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Democracy for Africa

Quote of the Week By Lord Aikins Adusei

"The Electoral Commission in Ghana has come to symbolise fair play, transparency, accountability, honesty, justice, independence, integrity, selflessness, openness, objectivity and strong leadership and is idolised by many institutions in Ghana, Africa and the World".

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Egyptians mass in Tahrir to honour uprising

Hundreds of thousands of people have gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to commemorate the first anniversary of the Egyptian revolution that toppled their long-time ruler, Hosni Mubarak.
It is a year since Egyptians, inspired by an uprising in Tunisia, took to the streets to call for reform and to demand the resignation of Mubarak, Egypt's president for 30 years.
"Down with military rule" and "Revolution until victory, revolution in all of Egypt's streets" were chanted by one group of mainly youths in an area of Tahrir on Wednesday.
Sherine Tadros, reporting from Tahrir Square, said: "For a section of people demonstrating here, it's really just about military hijacking the revolution, and about Islamist parties and movements now making the gains instead of those who actually initiated the revolution."
"But others say it is a rocky transition but it is still a transition pointing out to the fact that Egypt had first free and fair elections in decades and people’s assembly which reflects will of the people."
Meanwhile, about 3,000 people, who were pardoned by the military rulers coinciding with the anniversary, have walked out of Tora prison located on the outskirts of Cairo.
In an apparent attempt to appease reformist demands, the military council has in recent days pardoned people convicted in military courts since Mubarak was toppled.
The military, which was handed power as the president stepped down on February 11, has planned mass celebrations with a naval parade in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, air shows in Cairo and fireworks displays around the country.
The ruling military council is also issuing commemorative coins for the occasion and is expected to honour public servants.
It has called on Egyptians to "preserve the spirit of January 25, which united the Egyptian people, men and women, young and old, Muslims and Christians".
Al Jazeera's Tadros said: "What we have right now is their [military] promise. And this was something reiterated by Field Marshal Tantawi on Tuesday."
"Apart from saying that the scope of emergency law would be narrowed, he also said and promised, come July when there is new president in power the military will go back to barracks.
"But the big question is what will be their legacy? What kind of role they want to carve out for themselves? What kind of backroom deal they could have made with the largest force in the parliament [Muslim Brotherhood] so is to guarantee their immunity."
'Objectives of the revolution'
Activists say the revolution has been hijacked by Hussein Tantawi, for two decades Mubarak's defence minister, who now heads the military council.
Wael Khalil, Egyptian blogger and activist, told Al Jazeera: "Definitely, the revolution has not achieved its goal and that’s why the main slogan now on the street is, people going back to Tahrir Square, because the revolution continues until it realises its goal."
"Everything that has been achieved in the past one year was a result of people’s protests and demands.
"The trial of Mubarak, free elections, participation of people in the elections and other demands were not achieved by power from above, not by SCAF, but people pressuring from below."
Prominent novelist and pro-democracy activist Alaa al-Aswani wrote in the independent daily al-Masry al-Youm: "We must take to the streets on Wednesday, not to celebrate a revolution which has not achieved its goals, but to demonstrate peacefully our determination to achieve the objectives of the revolution."
These goals remain to "live in dignity, bring about justice, try the killers of the martyrs and achieve a minimum social justice", he wrote.
Dalia Mogahed, director and senior analyst at the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, told Al Jazeera "Egyptians are more optimistic about their future than they have been in a very a long time".
According to research done by her group, Mogahed said most Egyptians believe things are getting better and will get better in the future. She said the vast majority of Egyptians still have faith in the military and the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF).
She said Tahrir Square was an important component of the story, but not the entire story. Research shows that more than 85 per cent of Egyptians say they still have confidence in the SCAF.
Partial lifting of emergency
Protesters want Tantawi and the other ruling generals to step down immediately and to stay out of the drafting of the country's new constitution, for fear they may enshrine military powers into the charter.
The military has pledged to cede power to civilian rule when a president is elected by June.
On Tuesday, it announced a partial lifting of a state of emergency, but kept a clause saying emergency laws in place since 1981 would still apply to cases falling into the vague category of "thuggery".
The Muslim Brotherhood, which won the most seats in recent parliamentary elections, has announced it will join the celebrations on Wednesday, without calling for "a second revolution" or demanding that the military give up power.
"The formation of the parliament is the biggest celebration of the anniversary of the revolution," the group said on its website, a day after the lower house convened for the first time since it was dissolved after the uprising.
Leading Muslim Brotherhood member Saad al-Katatni was elected speaker of parliament on Monday, in scenes unthinkable just a year ago when the group was still banned.
Mubarak will spend the anniversary in a Cairo military hospital, where he is in custody accused of involvement in the killing of protesters during the uprising that toppled him.

