December 26, 2013
By Charlton Doki and Jason Straziuso
Less than three years after its creation, the world’s newest country is beginning to fracture along ethnic lines in violence that has killed hundreds of people. What could come next, some warn, is ethnic cleansing.
South Sudan’s numerous ethnic groups have battled each other for decades, but for years their animosity was united in hatred of the government in Khartoum, Sudan, the country’s former capital. When the south gained independence in 2011, the groups’ common enemy receded, exposing the fault lines — this week, even among the presidential guard.
On Thursday, armed youths breached a U.N. compound in Jonglei state, causing an unknown number of casualties.
Emergency evacuation flights took away American and British citizens, aid workers and United Nations personnel to escape the violence.
South Sudan’s government declared that its security forces “are in absolute control of the situation,” but admitted later on Thursday December 19, that the central government had lost control of Bor, the capital of the country’s largest and most populous state, where barrages of gunfire were reported.
“The situation in South Sudan can be best described as tense and fragile. If it is not contained, it could lead to ethnic cleansing,” said Choul Laam, a top official with the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, who spoke in Nairobi, Kenya.
Violence broke out late December 15 when the presidential guard splintered along ethnic lines. Guards from the president’s majority Dinka tribe tried to disarm guards from the Nuer ethnic group, said Laam. Violence in the capital, Juba, spiraled from there, and then extended out into the country.
“The awful accounts of killings in Juba may only be the tip of the iceberg,” said Daniel Bekele of Human Rights Watch. “Government officials — whatever their politics — need to take urgent steps to prevent further abuses against civilians and quickly deescalate rising ethnic tensions.”
President Salva Kiir earlier said an attempted coup had triggered the violence, and the blame was placed on ousted Vice President Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer.
Machar disputed Kiir’s allegations that he had attempted a coup, but said he wants Kiir out of power.
“We want him to leave. We want him to leave. That’s it,” Machar told Radio France Internationale. “He can’t unite the people and he kills them like flies.”
Machar, an influential politician who is a hero of the brutal war of independence against Sudan, is Kiir’s rival for top leadership of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement party. Tensions had been mounting since Kiir fired Machar as his deputy in July. Machar later said he would contest the presidency in 2015.
Regardless of the cause, the South Sudan government said the violence has already killedup to 500 people.
Armed youths breached a U.N. compound in the tiny village of Akobo, in Jonglei state, to reach civilians seeking shelter there, said U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq in New York.
“We fear there may have been some fatalities but can’t confirm who and how many at this stage,” Haq said.
At the time, 43 Indian peacekeepers, six U.N. police advisers and two U.N. civilian employees were present at the base, as were about 30 South Sudanese who had sought shelter, according to the U.N. mission in South Sudan. The mission said it would dispatch aircraft early last Friday to evacuate U.N. personnel who remain at the base.
South Sudan’s capital was mostly peaceful Thursday, and the government tried to assure the U.N. and foreign embassies “that civil tranquility has been fully restored.”
Countries such as the U.S., Britain, Italy and Germany continued to evacuate residents. A plane with a mechanical malfunction blocked the runway during the day, jamming up inbound and outbound flights.
The U.S. evacuation plane — the fourth group of Americans flown out in two days — was eventually able to take off heading for Kenya. “Runway clear. Wheels up,” the embassy said on Twitter. Two military flights and a charter took off on Wednesday. Britain’s evacuation plane landed in Uganda late Thursday.
The government said it lost control of Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, to forces loyal to Machar. Gunfire was reported early and late in the day, and the U.N. used four helicopters to transport 75 people —a mix of aid workers and U.N. staff — to Juba, said Challiss McDonough, a spokeswoman for the U.N.’s World Food Program.
“We lost control of Bor to the rebellion,” said Philip Aguer, the South Sudanese military spokesman.
Aguer said renegade officers wrested control of the town from loyalist forces. At least 19 civilians had been killed in Bor, said Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general’s office, citing figures from the South Sudan Red Cross.
