Thursday, December 26, 2013

Fatal Fire Again Highlights Senegal Child Beggary

Quranic school students pause during their begging route to look at academic results posted outside a government school, in the Medina Gounass suburb of Dakar, Senegal. Instruction at many daaras is focused purely on memorizing verses of the Quran in classical arabic. Students are not taught other subjects, leaving most illiterate in Senegal's official language, French, and the nation's most widely spoken language, Wolof.

NDAME, SENEGAL (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — Seven nights a week, 13-year-old Cheikhou and his younger brother Bamba would make their way to a wooden shack they shared with dozens of other barefoot child beggars, blanketing the floor with their tired bodies.

Then one night a knocked-over candle turned their home into an inferno. Cheikhou awoke to the sounds of people screaming. He joined some 50 boys fleeing for the door as neighbors filled plastic buckets, struggling in vain to put out the fire.

Cheikhou made it to safety, but at least eight young boys were dead, including his 10-year-old brother and three even younger cousins. The tragedy once again focused attention of the plight of the tens of thousands of Senegalese talibes, Islamic religious pupils, who are forced to double as street beggars.
In this West African country, Human Rights Watch has estimated that more than 50,000 boys are forced to beg while spending years in boarding schools called daaras. The government has tried for years to ban the practice, but it remains deeply embedded in Senegal, where many poor parents view it as the only way to provide an education for their sons.

An untold number of talibes have been run down and killed while begging in traffic but the March tragedy appeared to be a game changer, if only because three of the school's marabouts — teachers — were detained for questioning and President Macky Sall declared that all substandard daaras would be closed.

"Strong measures will be taken to put an end to the exploitation of children under the pretext that they are talibes," Sall said. "This tragedy forces us to intervene and identify everywhere that sites like this exist. They will be closed and the children will be returned to their parents."

But nine months after those strong words were spoken, no one is in custody and not a single daara has been shut. "We really feel betrayed ... it's truly slavery," said Bamba Fall, an assistant mayor for Dakar's Medina neighborhood where the fatal blaze broke out. He believes the criminal case was dropped because of pressure from higher-ranking religious leaders.

In an interview with The Associated Press, he said: "The children were exploited by day and crammed in together at night until their deaths."

Cheikhou and Bamba Diallo grew up in Ndame, a district of sand-blanketed streets on the outskirts of the holy city of Touba. Here their parents grow millet and sorghum, and raise goats. And when the boys' uncle opened his daara in Dakar, the capital, in 2008, Cheikhou was among the first children to make the 180-kilometer (110-mile) journey to enroll. Bamba and the cousins followed.

According to a 2010 study by Human Rights Watch, the begging begins each day at dawn and lasts on average nearly eight hours, while the afternoon and evening are spent studying.

The system is said to teach the pupils humility and prepare them for the difficulties of adult life. All the begged proceeds go to the marabout, who with 40 talibes in his daara can make the equivalent of nearly $500 a month — more than many civil servants earn.

For the boys of the Medina daara, recreation meant occasionally watching soccer matches on a neighbor's TV. Although their marabout insists he was humane and generous, neighbors say the boys often went barefoot, wearing men's filthy hand-me-downs and scrounging leftovers at Oulimata Fall's restaurant.

"It's very hard as a mother to imagine having a tiny child living like that," Fall said, wiping her sweaty brow as she stirred a large pot of thieboudienne, Senegal's signature dish of rice and fish.
No one knows just how many children lived in the doomed boarding house shared by students of three different marabouts. The government says it recorded 41 survivors and nine dead. Marabout Mountakha Diallo, says eight children died, including four nephews of his.

All that remains of the daara are some charred begging bowls and prayer mats. A boy's sandal lies amid the debris.

Neighbor Penda Ba, 24, says the horror stays with her. "I can still hear the boys screaming for help when I close my eyes," she said.

The boys' mothers learned about the fire on the radio; it was at Rue 6 x 19, the address where their sons were living.

Then a relative called to confirm the worst: 10-year-old Bamba and his 7-year-old cousins Ali, Samba and Ousmane, all members of an extended family back in the village, were gone. Burned beyond recognition, they were buried together in a cemetery on the outskirts of Dakar.

"They were always together in life and now they're together in death," says their aunt, Oumou Diallo, 27.

Cheikhou Mbow is the government official tasked with inspecting daaras. He acknowledges that until the fire, authorities had never visited the site, but insists it wasn't a true daara, just "a house where talibes lived."

The government says the long-term solution is to establish better schools in rural areas, where parents can keep an eye on them. It also says the problem is exacerbated by marabouts who import child beggars from poorer neighboring countries such as Guinea-Bissau.

Authorities questioned three marabouts with pupils who lived in the shack, including Mountakha Diallo, the uncle of four of the victims. If the bereaved hold anyone responsible for their losses, they keep it to themselves and say the tragedy was the will of God.

Diallo, 40, says the fact that he wasn't charged with any offense shows the fire was entirely accidental. Asked in an interview with The Associated Press who was responsible for the children living in a firetrap, he said fires could start in even the sturdiest of structures.

"People say that marabouts use these children for commercial gain, but for me that was never the case," he said. Of the nephews he lost, he said, "These were not strangers; these were family."
He also denied mistreating any of them.

"You would never find my talibes in the street after 8 p.m.," he said. "They took a shower every day and changed their clothes every day."

Cheikhou is back with his family in their village, Ndame. The families of the dead received 300,000 francs ($600) from the government.

And Mountakha Diallo is running a new school, this time in a woven reed hut in Ndame.
About a dozen students sit on the ground, hunched over wooden tablets, reading Quranic verses aloud or copying them in precise lines of Arabic script.

They no longer have to beg. Instead they spend their free time sitting in the shade, dressed in clean football jerseys and plastic sandals.

Cheikhou lives near his parents' house, but not in it. The marabout still requires the boys to sleep in the hut where they study.
Sitting on her bed at home, Cheikhou's mother Aida Diallo is steeling herself for the possibility she will again be separated from him. "If the marabout decides to leave for Dakar, he will go with him," she says, looking at the ground. Her eyes fill with tears.

"Dakar is no good," the boy mumbles, sitting beside his mother.

Months later the pain of four lost sons is keenly felt in Ndame. The marabout himself broke down in tears as he spoke of his lost nephews.

But the imperative of a proper Quranic education remains paramount.

Cheikhou's sole surviving brother, now 8, is still a talibe at another daara. His parents plan to keep him there too, despite all they have lost.

"I cannot explain the pain but we must accept it," says his father, Adama, the marabout's own brother. "It is the will of God."

Rama Diallo, the mother of Ali, remembers talking to the 7-year-old by phone only a week before the fire.

"I asked him, 'Are you studying?' And he said, 'Yes, Mama, I am learning well.' I had so many dreams for him."

She cherishes a faded picture of Ali in an orange soccer jersey and hasn't yet told her 4-year-old daughter Fatou that her older brother is gone.

"I remind her that Ali has gone to Dakar," she says as she gently strokes Fatou's hair. "And then she always asks 'When is he coming home?'"

Ali's father, Mohamed, holds his 2-year-old son, Babacar, and covers his face with kisses.
"It is the marabout who decides where the child goes," he says, smiling at the tot. "The rest of the children will be talibes too."

Associated Press writers Djibril Ndiaye and Rebecca Blackwell contributed to this report.

US Drone Strike In Pakistan Kills 3 Militants

Pakistani protesters burn a representation of the U.S. flag to condemn American drone strikes on militants' hideouts in Pakistani tribal areas, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013 in Multan, Pakistan. A suspected American drone fired two missiles at a home in a northwestern tribal region bordering Afghanistan, killing several foreign militants, two Pakistani intelligence officials said Thursday.

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — A suspected American drone fired two missiles at a home in a northwestern tribal region of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan, killing at least three foreign militants, Pakistani intelligence officials said Thursday.

