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Archive for May 2012

‘Palestinian leaders are hypocrites’-Academic

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Prof. Abdul Sattar Kassem is unquestionably one of the most courageous and outspoken intellectual I have ever interviewed from occupied Palestine

Palestinians would have defeated the Zionists and acquired freedom, but this has been hindered by the fact that some Palestinian leaders are collaborating with the Israeli regime. This is according to Abdul Sattar Kassem, a professor of political science at An-Najah National University in Nablus Palestine. “Some of the Palestinian leaders have let down their people by collaborating with Israelis. These leaders have become anti Palestine,” the academic said on Tuesday during an interview conducted to highlight the Nakba Day, (day of catastrophe) which Palestinians marked on May 14.

He said ordinary Palestinians were determined to fight Israel’s brutal occupation and get freedom at all costs, despite the fact that some Palestinian leaders were collaborating with their enemy. Professor Kassem has witnessed first hand the brutal Israeli occupation in Palestine. For 26 years, the academic has been blocked by the Israeli authorities from leaving Palestine.

The academic also spent two years in Israeli jails and eight months in a Palestinian prison under Arafat’s regime. “I was injured by four bullets shot by men recruited by the Palestinian authorities. But I am always here, with my pen, to help my people to recover their rights and try to get a change in the Arab world,” he related in an interview.

According to Kassem, the problem with Palestinian leadership was indicative of the Arab problem where dictatorial Arab regimes must disappear, because they defend foreign interests and not the interests of their citizens. “Most of these dictatorial regimes are collaborating with Israel, counteracting the rights of their own people as in Palestine and Lebanon. These regimes are the puppets of certain powers, more particularly of the United States,” he stated.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, Dr Haidar Eid, associate professor in the Department of English Literature, at Al-Aqsa University, reported that many people gathered in the city center to celebrate the Nakba. “People moved through the city and it took them about three hours before they handed over the memorandum to United Nations officials in Gaza.”

When asked if it was true that the Arab spring has amplified the Palestinian cause, he said it was not true “Initially when Mubarak’s regime crumbled, we thought we would get a breathing space inform of support from Egypt, but it has not happened’,” he said, adding that Palestinians still lack basic necessities due to the Israeli blockade.

Please note:

Yawm an-Nakba is an Arabic word meaning “Day of the Catastrophe”. This day is generally commemorated on 15 May, a date for Israeli Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzmaut). For the Palestinians it is an annual day of commemoration of the displacement that followed the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948.


