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May 31 2012

Pakistan: The Hazara Killings - Why Is The World Silent?

In the past decade many Hazaras are being singled out and murdered cold-bloodedly in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan. They are subjected to an ethnic onslaught by extremist Islamist and religious networks roaming over-freely across the city.

A group of Hazara Children in Daikundi Central Afghanistan. Photo: Iqbal Ahmed Oruzgani, used with permission

The Hazara minority are Hazaragi/Dari speaking people. They are ethnically Hazara and religiously Shiite Muslims. However, there are considerable number of Ismaili and Ahmadi Muslims among them. Mainly they live in the central highlands of Afghanistan called Hazarajat or Hazaristan. They make the third largest ethnic minority in the country.

Hazaras have faced numerous ethnic cleansing attempts from various rulers and they escaped the genocide from Afghanistan and migrated to the neighboring countries including Iran and Pakistan.

The Hazaras mostly live (approx 700,000) in Quetta, Balochistan, the largest province of Pakistan, along with the Balochs & Pashthons. In recent times at least 700 members of Hazara community have been gunned down mercilessly and thousands left permanently disabled.

Mohammad Zia Sultani, a Hazara social activist, writes in Hazara People blog:

They are law abiding citizens. [..] Today this community being in minority is to be retaliated and has to pay the debt of their sincerity and services for the achievement of today’s Pakistan.

Hazaras have been suffering from sectarian violence by the extremist terrorist outfits Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) during the past decade. These terrorist organisations are Anti-Shi’a and, aim to transform Pakistan into a complete Sunni state, essentially through violent means. SSP and LeJ have claimed for having part in almost all of the incidents occurred on the Hazara minority in Quetta.

These terrorist organisations don’t even attack anonymously, they also publish videos of the scene of tragedy while slaughtering the Hazara community and send open letters to frighten the community members even more. The banned terrorist outfit LeJ published an open letter addressing the Hazara community, in the letter they stated that: ‘Hazaras are worthy of killing and we will rid Pakistan of these unclean people.’ These fears have made many Hazaras flee the country in recent years.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi also published horrible videos of the massacre of Hazara pilgrims in Mastung District- where passengers were forced off a bus, and sit on the ground. Seconds later the terrorists opened fire with Kalashnikovs, with the resulting carnage being graphically recorded.

The Pakistani government have failed to provide the citizens security. While talking to the media outside Parliament house, Balochistan’s chief minister (CM) Aslam Raisani said: “I will send the victims family, a truck load of tissues to wipe their tears!” In April 2012, the security forces in Quetta managed to arrest some terrorists.

Hazara Democtratic Party's leader, Abdul Khaliq Hazara believes that, “Some negative elements in government are, who support the terrorists.”

Hazara minority scheduled a worldwide protest demonstration in October 2011 as the killings increased. They demonstrated in different European, American and Australian cities, to ask the Pakistani government take serious actions for ending the series of Hazara target killings.

But, once again the series of killings continues in Quetta. In March, 2012 more than 40 innocent members of Hazara community were gunned down in at least a dozen different attacks.

The Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) scheduled worldwide protests to condemn the Hazara killings, for the second time. According to the schedules thousands of Hazaras demonstrated in London, Hamburg, Canberra, Newyork, Toronto and many other cities around the globe.

Hazaras protest to condemn Hazara Genocide in Quetta, Pakistan. Photo by author

The protests were held in front of Pakistani Embassies to ask the Pakistani Government to take actions for preventing Hazara killings. They also aimed to draw the attention of the world and media to the on-going Hazara killings. The Resolution for the worldwide protest produced by Hazara People can be read here.

Aziza Zafari, a social activist and blogger writes:

The Pakistan Government and the United Nations apparently do not wish to be held accountable for the barbarianism and discrimination directed towards this small and defenceless group of people who just want to get on with their lives without the daily fear of being threatened by guns and other violent methods of attack.

Abdul Hekmat a Human Rights advocate and youth worker stats in his article posted in On Line Opinion:

The plight of Hazara maybe invisible to the world as they are not in the headlines but what is unfolding in Quetta is genocide with the implications for peace far beyond Pakistan. Hazaras stretch out their hands to the world and hope the human rights groups, governments and peace loving people will act soon before it is too late.

Asmatullah Yaari a Human Rights activist writes:

Whatever, the game would be, the innocent, minority Hazara nation of Quetta is put to knife edge, owing distinct Mongoloid features.

#HazaraKilling, #HazaraGenocide , #Hazara, #Quetta and #ShiaHazaraGenocide hashtags are being used on Twitter to share the information:

@Aushpaz (Haider Changezi) : 800 killed, 0 ARRESTED! “Police hav failed 2 apprehend single suspect in incidents, alegations continually being made against FC&ISI”~CJP #Hazara

@Sajjad_Changezi (Sajjad H. Changezi) :  A commoner #Hazara can't travel, run a shop, a #Baloch activist can't campaign while #banned outfits enjoy liberty.

