Friday, October 24, 2014

Egyptian Opposition Fighters Launch Second Attack in North Sinai, Three Dead
Gas pipeline in Sinai, Egypt where fighting is intensifying.
Ahram Online, Friday 24 Oct 2014

Three security personnel killed at checkpoint in Al-Arish just hours after 27 soldiers die in a car bomb attack in Sheikh Zuweid

Three members of the Egyptian security forces were killed in an attack by militants in North Sinai on Friday afternoon, just hours after a car bomb killed 27 soldiers in the region, Aswat Masriya reported.

A security source said militants opened fire at a checkpoint in Al-Arish in North Sinai. It is unclear if the latest dead are soldiers or police.

Early Friday afternoon, 27 army personnel were killed and another 30 injured when a car bomb exploded at the Karm Alkwadis security checkpoint in Sheikh Zuweid, North Sinai.

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi will hold a meeting with the National Defence Council on Friday evening to discuss the latest developments in Sinai, a presidential spokesperson said.

Over 40 security personnel have been killed in attacks in the Sinai Peninsula this week, including the two attacks on Friday.

An insurgency by jihadist groups in the peninsula has become more active since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Hundreds of police and soldiers, as well as militants, have been killed.
Death Toll Rises to 26 Soldiers From Car Bomb on Sinai Checkpoint
Egyptian soldiers on guard in the Sinai on the border with Gaza.
Ahram Online, Friday 24 Oct 2014

A bomb at a security checkpoint has killed at least 26 army conscripts and injured 26 others in the North Sinai city of Sheikh Zuwaid, the largest number of army troops to die in a single attack in North Sinai, a security source told Reuters' Aswat Masriya news website on Friday.

Aswat Masriya had earlier reported that the death toll was 29, but has since lowered the figure.

Al-Ahram's correspondent in North Sinai described the explosion as a car bomb that detonated at a security checkpoint in Karm Al-Kwadis in Sheikh Zuwaid.

The bodies of the victims and the injured soldiers have been transferred to the military hospital and the general hospital in Al-Arish, the biggest city in North Sinai, Al-Ahram's Arabic news website reported.

Medical teams are being sent to Al-Arish's military hospital, said Health Minister Adel El-Adawi.

Al-Arish's general hospital called on residents to donate blood in order to save the injured soldiers.

After the attack, Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi called for an urgent meeting with the National Defence Council to discuss the security situation in North Sinai, according to Egypt's state-run TV.

The National Defence Council is made up of the prime minister, the head of the parliament, the minister of defence and the commanders of the Egyptian armed forces, and is chaired by the president.

A militant insurgency by jihadist groups in Sinai has become more active since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Hundreds of police and army officers and personnel as well as militants have been killed in the violence.
El-Sisi Calls Urgent National Defence Council Meeting Over North Sinai Attack
Egyptian military convoy.
Ahram Online, Friday 24 Oct 2014

Egypt's president calls for emergency meeting on Friday after a car bomb killed at least 25 soldiers in North Sinai

Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi called for an urgent meeting with the National Defence Council on Friday afternoon after a militant attack on army forces in North Sinai killed at least 29 soldiers.

El-Sisi and the council will discuss the security situation in North Sinai, according to Egypt's state-run TV.

The National Defence Council is made up of the prime minister, the head of the parliament, the minister of defence and the commanders of the Egyptian armed forces, and is chaired by the president.

A car bomb detonated at an army checkpoint in Karm Al-Kwadis in the North Sinai city of Sheikh Zuwaid earlier on Friday, killing at least 25 soldiers and injuring 26, a security source told Reuters' Aswat Masriya news website.

Army helicopters have been sent to the scene to transfer the injured to hospitals, said the head of North Sinai's Doctors Syndicate, speaking with private satellite station CBC Extra News.

Al-Ahram's correspondent in North Sinai said the explosion was caused by a car bomb.

A militant insurgency by jihadist groups in Sinai has become more active since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Hundreds of police and army officers and personnel as well as militants have been killed in the violence.
Tension Rises in Egyptian Universities as Clashes Continue
Unrest continues at Cairo University.
Osman El Sharnoubi, Friday 24 Oct 2014
Ahram Online

Clashes between pro-Muslim Brotherhood students and police have taken their toll on university life

Egyptian universities kicked off the autumn term earlier this month with a shadow hanging over them. Last year was the most violent academic year in Egyptian history, with nineteen students dying in clashes with police.

The year of continuous protests and clashes took place for the most part between the police and the Students Against the Coup group which supports ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. But the strain of ongoing campus violence, including teargas, arrests, vandalism and assaults, has left its mark on the entire student body.

“There is a feeling among students that the state is trying to control universities and violate their independence,” said Wesam Ata, a student at Al-Azhar University where many of the fiercest clashes between Brotherhood-supporting students and police have taken place.

The new term started with an unfamiliar sight: uniformed security guards from a private firm called Falcon Group were checking students’ identity cards and bags on the first day of classes last week. The long queues that formed as students waited to be searched caused many complaints.

The spectacle of students being searched by uniformed guards, pictures of which made the rounds on Twitter, was a physical manifestation of other measures taken to prevent a repeat of last year’s unrest.

Ata, who is a member of the liberal Constitution Party’s student group, says while the protesters are mainly among the pro-Brotherhood students, anger is increasing among the rest of the student body.

Tightening the security grip

Several university administrations, including those of some of Egypt’s biggest universities such as Cairo University and Ain Shams University, announced a ban on any partisan or religious student societies.

An amendment to university laws earlier in the year gave university presidents to expel students without the previously mandated process of investigation. To add insult to injury, private Egyptian daily Al-Shorouk reported that university administrators are recruiting students to rat out their peers who engage in politics or violence.

The allegations in the report have not been denied by the universities.

These developments have led many students to accuse authorities of directly attacking rights they had won after the 2011 revolution.

“Resentment is spreading in the university, it’s far more than it once was,” Ata says. The rights to free expression, to organise politically, and for universities to be administratively independent, which were gained after 2011, are being eaten away, he asserts.

The post-2011 period did indeed see genuine progress for advocates of campus freedoms. For example, a despised charter governing university administration, known as the 1979 charter, was finally revoked and replaced in 2012 by a new charter that was less restrictive.

While there is contention about the current charter, the latest amendment which was approved last week by the Supreme Council for Universities, doesn’t contain the restrictions on student freedom seen in the 1979 version.

For example, the old charter had explicitly prohibited politics inside universities, and these prohibitions were abolished in the 2012 version.

Another move widely hailed as a positive development was the removal of police from campuses, to be replaced instead by administrative security forces run by each university.

But now authorities are attempting to backtrack on such developments, students say, using the violence committed by some students on campus as an excuse.

Last year saw the universities obtain authorisation from the government to allow police forces on campuses when needed. Despite police not being allowed on university grounds, there is a heavy police presence around university exits and entrances, as strict orders were given by the interior ministry not to allow protests to leave university grounds.

The Falcon company is only stationed at gates to check for weapons and explosives.

Despite the new measures, an Alexandria University student died on Tuesday from injuries sustained during clashes with police.

Footage from Alexandria circulating onlineshowed security forces volleying teargas inside university grounds while students fired fireworks at them, and many students suffering the effects of the gas, sparking outrage by some students that the state is failing to mitigate the precarious security situation.

Solving the crisis through other means

Cairo University student Mohamed El-Shafie told Ahram Online, as had the president of Helwan University’s student union Islam Fawzy, that security is first and foremost a student demand - Fawzy even revealed that hiring private security firms in universities was discussed in student unions meetings.

However El-Shafie maintains that the security solution is no way to resolve the situation, as is evident with the continuation of protests.

“Opening the university for all kinds of activities, political, intellectual, artistic, etc. is the only way the Brotherhood-led protests will be drowned out, not the opposite,” El-Shafie contends.

