Violence Continues Against Afro-Colombian Communities

VIOLENCE CONTINUES AGAINST AFRO-COLOMBIAN COMMUNITIES

By David Parker

Bucaramanga, Colombia

August 21st, 2007

On June 21st, Luis Alberto, who I know better as ‘Janio’, was walking back to his home in the Humanitarian Zone of El Tesoro when he was assaulted by five illegally armed paramilitaries, who tied him up for half an hour, kicking him and threatening to kill him, accusing him and other community members of being guerrillas. Now, two weeks later I wonder if Janio is, like me, still recovering from the shock of the event. I was not shocked so much by the events of Janio’s story, as it is the same violent tactics practiced against many other members of the communities who protect their ancestral lands, traditional livelihoods and the unique tropical rainforest they live in from agro-industrial development. I was shocked because this time I was living in the community with him and for the first time, this was a victim I knew personally. Janio, one of the best soccer players in El Tesoro, who would make me sing Canadian songs; who steered our boat down the winding river of Caño Claro, tributary of the Curvaradó river; who held on to me as we were tossed around a top an intercity jeep on pot-holed roads; who made me play soccer with the community and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

 

The attack was preceded by a period of relative tranquility. One month earlier a group of 50 military passed by the barbed wire fence surrounding the resistance community, asking to enter and claiming three of the campesino men inside to be guerrillas – members of FARC. But the assault and threats to Janio’s life was nothing new for the communities of Afro-descendants, indigenous and mestizos that continue to struggle against State-backed violence and persecution; it was one more event in a 10 year history of bloody warfare, which has decided the fate of thousands of campesinos, and the worlds richest zone of biodiversity, the jungle of Bajo Atrato Chocoano.

 

FORCED DISPLACEMENT AND COMMUNITY RESISTANCE

 

In the recent history of this region of Colombia, the lower Atrato river basin in Urabá, Chocó has seen massive State repression at the hands of concerted military and paramilitary forces, as well as terror tactics from the FARC, a guerrilla group operating in the region. In October of 1996 and through 1997, a coordinated campaign of military and paramilitary forces known as ‘Operation Genesis’ forcibly displaced around 4,000 Afro-descendants, indigenous and mestizo civilian populations from territories collectively titled to Afro-Colombian communities. By land, sea and air, legal and illegal armed forces practiced torture, selective and collective assassination, massacre, disappearances, threats, theft and arson as a means to empty the dense and humid jungles inhabited by peaceable communities under the pretext of guerrilla activity in the area.

 

In 2000 and 2001, many community members, after suffering from fear, the loss of loved ones, hunger, and living in refugee camp conditions, decided to return to their land and create Peace Communities, only to find the development of agro-industrial mega-projects well underway. Urapalma S.A., the first of 12 private companies to operate in the region, with funding coming internationally from USAID (under the pretext of replacing illegal crops with sustainable agriculture and providing jobs for poor peasants) and nationally from FINAGRO and Fedepalma subsidies, had already sown 2000 hectares in the Curvaradó River basin with African Palm monocultres, with another 6000 hectares being cleared for the same purpose, all in the heart of the territories collectively owned by the communities of Curvaradó.

 

By way of violence, armed forces had ‘emptied’ the land of its traditional and ancestral inhabitants, although many fled the violence by retreating into the dense jungle, living without a home and without lighting a fire, for fear of both guerrilla forces in the region and the paramilitary and military forces. The violence had cleared the way for heavy machinery to deforest the land, destroying the soil structure and poisoning waterways, to plant greenhouse grown African Palm trees in symmetrical rows that would later be harvested for mass production of palm oil for the world market.

 

When new waves of incursions, assassinations, attacks and displacements occurred in 2001, the Afro-Colombian community councils of Jiguamiandó and Curvaradó, legally recognized governing bodies of the collective territories, created physically enclosed communities labelled as ‘Humanitarian Zones’ protected at first by Cautionary Measures to preserve the rights to life and physical integrity of community members, solicited by the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights on Nov. 7th 2002, and later by the Provisional Measures of protection of the communities decreed by the Interamerican Court of Human Rights on March 6th, 2003. According to the community members, no armed actors were allowed into the zones, since that would make them targets in the armed conflict.

