Saturday, March 04, 2006
When word came out last week that Andrew Young was acting as a mouthpiece for Walmart it was a bit disconcerting. Young is no flaming radical, but still you'd expect a little more. In the article below the Black Commentator explains why we shouldn't have been surprised.
Andy Young: The Shameless Son
Black History Month 2006 ended on a jarring note. Andrew Young, a former member of Dr. King's inner circle at SCLC, who went on to serve three terms in Congress, a stint as UN ambassador and two terms as mayor of Atlanta before cashing out his Freedom Movement chips for a lucrative career as an international "business consultant," decisively spat upon the movement for human rights and economic justice that he spent his early career helping to build. Young announced on February 27, 2006 that he would chair Working Families for Wal-Mart, a media sock-puppet for the ruthless multinational firm. The cynical misuse of his stature as an icon of the Freedom Movement, preacher, former elected official, and honored elder in black America to mask and obscure the crimes of his corporate client marks Mr. Young as nothing more nor less than a corporate whore.
When Atlanta's WAOK-AM radio gave Young several minutes of live air time the morning of the 27th to justify himself to an African American hometown crowd, the response was overwhelmingly negative. How could he do this, one caller after another wondered incredulously. Wal-Mart does more to depress the wages of working people on both sides of the Pacific than any other single player in the game, listeners called in to say. Other callers reminded each other that Wal-Mart relentlessly discriminates against women and minorities, ruthlessly crushes unions, and dumps its health care costs onto the public sector while receiving millions in local government subsides and tax abatements for each of its thousands of US stores. Andy Young used to walk with Dr. King. He used to be on our side, more than one observed. Why, they asked, is this happening?
To get at the answer we need to understand what an international "business consultant" is. Andy Young is co-founder, with Carlton Masters of Good Works International. Stephen Glass's 1997 New Republic article "The Young and the Feckless" succinctly spells out what Andy Young's firm did for its first client, Nike. Public outrage in the US was building over Nike's outrageous business practices including child labor and forcing employees to work as many as 65 hours per week for only $10. Incensed citizens disrupted the opening of a Nike Town superstore in San Francisco standing in front of the store chanting, "Just don't do it!"
Two days after the San Francisco incident, Nike CEO Phil Knight announced that his company was taking swift - and, it would turn out, savvy - action to shore up its meticulously maintained but suddenly threatened public image. Nike was commissioning an independent investigation of its Asian operations: it would make all facilities and internal documents available to a team of inspectors, and it would then allow the inspectors to make their findings public. "Nike has always been a business about excellence and achievement," Knight proclaimed. And, to prove it, Nike would hire not just any old corporate hack to lead the investigation into its overseas operations, but a man of famous independence and renowned stature - a man who had first gained recognition as a civil rights hero, who had won wide acclaim as the mayor of Atlanta, who had served his country as ambassador to the United Nations and who had co-chaired the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. The honorable Andrew Young, Knight said, would get to the bottom of this.
...Young had recently founded a firm in Atlanta called GoodWorks International... Nike was GoodWorks's first big client; its first chance to send corporate America evidence that GoodWorks did, from the businessman's point of view, good work. And when, four months after Knight's announcement, Young's firm published its seventy-five-page, full-color report on Nike's Asian operations, the client certainly had reason to feel it had gotten its money's worth. There was, Young had concluded, "no evidence or pattern of widespread or systematic abuse or mistreatment of workers" in the twelve operations he examined. To hammer home the point, GoodWorks packed the report with photographs - many taken by Young himself - of smiling workers playing a guitar on their break and relaxing around a television in their dorm.
As depictions of the actual conditions faced by the real working humans in Nike sweatshops, Andy Young's photos of contented guitar strumming Nike workers on a porch had about as much integrity as pictures of harmonica-playing happy-go-lucky darkies in a 1909 Alabama chain gang or cotton patch. But integrity is not what international "business consultants" do.
Only weeks behind Andy Young's cotton patch tour auditors from the accounting firm Ernst & Young visited some of the same locations, and detailed the unsafe, inhuman and abysmal conditions. This report, promptly leaked by a gutsy company insider with a human conscience flatly contradicted Andy Young's lies.
Still, the Nike job put Andy Young's Good Works International on the map, and over the next few years lucrative contracts walked in the door. Young cynically rented his "civil rights hero" and philanthropist image out to oil and mineral extracting corporations in Africa, to bankers in the Caribbean and other interests on the Asian continent to paper over their atrocities.
In Nigeria, where every sensible person expects the nation's vast treasure of easily extracted oil to be pumped dry in a few decades with little or no lasting benefit to the masses of its people, Good Works International is widely credited with introducing the Nigerian president to thievery, American style. Andy Young and co-founder Carlton Masters helped engineer the creation of the first Nigerian Presidential Library, and one or both sit on its board. Fifty million naira in corporate donations poured in the first day, with Texaco and Chevron thought to be among the major contributors. By early this year the library had netted billions of naira from Nigerian and foreign firms that do business with government, generated a storm of controversy over the ethics of such legalized bribery, and sparked an official investigation by Nigeria's Ethics and Financial Crimes Commission. And along the way, Good Works landed the lobbying contract to represent Nigeria in the US. The motto of Good Works International is after all, to do good by doing well.
While most callers to the Monday morning Atlanta radio station excoriated Young's willful treachery, the most interesting response came from one of the show's co-hosts who spoke in Young's defense. The man was a civil rights leader, he declared, a former congressman and mayor. Andy is a philanthropist, he went on to say, whose good works help set up scholarship funds, endow university schools of public policy, send kids to summer camp and much, much more. He knows things we don't. He sees things we don't. It's time to shut up, to wait and see if the benefits outweigh the prices. Though Young's defender is dead wrong, his stance reveals the one asset upon which corporate whores like Andy Young can and will always trade. That asset is our slavish and uncritical deference to elected officials, to civil rights icons, to the clergy, to established authorities. This is what Andy Young's clients count on, and it's what Young himself counts on.
As the National Black Peoples Unity Convention in Gary, Indiana, begins this March, we are well served to bear this lesson in mind. When is it time to listen to leaders, to icons, to elected officials? When is it time to ignore or criticize them, or cast them aside altogether? How many more times will other Andys and Amoses of our black business-class leadership betray us in the name of what they say is economic development? Will Gary make a difference at all?
The Gary convention can make a difference, if we don’t allow the icons to work their show, for their own benefit. In that sense, every black event can make a difference, if we do not allow ourselves to be hoodwinked and bamboozled by whores like Andrew Young, who have sold us out to the corporate world - but yet expect us to worship at the altar of their own prosperity.
Show up at Gary. Show out at Gary. Get crazy at Gary. Let the luminaries know what you think, and don’t allow any of them to get away with the kind of con game that Andrew Young has run on us. Demand action, and refuse to provide a pleasant forum for those who betray us, as Andy has done.
We should never give up on our people. Each venue is another opportunity to correct ourselves. Let us take up the challenge. Raw and blatant betrayal cannot be tolerated, and it is up to us to make it extremely uncomfortable for the betrayers. They cannot sit among us, much less in elevated positions.
Andrew Young voluntarily surrendered that privilege, years ago. We must now take it from him. Cast him out of our house. Let him camp out in Bentonville, Arkansas, with his Wal-Mart benefactors.
For information on the National Black Peoples Unity Convention, call (301) 627-8436 or send email to Pbrock9353@aol.com.
Bruce Dixon can be contacted at Bruce.Dixon@blackcommentator.com.
Friday, March 03, 2006
Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police are bent all out of shape about renaming of a street there in honor of former Black Panther Fred Hampton.
I say, "Too damn bad!"
I well remember hearing the news of the massive police assault on Black Panther Party headquarters in Chicago which took the lives of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark while they slept.
I remember the nationwide attack on the Panthers that killed, wounded and jailed hundreds of Black men and women who stood up for their people and their communities.
I remember what the Panthers meant to me, a white kid, in Lawrence, Kansas.
They were more than a symbol, they were an inspiration.
And yes, they were a threat, to the white power structure.
J. Edgar Hoover once called the Panthers "the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States."
To his United States they indeed were.
We could use those Black Panthers about now.
The original ten point program of the Black Panther Party stated,
What We Want - What We Believe
1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.
We believe that black people will not be free until we are able to determine our destiny.
2. We want full employment for our people.
We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every man employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the white American businessmen will not give full employment, then the means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.
3. We want an end to the robbery by the white man of our Black Community.
We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules was promised 100 years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of black people. We will accept the payment as currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The Germans are now aiding the Jews in Israel for the genocide of the Jewish people. The Germans murdered six million Jews. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of over twenty million black people; therefore, we feel that this is a modest demand that we make.
4. We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.
We believe that if the white landlords will not give decent housing to our black community, then the housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that our community, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for its people.
5. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society.
We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.
6. We want all black men to be exempt from military service.
We believe that Black people should not be forced to fight in the military service to defend a racist government that does not protect us. We will not fight and kill other people of color in the world who, like black people, are being victimized by the white racist government of America. We will protect ourselves from the force and violence of the racist police and the racist military, by whatever means necessary.
7. We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of black people.
We believe we can end police brutality in our black community by organizing black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our black community from racist police oppression and brutality. The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States gives a right to bear arms. We therefore believe that all black people should arm themselves for self defense.
8. We want freedom for all black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.
We believe that all black people should be released from the many jails and prisons because they have not received a fair and impartial trial.
9. We want all black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their black communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.
We believe that the courts should follow the United States Constitution so that black people will receive fair trials. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives a man a right to be tried by his peer group. A peer is a person from a similar economic, social, religious, geographical, environmental, historical and racial background. To do this the court will be forced to select a jury from the black community from which the black defendant came. We have been, and are being tried by all-white juries that have no understanding of the "average reasoning man" of the black community.
10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace. And as our major political objective, a United Nations-supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the black colony in which only black colonial subjects will be allowed to participate for the purpose of determining the will of black people as to their national destiny.
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to supper, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariable the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
For Fred Hampton Jr., 36, the visionary life and painful death of his father is something he and his mother, Akua Njeri, bravely face and talk about everyday, he told the Chicago Defender.
"We continue to live it everyday because my mother and I know that the struggle of our people continues," Hampton Jr. said. "I have no criminal record, but the federal government already consider me as having three strikes against me. Strike one is because I am African. Strike two is because I am the son of Chairman Fred Hampton. And strike three is because I continue to fight for the liberation of my people through my organization, Prisoners of Conscious Committee."
The following editorial is from the Chicago Defender, an African American newspaper in that city.
EDITORIAL: Chicago police refuse to admit to rampant terrorism against Blacks during turbulent 60s
March 1, 2006
"Kill the pigs."
Those were the words often used by Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, to describe his solution to the Chicago Police Department's treatment of African Americans.
Here we are, 37 years after he was brutally assassinated along with fellow Panther Mark Clark, and the Chicago branch of the Fraternal Order of Police continues to be angered by his bitter denunciations.
Did we expect them not to be pleased with an ordinance calling for a Chairman Fred Hampton Way street to be named in his honor? Absolutely. But what is egregious - no, downright distasteful - is the inability for the Fraternal Order of Police to not accept why Hampton was so angry at officers that he would call for their murder.
There was rampant and frequent abuse against African Americans by police departments nationwide, and Mayor Richard J. Daley's city was no different. Law enforcement officers were supposed to be sworn to protect and serve. But when it came to African Americans, they used their badges and guns to terrorize, brutally beat, and in many instances, kill Black men and women.
This is the real story of Chicago and America; the one no one wants to discuss and keep hidden from the kiddos.
We are raised to respect law enforcement, but why in the hell didnÂt they reciprocate? We are supposed to care about those police officers and their families, but they showed no regard for our lives and our families.
A bogeyman didn't create the anger that welled in the spirit of Fred Hampton and countless other Black Panthers and Black men who had no voice or platform to speak from. It was that oppressive spirit known as the Chicago Police Department.
And for the Fraternal Order of Police to register their righteous indignation is beyond belief.
Hampton's denunciations were the effect. The cause? Sanctioned police terrorism against defenseless Black folks. But when the Panthers decided that the Second Amendment applied to them, then the police department grew angry, calling them a terrorist organization. They must have come to the conclusion that only one terrorism group should have the right to carry weapons - them.
Since Mark Donahue, Sidney Davis and other officials in the Fraternal Order of Police are so angry at the suggestion of naming a street after Hampton, where is their official resolution calling for the U.S. Congress to remove the name of J. Edgar Hoover from the headquarters in Washington, D.C. Here is a man who broke the law and subverted the U.S. Constitution, yet our government recognizes him on what is supposed to be the epitome of law enforcement - the FBI?
We would have far more respect for the Fraternal Order of Police if their disposition against naming a street after Hampton would extend to Hoover. We would be willing to listen to their grievances if they offered the African American residents of Chicago an apology for their brutal and sadistic actions during the days Fred Hampton walked the streets of this city. Otherwise, they are doing nothing more than trying to sully the reputation of a freedom fighter.
The Fraternal Order of Police is still protecting and serving with their anger at an honor for Chairman Fred Hampton. Only this time, it's their sordid and dangerous history.
A new study finds that as global warming continues and intensifies, heavily populated areas in Africa will be increasingly threatened with a lack of fresh water. WAKE UP WORLD!
The following article comes from Inter Press Service.
Africa: Warming Threatens Key Water Sources
Inter Press Service (Johannesburg)
Declines in rainfall caused by global warming threaten rivers and other local sources of fresh water in densely populated areas of Africa, according to a new study published here by Science magazine Friday.
Some of these areas, particularly in southern Africa, already suffer periodic droughts, so further declines in rainfall could have "devastating implications" for people who depend on local water supplies, according to the two authors, Maarten de Wit and Jacek Stankiewicz of the Africa Earth Observatory Network (AEON) at the University of Capetown.
Other particularly vulnerable areas include a narrow band of territory that stretches from Senegal eastward to Sudan and crosses several important water bodies that supply populations downriver, such as the Sudd swamps in the Nile Basin and the Niger River. They also include parts of East Africa south of Somalia.
Because much of the rainwater is absorbed by soil and plants before it can reach streams and rivers, declines in rainfall in these areas translate into much steeper declines in the amount of water available for human use. A 10-percent drop in precipitation in regions that receive 600 millimetres (mms) of rainfall per year could result in a 50 percent drop in surface drainage.
Altogether, the decline in rainfall and the resulting decrease in "perennial drainage" -- rivers, lakes and other bodies of water that hold or carry surface water throughout the year -- will "significantly affect" access to water across 25 percent of Africa by the end of the century, according to the study.
The study, which is based on a number of different climate models that predict the impact of global warming on rainfall, comes amid growing indications that warming is taking place even faster than scientists had expected.
In January, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Goddard Institute of Space Studies confirmed that 2005 was the warmest year on record and the past 10 years the hottest decade by far.
According to the BBC, a report to be issued later this month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of hundreds of scientists from around the world, will warn that given current projections of greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures are likely to rise between two and 4.5 degrees Centigrade by the end of the century -- significantly higher than the IPCC's previous predictions.
A recent report that Greenland's glaciers from its massive ice sheet are melting twice as fast as previously believed -- along with similar reports on ice melt in the Arctic and mountain glaciers -- supports the notion that the Earth's climate is, as Goddard's director, James Hansen put it last December, "nearing ...a tipping point beyond which it will be impossible to avoid climate change with far-ranging undesirable consequences".
While he was referring mainly to the impact of the rise in sea levels caused by melting ice, scientists agree that changes in the Earth's climate, including rainfall patterns, will also be dramatic.
In a study released last year, Anthony Nyong, a scientist at Nigeria's Jos University, warned that, if current trends continue, rainfall in sub-Saharan Africa will drop by 10 percent by 2050, leading to major water shortages due to the even greater loss of drainage water.
The new study builds on Nyong's work by using the latest computer models to determine how warming will affect rainfall and drainage systems in specific regions in Africa.
The study divides the continent into three "regimes" -- "dry" areas that will receive less than 400 mms/year of rainfall and consequently have virtually no perennial drainage; "wet" areas that will receive more than 800 mms/year; and intermediate, or "unstable", areas that will receive 400-800 mms/year by the end of this century.
According to the study, the dry zone will cover virtually all of North Africa, the Sahel and much of the Horn of Africa, as well as the western half of South Africa extending up through Namibia and coastal Angola -- a total of 41 percent of the continent.
With the exception of Somalia and nearby parts of Ethiopia and Kenya, which will see an increase in rainfall of between 10 and 20 percent, most of this zone will experience a decline in rainfall, in some cases such as North and Southwestern Africa, of as much as 20 percent.
The wet areas will include Central and most of West Africa around the Gulf of Guinea extending east to parts of Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and northern Madagascar. Most of these areas should see an increase in rainfall of up to 10 percent, according to the study.
The unstable, intermediate areas, comprising 25 percent of Africa, are of greatest concern to the authors, however, because declines in rainfall will have a serious impact on water supplies.
While some of these areas, especially in East Africa, are likely to see increases in rainfall of up to 10 percent, other areas, notably in West Africa and southern Africa, are likely to experience declines.
Southern Africa, in particular, will find itself "in a very disturbing situation", according to the study.
Most countries in Central and Eastern Africa will fall into the unstable regime with likely declines in rainfall of around 10 percent, according to the models. Compounding the problem is the fact that most of the arid western part of the region is dependent on the Orange River, whose sources will lie in unstable areas.