The U.S. authorities often target Taliban, al-Qaida and their Pakistani supporters in the country's tribal regions. The latest strike took place just before midnight Wednesday in the village of Qutab Khel in North Waziristan and initial reports gathered from their agents in the field suggested the slain men were Arabs, the two intelligence officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The American drone program is extremely unpopular in Pakistan because it is perceived as killing innocent civilians, which the U.S. denies. Many in Pakistan also consider it an affront to their sovereignty but the U.S. has shown no indication it is willing to halt the program.

Angered over the strikes, supporters from cricket star-turned politician Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf party in the northwest have been protesting along a main road used to truck NATO troop supplies in and out of Afghanistan for the past month, forcing the U.S. to stop shipments out of Afghanistan.

Khan has urged the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to force the U.S. to end drone attacks and block NATO supplies across the country. On Thursday, about 150 supporters from Khan's party on the outskirts of the southwestern city of Quetta briefly blocked trucks carrying supplies for NATO forces heading toward Afghanistan, said a senior police official Abdul Rauf. But he said police ordered them to allow the trucks to proceed.

Trucks carrying NATO supplies pass through Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, before going through the Chaman border crossing — one of two routes used for supplies. The other route is further north.
"We briefly stopped some of the NATO trucks this morning, but now we are just holding a peaceful rally against the drone attacks," said Abdul Wali Shakir, a spokesman for the Jamaat-e-Islami party, which also attended the rally, demanding an end to the drone strikes.

Drone strikes have been a source of tension between Islamabad and Washington. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry condemned the latest strike in a statement Thursday, saying such attacks were a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity. "There is an across-the-board consensus in Pakistan that these drone strikes must end," it said.

"Such strikes also set dangerous precedents in the inter-state relations," it said, adding the strikes had a negative impact on the government's efforts to bring peace and stability in Pakistan and the region.
Islamabad and the country's political parties regularly denounce the attacks as a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty, although the country's government is known to have supported some of the strikes in the past. The tension has further complicated a relationship that Washington views as vital to fight al-Qaida and the Taliban, as well as negotiate peace in Afghanistan.

The land routes through Pakistan from the southern port city of Karachi have been key to getting supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan. They now increasingly are being used to ship equipment out of Afghanistan as the U.S. seeks to withdraw most of its troops from the country by the end of 2014.
Associated Press Writer Abdul Sattar in Quetta contributed to this report.

Russia: Arafat's Death Not Caused By Radiation

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat pauses during an emergency cabinet session at his compound in the West Bank town of Ramallah. A Russian probe into the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has found no trace of radioactive poisoning, the chief of the government agency that conducted the study said Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — A Russian probe into the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has found no trace of radioactive poisoning — a finding that comes after a French probe found traces of the radioactive isotope polonium and a Swiss investigation said the timeframe of his illness and death was consistent with that of polonium poisoning.

Vladimir Uiba, the head of the Federal Medical and Biological Agency, said Thursday that Arafat died of natural causes and the agency had no plans to conduct further tests. Teams of scientists from France, Switzerland and Russia were asked to determine whether polonium, a rare and extremely lethal substance, played a role in Arafat's death in a French military hospital in 2004.

French experts found traces of polonium but said it was "of natural environmental origin," according to Arafat's widow, Suha Arafat. Swiss scientists, meanwhile, said they found elevated traces of polonium-210 and lead, and that the timeframe of Arafat's illness and death was consistent with poisoning from ingesting polonium.

Uiba spoke at a news conference on Thursday. In October, he was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that Arafat "could not have been poisoned by polonium" and that "traces of such a substance were not found."

It was not immediately clear how the three investigations could have come up with different conclusions. Palestinians have long suspected Israel of poisoning Arafat, which Israel denies. Russia, meanwhile, has had strong ties with Palestinian authorities since Soviet times when Moscow supported their struggle.

Dr. Abdullah Bashir, the head of the Palestinian medical committee investigating Arafat's death, said they were studying the Russian and Swiss reports. "When we finish we are going to announce the results," Bashir said in a telephone interview from Amman, Jordan. He wouldn't say when that might be.
Arafat's widow filed a legal complaint in France seeking an investigation into whether he was murdered after a 2012 report which said traces of polonium were found on his clothes. As part of that probe, French investigators had Arafat's remains exhumed and ordered a series of tests on them.
Polonium occurs naturally in very low concentrations in the Earth's crust and also is produced artificially in nuclear reactors. There are also tiny, generally undetectable amounts of polonium in humans.

Palestinian Ambassador to Russia, Fayed Mustafa, was quoted by state RIA Novosti news agency Thursday as saying that the Palestinian authorities respect the Russian experts' conclusions but consider it necessary to continue research into Arafat's death.

Uiba said, however, that his agency hasn't received any Palestinian request for additional studies. Arafat died Nov. 11, 2004, a month after falling ill at his West Bank headquarters. At the time, French doctors said he died of a stroke and had a blood-clotting problem, but records were inconclusive about what caused that condition.

Polonium can be a byproduct of the chemical processing of uranium, but usually it's made artificially in a nuclear reactor or a particle accelerator. Dozens of countries including Russia, Israel and the U.S. have the nuclear capability to produce polonium.

One of the most famous and recent cases of polonium-210 poisoning was that of ex-KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko who died in London in 2006 after drinking tea laced with the radioactive isotope. Britain has accused two Russians of the 2006 killing, but Moscow has refused to extradite them.

Mohammed Daraghmeh contributed to this report from Ramallah, West Bank.

Six Chadian Peacekeepers Killed In Central African Repubublic

French soldiers drive past the burnt-out shell of a pick-up truck in the Gobongo neighborhood of Bangui, Central African Republic, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013. Residents and anti-balaka militiamen claimed the neighborhood had been attacked by Chadian soldiers firing rockets, and that anti-balaka militiamen had retaliated by destroying a pick-up truck carrying soldiers with a grenade. Their account could not be independently verified. Several nearby homes and shops were destroyed. The spokesman for an African Union peacekeeping force says six Chadian peacekeepers were killed and 15 were wounded, after being attacked Wednesday. The Chadian contingent, which is made up of Arabic-speaking Muslim soldiers, has been accused of taking sides against the Christian population in the country's sectarian conflict.

BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — Elodiane Baalbe hid underneath her bed as gunfire echoed around her on Christmas Day in the capital of Central African Republic. When it finally died down on Thursday, she made a dash for safety, hiding behind houses as she fled her neighborhood.

On her way out she passed the calcified car of a unit of Chadian peacekeepers, the charred body of one soldier still upright in the vehicle inside. "I had my 3-year-old on my back. I looked for a second, and then I kept running," she said.

A total of six Chadian soldiers from the African Union peacekeeping force were killed on Christmas Day in the Gobongo neighborhood of the capital, the AU said. Their destroyed car, with some of their remains, had still not been removed a day later, underscoring how dangerous this chaotic country has become, even for the international forces tasked with pacifying it.

"A total of six Chadian soldiers were killed and 15 were wounded in an ambush at noon yesterday. The assailants have not yet been identified," said African Union mission spokesman Eloi Yao. The Central African Republic has tilted into anarchy, as the country's Christian majority seeks revenge against the Muslim rebels who seized power in a coup nine months ago. Both Christian and Muslim civilians are now armed, and the international troops brought in to try to rein in the violence are accused of having taken sides.

The Chadians, part of an African Union force made up of soldiers from several neighboring nations, are Muslim and are seen by the population as backing the Seleka rebels who toppled the nation's Christian president in March. Earlier this week when Christians marched on the capital, an Associated Press journalist saw a unit of Chadian peacekeepers drive into the crowd. Moments later, gunfire rang out, suggesting they had opened fire on the crowd.

On the flip side, the 1,600 French troops who were deployed here in the first week of December are accused of backing the nation's Christian majority. Their patrols have come under fire in Muslim neighborhoods, like the tense streets of Kilometer 5.

Caught in the middle are civilians, both Christians and Muslims, who are now bearing the brunt of collective punishment. Militiamen have been seen desecrating the corpses of their victims. An AP journalist saw Christian fighters known as anti-Balaka brandishing the severed penis of one dead victim, and the hacked off foot of another. Unclaimed bodies left to rot were found missing their genitals. Another was missing his nose.

