Saturday, April 30, 2011

Uganda: Publication Names Museveni Among Worst Dictators

The Monitor (Kampala)

Tabu Butagira and Gerald Bareebe
27 October 2010

Kampala — Writing in the influential Foreign Policy magazine, Ghanian-born American Prof. George Ayitteh, listed 40 presidents, among them President Museveni, as the world's "worst of the worst dictators".
On Tuesday, the first day of nominations for presidential candidates, the article published in the June/August edition, became part of the 2011 election politics. Makindye East MP Michael Mabikke, current chair of the Inter-Party Cooperation and leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party, stirred the crowd at Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium by reading out this list.
The large crowd surged forward as Mr Mabikke reached Venezuela's Hugo Chavez at number 17, and then roared as he declared: "At number nineteen, number nineteen is President Museveni." The stage had been set for Forum for Democratic Change leader, Kizza Besigye.
Everyone's responsibility
Dr Besigye said: "Some people have been saying you have lost twice what makes you think you can defeat Museveni this time? Like honourable Mabikke told you, pushing a dictator from power is not a responsibility of one person." "It is a responsibility of all of us."
Kizza Besigye, leader of the FDC opposition party, on the campaign trail.
Presidential Press Secretary Tamale Mirundi yesterday criticised the lumping of Mr Museveni together with the likes of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Cameroon's Paul Biya and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame as well as Egypt's Hosni Mubarak.
In Uganda, he said, regularly conducted elections; a vibrant, free media and functional Parliament as well as an independent Judiciary are hallmarks of democratic governance for which Mr Museveni deserves praise. "Museveni is a property of a revolutionary party called NRM," Mr Tamale said. "As long as NRM needs him as the most able to handle the challenges at hand, they will pick him."

Prof. Ayitteh, named by the Foreign Policy magazine in 2008 as one of the Top 100 public intellectuals globally, said in his article that he ranked the presidents based on "ignoble qualities of perfidy, cultural betrayal, and economic devastation." "After leading a rebel insurgency that took over Uganda in 1986, Museveni declared: No African head of state should be in power for more than 10 years."
Still here
"But 24 years later, he is still here, winning one coconut election after another in which other political parties are technically legal but a political rally of more than a handful of people is not." But Mr Tamale said Prof. Ayitteh, president of the Free Africa Foundation in Washington, is no intellectual because he is not working for America's National Space Agency and has no medicine discovery to his name.

Relevant Links

Ugandan opposition leader is in Kenya for medical treatment

From David McKenzie, CNN
April 30, 2011 -- Updated 2217 GMT (0617 HKT)
Click to play
Uganda's Besigye arrested
  • Kizza Besigye is suffering from temporary blindness and serious bruising, his sister says
  • An assistant to Besigye says the opposition leader is in serious condition
  • Besigye was hit with pepper spray and was arrested on Thursday in Kampala
  • The Ugandan president says that Besigye attacked police with pepper spray first

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) -- Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye remained at a private hospital here on Saturday for treatment and observation following his arrest earlier this week, his sister said.
Besigye's sister, a medical doctor in Uganda, said her brother has suffered from temporary blindness and serious bruising since his arrest in Uganda on Thursday. She spoke to CNN by phone from Uganda's capital city of Kampala.
"He has had several tests," said Olive Kobusingye, "to test the toxicology of the substance that police sprayed in his eyes."
An assistant to Besigye said the opposition leader is in serious condition and that his doctors have deemed him "too weak" to talk to anyone. He will be kept in observation for at least another night, said the assistant in Nairobi.
CNN could not independently confirm the reports of Besigye's health.
Meanwhile, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was also in Nairobi on Saturday, addressing a popular private business forum.
He spoke just one day after hundreds of angry protesters faced off with security police in the streets of Kampala. At least four people were killed and 120 injured, according to the Ugandan minister of internal affairs.
Rioters were angry at the government and upset over Besigye's latest arrest.
Besigye has been arrested several times this month.
After his fourth arrest on Wednesday, he was released on bail and ordered by the court not to protest for seven months. Defying orders, Besigye hit the streets again Thursday, where men in civilian clothing smashed his car and sprayed him in the face with pepper spray before loading him into a police car.
"Apparently it was after that opposition leader who sprayed the police with that pepper spray first," said Museveni. "I think the lenses of CNN didn't see very well. It was that leader who did that first."
Journalists working for CNN on the scene and videos of the arrest report no attack on the police prior to Besigye's arrest.
Responding to opposition claims that several demonstrators have been killed by police using live ammunition, Museveni said that their deaths will be "investigated."
"This will not escalate. We will defeat them," he said about protesters. "My democracy is a democracy with discipline."
Besigye lost presidential bids in 2001, 2006 and 2011. Museveni has led the east African nation for 25 years.