 

The Humanitarian Zones were more than Peace Communities because rather than claiming to be neutral, the community councils resisted the presence of all armed actors and demanded justice as victims of massive displacement, continuing violent persecution and fear tactics. They demanded the right to govern the lands that had been stolen by State forces and developed by private enterprises. With accompaniment in the communities by national and international participants, the resistance was mounted on three fronts; to maintain a presence in the Humanitarian Zones and uphold the observance of the Right to Life and Integrity; to denounce the atrocities to the world community and generate pressure on Colombia’s government to observe the Protective Measures declared by the Interamerican Court; and to proceed judicially with cases of fraudulently acquired land titles for palm plantations and investigation into systematic violations of human rights.

 

Slowly, displaced community members have returned to their lands, and solidarity overcame fear. United by a common history, mestizo, indigenous and Afro-Colombians organized their new Humanitarian Zones as a non-violent resistance to State repression and capitalist development. The communities lived through years of threats, armed incursions into the zones, and continued assassination and disappearances, while direct solidarity and human rights organizations brought international attention to the crisis in Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó. The first Humanitarian Zones in the region were located on the Jiguamiandó River, but provided homes for community members of Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó, including the community council of both territories. Much of the Curvaradó river basin was already sown with African Palm monocultures and swarming with military, paramilitary, police and company employees. In 2006, the first Humanitarian Zone in Curvaradó was created in the midst of over 17,000 hectares (and growing) of palm plantations, by cutting down a a few hectares of palm trees and building the Humanitarian Zone of Andalucia. Since then, new Humanitarian Zones and Biodiversity Zones continue to be created in Curvaradó, including El Tesoro, created in October 2006.

 

ETHNIC AND CULTURAL MEMORY

 

Janio, his family and other familias living in El Tesoro and the other resistance communities of Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó are preserving vestiges of an ancient way of life in danger of extinction. Despite waves of colonization in Bajo Atrato, including attempts to develop a navegable waterway between the two oceans, and mining of gold, silver and other metals, The Atrato River and its tributaries have proved difficult for conquistadors, slave-traders and pirate voyages to colonize due to its difficult climate of dense jungle, torrential rains and labyrinthine rivers.

 

The river names of Jiguamiandó and Curvaradó were known by the Embera, Waunana and Awa peoples, whose ancient way of life, survival and existence, meshed with African rituals and ancestrality when former African slaves bought their freedom and moved to the jungles of Chocó and Bajo Atrato, in search of land, simplicity, and their own methods of development. In the 1980’s, the cultural exchange developed with the arrival of mestizos, fleeing the violence that had left them landless in agrarian struggles from Cordoba to Sucre and Antioquia. Politics, skin colour and mentalities integrated and juxtaposed, but ultimately found harmony in principles of life and territory.

 

In the 1990’s, the territories became the location and or route of passage for guerrillas of the Popular Liberation Army, EPL; later for the National Liberation Army, ELN, and finally for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC EP, who still exist there today. But the cruel military and covert paramilitary strategies of Brigade XVII of the National Army known as Operation Genesis, was directed not at the guerrillas but at the Afro-descendant, indigenous and mestizo civilian populations.

 

STOLEN LAND FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

 

Jiguamiandó and Curvaradó remained, into the 1990’s, one of the last of the unplucked gems of the Americas, having successfully resisted repeated attempts of colonization. The capitalist economic model was eventually imposed on the land and people beginning with Operation Genesis in 1996-97. The war against the civilian communities of Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó, begun in ’96, has continued on many fronts; military, judicial, political, psychological and technological. The objective, not only to appropriate the land from the communities, has also been to destroy cultural constructions and ancestral collective mentalities.

 

The massive displacements, preceded by chains of threats, assassinations, tortures, pillages and hostage-taking, reveal a comprehensive plan of expropriation of territory, under the pretext of controlling insurgent groups, but they cannot hide the aggression against native communities and simultaneous protection of corporations who have taken these territories. The clear motive of the State-led violence, rather than quelling armed resistance, was targeting peasant communities in order to use lands for agro-industrial projects as part of an imposed economic development model.

 

PLAN COLOMBIA AND IMPUNITY

 

The palm oil industry currently developing in Bajo Atrato Chocano now with 27,000 hectares of palm plantation in the Cuenca of Curvaradó operated and owned by 12 corporations, figures prominently in government and State policy of economic development under the administration of President Álvaro Uribe Vélez. Palm oil has traditionally been a highly profitable export used in foods and hygiene products, but the use of palm oil to make biodiesel and the expanding demand for biodiesel in the North as a ‘green’ energy has led Uribe to guarantee an export market of palm oil for biodiesel. He has pledged to increase palm plantation hectares from 175,000 in 2005 to 6 million, as part of State policy recognized in the U.S.-Colombian Free Trade Agreement and the U.S. backed Plan Colombia.