@AhmadShuja : Quetta ppl are unsure how to protect themselves or who the enemies are, which means anyone could be enemy for furious, gun-toting young men.

October 11 2011

Guinea: Another Bloody and Violent September 28

[All links in French unless otherwise stated]

Another September 28 and yet again another day of violence against the unarmed civilian population of Conakry. This date [en] is feared by all Guineans whether they live in their country or elsewhere.

This year the factions of the opposition, combined within the Collective of the Political Parties for the Finalisation of the Transition, called its activists to a peaceful demonstration on 27 September to denounce the government's unilateral acts.  But suppression was once again fierce.

September 28 anniversary in Guinea via Guinée50 Facebook page  (with their permission)  

September 28 anniversary in Guinea via Guinée58 Facebook page (with their permission)

Reports of violence

The blog amdys.over-blog.com, released a statement from the Collective denouncing the violence which was aiming to:

… create a climate of terror in the neighbourhoods of Hamdallye, Bambeto, Cosa and Wanindara.  According to this statement, the forces of order in league with private militia, called “donzo” (traditional hunters), are beating, injuring and arresting some residents of these areas.

The demonstrations which began on 27 September continued until 29 September. The blog barkere.net released an audio and written statement from Amnesty International, saying:

One protestor told Amnesty International he had witnessed police killing another demonstrator: “The security forces chased us and began beating some of us with their truncheons. We ran away and one of us fell down. A member of the security forces leant over him and stabbed him to death.”

Another eyewitness who spoke to Amnesty International reported that security forces had entered private compounds and looted some of the houses.

According to the site gbassikolo.com, the prosecutor, Mohamed Said Haidara, made a statement on the state media, with this assessment:

Following these events, the security services took 178 suspects including 7 minors and 4 women to the police station for questioning, and 144 suspects including 4 women, according to the police station. In total, that's 322 suspects.

In a statement issued on guineenews.org, the government rejects the comments by Amnesty International and advises that:

all the minors of 13 years of age who were arrested have been freed and those between 15 and 17 years have also been freed.

A comment from guineeconakry.info on the announcement by the government about the beginning of dialogue:

Although it is particularly regrettable that the government and the opposition accepted this solution through dialogue only after Guineans had been killed and/or wounded and only after extensive material damage had occurred, we must nevertheless hope this new round is nothing but an attempt to impress.

Demonstrations took place in several cities around the world to denounce the violence and expose the fact that those responsible for the events of 28 September, 2009, have not been brought to justice (read a soldier's testimony here [en]).  According to a statement from the NGO Human Rights Watch, two years after these events not one of the accused has been judged:

No one has yet been called to account two years after Guinean security forces shot and killed unarmed demonstrators during an opposition rally in the capital, Conakry, Human Rights Watch said today.  According to Human Rights Watch, the Guinean government must do more to make sure that justice is done for the victims of the massacre of 28 September 2009.

Human Rights Watch has also expressed its concern that some positions of responsibility have been maintained by key figures denounced for the violence of 28 September, 2009, like Lt. Colonel Claude Pivi, minister in charge of presidential security, and Lt. Colonel Moussa Tiégboro Camara, director of the national agency in charge of the fight against drugs, organised crime and terrorism.

International protests

In New York, in front of the Guinean embassy and the headquarters of the United Nations in Manhattan, protestors were supported by eminent American personalities including the former New York Mayor, Mr David Dinkins, and the Senator for the state of New York, Mr Eric Adams, as well as international human rights organisations.

In The Hague, other members of the Guinean diaspora organised a demonstration in front of the seat of the International Criminal Court.

In Boston, there was a conference organised with the participation of Mr Bah Oury on the occasion of the Guinean independence celebrations of 2 October, 2011.

In Paris, the demonstration took place on 1 October, for which purpose the organisers issued a message on the blog guinee58.com:

Ethnic and communitarian tensions stirred up by Alpha Condé and his party, the Rassemblement du Peuple de Guinée (RPG), are leading to hatred and abhorrence of the other  …  Journalists are intimidated, threatened, and the State media are put into the service of the government.

This denunciation of the President as a factor in the social divisions is confirmed by a publication on the site crisisgroup.org of the International Crisis Group:

The recent experience of violent politicization of ethnicities and the lack of confidence of political players in the electoral process are a cause for concern. President Condé has unilaterally encouraged an overhaul of the electoral system, but he is arousing all the more suspicion because of the uncertain prospects of the presidential party for the legislative elections. He has given little attention, very late, to reconciliation and dialogue with his highly mobilised opposition.

The suppression had several effects. The first and most serious for the future of the country is the widening of the social divide on an ethnic basis, as shown by an exchange of violent remarks on the Internet and the distribution of tracts in Conakry, according to the blog guinee50.blogspot.com:

tracts originating in certain movements of support for the government are circulating in the neighbourhoods of Conakry.  These youth movements which support the government are calling their members to come out and attack demonstrators … Guinea's enemies will be fought somehow and thrown on the new Democracy train…

The second is the reorganisation at the political level with the announcement of the beginnings of dialogue between the government and the opposition.

