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Kerry urges Abbas to restart peace talks


Kerry urges Abbas to restart peace talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry has met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as part of a fresh US bid to restart negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

Kerry is on a 10-day tour, which will also take him to Asia, and met Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday after holding talks earlier in the day with Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul.

While in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, Kerry will also meet with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Abbas told visiting Kerry that the release of prisoners held by Israel was a “top priority” for resuming failed peace talks.

“President Abbas stressed that the release of the prisoners is a priority that creates an appropriate climate for the possibility of moving the peace process forward,” his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said.

Abbas told Kerry that releasing the 4,500 or so prisoners held in Israeli jails, a deeply sensitive issue on the Palestinian street, was a “top priority for creating the right atmosphere for the resumption of negotiations”.

Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnstone in Ramallah reported that the priority for the US was for “both sides to return to talks without any preconditions”.

But, she said, “the Israelis are saying that they want the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, and the Palestinians want Israel to stop its settlement construction”.

Most Palestinians reject the idea of recognising Israel as a “Jewish-only” state because many still demand the right of return for refugees who decades ago were forced from their homes in what is now Israel.

Israel-Turkey relations

During earlier talks with Davutoglu in Istanbul, Kerry urged Turkey and Israel to fully normalise relations, after Israel’s US-brokered apology for a deadly 2010 raid on a Gaza aid flotilla organised by a Turkish charity.

“We would like to see this relationship that is important to stability in Middle East, critical to the peace process itself, we would like to see it back on track in its full,” Kerry said in a joint news conference with Davutoglu.

He said, however, that it was not for the United States “to be setting conditions or terms” for the reconciliation.

Israel apologised to Ankara on March 22 for the deaths of nine Turkish activists in a botched raid by Israeli commandos on a Gaza-bound aid ship, in a breakthrough engineered by US President Barack Obama during a visit to Jerusalem.

The apology ended a nearly three-year rift between Israel and Turkey – two key US allies in the region – and the two countries are due to begin talks on compensation on Friday.

But they have yet to exchange ambassadors and fully restore diplomatic ties.

“It is imperative that the compensation component be fulfilled, that the ambassadors be returned,” Kerry said. “I’m confident there will be goodwill on both sides.”

‘Oases of stability’

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accepted the Israeli apology “in the name of the Turkish people” but said the country’s future relationship with Israel including the return of ambassadors would depend on Israel.

Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Istanbul, said that Davutoglu had already spoken to Khaled Meshaal, the leader of the Palestinian group Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Mahmoud Abbas.

“We don’t know what they discussed, but its an indication that Turkey is taking some sort of interest in the Middle East peace process,” said Smith.

He added that Kerry “wants Turkey to normalise its relationship with Israel because it sees Israel, Turkey and Jordan as three oases of stability in a very turbulent region.”

The US top diplomat also commended Turkey’s efforts to provide for the tens of thousands of refugees who have entered the country during Syria’s two-year conflict.

He called Turkey “incredibly generous” for keeping its border open and doing “everything possible” to respond to the increasing humanitarian crisis in the neighbouring country.

“The US and Turkey will continue cooperating to reach the shared goal of a peaceful transition in Syria,” he said, repeating the US position that President Bashar al-Assad must leave power.

“Thousands of Syrians have lost their lives,” Davutoglu said. “The international community needs to act on this. The failure to do so would be interpreted by Assad as a weakness.

“The US position is important and so is Turkey’s.


Al Jazeera And Agencies



Obama Talks Peace to Iran, But Dishes Out Violence


Obama Talks Peace to Iran, But Dishes Out Violence

by Jamasb Madani, April 09, 2013


Four years ago, President Barack Obama quoted the beloved 13th century Persian poet Sa’di in his first Nowruz message to the Iranian people. The address, with its veneer of peace and diplomacy, was a well-received gesture to both civil society and the leadership in Tehran, recognizing the Islamic Republic and celebrating the country’s ancient culture and history.

In this year’s Nowruz message, on March 18, 2013, President Obama recited more medieval Persian poetry, this time a famous 14th century poem from Hafez about friendship.

An informal and casual survey of public opinion on the heels of this address suggest that Obama’s renewed efforts to tap the well of goodwill failed to resonate with many Iranians. This time around, Obama’s speech has been received a somewhat negative response.

Over the past few years, U.S. hostility and pressure toward Iran has reached a critical level. As a result of draconian sanctions and a resulting drastic drop in oil revenues, Iran’s economy, currency, and people are hurting.

Many essential and non-essential goods have been subject to sanctions, both old and new. Measures preventing the sale of spare airplane parts to Iran have long made air travel unsafe, threatening the well-being of civilian passengers. More recently, unilateral sanctions imposed by certain Western countries have cut Iran off from the international banking industry, resulting in severe shortages in medicines and rising food prices that place the lives of millions of Iranians at risk.

While Obama’s Nowruz messages represent an attempt to achieve a sort of ‘cultural connectedness’ between Americans and Iranians, the U.S. government seems unaware of how its policies and actions toward Iran cut against these efforts.

During Iran’s post-reform years in late 1990′s, certain key terms became central to the Reformist discourse. Concepts such as ‘pluralism’, ‘tolerance’ (tasahol/tasamoh), and especially the term “violence” (khoshoonat’garaee) took on a deeper and more comprehensive meaning.

Based on a wider reading of the concept of violence, Iranian civil society has not only viewed the assassination of its scientists as a direct form of violence, but has also considered unilateral and crippling sanctions to be instruments of violence against the Iranian people.

These and other similar measures undermine the administration’s attempts to appeal to Iranians’ cultural sensibilities. Ironically, as President Obama delivered his first Nowruz message in 2009, urging Iran’s government to “unclench” its fists, his administration was accelerating a covert, cyber warfare initiative launched by the Bush administration, codenamed “Olympic Games.”

In the years that followed, as Obama delivered other Nowruz messages, the United States conspired with Israel to develop and launch additional attacks of cyber-terrorism against Iran, such as Stuxnet and Flame.

In the Iranian public psyche, cyber attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities are not mere technological sabotage, but rather instill collective fear and anxiety about damage to nuclear installations that threaten the safety of the Iranian population.

And let’s not forget the looming threat of direct military attack. With each passing year, and with every Nowruz message, the level of both real and potential American violence against Iran and Iranians has escalated.

