Ahmadinejad's Plea and Tutu's Mission

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote an open letter yesterday to the American people, expressing his support for Palestinians and outrage at the War on Terror.

Here is an excerpt:

We, like you, are aggrieved by the ever-worsening pain and misery of the Palestinian people.

Persistent aggressions by the Zionists are making life more and more difficult for the rightful owners of the land of Palestine...

You know well that the US administration has persistently provided blind and blanket support to the Zionist regime, has emboldened it to continue its crimes, and has prevented the UN Security Council from condemning it...

No people wants to side with or support any oppressors. But regrettably, the US administration disregards even its own public opinion and remains in the forefront of supporting the trampling of the rights of the Palestinian people...

Let's take a look at Iraq. Since the commencement of the US military presence in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, maimed or displaced. Terrorism in Iraq has grown exponentially.

In Iraq, about 150,000 American soldiers, separated from their families and loved ones, are operating under the command of the current US administration.
A substantial number of them have been killed or wounded and their presence in Iraq has tarnished the image of the American people and government...

Noble Americans, you have heard that the US administration is kidnapping its presumed opponents from across the globe and arbitrarily holding them without trial or any international supervision in horrendous prisons that it has established in various parts of the world.

God knows who these detainees actually are, and what terrible fate awaits them...

You have certainly heard the sad stories of the Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisons. The US administration attempts to justify them through its proclaimed "war on terror." But every one knows that such behaviour, in fact, offends global public opinion, exacerbates resentment and thereby spreads terrorism, and tarnishes the US image and its credibility among nations...

The US administration's illegal and immoral behaviour is not even confined to outside its borders. You are witnessing daily that under the pretext of "the war on terror," civil liberties in the United States are being increasingly curtailed.

Even the privacy of individuals is fast losing its meaning. Judicial due process and fundamental rights are trampled upon. Private phones are tapped, suspects are arbitrarily arrested, sometimes beaten in the streets, or even shot to death...

We all condemn terrorism, because its victims are the innocent. But, can terrorism be contained and eradicated through war, destruction and the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocents? If that were possible, then why has the problem not been resolved?...

I recommend that, in a demonstration of respect for the American people and for humanity, the right of Palestinians to live in their own homeland should be recognized so that millions of Palestinian refugees can return to their homes and the future of all of Palestine and its form of government be determined in a referendum. This will benefit everyone...

Now that Iraq has a constitution and an independent assembly and government, would it not be more beneficial to bring the US officers and soldiers home, and to spend the astronomical US military expenditures in Iraq for the welfare and prosperity of the American people?...

I'd also like to say a word to the winners of the recent elections in the US [...] Now that you control an important branch of the US government, you will also be held to account by the people and by history....

Meanwhile Archbishop Desmond Tutu will be heading up a fact-finding mission into Beit Hanoun where 19 Palestinian died in Israeli shelling earlier this month.

From the BBC:
Mr Tutu - the former archbishop of Cape Town - will report back to the UN's Human Rights Council in December.

The mission aims to "recommend ways to protect Palestinian civilians against further Israeli attacks", the UN says.

Israel has said the strike, which hit a civilian area in the Gaza Strip town, was due to a "technical failure".

Mr Tutu - the winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his fight against apartheid in South Africa - will present his findings by the middle of December, the Geneva-based council said.

Earlier this month, the council approved a resolution that condemned "gross and systematic" human rights violations by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories and ordered an inquiry into the Beit Hanoun incident.
Most of the victims were from one extended family. Several children and women were among the dead.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has described the killings as a massacre, and demanded intervention by the United Nations.

Israel launched its operation in and around Beit Hanoun last month in an effort to root out militants firing rockets.


Post Colonial Moment: US Congress' Letter to Bolton

Congress of the United States
Washington DC 20515

November 27, 2006

The Honorable John R Bolton
Permanent US Representative to the United Nations
United States Mission to the United Nations
140 East 45th Street
New York, NY 10017

Fax 212-415-4053

Dear Ambassador Bolton:

We write to express our strong support of the proposed United Nations resolution commemorating the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. We hope that the United States will join the global coalition in supporting this important and historic effort.

The US Congress has been very clear in its bipartisan condemnation of global slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. Last July, the House passed H. Con. Res. 175, a resolution recognizing the effects and descendents of the transatlantic slave trade throughout the hemisphere. On November 16, 2006, the Senate adopted the resolution unanimously. Additional domestic legislation that has passed the US House of Representatives this session includes resolutions commemorating Juneteenth or the emancipation of slavery in the United States, and the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Similarly, the Senate adopted resolutions condemning slavery and apologizing to the victims of lynching during these repressive eras in our history.

We expect our representation at the United Nations to be a strong vocal supporter of existing efforts to remedy what has been a brutal stain of oppression and discrimination in global history. And we look forward to joining the global celebrations next March 25th on the inaugural International Day for the Commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade.

Thank you in advance for your support of this important and historic measure.


1. Rep Barbara Lee (D-CA)
2. Rep Charles B Rangel (D-NY)
3. Rep Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH)
4. Rep Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX)
5. Rep Bobby L Rush (D-IL)
6. Rep Jose Serrano (D-NY)
7. Rep Barney Frank (D-MA)
8. Rep Donald Payne (D-NJ)
9. Rep William Jefferson (D-LA)
10. Rep Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)
11. Rep Eleanor Homes Norton (D-DC)
12. Rep Albert R Wynn (D-MD)
13. Rep Jim McGovern (D-MA)
14. Rep John Lewis (D-GA)
15. Rep Diane Watson (D-CA)
16. Rep Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
17. Rep Julia Carson (D-IN)
18. Rep Donna M Christensen (D-VI)
19. Rep Gregory Meeks (D-NY)
20. Rep Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
21. Rep Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)
22. Rep Al Green (D-TX)
23. Rep Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
24. Rep Elijah Cummings (D-MD)


Post Colonial Moment: Tony Blair's Statement on the Slave Trade

British Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote a statement expressing his regret about the slave trade yesterday in the New Nation, Britain's leading black newspaper. This comes on the heels of next year's bicentennial anniversary of the abolition of the Slave Trade Act, which made it unlawful for any British subject to capture and transport slaves. The Prime Minister has also given instructions for Britain to co-sponsor a resolution at the United Nations put forward by Caribbean countries next year to commemorate this event.

However, some activists feel that his statement doesn't go far enough. Anti-slavery campaigners believe that a full apology for the slave trade and financial compensation is in order.

