Thursday, May 31, 2007

Power Failure

Americans are facing an increase in electricity rates thanks to deregulation.

Illinois residents have seen a jump in electricity rates recently. NewsHour correspondent Elizabeth Brackett looks at the debate over deregulation and freezing rates in Illnois.

Which of course Albertans have faced since 2001.

A number of industry watchers, including Alberta Energy Minister Mel Knight, have been forecasting higher electricity costs for Albertans even before the Ed Stelmach government announced a new $15-per-tonne tax on carbon dioxide emissions.

And that's come on top of a $4.5-billion bill Alberta consumers are being asked to pay for desperately needed new transmission infrastructure.

Hydro Quebec rated Edmonton's residential electricity rate the fifth highest out of 11 cities in 10 provinces in 2006.

Here is the irony deregulation was supposed to create competition and thus fund infrastructure expansion. Instead it has cost consumers more, reduced competition creating power oligopolies and no new transmission infrastructure has been created.

Service, well we have increasing brown outs and black outs now thanks to deregulation. Something we now share with California.

EPCOR has begun rolling blackouts, cutting power to certain areas on alternating days to help conserve energy. It's not a terrible idea, but it makes day to day living a pain. There's no official schedule anywhere, so you just kind of have to guess when power in your area is going out.
However city owned EPCOR has increased its profits thanks to deregulation.

But these profits have not benefited consumers or tax payers, they have been shoveled into an income trust created by EPCOR. This is the real meaning of deregulation;

Epcor recently acquired TransCanada Power Limited Partnership, which now operates as Epcor Power L.P. The merger included the integration of 11 new power generation facilities located in Ontario, New York, British Columbia and Colorado. The new publicly-traded subsidiary is the largest publicly-traded company based in Edmonton.

EPCOR Power L.P. (the Partnership) is a limited partnership organized under the laws of the Province of Ontario, which owns and operates a portfolio of power generation assets in Canada and the United States.

The Partnership's mission is to be Canada's premier income fund, providing a growing, stable cash distribution to unitholders. This will be accomplished by being growth-oriented while providing unitholders with reliable long-term cash flows. Superior operating and commercial management practices will be applied to a quality portfolio of energy assets.

Stock Quote: EP.UN



What's That Smell?

Blowing in the Wind

Citizen Klein

The Wild West Buyout

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And New York Has Rent Controls

Unlike Alberta, but once again what is good for the big Apple appears to be good for Alberta. This is what globalization looks like, the neo-con agenda writ across the globe. The current housing crisis in Alberta mirrors that of New York City.

Developmentalism in the Big Apple

Cost of living has skyrocketed in New York, but under fatcats Giuliani and Bloomberg, the working man’s wage has not

By Steven Wishnia

Rent in New York City costs 10 times more today than it did 30 years ago. Working-class wages haven't followed suit.

Thirty years ago, you could easily find a one-bedroom apartment in a middle-class neighborhood in New York City for $150 a month. Today, it would cost more than $1,500—more than what Yankees slugger Reggie Jackson, then baseball’s highest-paid player, paid in 1977. His Fifth Avenue apartment with a balcony overlooking Central Park cost $1,466 a month. And the minimum wage hasn’t gone up to $27.82 an hour.

How we got to this point is the subject of Kim Moody’s From Welfare State to Real Estate: Regime Change in New York City, 1974 to the Present (The New Press). Moody analyzes how New York’s business elite exploited the ’70s fiscal crisis to destroy the city’s “social-democratic polity” and impose the neoliberal agenda that has dictated “restraint on social spending, privatization, deregulation, and most importantly, the reassertion of class power by the nation’s capitalist class.”

New York City Housing Bubble - 'The BIG Picture'



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Molsons Strike

Excuse me but this is 2007 and the economy is booming. So why the claw back mentality of the past? Because Alberta has the weakest labour laws in Canada encouraging employers to be assholes.

Claw backs began in Alberta a decade ago when King Ralph pushed privatization and used the debt and deficit hysteria to punish public sector workers with claw backs in wages and benefits, which had been prompted by Safeway's claw back bargaining with UFCW across North America.

Class war was declared by Safeways and other employers beginning in the eighties prompted by the anti-union attacks of the neo-conservative regimes of Reagan, Thatcher, and Mulroney. It continued for over a decade across North America, as Kim Moody documented in his book an Injury to All.

Today with a provincial labour shortage, low interest rates, increased stock prices and productivity, Molsons Coors wants to go back to the past.

Todd Romanow, national representative for the Canadian Auto Workers union, accused Molson of stubbornly insisting on rolling back wages and pensions to 1980 levels for new employees.

"Beer is supposed to be for happy times, right now it is not," said Dave Wilton, picket captain with the Local 284 Canadian Auto Workers.

Employees, like Wilton, are ticked off that wages of future hires are rolled back from $29 to $22 an hour.

And while company spokesman Ferg Devins said the rollback is still competitive within the Alberta market, Wilton doesn't agree because he said the company is making a lot of profit.

The contract would also pass on some of the pension costs in a "defined contribution" of 3% of annual salary by new workers, and cut sick days of all employees from nine to six.

With the current hot Alberta economy, anyone getting paid at the proposed new rate won't be able to afford decent housing in Edmonton, he said.

Meanwhile in Calgary the climate change denying CEO of controversial Talisman Energy retires with a golden parachute.

Mr. Buckee retires with fantastic wealth, having cashed in stock options worth $24-million in 2005 and 2006. The rest of his options were valued at $52-million, as of Dec. 31, along with a $1.4-million annual pension whose total value is pegged at $23-million.

So who says class war is a thing of the past.

With the onset of the crisis, Moody's narrative becomes largely the bleak account of an even bleaker reality. He describes all the strategies devised by capital to impose the new rules on American workers: the dispersion of production to smaller units around the U.S., direct investment in production abroad, the "outsourcing" of work overseas, concentration (forcing small, isolated plants to confront big conglomerates with many sources of revenue), and the breakup of "pattern bargaining" on an industry-wide scale. By the late 1970's, business was also engaged in a new political activism capable of defeating pro-labor legislation in a Democratic congress and which, by pressure on the future "Reagan Democrats", helped to set the Reagan agenda even before Reagan. Because the UAW was the very model of postwar business unionism, Moody rightly underscores the Chrysler bailout of 1979-80 as a major turning point. To save Chrysler fom bankrupcty, the UAW made a series of concessions in exchange for such dubious benefits as a seat for union president Doug Fraser on Chrysler's board of directors. Whereas Fraser had, in 1978, denounced the "one-sided class war" being waged by business on working people, he and other labor leaders hailed this contract as a "breakthrough". It WAS a breakthrough-- for management. By the early 1980's, the precedent of the Chrysler contract had opened the floodgates for a "tidal wave of concessions" everywhere. Even companies with no apparent squeeze on their profits sensed the new balance of forces and demanded, usually successfully, the renegotiation of unexpired contracts, obtaining major concessions on wages, benefits and work rules. It was the biggest rollback for U.S. labor since the post-1929 Depression years, and it is not over. As Moody points out, the "realism" of business unionism faced with demands for concessions does not even achieve its minimum stated goal of saving jobs.