The barbarity unleashed on the streets of this capital has surprised many. Although chronically poor, the Central African Republic was relatively stable for the 10 years following its second-to-last coup in 2003. That military takeover brought Christian leader Francois Bozize to power.

Though he was accused of favoring members of his ethnic group, and further marginalizing the Muslim minority, based in the country's north, the country never saw violence on the scale it is witnessing now.

On Thursday, the United Nations emergency response office said in a statement that some 639,000 people out of a population of 4.5 million are displaced. Altogether 2 million people need humanitarian aid — almost half the country.

Baalbe, a 36-year-old midwife, is now at the airport, sharing the asphalt with tens of thousands of other mostly Christian refugees. At her side are her six children — the youngest a 3-year-old toddler.
"I carried him on my back and like that I ran all the way here, to the airport. In Gobongo, I saw the burnt-out car. They burnt those people (the Chadians) just like that. I saw their cadavers inside, and then I fled," she said.

__ Callimachi contributed to this report from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press staffers Rebecca Blackwell in Bangui, and Baba Ahmed in Dakar, Senegal, also contributed to this report.

African Leaders In South Sudan For Peace Talks

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, middle, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, right, and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta before their meeting at State House in Juba, South Sudan, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013. The leaders of Kenya and Ethiopia arrived in South Sudan on Thursday to try and mediate between the country's president and the political rivals he accuses of attempting a coup that the government insists sparked violence threatening to destroy the world's newest country.

JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — Fighting persisted in parts of South Sudan's oil-producing region as African leaders on Thursday tried to advance peace talks between the country's president and the political rivals he accuses of attempting a coup that the government insists sparked violence threatening to destroy the world's newest country.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn met with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir on Thursday. A senior government official warned that Riek Machar, the former vice president who now allegedly commands renegade forces in the states of Unity and Upper Nile, had to renounce rebellion before the government could negotiate with him.
Michael Makuei Leuth, South Sudan's information minister, said the government has not yet established formal contact with Machar. "For us, we are not talking with him," Leuth said, referring to Machar, whose whereabouts remain unknown. It was not possible to reach Machar, as his known phone numbers were switched off.

Government troops are trying to retake control of Bentiu, the capital of oil-rich Unity state, from forces loyal to Machar. There was also reported fighting in Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile state, according to Lueth. Upper Nile and Unity comprise the country's key oil-producing region, raising fears unrest there could cut off the country's economic lifeblood.

Col. Philip Aguer, the military spokesman, said government troops were "preparing to retake Bentiu as soon as possible" and that pro-Machar forces controlled only "half" of Malakal. He provided no details.

World leaders have urged the country's leaders to stop the violence in which thousands are feared killed. The United States, Norway and Ethiopia are leading efforts to open peace talks between Kiir and his political rivals. Kiir said in a Christmas address that he is willing to "dialogue" with all his opponents.

The United Nations is investigating reports of mass killings since violence began spreading across South Sudan after a fight among the presidential guards on Dec. 15, pitting soldiers from Kiir's Dinka ethnic group against those from the Nuer ethnic group of Machar. South Sudan's top U.N.
humanitarian official, Toby Lanzer, said on Monday that he believes the death toll has surpassed 1,000.

South Sudan gets nearly 99 percent of its government budget from oil revenues. "We are moving toward them and we will flush them out like we did in Bor,"Leuth said, referring to the capital of Jonglei state that government troops retook from renegade forces earlier in the week.

Although the capital, Juba, is now calm, fighting appears to be spreading across the country, stretching the limits of humanitarian workers and aid agencies. The U.N. humanitarian office said aid agencies need $166 million to save lives amid continuing violence.

"The resources will be used to provide clean water and sanitation, health care, shelter, and deliver food and livelihood assistance," the office said in a statement. "It will also ensure that the rights of vulnerable people, including survivors of violence, are better protected. The money will be used to manage sites for displaced people and transport aid workers and supplies to strategic locations where communities are most at risk."

Some 58,000 people have taken refuge in and around U.N. bases in the country and more than 92,000 have fled their homes as a result of fighting that has raised fears of a civil war in the country, according to the United Nations.

The U.N. Security Council last week voted unanimously to beef up its peacekeeping force in South Sudan. It condemned targeted violence against civilians and ethnic communities and called for "an immediate cessation of hostilities and the immediate opening of a dialogue."

South Sudan peacefully broke away from Sudan in 2011 following a 2005 peace deal. Before that, the south fought decades of war with Sudan. The country, one of the world's least developed, still has pockets of rebel resistance and sees cyclical, tribal clashes that result in hundreds of deaths.
Muhumuza reported from Kampala, Uganda.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Muslims March In Central African Republic

People queuing to purchase fuel hold their places in line with jerrycans at a gas station that was closed, as they await the arrival of military police, in Bangui, Central African Republic, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013. With few gas stations open and reliable fuel hard to find, people lined up as early as 4 a.m. at this station, which wasn't slated to open until police protection arrived around 9 or 10 a.m.

BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (AP) — Dozens of Muslims marched down the streets of Bangui on Tuesday to demand the departure of French troops, who were deployed to Central African Republic this month to try to pacify fighting, and have instead been accused of taking sides in the nation's sectarian conflict.

The marchers, almost all of them young and male, began their demonstration in the Kilometer 5 neighborhood, a mostly Muslim section of the capital which has been the scene of clashes with French forces.

It marks a dangerous turning point for the more than 1,600 French soldiers sent here, who were initially cheered by the population, who ran out to greet the arriving troops, waving tree branches, and holding up pieces of cardboard emblazoned with welcoming messages. That was before French President Francois Hollande bluntly said that the country's Muslim president needed to go, and before French forces were accused of only disarming Muslim fighters and ignoring the Christian militias who have infiltrated the city, organizing attacks on mosques, and on neighborhoods like Kilometer 5, where a majority of Muslims live.

On Tuesday the crowds making their way down the deserted city streets were holding signs that said: "We say No to France!" and "Hollande = Liar." Other signs had a hand drawn map of this nation located at the heart of Africa, but showed it split into two, with a Muslim homeland penciled in in the country's north.

Central African Republic slipped into chaos following a coup in March, which was led by a Muslim rebel group. They overran the capital and installed a Muslim president, while the nation's Christian leader was forced to flee with his family. The country is 85 percent Christian, and when the Muslim rebels began attacking Christian villages, first to steal their belongings and cattle, a sectarian divide emerged. Pillaging turned to killing, and by the time French forces arrived earlier this month, at least 500 people had been killed in communal violence, including mob lynchings, their bodies so numerous community leaders had to dig enormous holes for their mass graves.

The French have stepped up patrols and are working to debunk perceptions that they are biased in this war. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Vincent Floreani on Tuesday reacted to accusations that the French force, known as Sangaris, had targeted Muslims.

"Since their deployment Dec. 5, the soldiers of the Sangaris operation are operating according to three principles: impartiality, firmness, and controlled use of force," he said. "They are demonstrating this daily, in contributing to the disarming of all armed groups, without distinction, and in intervening between groups to avoid violence and abuses."

A young woman, Edith Benguere, a Christian, ran into the march by accident when she went to the bank to withdraw money. Frightened, she hid and watched, and saw how the demonstrators were acting aggressively against the French forces, positioned along the route.

"Armored personnel carriers had taken positions in different parts of town. But the soldiers would simply backtrack whenever the demonstrators came near them, to avoid conflict," she said. "One of the demonstrators was screaming at the top of his lungs: 'We are ready! We have grenades ... We are ready for whatever comes today, even if we need to die,'" she said.

Due to growing insecurity in the capital, religious leaders sent out a communique stating that the birth of Christ will be celebrated at 3 p.m. rather than during the usual midnight mass. International medical charity Doctors without Borders said that the momentary calm that prevailed after the initial arrival of French forces appears to have been shattered. In the past four days, the hospital they run in Bangui has treated 190 wounded people.

