It used to be the impenetrable fortress of Muammar Gaddafi's regime. Only workers or members of the toppled Libyan leader's inner circle could see inside.
Now, six months after Tripoli fell to Western-backed rebels, dozens of families have moved into the few buildings still standing in the charred remains of Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound, setting up homes amid the rubble.
Their move, largely for economic reasons they say, highlights the collision between two parts of Libyan society.
On one side are the pro-Gaddafi elite who benefited from his largesse, and on the other are ordinary people who, while not poor by regional standards, only saw a small share of Libya's huge energy wealth.
Rebels forced Gaddafi to abandon his Tripoli stronghold, a huge complex of houses, offices and storage buildings which was targeted by NATO warplanes several times during the war. They burned, looted and defaced what for years was a forbidding symbol of the autocratic leader's power.
Days after the walls of the Bab al-Aziziya compound came tumbling down in late August, school chemistry teacher Majid moved his wife and seven children into one of its villas believed to be once occupied by one of Gaddafi's officers.
"Before, when I would drive past Bab al-Aziziya, I wouldn't even dare to look at it, we were afraid to even talk in the car," the 50-year-old said as he walked around his new large four-bedroom house with its separate guest quarters.
"We never imagined we would even enter this place; now I am living here."
Majid said he found the house in disarray when he arrived and has since been working to restore it. He has repainted walls but a corridor is still charred. As a pot of stew steams on a cooker in the kitchen, his family sit next door watching television in a living room. Outside, a toilet lies in the grass, nearby, pieces of a broken wooden cupboard lie scattered.
"It is much better than where I lived before," he said.
MAKING A NEW HOME
Others are not as comfortable. Behind Majid's villa, 24-year-old Saja Mohammed al-Sahali and her husband Haithem live in a room that once passed for an office.
Teapots, plastic cups and plates on a tray and suitcases of clothes, lie scattered on a carpet. Plastic flowers and plants stand in vases around the room.
"There is nowhere else for us to stay. We can't keep on paying rent, that's why we came here. We don't have anybody," al-Sahali said, fighting back tears.
"To be honest, it's not healthy, there is no power, no water, it's cold. There is nothing. But what can we do?"
While the residents may not have deeds to their property, Haithem presents a document signed by a nearby neighborhood military council that gives them permission to stay. It does not mention Bab al-Aziziya specifically, but cites Haithem's needs for accommodation.
The families have inhabited the last standing buildings of the sprawling complex. In front of them, piles of rubble have yet to be moved. Children ride bikes and run around fallen basketball hoops and empty ammunition boxes.
The black, green and red flags of the now ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) dot the landscape.
"THE HOUSE OF RESISTANCE"
After the eight-month war that ended with Gaddafi's capture and killing in October, nowhere is the Libyan rebels' victory more apparent than in the complex from where the former strongman used to taunt his foes.
The names of the rebel brigades who captured the compound are now commemorated in graffiti sprayed all over the walls.
A statue of a golden fist crushing a fighter jet, a memorial Gaddafi erected outside a building that was bombed by the United States in 1986 and he dubbed "the House of Resistance," has been moved to the coastal town of Misrata.
The families that have set up home are not the only ones who have taken up the premises. On Fridays, vendors set up stalls selling everything from food, clothes to electronic goods.
The NTC, which is struggling to impose its authority on a country awash with weapons, has yet to announce concrete plans for Bab al-Aziziyah but there has been talk of turning the complex into a park.
Zaki Salem, a spokesman for the families, said they had sent letters to local authorities saying they had moved in and hoped the government would re-house them if it redeveloped the site.
Like Majid, Salem said that he was afraid to stop his car anywhere near Bab al-Azizya before.
"How do you think I feel that I am now here inside in his castle? I truly feel that I am a Libyan citizen," he said.
"I have dignity, I have freedom. There is nothing, no restrictions, it is our land and we can live anywhere."
Former South African President Nelson Mandela was hospitalized Saturday (Feb 25, 2012) with a stomach ailment, according to a government statement issued about the 93-year-old beloved anti-apartheid icon.
Mandela "has had a long-standing abdominal complaint and doctors feel it needs proper specialist medical attention," President Jacob Zuma said, asking that Mandela's privacy be respected.
PLEASE visit nelsonmandela.org/index.php for more info
The statement did not say at which hospital Mandela was being treated. In 2011, he was hospitalized for a few days with an acute respiratory infection.
Mac Maharaj, Zuma's spokesman, said he could not immediately elaborate but that he would be issuing regular updates. The South African military, which had taken charge of Mandela's health care after he was hospitalized last year, and a spokesman for Mandela's office said he would have no statement Saturday.