Finally, a third consequence is that the group of six parties of the Alliance for Democracy and Progress (ADP), which formed part of the presidential camp in the second round of presidential elections and the Collective of the Political Parties for the Finalisation of the Transition, have decided “to combine their strengths and act jointly in the fight for free and transparent elections”. Thus, four former prime ministers are among the candidates.

October 10 2011

Jamaica: Hiding “Behind Blackness”

Under the Saltire Flag shares an interesting perspective on the recent riots in London: “I have no problem accepting that in many areas Britain is blindly racist and must be called out on it. It can be frustraiting to realize that in many instances Jamaica is just as blindly racist but we are not equally called out on these.”

Peru: 14 Shamans Murdered in Amazon Town

Peruvian bloggers Juan Arellano [es] and Paco Bardales [es] report on the murders of 14 shamans in the amazon town of Balsapuerto. The main suspect is the mayor of Balsapuerto, Alfredo Torres, and his brother, who are reportedly evangelical Christian and see these shamans as “devils”.

October 07 2011

Curacao: Comedy or Mockery?

TRIUNFO DI SABLIKA calls a comedy show that is in town for five performances “Afro-Curacaoan mockery disguised as comedy”, saying: “The moment we stop legitimizing everything that destroys our self image or stagnates it from growing will be the moment we win. The moment we smile.”

October 06 2011

Myanmar: Interactive Map of Ethnic Groups

Stimson has set-up an interactive map of Myanmar's ethnic groups and key economic and power utilities.

October 05 2011

Jamaica: A Proud Black History

It's Black History Month in the UK and Kei Miller turns on its head “those tired statements of black pride – how, for instance, we are the sons and daughters of kings and queens”, saying: “It seems so banal…it betrays such a lack of imagination. Me… I’d rather imagine other possibilities.”

Mauritania: Black Mauritanians Fear for their Citizenship as Census Proceeds

Bakari Guèye in Magharebia reports that the city of Kaedi erupted into violence on September 24th and 30th because the black community feared that the census would be used as a discriminatory tool to relegate them to second class citizen status. Babacar Justin Ndiaye explains that only Black Mauritanians are asked to produce documentation[fr] that would justify their Mauritanian citizenship.

October 03 2011

Curacao: Changes Needed in Court of Justice

“A Dutch European lawyer indiscriminately lambasting a prime minister and a party leader in front of four innocent new judges…indoctrinating them from day one how to judicially digest post-colonial power struggles from a sole Dutch white privileged position is borderline dangerous”: TRIUNFO DI SABLIKA thinks it's time for “this constant deep rooted Dutch European naivety blended with superiority feelings [to be]…corrected and replaced with a new historically mature understanding.”

Zambia: Appointment of White Vice President Causes Online Buzz

Apart from Zambia’s new President Michael Sata’s faux pax (his nomination of more members of parliament than are allowed by the constitution, which largely went unnoticed) it was the shocking, but not entirely unexpected, appointment of Vice President Guy Scott that has been creating a buzz online. Guys Scott is an indigenous white Zambian.

Scott who is ruling party, Patriotic Front's (PF) vice president, first held a ministerial post between 1991 and 1995 as Minister of Agriculture.

Zambia's new Vice President Guy Scott. Image from the ruling Patriotic Front website.

Zambia's new Vice President Guy Scott. Image from the ruling Patriotic Front website.

Some Sub-Saharan African countries including Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa have had whites and people of Asian origin as ministers but none of them have occupied a the high position of national vice president, which in the case of Zambia, is just a heartbeat away from the presidency. The constitution provides that in case of vacation by death or other prescribed means, the vice president takes over in an acting capacity until elections are held within 90 days of such vacation.

The constitution also states that only a Zambian whose both parents were born in Zambia qualifies to occupy the office of president but this clause was invalidated by the Supreme Court in a case involving Zambia’s first President Kenneth Kaunda who ruled Zambia for 27 years but was barred the second time when he attempted to contest the elections after his successor amended the constitution. The Supreme Court held that Zambia did not exist prior to independence but was known as Northern Rhodesia.

Tweeps immediately took to their keyboards when it became known who was included in President Sata's cabinet:
@missbwalya wondered:

Zambia is the only African country with a white VP. Wonder how that will be received by “anti-white African” militants.

She declared further:

We don't care, Guy Scott is Zambian FULL STOP

@Kamukwape retweeted the same Scott announcement:

RT @zambiaelections: Zambia has white vice president, as Sata creates another ministry - Zambian Watchdog: bit.ly/rm7A4a #bantuwatch

@yowela stated the general feeling of many Zambians: 

In our Zambia, it does not matter what tribe you are, or what race you are. All that matters is that you are…  (Zambian and we will all get along. It even gets beyond that, as visitors from abroad come into Zambia we make them feel at home. Zambia: Let's explore!) fb.me/LgmODBzo

On the Facebook group, Zambian Peoples Pact, which largely supports the PF and its presidential candidate, questions, comments and banter were posted by members on the appointment of Dr Scott.

