RAPAR member who was on the plane stopped by the Stansted protesters shocked by their conviction under anti terror laws
Rally at 5.30pm-6.30pm
St Peter's Square,
December 18th 2018
Manchester-based human rights organisation RAPAR will be at the city centre rally today (December 18th) to show support for the 15 peaceful protesters convicted under anti terror laws after they stopped a Home Office charter flight taking people seeking asylum in the UK to Africa.
A RAPAR member was on the plane protesters prevented taking off at Stansted Airport in March 2017. He was one of 60 refugees who were on the charter flight bound for Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone – he informed the escort officers that he did not come from any of those countries but was told that the country he was being sent to was near to his home country and that he could “get a bus”.
Our member, whose case had not been resolved, was one of the unlucky people on the flight which eventually left Stansted the following day. But the courageous action of the protesters prevented 11 people seeking asylum from being removed from the UK. The delay meant that those 11 people were able to access their lawyers and their removal was stopped.
RAPAR's member, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he was very shocked by the conviction at Chelmsford Crown Court which could see the 15 protesters facing life imprisonment.
Today is International Migrants' Day and there will be rallies throughout the UK and Ireland to protest about the conviction of the Stansted protesters. In Manchester, there will be a demonstration from 5.30pm-6.30pm in St Peter's Square and RAPAR urges everyone to attend.
The charges facing the Stansted 15 were unjust. Commenting on the use of anti terror laws against the Stansted 15, former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg (who was released without charge) said: “Despite being imprisoned under terrorism laws by both Britain and America, I have no convictions. The Stansted 15 on the other hand are convicted terrorists in Britain today.
“One day, as a nation, Britain will look back and ask itself 'What have we become?' Sadly, that day is not today.”
Dr Rhetta Moran, of RAPAR, said it was “intensely ironic” that all the refugee people on the Stansted 15 plane were being removed to one of three former British colonies – Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
“As our refugee members often remark: 'We are here because You were there',” she said.
Dr Moran added: “This conviction is the latest attempt to criminalise public protest that RAPAR first detected - and successfully resisted - in 2010 in Bolton.
“Then, the State sought to prosecute anti-fascists for exposing and stopping the English Defence League from running amok in Bolton.
“Now, their use of anti-terror laws to criminalise young British citizens who take peaceful, direct, solidarity action with Refugees is the latest in a long line of backward and cynical moves on the part of the prevailing politico-legal elite.
“It demonstrates an abject failure to confront the fact that young British people are deeply and increasingly concerned about what the British State is doing in the name of its people.
“It is not the Protesters or the Refugees who are the dangerous ones here.”
CALL TO SOLIDARITY VIGIL
between 9 and 10am tomorrow morning,
19th July 2018
Outside Dallas Court
SALFORD, M50 2GF
The Home Office have rejected Nestor's application and told him to present at Dallas Court tomorrow morning. David and Branwen McHugh, longstanding members of the Central Manchester Quaker Meeting who worked with Nestor for several years on the boaz trust winter nightshelter project for destitute men write as follows:
"When Nestor first came to this country 11 years ago, there was an expectation that asylum seekers would show a commitment to their community, which he has obviously accepted and demonstrated. Such involvement inevitably leads to social and emotional attachments being formed. It seems that during this time he also had grounds for believing that his asylum claim might be successful and he would be allowed to stay here permanently, as he tells us that at one stage he was entitled to obtain a Visa, when historical applications or excepted for a limited period, but unfortunately the solicitor acting for him missed the deadline. A subsequent appeal appeal against the decision was then considered separately from his 'legacy papers' and refused. We feel strongly that after this length of time not only should Nestor be allowed to continue with the life he has established here but that he has proved that he would be an asset as a resident of the UK."
Please come and show your solidarity with Nestor. Please send messages of support to admin(a)rapar.org.uk
A Guinean man who has made his home in Manchester for the last 12 years has been caught up in a Home Office "whirlpool" of bureaucracy.
Nestor Sylla, who is vice-chair of RAPAR and is involved with other charitable organisations in the city, came to Europe at the age of 26 looking for his mother after the death of his father and the murder of his sister in Guinea.
Nestor did not find his mother but discovered new friends in Manchester who are now his family. He met Quaker Elizabeth Coleman through a hosting scheme for people who have come to the UK seeking asylum and have ended up destitute and homeless. Later, he helped Elizabeth and others run the Boaz Trust winter night shelter based at the Friends' Meeting House in Manchester.
Elizabeth, who is retired, said: “Nestor's home is England. He is like a son to me and has a lot to contribute to our society.” When Elizabeth was ill, Nestor visited her in hospital and was a vital carer for her when she was discharged.
