Monday, March 21, 2011

Navajo activists for another way, beyond coal and nuclear, after Japan

Lori Goodman of Diné CARE, lifelong environmental
activist, of Citizens saUnited Against Ruining
Our Environment, and the Navajo Nation.
Photo:  Craig Barrett

KPFA Weekend News Anchor Anthony Fest:  In 1979, the same year as the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, the Navajo Nation suffered the worst uranium mining accident in U.S. history, when 1100 tons of mining tailings and 100 million gallons of radioactive water burst through an earthen dam, into the Rio Puerco, at a uranium mine in Church Rock, New Mexico on the Navajo Reservation.  

In 2005, the Navajo Nation passed the world's first and only indigenous ban on uranium mining, but mining corporations and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have attempted to ignore or override that ban.  KPFA's Ann Garrison spoke to lifelong Navajo environmentalist Lori Goodman, with DinĂ© Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment about the Navajo response to the Japanese nuclear catastrophe:  

KPFA/Ann Garrison:  Lori, how have the Navajo people reacted to the Japanese nuclear power catastrophe?

The Navajo Reservation is 26,000 square miles, in
Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.   With a quarter
million people, it is the largest native nation in
the U.S.
Lori Goodman:  Well, the Navajo people understand what's happening in Japan, and that the situation that they're in is because of the electrical power that they were receiving, in that case from a nuclear power plant.  And, in the case of the Navajo people, we have two of the largest coal-fired and most polluting power plants in the western United States on the Navajo Nation.  And so they see that as one and the same, and they also understand that there's a better way to generate electricity, by harnessing the sun and the wind.

KPFA:  What is the stage of your renewable energy proposal.  A lot of intellectual infrastructure but no capital source---is that still the case?

Lori Goodman:   Ah, yes, it is.  We really need the California ratepayers to go back and say "OK, we will buy energy from the Navajo Nation, from renewable energy sources."

KPFA:  And are the mining corporations and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission still pressuring you, trying to ignore or override the historic uranium mining ban?

Lori Goodman:  Yes, the day after it was signed, they all went into action to try and lift the ban, or sidestep.  That's going on.

Warning not to  drink
 from the Rio Puerco,
1979, after the earthen dam at
U.S. Nuclear's uranium
mine burst. Eleven
hundred tons of tailings
and 100 million gallons of
radioactive water spilled
into the the river, before
Navajo miners, working
without protective gear,
could repair it. 
KPFA:  And what's the state of the attempt to clean up the toxic mess left by the many years of uranium mining?

Lori Goodman:  Church Rock now is a Superfund site, but we have three other Superfund sites on the Navajo Nation from uranium mining.  And there's also a need to have 20 or 30 more other Superfund sites, but unfortunately the Superfund has not been reauthorized, so there are no funds there, so people are dying and getting polluted daily.

KPFA:  Lori, you're also on the Board of the Peace Development Fund.  Would you like to say anything about the connection between nuclear power, weapons, and war?

Lori Goodman:  Well, I think the Peace Development Fund sees that as one and the same.  There's no such thing as peaceful nuclear energy.  It's all destructive, as we see that being played out right now in Japan.  And I do want to say that Peace Development Fund has set up donations for the communities that live next to the nuclear power plants in Japan, because we understand those people that live next to these plants are also environmental justice communities.   So Peace Development Fund wants to ensure that those people get help because most of the time they're overlooked, just as we saw in Katrina.

KPFA:  Lori, thank you.  It's an honor to speak to you for KPFA.

Lori Goodman:  Thank you for having me.

KPFA:  Goodman also said that if California stopped using nuclear power, they would hugely reduce the pressure to overturn the Navajo uranium mining ban, the only native claim to resource sovereignty of its kind.

For Pacifica, KPFA Radio, I'm Ann Garrison.

KPFA Radio archive URL:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Can Barney out legislate Bahati?

KPFA Weekend News Anchor Cameron Jones:  On Tuesday, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, moved a human rights amendment to the Financial Services Bill out of committee on a unanimous vote. The amendment urges the U.S. Treasury Department to advocate that multilateral development banks supported by the U.S. not assist nations engaging in gross human rights violations, including denial of the freedom of religion and physical persecution because of sexual orientation or gender identity. KPFA's Ann Garrison has more.