Business was way ahead of both the "business unionists" and the rank- and- file in taking advantage of the new situation. Even today, when the depth of the crisis has impressed itself on nearly everyone in both camps of capital and labor, the business unionists cling to the discredited practice of a bygone era. They have shown aggressiveness and imagination only in combating rank-and-file attempts, such as the P-9 strike in Austin, Minnesota, to break out of the suicidical "business as usual" mentality of mainstream organized labor. They have responded to the weakening of unions by complaceny, by organizing the limited constituency of middle-class service workers, by intimidation of rank-and-file insurgents, or by formless mergers of unions with little in common as a bargaining unit. Confronted with the challenge to organize the vast new proletariat in dead-end and low-paying service jobs, business unionists react wth the same condescension and lethargy that the bureaucrats of the AFL showed toward tthe unorganized mass of production workers in the 1930's, prior to the rise of the CIO.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Writing On The Wall

Our lame duck premier Ed Stelmach continues to prove he is the political heir of Harry Strom.

a growing number of urban Albertans are unhappy with the rookie premier's performance.

Mr. Stelmach was responding to a poll in which fewer than half of those surveyed this month said he was leading Alberta in the right direction.

The poll also suggests the overall number of people in the province who felt Mr. Stelmach was leading the province in the wrong direction has tripled to 30 per cent since January.

The Cameron Strategy poll found Tory support in rural areas has increased slightly to 58 per cent, while support in Calgary and Edmonton is down to roughly 40 per cent over the last five months.

The Cameron Strategy poll provided to the Calgary Herald shows disapproval of the premier's performance in Calgary at 39 per cent, more than double what it was in January. In Edmonton, 29 per cent of people disapprove of Stelmach's performance, again, more than double what it was in January.

"It's the doubling of the disapproval that should be worrying," said pollster Bruce Cameron. "It's the first shoe dropping."

Also, more Calgarians (41 per cent) believe the premier is leading Alberta in the wrong direction than those who think he's taking it down the right path (35 per cent).

Stelmach noted that during the race for leadership of the PC party, polls consistently showed him behind the other candidates. For him, the real test is yet to come. "The big poll for me, judgment day, is the next general election."

Which is why he is afraid to call one.

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A Kat Blog

Those cheeky Conservatives have launched an attack blog against Stephane Dion apparently written by his dog Kyoto.

The polite thing to do would be to respond in kind with a Kat blog about Stephen Harper.

His cat's name is Cheddar, the blog could be called Whine and Cheese.

And since Steve is a Star Trek fan maybe the blog could feature him as a Klingon.

The country's most powerful cat lover, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is using his official website to urge Canadians to foster pets that have been abandoned or rescued.

The web page — which is up during the Humane Society's Adopt-A-Cat month — shows a photo of a smiling Harper in a wood-panelled room at 24 Sussex Drive with two tiny kittens perched by his side.

Not shy about revealing his soft spot towards cats, Harper said he recently adopted a kitten -- an orange tabby named "Cheddar."

Since moving into 24 Sussex, Laureen Harper has been fostering stray cats through the SPCA.

"I lost my favourite cat Cabot about three years ago, who passed away in an unfortunate accident just outside of Stornaway. So I finally got over that and adopted a young kitten," said the prime minister.

"I'm not sure he knows his name yet but he seems to like everyone. He's the happiest cat I've ever seen, he likes everything and everybody."

In December, the Liberal Party elected a new leader, Stéphane Dion of Quebec. He trails Harper in polls, but not by much. Dion is a supporter of the Kyoto Protocol (which Canada has ratified) and seems to mention global warming with each breath. He even has a dog named Kyoto. This puts Harper, a cat lover and not a Kyoto supporter, in a bind.


Dion Harper

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Alberta's Padrone Culture

While unions in Alberta have opposed the exploitation of foreign workers which is being promoted by oil companies and their pals in the provincial and federal governments it is also the unions that are fighting for these workers rights.

Exploitation of foreign workers is rife in the free wheeling padrone culture of Alberta.

An advocate for Alberta's temporary foreign workers says her phone is ringing off the hook with people who say they're being treated unfairly by their bosses.

They came for a brief taste of the Alberta Advantage, with each man saying he paid $6,000 to $12,000 up front for a chance to ply his trade for a better wage.

But they wound up with no job, their money gone, crammed 15 to a house in Mill Woods, with no legal right to work in Canada. They had no promise of help getting home and demands from their work agent for even more money, they say.

The agency, Worldwide Workforce, says the men are lying and that the thousands of dollars it did charge went to cover legitimate costs.

In the meantime, two other foreign workers, with a Chinese firm, died on one of the oilpatch projects the East Indian arrivals expected to work on.

Seven of the East Indian men are now working, after residents took them in and introduced them to the International Boilermakers Union, which found them placements with employers who had federal permission to hire temporary foreign workers. Three more may have work soon.

Employment and Immigration and Industry Minister Iris Evans tabled a letter
from Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan in the Legislature today
as proof that she's doing everything she can to protect the growing number of
foreign workers brought into Alberta under temporary work permits.

But McGowan says all the minister's stunt proves is that she really
doesn't understand how her own department functions and what challenges
temporary workers actually face when they arrive here.
McGowan says there are currently no dedicated mechanisms in place at
either the federal or provincial level to ensure that temporary foreign
workers are being treated fairly by employers. Instead, both governments
simply say temporary workers are covered by the same system of workplace rules
as domestic workers.

"The current complaint driven system is flawed for domestic Canadian
workers - but it's a disaster for temporary foreign workers," says McGowan.
"By falling back on the current system, the Minister is basically admitting
that she's not prepared to do anything to help temporary foreign workers. As a
result, she's helping to create a vast underclass of exploitable workers who
don't have access to the same kind of rights and protections in the workplace
as other workers in Canada."

CALGARY/AM770CHQR - Employment and immigration minister is telling people thinking of moving to the province to stay home unless they have a job and a place to live.
Iris Evans says she doesn't want anyone coming here with unrealistic expectations.
Her comments come as Finance Minister Lyle Oberg pondered tax incentives for developers to get more affordable housing built.
Oberg says his department will be looking at both tax incentives and tax cuts.

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Just The Facts About RCTV

The current crisis in Venezuela is manufactured news, not about freedom of speech but freedom of speech for a fascist opposition movement against the Chavez government and the Bolivarian Revolution.