"In the days leading up to Dec. 20, we had seen fewer cases overall, and in particular a reduction in gunshot wounds," said Jessie Gaffric, project coordinator at the hospital in an email to reporters. "Then, suddenly on Dec. 20, we saw 49 gunshot wounds, and now continue to receive around 15 a day."

In a sign of spiking tension, witnesses confirmed that three Chadian civilians, attempting to flee the Central African Republic, were attacked inside their car and murdered. The Chadians, who are majority Muslim, are seen as particularly implicated in the conflict because a Chadian contingent of African Union peacekeepers is accused of having opened fire on Christian residents of Bangui.

"We have lost three of our compatriots and 10 others are wounded," said Adam Badica, a member of an organization working to repatriate Chadians from the Central African Republic. He said their car was attacked on Tuesday afternoon by a Christian militia in the Fou neighborhood.

An Associated Press journalist at the scene saw one of the bodies, his chest cut open. Belongings and glass were scattered across the street.

Callimachi reported from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press photographer Rebecca Blackwell in Bangui, Central African Republic, and reporter Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Nigerian Leader Denies Corruption, Death Squads

Former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo, attends a function in Abeokuta, Nigeria. Obasanjo has openly accused Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan of corruption and that he is training a death squad to kill his enemies, but Jonathan has challenged the allegations in a letter posted on his special adviser’s website Monday Dec. 23, 2013. Jonathan said he has asked security agencies and the government-funded National Commission for Human Rights to investigate Obasanjo’s suggestion that he is training a killer squad to assassinate some of the 1,000-plus enemies on a hit list.

LAGOS, NIGERIA (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan is challenging a prominent critic to prove allegations of corruption and that he is training a death squad to kill enemies.

President Goodluck Jonathan, in a letter posted on his special adviser's website Monday, did not address charges that he is shielding a party financier indicted for drug trafficking in the United States and that drug barons are influencing politicians.

Jonathan said he has asked security agencies and the government-funded National Commission for Human Rights to investigate Obasanjo's suggestion that he is training a killer squad to assassinate some of the more than 1,000 alleged enemies on a hit list.

The letter responds to criminal and treasonous allegations made by his former mentor and ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo. It is the most comprehensive accounting of his government ever provided by Jonathan, who has governed since the end of 2009, yet still sidesteps difficult questions.
Nigeria's leader barely touched on the issue of the indicted Buruji Kashamu, saying the man had already responded himself. Obasanjo said the government's failure to extradite Kashamu "is only confirming the persistent reports of complicity and condonation (condoning) of the crime for political benefit."

He warned that "Sooner (rather) than later, drug barons ... will buy candidates, parties and eventually buy power or be in power themselves." Kashamu, who insists he is "a clean businessman," said he had worked closely with Obasanjo when he was president and "spent over 3 billion naira" (about $20 million) to ensure the ruling party won the vote in Obasanjo's Ogun state.

"When he was using me, he did not know me as a drug dealer," Kashamu told the newspaper Vanguard. "When Obasanjo was in government, almost 60 percent, including some former governors and former senators that surrounded Obasanjo, were all drug dealers."

Jonathan suggests that Obasanjo is guilty of some of the same crimes he accuses Jonathan of. Jonathan says he has never been associated with political violence though assassinations occurred under his predecessors, implying also under Obasanjo's watch.

He refers to Obasanjo's most infamous moment — the deployment of troops to the town of Odi in the turbulent Niger Delta in 1999 who razed it to the ground and massacred hundreds in revenge for the killing of security forces. A federal court this February ordered the government to pay survivors 37.6 billion naira ($235 million) in compensation, but the government has ignored that, as it does many court orders.

Jonathan remained silent on Obasanjo's charge that he plans to run for re-election, which the former leader warned would violate Jonathan's promise to honor an unwritten party rule to rotate power between a Christian southerner, like Jonathan and Obasanjo, and a Muslim northerner.

To Obasanjo's accusations of weak governance in the face of Nigeria's myriad conflicts, Jonathan responds that they all existed while Obasanjo was president and that he never managed to tame the plague of kidnappings, armed robbery, oil theft and Islamic militants.

On specific corruption cases, Jonathan invites Obasanjo to clarify to the nation some spectacular cases that occurred under his watch. Under his own administration, Jonathan says, several highly placed people and the sons of some ruling party leaders are facing trial for a $6 billion fuel subsidy scam and now face trial.

Turning to the latest massive corruption in Nigeria, Jonathan called "a spurious allegation" the charge from respected Central Bank Gov. Lamido Sanusi that nearly $50 billion in oil receipts is missing from the treasury. A flurry of meetings last week led to Sanusi telling legislators the missing amount was actually $12 billion, and the finance minister putting it at $10.8 billion.

Therefore, Jonathan concludes, Obasanjo should apologize for "impugning the integrity of my administration." He demanded that Obasanjo provide facts about the "high corruption which you say stinks all around my administration."

To criticism that Nigeria's international friends are concerned about the state of the country and economy, Jonathan says Nigeria has won 18 percent of all foreign investments in Africa, attracting $25.7 billion in just three years. Nigeria is the United States' biggest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa and the U.S. is the largest foreign investor in the country, according to the U.S. State Department.

"Nigeria is bleeding and the hemorrhage must be stopped," said Obasanjo's letter. The World Bank recently noted that despite robust economic growth and investment, more than 100 million of the country's more than 160 million people in Africa's most populous nation remain destitute — equaling 8.3 percent of all destitute people in the world.

Document: Israeli Mossad Trained Mandela

This May 20, 1964 document posted on the website of the Israel State Archives on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 urges South Africa to release Nelson Mandela and other co-defendants. It is signed by Martin Buber, a prominent Jewish philosopher, and Haim Hazaz, an Israeli author. The letter is among a series of documents published in the wake of Mandela’s death that appear to be aimed at blunting criticism of Israel's close alliance with South Africa's apartheid rulers.


JERUSALEM, ISRAEL(ASSOCIATED PRESS) — Israel's state archives has published a 50-year-old letter from the Mossad spy agency claiming it unknowingly offered paramilitary training to a young Nelson Mandela, along with documents illustrating the Jewish state's sympathy for the anti-apartheid struggle in the 1960s.

The release of the documents on the archives' website in the wake of Mandela's death appear to be aimed at blunting criticism of the close alliance Israel later developed with South Africa's apartheid rulers.

Israeli relations with post-apartheid South Africa remain cool. The South African government is a fervent supporter of the Palestinian cause, and the Palestinians frequently compare their campaign for independence to the black struggle that ended apartheid.

Early this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was conspicuously absent from the dozens of world leaders, including President Barack Obama, who attended Mandela's funeral. In a decision that was widely criticized, the globe-trotting Netanyahu cited the high cost of chartering a plane and bringing a large security detail.

The newly published Israeli documents from the 1960s, released days after Mandela's death on Dec. 5, highlight Israeli officials' voices against apartheid and their attempts to rally international pressure on the South African government to stop the 1964 Rivonia Trial, in which Mandela would be sentenced to life in prison.

But perhaps most startling is the memo, first revealed by the Haaretz daily over the weekend, claiming Mandela received paramilitary training from Israeli handlers in Ethiopia in mid-1962 — without them realizing who he was.

In the 1960s, Israel actively courted Africa's post-colonial leaders in a search for allies. It sent scientists and other experts across the continent — and the memo suggests that it was running a military training program for fighters, though it is unclear the scope of the program. After the 1973 Mideast war, when under Arab pressure dozens of African countries broke diplomatic ties with Israel, the Jewish state formed close military ties with South Africa's apartheid government.

The Oct. 11, 1962 memo, labeled "Top Secret," suggests the Israeli trainers thought the man they later discovered was Mandela was from Rhodesia — now Zimbabwe — where African nationalists at the time were struggling against colonial rule.

According to the memo, a man named "David Mobsari who came from Rhodesia" met with officials several months earlier at the Israeli Embassy in Ethiopia, expressing interest in the tactics of the Hagana, the pre-Israel Jewish resistance movement against British rulers.