In a political dispensation where someone’s political fortunes are marked by the ethnic group one hails from, Mambo Phiri asked, tongue-in-cheek:

What tribe is Vice President Guy Scott?

Chilapa Chanda ascribed Scott to the Bemba ethnic group to which President Sata also belongs. Scott is said to have coined the PF’s slogan, “Dochi Kubeba” (Donchi, a corruption of the English word Don’t and Kubeba which means tell, an instruction to party supporters to get materials the now opposition MMD was dishing out to people during the campaigns but not to tell them who they would vote for):

All those complaining that there are too many bembas in cabinet, don't leave out Guy Scott! White bemba dude!

On the Zambian Watchdog website there varied responses to the appointment of Guy Scott. Bullman had this to say:

Zambians are a funny lot. You are prepared to stop someone on tribal bases and accept some who’s origin is from a different continent. Its only been 47 years guys. Please educate me of a European country which has an African origin leader? America is a totally different case that’s a country of immigrants. The land owners were wiped out and same case with Australia.

A reader by the name of Integrity rubbed it in:

I think a lot of zambians are fascinated by white people! It does not matter whether the person has qualifications or not, they just have to be white! By nature Zambians think they deserve it. How easily we forget that his ancestors were the ones selling our grandfathers and raping our grandmothers in the name of Christianity and civilization. Have the jews forgotten holocaust, no, even now they are still demanding reparations for something that happened years ago. Zambians on the other hand, “we need to show the world that we have no prejudice” America deserves Obama as a black president because the blacks make up the majority. Do whites in Zambia make up any percentage? When the whole world is recognizing achievements and the the progress of black people, we on the other hand are making headlines for sidelining our own race.

Asher defended the appointment:

From my understanding you choose a team you trust and are confortable with to work with you and is a right a president in our Country enjoys. I congratulate his excellency for being so brave as to pick beyond peoples expactation and colour. By the way the USA has a black president and not a vice from Kenya!

On Lusaka Times, Observer had this to say:

thank God Guy Scott is VP, this man is seen PF sail through difficult times and I for one I am happy that is now VP. I wish him all the best.

October 02 2011

Brazil: Protest Condemns Violent Death of African Student

All links lead to Portuguese language pages.

Around 100 people gathered in Cuiabá, the capital of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, on September 23, 2011, to protest against violence and call for justice in the wake of the murder of Toni Bernardo da Silva, a 27 year old Economic Science student from Guinea-Bissau on Thursday, September 22.

The protest, which took place in front of the pizzeria where Toni was beaten to death, was organised by a group of African students who are part of an exchange program between the Brazilian government and lusophone countries in Africa. Toni was a a student at the Federal University of Mato Grosso (UFMT).

Toni Bernando. Photo from personnal archive.

Toni Bernando. Photo from personnal archive.

Vicious attack

According to the civil police, the former student arrived at the restaurant around 11pm and started asking clients for money. While passing one of the tables, Toni bumped into a woman.

The woman's boyfriend, a 27 year old business man, and two military policeman who were in plainclothes at the site, forcibly removed the university student from the establishment and began to attack him with punches and kicks. The medical report indicates that death was caused by disruption of the trachea, caused by a sharp blow by a person who practices martial arts.

The suspects were charged in the act and will respond in court for the crime of murder. In a statement, they said that they had only immobilised the youngster.

Community outrage

The crime has caused outrage among the academic community, which is demanding justice and greater security for the students. In 2010, Global Voices reported [en] on another case of aggression against a student from Guinea Bissau.

Photo of protest, by Deivison Almeida (used with permission).

Photo of protest, by Deivison Almeida (used with permission).

UFMT released a message regretting the incident and contacted the Ministries of Education and Foreign Affairs, who coordinate the exchange program, as well as the Federal Police.

Toni was a fellow at the university and should have been graduating later this year in the course that he began in 2006. However, according to a spokesperson of the institution, he had abandoned the course:

Em 2010, a Pró-Reitoria de Ensino de Graduação apoiou o então aluno e tentou auxiliá-lo para resolução de seus problemas acadêmicos e pessoais, que geraram o abandono dos estudos e a reprovação. Foi prestada assistência e oferecido acompanhamento psicológico ao estudante, por meio da Coordenação de Assistência e Benefícios (Cabes), sem a sua adesão satisfatória. Consequentemente, o desligamento ocorreu em fevereiro de 2011, conforme as exigências estabelecidas pelo Convênio PEC-G/MEC/MRE, entre as quais o abandono dos estudos e a reprovação.

In 2010, the Dean of Undergraduate Studies supported the student and then tried to help him to solve his personal and academic problems that had led to the abandonment of his studies and eventual dropout from the course. Assistance and counselling was offered to the student, through the Coordination of Assistance and Benefits without satisfactory accession. Consequently, the “shutdown” occurred in February 2011, according to the requirements established by PEC-G/MEC/MRE Agreement, which include the course drop-out.

