Pambazuka News 381: Europe, underdevelopment and resistance
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
With over 1000 contributors and an estimated 500,000 readers Pambazuka News is the authoritative pan African electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa providing cutting edge commentary and in-depth analysis on politics and current affairs, development, human rights, refugees, gender issues and culture in Africa.
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CONTENTS: 1. Announcements, 2. Features, 3. Comment & analysis, 4. Pan-African Postcard, 5. Letters & Opinions
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Highlights from this issue
FEATURES: Patrick Bond and Richard Kamidza on resistance to the excesses of Western capitalism
ANNOUNCEMENTS: Pambazuka readers on Mandela - invite
COMMENTS AND ANALYSIS:
-- Stephen Marks on Russia's return to the Africa
- Mustafa Adam-Noble on the growing suppression in Egypt
- Samuel Zan Akologo and Rinus van Klinken on uneven development in Ghana
PAN-AFRICAN POSTCARD: Nunu Kidane on how the Eritrean revolution has been betrayed
LETTERS: Readers' comments and announcements
Mandela's 90th Birthday
Send in your comments
Pambazuka News Editors
June 18 marks Nelson Mandela’s 90th Birthday. We are asking you, our readers, to send us your thoughts in a couple of lines on why this anniversary is important for you. We will publish a selection of the best comments received. Please send a sentence or two to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
How Europe underdevelops Africa and how some fight back
Patrick Bond and Richard Kamidza
In even the most exploitative African sites of repression and capital accumulation, sometimes corporations take a hit, and victims sometimes unite on continental lines instead of being divided-and-conquered. Turns in the class struggle might have surprised Walter Rodney, the political economist whose 1972 classic “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” provided detailed critiques of corporate looting.
In early June, the British-Dutch firm Shell Oil – one of Rodney’s targets - was instructed to depart from the Ogoniland region within the Niger Delta, where in 1995 Shell officials were responsible for the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa by Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha. After decades of abuse, women protesters, local NGOs and the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) gave Shell the shove. France’s Total appears next in line, in part because of additional pressure from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta.
Across the continent, exploitation by other European capitalists and politicians has become so extreme that something has to break. Although it was six months ago that the European Union’s ultramanipulative trade negotiator, Peter Mandelson, cajoled 18 weak African leaderships -- including crisis-ridden Cote d’Ivoire, neoliberal Ghana and numerous frightened agro-exporting countries -- into the trap of signing interim “Economic Partnership Agreements” (EPAs), a backlash is now growing.
An Addis Ababa conference from June 9-11 brought officials from the African Union and a few African states together with critical academics and scholar-activists allied to the Council for the Development of Social Science Research (CODESRIA). It’s extremely rare to find genuine coincidence of interests, and even possible strategic agreement, between these camps.
“We can’t continue to deal with incompetent, weak, corrupt, supine governments,” explained Dot Keet of the Alternative Information and Development Centre in Cape Town. “But these are not factors of the same order of magnitude. The domination of African countries by neocolonialism and the subordinate stance by African governments are not the same. We must be clear where the main driving force comes from: outside Africa. We have to tackle the source.”
The conference host, CODESRIA director Adebayo Olukoshi, provided a visionary strategy in the spirit of Nkrumah, calling for a united Africa. Pretoria-based Nigerian academic Omano Edigheji insisted on this happening “in the context of transformative social policies” in the leading countries, in contrast to the Washington Consensus. Added Zambian trade union leader Austin Muneku, “This should be integration from below, by the people and their organisations, not from above by elites.”
From above, many African elites have succumbed to what Olukoshi terms trade-balkanisation, following the lead set by colonial pigs in the 1884-85 Berlin conference that so irrationally carved up the continent. Since 2002, the EPAs have supplanted the agenda of the gridlocked World Trade Organisation, just as bilateral trade deals with the US, China and Brazil are also now commonplace.
A united Europe deals with individual African countries in an especially pernicious way, because aside from free trade in goods, Mandelson last October hinted at other invasive EPA conditions that will decimate national sovereignty: “Our objective remains to conclude comprehensive, full economic partnership agreements. These agreements have a WTO-compatible goods agreement at their core, but also cover other issues.”
Those other “Singapore” issues (named after the site of a 1996 WTO summit) include investment protection (so future policies don’t hamper corporate profits), competition policy (to break local large firms up) and government procurement (to end programmes like South Africa’s affirmative action). These were removed from the WTO by African negotiators during the Cancun summit in 2003, but have re-emerged through EPA bilaterals.
Says Zimbabwean anti-EPA campaigner Nancy Kachingwe, “These are not trade agreements, they’re structural adjustment programmes. It’s about policy and all sorts of other controls, and the impacts are the same.”
Europeans’ regular abuses of donor power include threats of trade preference withdrawal if EPAs are not signed. European capital has made its own needs clear: not only access to cheap commodities, as was enjoyed under the Lomé Convention, but also unrestricted African market access, protection from potential restrictive public policies, and a buffer from Chinese competition.
According to Gyekye Tanoh of Third World Network in Accra, “The key thing for Mandelson is to gain exclusive preferential market access. Europe is gaining 80% of our markets in exchange for what is effectively just 2% of theirs.”
Already, says Tanoh, “The effect of trade liberalisation on African agriculture is a disaster, with only one sector anticipated to grow: agro-processing. That’s the one that most easily invites European capital to scale up investments in joint ventures. Agricultural output would only increase by 1%, our studies show. But the big contradiction is in the export of cash crops, at a time of severe pressure on food products.”
African farmers’ ability to sell on the local market will be undercut by rapid trade liberalisation that opens the way to surges of cheap, often subsidised imports. Women are most adversely affected.
As Walter Rodney observed, “It is typical of underdeveloped economies that they do not -- or are not allowed to -- concentrate on those sectors of the economy which in turn will generate growth and raise production to a new level altogether, and there are very few ties between one sector and another so that, say, agriculture and industry could react beneficially on each other.”
Earlier allegedly “developmental trade” strategies, such as the EU’s “Everything But Arms” deal, haven’t worked, because of strict rules of origin and serious supply-side constraints. There is simply no capacity in African firms to penetrate Europe given this continent’s small production runs and high transport costs.
As Keet suggested, it therefore may be time to question trade itself -- not merely the mythical “export-led growth” shibboleth -- in part because climate change will soon invoke hefty taxes on ships (whose dirty bunker oil sends vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere). Yet EPAs will require an even greater African investment in port infrastructure and other management costs necessary to facilitate trade.