"He greeted our men with 'Shalom,' was familiar with the problems of Jewry and of Israel and gave the impression of being an intellectual," the letter says. He received training in judo, sabotage and light weapons, it said, adding that the "Ethiopians" — an apparent code name for Mossad agents there — "tried to make him into a Zionist."

Only after Mandela was arrested and his picture published did the Israelis determine his true identity, the letter says, referring to him as the "Black Pimpernel," a widely used moniker at the time. "It now is clear, through photographs published in the media on the arrest in South Africa of the 'Black Pimpernel' that the trainee from Rhodesia introduced himself with an alias and that the two are the same," the letter says. In handwritten notes scribbled on the letter 13 days later, it says his real name is "Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela."

The Nelson Mandela Foundation, an official organization dedicated to promoting his legacy, has questioned the account. While confirming that Mandela toured African countries that year, and even received military training in Ethiopia, it said there was no evidence that he had any contact with Israelis.

"In 2009, the Nelson Mandela Foundation's senior researcher traveled to Ethiopia and interviewed the surviving men who assisted in Mandela's training — no evidence emerged of an Israeli connection," it said.

The national archives posted the letter Sunday following the report in Haaretz, which said it obtained the document from a former graduate student. The ex-student, David Fachler, said he found the letter while conducting research a decade ago and showed it to the newspaper after Mandela's death.
According to other documents released by the archives, Israel maintained a strong interest in Mandela's well-being after his arrest and throughout the Rivonia Trial, where he was convicted of sabotage in 1964 and sentenced to life in prison.

According to the archives, Israel also had an interest in the case because about one third of the defendants were Jewish, and Israel feared the case could spread anti-Semitism in South Africa. One letter, dated April 21, 1964 and written by Azriel Harel, an Israeli diplomat in South Africa at the time, called for rallying international opinion to prevent the Rivonia defendants from receiving death sentences. He also suggested that an economic boycott of South Africa be considered.

"Perhaps the economic value of the boycott is little, but its psychological or publicity value is high, one that strongly affects public opinion, and that is the way that maybe should be continued, in addition to all the rest of the means to force South Africa to retreat from its racist policy," he wrote.
A Foreign Ministry document dated May 18, 1964, discusses efforts to recruit Jewish philosopher Martin Buber and Israeli author Haim Hazaz to sign a declaration in support of the Rivonia defendants. The letter, published in English two days later, calls on South Africa to release them, saying, "Shed not the blood of men and women who seek only to hold up their heads in dignity."
Another document includes comments in the Israeli parliament by then-Foreign Minister Golda Meir voicing her objections to apartheid. Another letter written by Harel in March 1965 laments the plight of Mandela's wife, Winnie, after her husband is imprisoned and she is placed under heavy restrictions.

"Her family's source of income has been deprived," Harel wrote. "It is advisable to spread this information and provide means of income for her and her children." Alon Liel, who served as Israel's ambassador to South Africa in the early 1990s after Mandela's release from prison, said Israel's courtship of African leaders in the 1960s is well known. He said the young Jewish state was in search of allies. "Also, there was a policy that Israel will be a light onto the nations," he said.

Yaacov Lozowick, Israel's state archivist, said there was no political agenda behind the publication of the documents. He said the archives often publicize documents that may be "interesting" in connection to current events, such as Mandela's death.

But he said it was possible that staffers were aware of Israel's strained relations with South Africa and searched for something more positive. "I didn't ask them. They didn't ask me. But it's very likely. Yes. That's human nature. But was it damage control from the prime minister's office? Definitely not."

Rifle Designer Mikhail Kalashnikov Dead At 94

Russian weapon designer Mikhail Kalashnikov presents his legendary assault rifle to the media while opening the exhibition "Kalashnikov - legend and curse of a weapon" at a weapons museum in Suhl, Germany. Mikhail Kalashnikov, whose work as a weapons designer for the Soviet Union is immortalized in the name of the world’s most popular firearm, has died at the age of 94, Monday Dec. 23, 2013.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — Mikhail Kalashnikov started out wanting to make farm equipment, but the harvest he reaped was one of blood as the designer of the AK-47 assault rifle, the world's most popular firearm.

It was the carnage of World War II, when Nazi Germany overran much of the Soviet Union, which altered his course and made his name as well-known for bloodshed as Smith, Wesson and Colt. The distinctive shape of the gun, often called "a Kalashnikov," appeared on revolutionary flags and adorns memorabilia.

Kalashnikov died Monday at age 94 in a hospital in Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurtia republic where he lived, said Viktor Chulkov, a spokesman for the republic's president. He did not give a cause of death. Kalashnikov had been hospitalized for the past month with unspecified health problems.

Kaslashnikov often said he felt personally untroubled by his contribution to bloodshed. "I sleep well. It's the politicians who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence," he told The Associated Press in 2007.

The AK-47 — "Avtomat Kalashnikov" and the year it went into production — is the world's most popular firearm, favored by guerrillas, terrorists and the soldiers of many armies. An estimated 100 million guns are spread worldwide.

Though it isn't especially accurate, its ruggedness and simplicity are exemplary: it performs in sandy or wet conditions which jam more sophisticated weapons such as the U.S. M-16. "During the Vietnam war, American soldiers would throw away their M-16s to grab AK-47s and bullets for it from dead Vietnamese soldiers," Kalashnikov said in July 2007 at a ceremony marking the rifle's 60th anniversary.

The weapon's suitability for jungle and desert fighting made it nearly ideal for the Third World insurgents backed by the Soviet Union, and Moscow not only distributed the AK-47 widely but also licensed its production in some 30 other countries.

The gun's status among revolutionaries and national-liberation struggles is enshrined on the flag of Mozambique. Kalashnikov, born into a peasant family in Siberia, began his working life as a railroad clerk. After he joined the Red Army in 1938, he began to show mechanical flair by inventing several modifications for Soviet tanks.

The moment that firmly set his course was in the 1941 battle of Bryansk against Nazi forces, when a shell hit his tank. Recovering from wounds in the hospital, Kalashnikov brooded about the superior automatic rifles he'd seen the Nazis deploy; his rough ideas and revisions bore fruit five years later.
"Blame the Nazi Germans for making me become a gun designer," said Kalashnikov. "I always wanted to construct agricultural machinery." In 2007, President Vladimir Putin praised him, saying "The Kalashnikov rifle is a symbol of the creative genius of our people."

Over his career, he was decorated with numerous honors, including the Hero of Socialist Labor and Order of Lenin and Stalin Prize. But because his invention was never patented, he didn't get rich off royalties.

"At that time in our country patenting inventions wasn't an issue. We worked for Socialist society, for the good of the people, which I never regret," he once said. Kalashnikov continued working into his late 80s as chief designer of the Izmash company that first built the AK-47. He also traveled the world helping Russia negotiate new arms deals, and he wrote books on his life, about arms and about youth education.

"After the collapse of the great and mighty Soviet Union so much crap has been imposed on us, especially on the younger generation," he said. "I wrote six books to help them find their way in life." He said he was proud of his bronze bust installed in his native village of Kurya in the Siberian region of Altai. He said newlyweds bring flowers to the bust. "They whisper 'Uncle Misha, wish us happiness and healthy kids,'" he said. "What other gun designer can boast of that?"

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Kashamu Writes Obasanjo, Threatens Suit Over Letter

A LEADER of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Buruji Kashamu, has asked former President Olusegun Obasanjo to withdraw the reference to him in his letter to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.    
                  
   In a letter written to Obasanjo on his behalf by his lawyer, Dr. Alex Aigbe Izinyon (SAN), Kashamu warned that failure on Obasanjo’s part to strike out or withdraw the allusion he made to him in the letter as a ‘criminal’ would see to him suing him for defamation.   
                            