In oil-rich Unity state, fighting broke out in oil fields on Wednesday and Thursday, said Mabek Lang De Mading, the state’s deputy governor. He said five people died Wednesday and 11 on Thursday.
Foreign ministers from neighboring countries Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Djibouti traveled to South Sudan to try and diffuse the crisis.
Human Rights Watch said last Thursday that South Sudanese soldiers fired indiscriminately in highly populated areas of Juba earlier in the week and targeted people for their ethnicity.
Citing witnesses and victims, the group reported that “soldiers specifically targeted people from the Nuer ethnic group.” In some cases, the group added, the Dinka may have been targeted by Nuer soldiers.
An estimated 20,000 people have sought refuge at two U.N. compounds in Juba and another 14,000 in Bor. U.N. officials warned of a humanitarian crisis.
Deputy secretary-general Jan Eliasson said in New York that the U.N. will do its best to protect those who have sought refuge. “Clearly, civilians are in danger,” said Eliasson.
Associated Press reporters Tom Odula in Nairobi, Kenya; Rodney Muhumuza in Kampala, Uganda; Cassandra Vinograd in London; Cara Anna and Edith M. Lederer in New York and Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report. Straziuso reported from Nairobi.
December 26, 2013
By Tony Best
Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News
As immigration reform efforts remain stymied by Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the rush by the foreign-born from the Caribbean and elsewhere to gain legal residence and ultimately citizenship has gathered steam.
Caribbean immigrants, led by people from the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Haiti, and Jamaica in that order account for a sizeable share, 15 per cent to be precise of the 757,434 residents from almost every United Nations member-state who changed their status surpassed the 100,000 mark, according to figures compiled by the Department of Homeland Security for the year 2012. By taking that momentous step, the West Indians and others earned the right to hold any job or elected position, except the presidency of the U.S.; to vote in federal, state and local government elections; don’t have to worry about a knock of the door in the dead of night; no longer be afraid of immigration authorities turning up on job with a pair of handcuffs; or be worried about being deported, except in extreme cases.
The Dominican Republic, which ironically took away its citizenship from as many as 200,000 Haitians who were born in the Spanish-speaking nation and lived there for all of their lives, saw 33, 351 of its own people became naturalized Americans last year. Between 2010 and last year, almost 70,000 Dominicans took on U.S. citizenship. At the same time, 23,490 Haitians whose birthplace shares the island of Hispaniola with Dominicans became American in 2012, joining more than 26,100 who took that decisive step in 2010-2011.
Jamaicans too changed their status from green card holders to citizens in droves. Last year, 15,531 immigrants from the English-speaking country became Americans, at least 1,000 more than in 2011 and 2,500 above the figure in 2010. Between 2010-2012, some 42,000 Jamaicans took the citizenship pledge, stated the Department of Homeland Security.
Sandwiched between the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica was Cuba. More than 31,000 Cubans stepped forward, raised their right hand and swore allegiance to the United States last year, bringing the total number of Cubans to 66,000 in the three year period.
Although the Department of Homeland Security didn’t provide specific figures for Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Suriname, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent & the Grenadines, officials in Washington said that the combined total of naturalizations from those island-nations and coastal states amounted to at least 20,000.
The Caribbean immigration picture looked somewhat like this:
Last year more than 109,000 immigrants from the region received their naturalization papers from Washington; up from 79,820 the year before and 62,483 in 2010.
Between 2010 and 2012, the largest increase in naturalizations from North America and the Caribbean occurred among persons born in the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
Of the 10 leading countries for naturalizations, four were from the Caribbean in 2012 – the DR. Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica.
On average, Caribbean immigrants spent about seven years as legal permanent residents before becoming naturalized, compared with six years for immigrants from South America.
In 2003, Jamaican permanent resident immigrants in the United States totaled 13, 347 or two per cent of the 703,542 foreign born residents enjoying that status. By 2012, the amounted to 20,705, also 2 per cent of the global total which rose from 703,542 to more than 1 million.
