Rioting students paralyze Kenyan capital
A student taunts riot police after lighting
a road barricade
in Nairobi in June, 2002.
Protests have been erupting over the past few months.
Photo by George Mulala, Reuters/Newscom
By Katy Salmon
Nairobi, Kenya, July 19 (IPS)— Hundreds of students
swarmed through Nairobi city center Friday, bringing traffic
to a standstill. Office workers lined the streets watching the
Chanting “No more killings,” the students marched to the police
headquarters, Vigilance House, where they called for the resignation
of police chief Philemon Abongo. Riot police used tear gas to
drive them away.
The students also marched to parliament, demanding that a senior
government official come out and address them. When none did,
they threatened to march to State House, President Daniel arap
Moi’s official residence.
The riots started Thursday night when students stoned and set
alight cars to protest the killing of their colleague, David
Kimuyu. One of the vehicles destroyed belonged to a Dutch diplomat,
who was hit in the head with a rock. Police used tear gas and
live ammunition against the students, according to local media
reports on Friday.
Kimuyu was shot by police during a drug raid on Nairobi campus.
Police spokesperson Peter Kimanthi says the student charged
at the police with a knife and one officer shot him in self-defense.
Nairobi police boss Stephen Kimenchu says Kimuyu was among
a group of students found by police smoking cannabis at a thicket
near the campus on Thursday lunch time. Four were arrested,
others escaped, while Kimuyu allegedly drew out a knife.
The police say two kilograms of marijuana were recovered from
the scene of the shooting. The rioting students do not believe
this version of events.
“They are saying that the guy charged them with a knife but
these are the things they have always been saying. They have
been killing innocent people,” said one student demonstrator
who refused to give his name.
“How can one student, a young student, overpower four policemen
with guns? That is impossible. That’s why we are protesting.
It was injustice. That’s why we are rioting,” he explained.
“How can you shoot a person with a knife when you have a gun?”
asked his colleague.
“These policemen are trained. They should be able to handle
someone with a knife if at all he had one. But I don’t think
he had a knife at all,” he said.
The students even allege that the police planted the cannabis
on the dead student.
“We want the government to know that we are annoyed. They can’t
kill innocents and expect us to be in class. Is it normal?
“This is not the first time they are saying that they pulled
a knife. They are just cheating. Even the marijuana the police
were having they took from central police station,” alleged
“All sorts of charges are made against us. That is not new.
Those charges are not justified at all. How can we plant bhangi
on students? How did we know those students would be there.
Those things are just said to malign our name and nothing else,”
The police are appealing to the students to stop rioting and
come to the negotiating table.
“If someone is guilty of having committed a crime, he or she
will be dealt with according to the law. We are a civilized
nation and we expect everyone else to be civilized. Things can
never be settled through violence. We can settle our problems
at a table, find out what went wrong and right those wrongs,”
“Demonstrations are not evidence. Evidence will come from
people who witnessed what took place and that evidence will
be presented before a court of law. It is the court that will
“I don’t think demonstrations and violence will get us anywhere.
“My appeal to those who are involved in this demonstration
must also consider the rights of other people and make sure
nobody is hurt in the process. If it is something that they
want us to hear, let them say it clearly. We will hear and we
will respond,” he promised.
It is doubtful that the students will respond to Kimanthi’s
plea. Kenyans are often shot dead by the police in controversial
circumstances, but the officers are rarely punished by the courts.
In 1998, police shot and killed a university student, claiming
that they thought he was a car thief. The young man was driving
his mother’s car after attending classes.
In November 2000, two university students and a passer-by
were seriously wounded when police fired on student demonstrators
who had blocked a road in Nairobi and surrounded a car carrying
a government minister.
Rights groups say the police cannot be trusted to investigate
themselves. They want to see an independent body set up to investigate
extra-judicial police killings.
Activists shake up Coca-Cola
By Melissa Fridlin
and Willy Rosencrans
Atlanta, Georgia, July 22 (AGR)— Over 100 activists
gathered outside the gates of the Coca- Cola Company in Atlanta
today to protest the company’s complicity in the assassination
and kidnapping of Colombian workers and its policy of providing
only 1.5% of its African workforce with HIV/AIDS coverage. Union
organizers from Colombia were present, as were members of the
Teamsters, Jobs with Justice, Amnesty International, Witness
for Peace, ACT UP, and other groups.
The crowd marched before the company’s headquarters chanting
and brandishing signs for several hours.
“I am here to give testimony to the abuse of workers in Colombia,”
said Javier Carrera of The National Food Industry Worker’s Union
(SINALTRAINAL), which represents 2,300 food workers in Colombia,
including 500 employees at plants where Coca-Cola is bottled.
