Archive for December 23, 2011


Ugandan President Museveni Assassinated Peace in South Sudan
 
Joint Statement on the assassination of Lt. Gen. George Athor
SSDM/A, SSLM/A, SSDF and NDF
Mankien, Unity State
December, 23, 2011
JPEG - 79.2 kbGeorge Athor holding Kenyan passport as Samuel Otieno (ST)
The military leaderships of four South Sudan liberation Movements, namely, South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army, South Sudan Liberation Movement/Army, South Sudan Defence Force, National Democratic Front (NDF), commanded by late Lt. Gen. George Athor, Maj. Gen. James Gai Yoach, Lt. Gen. Gordon Koang and Maj. Gen. Thomas Thiel respectively, convened an emergency meeting in Mankien, Unity State from December 21—22 to discuss the circumstances that led to the assassination of SSDM/A leader and the need to form a strong alliance to speed up liberation of South Sudan. The meeting was also attended by political leaders of different South Sudan political parties in order to ascertain how Lt. Gen. George Athor was assassinated and how to create a roadmap to launch effective military offensive in Unity State, Upper Nile, Jonglei and Warrap. The following points were agreed upon by all the political and military leaders.
1. The assassination of Lt. Gen. George Athor in Uganda
 
There is no question that it is President Yuweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, who assassinated Lt. Gen. George Athor and his adjutant Thomas Duoth Makuach, a naturalized US citizen, on December, 18, 2011. President Museveni talked with Lt. George Athor on Thursday, December, 15, 2011 on phone about the Ugandan initiative to sponsor a peace talk with the regime of Salva Kiir. President Museveni proposed to George Athor on phone that he would like to have a confidential meeting with him in Kampala prior to informing the government of South Sudan about his initiative for peace. President Museveni advised Athor that the meeting with him had to be kept confidential so that President Kiir would not think that Ugandan government was sympathetic to South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army prior to announcing his intention to sponsor a peace talk.
Lt. Gen. George Athor asked President Museveni whether he would accord him maximum security in Kampala given the fact that most family members of Kiir’s regime reside in the city. President Museveni, in no uncertain terms, assured George Athor that he would take care of his security in Kampala and should not have any concerns about that. He even joked on phone with Athor saying he would accord him a security protection team better than the team Ugandan government could provide to US President Barack Obama. With the assurances from President Museveni, Lt. Gen. George Athor agreed to go to Uganda to conduct confidential meeting with Ugandan head of state prior to any peace talks with Lt. Gen. Salva Kiir. President Museveni agreed to send a plane directly to the SSDM/A headquarters in Pigi County, South Sudan.
There was nothing to suspect that President Museveni was using the idea of peace to lure Lt. Gen. Athor to death because of many reasons. First, Athor and Museveni met twice in person prior to the signing of the CPA while he was in the company of late Dr. John Garang. They both developed personal relationship since President Museveni was militarily supporting the SPLM/A in its war against Khartoum regime back then. Second, President Museveni is a head of state of Uganda and there was nothing to suspect that a head of state would want to meet the leader of a liberation Movement in order to assassinate him. In the past, Dr. John Garang travelled in many African countries and met many heads of states without losing his life. Even after losing the support of Muamar Gaddafi in the 1980s, Dr. John Garang visited Tripoli in 1990s and met with Col. Gaddafi without being assassinated. Besides, John Garang visited many Arab states, including Egypt, at the time he was a rebel leader without being assassinated.
Lt. Gen. Athor knew that there was a cordial relationship between Uganda and South Sudan governments. However, that relationship could not be thought to lead Uganda to assassinate leader of SSDM/A on behalf of South Sudan government because such a thing had never happened in Africa before. Of course, Lt. Gen. George Athor knew assassinations which happened to many African leaders ranging from Samora Michel of Mozambique, Rwanda and Burundi’s Presidents in 1994, Laurent Kabila of DR Congo and the mysterious death of John Garang. But, there was no specific incident in the entire African continent whereby a head of state would invite a rebel leader to talk about peace and end up assassinating him. The assassination of Athor, by a head of state after being officially invited, is the first incident in African continent.
Third, discussions between President Museveni and George Athor commenced in Nairobi when the latter went there in November for a peace talk with Lt. Gen. Salva Kiir. President Museveni called George Athor on November, 20, 2011 requesting him to go to Kampala to talk with him about peace with the government of South Sudan. But Athor declined the offer because he wanted to go to SSDM/A headquarters to organize the army. Instead Athor advised President Museveni that they would discuss visiting Kampala in a later date.
After a deep and thorough analysis on December 16, one day after getting offer from President Museveni, the military leadership of SSDM/A decided that Lt. Gen. George Athor would go to Uganda as requested by President Museveni. The SSDM/A decided that he would go with Thomas Duoth Makuach who knew Uganda very well and had some friends within the Ugandan government whose advice was important on the security of Lt. Gen. Athor.
On Saturday, December, 17, 2011, a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter arrived at SSDM/A headquarters, approximately at 9:00 am to pick up Athor. Thomas Duoth Makuach accompanied him to board the helicopter, which took off at 9:55 am. At 2:00 pm, George Athor called James Nuot Puot and told him that they arrived safely in Kampala. He called again at 6:38pm to tell James Nuot that they were accommodated by President Museveni in a villa at the suburbs of Kampala. That was the last call from George Athor although he promised James Nuot that he would call him on Sunday evening after meeting President Museveni.
Sources within Ugandan intelligent community, who were in contact with members of SSDM/A after the death of Athor, revealed that President Museveni gave order to military officers to assassinate him at 10:20pm on Saturday. The Ugandan military intelligent officers, who were ordered to carry out the plot, waited until George Athor and Thomas Duoth went to bed. Approximately at 1:45 am, on December, 18, armed units busted into the rooms and shot each one of them on the head. After the assassinations were complete, they collected their bodies and took them to a military barrack outside Kampala. On Monday, December, 19, 2011, the bodies of Athor and Thomas Duoth were put in one pickup Toyota and taken to border near Morobo County of South Sudan. The Ugandan military intelligent officers handed them over to the SPLA military intelligent officer, Maj. Gen. Mach Paul. The Ugandans instructed the SPLA to announce in the media that Athor was captured while trying to recruit people in Morobo so that nobody would accuse Uganda of being behind his assassination.
In the press, the SPLA made while allegations which have no factual basis because Athor didn’t have recruits in Central Equatoria. Besides, it is an insult to the intelligence of a man like George Athor to be expected to travel to a territory like Morobo to recruit people while accompanied by one adjutant who was not armed. When they boarded Sikorsky S-76 helicopter on December, 17, they had no guns at all except their laptops and mobile phones. Athor didn’t take his bodyguards with him because President Museveni assured his security. Every SPLA soldier, who fought the war between 1983—2005, would dismiss allegations being circulated in the media that George Athor went to Morobo to recruit fighters. The story narrated by Salva Kiir’s assistant, Mr. Riek Machar, that Athor was killed with one bodyguard, showed that he was not in Morobo for recruitment as alleged. The SPLA talked about one person killed with Athor without showing the recruits or POWs in order to convince the world that there were recruits in the area. How could Athor ended up being killed with only one bodyguard? Where are the recruits and other bodyguards?
The true story is what is narrated above that Lt. Gen. Athor was lured to death by President Museveni. The story of SPLA and Kiir’s assistant, Mr. Riek Machar, doesn’t add up and cannot withstand facts. SSDM/A doesn’t have forces in Morobo and there was no reason for Athor to go there. Lt. Gen. George Athor was one of the best fighters of the SPLM/A and he is not somebody who could go to a place like Morobo without enough force with him. Mr. Riek Machar Teny should at least reconcile his story with facts and truth surrounding the assassination because the military record of George Athor is impeccable. Late Athor was a soldier who could not go to a dangerous zone to recruit fighters without enough force with him let alone traveling with one adjutant to recruit fighters in an area exclusively controlled by his enemies. Mr. Riek Machar in particular should be reminded about how George Athor resisted his Movement in 1990s around Malakal area without reinforcement from SPLM/A—Torit Faction. The heroic resistant he put up against Riek Machar’s Movement was based upon his skills of guerrilla warfare. The skills he acquired during the liberation struggle between 1983 and 2005 would not have permitted him to go to Morobo with one adjutant without guns at his disposal for self-defence.
2. No future peace talks with Salva Kiir’s government would be mediated by IGAD or African Union or any African country
 
