Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Jorge Risquet, Cuban Revolutionary Leader in African Affairs, Dies 40 Years After Angolan Campaign
Life exemplifies links between African Revolution and Cuban Internationalism

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

A leading figure in the formation of the Communist Party of Cuba and numerous heroic efforts on the African continent, Jorge Risquet Valdes-Saldana passed away on September 28 at the age of 85.

 Risquet was born on May 6, 1930, and later joined the revolutionary youth movement in 1943. He was Cuba's Representative and Head for Latin America in the World Federation of Democratic Youth and carried out an internationalist mission in Guatemala in 1954.

During the United States supported Fulgencio Batista dictatorship he was kidnapped, tortured and incarcerated. He joined the Revolutionary Army in 1958 in the 2nd Frank País Eastern Front.

After the triumph of the Revolution, he held the positions of Head of the Political Department and Head of Operations of the Army in the former Oriente province; Organization Secretary of the Provincial Committee of the United Party of the Socialist Revolution of Cuba in that province; head of the "Patricio Lumumba" Internationalist Battalion in Congo Brazzaville; Minister of Labor; and Head of the Cuban Civil Internationalist Mission in the People's Republic of Angola between 1975 and 1979.

From the earliest days of the Cuban Revolution the country expressed concrete solidarity with the African Liberation Movement. Racism was outlawed in Cuba and its internationalist outlook permeated the foreign policy of the state.

In October 1960, when the-then Cuban Premier Fidel Castro Ruz visited the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the revolutionary leader set up his residence at the Theresa Hotel in Harlem. Castro met with Malcolm X, a leading figure in the Nation of Islam, along with participating in a banquet with African American workers at the famous hotel.

After the imperialist undermined the national independence struggle in the former Belgian Congo, Che Guevara in an eloquent speech before the UN denounced the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the founder of the Congolese National Movement (Lumumba) and placed the guilt for this crime squarely on imperialism. Guevara would lead a delegation of Cuban internationalists in 1965 to Congo in an attempt to reverse the course of the counter-revolution.

Cuban Role in the Liberation of Southern Africa

Even though the Congo campaign was not successful in defeating the counter-revolution in that mineral-rich country in 1965, a decade later the Cuban government would respond to a request by Agostino Neto, the leader of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) to assist the independence movement in defeating an invasion by the South African Defense Forces (SADF) and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) aimed at installing a puppet western-backed regime in Luanda. Between November 1975 and early 1976, some 55,000 Cuban internationalist troops were deployed which assisted the MPLA’s military wing FAPLA in defeating the SADF intervention and consolidating the national independence of Angola.

Cuban military units remained in Angola for 16 years fighting alongside the FAPLA forces as well as the South West Africa People’s Organization’s (SWAPO) military cadres of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) and the African National Congress (ANC) armed wing, Um Khonto We Sizwe (MK).

The U.S. and its allies in Pretoria, armed, funded and provided diplomatic cover for both Jonas Savimbi of UNITA and Holden Roberto of the FNLA based in the-then Zaire, which was renamed after the triumph of the counter-revolution in Congo-Kinshasha. UNITA proved to be the most formidable foe since it was given direct assistance by the CIA and the SADF then operating in South West Africa (Namibia) prior to its independence in 1990.

This struggle reached its climax in 1987-1988 with battles centered at Cuito Cuanavale where the SADF was routed and defeated in Angola. These battles would convince the racist regime in Pretoria and its backers within the Reagan and Bush administrations that a military defeat against the Southern African liberation movements was not possible.

A ceasefire was declared in late 1988 and firm negotiations were undertaken between the MPLA government in Angola and the apartheid regime. The U.S. and racist South Africa did not want the Cuban government involved in the talks aimed at the withdrawal of SADF forces from southern Angola and the independence process in Namibia.

Nonetheless, due to the overwhelming support of the-then Organization of African Unity (OAU), later renamed the African Union (AU), and progressive forces internationally, the Cubans were not only allowed into the talks but played a prominent role. The central role of Jorge Risquet in the talks enhanced his international prominence illustrating the significance of Cuba in the African revolutionary process.

Risquet led the Cuban delegation in the talks that resulted in the withdrawal of the apartheid army from southern Angola and the liberation of neighboring Namibia under settler-colonial occupation for a century. Internationally supervised elections were held in Namibia in late 1989 leading to the declaration of independence from apartheid on March 21, 1990 under the leadership of President Sam Nujoma of SWAPO, which won overwhelmingly in the elections.

The independence of Namibia and the ongoing mass and armed struggles in South Africa led by the ANC, forced the removal of P.W. Botha, the-then president of the apartheid regime, and the ascendancy of F.W. DeKlerk. The new regime began to indicate that it was willing to negotiate an end to the political crisis in South Africa.

On February 2, 1990, the ANC, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and other previously banned organizations were allowed to function openly. Nine days later, on February 11, Nelson Mandela was released after over 27 years of imprisonment in the dungeons of the racist apartheid system.

Four years later the ANC would win a solid majority and take power in South Africa sweeping out the dreaded system of apartheid. In a matter of less than two decades between 1975 and 1994, the system of white minority rule in Southern Africa was soundly defeated with the profound assistance of revolutionary Cuba.

Risquet Spoke in Ghana at Symposium Honoring Kwame Nkrumah

In a keynote address in September 2012 in Ghana honoring the 40th anniversary of the death of Kwame Nkrumah, Risquet outlined Cuba's role in the African Revolution from the 1960s to the present period.

He stressed in his address the ancestral ties between the people of Cuba and the African continent that resulted from the Atlantic Slave Trade. He also paid tribute to the role Kwame Nkrumah, the leader of the independence movement in Ghana and its first prime minister and president for his role in the creation of the Organization in Solidarity with the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America (OSPAAL) formed in 1966 at the Tri-continental Congress in Havana.

Risquet said in Ghana “This was the understanding with which Cuban fighters came to ancestral Africa to fight side by side with the people against colonialism and the oppressive apartheid regime. For 26 years, 381 thousand Cuban soldiers and officers fought alongside African populations; between April 24, 1965, when Ernest Che Guevara and his men crossed Lake Tanganyika, and May 25, 1991 when the remaining 500 Cuban fighters returned home triumphant.”

He went on to point out as well that “Among these internationalists were three of the Five Anti-terrorist Heroes currently held (now released) in the Imperialist’s prison. 2, 400 Cuban internationalist fighters lost their lives on African soil. Today we no more send soldiers. Now, we send doctors, teachers, builders, specialists in various fields.”

Tributes to Risquet were delivered by the ANC of South Africa, the MPLA of Angola and other revolutionary parties and organizations throughout the world.

Burkina Faso Coup Leader in Custody
Pressure from the masses and international community compels elite military unit to return to the barracks

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Gen. Gilbert Diendere, who led a coup aimed at derailing upcoming elections in Burkina Faso, was arrested in the capital of Ouagadougou on September 30.

Earlier reports suggested that he had gone to the Vatican representative’s residence in the capital of the impoverished and underdeveloped West African state. The coup was designed to derail the national elections which were scheduled for October 11.

The 1,200 presidential security regiment (RSP) had refused to disarm even after an agreement had been reached through negotiations mediated by the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Broader elements within the Burkinabe military had entered the capital threatening to disarm the RSP by force if they did not return to the barracks.

Diendere was quoted by the Associated Press as saying "I am willing to turn myself over to face justice. I would like the people of Burkina Faso to find a solution to this crisis through dialogue. All parties must talk to find an inclusive solution for the future of the country."

Due to the political crisis the elections were postponed to a later date.

A national uprising against the dictatorial rule of ousted military leader turned head-of-state, Blaise Compoare, during late October 2014, created the conditions for the formation of an interim government. Michel Kafando and Isaac Zida were appointed as temporary president and prime minister respectively after intensive negotiations.

Hundreds of thousands of workers and youth took to the streets demanding an end to the 27-year rule of Compaore. The leader soon fled to neighboring Ivory Coast where he has close political and family ties.

In order to calm the October 2014 revolt, military and political forces agreed to hold internationally-supervised elections one year later. A coalition of parties claiming the political legacy of revolutionary socialist leader Capt. Thomas Sankara pledged to run as a bloc during the elections.

Both Kafando, a career diplomat, and Zida, a former military official, were placed under detention at the beginning of the coup on September 16. Kafando and Zida were eventually released and have returned to their positions.