The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power  protest
against Uganda's  Anti-Homosexuality Act,
a.k.a. Hang-the-Gays Bill, in New York City.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Congressman Barney Frank, in his press release about the amendment, used the physical persecution of sexual minorities in Uganda as an example of the sort of human rights violations that his amendment would discourage, so most of the press has interpreted it as being targeted singly at Uganda's pending Anti-Homosexuality Act, otherwise known as the Hang-the-Gays bill, or, the Bahati bill, after its author Ugandan Parliamentarian David Bahati. Last week the New Vision, Uganda's state-owned newspaper, reported that Uganda's Speaker of Parliament has summoned MPs to report on March 22 to take up “unfinished business,” including the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Liberian born Emira Woods, Co-Editor of the Institute for Policy Studies' Foreign Policy in Focus, and one of the African advocates at the March 2nd Congressional briefing on the UN Mapping Report on Congo atrocities, told KPFA that although LGBT rights activism had most likely inspired Frank to write the amendment, it should apply to the whole range of human rights violations. She added, however, that an enforcement mechanism is hard to imagine:

Emira Woods:  With the amendment and press release coming forward, what Congressman Frank has done is call much needed attention to the anti-gay legislation and I think we should commend that, and yet I think it is difficult to imagine how that will be implemented by Treasury using its leverage on the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the other international financial institutions. I think this is an instance where a Congressman is using the political, sort of like a bully pulpit.

KPFA:  And then you think the amendment's advocacy might be expanded to stop other gender violence such as the sexual terrorism in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

Emira Woods:  I think its first important to applaud the attention that he's bringing to the issues of the anti-gay legislation in Uganda.  That's huge.  And I think it's much needed.  And all of the champions and defenders of human rights broadly, of LGBT right in particular, throughout Africa, welcome the statements and the actions from Congressman Frank.   So I think wee have to applaud that first.   Acknowledge it, support it, strengthen it.  And then, I think, moving further to encourage a similar bully pulpit be used to address the atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

KPFA:  For Pacifica, KFPA and AfrobeatRadio, I'm Ann Garrison.

Audio link:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

White Man's Burden: Affleck and Prendergast in Congress for Congo

Ben Affleck and John Prendergast in Congress,
March 6th, 2010 to testify at a House Foreign
Affairs Committee hearing on conflict in the
Democratic Republic of Congo.  No
Congolese or African person testified.
KPFA News Anchor Cameron Jones:  On Tuesday the House Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the Democratic Republic of Congo, the most lethal conflict in the world since World War II, which has continued since the International Rescue Committee estimated, over three years ago, that more than 5.4 million people had died in the conflict, most of whom died of hardship after being driven from their homes.   The hearing featured the testimony of actor Ben Affleck, heiress and philanthropist Cindy McCain, and John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project, a foreign policy lobbying project of the Center for American Progress.  No Congolese, African, or even African American person testified. KPFA's Ann Garrison has more.  

KPFA/Ann Garrison:  Friends of the Congo's Executive Director Maurice Carney told KPFA that the absence of a Congolese or even African voice at the Congressional hearing on Congo's catastrophe was no surprise even in the age of President Barack Obama.

Maurice Carney:  It's part of a long pattern of the colonization of information.  You have experts who claim to be speaking on behalf of the Africans.

African scholars and activists Nii Akuetta, Claude
Gatebuke, Emira Wood, Jacques, Bahati, Nita Evele, and
Kambale Musavuli, the all African panelists at the
Great LakesAdvocates' Coalition March 2nd briefing on
the 2010 UN Mapping Report, which docuemtnts atrocities
committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  
None of them were invited  to the March 6th 

Affleck/Prendergast Congressional hearing on Congo. 
Photo credit:   Arrian Lewis
KPFA:  The African Great Lakes Advocacy Coalition had, six days earlier held a briefing on the UN Mapping Report, released on October 1, 2010, which documents mass atrocities in Congo, with an all African, including Congolese, panel. An intern from John Prendergast's ENOUGH Project was in attendance, asking questions, but, as Carney noted, none of the panel's all African speakers were invited to speak at Tuesday's hearing.

Affleck and Prendergast attributed most of Congo's violence to two militias, the Democratic Federation for the Liberation of Rwanda, on Congo's southeastern border with Rwanda, and the Lord's Resistance Army on its northeastern border with Uganda, but the African Great Lakes Advocates said that Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, both longstanding U.S. allies, are most responsible, and that this has been abundantly evidenced in the UN Mapping Report, and many previous UN reports referenced in the Mapping Report.    

Maurice Carney,
Executive Director, Friends of the Congo
Maurice Carney:   Both the FDLR and the LRA can enroll in the Museveni and Kagame School of Mass Atrocities and get a Ph.D., because the overwhelming suffering in the region has been triggered by U.S. allies Rwanda and Uganda, led by their presidents.  So, when you have people testifying in Congress and talking about FDLR and LRA, to the exclusion of U.S. allies Rwanda and Uganda, you feel like you're in the twilight zone, lIke 'What are you talking about?'  Friends of the Congo maintains that, based on the information that these groups present, we can't help but be led to the conclusion that they're looking to cover for U.S. strategic and economic interests because their presentations are marked by two striking exclusions.  One, a discussion around Rwanda and Uganda, and two, a discussion around multinational corporations, the mining companies that are directly involved in the region. 