According to student Catende Malan Domingos, 23, who is also part of the international exchange program, Toni had abandoned his studies due to discouragement or to some diesase. On the other hand the police state that he was a drug addict and had a record of theft. Since February 2011 his family had been sending him money to survive on while he was looking for a job. He has left a Brazilian girlfriend who is pregnant.

“The biggest threat is the silence”

The journalism student Adoniram Magalhães, on his blog Jornalismo Liberto, has written an analysis that sums up the way the case was covered by the local media:

Students light candles in mourning for Toni. Photo by Deivison Almeida (used with permission).

Students light candles in mourning for Toni. Photo by Deivison Almeida (used with permission).

(…) alguns veículos publicaram e ainda publicam o fato de uma forma estranha, parecem até que estão procurando justificativa para o fato, desvirtuando o foco da morte de um ser humano que poderia ser brasileiro, africano ou iraquiano.

some [media] vehicles have published and are still publishing the fact in a weird way, it looks as if they are trying to find a way to justify the fact, distorting the focus of the death of a human being who could be Brazilian, African or Iraqi.

The photographer Lucas Ninno, on his blog, has published an audio interview with a Cape Verdean student in Cuiabá, a friend of Toni's, telling a “version that the media doesn't show” about the case:

An email in circulation that talks about the climate of fear that has been instilled amongst African students at UFMT, for whom “the biggest threat is the silence” asks:

que a Universidade (UFMT) [tome] alguma atitude no sentido de os representar, bem como ao jovem assassinado, pressionando a justiça brasileira a não permitir que o caso [seja] (mais uma vez) abafado e que os culpados recebesse a punição merecida. Fizeram uma passeata a pedir Paz. A polícia não deve estar confortável com esta atitude. Há indícios de que a polícia esteja a tentar silenciar as testemunhas e a fazer contra-informação. A polícia ronda o bairro escuro e pobre onde a maioria destes estudantes moram. Por alguma razão estes jovens não se estão a sentir mais seguros com isso.

the University (UFMT) [needs to take] some attitude towards the representing them as well as the murdered boy, pressing the Brazilian justice system not to allow the case [to be] (once again) muffled and the guilty to receive the deserved punishment. They marched to ask for peace. The police should not be comfortable with this attitude. There is evidence that the police are trying to silence the witnesses and make counter-intelligence. Police round the black and poor neighbourhoods where most of these students live. For some reason these young people don't feel safer with it.
Friends and university colleagues of Toni have put candles in front of the crime site. Photo by Lucas Ninno (used with permission).

Friends and university colleagues of Toni have put candles in front of the crime site. Photo by Lucas Ninno (used with permission).

And finalises:

Se ninguém mais no mundo souber do que se está a passar ali o que será que lhes pode acontecer mais? O medo instalou-se. A História conta-nos que o medo é inimigo da razão, da sensatez. Quantos não são os casos de escaladas de violência nas ruas que começaram exactamente assim?

If no one else in the world knows what is happening there, what more can happen to them? Fear has settled. History tells us that fear is the enemy of reason, of prudence. How many cases of street violence have begun exactly like this?

The Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonio de Aguiar Patriota personally presented his apologies to Ambassador Queta, Chancellor and future Minister of Justice of Guinea-Bissau, on behalf of the Brazilian government for the violence committed against the youngster.

The heads of state are in New York because of the 66th annual meeting of the United Nations.

September 29 2011

Cameroon: Calm Before the Storm?

Cameroon's presidential election will take place on October 9, 2011, but the lack of stake [fr] in the outcome felt by the general population is leading to a lack of interest [fr]. The election marks the grand finale of a tumultuous political cycle started in February 2008.

February 2008 riots

In 2008, a constitutional amendment that unlimited presidential terms was adopted by the National Assembly. This decision caused an outcry in the international community and led to riots in February 2008 which were severely repressed; according to Human Rights organisations, more than 100 citizens were killed and more than 1,000 arrested.

In February 2008, anti-government riots spead through Cameroon. These buildings and vehicles in Kumba were targeted for being government related or owned. Image by Caroline Thomas, copyright Demotix (04/03/2008).

In February 2008, anti-government riots spead through Cameroon. These buildings and vehicles in Kumba were targeted for being government related or owned. Image by Caroline Thomas, copyright Demotix (04/03/2008).

Calm was restored after the Army repressed the demonstrations, and after the President, Paul Biya, delivered a strong speech [fr] against the opposition, who he accused of manipulating the Youth.

In a WikiLeaks cable sent in March 2008 by Scot Ticknor, political and economic chief at the United States Embassy in capital Yaoundé, it is explained that these events could reveal deeper political instability:

How long will the “enforced calm” last?  […] All our European diplomatic colleagues, except the French, believe the potential for renewed unrest in the short term remains. None of the grievances of the public have been addressed, whether in the President's speech or the government's actions. […] Even if the current situation remains calm, last week was a reminder that there are many unresolved issues, both political and economic, that are likely to resurface at some point down the road, possibly soon. The 75-year-old Biya is increasingly isolated and unpopular and Cameroonians, while generally peaceful, have shown themselves capable of violently taking to the streets.

