Thursday, October 27, 2016

7th Congress of GFTUK Held

   Pyongyang, October 27

(KCNA) -- The 7th Congress of the General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea (GFTUK) was held at the People's Palace of Culture Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Congress reviewed the successes and experience gained after the 6th Congress and discussed tasks and ways for all the trade union organizations to creditably discharge their mission and duty as the reliable assistants and supporters of the Party in thoroughly carrying out the decisions made at the 7th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK).
Present there were delegates who were elected at conferences of the provincial trade unions.
Officials of the party, administrative and armed forces organs and a delegation of the Union of Korean Teachers in Japan attended the congress as observers.
The Congress approved the following agenda items:
    On the review of the work of the Central Committee of the GFTUK.
    On the review of the Central Auditing Commission of the GFTUK.
    On the revision of the rules of the GFTUK.
    On the election of the central leadership organ of the GFTUK.

Conveyed at the congress was a letter "The Duty of the Working Class of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il for the Times and the Tasks Facing Trade Union Organizations" sent by supreme leader Kim Jong Un to the participants in the 7th Congress of the GFTUK.
Introduced there were congratulatory messages and letters sent by trade union organizations and figures of political and social circles of different countries and international bodies on the occasion of the 7th Congress of the GFTUK.
Also introduced there was a joint congratulatory message sent by the Labor Headquarters of the South Side Committee for Implementing the June 15 Joint Declaration.
Ju Yong Gil, chairman of the Central Committee of the GFTUK, made a report on the first agenda item.
The reporter said that Kim Jong Un sent the letter to the participants in the 7th Congress of the GFTUK, thereby brightly indicating the duties assumed by the working class of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il before the times and the path to be followed by the trade unions.
Over the past period since the 6th Congress of the GFTUK, the organization has been further strengthened into the one of the leader and the party and it was the proud days in which the organization successfully performed its mission and duty in the grand revolutionary advance for ushering in the new era of the Juche revolution, the Songun revolution, the reporter noted.
He called on the GFTUK to play its role as dependable assistant and defender of the Party in the drive for implementing the tasks set forth at the 7th Congress of the WPK true to the letter sent by Kim Jong Un.
The head of the delegation of the Union of Korean Teachers in Japan made a congratulatory speech.
It was followed by speeches on the first agenda item.
A decision on the first agenda item was adopted.
Sin Pong Ryol, chairman of the Central Auditing Commission of the GFTUK, made a report on the second agenda item.
The third agenda item was discussed.
A decision on the revision of the rules of the GFTUK was adopted.
Then there was a discussion on the fourth agenda item.
The congress elected the Central Committee and the Central Auditing Commission of the GFTUK.
A decision of the First Plenary Meeting of the Seventh Central Committee of the GFTUK was made public.
Ju Yong Gil was elected chairman of the C.C., GFTUK and Choe Su Dong, Pong Won Ik, Han U Phal, Kim Tong Son, Choe Pong Man, Rim Chang Bok, Ri Chol Jun and Kim Song Su were elected its vice-chairmen.
Department directors of the C.C, GFTUK and the editor-in-chief of Rodongja Sinmun, the organ of the C.C, GFTUK, were appointed.
The results of the election of the chairman and vice-chairmen of the Central Auditing Commission of the GFTUK held at the First Plenary Meeting of the Seventh Central Auditing Commission of the GFTUK were made public.
DPRK Rejects Anti-DPRK "Open Statement" of International Financial Supervisory Body
Pyongyang, October 26 (KCNA) -- A spokesman for the National Coordinating Committee of the DPRK for Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism gave the following answer to a question raised by KCNA Wednesday in connection with the fact that the U.S. and its vassal forces are inciting the atmosphere of putting financial sanctions on the DPRK even by setting in motion the international financial supervision organization:
The plenary meeting of the Financial Action Task Force on Anti-Money Laundering that was held in Paris from Oct. 19 to 21 adopted again a "public statement" in which the DPRK was listed as "a state subject to countermeasures".
We strongly denounce and reject the "public statement" full of hostility toward the DPRK as part of the moves of the U.S. and its vassal forces to impose sanctions on the DPRK and stifle it.
What should not be overlooked is that they are enforcing the UN Security Council's "resolutions on sanctions" on the DPRK upon the UN member nations as an "international standard" by letting the organization throw away "universality" and "impartiality", the principles called for by it in its activities.
The UNSC's "resolutions on sanctions" on the DPRK are illegal documents cooked up by the U.S. and its vassal forces to encroach upon the independence and the right to existence of the sovereign state in defiance of the UN Charter and the norms of international law, and a product of criminal acts against humanity and human rights.
Out of its consistent stand against money laundering and financial support for terrorism and the proliferation of the weapons of mass destruction, the DPRK, in close collaboration with the Asia-Pacific Regional Group on Money Laundering, took almost all action measures consistent with international standard such as the adoption of the Law on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism, modification and supplementation of the criminal law and enhancement of the responsibility and role of financial information and supervision institutions. It also has fulfilled its responsibilities by submitting detailed reports on them to the international financial supervision organization.
However, the plenary meeting of the organization adopted the "open statement" envisaging a total stop to banking transactions, not mentioning even a word about the sincere efforts made by the DPRK to implement the international standard, thereby clearly proving that the organization has been abused for the political purposes of the U.S. and its vassal forces to build an international network of financial blockade against the DPRK.

Under such situation, we will also take necessary countermeasures to cope with it.
KCNA Commentary Slams Park Geun Hye Group's Smear Campaign Against DPRK
Pyongyang, October 25 (KCNA) -- The Park Geun Hye group of traitors are getting ever more desperate in their smear campaign against the DPRK.
They openly reveal their wicked scenario for achieving "unification of social systems" aimed to bring down the ideology and social system in the DPRK by zealously joining the U.S. in its smear campaign against the former advancing under the unfurled banner of independence, Songun and socialism.
Almost every day traitor Park spouts a slew of such malignant invective as "suppression" and "awful reality," openly crying out for "ratcheting pressure" on the north over its "human rights" issue.
She allowed the setting up of the UN "office on human rights in north," a product of the U.S. plot-breeding racket against the DPRK, in Seoul. Not content with this, she railroaded through the "National Assembly" "the bill on human rights in the north," which had been on the shelf for more than a decade in the face of public protest.
The Park group held even an opening ceremony of the "Human Rights Archives" under the pretext of its full-scale enforcement.
This was another reckless move to tarnish the dignified image of the DPRK and realize the daydream of achieving "unification of social systems" by building up public opinion on the non-existent "human rights issue" and internationalizing it while escalating politico-military pressure upon it. It was, at the same time, a farce intended to cover up the miserable reality of south Korea, a veritable hell.
Park is working hard to incite extreme distrust and hostility towards the fellow countrymen in the north and break the revolutionary faith and single-minded unity of the service personnel and people of the DPRK through false propaganda. However, no one will lend an ear to the sheer lies told by the tight-cornered crazy old woman.
It is the reality of the DPRK in which independent rights of the popular masses are guaranteed at the highest level and their creative enthusiasm is given full play to rapidly develop the country.
The on-going rehabilitation drive in the northern part of the country is the campaign to protect the people there and serve them launched by the Workers' Party of Korea which considers the people-first principle as its life and soul.
Such total dedication to the people as the policy of prioritizing, respecting and loving the people is hard to find in any other country in the world.
Independent rights and dignity of the toiling masses are unthinkable in south Korea under the rule of Park Geun Hye as it has turned into a tundra of human rights.
As Park Geun Hye, the worst human rights abuser, remains the boss of Chongwadae, human rights abuses occur one after another in south Korea and south Korean people are seized with extreme uneasiness and horror owing to the hideous unethical crimes baffling human imagination.
The Park group's flurry of shameless invective is only inviting ridicule and condemnation at home and abroad.
Her group's smear campaign to justify the anachronistic policy of confrontation and realize the daydream of achieving "unification of social systems" is bound to finally go bust.
The service personnel and people of the DPRK will mercilessly annihilate the confrontation maniacs who dare challenge its dignity and social system. 
Andre Vltchek
Tuesday, October 18, 2016, 13:36 Beijing
The 4th Media

Rodrigo Duterte, the outspoken President of the Philippines has by now, most likely, joined the concealed, prestigious and permanent hit list of the Empire.

