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Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War

By Eric Draitser | New Eastern Outlook | 21.11.2015

In the wake of the horrific terror attacks in Paris, world attention will once again be focused on the issue of refugees entering Europe. While much of the spotlight has been rightly pointed at Syrian refugees fleeing the western-sponsored war against the Syrian government, it must be remembered that the refugees come from a variety of countries, each of which has its own particular circumstances, with many of them having been victims of US-NATO aggression in one form or another. Syria, Afghanistan and Libya have of course been targeted by so-called ‘humanitarian wars’ and fake ‘revolutions’ which have left the countries fractured, divided, and unable to function; these countries have been transformed into failed states thanks to US-NATO policy.

What often gets lost in the discussion of refugees however is the fact that a significant proportion of those seeking sanctuary in Europe and the US are from the Horn of Africa: Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea primarily. While there is some discussion of this issue in western media, it is mostly ignored when it comes to the first three countries as news of fleeing Sudanese, Somalis, and Ethiopians does not bode well for Washington’s narrative as the US has, in one way or another, been directly involved in each of those countries.

However, in the case of Eritrea, a fiercely independent nation that refuses to bow to the diktats of the US, the country is presented as a seemingly bottomless wellspring of refugees fleeing the country. Were one to read solely the UN reports and news stories, one could be forgiven for thinking that Eritrea has been mostly depopulated as hordes of Eritrean youth flee the country in droves. But that narrative, one which is periodically reinforced by distorted coverage in the media, is quickly being eroded as increasingly the truth is coming out.

Countering the Eritrean Refugee Propaganda

The popular understanding of Eritrea in the West (to the extent that people know of the country at all) is of a nation, formerly ruled by Ethiopia, which has become the “North Korea of Africa,” a systematic violator of human rights ruled by a brutal dictatorship that uses slave labor and tortures its citizens. As such, Eritrea is immediately convicted in the court of public opinion and, therefore, becomes a convenient scapegoat when it comes to migration. In fact, it seems that the propaganda against Eritrea has been so effective, with the US and Europe so keen to take in anyone fleeing the country, that it has become the stated country of origin for thousands upon thousands of refugees from a number of countries. It seems that African refugees, regardless of their true country of origin, are all Eritreans now.

Take for instance the comments by the Austrian ambassador to Ethiopia who unabashedly explained that, “We believe that 30 to 40 percent of the Eritreans in Europe are Ethiopians.” Depending on who you ask, the numbers may actually be even higher than that. Indeed, being granted asylum in Europe is no easy feat for African refugees who, knowing the political agenda of Europe and its attempts to isolate and destabilize Eritrea through promoting the migration of its citizens, quickly lose their passports and claim to be Eritreans fleeing political persecution.

But who can blame these people when the US itself has established specific policies and programs aimed at luring Eritrean youths away from their country? As WikiLeaks revealed in a 2009 diplomatic cable from the US Embassy entitled “Promoting Educational Opportunity for Anti-Regime Eritrean Youth,” the former US ambassador to Eritrea Ronald K. McMullen noted that the US:

… intends to begin adjudicating student visa applications, regardless of whether the regime is willing to issue the applicant an Eritrean passport and exit visa …With an Eritrean passport and an F1 visa in a Form DS-232, the lucky young person is off to America. For those visa recipients who manage to leave the country and receive UNHCR refugee status, a UN-authorized travel document might allow the young person to travel to America with his or her F1 in the DS-232.…Due to the Isaias regime´s ongoing restrictions on Embassy Asmara, [the US] does not contemplate a resumption of full visa services in the near future. However, giving young Eritreans hope, the chance for an education, and the skills with which to rebuild their impoverished country in the post-Isaias period is one of the strongest signals we can send to the Eritrean people that the United States has not abandoned them…

Using the twin enticements of educational scholarships and escape from mandatory national service, the US and its European allies have attempted to lure thousands of Eritreans to the West in the hopes of destabilizing the Asmara government. As the Ambassador noted, the US intention is to usher in a “post Isaias [Afewerki, president of Eritrea] period.” In other words: regime change. And it seems that Washington and its European allies calculated that their policy of economically isolating Eritrea through sanctions has not effectively disrupted the country’s development.

And it is just such programs and guidelines which look favorably on Eritrean migrants which have motivated tens of thousands of Africans to claim that they all come from the relatively small Eritrea. The reality however is that a significant number of these refugees (perhaps even the majority) are actually from Ethiopia and other countries. As Eritrea-based journalist and East Africa expert Thomas Mountain noted in 2013:

Every year for a decade or more than a million Ethiopians, 10 million and counting, have left, or fled, their homeland… Why, why would ten million Ethiopians, one in every 8 people in the country, risking their lives in many cases, seek refuge in foreign, mostly unwelcoming, lands? The answer lies in the policies of the Ethiopian regime which have been described by UN investigators in reports long suppressed with words such as “food and medical aid blockades”, “scorched earth counterinsurgency tactics”, “mass murder” and even “genocide”… Most of the Ethiopian refugees are from the Oromo nationality, at 40 million strong half of Ethiopia, or the ethnic Somalis of the Ogaden. Both of these regions in southern Ethiopia have long been victims of some of the most inhumane, brutal treatment any peoples of the world have ever known.

There is little mention of this Ethiopian exodus which, for a variety of reasons, is suppressed in the West. Many of the refugees simply claim to be Eritrean knowing that they stand a far greater chance of being admitted into Europe or the US if they claim origin from a blacklisted country like Eritrea, rather than an ally such as Ethiopia, a country long seen as Washington’s closest partner in the region.

In fact, Ethiopia is consistently praised as an economic success story, with the World Bank having recently announced that the African nation is the world’s fastest growing economy for 2015-2017. Despite this alleged ‘economic miracle,’ Ethiopia is still hemorrhaging population as citizens flee in their thousands, providing further evidence that outside the glittering capital of Addis Ababa the country remains one of the most destitute and violent in the world.

The same can be said of South Sudan, a country created by the US and Israel primarily, and which has now descended into civil war sending more than 600,000 refugees streaming out of the newly created country, with another 1.5 million internally displaced. Somalia remains a living nightmare for the poor souls unfortunate enough to have been born in a country that is a nation-state in name only. According to the UN, Somalia boasts more than 1.1 million internally displaced refugees with nearly 1 million refugees located outside the country. Taken in total, Ethiopian, South Sudanese, and Somali refugees comprise a population greater than the entire population of Eritrea.

However, Somalia, Ethiopia, and South Sudan are all strategic allies (read clients) of the United States and its western partners; Eritrea is considered persona non grata by Washington. This fundamental fact far more than anything else accounts for the completely distorted coverage of the refugee issue in Eritrea. Put another way, refugees and human trafficking are a convenient public relations and propaganda weapon employed by the US to demonize Eritrea, and to tarnish its project of economic and political self-reliance.

Refugees as Pretext, Independence Is the Real Sin

Eritrea has been demonized by the US and the West mainly because it has refused to be subservient to the imperial system. First and foremost among Eritrea’s grave sins is its stubborn insistence on maintaining full independence and sovereignty in both political and economic spheres. This fact is perhaps best illustrated by Eritrean President Afewerki’s bold rejection of foreign aid of various sorts, stating repeatedly that Eritrea needs to “stand on its own two feet.” Afewerki’s pronouncements are in line with what pan-Africanist leaders such as Thomas Sankara, Marxists such as Walter Rodney, and many others have argued for decades: namely that, as Afewerkie put it in 2007 after rejecting a $200 million dollar “aid” package from the World Bank, “Fifty years and billions of dollars in post-colonial international aid have done little to lift Africa from chronic poverty… [African societies] are crippled societies… You can’t keep these people living on handouts because that doesn’t change their lives.”