Diendere was a longtime intelligence director for the 1,200-member elite presidential security regiment (RSP) which worked closely with French and United States imperialism. The coup was probably precipitated by the concern that the RSP would be disbanded leading to possible prosecutions of members of the unit which have committed crimes against the people of the country.

In addition, political parties allied with Compaore were barred from participating in the national elections. The former rulers are seeking to secure a future in the soon to be new political dispensation.

Mass demonstrations, international pressure and dissent within the broader military forces converged to force Diendere to surrender on October 1 after refusing to disarm for several days in the wake of a brokered agreement by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Interim Leaders Pledge to Continue Transition Process

After being the first of the two interim leaders to be released, President Kafando traveled to New York City to participate in the 70th United Nations General Assembly.

Kafondo addressed the international gathering saying “The transition I am leading is the result of a popular uprising in October 2014. It is a response to the arbitrariness, nepotism and injustice of an anti-democratic regime.” (UN News Center, October 2)

He expressed his greater appreciation of the notions of liberty noting “As I was deprived of this for a time, I know how precious it is.”

Just two weeks prior to his address at the UN, he had been arrested by members of the RSP whom he described as “praetorians of another time who were rowing against the current of history and trying to seize democracy to serve their sordid ambitions.”

The interim president continued stressing that “It is thanks to you, defenders of [liberty and democracy], that I speak freely today.” His speech denounced as “heinous” the September 16 coup staged by military officers who Kafando said were “bought by vengeful politicians” to influence political developments leading up to the previously scheduled elections.

RSP Officially Disbanded Amid Calls for Retribution

Burkinabe Confederation of Labor leaders are demanding that Diendere be put on trial for the coup as well as other crimes such as involvement in the assassination and overthrow of Capt. Thomas Sankara, the revolutionary leader who ruled the country during 1983-1987.

The labor federation, which represents 17 unions, had staged a general strike in opposition to the coup. Their efforts were instrumental in bringing the RSP to the negotiating table with the ECOWAS mediators.

Secretary General of the Confederation of Labor, Bazie Bassolma, outlined what he thought was the proper course to take in bringing the coup makers to justice. Bazie said “There are many, many, many things. The first thing is that we have found his name in many problems in our country. We also know that at this moment there are many bodies in our hospitals. So we need to try him to get justice for our people.” (VOA, October 1)

News reports said that at least 10 people were killed in the recent struggle against the RSP coup while many others were wounded and injured.

Bassolma went on to say also that “It is not only Thomas Sankara; there are others like Dabo Bokari and Charles Taylor in Liberia and Angola. His name is found on many, many problems his name was found. We cannot accept that terrorists killed many people and now want to get amnesty. We will not accept.”

The labor leader appealed to the Burkinabe people from across the county saying “You know the solution to our problem is not in elections. If we are not organized, if we are not mobilize it would be difficult to find solution to our problems.”

He also expressed his gratification to the people throughout the continent stressing that “The first thing is to thank our brothers and sisters in other countries who helped us in this difficult situation. We are fighting for democracy in Burkina Faso but also for Africa and the world.”

Unrest Reflects Growing Economic Crisis

Despite the positive reports about the phenomenal growth of African economies, countries like Burkina Faso have not been able to translate the escalation of foreign direct investment (FDI) into better living standards for workers, farmers and youth. Burkina Faso is the fourth largest producer of gold in Africa but remains one of the poorest countries in the world.

Even leading exponents of FDI such as Mo Ibrahim, a wealthy African businessman, said recently that he is concerned about the immediate prospects for growth and development on the continent considering the precipitous decline in oil and other commodity prices.

In an interview published by the Wall Street Journal on October 5, Ibrahim said “Things are stalling. We can’t pat ourselves on the back and pretend everything is hunky-dory. It’s not.”

This same Wall Street Journal article noted “An annual index of economic, political and developmental indicators compiled by Mr. Ibrahim’s philanthropic foundation and released Monday (October 5) showed that the security and business environment in many of Africa’s 54 nations isn’t improving as rapidly as a decade ago, when the continent was hailed as the next great global economic frontier. This year’s rating of 50.1 on a 100-point scale, while up from 46.5 when the index was first issued in 2000, is down from a peak of 50.4 in 2010. Under the Ibrahim Index of African Governance 100 represents a prosperous, democratic utopia.”
Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Featured on TVC Satellite News Network: 'Guinea-Bissau Experiencing Continued Factional Problems'
Watch this interview with Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, over TVC satellite news network based in Lagos, Nigeria. Azikiwe discusses the current political crisis in the West African state of Guinea-Bissau.

To view the interview just click on the website below:

The broadcast took place on Monday Oct. 5, 2015 and ran live over the television station.

Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony, is an underdeveloped state that was born in the armed struggle led by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde PAIGC). This liberation movement was led by Amilcar Cabral, an engineer and theoritician.

Since the 1973, the PAIGC has experienced factional problems with the assassination of Cabral and the ascendancy of Luiz Cabral, who was overthrown by the military wing of the party in 1980.

A recent coup in 2012 brought about turmoil inside the country.

These and other issues are discussed in the TVC interview.
Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Featured on TVC Worldwide News Network: 'Nigeria Faces Challenges at 55'
To view this interview as aired over TVC, the worldwide television network, based in Lagos, Nigeria, just click on the website below:

Watch this interview with Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, discussing the 55th anniversary of the independence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from Britain in 1960.

The dialogue took place over TV Continental (TVC), the worldwide satellite news network, based in Lagos, Nigeria on Oct. 1, 2015.

Issues covered include the state of the Nigerian economy, relations with the United States and the current administration of the recently-elected President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Federal Republic of Nigeria has the largest population of any other African state. Last year in 2014, global financial publications designated the country as having the largest economy in Africa surpassing the Republic of South Africa.

Yet with the precipitous decline in the price of oil and other commodity prices, economies like Nigeria must seriously look at refocusing its production quotos. Azikiwe noted that the U.S. will not likely provide assistance to Nigeria due to its own monumental problems in the Middle East and North Africa. 
Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Featured on Press TV World News: 'Central African Republic Challenged by Continued Violence'
To watch this interview on the CAR ran live on September 27, 2015 just click on the website below:

In the Central African Republic, at least 36 people have been killed in two days of violence that also triggered a night-time curfew.

At least 80 others got wounded in the clashes that were sparked by the murder of a Muslim man in the capital Bangui.

Fighting began on Saturday as armed assailants attacked a mainly Christian neighborhood. Sunday saw reprisal attacks by Christian militias armed with assault rifles and machetes. Sporadic gunfire was reported in parts of the city and some homes and shops were looted.

The government says the violence was aimed at derailing elections next month. In other parts of Bangui, people held a march, calling for the country’s army to take responsibility for security.

Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, The Pan-African News Wire

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Monday, October 05, 2015

Kenya Teachers’ Strike Called Off
October 3, 2015
By Christine Muchira
Kenya Broadcasting Corporation

Teachers countrywide have finally called off their five week strike and will resume classes on Monday.

Making the announcement, Kenya National Union of Teachers Secretary General said  they had agreed to end the strike to abide by the court ruling directing them to return to work.

”We are formally announcing that third term commences this Monday. We love this country, teachers should be in class at 8a.m, said Sossion.”

Sossion further asked TSC to pay teachers their September salaries.

He however warned that teachers will not hesitate to go on strike again if TSC fails to award the 50-60 pc salary award as ordered by the court within 90 days.

”TSC is blatantly defying court orders by failing to pay teacher,” added Sossion.

Sossion said that the ruling by Justice Nelson Obuodha suspending the strike and failure by Justice Nduma Nderi to issue orders not to suspend the strike were unfair.

The union also hit out at TSC for failing to comply with an earlier court order warning it against withholding teachers’ pay for the month of September.
Kenya: Why Uhuru Won't Offer a Solution to Teachers Strike
Kenya Nation
By Otieno Otieno

It is understandable that many Kenyans should feel so frustrated at how President Uhuru Kenyatta's administration has mishandled the ongoing labour dispute with teachers.

In trying to wear out teachers through long-drawn court battles, threats of withheld salaries and even closure of schools, the government has only succeeded in punishing millions of innocent children and parents.

Even more disturbing is the casualness with which the government has approached the matter - a business-as-usual attitude suggesting little official regard for the role education plays in society.