The hit list is very long; it has already been long for several decades. One could easily lose count and get confused: how many personalities have been marked and secretly condemned to death? How many of them actually died?

It reads like a catalogue of illustrious world leaders: from Patrice Lumumba (Zaire), Mohammad Mosaddegh (Iran), Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Sukarno (Indonesia), Juvénal Habyarimana (Rwanda), Salvador Allende (Chile) to Muammar Gaddafi (Libya), Al-Basheer (Sudan) and Fidel Castro (Cuba), to name just a very few.

Some were directly assassinated; others were ‘only’ toppled, while only a handful of ‘marked’ leaders actually managed to survive and to stay in power.

There were several grave crimes committed by almost all of them, very similar crimes. They include: defending the vital interests of their nations and people, refusing to allow the unbridled plunder of natural resources by multinational corporations, and standing against the principles of imperialism. Simple criticism of the Empire has also been often punishable by death.

Mr. Duterte is committing all those horrid crimes, which have been mentioned above. He seems to be ‘guilty as charged’. He is denying nothing; he even appears to be proud of the charges that are being brought against him.

‘Is he bored with his life?’ some are asking. ‘Is he out of his mind? Is he ready to die?’

Is he a hero, a new Asian Hugo Chavez, or just an out of control populist?

He is definitely risking a lot, or maybe he is even risking absolutely everything. He is now committing the most unforgiveable sins in the eyes of the Western regime: he is openly insulting the Empire and its institutions (including the UN, NATO and the EU). He is even spitting in their faces!

‘To make it worse’, he is not only chatting; he is taking decisive actions! He is trying to help the poor in his country, he is flirting with the Communist Party and with the socialists, and on top of it he is basically asking both China and Russia for assistance.

The sparks are flying. Periodically such people and institutions like Obama, Pope, the US, the EU, and the UN get advised to go to hell, or are re-Christened as son-of-a-bitches or son-of-a-whores!

And the people of the Philippines absolutely love it. Duterte won elections with tiny margins, but his latest approval rating towers at an astounding 76%. Some would therefore argue that if ‘democracy’ is truly the ‘rule of the people’ (or at least it should be reflecting the will of the people), then all is exactly as it should be in the Philippines.

While Eduardo Climaco Tadem, Professorial Lecturer of Asian Studies (University of the Philippines Diliman), is critical of Duterte’s ‘un-presidential’ speech writing and for him “scoring negatively on the issue of civil and political human rights”, he is clearly impressed by his achievements in several other spheres. As he recently wrote to me in a letter:

“Positive initiatives on other fronts have been taken. The appointment of Communist Party cadres to cabinet positions for agrarian reform, social work and development, and anti-poverty programs is good. Other left wing and progressive personalities occupy other cabinet positions in labor, education, health, science, and environment. More important, positive initiatives have been taken on moving land distribution forward, ending labor contractualization, reaching out to and learning from Cuba’s health programs, and curtailing the environmentally destructive operations by big mining corporations. Moreover, peace negotiations with both the CPP and the MILF/MNLF have been revived with initial steps that are looking good.

An independent foreign policy has been announced and Duterte no longer kowtows to the US and Western powers, unlike previous presidents before him. He is also mending fences with China and taking a different and less belligerent track in resolving the territorial disputes in the South China Sea…”

That is all ‘bad’, extremely bad as far as Washington, London and Tokyo are concerned. Such behavior never goes unnoticed and unpunished!

The response of the Empire came almost immediately this time.

On September 20, 2016, the International Business Times reported:

“The Philippines government has claimed that a coup d’état is being masterminded against President Rodrigo Duterte and said the administration is cracking down on the suspected plotters. A government spokesperson said some Filipino-Americans in New York are planning to oust the abrasive leader.

Without revealing the names of the suspected plotters or their plans, the Philippines government Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said those conspiring against Duterte should “think twice… ‘I have received information from credible sources in the United States. Yes, we have names but I don’t want to mention it. We are looking [at] it seriously. We are investigating it,’” said the senior government official.

The coups, the assassination plots. Soft coups, hard coups: Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, Syria, Ukraine, Libya, Paraguay, Honduras, and Sudan, half of Africa… All in just the few last years…and now the Philippines? Bravo, the Empire is accelerating! The work ethic of its cutthroats is clearly improving.

President Duterte has it all figured out. As mentioned above, he has already defined President Obama as a ‘son-of-a-bitch’, ‘son-of-a-whore’, and recently suggested that ‘he goes to hell’.

That is even tougher than what President Hugo Chavez used to say about George W Bush, also known as “Señor W”. And President Chavez, according to many Latin American analysts, ended up paying for his openness, antagonism towards the Empire and imperialism in general, with his own life.

The truth is that the Empire never forgives those who show it a mirror. It kills mercilessly for the tiniest signs of disobedience, rebelliousness. Its propaganda apparatus and its right hand – the mass media – then always manage to craft a suitable explanation and justification. And the public in both North America and Europe is fully complacent, indoctrinated and passive; it only defends its own narrow interests, never the victim, especially if the victim is from some far-away country inhabited by ‘un-people’.

The great Indonesian President Sukarno was overthrown and destroyed (among other things) for shouting publicly at the US ambassador: “To hell with your aid!” …And of course, for defending the interests of his people against the Empire. Patrice Lumumba was assassinated for daring to say that Africans have no reason to be grateful to the colonizers.

Duterte says much more. He is bitter and he has countless reasons to be. The United States murdered more than one million Philippine people, most of them at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Century. In recent history, it has turned this once proud and promising nation into a doormat, into a humiliated semi-colony, fully dependent on Washington’s whims. Capitalist and totally pro-American, the Philippines has evolved, like Indonesia, into a ‘failed state’, a social disaster and an intellectual wasteland.

President Duterte has managed to put in place a determined cabinet of like-minded thinking intellectuals and bureaucrats.

As RT reported recently:

“Duterte’s foreign secretary, Perfecto Yasay, who has at times tried to downplay his boss’s comments, released a statement on Facebook titled “America has failed us” in which he says that, while there are many “countless things that we will be forever grateful to America for,” the US has never fully respected Philippine independence.”

“After proclaiming in July 4, 1946 that the Filipinos had been adequately trained for self-determination and governance, the United States held on to invisible chains that reined us in towards dependency and submission as little brown brothers not capable of true independence and freedom,” the FM said in the statement.”

Such statements very rarely appear in the pages of Western mainstream media publications, where Duterte and his cabinet are uninterruptedly demonized and ridiculed.

This is how the latest headlines on the Philippines read:

‘Drug-dealing daughter of playboy baron Antony Moynihan is shot dead in the Philippines’ (Daily Mail).

‘The president of Philippines has been accused of feeding a man alive to a crocodile’ (The via Yahoo UK & Ireland News)

‘Special Report – in Duterte’s war on drugs, local residents help draw up hit list’ (Reuters)

‘Duterte killed justice official, hitman tells Philippine senate’ (AFP)

Nothing about the fight for social justice! Nothing about the battle against Western imperialism.

The war on drugs…

Yes, many people in the Philippines are genuinely concerned that the ‘bodies are piling’ and the approach of this government could be defined as too heavy-handed, even intolerable.

But the situation is not that simple. This is not Europe. This is Asia with its own culture dynamics and problems. In Philippines, the crime rate has reached grotesque heights, unseen almost anywhere else in Asia Pacific. Much of the criminality is related to drugs. And people are genuinely fed-up. They demand decisive action.

For many years, Mr. Duterte used to serve as the Mayor of Davao, a city on the island of Mindanao. Davao used to be synonymous with delinquency; a tough place to live and many say, almost impossible place to govern.

Mr Duterte is honest. He openly admits that he could not have lasted long as a mayor of Davao, if he ‘was following the 10 Commandments’. Perhaps no one could.

He is extremely sensitive to criticism of his human rights record. Whether it comes from the UN or EU or the US, his reply is mostly defiant and consistent: “Fuck you!”