As the targets of these threats, victims of collective punishment and the bearers of U.S.-imposed hardship, Iranians feel that Obama’s actions coupled with his recitation of the poetry of Sa’di or Hafez make for a disturbing juxtaposition.

In Hafez’s poetry and ethos, duplicity, hypocrisy, and pretense are considered major sins. It is fitting then that a group of democracy activists in Iran, in conversation with this writer, have suggested Obama reflect on the message of another Hafez poem:

Preachers who lecture others in the pulpit
in private, away from the public gaze, they do otherwise.
I have a concern; ask this question from the wise one in the group
those who order us to repent; they, themselves don’t consider any repentance?

Daryoush Mohammad Poor, an opposition activist who has translated the statements of former Iranian presidential candidate and reformist politician Mir Hossein Mousavi into English, was similarly offended by Obama’s Nowruz message this year.

In a critical essay posted in both Persian and English on his website, “Malakoot,” Mohammad Poor writes that the American-Iranian impasse is not binary. For instance, as he explains, just because he is connected with the Iranian opposition, does not mean he will be silent about the devastating and lethal effects of Obama’s policies on the people of Iran.

Mohammad Poor addresses Obama directly, writing, “Remember, Hafez was – and still is – a great social critic of the conditions of his time. His strength lay in his being outside the circle of power. He was the voice of the powerless. He was never a two-term president of a superpower nation. If he lived today, he would probably be highly critical of you, too, as he would be critical of the leaders of Iran.”

With few exceptions, the opposition in and outside Iran explicitly opposes both unilateral and UN Security Council sanctions against the country. The anti-imperial legacy of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq, who was ousted during a CIA-led coup in 1953, still permeates the present Zeitgeist and ethos in Iran. As such, despite economic hardships and the relative popularity of Voice of America among some opposition members, so far the American/French/British axis has failed to cultivate any notable support for either foreign intervention or collaboration. As things currently stand, Iranians across the political spectrum blame the United States, and less, their own government, for their economic woes.

U.S. hegemonic domination has its internal contradictions and cannot avoid double standards, inconsistencies, and half-truths. But Hafez, the ‘elder of kharbat’, is precisely the antithesis of duplicity (riya). The term kharabat in Hafez’s poetry symbolizes a tavern, a gathering place where there is no pretense (tazvir), only the opportunity to be true to one another.

Those who threaten others with military aggression and destruction, those who unleash economic war and hardship and instill fear in the hearts of their victims, those who manipulate international organizations for their own ends, and make life difficult for so many people should not reference Hafez. In fact, Hafez is perhaps the last poet they should invoke, since his central message is to condemn hubris and selfishness (a’een khod’parasti).

A substantial number of Iranians believe that Barack Obama, who has relatives in Kenya and Indonesia, studied progressive politics at Columbia University and broke bread with public intellectuals like Edward Said, is a worldly, decent and dignified person.

But in the context of American hegemony, as the executor of oppressive policies toward Iran, Obama has become a perplexing puzzle for Iranians. For four years, Obama’s Nowruz messages have led the Iranian collective psyche to compartmentalize his various actions. The orchestrated hostility of the “American Regime,” the pain and suffering directed by the United States toward Iran are all changing this approach.

At the same time, the symbolism and dichotomy of Obama’s Nowruz messages, coupled with the history of U.S. structural violence against Iranian society, may provide a glimpse into the bigger picture behind Obama’s inconsistencies. In his capacity as president, Obama may have no choice but to bow to long-term American policies toward Iran. Many Iranians, in fact, maintain that the real culprit is not Obama, but rather an institutional form of thinking and worldview to which Obama himself is bound.

Unfortunately, it seems the president’s ideals are also victims of this power structure.

Rather than trying to appropriate Persian poetry to blunt American aggression, Obama would do well to heed the words of Hafez himself. Only then may he truly begin to pursue peace instead of issuing ultimatums. As Hafez poignantly observed,

Engage in love (of humanity) before it is too late; or the life-purpose given to you by the world will be wasted.

*Jamasb Madani is an architect and writer. His grandfather was an activist and strong supporter of Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq.

This piece was originally published at Mufta.org



African leaders sign DR Congo peace deal


African leaders sign DR Congo peace deal

Leaders from Africa’s Great Lakes regional nations have signed a new peace deal aimed at bringing stability to the war-torn east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, witnessed the signing on Sunday at the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The presidents of the DRC, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia either attended or delegated the power to sign the deal.

According to the UN, the “peace framework agreement” could lead to the creation of a special UN intervention brigade in eastern DRC to combat rebel groups and renew political efforts.

But after almost two decades of war, expectations are low.

“I think it would be wrong to have too great expectations because the situation here is very difficult,” Alex Queval, head of the UN mission in North Kivu, told Al Jazeera. “The conflict has been going on for at least 19 years, so it’s not going to be solved overnight, but I definitely think that this approach can be a new beginning.”

Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri, reporting from the Mugunga camp for internally displaced persons outside Goma, said people there “really hope this [agreement] is the beginning of something.”

Mugunga is host to tens of thousands of Congolese people who had to flee their homes following violence in the east in November 2012.

Despite the signing on Sunday, problems remain with the peace process, she said.

“We still dont know what kind of powers a special UN envoy would have [and] whether those signing will have a mechanism overseeing whether they will abide by what they signed up for,” she said.

Rebel movements

The DRC’s mineral-rich east has been ravaged by numerous armed groups, with new rebel movements spawned on a regular basis, some of them with backing from neighbouring countries.

The latest surge in violence was in 2012 and culminated in the rebel March 23 Movement (M23) force briefly seizing the key town of Goma last November.

M23, which was not invited to Sunday’s meeting, was founded by former fighters of an ethnic-Tutsi rebel group whose members were integrated into the regular army under a peace deal whose terms they claim were never fully delivered.

The group’s main demand now is the full implementation of a peace accord signed on March 23, 2009.

M23 controls part of the Rutshuru region, an unstable but fertile territory that lies in mineral-rich North Kivu province and borders on Rwanda and Uganda.

Several of its leaders have been hit by UN sanctions over alleged atrocities. The group has been accused of raping women and girls, using child soldiers and killing civilians.

Failed attempts

Peace talks have been held in Uganda, but so far have made little headway.

MONUSCO, the peacekeeping mission already deployed in DRC, is one of the UN’s biggest.

