Pambazuka News 339: AFRICOM threatens sovereignity, independence and stability
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
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CONTENTS: 1. Action alerts, 2. Editors’ corner, 3. Features, 4. Comment & analysis, 5. Pan-African Postcard, 6. Books & arts, 7. African Writers’ Corner, 8. Podcasts, 9. China-Africa Watch, 10. Zimbabwe update, 11. African Union Monitor, 12. Women & gender, 13. Human rights, 14. Refugees & forced migration, 15. Social movements, 16. Elections & governance, 17. Corruption, 18. Development, 19. Health & HIV/AIDS, 20. Education, 21. LGBTI, 22. Environment, 23. Land & land rights, 24. Media & freedom of expression, 25. Conflict & emergencies, 26. Internet & technology, 27. Fundraising & useful resources, 28. Courses, seminars, & workshops, 29. Jobs
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Highlights from this issue
- The National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL) on the Africa Command center (Africom)
COMMENT & ANALYSIS:
- African Writers weigh in on Africa’s political systems and the Kenya electoral crisis
- Tapera Kapuya uses the Kenya crisis to look at Zimbabwe
PAN-AFRICAN POSTCARD: Rodrigues Island: Case for Self-Determination
AFRICAN WRITER'S CORNER: Mildred Kiconco Barya's What was Left of UsACTION ALERTS: OCHA Kenya situation report
BOOKS AND ARTS: “Souls Forgotten”, Francis Nyamnjoh's latest novel
PODCASTS: Kenya's former anti-corruption czar speaks
ZIMBABWE UPDATE: MDC President arrested
WOMEN AND GENDER: Rapist roam the streets in DRC
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: DRC rebels sign peace accord
HUMAN RIGHTS: Taylor trial 'historic' in ending impunity
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: Nigerian trade unionist assassinated
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Over 120,000 displaced in Southern Africa flooding
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: CAR government resigns amid strike
AFRICA AND CHINA: Anti-Chinese sentiment flares in Lesotho
CORRUPTION: World Bank to beef up anti-corruption unit
DEVELOPMENT: What Africa should do about brain drain
HEALTH AND HIV/Aids: Mass circumcision drive in Rwanda
EDUCATION: Algerian students protest against new curriculum
LGBTI: South Africa's gay Muslims labeled traitors
ENVIRONMENT: Africa's role in the Climate Change agenda
LAND & LAND RIGHTS: Children's property rights in Zimbabwe
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Call for end to media repression in Chad
INTERNET AND TECHNOLOGY: Africa enters the age of mobile content
PLUS: e-newsletters and mailings lists; courses, seminars and workshops, and jobs
*Pambazuka News now has a Del.icio.us page, where you can view the various websites that we visit to keep our fingers on the pulse of Africa! Visit http://del.icio.us/pambazuka_news
OCHA Kenya situation report
According to media reports, the Kenyan Police has used tear gas and live ammunition to fire on the crowds with at least 12 deaths reported in Nairobi and Kisumu. This has led to security restrictions on aid and staff movements hindering assessments and response for most of the week.
The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Kenya
SITUATION REPORT – KENYA POST ELECTORAL VIOLENCE – Covering 14-20 January 2008
Schools reopened on 14 - 15 January with fifty percent attendance;
· Flash Appeal launched by Emergency Relief Coordinator for US $41,938,954;
· Government would like IDPs to be relocated from schools and ASK Showground;
· ODM mass demonstrations commence with reports of death and injuries, and went through to Friday, 18 January created insecurity in several pockets of the country.
According to media reports, the Kenyan Police has used tear gas and live ammunition to fire on the crowds with at least 12 deaths reported in Nairobi and Kisumu. This has led to security restrictions on aid and staff movements hindering assessments and response for most of the week.
The expected mission of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who is to head an African Union Panel of Eminent Personalities to facilitate negotiations for a political solution to the crisis, was postponed due to illness. However, members of the Africa Forum of former African presidents, namely Joachim Chissano of Mozambique, Ketumile Masire of Botswana and Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania returned to Kenya on a second visit at the invitation of President Kibaki’s Government and the ODM to help in establishing an environment for dialogue between the Government and ODM.
Internal Displacement Patterns
As displaced persons continued to be highly mobile the figures on their locations and numbers continued to fluctuate throughout the week. While Government figures have swayed between 255,000 to 202,000 IDPs, the Kenyan Red Cross Society (KRCS) reported a higher figure of 269,732 IDPs in this week. All these figures do not include IDPs living with friends and relatives and are limited to those living in public spaces and buildings. The main areas of displacement are still Eldoret, Kisumu, Kericho, Kisii, Trans-Nzoia, Nakuru and Nairobi as well as other areas in Western, Nyanza, Rift Valley and Coast Provinces. Many of the IDPs are still occupying government land, schools and churches while others are living with family and friends. Many sites are used only at night as the IDPs return to work on their farms and businesses during the day. It has been reported that many of the displaced families are women and children as men, remained behind in the villages to watch over their property.
Insecurity and fear of possible violence during the opposition rallies, has led to secondary displacement in some areas such as Burnt Forest, with IDP sites reported in areas that were initially not affected by the violence such as Meru.
Many more IDPs have noted that they would depart from Eldoret if transport was to be made available to them and their property, including in some cases their animals. On the other hand some IDPs have indicated that they would like to return to their homes if their security can be guaranteed. The frequent movement of IDPs has made tracking of population numbers very difficult a nd poses serious challenges for assistance provision.
According to a report from the IDP network about 3,000 IDPs have been living in schools and police posts in Kuresoi for the past few days without relief assistance as of 15 January. The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK)
is planning to provide some food. There is a need to identify implementing partners at each of the IDP accommodation centres and to improve the analysis of the IDPs, movement patterns and assistance delivery.
Regional Movements Patterns
A total of 6,100 Kenyans have been confirmed
As a result of the current violence. As of 15 January the Uganda Red Cross Society had registered 5,711 Kenyan refugees in four districts in Eastern Uganda (Tororo, Busia, Manafwa and Bukwo). An unconfirmed number of refugees are also reported to be in Kapchorwa district. In a press statement issued on 11 January, the government of Uganda granted prima facie refugee status to Kenyans seeking shelter in Uganda.
Assessments by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) jointly with the UN and the Tanzanian Red Cross visited the borders at Horohoro and Horiri, as well as Rongai and Tarakea. Overall an estimated 300-500 persons have crossed into Tanzania fleeing violence in Kenya are from better-off wealth groups, staying in hotels, with friends or family. However it is to be noted that the border is porous and there are many informal crossing points. There have been no individuals applying for refugee status.
The Tanzanian Ministry of Home Affairs has a long experience with refugee influxes and has established a contingency plan in case of larger influxes. UNHCR has also reviewed its emergency contingency plans and will coordinate in consultation with UNICEF and WFP should there be an influx into Tanzania. The UN has other partners who have the capacity to assist in vital sectors if necessary. The UN is continuing to monitor the situation closely.
Priority Needs, Response & Gaps Protection and Human Rights In adequate security in IDP sites and limited police presence Highlighted as major concerns.
With the opening of schools on 14 January, IDPs currently occupying schools have to be relocated. Local authorities have also indicated that they would like IDPs to leave the ASK Showgrounds in Eldoret and Jamhuri in Nairobi, which are currently used as IDP camps in anticipation of the annual Kenya Society of Agriculture show in March. Unfortunately some of the proposed relocation sites are not suitable such as the site in Burnt Forest and sites near police posts. Tensions may develop with host communities as they will want to use the schools, churches and the showground. A subcommittee on resettlement headed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Roads and Public Works has been set up to start the process of resettling IDPs back to their farms and employment areas as a matter of priority. Humanitarian actors will need to work with this subcommittee to ensure that return is voluntary and guided by the ‘Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement’ among others. Many of the IDPs interviewed at the location in Burnt Forest indicate that they would prefer to return to their home s if security can be guaranteed, instead of being moved to other locations.
UNHCR is working with government and other partners to set up population tracking systems, registration, profiling and mapping of IDPs. KRCS and ICRC are undertaking tracing and family reunification activities. UNFPA and partners are following up on GBV related issues while UNICEF is coordinating and following up on child related protection issues.
Human Rights Organisations are concerned by the Kenya Police Force’s use of extraordinary force and live bullets in responding to the post-election violence and to the demonstrations this week especially. Other protection concerns include psycho-social support and family separation which are being addressed by ICRC, KRCS and other partners.
Health and Nutrition
The nutritional situation is deteriorating in IDP camps. Rapid screening, although not representative at this stage, indicate that levels of global acute malnutrition may have already increased by 2-3 times. This is essentially due to limited access to food a s well as poor water and sanitation conditions. For instance, general food rations have not yet reached all IDPs (e.g. 54% IDPs in Nakuru and 12% IDPs in Molo received food as of 15th January) and market supplies have been disrupted. Displaced populations that are staying in host households may soon be affected as they are not easily registered for general food distribution.
Lack of fuel which directly affects the food consumption especially for young children has been identified as a challenge. MoH called for an emergency meeting on Thursday 17t h to address this issue.
In order to address the shortage of MOH staff to deliver essential nutrition services, the MOH is planning to redeploy or recruit staff for 3 months. There are also plans to strengthen technical capacity within the MOH to manage acute severe malnutrition. Technical support and training will be planned with partners to build capacity and ensure service delivery according to standards. UNICEF supported partners with supplies of essential food items (therapeutic and supplementary) to serve 10,350 women and children in Nairobi, Nyanza, Rift Valley, Western and Central Provinces.
UNICEF/MOH conducted rapid nutrition assessments in Jamhuri Park, Kirathmo Camp in Limuru and Nakuru and, AAH (Action Against Hunger) in Nakuru.
Schools re-opened on 14 January however many children were unable to return to school due to insecurity and violence associated with the post election violence. However the overview in this sector has been hampered by lack of adequate information. This is expected to improve significantly with the opening of the schools and more assessments. A planning meeting is scheduled on January 23 to develop short and long term strategies for data analysis and to follow up on the education situation.
The Ministry of Education (MoE) has identified Teacher Advisory Center (TAC) tutor centre in central primary schools and vacant structures at the Showgrounds to supplement tent classrooms. The (MoE) has requested partners to help in psycho-social support and training in peace education. The MoE has sent out advisories to schools in affected areas that they should accept IDP children as well as a recommendation that displaced teachers should be redeployed to teach at IDP camps. The cluster is making efforts to bring key NGOs on board.
Required interventions include a need for learning spaces, and teaching and learning materials including text books, recreational kits to help children and youth to rebuild their world and community. Teachers themselves require training in peace education and on psycho-social skills. In addition temporary classrooms and education kits will be needed. This will become clearer as more needs assessments are conducted.
Information available to the education cluster indicates the following numbers of children displaced:
4 N0. of Children Location
26,000 Ikongwe, Nyamira
4,000 Nakuru Showground
2,200 Uasin Gishu Primary School
400 Burnt Forest Secondary School & Police Station
200 West Pokot at Kethogon Primary School
1,188 Eldoret Cathedral
765 ASK Showground
The security situation continues to have an impact on logistics operations and more organisations need to actively engage with the logistics cluster for a more efficient response. There i s a need to urgently undertake contingency planning for logistics. The lack of verified numbers of beneficiaries and constant IDP movement also impacts on the provision and planning for logistical support. Requirements in terms of access to beneficiaries by air are being addressed, through the provision of air assets, the transport fleet and storage needed to serve delivery requests out of Eldoret. Emerging logistics operational gaps are being addressed through the Logistics Cluster meetings.
The WFP managed helicopter is in Eldoret Airport and has already started operations. The helicopter is expected to return to Sudan on the 19t h of January. WFP has also provided four 4x4 trucks from the Uganda strategic fleet that are undertaking distribution activities upon request. WFP has also provided temporary storage for NFIs of organisations responding to the current situation in Eldoret. ADRA Kenya is airlifting medical supplies from Europe to Nairobi to support field medical interventions. KRCS has its Regional Office in Eldoret and is planning to maintain the current operational and staffing level as long as needed and will continue its distribution of both food and NFIs. The KRCS is using National Cereals and Produce Board warehouse facilities and NCPP has agreed to let KRCS utilize these facilities throughout the operation. ICRC trucks have been deployed to Eldoret.
Shelter & NFIs
In a meeting on 10 January of the Emergency Shelter Cluster the government indicated the following challenges: lack of adequate security in IDP camps and i n isolated areas where police presence is minimal; food, especially for children; water and sanitation; medicine, family kits including tarpaulins, kitchen sets and blankets. The following organisations and agencies are distributing NFIs in different locations, CRS, GOAL, CARE, UNHCR, UNFPA, UNICEF, and CONCERN Worldwide is working through its NGO partners and churches and German Agro Action in collaboration with government a nd KRCS.
The total number of beneficiaries in North Rift Valley is 130,216 who received 1,172 MT of cereals, pulses and oil. The government has released to the District Commissioners (DCs) in 23 Districts 29,350 of 90 kg bags of maize, 6,160 cartons of vegetable oil (18 kg) and 9,020 bags of beans (90 kg). KRCS supported by WFP is taking the lead in assisting the DCs in distributing these stocks. KRCS has so far distributed 1,345 MT of food and NFI’s to 10,636 households. Concern World Wide distributed food and non food items through their partners (Church based) in Western province. World Vision distributed food commodities and blankets in Narok and surroundings.
5 ADRA has distributed over 317 MT of food to over 10,000 IDPs and ACTED is worki ng in the slums of Kibera, Mathare and Kawangware where they are providing food for work.
Water and Sanitation
There are 4 major IDP camps in Eldoret and the area surrounding Eldoret, namely: Eldoret Showground, Turbo, Noigam Primary School in Trans-Nzoia District and Burnt Forest and their basic needs are being covered. At the largest IDP camp in the Nakuru area, the Nakuru Showground, Action Against Hunger has managed to cover all water and sanitation needs for approximately 4,500 IDPs. The focus is now shifting to the areas surrounding Nakuru including Molo District where more than 50 displacement sites/camps have been reported by the KRCS.
The Ministry of Health has attached public health officers in all IDP camps in the country and alongside the Ministry of Water who are coordinating the provision of sanitation and hygiene, waste management, disease surveillance, provision of ITNs, vector control and providing general medical care. A number of humanitarian partners including UNICEF, GOAL, World Vision Kenya, CORDAID, Action Aid, UN HABITAT, KRCS – ICRC, MSF Belgium are working with the government to meet water and sanitation needs in the different locations.
In Eldoret, the Emergency Telecommunication Cluster set up a WFP radio room which will serve all humanitarian partners operating in the region. They are also in the process of reprogramming of VHF and HF radios.
According to the government Peace Building and Counseling Sub Committee headed by the National Peace Building and Conflict Resolution Committee and Arid Lands is now operational. It will be expanded throughout the country to intensify peace building and reconciliation in order to fasten resettlement activities. The objectives of the subcommittee include undertaking activities that will create an environment that is conducive to addressing emotional, physical and behavioral effects of trauma on individuals and communities. It will also promote national healing and reconciliation.
UNEP is monitoring the environmental situation in Kenya and will be looking at how its current environment and sports initiative for children and youth in Kenya might be refocused to respond to the current crisis.
Gaps in Geographic Coverage Concerns have been raised about the concentration of humanitarian response on a few locations such as ASK Show Ground in Eldoret, Noigan and Burnt Forest while reports of new displacement and the killing of 13 people by Saboat Land Defence Force in Mount Elgon require attention. Presnece in Nakuru and assessment in the areas surrounding Nakuru are also highlighted as gaps in the response overview.
Coordination In Nairobi the Government Humanitarian Services Committee of Permanent Secretaries, which is th e technical government body that oversees the humanitarian response has continued to meet daily and issue situation updates.
The National Disaster Operations Centre (NDOC) which was tasked to be the lead coordinating agency for this crisis has been issuing daily information bulletins. The UN and humanitarian NGOs ‘Situation Centre ’ is working closely with
6 the NDOC to ensure coordination and information sharing. All clusters continued to meet on a regular basis with good participation from UN agencies, NGOs and others involved in the emergency response.
On January 15, 2008 the first Nairobi based Inter-Cluster Meeting was held with all 11 cluster leads present. During the meeting the cluster lead s’ Terms of Reference and OCHA’s support to clusters were discussed. Furthermore, a regular schedule for all the cluster meetings and reporting was also established. The next meeting will discuss intercluster assessments on the ground. Meanwhile, based on input from clusters an operational report on the humanitarian response has been developed and the first edition was disseminated on January 17th.
For more info please contact
Dijana Duric: +254 (0)728601291, email@example.com
In Eldoret, the District Commissioner (DC) has established a n Information Center Secretariat to support the response coordination. However the need for additional resources to expand the Secretariat’s capacity is urgent. In support of the governme nt in Eldroret, clusters continue to set-up with some already fully functional such as the Logistics Cluster. OCHA has established a presence in Eldoret for supporting the coordination of information for the humanitarian response.
The head of the OCHA sub-office is Wael Ibrahim and he can be reached at +254 (0)711311983, firstname.lastname@example.org .
Similarly in Nakuru, the need for improved coordination support is emerging, where increased IDP numbers and agency presence is characterizing Nakuru as a second field hub for the response. OCHA is looking into deploying coordination support in Nakuru in the near future.