The military and political leaders of SSDF, SSDM/A, SSLM/A and NDF have resolved that the assassination of Lt. Gen. George Athor Deng Dut is a big below to any future peace process in the region and will have serious repercussions in the entire African continent. The region that will face the consequences of that is the Horn of Africa whose countries experience internal conflicts. It has never happened before that a head of state of one of the Horn of Africa countries could invite a rebel leader to talk about peace and assassinate him in the process.
The revolutionary forces of South Sudan have come to logical conclusion that Kenya and Uganda are enemies of South Sudanese that should be targeted after the total liberation of the country from Salva Kiir Mayardit. The identification of Kenya as a state hostile to the freedom of the people of South Sudan was noted when Lt. Gen. George Athor attended peace talks in Nairobi between Nov, 14—23. After the collapse of peace talks between SSDM/A and Salva Kiir’s security agents, the Kenyan security personnel prevented Athor and his delegation from chartering a plane to SSDM/A Headquarters in Pigi County of Jonglei State. The Kenyan security chief told late George Athor that he should charter a plane to Juba instead. Athor and his delegation were able to leave Kenya on November 23rd because of the assistance of Ethiopian government and Geneva Peace Organization, which mediated between Salva Kiir and SSDM/A in Nairobi. Lt. Gen. Athor and his delegation were able to leave Nairobi by boarding Ethiopian airline to Addis Ababa, where they chartered a plane to South Sudan.
It is indeed disturbing that the countries of IGAD like Kenya and Uganda, which played a pivotal role in bringing about the CPA in 2005, would rather prefer assassinations and political blackmailing to resolve the ongoing civil war in South Sudan. Experience from CPA negotiation attests that the neighbouring countries must always be neutral in the conflict in order for them to play a role as impartial mediators. Assassinating rebel leaders is a wrong diplomacy ever employed in international politics. The Israeli assassinations of Palestinian political leaders throughout Europe in 1960s and 1970s did not end Palestinian struggle. Despite the assassinations of so many leaders of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), rebellion in Columbia continued unabated because there can never be peace without addressing popular grievances and frustrations of the people who took up arms to fight the ruling regime. The death of Lt. Gen. George Athor Deng Dut will more likely bring an upsurge in violent incidents against the SPLA, infrastructure and South Sudan society generally.
Although Hilde Johnson, the Special Representative of UN Secretary General in South Sudan is a long time friend of Salva Kiir and a spiritual member of the SPLM/A, we were surprised to see her celebrating the death of George Athor who was assassinated in a cold blood. As a UN representative, she should have been the first person to condemn the assassination because it violated the principles of international law that a head of state can invite the leader of a liberation Movement in order to kill him extra-judicially. The assassination of George Athor violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in which Uganda is a signatory, let alone the fact that Lt. Gen. Athor was not fighting Ugandan regime of Yuweri Kaguta Museveni.
President Museveni failed to notice that assassinating Athor increases the likelihood of political instability and domestic militarized conflict in South Sudan which will spill over Uganda. If South Sudan is in turmoil, Uganda too will experience the same. Assassinating Athor would not end political violence in South Sudan nor will it save northern Uganda from LRA. Besides, Museveni should not think that he is immune from assassination. What he did to Athor may happen to him sooner or later.
The revolutionary forces are wondering whether Yuweri Museveni thought about the safety of over 100,000 Ugandans in South Sudan when he decided to assassinate George Athor. Killing Athor in a cold blood would not settle well with the people of South Sudan and it is definite that Ugandans in South Sudan may experience backlash. We are aware that Museveni is a dictator who doesn’t have popular support in Uganda and we cannot hold innocent Ugandans responsible for the assassination of George Athor. However, the people of South Sudan who have been liberated by late Athor may bend their anger on Ugandans in South Sudan because this is the second time that a Southern leader died in Uganda. Dr. John Garang died in 2005 because he boarded Museveni’s helicopter. Again George Athor died because he boarded another Museveni’s helicopter which took him to Kampala to be assassinated. It is possible that Salva Kiir, who is now celebrating the assassination of Athor, may end up becoming a victim of Museveni.
The assassination of Lt. Gen. Athor is an end to future attempts to resolve ongoing civil war in South Sudan via peaceful means. No Movement in South Sudan would ever respond to any peace initiative of IGAD, AU or any African country because of the assassination of Athor. President Museveni set a very dangerous precedent that would affect the future generation of the Horn of Africa who will never have peace because no rational liberation Movement would accept the mediation of countries whose leaders engage in assassinating the rebel leaders they want to reconcile with the government. If what Museveni did to George Athor were to be the norm prior to the signing of the CPA, the SPLM/A could not have been persuaded to sign peace in Naivasha.
The assassination of Athor is a big below to IGAD that will find it difficult to persuade freedom fighters in South Sudan to accept peace talk mediated by an organization made up of leaders who assassinated Athor. Short-sighted Africans may not realize the repercussions of the assassination of Athor. But they will experience soon that few liberation Movements in Africa would yield to proposals of peace from African leaders because of the precedent Museveni set by killing Athor.
3. Formation of an alliance of South Sudan liberation Movements
 
The SSDF, SSDM/A, SSLM/A and NDF have agreed to form an alliance to liberate the people of South Sudan from corruption lords and ruling tourists in Juba. A committee headed by the representatives of four Movements shall workout the modalities to finalise the final text of the agreement as agreed upon by all including late George Athor. The committee will work on the Manifesto of the alliance, the Constitution and the Roadmap and shall report to the military and political leaders of all the Movements to announce the date of the declaration.
The assassination of Lt. Gen. George Athor will consolidate the resolve of the freedom fighters instead. Late Athor said on November, 20, that “people will have to die in order for South Sudan to have democracy”. Lt. Gen. Athor knew the sacrifices required to liberate our people. When one takes up arm to kill or be killed for democracy, there is no doubt in the mind of everyone that sacrifices start with the leaders of the Movement. Athor knew that anything could have happened to him when he boarded the plane to Uganda and his assassination is part of the sacrifice that he ascribed to in order to liberate his people. Lt. Gen. Athor is not surprised that he is dead because he was living with death since he decided to fight for democracy in 1983. He was assassinated in the course of struggle as he ascribed to and nothing would surprise him in the grave. What he wants is that the struggle must continue that will achieve his objective to see a democratic South in which everyone is treated equal.
The fundamental objective of the alliance of South Sudan liberation movements is to end oppression, tribalism, nepotism and corruption in South Sudan. The people of South Sudan are being denied their fundamental rights by the ruling tourists in Juba and need to be liberated. It is the belief of all that solidarity and cooperation among the oppressed peoples led by their respective forces is essential for realization of their common objectives of liberation. The alliance that shall be formed has to work towards unity of struggle among the oppressed peoples to counter the enemy schemes and reduce the cost of achieving their political objectives of liberation.
Signatories,
For SSDM/A
1.     Brig. Gen. James Nuot Puot
2.     Maj. Gen. Abiel Riing Majak
3.     Maj. Gen. Abraham Thon
4.     Maj. Gen. Johnson Olony
For SSLM/A
1.     Maj. Gen. James Gai Yoach
2.     Maj. Gen. Bapiny Monytuil
3.     Maj. Gen. Karlo Kuol
4.     Maj. Gen. Bepean Machar
5.     Maj. Gen. Kuol Chol Awan
6.     Maj. Gen. Makuey Kiir
For SSDF
1.     Lt. Gen. Gordon Koang Chol
2.     Lt. Gen. Benson Kuany Latjor
3.     Maj. Gen. James Duit Yiech
4.     Maj. Gen. Mohamed Chol
5.     Maj. Gen. Duoth Lam
For NDF
1.     Maj Gen. Thomas Thiel
2.     Maj. Gen. Yasir Marial
3.     Maj. Gen. Puok Kuong Diet
4.     Maj. Gen. Mathiang Bil Chol
POLITICAL PARTIES
 