درعا تحت النار.. والمعارضة تطلق أسبوع فك الحصار

الحكومة تعد بإصلاحات شاملة وتعتقل متظاهرات في دمشق ومعارضين بارزين > مقتل نجل إمام المسجد العمري
صورة وضعها ناشطون سوريون على الـ «يوتيوب» تظهر نساء يتظاهرن أمام البرلمان في دمشق احتجاجا على الأوضاع في درعا
دمشق ـ لندن: «الشرق الأوسط»
باتت مدينة درعا بجنوب سوريا تحت النار والحصار, بدخول مزيد من الدبابات والمدرعات اليها, فيما سُمع إطلاق نار كثيف في المدينة حينما حاولت قوات الأمن سحق التمرد ضد الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد. وفي وقت أعلن فيه شاهد من درعا في اتصال هاتفي مع «الشرق الأوسط» من لندن، أن أكثر من 100 مدني قتلوا في المدينة منذ يوم الاثنين الماضي, قال اثنان من سكان درعا: إن القوات السورية قصفت الحي القديم في المدينة أمس وداهمت المسجد العمري في درعا بجنوب سوريا. وأظهرت لقطات فيديو جديدة على شبكة الانترنت جنودا سوريين يطلقون النار في شوارع درعا، حسب «رويترز». وفي روايات مطابقة لشهود آخرين، تحدثت إليهم وكالتا «رويترز» والصحافة الفرنسية، قال شاهد لـ «الشرق الأوسط» الذي رفض الإفصاح عن اسمه خوفا من ملاحقة السلطات له، إن المدينة تعاني نقصا في المواد الغذائية والمياه وانقطاعا في التيار الكهربائي، مشيرا إلى أن الأهالي يعتاشون على المونة التي يخزنونها. وقال الشاهد إن قناصة ينتشرون على أسطح الأبنية الرسمية وعلى مآذن الجوامع التي احتلوها، وإنهم يطلقون النار على المارة.
وأضاف الشاهد أن قوات الأمن قتلت ابن إمام الجامع العمري الشيخ أحمد الصياصنة، بطلق ناري في رأسه بعد أن رفض الإفصاح عن مكان والده الذي كان يتحدث لوسائل الإعلام بشكل يومي منذ بدء الاحتجاجات في منتصف مارس (آذار) ولم يظهر منذ نحو أسبوع. وفي تطور لاحق، أعلن المرصد السوري لحقوق الإنسان، مساء أمس، أن آلافا خرجوا في مسيرة بمدينة بانياس، يهتفون بشعارات معادية للنظام. وشهد يوم أمس مظاهرة لنحو 50 امرأة بعد الظهر، قبالة مجلس الشعب في قلب دمشق تضامنا مع سكان درعا ودوما.وذكر نشطاء حقوقيون أن قوات سورية اعتقلت 11 منهن، كما اعتقلت حسن عبد العظيم وعمر قشاش من شخصيات المعارضة البارزة. إلى ذلك, قالت الوكالة العربية السورية للأنباء (سانا)، أمس: إن رئيس الوزراء السوري المعين حديثا عادل سفر صرح أمس بأن حكومته ستضع «خطة كاملة» لإصلاحات سياسية وقضائية واقتصادية. وأطلقت المعارضة السورية أمس «أسبوع فك الحصار». وترحم «شباب الثورة السورية 2011» في صفحته على «فيس بوك» على أرواح القتلى الذين سقطوا في «جمعة الغضب».

Saudi Arabia tightens media laws

AL Jazeera Middle East
Royal order threatens fines and closure of publications that jeopardise kingdom's stability or offends clerics.
Last Modified: 01 May 2011 04:27

Security has been strengthened in Saudi Arabia in an effort to crush possible protests [AFP]
Saudi Arabia has tightened its control of the media, threatening fines and closure of publications that jeopardised its stability or offended clerics, state media reported.

The tighter media controls were set out in amendments to the media law issued as a royal order.
They also banned stirring up sectarianism and "anything that causes harm to the general interest of the country".

"All those responsible for publication are banned from publishing ... anything contradicting Islamic Sharia Law; anything inciting disruption of state security or public order or anything serving foreign interests that contradict national interests," the state news agency SPA said.

Saudi Arabia, which is a major US ally, follows an austere version of Sunni Islam and does not tolerate any form of dissent. It has no elected parliament and no political parties.

It  has managed to stave off the unrest which has rocked the Arab world, toppling leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.
Facebook call unheeded

Almost no Saudis in major cities answered a Facebook call for protests on March 11, in the face of a massive security presence around the country.

Minority Shias have staged a number of street marches in the eastern province, where most of Saudi Arabia's oil fields are located.

Shias are said to represent between 10 and 15 per cent of the country's 18 million people and have long complained of discrimination, a charge the government denies.