Nestor also supports another friend and her five children, helping with homework, taking them to school and the dentist, and attending parents' evenings. He says: “All these people are now my only family.”
Nestor arrived in Europe looking for his mother, a French citizen who left the family home after the death of his father. His travel was paid for by a woman who said she was a friend of his mother's and a passport for him was arranged.
When he came to the UK, Nestor went to the job centre to find work and showed them his passport. He was accused of having a false travel document and was arrested and imprisoned in Strangeways but was cleared of the charge and released.
Nestor was advised to apply for asylum and his case was being considered under the old Legacy system but his immigration solicitor missed a Home Office deadline. His complaint against the solicitor was upheld.
Last year, Nestor was unlawfully detained at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre at Gatwick Airport – which featured in a BBC Panorama investigation and led to 10 members of staff being suspended.
He was detained despite having submitted a Further Leave to Remain application and having proof of postage and delivery. When his solicitor applied for bail, the Home Office misled the judge saying a decision would be made on the case by July 21st 2017 and, because of this assurance, Nestor remained in detention at Brook House. He was finally released the following month after it became apparent that the Home Office had not even looked at the application.
Earlier this year, the Home Office wrote to Nestor rejecting his application because they said he had used the wrong form. He enlisted the support of his MP Lucy Powell to show that the correct form had been used. The Home Office then claimed they had not received an application, despite the fact that they had also written to Nestor advising him that his fee waiver application, which is included in the Leave to Remain application, had been accepted. RAPAR asked how the Home Office had rejected a Leave to Remain application and accepted a fee waiver request on a document they claimed not to have received.
One solicitor has described the Home Office as having Nestor in a “whirlpool” of bureaucracy. RAPAR believes there are many queries over this case which have not been answered satisfactorily. Last week, the Home Office rejected Nestor's Leave to Remain application and have said he must now leave the UK or risk detention and removal.
“Nestor has been unjustly treated and unlawfully detained. The Home Office has made numerous errors and is not answering an important request for information,” Elizabeth says.
A RAPAR spokesperson said: “Nestor is a refugee who came to this country when his life had been threatened and he had lost his immediate family. On arrival in the UK, he was wrongfully criminalised and remanded in prison for several months. Yet, despite all this, he has led an exemplary life volunteering for organisations like the Red Cross and Mustard Tree, as well as RAPAR and the Boaz night shelter. He has helped care for Elizabeth and the children of his friend Marie and all these people are now his family.
“In their refusal letter, the Home Office says Nestor can go back to Guinea – where his life was at risk and his sister was murdered – and suggests that people whose immigration status is 'precarious' should not be making close personal relationships in the UK.
“Is it the Home Office's position that people who have fled death threats, torture and persecution should be making preparations to return to their home country while they are seeking asylum and safety in the UK? That I have cared for people while living here? Does the Home Office expect that a person can spend 12 years in a country and not form attachments to others and they form attachments to me?”
Anna Maria Miwanda Bagenda was a mighty woman.
The first time she spoke for RAPAR it was at a Home Office organised conference about Refugees held at the newly completed Radisson Hotel at Manchester Airport in 2002. The stage was raised and Home Office officials were looking down upon us when Miwanda began to walk towards them from the back of the hall. She raised her hands as she approached, speaking out in a clear and utterly uncompromising tone: “We are here because you were there.” The hall became silent as she went on to explain to the assembled, in her own inimitably charming and humorous way, how all Refugees are part of the solution. Miwanda was always part of the solution.
During the three years that she lived with us here in Britain, many people felt her curious combination of indomitable will and deep empathy. ‘Superglue’ was how Bagenda affectionately nicknamed one early RAPAR member, a young Bengali mum of three young children. Like many others, she loved to be around Anna Maria because, no matter how anxious or traumatised an individual may be, Miwanda could inspire a sense of security and a feeling of love.
In late 2003, RAPAR became aware of the systemic racism being demonstrated by some bus drivers working along The Crescent in Salford who were refusing to stop for Muslim women who were covered. Bagenda strode into a University of Salford public meeting that was being addressed by then Home Secretary Hazel Blears and, during question time, extracted a public commitment from Hazel to take the matter up.