“When you restrict campus life to academia and only academia you create an artificial atmosphere that will perpetuate the current conditions which in turn would lead students to be angrier and eventually join the protests,” he said.

Fawzy, the Helwan Union student union head, says infringements on campus freedoms will eventually affect even apolitical students.

“There are many problems in Egyptian universities, problems with student accommodation, problems with increasing tuition, issues with security obviously; these problems affect all students, and when the administration prevents them from voicing them the student body will eventually explode,” he said.

Fawzy argues authorities are interfering in every aspect of student life and says the situation is unsustainable, specifically because the measures don’t bode well with students at large.

Such grievances were clearly articulated by the opening statement of a new student coalition launched on Saturday.

The Egyptian Students’ Coalition is comprised of several student groups including students of the prominent Moqawma student rights movement, students of the Constitution Party, the 6 April Youth Movement, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Revolutionary Socialists, the Strong Egypt Party, the Freedom for Students movement and others.

In a statement, the coalition rejected “the calm the security grip is attempting to force ignoring other means of dialogue, participation and expression.”

Authorities have spent their time “issuing a number of repressive laws and decisions against students,” the founding statement of the coalition said, and demanded the immediate release of detained students, rescinding on all “arbitrary” decisions taken against students.

The coalition specifically addressed most of the grievances expressed by students Ahram Online spoke with, including the arbitrary expulsion of students, creating informants among students and disbanding student societies.

They also demanded administrative security forces be trained to deal with security threats inside universities, instead of spending money on private security firms.

One of the students made clear they stand opposed to what they said was “the violence of the Student Against the Coup movement” just as they reject violence from security forces.

Since the beginning of the semester, dozens of students have been arrested. In the first week alone, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression - an university freedoms watchdog - reported 195 cases of student arrests. Dozens were arrested the day before the academic term kicked off.

Adamant about opposing authorities’ methods and decisions, the Egyptian Students’ Coalition said in its statement “the path of democracy and human rights and that of development must move forward in a balanced way and in parallel, and many historical examples have proved that moving forward only in the latter part, and ignoring the former will inevitably lead in the failure of the process.”
Scholar Tariq Ramadan Warns of Secular-Islamist Split Ahead of Tunisia's Polls

Karem Yehia in Tunisia, Friday 24 Oct 2014

Ramadan criticised Salafist movements for 'shallow' approach to the Quran

Prominent Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan warned of "Islamist-secular polarisation" and "dependency on the West" in Tunisia, ahead of the country's legislative elections on Sunday.

Ramadan gave his speech during an electoral conference organised by Tunisian President Moncef Al-Marzouki's Congress for the Republic Party (CPR), giving his thoughts about establishing democracies and achieving social justice.

He said he was banned from entering Tunisia for 28 years, adding that this situation had changed after the 2011 revolution, which led to the ouster of president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

A grandson of the Muslim Brotherhood's founder Hassan Al-Banna, Ramadan, a Swiss citizen, is an internationally known scholar associated with a progressive interpretation of Islam.

During the conference, he criticised Salafist movements in the North African country. "They read Quran based on a shallow approach", argued Ramadan, who is a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University. "As Muslims of this age, we cannot stand against the humanitarian principles of democracy including respect of ballot boxes, separation of powers, rotation of power and accountability of rulers."

Ramadan slammed "mixing politics with religion" and stated that "good citizens do not impose their religious ideas on others". But the academic rejected comparisons between the Islamic State (IS) militants and Tunisia's Islamist Ennahda party.

Ennahda is one of the strongest parties participating in Sunday's polls. The party, under the leadership of Rachid Ghannouchi, secured a majority with 41 percent of seats during the post-Ben Ali constituent assembly elections in 2011. After the elections, Ennahda headed a "troika" coalition government with two secular parties, the CFR and the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties Party (Ettakatol).

However, political clashes with other parties over Ennahda's perceptions about Islam and the killing of two opposition figures - Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi - has pushed the country towards anti-government protests. Ennahda agreed to hand in authority to a transitional government earlier this year in a deal finalised with secular parties and brokered by the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT).

Ramadan emphasised that "he did not come to support a certain political party" and described himself as a "friend to all Tunisians."

But informed sources who preferred to remain anonymous told Ahram Online that Ramadan is a friend of Ghannouchi, believing that his speech at such point of time indicates a "symbolic message of support" from the Ennahda leader to Marzouki's CPR as an ex-coalition partner.

This claim comes in contradiction with Tunisian media reports which reported this week that Ennahda would not back the CPR in the coming parliamentary race.

The sources pointed out that the "majority of the audience" who attended Ramadan's speech represents a "combination of Ennahda and CPR youth."

Ramadan also called on Tunisia to diversify its international ties and revisit its relationship with Europe and France, saying that the latter has to understand that North Africa is no longer under its control.
Tunisia Policeman Killed in Pre-election Clash With Militants
Tunisian security forces have raided what they said was an
Islamist base.
Thu, Oct 23 2014
By Heba al-Shibani

OUED ELLIL Tunisia (Reuters) - A Tunisian policeman was killed and another wounded on Thursday when security forces clashed with Islamist militants on the outskirts of Tunis, three days before parliamentary elections which voters hope will help them advance toward full democracy.
Police negotiators in the suburb Oued Ellil to the west of Tunis were trying to persuade militants to give themselves up after the house they were in was surrounded following heavy exchanges of gunfire, officials and a Reuters witness said.

Heavily armed security forces used tear gas and stun grenades to try to force at least two suspected militants out of the house, in which officials said several women and children were being held.

"We've called on them to let the woman and children out, but they refused ... they are family members," interior ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Aroui told reporters. "We have to move cautiously here."

Tunisia has struggled to subdue hardline Islamists and jihadists opposed to the transition to democracy following the 2011 fall of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, and the military has cracked down hard on militants in the run up to the election.

Security and economic development are major concerns for Tunisians voters who hope the poll will consolidate the country's democracy after a year of political disputes that almost scuttled the transition process.

Tunisia on Thursday also closed border crossing points with Libya for most traffic as a security measure, officials said. With Libya struggling to control Islamist militants and armed factions, neighbors like Tunisia are worried about spillover.

Aroui said that as part of pre-emptive raids, security forces also captured two suspected militants in Kebeli in the south of Tunisia who had ties to the group in Oued Ellil.

Earlier this month, security forces arrested a group of Islamist militants, including two women, saying they were planning attacks in the capital before the vote.

Since the 2011 revolt, Tunisia has advanced toward full democracy, unlike the region's other countries where Arab Spring uprisings brought about changes of government.

Among militant groups operating there is Ansar al Sharia, which the United States considers a terrorist organization and blames for a 2012 attack on the U.S. embassy in Tunis.

Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa said recently Tunisia has arrested some 1,500 suspected jihadists this year, among them hundreds who fought in Syria's civil war and could pose a danger at home.

Four years after street protests forced Ben Ali and his entourage to flee to Saudi Arabia, driven out by anger over corruption and repression, Tunisia's transition has been praised as a model for an unstable region.

But the new government needs to take on the low-intensity conflict with Islamist militants as well with pressure from international lenders to reform public spending subsidies to curb a deficit without stoking social tensions.

(Additional reporting by Mohamed Agoubi and Tarek Amara, Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Lisa Shumaker)
Mali Isolates Nurses Amid Alarm After First Ebola Case
Map highlighting the West African state of Mali.

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Nurses and other people who have come into contact with the first Ebola patient in Mali were isolated on Friday as concerns mounted that an epidemic that has killed 4,900 people in neighbouring West African states could take hold in the country.

Mali confirmed its first case of Ebola on Thursday and said the two-year-old girl was being treated in the western town of Kayes. She was brought by relatives from neighbouring Guinea, where the epidemic was detected in March, after her mother died of the disease.