Clerics played a major role in banning protests by issuing a religious edict which said that demonstrations are against Islamic law.

In turn, the royal order banned the "infringement of the reputation or dignity, the slander or the personal offence of the Grand Mufti or any of the country's senior clerics or statesmen".

King Abdullah has strengthened the security and religious police forces, which played a major role in banning protests in the kingdom.

According to the amendment published on Friday, punishments for breaking the media laws include a fine of half a million riyals ($133,000) and the shutting down of the publication that published the violation.
It also allows for banning the writer from contributing to any media.

Qaddafi survives NATO airstrike; youngest son, three grandsons killed English

The damage to the Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s house in the Area of Gargour, after a NATO air raid in Tripoli. (AFP photo)
The damage to the Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s house in the Area of Gargour, after a NATO air raid in Tripoli. (AFP photo)
Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi survived a NATO air strike on a Tripoli house that killed his youngest son and three grandchildren, a government spokesman said on Sunday, after rebels and NATO rejected an offer for talks to end the crisis.

The house of Seif al-Arab Qaddafi, 29, "was attacked tonight with full power," government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told a news conference announcing the deaths in the Saturday evening strikes.
Colonel Qaddafi and his wife were in the building that was bombed, but were not harmed, Mr. Ibrahim said, though others present were killed or wounded in what he said was "a direct operation to assassinate the leader of this country."

"The leader himself is in good health; he wasn't harmed. His wife is also in good health; she wasn't harmed, (but) other people were injured," he added.
Sayf al-Arab Qaddafi, Muammar Qaddafi’s youngest son, was killed in a NATO airstrike. (AFP photo)
Sayf al-Arab Qaddafi, Muammar Qaddafi’s youngest son, was killed in a NATO airstrike. (AFP photo)

Mr. Ibrahim later said intelligence on Qaddafi's whereabouts seemed to have been "leaked."

"They knew about him being there, or expected him for some reason," the spokesman said.

NATO denied it was not targeting Colonel Qaddafi or his family but said it had carried out an airstrike on a military post in Tripoli.

"NATO continued its precision strikes against regime military installations in Tripoli overnight, including striking a known command and control building in the Bab al-Aziziyah neighborhood shortly after 18:00 GMT Saturday evening," the alliance said in a statement.
NATO's commander of Libya operations, Canadian Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, said the target was part of a strategy to hit command centers that threaten civilians.

"All NATO's targets are military in nature ... We do not target individuals," he said in a statement.

Mr. Saif al-Arabis one of ColonelQaddafi's less prominent sons, with a limited role in the power structure. Ibrahim described him as a student who had studied in Germany.

The grandchildren killed were pre-teens, Mr. Ibrahim said.

The appearance of an assassination attempt against Gaddafi is likely to lead to accusations that the British- and French-led strikes are overstepping the UN mandate to protect civilians.

"I am aware of unconfirmed media reports that some of Mr. Qaddafi's family members may have been killed," said Mr. Bouchard. "We regret all loss of life."

Colonel Qaddafi had called for talks on a ceasefire, but NATO and the Libyan Transitional Opposition Council dismissed the call and insisted that Mr. Qaddafi cease attacks on civilians first.

Colonel Qaddafi said in his speech that NATO “must abandon all hope of the departure of Muammar Qaddafi. I have no official functions to give up: I will not leave my country and will fight to the death.”

The speech was billed as one marking the centenary of a battle against Italian occupation forces. Contemporary Italy is part of a NATO military campaign against Colonel Qaddafi’s forces.

“We are ready to talk with France and the United States, but with no preconditions,” Mr. Qaddafi said.

“We will not surrender, but I call on you to negotiate. If you want petrol, we will sign contracts with your companies—it is not worth going to war over,” Colonel Qaddafi said. “Between Libyans, we can solve our problems without being attacked, so pull back your fleets and your planes.”
The regime has announced ceasefires several times before and continued attacking cities and civilians ... Any ceasefire must be credible and verifiable,” a NATO official told Reuters.

Weeks of NATO air strikes have failed to dislodge the Libyan leader, but have instead created a stalemate on a war Colonel Qaddafi initially looked to have been winning. But the military situation is fluid now, with government forces held at bay in the east and around the besieged city of Misrata, while fighting rebels for control of the western mountains.

(Mustapha Ajbaili of Al Arabiya can be reached at:

Iranian armed forces chief: The Gulf is ‘Persian’ and ‘has belonged to Iran forever’ English

 Saturday, 30 April 2011

Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, denounced what he called an “Arab dictatorial front”. (File photo)
Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, denounced what he called an “Arab dictatorial front”. (File photo)
A top Iranian military officer on Saturday denounced what he called an “Arab dictatorial front” and claimed that the “Persian Gulf has belonged to Iran forever,” media reports said.

