S. Partner Against Terrorism, On the Brink of Collapse
Supporters of Houthis stage demonstration in Sanna.
By Editorial Board
Chicago Tribune

The CIA, U.S. military and the White House missed warning signs in Yemen

Yemen is home to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, a group that last week claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. The United States military and CIA work closely with Yemen's government in the fight against terrorism. Twice last year, President Barack Obama cited Yemen as a model partner.

But even with all eyes focused on al-Qaida, something disastrous happened in plain sight in Yemen, the model partner, that complicates U.S. anti-terrorism efforts. Yemen is in political chaos, near a collapse in order.

A Shiite rebel group from Yemen's north, the Houthis, is now the strongest force in the capital, Sanaa.

The Houthis seized control of Sanaa months ago, after negotiations stalled on a power-sharing agreement with the government. Tensions boiled over this week, with gunbattles and shelling that led Houthi forces to take up positions outside the home of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, preventing him from leaving.

The two sides resumed their talks Tuesday, with the Houthi holding an obvious negotiating advantage: Their forces not only had the president surrounded, they had kidnapped his chief of staff. On Wednesday, there were signs of a truce that would free the president and chief of staff and re-establish negotiations on a new constitution.

So who controls Yemen today? It's entirely unclear.

The Houthis are not part of global jihad; they are enemies of al-Qaida. But they are friendly to Iran and don't visibly support America's agenda in the region. They are a potentially dangerous free agent with growing influence over a shaky, distracted ally.

Al-Qaida in Yemen benefits from the crisis. The less functional Yemen's government is, the more room al-Qaida has to operate. On Jan. 7, the same day as the Paris attack, a vehicle filled with explosives blew up in front of a police academy in Sanaa, killing at least 35 people. Al-Qaida is believed to have been responsible.

Looking back at Yemen's downward spiral to the Houthi occupation of Sanaa, it's certain that the CIA, the U.S. military and the White House missed warning signs. Obama went on television Sept. 10 to lay out his strategy for fighting Islamic State, saying the U.S. approach to defeating terrorism will rely in part on mobilizing partners. It's a strategy, he said, "we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years."

Just 11 days later, on Sept. 21, the Houthis pushed into Sanaa.

The Obama administration apparently was caught by surprise, as it was by the sudden territorial gains of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

One faint bit of hope: If the Houthi intended to seize complete control of Yemen, they probably would have done so. It's more likely they are serious about forcing a political settlement that gives them autonomy in parts of the country, or a greater say in government, without the responsibility of running the entire country.

The question now is whether a power-sharing arrangement will undermine U.S. efforts against the virulent al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

The first step to mitigating the damage is to re-establish the central government's authority, which requires getting the Houthis to pull out of Sanaa. There doesn't seem to be a path in which the Houthis aren't some kind of participant in power.

The crisis in Yemen is an obvious reminder — as if Afghanistan and Somalia weren't enough — that terrorism breeds best in unstable petri dishes. These troubled countries need constant attention, or their problems will fester. Yemen, long racked by poverty and corruption, is on the edge.