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Kerry and Biden Urge African Leaders to be More Open

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(NNPA) WASHINGTON – Calling this an “extraordinary moment of opportunity,” Secretary of State John Kerry gently urged African leaders hosted by the White House to eradicate political corruption, limit their time in office to two terms, be more accepting of dissent and adopt universally accepted values that advance the lives and freedoms of its citizens.

Kicking off the 3-day US-Africa Summit that began Monday, Kerry said: “Empowered civil society is the foundation of every successful democracy here in the United States, in Africa, and around the world, because in the end, our most enduring relationships, most consequential relationships are not with one particular government at one moment in time. It’s not with those who are in power for the short run.”

He explained, “The legacy is really shaped by the people of a country and the people of a continent, the people of Africa who stand on principle for the long haul and who are increasingly connected to the world around them and who, therefore, aspire to greater and greater set of opportunities.”

Vice President Joe Biden, also speaking on the opening day of the summit, suggested that leaders make a stronger effort to root out political corruption. “Corruption is not unique to Africa, but it’s a cancer in Africa as well as around the world,” Biden stated.  “Widespread corruption is an affront to the dignity of its people and a direct threat to each of your nation’s stability.”

It was doubtful that Kerry’s and Biden’s speeches will change the political landscape in Africa. The presidents of Equatorial Guinea, Angola and Rwanda have been in office for more than three decades and don’t appear ready to step down.  Many African leaders have millions stashed away in foreign accounts.

Kerry’s carefully crafted speech took what many claim as fundamental American values and placed them within a global context, perhaps in an effort to make them more acceptable.

“Strong civil society and respect for democracy, the rule of law, and human rights – these are not just American values. They’re universal values. They’re universal aspirations. And anyone who reads history and knows history understands that.”

Kerry continued, “Why does America care whether countries around the world, including African states, enforce the rule of law, reform their economies, and embrace pluralism? Very simple. We care because we believe that when people can trust their government and rely on its accountability and transparency on justice, that society flourishes and is more stable than others. We believe that opportunity and prosperity are powerful antidotes to the violent urges of extremism and division. And we know that the gravest threats to the security of nations almost invariably come from countries where people and their governments are at odds, where they are divided.”

Citizens are making their voices heard in Africa, Kerry said. He said opinion polls in Africa show  “large majorities of Africans support free, accessible, and fair elections, and limiting their presidents to two terms in office. Those are the aspirations that drove Wangari Maathai to launch the Green Belt Movement in Kenya and transform the way that Africans relate to the environment. And those are the aspirations that drove Frank Mugisha and others to risk their lives for LGBT rights and equality and non-discrimination in Uganda.”

The secretary of state noted that the U.S. did not have an easy time establishing a democracy, engaging in a Civil War and repairing defects in the Constitution. It is a struggle that continues to this day, Kerry acknowledged.

“Slavery was written into our Constitution before it was written out of our Constitution,” he said in a question-and-answer session following his speech. “And we all know what a battle we had in this country in order to do that, and we are still battling to make sure that our Constitution is, in fact, upheld and applied in the law in terms of voting rights and the way districts are divided. This is not unique to one continent or one place. It’s part of politics, part of human nature, and that is the greatest struggle of all. We’re still working to perfect, everybody is.”

And so is Africa, according to Kerry.

“…interestingly, most African countries have very strong constitutions. And those strong constitutions, if you read them and analyze them, actually do provide very clear separation of power, rule of law, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech,” Kerry said, replying to one question. “Even the principles of nondiscrimination are contained within most of the constitutions in Africa.

“So Africa has done pretty well in drafting the constitution and putting together the basic concepts. Where there has been a challenge, obviously, is in making sure that it is followed, and that requires the building of capacity. Doesn’t happen overnight, didn’t happen here overnight.”

No Mercy: Police Put Banned Chokehold on Pregnant Woman

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By Jeremy Pasker
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

The Black community is in an uproar after a video surfaced showing a seven-months pregnant woman being held in an apparent chokehold by an NYPD officer. The Police Department said her family was grilling on the sidewalk outside their home in East New York, which is illegal.

“I was shocked,” said Rosan Miller. “They just drove up and held me and began to choke. I asked them, ‘What’s the problem?’ and they never explained it. The police are here to protect us, but they’re not doing that. I’m in pain. A lot of pain.”

“[Bratton’s] policy of ‘broken windows’ perpetuates a system that targets people of color that causes negative interaction between police and community,” Councilwoman Inez Barron told the Amsterdam News. “Bratton must go!”

Monday, July 28, shortly after noon, Barron and her husband, former Councilman Charles Barron, held a press conference in front of Brooklyn’s 75th Precinct to dispute the actions taken by the NYPD. “If it was a white neighborhood [the patrolling officers] would have kept driving by,” said Charles Barron.