From the Times Online:

Speaking on the BBC's Today programme Esther Stanford of the campaign group Rendezvous of Victory said: "This statement does not go far enough. To repair the harm we are talking about educational reparations, financial reparations, family and cultural reparations.

"If we don't deal with this now it's tantamount to saying that you can commit crimes against humanity."

Ms Stanford said she agreed "most definitely" with calls for legal compensation. However, she said that did not include seeking redress from the families of African leaders who were involved in organising the slave trade.

"You don't indict a whole country of Africa for the excesses of a few people who were forced to partake," she said.

"No-one blames Jewish collaborators for their part in the Holocaust."

But Culture Minister David Lammy sees this differently:

"Tony Blair's statement is first a political statement. It's one that follows along on a long tradition. Tony Blair has gone further than any other leader in the West and has struck the right balance. I think it is the right tone and its right that we move forward together," he said.

"I think the business of compensation is not really productive. I don't want to get into a blame fest. I want dialogue and progress."

Below is Tony Blair's full statement. You decide on who is right:

The transatlantic slave trade stands as one of the most inhuman enterprises in history. At a time when the capitals of Europe and America championed the Enlightenment of man, their merchants were enslaving a continent. Racism, not the rights of man, drove the horrors of the triangular trade. Some 12 million were transported. Some three million died.

Slavery's impact upon Africa, the Caribbean, the Americas and Europe was profound. Thankfully, Britain was the first country to abolish the trade. As we approach the commemoration for the 200th anniversary of that abolition, it is only right we also recognise the active role Britain played until then in the slave trade. British industry and ports were intimately intertwined in it. Britain's rise to global pre-eminence was partially dependent on a system of colonial slave labour and, as we recall its abolition, we should also recall our place in its practice.

It is hard to believe that what would now be a crime against humanity was legal at the time. Personally I believe the bicentenary offers us a chance not just to say how profoundly shameful the slave trade was - how we condemn its existence utterly and praise those who fought for its abolition, but also to express our deep sorrow that it ever happened, that it ever could have happened and to rejoice at the different and better times we live in today.

The people who fought against slavery came from all walks of life. They included slaves and former slaves like Olaudah Aquiano, church leaders, statesmen like William Wilberforce and countless ordinary citizens who signed petitions, marched, lobbied and prayed for change. The bicentenary is an opportunity for us all to remember those who were bought and sold into slavery and those who struggled against its injustices.

Community, faith and cultural organisations, with the support in many cases of the Heritage Lottery Fund, are already planning events to mark the bicentenary. We in Government, with local authorities, will be playing our full part. And the UK is co-sponsoring a resolution in the UN General Assembly, put forward by Caribbean countries, which calls for special commemorative activities to be held by the United Nations to mark the occasion.

We also need, while reflecting on the past, to acknowledge the unspeakable cruelty that persists in the form of modern day slavery. Today slavery comes in many guises around the world - such as bonded labour, forced recruitment of child soldiers and human trafficking - and at its root is poverty and social exclusion.

We also need to respond to the problems of Africa and the challenges facing the African and Caribbean diaspora today. Africa, of course, is a place of great beauty, fantastic diversity and a resilient and talented people with enormous potential. It is also the only continent getting poorer and where, in many places, life expectancy is falling.

But the world is now focussing, not least because of the G8 summit and the Make Poverty History campaign, on how we can help Africa tackle its problems. Agreement was reached to double aid to Africa by 2010, to write off the debts of the poorest countries and massively to increase funding to tackle AIDS and improve healthcare and education.

Britain is playing its full part both through increasing bilateral aid and through international leadership. The International Finance Facility for Immunisation, which we have launched, should save five million children a year.

All this is making a difference. Debt relief is already beginning to flow. It has, for example, enabled Zambia to scrap charges for health care. This is taking place in partnership with African Governments and their people. But there is a great deal more to do.

At home, the bicentenary is also an opportunity for us to pause and consider the enormous contribution today of Black African and Caribbean communities to our nation. Britain is richer in every way - for example, in business, politics, sport, the arts and science - because of the part played by these communities in every aspect of our national life. But even 30 years after Labour introduced the groundbreaking Race Relations Act and set up the Commission for Racial Equality, there are still barriers to overcome before everyone can make the most of their talents and potential.

Across government, we are investing in tackling inequality in education, health, employment, housing and the criminal justice system. I want to see a future in which everyone can achieve their full potential. Earlier this week, a group of young people from Bristol, Hull and Liverpool visited the capital at the invitation of the Deputy Prime Minister and I know that our schools and colleges will play a big role in next year's commemorations and legacy events.

This bicentenary must also be a spur for us to redouble our efforts to stop human trafficking and all forms of modern slavery.

But, above all, this 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade is a chance for all of us to increase our understanding of the heritage we share, celebrate the richness of our diversity and increase our determination to shape the world with the values we share.


Thanksgiving In Context

By Talia Whyte
Special to Global Wire

Americans will soon sit down for another Thanksgiving dinner, a tradition stemming back to the Pilgrims’ first celebration in 1621. We know that the Pilgrims had a tumultuous relationship with Native Americans, through colonization, forced assimilation and especially violence. However, few people know that this relationship has left a lasting, negative effect on the Native American community today. Specifically, rape was used as a tool to create fear among Native American women by the colonizers. Today Native American women still live under a fear of sexual violence. A National Violence Against Women survey shows that 34% of Native American women have been raped at some point in their lives. This rate is three times higher than the rates of rape against women from all other ethnicities. Most shocking of all 87% of sexual assaults on Native American women are perpetuated by non-Native men. Most rapes go unreported because of lack of available resources for victims caused by poverty and poor response from understaffed law enforcement. Unfortunately victims also lack trust in the criminal justice system due to its history of racism. As we go through Thanksgiving this year, lets remember the legacy of the holiday within its context and act on ways to reverse its detrimental effects.

Amnesty International USA will be running a campaign starting November 25 to specifically highlight violence against Native American women. Native American women who suffer domestic violence or rape constantly lack safe shelters to which they can go to. Native American run shelters are the best option for survivors. According to AI, "in rural areas two important problems are the distances Native American women may have to travel to take advantage of any shelters (in some cases an hour or more by car one way) and the feeling of isolation from friends and family that survivors suffer which make it difficult for them to go to Native American run shelters so geographically and culturally far from their community." Amnesty International USA will running a series of letter/email writing campaigns in solidarity with Native American women survivors. To learn more about the campaign, go to www.amnestyusa.org/women/16days/


Time To Rethink the Idea of Want and Ethical Shopping

In the early hours of Friday morning the long-awaited Sony Playstation 3 was released to the US general public. Video game fans got into long lines around the country to get the prized $600 possession. One man wasn’t so lucky. According to a news report:

“Connecticut authorities said two armed men tried to rob a line of people waiting to buy the new Sony PlayStation 3 in Putnam, Conn., early Friday, shooting a 21-year-old Massachusetts man.