Added Senegalese scholar Cherif Salif Sy, “Most of Africa has an electricity crisis, and yet to get economies of scale for European agro-processing companies if they locate in Dakar, they require vast amounts of electricity. And they come with the power to demand a lower price, which puts much more stress on our grid and causes the price to go up for local buyers, and the supply to be redirected.”
African firms cannot compete in this sector, as they lack the brand names, skills and marketing structures that European companies enjoy. The same firms have also no access to EU support in the forms of straight subsidies, tax incentives, research and development funding or concessional credit.
As a result, African countries face unreliable provision of public utilities (electricity and water); poor public infrastructure (run down roads and railways); rapidly fluctuating exchange rates and high inflation; labour productivity problems arising from poor education, health and housing provision; vulnerable market institutions (such as immature financial systems); and poorly-functioning legal frameworks. The EU has no interest in reversing such fundamental structural economic challenges.
From early on, African civil society movements – especially the African Trade Network - called on elites to halt the negotiations.
But it has not been easy to develop a strong coalition, as Third World Network director Yao Graham concedes: “Unions have been too syndicalist, while our justice movements have been exhausted fighting structural adjustment. The local private sector has been absent. But in some regions, like West Africa, agricultural producers have been well organised and opposed to EPAs. Links to the Caribbean are weak. But we are working behind enemy lines with progressive allies in Europe, including within the Brussels parliament.”
Graham points to the surprising resistance to EPAs from the South African government, especially deputy trade minister Rob Davies – in the wake of the 2004 departure for another ministry by former trade minister Alec Erwin (so effective a free trader that he was once endorsed for WTO director in Foreign Policy journal).
Nigeria is another crucial state, one which is publicly pro-EPA but nevertheless slowed the process down and refused Mandelson’s pressure to sign an interim deal.
According to Graham, “It should be possible to shrink the EPA agenda to nonreciprocal market access to goods, and no more. This we can win in coming months.”
His colleague Tanoh says that inspiration comes to the campaigners from Korea: “The Seoul government is backing down – and cabinet has resigned - when protesters attacked US beef imports, and they reversed their trade deal.”
African social movements will have to strengthen considerably to have that degree of influence on elites. “Can a corrupt government represent you when it negotiates with outside actors?” asks Nairobi-based pan-Africanist intellectual Tajudeen Abdul Raheem. “In most cases their negotiating position is aimed at maximising their personal or familial interests.”
Hence, remarks Bernard Founou-Tchuigoua of the World Forum for Alternatives in Dakar, “In these agreements there is inherent corruption, in their very substance. We don’t want these.”
Rodney might agree, as he criticised “the minority in Africa which serves as the transmission line between the metropolitan capitalists and the dependencies in Africa ... The presence of a group of African sell-outs is part of the definition of underdevelopment. Any diagnosis of underdevelopment in Africa will reveal not just low per capita income and protein deficiencies, but also the gentlemen who dance in Abidjan, Accra and Kinshasa when music is played in Paris, London and New York.” (And now, with EPAs and the WTO, add Brussels and Geneva.)
But because Mandelson is squeezing so hard, he may be single-handedly breaking the links between elites. Led by Senegalese and Malian politicians, most of the African officials at the conference agreed with the left intelligentsia that dangers now arise of: - regional disintegration (due to EU bilateral negotiations and subregional blocs) and internecine race-to-the-bottom competition:
- Threats of not only deindustrialisation but further EU penetration of the African services sector;
- Increasing social polarisation (including along gender lines), and the rise of parasitical classes; and
- Much greater gains for some sectors of the capitalist class: owners of plantations, mines and oil fields; commercial circuits of capital; and financial institutions.
Even Botswana’s former (conservative) president, Festus Mogae, admitted in 2004, “We are somewhat apprehensive towards EPAs despite the EU assurances. We fear that our economies will not be able to withstand the pressures associated with liberalisation.”
Moving from fear to confidence in rejecting the EU won’t be easy. But a step was taken by Nigerian president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua during his Cape Town visit last week, unilaterally announcing the end of Shell’s hell in Ogoniland: “There is a total loss of confidence between Shell and the Ogoni people. So, another operator acceptable to the Ogonis will take over.”
In Paris, Total’s Christophe de Margerie reacted: “We have people who work over there ... who are unfortunately more and more often subjected to major aggressions (or being) kidnapped. We are asking ourselves the question (about whether to follow Shell).”
MOSOP held a victory march in Port Harcourt, and its information officer, Bari-ara Kpalap, thanked Yar’Adua, yet also promised more agitation in the Niger Delta “until the government took more practical and sincere steps to genuinely address the problems of the area”. As all agreed, booting European exploiters was the necessary first step.
*Patrick Bond directs the University of KwaZulu Natal Centre for Civil Society in Durban, where Richard Kamidza is doing a doctoral degree.
*Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org
The bear and the dragon
In Africa, the Russian state seems far more ‘upfront’ about pursuing its grand geopolitical projects than the more cautious and patient Chinese. Russia’s private sector too is prepared on occasion to operate with an unashamed directness where others might be more diplomatic." While all eyes are on China's growing influence in Africa, Stephen Marks argues that Russia's Russia's bear is quitely intensifying its hug.
While all eyes have been focussed on China’s rise in Africa, the other former Cold War Communist giant has also been making a comeback. And at first glance there are obvious parallels between the dragon and the bear, as each seeks to rebuild its African links on a commercial basis while building where it can on the friends and contacts made in an earlier, more ideological era.
Today the Aswan dam stands as a monument to Soviet aid in the Cold War era, as the Tazara railway does to China’s role. And the thousands of Soviet graduates match the specialists trained in China.
But Russia’s recent rise in African trade though steep, is far from matching China’s. The fall from $2.7bn in 1994 to just over $900m in 1994 (only 1.5% of all Russia’s non-CIS trade) has been followed by a climb back to over £3bn in 2006, with a reported further leap to $6bn in 2007. (See also [url=http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~chegeo/[/url])
But this is easily dwarfed by China’s trade volume, already at $40m in the first nine months of 2007 alone, and projected to soar to $100m by 2010.
Nonetheless the trappings of Russia’s African rise seem at first glance to mimic those of China, if on a smaller scale. In September 2006, just weeks before the FOCAC summit in Beijing, Russian President Vladimir Putin took 100 Russian businessmen - some of them top ‘oligarchs’ - on a five-day whirlwind trip to Morocco and South Africa, followed up in March 2007 by then-Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov taking more business chiefs and officials to Angola, Namibia and South Africa.
As with Chinese President Hu Jintao’s whirlwind African trips, there were reports of major deals, promising investments in mining, energy and even space exploration. And Russia has also stepped up to the mark with the right noises about development and debt relief.