Of the many people who knew Miwanda, here are some memories:
“Anna Maria was larger than life, fearless and inspiring. I never forget what she said about what attitude we should have to the police: ‘They should stay in the station and not leave. If we need them we will call’." (Mark Krantz, anti-racist campaigner)
"She was a kind hearted, very firm, and dedicated activist. As an Exiled Journalist Network pioneer member, when she seconded my Committee Member nomination I got 23 out of 25 votes. As a pioneer member of RAPAR, she made a true struggle to help other people. She made a lot of difference in the lives of displaced, desperate people from all over the world and refugees seeking safety in the UK. Rest In Peace my Friend. " (Mansoor Hassan, RAPAR member and former Chair, NUJ member and editor www.saraikistan.com)
“I first met Miwanda in 2004 at the National Union of Journalists’ office in Manchester. I was a Union accompaniment representative and she was the Lead Development Worker at the Salford RAPAR SRB5 project. It was through this work that I came to know this African woman of short stature and great presence. I liked her sincerity and her humanity. She was, without doubt, principled and courageous. Miwanda was also a Roman Catholic and she lived her faith. I kept in sporadic touch with her when she returned to Africa and she always enquired after my grandchildren. When my second grandson was born she knitted him a blanket for his cot. I am very saddened to hear of her passing.” (Bob Pounder, Minister at the Unitarian Chapel, Oldham)
“I am deeply saddened by the news of her death. She was a kind, caring, person who always seemed to make time for others regardless of her own personal circumstances. She had first-hand experience of the cruelty of the UK’s asylum process but her resistance for herself and for others was formidable. She was intelligent, engaging and strong willed - an asset for humanity. My memory of her, as I am sure with many others, will live on. (Ameen Hadi, Treasurer, Salford City UNISON)
“This is very sad news. Anna Maria made a real impression on me when I first became involved with RAPAR. She was also a lovely, gracious client, despite the difficulties she had to face from the Home Office.” (Gary McIndoe, RAPAR Patron and Director of Latitude Law)
“I was proud to know and call Miwanda my friend. Her smile, her ability to laugh at the absurd, her genuine solidarity with all for social justice, and her fierce articulation when speaking truth to power: losing her is a huge loss but she helped, influenced and strengthened so many people to live on.
Sadly, Miwanda’s leaving of the UK more than a decade ago was grim, and an example that a ‘Hostile Environment’ has existed in the UK long before this current Government. That she left on her own terms, and to support her family and others, reminded all around her about what, ultimately, is important. I am glad we stayed in touch over the years. When my Mom died she was among the first to call. She shared this Mandela quote with me some years ago. ‘As the years progress one increasingly realises the importance of friendship and human solidarity. And if a 90-year-old may offer some unsolicited advice on this occasion, it would be that you, irrespective of your age, should place human solidarity, the concern for the other, at the centre of the values by which you live.’ She always encouraged, supported and loved as a Mama, Sister and Friend.” (Jason Bergen)
“We were all shocked and saddened to hear of your mother’s passing. Our thoughts are with you. It is not easy to express how we shall miss her. Your mother was a fighter for justice and equality and that is something that cannot be forgotten easily. I know how wonderful and supportive she was to you all, and I can imagine the emptiness that you are all feeling without her, but I hope you can find solace in the memory of who your mother was. May her soul rest in peace.” (Zeinab Mohammed, RAPAR Matron)
Some words now from Anna Maria Miwanda Bagenda’s Children, Nantalaga, Juliet Ssanyu and James:
“We thank the almighty God for the gift of our mother, for the time we spent with her. We called her Lixa. She was a loving mother who taught us to be independent early on in life. From her we learned to treasure friends and to love God. We are proud of all she achieved and, even when the storms came, she always remained true to herself. She made friends faster than anyone we know. We are grateful for the time we spent with her; in her moments of illness, we are glad we were there. She remained herself even when we suspected what was coming. We thank God that he chose to cut short her pain. Lixa, May the Good Lord give you peace in His Kingdom. When God took you back He said, ‘'Hallelujah, you're home’ (Ed Sheehan).”
Miwanda’s last communication as Matron of RAPAR was in February of this year. In it she discussed the ‘Voluntary’ Returns in The Community that the Home Office is currently trying to roll out across the UK:
“I am glad that something is still going on raising such major issues in the lives of the affected people. ‘Voluntary’ can mean different things, the way I see it, but to return to a country where one escaped death, imprisonment etc. in the first place!!!!! Well, we know what I know, what I have gone through in order to remain alive. I also know what the word ‘Voluntary’ means, in the case of people seeking asylum. It is mockery of justice to force them to accept to return voluntarily to their home countries or even the third country. Love to you all, Friends, and thanks for ringing the bell.”
In Lusaana, in the District of Kalungu, sixty kilometres from Kampala, the capital of Uganda, Anna Maria’s Children buried their Mother in the ground of her Father’s ancestral home.
Her smile, her drive, her fearlessness and her generosity of spirit live on.