On the dusty streets of the capital Bamako, residents voiced alarm after health officials said the girl had spent 10 days in the city's Bagadadji district before travelling on Sunday to Kayes, some 400 km to the northwest near the Senegalese border.

"I am afraid because, with my job, I am in permanent contact with people but I can't afford to just stop," said taxi driver Hamidou Bamba, 46, in Bamako. "Today is Friday so let us pray to Allah that this disease will not spread in Mali."

Diplomatic sources also expressed concern about the preparedness of the poor nation to contain an outbreak that has ravaged three neighbouring countries. Mali, home to a large U.N. peacekeeping mission, is still battling northern Islamists after a brief French-led war last year.

One diplomatic source, briefed by authorities, said the girl was showing symptoms of the disease when she arrived in Kayes, three days before she was isolated for suspected Ebola.

Six nurses who treated the girl at a hospital in Kayes had been isolated for treatment, the source said, but noted it was not clear how quickly this was done. The girl first came for treatment on Monday but was not confirmed to have the disease until Thursday.

A further 26 contacts had been isolated at the CNAM national medical centre in Bamako, the source said.

A Malian Health Ministry official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters that authorities estimated that at least 300 people had been in contact with the infected child.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was sending experts to help Mali fight the outbreak. The U.N. health agency says at least 4,877 people are recorded to have died from the epidemic - mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - though the actual death toll is likely to be several times higher.


Hours before Mali confirmed the case, WHO Assistant Director-General Keiji Fukuda said the agency had "reasonable confidence" that there was not widespread transmission of the Ebola virus into neighbouring countries.

Mali, together with cocoa producer Ivory Coast, has put in place border controls to stem the stop Ebola at its frontiers. However, a visit to Mali's border with Guinea by Reuters this month showed vehicles avoiding a health checkpoint set up by Malian authorities by simply driving through the bush.

Ivory Coast - the world's largest producer of the raw material for chocolate - was also on alert after Guinean authorities informed them that an Ivorian doctor working in Guinea had slipped surveillance and headed for the border after discovering one of his patients had contracted Ebola.

"He disappeared on Wednesday. We don't know if he actually crossed the border," said Daouda Coulibaly, head of the epidemiological monitoring service at the National Health Institute and the leader of the Ebola effort.

"He's a contact person. This isn't a case of infection. We're asking him to contact our health authorities."

A mission from the Red Cross was travelling to Mali to provide authorities with support, alongside medical charities Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and Alima.

"I am afraid, but I trust our health authorities," said Mariam Diawara, a 39-year-old project manager in Bamako. "After a moment of panic, the best thing we can do now is to inform and educate the population about this disease and how to protect themselves."

(Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Alison Williams)
Nina Pham, Dallas Nurse Who Had Ebola, Has Been Released From Hospital
Nurse Nina Pham left the National Institute of Health on Oct. 24,
New York Times
OCT. 24, 2014

Nina Pham was escorted out of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., on Friday by Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Jubiliantly declaring that “hope just went up a notch today,” Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said Friday that the first person infected with Ebola in the United States is now virus free.

Nina Pham, a 26-year-old nurse who was infected while caring for a Liberian patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, headed from Bethesda to Washington to meet with President Obama at the White House, and then planned to return home to Dallas.

In brief remarks to reporters outside the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Ms. Pham beamed as she thanked God, her family, and her friends. Flanked by her sister and her mother, she called the infection “very stressful and challenging,” and said she was looking forward to reuniting with her dog, Bent
Abayomi Azikiwe Interview With Real News Network: United Nations Issues Statement on Human Rights Violations in Detroit
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire.
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire says mass struggle against the powers that be is required in Detroit  

October 22, 2014
Real News Network

To watch this interview with Abayomi Azikiwe just click on the URLs below:

Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire, an electronic press agency that was founded in 1998. He has worked as a broadcast journalist for the last 14 years, and has worked for decades in solidarity with the liberation movements and progressive governments on the African continent and the Caribbean. Azikiwe is the co-founder of several Detroit-area organizations including: The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice, and the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs. Between 2007-2011 Azikiwe served as the chairperson of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights(MCHR) and is currently the president of the organization.


UN Issues Statement on Human Rights Violations in Detroit

PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.

Detroit is undergoing large-scale water disconnections. This year alone at least 27,000 households have had their services disconnected. The scale of the water shutoffs carried out by a third-party company has reached unbearable proportions for people living in Detroit. Let's have a look at what some of them had to say.
DETROIT RESIDENT: I'm a single mother mother of five children, so going without water is a major, major problem, major issue.
DETROIT RESIDENT: So my water has been cut off three times. I [incompr.] water company, and she just told me I owed them $135. They turned my water off for $135.
PROTESTERS: Water is a human right! Stop the water shut offs!
PROTESTERS: [snip] the water. No more shutoffs! One! We are the people! Two! We are united! Three!
PERIES: The conditions are so bad that two United Nations special rapporteurs were invited to Detroit by a number of community groups: the special rapporteur on human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, and the other one on adequate housing and standard of living without discrimination. They heard from residents, council members, the mayor, and congressmen. In their joint statement, they said that the human rights to safe drinking water, sanitation, and adequate housing both derive from the right to an adequate standard of living protected under Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Now joining us from Detroit to talk about the report and the conditions is Abayomi Azikiwe. Abayomi is the editor of Pan-African News Wire, cofounder of several Detroit-area organizations, including the Detroit Coalition against Police Brutality, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice, and the Moratorium Now Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions, and Utility Shutoffs. He's also the president of Michigan Coalition for Human Rights.

Thank you so much for joining us, Abayomi.


PERIES: Abayomi, the report obviously puts a great deal of pressure on those running Detroit--the mayor, congressman, the council members. Are they in violation of Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

AZIKIWE: They are, on that article as well as many others. The situation here in the city of Detroit--water, their lack of access to affordable water, is one aspect of a much broader crisis which has developed over decades as a result of the restructuring of the overall system here in the city of Detroit. We have massive downsizing in the auto industry, the steel industry. This, of course, has impacted the economy in a myriad of ways, increasing poverty and at same time engendering massive home foreclosures and evictions. And, of course, this is clearly related to the water issue, because there are literally thousands upon thousands of abandoned industrial, commercial, as well as residential structures in the city where water is running and it is not being shut off by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. So they do not acknowledge the fact that their own system is broken. And the compensation for that, of course, is being passed on to poor and working people who still live here in the city.

PERIES: Abayomi, when the rapporteurs came, they spoke to various officials. Were you privy to what they said, how they defended themselves?

AZIKIWE: No. I know there was a meeting with the mayor on yesterday, which was October 20. And after the meeting, his media spokesperson, who was a former corporate media personality, did not agree with the statement that was issued by the United Nations rapporteurs. But that's to be accepted, because the current administration in Detroit is one which is oriented towards the corporate community, towards the banks, and they do not want to hear anything that's critical of their existing policies, which in fact favor a very small percentage of the people who live in the city or who have business interests in the city. So the mayor's office rejected even a statement that was issued by the two representatives from the United Nations that were here in Detroit over the last several days.

PERIES: What do you mean he just rejected what was reported or the joint statement by the rapporteurs?

AZIKIWE: They said, in effect, that the United Nations rapporteurs already had their minds made up prior to the meeting. But what they did not acknowledge was the fact that the day before, which was October 19, there was about 400 Detroit residents who met with the rapporteur in a town hall meeting in Wayne County Community College located downtown. And so many people wanted to speak, and they were not able to speak, to fully voice their concerns, their issues, their actual experiences about the conditions prevailing in relationship to access to water, as well as housing. But just that narrow window of vision that the United Nations was privy to on Sunday, October 19, was enough for them to conclude that this city has serious problems and that it is not concerned, from an official level, about providing affordable water for people to drink.