This April, at the first joint meeting of the AU and the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Russia’s ambassador to Ethiopia announced a $500m development assistance package and a $20m contribution to the World Bank’s African anti-malaria programme.
And Russia has also written off $20bn of African debt, making its contribution to the Debt relief Initiative for HIPCs the biggest of all donors in share of GDP, and the third biggest in absolute value.
A more detailed look at the deals done by the business chiefs accompanying Russia’s leaders on these jaunts shows some apparent similarities, but also significant underlying differences when compared to the pattern of China’s intervention.
As with China, energy and raw materials deals are a prominent part of the Russian roadshow. As Newsweek reported at the end of last year ‘Over the last three years, four top Russian metal companies have invested more than $5 billion in sub-Saharan Africa alone. Russian oil giants Lukoil, Rosneft and Stroytransgaz have signed exploration deals in Algeria, Nigeria, Angola and Egypt worth more than $3 billion’.
Earlier last year LUKoil, Russia’s largest oil company, bought a 63% stake in a field off the Ivory Coast in a production-sharing agreement with its Nigerian owners, followed by taking a 56.66% stake in three prospecting projects in the Ivory Coast and Ghana from the U.S. company Vanco Energy.
Metals have also been an area of Russian interest as far back as 2004 when Norisk Nickels acquired a 20% stake in South African gold producer Gold Fields from Anglo American for $1.16bn in cash. Norilsk is the world's largest producer of nickel and palladium and a leading producer of platinum, copper and cobalt, as well as Russia's largest gold miner.
Russia’s steelmaker Evraz has also completed a take over of South Africa’s leading steelmaker Highveld Steel and Vanadium. And United Manganese of Kalahari, a company part-owned by billionaire ‘oligarch’ Viktor Vekselberg,, recently confirmed that it had won a mining license for its planned $200m manganese mine. Vekselberg’s company Renova and its partners last year bought the Transalloys ferro-alloy plant in South Africa. Vekselberg has said Renova plans to invest around $1 billion in buying ore deposits and processing plants. Renova is also in a currently stormy partnership with BP in the Russian oil company TNK-BP.
Mr Vekselberg appears to be a key figure in Russian-South African trade relations. He was appointed by President Mbeki to his International Investment Council. He also heads the foreign relations committee of Russia’s Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, and is said to be known as ‘Mr South Africa’ in Russia and ‘Mr Russia’ in South Africa. As we shall see he has been in the news for other reasons too.
Putin’s original 2006 visit took in only Morocco and South Africa, leading to the criticism that he was leaving out the expanse of black Africa in between. But since then the gap has been at least partly filled, not only by oil deals in West Africa, but also by Russia’s financial sector. In Luanda Angola’s first foreign-controlled bank has opened, owned 66% by Russia’s foreign trade bank Vneshtorgbank.
Russia’s Renaissance Capital group now owns 25% of Ecobank, the Nigerian bank which claims 450 branches in 22 countries. And the Renaissance group is also launching a $1bn African investment fund.
There has also been a Russian-South African tie-up between the world’s two largest diamond producers De Beers and Alrosa, the largely state-owned Russian producer. The two signed a joint exploration agreement a joint exploration agreement to facilitate De Beers exploration in Russia which is said to have reserves potentially greater than Botswana’s. This followed an EU anti-trust ruling barring De Beers from buying diamonds direct from Alrosa.
But diamonds apart, there is one significant difference between this Russian interest in energy and raw materials and its larger and more publicised Chinese comparator. While a major Chinese motive is the need for raw materials to fuel and feed China’s soaring output, Russia is a major raw materials exporter. Indeed it is rising world raw material prices, partly fed by China’s growing demand, which provides Russia with the cash resources to fund its purchases of African and global assets.
As Newsweek put it: ‘Russia is the world's largest energy exporter, and has plenty of its own metals and minerals. But rich Russian companies want to extend their global reach while they have the money, and with oil approaching $100 a barrel in recent weeks [sic], the time is now. There's another motive, too, analysts say: moving empires beyond the reach of the Kremlin serves as insurance against future political changes in Russia’.
As a result, the detailed articulation of the relationship between the state and its geopolitical strategy, and the commercial interests of private capital are arguably different in the Russian and Chinese cases, though it may not be immediately clear how the difference should be characterised.
In energy for example, Russia’s position as a net exporter enables the state to use its energy strategy as a geopolitical tool. While Russia is said to be running short of gas, this is partly due to the need to meet its considerable export commitments. Russia has been accused of attempting to use German and Ukrainian dependence on Russian gas as a means of political leverage. And at least one Russian analyst sees recent trends in Algerian policy as a reflection of Western fears of a Russian-Algerian energy tie-up being used in the same way.
Thus the Novosti News Agency reported in December 2007:
“Algeria has joined the global fight for diversification of energy supplies... According to Andrei Maslov, director of Rosafroexpertiza, a Russian expert group on Africa, his view stems from news on the expiry of a memorandum of understanding, which Algeria's Sonatrach state oil and gas corporation and Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom signed in August 2006.
“Algeria earlier leaked that it was not satisfied with the quality of Russian military equipment. Surprisingly, the criticism came not from direct clients in the Algerian armed forces, but the civilian team of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
“The Russian expert sees a connection between the two incidents, especially if you take into account the high price of the question of Russian-Algerian strategic partnership. He writes that the two countries could jointly control up to 40% of gas supplies to the European Union. But Europe has opted for Algeria and Libya in an attempt to neutralize the growing influence of Gazprom.
“Europe's vigorous efforts to diversify supply routes have made Gazprom's presence in the two countries unacceptable to end gas consumers. The United States is also concerned … Maslov writes that the end of hostilities in Algeria and growing oil and gas export revenues led to a lightning transfer of political influence from the army elite to the energy lobby. President Bouteflika, who had maintained a neutral stance for several years, took the side of the energy lobby - and received a pat on the back from his Western patrons, primarily the United States.
“The redivision of power affected Algeria's relationship with Russia, especially their military-technical cooperation. The Algerian army and law-enforcement and security bodies were pushed away from the economy, and also from domestic and foreign policy. Until recently, Russia's policy in Algeria was based on confidential relations with the most influential military and security groups, who have now been pushed aside. Therefore, the Kremlin cannot hope for any good news from the Algerian front soon, Maslov concludes.”
But if so, Russia is fighting back. According to ‘Africa Report’ Putin in his recent visit to Libya concluded a $4.5bn debt cancellation and arms sales package combined with ‘a raft of new oil and gas deals...the details of which have yet to be spelled out, and a partnership with the National Oil Corporation of Libya to produce, transport and sell oil and gas. This follows an agreement between Russia’s Gazprom and Italy’s ENI to work together in “third countries”.This in its turn is said to be connected with plans for a gas pipeline between Libya and Sicily able to carry 8bn cubic metres of gas a year.