 

The financial profiteers of palm oil production are the same for palm plantations in Colombia, Indonesia and Malaysia, three of the worlds biggest exporters; a handful of elite locals from each respective region and transnational corporations such as Unilever, Procter and Gamble, Henkel, Cognis and Cargill. In Colombia, Law 138 of 1994 sanctions palm oil production, by creating the “Cuota de Fomento Palmero” to financially subsidize palm oil cultivators and encourage development, administered by Fedepalma. Meanwhile, Plan Colombia and the State strategy of Democratic Security has oriented the process of “paramilitary remobilization”, a way of legalizing the history of paramilitary violence and bringing them impunity. Institutional impunity was officially created through Law 975 of 2005: “Law of Justice and Peace”, which demobilizes paramilitaries, leaving criminals unpunished, instead linking them as ‘employees’ to the newly created agro-industrial projects being developed on land stolen through forced displacement. One example is the model of associative enterprises currently employed in agro-industrial projects such as cocoa, lumber, rubber and palm oil. Demobilized paramilitaries, displaced peasants and peasants work with a corporate investor interested in starting a business who “acts as a tutor”. In Urabá, for the paramilitaries who do not demobilize, there continues to exist work opportunities, uniting forces with the military to control local populations in the municipalities of Riosucio, Barranquillita, Belén de Bajirá, Pavarandó and Mutatá.

 

There are no guarantees of protection of the rights of victims, nor guarantees of returning properties and lands to their rightful owners. Furthermore, the palm plantations themselves are ‘legalized’ through fraudulent mechanisms, including purchasing land titles from landowners who could not have sold the land because they are deceased; drastically augmenting the size of land purchases on paper form 30 to 6000 hectares; inventing fake landowners, or buying land from people who don’t own any land. To secure international funding from USAID, the palm companies claim they are providing work opportunities for Afro-Colombians by substitution illicit crops (coca and marijuana) with a profitable legal alternative, a fraudulent lie puppeted even by President Uribe Vélez.

 

The Colombian State judicial apparatus only aggravates and confuses the problem, by ignoring the many pending investigations and not recognizing the systematic nature of the human rights violations, instead treating each case individually and unconnected. In effect, different levels of State and government provide guarantees for private enterprise, while persecuting civilians and violating human rights; all of which is legislated by transnational capital.

 

RESISTANCE FOR LIFE, LAND AND DIGNITY

 

The communities of Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó have faced remarkable adversity, from massacres and forced displacement to the appropriation of their land and impunity for the criminals, yet have shown incredible resilience. The crimes perpetrated are of such a systematic nature that they can only be understood as crimes against humanity. It has led to a profound deterioration of ethnic and cultural identity. Furthermore, the crimes, committed in a very fragile ecosystem with the world’s highest levels of biodiversity and rainfall, have created irreversible deterioration of the environment. These atrocities have been done in order to install an exclusionary development model, a capitalist model fundamentally opposed to the ethnic communities’ values of life, natural rhythms and sacred relationships to the environment, human life and the eternal.

 

A testament to the resilience of their traditional way of life has been their ability to create an authentic democracy in the midst of armed conflict. Resistance has been their only option for the reconstruction of truly democratic self-determination. Peace Communities turned into Humanitarian Zones: communities chose, rather than to be neutral, to demand justice. Their method of organizing is to construct concrete guarantees for their life, liberty of thought and land. Internal and international mechanisms of protection and justice are in place to preserve a community, a way of life, an ecosystem and a principle of basic human value and dignity.

 

http://www.pasc.ca

ARCHIVE: PRISONERS JUSTICE DAY – Friday, August 10

PRISONERS JUSTICE DAY broadcasted on Friday, August 10, 2007

The following content will be available from CKUT’s website for the next two months.

PJD began in 1975 in Millhaven Penitentiary (Kingston, ON) to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of Eddie Nalon, a prisoner in segregation awaiting medical assistance. Over the years, prisoners continue to recognize the day by fasting and refusing work. Community groups and family members organize solidarity events outside prisons.

7 a.m. Topic: Introduction to PJD

Lillian from CFAD on PJD and it’s importance (over topics), then she’ll interview mohammed(!). mohammed lofti on PJD, the work of souverains anonymes (what it is, how it began), the name, best/worst exp, SA in contrast to other media, his message on PJD.