And that is what usually gets reported in the West.

But what is omitted is that Rodrigo Duterte usually continues, explaining:

You tell me about human rights? What about those millions you are killing all over the world, including recently in Iraq, Libya and Syria? What about the Filipino people that you had slayed? And what about your own people, African-Americans who are being slaughtered by police, every day?

He does not hide his deep allergy towards Western hypocrisy. For centuries, the United States and Europe have been killing millions, plundering entire continents, and then they reserve the right to judge, criticize and boss around others. Directly, or through institutions they control, like the United Nations. Again, his reply is clearly Sukarno-esque: “To hell with you! To hell with your aid!”

But you will not read this on the pages of the The New York Times or The Economist. There it is all about the ‘war on drugs’, about the ‘innocent victims’ and of course about the ‘strongman’ Duterte.

The situation is evolving rapidly.

Recently, President Duterte ordered a halt to a military drill, dubbed as the ‘Philippines Amphibious Landing Exercise’ (Phiblex). It began on 4th October and was scheduled to run for more than one week. Around 1,400 Americans and 500 Filipino troops are involved in the war games, some dangerously close to the waters near the disputed islands in South China Sea.

According to several leading Filipino intellectuals, the US has been using the Philippines for its aggressive imperialist ambitions in the region, consistently antagonizing and provoking China.

Duterte’s government is determined to move much closer to China and away from the West. It is very likely that the Philippines and China will be able to resolve all disagreements in the foreseeable future. That is, if the US will be out, kept permanently at bay.

To demonstrate its goodwill towards China, and to show its new independent course, Manila is also planning to cancel all 28 annual military exercises with the United States.

President Duterte knows perfectly well what is at stake. To mark his 100 days in office, he has given several fiery speeches, acknowledging that the West may try to remove him from the office, even kill him:

“You want to oust me? You want to use the CIA? Go ahead… Be my guest. I don’t give a shit! I’ll be ousted? Fine. (If so) it’s part of my destiny. Destiny carries so many things. If I die, that’s part of my destiny. Presidents get assassinated.”

They do. They often do get assassinated.

But recently, one after another, countries all over the world are joining the anti-imperialist coalition. Some are prevailing; others get destabilized (like Brazil), economically devastated (like Venezuela) or fully destroyed (like Syria). All defiant nations, from Russia to China, the DPRK and Iran are demonized by Western propaganda and its mass media.

But it seems that the world has had enough. The Empire is crumbling; it is panicking. It is killing more and more, but it is not winning.

Are Filipinos joining this alliance? After only 100 days in the office, it seems that President Duterte has made up his mind: No more servitude! No coming back!

Is he going to survive? Is he going to stay on his course?

How tough is he, really? One has to have nerves of steel to confront the Empire! One has to have at least nine lives to survive the countless intricate assassination plots, elaborate propaganda schemes, and trickeries. Is he ready for all this? It appears that he is.

The elites of his country have fully sold out to the West; the same as those of Indonesia and to a great extent, Thailand and Malaysia.

It will be an uphill struggle. It already is.

But the majority of his nation is behind him. For the first time in modern history, Filipino people may have a chance to take control over their own destiny, in their own hands.

And if the West does not like what is pouring out from Manila? President Duterte doesn’t care. He has declared that he has already prepared plenty of counter-questions. And if the West cannot answer them:

“If they are unable to answer, son of a whore, go home, you animal. I will kick you now. Do not piss me off. It cannot be that they are brighter than me, believe me!”

Most likely, they are not; they are not brighter than him. But they are definitely more ruthless, more brutal.

What are they accusing him of? Of a ‘war on drugs’, that has taken around 3,000 lives?

How many lives has the West (or those ‘son-of-whores’, as many would call it these days in the Philippines) taken after the end of WWII, all over the world? Is it 40 or 50 million? Depends how it is calculated: ‘directly’ or ‘indirectly’.

The Empire will almost certainly try to murder President Duterte, most likely soon, very soon.

In order to survive, to keep on going, to keep fighting, to defend his battered and exploited country, he will most definitely have to permanently forget all about the 10 Commandments.

(First published by NEO)

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are revolutionary novel “Aurora” and two bestselling works of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and  “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”. View his other books here. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Al-Mayadeen. After having lived in Latin America, Africa and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter.
Pepe Escobar
Wednesday, October 26, 2016, 11:13 Beijing
The 4th Media

Predictably, the Beltway establishment in the «indispensable nation» went bananas, reacting as «puzzled» or in outright anger, dispersing the usual expletives on the «crude populist», «unhinged leader».

The bottom line is that it takes a lot of balls for the leader of a poor, developing country, in Southeast Asia or elsewhere, to openly defy the hyperpower. Yet what Duterte is gaming at is pure realpolitik; if he prevails, he will be able to deftly play the US against China to the benefit of Filipino interests.

«The springtime of our relationship»

It did start with a bang; during Duterte’s China visit, Manila inked no less than $13 billion in deals with Beijing – from trade and investment to drug control, maritime security and infrastructure.

Beijing pulled out all stops to make Duterte feel welcomed.

President Xi Jinping suggested Manila and Beijing should «temporarily put aside» the intractable South China Sea disputes and learn from the «political wisdom» of history – as in give space to diplomatic talks. After all, the two peoples were «blood-linked brothers».

Duterte replied in kind; «Even as we arrive in Beijing close to winter, this is the springtime of our relationship,» he told Xi at the Great Hall of the People.

China is already the Philippines’ second-largest trade partner, behind Japan, the US and Singapore. Filipino exports to these three are at roughly 42.7 percent of the total, compared to 22.1 to China / Hong Kong. Imports from China are roughly 16.1 percent of the total. Even as trade with China is bound to rise, what really matters for Duterte is massive Chinese infrastructure investment.

What this will mean in practice is indeed ground-breaking; the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will definitely be involved in Philippine economic development; Manila will be more involved in promoting smooth China-ASEAN relations in all sorts of regional issues (it takes the rotating chair of ASEAN in 2017); and the Philippines will be more integrated in the New Silk Roads, a.k.a. One Belt, One Road (OBOR).

Three strikes; no wonder the US is out. And there’s even a fourth strike, embedded in Duterte’s promise that

he will soon end military cooperation with the US, despite the opposition of part of the Filipino armed forces.

Watch the First Island Chain

The build-up had already been dramatic enough. On the eve of his meeting with Xi, talking to members of the Filipino community in Beijing, Duterte said, «it’s time to say goodbye» to the US; «I will not ask but if they (the Chinese) offer and if they’ll ask me, do you need this aid? [I will say] Of course, we are very poor».

Then the clincher; «I will not go to America anymore … We will just be insulted there».

The US was the colonial power in the Philippines from 1899 to 1942. Hollywood permeates the collective unconscious. English is the lingua franca – side by side with tagalog. But the tentacles of Uncle Sam’s «protection» racket are not exactly welcomed. Two of the largest components of the US Empire of Bases were located for decades in the Philippines; Clark Air Force Base and Subic Bay Naval Base.

Clark, occupying 230 square miles, with 15,000 people, was busy to death during the Vietnam War – the main hub for men and hardware in and out of Saigon. Then it turned into one of those Pentagon «forward operating» HQs. Subic, occupying 260 square miles, was as busy as Clark. It was the forward operating base for the US 7th Fleet.

Already in 1987, before the end of the Cold War, the RAND corporation was alarmed by the loss of both bases; that would be «devastating for regional security». Devastating» in the – mythical – sense of «defending the interests of ASEAN» and the «security of the sea-lanes».

Translation; the Pentagon and the US Navy would lose a key instrument of pressure over ASEAN, as protecting the «security of the sea-lanes» was always the key justification for those bases.

And lose they eventually did; Clark was closed down in November 1991, and Subic in November 199

It took years for China to sense an opening – and profit from it; after all during the 1990s and the early 2000s, the absolute priority was breakneck speed internal development. But then Beijing did the math; no more US bases opened untold vistas as far as the First Island Chain is concerned.