Haiti has surpassed Jamaica as a major Caribbean source of immigrants in the U.S. A decade ago, Haitian permanent residents totaled 12,293 but by last year, the figure had skyrocketed to 22,818 out of more than one million.
December 26, 2013
By RAY FAURE
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, has denied that his family is engaged in a “succession or dynasty” battle amid media reports of a family feud. She also said the anti-apartheid fighter’s eldest daughter is now the head of the family.
The Johannesburg tabloid The Times reported earlier this week that Mandela’s grandson Mandla had found himself locked out of the Mandela homestead in the Eastern Cape hamlet of Qunu where Mandela was buried on Sunday.
According to the report, Mandela’s eldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, had ordered the locks changed after she arrived while Mandla was keeping vigil next to his grandfather’s coffin as the body lay in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria for three days. Mandla also reportedly found his home on the Mandela estate without electricity and water on the day of his grandfather’s burial.
He declined to comment on the matter. His spokesman, Freddy Pilusa, told The Associated Press: “He (Mandla) doesn’t want to confirm nor deny the report. He wants to focus on promoting and upholding the legacy of his grandfather going forward.”
Madikizela-Mandela, in a statement issued on her behalf by her spokesman, Thato Mmereki, lashed out at what she called “mischievous innuendos and newsroom slugs designed to disgrace the family” through “apartheid-style” tactics.
She said she is disappointed with the media’s “interference in closed matters of the Mandela family.”
“These reports have done nothing but use half-truths to cast a shadow on the Mandela family during their time of bereavement,” she asserted.
Madikizela-Mandela noted that three daughters survive Nelson Mandela: Makaziwe Mandela, Zenani Dlamini-Mandela and Zindziswa Mandela.
“In accordance with customary law and tradition the eldest daughter, being Ms. Makaziwe Mandela, will head the family and will make decisions with the support of her two sisters. To this end there is no misunderstanding, or debate. Mr. Mandla Mandela is respected as one of Nelson Mandela’s grandchildren, the next generation of the Mandela family,” she said.
December 26, 2013
By George E. Curry
Most of the leaders and dignitaries who converged on this capital city earlier this month from around the world to attend the official memorial service for former president Nelson Mandela have departed, but grateful South Africans continue to fill the streets by the thousands to honor their beloved icon.
Thousands continued to file briskly past his outstretched, encased casket as his body lay in state here for the last day on Friday December 13 at the Union Buildings, just steps away from the seat of power.
“I need this opportunity to see him,” said Mapula Pilusa as she stood in a line that slowly inched its way toward Mandela. The line snaked for miles, curving off of Steve Biko Street onto Stanza Bopape and curving again on Hamilton Street, past McDonald’s and the Pretoria Hotel on one side of the street and Nana’s Hair Café on the other.
“As you can see, the queues are long, but I am happy for that,” Pilusa said, referring to the lines leading to the Union Buildings from different directions in the city. “I’m glad I am getting at least one opportunity to see him.”
At 23 years old, Pilusa did not live under pre-1994 rigid racial segregation known as apartheid, a system that required Blacks to carry passbooks at all times.
“I am young and I don’t know that much about apartheid,” she said. “I am learning more and more about it and know you can now do anything you want to do.”
What many have wanted to do was leave flowers, posters and other mementoes in front of the Mandela residence as dignitaries filed in and out of the stately house to comfort Graca Machel, his grieving widow. Visitors from near and far gathered out front during all hours to reflect, to take photos or simply to mourn.
Vendors have remained nearby, hawking flags, T-shirts and buttons bearing images of the Nobel Prize winner who became one of the world’s most venerated figures. He is alternately referred to as Nelson Mandela, Tata (father) or Madiba, the clan name he preferred.
It was more important what he did than what he was called, judging from the reaction of South Africans. As thousands lined up to view the body, Pretoria became a city of honking horns and dancing. Without prompting, people would break out into tribal chants, shout “Mandela, Mandela” or perform a dance called the toyi-toyi.
On December 13, there were constant squeals of sirens piercing the air, helicopters circling the city, often indicators of official Pretoria traveling from one point to another point.