Up next – A documentary about the history of Prison Justice Day, featuring the stories and memories of prisoners and activists. August 10th is Prison Justice Day. It is a day to honour the memory of the men and women who have died unnatural deaths inside Canadian prisons. On this day, prisoners across the country fast, refuse to work, and remain in their cells, while supporters organize community events to draw attention to the conditions inside of prisons. This documentary is dedicated to all those who have died behind bars.

8:45 a.m. Topic: Healthcare in prison

Mental health in prison Ashanti

9 a.m. Topic: Prisons, race and poverty

This hour we’ll feature Beyond the Bars – Highlights from an aboriginal prisoner broadcast for NAIDOC week in Australia. The week celebrates the survival of Indigenous culture and the Indigenous contribution to modern Australia. stay tuned for Highlights from an Australian Community Radio’s (3CR) broadcast from behind bars.

first, we’ll turn to the amnesty campaign for the survivors of katrina, some of whom were left locked behind bars with nothing to help them
survive for five days. we spoke with robert cool black horton with critical resistance in new orleans – a prison abolition organization.

Plus an interview on Solidarity work with Native prisoners with Tom Big Warrior.

10 a.m. Immigration and “security”

This hour was hosted by Kader B from Sanctuary.

Since its existence, Security Certificates have been hailed as a violation of fundamental rights, as prisoners are detained in the name of national security without a reasonable process of trial. Matthew Behrens speaks on the post-911 institution.
Later in the hour, we talk to Sophie Harkat, spouse of Mohamed Harkat who was detained under the Security Certificate process and remains under strict surveillance.

Then, stay tuned as we speak to Ben Amarbenatta, subject of first post September 11 rendition case. He speaks on his experience of being unlawfully rendered to American authorities and his time in a New York detention center.

11 a.m. Topic: Navigating the justice system

Interview with Robert Gaucher, prof. of criminology at the University of Ottawa about a prisoner support group he’s involved with, infinity lifers liaison a group that visits Collins Bay Prison (from Maxime Brunet at CHUO – please make sure you give credit).

First up on the hour- Juvenile detention and youth profiling continues to be prevalent in the Canadian justice system. Neil works with Jeunesse 2000, a youth in a drop-in center affiliated with Head&Hands. He speaks about his experience.

12 p.m. Topic: History and geography of incarceration

First up on the hour- Peter Wagner, the coordinator of the prison policy initiative speaks on the American incarceration system and the lack of political representation for prisoners.

Then, a history of the prison abolition movement and restorative justice in Canada.

We also speak to Joan coordinator from the Written House in Toronto ON. The mandate of the organization includes public education on prisoner-related issues and aids prisoners and ex-prisoners.

1 p.m. Topic: Women in prison/families

Women are a growing demographic in the Canadian justice system and can no longer be ignored. The interview coming up this hour explores the effect of the prison system has on female inmates. Many women are in prison for non-violent crime and have children. Gretchen speaks to Lilian, the director of CFAD providing aid to women in prisons.
The a in-depth look at rape on the inside with the founder of Stop Prison Rape.

2 p.m. Topic: Filipino political prisoners

Sigaw ng Bayan host a PJD Special.

3 p.m. Topic: Queer/trans prisoners

The Sylvie Revera Law Project engages in direct prisoner support and legal advocacy within the New York community. We look at this organization which works to ensure all people are free to self-determined gender identity and expression without facing discrimination or violence and regardless of race or income.

Then we turn to Fierce, a community organization for LGBT youth of colour in New York. Fierce works to empower queer and trans youth in the community. The organization takes on institutions that perpetuate transphobia, homophobia, racism, gender bias, ethnic conflict and health crisis.

4 p.m. Topic: Music and resistance to the Prison Industrial Complex

Coming up on the hour, a spiritual take on prisoner support. Stay tuned for an interview on the Liberation Prison Project. The San-Francisco based Tibetan-Buddhist organization provides spiritual advice and teaching to inmates.

5 p.m. Topic: Political prisoners

Update on the Green Scare and Daniel’s imprisonment, plus Ramona Africa on the Move family still behind bars.

Then, in 1971, John Young, a San Francisco police officer was killed. Members of the Black Panther party were arrested, charged and then tortured by San Francisco and New Orleans police. Courts eventually dismissed the charges based on the police extracting confessions via torture. Now more than 35 years later, the case has been reopened. On January 23rd, 2007, some of those same men were arrested again.