The First Island Chain is a product, over millennia, of the fabulous tectonic forces of the Ring of Fire; a chain of islands running from southern Japan in the north to Borneo in the south. For Beijing, they work as a sort of shield for the Chinese eastern seaboard; if this chain is secure, Asia is secure.

For all practical purposes, Beijing considers the First Island Chain as a non-negotiable Western Pacific demarcation zone – ideally with no foreign (as in US) interference. The South China Sea – which in parts is characterized by Manila as the Western Philippine Sea – is inside the First Island Chain. So to really secure the First Island Chain, the South China Sea must be free of foreign interference.

And here we are plunged at the heart of arguably the key 21st century hotspot in Asian geopolitics – the main reason for the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia.

The US Navy so far counted on the Philippines to oppose the proverbial, hyped up «Chinese aggression» in the South China and East China seas. The neocon/neoliberalcon industrial-military complex fury against «unhinged» Duterte’s game-changer is that containing China and ruling over the First Island Chain has been at the core of US naval strategy since the beginning of the Cold War.

Beijing, meanwhile, will have all the time needed to polish its strategic environment. This has nothing to do with «freedom of navigation» and protecting sea-lanes; everyone needs South China Sea cross-trade. It’s all about China – perhaps within the next ten years – being able to deny «access» to the US Navy in the South China Sea and inside the First Island Chain.

Duterte’s game-changing «America has lost» is just a new salvo in arguably the key 21st century geopolitical thriller. A Supreme Court justice in Manila, for instance, has warned Duterte that, were he to give up sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal, he could be impeached.

That won’t happen; Duterte wants loads of Chinese trade and investment, not abdicate from sovereignty. He’d rather be ready to confront being demonized by the hyperpower as much as the late Hugo Chavez was in his heyday.

By Pepe Escobar / SCF

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Gambia is Latest African Nation to Quit International Criminal Court
Announcement follows decisions by South Africa and Burundi earlier this month to withdraw from ICC

Agence France-Presse in Dakar
Wednesday 26 October 2016 18.36 EDT

The Gambia has announced its withdrawal from the international criminal court, accusing the tribunal of the “persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans”.

The announcement late on Tuesday came after similar decisions this month by South Africa and Burundi to abandon the troubled institution, set up to handle the world’s worst crimes.

Sheriff Bojang, the information minister, said in an announcement on state television that the court had been used “for the persecution of Africans and especially their leaders” while ignoring crimes committed by the west.

He singled out the case of the former British prime minister Tony Blair, whom the ICC decided not to indict over the Iraq war.

“There are many western countries, at least 30, that have committed heinous war crimes against independent sovereign states and their citizens since the creation of the ICC and not a single western war criminal has been indicted,” he said.

The withdrawal, he said, “is warranted by the fact that the ICC, despite being called international criminal court, is in fact an international caucasian court for the persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans”.

The ICC, set up in 2002, is often accused of bias against Africa and has also struggled with a lack of cooperation, including from the US, which signed the court’s treaty but has never ratified it.

The Gambia has been trying without success to use the court to punish the EU for deaths of thousands of African migrants trying to reach its shores. The decision will also come as a personal blow to the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, a former Gambian justice minister.

The court at the weekend asked South Africa and Burundi to reconsider their decisions to leave, which came as a major blow to the institution.

“I urge them to work together with other states in the fight against impunity, which often causes massive violations of human rights,” Sidiki Kaba, president of the assembly of state parties to the ICC founding treaty, said in a statement.

South Africa’s decision followed a dispute last year when the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, visited the country despite being the subject of an ICC arrest warrant over alleged war crimes. Earlier this month, Burundi said it would leave the court, while Namibia and Kenya have also raised the possibility.

Kaba said he was concerned that South Africa and Burundi’s decisions would pave the way for other African states to leave the court.

The tribunal is tasked with “prosecuting the most serious crimes that shock the conscience of humanity, namely genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression”.

The court’s former prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo criticised Burundi and South Africa, accusing them of giving leaders on the continent a free hand “to commit genocide”.

“Burundi is leaving the ICC to keep committing crimes against humanity and possible genocide in its territory. Burundi’s president wants free hands to attack civilians,” he said.

He added that the former South African president Nelson Mandela had “promoted the establishment of the court to avoid new massive crimes in Africa. Now under the Zuma leadership South Africa decided to cover up the crimes and abandoned African victims. The world is going backward.”

“The chaos is coming. Genocide in Burundi and a new African war are in motion,” he said.
South Africa’s Withdrawal From the International Criminal Court Reeks of Hypocrisy
By Azad Essa
October 26 at 12:15 PM

Azad Essa is a journalist at Al Jazeera. He is also author of “The Moslems Are Coming” (HarperCollins India). He can be found on Twitter @AzadEssa.

Last week, the South African government did the seemingly unthinkable: It confirmed that it was pulling out of the International Criminal Court. The decision comes days after Burundi signaled its intention to leave the ICC.

In a statement to the United Nations titled “Instrument of Withdrawal,” the South African government claimed it was leaving the international body because being part of the ICC was “incompatible” with its efforts to mediate peace in Africa. Though many have expressed shock, with rights groups from Human Rights Watch to Amnesty International condemning the move, the decision is a long time coming.

African leaders have long accused the court of targeting the continent. In the six cases since its formation in 2002 under the “Rome Statute,” the court has charged only African nationals.

In the 10 investigations underway at the ICC, nine involve African nationals. It is no surprise that the ICC has been labeled an instrument of neo-colonialism in which Western powers are able to exert a legal hold on the affairs of the continent. Though 124 countries are signed on to the ICC, the United States, Russia and China, all three of which are members of the U.N. Security Council, aren’t signatories. Israel, India and Saudi Arabia are not signatories to the ICC either. Thus the court is indeed handicapped, but still not irrelevant.

South Africa has been one of the talismans in the call for African countries to pull out of the organization. The South African government’s refusal to arrest Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, charged with war crimes and genocide, during his visit to the country last year, signaled contempt for the court.

“South Africa has increasingly remarked on the inequalities within the global justice architecture,” says Kelly-Jo Bluen of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Johannesburg. “And while the immediate rationale behind the withdrawal is expedient, this has not happened in a vacuum.”

But is South Africa’s decision to withdraw from the ICC a deeply thought-out protest to leverage a more just world in which Western nations are held equally accountable for the crimes they commit? Or is Africa’s largest economy engaging in political posturing that will deepen its hypocrisy and bigotry?

In fact, South Africa’s economic interests might likely be the driving force behind its attempt to placate leaders of African countries who feel aggrieved with Western impositions.

In announcing its decision to withdraw from the ICC, South Africa did not offer an alternative method of seeking justice, nor did it explain why its membership to the ICC would impede its efforts to mediate conflict. Crucially, while South Africa may project itself as the vanguard of the African agenda, and the patron of peace on the continent, its foreign policy is strikingly geared toward trade and little else. After all, this is the same country that won’t allow the Dalai Lama in for fear of upsetting trade relations with China.

This is the same country that sent a delegation to Syria in May to talk economic partnership with the Syrian government involved in one of the biggest humanitarian disasters of this century.

South Africa does indeed have a non-interventionist agenda and a contrarian approach to foreign ambitions on the African continent. However, it has veered far away from a foreign policy purportedly centered on human rights and has garnered a reputation for being condescending to other African countries, rendering its attempt to assume the moral high ground regarding the ICC patronizing at best. During a time of rising global insecurity, South Africa should be calling for more accountability, not less.

Former president Thabo Mbeki and African academic Mahmood Mamdani have previously argued that courts do not achieve peace as effectively as political processes, citing the South African transition as a prime example of reconciliation without legal condemnation. But given the social discord in present-day South Africa over a lack of redress over land, resources and opportunities, this argument is bewildering.

If anything, there has been no public discussion or mandate from South African citizens to withdraw from the ICC. The withdrawal underscores what has become a signature hallmark of the Zuma administration: a lack of transparency,  accountability and, ultimately, logic.

South Africa’s decision is expected to have a tremendous effect on the rest of the continent, with Namibia and Kenya likely to follow suit. Gambia has announced its withdrawal from the court. But it’s unlikely every state will see value in pulling out. Africa is not a country, after all.