While much of eastern Africa should experience increases in rainfall, most of it will still fall under the either the dry or unstable regimes. Despite major increases in rainfall forecast for Somalia, for example, most of the country will receive less than 400 mm/y.
At the same time, the unstable Upper Nile region "will be very seriously affected" by projected changes in rainfall patterns.
A third unstable area of concern to the authors is the east-west band that will separate the dry Sahara from wet Central Africa, precisely because it includes so many important drainage systems -- such as the Senegal, Niger, Volta, and Nile river systems, as well as Lake Chad -- on which millions of people depend for their water.
The SHAC 7 are animal rights activists indicted under the controversial Federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. The Act punishes anyone who "physically disrupts" an animal enterprise. The charges stem from these activists' alleged participation in an international campaign to close the notorious product testing lab Huntingdon Life Sciences.
At heart, points out writer Pete Spina, this was a free speech fight. The specifics of the indictment stated that the seven were alleged to have run a website that reported on protests aimed at pressuring investors, stockbrokers and customers of the animal experimentation facility Huntington Life Sciences to divest from the facility. The indictment alleged the seven conspired to encourage the disruption of commerce at HLS.
Spina wrote, "The government’s interpretation of the AEP Act seeks to define as domestic terrorism any such third party action that has the effect of limiting commerce, whether criminal in method or not and no matter how peaceful, encompassing a variety of tactics such as civil disobedience, demonstrations and divestment campaigns."
The SHAC 7 are Kevin Jonas, Lauren Gazzola, Jacob Conroy, Darius Fullmer, John McGee, Andrew Stepanian, and Joshua Harper.
The following release is from the web site SHAC 7
Thursday, March 2, 2006
Today the jury in the SHAC 7 case returned a guilty
verdict on all counts as to all defendants. Five of
the six individual defendants were ordered into
custody with a possibility of bail pending sentencing
in the next few days. Sentencing has been set for June
6th. Some of the defendants face a maximum of 23
years, although it is expected all defendants will
receive sentences less than 10 years.
While it is sad to see yet another blow to our civil
liberties and another attack on the animal rights
movement, we still have a battle ahead of us. The
defendants will be appealing these convictions, and
needs in regards to support for the defendants will be
emerging over the next several days. The conviction is
just another example of our eroding civil liberties in
this country and a battle to be fought in the higher
The six are being held at Monmouth County Jail and the
judge has agreed to order that the jail provide
vegetarian meals. At this time, no calls to the jail
are needed and visiting spots are being reserved for
family and close friends of the defendants.
The tremendous outpouring of support from the activist
community has helped carry the defendants through this
difficult trial and will undoubtedly help them through
the struggle ahead.
Anyone who knows the campaign to close Huntingdon Life
Sciences knows that it is much bigger than these six
defendants and that it will undoubtedly carry on.
The defendants at this time implore the activist
community to not publicly comment on the case, to keep
their frustration with the outcome in check, and to
remember that the scrutiny on them and actions
perceived to be on their behalf can do nothing but
hurt them at this point.
Please stay tuned for announcements on how you can
support those in prison and upcoming court dates.
Trial Follow-up, Friday, March 3, 2006:
As it stands, most of the five defendants in custody will be released pending sentencing on June 6th (at which time they will be remanded into
custody for lengthy prison sentences).
However, it looks likely that Joshua Harper and Kevin Kjonaas could be in for longer trying to work out a release. Please write them now and often! Remember all mail is read by jail authorities and anything said to them could be brought up at sentencing.
Here is a list of contact information:
Monmouth County Correctional Institution
1 Waterworks Road
Freehold, NJ 07728
Monmouth County Correctional Institution
1 Waterworks Road
Freehold, NJ 07728
Jacob Conroy will likely be in custody through
Tuesday, so if you live in
the Northeast, feel free to write him at the same address.
And ain't this just swell?
Callixte Gakwaya, who was a lawyer with the Kigali Bar Association before the Genocide, is accused of having masterminded massacres in Ndera, Kigali City. He was hiding in Mozambique since 1994 until his recent appointment at International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
Thanks to MISNA for the following report:
GENOCIDE: UN LAWYER ON MOST WANTED LIST
Callixte Gakwaya, a Rwandan lawyer recently appointed as defence counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) based in Arusha (Tanzania), is suspected of involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The confirmation arrives from Aloys Mutabingwa, Rwanda’s representative to the ICTR, wanted by the United Nations to individuate responsibilities in the massacres. The Rwandan envoy revealed that Gakwaya's name appeared as “number 140” on the list of over 300 suspects consigned by the Interpol. Gakwaya was appointed as defence counsel for the former businessman Yusuf Munyakazi, who is accused of genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Cyangugu (in south Rwanda). After expressing surprise over the appointing of Gakwaya, Aloys Mutabingwa explained that the suspect must first be arrested where he is now and then handed over to the tribunal. The Rwandan government has on several occasions raised the issue of genocide suspects being in the employ of the tribunal, some of which have been arrested and indicted. The ICTR, created in 1995 with a 13-year mandate, has so far convicted 24 people and acquitted 3, while 17 are pending trial. It is estimated that in 1994 in Rwanda between half a million and 800,000 people (937,000 according to Kigali) were massacred, for the most part Tutsis but also Hutu, in turn victims of a retaliation by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) that seizing power officially ended the genocide.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Spanish first division club Real Zaragoza paid 9,000 euros ($10,728) on Tuesday for the club's fans due to their racist abuse at Barcelona's Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o last weekend.
The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) said in an official statement that the club had 10 days to appeal against the decision.
It is not enough!
Racism in football/soccer has got to stop.
Last night Italy and Germany game played at the Artemio Franchi stadium in Florence as part of a campaign against racism in the sport. The players from the two national teams entered the pitch alongside children wearing a shirt bearing the words 'European Union against Racism' - both in Italian and German.
Just ahead of kick-off, the Archbishop of Florence, Claudio Magnago, read a message from Benedict XVI in support of solidarity and against racial intolerance.
"His Holiness offers cordial greetings and good wishes to the authorities, organisers, directors, athletes and everyone who will watch the match at the Franchi stadium," it said. "His Holiness expresses his appreciation for all the initiatives against racial discrimination promoted in order to strengthen the important educational function of sport in supporting solidarity and peace. His Holiness also encourages the common efforts for the promotion of love towards patient dialogue and mutual respect in every field of society. God bless every good purpose and project."
News from Spain reports the following.
Racism in Spanish football
Samuel Eto'o, Barcelona's popular striker, has criticised the 9000 euro fine imposed on Zaragoza football club for the racist monkey chants he was subjected to whenever he touched the ball by sections of the Zaragoza supporters last Saturday.
Eto'o was so upset by the continuous racist chants of the home fans, that 15 minutes before the end of the match he decided to abandon the game and started walking of the pitch towards the tunnel. TV camaras caught him say "Ya no juego mas" (I'm not playing anymore). But players from Barcelona and Zaragoza aswell as training staff from both teams and the referee managed to persuade the Cameroon player to continue, and justice seemed to be done when just a few seconds after the game was re-started Ronaldinho scored for the visiting team. After the match Eto'o, who has spoken out before against racisim at football matches, confessed to reporters that he had been devastated by the behaviour of the fans.
When asked today for his opinion about the fine imposed on Zaragoza for the behaviour of the club's fans, Samuel Eto't said that it was much too lenient and that punishments dealt out by the Spanish football association should go beyond fines and he insinuated that closing down the ground for a year could be one solution. Eto also said he thought that ordinary courts should deal with these kind of situations, rather than just the football association.
Eto told reporters that he suffered the same kind of racist chants last season in Zaragoza, and that while he understood that clubs cannot control all the fans present at a match, everyone in football should work together to try to erradicate the growing problem of racism in Spanish football.
The war on drugs has long targetted coke in Colombia. Now students at UCLA are joining in.
The following comes from UCLA's Daily Bruin.
Coalition campaigns against Coca-Cola
By Mussarat Bata
A new group on campus is trying to remove products of the Coca-Cola Company from UCLA.
Coke Free Coalition, a coalition of students from several student groups, demonstrated last week in opposition to having Coca-Cola products on campus.
The group cites human rights violations by Coca-Cola involving Colombian paramilitary fighters and alleged murders of Colombian union organizers, among other issues.
The coalition, formed late fall quarter, includes the Student Worker Front, MEChA, the Social Justice Alliance, the Muslim Students Association and the Asian Pacific Coalition.
Megan Markoff, a second-year political science student and a member of the coalition, said William Mendoza Gomez, the head of the Sinaltrainal, the Colombian workers' union, spoke in January at UCLA as part of a speaking tour, and discussed his first-hand experiences of labor abuses by Coca-Cola.
