Thursday, May 05, 2016

Schools, Jails and Sports Stadiums: The Bankruptcy of Detroit’s “Development” Model
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

While concentrations of poverty persists and teachers stage wildcat strikes, billionaires continue the theft of public resources

Billionaire Dan Gilbert announced on April 27 that he and other capitalist investors have created a plan to construct a soccer stadium in downtown Deroit.

Gilbert, the owner of Rock Ventures LLC, the Cleveland Cavilers and other enterprises, who is a major player in the bank-led re-structuring of Detroit, along with Pistons executive Arn Tellem, held a press conference to declare their plans for a $1-billion project at Wayne County’s failed jail site. News reports from 2014 when the construction was stalled said that $150 million were lost on the proposed new jail due to cost overruns and corruption.

Several people were indicted in the fiasco although former Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano has not so far faced any charges. The site of the skeletal jail remains a reminder of the resources needed to warehouse thousands of mainly young African Americans who have been racially-profiled into the criminal justice system.

During 2015 Gilbert made his opposition to constructing the jail in the downtown area well known through statements to the media. Instead the banker and venture capitalist envisions  a 25,000-seat Major League Soccer stadium and other businesses, including restaurants, hotel rooms, and a commercial office tower.

In a April 27 article published by the Detroit Free Press, it says “The soccer stadium plan calls for relocating the current Wayne County Jail, Frank Murphy Hall of Justice and the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility to Mound Road (far away from downtown). Gilbert has been trying to buy the unfinished jail site from the county, recently offering $50 million. The county, which has already sunk $150 million into the snake-bitten and stalled project, did not accept the bid.”

Gilbert and other capitalists do not want the jail to be in the downtown area because it interferes with their “utopian” vision of the city which is being designed as a playground for suburbanites and tourists.

Education Crisis Escalates Amid “Development” Plans

On Monday May 2, thousands of Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) members called in sick closing down the school system citywide. These actions represent a continuation of previous “sick outs” where teachers have sought to attract attention to the deplorable conditions existing within the school district which has been under some form of direct and indirect state-control since 1999.

When the State of Michigan seized control of the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) in 1999, the district had a $93 million surplus with at least another $1.5 billion in bond funding approved by voters to improve school buildings and other infrastructure. At present reports indicate that the DPS is $3.5 billion in debt with substantial portions owed to the banks and bondholders while the district has lost 150,000 students since 1999.

The corporate-imposed education crisis is reflected in the lack of school supplies, deteriorating buildings with leaking roofs, mole and mushrooms, etc. Many schools lack proper ventilation where buildings are either too hot or too cold.

Moreover, the decline in DPS enrollment , in part a by-product of the foreclose and eviction epidemic over the last decade which has driven over 200,000 people out of the city, has resulted in the closure of over 200 school buildings. Many of these abandoned schools have been vandalized and stripped for copper, iron, brick, electrical equipment and other materials becoming stains on neighborhoods and facilitating further underdevelopment and blight within communities across Detroit.

Highlighting the ongoing catastrophe, thousands of teachers and other education workers surrounded the DPS headquarters in the New Center area beginning at 10:00am on May 2. They chanted slogans of “No pay, No Work!”, “What happened to the money?”, and No Pay, Shut it down!”

Amid the current crisis within the DPS the state legislature dominated by right-wing Republicans during April passed an emergency funding bill that ostensibly would provide over $40 million to keep schools open for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Nonetheless, tenured teachers receive pay during the summer months after the regular school year has ended. The announcement of the effective lay-offs of most employees after June 30 has prompted uncertainty and outrage.

Since 2009, teachers have been subjected to lay-offs, pay and benefit cuts. At the same time, millions are paid to contractors and vendors for school curriculums, modules and consultants whose materials have been either unusable or non-deliverable.

Priorities in Detroit are not set by the people who live and work there. With thousands of education workers facing eminent lay-offs and students receiving a sub-standard education, what real “revitalization” is taking place in the city?

Federal housing funds purportedly aimed at maintaining stability in the neighborhoods by assisting residents with paying off mortgages, over-assessed property taxes and inflated water bills, are being utilized to tear down homes and vacant businesses. Even the federal government is investigating the irregularities in the expenditures for demolitions coordinated by the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA).

A Detroit Blight Removal Task Force which identifies homes and other structures for seizure and demolition is chaired by Dan Gilbert, representing a clear conflict of interests. Gilbert is currently being sued by the Department of Justice for the misuse of hundreds of millions of dollars in Federal Housing Administration (FHA) funds through his real estate financing operations.

Will These “Development” Plans Really Work?

It is important to recognize that previous schemes such as the building of baseball and football stadiums in downtown and three casino hotels in the late 1990s did not save the Detroit from decline, emergency management and bankruptcy. Sports venues do not foster long term growth particularly for the workers and impoverished.

Although people in the city were lead to believe that these previous “prestige projects” would provide the necessary tax revenue and job opportunities to foster economic growth, what has actually transpired is quite to the contrary.

In order to rapidly exit the forced bankruptcy of 2013-2014 retired federal Judge Steven Rhodes, now the so-called “transition manager” for DPS, awarded real estate and taxpayer money to various corporate interests. One of these firms, Syncora, which captured millions in tax revenue from the casino hotels, could benefit even more through the Gilbert soccer stadium project.

According to Crain’s Detroit Business, “It may have lost millions in its bankruptcy settlement with Detroit, but Syncora Guarantee Inc.’s bet on greater downtown real estate appears to be paying off. At least one of the properties the bond insurer now has development rights to on the east riverfront and near Greektown would play a key role in Dan Gilbert’s and Tom Gores’ ambitious $1 billion plan announced last week to bring a Major League Soccer team and a new stadium and mixed-use development downtown.” (May 2)

However, it was the City of Detroit retirees who took the largest hit in the bankruptcy process where $6.5 billion in pension and healthcare obligations were written off by the federal court.

Members of the newly-formed Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA) is continuing to fight through the courts appealing Rhodes decisions to cut state-constitutionally guaranteed pensions along with healthcare benefits agreed upon through contract negotiations over decades.

Concentrations of poverty in Detroit continue to grow and jails are designed as warehouses for the oppressed further reinforcing their dis-empowerment. A study published in April by the Brookings Institution says that metro Detroit has the highest rate of concentrated poverty among the top 25 municipalities in the U.S. by population.

Building jails or stadiums and eviscerating public education is no solution to the crisis. The school-to-prison pipeline remains a reality for millions of African Americans across the United States.
United States Foreign Policy in Africa and the 2016 Elections
Wars of regime-change and the domination of international finance capital will continue to strangle the continent

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

There has been no substantial discussion within the context of primary debates and capitalist party platforms related to Washington’s foreign policy towards Africa.

Although people of African descent in the United States constitute the largest voting bloc among national minorities, issues related to them in both domestic and foreign policy is given almost no consideration.

There are references to the draconian legislation which accelerated the incarceration rates of African Americans under the former administration of President Bill Clinton nevertheless these factors constitute only a fraction of social elements within a broader political framework which clearly illustrates a concerted system of national oppression.

Not only is it outrageous that the Clinton administration endorsed new laws that intensified disparate treatment in the criminal justice system along racial lines, moreover both Bill and Hillary have been involved in foreign policy operations on behalf of the U.S. government and private capital, such as in Haiti and Libya, which proved disastrous for the people of these states.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the public face of the Pentagon and NATO-led bombing campaign against Libya during 2011 resulting in tens of thousands of deaths, the dislocation of millions, impoverishing this North African state once the most prosperous on the continent, therefore fostering instability and terrorism throughout the region.

Today Libya is in ruins while the United Nations attempts to install and prop-up a so-called “Government of National Accord” (GNA) which has no legitimacy even among the two rival factions installed by imperialism in the aftermath of the war of regime-change that brutally assassinated former leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi, the former chairperson of the African Union (AU). Oil revenues, which under Gaddafi were essential in providing Libya with resources to develop this former colony of Italy, are a source of conflict in the competition for control over the country.

The situation in Libya is a product of both Washington and Wall Street in their ongoing drive to dominate Africa and its resources. The all-out attacks leveled against various independent and anti-imperialist governments and movements throughout Africa and the Middle East is part and parcel of western objectives to extend their economic and political stranglehold over former subject nations and emerging states.

