Pambazuka News 425: Beware of human rights fundamentalism
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
CONTENTS: 1. Action alerts, 2. Announcements, 3. Features, 4. Comment & analysis, 5. Notes from Zimbabwe, 6. Obituaries, 7. African Writers’ Corner, 8. Blogging Africa, 9. China-Africa Watch, 10. Zimbabwe update, 11. Women & gender, 12. Human rights, 13. Refugees & forced migration, 14. Social movements, 15. Elections & governance, 16. Corruption, 17. Development, 18. Health & HIV/AIDS, 19. Education, 20. LGBTI, 21. Environment, 22. Food Justice, 23. Media & freedom of expression, 24. Conflict & emergencies, 25. Internet & technology, 26. Fundraising & useful resources, 27. Courses, seminars, & workshops, 28. Publications, 29. Jobs
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Highlights from this issue
- Mahmood Mamdani warns on the need to beware of human rights fundamentalism
COMMENTS & ANALYSIS
- Human rights defenders ask why no-one speaks out in Ethiopia
- Solomon Gebre-Selassie on the struggle for democracy and the rule of law in Ethiopia
- Mirjam de Bruijn provides an eye-witness account of life in Chad
- Patrick Bond on Zimbabwe under subimperial and neoliberal thumbs
- Richard Kamdiza examines Zimbabwe's economic freefall
- Continuing our coverage of the campaign for reparations for Mau Mau, nine claimants share their testimonials of repression under British colonial rule
- Kali Akuno protests at US withdrawal from Durban II Conference on racism
- Yet one more country - DRC - ratifies the AU Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa
NOTES FROM ZIMBABWE
- Prespone Matawira continues her reports from the streets of Zimbabwe
- Smitu Kothari, international scholar and activist
AFRICAN WRITERS CORNER
- Conversations with Rory Kilalea
- Sokari Ekine reviews the African blogosphereACTION ALERTS: Harare Central Prison has run out of food
ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Biti takes fight to Gono
WOMEN & GENDER: Gender and politics in the Horn of Africa
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Somalia bombing targets minister
HUMAN RIGHTS: UN Human Rights Council statement on killings
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: CAR refugees continue fleeing into Chad
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: Kenya: Impunity Day
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Turning elections into a development asset
CHINA-AFRICA WATCH: Kung Fu diplomacy
HEALTH & HIV/AIDS: TB cause a quarter of HIV deaths
CORRUPTION: Do Kenyans trust the Grand Coalition?
DEVELOPMENT: Africa trade could drop by up to 25%
EDUCATION: WOZA members engage schools
LGBTI: Moroccan authorities clamp down on homosexuals
FOOD JUSTICE: Better food safety crucial for Africa
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Nigerian bureau chief released
INTERNET& TECHNOLOGY: Linking DRC to the world
PLUS: e-newsletters and mailings lists; courses, seminars and workshops, and jobs
*Pambazuka News now has a Del.icio.us page, where you can view the various websites that we visit to keep our fingers on the pulse of Africa! Visit http://del.icio.us/pambazuka_news
Global: Urgent action for visas for families of Cuban Five
On April 10th, family members of the Cuban Five imprisoned in the United States have an appointment in the U.S. Interests Section in Havana , Cuba , to request their visas. This will be the tenth time that Adriana Perez, wife of Gerardo Hernandez, will request a visa to see her husband in a prison in the U.S. where he is serving an unjust sentence. During a decade, the United States government has denied this couple the possibility of seeing each other.
Zimbabwe: Harare Central Prison has run out of food
We were advised at the beginning of this week that two prisons in Harare had cut rations to a quarter of what prisoners were meant to receive; two days later, we were told that food had completely run out. There are between 1,300 and 1,500 inmates in Harare Central Prison and without outside help and donations, they may starve. Many in Zimbabwe’s prisons are already dying like flies as a result of food shortages and disease.
Congo ratifies Protocol document
We have received news from the African Union Legal Counsel’s office that the Democratic Republic of Congo deposited its instrument of ratification with the AU on 9th February 2009 although according to the status update attached DRC ratified the same on 9th June 2008 making the number of countries that have ratified the Protocol 27.
DRC government ratifies the protocol on women's rights
The Democratic Republic of Congo government registered its ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa on 9 February 2009, bringing the total number of countries in Africa to have ratified the protocol to 27 [pdf: 68kb].
Beware of human rights fundamentalism
When former South African President Thabo Mbeki makes the African case for a postponement of the International Criminal Court's (ICC) indictment of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, what can he say with dignity and foresight?
To begin with, he should remind his audience that nowhere in the world have rights existed outside an enabling political context. No democracy enforces a fixed standard of rights regardless of the country's political context. Few can forget how the Bush administration diluted the Bill of Rights in the interest of pursuing Homeland Security. In the relation between law and politics, politics is always paramount. Precisely because the struggle for rights is a political struggle, enforcers of rights – and not just its violators – need to be held politically accountable lest they turn rights enforcement into a private vendetta.
Mbeki can then share with his audience the lessons Africans have learned in the struggle for peace and justice over the past several decades. Contrary to what many think, this lesson is not that there needs to be a trade-off between peace and justice. The real trade-off is between different forms of justice. This became evident with the settlement to end apartheid. That settlement was possible because the political leadership of the anti-apartheid struggle prioritised political justice over criminal justice. The rationale was simple: where there was no victor, one would need the cooperation of the very leaders who would otherwise be charged with war crimes to end the fighting and initiate political reforms. The essence of Kempton Park can be summed up in a single phrase: forgive but do not forget. Forgive all past crimes – in plain words, immunity from prosecution – provided both sides agree to change the rules to assure political justice for the living.
The South African lesson has guided African practice in other difficult situations. In Mozambique Renamo sits in parliament instead of in jail or in the dock. In South Sudan, too, there would have been neither peace nor a reform of the political system without an agreement not to pursue criminal justice. Why not in Darfur?
Mbeki would also be well advised to keep in mind that in the court of public opinion – unlike in a court of law – the accused is considered guilty until proven innocent.
The public needs to be reminded that when the justices of the ICC granted the prosecutor's application for a warrant to arrest the president of Sudan, they were not issuing a verdict of guilty. The justices were not meant to assess the facts put before them by the prosecutor, but to ask a different question: if those facts were assumed to be true, would the president of Sudan have a case to answer? Unlike court, which took the facts for granted at the pre-trial stage, we need to ask: to what extent are these facts true? And, to the extent they are true, are they the whole truth?
THE PROSECUTOR'S CASE
The prosecutor's application charged President al-Bashir with: a) polarising Darfuri tribes into two races (Arab and Zurga or Black); b) waging a violent conflict (2003–2005) leading to the ethnic cleansing of Zurga ethnic groups from their traditional tribal lands; and c) planning the malnutrition, rape and torture of internally displaced persons (IDPs) so as to 'slow death' in the camps, a process that the prosecutor claimed went on from 2003 to the time the application was submitted in 2008.
The racialisation of identities in Darfur had its roots in the British colonial period. As early as the late 1920s, the British tried to organise two confederations in Darfur: one 'Arab', the other 'Zurga' or black. Racialised identities were incorporated in the census and provided the frame for government policy and administration. In spite of official policy, Arabs never constituted a single racial group. Contemporary scholarship has shown that the Arab tribes of Sudan were not migrants from the Middle East but indigenous groups that became Arabs starting in the 18th century. This is why there can be no single history of Arab tribes of Sudan. Little unites privileged sedentary tribes of riverine Sudan and impoverished nomads of Western Sudan. Unlike the Arabs of the riverine north, who have tended to identify with power, the Arabs of Darfur are the most marginalised group in a marginalised province.
The largest of the Arab tribes in Darfur, the cattle nomads of the south, were never involved in the government-organised counterinsurgency. Those involved – the camel nomads of the north and refugees from Chad – were from among the poorest of the poor. The idea that the Arabs of Darfur were part of a single cohesive 'Arab' bloc facing 'black Africans' is a recent invention driven mainly by an external media, and now by the ICC. Its main effect has been to demonise 'Arabs' and to obscure the real causes of the conflict.
Who, then, has been fighting whom in Darfur, and why? The short answer is that this has been a conflict over land, triggered by four different but related causes: the land system, environmental degradation, the spillover of the four decade-long civil war in Chad and the brutal counterinsurgency waged by the al-Bashir government in 2003 and 2004.
The deep cause was the colonial system, which reorganised Darfur as a discriminatory patchwork of tribal homeland where settled peasant tribes were granted large homelands in which they were considered natives. In contrast, camel nomads with no settled villages found themselves without a homeland and so were not acknowledged as natives anywhere. When it came to granting access to land, participating in local administration and the resolution of local disputes, homeland administrations favoured so-called native over non-native tribes.
The second cause of the conflict was desertification. Studies from the United Nations Environment Programme show that the Sahara expanded by 100km in four decades, and that this process reached its high point in the mid-1980s, pushing all tribes of North Darfur to more fertile lands further south. The resulting land conflict was not between races, Arab and Zurga, but between tribes with homelands and those without. Contemporary observers such as the Darfuri anthropologist Sharif Harir traced the unprecedented brutality of the violence in the 1987–1989 war to the fact that sheer survival was at stake.
The third was the Cold War, with its two sides – the tripartite alliance of Reaganite United States, France and Israel on the one hand, and Libya backed up by the Soviet Union on the other – arming different factions in neighbouring Chad. As successive armed groups took turns ruling Chad, opposition groups took shelter in Darfur, where they mobilised and armed. The easy availability of arms rapidly militarised the inter-tribal conflict in Darfur. Regional and international powers got involved in the Darfur conflict long before the Khartoum government did, but no one reading the prosecutor's application would be aware of this fact.
The final cause that aggravated the land conflict in Darfur was the brutal counterinsurgency unleashed by the al-Bashir regime in 2003 to 2004 in response to an insurgency led by three major tribes in the region: the Fur, the Masalit and the Zaghawa.
FOUR WRONG ASSUMPTIONS
The prosecutor's application makes four erroneous assumptions, all of them so he can pin the full blame of the violence on al-Bashir. This is how the prosecutor put it to journalists at The Hague: 'What happened in Darfur is a consequence of al-Bashir's will.'
The first error is to identify the duration of the conflict in Darfur with the presidency of al-Bashir. Yet, the conflict in Darfur began as a civil war in 1987, before al-Bashir and his group came to power, and long before the cycle of insurgency and counterinsurgency that began in 2003. The civil war has become entangled with the counterinsurgency, though they have separate causes. Whereas the insurgency was a rebel challenge to power in Khartoum, the civil war was triggered by the effects of drought and desertification, and intensified by two factors, one internal, the other external, one the failure to reform the system of tribal homelands and the other an effect of the ongoing civil war in Chad.
The second error is to assume that excess deaths in Darfur are the result of a single cause: violence. But the fact is that there have been two separate if interconnected causes, drought and desertification on the one hand, and direct violence on the other. World Health Organisation sources – considered the most reliable source of mortality statistics by the US Government Accountability Office in its 2006 evaluation – trace these deaths to two major causes: about 70 to 80 per cent to drought-related diarrhoea and 20 to 30 per cent to direct violence.
The third error is to assume a single author of violent deaths and rape. In his eagerness to make the prosecution's case, Moreno-Ocampo not only obscured the origins of the violence in Darfur, he also went on to portray life in the internally displaced persons camps in Darfur as a contemporary version of life in Nazi concentration camps in Europe, with al-Bashir cast in the role of the Führer. At the press conference announcing the case against the president of Sudan, the prosecutor said: 'Al-Bashir organised the destitution, insecurity and harassment of the survivors. He did not need bullets. He used other weapons: rape, hunger and fear. As efficient, but silent.'
To be sure, there were ongoing incidents of rape in Darfur, as there are indeed in most conflict situations where armed young men confront unarmed young women. This much was recognised by the US special envoy to Sudan, Andrew S. Natsios, in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 11 April 2007: 'The government has lost control of large parts of the province now. And some of the rapes, by the way, that are going on are by rebels raping women in their own tribes. We know in one of the refugee camps, it's now controlled by the rebels, formally. There have been terrible atrocities committed by the rebels against the people in the camps.'
Rebels, like government soldiers and the paramilitary Janjaweed, have authored both rape and the killing of civilians. Take figures newly released by the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) in Khartoum. UNAMID, which keeps a count of each individual death, including its circumstance, calculates the total number of conflict-related civilian deaths in the year 2008 at 1,520. Of these, 600 are said to be the result of conflicts over grazing lands among Arab tribes. When it comes to the remaining 920, UNAMID says that more civilians were killed by rebel movements than by government-organised counterinsurgency forces.
The fourth erroneous assumption is that the situation has not changed in Darfur since the onset of the counterinsurgency in 2003. In Moreno-Ocampo's own words: 'In April 2008, the United Nations estimated the total number of deaths since 2003 at 300,000.' This estimate came from John Holmes, UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs. This is how Holmes put it in the first place: 'A study in 2006 suggested that 200,000 had lost their lives from the combined effect of the conflict. That figure must be much higher now, perhaps half as much again.' There are two qualifications here, and Moreno-Ocampo glossed over both. The first was that these mortality figures were said to be the result of 'a combined effect', referring to direct violence and drought. The second qualification was explained by Reuters: 'United Nations cautioned reporters that the number was not a scientific estimate but a "reasonable extrapolation".' The assumption underlying the extrapolation – that the level of mortality has not changed in Darfur from 2003 on – was contradicted by the UN's own technical staff in Sudan. As Julie Flint explained in the New York Times of 6 July 2007 and the Independent (London) of 31 July 2007, UN sources spoke of a sharp drop in mortality rates in Darfur from early 2005, so much so that these sources report that mortality estimates had dipped to as low as below 200 per month, lower than the number that would constitute an emergency.
That the ICC has politicised the issue of justice is no reason to sidestep the question of accountability. The kernel of truth in the prosecutor's application concerns 2003–04, when Darfur was the site of mass deaths. This was mass murder, but not genocide. Its authors were several, not just the government of Sudan. There is no doubt that the perpetrators of violence should be held accountable, but when and how is a political decision that cannot belong to the ICC prosecutor. More than the innocence or guilt of the president of Sudan, it is the relationship between law and politics – including the politicisation of the ICC – that poses an issue of greater concern to Africa.
The debate has hitherto focused on the need to have the same rules for all war criminals, regardless of national origin or political orientation. Only then can the rules claim to be just, so that justice may act as deterrence. If, however, justice masquerades as selective punishment, only to those who dare transgress American power, critics have pointed out that the exercise will not be a deterrent to potential war criminals, but only to those who dare challenge American power.
I have suggested that the more important question is that of the larger political consequences of a fundamentalist pursuit of criminal justice by those determined to enforce it regardless of its political context or consequence. Take one example. If the ICC were to have the political will and courage to try war criminals in the US war on terror, we can say with confidence that the American political system would be strong enough to contain its political fallout. There is little chance of 'red states' going to war against 'blue states'. But can one say with any confidence that the price of single-mindedly pursuing criminal justice in Sudan will not be a renewed civil war? Such a fundamentalist pursuit should be named vengeance, not justice. This is why we need to subordinate criminal accountability to a larger pursuit, that of political reform.
* This article was originally published by the Mail & Guardian.
* Mahmood Mamdani is the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government Columbia University. Mamdani's latest book, Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror, is published by Pantheon Books.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Why no-one speaks out: Politics and human rights in Ethiopia
In the barbed wire existence that is Kaliti Prison, past the mocking eucalyptus trees swaying in the cerulean Addis skies, beyond the square outdoor cages reserved for visitors, away from the prison guards whose hands callously sift through the contents of your food basket, in solitary confinement is a thirty-four year old political prisoner. It is her second stay since 2005 within the infamous walls of the prison that lies on the outskirts of the Ethiopian capital.
Ms Birtukan Mideksa’s crime, according to the Ethiopian government, is violation of the terms of her 2007 pardon. She was arrested in 2005, in the post election upheaval during which 200 individuals were killed by government forces and more than 100 opposition political leaders and elected parliamentarians, human rights defenders, journalists, attorneys and civil society members were imprisoned. She was tried, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The charge was treason. International outrage followed. Massive campaigns from around the world drew attention to the case. Amnesty International and other NGOs declared the defendants were prisoners of conscience who had been imprisoned solely for the expression of their fundamental rights.
In 2007, Ms Mideksa and her co-defendants were released as part of negotiations between elders and the Ethiopian government, which allegedly resulted in the following: Signed confessions by Ms Mideksa and others, and a pardon granted to them by the government. The terms and parameters of the pardons as well as the confessions remain murky. What is known and evident is that Ms Mideksa’s December 2008 arrest resulted from the exercise of her right to free speech.
Outside of the two square metre prison cell that she now inhabits, the political prisoner is a former judge, a mother to a four-year-old daughter and the head of an opposition political organisation (arguably Africa’s only woman to hold such a position). In juggling these roles, she was working to avoid the minefields that accompany exercising your rights in Ethiopia. How does a woman who presided over high profile cases as part of the judiciary end up in solitary confinement serving a life sentence for a second time in the span of two years? The answer lies in the tortured reality that is life in Ethiopia.
By all accounts, the country has no independent judiciary, no free press, no civil society, and individual liberties such as freedom of speech, association et al have been severely curtailed if not eliminated. Even artists don’t enjoy freedom of thought – their expressions can’t stray from the party lines. For example, Teddy Afro, a popular singer, is serving time for an alleged hit and run, though his lyrics and pro-democracy stance suggest that the accident might have been mere subterfuge.
A famed author once noted the degree of civilisation in a society is measured by the condition of its prisons. One can add to that a society’s education system. Both are in tatters in Ethiopia. Of the latter, one need only examine Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s policies – tenth grade graduation was considered completion of high school. It is no wonder then that by any economic index, the country lags behind and is an utter development disaster.
The prison system, certainly since 2005 but most likely prior to that date, hosted a who’s who of Ethiopia’s intelligentsia, artist community and human rights defenders. That certainly doesn’t make it unique – totalitarian regimes are apt to discredit those who defy them. Those who were not imprisoned were slaughtered in broad daylight. In the Ogaden, the violence committed by government sources was so egregious that human rights groups have labelled them crimes against humanity. This brand of leadership has not only been exported to neighbouring Somalia but the US also allegedly used Ethiopia as a location for one of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition prisons.
Which brings us back to Ms Mideksa. Solitary confinement, according to Amnesty International, puts Ms Mideksa at risk of ill-treatment and torture. Ms Mideksa has been denied access to counsel and to medical treatment. She is at risk – if not already exposed – to abuse at the hands of prison guards. To be a woman political prisoner is something altogether quite different. The potential for suffering is innumerable.
The world, outside of those who concern themselves daily with the goings-on of Africa, has turned a deaf ear to her and to Ethiopia’s suffering. The leadership’s consistent flirting with disaster – whether it is famine, the ill-fated foray into supposed electoral politics in 2005, or the misadventures in Somalia – provides a clear image of a ruling party holding a nation in an extricable iron grip. Yet somehow the fate of a Mugabe or a Bashir of the Sudan doesn’t befall Meles Zenawi. There has been no international condemnation, no arrest warrants and he certainly isn’t a global persona non grata.
Unlike other dictators, the head of Ethiopia has had an air of legitimacy conferred upon him – to the point that Westerners need to be reminded of his true colours, demonstrated during the 2005 elections. The Prime Minister’s policy appears to be twofold: Firstly, to convey an indispensable willingness to protect the interests of the West in the Horn of Africa and secondly, to display the accoutrements of democracy and free market economics without actually implementing any of the institutions or responsibilities that accompany both.
And it seems his strategy has worked like a charm. Except for a rare rebuke or a slap on the wrist, the West – especially the primary funders of the Ethiopian regime – generally turn a blind eye to the massive human rights violations besieging the nation. Which is not surprising: Even Ethiopians seem tired of Ethiopia’s same old problems. It is much easier to tune out something that has been going on for far too long. For those in need of a crash course in Ethiopian political history, consider the following:
*Prior to 1974, Ethiopia was ruled by a succession of kings and emperors and was essentially a feudal state. The United States was an ally.
*1974 brought a faux Marxist/Leninist military junta, which terrorised the nation for close to two decades. Highlights include the red and white terrors, during which almost 100,000 civilians are said to have been disappeared. The Soviet Union and its bloc were Ethiopia’s allies.
*That dictatorship was ousted by a ragtag band of guerrilla fighters, which included the current Prime Minister. Though the origins of this group were also Marxist Leninist, the group’s chameleon-like nature allows it to don the cloaks of whatever political formation is most expedient. This group has been in power since 1991. Under their ruthless policies, the number of the disappeared is unknown.
*Today, almost two decades later, the United States is an ally again and Ethiopia has earned the coveted designation of ‘partner in the global war on terror’. This status is lamentable if not outright laughable – how can a government unable to provide access to clean water, overcome consistent food insecurity, or curb its penchant for liquidating political opposition be entrusted to battle terrorism in the Horn of Africa?
Ms Mideksa’s imprisonment is but a microcosm of the tragedies experienced by the larger population. Fundamentally, her case illustrates the immense power that the Ethiopian government wields over its citizens. Her purportedly offensive statements that led to her arrest were made during a speech in Sweden. Shockingly, her words merely stated facts: That her prior release was not based on a formal legal pardon, but rather a politically negotiated settlement. It was her refusal to rescind these statements that landed her in jail. Since Ethiopia’s state apparatus extends beyond boundaries and across oceans, imagine the control it must wield over the population within its borders. Big African brother is watching. Following the 2005 elections, the government banned SMS text messaging after pro-democracy activists used the tool to organise voters and peaceful rallies. Various Ethiopian blogs, websites and other Internet resources are routinely blocked in Ethiopia. The besieged population is regularly searched before entering malls and restaurants.
Three months into her reinstated life sentence, we must raise some critical questions about Ms Mideksa’s case and the state of Ethiopia as a whole. Are fundamental rights extinguishable at the will of a government? Why isn’t international funding truly linked to a country’s human rights record? Should Western interests, especially purported ‘terrorism’ concerns, supersede the human rights of Africans? And most importantly, where is the outrage?