Written by africawitness

May 17, 2012 at 11:01 am

Posted in Travel, Xenophobia

Turkey wins over Africa

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By Hassan Isilow
Johannesburg: The Turkish government is steadily wining hearts of Africans by providing humanitarian aid, education and the construction of religious institutions. Last year, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan surprised many when he flew with his family to Mogadishu in a quick response to the famine. Many international leaders admired his courage and approach to the Somali humanitarian crisis.
After evaluating the impact of famine, Erdogan made arrangements with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which made available $350 million for relief efforts in Somalia. Many NGO’s from Turkey also came into the Horn of Africa country to provide much needed relief and health care for thousands Somalis trapped in famine.
Somalis were overwhelmed by Turkey’s intervention; and many prayed for the country’s success. But this was just the beginning of a new relationship. In September 2011, Turkey again surprised Somalia by offering hundreds of scholarships to students to go and study in Turkey. Another surprise came last month, when a Turkish Airline made its first landing at Mogadishu airport, making it the first time in 20 years that a major commercial airline landed in the war torn country.
But Turkey’s interest is not limited only to Somalia, but other African countries are also included where it has a number of trade and development projects in place.
So what does Turkey aim to achieve in its relationship with Africa? According to Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, his country has traditionally maintained good relations with the African continent.
“In the context of our policy of opening up to Africa initiated in 1998, we are determined to improve and develop our political, economic, commercial, and cultural interaction with the African countries,” a statement posted on the website of Turkey’s ministry of foreign affairs reads.
Turkey said its foreign policy towards Africa is not only based on economic and trade objectives, but also incorporates a comprehensive approach which includes development of Africa through technical and project assistance in the fields such as fight against diseases, agricultural development, irrigation, energy, education and regular flow of humanitarian aid.
On a different note, the 10th African Union Summit, which sat in January 2008 declared Turkey as a strategic partner for the continent. Turkey has been providing aid to different parts of the continent since 1998, through its Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA) whose program coordination office for Africa was opened in Addis Ababa Ethiopia in 2005 and later in Khartoum and Dakar in the years 2006- 2007 respectively.
According to the Turkish foreign affairs ministry, TIKA offices support development projects in various African regions. Turkey is also currently providing personnel and contributing financially to six of the existing eight UN missions in Africa. In this context, Turkey co-chaired with Egypt an “International Donor’s Conference for the Reconstruction and Development of Darfur” in Cairo, on 21 March 2010. During the Conference, Turkey announced a pledge of around $ 65 to $ 70 million of humanitarian assistance mainly in health, agriculture and education sectors.
While in May 2010 Turkey hosted the Istanbul Somalia Conference organized within the UN framework. The Conference provided an important support for the Djibouti Peace Process and the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG). The Istanbul Declaration adopted during the Conference constitutes a road map for the settlement of the Somali issue.
New Embassies
Turkey also announced recently that it had decided to open 15 new embassies in the following African countries – Ghana, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Angola, Mali, Madagascar, Uganda, Niger, Chad, Tanzania, Mozambique, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Zambia. Turkey currently has 20 embassies in Africa of which 15 are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition, Turkish businessmen and religious organizations have also started building mosques, schools and hospitals on the continent. Most notably, in Johannesburg a 74 year old Turkish businessman, Ali Katircioglu, built a spectacular mosque which has become a landmark in the Midrand area. According to site project manager, Orhan Celik, the mosque was built on a similar plan as the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, Turkey, which is currently a Unesco World Heritage Site. The mosque has already become a centre of attraction around Midrand area in Johannesburg. “On Sundays we receive about 500 visitors who come to tour our Mosque,” Orhan said. The mosque also has a school, clinic and shops within its compound.
Turkish owned schools are also doing well in Africa. An example is Sama High school in Mayfair, Johannesburg which has consistently produced A-grades in its matric results.
Many developed countries could now be envious of Turkey’s new found position in Africa, but the reality remains that Turkey has steadily won hearts in Africa.

Republished by the South African Foriegn Policy Intiative (SAFPI)

Written by africawitness

May 3, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Xenophobia

Palestine worse than Apartheid

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By Hassan Isilow
Anti-Apartheid icon Ahmed Kathrada is convinced Palestinians are experiencing life far worse than what South Africans had during apartheid.
Speaking at the University of Johannesburg recently, the struggle hero called upon the ANC to find suitable solutions to address how it can concretely further support the Palestinian struggle for justice and self determination.
“Israeli’s separate roads, de facto mixed marriages act, trial by military courts, the unfair allocation of resources – particularly water – racist citizenship laws, assigning and denying people rights on the basis of ethnicity, destruction of homes, and detention without trial” amounted to nothing but apartheid, Kathrada stated.
According to the struggle icon – who had lived and suffered under apartheid, spending nearly 30 years of his adult life in apartheid jails for resisting oppression – he can humbly claim to know something about the meaning of apartheid.
“I believe that we must pay serious consideration to the call made by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and many others in the world today,” he sad, referring to the plight of the Palestinians.
While Kathrada did not call for armed resistance or violence against Israeli, he did urge peaceful reconciliation and non-violence. As such, he called upon all South Africans to support Palestinians in their quest for freedom.
The struggle stalwart well remembered how apologists for apartheid South Africa internationally tried to argue that the South African “situation” was more complex than what the ANC wanted to suggest.
“Indeed, it might have been, but the argument of complexity was also used as a weapon by the powerful to disarm the weak and those who act in solidarity with them,” he said, adding that he feared the same may now be happening with Palestine.
According to Kathrada, fellow struggle icon, former president Nelson Mandela warned about this back in 1996.
“The temptation in our situation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine to a state of their own. We can easily be enticed to read reconciliation and fairness as meaning parity between justice and injustice. Having achieved our own freedom, we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others face. Yet we would be less than human if we did so,” Mandela stated on 4Dec1997.
Originally published at