Imperialist Militarism Escalates in Africa

Over the last decade militarism has increased in Africa with the interventions in Somalia, Libya and other states. The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was established under the George W. Bush, Jr. administration and enhanced by the current President Barack Obama.

AFRICOM’s role has fostered greater instability and dislocation within AU member-states. In Mali during 2012, a military coup was carried out by an official of the armed forces who was trained at various defense schools in the U.S.

The Horn of Africa nations of Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia serve as staging grounds for imperialist military operations on the continent and in the Middle East. Djibouti houses the largest known Pentagon base at Camp Lemonier where thousands of U.S. and French troops are stationed.

Drone stations and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) field offices exist throughout the East Africa region where the Pentagon often carries out bombing raids against the al-Shabaab Islamist group in Somalia. There are flotillas of warships from NATO countries patrolling the waters in the Gulf of Aden one of the most lucrative trading routes in the world.

Across the continent in West Africa, the Pentagon often engages in naval maneuvers with regional states under the guise of fighting terrorism and piracy. Nonetheless, the country most affected by terrorism, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Africa’s largest populated nation and leading economy, has had difficulties in securing modern weapons and intelligence data from the Pentagon and the CIA in their fight against Boko Haram, an armed group which has killed thousands in the northeast of the country and displaced millions.

Congressional Black Caucus Remains Silent on African Affairs

This apparent listless attitude within the political arena has not always been there. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) took stands in support of national liberation movement struggles against colonialism and apartheid.

In 1987, the first Anti-Apartheid Actwas passed by the U.S. Congress over the veto of Republican President Ronald Reagan. This bill was shepherded through the House by former Congressman Ron Dellums from the Bay Area in California.

However, in 2015 when Republican members of the House held a hearing to question Hillary Clinton on the deaths of four U.S. diplomatic personnel and CIA operatives in Benghazi, no defense of the people of Libya was made by the CBC. In fact Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who is a leading Democrat, defended Clinton from any criticism over her role in the deaths of these four intelligence officials operating under state department cover.

Consequently there is no political incentive for either Clinton or Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to address the African situation. This is taking place despite the crisis of migration across the Mediterranean from Libya into Southern, Central and Eastern Europe impacting millions of Africans every year.

Africans who migrate to various regions of Europe are often subjected to national discrimination and racial violence. Many live in segregated housing complexes and are limited to menial work without adequate resources for education and economic opportunities.

On the continent itself there are various struggles being waged by working class organizations, women’s associations, and youth groups around jobs, the non-payment of salaries, environmental degradation and gender equality. States such as Zimbabwe and South Africa have been targets for regime-change strategies by the Obama administration and other imperialist governments.

Economic Relations Between the U.S. and Africa

Objectively the actual volume of trade between the U.S. and Africa has declined significantly during the Obama administration.

A report published earlier this year by the International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development says that: “Total trade between the United States and countries supported under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) showed another decrease in 2015, according to data published by the AGOA.info website. Combined trade, which came to US$ 50b in 2015, only reached US$ 36b last year. Trade between the United States and AGOA countries has now been declining for four years in a row.” (February 22)

In addition, the international debt crisis is reemerging in Africa due to the fall in oil, natural gas, strategic minerals and other commodity prices. The U.S. under Obama has increased its extraction of oil and natural gas domestically therefore creating a crisis of overproduction impacting not only Africa but several energy-producing states such as Russia, Venezuela, Brazil, South Africaand Nigeria, among others.

Consequently, there is a role for anti-imperialists to play by raising these issues on a national level. The destruction of Libya and Somalia along with the military occupation of Djibouti and the Gulf of Aden has not translated into genuine economic growth and development.

Pentagon, State Department and CIA interventions in Africa has done more to destabilize the continent rather than create the condition for full independence and sovereignty. Continuing dependence upon the capitalist mode of production and social relations in an atmosphere of global dominance by imperialism can only be addressed through the re-emergence of movements for radical transformation and socialist construction.
Pan-African Journal: Special Worldwide Radio Broadcast for Sun. May 1, 2016--Hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe
Listen to the Sun. May 1, 2016 special edition of the Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire.

To hear the podcast of this episode just click on the URL below:
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/panafricanjournal/2016/05/01/pan-african-journal-special-worldwide-radio-broadcast

The program airs initially from 9:30am-12:30pm EDT and afterwards on podcast. This episode features reports on the history of May Day; the escalating unrest in Turkey; Somalia's ongoing war against Al-Shabaab; and IWD demonstrations in South Africa.

We also look at the racialization of the criminal justice in the U.S. and the anniversary of the Baltimore Rebellions of 1968 and 2015.
Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast for Sat. April 30, 2016--Hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe
Listen to the Sat. April 30, 2016 edition of the Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire.

To hear the podcast of this program just click on the website below:
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/panafricanjournal/2016/04/30/pan-african-journal-worldwide-radio-broadcast

This episode airs initially from 10:00am-1:00pm EDT and afterwards on podcast. The program features reports on developments in South Africa involving possible renewed corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma; Zimbabwe industry ministry says it can revive manufacturing; the international community mourns the transition of Congolese artist Papa Wemba; the disarmament process in the Central African Republic; and the mass demonstrations escalate in the United States against right-wing presidential candidate Donald Trump.

In addition we hear perspectives on the 22nd anniversary of South African Freedom Day.
Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Interviewed on RT Worldwide Satellite News Network: 'FSA Rejects Local Ceasefires, Supports Halt in Syria Peace Talks'
2 May, 2016 04:38
Rt.com

To watch this interview with Abayomi Azikiwe just click on the URL below:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_VrmwvMbh0

The Free Syrian Army has refused to recognize partial ceasefires or local lulls in violence, claiming that if the UN-backed truce is not implemented in full, the group reserves its right to withdraw from the Geneva talks and respond to any attacks.

The loose coalition of armed opposition groups, united under the US-backed umbrella organization dubbed the Free Syrian Army, issued an official statement on Sunday, in which it claimed that any attack on their individual units will be treated as one on the whole bloc after its formation.

“We – the armed groups from across Syria will form a single bloc, any offensive that takes place in an area where our units are present, will be regarded as an attack against all the units throughout the Syrian territory, and we reserve the right to respond to it,” FSA said in a statement endorsed by 37 military units.

The FSA also rejected the US and Russia-brokered “regime of silence” currently in place in parts of Damascus and Latakia provinces, with negotiations currently underway to extend it to Aleppo as well. The organization slammed the idea of a partial ceasefire in selected areas, saying that they will only accept a full-scale truce that concerns all regions.

“The cessation of hostilities which we have agreed upon, is first of all a comprehensive agreement, which includes the whole territory of Syria, with the exception of the territory under [the] control of ISIS,” the statement said, without mentioning the second internationally-recognized terrorist group, Jabhat al Nusra, which is also excluded from the UN-backed ceasefire deal.

“We will never under any circumstances accept the principle of divisibility or regional truces,” the FSA statement added. In addition the opposition forces said they support the stance of the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee who withdrew from Geneva negotiations in April accusing Syrian government of violating the Peace plan for Syria stipulated in the UN Security Council resolution 2254.

Accusing Damascus of violating a number of items in the resolution on maintaining peace in Syria, the FSA said they “appreciate the position of the High Negotiations Committee on suspension of the Geneva-3 talks and support it.”

Meanwhile the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria, which is working on implementing the UN-backed Syria peace roadmap as well as regional ceasefires, said that active negotiations have been taking place in the area of embattled Aleppo and that recently an agreement has been reached with two of Aleppo’s settlements. As of May 1 the number of settlements which joined the truce reached 85, the center reported.

At the same time some 3.5 tons of humanitarian aid were brought to Damascus and Aleppo provinces, Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on Sunday adding that similar convoys are to be delivered to Homs and Hama provinces.

After Syria witnessed a surge in violence over the past week, particularly Aleppo where dozens of civilians fell under heavy shelling and a hospital was hit resulting in at least 50 deaths according to MSF, UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura warned that the truce was on a brink of collapse and needed salvaging.

In an interview with RT, Mistura insisted that both Russia and US bear responsibility to protect and “recalibrate” the cessation of hostilities and make sure that the peace initiative, which he says is the only viable solution for Syria, remains.

While Moscow has been taking active measures, such as conducting negotiations in Aleppo and delivering humanitarian aid to facilitate the conflict, Washington has been actively involved in discussing the situation.