* Mitmita is a pseudomyn of an Ethiopian human rights activist.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Ethiopia's struggle for democracy and the rule of law
Ethiopia is a country with over 3,000 years of recorded and oral history, and African civilisation. It is one of the few ancient civilisations that has its own scripts and indigenous culture. The obelisks at Axum, the castles at Gondar, the rock-hewn churches at Lalibela in the north of the country, and the Gadda democratic system among Ethiopia’s southern people, are some of the examples of this indigenous culture. The country has been at the crossroads of ancient world culture, and near eastern religions such as Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are prominent within Ethiopian society.
During the late 19th century, Ethiopia avoided European colonialism by defeating the invading Italian army at Adowa in 1896. Forty years later, the Italian fascist army returned and managed to occupy the country for approximately five years, engulfing the nation with guerrilla warfare to gain control. The modern Ethiopian polity was built like any other polity through invasion and counter-invasion, commerce, and inter-marriage. The residue of these historical factors created major contradictions among Ethiopia’s elite, the consequence of which appears to have sparked the separation of Eritrea from Ethiopia in 1991 (de facto), and in 1993 (de jure), to form a separate government.
Opposition among the elite was exacerbated with the rise of a brutal military regime following the Ethiopian revolution of 1974. The revolution culminated in the overthrow of the Ethiopian monarchy and its last emperor, Emperor Haile Selassie. The military regime over-centralised an administration that was already centralised under the emperor, and triggered or perpetuated secessionist movements in some parts of the country. This belated attempt to implement a system of regional autonomy by loosening its centralist grip was disregarded, and more importantly, unaccompanied with the democratisation of the Ethiopian polity.
The failure of the Derg – military rulers of Ethiopia in power from 1975–1991 – to democratise Ethiopia and allow opposition parties to peacefully and legally operate in the country, was the major impediment that eventually caused the military group’s defeat, and which continues to wreak havoc on contemporary Ethiopia. Not only is the country suffering from a democracy deficit, but also the historic famines that intermittently attack the country continue to claim innocent victims.
The military rulers’ primary target was the leftist intellectual movement in Ethiopia. By brutally suppressing the Left – students, teachers, workers, youth and women – the Derg narrowed the political space to a confrontation between itself and ethno-nationalist forces, a confrontation that resulted in the Derg’s demise. One of the larger leftist parties, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP), has now shed its Marxist ideology and operates among the opposition as a social democratic party.
The core group that was instrumental in the overthrow of the military rulers was the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a group representing the third or fourth most populous indigenous group in Ethiopia (after the Oromo, Amhara and Somali). Drawing tremendous support from their Eritrean counterpart, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front – with whom they have since fallen out and fought two wars against after becoming separate governments – the TPLF did not have trouble routing and defeating a beleaguered military regime challenged from all directions.
The TPLF, a partisan force purportedly established to struggle for four million people among Ethiopia’s 76 million people on the one hand, while subscribing to an Albanian brand of Marxism–Leninism on the other, has been operating between these bounds and the greater demand of the Ethiopian people for fundamental fairness, the rule of law, and democracy. To improve its image as an Ethiopianist force, the TPLF and other opposition groups created the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Force (EPRDF), an umbrella organisation consisting of former prisoners of war, among others. However, the main engine in this amalgam of sorts was the TPLF. Even 18 years after it assumed power, the regime still has not shed its partisan name of Tigrean People's Liberation Front, despite masquerading as an Ethiopianist force under the guise of the EPRDF.
Within Ethiopia today, the TPLF owns and operates several party businesses in key economic sectors. Construction, agri-business, printing presses and transportation are some of the key sectors the party dominates. Even some foreign non-governmental organisations have reported that they have been unduly pressured to operate in Tigrai (the region the ruling party hails from) in an unabashed partisan move. Unfortunately though not surprisingly, the people of the Tigrai region are not the beneficiaries of this corruption and nepotism. Those affiliated with the TPLF party – members, supporters and their families – are the only beneficiaries.
Although the cabinet of ministers under the TPLF reflects the indigenous backgrounds of Ethiopia in terms of representation, there have been increasing complaints that the TPLF has constructed a parallel government system in which its party and supporters wield all power behind the scenes in almost every ministry, board, department, office, and foreign embassy. In order to protect itself and its principles of corruption and exclusion, the TPLF has, since its inception, embarked upon implementing a dictatorial-state and terrorist path using state machinery. The army, security, police and mass media are employed to harass, jail, kill and assist in the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians in flagrant defiance of international norms of behaviour, and its own constitution.
At the root of the problems in Ethiopia is a constitution drafted and ratified without following democratic norms. Independent scholars such as Professor Theodore M. Vestal of Oklahoma State University in the US, suggest that ‘the constitution is both nominal and fictive. Its provisions describe but do not limit government behavior and they do not correspond to actual government practice. There is no commitment to constitutionalism.'
The TPLF itself has grossly failed to respect its own deficient constitution; the struggle during the past few years has been for the regime to respect the provisions in its own constitution rather than to initiate the re-drafting and ratification necessary to form a democratic constitution. To that effect, the regime has run four major national elections since it came to power: in 1992, 1995, 2000, and 2005. In each and every one of the elections, the regime has defrauded citizens, something acknowledged by foreign observers and citizens alike. The 2005 election was a bit more promising than all the others; this election will be discussed in detail later.
International observers, invited by the TPLF, declared that the 1992 elections had major irregularities. However, the US and other donors were quite content to continue with business, ignoring any profound discrepancies. The National Election Board, formed by individuals carefully selected by the TPLF, similarly certified the 1995 and 2000 elections to be ‘free and fair’, thus assuring a TPLF majority in parliament.
In the meantime, the Ethiopian population continued to gain momentum in its democratic struggle. Opposition political parties, including those both legal and banned, civic organisations, the Ethiopian diaspora, and other supporters strived for the country’s democratisation and the establishment of the rule of law. The TPLF, aided and abetted by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for its ‘privatisation’ efforts and for allegedly breaking the centralist and commandist control of the Derg economy, saw no reason to compromise.
Finally, the struggle for democracy appeared fruitful following the eve of the 2005 national election, which showed some modest democratic openings. The TPLF agreed for the opposition to ‘use’ the state-dominated mass media for a designated period of time to introduce their election platforms, the regime notables agreed to debate in public with heads of the opposition parties, and peaceful demonstrations were allowed. The opposition’s call for a peaceful demonstration in support of democratisation in the capital city, Addis Ababa, was able to draw over two million citizens. By contrast, the TPLF tried to cajole and bribe citizens to express support for the regime, but the turnout was embarrassingly low. Similarly, during the debates, citizens were exposed to the faults of the regime’s policies on political and socio-economic matters. Because the TPLF sensed danger around losing power, the regime quickly returned to enforcing its old dictatorial habits through harassing opposition supporters.
This action prompted the major opposition parties to hold a joint press conference just 10 days before polling day, followed by another emergency press release a day before the polls opened. They warned the regime that the election process would be derailed unless it took immediate action to control the blatantly illegal actions of its cadres and armed militia. On election night, the TPLF tried to pre-empt opposition victory by declaring victory for itself while simultaneously issuing an emergency order to prohibit protests or celebrations. Foreign observers soon declared that the opposition had completely taken over and won the capital’s administration, and indicated an overwhelming victory throughout the rest of the country. The regime realised its days were numbered, and that minimal time remained to reverse the Ethiopian population’s gains. The TPLF grudgingly accepted its defeat in Addis Ababa, but started disputing and overturning results in outlying areas. Attempts at mediation by foreign observers failed, and the regime admitted to killing nearly 200 protesters who challenged its illegal acts and violence. Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians were thrown in jail. The leaders of the opposition were also incarcerated and charged with alleged treason, thus eliminating any sentiment of promise and hope permeating through Ethiopia during the opening of the election.
Later, the regime slowly released its political prisoners, albeit one of the young leaders of the opposition, Ms Birtukan Mideksa, a former judge, was re-arrested over laughable pardon language. Perhaps the real reason for Ms Mideksa’s arrest was the regime’s fear of her leadership potential, and capacity to topple the regime in the forthcoming election in 2010.
Thus Ethiopia remains at a crossroads, and the nation’s democratic struggle must be supported by all progressive and peace-loving peoples.
The regime is strategically using the West’s preoccupation with the ‘war on terror’ to garner support from the international community, especially with the US which continues to turn a blind eye to human rights violations in Ethiopia. Against the will of the Ethiopian people, the Ethiopian regime sent its army into Somalia in 2006 and withdrew in 2008, failing to demonstrate any justification for its involvement. The war-on-terror fight should not be a fig leaf for small dictators like Meles Zenawi.
Two US senators have been tirelessly working on a bill in the US Senate titled ‘Support for Democracy and Human Rights in Ethiopia Act of 2008’. The preamble of their bill states that ‘the security threats in Ethiopia are real but, unfortunately, the Bush administration’s approach to addressing these threats and strengthening this alliance remains short-sighted and narrow-focusing predominately on short-term ways to address insecurity while overlooking the need for long-term measures that are needed to achieve the same goal, such as desperately needed governance reform, the rule of law, and increased accountability. Genuine democratic progress in Ethiopia is essential if we are to have a healthy and positive bilateral relationship. It is also essential if we are going to successfully combat extremism, thereby bolstering our own national security here at home.’
Ethiopian democratic forces hope that the new Obama administration will heed the words of the esteemed senators. Ethiopians will continue to struggle for the rule of law and social justice, inspired by the struggles their forefathers waged centuries ago for independence and freedom.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
1 Vestal, T. (1994) 'An analysis of the new constitution of Ethiopia and the process of its adoption', 4 November.
2 SB 3457 (2008) ‘Support for Democracy and Human Rights in Ethiopia Act of 2008’.
Everyday life in N’djamena: An eye-witness account by Nakar Djindil
Mirjam de Bruijn
‘Everyday life in N’djamena has become unbearable’, concludes Nakar Djindil, who returned to the Netherlands on 5 March after a two week visit to see her family in N’djamena, the capital city of Chad. She left Chad two years ago after finalising her doctoral fieldwork concerning the long-term effects of war on Chadian society. Djindil is a nutritionist interested in how people’s health is being affected by the ongoing crisis in Chad. Chad, a central African country, is not very well-known in the West or even in other parts of Africa. The nation has, however, received more publicity in the last few years due to conflict in neighbouring Darfur, Sudan. Violence has spilled over into eastern Chad where large refugee camps are operated by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other international organisations. Chad has also received global recognition because of its oil. In particular, the World Bank has indicated that the country's investment in this sector – meaning the exploitation of Chadian mineral resources – will turn Chad into a positive example of poverty alleviation.
Chad experienced a long civil war from the late 1960s until its official end in 1990 when the current president, Idriss Déby, gained power and replaced Hissein Habré. This period of civil war resulted in a vastly undeveloped infrastructure and an absence of healthcare for Chad’s citizens. Each person’s history is coloured by the war (Bruijn and van Dijk 2007, p. 61–98), and the preliminary conclusions of Djindil’s work illustrate the long-term effects of this continuous crisis on the health and psychological well-being of Chadians (Djindil 2008).
Although Chad’s civil war officially ceased in 1990, violence and oppression continued to play a prominent role in governance. In the first years of his reign, President Déby exploited ethnic rivalries and his regime gave orders to kill those who were seen as opponents. Specific ethnic groups became victims of Déby’s regime, and his mode of governance created a general atmosphere of fear. As a result of international pressure, President Déby eventually introduced democracy and decentralisation as part of his governance rhetoric. Indeed, Chad became more decentralised and elections were held; however the outcome remained aligned with the wishes of the ruling elite, the majority of whom belong to President Déby’s own ethnic group, the Zaghawa.
The oil exploitation that started in 2002 has been an important turning point for Chadian governance. The involvement of the World Bank and other international organisations has made Chad more visible internationally. Moreover, President Déby has ensured Chadian issues maintain a prominent role within international political agendas. Chad has attracted international attention as a result of the refugee crisis in Darfur, and the country’s oil reserves. The oil revenues should have been an important input in Chad’s economy, elevating its position within the poverty index list. Nonetheless, Déby forced the World Bank to leave the country, refused to accept any controls on the spending of the oil money (probably justifiably), and bought weapons with the profits in order to protect Chad’s young democracy, threatened by rebels who were ‘of course supported by the Sudanese government’ (van Dijk 2007, p.697–703). The Darfur conflict has resulted in Chad being situated in a state of open civil war again. The rebels’ last attack on N’djamena – marking the fourth attack in the past five years – was in February 2008 when the united rebel front entered N’djamena with a huge force, and Déby was only able to escape with the assistance of the French (Bruijn and van Dijk 2007, p. 223-231).
Djindil remembers these periods of attack, and attempts made to overthrow Déby; she lived through them herself while living in Chad, and gleaned information surrounding subsequent conflict through close contact with her family in N’djamena, as was the case in 2008. She left Chad in 2006 after the attack in which 400 people were killed, according to the international media. However, as Djindil proposes, ‘How could they know? So many people died inside their houses. It was horrible. It was the worst attack we ever witnessed.’ Afterwards, the rebels became divided, and the leadership was in crisis. Apparently they united again and plotted the attack which transpired in February 2008. This last attack was dangerous for President Déby and his supporters. Déby’s regime finally won the battle and the president regained his power with the support of the international community. However, following his victory, Déby’s attitude changed into one of a dictator. Fearing further attack and potentially doubting his power, oil money was used to buy missiles and helicopters, turning N’djamena into a fort reminiscent of the Middle Ages.
‘When I returned to N’djamena this was after a two-year absence, as I said I left in 2006. I did not see the last attack but now I could see the consequences of the many attacks on the character of the president and the way things are working in N’djamena. During the two weeks I spent in N’djamena with my daughter, I experienced the people’s fear. People are afraid. It is not at all clear what will happen next. Who will attack? Who will die?’
‘One of the first things Déby did after the last attack was to surround N’djamena with a canal. Being three metres wide and deep, it will prevent the rebels, who always come with jeeps and machine guns, from entering the city itself. Then he started demolishing houses in all quarters of town without any compensation, telling the international world that he needed the precious land in town to construct new hospitals and state service buildings. The beautiful Sabangali quarter along the river Chari was demolished. This land is very expensive.’
This all started in March 2008. Houses waiting to be demolished had red crosses painted on their walls, and the people who lived in them had to move to other dilapidated buildings or move out of town.
‘How many thousands of people have been forced out of their homes to join the numerous internally displaced persons in Chad who are living without a decent roof over their heads? In addition, life has become incredibly expensive. I left the house with CFA5000 (franc de la communauté financière d’Afrique) to buy food for my baby. It was enough to buy some bananas and fruit. Charcoal is a basic necessity, people cannot afford gas.’
In the summer of 2008 Déby decided that charcoal was to be prohibited because of the environmental degradation it was causing in N’djamena. ‘One piece of charcoal to prepare one meal now costs CFA3000. So you see children in the late evening scraping the trees that are left, harvesting dead wood so that the following morning their mothers can prepare tea. And then to think of Déby who cut down the beautiful trees in the commercial street because he considered these as potential hiding places for rebels who from there could attack the presidency! The staple food is millet: and you now spend CFA30,000 for a 100kg sack, and that was only in February! And then those who have a bit, like my parents, their houses are full of poorer family members. My cousin told his wife and two children to stay with my parents. He cannot provide for them. One cannot refuse. So in our house too, just one meal per day is prepared. And to be honest we are lucky that my older brothers have good jobs and can help my parents. At least the family can survive.’
‘After the February 2008 attack, many Zaghawa lost hope and thought that this was the end of their hold on power. Many fled but later returned to N’djamena. People did not hesitate about plundering Zaghawa houses, even those of their close neighbours. When Déby’s victory was clear, the Zaghawa returned to N’djamena and wanted their houses and property back.’
‘My friend witnessed the day her Zaghawa neighbours came back to N’djamena, and how they were abusing and torturing people in order to recover some of their property; they just killed a young man who did not return what he was accused of having taken. They also tried to plunder my friend’s house but she escaped. Now you find those luxury goods from Zaghawa houses on the streets of N’djamena and at small markets for those who can afford to buy things.’
‘The attack in February 2008 served as a good argument for Déby to implement his dreams: recovering land that he wanted by destroying the homes of poor people and conducting a systematic search for weapons in all homes in N'djamena. These searches were organised by armed soldiers who behaved as if the people’s houses were a battleground. They were violent and rude but people had to respect them because they had weapons. They organised house-to-house searches for weapons, and forced or broke down doors if the owners were not present. Everybody is still afraid that they will come. They take everything that is a weapon, also knives. And yes, they seem to have found weapons everywhere. You know people are waiting for the rebels. They will receive them with open arms if they come. But as Déby has built defences around the city I doubt if they will ever succeed.’
‘…and do you know that beautiful villas are being constructed in Sabangali? Who will live there? … This is happening while the promised hospitals are more necessary than ever as the hospitals in N’djamena are not functioning; people die there all the time. People do not even go to them because you can’t be sure that you will leave them alive, you don’t dare to put your life in the hospital’s hands. I witnessed the death of a three-month-old baby who in fact had nothing seriously wrong with him but was operated on all the same. The doctor said he had to operate to see what was really wrong with the baby (it was very expensive) and then the child died. The parents are still mourning him; it happened on the last day I was there. And when I left N’djamena two weeks ago I did not have the chance to give them my condolences. So many people die in N’djamena, young and old, from AIDS but from other illnesses too, and also from depression. Life is simply unbearable there!’
* Mirjam de Bruijn is an anthropologist and professor of Contemporary History and Anthropology of West and Central Africa at the Faculty of Arts at Leiden University. She has carried out fieldwork in Cameroon, Chad and Mali.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Bruijn, M. de and Dijk, H. van. (2007) 'The multiple experiences of civil war in the Guéra region of Chad 1965-1990', Sociologus, vol. 57, Jahrgang, Heft 1, pp. 61–98
Nakar paper: Mexico (Djindil 2008)
Djindil, N. and Bruijn, M. de. (2008) ‘How do the silent victims of humanitarian crisis negotiate their livelihood security? A case study among post-humanitarian migrants in two cities in Chad’, paper presented at the conference on humanitarian aid in Groningen, February 2009
Dijk, H. van. (2007) ‘Briefing: Political deadlock in Chad’, African Affairs, vol. 106/425, pp. 697–703
Bruijn, M. de and Dijk, H. van. (2007) Chad, Africa Yearbook 2006, Leiden, Brill, pp. 215–223
Bruijn, M. de and Dijk, H. van. (2008) Chad, Africa Yearbook 2007, Leiden, Brill, pp. 223-231
Zimbabwe under a subimperial, neoliberal thumb
(This article was presented at seminars in February, prior to the introduction of the Short-Term Emergency Recovery Programme and revised 2009 Budget)
The rise and spread of cholera, the closure of schools, detention of political prisoners, demise of the currency and myriad other cries of Help! are being sent from Zimbabwe.
The September 2008 power-sharing deal between the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Zanu (PF), only brought to partial fruition in February with the appointment of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, has crucial moral implications for South Africa.
Will our foreign policy continue to be characterised as ‘subimperialist’, for foisting Washington-era economic ideology as part of loan and grant conditionality, for the benefit of Johannesburg capital? And will the New South Africa be viewed in the same way from Zimbabwe villages as the Old South Africa was viewed from the old Transkei Bantustan – a place responsible for keeping the local dictator alive and corrupt, and sucking out cheap workers?
I worry that for Pretoria politicians, the first stage in weakening democratic potentials in Zimbabwe was nurturing the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe from the time of the mid-2000 challenge to his power, a problem caused not only by Thabo Mbeki’s extreme views but also by his successor Kgalema Motlanthe’s inability or unwillingness to change course. The result: A ridiculous deal likely to fall apart within months if not weeks.
Trevor Manuel is hammering the second nail in the coffin, along with the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the UN Development Programme. It will be called a ‘rescue package’ or ‘aid’ but in reality it is an instruction to Tsvangirai that he must first repay Mugabe’s Odious Debts and tighten the impoverished Zimbabwean people’s belts.
Strike three for Zimbabwe’s democracy will be when South African firms sweep up the country’s physical assets, shares of residual firms and real estate for a song.
In addition to considering Pretoria’s malicious role, it is time for a closer examination of the Bretton Woods Institutions’ historic and current role in Zimbabwe. Along with the UN Development Programme and donor governments, the Bank and Fund are exploring economic intervention in an economy suffering a decade-long depression and the world’s worst-ever recorded inflation.
Meanwhile, civil society – especially those involved in the historic February 2008 People’s Charter – have been asking whether Mugabe’s foreign debt should be repaid; whether orthodox ‘Washington Consensus’ strategies work and whether new grants and loans should be conditional upon neoliberal policies; and how might social forces be reorganised to ensure a deeper democratic transition and socio-economic justice?
What is at stake, following the establishment of power-sharing and a route to democracy, is who will win the new economic chimurenga (liberation war) being waged in Zimbabwe. The choices are diverse: A parasitical elite of several thousand bureaucrats and crony business operators around Mugabe; the productive bourgeoisie (what’s left of it) around Tsvangirai; the domestic and international financiers hoping for austerity; the global corporations devoted to resource extraction; the aid industry; or the povo (masses).
CIVIL SOCIETY DEMANDS
Representing the interests of the latter, progressive civil society has made a variety of demands for a genuinely new Zimbabwe, best expressed in the February 2008 ‘National People’s Convention Charter’.
In addition to political democratisation and human rights, the People’s Charter spoke of ‘the national economy and social welfare’ in a unified, unifying way: ‘Because the colonial and post colonial periods resulted in massive growth in social inequality and marginalisation of women, youths, peasants, informal traders, workers, the disabled, professionals and the ordinary people in general, we hereby make it known that our national economy belongs to the people of Zimbabwe and must serve as a mechanism through which everyone shall be equally guaranteed the rights to dignity, economic and social justice.’
To this end, the People’s Charter called for ‘People-centered economic planning and budgets at national and local government levels that guarantee social and economic rights’, including ‘public programmes to build schools, hospitals, houses, dams and roads and create jobs’ and ‘equitable access to and distribution of national resources for the benefit of all people of Zimbabwe.’ This includes the most controversial issue of all: ‘equitable, open and fair redistribution of land from the few to the many.’