Mandela became South Africa's first black president in 1994 after spending 27 years in prison for his fight against racist apartheid rule, and he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
Well-wishers like Derek Kemper, a 47-year-old emergency services consultant, said they hoped Mandela would soon recover.
Kemper said he fought Mandela's African National Congress, now the country's governing party, as a soldier for the apartheid state. On Saturday, he was touring Soweto, the famed Johannesburg township set aside for blacks under apartheid and still largely black and poor, with a group of other whites.
Kemper marveled at how far the country had come, and credited Mandela.
"He had the wisdom to try to reunite the country." Kemper said, speaking in front of a Soweto home where Mandela once lived that has been turned into a museum celebrating Mandela's life.
Kemper said he believed that even though Mandela has largely retired from public life, he has a moderating influence on younger black South Africans who may be impatient with the pace of change in their country. Kemper said he worried about whether the commitment to reconciliation would outlive Mandela.
But Kefiloe Molepo, a 19-year-old student who grew up just around the corner from Mandela's home, said there was little cause for concern. Molepo, walking home from church, said he was raised on stories about Mandela, who he said was a friend of his great-grandfather.
"When he was set free, he didn't think of vengeance," Molepo said. "He wanted peace for the nation."
Mandela's public appearances have become increasingly rare, though he did appear at the closing ceremony of the World Cup in July 2010. Mandela also held a private meeting with Michelle Obama when the U.S. first lady traveled to South Africa with her daughters last year.
Mandela has taken up permanent residence at his home in Qunu, in the southwestern region of South Africa where he was raised. Earlier this year, Mandela came to his Johannesburg home for what Zuma's office said would be a brief stay while maintenance was done at his Qunu home. Zuma's office said then that Mandela was in good health.
Mandela's last surviving sibling, a sister, died last month near Qunu. Makhulu Nothusile Bhulehluthi was 82. Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, their father, had several wives and 31 children.
At least 226 personnel of the new Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) have deserted the force. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who is also Commander-In-Chief (C-I-C) of the AFL, disclosed that the number of personnel that have dropped from the present ranks of the force now amounted to 226.
President Sirleaf told a gathering at this year’s Armed Forces Day ceremony that during the past three to six years, up to last Saturday, February 11, 2012, the combined attrition rate (dropout) in the AFL, out of 2,169 personnel trained earlier, is calculated at 10.42 percent.
“This is broken down as follows: Deaths amounted to less than 1 percent; various discharges (honorable, dishonorable, and medical) amounted to 1 percent; and absent without leave (AWOL) and drop from roll (DFR) a majority 8.67 percent. This represents only 226 persons during the first several years, not the exaggerated rate that is being rumored,” the President noted.
The overwhelming reasons for the high percentage of AWOL, according to the President, have been due to lack of adequate facilities, accommodations, and social constraint of long separation from their families.
This, the President indicated, was not an insurmountable problem, “and one which we must find a solution to very soon.”
C-I-C Johnson-Sirleaf, however, agreed with critics of her Government that the various military barracks are overcrowded due to limited accommodation the men and women in arms.
“We are treating this with urgency as a matter of priority. Greater emphasis will continue to be placed on the welfare of our military personnel and their families in the years ahead,” the President assured.
She said, as the transformation of our new Armed Forces is on track, Government shall continue to improve and expand existing facilities for the military personnel and their families.
“As we look ahead, we can say that the foundation has been laid for future benefits to personnel in our Armed Forces. Upon my approval, the Minister of Defense, Brownie J. Samukai, Jr. has opened a non-withdrawal pension account at one of our local banks, the C-I-C declared.
To this account, the President said, contributions are being deposited to provide a reasonable lump sum in order to benefit personnel of the Armed Forces, who meet the requisite time in service of not less than fifteen years.
These revelations were contained in the President’s Armed Forces Day message she delivered at the Barclay Training Center (BTC) in Monrovia on Saturday, February 11, 2012.
Earlier in her keynote address, outgoing United States Ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas Greenfield, said she was honored to have shared in this year’s celebration of the Armed Forces and to see the AFL, the Coast Guard and other Para-military personnel looking “so magnificent.”
The program was held on the themed: “Armed Forces of Liberia Supports the Foundation for Long Term Security and Economic Development in Liberia.”
According to the US Envoy, the discipline and pride reflected in the presence of the army are the true hallmarks of the new AFL-a force for good.
“The United States government is proud to be Liberia’s partner in developing the AFL, and you have truly come a long way,” Ambassador Greenfield added.