KPFA:  John Prendergast is most often introduced on talk shows, and in Congressional hearings, as an author and human rights advocate, but neither he nor the ENOUGH Project hide his previous employment as Director of African Affairs on Bill Clinton's National Security Council, and on the National Intelligence Council.

Ben Affleck made another celebrity appearance, last November, with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair John Kerry, at a press conference about foreign policy in Congo at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which is now headed by former Deputy Director of Defense John Hamre.  Again, Maurice Carney:

Former Georgia Congresswoman 
Cynthia McKinney held Congressional 
hearings on the Congo conflict in 2001.

Maurice Carney:   The people called in to testify are usually those who reinforce U.S. foreign policy in a particular region of the world, not those who challenge U.S. foreign policy.  So that's just the way it works in Washington unless you connect with a progressive, such as Cynthia McKinney, when she was in the Congress.  She brought in alternative views that exposed the role of U.S. foreign policy abroad.  But we've yet to find another champion like Cynthia McKinney.  

KPFA:  A partial transcript of McKinney's 2001 Congressional hearings on Congo, can be found on the website of the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper with the title "End the Conflict in Congo."  Keith Harmon Snow's essay "Ben Affleck, Rwanda, and Corporate Sustained Catastrophe" can be found on the Dissident Voice website.

For Pacifica, KPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I'm Ann Garrison.  

Audio url:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Gaddafi's Libya, African refugees, and European xenophobia

KPFA Weekend News, 03.06.2011:
Audio url:

Vincent Harris reported that European governments
collaborated with Gaddafi to prevent migrants from
departing from making their way to  Europe from Libya's
long Mediterranean coastline.
KPFA Weekend News Anchor David Landau:  Black, Southern Africans in Libya are in peril consequent to both racism and Western media reports that Muammar Gaddafy is using quote unquote "African mercenaries," meaning Black, Southern Africans, to put down the Libyan uprising. Pleas for help have gone up on blogs in North Africa and both NGOS and multilateral organizations are seeking access, resources, and the relaxation of immigration restrictions, so as to evacuate those endangered.   KPFA's Ann Garrison has more.

KPFA/Ann Garrison:  Aljazeera English recorded the voice of this Nigerian, who goes by the name of Courage, after he escaped an attack in Libya this week: 

Courage:  When I was coming from my work, I looked on my back.  There were car after me, chasing me.  They said I should stop.  I can't stop because they were holding cutlass and dangerous weapons with them.  I was running for my life.  If they had caught me that would have been the end of my life.  

Vincent Harris,  Dutch
creator of the blog Colored 
Opinionsand host of Colored 
Opinions Great Lakes Blogchat 
on Blog Talk Radio. 
KPFA:  Vincent Harris, creator of the Netherlands-based blog Colored Opinions, spoke with KPFA about what he calls xenophobic, anti-immigrant politics in Europe. He says European governments have a history of collaboration with Gaddafi to maintain a buffer zone meant to restrict African immigration to Europe by boat from the Libyan coast. Harris said that constraining African immigration is a high priority of most European governments and that, in exchange for his help with this goal, Gaddafi received military training for his army, and acceptance in European capitols,:

Vincent Harris:  They needed Gaddafi to solve this perceived problem, that Africans were crossing into Europe, from Libya.  They worked together to make sure that no Africans go into Europe. 

Harris added that North Africans are nevertheless likely to meet more xenophobia than Southern Africans in Europe because Europeans perceive North Africans as Muslims and Black, Southern Africans as Christians.  He also reported that on March 3rd, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, urged the European Commission to appeal to EU member nations to help evacuate and offer protection to 4,000 sub-Saharan refugees who are currently trapped in Libya.  Harris’s report, “Africans trapped in Gaddafy’s Libya” can be found on and

For Pacifica, KPFA and Afrobeat Radio, I'm Ann Garrison.  

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sudanese oil violence, post referendum

KPFA Weekend News, 03.05.2011:

Audio link:

Host Cameron Jones:  The Southern Sudanese people voted for independence from Northern Sudan in January of this year, but the hotly contested, oil rich Abyei region, between the districts now scheduled to join the independent states of North and South Sudan, did not vote with the rest of the country because North and South could not agree as to who would be eligible to vote.   Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir vowed that he would not agree to Abyei becoming part of the South.   This week clashes broke out again in Abyei, and the death toll is already reported to be over 100.  KPFA's Ann Garrison has more.