When it comes to concrete struggles with enemies opposed to these values in coming months, the People’s Convention demanded ‘the right of the people of Zimbabwe to refuse repayment of any odious debt accrued by a dictatorial government.’ As for the threat of transnational corporations – especially mining houses based in South Africa, Britain and the EU, the US, Australia, China, Malaysia and Russia – entering Zimbabwe in the wake of the political deal, the Convention insisted upon ‘Protection of our environment from exploitation and misuse, whether by individuals or companies.’
Other demands that link economy and welfare include: ‘Free and quality public health care including free drugs, treatment, care and support for those living with HIV and AIDS; a living pension and social security allowances; decent work, employment and the right to earn a living; affordable, quality and decent public funded transport; food security and the availability of basic commodities at affordable prices, where necessary, to ensure universal access; free and quality public education from crèche to college and university levels; decent and affordable public funded housing; fair labour standards; and removal of all obstacles on the right of small traders, small scale producers and vendors to trade and earn a living.’
These are worthy demands from representatives of a society so brutally oppressed that they face not only ongoing torture in direct ways, but also indirectly, through economic deprivation, especially debasement of the currency on a scale unprecedented in human history. Worse, to cut inflation in the manner being discussed by elites, would mean denying most if not all the demands made above.
WHAT WASHINGTON WANTS
It is hard to have confidence that Zimbabwean politicians – even Mugabe himself – can hold firm against the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, UN Development Programme and donor governments, especially South Africa. But the drive to beg/borrow from the West appears unstoppable.
‘Zim deserves assistance,’ declared a Herald newspaper editorial in late September, reflecting official Zanu (PF) myopia: ‘It is encouraging that there have already been positive indications from the IMF, showing its willingness to open discussions with Zimbabwean leaders on the possibility of arranging a financial rescue package for the country… We believe that the support of multilateral institutions is needed now for Zimbabwe to achieve economic stability, which should see low inflation and interest rates.’
But for the IMF and Western donors to return would probably require extreme conditionality:
- Mass civil service firings and parastatal privatisation;
- Dramatic cuts in social spending;
- Increased capital flight on the one hand, and denationalisation of national assets through foreign investment on the other hand;
- Repayment of Mugabe’s US$5+ billion in odious debt to the Bretton Woods Institutions and other creditors;
- The legitimation/strengthening/expansion of patronage processes that built up the bank accounts of thousands of Mugabe cronies;
- Restructuring of agricultural power relations against the interests of rural people; and
- Liberalisation of a variety of state regulations.
The problem of inclement neoliberalism is not only because of the Bretton Woods Institutions. Reflecting how unreliable the UN is as an ally of the povo, in September 2008, the UNDP became the main force to articulate the neoliberal agenda in Zimbabwe, issuing a 250-page report, Comprehensive Economic Recovery in Zimbabwe, with major inputs by Mark Simpson (an LSE trained economist) and Tony Hawkins (Financial Times correspondent). Amongst the suggestions from the UNDP were:
- Carry out fiscal consolidation and exercise monetary restraint
- Establish independent and orthodox central bank
- Remove interest rate controls and exchange-rate controls
- Remove capital controls on private individuals
- Reach agreement to clear outstanding arrears with Bretton Woods Institutions and Paris Club
- Review capital controls on corporates
- Ensure compliance with the tariff structure in line with commitments to the World Trade Organisation
- Remove restrictions to participation of foreign banks
- Design strategies for privatisation/restructuring
- Design cost-recovery and maintenance strategies for public infrastructure and services ministries
- Review (ongoing) tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade
- Enact legislation for public enterprise restructuring
- Design an Interim- Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper
- Implement civil service restructuring
- Restructure the Investment Centre in consultation with the private sector
- Train key staff in relevant ministries in the microeconomic foundations of economic policy and foreign trade issues
- Design and implement an international competitiveness strategy
Aside from the UNDP and Bretton Woods Institutions, the other dangerous external advisors come from the Cato Institute. Remarkably, this libertarian Washington think tank seemed to have won the confidence of Cross and by extension Tsvangirai by 2007, providing comments on MDC economic policy six months before civil society even had a chance to look at it. Cato also hosted research by Tsvangirai’s former MDC colleague David Coltart (subsequently with the Arthur Mutambara faction), who called for ‘limiting government’s interference in the economy’.
In that spirit, one Cato senior researcher, Steven Hanke – a Johns Hopkins University professor who authored a Fortune magazine column and whose work was discredited in Argentina when the currency board crashed in 2002 – recommends Zimbabwe take medicine that ‘can rapidly slash the inflation rate and restore stability and growth to the economy’. The medicine is, simply, to remove monetary sovereignty from Harare, and give it to the printers of US dollars (the Federal Reserve) or perhaps the SA rand (the Reserve Bank). That would mean little or no subsequent ability on the part of a future democratic government in Harare to set interest rates, control financial inflows/outflows, or direct credit to reindustrialisation strategies.
Hanke’s case rests in part upon a fib: ‘Prior to the introduction of central banking, the country had a rich monetary experience in which a free banking system and a currency board system performed well.’ It didn’t. There is a well-documented history of financial crises, inflation and foreign domination that Southern Rhodesian small capitalists and farmers/workers suffered under the system Hanke recommends. Hanke’s ‘free banking’ and ‘currency board’ were unsatisfactory, and required replacement by a central bank more than half a century ago.
Another unsatisfactory strategy by neoliberals is to emphasise capital inflows as the solution to the investment problem. For Davies, ‘It would be foolish to argue that Zimbabwe does not need capital inflows.’ And yet the most striking information available on capital outflows is that Zimbabwe is Africa’s third worst case of capital flight in relative terms, suffering US$24 billion in (inflation-adjusted) capital flight from 1978 to 2004, according to University of Massachusetts economists Leonce Ndikumana and James Boyce. That figure is more than five times Zimbabwe’s external debt, and in Africa is only exceeded by Nigeria and Angola.
If Zimbabweans legitimately demand a rapid and relatively painless economic turnaround, they will need to forcefully mobilise against both the Mugabe-ite parasitical bourgeoisie and the Tsvangirai-supporting neoliberals in Washington and New York who will describe People’s Convention demands as ‘unrealistic expectations’. But even further challenges await when Pretoria and Tunis technocrats step in as the front-men.
WHAT PRETORIA AND TUNIS WANT
A shorter-term problem playing out in March, is that Zimbabwe has more than US$5 billion in foreign loans that creditors want repaid, even at the expense of belt-tightening for ordinary Zimbabweans, who must by now be the world’s thinnest people if measured in economic suffering and shrinkage.
In negotiations over an ‘aid’ package to Zimbabwe, SA finance minister Trevor Manuel and African Development Bank Zimbabwe country officer Abdirahman Beileh are leading the diet-advocacy crowd, and the precedent – the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2002 – should trouble Zimbabweans and South Africans alike.
Back in June 2002, the SA Cabinet made available R760 million in the form of a bridge loan to the (unelected) Kinshasa government of Joseph Kabila. The point, according to the Cabinet statement, was ‘to help clear the DRC’s overdue obligations with the International Monetary Fund’ so as to pave the way for new IMF loans.
This deal sanitised a generation of IMF loans made to Mobutu Sese Seko riven with corruption, waste and capital flight to European banks. The people of the DRC were previously victims of Pretoria’s apartheid-era allegiance with Mobutu, an arrangement that especially suited Johannesburg mining houses.
Thanks to unwitting SA taxpayers, the old odious Mobutu loans would not be repudiated or forgiven, but instead honoured and serviced. IMF staff would be allowed back into Kinshasa with their own new loans plus neoliberal conditionalities again applied to the victims of Mobutu’s fierce rule.
In a just world, Mobutu’s and Mugabe’s debts should be repudiated by any democrat. Even in an unjust world, these days, the entire world’s debts are being reconsidered, with US bank nationalisation one reflection of creditor liability for stupid loans.
Mugabe’s arrears stand at more than US$1.2 billion merely to the multilaterals: the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the IMF. Zimbabwe didn’t get the 2005–06 partial debt write-offs that were granted other African countries, because it wasn’t repaying loans in any case – except for useless IMF repayments of US$210 million in 2005–06, at the behest of Thabo Mbeki.
So how should Zimbabwe finance minister address this challenge? ‘Default!’ answers the Jubilee chapter in Harare, the well-regarded Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd). As the NGO’s director, Dakarayi Matanga, remarked, ‘There is danger that any new loans will add to the already huge debt stock of the country. We therefore called on the political leadership to reveal the nature of these pledges, and for donor countries to cancel existing debts unconditionally instead of creating more debt in order for a new beginning to take place.’
Matanga especially points to the need for ‘repudiation of any odious and illegitimate debts,’ and applauds the January 2009 decision by Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, to default on debt considered legally ‘Odious’, i.e. taken out by a leadership with improper consultation with its citizenry.
To illustrate the dubious use of forex by the Zimbabwe elite, estimates of flight capital from Zimbabwe over the last few weeks run to US$45 million in the wake of Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono’s liberalisation of the currency and capital controls as the local unit utterly collapsed. The only progressive thing Mugabe can be said to have done with regard to international finance is to maintain a modicum of national sovereignty. But by letting Gono print unlimited Zimbabwe dollars to the point no one wants them, there’s really no more scope for monetary policy and exchange controls.
Establishing a respectable currency in Zimbabwe under conditions of ongoing government delegitimacy will be a heroic task, especially if new loans are mainly meant to repay old loans.
But if conditionality is imposed, the biggest hit to the democratic credentials of Tsvangirai and finance minister Tendai Biti will be old-fashioned instructions to further impoverish the povo.
In this context, SA vultures are also looking at the dying corpse for nutrients. Consider a suggestion last September for Tsvangirai from Investec’s Roelof Horne: ‘Austerity from within’. At the same time, the SA Independent newspaper group editorialised that the Mugabe/Tsvangirai government should ‘introduce drastic policies, including slashing government spending and freeing up price, currency and other controls’ as ‘conditions for receiving foreign aid.’
If we want Zimbabwe to go from a terribly shaky, interim Menshevik-type government directly to a Bolshevik revolution, that’s not bad advice. But there’s a moral dimension to consider here, too.
As Zimbabwean-born activist Elinor Sisulu put it recently at a University of Johannesburg seminar, ‘I have seen the [SA-led] mediation process as undemocratic and manipulative. I have warned the MDC that they are lambs going into crocodile-infested waters.’
If repaying $1.2 billion in existing debt is the first priority demanded by the African Development Bank and SA Treasury, then those greedy crocodiles are also resident in Tunis and Pretoria. How diabolical would it be for SA to belt-tighten the Zimbabwean povo in coming days and weeks, following months and years of belt-whipping sponsored by ex-president Mbeki?
THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES
Mobilisation on both sides of the border will not be easy. Popular defense mechanisms have been weakened, especially by the retreat of key opposition cadres into exile, or their killing, disappearance, victimisation and intimidation. Huge strategic differences opened up within the generally pro-MDC camp of grassroots civil society activists. South Africa-based activists have done wonderful things, including preventing three million bullets from reaching Mugabe via the Durban harbour in April 2008, but they simply haven’t focused on socio-economic solidarity.
What Zimbabwean activists might be able to unite around, however, is a programme to contest orthodox ideas such as freeing up of markets (which ones?), an appropriate exchange rate (would this mean an end to exchange controls?), liberalised trade (which will further demolish local production), fiscal probity (should not much more be spent on the povo and much less on parasites and foreign debt payments?), and reform of parastatals (does that mean, as is generally the case, commercialisation and privatisation of services in a way that adversely affects povo interests?).
In short, if Zimbabweans are told that ‘recovery requires less government intervention, not more’, as economist Rob Davies suggests in a recent article for South Africa’s Amandla magazine, they will have to tear up the People’s Convention document to comply.
But the civil society groups may instead demand a good government, which would be much bigger in order to undo the enormous social and economic damage done at the behest first of the IMF and World Bank during the 1990s – when his regime’s imposition of neoliberalism was dubbed ‘highly satisfactory’ by the Bank – and from the late 1990s by Mugabe and his cronies as a desperate gambit to hold onto power, no matter that it resulted in what Davies calls an ‘almost pure rentier economy.’
Two questions arise: can the economy’s weaknesses be turned into potential strengths, and how to pay for the People’s Charter?
The second question requires an appropriate answer to the first, and indeed one was provided in 1999 by, surprisingly, the UN Development Programme’s Zimbabwe Human Development Report (mainly authored by Yash Tandon, former director of the South Centre in Geneva), co-published by the Zimbabwe Institute for Development Studies and Poverty Reduction Forum:
‘Zimbabwe has a way out as it moves into the third decade of its Independence. It has a rich dual heritage. One, ironically, is the heritage left by the UDI regime that built itself up on a largely internally-oriented economy with minimal dependence on the outside world. Its illegitimacy was the cause of its demise. The second legacy is that of chimurenga (liberation war). That spirit is still present and often not properly channelled. The people of Zimbabwe can, once again, assert their primacy and with sober and deliberate intervention in national matters bring back the state and economy to serving first and foremost the interests of the people based on people’s efforts and resources, and not one based on foreign dependence.’
The old UNDP is preferable to the one a decade later, notwithstanding all the UN Millennium Development Goals rhetoric. But the answer to these problems can only come from below, in the deepening of People’s Charter politics when political parties of all stripes are bowing not only to internal Mugabe cronies, but to a new set of external masters.
THE ZIMBABWE PEOPLES’ CHARTER
Adopted at the Peoples’ Convention, Harare, on 9 February 2008.
We, the People of Zimbabwe,
After deliberations amongst ourselves and with the full knowledge of the work done by civic society organizations and social movements;
With an understanding that our struggle for emancipation has been drawn-out and is in need of a people-driven solution;
Hereby declare for all to know that:
1. POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT
In the knowledge that our political environment since colonialism and after our national independence in 1980 has remained characterised by:
a) A lack of respect for the rule of law;
b) Political violence, most notably that which occurred in the early to late 1980s in the provinces of Midlands and Matabeleland, and that which occurred in the years from 1997 to present day, where lives were lost as a result of government actions undertaken with impunity;
c) A lack of fundamental rights and freedoms, including freedom of expression and information, association and assembly, all characterised by the militarisation of arms of the state and government.
The People shall have a political environment in which:
- All people in Zimbabwe, including children, are guaranteed without discrimination the rights to freedom of expression and information, association and assembly, and all other fundamental rights and freedoms as provided under international law to which the state has bound itself voluntarily
- All people in Zimbabwe live in a society characterised by tolerance of divergent views, cultures or religions, honesty, integrity and common concern for the welfare of all
- All people in Zimbabwe are guaranteed safety and security, and a lawful environment free from human rights violations and impunity
- All national institutions including the judiciary, law enforcement agencies, state security agencies, electoral, media and human rights commissions, are independent and impartial and serve all the people of Zimbabwe without fear or favour
- There exists a free and vibrant media, which places emphasis on freedom of expression and information and a government, which guarantees independent public media as well as a vibrant and independent private media
- All people in Zimbabwe live in a society, which is the embodiment of transparency, with an efficient public service and a belief in a legitimate, people-centred state
And hereby further declare that never again shall we let lives be lost, maimed, tortured or traumatised by the dehumanising experiences of political intolerance, violence and lack of democratic government.
Fully believing that all elections in Zimbabwe remain illegitimate and without merit until undertaken under a new democratic and people-driven constitution, The People shall have all elections under a new people-driven constitutional dispensation characterised by:
- Equal access to the media
- One independent, impartial, accountable and well-resourced electoral management body
- A process of delimitation, which is free from political control, which is accurate, fair, transparent and undertaken with full public participation
- A continually updated and accurate voters’ roll, which is open and accessible
- Transparent and neutral location of polling stations, agreed to through a national consultative process devoid of undue ruling or opposition party and government influence, which are accessible to all including those with special needs
- Voter education with the full participation of civic society that is both expansive and well-timed in order to allow citizens to exercise their democratic right to choose leaders of their choice to the full
- International, Regional and Local Observers and Monitors being permitted access to everyone involved in the electoral process
- An Electoral Court, which is independent and impartial, well-staffed and well-resourced to address all issues relating to electoral processes, conduct, conflicts and results in a timely manner.
3. CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
Holding in relation to constitutional reform that a new constitution of Zimbabwe must be produced by a people-driven, participatory process and must in it guarantee:
a) That the Republic of Zimbabwe shall be a democracy, with separation of powers, a justiciable Bill of Rights that recognises civil, political, social, economic, cultural and environmental rights;
b) Devolution of government authority to provinces and to local government level;
c) A multi-party system of democratic government based on universal suffrage and regular free and fair elections and the right to recall public officials;
d) The right to citizenship for any person born in Zimbabwe. Birth certificates, national identity documents and passports shall be easily available for all citizens;
e) A credible and fair election management body and process;
f) An independent, impartial and competent judiciary;
g) The protection of labour rights and the right to informal trade;
h) The protection and promotion of the rights of people living with disabilities;
i) Independent and impartial commissions which deal with gender equality, land, elections, human rights and social justice;
j) An impartial state security apparatus.
The People shall have a constitutional reform process, which is characterised by the following:
- Comprehensive consultation with the people of Zimbabwe wherein they are guaranteed freedom of expression and information, association and assembly
- The collection of the views of the people and their compilation into a draft constitution that shall be undertaken by an All-Stakeholders’ Commission composed of representatives of government, parliament, political parties, civil society, labour, business and the church with a gender and minority balance
- A transparent process of the appointment of the All-Stakeholders’ Commission members as well as their terms of reference
- The holding of a national referendum on any draft constitution.
4. NATIONAL ECONOMY AND SOCIAL WELFARE
Holding in relation to the national economy and social welfare that because the colonial and post colonial periods resulted in massive growth in social inequality and marginalisation of women, youths, peasants, informal traders, workers, the disabled, professionals and the ordinary people in general, we hereby make it known that our national economy belongs to the people of Zimbabwe and must serve as a mechanism through which everyone shall be equally guaranteed the rights to dignity, economic and social justice which shall be guided by the following principles:
- People-centered economic planning and budgets at national and local government levels that guarantee social and economic rights
- The obligation on the state, provincial and local authorities to initiate public programmes to build schools, hospitals, houses, dams and roads and create jobs
- Equitable access to and distribution of national resources for the benefit of all people of Zimbabwe
- A transparent process of ownership and equitable, open and fair redistribution of land from the few to the many
- The right of the people of Zimbabwe to refuse repayment of any odious debt accrued by a dictatorial government
- Protection of our environment from exploitation and misuse, whether by individuals or companies
- Social and Economic justice as a fundamental principle that guides a new people-driven constitution and in particular the specification of the people’s social-economic rights in the Bill of Rights.
And in particular, we hold that the national economy shall ensure:
- Free and quality public health care including free drugs, treatment, care and
support for those living with HIV and AIDS
- A living pension and social security allowances for all retirees, elderly,
disabled, orphans, unemployed and ex-combatants and ex-detainees
- Decent work, employment and the right to earn a living
- Affordable, quality and decent public funded transport
- Food security and the availability of basic commodities at affordable prices, where necessary, to ensure universal access.
- Free and quality public education from crèche to college and university levels.
- Decent and affordable public funded housing.
Fair labour standards including:
- A tax-free minimum wage linked to inflation and the poverty datum
line and pay equity for women, youth and casual workers
- Safe working places and adequate state and employer funded
compensation for injury or death from accidents at work.
- Protection from unfair dismissal
- Measures to ensure gender equity in the workplace, including equal
pay for work of equal worth, full and paid maternity and paternity
- Access to trade within and without the national borders and removal of all
obstacles on the right of small traders, small scale producers and vendors to
trade and earn a living.
5. NATIONAL VALUE SYSTEM
Believing that we must commit ourselves to a national value system that recognises the humanity of every single individual in our society which we shall call ubuntu, hunhu, The People shall commit to:
- Provide solidarity wherever needed to those that are less privileged in our
society as individuals or in any other capacity
- Equally respect people of all ages
- Challenging intolerance by learning and respecting all languages and cultures
- An inclusive national process of truth, justice, reconciliation and healing
- Recognising all people involved in the liberation struggle
And that this be done with an emphasis that ubuntu/hunhu is passed on from one generation to the next at national and community level.
Holding in relation to gender that all human beings are created equal, must live and be respected equally with equitable access to all resources that our society offers regardless of their gender, and that gender equality is the responsibility of women and men equally, we recognise the role that our mothers and sisters played in the liberation of our country from colonialism and their subsequent leading role in all struggles for democracy and social justice.
The People state that these fundamental principles must be observed and upheld at all levels of the Peoples’ Charter, both on paper and in practice, where decisions are made about the following:
- Our national budget and economy
- Our legislative and government processes in order to allow representative quota systems
- Provision by the state of all health care and all sanitary requirements of women
- An understanding that women bear the brunt of any decline in social welfare security, economic and political systems.
Believing that at all given times the youth, both female and male, represent the present and the future of our country and that all those in positions of leadership nationally and locally must remain true to the fact that our country shall be passed on from one generation to the next, The People state that, in order for each generation to bequeath to the next a country that remains the epitome of hope, democracy and sustainable livelihoods, the following principles for the youth must be adhered to and respected:
- The youth shall be guaranteed the right to education at all levels until they
acquire their first tertiary qualification
- The youth shall be guaranteed an equal voice in decision-making processes
that not only affect them but the country as a whole in all spheres of politics,
the national economy and social welfare
- The youth shall be guaranteed access to the right to health
- The youth shall not be subject to political abuse through training regimes that connote political violence or any semblance of propaganda that will compromise their right to determine their future as both individuals and as a collective
- The youth have the right to associate and assemble and express themselves freely of their own prerogative.