For more info in Eldoret contact Wael Haj-Ibrahim: +254 (0)711311983, email@example.com .
http://ochaonline.un.org/kenya is the operational website which has been established to centralize all information on needs, affected populations, assessments, humanitarian response and resource mobilization. Operational maps, situation and security reports and meeting reports and minutes are being centralized through the Situation Centre located in the OCHA RO CEA conference room.
Resource Mobilization The Flash Appeal with UN Agencies and NGOs was officially launched on 16 January in New York and on January
For more information, please contact OCHA:
Kenya Head of Office; Jeanine Cooper, +254 (0)722720944, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Humanitarian Affairs Officer: Dijana Duric, +254 -(0)728601291, email@example.com;
Humanitarian Affairs Officer: Mercy Manyala: +254 (0)733656250, firstname.lastname@example.org ;
Desk Office New York: Rania Dagash: +19173673668, email@example.com
Walking down the Famished Road
Pambazuka News Editors
Dear Pambazuka Community,
Just a few quick words! Starting with this issue you will note a new category – African Writers’ Corner. Why should Pambazuka News - a place for Pan-African analysis - also create a space for our creative workers? Because they themselves are the first to remind us that they have been at the forefront of making Africans visible to each other. Africans meet over Things Fall Apart, see each other in the Famished Road as they look for a Grain of Wheat. Ah, and since African literature is really a Question of Power, surely, can we leave behind sister Killjoy? So we want to have a corner that will feature the creative mind as it wrestles with African issues – be it through poetry, fiction, non-fiction and memoir and the occasional song. It’s about beauty… and the politics.
We also wish to invite you over the next few weeks in the run up to the March 2008 Zimbabwe elections to contribute in depth articles/analysis.
Already there is much contestation to do with the pre-election environment. The opposition is struggling with its own internal dynamics in terms of readiness to participate or not to participate. Consensus for a new people driven constitution remains within the broader civil society's agitation.
Another essential dynamic is the emerging consensus around the fact that the SADC mandated mediation by Thabo Mbeki has collapsed, with very little gain for Zimbabweans in terms of changing their lot towards democratic governance.
There are other thematic cross-cutting issues that can also be considered, gender or women's participations an issue that has been pushed to the periphery, political-economy environment - inflation is the highest in the world; pre- and post-election conflict - mechanisms for handling this, etc.
The idea is to generate debate on such issues as we have been doing with the Kenyan crisis, with a view to giving space to progressive citizens of the world, to once again contribute towards the unfolding events in Zimbabwe.
To help us achieve this is feminist and political activist Grace Kwinjeh. She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
Africom threatens the sovereignty, independence and stability of the African continent
A position paper of the National Conference of Black Lawyers
Mark P Fancher, Jeffrey L Edison & Ajamu Sankofa
The National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL) concludes that the mission of Africa Command (Africom) infringes on the sovereignty of African states due to the particularity of Africa’s history and Africa’s current economic and political relationship to the United States.
Further, Africom is designed to violate international law standards that protect rights to selfdetermination and that prohibit unprovoked military aggression.
Africom is also likely to become a device for the foreign domination and exploitation of Africa’s natural resources to the detriment of people who are indigenous to the African continent.
NCBL opposes Africom in the strongest terms and calls upon people of African descent in the U.S. to avoid military service to ensure that they will not be ordered to carry out missions on behalf of Africom, or any military unit or program engaged in violating international law, committing crimes against humanity, or committing crimes of any kind that threaten the peace of any continent.
What Is Africom?
Africom is a project that will substantially change the nature of the U.S. military presence in Africa by establishing a single U.S. military command headquarters that will have Africa as its sole focus.
Africom has become a Rorschach Test because while the U.S. government sees it as a vehicle for bringing peace and prosperity to the continent, it is seen by others as Africa’s greatest new threat.
Because of vague, confusing official statements, it has been difficult to ascertain precisely what the U.S. government claims that Africom will actually do. Africom’s website describes the project as a vehicle for the Defense Department to collaborate with “partners to achieve a more stable environment in which political and economic growth can take place.” That description raises more questions than it answers. The following official statement sheds little additional light: “Africa is growing in military, strategic and economic importance in global affairs.
However, many nations on the African continent continue to rely on the international community for assistance with security concerns. From the U.S. perspective, it makes strategic sense to help build the capability for African partners, and organizations such as the Africa Standby Force, to take the lead in establishing a secure environment. This security will, in turn, set the groundwork for increased political stability and economic growth.” Some critics are highly suspicious of the reference to “economic growth.” Specifically, does that refer in real terms to the economic health of Africa’s poor, or instead to expansion of opportunities for multinational corporations to exploit Africa’s natural and human resources as they have for decades?
It has been suggested that the Bush Administration actually has three primary items on its agenda:
1) making Africa another front in the Administration’s war on “terrorism”;
2) protecting U.S. access to African oil, mineral wealth and other raw materials; and
3) putting the U.S. in a better position to compete with China for domination of Africa’s resources.
It is further suggested that the Bush Administration has no interest in accomplishing any of these objectives directly, and that Africom’s purpose is to identify and nurture the development of African governments that will function as U.S. surrogates. In this regard, Africom is off to a very bad start.
As of the date of this writing, the Africom concept has been received with everything from skepticism to hostility by significant African governments, and NCBL is aware of only Liberia as having expressed a clear willingness to provide a location for Africom headquarters.
TransAfrica Forum spokespersons have astutely suggested that Africa’s cool reaction to Africom may well reflect shared memories and opinions that: “[d]uring the cold war, African nations were used as pawns in post-colonial proxy wars, an experience that had a devastating impact on African democracy, peace and development.
In the past Washington has aided reactionary African factions that have carried out atrocities against civilians. An increased U.S. military presence in Africa will likely follow this pattern of extracting resources while aiding factions in some of their bloodiest conflicts, thus further destabilizing the region.” Why NCBL is concerned If there is any principle that runs like a thread through all of the work of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, it is that protecting the human right of self-determination for all people must be given the highest priority.
NCBL also recognizes that crimes against peace are among the most serious of all international criminal law violations. NCBL’s principles have motivated the organization to consistently oppose military intervention into the sovereign territories and internal affairs of other countries.
NCBL has opposed military operations against the Palestinians, instituted litigation against the Reagan administration in the aftermath of the invasion of Grenada, and also provided a consistent voice in opposition to the efforts by several administrations to destabilize Cuba through covert and military means. NCBL has opposed threats of military intervention and the use of mercenary proxies in Nicaragua, Angola and elsewhere.
NCBL vigorously opposed the kidnapping of Jean Bertrand Aristide from Haiti, and has sounded an ongoing note of concern about the shrill threats made against the current government of Zimbabwe. Lastly, NCBL has opposed the war in Iraq, and regards it as a crime against peace. It is against this backdrop that NCBL has grave concerns about expansion of U.S. military operations in Africa.
The U.S. in Africa – The Historical Context To say that the U.S. enters Africa with unclean hands understates the reality. The full extent of U.S. crimes against African governments and leaders during the past 40 years is likely yet unknown.
However, in 1978, former CIA agent John Stockwell provided for many their first peek into a deadly, ruthless U.S. foreign policy that destroyed what could have been a far more promising political and economic future for the continent.
In his book, In Search of Enemies, Stockwell explained that U.S. policy in Africa was driven heavily by cold war concerns. Socialist forces in Angola and Mozambique were prime targets, and the favored method of suppression was use of mercenaries. Stockwell wrote:
“Mercenaries seemed to be the answer, preferably Europeans with the requisite military skills and perhaps experience in Africa. As long as they were not Americans...” He went on to describe a collaboration between the CIA and South Africa’s apartheid regime in a campaign to crush emerging progressive Black leadership in Southern Africa.
The use of proxies and mercenaries to carry out U.S. objectives in Africa became a standard practice as a new class of socialist leaders emerged during the early years of African independence.
In his book, Stockwell referenced the CIA’s complicity with dissidents in Ghana who overthrew Kwame Nkrumah, the country’s first president. Congo’s first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, received special attention from the highest levels of the U.S. government after he announced plans to nationalize major industries in his country and to pursue a path of nonalignment in the then raging cold war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
Author Ludo De Witte wrote: “On 18 August 1960, during [a] National Security Council meeting, [President Dwight] Eisenhower had made it clear, without explicitly saying so, that he favored Lumumba’s elimination. An assassination operation was planned with the support of CIA chief [Allen] Dulles.” Thereafter, the CIA concocted elaborate schemes to kill Lumumba by, among other things, putting poison in his toothpaste.
Ultimately, the CIA saw its objectives accomplished by henchmen of the agency’s stooge, Joseph Mobutu. After Lumumba was killed, Mobutu went on to become head of state in Congo, and his more than three decades of tyrannical reign was one of the bloodiest Africa has ever seen.
John Perkins, a former operative of the National Security Agency, has explained that the U.S. has routinely resorted to everything from bribery to cleverly-disguised assassinations in cases where heads of state have in some way threatened the profit-making potential of U.S.-based corporations.
This raises special concerns because the threat to Africa’s political and economic integrity comes not only from the U.S. government, but also from the multi-national corporations that are the beneficiaries of government policies.
In recent years, this is seen most dramatically in Congo. In 2005, Human Rights Watch issued a report that from 1998 to 2003, a war to control gold fields in northeast Congo resulted in the deaths of more than 60,000 persons along with “ethnic slaughter, executions, torture, rape and arbitrary arrest...” The report goes on to attribute significant responsibility for this carnage to two foreign corporations that financed and fueled the conflict. They were Metalor Technologies, a Swiss refinery; and AngloGold Ashanti, a multinational corporation that, notwithstanding its name, is overwhelmingly directed and managed by non-Africans.
All of this raises critical questions of whether, with Africom, the U.S. is now positioning itself to become more directly involved – with or without proxies – in protecting corporate access to Africa’s resources. In many other parts of the world, the U.S. has engaged in “regime change” as a matter of course for more than a century as a method of protecting the interests of the corporate world.
What’s Really At Stake?
The list of Africa’s valuable mineral resources is endless: gold, diamonds, chromium, copper, etc. However, the continent’s vast oil reserves have attracted perhaps the most attention from the U.S. government. In 2002, Walter Kansteiner, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for Africa, declared: “African oil is of strategic national interest to us and it will increase and become more important to us as we go forward.” It is easy to understand why that perception exists. Currently, the amount of oil imported by the U.S. from the Persian Gulf is about 16 percent of its total imports. By the year 2015, it is projected that 25 percent of U.S. oil imports will be from West Africa.
It is clear that, on this issue, the U.S. puts its money where its mouth is. There is a stark correlation between U.S. aid to African countries and the oil producing potential of recipient African states. To be more concrete, as the two largest oil producers on the continent, Nigeria and Angola receive the most U.S. aid.
More disturbing however (particularly for purposes of this discussion) is the level of U.S. military involvement in the protection of access to Africa’s oil. The U.S. spends about $250 million a year on military assistance programs in Africa.
This assistance is not only in the form of “peacekeeping training” but it also involves direct arms sales. As a major oil and natural gas supplier Algeria has been allowed to acquire large quantities of counter-insurgency weapons.
Why the U.S. concern with “security” for Africa’s oil? U.S. access is threatened for various reasons, but one that has been of great concern is guerrilla activity in the Niger Delta.
An organization calling itself the Movement to Emancipate the Niger Delta (MEND) has, in recent times, been accused of destroying oil pipelines, kidnapping oil company personnel, stealing oil and assorted other acts. MEND has complained of oil industry economic exploitation and environmental destruction. It was reported that during the last year, many oil fields were shut down because of the attacks, and oil production fell short by more than 340 million barrels.
All of this prompts NCBL to view with great suspicion U.S. military statements that imply that the security objectives of Africom will be focused on Al Qaeda or other organizations that fit popular contemporary notions of terrorism. It will be all too easy for Africom to target groups like MEND, or even other political formations in Africa that pose no direct threat to oil operations, but which in a broader sense threaten corporate hegemony in Africa.
NCBL has been quite clear about its interest in eliminating the domination of Africa’s natural resources by foreign corporations, and the idea that organizations that may engage in political work to bring about that objective might somehow become the targets of U.S. military operations is unacceptable.
The Legal Concerns As an association of lawyers and legal activists, NCBL is particularly concerned about the potential Africom presents for routine and ongoing violations of international law.
With disturbing frequency, the U.S. has in recent decades launched unprovoked military attacks on other countries, or intervened in the internal affairs of other countries through the use of mercenaries or covert action designed to destabilize foreign governments or the economic, political or social order.
Notions of self-determination and sovereign integrity are closely intertwined, and international law has attempted to protect both by proscribing military aggression and other actions that constitute crimes against peace. In fact, the treaty that governs the International Criminal Court has designated aggression as one of “...the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole.” Nevertheless, the International Criminal Court is currently unable to punish the international law crimes committed by the U.S. because the Bush Administration has steadfastly refused to submit to that court’s jurisdiction.
The absence of a method of prosecuting such crimes only heightens NCBL’s concerns about the likelihood that Africom will engage in criminal acts with impunity.
The United Nations Charter is one of the most authoritative sources of international law, and it explicitly acknowledges the sovereign equality of all countries and provides that aggression which threatens international peace and the territorial integrity and independence of sovereign states is prohibited.
So strong is this concern about respect for independence that the United Nations even prohibits itself from injecting the U.N. into the internal affairs of member states unless very specific circumstances are present.
However, even with those purported safeguards in the U.N. Charter, serious questions have been raised about the legality and usefulness of certain U.N. interventions over the years, providing additional reasons for the acute concerns about Africom, a far less restricted entity.
The U.S. claims that Africom is a response to African countries’ continuing requests for assistance with security. However, this is at best a distortion given the cold shoulder that Africom has been given by most African countries.
If assistance has been requested, there is apparently little interest in such assistance coming in the form of Africom. This means that if the U.S. goes forward with Africom, even without malicious intent, it will essentially become an unsolicited, unwelcome intrusion that threatens the ability of African states to exercise rights to self-determination.
It is more likely however that the ulterior motives of the U.S. that have been suggested by various commentators are the driving force behind Africom, and it will be difficult for that agenda to be carried out without military action, either by U.S. troops, or by surrogates.
This threat to the peace, independence and stability of Africa is inconsistent with both the letter and spirit of applicable provisions of the U.N. Charter, and NCBL is therefore compelled to oppose Africom on legal as well as policy grounds.
What is to be done?
While NCBL will continue to call upon all people of good will to voice their strongest opposition to Africom, there is also a practical realization that the Africom train has already traveled a good distance down the track and the chances of it being voluntarily recalled are somewhat remote.
It is with that fact in mind that NCBL assumes a posture comparable to that which it assumed with respect to the Iraq war. NCBL strongly encourages Black youth to decline any recruiters’ requests to enlist in the U.S. military. If Africom cannot be stopped at the outset, then certainly there is no reason for Africans born in America to participate in the destabilization and exploitation of a continent from whence their ancestors were kidnapped for purposes of enslavement.
The call for Black youth to boycott the military has been raised not only by NCBL, but also by countless unnamed ministers, educators, youth counselors and other leaders in the Black community. There is also evidence that these pleas have not fallen on deaf ears. Whereas, Blacks constituted approximately 25 percent of Army personnel until the year 2000, by 2004, less than 16 percent of the Army’s recruits were of African ancestry.
In a study conducted by the Army itself, the conclusion was reached that the continuing decline can be largely attributed to the unpopularity of the Iraq war among members of the Black community who are respected by the youths. This has had a significant impact on the military’s ability to maintain troop levels in Iraq.
Finally, for those persons of African descent who are potential recruits, or who are already members of the U.S. armed forces, NCBL pledges to make its best efforts to arrange for pro bono legal representation if they are threatened, disciplined or prosecuted for refusing Africom assignments, or for exercising their right to conscientiously object to military service.
* This position paper was prepared by NCBL members Mark P. Fancher (principal drafter), Jeffrey L. Edison and Ajamu Sankofa. It is Distributed by the Pan-African Research and Documentation Center, 50 SCB box47, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202. Information about NCBL can be found at http://www.ncbl.org
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at www.pambazuka.org
African Writers speak out on Kenya
Many people now say Kenya needs a few good men who want to serve without applause. Do we have them? Given the post-election violence in Kenya, it takes a sober, courageous person to look into the eye and the camera to say:
“I am sorry…we are sorry, we made a mistake…”
And yet, most times, these are the only words that those who have been wronged need to hear in order to return to the humane. The Kenyan situation during and after the elections warranted such words from the leaders. Instead, hollow-sounding words were spoken and we all know what followed: Loss. Death. Devastation. Shame. Greed for power, not service, did it. It destroyed the pride of the people and the humility within individuals. How can we gather the broken pieces to run a connecting thread through them? How can Kenya be whole, again? And perhaps the bigger question is, was there a ‘whole’ in the first place or it has always been splinters seemingly presented as one whole? A few African writers, in their own words, have something to say about Kenya’s elections and Africa’s political structures.
AYI KWEI ARMAH
The sort of thing happening in Kenya happened in Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, and will happen again in Cameroon, in fact, every time there's an election under the present system. The problem is structural, not circumstantial. This is not only about elections: as long as we wish to remain within colonial political structures, the source of government legitimacy will remain what it was at the Berlin conference: force plus fraud. We shed blood during elections because we serve deities made in Berlin, and they have always needed human sacrifice. Part of the Berlin political deal was that massacres of the population were routine whenever they demanded democratic rights. If we want to end the bloodshed surrounding elections, we'll have to shift to a different organizational system. It is possible, but structurally, it cannot be Ugandan or Ghanaian or Kenyan. These are Berlin constructs, even if we pretend they are African. They are not. An African system is possible and feasible. It will cost nothing in human blood, and be less expensive to maintain than the present "state" system that drinks so much blood.