Egyptians upbeat as they celebrate one year since start of revolution

CROWDS of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square to mark the first anniversary of Egypt's revolution, as the country's ruling military council announced a partial end to the emergency rule that has dominated people's lives for more than 30 years.
But it kept a clause saying emergency laws - in place since 1981 - would still apply in cases of ''thuggery'', a vague term that has drawn criticism from human rights groups and raised eyebrows in Washington.
''We are seeking some clarification from the Egyptian government … what they mean by that,'' the US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Egyptians gather in Tahrir Square to mark the one year anniversary of the revolution on January 25, 2012 in Cairo Egypt.
Egyptians gather in Tahrir Square to mark the one year anniversary of the revolution on January 25, 2012 in Cairo Egypt. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
''The fact that they are finally, after these many, many months of demands, taking the major step is very important for Egypt and for its future.''
To further appease democracy activists who want the country's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to cede power to a civilian government, the military pardoned and released this week nearly 2000 prisoners arrested and tried in military courts since the former president Hosni Mubarak was swept from power.
Yesterday was declared a public holiday by the ruling military council. In Tahrir Square, which has been at the heart of Egypt's millions-strong protests and the scene of months of horrific violence, the mood was upbeat.
Protesters celebrate outside the presidential palace in Cairo after President Hosni Mubarak steps down.Click for more photos

A year without Mubarak

Protesters celebrate outside the presidential palace in Cairo after President Hosni Mubarak steps down. Photo: AFP
  • Protesters celebrate outside the presidential palace in Cairo after President Hosni Mubarak steps down.
  • Egyptians celebrate at Tahrir Square after President Hosni Mubarak resigns.
  • Anti-government demonstrators celebrate in Tahrir Square, Cairo after President Hosni Mubarak steps down.
  • Pro-government protesters take cover behind a barricade during clashes with anti-government protesters outside the National Museum near Tahrir Square on February 3rd.
  • Egyptian anti-government protesters pray outside the parliament, located some 500 metres from Tahrir Square.
  • Egyptian anti-government protesters gather in Cairo's Tahrir square on February 9th, the 16th day of protests against the 30-year-regime of President Hosni Mubarak.
  • Egyptian supporters of President Hosni Mubarak stand on a stairway after they were detained by anti-Mubarak protesters in Tahrir Square following clashes on February 3rd.
  • Protesters wave an Egyptian flag during a demonstration in Tahrir Square in Cairo on February 1st.
  • An Egyptian demonstrator sits on top of a set of traffic lights in Tahrir Square in central Cairo.
  • Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak meets UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan in Cairo as protests continue.
  • A protester in Cairo holds a placard showing his feelings about Hosni Mubarak.
  • Egyptians wave a giant Egyptian flag at Tahrir Square after President Hosni Mubarak resigns.
  • Anti-government protester flashes a victory sign in Tahrir Square, Cairo.
  • Members of the army and members of the public detain a thief in downtown Cairo during the protests.
  • An anti-government demonstrator prays during clashes with supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Tahrir Square on February 2nd.
  • People line up to get past a makeshift barricade guarded by anti-government protesters at the entrance to Tahrir Square on February 3rd.
  • A protester leads a chant during an anti-government rally in Tahrir Square in central Cairo.
  • Egyptian anti-government demonstrators shout anti-regime slogans during clashes with pro-regime opponents in Cairo's central Tahrir square on February 3rd.
  • Egyptians in Tahrir Square gesture at a low-flying police helicopter as the curfew begins.
  • An anti-government protester cries during sundown prayers in Tahrir Square.
  • A crowd of anti-government protesters walk past a large puddle of water from tapped water mains in Tahrir Square.
  • Egyptian demonstrators pray at Tahrir Square.
Flags were flying high in the winter breeze, political discussions erupted into heated debates, groups chanted slogans calling for the end to military rule and hundreds more people were arriving to take their place in this rolling democracy movement.
The crowd was calm early on, and the military vowed to let the protest proceed unhindered, although it was clear they had prepared for trouble. The streets around the square leading to government buildings have been blocked by concrete cubes, reinforced cement walls, barbed wire and rows of riot police.
Like many protesters, 19-year-old Nia, who did not want her last name published, had not told her parents she would be in Tahrir Square today.
''We were so hopeful once we were rid of Mubarak, but now the army is holding us back,'' she said. ''They have done nothing about food prices, gas prices, or anything with the economy - if they cannot fix it they should allow a civilian government to take over.''
Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Egypt's de facto ruler, has stuck to his deadline of handing over power after the presidential elections due in July. Activists say this should happen sooner and have nominated the elections for the parliament's upper house, due to begin on Sunday, as the next deadline for the military.
Some protesters came to the square simply to celebrate what has been an extraordinary year. Mohammed Ahmed, an English teacher from Damietta, a coastal city about 200 kilometres north of Cairo, said Egypt had undergone enormous upheaval in a short period and he was proud of the achievements so far.
''This is the first time I have felt real happiness and freedom. This is a new Egypt and this is a great time in our lives,'' he said.
''I am 47 years old and this is the first time I have felt a real optimism about a new Egypt. Of course [the military council] should hand over power, but this will happen. We will go forward gradually, step by step.''
He was especially positive about the inaugural sitting this week of the country's first democratically elected parliament in 60 years, in a house dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party.
''Here we see liberal and leftist parties and Islamist parties all speaking together - we would never see this under Mubarak. Under Mubarak we were bleeding, now we have hope.''