It currently has about 17,000 troops and, under its Security Council mandate, is allowed to have up to 19,800.

The UN wants to toughen MONUSCO with the addition of a 2,500-strong intervention brigade to tackle the armed groups that have plagued the resource-rich region.

A first attempt to sign the agreement last month was called off over procedural concerns, not over the content of the agreement, the UN said.

Moshiri said civil society groups have complained that “they’re not involved in Sunday’s agreement, and that there is no concrete action plan to deal with the root causes of the conflict, which are mainly poverty and corruption”.


Fresh violence threatens DR Congo peace deal
Fighting erupts between Congolese troops and breakaway rebel group days after peace deal was signed by regional leaders.
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2013 11:17

Less than a week after the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighbouring African nations signed a peace accord to hold off hostilties, a fresh wave of violence has erupted in the central African nation.

Fighting erupted on Thursday between the Congolese troops and the rebel group Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS) in Kitchanga, about 90km from Goma, Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri reported.

It is not known if the latest fighting has resulted into casualties, but at least 3,000 civilians have sought refuge near a UN base in Kitchanga, according to Moshiri.

On Sunday, DR Congo signed an agreement with 10 other African nations including Rwanda and Uganda, which were accused in a UN report last year of aiding M23 rebels, who swept through eastern Congo and captured the key city of Goma in November. Both countries have denied the allegations.

Under Sunday’s agreement, Congo’s neighbours agreed not to tolerate or support armed groups.

The Congolese government pledged to prevent armed groups from destabilising neighboring countries, and agreed to fast-track security sector reform, particularly within its army and police, and to consolidate state authority in the east.

M23 leadership struggle

A looming leadership struggle also threatens to split the more prominent rebel group, M23, which some fear could lead to more waves of violence there.

An “internal fight” is going on between M23 rebels loyal to Bosco Ntaganda and his rival leader Sultani Makenga, according to Moshiri.

Ntaganda, who is in hiding, is a former Congolese general wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court at The Hague and publicly had very little to do with the group.

Makenga, on the other hand “is far more cautious type of leader” who wants to wait for a peace agreement currently being discussed in Kampala in Uganda.

“We are hearing credible reports that Ntaganda is trying to persuade M23 to take Goma again, and we understand he has the loyalty of several top commanders as well as some rebel troops,” Moshiri said.

A UN source also told Al Jazeera that he would not be surprised if a “shootout” erupts in the coming days.

“Things have got that bad,” Moshiri said.

Fighting in the area of Rutchuru on Sunday and Monday, among M23 factions, left at least eight people dead, she said.

Mineral-rich eastern Congo has been engulfed in fighting since the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

The UN has more than 17,700 peacekeepers in Congo, assisted by more than 1,400 international police.

But they were unable to protect civilians from the M23 rebels whose movement began in April 2012 when hundreds of troops defected from the Congolese armed forces.

With inputs from Nazanine Moshiri

A refuge for Myanmar refugee kids


A refuge for Myanmar refugee kids




Volunteers Heidy Quah and Khoo Ghee Ken (right) make lessons fun and interactive for the refugee kids.
Volunteers Heidy Quah and Khoo Ghee Ken (right) make lessons fun and interactive for the refugee kids.

A group of 18-year-olds take on the responsibility of providing education for over 70 Myanmar refugee kids.

IT is way after midnight and college student Heidy Quah is hunched over her desk, her brows furrowed in concentration.

Instead of surfing the Net, watching her favourite drama series or rushing to finish up some last-minute assignments like most of her peers, Quah is busy drawing and cutting out caricatures of various shapes and sizes.

“Sometimes I stay up till 4am to prepare my teaching materials,” says Quah.

The Diploma in Business student at a local college is a committed volunteer teacher at a refugee school where she conducts art and craft lessons, among others.

At just 18, Quah is the founder of a registered non-government organisation, Persatuan Kebajikan Perlindungan Kanak-kanak Pelarian (Refuge For The Refugees), which aims to provide education for Myanmar refugee children.

As of October last year, 91,520 Myanmar refugees and asylum seekers who are hoping to build a better life for themselves in First World countries like Australia, Canada and the United States, are temporarily placed in Malaysia. The immigration process usually takes up to several years before they are finally resettled in their designated countries.

Meanwhile, precious time goes by as children of these refugees – at the height of their formative years – have no access to the local education system due to their refugee status. The United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) has teamed up with various NGOs to set up learning centres for them but out of 13,800 children who are of school-going age, only 40% of them have access to education.

Chin Children’s Education Centre (CCEC) is one such school. Over 70 Myanmar refugee children from ages four to 16 fill the dilapidated community hall of a low-cost flat in Kuala Lumpur, for five hours every weekday. The learning environment is far from conducive as the classes, which are separated by sheets of cloth, are all held in the small hall.

Five teachers – two sponsored by UNHCR while three are hired – work tirelessly to help the children learn English, Mathematics and Science. Due to the overwhelming number of students, the teachers are often unable to step into every class, leaving many of them unattended.

Ten-year-old Pari’s favourite subject is Science and she names Heidy her favourite teacher.
Ten-year-old Pari’s favourite subject is Science and she names Heidy her favourite teacher.

Early last year, Quah had just finished secondary school and was waiting to start college. After hearing about a volunteer opportunity at a school camp, she roped in her friends Andrea Prisha, Chan Weili and Khoo Ghee Ken to volunteer as teachers at CCEC on a weekly basis.

As time went by, the youths established a bond with the refugee kids and were devastated when they heard that the school had to close down in a matter of months.

“CCEC was funded by UNHCR for two years under the Social Protection Fund. The contract expired in July 2012 and was not renewed,” explains Quah.

With college just around the corner, the group was faced with the difficult decision of whether they should continue helping the school.

Eventually, Quah and her friends made the bold choice of not only continuing to teach the students every week but to take on the school’s financial burden as well.

Refuge For The Refugees came into the picture when Quah realised that corporations were sceptical about providing funding to an unregistered NGO. Apart from a few phone calls from apprehensive officials of the Registrar of Societies, the application process went smoothly and before they knew it, RFTR was up and running.

Six months have passed since its inception and Quah confesses that running the NGO has not been easy. They need about RM1,200 a month to keep the school going. This sum covers the rental, utility bills and stationery for the kids.

Sponsorships are hard to come by at times.

A curtain separates one class from another due to space constraints.
A curtain separates one class from another due to space constraints.