"Our objective is to make students aware of how Coca-Cola is affiliated with murder and other kidnapping and torture cases," Markoff said. "Students should know that by having Coca-Cola products on campus we're supporting these violations."
Such allegations are nothing new to Coca-Cola, as colleges across the country have taken measures to investigate the company, and some have eliminated it from their campuses.
But Kari Bjorhus, a spokeswoman for the Coca-Cola company, denied the allegations and said the murders have been investigated by both the Colombian courts and the attorney general. Both found no evidence of any Coca-Cola involvement with the crimes, she said.
The coalition is also concerned with possible environmental hazards Coca-Cola factories create in India.
Second-year sociology student and coalition member Lizzy Keegan said Coca-Cola has set up factories in India that contaminate and drain the water resources which makes it impossible for the local farmers to grow crops.
Bjorhus said it is in the best interest of Coca-Cola to make sure workers have access to water, adding that it did not make sense for Coca-Cola to invest in a plant which would use up all the ground water.
More recently, the student coalition has been talking with Associated Students UCLA to discuss the sale of Coca-Cola products at on-campus eateries. The group expressed its concerns at the January ASUCLA Services Committee meeting, Markoff said.
"ASUCLA responded by saying they'd start investigating the issue, but we're still pushing through with action," Markoff said.
ASUCLA Executive Director Bob Williams said ASUCLA has formed a group to look into researching the issue and said a decision would be made in the near future.
Eliminating Coca-Cola products from college campuses is becoming a nation-wide effort, Markoff said.
The University of Michigan announced Dec. 29 the temporary suspension of its contract with Coca-Cola due to the company's lack of cooperation with a third party review of Coca-Cola's conduct.
Coca-Cola issued a statement in response to the Michigan announcement, stating it "is facilitating the design and development of a credible, objective and impartial independent third party assessment in Colombia during the first quarter of 2006."
Union members in Australia are in no mood to celbrate tthat has meant increased average working hours, an increase in casual and part-time jobs and a decrease in full time jobs.
has also been marked by a push to get more workers on to individual contracts, sky rocketing executive pay and opposition to increases in the minimum wage.
Howard's Government is also known for its attacks on unions as well as the introduction of the Work Choices legislation, which labor leaders say would erode workers core conditions.
The following report from the Australian Broadcasting Network then is no surprise.
Protesters disrupt PM's anniversary function
Protesters have stopped Prime Minister John Howard from using the front entrance of a hotel in Sydney tonight for a function to mark the 10th anniversary of the federal Coalition winning office.
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside a hotel in Martin Place in the city, forcing Mr Howard to use the back entrance to the building.
John Robertson from Unions News South Wales says Mr Howard's 10th year in power is nothing to celebrate.
"Every year that John Howard has been Prime Minister, working people in this country have and their families have suffered at the hands of John Howard," he said.
He says the protesters want to send Mr Howard a message about the new industrial laws.
"The message from tonight is that we are going to stay around and hold John Howard and his Government accountable all the way to the next election and the one beyond," he said.
"We're going to make sure all Australians understand the impact of this legislation.
"John Howard's banking on us and the community going away and we won't be."
Meanwhile, ACTU president Sharan Burrow says she has been appalled by the lack of criticism Mr Howard has faced during celebrations of his first 10 years as Prime Minister.
Ms Burrow says she has written a top 10 list of the Coalition Government's failings and she puts dishonesty at the top.
"Our government will not apologise for the terrible lies of children overboard, of weapons of mass destruction, and now Australian Wheat Board," she said.
"So the integrity and the standards that Australians would think they stand by, absolutely destroyed by a Government who will not acknowledge its failures."
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Angola's health system was left in tatters by the 27-year civil conflict that ended in April 2002. Even after severao years of peace, medical institutions struggle to provide adequate treatment even for common illnesses. A study done last year by Partners for Health ReformPlus reported:
Angola’s health indicators are some of the worst in (Sub Sahara Africa)SSA. The infant mortality rate is 154 per 1,000 live births, and the under-5 mortality rate is 260 per 1,000 live births (Ministry of Planning [MOP] and UNICEF 2003). The total fertility rate is estimated to be 7.2 births per women, and average life expectancy is only 40 years. Malaria is reported to be the principal cause of mortality and morbidity in the country, with a total 3.25 million cases and 38,000 deaths due to malaria reported in 2003 (USAID 2005). A small number of diseases, namely malaria, acute diarrhoeal diseases, acute respiratory infections, measles, and neonatal tetanus, are directly responsible for 60 percent of child deaths, despite the fact that it is relatively easy to prevent or treat these problems at the level of the primary health care (PHC) services, and through better practices and care at household level (Ministry of Health [MOH] 2004b). Malnutrition is the main associated cause of mortality. The rate of maternal mortality was estimated to be between 900 and 1,300 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, which is 12 times higher than in other developing countries (MOP and UNICEF 2003). Contraceptive
prevalence nationally is estimated to be only 6 percent among women age 15−49 who are married or in de facto unions (MOP and UNICEF 2003). Higher contraceptive prevalence (17 percent) was found in three municipalities in Luanda (Management Sciences for Health [MSH] and Consaúde 2002). These health indicators reflect a series of contributing factors such as lack of access to health services, water, means of excreta disposal, personal and food hygiene, food security, housing, household income, and health care knowledge and practices in communities and households.
The following comes to us from Inter Press Service (Johannesburg)
Health-Angola: The Dangerous Profession of Motherhood
By Karen Iley
Walking into the Angolan capital's main maternity hospital, the first thing that hits any visitor is the stench: a nauseating combination of blood and excrement. After a short while, the stomach settles and the eyes adjust to the poor light in the Maternidade Lucrecia Paim; then, the true wretchedness of the grey walls and broken windows begins to sink in.
A heavily-pregnant woman wearing a tatty T-shirt full of holes is obviously in a lot of pain. Unable to find relief, she stumbles up and down the corridor, fretfully tying and untying her grubby sarong. She is wearing no underwear and as she leans, exhausted and moaning, against the wall, blood trickles down her legs and onto the floor.
No-one offers her assistance or a kind word. No-one mops up the blood. The scene is a telling illustration of how perilous child bearing in this Southern African country can be -- and of the difficulties Angola will have in meeting the fifth Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing maternal mortality by three quarters, come 2015.
The United Nations Children's Fund estimates that for every 1,000 live births in Angola, 17 women die from pregnancy-related causes. Angolan women are thought to carry a one-in-seven risk of maternal death, higher than the one-in-16 risk for sub-Saharan Africa -- and much, much worse than the one-in-2,000 and one-in-3,000 risk in Europe and the United States.
To a large extent, these figures are a legacy of Angola's 27-year civil war between government and the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola -- UNITA).
While the country may now be enjoying its fourth year of peace, there is still a general lack of basic health facilities. Roads made impassable by potholes or landmines render the few services that do exist inaccessible to many in remote areas.
Pregnant women often go without basic antenatal care that includes advice on AIDS, nutrition, hygiene and the prevention of malaria -- a disease which leads to anaemia among pregnant women, and is a chief culprit in both maternal and infant mortality.
They also continue with established, but sometimes dangerous practices of plying their trade at the market or working in the fields right up until childbirth. When expectant mothers fear that something is amiss, they struggle to get to a health facility -- and often arrive too late.
"There is a lack of facilities, but the women also come seeking help at a very late stage," says Maryse Ducloux, assistant medical coordinator with the Belgian branch of Doctors without Borders, an international aid group.
Furthermore, many births take place in the absence of medical staff, meaning that complications which need not prove fatal often result in death.
"There is a long belief in traditional medicine and having babies at home, either on your own or with family members -- mothers, sisters, cousins -- to help. These beliefs are difficult to counteract," notes Ducloux.
"When the women reach the hospitals, the harsh reality is that there is often nothing we can do for them. They just come to die."
Then there is the sensitive issue of abortion, illegal in Angola except in instances where it is required to save a woman's life.
"There are no facilities for abortion, but it doesn't stop some women from trying at home using traditional medicine. They often arrive in our hospitals in a terrible state," says Ducloux.
High levels of fertility and precocious sexual activity mean the threat of complications, infection and death during childbirth is greatly increased.
Government claims to be very concerned about the health of its mothers, and wants to reduce the number of maternal deaths by a third, by 2008 -- something that would also mark substantial progress on MDG five. (In all, eight MDGs were adopted by global leaders at the U.N. Millennium Summit in New York six years ago -- this to address several of the main barriers to development, such as child and maternal mortality, environmental degradation and unfair global trade rules.)
But Angola faces an almost endless list of equally pressing needs, and with maternal health seen as a weaker cash-generator among donors than the fight against child mortality, there are fears that little will be done to make provision for expectant mothers.