Dr Rhetta Moran, for RAPAR, 13th June 2018.
by Barly Koyangbwa, Deputy Representative of APARECO North West UK
In this short film, Barly speaks powerfully about the violent regime in Congo – and the multinationals' post colonial scramble for minerals in the country, including coltan which is used in the manufacture of laptops and mobile phones.
In this article I wish to bring to the attention of the international community, particularly to the people of UK, the countless violations of human rights occurring in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Ever since my home country was assaulted by a Rwandan-Ugandan coalition 21 years ago, with the support of the international community and global corporations alike, these violations have been taking place day and night.
It is indeed the case that the media’s silence on the matter, as well as the complicity of the international community, hinders the chance for the British public to learn what exactly is going on in DRC.
Points to consider
It is no longer a secret to anyone; most of the world media are either financed or owned by global corporations1. The silence from the mass media on the massacres and violations in DRC is due to the great interest these corporations have in the region’s natural resources, such as coltan - used in the production of smartphones and laptops - gold, cobalt, gas and diamonds among others. These companies, engaged in large-scale business with genocidal criminals such as Joseph Kabila, Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni, know that if the British public were aware of these crimes they would then put pressure on their government to intervene, thus complicating matters for the multinational companies.
At the start of the 20th century Britain supported DRC in its fight against genocide at the hands of the Belgian King Leopold II during the rubber tapping campaign2. Millions of Congolese were mutilated, amputated and killed simply when they were not able to carry the heavy loads of rubber that was demanded3. With the help of APARECO, ‘L’Alliance des patriotes pour la refondation du Congo’ (The Patriotic Alliance for the Restoration of Congo), the Congolese can now call upon Britain’s help once again.
I take this opportunity to urge human rights organisations, independent journalists and humanitarians in the UK to speak out, just as Edmund Dene Morel, Roger Casement, John Harris and Arthur Conan Doyle (author of Sherlock Holmes) did. They put pressure on Leopold II and wrote about the crimes being committed under his watch, and in 1908 the independent state of Congo was removed from the private ownership of Leopold II and became a Belgian colony.
The British people now have a moral duty in the face history; it is your turn to put pressure on the government and on the UN, and to support APARECO in its fight to free DRC, so that the Congolese are no longer massacred because of the natural resources that they happen to live among.
Key moments in DRC
- 1996: the Rwandan-Ugandan army attacks DRC with the financial, logistical and political backing of USA, Canada and South Africa along with support from multinationals. At the head of the rebellion is a Congolese man named Laurent Désiré Kabila, a puppet put in place to portray the situation as in-fighting between the Congolese, consequently leading the outside world to believe that this was the case4.
- 1997: May 17th - President Mobutu is removed from power and Laurent Désiré Kabila becomes President of the Republic5.
- 1998: Kabila realises that much control of the country is now in the hands of the Ugandan-Rwandan coalition, control that he himself signed away in the legal agreements before becoming president. With this realisation, Kabila refuses to recognise these agreements and the alliance between him and the Rwandan-Ugandan aggressors come to an end. Rwandan and Ugandan ministers, advisers, officers and soldiers leave DRC and retreat to Rwanda. The Rwandan and Ugandan armies mount a new war of aggression in DRC, this time with more rebel groups and other figureheads such as Jean Pierre Bemba.
- 2001: The conflict ends with the assassination of President Laurent Désiré Kabila, completing the coup lead by Paul Kagame. A Rwandan citizen called Hyppolite Kanambe, also known as Joseph Kabila, is appointed president of DRC6. The war of aggression against DRC by its neighbours in the East concludes with Joseph Kabila’s appointment as head of state. It is in this moment that the occupation of DRC is complete. The success of the occupation is evident by the fact that all the Rwandan officials and politicians who had fled DRC, having been expelled by Laurent Désiré Kabila, then return to DRC. (Only one official of note remained in Rwanda - general James Kabarebe who, under Laurent Désiré Kabila, was the Chief of Staff of the Congolese army, but then took up the same position with the Rwanda army).
What are the interests at stake?
DRC is a rich country that attracts the interest of its geographical neighbours and of big businesses. A stable DRC is of no interest to them. The big powers believe DRC is too vast and therefore must be ‘Balkanised’, ie, divided up to facilitate the exploitation of its natural resources. While multinational companies extract DRC’s natural resources they would prefer not to negotiate with a government made up of Congolese patriots. To keep this potential inconvenience at arm’s length they finance and arm militia with the aim of creating instability and chaos in the region to profit further from the selling-off of its resources.
The Rwandan-Ugandan point of view
Rwanda and Uganda profit from their intermediary status by carrying out fraudulent business in DRC and staging fake rebellions in collaboration with Joseph Kabila and his generals. They create insecure environments, stealing from, murdering and raping Congolese.