Two Sides of Venezuela RCTV Shutdown

Unlike most of the mainstream media and RCTV would have you believe, Hugo Chavez is not "closing down" RCTV, but only refusing to renew the broadcaster's public license. That is, RCTV won't be able to broadcast on public airwaves anymore. Putting the obvious negative effects such measure will have on the station's ratings aside, RCTV will still be able to broadcast on Venezuela by cable and satellite. This refusal, in turn, was made on the basis that RCTV violated several laws in the last few years, most notably on its participation on the 2002 coup. Furthermore, RCTV didn't cooperate with tax laws and didn't pay a number of fines issued by the Venezuelan government in recent years.

The day after the coup, a TV show aired on RCTV showed journalists and military coup plotters talking about how they tried to create an atmosphere of violence that would justify the overthrow of Chavez's government, and thanking RCTV for the support. During the coup, RCTV ran adverts calling the people to overthrow the government, and was the first station to broadcast the false claim that Chavez's supporters were shooting at peaceful demonstrators, which ended up triggering the military intervention. It turned out that the RCTV initiative backfired, and it would be enough for Chavez not to renew the license.

As Reporters without Borders doesn’t mention, perhaps understandably so, given its financing by the US State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy — which also finances rightist opposition political parties in Venezuela — RCTV was an active participant in the violent coup d’etat that deposed President Chávez for almost 48 hours in 2002.

Cartoon Coup D’Etat

On the day of the coup, RCTV abandoned all pretense to report news impartially, calling opposition supporters to illegally demonstrate at the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas while showing the constant on screen message ‘Ni un paso atras’: ‘Not one step back.’

It deliberately showed film from one angle to falsely claim that Chávez supporters were firing on opposition demonstrators, when another camera angle would have shown that Chávez supporters were defending themselves from sniper attacks — no opposition demonstrators were in sight. The constant repeated broadcasting of this film was then used as justification for some military officers to declare their ‘disobedience’ to the president, and these declarations were faithfully broadcast to attempt to legitimize a military takeover.

The American editorial writers who fail to mention all this, also fail to comment on the Venezuelan media’s support for the subsequent fascist junta that took control in Caracas and proceeded to dismiss the entire Supreme Court and the Congress, suspend the constitution, arrest the democratically elected president and then sent armed police onto the streets to suppress any resistance.

A junta member, Admiral Victor Ramírez Pérez, thanked journalists on live TV the day after the coup, saying that the organizers ‘had a weapon — the media — let me congratulate you,’ and the businessman the junta chose to be ‘president’, Pedro Carmona, summoned media executives to Miraflores to ensure that opposition to the coup was not reported.

RCTV’s boss, Granier, denied he ever met Carmona during the coup, despite film showing his presence at Miraflores, and while Granier still refers to the junta leader as ‘President Carmona’, RCTV’s subsequent actions demonstrated that no instructions were necessary to keep it on message.

As Venezuelans took to the streets to demand the return of President Chávez, fighting the police and demonstrating at Miraflores in their thousands against the coup, RCTV, contrary to the constant coverage it awarded the opposition demonstration that led to the coup, intentionally blacked out this breaking news, and as RCTV production manager at the time, Andrés Izarra, later related, Granier himself ordered journalists ‘not to broadcast information on Chávez, his supporters or anyone connected to him.’

As for Granier and RCTV, some in the opposition believe it is no loss to have the station lose its license. ‘RCTV wasn’t even good at propaganda,’ wrote one anti-Chávez columnist citing Chávez’s return after the coup and massive election win in 2006, ‘the point of giving up journalism is to increase the political effectiveness of what is broadcast, and on that score RCTV has certifiably failed.’

Hugo Chavez versus RCTV

Venezuela's oldest private TV network played a major role in a failed 2002 coup.

By Bart Jones, BART JONES spent eight years in Venezuela, mainly as a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press, and is the author of the forthcoming book "Hugo! The Hugo Chavez Story, From Mud Hut to Perpetual
May 30, 2007

Would a network that aided and abetted a coup against the government be allowed to operate in the United States? The U.S. government probably would have shut down RCTV within five minutes after a failed coup attempt — and thrown its owners in jail. Chavez's government allowed it to continue operating for five years, and then declined to renew its 20-year license to use the public airwaves. It can still broadcast on cable or via satellite dish.

Granier and others should not be seen as free-speech martyrs. Radio, TV and newspapers remain uncensored, unfettered and unthreatened by the government. Most Venezuelan media are still controlled by the old oligarchy and are staunchly anti-Chavez.

If Granier had not decided to try to oust the country's president, Venezuelans might still be able to look forward to more broadcasts of "Radio Rochela."

Venezuela and RCTV: democracy or dictatorship?

The U.S. media, in particular, having for years predicted dictatorship under Chávez, (whose popularity stubbornly remains of the order of 60-65%, much higher than GW Bush's) has of course leapt to make the accusation of censorship and 'the end of media freedom' in Venezuela.

Let's look a bit more closely at this accusation.

In other democratic countries, broadcast companies sometimes lose their licences. Renewal of licences isn't automatic or guaranteed. In 1992, for example, partly as a result of a government-led assessment of the quality of its service, Thames Television, a popular, commercial British TV station, lost its franchise after 24 years of broadcasting.

In the USA, 2 weeks before the 2004 presidential election, there was a decision by the Sinclair Broadcast Group (who control many of the local tvstations in the country) to have its stations run a documentary criticising John Kerry. The Democratic National Committee filed a case with the FCC arguing that such "partisan propaganda" was unacceptable. (See 'Stolen Honor' Newsweek election edition 2004 ) . Kerry's spokesman Chad Clanton said: "You don't expect your local TV station to be pushing a political agenda two weeks before an election. It's un-American." Political and economic pressure applied by the democrats eventually forced the Sinclair Group to cancel the anti-Kerry broadcast. There was even some talk of the Sinclair Group losing its franchise when the Democrats came to power. One wonders what the scenario might have been had the Group actively participated in an anti government oil strike or in legal and political campaigns to remove the government of the day, would their broadcast licence have been renewed? Is overt and active support for the overthrow of an elected government considered a 'democratic' right or 'freedom of speech' in the USA?



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Mud Walls

CIDA and the unilingual International Co-operation Minister Josée Verner respond to accusations that it has done nothing in Kandahar for past year, by pointing out that they have been playing in the mud, making castles in the air.

Adrian Walraven, a development officer with the Canadian International Aid Agency in Kandahar, says progress on the ground in Afghanistan can't be measured the same way it would be at home. Walraven says he's seen the difference even a small mud wall can make to an entire village, even if the project doesn't seem snazzy to Canadians.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Military Senility

The Harpocrite government likes to tout the long years of military experience of the Minister of Defense. Long in the tooth is more like it and suffering from a case of advanced senility. Time for him to go.