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Libya: UK officials tell Gaddafi loyalists to defect or face war crimes trial

• SAS on standby to rescue trapped Britons 

• Leader says Libya will be 'red with fire'
Muammar Gaddafi in a televised adress
In a televised address, Colonel Gaddafi vowed to ‘open up the arsenals’ to arm his supporters. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
British officials are contacting senior Libyan regime figures directly to persuade them to desert Muammar Gaddafi or face trial alongside him for crimes against humanity, the Guardian has learned.
With SAS troops and paratroopers on standby to rescue an estimated 150 Britons at workplaces in the Libyan desert, contingency measures were being drawn up to close the British embassy in Tripoli to pre-empt possible reprisals.
But the Foreign Office denied reports that the embassy would be closed as soon as this weekend. "We will react to the situation as it unfolds on the ground. If it gets too dangerous for our people to be there, of course we will pull them out of there. But are we planning to close the embassy down? No," a spokesman said. The US said it was closing its embassy in Tripoli as well as imposing limited unilateral sanctions on Libya.
The foreign secretary, William Hague, urged Britons still in Tripoli to board the last UK-sponsored chartered flight out of the capital at first light. He said HMS Cumberland would return to Benghazi on Sunday to pick up any remaining Britons there, but added that those in the desert remained Britain's biggest worry. All options were being considered, he said.
There were reports that two RAF helicopters had arrived in Malta in what may be the next stage of preparations to airlift some UK oil workers.
Britain's direct warnings to Libyan officials coincided with a joint British and French draft UN security council resolution the Libyan leadership to face war crimes prosecutions at the international criminal court for attacks on protesters. The resolution also called for travel bans and asset freezes for Libya's leaders.
Gaddafi showed no sign of heeding the warnings. Reports said that gunmen in cars in the capital, Tripoli, opened fire on protesters as they emerged from Friday prayers.
Nearby, in Green Square, the Libyan leader made another defiant televised appearance, promising to arm his supporters. "Retaliate against them, retaliate against them," he told a crowd of loyalists from the ramparts of a crusader fort overlooking the square. "Dance, sing and prepare. Prepare to defend Libya, to defend the oil, dignity and independence."
Wearing a fur-lined cap and sunglasses, and flanked by bodyguards, Gaddafi declared: "At the suitable time we will open the arms depot so all Libyans and tribes become armed, so that Libya becomes red with fire."
A vote on the UN resolution is not expected before next week. EU officials also discussed the possible imposition of punitive measures against the Gaddafi government, but stressed that any action would be led by decisions taken by the security council.
The steps under discussion fall a long way short of steps called for by some human rights groups, which wanted the UN to declare a no-fly zone over Libya if the regime continued to use warplanes to bomb or strafe demonstrators.
Mention of a no-fly zone was removed from the Franco-British draft , and an emergency Nato meeting in Brussels did not even discuss it as a contingency measure.
European officials said Russia and China would veto any such suggestions in the security council. They were also anxious about the timing of any punitive action, hoping to avoid a backlash against the many thousands of foreign workers still in the country, while seeking to maximise incentives for Gaddafi's supporters to defect.