But even then, South Africa’s move is not confirmed. The government’s decision will face the wrath of civil society and will be tabled in Parliament.

It might seem ironic that a country whose leaders don’t face the risk of any current investigation from the ICC would seek to pull out of a treaty meant to deliver justice to victims of some the most heinous crimes. But given its poor record of redress and accountability at home, it is perhaps apt. The South African government’s abandonment of human rights has just gone global.
Police Vehicle Set on Fire Near South African University
Oct 25, 2016, 4:31 PM ET

Rioters in South Africa set a police vehicle on fire Tuesday and stoned vehicles near a Johannesburg university that has been the scene of sometimes violent protests by students demanding free education.

The violence broke out in streets near the University of the Witwatersrand at around the same time that student protesters met and marched off the campus, South African media reported.

It was not immediately clear who attacked the vehicles. In previous unrest, both students and non-students were arrested.

Also Tuesday, a South African official described the country's universities as inefficient, saying the student body of one million includes several hundred thousand who are performing poorly and languishing in the system.

Statistician-General Pali Lehohla's comments follow student demonstrations for free education that have swept many campuses in recent weeks.

The university system should have 600,000 students at most, but many more students are "treadmilling" and failing to graduate on time, Lehohla said. He attributed it largely to the fact that those students don't have the financial means to study well.

The statistician-general said free university education is impossible but recommended an education levy on graduates to alleviate the problem.

South Africa's government has recommended that universities raise fees for students by no more than 8 percent next year, but says it will cover the cost of fee increases for poor students. Protesters say the plan doesn't go far enough and have sought to disrupt classes on many campuses, though universities are pushing to complete the academic year.
South Africa: Tear Gas and Flight Paths
Campus violence could halt the homeward flow of the internationally mobile researchers South Africa’s academy needs

October 27, 2016

Stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas have no place on a university campus. And protesting students have no place punching vice-chancellors. Yet somehow it has come to this in South Africa, where continuing unrest over tuition fees has frequently boiled over into violence.

Academic programmes at some of the country’s most prestigious universities have been derailed, while protesters demand free education and those charged with keeping universities open watch
As for the effect on those not involved in the demonstrations, one undergraduate at the University of the Witwatersrand said: “I am not sure free education is feasible. And I am worried about attacks…It’s inflicting fear in other students.”

In an analysis this week, we consider one of the less obvious – but gravely serious – consequences of the crisis, which has made it on to television screens across the world: the impression it gives of the future facing South African higher education.

As Martin Hall, emeritus professor at the University of Cape Town, wrote in a recent article for Times Higher Education, “universities are close to crippling deficits that must, with time, damage their feasibility. But the journey to any consensus is set to be long and difficult.”

This instability is likely to undermine South African universities’ ambitions to build on their position as the continent’s top-performing institutions by tempting back scholars who have pursued their academic careers abroad.

The importance of stability, investment and academic improvement in making this happen was discussed at last year’s THE Africa Universities Summit in Johannesburg, when Albert van Jaarsveld, vice-chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, said that institutions could not rely on goodwill alone. “The important thing is to create the kind of environments that allow people to come back in a way that supports career development and enhancement in a positive fashion.

“As long as there is a perception that circulation back to the African continent is somehow detracting from their career path, we are going to lose this fight,” he said.

The extent to which African researchers have looked for opportunities elsewhere is highlighted in a World Bank/Elsevier report from 2014, which found that 85 per cent of southern African researchers have published a journal article while outside the region.

This need not be a negative. The report points out that researcher mobility can be a good thing, with early career academics leaving the continent, particularly for graduate training, and then returning equipped with skills and international networks to pursue more successful research careers at home.

But it’s a battle at the best of times to convince a diaspora to return after they have enjoyed the milk and honey on offer in the most advanced university systems. Making the case for returning to a stricken system is harder still, and as van Jaarsveld said, it’s no use relying on goodwill alone.

The solution, according to Hall, is “a hybrid system of student – and university – funding, that combines fees with an extended and enhanced means-linked bursary and loan system”. But action is needed sooner rather than later because, as Hall says, South Africa’s current disarray is the worst of all scenarios.
South African MP Vytjie Mentor Applies to Intervene in State Capture Matter
2016-10-25 13:37
Tshidi Madia, News24
Former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor and SA First Forum member addresses Cape Town Press Club. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Johannesburg - Former African National Congress Member of Parliament Vytjie Mentor has filed papers with the High Court in Pretoria seeking to intervene in President Jacob Zuma’s bid to halt the release of the public protector's "state capture" report.

The matter was initially set down to be heard on October 18 and will now take place on November 1. The court had postponed it along with an interdict application by Co-operative Governance Minister Des Van Rooyen’s application, which has since been abandoned.

Mentor was one of those who were interviewed by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in her investigation into "state capture".

In March 2016 she alleged the Gupta family, which has close ties to President Jacob Zuma, offered her a job of minister of public enterprises in 2010 in exchange for cancelling SAA routes to India.

In her affidavit, which News24 is in possession of, Mentor said she is seeking to intervene in the Zuma matter as a respondent, and is asking that the president’s application be dismissed.


Mentor is also asking the court to direct Zuma to pay the costs of the application.

The former MP lays out details, some of which are already in the public domain, of the meeting she attended at the Gupta's Saxonwold home.

“I declined the offer and told the Gupta representatives that they lacked the authority to make such an offer. As I was leaving, the president entered the room,” she wrote.

Mentor also documents that a week after the incident Zuma reshuffled his Cabinet.

She said that in October this year, it was reported in the media that the president requested a list of witnesses from the public protector.

“I viewed this as an attempt by the president to intimidate those persons who had given evidence to the public protector against him.”

Last week new public protector Busiswe Mkhwebane said in an affidavit that she would not oppose the president’s application.

Opposition parties have also applied to intervene in the matter, in the hope of making sure the report, which is currently under lock and key at the public protector’s office, will be made public.
Why the Black Panthers Are Still a Lightning Rod at 50

When Beyoncé delivered a provocative Super Bowl halftime show performance in January, it was celebrated by some but deemed controversial and even anti-police by others.

Although few were able to articulate exactly why, some settled on the fact that she created a subtle homage to the 50th anniversary of the Black Panthers -- the iconic radical social justice organization -- by having her back-up dancers don the group's signature black berets.

Just eight years ago, Michelle Obama was portrayed on the cover of The New Yorker in pseudo-Panther garb to suggest the 'threat' she posed to some voters who considered her an unpatriotic and 'angry black woman.'

The right made considerable hay out of the presence of a couple who self-identified as "New Black Panthers" and stationed themselves ominously outside of a polling location in Philadelphia on Election Day, presumably to intimidate voters into electing the first black president. (The final results of that election suggest their help was not needed.)

Today, although the original organization has long been defunct since its late '60s-early '70s heyday, the Black Panthers still instill a degree of fear and anger in some segments of America.

Related: A Conversation with 'Black Panthers' Director Stanley Nelson

The relatively small organization had tremendous reach and influence -- at their peak they had 68 field offices around the country -- which led to an unprecedented federal effort to eradicate them. Former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover infamously called them "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country."

Although their often overlooked free breakfast programs helped feed thousands of needy children, particularly in the Bay Area, their legacy is always inexorably linked to violence and supposedly anti-white rhetoric, even though the Panthers had and actively cultivated white allies.

So why does the very image of the Panthers still induce such anxiety?

Bryan Shih, co-author of "The Black Panthers: Portraits from an Unfinished Revolution," surmises that it may have been the Panthers first major foray onto the national stage -- their 1967 armed demonstration at the statehouse in California -- which he described as a "brilliant public relations move," that had the unintended consequence of making their organization a pariah to the established power structure.

"They presented the horrific image to the establishment of blacks that not only carried guns openly, but advocated using them to fight back against racist attacks," said writer and activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson. "They openly espoused confrontations with police agencies, that as we know resulted in well-publicized attacks, shoot-outs and deaths. And, they seemed to present a violence-tinged alternative to the non-violent, legalistic, work-within-the-system approach that was the ethos of the Civil Rights Movement."