Achieve Your Goal Trust
Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association
Combined Harare Residents’ Association
Chitungwiza Residents and Ratepayers Association
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
International Socialist Organisation
Matabeleland Aids Council
Media Alliance of Zimbabwe
Media Institute of Southern Africa – Zimbabwe Chapter 8
Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe
National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations
National Constitutional Assembly
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe
Restoration of Human Rights
Students’ Christian Movement of Zimbabwe
Students’ Solidarity Trust
Transparency International Zimbabwe
Women of Zimbabwe Arise, Men of Zimbabwe Arise
Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights
Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference
Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
Zimbabwe Cross-Border Traders Association
Zimbabwe Election Support Network
Zimbabwe Human Rights Association
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
Zimbabwe National Pastors Conference
Zimbabwe National Students Union
Zimbabwe Social Forum
Zimbabwe Youth Movement
Zimbabwe Labour Centre
* Patrick Bond is director of the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
 Signatories include community, labour, church, youth, women’s, political, human rights and other groups, for example, the Combined Harare Residents’ Association, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, International Socialist Organisation, Media Institute of Southern Africa, National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, National Constitutional Assembly, Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, Women of Zimbabwe Arise, Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Zimbabwe National Students Union and the Zimbabwe Social Forum.
 Coltart’s report is at: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=9274
 That documentation includes a PhD I filed in the very department Hanke teaches in. It was subsequently published as Bond, P. (1998), Uneven Zimbabwe: A Study of Finance, Development and Underdevelopment, Trenton, Africa World Press.
Government and civil society in Zimbabwe's economic recovery
The two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) have finally endorsed the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit’s decision to form the government of national unity (GNU). All disputed issues, such as the appointment of a 'Joint-Monitoring Implementation Committee' comprising members of all the parties, the distribution of provincial governors, the appointments of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor and the attorney general, and the National Security Bill – which ensures the joint monitoring of the country’s security apparatus – have been resolved before the passage of the constitutional amendment number 19 in parliament, thereby paving the way for the formation of an inclusive government. But critics are still sceptical about Zanu PF's sincerity with regard to implementing an inclusive government given its past open violation of the spirit of both the memorandum of understanding (MOU) and the global political agreement (GPA) with impunity.
Already, South Africa’s President Kgalema Montlanthe, as chair of the SADC, appraised the African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as an 'African solution to the African problem', ending the political stalemate since the signing of the GPA on 15 September 2008. Indeed, this stalemate had not only dented regional leaders’ moral and democratic conscience in defence of voiceless Zimbabweans, but also the facilitator’s résumé as an honest peace broker.
So far, the SADC, led by South Africa, has called for an immediate lifting of 'smart sanctions' targeted at Zanu PF officials and their associates. The AU has also adopted a resolution calling for the withdrawal of sanctions against anti-democratic forces and violators of human-rights to help ease the humanitarian crisis. In response, Western countries, particularly the USA, Europe and Australia, uphold the punitive measures until 'there is clear and practical evidence of sharing of power in Zimbabwe as well as serious commitment to resolve the country’s numerous social, economic and policy challenges.'
ECONOMIC SECTOR CRISIS
Zimbabwe is in a state of economic freefall and has since 1999 registered eight consecutive years of negative growth, falling by about 46.9 per cent in the process, as illustrated in figure 1. Over the last decade, the economy has witnessed capital flight and a significant reduction in private sector investment. As a result, capacity utilisation in all the key sectors, especially agriculture, mining, industry, tourism and construction, is now extremely low, while the value of economic output is estimated at US$3 billion, down from US$13 billion in 1989. The economy’s unemployment is over 94 per cent of the total labour force. Symptoms of the economic crisis are evident in fuel, money and unstable supplies of basic goods and services including the staple diet of maize-meal. Since 2007, the economy has had hyperinflation, which has impoverished over 80 per cent of its inhabitants, particularly those with no access to foreign currency, as well as forcing millions of Zimbabweans to emigrate.
Figure 1: Percentage real GDP (gross domestic product) per capita growth, 1998–2007 (Source: Steve H. Hanke)
The drying up of foreign investment and donor assistance coupled with severely limited export production capacities has resulted in critical foreign currency shortages and parallel market activities. The RBZ recently allowed the use of foreign currencies as a medium of exchange. Local suppliers of goods and providers of services, including local authorities, shops and traders, are now demanding payment in foreign currency. As a result, the United States dollar-related inflation is currently estimated at 50 per cent, compared to other regional countries. On 4 February 2008, the Finance Minister presented a United States dollar national budget, thereby confirming the process of dollarisation in which citizens are allowed to extensively use multi-currencies alongside the domestic currency. This wisdom is informed by the history of transitional economies such as Argentina (2002), Ecuador (2001), and Ukraine and Kazakhstan (in the 1990s), all of which adopted two currency systems. But the close economic relationship between Zimbabwe and South Africa makes the rand the obvious currency of choice to anchor the Zimbabwean dollar. In fact, the South African president himself suggested the randification process in an interview on 8 February 2009.
The economy is also denied resources to mitigate present the huge social and economic challenges due to growing public and external debt overhang, which in December 2007 was estimated at 218.2 per cent of GDP and US$5.155 billion, respectively. By August 2008, domestic debt and its interest bill were recorded by the RBZ at US$33.250 billion and US$25.719 million, respectively. The present macroeconomic outlook makes it difficult for the economy to claim a stake in the regional economic integration agenda or the globally influenced production and marketing processes.
Home-grown macroeconomic blueprints have since 2003 failed to slow down the economic meltdown. These include the National Economic Revival Programme (NERP) (2003), which targeted macroeconomic stability including a reduction in inflation and stimulating national output, productivity and foreign currency earning capacity; the Macro-Economic Policy Framework (2005–2006), whose policy interventions and programmes targeted every economic sector; the National Economic Development Priority Programme (NERDPP) (2006) which sought to mobilise foreign currency in three to six months; and the Zimbabwe Economic Development Strategy (ZEDS) (2007) which sought to consolidate the country’s economic development strategies. They all dismally failed to stimulate economic activities and improve the socio-economic conditions of the people. Given the above, can an inclusive government provide the confidence-building measures necessary to harness domestic, regional and foreign economic actors in support of the economic recovery?
SOCIAL SECTOR CRISIS
Most of the country’s public infrastructure facilities (roads, railways and bridges) and public utilities (electricity and water) have virtually collapsed, further destroying service delivery capacities amid worsening livelihoods. In particular, the decay in the health sector has not only led to a life expectancy rate of 36.9 years, but has also worsened AIDS-related deaths, now estimated at over 4,500 per week.
This is likely to worsen further given that over 29 per cent of girls are reported to be marrying before the legal age of majority (18 years), often through forced marriages as dictated by humanitarian needs. Despite urban residents’ repeatedly reported cases of irregular or completely absent water supplies, authorities turned a ‘blind eye to the national health crisis signposts’. The country has no capacity (foreign currency) to import chemicals to treat water and repair burst or ageing water sewerage pipes, pipes which are leaking into each other, or fuel to collect piles of refuse in urban residential areas. The preventative and curative systems have totally collapsed amid poor coordination and comprehensive response in water and sanitation demands. Most public health facilities such as clinics and hospitals have shut their doors after running out of essential drugs, water, sanitation, transport, food and staff. Only private health facilities which have been levying their services in foreign currency remain open, though they are now overstretched. As a result, the outbreak of cholera, which has now claimed over 3,100 deaths and infected over 59,000 people nationally, has not be contained, and has so far spread to regional countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia. All the above countries recorded cholera-related deaths. South Africa claimed that the epidemic has affected nine of its provinces. International assistance is ameliorating the situation by providing health facilities and drinking water.
Coupled with poor salaries, the countrywide, politically motivated violence against the teaching fraternity was blamed for inadequate learning last year (2008). For instance, in the majority of schools countrywide, students did not attend classes for the whole year, while tertiary institutions such as the universities and polytechnics only opened for a limited period. It is estimated that over 450,000 children are out of school, while 17.7 per cent of 5 to 14-year-old children have become economically active. Grade 7 examinations were released very late in 2009, thereby affecting learners’ preparedness for their next educational level. Up to date, form four (O level) and form six (A level) results are yet to be marked, a situation that has seriously compromised the educational needs of this generation. Indeed, schools' opening calendar was not only delayed by more than two weeks, but also affected by the continued absence of teachers, many of whom are demanding payment in foreign currency just as most schools, especially private ones, are themselves demanding payment in foreign currency.
SOCIAL REALITIES AND HUMANITARIAN CRISIS
Zimbabwe has over 1 million orphans. Over 80 per cent of the population is living below the poverty datum line, while more than 6 million (about half of the country’s population) require food aid between now and April 2009. The continued stalemate in forming an inclusive government has affected preparations in the agricultural season. While the country could not provide seeds and fertilisers to farmers, the lack of an inclusive government forced South Africa, which had pledged resources towards this sector, to hold onto 'its bail-out package'. There are reports that similar humanitarian assistance challenged through the SADC framework has been abused by those in power. Sadly, this presented a lost opportunity for economic stabilisation and recovery following a 10-year period of non-availability and instability of food supplies at both national and household levels amid the rising incidence of poverty and inequalities.
Some farmers were reported to have abused government support in the form of inputs. In October 2008, the RBZ governor complained of ‘high level of indiscipline among farmers who access cheap inputs such as diesel, fertilisers and seeds only to divert these onto the illegal parallel market for quick returns’. This means that meagre agricultural output is expected this season compared to last year’s, an agricultural season in which the farming community had a modicum of preparedness and less of a social services-related human security threat. For instance, in 2008 maize and wheat output were estimated at a paltry 475,000 and 62,000 tonnes against a national demand of over 1 million and 350,000 tonnes, respectively. Currently, over 40 per cent of the rural population, particularly vulnerable groups such as single-parent-headed, child-headed, HIV affected and infected households are 'chronically food insecure'.
Endorsing foreign currencies as the medium of exchange within the context of growing structural inequalities, automatically excludes the poor majority and vulnerable groups from the goods and services market. This coincided with the collapse of both the state and private sector’s social safety nets, the breakdown in informal and community social protection mechanisms such as a chief’s grain stores, and the increasing stress placed on traditional family support networks due to pervasive poverty and inequality.
The extent of hunger and breakdown in the social service sector has left the country with the most serious humanitarian crisis in its history. This has manifested itself in the levels of medical assistance, water and food. Indeed, both hunger and the cholera epidemic are widespread throughout the country due to poor policy response, planning, coordination and strategic collaboration and mutual working relationship with other domestic and foreign key stakeholders. Only recently has the healthcare system been placed under international receivership. Presently, the humanitarian effort has not yet benefited all the needy people in the country. There are also politically motivated distribution challenges. All along, the authorities have been thwarting full-scale humanitarian assistance. The situation will continue to be gloomy next year. Only this week was there an undertaking to allow the United Nations (UN) to visit the country and assess the humanitarian requirements following a bilateral meeting between the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe in Addis Ababa.
RE-ENGAGEMENT WITH THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
Given the above social and economic challenges facing the country, the new administration in Harare has limited choice in terms of resisting conditions accompanying external financial and technical assistance. The fear though is that any form of re-engaging with the international community, including a regional powerhouse like South Africa, will result in tough terms for the vulnerable and weak state. Already, donors, foreign governments and civil society have developed principles for re-engagement [pdf: 76kb] as a measure of commitment to pluralist, democratic processes in line with relevant statutes of the AU and the SADC. There is 'no cherry picking', meaning that ‘all the principles’ should be treated with equal importance. In addition, there is a strong call for national ownership of the economic reform agenda, a development that entails consulting key constituencies such as civil society, business and consumers. Proponents of pluralist democratic processes link outcomes to accessing donors’ resources to support-sector projects, technical assistance and budgetary expenditures.
THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY
Given the country’s decade-long inability to regenerate its economy and tax revenues through its own resources, it is certain that Zimbabwe’s economic transition will be bankrolled by 'a comprehensive financial package' from the international and regional communities, hence the call for civic groups to prepare, develop and engage strategically with the nature, content and scope of such an eventuality. As noted above, such a bail-out financial package resonant in the nature, content and scope of the proposed political transition benchmarks as a measure of full compliance with pluralist democratic processes. Indeed, any success in economic reconstruction process will depend to a large extent on the depth of internal political adjustments. It is therefore quite clear that 'some quarters within GNU' will resist such benchmarks even though the options available to the country are very limited. It is also clear that civil society groups favour such a benchmarking process, which is poised to deliver the true political transition that the decade-long struggle espouses. However, the fear though is summarised by the following questions: What will be the nature, content and scope of re-engaging with the international community and collaborating with different stakeholders in support of the economic transition? What are the chances of unlocking both foreign investment flows and multi-donor resources? What is the likelihood of mobilising unconditional foreign capital investment and multi-donor resources? Given that donors and foreign countries have already tabled their conditions of engagement, is the new administration ready to play ball or galvanise the collective wisdom of all stakeholders? Where does the ordinary citizen fit in this process?
These questions reinforce the role of civil society in monitoring both compliance to the GNU and the dictates of the international community in policy-making frameworks. It is imperative also to note that the economic collapse has its roots in the decade-long management of fiscal and monetary policies, which unfortunately succeeded in reducing the productive capacities of all the sectors in the economy while increasing monetary disbursement to finance public expenditures.
This reflects not only civic groups’ weak monitoring strategies on the management of public resources, but most importantly, the repressive nature of the regime which succeeded in adopting unorthodox macroeconomic policies which defied all people-centred wisdom. Thus, the advent of the GNU and the proposed benchmarking process provide acres of space for civil society’s monitoring of both fiscal and monetary policies. Indeed, any success in the economic transition will be measured by the manner in which various constituencies will be consulted by the new Harare administration, particularly the ability of Zimbabwean civic groups to respond to such a call. Therefore, it is imperative for civic groups to form extensive strategic networking with partners and other like-minded institutions working on issues of both political and economic transition. This is necessary to sustain both the 'new political dawn' and the 'economic recovery path'. In this way, civic groups and networks in Zimbabwe and beyond will show commitment to monitor pluralist democratic processes as well as the moral fibre of donors funding. Central to this is the desire to ensure that donors’ conditionalities should not crowd out social development, that is, increase borrowing amid tight repayment schedules and worsening poverty and inequalities. This must not worsen both the colonial era and the decade-long repressive regime’s related social and economic injustices. It is essential also to ensure that the policy space is not constrained by the huge presence of donors. All this requires an alert civil society that is capable of raising pertinent intervention questions, develop advocacy strategies and that is courageous enough to lobby the corridors of power in support of the new Zimbabwe.
* Richard Kamidza is the Economy in Transition programme associate of the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe (IDAZIM).
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
 Hyperinflation is defined as a rate of inflation per month that exceeds 50 per cent.
 This was calculated using official exchange rate of US$ : Z$32, based on revised currency. The parallel exchange rate was US$ : Z$2,500.
 April is the harvesting period, assuming that the weather conditions have been kind and farmers produce.
The Mau Mau reparations case: claimant profiles
John Njigoya Kagwe, Patrick wa Njogu, Jane Muthoni Mara, Wambugu wa Nyingi, Njeru Mugo, Espon Makanga , Kariuki Mungai, M’Mwenda Kiaria and M’Mucheke Mucheke Kioru
John Njigoya Kagwe alias John Kiboko
I was born in 1930 in Kirinyaga District. I have a wife and six children. During the liberation struggle, I was rounded up in Operation Anvil and held at Langata in Nairobi. I was arrested once again in 1957, when I was shot in the right leg in an ambush by a home guard patrol led by a tall European DO (district officer) – KG, who lived in Mukangu village and who had been nicknamed ‘Waikanja’ After my arrest, I was charged in Embu in 1957 with the offence of associating with the Mau Mau. I was jailed for nine years at Nairobi Temporary Prison in Kamiti. Though I was convicted I did not serve the whole sentence. I was walking with crutches at the time. I was also in leg chains permanently riveted for the 2 years. I served part of my jail term in Embakasi where we built the airport. We were under the command of a European officer (of medium build, average height, small moustache and scary face) who we called ‘Kiriro’ (the cry). Very many prisoners died during the construction of the airport. Their bodies would be collected in trucks and sent to Kamiti for burial. From Embakasi, I was taken to Mwea Camps where we were asked to tear off our prison clothes and change into others. If someone refused mud was stuffed in his mouth and a stick used to push it in. This is the torture that was inflicted on me by Jeremiah Kiereini leading to my loss of all my teeth (I wear dentures today). All the while, a white British officer watched as this happened.
Patrick wa Njogu alias ‘General’ Kassam Njogu
I was born in the 1920s in Embu District and joined the Mau Mau in the Mount Kenya forest in 1952. In 1956, in Kirinyaga, I was shot in the left leg and subsequently arrested and taken to Embu. When I was taken to Embu General Hospital, I remained chained to the hospital bed in spite of my grievous bullet wound. I have never felt so much pain in my life. My leg was tightly bound until pus was flowing out freely. Eventually, my left leg had to be amputated above the knee. During the operation to amputate the leg, I was not fully sedated and I could feel each motion as the doctor cut through the bone with a saw. I was in hospital for about a month after the operation, all the while chained to my hospital bed. After the trial, I was taken to Thiba Camp in the Mwea. From there, I was transferred to Athi River and then onwards to Manyani. Life was unbearable in Manyani, where we lived like animals. It was more difficult for me as I was now disabled by virtue of having lost a leg. I remember an instance when we were all thrown into the camp cattle dip, which was filled with acaricides. I was not thrown into the dip but a bucket full of the acaricides was poured on me. For a person with one leg, this was the height of cruelty. The guards on many occasions confiscated my crutches as a form of punishment. When I refused to work on account of my disability, I would not be spared the severe beatings that were the norm for refusal to work.
Jane Muthoni Mara
I was born in Embu District. We were five in my family, though an elder sister died, leaving four. My father died and we were left to be cared for by our mother. In 1954, when I was about 15 years old, I was arrested at home after being betrayed as a Mau Mau scout. I was taken to Gatithi Screening Camp in Kiini Location of Ndia Division and accused of supplying the Mau Mau with food. At the camp, my interrogators beat me with gun butts under the supervision of a short bald-headed white DO nicknamed Waikanja and told us they would kill us. Waikanja ordered an African home guard by the name of Edward to insert a bottle into my private parts. I will never forget this sexual invasion and torture. The insertion of the bottles in my private parts was intended to induce me into revealing what I knew about Mau Mau. For older women, the soldiers would use 750ml bottles, while for younger girls like me they used smaller 300ml soda bottles. In my case, the bottle was filled with hot water and then pushed by Edward into my private parts with his foot. I hear that Edward is still alive. I knew him. He was from my home area.
Wambugu wa Nyingi alias Kagotho
I was born in 1928 in Nyeri District. I was arrested on 11 December 1952, having been accused of having taken the Mau Mau oath. I was taken to a screening camp called Kia Riowa in Aguthi, near Muthinga. We were repeatedly beaten at this place in order for us to confess, or ‘vomit’ the oath, which the detainees had denied knowledge of. From the screening camp, I was brought to Nairobi to a place unknown to me, and then to Athi River Camp. I then went to Manyani Camp where at times, we would clean the buckets used to carry human faeces with sand and then use them to fetch drinking water. At Hola Closed Camp, where I stayed for three months, I was a witness and victim of the infamous Hola massacre. I was hit on the lower back of the head around the neck until I passed out. All the 11 were killed with clubs, and no firearms were used. I lost my friend, Migwe Ndegwa and a Turkana detainee. I lay unconscious with the 11 corpses for three days at a room where the corpses had been placed awaiting burial. I was taken to the hospital at Hola by a European doctor. The hospital was outside the closed camp. I stayed at the hospital for one week and I was then taken back to the closed camp. An inquest was opened and we would normally go to testify at a court near Nyali. I gave evidence for three hours.
Njeru Mugo alias Mortar, Major Mugo
I was in Embu District in 1933 and was a member of the Mau Mau. I was nabbed towards the end of 1952. I was taken to the Langata Screening Center. At the camp we were beaten severely and I still have the scars from that beating especially on my head, nose and loins. We would be tied up with bowstrings round our hands so tightly that the strings were cutting our hands. I felt and still feel numb and very weak from the wrists to the palms. One day, three of us (including myself) were beaten very badly because we had not completed digging our one acre length canals. They beat us until my whole body was in pain. We were beaten for about two hours. In July 1956, I was taken to Manyani Detention Camp in Coast Province with 49 others. At Manyani, we were received by a prison warden. Upon arrival, we were forcibly pushed into a cattle dip, which had pesticides. There were no cattle at Manyani and the dip was purposely constructed for people. Our skin became itchy and scratchy.
I was born in 1928 in Embu District and joined the Mau Mau in November 1952. I was arrested in 1954. At the Thika Detention Camp, I was a victim of excessive beatings. At Manyani, I recall being brutally disinfected in a cattle dip. Like cattle and under beatings, we were forced by at least two officers into the dip with all our belongings. This exercise was supervised by a white officer we called ‘Kiuga’. He wore khaki shorts, long stockings and a bush coat. The disinfectant was extremely powerful and I remember swallowing quantities of it due to the manner in which we were thrown into the dip. It was a terrifying experience, as one did not know how deep this dip was or what the liquid itself was made of, and you just had to leap in, surrounded by camp guards busy unleashing blows on us. On reaching the end of the dip, there would be more guards waiting with sticks to rain blows on us. Due to the manner in which it was done, those who were unlucky and swallowed too much of the disinfectant suffered bloated stomachs and severe pain. We also received some injections (word had it that these injections were meant to reduce our libidos). The syringe was large like the one used for injecting livestock. The injection left one weak, yet despite this, we were forced straightaway to perform hard labour.
I was born in Kiambu District. On 5 May 1954, I was arrested in during Operation Anvil. I was then put in a train and transported to Manyani Camp under heavy armed guard. At Manyani, the reception was frosty the next day. We had to be disinfected forcefully in a cattle dip, just as cows are. I was also injected with a substance I did not know. We suspected it was meant to kill our libido and it seemed to be true because we never had erections there. At Manyani, a white officer nicknamed ‘Mapiga’ hit me with a baton on the back of the head after news had come that some detainees had tried to escape. I fell down and lost consciousness from the impact of the blow. I was unable to move around for a week and was helped by fellow inmates who would mop my injured head until I recovered. Manyani was a place in which I was forced to perform one of the most dehumanising jobs possible. The sanitation system was the open bucket system, where inmates defecated and urinated into open buckets. I was among those tasked to carry this human waste in buckets upon our heads. The buckets would be overflowing with human faeces and urine, which would get into our faces and even pour on our heads as we went to empty the buckets. We would then wash these buckets and get disinfected. The hard labour, which included breaking stones with a 10 kilogram mallet, was supervised by a white officer nicknamed ‘Kiuga’, who would also supervise incessant beatings throughout the day.