Of course, there are also other critical political and economic reasons for Eritrea’s pariah status in the eyes of the so called “developed world,” and especially the US. Perhaps the most obvious, and most unforgivable from the perspective of Washington, is Eritrea’s stubborn refusal to have any cooperation, formal or informal, with AFRICOM or any other US military. While every other country in Africa with the exception of the equally demonized, and equally victimized, Zimbabwe has some military connections to US imperialism, Eritrea remains stubbornly defiant. I suppose Eritrea takes the notion of post-colonial independence seriously.

Is it any wonder that Afewerki and his government are demonized by the West? What is the history of US and European behavior towards independent African leaders who advocated self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist ideology? The answer is self-evident. Such ideas as those embodied by Eritrea are seen by Washington, London, and Brussels as not only defiant, but dangerous; dangerous not only because of what they say, but dangerous because they’re actually working.

Naturally there are legitimate concerns to be raised about Eritrea and major strides still to be made in the political and economic spheres. Social progress is an arduous process, especially in a part of the world where nearly every other country is racked with violence, genocide, famine, and a host of other existential crises. But the progress necessary for Eritrea will be made by and for Eritreans; it cannot and must not be imposed from without by the same forces that, in their humanitarian magnanimity, rained bombs on Libya and systematically undermined, destabilized, and/or destroyed nations in seemingly every corner of the globe.

Refugees should be treated with dignity and respect. Their suffering should never be trivialized, nor should they be scapegoated as terrorists. But equally so, their tragedies should not be allowed to be cynically exploited for political gain by the West. The flow of refugees is an outgrowth of the policies of the Empire – the same Empire that continues to transform this crisis into a potent weapon of destabilization and war.

November 21, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Federal Appeals Court: US Citizens Can’t Sue FBI Agents For Torture Abroad

By Kevin Gosztola | ShadowProof | October 26, 2015

A federal appeals court decision effectively grants FBI agents involved in terrorism investigations abroad immunity from lawsuits, which allege torture or other constitutional rights violations.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Amir Meshal, an American citizen who was detained and tortured by FBI agents in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, and declined to permit Meshal to pursue damages for what he endured.

According to the federal appeals court [PDF], allowing Meshal to pursue damages would extend Bivens into a new context: the “extraterritorial application of constitutional protections.”

Bivens is a case that created precedent for bringing cases against federal government officials. However, courts have been extremely reluctant to allow plaintiffs to pursue damages when a case may set a precedent or lead to a court intruding upon national security and foreign policy matters.

In Meshal’s case, U.S. agents and foreign officials are accused of working together. A decision would pass judgment on officials working under a “foreign justice system.” Such “intrusion,” the appeals court claimed, could have diplomatic consequences.

The appeals court quoted prior cases and stated:

Allowing Bivens suits involving both national security and foreign policy areas will “subject the government to litigation and potential law declaration it will be unable to moot by conceding individual relief, and force courts to make difficult determinations about whether and how constitutional rights should apply abroad and outside the ordinary peacetime contexts for which they were developed.” Even if the expansion of Bivens would not impose “the sovereign will of the United States onto conduct by foreign officials in a foreign land,” the actual repercussions are impossible to parse. We cannot forecast how the spectre of litigation and the potential discovery of sensitive information might affect the enthusiasm of foreign states to cooperate in joint actions or the government’s ability to keep foreign policy commitments or protect intelligence. Just as the special needs of the military requires courts to leave the creation of damage remedies against military officers to Congress, so the special needs of foreign affairs combined with national security “must stay our hand in the creation of damage remedies. [emphasis added]

Or, more succinctly, the appeals court claims “special factors counsel hesitation” in allowing Meshal to pursue “money damages.”

The appeals court additionally determined Meshal’s citizenship did not override these “special factors.”

In issuing this decision, the appeals court leaves the issue of remedies for torture to Congress or the Supreme Court and makes it virtually impossible for torture survivors to pursue justice when their rights are supremely violated.

Meshal is Detained Incommunicado, Threatened with Transfer to Israel

Meshal was in the Horn of Africa when, on January 24, 2007, Kenyan soldiers captured and interrogated him. He was “hooded, handcuffed and flown to Nairobi, where he was taken to the Ruai Police Station and questioned by an officer of Kenya’s Criminal Investigation Department” and was told that the police had to “find out what the United States wanted to do with him before he could send him back to the United States.” He remained in detention without access to a telephone or his attorney for a week, according to the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia’s decision.

On February 3, “three Americans,” who turned out to be FBI agents, interrogated Meshal and told him he would be handed over to the Kenyans and remain stuck in a “lawless country” if he did not cooperate. The agents also accused him of “having received weapons and interrogation resistance training in an al Qaeda camp.” Supervising Special Agent Chris Higgenbotham, one of the officials sued, threatened Meshal with being transferred to Israel where the Israelis would “make him disappear.” Meshal was informed that another U.S. citizen he had met in Kenya, Daniel Maldonado, who was also seized by Kenyan soldiers, “had a lot to say about” him and his story “would have to match.”

Meshal was flown by Kenyan officials to Somalia with twelve others on February 9. He was “detained in handcuffs in an underground room with no windows or toilets,” which was referred to as “the cave.” This was allegedly to prevent pressure from Kenyan courts to halt his detention and interrogation by FBI agents.

About a week later, Meshal was transported in handcuffs and a blindfold to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He was held there in incommunicado detention for a week before Ethiopian officials started regularly transporting him to a villa with other prisoners where he could be interrogated by FBI agents. He remained in detention for three months and was moved into solitary confinement twice.

Finally, on May 24, he was taken to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa and flown back to the U.S. He was detained for four months and lost eighty pounds. US officials never charged him with a crime.

Appeals Court Skeptical of US Secrecy Arguments (But That Didn’t Matter)

Although the U.S. government did not invoke the “state secrets privilege,” it put forward a “laundry list of sensitive issues” that would allegedly be implicated if Meshal was able to pursue a lawsuit against FBI agents.

The government claimed it would involve “inquiry” into “national security threats in the Horn of Africa region,” the “substance and sources of intelligence,” and whether procedures relating to counterterrorism investigations abroad “were correctly applied.” Also, the government insisted it would require discovery “from both foreign counterterrorism officials, and U.S. intelligence officials up and down the chain of command, as well as evidence concerning the conditions at alleged detention locations in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya.”

The appeals court appropriately asked in their decision, “Why would an inquiry into whether the defendants threatened Meshal with torture or death require discovery from U.S. intelligence officials up and down the chain of command? Why would an inquiry into Meshal’s allegedly unlawful detention without a judicial hearing reveal the substance or source of intelligence gathered in the Horn of Africa?”

“What would make it necessary for the government to identify other national security threats?” the court additionally asked.

Despite recognizing the unfounded basis for claims about how the lawsuit would risk disclosure of sensitive information, the appeals court chose to be overly cautious and dismiss the case as the government urged.

Appeals Court Overlooks Affidavit from Former FBI Agent

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the suit on behalf of Meshal, obtained an affidavit from former FBI Agent Donald Borelli, who unequivocally made clear FBI agents are expected to follow the U.S. Constitution when in territories abroad.

“The FBI’s longstanding commitment to respect the Constitution—including when it acts abroad in respect of U.S. citizens—reflects and implements the long established rule that the Constitution applies to and constrains U.S. government action against U.S. citizens abroad,” Borelli maintained.

In fact, Borelli cited a Supreme Court decision in 1957 involving two U.S. citizens, “who were tried and convicted by court-martial based on allegations they murdered service member spouses on U.S. military bases.”

From the Supreme Court’s ruling:

At the beginning we reject the idea that when the United States acts against citizens abroad it can do so free of the Bill of Rights. The United States is entirely a creature of the Constitution. Its power and authority have no other source. It can only act in accordance with all the limitations imposed by the Constitution. When the Government reaches out to punish a citizen who is abroad, the shield which the Bill of Rights and other parts of the Constitution provide to protect his life and liberty should not be stripped away just because he happens to be in another land. This is not a novel concept. To the contrary, it is as old as government. It was recognized long before Paul successfully invoked his right as a Roman citizen to be tried in strict accordance with Roman law.