Sudan's oil rich Abyei
district is in yellow.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
KPFA/Ann Garrison:  Some sources claim that the Misseriya herdsmen identified with the North attacked the Dinka Ngok farmers identified with the South, but Government of Southern Sudan spokesperson Marial Benjamin Barnaba blamed the Sudanese Army and Popular Defense Forces loyal to Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir.

Marial Benjamin Barnaba:   “The areas being attacked are north of Abyei and the people on the attack are the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Popular Defense Forces. This morning at nine fifty am, Makir village was completely burned down by the Sudanese Armed Forces which is being claimed to be Misseriya.  And other attacks are pending.  The citizens of Abyei, the Ngok Dinka in this areas, they have been moving southwards because of these continuous attacks and in fact most of the causalities have been the local police, plus the civilian population.”

Nile Fortune Managing Editor
Mugume Rwakaringi. 
KPFA:  Nile Fortune Editor and Contributor Mugume Rwakaringi told KPFA that the people of Abyei are trapped between the counter accusations of Khartoum and Juba, the capitols of Northern and Southern Sudan, and that traditional Misseriya herdsmen and Dinka Ngok farmers would peacefully co-exist, if not for the oil thirst of the outside forces driving the conflict.

In January, as soon as the votes for independence had been counted in Southern Sudan, Massachusetts Senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry declared the U.S.A. would not leave Abyei behind.

John Kerry:  “Let’s be clear.  Even as today marks the end of one journey and the beginning of another, a lot of work remains ahead in the very new term in the next months of the CPA before July 9th, in order to resolve outstanding issues regarding oil revenues, borders, and of course Abyei and Darfur.  Abyei is front and center on the agenda even today.  Abyei is not being left behind, Abyei is not being forgotten.

KPFA:  Mugume Rwakaringi's essay, "Who should save the Abyei people?" will be available tomorrow on the websites of the San Francisco Bay View and AfrobeatRadio.  For Pacifica, KPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I'm Ann Garrison.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

No Funds for Tasers or War Criminals; Stop State Violence in San Francisco and Congo

Julian Davis, listening and waiting to speak at the
San Francisco Police Commission hearing on
 arming the SFPD with tasers as well as handguns.
Davis, President of the Booker T. Washington 

Service Center, asked the Commissioners to
  consider the role of tasers in the Oscar Grant
shooting and to consider disproportionate
impacts on communities of color.  He asked
 the Commissioners not only not to buy tasers
   but also to stop wasting money studying them.

On Wednesday, February 24th, I attended a San Francisco Police Commission hearing to oppose arming the San Francisco Police with tasers as well as handguns.  I've come to question the point of attending hearings like this because, for one, my side inevitably loses, whether it's about the Blue Angels, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and the Lennar Corporation in the Hunters' Point Shipyard, San Francisco's next mayor, or even a Board of Supervisors' resolution about the latest uproar at KPFA Radio, the Bay Area's Pacifica Radio station. 

It often seems to me that we show up at City Hall hearings like this simply to help create facades of public process for Boards and Commissions that strike political deals or otherwise make up their minds long before the hearing starts. 

KPFA News reporter
Sabrina Jacobs
I've therefore sworn I'd never again appear at one, but---never say never---I showed up last Wednesday after so many of the people I most admire in San Francisco urged attendance.  Supervisor John Avalos offered his office to accommodate the overflow crowd, and I enjoyed the company, especially that of Sabrina Jacobs, who produced this report for KPFA News:

(Audio link:

Once again, and as always, every time I've been to City Hall, I was on the losing side.   Commissioner Petra DeJesus, who cast the sole vote against more taser studies, said that no matter how they reworded what they were voting on, they were still voting to proceed toward taser use.  Bob Offer-Westort, Civil Rights Organizer for San Francisco's Coalition on Homelessness, thought that those who attended the meeting had managed, at least, to buy time to organize.

And I at least felt honored to be among the crowd of doctors, lawyers, social workers, organizers, and activists who came to speak against taser use.  Many had so much relevant experience and/or expertise  that I found myself wondering what I could possibly add, but by the time I got a turn at the mike, the Western Regional Representative for Amnesty International (AI), had helped me find a few words, by telling the Commissioners that AI considers tasers a form of torture:

"I'm Ann Garrison, a long term resident, a District 8 voter, a journalist.  In recent years I've cultivated expertise in US interventions and involvements in East/Central Africa: Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Sudan.   I'm here in part because these are my friends, in the audience, but also because the culture that we impose on other parts of the world is something we create right here, every day, in public forums like this one, and in the decisions that come out of them.  A few points about San Francisco's culture as it is now:  

1)  Every year San Francisco hosts Fleet Week and the Blue Angels Air Show, a celebration of global military dominance and the equation of might and right.