Miller and her family were grilling food outside their home in East New York, Brooklyn, like people in the neighborhood tend to do during the humid summer days. But a day that should have ended like any other, with laughs and full stomachs, instead ended with husband, Moses Miller, with a dislocated shoulder and Rosan Miller needing to go to the clinic to check on the health of her unborn child.

“[NYPD] are suppose to protect our community, but they ended up abusing my wife,” Moses Miller lamented from the podium, while addressing the press. “She is not feeling well. She’s feeling a lot of pain in her back.”

Police say the trouble began Saturday evening around 7 p.m., when they found Moses Miller grilling on the sidewalk, and he refused to hand over his ID and began walking away from the officers. Officers say they attempted to arrest Moses Miller, but John and Rosan Miller intervened, slapping at the officers. According to the police, Rosan Miller then resisted arrest. Moses Miller was charged with resisting arrest and his brother, John Miller, was charged with harassment and obstruction of justice. Charles Barron called for the immediate release of the Millers after learning of the incident.

Pictures of the incident show an officer with his arm around Rosan Miller’s neck, forcibly removing her from the front yard. Video footage of the incident corroborates the Millers’ claims that the police exceeded their mandate, according to the family’s attorney.

A neighbor, Tanya Wilcox, said that she’s afraid to confront officers after they act inappropriately for fear they might retaliate. She thinks that police continue to assault Black people because there are rarely, if any, repercussions for doing so.

“They need to hire police officers from the community and not transfer them in from Long Island, or whatever,” stated Wilcox, a mother of four. “They need to be mentors but not think they are above the law.”

The Barrons are both holding the police commissioner personally responsible for the tactics his men used. Retaining his role as head of the police force under Mayor Bill de Blasio, despite the multiple infractions under his watch, is unacceptable, they argued. The two also disputed Bratton’s claims that sensitivity training would remedy the schism dividing the community and the police force.

CARICOM Reiterates Call for Peaceful Solution to Gaza Conflict

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

CMC – The 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping Saturday reiterated its call for a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza calling for a peaceful resolution of the conflict that has left hundreds of people dead.

CARICOM said that it wanted an end to the hostilities “and the appalling bloodshed being caused by the bombardments, shelling and ground invasion”.

At least 35 people were killed on Saturday after a university in Gaza was bombed in the latest round of shelling by Israeli forces that hit more than 200 targets. So far more than a 1,000 people have been killed since the fighting began last month.

The Gaza-Israel conflict dates back to 2006 and in this latest flare up Israel has vowed to disarm the military group, Hamas, which is demanding an immediate end to the economic blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt.

CARICOM said that the toll of civilian deaths and wounded was mounting incrementally in Gaza with the vast majority being in particular women and children.

“…with hundreds of homes and civilian buildings such as schools destroyed or severely damaged; with few if any safe havens for the thousands of displaced Palestinians, the question must be raised as to whether the principles of proportionality and the norms of international humanitarian law and of international human rights are being respected in the assault on Gaza.

“In like manner, the continuing launching of rockets from Gaza targeting the Israeli civilian population is in breach of these norms, as is the location of firing sites and weapons close to United Nations schools used as shelters as well as close to concentrations of civilians,” CARICOM said.

It said that as the humanitarian situation in Gaza worsens dramatically, the regional bloc was adding its “collective voice to the calls coming from many quarters in the international community for all the parties involved to cease hostilities and end the intolerable escalation of death, destruction and violence”.

Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago has said that the decision by the Human Rights Coun­cil to set up an independent commission of enquiry into the situation in the Middle East was necessary.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran, said Port of Spain was joining other countries urging the UN Security Council to act decisively and with alacrity, to stem any further deterioration of the humanitarian situation and to restore calm.

“Trinidad and Tobago condemns the reported grave breaches of international humanitarian law and human rights law occurring in that region. Despite regional and international efforts to broker an immediate and unconditional humani­ta­rian ceasefire, the on­slaught continues with total deaths in Gaza amounting today to 1,250 while on the Israeli side, 53 soldiers and two civilians, including a Thai national, have been killed,” he said.

“Trinidad and Tobago is appealing to the combatants to ensure all those in need of medical care, food and other forms of humanitarian assistance are allowed full, immediate and unconditional access to such support to reach the affected areas and communities.”

Americans Benefit from Helping Africans

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By LaTrina Antoine
Special to the NNPA from the AFRO

WASHINGTON  (NNPA) – Increasing United States investment opportunities in Africa could help the economy create more jobs for Americans, according to U.S. officials

“Our economic and commercial partnership is a two way street,” Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, told African leaders at the U.S.-Africa Summit. “Goods and services exports from the U.S. to African markets support roughly 250,000 jobs here at home.”

Pritzer announced several new initiatives that will begin to strengthen the business relationships with the U.S. and Africa, including 10 new trade missions to Africa and 10 reverse trade missions to the U.S. by 2020.