“Coca-Cola has used terror tactics to make us desist in our
unionizing efforts in Colombia. Our union halls have been attacked.
They have tried to kidnap our children,” said Carrera.
Protesters criticized Coca-Cola for their complicity in the
death of workers in Africa as well.
“Coke is the largest private sector employer in Africa,” said
Kellie Caspar of ACT UP, an AIDS activist group. “But it provides
only limited health care, and almost all of that goes to its
white backroom employees — 1,500 out of 100,000 workers … People
are literally working themselves to death. Coca-Cola has no
conscience for human health, either here or abroad.”
Last year, Coca Cola’s net revenues in Africa exceeded $620
million. Its profit margin in that country is expected to rise
12% in the next four years, exceeding margins in all other regions
of the world.
SINALTRAINAL in Colombia, with legal assistance from the United
Steelworkers of America (USWA) and the International Labor Rights
Fund, has brought a lawsuit against Coca-Cola in US Federal
Court. The protest was part of a weekend of events which was
organized to announce the suit to the public in the United States.
SINALTRAINAL members will hold similar hearings in Brussels
on Oct. 10 and in Bogota, the capital of Colombia, on Dec. 5.
On Saturday, Javier Carrera, president of the union, presented
a draft of a statement in support of the lawsuit, which the
union hopes will be signed by dozens of organizations across
the United States and worldwide.
“This terrorism being waged against the people of Colombia
is the same terrorism that was waged against us in the ‘60s
when churches were bombed, when people were killed,” said Reverend
James Orange, a veteran of the US civil rights movement.
SINALTRAINAL’s suit against Coca-Cola, in US Federal Court
in Florida, uses US laws to sue both the international Coca-Cola
corporation, Panamerican Beverages, and Bebidas y Alimentos,
which operates the Carepa Coca-Cola plant where a SINALTRAINAL
worker was killed in 1996.
According to the Florida case, at 8:30 am on Dec. 5, 1996,
rightwing AUC paramilitary forces assassinated Isidro Segundo
Gil, a member of the union’s executive board, on the floor of
the Coke bottling plant in Carepa. An hour later, the AUC kidnapped
another union leader from his home. At 8pm, paramilitaries came
to the union’s offices, breaking in and destroying equipment
and later burning down the entire house. The following day,
paramilitaries came to the Carepa plant, called workers together
and threatened them with death if they did not resign from the
union by 4:00 that afternoon.
The suit claims that plant manager Ariosto Milan Mosqera said
he “had given an order to the paramilitaries to carry out the
task of destroying the union.” At the time of Gil’s assassination,
workers had been in the process of negotiating with management.
After his death, the union dissolved. Workers who left were
replaced with new employees paid a lower wage.
In the past 10 years, Coke managers in Colombia have also
fired 10,000 workers, closed plants throughout the country,
and have allegedly framed labor leaders in an attempt to imprison
them. Seven Coke workers have been killed in Colombia — three
of the workers were in the process of negotiating with Coke
management at the time of their murders.
Coca-Cola has consistently denied any connection to the violence
perpetrated against workers in Colombia. They claim that they
are not responsible for the atrocities because the plants are
actually owned by Colombian companies and are simply subcontractors
for Coca-Cola. SINALTRAINAL is also suing these subcontractors.
Holly Clifford, a spokeswoman for the company, stood outside
the company’s gates watching the protest, but said she was not
allowed to answer any questions. According to a statement prepared
by the company, Coca-Cola and its bottling partners “respect
human rights and workers’ rights. We do not promote or condone
violence against anyone.”
At the protest’s end, members of SINALTRAINAL and ACT UP gave
an enormous banner to Clifford bearing the words “Warrant… served
on Coca-Cola for crimes against human rights.”
“We wanted to give you this on behalf of the workers at the
Coca-Cola bottling plant in Colombia,” said Carrera through
an interpreter. “We ask that Coca-Cola change their actions
and start respecting human rights.”
Clifford accepted the warrant, folded it, and carried it back
with her through the gates.
Ban on military domestic
police powers being reviewed
Compiled by Sean Marquis
July 24 (AGR)— The Bush administration has directed
lawyers in the Departments of Justice and Defense to review
the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 and any other laws that sharply
restrict the military’s ability to participate in domestic law
enforcement -- including carrying out arrests, searches, seizure
of evidence, and other police powers on US soil.