There is also talk of a grand $13bn trans-Sahara gas pipeline from the Niger Delta to the Algerian coast and thence to Europe . While some experts consider this ‘politically and technically impractical’, the majority state-owned Gazprom’s Chief Executive is said to be in continuing discussions with officials from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Whatever may become of these particular initiatives, the Russian state seems far more ‘upfront’ about pursuing its grand geopolitical projects than the more cautious and patient Chinese. Russia’s private sector too is prepared on occasion to operate with an unashamed directness where others might be more diplomatic.
Mark Buzuk, Africa Projects Manager for Vekselberg’s Renova Group, has has expressed the view that ‘rumours of corruption in Africa are vastly exaggerated’. But as a correspondent for the BBC’s Russian Service put it: ‘”Many analysts think that the lack of transparency in African business often helps companies from those countries where bribing foreigners is not punished by law.”
Buzuk’s own boss Vekselberg should know about this, if an exposure shortly after Putin’s 2006 visit in the Mail and Guardian is any guide. In ‘the Oligarch, the ANC and the manganese deal’, Vicki Robinson and Stefaans Brummer charged that ‘When Vekselberg visited South Africa in February 2004, he got to meet the president, among others. Eighteen months later he co-owned rights to strategic manganese reserves in the Kalahari.
In the Mail and Guardian article, The oligarch, the ANC and the manganese deal the writers tell the reader that “this is the story of how the government, through the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME), awarded prospecting rights to a consortium set to benefit both Vekselberg, one of Russia's infamous oligarchs, and Chancellor House, the company we reveal to be an ANC business front.
The story is important because it suggests that the government was swayed by a mix of diplomatic expediency -- it was keen to improve economic relations with Russia in tandem with growing ties of friendship -- and the ruling party's funding needs.”
The article goes on to show that Renova’s BEE [Black Economic Empowerment] partner in the Kalahari deal was Chancellor House, an investment company used as a funding front by the ruling ANC.
It charges that ‘The African National Congress's (ANC) Chancellor House group has targeted investments in sectors of the economy where government institutions dish out opportunities such as business rights or contracts. When companies in which Chancellor holds a share compete for such opportunities, the ruling party becomes both player and referee’.
The journalists also documented outstanding racketeering charges against Vekselberg in the US courts relating to the process by which he acquired control of his companies in the first place.
Those involved in the negotiations leading to the Kalahari deal have denied any wrongdoing, as has the management of Chancellor House. But since the change of leadership at the ANC’s Polokwane Conference last December, the newly elected leadership has ordered a forensic audit of all empowerment deals and tenders that were received by Chancellor House.
This follows a decision of the Polokwane national conference in December calling for "an effective regulatory architecture for private funding of political parties and civil society groups to enhance accountability and transparency to the citizenry". It mandated the party's leadership to "urgently develop guidelines and policy on public and private funding, including how to regulate investment vehicles".
Cynics may claim that these decisions are more a reflection of factional score-settling within the ANC than a sign of any new leaves being turned. Presumably Mr Vekselberg will be among those awaiting the outcome.
 ‘Moscow grabs at Big Oil’s prize assets’, The Africa Report June-July 2008.
*Stephen Marks is a research associate with Fahamu
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Egypt’s never-ending state of emergency
“When the Egyptian people speak out against poverty and an inert government, human rights abuses follow.” Mustafa Adam-Noble looks at the various ways that suppression in Egypt is growing.
Ever since the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981, Egypt has been governed under Emergency Law: 27 years worth of “emergencies” constitutionally designated for use only when facing a direct threat, such as a military invasion or a natural disaster. The law, which is supposed to be used in exceptional circumstances, has become the permanent method of governance in Egypt. Interestingly, President Hosni Mubarak has been the country’s ruler for all those 27 years.
Having survived several assassination attempts, it is perhaps no surprise that Mubarak has been reluctant to govern with normal laws. However, hundreds of thousands have been imprisoned during his rule, with 18,000 still held. The regime’s style of law enforcement constitutes jailing large groups of “suspects” in the hope that someone amongst the prisoners will be culpable. Under the rule of Emergency Law, anyone can be arrested without charge or evidence against them.
Alexander Weissink, a Radio Netherlands journalist with a specialty in Egyptian affairs, interviewed Mahmoud Qutri, an ex-Egyptian police colonel and author of books on Egyptian constabulary abuses. Qutri stated: “The police has tried for 27 years to work with a carte blanche. Outside of the state of emergency they would suddenly find themselves obliged to do real investigative work to find evidence, instead of rounding up suspects and use violence to force confessions out of them...That is about the last thing they want.”
A recent survey has found that Egypt’s government workforce of 6 million spends an average of just 27 minutes a day working. In addition to a malign vacuum of legal procedure, the absence of a government work ethic further sidelines the course of justice throughout the country’s population of 75 million.
Since the assassination of Sadat by al-Gama’a al-Islamya (the Islamic Group), the government has locked up 50,000 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood despite the lack of direct links between the Brotherhood and al-Gama’a. The Muslim Brotherhood has a far less violent ideology, and Al-Gama’a was in fact formed after the Brotherhood “renounced violence” in the 1970s. Al-Gama’a was behind the 1997 Luxor attacks in Egypt that killed 62 civilians, most of whom were tourists.
The crackdown on the two Islamic groups by President Mubarak has been brutal and far-reaching. Amid the unjust sweeping arrests, some attacks were probably prevented. However, the lack of accurate, evidence-based police action caused the imprisonment of thousands of people; the majority of whom were innocent and some of whom were tortured.
Human rights organisations continue to condemn the abuse and suppression of the Egyptian people.
During his 2005 electoral campaign, President Mubarak promised to stop the imprisonment of members of the press. In 2007, he jailed eleven journalists for “insulting” him and his party.
Also in 2005, Mubarak vowed to finally end the state of emergency. On 26th May 2008, he issued a verdict extending Emergency Law for yet another 2 years.
During the same elections, police blocked voters from casting their ballots for the Muslim Brotherhood - the only feasible opposition to the current regime. With poignant determination, some voters were forced to enter a polling station through its back window using a ladder, in defiance of police station closures.
Prime minister Ahmed Nazif summarised the superficial self-promotion of debunked government policy, stating: “The storm of terrorism blows strong around us and our enemies lie in wait.” Such poetic rhetoric of fear has become the justification for a farcical legal system and endemic human rights abuses.