"The only thing people remember is the leather jackets and guns, not the law books or breakfast programs," added Shih's co-author Yohuru Williams. "The vast majority of Panthers sold newspapers, taught political education classes, and fed schoolchildren, they were not having confrontations with police."

According to Princeton University Prof. Eddie Glaude, attempts to marginalize the Panthers were born out of a "deep and abiding fear of divine retribution for the sin of slavery."

"There's this worry that black militancy is always a harbinger of black revenge," he said.

Still, despite sustained efforts to destroy the Panthers -- sometimes from within -- their image and principles have endured and Glaude argues that their defiant posture, their ability to mobilize and their use spectacle to make their voices heard, changed black politics forever.

Related: Source of 'Black Panther' hysteria hired by Trump campaign

"There is something about that moment that captures our imagination," he said.

According to Williams, you can also see the fingerprints of the Panthers in practical ways as well, in social programs like Head Start and the community health centers they established, some of which exist to this day.

In recent years, there has also been a perhaps inevitable desire to link and conflate the Black Panther Party with the similarly youthful and unapologetic Black Lives Matter movement, especially since calling for law enforcement accountability in cases of excessive force is such a vital pillar of both their messages.

But former Black Panther Party chairwoman Elaine Brown has bristled at the comparison, recently telling UK website that she doesn't "know what Black Lives Matter does" and that the movement has a "plantation mentality."

"There is no comparison," she said. "The next wave of young people running out here, who are complaining and protesting about the murders of young black men and women by the police all over the country, they will protest but they will not rise up in an organized fashion, with an agenda, to create revolutionary change… We advocated community self-defense organizations to be formed, so that we would not be assaulted by the police, so that we would bear arms and assume our human rights."

Still, Shih argues that there is some give-and-take between the two generations of black activists, and that Black Lives Matter leaders -- who are able to utilize technology to help justify their moral outrage in a way the Panthers couldn't -- have made a concerted effort to learn from their predecessors' pitfalls.

Like the Panthers before them, he says the Black Lives Matter movement is going through great pains to control and define their own image.

"People are looking for role models and only now is a full picture of the Panthers starting to come out," he said. "The more scandalous or audacious part of Panther history have been well-mined. But there is till so much more to look at."
Britain, U.S. Sending Planes, Troops to Deter Russia in the East
By Robin Emmott and Phil Stewart

Britain said on Wednesday it will send fighter jets to Romania next year and the United States promised troops, tanks and artillery to Poland in NATO's biggest military build-up on Russia's borders since the Cold War.

Germany, Canada and other NATO allies also pledged forces at a defense ministers meeting in Brussels on the same day two Russian warships armed with cruise missiles entered the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Denmark, underscoring East-West tensions.

In Madrid, the foreign ministry said Russia had withdrawn a request to refuel three warships in Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta after NATO allies said they could be used to target civilians in Syria.

The ships were part of an eight-ship carrier battle group - including Russia's sole aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov - that is expected to join around 10 other Russian vessels already off the Syrian coast, diplomats said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the troop contributions to a new 4,000-strong force in the Baltics and eastern Europe were a measured response to what the alliance believes are some 330,000 Russian troops stationed on Russia's western flank near Moscow.

"This month alone, Russia has deployed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad and suspended a weapons-grade plutonium agreement with the United States," Stoltenberg said, also accusing Russia of continued support for rebels in Ukraine.

Those ballistic missiles can hit targets across Poland and the Baltics, although NATO officials declined to say if Russia had moved nuclear warheads to Kaliningrad.

NATO's aim is to make good on a July promise by NATO leaders to deter Russia in Europe's ex-Soviet states, after Moscow orchestrated the annexation of the Crimea peninsula in 2014.

NATO's plan is to set up four battle groups with a total of some 4,000 troops from early next year, backed by a 40,000-strong rapid-reaction force, and if need be, follow-on forces.

As part of that, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced a "battle-ready battalion task force" of about 900 soldiers would be sent to eastern Poland, as well as another, separate force equipped with tanks and other heavy equipment to move across eastern Europe.

"It's a major sign of the U.S. commitment to strengthening deterrence here," Carter said.

Britain's Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said Britain would send an 800-strong battalion to Estonia, supported by French and Danish troops, starting from May. The United States wants its troops in position by June.

London is also sending Typhoon fighter aircraft to Romania to patrol around the Black Sea, partly in support of Turkey.

"Although we are leaving the European Union, we will be doing more to help secure the eastern and southern flanks of NATO," Fallon said.


Others NATO allies joined the four battle groups led by the United States, Germany, Britain and Canada to go to Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. Canada said it was sending 450 troops to Latvia, joined by 140 military personnel from Italy.

Germany said it was sending between 400 and 600 troops to Lithuania, with additional forces from the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Croatia and Luxembourg.

Stoltenberg said allies' commitments would be "a clear demonstration of our transatlantic bond." Diplomats said it would also send a message to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has complained that European allies do not pay their way in the alliance.

For the Kremlin, the U.S.-led alliance's plans are already too much given Russia's grievances at NATO's expansion eastwards, although Stoltenberg denied going too far.

But NATO's troop announcements in the Baltic states and Poland were partly overshadowed by the dispute about whether Spain should refuel the Russian warships, which was later resolved by Moscow's decision to withdraw its request.

NATO's tensions with Russia have been building since Crimea and the West's decision to impose retaliatory sanctions.

But the breakdown of a U.S-Russia brokered ceasefire in Syria on Oct. 3, followed by U.S. accusations that Russia has used cyber attacks to disrupt the presidential election, have signaled a worsening of ties.

Even before the break down of the Syrian ceasefire, Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended a treaty with Washington on cleaning up weapons-grade plutonium, signaling he was willing to use nuclear disarmament as a new bargaining chip in disputes with the United States over Ukraine and Syria.

(Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Tom Heneghan)
African States Withdrawal From ICC Is a 'Sovereign Issue' - Top AU Official
Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban

An African Union (AU) official says the body cannot comment on the issue of the decision of some countries to withdraw their membership from the International Criminal Court (ICC). He said, the exit move was purely a ‘sovereign issue’ by the respective countries.

The spokesperson of the current AU chairperson, Jacob Enoh Eben, in a series of tweets on Wednesday however stated that the AU has expressed itself on the double standards of the ICC and also insisted that the fight against impunity in Africa should be by Africans.

The AU official pointed to the Hissene Habre trial which was conducted by an Extraordinary African Chambers, set up by the AU in Senegal, on May 30. The ex Chadian president was sentenced life imprisonment for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture. He was also asked to pay compensation running into millions of euros to his victims.

Habre’s trial was the first time an AU-backed court had tried a former ruler for human rights abuses.

In less than three weeks, three African countries have initiated modalities to leave the Rome Statute that established the Hague-based court. It started with Burundi last week, South Africa joined late last week.

On Tuesday, the Gambia also disclosed that they had decided to leave especially citing the fact that the court was targeting Africans whiles seemingly overlooking equally grevious crimes by European governments.

“This action is warranted by the fact that the ICC, despite being called the International Criminal Court, is in fact an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans,” Information Minister Sheriff Bojang said on state television.

“There are many Western countries, at least 30, that have committed heinous war crimes against independent sovereign states and their citizens since the creation of the ICC and not a single Western war criminal has been indicted,” it said.
More Than 90 Migrants Believed Missing After Boat Sinks Off Libya: Coastguard
More than 90 migrants are believed missing after their boat sank off the coast of western Libya on Wednesday, a coastguard spokesman said.

Ayoub Qassem said coastguards had rescued 29 migrants some 26 miles off the shore east of Tripoli, and that survivors said 126 people had been on the rubber boat before one of the sides was ripped and it started taking on water.

Libya is the main departure point for mostly African migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. Smugglers arrange ill-equipped and overcrowded vessels that frequently break down or sink.

Qassem said the boat that sank on Wednesday had left at dawn from Garabulli, about 50km (31 miles) east of Tripoli.