Since Sept. 11, Congress has given law enforcement agencies
more latitude to conduct wiretapping and other intelligence
gathering to uncover “terrorist” plotting. President George
W. Bush has proposed the biggest government reorganization in
50 years to put more than 100 offices and agencies into one
cabinet-level department. Congress is racing to approve legislation
by the end of its session this fall that would make Bush’s proposed
Department of Homeland Security a reality.
In the Senate, a version of the measure by Governmental Affairs
Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., tracks closely
with Bush’s plan but would give more power to the agency to
gather and analyze intelligence from the FBI, CIA, and other
Established after the Civil War in response to federal troops
enforcing laws in the South, Congress revised the Posse Comitatus
Act in 1981 to allow the military to help the Coast Guard in
drug interdiction efforts. Another change would require congressional
“I think it is time to revisit it,” Sen. Joseph Biden, a Delaware
Democrat and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told
the Fox News Sunday program. “We have to take a look at it,
and I think it has to be amended. But we’re not talking about
general police power.”
Gene Healy from the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank,
did not agree with the administration’s view. Healy, an attorney
and policy analyst with Cato, thinks having the military performing
civilian law enforcement duties would be a “disaster.”
“I think it’s a terrible idea. Soldiers are trained to shoot
to kill. Civilian police officers ideally are trained to use
force as a last resort,” said Healy.
Sen. Fred Thompson, a Tennessee Republican, said no one was
suggesting the military be engaged in making arrests, rather
that they be used for better surveillance along the borders
and other such tasks.
“It might be an idea whose time has come,” Thompson said.
Tom Ridge, appointed head of Bush’s current Homeland Security
office, said officials haven’t yet discussed giving the military
powers to arrest US citizens, though such authority might be
discussed once Bush’s homeland security department is created.
Empowering “the military with the ability to arrest,” Ridge
said on CNN’s Late Edition “…may come up as a part of a discussion.”
“We need to be talking about military assets, in anticipation
of a crisis event,” Ridge said. “And clearly, if you’re talking
about using the military, then you should have a discussion
about Posse Comitatus.”
New look at Northern Command
Posse Comitatus has long been viewed as the cornerstone to policy
that kept a line between the military and civilian affairs,
and as recently as May, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
said the Pentagon would not seek any changes in the law.
But White House officials insisted that administration lawyers
review the law to determine whether domestic preparedness and
response efforts would benefit from greater involvement of military
Though the change would represent a public abandonment of Posse
Comitatus, documents released through the Freedom of Information
Act have long revealed US plans for domestic military deployment
for countering urban unrest under Operation Garden Plot.
Federal troops from the Marines and Army Airborne were last
used against US citizens to repress the 1992 uprising over the
Rodney King police brutality case in Los Angeles, resulting
in over 10,000 arrests.
Air Force General Ralph E. Eberhart, who will head the recently-created
Northern Command, said he had no specific changes in mind, but
added in an interview with the New York Times, “We should always
be reviewing things like Posse Comitatus and other laws if we
think it ties our hands in protecting the American people.”
“My view has been that Posse Comitatus will constantly be
under review as we mature this command, as we do our exercises,
as we interact with FEMA, FBI, and those lead federal agencies
out there,” said Gen. Eberhart, referring to the Federal Emergency
The Northern Command, which begins operations in the US on
Oct. 1, will be in charge of all military personnel involved
in flying patrols over American cities and guarding the waters
up to 500 miles off the United States coast.
In his vision for the new command, Gen. Eberhart said the
military could use new technology, like remote-controlled surveillance
blimps and unmanned Predator drones that would patrol American
coastlines, the Times reported.
No one is sure what additional responsibilities the military
might take on if Posse Comitatus is revised, but some post-Sept.
11 examples give a hint.
About 5,000 federal troops supported civilian agencies at the
Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City this year -- which had been
declared a “national security event.”
And more recently, on July 18 Alabama activated a 300-soldier
Army National Guard tank battalion as part of a homeland defense
In a statement, Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman said the Ozark,
Ala.-based 1st Battalion, 131st Armor “is equipped with modern
battle tanks, the M1A1 Abrams [and] will serve in the homeland
defense role within the United States.”
Siegelman, commander-in-chief of the state’s national guard,
did not say what role the tank battalion would serve in homeland
defense. Siegelman’s office forwarded questions about the activation
to the Alabama National Guard.
Asked if the armored battalion was deploying with its tanks
and, if so, if they would play a domestic role, Guard spokesman
Lt. Col. Robert Horton said: “That can’t be discussed. It all
will depend on the mission.”
Sources: Associated Press, BBC, Bloomberg News, Columbus
Ledger-Enquirer, Cybercast News Service, New York Times, Reuters