In this special documentary from the Freedom Archives, we hear from some of the accused men themselves. They describe the torture and how they were targeted for their political activities.

6 p.m. Topic: 30 min Live panel with local prison organizers

Prisoner solidarity work, plus a look at Harper’s Crime Bill and an interview with PJAC in Toronto.

Émission Amandla du 8 août 2007/ Amandla show from August 8th 2007

Voici les thèmes qui ont été abordés pendant l’émission Amandla du 8 août 2007 sur les ondes de CKUT 90.3FM (Montréal). Vous pouvez la télécharger ici (lien valide pour deux mois seulement).

Émission en anglais.

Alfie Roberts publicationCélébrations du 169ème anniversaire de l’Émancipation à Montréal. Le 1er août dernier, des célébrations se sont tenues dans la Petite Bourgogne (Montréal) pour marquer le 169ème anniversaire de la libération des Noirs de l’esclavage dans les colonies britanniques. L’événement a été animé par “l’Universal Negro Improvement Association of Montreal”, la plus vieille communauté noire de Montréal, ainsi que par l’Institut Alfie Roberts et Umoja Concordia. Musique, lecture, discussions et poésie ont marqué les célébrations tout en donnant un hommage à Alfie Roberts, un visionnaire et activiste de la communauté noire de Montréal. Le reportage peut être téléchargé ici (en anglais).

L’aide du Royaume-Uni à l’Afrique en baisse. L’aide britannique à l’Afrique, malgré toutes les promesses, a chuté de 1% entre 2005 et 2006. Commentaires de Doug.

Politique namibienne et la bande de Caprivi. Commentaires sur la lutte du mouvement pour l’indépendance de la bande de Caprivi menée par la Caprivi Liberation Army. Des membres de ce mouvement ont été condamnés à 32 ans de prison par le gouvernement namibien.

Here are the subjects that were addressed in the August 8th 2007 Amandla radio show on CKUT 90.3 FM (Montreal). You can download the show here (link valid for two months only).

Show in english.

169 th Emancipation Day Celebrations in Montreal. On august 1st, people gathered in Montreal’s Little Burghundy neighbourhood to celebrate emancipation day and mark 169 years of black African freedom from bondage in the British colonies. The Montreal event was hosted by the Universal Negro Improvement Association of Montreal, one of Montreal’s oldest Black community, as well as the Alfie Roberts InstituteUmoja Concordia. with music, readings, talks and poetry, it marked emancipation day while paying tribute to the late Alfie Roberts, a visionary Montreal Black community activist. The reportage can also be downloaded here.Caprivi strip and

UK’s aid in Africa dropping. Despite the promises, the UK’s aid dropped 1% from 2005 to 2006. Comments by Doug.

Namibian politics and the Caprivi strip. The fight of the people from the Caprivi strip (Caprivi Liberation Army) against Namibia. Today, fighters from Caprivi were sentenced to 32 years in jail by the Namibian government. Comments by Doug.

Émission Amandla du 1er août 2007/ Amandla show from August 1st 2007

Voici les thèmes qui ont été abordés pendant l’émission Amandla du 1er août 2007 sur les ondes de CKUT 90.3FM (Montréal). Vous pouvez la télécharger ici (lien valide pour deux mois seulement).

Émission entièrement en anglais.

Commentaires sur la revue de la BBC: “Focus on Africa” de juillet-septembre. Commentaires qui incluent l’opinion de Kenneth Kaunda, ancien président de Zambie, sur Mugabe. Aussi, la géopolitique de le Corne de l’Afrique.

Commentaires sur le journal sud-africain: Mail and Guardian: “Sudan looks south for peace”. Voir l’article en anglais, plus bas.

Commentaires sur l’article de le BBC: “Enjoying beers in the Algeria woods”. Voir l’article en anglais plus bas.

Les parlementaires Kenyan se donnent des salaires trop élevés. Commentaires sur le fait que les parlementaires Kenyan s’octroient un salaire de 91000 dollars US par ans!

Côte d’Ivoire: Laurent Gbagbo se rend à Bouaké . Commentaires.

Autres nouvelles de la Corne de l’Afrique.

Autres Nouvelles.

 

Here are the subjects that were addressed in the August 1st 2007 Amandla radio show on CKUT 90.3 FM (Montreal). You can download the show here (link valid for two months only).

Show entirely in english.