An educated population remains the single-most important resource for a country like ours, and the school children are its future.

For the majority of poor households in rural areas and urban slums who rely on public schools, educating one or more of their children is their best bet out of poverty.

Indeed given a chance between opening a school in the neighbourhood and cutting a road through it, most communities would opt for the former.


A government official who wakes up one morning and proceeds to declare all schools closed without batting an eyelid should therefore have his or her head checked.

A president who strolls to his plane and flies out to New York to lobby for the personal freedom of his deputy from the International Criminal Court, leaving behind the worst public education crisis at home in recent times, is guilty of gross dereliction of duty.

Yet this isn't anything Kenyans haven't seen before. If there is anything one can't accuse President Kenyatta and his Jubilee government of it is providing solutions to big problems that don't involve the usual ethnic and party politics.

You look through each of the major challenges the administration has had to deal with in past two and a half years, and a clear pattern emerges in which a template strategy of ethnic mobilisation or whipping of party troops in Parliament or county governments has been deployed with varying results.


The controversial Eurobond was pushed through Parliament on the back of the ruling coalition's tyranny of numbers despite public protests against questionable payments to the so-called Anglo Leasing ghosts.

In contrast, the Uhuru administration has looked badly out of depth or clueless in situations where the ethnic card is irrelevant or the battleground has shifted away from the political arena.

The litany of national security failures and the signature projects like the schools laptops bogged down in the courts over tender wars speak volumes about the administration's ability to tackle complex governance and policy matters.

In teachers, the administration has found itself up against an unfamiliar foe - enlightened about their interests and fiercely loyal to their well-organised unions, not tribes or political parties.

Kenyans must be asking too much of Mr Kenyatta and his government to provide a solution.
Kenyan Teachers Suspend Strike After Order
OCTOBER 05 2015, 06:00

TEACHERS in the public sector of Kenya ended a five-week long strike at the weekend that had pitted President Uhuru Kenyatta against the judiciary, exposing the fragility of government finances and sparking popular discontent over perceived inequality.

The Daily Nation reported on Sunday that teachers would resume teaching this week, to the relief of millions of students, pupils and their parents. The unions were ordered by a court to end the strike. However, the confrontation between the government and the unions may not be over as union officials harshly criticised the back-to-work court order as unjust and unfair.

The unions said they had only suspended the strike for 90 days as directed by the court, but that they would resume it if their pay increase was not implemented.

The walkout began after the government refused to obey a court ruling that ordered a pay rise of 50%-60% for teachers.

The order came after the government failed to pay promised salary increases in recent years. Part of Kenyatta’s argument for defying the courts is that the pay rise was not allocated in the budget for this year.

Kenyatta said earlier this year the government could not afford "one more penny" for the teachers.

This financial year, the pay rise — totalling 17-billion Kenyan shillings (R2.2bn) — would account for less than 1% of government spending, according to Kwame Owino, CEO of Kenya’s Institute of Economic Affairs.

In some respects Kenya’s economy is relatively healthy. Economic growth was 4.9% in the three months to June on an annualised basis.

But performance is thought to have slowed in recent months, and public sector debt has risen to about 50% of gross domestic product. It is likely to increase further if, as expected, the Kenyan shilling continues to weaken against the dollar.

The currency has already fallen 14% this year.

The balance of payments, fell from a surplus of 8.8-billion Kenyan shillings in the first quarter of last year to a deficit of 14.3-billion Kenyan shillings in the three months to June this year, although some of this can be attributed to imports of heavy equipment for major infrastructure projects.

"The president is probably 60% to 70% correct when he says the government cannot afford the pay rise," says Owino. Against that claim has to be balanced what Owino calls "wastage" — a euphemism for corruption.

In July the independent auditor-general fully approved only 26% of the government’s spending and revenue collection; and in last year’s Transparency International global corruption perception index, Kenya came 143rd out of 174 countries.

As the strike grinds on, there are signs of nascent social discontent.

Public transport businesses have warned that their earnings have taken a significant hit as a result of 300,000 striking teachers and millions of children staying at home.

Meanwhile, the media are highlighting the twenty-fold disparity between the salaries of junior teachers and the country’s MPs. The average monthly take-home salary of a teacher is about 40,000 Kenyan shillings (R5,265).

Some MPs and analysts believe MPs’ pay should be cut to help fund the teachers’ pay rise.

As the strike continues, the fallout is becoming increasingly political, with the opposition launching impeachment proceedings against Kenyatta and holding their largest rally in the capital for more than a year. Nonetheless, few believe the threat to the president is serious, considering his commanding majority in parliament. "The strike is definitely serious for the government, but I don’t think it’s sufficiently serious to pull the opposition together," says Prof Macharia Munene of US International University in Nairobi.
YCLSA Supports Cosatu March
5 October 2015

The Young Communist League of South Africa [uFasimba] support the Congress of South African Trade Unions [Cosatu] upcoming mass marches and demonstrations planned for this Wednesday [October 7, 2015] under the banner of International World Day for Decent Work.

Cosatu will march across the country to demand the following:

· Government’s intervention in the ongoing job losses
· Youth Employment Tax Incentive
· and the provision of a safe, reliable, affordable, integrated and accessible Public Transport system.

YCLSA members across the country will join the marches and demonstrations in support of our beloved federation.

The National Secretary of the YCLSA, Cde Mluleki Dlelanga, will address the march that will take place in Gauteng.

The march will begin in Mary Fitzgerald Square and move to the office of the Premier, Telkom and the Chamber of Business.

Issued by YCLSA Media
For more information contact:
Khaya Xaba
YCLSA National Spokesperson
Cell: 074 5 204 204
Tel: 011 339 3621

COSATU Limpopo declares its readiness to embark on a Provincial March on October 7

5 October 2015

The Congress of South African Trade Unions in Limpopo will be embarking on a provincial march as part of the National Day of Action as follows:

Date : 07th October 2015
Time : 09h00
Assemble place : SABC Park, Polokwane

Destination : Office of the Premier, ESKOM and SARS

Members of COSATU will be marching to submit memorandums of demands which will include amongst others the following:

· To demand an urgent implementation of safe, reliable, integrated and affordable transport system.

· To demand that Treasury should reject the DTC proposals to increase VAT and the consideration of additional items for VAT zero-rating.

· COSATU demands an immediate halt to the pending retrenchments.

· We demand that the Department of Public Enterprises should hold Eskom accountable to the delays in the commissioning of the new power stations.

· We demand the release of the White Paper on NHI and an urgent attention to the problems in the public health care system as outlined above.

To demand the implementation of the National Minimum Wage
To demand the banning of labour brokers and an end to privatization of government services

We wish to assure members of COSATU that this is a Protected National Strike implying that no member or shop steward will be subjected to disciplinary action or dismissed from work for participating in the action.

The media is invited to come and report about the march

Issued by COSATU Limpopo

For more information contact:
Gerald Mkhomazi Twala
COSATU Provincial Secretary at 071 587 2872

Workers demand action now!

5 October 2015

The Congress of South African Trade Unions will be leading workers to the streets on the ,07th October 2015, the National Day of Action, to mark the internationally acknowledged World Day for Decent Work. This is a day for mobilization for all trade unions across the globe.

Our National Day of Action will take the form of marches and demonstrations across the country.

We shall be protesting a number of issues that are affecting the workers and the working class in general. Central to our list of demands is the issue of affordable, accessible and efficient public transport system. We demand that government ensures that there is an improvement in the coordination of our multi-faceted public transport system and do away with the current fragmentation.

Thousands of people are killed on our roads each year and thousands of workers lose their jobs because of the unreliability of the public transport system. This also is negatively affecting the economy because an inefficient public transport system slows down the wheels of the economy.

We are calling for a radical improvement, innovation and accountability across the entire system. We are not only demanding safe and reliable public transport but we are also demanding that it be made affordable and accessible to the working class.

Public transport should not only be used by those with no other choice, but should become a mode of choice for all citizens.

The recent problems engulfing Prasa are a deep concern for the federation because they are defocusing, this critical component of our public transport system. We demand an urgent and decisive intervention from our government. We will also be reiterating our rejection of the e-tolling system which privatises our public roads. Our opposition to e-tolls is unwavering, and we will be intensifying our campaigns against the attempted privatisations of our roads across the country.