“The Arab dictatorial regimes in the Persian Gulf are unable to contain the popular uprisings,” Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, was widely quoted as saying by Iranian media on Saturday.

“Instead of trying and failing to open an unworkable front against Iran, these dictators should relinquish power, end their savage crimes and let the people determine their own future,” General Firouzabadi said.

He also denounced “plots” by the Gulf Arab monarchies to “carve out an identity for themselves by rejecting the identity of others,” referring to Iran.

“The Persian Gulf has always, is and shall always belong to Iran,” he said.

General Firouzabadi, speaking on the annual “National Day of the Persian Gulf,” also condemned the regional Arab monarchies for refusing to call the waterway between Iran and its Arab neighbors by its “historical name.”

“With the arrival of the British and later the Americans in the region, plots were hatched to try and change the name with fake identities... to distort the history and identity of the Persian Gulf,” General Firouzabadi said.

According to the Iranian military leader, world powers have, by hiding their “evil intentions,” managed to deceive Gulf States and encouraged them to purchase modern, expensive military equipment such as US-made warships.

“It is evident that such attempts are aimed at sowing discord and creating tension in regional Muslim states and perhaps to promote the Iranophobia scenario so as to make huge economic profits,” General Firouzabadi said, according to Iran’s English-language Press TV.

Relations between Iran and its Gulf Arab neighbors have deteriorated sharply, with the latter accusing Tehran of seeking to destabilize Arab regimes by promoting popular unrest that has erupted in many Arab countries.

Bahrain’s monarch declared martial law in March 2011, and invited about 1,500 Saudi-led troops from the Gulf to help contain an uprising that Sunni leaders around the Middle East believe could open the way for greater influence by Iran in Bahrain, where Shiites hold a demographic majority.

Shiite-dominant Iran has strongly criticized Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Bahrain aimed to help crack down on the Shiite-led revolt.

Iran says it gives “moral support” to Bahrainis but is not involved in the protests there.

Bahrain and Kuwait have in turn expelled Iranian diplomats, accusing them of espionage.

On Monday, the state-owned Bahrain News Agency reported that Hujatullah Rahmani, the second secretary at the Iranian Embassy in Manama, was declared a persona non grata and ordered out of Bahrain within 72 hours.

Iran has in the past claimed Bahrain as part of its territory, and it controls three islands in the southern Gulf that are also claimed by the United Arab Emirates.

Last week, Bahrain’s foreign minister said the Saudi-led force would stay indefinitely to counter perceived threats from Iran.

(Sara Ghasemilee of Al Arabiya can be reached at:

In new twist to continuing drama, Saleh refuses to sign Yemen presidency exit deal English

Despite Yemen's ruling party accepting the Gulf brokered plan, the defiant president Abdullah Saleh who has ruled the country for the past 32 years rejected it. (File Photo)
Despite Yemen's ruling party accepting the Gulf brokered plan, the defiant president Abdullah Saleh who has ruled the country for the past 32 years rejected it. (File Photo)
Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen offered a new twist to the continuing drama of his agreed-upon resignation from the Yemen presidency by suddenly thwarting a deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council under which he cede power within a month.

“The secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council told us that Saleh refused to sign in his role as president. He said he wanted to sign as head of the ruling party, and this is a violation of the text of the Gulf initiative,” a spokesman for the six-member GCC, Sultan al-Atwani, told Reuters late Saturday.

Al Arabiya TV reported that an official from the Yemeni ruling party, the General People’s Congress, said that the embattled Mr. Saleh was ready to sign the deal but as his party’s head. The GCC document—which President Saleh and opposition groups had agreed on earlier—clearly stipulates the Mr. Saleh was to relinquish Yemen’s presidency.
Moreover, he was to sign the document “as president of the republic,” as stipulated by the document, a GCC official, Mohammed Qahtan, told Agence French Press.

Shortly after Mr. Saleh’s refusal to sign the agreement, GCC Secretary General Abdullatif al-Zayani left Sana’a, where he had expected that President Saleh would formally apply his signature on his agreement with the GCC.

“This is an essential point in the plan which we will not back down on,” Mr. Zayani’s spokesman said before the former left Sana’a.

Mr. Zayani had come to the Yemeni capital in order to formally invite President Saleh and his opponents to sign the power transfer deal, state media said ahead of Monday’s scheduled signing ceremony in Riyadh.

His visit to Sana’a on Saturday came a day ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers of the GCC to finalize their plan for Yemen.

The GCC deal proposes the formation of a government of national unity, with Mr. Saleh transferring power to his vice president, General Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and an end to the deadly protests rocking the impoverished country since late January.

Under the accord, Mr. Saleh would submit his resignation to parliament within 30 days, to be followed two months later by a presidential election.

However, a defiant Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years, has publicly insisted on sticking to the constitution in any transfer of power, even though his ruling party has said it accepts the GCC plan.

