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In Nigeria, peace talks attempting to resolve the conflict in Darfur appear to have broken down. Earlier today, leaders of two rebel groups — the Justice and Equality Movement and a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army — said they could not accept an African Union-brokered plan without major changes. Meanwhile, a larger faction of the Sudan Liberation Army said it would accept the deal although with reservations.
In Somalia, the Bush administration is being accused of fermenting unrest through the support of warlords fighting Islamic militants in Mogadishu. A Somali government spokesperson said the US government’s backing is helping fuel a civil war that has led to many civilian deaths. Some 90 people were killed during the fighting in March — the worst violence Somalia has seen in years.
In Mexico, over 1,000 police officers raided a town on the outskirts of Mexico City Thursday that was the site of a riot a day earlier. On Wednesday, demonstrators clashed with police who tear-gassed them for protesting the arrest of several farmers for selling flowers without a permit. The demonstrators took six police hostages, all of whom were released. At least 30 people were arrested and remain in custody. Two journalists said police beat them to prevent them from filming.
In East Timor, thousands of people have fled their homes in the capital of Dili amid rumors of of an impending battle between the military and police. Last week, four people were killed and dozens of homes damaged when a protest of dismissed soldiers turned violent.
Meanwhile in Indonesia, politician and former militia leader Eurico Guterres was jailed Thursday to begin a ten-year sentence for human rights abuses during East Timor’s 1999 independence vote. Guterres led a rampage of Indonesia-backed militas after East Timor voted to free itself from 24 years of Indonesian rule. At least 1400 East Timorese were killed in the attacks.
In Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert installed his new government Thursday with a promise to impose permanent borders. Under Olmert’s plan, 60,000 settlers living in isolated areas on the West Bank will be moved to Israel’s main settlement blocks, home to over 340,000 people. Those settlement blocks would then become part of Israel’s permanent borders. Meanwhile, Hamas leader Khaled Meshal has announced Hamas would be willing to move towards peace with Israel if it agreed to give up its West Bank settlements and recognize Palestinian rights.
Here in the United States, FEMA has announced it is closing down the local office tasked with planning the long-term recovery of New Orleans. FEMA says it made the decision because local officials have failed to begin adequate planning. New Orleans officials say the government has again abandoned their city. Deputy Mayor Greg Meffert said: “We can’t plan on a paper napkin.”
For the first time ever, the Justice Department is using the 1965 Voting Rights Act to prosecute an African American for racially discriminating against whites. Ike Brown, a Democratic Party leader in Mississipi, is accused of intimidating and insulting white voters and candidates. Brown is a well-known political organizer who has ran several successful campaigns. The government has one main witness — a county prosecutor. The prosecutor, Ricky Walker, says Brown recruited a black opponent to run against him solely because he is white. Brown responded: “They’ve been trying to target me for years, the attorney general and all them, because we’re so successful. Hey, if you’re a failure, nobody will mess with you. But we’re successful in east Mississippi.”
And finally, legendary peace activist Damu Smith died earlier this morning. The founder of Black Voices for Peace and the National Black Environmental Justice Network, Damu spent years fighting environmental racism, particularly in the south. He was a key leader in the anti-Apartheid movement and fought police brutality in Washington, DC and around the country. Damu was diagnosed with colon cancer last year while on a peace mission in the Occupied Territories. He then not only fought for his life, but against racial disparities in the health care system. Damu is survived by his daughter Aisha and his legacy lives on in all those who fight for justice.