"Because of overcrowding one of the sides of the boat got torn and water leaked in," he said. "Ninety-seven illegal migrants are still missing or they have drowned."

The rate of recorded deaths in the Mediterranean has risen sharply this year, with more than 3,740 migrants drowning on their way to Europe. That nearly matches the toll for the whole of 2015.

The route between Libya and Italy has become the busiest crossing point after a deal between Turkey and the European Union in March largely closed off pathways to Greece.

Smugglers in Libya act with impunity, taking advantage of a security vacuum that developed amid the political chaos following the country's 2011 uprising.

They often send migrants with just enough fuel to reach international waters and be picked up by international rescue vessels.

On Tuesday aid group Doctors Without Borders found 25 dead migrants submerged in water and fuel at the bottom of another rubber boat off Libya.

(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by James Dalgleish)
US Uses Tunisia as Drone Base for Libya Operations - Report
26 Oct, 2016 20:53

Washington has been secretly operating drones from a base in Tunisia since June, US officials have admitted. The unarmed US Air Force Reaper drones are said to be gathering intelligence on Islamic State targets in the neighboring Libya.

Intelligence obtained by the drones flying out of the unspecified base in Tunisian territory has been used in more than 300 US airstrikes against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in the Libyan city of Sirte. Despite the airstrikes and a push from Western-backed Libyan militias on the ground, IS militants remain entrenched in the city.

The existence of a secret drone facility in Tunisia was admitted on Wednesday by US officials speaking to the Washington Post on condition of anonymity. There are some 70 US military personnel overseeing the drone operations in Tunisia, Pentagon officials told the paper. The US government has not officially acknowledged the operation, while the Tunisian embassy declined to comment to the Post.

The US sought access to an air base in Tunisia to close a critical “blind spot” for US intelligence operations in North Africa. Since the Western-backed rebellion against the government of Moammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has become a major base of operations for IS as well as Al-Qaeda militants.

US aircraft fly actual bombing missions from the Naval Air Station in Sigonella, on the Italian island of Sicily. Surveillance drones have also been based there, but the Italian government has refused to grant permission for armed drones until earlier this year, citing concerns of an “antiwar backlash” at home, the officials said.

Tunisia was the first North African country to overthrow its government in 2011, launching the so-called “Arab Spring” that led to upheaval in Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere. The Obama administration has kept the negotiations secret because of concerns for “Tunisia’s young democracy” and possible terrorist attacks, officials told the Post.

Islamic State has already claimed a number of attacks in Tunisia, including the June 2015 massacre of almost 40 foreign tourists at the beach resort of Sousse and the November 2015 bombing of a presidential escort bus that claimed 12 lives. It was an IS attack on a town bordering Libya in March 2016 that helped the Tunisians make up their minds about the drone base, the US officials said.

Under the terms granting the Pentagon access to the base, the US committed to help build up Tunisian intelligence collection capabilities, the Post reported. Though currently only unarmed surveillance drones are based at the facility, they could be armed in the future if the Tunisian authorities give their permission, US officials told the paper.

Washington has sought to expand the network of its drone bases across Africa. Last month, the Intercept obtained documents showing that the US has been building a $100 million drone base in the central Niger town of Agadez, from where the remotely operated craft could stage operations in Algeria, Libya, Chad, Nigeria and Mali.
Khartoum Ready to Deploy Joint Forces on South Sudan Border: Minister
October 25, 2016 (KHARTOUM). Sudanese government on Tuesday expressed readiness to deploy joint forces along the 2,000km-long border long borders with South Sudan to prevent cross border attacks by rebel groups.

On Monday, South Sudan government reiterated its commitment to the security agreements signed with Khartoum and announced that the Sudanese armed groups have been advised to quit its territory within 30 days.

"Sudan is ready to deploy joint border monitoring forces, similar to what is done with Chad, to prevent armed opposition groups from crossing into the other side," said Sudan’s Minister of information and government’s spokesperson Ahmed al-Balal Osman.

Sudanese army didn’t react to statements of South Sudan’s defence minister Kuol Manyang Juuk of the 30-day ultimatum. But the Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir recently said Juba has two months to expel armed groups.

In September 2012, Sudan and South Sudan signed a series of agreements, including immediate re-deployment of joint military forces along a Safe Demilitarized Border Zone (SDBZ). Also they approved a plan to stop supporting and harbouring rebels as well as opening crossings points.

However, the signed security deals have not been implemented. In September 2013 the two countries together with the UNSIFA peacekeepers deployed the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mission (JBVMM). But on 22 November 2013, Juba stopped the operation. South Sudanese official said they fear the centreline, which passes through the border disputed areas, may be seen as final location of the boundary.

Speaking at a symposium on “the Current Sudanese American Relations”, Osman reiterated Sudan’s interest to have good relations with U.S. saying “The American Administration has repeatedly promised to normalize relation with Sudan without honouring these pledges”.

“There are great opportunities for the two countries to cooperate on oil and minerals,” he said before to welcome Washington pledges to put pressure on the Sudanese armed groups to join national dialogue.

The minister went to say that Sudan expects U.S to review its stances towards Sudan in the light of the development in Middle East and the affects of the conflict in Syria, Iraq and Yemen on the area.

“Now there is no rebellion in Darfur and Sudan is entering a new era after the national dialogue and the U.S administration needs to understand that,” stressed the minister.

Sudan has been under US economic sanctions since 1997 and remains on the US list of state sponsors of terror.

Washington eased the sanctions imposed on agriculture equipment and services, and allowed exports of personal communications hardware and software. Also, the US Treasury Department removed the private Bank of Khartoum from a blacklist of Sudanese entities.
Sudanese President Pardons 24 Convicts From SPLM-N
October 26, 2016 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir on Wednesday has issued a decree dropping charges against 27 members of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N).

In March 2014, SPLM-N Chairman Malik Agar and Secretary-General Yasir Aman were handed the capital punishment along with 17 others in connection with the outbreak of the conflict with Khartoum in the Blue Nile state in September 2011. The same court sentenced 47 others to life in prison which was also upheld by the appeals court.

The counts include terrorist crimes; crimes against the state; participation, aiding and abetting of crimes; crimes against humanity; the use of arms.

The presidential decree which was seen by Sudan Tribune was based on Article (208) of the 1991 Penal Code and is valid from the moment of its signing by the president.

The list of the convicts who were pardoned includes Mohamed Younis Babiker, Abdel-Aziz Ibrahim Mohamed, Brair Ali Al-Rayah, Al-Nour Abdalla Omer, Hassan Idris Jarad, Rajab Malakal Tair, Mohamed Adam Rajab, Atim Atim, Karoum Awad Ba’shoom, Qurashi al-Shazali Abdalla, Mohamed Ibrahim Abdalla, Mohamed al-Hassan Kafi, Musa Bambar Aso, Ramadan Fadl al-Mula Abdalla, Kamal Khair al-Sid Jaber, Silik Zakaria Jaber, Jackson Garanja Toya, Taban Garang Nyang, Al-Hadi Abdalla Ma’rofian, Farid Mohamed Ahmed Nasser, Hamad Youssef Arbab, Dok Auol Dok, Abdel-Shafie Gassoma Abdel-Shafie and Taha Fath Alla al-Sir.

It is noteworthy that the presidential amnesty didn’t include Agar and Arman.

Sudan Tribune has learnt that the convicts would be released from Al-Huda prison in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman on Thursday and they would be transferred to the campsites in Soba area on the putskirts of Khartoum from there they would be transported to the Blue Nile state capital Damazin.

Battles between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and SPLM-N forces in Blue Nile erupted in September 2011, with each side accusing the other of starting the fighting.

Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir immediately declared a state of emergency in the state, which allowed him to sack Agar, then the state’s governor, and later shut down SPLM-N’s offices in the country.

The African Union (AU) has sought to broker a peace deal between Khartoum and SPLM-N in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states but has yet to achieve any success.

South Sudan President Calls for All-inclusive Governance
October 26, 2016 (JUBA) - South Sudan president has called on the interim heads of the country’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) to ensure everyone participates in his administrations, stressing that the young nation was not necessarily a one party state.