On a hastily arranged trip to Geneva flowing de Mistura’s appeal, the US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday said he hoped that “some progress” will be reached in the next two days in the Geneva negotiations.

“The hope is we can make some progress,” Kerry said as quoted by Reuters. “I hope that in the course of the conversations I have here tonight, tomorrow, and the work that the teams are doing… [we can] zero in and pin down the modalities of reaffirming the cessation.”

“These are critical hours, we look for Russia's cooperation, and we obviously look for the regime to listen to Russia and to respond,” added Kerry, who is due to meet de Mistura on Monday.

The problem in installing a firm ceasefire lies in the fact that the opposition groups are “mixed” with the extremists and the groups “are fighting among themselves” and that the US “don’t know where to go” with all this, Belgian journalist Willy Van Damme told RT.

Meanwhile the decision by the FSA, some of whose factions are known to have cooperated with Al Nusra, not to join local ceasefires puts them on the same line with radical extremists, believes Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of Pan-African News Wire.

“When you have groups such as the Free Syrian Army, which the Obama administration says is legitimate opposition group even though they are armed and they are carrying out attacks against the Syrian government when they say they’re not going to participate in the process then, of course, they are objectively siding with the Islamist extremist organizations…” Azikiwe told RT.

“It is the belligerence of whether they claim to be an opposition, moderate opposition or Islamist extremists – they are all involved in the destabilization of the Syrian State,” he added speaking about opposition forces in Syria as a whole.

As the goal of all Syrian opposition to bring about regime change “coincides with the US foreign policy in the region”, Azikiwe believes that Washington is “not serious about any type of comprehensive ceasefire” and is not “forthright in its approach to developing genuine peace in Syria.”
Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Featured on Milwaukee Program: The Grass Is Greener of Riverwest Radio
Pan-African News Wire print and broadcast journalist Abayomi Azikiwe talks to the hosts of this program based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin about Libya, Yemen, refugees and the elections.

To hear a podcast of this one hour broadcast just click on the website below:
http://bit.ly/1NKSSDA

Azikiwe also gives an update on Reverend Pinkney’s legal case, the Flint water crisis, city boondoggles, and more.

In addition host and area activist Babette Grunow has an update on the case of Dontre Hamilton, killed by Milwaukee police two years ago today. 
Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Featured on IPTV in Detroit: 'Are the 2016 Elections Relevant to African Americans?'
Watch this segment from the IPTV program the Board Room which highlights local and national leaders involved in affairs surrounding the people of Detroit and the state of Michigan.

To view a segment of the program just click on the website below:
http://detiptv.com/#/?playlistId=0&videoId=0

The program was recorded on Friday, April 29, 2016 featuring Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, Atty. Krystal A. Crittendon, City of Detroit Law Department, Keith Williams, former Wayne County Commissioner, Michigan State Senator Coleman A. Young II and network co-owner Asheru.

The panel discussed the relevance of the 2016 presidential elections. IPTV is an African American owned television network.
Why Africa Must Sit at Global Security High Table
May 3, 2016
Anver Versi Correspondent

IN a lengthy profile in The Atlantic magazine by journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, Obama broke with convention and laid the blame for the almighty mess that was unleashed, following the bombing and subsequent killing of Muammar Gaddafi, squarely on Britain’s David Cameron and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy’s failure to plan for the aftermath and the lack of follow-through.

Having stirred up a massive hornets’ nest, Cameron, he said, became “distracted” and Sarkozy, who used the bombing as a macho chest-thumping gesture, lost interest and was, not long after, to lose the French presidency.

The irony is that African Union negotiators and political analysts had warned of just such an outcome, but no one “who mattered” was listening.

“Those who wear the shoe know where it is pinching,” says a former ambassador based in Libya.

“We know and understand Africa and we say, please, the issue is here, in this shoe. But the big powers always know better and they rush in and often chop off the other foot!”

At last, the powers that be — or at least, one of them — have had the courage to admit that military might does not equate to “knowing better” and that precipitate action based on wish-fulfilment, or as Obama reveals so candidly in The Atlantic, on “what is expected” rather than what is needed, can lead to an explosion of disastrous consequences.

Some of these consequences are washing up on Europe’s shores as countries scramble to put up barricades against the human tide fleeing from brutal wars and the nihilistic destructiveness of the terrorist armies. While Europe and the Americas search their souls over what to do with the mounting mass of suffering humanity banging feebly at their doors, Africa has had to deal with similar situations for decades. Ethiopia and Kenya have some of the largest refugee camps in the world but the resources at their disposal are shockingly meagre.

In the meanwhile, the mess that was created by the bombing of Tripoli and the brutal, televised murder of Gaddafi is still wreaking havoc in Africa.

The ramifications of the scattering of the former Libyan army, composed in large part of soldiers from neighbouring African states; the disgorging of thousands of tonnes of arms and ammunition from Gadaffi’s arsenal; the destruction of all law, order and social norms in Libya; the dismantling of a thriving trading infrastructure centred around Libya and the creation of a fertile environment for the worst of the Islamic State to occupy and thrive in, are still in full flow.

The Sahel is now on fire. Extremism is on the march, sweeping like a scythe with its centre in Benghazi, slicing up countries, institutions, communities.

Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab, both of which had been described as “dying of thirst” as their energy sources dwindled prior to the 2011 Nato bombing of Libya, appear refreshed and more dangerous than ever. Their appetite for committing atrocities has increased several degrees — while the poor girls kidnapped from Chibok have still not been found, an ever increasing battalion of little girls is being sent out to blow up themselves and as many others as possible in a macabre frenzy of death. This forms just one set of the consequences of poor decisions and precipitate action by forces far removed from the theatres of war over which they hold such sway. The price for someone else’s blunders is being paid by Africa in ruined economies and shattered nations, lost and destroyed lives.

Africa is now saying “Enough”! Even before the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884 which carved up Africa among the powerful European nations, the continent was seen as little more than an opportunity to exploit to the hilt and a backdrop against which European power struggles could be projected.

The people, the land, the fauna and flora of Africa mattered not in the least, except in terms of how they could be used for the ‘national interests’ of others.

Hundreds of thousands of Africans were killed and displaced during the two world wars, fought over causes that had nothing to do with the continent, and when this phase ended, a new and perhaps more deadly phase began — the Cold War, as the West and the USSR fought their proxy wars. The pattern seems set to continue. Throughout, Africa’s voice has been shouted down. The continent is expected to provide the muscle and personnel for peace-keeping operations once the UN steps in, but at the policy level, the critical agenda-setting level, Africa has been politely ignored.

“No longer” say some of Africa’s most prescient leaders. The theme for this year’s Tana Forum, the fifth, is “Africa in the Global Security Agenda”.

The aim is to ensure that Africa finds its place at the international security high table and that it can share its accumulated wisdom on conflict resolution and peace building with the world.

The format of the Tana Forum (the name derives from the fact that it is held on the shores of Lake Tana in Bahir Dar) is original and very African. The symbol of the forum is the baobab tree, the traditional African meeting place during which conflicts are discussed, analysed and more often than not, resolved.

In addition, there is an Akan and Ewe proverb that says: “Wisdom is like a baobab tree, no one can embrace it”.

It takes many people to sit down in a spirit of honesty, discuss candidly and find solutions acceptable to all.

This is why the format is informal and the individuals invited, who range from heads of state to civil society representatives, can examine the issues without feeling national or special interest constraints. Nevertheless, the discussion level is pegged high, with speakers selected for their outstanding expertise and experience in conflict resolution and peace building. For example, Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary-General, delivered the keynote speech this time around.

Other participants included Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn; Louise Mushikiwabo, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rwanda; former presidents Thabo Mbeki (South Africa), Joaquim Chissano (Mozambique) and Pierre Buyoya (Burundi); Dr Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of UNECA; Wolfgang Ischinger of the Munich Security Conference, Germany; Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Libya and Andreas Eshete, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

There will also be high-level representatives from the AU, UN, the International Crisis Group, the Woodrow Wilson Centre, USA and several other organisations and institutions.

“Africa has become too important,” says Tana Chairman, General Olusegun Obasanjo, “to be discarded from the global security agenda and debate.”