I was born in 1920 in Meru Meru North District, and I joined the Mau Mau in 1952. I was arrested during the emergency and taken to the Lang’ata Screening Centre. At Lang’ata, we were confronted by white Kenyan regiment officers who beat us with clubs as we disembarked from the lorry, and 16 of us were killed on the spot. Every night we would be counted seven times so that one hardly slept. At Lang’ata, the officers would pick out strong young men among us then take them to a home guard woman called Wanjiru who would expose her private parts provocatively and if one got an erection he was rounded up by a group of six officers and castrated. I was then taken to Manyani where there was a white officer nicknamed ‘Mapiga’ who was in charge of the Detention Camp. We were stripped naked and then given yellow uniforms. Later we were forced into the cattle dip with our clothes, blankets and utensils. There was a short stocky white officer with strong hands who would wait by the dip to rescue those drowning and once he pulled you out he would step on your stomach to force out the water through the mouth or anus. He was nicknamed ‘Ndururu’. On one occasion, Mapiga double slapped me so hard I lost proper hearing.
I am 72 years old, from Meru North District. I was arrested in 1952 and taken to Lang’ata camp. In November 1953, together with about 250 other detainees, I was moved to Manyani by train. At Manyani, we were routinely beaten by a white man nicknamed ‘Gateru’. I was removed from Manyani in December 1954 and taken back to Lang’ata. At Lang’ata we were again subjected to routine beatings by white officers. However, we never worked at Lang’ata. The officers I remember who were at Liliaba were Gateru, Major Ali and one Yusuf. The screeners from the Meru community included surrenders like the late former minister Jackson Harvester Angaine. Angaine was the head of African Screeners. At Liliaba we only did cultivation of food crops for ourselves/detainees. I stayed at Liliaba from 1955 to 1957 when I was transferred to Kebo Screening Camp in Meru.
M’Mucheke Mucheke Kioru
I was born in Meru District in 1931. I was arrested in the morning of 24 April 1954 during Operation Anvil. I was taken to Lang’ata Screening Centre in Nairobi where we lived in tents. We were welcomed with beatings by home guards and white officers at Lang’ata. We were then moved to Manyani Detention Centre. At Manyani, we were ordered to pick all our stuff and utensils and forced into the cattle dip. The floor of the cells had a mixture of sand and thorns. During the night, as we were sorting out thorns from the sand, scorpions and snakes were popping out. We used to kill the snakes and scorpions with our bare hands and feet. In Compound Six at Manyani, I encountered one Tanzanian officer called ‘Wagithundia’, who tortured me for a week by beating me with kicks and the baton. He ordered me to lie down with my face down and severely beat me on all over my back from the lower spinal cord. I was beaten until sperms were coming out of my penis like a stream. I believe this is when I lost ability to have children. I had been married initially and had a daughter.
* The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) is based in Nairobi. For more information about the Mau Mau reparations campaign, please contact L. Muthoni Wanyeki or Mikewa Ogada.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Preserving inequality: Obama and the Durban Review Conference
Attorney General Eric Holder was right, that when it comes to talking about racism the United States is a ‘nation of cowards’. In bullying the Durban Review Conference (DRC) to accept its suffocating terms of engagement, President Obama, like the forty-three Presidents before him, is following the time-honoured US tradition of denying and downplaying the brutal reality of racism. As we go to press, it is unclear whether the DRC organizers will successfully resist Obama’s pressure.
The UN is convening the DRC to assess progress since the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerances (WCAR) held in Durban, South Africa in 2001. During the week of 20 April, delegates from nearly all UN member states and hundreds of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will gather in Geneva, Switzerland to evaluate the steps governments have taken towards the elimination of racism, as outlined in the Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA). The DDPA is a comprehensive document that covers prevention, education and protection strategies and specific measures to eliminate racism, in all its forms, against indigenous peoples, people of African descent, migrants, displaced people and others. The document includes a focus on gender-based violence and trafficking, racial profiling and a call for reparations.
The Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA) helped reinvigorate a critical dialogue about race, racism, restitution, and reparations in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Since 2001 the DDPA has served as a moral and political weapon to press for structural changes and institutional remedies to eliminate racism and all its vestiges in many of the societies in these regions. Colombia, Brazil, South Africa, and Venezuela have each incorporated DDPA principles into their respective constitutional and legal structures, including protected recognition for African and indigenous peoples, rights to ancestral lands, resources for cultural preservation, and various ‘affirmative action’ programmes.
This was not the case in the US. First and foremost, this was because the Bush administration walked out on the WCAR proceedings and did almost everything within its power (including economic and diplomatic sanctions against several nations) to undermine Durban and its outcomes. The events of 11 September 2001, occurring just days after the WCAR, ceased nearly all discussion of the conference and its outcomes. In the wake of September 11, the national debate about reparations and how to eliminate the structural foundations of racism in the US was virtually silenced by the political policing of the Bush administration and the domineering promotion of American nationalism by the administration and corporate media.
Many oppressed peoples in the US and nations throughout the world held out hope that the Obama administration, with its promises of ‘hope’, ‘change’, and open dialogue, would change the course of US policy and practice and fully engage the DRC and similar processes. The Obama administration’s decision to continue the US government’s boycott is an effort to avoid confronting the systemic persistence of racism and xenophobia and eliminate initiatives to redress past crimes against humanity. The strong-arm tactics, particularly relating to the conference’s outcome document, are an attempt to bully the world into a limited, diversionary conversation that avoids the primary issues of the day: Islamophobia; the so-called ‘war on terror’; Israeli apartheid and the systematic cleansing of the Palestinian people from their land; and reparations for the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the genocide of the indigenous peoples of the western hemisphere
The Obama administration’s manoeuvring to squash all principled positions on these issues is more than a mere act of cowardice. Rather, it demonstrates that the Obama administration has no fundamental intention of breaking with the strategic orientation of its predecessors with regards to eliminating the structural pillars of racism that shape the US ‘project’ and the modern capitalist world system itself.
The strategic requirement of the US project is to preserve the social structures built on settler-colonial foundations, and to maintain and expand its hegemonic global position to extract the resources and capital needed to maintain its ‘unapologetic’ way of life. The project is the direct result of the genocide and dispossession of indigenous peoples and the colonial subjugation, displacement, enslavement, and exploitation of African, Asian, and Latino peoples. Its ideological pillars are white supremacy, divine providence, manifest destiny, individualism, ‘exceptionalism’, and ‘free-enterprise’ capitalism.
The rationale for the administration’s boycott, outlined in the 27 February State Department’s press release must be viewed through the lens of this strategic requirement. The press release was titled US posture towards the Durban Review Conference and participation in the UN Human Rights Council.
The press release was harsh by diplomatic standards and reveals how tenaciously the Obama administration clings to the prerogatives of the imperial project: ‘Sadly, however, the document being negotiated has gone from bad to worse, and the current text of the draft outcome document is not salvageable. As a result, the United States will not engage in further negotiations on this text, nor will we participate in a conference based on this text. A conference based on this text would be a missed opportunity to speak clearly about the persistent problem of racism.
The United States remains open to a positive result in Geneva based on a document that takes a constructive approach to tackling the challenges of racism and discrimination. The US believes any viable text for the Review Conference must be shortened and not reaffirm in toto the flawed 2001 Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA). It must not single out any one country [namely Israel] or conflict, nor embrace the troubling concept of ‘defamation of religion’. The US also believes an acceptable document should not go further than the DDPA on the issue of reparations for slavery.
It is important to look at the provisions of the original draft Outcome Document issued on 23 January 2009, that the Obama administration is objecting to.
The Palestinians, Israeli Apartheid, and Zionism
Paragraph 31: ‘Reiterates that the Palestinian people have the inalienable right to self-determination and that, in order to consolidate the Israeli occupation, they have been subjected to unlawful collective punishment, torture, economic blockade, severe restriction of movement and arbitrary closure of their territories. Also notes with concern that illegal settlements continue to be built in the occupied Arab territories since 1967.’
Paragraph 32: ‘Reaffirms that a foreign occupation founded on settlements, laws based on racial discrimination with the aim of continuing domination of the occupied territories as well as the practice of reinforcing a total military blockade, isolating towns, villages and cities from one another, totally contradicts the purpose and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and constitutes a serious violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, a crime against humanity, a contemporary form of apartheid and serious threat to international peace and security and violates the basic principles of international human rights law.’
Support for the Zionist settler-colonial project is a corner stone of US imperialism. Maintaining the Israeli state is essential for US geo-strategic positioning, political control of the region and its peoples, and vital resource extraction and control (oil, gas, and increasingly water). That the US is not only supportive of the Israeli apartheid matrix of domination over the Palestinian people and their land, but is also the major financier, should not be viewed as an aberration of US policy or principle. The US has a long history of giving uncritical support to avowedly racist settler-colonial projects, like South Africa and Australia. In defending these projects, it is fundamentally defending and justifying its own existence as a European settler-project vested in maintaining its control over stolen lands. In choosing to boycott the DRC in defence of Israel and its apartheid system, the Obama administration is merely demonstrating its overall commitment to these projects and the global system that reaffirms and reinforces them.
Islamophobia and the defamation of religion
Paragraph 53: ‘Acknowledges that a most disturbing phenomenon is the intellectual and ideological validation of Islamophobia…’
Paragraph 160: ‘Calls on States to develop, and where appropriate to incorporate, permissible limitations on the exercise of the right to freedom and of expression into national legislation;’ [relating to the defamation of religion, which the US identifies as a threat to freedom of speech and expression].
The Obama administration is opposed to the references against Islamophobia and the defamation of religion because of the limits it poses to the conduct of the US post-September 11 strategy of global containment. Although the Obama administration is no longer using the ‘war on terror’ slogan propagated by the Bush administration, the fundamental imperial strategy remains and Islamophobia is its fundamental ideological anchor. Islamophobia seeks to equate the religion and practice of Islam with ‘terrorism’, sexism, anti-Semitism, and anti-liberalism, and reduce it to a racialised practice defined by people of Arab, North African, Central and South Asian descent. This equation justifies the ‘othering’ of the religion and its adherents and renders them easy targets for elimination.
Reparations, slavery, and genocide
Paragraph 156: ‘Urges States that have not yet condemned, apologised and paid reparations for the grave and massive violations as well as the massive human suffering caused by slavery, the slave trade, the transatlantic slave trade, apartheid, colonialism and genocide, to do so at the earliest.’
If the United States were to comply with the demand for restitution and reparations for the crimes of genocide and slavery, the US, as presently constituted, would fundamentally cease to exist. Complying with this demand means that it would have to restructure its economy to equitably manage and distribute the indemnity. And just as critically, it would have to alter its relationship with indigenous peoples and relinquish all claims to sovereignty over the lands it possesses.
Will Obama prevail?
As of 17 March, all of the critical points raised above have been removed from the Draft Outcome Document. This evisceration is a direct result of the bullying of the Obama administration and its allies: The ex-officio imperial powers of Europe and their settler-colonial offshoots (namely Australia, Canada and Israel). These states cannot afford – either structurally or programmatically – to address the crimes against humanity that they profited from and/or were founded upon. They also desperately don’t want to be confronted or exposed for the failings of their present policies, practices, and social outcomes.
This is especially true of the US. The eight years of the Bush regime constituted one of the most egregious periods of racism, racial profiling and xenophobia on a world scale in recent history. In choosing not to ‘look into the past’ as it were, to prosecute the Bush regime for its numerous human rights violations or seek justifiable restitution for the multitude of its domestic and international victims, the Obama administration is in fact sanctioning these crimes. Obama rationalises this sanctioning as an attempt to preserve racial ‘harmony’ and domestic social order against white reaction. In fact, it breeds impunity and preserves the wholly inequitable status quo. Answering for the crimes of the Bush regime is not the only reason the Obama administration doesn’t want to engage the DRC however. It also doesn’t want its weak civil and human commitments to be exposed and scrutinised before the world. It is not an accident therefore, that despite a person of African descent sitting as its head, that the US is leading the charge of sabotaging the DRC.
The revisions imposed by the Obama administration constitute a major setback to the international movement to eliminate racism, xenophobia, colonialism, and imperialism. They preserve the status quo ante of race, power and exploitation on a world-scale. And they are advancing US imperialism’s strategy of politically disarming the liberation movements around the world that are striving to eliminate the status quo. Eight years after the Bush boycott failed, the Obama boycott and bullying tactics are shamefully on the verge of eliminating any substantive discussion or outcome for the DRC. Anti-racist, anti-colonial, and anti-imperialist activists throughout the world must take decisive action to stop this political charade and reclaim the space that is rightfully ours.
* Kali Akuno is the national organiser for the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM). MXGM is a mass organisation struggling for the self-determination of New Afrikan people within the boundaries of the US.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
A solo encounter with Dudu Manhenga
The stage glows with shades of blue, the glitter ball casts a thousand stars…
She walks in tall and svelte, her eyes dancing. Her passion and enthusiasm is infectious. Her delivery is tight, on a par with top music acts in the southern African region and indeed the world. Her style is influenced by the great Afro-jazz singers. The power of her voice and the dignity of her delivery make the audience sit up and listen, transporting them on the highways and byways of the rhythms of jazz.
Meet Dudu Manhenga. And the Color Blu.
Involved in music from a very early age and influenced by Bulawayo-based Amakhosi productions Dudu says, ‘The art called out to me, I never intended to be an artist. When my mama first saw me perform on stage using a microphone, at my Grade One prize giving at Saint Bernard’s School in Pumula she said, “I knew this was going to be trouble!”’
Manhenga has travelled a long road since, and her most recent offering was Solo Encounters, which ran at Harare’s REPS theatre from 17–21 March. It was a close-up interaction with the afro-jazz artist. ‘Most of the time when I perform in clubs I don’t get intimate time with my audience. A solo encounter makes it feel like the audience has a one on one with me. Its an interactive show, people can make requests, ask questions and discuss the songs, they can actively be part of shaping the show,’ she says.
Her songs explore the politics of the self. She sings about different aspects of being a woman. Its an organic performance and it does indeed feel like we’re at home. The audience responds, soon leaving their seats to dance in the aisles.
Backing Dudu for this series was the jazz group Color Blu. The group’s current line-up is Blessing Muparutsa (drums), Nick Nare (keyboards), Enoch Piroro (bass), Strovas on percussion, David Machaka (watch out for him) and Victor Muparutsa (backing vocals). Tino Bimha, and Zanele Manhenga also provide backing vocals for the show.
She laughs as she says of the five men, ‘I am the rose among the thorns,’ and then more seriously notes, ‘Its a statement that says its ok for men, lots of them, to stand behind a women. And still be men. The guys are beautiful, amazing and talented.’ The band also performed music from their forthcoming debut album.
Solo Encounters has been recorded for Dudu’s next live album offering, and her first two CDs, Dudu Manhenga and the Colour Blu and Jula are available for sale along with her distinctive, funky merchandise.
The diva is also a major contributor to the Female Literary Arts Music Enterprise (FLAME), for the development and promotion of women artists, run by Pamberi Trust.
The programme includes workshops and performances for young women entering into the industry. Sisters Open Mic is one such space, a performance programme for emerging women artists, that runs every second Saturday from 2pm–5pm at the Book Café in Harare.
She notes how in Zimbabwe ‘…being an artist is not considered worthwhile’. She laughs as she recounts how her mother’s friends would ask after her by enquiring whether ‘she had found a job yet?’ Zimbabwe has so much talent that is often unrecognised within the country. The music industry is tough on women, sexism is rife and the economic climate means things are challenging. But the workshops provide up-and-coming performers with the necessary skills, support and solidarity to begin navigating through the terrain.
Dudu notes that the ground is fertile for artists to blossom, as long as people think out of the box and pull together. ‘We need a culture where we are prepared to give to each other and to contribute to the change that we want,’ she says, ‘Ultimately we need to encounter each other as people.’ She is under no illusions that it is going to take a lot for things to change in the local music industry and in the country, but despite this it is clear that Dudu Manhenga is here to stay.
The lyrics of her last song in the Solo Encounters repertoire clearly communicates her message. Its hypnotic. Her voice is clear: ‘I want you to create, innovate, elevate, don’t be afraid. I want you to create, innovate, elevate, don’t be afraid.’ She explains in recitative that ‘if you are creative, I can create, if you are elevated, I can elevate’.
Look out for Dudu Manhenga and if she comes to a city near you go and enjoy the Afro-jazz of one of Zimbabwe’s foremost women in jazz who continues to thrill her listeners with beautiful melodies and exciting rhythms, fused with intricate contemporary styles and techniques from the world in which she lives.
* Prespone Matawira is a Zimbabwean feminist and activist who contributes to the new Chii Chirikuita: What’s up? blog.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
The day the rainbow fell on the floor
‘Look,’ she said to me, pointing to the multi-coloured powder paint that had fallen onto the tarmac, ‘the rainbow fell on the floor.’ She stood there, eyes wide, hands on her hips, her oversized school uniform making her look smaller than her six years.
Then, I watched her skip away, satchel in tow, to the school hall. Yes, the rainbow had come crashing down from the sky and onto the floor, landing in the car park of a private school.
In these Associated Trust Schools (ATS), parents who are unable to pay school fees see their children excluded. Barred from the classroom, separated from their friends, these sprites are exiled to the school hall. There are many parents who struggle to make the fee payments which range from anything between US$500 to US$1500 per term (three months) depending on the school.
And the handful of private and state schools where parents can pay large supplements to teachers’ salaries to subsidise the running of the school, are the only ones that are fully functional at the moment.
But in a bold move this week, the new minister of education, sports, arts and culture, David Coltart, announced that no child should be excluded from school for non-payment of fees. Arrangements for payment in instalments now have to be made to ensure that every child, no matter the school, has access to education.
This is just the beginning of what Mr Coltart, who reported for duty only a month ago, has had to deal with.
From once having one of the highest standards of education in Africa, recording a 72 per cent national O-level pass rate in the mid 1990s, last year this figure crashed to 11 per cent. With the 1990 implementation of Economic Structural Adjustment, the Zimbabwean government spent less and less on education, so that by 2006 expenditure on education was only 13 per cent of the national budget. By this time hyper-inflation had begun to bite, and it is estimated that in 2008, the value of government spending per child was equivalent to just 18 cents.
The many children in government-run schools did not receive an education last year. The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe estimates that the majority of pupils in the country had a total of 23 days uninterrupted in the classroom. The academic year should have just been cancelled.
Last year saw teachers go on strike, their salaries worthless, eroded by economic stagnation and inflation that was officially pegged at 231 million per cent. Many teachers simply could not afford to go to work because their monthly pay was less than the bus fare for the same period. This, coupled with election violence, the assault of teachers by ZANU PF militia, the looting of schools and the use of some school premises as torture centres dealt the final blow to Zimbabwe’s education system.
And now, virtually all rural schools are closed as well as some urban ones. Even if they were open and teachers tried to teach, the vast majority of schools do not have desks, they do not have textbooks, chalk or exercise books. They are overwhelmed by water and power cuts, their buildings are in a state of disrepair and children are adrift.
Nothing is more true than for some of Zimbabwe’s most vulnerable, homeless, hungry and abused: street kids. At a workshop held at Streets Ahead, a care and drop-in service for street children, girls write and paint their dreams – murals of beautiful visions of healthy and happy futures. Here girls and boys can drop in during the day, take a shower, have a meal and engage in activities such as art, drama and craft. Its a classroom even though it may not be formally recognised as such. There are many such classroom spaces in and around Zimbabwe, without walls or desks. Its an unidyllic idyll.
The girls talk and discuss as they work. As economic orphans (children left behind whilst their parents go in search of foreign curreny), girl headed households mean that girls shoulder the burden of care. Sexual violence and rape has meant that many girls now nurse babies.
But the small people go on with the business of living and learning. There are many ways to learn, formal and informal, and life in Zimbabwe teaches children skills to survive.
No matter where they are located, children always find time to play, run, laugh, have mud fights, right in the midst of everything. Life always goes on for the living. Children dream dreams even though the rainbow has fallen out of the sky.
In the formal learning domain, teachers have threatened to go on strike at the end of April 2009 if their salary demands are not met. Coltart makes no bones of the fact that right now the coffers are empty. Before he can fund teachers demands, he needs to know how many teachers he has. There is no computerised database at present and the department’s records are apparently in a chaotic state. In the past few years, many teachers have left Zimbabwe, for jobs elsewhere. It is believed that the number of teachers currently in Zimbabwe is less than 50 per cent of a full complement of 140 000.
A think tank comprised of educationalists from various sectors has been put together in order to provide strategic direction and advise in rebuilding and reviving education in Zimbabwe. The board includes amongst others, former minister of education Fay Chung, Zimbabwe Teachers Association president Tendai Chikoore, politician Trudy Stevenson, clergy man Father Joe Arimoso and Stanly Hadebe.
Infrastructure is important. Having the teachers in place is important. Having the money is important. But one of the lessons that we can take from history is that these things are not enough. Education is one of those rights that requires active mobilisation, organisation and vigilance. We have to think outside of the current parameters. What kind of country do we want? What kinds of citizens do we want in this country? What kind of curriculum is going to facilitate that?
In Zimbabwe today, education includes the participation of everyone – children, women, men, the young and the elderly – everyone has to work to construct new relations and consciousness both inside and outside the classroom. This includes a broad, relevant and dynamic curriculum, healthy cultures of questioning, debate and critique. It includes an expanded understanding of what constitutes education. Participation in seminars, assemblies, walks, volunteer work, acts of solidarity, coming together across the divides to learn and teach reading and writing, to talk and discuss, and more than this, to read and write the reality of life.
This is the hard work.
This is the work that will reflect and refract a gazillion rainbows in the lives of that six-year-old little girl standing in the school parking lot, and for hundreds and thousands like her all around the country.
* Prespone Matawira is a Zimbabwean feminist and activist who contributes to the new Chii Chirikuita: What’s up? blog.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.