Commentaries on the BBC’s Focus on Africa magazine, july-september edition. Comments on the magazine that incudes views on Mugabe’s regime by former Zambia president, Kenneth Kaunda etc. Also, geopolitics in the Horn of Africa…

Commentaries on the South African newspaper: Mail and Guardian: “Sudan looks south for peace”. Here is the article (you can then listen to Doug’s comments on air):

Sudan looks south for peace

Jean-Jacques Cornish
31 July 2007 10:38

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Said Alkhateeb, manager of the Strategic Studies Centre in Khartoum and a former general secretary of foreign relations for the ruling Sudanese National Congress party, travelled to Pretoria recently. Alkhateeb, who played a major role in negotiating the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) that ended the civil war between northern and southern Sudan, spoke to the Mail & Guardian about South Africa as a possible host and mediator in new talks between the Sudanese government and those Darfur rebel groups that refused to sign the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) last year.

Has the South African government been asked to host and mediate the talks?
Informally, it has been approached, and a formal request will soon be made. The South African government knows the government of Sudan will welcome more involvement in monitoring the CPA and reviving the talks for Darfur.

Now that you are ac­cepting a hybrid force of African peacekeepers for Darfur financed and logistically supported by the United Nations, is every­thing up for grabs?
No, everything is not up for grabs. We will not be renegotiating the DPA. We have the building blocks for a more inclusive deal, but we do not want to alienate anyone who has already signed. We want to augment and add to the DPA, not replace it. Important points have been reached regarding personal compensation and control of the region. Most of the discontent in Darfur revolves around these two issues.

The Sudanese government has allowed UN troops to be deployed to monitor the CPA but has until recently refused to allow the deployment of UN troops in Darfur. Why?
The CPA is an agreement between two parties and they agreed to bring the UN in to deal particularly with the military and security arrangements. The mandate is very clear, and it was agreed before the parties put their signatures to the CPA. What the government of Sudan agreed to with the DPA is having AU peacekeeping forces. The US and the EU, who were there as facilitators, know this well. The government of Sudan sees no reason why this should change, because that would change the DPA itself. If people believe the AU cannot fulfil this role, they should gather around the table and change the agreement.

The UN Security Council envisages a peacekeeping force for Darfur of about 20 000. But it is clear that, at best, Africa can provide no more than 10 000 troops. Would you look favourably at a hybrid force in which the remainder are composed of troops from countries suitable to you?
The general agreement is that unless we cannot find peacekeeping personnel from within the AU we will not go elsewhere. We fully accept a hybrid force supervised by the AU and the UN. The peacekeeping troops will come from Africa. If practical considerations dictate it, the government of Sudan has indicated it will look elsewhere to solve the problem. If the political track moves quickly the whole process will be accelerated. The need for bringing in vast numbers of new forces will dwindle by the day. Provided a political solution is found, we will not need all that many people in Darfur.

When would the Sudanese government like to see the hybrid force on the ground?
Emotions regarding Sudanese sovereignty are still very strong. Politics generally are delaying things. The Sudanese government agreed to a hybrid force last September. Delays have been caused by misinterpretations of what exactly was agreed to. There is also uncertainty in the UN about funding something that is not entirely a UN operation. This all seems to have been cleared up now. The wheels can start turning. Timing is everything in matters like this. It is best for all involved that we proceed quickly

Comments on the BBC’s: “Enjoying beers in the Algeria woods”. Here is the article (you can then listen to Doug’s comments on air):

By Mary Harper
BBC News, Algiers


Kamal “Van Damme” has long dark hair, wild black eyes and a bare chest.

He lives alone in the woods, high up in the Berber mountains of Algeria’s Kabylie region.

In an area occupied by armed Islamists, he runs a bar, selling cold beer to his customers.

Nicknamed after the Hollywood strongman, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kamal has carved ingenious clearings out of the mountainside, each one almost completely hidden by thick bushes on all sides.

Into each clearing, he has put a rickety table and a few chairs, so that people can sit and drink in the middle of nature.

For the more adventurous, he has even constructed a platform at the top of a tree.

When I visited Kamal Van Damme’s bar, there were men lolling around in various stages of inebriation, green beer bottles scattered all over the place.

The atmosphere was completely relaxed.

“We’re drinking beer under the very beards of the Islamists,” one man joked.

Bizarre

I found it impossible to believe that we really were drinking “under the beards of the Islamists” until a couple of days later, when a military patrol was ambushed in full daylight just 400m away from the bar.