We are also sending a message to both centres of political and economic power that, workers will not tolerate the tide of retrenchments and high unemployment. The federation supported by alliance partners and the progressive civil society will be making a stand against deepening poverty and unacceptable levels of inequality.

Currently, the economy is shedding jobs across all sectors including the mining manufacturing, services, communications, transport, steel industry etc. There are 23 880 workers, who are facing retrenchments under section 189 in the mining sector. It is estimated that the mining sector will lose about 100 000 jobs and 50 000 in the steel industry, this financial year. This is alarming and demoralising and if the trend continues, it will exacerbate the already unacceptable and unsustainable level of unemployment.

There are about 8 million unemployed people in this country and the majority of them are young people. This is a crisis that needs urgent attention because it has the potential to cause political instability for our democracy.

We shall be demanding that these matters be taken out of company level engagement but be elevated to a national level engagement, as was the case during our response to the Global Crisis. We demand that while all stakeholders including business, government and labour are looking for solutions, employers must put a moratorium on retrenchments.

This happens at a time, when monopoly capital continues to take the profits out of the country. This massive outflow of profits needs to be stemmed as soon as possible and we view it as nothing short of economic sabotage by big business.

COSATU demands bold and decisive action from both government and big business to tackle these issues.

Capital should start to display a certain level of developmental consciousness and work with government and labour to develop genuine solutions, and craft a comprehensive strategy to ensure that not only does the economy grow but it creates decent jobs, that pay decent salaries. Workers are tired of being subjected to the apartheid wage structure and discriminatory grading systems.

On Wednesday, we will be demanding the development of a new wage policy for the country, which will be aimed at deliberately and systematically transforming the current apartheid wage structure. It is a travesty for the workers, that 20 years after the 1994 democratic breakthrough, over half of South Africa’s workers work for less than R3000 a month!

The Federation calls for the creation of a powerful developmental state, which intervenes decisively in strategic sectors of the economy. We need a radical shift in economic policy, and a serious commitment, from government, to the full implementation of the Freedom Charter.

Cosatu is unwavering in its commitment to the eradication of abusive and exploitative practices particularly labour broking, and casualization, and the super-exploitation of vulnerable workers.

We will make it clear to both government and big business, that we are opposed to these exploitative practices.

Many unscrupulous employers exploit workers and pay them as they please, because there are no minimum wage rates set for all workers.

We demand that that a minimum wage be implemented so that workers are not exploited. This will be a first step that will take us closer to achieving a Living Wage.

We are calling for the creation of decent living conditions in both rural and urban areas. We want workers to get houses close to where they work in order to end the apartheid spatial development.

Government should take drastic and urgent steps to address the crisis facing the public health system, and we reiterate our resolute call for free education for all. We demand an urgent release of the White Paper on National Health Insurance (NHI. We will be marching with our communities, on Wednesday, demanding a responsive and accountable local government.

We will also be demanding that councillors and government officials adopt a people first approach to service delivery.

The ongoing electricity crisis remains one of the major constraints in achieving economic growth and creation of decent jobs. We demand an electricity security supply both for economic growth, job creation and for household at an affordable price for our communities. We further demand that government should suspend the nuclear energy procurement until further engagement at NEDLAC to ensure open, transparent and participatory processes. We reject any suggestion of the Privatisation of ESKOM.

We are going to this National Day of Action, with the overwhelming support of the workers and we expect government and big business to listen. We call on all communities, our alliance partners and the progressive civil society to support the marches on Wednesday.

We want to emphasise this point; this is a National Legal Strike which means that no worker can be victimized for participating in it.

Workers should refuse to be intimidated and come out in their numbers on Wednesday.

Organise or starve!
Aluta Continua!

Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (National Spokesperson)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
110 Jorissen Cnr Simmonds Street
P.O.Box 1019
South Africa
Cell: 082 558 5962
Tel: +27 11 339-4911 Direct (010) 219-1339
E-Mail: sizwe@cosatu.org.za

YCLSA supports Birchwood Hotel workers

5 October 2015

The Young Communist League of South Africa [uFasimba] supports the Birchwood Hotel & OR Tambo Conference Centre workers against their employers. More than four hundred workers at the hotel are fighting their employers against mass retrenchments.

The hotel has claimed that they need to downsize because they are overstaffed. This is hogwash considering that the hotel has built more conferencing facilities in the last five years. We are certainly do not believe that they are in financial distress considering the amount of business they have been receiving from trade unions and government.

The YCLSA in Gauteng also convened its 4th Provincial Congress at the Hotel. The hotel has been receiving business and continues to receive business. They are sitting on massive reserves yet they refuse to protect jobs.

As the YCLSA we hold a strong view that the hotel is retrenching because they want to get rid of the current staff and replace it with casual workers sourced from labour brokers. The YCLSA is totally opposed to casualization and the exploitation of workers in the name of profit maximization. We are also strongly opposed to the regulation of labour brokers. Our view has always been that they must be totally banned.

We will fully support Cosatu in this matter and ensure that retrenchments do not take place at the hotel. We will lobby both government and labour unions to boycott the hotel should the retrenchments go ahead.

As the YCLSA, we encourage workers to fight as they have nothing to lose except their jobs.

Issued by YCLSA Media
For more information contact:
Khaya Xaba
YCLSA National Spokesperson
Cell: 074 5 204 204
Tel: 011 339 3621
South Africa: 30,000 Miners Strike Over Pay Demand
OCT 2015 Tuesday 6TH
Morning Star

SOME 30,000 South African coalminers downed tools on Sunday night after cross-sector pay talks broke down.

Conciliation came to an abrupt end last week when parties could not reach an agreement over demands by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) demand for a 1,000 rand (£48) rise for the lowest paid workers and 14 per cent for artisans, miners and officials.

Firms including Anglo Coal and Glencore, the worlds largest mining company, are offering between 5 and 8.5 per cent pay rises.

The NUM strongly condemned Anglo Coal for lying to its members by claiming that the strike had been suspended until next Monday.

The Congress of South ­African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has called a nationwide general strike tomorrow as part of the World Day for Decent Work.

Strike season looms large in coal and gold Coal sector already in the thick of industrial action, while the gold sector will be at the mercy of AMCU

Sungula Nkabinde
6 October 2015 00:37

While some of the gold sector mining companies reached an agreement with most of the unions, the coal sector could not and, on Sunday, 30 000 coal sector workers belonging to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) went on strike. According to NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu, the picketing will continue until the Chamber of Mines of South Africa (COMSA) contacts the union to revisit negotiations.

“We obtained a certificate of non-resolution from the CCMA and that means we will be able to strike indefinitely,” said Mammburu on Monday. ”It’s not our intention to prolong the strike, but if the chamber does not contact us, that is what will happen. At this point, the chamber has not contacted us, but our negotiators are on standby.”

The sticking point in the coal sector negotiations is that companies – Anglo Coal, Delmas, Exxaro, Kangra, Msobo and Glencore – have refused to pay workers’ demands of an increase in wages of R1 000 for the lowest paid coal sector workers, and 14% for miners, artisans and officials. Instead the companies have offered increases ranging between R300 and R600 for the lowest paid group.

“R1 000 is simply not affordable,” said COMSA chief coal negotiator Motsamai Motlhamme.

“The offers tabled by the major producers in a CCMA-led process on September 21 range from 7 to 8.5% for the lower category employees, and between 6% and 7.5% for upper category employees.”

Motlhamme added that the impact of the strike has been significant with only pockets of employees coming to work, with little or no production happening at operations.

Another concern will be whether the strike action turns violent as has been the case in recent years, but Mammburu said the NUM is not worried about that happening in the coal sector because, “we have peaceful strikes”.

Legally, AMCU can only strike at Sibanye

The Associated Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) has a reputation for being militant in its approach to industrial action. It is the only union that has refused to sign the wage agreements with the gold mining companies.

It appears that the chamber’s plan to have the validity of an agreement hinging on all unions agreeing to the same offer has failed rather dismally, and its initial fears of having one union going on strike while other workers return to work may soon become a reality.

AMCU, which roughly represents 30% of mine workers in the industry, is till deciding to go on strike. And, if it does, it will do so while other unions’ members have returned to work

“If AMCU decides to go on strike and any of our members gets intimidated, or killed, we will hold the mining companies responsible, because it is their responsibility to keep their employees safe. All we are asking is that they protect our members,” said Mammburu.