“It’s not necessary that they join our party, but we must work with them together because South Sudan is for all of us. It is not for the SPLM”, he told governors on Monday.

The South Sudanese leader was addressing the 28 state governors whom he controversially appointed in 2015, despite signing the compromise peace agreement with the armed opposition faction (SPLM-IO) on the basis of the country’s 10 states.

“And I’m now telling you governors because you’re the ones going to the grass roots,” he said.

The president urged governors to help him cooperate with his deputy to implement the peace deal. It remains unclear as to what prompted the president to call for inclusive governance.

Analysts and observers have, however, argued that the South Sudanese leader wants the country’s state governors to accommodate representatives of the armed opposition movement under the faction allied to his controversially appointed first vice president, Taban Deng Gai and members of the parties sympathetic to policies and activities of the faction of the ruling SPLM under his direct leadership, whether the government partially or completely controls their respective parts of the country.

Meanwhile, Kiir threatened to dismiss governors who use public resources to pay luxury hotels instead of remaining with their respective constituencies in the states.

President Kiir, whose administration is facing financial crisis following fall in global oil prices and the ongoing civil war, also said he will strict movements of governors and would have to issue permission before a governor makes a trip to the capital, Juba.

“If you want to come to Juba, ask for permission from there (your state). If I permit you, then you come. If I don’t permit you, and you come without being given that green light to come, then you are my problem,” said the South Sudanese leader.

Kiir expanded the country’s 10 states to 28 a year ago – a move criticized as violation of the August 2015 peace agreement signed based on the nation’s 10 states, in addition to the economic hardships South Sudan faces.

South Sudan Rebels Say Repulsed Attack in East Equatoria State
October 26, 2016 (IMATONG) – The rebel-appointed governor of Imatong state, Perieno Oyet claimed the armed opposition forces repulsed an attack from pro-government forces in Jerusalem, an area about 2km from Eastern Equatoria state capital, Torit on Tuesday.

The official said rebels pushed pro-government forces back to Torit town with heavy causalities, claims Sudan Tribune could not verify.

“Our enemies must know that they shouldn’t beat the drum of war which they cannot be in position to win. We as the SPLA-IO [South Sudan armed opposition] have powers to take all areas around us in a matter of days, not even a month,” he said in a phone interview.

Unconfirmed reports say the armed opposition forces control all remotes villages of Central Equatoria state, including payams while the government allied forces remain in full control of the capital.

Oyet claimed pro-government forces have been mistreating civilians in the area as they faced ground resistance from the SPLA-IO forces, thus turning their anger on innocent civilians after they were defeated.

“The rogue regime in Juba must not behave like Isis of Iraq and Syria who torture civilians because of unjustified war. It is not the civilians who fight them but SPLA-IO, if they have capacity why don’t they attack us instead of turning their anger on innocent civilians?” he asked.

The army is yet to react to the armed opposition claims of the attack in Eastern Equatoria.

Renewed violence broke out in the South Sudanese capital, Juba in July with both warring factions blaming the other for instigating the incident that occurred in the capital, Juba leaving hundreds dead.

Ten of thousands of people have reportedly been displaced and nearly two million displaced in South Sudan’s worst ever violence since it seceded from Sudan in July 2011.

Rebels Claim Killing 11 South Sudanese Soldiers in Upper Nile
October 24, 2016 (WEDAKONA) – Nearly a dozen South Sudanese soldiers were killed at a road ambush along the road leading to Kola-Wedakona, located north of Upper Nile state, a rebel official said.

The armed opposition spokesperson in northern Upper Nile state, Captain Paul Malieth, claimed their forces foiled an attack allegedly planned by pro-government on their stronghold, Sunday evening.

He also claimed they repulsed a coordinated and planned attack from the army loyal to the South Sudanese president, Salva Kiir.

“We have counted 11 soldiers dead. 15 others were seriously wounded on Sunday night,” he told Sudan Tribune over phone.

Clashes between forces loyal to former first vice-president, Riek Machar and those allied to government forces clashed near Malakal, killing 56 soldiers, army spokesperson, Lul Ruai Koang said.

According to Malieth, the armed opposition forces earlier detected the movement of pro-government forces from Wedakona, allegedly with plans to attack their base but this was thwarted by the rebels.

He also claimed 3 PKMs, 2 RPGs and 10 AK47s were captured from pro-government forces, allegations Sudan Tribune could not easily verify.

In a separate interview, the rebel brigade commander for Kola, Brigadier Gen. James GatLuak accused government forces of failing to honor the peace accord both president Kiir and Machar signed.

The two armed opposition officials, however, admitted losing two of their servicemen in Sunday’s incident which occurred north of Upper Nile state.

The United Nations recently warned over the increasing fighting between South Sudan’s rival factions in Unity, Upper Nile, Western, Eastern and Central Equatoria states, urging the warring factions to cease hostilities.

Sudan's Irrigation Minister in Cairo for Ethiopia's Dam Talks
Ahram Online
Wednesday 26 Oct 2016

Sudan's irrigation minister Moataz Mousa arrived in Cairo late on Tuesday for talks on the mega dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile River, Egypt's state news agency MENA said.

During his two-day stay, Mousa will hold talks with top Egyptian government officials on ways to "boost Egyptian-Sudanese cooperation on the renaissance dam project."

They will also discuss cooperation between both countries on a joint technical authority regulating the Nile waters.

The 6,000-megawatt Grand Renaissance Dam, which is not 70 percent complete, is situated close to Ethiopia's border with Sudan.

In September, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia signed contracts tasking two French firms, BRL and Artelia, with carrying out studies on the environmental and economic impact of the $4 billion dam. Officials say the studies will start in late 2016 and take 11 months.

The leaders of the three countries signed a cooperation agreement in Khartoum in March 2015 to pave the way for a joint approach to sharing the regional Nile waters.

Egypt has sought assurances the dam will not significantly diminish the flow of the river, its near-exclusive source of irrigation and potable water.

Ethiopia has maintained that the project—which is 70 percent complete—will have no effect on Sudan or Egypt and should benefit all sides.
Egypt and UNESCO Discuss Fustat Civilization Museum
Nevine El-Aref
Ahram Online
Wednesday 26 Oct 2016

Egypt's minister of antiquities meets with UNESCO representatives and others to discuss the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation, partially completed but largely on hold since the 2011 revolution

Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany met on Wednesday with representatives of the UNESCO office in Egypt and a special international agency to discuss preliminary suggestions on making use of the visitors centre of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation (NMEC) in Fustat, as well as its cultural and commercial sections.

Mahrous Saeed, supervisor general of the NMEC, said that UNESCO's Egypt office asked a special international agency to carry out a feasibility study on getting the best use out of the NMEC visitor centre as well as finding additional finance to restart suspended work on the museum.

The cultural section of NMEC houses a 332-seat cinema, a 486-seat theatre, and lecture and conference halls equipped with state-of-the-art projectors, media, sound and lighting systems. The commercial section has 42 shops, cafeterias and restaurants.

The museum's main building, overlooking Ain Al-Sira Lake in the heart of Egypt’s first Islamic capital, Fustat, is near completion, including galleries, corridors and exhibition sections. Work was all but halted in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution due to budgetary shortfalls.

Selection of the site for the NMEC was made in 2000.

In 2002, the pyramid-shaped foundation stone of the building was laid, and in 2004 the first phase of the project was completed.

An extensive pre-building inspection was carried out to determine if any ruins or antiquities lay buried below ground. An up-to-date storage space, similar to that of the Louvre Museum in Paris and the British Museum in London was built on site.

This is the first time that such a storage facility has been built in Egypt and includes a high-tech security system that is directly connected to the police commissariat.

A laboratory to restore pieces in the museum’s collection is also among the achievements of the first phase.

The second phase started in 2007 but has not yet completed. Tarek Al-Nagaawy, the NMEC project’s engineer, told Al-Ahram Weekly that work at the museum has been slow, but the team has completed the building’s commercial and cultural section.

The museum’s glass pyramid-shaped roof will display a multimedia show of the different eras of Egyptian civilisation.