Kefilwe Molefi said the mood stood in sharp contrast to when she first learned that Mandela died a week earlier at the age of 95.
“He died [December 5] . I heard the news on [the next day] at 6:30 a.m.,” she recalled. “I told my flat mate, ‘I think I heard something about Mandela passing.’ She said, ‘What?’ I brought my phone into the room, put it on a speaker and we listened. I couldn’t believe it. I was almost late to work. It was sadness. It was not like it is now, when they have accepted it, digested it, and are now celebrating it. It was just sad and less smiles. The man was old and they knew at some point he would die. But it still came as a shock.”
When she was interviewed, Molefi was standing in front of a huge picture of a smiling Mandela that rested on a makeshift stand nestled on Steve Biko Street between two fast food restaurants, Wimpy and a KFC that remains open around the clock. Like other impromptu memorials, the area became an instant shrine, where hundreds came to take snapshots next to a larger-than-life photo of Mandela.
Mothusi Gill ended up at the site, though not by choice.
“[On December 12], I had some business to do in the morning. I was free after 12 in the afternoon, so I went at 1 o’clock and waited until half past three, when they told us it wasn’t possible. I came back the next morning. At half past six, I was there. But I was turned back just as I was about to go into the Union Buildings.”
For the three days Mandela lay in state, thousands lined Kgosi Mampuru and Madiba streets as his flag-draped coffin was taken to and from 1 Military Hospital. Instead of risking not getting a chance to view the body on Friday, Gill found the popular alternative site on Steve Biko Street.
Dressed in a white, v-neck Nike T-shirt, dark slacks and green and white head scarf, Gill also handed his cell phone to others to photograph him standing next to the large photo of Mandela.
“For me, he’s the greatest man that has ever lived in my lifetime,” Gill said, referring to Mandela. “I don’t think there will be anyone else like him in my lifetime.”
On December 14, Mandela’s body was flown to Qunu in the Eastern Cape, where he was buried Sunday December 15 in a family graveyard.
Public celebrations continued following his funeral, beginning Monday morning with the unveiling of the tallest statue of Mandela in the world, an event that was scheduled prior to his death. At eight meters (24 feet), it’s two meters (6 feet) larger than the 6-meter statue of him at Sandton Square in Johannesburg [a meter equals three feet].
Other major statues of Mandela include the ones erected at The Hague in Holland (3.5m); the Drakenstein Correctional Facility at Paarl and the South African Embassy in Washington (each 3m); Parliament Square in London (2.7m); and the Waterfont in Capetown (2.15m).
The bronze statue of Mandela displayed in Pretoria, officially observed as Reconciliation Day, weighs 4.5 tons.
Last week, Lydia Ramulwela was already thinking about life after Mandela.
“Because we’ve learned so much from him, I don’t think it will change if we can follow his principles,” she said. “We’ve learned a lot from him. He opened our minds and we thank God. He taught us about forgiveness. We compare him to Jesus.”
Barring the imminent return of Jesus, however, Ramulwela says she already has a preference for South Africa’s next president.
“We really like Obama,” she said, excitedly. “If Obama can come here after he finishes in the U.S., we’ll be fine. Nobody will be like Mandela. But maybe Obama can come and rule South Africa. We like him so much.”
December 26, 2013
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News
A radiant French teenager whose mother hails from Benin was crowned Miss France on live TV, thrilling those who acknowledge the diverse population of the European nation.
Flora Coquerel, who is from Orléans, France, was voted Miss France 2014 by a combination of votes from the TV audience, estimated at 8.2 million viewers, and a celebrity jury.
Within minutes of the crowning, social media outlets were inundated with comments, many of which were racist. A portion of the comments were horrifying: “I’m not a racist, but shouldn’t the Miss France contest only be open to white girls?” and “Death to foreigners.”
Last month, the pageant’s former lifetime president, movie star Alain Delon, resigned after it was revealed he supported the National Front, France’s far-right, anti-immigration party.