Michael Penkala, of Webster, Mass., was taken to the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester with wounds to the shoulder and chest area. He was listed in serious but stable condition after undergoing surgery on Friday.

"He and his grandmother had put money in to buy this game. They were going to put it on eBay and sell it, and make some money for Gram," said Penkala's mother, Helen. "A couple of guys with masks, I guess, came up to the line, demanded money, and most of them handed it over and my son refused."

While the shooting of the man is sad and unacceptable, what is more offensive is that fact that there is a long line of people waiting to spend $600 on a video game in the first place. The report continues on about the “near-riot condition” in some of these lines:

Meanwhile in Boston, NewsCenter 5's Gail Huff reported that about 500 people waited outside the Copley Place Mall and near-riot conditions erupted when mall security opened one of doors and scores of people tried to get in.

Andy Cash was there and recorded the scene with his cell phone camera.

"Look at the scene, you'll see, like people are pressed up against a cage. It was like the soccer games you hear about in Latin America where people get trampled," he said.

"People ran up the escalators. There was too much weight and the escalator went down and people got hurt," one girl said.

"People got trampled. I went to the floor. There were women and children here. They had to call the police," Michael Bernard said.

"We had to move the crowd back. We remove the 500 people from Copley Plaza. (We) brought them out to the sidewalk," Boston police Sgt. John Doris said.

Some customers said the situation got ugly.

"They took this club, and they said, 'Who's the joke now? Either get out of here or you're getting this across the skull,'" customer Jeff Grant said.

Mall security officers would not allow TV cameras inside the mall, and people waiting outside were given tickets for the 16 game systems that the store had to sell.

"I got No. 19, and they won't even let me in," Steven Duong said.
Kevin Swecker was one of the people who got a game system. He said the trouble he went through to get it would pay off in the end.

"It's going on eBay. We're going to make a couple grand," he said.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino was outraged about the situation.

"It's almost like scalping. It really is. It's wrong to take advantage of the public the way they are. It's wrong by the manufacturer and by the retailer," Menino said.
The mayor said he was going to send a letter to Simon Malls and to Sony demanding that they pick up the expense for all the police officers who had to respond to the emergency.

At a Best Buy store in the Fenway and a Wal-Mart in Wrentham, people who had wait for days in line were disappointed because the stores had promised midnight sales but failed to get the proper permits to remain open. The stores gave them rain checks and told them to return first thing Friday morning.

This is what is wrong with consumer capitalism. It breeds this culture that you have to spend a lot of money to buy the latest, hot item that, in reality, you really don’t need. It is really bad at this time of the year, as the department stores start promoting Christmas shopping even before Halloween. What is even worse about this is that most of the people in these lines were young adults, a new generation who is being consumed by this idea of want. In the West we are either really stupid to be duped into the idea of want or we just have too much disposable money. It is almost laughable that in America we complain about the bad economy, but yet we have money to spend on a video game that will go out of style in the next year or two when an even bigger, better version of the game comes out.

It is time to reevaluate our values.

The true meaning of the holiday season is supposed to be about giving to those who are less fortunate. Ethical shopping is one major way to make a difference in making the world a better place. If you do find a disposable $600 or any denomination hanging around, please consider spending it differently this year. You would first want to pick up the November edition of the New Internationalist, which has dedicated that issue to the subject of ethical shopping and how to be a better consumer activist. Most importantly, charity starts at home. Give money to organizations in your area that are working for the betterment of society, like those dealing with homelessness, the disabled, battered spouses, animal rights and environmental justice. Of course, we shouldn’t forget the international community. Western consumerism is only driving up the poverty rates in the Global South. Please consider donating to or shopping with a wide variety of organizations around the world at the following link:


Some of Global Wire’s favorite NGOs:

Oxfam International www.oxfam.org
Amnesty International www.amnesty.org
Grassroots International www.grassrootsonline.org
New Internationalist Online Shop www.newint.org/shop

(Global Wire went to South Africa recently and we hope you will consider donating to the following groups)

Khanya College www.khanyacollege.org.za
The Steve Biko Foundation www.sbf.org.za
Pathfinder International South Africa www.pathfind.org
TRALSO www.tralso.co.za


The Verdict is in on Al-Jazeera

The English language version of Al-Jazeera premiered on Wednesday, but virtually no one in America saw. Apparently only four cable operators offered the controversial Qatar-based news agency in the US. Earlier this year talks between Al-Jazeera and Comcast broke down to offer the network along with CNN and Fox News. It is believed that Comcast rejected Al-Jazeera because of its anti-American stance. With the recent US elections giving power to the Democrats and growing frustration with the Iraq war, there is belief that Al-Jazeera will only fuel more anger at the Bush administration. For instance if Americans had access to Al-Jazeera, they would have seen the interview yesterday where UK prime minister Tony Blair called the Iraq war a "disaster." "I think more Americans would be more willing to watch Al-Jazeera," said Darvel Johnson of Boston. "People are tired of the same propaganistic rhetoric from CNN and MSNBC and especially Fox. The multinationals and the US government have control of what the American media can and can not show. People need an alternative."

Meanwhile media activists hope that Al-Jazeera will provide more balance, indepth coverage from the developing world. It is already being called an "creative alternative to Western media." On Wednesday the channel started its coverage with a piece about the elections in the DRC, followed by reports from Darfur and the Middle East. Yesterday the BBC website presented views from African bloggers on Al-Jazeera.

From BBC:

The BBC News website looks at what the blogosphere makes of the new al-Jazeera English-language channel's take on Africa.

"Impressed!" "Consciously global." "CNN has competition!" "Propaganda!" "A poor BBC World" "Finally!" are how some of the voices in the blogosphere reacted to the launch of al-Jazeera English this week.

"Their motto is 'setting the news agenda', which I rather like," writes Raising Yousuf, Unplugged: diary of a Palestinian mother blogging from her Cairo apartment.

"Out of the first set of news pieces they headlined, something like two or three were out of Africa -a welcome change for a continent too often overlooked in today's global media."

From Bahrain Sabbah's Blog is also full of congratulations:

"It looks to have more focus on Africa, which is something new to me. We hardly know about our neighbours - thanks to local and international media."


It was hot cheeks for Sheila Lenon in Rhode Island in the United States.