Recently, on the 9th of June, eight thousand Egyptians protested against the government’s decision to end flour rations. Eighty-seven have been arrested so far.
Many similar protests occurred in 2007 and 2008, centring around the massive and rapid rise in the cost of living in Egypt (a 50% increase according to the latest count, with inflation at 20%). Further, millions of Egyptian workers do not have job contracts or social insurance; meaning that they have no rights to minimum wage, holidays, or compensation for job injuries.
Forty percent of people live on less than $2 a day and doubling food prices have left almost half of the population undernourished. This is taking place while the Egyptian government receives nearly $2 billion in aid from the US; the highest recipient of its kind after Iraq and Israel. Egypt has also gained another $2 billion this year in revenues from the Suez Canal, one of the world’s busiest trade routes.
When the Egyptian people speak out against poverty and an inert government, human rights abuses follow.
The government has openly declared its intention to suppress free speech when it issued warnings that any other demonstrators will lose their jobs. More gravely, the threat of imprisonment and serious maltreatment is ever-present.
Mubarak and his government are also considering blocking Facebook after 80,000 young Egyptians were mobilised in April 2008, protesting rising food prices. A blogger and activist who helped organise the protest was recently released after being jailed and allegedly tortured.
Even amongst the seriously ill, the brutality of the regime is acutely demonstrated. Sufferers of HIV were arrested and chained to their hospital beds for months before an international outcry in February 2008 pressured the Ministry of Health to have them unchained.
In a display of hypocrisy, a gay man was arrested because of his sexual orientation in May 2001 and was subsequently raped by one of these guards. He was arrested along with 51 others before being set free following pressure from both the US and the EU. Two years later, the courts put the men on trial again and, this time, were able to pass down prison sentences.
The authorities have forcefully used their power over the legal system to fulfil their aims in other instances. According to Radio Netherlands, in February 2007 forty members of the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested on suspicion of terrorism. Civil courts repeatedly dismissed their case because of a lack of evidence. Mubarak intervened and transferred them to a military tribunal where they were condemned to serve sentences ranging from two to ten years.
In an interview with the Inter Press Service, Ayman Aqeel, head of the Cairo-based Maat Centre for Constitutional and Legal Rights, said: "Egypt doesn't need an emergency law or new anti-terror legislation," he said. "Proposed anti-terrorism laws will only represent another means of restricting our freedoms. Normal laws, and the penalties they carry, should be enough to deal with any crime."
Mubarak and his government must take a step back and look at the landscape that they both have created in Egyptian society.
Continued violations of basic human rights that attempt to break the spirit of the Egyptian people in order to fulfill a political agenda are shameful crimes.
Much needs to change before Egypt can progress beyond its current flailing state. The government must find a way to use incentives in their bureaucracy to both protect the public and prosecute real perpetrators. This can eventually help develop the country under normal laws and do away with the “state of emergency”.
The suppression of freedom of speech and the systematic abuse of prisoners throws the country into a vicious cycle that diminishes tolerance and progressive attitudes.
With economic realities worsening and the ability to survive becoming more difficult, Egyptians will continue to protest and it will become harder and harder for Mubarak to silence the masses.
*Mustafa Adam-Noble is a political commentator.
*Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Ghana: why the North matters
Samuel Zan Akologo and Rinus van Klinken
Unequal and uneven development inherited from British colonialism by present day Ghana continues to divide the North from the South. For Samuel Zan Akologo and Rinus van Klinken "Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia and Togo are gory reminders" should serve as warning to the Ghanian leadership that it must change course.
The floods have gone. In September last year Northern Ghana briefly hit the head-lines with washed away bridges and destitute communities. Concerned citizens, benevolent donors and an opportunistic government responded with welcome relief. But now the situation has gone back to ‘normal’ and attention can go back to issues of national importance. As if the North is not part of the national agenda.
There is a natural reluctance to raise ‘the North’ as an issue. After all, is northern Ghana really so much disadvantaged compared to the rest of the country? Are the northerners the only poor people in Ghana? And is it not so that people from Northern Ghana are always complaining? Even if there is acceptance of a disadvantaged situation, this is then often accompanied by the thought that this is all rather inevitable. Considering the ecological conditions, the human resource base and the land-locked position, what is the economic potential of northern Ghana really?
In this article we argue, that there is a ‘special position’ of the North within Ghana. This has many and deep-rooted reasons. We think that to address this issue requires a deliberate effort. Not so much from international donors or civil society, but first and foremost from the government. What we have seen so far is not sufficient. There is a strong imperative for the national leadership to take note of the northern challenge. It is preposterous to think that middle income status can be achieved for Ghana by 2015 with the current pace of development in the North – more than one third of Ghana’s land mass and 20 per cent of the population!
The North – South divide in Ghana has gradually developed over time, and has become more marked and significant, even after Independence. If the slave trade affected all parts of present-day Ghana, northern Ghana was attacked from two sides by slave traders from the coast (trans-Atlantic) as well as from the hinterland (trans-Sahara) for export of slaves to America and the Arab world respectively. The Gate of No Return may create a vivid and strong symbolic image in the castles on the Coast, but for the Northerners there were so many more (and equally tortuous) slave routes to be whisked away on. The abolition of the slave trade did alleviate the situation, but did not stop the flow of human resources from the North.
Within the colonial administrative arrangements, the southern parts of Ghana became the Gold Coast Colony while the northern parts were administered separately as the Northern Territory. Granted that the developmental agenda of the British Empire in its formal colonies was rather limited, but for the Northern Territory it was entirely non-existent. The colonial government focused purely on ‘maintaining law and order’ and did not initiate any meaningful education in the North, even actively discouraging missionary efforts as from the White Fathers in Navrongo. Some secondary schools in the south are celebrating a 100 years of existence, and the University of the Gold Coast started in 1948, yet by the mid 1950s the entire North had six students in secondary school and one attending university. It is just a bit over 50 years ago that the first secondary school was established in Northern Region!
This educational discrimination served to preserve the status of the north as labour reserve for the mines and the plantations in the south. The only effective opportunities for economic advancement during the first half of the 20th Century for people from the North was migration. With no schooling and strong trading barriers, employment on the cocoa farms was often the only choice available.
The historical neglect is reinforced by ecological differences. Southern Ghana is humid and hot as part of the West African rainforest. Northern Ghana, in contrast, is part of the guinea zone, with less favourable conditions for agriculture. Not only does rainfall decrease the further north one travels in Ghana, but the rain is also concentrated in shorter periods with characteristic torrential rains. This leads to higher run-off, and coupled with soils poor in organic matter, crop production can only take place in one, often erratic, season. Yet, despite these more difficult conditions, many more households in northern Ghana are dependent on agriculture than in southern Ghana (72 % compared to 44 %). The land-locked nature of northern Ghana, linked to the Coast by one single road passing through the Kumasi metropole, severely limits alternative economic opportunities.