“When we e-mail companies for sponsorships and they find out that we are a bunch of 18-year-olds, many people think that we are up to no good,” says Quah. Thankfully, some sponsors are willing to keep an open mind. Quah recalls a man who wanted to see the school for himself before making a donation.

Online volunteer portals Do Good. Volunteer. and Do Something Good have also served as effective avenues for them to get the word out, fetching sizeable donations from the public. In times of financial drought, they manage to get by, raising small sums through fundraisers like bake sales.

When it comes to ensuring quality education for every child, the youths have to work doubly hard as they are not formally trained teachers. They even come up with their own educational materials to supplement those provided by UNHCR.

Quah and her friends sure know how to make lessons fun for the kids. Sweets are used to help the younger kids learn how to count, while art and craft lessons provide an avenue for the students to develop their creativity.

“RFTR is compiling a proper syllabus for the year, so volunteers can start teaching immediately without having to prepare any material,” shares Quah.

“To get round the language barrier, we carry an English to Chin (dialect) dictionary,” Khoo adds.

The team volunteers for two hours on Wednesdays but every visit to CCEC takes a whopping three hours for the team to travel to and fro, as they rely on public transport. On top of that, they have to allocate time to plan for the day’s lesson besides finding ways to raise funds.

Andrea, a Foundation in Arts student at a local university, asserts that volunteering does not affect her studies.

“College is a priority for me, but these kids mean a lot to me as well. If I have assignments, I will finish them first to make time to volunteer; it is workable,” says Andrea.

Although Khoo, an A-Level student, is unable to teach during weekdays, he helps out with events on weekends, drafts proposals and letters, and updates their Facebook page.


Chan, an Australian Matriculation student, does not mind turning down movie outings and skipping teh tarik sessions with friends, just so she can find time for her volunteer work. “Sacrifices have to be made from time to time if I am to teach at the centre,” says Chan.

It helps that the parents of these dedicated and committed youths are supportive of their activities.

Quah and her team of enthusiastic volunteers dispel the common perception that young people just want to have fun and take little interest in the plight of the less fortunate. Khoo points out that many of his peers are not involved in volunteer work because the avenues just aren’t presented to them.

Quah believes parents play an important role in instilling compassion for the underprivileged, in their children. “My parents exposed me to people who were less fortunate from a very young age. We used to celebrate Chinese New Year in orphanages where we would play and sing songs with the kids,” she recalls.

“When I don’t see them for a week and they tell me they miss me, that makes me happy,” says Andrea.

Quah finds great satisfaction in charting the children’s progress. “There was this boy in my class who used to be very destructive. He would hit other kids for no apparent reason. I later learned that his dad is an alcoholic who physically abuses him. I decided to pay more attention to him and appointed him as class monitor. So instead of starting fights, he is now the one who stops fights,” says Quah, who is proud to note a change in the boy’s behaviour.

Indeed, it is positive changes like these which keep the youths going. Quah is driven by a vision to take RFTR to a new level and reach out to more refugee children so that they can also enjoy the gift of education.

To make a donation or find out more about volunteer opportunities at Refuge For The Refugees, call Heidy Quah (012-307 3714) or visit facebook.com/refugefortherefugees or e-mail refugefortherefugees@gmail.com.


No peace for Syria unless opposition talks to Assad-Russia


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 at 14:22

No peace for Syria unless opposition talks to Assad-Russia

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday there could be no peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria as long as opponents of President Bashar al-Assad demand his exit from power and refuse to negotiate with his government.


Lavrov’s comments at an annual news conference signalled no shift in the position of Russia, which says Assad’s exit must not be a precondition for a deal to end 22 months of violence in which more than 60,000 people have been killed.


“Everything runs up against the opposition members’ obsession with the idea of the overthrow of the Assad regime. As long as this irreconcilable position remains in force, nothing good will happen, armed action will continue, people will die,” Lavrov said.


Russia has been Assad’s most powerful foreign protector during the violence that started with a crackdown on protests but has escalated into civil war, vetoing three U.N. Security Council resolution aimed to push him out or pressure him to end bloodshed.


Russia flew 77 of its citizens fleeing the Syrian violence to Moscow via Lebanon on Wednesday but Lavrov said the situation in Syria did not require a mass evacuation of Russian citizens.


Speaking of large-scale naval exercises Russia is holding in the Black Sea and in the Mediterranean Sea, not far from Syria, Lavrov said the naval presence was a positive factor.


“Of course we have no interest in the Mediterranean region becoming even more destabilised. And the presence of our fleet there is undoubtedly a stabilising factor,” Lavrov said.


(Reporting by Timothy Heritage Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Steve Gutterman and Janet Lawrence)




N25billion Fraud: Senator Goje’s security phobia


N25billion Fraud: Senator Goje’s security phobia

On January 26, 2013

By John Bulus
Senator Mohammad Danjuma Goje has suddenly developed fear. His fear is consequent upon the rising tide of insecurity in his home state, Gombe and in fact, the entire North East region.

His fear however comes very surprising to the people of the state who knew him so well. For starters, Goje was the immediate past Governor of the State for eight years and his reign smacked the state of visible opposition as his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) bulldozed it way across the horizon of the state.

Similarly, Goje holds a chieftaincy title of “Sarkin Yarkin Gombe”, meaning “Head of Warriors of Gombe”. And so, by that, no one expected that “a sarkin yarkin” could fathom fear. But that was the case in Gombe last week when Goje asked the Federal High Court hearing the case of money laundering brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to relocate his case to another location away from both his state and the entire north eastern geo-political zone.

Established upon his first arraignment on October 18, 2011, roughly 5 months after he exited office as governor on May 29, 2011, he was slammed along side four others with 18-count charge. The four accused persons included Alhaji Sabo Mohammed Tumu, former Gombe State Government House food supplier; Alhaji Aliyu Ubadone el-Nafaty, former Executive Chairman, State Universal Basic Education Board, Gombe; S. M. Dokoro, proprietor of S. M. Dokoro and M. Dokoro Gombe.