One soldier was killed and two others badly injured in the attack, blamed on Islamists hiding in the nearby forest.

Eyewitnesses reported that Kamal continued to serve beer during the attack, although most of his clients ran away as soon as they heard the gunshots and other explosions.

Bizarrely, it is in the land of the beer-drinking Berbers that Algeria’s Islamist insurgency is most active.

Attacks are frequent and principally directed at the military.

Recent incidents include the suicide bombing of an army barracks in Lakhdaria that killed more than 10 people and a midnight ambush on military positions in Yakouren.

In the first attack on civilians for some time, a bomb was thrown into an amusement arcade in Barika, leaving two children dead and several others with horrific injuries.

Hideouts

Parts of the Kabylie resemble a war zone. Near Yakouren, I saw convoys of military vehicles thundering by as columns of nervous-looking soldiers marched up into the mountains to hunt down the perpetrators of the recent attack.

Helicopters clattered above, strafing the mountainsides.

Forest fires, started by the military, engulfed the hills, consuming not only the hideouts of the militants but also the ancient olive trees belonging to the local population.

The Berbers have little sympathy for the Islamists, but they dislike the army even more.

One man, a beekeeper, explained how all of his beehives had been destroyed in one of the fires started by the army.

“When I asked the soldiers why they had burned my beehives, they said they would not have done so if I had told them where the militants were hiding,” he said.

“How can the army ask for my help when they have destroyed my livelihood?”

And the authorities are indeed asking the population for their help in fighting the insurgency, with daily television appeals requesting information about “the terrorists”.

Insecurity has been increasing in Algeria, and across North Africa, since the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) re-launched itself as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb at the beginning of this year.

Algeria’s Islamists have changed their tactics since joining the al-Qaeda franchise.

There are more suicide bombings, complete with slick internet videos of the young men who were prepared to die for their faith.

Co-ordinated attacks, such as the seven bombs that went off almost simultaneously in seven different locations in February, also bear the hallmarks of al-Qaeda.

Despite the upsurge of Islamist activity, the government insists that what Algerians describe as “The Time of Terror” of the 1990s and early 2000s is now over.

“The Algerian government has perfect control over the security situation and terrorism is on the verge of being eradicated,” says Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem.

Traumatised

The reality on the ground, especially in the eastern Kabylie region, contradicts the prime minister’s statement.

Even in areas where security has returned, the population is traumatised.

Algeria’s most fertile region, the Mitidja valley, is like a land of ghosts with memories of the horrific massacres hanging like a dark cloud over the area.

People have still not returned to their hillside villages, preferring to stay in the towns by night, and working in their fields by day.

In other areas, such as Medea to the south of Algiers, people are starting to relax and enjoy themselves.

I visited this region during the weekend, and saw people swimming in the rivers, feeding monkeys and eating freshly roasted meat in restaurants that have only just re-opened after being burned down by the Islamists.

But none of this would be possible without the presence of the army.

Medea is the most heavily militarised zone in the country, and it is swarming with soldiers.

The horizon is dotted with sentry boxes and watchtowers, heavily armed soldiers crouch behind sandbags, hide behind trees and perch on rocks.

The place where life really does seem to be returning to normal is the capital city.

Algiers feels like a different country, with a cosmopolitan atmosphere and the hustle and bustle of a fully functioning city.

But step outside the beautiful capital, with its white buildings crowded on hillsides overlooking the bay, and “The Time of Terror” is very much alive.

Either as fresh and bloody memories in people’s minds or as the ongoing insurgency led by militants intent on establishing an Islamic republic in Algeria.

Kenyan MPs give themselves high salaries. Comment on the fact that MPs in Kenya will have a salary reaching 91000 $US per year!

Cote d’Ivoire: Laurent Gbagbo goes to Bouake. Comments.

Other news from the Horn of Africa.

Other news.

Émission Amandla du 25 juillet 2007/ Amandla show from July 25th 2007

Voici les thèmes qui ont été abordés pendant l’émission Amandla du 25 juillet dernier sur les ondes de CKUT 90.3FM (Montréal). Vous pouvez la télécharger ici (lien valide pour deux mois seulement).

Dénouement de la crise libyenne – un regard africain – en français. Des médias africains apportent leur propre analyse de la négociation entre l’Europe, la France et la Libye concernant la libération des infirmières bulgares et le médecin palestinien. C’est le cas du Pays (quotidien burkinabé), où on parle de “panne d’éthique”:

Le dossier des infirmières bulgares le confirme : la diplomatie internationale est sérieusement en panne au plan de l’éthique. Chacun se crée sa propre légitimité et exploite la moindre faille pour parvenir à ses fins. Désormais, exit les Nations unies, place au brigandage d’Etat, vive le troc et le chantage. Mais pendant encore combien de temps ?