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor said yesterday his department has paid the entire burial costs for troops killed in Afghanistan, contradicting his own officials and the families of at least two slain soldiers.

"Since I've been in office, I've directed the department to pay the full funeral cost of fallen soldiers," O'Connor said in the House of Commons.

"And I also directed the department to review the previous Treasury Board policy set by the Liberals to come to a proper resolution and to line it up with current realities. We have been doing that since I've been in office. Any family that had to bury their loved ones is entitled to the full recompense for the funeral."

A spokesman for the Canadian Forces said late last week the military recently discovered that a family had to pay part of the cost of burying their son, who was killed in combat last year.

Opposition parties quickly pointed to the discrepancy, saying they were outraged by the conflicting accounts.

If O'Connor ordered a review of the funeral stipend in the winter of 2006, NDP Jack Layton said, why is the federal Treasury Board going to consider the matter on Thursday.

"This minister's incompetence has been seen before and it appears we're looking at it again in a particularly tragic context," Layton said following question period.




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Stelmach's Silence

Alberta's CEO Ed Stelmach remains silent and on the side lines as Saskatchewan and Newfoundland battle Ottawa over provincial resource rights. A promise made by the Conservatives to all three provinces. So much for defending principles.

As Andrew Coyne pointed out.

But Oberg's charming indifference to the issue -- we don't receive any equalization payments, so what do we care what changes the feds make to it? -- while a welcome departure from the usual federal-provincial hairpulling, hardly shows a becoming concern for the province's taxpayers.
Of course had the Liberals been the government the screaming, and howling from the Alberta government would make the headlines.

At least one Alberta right winger gets this sell out by the Harpocrites. Who take Alberta for granted.

Albertans have understood what the Liberals are about for a very long time. Where I differ with many right wing Albertans, is in their support for Reform politicians and Reform-style policies. The Reformers have a record in government now - and it is pathetic in all respects - yet somehow, they still have a reputation amongst many Albertans and Westerners for "standing up for the West". Their reputation is completely undeserved, and the policies of the Harper government clearly show it.

Meanwhile King Stephen refused to meet with Premier Calvert yesterday letting his henchmen do his dirty work in the finance committee.

A federal Conservative MP says her party never mentioned it wouldn't impose a cap on equalization payments -- a cap that Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert argues is a broken election promise.

The comment from Calgary Tory Diane Ablonczy came Monday as Calvert appeared before the Commons finance committee, making his case on why a province's non-renewable resource revenues should be excluded from the equalization formula, which -- without a cap -- would mean an estimated extra $800 million in annual federal funding for the province.

"You say there was no mention of a cap when this was discussed in election rhetoric, but there was no mention that there would not be a cap, either," Ablonczy said.

That is the logic of desperation.


Feds Screw Alberta, Again


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Why the Conservatives Are Not Libertarians 2

Gee this sounds like Trudeau. The classic liberalism that social conservatives hate.

Individual rights are not subject to a public vote;

a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a

minority; the political function of rights is

precisely to protect minorities from oppression by

majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is

the individual).

- Ayn Rand

Why The Conservatives Are Not Libertarians

Not A Libertarian Among Them

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Green PEI

The Green Party in PEI ran for the first time in yesterday's provincial election. They took votes from the Conservatives, and ran ahead of the NDP. This bodes well for Elizabeth May's strategy of running in Nova Scotia against Peter MacKay.

This shows that the Greens are not so much a threat to the NDP, as they are to the Conservatives, taking from their 'progressive' base.

And it shows that provincially and federally we need proportional representation since together the NDP, Greens and two Independents got 6% of the popular vote.

Overall Election Results
PartyElectedLeadingTotalVote Share

P.E.I. tide paints province Liberal red

This bodes ill for the Harpocrites, since PEI voted solidly Liberal in the last federal election, and now the Provincial government is Red.

Look out for more Atlantic Discord!

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Hearts, Minds and Timmies In Kandahar

All that CIDA money that was supposed to aid " women and children" in Afghanistan, doesn't. But it sure helped with getting the Troops a Timmies.

Cut CIDA's role in Afghanistan: think tank

"The failure to demonstrably address the extreme poverty, widespread hunger and appalling child and maternal mortality rates in Afghanistan — let alone boost economic development — is decreasing local Afghan support for Canada’s mission and increasing support for the insurgency."

Norine MacDonald, of the Senlis Council, said the problem is a structural issue because the money the agency does have is not ending up on the ground.

"When you're on the ground in Kandahar, it's sad to say, despite good intentions, CIDA's efforts are non-existent," MacDonald said.

"We are confronted every day by people without food, without water, without shelter, without medical aid. So our efforts are so minimal as to be non-existent."

Troops serving in Kandahar, Afghanistan, received a taste of home Canada Day morning when the Canadian Forces Personnel Support Agency (CFPSA) officially opened the first Tim Hortons outlet at a deployed mission.


A Taxpayers Timmies

Temp Workers For Timmies

Harper In Kandahar for Timmies

The Other Afghanistan

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Law Is For The Rich

Laws are made to protect property and property relations not people. In other words them that have the gold make the rules. And don't you forget it.

Poor have no blanket right to counsel
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not give impoverished litigants a blanket right to obtain legal counsel, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday. By unanimously upholding a B.C. tax on legal services, the court riled critics who had hoped that it would give an important symbolic boost to legal aid programs by removing a bar to those who cannot afford legal services.
And those Libertarians who oppose taxes should be outraged over this, but from our Conservative friends not a peep of outrage, only cheering.


Libertarian Justice

Why The Tories Want Tory Judges

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Congo's Ghosts

Guerrillas kill rare Gorilla's.

It is the Ghost's of Africa returning. Like the Mountain Gorilla's themselves
,having been rumored for hundreds of years but only actually identified as such in 1905, the Mayi-Mayi are a thing of myth and magic.

Warriors threaten to kill rare gorillas in Virunga National Park

Illegal living; May be reprisal for government crackdowns

Peter Goodspeed, National Post

Published: Thursday, May 24, 2007

Guerrillas are threatening to slaughter half the world's rare mountain gorillas living in a wildlife reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

About 200 Mayi-Mayi, warriors who dabble in black magic and cannibalism, attacked three observation posts in Virunga National Park earlier this week, killing one warden and gravely injuring four others.

The Mayi-Mayi, tribal militias led by individual warlords, remain one of the most powerful forces in the area. They have a reputation for ruthlessness and are responsible for rampant human rights abuses.

They also practice magic on a scale that borders on the bizarre. During the civil war, the fighters would sing and dance their way into battle, wearing garlands of vines, which they believed made them invisible. They also frequently sported shower hoses, drain plugs or faucets around their necks to turn enemy bullets into water.