Citizens like Meshal are supposed to have protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, however, the lower courts are unwilling to check the power of the Executive Branch. They have chosen to wait until the Supreme Court or Congress acts and that gives someone like Meshal an exceedingly small chance of ever winning justice.

October 29, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Africa’s Cuba: Eritrea Endures 13 Years of Illegal Occupation and Sanctions

By Elias Amare | Black Agenda Report | April 15, 2015

Monday, April 13, was the 13th anniversary of the ruling of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC), and the continued illegal occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories by Ethiopia since then. Also, it’s been well over five years since the US engineered unjust sanctions at the UN Security Council against Eritrea in late 2009.

In a “Global Action Day of Resistance,” Eritreans and their friends worldwide held rallies, online petitions, cycling tours, etc., to protest these injustices against Eritrea, a country in the Horn of Africa that many progressive analysts are recognizing as the “Cuba of Africa.” In the US, Eritreans in the Bay Area, California, held a protest rally in Oakland.

In Europe, more than twenty five cyclists from ten different countries (Canada, Denmark, Eritrea, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK), starting in Goteborg, Sweden, stopping in over ten German and three Swiss cities, rode over 1700 km, highlighting along the way the truth about Eritrea and its people and how, despite repeatedly being wronged by the west, the country is forging forward and has become an oasis of peace and harmony in the Horn of Africa.

The demands of this Eritrean Global Action Day of Resistance are:

An immediate and unconditional implementation of the 13-year old, final and binding, boundary decision and an end to Ethiopia’s illegal occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories, including the town of Badme; and

An end to the illegal UN sanctions imposed on Eritrea in December 2009, which have long been proven to be based on totally fabricated and falsified “evidence” by Ethiopia and its handlers.

Ethiopia’s Occupation: a Threat to Regional Peace

The Algiers Agreement was signed in December, 2000, in Algeria by President Isaias Afwerki for Eritrea and by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for Ethiopia and witnessed and guaranteed by Secretary General Kofi Annan on behalf of the United Nations, Senator Reno Serri (EU Special envoy for the Horn of Africa) on behalf of the European Union, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on behalf of the United States, Secretary General, Salim Ahmed Salim representing the Organization for African Unity (OAU), now the African Union.

The Algiers Agreements, brokered and authored by the US State Department, called for the delimitation and demarcation of the Eritrea Ethiopia border and that punitive actions would be taken against the party that did not abide by its treaty obligations.

The independent and neutral Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) delivered unanimously its final and binding delimitation decision on 13 April, 2002, and because of Ethiopia’s intransigence the Commission, which was ready to demarcate the border physically, was forced to publish its virtual demarcation decision on 30 November, 2007. Eritrea had fully accepted the decisions; Ethiopia, however, has rejected it calling it “totally illegal, unjust, and irresponsible” and has refused to abide by the EEBC’s demarcation directives. Ethiopia, in breach of international law and its obligations under the Algiers Agreement, continues to occupy sovereign Eritrean territories, including the town of Badme, the casus belli for the conflict. As the EEBC had stated it in its final report, “Ethiopia has so persistently maintained a position of non-compliance with its obligations in relation to the Commission.” Furthermore, Ethiopia has failed to comply with the Commission’s Order of 17 July, 2002, that required Ethiopia to “return to Ethiopian territory of those persons in Dembe Mengul who were moved from Ethiopia pursuant to an Ethiopian resettlement program since 13 April, 2002.”

UN Sanctions: a Travesty of Justice

Though the pretext for the unjust UN Security Council sanctions on Eritrea, first on December 23, 2009 (Resolution 1907) and the other one from December 5, 2011 (Resolution 2023), were to “serve” peace and security in Somalia, as the past five years have made clear, punishing innocent Eritrea based on false premises has neither brought peace to Somalia nor security to the Horn of Africa. The very forces that orchestrated lies against Eritrea are still wreaking havoc in the region. Former US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs and veteran Ambassador Herman Cohen said it well a year ago:

“Those of us who know Eritrea well, understand that the Eritrean leadership fears Islamic militancy as much as any other country in the Horn of Africa region. … In view of the absence of any intelligence, real or fabricated, linking Eritrea with Shabaab for over four years, the UN Security Council should terminate sanctions imposed in 2009 by UNSC resolution 1907.”

There is no, and there has never been “intelligence, real or fabricated,” that links Eritrea to any form of extremism in the Horn of Africa other than what the Ethiopians provided the Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group. All evidence indicates that most of the fabrication against Eritrea has been generated by Ethiopian operatives at home and abroad, its highly-paid lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and other capitals, as well as the Ethiopian minority regime’s Western enablers.

As for the Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group, this is a group that has lots of problems when it comes to credibility. This is a group that cannot “execute its responsibilities and mandate with professionalism, impartiality and objectivity.” It is a Group that is influenced left and right “by political considerations outside of its mandate.”  The disgraceful exits of Dinesh Mahtani (its financial expert), in the fall of 2014, after he was caught red-handed advocating for “regime change” in Eritrea on behalf of the UN, and before that the firing of coordinator Matt Bryden for his dubious behavior as a monitor, are two latest cases that show this monitoring group has completely lost its legitimacy as an impartial UN investigative body.

In fact, the group has completely lost its credibility among many UN Security Council members, including some of its permanent members, Russia and China. In response to the Group’s 2013 report, the Russian Permanent Representative, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, dismissed it as “dishonest and politically motivated.” Besides China and Russia, the Group’s report was also dismissed by Norway, Italy, and South Africa. Even the Somali Government itself has wholesale rejected the Monitoring Group’s report.

Both UNSC Resolutions 1907 (2009) and 2023 (2011) were incubated in the U.S. and hatched in Ethiopia. US Ambassador Donald Yamamoto is quoted by one of the Wikileaked cables admitting that the US had “advised the Prime Minister and his senior leadership … any case against Eritrea should be raised by other countries. Any charges levied by Ethiopia would be viewed only in the context of their border conflict.” The 2011 sanctions were also adopted under the false accusations orchestrated by the US using Ethiopia and Kenya as actors. On the absurd accusation from Ethiopia, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia said, “the Security Council was not presented with convincing proof of Eritrea’s involvement in that incident. We have not seen the results of any investigation of that incident, if indeed there was one.” On the accusations from Kenya, the UN Monitoring group itself admitted that it “has found no evidence to substantiate allegations that Eritrea supplied Al-Shabaab with arms and ammunition by air in October and November 2011. No evidence to substantiate the allegations that one or more aircraft landed at Baidoa International Airport between 29 October and 3 November 2011, or that Eritrea supplied Al-Shabaab in Baidoa by air with arms and ammunition during the same period.”

This US-Ethiopia conspiracy against Eritrea gets as far as the US giving an approving nod to Ethiopia to employ terrorist groups against Eritrea. One of the Wikileak cables says: “Meles said one option would be to directly support opposition groups that are capable of sending ‘armed propaganda units’ into Eritrea. Meles said that the groups with the most capability to operate inside Eritrea are those ‘that you don’t like from the lowlands, like the Keru’ who he said would be ‘much better able to survive in Eritrea.’” This is a jihadist terrorist group that had murdered a Canadian geologist in cold blood in western Eritrea and is responsible for the March 20, 2015 attempt to sabotage the Canadian owned Bisha gold mine in Eritrea in the vicinity of the area the Americans and Ethiopians were talking about 5 years ago.

All these US hostilities against Eritrea stem from the fact that Eritrea has refused to be subservient to misguided US policies for the region. As Professor Richard Reid, a history professor at SOAS, University of London, put it, US policy is biased in favor of Ethiopia and against Eritrea “for all sorts of reasons” one of them being:

“Eritrea was seen as a bunker state; they were less easy to control. Ethiopia had a more reliable military perhaps. Their policy was more directable and perhaps predictable. Whereas Eritrea, from the mid 1990s, it was clearly seen as unpredictable and couldn’t be relied upon to do certain things that Washington might want to do.”