Part of the charges read: “That you, Alhaji Danjuma Goje “M”, former Executive Governor of Gombe State, Nigeria; sometimes between May 2003 and May 2011, in Gombe within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, with attempt to covert, conspired with others to conceal or disguise the sum of 5,000,000,000.00 (Five Billion Naira only) property of Gombe State Government, which was, or in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, represented proceeds of an illegal act, contrary to Section 17 of the Money laundering (Prohibition Act) 2004 and also punishable under Section 14 of the same Act as amended, modifies and retained under Section 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 of the Money laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011(As amended).
“That you Alhaji Danjuma Goje “M”, former Executive Governor of Gombe State, Nigeria; Alhaji Sabo Mohammed Tumu ‘M’ being Gombe state Government House Supplier; and others, between May 2003 and May 2011 within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, with attempt to covert, conspired among yourselves and others to conceal or disguise the sum of 1,920,000.00 (One Billion, Nine Hundred and Twenty Million Naira only, property of Gombe State government, which was, or in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, represented proceeds of an illegal act, contrary to Section 17 of the Money Laundering (prohibition Act) 2004 and also punishable under Section 14 of the same act as amended, modified and retained under Sections 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 respectively of the money laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (As Amended).

“That you Alhaji Danjuma Goje ‘M’, former Executive Governor of Gombe State, Nigeria; Alhaji Aliyu Ubadone El_Nafaty ‘M’, former Executive Chairman, State Universal basic Education Board, Gombe; and others, sometimes between May 2003 and May 2011, in Gombe, within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, with attempt to covert, conspired among yourselves and others to conceal or disguise the sum of N1, 661, 451, 371.64 (one Billion, Six Hundred and Sixty one Million, Four Hundred and Fifty One Thousand, three Hundred and Seventy-One Naira, sixty Four Kobo only, property of Gombe State  Government, which was, or in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, represented proceeds of an illegal act, contrary to Section 17 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition act) 2004 and also punishable under Section 14 of the same Act as amended, modified and retained under
sections 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 of the Money laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (As Amended).

“That you, Alhaji Danjuma Goje “M’, former Executive Governor of Gombe State, Nigeria; S. M. Doko ‘M’ being the proprietor of S. M. Dokoro Gombe; S. M. Dokoro Gombe and others, sometimes between January 2008 and May 2011, in Gombe within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court with attempt to convert, conspired among yourselves and others to conceal or disguise the sum of 242, 500,000.00 (Two Hundred and Forty Million, Five Hundred Thousand Naira only), property of Gombe
State Government, which was, or in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, represented proceeds of an illegal act, contrary to Section 17 of the Money laundering (Prohibition act) 2004 and also punishable under Section 14 of the same Act as amended, modified and retained under Section 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 respectively of the Money laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011( As Amended)”.

Meanwhile, when the matter came up for further hearing during the week, precisely on Tuesday, Goje through his lead counsel, Mr. Chris Uche (SAN) let out a yell that insecurity pervades Gombe and the
entire North east and so does not guarantee the safety of his lawyers and witnesses. As a result of that, he applied for relocation of the case to another destination outside the region. According to Uche, the lives of the visiting lawyers of both parties are in “great jeopardy in an atmosphere that could affect justice.”

The SAN expanded his grounds and cited the cases of the recent kidnapping of a serving member of the state House of Assembly, assassination of Police Inspector Gadzama who was Goje’s police orderly and the January 11 assassination of minority leader of the Gombe State House of Assembly as evidences of insecurity in Gombe. But the Prosecution Counsel, Mr. Wahaba Kunle Shittu voided the argument and advanced that the state of insecurity cuts across the country and not in any way peculiar to Gombe or the zone. He further submitted in his argument that all the witnesses to the case are in Gombe and therefore only wise if the case is tried in Gombe.

He urged the court to refuse the application for the transfer of venue as filed by the defence counsel, arguing that the case is not the only one that is politically sensitive. In an apparent move to study the argument of both counsels, the presiding Judge, Mr. Babatunde Quadir adjourned the hearing to the next day. By 1pm on Wednesday when sitting resumed, the court had become apprehensive and placed observers on tenterhooks on which way the ruling will head to.
But finally in his ruling, Justice Quadir said: “This application is hereby rejected for now. However if any of the accused, counsels or witnesses is harassed, no matter how little, even if it is a phone call, please inform the court”.
He also said that although there has been series of attack in Gombe and other parts of the country, the rights of all the accused to fair hearing have not been infringed just as he noted that none of the accused persons or Counsels has been attacked or subjected to any threat since the case commenced, adding that relocating the venue will elicit different impression to public.

Advancing further in his ruling, Justice Quardir said no session of the court has been interrupted by a security threat since the beginning of hearing on the case.

By the ruling, Senator Goje has got to continue his trial in Gombe, the state he superintended over its affairs for 8 years. His counsel, Uche (SAN) in a reaction to the judgment of the court told Journalists that his team will be heading to the higher courts to test the validity of the judgment.

Said he:“There is the Court of Appeal and there is the Supreme Court. We will use them to test the might of this ruling” he said. Similarly, counsel to EFCC, Mr. Shittu said “The Judge did not only expand but expound the law by stating the Jurisprudence the way it should be. We are ready to go on with the case till justice is done.”

Meanwhile, the case was adjourned to 7th and 8th of March 2013 for further hearing.


UN doctor shot in Karachi

UN doctor shot in Karachi

By Hasan Mansoor (AFP) – Jul 17, 2012

KARACHI — Gunmen opened fire on a UN vehicle in Pakistan’s volatile city of Karachi Tuesday, wounding a foreign doctor working on a polio immunisation campaign and a local driver, officials said.

The shooting, which happened in the low-income eastern neighbourhood of Soharb Ghoth, highlighted resistance to a widely publicised three-day vaccination campaign, which began Monday.

The Taliban have banned immunisations in the northwest, condemning the campaign as a cover for espionage since a Pakistani doctor was jailed after helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden using a hepatitis vaccination programme.

“A WHO vehicle was fired upon with gunshots. One international staff and one local driver were injured in the incident,” Maryam Yunus, spokeswoman for the United Nations’ World Health Organization, told AFP.

She said the doctor from Ghana and the Pakistani driver had been transferred to a private hospital in the southern port city where their condition was stable.

“They are out of danger,” Yunus said.

Attacks on foreigners are rare in Karachi, but parts of the city are highly volatile. Ethnic, sectarian and politically-linked violence has killed at least 740 people in the city so far this year alone, rights activists say.

Police blamed the shooting on two Afghan men. Soharb Ghoth neighbourhood is home to thousands of Afghan refugees and migrants from northwest Pakistan looking for work in what is Pakistan’s largest city, with a population of 18 million.