For South Sudan Democratic Front
1.     Prof. David Dechand, leader
2.     Peter Reath Tut, Secretary General
3.     Atem Dut, member of Executive Committee
For Democratic Revolutionary Alliance of South Sudan
1.     Hon. Moses Chuol Wal, member of Executive Committee
2.     Hon. Jacob Nyiir Gatkuoth, member of Executive Committee
OBSERVERS
1.     One chief from Abiemnom (name withheld for security reason)
2.     One chief from Parieng (name withheld for security reason)
3.     One chief from Bul Nuer (name withheld for security reason)
4.     One chief from Pashoda (name withheld for security reason)
5.     Two chiefs from Greater Nasir (name withheld for security reason)
6.     Two chiefs from Greater Maiwut (name withheld for security reason)
7.     One chief from Northern Bhar-el-Ghazal (name withheld for security reason)
8.     One chief from Pigi County (name withheld for security reason)
9.     Three chiefs from Lou Nuer (name withheld for security reason)
For questions, contact:
1. James Nuot Puot, SSDM/A Spokesman
Pigi, South Sudan
2. SSLM/A information Department
Tel. +249-116999999
Mayom, South Sudan

Syria’s Alawites are secretive, unorthodox sect

Posted: December 23, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in World

ReutersBy Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

Alawites believe [Ali–after whom they are named] was divine, one of many manifestations of God in a line with Adam, Jesus, Mohammad, Socrates, Plato and some pre-Islamic sages from ancient Persia.

PARIS (Reuters) – The clannishness, secrecy and tenacity of Syria’s power elite around President Bashar al-Assad are hallmarks of the enigmatic Alawite faith that unites its members and arouses suspicion among the majority Sunnis.

An oppressed minority for most of their history, Alawites suddenly took control in Syria in 1970 when Assad’s father Hafez staged a coup that sidelined the Sunnis. He built a ferocious security apparatus based on fellow Alawite officers.

This year’s bloody struggle between Assad’s forces and pro-democracy protesters, which has cost thousands of lives, splits the country along a minority-majority gulf made deeper by the fact many Sunnis call Alawites heretics and apostates.

“The political animosities have developed over the past 41 years that the Assads have been in power, but the religious animosities go back many centuries,” said Mohamad Bazzi, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Like most other Arab countries, Syria has seen conservative Islam spreading in recent decades. This has sharpened Sunni differences with the Alawites, who claim to be mainline Shi’ites and sometimes copy Sunni practices to play down differences.

The government’s brutal crackdown on protesters this year has also widened this split, Bazzi said, prompting some leaders of the mainly Sunni opposition Muslim Brotherhood to row back on a more moderate approach they had taken in recent years.

“Lately some statements by leaders associated with the Brotherhood were very sectarian,” he said. “Once the sectarian genie is out of the bottle, it’s difficult to put it back in.”

Sunnis Muslims make up 74 percent of Syria’s 22 million population, Alawites 12 percent, Christians 10 percent and Druze 3 percent. Ismailis, Yezidis and a few Jews make up the rest.

AN UNCERTAIN OFFSHOOT

The Alawite religion is often called “an offshoot of Shi’ism,” Islam’s largest minority sect, but that is something like referring to Christianity as “an offshoot of Judaism.”

Alawites broke away from Shi’ism over 1,000 years ago and retain some links to it, including the veneration of Ali, the cousin and son-in law of the Prophet Mohammad.

But several beliefs differ sharply from traditional Islam. Named after Ali, Alawites believe he was divine, one of many manifestations of God in a line with Adam, Jesus, Mohammad, Socrates, Plato and some pre-Islamic sages from ancient Persia.

To orthodox Muslims, this eclectic synthesis of Christian, Gnostic, Neoplatonic and Zoroastrian thought violates Islam’s key tenet that “there is no God but God.”

Isolated in the mountains near Syria’s Mediterranean coast, Alawites taught the Koran was to be read allegorically and preferred to pray at home rather than in mosques.

They were also highly secretive, initiating only a minority of believers into their core dogma, including reincarnation and a divine Trinity, and into rituals including a rite of drinking consecrated wine similar to a Christian Mass.

Like the nearby Druze, Alawites adopted the Shi’ite practice of taqiyya, or hiding their beliefs to avoid persecution.

“Taqiyya makes a perfect qualification for membership in the mukhabarat, the ubiquitous intelligence/security apparatus that has dominated Syria’s government for more than four decades,” the British Islam expert Malise Ruthven wrote recently.

FEARS OF REVENGE

Oppressed during the Ottoman period, Alawites have played down their distinctive beliefs in recent decades to argue they were mainline Shi’ites like in Iran. This is partly to satisfy the constitutional rule that the president must be a Muslim.

The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood called the Alawites infidels for decades. Leaders of the Sunni movement no longer say this openly, but nobody knows whether the rank and file is convinced.

The ruling Baath Party is officially secular, which has helped Alawites win support as protectors of other minorities.

“Hafez al-Assad constructed a minority system, with Christians, Druze and Ismailis, to rule over a Sunni Muslim country,” said Andrew Tabler, Syria analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“Most of the protesters now are also Sunnis, so the current violence has affected the Sunni population more,” he said.

The tension that system produced makes Alawites, Christians and the other minorities fear bloody sectarian violence in revenge against them if Sunnis should regain power.

“If there is a change of regime,” Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo told a conference in Venice last June, “It’s the end of Christianity in Syria. I saw what happened in Iraq.”

Bazzi said a double car bombing in Damascus on Friday that killed 44 people could be a further escalation of Sunni violence against the Alawite-led state.

“Syria was a major staging area for Sunni jihadis (attacking U.S. forces) in Iraq,” he said. “Many of these networks are still in place in Syria. These are elements that view Shi’ites as heretics and Alawites as even more heretical.”

(Reporting By Tom Heneghan)

http://news.yahoo.com/syrias-alawites-secretive-unorthodox-sect-203939427.html

Air Jordan fans destroy property, trample shoppers in search of new shoes

Posted: December 23, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Socio-Cultural

By Kelly Dwyer

Air Jordan fans destroy property, trample shoppers in search of new shoes
Michael Jordan fans and a whole lot of utter and absolute morons descended upon malls across America early Friday morning to push each other over and destroy property in order to buy some basketball shoes.The re-release of the Air Jordan 11 can hardly be called a “re-release,” because Nike and Jordan Brand attempted (and succeeded) to dish up some needless hype and intrigue by only releasing 100 pairs of the shoes to certain stores. Twenty-five years into this game, both companies knew that the limited supply would result in long lines and potential chaos as shoppers attempted to grab a pair, but Nike and Jordan Brand haven’t always been on the cutting edge when it comes to caring about anything more than the bottom line, have they?Why care, when you can drive people to this, as reported by ABC:

Police had to smash the windows of a car to get two toddlers out after a woman had left them there to go buy the shoes. She was taken into custody when she returned, according to the AP.

The Indianapolis Star was at one particularly ugly scene:

“The door broke and was hanging by a hinge and people were squeezing in anyway,” Asia Coates said “People were falling down.”

She said one woman was knocked down, got back up and was the second person to buy the shoes.

Andre Mitchell, 28, Indianapolis, said he stepped over downed shoppers. “It wasn’t personal, it was business,” Mitchell explained.

No, it’s not business. You’re just a moron.

The shoes in question are the patent leather-trimmed Jordan-endorsed sneakers that MJ wore during theChicago Bulls‘ 1995-96 championship run. Those particular shoes are idealized by most because that run included Chicago’s record-setting 72-win season, and they’re idealized by this writer because that was the season that helped me determine, for sure, what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Fifteen years later, that campaign is the reason I write about basketball for a living.

So take it from this absolute basketball junkie, anyone that was falling over themselves or anyone else to secure a pair of $180 shoes just because of their stature or because they can be flipped and re-sold for a higher amount is an absolute, unmitigated, moron. Stepping over downed shoppers, as the Star reported Andre Mitchell doing, isn’t about something that’s “personal.” It’s ugly and borderline criminal.

And it’s doubtful that Michael Jordan, some 20-plus years after reports surfaced of fans of his shoes killing over them, has learned anything in all the years. The NSFW scene depicted here (with the description “This is what Michael Jordan does to us.”) is apparently of no interest to him, considering that these are the sorts of reactions that happen every single time he releases or re-releases a pair of shoes in limited supply just to drum up “exclusivity.”