Written by africawitness

May 3, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Xenophobia

Uganda is playing with fire if it puts foot in Sudan, South crisis

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By Hassan Islow & Richard Wanambwa

Countries threatening to intervene if Sudan invades South Sudan are playing with fire and risk getting burnt, Sudan’s ambassador to South Africa has warned
‘‘You know countries that make such meaningless statements are playing with fire. Sudan is a sovereign country and does not accept such threats from other countries,’’ Dr Ali Yousif Ahmed Alsharif said on Tuesday while speaking on Channel Islam international radio in Johannesburg. But Army and Defence spokesperson Col. Felix Kulayigye, yesterday reaffirmed the army commander, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima’s, position that Uganda cannot sit by and watch the two countries fight each other.
Col. Kulayigye said Uganda was still interested in dialogue and its participation was at the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development.
He also said the long relationship between Uganda and South Sudan is historic.
“We have a stake in the stability of Sudan, especially South Sudan. But dialogue is still the first and we still have confidence since both countries, are friendly to Uganda,” Col. Kulayigye said.
He added: “We are members of IGAD but when the option of dialogue fails, we shall not sit and watch. South Sudan neighbours northern Uganda and is our ally.”
Last week, Gen. Nyakairima said Uganda would get involved in the conflict if Sudan attempted to attack the South.
However, Sudan’s diplomat insists that it is wrong for regional countries to threaten Sudan after their territory, Heglig, had been attacked and their sovereignty violated.
Dr Alsharif said Sudan considers South Sudan as a neighbour.
‘‘South Sudan should stop listening to foreign powers that instigate them into waging a war with Sudan. When there was civil war in the south several years ago, southerners did not go to Uganda or Kenya, but instead came to live in the north because they felt safer,’’ he said.
He also said South Sudan had violated a non-aggression agreement reached with Sudan prior to her independence in July 2011.
‘‘We agreed that each nation should not support rebels fighting against the other. Unfortunately, South Sudan violated the contract and went ahead to train and provide equipment to rebels in Darfur fighting against the republic of Sudan’’ the diplomat claimed.
Originally published by : The Daily Monitor -Kampala.

Written by africawitness

May 3, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Xenophobia

Turkey Mediates to Solve Somalia Conflict

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By Hassan Isilow
PRETORIA – Turkey is mediating between Somalia’s government and the militant Al-Shabaab group to help bring an end to the years-long conflict in the Horn of Africa nation.

“Through the years, Turkey, the only Muslim member in NATO, and Somalia have maintained a pleasant relationship,” Abdihakim Aynte, an independent Somali researcher, said.

He said Ankara has notable advantages in mediating between the Somali rivals to end the bloody conflict.

Turkey has spearheaded efforts to provide aid to millions of Somalis ravaged by the years-long conflict in their country.

Last year, Ankara contributed $201 million to the humanitarian relief efforts to help Somalis affected by a severe drought in the Horn of Africa.

Many Somalis consider Turkey as their only “true Muslim friend”, citing a visit by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan during last year’s drought and the resulting famine.

Besides sharing the same Islamic values, Turkey is also viewed as a country that lacks local proxies or other incentives to meddle in the internal politics of Somalia.

Aynte opines that Turkey could succeed in mediating between the government and Al-Shabaab militants to help resolve the conflict.

Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davtutoglu has recently outlined Turkey’s interest in meditating between conflicting factions in Somalia.

“Despite our advantage and special relation with Somalis of all stripes, Turkey would play a role in mediating conflicting parties in Somalia.”