"I came away from al-Jazeera English's broadcast embarrassed at my ignorance of the news of the rest of the world," she blogged at Subterranean Homepage news .

Sokari at Black Looks is also emotional in her response.

"Having only just acquired Nile Sat dish and having spent five days watching BBC World and Euro News, al-Jazeera will come as a relief... a credible alternative to Western media."

But Bare Knuckle Politics suggests such relief is open to interpretation, he posts: "By non-Western, we mean Islamic..."

While The Upper Canadian blog suggests al-Jazeera has forgotten its Islamic roots.

"In Tangiers, satellite dishes hang practically off of every building and the network blares in most tea houses, a scene repeated across the Arab world. If a pan-Arabic movement were ever to take hold, al-Jazeera would be its glue.

"What al-Jazeera failed to realise about the power of broadcasting in English is that it transcends borders and cultures and that is what a good international broadcast should reflect. Yet, while choosing its staff, al-Jazeera has hired a small band of primarily British and British-sounding journalists."

'Bit worthy'

Clearly American Princess , who describes her blog as "Right-wing extremism with impeccable fashion sense" was watching a different channel.

"Al-Jazeera debuted with perky, vaguely Middle Eastern looking anchors, long boring human interest stories about North Africa that go on far longer than necessary due to the lack of commercials, and a clean, earth-toney look, designed to lull you into a false sense of security about getting your news from an outlet that broadcasts directly from that American-loving nation, Qatar."

I'm Simon Dickson is less cynical, but unconvinced by what he has seen.

"It all feels a bit worthy," he writes, "There weren't really any obvious 'news' lines to a lot of the reports.

"I'm sure conditions in Sudan are terrible, but nothing has obviously happened today to make them any worse than yesterday. Same goes for Zimbabwe."


Wahid Maahour blogged his agreement.

"Al-Jazeera was making the most of the BBC's banishment from Zimbabwe (apart from the occasional smuggled film footage, embroidered with a tearfully croaking voiceover from Fergal Keane) as one of its first dispatches came from Harare.

"The bad news was that there was not much actual news. This was more of a slick pre-prepared heat-and-serve film package clearly fashioned for transmission on launch day."

His next post, however, was more upbeat.

"The programme on boy soldiers from Liberia was riveting television. When do you normally see Liberia apart from when there's an election?" he asked.

No Longer at Ease commenting on My Heart's in Africa enjoyed the coverage of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"How about the exclusive interview with [President Joseph] Kabila (I didn't know he was so articulate)."

For Chris Doidge's Blog the only shame about the channel is its accessibility.

"It's available on Sky Digital and online, but the online option either lets you watch 15 minutes of poor quality video, or makes you pay for it," he writes.

"Not a good idea for a channel struggling to get into people's homes."

And posting a comment at Bare Knuckle Politics , J Nihart takes a dig at all news outlets.

"When you need propaganda now, CNN and al-Jazeera are there for you 24/7!"


Fears Over Asia-Pacific Free Trade Zone

by Marwaan Macan-Markar
Special to Global Wire

Plans to create the world's largest free trade area at a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Vietnam, this weekend, are being viewed with suspicion by activists.

''APEC should think carefully about creating a regional free trade zone,'' says Matthew Coghlan, regional trade policy officer for Oxfam, an international development organisation. ‘'APEC is made up of both developed and developing countries.''

Part of Oxfam's worry, he explained in a telephone interview from Phnom Penh, is the push by the United States government to achieve this goal by using Washington's current free trade agreement (FTA) model. ‘'If APEC is going to have continuing discussions for the creation of a free trade area in the Asia-Pacific region, then we don't want the U.S. FTA template being used as the basis for the creation of such a trade area,'' said Coghlan.

The U.S. government's record of adding new conditions to prevailing World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements -- called ‘WTO-plus provisions' -- is behind such objections. ‘'A free trade agreement based on the U.S. model, with deep and rapid liberalisation, and WTO-plus provisions and commitments, will pose problems for them (developing countries) as they seek to develop,'' adds Coghlan. ‘'U.S. FTAs undermine the potential for poor countries to use trade to lift their populations out of poverty.''

Three areas where APEC developing countries, like all others, will be hit by the WTO-plus provisions include agriculture issues, intellectual property and investment. Peru and Thailand, two of APEC's 21 economies, could expect trouble in their agriculture sector, says Oxfam, since such deals ‘'fail to take into account the fact that the U.S. subsidises farm production with billions of dollars in taxpayer support.'' That means the ‘'small farmers in Thailand and Peru might face massive dumping of subsidised farm products on their market.''

The Pacific Rim countries that make up APEC account for close to 60 percent of the world's economy and about 50 percent of global trade. The grouping includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the U.S. and Vietnam.

But how much the U.S. President, George W. Bush, may achieve at the summit in Hanoi, which starts with a formal dinner on Nov. 17 and runs through Nov. 19, has become an issue in the wake of two political developments in Washington. His Republican party's defeat by the Democrats in this month's elections to the Congress could translate into a possible slowing down of the U.S. free trade agenda, given concerns by Bush opponents over trade deals they say are hurting local workers.

‘'To what extent can he push ahead with his free trade agenda now, because he lost the elections and the attitude among the Democrats in the Congress towards free trade is well known?'' asks Goh Chien Yen of Penang-based Third World Network (TWN), a think tank lobbying for the rights of people in developing countries.

Also significant was the failure of the White House to win support Tuesday for a bill in the House of Representatives to grant APEC host Vietnam ‘'permanent normal trade relations'' (PNTR) status. It happened just as Vietnam, which fought the U.S. during Washington's Indo-China war against communism, was celebrating its latest milestone in the drive towards a free and open economy. On Nov. 7 the South-east Asian nation gained approval to become the 150th member of the WTO.

The APEC summit comes at a time when questions are being raised about the fate of global free trade and the WTO following the collapse of the Doha Round of talks for a new set of rules for international trade. This round began with a ministerial meeting in Doha, the capital of Qatar, in November 2001, aiming to make global trade more sensitive to the concerns of the world's poor, often the victims of free trade.

APEC has been a staunch ally of the WTO. At its November 2005 summit in South Korea, a ministerial declaration reaffirmed ‘'utmost importance'' to ‘'the successful conclusion of the (Doha Round) of negotiations by the end of 2006''.

Yet, the turn of events since then has triggered a call by anti-WTO voices, to APEC's developing countries, to push the agenda of the G-33 countries -- which represents a group of 33 developing nations from Africa, Asia and Latin America. This group, led by India, wants to restrict access to their agricultural markets. APEC's G-33 members include China, Indonesia, South Korea, Peru and the Philippines.