The dire consequence of the failure to consult those who know is swirling well beyond the actual theatres of war and threatening to cast a rabid religious and right-wing mantle of darkness over the future. If Barack Obama is serious about looking for a different matrix for solving the world’s problems, when “dropping bombs on someone to prove that you’re willing to drop bombs on someone is just about the worst reason to use force”, then perhaps what he is looking for is the traditional African formula of sitting under the baobab and finding solutions based on deep wisdom.

 Anver Versi is the award-winning former editor of African Business Magazine. He was born in Kenya and is currently based in Accra, Ghana. This article is reproduced from New African magazine.
Zimbabwe Successfully Concludes Third SMP
May 5, 2016 Business
Happiness Zengeni and Conrad Mwanawashe
Zimbabwe Herald

The International Monetary Fund has approved Zimbabwe’s Staff Monitored Programme and Article IV consultations laying a solid foundation for full re-engagement with international financiers under a process which includes the clearance of arrears to multilateral creditors, a fund-financial arrangement and debt treatment under the Paris Club.The approval was done by the IMF’s Executive Board, which met on Monday, May 2.

In a statement, the IMF said all the quantitative targets for end-December 2015 had been met. These included the floor on the primary cash balance and the net international reserves target which were met with comfortable margins.

During the 15-month period of the SMP, the country also made remarkable progress in a number of areas which include the recapitalisation of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe through the Debt Assumption Act, amendment of the Reserve Bank and Banking Acts and the establishment of the Zimbabwe Asset Management Corporation.

In the same period, the country amended the Labour Act, instituted reforms to the fiscal regime for the mining sector and developed a strategy to reduce the public service wage bill by 2019.

The successful conclusion of the third SMP paves way for Zimbabwe to work on and present a financing strategy for the country. Government expects to complete drafting a debt clearance strategy by September when the board meets again.

Zimbabwe’s total debt stood at$10.68 billion in December while it has to settle almost $2 billion in arrears. As soon as the arrears are settled, the process to consider removal of the remaining remedial measures which would include the restoration to the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT).

The IMF said Zimbabwe requires implementing deep economic policy adjustment agenda to address the country’s daunting economic challenges.

While commending Zimbabwe for the successful implementation of economic policies under the staff-monitored program despite difficult domestic and external circumstances, the IMF board of directors at its meeting on Monday noted that a step-up to a comprehensive economic policy adjustment agenda will be critical for the country.

In this context, the IMF said that achieving a sustainable fiscal position requires a significant reduction in the wage bill, while rebalancing the budget toward much-needed infrastructure investment and social outlays to stimulate growth, among other measures.

Other measures that the IMF recommended include the need to accelerate the reform of state-owned enterprises, strengthening public financial management, and enhancing transparency in the mining sector.

The Bretton Woods institution stressed the importance of stepping up structural reforms to raise potential growth and living standards, and to secure support from Zimbabwe’s development partners and highlighted the need to implement the indigenisation policy in a business-friendly and transparent manner, and to resolve outstanding land issues swiftly.

Other priorities include improving the investment climate, tackling corruption, and promoting economic diversification.

Government is in the process of improving the doing business environment and reviewing the cost of doing business to encourage investment into productive sectors of the economy.

Furthermore, the IMF called on Zimbabwe to pursue a strong debt management strategy, including by limiting non-concessional borrowing to critical growth-enhancing and poverty-reducing projects that would ultimately improve the country’s repayment capacity given the continued debt distress.

On the country’s comprehensive strategy for normalisation of relations with international financial institutions (IFIs), the board said should clear all arrears to the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT) and other IFIs.
South Africa, Zimbabwe to Improve Ties
May 5, 2016
Paidamoyo Chipunza
Senior Reporter
Zimbabwe Herald

The newly appointed South African Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Mphakama Mbete said his focus during his four-year term in the country will be on building strong economic and trade relations between the two countries. Speaking after paying a courtesy call on Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko at his Munhumutapa Offices in Harare yesterday, Ambassador Mbete said as long as people were hungry, it would not be easy to solve many of the social issues affecting both South Africa and Zimbabwe.

He said there was therefore need to intensify efforts towards building the economy, trade and investments in both countries. “We must be strong and continue to intensify co-operation and working together in the economic, trade and investment areas to build our economies. For as long as people are hungry, it will not be easy to solve many issues in the society.

“We agreed that would be one of the key areas of focus during my four years here, to assist towards building strong economic and trade relations,” he said. Ambassador Mbete said there was also need to bring in the business community in the SADC framework of business and trade for it to be successful.

“We’ve got to convince our business communities that they have to work with our governments to build the economies of the SADC countries and that, it is in their interest too to take part in that.

“It is in the interests of their children and their grandchildren to work with our governments to build a strong SADC economy, which will benefit all of us including our business communities,” he said. He said there was also need to strengthen on an ongoing basis the strong historical relations between South Africa and Zimbabwe led by the ruling parties in both countries.

He said part of his deliberations with VP Mphoko was on common experiences the freedom fighters of both countries had during the liberation struggles of both countries. Zimbabwe has always been among South Africa’s top three trading partners on the continent and South Africa is one of the top investors in the Zimbabwean economy.

Of late, the two countries signed new agreements on trade and co-operation, mutual assistance between customs administrations, water resources management, diplomatic consultations and a bi-national commission agreement.
Zimbabwe Cash Crisis: RBZ to Unveil Bond Notes
May 5, 2016
Happiness Zengeni and Martin Kadzere
Zimbabwe Herald

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is set to introduce bond notes to curb money flowing out of the country, while measures have been put in place to promote the widespread use of multi-currencies to arrest the obtaining cash shortages. The bond notes, just like coins that were introduced in 2014, will be backed by the $200 million Afreximbank nostro-support facility which is expected to provide a cushion on the high demand for foreign exchange.

RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya did not provide a date when the notes will be introduced, saying “it is not an overnight process,” as they are currently at design stage. “We are still working on a design, which will be sent for printing outside the country. The notes will not be introduced immediately but probably within the next two months.”

Dr Mangudya emphasised that the introduction of the notes did not signal the return of the Zimbabwean dollar, but was only a safety net against illicit financial flows. “This does not signal the reintroduction of the Zimbabwe currency. The fundamentals are not yet right for its comeback. This is just a measure to curb illicit flows out of the country.”

Maximum cash that can be taken out of Zimbabwe reduced to 1 000 for USD and Euro, and 20 000 for rands, with immediate effect.

The central bank chief said the $200 million facility will also provide an incentive facility of 5 percent on all foreign exchange receipts, including gold and tobacco sales proceeds. The bond notes, which are meant to curb capital flight of United States dollars will be in denominations of $2, $5, $10 and $20 and will be an extension of the coins already in circulation, the RBZ Governor said, adding that they will be at par with the US dollar.

“In order to mitigate against possible abuse of this ($200 million) facility through capital flight, proceeds from the fund shall be granted to qualifying foreign exchange earners in bond coins and notes, which shall operate alongside the currencies within the multi-currency system and at par with the US dollar,” the governor said.

He said bond coins will also be used as discount trade-related paper to provide liquidity for trading operations. The central bank has also reviewed maximum daily cash that can be taken inside the banking hall and at Automated Teller Machines to 1 000 for US dollar and Euro and 20 000 for rands.

Maximum cash that can be taken out of the country has also been reduced to 1 000 for USD and Euro, and 20 000 for rands, with immediate effect. The central bank noted that most retailers, local authorities, learning institutions, service stations and the informal traders were operating without point of sale machines, and a directive was given that they should, with immediate effect install the POS devices to promote the use of plastic money.

With effect from today, the central bank will convert 40 percent of new US dollar foreign exchange receipts and 10 percent to Euros. This is aimed at ensuring wide spread of currencies and minimise against concentration risk of using the US dollar. The central and the business have come up with a priority list to guide the distribution of foreign currency towards competing demands.

“The policy stance will ensure that the available foreign exchange resources are efficiently appropriated towards those sectors of the economy with the capacity to generate forex,” said Dr Mangudya. “This will help reduce the country’s import bill and at the same time enhancing production across all sectors of the economy.” He said to encourage the widespread use of other currencies, payments of imports should be done using the currency of origin.

And for effective promotion of other currencies, product pricing would need to be reflective of the multi-currency system. “Accordingly, in view of the fact that most products in Zimbabwe are from South Africa, it is pertinent that shop owners and businesses should think in rand terms as opposed to abstract US dollar prices,” said Dr Mangudya.