It’s hard to find anyone coming out of this looking good. Even those that succeeded in buying the kicks without harming anyone or anything — because they’ll be sporting patent leather shoes like some 1950s-era uncle.

http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/ball_dont_lie/post/Air-Jordan-fans-destroy-property-trample-shoppe?urn=nba-wp12346


With all the partisanship and difficulties we sometimes overlook what has been achieved against all odds!

The accomplishments of the first two years of the Obama Administration:On reducing and assisting people that have become victims of the increased poverty made worse by economic crisis

1) A $20 billion increase for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps.
2) A $1 billion in funding for the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG)that is intended to revitalize low-income communities via “Job training and placement assistance”, “Financial literacy programs”, et al, to helping families become self-sufficient.
3) A $2 billion in new Neighborhood Stabilization Funds that will allow ailing neighborhoods be kept maintained.
4) A $1.5 billion in Homelessness Prevention Funds to keep people in their homes and prevent homelessness.
5) A $5 billion increase for the Weatherization Assistance Program to help low income families save on their residential energy expenditures by making their homes more energy efficient.
6) A $4 Billion program, The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, “authorizes funding for federal school meal and child nutrition programs and increases access to healthy food for low-income children.”
7) As part of the HCR bill, subsidies will be available to the uninsured and families with income between the 133 percent and 400 percent of poverty level($14,404 for individuals and $29,326 for a family of four).
8) Estabilished Open Doors to end the 640,000 men, women and children who are homeless in America by 2020.
9) Increased the amount of federal Pell Grant awards so that funds are available to those with less access to have opportunity.
10) Provided $510 Million for the rehabilitation of Native American housing.
11) Expanded eligibility for Medicaid to all individuals under age 65 with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level ($14,400 per year for an individual).
12) Providing assistance to low-income workers through the Earned Income Tax Credit giving millions of working families the break they need.
13) Education being the way out of Poverty, kicked off the “Race to the Top”, a $4.3 billion program, that rewards via grants to States that meet a few key benchmarks for reform, and states that outperform the rest.

On Health Care Reform:

1) Coverage can’t be denied to childrenwith pre-existing conditions.
2) Adults up to age 26 can stay on their parents’ health plans.
3) Free preventive care.
4) Rescinding coverage is now illegal.
5) Eliminating lifetime limits on insurance coverage.
6) Restricting annual limits on insurance coverage.
7) More options to appeal coverage decisions.
8) $5 billion in immediate federal supportto affordable Coverage for the Uninsured with Pre-existing Conditions.
9) $10 billion investment in Community Health Centers.
10) Create immediate access to re-insurance for employer health plans providing coverage for early retirees.
11) Made an $80 billion deal with the pharmaceutical industry to contribute to cut prescription drug costs for the nation’s seniors reduce the size of the “donut hole” in the Medicare (Part D) Drug Benefit.
12) Provides a $250 rebate to 750,000 Medicare Beneficiaries who reach the Part D coverage gap in 2010. As of March 22, 2011, 3.8 million beneficiaries had received a $250 check to close the coverage gap, according to an HHS report.
13) Businesses with fewer than 50 employees will get tax credits covering up to
>35% of employee premiums effective 2011 and a 50% tax credit effective 2013. 14) Creates a state option to provide Medicaid coverage to childless adults with incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level. By 2014, States are required to provide this coverage.
15) Provides a 10% Medicare bonus payment for primary care services and also a 10% Medicare bonus payment to general surgeons practicing in health professional shortage areas.
16) Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) requires thatinsurance companies spend at least 80 to 85 percent of the proportion of thepremium dollars on clinical services. As an example, WellPoint’s Anthem Blue Cross unit in California has reduced its proposed rate increase.

On Jobs and the Economy:

1) The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) has worked. The Economy Has Been Growing – take a look at the graph of GDP growthbetween 2007 thru 2010.
2) The $787 billion economic stimulus package has created or saved nearly 2 million jobs slowing the bleeding
3) Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009 that extended Unemployment benefits up to 20 weeks andmore.
4) Provided $14.7 billion in small business loans increasing minority access to capital.
5) The $26 billion aid to states packagepreventing large-scale layoffs of teachers and public employees.
6) As of March 31, 2011, created 1.8 million Private sector jobs since Jan 2010.
7) US auto industry rescue plan saved at least 1 million jobs
8) Helped make the Auto Industry start making huge profits again with Ford sales up 19% over last year. GM up 11%. Chrysler up a whopping 31%.
9) Jobs for Main Street Act (2010)injected $27.5 Billion for Highways, $8.4 Billion for Transit into the country’s transportation system to create jobs and spur economic activity.
10) A $33 Billion Jobs Package that will allow Small businesses to get $5,000 tax credit for new hires.
11) A $26 billion State Aid Package Jobs Bill saving 300,000 teachers and public workers jobs from unemployment.
12) As part of the 2010 tax extension,Unemployment Insurance was extended to 7 million Americans who would have been without income.

On Banking and Financial Reform

1) Signed a sweeping bank-reform bill (the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act)into law
2) Managed the $700 Billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that Banks haverepaid more than 100% of TARP funds ($251 of the $245 banks owed) as of March 2011 exceeding the original investment by $6 billion.
3) Cuts Salaries of 65 Bailout Executives
4) Closed offshore tax safe havens, tax credit loopholes on companies that use the tax laws to ship American Jobs oversees.HR 4213.
5) Signed into law the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act to fight fraud in the use of TARP and recovery funds, and to increase accountability for corporate and mortgage frauds.
6) Signed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act

On Education

1) Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010 that increased the amount of federal Pell Grant awardsand enabled the stripping of banks privileges as intermediaries for student loan servicing saving the US government about $68 billion dollars over 11 years.
2) Created the Race to the Top Fund, a$4.35 billion program to reward States that submit the best proposals for change.
3) As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, funded over $100 Billion for reforms to strengthen Elementary and Secondary education, early learning programs, college affordability and improve access to higher education, and to close the achievement gap.

On Energy

1) Implemented renewable fuels mandate of 36 billion gallons by 2022, four times what we currently consume.
2) Automakers will be required to meet a fleet-wide average of New Gas Mileage Standards at 35.5 MPH by 2016.
3) A $60 billion investment in renewable and clean energy.
4) developed a Biofuels Roadmap to determine the next steps in growing an advanced biofuels economy to meet the goal to use at least 36 billion gallons of bio-based transportation fuels by 2022 helping create more green energy jobs.
5) established EPA regulations which require large U.S. ships to cut soot emissions by 85 percent.
6) pledged via the Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future that in a decade from now to cut our oil dependency by one-third, and put America’s energy future by producing more oil at home and reducing our dependence on oil by leveraging cleaner, alternative fuels and greater efficiency.

On Housing

1) $275 billion dollar housing plan – $75 billion dollars to prevent at-risk mortgage debtors already fallen victim to foreclosures and $200 billion to bring about confidence to offer affordable mortgages and to stability the housing market.
2) Established “Opening Doors” to end the homelessness of 640,000 men, women, and children in the United States in 10 years.
3) Provided $510 Million for the rehabilitation of Native American housing.
4) Provided $2 billion for Neighborhood Stabilization Program to rehab, resell, or demolish in order to stabilize neighborhoods.
5) Provided $5 billion for Weatherization Assistance Program for low income families to weatherize 1 million homes per year for the next decade.
6) Provided grants to encourage states and localities to take the first steps in implementing new building codes that prioritize energy efficiency.

On Medicaid/Medicare/Social Security

1) giving $250 economic stimulus check to 55 million Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients in 2009.
2) Cutting prescription drug costs for Medicare recipients by 50% and began eliminating the plan’s gap (“donut hole”) in coverage.
3) Passing as part of H.R.3962 (Preservation of Access to Care for Medicare Beneficiaries and Pension Relief Act of 2010) a $6.4 billion measurereversing a 21 percent cut in physician payments that would have started a flood of rejections by some doctors of seniors covered by Medicare.
4) Expanded eligibility for Medicaid to all individuals under age 65 with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level ($14,400 per year for an individual).
5) Committed to ensuring that Social Security Budget Will Not Be Cut nor would change the retirement age.