Yemen’s mainstream opposition, which includes both Islamists and leftists, has also agreed to the deal, even as street protesters have rejected the agreement and demand President Saleh step down immediately and face prosecution.

Mr. Saleh, long considered a US ally against al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing, had already forced mediators to split the signing ceremonies over two days and has objected to the presence of Qatari officials.

Qatar’s prime minister was first to state publicly the Gulf deal would seek Mr. Saleh’s resignation, and its satellite TV channel Al Jazeera has been accused by Mr. Saleh of inciting revolt in the Arab world, now swept by pro-democracy demonstrations.

Veteran observers of the Gulf did not seem excessively concerned over the latest turn in Yemen’s melodrama.

Some suggested that this was Mr. Saleh’s last gasp at political theater, and that he was perhaps trying to secure more considerations and concessions from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, GCC members that had led the efforts to end protests in Yemen. Demonstrations calling for the veteran leader’s immediate ouster have cost more than 145 lives in the last three months.

The observers suggested that Mr. Saleh, a politically shrewd operator, was well aware that the Saudis and Emirates were worried that if chaos afflicted Yemen, it would embolden al-Qaeda operatives who have already lodged themselves in his country.

Observers also suggested that with Saudi Arabia and the UAE having played such a high-profile role, it was unlikely that they would allow Mr. Saleh—who is the beneficiary of great largesse from those oil-rich countries—to make them lose face at this critical point.

Earlier on Saturday, Mr. Saleh met with more than 400 members of the government, parliament and the (ruling) General People’s Congress party to discuss the GCC initiative, party spokesman Tareq al-Shami told Agence-France Presse.

The GCC deal proposed the formation of a government of national unity, Saleh transferring power to his vice president and an end to the deadly protests rocking the impoverished country since late January.

Under the accord, Mr. Saleh who has been in power for 32 years, would submit his resignation to parliament within 30 days, to be followed two months later by a presidential election.

While the Yemeni leader was due to sign the pact in Sana’a, his party’s vice president will travel to the Saudi capital Riyadh for Sunday’s official signing ceremony by the opposition, which has warned that further bloodshed could derail the deal.

Meanwhile, violence broke out in south Yemen ahead of the expected signing when gunmen killed two police officers and wounded two more in the port city of Aden, state media said. Witnesses said the gunmen had attacked a police station. Gunfire also erupted outside a nearby prison.

Shortly afterward, security forces moved in to break up an anti-government protest in the same neighborhood, killing two protesters and wounding 50 more, said Qassim Jamil, a physician.

Protesters fled the scene, and tanks and armored vehicles were patrolling the streets, the witnesses said. The wounded were being taken to nearby hotels for treatment because they could not reach hospitals, Dr. Jamil said.

Analysts say the government, which has been trying to contain separatists in the south and Shiite rebels in the north, fears secessionists may be trying to take advantage of Yemen’s leadership crisis to renew a push for separation.

Protesters say they will stay on the streets until President Saleh leaves. They also called for him to be put on trial for corruption and the deaths of the estimated 144 protesters killed since rallies began three months ago.

The GCC deal offers Saleh and his entourage, including relatives who run branches of the security forces, immunity from prosecution.

“The people want the trial of the murderer!” some anti-Saleh demonstrators shouted at a protest on Friday that ended in a funeral march for 12 protesters killed on Wednesday, thousands passing their wooden coffins from hand to hand to their graves.

Analysts say a 30-day window for Saleh to resign gives plenty of time for disgruntled forces from the old guard to stir trouble in Yemen, where half the population owns a gun and al-Qaeda has gained a foothold in its mountainous regions.
Many protesters, wary of the opposition due to its presence in government in past years, urged it to back out of the deal.

“They wouldn't lose anything because Saleh isn’t going to stick to the agreement. If he can't find a reason to overturn it he'll spark a war,” Sana’a protester Abdul Salam Mahmoud said.

(Dina Al-Shibeeb of Al Arabiya can be reached at:

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Serving to death in the Russian army