This could be the reason Sibanye Gold, where AMCU represents 42% of the workforce, has not opted to reach an agreement unless all unions are involved.

“From Sibanye’s perspective it would be less responsible to conclude an agreement which could not be extended to all employees, as this could give rise to workplace friction. For this reason, the company made the offer conditional on all unions accepting it,” said the COMSA’s chief gold negotiator Dr Elize Strydom.

AMCU is yet to announce whether it will be going on strike at Sibanye, AngloGold, or Harmony, where it has 42%, 31% and 16% representation respectively. But, according to Strydom, a strike would only be legal at Sibanye, where a certificate of non-resolution allows the union to proceed on protected strike action if it gives 48 hours’ notice of its intention to strike

The wage agreement concluded with AngloGold Ashanti and Harmony and the three other unions has been extended to all employees and, in terms of the law, this would make any strike unlawful.

“Should AMCU decide to proceed with industrial action on this matter, such action will be unprotected in terms of the law because AMCU and its members are covered by the wage agreement and the companies would seek to interdict such action,” said Strydom.

Centralised collective bargaining did not work

The whole central bargaining process, which started with Village Main Reef (VMR), Evander Gold Mines, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold and Sibanye Gold negotiating with Solidarity, AMCU, NUM and the United Associations of South Africa (UASA), has seen separate agreements being reached at almost every level. VMR broke away from the negotiations early with an agreement that was promptly signed on terms that were far higher than what the other companies could afford. Then, a final offer was taken off the table because not all the unions agreed, but now a three-year agreement has been reached between three of the four unions – NUM, Solidarity and UASA – with only two of the remaining four companies, AngloGold Ashanti and Harmony.

“The problem with Pan African Resources is that it gave its employees a R1 000 increase at its Barberton mines, but at Evander they are only offering R600. So we are questioning that,” said Mammburu, referring to the stalemate that will see negotiations continue independently between the Evander gold mine and the NUM, which represents 90% of the members at that operation.

Strydom said it was always the producers’ intention and desire to reach one agreement (with company-specific variations) at one time because it would have been untenable for the producers to reach different agreements with different employees in one workplace.

Said Strydom: “It would not be fair or practical. And, in our view, would have led to further rivalry. The producers persisted with negotiations for more than four months in an effort to reach a resolution with all unions. It became evident, however, that this was not going to be immediately possible.

“Because of the specific levels of union representation at each of the companies, it became clear that unions representing the majority of employees had accepted the offer at AngloGold Ashanti and Harmony, and that the deal could be extended to all employees. While this was not the preferred situation, the companies recognised that it had become necessary to finalise a deal in the interests of the companies and employees, and that the possibility of reaching a settlement with AMCU had become slim.”

Despite Moneyweb’s efforts, AMCU general secretary Joseph Mathunjwa could not be reached for comment.

A central Cosatu demand is for a affordable and accessible public transport system.

By Savious Kwinika

Johannesburg — Mining is set to grind to a halt as 30 000 South African mine workers down their tools amid demands for a salary increment.

The workers, who are demanding salary increment of between 8,5 percent to 14 percent, have vowed not to resume work until their demands are met.

Mine workers at the Anglo Coal, Glencore, Exxaro Coal Mpumalanga, Kangra, Koornfontein, Delmas and Msobo Mine were on Sunday issued with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) certificate of non-resolution to the dispute, paving way for an industrial action.

"The conciliation came to an abrupt end this week when the parties could not reach an agreement over the R1000 for the lowest category and 14% for the artisans, miners and officials demand by the National Union of Mineworkers," said NUM Chief Negotiator in the coal sector, Peter Bailey Bailey.

He said Anglo Coal and Glencore were offering the lowest paid workers an increment of 8,5 percent for the artisans. Miners and officials were offered 7 percent.
Dozens Injured in Guinea Pre-election Clashes

Dozens of people were hurt during fighting over the weekend between rival political groups, before a presidential election scheduled for Oct. 11, local authorities said on Monday.

Supporters of different parties clashed on Friday and Saturday in the city of Nzerekore in Guinea's Forest Region during a visit by President Alpha Conde. Residents say calm was restored by a series of arrests and the imposition of a curfew.

"The situation is very, very serious. We have 29 people with gunshot injuries," Aboubacar Mbopp Camara, prefect for Nzerekore, told reporters.

Medical charity Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) said on its Twitter feed on Monday that around 80 people were admitted to its local hospital. They suffered a range of injuries from bullets, stones and batons, it said.

Local papers said one person had died from his injuries, although this could not be independently verified.

The riots pitted supporters of Conde's Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) party against those of his main rival, Cellou Dalein Diallo, of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), residents said.

Guinea, a former French colony and Africa's largest producer of bauxite, has a long history of ethnic tensions.

Conde, who is favored to win next week's vote, draws support from his Malinke ethnicity. Diallo enjoys backing from the Peuhl, who account for 40 percent of Guinea's population.

The European Union in a statement described the election campaign as "extremely tense" and called on actors to refrain from violence.

Opposition parties have asked for polls to be postponed to address alleged irregularities in the process.

Deadly clashes in Guinea ahead of presidential vote

Monday 5 October 2015 - 9:55am

CONAKRY, Guinea - Clashes between supporters of Guinea's ruling party and opposition activists left at least one dead and more than 80 wounded, a charity said Sunday, as tension mounts ahead of next week's presidential election.

Authorities declared a curfew across the southwestern city of N'Zerekore after fighting gripped the city late into Saturday night, the second major outbreak of violence in the run-up to the October 11 polls.

"Our teams, working with the Guinean Red Cross, helped the medical team at the regional hospital of N'Zerekore to care for around 80 people injured by gunshots or rocks," said Olivier van Eyll, the head of medical charity Alima's Guinea mission.

"Unfortunately there was a death among the wounded," he told AFP.

The higher toll comes after a hospital source earlier told AFP at least 16 people were admitted to hospital with bullet wounds following the unrest, while six others came in with injuries caused by sticks and stones.

A source in another hospital spoke of "around a dozen young people" injured.

The violence in Guinea's second-largest city comes after at least 17 people were wounded in clashes between rival factions in the northern town of Koundara in late September, according to witnesses and security sources.

The trouble began in N'Zerekore on Friday afternoon during a visit by President Alpha Conde, who is seeking re-election, and his supporters.

Local traders, many of whom belong to the Fulani ethnic group, traditionally loyal to opposition challenger Cellou Dalein Diallo, were angered when they were asked to close their shops for his arrival.

"That's what lit the fire," a local police official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Local residents confirmed his version of events. "Stones were thrown and there are numerous injuries on both sides," one witness said.

Government officials and local authorities were not immediately available for comment.

Eight contenders -- including Conde and Diallo -- have been approved as candidates for the country's second democratic presidential election.

Guinea's opposition on Thursday called for the vote to be postponed until later in October to allow the electoral commission to correct "anomalies and irregularities in the electoral roll".

Tensions Flare Between Guinea-Bissau President and New Premier
By Agencies, Citizen Digital
5 October 2015

Jose Mario has dissolved his government

Guinea-Bissau’s president on Saturday accused the new prime minister of overstepping his constitutional bounds by claiming the right to name the cabinet, suggesting a months-old political crisis in the coup-prone West African state is not over.

President Jose Maria Vaz said in a statement it was the head of state’s prerogative to decide the structure of the cabinet and review the names proposed for ministerial appointments by his prime minister.

“The statement of the prime minister, Carlos Correia, concerning the submission of the list for a new cabinet is unconstitutional,” Vaz said, after Correia submitted a list.

The comments marked the first flaring of tensions between Vaz and veteran politician Correia, who was sworn into office in the former Portuguese colony on Sept. 17 in a bid to end a political standoff that had sown fears of Guinea-Bissau slipping back towards chaos after a 2012 coup.

The crisis erupted after Vaz, who won power in elections last year, dismissed Prime Minister Domingoes Simoes Pereira on Aug. 13 after long-running tensions over their respective powers.

The Supreme Court then ruled that Vaz’s unilateral appointment of Baciro Dja as prime minister, against the wishes of the ruling PAIGC party, was unconstitutional.

Over the last decade, the turmoil in Guinea Bissau has allowed drug traffickers to use the tiny, cashew-growing nation as a transit point for South American cocaine headed to Europe. Law enforcement officials have expressed concern that further chaos could allow traffickers to thrive once again.