Independence did bring a change in the picture, but the differences between north and south in Ghana were not systematically addressed. To correct the historical imbalance and the ecological differences requires more than nation-wide policies and demands specific policy choices. The strong social policies of the Nkrumah era did boost education in the North, while the economic policies of the Acheampong regime brought some industrialisation (meat factory in Zuarungu, tomato factory in Pwalugu, groundnut factory in Bawku) and boosted commercial agriculture (rice and cotton). It was at that time that rice farms were so big that planes had to be used for spraying. Though these state-led policies did little to address the structural north-south divide, it did give Northern Ghana a chance to make a step ahead.
With the introduction of structural adjustment, projects and activities depending on the government were scaled down. While the idea of privatisation could somehow work in the South, as there was an elite and foreign companies to take over these activities, such conditions did not apply in the North. The factories ground one by one to a halt. Commercial farms went into receivership. Employment and income collapsed. The market players, who were to exploit the opportunities afforded by the withdrawal of the government, simply were not ready for it. Whatever economic elite had started to develop either sank back into obscurity or joined their brethren in the south.
Economic power goes hand in hand with political power. While the cocoa industry and the gold mines have traditionally been the basis for economic development in Ghana, it is no co-incidence that both are located in the south and that both have received favourable treatment, no matter the party or president in power. Mining may possibly have less potential in the North than in the South, but even that cannot be fully ascertained, as geological explorations in northern Ghana do not achieve the level of detail as the southern equivalents.
Even clearer is the discrimination when comparing the cocoa industry in the South to the shea industry in the North. The government since colonial time has heavily invested in the cocoa sector through research, extension, support to co-operatives and other farmer groups and investment in supporting infrastructure. Even in the market-driven environment of today the government retains a heavy regulatory hand in the cocoa industry.
Yet the shea industry, with similar economic potential, has been systematically neglected. No research, no extension, no investment in infrastructure, no regulation. The industry is left to the poverty-stricken women to collect a meagre income during lean times. Market agents then buy it opportunistically from the women at the time that they are looking for small cash in the ‘hunger season’ and hoard it till prices have risen. It ends up in the hands of a few multi-national companies. The fact that Ghana garnered over USD 1 billion in export from cocoa in 2006, compared to USD 30 million in export from shea is not just due to different economic potentials. It also demonstrates the effect of systematic policy neglect.
While economic policies have not favoured the North, government social interventions have done little to alleviate the situation. With 38 out of the 101 opposition members of Parliament coming from the North and the overall majority of northern MPs being in the opposition (38 out of 49), the government is not inclined to give the North favourable treatment in the allocation of resources. The paradox here is that continued neglect of ‘the Northern problem’ comes in the guise of ‘national policies’, not discriminating between Regions.
Economic policies are characterised by liberalisation and giving free reign to private actors. The private sector is the engine of growth. But the private sector will invest where conditions are most favourable. In the South the harbour is near; in the North it is at least one days’ drive away. In the South skilled and unskilled labour is available; in the North educational achievements are low. Infrastructure and climatic conditions are much better in the South than in the North. Probably the only advantage much of the North has (apart from the upper Regions) is abundance of land, but given the land tenure situation in Ghana and climatic conditions, that is difficult to translate in an economic gain. So, given the choice to invest in the South or in the North, which investor would indeed choose the North?
A similar logic bedevils social policies. National policies, ostensibly designed so as not to favour specific parts of the country, end up disadvantaging the North. The Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) was originally conceived as a programme focusing on ‘Hunger Hotspots’, and was therefore targeted at the North. For obvious political reasons, the government decided instead to make it a national policy benefiting all districts equally. But with programme management using its discretionary powers, individual districts were able to lobby for additional schools. Inevitably, such districts were politically well connected and close to the physical and political centre. With as end result that Greater Accra, Ashanti and Brong Ahafo Regions receive a whopping 70 % of the total funding for school feeding (leaving the other 7 Regions to fight over the remaining 30 % of the funds). The three northern Regions, home to 30 % of the total poor in Ghana, receive a paltry 7 % of the funding! Just two districts in Brong Ahafo Region (Nkoranza and Atebubu) have an equal number of schools in the programme than the entire North (consisting of 34 districts)! One of those districts was the site of a parliamentary bye-election in 2006. In the struggle between political expedience and pro-poor policies, the former reigns supreme. With no political muscle to speak of, the North systematically looses out.
The distribution of HIPC funding tells a similar story. The Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative was an attempt by the World Bank and IMF to reduce the debt burden of the world poorest countries. One of the first major policy initiatives of the new NPP government when it attained power in 2001 was to apply for HIPC status. A special account was opened, whereby the money which otherwise would have been used for debt re-payment would be channelled to special spending targeted at the poor. But once again the reality was different. While the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy 2003-2005 planned that almost half of the HIPC funds would be used in northern Ghana, in reality this was only 17 %, just about one third of what was planned! The remaining 83 % of the projects went to southern Ghana, for which only 52 % had been planned.
It cannot be denied that northern Ghana has recorded considerable progress since independence. But the North on most of the social and economic indicators is still far behind the South. Only in a few instances is the gap narrowing. In terms of social indicators, school enrolment in the three northern Regions is still the lowest in the country, even though the gap is narrowing. Yet, while over half of the population in the South is literate (54 %), in the North this is still less than one third (32 %)!
More worrying is that particularly in the economic field, the gap between North and South is widening. In the whole of Ghana in 1992 some 52 % of the population were living below the poverty line. By 1999 it was down to 40 %,. However, for the same period in three regions the poverty actually increased, of which two were located in the North. In Upper East Region the increase was by 32 %, and by 1999 almost 90 % of the people there were considered living in poverty. Out of every 10 people, 9 are poor! Take away the people with access to some income, e.g. teachers, civil servants, some traders and households benefiting from remittances, and just about everybody else is poor.
Some projections have been done on what could happen to poverty in Ghana by 2015, if policies and international conditions do not change. The prediction is that in 2015 the poverty head count will be down to 23 % for Ghana, a further decrease of 40 % since 1999. But the same projections indicate poverty figures in the three northern Regions between 60 and 70 %, hence without ‘the burden of the North’ poverty in Ghana would be down to 10 % in 2015. While the Northern Region in 1992 was 11 % behind the national average, by 2015 this will be 33 %, so the gap is widening. Similarly for Upper East (from 15 % behind the national average in 1999 to 47 % in 2015) and Upper West Regions (from 36 % to 44 %).