Politicians ought to see themselves as the midwives of people's hopes and aspirations. Sadly by far their greatest crime must be their compulsive disorder to take the new baby, throw it down the pit latrine and then stand around poking each other's faces: I declare it a boy and not a girl! No it was a girl I saw it! No it was a boy! So why did you throw it away? No I didn't, you did. Ok let’s hear it from the mother? No, I will punch her face if she gets involved in matters that are beyond her grasp! And so on and so on. Hopefully, among Kenya's political elite there is someone who is brave enough to go wade through all the crap, recover the baby, reunite it with its mother and restore faith in our politics.
In 2004, I travelled to Kenya for a writing workshop and stopped off for a few days in Kisumu to visit with my sister-in-law and her family. I loved Kisumu at first glance. I remember describing it to a friend as serene. Like the sea. It reminded me of Enugu, the city where I grew up in Nigeria. Not too big. Not too small. Just the right size. The people I saw seemed to exude the same sort of calmness the city itself gave. I felt if I could live anywhere else in the world, Kisumu would be it.
I carrried that image of Kisumu in my mind until towards the end of December 2007 when the civil unrests which followed the "landslide victory" of Kibaki began. Kisumu became unearthed from its sweet calm to inhabit front-page news all over the world. Kenyans became split, not along party lines, but along cultural groups. Neighbours began to call up hatred for each other. Everyday I switch on the radio to listen to the news, there are more people, ordinary people being killed. Police dispersing protesters with machine guns. People hiding in their homes, too scared to get out.
Like Ngugi Wa Thiongo pointed out recently, this has gone beyond the rigging of elections. That is not fixed by burning churches with people in them. It is not fixed by killing children hardly old enough to vote. This has mutated into ethnic cleansing. And if we are not careful this could escalate into something more monstrous, more odious than the genocide that decimated Rwanda in 1994 and from which the nation still trills.
Total abuse of the Kenyan people's confidence in themselves; distortion of the African people's faith in their future; blind daylight robbery of our trust, our self-worth. This is criminal.
Kenya snatched the baton of electoral violence. Today, she flees with that old dog, Tribalism, snapping at her heels. Escalating deaths, fractured lives and a gloomy déjà vu: we have seen this race for life a dozen times before. It is a case of ‘two fighting’; except that the main pugilists will not draw their own blood, they draw the blood of pawns. Presently one combatant will blink and the other will cart away the prize. Then (relative) ‘peace and stability’ will return to allow the venal dogs (far preferable to these blood-thirsty hounds) to return to their haunts at the Kenyan trough.
Yet, ethnic nations (tribes if you prefer) are not the core problem any more than can be a problem to be Kenyan/Tanzanian/Ugandan. It takes a leader of Hitler’s persuasion to convert German/Aryan/Jewish identities into issues of life and death, of genocide. Across the board in Africa it is past time to criminalize recidivist leadership with the potential for genocide. Across the continent, a new fad, the ‘Blanding of Africa’ is gaining currency: the effacement of ethnic nations (Kikuyu, Nupe…) in favour of nation-states (Mali, Sudan…). It would be another signal mistake in a long sequence. Rather than erase the ancient personalities, languages and cultures of our ethnic nations, I’d far rather erase the Kenyan, Nigerian, South African borders and spill their nations and peoples into their geographic envelope…
So much for dreams!
Yet, we do have a problem when armed zombies take to the streets, seeking innocents from other tribes. Without for one moment exculpating those monsters, we need to ask who sustains, channels, manipulates, and benefits from tribalism? Those masterminds behind the machetes are the focal enemy. It is well and good to crisis-manage Kenya by seeking which of two should rule, or how the twain may share power. But the larger issue—beyond election rigging—is: which leaders are worthy of the seat of power.
In these days of geometric escalations from tribal tension to genocide, truth is, beating the tribal drum is much more inimical to the national fabric than the crime of stuffing more ballot boxes than the other chap. The first thing a national leader does, on the day after he ‘wins’ 51% of the vote, is to make a speech wooing the 49% who campaigned and voted against him. How on earth does a ‘leader’ bring on board the survivors of people he has vicariously run through with a spear?
Leaders who have blood on their hands should simply walk away. Leaders who have pounded the tribal drum should not mount the National stage. Kenya—Africa—deserves far better.
For their part, opposition leaders, like many an incumbent, often fail the Solomon Test. (When King Solomon ordered that a disputed baby be cut in two and a bloody half given to each of the contesting mothers, one of them relinquished her claim to the baby in order to save its life. The other insisted that the baby be divided. Instantly, Solomon knew the real mother.) Too many African leaders would rather burn their countries to the ground than walk away. They would rather blow up nations with the dynamite of tribal tension than articulate the policies, and invest the truly hard work of building national consensus. We should put them out of business. It is not an act of courage to fight incumbent dictators by appealing to a tribal caucus. It is an act of moral cowardice; it says: ‘I cannot win this nation, and I have no ideas, no clue, as to how to wrest power, so I’ll just knock over the barrow.’ The tribal rhetoric is now quite passé, the hallmark of leaders bereft of ideas.
Unfortunately, once a party plays the ethnic card it becomes quite hard for others to avoid getting sucked in. Tribalism is the ultimate slippery slope, greased with tragic history. Even today, it peppers European war and politics. We need leaders with a new language, a new vision and a new toolkit for power. Kenya should stop in its track right now, turn around, and stare down that dog, Tribalism, and its sundry demons. This circuit she is running is a loop that descends into hell.
From the writer’s perspectives, it is clear no party is going to govern peacefully anywhere in Africa in old wineskins. Sagging wineskins. It would be like characters playing parts that do not suit them in a drama. Would they go on forcefully to play or they would have to stop, question the fitness, and write their own script? This is where we are. Why in this century would we be condemning our brothers and sisters to cheap deaths? We need to re-invent ourselves and redefine where we live but first, we must put aside fat egos and lust for power before we can design and embrace an all-inclusive newness.
* Mildred K Barya is Writer-in-Residence at TrustAfrica (www.trustafrica.org)
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
The Kenyan cautionary tale
The situation in Kenya and the struggle for a democratic constitution in Zimbabwe
Tapera Kapuya draws parallels between Kenya's post-elections crisis and the political struggles in Zimbabwe, and stresses the need for sound democratic structures
Since its December 27th General Election, Kenya has been experiencing a wave of political conflicts that should serve as a lesson to Zimbabwe’s pro-democracy movement, as these problems are rooted in the same democratic deficit. Much of the media coverage on Kenya seems to have been consumed by a focus on the ensuing violence with very marginal efforts to investigate issues at the centre of this conflict: absence of democratic institutions and the shortfalls of ‘executive’ fundamentalism. With Zimbabwe facing a potential election in March, a look into the Kenyan scenario would be helpful in avoiding a worse repeat. This is necessary in order to build agency, around a proper constitutional reform process, whose outcome will insulate Zimbabwe from the problems those in Kenya are going through and those experienced in past elections. Since the Kenyan election, over a thousand people have since lost their lives and 250 000 more have been displaced. As in most post-colonial conflicts, much of these tensions have taken an ugly ethno-tribal character.
According to observers, the elections themselves were held in a manner that can be deemed ‘free and fair’. In the run-up to the vote, all political parties had relative space to organize and campaign. Kenya has a growing free media, and unlike Zimbabwe does not have such notorious legislations as the Public Order and Security Act or the Access to Information and Protection of Publicity Act. The Election Day itself was rather peaceful.
The opposition, Orange Democratic Movement, won majority of the parliamentary seats. The ruling party would be announced as having won the Presidential vote. Problems were then reported in the tallying of the vote, throwing the Mwai Kibaki’s victory into dispute. The Chairperson of the Kenya Electoral Commission has since acknowledged that there was manipulation of the vote.
Independent observers have suggested that the Election was too close. The US Ambassador to Kenya, Michael Rannesberger, is quoted saying whoever won the Election, did so by a margin between 23 000 to 100 000 votes. And that is where part of the problem and why building Constitutional frameworks that harness the spirit of nation building lie.
Kenya like Zimbabwe, has its Lancaster House Constitution, drawn in 1963 as a settlement document when the British colonists were withdrawing from the territory to allow for Kenya’s independence. Consequently, this Constitution, now with its fair share of amendments, has not abhorred well for a transformational state, therefore allowing for dictatorship tendencies to set in. The Daniel Moi regime, would master repression under the shoulder of Constitutional righteousness. As it relates to Elections, state administration and governance, Kenya has a winner-takes-all/loser-leaves-all system. This system is what we have in Zimbabwe. What this means is that, even if one wins an election by one vote, the opinions of the section of the voters who would have lost will not find political representation or expression. It is a system that excludes ‘losers’ and, as we are learning from Kenya, this provides a base for fuelling other deep seated tensions. It questions the legitimacy of the winner as a representative of all interest groups.
As with Zimbabwe, Kenya’s Presidential parliamentary system places more power in the executive, including power to legislate. The executive has a monopoly over national resource distribution, with the legislature being reduced to a powerless club of sessional critics or patronage driven loyalists. With a Constitution that bestows enormous powers on the executive, and because there are no constitutional provisions to ensure equitable distribution of the country’s resources, perceived loss of the vote carries a heavy meaning for those who lose. In regions and amongst groups perceived to be less prioritized by the victors, this arrangement fuels anger. It means another five years of being isolated, another five years of exclusion, another five years of poverty.
The disproportionate powers the executive have compromises the others arms of government. The legislature and judiciary become overly dependent on the executive, undermining their role to provide for checks and balances. Executive accountability erodes. Corruption and its attendant defense systems set in: with regionalism and identity cleavages taking centre stage in national determination. Regions or communities without a ‘representative’ in power suffer. Democratic transformation in Kenya, as in Zimbabwe, gained its momentum in the demands for Constitutional reform, with Kibaki defeating Moi on the banner of ‘a people driven Constitution’. Kenyans are yet to see it, two Presidential terms down the line. Most of those in civil society would be absorbed into the luxurious benefits of the State and soon forget the principled demands of institutionalizing democracy, and facilitating the writing down by the people of a framework under which they want to be governed – a Constitution. The disasters are what we are seeing today: those who feel excluded and watching their vote becoming meaningless are resorting to ‘all means necessary’ to reclaim the vote from the gutters. The death toll keeps rising as neighbor turns against neighbor, and identity replaces values in deciding who is a friend or foe.
The primacy of identity politics becomes breeding ground for the most deprived tendencies. It fosters an identity based nationalism which regresses democratic values necessary for nation building. As we have seen in Kenya, the electoral loss/victory soon takes the form of one identity grouping having defeated the other and the nation dividing along ethno-tribal lines. Ethnic identity is now equated with political identity.
Is Zimbabwe the next Kenya?
A similar threat confronts Zimbabwe, risking the negation of genuine national debate on democratic transformation. Given our history, and the need to foster a common identity in our diversity, a political system and Constitutional framework which allows for this is critical. The incumbent regime has set the country back into the socio-psychology of identity in determining who can participate or not in national discourse. Our white population has been effectively wiped out from being Zimbabwean. Even in the most liberal of opposition spaces, they are regarded with suspicion and are politely censored from making public representation. Zimbabweans of Indian descend or Mixed-race have been purged from public political participation. Amongst the black population, it has begun to matter whether one is Zezuru, Karanga or Ndebele. As if this is not enough, gender, even within these clusters of divisions, has been so entrenched to qualify exclusion, with our women compatriots having to endure structural abuse to assert the mere fact that they too are citizens. Human character is secondary in the estimation of man and women. These identities inform people’s perceptions of who is excluded or included in the economic, social or political benefit – be they in the patronage of the State, or in civil society and opposition or business.
The violence that is manifest in Kenya, though based on identity, is reflective of failures in the country’s Constitution and institutions to be responsive to the crises of nation building. Many Kenyans have doubts about the validity of country’s Constitution, especially the process under which it was written. This is of relevance to Zimbabwe, where sadly, the Kenyan case history could be vengefully repeating itself.
The MDC has consistently argued that a new Constitution must be put in place before the elections. Yet it seems to be doing everything to confirm its participation in the electoral process before this key demand has been met. Gabriel Chaibva, spokesperson of one faction of the MDC, in an interview with VOA is categorical about participating in the March elections. Nelson Chamisa, the spokesperson for the other faction, suggested the same in his widely condemned rally speech where he threatens Kenyan style protests should Mugabe do what he knows best: manipulate the vote.
Despite this grandstanding and pontification about a new Constitution, the MDC – in itself a product of the Constitutional movement – does not seem to place value in the importance of a democratic, public participatory process of Constitution making. The Constitution it is fighting for in the talks is a product of ‘four wise men’, determining the permanent fate of 13million of their fellow citizens! The Constitution they are proposing has not been seen or shared by Zimbabweans. Speaking during a visit to the US end last year, leader of one of the factions, Morgan Tsvangirai is quoted in an interview suggesting that ‘we have graduated from process’, in deviation from the principles. Welshman Ncube, the Secretary General of the other faction and himself a professor at law, in his speech to Parliament in support of the widely condemned 18th Constitutional Amendment to the Constitution of Zimbabwe went to depth to explain that the principles of an ‘open, transparent and participatory manner’ in Constitution making were not a ‘fundamentalist decree’. On the 3rd of January, Morgan Tsvangirai published an opinion piece suggesting that a Transitional Constitution had been finalized, with the sticking point being that of implementation. The nation or even members of the MDC are yet to see it. Our experience has been a bitter one: reforms made in the dark, excluding national dialogue are partly the reason why we are where we are today: a reason for us to be very afraid of the Kenyan ‘demons’ visitation or better still of being ‘Kibakised’. But what is even more frightening, if it is to be believed, is the revelation by Nathaniel Manheru a columnist for government controlled Herald who wrote in last Saturday’s edition that the so called ‘transition’ constitution agreed by Zanu PF and the MDC is nothing more than the 2000 government draft that lost the referenda.
The South African Model Model countries such as South Africa do offer learning curves on national reconstruction. Emerging from its brutal past, as the rest of post-colonial Africa, South Africa underwent a process of Constitutional building that pitched public participation at the centre of Constitutional development. Public opinion and debate would take place, with its Constitutional Assembly, civil society and political parties opening the nation to dialogue with itself. What resulted was amongst other things, an electoral and political system that is modestly inclusive, guaranteeing proportional representation, and allowing all views brought to an electoral contest and receiving electoral support, to find a measure of expression.
Greater devolution of power in provinces and local municipalities has created a system of greater accountability and service delivery. There is freedom of electoral contest and democratic expression. The result has been limited violent contestation of election results and a harmonious existence of political formations and civic groups despite their competing ideologies or perspectives. Those who lose an election will still salvage their proportional representation of the vote.
The National Constitutional Assembly has advocated for a similar system of Constitution making based primarily on the principles of ‘public participation, openness and transparency’. Its 2001 draft addresses some of the key issues of proportional representation and institutions that safe-guard democracy: Electoral Commission, Human Right Commission, Gender Commission etc. The draft also argues for a strong legislature and judiciary and the effective separation of powers between the varying arms of the State. Parliament, elected through a mixed system of constituency based and party-proportional representation would elect the leader of government who would account to it. This system was drawn out of the views gathered from ordinary Zimbabweans, by both the NCA and the government’s own Constitutional Commission. The government draft presented to the referendum in 2000 ignored all these views, and was wisely rejected. In arguing that elections should be deferred until such a time as there is a Constitutional and electoral framework, the NCA aims to pre-empt the possibility of national degeneration.
The Kenyan scenario points to the things we can avoid and toward the importance of working on developing and putting in place structural systems that ensure barbarism and exclusion are not part of our politics and national life. The democracy movement must learn that short-cuts to freedom lead to spurious regimes and the entrenchment of anti-democratic practices. The MDC, carrying with it the mantle of the nation’s hope for change, must rethink its options. The current opportunism and intellectual laziness that is becoming so pervasive should be stopped and give way to the principled call for a just and free nation.
* Tapera Kapuya is with the National Constitutional Assembly. He writes in his personal capacity. He can be reached on email@example.com
Cry Freedom: Rodrigues Island: Case for Self-Determination
Alain Leveque makes a case for the Rodrigues Island's self-determination from Mauritius
Three hundred years ago, men and women in flesh and bone, were kidnapped from their villages in Guinea; trapped and captured like animals in Senegal; ripped from their families in Mozambique; herded aboard slave ships in Madagascar, and shipped across the Indian Ocean to this part of the World. Those who survived ended their days labouring like beasts of burden for foreign masters. They would never see Africa again. To the rest of the world, these unfortunate individuals lend a human face to the dark-end of a fading history; to us Rodriguans, they were much more – they were our great great … grand fathers and mothers.
To get to the inmost heart of our liberation struggle from Mauritius, it is sufficiently important to briefly revisit Rodrigues’ timeline. There are differing versions of history. We have the slave-driver’s version according to the slave-driver; we have the slave’s version according to the slave; we have the versions of those who see world conquest as Jus ad bellum (just cause for war) and the versions of those who do not. From this hazy distance, when we search for a truth buried somewhere in a dead past, among so many other diluted, distorted and deformed half-truths – we can only take a leap of faith.