 Published: 30 April, 2011, 07:06
Edited: 30 April, 2011, 10:21

 Soldiers in the Russian army (RIA Novosti / Igor Zarembo)
Army life can be tough, but for Russian conscripts there is an added danger – systematic bullying and abuse from within their own ranks. During the first two months of 2011, the Russian army reported more than 500 violent crimes.
The violent humiliation becomes tragically too much for some to bear. As a result of those crimes, more than 20 soldiers were seriously injured and two others died.
According to Russia’s military prosecutor, Sergey Fridinsky, the number of violent crimes in the Russian army increased by more than 16% in 2010. And every fourth offense today is an unlawful act against a fellow officer.
It is also called hazing, and Valentina Starovoytova, the head of the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, is all too familiar with its consequences.
“Reports about soldiers suffering physically and morally are coming in every day,” said Starovoytova.
She runs the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, an organization partly funded by the government. On a day-to day basis, her job is to protect soldiers from the harsh realities of service.
“There is protection rackets, when a boy has to pay another soldier, say, 2000 rubles a month to be able to serve normally, to be freed from bullying,” said Starovoytova.
Unfortunately, as we met, one more case was added to her workload.
Phillipe died at the age of 20, in suspicious circumstances.  The military claims it was a traffic accident, but his family wants to know why 40 minutes passed before medical attention was sought.
His loved ones now join the list of other bereaved families awaiting answers.
Over a year ago Starovoytova’s attention was turned to Dmitry, who had died just a week into his service.
It is a loss his mother still finds hard to bear.
Lyubov Shcherbakova comes to lay flowers on her son’s grave. Soldier Sergey Shcherbakov died serving in the army.
“Hello my dear little son,” his mother weaps. “I am miserable without you. There is no life without you. I didn’t save you. I didn’t save you from that army. Forgive me.”
The official explanation was pneumonia, but pictures of his body appear to tell a different story.
“My son’s body was covered with bruises all over. And the bruises were skillfully cut out of their skin. It was so cynical,” she said.
Still unresolved, but Sergey’s is a rare case. More common are those who receive beatings that leave them hospitalized with lasting injuries, such as  Dmitry Zhulavsky.
Six months into his service, Zhulavsky was left in a coma for three months following a run-in with a senior squad member.
“I can’t remember what happened. When I woke up, I had a severe head injury. Next there followed a long and tedious rehabilitation process which is not yet over,” said Zhulavsky.
The rise of such crimes has led some to find new ways to raise awareness.
The Mothers' Rights Fund is one such group. They have created a webpage where families can post personalized accounts of what happened to soldiers. To date they have received over 4,300 requests from bereaved family members wanting their story told.
The abuse has been acknowledged by the Ministry of Defense.
“The two major reasons behind the phenomenon of hazing and bullying in the Russian army are the following: firstly an increase in the number of draftees, and second, mistakes by individual commanders,” the Ministry of Defense said in explaining the rise in cases.
Last year the Ministry of Defense initiated 2,000 military hearings. It is a response many will feel is left wanting. Nonetheless hazing is no longer an issue Russia can ignore.
The army is looking to modernize, turning away from mass conscription toward a professionalized force. To do this they will rely on new recruits – meaning in the future the health of individual soldiers may be central to that of the nation’s armed forces.

Chinese workers trapped in land of broken promises


Most of the nearly 11,000 Chinese laborers in Israel work in construction (image from

Israel's rising need for labor has made it a target for foreign workers from as far as China. But for hundreds of people, their new life is not living up to its pledge, with many ending up as illegal immigrants who are kept on the breadline.
­In China, Mr. Li was a big shot who owned a textile business that brought in thousands of dollars a year.
But he gave it up on the advice of a friend and forked out a small fortune to travel to Israel hoping that the Promised Land would fill his pockets.
"It was not worth it for me because four years on I have only managed to save US$12,000,” says Li, now a common construction worker. “I would have made more than that in china in those years."
For many years Israel welcomed Chinese laborers with open arms.
They and other foreign workers provided a much needed work force, replacing Palestinians who were finding it more and more difficult to work in Israel amid a deteriorating security situation.
Today, most of the nearly 11,000 Chinese laborers in Israel work in construction.
Many are illegal and were lured there by the big promises of fly-by-night employment agencies.
The employment agencies allegedly keep at least 70 per cent of the fee they charge for visa processing for foreign workers.
The Israeli government says it can do nothing to stop these companies purposely set up to defraud unsuspecting foreign workers.
Mr. Zu paid $31,000 for a five-year work visa, but it turned out to be a fake. After a year he found himself illegal in the country. He now works 14-hour shifts as a construction worker, pockets less than half the Israeli average salary, and is always afraid of being picked up by the authorities.
“In this caravan we do not even have air conditioning,” says Zu. ”We cannot sleep and in some of these small rooms there are four of us in there. The conditions are bad."
Many of the employment agencies have since closed down. But the money people borrowed to pay their fees has made returning home to China not an option.
“I’ve heard it many times from people who told me “if I go back now, I can’t go back home,” says Nilly Gorin, specialist of the migrant workers’ helpline. “Because they lose their house, they lose their parents’ house. They owe money to so many people they just can't show their faces. And I know of people who went back to china and didn't return to their home town."
Mai also got caught. She had only just stepped off the plane when she was fired for not speaking English or Hebrew. She is not only worried about the money she owes back home, she also fears for the future of her son who was born in Israel and knows no other life.
"He doesn't like speaking Chinese. Although he understands Chinese, he speaks Hebrew,” she says. “All his friends are here and if he has to be deported he won't see them."
In recent years the Israeli government has been trying to stop the flow of foreign workers.
It wants them, and it does not want them, leaving many caught in the cracks.

