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Map of Africa just before World War I……
The continent of Africa was the cradle of human life.
Each stage in the development of humankind can be traced in the African record.
The ancient civilization of Egypt flourished there.
In the classical world of Greece and Rome, Africa was regarded as a source of wisdom.

Many great yet viable kingdoms and states once thrived on the African continent. Much of South and Central Africa’s history took place in comparative isolation from the rest of the world, while sub-Saharan Africa traded with the North Mediterranean and North East Africa traded with the Middle East and with India.

European attitudes towards Africa changed with the Christianization of Europe so that by the Middle Ages, Africa became associated with darkness and heathen religious practices.

In 1454 and 1483, the Pope ceded much of Africa to the emerging maritime colonial powers, Spain and Portugal. In the nineteenth century, the northern European colonial powers divided the rest of Africa among themselves. 

Exploitation followed of the continent’s wealth and people, with few resources being invested for the continent’s own benefit.

The decolonization process during the twentieth century saw the emergence of nation-states with artificial borders, often crossing tribal boundaries and with limited infrastructure.

Political instability and economic crises characterized much of Africa during the second half of the twentieth century.
Presidents tended to be “for life” and political freedom was rare. However, such leaders led countries that lacked a solid civil society foundation upon which democracy could be built.
Many of these authoritarian leaders accumulated vast fortunes for themselves while they impoverished their countries and increased their countries’ financial indebtedness to the West.

At the beginning of the 21st century, it could be argued, European nations began to accept some moral responsibility for the plight of Africa due to centuries of exploitation and underdevelopment and to make its development a political priority.

For many, Africa represents a moral challenge to humanity and a test of humanity’s commitment to create a more just, more equitable world.


Robert Fisk: The new focus of Syria’s crackdown has seen similar bloodshed before…

History comes full circle in Syria. In February 1982, President Hafez al-Assad’s army stormed into the ancient cities to end an Islamist uprising. They killed at least 10,000 men, women and children, possibly 20,000. Some of the men were members of the armed Muslim Brotherhood..

Almost all the dead were Sunni Muslims, although even senior members of the Baath party were executed if they had the fatal word Hamwi – a citizen from Hama – on their identity cards. “Death a thousand times to the hired Muslim Brothers, who linked themselves to the enemies of the homeland,” Assad said after the slaughter..

Years later a retired Dutch diplomat, Nikolaos Van Dam, wrote a detailed study of the Baath party and its Alawi leadership, The Struggle for Power in Syria, and stated presciently of the Hama massacre, that “the massive repression… may very well have sown the seeds of future strife and revenge”. Never a truer word – and if the activists’ estimate that there were 250,000 citizens on the streets of Hama at the weekend to demand the end of the Assad family’s rule is correct, then the seeds of future strife were indeed planted in the historic city’s soil 29 years ago…

I remember Hama’s first siege, when I managed to enter the city by driving down the international highway and getting right in among the Syrian tanks – which were shelling the most beautiful mosque in Hama – because two army officers asked my driver to drop them off beside the river Orontes, where their units were fighting the brotherhood. The soldiers gave me and my driver tea as we took in this terrible scene..

The fighting had gone on for 16 days; girl suicide killers were taking military lives by exploding hand grenades next to them when they were taken prisoner. I only had a few minutes to see all this. Rifaat al-Assad’s defence forces in their drab pink uniforms sat on their tanks. Some of them had been badly wounded – they had bandages on their arms. A woman refugee got into my car with her child, but when I tried to give it food, she snatched it and scoffed the lot. She was starving. These, of course, were the parents of the weekend’s demonstrators. Perhaps the hungry child was on the streets of Hama three days ago…

The situation was similar yesterday, after 500 troops surged into the city, wounding at least 20 after opening fire. But it’s not an Islamic uprising this time – the insurgents of Hama were killing the families of Baath party members in 1982 – but the very name of the city sounds like a tolling bell in the history of the Assads’ rule. In those days, Assad let the press into Damascus – which is how I drove to see friends in Aleppo and return via Hama – but this time the regime has simply closed the frontier to almost all reporters…

In 1982, there was no YouTube, no Twitter, there were no mobile phones. Not a single photograph of the dead was ever published. Some of Syria’s tanks now appear to be brand new imports from Russia. The problem is that the people’s technology is new too…

… … …


Interview: The audacity of Alice Walker…

By Jesse Rosenfeld ..