Zimbabwe has been experiencing cash shortages during the past few weeks which has seen some banks cutting withdrawal limits. The major reasons for cash shortages include dysfunctional multi-currency system which has seen the country predominantly using the greenback as anchor currency unlike in 2009 (when multi-currency was introduced) where 49 percent of the transactions were done in rand.

Low usage of plastic money and Real Time Gross Settlement, low confidence and inefficient utilisation of scarce foreign currency have also resulted in cash shortages.

The strong US dollar has made Zimbabwe a high cost producing country, expensive destination for tourists and externalisation continued to put pressure on the country’s balance of payment position. In order to promote a savings culture, the central bank has, with immediate effect, requested all banking institutions to open special savings products which will have a minimum balance of $10 000 or 10 000 euro, 20 000 rands on a term structure of 6 months. An annual compounded interest rate of 5 percent on US dollar and euro balances and 10 percent on rand deposits. The products should be tax free.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

How Zuma Through ANC Intelligence Controls South Africa
JOHANNESBURG
BY JOE BROCK AND ED CROPLEY
Reuters

As head of intelligence for the outlawed African National Congress during apartheid, Jacob Zuma neutralized perceived traitors and sidelined opponents to shore up his position, people who worked with him say.

Decades later, as South Africa's President, he hasn't lost his touch.

Lampooned in the media, jeered in public and now facing calls from inside and outside the ANC to resign over millions of rand of improper state spending on his private home in Nkandla, the 73-year-old’s grip on power seems like it should be weaker than at any point since his election in 2009.

Yet he endures, thanks to skills honed decades ago in the exiled ANC underground, promoting little-known officials who do his bidding to powerful positions within the security and intelligence portfolios, politicians who work around Zuma say.

He has also changed the way the party votes on internal appointments, including making members photograph ballot papers to prove their allegiance.

Critics, including former cabinet ministers and top commanders of the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), say Zuma's administration also demotes opponents and intimidates dissenters. One example: Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, a constitutionally mandated anti-corruption watchdog investigating the spending on Zuma's home, became the subject of an intelligence ministry probe into allegations she was a CIA spy.

Zuma's spokesman Bongani Majola did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this article or for an interview with Zuma. ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa also did not respond.

Intelligence Ministry spokesman Brian Dube denied that security institutions were being misused. "These allegations are not new. They have been made before and remain unsubstantiated," he told Reuters in answer to emailed questions.

One senior ANC source, who did not wish to be named for fear of retribution, said the key to Zuma's power was his lock over the party, regardless of his standing among the public.

"So-called experts have been saying Zuma is finished for years but they don't have a clue how politics here works," said the ANC official. "People ask, how does Zuma survive? No one asks, how does Vladimir Putin survive?"

"THE GRINDSTONE"  

Zuma, whose Zulu middle name, Gedleyihlekisa, means "the one who smiles as he hurts you", joined the ANC in 1959. The son of a policeman and domestic worker from what is now rural KwaZulu Natal, he had little formal education.

After 10 years on Robben Island alongside Nelson Mandela, he fled apartheid South Africa to emerge in the late 1980s in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, as deputy head of the ANC's secret police and head of the 'Green House', its intelligence unit.

One of his main tasks was to unmask informants and traitors within the ANC and MK, wielding the resources of the ANC secret police, known as iMbokodo or "The Grindstone".

The Stuart Commission, an internal ANC inquiry into unrest in 1983 in guerrilla camps in Angola, described iMbokodo as "the most notorious and infamous department in the camps and perhaps in the whole movement".

The report, available on the ANC's website, painted a picture of the ANC security services as a state-within-a-state, feeding off rumor and "not working for the security of the general membership and interests of the movement".

According to historian Stephen Ellis in his 2012 book, "External Mission: The ANC in Exile 1960-1990", Zuma's time in Lusaka shaped the rest of his life.

"For the remainder of his political career, this experience in charge of intelligence was to be Zuma's key institutional base," Ellis wrote.

Ronnie Kasrils, intelligence minister between 2004 and 2008 under Mbeki and an anti-apartheid veteran, spent years in the ANC underground and intelligence circles alongside Zuma.

"The first people he appointed were in his security team," said Kasrils, who has publicly called for Zuma to resign.

"It was vital that Zuma had the heads of intelligence to do his bidding. It gives you the ability to dig up dirt on politicians and keep a close eye on opponents," he said.

One such appointment was David Mahlobo, an unknown provincial hydrologist with no security experience, as intelligence minister in 2014.

The ministry had traditionally been assigned to ANC high-fliers with impeccable "struggle credentials" such as Kasrils or Lindiwe Sisulu, the forthright daughter of ANC stalwart and close Mandela friend Walter Sisulu.

"Mahlobo was a likeable guy but a surprise appointment," Kasrils said. "Zuma wanted someone young and green who is dependent and won't question him."

Another was Nkosinathi Nhleko, a fellow Zulu whom Zuma appointed police minister in 2014.

When Madonsela, the Public Protector, published a damning report on renovations Zuma had made with public money to his Nkandla home, including the building of a swimming pool, Zuma asked Nhleko to open an inquiry. Nhleko said the pool was a fire-fighting resource, backing up his conclusion with a video of firemen using the pool to pump jets of water.

THE RIGHT PEOPLE IN PLACE

Another appointment that startled observers was the selection last year of small-town mayor David van Rooyen as finance minister, a promotion that sent the rand into a tail-spin and resulted four days later in his dismissal.

In total 35 ministers and 38 deputy ministers have been appointed during Zuma's term of office, far more than any other South African leader since apartheid.

At the same time, senior ANC figures have been moved out of the party's top decision-making body, the National Executive Committee (NEC).

"A major problem is the 'juniorisation' of appointments to ensure compliance and loyalty," Siphiwe Nyanda, a top MK commander and communications minister fired by Zuma in 2010, told Reuters.

Zuma has also changed the way members are elected to the NEC'S 'Top Six', a body that ultimately chooses the party president.

Under a so-called "slate" voting system, trusted delegates to the 5,000-member ANC conference held every five years are told who they should vote for and are expected to confirm they have obeyed with a photo of their ballot, two ANC sources said.

"With 'slate' voting we no longer have proper democracy in the party. They have become voting cattle," Nyanda said. An ANC spokeswoman declined to comment on the issue.

Dissenting voices in parliament or cabinet stay silent as a result. On April 5, ANC members of parliament, who control almost two-thirds of the assembly, voted unanimously against a move to impeach Zuma following a constitutional court ruling against him over the Nkandla affair.

Asked by Reuters why he had voted as he did, a senior member of government known to be anti-Zuma merely rolled his eyes. The politician asked not to be named for fear of recriminations.

UNDERHANDED TACTICS

Bugging telephones and intercepting emails of senior party figures and journalists has become routine, Kasrils said.

He did not provide details. But in 2009, 783 corruption charges against Zuma were dropped after his legal team came up with phone intercepts -- dubbed the ‘Zuma spy tapes’ -- that suggested a political motive when the charges were laid.

How Zuma, who was then challenging Thabo Mbeki for the leadership of the ANC, obtained the wire-taps has never been revealed. The Pretoria High Court on April 29 ordered a review of the decision to drop the charges.

Critics also complain about intimidation tactics and smear campaigns.

A week after the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) filed court papers against Berning Ntlemenza, head of the police's elite Hawks investigations unit, the NGO's offices were robbed.

HSF executive director Francis Antonie said the robbers took only old computers. "It's plausible this was an information gathering exercise or meant to intimidate us,” he said.

Provincial police spokeswoman Noxolo Kweza said she could not answer questions about the case because it had been “taken from us” by the Hawks, which the Hawks, South Africa's version of the FBI, denied.

Some Zuma opponents have found themselves the target of campaigns linking them to the U.S. government, a charge that points to the Cold War paranoia that lingers in parts of the ANC, which was backed by the Soviets.

Among these was Madonsela, the author of the Nkandla report, who afterward became the subject of an investigation, ordered by Mahlobo, into allegations she was a CIA agent.

The results of Mahlobo’s probe have not yet been released.

(Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
South Africa Reassures PAP on Security
By Vision Reporter

Staff and country representatives had been victims of robberies while in South Africa

The South African government has assured Members of the Pan African Parliament of improved security and protection while in the country.

The Minister for Safety and Security, Hon. Charles Nqakula said that government had instituted measures to avoid a re-occurrence of violence targeting foreigners and their property in South Africa.