Such defections seemed to be accelerating . Envoys to Portugal and Sweden renounced Gaddafi, with the ambassador to Lisbon, Ali Ibrahim Emdored, telling AP he was leaving "due to the killing of my people by this fascist regime".
In Geneva, the Libyan delegation to the UN human rights council called for a moment of silence in the chamber to "honour this revolution".
"We in the Libyan mission have categorically decided to serve as representatives of the Libyan people and their free will. We only represent the Libyan people," one envoy, Adel Shaltut, declared, drawing thunderous applause.
The 47-nation council unanimously declared that it "strongly condemns the recent gross and systematic human rights violations committed in Libya", calling for the launch of a UN human rights investigation into the bloodshed of the past few days. It took the unprecedented step of calling for Libya's membership to be revoked.
Hague, the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and the EU foreign affairs chief, Lady Ashton, are due to fly to Geneva on Monday to promote the case for prosecutions of Libyan leaders by the international criminal court. The foreign secretary said: "The message is clear: that there will be a day of reckoning for those guilty of the appalling atrocities. The world will act together to hold them to account."
Such measures were decried as paltry by some organisations calling for immediate action to stop the bloodshed.
A coalition of more than 200 Arab organisations and 30 leading Arab intellectuals appealed for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya .
One of the signatories, the Egyptian writer and commentator Hani Shukrallah, said: "Stopping Gaddafi and his family shopping in Harrods or on the Champs Elysées is not going to prevent him unleashing further bloodshed.
"It's time to stop fiddling about and get serious."

Surreal: Libya’s UN ambassador makes the case against Qaddafi to the Security Council

An amazing end to an amazing spectacle this week of Qaddafi’s diplomatic corps summarily abandoning him in cities around the world. I remember reading somewhere long ago how western diplomats once spoke privately with Tariq Aziz about defecting, and he dismissed the idea on grounds that while he’d be safe afterwards, his extended family back home in Iraq wouldn’t be. I’m not sure why that logic hasn’t held for Libyan diplomats. Maybe they figure that Qaddafi’s grip on power is so weak that they don’t have to worry as much about targeted retaliation anymore. Or maybe they think he’s capable of such horrors against so many innocents that they have to speak out, the risk to their families notwithstanding. That’s not to defend these guys — like the UN ambassador, many of them have obviously been in bed with the regime for ages — but a humanitarian act at the end that might save lives partly mitigates the damage.
If you don’t want to watch both clips, just watch the first. It ends with him crying and being consoled by other ambassadors. Serious question: Has this ever happened before at the UN, where a country’s envoy ends up making the case at the Security Council against the man who appointed him?

Friday, February 25, 2011

U.S. Freezes Assets Of Muammar Qaddafi And His Family

President Obama has ordered a freeze on the U.S. assets of Muammar Qaddafi and members of his family and regime.
The executive order says that Qaddafi “and close associates have taken extreme measures against the people of Libya, including by using weapons of war, mercenaries, and wanton violence against unarmed civilians.”
Obama, in a statement, criticized the Libyan government for its “continued violation of human rights, brutalization of its people, and outrageous threats” and said the regime must be held accountable.
“We will stand steadfastly with the Libyan people in their demand for universal rights, and a government that is responsive to their aspirations,” he said. “Their human dignity cannot be denied.”