Denial of Remittance: Violation of Eritrea’s Right to Development

The much talked about 2% Rehabilitation and Development fund that Eritreans in the Diaspora pay, also had nothing to do with Somalia; it has been a target of the US from as far back as 1999 (during the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war). A leaked US diplomatic cable from Asmara makes it clear that the Americans were bent on “disrupting the hard currency supply chain” so that they can “significantly and detrimentally impact the operations of the GSE [Government of the State of Eritrea]”.

We also read in the Wikileak cables that the Americans were strategizing with the Ethiopians on this very evil scheme. As the Late Ethiopian Prime Minister said then, “Isaias’ calculations would be shattered, if the U.S. and others imposed financial sanctions on him and particularly cut off Isaias’ funding from Qatar and other countries and the important funding from the Diaspora in the U.S.” Another Ethiopian official repeats in the Wikileak cables that “cutting off the flow of money to Eritrea was essential. Particularly, remittances from the U.S. were a major source of funding for Eritrea.” The Ethiopian officials were assured by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Karl Wycoff “that the U.S. remains committed to achieving a UNSC sanctions regime against Asmara and continues to broaden the discussion beyond the P3 and Uganda with a hard push by USUN” and that “USG was also expanding efforts to undercut support for Asmara,” noting for example he had been sent on “a trip to Cairo, Riyadh, Jeddah and other cities both to promote efforts to undercut flows of support to Asmara.”

Despite all these conspiracies and hostilities, however, Eritreans believe a long-term and fruitful relationship between Eritrea and the other nations in the region is essential for maintaining peace and security, and fighting off poverty and extremism in the Horn of Africa. Therefore, Eritreans and their friends are demanding that all progressives urge members of the UN Security Council to do what is moral and ethical: to lift these unjust sanctions against Eritrea.

During the past decade and a half, the priorities of Eritrea have been to achieve food security, eradicate diseases such as malaria, decrease infant and maternal mortality rates and increase access to education to all sectors of the population. Based on its own and other independent evaluations, Eritrea has achieved modest successes in these efforts. However, Ethiopia’s continued occupation of Eritrean territories and a de facto state of war is violating Eritrean people’s right to development, dignity, security and peace. All this has been made possible because the USA and Europe are continuing to bankroll Ethiopia’s defiance and aggression.

Eritreans worldwide are therefore calling on all progressive peace- and justice-loving friends and organizations to support their demands for peace and urge their national governments to reign in the lawless minority regime in Ethiopia that continues to wreak havoc over the lives of the peoples in the Horn of Africa region in general, but the people of Eritrea in particular.

Elias Amare is a journalist/researcher and peace activist based in Asmara, Eritrea. To learn more about Eritrea’s struggle against unjust imperialist sanctions visit http://eritrean-smart.org/

April 16, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , , | 1 Comment

Foreign Secretary refused to intervene for Brit rendered to Ethiopia

Reprieve | January 25, 2015

The Foreign Secretary refused to contact the Ethiopian government to protest its abduction of a British man, it’s emerged, despite warnings from Foreign Office (FCO) staff that the man was at risk of execution.

Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, a father of three from London, was abducted in Yemen and rendered to Ethiopia seven months ago today. Mr Tsege, who is a prominent critic of the Ethiopian government, remains in incommunicado detention. The Ethiopian government has refused to reveal his whereabouts, or confirm whether it plans to carry out a death sentence imposed in absentia in 2009.

Internal FCO emails obtained through subject access requests by Mr Tsege’s family show that UK officials were extremely concerned that he would be mistreated or executed – but that despite this, nearly a month after the incident, the Foreign Secretary declined requests to intervene in his case.

An internal email sent by senior FCO staff several days after Mr Tsege’s disappearance says: “I think we should be aiming for a Ministerial call asap, given concerns about welfare and the DP [death penalty]… we should be raising at senior levels and getting in Ministerial follow-up (letter or call) asap to make clear how unhappy we are about this.”

A separate message suggested there should be consequences at “a UK citizen being kidnapped and returned against his will to a country which has passed two death sentences on him. A country which is in receipt of vast quantities of UK development assistance. Don’t we need to do more than give them a stern talking to?”

A number of urgent internal FCO messages asked the incoming Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond to contact the Ethiopian Foreign Minister in the days following the incident, the documents show. However, Mr Hammond’s office rebuffed the requests, saying: “we’ve also had a request from [Foreign Minister] Tedros’ office for an introductory call with the Foreign Secretary, but I don’t think we are going to be able to find time for that at the moment. […] On this letter, I’m nervous about asking the Foreign Secretary to sign something so negative in his first correspondence”.

The FCO has told lawyers for Mr Tsege’s family at human rights charity Reprieve that the UK Government has no grounds to challenge the legality of his removal from Ethiopia.

Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “It is clear that those working for the Foreign Secretary know how perilous the situation is for Andy Tsege. They know that Andy has committed no crime, that his extradition was probably unlawful, and that there are grave risks to his safety. What’s shocking is that the Foreign Secretary appears time and time again to have blocked any meaningful action that could potentially bring this British father home to his family, unharmed. Andy has now been held in solitary and incommunicado detention for over seven months, under sentence of death. One has to question what interests the Foreign Secretary is putting above the life and safety of his citizen, when all those around him are calling for him to do more.”

January 25, 2015 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 2 Comments

Judge Finds Courts Cannot Protect US Citizens Tortured by US Government Officials Abroad

By Kevin Gosztola | Firedoglake | June 17, 2014

A federal district court dismissed a case that was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a United States citizen and against US government officials who allegedly tortured, abused and subjected him to rendition and incommunicado detention in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. The dismissal was another stark example of how it is nearly impossible for torture victims to push for justice in an American court of law.

Amir Meshal was in the Horn of Africa when, on January 24, 2007, Kenyan soldiers captured and interrogated him. He was “hooded, handcuffed and flown to Nairobi, where he was taken to the Ruai Police Station and questioned by an officer of Kenya’s Criminal Investigation Department” and was told that the police had to “find out what the United States wanted to do with him before he could send him back to the United States.” He remained in detention without access to a telephone or his attorney for a week, according to the US District Court of the District of Columbia’s decision [PDF].

On February 3, “three Americans,” who turned out to be FBI agents, interrogated Meshal and told him he would be handed over to the Kenyans and remain stuck in a “lawless country” if he did not cooperate. The agents also accused him of “having received weapons and interrogation resistance training in an al Qaeda camp.” Supervising Special Agent Chris Higgenbotham, one of the officials sued, threatened Meshal with being transferred to Israel where the Israelis would “make him disappear.” Meshal was informed that another US citizen he had met in Kenya, Daniel Maldonado, who was also seized by Kenyan soldiers, “had a lot to say about” him and his story “would have to match.”

Meshal was flown by Kenyan officials to Somalia with twelve others on February 9. He was “detained in handcuffs in an underground room with no windows or toilets,” which was referred to as “the cave.” This was allegedly to prevent pressure from Kenyan courts to  halt his detention and interrogation by FBI agents.

About a week later, Meshal was transported in handcuffs and a blindfold to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He was held there in incommunicado detention for a week before Ethiopian officials started \regularly transporting him to a villa with other prisoners where he could be interrogated by FBI agents. He remained in detention for three months and was moved into solitary confinement twice.

Finally, on May 24, he was taken to the US Embassy in Addis Ababa and flown back to the US. He was detained for four months and lost eighty pounds. US officials never charged him with a crime.

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, wrote in the decision, “The facts alleged in this case and the legal questions presented are deeply troubling.” But, he added, “Although Congress has legislated with respect to detainee rights, it has provided no civil remedies for US citizens subject to the appalling mistreatment Mr. Meshal has alleged against officials of his own government.”