‘'It offers some measures of protection for small-scale farmers in developing countries,'' Shalmali Guttal, senior researcher at Focus on the Global South, a Bangkok-based regional think tank, told IPS. ‘'It is a proposal to allow Southern governments to designate which of their agriculture products can be protected from imports.''

These measures are meant to strengthen rural development, food security, local livelihood and development of local communities against the adverse impact of unrestricted agricultural imports. ‘'If you don't have a strong local economy for ordinary people, with good secure job, then no amount of trade liberalisation is going to result in sustainable development,'' adds Guttal.

Yet, as free trade observers on either side of the divide know, the U.S. government looks at the G-33 proposals with scorn. ‘'The biggest antagonist of the G-33 is the U.S.,'' says Goh. ‘'They see it as one denying them market access. They fail to see that agriculture in developing countries is different to their own, large agribusinesses, which are heavily subsidised. This is not so in the developing world.''


GW in SA: Gay Marriage

Yesterday the South African parliament voted to legalize gay marriage, making it the first African nation to do so. However, virtually all gays favor marriage rights, one can still see the legacy of apartheid exists. When Global Wire went to South Africa last month, we met with Donna and Zanele of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), which is a support organization for black lesbians throughout South Africa. South Africa has the most progressive constitution in the world in regards to gay rights. Despite this, homosexuality is very much stigmatized within black communities, as it is seen as un-African. A large number of black lesbians are raped or tortured simply because of their sexual orientation. Donna pointed out that there is a sharp divide between white gays and black gays about what are priority issues. Gay marriage is an issue that is mainly supported by the white gay community. "While we support legalized marriage as an organization," Donna said, "poverty, violence and healthcare are bigger, more important issues for black lesbians. What is the sense of having marriage if you are poor with HIV and can’t rub two cents together?" Black lesbians who have AIDS and have children worry more about who will take care of kids when they die. Their families usually don’t want to adopt the children of the deceased because of stigma around homosexuality and HIV/AIDS. FEW feels that economic empowerment is the key priority for black gays through hosting skills training seminars and panel discussions. FEW is also working on legislation to create laws that the rape of a lesbian is a hate crime.


Book Review: New News Out of Africa

Veteran journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault hits the nail on journalism's head with her latest book, New News Out of Africa: Uncovering Africa's Renaissance. Hunter-Gault, who up until recently was the Johannesburg Bureau Chief for CNN, gives her take on media coverage of Africa. Half of the book is dedicated to her work experience in both pre- and post-apartheid South Africa, while the other half examines what she calls the renaissance occurring in postcolonial Africa with the help of enterprising African journalists. If one only depended on Western media for news about the continent, they would conclude that the only things happening in Africa are war, famine and HIV/AIDS. This Afro-pessimism is further compounded by patronizing celebrities and Live 8 concerts that claim to be "saving" Africa. While she agrees that atrocities, such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the Darfur genocide should be covered, Hunter-Gault feels that this should be balanced out with the new news about the politicians, activists and ordinary people making a positive impact on the atrocities against the odds. "Recalling the old/bad news and putting it in context must also be a part of our new news mission if there is to be any hope of the past instructing the future," she says. Hunter-Gault cites the rise in democratic elections, and, thus, more democratic leaders around the continent as part of the new news. The reporter also recognizes being an African American and a woman has also helped her to "come in right" or fairly report news about Africa. A must read for all journalism students and those who care about Africa's future.



Lemn Sissay talks about international adoption

The challenge against Madonna's adoption was delayed again today in a Malawi court. In light of Madonna's baby drama, Lemn Sissay talked about his upbringing as an adopted African child growing up in England.

From the BBC:

Ethiopian poet, playwright and author Lemn Sissay, 39, was raised by a white family in the north of England. Here he tells how his life often felt like an experiment.

When somebody takes a child from their native culture, that is in itself an act of aggression.
People will often say, love is all you need.

But that is not true. Love without understanding is a dangerous thing.

My mother came to England in 1967, which was a really high point in Ethiopian culture - Ethiopia was a prosperous place. She came during what was a comfortable time for Ethiopians.

But as she found out, it was not a comfortable time for race relations in the UK.

My mother, finding herself in difficulties, sought to have me fostered for a short time.

However, the care worker, who named me Norman after himself, told my foster
family that it was a proper adoption.

I was with them for 11 years.

My mother and father

Although they were white I believed they were my father and mother.

I had seen black people in the street or maybe even said hello but until I was 17 years old I never actually knew another black person.

From this I picked up subconscious messages of a kind of lazy racism living in the north of England.

My life was a bit like being an experiment.

Like anyone looking back would feel about growing up in an alien environment - one which treated them as an alien.

I didn't have an afro comb until I was nine years old. My mother used to comb my hair with a metal comb that tore my head. When I was about nine, my parents took me to the doctor because they couldn't understand why my knees were grey.

I remember my mother often saying to me: "Don't look at me with those big brown eyes."

She probably never meant it negatively but it meant that I grew up with a fear of my own eyes.

Trojan horse

My parents were very religious. They told me that they had not decided to take me in, rather that it was God that had decided it for them.

When I was 11 they put me into care.

To them I had become a Trojan horse that symbolised evil. They said that I was bringing evil into their home, that there was this mighty struggle inside me and that God was losing.

To be honest I think it was because they had since had another child and were struggling to provide for us all.

They told me they would never write to me or see me again.

My foster mother contacted me only once to tell me that my granddad had died.

I had always thought that I was going to go back to them.

I knew on an intellectual level that I wasn't their child but on an emotional level I believed I was their child. I didn't know the difference between fostering and adoption.

I have got rid of my anger. It is something that you get through it.

I have been very lost. I've been very confused. But I've always searched for answers.

And the ultimate answer is that the buck stops with yourself.

Uneasy relationship

I met my proper mum when I was 21. It took me three years to find her.
By that stage she worked for the UN in the Gambia.

I travelled out to see her. It was difficult because I looked just like my father had the last time she saw him.

My real mother is a survivor, very strong and respected by the people who know her but our relationship is not easy but then it was never going to be.

To Western parents that want to adopt a child, I would say to people that money is not everything, wealth does not matter.

Don't tell me that you're adopting child to give them a better life.

Is that child then owing to you? And what do they owe? Shall they pay you back in emotions?

And that your view of other cultures and how they may be poor is your view - it says more about you than the place you're looking to adopt from.

Do you want the child because you want a better life for yourself?