She explained among other things that the army has come a long way from basic training for the first class of recruits in 2006 to the graduation from US Army Command and Staff College last year December of Captain Daniel Ziankahn. Capt. Zainkahn is an officer who started his military career with the first class of the new army.
Ambassador Greenfield: “You have come a long way from a dream in 2007 to reestablish the Liberian Coast Guard to today’s small, but competent maritime force with two patrol craft and two more expected to arrive later this year that will protect Liberia’s coastline and fisheries for the future.”
She said, her government in collaboration with Liberia other partners were looking forward to a day in the coming years, when Liberia will again be prepared to provide troops to an international peace-keeping mission-as it did long in Congo from 1960-1963.
Saturday’s ceremony which was characterized by the spectacular display to the public latest techniques acquired by the AFL.
Other personalities attended the occasion. They included the Vice President, Joseph N. Boakai, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, His Honor, Jonnie Lewis, some members of the 53 National Legislature, members of the diplomatic corps, and the visiting AFRICOM General, Charles Hooper, among others.
A few weeks ago, the political right criticized President Barack Obama for having Common, a Chicago-native rapper, to the White House for a poetry reading. Now, the situation's turned on its head, as a Chicago rapper is attacking the President for being too far right in his foreign policy.
"In my fight against terrorism, to me, the biggest terrorist is Obama, and the United States of America," Lupe told host Shira Lazar. (Scroll down to watch the interview.) He went on to explain the comment:
"I'm trying to fight the terrorism that's actually causing the other forms of terrorism. You know, the root cause of terrorism is the stuff that the U.S. government allows to happen, and the foreign policies that we have in place in different countries that inspire people to become terrorists. And it's easy for us because it's just some oil."
The remarks echo the lyrics of Lupe's song, "American Terrorist," from his 2006 release Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor. In the song, he likens episodes from American history to terrorist attacks: "We came through the storm / nooses on our necks / and a smallpox blanket to keep us warm / On a 747 on the Pentagon lawn / Wake up, the alarm clock is connected to a bomb / Anthrax lab on a West Virginia farm / Shorty ain't learned to walk already heavily armed..."
And he had criticized Obama in a recent single, "Words I Never Said," for refusing to speak out against Israeli bombings of civilians in the Gaza Strip.
Lupe, born Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, is an observant Muslim who originally disdained hip-hop for its use of vulgarity and degradation of women. He still doesn't use drugs, drink alcohol, or behave wantonly. In fact, he's long been a leader in philanthropy in the hip-hop community, including working with a clean water initiative and releasing a charity single for victims of the Haiti earthquake.
He followed up his comments about terrorism by explaining why he doesn't vote, saying that casting a ballot for a politician for him is an endorsement of everything that person does. He won't do that for any presidential candidates because "I don't want you to bomb some village in the middle of nowhere," he said.
He is the African prince and Sierra Leone respectful rap artist, Soufian Kamara aka Souferior condemned most African media including BeeAfrican.com and ordinary Africans for showing much spmpathy-love with the late Whitney Houston age 48. The death of American pop star Whitney Houston is yet to be disclose. In recent days rumors hit the internet about R&B singer Ray-J and Whitney Houston hush-hush relationship.
Souferior reminded Africans about their own concerns in their backyard. The starving and dying of young innocent African youth 'Somewhere In Africa' stories has been ignored by the continent's wealthiest son and daughters abroad and in Africa.
Last year the UN and the African Union announces the desperate needs of East Africa food crisis. Many people are so hungry that they are at risk of starvation, and tens of thousands have already succumbed. It's estimated that more than half of these deaths have occurred in children. In southern Somalia alone, the number of children requiring treatment for acute malnutrition nearly doubled in the second half of the year.
On the day of Whitney Houston age 48 death announcement by BeeAfrican.com via Facebook to informed Africa about the death news, Souferior responded quickly on his facebook wall.
R.I.P WHITNEY HOUSTON....BUT REMEMBER PEOPLE DIE EVERYDAY, ....ESPECIALLY STARVING KIDS IN AFRICA SOMALIA AND IN OUR BELOVED MAMA AFRICA...REST IN PEACE TO THE LESS FORTUNATE THOSE WHO DIE WITHOUT NO HELP FROM OUR SELFISH HUMANITY.....#FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Souferior believes that celebrities life ( Good or Bad) are more talk about than the sad stories of African youth. Few Africans acknowledge the rapper's point, but some undermine his thoughts.
Souferior will be performing with one of Africa high class musician, Nigerian-born music icon Timaya on Feb 18, 2012 live in the Bay area, California.