The Mayi-Mayi have been known to cannibalize fallen enemies, eating the hearts of their victims. They have repeatedly clashed with park rangers in Virunga, which was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979, but has also been earmarked as an endangered site since 1994.

Congo Fighting Threatens Rare Gorillas

Renegade fighters attacked observation posts in an eastern Congo nature reserve, killing one ranger and threatening to slaughter a band of rare gorillas if security forces launch a counteroffensive, conservationists said Monday.

About 200 of the Mayi-Mayi fighters who remain active after Congo's ruinous 1998-2002 civil war attacked three posts Sunday in Virunga National Park, Wildlife Direct said in a statement. One ranger died and three were injured in the attack, said the group, which is active in the area.

If security forces attack, the Mayi-Mayi are threatening to wipe out a nearby group of gorillas, it said.

The fighters "are doing everything to sabotage the good intentions of well- intentioned conservationists," the group quoted park director Norbert Mushenzi as saying.

Fighters in the region killed endangered mountain gorillas in January and Mayi-Mayi fighters machine-gunned hundreds of hippos in eastern Congo in late 2006, the group said.

Many people in deeply impoverished eastern Congo subsist on "bush meat" - or the flesh of animals like chimpanzees, monkeys and gorillas that may include rare and protected species. The region is deeply impoverished after years of neglect, war and ongoing strife, sullying efforts by conservationists to protect endangered species.

The Mayi-Mayi fought on the side of government troops during Congo's war, and many have resisted joining a postwar army in the country also guarded by thousands of U.N. peacekeeping forces.

Famed for their looting and raping sprees, the Mayi-Mayi also claim many parts of Congo's east as their domain, bringing them into conflict with park rangers charged with protecting the Central African nation's dwindling wildlife.

In January, WildlifeDirect accused rebel fighters loyal to a renegade Congolese army general of butchering two silverback gorillas - adult males so called because of their grey colouring.

But the rebel fighters of General Laurent Nkunda later agreed to stop killing the rare primates.

Richard Leakey, Chairman of WildlifeDirect and credited with ending the slaughter of elephants in Kenya in the 1980s, said more than 150 wildlife rangers have been killed on active service since the beginning of armed conflict in eastern Congo.

Violence in North Kivu province has been on the rise in recent months due to failing efforts to integrate rebel fighters into the ranks of the national army.

Civilians say abuses have increased, often by these "mixed" army units.

Congo-Kinshasa: Monthly Human Rights Assessment - April 2007

The Mai Mai movement first began as a peasant uprising in the 1960s.

The group, said to be part of the Mai Mai rebel movement, which has been known to eat gorillas and whose fighters believe they are impervious to bullets

"Mayi-Mayi are civilians who have been resisting the Rwanda occupation, " Mr Kirubi told the BBC, adding that the Kinshasa government fully supported the tribal warriors.

The mountain gorillas themselves are the stuff of myth and mirth. The largest of all living primates, the animals have a strong upper body and muscular arms and broad hands and feet, closely resembling human hands and feet. It is this deceptively awkward body structure that inspired the first Godzilla film, which featured what essentially was a giant gorilla.

Because the animals generally live in dense forests at high altitudes, they are covered by a thick blanket of body hair, giving them an out-of-the-tropics look. The thick hair enables them to live in altitudes where temperatures routinely drop below freezing point.

The mystic aura of the mountain gorillas was greatly enhanced when researchers, including the famed Jane Goddall, realised that despite their great physical strength, they are generally shy and gentle beings living primarily on plants.

Gorilla mother and baby in Virunga National Park.

The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, has written to Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and to Jean-Marie Guehenno, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, asking for measures to stop the poaching and killing of endangered animals in the five World Heritage sites of the DRC.

The Director-General's initiative follows reports that several hundred hippopotami and at least two mountain gorillas have been killed in recent months in the Virunga National Park, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979 and on the World Heritage List in Danger in 1994. DRC's four other World Heritage sites - the nationals parks of Garamba, Kahuzi-Giega, Salonga and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve - are all inscribed on the Danger List.

Close encounters of the Rwandan gorilla kind

Like other indigenous native movements the Mayi-Mayi are similar to the native American Ghost Shirt Societies (see; Iraqi Ghost Dance) and their counterparts in the later Kenyan uprising against British Colonialism; the Mau-Mau.

The Mau-Mau, like the Mayi-Mayi were accused by the British of using magic.

It has been said that no one knows the real meaning of "Mau-Mau" other than a Kikuyu (also Gikuyu) tribesperson and that is because its name, like its origins, is shrouded in ancient African tribal mysteries and covered in blood. On the other hand, some authorities claim that the name was invented by European settlers and applied to the native insurrectionists in Kenya. At any rate, the name was first heard among the white population of Africa in 1948 when police officials in the British colony of Kenya began to receive rumors of strange ceremonies being held late at night in the jungle. These midnight assemblies were said to be bestial rituals that mocked Christian rites and included the eating of human flesh and the drinking of blood. Then came the reports of native people being dragged from their beds at night, being beaten or maimed, and forced to swear oaths of initiation to a secret society. In each case, their assailants were said to be members of a secret society called the Mau-Mau.

Black & Red Magic | TIME

In the British Crown Colony of Kenya, while 3,000 coal-black tribesmen, huddled in a kraal, watched in awe, a goat was slowly beaten to death and buried alongside a virgin ewe. After that ancient rite, supposedly strong magic against evil, an official representative of the Great White Queen Across the Waters pronounced a solemn curse against the Mau-Mau. The Mau-Mau (rhymes with yoyo) is a native secret society which has lately been worrying the British. London is afraid that the Mau-Mau might plunge Britain's East African empire into guerrilla war, and turn Kenya into another Malaya.

In recent years, the black 97% of Kenya's population has banded together in a dozen fanatic, anti-white secret societies run by witch doctors and pledged to the slogan: "Africa for the Africans." One called itself the "Men of God"; another was the "Spirits of the Dead," led by a soccer player named Elijah, who used his soccer medals to persuade the tribesmen that he was divine. The Mau-Mau is the most feared and successful of them all. From their jungle hideouts, Mau-Mau raiders burn the huts of tribesmen who go to work for the white man (at 7¢ a day), murder white farmers with knobkerries and assagais, snipe at British officials.

Their whispered propaganda makes much of the fact that 3,000 whites monopolize almost all the fertile land in the cool "White Highlands," leaving the blacks to grub for a living in barren, low-lying "reserves." The Mau-Mau teaches that the white man's medicine (e.g., anti-rinderpest inoculation) kills instead of curing, and that pregnant black women are aborted in white hospitals.