The latest from Damascus

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Cabinet reshuffle and 2012 political equation


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FILE | NATION Eldoret North MP William Ruto leaves the Nairobi law courts after he was acquitted of fraud charges on April 12. Speculation is rife that the suspended minister is headed back to Cabinet.
FILE | NATION Eldoret North MP William Ruto leaves the Nairobi law courts after he was acquitted of fraud charges on April 12. Speculation is rife that the suspended minister is headed back to Cabinet.

Posted  Friday, April 29 2011 at 22:00
In Summary
  • Prime minister is expected to drop foes for his loyalists

The impending Cabinet reshuffle following the acquittal of Eldoret North MP William Ruto from a fraud case is set to change the political scene ahead of next year’s General Election.
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A number of political analysts with which the Saturday Nation spoke, said Prime Minister Raila Odinga might use the opportunity to edge out not only Mr Ruto, who has been a thorn in his flesh, but other rebels such as Tourism minister Najib Balala and Agriculture minister Sally Kosgei.
They said Dr Kosgei’s situation might be compounded by the current seed shortage and the high food prices seen against her earlier statement that a ministerial flag was just a piece of cloth to help her evade traffic jams.
Another MP who is likely to face the axe, according to sources in the know, but who requested not to be named for revealing government secrets is Livestock assistant minister Aden Duale, who is the most vocal critic of the PM outside the Kalenjin Rift Valley.
“Raila and Ruto’s political divorce is a forgone political conclusion. It does not make any political sense for the former to try and appease him,” said University of Nairobi Political Science lecturer Adams Oloo.
He said Mr Odinga was instead likely to reward those who have stuck with him despite immense political pressure from their backyards.
He said a reinstatement of Mr Ruto will send the wrong signal to the PM’s remaining allies who have been waiting in the wings expecting to benefit from an arising vacancy.
“I have in mind such people as assistant ministers Magerer Lang’at and Margaret Kamar, as well as Nominated MP Musa Sirma. Stemming further exodus from his camp is important for psychological purposes,” said the political analyst.
Some insiders also say that the reshuffle is expected to benefit Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba who has lately been close to the PM.
However, details were vague as to who the young lawyer could replace given that there is no minister in his Western backyard who has serious loyalty or efficiency problems.
No far reaching effect
But Prof Macharia Munene of United States International University was of the opinion that much should not be read into the reshuffle, as it was unlikely to be far reaching.
He said President Kibaki was likely to just go ahead and reinstate Mr Ruto given the current camaraderie between them.
“While the National Accord requires the two principals to consult in any Cabinet appointment, it is not explicit on the reinstatement of suspended ministers,” said Prof Munene.
He predicted that Mr Ruto will most likely come back without much fuss like in the case of Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi after he was absolved of wrongdoing in the Triton oil scandal.
On the much touted downsizing of Cabinet, he said he could not see it coming as it would mean loss of jobs for strategic allies at a time when the general election is around the corner.
There has been a clamour for a trimmed Cabinet in the wake of the current high food and fuel prices with assistant ministers Kabando wa Kabando and Nderitu Muriithi suggesting 24 ministers down from the current 42.
“What is easier is to leave the vacant posts unfilled and instead restructure the ministries to fit the current number of ministers,” said Prof Munene.
Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua had earlier said a suspended minister’s presumption of duty was automatic once they are cleared of corruption charges.
Outspoken Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny, said immediately after Mr Ruto was acquitted, Head of Public Service Ambassador Francis Muthaura called and told him to resume duty.

Anti-capitalist protesters gather in Brighton

  BBC News Sussex

Protesters in Brighton An anti-war protest in the city in 2010 led to a series of clashes between police and protesters
Demonstrators have turned out in Brighton for a pre-May Day "street party and protest".
Under the banner Brighton Mayday collective, about 150 people have gathered in Ship Street, Sussex Police said. One person has been arrested.
Before the event, officers had called on the organisers to come forward and speak to them.
A similar May Day protest in the city two years ago led to a series of clashes between police and protesters.
Sussex Police said one person had been arrested in connection with "serious disorder" during a demonstration in central London last month.
'Resist oppression' The protesters announced the location at 1130 BST of the start of the protest on social networking sites.
They first gathered near the West Pier on the seafront and made their way through Middle Street towards Ship Street.
In a press release, the organisers said the event brought together local groups including Brighton Anarchist Black Cross, Smash EDO, Squatter Networks of Brighton and Brighton Hunt Saboteurs.
It said May Day was a time to "stand up for workers' rights and resist oppression".
Sussex Police said the force could not advise which areas of the city to avoid but it did anticipate disruption.
On Thursday, Ch Supt Graham Bartlett said without contact with the protesters, policing the event would be harder.