In the past couple of years, Sullivan acknowledged, three federal appeals courts, including the appeals court for the DC Circuit, had rejected cases brought by citizens, including military contractors, who alleged they had been tortured or abused by US government officials. He claimed, “Only the legislative branch can provide United States citizens with a remedy for mistreatment by the United States government on foreign soil; this court cannot.”

ACLU National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi reacted, “While we appreciate the court’s outrage at the appalling mistreatment Mr. Meshal suffered at the hands of his own government, we are deeply disappointed at the court’s conclusion that it does not have the power to provide him a remedy.

“It is a sad day for Mr. Meshal and for all Americans, who have a right to expect better of their government and their courts than immunity for terrible government misconduct,” Shamsi added.

The judge’s decision “sends a deeply troubling and negative signal,” Shamsi told Firedoglake. “We’re considering our next steps in this case.”

Meshal was only seeking to hold particular US government officials responsible for the torture and abuse he had experienced. Nonetheless, Sullivan essentially accepted the government’s “national security” argument—that Meshal was “attacking the nation’s foreign policy, specifically joint operations in the Horn of Africa and executive policies which permit FBI agents to conduct and participate in investigations abroad.”

“As the government points out, these claims have the potential to implicate ‘national security threats in the Horn of Africa region; substance and sources of intelligence; the extent to which each government in the region participates in or cooperates with U.S. operations to identify, apprehend, detain, and question suspected terrorists on their soil; [and] the actions taken by each government as part of any participation or cooperation with U.S. operations.’”

In other words, allowing Meshal to sue US government officials would interfere with affairs that were entirely in the control of the Executive Branch and violate separation of powers. US government officials can engage in all manner of conduct against an individual so long as he or she is in the custody of a foreign government.

Jose Padilla, a US citizen who was detained as an enemy combatant and allegedly tortured for three years while he was in US military custody on the mainland, had his case dismissed. A US citizen and government contractor who alleged he had been “illegally detained, interrogated and tortured for nearly ten months on a US military base in Iraq” had his case dismissed. And US citizens Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, who were US government contractors allegedly detained, arrested and tortured by the US military in Iraq, had their case dismissed.

These were the cases that Sullivan believed were “binding precedent” he had to follow yet he noted that a dissenting opinion in Vance’s case had warned that the judicial branch was “creating a doctrine of constitutional triviality where private actions are permitted only if they cannot possibly offend anyone anywhere.”

Judge Ann Claire Williams added, “That approach undermines our essential constitutional protections in the circumstances when they are often most necessary.” Sullivan added that the court feared this prediction was “arguably correct.”

FBI Supervising Special Agent Chris Higgenbotham forced Meshal to sign forms and told Meshal when he did not want to sign, “If you want to go home, this will help you get there. If you don’t cooperate with us, you’ll be in the hands of the Kenyans, and they don’t want you.”

Another Supervising Special Agent, Steve Hersem, told Meshal if he “confessed his connection to al Qaeda” only then would he be granted due process in a civilian court. Otherwise, if he didn’t “confess” he would be transferred to Somalia. Hersem also told Meshal he would “send him to Egypt, where he would be imprisoned and tortured if he did not cooperate and admit his connection with al Qaeda, and told him ‘you made it so that even your grand-kids are going to be affected by what you did.’”

While in Ethiopia, an unidentified FBI agent said he would only be sent home if he was “truthful.” Meshal repeatedly ask to speak to his lawyer but agents denied his requests.

The reality is that covert operations in America’s dirty wars are now more sacrosanct to the US government than the rights US citizens are supposed to enjoy.

US government officials deliberately refused to provide Meshal with a probable cause hearing or some form of due process. In fact, one of the only reasons the US Embassy got involved and he was eventually transported back to the US is because McClatchy Newspapers became aware of his detention and published a story under the headline, “American’s rendition may have broken international, US laws.”

If a US media organization had not found out about his mistreatment, how much longer would he have been held and interrogated by FBI agents who were threatening him daily?

June 17, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Desmond Tutu is Wrong: The AU Should Quit the International Criminal Court

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford | October 16, 2013

The African Union is on a collision course with the International Criminal Court, a tribunal that has indicted only Africans since its founding in 2002. In an extraordinary meeting of the African Union at it headquarters in Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia, the AU took the position that no sitting head of state should be prosecuted by the ICC while still in office. In the immediate term, the AU calls for the postponement of the trial of Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, scheduled to begin in the The Hague, next month. Kenyatta and his deputy president are charged with crimes against humanity stemming from election violence in 2007. Last weekend, President Kenyatta told the African Union that the International Criminal Court “stopped being the home of justice the day it became the toy of declining imperial powers” – a clear reference to the United States and Britain.

And that is the heart of the matter. It is a travesty of justice that the ICC only indicts Africans, but even more importantly, the International Criminal Court also only indicts those politicians that get on the wrong side of the United States and the former colonial powers in Africa. The ICC is a tool of U.S. foreign policy, an instrument of neocolonialism.

Among the apologists for the ICC is South African former archbishop Desmond Tutu, who says African leaders are “effectively looking for a license to kill, maim and oppress their own people without consequence.” Tutu says it all boils down to a question of “who should represent the interests of the victims?” However, in the real world of imperial power, Desmond Tutu’s reasoning is specious, shallow. He might just as well argue for the return of colonial rule, which established its own kind of law and order in Africa. The question is, whose law and whose order? The ICC represents U.S. foreign policy masquerading as law.

Tutu maintains that, without the deterrence of the ICC, African “countries could and would attack their neighbors, or minorities in their own countries, with impunity.” Well, that is, in fact, the case right now in Africa, and it has occurred with the complicity of the ICC, which has sanctioned and morally assisted mass murder and outright genocide by American allies on the continent.

And here lies the great irony. The very nations that most strongly oppose the ICC – Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia – have the blood of millions on their hands. Rwanda and Uganda are principally responsible for the death of six million Congolese over the past 17 years, an ongoing genocide armed and financed by the United States and Britain. The Ethiopian regime’s brutality toward its Somali and Omoro ethnic groups has also been described as genocidal. But, because the United States is also deeply complicit in these crimes, there is no threat of prosecution by the International Criminal Court. The court is only deployed against those countries and leaders targeted by the United States.

So, why are Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda worried? Clearly, they understand that, if the United States can give impunity, it can also take it away. They remember that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein used to be a U.S. ally, and that Libya’s Muammar Gadaffi and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad cooperated with the U.S. war on terror – until the U.S. turned against them. The worst purveyor of crimes against humanity in Africa and the world is U.S. imperialism. The ICC is a cog in the imperial machinery, which recognizes no law, but only its own interests. You can’t fight U.S. Empire and its crimes and, at the same time, defend the International Criminal Court. They are one and the same.

Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

October 16, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Karuturi: a litany of problems

GRAIN | April 22, 2013

Karuturi Global Limited, a publicly registered holding company headquartered in Bangalore, India, may be under fire from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) for tax evasion, but the complaints against it go further than that. The agribusiness firm, whose farm operations also straddle Ethiopia and India, has been dodging bullets about labour law violations, human rights abuses and environmental issues. Even the World Bank Group is no longer considering the company’s request for risk insurance for its investments in Ethiopia. This background note summarises the various problems that Karuturi has come to be known for among social justice movements around the world.

Tax evasion

Every year around US$ 1000 billion disappears without a trace from developing countries, ending up in tax havens or rich countries. The main part of this is driven by multinational companies seeking to evade tax where they operate.

The sum that leaves developing countries each year as unreported financial outflows, referred to as illicit capital flight, amounts to ten times the annual global aid flows, and twice the debt service developing countries pay each year. During 2000-2008 Africa was the region with the largest real growth of illicit capital flight, amounting to 21.9 % per year.