Kenya's British police have caught and jailed 1,000 Mau-Mau blacks, flogged thousands more. Yet the secret society is growing at a pace that suggests professional organization and funds from abroad. The Mau-Mau's leader, Kenya officials are sure, is black-bearded Jomo ("Burning Spear") Kenyatta, 50, a thickset Kikuyu dandy, who runs the outwardly respectable Kenya African Union (K.A.U.), whose stated purpose is Negro advancement. A London-trained anthropologist who wrote (1938) a first-rate study of his people, Facing Mt. Kenya, Kenyatta is a devotee of Red magic. He spent the '30s in Moscow as a student-guest of the Kremlin, returned to Kenya after World War II. now heads a chain of 135 bush schools which spread anti-British propaganda and uphold old barbaric rites (e.g., female circumcision).

Last week, at their leader's invitation, 30,000 members of K.A.U. attended an open-air meeting in the dusty village of Nyeri, 100 miles north of Nairobi. Those who wore hats were asked to take them off because, Kenyatta explained, hats are a symbol of the white man's rule. In an impassioned speech, he pressed one demand : "The whites must give Kenya back to us Africans!" Then, while white Kenyans hollered for his arrest, Mr. Kenyatta quietly tucked his ebony walking stick under his arm, walked home to his nearby bungalow and settled down to a book of essays by Bertrand Russell.

Like the Ghost Shirt societies of North America, these hunter warriors still believe in the efficacy of magic, in particular the similarity between the two groups is the belief that magical talismans can make them bullet proof.

They are also called the Mai-Mai , which is the French appellation for them.

The Mayi-Mayi like other Indigenous peoples struggles against colonialism began as liberation movements, in this case one trained by Che Guevera. Later with the abandonment of Beligum colonies that led to the Rawanda disaster, the Congo became a centre of the exodus of refugees and the return of the indigenous warrior society the Mayi-Mayi. And with that came the accusations of the colonialists of the Mayi-Mayi being cannibals, depicted as primitive, superstitious,infantile (ie. child warriors), brutish (accusations of rape, dismemberment, etc.).

The same accusations were applied to the Native American Indians, Voodoo and the Haitian uprising, the Mau-Mau and the Indian Thugee's, (which some have asserted were a purely English invention).

All these statements must be taken with large doses of salt, since they are the common myths of Imperialism. Note the sources for the accusations. Such as the ones of cannibalism supposedly practiced by the Mayi-Mayi, one comes from a Catholic priest, a religion that has long accused those it oppresses as practicing heathen rites and smears their paganism with the epithet of cannibalism.

This is not to belittle the horrors of the Congolese/Rawandan wars, but the blame for this situation lies with the Belgium/French colonizers and their allies in the UN.

Eco-Tourism, the creation of national parks for endangered species, is the new face of colonialism . The conflict in the Wilderness parks is one of modern colonialism, where good people who are concerned with the disappearance of indigenous species such as the Silverback's and other Mountain Gorillas clash with the needs of the indigenous peoples in the region.

Having failed to adequately meet the social needs of these peoples, they restrict their access to traditional hunting and gathering areas, pushing them out of their homelands, instead of providing them with an alternative to killing chimps and Great Apes for bushmeat.

The fact is that colonialism destroyed the indigenous populations, human and ape, and have transformed this region into a killing zone. The result of the benign neglect by the international community of its responsibilities in the region which continue today.

Africa remains the Dark Continent, since the the Imperial nations of Europe abandoned it after the post WWII struggles for national liberation. They turned off the lights and left leaving Africa to struggle as best it could instead of aiding the new nations that evolved from their colonial pursuits.

Alliance pour la resistance democratique (ARD)

Mayi-Mayi is the main militia groups active in the Kivus region of Congo [Zaire]. It is opposed to "Tutsi domination" and the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), but is otherwise seemingly without any clear objective and frequently change allegiances. No homogeneity exists between the various Mayi-Mayi groups, and the names of various commanders such as Louetcha, Padiri and Dunia frequently come up. As of late 1999 these forces were being re-supplied all over North and South Kivu to attack the positions of the Rwandan army. The Alliance pour la resistance democratique (ARD), based in the Fizi region, is believed to be a Mayi-Mayi front.

Mayi Mayi militia formally surrender before DRC army, MONUC
by Jennifer Bakody / MONUC 10 nov. 05

IRIN Africa | Great Lakes | DRC | DRC: Mayi-Mayi child soldiers ...
DUBIE, KATANGA, 27 January 2006 (IRIN) - Some 44 child combatants formerly allied to the Mayi-Mayi militia have left Dubie, in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Katanga Province, for the provincial capital, Lubumbashi,

News: Great Lakes, DRC: 8000 Mayi-Mayi accused of cannibalism ...

In January, CDH denounced alleged acts of cannibalism committed by armed militias, citing numerous "fighters who paraded through villages, wearing the dried genital organs of their victims".

"They were walking around with human heads at the ends of spears to intimidate villagers suspected of supporting the Forces armees congolaises [FAC, the Kinshasa government army]," said the CDH statement, issued on 8 January. "In the territory of Malemba-Nkulu, Chief Makabe went around with a dried infant around his neck."

CDH argues that the impunity permitted by the provincial authorities will facilitate cannibalism and other human rights violations regularly perpetrated in this region of the DRC. It criticises political, police and military leaders for not having brought to justice those guilty of past acts of killings, abductions, amputations, and trafficking of human organs.

The governor of Katanga, however, countered that his own investigations had failed to prove acts of cannibalism by the Mayi-Mayi. "This is not true," stated Ngoy. "All the Mayi-Mayi leaders admitted that there had been instances of exactions, and sometimes taking body parts, but not cannibalism."

Refugees stream out of Congo

David Gough in Kigoma

Tuesday July 13, 1999

The Mayi Mayi groups, who are armed and supplied by Mr Kabila's government, believe that the Banyamulenge ethnic group - who are Tutsis and who form the bulk of the RCD's ranks - are not true Congolese. They say that the RCD rebellion is a foreign invasion which they have vowed to defeat.

Refugees describe Congo's eastern province of Kivu as "close to anarchy". The situation is compounded by rival Mayi Mayi groups battling one another for control. "The Mayi Mayi used to have only spears but now they have many guns as well," said one refugee.

According to Jean Paul Kakobe, a Catholic priest from the south Kivu town of Uvira, the RCD began a big offensive against Mayi Mayi groups on June 15 - a campaign which has led to the flight of thousands of refugees into Tanzania and internal displacement of more than 100,000 others.

Father Kakobe said that in September last year he witnessed a barbaric ritual performed by a Mayi Mayi group on a beach on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, exemplifying their hatred for the Banyamulenge. "The Mayi Mayi had captured and killed two Banyamulenge rebels. They built a fire on the beach, cooked the bodies and then proceeded to eat them."