Society for International Development
Smitu Kothari, noted Indian and international scholar, author and activist, who contributed to the SID (Society for International Development) network for over twenty years, passed away on 23 March. Deeply involved in ecological, cultural and human rights issues, Kothari strove to forge global alternatives to the world’s injustices.
A very dear member of the SID (Society for International Development) family, Smitu Kothari, passed away on 23 March in New Delhi, after he suffering unexpected heart failure.
Smitu, noted Indian and international scholar, author and activist, has contributed to the SID network for over twenty years. He was actively engaged in the work of key programmes in the 1990s and 2000s: the Sustainable Livelihoods Programme, Women and Politics of Place Programme, the South Asia SID-SAN network as well as being an active member on the editorial board of the journal Development. He brought to SID his vision, his insights, friendship and solidarity. Memorably he guest edited the first issue of the journal to be published by Palgrave Macmillan on the ‘Violence of Development’ in 2004.
Most of all, Smitu brought to SID his humanity, his love and respect for people and nature and strong sense of social justice. He was deeply involved in ecological, cultural and human rights issues striving to forge collectively global alternatives to the world’s injustices. He played a unique role as an activist intellectual in SID forging links among many people on the issues he held dear. As well as his work on the ground and in network such as SID he was a noted scholar. He published articles and books that critiqued contemporary economic and cultural development, the relationship of nature, culture and democracy, developmental displacement, people’s governance and social movements.
Smitu was a source of inspiration and support to all those in SID who worked for social justice and development. He will be sadly missed. The journal Development will feature a series of essays in memory of Smitu in the forthcoming issue, Beyond Economics, volume 52 number 3.
As fellow editorial board member Sanjay Reddy noted: ‘Smitu was a person of great heart and intellect, and his loss is truly a loss for the world which goes well beyond those who knew and appreciated him.’
Home is not only a place but a state of mind - an interview with Rory Kilalea
Conversations with Writers
Rory Kilalea has worked in the Middle East and throughout Africa, directing documentaries as well as in various production, script-writing and management positions. Films he has been involved with include Jit (1990), A Dry White Season (1987) and Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1986).
He has also taught broadcasting, writing and performance at the University of Zimbabwe as well as improvisational drama at the British Council in Athens, London, Johannesburg, and in the Middle East.
Writing under the pen name Murungu, his poetry and short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies in countries including Ireland, Malaysia, the United States and Zimbabwe.
His writing includes the collection of short stories, The Arabian Princess & Other Stories (Zodiac Publishing, 2002); Whine of a Dog, which was shortlisted for the Caine Prize 2000; Zimbabwe Boy which appears in Asylum 1928 and Other Stories (Fish Publishing, 2001) and was shortlisted for the Caine Prize 2002; and Unfinished Business, which appears in Writing Now: More Stories from Zimbabwe (Weaver Press, 2005).
In 2005, one of his plays, Zimbabwe Boy was adopted for the Africa Festival at the London Eye and has been performed at the National Theatre in London. Other plays he has written include Ashes; Diary of David and Ruth; and Colours.
In a recent interview with Conversations with Writers, Rory Kilalea spoke about his concerns as a writer.
Conversations with Writers: When did you decide that you wanted to be a writer? And who would you say has influenced you the most?
Rory Kilalea: I have always written. I suppose I knew that I would write when I was 11 years of age and a class was captivated by a story I wrote. I still have a copy of it. It was a transformational story about a young girl who becomes part of a vision that she saw.
Doris Lessing, Katherine Mansfield and [Joseph] Conrad were formative short story influences. What I found appealing about them was the fact that they were able to create in a short format, an indelible image that never left my imagination. I still think of The Secret Sharer or The Lumber Room and imagine what these writers did with spare use of words to create a world of the ‘now’. It was then that I realised that the short story is more than a simple ‘story’ – it is a moment that can have great impact. Alice Munro does the same – and even though I sometimes feel, when I am reading her, that I do not want to go further into the (often) dark areas of her characters, I am compelled to. Her skill is the teasing away of layers until you get to a core. These writers are masters.
Then I began to read local Zimbabwean writers – [Charles] Mungoshi captivated me. He dared to write about and think things which I had not seen written by a black Zimbabwean. In his writing, he was able to show the same struggles, the same hopes as all Zimbabweans – and of course his writing was of such quality that it had a universal appeal. [Shimmer] Chinodya is also another example of daring to say what others feel (or may feel) is not correct, or politically correct, to record or explore. That is our function as writers – to tell it as we see it. And these writers do.
Conversations with Writers: What are your main concerns as a writer?
Rory Kilalea: The role of an outsider looking in.
Conversations with Writers: In what way are you an outsider? And, when you look in, what do you see?
Rory Kilalea: Hmm… now here is a tough question.
Psychoanalysts would say that growing up as a poor white person in a black country may have been part of the reason that I was not part of the normal (whatever that means) white community; that I went to a non-racial school in Bulawayo; that my parents were very Catholic to the extent of praying that I would become their salvation by being a priest. But I tell you when it first occurred to me, I was standing against a mesh gate of our small house in Paddonhurst in Bulawayo and watching a machine tarring the road, splattering pieces of liquid tar into the air, smelling poisonous, but nicely intoxicating. And I refocused and saw a black boy on the other side of the road doing exactly the same as me. I knew, just as I knew in the Zimbabwean writers I read later, that we were on a similar path. We saw similar things,dreamt similar things. But there was fence between me and the boy.
I am looking into a struggle of achieving and understanding our role as Zimbabweans and all of the strange contradictory nature of that.
I have left behind the intellectual romantic hopes of togetherness, and now watch with a detachment. As a result, without the anchor of my family’s faith, I have extracted a terrible price for being adrift. Feeling is different from observing and I have been left with the heart of a romantic and the mind of a cynic.
And there is another thing – I do not fulfil the ethic of a ‘Rhodie rugger bugger’. For example, I appreciate male beauty – which of course is anathema to the president in his current situation. As much as I know that most of this rhetoric is politics, it does not ever make the ‘otherness’ go away. Perhaps I have always lived as the secret sharer and want to share that place with my readers.
Conversations with Writers: How have your personal experiences influenced the direction of your writing?
Rory Kilalea: Very much. My life has been a disparate one and thus – whether through filmmaking, the anti-apartheid periods, the war in Zimbabwe or living in the Middle East – has always provided material.
Emotional values are of interest to me when you use different life experiences. For example, as a Zimbabwean making a film about an Arab wedding, observations become my palette I suppose.
Conversations with Writers: What would you say are the biggest challenges that you face and how do you deal with them?
Rory Kilalea: Finance. The work ethic to keep on doing the writing when I know that I am short of money and then have to go away on another venture to make films or do radio or whatever.
I try to be disciplined. This is much harder than anyone can imagine. The hurdle after a hiatus brings with it the terror of wondering whether what you write has any relevance or meaning or quality at all.
Conversations with Writers: How many genres do you work in?
Rory Kilalea: I think I have written about forty short stories. Five theatre plays. Zillions of film scripts and adverts. Many radio plays for SABC, Zimbabwe Radio and the BBC.
I have many published short stories all over the world: A collection of poetry, one children's book on Arabian fables, a book which is to-ing and fro-ing about Islam and life in the modern Middle East, three half completed novels and one that is complete and in the final stage of edit – which is terrible.
Princess of Arabia, the book of folktales, was published by Zodiac Press. My short stories have also appeared in the Caine Prize anthologies and in Zimbabwean publisher Irene Staunton’s various anthologies. I have also been published in anthologies by Silverfish books in Malaysia, as well as in Ireland for the West Cork Literary Festival.
The other novel, as yet unfinished, is untitled and based on the corruption of life with rigid rules in Arabia.
Plays I have written include Friends, which is based on the life of John Bradburne, the man who lived with the lepers during the bush war, and Colours, which was adapted for radio by the BBC.
Conversations with Writers: Are there any links or connections between your writing and the work you are doing on film and radio?
Rory Kilalea: The main connection is that it is communication.
I am currently writing another play for the BBC – so the writing can join the disciplines together sometimes. The bad thing about it is that it does tire you creatively and then it is doubly difficult to get from a news-reading desk to the computer for a script.
Conversations with Writers: Do you write everyday?
Rory Kilalea: Yes, every day but not always on the same thing though. The hardest pieces are the ones I try to put on the back burner, which is the worst thing any writer could do. For example, The Reluctant Mombe was really tough. I had the experience of meeting a woman in the situation of being forgotten as a person of age. To try and retain truth and be honest at the same time took some soul-searching as well as being ruthless.
The story began when I was employed by the BBC to interview old people who had been forgotten by their families and who were living in penury. To divorce oneself from the horrible reality of seeing old people who had grown up with hope and now felt discarded was very hard. Mortality and the finiteness of human loyalties and love were the issues I had to contend with and in fact divorce myself from when I wrote the piece.
The other hard piece is section of my novel that deals with Zimbabwe – again the same problem – divorcing myself from the realities of a hard-felt life.
Conversations with Writers: What is the novel about?
Rory Kilalea: The Disappointed Diplomat is about the role of a young man trying to forget his home in Zimbabwe and finding that home is not only a place but a state of mind. He walks away from the woman he has fallen in love with, and asks the question: ‘Perhaps the bus driver will know the way home?’
The man is trying to forget the heartache of a broken love affair – both with his country and with his black girlfriend (he is white). He has to deal with the expectations of the English establishment and, much like the people who search out spies for their own causes, he feels he is being courted for reasons beyond his comprehension.
He never does have the full answers. Perhaps the novel is more of a journey to a stage where he can at least ask the salient question knowing that there will be another journey ahead.
Conversations with Writers: Which aspects of the work that you put into the book did you find most difficult?
Rory Kilalea: The middle section of the novel, which is about Zimbabwe. The passion I have for my home and the plethora of ideas were too much for the shape and structure. The old ‘less is more’ dictum was very hard to follow.
I love Zimbabwe like no other place and can so fully understand the need to justify one’s existence by having a piece of land – which was why the war was fought, or partly anyway. And perhaps that too is part of the problem – that our unflinching loyalty to the land has caused a blinkered attitude to the realities of what and how we are governed. You see, for most of us in the diaspora, the ‘Zimbabwe’ we think of is romanticised into a nirvana, which in fact is not a reality.
I am working in the Middle East now, as I could not afford to continue teaching at the University of Zimbabwe. And this poverty affects me. How does it affect people in the bush? I know how it affects them. But do I see the starving bellies and the hopeless eyes of the street kids? Ah no, just like the chefs, I pass by in my car and wonder if the old man they are leading to beg alms for is really blind. Of course I know he is not, but I also see the kids are hungry. I see people rolling up their windows as if they are trying to press a nosegay to their face to avoid a bad smell. Ah yes, I can see – but I do not really look? – and that is a crime.
The mirror is an unkind place. Yet we all sit back and wait for the old man to die and wish for a better future. It was the same with Ian Smith and with Welensky etc. A blinkered reaction to the reality.
I will never leave Zimbabwe forever, it is inconceivable. I have lived in many places in the world, picking up stories and experiences. But home is Zimbabwe. I do not think it will get better soon. Rankness in Denmark is not as easily assuaged as it was in the final act of Hamlet. From cheating sanctions during Smith’s days to doing black market deals in Mugabe's, it is the same behaviour and we have grown up to think only in those terms. To conceive of a straight society where you change money in a bank for real is ridiculous. We have never done it. That is how deep the level of damage has been.
Conversations with Writers: What sets The Disappointed Diplomat apart from the other things you have written?
Rory Kilalea: It is a novel. My metier is poetry and short stories. I had too much to say. The long form was also a challenge and I had to push myself further
Conversations with Writers: In what way is it similar?
Rory Kilalea: Good question – from the short form to the long form was the mission – and finally I had to employ the same writing technique – spare writing. I was not inclined to do that in the beginning and a number of the first of drafts were pedestrian and unprofessional.
It was a learning curve to be able to spill out as much as possible for the story – then realise that the same techniques of short story could be used as well to convey meaning and narrative. I started by putting too much into the story – overwriting and making basic errors. Re-reading ensured that I had to edit and make it more professional.
Conversations with Writers: What will your next book be about?
Rory Kilalea: An action and cruel novella about the undercurrents of life and the questionable morality of living in Dubai. Drug importation, pimping… the list goes on and on… despite the maxim of the prophet. A man would be married and have two boyfriends for sex. The more rules you impose on a people, the more they seem to want to break them. I would come home to my house and find blocks of pure resin being sliced up for sale in the market as unadulterated coke and dagga. Wrong?
Who can say? But it does beg many questions – and perhaps I saw the similarity of the corruption of soul in our country to what the Arabs are doing in this plastic Dubai where western society has taken over their sleepy life and left them feeling disassociated
* Rory Kilalea is a Zimbabwean filmmaker, playwright and author.
* This interview appears courtesy of Conversations with Writers. If you are a writer interested in participating, please contact Ambrose Musiyiwa
Blogging Africa: 26 March 2009
There are now so many blog awards it is sometimes difficult to keep up with the continuous series of nominations and voting that takes place. Most recently Nigeria held its second Naija Bloggers Awards (the first were held in 2006), and the nominations for the fifth South African Blog Awards have been published. The Nigerian awards were organised by Who you be?.
I highlight two particularly outstanding blogs: Nigerian Curiosity, written by Solomon Sydelle, who deservedly won ‘best political blog’. Her second blog, which documents her life as a ‘mother and wife hanging on for dear life’, won the ‘bloggers’ choice’ award. Solomon Sysdelle
My second vote goes to The Activist, written by Standtall who won ‘best theme’, though personally I believe she deserved to win the ‘most inspiring’ award. It was unfortunate that it was the ‘theme’ of her blog rather than the excellent and progressive content that was recognised.
Also worth mentioning is Bella Naija, whose blog has single-handedly made a huge contribution to publicising Nigeria’s fashion and entertainment industry.
It is not clear who organised the Naija Bloggers Award and I believe something like this should be open and transparent from the website as to who is behind the awards. It is also not clear who is listed, or how the list of bloggers was devised, as judging from those on the site there are a number of excellent Nigerian bloggers not listed, such as Timbuktu Chronicles, Grandiose Parlor, Wordsbody, Chxta’s World, Cyblug Oro (Gbenga Sesan) and BlackLooks. It is possible that these were included, but if so then they should appear in the list of Nigerian bloggers. I am also concerned as to why there was no ‘technology’ category included in the awards list. Neither am I impressed by some of the winners in the various categories.
Nonetheless this does not in anyway lessen the awards received by all the winners. Blogging is not as easy as it appears. Many people start without realising the amount of time and energy it takes to maintain a blog on a consistent basis, month after month, year after year. Most bloggers are working alone and this is literally a second job and it is very easy to fall by the wayside as many do. So a big congratulations to all those who were nominated and who won awards.
Nominations are still open for the South African Blog Awards and the winners will be announced on the 3 April.
Meanwhile the two stories dominating SA bloggers are the refusal to allow the Dalai Lama into the country to attend the peace conference and the announcement that the IPL will be played in South Africa.
Constitutionally Thinking takes the view that there is nothing surprising about the decision, given the country’s human rights record and foreign policy:
‘One can only be surprised by this decision if one assumes that human rights principles come in to play in the formulation of South Africa’s foreign policy... But human rights principles have not had any role in South Africa’s foreign policy since Thabo Mbeki took over as President of South Africa in the late nineties. Our foreign policy is based on naked self-interest, power politics, a misplaced loyalty to scoundrels and the leaders of rogue nations and a wish - born out of insecurity, vengefullness and a lack of pride and self respect - to try and embarrass the United States and other Western states.’
He goes on to question the various excuses issued by members of the government, which range from the ridiculous to the contradictory. The lamest and possibly the most shameful one of all is that the Dalai Lama’s presence would distract from the 2010 World Cup and SA in general.
Accidental Academic though not altogether taken by the Dalai Lama himself whose ‘resistance’ he describes as:‘A luxurious first-class passive resistance guise was a thing that died with Gandhi, Luthuli and John Lennon’ and ‘a jet-setting freedom fighter who won’t fight.’ Nonetheless he is in agreement that the refusal of a visa is a despicable act that ignores the liberation struggle and the need for solidarity with oppressed peoples.
BlackLooks reports on a recently published book, Literature Police, which examines the censoring and banning of books during Apartheid. In The Literature Police: Apartheid Censorship and its Cultural Consequences Peter D. McDonald has brought back to life those banned books, the mindset of the censors as well as some of the subversive methods used to try to counter the book police.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at www.pambazuka.org/.
Kung Fu Diplomacy
Sanusha Naidu and Stephen Marks
Such reasoning baffled many, as did the contradictory statements about the timing of the visit by the Dalai Lama being ‘inappropriate’ and ‘not in the national interest’ of South Africa. What is clear, though, is that the decision-makers had committed a diplomatic faux pas, which has resulted in the South African government actually attracting more attention to the Tibetan issue. All of which has led to speculation about China’s apparent role in shaping this decision - reinforced by reports that the PRC Embassy had advised the South African government that inviting the Dalai Lama would affect bilateral economic ties between the two countries.
Whatever the motivations for this decision, the issue has certainly brought into focus the question of whether China’s policy of non-interference and respect for the sovereignty of other countries is contradictory and perhaps puts Beijing’s own sovereignty ahead of others: “All countries should respect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and oppose Tibetan independence. We appreciate relevant countries' measures," according to foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang
While it is true that each country should defend its own sovereignty and territorial integrity, which must be respected by others, the concern that the Dalai Lama issue has unleashed is not being interpreted in this way. And the outcry surrounding it has raised several issues that are relevant not only for South Africa’s relationship with China but also for the broader African engagement.
First, the vagueness as to why the Dalai Lama’s visit was considered not in South Africa’s best national interest provided an opening for all kinds of ‘smoke and mirror’ explanations. A recent radio debate on the issue revealed that domestic public perceptions are definitely leaning towards the impression that China’s economic largesse is preventing the South African government from implementing independent foreign policy choices. This was reinforced by irate callers’ outbursts that ‘China is Africa’s new coloniser’, ‘The one who pays the Piper calls the tune’ and the more famous one ‘The South African government has sold out to the Chinese’.
It is unclear whether there is any causal link with the agreement signed between the ANC and the Chinese Communist Party in late 2008. But there are insinuations that Beijing has provided financial support for the ANC’s election campaign. Some commentators have also seen the launch of the South African branch of the China-Africa Development Fund as an ANC-led deal Such ‘coincidences’ have not done much to reassure the South Africa public that the government exercised its independent judgement in making this decision.
This leads to a second consideration; who are the actual decision-makers on these kinds of issues and especially in determining what is in South Africa’s national interest? Already there is confusion as whether this decision was made with the full approval of the South African cabinet. Barbara Hogan, the current Health Minister, has publicly disapproved of the decision and argued that ‘the very fact that this government has refused entry to the Dalai Lama is an example of a government [that] is dismissive of human rights’ and ‘needs to apologise to the citizens of this country., because it is in your name that this great man who has struggled for the rights of his country... has been denied access’
And herein lies the dilemma, which confronts many African governments when it comes to transparency in their relations whether with China or any other actor. The reticence displayed and the nonchalant reactions by most African governments that has been clearly demonstrated by the South African government is what frustrates African civil society actors and leads them to draw sinister conclusions about the Africa-China engagement. It is an unfortunate situation and often met with untenable consequences, which harnesses and at times unleashes the most virulent form of anti-chinese backlash within African societies. Consider the security threat that Chinese workers face in some African countries such as Ethiopia and Nigeria.
This is the situation that results when the policy choices African governments make and the results that follow contradict their rhetoric. In cautioning that the debacle surrounding the Dalai Lama issue will test the credibility of South Africa’s foreign policy by walking the ‘tightrope between human rights and geopolitical imperatives’ Francis Kornegay went so far as to claim that South Africa’s decision on the Dalai Lama, ‘could be seen as signaling the continent’s subordination to China as Beijing’s moves inexorably to incorporate Africa into a 21st-century version of its ancient tributary system’.
Here the debate on Africa’s China engagement enters uncharted waters: does Africa have a China policy? Or is it being made up along the way? Who are the real winners in this relationship? Whose interests are being entrenched? And what about the social justice struggles of ordinary citizens in this engagement?
Such questions reinforce perceptions that the Africa-China engagement is elite driven, thereby crowding out the voice of ordinary African people and communities where the impact is felt most.
So what lessons can be drawn from this situation?
There are obvious implications concerning the geopolitical direction of South Africa’s foreign policy, transparency in political party funding, and the relative weight of economics as against questions of human rights. But leaving these aside, the fundamental lesson is that the Africa-China engagement needs to be recast so as to counter the impression that it does not offer a viable alternative (as most African governments and Beijing would like us think), but rather ends up being more of the same.
This means that respect for national sovereignty is as much a right for China as it is for African governments. Second, that exercising this right does not have to mean going to extremes and compromising the rights of ordinary African citizens who may have different opinions around certain issues; but rather realizing that there can be unity in diversity. Third, and most significant is understanding that consequences arising from other country’s actions (for example the Chinese freezing of relations with France following President Sarkozy’s meeting with the Dalai Lama), should not viewed as a precedent. Depending on how policy choices are interpreted and pragmatically implemented by both sides, diplomatic relations can survive public differences on this and other issues. A case in point is British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, who was in Britain as a guest of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Brown visited him at the Archbishop’s place, but did not receive him at the Prime Minister’s official residence in Downing Street – thus making the diplomatic point that he was meeting him as a religious, not a political figure. There was no rupture in relations with Beijing.
But the greatest challenge in recasting the Africa-China engagement is to remember the ordinary African people in this relationship. If, as Mr. Chen Yuan, Chairman of the Board of the China Development Bank, said at the opening of the Bank’s South Africa office, the China-Africa Development Fund ‘will encourage Chinese companies to invest in multiple industries, leading to an improved quality of life for residents throughout Africa’, then the first step towards this should definitely not be Kung Fu diplomacy.