The UN staff were travelling in an unmarked, white double-cabin pick-up. Local TV channels broadcast footage of bullet holes in the vehicle.

WHO said later Tuesday that there was currently “no evidence to suggest that this was a deliberate or targeted attack against polio eradication efforts or WHO”.

It paid tribute to the “incredible bravery” of more than 200,000, mainly Pakistani volunteers who run every vaccination campaign, and said the shooting would not derail efforts to eradicate polio in the country.

But police suggested that the doctor could have been targeted deliberately, because he had been working in the neighbourhood for about three months.

“It could be related to the polio campaign, as there is resistance in the population against it. We are, however, still investigating the real motives,” local police station chief Mohammad Sultan told AFP.

A health expert, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, also interpreted the attack as a sign of an alarming trend.

He said there had been threats and announcements in mosques branding the vaccine anti-Islam and blamed “a new wave of attacks on polio workers” on the CIA’s use of Pakistani doctor Shakeel Afridi to help find bin Laden.

The doctor was jailed for 33 years in May after helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden using a hepatitis vaccination programme as cover.

“It has become a very serious and critical issue. People suspect foreigners’ involvement in the programme and fake campaign by Afridi has given further credence to conspiracy theory,” he said.

He said polio workers were beaten in the capital Islamabad on Monday, a team fired on in the southern town of Jacobabad, and a motorcycle stolen in the southwestern town of Ziarat.

“It is an alarming situation because neither the government, nor international aid agencies have a clear strategy to deal with this issue,” he said.

Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio remains endemic, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria.

The Taliban ban and insecurity have forced officials to postpone inoculations in parts of Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt, jeopardising the health of more than 350,000 children.

Pakistan says 34 million children under five will be targeted in the campaign, which runs until Wednesday.

The highly infectious disease affects mainly the under-fives and can cause paralysis in a matter of hours. Some cases can be fatal.

The Lancet medical journal has said vaccination problems led last year to Pakistan’s highest number of polio cases in a decade, 198, compared to 144 in 2010


Give voice to refugees



Palestinian refugees: time to return NOW



Pictures from Khao I Dang refugee camp, Thailand 1980-82.


Warning : viewers must be above 18years old

Memories of the Khoa I Dang Refugee Camp 1986 to 1988


Cambodia Refugee Camp – Site2 (part1)


Umpium Refugee Camp in fire 23 02 2012


on fire in Umpiem Camp (MCA News)


Dadaab Refugee Camp – Kenya (Africa)


A song at Nu Po Camp



Displaced Karen Refugees in Jungle


23Kachin IDP/Refugee Camps – March-April-2012



Zaatari Refugee Camp Jordan – 31 Oct 2012.



Angelina Jolie in a refugee camp in Syria (09-13-2012)



Angelina Jolie Visits Syrian Refugees in Turkey


Five Truths About India


Five Truths About India

Milan VaishnavARTICLE, NOVEMBER 2, 2012

For over sixty years, India, a low-income country occupying a sprawling geography and serving as a home to a dizzying diversity of ethnic and linguistic groups, has managed to survive—indeed, thrive—as a functioning democracy. Its political system in particular has the capacity to confound even the most knowledgeable and insightful Indian, so it should come as no surprise that for outsiders, interpreting Indian politics can be downright daunting.


But trying to fit India into neat categories to get a handle on the South Asian behemoth misses much of the nuance at the heart of the Indian polity. For instance, India’s politics have grown more regionalized, yet powerful forces of centralization remain intact. Old caste divides have lost social relevance but often thrive in the domain of politics. Five trends playing out in India today highlight the tensions between continuity and change in the country.


India’s party system is fragmented, but centralization has not disappeared

A dominant narrative about Indian politics over the last few decades has been the increasing regionalization of the political party system. One way to measure this fragmentation is to compare political competition in India’s first general elections in 1952 to the most recent parliamentary elections of 2009. In 1952, 55 parties contested general elections, and in 2009, there were 370 competitors (see figure 1).

Of course, these numbers overstate the level of fragmentation because they do not account for the actual support political parties have among the electorate, but the changes remain large even when parties are weighted by the actual seats they win. In 1952, this measure of effective number of parties in parliament stood at 1.7, and it has exhibited a more-than-fourfold increase over the past six decades, reaching 6.5.


The emerging federal nature of India’s electoral politics was given a shot in the arm in the early 1990s thanks to the rise of coalition governments in New Delhi, which provided a new set of incentives for aspiring regional politicians to abandon the dominant national parties and establish their own political outfits. While some of these new “regional parties” have strong links to subnational, separatist, or regional cultural markers, most simply draw support from a narrow (subnational) geographically defined territory. In this sense, several Indian parties formally classified as “national” by the Election Commission of India are actually regional in nature, such as the Nationalist Congress Party, whose success is largely confined to the state of Maharashtra.


As a result of these shifts, state-level politics are now theprincipal settings for political contestation, while national elections are increasingly “derivative.” While this does not mean that national elections are merely a sum of state-level contests, state-level politics is often the prism through which voters make decisions about national elections. For example, when state-level elections are held less than two years prior to national elections, voters are prone to reaffirm their state-level decisions when they vote in parliamentary elections. But when national elections take place midway through a state government’s tenure, more often than not voters punish the ruling state party or parties in national polls.

Moreover, fractures have developed within the two major national parties. Fragmentation within the ruling Indian National Congress (Congress, for short) is largely due to the leadership’s “dyarchic” nature. Ever since the Congress Party’s current president, Sonia Gandhi, refused to assume the position of prime minister after the Congress came to power in 2004, handing over the reins to former finance minister Manmohan Singh, dual power centers revolving around these two figures have persisted. In reality, Singh occupies the throne, but Gandhi is perceived to wield the power. The wheels came off the arrangement during its second term. Now, the “divided leadership” within the Congress Party may be the most significant political hurdle to implementing badly needed political and economic reforms.

The problem for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is far more complicated. The party boasts a surfeit of leaders clamoring for the post of prime minister. Many of the BJP’s most well-known personalities continue to jockey for greater visibility and stature within the party hierarchy—leading to frequent internal disputes. Complicating this picture even more is the fact that the BJP exhibits a significant amount of diversity at the state level. In the words of scholar Pratap Bhanu Mehta, the BJP “is, for all practical purposes, a collection of six or seven state parties.” Furthermore, the leaders of the BJP in the states pledge their political loyalties to different national-level BJP leaders.