DRC: The peculiar terror that is northern Katanga

NYONGA, KATANGA, 13 February 2006 (IRIN)

The Mayi-Mayi wear masks and talismans and claim to have magical powers that stop bullets from penetrating their bodies. If not for their AK-47s, they might resemble ancient African warriors. The so-called "Mayi-Mayi phenomena" in Katanga, however, is actually recent. The groups formed in 1998, when President Laurent Kabila created armed civil defence forces in Katanga to stop Rwandan military from invading. After the Rwandans left, the Mayi-Mayi quickly devolved into an anarchic assortment of pro- and anti-government groups. When Joseph Kabila became president in 2001, he lost control of them completely. For the last year or so, many Mayi-Mayi groups in Katanga have rallied around a leader named Kyungu Mutanga, alias Gedeon. Under his command, villages have been systematically pillaged then burned. There are countless reports of atrocities. Yet, until there is a definitive human rights investigation into Gedeon's abuses, separating myth from reality will remain difficult. All the displaced people interviewed, as well as government soldiers and Mayi-Mayi fighters, said that what terrifies them about Gedeon are stories that he and his men are cannibals. However, none of them - even the Mayi-Mayi - said they had witnessed acts of cannibalism. Neither had they ever met anyone who witnessed them. Still, they all said they believe the stories. Many abandon their villages because of a rumour that he and his men were coming. Gedeon clearly rules though terror.

Mayi-Mayi: A rebel movement in Kivu (Democratic Republic Of Congo)

Luca Jourdan, Univ. Piemonte Orientale

This paper addresses the history and the ethnography of Mayi-Mayi, a rebel movement in the Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Between October 1996 and May 1997, Mayi-Mayi appeared on the stage of the AFDL war, which put an end to Mobutu's regime. The movement is still very active in the rural zones of Northern and Southern Kivu. Actually the term Mayi-Mayi refers to a cluster of groups scarcely co-ordinated among themselves, ones that are often striven by internal conflicts. At the same time some common characteristics allow constructing a general view of the entire phenomena. First of all the rebels make a constant resort to war rituals, centred on the belief in the power of mayi (that means water in Congolese Swahili), a special treated water supposed to save rebels themselves from the bullets of their opponents. Second, the movement articulates a set of common grievances based on nationalist ideals in order to oppose Mayi-Mayi to Uganda and Rwanda military intervention in Kivu. As I will show, meaningful links can be sorted out between the present Mayi-Mayi rebellion and the resistance movements, which characterised the whole area in colonial and postcolonial times. Mayi-Mayi speaks to a symbolic continuity with the beliefs and rites related to the invulnerability of warriors widely documented also in other African context. I believe that these symbols and practices supply to the scarcity of modern weapon. At the mean time Mayi-Mayi ritual discourse constitutes a efficacious strategy of mobilisation, which favour the enrolment of new recruits, in a context where the youth easily joins local militias to escape their social marginality in the local and national political arena. Mayi-Mayi references to the ancient rebellions and to the fight for independence validate the political discourse of the rebels, and reinforce their war rites.

DRC: From protection to insurgency - history of the Mayi-Mayi

GOMA, 16 Mar 2006 (IRIN) - Before colonialism in Africa, community life centred on ethnic customs and culture. In pre-colonial Congo, people lived under the authority of a traditional chief, in observance of these cultural norms.

According to Jean-Marie Kati Kati Muhongya, a political analyst and civil rights

In the 1960s, soon after independence from Belgium, politicians who were discontent with the country's leadership organised such youths into armed militia groups. From January 1964, Kati Kati said, one such leader, Pierre Mulele, who served as education minister in post-colonial Congo, organised the youths into strong militias as part of what he termed "the peasants’ revolution". A Maoist who was trained in China in guerrilla warfare, Mulele is credited with encouraging a Marxist-Leninist struggle in an effort to remove Mobutu Sese Seko, a Western-backed autocrat.

Kati Kati said Mulele drew support from the traditional chiefs, who were often medicine men, to encourage youths to join the armed struggle. The youths believed that the medicine men had made them invincible to bullets, inspiring the slogan, "Mulele Maji", meaning if you are for Mulele, all bullets directed at you would turn to water. This slogan later evolved into "Mai Mai" or "Mayi Mayi" (Congolese Swahili for "Water Water"). Hence the naming of Mayi-Mayi militia groups in various parts in today’s Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Jason Stearns, a Nairobi-based senior analyst in the International Crisis Group, told IRIN that the Mayi-Mayi have existed in eastern DRC since the so-called "Mulelist rebellion" of the 1960s. The militias reappeared in force in 1993 in North Kivu, from which they spread to the rest of the east. The Mayi-Mayi was a local defence force against the predation of Mobutu's army and the influx of soldiers of the Forces armees Rwandaise (known as the ex-FAR)and "Interahamwe" militiamen from neighbouring Rwanda in 1994.

activist in Goma, the capital of North Kivu Province, communities continued their traditional practises even after Congo became a fiefdom of Belgian King Leopold II in the 1880s and later a Belgian colony. One of those customs was to segregate young boys in the bush for up to one month, to prepare them for manhood. Kati Kati said that during their time of seclusion, youths underwent training in many fields, including how to protect their communities from intruders.

In Foreign parts: Magic of Mayi Mayi

INSIDE A church nestling among the hills of eastern Congo, a venerable warrior gives a rare audience. He is talking about politics, war and why he is invincible to gunfire.

"I am a Mayi Mayi general so I carry the gris-gris [magic charms]," declares General Jeannot Ruharara, a whiskery, weatherbeaten man. "They protect against snakes, lightning, disappearance - and, of course, bullets." He has a wooden staff in one hand and a mobile phone in the other, but the tools of his magic are pinned to his chest like medals of honour. It is a selection worthy of a Shakespearean cauldron - tail of buffalo, claw of eagle and horn of antelope but also cola nuts, dirty feathers and plastic beads.

He reaches into the hairy confusion, pulls out a dark phial, and smiles. "This is the maji", he says. The maji - Swahili for water - had been blessed at a ceremony in the mountains. It will be sprinkled on his troops moments before they enter battle, he says, and then they will be invincible to enemy bullets. "Even shells and rockets," he chuckles.

But something looks familiar. I pull closer to the magic bottle, and it has writing on the cap in English. It reads: "Boots Pharmaceuticals".

"In that sense, they are the result of a power void, which made communities arm their youth for protection," he said. "They kept this function of community protection throughout the war, and in some cases the population was proud and satisfied for these local defence forces. Indeed, the dawa, or magic, of the Mayi-Mayi comes from the Congolese soil, and the strong patriotism within the group strikes a cord within many Congolese."

Of all the gun-toting groups roaming the Democratic Republic of Congo [formerly Zaire], few are as enigmatic as the Mayi Mayi. It has no guiding leader, no command structure and no reliable estimate of numbers. Instead, the movement is a vaguely connected patchwork of factions - some disciplined soldiers, others village bandits - scattered over a lawless region the size of the British Isles. Apart from their faith in the armour- plating powers of water, every Mayi Mayi has one thing in common - a growing role at the heart of Africa's worst war.