* Sanusha Naidu is Research Director with Fahamu’s China in Africa Project
*Stephen Marks is Research Associate and Project Co-ordinator with Fahamu’s China in Africa Project
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/
Beninese president meets Chinese assistant FM on ties
Beninese President Boni Yayi met with Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun here Wednesday. Yayi said Benin and China have a deep-rooted friendship and the Beninese government and people thank China for its long-term aid. He said the Beninese government will continue to adhere to the one-China policy. Benin hopes to establish and develop a comprehensive partnership of cooperation with China, enlarge collaboration in the fields of infrastructure and social development, and enhance bilateral relations, Yayi said.
China to open malaria control center in Cameroon
Chinese officials plan to open a malaria research center in the Cameroonian capital of Yaounde, Shen Yi, a Chinese embassy official, said recently ahead of an opening ceremony for the center, Xinhuanet reports. The center is expected to cost three million Chinese yuan, or about $440,000, Xinhuanet reports. China also plans to send four malaria experts to Cameroon for 50 days, Shen said. Shen added that China sends a team of malaria experts to Cameroon annually but that the team plans to work with a Cameroonian team this year to share China's experience in controlling the disease.
Mozambique, SA to build $620m fuel pipeline
A Mozambican and South African consortium, Petroline Holdings, plans to start building a $620-million oil pipeline linking Johannesburg to the port of Maputo before the end of this year. Mateus Kathupa, CEO of state-run Mozambican company PETROMOC, which holds a 40% stake in the consortium, said on Thursday the construction of the petrol and diesel pipeline would take six months.
Four charged for over-harvesting limpets
Four Chinese nationals have been caught red-handed while over-harvesting limpets worth N$21 680 in Walvis Bay around the Mola Mola and NamPort areas. According to the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Control Fisheries, Michael Koopman, the Chinese nationals tried to run away, but the fisheries inspectors eventually caught up with them and brought them in for questioning.
‘China’s investments offer little value’
China’s so-called investments in Namibia bring very little, if any, skill and technology transfers, neither do such investments play a significant role in developing the country’s value addition and manufacturing base. This is according to a new report on Chinese Investments in Namibia. The report lays bare the murky Chinese investments and more importantly Government’s ineptitude to set strategic priorities on which to negotiate foreign direct investment
Chinese premier stresses clean governance amid economic slowdown
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao Tuesday urged tougher prevention and punishment on corruption, saying "China faced the toughest year in its economic development since the turn of the century." Localities and departments should step up supervision over corruption, regulate the use of executive power, tackle persistent problems that harm public interest and accelerate construction of a system to prevent and punish corruption to provide a solid guarantee for reform, development and stability, Wen told a conference on clean governance.
As Chinese investments in Africa drop, so does hope
Chinese and Guinean workers toil shoulder to shoulder on a sun-blasted construction site at this crumbling city's edge, building the latest symbol of an old and sturdy alliance: a $50 million, 50,000-seat stadium. This city is littered with such tokens of a friendship that first flowered when Guinea was an isolated and struggling socialist state in the late 1950s.
Congo to push forward with $9 bln Chinese contract
Democratic Republic of Congo will push ahead with a $9 billion Chinese mining and infrastructure package despite pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which believes the deal will add to Congo's debt mountain, a top government official said on Monday. Under the 2007 agreement, Congo will receive much-needed roads, railways, hospitals and schools while China secures billions of dollars worth of lucrative copper and cobalt reserves it needs to feed its export-driven economy.
China breaks ground in ‘south-south’ agricultural cooperation, UN agency says
In creating a $30 million trust fund to boost the food output of developing countries, China has cemented its role as a major global player in cooperation between developing countries, the United Nations agricultural agency said today. “This historic agreement underlines the importance of the role which China has come to play in the global arena today,” José Maria Sumpsi Assistant Director-General of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said after signing an agreement with the Chinese Vice-Minister for Agriculture.
The G20 summit in London will be missing one great power. Guess who?
When President Barack Obama comes to London next week, he will find one great power missing at the world's summit table: Europe. Five of the 20 leaders at the G20 meeting will be Europeans, representing France, Germany, Britain, Italy and the EU, but the whole will be less than the sum of its parts. There will be plenty of Europeans but no Europe.
China's top legislator vows to advance relations with Seychelles
China's top legislator Wu Bangguo on Monday pledged to work with Seychelles to push forward relations between the two countries and their parliaments. Wu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, made the remarks when meeting with Seychelles National Assembly Speaker Patrick Herminie.
China deepens relationship with Africa
More opportunities for Chinese investment into Africa are to open up soon, with the announcement that China is to bolster its China-Africa Development Fund by an additional US$2-billion. The state-run equity fund has already invested in 20 projects, totalling a massive $400-million, in Africa since it was established in June 2007.
China provides humanitarian aid to DR Congo
Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) for a two-day visit during which he unveiled humanitarian aid to refugees in the central African country. Zhai and his Congolese counterpart Ignace Gata Mavita held talks before signing economic and trade agreements between the two countries, including 4 million RMB (about 600,000 U.S. dollars) in humanitarian aid to the refugees in the eastern part of the country.
Eritrea: President Holds Talks With PRC Delegation
President Isaias Afwerki has received and held talks at the Denden Hall with a delegation from the People's Republic of China (PRC) headed by Mr. Lu Quingcheng, Vice President of the China-Africa Development Fund. Briefing the delegation on the available wide-ranging investment opportunities in Eritrea in various sectors, the President pointed out that the Government has been giving top priority to the task of laying conducive ground for investment, and that encouraging accomplishments have been registered as regards putting in place the necessary infrastructure.
Chinese trade delegation visits Cote d'Ivoire
A delegation of the China Council for Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) arrived in Abidjan, the capital of Cote d'Ivoire, on Saturday for a three-day visit to follow up a blueprint set in 2006 between China and West African countries. The Chinese delegation headed by CCPIT Vice-Chairman Zhang Wei has been on a mission since March 14 to boost cooperation with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), according to a communiqué released by the regional bloc.
Chinese stockpiling spurs copper price rally
Copper stockpiling by a secretive Chinese state organisation has helped trigger an impressive rally of almost 35 per cent in the price of the metal this year. Copper’s fortunes are closely tied to the industrial cycle so the price jump, bigger than that of gold, has grabbed attention outside the commodities market, with some questioning whether it could signal a turning point for economic growth.
China can't pull world out of recession, says OECD
The west's leading economic thinktank expects "very negative" growth this year, its head has warned. However, Angel Gurría, secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, said in Beijing that China's gross domestic product would expand by 6-7% – below last November's forecast of 8%. The World Bank cut its growth forecast for China to 6.5% this week.
China calls for new reserve currency
China’s central bank on Monday proposed replacing the US dollar as the international reserve currency with a new global system controlled by the International Monetary Fund. In an essay posted on the People’s Bank of China’s website, Zhou Xiaochuan, the central bank’s governor, said the goal would be to create a reserve currency “that is disconnected from individual nations and is able to remain stable in the long run, thus removing the inherent deficiencies caused by using credit-based national currencies”.
Chinese government to establish hospital at Teshie
Chinese government is to make available a grant of seven million dollars for the construction of a 100-bed capacity general hospital in Ghana. The ultra modern hospital, to be sited at Teshie would also have an anti malaria centre and is scheduled to be completed in about two years. Mr Yu Wenzhe Ambassador of China made this known when he paid a courtesy call on the Health Minister Dr. George Sipa Yankey.
Reflect on China's responsibility
At the time when financial storm hit the entire world economy, China came to emerge in the global spotlight viewed as the Salvager to rescue the deepening downward spiral from meltdown, as it boasts bulky foreign exchange reserves and the steadily growing economy, decelerating right now, though.
China to add 1.8 mln barrels African crude to reserves
China will import 1.8 million barrels of African crude in April for the government's strategic reserve, said a trade source familiar with the transaction, as it capitalises on low prices to add to already swollen state stockpiles. The purchase, news of which comes after an industry official said in early March that China's emergency tanks are already filled to the brim, may suggest that stock levels have begun to ease after two months of low crude imports.
SACP backs ban on Dalai Lama
The SACP fully appreciates and accepts the decision by the South African government not to grant a visa for the Dali Lama visit at this time. We stand by our government on this matter. It is a well known fact that the month of March is a particularly sensitive period as it is associated with the Dalai Lama's putsch for cession of Tibet from China.
Biti takes fight to Gono
The war of attrition between Finance minister Tendai Biti and Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono intensified this week, raising fears it could disrupt the smooth operation of monetary and fiscal policies unless quickly resolved. Biti this week took the fight deep into Gono’s territory after he told cabinet that the central bank boss ran a parallel government structure at the height of his power which gobbled 45% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Zimbabwe 'to arrest land thieves'
Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has said that anyone invading farms will be arrested - in an apparent challenge to Robert Mugabe. Mr Tsvangirai said the recent land invasions "are actually acts of theft". President Mugabe has said that the government would continue to seize white-owned farms as part of his land reform policy.
Zimbabwe exiles start to return
Zimbabwean professionals, many of them teachers, are coming home and seeking readmission into the public service, in response to a move by the country’s new inclusive government to pay civil servants in foreign currency and relax conditions for rejoining the sector. The influx is a response to calls from President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai for the more than three million exiles, who sought refuge from their country’s chaotic economic situation in Southern African Development Community, SADC, countries and abroad, to return to Zimbabwe to help rebuild the country.
Zimbabwe: Truth and reconciliation commission will heal Zimbabwe: Mutsekwa
Giles Mutsekwa, Zimbabwe’s co-Home Affairs Minister, says a truth and reconciliation commission should be put in place as a way of promoting national healing in a country smarting from unprecedented politically-motivated violence. Mutsekwa told cheering supporters at a rally in Dangamvura township in Mutare those responsible for brutalising Zimbabweans should voluntarily come forward and apologize to the nation.
Zuma criticises West over Zimbabwe
South African ruling party leader Jacob Zuma on Friday criticised Western powers for holding back aid to Zimbabwe while President Robert Mugabe was still in power."This is very unfair to the Zimbabwean people. Because here is Mugabe, he is a factor. He is there. He leads a party that has been in government for over 20 years," Zuma told Reuters in an interview.
Africa: Gender and politics in the Horn of Africa: The Ethiopian experience.
It is often said: “If you do not take care of politics, it will take care of you anyway”. Politics is in the public sphere because it is supposed to take care of defining, guiding and deciding the course of everyone’s life. Whereas women contribute to society, their input is not recognized. They cannot be in charge of their own destiny because gender is artificially relegated to the private domain. Assuring domestic labor, raising children and feeding everyone is done by women all over the world, but this essential contribution is taken for granted.
Morocco: Public boarding schools help girls continue education
Girls living in Moroccan towns are five times more likely to remain in school as their rural peers. The national attendance rate is around 60%, but is only 16.5% for girls in isolated areas. Given that the distance between rural girls' homes and schools is the primary reason for the disparity, an innovative residential programme may be the solution to keeping girls in school for more than just six years of primary education, organisers recently told a Rabat forum.
South Africa: Election campaign silent on violence against women
With its emphasis on gender equality, the South African constitution is regarded as a great example for many other developing countries. Yet, despite laws intended to protect the rights of women like the Sexual Abuse Act and the Domestic Violence Act, women in the country still suffer indignities at the hands of police and in court. Lisa Vetten, a policy analyst at the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, an organisation that protects the rights of women, has been fighting for the rights of women for most of her life.
South Africa: Update on process regarding recognition of Muslim marriages
In 2003, the Muslim Marriages Bill (Bill) was submitted by the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) to the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development (Minister of Justice). Since then, to our knowledge, the Minister of Justice has not done anything to move forward with the Bill in the parliamentary process (even though the SALRC undertook four years of extensive consultations from 1999 to 2003 within the Muslim communities and broader civil society when it drafted the Bill and obtained a general consensus within the Muslim communities for the Bill).
Update on process regarding recognition of Muslim marriages
In 2003, the Muslim Marriages Bill (Bill) was submitted by the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) to the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development (Minister of Justice). Since then, to our knowledge, the Minister of Justice has not done anything to move forward with the Bill in the parliamentary process (even though the SALRC undertook four years of extensive consultations from 1999 to 2003 within the Muslim communities and broader civil society when it drafted the Bill and obtained a general consensus within the Muslim communities for the Bill). The Bill can be accessed at http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http://www.doj.gov.za%2Fsalrc%2Freports%2Fr_prj59_2003jul.pdf
The Women's Legal Centre (WLC) recently launched a class action in the Constitutional Court (Case No: CCT 13/09). They are asking the Court to compel the government to enact legislation within 18 months of the judgement being delivered to recognise Muslim marriages. One of their arguments is that the status quo is especially prejudicial to Muslim women.
The application is being opposed by the President, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Minister of Home Affairs, the Speaker of Parliament and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces. The primary basis for their opposition is that:
1) such an order would mean that the Court is interfering with legislative function and breaching the separation of powers rule;
2) there is not sufficient consensus within the Muslim communities yet for legislation to be enacted therefore they need more time to consult with the communities; and
3) Muslim women can access secular courts in the meantime for relief if they need to.
The government's arguments are being supported by an intervening application by a group called Lajnatun Nisaa-Il Muslimaat (Association of Muslim Women of South Africa) representing some Ulama groups. They also oppose the WLC's application. Although this is a group dominated by men, they use the names of some seemingly very small, not to mention previously unheard of, women's groupings to give the impression that these groups represent the views of all Muslim women in the country. They are arguing that legislation to recognise Muslim marriages is not necessary i.e. the status quo should remain as is.
Suggested Way Forward:
If the above group's representations assist government to succeed in their opposition to the WLC's class action then that would mean that government will be able to drag its feet indefinitely on enacting legislation to recognise Muslim marriages and legislation may never get enacted to recognise Muslim marriages.
Women's groups within the Muslim communities have all worked too hard on the Muslim Marriages Bill and it is too important to the lives of Muslim women for us to let that happen.
Therefore, we need to intervene in the action. Muslim women especially need to let the Court know:
1) that their are many Muslim women's groups in the country, other than the Lajnatun Nisaa-Il Muslimaat;
2) that these other groups view the situation very differently;
3) that many Muslim women were part of the 4 year consultation process of the SALRC, made submissions to it and have been eagerly awaiting the introduction of the Muslim Marriages Bill to Parliament;
4) that women have been undergoing serious hardships while awaiting the legislation (caused by the non-recognition of their Muslim marriages);
4) that women believe that the legislation is necessary; and finally
5) that the legislation is urgent for the interests of Muslim women in South Africa.
Essentially, Muslim women need to support the WLC's class action asking the Court to compel the government to enact legislation to recognise Muslim marriages.
Zimbabwe: Girl Child Network celebrates 10th anniversary
Girl Child Network (GCN) turns 10 years on 21 March 2009, and in this regard, girls, GCN staff, stakeholders and friends in Zimbabwe are all looking back and reflecting on this noble path travelled. All of us are busy preparing for the official commemoration of GCN’s 10th Anniversary scheduled for 28 March 2009. A summarised informative document regarding GCN’s work and the commemoration will be issued soon by GCN’s Communications and Development Office, which will also include the program of the day.
GCN’S MESSAGE TO THE WORLD ON ITS 10TH ANNIVESARY, 21 MARCH 2009!
Girl Child Network (GCN) turns 10 years on 21 March 2009, and in this regard, girls, GCN staff, stakeholders and friends in Zimbabwe are all looking back and reflecting on this noble path travelled. All of us are busy preparing for the official commemoration of GCN’s 10th Anniversary scheduled for 28 March 2009. A summarised informative document regarding GCN’s work and the commemoration will be issued soon by GCN’s Communications and Development Office, which will also include the program of the day. As we joyfully celebrate this, we all reflect and cherish the great and amazing work for tens of thousands of girls in Zimbabwe by GCN as a community based, developmental non-governmental organisation registered in Zimbabwe, and the visionary and passionate work of Betty Hazviperi Makoni, the Founding Executive Director for GCN, who has also emotionally and successfully fought for and defended girls and women’s rights over the past decade. Accordingly and befittingly, girls, all children, women, GCN funding partners, stakeholders and friends the world over, are sincerely invited and called upon to join in these all-important celebrations which significantly mark a decade of girls’ emancipation in Zimbabwe. For GCN, the decade’s motto has been, ‘For the Girl Child, the Sky is the limit!’ Indeed, the sky has been the only limit as thousands of girls have been empowered by GCN’s strategic empowerment programs and now walk in the fullness of their potential as future women achievers and leaders.
Inserted by the GCN Communications and Development Office in Zimbabwe
Head Office Contact Details
14 Fowey Road, Vainona, Harare 16352 Bazooka Crescent
Telephone: (263-4) 882 827/291 6147 Zengeza 4, Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe
Mobile: (263) 91 228 251/ 91 228 255 Telephone: (263) 4 293 0448
Email: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Global: UN Human Rights Council Tenth Session - Statement on killings
At this session, this Council has heard about the tragic killing of three persons.
Edwin Legarda was shot to death on 16 December 2008 by members of the Colombian armed forces shortly after his wife, Aida Quilcué, had been active at the third session of the UPR Working Group in connection with its review of Colombia.
On 5 March 2009, Oscar Kingara and Paul Oulu were murdered - soon after meeting the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions during his mission to Kenya in February 2009.
23 March 2009
UN Human Rights Council Tenth Session (2 – 27 March 2009) Item 5
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA),
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS),
Lutheran World Federation, and
World Organisation against Torture (OMCT)
Amnesty International speaks on behalf of six organisations.1
Human rights bodies and mechanisms depend on cooperation with individuals and organisations to fulfil their mandates. This statement will address reprisals against individuals and organisations cooperating with United Nations human rights bodies and mechanisms.
At this session, this Council has heard about the tragic killing of three persons.
Edwin Legarda was shot to death on 16 December 2008 by members of the Colombian armed forces shortly after his wife, Aida Quilcué, had been active at the third session of the UPR Working Group in connection with its review of Colombia.
On 5 March 2009, Oscar Kingara and Paul Oulu were murdered - soon after meeting the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions during his mission to Kenya in February 2009.
We condemn the killings of Edwin Legarda, Oscar Kingara and Paul Oulu, and look forward to the completion of the investigations of the investigations into their killings and the prosecution of those persons responsible for their deaths.
We welcome the Colombian commitment, expressed to this Council by H.E. Vice-President Santos Calderón, the Colombian Ambassador and Dr. Franco, to investigate the killing of Mr. Legarda and to hold accountable those responsible for his death.
We appreciate that Kenya has informed this Council that there will be a thorough investigation into the killing of Mr. Kingara and Mr. Oulu. We welcome that the Deputy High Commissioner brought their killing promptly to this Council’s attention.
When a government or persons acting with governmental complicity take reprisals against a person or organisation cooperating with a United Nations human rights body or mechanism, they directly challenge the authority of the United Nations. This Council should take a particular interest in all incidents of reprisal. It must not tolerate any such affront to its authority.
1 Amnesty International, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Franciscans International, the Lutheran World
Federation and World Organisation against Torture (OMCT).
We urge this Council to build on the example set by Colombia and Kenya. Whenever there is a credible allegation of a reprisal for cooperation with any United Nations human rights body or mechanism, this Council should demand that the government concerned inform it of measures to investigate the allegation and the outcomes of the investigation and any eventual prosecution of the perpetrators. The High Commissioner for Human Rights should bring all credible allegations of reprisal to the immediate attention of the Council.
Thank you Mr. President.
Kenya: Swiftly enact special tribunal
The Kenyan government should urgently renew efforts to revise and enact bills to create a special tribunal to try those responsible for last year's election violence, Human Rights Watch said today. The organization also issued a memo explaining the procedures of the International Criminal Court in relation to the special tribunal.
Nigeria: Justice for Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni People
On April 27, 2009 the Ogoni people of Nigeria will finally have their chance at justice when the families of famed activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues, who were sentenced to death in a sham trial in Nigeria and hanged in 1995, will show that Royal Dutch Shell was at the very least complicit in their deaths and likely colluded with the Nigerian military to quell peaceful protests through murder, torture and destruction of villages. The plaintiffs’ attorneys will use a U.S. law on the books since 1789 called the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) that allows violations of international law to be tried in U.S. courts.
Zimbabwe: HRW calls for rights reform
Zimbabwe's new inclusive government should carry out comprehensive justice reforms without delay to ensure accountability for past abuses, the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday. The New York-based organisation noted that as the first year anniversary for Zimbabwe’s controversial elections approached on March 29, the country’s neighbours should take the opportunity to press the unity government to demonstrate its commitment to human rights reforms before releasing development aid.
CAR: Refugees continue fleeing into Chad
More than 100 CAR refugees crossed the volatile border to south-eastern Chad over the weekend, joining over 6,800 others who began arriving earlier this year in two sites near the remote Daha village registered by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Another 2,500 new arrivals are sheltering just across the border in the Chadian village of Massambaye, 125 kilometres east of Daha.
Egypt: Refugee girl sexually harassed
Last week, a Sudanese refugee girl was sexually harassed in the street, while waiting for a taxi in the Al Haram district. A taxi driver pulled up and verbally and physically harassed her. When she accused him of verbally and physically harassing her, he drove his car towards and hit her with the car repeatedly. She attempted to desperately defend herself, but did not have time to do so. The taxi driver then grabbed her arm and hand and began moving the taxi.
Sudanese Refugee Girl Sexually Harassed in Public Street
Last week, a Sudanese refugee girl was sexually harassed in the street, while waiting for a taxi in the Al Haram district.
A taxi driver pulled up and verbally and physically harassed her. When she accused him of verbally and physically harassing her, he drove his car towards and hit her with the car repeatedly. She attempted to desperately defend herself, but did not have time to do so. The taxi driver then grabbed her arm and hand and began moving the taxi. She could not release herself from his grasp and was dragged through the street. She fainted.
After regaining consciousness, she discovered bystanders were able to write the number of the taxi.
Egyptian Foundation for Refugee Rights’ lawyers filed a police report against the assaulter, and will follow through on legal procedures…
This Sudanese refugee wonders:
“Who can protect us…? Why are we treated in this way, without protection?”
Egyptian Foundation for Refugee Rights
Kenya: Thousands of Somali refugees face humanitarian crisis
Hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees will face a humanitarian emergency this year, unless urgent steps are taken to deal with a serious public health crisis unfolding in the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya, international agency Oxfam has warned in a new report.