This money, if properly registered and taxed in the country of origin, could of course contribute to fulfilling human rights like the right to education and health care, and make a major difference in the fight to combat poverty. Due to just two forms of illicit capital flight used by corporations (‘mispricing’ and ‘false invoicing’), developing countries are losing three times the amount that is missing to achieve the UN millennium development goals (like universal education, stopping the spread of HIV, and halving extreme poverty) in tax revenues every year.

(For all facts on tax evasion above and more info on mispricing please see “Bringing the billions back: how Africa and Europe can end illicit capital flight” by Fröberg and Waris, 2011)

In 2012, the Kenya Revenue Authority developed a team of transfer pricing experts to audit accounts of companies in order to assess whether there was transfer mispricing and tax evasion taking place. Some transnational companies that export from Kenya are notoriously adept at it. However, the government has had difficulty tracing these firms’ operations due to lack of capacity and to date all audits and assessments, apart from one against Unilever, have been settled outside of public view.

On the 4th of April 2013 Karuturi filed a notice of appeal against the decision of the tax tribunal for taxes due to the Kenyan government and the Kenyan people. According to ICRA, an Indian credit rating research agency, in an October 2012 analysis commissioned by Karuturi as well as Karuturi’s 2012 annual report, Karuturi has been facing a number of potential threats to its financial viability, namely:

  • An INR 57.8 crore (= KES 975 million / USD 10.7 million / EUR 8 million) dispute from the Kenya Revenue Authority over transfer pricing
  • An INR 83.5 crore (= KES 1.4 billion / USD 15 million / EUR 11.5 million) claim on unpaid income taxes from the Indian authorities
  • A risk of default on a USD 54.7 million (= KES 4.8 billion / EUR 40.3 million) foreign currency convertible bond due for redemption on 19 Oct 2012 which was since restructured

The overall tax claims come to USD 26 million, which is about one-quarter of the multinational’s global turnover in fiscal year 2012 (USD 106 million) while the amount for Kenya amounts to almost 1 per cent of Kenya’s total annual tax collection.

Money of this magnitude could be used as additional income for development or to replace some current taxes that target the poor like value added tax or even to delay the enactment of additional taxes like the one on maize flour due to be activated in Kenya in 2015.

Land grabs

Since 1996, Karuturi’s core business has been floriculture, producing 580 million roses per year from 289 hectares of land the company leases in Kenya (154 hectares), Ethiopia (125 hectares) and India (10 hectares). In 2012, the group commanded no less than 9% of the cut rose market in Europe. Since the 2007/2008 global food crisis, Karuturi began expanding from floriculture into food production. Its plan is to set up farming operations on over one million hectares, mainly in eastern and southern Africa, to produce primarily maize, rice, sugarcane and palm oil for international markets.

The hub of this expansion is Ethiopia. In 2009, Karuturi acquired 10,700 ha of land in Bako for maize, rice and vegetable production. In 2010, it got an additional 300,000 hectares for expansion in Gambela. The company aims to farm a total of 750,000 ha in Ethiopia. This land is leased from the government at bargain prices, but local communities consider it their own.

As a result, many conflicts have emerged around compensation, displacement and the relocation of villagers and herders who suddenly found themselves fenced off of their lands by the Indian company.

In 2011, Karuturi announced it was expanding further by pursuing a US$500 million investment for 370,000 ha in Tanzania, including an initial 1,000 ha in the country’s fertile Rufiji Basin. That same year, the company announced that it was in discussions with government officials in the Republic of Congo for a farm project in a special economic zone in Oyo-Ollombo, 400 km north of Brazzaville. In addition, it has been planning fruit and vegetable farms in Sudan, Mozambique and Ghana, and, says CEO Ramakrishna Karuturi, “in Senegal, we have made an exploratory probe and in Sierra Leone we have made initial contacts.” All of these countries are rife with land grabs right now.

Labour issues & disputes

According to a 2012 report published by the London Business School, 5% of Karuturi’s workforce in Ethiopia is composed of foreigners. Karuturi has been bringing in staff and consultants from abroad, including India, to run management, irrigation & drainage operations, and logistics because they said they could not find the experience locally. Same for manual labourers. Karuturi hires Ethiopians as unskilled labour but for skilled labour it says it faces problems. At the end of 2011, Karuturi got into a dispute with the Ethiopian government because they brought in several hundred Indian farmers to work on their farms in Gambela, which the Ethiopian authorities said contravened Ethiopian law and for which they would not give the permits. Karuturi reportedly also expects to rely on Indian farmers to handle its work on oil palm.

According to media and labour organisation organisation reports, workers on Karuturi farms in both Kenya and Ethiopia have been complaining about, and initiating labour actions against, various conditions, especially related to wages and safety.

In November 2012, Karuturi reportedly began laying off about 900 of its 3,500 seasonal workers in Naivasha, Kenya, due to financial problems. The number was later reduced to 600. In December 2012, 1,000 Karuturi workers went on strike to demand action from management on unpaid salaries and poor working conditions.

Earlier, in June 2010, Workers Rights Watch, a Kenyan association, carried out focus group discussions with Karuturi flower farm workers in Naivasha and registered a mixed scorecard of positive and negative opinions about the company.

Regarding Karuturi’s Ethiopian farms, various media and research reports have exposed complaints of poor wages. For example, a solid report commissioned by the International Land Coalition shows that Karuturi pays Ethiopian farm labourers at its Bako farm ETB 10 per day (US$ 0.50) which compares with about ETB 20 per day (US$ 1.00) for labourers on commercial sesame farms in the country. Night guards for the company are said to be paid ETB 300 per month (US$ 15) if they own a gun and ETB 200 (US$ 10) per month if they do not.

Human rights violations

According to a powerful 2012 report by Human Rights Watch, the Ethiopian government is forcibly relocating thousands of indigenous people in western Gambela to new villages lacking adequate food, farmland, healthcare, and educational facilities to make way for large scale agricultural projects of foreign investors, including Karuturi. The report said, based on interviews with community representatives, that crops of local Anuak communities were cleared without consent for the Karuturi operations and that residents of Ilea, a village of over 1,000 people within Karuturi’s lease area, were told by the Ethiopian government that they would be moved in 2012 as part of its “villagisation programme”. In response, CEO Sai Ramakrishna Karuturi denied any connection between his company’s activities and the government’s villagisation programme. In conversation with the Wall Street Journal’s unit in India, he described the Human Rights Watch report as “hogwash” and “a completely jaundiced western vision”, and even denied that the villagisation programme exists.

Loss of livelihoods

Karuturi’s 10,700 ha Bechera Agricultural Development Project in the Bako Plains of Ethiopia has deprived several local communities of their communal grazing areas and access to water for their livestock, thus severely affecting their livelihoods. This comes from a study commissioned by the International Land Coalition, based on detailed discussions with local communities, local authorities and Karuturi employees. The study documents how the lands were provided to Karuturi without the consent of the local communities and without compensation. It reveals that Karuturi is refusing to implement even the most minimal measures recommended by local authorities to address some of the impacts from its operations. For example building a livestock corridor through its fields so that locals could access water sources for their animals, or allowing them to graze their animals on crop residues.

Environmental & health concerns

Karuturi operates one of the largest flower farms in the Lake Naivasha Basin in Kenya, the country’s second largest freshwater lake. The flower farms are blamed for causing a drop in the lake’s water level, for polluting the lake with pesticides and chemical fertiliser runoff and for affecting the lake’s biodiversity. Workers at Karuturi’s flower farms in Naivasha who spoke with Muungano wa Wanavijiji, a local partner organisations of Forum Syd, in February 2013 said that the dilapidated condition of the Karuturi operations and poor protective clothing puts them at risk to exposure from chemicals. They say the company does not seem to care about their concerns.