Officially the fighting, which was started by Rwandan forces in 1998, has ground to a halt. Last summer's peace deal between Rwanda, which backs rebel forces, and the Kinshasa government is holding. A transitional government could by in place by April. But here in the east - the cradle of the conflict - talk of peace means little. War rages on.

The Mayi Mayi, which has only a sideline place in political negotiations, are slugging it out with Rwanda's puppet army, the rebels of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD). After more than four years of destruction and awesome savagery, ordinary Congolese are nakedly hostile to their pro- Rwandan RCD "liberators". And so the water warriors - mostly village lads armed with old AK-47 guns - have, in some areas, come to enjoy a popularity akin to that of the French resistance under Nazi Germany.

"The aggressors have come to destroy our country," said General Ruharara during our interview in Ndolera, a village of 6,000 people on the edge of his mountain demesne. "We are here to fight them."

General Ruharara, 55, is one of the original Mayi Mayi. He learnt his soldiering in the Sixties with another, more famous, revolutionary. "Ah yes, Ernesto Che Guevara, that was him," he says, smiling at the recollection. "We used to call him Ernesto. A giant of a man. Big, thick hair. Smoked a lot."

In 1964, Che Guevara led a force of 100 Cuban commandos to eastern Congo to boost the socialist revolution against Mobutu Sese Seko. It was a disaster. After seven months, he withdrew bitterly. "They lack revolutionary awareness," he wrote of his Congolese cadres. "Corrupted by inactivity ... saturated with fetishistic notions ... devoid of any coherent political education ... all these traits make the soldier of the Congolese revolution the poorest example of a fighter that I have ever come across."

General Ruharara, then 17, had a more positive memory. "Guevara taught us a lot. We hope he can come back to help us some day." I break the news that Che Guevara was executed in Bolivia in 1967. The general arches an eyebrow, then shrugs nonchalantly. "I have been living and fighting in the bush since then," he said. "Who was going to tell me?"

In this war the Mayi Mayi has teamed up with the Kinshasa government, which has supplied guns and money. But like much in this huge, chaotic country, even covert patronage goes awry. Two years ago Kinshasa airdropped sacks of money but they contained 50 and 100 franc notes - denominations rejected in the rebel-held zone. "We had to throw the lot away," said Jean Marie, the general's "public affairs" officer.

Yet the signs are increasing that the Mayi Mayi wants to be taken seriously. Last October a surprise alliance of factions took control of Uvira, a strategic port on Lake Tanganyika, for one week. Townspeople said the bush soldiers behaved with exemplary discipline. And more recently, the commander of the biggest faction, Joseph Padiri, has begun helping the United Nations demobilise Rwandan Hutu fighters on his turf. It is clear that peace will only come to Congo if the Gordian knot of the east is untangled, and the Mayi Mayi wants to be part of that solution.

But back in Ndolera, one matter remained. I had been promised proof of General Ruharara's maji: a goat would be blessed, troops would open fire on it and lo, the animal would live. Alas, on the day, the great test was not possible - for technical reasons. "The gunfire could alert the enemy and bring him towards us," General Ruharara offered in half-apology. His whiskers curled into a knowing smile again. The goat was safe, and so was the Mayi Mayi myth.

Militia's reign of terror comes to an end in DR Congo

DISARMAMENT: Members of the `mayi-mayi' warrior-mystic militia are living in fear of retribution as they lay down their arms after 10 years of senseless slaughter

Monday, Jul 03, 2006, Page 6

One of Africa's most-feared militias has crumbled and now faces the wrath of the population it terrorized. The mayi-mayi, warrior-mystics who have ravaged the Democratic Republic of Congo for 10 years, are surrendering in droves.

Exhausted and hungry, in recent weeks entire units have emerged from the jungles of one of their last redoubts, Katanga Province, to lay down weapons and plead forgiveness.

For hunters who used spears and arrows as well as guns to slaughter thousands, it is now their turn to be hunted. There is pressure for the leaders to be tried for war crimes and a backlash against the soldiers and their families.

Other armed groups still prowl volatile eastern provinces, but the end of the mayi-mayi in Katanga is a significant boost to stability and should open the countryside to aid agencies tackling one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

"One can no longer speak of the mayi-mayi as a political force. Their influence and visibility have greatly diminished," said Kisula Ngoy, Katanga's governor.

The Congolese army and UN troops swept through their strongholds and splintered the once mighty militia into ragged bands to prepare the country for an election scheduled for July 30.

The campaign has been controversial -- the Observer revealed last month how UN troops participated in the destruction of civilian hamlets -- and the UN has launched an investigation.

However flawed, the offensive has broken the mayi-mayi.

"You could see it when they surrendered," said Gerson Brandao, a senior official with the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which helps to demobilize combatants. "They couldn't keep running any more, they were exhausted."

Hundreds of guerrillas have flooded demobilization centers in remote towns such as Dubie and Mitwabe, performing elaborate and emotional ceremonies as they remove amulets credited with magical powers. Some wept, others looked resigned, as they handed over bracelets and pouches which supposedly rendered them invisible and bulletproof.

"There are remnants still hiding in the bush ambushing people, but the militia as such has no military strength. It's the end of the mayi-mayi phenomenon in Katanga," Brandao said.

It is an ignominious demise for what was hailed as a patriotic force at the outset of the 1998-2003 war, a murderous affair involving six foreign armies and myriad homegrown groups which left 4 million dead, mostly from hunger and disease.

To repel Rwandan and Ugandan troops President Laurent Kabila turned to tribes of hunters and farmers loosely known as the mayi-mayi. With cursory training and AK-47 assault rifles, the militia had some success, bolstering a widespread belief that its fighters had magical powers, a superstition which paralyzed some opponents.

Foreign forces withdrew with the war's official end in 2003, but the mayi-mayi, fractious and lacking effective command, missed out in the transitional government's carve-up of power and spoils. Alienated from its former sponsors in the capital, Kinshasa, the militia laid waste swaths of eastern Congo for three years, displacing hundreds of thousands and making a mockery of the supposed peace.

"In some cases the mayi-mayi publicly tortured victims before killing them in public ceremonies meant to terrorize the local population," said the New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch.

Now the worm has turned. Lacking popular support, political allies and a driving ideology, the militia in Katanga crumbled when confronted by Congolese troops.

A key turning point was the surrender in May of the most influential warlord, Kyungu Mutanga, better known as Gedeon.

Claiming to have communed with the ghost of his late mentor, Laurent Kabila, Gedeon ordered his 150 followers, many of them child-soldiers, to hand over amulets and charms along with their weapons.


Another Dirty Little Secret

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