   In the said letter titled “Defamatory publication, injurious and malicious falsehood and unbridled vendetta against Prince Buruji Kashamu”, Izinyon (SAN) wrote thus: “We have been briefed by Prince Buruji Kashamu hereinafter referred to as our client and we have his firm and unequivocal instruction to write you on the above matter in the terms hereunder:

  “Our client has informed us and drawn our attention to your letter titled ‘Before it is too late’ to His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR dated 2nd December, 2013 which said content was published in several print and electronic media.  The content of this letter went viral upon its publication.

  “As an elder statesman, and writing purportedly under that capacity to Mr. President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR after x-raying your complaints and grievances, our client informed us that you went viral on him in the said letter with all venoms, unprintable vituperations, condemnations, judgmental, innuendos, sarcasm, cocktail of contortion, malicious and misleading falsehood against him.

  “Specifically, at pages 14 to 15 of the letter you made libelous, false and totally fictional statements concerning our client and quoted extensively from a spurious source, which you claimed was produced by one Lansana Gberie, who, from a search on the internet, is revealed to be a Senior Research fellow with the Africa Conflict Prevention Programme of the Institute for Security Studies in Addis Ababa. The paper which you claim to have extracted your quotation from is however untraceable.

  “Those false and malicious statements, which are too extensive to set out in this letter, held our client out to public odium and portrayed him as a criminal involved in narcotics-related criminal activities who would have been in jail but for the protection given by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from extradition to and prosecution in the United States of America…

  “It is in the light of the foregoing that we have our client’s instruction to demand and receive a retraction of the said words as shown above and published in the same prominence in leading Nigerian Newspapers, within five clear days from the date of this letter.

  “If however you chose to ‘sit don look’, we have further instruction without any further notice to you to seek legal redress…”

...........LEMMY UGHEGBE, GUARDIAN NIGERIA

Africa's Lighting Must Move Off-Grid To Succeed

The Global Off-Grid Lighting Association outlines progress at recent talks to develop an efficient lighting strategy for West Africa


Officials from 18 energy ministries met in Benin in October to develop an Efficient Lighting Strategy for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Charlie Miller from SolarAid and Andreas Adam from Osram represented the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association at the event.

Originally focused on the shift to efficient lighting on-grid, Charlie and Andreas worked closely with colleagues from the UNEP EnLighten team to raise the profile of off-grid lighting solutions in discussions and promote policies which would support off-grid lighting market growth. A key market to reaching the 6,000 rural African's without access to ‘on-grid' electricity.

The major barriers holding growth back in West Africa include high VAT and tariffs, state-funded free or heavily subsidised distribution of off-grid lighting products, a lack of demand or awareness and low distribution capacity. There were also fears that ECOWAS would seek to develop its own Minimum Energy Performance standards outside of the framework being developed by the World Bank's Lighting Global organisation, including potentially market-distorting performance targets.
An important, and much awaited, outcome of the meeting was that ECOWAS's off-grid Minimum Performance Standards were developed in line with existing standards by the International Electrotechnical Commission and Lighting Africa, which is an offshoot of Lighting Global. These, still in draft form, importantly acknowledge high VAT and tariffs as a barrier, with officials explaining the difficulty they face winning support from ministries of finance and other parts of government for lower rates.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) pledged to continue to support off-grid lighting, commissioning new research into health nad safety, the economics of fuel subsidies and the impact of off-grid lighting on jobs. UNEP also agreed to develop a ‘toolkit' to make policymaking more evidence-based and assist officials in building support across government.

There was widespread support for public awareness campaigns from civil society groups, in order to help create demand, and for a region-wide response to e-waste management. Ambitious plans are being developed in the areas of monitoring, verification and enforcement as well as environmental management'.

Questions remain regarding the cost, timeframe and feasibility of implementation at national level for all of these promises, however the meeting took ECOWAS one step further towards improving marketing dynamics for off grid lighting products in West Africa and improving customer choices for clean, efficient energy.

Commenting on the outcome, Miller said the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association aimed to continue to work with governments to help boost access to lighting in Africa.

"We often talk about a potential market of hundreds of millions, but today policy barriers mean millions of customers in West Africa remain out of reach," he said.

"While it takes time to build consensus around why and how to catalyse the market for off-grid lighting, our active involvement in this important regional policymaking process could give us a great platform to build on as we seek concrete changes in policy at national level across the West Africa region."

Our Commitment To A United Nigeria By Goodluck Jonathan

 By Goodluck Jonathan, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria



THE submission of the Report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference marks another milestone in our march towards building a better and more cohesive society for us and our children.  In spite of the circumstances of the birth of our country in 1914 and the several challenges of Nation building, Nigerians have in the last 53 years demonstrated the belief that our diversity notwithstanding, we are a nation with great potential. The task before us is to build a strong and united union.  In the last few decades, there have been issues that have challenged our determination as a people brought together by God in this great land of promise.

This Committee was therefore inaugurated to advise Government on a framework for Nigerians to review and discuss these challenges and proffer a sustainable way forward as to how we could build a nation where our citizens could live in peace and achieve their greatest potential without any hindrance whatsoever.

As I said during the inauguration of this Committee, this administration stands for a stronger and more united Nigeria and shall do everything within its powers to practically pursue this noble goal.  I thank you Mr. Chairman and other members for your commitment, resilience and dedication to the service of our fatherland. I commend you for the timely and inclusive manner, in which you carried out your assignment. You have no doubt, contributed significantly to the process of building a stronger union of the Nigerian family.

Mr. Chairman, I am delighted that the Committee consulted widely in compiling its report and recommendations, reaching out to various socio-political and economic interest groups.  I am told that majority of Nigerians who participated in the Interactive Sessions that you conducted in 13 major cities across the country, expressed agreement with our commitment to an indissoluble, united and stronger Nigeria. I understand, however, that one person demanded an outright dissolution of our federalist structure.  In order to meet the yearnings of Nigerians and provide our people the platform they desire, Government will study this Report and act on its recommendations.

Nation-building, always comes with challenges defined by the prevailing political, economic, social and cultural mood of the people. We cannot ignore such challenges; rather we must realistically address them.     As our founding fathers did, we must appreciate that we are one large, diverse family, under God, and take steps to understand those variables that militate against our unity and aspirations to build a better society, and confront them with collective determination to move forward, thereby making our diversity, our source of strength.

Our democracy is still young and for us to provide life’s abundance for our people and play a noble role in world affairs, we must nurture and cultivate correct democratic values. The proposed dialogue offers this unique opportunity for us to deepen our democracy and strengthen our Nation, rather than to destroy or weaken our union.  I would like to assure all Nigerians that we will partner with all stakeholders to convene this dialogue, which outcome will add value to the process of building a stronger, united, more democratic and stable Nigeria. This discussion process is for the benefit of the entire Nation. Every Nigerian, as individual or as a group, has an important role to play to ensure its success.

Once again, I thank the Committee for a job well done even as I express my appreciation to all Nigerians for the cooperation given to this Committee.

• President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR made these remarks on the occasion of the formal submission of the Report on the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Proposed National Conference, on Wednessday 18th December, 2013.

CREDITS: Guardian Nigerian

John Eisenhower, Historian And Ike's Son, Dies

John S.D. Eisenhower, left, receives an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Washington College President Baird Tipson during commencement exercises in Chestertown, Md. isenhower, the son of a five-star general turned president who forged his own career in the U.S. Army and then chronicled the history of the American military in numerous books, died Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. He was 91.

WASHINGTON (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — John S.D. Eisenhower, the son of a five-star general turned president who forged his own career in the U.S. Army and then chronicled the history of the American military in numerous books, died Saturday. He was 91.

Eisenhower lived on Maryland's Eastern Shore in the community of Trappe, Md. In a statement, his family gave no cause of death. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Eisenhower "a true patriot" and praised him as "an accomplished soldier, diplomat and author."

John Sheldon Doud Eisenhower was born in Denver on Aug. 3, 1922, the second son of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Mamie Doud Eisenhower. Their first child had died of scarlet fever the year before at age 3.