Now, this issue of water was also litigated in the federal bankruptcy trial, which is still going on in Detroit. A class-action lawsuit was brought before a judge, Steven Rhodes, in July. There was an actual trial that took place in September. And Rhodes' conclusion was that harm is being done to people who have their water shut off in the city of Detroit, thousands upon thousands of households.

But at the same time, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department needs money, and people have to pay their bills, even though they cannot afford to pay their bills. Well, the fact is, people cannot pay their bills, because this system is so inadequate, inefficient, that people are getting bills that are way out of proportion to their uses of water. People are being forced to pay for damage that has being done as a result of the lack of the infrastructural repair. There's also the question of the role of the banks and in terms of taking well over $500 million out of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department in 2012 to terminate interest rate swaps. These swaps were held by some of the leading banks in the United States, and indeed in the world.

So none of these aspects of the water crisis were discussed on Sunday, October 19. They were raised in a private meeting with some attorneys who were involved in litigating the class-action lawsuit in federal bankruptcy court.

But the city is, of course, a city administration that is backed by the, for lack of a better term, 1 percent that dominate the entertainment, finance, and industrial sectors of the economy here in Detroit. And they don't want to acknowledge the fact that the overwhelming majority of people here in this city do not have access to basic services, they don't have access to due process on a local, statewide, and even on a federal level, because the judge ruled against the victims of the water shutoffs. And several community organizations, such as the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, which has been fighting the water crisis not just from the standpoint of the shutoffs, but also pointing out that the industrial and finance abandonment of the city and the draining of the city resources through these bogus bond issues is really at the root of the crisis.

PERIES: One of the things that the report is saying is that "Ensuring freedom from discrimination does not mean that everyone should be treated equally when their circumstances are different. Water and sanitation does not have to be free. It must rather be affordable for all. The price cannot put a household in debt or limit access to essential services such as food or medicine. A human rights framework provides that people should not be deprived of these rights if they cannot pay the bill for reasons beyond their control."

So if all of this is guaranteed in the Universal Declaration Article 25, how are the residents, who seems to be quite organized, how do you plan to fight back?

AZIKIWE: Well, we have to build a mass struggle against the powers that be here in the city of Detroit, the financial institutions, the corporations that have complete dominance over policy formulation and implementation here in the city of Detroit. It's obvious that the city administration the local courts, the state courts, and even the federal courts are not sympathetic to the plight of working people and the poor not only in Detroit, but also across the country, because this bankruptcy proceeding that's going on right now in Detroit has national implications.

So the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a sterling document that was initially published in 1948. However, it does not have any enforcement or binding powers in regard to United States law and the overall administration of United States law. So it's a good platform for people to articulate the concerns and their demands, but power has to come from an organized and mobilized political movement, and that's what is really needed here in the city of Detroit during this time period. But it's quite obvious that the courts are not supporting the fundamental human rights or even civil rights of the majority of the people here in the city of Detroit.

PERIES: Abayomi, this is a story we'll be continuing to follow on The Real News Network, and I hope you come back and keep us informed.

AZIKIWE: Thank you for the invitation.

PERIES: And thank you for joining us on Real News Network.
Exclusive: Chad Says Nigeria Deal With Boko Haram to Free Girls Still On
Nigerian demonstration on Oct.17, 2014.
7:22am EDT
By Emma Farge and Moumine Ngarmbassa

N'DJAMENA (Reuters) - Chad said it believed Nigeria's secret deal with Boko Haram Islamists to free more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls would go ahead despite the breakdown of a truce, and revealed that the key to the agreement was a prisoner swap.

 The accord mediated by Chad for the release of the girls seized from Chibok in northeast Nigeria in April has been called into question since it was announced by the Nigerian military last week. A ceasefire supposed to be part of the agreement has been broken, and a further 25 girls were abducted this week.

 Moussa Mahamat Dago, the No. 2 official at Chad's foreign ministry, said it appeared some Boko Haram factions were refusing to abide by the deal, brokered by the Chadian foreign minister with two representatives of the Islamist group and two Nigerian negotiators at meetings in Chad on Sept. 14 and 30.

"Quite possibly those who are fighting are dissidents that even they (Boko Haram) aren't able to control. So far, there is no reason for others to doubt this agreement," Dago told Reuters late on Thursday in the Chadian capital N'Djamena.

"What I can say is that those that negotiated with the Nigerian government did so in good faith ... We are waiting for the next phase which is the release of the girls."

Dago said the two sides agreed verbally to a series of points summarized in a document he had seen, including the release of the schoolgirls and of jailed Boko Haram fighters.

The Nigerian insurgent group, which has fought a bloody five-year revolt mostly in the northeast, has said it wants to carve out an Islamist enclave in the religiously-mixed nation, Africa's top oil producer and biggest economy.

"The starting condition of Boko Haram was the liberation of some of their members ... That is the compensation," Dago said, adding that the specifics on the names and number of Boko Haram fighters still to be released had not yet been agreed.

Dago said he still expected the girls to be freed, without giving a time frame. The Boko Haram negotiators were no longer in Chad although they had agreed to return in October after freeing the girls to hold more talks, he added.

The first stage of the agreement made was the release of a group of 27 Chinese and Cameroonian hostages by Boko Haram two weeks ago in northern Cameroon, Dago said. [ID:nnL6N0S603O]

"We remain optimistic. The two sides agreed to find a negotiated solution and to show their good faith they already freed some hostages and announced a ceasefire," he said.

Dago admitted it would be embarrassing for Chadian President Idriss Deby's government, which has taken a leading role in security and diplomacy in Africa's turbulent Sahel region in recent years, if the girls were not freed.

"It would be very disappointing. We are engaged in this now. If this negotiation doesn't succeed that would be damaging for Chad's facilitating role," he said.


The release of the girls would be a boost for Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who faces an election in February and has been pilloried at home and abroad for his slow response to the kidnapping and his inability to quell the insurgency.

Boko Haram has not yet commented on the ceasefire. Its fighters have killed thousands of people in raids mostly in Nigeria's northeast but have also claimed sporadic bomb attacks in the federal capital Abuja and the commercial hub Lagos.

Dago said he was confident that the negotiators had the authority to speak on behalf of Boko Haram's mercurial and reclusive leader Abubakar Shekau, whom Nigeria's military has more than once claimed to have killed.

"They are envoys who answer to their leader Shekau who himself confirmed that these emissaries spoke on his behalf. That was confirmed in writing to the Chadian government," he said, confirming local press reports that the negotiators were named Cheikh Goni Hassane and Cheikh Boukar Umarou.

Chad does not know where the abducted Chibok girls are being held, but Dago said it was likely they were outside of Chad and spread out over a wide area.

The Chinese hostages freed earlier under the agreement were found scattered across northern Cameroon, he said.

"They (Boko Haram) gave us guarantees that the girls are well but we don't know physically where they are," he said.

 "But they have certainly dispersed them like the Chinese hostages, who were spread out over a large area."

The two parties planned to meet again for a third time in Chad after the release of the schoolgirls to draft a roadmap to tackle more fundamental issues, Dago said.

"For the next stage of negotiations, the girls need to be freed. We cannot go into details as long as this question remains and it is a requirement of Chad that the girls are released before we start the next stage of talks," he said.

(Editing by Daniel Flynn/Pascal Fletcher and Philippa Fletcher)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Boko Haram Seizes 25 Girls From Nigeria Town
Kidnapped high school students from Chibok.
Thursday, October 23, 2014, 21:45

Suspected Boko Haram militants kidnapped at least 25 girls in an attack on a remote town in northeastern Nigeria, witnesses said, despite talks on freeing over 200 other female hostages they seized in April.

John Kwaghe, who witnessed the attack and lost three daughters to the abductors, and Dorathy Tizhe, who lost two, said the kidnappers came late in the night, forcing all the women to go with them, then later releasing the older ones. The attack cast further doubt on government reports that it has secretly reached a temporary ceasefire with the rebels to secure the release of more than 200 schoolgirls they are holding hostage.