On Military Veterans and Families

1) A $112.8 billion VA budget, an increase of 15.5 percent over 2009, the largest percentage increase for VA requested by a president in more than 30 years.
2) Implemented a strategic plan to increase the hiring of Veterans and Military spousesthroughout the Federal civil service.
3) Provided for the expenses of families of to be at Dover AFB when fallen soldiers arrive.
4) Passed the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2009increasing the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans.
5) Declared the end of the war in Iraqibringing back nearly 100,000 U.S. troops home to their families.
6) Donated 250K of Nobel prize money to Fisher House, a group that helps provide housing for families of patients receiving medical care at military and Veterans Affairs medical centers
7) Ended media blackout on war casualties; giving access to the return home of a dead US soldier for the first time since an 18-year ban on coverage was lifted.
8) Create a ‘Green Vet Initiative‘ to promote environmental jobs for veterans
9) Signed into law the 2009 Military Spouses Residency Relief Act, that will allow military spouses to claim residency in the same state as their sponsor and retain that residency as long as the service member is in the military, in the process avoiding the states where they currently reside from taxing their earned income.
10) Signed the Caregivers and VeteransOmnibus Health Services Act of 2010

On LBGTQ issues

1) Extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees
2) Signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act
3) Instructed HHS to require any hospital receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds (virtually all hospitals) to allow LGBT visitation rights.
4) Banned job discrimination based on gender identity throughout the Federal government (the nation’s largest employer)
5) Signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act and while more funding is needed per the 2012 proposed budget, an increase of $80 million to domestic and global HIV/AIDS programscommitted
6) Extended the Family and Medical Leave Act to cover Gay employees taking unpaid leave to care for their children of same-sex partners
7) Lifted the HIV Entry Ban.
8) Implemented HUD Policies that Would Ban Discrimination Based On Gender Identity
9) Appointed the first ever transgender DNC member
10) Named open transgender appointees(the first President ever to do so)
11) Eliminated the discriminatory Census Bureau policy that kept LGBT relationships from being counted
12) Extended domestic violence protections to LGBT victims
13) Repealed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) Discriminatory law.
14) Declared DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) unconstitutional and stopped Defending In Court
15) Endorsed a U.N. declaration calling for the worldwide decriminalization of gays and lesbians around the world in an efforts to make it a worldwide policy.

Tax deal extending Bush’s tax cut for two years which often gets criticized will do the following:
Damn it, the TAX DEAL is not PERMANENT

1) Keep $3,000 in tax savings annually
2) Unemployment Benefit for 7,000,000Americans worth $56 Billion.
3) $2,500 in tax savings to help pay for college tuition and other expenses
4) A $2,000 payroll tax savings to someone making $100,000 or a $1,000 payroll tax savings at a 2% employee-side payroll tax cut for over 155 million workers
5) Child tax credit of $1,000 per child with the $3,000 maximum credit threshold.
6) Earned Income Tax Credit that will give on an average $600 in additional assistance to families with 3 or more children
7) A 65 percent tax credit to help cover the cost of COBRA for those who lost their jobs in the recession
8) forecast to creating approximately 1.6 million jobs increasing the GDP for 2011
9) extended the credit for adoption-related expenses that reduces families tax bill up to $13,170 in 2011 through 2012 with a maximum of $12,170 in credit.

Other Notables

1) signed the Health Package For 9/11 Responders bill that puts $4.3 billion into a fund to assist folks that are suffering from problems caused by breathed-in dust and debris during the 9/11 clean up.
2) signed into law a sweeping Food Safety Act bill that contains 18 major changes to food safety laws.
3) made an excellent choice selecting a new Chief of Staff, William Daley, who Eric London has made a super case for why it was a smart choice.
4) made a $78 billion spending cut to the U.S. military and defense department budget, including reducing the size of the Army and Marine Corps.
5) signed in to law the START Treaty with Russia, a sweeping new arms reduction pact that will reduce the stockpile nuclear weapons in both countries adding new verification plan.
6) The passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act enabling the rights of workers to sue employers over wage discrimination claims.
7) The expansion of SCHIP health-care program for children worth $33 Billion.
8) The declaration of two million more acres of wilderness in one of the most omnibus Public Lands bill.
9) Government Transparency as noted byCommon Cause, Democracy 21, League of Women Voters and U.S. PIRG— “The cumulative effect of the Administration’s actions has been to adopt the strongest and most comprehensive lobbying, ethics and transparency rules and policies ever established by an Administration to govern its own activities“. You can read full report in all of the seven areas the report is graded.
10) signed the Tribal Law and Order Act — an important step to help the Federal Government better address the unique public safety challenges that confront tribal communities.


By Augustine Oduor

8-4-4 set to go in major changes

The education sector is headed for major reforms next year that may see the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) replaced with the Kenya Primary Scholastic Assessment (KPSA).

Unlike KCPE, which for over 25 years has been done at the end of eight years, KPSA will be done at the end of six years.

These are part of the proposals in the draft Government sessional paper, A Policy Framework for Education and Training, seen by The Standard On Saturday.

Also set to change is the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) that will be replaced by the Kenya Senior Scholastic Assessment (KSSA).

However, students who sit Standard Six examinations shall join junior secondary schools for three years during which they will write two assessment tests — Competence Test and the Junior Scholastic Assessment.

Away from that, the education curriculum is also set to change at all levels in accordance with the new education structure that proposes pupils complete two years in Early Childhood Development Education, six years in primary, another six years at secondary, and at least three years at the university (2-6-6-3).

In a radical move, the report also suggests that school years be divided into two terms of five months each, with the first term running from September to January with a short two-week break in December, followed by second term in February to June.

The first two weeks of vacation would be held in December and the longest vacation of two months between July and August.

The report says the new school term will serve to increase learning time to solve the holiday tuition problem, realign school calendar to financial year and also to provide time for elections. July-August holidays can be used to mark examinations. The taskforce recommended that Term One be assessed at end of January and Term Two in June.

Proposed system

In a departure from the current practice, national examinations will be conducted between May and June, preceded by marking until July for results to be released between July and August.

In the proposed system, pre-school learners would sit school-based examinations as the lower primary sits county examinations while upper primary, junior high and senior high would sit national examinations overseen by Kenya Education Assessment Council (Keac).

The county assessment would be used to identify strengths of the pupils whereas the national assessments would help students identify their paths for specialisation.

The document is informed by the key findings of the Douglas Odhiambo-led taskforce set up by Education Minister Sam Ongeri early this year to align education and training to the Constitution and Vision 2030.

The paper observes that the current 8-4-4 system is examination-oriented as it selects students for higher education and often excludes the majority, depicting them as failures. It also says the system develops wrong attitudes and divides the nation into white- collar workers and labourers, leaving little room for technical education.

Pupils from pre-school to Standard Five shall commence the first entry into the new system by September next year if the proposals are adopted.

The draft policy guidelines note that if the phased implementation plan for the education structure is adopted, more time will be allowed for the review of the curriculum, training of teachers, development of textbooks and the putting in place of relevant infrastructure.

The Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) will have its name changed to Kenya Education Assessment Council.

With this also comes school based assessment that will complement national examinations.

The document, to be polished in January by stakeholders, says that the current summative assessment at the end of the primary cycle does not adequately measure a learner’s ability while school based assessments are not standardised.

It also observes that management and administration of examination has encouraged malpractice and that the assessments are no longer seen as part of teaching and learning but as a sieve to determine who moves to what level.

Competency based assessment

To cure this, the taskforce proposes a thorough review of students’ appraisal to include cumulative competency-based assessments that will be known as Competence Assessment Tests (Cats).

The national examiner, supported with a national framework or test bank, shall then develop standardised Cats to be accessed online. And for the curriculum, the document says that all instructional materials shall be revised and funds to meet basic operational and maintenance costs under the Free Universal Basic Education provided.

“Curriculum is a plan for providing learning opportunities and experience to the learners in order to achieve education goals and specific objectives for the Kenya society,” the document says. It also notes that the current curriculum was reviewed in 2002 followed by a review of the primary teacher education curriculum in 2004 and the diploma education curriculum in 2007.

It notes that the many important developments, such as vision 2030 and the new Constitution, have necessitated a review. To address these issues, the Government will undertake a major review of the curriculum by end of next year.

It will also develop a progressive framework that identifies the knowledge, skills, and competencies that will be assessed for each level.