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Sudan: Tempers Flare As SPLM Opposition Discuss Draft Constitution

Sudan Tribune (Paris)

28 April 2011

Juba — A meeting, convened on Thursday by the southern leadership to address the outcries expressed by opposition parties on the country's draft constitution, ended without consensus after its president, Salva Kiir reportedly dared discontented opposition members to leave.
"You opposition parties are known for boycotting such meeting. The other time, you walked out of the technical committee and it still went ahead with its work. Again you are bringing the same issue. Whoever is not comfortable is free to leave this meeting," an emotionally-charged Kiir reportedly told the meeting.
The opposition, sources told Sudan Tribune, were mainly opposed to the draft constitution's demands that a presidential election in South Sudan be held after four years from the time the country's independence is declared in July.
Previously, members of the opposition threatened to boycott the meeting on Thursday, which was called by Kiir, less than a week after the draft of the country's constitution was handed over to him by the technical committee that reviewed it.

A 'main street' in Juba, Southern Sudan, displaying a lack of development.
Onyoti Nyikwech, leader of the opposition, said the boycott was justified given that most of the parties were "deliberately" left out of the review process after their walk out in protest over the south ruling party's alleged violation of rules of procedure.
Nyikwech, also a member of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement - Democratic Change, a breakaway faction of the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) described the draft constitution as a "one party document compiled to cater for the interests of SPLM members."
The technical committee, which was comprised of members of the SPLM, representatives from other political parties, civil society groups and the religious fraternity was initiated to transform the current interim law, into an independent state constitution, address gaps within the legal framework and provide a road map that will guide the new nation.
Reacting at the release of the draft constitution, John Luk Jok, the committee chairperson remarked, "We shall embark on a broad-based constitutional review process after the July independence declaration. This process will involve the active participation of all stakeholders including other political parties."
His remarks come almost a month after the review process suffered a serious setback, following a boycott from nine members of the 11 political parties on the technical committee. Those who withdrew accused the SPLM member violating the procedures that had been established for the review. The SPLM has 41 members on the committee.

However, the chairperson of the committee rubbished these claims as "baseless and lacking ground". He accused the members who boycotted the committee of interfering in the constitutional review process.
"Rules of procedures were not changed at all during the process of reviewing the interim constitution. As members, we were all required to vote and come to consensus. What members of these political parties were alleging was not true," he added.
South Sudan is due to become independent after the population overwhelming chose separation in the region's self-determination referendum held in January. The vote was a key part of the Sudan's 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended over two decades of a bloody civil war between north and south.

Magazine Editors Held Over Museveni Cartoon

The Monitor (Kampala)


Andrew Bagala
12 January 2011

Kampala — The owner and the editor of Summit Business Review magazine have been arrested and detained by the police over the publication of a cartoon of President Museveni holding a knife.
Dr Samuel Ssejaaka, the magazine director, and the editor, Mr Mustapha Mugisha, were detained at the Central Police Station in Kampala for allegedly publishing a caricature of the President that embarrasses him on the magazine's cover page in October, 2010 issue and on billboards.

City Advocate James Nangwala, who is representing the duo, said yesterday the police are holding his clients without any charge or telling them the offences as required by law. "The detectives have refused to tell us on what charges they are holding my clients. But one document I have seen gives orders to the police to arrest and detain my clients," Mr Nangwala said at CPS.
A picture of the cover of the confiscated magazine
Dr Ssejaaka is a deputy principal at Makerere University Business School. The said cartoon allegedly depicts President Museveni holding a knife as he blows out a candle standing on a cake with words "48th Independence". Mr Nangwala said Dr Ssejaaka has declined to record a statement with the police in absence of his lawyers which seemed to have annoyed the officers. "This is a limited company. So you can't arrest the owner on such a case. In fact, the case doesn't warrant such action," he said. The suspects were released on police bond last evening but were told to report back today.
When Daily Monitor contacted Kampala Metropolitan spokesman Ibin Ssenkumbi to establish the offence on which they are holding the suspects, he said: "I can't tell now because the detectives are still talking to the suspects."

Ugandan Attorney Throws Out Museveni Cartoon Case

Detectives handling the case moved back and forth between the Metropolitan Criminal Investigations Directorate and the Resident State Attorney offices to consult on the offences that should be preferred against the two suspects.
No more standing
Security agents also pulled down all the billboards which have the said cartoon. Detectives have also been looking for more than five people whom they claim worked on the design and hanging of the billboards.
It has become common for police to summon journalists, their managers and opposition politicians whenever they write critical stories about President Museveni. Several Monitor journalists are battling the State in courts of law over stories about President Museveni.