In an effort to kick-start Guinea-Bissau’s economy, Vaz last week met Chinese investors who signed a memorandum of understanding for investments in agriculture, health and manufacturing.

Guinea-Bissau is notoriously unstable even by the standards of a region known for military takeovers and civil wars. No elected president has served a complete term since independence from Portugal in 1974, and there have been nine coups or attempted coups since 1980.
Egypt Recovers Stolen Relief of King Seti I From London
Nevine El-Aref
Sunday 4 Oct 2015

A New Kingdom relief illegally smuggled out of the country has been retrieved from England

A limestone relief dating back to the New Kingdom period, between the 16th and 11th centuries BC, was recovered Sunday from an auction hall in London after two weeks of negotiations.

Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online that the ministry was informed about the relief by the curator at the British Museum, Marcel Mary.

Mary sent a photograph of the piece to the ministry asking for its authenticity, as the piece was put on display in an auction hall in London.

Eldamaty assigned an archeological committee to inspect the relief. The committee later confirmed its authenticity.

A report was then filed at Egypt’s Tourism and Antiquities police and a similar one was sent to Interpol in order to stop the sale of the relief.

Ali Ahmed, Director of the Recuperation Antiquities Department, explained that the relief was then confiscated by the British police and is due to come home next week.

He explained that the relief was stolen due to illegal excavations. The relief is engraved with a scene depicting the 19th dynasty King Seti I before goddess Hathor and god Web Wawat. It also bears hieroglyphic text and the names of several ancient Egyptian deities of Assiut governorate in Upper Egypt.

“It is a very important relief as it depicts a not yet discovered temple of king Seti I in Assiut,” Ahmed pointed out.


Sunday, October 04, 2015

Ethiopia Stalls Negotiations With Egypt and Sudan Over Renaissance Dam
Ahram Online
Sunday 4 Oct 2015

Future of negotiations remains unclear as Ethiopia asks to postpone the tripartite meeting of 4 October

A tripartite meeting that was supposed to be held in Egypt on Sunday has been postponed upon the request of Addis Ababa in the latest setback to efforts to reach a compromise over Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam.

Egypt had invited Ethiopian and Sudanese officials, along with representatives from the consultancy firm studying the impact of the dam, to a meeting headed by the Egyptian National Committee of the Grand Ethiopian Dam (TNC).

The meeting was arranged to discuss the recent differences between the countries over the building of the Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia.

The tripartite meeting was scheduled to take place in Egypt on Sunday 4 October, a date that was confirmed during President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn during the UN General Assembly meeting.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of the General Assembly in New York last week and confirmed that negotiations over the controversial dam would continue on 4 October.

This is not the first setback since the three countries signed the declaration of principles in March, which aims to safeguard the interests of all parties involved.

In September, Egypt expressed its concern after the two foreign consultancy firms failed to deliver their reports to the tripartite committee on time.

They had also missed a deadline in August, forcing the tripartite committee to re-schedule for 5 September.

The Dutch consultancy firm, Deltares, then withdrew from the assessment of the dam in September. The firm reasoned that the conditions set by the TNC did not provide Deltares with the opportunity to carry out an independent, high quality study.

The continuous stalling by Ethiopian officials and the withdrawal of the Dutch firm has put future negotiations in jeopardy.

Ex-irrigation minister Mohamed Nasr Allam has called on the Egyptian government to appeal to the United Nations to resolve the matter due to the failure of negotiations with Ethiopia.

Egypt, with its share of 55 billion cubic meters, is currently suffering from a water deficit of 20 billion cubic meters which it compensates through water recycling, a process that is not viable in the long run.

The dam, scheduled to be completed in 2017, will be Africa's largest hydroelectric power plant with a storage capacity of 74 billion cubic meters of water.

Assad Says Coalition of Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq Needed to Save Middle East Region
October 04, 16:49 UTC+3

The Syrian authorities, according to Assad, do not trust the United States due to the policy that country and its allies are pursuing in the Middle East

TEHERAN, October 1. /TASS/. The coalition of Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq has no other choice but to win, otherwise the entire Middle East region will be ruined, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with Iran’s IRINN news channel.

"The coalition consisting of Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq must succeed or the region will be destroyed," he said.

The Syrian authorities, according to Assad, do not trust the United States due to the policy that country and its allies are pursuing in the Middle East.

He said the damage done to the country’s infrastructure in the five years of the warfare is estimated at more than 200 billion U.S. dollars. As many as 250,000 people gave been killed in the conflict and six to seven million more have been driven out of their homes.

When asked to comment of the West’s changing position, which now doesn’t rule out Assad’s possible participation in an interim government, the Syrian leader said, "I am saying clearly and resolutely, no foreigner can bear responsibility for Syria’s future, for the future of its political system." "Only the Syrian people has the right to express its views on these issues, so all these Western comments are useless for us," Assad stressed.

He said the Syrian people had paid an excessive price to agree to become a dependent nation "implementing the will of foreign states." As for the West’s position, it has begun to change after Europe came to face manifestations of terrorism and refugee influx, he added.

Refugee problem will be solved after extermination of terrorism

The problem of Syrian refugees will be solver after extermination of terrorism in Syria, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with Iran’s IRINN news channel.

He said that to solve the problem of Syrian refugees it was necessary first to defeat terrorism and stop helping terrorists with weapons and fiancing from Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Syria’s future will be decided in political dialogue

Syria’s future will be decided on the basis of political dialogue and nationwide referendum on a new constitution, Syrian President Bashar Assad said on Sunday in an interview with Iran’s IRINN news channel.

He pledged to be committed to this path. "But dialogue could be started only after defeat of terrorism," he said.

When asked whether contact between Russia and the United States on Syria could be seen as interference into Syria’s domestic affairs or whether Russia’s assistance could end up in such interference, Assad said the sixty-year history of his country’s relations with the former Soviet Union and Russia as its successor had demonstrated that Russia had never interfered into Syrian domestic affairs. "On the contrary, Russia and other countries of the BRICS group are trying to prevent such interference and violation of relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council on Syria," he said. "These states have always been insisting that matters of Syria’s future political system and its future president are domestic affairs of Syria that are to be decided by the Syrian people," he stressed.

Terrorism in Syria provoked from outside

Terrorism in Syria has been provoked from outside, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with Iran’s IRINN news channel on Sunday.

He said it was clear from the very beginning that terrorism in Syria had been provoked from outside to wreak havoc and destabilize the country. In his words, the Syrian government had learnt the lessons from the political crisis and a wave of protests on March 2011 and was committed to the efforts to counter terrorism.

When asked by an Iranian correspondent why the anti-terrorist efforts of the Western coalition were to no avail, Assad noted drew a parallel, saying that a thief could never be a police hand. He said the alliance supporting terrorism can never succeed in exterminating it. "After several months of bombardments by the Western coalition, we saw no results, moreover, the result was just the opposite - the geography of terrorism has only expanded and the number of people who joined terrorists was only growing," he said.
US Military Presses to Keep Troops in Afghanistan Beyond 2016 - Report
1 Oct, 2015 03:41

Following a battle between the Taliban and Afghan forces in the northern of city of Kunduz, the US military has resurrected a proposal to keep at least a few thousand American troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016, the Associated Press reported.

If the plan is approved it would represent a reversal for President Barack Obama, who has pledged to remove all American troops from Afghanistan by the time he leaves office.

For now, Afghan special forces have taken back the main areas of Kunduz from the Taliban in an overnight offensive on Wednesday, according to the Afghanistan Interior Ministry. The US had also conducted airstrikes around Kunduz and conducted two more airstrikes on Tuesday night to aid in the recapture.

"AFG Special Security Forces now controls Kunduz City, it is retaken and being cleared from terrorists, heavy causality to the enemy," Interior Ministry Spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said in a Tweet.

The rapidness of the Taliban’s takeover of Kunduz, a city of 300,000 people, marked the group’s first offensive capture of a major city since the US invaded 14 years ago in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The takeover also highlighted the fragile security situation in Afghanistan and prompted speculation by military leaders about whether a complete drawdown of troops is the best plan.

Under the present plan, President Obama was working towards having about 1,000 military personnel left in Afghanistan as embassy-based security next year, down drastically from the 9,800 soldiers there currently. This would meet his foreign policy goal, announced during his second term, of ending the US war in Afghanistan and removing American troops by the time he left office in 2016.