Eisenhower grew up as his father rose in the ranks of the Army. During World War II, the senior Eisenhower became supreme commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces in 1943 and then general of the Army with five-star rank. He was elected president in a landslide in 1952 and again in 1956.
Both father and son graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the son on June 6, 1944 — the day his father oversaw the Allied invasion of Europe. He spent 35 years in the Army, including 19 years on active duty and several years in the Reserve. He retired with the rank of brigadier general.

"My dad being an Army officer, I was just born to it," Eisenhower said in a C-SPAN interview in 1998. "I was raised in a military manner, and it was a given that Army brats went to West Point, so I went to West Point in 1941. And being in the military has been my life."

Eisenhower taught English for three years at West Point, then volunteered for service during the Korean War and later became a battalion commander. Eisenhower served on his father's White House staff for the last few years of his administration and later helped his father write his post-presidential memoirs. The younger Eisenhower began writing his own books, then served as U.S. ambassador to Belgium during the first years of the Nixon administration. He soon returned to writing, focusing on the military's relationship with government and politics.

"I can't get away from the military," Eisenhower told C-SPAN. "That's my readership. And I don't think I want to." His books included "The Bitter Woods: The Battle of the Bulge" and "So Far from God: The U.S. War With Mexico, 1846-1848." He also wrote a memoir about his father, "General Ike: A Personal Reminiscence."

His marriage to Barbara Eisenhower ended in divorce. He is survived by his second wife, Joanne, and his four children: daughters Anne, Susan and Mary, and son David, who married President Richard Nixon's daughter Julie.

Official: Mozambique Plane Crash Intentional

The wreckage of a Mozambique Airlines plane which crashed Nov. 29, in the Bwabwata National Park, Namibia, killing all 27 passengers and six crew on board. Preliminary investigations shows that the pilot intentionally brought the Mozambican plane down "There was an intention to crash the plane," Joao Abreu, chairman of the Mozambican Civil Aviation Institute said Saturday Dec. 21, 2013.

MAPUTO, MOZAMBIQUE (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — Preliminary investigations into a November plane crash that killed 33 people aboard show that the pilot intentionally brought the Mozambican plane down, an aviation official said.

The Mozambican Airlines plane was bound for Angola with six crewmembers and 27 passengers, including 10 Mozambican, nine Angolans, five Portuguese, and one citizen each from France, Brazil and China, according to the airline. The aircraft went down Nov. 29 in a Namibian national park near the border with Angola.

"There was an intention to crash the plane," Joao Abreu, chairman of the Mozambican Civil Aviation Institute said Saturday after gathering recordings and preliminary investigations. The pilot's motives are unknown, and investigations will continue, he said, naming the pilot as Herminio dos Santos Fernandes. The co-pilot was in the bathroom at the time, he said.

Radar data showed that, at an obligatory reporting position over northern Botswana, the plane suddenly started to slow downwards rapidly. The plane's movements were normal before that, with no mechanical functions, he said. The altitude selector was then manually altered three times, bringing the plane's altitude down from 38,000 feet to 592 feet, Abreu said, reading the preliminary report to reporters.

Low and high intensity alarm signals can be heard on recovered recordings from the plane, along with the sounds of repeated banging on the cockpit door, he said. The investigation report does not say who was banging, but Abreu asserted that the co-pilot was not in the cockpit at the time of the crash and not responsible for the crash. The "black box" flight recorders were recovered intact and sent to the United States National Transport Safety Board in Washington to be decoded and transcribed.

Other indicators show manual operations were used, he said, adding that "all these operations required detailed knowledge of the plane's controls, and showed a clear intention to crash the aircraft." The control tower had lost voice and radar contact and set search operations in motion. The wreckage of the plane was found in the following days.

Rebels Hold Key Oil Capital In South Sudan

In this photo released by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), wounded civilians from Bor, the capital of Jonglei state and said to be the scene of fierce clashes between government troops and rebels, are assisted after being transported by U.N. helicopter to Juba, South Sudan, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013. South Sudan's central government lost control of the capital of a key oil-producing state on Sunday, the military said, as renegade forces loyal to a former deputy president seized more territory in fighting that has raised fears of full-blown civil war in the world's newest country.

KAMPALA, UGANDA (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — South Sudan's central government lost control of the capital of a key oil-producing state Sunday, the military said, as renegade forces loyal to a former deputy president seized more territory in fighting that has raised fears of full-blown civil war in the world's newest country.

Bentiu, the capital of oil-rich Unity state, is now controlled by a military commander loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar, said Col. Philip Aguer, the South Sudanese military spokesman. "Bentiu is in the hands of a commander who has declared support for Machar," he said. "Bentiu is not in our hands."

The armed rebels were said to be in control days earlier of some of South Sudan's oil fields, which have historically been a target for rebel movements, endangering the country's economic lifeblood. South Sudan gets nearly 99 percent of its government budget from oil revenues, and the country reportedly earned $1.3 billion in oil sales in just five months this year, according to the London-based watchdog group Global Witness.

Although the country's capital, Juba, is mostly peaceful a week after a dispute among members of the presidential guard triggered violent clashes between military factions, fighting continues as the central government tries to assert authority in the states of Unity and Jonglei.

Bor, the capital of Jonglei, is said to be the scene of some of the fiercest clashes between government troops and rebels. Michael Makuei Lueth, South Sudan's information minister, said Machar was believed to be hiding somewhere in Unity state.

"He is a rebel, he's a renegade and we are looking for him. He's moving in the bushes of South Sudan," Lueth said of Machar. The U.N. Mission in South Sudan said in a statement Sunday that all non-critical staff members in Juba are being evacuated to Uganda. The mission said the move was "a precautionary measure to reduce pressures on its limited resources" as it continues to provide assistance and shelter to more than 20,000 civilians gathered inside its compounds in Juba, the mission said in a statement.

Hilde Johnson, the U.N. secretary-general's envoy in South Sudan, said the evacuation doesn't mean the U.N. is "abandoning" South Sudan. "We are here to stay, and will carry on in our collective resolve to work with and for the people of South Sudan," she said. "To anyone who wants to threaten us, attack us or put obstacles in our way, our message remains loud and clear: we will not be intimidated."

Hundreds have been killed in the fighting and world leaders are concerned about civil war in a country with a history of ethnic violence and divided military loyalties. The U.S. and other countries have been evacuating their citizens from South Sudan. The U.S. has evacuated about 680 Americans and other foreign nationals so far, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

President Barack Obama told U.S. Congress he may take further military action to protect Americans in South Sudan. In a letter to Congress, Obama said that about 46 U.S. troops were deployed Saturday to help evacuate Americans. That's in addition to another 45 troops deployed to reinforce the U.S. Embassy in Juba.

Obama is on his annual vacation in Hawaii, but he said in the letter to congressional leaders that he's monitoring the situation. "I may take further action to support the security of U.S. citizens, personnel, and property, including our Embassy, in South Sudan," Obama wrote.

On Saturday, gunfire hit three U.S. military aircraft trying to evacuate American citizens in Bor, wounding four U.S. service members in the same region gunfire downed a U.N. helicopter on Friday. The wounded troops are in stable condition, the White House said.

It remains unclear how many Americans are still stranded in Bor and other rural towns. Earlier this week, the top military general in Bor defected with his troops, starting a rebellion that appears to be spreading to other parts of the country.

Aguer said Bor is still under the control of pro-Machar forces, disputing reports the rebels had fled as government troops advanced on Bor. South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, said on Monday that an attempted military coup had triggered the violence, and the blame was placed on Machar, an ethnic Nuer. But officials have since said a fight between Dinka and Nuer members of the presidential guard triggered the fighting that later spread across the East African country.

Machar's ouster from the country's No. 2 political position earlier this year had stoked ethnic tensions. Machar, who has criticized Kiir as a dictator, later said he would contest presidential elections in 2015.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday urged South Sudan's leaders "to do everything in their power" to stop the violence. Foreign ministers from neighboring countries Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Djibouti were in South Sudan earlier in the week to try and diffuse the crisis.

South Sudan, which became independent in 2011 after decades of a brutal war with Sudan, has been plagued by ethnic discord, corruption and conflict with Sudan over oil revenues. Although the south inherited three-quarters of Sudan's oil production when it declared independence in 2012, its oil exports are pumped through pipelines running north, raising concern a rebel takeover of southern oil fields could invite Sudan into the conflict.

Josh Lederman in Honolulu contributed to this report.

Nelson Mandela: Peace At Last

Gwynne Dyer, Hurryet Daily News
Monday, Decembe4r 23, 2013



The Catholic Church consecrates saints with less pomp and sentimentality than was lavished on Nelson Mandela during the week-long media orgy that we have been through.

The problem was that everybody in the media knew well in advance that Mandela was dying, and had time to invest millions in preparing to “cover” the event. Hotel rooms and telecom facilities were booked, crews and anchors were deployed, and the expense had to be justified by round-the-clock, wall-to-wall coverage of funeral orations, vox pop interviews, and talking heads.

And of course all the world’s politicians showed up for the greatest photo op of the decade, including many who had condemned Mandela as a terrorist before he pulled off a peaceful transition from apartheid to majority rule in South Africa. But now that the babble of rhetoric has died down and just before the myth takes over completely, let us talk honestly about who he was and what he accomplished.

Mandela understood that South Africans needed an icon, not a mere mortal man, as the founding hero of their new democracy, but he had a strong sense of irony. It would have got plenty of exercise as he watched the local politicos and the foreign dignitaries strew metaphorical flowers on his grave.

The man whom they buried at Qunu was arrested by the white minority regime in 1963, probably on a tip from the US Central Intelligence Agency. He was the head of the African National Congress’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), at the time, and continued to back its campaign of sabotage, bombing and attacks on military and police targets throughout his 27 years in prison.

If the South African Communist Party is to be believed, he was a member of its central committee at the time of his arrest. It was a different time, when US President Ronald Reagan could declare that the apartheid regime was “essential to the Free World,” and the ANC’s main international supporters were the Soviet Union and Cuba. Mandela might have ended up as a man of violence if he had not gone to prison.

Instead, in prison, he had the time to develop his ideas about reconciliation and persuade the other ANC leaders who were also confined to Robben Island of their value. By the time he came out of prison in 1990, he had become the man that everybody knew they could trust – including the whites.

During the next four years, when he and F.W. De Klerk, the last white president, negotiated the transfer of power from the white minority to the black majority, he really was the indispensable man. His commitment to reconciliation was so visible and genuine that whites were willing to do what had once seemed inconceivable: to hand over power before they absolutely had to.

If you want to know what South Africa would have looked like if the whites had clung to power down to the last ditch, look at Syria today. But it was not only Mandela who saved the country from that fate: they gave the Nobel Peace Prize to both Mandela and De Klerk, because the miracle could not have happened if De Klerk had not had the will and the skill to lead his own Afrikaner tribe out of power.

Then, after the first free election in 1994, Mandela became the president, and frankly he wasn’t very good at it. He had no executive experience, nor much aptitude for it.

But he did his country one last big favour: he retired at the end of his first term rather than clinging to power. He was already 81 years old at that time, but lesser men (Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, for instance) have not let that stop them. And he even had a few good years left to enjoy his family before age began to drag him down.

US Ups Pressure In S. Sudan, But No Military Role Likely

imageWASHINGTON: The United States a key backer of South Sudan's 2011 independence is increasing diplomatic pressure amid an intensifying conflict there but will not consider military intervention, experts said.

President Barack Obama has warned South Sudan over the week-old conflict, saying the country was on the "precipice" of civil war and that any military coup would trigger an end to diplomatic and economic support from Washington and its allies.

Secretary of State John Kerry also told President Salva Kiir over the weekend that the violence endangers the independence of the world's youngest nation, born in July 2011 after a five-decade struggle for independence from Sudan.

Fighting has gripped South Sudan since December 15, after Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup. Machar denied the claim and accused Kiir of carrying out a vicious purge of his rivals.

Washington has had a longstanding interest in South Sudan and supported the southern rebels in their battle for independence.

Post-independence, the United States became Juba's biggest source of political and economic aid as the country took its first steps, recalled Richard Downie, Africa assistant director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"Now the US is looking at the situation, and it is driven by this desire not to let all the hard work get away," the analyst said, noting that Washington's engagement in South Sudan has been "driven by humanitarian concerns."

Strategic vs. humanitarian motivations

Downie recalled that throughout president George W. Bush's 2001-2009 tenure, there were "ongoing efforts diplomatically to try bringing peace to Sudan" that begun as a bid to end the bloody, long-running civil war between the North and the South.

Also lobbying for sustained US involvement were South Sudanese living in the United States, many of whom are devout Christians and have the support of the US evangelical movement.
And the fate of South Sudan has long interested Hollywood with actors George Clooney and Mia Farrow in particular taking up the cause.

Washington was one of the forces behind the January 2005 peace agreement in Naivasha, Kenya that ended the civil war, offering six years of autonomy for the South and a referendum in January 2011 to decide on independence. The South Sudanese overwhelmingly voted to break away from Khartoum.
"When the referendum was being held on independence, the US got engaged diplomatically again, and putting resources in to make sure that referendum happened and South Sudan achieved its independence," Downie said.

Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who has worked on the Sudan issue for 20 years including in her previous post as UN ambassador, repeated calls for all parties to help end the conflict in an audio message to the country.

Rice and her successor at the UN Samantha Power have been impacted by the wars in Bosnia, Darfur and Rwanda, and by what they see as flawed US responses.

But offering a more cynical take was France's former ambassador to Khartoum Michel Raimbaud, who said he "doubts that democracy and human rights guide the interests of the United States in South Sudan."

"The secession, in which Washington played a very important role, was motivated by oil and strategic considerations, to break up Sudan the biggest Arab country in Africa," accused the retired diplomat who now works as an independent expert.

Downie contested these allegations, saying Americans are "not involved in the oil industry there very much at all," and "there is a very thin strategic interest in South Sudan."

The Obama administration quickly sent to Juba its envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth, and deployed 45 troops to reinforce security for Americans staying there after the evacuation of some 380 US officials and private citizens.

But Downie doesn't expect Washington to engage militarily in any major way. "It would require a big leap for the US to get involved significantly on the military level," he said.

"Look across Africa, the US military is very very wary of getting the boots on the ground."

Mandela Foundation Denies Mossad Trained Apartheid Fighter


 Saint Louis Jewish Light



JERUSALEM, ISRAEL(JTA) — The Nelson Mandela Foundation denied an Israeli newspaper report that Mandela received training from Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency in the 1960s.

“Media have picked up on a story alleging that in 1962 Nelson Mandela interacted with an Israeli operative in Ethiopia,” the foundation said in a statement. “The Nelson Mandela Foundation can confirm that it has not located any evidence in Nelson Mandela’s private archive  … that he interacted with an Israeli operative during his tour of African countries in that year.”

In 1962, Mandela received military training in Morocco and in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, according to the statement.

“In 2009 the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s senior researcher travelled to Ethiopia and interviewed the surviving men who assisted in Mandela’s training — no evidence emerged of an Israeli connection,” the statement said.

According to a report Dec. 19 in Haaretz, Mandela was trained by Mossad agents in weaponry and sabotage in 1962. The report was based on a document in the Israel State Archives labeled “Top Secret.”

The document, a letter sent from the Mossad to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, said Mossad operatives also attempted to encourage Zionist sympathies in Mandela, Haaretz reported.

Mandela led the struggle against apartheid in his country from the 1950s. He was arrested, tried and released a number of times before going underground in the early 1960s. In January 1962, he left South Africa and visited various African countries, including Ethiopia, Algeria, Egypt and Ghana, before being imprisoned in 1964 for nearly three decades.

According to the Haaretz report, Mandela met with the Israelis in Ethiopia, where he arrived under the alias David Mobsari.

The letter was discovered several years ago by David Fachler, 43, a resident of Alon Shvut who was researching documents about South Africa for a master’s thesis.