“The Government shall undertake a review of all textbooks to ensure they are aligned with the new Constitution with regard to equal opportunity, gender, and that content addresses the skills and competencies framework,” says the document. Evaluation under the new system would be done at five levels as opposed to two levels under the current system of education.

Early childhood education and adult education also feature in this system of education, although not formally presented in the education structure.

http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/InsidePage.php?id=2000048870&cid=4&ttl=8-4-4%20set%20to%20go%20in%20major%20changes

South Sudanese gear up for Christmas in Holy Land

Posted: December 23, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Socio-Cultural

By BEN HARTMAN

South Sudan native  “We pray and dance all night,” says Tel Aviv upholsterer.

SIMON KOANG GAI

Simon Koang Gai would love to slaughter a cow for the traditional South Sudanese Christmas feast, but pulling off such a holiday treat would be far too expensive in Israel.
“It cost very much money to buy a cow in Israel,” Gai said.

The 39-year-old South Sudan native owns the appropriately named “Holy Land” upholstery store on Chelnov Street in south Tel Aviv, where he refurbishes motorcycle seats and furniture and repairs satellite dishes.

On Wednesday, he spoke excitedly about the upcoming Christmas celebrations his community was planning at their church in south Tel Aviv, in particular the late-night praying and dancing extravaganza that is Christmas Eve for South Sudanese.

“We pray and dance all night, but it’s not dancing for us, it’s dancing for the lord,” Gai said.

The day after the all-night festival at the church on Levanda street in Tel Aviv and at the community’s church in Arad, those who can will make their way to Bethlehem on Sunday.

Gai said on Christmas, South Sudanese travel far and wide to reunite with their families in their home villages, traveling back home from Khartoum and beyond, often at great risk.

In addition, Gai said they travel from house to house bringing good tidings to their neighbors, and that massive communal barbecues are held.

When asked if they decorate Christmas trees, he replied matter-of-factly, “no, we don’t have those trees in South Sudan.”

Gai moved to Israel three years ago after spending four years in Egypt, where he arrived after fleeing South Sudan. Owing to his fervent evangelical faith, Gai keeps a bible on hand and highlights his points with scripture. Thumbing through the book of Isaiah, he comes to chapter 18 verses 1-7, which describe (King James 2000) “a people tall and smooth of skin” who come from a land “the rivers divide” and make their way to Mount Zion.

He rolls up his sleeve to reveal what is indeed a hairless forearm, which along with his well over 6-foot frame would suggest a resemblance to the description given in the book of Isaiah.

Gai said the Christian population in the South Sudanese community in Israel – estimated to number around 3,000 – is mainly Evangelical with some Catholics, mostly in the community in the Negev city of Arad. As opposed to Sudan, South Sudan is predominantly Christian and Animist, with a Muslim minority. The Christianity practiced in the country has been heavily influenced by local traditions and has customs quite different than those practiced in the West.

A few blocks away, at a hair salon outside the new central bus station, Johannes Aforki, a 28-year-old Eritrean of Ethiopian extract chewed khat leaves and spoke of Christmas traditions in his Orthodox Christian homeland as the mild narcotic stimulant seeped into his veins.

“There’s no work on Christmas, it’s a holiday. We go to church and pray, and you buy new clothes for Christmas and wear them.”

“I haven’t seen my family in 10 years, but I’ll call them and talk to them on the phone,” Aforki said, adding that he’ll probably cry speaking to them as another holiday passes without them.

http://www.jpost.com/NationalNews/Article.aspx?id=250652

South Sudan: Country and the Great Achievements in 2011
AllAfrica.com
In the first part of the article, we had said the great achievements which the South Sudan had witnessed in 2011, was the overwhelmingly voting for separation and the declaration of the independent by hoisting the south Sudan freedom flag on 9 July
South Sudan: Some Citizens Suggest Athor Body Thrown Into the Nile
AllAfrica.com
Juba — Debates are raging on how the body of late Renegade General George Athor Deng would be buried after he was shot dead on Monday by the SPLA forces in Morobo County, Central Equatoria State. Vice President Dr. Riak Machar Teny when he announced
US Issues Travel Warning On South Sudan
RTT News
(RTTNews) – The US State Department has warned American citizens of the risks of travel to South Sudan and “strongly” recommended them to defer all travel to that African country. In a Travel Warning update issued on Thursday, it reminded US citizens
Sudan again terrorizing its own people
BP News
USCIRF released an eight-page report in mid-December on the crisis in Sudan based on interviews staff members conducted in October with more than 80 refugees, including many at a refugee camp in the newly constituted Republic of South Sudan.

USA: South Sudanese Refugees In Omaha Wrestle With Rise Of Street Gangs

Posted: December 23, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Socio-Cultural

Sudanese Gangs

OMAHA, Neb. — When government soldiers from the north attacked Mun Nam Koak’s village in southern Sudan nearly 20 years ago, he fled on foot to safety in neighboring Ethiopia. With his infant son on his back, the 22-year-old Nam and his wife took only what they could carry on their three-day trek to the crowded refugee camps across the border.

Three years later, Koak’s young family arrived in Des Moines, Iowa, part of a growing population of Sudanese refugees who relocated to the Midwest in search of a better, safer life. He studied English and found a steady job at a nursing home.

Back in his homeland this July, a historic referendum established South Sudan as a separate nation after decades of brutal civil war with the north. Koak joined thousands of jubilant Sudanese in Iowa and across the country cheering this day of independence. But his elation was short-lived.

Late last month, his son, James Mun, 19, was gunned down in an empty lot on Omaha’s gritty north side, as he drank beer with a group of friends early one Saturday morning. Police have made no arrests in the case.

“I can never imagine that I would end up losing my son on the streets of the United States,” Koak said.

Mun’s murder is the grim consequence of a rising tide of youth and gang violence afflicting Sudanese refugees in the U.S., who have settled mainly in Nebraska, Iowa and other Midwest states. From weekend brawls to shootings and robberies, young Sudanese are victims and victimizers, ending up in hospital beds, behind bars — or dead.

Sudanese street gangs that began forming around 2003 are responsible for the most serious violence, according to Bruce Ferrell, a former gang unit detective with the Omaha Police Department.

“They’ve been involved in a murder attempt on a witness, drive-by shootings, robberies,” said Ferrell, who now leads the Midwest Gang Investigators Association, a non-profit group that studies gang trends in the region. “We’ve had a number of kids getting locked up.”

With no more than 350 members overall, most of them teenagers, the Sudanese gangs represent a small fraction of a massive nationwide gang problem, in which an estimated 1.4 million gang members commit nearly half of all violent crimes in most jurisdictions, according to law enforcement surveys. But their illegal acts earned them a brief mention for the first time in the FBI’s latest national gang threat assessment, released this October.

The agency described African Pride, which began in Omaha but has spread to Lincoln and other Midwest cities with Sudanese refugee populations, as the “most aggressive and dangerous” of the gangs. Other gangs include the South Sudan Soldiers, TripSet and 402, who take their name from the Nebraska area code.

Sudanese community leaders in Nebraska do not deny the gangs’ existence, but describe their members as misguided youths, not hardened criminals. With help from city and state agencies, Sudanese groups are working to identify at-risk young people and steer them away from crime.

“I will agree that there are Sudanese gangs in Omaha,” said Malakal Goak, a Sudanese refugee and director of Caring People Sudan, an Omaha-based non-profit group that provides health and educational services to the refugee community. “But even though there are gangs, we still have a very strong culture that can redirect them to come back to a normal life of the community.”

The emergence of the gangs follows a familiar pattern. Driven by poverty, social dislocation and other factors, street gangs have arisen from virtually every immigrant and refugee population to arrive in the U.S. for well over a century, according to Mike Carlie, a retired professor of criminology at the University of Southern Missouri and author of a book on street gangs.

“It’s called the immigrant tradition,” Carlie said. “It’s something that communities should know about before they ever begin to take on a population like this.”

FROM AFRICA TO OMAHA

For over 50 years, Sudan — a political invention of British colonizers in East Africa, covering an area nearly three times the size of Western Europe — was wracked by civil war between the ethnically Arab and Muslim north and the black, Christian and animist south.