Somalia has sunk into abyss over the deadly fighting between government troops and militants of Al-Qaeda-inspired Al-Shabaab militants.
The conflict has escalated after neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia sent troops into Somalia to help hunt Al-Shabaab militants.

Nation Rebuilding

Analysts opine that Turkey’s mediation could possibly prove to be a catalyst for the rebuilding of Somalia, a country divided along clan lines.

Aynte said Turkey is rebuilding the social fabrics in Somalia by reconstructing roads, airports, hospitals for the people’s wellbeing and paving the way for political resettlement.

The analyst listed a number of projects championed by Turkey in the war-torn country.

Up to 1,000 students have been granted full scholarships in different fields in Turkey, he said.

Schools that teach the Turkish language have also opened up in Somalia in addition to providing aid to nearly 15,000 displaced Somalis by the Turkish Red Crescent.

Turkey has also reconstructed a major hospital and outpatient clinic which are serving nearly three million Somalis from Mogadishu and other remote areas.

Aynte said the net effect of Turkey’s contribution to the impoverished country of Somalia is mind-boggling.
Somalia has lacked an effective government since the ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
More than 14 attempts to restore a functional government have since failed.

Originally Published at:

Written by africawitness

May 3, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Posted in Xenophobia

Grisly Murders Shock Kenya Muslims

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By Hassan Isilow

NAIROBI – Kenyan Muslims are up in arms with their government following the sudden death of two Muslim activists, who had been arrested by people believed to be state security operatives.

“We are demanding that the Kenyan government immediately institutes an independent probe into the abductions and killing of Muslim activists,” Al-Amin Kimathi, chairperson of the Muslim Human Rights Forum said in a press release obtained by

According to Al-Amin, two Muslim activists were abducted by suspected police officers while traveling in a taxi in the port city of Mombasa.

“Samir Hashim Khan and Mohamed Kassim Bekhit, were bundled into two separate Toyota Probox station wagon cars which sped off after creating a loud commotion as a crowd gathered around the scene in broad daylight at 11 am,” he said.

Police denied arresting the pair when relatives and friends sought to ask about their fate.

But to the shock of the Muslim community, the two activists were later found dead.

Khan’s mutilated body was found in thickets off the Mombasa-Nairobi highway in Tsavo national park.

According to Al-Amin, Khan had recently had brushes with the anti-terrorism police unit (ATPU).

The Muslim activist had been arrested by the ATPU in 2010 and charged with illegal possession of dangerous weapons.

Al-Amin said Khan’s case was still pending in Mombasa when he was killed.

The remains of Bekhit, a blind man from Kibera in Nairobi, had also been found after his abduction, the Kenyan media reported last week.

Prior to his abduction in Mombasa, Bekhit had been kidnapped three weeks ago outside Nairobi’s Jamia Mosque by men who manhandled him into a waiting car and drove him around the city and questioned him for alleged motor vehicle theft.

The men believed to be state security operatives later dumped the activist in the outskirts of the city with warnings that they were “not through with him.”

What For?

The Muslim Human Rights Forum of Kenya (MHRF) has demanded an explanation from the commissioner of police and the commandant of the anti-terrorism police unit on the killing of the two Muslim activists.

Kenyan Muslims accuse the government of stifling their community and abducting their leaders.

In 2010, the Kenyan government arrested and renditioned 13 Kenyan Muslims to Uganda on allegations that they were involved in deadly attacks in Kampala.

Sheikh Abdullahi Salat, of the Supreme council of Kenya Muslims, ha said the Kenyan government erred in renditioning its citizens to another state.

Al-Amin himself was arrested in Uganda and kept in solitary confinement for 10 months when he tried to intervene to know the fate of renditioned Muslims.

There are nearly ten million Muslims in Kenya, which has a population of 36 million.
Muslims make up nearly 98 percent of the communities of the North Eastern Province.

Originally Published at:

Written by africawitness

May 3, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Posted in Xenophobia

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