The top US Commander in Afghanistan, Army General John Campbell, has given the administration several options for gradually reducing the number of troops over a 15-month period. US officials told the AP that the options all call for retaining a higher-than-planned troop presence to sustain the Afghan army and prevent losing more ground.

General Campbell’s options, according to US officials, would be to postpone any major cuts in troop levels this year, “keeping as many as 8,000 troops there well into next year” and “maintaining several thousand as a counterterrorism force in 2017.”

The AP said the proposition of a counterterrorism force was first raised in March during top-level meetings at a Camp David presidential retreat. It is a position favored by the Republican-controlled Congress and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

General Campbell is due to testify to Congress next week on the situation in Afghanistan. Republican lawmakers have been critical of Obama’s approach – transitioning from wartime occupation to full Afghan security control – and have said the fall of Kunduz was a natural consequence of his plan.

In a statement, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) said the Kunduz attack “is the latest manifestation of this dangerous reversal,” reported Fox News.

McCain noted that Obama is "still on pace to withdraw all US combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016," but urged the president to "abandon this dangerous and arbitrary course and adopt a plan for U.S. troop presence based on conditions on the ground."
Philly Woman One of Six Airmen Killed in Afghanistan Plane Crash
By Wire Reports
NBC10 Staff

Friends and family are mourning a local woman who was one of the six airmen killed when a U.S. Air Force military transport plane crashed in eastern Afghanistan.

Airman 1st Class Kcey Ruiz, 21, who was originally from Philadelphia but moved to Georgia in 2004, according to her family members, died Friday after an American C-130 transport plane crashed after midnight local time (3:19 p.m. ET) at Jalalabad airfield in Afghanistan.

The other airmen killed in the crash were Capt. Jonathan Golden, 33, of Camarillo, California, Capt. Jordan Pierson, 28, of Abilene, Texas, Staff Sgt. Ryan Hammond, 26, of Moundsville, West Virginia, Senior Airman Quinn Johnson-Harris, 21, of Milwaukee and Senior Airman Nathan Sartain, 29, of Pensacola, Florida.

Golden, Pierson, Hammond and Johnson-Harris were based at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene. Sartain and Ruiz were based at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts.

In a memorial for the airmen, Maj. Met Berisha,  455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron commander, described Ruiz and Sartain as "the type of Airmen every commander sought to have on their team."

"I knew that without a doubt, that when our nation sent an aircraft into harm's way into an unsecured and dangerous Afghan airfield that the aircrew and aircraft were defended by the finest security forces Airmen our Air Force could possibly deliver," Berisha said. "Simply put, Ruiz and Sartain loved securing and projecting combat airpower for our nation. Their families not only raised fine American patriots, but they raised heroes that we all had the humble honor and phenomenal privilege to serve alongside with here."

Five civilian passengers who were contractors and two Afghan civilians were also killed in the crash.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Read more: http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Airmen-Crash-Afghanistan-Plane-Philadelphia-Woman-330578631.html#ixzz3nezEVLro
Follow us: @nbcphiladelphia on Twitter | nbcphiladelphia on Facebook
Medical Charity Urges Independent Inquiry After Afghan Hospital Blown Apart
By Masoud Popalzai, Ben Brumfield, Steve Almasy and Jason Hanna, CNN
Sun October 4, 2015

Doctors Without Borders is calling for an independent investigation of the deadly bombing of its hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz, which it says is no longer operational.

Aerial bombardments blew apart the medical facility about the time of a U.S. airstrike early Saturday, killing at least 22 people, officials said.

The blasts left part of the hospital in flames and rubble, killing 12 staffers and 10 patients -- including three children -- and injuring 37 other people, the charity said.

As the United States said it was investigating what struck the hospital during the night, the charity expressed shock and demanded answers, stressing that all combatants had been told long ago where the hospital was.

Doctors Without Borders says that no one inside the hospital was reporting fighting and that a completely independent investigation is needed.

"Under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed, MSF demands that a full and transparent investigation into the event be conducted by an independent international body," said Doctors Without Borders, which is known internationally as Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF. "Relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient."

The bombing was a violation of international humanitarian law, the organization said. It added that MSF international staff member were evacuated to Kabul and critical patients were sent to other facilities. "The MSF Afghan staff who were not killed are either being treated in health facilities in the region or have left the hospital," the organization said.

The bombardments continued even after U.S. and Afghan military officials were notified the hospital was being attacked, the charity said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, en route to Spain Sunday night, told reporters that there was a "determination ... as far as the United State is concerned and as far as our forces are concerned that we be full and transparent about our investigation and also that we hold accountable -- if there is someone to be accountable -- anyone responsible for doing something they shouldn't have done."

Carter said that his reaction to reports of the incident "was the same that anybody's would (be), that this is a tragic loss of life. Your hearts can only go out to innocent people who are caught up in this kind of violence."

Earlier Sunday, the White House released a statement from President Barack Obama offering condolences to the charity from Americans.

"The Department of Defense has launched a full investigation, and we will await the results of that inquiry before making a definitive judgment as to the circumstances of this tragedy," the President said. "I ... expect a full accounting of the facts and circumstances."

Humanitarian law
But Christopher Stokes, MSF's general director, told CNN that an independent inquiry was needed.

"We need an investigation that's as independent and as transparent as possible, and we don't only want the findings to be shared, we want -- as well -- to be able to read the full report," he said.

"(T)he results of this investigation are I think important for us but also for the ability of humanitarian actors to continue working and provide lifesaving assistance in Afghanistan."

The NATO mission in Afghanistan issued a statement saying it had directed a "preliminary multinational investigation known as a Casualty Assessment Team."

"We anticipate having the results of this initial assessment in a matter of days. Additionally, the U.S. military has opened a formal investigation, headed by a General Officer, to conduct a thorough and comprehensive inquiry," it said.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, strongly condemned the attack and said that it was essential to ensure that any investigation of it is "independent, impartial, transparent and effective."

"This deeply shocking event should be promptly, thoroughly and independently investigated and the results should be made public," he said, according to a U.N. statement issued Saturday. "The seriousness of the incident is underlined by the fact that, if established as deliberate in a court of law, an airstrike on a hospital may amount to a war crime."

Reporting from Kabul, CNN's Nic Robertson said MSF's real concern was one of impartiality, as well as transparency.

"The concern that Doctors Without Borders have at this time is that essentially at this stage, the U.S. is investigating something that the U.S. is possibly involved in," he said.

Taliban presence?

Robertson said a representative of the police chief in Kunduz said that when the attacks happened, a number of Taliban were hiding in the hospital compound. But he said MSF believed there were no Taliban there with weapons.

"The Taliban themselves are saying that that night, there was fighting going on very close to the compound ... and that their fighters went inside the compound to escape the fighting. The impression they're giving is that they weren't engaged in combat," Robertson said.

Stokes earlier said that any wounded patients being treated by MSF could not legally be treated as targets.

"If somebody is wounded, they're a noncombatant, and under international humanitarian law, they should be treated as such and they're not legitimate targets," he said.

Stokes said MSF had been forced to close the hospital since the attack. "There is no access to trauma care now for the civilians and for the wounded in the whole area of Kunduz, which is some kind of battleground for the moment."

An Afghan Health Ministry spokesman later tweeted that surgical teams and medical supplies would soon be arriving in Kunduz by road and air.

Later Sunday, Stokes released a statement saying, "MSF is disgusted by the recent statements coming from some Afghanistan government authorities ... (who) imply that Afghan and U.S. forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital with more than 180 staff and patients inside because they claim that members of the Taliban were present. This amounts to an admission of a war crime."

Patients burning

The incident occurred on roughly the sixth day of fighting between Afghan government forces -- supported by U.S. air power and military advisers -- and the Taliban, which invaded the city early this week.

What do ordinary Afghans think about the Taliban's resurgence?

According to MSF, the compound is gated, and no staff members saw any fighters there or nearby.

"If there was a major military operation going on there, our staff would have noticed. And that wasn't the case when the strikes occurred," Stokes said.

The charity, which had had been caring for hundreds already hurt in days of fighting, said it had told all warring parties the exact location of the trauma center, including most recently on Tuesday.

It said that when the aerial attack occurred, 105 patients and their caretakers had been in the hospital. More than 80 MSF international and national staff were present.