Such a development would be especially grim in a country where many women lack access to education, and have few prospects apart from motherhood.
Angolan women have seven children on average. They also start having babies at an early age, with an estimated 70 percent giving birth to their first child while they are still teenagers.
Family planning information is scarce, and while medical practitioners in the field say women are willing to try contraception and birth spacing, the husbands and partners of these women often see this as an affront to their virility.
At Maternidade Lucrecia Paim, Teresa Miguel* is confronting the consequences of under-investment in maternal health.
Her family lives in Viana, a poor suburb just a few kilometers from the centre of Luanda; but her young daughter, pregnant with her second child at just 21 years old, arrived at the hospital too late -- and her baby girl was born dead.
Tears coursing down her cheeks, Miguel clasps her head in her hands and prays out loud for Lucia, who is still in the emergency ward, and still haemorrhaging.
The nurses have sent her out to buy drugs for Lucia, but in her distressed state she doesn't really know what to buy or where to go. Within a few minutes, she is back at the emergency room, empty-handed and panicky.
A young girl of about 16 years old looks on anxiously as she strokes her swollen belly.
"If you don't have the money to buy the drugs and the dressings, then you don't get the treatment," she explains, clutching a 200 kwanza note (about 2.2 dollars) in her hand.
Sadly, she, Lucia and even the bleeding woman roaming the hospital corridor can count themselves lucky. At least they live near the capital and have some access to basic antenatal and post-partum care. Most women in Angola's vast hinterland often have to manage on their own.
* Not her real name
Knowing that you have been sitting around saying, "I wish I had a long interview with that guy who leads the Maoist uprising in Nepal," I've found one for you. This exclusive interview was lifted from India's The Hindu newspaper.
Now get a cup of coffeee, sit down, take a deep breath, and read on...
Exclusive interview with Prachanda, Maoist leader
This is a complete verbatim transcript of Nepali Maoist leader Prachanda's interview with Siddharth Varadarajan of The Hindu, conducted at an undisclosed location in the first week of February 2006. Highlights and excerpts from the interview were published in the print edition of The Hindu of February 8, 9, and 10, 2006.
Varadarajan: Your party has waged a "people's war" in Nepal for 10 years and the anniversary is now coming up. There are some who say that this war - and the Royal Nepal Army's counter-insurgency campaign - has cost the country dearly in terms of the violence and bloodshed that has accompanied it. In your estimation, what has been the main accomplishment of these 10 years?
Prachanda: For 250 years, our peoples have been exploited under the oppression of feudal lords. The people's war has helped crush the feudal structure in the rural areas. We think this is the main achievement. Also, in the overall sense we feel that in Nepal there is going to be a great leap forward in the socio-economic condition because we are going to lead the country to a democratic republican structure. A political situation has been developed through this process, and we feel this is also a very big achievement of the people's war.
Varadarajan: In your party plenum last August in Rolpa, you took a momentous decision - to strive for and participate in multiparty democracy. If you were going to accept multiparty democracy after 10 years of war, why go about this in a roundabout way?
Prachanda: I want to answer your question in two parts. There is the whole theoretical and ideological question that we are trying to develop, because we want to analyse the experience of revolution and counter-revolution in the 20th century on a new basis. Three years ago we took a decision in which we said how are we going to develop democracy is the key question in the 21st century. This meant the negative and positive lessons of the 20th century have to be synthesised in order for us to move ahead. And three years ago we decided we must go in for political competition. Without political competition, a mechanical or metaphysical attitude will be there. So this time, what we decided is not so new. In August, we took serious decisions on how practically to build unity with the parliamentary political parties. We don't believe that the people's war we initiated was against, or mainly against, multiparty democracy. It was mainly against feudal autocracy, against the feudal structure.
Varadarajan: How difficult was it for your party to come to this decision? How difficult was it to build consensus on the need for multiparty democracy within the leadership and cadres?
Prachanda: An agenda was first presented to the Central Committee on democracy. Then there was an internal debate within the party rank and file for a whole year. After that, the CC plenum unanimously decided that within a definite constitutional framework we have to go in for competition. Without competition, we will not be able to go forward. This was a unanimous decision.
Varadarajan: Is this decision a recognition by you of the impossibility of seizing power through armed struggle? That because of the strength of the RNA and the opposition of the international community, a new form of struggle is needed in order to overthrow the monarchy?
Prachanda: Here again there is not only one question. There is a specificity to the political and military balance in today's world. This has to be seen. The second thing to be seen is the experience of the 20th century. Third, there is the particular situation in the country - the class, political and power balance. It is by taking these three together that we came to our conclusion. We are talking of multiparty democracy in a specific sense, within a specific constitutional framework. We are not talking about bourgeois parliamentary democracy. This multiparty democracy will be anti-imperialist and anti-feudal. In other words, only within an anti-feudal, anti-imperialist constitutional framework is multiparty democracy possible. That is why armed struggle is also necessary, and unity in action with the other political parties against the monarchy is also a necessity. The socio-economic change we are fighting for is against feudalism and imperialism and it is within the context of that struggle that we are talking of multiparty democracy.
Road map to democratic republic
Varadarajan: So if the king announces tomorrow that the steps he took last year were wrong and allows free and fair elections under the present Constitution, the Maoists will not take part? Is a new constitutional framework a pre-condition for taking part in elections?
Prachanda: Yes, you can put it that way. If the king says that I was wrong to have done what I did last year, now come on, let us sit across the table, and then he talks of a free and fair election to a constituent assembly, then we will be ready. Our minimum, bottom line is the election of a constituent assembly, that too under international supervision, either by the United Nations or some other international mediation acceptable to all. Under those circumstances, we will go in for elections and accept whatever the peoples' verdict is. This is our bottom line. But if the king says, come on, make an interim government and hold elections, we will not come forward.
Varadarajan: But will you oppose the parties doing that? If the parties agree to go ahead on this interim basis, what will happen to your alliance or agreement with the parties?
Prachanda: If the king asks them to form a government and the parties go in for parliamentary elections without looking at the demands we have been making for the past 10 years, it would be difficult for us to go along with the parties. Because this is what you had before. The king and the parties were together for 7-8 years. That was the situation. And still there was struggle, because the demand for a constituent assembly is a longstanding one. It is not a demand that came up only today.
Varadarajan: How crucial was the August plenum decision on multiparty democracy to paving the way for the 12-point agreement with the parties?
Prachanda: After the Royal Palace massacre itself, we had made an appeal to the parliamentary parties. There was a general understanding and some meetings were also held because the 2001 royal massacre was against democracy. In the 1990 movement, we were together with the Congress and UML [Unified Marxists-Leninists]. We felt the change that was needed in Nepal was against feudalism but the parliamentary parties were not ready for this. For three years we struggled inside Parliament. For three years we were there. Our 40-point demands were placed but there was not even any discussion on this. So the seeds of our armed struggle were sown inside Parliament, in a manner of speaking. This is a very big difference between us and, say, those in India who say they are waging a people's war. They didn't begin from inside Parliament. We were inside Parliament, so we had good relations with the parliamentary parties for a long time.
The 1990 movement produced limited gains. We could have taken more but got less from the palace because of a compromise. At the time we said the Nepali peoples have been cheated. We said this compromise was bad and that there was a danger of the palace grabbing power again, as had happened in Mahendra's time. We said this from the rostrum of Parliament but the other parties did not have the courage even to act against those elements from the panchayat system that the Malik commission had identified as criminals. And gradually a situation arose where those elements were able to enter the parties, the government.
After the palace massacre, we said that what we had predicted in 1990 had come to pass, that diehard elements have hatched a conspiracy and come forward. And we appealed to the parties to unite together as we had done in 1990. The parties were in government so it was not possible for them to understand our appeal. But slowly, the king's designs became clearer: he dissolved Parliament, dismissed the government and took direct power. This is when I think the parties realised they had been taken for a ride all this time. This is also when our plenum took concrete steps on the question of multiparty democracy. And our statement stressed that the time had come for all the parliamentary parties to join hands with our movement and civil society to fight against autocracy and monarchy.
At the plenum, we decided we needed to show more flexibility, that it was our duty to do this. So we took concrete steps and declared to the parties, 'You lead, we will support you.' This so-called king - he is not a traditional king and the Nepali people do not accept him as king. He and his group are well-known goons and people see them as a regicidal-fratricidal clique. He is not even a person who is capable of thinking politically. So we told the parties, come on, we want to help you. Before the plenum, we contacted the Nepali Congress and UML leaders and tried to bring them to Rolpa. But this was not possible.
Commitment to democracy not a tactic
Varadarajan: Nowadays, we hear the phrase 'The Maoists will sit on the shoulders and hit on the head.' Does this mean your alliance with the parties is tactical rather than strategic, that when the head - the monarchy - is weakened or defeated, you might then start hitting the shoulder?