She also said the Commerce Department created “a one stop shop web portal,” trade.gov/dbia to assist U.S. industry engagement in Africa. The fiscal portal enables American businesses to learn about African markets, find financing tools, and discover potential projects, contacts, and resources.

Ashish J. Thakkar, founder and managing director of Mara Group, a pan-African multi-sector business headquartered in Dubai, introduced a panel on “Expanding Opportunities: The New Era For Business In Africa.” The panel was part of the Africa Business Forum of the summit. Panelists discussed the future of U.S.-African partnerships and identified ways in which both countries could strengthen business ties and enable greater economic progress, such as investing in education, energy and infrastructure.

The panel, moderated by former President Bill Clinton, included Aliko Dangote, president and CEO of Dangote Group; Jeff Immelt, CEO at General Electric; Andrew N. Liveris, president, chairman & CEO at The Dow Chemical Company, Phuti Mahanyele, CEO at Shanduka Group; and Doug McMillon, president and CEO, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

According to Bloomberg L.P., the host for the forum, foreign investment in African economies will reach a record $80 billion in 2014 with many U.S. companies leading the way, such as IBM. However, there are significant business and financial opportunities that remain untapped, Bloomberg said.

When asked what could U.S. businesses could do to accelerate the process of investing in Africa, Immelt replied, “The number one thing is get local.” He said there needs to be local flexibility risk-based financing along with regional integration in Africa, such as an East African alliance.

Mahanyele said investment in the youth of Africa was a huge contribution to helping the advancement of U.S.-Africa investment.

“The key issue is making sure youth are educated to continue the growth of our continent,” she said.

Agreeing that a way to spur greater economic investment in Africa through education young people, Liveris said American companies could bring supply chains and training that would be a generational move.

He said Africa can move faster than other countries, in economic development, if American companies focused on working with African schools.

“I think the U.S.-Africa summit is history in the making,” Thakkar said. “Instead of bringing silicon valley to Africa, let’s bring Africa to silicon valley.”

Vigils Held for Kidnapped Nigerian Girls

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By Craig D. Frazier
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

Last week, a number of local and international events occurred to mark that it has been more than 100 days since the abduction of the Chibok pupils.

In Manhattan, a silent candlelight vigil, organized by Nkechie Ogbodo, president of Kechi’s Project, was held across the street from the Nigerian consulate. Members of the organization called for the return of the Nigerian girls and were joined by faith-based leaders and community activist.

“We are praying and honoring them so they can stay strong, come back safely and have a chance to live whatever is left of their broken lives,” Ogbodo told the AmNews.

Since 2010, Kechi’s Project, a New York-based nonprofit organization, has empowered underprivileged and under-represented girls in Nigeria. The Nigerian native is responsible for spearheading multiple campaigns here in New York and across the globe that highlight disparities faced by young females in Africa.

“They are still missing, and we still don’t have answers. We promised them hope, yet hope is fast eluding them. Why is the world silent?” Ogbodo added.

The extremist group Boko Haram’s attempt to disenfranchise and subjugate the girls of Nigeria has strengthened her determination to do more for girls by expanding educational scholarships program in Nigeria.

In April, Boko Haram abducted 276 Nigerian girls, sparking an international outcry. Of the 276 girls kidnapped, 219 are still being held captive more than 100 days after they were first kidnapped. Borno State Gov. Kashim Shettima reported that 176 teachers have been killed and 900 schools destroyed in Borno since Boko Haram began attacking in 2011, because they see the community as a reflection of Western education.

The militants, known now as terrorists, have attacked throughout Nigeria, snubbing international demands to release the girls. The Associated Press reports that 60 students managed to escape from the thick jungle, but at least 20 others are ill and at least two have died.

“I stand in solidarity with all those taking part in vigils today to demonstrate that the world has not forgotten the girls who were so cruelly abducted from their school 100 days ago in Chibok, Nigeria,” said Ban Ki-moon, United Nations secretary-general, “I repeat my call for their immediate release and for an end to discrimination, intimidation and violence against girls whose only wish is to gain an education.”

For the first time, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan met with parents of the 219 kidnapped schoolgirls and classmates who escaped from their Islamic extremist captors. “Mr. President reassured them of the federal government’s determination and his personal determination to ensure that the girls that are still in captivity are brought out alive,” said Jonathan’s spokesman.

Boko Haram wants to swap prisoners for the girls. The president has refused.

Jonathan said the government wants to avoid a rescue effort that could lead to the girls being killed. “Anyone who gives you the impression that we are aloof and that we are not doing what we are supposed to do to get the girls out is not being truthful. Our commitment is not just to get the girls out, it is also to rout Boko Haram completely from Nigeria,” he told the parents. “But we are very, very mindful of the safety of the girls. We want to return them all alive to their parents.”

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BVN National News Wire