Parental plea

“We are confused that hours after the so-called ceasefire agreement has been entered between the Federal Government and Boko Haram insurgents, our girls were abducted by the insurgents,” Mr Kwaghe said. “We urge the government to please help rescue our daughters without further delay, as we are ready to die searching.”

Nearly a week after the government announced a ceasefire deal with Boko Haram, which it said would include the release of the girls kidnapped from the secondary school in Chibok in northeastern Nigeria in April, there is still no sign of them being freed.

Talks to release the schoolgirls are taking place this week between the government and a Boko Haram representative in the Chadian capital N’Djamena, but they are shrouded in secrecy.

In a separate attack, a bomb exploded late on Wednesday at a bus station in the town of Azare in northern Nigeria’s Bauchi state, killing at least five people and wounding 12, police said. They did not say who was behind the attack, although Boko Haram is likely to be the prime suspect.

The insurgents have repeatedly bombed public places since launching an uprising demanding an Islamic state in religiously mixed Nigeria five years ago. They have stepped up their campaign this year, setting off blasts across the country that killed hundreds.

They have killed many thousands and are increasingly targeting civilians in violence seen as the biggest threat to the stability of Africa’s biggest economy and top oil producer.

“Five persons burned beyond recognition were certified dead, while 12 others sustained various degrees of injuries,” Bauchi police spokesman Haruna Mohammed said in a statement. “The entire surrounding [area] has been cordoned off . . . No arrest has yet been made, but an investigation has commenced.”

The attacks have raised doubts over the ceasefire, although Boko Haram is so factionalised it is possible a truce has been reached with one group while others continue with violence.

– (Reuters)
Let's Speak the Language We Dream In
Mandla Langa writes on South African language and literature.
African writers must embrace their own tongues lest we drown in an English-dominated world

17 Oct 2014 00:00
Mandla Langa

The vexed question of language dominated last Wednesday evening’s launch of my novel The Texture of Shadows at the auditorium of the Steve Biko Centre in Ginsberg in the Eastern Cape.

Earlier in the day I had visited the museum, library and archive. Stammering with memory and unresolved aspirations, the images, artefacts and an encounter with the widowed Ntsiki Biko at the centre took me back to the heyday of the black consciousness movement, as did the visit to Biko’s well-tended grave. It had originally been planned as a mausoleum. Uncomfortable with ostentation in a region struggling with the deaths of young people from HIV and Aids, the Steve Biko Foundation quickly scotched this notion.

One was struck by the age disparity of the audience at the launch. It was comprised mainly of very young people and very old people, as though the cohorts of those aged between their mid-20s and mid-30s had simply disappeared. This, therefore, meant those who had just woken up to the realities of what it meant to be young, black and poor in a democratic state had a shared experience with those who were once young, black and poor in an apartheid state.

It is impossible – unless one is fatally oblivious to one’s surroundings – to ignore the effect of language, of English, when one is faced with an audience that is overwhelmingly black. The Eastern Cape is a region once blessed with an unerring cultural instinct; it gave us Enoch Sontonga, SEK Mqhayi, Tiyo Soga and AC Jordan, and it formed the epicentre of the struggle against apartheid.

Today, in the Eastern Cape, there is no mistaking the decline of isiXhosa as a language of discourse. Whereas KwaZulu-Natal, for instance, boasts a vibrant resurgence of isiZulu, from the initiatives at tertiary institutions to burgeoning isiZulu-language newspapers such as Ilanga and Isolezwe and an isiZulu version of the Sunday Times, the Eastern Cape has lost most of its flagship isiXhosa titles.

The indigenous languages might experience differing degrees of marginalisation, with some possibly getting a better deal, but the stubborn fact is that they are all being marginalised.

Though some black people might find this unpalatable, I believe that we are the main architects of the destruction of our languages. For a reason that’s possibly not hard to find, we have relegated our languages to second-class status. Even in instances where we could have communicated differently, we have opted to use English – even in meetings where almost all members of the community speak one indigenous language or another.

Leaders address congregations of black people, at funerals, rallies or in media broadcasts, in a language hardly spoken by the community – sometimes barely by the leader himself. This makes us easy victims of misinterpretation. We’re also likely to reflect what we’re thinking in, say, Setswana or Tshivenda, in English, with disastrous consequences. This is possibly why we have no parallel when it comes to interlocutors claiming to have been quoted out of context.

Now, the man or woman “on the ground” has no choice but to listen and make the best of a bad bargain when faced with official bombast in English. Parents are the ones who will scrimp and scrape to put their child into school, for the simple optimistic reason that their charge would, one day, use the education to deliver them from poverty. English is the most important element of a code to decipher the hieroglyphics of power and prestige.

All this, however, is a carry-over from an unaddressed past. It is a past that hangs over the present and gives it shape and content. It is a past of inequalities and iniquities where for centuries language has been used to subjugate and brainwash. One might say that we fared a lot better than the slaves plucked from Africa to enrich the West and give it the arrogance to turn a scornful gaze on the continent and call her children benighted and shiftless. This past goes to the very heart of our culture.

One would like to believe that bodies such as the Pan South African Language Board, which is charged with protecting and promoting people’s linguistic rights, are doing their best. Their efforts, however, are subverted by attitudes that come from policy weaknesses.

One believes that South Africa is a country with a wide gulf between intention and implementation. As a former regulator in broadcasting and telecommunications, I’m still baffled by the fact that today, in 2014, we still have local content quotas.

Go anywhere in the world – in Brazil, for instance, you’re under no illusion on hitting Rio that you’re in Brazil. The music, the films, the telenovelas are all homegrown. Local content is the norm.

I will not go into the shark-infested waters of affirmative action in a country that is overwhelmingly black.

On the question of language, an issue arises about black writers writing in English. I remember our poet laureate, Keorapetse Kgositsile, telling me how Mazisi Kunene used to refer to the English used by African writers as “Fanakalo”.

When this came up at the launch, I had a moment of déjà vu, taken back to some of the no-holds-barred debates among writers and scholars at the Africa Centre on Covent Garden, or at a book fair hosted by the Camden Centre on Bidborough Street, in the London of our exile. There, you’d have the celebrated Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o holding forth on why he would henceforth write in his native Kikuyu. Someone, perhaps Nuruddin Farah, would counter that Ngugi was free to hold such views because he knew he would be translated almost immediately on publication.

My belief is that writers have to write. They have to use the tools at their disposal. Language is one of the major tools. But the language has to be informed or underpinned by skill, because writing is a craft.

One of the biggest problems facing South African writers of every stripe is impatience to be published. The second, which leads wannabe writers to file off intemperate missives, is to take rejection personally and ascribe race or some form of negrophobia as the reason. In my short life on this earth I have come across numerous disappointed white writers; two or three of them have blamed transformation for their rejection.

South Africa has been blessed with writers such as the late Nadine Gordimer, who understood that, sometimes, people – black and white – had to write in the colonialist’s language to write against the colonialist. I believe that language has to be appropriated and tempered – what we call “ukukokotela” in the parlance of the street – and express what needs to be conveyed.

English has become another language. This is what the world has to confront. Yet the writer who has appropriated English, in whatever form, has to know that it is a language laced with poison.

Gabriel Okara wrote The Voice, a novel of immense beauty, in the Ijaw idiom of Nigeria. Reading this story of struggle and commitment, the reader forgets that the vehicle carrying the story forth is English, and the sensibility towards redemption is Nigerian.

This, however, does mean that the powers that be have to be more coherent in the championing of all our languages. The scholars, publishers, writers and researchers have to collaborate in this quest.

There are commissions galore on the question of language, but they have to be harmonised. Our institutions have to resuscitate literary prizes for literature in indigenous languages. These are baby steps. The bigger step is for government to intervene and take control and remember it is governing in the interest of the majority.