The name Rodrigues was eponymously plucked from Diego Rodriguez, a Portuguese sailor whose brief visit in 1528 heralded the coming of the Europeans. There is some evidence that Chinese Mariners, Arab and Malay traders, and Pirates may have stumbled on the island as far back as the tenth century. No record of any indigenous population exists. By 1638, a council on nearby Reunion Island was already administering Rodrigues as a French possession. It remained a French colony until British troops stormed the island in 1809. It was then governed as a separate British territory until May 30, 1814, when its administration was transferred to Mauritius.
During the Second World War, 300 of our compatriots, my father among them, from our tiny active population, supported the British in Tobruk and El Alamein.
Yet, in March 1968, we were bound to Mauritius against our will, and marooned in the colonially imposed ‘forced marriage’ of unitary rule. Having offloaded Mauritius, the British in Rodrigues simply packed their bags, shot their dogs, and took off.
In effect, we became the whipping boy, left behind at the mercy of new masters, to foot the bill for the transgressions of others.
Our history has been one long painful struggle against non-consensual governments: from French possession, French colony, English possession, dependency of the colony of Mauritius, ‘district’ of Mauritius, to Island region of Mauritius today.
Neo-colonial labels replaced colonial tags; alien masters took over from foreign rulers, but for our people – the dysphoric cycle grinds on: Adieu l’esclavage – Bonjour l’esclavage (farewell slavery – good morning slavery.)
By 1960, the decolonization of Mauritius and Rodrigues islands had already been decided. When subsequent negotiations and constitutional conferences were held in London and Mauritius in 1961, ‘65 and ‘67, Rodriguans were deliberately excluded. The pretext was that we did not have any political parties or organizations.
During that epoch, the ultraconservative Mauritian party, PMSD (Parti Mauritian ‘Social Democrat’), had been running a campaign of scaremongering, along ethnic lines in Rodrigues. Besides promises of freedom, its leader, Duval, had managed to convince our people that the Devil and his Dam would descend on Rodrigues after the British pulled out. Not surprisingly, in their first contact with the ballot box in 1967, an overwhelming ninety-eight percent of Rodriguans voted against being attached to Mauritius. Sadly, the express views of our people did not take precedence over the urgent conspiracy to annex our homeland.
Of note, in 1967, Rodriguans were not offered a choice between freedom and colonialism; we had to face the horns of this dilemma: British colonization or Mauritian occupation … a foreign ruler or an alien master. Not too dissimilar to Indochina’s quandary: Japanese occupation or French colonization.
Rodriguans did not wish to continue living under a British heel, anymore than we craved the prospect of living under a Mauritian one. And we certainly did not fancy the idea of uprooting our families, leaving the bones of ten generations of our ancestors buried in Rodrigues, to sail into exile in foreign lands. Nonetheless, in those blood-curdling days in Mauritius, people were dying in the streets; we feared being carved up next. The chilling reality of the times saw many discard their possessions, homes and lands, to escape to Canada, Australia, France, England, South Africa and other parts of the World. For some, this still cuts close to the bone.
In 1968, before the ink was dry on a unilaterally drafted Independence constitution; baton-wielding police hoisted the Mauritian flag atop Port Mathurin under a cloud of tear-gas. Rodriguans became unwilling Mauritian citizens overnight. On occasions when our stout-hearted brothers and sisters resisted, British troops were summoned to put down our protest.
Admittedly, after the British left in 1968, our hands were not cut off. All the same, Rodrigues was reduced to a Mauritian fiefdom, where marginalization soon became institutionalized. We found ourselves with higher unemployment, higher cost of living, higher infant mortality, higher primary education drop-out rate and lower literacy and living standard than Mauritius. Discrimination, domination and exclusion became the norm. Today, force majeure continues to buttress the status quo.
In 1976, a separate ministry was set up to deal with Rodrigues’ specificities. So far, only a handful of ‘moderate’ Rodriguans, with their wings clipped, have ever been co-opted to this portfolio. What’s more, no Rodriguan has filled this post in the past ten years, and the likelihood of it ever being different, seems remote. Mauritian politicians arbitrarily choose the minister for Rodrigues and politically-appointed Mauritian bureaucrats govern Rodrigues by proxy – irrespective of our votes.
In 1991, when Rodriguans, had the temerity to demand more control over their own affairs, a token island Council was put in place to placate them. Fellow travellers and party hacks were handpicked and allowed to make recommendations on local matters. But, when the Council, though toothless, began to fuel nationalist pride among those with ‘ideas above their station’ – it was unceremoniously disbanded in 1996.
In 2001, following a long sustained struggle, the idea of Autonomy for the ethnically diverse people of Rodrigues, was first mooted. Finally, 170 years after the abolition of slavery, far reaching devolution from the centralized rigidities of Mauritian control came into sight … albeit briefly.
In 2002, after much fanfare, after the spin-doctors had recited their precision-tooled sound bites, after the pig-headed and the big-headed had had their photo opportunities – ‘Autonomy’ arrived. The names were changed from Island Council to Regional Assembly and from Councillors to Commissioners. A few buildings were erected here and there, a few factotums got to fly to Mauritius, there to sit, silent and still, on government back-benches and a plague of introduced Chameleons overran Rodrigues. That was roughly the extent of it.
Mauritian ministers continued to micro-manage our affairs and we got to elect the lackeys who run their errands. The central government retained all legislative and executive powers and practically everything else. Eventually, even its rusted-on supporters had to concede that our promised ‘Autonomy’ was a dud.
When we peek one inch beyond the chic sophistry, we see one people still ruling another, not only without that other’s consent – but against its will.
Loie sans partage (absolute rule) is alive and well in Rodrigues; it can be seen any day of the year, flexing its muscle and beating its chest in Port Mathurin.
At the risk of belabouring the obvious, one cannot consider limited administrative discretion to be Autonomy, anymore, than one can seriously consider a piglet to be an elephant.
The colonial legacy of authoritarian bureaucratic dictatorship was never dismantled in Rodrigues – it was reinforced. External bureaucratic-warlords command and our people obey without question. The chief of police, the judge, the minister for Rodrigues, all the principal heads of department, all the lawyers, all the policy makers, all those who actually govern Rodrigues – all come from Mauritius.
When our Creole language, in which is stored the experiences and struggles of our people, is spurned in our Assembly – when seventy percent of our people are disqualified from political office, because they do not speak a foreign language –
when half-nourished, half-educated and half-free schoolchildren are forced to learn three languages – when there is a dearth of educational material on our African culture in a curriculum designed for us, by others – when our children mimic cultures, beliefs, languages and traditions dissimilar to their own, in order to validate their sense of self-worth – when our civil service which represents ninety percent of our educated, is effectively gagged from political discourse – when our people speak of Independence in tentative muffled whispers, for fear of government spies – when everything is controlled by external forces, there is no freedom … only domination.
Constitutional guarantees of no ruling caste, of no second class citizens, of consent of the governed to govern, seem to apply to all, except in respect to Rodriguans.
The Rodriguan citizen is like a beleaguered character, hopelessly trapped inside an eternal nightmare of suppressed resentment, being forced to watch helplessly, as his culture crumbles into dust.
Mauritius speaks of human rights at the United Nations, pledges solidarity with SADC (Southern African Development Committee) and the African Union – yet retains its own Colonial Dominion. The double-edged morality is staggering.
Much water and much blood have flowed into the Indian Ocean, since our brothers and sisters in Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, Comoros, Africa, Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius were freed (at least in theory) from the wretched web of Colonialism.
But for us Rodriguans, the on-going ignominy of Mauritian Occupation still haunts our daily lives.
In the 21st century, the island of Rodrigues, one of this regions’ last remaining manifestations of Colonialism has become the ‘sick man’ of the Indian Ocean, forever bonded to an artificial welfare drip, and still begging a foreign kleptocrat to let us go.
It is argued that because on May 30th 1814, Britain dubbed Rodrigues a dependency of the colony of Mauritius, and administered it as part of the island of Mauritius, it automatically became an integral and indivisible territory of Mauritius. Therefore, any dismemberment of territory before independence would have been illegal under international law.
If we follow this line of reasoning, then we also recognise that all colonially-imposed arrangements are forever binding on all future generations. And when this thinking is extended retrospectively, then, Mussolini’s 1936 laws could still be cited today, as justification to go on bedevilling the lives of Ethiopians, forever.
During Mad-Dog-Morgan’s governorship of Jamaica, looting and rape were the arrangements of the day. As one would reasonably expect, when Morgan the pirate left, his arrangements left with him. The British themselves snatched Rodrigues from the French at the point of a bayonet hooked-up to a gun; likewise, any arrangements they made during their rule became null and void – the very minute they left.
There was never any 11th Commandment, which accorded Britain divine-right to bequeath our lives, our lands and our country to Mauritius, for time without end.
Our people were not Mauritius’ or anyone else’s private property. We were not cattle to be handed over from one master to another to another.
Unitary rule was part and parcel of British colonial policy. As a result, despite underlying divisions among different geographical ethnic groups, territories were artificially forced into a unitary state. For example, New Zealand was administered as a dependency of the colony of New South Wales; islands of the Caribbean were grouped together willy-nilly; Seychelles was administered as part of Mauritius;
There were plans afoot to group all British East-African colonies under a federation. And it was only the selfless vetoes of India’s leaders that saved Burma from being administered as part of India. Unfortunately, Rodrigues did not have a Ghandi, or a Jinnah or a Nehru; we had Duval, demagoguery and double-cross a go-go.
The simple truth, however unpalatable, is when colonial rule ended in 1968, the island of Rodrigues had a population, and that island belonged to that population, and was not up for grabs.
On March 12th 1968, there should have been two proud islands, side by side, in free association, both celebrating their freedom. Alas, there was pride on one side of the Indian Ocean and humiliation on the other. On the gloomy anniversary of that miserable day, some Rodriguans still hold a minute’s silence … and remember.
The flaw in the dismemberment argument is that it is predicated on the false premise that Rodrigues was a legitimate territory of Mauritius prior to Independence. This was never the case. Mauritius never discovered a terra nullius Rodrigues; it never captured Rodrigues by conquest; the British never wrested Rodrigues from the French in 1814 simply to give it to Mauritius; Rodriguans never surrendered their individual sovereignty and their territorial integrity to a ‘Pax Mauritiana’ – Moreover, the Rodriguan nation never consented to be part of, or governed by Mauritius.
State sponsored propaganda, unremittingly repeated and embedded in school children as fact, is extremely difficult to unlearn. The untainted truth is Rodrigues was part of the British Empire until 1968; today, it is an annexed country under Occupation.
It is no more a territory of Mauritius, than Hercules is a son of Zeus.
Whether Britain gifted Rodrigues to Mauritius in 1968, as it gave Eritrea to Ethiopia or whether Mauritius opportunistically annexed it, is neither here nor there.
Whatever deal, whatever collusion took place between Britain and its Mauritian colonial minister, without our consent was illegal and immoral.
It was akin to a departing pirate rewarding his faithful slave, with a slave of his own.
It was the shameless advancement of one country’s territorial ambition at the expense of its neighbour. Mauritius added 130,000 miles of our EEZ (exclusive economic zone) to its territory, and our people lost their homeland and their dignity.
The United Kingdom, Mauritius and the International community clearly understand this, as I do, as you do, as we all do … It was wrong then – It is wrong now!
In 1968, our economic or political unpreparedness should never have been used as an excuse to deny us our independence. Mauritius should have been granted its own independence separately, as Northern Rhodesia was. Rodrigues should have been placed under the guardianship of the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations, as a non-self-governing territory. A pan-African commission or UN special committee for self-determination could then have put together a long term plan for Independence.
Under a mutually agreed-upon constitution, with suitable opt-out clauses, we could even have remained in free association with Mauritius, rather than being perpetually entrapped in the existing abomination, euphemistically known as ‘Autonomy’.
If historical debts, legal or at least moral responsibilities, abrogated in 1968, are made good to some extent, past injustices can be belatedly rectified. We remain hopeful.
It is not our lot in life, to be perpetually governed by other people. We did not accept non-consensual rule from France; we did not accept it from Britain – we will never accept it from Mauritius.
The majority of Mauritius’ 1.3 million population are descendants of Indian indentured labourers, mainly from Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, brought by the British to meet labour shortages on Sugar cane plantations; whereas, ninety-five percent of Rodrigues’ forty thousand strong population are direct descendants of African slaves.
We are as distinct, as say Mexicans and Kenyans. This ethnic heterogeneity differentiates the one island from the other.
Rodriguans are not an indigenous group or an ethno-national minority seeking piecemeal internal self-rule; we are a separate people with a fervent aspiration to self-determine our future. Our case for full sovereignty is an exceptionally strong one. More to the point, we can never give up our homeland – our forefathers paid too dear a price for it!
Until recently, Rodrigues’ small maximum carrying capacity (approx.50,000) and its geographical isolation, have managed to preserve its cultural identity to some extent. However, the past few years have seen Mauritians, in ever-increasing numbers, being fast-tracked onto crown land in Rodrigues. If this trend (or government policy) continues, it is a mathematical certainty that it will dilute our ranks to a moribund minority. Much like mixing thirty bottles of beer with one bottle of lemonade – the lemonade disappears.
Once our culture, traditions, language, and way of life are gone; once we have lost our identity as a people; once our claim for sovereignty has been forever extinguished – we would have become a nation of semi-Slaves and half-repressed Serfs, stuck at the bottom-end of a Mauritian vertical class structure.
The once proud people of Rodrigues would have been reduced to a motley mob of untouchables, straw hats under the arm, bowing and scraping in the demimonde of Mauritian ghettos or eking out a living on the mountain ridges in Rodrigues.
We could never again aspire to be anything more than just half a people; we would be forever playing catch-up to other cultures. As a people, we would be dead.
For Rodriguans, this is an existential challenge. If we do not meet it, if we wait for the time that must come, we will surely follow the Dodo. This, I do not believe – I know.
The common Portuguese name Rodrigues (son of Rodrigo) was poorly chosen for us, by old masters, in evil times. Faced with being branded with it forever, even the brotherhood of Goblins, Gnomes and Gremlins would be reaching for the AK47. Seriously though, ‘Rodrigues’ is an old relic, fossilized in another era, clearly disconnected from and incompatible with the essence of our people. And not to mention, the blood-spattered images of Portugal’s brutal savagery in this region, which the name evokes – It is time for our generation to give it (Rodrigues) back to history.
We have lost a country – our body politic is being trampled underfoot; the stench of humiliation is everywhere; cultural oblivion looms large, and yet, we are still blighted by a small clique of bloated puppets and ‘well-assimilated’ latter-day Uncle Toms, wanting us to accept foreign domination.
Strangers overseas, who we do not vote for and cannot remove, design our electoral systems and electoral boundaries, decide our laws, taxation, tariffs, decide our health, education, foreign and economic policies. Strangers, decide our children’s future –
Strangers decide – Strangers have been deciding for the best part of 300 years.
It is time – we decided! For, we too, have a brain and a backbone. Yes, it is true! We too, have dreams and hopes of our own. It is time to cut the neo-colonial umbilical cord sharply adrift, to take active steps to decrease dependence on others, to believe that if we reduce our wants and work hard, that self-reliance is possible and indeed desirable.
It is time to stop depending on built-in assumptions, on ideas and systems that have been partly responsible for our ongoing subordination. It is time to try other ideas, other approaches, perhaps invent new ones which better adapt to our circumstances.
It is time to stop imitating others and trust in ourselves – for who we are, has worth.
Rodriguans are a resilient people. I say this, because contrary to popular belief, it is our people who have worked the land and fished the seas and kept farm animals and kept this small economy afloat – generation after generation. We have done it before, we are doing it now – we can do it better. Let’s not hesitate to continue drinking from the old well (the land and the sea), until the ghost of globalization arrives with the magic potion.
It is time to dump the usual too-poor, too-small, and not-yet-ready arguments. They are like bad records that have been played over and over again. They are intended to shackle rather than liberate. Fortunately, oppressed people the world over have ignored them, otherwise most islands in the Caribbean, Indian, Atlantic and Pacific, much of Africa and Asia, and possibly half the planet would still be under some form of colonial rule today. In any case, how large and how rich would a country need to be, for its people to qualify for their freedom? Moreover, who would decide? Our leaders must re-connect with the poor and dispossessed in this country, re-establish links with our ethnic kin in Africa, re-organize our people at the grassroots and demand that which was stolen from us in 1968 ... our Country.
Let us not be discouraged by the indifference of a dog-eat-dog McWorld, let us not dither, let us steel our resolve and demand our Independence. Let us speak of it proudly in every home, in every church, in every bazaar, in every fishing-post, on every farm, on every street-corner, on every bus and wherever or whenever our people meet.
Our task will not be without sacrifice, but if we turn our back on Independence now, we condemn our children to another 300 years of foreign domination. The alternative is simple: struggle or eternal subservience.
Our people have been the human Guinea pigs for some of the world’s most cold-blooded social experimentations. We have been at the painful-end of the whole monstrous gamut of Slavery, Colonialism, neo-Colonialism and ‘civilising missions’ of Missionaries. Despite the inhumanity, the degradation, the indignity; despite the loss of our grand African names, our sense of self, our traditional African clothing, our beliefs and our relationships with our kinfolk in Africa – we have already forgiven and moved on.
Perpetual domination is not a destination to where we want to lead our children, or as the late Pope John Paul II used to say to occupied people everywhere “you are not what they say you are; let me remind you who you really are …”
Our people have undergone a long-enough apprenticeship to be free. The time has come for us to climb out of the abyss of serfdom and view the world through our own eyes. As children of this flying planet, it is our incontrovertible right to self-determine our own future; let us exercise that right and reclaim our heritage in the human family.