I am not invalidating the love that you want to give but I am putting the rights of the child first.

Understand that it is your own experience that leads you to want to take a child from its culture, and display that child as your own in an alien environment.

Gold from the stone

Gold from the stone
Oil from the Earth
I yearned for my home
From the time of my birth

Strength of a mother's whisper
Shall carry me until
The hand of my lost sister
Joins onto my will

Root to the earth
Blood from the heart
Could never from birth
Be broken apart

Food from the platter
Water from the rain
The subject and the matter
I'm going home again

Can't sell a leaf to a tree
Nor the wind to the atmosphere
I know where I am meant to be
And I can't be satisfied here

Can't give light to the Moon
Nor mist to the drifting cloud
I shall be leaving here soon
Costumed, cultured and crowned

Can't give light to the Sun
Nor a drink to the sea
The Earth I must stand upon
I shall kiss with my history

Sugar from the cane
Coal from the wood
Water from the rain
Life from the blood

Gold from the stone
Oil from the earth
I yearned for my home
From the time of my birth

Food from the platter
Water from the rain
The subject and the matter
I'm going home again
Gold from the stone
Oil from the earth
I yearned for my home
From the time of my birth


Activists Discuss Torture at Amnesty Conference

By Talia Whyte
Special to Global Wire

The treatment of US-held war detainees were on the minds of hundreds of human rights activists who gathered at Boston University last Saturday for the annual Amnesty International Northeast Regional Conference. The issues of torture was of main concern to most speakers, as Amnesty International has spoken out against the reported allegations of ill-treatment and death of those held in US custody in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and elsewhere around the world for the last three years. Amnesty International is also concerned that most detainees are being held without a fair trial.

According to Boston lawyer and author Sabin Willet, the failure of Guantanamo is only fueling the violence in Iraq. Willet, who has been to Guantanamo six times, claims that of the 450 people currently incarcerated in the Cuban prison, only ten have been charged, three have been charged with a crime and none have been charged with anything related to the September 11 attacks.

“I have yet to meet anyone there who is a terrorist,” he said. “Citizens should contact their congress people about this issue.”

With the recent change of hands to the Democrats in Congress, activists hope that there will be a change of wind in how the Iraq War is handled in general in the near future. Boston University professor Andrew Bacevich believes the September 11 attacks were a unique event in US history; nonetheless, he doesn’t think the US government should take irrational measures such as torture in fighting the War on Terror.

“The strategy for the War on Terror has not worked,” he said. “There is more hostility towards America from the Middle East than before the war. There is an urgent need to rethink that an unprecedented event [September 11] warrants unprecedented results.”

In its annual report last year, Amnesty International called on the US government to “close Guantanamo or disclose the rest,” meaning either to release the prisoners or charge and prosecute them with due process. Amnesty International Secretary-General Irene Khan called Guantanamo “the gulag of our times.” Amnesty International has also criticized the US government for exporting prisoners to countries where brutality and torture take place with impunity, such as Syria.

“We need to turn our own country around,” said Larry Cox, the new executive director of Amnesty International USA. “We need to fight for human rights more than ever. In order to fight we need to be the Amnesty International we need to be as a movement.”


Obituary: Ed Bradley (1941-2006)

The US journalism world today lost a giant and trailblazer.

From CNN

Ed Bradley, the longtime "60 Minutes" correspondent whose probing questions and deceptively relaxed interviewing manner graced some of that show's most notable reports, has died. He was 65.

Bradley died Thursday at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital of leukemia, according to staff members at the CBS program.

Bradley joined "60 Minutes" during the 1981-82 season after two years as White House correspondent for CBS News and three years at "CBS Reports." His reporting over the years won him a Peabody Award, 19 Emmys and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, among many others. He was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Black Journalists.

His most recent Emmy was for a segment about the reopening of the 1950s racial murder case of Emmett Till in Mississippi.

Katie Couric, in announcing the death of Bradley on CBS, described him as "smooth, cool, a great reporter, beloved and respected by all of his colleagues here at CBS News."

"Bradley could cover any kind of a story," said Bradley's "60 Minutes" colleague Mike Wallace, singling out a profile of Lena Horne as "one of the most entertaining profiles I've ever seen."

"He traveled the world. He was in the White House. Bradley was just a damn good reporter," Wallace said.

CNN correspondent and former CBS reporter John Roberts said the newsman was "always a person you could sit down with and he could keep you intrigued for hours at a time with the stories he could tell."

Roberts called Bradley a "first-rate" journalist.

"He clearly was a field reporter," said Howard Kurtz, media reporter for The Washington Post. "He did not want to be chained to a desk." Kurtz also hosts CNN's "Reliable Sources."

"He was somebody who liked being out there on the story, whether it was in the Vietnam War or whether it was doing investigative work or bringing alive the plight of families who were dealing with illnesses or violence or other issues he covered," Kurtz added.

'You can be anything you want, kid'
Bradley was known for his thoughtful, mellifluous voice and often laid-back approach, a style that often prompted unexpected emotion in his subjects.

In 2000, he conducted the only television interview with condemned Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who described his anger and bitterness after fighting in the Gulf War. Three years later, Bradley interviewed Michael Jackson, who said he had been "manhandled" when arrested on child molestation charges a few weeks earlier.

Roberts, who said he didn't know about Bradley's illness, described his former co-worker's excitement and awe at being able to interview heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali after the boxer put him off for a while.

Bradley told Roberts he felt Ali was playing a kind of game with him.

According to Roberts, Bradley told him, "He [Ali] said he didn't want to talk. Maybe today, maybe not today. I don't know."

"Bradley told me Ali had this twinkle in his eye that said, 'Yes, I do want to talk to you. I just want to do it on my own time.' And I think for Ed, that was probably one of the most memorable interviews that he's ever done."

Bradley, a great music lover, also interviewed Miles Davis, Lena Horne and Paul Simon, among other performers. He once moonlighted as a disc jockey, earning $1.50 an hour spinning records while working as a teacher by day. In his later years, he hosted the radio show "Jazz at Lincoln Center."

"The idea that I could go to a station and open the cabinet doors of what we called the library and pull out music present and past and play what I liked to play, music I liked to hear, and that there were people out there listening to my taste in music -- man, it just didn't get better than that," he told the online publication All About Jazz in 2004.

Bradley was born June 22, 1941. He grew up in a tough section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he once recalled that his parents worked 20-hour days at two jobs apiece, according to The Associated Press. "I was told, 'You can be anything you want, kid,' " he once told an interviewer. "When you hear that often enough, you believe it."