Prachanda: It is not like this. Our decision on multiparty democracy is a strategically, theoretically developed position, that in a communist state, democracy is a necessity. This is one part. Second, our decision within the situation today is not tactical. It is a serious policy. We are telling the parties that we should end not only the autocratic monarchy but monarchy itself. This is not even a monarchy in the traditional way it was in Birendra's time, so we have to finish it. After that, in the multiparty democracy which comes - interim government, constitutional assembly and democratic republic - we are ready to have peaceful competition with you all. Of course, people still have a doubt about us because we have an army. And they ask whether after the constitutional assembly we will abandon our arms. This is a question. We have said we are ready to reorganise our army and we are ready to make a new Nepal army also. So this is not a tactical question.
Varadarajan: The 12-point agreement suggests you and the political parties have met each other half-way. They have agreed to a constitutional assembly and you have dropped your insistence on a republic.
Prachanda: We have not dropped our demand for a democratic republic. But to achieve that minimum political slogan, we have said we are prepared to go through free and fair elections to a constituent assembly. There shouldn't be any confusion that we have now agreed to a ceremonial monarchy. Some people have tried to draw this conclusion from the 12-point agreement but even at the time we explained to the parties that our slogan is a democratic republic. Earlier, we were saying people's democratic republic but this does not mean we have dropped that goal either. It's just that according to today's power balance, seeing the whole situation and the expectation of the masses, and that there [should] not be bloodshed, we also responsibly believe that to get there too we will do so through peaceful means.
Varadarajan: So the struggle for "people's democracy" will also be peaceful?
Prachanda: We will go for the goal of the people's democracy through peaceful means. Today, we are talking of a democratic republic and our understanding with the parties is that the way to realise this is the constituent assembly. At that time, any other party would be free to call for a ceremonial monarchy, some may be for constitutional monarchy - such a thing is possible with the seven parties.
Varadarajan: But whatever the outcome, you are ready to accept it.
Prachanda: We are ready to accept whatever is the outcome. This we are saying in clear-cut language.
Logic of ceasefire
Varadarajan: Your three-month ceasefire, and then the one month extension, did a lot to improve the profile and image of the Maoists, which had been damaged by certain incidents like the Madi bus blast. What was the logic behind that ceasefire and what are the roadblocks in the way of declaring another ceasefire in the near future?
Prachanda: When we called our ceasefire, there was no 12-point agreement with the parties nor was there any particular political or moral pressure on us from them or civil society. But we acted based on the whole political situation, because on our side too, some mistakes were increasing, from below, in the implementation of our policy and plan. At the lower level, some mistakes were happening such as the Madi bomb blast. So with the middle class our relationship was getting worse. Earlier, there was an upward trend in that relationship but we felt there was a danger of the graph falling. We were saying things from the top but still this was not being implemented. So we wanted the middle classes to be with us, and put out our political message to the broad masses in a new way. We also wanted to tell the international community that Gyanendra is not a monarch, these are autocratic, fascist elements who are more keen on bloodshed and violence than anybody else. We wanted to demonstrate this, and rehabilitate our image with the masses. So for these reasons we decided to go for a ceasefire.
As for the specific timing, there were two factors. The UN General Assembly was going to be held and the so-called king was going to go there. There he would have said he was for peace and democracy. Such a notorious element was going to go and create confusion over there. This possibility also needed to be crushed. This was a question. So we thought of a ceasefire as one way politically to hit out at him.
It was only after the ceasefire that the dialogue with the political parties began. And then a conducive atmosphere got created for the 12-point agreement. We also wanted to send a message to the international community that we were different from the way we were being projected ideologically. For example, right now we are having discussions with the European Union and with others, but among all the international forces, U.S. imperialism is the most dogmatic and sectarian element. The U.S. ruling classes are dogmatic. They don't understand what is happening. We are trying to look at the world in a new way, to change in a new way, and we wanted to send out this message. And in this regard, during the ceasefire, we were quite successful.
Right from the outset, we knew the monarch wanted us to abandon the ceasefire immediately. He was under so much pressure, he had to cancel his programme of going to the U.N. He was so politically isolated that he was desperate to provoke us to break the ceasefire. We knew that we had to sacrifice and ensure that for three months at least it was upheld because there were festivals, and we wanted to develop our psychological relations, spiritual relations with the masses. When we extended the ceasefire by a month, it became clearly established that this so-called monarch does not want a political solution, does not want peace. He is a bloodthirsty element, a fascist and autocrat. And when we finally ended the ceasefire, we clearly stated that if a forward-looking atmosphere for a political solution emerges, and all the political forces are ready for peace and democracy, then in that situation at any time we can again announce a ceasefire, and sit down for negotiations. But now, that situation does not obtain.
Nature of alliance with parties
Varadarajan: As a first step, are you prepared to join together with the parliamentary parties, with Mr. Koirala and Madhav Nepal, and go and talk face-to-face with the king to discuss the future of Nepal?
Prachanda: Immediately after the 12-point agreement, I had clearly said that if there is a unanimous understanding with the parties that we should go and talk to the king, then we will go. We are not prepared to meet the king alone, and we are also requesting the parties that they should also not go alone. Nothing will come of it. Only if we act collectively can we achieve anything. The alliance has to be strengthened and taken forward. For example, right now we have this huge drama of municipal elections. More than two-thirds of the seats will be vacant, and still he is trying to stage a drama.
Varadarajan: But rather than the Maoists calling a seven-day bandh, wouldn't it have been better as a tactic for you and the parties to have given a united call for the political boycott of the elections. That way, the king would not get the opportunity to claim the elections were a farce because of Maoist threats.
Prachanda: Yes. I agree with what you are saying. That would have been better. When the 12-point agreement was reached, there was a second understanding that within a week or two, we eight parties - the seven party alliance and the Maoists - would issue a joint statement appealing to the masses to boycott elections and stage mass demonstrations. But that has not proved possible.
Prachanda: Because the parties' leadership is a little hesitant. They are perhaps a little afraid that if they join with the Maoists and issue a joint statement for boycott, there could be greater repression on them. I think this could be a factor, though we have not had face-to-face discussions on this with them.
Varadarajan: Some feel that the Maoists' military actions are reducing the political space for the parties. For example, a few days before the parties were planning a big demonstration in Kathmandu, the Maoists attacked a police station in Thankot and the king got the opportunity to impose curfew, thereby ensuring the demonstration failed. Have you considered what actions you need to take so that your political space also increases but the parties don't feel squeezed between the king and you?
Prachanda: I agree a way has to be found. This is a serious and complicated question. When the 12-point agreement was reached, there was a need for continuous interaction between us and them. There was need for several meetings. Only then could we establish some synchronicity between their movement and ours. This did not happen. Despite this, we told the parties through other mediums that whether we stage actions or not, the king is still going to move against you. This is the same king, the same goons - he is also a very big smuggler - who made sure we couldn't peacefully demonstrate. When we went for negotiations in Kathmandu and our team was there, we decided to have a big meeting there. Sher Bahadur Deuba was the Prime Minister at the time. But the RNA and Gyanendra insisted we could not have such a rally and threatened curfew. They compelled us to move the meeting to Chitwan. So we told Girija and Madhav that even if we had done nothing in Thankot, they would not have allowed any big demonstration. Curfew would have been imposed anyway. Instead, Thankot has put Gyanendra under greater pressure.
Nature of monarch
Varadarajan: You mentioned the RNA and I would like your assessment: Does the king control the RNA or does the RNA control the king?
Prachanda: This is a very interesting question. Right now, in fact, this is precisely what we are discussing within our party and outside. Until now, it seemed the balance was 50-50. Sometimes the RNA runs the king, and sometimes the king runs the RNA. But it seems as if we are now going towards a situation where the RNA is in the driving seat. It seems as if power in the hands of Gyanendra is decreasing and he is doing what the RNA dictates. This seems to be the emerging situation but we cannot say this with facts. But looking at the overall situation, it seems that Gyanendra is going down the path laid out by the RNA. One thing is clear. He became king after the royal massacre - and it is clear that without the RNA, that massacre could never have happened, the Army core team was in the Narayanhiti palace and they are the ones who engineered the massacre. So he was made king in the same way as before, during the Rana days, when Tribhuvan fled and came to India and Gyanendra as a small boy was put on the throne. So there is no question of his going beyond the script dictated by the RNA. And this small clique of feudal aristocrats designed the royal massacre and is dominant. The manner in which he became king obliges Gyanendra to follow their direction.
Varadarajan: I too was in Kathmandu immediately after the palace massacre to cover the story. Like many reporters, I was initially suspicious of the Dipendra theory but later, after managing to meet some of the closest relatives of those who died, who spoke to actual survivors like Ketaki Chester and others who cannot really be termed as people connected to any monarchical faction with a particular agenda. And they all said it was Dipendra who committed the crime.