One worker described seeing patients burning in their beds.

"We tried to take a look into one of the burning buildings. I cannot describe what was inside. There are no words for how terrible it was. In the (intensive care unit), six patients were burning in their beds," nurse Lajos Zoltan Jecs said.

U.S. Army Col. Brian Tibus said the U.S. military had been conducting an airstrike in Kunduz at the time the hospital was hit.

Tibus said a "manned, fixed-wing aircraft" conducted a strike "against individuals threatening the force" at 2:15 a.m. local time, and the strike "may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility."

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a U.S. military official said the Pentagon is investigating whether a U.S. AC-130 gunship -- which was firing on Taliban positions to defend U.S. special operations troops advising Afghan forces -- is responsible. The official stressed that the information about the probe was preliminary.

Afghanistan said it reclaimed most of the city Thursday in a big operation backed by U.S. airstrikes.

But hours later, there were signs that the Taliban were back in Kunduz, a resident told CNN.

Kunduz is a strategic hub on the main highway between Kabul and Tajikistan, and its incursion was a major setback for Afghan forces.

Why the Taliban takeover of Kunduz is a big deal

CNN's Kevn Bohn, Barbara Starr, Archith Seshadri, Vasco Cotovio, Christine Theodorou, Ashley Fantz, Jethro Mullen and Susannah Cullinane contributed to this report.
Doctors Without Borders Says It Is Leaving Kunduz After Strike on Hospital
New York Times
OCT. 4, 2015

KABUL, Afghanistan — The situation in the war-torn Afghan city of Kunduz became more precarious for residents caught between government troops and Taliban militants after the withdrawal Sunday of an aid group that was one of the last providers of medical services there.

The aid organization, Doctors Without Borders, said it was leaving Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan, after a catastrophic airstrike on its hospital there on Saturday that killed 22 people, including 12 staff members, and destroyed the intensive care unit.

The Pentagon, which has said it may have inadvertently struck the hospital during a military operation, said in a statement on Sunday that a preliminary investigation of the episode would be completed in a matter of days. The Afghan government also vowed to investigate the airstrike.

A senior American military official said Sunday that there was heavy gunfire in the area around the hospital at the time of the airstrike, and that initial reports indicated that the Americans and Afghans on the ground near the hospital could not safely pull back without being dangerously exposed. American forces on the ground then called for air support, senior officials said.

The closing of the hospital will leave not only the residents of Kunduz, but also those of neighboring districts and provinces, with scant medical care. It was the only free trauma care hospital in northern Afghanistan, according to Doctors Without Borders. The group said that in 2014 more than 22,000 patients received treatment at the hospital and more than 5,900 surgical procedures were performed.

Trauma care is a much needed specialty in Kunduz, which has been plagued by intense fighting for at least the past six years. The medical staff regularly treated gunshot and shrapnel wounds and traumatic injuries caused by bombs. In 2009, the hospital treated scores of people wounded when a convoy carrying fuel to the north was hit by an airstrike called in by the German commander in the region; 142 people died in the strike.

The medical workers were overstretched in recent days, caring for nearly 400 people between Monday, when the Taliban occupied Kunduz, and the early hours of Saturday when the airstrike hit. The doctors and nurses said they cared for any wounded person, regardless of which side of the conflict.

With that hospital closed and the regional hospital bereft of staff, the wounded will have to find their way to hospitals in neighboring provinces. While there are a few clinics in Kunduz, they are not equipped to do surgery or handle the severe wounds inflicted by bombs, mortars and missiles.

Getting to the hospitals in neighboring Takhar Province or in Baghlan Province can take as long as two hours on a good day. Now, with Taliban and Afghan security checkpoints, it seems all but certain that some victims will not reach medical help in time for doctors to save them.

Despite an international outcry, the attack, which appeared to have been carried out by American aircraft, has not stirred the same public resentment here as have past civilian casualties caused by the Americans, which were quickly denounced in searing terms by Hamid Karzai, who stepped down as president last year, and many others.

Many residents of Kunduz, as well as people in Kabul, seemed willing to believe the accusations of some Afghan officials that there were Taliban fighters in the hospital shooting at American troops.

Doctors Without Borders, known internationally as Médecins Sans Frontières, issued a sharp statement Sunday saying it was “disgusted” by statements by Afghan authorities trying to justify the strike on the hospital and called for a transparent and independent investigation.

“These statements imply that Afghan and U.S. forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital — with more than 180 staff and patients inside — because they claim that members of the Taliban were present,” the group’s general director, Christopher Stokes, said in the statement. “This amounts to an admission of a war crime.”

Still, some Afghan officials continued to suggest that the attack was justified. “I know that there were civilian casualties in the hospital, but a lot of senior Taliban were also killed,” said Abdul Wadud Paiman, a member of Parliament from Kunduz.

More than half of those killed were hospital workers, and three of the patients killed were children, but that did not alter Mr. Paiman’s view.

His defense of the bombing suggests a growing fear that the Taliban are back and strong enough to take over much of the country, which makes many Afghans reluctant to criticize one of the few nations still offering military support against them.

“Everyone, including the international community, is afraid of the Taliban,” Mr. Paiman said.

Patricia Gossman, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher on Afghanistan, said many human rights abuses might be ignored because Afghans feel they have no choice but to support an ally.

“Kunduz falling to the Taliban, however briefly, is deeply demoralizing to many Afghans, who may therefore be reluctant to criticize anyone — Afghan security forces or the U.S. — who can hold the ground against them, even if they commit human rights abuses,” Ms. Gossman said.

“There’s a real fear that if the U.S. doesn’t provide air support, or if militias are not deployed, or the Afghan forces not given free rein, the Taliban will keep advancing,” she said.

Privately, many Afghans expressed disapproval of the carelessness involved in hitting a hospital, but neither the Afghan government nor Afghan television fanned anti-American sentiments as they might have just two years ago.

Tolo News, one of the most successful Afghan television channels, posted on Twitter footage of Afghan soldiers handing out food to civilians with the headline “Life gets back to normal in Kunduz.”

However, interviews with a half-dozen people in Kunduz suggested that in much of the city the situation was anything but normal.

“The situation is very, very bad, so bad that one cannot imagine it,” said Fazel Ahmad, a resident who said that there had been 25 families on his street, but that now he and one other family were the only ones left.

“There is no bread,” Mr. Ahmad said. “No shop is open, so that even the man who has money in his pocket and goes to purchase something can find nothing to bring home.”

“There is no drinking water and no electricity,” he said, adding that as he walked around on Sunday he could tell which families still had working wells. “Any house which still has a working well,” he said, “you can see a queue of people from 20 homes waiting to fetch water for themselves.”

Several residents reported by phone that for several hours on Sunday, government forces managed to raise their flag in one of the main city squares, but several hours later the Taliban had retaken the territory.

Despite the promises of a quick investigation, some American officials said that military investigators’ access to the hospital site was hampered by the presence of a significant number of militant fighters in the area, which was likely to slow the inquiry.

At the Doctors Without Borders hospital, the remaining staff members prepared to evacuate, and relatives came to claim the dead.

An Afghan radio journalist, Zabihullah Pashtonyar, 28, who was in the hospital when it was hit by the airstrike, died there, according to his boss, Zarghona Hassan, founder of Radio Kayhan.

The survivors included a day laborer, Abdul Kareem, 28, and a grocery store owner, Abdul Qadeer, 45. Both were being treated in the hospital after they were wounded in the cross-fire between Afghan forces and the Taliban during the earlier fighting for the city. Mr. Kareem was wounded again in the airstrike, and both men were evacuated to the hospital in Baghlan Province.

Their description of a city with firefights erupting unexpectedly made it clear why so many families were fleeing.

Mr. Kareem said he was caught in the middle of a firefight last week after the Taliban took over the city. “Everyone was just running here and there, including me, but with the first explosion I was hit with shrapnel,” he said. “An airplane was maneuvering above me targeting enemies.” He said six other civilians were also wounded in the same episode.

Then overnight between Friday and Saturday, the hospital was struck, and Mr. Kareem was wounded again.

Reporting was contributed by Helene Cooper from Madrid; Eric Schmitt and Matthew Rosenberg from Washington; Jawad Sukhanyar and Ahmad Shakib from Kabul; and an employee of The New York Times from Baghlan Province, Afghanistan.