“Government is committed to a smooth functioning and success of the Pan African Parliament. We want to see this Parliament working in an environment that is conducive to pursue the Pan-African agenda,” said Hon. Nqakula.

The Minister was speaking at the opening of the Second Ordinary Session of the Fourth Pan African Parliament held in Midrand, South Africa, May 3, 2016.

Uganda’s representatives at PAP are Hon. Onyango Kakoba (NRM, Buikwe North), Hon. Sam Otada (Ind., Kibanda), Hon. Elijah Okupa (FDC, Kasilo), Hon. Jacqueline Amongin (NRM, Ngora) and Hon. Beatrice Barumba (NRM, Kiruhura).

In 2008 and January 2015, violence erupted in various parts of South Africa targeting foreigners, their businesses and property. A number of people were killed or displaced and property destroyed.

Last year and early this year, Pan African Parliament delegates were robbed of cash and property as they arrived at their hotel in Midrand.

Pan African Parliament President Hon. Roger Nkodo said staff and country representatives had been victims of robberies while in South Africa, appealing for government’s help.

The Minister said government had put in place measures at national and provincial levels and sensitized local communities about the issue of xenophobia.

Former Mozambique President, Joaquim Chissano appealed to African governments to sign and ratify the amended Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the Pan African Parliament granting the institution full legislative powers.

“When a decision is taken democratically, it becomes binding to everyone, even when you do not agree with it,” said H.E Chissano.

He also appealed to African governments to look for ways to internally generate required funds if the continent is to succeed with the 50 year development programme – Agenda 2063.

The Second Ordinary Session of the Fourth Pan African Parliament is being held at the headquarters of the Pan African Parliament, May 3 – 13, 2016.
South African Bishops Rebuke Government for Spending Billions on Weapons
Cape Town, South Africa, May 4, 2016 / 06:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic bishops of South Africa have criticized the government for excessive weapons spending given the country’s major social problems.

“We insist that, in the absence of discernible external military threat to our country, and in a country which is struggling to recover from high levels of unemployment and extreme poverty, it is ethically irresponsible and unnecessary to spend billions of scarce resources on weapons of war,” said Bishop Abel Gabuza.

Bishop Gabuza chairs the Justice and Peace Commission for the South Africa Catholic Bishops’ Conference. In an April 26 statement, he said the arms spending ignored the real problem.

“(T)he greatest threat to our national security are economic inequalities and youth unemployment which are themselves fueling violent social protests,” he said.

Bishop Gabuza said forms of protests are becoming increasingly violent.

“The defense capabilities that the military acquired through the arms procurement in 1999 are irrelevant in the face of this security threat,” he said.

The bishop was critical of a government finding that justified the arms spending in the face of corruption claims.

He said the government spent billions of South African rands – worth tens of millions of U.S. dollars – on weapons in 1999 at a time when the government said it could not afford retroviral treatments for South Africans with HIV.

“We therefore continue to insist that the arms deal was an ethical blunder,” he said.

The bishops’ conference commission also called on the government to suspend its plans for nuclear energy procurement.
South Africa's Zuma Unfazed After EFF Party Ejected From Parliament
Wed May 4, 2016 4:33pm GMT

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa's parliamentary protection services forcibly removed members of the ultra-left Economic Freedom Fighters party from the chamber on Wednesday as they attempted to disrupt proceedings ahead of an address by President Jacob Zuma.

The EFF parliamentarians were ejected by parliament's Speaker after ignoring several warnings for order after they tried to prevent Zuma from speaking following recent court orders against him.

This included a High Court ruling on April 29 to overturn a previous decision seven years ago dropping 783 corruption charges against Zuma when he was still the country's deputy president. [nL5N17W322]

In April, the scandal-plagued Zuma survived an impeachment vote in parliament launched by the opposition after the constitutional court ruled he had ignored an order to repay state funds spent on his private home. [nL5N17812K]

On Wednesday, Zuma seemed unfazed by the chaotic scenes that preceeded his address, delivering a speech that focussed on the government's plans to grow a stagnating economy hit hard by a global commodities rout.

"Economic transformation remains pivotal to ensuring a better life for all," Zuma told parliament.

Zuma's ruling African National Congress (ANC), which backed him after a public backlash over his recent scandals, faces a tough battle against the official opposition Democratic Alliance party and the EFF at local polls on August 3.

Facing a waning electoral majority that has ensured its stranglehold since white minority rule ended in 1994, the ANC is facing its toughest test in decades for the control of key cities, including economic power hub Johannesburg.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by James Macharia)
Libya's East Tests Muscle With Oil Shipment, Troop Dispatches
Wed May 4, 2016 1:06pm GMT
By Aidan Lewis and Ayman al-Warfalli

TUNIS/BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - By defiantly attempting to export their own oil and dispatching troops towards the centre of the country, Libya's eastern factions may be gambling on force as they bid for a larger stake under a U.N.-backed unity government.

It could be a costly bet, one that ignites renewed conflict between east and west over territory, slashes oil production, and pushes Libya closer to a split that has threatened the country since the uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi five years ago.

The unity deal, signed in December despite opposition from hardliners, was meant to end the divide between rival governments in Tripoli and the east who have vied for control over the country and its oil resources since 2014, backed by competing factions of former anti-Gaddafi rebels.

But in an ominous early sign of a possible new showdown, eastern and western factions have sent separate armoured columns towards Gaddafi's home town Sirte, now in the hands of fighters from Islamic State.

Western powers see the unity government as the best hope for ending the chaos.

The Government of National Accord(GNA) has slowly begun to establish itself in the capital since arriving a month ago. But it has done so with the help of armed factions from the western city of Misrata that backed the previous Tripoli government, hardening suspicions among easterners that they will be sidelined.

A claim by the GNA's Presidential Council to leadership over any unified campaign against Sirte drew angry responses from the east, where hardliners already harboured federalist ambitions.

"The nation is facing internal and external conspiracies ... to destroy the army and support the militias in Tripoli," said Ali al-Qatrani, an ally of the eastern military and one of two Council members who have suspended their membership.

The eastern government's parliament, the House of Representatives, already repeatedly failed to vote to accept the unity government, after rejectionists blocked attempts to even hold a ballot.

Last month, a new oil company set up by the eastern government attempted to ship its first exports of oil without permission from Tripoli. The United Nations responded by blacklisting the tanker carrying 650,000 barrels of crude. [nL5N17X0KB]

On Tuesday, the east prevented a tanker from loading on behalf of the Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation (NOC), a move that puts production from eastern fields at risk. [nL5N1806LG]

Tripoli's NOC has kept the oil industry running since Libya's 2011 uprising, with the income channelled through the Tripoli-based central bank to pay salaries across the country.

"If they can show that the east can sell its own oil and earn its own revenue, that is a hugely damaging step which would lead to reinforcing the view in the east that they can go it alone," said a Western diplomat.

REGIONAL RIVALRIES

After Gaddafi's fall, a gulf between east and west has slowly widened, especially after an alliance of Islamist-leaning Tripoli and Misrata militias took over the capital in 2014 and created their own self-declared government.

The government that had been in place before that revolt decamped to the east, and most of the armed groups that prowl Libya's streets ended up siding with one of the two competing alliances.

As they vied for control of dwindling oil revenues over the past two years, the eastern government tried to set up parallel branches of the National Oil Corporation and the central bank.

It also appointed a former Gaddafi ally, General Khalifa Haftar, as the head of its armed forces, the Libyan National Army (LNA). His role in any national military force as a possible defence minister or army chief has become one of the most divisive problems.

For two years Haftar has been waging a campaign, primarily in Benghazi, the biggest city of the east, against Islamist militants and other former rebels who view him as an Egyptian-backed relic of the old regime with presidential ambitions.

The military leadership has its own divisions, but after a long deadlock the LNA has made significant gains in parts of Benghazi since February, boosting Haftar's popularity and emboldening his political allies.

Residents returning to their homes in areas of Benghazi retaken by the army say they have Haftar and the LNA to thank. Shop assistants offer troops free food and cigarettes, and children pose for photos with soldiers in uniform.

No town, prominent tribe or key politician in the east has "publicly and strongly supported" the unity government or the deal that created it, said Mohamed Eljarh, a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council who is based in eastern Libya.

They are holding out for "a different deal, a better deal, that reflects their strength and the advances that they have been making," he said.