Prachanda: This is impossible. Of course, the clique has managed to establish the story amongst its own circles, among people who may be neutral as you say. They have established it in their class but that is not the reality. You know how different stories were put out immediately. First that the guns went off automatically, then another story was made. There was even an effort to suggest the Maoists had made a surprise attack. In the end, they pinned it on Dipendra. So the question arises, if it was so clear-cut, why didn't this story come out in the beginning? But my main logic is not this. If you look at the whole history of [crown prince] Paras - he was there at the time - now the whole history of Paras is well-known. Second, the role of Gyanendra in the 1990 movement. He had a big role then - he wanted to shoot down 2,000 people in Kathmandu and control the movement through force, he was a die-hard element. Even Surya Bahadur Thapa used to call them the bhoomigat giroh, an underground clique, and their leader was Gyanendra.What kind of goon Paras was - this is also known. For more than a month, the massacre was planned and Gyanendra based himself outside. So I don't think for even a moment that it was Dipendra. And in any case, the Nepali people simply refuse to believe this story.
Reorganisation of PLA and RNA
Varadarajan: Let us say a situation is created for a constituent assembly. In the run-up to that, the People's Liberation Army is not going to lay down its arms. Is it not possible that the parliamentary parties will feel themselves threatened by your dependence on arms? What kind of guarantees can you give in the run-up to any election that there will be no obstacle placed by you or the PLA in the political mobilisation by the parties?
Prachanda: When we had discussions and had an agreement last year - and we hope to meet again and take things forward after these municipal elections - we said we understand you have doubts and reservations about us and our army. We want a political solution to Nepal's problems, a democratic solution. So we made a proposal that you rehabilitate Parliament, we will support you. A two-thirds majority of MPs is with the Nepali Congress, UML and smaller parties. Call a meeting and declare that Parliament has been reinstated, that this is the legitimate parliament and that what Gyanendra is doing is illegitimate and illegal. Do this and then set up a multiparty government. We will not be part of it but will support it. And then you invite us for negotiations and we will come forward. After that, there will be a move to set up an interim government, and the main aim of that government will be to have elections for a constituent assembly.
In this rehabilitation and restoration of Parliament, there is no need to have anything to do with the king. He would have become illegal anyway. He has violated the constitution and also people's expectations for peace and democracy. So he would be illegal, your parliament would be legal and we would fully accept the legality of your parliament. We will come for negotiations with your leadership. Under your leadership, we will be in the interim government.
As for the RNA, you should appeal to the democratic elements within it by saying the king has violated the constitution, and the expectations of the masses, you come over to this side, this is the legal government and it is your responsibility to support it. And then the king should be given an ultimatum of a week or two weeks - that he should move back to the status quo ante before February 1, 2005 and agree to elections for a constituent assembly. If he doesn't agree, we would then abolish the monarchy. And we would tell the international community, this is the legitimate government, please stop recognising or supporting him. Ours is a legitimate government and this should be under the leadership of Girija Prasad Koirala. We are ready to support this.
Under such a situation, the democratic elements of RNA will be there, and so will the PLA, so we will organise the army as a new Nepal army. At that point, the problem will not be our weapons. The problem of arms and weapons is with the RNA which for 250 years has been loyal to the feudal lords. That is the problem. Our army has only been around for 10 years. This is not a problem. If there is a political solution, we are prepared to change that too. This is the first proposal that we have put forward. We will abolish the monarchy, there will be an insurrection (bidroh), the kingship will be over and then we will have the peaceful reorganisation of the army.
This is one way to deal with this problem and we are seriously putting it forward. It is revolutionary, it is viable, it is possible. It is precisely in this way that it is necessary to end the monarchy in Nepal. This is our first proposal and I feel the parties are not ready for this.
Varadarajan: What you are proposing is that the parliamentary parties stage a revolution!
Prachanda: Yes, but we feel their role can be a historic one. But they are not ready. The second way is also what we have been discussing, that the U.N. or some other credible body will supervise things. The RNA will be in the barracks and the PLA will also be under supervision. Both armies and arms will be under international supervision and will not enter the fray. Then there will be elections for a constitutional assembly. Our army will not interfere in the process.
Varadarajan: But what form will this international supervision take? Will it include foreign troops?
Prachanda: No troops. There can be a militia or police, which we create only for election purposes.
Varadarajan: Who will be part of this militia?
Prachanda: We have not gone into such details - there can be the cadres of the different parties, but all without firearms, to manage security for the elections. So there will be elections for the assembly and whatever verdict of the masses comes, it is on that basis that the army has to be reorganised. If the republic result comes, then the RNA's generals and commanders will have to go and the interim government would appoint as generals officers who are loyal to democratic values. If a constitutional monarchy wins, then there is the danger that the old generals will remain. So my point is that the army can be changed. This is the underlying idea behind the 12-point agreement and the parties also agree with this.
Varadarajan: So you are saying the problem of the PLA and its arms is not a big problem.
Prachanda: It is certainly not a problem the way people outside believe. If there is political will on our side and the parties, it can be solved.
Varadarajan: But you concede there is a history, which is why the parties are suspicious.
Prachanda: Yes there is, but we are talking about this too. There have been attacks by us on them, and we had seized property. Whatever had been taken from the Congress leadership has been returned - land and property - UML leadership too. So we are trying to build an understanding. If the parties' leaders say that in the past the Maoists attacked us, then we can also say that the RNA army was deployed against us when you were in government and so many of our comrades were killed. Whatever we may have done, the other side did so much more and this also has to be accounted for. But if we start talking like this, we will not be able to solve the major problem. If we have to make a breakthrough, then we should both review our history. We have to review our mistakes but you have to as well, because we have a common enemy - feudal aristocracy. We have to defeat this enemy and in consonance with democratic values we have to reorganise the army and state.
Role of India, China, and U.S.
Varadarajan: How do you see the role of India today? Last year, when the King seized power, India took a tough stand against him which surprised many. Today, this policy has its critics but the bottom line is that the Indian Government does not seem to regard the Nepal Maoists as illegitimate in the way that the king and the U.S. regard them.
Prachanda: In the past, India's role was not good. It was a policy of total alignment with the king. Last year, after February 1, when the situation changed in a big way, the role of the Indian authorities strikes us as positive. There is now a tough stand against autocracy. Still, the two-pillar theory [that Nepal's stability rests equally on constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy] persists and the Indian authorities have not officially abandoned this theory. They haven't said there is need for only one pillar. So officially, India is still sticking to the two-pillar theory and we want the Indian authorities to change this theory. They are right to support the democratic movement, but sticking to the two-pillar theory causes confusion.
Varadarajan: But if India abandons it, wouldn't the King accuse the Indians of interfering in Nepal's affairs, and then he will accuse the Maoists of being agents of India.
Prachanda: We do not think such a thing is possible. During the 1990 movement, when Rajiv Gandhi imposed a blockade on Nepal, the Nepali people did not oppose the blockade because it was in the context of the blockade that the democratic movement picked up speed and advanced very fast. If India is in favour of the democratic movement and a forward-looking political solution, then it will not be considered intervention. But if India supports regressive forces, this would be called intervention. Exertion of external pressure in favour of the masses is never regarded as interference. This is how it seems to us. The people of Nepal will not see this as intervention.
For example, some political leaders came from India recently to show solidarity with the movement. Gyanendra tried illegally to detain them at the airport, calling it intervention. But more than 99 per cent of Nepali people did not regard that as intervention. They saw it as fraternal assistance. Of course, when Hindu fundamentalists like this Singhal comes to Nepal, the King welcomes him. When they crown him 'King of the Hindus', he doesn't call it interference, but when political leaders come and say there should be democracy, he says this is interference. So the anger of people has grown against the King, not India. This is why we feel it is time for India to abandon the two-pillar theory.
Varadarajan: If tomorrow you were to meet Manmohan Singh, what would you ask him to do?
Prachanda: First, change this two-pillar theory. The Nepali people are trying to end the monarchy and you should end your relationship with it. Second, release all our comrades who are in prison in India. We are fighting for genuine multiparty democracy but they are imprisoned there, in Patna, Siliguri, Chennai. If you release them all, a message will go out. And if you feel the Naxalite movement in India is a problem for you, we feel we are trying to deal with the problems in Nepal in a new way, so if you release our comrades and we are successful in establishing multiparty democracy in Nepal, then this will be a very big message for the Naxalite movement in India. In other words, the ground will be readied for them to think in a new political way. Words are not enough, we need to validate what we are saying by establishing that democracy. Third, once a democratic republic is established in Nepal, then the historical doubts that have existed in the relations between Nepal and India can be ended once and for all. So for all these reasons, you should strongly support the movement for democracy.