Or else there’ll be service delivery protests by people who will demand to be addressed in the languages of their dreams.

The Texture of Shadows is published by Picador Africa. Mandla Langa’s previous novel, The Lost Colours of the Chameleon, won the 2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best Book award, Africa region.
Military Observers to Deploy in Mozambique
FRELIMO President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique was recently
October 23, 2014

MAPUTO. — Military observers from up to nine countries will be deployed across Mozambique later this month to ensure post-election tensions do not spell a return to violence.

Government minister Jose Pacheco said details of the mission were still “a work in progress”, but the deployment will begin on October 29.

The soldiers are part of a 90-plus African, European and North American observer mission tasked with monitoring a cessation of hostilities between the Frelimo-led government and their electoral opponents in Renamo.

“We decided that from (the) 29th this month, the military observers will be deployed into the four provinces,” Pacheco said naming Sofala and Tete provinces (in central Mozambique), Nampula (north) and Inhambane (south).

Renamo and Frelimo waged a 16-year war that ended in 1992, but not before causing the deaths of an estimated one million people.

After a 20-year hiatus that saw Mozambique emerge from Cold War chaos, Renamo’s leader Afonso Dhlakama returned to the bush in late 2012 and his supporters began a low-level insurgency.

A deal was reached in September to end that second, less bloody, conflict.

Pacheco said the personnel — who are expected to be drawn from Botswana, Britain, Cape Verde, Italy, Kenya, Portugal, South Africa, the United States and Zimbabwe — would help the next step in the peace deal.

He hoped the mission would “create the conditions to start to integrate Renamo soldiers into the Mozambican police and military.”

Dhlakama and his supporters accuse Frelimo — which is on course to win recent elections by a landslide — of abusing power and call for a bigger slice of Mozambique’s natural resource wealth.

Foreign observers on Tuesday voiced concern over alleged irregularities in the counting of votes from last week’s presidential and legislative polls.

Provisional tallies by the national electoral commission so far are showing the ruling Frelimo party, in power since independence in 1975, leading with around 60 percent of the votes.

— AFP.
Somalia Asks Sierra Leone Troops be Excluded From AMISOM Rotation
Sierra Leone troops being inspected by AFRICOM.
October 23, 2014

Somali leaders have asked that troops from Sierra Leone be excluded from African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) rotations due to the threat of Ebola, Somalia's RBC Radio reported Wednesday (October 23rd).

"To avoid the potential risk of transporting Ebola into our country, we have raised our concern to the African Union and the government of Sierra Leone," Speaker of the Parliament Mohamed Osman Jawari told the legislature Wednesday. "We have written officially to these entities and told them to stop troops' rotation."

"We are driven by the fact that our people are very vulnerable to the spread of the disease and we need to stand for the wellbeing of our citizens," he said.

Last week, a Sierra Leonean soldier was diagnosed with Ebola, though the country's government said he had not been in contact with the troops meant to be deployed to Somalia.

Also on Wednesday, Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed said he discussed the Ebola issue with African Union officials and had ordered increased measures to prevent the spread of Ebola into Somalia, describing the virus as a "serious issue" which must be treated accordingly.

"We want the AU, together with our officials, to make sure that the rotation of troops from any affected country is suspended," he said.

The ministries of health and national security and all responsible government officials have been ordered to monitor the country's airports, borders and other locations to prevent the virus from entering Somalia, Ahmed said.
Somalian Pirates Still Holding 37 Sailors: UN Official
Somalian pirates on boat patrolling the ocean.
07:11 23/10/2014

NEW YORK, October 23 (RIA Novosti) - Somali pirates are still holding 37 sailors, raising serious international concern, UN official Jeffrey Feltman stated.

"Somali pirates are still holding 37 seafarers, which is a matter of serious international concern," Feltman said Wednesday, when reporting a decline in piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia.

"Piracy off the coast of Somalia is one of the manifestations of a political problem, requiring a political solution. State collapse in Somalia and other political challenges lie at the root of the problem. Without the continued deterrence support provided by the international naval presence, the self-protection measures adopted by the shipping industry, and until such time as capacity-building efforts ashore have sufficient effect, large scale piracy may potentially return," he stated.

On September 24, a high-level meeting was convened in the United Nations on Somalia on the margins of the General Assembly debate "Implementing Vision 2016: Inclusive Politics in Action". It highlighted national reconciliation, the creation of electoral institutions, reinforcement of the rule of law as well as the delivery of public services. The meeting was co-chaired by Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

"The international community must continue to support the Somali Government in its efforts to deliver on its commitments outlined in Vision 2016 and the Somali Compact," Feltman added.
He additionally noted that "counter-piracy efforts should be an integral part of Somalia's state-building process".
Sustained Response to Somalia Piracy Requires Effective State Governance – UN Political Chief
Somalia pirates on the coast of the Horn of Africa state.
United Nations News Center

22 October 2014 – While noting the progress made to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia, the United Nations political chief today said that a sustained long-term solution must include the presence of effective Government and State institutions that provide basic services and alternative ways for people to make a living.

Briefing the Security Council on piracy off the coast of the east African nation, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman today said that this multi-pronged approach may be “a daunting, but unavoidable task, for it will enable Somalia to effectively address, and ultimately defeat, piracy.”

“We should not only ask what more needs to be done to ensure that the scourge does not return, but also what kind of support could be provided to Somalia so that the country is able to respond to the threat of piracy without dependence on the countries support of international navies,” he said.

The decline in pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia is an opportunity to review current efforts and take a long-term perspective on how best to contain Somali piracy including by addressing underlying conditions conducive to breeding piracy, such as political instability and the lack of alternative livelihoods.

“State collapse in Somalia and other political challenges lie at the root of the problem,” Feltman said, adding that this was acknowledged in relevant Security Council resolutions, including the most recent resolution 2125 (2013). Mr. Feltman also introduced to the Council the Secretary-General’s report on piracy submitted pursuant to that resolution.

Since the adoption of the first Security Council resolution on the matter in June 2008, some of the most urgent responses have revolved around the “twin axes of deterring pirate attacks and prosecuting and sanctioning of pirates,” he said.

Coordinated efforts by Member States, organizations and the maritime industry have caused incidents of piracy reported off the coast of Somalia to drop to their lowest levels in recent years. Indeed, the last time a large commercial vessel was hijacked was more than two years ago.

However, Mr. Feltman warns, that progress is in danger of reversing without continued deterrence from the international naval presence and the self-protection measures adopted by the shipping industry.

“This progress is fragile and reversible. We still see pirates attempting to attack vessels and capture them for ransom,” Mr. Feltman told the Council.

State-building and inclusive governance efforts in Somalia must be led and owned by Somalis themselves, he underscored. Moreover, the international community must continue to support the Somali Government in its efforts to deliver on its commitments outlined in Vision 2016 and the Somali Compact. Meanwhile, the UN must be involved in helping strengthen the capacity of Somalia and other region countries to prosecute pirates and to sanction those convicted.

“It is imperative that more nations criminalise piracy on the basis of international law as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said, emphasizing the need to deter the financing of piracy and the laundering of ransom money.

It is critical that the international community support regional efforts to implement the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (2050 AIM Strategy), adopted by the African Union and other regional players to enable countries in the region to better address this scourge.

As it stands now, Somali pirates continue to hold 37 seafarers, which remains a matter of serious international concern. It is crucial that all efforts are made to secure and promptly release all hostages.
Somalia State-Building: The State of State-Building

By Anthony Morland

Nairobi — A fence-mending deal signed this month by Somalia and Puntland has variously been hailed as a blueprint for stability and state-building in the wake of decades of civil war, and dismissed as a recipe for renewed inter-clan violence.

The 14 October agreement between the Mogadishu-based Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and the autonomous Puntland State covers issues including bilateral relations, contentious political boundaries and national security.