2)  In January 2007, the nine-member Black Caucus of the California Legislature released “The State of Black California” report, which said that the disparity of wealth, income, and education between black and white people is greater in San Francisco than anywhere else in the state. 

3)  In July 2009, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless released its "Homes not Handcuffs" report ranking San Francisco as the seventh meanest city to the homeless in the U.S.

Please don't add the police use of a weapon tantamount to torture to this list."

Three days later, I produced my own KPFA Weekend News report, below, about the March 2nd Congressional briefing on the UN Mapping Report documenting civilian massacres and atrocities, including mass weaponized rape, committed by the armies of African dictators that the U.S. has armed, trained, advised, and guided with logistical and intelligence support  for many years.

This is to ask those who attended the Police Commission taser hearing to call Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, and Nancy Pelosi as well, and urge them to attend this briefing.     (For Congressional contacts, see

(Audio link:

KPFA Weekend News Anchor Cameron Jones: The Great Lakes Region of Africa Coalition of peace and social justice activists in the U.S. is preparing for a March 2nd Congressional briefing on the UN Mapping Report documenting atrocities committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The report was leaked on August 26th, 2010, and officially released by the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights on October 1st.

President and General Paul Kagame leads the army whose
crimes in Congo are documented in the UN Mapping Report
leaked 08.26.2010, and officially released 10.01.2010.
The armies of Congo's neighbors to the east, Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi, and most of all that of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, are most implicated, but the U.S. continues to collaborate with all three militarily. KPFA's Ann Garrison has more.

KPFA/Ann Garrison:  International, multilingual broadcast headlines following the August 26th leak of the UN Mapping Report were later combined into this sound collage to introduce "The contradictions of General Paul Kagame:," a video posted to the Youtube and Jambo News, a publication covering Africa's Great Lakes Region:

Audio collage of headlines:  (Audio collage of broadcast headlines during the week following the 08.26.2010 leak of the report.)

KPFA:  Despite the Mapping Report's documentation of atrocities including mass rape, civilian massacres, destruction of hospitals and other essential infrastructure, and even genocide, there have been no international criminal indictments. Within the last year Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, and Burundi's President Pierre Nkrunziza, all of whom are implicated in the UN report, held onto power in elections that much of the world understood as window dressing for dictatorship.

The U.S. and UK have continued to arm, train, and collaborate with the armies of Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi in Somalia, Sudan, and elsewhere on the African continent. Last July the Pentagon awarded Northrop Grumman and three other defense and security contractors a $500 million contract to train the armies of Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi and other African allies.

Jacques Bahati, Policy Analyst for the Washington D.C.-based Africa Faith and Justice Network spoke to KPFA about the Great Lakes Coalition's hopes for its March 2nd briefing on Capitol Hill:

Jacques Bahati:  Our goal is to rally U.S. support for justice for the crimes committed by the Rwandan, Ugandan, and Burundian armies and their Congolese collaborators in the war against Congo in 1996 to 2003.  Also we want the U.S. to take a clear stand on this issue, supporting the UN Mapping Report recommendations to set up an investigation to determine whether the targeted and massive killing of Congolese, Burundian, and Rwandan Hutu were a genocide.    

KPFA:  There have been many Congressional hearings and many UN reports about this.  What are you hoping might be different this time?

Jacques Bahati:  Well, we can't get tired.  We will continue to push and rally the international community for peace and stability of the region.  Although they might not hear us or they haven't heard us, we believe that one day they will hear what we are saying, because the evidence is very clear.  Many people died and justice has to be served.  

President  Barack Obama, as a Senator, authored Senate
Bill 2125, the Congo, Relief, Security, and 

Democracy Promotion Act of 2006.
KPFA:  Bahati also said that they would be asking Congress to push for implementation of Senate Bill 2125, the Obama Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006, and the only bill that President Obama, as a Senator, ushered into law on his own. The bill calls for appointment of a Special Envoy to the Congo, and for the cancellation of U.S. assistance to any country invading the Congo and plundering its resources, as the Mapping Report and previous UN reports demonstrate, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi have.

The Great Lakes Coalition is asking Americans to call their Senators and Congressmembers to ask them to attend the March 2nd briefing on the UN Mapping Report on Capitol Hill.  For updates on the hearings, see the websites of the Africa Faith and Justice Network and Friends of the Congo.

For Pacifica, KPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I'm Ann Garrison.