Yet, it would be premature to sound the death knell for the two major national parties. In the 2009 general elections, the Congress and BJP won a combined total of 322 seats—or 60 percent of the overall count (543). Indeed, Congress’s vote share in national elections has essentially remained constant since 1996—hovering around 28 percent. (Yet due to the peculiarities of India’s winner-take-all electoral system, the number of seats the Congress has won with a roughly similar vote share has fluctuated wildly from election to election—see figure 2.) Both parties also continue to have a considerable presence at the state level. Nearly two-thirds of states (19 of 30) are presently governed by either Congress or BJP chief ministers, though several are in a coalition with regional parties.

States are the solution to India’s policy dilemmas, but also the problem

When India’s central government is unwilling or unable to take action on policy reform, its states are often heralded as the solution to gridlock or “policy paralysis” because Indian federalism gives the states considerable space for policy innovation. When the center fails, the respective states can usher in and lead intra-Indian competition for resources, investment, and talent, which produces a dynamic process of policy diffusion.

What complicates the picture is that the degree to which “good policies” are adopted often varies considerably within states. For instance, Gujarat has enjoyed fantastic economic growth rates and enormous investment inflows under Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure. In this sense, it is one of India’s most highly developed states. Yet, while Gujarat’s economic “model” is heralded, it a lags on health and family welfare, scoring near the bottom of India’s states on basic indicators of malnutrition.

The coexistence in Modi’s Gujarat of economic vitality with endemic malnutrition illustrates, in a nutshell, the promise and the peril of state-level leadership. Indeed, while there is a generally positive correlation between the level of development and malnutrition across India’s states, the states that thrive economically often “underperform” on addressing malnutrition (see figure 3 with Gujarat highlighted in red).

And when it comes to natural resource management states have strongly opposed reforms that would minimize their discretion and, therefore, their rent extraction possibilities. Consider the recent corruption scandal known as “Coalgate.” A blistering report from the comptroller and auditor general accused the central government of using an opaque, uncompetitive, and ad hoc discretionary process for allocating nearly 60 licenses for captive coal mines across India. The report estimates that the policy led to $33 billion in lost revenue.

The central government is surely to blame for dithering in establishing a new, competitive policy for allocating coal licenses. But the states themselves played a starring role in the scandal. The chief ministers of several mining-intensive statesstrongly opposed a change of policy and lobbied the government to maintain the status quo. And state governments played a prominent role in recommending which private sector firms should receive licenses.

The Indian state is often overbureaucratized yet undermanned

Given the corruption, cronyism, and abuse of government authority that have come to light in recent years—ranging from the discretionary allocation of licenses governing 2G telecommunication spectrum to the procurement scandals which plagued India’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games—there is a strong sentiment within India that the powers of the bureaucracy have to be substantially curbed. There is certainly a considerable need to curtail the worst excesses of the state, especially where the state’s heavy-handed role distorts economic incentives. For instance, transactions involving land—construction, mining, and infrastructure—remain a hotbed of corruption and malfeasance. The regulatory intensity of the state with respect to land is extremely high, allowing politicians and bureaucrats to trade regulatory forbearance for bribes and kickbacks.

Yet, while the Indian state needs to cede authority over certain realms, it simultaneously needs to expand its authority in others. Notwithstanding the widely held image of India as a country overburdened by a massive bureaucracy, India has one of the lowest rates of per capita public sector employment of any G20 country. Furthermore, government employment in India (across local, state, and federal levels) is in decline.

The Indian state suffers from debilitating weaknesses that hinder its ability to raise revenue, adjudicate disputes, guarantee public order, and provide public goods. It has the lowest tax-to-GDP ratio of any BRIC country (a grouping that also includes Brazil, Russia, and China). Indeed, it has one of the smallest ratios of any country in the G20. Admittedly, it is difficult to disentangle issues of policy choice from capacity, but there are ample signs that India is failing to enforce the taxes that are on the books. For instance, a new investigations unit of the income tax department dedicated to recovering lost tax revenue has barely gotten off the ground one year after setting up shop thanks to a personnel shortfall.

The relative incapacity of the judiciary has been well documented. The Supreme Court reported in late 2011 that the country’s courts are saddled under the weight of 32 million pending cases. Courts at all levels—the Supreme Court as well as various high courts and district and subordinate courts—see their dockets grow rather than shrink year after year.

Meanwhile, India’s security forces suffer from endemic personnel shortages. As of the end of 2011, only 77 percent of available posts in the civil police force were occupied according to the National Crime Records Bureau. Even if the state governments were to boost their recruitment and close the vacancy gap, India would still have one of the smallest ratios of police per capita anywhere in the world. The armed forces too struggle with manpower shortfalls: the Indian army faces a shortage of 12,000 officers, or roughly 20 percent of its overall sanctioned strength.

Finally, India also struggles in its ability to provide basic services such as healthcare and education. On education, for instance, it is true that India is growing ever closer toward achieving universal primary enrollment. Yet, the quality of those activities that regularly take place in schools is, on average, abysmal. According to the last several rounds of the Annual Status of Education Report conducted by the nongovernmental organization Pratham, the proportion of children aged six to fourteen who can read a simple paragraph has stagnated around 40 percent—with only marginal improvement over the past several years.

India’s economic crisis is largely self-inflicted

After over a decade of booming growth, the Indian economy was recently brought down to earth. In the quarter ending in June 2012, the economy grew at a rate of 5.5 percent—down from 8 percent the same quarter one year ago. While the International Monetary Fund now projects that growth in 2012 will dip below 5 percent, most independent observers forecast a quick rebound in 2013. A sustained period of growth at 5 percent or below, if such a situation materialized, would constitute a serious social and economic crisis for India.

In many ways, the particular success of India’s economy may have planted the seeds of its future slowdown. Reforms of the early 1990s, which involved industrial delicensing, reducing tariffs, and removing barriers to foreign capital flows, created a powerful new class of entrepreneurs who leveraged their political connections to entrench their positions in a newly liberalized economy. These private sector winners, and their political allies, believed it was in their self-interest to obstruct follow-on, second-generation reforms that would further increase international competition in the economy or introduce more transparent and competitive processes for natural resource contracts. Crony capitalism may have helped fuel rapid economic growth, but the rot in the system now threatens to swallow the whole thing up as the economy struggles in the wake of revelations of gross misgovernance and corruption.