Another WikiLeaks cable reveals that in September 2008, influential intellectuals depicted a dark future for the country:

Charles Ateba Eyene, an outspoken critic within the ruling CPDM party, concurred with Owona Nguini's fundamental diagnosis, saying that Cameroon is sitting on “a volcano.” He averred that the crisis is largely generational, with older elites seeking to maintain dominance. Highly centralized power structures and thoroughly corrupt officials at all levels of government have created a system of elite patronage which fundamentally fails to deliver services.

The following video was posted one year after the riots on YouTube. Viewed more than 20,000 times, it shows a young man who was shot dead by public forces during the riots [Warning: Graphic content]:

This crackdown has, according to a post [fr] on camer.be, installed a fragile truce and a climate of fear in the country. An attempted protest was swiftly prevented in February 2011.

Elections tailored for Biya's victory?

Since the February 2008 events, the Cameroonian opposition has been reproached for its lack of organisation, its stagnation and its inability to present a serious prospect to counter incumbent President Paul Biya's Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM).

In an article on Afrik.com entitled “Cameroon : Opposition Preparing The Victory of Paul Biya” [fr], the author writes:

Comme à son habitude, l’opposition camerounaise n’a pas réussi à présenter une candidature unique à une élection capitale pour l’avenir du pays et qui se joue à un seul tour.

As usual, the Cameroonian opposition has failed in presenting a single candidate to a first round election crucial for the future of the country.

Moreover the continuous criticism aimed at the Cameroonian Electoral Commission (ELECAM), including claims that it is an instrument for those in power to control the elections, does not bode well for a free and fair ballot.

A 2009 WikiLeaks cable reveals the content of the criticism:

In a February 9 meeting with Ambassador, Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization (MINATD) Marafa Hamidou Yaya was very discouraged about the ability of the Electoral Commission (ELECAM) to run a good election. Recently named ELECAM officials were incompetent and corrupt, he said, adding that a failed election in 2011 could result in major civil unrest.

According to this article from the website allafrica [fr], the electoral campaign has been tailored in a way to ensure that Paul Biya succeeds:

(…) La démocratie camerounaise n'est pas comme les autres démocraties véritables où tout se déroule dans une transparence totale. Elle a ses caractéristiques propres, ses stratégies particulières pour que le président sortant garde son fauteuil.

Cameroonian democracy is not like other real democracies in which everything is organised with a total transparency. It has its own characteristics, its own very special strategies to allow the outgoing president to keep his seat.

Possible post-electoral crisis?

The question of possible post-election violence is being taken seriously by the incumbent regime, which has strengthened its security capacities. One thousand military students have been added to the contingent already present in Douala, the country's economic capital, explains Cameroonian daily Le Jour [fr].

The prospect of unrest has also been considered since comments made by the current Minister of Justice on a possible ethnic division after Biya's ruling were revealed in a WikiLeaks cable:

In a recent, wide-ranging and frank discussion with the Ambassador, [Amadou] Ali said the foundation of Cameroon's stability is the detente between Biya's Beti/Bulu ethnic group, which predominates in Cameroon's South Region, and the populations of Cameroon's three Northern Regions, known as the Septentrion, which are ethnically and culturally distinct from the rest of the country. The Septentrion will support Biya for as long as he wants to be president, Ali predicted, but would not accept a successor who was either another Beti/Bulu, or a member of the economically powerful Bamileke ethnic group.

According to an article published on Radio Netherlands Worldwide Africa Desk website, “Cameroon fears ethnic clashes following WikiLeaks cable“, the question is a source of great preoccupation:

The ‘revelation’ by Wikileaks has caused a general outcry in the central African country. The article was in the newspaper headlines for several days and has caused a stir on the streets of Cameroon. “Such statements are a threat to our country’s stability. If ethnic groups fight each other for power, we might find ourselves in the same situation as Rwanda in 1994,” fears Edjouma Alain, a civil servant in the capital Yaoundé.

September 27 2011

Caribbean: Bloggers Saddened by Wangari Mathai's Death

Bloggers from Jamaica, Barbados and the Bahamas mourn the death of “The great African (Kenyan) environmentalist…and the first African woman to win the Nobel Prize, Wangari Maathai”.

September 26 2011

Jamaica: Gratitude to Garvey

In his ongoing effort to petition President Obama to exonerate Marcus Garvey, Geoffrey Philp says: “Marcus Garvey's cause was justice, plain and simple. And it is ironic that unjust methods were used to malign his good name and to bring about his eventual imprisonment on fraudulent charges.”

September 25 2011

Bulgaria: Clashes Between the Roma and Ethnic Bulgarians in Katunitsa

Violent clashes in the Bulgarian village of Katunitsa, near Plovdiv, broke out Friday night, following the death of a 19-year-old ethnic Bulgarian local, Angel Petrov, who had been run over by a vehicle driven by a man linked to the local Roma clan leader.