Chaque jour, le même spectacle s’offre à nos yeux à travers la planète : francs-tireurs qui prennent leurs semblables pour des lapins égarés; prises d’otages; agressions caractérisées; occupations forcées de bâtiments, de terres, de villes, de territoires, etc. Des plus puissants aux plus petits, des plus décriés aux plus adulés, de plus en plus de pays semblent s’inspirer d’exemples dont l’opinion a pourtant dénoncé la non pertinence : les opérations “Tempête du désert” (Koweït), Guantanamo, la Palestine, le Liban, l’Irak, le Pakistan, l’Afghanistan, la Bosnie, la Somalie, la Tchétchénie, etc.

Certes, dans le récent cas des infirmières bulgares de Benghazi, il est encore difficile de distinguer le vrai du faux dans les accusations. Mais, à y réfléchir, on se dit bien vite : “C’est de bonne guerre.” En raison même des tensions récurrentes auxquelles nous ont habitués Libyens et Occidentaux. Directement, parBulgarian nurses pays ou par personnes interposées ou non. Fort heureusement, les otages ont été libérés et aussitôt graciés une fois de retour en Bulgarie. Mais ne subiront-elles pas des séquelles après ces huit années passées en prison ? Qui a pu réellement se servir de qui, de quoi, quand, comment et pourquoi? Mais surtout, combien seront-ils encore à vouloir servir ailleurs la cause humaine ?

Le journal congolais “Le Potentiel” parle de l’enchère médiatique occidentale.

Agriculture biologique en Afrique de l’Est – en français. Les pays d’Afrique de l’Est se lancent dans l’agriculture biologique qui représente un marché mondial de 25 milliards de dollars par an. On parle notamment de café, coton, thé, cacao, miel, épices et légumes.

Interview avec Asad Ismi co-producteur de la série: The Ravaging of Africa – en anglais. Cette série est en quatre parties et trois ont été présentées à Amandla ces dernières semaines. Avant de présenter la dernière partie, Asad Ismi est interviewé et parle des gens présents dans la série ainsi que de l’importance de l’unité africaine.

The Ravaging of Africa: African Resistance – en anglais. Rediffusion d’une émission radio en quatre parties qui traite des impacts destructeurs de l’impérialisme américain en Afrique. “African Resistancecélèbre la libération de l’Afrique du Sud, la défaite des visées américaines au Congo et en Somalie ainsi que les diverses luttes pacifiques contre la domination américaine représentées notamment dans le Forum Social Mondial. Avec Wahu Kaara, Amade Suca, Mfuni Kazadi, Farah Maalim, Virginia Magwaza-Setshedi, Emilie Atchaka et Njeru Munyi.

Here are the subjects that were addressed in the July 25th Amandla radio show on CKUT 90.3 FM (Montreal). You can download the show here (link valid for two months only).

The outcome of the Libyan crisis: an african look – in french. African medias bring their own analysis on the negotiations that involved Europe, France and Libya in order to free the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor. It is the case of “Le Pays (a burkinabe newspaper), who talks about an “ethical breakdown” . The Congolese newspaper”Le Potentiel” talks about the escalation of the news in western medias.

Bio-agriculture in Eastern Africa – in french. Eastern African countries are going into the bio-agriculture business which represents a yearly 25 billions dollars market worldwide. We notably talk about coffee, cotton, tea, honey, spices and vegetables.

Interview with Asad Ismi co-producer of the series: The Ravaging of AfricaAsad Ismiin english. The series is in four part and Amandla aired them for the past three weeks. Before presenting the last part. Asad Ismi is interviewed and talks about the people in the series and the importance of African unity.

The Ravaging of Africa: African Resistance – in english. It is a four-part radio documentary series about the destructive impact of U.S. imperialism on Africa. “African Resistance” celebrates the liberation of Southern Africa, the defeat of U.S. aims in the Congo and Somalia, as well as the diverse non-military struggles against U.S. domination that were represented at the World Social Forum. With Wahu Kaara, Amade Suca, Mfuni Kazadi, Farah Maalim, Virginia Magwaza-Setshedi, Emilie Atchaka and Njeru Munyi.