Varadarajan: In many ways, the United States has emerged as the king's strongest backer. How do you evaluate Washington's role?
Prachanda: Their role has not been good. After February 1, India's role has been positive - for example the agreement we were able to reach with the political parties, I do not think it is likely that the Indian authorities knew nothing about this. But the U.S. role from the beginning has been negative and they are still trying to effect a compromise between the monarch and the political parties against the Maoists. Despite the fact that we are talking of pushing multiparty democracy, the U.S. has decided our movement and alliance has to be crushed. So they have a negative role.
Varadarajan: What is the American interest in being soft on the king?
Prachanda: It is not that they are afraid of what might happen in Nepal. Rather, their strategy is against the Indian and Chinese masses and also, I think, against the Indian and Chinese authorities. The U.S. has a grand strategy, and Bush is talking of China and India as big economic powers and even as threats. Perhaps they see Nepal as a country that is between these two countries and believe that if the situation here does not give rise to forces which are in step with themselves, then there could be a problem. So the U.S. is looking at Nepal from the strategic point of view. It is not that they have any economic interest here. Political control is the key, so they want to strengthen the king.
Varadarajan: What about the attitude of China? Some people in India argue that if India continues to take a tough stand against the king, he will turn to China for help and Beijing will benefit.
Prachanda: Earlier, we had a doubt, that perhaps China might be behind the king, that China would try and take advantage. But then we analysed the situation and came to the conclusion that China would not play this role. China's relations with India are improving and China will not want to jeopardise such a big interest by backing the Nepal king. And in the end, I think our analysis has been proved correct. Recently, when the Indian Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran, went to Beijing, he had talks, and a few days later, for the first time, the Chinese authorities issued a statement that they are worried about the situation inside Nepal and that it needs a careful resolution. Until then, Beijing had always maintained that what was happening inside Nepal was an internal problem. Today, China has no interest in antagonising India to build a relationship with the king. This is our analysis. And it looks like India and China could have a common approach towards Nepal. Certainly, a common approach is needed. If China and India do not work together, there will be a big problem not only for now but the future. So they need to have an understanding in favour of democracy, in favour of the people of Nepal. As far as U.S. interests are concerned, they are neither in favour of Indian or Chinese masses. So at the political level, all of us must come together to counter them, we should not fall under their trap.
Varadarajan: How do you explain for the contradictory nature of some of U.S. Ambassador Moriarty's statements? Last year, he did use tough language against the king in his speech to the Institute of Foreign Affairs.
Prachanda: The U.S. from the start believes the Maoists are a more immediate threat than the king. Even in the most recent statement from the State Department, they said the king should immediately open talks with the parties to deal with the Maoists. And this is the product of their vested interest. If the Bush administration's intentions were good, there is no reason to regard us as a threat. If its intention is in favour of democracy and solving Nepal's political problems, then there is no reason to see us as a threat especially when we are saying we are for multiparty democracy and are willing to accept the verdict of a constituent assembly.
We are glad with the new situation that is emerging after Shyam Saran went to China, it seems the situation can change. Our movement is also going forward and I think in 2-3 months, if the struggle continues, then there is a real chance of ending the kingship once and for all and making a democratic republic in Nepal. This is the best outcome for China and India, and everyone else. The U.S. does not want this. They want to maintain the monarchy at all costs.
Moriarty consistently has been speaking against the Maoists. He is connected to the Asia-Pacific military command of the U.S. He is not a political man. And we know that although his views are different from some in the U.S. establishment like, say, Senator Leahy, but overall, the position of the U.S. authorities is not in favour of democracy and Nepal people.
Leadership question and inner party life
Varadarajan: Has your party put behind it the differences which emerged last year between yourself and Baburam Bhattarai?
Prachanda: There was a problem and we solved it so well that the unity in our party is stronger than ever before. Our problems were not of the kind the media wrote about. We had an ideological debate about how to evaluate the 20th century. Why did the communist movement suffer such an enormous setback? Why did the Russian revolution get overcome by counter-revolution? Why did China also go down that path? This was a debate within the central committee for many years. There were other problems linked to shades of opinion within the party - like the Madi blast - but the purpose was to sort out our future plan. This was the purpose of the debate. But the timing was such that these things happened after February 1. If the timing had not been so bad, there wouldn't have been that much propaganda. But the time the king took over was also the time the debate in our party sharpened.
Varadarajan: The question was raised of a cult of personality in the party. As you know, any objective evaluation of the experience of the 20th century communist movement has to consider the cult of personality as certainly one of the factors in the reversals.
Prachanda: That is correct. But I want to clarify one thing. Between Dr. Bhattarai and me, there was never any debate on the issue of leadership. He has never challenged my leadership. On the issue of leadership personally, there has never been a difference. There were differences on ideological questions, about what we should do now, and there was a debate. And this debate we solved in the Rolpa plenum in August. We took it to a higher level and our unity has become stronger.
On the issue of leadership I want to say that our party will be the first communist party in the 21st century which has picked up on a clue from the 20th century - where it had got stuck - and we are going to open it. At our plenum, we placed a resolution on the question of political power and leadership. That when we go for state power and are in power, then we will not do what Stalin or Mao did. Lenin did not have time to deal with issues of power. Although Stalin was a revolutionary, his approach, was not as scientific as it should have been, it was a little metaphysical, and then problems came. We also evaluated Mao in the plenum. If you look at his leadership from 1935 to 1976 - from when he was young to when he was old and even speaking was difficult - must he remain Chairman and handle everything? What is this? So we decided that when we are in power, the whole team of our leadership will not be part of day-to-day power. Not just me but our team. Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, Badal, Mohra, others, we have a leadership team which arose from the midst of the struggle. When we go to Kathmandu, we will not be involved in power struggles or day-to-day power. That will be for the new generation, and we will train that generation. This is a more scientific approach to the question of leadership. If we don't do this, then we will have a situation where as long as Stalin is alive, revolution is alive, as long as Mao is alive, revolution is alive.
This will be a big sacrifice for our leadership. Of course it does not mean we will be inactive or retire from politics. Our leadership team will go into statesmanship. We are hoping that by doing this we will solve a very big ideological problem of the communist movement. This is not only a technical question but a big ideological question. There can be no question of concentrating power in the hands of any individual or group. When we placed this resolution before the plenum, then our entire leadership team gained confidence in themselves, the movement and the line. Our unity has become much stronger. Now we are in an offensive mood.
We feel we have contributed to the ideological development of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Traditionally, in the international communist movement there are two types of revisionism - right revisionism of class collaboration, and the other, dogmato-revisionism, of turning certain ideas into a dogma and getting stuck to them. This is more among the Maoists. Those who call themselves Maoists are more prone to dogmato-revisionism, and we have to fight against this too.
Varadarajan: To what extent do you think the logic of your line on multiparty democracy applies also to the Maoist movements in India?
Prachanda: We believe it applies to them too. We want to debate this. They have to understand this and go down this route. Both on the questions of leadership and on multiparty democracy, or rather multiparty competition, those who call themselves revolutionaries in India need to think about these issues. And there is a need to go in the direction of that practice. We wish to debate with them on this. If revolutionaries are not going to look at the need for ideological development, then they will not go anywhere.
Varadarajan: The Indian police agencies say you are providing weapons and training to the Indian Maoists but here you are saying they should go in for multiparty competition.
Prachanda: There is no question of us giving anything. They blame us for Madhubani, Jehanabad, but we have no relationship of this kind with them.
Varadarajan: What is your evaluation of the recent political developments in Latin America - with what is happening in Venezuela with the Bolivarian movement, in Chile, Bolivia?
Prachanda: We feel there is a new wave of revolution on the horizon. The first wave began with the Russian revolution and ended with the Cultural Revolution but now it looks like the second wave could be starting. Dogmatism and ideological stagnation is evident in the U.S. Bush is in league with Christian fundamentalists. Throughout Latin America there is resentment and hatred against imperialism, from Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia and Chile, and an explosion can come at any time. The encirclement of America has begun. But I also believe this explosion can start from South Asia. Nepal and India have a big role to play. The U.S. will not be able to control things. And the developments in Latin America are a good augury.
Varadarajan: In conclusion, tell us a little about yourself. How old are you now? When did you join the movement? Where did you study?
Prachanda: I am 52 and have been in the movement full time for the past 34 years. I drew close to communism when I was 16, as a student in high school, and became a whole-timer when I was 28. I did a B.Sc. at the Chitwan agriculture university and was studying for a Masters in Public Administration when there was a big movement around the time of the referendum Birendra was organising. That is when I joined the movement, and couldn't complete my course. Since then I have been active, most of the time underground.
Varadarajan: And family life? Are you married?
Prachanda: Yes. My family, of course, is also in the movement.
Varadarajan: Thank you very much for this interview.
Prachanda: Thank you.