The self-declared independent republic of Somaliland, which lies to the west of Puntland, said it felt threatened by the prospect of the new joint military force outlined in the agreement.

Federalism and its discontents

"Federal member states" are, according to a provisional constitution, the future building blocks of a more stable Somalia, but the process of creating them has been very contentious.

One of the key points of the agreement was to reassure Puntland that the nascent FGS-endorsed Central Regions State would not include any territory currently under Puntland's jurisdiction. (Puntland had in July cut ties with Mogadishu over the perceived inclusion of northern Mudug Province in Central Regions State.)

According to its final clause, the 14 October agreement, which was endorsed by the envoys of the UN, European Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), "ends any misunderstanding between the two parties and ushers in a new era of collaboration and cooperation to further enhance the ongoing state-building process at national and state levels and to address security matters."

Nuur Mohamud Sheekh, senior political adviser at IGAD, a grouping of regional states, explained the broader importance of the deal.

"The major significance is that it normalizes the relations between the FGS and Puntland. Prior to this, relations were at an all-time low and characterized by suspicion, especially after the Mogadishu government supported the formation of the Central State," he told IRIN.

African Union envoy Maman Sidikou said the deal could "serve as a blueprint for resolving differences in other Somali regions so that all efforts can be focused on providing peace and prosperity for all Somalis."

Some leaders from the emerging Central Regions State disagreed, reacting to the agreement with outrage, mainly because it reinforces the division of the Mudug Region along clan lines.

"This agreement goes against the provisional constitution of Somalia that clearly states that federal member states can only be formed through the amalgamation of two or more [whole] regions that existed prior to the [1991] downfall of Somalia's last central government," said Hassan Mohamud Hayl, speaker of parliament in Galmudug, one of the constituent areas of Central Regions State.

"This agreement will revive conflict and set the population of Mudug against each other and this has to stop," he told IRIN.

Ugaas Abdi Dahir, an influential Galmudug elder, warned that "if the government does not revisit this agreement, we will be forced to reconsider our relations with the federal government."

Political analyst Abdikadir Suleiman Mohamed said the deal "divides the people on clan lines because what it implies is that Darod-inhabited [northern] areas of the [Mudug] region will be ruled by Puntland while Hawiye-inhabited areas will be ruled by Hawiye, despite the fact that there are also other clans [in Mudug] who do not belong to these two major clans."

"Federalism should be based on geography and not clan considerations," he told IRIN, adding that the deal might encourage leaders in other emerging federal member states to encroach on neighbouring states on the grounds that certain clans predominated there.

"I doubt if this agreement will go anywhere because it is unconstitutional. Also the national commission for federalism and border demarcation has not yet been formed," Abdikadir Suleiman Mohamed pointed out.

For Cedric Barnes, Horn of Africa director of the International Crisis Group, the 14 October deal "is symptomatic of the ad-hoc approach that is being taken to the federalism agenda, without a larger national dialogue...

"The UN mission in Somalia, the SFG, IGAD, the EU and other donors are now hooked into a continuing cycle of local, partial deals, all to meet a series of external deadlines that have never produced good politics in Somalia," he added.

Somaliland suspicious

In Somaliland, a northwestern area which unilaterally declared itself to be an independent state in 1991 and whose relations with Mogadishu are frosty, a senior government official told IRIN: "The only new thing is that they [Puntland and Somalia] want to build a single army in order to threaten Somaliland."

"As a government, we are closely following the situation as it unfolds and we will respond accordingly to any attempt at interference," said Mohamed Osman Dube, the administrative director of Somaliland's Ministry of Interior.

Dube said Mogadishu "was already involved in anti-Somaliland activities" notably in the Sool region, parts of which are claimed by both Somaliland and Puntland.

In Sool, according to the 2014 report by a UN-appointed Monitoring Group, "Somaliland forces have [in the past year] clashed with Puntland forces and militias loyal to Khatumo, a political organization based around the Dhulbahante clan that is pursuing the creation of a regional state within Somalia and separation from Somaliland."

"The region is particularly prone to conflict, given the competing claims by Somaliland, Puntland and Khatumo over oil-rich territory there and political infighting among the Dhulbahante, who are divided in loyalty between Puntland, Khatumo and Somaliland," the report said.

"This state of affairs has led to the militarization of the area, in particular since November 2013, and links in some cases to [jihadist insurgency] Al-Shabaab and in others to the Federal Government," it added.

Oil exploration licences in and near the Sool region have been issued by authorities in Somaliland, Puntland and Somalia - in some cases for the same blocs.

"When it comes to oil and gas, Somaliland will feel threatened [by the agreement]: If Puntland is swearing allegiance to Mogadishu, it is more likely to accept federal government fiats over oil licences in greater Somalia, even if they have signed their own licences," explained a regional political analyst who requested anonymity.

Somaliland is currently developing an Oil Protection Unit ostensibly to provide security to firms conducting seismic surveys. Concerns have been raised about the unit's potential to destabilize the oil-rich areas.

According to IGAD's Sheehk, "there is an ongoing dialogue between Mogadishu and [Somaliland capital] Hargeisa that is being facilitated by both Turkey and Qatar. Even though there hasn't been significant headway made, both sides are at least talking and taking each other seriously."

The regional analyst stressed that the 14 October deal needed to be complemented by efforts to improve governance.

If left unaddressed, "corruption, mismanagement, secret deals and the capture of public assets by narrow cliques in both Mogadishu and Puntland threaten to undermine any progress in state-building," he said.

"The issue of corruption is key and donors are heading to make a big mistake if they ignore it," he said, noting that not only was there no agreement over the sharing of state resources between Puntland and the FGS, but that there was little transparency over the value of their respective oil deals, port revenue and other public goods.

According to the Monitoring Group, the "systematic misappropriation, embezzlement and outright theft of public resources had [years ago] essentially become a system of governance" and had in some areas, such as "secret contracting" worsened since the 2012 installation of the internationally-supported and bankrolled FGS.

The argument that "a degree of diversion is inevitable or even acceptable as part of the State-formation process and the exercise of power under the prevailing conditions ... is not only inconsistent with the scale of irregular financial flows, but also disregards the importance of corruption to the chronic insecurity of Somalia," it said.

"In its investigations, the Group has consistently found patterns of misappropriation with diversion rates of between 70 and 80 percent. The indications are that diverted funds are used for partisan agendas that constitute threats to peace and security."

This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the Pan-African News Wire.
NYPD Cop Attacked With Hatchet, Suspect Shot Dead
Scene of attack against police officer in Queens.
NBC News

A rookie police officer was struck in the head by a man wielding a hatchet in the New York City borough of Queens Thursday, in an assault that has police checking for any ties to terror organizations or whether the attack could have been inspired by Wednesday’s lone-wolf attack in Canada.

Police opened fire, killing the 32-year-old suspect and wounding a woman who was nearby, according to officials. The officer, 25, survived the attack. A second police officer, 24, was struck with the hatchet in the arm and is also being treated. The name of the suspect was not immediately released.

The 2 p.m. apparently unprovoked attack occurred as four police officers were posing for a passing photographer when the suspect charged the group, swinging a hatchet with a four-and-a-half-inch blade, officials said. He struck one officer in the arm and another in the head before two officers drew their weapons and opened fire as he swung the hatchet a third time, officials said.

"No known motive for this attack has been established," Police Commissioner William Bratton told reporters.

The officer struck in the head suffered a fractured skull and was in surgery Thursday evening. As police investigated the scene they discovered a woman a half-block away had been shot in the lower back. She was operated on and is in stable condition.

Thursday evening the New York Police Department issued a patrol bulletin alerting officers to be in a state of heightened awareness after Wednesday’s murder of a Canadian soldier and shootout at the Parliament complex in Ottawa. The bulletin warns of potential attacks on uniformed officers.