A 2005 peace settlement, brokered in part by the U.S., finally halted the conflict between north and south, which had claimed more than 2 million lives. By that time, millions of Sudanese had fled the south to live in sprawling camps in neighboring Ethiopia, Chad and Kenya.

The United Nations ultimately resettled nearly 31,000 refugees from these camps in the U.S. with the help of religious groups such as the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

In the 1990s, Omaha emerged as an unlikely hub for the Sudanese, both for primary resettlement from camps in Africa, and for secondary resettlement, as refugees placed in other cities migrated there in search of jobs, cheap housing and a sense of community.

Many Sudanese arrived in the U.S. with next to nothing. “You would see a family of six with not one bag,” Goak said.

The federal government, through the Office of Refugee Resettlement, provides newly arrived refugees with 90 days of intensive assistance, including housing, food, clothing and employment.

Lutheran Family Services acted as a contractor for the federal program for Sudanese arriving in Omaha. Neither state or federal agencies track the number of Sudanese on a city-by-city basis, but Amy Richardson, vice president of refugee resettlement services for the agency, estimated the population in Omaha was now between 10,000 to 15,000.

Richardson said her agency had successfully placed almost 90 percent of Sudanese arrivals in Omaha in a job during the three months of the federal assistance program, but she acknowledged that her agency did not keep close tabs on the welfare or employment status of individual refugees after that period.

“After that 90 days and beyond, we kind of don’t have access to knowing how long they kept that job, or what trajectory they were on after that,” she said.

Yet based on her interactions with individual Sudanese, she said it appeared that the community was doing well. “I think that Omaha has done a very good job of assimilating these folks,” she said.

Some Sudanese in Omaha have clearly thrived, opening shops, restaurants and other small businesses, buying homes, mastering English and attaining college degrees. The high school graduation rate of Sudanese youth has also improved, reaching roughly 50 percent this year, community leaders said. Several Sudanese students have recently earned prestigious college scholarships.

But those successes are at risk of being overshadowed by violence and criminality among the younger generation of refugees.

Chuol Yiel, 35, a Sudanese refugee, arrived in the U.S. alone and penniless in 1995, and settled in Omaha in 1999. Today he works nights at a postal company while he finishes an undergraduate degree in psychology at a local university.

“Among the young people, there are some that have gone to college and even graduated,” Yiel said. “There are a few that are doing very well.”

But many more youth, he said, were turning to gangs and delinquency.

“The youngsters, a big number of them are not doing as good as we expected them to do in the society. They are getting involved in these negative experiences,” he said. “These are the ones who could be the future.”

One critical problem for the Sudanese community was a lack of preparation by the city’s public schools for the complex needs of refugee families, said Susan Mayberger, coordinator for migrant and refugee programming for Omaha Public Schools. The school district has taken steps to address the problem by adding programs that encourage parental involvement, she said.

“I am afraid that with the Sudanese community, with a lot of the parents, we weren’t supporting them to the same level that we are now,” Mayberger said.

The lack of parental engagement led many young Sudanese people to drop out and drift into trouble, she said. For those that did end up in gangs, some parents either could not, or would not, understand or acknowledge their children‒s involvement.

“I would say we lost some of those kids,” she said.

‘IT’S ROUGH OUT HERE’

Dak More is tired of the violence.

More, 25, was born in a small farming village in southern Sudan. As a young boy he fled with his mother and siblings across the border into Ethiopia after his father was shot and killed by government soldiers from the north.

Many other relatives stayed and died, including a 12-year-old brother killed while fighting in the rebel army. At age 10, he and his mother left Kakuma, a sprawling refuge camp in eastern Kenya, for San Diego, after the U.S. State Department granted them refugee status. In his early teens, the family relocated to Omaha, where he completed high school.

He lives in Southside Terrace, a public housing project, sharing a cramped two-bedroom apartment with his mother, Nyatut, 64, and his three young children. Since graduating high school, he has worked at a series of meat-packing plants in the area. The conditions are hard but the pay is decent, he said.

On a Friday night in December, police cars rolled through the neighborhood, quiet and cold under a blanket of freshly fallen snow. More stood on the stoop of his apartment, wearing a bright yellow L.A. Lakers jersey under a heavy winter coat and a wool cap. He pointed out a group of young Sudanese walking up the street wearing black jackets, red shirts and bandanas: members of the M.O.B. gang.

“It’s rough out here, man,” More said. “Every Friday there is a shooting.”

Growing up in Omaha was difficult from the very start, he said. As a teenager, he and other young Sudanese in the housing project were attacked and harassed by African-American youth, local members of the Crips and Bloods. His left arm still aches from the time he was beaten with a baseball bat during a fight. “They think the Sudanese sold them to America for slaves,” he said.

To protect themselves, More said, the Sudanese formed their own gangs. Soon, they were committing crimes, mostly petty robberies, and brawling at parties on weekends. At 18, More briefly joined a gang and got in a few fights, but quit after a year. Friends and cousins have been shot and sent to prison, he said.

Recently, More wearied of the growing violence and began looking for ways to help bring the community’s young people under control. For six months this year, he worked as a translator and a source of information for the Omaha police department, providing details about delinquent teenagers and brewing trouble among the city’s Sudanese gangs.

This June, he helped disrupt a plot by a group of teenage gang members to kill a witness to a violent robbery by translating recordings of jailhouse conversations.

Shortly thereafter, the police department ended his temporary position. According to Lt. Darci Tierney, a police department spokeswoman, city law enforcement currently has no paid liaison with the Sudanese community.

Lack of resources for law enforcement is a problem for the entire city, said Ben Gray, a city councilman who represents north Omaha and sits on the board of the Omaha Housing Authority. “Our police department is stretched about as far as it can be.”

With police resources strained, the violence continues, both among the Sudanese and the community at large. A surge of shootings and homicides this November and December put the city on track for its highest homicide rate in several years, forcing city officials to speak out about the problem. “The number of shootings we’ve seen in the past few weeks is unacceptable,” Omaha mayor Jim Settle said in a press conference on Dec. 13.

City officials point to efforts to spur job creation in disadvantaged neighborhoods and provide resources and activities for at-risk youth as part of a concerted push to increase public safety. “There’s a huge community effort going on right now to reduce the violence,” Tierney said.

But Malakal Goak, the Sudanese non-profit director, said that desperately needed funds for sports and after-school programs had been requested from both state and city agencies, to no avail.

“We consider coming to the U.S. as a blessing,” Goak said. But, he added, “the resources for our young people are not there.”

Compounding the gang problem is the lack of jobs for young people and their parents caused by the economic slowdown, he said.

“It’s very uncertain living here,” he said. “In the past it used to be much better, but not anymore.”

A RECIPE FOR TROUBLE

To some Omaha leaders, the troubles now afflicting the Sudanese refugee community could have been anticipated.

Gray, the city councilman, called their resettlement in the city during the 1990s and early 2000s well-meaning but poorly thought out.

“We didn’t think through what we were going to do after they got here,” Gray said. “We didn’t think about what were the services they were going to need and how we were going to provide them.”

As more than 10,000 refugees flooded into inner-city neighborhoods and housing projects already struggling with poverty and high crime, services were cut, not bolstered. The result was inadequate policing and a lack of public resources for a community with extraordinary needs, he said.

“You’ve got a recipe for some serious difficulty when you bring in that number of people,” he said.

The levels of poverty and violence in the primarily African-American neighborhoods in Omaha where many Sudanese settled are among the highest in the country, census and law enforcement data shows.

Unemployment among Omaha’s almost 55,000 African-Americans averaged nearly 23 percent in 2010, well above the national average for African-Americans of 17 percent, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey. In some individual census tracts in North Omaha, the unemployment rate reaches as high as 35 percent or more, Gray said. Poverty rates in the city’s African-American community are also among the very worst in the country.

Persistent poverty has created fertile ground for violent street gangs, which arrived in the 1980s from Los Angeles and other major metropolitan areas and established control over the city’s drug trade. Drug-fueled gang violence peaked in the mid-1990s in Omaha, as it did in most other U.S. cities. But the gangs and the violence have only ebbed somewhat, not abated.

According to a 2010 study of national homicide data, Nebraska had the third-highest state homicide rate for African-Americans in the country in 2008, due almost entirely to violence in Omaha’s inner-city neighborhoods.