According to Focus Information Agency:

127 people were arrested in the southern village of Katunitsa where Bulgarian and Roma communities entered into clashes, following a fatal road accident involving relatives of a Roma boss - Kiril Rashkov, dubbed Tsar Kiro. The arrested were indicted for vandalism, arson and numerous other offences.

The clashes involving some 2,000 people started when relatives of a teenager who was run over by a Rashkov family vehicle attacked the Roma patriarch's home. Another person died and five others were injured.

Three policemen and two civilians were hurt in the riots, while a 16-year-old at the scene who suffered from heart problems was taken to hospital, where he later died. […]

Online responses to the riots reflect very well the dangerous tensions on the ground.

On Facebook, there is a page [bg] demanding death to the Roma boss Kiril Rashkov (”An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.)” - and more than 23,000 people appear to “like” this cause.

One of the page members wrote [bg]:

We are Bulgarians, we are in Bulgaria - enough of this torment! In our own country we feel as foreigners! They want war? We will give them war!

Another Facebook page [bg] has been created in support of the ethnic Bulgarian rioters arrested in Katunitsa - as of now, 41,001 people have “liked” this page.

Riot police in the village of Katunitsa. Photo by Georgi Kozhuharov/Dnevnik.bg, used with permission.

Hot debates are taking place elsewhere on Facebook as well. On the Anti-Racism Movement in Bulgaria page, people have reported more than ten pages and groups with hate-speech content. One member of the Anti-Racism Movement wrote [bg]:

Racism is awful because of the association of ethnicity with crime. There is a proverb saying “Because of our Elijah, I started to hate Saint Elijah” [”Pokrai nash Iliq namrazih i Sveti Iliq.”] Rashkov (Tzar Kiro) is one of the many criminals and traffickers in Bulgaria and he uses the ethnicity trump card without a second thought. If the authorities take care of this kind of criminals by legal means then this will reduce many times the ethnicity tensions, which are created by the same criminals to affirm their control over the given minority.

One of the places where people are organizing protests against the Roma people is the Facebook fan page [bg] of the football team “Botev” (Plovdiv). One of the fan group's members wrote this [bg]:

The dirty Roma scum must be cleaned!

On the Bulgarian blog Bai Dalai, the author wrote another opinion [bg]:

It is easy to see that this is an uprising against the painful social injustices, against the fact that the authorities are protecting the rich criminals but they are unable to provide basic security for the common people.

On Twitter, @lazarov (Alexei Lazarov) wrote [bg]:

Racial clashes in Katunitsa, Putin will run for president again - time sometimes seems to be moving backwards.

September 23 2011

Russia: Racial Propaganda in the State-Owned Media

Is the pen really mightier than the sword? Or, in today's age, is the keyboard greater than the laser-sighted assault rifle? For some purposes, the answer is yes. Whether seeking to inflame passions, discredit an individual, or simply reshape the debate, powerful interests have often eschewed coercion and instead planted false or misleading stories in the press to transform public opinion. Just ask the United States military. In 2005, the Pentagon - desperate to capture the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people - paid millions to Iraqi newspapers to ensure that pro-American stories would appear in the Iraqi press.

These techniques of misinformation and misdirection are particularly widespread across Russia. Drawing on a rich tradition of “political technology” honed under both the Tsarist and Soviet police states, the Russian media are now rife with paid stories (vbros) planted to advance specific agendas. The smoke and mirrors characterizing Russian public life is often unimaginably difficult for the outsider to decipher. Consider, for instance, Mikhail Prokhorov's recent departure from his leadership of the political party Right Cause: numerous versions are possible, including that the whole thing was stage-managed from the beginning. No wonder Kremlinologists are so frequently wrong.

A recent example suggests this phenomenon reaches far further than the release of pictures of politicians in bed with prostitutes or false reports of candidate deaths on the eve of an election. Last Thursday, Vesti FM’s Ksenia Krikheli - a seemingly mild-mannered journalist who normally covers local issues like schools - published an article [ru] on a small Moscow suburb in Liubertsy called Krasnaya Gorka. In an article laced with racial stereotypes and innuendo, Ms. Krikheli reported how local residents were living in fear as their quiet suburb was being transformed into an “African ghetto” overrun by an influx of unruly, violent, and sex-crazed African migrants. Ms. Krikheli described a “local” population unable to sleep and scared to venture onto the streets because of late night African drum playing, African prostitution (women supposedly asking “3 rubles for sex”), and criminal activity.

This article - which has spread across Russian online media - was followed by another article. In this follow-up article, Ms. Krikheli - clearly portraying herself as an investigative journalist seeking to find the truth - reported visiting a police station where a number of African migrants were being detained (in response to her article, she mused). She then had the following to say:

Не исключаю, помешала сотрудникам полиции еще и потому, что в участок на роскошном “Лексусе” как раз приехал африканский босс, видимо, выручать собратьев из плена. Уже возникли какие-то договоренности, и мой визит совсем некстати.
Сотрудник полиции говорит африканцу: “Мы с вами свяжемся через 10-15 минут, обо всём договоримся”.