For its farm in Gambela, Ethiopia, Karuturi has developed an irrigation system with 50km of canals, 50km of drainage, and 40km of dykes, to pump a reported 22,000 litres of water per second from the Baro River, a crucial source of water for people dependent on the White Nile. Karuturi’s smaller 10,700 ha farm in Bako also generates significant issues related to access to water and water quality for the local communities. Although environmental impact assessments are usually required for irrigation projects in Ethiopia, Karuturi reportedly did not undertake any such assessment prior to constructing its farming complex in Bako.

Investor confidence

Karuturi and its shareholders have been waiting since at least May 2011 for the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) to approve the company’s long pending bid for political risk insurance for its Ethiopian operations. According to Sai Karuturi, as of 2012 the application had still not been approved due to Karuturi’s plans to produce palm oil — a sensitive issue for which the Bank would require the Ethiopian government to put in place environmental protocols. Karuturi explained that he was therefore advised by MIGA to omit palm oil from the application for now and so he did. If MIGA protection fails to materialise, the company told investors that its fallback option would be to seek support from India’s Export Credit Guarantee Agency. On 29 January 2013, MIGA informed GRAIN, flatly, that Karuturi’s application “is no longer under consideration”.

In March 2013, Bloomberg reported that Karuturi was seeking “hundreds of millions” of fresh investment dollars from an unnamed sovereign wealth fund after yet another unnamed development bank refused it a loan.

In April 2013, the Indian paper Business Today reported that Karuturi was thinking of taking the company private.

April 23, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Green Green Gold of Ethiopia

By GRAHAM PEEBLES | CounterPunch | March 8, 2013

Ancestral land that for generations has served as home and livelihood for hundreds of thousands of indigenous people in Ethiopia is being leased out, on 99-year renewable contracts at nominal sums to foreign corporations. The land giveaway or agrarian reforms as the government would prefer to present them began in 2008 when the Ethiopian government, under the brutal suppressive Premiership of Meles Zenawi invited foreign countries/corporation to take up highly attractive deals and turn large areas of land over to industrial farming for the export of crops. India, China and Saudi Arabia were all courted and along with wealthy Ethiopians have eagerly grabbed large pieces of land at basement prices; rates vary from $1.10 to $6.05 per hectare (HA), comparable land in India would set you back $600 per ha.

A total of 3,619,509 ha, the Oakland Institute (OI), a US based think tank, estimate has been leased out. Land made available by the forced re-location of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people under the government’s universally condemned Villagization progamme, which aims to forcibly re-locate over 1.5 million people from their homes.

Indian corporations have taken the lion’s share, acquiring around 600,000 ha concentrated in Gambella and Afar, split between 10 investing companies. The term ‘investing’ implies benefits for Ethiopia, which is misleading; ‘profiteering’, or ‘exploiting’ sits closer to the truth of these land deals, as the OI make clear, “taking over land and natural resources from rural Ethiopians, is resulting in a massive destruction of livelihoods and making millions of locals [farmers and pastoralist communities] dependent on food handouts”. With small scale farmers being evicted from their land, prices of staples such as Teff, used by millions throughout Ethiopia to make Injera (bread), has rocketed in price, according to Ethiotribune 22/5/2012, increasing fourfold since 2008.

Corporate expansionism: small change big profits

In line with its ambitions of diversity and world food dominance – Karuturi Global, the world’s largest grower of roses, leads the Indian charge, leasing 311,700 ha in Gambella. Not satisfied with this, GRAIN (an international NGO, working to support small farmers) report Mr.Karuturi “wants to set up farming operations [throughout Eastern and Southern Africa] on more than 1 million [ha]” – too much never enough in corporate expansionism.

Almost a quarter of Gambella’s 25 million ha has been earmarked by the federal government for agricultural ‘development’. Karuturi, whose profits “rose 55.13% to Rs 1.21 crore [10 million] in the quarter ended June 2012”, took their chunk without even seeing it, paying only $1.10 per ha. For the Indian giant it is, John Vidal in ‘Land Grab Ethiopia (LGE)’ says, “the sale of the century”. ‘Green Gold’ is how Mr. Karuturi in GRAIN (‘Who’s Behind the Land Deals’), describes his 300,000 ha of Ethiopian soil, “for which he pays $46 per ha per year including water and labour and expects at least $660 [per ha] in profit per year”. (Ibid)

In addition to paddy, Indian farmers are being sub-contracted to grow maize, cereals, palm oil and sugarcane amongst others. All of which are destined for export, either to India or Europe, where companies farming in Ethiopia (and other Sub-Saharan African nations), benefit from lower import duties applied to developing countries, notwithstanding the fact that the land is leased to, and the crops produced and sold by, multi million-rupee rich companies.

Another major Indian company leasing land in Gambella is the decidedly green sounding BHO Bioproducts. Following the corporate rhetoric, BHO Chief Operating Officer Sunny Maker told Bloomberg in 2010 that, they have “plans to invest more than $120 million in rice and cotton production”, which, by 2017, should “generate about $135 million a year from sales divided equally between domestic [Indian] and international markets.” He added that the “incredibly rich fertile land”, will all be “cleared within the next three years”. Cleared yes, violently, indiscriminately and totally; villages, people, forests, woodland, all destroyed, burnt, relocated, displaced, desecrated. The governments promise to such prized investors is that the land is handed over stripped of everything and everyone. Dissent is not allowed and dealt with brutally should it occur, as Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of OI makes clear. “The repression of social resistance to land investments is even stipulated in land lease contracts, [it is the] state’s obligation to ‘deliver and hand over the vacant possession of leased land free of impediments’ and to provide free security ‘against any riot, disturbance or any turbulent time.”

The ‘rich fertile land’, lovingly cultivated at the hands of the men and women who have farmed it for generations, is unlikely to be nurtured so carefully by Indian (or indeed Chinese or Saudi Arabian) corporations with their thirsty ‘GM seeds’ (Ibid). For as Oxfam in their detailed report ‘Land and Power’ diplomatically point out, “investors short time scales may tempt them into unsustainable cultivation, undermining agricultural production.”

The devolution of development

Land is a prime cut asset in the commercialization of everything, everywhere, and the “rich fertile land” in Ethiopia is cheap, even by Sub-Saharan African standards. Along with long-term leases, the government offers a neat bundle of carrots, including tax incentives and unrestricted export clauses, incentives that the OI state “deny African countries economic benefits” from land deals that the Ethiopian regime wraps up neatly in its complete disregard for the human rights of the indigenous people. Government indifference encouraging corporate irresponsibility – and they need little encouragement. Businesses hardly seem to be grabbing the land, so much as accepting it as a gift, parceled up and ready to be torn open.

In exchange for such attractive deals, the Ethiopian government has been extended, the OI reports “a $640 million line of credit… over five years to boost sugar production in the country’s Lower Omo region”. Not a philanthropic gesture, more a sales trap by India’s EXIM (export and import) Bank, who stipulate, “Ethiopia must import 75% of the value of the credit line in the form of Indian goods and services.”

The government-owned sugar plantations in the Lower Omo are themselves attracting a great deal of concern and criticism from human rights groups, who highlight the environmental and human damage being perpetrated. Government acts of violence and abuse, in the various land deal regions, are justified under the overused and misleading title of ‘development’; a term appropriated by the international monetary machine – the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) primarily – misunderstood and distorted by government development agencies, acting in line with foreign affairs policies by promoting national self interest and perverted by the corrupt ideologically-blinkered governments of developing nations. An undeveloped ideological trinity whose actions have drained the 21st century sacred cow and its stable mate ‘growth’ – dry of any true and relevant meaning. Far from supporting human and or social development the “unfair terms and near give-away prices [of land deals]… are hindering development…. Foreign corporations and the World Bank are pressuring African leaders to give them exemptions from taxes, import and export duties, and local labor laws – not to mention water and mineral rights that could be worth billions”, the OI confirm.

More concerned with sitting at the top table and cultivating the right international allies than with doing their constitutional duty and serving the needs of the people, the Ethiopian government is in danger of giving away, and for peanuts, it’s ‘rich and fertile’ land to overseas companies who have no interest in Ethiopia, it’s environment, its culture and even less in its people.