Omaha’s homicide rate dipped by more than 30 percent in 2009, and city officials credited the decline to a series of youth-oriented jobs and recreation programs in violence-wracked areas. But homicides have steadily crept back up since then, and by the end of the 2011 they were approaching the past decade’s highs.

Violence spiked in November, with a string of shootings and homicides clustered on Omaha’s north side. In one weekend, there were seven shootings, two fatal.

One of those killed was James Mun, 19, whose murder was recorded briefly in a story about the wave of shootings in the Omaha World-Herald. The reporter did not note his Sudanese heritage.

BACK TO AFRICA

James Mun’s death might have been averted but for a missed flight.

In July, Mun Nam Koak, his father, bought a plane ticket to take him from Omaha to East Africa, a region he had not seen since he escaped the civil war between northern and southern Sudan as an infant. He would have arrived just days before South Sudan officially achieved independence, becoming the world’s newest nation.

The goal of the trip was to get his son out of the U.S., where he had dropped out of community college and was drifting into trouble with the law, Koak said.

“I absolutely wanted to get him out of the country,” he said. “I was worried about his friends. They were involved in the drinking, not going to school. I don’t like that.”

“It’s not the way we live life in Africa,” he said.

Mun never made the trip. The night before his flight, he was arrested while out drinking with friends in north Omaha. He spent the night in jail and missed his plane.

Mun told his father that he wanted to spend a couple of months in Omaha, to work and save some money. Then, in November, his father bought him another plane ticket to South Sudan. It also went unused.

Early in the morning of Saturday, Nov. 19, Mun was shot in the head in an empty lot near a north Omaha freeway overpass. His friends drove him to a nearby hospital, where he died the next day. Police have made no arrests.

Koak said he had heard that his son’s killers were Sudanese. But he denied that his son was involved in gang activities.

“He was not gang. He was not bad person. He was not criminal,” he said. “My son did not do anything to anybody.”

But others who knew his son, including his cousin Gatweth Root, said Mun was affiliated with the South Sudan Soldiers, and pointed to gang references in postings and photos by and about him on Facebook. Root said the murder may have been motivated by a dispute over a girl with a member of the African Pride gang, and if police do not solve the case, there will likely be a retaliatory attack.

“His dad might not know it, but he’s gang,” said Dak More. “His friends are going to pay it back.”

James Mun, 19, was shot to death in an empty lot on Omaha’s gritty north side while hanging out with friends early on the morning of Nov. 19. Born in southern Sudan, his father carried him to safety across the border in Ethiopia after government soldiers attacked their village. He arrived in the U.S. with his mother and father in 1995.
Malakal Goak, a Sudanese refugee and director of Caring People Sudan, a non-profit group in Omaha, said that young Sudanese in the city were in need of sports and after-school programs to stay out of trouble, but funds for these activities were unavailable from city and state agencies.
Bruce Ferrell, a former gang unit detective with the Omaha Police Department said that Sudanese street gangs began forming in the city around 2003 and were responsible for a growing number of crimes, including shootings and robberies.
Nyatut More, 64, points to a photograph of her brother, killed in Sudan’s second civil war. She fled with her children across the border into Ethiopia after her husband was shot and killed by government soldiers from the north in 1992. The U.N. granted her and her children refugee status in 1995 and relocated them to San Diego. Several years later they settled in Omaha.
Rebel fighters march in 1998, at the height of Sudan’s second civil war. A 2005 peace settlement, brokered in part by the U.S., finally halted the conflict between north and south, which had claimed more than 2 million lives. By that time, millions of Sudanese had fled the south to live in sprawling camps in neighboring Ethiopia, Chad and Kenya.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir lifts South Sudan’s new constitution to the crowds of people attending an independence ceremony in Juba, South Sudan, on Saturday July 9, 2011. South Sudan celebrated its first day as an independent nation Saturday, raising its flag for the first time before tens of thousands of cheering citizens elated to reach the end of a 50-year struggle.
Sudanese refugees stand in line to cast their ballots for the South Sudan referendum election at an “Out of Country Voting Locations” precinct Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/23/sudan-sudanese-refugees-omaha-nebraska_n_1165709.html#s569993

Sudan Says Kiir’s Visit to Israel Reveals Covert Relations

Posted: December 23, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

December 22, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Karti has downplayed fears of a security impact on his country following the visit of South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir to Israel, saying it is just a revelation of what was happening in secrecy between Tel Aviv and Sudan’s former southern rebels.

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South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir (L) meeting Israeli President Shimon Peres in East al-Quds (Jerusalem) on December 20, 2011.

Karti’s statement appears to overrule that of his ministry’s spokesman, Al-Obaid Marawih, who warned a day before that the visit poses a threat to Sudan’s national security, citing alleged ties between Tel Aviv and rebel groups in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.

Speaking to reporters in the capital Khartoum on Thursday, Sudan’s top diplomat said that the visit would not create any security repercussions on his country. He further said that Kiir’s visit was merely a continuation of the well-established relations between his ruling party, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), and the Jewish State.

Karti pointed out that Israel has historically supported the SPLM’s rebellion in the former southern region of Sudan through weapons and training, adding that this support was admitted by the SPLM itself.

During his one-day visit to Tel Aviv, Kiir reportedly thanked his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres for the support his country gave to South Sudan during the war whose latest round ended in 2005 with the signing of a peace deal that paved the way for South Sudan’s independence in July this year.

“I am very moved to be in Israel and to walk on the soil of the Promised Land, and with me are all South Sudanese people,” he said, according to a statement by Peres’ office. “Without you, we would not have arisen. You struggled alongside us in order to allow the establishment of South Sudan and we are interested in learning from your experience.”

As far as Karti is concerned, “It is better for the Arab and Islamic world to know the truth of the relationship between the southern state and Israel, which many Arab and African state used to doubt.”

Israel was quick to recognize South Sudan’s independence and pledged to establish full diplomatic and economic ties with the world’s new nation.

(ST)

http://www.sudantribune.com/Sudan-says-Kiir-s-visit-to-Israel,41070


Matata Safi

22 December 2011

press release

Juba — The American Ambassador to the Republic of South Sudan Susan Page has assured of the readiness of the American business community to invest in the Republic of South Sudan.

Speaking to the press in Juba yesterday the US Ambassador said the December 14th to 15th Iternational Engagement Conference that was sponsored by the government of the United States of America, UK, Norway, UN, African Union, World Bank IFC and NGOs had scored two important successes that will see many investors coming to invest in the world’s newest nation.

Ambassador Page outlined the waving off of sanctions on the oil sector with South Sudan and the commitment of the government of the Republic of South Sudan to join the International Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a body that looks at transparency over payments which oil, gas and mining which are aimed at improving the service delivery to all citizen of a member country as being landmark achievements.

She explained that the removal of the sanctions on the oil sector in South Sudan will allow easy importation of equipments and other items for the development of the oil sector. “These two aspects are tremendous achievements for South Sudan for it will become easy doing business here in South Sudan for investors”, she said.

She added that the engagement conference was an important one for South Sudan in that it availed the opportunity for the Republic of South Sudan to realize its development priorities, to send a very strong message to the international community about the investment opportunities and the good climate for investors that the new country offers. She further stressed that it also demonstrated the support from the international community for the Republic of South Sudan and its people.

She said there is strong support from the US leadership both in government and leaders of other institutions in America to support and engage in the private sector in South Sudan.

She warned that oil can be both a blessing and a curse. She said this has been witnessed in a number of countries and stressed that EITI is one area where the support of private sector and also the local NGOs that resources can be better managed for the benefit of the people of South Sudan.

Meanwhile the minister for Information and Broadcasting Hon. Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin expressed gratitude to the government of the USA for the initiative of organizing such an important conference and said it was of greater benefit to the baby Republic of South Sudan. He said a lot on the private sector development, good governance and accountability were addressed.

In a related issue Dr. Marial praised the Republic of Kenya for the retreat it organized for the ministers of the new Republic of South Sudan. He pointed out there some media houses had reported that the ministers had gone for a holiday. “We were not on a holiday as some of you reported, in fact you were in a holiday writing your articles”, he said.

He said Kenya has an experience of over 40 years of independence and shared its experiences, challenges and successes with South Sudan.

http://allafrica.com/stories/201112230137.html

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