After its Benghazi success the LNA says it is getting ready to advance on Sirte from the east, while brigades from Misrata are reportedly preparing to advance from the west.

Eyewitnesses told Reuters that more than 100 LNA vehicles, including ambulances, armoured cars and troop carriers were mobilising, and pictures posted on social media showed dozens of military pick-up trucks on the road south from Misrata.

That prompted the Presidential Council to warn that without coordination, there could be fresh conflict between the two rival forces, to the benefit of Islamic State. [nL5N17V8AP]

On Tuesday officials said there were skirmishes between the LNA and Misrata-affiliated groups about 300 km (185 miles) south of Sirte.

Political groups were still attempting to salvage a comprehensive deal, but the situation was in "total turmoil", said eastern parliament member Abubakr Buera.

"People in the east are trying to react, they feel like they are being endangered by this political process," he said. "We all agree that Libya needs a single government, but we differ about how to do it."

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli; editing by Patrick Markey and Peter Graff)
Three Civilians Killed, Five Injured in Terrorist Rocket Attacks on Aleppo
4 May، 2016

Aleppo, SANA- Three civilians were killed and five others were injured when Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists and other terrorist organizations affiliated to it fired rocket shells on residential neighborhoods on Aleppo.

A source at Aleppo’s police command said in a statement to SANA reporter that terrorists fired on Wednesday at dawn a number of rocket shells on Salah-Eddin and al-Khalediyeh neighborhoods, killing three civilians from the same family, injuring a fourth and causing material damage to private and public properties.

Later on Wednesday, four civilians were injured and houses of locals suffered material damage when terrorist organizations fired rocket shells on al-Suleimaniyeh neighborhood.

On Tuesday, 17 civilians were killed and 68 others were injured due to the terrorist attacks with rocket shells by Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups on al-Dhabeet Hospital and residential neighborhoods in Aleppo.

Qabas/ Manal


Syria: Terrorist organizations and their Saudi and Turkish allies committed crimes against humanity in Aleppo

3 May، 2016

Damascus, SANA – Syria reiterated on Tuesday its demand that the Security Council and the UN Secretary-General condemn the crimes committed by armed terrorist groups, particularly the terrorist attacks on Aleppo city.

In two identical letters sent to the UN Secretary-General and the head of the Security Council, the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry said that while local and international efforts are being made to bolster the cessation of hostilities agreement and reach a truce in Aleppo, terrorist organizations under order of its masterminds in Saudi Arabia and Aleppo carried out an extensive attack from several directions on Aleppo city, with the Syrian Arab Army repelling the terrorists and preventing them from seizing areas in the city.

The letters pointed out that terrorists fired large rocket shells at al-Dhabeet Hospital in Aleppo city, destroying it and killing innocent civilians including women and children, and this attack is part of a larger attack that targeted all neighborhoods in the city with indiscriminate shelling, killing and injuring many civilians and damaging homes.

The Ministry asserted that what is being done by terrorist organizations and their Saudi and Turkish allies constitute crimes against humanity, and the UN and the international community must stop them and hold their perpetrators accountable.

The letters went on to state that with their frenzied attack on Aleppo, terrorist organizations have violated the arrangements of the truce that were agreed upon on Monday May 2nd, and by doing so undermine all the efforts that were made to save the lives of innocent civilians.

The Ministry asserted that Syria reiterates that the terrorist organizations’ persistent crimes against humanity wouldn’t have occurred had the Security Council assumed its responsibility and condemned the regimes and states that sponsor and support terrorism.

The letters concluded by saying that Syria once again demands that the Security Council and the UN Secretary-General condemn the terrorist crimes and that the Security Council take the necessary steps to force the regimes and states that sponsor and support terrorism to stop all forms of support for terrorist organizations.

Hazem Sabbagh
Chicago Teachers Union Doesn’t Set Strike Date — For Now
Lauren FitzPatrick
@bylaurenfitz | email

The Chicago Teachers Union’s governing body confirmed Wednesday night that for the time being, teachers will not strike.

The union’s elected delegates did not cast votes to set a strike date — though state law permits them to walk as soon as May 16 — though hundreds did reach a consensus.

However, nothing prevents the delegates from calling an emergency meeting if they change their minds before their next meeting scheduled in early June.

That’s what CTU leadership, who foretold the outcome, suggested Wednesday.

If Chicago Public Schools unilaterally cancels a 7 percent pension benefit it makes on behalf of teachers, the CTU would call an emergency delegates meeting to give the required 10 days’ notice of a strike that would start “when it’s advantageous for us and not for them,” CTU President Karen Lewis said.

“We are leaving all of our options open. Please understand that,” Lewis said. “Again, we’re moving bills in Springfield. Things are moving in Springfield. We know that they are listening to us so we’re going to do the best we can.”

The union wants members to call legislators to push the legislation along.

But those bills, which include a school-funding bill introduced by State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, that both the union and the district like, aren’t enough to solve the district’s fiscal woes, Lewis said.

“We are aware that the bills we’ve agreed to work with CPS on — even if they all work — still will not plug the $1.1 billion deficit” projected for the new fiscal year starting July 1, Lewis said.

That’s why CTU leaders also floated on Wednesday ideas for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to raise up to $500 million more for the broke school system.

The long shot measures CTU hopes to sell to the City Council include imposing new taxes on ridesharing services, an estimated $15 million; reinstating the corporate head tax, $94 million; and raising taxes on car rentals by 2 percent, $35 million.

And it estimates an additional $100 million available each for releasing all the tax-increment financing service surplus; assessing the valuation of commercial property taxes at 25 percent of the sale price; and doubling the gas tax to $.10 per gallon while gas prices are falling.

CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner repeated the district’s and mayor’s mantra that “everyone must play a part — Springfield, Chicagoans, CPS and the CTU.”

But, she continued, “CTU leadership cannot let Gov. Rauner and Springfield off the hook for equally funding Chicago students — and that’s exactly what this misguided proposal does. . . . Rather than throw in the towel until 2019 on a solution in Springfield, now is the time for the CTU leadership to press harder than ever for justice.”

City Hall spokeswoman Kelley Quinn shot down the revenue proposals, saying they didn’t explain the impact of the taxes on ordinary Chicagoans and were full of inaccuracies.

“Of all organizations, the Chicago Teachers Union should understand how students and taxpayers are being shortchanged by the current funding system in Springfield,” she said in an email. “Before asking Chicago taxpayers to pony up more money, we need to fix this inequity in Springfield.”

Meanwhile, negotiations to replace the contract that expired nearly a year ago continue “quite well at the table,” Lewis said. “We’re generous with one another. It’s not ugly.”

The district also believes a deal can be reached.

Bargaining began well over a year ago. Last month, an independent fact-finder issued recommendations that declared CPS’ most recent offer a fair deal for both parties. That proposal, offered in January and rejected promptly by CTU’s negotiating team, phased out a 7 percent pension benefit CPS paid for teachers but also included raises over the life of the four-year contract. It also contained several quality-of-life clauses the union has long lobbied for.

CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said he would somehow find the money to pay for those benefits, acknowledging that the broke district could no longer afford them.

The CTU struck down that deal immediately after it was made public, which started a 30-day countdown until the union could legally strike for the second time in four years.
CPS has drawn up contingency plans in case teachers stop working early. Graduation ceremonies would go on but final exams could be canceled.
Detroit Public School Resume as Pay Promise Buoys Teachers
Shawn D. Lewis, James David Dickson and Mark Hicks
The Detroit News 7:18 a.m. EDT May 4, 2016

Photo from left, DFT executive vice president Terrence Martin, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten and DFT president Ivy Bailey during a press conference at the Detroit Federation of Teachers in Detroit on May 3, 2016.

After two days of a sickout that shut most of Detroit’s public schools, the teachers union said Tuesday evening it would urge members to go back to work Wednesday after the district’s leader guaranteed they would be paid this summer.

The interim president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, Ivy Bailey, received a letter from Emergency Manager Steven Rhodes assuring that checks would not be stopped June 30 for most teachers, as Rhodes previously warned, according to a union statement.

While some issues still needed to be addressed, Bailey told reporters after a union meeting Tuesday evening that the assurance was a partial victory. “We feel we got what we asked for,” she said.

During the meeting at the Fellowship Chapel, DFT members were told of the letter and encouraged to report to school Wednesday.