Colonial policies for the North were characterised by brazen neglect and systematic discrimination. Policies and attitudes need to change, if the North is to catch up with the South and fully integrate into the glorious nation of Ghana. There is no alternative. The evidence is there for all to see what happens if discontent over regional differences erupts into serious national conflicts. Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia and Togo are gory reminders of that sordid reality. Fortunately, there are no indications that such is likely to happen now in Ghana. The northern elite is divided, and there is still an economic safety valve through migration, though intra- and inter-ethnic conflicts are far too prevalent. But it does also not need to happen.
The personal route out of poverty for northerners has almost invariably consisted of migration to the south and beyond. And the favoured role for the elite, be it modern or traditional, has been pleading for special government projects or the lobbying for special attention from donors. The political elite, consisting of all the District Chief Executives and Regional Ministers from the three northern Regions, has regularly met over the past few years in what has come to be known as the Mole series. But the Mole series are dominated by the discussion of government and donor projects, rather than in lobbying government for policies, addressing key concerns of the North. The northern elite needs to catch up with the reality that projects, distributed like peanuts to favoured sites, does not bring social and economic development.
Likewise, the role of donors has shifted in northern Ghana, as elsewhere in the world. The era of the 1980s and particularly the 1990s was for northern Ghana dominated by bilateral and multi-lateral agencies, implementing projects either through government or more recently through NGOs. This almost gave the impression as if the government was taking care of the southern part of Ghana, leaving the northern part to international partners. The myriad of signboards for local NGOs in northern Ghana, particularly in Tamale, is a visible remnant of that time. But times and tides have changed. Led by the World Bank, national ownership of development policies is now seen as the only way to bring home-grown development, and many donor agencies are situating their policies within the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy. For some this leads to the pooling of resources, either through Multi-Donor Budget Support or through Sector Wide Approaches (SWAp) for specific sectors. For others, it is more the situating of their projects within larger processes. As GPRS 1 and now 2 do not give specific and systematic attention to the North, donors cannot be expected to do so.
There is no alternative to the government taking leadership in breaking down the barriers blocking social and economic progress in northern Ghana. That is not only in the interest of northern Ghana, but also in the interest of southern Ghana.
*Samuel Zan Akologo is the Ghana country director of SEND Foundation while Rinus van Klinken is affiliated with SNV Ghana.
*Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org
Eritrea: A revolution betrayed
When Eritrea earned independence from Ethiopia in 1991, it was seen by many as a revolutionary moment that would usher in freedom and equality. But more than fifteen years later, the “reality is the liberation-army-turned-government is led by a brutal dictator and his handful cronies. There are no systems of representation or participation in the government. Sadly, those who paid the highest price in the armed struggle, the former fighters men and women are the ones who suffer the most today,” Yet in the midst of it all Nunu Kidane finds hope.
My country Eritrea is in the news again and hardy on a positive note. The conflict with Djibouti reported in the New York Times and European press is not the news I would have liked to read about. Over the past decade, starting with the border clash with Ethiopia in 1998, Eritrea has been the cause of, or in some way directly linked to conflict and destabilization of the Horn of Africa half a dozen times.
What saddens me is that Eritrea, during the days of the struggle for independence, was a country that held such high hopes and promises for us as Eritreans, and for the Horn of Africa, indeed for the continent as a whole. It is a small country in North East Africa, by the Red Sea, with approx 4.5 million people, which a fierce sense of independence and pride in the people’s ability to do it on our own.
When it won de facto independence in 1991, it appeared indeed the defiant attitude of going against the grain of global political trends had paid off. The future looked hopeful and the people were united in the insurmountable challenge of nation building ahead.
Whenever I introduce myself as Eritrean in academic circles or with progressive Africa supporters from the old days, they tell me how much they had supported Eritrea’s struggle for liberation. They tell me their pride in supporting the women’s equality movement that was grassroots and led by Eritrean fighters, a model of self determination and securing full rights for women at all levels. The liberation movement was more than an armed struggle; it was visionary in planning for social and economic transformation of a country and its people that linked with the struggle of people in similar struggles the world over.
Whenever I or other Eritreans are greeted in such ways, for what our country used to be, there is a deep sense of loss and sadness that overcomes us. It is difficult to know what to say in response because the reality of what Eritrea is today cannot be further from the vision of our aspirations at the time of independence some 17 years ago.
The reality is the liberation-army-turned-government is led by a brutal dictator and his handful cronies. There are no systems of representation or participation in the government. Sadly, those who paid the highest price in the armed struggle, the former fighters men and women are the ones who suffer the most today. Both at the hands of the government as prisoners in their own ‘free’ country, as forced fighters in various conflicts with Eritrea’s neighbors, or from the high cost of food and fuel and the worsening economy which has left nearly one third of the country malnourished and at the brink of starvation.
In the early days of the Eritrean struggle for independence, Eritrean women were celebrated as heroes unlike any seen before in Africa. Despite the traditional limitations of the conservative culture which does not allow women to participate in any social and religious activities alongside their brothers, Eritrean women in the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) proved that cultures could be challenged and changed. Women wearing short military pants, hair in afro, slinging Kalashnikovs were our pride in depicting strength of body and character. Unlike other liberation fronts where the women were relegated to the kitchens and as support to their male counterparts, Eritrean military forces were made up of nearly thirty percent women. Not only was the military integrated fully, but women held leadership positions and participated in all health, education and agricultural programs that supported the rural communities. Violation of women’s rights was a serious crime and rape was punishable by death.
Where are those women now? What happened to their voices and the ‘equality’ that was supposed to translate into economic power? If one were to do a quick search on google for “Eritrean women” you would hardly find any evidence of the history of these women fighters. Right after you go past the postcard tourist photos of women in traditional drab and right past the “date Eritrean women” link, you may find the link to the National Union of Eritrean Women. Although still in operation, a discredited association which parastatal despite claiming to be non-governmental. Not only is it a weak association, but the NUEW has betrayed its historic mission by being a mouth piece of justifications and rationalization of the government for the repression and violation against Eritrean women today.
The Eritrean diasporic community was highly supportive of the struggle at home, financially and in policy advocacy in the US, Europe and the Middle East. It was the most mobilized of all African immigrant communities in the world, sending millions of dollars each year, from remittances of the hard working members of its population eager to return home after liberation. Eritreans were drunk with national pride that bordered arrogance and chauvinism, convinced that Eritrea was unique in what had been achieved during the liberation struggle, and once independent, it would prove to be a model of economic success and envy of the world. We in the diaspora were too trusting of the leadership and never posed questions of political balance and accountability process of our leaders. We were the cash cows that sent money regularly to our families and the movement and we were to pay a high price for this, still do.
A few years back, I spoke to Prof. Horace Campbell, a good friend and author of author of “Reclaiming Zimbabwe” about the sad state of affairs in Eritrea. Professor Campbell had supported Eritrean movements and the EPLF in the decades of the struggle. I described to him the state of paralysis that Eritreans in the diaspora seem to be in, stuck in disbelief that the reality of economic crisis and political repression is indeed the same country they had given so much for. Stuck in a state of apathy that comes from a profound state of betrayal by those we trusted most.
His response has been useful for me to reflect on. He said that this moment in history would pass and Eritreans would again “reclaim” their liberation for its true value and meaning, for social transformation into an equal society guaranteeing the rights of its people. However, he emphasized that this current state of crisis is an important stage for Eritreans to go through in order to never repeat their blind trust on their leaders. Difficult as this period is, that Eritreans at home and in the diaspora will draw the important lessons of discerning and challenging those who claim to lead and represent us. We will fully engage and set up mechanisms and systems of accountability of leaders and political groups, challenged to prove in open democratic ways, how they stand to serve their people and their country honestly.
As an Eritrean, my sense of pride in my national identity, my country and my people continues unchanged. The current leadership does not represent me, nor speak for me and other Eritreans. I do not feel conflicted or confused by those who claim to call me unpatriotic for being openly critical of the current regime. It is in fact the opposite is true; I speak out for love of my country and my people, not to do so would be ignoring the pleas of those silently waiting in crowded prisons, not to do so would be to ignore the calls of Eritreans who are waging a different struggle inside the country, against a repressive state that is bent on holding on to power against the wishes of its people.
*Nunu Kidane is a native of Eritrea and a member of Friends of Aster Yohannes. Aster is a former fighter and admirable woman who has been imprisoned since December 2003. Read more about her at: http://www.friendsofaster.org/about.html
*Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org
On Tajudeen's Obama
I was greatly offended by Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem's article, Obama's Challenge to Africans which amalgamated complex political and historical situations in different countries into a faulty continuous fabric. I was at first shocked to read the one-sided statement that Kenyans "swore that Raila would never be president, not because of anything other than his being Luo...A 100% Luo is not good enough for them as President of Kenya but they are supporting a 5O% Luo to be president of the USA!"
Abdul-Raheem's statement is grossly skewed and full of contradictions. First, which "Kenyans" does he talk about, since both those who voted for and against Raila are Kenyans? Second, the majority of people celebrating Obama's Democratic party ticket were from Raila Odinga's core support group, not from outside that group as Abdul-Raheem suggests. This means that his accusation of hypocrisy does not hold. Third, many voters also swore not to vote Kibaki for the simple reason that he was Gikuyu, and women and children were burnt in an Eldoret church to reaffirm that promise. Were they not as myopic as those who swore not to vote a Luo president? Abdul-Raheem's condemnation is one sided, implying that evil is evil depending on the ethnicity of the perpetrator. The blame (and heroism) in Kenya during the turbulent period at the beginning of 2008 goes all round; there are no innocent parties but collective responsibility in the form of declining morality, decadent institutions and poor political leadership.
Perhaps the most offensive characteristic of Abdul-Raheem's article is the collapsing of the ordinary African voters with the African politicians. The politics of "ivoirete" in Ivory Coast, for example, was a largely political problem to suppress the candidacy of one candidate. The French government subsequently intervened in the crisis by arming the rebels, destroying the government's air-force fleet, and making a mockery of the country's sovereignty by summoning the principle protagonists like schoolboys to sign a peace deal in France. However, Ivoirians were more perceptive than Abdul-Raheem. They protested the deaths and casualties at the hands of the French army.
The argument that Obama celebrates his heritage which is not an impediment to his campaign lacks concrete evidence. If anything, the most worrying aspect of Obama's achievement is his distancing himself from Black American history. In his memoir "Dreams of my Father" Obama terms black nationalism as sustained by hatred. He makes ceremonial mention of the Civil Rights movement and gives no credit to Black American heroes for paving the way for his candidacy. While Obama has achieved a great feat, it has come at the cost of the moral integrity of African peoples worldwide. But as Kali Akuno has brilliantly argued ("Barack Obama and the New Afrikan Question"), the euphoria and unexpectedness of his victory mean that we have to go back to the drawing board and figure out a theory that still fights for the African poor without alienating them as they celebrate Obama's achievement.
Kali Akuno demonstrates that we need carefully balanced and meticulous reasoning to analyze and articulate a vision for Africans worldwide after Obama's victory. We cannot do this if we collapse history into simplistic formulas that deny the complexity of African societies worldwide. After all, we are the same ones who condemn racism for simplifying our histories and judging what happens in Haiti, the US and Zimbabwe on exactly the same historical schema simply because the people's complexion is similar. We should not do the same by blurring the distinction between Africa's political class and the ordinary voters across different national boundaries and historical peculiarities.
Cuito: Aluta Continua!
The article, Cuito Cuanavale deals very clearly with some historical myths being perpetrated in the name of racial superiority. I have recently been checking out Angola on google earth and all over it is tagged by some military nostalgists talking about great victories of the SADF special forces and claims of non discrimination in those forces.
The politics of fear
Thank you for the article, The politics of fear and the fear of politics which is rational, academically sound and most illuminating. A refreshing antidote to the often myopic, hysterical and misleading nonsense published in the local, popular media.
Fear and alienation
Thank you for your thoughtful and illuminating piece, The politics of fear and the fear of politics. Much needed analysis from outside of the narrow confines of a poverty paradigm, and well beyond the official 'criminal' supposition. In my own observations of the unfolding crisis in Johannesburg (some of which have been captured in a recent past issue of this fine website) it was clear that the attacks were not simply confined to 'foreigners', and this is now confirmed by the report yesterday that 21 of the deaths were of SA nationals.
Of course they could have been nationalised nationals if you follow me, but nevertheless, we are clearly looking at something more than a 'fear of foreigners' here, and your piece is helpful in making us survey a wider range of options. The references to Fanon are also helpful, and think this could be followed further and especially in relation to really understanding the meaning of alienation and powerlessness that you implicitly begin to unravel for us with reference to both Lindela and the response of the Durban shack dwellers.
I also thought you might like to know that in my union (SAMWU) there is evidence of both xenophobic comment and profound sympathy for and solidarity with the victims of it, and sometimes from the same person! Unpacking such contradictions could be fruitful in guiding the campaign work that must be done. Hope this is helpful.
Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice
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