With this firm wish warming our hearts, with our heads held high – let us brace ourselves to face a hopeful future with fortitude.
Vive Rodrigues … Libre
*Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at www.pambazuka.org
"Souls Forgotten"; Francis Nyamnjoh's latest novel
This novel is about coming of age and coming to terms in Mimboland. It is also about the fragility of life and the strength of the human spirit. The filth and screaming splendor of the city and the perplexed tranquility of the village are juxtaposed, as the tension and conviviality between tradition and modernity are lived and explored. Roads and drivers, dreams and public transport link different geographies. Faltering along or speeding away, these spaces of risk, frustration and solidarity are filled with popular songs as vehicles for understanding events and relationships.
Kenya: Call for submissions: the Museum debate
On 12 December 2007 – Kenya’s independence day – the Kenya national museums of Kenya decided to paint all its buildings in its corporate colours. That included painting over a landmark mural, that for a year had become one of the main attractions of the museum. Painting of the mural, sponsored by Africancolours, was done by a host of renowned Kenyan artists. A heritage professional, Dr Gonda Geets, who arrived at the museum as the wall with the mural was being painted tried to no avail to stop the destruction of the mural.
Fanon, by John Edgar Wideman
Wideman’s first novel in a decade conjures the author of The Wretched of the Earth and his urgent relevance today Wideman’s fascinating new novel weaves together fiction, biography, and memoir to evoke the life and message of Frantz Fanon, the influential author of The Wretched of the Earth. A philosopher, psychiatrist, and political activist, Fanon was a fierce, acute critic of racism and oppression. Born of African descent in Martinique in 1927, Fanon fought to defend France during World War II and then later against France in Algeria’s war for independence.
What was left of us
We are back home trying out new skins as the continent wastes on. We had believed we could save Africa. We were young dreamers. We embraced The African Manifesto, a tract which in our group became as popular as The Communist Manifesto in its time. The first oath we took steered us towards defending and liberating our national frontiers. There was trouble all around Africa. Enemies were approaching our land. We could hear their gunshots from whichever direction we faced. We did not want to run away. It was more worthy standing up to fight.
How could we have known the truth? By the time Biira and I finally agreed that it was what was left of us that needed saving, many of our comrades had died, along with our dreams. What pained Biira and I most, however, were not the deaths but the denial, the lack of a funeral. In Africa, when someone died, it was acknowledged and burial arrangements made. In fact, it seemed we respected the dead more than the living. Nowadays of course things have turned round. Alive or dead there’s no big deal. Though it’s tougher staying alive than dead, of course! And probably that’s why we have more haunted and tragic lives. For many of us life is cruel and disjointed like a chicken cut up and assembled according to the parts: the wings together, the drumsticks together and so on. When you cook them you think that you’re going to eat chicken but that’s not true. You’re only feeding on parts of a chicken. That is our life, not lived wholly.
One by one, our comrades were bundled in reed mats and blankets, and ‘disposed of.’ Our commanders called the disposal operation smooth. We learnt years later that the bodies were not flown home. That they were taken to a villa in Lubumbashi where they were slit open. That the hearts, livers, kidneys and lungs were plucked out and sold in South Africa. That’s what our government did to our fallen heroes. No consolation letters were sent to their families. No condolence messages to their friends. How can I admit that operation smooth as its name suggests was indeed fast and efficient? Years later when Biira and I sat down by the river Congo to remember our comrades, it seemed as if they had never lived, never walked here, they were never born. We had only imagined them. What had happened to our memory that we could not recall their names except one? We searched desperately for their faces, their names. How were they erased? Exhausted, shocked, we questioned our sanity, failure of the mind to recollect our absent colleagues. Had nothing happened? Had everything happened?
Biira and I are from Arcadia, a relatively small country compared to most African states. Sometimes, if you’re not careful your eyes might miss us on the map. Foreigners tease us that our country is only a strip, but we are there all the same. And those of you, who still follow news, don’t pay much attention to what you read, see, or hear about us currently. It wasn’t like that at all in the beginning. We were an enviable rich state, in control of our resources, proud of our land and the people. And we were on our way to liberating the whole of Africa. We never made it. Things changed.
Biira and I were in our final years at the Ivory Tower University, the place where our dreams became crystal clear in the liberator’s shape. We stood before the looking glass and spread our future like a carpet of luminous colours. We saw stripes of dazzling yellow, brilliant orange, deep purple, vibrant red and magnificent lime. We never even imagined a few shades of grey and other mourning colours.
Every Sunday afternoon, as the sun blazed and the sky was a clear blue without clouds, we gathered for our political study in the mess of Lumumba Hall. Officials from The Peoplist Motion Secretariat came and addressed us.
“Know your history. Do not dismiss it for it shapes the way we do things here,” Colonel Whiff said, smoking a pipe and tossing back his dreadlocks that were long enough to sweep the floor. His lazy, kind eyes searched our faces and each one of us secretly fell in love with him. He had the look of a sleepy blue ocean in a calm season. We respected him for his consistency. “Know your history, only then can you visualise what to do with the future that is yet to come,” Colonel Whiff repeated. Biira always clapped. She was a student of Political Science, incessantly drunk with words like the future, history, hegemony, ideology, manifesto, nationalism. At first, I deemed it was fit to avoid her. We were roommates. If I timed her schedule right, I knew the days when I could get to sleep before she came in and on other days I could get to the room late when she was already asleep. Still, she had a way of reaching me, rubbing me with her beliefs and dreams. If she woke up early and left me sleeping, I would find a yellow note under my pillow: “The future belongs to those who are awake.” I would respond likewise: “The future belongs to those who can see it with their eyes closed.” Sometimes she simply wrote: “The future is here. The future is now.” We carried on like that, interacting through the yellow notes without a face-to-face discussion. Then one day it happened. We were in the quadrangle waiting to watch a movie brought to us by the Life Ministry. Our hall which was shaped like a box had earned the name: ‘Box Hall’, and ourselves the ‘Boxers’. Biira seized the chance to start a fire.
“Box oyee!” She punched the air.
“Oyee!” we cheered.
“Gallant boxers, I am inviting you to a political study group on Sunday at 3 p.m. Come and hear the words of the future from the Peoplist Motion Regime…”
Watching her with fists in the air, quoting Nyerere, Nkrumah, Castro, Fanon and our dear president, amused me so much that I decided to join the group to find out the quickest way to being crazy — the source of Biira’s steam. A month later I was converted. The Peoplist Motion Regime was the way forward. Their manifesto was charmingly simple: Arcadia is one people, grouping to liberate Africa from the ravaging wars. Together we would sow the seed of oneness, the meaning of a Peoplist Nation. In Arcadia alone we had thirty two ethnic groups. It would be magical to forget our internal clashes and integrate as a Peoplist Nation. The revolutionary angle appealed to me. I was doing Comparative Literature which, in our national curriculum meant Bernard Shaw and Shakespeare, period. I wanted to be a teacher but deep down I knew I could never continue in the tradition of teaching what was being taught. Secretly, I nursed a dream of initiating a think-tank that would eventually redesign the curriculum, overhaul the syllabus and develop a new education system grounded in our own knowledge sources and civilisations. Through the Peoplist regime, I could bring my agenda to the table. The study group became my regular beat. Whenever we met, the first thing we did consciously was to put aside arguments and pretensions that might break us. We even overlooked our different academic disciplines. Together with the botanists, geologists, behavioural scientists, molecular biologists, social scientists, doctors, writers, civil engineers ... we embraced the first principle in The African Manifesto: Building an intellectual, professional army that was not only up-to-date in state of the art machinery, but also mentally trained to fight wars far and beyond. Our weapons therefore were not only to be physical—the typical and common approach to most wars and conflicts in the world—but also to provide creative and practical strategies outside the box in negotiating for peace. Other countries would learn from us.
“Timing is crucial,” Colonel Whiff said one day, rolling his eyes. “We are doing the right thing at the right time. Some of your colleagues think that what matters now is finding a good job, making money, starting a family ... they are wrong. The most important thing is being here, learning history, and standing up for Africa. We start with Arcadia.”
The state of chaos which had engulfed Africa made us believe that our political aliveness was indeed consuming us at the right time. A boil had just burst in Angola. A wound was festering in Mozambique, simmering with pus and blood. Rwanda was licking a genocide bomb and her relations with the neighbouring territories were terribly strained. Rwigyema was our man there. We rallied behind him and cried Freeeeeedom! We promised all the Rwandese desiring to return home that we would give them their country. We would help. The Peoplist Regime would resettle everyone where they wanted to be. Grand. We would teach Northern Sudan how to shake hands with Southern Sudan, and command the International Press to declare Darfur habitable. It would feature in the UN’s Special Watch of 100 places to be in the whole world. We marched there. Then Cote d’Ivoire lost her glory and started sniffing out those who were not pure Ivorians. Nonsense! The next tragedy was going to be an ethnic cleansing. We sent representatives to tell the Ivorian president and his cabinet to stop being stupid. The Peoplist Motion Regime recognised all African people as one. No authentic or contamination talk. Simply African is all we lobbied for. Then we heard that the Congo was falling apart. Our hearts went out to that vast and beautiful equatorial region. It was our duty to make peace, to re-make the Africa Nation One. We needed no messiah to inspire us on that one. We marched there.
With more energy and zeal, we flew to Angola to discipline that Savimbi dog. But then the guns he was using to terrorise his folks were not manufactured in Africa. So it wasn’t just Savimbi we would be fighting. The bad apples of Africa had strong reinforcements. Charles Taylor was backed too in his atrocities. We brought our heads together to find out exactly who powered these dictators. Our hearts burned for the continent. Our dream was that we would be one eventually, with our visionary president, our irreducible and indefatigable Peoplist Regime. I must mention here that by far Arcadia was the only independent, democratic state north of the Nile River, east of the Lake Victoria, south of the great Okavango River and west of the Sahara. We purposed to show others a clean future built from the colours of our dreams.
It took years for the scales to fall off from our eyes, for us to realise that our strategy was empty rhetoric, our government a lying game. Our actions were a contradiction of what Peoplist truly meant. The past repeated itself with all the mistakes and catastrophes. Let me tell you the truth: We did not liberate anyone. Here’s what happened:
As ambitious, ignorant dreamers, we shared the bush with snakes and spiders, while our bosses slept in the best hotels under treated mosquito nets, and very often took state funded holidays to Europe. They plundered and violated the right to life of everyday people in the areas where we were keeping peace. Our leaders got fat on the gold and disappeared with our pay. Believe me, the Peoplist paymaster, Mr. Kutaga, vanished with four billion dollars. The head of our regiment, Colonel Wafiire took all the timber that Congo could give but tried to convince us all the same with his rusty singsong: “It’s peace that we want for Africa.” He may as well have been saying, “We are for pillage.” Our time in the Congo had nothing to do with national security. Like most so-called superpowers, we were there for the resources and occupation. It took us long to awake and see through the smoke screen the image in the mirror. We engaged in senseless wars, we were told to fight without question, to kill or be killed. How different were we from a barbaric army marching to conquer, to defeat the weaker?
We saw things clearly when Dagu died. The only comrade whose name had not left us. The one who was to father Biira’s child. Dagu was an only child, a straight A student who consistently topped his Surveying class at the University. He was approved for the World Foundation Scholarship, but like us he had swallowed the pill. The dream to liberate Africa had spread its magic colours, beckoning him to forget the pursuit of further studies. We came across his head one evening. Bullets had left holes in his head, which wasn’t a whole head anymore, but a shattered cranium. It took us a great amount of time to recognise it was our Dagu. Only after we identified a green bandana bearing a few strands of hair did we remember having seen him at breakfast tying the bandana across his forehead. Near his shattered skull was a thicket of blood that had become one with the grass. What had alerted us to the scene were two vultures goring into Dagu’s brains with their hooked beaks. The rest of his body was nowhere to be seen. I knelt before a piece of his skull. Turned it round. Examined him. Dagu. I looked at Biira and sighed. She closed her eyes. That evening when we assembled, we noticed that Blanco, the surgeon was not with us.
“Where is Blanco?” Biira asked Captain Huambo.
“He’s gone on an emergency call.”
I glanced at Biira. The struggle had linked our minds together. A look shared between us often penetrated deeper to reveal that we were thinking the same thoughts. That night we became numb, not because of a brutal loss but the fact that there had been no shootings that day. Dagu was butchered by one of us.
Silently, we packed our bags. There wasn’t really much to pack, but we made an effort of it. We had to brace ourselves for what the government would call us if we survived, if they let us go our way to save what was left of us.
Word suddenly reached us that we were to have an audience with the General, who was the decision maker in our case. We rejoiced and then froze. To us, the meeting spelt freedom or doom.
Our leaving coincided with the coming of extra troops. More gold had been found in Mongbwalu, Ituri district, so it was a calculated move to mobilise an army from home to keep peace in that territory as the miners mined. At 7am after a strong cup of coffee, I strapped the army green backpack on my shoulders, saluted and shook hands with Captain Huambo.
“Good luck,” he said.
“Stay well,” I responded. I watched his face for a sign of betrayal. The face was neutral. I looked away and waved at the new deployment force from Arcadia. Did they really know what they were in for, here for? Fresh graduates with no war zone experience, headless chickens running where they ought not to run. Did they know the real reasons we were in Congo and anywhere else? I avoided looking deep in their faces to see hope alive, to see expectation, to remind me of what I had been before. It is one thing to have dreams and watch them unfold day by day, it is quite another to see them crashed and have to summon up courage to stoop and gather the broken pieces. We stumbled out of the bush towards the chopper that was waiting in the clearing. Every step of the return journey reverberated with heaviness.
We were not sure we would arrive home. If we did, we tried to imagine the kind of questions Big Man would fire at us once we made it to his office. Being in his presence for a good record alone was frightening. How was our meeting going to proceed at headquarters? His red eyes would dilate, threatening to jump out of their sockets. His bald, watermelon head would turn here and there, to scare us and make us think that something sinister was about to spring at us from whichever direction his head swung. His boom of a voice like thunder would demand why we were pulling out of the army, his large palms hitting the table like ocean waters against a rock.
“It’s finally over,” I whispered to Biira, squeezing her hand as we adjusted our seat belts.
“You think so? You are wrong. It has just begun. There we were in a battle, now we are going into war.”
Biira was my companion in the struggle but she was of no comfort at a time like this. While I thought that I wore dark pessimistic lenses, Biira wore them double It was a four-hour flight from the Congo to Arcadia. A few minutes past 11am Congolese time, we landed at Kanu airstrip, and a big land cruiser was waiting to take us to headquarters. Everyone who mattered in our politics seemed to know what was happening; two lieutenant commanders, women at the forefront were quitting. They wanted to hear our story as if we had been in heaven and they had no clue why we would choose to go to hell. Within 15 minutes we were at headquarters.
We avoided the lift and took the stairs to Big Man’s office on the 9th floor. It’s like we needed our feet to touch every step of the way before facing him. We stopped by the rest room, changed and removed the regimentals. I drew out my passport, looked at it slowly, carefully.
Name: Adong Poseidon
Age: 29 years old
Profession: Special Service.
I studied my picture in fatigues. This would be the last time I hold it. Once I walked out of big man’s office, it would be goodbye.
Biira was very calm and composed. Her head was slightly bowed I had to run a finger across her poker face to make her look at me. She did not say anything. But I knew she had bottled up her frustration, it would come out when she screamed, awaking from the two nightmares which now plagued her nights she could not risk going to sleep without the valium. She would see a giant drenched in blood, with talons for feet and fingers jumping to attack her, clawing a long sword pointed against her left breast. But the most troubling nightmare was one in which she saw a skeleton tearing to shreds a map of our beautiful Arcadia and throwing the pieces in a river of blood. She was in that river and tried to swim against a high tide to rescue the pieces and put them together again, but a hungry, snarling alligator leaped over from the bank, opened its jaws and swallowed her, with the pieces of Arcadia fisted in her hand. Valium kept the demons in check, sometimes.
We found Big Man talking on the phone. We saluted him, and he gestured us to the leather seats in his ample office. Arcadia is relatively a cool weathered country and behind Congo two hours, we wondered why the air conditioner was so strong yet it was only an hour in the morning. But big man sweated a lot. As for us, we were chilled from within. It may have had nothing to do with the air conditioner.
Big man had a view of the city in front of him but he swung his chair round to face us as soon as he finished talking on the phone. Behind his back we called him monument, Africa King Size for he was huge and tall. Publicly, we called him Big Man and that’s what he liked. It was true that he could eat a whole roasted goat alone and wash it down with a crate of beer. In the office he was a General who wasted no time on greetings.
“I read your letters. You have decided to abandon the army force. Do you know what that means?” He squint as if the mere thought of it pained his sight.
“Yes Sir,” we quivered.
“Do you understand how we treat deserters in this country?”
“You were doing well, I had already received recommendation from your Lieutenant General and I was considering promoting you,” he paused. “Do you need some time abroad to rest and get back on track, we could arrange that.” He glanced at his large gold ring on his small, right hand finger. Quickly, without warning, he pushed back his chair, rose up and stepped right in front of us and chilled us with his cold stare. We flinched.
“It’s only peace that we all want; don’t focus so much on the war, on the battles you have to fight. It’s the desire for peace that should occupy your thoughts always.” I once read that “if you want to build a ship, don’t drum up men to gather wood, give orders and divide work. Rather, teach them to yearn for the far and endless sea.” A cascade of sweat that was streaming down my spine started to dry up. Big man, like most of our bosses, could only be found in the comfort of his air-conditioned office talking about peace and war. In the evenings he dined and wined at famous exclusive clubs and grew fat on goat and beer. Now as he talked, we said nothing.
There are many things we could not tell Big Man, much as we were tempted to. In the first place, our interest in the armed forces had been the Intelligence Division where we thought our brains were needed. Instead, we were sent to the regular army on the grounds that we train as militia and be on reserve. That way we would be civilians who could be called to serve fulltime during emergencies. Soon we learnt there were emergencies everyday and that defeated the idea of a reserve. They kept promising us, however, that we would be shifted to military intelligence but that time never came. One day while we were having supper, Biira stated in a distracted voice that military intelligence was a gigantic contradiction. She had stopped eating and had a faraway look stamped in her eyes. I smoothed her hand and suggested that we take a walk in the forest. That night is still vivid.
“Can you see something in the moon?” Biira had asked as soon as we came near a whispering stream, after we had been walking silently for a while, each one of us occupied with heavy thoughts.
“There are seven pigs in the moon according to legend,” I said without looking up.”
“There is a grieving woman in the moon. That’s why the moon looks sorrowful tonight. Strange how when we were young we saw the world mapped in the moon.”
Seven years later, this time on a moonless night, it dawned on us that the wars we were fighting or not fighting were hopelessly the same; the propaganda and so much blood. Thinking or intelligence was the last thing expected of us after we were deployed. We were so cheap and the death of Dagu showed us the price of our efforts, the face of betrayal. We stopped believing in liberation, we lost faith in the defence of territories, we gave up love for Arcadia, but we could not tell Big Man that.
“I know you intellectuals get bored easily. Sergeants and corporals have no problem staying in the bush,” he remarked. “Perhaps I should give you scholarships and you can take courses in political history, military science, espionage, whatever! We have enough funds for that. At present it’s what you need.”
“One of these days we’ll be required to supply military attaché’s for the Libyan office. That is something you can do for a change.”
He could go on and on, telling us what we needed, what we could do, treating us as if we were retarded and incapable of standing by the decisions we made. We politely declined all his suggestions.
“It’s about wanting to have a family, right? You are women approaching thirty, that’s what your files here say. Your biological clock is ticking, you want to have babies now, husbands to look after you, to kiss you nicely, we could arrange that too, there are many captains and even brigadiers who are not married or have lost their wives ...”
I thought I would choke if I continued to listen to Big Man without giving him a piece of my mind. We had supposedly been looking after affairs of the nation, but when it came to our individual selves we were just helpless women who needed men to take care of us, my ass!
I swallowed the ball of anger that clung to my pallet. I glanced at Biira and saw the rage rising in her face as her left hand clenched into a fist. Her eyes flashed like a serpent that had been stepped on, she ground her teeth like one crushing grain. I could see clearly that she had become a volcano, the steam hissing through her nostrils, ready to erupt. I got stomach cramps thinking how she might eject her lava onto the General and it would be the end of our freedom. She must have sensed my fear, and heard my silent prayer to hold it in. All of a sudden she became dormant, almost extinct. I sighed deeply.
We had agreed that whatever the General said, we should neither contradict nor challenge him. He eventually realised that he was dealing with a hopeless case, mute women whose strength was not a barrage of words and guns but silence and a resolute decision to be free.
“Alright, I will sign your letters.”
With that he stamped our papers and approved our resignation. We handed over the military dress and insignia, and everything else that linked us to him and the government. We saluted him and anticipated a handshake before walking out in peace. It hadn’t been easy for us to roll up seven years and consider them forgotten, but that wasn’t his thinking. He turned furious like a crocodile whose children had been attacked. He snarled and sizzled and bawled, “Now get out of here! I never want to see your bloody faces again, women, stupid women!”
We tumbled out into the free air, breathing at last, feeling the civilian clothes. It was over, we hailed the first taxi that came in sight and went directly to Biira’s aunt.
When it occurs to you that the essence of your life has already flowed out of you, you can spend the remaining time and energy thinking about the nothingness of it all. There follows a regression into the wasteland. Biira chose that route. On any sunny day I can still hear the voice of Aunt Damako asking us one question: “Now that you are ex revolutionaries, what you gonna do with a civilian life?” She did not drive any of us to the edge with a repeated question. She only asked when we seemed to be in a cheery mood, which was a few times. She hoped we would be courageous enough to chain the past and find both our feet in the here and now.
“Perhaps I should be a poet. What do you think?” I tossed it to her one afternoon. “I studied literature, you know, enough Shakespeare to make me write war sonnets.”
“Ah, writing your biography might be more interesting, ‘failed revolutionary turned into a poet,’ that might be a catchy title.”
“Then they will read the title minus the content.”
“Well, nobody reads or listens to poets here. I am only trying to be helpful.”
“Ouch, you make it so awful.”
“Making a living is an awful business.”
“In that case I’ll carry a gun on my shoulder, hold the non-readers hostage and shout out: I will not shoot. Only listen to a couple of my poems and drop the change.”
“You haven’t actually left your first skin then.”
It was a joke but it cut deep. It was useless talking like that. With a sigh I rose up to make a cup of coffee, if only to let the trying moment pass. Biira too left the room, she often did, and then one day it was her last.
Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if we had not woken up. Would it have been better to die in the bush than to go on feeling the weight of this life as a burdensome existence? If Biira had not become weaker, grown older and finally swallowed all her valium at once, where would she be in the present life?
Meanwhile, for many months Arcadia continued to deny our involvement in the Congo. Our Commander-in-Chief, the president of Arcadia Republic would appear on the national television to assure the people that lies would not take the journalists very far.
“Don’t believe those lumpens faking stories that we are in Congo. Arcadia has nothing to do with undemocratic countries. I repeat we are not in Congo.”
As soon as the president’s statements were aired, our black flag would be hoisted and our national anthem sung in the chosen Arcadian mother tongue. Lights would go out, everyone would go to sleep and I would stay awake, close my eyes and see no dreams. We were not in Rwanda either. We were not in Sudan. We were not in Burundi. We were not in Somali land. We were not in Liberia. And we were not in Iraq. Biira and I never imagined such misconceptions at the time we joined the forces. It might have been quicker to notice our hair turning grey than the reality of national denial sinking in our brains.
Now our president has changed the constitution and is seeking a fourth term, which will count as his second term in office under the new constitution. There is a break away faction beginning to form, flagging him as a dangerous B.C/A.C man—before the constitution and after the constitution. His supporters tell us that we have to understand he needs time to implement a 20-point PIIID program—Poverty, Illiteracy, Insecurity, Ignorance and Disease eradication—that was designed in his first term. I am afraid about what might happen when he needs more time and terms to monitor, review and then consolidate the 20-point program. Many of us are too shocked to comment, to take up arms again and fight to liberate ourselves from our president. We are too ashamed to admit that Arcadia has fallen. The only lesson that we have learnt from history is that we never quite learn from history. Where is Colonel Whiff?
Biira’s aunt says that Colonel Whiff passed away, in his bed, nestled between two prostitutes and smoking dope.
The country is enveloped in a frenzy of political rallies in which our president appears to talk about his vision. I hear the masses chanting: Our man, our man, General of the Armies is here! We’ve been listening to his vision for the past 25 years. I sincerely hope that he does not go blind since it looks like this country’s past, present and future is to survive on that vision.
I do not attend the rallies, of course. I sit under an acacia tree polishing my collection of poems from the bush. I am one of a million graduates floating without a job, my army allowance run out two years ago—three quarters of it was accidentally banked on the army paymasters’ account, and father of all scandals; there is nothing, absolutely nothing in my social savings security fund! Someone utilised that money, which was supposed to have been accumulating over the years in the name of private investment scheme that turned out a hoax. And nothing has been done to the culprits. In fact, there are no culprits, we are told. The SSSF board has told us that we were to be wise and keep our money where it is safe. Arcadia! Nothing here makes sense but we are trying to live through the interval until we come to the right pathway.
I am discovering that being a poet is not bad at all, especially if it’s a poet with the heart of a revolutionary. God bless that heart, it hasn’t died yet. But, oh, how I weep to remember.
Kenya: Former anti-corruption czar speaks
It was once a relatively stable African success story. Now Kenya has descended in to the sort of chaos which has often bedevilled many of its neighbours. The cause is December's disputed re-election of President Mwai Kibaki. African leaders continue to try to mediate. The violent aftermath of the vote has already led to hundreds of deaths. Jonathan Charles talks to John Githongo, who was once in charge of rooting out Kenyan government corruption but is now in self-imposed exile in Britain.
Post Election Violence in Kenya
Since the December elections in Kenya an estimated 600 people have died as a result of the unrest, and another 100,000 at least have been displaced. The violence erupted after incumbent Mwai Kibaki was sworn into office in the midst of acusations that the election was rigged, led by opposition candidate Raila Odinga. International observers have called the election "flawed." In this interview Firoze Manji speaks on post election violence in Kenya as a symptom of long term debates within Kenya surrounding the constitution, and a legacy of Kenya's history under colonialism.
Lesotho: Anti-Chinese sentiment flares
For 14 years, Mathabo Mabekhla was one of Lesotho's most successful entrepreneurs. Her ladies' clothing boutique sold dresses, blouses and slacks imported from neighbouring South Africa, and boasted a client base that included cabinet ministers and their wives. But dwindling sales forced her to shut down last year, for which she blames the country's growing community of Chinese retailers. "Chinese are selling very cheap and not good quality things, and they are killing Basotho businesses," said Mabekhla, 59.
MDC president arrested!
On 23 January 2008, at 0400 hours, plain clothed police officers from Harare Central police station, Law and Order section raided the home of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) president Morgan Tsangirai and arrested him. He was interrogated for more than four hours before being released at around 0800 hours. According to their lawyers, the police wanted assurance from the MDC president that there will be no disturbances in Harare in light of the party’s proposed Freedom March
The SADC-initiated talks: A let-down for most Zimbabweans - ZEF
From South Africa , the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) has today, 23.01.08 issued a press statement entitled 'The SADC Initiated Talks: A Let Down for Most Zimbabweans'. ZEF calls upon President Mbeki to give a frank indication of who is responsible for the failure of the talks when reporting back to the SADC Troika. It urges him to do everything in his power to deal with the stumbling block and salvage the negotiations and ensure Zimbabweans in the Diaspora get the
opportunity to vote in the forthcoming elections.
Police arrest and assault opposition demonstrators
Police assaulted several supporters of Zimbabwe's political opposition en route to a rally outside Harare city centre on Wednesday. Police used teargas against the demonstrators who were travelling from the city centre to the venue for the rally, organised by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The MDC rally at Glamis Stadium had been authorised by the Magistrates Court. It has been reported that between 1,000 and 3,000 MDC supporters attended the rally.
Civil groups to set common agenda for resolving Zimbabwe crisis
A broad coalition of civil society organisations has convened what they are calling the People’s Convention, which will take place on Friday and Saturday in Harare. The aim is to assess the critical situation the people of Zimbabwe are facing, and map the way forward in resolving the political crisis that has crippled the country. The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the umbrella National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO) are among the groups involved.
AU Monitor Weekly Roundup
Issue 121, 2008
This week's AU Monitor brings you news and updates from the 10th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government. As the Heads of State convene for the 10thAfrican Union Summit, Chrysantus Ayangafac provides an in-depth analysis of the structure, operation, and capabilities of the organization in relation to the continent's peace and security agenda. Further, the AU's Second Session of "Friday at the Commission" recently held a discussion with the theme: “Chinese presence in Africa: An opportunity or an obstacle to the development of Africa?" to discuss Sino-African cooperation.
Also, the second African Private Sector Forum under the theme "Africa's Industrial Drive: The Private Sector and Corporate Citizenship" recently took place at the AU headquarters. The objective of this Forum was to "sensitize the African population on the available investment opportunities as well as the promotion of good governance and mobilization of professional know-how in the business world as promoted by the United Nations Global Compact". Lastly, the AU is working to strengthen economic integration in Africa with the development of three premier financial institutions within the organization and the creation of a pan-African stock exchange. In peace and security news, United Nations and AU envoys for the Darfur peace process continue to encourage a comprehensive peace accord in the region and are "hopeful that peace talks regarding the Sudanese region can reconvene soon".
Further, the AU Commission recently gave US$600,000 to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) as a sign of solidarity and "recommitment to solving the problem of forced displacement in Africa". In development news, African negotiators at the Development Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations are concerned they might be completely marginalized from the negotiations this year; and that their development concerns and the issue of rural livelihoods will not be addressed.
Also, the African Development Bank (AfDB) pledges to be Africa's premier continental development bank and serve as an African voice on development internationally. Lastly, a 13-member Independent High Level Panel of the AfDB released a report entitled "Investing in Africa's Future: The AfDB in the 21st Century", which calls for a "greater focus on areas that contribute directly to increasing African productive capacity and economic integration: investing in infrastructure, building capable states, promoting the private sector and developing skills".
In regional news, thirteen African countries are planning to form a common land policy and develop a common framework on land use in their respective nations to "strengthen land rights, enhance productivity and secure livelihoods among the citizens".
AU Deepens Africa's Economic Integration (PANA) - Africa's premier investment banking institution is expected to be formally launched within 24 months to provide the much-needed capital to finance infrastructural development in Africa, especially the construction of cross-border highways and the creation of telecommunication links.
AU Supports UNHCR Activities(Daily Monitor) - The African Union Commission recently donated US$ 600,000 to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) programs in four African countries.
The Private Sector and Corporate Citizenship Press Release - The second African Private Sector Forum begins Tuesday 22 January 2008, at the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, under the theme: " Africa's Industrial Drive: The Private Sector and Corporate Citizenship". The theme of the Forum ties with the theme of the 10th Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly : "Industrial Development of Africa".
AfDB: Africa's Premier Development Institution Press Release - Given the huge development challenges it faces, Africa, more than any other region, needs a premier continental development bank, an Independent High Level Panel on the Bank Group says in a report released on Tuesday in Tunis.
Update on Darfur Peace Process (BuaNews) - The United Nations and African Union envoys for the Darfur peace process said they are hopeful that peace talks regarding the Sudanese region can reconvene soon.
WTO Trade Negotiations Aileen Kwa (IPS) - African negotiators are concerned that their development concerns have been sidelined in the much vaunted Doha Development Round of negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Whether the round, which has missed two previous deadlines, will be concluded this year or not depends on several issues.
AU Under Scrutiny Chrysantus Ayangafac (ISS Today) - The inception of the AU in 2002 was greeted with much fanfare and optimism. Though there was sceptism, even ardent Afro-pessimists conceded that the AU marked a significant paradigm shift with regards to conflict prevention and management, thus providing the continent with a plausible chance of solving its problems. As Heads of State and Government convene in Addis Ababa in 31st January - 2nd February 2008 for the 10th AU Summit, the organisation is at a critical juncture. Almost seven year down the road, the organisation has had mixed results. While the desirability of the organisation in not in dispute, its structure and operation have come under intense scrutiny over the years.
AfDB in 21st Century Press Release - "We believe the ADB can, and must become the premier development institution in Africa, providing a strong voice for- and within- Africa, so that Africans can take their rightful place at the forefront of continental economic stewardship".
Sino-African Cooperation Discussion Press Release - The theme: "Chinese presence in Africa: An opportunity or an obstacle to the development of Africa?", will be at the centre of discussions during the Second Session of the "Friday of the Commission" debates scheduled to take place on Friday 18 January 2008 from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm at the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Regional Countries Common Land Policy Innocent Gahigana (New Times) - Thirteen African countries intend to forge a common land policy, the Registrar of Land Tittles in the Ministry of Lands and Environment, Eugene Rurangwa has said.
DRC: Rapists roam the streets
Rape and other forms of sexual violence remain prevalent in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), despite the cessation of military activities and the disarmament of militias in the region, according to aid workers. Before, this was mainly attributed to men in uniform, but now civilians comprise a significant number of the perpetrators.
Madagascar: Women in parliament
Ms Aurelie Razafinjato, elected for the Vohibato constituency following the September 23 2007 Legislative Elections, speaks. The new lawmaker participated in the EISA capacity building programme for women in politics in Madagascar.
Malawi: Baseline report on school-related gender-based violence
This Student and Teacher Baseline Report on School-Related Gender-Based Violence in Machinga District, Malawi details the methodology, population characteristics, and results of a recently conducted survey on gender-based physical, psychological and sexual violence at schools including in the classroom and on the school grounds as well as going to and from school.
Somalia: Rapes left to clan justice
The Somalia town of Galkayo is known as a refuge from the violence to the south. But girls and women who are separated from their clans know little safety: An 8-year-old was raped and her mother must keep working with the man who did it.
West Africa: Taylor trial ‘historic’ in ending impunity, says prosecutor
The Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) has stressed the “historic” importance of the war crimes trial of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor in signalling an end to impunity, even at the highest level. Mr. Taylor is facing 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law – including mass murder, mutilations, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers – for his role in the decade-long civil war that engulfed Sierra Leone, which borders Liberia. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.
Africa: FIDH open letter to AU Summit
On the occasion of the 10th African Union summit, the Executive Council will analyze the status of current negotiations of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) would like to seize this opportunity to draw the attention of African heads of state and government to the potential adverse effects of these agreements on social and economic rights in African countries, in particular on the human right to food, the right to health, the right to work and the right to development.
Sudan: Outcry over appointment
A man accused of co-ordinating atrocities in Darfur has been named as a senior adviser to Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president. Washington says that Musa Hilal is the leader of the Janjawid Arab militia blamed for much of the violence in the western province. The UN has imposed a travel ban on him for his alleged role in the atrocities.
Southern Africa: Over 120,000 displaced by flooding - UN
The number of people displaced by recent flooding in southern Africa has nearly doubled in less than a week from 70,000 to more than 120,000, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said. Unusually early torrential rains in the Zambezi river basin led to widespread flooding in Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe in recent weeks.
DRC: UNHCR cautiously welcomes North Kivu peace deal
The UN refugee agency has welcomed a peace agreement signed this week by rival warring groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) but warned that the accord would not solve all the problems immediately. UNHCR attended the conference and witnessed the signing Wednesday in Goma, capital of the troubled North Kivu province. UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres had earlier said in a message to the conference that the gathering "represents a big step in the search for a lasting peace."
South Africa: Is South Africa doing enough for Zimbabwean migrants?
This document published by the Forced Migration Studies Programme, University of the Witwatersrand, examines South Africa’s response to people fleeing from political crises and economic deprivation in one of its immediate neighbours. It also tests prominent claims made about the nature and scope of migration. The authors conclude that the South African government, media, and civil society should dedicate the material and intellectual resources necessary to develop a human and effective response to the continued arrival of Zimbabweans in South Africa.
Senegal: Lack of basics blocks return of war-weary displaced
Despite a lingering landmine threat, families who years ago fled fighting in Senegal’s southern Casamance region are slowly trying to return to their home villages. But a lack of water – for drinking and for building homes – is keeping many away. With some villages abandoned for 15 years, wells have collapsed or are full of debris. Entire communities have been swallowed up in dense bush, and homes and other buildings which are mostly made of mud-brick have been wiped out.
Chad: Mixed verdicts on coordination of massive relief effort
It is a question almost as old as the aid industry itself: How to avoid waste and inefficiency when dozens of humanitarian agencies are working alongside each other in a rapidly evolving emergency? Two years ago the key humanitarian policy decision making body, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, endorsed the cluster approach, the UN’s answer to the problem.
Nigeria: Assassination of trade unionist
The TUC General Council, expresses shock and outrage at the brutal murder of Mr Alhaji Saula Saka, Lagos State Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) on 6 January 2008. Our information is that Mr Saka was shot at his home in Iyana Ipaja on the evening of 6 January 2008 by four men and that he succumbed to his injuries at the Lagos State University Hospital in Ikeja at 9.30pm. Mr Saka's brother is of the view that his death was directly linked to his trade union leadership.
Global: Wsf bulletin January 18th
As the Global Day of Action and Mobilization in January 26th approaches, the number of participants in WSF 2008 international journey increases. Men and women from all over the world will take the streets, promote discussions, protests, music concerts, video exhibitions and several other activities to show that another world is possible and necessary.
CAR: Government resigns amid strike
The Central African Republic's prime minister and his government have resigned amid a general strike by unions demanding the payment to civil servants of months of salary arrears. Elie Dote, who became prime minister in 2005, announced his resignation on Friday as parliament prepared to vote on a censure motion against him.
Kenya: Kibaki, an imposition of the West, says Rawlings
Former Ghanaian President, Jerry Rawlings, has said that the violence that erupted in Kenya over alleged rigging of the election by the incumbent President, Mwai Kibaki, is a protest against neo-colonialism and the imposition of leadership by the West. According to him, Kenyans do not want to go through the same kind of experience again hence their insistence on change.
Africa: The AU and unconstitutional changes of government
this article by Chidi Anselm Odinkalu sets out the legal foundations and principles that should inform the decisions of the AU and international community in responding to the allegations and issues arising from the current situation in Kenya.
Tunisia: Opposition leader announces 2009 election aspirations
In a rare interview with local media, Progressive Democratic Party Secretary-General Maya Jribi announced her intentions to participate in Tunisia's 2009 presidential and legislative elections. The interview, published Monday (January 21st) in Le Temps, surprised many readers with its boldness. It circulated quickly over the Internet, as it is rare that local newspapers give the PDP the opportunity to express its positions on domestic affairs.
West Africa: Gambia holds local elections
Over 350,000 Gambians have returned to the polls to elect their local government representatives - exactly a year after the country held national assembly polls. This time voters will elect mayors, municipal chairpersons and councillors. Already, 55 of the 114 wards have been declared unopposed. A total of 266 observers have been accredited to monitor the polls, the electoral commission Chairman, Mustapha Carayol, said.
Global: World Bank to beef up anti-corruption unit
The World Bank said on Wednesday it would adopt recommendations by a panel led by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker to beef up its main corruption fighting unit. The World Bank, the globe's main poverty-fighting institution, has come under fire from member countries and U.S. lawmakers for not taking sufficient measures to root out corruption in development projects financed by the bank
Nigeria: Government to scrap immunity for politicians - Yar'Adua
Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua has said he supports ending immunity from prosecution for top political office holders in one of the world's most corrupt countries, although he has given no timetable to do so. Nigeria's 1999 constitution, written under military rule just before a transition to democracy, grants immunity to the president and vice president of Africa's biggest oil exporter, as well as the 36 state governors, while they are in office.
Africa: What Africa should do about brain-drain
Brain drain is one of the greatest threats to socio-economic development in Africa. The need to reverse brain drain and re-position Africa in the 21st century cannot be overemphasized. As Africa embarks on a radical project to redeem itself from poverty, underdevelopment, disease, hunger, and backwardness, the problem of brain drain is urgent and merits high-level attention.
Africa: Agricultural techniques for Africa
Africa is a continent in rapid flux. The systems that served it in the pre-colonization era still have deep roots. Although the old systems are wanting in serving the needs of a new era, many of the new systems imposed in the advent of the colonial era have not served the continent well. One of Africa’s greatest challenges is therefore to find compromises between the old and the new that work for it. The Africa of today is a sometimes awkward mix of the old/new and the imported/ indigenous.
Southern Africa: To end power shortages, southern Africa needs to "run while others walk"
As southern Africa enters its second year of crippling energy shortages as accurately predicted by the Southern African Power Pool about four years ago, massive short-term projects of close to US$8 billion will need to be fast tracked over the next couple of years to get the region out of the present situation. Electricity shortages have in recent weeks severely affected some Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states leading to scheduled and, in some cases, unscheduled power cuts.
Southern Africa: Namibia happy with EPA deal -- for now
Namibia held out longer than the majority of its counterparts in Southern Africa before signing the interim economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the European Union, managing in the process to squeeze some concessions from Brussels after intense diplomatic efforts. Namibia and South Africa initially refused to sign in early December, which sent shock waves through the agricultural sector.
Africa: Pro-growth alternatives for monetary and financial policies
The authors of the newest Brief, Robert Pollin, Gerald Epstein and James Heintz of the Political Economy Research Institute, seek to provide viable alternatives to neoliberalism in three major areas: 1) inflation and monetary policy, 2) capital flows, speculation and the exchange rate, and 3) banking systems and access to credit. Their heterodox recommendations include pursuing direct measures against supply-shock inflation, targeting the short-term interest rate instead of the money supply, using capital-management policies to help stabilize the exchange rate, instituting loan-guarantee programmes for small-scale enterprises, and scaling up public development banks.
Kenya: A green wall? Kenya, organics, and "food miles"
A rising concern with personal and environmental health in the world's richer countries is influencing lifestyles and public debate alike. One significant trend is the increase in the consumption of organically grown produce - a significant proportion of which is imported. International trade in organic food and beverages currently has a value of more than £15 billion ($30 billion) per year; the United States, Britain and Germany account for two-thirds of imports.
West Africa: Guinea-Bissau enjoys debt relief
Guinea-Bissau has joined the poor countries that enjoy the debt relief benefit after the Paris Club creditors has agreed to immediately cancel US $180 million of the country's debt, the club announced. As of 1st January 2008, Bissau's stock of debt owed to Paris Club creditors was estimated to be US $830 million.
Rwanda: Mass circumcision
In their attempts to reduce the rate of HIV/AIDS infection in the country, Rwanda authorities have voluntarily asked all uncircumcised men to be circumcised. Health experts proved that circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexual infection of the disease. Most people wonder how the government will succeed in its new campaign, especially in a pre-dominantly Christian society where very few people go through the operation.
Botswana: Extremely dangerous TB strain detected
Two cases of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) have been confirmed in Botswana, health officials said. "The two cases were picked up during a routine survey for multidrug- resistant TB (MDR-TB)," Setshwano Mokgweetsinyana of the Department of Public Health, told IRIN. The survey also confirmed 100 cases of MDR-TB.
South Africa: Attending secondary school might help reduce the risk of HIV
Attending secondary school might help reduce the risk of HIV among youth in rural South Africa, according to a study published in the February issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the South African Press Association reports. James Hargreaves of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit and colleagues from the Wits School of Public Health examined the behavior and HIV prevalence among 916 young men and 1,003 young women ages 14 to 25 in rural South Africa.
Algeria: NGO helps HIV-positive Algerians battle workplace discrimination
Cast out by their families and often fired for no valid reason, Algerians with HIV/AIDS are turning to NGOs for help. The El Hayet Association for People Living with HIV has been working since 1998 to dispel taboos about the illness and help HIV-positive men and women find ways of earning a living.
Kenya: UNHCR reaches the neediest in countryside
When UNHCR staff arrived in the market town of Mogotio in western Kenya earlier this week they found some 500 people sleeping in the grounds of the police station without shelter, blankets or basic supplies. The UN refugee agency has found similar scenes in other parts of Rift Valley Province since violence between rival communities swept through the area after the December 30 presidential election. In recent days UNHCR has been able to reach out to the most vulnerable in the countryside as the prospect of stability returns.
Africa: Working with the media to fight malaria
AZUR Development and the Reseau Sida Afrique based in Congo which includes 230 institutional and individual members in 17 African francophone countries. The project aims to set up a media campaign and system of alert on malaria and the creation of a partnership between the press and member organizations of the Africa AIDS Network in 10 countries, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Mali, Togo, Ivory Coast, Niger, Djibouti, Cameroon, and Benin.
South Africa: Government urge to introduce PMTCT
South African AIDS activists have called on doctors and nurses to act in the best interests of HIV-positive pregnant women and their unborn children by not waiting any longer for an official directive to switch from single antiretroviral (ARV) treatmentto more effective dual treatment for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT).
Algeria: High school students protest new curriculum
After widespread demonstrations on Saturday (January 19th), Algerian high school students called for a strike on January 27th over education reforms they claim are unreasonable. Prompted by a teachers' strike that paralysed schools on January 15th, the students are protesting the implementation of a new curriculum for students preparing for their baccalaureate examinations. Students in their final year claim the new syllabus is overloaded and that they may be unable to finish their coursework before taking the baccalaureate exams.
South Africa: Muslim gays labeled traitors
The Inner Circle, a Muslim gay rights organisation, is dismayed after declaration by the Ulema body of the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) that any Muslim who believes that homosexuality is acceptable is regarded by the Muslim community as apostate.
This was said at an emergency meeting with full assembly of the MJC on 22 November last year, where the Ulema body said the decision was based on the Shariah Law and the Muslim way of life throughout the ages taught by all Holy prophets, and it is in the Holy Scriptures.
Uganda: Unacceptable police brutality against LGBTI activists at CHOGM
The Pan African ILGA, a body representing 41 movements of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and intersexual people in Africa has written to the Commonwealth complaining about the behaviour of the Ugandan police towards LGBTI activists in Kampala during the Comonwealth Head of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kampala last November.
Cameroon: Accused homosexuals get maximum sentence and fine
A Regional Court in Douala (Cameroon) sentenced three men accused of homosexuality to a maximum sentence of six months in prison and fined them 50.000 Francs (R700) each and another 27.000 Francs (R378) for legal expenses. These three men were among the nine arrested in August last year on charges of homosexuality and they only appeared in court for the first time on 2 January this year.
Africa: Africa's role in the climate change agenda
According to the World Bank, climate change effects will impact on the world’s poor countries and Africa composes the majority of this category. It is therefore critical that African leaders are at the fore front in addressing these issues. The Western world by far has an upper hand in looking into climate change because they also not only have developed high-tech climate and weather systems but they have the necessary technical expertise to address climate change issues also.
Nigeria: Conference report: Promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency
This is the full report of the conference “Promoting Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in Nigeria” which held on the 21 November, 2007 at the University of Calabar Hotel and Conference Centre, Calabar, Nigeria. The conference was organized by the Community Research and Development Centre (CREDC), with support from the Global Greengrants Funds (GGF) and the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) to create awareness on renewable energy and energy efficiency in Nigeria; and to enhance stakeholders’ capacity to advocate for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Global: UN warns biofuels could fuel deforestation, land disputes
The world's rush to embrace biofuels is causing a spike in the price of corn and other crops and could worsen water shortages and force poor communities off their land, a U.N. official said Wednesday. Speaking at a regional forum on bioenergy, Regan Suzuki of the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization acknowledged that biofuels are better for the environment than fossil fuels and boost energy security for many countries.
Global: Climate change to hit health above economy - study
Climate change will have potentially devastating consequences for human health, outweighing global economic impacts, researchers said on Friday, calling for urgent action to protect the world's population. "While we embark on more rapid reduction of emissions to avert future climate change, we must also manage the now unavoidable health risks from current and pending climate change," said Australian researcher Tony McMichael, who co-authored a study in the British Medical Journal.
Zimbabwe: A study on children's property rights
This study focuses on the social protection aspects of children’s property and inheritance rights in southern and eastern Africa. It discusses the relationship between HIV and AIDS and agriculture, food security, and rural livelihoods (including children’s property and inheritance rights). It also considers factors that render children’s property rights more vulnerable than adults’ property rights. The paper reviews literature on social protection of children, emphasizing historical developments, types of child social protection, and recipients and providers of child social protection.
Global: Survey of NGO views on World Bank assistance for land reform
This is an invitation to NGOs to register for a short on-line survey (10 minutes) launched by the World Bank's Independent Evaluation Group (IEG). The survey is being conducted by IEG to get the feedback from NGOs on the Bank's work on land reform, policy and administration in client countries. IEG is an independent unit of the World Bank Group (which reports directly to the Board of Directors) established to review systematically and comprehensively, after project completion, all Bank lending operations, and to evaluate their contribution to the development process in member countries.
Global: Access to rural land and land administration after violent conflicts - An FAO document
Secure access to land is a crucial factor in the eradication of hunger and poverty. Providing secure access to land is frequently not easy, and it is particularly complex in situations following violent conflicts. Getting the answer right can go directly to the matter of achieving sustainable peace. Addressing emergency humanitarian needs after a conflict requires finding places for people to live in the short-term under conditions that provide safety for them and which do not threaten the rights to land of others.
Botswana: Mine 'consultation' process fatally flawed
Representatives from the consultancy firm Marsh Environmental Services have begun a whirlwind twelve-day consultation programme in and around the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), in Botswana. The move is part of plans to develop a $2.2 billion diamond mine within the reserve. In what has since been ruled an unlawful and unconstitutional act, in 2002 the Botswana government removed more than 600 Bushmen from the CKGR without their consent.
Chad: IFJ calls for end to media repression
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called on the Chadian authorities to end a wave of media repression, which started in November 2006 in the wake of violent conflict in the eastern part of the country and has most recently been seen in the detention and intimidation of media executives.
Niger: Two French journalists granted bail
The Niamey magistrate court trying two French journalists accused of “underming state security” of Niger, on January 18, 2008 granted them bail. The court ordered Thomas Dandois and Pierre Creisson, journalist and cameraman respectively of French German Television (ARTE), to pay an amount of 10 million CFA francs (about 22, 360 US$) each before they would be released.
Niger UPDATE: Two French Journalists granted bail
The Niamey magistrate court trying two French journalists accused of “underming state security” of Niger, on January 18, 2008 granted them bail.
The court ordered Thomas Dandois and Pierre Creisson, journalist and cameraman respectively of French German Television (ARTE), to pay an amount of 10 million CFA francs (about 22, 360 US$) each before they would be released.
The two journalists were arrested and detained on December 17, 2007. Four days later on December 21, they were sent to prison.
The Nigerien authorities accused the journalists of violating the blackout on the activities of the Tuareg’s Nigerien People’s Movement for Justice (MNJ).
Prof. Kwame Karikari
Executive Director MFWA
Tel: 233 21 242470
Fax: 233 21 221084
Email : email@example.com
Website : www.mediafound.org
Somalia: IFJ calls for release of detained journalists
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)has called for the release of three journalists who have been arrested in the last three weeks and held without charges after two other journalists who had also been detained by Somali authorities were freed in the last 24 hours.
Gambia: Gambian authorities suspends RFI
Gambia authorities on January 15, 2008 indefinitely suspended the broadcast of Radio France International (RFI) in Banjul for airing what they referred to as an “erroneous news story". A release from the Department of State for Communications, Information and Technology, six days after the closure on January 21 in explaining government’s action said the decision was in line with the professional ethics of the media in The Gambia.
Gambia ALERT: Gambia authorities suspend RFI
Gambia authorities on January 15, 2008 indefinitely suspended the broadcast of Radio France International (RFI) in Banjul for airing what they referred to as an “erroneous news story". A release from the Department of State for Communications, Information and Technology, six days after the closure on January 21 in explaining government’s action said the decision was in line with the professional ethics of the media in The Gambia. RFI was taken off air, following its reports that some Mauritanians accused of killing four French nationals have fled to Guinea Bissau through The Gambia. The RFI news bulletins are broadcast in Gambia through, the government-controlled Radio Gambia.
The release also said the Department has issued a rejoinder to the suspended RFI.
MFWA condemns this latest suspension which is a clear manifestation of President Yahya Jammeh’s govermenent’s intolerance of critical media.
Two years ago, it revoked the licence of Sud FM saying that allowing it to broadcast would jeopardize relations between The Gambia and its neighbours.
On February 7, 1998 the government also forcibly shut down Citizen FM and stationed armed guards on its premises. Its proprietor, the late Baboucarr Gaye was arrested together with his news editor, Ebrima Sillah, and detained for several days at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in Banjul. Gaye was later charged under a 1913 telegraphic law for allegedly operating a radio station without a valid licence. However the proprietor denied this. The 1913 act is an archaic colonial law that was passed before the advent of radio in The Gambia.
Prof. Kwame Karikari
Executive Director MFWA
Tel: 233 21 242470
Fax: 233 21 221084
Kenya: Government ban on live broadcasting
Statement by the Kenya Editors’ Guild
Like all our compatriots, we (the Kenya Editors Guild) are concerned by the crisis facing our country. The genesis of this national tragedy is within public knowledge. As editors watching events unfold in this country, we believe the government is duty bound to expeditiously find a solution to the stand off which is costing lives, untold human suffering and damaging the prospects of a country long viewed as an island of peace and stability.
DRC: IFJ calls for release of journalist
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called on the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to release the journalist Maurice Kayombo, who has been held for two weeks on charges of “blackmail and disparaging an official,” after the Secretary General of the Mining Ministry filed a complaint against him.
CAR: Prosecutor urged to drop criminal defamation charge against journalist
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called on the Prosecutor of Bangui in the Central African Republic to withdraw a criminal suit against journalist Faustin Bambou who is facing charges of "inciting to public disorder and to revolt, defamation and insults" stemming from an article he wrote accusing government officials of accepting money from a French nuclear company.
Lesotho: IPI calls for charges against journalist to be dropped
The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, calls for all charges against Lesotho journalist Thabo Thakalekoala to be dropped. These charges include High Treason, a charge that carries the death penalty. According to information before IPI, Thakalekoala was arrested on 22 June 2007, shortly after completing a morning broadcast for Harvest FM Radio.
Zambia: Court backs satirist
The Supreme Court in Zambia has rejected the government's demands to deport a British satirists, Roy Clarke, for reportedly insulting the Zambian President, Levy Mwanawasa in 2004. Clarke, a satirical columnist of the privately owned daily 'The Post', was pursued by the state after he had referred President Mwanawasa as "mawelewele", meaning "a foolish elephant" as well as named two of his ministers "baboons".
DRC: Rebels sign peace accord
Fighters loyal to Laurent Nkunda, a renegade general, have signed a peace deal with the government of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and an armed tribal group. Joseph Kabila, the DRC president, attended the signing in Goma, the capital of eastern North Kivu province, which has suffered heavy fighting in recent months. The accord on Wednesday followed two weeks of negotiations.
Sudan: Distrust 'main obstacle to Darfur talks'
Distrust of the Sudanese government due to a string of broken promises is the biggest obstacle to planned talks to end the five-year-old conflict, the top U.S. diplomat in Sudan said. U.S. Charge D'Affaires Alberto Fernandez said a political crisis over stalled implementation of Sudan's separate north-south peace deal and other unfulfilled commitments would directly affect Darfur peace talks due in the coming months.
Sudan: Weaknesses exposed in Darfur peacekeeping force
On Jan. 7, military forces from the Sudanese government opened fire on a convoy of peacekeepers in Darfur. Although the government denies that the attack was intentional, it has thrown into question the capability of UNAMID, the joint U.N.-African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in the region, to keep the peace. "Right now, the mission is extremely vulnerable," says Sam Ibok, chief AU negotiator for Darfur told IPS.
Kenya: No let-up in the killing
A month after its disputed presidential election, Kenya remains deeply divided and unstable. Politically motivated killings, hackings and gang rapes continue in the towns and in volatile country districts. The economy is faltering. The latest bigwig to attempt to mediate between the government of President Mwai Kibaki and the opposition Orange Democratic Movement of Raila Odinga is a former UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, who arrived in Nairobi on January 22nd.
Mozambique: Forecast of heavy rain threatens thousands living on temporary islands
Heavy rain is forecast and floodwaters in Mozambique are likely to rise again, the international anti-poverty charity ActionAid has warned. Water levels in the Zambezi valley could rise above the peak they reached on 10 January, the agency said, and 200,000 people could be affected if the heavy rain forecast for Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique from 26 January materialises.
Horn of Africa: Ethiopia rejects virtual border
Ethiopia has dismissed a "virtual" demarcation of its border with Eritrea, just a day after Asmara accepted the move by an independent boundary commission. The two nations have been deadlocked in a dispute over their 1,000km border since a 2002 decision by the Hague-based commission gave the flashpoint town of Badme to Eritrea.
Kenya: Spaces of hope
"We cannot stop life for the sake of two people who are not in agreement" said a twenty-three year old Kenyan woman in Nairobi. The two men in question - Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga - both claim to have been elected president in the national vote on 27 December 2007. The incumbent Kibaki was sworn into a second term of office, and Odinga publicly challenges the legitimacy of the vote count.
Somalia: Militias spread wings
A report issued by the outgoing AU Commission Chairman, Alpha Oumar Konare, said anti-government militias in the country had spread their tentacles to less violent places - Middle and Lower Juba. The militias are taking advantage of the transitional government's inability to deploy troops to all the regions. Its actions are calculated to destabilize the country and in the process weaken the government.
Africa: Africa enters the age of mobile content
News Update concentrates all its coverage on what happens in Africa. But this week we have to describe events elsewhere because as all too often happens, key decisions that will affect the continent are happening elsewhere. Unless something fairly radical happens in the next 12-18 months, the development of mobile content revenues on the continent will be shaped by the “hand-me-down” attitudes and technologies of others. Russell Southwood seeks to explain.
Uganda: ICT: An important tool in poverty reduction
A survey commissioned by DENIVA (Development Networks of Indigenous Voluntary Associations) and I-Network (Information Network) in May - June 2007, in Uganda, has shown a close link between ICT and poverty reduction. The countrywide survey indicates that developments of ICTs tend to increase income inequality within a country and it requires relatively good education and special skills to make full use of it
East Africa: Is EASSy dead in the water?
Apart from a few promises from the EASSy consortium not much seems to be happening with the submarine cable project. The East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) has long been punted as the solution to East Africa’s international bandwidth woes – promising to bring affordable fiber connectivity to one of most bandwidth starved areas in the world. The project last year gained support from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank.
Egypt: Govenrment makes ICTs a developmental priority
The Egyptian government has made information and communications technologies (ICTs) a developmental priority and has modernised and upgraded the sector’s infrastructure, services, regulations and human resource capacity. Egypt had an antiquated ICT infrastructure until the early 1990s. People waited sometimes for years to have fixed phone lines installed, and the old copper infrastructure made connections unstable.
Africa: Showcasing African visual arts
A recent seminar held by the Zimbabwean Visual Arts Association revealed that many of the Zimbabwean visual artists hardly use the internet as a way of promoting their artwork to overseas buyers. Fortunately web initiatives such as African Colours (http://www.africancolours.net/) try to fill that gap and offer the possibility to upcoming and confirmed visual artists to showcase their work for a very low fee.
Call for papers - International Journal of Computing and ICT Research (IJCIR)
The International Journal of Computing and ICT Research (IJCIR) [ an African journal ], with two issues a year, invites authors (especially African Scholars) to submit their original and unpublished work that communicates current research on computing and ICT both the theoretical and methodological aspects, as well as various applications in real world problems from science, technology, business or commerce.
The 2008-2009 King Baudouin International Development Prize
The King Baudouin Foundation invites nominations of candidates for the 2008-2009 King Baudouin International Development Prize.The Prize, worth 150,000 euros, is awarded every other year by the Foundation's Board of Governors. Beyond its actual financial value, the Prize provides winners international visibility and publicity, with the main agents of development in particular, such as the United Nations and its specialised agencies, the World Bank, the European Union and a number of bilateral development agencies, the world of foundations or international NGOs. Application Deadline: 1 February 2008
Global: Fundraising and resource mobilization - Fahamu & University of Oxford
Fahamu is a pan African organization committed to building a strong human rights and social justice movement. In a unique collaboration between Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education, Fahamu is pleased to announce a course on Fundraising and resource mobilization. This distance-learning course will run for 15 weeks from the 24th March, 2008. Cost per person for this course is STG 400. The course is based on the provision of well-designed interactive training materials on CDROM with a tutor who facilitates the course through email discussions. Booking deadline: March 14, 2008. For more information on these and other Fahamu courses, including how to enroll, call us on 020 2 319 635/6 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org More information can be found on our websites www.fahamu.org and www.pambazuka.org
Global: International Forum on Civil Society & Aid Effectiveness
The Advisory Group on Civil Society and Aid Effectiveness (the AG) has mandated CCIC (the Canadian Council for International Co-operation) to organize an AG International Forum in Gatineau, Québec, on 3-6 February 2008, on the roles of civil society organizations (CSOs) as development actors within the current Aid Effectiveness Agenda. The AG is a body created by the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the OECD.
Global: Investigating and monitoring on human rights violations - Fahamu & University of Oxford
Fahamu is a pan African organisation committed to building a strong human rights and social justice movement. In a unique collaboration between Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education, Fahamu is pleased to announce a course on Investigating and monitoring human rights violations. This facilitated workshop-based training will run from the 23 April 2008 to 4th May 2008 (2 weeks). Cost per person for this course is USD 1,000 per week. Participants will in addition get a CDROM of the distance learning course ABSOLUTELY FREE for personal study and reference. Booking deadline: February 8, 2008. For more information on these and other Fahamu courses, including how to enroll, call us on 020 2 319 635/6 or email us on email@example.com More information can be found on our websites www.fahamu.org and www.pambazuka.org
Global: Leadership and Mangement for Change - Fahamu & University of Oxford
Fahamu is a pan African organisation committed to building a strong human rights and social justice movement. In a unique collaboration between Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education, Fahamu is pleased to announce a course on Leadership and Management for Change. This facilitated workshop will run from the 4th-8th February 2008 in Nairobi. Cost per person for this course is Kshs 85,000.00. Participants will, in addition, get a CDROM of the distance learning course ABSOLUTELY FREE for personal study and reference. Booking deadline: January 30, 2008 (very few spaces remaining. For more information on these and other Fahamu courses, including how to enroll, call us on 020 2 319 635/6 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org More information can be found on our websites www.fahamu.org and www.pambazuka.org
Global: The Power of Movements: 11th AWID International Forum
From November 14-18, 2008, up to 1,500 women's rights activists from around the world will gather in Cape Town, South Africa to discuss the issue of building stronger women's movements globally.
The Transatlantic post-doctoral fellowship for international relations and security (TAPIR)
The Transatlantic Post-Doctoral Fellowship for International Relations and Security is open to candidates who have recently received their doctorate in social and political sciences or economics and whose research focuses on topics of international relations and security. The application deadline is 15 February 2008.
Uganda: Talking compounds II - International Workshop
Talking compounds is a project aimed at mobilising communities, especially school going children, to identify development issues and concerns in their communities. This year's project to be held in Uganda will involve six International and six Ugandan artists. It will be held between the months of March-April 2008. The artists will attend a monthly market day, visit homes, conduct activities with schools, health centers, administrative units and group excursions. Interested artists please send your application to email@example.com not later than 31 January 2008.
Global: Project Officer - Violence against women
The United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women is seeking a project officer to support follow up to the Secretary-General’s in-depth study on all forms of violence against women (A/61/122/Add 1 and Corr 1) and General Assembly resolution A/RES/61/143 on “Intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women. Expressions of interest, together with a CV and a brief (5 pages) writing sample, should be sent not later than 11 February 2008.
Elimination of all forms of violence against women
TERMS OF REFERENCE PROJECT OFFICER VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
The United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women is seeking a project officer to support follow up to the Secretary-General’s in-depth study on all forms of violence against women (A/61/122/Add 1 and Corr 1) and General Assembly resolution A/RES/61/143 on “Intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women” (see below).
Under the supervision of the Chief of the Women’s Rights Section in the Division for the Advancement of Women, the incumbent performs the following duties and responsibilities in follow-up to the Study, and General Assembly resolution A/RES/61/143: (1) Conceptualize, and provide guidance in designing and maintaining a database on violence against women;
(2) Research and identify information for inclusion in the database;
(3) Organize expert meetings and undertake consultative processes aimed at strengthening the knowledge base and proposing further policy and programme responses for action by different stakeholders;
(4) Undertake research and analysis on various aspects of violence against women, with a focus on emerging issues, inter-sectionalities and particular groups of women, develop policy recommendations in response to gaps and challenges identified, and prepare briefings for Member States and other stakeholders thereon;
(5) Propose ways to strengthen attention to violence against women in all its forms in relevant inter-governmental processes; (6) Undertake technical cooperation activities and capacity building efforts to strengthen follow-up to the GA resolution at national level, in cooperation in particular with the Regional Commissions;
(7) Collaborate and coordinate work on violence against women with entities of the UN system.
Professionalism: Comprehensive knowledge of gender equality norms, standards and practice, with particular emphasis on violence against women; very good knowledge of institutional mandates, policies and guidelines related to gender equality; strong analytical capacity and ability to identify and analyze proposed norms and policies for compliance with international standards. Leadership: Ability to oversee work of more junior staff in research and analysis, and report writing. Planning and organizing own work and that of others. Communication: Excellent communication (spoken and written) skills, including the ability to convey complex concepts and recommendations at senior levels, both orally and in writing, in a clear, concise style. Teamwork: Very good interpersonal skills and ability to establish and maintain effective working relations and partnerships in a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic environment with sensitivity and respect for diversity. Technological awareness: Good computer skills, including proficiency in word processing, spreadsheets, databases, Internet-based research, web design and other relevant software packages.
Advanced university degree (Masters or equivalent), preferably in law, political science, international relations, gender studies or other disciplines related to gender equality.
At least 7 years of progressively responsible experience in the field of gender equality, particularly in violence against women and women’s human rights, with some experience at regional and/or international level. Experience with databases and web design is highly desirable.
English and French are the working languages of the United Nations Secretariat. For this post, fluency in oral and written English is a requirement. Proficiency in a second official language is desirable.
Excellent drafting skills required. Good knowledge and experience with UN work on gender equality, violence against women, or human rights will be an asset.
HOW TO APPLY
The project officer will be located in the Division for the Advancement of Women in New York and will work under the direct supervision of the Chief of the Women’s Rights Section. S/he must be able to start work as soon as possible, but not later than 1 April 2008.
Expressions of interest, together with a CV and a brief (5 pages) writing sample, should be sent not later than 11 February 2008 by email to Anna Tarant at firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>, or by fax to (1-212) 963 3463, subject: Violence against women – Senior project officer.
Nigeria: Project accountant - NEPWHAN
The Network of People living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN) is the umbrella body that coordinates and administers all organizations, associations and support groups of persons living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. NEPWHAN is inviting applications from qualified candidates for the position of Project Accountant. All applications must be received by the 27th of January.
Job Vacancies at NEPWHAN
The Network of People living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN) is the umbrella body that coordinates and administers all organizations, associations and support groups of persons living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. NEPWHAN, which was formed in 1998 is the largest and most articulate network of people living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria. Over the last 8 years of its existence, the organization has grown in size and complexity and this growing trend is still ongoing.
It is in view of our increasing pressure of work that NEPWHAN is inviting applications from qualified candidates for the following position: -
The Project Accountant is responsible and reports to the Chief Accountant, who is the head of the accounting section of the NEPWHAN secretariat. The primary duty of the selected person will be to ensure that all resources of NEPWHAN and subsidiary organizations are used effectively in support of programme objectives and as directed by the National Coordinator. S/He will ensure that NEPWHAN meets all financial management and compliance requirements of the numerous funding organizations that we collaborate with. The successful candidate will be responsible for developing, in collaboration with relevant staff of our office and those of our partners, financial management and compliance systems in supporting the development of improved financial systems and reporting within partner organizations.
The project accountant takes the lead in all financial reporting and retirements of assigned projects.
Location:Abuja Qualification and Experience:
Candidates applying for this position must possess the following minimum qualifications:
a.. HND or BSc Accounting or recognized equivalents coupled with over 3 years relevant experience in Non Governmental Organization work.
b.. Fair to good knowledge of QuickBooks c.. Excellent Communication Skills d.. Ability to work with minimal supervision e.. Computer literate and familiarity with Microsoft Office, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint Method for Application a.. Applications are to be submitted electronically at firstname.lastname@example.org with copies to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
b.. Applicants should submit a cover letter, one page, stating a clear case of suitability for the advertised position.
c.. Attach detailed curriculum vitae containing a scan passport photograph at the top right corner.
d.. The names of 3 Referees should be included with the application.
e.. All applications must be received within one week of this publication. Late submissions will NOT be considered f..
Only short listed applicants will be contacted.
Women and 'disadvantaged groups' are encouraged to apply
Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice
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