ATHENS — I first meet Pulitzer Prize winning author and civil rights activist Alice Walker in the Athens port while touring the American boat participating in the flotilla preparing to set sail for Gaza.

Along with the other U.S. activists, she is training and preparing for the voyage. Sitting stoically on the deck under a canopy of an American flag with The Audacity of Hope, the ships name written across the bottom, Walker’s description of the flotilla as, “the freedom ride of this generation,” comes to life.

She’s referring to the young Americans who put their bodies on the line to challenge Jim Crow segregation. Standing next to her, shaded by the star spangled awning, the moment strikes me as simultaneously ironic and abundantly optimistic.

Two days later we sit down for an interview in a hotel lounge in Athens, under a poster of Buster Keaton falling into an open sewer hole. A bandana tied around her head, Walker, the author of The Color Purple and a number of other novels and story collections, tells me about her recent trip to Ramallah and Bethlehem for the Ted X conference.

It was so good to laugh and feel this wonderful spirit,’’ she says about a talk by Palestinian author Suad Amiry who discussed being trapped with her mother-in-law in a Ramallah apartment for forty days of an Israeli military curfew (the theme of Amiry’s book Sharon and My Mother-in-Law). 

In spite of everything, [it was good] to laugh at how silly and ridiculous the situation under occupation is, because the situation is so dire,” she adds.

Walker was part of the Gaza Freedom March in 2009 that attempted to go through Mubarak’s Egypt into Gaza, but her public commitment to speaking out about Palestinian rights dates back the 1982 massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps during Israel’s first invasion of Lebanon. 

I wasn’t so happy with the massacres. That was a marker [for me],” she says in a dry tone. However, for her, going to Gaza after the 2009 invasion was a turning point.

This was incredibly disturbing. It was something that really caused me to want the world to waken to the seriousness [of the situation],” she says.

Reflecting on her years of activism, it is clear that Walker sees a connection between civil rights in America, liberation from apartheid in South Africa and the Palestinian cause.

Without the international community coming to the aid of the South African people they may very well still be under apartheid, and [without the support of progressive white people] we might still be under segregation in the United States.

The comparison doesn’t end there: “settlers are the Klan,” she says definitively, referring to the notorious white supremacist terror organization. “They don’t have their white sheets because I guess they don’t need them.

I mention to her that the leaders of the Palestine’s Arab Spring are discussing a campaign of attempted freedom rides on settler busses in the West Bank.

I’m very pleased to hear that,” she says breaking into a big smile.

She then returns to the freedom ride conversation from the previous day. “I think the tactic on the Palestinian side is to draw attention to the Klanishness. It’s been so difficult for the world to understand who the settlers are and the problem with them taking more and more of the land,” she says, arguing that it’s a modus systemically rooted in the way Israel was founded.

That’s the history of the settlement of Palestine; it started in 1948 and is continuing,” she adds connecting Israel’s creation of 750,000 Palestinian refugees in the founding of the state and current settler evictions of Palestinian families in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Although blunt and unequivocal in her analysis, Walker switches gears, once again displaying her optimism. In a recent article, she details commitments and sacrifices made by white Jewish Americans in the civil rights movement. She says she detailed these to send a message directly to Israelis.

It’s a way to remind them that their Jewishness can stand for something else, it doesn’t have to stand for beating up people, taking their land and destroying their culture,” she says. “[Israeli’s Jewish identity] could actually be about something very fabulous.’’

Jumping between her razor sharp critique and a boundless faith in people’s ability to change, it becomes clear what has made the legendary writer a central figure in artist circles, civil rights and the feminist movement.

I come from a southern tradition of struggle and one of the sayings is that freedom itself is a constant struggle.

Pointing to the poster behind me she adds “it’s like Buster Keaton over there.  You never know when you’re going to fall in a man hole, or when someone is going to push you in. The point is to hold on, don’t give up even when it looks really dire. And for the Palestinians it’s been dire since 1947-48.



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