Increasing hunger

Hunger and poverty stalk the land of both Ethiopia and India. 12 – 15 million people survive on food aid in Ethiopia, which ranks at the bottom of the World Hunger Index at 76. India, with the highest rate of malnourished children in the world, where 25% (around 270 million) of the world’s hungry live, despite the fact that, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), “the country grows enough food for its people”, comes in 65th of the hungriest nations, below Niger and the Sudan – neither of which, to my knowledge, boast 61 billionaires and 200,000 dollar millionaires unlike India. And whereas “most countries have made consistent progress in reducing hunger, India has seen hunger rise over the last decade compared with the late 1990s.”(Ibid) This so-called economic miracle nation refuses to feed it’s own people.

Food insecurity, the WFP makes clear is caused not by lack of produce, but by an unwillingness to share the Earths bounty equitably. The states in India with the greatest numbers suffering from hunger and malnutrition, as per WFP records, “include Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh”; these are the states where the poorest (Adivasi – indigenous and Dalit) people in the country and quite possibly in the World happen to live. The poor are dying of hunger not because India cannot feeed everyone, as the United Nations report on regional cooperation makes crystal clear, “the root cause of hunger across the sub-region and the world today is not a lack of food. It is the economic and social distribution of that food which leaves populations undernourished and hungry.”

Men women and children living in dire poverty starve to death, in India, Ethiopia and throughout the world. They starve and die for want of the food that is rotting in warehouses, food served up to rats or destroyed by the Indian government, because it is cheaper to burn it than to distribute it to those in need. As Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (26/01/13) said, “globally, a third of all food produced is wasted, and… if one could avoid this waste it would be possible to feed all the hungry people [in the world] and have food to spare.” Food to spare!Such is the inhumane ethos that underpins market fundamentalism, that allows men women and children, young and old to starve – simply because the do not have the financial means to feed themselves. Shame on governments Indian and the rest, that allow such inhumane injustice to prevail, as a wise teacher said, “throughout the world there are men, women and little children who have not even the essentials to stay alive; they crowd the cities of many of the poorest countries in the world… My brothers, how can you watch these people die before your eyes and call yourselves men”.

The commercialization of the countryside in India and Ethiopia, which is displacing large numbers of small-scale farmers and concentrating crop production in the hands of multi-nationals, is intensifying existing levels of hunger. Substantive agricultural reform and real development would see the army of skilled small scale producers, with generations of local knowledge and love of the land, supported with the needed capital and technology, given access to markets that corporations bring. Such an agrarian revolution, ethically founded, environmentally healthy and socially sustained, would build long-term food security and feed the hungry.

Soft targets easy profits

India as the WFP makes clear, has no domestic need for food produced by the overseas industrial farms that are causing such far-reaching damage, to the hundreds of thousands of displaced people of Ethiopia as well as the natural environment. The movement in Ethiopia mirrors what is taking place to a much greater degree in India. The government has shifted all support away from Indian farmers and is supporting the transfer of land from the rural poor to large companies – wealthy government benefactors, causing the displacement of millions (60 million to date, according to Arundhati Roy) of indigenous people.

Corporations are targeting countries with “poor governance”, Oxfam 7/02/2013 makes clear, that “allow investors to secure land quickly and cheaply…. [They] “Seem to be cherry picking countries with weak rules and regulations”. Needy nations like hungry people make easy targets for multi-national men, whose pockets governments are desperate to nestle inside. The driving force behind such destructive land developments, undertaken by corporations obsessed by an insatiable desire for growth and world leading economic development, is, as Oxfam suggests, profit and profit alone.

Graham Peebles is director of the Create Trust. He can be reached at: graham@thecreatetrust.org

March 8, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘No shot, no ticket’: Ethiopians decry Israeli birth control policies

RT | February 27, 2013

Ethiopian women have told RT that Israeli medics forced them to take the controversial Depo-Provera birth control vaccination without explaining the severe side effects of the drug, which can leave a woman unable to become pregnant for up to two years.

The birth control vaccination was reportedly a requirement for the women to immigrate to Israel: “They told me if you don’t take the shot, we won’t give you a ticket, so I took the shot, but I didn’t know that it would prevent pregnancies. I didn’t know,” one woman told RT correspondent Paula Slier.

The gruesome side effects of Depo-Provera are so severe that the drug is not recommended for most patients.

“We are talking about a contraception that has heavy medical and mental effects – period irregularities, vaginal bleeding, osteoporosis, alongside mental side effects like depression, mood swings, rage and more,” said Sharon Eliyahu-Chai of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

At least six organizations – such as Tebeka, an Ethiopian legal aid group – now aim to take the matter to court over alleged human rights violations.

Last month, the Israeli Health Ministry’s director general ordered gynecologists to cease administration of the drugs, bowing to public pressure after accusations that they had been forcing the birth control injections on Ethiopian women without their consent.

Israeli officials have denied that the birth control program was part of a plan to reduce the Ethiopian birthrate. The scandal has worn on, with the organizations involved all pinning blame on one another.

For more, watch Paula Slier’s report from Israel.

February 27, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Video | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Israelis admit pushing long-term contraceptives on Ethiopian women

Al Akhbar – January 27, 2013

An Israeli official acknowledged the practice of injecting women of Ethiopian descent with long-acting contraceptive Depo-Provera, Haaretz reported Sunday.

The birth-rate of the Israeli Ethiopian community had declined by over 50 percent in the past 10 years.

Sharona Eliahu of the Israeli Association of Civil Rights in January wrote a letter saying an investigation into the practice should be launched and that the injections should cease.

In response, Health Ministry Director General Prof. Ron Gamzu asked translators to volunteer their time so that doctors might communicate with their patients.

He also told four health maintenance organizations to stop the injections if the women do not fully understand the consequences of the drug, according to the Israeli daily.

State agencies and ministries had previously denied knowing of the practice which had been reported for the first time five years ago.

Depo-Provera is administered every three months and clinical trials show a near-zero percent failure rate in preventing pregnancies.

Many of the women experienced abnormal uterine bleeding however, which interferes with sexual intimacy.

It has also been said to decrease women’s sex-drive.

Fifty percent of women on hormonal birth-control are said to stop having their period after a year. Even after discontinuing the medication, it can take a year for a woman’s period to regulate.

Beyond making the woman sterile for as long as they are on the drug, a common side-effect of the contraceptive is significantly decreased bone density.

Depo-Provera has also been used with male sex-offenders as a form of chemical castration, as it greatly reduces the male sex-drive.

January 27, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 7 Comments

US expands drone base in Djibouti to hit Somalia, Yemen

Press TV – October 27, 2012

The US government is expanding its drone base in the East African nation of Djibouti to escalate its assassination strikes in Somalia and Yemen.

The US military has been flying armed drones over both countries from a base in Djibouti and is planning to build a second base in Ethiopia, a report by the Washington Post says.

The report added that the drones on missions over Somalia and Yemen take off or land at the base an average of 16 times per day.

The Lemonnier base has also become home to a squadron of US F-15 fighter jets, which it reports are flying combat missions over Yemen.

The US is also known to operate drones from two other East African countries — Ethiopia and the Seychelles islands.

The base in the Seychelles that was previously used to fly surveillance drones will now host armed drones capable of flying their lethal payloads the more than 1,500 kms that separate the Indian Ocean island chain from Somalia and the African mainland and back.

However, drone operations from Ethiopia and Seychelles are nothing compared to the one at Camp Lemonnier. According to the report Lemonnier is the centerpiece of an expanding US network of drone and surveillance bases in Africa.

Washington has also been carrying out assassination attacks using the unmanned aircraft in other countries including Afghanistan, Libya and Pakistan.

The United States claims the CIA-run strikes are aimed at militants. But witness reports and figures offered by local authorities indicate the attacks have led to massive civilian deaths.

October 27, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment