Pambazuka News 402: Thomas Sankara, revolution and the emancipation of women
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Highlights from this issue
- Demba Moussa Dembélé remembers Thomas Sankara
- Pambazuka News reproduces Sankara's treatise on the emancipation of women
COMMENT & ANALYSIS:
- Ìrohìn Journal interview with Carlos Moore that ranges from Thomas Sankara to the bankruptcy of African elite leadership
- Grace Kwinjeh on Rwandan women and the politics of liberation
- Nunu Kidane on Africom and the militarization of US-Africa relations
- Sanusha Naidu considers China in relation to South-South cooperation
- Ronald Elly Wanda on preserving the legacy of Marcus Garvey
- Sokari Ekine interviews Tunji Buhari on the anti-tobacco campaign in Nigeria
- Salma Maoulidi looks at adult education in Tanzania
SUMMARY OF FRENCH LANGUAGE EDITION: The politics of mining in Western Africa
PAN-AFRICAN POSTCARD: Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem examines the pitfalls of the neoliberal market
LETTERS: Readers' comments and announcements
AFRICAN WRITERS' CORNER: Juliet Maruru biting short story - Strike Out!
BLOGGING AFRICA: Dibussi Tande rounds up African blogs
AFRICAN UNION MONITOR: AU and the logic of intergrationZIMBABWE UPDATE: Talks still deadlocked
WOMEN & GENDER: Film festival to highlight gender violence
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Rwandese troops enter DRC
HUMAN RIGHTS: Bashir war crimes charges delayed
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Spain urged to give legal aid to migrant children
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: Ethiopia’s draft law threatens civil society
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Ivorian poll delayed
AFRICA AND CHINA: China guarantees increased demand for Angolan oil
CORRUPTION: The sordid tale of ‘Angolagate’
DEVELOPMENT: Poverty Day to address human rights and dignity
HEALTH & HIV/AIDS: TB vaccine trials kick off amid funding woes
EDUCATION: Failing grade for free primary education
RACISM & XENOPHOBIA: Foreign competitors ‘not welcome in South Africa’
ENVIRONMENT: Defending the Zambezi
LAND & LAND RIGHTS: Kenya paying the cost of bad farming policy
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Congolese radio journalist held
INTERNET & TECHNOLOGY: Obsessing over Internet access
PLUS: e-newsletters and mailings lists; courses, seminars and workshops, and jobs
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Sankara 20 years later: A tribute to integrity
Demba Moussa Dembélé
Blaise Compaoré and Françafrique killed Thomas Sankara in the belief that they could extinguish the example he set for African youth and progressive forces across the continent. They could not have been more wrong. One week before his assassination, in a speech marking the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, Thomas Sankara declared: ‘Ideas cannot be killed, ideas never die.’ Indeed, the history of humanity is replete with martyrs and heroes whose ideas and actions have survived the passage time to inspire future generations.
Their ideas, courage and sacrifice for the freedom and dignity of their people have made these martyrs larger than life. Thomas Isidore Sankara is one in a long lineage of African sons and daughters whose ideas and actions have left an indelible mark on the history of their continent. That is why 21 years after his death, Sankara continues to guide those who are struggling to end the domination of their continent and the enslavement of its peoples.
Sankara’s great popularity is in part a reflection of Africans’ disillusionment with corrupt leaders who are incapable of meeting the basic needs of their peoples and who take their marching orders from Western capital and institutions like the World Bank and the IMF. Sankara’s popularity is also rooted in the profound sincerity of his commitment to serving his people, his devotion to the cause of the emancipation of the Burkinabés and all African peoples. His charisma, honesty and integrity made him a hero for the ‘wretched of the Earth,’ to coin a phrase from Frantz Fanon, who was greatly admired by Sankara.
A GREAT VISIONARY
Above all, however, Sankara’s ongoing popularity is due to the ideas and values he embodied during his brief time on the African and international stage. Indeed, if Sankara arouses as much fervour today as he did 21 years ago, it is because he embodied and defended causes that still resonate today among the thousands of oppressed in Africa and around the world. Sankara was a genuine revolutionary and a great visionary who had the courage to take on the most difficult challenges and who held great ambitions for his country and Africa.
Most of the ideas or causes he defended two decades ago are still at the heart of the struggle for the economic, social and political emancipation of peoples around the world. He was an environmentalist ahead of his time in a so-called ‘poor’ country that was supposed to have other more pressing priorities than the environment.
Sankara was one of the first heads of State, perhaps the only one in his time, to condemn female excision, a position that reflected his unwavering commitment to the emancipation of women and the struggle against all forms of discrimination against women.
He was a relentless advocate of gender equality and the recognition of the role of women in all spheres of economic and social life. In his famous speech of 2 October 1983, he stated: ‘We cannot transform society while maintaining domination and discrimination against women who constitute over half of the population.’
His unrelenting struggle against corruption, long before the World Bank and the IMF picked up on this issue, made Sankara an enemy of all corrupt presidents on the continent and of the international capitalist mafia for whom corruption is a tool for conquering markets and pillaging the resources of the global South.
Sankara rejected the inevitability of ‘poverty,’ and was one of the first proponents of food security. He achieved the spectacular feat of making his country food self-sufficient within four years, through sensible agricultural policy and, above all, the mobilisation of the Burkinabé peasantry. He understood that a country that could not feed itself ran the risk of losing its independence and sovereignty.
In July 1987, Sankara, close on the heels of Fidel Castro two years earlier, called on African countries to form a powerful front against their continent’s illegitimate and immoral debt and to collectively refuse to pay it.
Once again, he understood before others that the debt was a form of modern enslavement for Africa; a major cause of poverty and deep suffering for African populations. Sankara famously stated: ‘If we do not pay the debt, our lenders will not die. However, if we do pay it, we will die…’
On the international stage, Sankara was the first African head of State, indeed the first in the world, to denounce the UN Security Council’s right of veto and to condemn the lack of democracy within the United Nations system as well as the hypocrisy that characterised international relations. Today, all of these ideas have become self-evident truths and are at the heart of popular resistance movements, including the World Social Forum that has become one of the most powerful major rallying points.
SUPPORTING POPULAR STRUGGLES AGAINST OPPRESSION
Among the great causes passionately championed by Thomas Sankara was his unwavering support for all popular revolutionary struggles and resistance movements against imperialist domination and colonial oppression. In his memorable speech before the UN General Assembly, on October 4 1984, Sankara stated: ‘Our revolution in Burkina Faso is open to the suffering of all peoples. It also draws its inspiration from the experiences of peoples since the dawn of humanity. We wish to be the heirs of all of the revolutions of the world, of all of the liberation struggles of the peoples of the Third World.’
These revolutions and struggles inspired Sankara in his vision and desire to profoundly transform the economic and social structures in his country as well as the mentalities forged over centuries of foreign domination and oppression by dominant and exploitative classes internally and externally. This was the wellspring of his profound solidarity with the struggles of all oppressed peoples against the forces of domination.
Sankara’s commitment to solidarity was exercised with determination in every international body, from the UN, to the former Organization of African Unity (OAU), and the Non-Aligned Movement. Sankara was one of the first heads of State to support the struggle of the Sahrawi people against Morocco’s expansionist ambitions. He expressed the solidarity of the Burkinabés with the struggle of the Kanak people against French colonialism. During a trip to New York, he went to Harlem to express his support for the struggle of African-Americans against racism and discrimination.
Above all, the Burkinabé Revolution under Sankara showed its unwavering support and solidarity for all peoples resisting US policies of imperialist aggression. Before the UN General Assembly—in the very belly of the beast—Sankara forcefully condemned the United States’ illegal blockade and permanent aggression against the Cuban people. In this same forum, he condemned their unconditional support for the Zionist Israel’s state policies of territorial annexation and extermination of the Palestinian people.
THE SUCCESSES OF THE BURKINABÉ REVOLUTION
While Sankara came to power in a military coup d’état, his revolution was nonetheless a profoundly popular one. For Sankara, taking political power was a tool for liberating his country from foreign domination, and above all liberating his people from the multiple forms of economic, social, political and cultural domination.
In his historic speech of 2 October 1983, he explained that these goals would be achieved through the destruction of the neo-colonial state and the transformation of all socio-economic structures and institutions inherited from colonialism, including the army. And these transformations should lead to the transfer of power to the people for, as he stated: ‘the goal of this revolution is to exercise power by the people.’ This fundamental objective could only be accomplished by placing trust in the people and mobilising them to become conscious of the issues and sacrifices required.
Sankara believed it was futile to speak on behalf of the people if they could not be mobilised to become an integral part of the struggle and develop an identity forged in the fire of action. For Sankara: ‘I think the most important thing is to bring the people to a point where they have self-confidence, and understand that they can, at last…be the authors of their own well-being… And at the same time, have a sense of the price to be paid for that well-being.’ To a great extent, the Burkinabé Revolution was an original experiment in profound social, economic, political and ideological transformation. It was a bold attempt at endogenous development through popular mobilisation.
The pursuit of this objective required extraordinary efforts to emancipate mentalities, raise consciousness and mobilise the masses in the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR) and other revolutionary structures. Despite some of the excesses of the CDR and the other revolutionary structures, there is no doubt that one of the major objectives of the revolution under Sankara was to create the possibility for the people to speak and express themselves freely and in so doing build their self-confidence. In this, the revolution was profoundly democratic and popular. Sankara once stated: ‘Misfortune will befall those who silence their people.’ This warning reflected the importance he placed on freedom of expression, an indispensable condition for encouraging Burkinabés at all levels of society to speak their mind.
THE WEAKNESSES AND MISTAKES OF THE REVOLUTION
As in all human endeavours, the Burkinabé revolution had its ups and downs. Despite its incontestable achievements, the revolution also had its weaknesses, weaknesses that ultimately undermined the cohesion of the leadership and even stoked opposition among certain segments of the population that initially supported it, such as the intellectual petty bourgeoisie.
One of the weaknesses of the revolution was related to the fact that the social forces that had a stake in its success—peasants and workers (both manual and intellectual)—may not have had the ideological tools that would have enabled them to better understand and support the pace of revolutionary change.
Another weakness lay in the difficulty of building a solid and durable coalition between Sankara and his comrades on the one hand, and the political parties representing the intellectual petty bourgeoisie on the other. This undoubtedly explains some of the mistakes made by the revolution’s leadership that contributed to alienating portions of the population and exacerbating the contradictions within the leadership when difficulties started to accumulate.
Perhaps, to some extent, activism took the place of the more patient work that was required to educate the masses so that the social and ideological obstacles to popular mobilisation could be overcome. Lastly, sabotage by enemies working in the shadows and the country’s relative isolation in the sub-region, in a similar vein to what occurred in Ghana and Guinea, put the final nail in the coffin.
LESSONS OF THE BURKINABÉ REVOLUTION
The Burkinabé revolution was the last major effort toward the popular and democratic emancipation on the African continent. Neither the end of apartheid in South Africa, nor SWAPO’s victory in Namibia brought the same kind of profound and significant economic and social transformation. The Burkinabé Revolution was an unprecedented experiment in profound economic, social and political change.
The revolution was a bold experiment in endogenous development with the construction of infrastructure (dams, railways, schools, roads, etc.) through the intense mobilisation of the masses powered by the principle of self-reliance.
Indeed, the principle of self-reliance was the basis of Sankara’s denunciation of so-called foreign ‘aid’ which he argued ‘produced nothing more than disorganization and enslavement…’ He refused to listen to the ‘charlatans trying to sell development models that have all failed.’ Of course, he was alluding to the so-called experts from the World Bank and the IMF who took control of economic policy in many African countries to disastrous effect.
Sankara’s position was in stark contrast to that of several African leaders who literally became beggars who no longer dared raise their voices against the injunctions and interference of their ‘development partners.’ Sankara showed that ‘poverty’ did not have to translate into a loss of dignity and an abdication of sovereignty.
The Burkinabé Revolution can also teach us some negative lessons that merit reflection. One of the lessons is the difficulty of building a sustainable and victorious relationship between the army and progressive intellectuals. Another lesson relates to the destiny of military coups: can a coup d’état truly serve as the basis for sustainable revolutionary change or is it condemned to be a flash in the pan? This question surely begs others. The point is that African revolutionary forces must study the lessons that can be learned form this experience in order to better pursue current and future struggles.
The ideas and principles that guided the Burkinabé revolution did not vanish with Sankara’s assassination. They will continue to guide African popular struggles and resistance movements until foreign domination has been vanquished and Africans have recovered their sovereignty. The best way to honour the memory of Thomas Sankara is to continue his fight and promote the values he embodied.
In truth, African revolutionaries have a duty not only to remember the Burkinabé revolution, but all the African revolutions that inspired it. We forget that Sankara was an ardent pan-Africanist who did not hide his ideological and political debt to Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba and Amílcar Cabral, among others. It is our duty to study the thinking and works of Sankara and other African revolutionary leaders and thinkers in order to be able to teach the younger generations. By preserving and developing the fundamental values and ideas of the Sankarist revolution and other African revolutions, we will forge the ideological and political tools we need to deconstruct the values and concepts of the dominant system and build anew from our own concepts based on our vision of the world and our realities.
Just as Che’s blood has fed the sacred ground of the Americas where worthy successors of the legendary Argentinean revolutionary are now taking root and pursuing the dreams of Simón Bolívar and other South American heroes, the sacrifice of Sankara and his illustrious predecessors will produce other Sankaras who will one day realise the dreams of Nkrumah and the other heroes and martyrs of the African revolution: to build an independent, united and prosperous Africa that is the master of its own destiny.
* Demba Moussa Dembele is the Director of the African Forum on Alternatives based in Dakar.
* This article, which first appeared in the French Pambazuka last year to remember Sankara's assassination, is translated by Gwendolyn Schulman, a writer and broadcaster for Amandla, an alternative views and news show on Africa, on CKUT 90.3 FM.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Sankara, revolution and women’s emancipation
Woman's fate is bound up with that of the exploited male. This is a fact. However, this solidarity, arising from the exploitation that both men and women suffer and that binds them together historically, must not cause us to lose sight of the specific reality of the woman's situation. The conditions of her life are determined by more than economic factors, and they show that she is a victim of a specific oppression. The specific character of this oppression cannot be explained away by setting up an equal sign or by falling into easy and childish simplifications.
It is true that both she and the male worker are condemned to silence by their exploitation. But under the current economic system, the worker's wife is also condemned to silence by her worker-husband. In other words, in addition to the class exploitation common to both of them, women must confront a particular set of relations that exist between them and men, relations of conflict and violence that use as their pretext physical differences. It is clear that the difference between the sexes is a feature of human society. This difference characterises particular relations that immediately prevent us from viewing women, even in production, as simply female workers. The existence of relations of privilege, of relations that spell danger for the woman, all this means that women's reality constitutes an ongoing problem for us.
The male uses the complex nature of these relations as an excuse to sow confusion among women. He takes advantage of all the shrewdness that class exploitation has to offer in order to maintain his domination over women. This is the same method used by men to dominate other men in other lands. The idea was established that certain men, by virtue of their family origin and birth, or by divine right, were superior to others. This was the basis for the feudal system. Other men have managed to enslave whole peoples in this way. They used their origins, or arguments based on their skin colour, as a supposedly scientific justification for dominating those who were unfortunate enough to have skin of a different colour. This is what colonial domination and apartheid are based on.
We must pay the closest attention to women's situation because it pushes the most conscious of them into waging a sex war when what we need is a war of classes or parties, waged together, side by side. We have to say frankly that it is the attitude of men that makes such confusion possible. It is men's attitude that spawns the bold assertions made by feminism, certain of which have not been without value in the war which men and women are waging against oppression. This war is one we can and will win – if we understand that we need one another and are complementary, that we share the same fate, and in fact, that we are condemned to interdependence.
At this moment, we have little choice but to recognise that masculine behaviour comprises vanity, irresponsibility, arrogance, and violence of all kinds toward women. This kind of behaviour can hardly lead to coordinated action against women's oppression. And we must say frankly that such attitudes, which can sink to the level of sheer stupidity, are in reality nothing but a safety valve for the oppressed male, who, through brutalising his wife, hopes to regain some of the human dignity denied him by the system of exploitation. This masculine foolishness is called sexism or machismo. It includes all kinds of moral and intellectual feebleness – even thinly veiled physical weakness – which often gives politically conscious women no choice but to consider it their duty to wage a war on two fronts.
In order to fight and win, women must identify with the oppressed layers and classes of society, such as workers and peasants. The man, however, no matter how oppressed he is has another human being to oppress: his wife. To say this is, without any doubt, to affirm a terrible fact. When we talk about the vile system of apartheid, for example, our thoughts and emotions turn to the exploited and oppressed blacks. But we forget the black woman who has to endure her husband – this man who, armed with his passbook, allows himself all kinds of reprehensible detours before returning home to the woman who has waited for him so worthily, in such privation and destitution. We should keep in mind, too, the white woman of South Africa. Aristocratic, with every possible material comfort, she is, unfortunately, still a tool for the pleasure of the lecherous white man. The only thing these men can do to blot out the terrible crimes they commit against blacks is to engage in drunken brawls and perverse, bestial sexual behaviour.
And there is no lack of examples of men, otherwise progressive, who live cheerfully in adultery, but who are prepared to murder their wives on the merest suspicion of infidelity. How many men in Burkina seek so-called consolation in the arms of prostitutes and mistresses of all kinds! And this is not to mention the irresponsible husbands whose wages go to keep mistresses or fill the coffers of bar owners.
And what should we think of those little men, also progressive, who get together in sleazy places to talk about the women they have taken advantage of. They think this is the way they will be able to measure up to other men and even humiliate some of them, by having seduced their wives. In reality, such men are pitiful and insignificant. They would not even enter our discussion, if it were not for the fact that their criminal behaviour has been undermining the morale and virtue of many fine women whose contribution to our revolution could be of the utmost importance.
And then there are those more-or-less revolutionary militants – much less revolutionary than more – who do not accept that their wives should also be politically active, or who allow them to be active by day and by day only, or who beat their wives because they have gone out to meetings or to a demonstration at night.
Oh, these suspicious, jealous men! What narrow-mindedness! And what a limited, partial commitment! For is it only at night that a woman who is disenchanted and determined can deceive her husband? And what is this political commitment that expects her to stop political activity at nightfall and resume her rights and responsibilities only at daybreak. And, finally, what should we make of remarks about women made by all kinds of activists, the one more revolutionary than the next, remarks such as ‘women are despicably materialist,’ ‘manipulators,’ ‘clowns,’ ‘liars,’ ‘gossips,’ ‘schemers, ‘jealous,’ and so on. Maybe this is all true of women. But surely it is equally true of men.
Could our society be any less perverse than this when it systematically burdens women down, keeps them away from anything that is supposed to be serious and of consequence, excludes them from anything other than the most petty and minor activities!
When you are condemned, as women are, to wait for your lord and master at home in order to feed him and receive his permission to speak or just to be alive, what else do you have to keep you occupied and to give you at least the illusion of being useful, but meaningful glances, gossip, chatter, furtive envious: glances at others, and the bad-mouthing of their flirtations and private lives? The same attitudes are found among men put in the same situation.
Another thing we say about women, alas, is that they are always forgetful. We even call them birdbrains. But we must never forget that a woman's whole life is dominated – tormented – by a fickle, unfaithful, and irresponsible husband and by her children and their problems. Completely worn out by attending to the entire family, how could she not have haggard eyes that reflect distraction and absentmindedness? For her, forgetting becomes an antidote to the suffering a relief from the harshness of her existence, a vital self-defence mechanism.
But there are forgetful men, too – a lot of them. Some forget by indulging in drink or drugs, others through the various kinds of perversity they engage in throughout life. Does anyone ever say that these men are forgetful? What vanity! What banality! Banalities, though, that men revel in as a way of concealing the weaknesses of the masculine universe, because this masculine universe in an exploitative society needs female prostitutes. We say that both the female and the prostitute are scapegoats. We defile them and when we are done with them we sacrifice them on the altar of prosperity of a system of lies and plunder.
Prostitution is nothing but the microcosm of a society where exploitation is a general rule. It is a symbol of the contempt men have for women. And yet this woman is none other than the painful figure of the mother, sister, or wife of other men, thus of every one of us. In the final analysis, it is the unconscious contempt we have for ourselves. There can only be prostitutes as long as there are pimps and those who seek prostitutes.
But who frequents prostitutes? First, there are the husbands who commit their wives to chastity, while they relieve their depravity and debauchery upon the prostitute. This allows them to treat their wives with a seeming respect, while they reveal their true nature at the bosom of the lady of so-called pleasure. So on the moral plane prostitution becomes the counterpart to marriage. Tradition, customs, religion, and moral doctrines alike seem to have no difficulty adapting themselves to it. This is what our church fathers mean when they explain that ‘sewers are needed to assure the cleanliness of the palace.’
Then there are the unrepentant and intemperate pleasure seekers who are afraid to take on the responsibility of a home with its ups and downs, and who flee from the moral and material responsibility of fatherhood. So they discreetly seek out the address of a brothel, a goldmine of relations that entail no responsibility on their part.
There is also a whole bevy of men who, publicly at least and in ‘proper’ company, subject women to public humiliation because of some grudge they have not had the strength of character to surmount, thus losing confidence in all women, who become from then on ‘tools of the devil.’ Or else they do so out of hypocrisy, proclaiming their contempt for the female sex too often and categorically, a contempt that they strive to assume in the eyes of the public from which they have extorted admiration through false pretences. All these men end up night after night in brothels until occasionally their hypocrisy is discovered.
Then there is the weakness of the man who is looking for a polyandrous arrangement. Far be it for us to make a value judgment on polyandry, which was the dominant form of relations between men and women in certain societies. What we are denouncing here are the courts of idle, money-grabbing gigolos lavishly kept by rich ladies.
Within this same system; prostitution can, economically speaking, include both the prostitute and the ‘materialist-minded’ married woman. The only difference between the woman who sells her body by prostitution and she who sells herself in marriage is the price and duration of the contract. So, by tolerating the existence of prostitution, we relegate all our women to the same rank: that of a prostitute or wife. The only difference between the two is that the legal wife, though still oppressed, at least has the benefit of the stamp of respectability that marriage confers. As for the prostitute, all that remains for her is the exchange value of her body, a value that fluctuates according to the fancy of the male chauvinist's wallet.
Isn't she just an object, which takes on more or less value according to the degree to which her charms wilt? Isn't she governed by the law of supply and demand? Such a concentrated, tragic, and painful form of female slavery as a whole!
We should see in every prostitute an accusing finger pointing firmly at society as a whole. Every pimp, every partner in prostitution, turns the knife in this festering and gaping wound that disfigures the world of man and leads to his ruin. In fighting against prostitution, in holding out a saving hand to the prostitute, we are saving our mothers, our sisters, and our wives from this social leprosy. We are saving ourselves. We are saving the world.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Africa and Brazil: differing viewpoints from differing interests
Ìrohìn and Carlos Moore
Ìrohìn: The newspaper Estado de S. Paulo recently published an article under the title ‘Lula begins trip to Africa to be next to dictator’, referring to President Lula's trip this week to four African countries, starting with Burkina Faso. How would you evaluate this trip?
Carlos Moore: In the sense of what actually happened, what the newspaper published is entirely accurate. Twenty years ago, on 15 October 1987, there was a coup in Burkina Faso, where the president Thomas Sankara - a great man, an African nationalist and important pan-African - was assassinated in a cowardly act during a swift coup orchestrated by the country’s current president, Blaise Campoaré. Sankara died killed along with twelve other nationalist leaders.
I: What were the reasons for the bloody coup?
CM: Everything derives from the fact that Burkina Faso, the former French colony once known as ‘Upper Volta’, escaped French control in 1983 when Sankara took power and along with his companions initiated a genuine social revolution and policy which would quickly eliminate corruption, introduce women's rights and implement radical land reform. The new revolutionary government advocated the unification of the entire African continent into a single federal country, and promoted the non-payment of debts owed unfairly to the West, beginning, with this, a social revolution. Thus arisen, Sankara caught the eye of the French, with the reasons being these: the class currently heading Burkina Faso is totally in the hands of the West, those powers that have worked for the underdevelopment and backwardness of Africa in ceaseless and merciless exploitation. The year 2007 thus marks the twentieth anniversary of a vile act that will do nothing but delay the progress of the African continent.
I: Sankara was a pan-Africanist?
CM: Absolutely. He is loved throughout the continent, where his memory is venerated along with that of Patrice Lumumba. Sankara fought to realise a project of African continental unity, a proposal also supported by leaders such as President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Amílcar Cabral of Guinea-Bissau, and Steve Biko of South Africa. In other words, this great pan-African fought for the unity of the African continent, and many were killed by following this ideal. Sankara is one of them and always will be at the heart of Africa as a worthy upholder of the continent’s best interests.
I: How did it come to pass that Brazil’s President Lula has begun his trip to Africa in Burkina Faso on the anniversary of the current president’s assassination of Sankara?
CM: It is a fact that the Brazilian conservative press used this diplomatic decision to de-legitimate the entire policy of reconciliation with the African continent. There is no doubt that we are facing a surprising fact. This was effectively a decision by the Brazilian diplomacy that I personally do not understand. It is not a mistake, because those who took this decision knew the facts. So there are two issues here: a decision which I consider unfortunate and the exploiting of the decision by opposing forces looking to advance African progress as much as Brazil’s as a multi-racial nation. That is why we feel doubly sad, because I believe in the sincerity of Lula pro-African stance. The arguments on the subject offered by several newspapers seem in accord with these conservative forces.
I: Do you think that President Lula had all the information at hand before accepting the invitation of the Burkina Faso dictator?
CM: President Lula is someone who I respect a lot. Lula is a leader with an extraordinary past, who has distinguished himself time and again as the opponent of any form of dictatorship. He has always fought against the forces opposed to democracy. Indeed, I was puzzling to me that President Lula would allow himself to be associated with this figure precisely on the anniversary of the Sankara assassination. It is very sad to see the man who actually killed Sankara using this moment to try to fool the world, as the figure of Lula is internationally respected. For me as a pan-African, it was a moment of personal sadness and political embarrassment.
I: How is it that the president's aides are not aware of the fact that it may not be the most favourable time to go to the country?
CM: I understand that states have their own logic, the so-called ‘reason of state.’ This is a logic different from that which directs the actions of political activism. But here it is clear that there was an operation orchestrated by the neocolonial Burkina Faso state, led by President Blaise Campoaré, to coincide with a visit from a great and respected leader of the Third World at the time of the anniversary of the taking of power through the murder of Sankara, an event which has been disapproved by all African nationalists.
I: What is your assessment of President Blaise Campoaré?
CM: I do not have the slightest bit of respect for this leader, who has remained in power through successive acts of electoral fraud, and thanks to his intimidation of political opponents and the campaign of terror against his population. I consider him one of the vilest men and indeed one of the least capable leaders on the African continent. I won’t elaborate any further on this, because I do not think it merits all this attention.
I: How do you see relations between Brazil and Africa?
CM: We cannot forget that this is essentially a continent weakened and dominated by outside interests and lying prostrate in front of the wider world after several centuries of hard blows, imperial assaults, intense trafficking in slaves and the conquest of the whole continent by Western Europe. To this we must add that the process of independence, from 1957 onwards, was already undermined by neocolonial relations; the overwhelming majority of leaders who came to power were already corrupt and in service to the world's hegemonic interests. This was about elites colluding with the imperialist and hegemonic interests of Western Europe, the United States and Japan and, lately, these elites are also colluding with hegemonic ambitions of neo-imperial emerging powers like China. It is in this context that the overall Brazil-Africa relationship fits and begins before us.
I: As regards the future of Brazil-Africa relations, is your assessment optimistic or pessimistic?
CM: Neither of the two. This relationship will be the result of directions taken and the specific conditions governing the two and what the Brazilian and African civil societies allow it to be. Inter-country relations reflect either the interaction of harmonious, balanced structures - those that are therefore symmetrical - or opposing, unbalanced and asymmetric forces. Political, economic and military interests obey games of interest, not sentimental collisions. Actual interests, and not emotional reactions, govern political and economic strategies.
I: Which specific conditions are you referring to?
CM: There are many, quite varied examples, but in order to summarise I would say the main ones are:
a) A weak African civil society, disjointed, repressed and with little power to pressure leaders, who are in their majority despotic, corrupt, and likely to collude with external interests, culturally alienated and attentive only to their own material interests
b) An international context defined by the supremacy of the interests of a handful of imperialist nations - medium, large and superpower - whose greed exploits the fabled mineral wealth and strategic materials of a downtrodden Africa
c) A thriving industry in Brazil in search of areas ripe for investment and profit, giving rise to a growing economy worthy of highly technologically developed countries and fully industrialised, despite the fact that Brazil belongs to the so-called Third World.
Added to this is another factor of ideological nature: the existence in Brazil, the result of a well-known past, of a deep contempt towards the African continent, its descendants and its history. That is, in general, that the dominant elites in Brazil, profoundly Eurocentric and Europeanised, admirers of American and Euro-Western methods and standards, do not consider Africa as an equal partner, but rather as the ‘black continent’ and a provider of slaves, worthy only of being exploited and humiliated. These elites have virtually all the media in their hands, and thus can forge - and do forge - all manner of distorted images of the African continent. In turn, this media monopoly causes the public and civil society to get caught up in the exploitation of the African continent. This is where the danger lies: that, little by little, the Brazilian view is directed in a way hostile to the essential solidarity with African mainland felt by most of the country's population.
I: Adding a further political dimension and economic aspects, what would you say about the Brazilian government’s investing in African countries like Burkina Faso, Angola, the DR Congo and South Africa?
CM: We know that a head of state must defend the interests of all its citizens. A state’s economic interests are key points to be protected by its head. To the extent that these interests are represented by sectors that mark the country's presence in the international arena - particularly industry and commerce - it is logical that the Brazilian president makes deals to open new avenues for business investment, companies and multinationals from his country, as any other head of state would. This is something that is foreseen in the logic of the power of a head of state. Surely, there is no mystery at all. Moreover, the African continent is the object of international greed because of the extraordinary mineral wealth found in its subsoil. Of the 48 minerals considered as strategic by the industrialised, technologically developed world, in Africa no less than 38 are monopolised. It is no coincidence that Africa has been called a ‘geological scandal.’ It is for this reason that Africa appears as a focus for world powers and will be even more so over the course of this century. At this point, China possesses its own ongoing major operations within 53 African countries. China is interested in the exploration and acquisition of these strategic materials. And not only China, but Japan, South Korea, India, Turkey, and Iran; that is, all the emerging powers. Once restricted to the major European powers, the range of the countries interested in Africa is now expanding. It is no longer just the former colonial powers such as France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and England, but also Germany, Russia and even Poland. All these countries are interested in Africa. It is within this set of interests that Brazil lies as a country also seeking to be a power in the twenty-first century. Logically, this presents risks to the African continent, but the situation could also present positives.
I: What forms the basis of Brazilian interest in the African continent? Political sensitivity or purely economic interests?
CM: For me, there is no doubt that economic interests prevail, though it is also possible to take as sincere the sympathy expressed by the Brazilian head of state towards the African continent. I do not doubt Lula’s sincerity, but I also don’t doubt that there are actual interests conditioning Brazil’s international policy, interests both economic and commercial. However, these interests are expressed in a well-defined international context: the global supremacy of the United States and, in response to its unilateral hegemony, the emergence of new poles of power around the world. Brazil, the ninth or tenth economy in the world, is one of those possible centres aspiring to the status of great power.
I: Despite the new entente between Brazil and the countries of Africa, does this inevitably remain an ‘unequal’ relationship?
CM: No one can claim that there is balance between Brazil, a unified country with the planet’s ninth strongest economy, and a politically weak, huge continent comprised of 53 fragmented, poor countries. Brazil’s international clout surpasses that of all the countries of central Africa, for example. That is the reality. Even the Brazilian media has recently emphasised the imbalance between Brazil and African countries and stressed, not without perverse irony that the budget of Burkina Faso, a country of about 15 million, represents only 10% of the budget of a single Brazilian multinational in Petrobras! Brazil is a strong country-continent unified under a federalist system, active in the international arena and able to defend its borders. Africa is the exact opposite; there aren’t even well-articulated government projects at the federal level. Brazil is a strong country, vibrant, and technologically developed, whose economy and industry are driven by multinationals who move around the world in search of profit, raw materials and trade expansion. The 53 African countries, conversely, are primarily exporters of raw products from extraction, such as oil, gold, diamond, tungsten, copper and uranium. African armies serve only to exercise the repression of their people, or to mount coups, and certainly not for their countries’ defence against any external threat.
I: What must then be overcome in order to establish a just and fair relationship between these parties?
CM: There are several obstacles on both sides which will need to be overcome in order to establish equal relations between Brazil and Africa. Most African leaders themselves constitute major obstacles and generally a sizeable portion of a government will not seek to establish an equitable relationship with rest of the world. Remember that most governments came to power not because their leadership represented the best interests of their countries, but because they were placed there by Western imperialist powers to defend Western interests. That is where we must begin. Beginning with the independence of Ghana in 1957 and Guinea the following year, the process of decolonisation expanded to almost all African countries from 1960. As a result, true nationalist leaders came to power; powerful thinkers, great men of state who believed in continental cooperation and promoted African integration. These leaders longed for an Africa that would be no longer fragmented, a federal Africa, with just a central government, armed forces, a parliament and a single nationality. Among these visionary leaders who conceived of this Africa were the Presidents Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Sékou Touré, of Guinea, Modibo Keïta of Mali, Alphonse Massamba-Debate of Congo-Brazzaville, Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba of the Congo and President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania. These key leaders were followed by others of no less distinction in the form of Amílcar Cabral of Guinea-Bissau, Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela of South Africa, and Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso. They were rooted in a radically different concept to the neocolonial approach of today’s Africa's leaders.
I: What happened to these nationalist leaders?
CM: These were visionary leaders who came to power in the process of decolonisation and fought for the independence of Africa, who were shot in bloody coups d’état or murdered, like Lumumba, Cabral, Murtala Mohammed of Nigeria, and even Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique. In less than thirty years, no less that 38 important African leaders were murdered under circumstances that in most cases have been dubious. In other words, these leaders have disappeared either through coups or murder. The African nationalist and pan-African has been decapitated! This forms part of the explanation around why Africa remains in its current situation of terrible underdevelopment. Its great leaders and thinkers have been decimated. And who took power in their place? Look over the longue durée of current governments and you'll see that those in power arrived there through bloody coups supported by countries in the West, in many cases killing those opposed to Africa’s exploitation and who had grand and innovative ideas about how to create a federation and emancipate the continent. So I would say that one of the major obstacles the African continent faces when trying to establish a relationship on an equal footing with the rest of the world is these African leaders themselves. In their overwhelming majority current African elites are a central factor in Africa’s underdevelopment.
I: Why exactly?
CM: Most of today’s African elites work to maintain old unequal relations of exchange, relations which began even before the 15th and 16th centuries, because this situation is very much to their benefit. Centuries ago, this entailed the sending of African slaves to the major centres of the imperial era: first the Middle East and then Europe. There is a history of unequal exchange with African countries introduced from the time when the Arab empire, from the 8th century, became dominant in the world. When that empire, which lasted more than eight hundred years, went into decline and the world began to see the emergence of a Western European empire, the same relationship remained unbalanced. Even today, this relationship upholds and promotes the interests of African elites. It is shocking to say, and let alone accept, but that's the reality. These elites are an important part of maintaining the fabric of the colonial links of yesterday and the possibilities for the neocolonial and neoimperial links of tomorrow.
I: Continuing with these obstacles, how about the Brazilian context?
CM: In Brazil, things happen in a different way. Here the dominant elites are powerful and able to defend their national interests well. Among these elites, there are sectors that exploit African raw materials. Interests are overseen by large multinational Brazilian companies that have the power to intervene outside the borders of this country. Currently, Brazilian companies are investing heavily in several Latin American countries and making a great effort to establish relations with the rest of the world. This is part of a plot of the capitalist world today. The Brazilian effort to be involved in Africa is therefore nothing out of the ordinary; it is part of the dominant dynamic around the world, fuelled by the liberal economy.
I: But you’ve just referred to the existence of conservative forces operating in Brazil. How do you classify them?
CM: We must recognise the fact that Brazil has a very complex system due to a national structure comprised of very small political pieces. Both economic interests and those of politicians are fragmented. North-east, south-east, and mid-west correspond to various historical and socioeconomic realities, often divergent. Here in this country, there are conservative forces that are simply homogeneous, but there are also several components to this conservatism. By the same token, there are different progressive forces in this country operating within quite a complex framework. Here, there are conservative forces acting in different directions. For example, there are groups who are opposed to ties with Africa, even though they benefit Brazil and Brazilian firms. Policy towards Africa, which Lula's government will try to establish with the support of a number of Brazilian companies, represents the interests of groups with a much better vision of national interests than the most reactionary sectors, which show a complete lack of interest for relations with African countries.
I: These links would benefit the people, basically?
CM: Indeed. At this point, I do not know to what extent those links currently benefit the African people. What is certain is that, at present, these ties will benefit African elites, on one hand and, above all, Brazil’s economy and firms. Nevertheless, there are conservative forces that do not want the establishment of ties with Africa. These conservative forces - not only in Brazil but throughout the American continent - are traditionally Afrophobic, having inherited a history of blind hatred and contempt for Africa to the point where they oppose the development of economic relations between their national companies and African countries, even though those relations - I repeat - can boost their own economies.
I: So you think these relations will be inevitably neocolonial?
CM: Under the conditions I have just described, it would be a miracle if this were not to happen, and I do not believe in miracles. It is clear to me that the conditions underpinning Brazil-Africa relations are no different from those that the rest of the world's powerful nations have established and maintained with the African continent. These conditions have certainly developed in a neocolonial direction, with Brazil taking on, little by little, the increasingly strong role of a hegemonic power, albeit with a ‘nice’ façade. This is why the current scenario of a representative and sympathetic approach to Africa’s interests will be restricted to President Lula’s mandate. Everything will hinge on the role played and interest shown by Brazilian civil society.
I: So these relations are bound to evolve negatively, would you say?
Carlos Moore – Neocolonial relations always spring from deep structural imbalances between nations. The focus on those relationships is, soon after, on guiding ideologies which guarantee the hegemony of the stronger partner over the other, who is increasingly subordinated within unequal relations. As I was saying, with regard to Brazil, the ideological factor has been supplied by a traditionally Afrophobic and anti-African national superstructure, itself the legacy of slavery. In Brazil, arguably, even in the face of repeated denials, strong structural and systemic racism continues, something deeply rooted in social imagery. These are major factors that cannot be forgotten nor taken lightly when speaking of Africa. To observe this we need only witness how the Brazilian media treats daily problems affecting the African continent, a treatment underpinned by an extreme degree of contempt, disrespect and insensitivity, and which promotes lies, half-truths and omitted facts that could so easily, under a different approach, explain the broader horrors of the continent’s corrupt elites and neocolonial system. There is no sympathy or empathy in reports on African peoples, but only the desire to present the ‘black continent’ as something bestial, and as a dark and dirty hole; primitive, barbaric, threatening! In other words, Africa is presented in the media in the same way as the slums of large Brazilian cities.
I: So you think that Brazilian imperialism may one day also arise?
Carlos Moore – History shows us that any powerful nation, despite its initial democratic profile, can become a hegemonic nation, domineering and abusive in relation to weaker countries. This is particularly the case when national interests are linked to economic and financial interests of large national and multinational companies. In this sense, Brazil can, yes, eventually become a sub-imperial or imperial country in the twenty-first century. There is no natural immunity against national pride, chauvinism or racism. There is no natural prevention against any powerful nation becoming an imperialist nation. The examples provided by the United States and Israel show us this reality. We must be very careful and very clear. A clear policy, and meticulous attention to the development of Brazil’s relations with African countries, requires civil society’s constant vigilance. I see no other way to ensure that these relationships are kept within acceptable ethical boundaries.
I: In terms of the building of more equitable relationships, what role is to be played by civil society, particularly by current social movements?
CM: Civil society has an ongoing responsibility for the direction in which a country’s foreign policy is guided. Assuming such a responsibility is crucial. I believe that in this particular case, it is precisely civil society that should provide the counterweight to the action and the interests of big business. Obviously the goal of business is profit and it tends, inevitably, to participate in the exploitation of the African continent. This is in line with the logic of global capitalism. There is a sector of the Brazilian economy, technologically advanced, that it intensely interested in other countries. Industry is clearly concerned with having access to raw materials and the African market. Today, Africa represents a growing market, where products manufactured in Brazil will find excellent opportunities for retail. As with Chinese, Japanese, Iranian and Indian companies, Brazilian enterprise is also interested in exploring and expanding that space. Prioritising the prevention of unfair working conditions for Africans will certainly be far from the agenda of these companies, and I think that such a concern will scarcely feature in their performance, in much the same vein as other states working in African today. The Chinese are not in the least bit anxious to know whether their employees are protected in an African union or not. They are simply interested in having a cheap labour force and appropriating the continent’s resources while paying as little as possible for them.
I: What is the role of Brazilian civil society in all this?
CM: The answer lies in immediately strengthening the capacity for democratic intervention in both Brazilian and African civil society. Democratic forces within Brazil, be they black or white, should be form coalitions as a means of political counterweight. Without this, there is a risk that history will repeat itself, and that the image of a country of ‘friendly, cheerful, and football-playing sambistas’ will become a mere neocolonial power. Brazilian multinationals must be made to understand that it is in their long-term interest to contribute to the welfare of the peoples of Africa as they accumulate profits in the continent. And, likewise, they must be made to understand that profit is not sustainable in Africa while we ignore endemic poverty of our own domestic Africa at home in Brazil. The interconnections between these two realities are not so visible now, but will arise in the near future and Brazilian multinational companies will soon understand them. In other words, we must help advance the cause of African federalisation, on one hand, and help reduce socio-racial inequalities in Brazil on the other. Brazilian multinationals can contribute positively in both regards, ensuring an equitable relationship with Africa while creating an environment of democratic brotherhood within Brazil.
I: And what are the actual possibilities of civil society to deal with that?
CM: Civil society needs to find out how to effectively intervene in order to have clout in international politics within Brazil, at least with regard to Africa. We have seen how the black population of the United States organised themselves under a strong lobby that forced the US government to pull back on its support for South Africa. The United States was entirely supportive of the apartheid regime and supported all governments of segregation to have settled there militarily, economically and politically. It was only as a result of the mobilisation and action of civil society that change was initiated. Leon Sullivan was the first pastor to propose an end to investments in South Africa, a policy that became known as ‘the Sullivan Principle.’ From there, there were to be several lobbies of black Americans, led by a trans-Africa body, which pressured the government and threatened boycotts if American multinationals continued to invest in South Africa This is a strong example of effective intervention and positive civil society diaspora action as a means of safeguarding the interests of African civil society. Even today, African civil society remains very weak. It is therefore necessary to help it grow and get stronger. African social movements have been so suppressed by dictatorships in their countries that it is only in the last fifteen years that we have seen the beginnings of civil society’s effective reorganisation and the creation of independent political life. We must help and encourage this process of revival of African civil society.
I: What are the concrete steps that you suggest?
CM: Firstly, I would suggest that civil society constitute a body specifically tasked with the monitoring and tracking of Brazil-Africa relations. This is increasingly becoming an imperative. Secondly, civil society, through this body, must define a code of ethics and policy to be applied in the act of monitoring and pressuring Brazilian companies working on the African continent. This code, which should be discussed with the companies themselves and with the state’s foreign policy organs, should meet the aspirations of African civil society. So far nobody has called for this, that the state and Brazilian multinational companies subscribe to a code of conduct for African countries in order to clarify what will and will not govern their search for profit. In my view, these are some of the necessary preconditions to avoid Brazil's economic and political engagement in Africa descending into a neoimperialist spiral, as is already happening with China's relations with the countries of the continent.
I: Contrary to China experiences, what factors could influence a positive development in Brazil’s?
CM: Unlike China, India, Europe or Japan, most of the Brazilian population has its origins in Africa. That is why I think it is the duty of the social movement and civil society to ensure that the Brazil’s economic intervention in the continent shows consideration for the interests of African civil societies and people they represent, interests not protected even by the bulk of African governments. This is one of the major duties of the Brazilian civil society and all democratic forces of this country: to defend the interests of African civil society. All Brazil’s democratic forces must recognise that Africa has been historically targeted and crushed, and therefore you cannot allow Brazil to contribute, as it did in the past during the slave trade, to the continent’s regression. It is the responsibility of democratic civil society to ensure that Brazil's economic intervention in Africa is only beneficial to the peoples of Africa, and is not negative or catastrophic. We must prevent the emergence of neocolonialist relations between Brazil and the African continent.
I: In a nutshell, how would you define a relationship rooted in cooperation between Brazil and Africa?
CM: Briefly, I would say that a solid, healthy and mutually advantageous base will allow the signing of a cooperation between Brazil and the African continent to form the political and economic foundations for a strategic partnership in the twenty-first century. It is a matter of political will on the part of both parties. Specifically, Brazil can help the African continent overcome its chronic problems through putting in place a process leading to federal, continental African unity, something that Brazil has done itself. From this standpoint, Brazil could even prove to be the largest external influence in pushing Africa towards immediate federalisation. This process would be beneficial to Brazil as it emerges as a bigger power and in need of strong allies with which to defend itself. In turn, Africa as a whole may help Brazil to resolve its biggest internal dilemma: its socio-racial problem. Africa can help this country to oversee a smooth transition to a truly multi-racial democracy through the political, economic and social empowerment of the majority Afro-Brazilian population. This is, in all respects, historically inevitable. Africa too needs Brazil as a strong ally to defend it from the legendary greed of the major powers for its natural resources. There is therefore room for a sound strategic partnership between Brazil and the African continent around the definition of a common, long-term agenda, aimed at the elimination of major domestic and international imbalances that Brazil faces as much as Africa, in dangerous situations of collapse and violent conflict. Together, Brazil and a federalised Africa could define the terms of a great alliance for the future. In so doing, Brazil and Africa could represent the centre of a new strategic south-Atlantic bloc. Everything would hinge on the development of a large project in the name of a simultaneous, inter-linked process of democratisation within the international scene and domestic universe of nations comprising the international community. That would be the greatest contribution to the stabilisation and democratisation of the international order in the twenty-first century, something leading to a multi-polar process of decentralisation to benefit the planet, put an end to war and promote people’s happiness.
* Carlos Moore is a Cuban political scientist, who was previously an assistant to Cheikh Anta Diop. This article has been translated from an article in Portuguese entitled 'A Africa e o Brasil sob a ótica de interesses divergentes.' The original article by Irohìn can be found at www.irohin.org.br/onl/new.php?sec=news&id=2216.
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Rwandan women's liberation: Nationalism versus social liberation
For some time now it has been argued that the failure of the nationalist movements to effectively accord women their rights leading to their full emancipation has been because the nationalist model is rooted in patriarchal notions of power and liberation. Post-colonial regimes adopted governance systems that were based on the double pillars of militarism and repression. They did not have an agenda for the total liberation of their citizens but instead sought to fit into the colonial masters’ shoes, creating a new black elite at the bidding of the former colonial power. What for example Zimbabwean cynics would say of the country's liberation, and of Robert Mugabe in particular, is that the country simply moved from a 'white Smith' to a 'black Smith'. Or better still the relationship that existed between the former Rwandan government of Juvénal Habyarimana and the French administration.
Fulfilling Frantz Fanon's prophecy: ‘In its beginnings, the national bourgeoisie of the colonial country identifies itself with the decadence of the West. We need not think that it is jumping ahead; it is in fact beginning at the end.’
What academic Horace Campbell goes on to describe as the exhausted patriarchal model of liberation: ‘Instead of liberation becoming the foundation of a new social order, the militarist and masculinist leadership turned the victory of the people into a never ending nightmare of direct and structural violence.’ A nightmare for Rwanda that led to the slaughter in 1994 of over a million of her people.
It is in this context that I would like to link the gains made by Rwandan women and men in the last parliamentary elections vis-à-vis women's emancipation, and their promotion to positions of power and decision-making against the country's post-colonial history of repression and exclusion in an attempt to substantiate the nexus between a political system in place, governance and women's emancipation. These are interlinked; an anti-democratic system will not allow popular participation, in most instances women are left out. Consequently, one can risk the argument that it is the political system that determines the mode of governance and ultimately women's emancipation.
Nationalist models promoted a two stage approach to liberation, the first being to gain political power, usually by men, then everything else which included women's liberation would follow. A model that has been challenged by Rwanda.
Feminist Patricia Chogugudza writes of liberation movements after independence: ‘Yet feminist critics argue that at the end of the struggle, women's status actually fell as nationalist leaders and nationalist-oriented societies, in the quest of preserving tradition, expected women to be guardians of culture and respectability, or mistresses of the emerging ruling elites, or wives and mothers, recruiters for political parties, and labourers for the new market economy, while men were engaged in competition for political power in the state and the accumulation of wealth.’
Rwanda's liberation model, from the struggle for democracy, leading to the phase of the post genocide reconstruction efforts was instead based on equal participation of the sexes, in combat and the eventual power sharing with a clear visibility of women at the helm different sectors of society. Women who carried the gun such as retired Lieutenant Colonel Rose Kabuya and others did not evaporate into political oblivion as their other struggling ex-combatant sisters did; instead they have been there at the helm, the success of which can be counted in the recent parliamentary election results.
In response to the election result in which Rwandan women now constitute 56.25% of the lower chamber of parliament, some critics claim the ascent of Rwandan women is through the coincidental misfortune of more men having died during the genocide, therefore women dominate in the country's demographics.
I would not want to go into statistics of female or male casualties during Africa's liberation struggle, though it can be argued with certainty that there were more male than female casualties, perhaps skewering the demographics in favour of women, but that did not change the prevailing context of power relations based on male dominance. To date in most countries women have higher populations than men but will come out in droves to vote for men, remain marginalised and under represented in decision-making positions all as a result of the patriarchal nature of the societies they operate under; the result of political systems that will not allow fundamental changes to the status quo of power underpinning male privilege.
Chogugudza continues: ‘Zimbabwean women, like their counterparts in Mozambique, Angola, and Guinea-Bissau, joined the armed struggle. Their hope was that with the revolution, gender equality would be certain.’
Taking me back to my earlier argument that the magic potion for women is in the political system in place. For the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), a liberation movement taking over power from a black government in a world that hardly understands black on black violence, the biggest challenge was to start building a system based on basic human values. That included an overhaul of the political culture of one party dominance; for instance all parties that contest elections are represented in government, fostering a spirit of multi-party democracy.
The RPF had to distinguish itself from the politics of the past despotism and apartheid as illustrated in Andrew Wallis’s Silent Accomplice: The Untold Story of France's Role in the Rwandan Genocide: ‘The Rwandan president, the Hutu Juvénal Habyarimana, who had seized power back in 1973, had continued an 'apartheid' system that all but banned Tutsis from working in the army, civil service and professional jobs.’ The relationship between Habyarimana and the French government explained in the book makes but an apt fulfillment of Fanon's prophesy: ‘It is already senile before it has come to know the petulance, the fearlessness, or the will to succeed of youth.’
A political senility quite apparent in gender relations based on a system that viewed women as second class citizens; they had no access to education or proper health care (a preserve of the elite women), they could not own land and inheritance was through a male member of the family. All this through fundamental legislative changes is a thing of the past. Women now queue up for land title deeds! Thus, my argument that a political system in place will by and large determine the role and positioning of women. The more democratic and open a system the more gains for women in that society; only a system that works for total liberation can achieve this.
* Grace Kwinjeh is the managing editor of The New Times.
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AfriCOM, militarisation, and resource control
‘A civilian-military partnership’?
For years, the US never considered Africa as a priority foreign policy agenda. The only context in which Africa came up in Washington was for preferential trade as in AGOA (Africa Growth and Opportunity Act) or in AIDS-funding from PEPFAR and of course humanitarian assistance. Despite its continued use of the term ‘partnership with Africa’, no administration viewed Africa as anything but a source of extractive resources and a perpetual conflict ridden region with few business opportunities.
So now, when the US declares Africa to be a very important region and pays special attention to it, one has got to be suspicious. With little fanfare, on 1 October the US officially launched a new militarised initiative for Africa that has come to be known as AfriCOM, or the Africa Command. The announcement was held in a small press conference at the Pentagon where Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated: ‘AfriCOM represents yet another important step in modernizing our defense arrangements in light of 21st century realities.’
According to William (Kip) Ward, the African-American General who will be heading the command, AfriCOM is about ensuring security and interventions to prevent war and conflicts. He admits the increased need for an Africa Command came in the post 9/11 ‘global war on terror’, where Africa is seen largely as ‘ungoverned’ states where extremists are posing a threat to US national security. A special case that is frequently used to depict these ‘lawless’ states is Somalia. The southern region of Somalia has remained in internal conflict since the last president was deposed in 1991. When finally an indigenous civil society group reinstated order and stability, the US (and its ally Ethiopia) declared them ‘Islamic extremists.’ In January 2007, the US bombed innocent Somali civilians - an act which went unreported and un-criticised - and continues to use its military interventions either directly on the country or through its alliance with Ethiopia.
With the prerogative of openly using military power against states that ‘threaten the US national security’ AfriCOM will operate with little supervision from Congress or international bodies like the United Nations. Prior to the announcement of AfriCOM, Africa was treated as a side region and US military command was divided between the European, Pacific & Central Commands. In fact, the headquarters of the newly launched AfriCOM is still based in Stuttgart, Germany, but will not be so for long. When fully operational, the new Africa Command will not only be based in the continent, but will ‘network’ and militarise all aspects of US policy with Africa.
If you're thinking traditional bases with thousands of military personnel, think again. General Kip Ward has said it is not about ‘bases’ and ‘garrisons’ but rather a network of sophisticated military operations strategically placed throughout the continent which can be moved around and utilised for any purpose. General Gates called AfriCOM ‘a different kind of command with different orientation, one that we hope and expect will institutionalize a lasting security relationship with Africa.’ It is ‘a civilian-military partnership’ where diplomatic and humanitarian relief by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) will get directives from the Department of Defense. Imagine US military personnel delivering emergency aid and conducting diplomatic missions and the appropriate term is ‘colonisation.’
AfriCOM is being sold to the public as a good thing for Africa, one that will bring lasting peace and stability to a continent rife with conflicts and disasters. Many African heads of states are not buying this and have rejected the move including the most powerful 14 state-member Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), which publicly denounced AfriCOM. Typical of past US historic missions in Africa, there was no prior consultation with African leaders and many heard about it when it was officially announced on 6 February 2007. The Department of Defense sent medium-level delegates to ‘sell AfriCOM’ to heads of state after it had been finalised, but African leaders rejected it as a threat to their sovereignty and a move to further militarise Africa; the last thing Africa needs is more militarisation! . The only exception is, ironically, the first and only democratically-elected female president in Africa, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. When heavily criticised about her support from AfriCOM, Johnson-Sirleaf admitted it is an unpopular move but one she has had to take to secure high infusion of US capital for her country’s beleaguered economy.
Why is the US suddenly interested in ‘prioritising’ Africa? The answer is the same one that has motivated countless interventions into the continent in the past centuries: control of resources. The need for the US to secure oil from the Niger Delta where it is estimated by 2020, a quarter of the imports will originate. Equally important are ‘strategic minerals’ which the US has substantial dependency on. Without cobalt, manganese, chromium and platinum, among others, most US technological and military industries would come to a halt.
Another perceived threat and rationale for AfriCOM is China's increasing presence in Africa. It is not ‘new’ as it may seem to be, China has been building industries and accessing oil and extracting minerals for at least decades. Despite the growing criticism on China for its military and industry activities in Africa, many say it at least provides African countries with an alternative to the dominant Western capital push which had remained challenged until recently.
Excluding Egypt, AfriCOM will when fully operational in effect have a sophisticated and well-networked military capability throughout 53 African countries. The Department of Defense will oversee ‘civilian’ activities that were previously the mandate of diplomatic and humanitarian agencies. We can also count the increase in private military activities which, as seen in Iraq, remain unregulated and with no congressional monitoring.
This fundamental shift in US-Africa relations has come under tremendous attack by civil society and policy research groups in both the US and Africa. A national coalition group has organised as a way to counter the move; Resist AfriCOM is conducting massive education and mobilisation to send a clear message to Washington in solidarity with African civil society to say a clear and unequivocal ‘no’ to AfriCOM (visit www.resistafricom.org)
How does one say no to a policy that was announced a year ago and has been, for all intents and purposes, officially operationalised already? Through continued response from the grassroots in the US (working in partnership with African civil society), the progressive Africa-justice community and the peace movement in the US has a responsibility to continue to reject this initiative even when it appears to be moving ahead.
As a good friend from the anti-apartheid movement always states, the US had officially sanctioned and supported the racist apartheid state of South Africa politically and economically. To those who were working actively to oppose it at the time, it seemed like an impossible task to change these policies and indeed it took decades to do so. But logic and morality prevailed and eventually, through national grassroots pressures, the US made radical shifts to its policy and denounced apartheid.
AfriCOM is nothing new, it is simply a new initiative to ensure ‘command’ of land and resources that in the past was called just plain ‘colonialism.’ As the competition for global resources tightens, not only for oil and minerals, but for basic rights to land and water, we can expect increased focus on Africa as the new frontier. Joining this increasing Africa resistance movement and speaking out against Africa Command is should be everyone's responsibility.
* Nunu Kidane is network coordinator for Priority Africa Network, based in Oakland, California.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
The China factor in IBSA
From 15 October 2007, the Indian government will host the third annual India-Brazil-South-Africa (IBSA) Summit in Delhi. Astonishingly, in the run-up to the summit there has been very little information published on the technical, operational and political engagements of IBSA. This will undoubtedly change over the next few days, especially during and after the summit where there will be more than enough reports circulating around the viability of its outcomes and, more generally, whether IBSA is a durable and realistic trilateral institution strengthening the South-South cooperation.
Since its inception IBSA has been viewed with ambiguity. Some critics see South Africa’s position within the group as misplaced and punching above its weight while others feel that IBSA’s voice on global issues relating to reform and governance of the international system remains marginal without the inclusion of China and Russia.
While the fluidity and shifting geography of power within the international system, the current global financial crisis notwithstanding, will occupy a large chunk of the summit dialogue, considering how China and Russia may strengthen the pulpit of IBSA is myopic.
For some time now the debate on IBSA has been overshadowed by the China factor. Very often discussions regarding IBSA’s future is inextricably aligned to whether or not China joins the alliance or how China’s growing influence in the respective regions of the IBSA countries, across the South and within international politics will affect the objectives of the G3. While China’s global prowess must not be taken lightly, the emphasis placed on China in the IBSA debate is overstated and sometimes unrealistic.
First commentators and analysts fail to recognise that the South is a heterogeneous grouping. By consistently reflecting on IBSA through a China lens assumes that Beijing is the only omnipotent voice of the South.
Second, by assuming that IBSA cannot be legitimate without China not only casts aspersions that the IBSA countries are peripheral actors in the South and more generally the international system but reinforces the perception that the interests of the South are homogenous and unitary.
Third, despite the common normative foreign policy principles that bind China and the IBSA countries, it is not a foregone conclusion that this makes them likely bedfellows. Indeed, presuming that it would be in IBSA’s interests if China were to become part of the trilateral alliance does not mean that Beijing and IBSA can speak with one voice regarding geo-political and/or geo-economic issues relating to the South. The case in point is the Doha Development Round.
What the above illustrates is that IBSA should be viewed as one of the many institutions aimed at harnessing South-South co-operation. From this perspective IBSA has demonstrated its resolve as an important structure from the South in reforming the international order and pursuing a more equitable global system, while on the other hand it has shown that South-South cooperation is possible even without the big C. On both fronts IBSA illustrates that the diffuse nature of the South does not always mean that China has to be included in all institutions in order to give such frameworks legitimacy.
It will be better served if IBSA is seen on the merits of three like-minded democratic states unifying their broad national and international interests in pushing for greater South-South collaboration. At this juncture putting the China factor into IBSA is premature and at times parochial because it assumes that China is the only player in the South that can promote such leverage.
As the third IBSA Summit takes place, it is important for analysts to ask how the China factor may reorder the goals of the IBSA trilateral, but this is more a long-term consideration. For the moment China is comfortable in its current posturing to be part of other groupings of the South like the India-China-Russia troika and the Shanghai Cooperation (which incidentally Beijing initiated) and how these further entrench its South-South engagements.
Perhaps it is more useful to ask whether it is in China’s interests to join IBSA and not whether it is in IBSA’s interests for China to join. Indeed, the muted presence of China in Asia and Latin America will raise some significant issues for the IBSA trilateral, but for now we must be circumspect in assuming that China wants to join IBSA or for that matter IBSA wants it to join.
If IBSA is to succeed in becoming a realistic and viable building bloc in augmenting South-South cooperation it will be better poised in recognising that the South is a heterogeneous group with competing interests and that not all of its institutions must include the China factor.
For now, let’s assess IBSA as part of an overall effort to gradually reinforce the spirit of Bandung and integration of the South into the international system.
* Sanusha Naidu is research director of the China in Africa programme based at Fahamu, Cape Town. This article reflects her personal views. She can be contacted at email@example.com
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
In praise of…The Marcus Garvey Library, Tottenham, London
Ronald Elly Wanda
I first discovered The Marcus Garvey Library at Philip Lane in Tottenham almost a decade and a half ago and have remained a frequent visitor ever since. It is host to a number of controversial hard and paperbacks and many activities that other public libraries dare not entertain. It is, to say the least, ‘radical’. For a start, it is named after a gentleman who once observed that:
‘For man to know himself is for him to feel that for him there is no human master. For him Nature is his servant, and whatsoever he wills in Nature, that shall be his reward. If he wills to be a pigmy, a serf or a slave, that shall he be. If he wills to be a real man in possession of the things common to man, then he shall be his own sovereign. When man fails to grasp his authority he sinks to the level of the lower animals, and whatsoever the real man bids him do, even as if it were of the lower animals, that much shall he do. If he says “go.” He goes. If he says “come,” he comes. By this command he performs the functions of life even as by a similar command the mule, the horse, the cow performs the will of their masters. For the last four hundred years the Negro has been in the position of being commanded even as the lower animals are controlled. Our race has been without a will; without a purpose of its own, for all this length of time.’
Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the renowned fiery Jamaican writer, anti-racist, social and political justice crusader who famously advocated pan-Africanism as a solution for many problems (primarily racism and slavery) plaguing Africans, especially those outside of Africa. He led the largest organised mass movement of people of African ancestry ever. Garvey has come to be best remembered as a champion of what singer and Rastafarian philosopher Bob Marley, also inspired by Garvey’s enterprise, once tunefully termed the ‘exodus’ movement. The movement sought to inspire all Africans in the diaspora to ‘redeem’ Africa, and for the European colonial powers to leave Africa. At one time, he also said: ‘I have no desire to take all black people back to Africa; there are blacks who are no good here and will likewise be no good there.’
Garvey was born on the 17 August 1887, the youngest of 11 children in St. Ann's Bay, in countryside Jamaica. He was a bright student from the start, attending infant and elementary schools in St. Ann's Bay and later receiving private tuition from his godfather Alfred Burrowes, a printer, with whom he later became apprenticed. His passion for social and political activism is said to have been triggered at an early age by his love of books, a love encouraged both by his father, a skilled mason, and Burrowes, who were both widely read and had private libraries. Although born in Jamaica, he lived for years in New York City, the Caribbean and London, making study visits to Panama, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Colombia, Venezuela and many parts of the then British protectorate or the so-called ‘empire.’
‘Everywhere’, noted Garvey in his travel journal, ‘[b]lack people are experiencing great hardships.’ His appeals to the colonial administrators, following the distressing situations in Central America, Europe, America and Africa itself were ignored. Convinced that unity was the only way to improve the conditions for black people, he returned to Jamaica on the 1 August 1914 and launched the Universal Negro Improvement and Conservation Association and African Communities League (UNIA). He then led the association with the motto ‘One God! One Aim! One Destiny!’, which sought to unite ‘all the people of African ancestry of the world into one great body to establish a country and Government absolutely their own.’ In 1928 he presented a petition to the League of Nations (now UN) in Geneva, Switzerland, on behalf of black people around the world. The petition outlined the abuses that black people around the world faced and sought redress through the organisation. One other important aspect of the petition was its exposure of the barbarity of the South African regime and its unfitness to govern Namibia.
To say the least, Marcus Garvey was a successful publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and international crusader for black nationalism. He achieved his aims of promoting a positive spirit of pride and love, assisting the needy, reclaiming black empowerment, and establishing universities and colleges for purposes of educating the ‘black child’. From 1935 until his untimely death, owing to poor health, in June 1940, he lived and worked in London. In November 1964, his remains were extracted from Kendal Green Cemetery in London and finally returned to Jamaica. Having been proclaimed Jamaica's first National Hero, his remains rest at the National Heroes Park.
Today, the rights and freedoms that the ‘black man’ partially enjoys are immensely owed to the bruising battles that were fought by Garvey and others like him; the courage they took and victories they secured we must never forget.
In the past, the problem of the ‘memorialisation’ of slavery was the absence of memorials. In 1988 for example, the then managing director of Heritage Projects Limited dismissed the very idea of a Museum of Slavery as being ‘unacceptable’ to the British public. Although speaking in a personal capacity, he argued that the very act of remembering the practices of slave-holding and slave trading nations and redressing the legacy of African slavery across the Atlantic remained a controversial and fraught exercise. It is now heartening to see such despicable attitudes slowly changing and Garvey's memory and other significant anti-slavery crusaders kept alive worldwide, from ‘The Marcus Garvey Library’ in England to ‘The Marcus Garvey Pan-Afrikan Institute’ in Mbale, Eastern Uganda, his spirit and inspiration continues being memorised in all cultural corners of the world.
Upon entrance to the contemporary building hosting The Marcus Garvey Library in Tottenham, one is fittingly greeted by a foundation stone of its namesake planted by Marcus Garvey Jnr. on 7 August 1987 to commemorate the centenary of his father’s birth. The stone, conspicuously scripted entirely in capital letters, critically announces:
‘IT COMMEMORATES THE CENTENARY OF THE LIFE AND WORKS OF THE RIGHT HONOURABLE BROTHER MARCUS MOSIAH GARVEY THE AFRIKAN BORN IN JAMAICA W.I. ON THE 17TH AUGUST 1887, THE PEOPLE OF HARINGEY AND INDEED THROUGHOUT THE WORLD HONOUR HIS LIFE COMMITMENT TO HIS PEOPLE IN REGENERATING BLACK PRIDE SELF RELIANCE AND CONFIDENCE.’
A message, (as I discovered), that resonates with you throughout your entire period at the library. On 30 July 2008, following a short visit to the centre, a helpful senior librarian by the name of Lee Francis agreed to engage my hazy enquiries, the transcript of which follows below:
Ronald Elly Wanda (REW): When did this library open?
Lee Francis (LF): Well, the complex has been opened since the 1980s but the library itself…hmm, it became operational, about 1993!
REW: You have less material covering ‘black literature’. Is it because of fewer readers or for that matter less demand for this division?
LF: New books come in all the time. I order them. I also look after the ‘black literature’ section, and I usually order books as and when they are requested by our readers. We usually use one supplier throughout the [local] council (Haringey council), however we have started branching out, especially now that internet technology (and IT) has advanced and made many things possible…
REW: I’ve noticed you have a large section dedicated purely to Marcus Garvey…
LF: Yes we do. We have a large section upstairs dedicated to Marcus Garvey. We have books and speeches by him as well as books and essays written about him. The very latest is a biography that came in last week. We also have a vast selection of materials on the slavery subject.
REW: Great man he was!
LF: Yes, I agree.
REW: I once tried ordering a book through Waterstones by Dani Nabudere that was published in Lusaka, Zambia. It took the bookshop almost 2 years to tell me they were giving up trying. Do you face similar problems in ordering books published elsewhere in the world, least of all Africa?
LF: No. Usually if a book is written in English, it is easy for us to try and get hold of it than say if it is in another language. Place of publication, I do not think is very much an issue. Here in Haringey, we have more than 100 spoken languages; as [a] learning provider, we are trying to reflect on this diversity, but I think it would be impossible to stock all books in all these languages, some of which include Vietnamese, Latino, Afrikaner, Welsh, Japanese, Swahili and so forth. We also have a large collection of DVD programmes in many languages that reflect the diversity of our community.
REW: How about some out-of-print books?
LF: We sometimes loan books that we are unable to get from a publisher, from the British Library for a three-week period. Also, and increasingly so, we are
buying second hand books from Amazon, and it only takes 10 days!
REW: This library is buzzing with activities for all ages!
LF: It certainly is! The Marcus Garvey Library is not only a library but an interactive forum, where the community meets to discuss relevant issues and problems that it faces. This library actively engages and liaises with the local further and higher education providers such as the College of North East London (CONEL) and Middlesex University (MU) and their students. They [students] tap into our resources when researching their discourses and often offer us suggestions such as new materials and books that we can order. These are sometimes specialist books and other relevant resources that the community can make use of, they include books and DVD software on hairdressing, criminology, business, and management, etc. That said, there are between 12 and 13 other agencies that tap into our resources and are constructively engaging with our local community as well. Next month [August] we will be launching ‘Books on Therapy’, an initiative that we have come up with in association with local GPs. It was a pilot scheme that initially started in Cardiff, that we have also embraced. Most of this information is on the leaflets titled ‘What’s on in Haringey Libraries’ that is also available on the Council’s website. There is also Black History month coming up in October; where we usually have lectures by invited guest speakers, plays and dances, new book launches and many more exciting things!
REW: Thank you Mr. Francis.
LF: Thank you!
What Haringey Council seems to have achieved at number one Phillip Lane in Tottenham is a redefinition of the library for our modern age. The Marcus Garvey library has become a template for what can be called a ‘civic outcome’; the library as a place of mutual respect and enlightenment in our increasingly antagonistic multi-racial, multi-cultural society. And it is a model that other libraries in the surrounding boroughs (in particular the newly launched Enfield central library) have begun desperately to follow. Enfield Central library like Haringey’s Central library in Wood Green also opens on Sundays, from noon to 4 pm. For those with strong religious inclinations, the increasing popularity of the library can be seen as a miserable indictment of Britain’s post-Christian age. Instead of attending churches, wretched secularists seek some kind of spiritual fulfilment amid the ‘written word’, where readers unlike worshippers have a far more appealing menu full of classics such as Chinua Achebe’s Things fall apart, Ngugi wa Thiongo’s Decolonizing the Mind, Ben Okri’s The Famished Road or even good old pamphlets on contemporary local issues such as Community Justice News, that immediately serves a practical purpose for the user. Reading, says Alberto Manguel in his latest book The Library at Night, has become a ‘ritual of rebirth’ which both invigorates the reader and awakens old books to new life and freedoms.
That said, The Marcus Garvey Library has played a key role in extending ‘learning’ to disenfranchised members of the community on matters ranging from the civic to the domestic, thus in a sense transforming them from unapprised into informed citizens, equipped with the capacity to modify, if so they wish, their society.
For if society is allowed to exploit and oppress certain individuals, by say, stripping them off the possibility to get an education, to learn spiritual values, to harmoniously develop their diverse abilities, then freedom for such a people becomes only a ‘spectre or an unrealistic ideal or dream’, because the virtues of freedom and democracy cannot truly be enjoyed without an education.
Indeed we are reminded by Aristotle in his book The Politics that for as man is best of all animals when he has reached his full development, so he is worst of all when divorced from law and justice. ‘Injustice armed is hardest to deal with’, says Aristotle, ‘and though man is born with weapons which he can use in the service of practical wisdom and virtue, it is all too easy for him to use them for the opposite purposes.’ Dependence on the ‘radical library’ and at the same time active participation in its continued transformation ought to be the real objective of us all as librarians, library users, writers, educators, students and community members.
Finally, slavery as a subject, at last seems to have caught the public’s attention. Last year alone, I recall three major BBC films that went on to offer three hours viewing into the squalid corners of the Atlantic slavery, perhaps cunningly put to commemorate the so called 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in 2007. Yet even more remarkable is the way slavery was so marginal to mainstream intellectual and popular interests until relatively recently. For the political and ruling establishment here in Britain, slavery has long seemed a distant phenomenon, something that unfolded in Africa, the Americas or in the Atlantic. The fact that the British orchestrated much of the slavery in the Atlantic by the mid-18th century has generally gone unnoticed. Today, that is no longer true and historians are recognising the centrality of African slaves in the shaping of the modern world by, say the late 18th century. Marcus Garvey library is a store full of information that brings this forgotten history to the forefront of historical discourses for both the native and diasporic library user.
Notes and References:
I am grateful to Lee Francis at Marcus Garvey Library for all the help he gave me whilst touring the Library.
* Ronald Elly Wanda is a political scientist based in London.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
The anti-tobacco campaign in Nigeria
Public health jeopardised by greed of global death merchants
Sokari Ekine: The Anti-Tobacco campaign in Nigeria is fairly new. Can you give us some background on the campaign? When it started and why at that particular time?
Tunji Buhari: Tobacco is the only known product that kills half of its users when used as prescribed by the manufacturer. It kills over 10,000 persons a day and 4.5 million people a year. Sadly, 70 percent of this figure is from developing countries. If the current trends continue, the figure is anticipated to rise to 10 million a year by 2030. In Nigeria, commercial growing of tobacco started in 1934 when British American Tobacco (BAT) decided to source tobacco leaf locally in preparation for the establishment of a cigarette plant in Ibadan in 1937. BAT has been a part owner of the moribund Nigeria Tobacco Company (NTC). Tobacco cultivation first started in Ogbomosho, Iseyin and Ago Are, all in the old Oyo State, before spreading to the northern part of the country. But before the BAT onslaught, tobacco growing in the country was at its lowest. On September 24, 2001 at an event dubbed the Nigerian Investment Summit held at Park Lane Hotel [in] London, British American Tobacco (BAT) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Federal Government of Nigeria to build a US$ 150 million ultra-modern cigarette manufacturing plant in Ibadan, Oyo State, south-west Nigeria. At the event, the Nigerian government and the tobacco mogul reached a consummated agreement for the removal of all barriers to BAT's war on public health and the globalisation of death, poverty and diseases. In the calculation of BAT strategists, the Nigerian market is the most crucial in Africa for the company to survive. The anti-tobacco policies of its home country and those being introduced by the European Union were suffocating BAT. In their desperation to explore Nigeria's huge market possibilities, the tobacco giants have facilitated massive smuggling, introduced sophisticated advertisement and overwhelming marketing gimmicks. Tobacco, in addition to being a public health disaster, exerts negative impact on national development, the economy, environment and social well-being of persons. It is a purveyor of poverty by promoting irrational allocation of resources. It also compounds Third World economic problems as the short term benefits of the whole tobacco trade go only into the vaults of Western business moguls. The anti-tobacco project of the Environmental Rights Action (ERA) and Friends of the Earth, Nigeria, is a resistance to the contrivance of tobacco transnational led by British American Tobacco (BAT) to reduce Nigeria to a haven of rejected products and its people to pawns on the chessboard of corporations. The anti-tobacco campaign takes root in ERA's mission of exposing negative corporate practices and facilitating the enactment of effective policies for sustainable development. And in the tobacco case, policies that will create the needed supportive environment to enable Nigerians live healthy lives and be protected from the greed of global death merchants.
SE: What is the aim of the campaign and how does it relate to other environmental issues in Nigeria?
TB: The aim of the campaign is to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke by promoting the national tobacco control bill in the parliament in order to reduce continually and substantially the prevalence of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke. Every aspect of cigarette production is a contributory factor to environmental degradation. Clearing of land for tobacco farming, cutting wood to cure leaves and for making paper for packaging cigarette, leads to deforestation and other environmental blight. For the production of the "flue-cured" tobacco [at] BAT's Training and Demonstration Centre in Iseyin, Oyo State, huge mass[es] of wood dot all the curing barns in the facility. In curing tobacco leaves, they are first stacked on poles, where heat from the wood is directed at them over a minimum one week period. Cutting of trees for tobacco curing accounts for 1.6 percent of loss around the world with most occurring in developing countries. Also some of the chemicals used in the cultivation of tobacco like, methylbromide destroy the environment by killing nematodes and other soil organisms. Recently the capital Abuja was declared a "smoke free zone".
SE: How difficult has it been to achieve this - what sort of response did you get from the Federal Territory, the Federal Government and people respectively?
TB: On June 1, 2008, the Federal Capital Territory declared all public places smoke free. Abuja is going smoke free is as a result of our work and commitment over the past years to ensure that everyone breaths a safer air. The need to protect the non-smoking public from the dangers associated with cigarette smoking makes it necessary for the enforcement of the ban on smoking in public places. There is evidence that shows that exposure to Second-hand smoke can cause diseases and death. Second-hand smoke is a combination of the smoke which a smoker exhales and the one that comes out of the burning end of a cigarette. This second-hand smoke is also known as the Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) or passive smoking. Tobacco is a complex mixture of about 4,000 cancer causing chemicals that are extremely harmful to the body. It has also been confirmed that for every eight smoker[s] who die, one innocent bystander also dies from second-hand smoke and if one is exposed to second-hand smoke for about 120 minutes, then the person must have smoked [the] equivalent of four cigarettes. Second-hand smoke is as deadly as the real tobacco smoke. Because of these negative effects of smoking on non-smokers the smoke free Abuja will put public health above profits made from selling cigarettes. It will reduce the rate of smoking especially among the young and underage people who are actually the target of the tobacco companies. Smoke free public places will make the environment cleaner and residents can breathe safer air. The benefits of also going smoke free will help towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving poverty by 2015. Because money spent on tobacco products will help provide food and shelter for families. So far so good, the responses and support from the Federal Capital Territory, Federal Government has been very encouraging. And also the massive media enlightenment campaign to inform residents about the enforcement has also been commendable.
SE: What technologies such as the internet and mobile phones have you used in the tobacco campaign and how effective have they been?
TB: ERA have been using internet and mobile phones in campaign[s] and launch[ing] her Anti-Tobacco Campaign on mobile phones last year. The introduction of mobile phones into [the] ERA tobacco campaign project came after the participation in a mobile activists’ workshop in Nairobi, Kenya on how to use ICT to press for a policy change. The mobile phone introduction is part of ERA's culture of providing hidden facts behind corporate maneuvers so that Nigerian policy makers can make informed decisions. It is to also create awareness about the hazards of smoking to Nigerians through SMS and also sending some tips to smokers on how to kick out the habit of smoking. In the same vein, ERA has set up a hotline anti-tobacco campaign which is toll free for all Nigerians to ask questions and receive feedback on the dangers of smoking. The hotline is designed to answer questions on the dangers of tobacco use through SMS.
SE: What lessons have you learned about using mobile phones as a campaigning tool?
TB: Clearly, mobile phones have played a key role in the tobacco control as a means of communication about the tobacco epidemic in an accurate, realistic and less expensive way. Mobile phone[s] ha[ve] been used to create awareness about the hazards of smoking to Nigerians through SMS in tips to smokers on how to kick out the habit of smoking. The introduction of mobile phones has had a huge impact on the populace judging from the numbers of phone calls and responses we have been receiving.
SE: ERA has for many years worked in the Niger Delta with local human rights activists and communities against the environmental crimes committed by oil multinationals. Have you thought of using mobile phones to document environmental abuses such as oil spillages and fires?
TB: Yes. In 2007 ERA launched a toll-free Green Lines to report ecological disasters in any community. If there is any ecological threat in a community whether pipeline ruptures, fires, pollution or any activity that threatens the environment, the Green Lines are toll-free.
SE: What SMS platform do you use for your environmental campaigns and how effective are they?
TB: We use 2cheapsms platform for our campaign, which provides the simplest and easiest way to send individualised bulk messages (SMS) to a group of people.
SE: What other sectors, besides tobacco control and the mining / petroleum sector, is ERA involved with?
TB: ERA Programme areas include: natural resources and community conservation, energy and mining, environmental education and mining, tobacco control, democracy outreach, trade and development, gender, genetically-modified organisms, legal resources, and media and publications. Nigeria has a very poor infrastructure and electricity provision is a major problem.
SE: What are the technological challenges you face as an organisation and as a staff member on a day to day basis due to the poor infrastructure?
TB: The cost effectiveness - I mean the outrageous tariff charges of the mobile network provider. Lack of electricity which we use to charge mobiles phones for our campaign are [also] not available, [so] we run on generator most [of the] time. Also network problem[s] which make it difficult to reach some of our local people. [And] illiteracy: judging from past experience, a lot of people don't know how to use their mobile phones to send and read SMS in English.
SE: Why did you get into working on environmental issues?
TB: I ha[d] been hearing about the environmental degradation going in the Niger Delta for so many years but I was totally committed to the environmental issues when I read a book titled: Where vultures feast: 40 years of Shell in the Niger Delta by Oronto Douglas and Ike Okonta. The book revealed so many human rights atrocities committed by the multinational oil companies, especially Royal Dutch/Shell who is the operating company of the largest oil-producing joint venture in Nigeria. Shell accounts for some 50 percent of oil production in the country, the bulk of it in the Niger Delta where the company opened its first well in 1958.
* Sokari Ekine is a Nigerian social justice activist and blogger. She writes an award winning blog, Black Looks, which she set up over four years ago, writing on a range of topics such as LGBTI rights in Africa, gender issues, human rights, the Niger Delta, and land rights.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Tanzania and the transformative power of education
In 1969 Mwalimu Julius Nyerere offered a framework for transformation when he observed: ‘People's lives can only be improved by their own efforts and through their own understanding…this means that adult education of all types is of vital importance for rapid development.’
Perhaps because he was a teacher, Mwalimu believed in the transformative power of education, but he did not just see it as relevant for the youthful population of newly independent Tanzania. Rather Mwalimu believed that Tanzania's freedom hinged on the ability of the nation to create an enlightened and educated populace.
Accordingly, adult education assumed priority status in the socio-economic development of the country, such that the Arusha Declaration of 1967, which set out the blueprint for Tanzania's development, considered illiteracy, an aspect of lack of education, as one of the major enemies of the nation; the other two being poverty and disease. Consonant with Freirian principles, adult education was conceived as having a liberating function for arousing popular consciousness for change.
In 1970 the United Republic of Tanzania made a solemn declaration of enhancing adult education within the context of the universal human right to education as provided by the UNESCO Convention and Recommendation against Discrimination in Education (1960). A massive national effort was undertaken at independence to eradicate rampant illiteracy, such that by 1986 (i.e., around the time Tanzania began adopting development prescriptions set by Bretton Woods Institutions) illiteracy for the population aged 13 years and above was systematically reduced to 10%. Alas these impressive gains were short lived as the national development framework changed and by 1997 illiteracy for the population aged 13 years and above rose to 16%.
The latest 2002 census data reveals that of the 22,500,000 adults aged 15 years and above - equivalent to 56% of the total population - the literacy rate is 70% (78% for men and 62% for women). Present estimates put the illiteracy rate above 30%. Overall, about 28.6% of Tanzanians can not read and write in any language. Illiteracy rate is higher among women (36% compared to 20.4% for men).
The increase in illiteracy rates are troubling when we consider that they occur three decades after the adoption and an aggressive application of both a universal primary education (UPE) policy on one hand and adult literacy initiative on the other, whose intent was reaffirmed in the late nineties with the passage of the World Declaration on Education For All (EFA) which recognised that 'everyone has the right to education', especially education that is relevant to one's basic learning needs.
The adoption of the Education Sector Development Programme (2000-2005) aimed at providing education for all by 2015. Act No. 12 of 1975 mandates the Institute of Adult Education (IAE) to run continuing and non-formal education programmes in Tanzania, with special emphasis on reaching rural communities. The adult and non-formal education strategy was developed in 2003 to facilitate the implementation of an alternative education programme for out-of-school children, youth and adults.
In an effort to meet some of the EFA goals the Fourth Phase government began a campaign to build secondary schools for each kata (ward) to cater for the huge numbers of primary school leavers resulting from the rigorous application of the UPE policy. Sadly the drive appears to be a partisan interest rather than a political commitment to realise EFA goals in a more holistic rather than reactive manner.
Another notable development in adult learning and education (ALE) in the past few years is the Tanzania – Cuba Adult Education Development Programme under the Adult and Non Formal Education Strategy of 2003 – 2008, whereby Cuban literacy experts are to assist the government in literacy development.
In December 2001 the United Nations General Assembly launched the United Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD). The impetus driving the decade was the association between knowledge and aptitude and thus appropriately the UNLD's slogan read ‘Literacy as Freedom.’ But despite these commitments Tanzania and other African countries have very little to show in terms of investments in educational and learning programmes that truly seek to liberate the mature segment of the population in a populist and a practical sense.
This inspection and introspection is appropriate at this juncture as the continent prepares for CONFINTEA, a level two UN Conference that serves to provide a platform for policy dialogue and advocacy on adult learning and education. The conference takes place approximately every 12 years. Uniquely, CONFINTEA VI will draw attention to the relation and contribution of adult learning and education to sustainable development.
CONFINTEA VI will take place from 19 to 22 May 2009 in Belém, Brazil, under the title ‘Living and Learning for a Viable Future – The Power of Adult Learning.’ This global forum will be preceded by five regional forums. The Regional Preparatory Conference for Africa will take place from 5 to 7 November 2008 in Nairobi, Kenya and is titled ‘The Power of Youth and Adult Learning for African Development.’ UNESCO member countries will each produce a national report which will be instrumental in informing the regional synthesis reports to input the CONFINTEA VI working documents and framework for action. Most countries have submitted some semblance of national reports which are available on the UNESCO website. Unfortunately, there has been very little discussion about the content of these reports and whether they represent a critical appraisal of the status quo.
Tanzania's report for example was hastily put together by education technocrats with very little participation from civil society groups. The Tanzania National Report on CONFINTEA VI is entitled ‘The Report on the Development and State of the Art of Adult Learning and Education (ALE)’, a decade report on adult learning and education in Tanzania from April 1997 to April 2008.
After the initial meeting to discuss the terms of reference for putting together the report, there has been no feedback on the status of the draft report which has ended up on the UNESCO website. It is therefore difficult to imagine how the report makes an informed assessment of the achievement of country targets for EFA, Millennium Development Goals (MSGs) and other international development goals are met through adult learning especially vis-à-vis poverty eradication.
ALE is beset with structural, managerial and political challenges which impede further and future progress from being realised. Notably, though rarely made visible or acknowledged; the sharp change in development policy focus may have stunted the gains made thus far and may continue to impede meaningful gains in the foreseeable future.
Indeed, the achievement of EFA for Tanzania rests solely on the Universal Primary Education campaign, and the attention of the government especially under the basket fund has rested on primary education not post-primary education. Yet few people have spoken out against this policy blunder. They argue that a country's human resource capacity, critical to its development, cannot be built solely by investing on the lowest tier of an educational system which also has a zero experience at the skill level.
Moreover, the management of ALE falls under the ministries of Education and Vocational Education in the Tanzanian mainland and Zanzibar. While it is purported that ALE is an integral part of the education system, the National CONFINTEA VI report acknowledges that there is very little coordination among the different providers of adult education inside governmental institutions as well as outside those institutions.
Surely this suggests a lack of systematisation of adult education in the 'education system.' In addition ALE is hosted by a ministry that traditionally has dealt with primary education exclusively focusing on children. In the meantime the national commission for UNESCO, which coordinates issues related to CONFINTEA and related measures, is housed in the ministry concerned with higher learning.
The Adult and Non-Formal Education Strategy was developed to facilitate the implementation of an alternative education programme for out-of-school children, youth and adults, yet the main focus of major education initiatives purported to focus on adult learning targets youths and not individuals and groups past their youth. Also while the strategy acknowledges the need to adopt an alternative paradigm to learning, in approach ALE is understood or is confined to literacy.
Where adults are targeted - as is in the case with initiatives of continuing education provided under employment packages - then the focus tends to be on workers in formal placements, leaving the bulk of workers in the informal sector outside a comprehensive adult learning strategy. For instance while Complimentary Basic Education in Tanzania (COBET) is singled out as a successful adult education model in Tanzania, it largely targets out of school youths, not adults.
The ALE vacuum has been palpable since the abandonment of the Arusha Declaration. Literacy classes, once a determining factor in Tanzania's high literacy rates are currently non-existent in most structured learning settings. In the 1970s ALE programmes, literacy classes were part of the national service programmes whereby secondary, high school and university graduates provided the human resource base to enlighten fellow citizens. To a large extent using local labour to run education initiatives minimised costs and therefore overdependence on outside funds.
Suffice to say that the national services programme is yet to be revived and the current focus for graduates in not in nation-building but solely in providing cheap labour to the capitalist job market. The education sector is now exclusively donor-dependent and even more so the provision of ALE.
Financing for ALE also reflects the absence of political will to revamp and revitalise ALE in Tanzania. The National CONFINTEA VI Report claims that some money for AE activities is allocated directly to local government authorities (LGAs). It further states that an Education Circular (No. 3 of 2006) requires every LGA to earmark a budget to finance ALE activities (read not programmes). It further proposes to elevate the existing funding level to at least three per cent of the budget for the education sector. But it is not clear if the percentage being proposed relates to the ministerial budget or the overall national budget.
It is however difficult to ascertain the basis on which budget estimates are made when the same report acknowledges that the budget allocated for ALE activities by government institutions is not known due to the lack of a coordination mechanism between the parent ministry and other institutions providing ALE. Nor is the total amount of bilateral and multilateral donor financing for ALE or the contribution made by non-state actors to the sector known.
Moreover, for some time now AE allocation in the budget of the Ministry of Education has hardly featured in budget speeches in the annual reports issued by the ministry responsible for planning. Yet in spite of our history with AE most legislators, even those with an AE background, have kept mum over this anomaly. Similarly civil society has not reacted against the invisible status AE has assumed among the priorities that inform the country's development framework.
Sadly, the financing issue related to the ALE sector is mostly represented to be one for posho (allowance) for facilitators and not so much for upgrading learning centres say with ICTs, or enabling learners in learning contexts like nane nane (farmers’ fair) or the International Literacy Week, or else in enabling older learners to interact with younger learners such that there is a mutual appreciation of the strengths each segment of the population brings.
In my own experience working with the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) and specifically in GEO has given me tremendous advocacy experience. My colleagues and I learn from women who are much older than us but who have an unfaltering commitment to ensuring that the right to education becomes a lived reality. Having being part of the education movement, some for over four or five decades, they help us see the political content in the discourses something some of us who have grown up in a generation where we may take most of the human rights guarantees for granted and thus fail to see beyond simple rhetoric offered for the sake of political expedience to envision the types of outcomes that will make education a reality for all segments of the population.
Significantly, our feminist engagement with education challenges the traditional concept of education not only in its content and organisation but also in its ideology insofar as it reproduces disempowering ideologies against those who have historically been marginalised. It is therefore troubling to see that the government's approach to AE is still limited; largely it views education only in an institutional sense happening in a structured formal classroom setting. The concept of learning inherent in ALE seems missing as it is reduced to initiatives synonymous with rote methods that seek to instruct superficially without building a base in the culture of pedagogy or its ultimate purpose.
Most examples used in the Tanzania National Report indicate this. For instance COBET attempts to reintegrate youths in the formal curriculum, while it is not clear what type of achievements the mainland's Integrated Community Based Adult Education (ICBAE) programme has achieved. The picture is even more unclear when one considers that at least three of the four pilot areas – the Morogoro, Lushoto, Sengerema and Moshi districts - have historically had high literacy levels because of the presence of a reasonable to good education infrastructure inherited from colonial times.
The ICBAE programme likewise had reasonable coverage of ALE via extension programmes, and Morogoro is at least one place with a strong base for folk development colleges (FDC) modelled on Scandinavian folk development colleges. Interestingly FDCs remain part of the Ministry in charge of Community Development but deprived of operational funds they have been forced to liberalise their curriculum and operations. Consequently they are attracting a younger male population rather than farmers or artisans seeking to improve production methods.
As someone who avidly preaches and implements the doctrine of ALE, I do not simply want CONFINTEA VI to become another conference where our government participates physically but not in spirit. I see no point in our government signing up for commitments but at the end of the day failing to respect Tanzania’s commitments with the requisite political will. Rather, I feel strongly that the process towards CONFINTEA VI is an opportunity for Tanzania to evolve an ALE agenda for the present time.
Nonetheless, the ALE agenda of the future cannot be monopolised only by the state in terms of its articulation and its participants. Instead it has to be informed by all those who actively engage with ALE as an intervention that is process- and well as content-driven, comprising a holistic approach to learning initiatives, not just educational programmes, throughout life.
For ALE to be a way of living in Tanzania and in Africa as a whole, we must appreciate the central role of learning in our lives and demand that this right is guaranteed to each citizen throughout his or her life. Our governments have compromised this right in present development frameworks. Returning ALE back to the national development agenda is critical for our sustainability as we seek to negotiate with the onslaught of globalisation.
Our governments and representative bodies must be put to task to realise this right. Doing so means we must exercise vigilance to safeguard the right to education for all ages. Importantly it demands that we must act and show interest in what goes on at the policy front in order that we may register our concerns more proactively. Surely, this is a struggle at the heart of human freedoms. Africans cannot afford to remain on the sidelines as this global dialogue unfolds.
* Salma Maoulidi is an activist and the executive director of the Sahiba Sisters Foundation in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Pambazuka News French Editon 73: The hidden truth behind extractive industries
The hidden truth behind extractive industries
Tidiane Kassé - 2008-10-12
Tidiane Kassé looks at the current state of affairs with regard to the extractive industries in West Africa. He points to the complicity of governments and major corporations in exploiting these resources without any real benefits accruing to the populations. The lack of transparency and information available to the populations of the regions obfuscates all manner of corruption and malfeasance. Panos Institute of West Africa organized a workshop for journalists in early October aimed at equipping them to provide accurate information to affected populations and spur action by civil society to confront the ills associated with the sector.
The socio-economic impact of extractive industries
Moussa K Traoré - 2008-10-11
This incisive and frank essay by Malian economist Moussa K Traoré, weighs out the social and economic benefits and the costs of extractive industries for West African countries, with special reference to Mali. Whereas mining was always an integral part of the economies of the region in ancient times, this analysis focuses on the industrial scale exploitation of mineral resources which began during the colonial times and carries on to the present. Traoré looks at the impact in terms of population displacement, real job creation, health of the population, and socio-cultural structures, and concludes that extractive industries need to do a lot more for the benefits to outweigh the costs.
Global mining industry challenges
Keith Slack - 2008-10-12
Mineral exploitation is both one of the oldest global industries and an economic sector of great importance for contemporary developing countries. In light of the new record price for minerals such as gold and copper, the sector’s influence has increased enormously over the last few years. Exploring the environmental concerns and escalation of local conflicts associated with mineral exploitation, Keith Slack reviews the continuing difficulties arising from governments’ collaboration with multinational corporations and the consequences of countries’ dependence on commodities.
Mining activity and environmental protection
Souleymane Dembélé – 2008-10-12
As Souleymane Dembélé outlines, mining can give rise to acute environmental problems as with any other man-made activity. The problems facing the mining sector are however characterised by their extreme diversity, creating a demanding set of organisational and technological challenges for developing countries. Stressing that environmental concerns must feature at every stage of individual projects, the author argues that both state and non-state stakeholders must be consulted and actively involved if a balance between caring for the environment and capitalising on opportunities for national economies is to be struck.
Greed, pauperisation, and the free market
If you and I owe money to a bank or any lending agencies, any supplier of goods and services, credit company or outstanding mortgage and we default in our payments we know what to expect: threatening letters, last warnings, and advisory notes that are really last chance orders before the bailiffs, lawyers and auctioneers descend upon us.
It may be unfair but somehow we have been brainwashed by the capitalist ideology that there is no other alternative than to keep up with our payments unfailingly! The market, we are deceived into believing, is no respecter of anybody and its immutable logic will fix things. In the past three decades nations, social groups and communities have been destroyed, reduced to penury by structural adjustment policies across Africa, Asia and Latin America through supposedly market –led policies imposed by the IMF and World Bank, backed by the West and led by the USA. SAPs gave way to globalisation which is treated as a moving train in which the only option is to jump in; no opt-out option.
Imperialism was dressed up as new technology and ‘the market’ became the acceptable vocabulary for exploitation and greed. This god of the market is supposed to fix all things regardless of the fact that the market has never been a fair place. We do not enter it on equal terms while the hands of many are tied to their backs inside it. Triumphalist neoliberalism forced everyone behind its hegemony and loss of faith in religion and anti-capitalist ideologies were replaced by a new utopia: the market. Anyone who espoused a different world stressing people above profit was seen variously as a ‘conservative’, ‘old style state socialist’, or ‘illiberal’ and a relic of past ideological battles. Francis Fukuyama even declared an end to history with the West (meaning the US and the American way) as the victors. It seemed that our destiny was to be Americanised!
All these untruths became received wisdom until recently. What was thought to be a temporary wobble in the greedy halls of the Wall Street, City of London and other financial casinos across the world have become a real crisis whose magnitude is yet to fully unfold. The market could not fix itself as it was supposed to do for all things. Bankers, financial corporations, and mortgage lenders saw billions wiped off their paper trillions in a few weeks with stocks in free fall, as they face the market forces of their own greed. Yet instead of letting the market to sort itself out, the greedy plutocrats whose excesses led to the financial collapse turn to their friends in the White House for a bailout. Why can they not be allowed to chew the grass after swallowing the cattle? So it is alright for the state to bail out the rich but unacceptable for the state to protect the poor, the sick, the marginalised and those pauperised by the greedy capitalists. They are opposed to socialism after all, they just want it for the rich!
For decades we are told that the state is 'useless', 'inefficient', 'parasitic', and 'anti-enterprise', yet when the wheelers and dealers are in trouble they fall back on the same state to bail them out with freebies! The Right always talks about personal and individual responsibility yet are they not asking the greedy bankers to tackle responsibility for their actions instead of taxing everyone else?
It is instructive that the $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan pushed through by the Bush administration was being hammered out at the same time global leaders were assembling across the river at the UN General Assembly where two related high level meetings were taking place. One was on Africa’s development needs and the other was a renewed Call to Action on the MDGs. Both identified funding gaps between promises and pledges by African and global leaders on the one hand and delivery to the poor on the ground on the other. $72 billion annually for the next seven years will help all the poor countries to deliver on the MDGs, yet this could not be found almost eight years since the promises were made to achieve the MDGs by 2015! What is required between now and 2015 is far less than what Bush alone is prepared to throw at Wall Street immediately not to talk of more billions to come and what other richer countries in the EU and Japan are already throwing at their own greedy bankers.
There are a number of lessons for Africa in all this. One, we should not expect others to be our messiahs; we should be our own liberators. We cannot be continuously ridiculing ourselves by accepting every invitation to come and talk about our problems. We should say no to future invitations and stay at home and actively engage in development action instead of talking about it. Two, for many years our leaders have been behaving like zombies parroting neoliberal nonsense that ‘there is no alternative’ to the liberalisation and pauperisation of our peoples. Now their patron saints in America have shown that the state has to intervene when the market is failing. They have always used state power to protect their market; that’s what slavery, colonialism, neocolonialism and their recolonisation of other peoples through globalisation is all about. Three, Fukuyama is right but not in the sense in which he meant his end of history postulation. It is indeed
the end of the history of the market as god and hopefully the beginning of a more realistic development dialogue that should give political, policy and intellectual spaces for people desiring a different world and making it possible, beyond the market.
* Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem is general secretary of the Global Pan-African Movement, based in Kampala, Uganda, and is also director of Justice Africa, based in London, UK.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Ghana: Cleaning the Voters' Register
Civic Forum Initiative
October 08, 2008
PRESS STATEMENT: CLEANING THE VOTERS’ REGISTER FOR PEACEFUL AND CREDIBLE ELECTIONS IN DECEMBER2008
We, the members of the Civic Forum Initiative (CFI) a coalition of Civil Society organizations committed to the conduct of a free, fair, peaceful and transparent election in Ghana on December 7, 2008.
Having met at Alisa Hotel, North Ridge, Accra on Thursday, 2 October 2008, to inaugurate our coalition and take stock of the limited registration exercise of July- August 2008, realized that, the challenges that face our country constitute a grave threat to the holding of credible elections in 2008 and beyond.
Have concluded that;
The present voters register should be cleaned to restore the confidence of the voting public in it and create the appropriate environment for free, fair and peaceful elections; and
CSOs and other citizens groups and public-spirited Ghanaians from all walks of life should be mobilized to participate more effectively in the election process in our country.
The Forum accordingly wishes to affirm its commitment, to ensuring credible and peaceful elections by;
i. Appealing to political parties, traditional authorities, churches and all religious bodies to appeal to their members to volunteer information to the EC on all cases of underage, alien, double or multiple registration and deceased persons whose names remain in the register;
ii. Educating the voting public to participate fully in the exhibition of the voters register and thereby help clean it up through the removal of illegal names;
iii. Giving maximum publicity to the exhibition of the voters register to ensure the maximum effectiveness of the exercise;
iv. Mounting an observation of the exhibition” of the voters register and make recommendation on further appropriate measures to be taken to guarantee the integrity and credibility of the register;
v. Undertaking a broad advocacy campaign to ensure free, fair, transparent and peaceful election on December 7, 2008;
vi. Disseminating peace messages throughout the length and breadth of Ghana to ensure peace and national unity before, during and after election 2008;
vii. Asking the security agencies to firmly and impartially perform their duties before, during and after the election;
viii. Advising all political leaders and election candidates to bring their influence to bear on their political support base to keep the peace and ensure a successful election in December 2008; and
ix. Appealing to all Ghanaians in all they do to put Ghana first, political power second.
* For more information, please contact the Civic Forum Initiative Host Secretariat at: Tel.021-506466/518017; Fax: 021-518018 or by E-mail; email@example.com
There is more to African liberation movements
This article, African liberation Movements and the ‘end of history’, begins with an extremely inaccurate premise. Assuming that the author really has no background in any African liberation movement, nor in he politics of black liberation or class struggle, it makes me wonder what kind of analysis Pambazuka offers to the black community.
By “black” I mean those Africans involved in the class struggle as well as the movement for international African unity, because for those of us in the Western Hemisphere that is the context out of which the term black originally evolved. Not only is the premise of the article crooked, but the whole text degenerates into an attack on the African liberation movement in Southern Africa, and elsewhere.
One must ask if this article was written by a disillusioned Afrikaner with a monkey on his back. While Melber tries to come across as somebody trying to spark “a broad political debate”, that cannot honestly happen based on Melber’s half-baked assumptions, misrepresentations of current events, and a hidden agenda.
The military mindset in Africa did not arrive with the black liberation movements, which came late to the scene. Kwame Nkrumah documented the long list of coups d’etat up from 1957 up thru 1970 or so. In the states where coups occurred, not only were military regimes installed, the rulers also were staunchly pro-imperialist. Those who couped Nkrumah, Azikiwe, Lumumba, Obote and others were in the West’s pocket, in every instance.
While your author tries to introduce Frantz Fanon and Jean-Paul Sartre into the discussion, he is inept at presenting an argument which justifies the article’s title.
First, the hard fought victories won by FRELIMO, ZANU and MPLA to defeat colonialism cannot be compared to any other wars in modern history. Melber dismisses all this with a sweep of his word processor. However, for those of us who appreciate that period of struggle, we know the hawks of Imperialism have sworn eternal vengeance. They declared, thru out the US media on the eve of the Lancaster House Accords in 1980, that Africans were too stupid to build the stone buildings at Old Zimbabwe and had no business naming the country after ruins that either Arabs or Europeans had left.
Second, that these countries struggled to build democratic societies while facing extreme odds because of military attacks from South Africa, assisted by Israel and the US, it is miraculous that military regimes do not administer power in any of those countries. The grip some forces exercise on power reflects the history of repression which not only demanded their rise, but demanded emergency measures. The Southern Africa security question was never adequately addressed by the world bodies, and it emerged out of imperialist racism. So Melber is not only wrong on this point, but completely haphazard. He neglects to state how the SADF created an extensive ecological disaster thru out Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Angola. The warfare against peasants in Mozambique, carried out thru war criminals enlisted in Renamo, was a precursor to the violence demonstrated against the Tutsi by interhamwe machete murderers in Central Africa. Zimbabwe helped settle the security question during that period.
The security issues of Southern Africa have never been definitively articulated the way the US, by comparison, has defined its security issues. Minorities in Southern Africa have never been violently subdued and enslaved or gradually given rights, as a form of long-term policy. Political parties in Africa do not recognize any traditional path of development for African people. In terms of security issues, Renamo in Mozambique is a counterinsurgency party which the US would smash as a domestic terror organization. Same as for UNITA in Angola.
Finally, the fact that democracy is a stunted child in Africa does not mean it has to be paraded thru out the Southern African states as their particular embarrassment. No mention is made of supposedly democratic Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia, Equatorial Guinea, Uganda, elsewhere.
Melber’s article should have been more accurately named something along the lines of something like An ad hominem attack on Black liberation, and subtitled, “Niggers don’t deserve independence”.
Nationalization or scientific socialism?
Abdurrahman Nelson's letter on, Our political guiding post: Pan-Africanism’s new dawn, assterts that Nyerere was not a scientific socialist, and that George Bush and Gordon Brown are using scientific socialist method to deal with the financial crisis! This is to confuse nationalization with scientific socialism; in any case, Nyerere nationalized all commanding heights of Tanzanian economy, and he was not scientific socialist.
It is not so easy!
Your commentry, Mbeki, Zuma: a political earthquake, is a bunch of facts/observations but with no clear conlusion - in short very misleading.
Your commentry talks about democracy in the ANC as if the ANC came to power without resistance from those they defeated(competitors). Address issues knowing that an ideal situation is only on paper not in real life! People are trecherous and cunning! Therefore expect prudence from rulers and not church service while the Laws of the state prescribe between acceptable and non acceptable behaviour.
Therefore rewrite your article - it has all the truth but has misplaced facts!
Love thy neighbour the same way you would want them do unto you, then we shall be building the nation. And not what Bishop Tutu is doing in his old age, that is Dividing the Nation!
And give credit to the ruling party. They are facing elections just around the corner.
Stop apologizing for Nyerere
In regards to Our political guiding post: Pan-Africanism’s new dawn, I have several problems with this method of thought not the least of which is the author's serious legitimization of the bankrupt ideals of Julius Nyerere. Indeed, one could argue that for the weakness and arrogance of Nyerere at the founding of the OAU, Africa could have acheived a much stronger Union. We tend to forget that the Union of African States was the correct model to follow. But, the Union of African States gave way to the OAU in order to keep the likes of Nyerere in the overall African fold. Nyerere's regionalism was really nothing more than a sabotage of Nkrumah's program of a strong African Union.
It is true that regionalism, even Nyerere's sub-continenlaism was a failure if for no other reason than that it was meant to not succeed towards African Unity. Tanzania was a feable attempt to unite two little East African states. Such a structure did not even rise to the level of regionalism much less sub-continentalism becasue it did not include East Africa: Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Mozambique or Ethiopia. Recall that Ethiopia was a member of the Casablanca Group and as such, Ethiopia was very friendly towards Nkrumah's project for Continental Unity.
Stop apologizing for Nyerere. He lived a long life. And, he was head of ststae for many years. He had plenty of time to correct his mistakes. But, he never did. I think he failed to do so becasue Pan-Africanism was never a part of his commitment nor internal ideological make up. Indeed, I know of nothing prior to the OAU that indicates any commitment on the part of Nyerere to Pan-Africanism. Of course he sang the Pan-Africanist song just as he sang the socialist song. But, Nyerere's idea of Pan-Africanism was not Pan-Africanism which was defined by Nkrumah as the total liberation and unification of Africa under scientific socialism. And, Nyerere's socialism may have include some socialist policies, but it was NOT scientific socialism. In fact, Nyerere went so far as to emphasize this point by calling his socialism "African socialism".
Unfortunately, the author does not even rise to this occasion. Instead he mentions something that none of us has ever heard of before now; namely some kind of weird liberal democracy. I mean, really! In these times in which even the most right wing free market capitalists, such as George W. Bush and Gordon Brown, have been forced to use scientific socialist methods to try and rescue world capitalism, we in Africa are still too cowardly to acknowledge that anything short of scientific socialism, such as what we see in China, will NOT lead to African Unity and NOT solve African problems.
Zimbabwe - people are dying!
As a Zimbabwean I was disappointed that the writer, The Mugabe-Tsvangirai rotten alliance still regards the Zimbabwe case as an academic political science assignment. Clearly I just didnt see his point at all. People are dying in that country. More people would have died if Tsvangirayi had proceeded to the runoff elections.
Mugabe's youthful butchers were instructed to wait in the villages until the outcome. We appreciate meaningful help from the international community and this includes the writer but please spare us this academic grandstanding.
Solidarity for the Angola 3
It was exciting, and a little strange, to find good news regarding the unjustly imprisoned Angola 3. I hadn't picked this up, here in the U.S.A., where the Angola 3 and I live. I'd been paying a lot more attention to Africa, because I pay a lot of attention to mining, everywhere, but especially in Africa.
I sent your piece to the editor of the San Francisco Bay View, National Black Newspaper, which hopes to have their website back up tomorrow, October 15th, and they were glad the news surfaced in Pambazuka. Hugely important case in African American history.
*Thanks Ann Garrison for passing on the article - Pambazuka Editors
Africa: Storymoja workshops: Busine and children's books
Do you yearn to become a published writer? Perhaps you have a great story idea that you need help to put on paper or a manuscript that needs refinement? Storymoja is currently completing two fully subscribed writing workshops that include seminars in our meeting rooms, online workshops and editing retreats.
Do you yearn to become a published writer? Perhaps you have a great story idea that you need help to put on paper or a manuscript that needs refinement? Storymoja is currently completing two fully subscribed writing workshops that include seminars in our meeting rooms, online workshops and editing retreats.
1. Crime Fiction Workshop in Nairobi, seminars and online workshop,
with a two-week retreat in Watamu - 11 participants led by Billy
Kahora, with editing assistance offered by Doreen Baingana
2. Inspirational Writing Workshops in Nairobi - 13 participants led
by Betty Wamalwa Muragori, with editing assistance offered by Doreen
The top manuscripts in each course will be published by Storymoja, and authors will be entitled to royalties.
We have two up-coming workshops:
The Storymoja Fanya Kazi Business Book Writing Workshop:
Workshop Dates and Times:
October 17, 24, 31, and November 7 (Fridays); 10AM to 1PM
Agatha Verdadero, CEO of Masterpublishing Co., Editor, CAN DO! A business magazine
Kshs. 1,000 all-inclusive (snacks, materials, administrative costs).
One 10,000-word manuscript (or two, if you choose to do a second one)
What You Get in Return:
Your own published book (!), 20% (from net profits) royalty per book
You will be asked to write more titles for Storymoja even after the
Workshop if we are impressed by your work.
What You Should Do Now:
We still have some slots open, so please submit no more than two
sample pages of your best writing to firstname.lastname@example.org AND
Deadline to express interest: October 15.
Our next workshop is on Writing for Children and will be led by Muthoni Garland, whose novella Tracking the Scent of My Mother was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African writing, and whose children's story, Kamau's Finish (currently used as supplementary reader in US and UK) will be in local supermarkets and bookshops this November. In this series of workshops, we will discuss how to write books that excite young readers, and the various forms and age-ranges of children's writing, and learn such craft elements as character, plot, point of view, description, dialogue, setting, voice, and theme. Storymoja will publish the most promising manuscripts.
The workshops begin Monday 3rd November and the schedule is as follows:
# 3rd Nov- 1st Dec - Workshops on Mondays and Thursdays 6pm-8:30pm at
Storymoja on Lower Kabete Road
# 2nd Dec -10 Jan - Online tutorials
# 12 Jan - 29th Jan - Editing workshops (and working with illustrators) on Mondays and Thursdays 6-8:30pm at Storymoja on Lower Kabete Road
The cost for each participant is Ksh 12,000/. If Storymoja publishes your manuscript, half of this will be refunded to you. We will also offer authors royalties.
To register, please write to
email@example.com and include the following:
# Your name and contact details
# You publishing history (no problem if you are a newcomer)
# A short description of what you are hoping to write and/or why you want to attend this workshop
# A 500 word sample of your writing
Three scholarships will be offered to promising writers who cannot afford the Ksh 12,000/ fee
If you already have a children's manuscript that you would like us to evaluate whether it meets our publishing requirements, please send it
Our next Storymoja workshop will be on: Writing Biographies and
If you are interested in these workshops, please let us know so we can
contact you with details.
+254 725 758 389
Black Inventors: Crafting Over 200 Years of Success
by Keith C Holmes
Two of the prolonged myths about Africa is that her history is limited to the continent’s colonial past and secondly African’s have contributed little to the development of the world’s science, technology and agricultural innovations. And even the few publications which do mention Black inventors rarely cite inventors outside the US. Keith Holmes sets out to counter these omissions and in doing so, he provides us with a comprehensive catalogue of Black inventions and inventors as well as a glimpse into the socioeconomic and political history of Black people.
Black Inventors: Crafting Over 200 Years of Success. Keith C Holmes.
Two of the prolonged myths about Africa is that her history is limited to the continent’s colonial past and secondly African’s have contributed little to the development of the world’s science, technology and agricultural innovations. And even the few publications which do mention Black inventors rarely cite inventors outside the US.
Keith Holmes sets out to counter these omissions and in doing so, he provides us with a comprehensive catalogue of Black inventions and inventors as well as a glimpse into the socioeconomic and political history of Black people.
This book will prove that without the inventors, innovators, designers and labourers of African descent, in Africa as well as throughout the African Diaspora, western technology, as we know it today, would not exist.
Holmes’s book is some 20 years in the making and builds on a book by Henry E. Baker written in 1913, “The Colored Inventor”. Acknowledging Africa as the ancestral homeland of all Black people, Holmes wanted to expand Baker’s research which was limited to the US, to include the “Motherland” and the whole of the African Diaspora. It is not surprising that the book has taken such a long time to write as it includes inventors from Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, Russia, Australia, Native America as well as the United States over a two hundred year period.
The Introduction states the book is organised into three parts. Part One covers the role African civilisations have played in developing innovations. Part Two, identifies inventors who originated in Africa and Part Three provides a geographical breakdown of inventors. I can’t understand why the author chose this format as Part One is only 4 pages of, mainly tables covering inventions in Ancient Egypt and pre-colonial Africa. It would have been far better if Part One had been written in a discussion format using the tables to supplement the text rather than the other way around.
In Part Two, the author chooses another format which is essentially a series of sentences and although the information is interesting, it seems to me that it would be far more engaging and reader friendly if it was written in a more traditional style of paragraphs built around themes. Sometimes the mixture of writing styles makes the book appear disjointed and scattered which is a shame as it does contain very valuable and previously unpublished material on the history of Africa and her descendents.
Part Three is the meat of the book, where we really come to see the value of the content. This is where the author sets out the detailed material – invention, country, gender, of hundreds of inventions. He has gone to great lengths to present the data in easy to read table format supported by text, under a range of categories. We are able to see at glance the date of an invention plus the number of inventions by Africans in the various European countries or by women across the various states of the US. We are able to see how our environment shapes the inventions we create. For example a Black Australian is given a patent for the improvement of sheep sheers. An Ethiopian for adapting the typewriter to the Ethiopian script. A Jamaican for applying steam to a sugar mill and a Nigerian for improving extracting machines for palm oil. There are so many pleasing surprises to be found in the pages of Black Inventors from everyday utility items to specialised machinery. In 1862, a Black man from New Haven, Connecticut invented the ironing board. In 1923 the pneumatic tube was invented in Cuba.
The contribution of Black women is also documented and though the author states that more research needs to take place, he does record patents from Black women in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and the US. Many of the patents held by Black people are for medical and scientific products and processes and again these are spread across the continents.
The one question that keeps propping up as you read the book is how especially in the Diaspora has the author managed to identify patents held by people of colour? The answer to this question reveals the racist ideology behind the classification system devised to document information about Black people.
One in which the author rightly points out, was developed to prevent Black people from identifying each other. Thus we have Black people classified as African, Afro, Black, Coloured, Caribbean, Kaffir, Negro, Mulatto and so on. On the problem of specifically identifying a patent as belonging to a Black person, the author would have to rely on census information and cross check that with each patent which gives you an idea of the amount of work involved in producing a book such as this one.
Black Inventors is a huge resource and is particularly useful to teachers, students, researchers and librarians who wish to discover inventions from a particular time period, geographic location right down to cities, by gender, type of technology. It is not just a list of inventions along with names, nationality, gender and country. The book is also a geosocial and colonial history of Africans and their descendents. Black people are largely unaware of the contribution of Black innovators to the economic growth of the industrial West. Some of the inventions have generated billions of dollars such as the two patents held by Norbert Rillieux two hundred years ago which are used in the food and beverage industry. As the author writes, “it is important to correct the myth that savages and uncultivated people were transferred from their homelands to save them and put an end to their misery”. On the contrary, Africans brought with them ideas, craftsmanship and the desire to design and create new things.
Black Inventors is published by Global Black Inventor Research Projects Inc. www.globalblackinventor.com email: firstname.lastname@example.org
South Africa: D-Urban (w)Rites
Zwakala Books hosts D-Urban (w)Rites –a showcase of published Durban poets on the 31st October 2008 at 4pm at Urban Zulu 321 Berea and Bullwer road. The writers who will present their works are Adam Knight, Bheki Mthembu, Bongekile Mbanjwa, Mphutlane wa Bofelo, and Khulekani Magubane. Adam Knight is a responsive anarchist involved in alternative architecture travels mostly on bicycle or on foot and lives a sort of sustainable living.
Zwakala Books hosts D-Urban (w)Rites –a showcase of published Durban poets on the 31st October 2008 at 4pm at Urban Zulu 321 Berea and Bullwer road. The writers who will present their works are Adam Knight, Bheki Mthembu, Bongekile Mbanjwa, Mphutlane wa Bofelo, and Khulekani Magubane. Adam Knight is a responsive anarchist involved in alternative architecture travels mostly on bicycle or on foot and lives a sort of sustainable living. Cryptic Cynic is a cynical, surrealistic exposure of the comical and absurd in politics and society in general. Bheki Mthembu is an educationist and Organizational Development consultant who has started writing poetry in the early eighties.
His poetry book-I will not Dance-is an intuitive take on issues as diverse as disease and illness, politics and social life, culture and tradition, romance, the affective, the arcane, the mundane and the surrealistic. Bongekile Mbanjwa is a Pietermaritzburg based social worker who writes in IsiZulu. Her work has appeared in Isis X, an anthology of writings by ten South African women and in the journal, Botsotso 15. Her debut poetry collection Izinhlungu Zomphefumulo(Emotional Pain), exposes pain, confusion and different types of abuse with the aim of showing that suffering and pain must be followed by solutions. Khululekani Magubane is a visual artist and storyteller who has just published, Angels Salvation, a third book in the Angels series. This third installment of Angels tells the story of a rehabilitated and recovered Satanist, Victoria who confronts her doggy pasts in an effort to salvage her friend, Jane, who was the one to introduce her to the Satanist cult. In the process, the story also narrates a personal encounter of the ravage and devastation caused by HIV\AIDS on the lives of people. Mphutlane wa Bofelo is a poet, essayist, social critic and activist whose works operates within a triune of Black Consciousness, esoteric and humanistic Islam and Socialism. His latest collection of poetry and essays, “Bluesology and Bofelosophy” is a vintage rhetoric-free, from-the gut writing, that employs satiric and lyrical register to make patent the inextricability of politics and poetry. Ewok is an emcee, graffiti artist and rap poet. His debut CD is entitled High Flyer for Hire. D-Urban (w)Rites will be followed at 6pm by “rock your soul”- an open discussion session on contemporary political, social and cultural issues, featuring performances by Durban’s finest artists. At 7pm the featured artist of the day, will take the stage.
Contact: Ras Menzi -073 264 6681 email@example.com
The street is called Mtipesa because at the head of it is an old mkanju (cashew nut tree) where the local drug dealers sit on truck tyre wheels half buried and cemented into the ground. The mabeshte, as someone decided to call them, sit here all day, selling their wares quite openly, collecting cash from their customers while the police stroll by just a few metres away, aware that they will get a cut from the collection later.
I pass by the two cops; one nods imperceptibly, the other looks away. We met once, when the local prosecutor introduced me as his daughter. Well, I am a daughter from his clan. My father is his father's mother's cousin. Yes, that my father, the one who was absent when I was a snotty kid but now introduces me to his friends at the something to something cafe as his daughter, the writer. And I am not sure I am either. But hey, we are not talking about my father issues are we? Back to Mtipesa...
Gijo the local crime king himself is under the mkanju chatting to his underdogs about America and Osama bin Laden. He is certain Osama is in Somalia. He notices me coming up the road, and nods in my direction. His boys all nod in a sleepy kind of way. Gijo is proud of himself. Everyone knows that you don't run a business in Gijo's town without paying for his protection. Mostly he would be protecting you from himself. No other gang would dare run a trail on his territory. Sometimes I think Gijo is stuck halfway between liking and disliking me.
The prosecutor managed to get him in for 18 months. He is just fresh out now. While he was in, I set up a business with a gang of boys that used to run for him. My business though unlicensed is free from drugs and hot goods. I run a team of car washers, carpet washers, housecleaners and painters. I know the people who need the services, and the people who provide the services, and I link them up. Gijo is mad because some of my boys used to be his, and because I have refused to let him use my boys to steal from my clients. And yet, he doesn't act. One of the boys told me that he ordered them to keep away from me, not to loot or hurt me in any way. But he is running me aground anyway. He takes half of all my proceeds. I hardly have enough to plough back into the business. It is growing stale and in the spirit of Kenya, several other people have also come up with the same idea, so I am losing business to them.
Slowly, I make it past the Mti of Pesa. I am very hungry. I would buy fresh vegetables and go home to cook, but I remember that I have about one week's worth of unwashed dishes. It has been a rough week. I miss my mother. More precisely, I miss the order and care my mother effected on my life while I was her little girl. I also hate the plot I live in. All those people who have the need to make sure I understand that if I can't be like them, then I am not welcome. Even on a week like this one, when I leave home before dawn and come home late, there still is someone to knock at my door and pick a fight. I am seriously considering taking up a stance like Gijo's that makes everyone afraid to meddle.
The sun is setting red against the sky. The fishermen will have a good day tomorrow. All along the dusty, sandy street, the snack vendors have set up, viazi karanga (boiled potatoes dipped in coloured spiced wheat flour, served with a sauce made from coconut milk, sour ukwaju (tamarind, onions and masala), chapatis, fried beans, fried fish, fried octopus, meat on skewers...I buy the viazi karanga with octopus fingers. Now you know how the love handles happened.
I am at the end of the street. I should turn the corner get into Omari's street and the plot I live in. I pause; the video hall is always between the plot and me. It is that world I discovered and kept coming back because it amuses me and offers me a strange insight into everyone who lives here. The video hall is what once used to be a front shop, joined to another room that was used for residence. The building itself was once-upon-a-time built on a bamboo frame reinforced with white coral, red clay and a little bit of cement. The floor is not cemented, so it gets dusty inside when everyone comes in dragging on their red and blue slippers, as they are likely to do. Is it me, or is that crack on the side of the building widening every day?
There is a blackboard outside the front door, outlining tonight's shows. At 7.30 pm, the news recorded from the Swahili 7.00pm news bulletin off a national broadcast station is shown on delay to allow the men to come in from the mosque. At 8.15pm some kung-fu action flick. At 10.15 the UEFA Premier League.
I hear the muezzin call and some men drift towards the mosque. Some women go into their houses to pray. Everyone else seems to stay on the street. It is too hot inside. The children play Kati and Chenga on the sand. They have done their homework, fetched water from the well at Kombe's place, and helped their mothers with chores. Now, their laughter rings out, sometimes interrupted by shouts of 'dhulma' when one of them gets sly to stay on in a round of sport. I envy them; wish I was younger, smaller…
Salma waves at me as she comes out of the Swahili house she lives in with her husband and in-laws. She is my age, 21 years old. She is very heavy with child, and has two beside her, one and a half and three. I know she has already made dinner for her husband. He must be at the mosque, a truck driver home from a long road trip. He has been very angry with Salma. She tested HIV-positive when she went for post-natal clinic. He blames her, so do his folks. She is being brave. The clinic gave her medication and advice. She hopes this little one will be spared. The other two are HIV-positive. Age is lining her eyes.
We go into the video hall together to watch music videos shown just before the news. Much of the audience now is made up of kids and teenagers. They watch with wide-eyed, open-mouthed fascination at Beyoncé as she whips her body around the screen, and then yell for Bongo videos instead. The video guy obliges them. He is not charging them. At 7.20, they will go out if they cannot pay the 5 shillings charged for the news. The movies are charged at 7 shillings per head, 10 shillings for soccer matches and 20 for late night porn flicks.
I share my viazis with Salma and her kids as we watch T.I.D and Mr. Nice. My mind is far away. I am juggling a business venture that is getting more demanding and less profitable, with a full-time job as a sales clerk. The last time I was stretched out this thin, school suffered and I ended up talking to the prosecutor for hours as he mourned the days when young people were respectful and obedient. Now I am trying to save up for the same education that had seemed such a bother then. University seems like a dream that is fading fast. Mum calls every week to ask me to hold on, or go home if it is too much. I haven't told her how much it is. The only other support I had has backed out on me. Why did I think that boy would stay by my side forever? Teenage illusions! I'll be alright, I think pushing the tears away, if I can just hold on a little longer. My throat hurts.
Everything is shadowy, motions. The audience in the hall is changing. Half the people now occupying the wooden benches have TV sets at home. The men who had either been at the mosque or sipping bitter coffee while playing Kigogo now find their places on the benches. The women who had been selling snacks come in but do not dare sit where their husbands and fathers sit. They stand at the back hushing infants and peeking out to the street to make sure that their older children are manning the snack stands and not playing. A few of the older children are in the hall. In 10 minutes, the video guy, Katana, collects 600 hundred shillings, just before the screen is occupied by one of their own.
He grew up here, played on these streets, prayed at the mosque, before he went huko Nairobi, to study, then to work at the TV station. They don't know about the in-betweens, just that he is on TV now. He speaks Swahili they understand, tells aside-jokes they laugh at, smile that smile they miss. He is kinda cute, I think, in my still teenage head. I like his voice.
The guy next to me, I think he is one of Gijo's mabeshte, nudges me. I ignore him. He persists. He wants to make a sale. I don't want to buy. He remembers a time when…I refuse to remember. The woman next to Salma realises that she is sitting next to Salma, and moves with a huff. I can just barely read the words on her leso, 'Pili pili usiyoila, yakuwashia nini.' (Something to the effect of ‘Why are you bothered by matters that don't concern you?’, but there's some red hot pepper mentioned.) She should read that to herself.
I try to sink deeper into the bench when the shopkeeper walks into the hall. The shopkeeper is a village god. He doubles as a credit shop, offering his wares on a credit tab to be paid at the end of the month, a bank, helping anyone out who needs urgent cash during the month to be paid when salaries come in, a hospital, advising you on what over the counter medicines are best for that pain in the calf you have, a counsellor, talking to the wives about why they shouldn't talk back to their husbands and warning the mothers when Katana is spending too much time with Saida, and just basically being in touch with everyone on the street. I am worried because I owe Kariuki the shopkeeper six weeks worth of credit. It hasn't been a very good month. I am sinking.
Salma nudges me. He is here. There is a hushed wave in the hall. Not even Gijo can rival that when he walks in. He. Everyone calls him Wanje. No one really knows where he came from. He speaks Swahili, with an accent from Dodoma. He teaches Carpentry at the boys centre at Mzambarauni. He lives in a one-room at Saidi's house, eats at Mama Khadija's kibanda and drinks mnazi at KwaGongo. He would be a local boy, if he wasn't Caucasian. I am slightly curious but right now the fever is coming on fast. I hand the rest of the viazis to Salma's oldest and stumble out of the hot humid room and its smell of dust, human, tobacco, sweat, mnazi and food.
Out on the street, which seems deserted, since everyone is in the video hall. I think they all miss the days of the village baraza. I stumble on. Omari's street is also deserted. They are at the video hall on that street. Well, just a few are in the Pastor's Church near the fish shop, already singing and chanting in inspired tongues.
The stars are out. One twinkles and I curse. I can hardly see, the flickering lights of the wicker lamps at the vibandas are hazing and doubling up. A slow whistle reaches my ears. I pause, and look back to the video hall. They are all there. They belong. I don't. So where do I belong? I am so alone…Why? There are so many people here. And besides, I have never been averse to solitude. Why does it hurt so much now?!
The slow whistle reaches my ears. I pause again. The nausea rises. My throat hurts so much more. The throb in my head is getting louder. My chest is knotted up. I can't even cry. A sound in my head forms and becomes an old rocker's voice…
how does it feel
how does it feel
to be without a home
like a complete unknown,
like a rolling stone…
Where is home? I stumble on a rock, and fall headlong onto the ground. The bile rises and explodes out of my mouth, onto my hands and my clothes. The pain is excruciating. I want to lie down and die. There is a hand on my back. I feel it curl around me and pull me up and away from my puke. A gentle voice, in English, not in the rough Swahili that accompanies the face. I stand there, and I remember the words not too long ago, as I wept at the loss of a love, down at the creek. I hadn't seen him come up. When I saw him, he was handing me a cigarette. I had laughed with the tears burning in my eyes. A Marlboro. All the Swahili, the rough living, and a Marlboro?
We stood there, silent, me no longer crying, and him staring out to the other side of the creek. Then when the cigarette was just a stub, he turned to me, ‘Can you strike out?’
I was surprised, ‘What?! Right across?!’ I look at the other side of the creek. It looks so far away. I have jumped off the bridge, once in the dark, but swimming across the creek would take a lot of endurance, which I was not sure I still had.
Wanje shrugs and starts kicking off clothes. I stare at him for a wide-eyed moment, then get caught up with him and start tearing off my clothes. He dives before I do and strikes out. I hear a cheer and wonder just vaguely if I had actually stripped totally naked with an audience to watch. I don't care just now. I gotta get to the other end. As I bob, I see Wanje leading, his powerful arms an advantage but my determination a challenge. I am head to head with him when I hear the roar. Wanje swears and grabs me, pulling me under. I see the rogue bully shadow past us as we sink, then surface. When we come up for a breath, I think I vaguely recognize the tail of the speedboat that almost run us dead. Wanje doesn't say a word, just strikes out again. I swim after him and minutes later, my chest burning, my body hurting, I pull out on the other side of the creek, head to head. We have a cheering audience. I am still naked. And I have to get back to the other side. Wanje is not waiting. ‘You fight, kid. If you wait for someone to come and rescue you, it will be a long wait. Strike out!’
Now, five days later, I am falling, not striking out. He swears and hauls me onto his back and heads towards the hospital near the road. He swears, I am dead weight. Fifty minutes later, just before he walks away from me at the hospital, he grabs me by the chin, ‘Home is where the heart is. But what if the heart does not have a home? Don't wait for rescue, kid. Strike out!’
I pass out.
He is not there when I come back from the village. There are whispers, hints, but no one really knows. He would not have told them of his plans. He left just like he had come, silently without explaining. I am not surprised. Not really. They did not even know his name. I swam with him, and read the book with his name on the rib in the candlelight of my room. A simple name, dragging accolades behind it…MMath, Msc, PhD…
I get better on Salma's mchicha and mnavu boiled in thick coconut milk and eaten with ugali (steamed maize meal). I have just started getting back on my feet when she goes into labour. Her husband is away on a road trip to Kampala. Her mother and father-in-law are off to Ribe for the planting season. Only her step-mother-in-law is around to help her get to the Hospital. I trail after them, an hour later.
Zubeda, Salma's step mom-in-law is already sweating when I get there, wiping her face on the corner of the leso she wears as an upper body veil whispering, ‘Inshallah.’ It is a very long wait. My voice is weak, and Zubeda has nothing to say. The nurses send us away, even as Salma screams for her mother. Her mother died when she was ten.
The walk is long and dark, back to Omari's street. I see the house Salma lives in from behind. I don't care to look at the video hall, though I can hear the village laugh from its modern baraza. I imagine I can hear that slow whistle. I don't think he would come back.
In the morning, I drag myself to the hospital. Zubeda is there already. I think vaguely that she truly cares about Salma. We sit in silence, two helpless helpers. Every two minutes she raises her hennaed hand and runs it down her face before wiping it on the leso. I remember that her sister had gotten married not to long ago. Strange, that life goes on, all the while killing those that love it most.
The nurse come into the room where we wait, and calls for Mama Slam Ahmed's relatives, sort of hesitates when Zubeda rises, then rushes forward rather awkwardly, ‘Mwanao mama, pole, pole...’ (your child, sorry, sorry) Same hollow words, incomplete.
Somehow, I get to the nursery. I know without being told which child it is. The one, so tiny, so new. In the glass tomb, with pipes and wires around it, fighting barely.
I lean over the glass, and the nurse rushes forward with a frown. I ignore her, and whisper, ‘John Smith.’ I name him; bless him, the lost priestess over the losing babe. He opens his eyes for just one moment. I see. Gold-Sapphire. His father's eyes.
He won't strike out. I will.
* Juliet Maruru is a Kenyan writer.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Review of the African Blogosphere – October 14, 2008
Ojeladun Taiwo Abayom
Ojeladun Taiwo Abayom comments on Nigeria’s poor showing on the recent Global Competitive Index and the World Bank’s Doing Business Index:
“When perceived poor banking services are added to low ranking on the Doing Business Index, it is easy to see why Nigeria is still not the preferred destination for Foreign Direct Investment except in oil and gas and telecommunications. Even the investment in hydrocarbons is being redirected elsewhere gradually, as Nigeria fails to tackle issues related to stable supplies to the international market.
These call for a sober re-assessment of our real position. Clearly, the self-congratulation must stop because it is wearing thin and becoming less credible given the reports from more credible sources.
We certainly will not make the top 20 global economy not only in 2020 but for a long time after. South Africa, Botswana, Egypt, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Morocco all beat us repeatedly on all the important indices. Our claim to being the giant of Africa is the result of self-deceit; it insults others.
It is true we have come a long way, but there is a longer way still ahead of us - we must forge ahead more decidedly, to attain global relevant.”
In the same vein, Nigerian Curiosity argues that the Nigerian psyche is an obstacle to development:
“I have been thinking a lot about the psyche of the Nigerian nation. I believe that for any country to achieve development and truly become the envy of others, the mentality of its people must be one that accepts, without question, that the nation is great. For all the talk in Nigeria of creating a top 20 economy by 2020, there is hardly any discussion about the psychological preparation that is necessary to get the average citizen ready, psychologically, to be a part of the oft-mentioned Vision 2020. There is the 'Heart of Africa' project, but from all accounts it is simply a branding technique targeted to outsiders…
Psychologically, many of us do not truly feel that we are capable of grand success either as individuals or as a nation. That mentality must undoubtedly change if Nigeria is ever to truly achieve development and also enjoy the lasting benefits of such development.”
Hii Dunia sheds light on Somalia’s politically fractured landscape by reviewing the causes of the ongoing chaos in that country and looking at the modus operandi of Somali warlords:
“… the main actors within the Somali conflict centre upon the control of property that enables them to generate authority and profit through illicit infrastructure. Control of illegitimate airports, markets and bridges that carry a toll allows warlords to make a profit within the power vacuum left by the collapsed state. This makes fighting and power struggle within Somalia dependent upon material investment rather than notions of state building or political power struggle. The profits generated from illicit taxation allows Somali Warlords or businessmen that back the Warlords to buy arms from an endless list of willing sellers through illicit means. UN experts according to the Somaliland Times reported to the security council in 2003 that ‘Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, the Sudan, Yemen, Egypt , Libya, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait have given arms, money or training to Somali factions” at some point since 1991’.”
Vultures Dreaming looks at the Somali crisis from another angle by questioning the role of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM):
“The decision to establish AMISOM was made by the Peace and Security Council of the African Union on 19 January 2007, three weeks after the Ethiopian Army had invaded Somalia and routed the Union of Islamic Courts (ICU) from Mogadishu.
Referring to the Ethiopian action, the communiqué of the council reiterates “its conviction that, following the recent developments that have enabled the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to take over Mogadishu and take control of the country, there exists today a unique and unprecedented opportunity to restore structures of governance in Somalia ...” and decides “to provide, as appropriate, protection to the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) and their key infrastructure, to enable them to carry out their functions”.
If AMISOM had been established and deployed in 2005 things might have been different, but by the beginning of 2007 the TFG had already lost most of the little credibility it ever had, and it was wishful thinking that the ICU would simply disappear. AMISOM is now stuck with protecting what increasingly appears to be the losing side in a civil war. The sooner it can withdraw the better.”
My African Father
In a two-part posting, My African Father reacts to Google's announcement that users may now build and edit maps in Map Maker for 45 new African countries:
“When Google maps the entire planet and chops it up with diamond-saw detail, some of us will still not travel any faster, and some of us will still not go very far. Some of us will not be happy, and some of us will be happy just to be where we are. Never going very far. Never seeing very far. But seeing everything. Here. And some of us will live and die near each other, in each other's arms, and not know the rivers and streams that cut through our hearts. Because there are no roads that go there. No images beam up from the eyes of a map, a map with colors we do not know.
There is no road. I am sorry. And because there is no road here, you cannot come here. You cannot build a project here. You cannot be ‘embroiled’ in anything here. There is no road here. There is no “mess” here. There is no ‘village’ here to develop. There is no ‘politics’ here. This is my Little Africa. And it doesn't exist on any map. And it never has or will. And this is a ‘good thing.’ I tell you. It means the knowledge of it is mine... My point is, a Google map is one kind of map. It is not necessarily the right kind. Or the best kind.”
Scribbles from the Den
Scribbles from the Den revisits the recent commando-style attack on four banks in the Cameroonian port city of Limbe by pirates:
“Initial reports suggested that the attacks may have been carried out by rebels from Bakassi or even from the Delta region in Nigeria, or by SCNC militants. Others surmised that this was an ‘internal job’ carried out by members of the Cameroonian military, which would not only explain the surgical precision of the attacks but also the failure of military and security forces in the area to put up robust riposte...
Conspiracy or not, internal military plot or not, what happened in Limbe was a manifestation of a complete breakdown or the absence of communication and coordination between the different military and security branches in and around Limbe. The slow, clumsy and uncoordinated response demonstrated, if need be, the absence of a viable defense strategy for Limbe and other key port cities on the Cameroonian coast…”
* Dibussi Tande, a writer and activist from Cameroon, produces the blog Scribbles from the Den
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at www.pambazuka.org/
Beijing says global crisis risks China-Africa trade
The global financial crisis will hit trade between China and Africa, but Beijing will keep expanding its investment in the continent to maintain strong ties, senior officials have said. Sino-African trade reached $74-billion in the first eight months, up 62% from a year earlier. "We cannot be very optimistic about sustaining such growth," said Zhou Yabin, head of the Africa department at the Ministry of Commerce.
China guarantees increase in demand for Angolan oil
Angolan oil exports, the country's main source of revenue, will continue to increase in the near future thanks to growth in demand from China which will compensate for possible setbacks in other markets, according to analysts from Portugal’s Banco BPI. “Despite certain conditions that could limit the demand from developed economies, China's strong growth provides guarantees that, in the near future, demand for Angolan oil should be maintained,” say the BPI analysts in the latest report on Angola, published in September.
Crime worsens in Kenya
A demand for scrap metal by China is fuelling an unprecedented rate of crime in Kenya and vandalism of key installations to meet a growing demand for raw material. Electricity, phone cables and railway lines have been vandalized as the Chinese importers continue to pay premium prices for metal.
The Great Game in Africa
The African continent is quickly becoming a proxy battleground for Washington and Beijing, as the latter's appetite for emerging markets and raw materials grows. In July 2008, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that "China's full court press to establish influence and connections in Africa and Latin America may be seismic in its future implications for the United States." China's burgeoning influence in Africa is now squarely on the Pentagon's radar screen.
Police, war vets block MDC food distribution to orphans
As millions of Zimbabweans face a daily battle to survive, it is becoming clear that ZANU PF continues to hold the nation hostage – this after police and war veterans prevented the MDC from distributing critically needed food to hungry orphans in the Nyanga rural district in the eastern Manicaland province last week. The severe food crisis is taking it’s toll on the country and unknown numbers of people are beginning to suffer the effects of extreme hunger and malnutrition.
Talks still deadlocked
Talks on forming a Zimbabwean cabinet deadlocked on Thursday with political parties still fighting over who should control key ministries but negotiators said they would try again on Friday, the opposition MDC said. President Robert Mugabe voiced optimism a deal could be reached but said both sides were digging in their heels and compromise was needed on all sides.
Woza leaders in custody after protest
Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu remain in custody in Bulawayo Central Police Station tonight following their arrest earlier in the day. The seven other members that had been arrested before the demonstration had started have all been released without charge.
ZANU PF eager to block parliamentary probe into violence
A call by the MDC for parliament to investigate this year’s political violence has touched a raw nerve in the ZANU PF system. On Wednesday MDC Mutare Central legislator Innocent Gonese tabled a motion for a parliamentary Select Committee to investigate the violence which rocked the country after the March 29 elections, that were won by the MDC. Harare East MP Tendai Biti also tabled another motion asking parliament to investigate the ‘militarization and politicization of food distribution.
Zimbabwe power-sharing talks fail
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai failed Friday to agree on who should control powerful ministries, leaving their proposed unity government in doubt. Four days of lengthy negotiations, Tsvangirai said he still hoped that diplomatic efforts by fellow African countries would find a way to save the month-old power-sharing deal, seen as the best chance for rescuing the country from economic collapse.
The Logic of Integration
AU Monitor Weekly Roundup: Issue 155, 2008
Following a review workshop in Kenya, the East African Community (EAC) deputy secretary general announced that national consultations on the proposed EAC political federation were on course in Rwanda and Burundi. In addition, military commanders from 13 Eastern Africa countries met in Kenya, under the patronage of the AU, to finalise preparations for the establishment of a ‘united force to deal with conflicts on the continent’ through the Rapid Deployment Unit and the East African Stand-By Brigade. Regarding the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Institute for Security Studies is set to publish a monograph arguing that ‘regionalisation/integration have both an external and internal logic’ and going further to explain that ‘the inability of ECCAS to discharge its mandate on human security is a function of the perceived potential benefit and cost to domestic politicians with regards to their political security or future. Thus, a weak ECCAS is a reflection of its importance to the political calculus of member states’.
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki arrived in Zimbabwe on Monday in a bid to save the country’s power-sharing deal after the opposition party was denied key cabinet posts. Though the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai threatened to pull out of the deal, he said he still hoped the mediator would unlock the impasse so that the country may move forward. The African Union (AU), calling on its Member States not to accept the unconstitutional change of government in Mauritania, has reiterated the position of its Peace and Security Council (PSC) for restoration of the constitutional order and has welcomed the unanimous support of the international community. The AU, following a PSC meeting, called for urgent, flexible and sustainable funding for its peace operations on the continent.
In other news, the AU-EU Ministerial meeting called upon the African and European Commissions to further contribute to the new Africa-Europe relations framework, characterised by a consensus on values and a shared vision, and based on a more open and mature dialogue addressing global issues as well as to share experiences, best practices, and to develop joint initiatives. More than 200 civil society organisations are meeting for the ‘Second Euro-African Non-governmental Conference on Migration and development’. In addition, to mark ten years after the United Nations issued the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, a high-level conference entitled ‘Ten Years of Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement - Achievements and Future Challenges’ will take place in Oslo. Further, the Korean Strategy and Finance Ministry and the Import-Export Bank of Korea, in collaboration with the African Development Bank are organising the 2008 Ministerial Conference on Economic Cooperation between Korea and Africa under the theme ‘Promoting Synergies between Africa and Korea’.
Africa: Film festival to highlight gender violence
The second Pan-African film festival, intended to raise awareness of the various forms of violence committed against women in Africa, will open here on 26 November. Sponsored by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, the Government of Senegal, donors, non-governmental organizations and other partners, the festival is held on the occasion of the “International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women,” 25 November.
East Africa: Ugandans ban female circumcision
A community in eastern Uganda has banned the deeply rooted practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), an official has said. Kapchorwa district chairman Nelson Chelimo said it was "outmoded" and "not useful" for the community's women.
Ghana: The steep price of getting elected
Mawusi Awity and her husband were willing to jeopardize his military career for her dream of running for parliament in Ghana but there was another price to pay that she could not afford. "The excessive use of money to win the minds and hearts of the voters is making it difficult for women to get into the forefront of politics," Awity told IPS.
Global: Campaign to end fistula grows
As the first-ever report by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on fistula is scheduled to be presented to Member States today, the Campaign to End Fistula announced a fourfold increase in the number of countries it serves. According to its annual report, the campaign now works to prevent and treat fistula in over 45 countries in Africa, Asia and the Arab States. When the Campaign to End Fistula was launched in 2003, it covered 12 countries.
Global: Highlighting the tragedy of maternal death
On the heels of UNFPA’s recent efforts to promote maternal health at the High-level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals has come increased media exposure to the plight of mothers in developing countries. Prominent print and photo coverage in the 10 October 2008 edition of the Washington Post highlights the perils of poor access to emergency obstetric care and limited health-care resources to the lives of women and children.
Global: A learning manual on human rights based development
A human rights framework not only offers distinctive strengths but also specific tools for development work. It is therefore essential for development actors to actively integrate human rights into development planning. For this purpose, Dignity International has released a new learning manual named "From poverty to dignity: A learning manual on human rights based development" designed to be a guide, to encourage and inspire facilitators who want supporting materials that can give them a push in realising a good human rights learning programme.
Sudan: Bashir war crimes charges delayed
Judges at the International Criminal Court have asked for more evidence before deciding whether to issue an arrest warrant against Sudan's leader. Chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo wants the court to issue a warrant for President Omar al-Bashir over war crimes allegedly committed in Darfur.
Burundi: Urban refugees struggle to cope with cost of living
Life is getting tougher and tougher for Burundi's 12,000 urban refugees and asylum seekers. Amid rising prices and dwindling opportunities to make money, hundreds of refugees have left the capital, Bujumbura, over the past two years and moved to refugee camps where they can get assistance and free schooling for their children.
Global: Spain urged to give migrant children legal aid
Spain’s accelerating effort to send back unaccompanied children who enter the country illegally might subject them to danger, ill-treatment and detention, Human Rights Watch said in a new report. The government needs to halt repatriations until it has a process to ensure their well-being, and, as an immediate step, give them the same right to an independent lawyer that adult migrants have under Spanish law.
Somalia: 5,500 more uprooted from capital
An additional 5,500 people have been displaced this week from the capital of strife-torn Somalia, the United Nations reported today, bringing the total number of those uprooted by fighting between Government forces and Islamic insurgents since 21 September to over 61,000.
Somalia: Displaced and neglected in Somaliland
More than 26,000 people displaced from southern Somalia to Somaliland are not receiving adequate assistance because officials in the region, which regards itself as an independent country, give priority to those displaced within Somaliland. "We have a different definition of IDPs [internally displaced persons] compared with the international community because the international community regards the displaced from southern Somalia as IDPs but we regard them as refugees," Ali Ibrahim, Somaliland's minister for planning and national coordination, told IRIN.
Sudan: 50,000 Darfuris displaced - UN
An increase in violence in northern Darfur last month has displaced around 50,000 people, many of whom could be short of food and water, a United Nations official said on Saturday. Gregory Alex, head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in northern Darfur, said around 24,000 people fled their homes after clashes between government and rebel forces near the areas of Birmaza and Disa.
Ethiopia: Draft law 'threatens civil society'
Ethiopia’s parliament should reject a draft law that would criminalize human rights activity and seriously undermine civil society groups, Human Rights Watch has said. Human Rights Watch called on donor governments to speak out publicly against the bill, which is expected to be introduced in parliament this month.
Kenya: Kenyatta Day: What's there to celebrate?
Fact: The Government of Kenya (GoK) will on Kenyatta Day spend on Airforce jets and State festivities over K.Shs. 300 million raised from high taxes on fuel, electricity and water; whereas thousands of Kenyans are cold in the IDP camps and millions more cannot afford even one meal a day.
KENYATTA DAY – what’s there to celebrate?
Fact: The Government of Kenya (GoK) will on Kenyatta Day spend on Airforce jets and State festivities over K.Shs. 300 million raised from high taxes on fuel, electricity and water; whereas thousands of Kenyans are cold in the IDP camps and millions more cannot afford even one meal a day.
Fact: The Grand Coalition’s fat cabinet of 42, squanders K.Shs. 46.2 million per month while 5 Kenyans die per day in Turkana district, thousands eat wild berries and rats and millions of poor families are on a permanent skip-a-meal-a-day program.
Fact: Kenyans, as you sit, squirm and sweat in the hot sun (at Uhuru Park or wherever they decide to take you), or are drenched in the pouring rain, listening to their sanctimonious and lip-service speeches about "hard times", “the struggle”, and fictitious achievement or politically correct mention of it is “the time for change”; your Members of Parliament (MP), sitting in the covered dais away from the harsh elements and enjoying "the Coke side of life" will have every reason to celebrate Kenyatta Day:
1. the GoK gives your MP a tax free salary of K.Shs. 1.1 million for working 12 days a month plus lots of allowance such airtime, mileage, hardship etc;
2. your MP can from his one month salary buy Unga daily at K.Shs. 85 for 35 years whereas you can’t afford 1 packet of Unga from your wages and you don’t even know where tomorrow’s packet will come from;
3. the GoK gives your MP K.Shs. 15 million as housing scheme allowance whereas thousands of Kenyans are squatters and homeless on the streets of cities;
4. besides giving your MP a Mercedes Benz or a Prado as official car, the GoK gives your MP K.Shs. 3.3 million to buy a family car that is fuelled by your taxes, whereas, you – the taxpayer, walks to work because you cannot afford hiked Matatu fares;
5. your MP receives a life insurance cover of K.Shs. 10 million while 90% of Kenyans cannot access health care.
My fellow Kenyan:
- Are you struggling because of the high cost of basic commodities such as Unga?
- Are you struggling because you were displaced in post-election violence?
- Are you struggling because of the high cost of fuel?
- Are you struggling because of the lack of a job?
- Are you struggling because the minimum wage policy has kept your wage so low?
- Are you struggling because of poverty?
- Are you struggling because you are landless, a squatter and homeless?
If the GoK, the MPs and political class does not CARE about YOU why should you join them in Kenyatta Day celebrations?
Personally, I am not participating in the Kenyatta day celebration unless the Government of Kenya at minimum and immediately agrees to the following demands:
1. Reduce 2kg packet of Unga to K.Shs. 30/=
2. Reduce Petrol prices to K.Shs. 65/= per litre.
3. Reduce Electricity tariffs to K.Shs. 3/= per KW/h.
4. Reduce Kerosene prices to K.Shs. 35/= per litre.
5. Reduce Bread price to K.Shs. 20/= per 500mg.
6. Reduce 2kg packet of Sugar to K.Shs. 40/=
I invite you to make this statement with me!
Bunge la Mwananchi
+254 720 451 235
Côte d’Ivoire: to delay poll to 2009, official says
Ivory Coast's long-awaited presidential election, which will cement peace between President Laurent Gbagbo and rebels, is "technically impossible" this year and will be held in 2009, an electoral official said on Friday. The vote in the world's No. 1 cocoa producer, which had already been delayed several times since 2005 by political conflict and sporadic violence, was scheduled for Nov. 30.
Côte d’Ivoire: UN warns of threats ahead of polls
Côte d’Ivoire still faces formidable obstacles before it can achieve true national reconciliation and begin the path to recovery, a United Nations report says today just weeks before the West African country is slated to conduct much-delayed presidential elections.
East Africa: Uganda joins UNSC
Uganda has been elected to occupy a non-permanent seat of UN Security Council when delegates today cast their votes to the international body's powerful for 2009-10 term. Uganda, which was already assured of a seat from a unanimous regional backing has been joined by Japan, Turkey, Austria and Mexico.
Mauritania: EU warns of sanctions over coup
The European Union will press Mauritania's military government next week for a return to constitutional rule and the release of ousted President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi. The bloc could impose sanctions if no progress is made in talks which start in Paris on Monday, the French EU presidency said on Friday.
South Africa: ANC heavyweight joins rebellion
The ex-premier of South Africa's Gauteng province has resigned from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to join those calling for a new party. Mbhazima Shilowa said the rebels, led by ex-Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, would hold a convention on 2 November.
Angola: The sordid tale of 'Angolagate'
Corruption, arms sales and a civil war in Africa: France's biggest ever bribery scandal sees 42 leading figures of the French business and political world on trial. They are accused of being involved in a murky network said to have facilitated the illegal transport of arms to Angola in the 1990s.
Africa: African Economic Community target gets fresh impetus
African leaders from three regional economic blocs are due to hold a historic joint summit in Uganda this month to harmonise regional integration policies and programmes in a move that may give fresh impetus to the long-conceived goal of an African Economic Community.
Africa: Earning a living from globalization
The general policy lessons from the high-growth economies of Asia for others are clear: the need for an educated and healthy workforce, timely investment in infrastructure, and the assiduous extension of governance; and the importance of making every effort to access the global economy. But the challenge for African and other policy-makers is less about knowing 'what'they should do than about 'how' they can do it.
Africa: Why trade liberalisation is not working for Africa
This report from UNCTAD examines Africa’s export performance after trade liberalisation to draw lessons for use in the design of future development strategies. Liberalisation over the last 25 years has removed policy barriers that were seen to inhibit export performance. Despite this the level and composition of exports has not changed. Exports have not diversified and as a whole market share is down from 6 per cent of world exports to 3 per cent.
Global: Defiant Guyana to be punished
The European Union is preparing to impose swingeing taxes on goods imported from Guyana as punishment for the Caribbean island's refusal to accept a free trade accord. Unlike 13 other governments in the Caribbean, Guyana has opted out of signing an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU.
Global: Economic crisis is man-made, says World Bank
The World Bank has agreed to help developing countries strengthen their economies, bolster their financial systems and protect the poor against the financial turmoil in international markets. Robert Zoellick, the bank's president, said the contagion affecting the global economy “has been a man-made catastrophe and responses to overcome it lie in all our hands.''
Global: High food costs 'a global burden'
Almost two-thirds of people - 60% - in 26 countries say higher food and energy prices this year have affected them "a great deal", a BBC report has found. The BBC World Service global study said that while all nations had felt the burden of the higher costs, the problem was most acute in poorer countries.
Global: Poverty Day to address human rights and dignity
This year's International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is a call to everyone, from policy makers to the public, to recognise the rights and dignity of people living in poverty. Amnesty International, other NGOs, civil society organizations, people living in poverty and supporters around the world will mobilize to raise their voices and demand action from governments.
Kenya: Poverty Statistics versus CDF
The recent debate about the poverty statistics released by Kenya’s Ministry of Planning vis-à-vis allocation of community development fund (CDF) is an issue about targeting of the prized funds. Established in 2003 through the CDF Act in The Kenya Gazette Supplement No. 107, the fund is expected to support constituency-level, grass-root development projects.
Africa: TB vaccine trials kick off amid funding woes
Clinical trials of a new tuberculosis (TB) vaccine recently kicked off in Kenya, meanwhile international TB researchers and activists are worried by funding gaps that may worsen in the global financial crisis. In the first stage of human testing, known as Phase I trials, the new vaccine will be tested for safety on healthy adults with no previous history of TB in Kombewa, near Kisumu in western Kenya.
Malawi: Authorities allay fears
Tuberculosis patients who are also HIV positive and require being booked for Anti Retroviral drugs should can do that, Amon Nkhata, ART officer responsible for sexually transmitted infections has said. He said it is safe to combine the two treatments and added that earlier deaths reported were rumour.
Nigeria: Malaria kills 401 people
Malaria has killed 401 people in the last four weeks in northern Nigeria’s Katsina state, according to local health officials. “In the last 28 days 401 people have died of malaria which has become endemic in the state,” Halliru Idris, director of public health in the state’s health ministry, told IRIN.
South Africa: Minister calls for HIV vaccine
South Africa's new Health Minister, Barbara Hogan, has called for a renewed global effort to find a vaccine for HIV, which can lead to Aids. Ms Hogan said it was unquestionable that HIV caused Aids and conventional medicines were the best treatment.
Southern Africa: Is the pen mightier than the virus?
Isn't it time that journalists started taking HIV/AIDS beyond the newsroom and into the bedroom? In many newsrooms the highly politicised topic of HIV/AIDS remains just that - political. Journalists aren't immune to HIV/AIDS; they just don't talk about it.
West Africa: Weighing healthcare for all
West African governments considering lifting health care fees for all will soon have a guide to manage the financial impact of the move. The guide, which the NGO Save the Children expects to launch in November, will show policymakers in developing countries how to estimate resource needs that may arise from abolishing fees.
Zimbabwe: Retention incentives for health workers
This paper investigates the impact of the framework and strategies to retain critical health professionals (CHPs) that the Zimbabwean government has put in place, particularly regarding non-financial incentives, in the face of continuing high out-migration. The study investigated the causes of migration of health professionals; the strategies used to retain health professionals, how they are being implemented, monitored and evaluated and their impact, in order to make recommendations to enhance the monitoring, evaluation and management of non-financial incentives for health worker retention.
Kenya: Failing grade for free primary education
When in 2003 Kenya followed its neighbours Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda and Malawi in introducing free and compulsory primary education for all, the response from the public as well as international donors was overwhelming. Within the first few weeks more than 1.3 million new students were enrolled. Those who had previously not been able to send their children to school rushed to the school gates and the trend has continued ever since.
Global: Racial discrimmination in the labour market
The ILO global reports have particularly highlighted the link between poverty and racial discrimination and examined in detail the situation of ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, migrant workers, people of African descent, the Roma and religious minorities. The effects of multiple discrimination, particular discrimination faced by women on the basis of race and sex, were stressed.
South Africa: Foreign competitors not welcome
About 200 Somali businessmen in South Africa's Western Cape Province are being threatened with violence if they continue doing business in the townships. They recently returned to the areas after fleeing a wave of xenophobic attacks in May 2008. A group of local township businessmen, acting under the banner of the Zanokhanyo Retailers Association (ZRA), sent the Somalis letters in September, warning them to close their shops or face "actions that will include physically fighting".
Africa: Defending the Zambezi: Africa's River of Life
The Zambezi is one of the most heavily dammed rivers in Africa. More than 30 large dams have already been constructed throughout its basin, at great cost to local people and wildlife. These impacts have been particularly harsh in Mozambique, where the giant Cahora Bassa Dam displaced tens of thousands of people, and severely degraded downstream floodplains and fisheries.
South Africa: Government invests in clean technology
South Africa launched its first clean technology fund last month (30 September) in Johannesburg with around 400 million South African rand (US$39.3 million) ready for its first investments. The Evolution One fund will inject capital into projects like water treatment technologies, waste management and thin-film solar panel development, says Zuko Kubukeli, an executive director with Inspired Evolution Investment Management, which is managing the fund.
Kenya: Paying the cost of bad farming policy
Anthony Kimani Muhia is as ambitious as he is entrepreneurial. The 32-year-old farmer from central Kenya has figured out much of what's wrong with the country's farming system, and he's determined to change it, starting with himself. His plot of land feels not much bigger than a handkerchief – about ¾ of an acre – but he’s been using it to find new ways of farming that might help him, his family and his community escape the poverty trap.
Nigeria: Shell to appeal eviction
Royal Dutch Shell has appealed a Nigerian court order requiring it hand over the site of a key base in the oil-rich but impoverished Niger Delta. A high court in Rivers State ruled in July that the site of the Bonny lifting terminal belonged to the local community, not the oil multinational.
Uganda: How does a change in the legal status of a forest affect people's livelihoods?
Uganda is well endowed with natural resources and some 24 per cent is at present under forest cover. However, as in most Africa countries, Uganda’s forests are in decline. Mount Elgon forest was gazetted under the Forest Department from 1938. The status was changed to a National Park in 1993. Its management was transferred to the wildlife authorities. This report assesses impacts of the change in legal status on people's livelihood by means of a modified household economic model.
Cameroon: Dissident singer sentenced to three years in jail
This April, Cameroon adopted an amendment to its constitution that eliminated term limits for the President, as well as granted him immunity for any acts committed while in office. No one was smiling more prettily than President Paul Biya, who at 75 has been in office for 26 years and is seeking re-election in 2011. But one of the country's best-known singers, Lapiro de Mbanga, wasn't happy about it, so he voiced his disillusion in song.
DRC: Community radio journalist held for two days
Franck Masunzu, a journalist and host of a local community radio show in the town of Walikale, in North Kivu province, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was released early in the afternoon of 14 October 2008 after being held for two days by the local office of the Agence Nationale des Renseignements (ANR), the state intelligence agency.
East Africa: Enhancing gender equality in the media
The Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA), an association that brings together journalists unions and associations in Eastern Africa, today published a regional report on "Gender Equality in the Media in Eastern Africa". The report is based on key gender planning concepts, namely Sex and Gender, Gender Equality and Gender Mainstreaming.
Egypt: Court imposes heavy fines on two weekly journalists
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns an Egyptian court's decision on Saturday to levy steep fines against an editor and reporter for an independent weekly that published a satirical piece about a prominent cleric. A criminal court in Al-Geeza ordered El-Fegr editor Adel Hammouda and writer Mohamed al-Baz to pay fines of 80,000 Egyptian pounds ($14,341) apiece on charges that they had defamed Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed al-Tantawi.
Nigeria: Journalist slained near his home
Nigerian journalist Eiphraim Audu shot and killed on Wednesday by six unknown gunmen near his residence in Lafia, central Nigeria. Mr Audu was a senior radio journalist with Nasarawa State Broadcasting Service and chairman of credential committee of forthcoming Nigeria Union of Journalist elections in Nasarawa.
Sierra Leone: Media advocacy group receives death threats
The director and a staff member of the Society for Democratic Initiatives (SDI), a Sierra Leone media advocacy group, say they are receiving death threats after publishing a report on press conditions late last month. Director Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai told CPJ that he and Information Officer John Baimba Sesay have received threatening phone calls nearly every day this month.
Tanzania: Journalists, editors condemn ban of newspaper
Tanzania journalists, editors and media associations on October 14, 2008 condemned the ban of the weekly privately owned Mwanahalisi newspaper and resolved from October 15 to boycott to publish all news concerning the Minister of Information, Sports and Culture, Captain George Mkuchika.
Tunisia: Bloggers push for national day to defend freedom of blogging
Scores of bloggers and Facebook users in Tunisia have banded together to push for a national day to defend the freedom of expression. A number of bloggers initiated the group "November 4th: A National Day for the Freedom of Expression" on Facebook. The group is now leading a campaign to promote the idea.
DRC: Rwanda troops 'enter DRC'
The Democratic Republic of Congo has accused its neighbour Rwanda of sending troops across the border in support of a Congolese rebel leader. Dozens of people were injured in fighting near Goma, the eastern provincial capital of eastern Nord-Kivu, but Rwanda denied involvement saying the accusations from Kinshasa were "ridiculous".
East Africa: Kenya under attack threat from Somali Islamists
Following a recent offer by Kenya to train Somali forces, Islamists have responded with a threat to launch an attack on Kenyan territory if it goes ahead with plan. According to reports, Kenya had offered to train 10,000 Somali government troops in a bid to boost capacity to deal with insurgency and bring back law and order in that country.
Ethiopia: UN warns of deteriorating food security
Drought-hit Ethiopians are facing a worsening food situation as the cost of maize soars nearly three-fold in some areas of the Horn of Africa country compared to last year, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has cautioned. Migration by people from rural to urban areas in search of food is increasing, it noted, and aid agencies have identified critical malnutrition. A rapid assessment team said it found grave water and pasture shortages in some areas.
Kenya: Tribunal urged for poll violence
An international tribunal should be set up in Kenya to try those implicated in clashes after December's disputed poll, an inquiry into the violence says. The commission found that in some areas, the violence was planned and organised with the support of politicians and businessmen.
Sudan: President launches Darfur peace effort, rebels boycott
Sudan's president, accused of genocide by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), launched a national initiative on Thursday to bring peace to Darfur. Rebels dismissed the move by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir as a public relations trick and boycotted the launch.
Africa: Nokia opens research office in Africa
Nokia launched a regional research center in Nairobi on Sept. 30 to gain a better understanding of the needs of African consumers, said Dorothy Ooko, communications manager for East and Central Africa. Nokia Research Africa (NoRA) will work with universities and NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) to develop prototypes of devices that are suitable for the African market, with an eye on offering benefits in health care and education. Nokia researchers will also study the telecommunication services sector on the continent.
Global: Desktop virtualization as to provide low-cost computers for schools
The development community is experiencing an explosion of interest in providing low cost devices, such as laptops, to students in developing countries. infoDev is now working to develop a web-based “community of practice” that will share lessons among the different initiatives.
Global: Obsessing over Internet access
According to March 2008 statistics only 3.6% of internet users in the world were from Africa. Asia contributed to 37.6% of internet users globally, but this percentage is inflated by large numbers of users from China. The number of fixed lines has not increased significantly, and in some cases has even shrunk. And, in addition to this, a new divide is emerging: the broadband (or “high speed internet”) divide.
Global: Pro-poor ICT access toolkit
In order to reduce poverty and foster inclusive development through affordable access to the internet, APC is working on a resource kit for realising a universal access agenda, present promising options, experiences, lessons and opportunities in pro-poor access provision in developing societies.
Rwanda: $24 Million boost for regional broadband networks
The World Bank has announced that it has approved $24 million for a program that will see Rwanda develop her national capacity to provide broadband connectivity. The money that was cleared through an International Development Association (IDA) financing grant for the Regional Communication Infrastructure Program - Rwanda Project (RCIPRW), is supposed to increase the availability of broadband to more than 700 Rwandan institutions including schools, health centers and local government administrative centers. IDA is the concessional lending arm of the World Bank.
South Africa: The global village is slowly going digital
Computers are increasingly ubiquitous in the developing world as software and internet companies create operating systems, computing programmes, and web-based portals in hundreds of indigenous languages. Following the rapid growth of local-language technology in mobile phones and open-source programmes, many software and internet companies are scrambling to gain a foothold in these markets.
Doha Global Civil Society Forum
27 November 28 November 2008, Doha, Qatar
The Registration Form for the Doha Global Civil Society Forum (27 November 28 November 2008, Doha, Qatar) and the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus (29 November 2 December 2008, Doha, Qatar) is now online.
Kenya: CONFINTEA VI: Africa Civil Society Summit
Elimu Yetu Coalition – Kenya’s National coalition(network) of Civil Society Organizations committed to the realization of Education For All goals (EFA) as spelt out in the Dakar framework for action – wishes to confirm to all that we will host CONFINTEA VI Africa’s Civil Society Summit on 3rd November 2008 at the Hilton Hotel, Nairobi Kenya. Find attached the registration form.
Elimu Yetu Coalition – Kenya’s National coalition(network) of Civil Society Organizations committed to the realization of Education For All goals (EFA) as spelt out in the Dakar framework for action – wishes to confirm to all that we will host CONFINTEA VI Africa’s Civil Society Summit on 3rd November 2008 at the Hilton Hotel, Nairobi Kenya. Find attached the registration form.
A detailed programme for CONFINTEA VI Africa Regional Conference has already been issued by UNESCO’s Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) indicating that the Draft Regional Synthesis Report will be presented on 5th November 2008 in the morning hours. On the other hand the Government of Kenya in collaboration with UNESCO’s Nairobi office is holding a major workshop on 4th November 2008 for sharing Kenya’s experience and practices in Literacy Survey which is equally important and will require the participation of Africa’s Civil Society Organizations. Against this backdrop, Elimu Yetu Coalition is convinced that it will be strategically right to host the Africa Civil Society Summit on Monday 3rd November 2008.
It is our expectation that the summit will provide a platform for reflecting on various country reports, develop actionable and timely recommendations to be presented at the Regional Conference, and consolidate the Civil Society position in regards to “THE POWER OF YOUTH AND ADULT LEARNING FOR AFRICA’S DEVELOPMET” which is the main theme of Africa’s Regional Conference.
Elimu Yetu Coalition is currently analyzing various African country reports posted at the UNESCO’s website and we will be sharing a summary of our take/findings during the summit.
It is our appeal once again to all the Civil Society Organizations in Africa focusing on Education for All agenda to share with us their thoughts as we approach CONFINTEA VI Africa Regional Conference. We know it is rather expensive to meet the cost of travel and stay in Nairobi during that period, and therefore appeal to those who may not be able to secure funds and/or sponsorship to the Summit to share with all their thoughts/comments/observations/contributions through e-mail. Elimu Yetu Coalition is committed to consolidating and documenting your comments for presentation during the summit.
Lastly we are asking members of the Civil Society in Africa who will be attending the Summit and the Regional Conference to send the registration form back to us by 17th October 2008 to guide our planning process.
Ms. Isabella Osoro
Elimu Yetu Coalition
2ND FLOOR, CHILDWELFARE SOCIETY BUILDING
LANG’ATA ROAD – NAIROBI- KENAYA
Cell phone; +254-720-030716
World Social Forum 2009
From January 27th to February 1st 2009, the city of Belem will host the World Social Forum. During six days, the city assumes the position of being the center of planetary citizenship and a global reference for those who don't agree with inequality, injustice, intolerance, environment destruction and prejudice.
Africa: New Amandla! out in hard copy
South Africa: From financial crisis to anti-capitalist alternatives
In previous issues Amandla! introduced a feature called ‘It’s the Economy Stupid, echoing former US President Bill Clinton. We are of the view that coming to terms with the economic situation is crucial to successful political strategy. We also did this in the firm belief thateconomic turmoil globally and nationally was going to impose itself onthe political situation. The current global financial crisis, which hasbrought the financial system virtually to its knees, is a both cause and symptom of a deeper systemic crisis of capitalism.
From financial crisis to anti-capitalist alternatives
Tuesday 14 October 2008 by Amandla
In previous issues Amandla! introduced a feature called ‘It’s the Economy Stupid, echoing former US President Bill Clinton. We are of the view that coming to terms with the economic situation is crucial to successful political strategy. We also did this in the firm belief that economic turmoil globally and nationally was going to impose itself on the political situation. The current global financial crisis, which has brought the financial system virtually to its knees, is a both cause and symptom of a deeper systemic crisis of capitalism.
Like an overworked cliché, the left has been trumpeting the crisis of capitalism for many years. And like the proverbial Peter who cried wolf, the left’s cries can no longer be ignored if the flock is to be saved.
According to respected historian and political economist Robert Brenner the current crisis ‘manifests profound, unresolved problems in the real economy that have been – literally – papered over by debt for decades, as well as a shorter-term financial crunch of a depth unseen since World War II. The combination of the weakness of underlying capital accumulation and the meltdown of the banking system is what’s made the downward slide so intractable for policymakers and its potential for disaster so serious.’ The articles of both Lee Sustar and Jack Rasmus build on this and go some way to explaining the depth and nature of the crisis.
There has been a degree of complacency amongst policymakers in response to the financial crisis. The sense conveyed is that we in SA are shielded from the crisis as our markets are less exposed to the failing US financial institutions. However, as Patrick Bond points out, this ignores how similar processes of financialisation expose SA to financial bubbles that are likely to puncture with similar results to those seen in the US. All the more so since South Africa not only has an unregulated derivatives market but is offering to make this practice subject to further deregulation under the World Trade Organisation’s services agreement GATS.
Equally serious is the dependence of the South African economy on extremely volatile speculative capital to keep the economy afloat. For some years now we have been living beyond our means, where the costs of our imports far out-weigh revenue from exports. We are not earning sufficient foreign currency to pay for these imports, which, in turn, has made us dependent on attracting short-term speculative investment to allow us to continue on this unsustainable path. This has been achieved by having very high real interest rates. But maintaining high interest rates reinforces the process of financialisation as it encourages investment in the financial sector and consequently discourages investment in the real economy, such as in expanding factory production, agriculture, etc. Similarly, it imposes limits on public investment in social spending as government follows the same logic.
All of this is an outcome of an economic policy which removed controls on the financial sector. This process, known as liberalisation, made it easier for investors to take their money in and out of the country and to make greater profits from speculative investment. But it is precisely the policies of liberalisation and deregulation, commonly understood as neo-liberalism, that render the South African economy vulnerable to the global financial crisis. Volatile and unstable markets have been rendered powerful, so powerful that they are able to influence policy and political decision making.
A few years ago reappointed Finance Minister Trevor Manuel angrily ranted against the ‘amorphous markets’ that were destabilising the rand. The same ‘amorphous’ markets whose interests he has slavishly upheld were responsible for his speedy reappointment as Minister of Finance during the debacle of the mass resignation of Mbeki’s ministers.
This brings us full circle: the financial crisis must be understood as an outcome of an ailing capitalism unable to generate profit through investment in the productive sectors of the economy. Policies aimed at resolving the problems of growth are just aggravating the situation, exposing the system to repeated crisis. This will impose itself on the new ANC government. Continuing with the Mbeki–Manuel policies will just make the economy more unstable and redistribution more remote. The cycle that created the tensions in the Alliance will continue, deepening the social crisis and causing political turmoil.
As Emir Sader explains, the current crisis will not bring the system down. At best it will increasingly bring the legitimacy of capitalism into question. Here lies the space for real debate and the need for popular movements to put forward strategic and long-term alternatives as well as concrete proposals for the here and now.
* From Amandla! (Editorial), October / November 2008 Issue No 4.
Senegal: Francophone Africa Researcher & Representative
Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, the international NGO tracking the social & environmental conduct (positive & negative) of over 4000 companies, is seeking a highly-motivated person to be its Francophone Africa Researcher & Representative. The Centre’s website (www.business-humanrights.org) is recognised as the leading information hub on this subject. closing date: 28 October 2008.
Senegal: Francophone Africa Researcher & Representative
Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
Part-time consultant post
Closing date: 28 October 2008
Applicants must have:
* strong English language skills;
* fluency in French language;
* the right to work in Senegal; and
* previous work or volunteer experience in a non-profit organization addressing human rights, labour rights, development, environment, or other social issues.
Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, the international NGO tracking the social & environmental conduct (positive & negative) of over 4000 companies, is seeking a highly-motivated person to be its Francophone Africa Researcher & Representative. The Centre’s website (www.business-humanrights.org) is recognised as the leading information hub on this subject.
As the first person in Francophone Africa working for the Resource Centre, you will be responsible to the Director and the Head of Research, working with them and other staff members to further develop the organization and its website.
Your responsibilities will include:
* Online research and input of information onto the Resource Centre website;
* Representing the Resource Centre regionally, at meetings & conferences;
* Building contacts with, and seeking information from, a broad range of people working in Francophone African NGOs, companies, media, investment firms, universities, governments, etc;
* Making a special effort to draw attention to under-reported issues & cases in the region;
* Inviting companies to respond to concerns raised about their conduct, so that their responses can be included on our website and in our Weekly Updates (sent to over 7000 people worldwide).
You must have an ability to represent the organization in Francophone Africa and build a broad range of contacts. You will need strong research & analytical skills to identify relevant materials for the website, categorise the information, and compose brief summaries. You will need to be willing to do a significant amount of online input to help keep the website updated. Rigorous attention to detail, sound political judgment, and the ability to present information objectively and impartially are also required.
You must have good word processing skills, and the ability to function under pressure and manage a heavy workload. Good organizational, communication & interpersonal skills, and a strong commitment to human rights, are essential. You must be willing to work on your own initiative, prioritise with minimal supervision, and work independently as well as function as part of a team. You must be self-servicing in terms of administrative tasks.
As we will not be setting up office premises in Senegal, you will need to be willing & able to work from home
Fees (in CFA francs): CFAF 550,000-690,000 per month (CFAF 6,600,000-8,280,000 per year) for half-time work (depending on experience & education).
Fees are equivalent of CFAF 1,100,000-1,380,000 per month for full-time work.
Further details about this post (including full job description, person specification & application form) are at
The application form is required; we cannot accept CVs and/or from a hosting institution (e.g. if a Dakar-based university or NGO is willing to provide office space).
Further details about this post (including job description & application form) can be found via the “Announcements” box on our homepage: www.business-humanrights.org The application form is required; we cannot accept CVs.
Further information about the Resource Centre is in the “About us” section of our website. If you need to contact us, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, with “Francophone Africa Researcher” in the subject line.
Southern Africa: Researcher, Migrant Rights Monitoring Project (MRMP)
The Forced Migration Studies Programme (FMSP) in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Witwatersrand is Southern Africa’s premier centre for academic research and teaching on migration and social transformation. The FMSP is seeking a researcher for its Migrant Rights Monitoring Project (MRMP). The MRMP builds on the FMSP’s record of research and advocacy with sustained, rigorous social science research into migrants’ access to basic social services; the implementation of asylum policy; and the nature and causes of rights abuses against non-nationals in South Africa. Closing Date: 31 October 2008.
RESEARCHER - MIGRANT RIGHTS MONITORING PROJECT M/G870
The Forced Migration Studies Programme (FMSP) in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Witwatersrand is Southern Africa’s premier centre for academic research and teaching on migration and social transformation. The FMSP is seeking a researcher for its Migrant Rights Monitoring Project (MRMP). The MRMP builds on the FMSP’s record of research and advocacy with sustained, rigorous social science research into migrants’ access to basic social services; the implementation of asylum policy; and the nature and causes of rights abuses against non-nationals in South Africa. The successful applicant will have Masters level training and extensive professional experience related to human migration and a demonstrated ability to plan and implement research projects. Preference is for applicants proficient in languages spoken by migrant groups in South Africa (e.g., French, Portuguese, Swahili, Somali, Shona, and Ndebele). This is a one-year contract starting in January 2009 with the possibility of extension. A competitive salary will be offered commensurate with experience.
To learn more about the FMSP go to: http://migration.org.za
TO APPLY : Submit a cover letter outlining their capability to satisfy the requirements of this position along with a brief CV, the name of three professional references (including e-mail contact details), and salary expectations, to Margaret Deyi Human Resources Officer, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Private Bag 3, Wits 2050, Gauteng, South Africa.
Closing Date: 31 October 2008
The University reserves the right to verify qualifications and credit standing
Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice
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