Late Tuesday, DPS said it had reached a settlement with the DFT to end “the two-day strike” and issued a statement from Rhodes pledging to pay all district employees in full.

“Teachers who have earned wages and benefits during the 2015-16 school year are legally entitled to be paid in full for those services, regardless of whether they have elected the 22 or 26 cycle pay schedule,” Rhodes said. “DPS recognizes the contractual obligation to pay teachers what they have earned and we assure all teachers that we will honor that legal obligation. This same assurance applies to all similarly situated employees of DPS.”

The district said classes would resume Wednesday and that all DPS employees were paid as scheduled Tuesday.

Pete Wilson, a social worker who has been with the district more than 25 years, said many colleagues were relieved when they heard the pay had been promised. “It felt like we were united. It was a large charge for this group.”

But not everyone was satisfied. Some wanted more to be done to address issues such as class sizes in DPS, said Julie Hamburg, a preschool teacher and union member.

“They’re just placating us,” she said after the meeting. “Our demands have been completely dismissed.”

Mayor Mike Duggan praised the agreement to end the sickout in a statement Tuesday evening.

“Detroit’s public school teachers deserved to know they are going to be paid fully for their work. Now they have that assurance,” Duggan said. “I appreciate the hard work and dedication displayed by Detroit Federation of Teachers leadership, Judge Rhodes, and the governor to resolve this issue so our children can return to class tomorrow morning.”

Tuesday’s sickout closed 94 of the 97 schools in DPS, the same number as Monday.

The virtual shutdown of Michigan’s largest school district drew national attention, including from the White House. Hours before the teachers union urged members to return to work, a spokesman said President Barack Obama wanted to see the sickout ended.

“These kids aren’t getting educated, and that’s — that is a real problem, and one that the president’s deeply concerned about,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters during his daily briefing.

On Wednesday, Obama is visiting Flint to get an update on the state and federal emergency response to the city’s lead-contaminated water crisis.

DPS teachers staged the sickout after Rhodes warned over the weekend that the district would run out of money June 30 unless state lawmakers approved a long-term rescue package. That meant teachers who have chosen to spread their wages over 26 checks a year, instead of 22, would miss paychecks.

At a midday news conference in Detroit with Bailey, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called the prospect of payless paydays “tantamount to wage theft.”

Weingarten said instead of being at the White House honoring teachers around the world for Teacher Appreciation Day, “I would rather be here with my brothers and sisters.”

This school year, DPS’ 47,000 students have lost more than 1 million hours of classroom instruction because of intermittent sickouts since November by teachers upset over wage and benefit cuts, poor building conditions and other issues.

Tuesday morning, DPS employees filled West Grand Boulevard in front of the Fisher Building.

Teachers carrying picket signs expressed solidarity with colleagues who spread their paychecks over 26 weeks instead of 22, and who could miss four checks over the summer. The sound of horns honking from passing cars filled the air.

The crowd chanted: “I believe that we will win! I believe that we will win!”

Among them was Becky Szymaszek, one of about 2,400 DPS teachers who opted for receiving a smaller check each payday to ensure cash flow over the summer.

“I was planning on retiring this year, and I already submitted my paperwork, but now they’re saying there’s no money,” said Szymaszek of Sterling Heights, who teaches third-grade math at the Ronald Brown Academy. “I’ve already loaned the district $9,000 along with the other teachers and they also owe me for all the sick days I didn’t take, so before taxes, they owe me about $25,000, which is a good chunk of money.”

Szymaszek said she also was looking to buy a new home on the west side of the state. “But all of that is on hold now since the bottom fell out.”

At one point during the rally, several police cruisers were parked on corners and at least one Detroit Public Schools cruiser, lights flashing, slowly followed alongside the protesters.

“No pay, no work,” they chanted. “Shut it down!”

Protesters included Latrisha Burrell-Yeamen, a science teacher at Priest Elementary-Middle School who also spread her paychecks out over 26 weeks.

“I don’t have any money,” she said. “They’re still taking our money but not giving it back, and I’m getting ready to leave the country.”

Burrell-Yeaman said she has accepted a science teaching assignment in Dubai.

“I will be teaching abroad and my family depends on this money,” she said. “Am I supposed to work for free? Is anyone else going to work for free? Is Rhodes going to work for free?”

DPS school board member Tawanna Simpson was at the rally and said she supports the teachers standing up for themselves, but she questions the union’s strategy. Simpson singled out Bailey and David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan, and said the local’s rank and file don’t think the rescue legislation being debated in Lansing is the answer.

“I think they’re being manipulated by the DFT membership, especially Ivy Bailey and David Hecker,” she said. “I don’t think Ms. Bailey understands she’s being manipulated. The membership is not in support of the bills being proposed.”

Steve Conn, who was ousted last year as DFT president by the local’s executive board, was among the protesters. He said the sickout should be called by another name.

“This is a strike and we have got to continue to strike to victory, which means defeating Snyder’s plan to destroy our schools,” he said.

Conn carried a stack of fliers titled: “STAY OUT to defeat the Snyder Plan and win our demands.”

The fliers continued, “Sickout, walkout and stay out to defeat the Snyder Plan and to save DPS!”

Conn and other DFT dissidents want the elected Detroit school board, sidelined under state control since March 2009, restored to full power over the district. They also want the state to cancel the district’s debt.

State lawmakers, meanwhile, continue working on legislation to bail out DPS and establish a new, debt-free district. On a party-line vote Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee approved a Republican-backed $500 million package that omits a proposed Detroit Education Commission.

In March, the Senate passed a $715 million rescue plan that includes the education commission, which would oversee the opening and closing of Detroit schools, including charters.

Members of the GOP-controlled Legislature have been critical of the DFT-led sickouts, saying they make approval of more money for the district less likely.

In an interview Tuesday on WJR radio (760 AM), House Speaker Kevin Cotter said it may be necessary to replace the entire staff of DPS to improve accountability and performance.

The controversy drew the attention of U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr., who criticized Michigan lawmakers for not acting faster to shore up DPS, according to Bridge Magazine.

“The lack of concern for people is disturbing,” King said Monday at an Education Writers Association conference in Boston, according to the Bridge report.

slewis@detroitnews.com

Staff Writers Jonathan Oosting and Chad Livengood contributed.

Detroit Public Schools buildings closed Tuesday due to teacher sickouts:

1. Bagley

2. Bennett

3. Blackwell

4. Ronald Brown

5. Burton International

6. Benjamin Carson

7. Carver

8. Cass Tech

9. Clark

10. Roberto Clemente

11. Clippert

12. Cody: APL

13. Cody: DIT

14. Cody: MCH

15. Coleman Young

16. Communication Media & Arts

17. Davis Aerospace

18. Detroit Collegiate Prep

19. Detroit International Academy

20. Detroit School of Arts

21. Dixon

22. Durfee

23. Earhart

24. Emerson

25. Fisher Lower

26. Fisher Upper

27. Golightly CTC

28. Gompers

29. Greenfield Union

30. Henderson

31. Jerry L. White

32. Keidan

33. Ludington

34. Mann

35. Marquette

36. Thurgood Marshall

37. Maybury

38. Munger

39. Neinas

40. Nichols

41. Noble

42. Osborn Evergreen

43. Osborn MST

44. Osborn Prep

45. Palmer Park

46. Priest

47. Pulaski

48. Randolph High/CTC

49. Renaissance

50. Robeson/Malcolm X

51. Spain

52. West Side Academy

53. Charles Wright Academy

54. Ann Arbor Trail

55. Bates

56. Carstens

57. Cooke

58. Crockett CTC

59. Gardner

60. Western International

61. Chrysler

62. Davison

63. Detroit Lions

64. Moses Field

65. Marcus Garvey

66. Golightly Education Center

67. A.L. Holmes

68. Hutchinson

69. Pasteur

70. Turning Point Academy

71. Academy of Americas

72. Brewer

73. Charles Drew Transition Center

74. Dossin

75. Frederick Douglass

76. Duke Ellington

77. J.R. King

78. Thirkell

79. Wayne

80. Schulze

81. Carleton

82. MLK High School

83. Bow

84. East English Village

85. FLICS

86. Harms

87. Mackenzie

88. Mark Twain

89. Mason

90. Sampson

91. Bunche

92. Edison

93. Vernor

94. Fleming Early Childhood

Source: Detroit Public Schools