I cannot ignore the fact that it seemed that I was suddenly interfereing with police work because an African boss soon pulled into the parking lot in a luxurious Lexus to bail his brothers out of jail. Some kind of agreement had already been worked out, it seemed, and the timing of my visit seemed inopportune. The police officer said to the African boss, “Lets talk in about 10-15 minutes and figure out what to do.”

Muckraking bloggers investigate these allegations

As this news story spread across the Russian media landscape, prominent photo-blogger Ilya Varlamov (LJ user zyalt) traveled to the “African Ghetto” to investigate [ru]. In three hours of interviews, he found nothing to support Ms. Krikheli's article. He did not find a single person who had spoken with Mr. Krikheli. Furthermore, everyone he spoke to denied having any problems with African migrants living in their neighborhood.

For instance, one woman with three children said:

«Нормально живется. Никаких проблем. . . А в соседнем доме живет Пьер Нарцисс, «Шоколадный заяц». Но вообще с ними никаких проблем нет — всегда здороваются, не шумят. Что-что? Ночью играют на барабанах во дворе и танцуют африканские танцы?! Бред какой-то, первый раз слышу. Наоборот, вообще никакого шума от них. У нас в школу ходит много их детей, все прекрасно ладят. Это вам какую-то чушь рассказали».

“Everything is fine. There are no problems. My neighbor is Pierre Narciss, the “Chocolate Rabbit.” In general there are no problems with them - they are always saying hello, and don't make much noise. What's that? At night they play the drums and do African dances? Those are lies, that's the first I have heard of this. On the contrary, there is absolutely no noise. Our school has a number of African children and everyone gets along fine. What you have heard about is absolute nonsense.”

Ilya also spoke with a local African migrant from South Africa who had moved to Moscow to manage a nightclub. He was clearly worried about the effects of the article:

Было видно, что к прессе у него очень подозрительное отношение. . . «Мы собираемся подавать в суд на них», — заявил он. «Они все переврали. Здесь живет много африканцев из разных стран, и все всегда жили спокойно, а они там наговорили непонятно что. Я не понимаю, зачем надо так врать».

It was clear he had a very negative view of the press. “We intend to take them to court,” he said. “They have distorted everything. Many Africans from different countries live here, and we have always lived peacefully, and then they write this stuff. I do not understand why they would do this.”

Why would Vesti-FM publish this kind of nonsense?

If the fair residents of this quiet suburb were not terrorized, what could possibly motivate Ms. Krikheli and Vesti FM to print this kind of racist misinformation? As Varlamov poses it:

зачем серьезной государственной радиокомпании надо раздувать абсолютно несуществующую в реальности проблему? Да еще описывать все в таких страшных красках? Ради сенсации? И как у журналистки, готовившей материал, обстоит дело с журналистской этикой? Слышала ли она об ответственности за разжигание межнациональной розни?

For what reason would a serious government radio station need to fabricate a nonexistent problem? And to paint it in such vivid color? Just to create a sensation? And doesn't a journalist, preparing material, have professional ethics? Has she heard about responsibility for stirring up inter-ethnic conflict?

Although it is unlikely that a definitive answer will ever emerge from the murky world of Russian misinformation, one strong possibility is that this series of articles were paid for by wealthy interests (one possibility: construction companies) who have an interest in deflecting anti-immigration attitudes toward African migrants. There are some clues in Mr. Khrikeli's articles themselves. At one point, she writes:

Анастасия говорит, что жизнь рядом с мигрантами из стран СНГ ни в какое сравнение не идет - они просто ангелы на фоне африканского народа, заполонившего подмосковные Люберцы. “Что вы, таджики и узбеки - тихие, спокойные, никогда не собираются большими компаниями, не шумят. Африканцы же всегда после себя столько мусора оставляют. Очень плохо мы живем здесь”, - отмечает она.

Anastasia says that there is no comparison between these African immigrants and life next to migrants from the CIS countries [former Soviet republics like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan] - they are simply angels in comparison with the African people, who are overrunning the Liubertsy suburbs. “The Tajiks and Uzbeks are quiet, peaceful, never congregate in big groups, and do not make a lot of noise. The Africans are always leaving trash everywhere. It is awful living here.”

Articles around the web have appeared which further support this explanation. One article on Islam News proclaims that the residents of Liubertsy “now sorely miss living next to Tajiks and Uzbeks.”

A great deal still remains unclear. Since Vesti FM is state-owned, what role did the Russian government play in these articles? Whatever the explanation, however, Ms. Krikheli's articles are a sad reflection on the state of journalistic ethics in the state-owned Russian media as well as the ease with which it is manipulated. For the African immigrants of Liubertsy, let's hope that the ramifications end there.

Israel: Beyond ‘us' and ‘them,' Lihi Yona is an Arab Jew

Israeli woman Lihi Yona, a Moroccan Jew descendent, reclaims her Arab roots and complicates local identity politics on a bus ride to Jordan to attend a Lebanese band performance. The Hebrew version is followed by an English one: I am an Arab Jew.

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