There is also a perception that the roots of the current economic malaise are deeply political, from two years of unrelenting corruption scandals to a divided ruling party. The situation was further compounded by the government’s missteps on key policy issues at critical junctures. For instance, the government announced aggressive new anti-tax-avoidance policies that would retroactively levy taxes on business deals it perceived were structured to circumvent tax compliance. This move rattled investor confidence and contributed to an atmosphere of heightened private sector uncertainty.

In an encouraging move, in mid-September the government announced a slew of long-awaited reforms, notably raising the price of diesel (which is heavily subsidized) and increasing foreign investment caps in a range of sectors such as broadcasting, multibrand retail, and civil aviation. The government referred to these reforms as a “big bang,” but the current changes can best be described as a collection of modest steps. Most political parties acknowledge the need for more fundamental structural reform; India’s administrative, regulatory, and legal machinery is hopelessly out of date. Yet the implementation of such reforms carries with it great political risk, discouraging bolder action.

Caste in India is declining socially, but remains strong politically

Social relations in India have long been defined by the peculiar tenets of Hinduism’s hierarchical caste system. But according to a recent study, the social inequalities that have historically defined relations between Dalits (lower castes) and non-Dalits have declined precipitously in the market-reform era. Indeed, India now boasts a talented crop of “Dalit millionaires” who have formed their own Dalit Chamber of Commerce. Moreover, several groups have benefitted from reservations (or ethnic quotas) in government jobs, higher education, and political representation.

Yet caste hierarchies are alive and well in other areas. In one study, economists sent fictitious online job applications to firms, randomly manipulating the caste-based surnames of the fake applicants. Large and significant differences in the treatment of applicants was seen in competition over call-center jobs, where “soft” or intangible skills are difficult to effectively signal through resume credentials alone, suggesting the persistence of discrimination against disadvantaged groups in certain sectors.

And there can be no doubt that a significant amount of political mobilization still occurs along caste or communal lines. This is most glaring in north Indian states such as Uttar Pradesh, where rival political parties vociferously court opposing “vote banks” and speak of “caste equations.” Yet, political mobilization along identity lines is hardly confined to north India: politically motivated communal violence in Kerala and the persistence of political divisions between the Kamma, Reddy, and Kapu communities in Andhra Pradesh are evidence of this.

Moreover, caste seems to still influence voter behavior across India. Some observers have heralded the delinking of ethnicity and vote choice by examining national-level aggregates of voter behavior, finding little evidence to suggest that a majority of any given ethnic community favors one political party over another. But when onedisaggregates the data at the state level—which is the prime venue for political contestation—a majority of a caste group in many states votes in favor of one political party.

A closer look at state-level realities also suggests that some prominent leaders who have been celebrated for their perceived willingness to transcend caste divides in fact embrace caste—albeit in less overt, divisive ways. One prominent leader who is said to have risen above caste politics is Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the state of Bihar. In reality, Kumar has not ignored caste; he has simply played the caste cardshrewdlyIn his first term, Kumar instituted a “Mahadalit” scheme—earmarking government transfers for certain Dalit segments, namely those that fell outside of the traditional vote banks of his opposition—and established quotas in government jobs for lower caste Muslims.

Looking Ahead

Over the past two decades, India’s politics have grown far more complex. Economic liberalization, growing political competition, and increasing decentralization have fundamentally remade India’s political economy. Yet these new shifts have not completely displaced prevailing ideologies and proclivities.

In today’s India, liberalization coexists with the remnants of state-driven planning. Regionalization has expanded but has not completely taken over. And the bureaucracy’s authority has receded in many domains while becoming more entrenched in others. Those looking to make sense of where India’s political project is headed in the years to come would be well-served to heed the words of Cambridge economist Joan Robinson: “Whatever you can rightly say about India, the opposite is also true.”

The author thanks Reedy Swanson for excellent research assistance, Ashley Tellis and Frederic Grare for comments, and Devesh Kapur for useful conversations.


Satellite images raise concerns for Burma Muslims


SATURDAY 27 OCTOBER 2012 Burma , World

Satellite images raise concerns for Burma Muslims


A human rights group expresses concern for the safety of thousands of Muslims in Burma after revealing satellite images of a once-thriving coastal community reduced to ashes after a week of violence.

Human Rights Watch says the series of images (below, in October 2012 and further below, in March 2012), which compare the same scene with images taken earlier in the year, show “near total destruction” of a predominantly Rohingya Muslim part of Kyaukpyu, one of several areas in Rakhine state where battles between Rohingyas and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists threaten to derail the country’s fragile democratic transition.

Tun Khin from the Burmese Rohingya Oraganisation in the UK told Channel 4 News he thinks that what is going on in the Rakhine region amounts to ethnic cleansins: “This is ethnic cleansing, proper planned by the state government and central government to eliminate the Rohingya people from Rakhine”.

More than 811 buildings and houseboats were razed in Kyaukpyu on 24 October, forcing many Rohingya to flee north by sea toward the state capital Sittwe, said Human Rights Watch.

“Burma’s government urgently needs to provide security for the Rohingya in Arakan (Rakhine) state,who are under vicious attack,” said Phil Robertson, the group’s deputy Asia director.

There were widespread unconfirmed reports of boatloads of Rohingyas trying to cross the sea border to neighbouring Bangladesh, which has denied them refugee status since 1992.


‘Irreparably damaged’

Dozens of boats full of Rohingyas with no food or water had fled Kyaukpyu, an industrial zone important to China, and other recent hotspots were seeking access on Friday to overcrowded refugee camps around the state capital Sittwe, according to four Rohingya refugee sources.

Some boats were blocked by security forces from reaching the shore and few Rohingyas managed to reach the camps, the sources said by telephone.


The United Nations has warned that Myanmar’s fledgling democracy could be “irreparably damaged” by the violence. Rohingyas are officially stateless.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s government regards the estimated 800,000 Rohingyas in the country as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and not as one of the country’s 135 official ethnic groups, and denies them citizenship.

But many of those expelled from Kyaukpyu are not Rohingya but Muslims from the officially recognised Kaman minority, said Chris Lewa, director of the Rohingya advocacy group, Arakan Project.

“It’s not just anti-Rohingya violence anymore, it’s anti-Muslim,” she said.