While Paul Kagame’s Rwanda not only steals resources from DRC it is also his intention to colonise the East side of the country7.
Strategies that Kagame’s Rwanda uses in DRC
Many might ask how it is possible that such a small nation (Rwanda) could bring its giant neighbour to its knees. It becomes clear when one considers that Rwanda is the active accomplice of an international plot to ‘Balkanise’ DRC, and behind that plot lies the world’s big businesses. Their strategy can be summarised in two words: lies and chaos.
1) The lie:
The occupants of DRC entered the country on a lie, claiming that they had arrived to liberate the country from the Mobutu dictatorship. They had established an identity thief as leader, Joseph Kabila. They arrested and kill patriotic Congolese politicians and have fabricated a false government opposition in the form of corrupt and greedy Congolese officials who allow them to stay in DRC and further the region’s ‘Balkanisation’. That is why APARECO does not only oppose Joseph Kabila as an individual but is also against the whole system of occupation of DRC. Its occupants can simply replace Kabila with another Rwandan or Congolese puppet at any time in order to portray a change of system. APARECO does not believe in elections in an occupied DRC or in the results from conversations between its occupants and their collaborators. APARECO is instead preparing the Congolese for an awakening that will result in a grass-roots uprising.
2) The chaos:
The occupants persistently stir up rebellions to create insecurity and intimidate the Congolese with mass rape and burning down natives’ homes to oust them from the East. They gradually spur on the Rwandan colonialists to infiltrate the region so that one day, when they become a majority in East DRC, the new Rwandan population can request a referendum on independence. Women in DRC, including the elderly and infants, are victims of systematic rape as the occupants try to eliminate Congolese nationals in the East. DRC has become “the rape capital of the world”8. Where important minerals are found, killings begin. In the case of Kasai, 80 mass graves have been discovered since September 2016, 38 of which were found by MONUSCO.9 According to UNHCR, more than 1.3 million Congolese have been displaced as a result of the conflict in Kasai.
I do not believe that revenge, hatred or division are the credible answers to bring about stability in the region of the Great Lakes. The Congolese, Ugandan, Rwandan and Burundi people are already destined to be eternal neighbours.
When looking at Europe’s history one can see that its countries have endured many invasions and wars amongst them throughout the centuries, most recently in the 20th century two world wars and the Balkan atrocities the were preceded by genocide. Fortunately however the Europeans did not let themselves succumb to the disaster of division. They condemned the guilty parties and put systems in place to ensure their living together in harmony, respect and dignity. Who would have thought that France and Germany would now be working together for the progression of the European Union?
For the case of DRC and the region of the Great Lakes, I encourage the United Nations to officially recognise the genocide taking place and repair the damages committed. The Congolese, Ugandans and Rwandans must forgive each other and accept, tolerate and continue to live together in mutual respect, while also respecting the borders inherited from the period of colonialisation.
With regards to the sponsors of crime against humanity, the genocidal leaders that are Joseph Kabila, Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame should be brought to court and feel the full force of the law.
The leaders of the world’s corporations who buy coltan, gold and so many other natural resources in DRC, obtained at the price of Congolese bloodshed, should be put before the country’s special court. Charles Taylor and the big buyers of blood diamonds were responsible for the massacres in Sierra Leone and rightfully faced trial. Their actions don’t compare to the level of genocide that has occurred in DRC. Paul Kagame, Joseph Kabila, Yoweri Museveni and their accomplices from multinationals are responsible for these atrocities, and they too should be brought to justice.
1 ‘Tous les gouvernements mentent: 1001 Vies TV Canada’ - Oliver Stone Documentary
2 ‘King Leopold Rule in Africa’ Edmund Dene Morel. ‘The Crime of Congo’ Conan.
3 ‘Red Rubber’ - Edmund Dene Morel
4 ‘L’Afrique en morceaux. La tragédie des grands Lacs’
5 ‘Ainsi a sonné le glas: Les derniers jours du Marechal Mobutu’. Honoré Ngbanda Nzambo
6 ‘Les origines cachées de Joseph Kabila jusqu’à son ascension au sommet de L’état Congolais’ - www.abidjantv.net
7 ‘Crimes organisés en Afrique Centrale : Enquêtes sur les Réseaux Rwandais et Occidentaux’ Auteur: Honoré Ngbanda Nzambo
8 Margot Wallstrom, UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict, 2010
9 ‘Strategies du chaos et du mensonge : Poker menteur en Afrique des Lacs’ Honore Ngbanda Nzambo et Patrick Mbek