Police from the Intelligence Division are checking the suspect’s hard drives for any cyber activity. There is nothing at this time connecting him to any radical group and the police are still determining the identity of the suspect, officials said.
Ebola Outbreak: NY Doctor Craig Spencer Tests Positive
An Ebola patient is being treated at Bellvue Hospital in New York.
BBC World News

A New York doctor who had recently travelled to the Ebola-ravaged West African country of Guinea has tested positive for the disease, New York officials have said.

Dr Craig Spencer, who worked for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), came down with a fever on Thursday.

He is the first Ebola case diagnosed in New York, the largest city in the US.

More than 4,800 people have died of Ebola - mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone - since March.

Dr Spencer fell ill with a fever and diarrhoea on Thursday and was taken to New York City's Bellevue Hospital, where he was immediately placed into isolation, the officials said.

Health department officials fanned out into the city in an effort to trace his contacts and identify anyone at risk of having caught the disease from Dr Spencer.

Ebola patients are only infectious if they have symptoms, and the disease is only transmittable through bodily fluids, experts say.

Dr Spencer is the fourth person to be diagnosed with the disease in the US.

The first caught Ebola in his native Liberia and travelled to Dallas, Texas, before his symptoms set in. He died on 8 October.

Two nurses who treated him in Dallas subsequently came down with the disease and are recovering in hospital.

Vaccine research

Meanwhile, on Thursday the West African country of Mali confirmed its first Ebola case - a two-year-old girl recently returned from Guinea.

The girl's mother died in Guinea a few weeks ago and the child was then brought by relatives to Mali, Reuters news agency quotes a health ministry official as saying.

Mali is now the sixth West African country to be affected by the latest Ebola outbreak - however Senegal and Nigeria have since been declared virus-free by the WHO.

Separately, the World Health Organization (WHO) has already identified at least two experimental vaccines which it believes could be promising.

At a meeting in Geneva, the UN health body said it wanted tests of the vaccines to be completed by the end of December.

The WHO says 443 health workers have contracted Ebola, of whom 244 have died.
Doctor in New York City Tests Positive for Ebola
Dr. Craig Spencer has tested positive for the Ebola Virus
Disease in New York.
New York Times
OCT. 23, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio Hosts Press Conference with Governor Cuomo Video by NYC Mayor's Office
A doctor in New York City who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Guinea tested positive for the Ebola virus Thursday, becoming the city’s first diagnosed case.

The doctor, Craig Spencer, was rushed to Bellevue Hospital Center on Thursday and placed in isolation while health care workers spread out across the city to trace anyone he might have come into contact with in recent days. A further test will be conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to confirm the initial test.

While officials have said they expected isolated cases of the disease to arrive in New York eventually, and had been preparing for this moment for months, the first case highlighted the challenges surrounding containment of the virus, especially in a crowded metropolis.

Even as the authorities worked to confirm that Mr. Spencer was infected with Ebola, it emerged that he traveled from Manhattan to Brooklyn on the subway on Wednesday night, when he went to a bowling alley, and then took a taxi home.

The next morning, he reported having a temperature of 103 degrees, raising questions about his health while he was out in public.

People infected with Ebola cannot spread the disease until they begin to display symptoms, and it cannot be spread through the air. As people become sicker, the viral load in the body builds, and they become more and more contagious.

Dr. Spencer’s travel history and the timing of the onset of his symptoms led health officials to dispatch disease detectives, who “immediately began to actively trace all of the patient’s contacts to identify anyone who may be at potential risk,” according to a statement released by the department.

It was unclear if the city was trying to find people who might have come into contact with Dr. Spencer on the subway. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority directed all questions to the health department, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the issue.

At Dr. Spencer’s apartment in Harlem, his home was sealed off and workers distributed informational fliers about the disease. It was not clear if anyone was being quarantined.

Health authorities declined to say how many people in total might have come into contact with Dr. Spencer while he was symptomatic.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking at a news conference Thursday evening before the diagnosis, said Dr. Spencer has given health workers a detailed accounting of his activities over the last few days.

“Our understanding is that very few people were in direct contact with him,” Mr. de Blasio said.

Dr. Spencer had been working with Doctors Without Borders in Guinea, treating Ebola patients, before returning to New York City on Oct. 14, according to a city official.

He told the authorities that he did not believe the protective gear he wore while working with Ebola patients had been breached but had been monitoring his own health.

Doctors Without Borders, in a statement, said it provides guidelines for its staff members on their return from Ebola assignments, but did not elaborate on those protocols.

“The individual engaged in regular health monitoring and reported this development immediately,” the group said in a statement.

Dr. Spencer began to feel sluggish on Tuesday but did not develop a fever until Thursday morning, he told the authorities. At 11 a.m., the doctor found that he had a 103-degree temperature and alerted the staff of Doctors Without Borders, according to the official.

The staff of Doctors Without Borders called the city’s health department, which in turn called the Fire Department.

Emergency medical workers, wearing full personal protective gear, rushed to Dr. Spencer’s apartment, on West 147th Street. He was transported to Bellevue and arrived shortly after 1 p.m.

He was placed in a special isolation unit and is being seen by the pre-designated medical critical care team. They are in personal protective equipment with undergarment air ventilation systems.

Bellevue doctors have prepared for an Ebola patient with numerous drills and tests using “test patients” as well as actual treatment of suspected cases that turned out to be false alarms.

A health care worker at the hospital said that Dr. Spencer seemed very sick, and it was unclear to the medical staff why he had not gone to the hospital earlier, since his fever was high.

Dr. Spencer is a fellow of international emergency medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, and an instructor in clinical medicine at Columbia University.

“He is a committed and responsible physician who always puts his patients first,” the hospital said in a statement. “He has not been to work at our hospital and has not seen any patients at our hospital since his return from overseas.”

Even before the diagnosis, the Centers for Disease Control dispatched a team of experts to assist in the case, before the test results were even known.

More than 30 people have gone to city hospitals and raised suspicions of Ebola, but in all those cases, health workers were able to rule it out without a blood test.

While the city stepped up its laboratory capacity so it can get test results within four to six hours, because of the precautions that need to be taken when drawing blood and treating a person possibly sick with Ebola, it took until late in the evening to confirm the diagnosis.

But doctors said that even before the results came in, it seemed likely that he was infected. Symptoms usually occur within eight to 10 days of infection and Dr. Spencer was home nine days when he reported feeling ill.

Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids and secretions, including blood, mucus, feces and vomit.

A doctor, who was recently in West Africa treating Ebola patients, was taken Thursday from his apartment in Harlem to Bellevue Hospital Center after he reported a high fever.

The patient is in one of four isolation rooms in the infectious disease ward on an upper floor of this building. The rooms have been designated for high-probability or confirmed Ebola cases. The ward also has a lab to handle Ebola blood samples.

Because of its high mortality rate — Ebola kills more than half of the people it infects — the disease spreads fear along with infection.

The authorities have been on high alert ever since Thomas Eric Duncan traveled to the United States in September from Liberia, and was later given a diagnosis of Ebola.

Mr. Duncan died at a Dallas hospital this month.

Several days after his death, a nurse who helped care for Mr. Duncan learned she had Ebola. Two nurses who treated Mr. Duncan fell ill but have since recovered.

That single case led to hundreds of people being quarantined or being asked to remain isolated from the general public..

The missteps by both local and federal authorities in handling the nation’s first Ebola case raised questions about the ability of health care workers to safely treat those with the disease.

In the New York City region, hospitals and emergency workers have been preparing for the appearance of the virus for months.

Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University and a special adviser to Mayor de Blasio, said that the risk to the general public was minimal, but depended on a city moving swiftly.

“New York has mobilized not only a world-class health department, but has full engagement of many other agencies that need to be on the response team,” he said.

Reporting was contributed by Matt Flegenheimer, J. David Goodman, Kia Gregory and Anemona Hartocollis, and research by Jack Begg and Elisa Cho.