Bradley began his career in radio at WDAS in his hometown in 1963. In 1967, he moved to New York and radio station WCBS, and then joined CBS News as a stringer in the Paris, France, bureau in 1971.

After a stint in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam, he came to Washington in 1974. He covered Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign in 1976, then became CBS' first African-American White House correspondent.

CNN's David Fitzpatrick, a former CBS producer who worked with Bradley, said there were tears in the halls of CBS News after word came of his passing.

"He was gracious," Fitzpatrick said. "He would always have a smile."

Bradley is survived by his wife, Patricia Blanchet.


World Reacts to US Elections

Will America have a better relationship with the international community now with the Democratic shift in Washington? Or has the Bush administration demanded its links to no repair?

From the Associated Press:

MADRID: US mid-term election results that heralded a massive power shift in the American political landscape - capped by the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - were widely greeted with jubilation around the world, with many expressing variations on the same sentiment: It's about time.

From Paris to Pakistan, politicians, analysts and ordinary citizens said Wednesday they hoped the Democratic takeover of Congress and the departure of his combative Defense Secretary would force US President, George W. Bush, to adopt a more conciliatory approach to the globe's crises, and teach a president many see as a 'cowboy' a lesson in humility.

In Italy, Premier Romano Prodi said Rumsfeld's surprise resignation in particular underscored the depth of what has happened in America.

"Even though US politics had already started changing, Rumsfeld's resignation means an accentuation of this change," said Prodi.

"We'll see over the next few days what the new direction will be. But certainly we have a political structure both in the executive power, in the House and in the Senate that is deeply different from that of a few days ago."

The defense secretary was both deeply hated and grudgingly admired overseas for his unwavering stance on Iraq and support for controversial Bush administration policies like the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and harsh interrogation methods that many feel border on torture.

In Afghanistan, the government of President Hamid Karzai expressed sadness over Rumsfeld's abrupt departure.

"We are sad that he has resigned," Jawed Ludin, Chief of Staff for Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, told The Associated Press.

"We in Afghanistan are very pleased and very grateful for (Rumsfeld's) support for Afghanistan."

Ludin added that Kabul did not expect Washington to changes its policy toward the country.

UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, who has been criticized by some conservative Republicans, offered a diplomatic take on the impact of a Democratic Congress on work at the United Nations.

"We have been here for over 60 years," Annan said. "We have seen lots of elections in the United States, and we have worked with the winners, whether (they are) Democratic or Republican, and we look forward to working with the administration and the new Congress as they move in, and we will want to work with them as effectively as we have worked with others."

Elsewhere, giddiness over an electoral black eye for Bush was almost palpable throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

In an extraordinary joint statement, more than 200 Socialist members of the European Parliament hailed the American election results as "the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world" and said they left the Bush administration "seriously weakened."

In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez, an outspoken critic of the Bush administration, applauded Rumsfeld's resignation and suggested Bush should quit as well. The leftist leader beamed as he read aloud a news report of Rumsfeld's resignation.

"Heads are beginning to roll," Chavez said during a news conference Wednesday. "It was about time he resigned. The president should resign now."

In Paris, expatriates and French citizens alike packed the city's main American haunts to watch results overnight and early Wednesday, with some standing to cheer or boo as vote tabulations came in.

One Frenchman, teacher Jean-Pierre Charpemtrat, 53, said it was about time US voters figured out what much of the rest of the world already knew.

"Americans are realizing that you can't found the politics of a country on patriotic passion and reflexes," he said. "You can't fool everybody all the time - and I think that's what Bush and his administration are learning today."

Democrats swept to power in the House of Representatives on Tuesday and seized the Senate with a narrow win in the state of Virginia amid exit polls that showed widespread American discontent over Iraq, nationwide disgust at corruption in politics, and low approval ratings for Bush.

Many said they thought the big gains by Democrats signalled the beginning of the end of Bush's reign. The next presidential election is in November 2008, and Bush is not eligible to run for re-election.

In Copenhagen, Jens Langfeldt, 35, said he didn't know much about the mid-term elections but was opposed to Bush, referring to the president as "that cowboy".

In Sri Lanka, some said they hoped the rebuke would force Bush to abandon a unilateral approach to global issues.

"The Americans have made it clear that current American policy should change in dealing with the world, from a confrontational approach, to a more consensus-based and bridge-building approach," said Jehan Perera, a political analyst.

The Democratic win means "there will be more control and restraint" over US foreign policy.

Passions were even higher in Pakistan, where Bush is deeply unpopular despite billions in aid and staunch support for President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

One Opposition lawmaker, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, said he welcomed the election result, but was hoping for more. Bush "deserves to be removed, put on trial and given a Saddam-like death sentence," he said.

But there were also some concerns that a power split and a lame-duck president might stall global trade talks or other initiatives where US cooperation is needed.

On Iraq, some worried that Democrats will force a too-rapid retreat, leaving that country and the region in chaos. Others said they doubted the turnover in Congressional power would have a dramatic impact on Iraq policy any time soon, largely because the Democrats have yet to define the specifics of the course they want to take.

In Denmark, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told broadcaster TV2 he hoped the president and the new Congress would find "common ground on questions about Iraq and Afghanistan."

"The world needs a vigorous U.S.A.," Fogh Rasmussen said.

There was also some concern that Democrats, who have a reputation for being more protective of US jobs going overseas, will make it harder to achieve a global free trade accord. In China, some feared the Democrats' resurgence would increase tension over human rights and trade and labor issues. China's surging economy has a massive trade surplus with the United States.

The prospect of a sudden change in American foreign policy could also be troubling to countries such as Britain, Japan and Australia which have thrown their support behind the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Democrats campaigned on a platform that demanded a change of direction in Iraq, and the war has lost the support of the majority of American voters.

"The problem for Arabs now is, an American withdrawal (from Iraq) could be a security disaster for the entire region," said Mustafa Alani, an Iraqi analyst for the Gulf Research Center in Dubai.

He said the Middle East could be left to cope with a disintegrating Iraq mired in civil war, with refugees fleeing a failed state that could become an incubator for terrorism.

On Thursday, Australia's conservative Prime Minister John Howard said he did not believe Washington would pull its troops out of Iraq.

"The strategy is not going to change," Howard told reporters in Canberra. "Clearly the president has reacted to the vote, obviously he has and that is sensible, but his reaction does not amount to a fundamental change in direction."


China Courts Africa, Angling for Strategic Gains

By JOSEPH KAHN of the New York Times
Special to Global Wire

Billboards here show elephants and giraffes roaming the savanna. Traffic has been curtailed, construction sites shut down and even the sky has been tantalizingly, if temporarily, blue.

Beijing has put on its best face to court Africa, “the land of myth and miracles,” as official posters call it. Political leaders of 48 of the 53 African countries, including 40 heads of state, are to arrive this weekend for a huge diplomatic event, the China-Africa forum.

The official purposes of the three-day event are to expand trade, to allow China to secure the oil and ore it needs for its booming economy and to offer aid to help African nations improve roads, railways and schools.

The unofficial purpose is to redraw the world’s strategic map by forming tighter political ties between China, which has the world’s fastest-growing major economy, and Africa, a continent whose leaders often complain about being neglected by the United States and Europe.

“African leaders see China as a new kind of global partner that has lots of money but treats them as equals,” said Wenran Jiang, a political scientist at the University of Alberta who has studied Chinese-African ties. “Chinese leaders see Africa, in a strategic sense, as up for grabs.”

China’s enthusiasm for Africa has raised concerns among many in the West while the United States is distracted by its efforts to curb terrorism, and France, Britain and other former colonial powers exert less influence in Africa than they once did.

China does not follow the international lending standards intended to fight corruption in the region. It has embraced the leaders of Sudan and Zimbabwe, two countries that are under heavy pressure to improve their poor human rights records. Major oil companies have complained that China uses its influence to secure business opportunities for its state-owned companies.

Chinese officials say those concerns are overblown or hypocritical, and they deny that they have a grand scheme to create an exclusive sphere of influence in Africa. But China has nearly $1 trillion in foreign currency reserves, boundless entrepreneurial energy and a strong drive to compete there on its own terms.

“The Western approach of imposing its values and political system on other countries is not acceptable to China,” said Wang Hongyi, a leading specialist on Africa at the China Institute of International Studies. “We focus on mutual development, not promoting one country at the expense of another.”

China’s economic goal is to secure Africa’s abundant supplies of oil, iron ore, copper and cotton at the lowest possible prices, analysts say. Chinese companies view Africa as an open market, neglected by Western multinationals, that they can cultivate with their trademark low-priced goods.

But if the goal is mostly mercenary, not unlike European objectives in Africa 150 years ago, the method is avowedly anti-imperialist.

The forum’s slogan — “Peace, Friendship, Cooperation, Development” — underscores China’s pledge not to discriminate or intervene. It even invited the five African countries — Burkina Faso, Malawi, Gambia, Swaziland and São Tomé and Príncipe — that still extend diplomatic recognition to its rival Taiwan, though none agreed to attend.

In the long term, Chinese officials say they hope not only that the overture will give their companies an edge in the competition for resources, but also that it will give their diplomats an advantage at the United Nations and other international organizations, where African countries can constitute a powerful voting bloc.

Unlike China’s initial push into Africa under Mao, which aimed to support the Socialist governments of postcolonial Africa, the focus is now on commerce.

“China has offered Africa a new model that focuses on straight commercial relations and fair market prices without the ideological agenda,” said Moeletsi Mbeki, a South African businessman and political analyst.

“They are not the first big foreign power to come to Africa, but they may be the first not to act as though they are some kind of patron or teacher or conqueror,” he added. “In that sense, there is a meeting of the minds.”

The event in Beijing, like most big political affairs in China, promises to be long on ceremony and propaganda and short on substance. President Hu Jintao is meeting a procession of heads of state.

The state media have promoted the “three 50s”: 50 years of Chinese-African cooperation, 53 African countries, $50 billion in two-way trade (a projected figure for 2006). China Central Television is conducting a nationwide survey to select 10 outstanding African icons. Contenders include Cleopatra, South African diamonds and the Sahara.

Chinese diplomats hint that by the end of the meeting they will unveil a variety of trade and aid concessions. These may include a list of African goods that can enter China tariff-free, increases in aid and technical cooperation and debt forgiveness.

China’s trade with Africa is growing faster than with any other region except the Middle East, increasing tenfold in the past decade, to just shy of $40 billion last year. China buys timber from the Congo Republic, iron ore from South Africa and cobalt and copper from Zambia. An estimated 80,000 Chinese expatriates live in Africa, selling shoes, televisions and everything else the world’s factory produces.

More vitally, Africa has helped quench China’s growing thirst for oil. Angola, which China cultivated assiduously in recent years, has edged out Saudi Arabia as China’s largest foreign source of oil.

Sudan, shunned by the West for its genocidal civil war in Darfur, was a net oil importer before China arrived there in 1995. China has since invested heavily in oil extraction, helping Sudan export about $2 billion worth of crude annually, half of that to China.

Beijing’s aggressive pursuit of commodities has often been accompanied by generous aid programs, low-interest loans and other gifts that some Western interests say undermine efforts to foster good governing in Africa. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have expressed their concerns that China’s unrestricted lending, including a $2 billion credit line for corruption-plagued Angola, has undermined years of painstaking efforts to arrange conditional debt relief.

Some African economists complain, too, that China wants to extract raw materials for industry and then sell manufactured goods back to Africa, a mercantilist pattern that failed to bring sustained growth in the past.

China has also prompted concerns among human rights groups by using the threat of its veto in the United Nations Security Council to protect Sudan and Zimbabwe against international sanctions. The rights groups say China’s arms exports to Sudan fuel the conflict in Darfur, which has claimed at least 200,000 lives and has forced more than two million people from their homes.

“China insists that it will not interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs, but it also claims to be a great friend of the African people,” said Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch. “But that doesn’t square with staying silent while mass killings go on in Darfur.”

For years, Chinese officials insisted that such concerns were the internal affairs of the countries involved, but they have recently changed their stance somewhat.

Zhai Jun, an assistant foreign minister responsible for African affairs, said last week that the Africa forum would address human rights and good government, and he specifically mentioned Sudan.

“The humanitarian situation in Darfur should be improved,” Mr. Zhai said. “We will adopt our own method and use the upcoming summit to do our part.”

Even if China does speak out on some rights issues, its basic strategy of engaging African countries on their own terms remains the core of its foreign policy.

Mr. Jiang, of the University of Alberta, said that unlike in the cold war, when China’s foreign involvement was motivated by ideology, Beijing now had a commercial strategy as the developing world’s biggest beneficiary of globalization to unite with the region most conspicuously left behind.

It will be up to each country’s leaders, and ultimately each country’s people, to decide how to use the wealth, he said. “From China’s perspective the Western powers and Western companies have had their chance in Africa and really nothing has happened,” he said.

“China is trying a different approach,” he added. “It is saying, ‘Let us have a chance.’ ”