South Africa: Zim refugees sent from pillar to post
Some lie awkwardly splayed on the stairs while others sleep in a neat row outside a church in Johannesburg from where Zimbabwean refugees will soon find themselves having to relocate again. The Methodist Church, in the city centre, has long been a popular destination for thousands of Zimbabweans fleeing their country's political and economic woes and more recently a devastating cholera crisis.
Southern Angola: Angolans resist voluntary repatriation
Angolan refugees in Zambia’s Western Province have resisted voluntary repatriation despite their country's political stability and the on-going national economic reconstruction, the UN refugees agency report has revealed. According to the voluntary repatriation intention survey conducted by United Nations High Commission for Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Zambian government at Mayukwayukwa Refugee Settlement, results showed that only 251 had expressed interest to repatriate out of the 10,000 in the camps.
Kenya: Impunity Day
March 24, 2009 is Impunity Day in Kenya - the Human Rights Defenders Day. It was the 24th day of March in 1996, when Daniel arap Moi’s State assassinated our dear Karimi Nduthu. Karimi Nduthu had just finalized an investigative report into the state sponsored ethnic clashes of 1992 and 1993 which targeted targeting ethnic populations of the Gikuyu, Kisii, Luo and Luyha in Rift Valley, Nyanza, Western and Coast Provinces.
South Africa: Child denied medical attention
The Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign decided at its provincial meeting to take up the case of the deceased one year old, Unabantu Mali, who died on her grandmothers back last week after being turned away from three clinics in Nyanga, Gugulethu and KTC. Unabantu's grandmother walked from Nyanga East to Gugulethu to KTC, barefoot, seeking help for Unabantu and being rejected at each clinic. She had no money to get to Red Cross hospital.
South Africa: NGOs in court bid to derail pardons for apartheid crimes
This week a group of South African non-governmental organisations filed papers in the Pretoria High Court to prevent President Kgalema Motlanthe from granting pardons to prisoners serving sentences for apartheid-era political crimes. These individuals were all found guilty and sentenced by a court of law, and did not apply for amnesty before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Now the government wants to give those who thumbed their noses at the TRC, or failed to qualify for amnesty, a second chance in what is presented as an attempt to deal with the TRC's unfinished business.
South Africa: No money, No justice
In South Africa, if you are poor your right to justice through the legal system is often denied. If you don't have money for lawyers its hard to get justice. Therefore, the law is for the rich because they have ample money to buy 'justice'. Landlords who have money can afford to try and evict people continuously by accessing the courts and paying the best lawyers to throw people out of their houses. In South Africa, communities don't have money to continuously go to court to fight for, what should be, their basic rights. In the legal system, you are discriminated against if you are poor.
Woodstock Anti-Eviction Campaign Press Release
Wednesday 24th of March, 2009
In South Africa, if you are poor your right to justice through the legal system is often denied. If you don't have money for lawyers its hard to get justice. Therefore, the law is for the rich because they have ample money to buy 'justice'. Landlords who have money can afford to try and evict people continuously by accessing the courts and paying the best lawyers to throw people out of their houses. In South Africa, communities don't have money to continuously go to court to fight for, what should be, their basic rights. In the legal system, you are discriminated against if you are poor.
Take the example of Gympie Street. The landlord has taken the residents of Gympie Street to court over and over in order to evict them. This seems to be a strategy to drain the community of resources, so that in the end they won't have any money to pay for lawyers and gain access to the courts and resist anymore. Indeed, the people of Gympie Street have already spent more than R 45 000 on legal costs. This is outrageous considering that the people of Gympie Street are already poor. The legal costs of Gympie Street also show no sign of slowing. The landlord has now taken two houses in the Street to court again. Each household now has to come up with R 8 000 each for legal costs in order to defend their right to decent housing. This is going to be very difficult considering these households are impoverished. Obviously, targeting these two households alone is a tactic by the landlord to divide the community and place the financial burden of the legal costs onto these two families. No doubt the landlord plans to use this tactic to pick each household off one by one. In the end, the landlord wants every household to be drained of the little resources that they have, so he can kick them out of their houses.
The case of the two households has been set for the 7th of April. We call on all social movements, trade unions and NGOs etc. to come to the Cape Town Magistrate's Court on the day in solidarity with Gympie Street.
For more information or if you wish to provide any kind of assistance contact:
Willy Heyn (Woodstock Anti-Eviction Campaign) 073 144 3619
Africa: Turning elections into a development asset
How can elections be turned into a development asset in Africa? This study by the Institute of Security Studies argues that in order for elections to become a real asset, African countries need to implement effective decentralisation, including the empowerment of local communities within a rationalised national plan. If they can do this they will also prevent conflicts and achieve increased national self-confidence and self-empowerment in relation to the global politico-economic and strategic environment.
Gambia: Opposition leader released
A prominent Gambian opposition figure arrested on 8 March and later charged with sedition and spying, was unconditionally released on Friday. Halifa Sallah is believed to have been arrested for articles he wrote for the main opposition newspaper Foroyya, which claimed that witch doctors accompanied by members of the army, police and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) including “the green boys” - Gambian President Yahya Jammeh's personal protection guards - were identifying people as witches.
Madagascar: Pressure on for new leader
Supporters of Madagascar's former President Marc Ravalomanana are staging daily street protests - just one indication that Africa's youngest president has a tough road ahead of him.
Mauritania: Political crisis deepens
Mauritania's political crisis worsened this week, following a statement by French Minister of Foreign Affairs Bernard Kouchner. In a March 20th interview with Jeune Afrique, Kouchner stated that General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Chairman of the High Council of State, "has to take off his military uniform at least 45 days before the presidential election that is slated for June 6th, 2009".
Uganda: Peers now pin Museveni over 'poor governance'
The lack of strong political institutions and the over-bearing influence of the Executive are reversing Uganda's democratic gains, a new report says.Launched in Kampala, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) country review report remains critical of the 2005 lifting of Presidential term limits particularly the process of removal which coincided with a Shs5 million payment to MPs.
West Africa: Guinea-Bissau 'can't afford poll'
Guinea-Bissau cannot afford to hold elections following the assassination of its president earlier this month, Cape Verde's prime minister says. Cape Verde is helping co-ordinate efforts to restore order in its fellow former Portuguese colony. According to the constitution, polls should be held within 60 days.
Africa: Mining companies accused of tax dodges
Mining companies routinely deprive African countries of huge amounts of tax revenue that could be used to combat poverty, a new report reveals. Breaking the Curse: How Transparent Taxation and Fair Taxes can Turn Africa’s Mineral Wealth into Development highlights the methods mining companies use to pay as little tax as possible.
Guniea: Fighting impunity with impunity
The National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD), led by military junta head Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, arrested three former ministers of the late President Lansana Conté on 23 March for allegedly embezzling national funds, but human rights officials say the nature of the arrests shows impunity continues
Africa: Trade could drop by up to 25%
African trade could fall by up to 25 percent in 2009/10 from last year’s commodity-driven highs, senior executives from the African Export Import Bank (Afreximbank) said yesterday. The Cairo-based Bank has 33 African shareholders, and finances and promotes intra- and extra-Africa trade. “Last year was a very good year for Africa because of very high commodity prices... that got total African trade close to $800 billion”, Okey Oramah, Vice President of the trade finance bank, told Reuters in Cape Town.
Global: Civil society shows its muscle
Governments made their pledges over the Millennium Development Goals agreed in 2000, but it is civil society that could, more than anyone else, hold them to that promise. Salil Shetty, a civil society man coming as the head of ActionAid to head the UN millennium campaign, believes civil society has moved in from the margins; it is now at the heart of the world campaign for delivering these, and other rights.
Global: G20: Thousands expected to march peacefully for jobs, justice and climate
Thousands of people from across the UK will march through central London tomorrow (Saturday 28 March) ahead of the G20 summit to demand decent jobs and public services for all, an end to global poverty and inequality, and a green economy. At a rally in Hyde Park, they will hear calls for a co-ordinated fiscal stimulus to create and preserve jobs, international action to ensure that an out of control finance sector never threatens the stability of the global economy again and a commitment from world leaders that they will move to a low carbon economy.
Zambia: Can IMF plug the looming crisis?
Zambia is reckoned to be the 13th poorest country in the world. Sixty-four per cent of the people live in poverty. More than one in six children die before their fifth birthday, and if you live to the age of 42 you are doing better than average. Britain is the largest bilateral donor to Zambia, providing £40mn a year. But what Britain and the rest of the developed world provide may not be enough to stop an increase in children dying because of the global recession.
Africa: Obama lifts suspension on contraceptive supply
U.S President Barrack Obama has reversed a decision by his predecessor George Bush to ban the supply of contraceptives to seven African based family planning organizations. The ban had initially disrupted the supply of family planning materials by Marie Stopes International to Zambia, Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Africa: Women naturally vulnerable to STIs
Society's expectations and presentation of women make them more vulnerable to catching sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) and HIV, participants at Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAFAids) workshop heard last week. One of the facilitators, Lillian Chikara from SAFAids said there was need for women and girls to be empowered for them to make informed decisions when negotiating safe sex.
Global: TB causes a quarter of HIV deaths
Around one-quarter of deaths in people with HIV worldwide were caused by TB in 2007, the World Health Organization said today. Around 450,000 people with HIV died of TB in 2007, WHO estimates, and there were 1.4 million HIV-positive TB cases. HIV-positive people are around 20 times more likely to develop TB than HIV-negative people in countries with a high HIV prevalence.
Kenya: From the classroom to the bedroom
For the past year, Karen Awuor*, 15, has had a new daily ritual– taking antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. She discovered she was HIV positive during an unintended pregnancy that forced her to drop out of school; her baby died after just four months. “When I was in class seven, I got into a relationship with one of my teachers; he promised to pay my school fees if I agreed to be his wife,” she told IRIN/PlusNews.
Somalia: Religious leaders fight stigma
When three attempts to cure Abdulhakim*, 42, of tuberculosis failed, the father of nine living in Hargeisa, capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland in northwestern Somalia, took his doctor's advice and tested for HIV - the result came back positive. His family's reaction was predictable: his brothers stopped grazing their goats and sheep alongside his, and many of his relatives wouldn't touch him. "My wife and children are the only ones who have stood by my side," he told IRIN/PlusNews.
Southern Africa: Politicians failed to address HIV
Parliamentarians across the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have failed to put HIV on the political agenda. "Considering SADC is at the epicentre of the HIV pandemic, not enough is being done to address it. HIV has a very negative impact on [the region’s] development," lamented SADC Parliamentary Forum secretary general Dr. Kasuko Mutukwa at a media briefing in Zambia’s capital Lusaka on Mar. 18.
Tanzania: Researchers trial safe sex phone messaging
Tanzanian researchers will investigate whether mobile phone technology can be used to encourage safer sex among homosexual men. The project aims to give homosexual men information about HIV/AIDS via their mobile phone's short message service (SMS) in the dominant language, Kiswahili.
Zimbabwe: WOZA members engage schools in Bulawayo directly on education issues
Members directly engaged schools in Bulawayo on issues of education as part of an ongoing campaign to demand affordable education for all children. Community-based demonstrations were held at five schools in Bulawayo whilst representative groups met with school heads at another five schools to outline the concerns of parents. These activities will be duplicated across Bulawayo at other schools in coming days.
Morocco: Authorities clamp down on homosexuals
Moroccan authorities want to strictly confront all practices and suppress all brochures, books and publications that seek to undermine the country's religious and ethical values. A statement issued by the Ministry of Interior on March 21st revealed the full scope of the government's agenda: to "preserve citizens' ethics and defend our society against all irresponsible actions that mar our identity and culture".
South Africa: Bureaucracy blocks child adoption by homosexuals
While shelters are bursting at the seams with children in need of care, bureaucracy, by children’s institutions, is hindering many homosexual parents from giving love to those who need it most. The present economic climate has, according to child adoption agencies, also seen a drop in the number of applicants wanting to adopt, as people are uncertain about the future.
Zambia: Vice President warns gays
Vice president George Kunda on Friday charged in parliament that the government was aware of some people who had married to hide their homosexual activities. Answering a question from Chadiza MMD member of parliament Allan Mbewe during the vice president’s question and answer session, on what government was doing to curb homosexuality in the country, vice-president Kunda said the laws available were stiff enough to punish such people.
East Africa: The dam that divides Ethiopians
Most people in Ethiopia's lower Omo River Valley continue to exist much as they have done for hundreds of years with virtually no concession to the 21st Century, with one disturbing exception: automatic weapons. Almost every male carries a Kalashnikov or an M-16 assault rifle, and what might in the past have been a fairly innocuous dispute over grazing or water-rights between different groups, now frequently escalates into bloody warfare.
West Africa: Parliamentarians take on climate change
Some of the 50 parliamentarians from across West Africa attending a conference on climate change, and food and water security held in Dakar on 25 and 26 March, looked uncomfortable when presented with a picture of a banana with a watermelon-coloured peel and an elephant with a cabbage head. “This is what you think genetically modified organisms (GMO) look like, right?” asked the plant breeding expert, Marcel Galiba. “I want you to reconsider,” he challenged the lawmakers.
Africa: AGRA’s VP calls for increased investment in agriculture
Alliance for Green Revolution for Africa's Vice President for Policy and Partnerships, called on African governments to commit to investing in agriculture. Speaking at a meeting hosted by UN Commission on Sustainable Development in Windhoek , Namibia , Dr Akinwumi Adesina, Dr Adesina warned, ‘the next food crisis must not catch the continent by surprise.’
Africa: Better food safety crucial
Africa must protect its food supplies from contamination by prioritising and investing in food production systems, says Ruth Oniang'o, editor-in-chief of the African Journal of Food Agriculture Nutrition and Development. January 2009 saw Kenya destroy US$8 million worth of maize — the country's staple food — after it was found to be contaminated with aflatoxin. But it seems the government agency concerned was more worried about recouping storage costs than righting its failures, says Oniang'o.
Africa: IFC partners AGRA to boost agricultural growth
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has partnered with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in Nairobi to unlock credit and financing for small-scale farmers and agribusinesses across sub-Saharan Africa. The organisation will expand AGRA's existing innovative financing projects to reach more countries and key stakeholders in the African agricultural value chain.
Global: Chronically hungry passes 1bn
The number of chronically hungry people has surpassed the 1bn mark for the first time as the economic crisis compounds the impact of high food prices, the United Nations’ top agriculture official has warned.In an interview with the Financial Times, Jacques Diouf, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, warned that the increasing numbers of undernourished people could trigger political instability in developing countries.
Number of chronically hungry tops 1bn
By Javier Blas in London
Published: March 26 2009 22:11 | Last updated: March 26 2009 22:11
The number of chronically hungry people has surpassed the 1bn mark for the first time as the economic crisis compounds the impact of high food prices, the United Nations’ top agriculture official has warned.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Jacques Diouf, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, warned that the increasing numbers of undernourished people could trigger political instability in developing countries.
“The issue of world food security is an issue of peace and national security,” he said, urging world leaders who are discussing ways to resolve the economic crisis not to forget that last year more than 30 countries suffered food riots.
The Rome-based organisation estimated last year that about 960m people were chronically hungry in 2008. Mr Diouf said that had since risen and “unfortunately, we are already quoting a number of 1bn people on average for this year”.
Before the food crisis started in 2007, there were less than 850m chronically hungry people in the world, a level that has been roughly constant since the early 1990s owing to the global fight against poverty and countries such as China lifting their economic growth.
Mr Diouf’s assessment signals that the food and economic crisis have reversed the past quarter-century’s slow but constant decline in the proportion of undernourished people as a percentage of the developing world’s population.
The percentage fell from 20 per cent in 1990-92 to a low of just below 16 per cent in the 2003-05 period. But with 1bn people chronically hungry now, the percentage has risen to almost 18 per cent.
As a consequence, the FAO’s director-general proposed ditching the UN’s Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of the world’s undernourished by 2015 and replacing it with a target of “eradicating hunger by 2025”. He said to meet that aim, the world should learn from the mistakes of the 1990s, when investment in agriculture fell sharply, paving the way for the surge in food prices of the past two and a half years.
Mr Diouf is pressing world leaders for a summit in Rome in November to tackle the roots of food insecurity, rather than to continue reacting to every crisis with ad hoc measures. “The food crisis is not over,” he said, warning that although international benchmark prices for major agricultural commodities such as wheat, corn, rice and soyabean had fallen from last year’s peak, they remained almost 30 per cent above the 2005 level. He added that domestic prices in developing countries had not tracked the drop in international prices as their crops had been disappointing.
Now, he said, “the financial crisis is worsening the situation by increasing unemployment, limiting the credit for trading [agricultural commodities] and lowering remittances, which in poor countries were used to purchase food”.
“Combining all the elements we are in a very unstable situation,” he added.
At the proposed summit, Mr Diouf said that world leaders should commit to investing in agriculture, particularly in the developing world, as the rise in the world’s population from today’s 6.5bn people to 9bn by 2050 will mean the world needs to double its current food output.
He added that leaders also should agree to revive the FAO’s Committee on World Food Security, elevating it to ministerial level to “allow policy decisions [to] be made”.
Mr Diouf said that several heads of state and governments already back its idea of a summit in November to tackle the food problem. Previous summits, however, have yielded few policy results.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009
West Africa: Mali to spend CFA F239b on increased food production
Mali has projected a budget of CFA F 239 billion (US$475 million) for the 2009-2010 'agricultural campaign' aimed at raising the production of rice, maize and wheat, government sources told PANA here Wednesday.
Morocco: Independent newspaper fined twice
The Casablanca court of appeals in Morocco should overturn two suspended jail sentences and fines of an independent newspaper, the Committee to Protect Journalists has said. On Monday, a court in Casablanca sentenced Managing Editor Ali Anouzla and Publishing Director Jamal Boudouma of the independent daily Al-Jarida al-Oula to two-month suspended jail terms each and a fine of 200,000 dirhams (US$24,190) for "defamation" and "insulting the judiciary," according to local news reports. Anouzla said his lawyer will appeal the ruling as soon as he receives a copy of the decision.
Nigeria: Bureau chief released
On 24 March 2009, Akin Orimolade, the Abuja bureau chief of "National Life" newspaper, regained his freedom after one week of detention, when a Magistrate's Court sitting in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, rescinded a warrant of arrest issued for him and two others over a publication involving Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa state.
Senegal: The IFJ calls on government to dialogue with media owners
The IFJ has called on the Senegalese Government to dialogue with media companies following the threat to close private radios and televisions stations for nonpayment of licenses fees. “This is a serious threat on jobs for journalists and on press freedom. Indeed, it is surprising that this decision was made on a Sunday, the day of election, when the provisional results were not favorable to the government” declared Mr. Gabriel Baglo, Director of IFJ Africa Office.
The IFJ calls on The Senegalese Government to dialogue with media owners
The IFJ has called on the Senegalese Government to dialogue with media companies following the threat to close private radios and televisions stations for nonpayment of licenses fees.
“This is a serious threat on jobs for journalists and on press freedom. Indeed, it is surprising that this decision was made on a Sunday, the day of election, when the provisional results were not favorable to the government” declared Mr. Gabriel Baglo, Director of IFJ Africa Office.
The Agency for Telecommunications and Postal Regulation (ARTP) issued a statement on Sunday, March 22, during the electoral evening to urge private radios and televisions to immediately pay their royalties or their frequencies withdrawn.
Precisely during the election day while senegalese citizens were exercising their democratic right through local elections, the ARTP announces the decision which could affect pluralism in the media and the work of journalists.
While commending the initiative of the Information and Telecommunications Minister, who asked the ARTP to postpone the decision, the IFJ calls on the Government to open a dialogue with media owners in order to safeguards the media businesses and jobs for many journalists and the numerous media workers.
For more information contact the IFJ at + 221 33 867 95 87
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 123 countries worldwide
Africa: Briefing on southern African floods
Major floods in late 2008 and 2009 have plunged southern Africa into a growing humanitarian crisis, killing dozens and displacing thousands. The Zambezi River Basin is affected annually by floods, bringing death and disease to those living along the banks. The fourth largest river in Africa, has its source in Zambia and flows through Angola, back into Zambia, and along the borders of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe to Mozambique, where it empties into the Indian Ocean.
DRC: Curious peace deal with ex-Nkunda rebels
Rwanda and DRC have set in motion high-level negotiations over the return of warlord Gen Laurent Nkunda after a deal on Monday in which the government ceded too much ground to the Gen Nkunda’s former fighters. Rwanda Foreign Affairs Minister, Rosemary Museminali, was set to meet with her DRC counterpart Alexis Tambwe Mwamba on Thursday, with teams representing security, diplomacy and justice to discuss bilateral cooperation on a number of fronts, including Gen Nkunda’s fate.
Somalia: Bombing targets minister
Somali Interior Minister Abdulkadir Ali Omar has been wounded in a deadly bomb attack in the capital Mogadishu. The BBC's Mohammed Olad Hassan in the city says the minister's secretary was killed and a bodyguard also injured. The minister was passing through the capital's bustling Bakara market - a stronghold of the radical al-Shabab militia - when a landmine went off.
Sudan: Helping ex-combattants return to civilian life
More than 180,000 ex-fighters in Sudan’s decades-long north-south civil war will be assisted to return to civilian life as their ongoing demobilization enters a new phase, the United Nations mission in the country (UNMIS) has announced. The mission said in a press release that reintegration is the last and most crucial phase of the multi-million dollar scheme for the process known as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) called for by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which in 2005 ended the 22-year conflict.
Africa: Linking DRC to the world
One of Africa’s largest countries, DRC, has taken the first towards creating a fibre link to its neighbours and the outside world. A little-noticed announcement was made at the end of last month by the Vice-First Minister for Reconstruction that gave the green light to start construction work on a fibre optic link from the capital Kinshasa to the coastal town of Muanda. Russell Southwood looks at the potential impact on the country’s connectivity.
Africa: Nigeria, China sign pact to replace faulty satellite by 2011
Nigeria and China have signed a contract for a new communications satellite that will replace one sidelined by a power failure, a newspaper reported Wednesday. According to the contract signed in Beijing on Tuesday, the replacement satellite has been named NIGCOMSAT-1R and is due to be launched by 2011 with no cost to Nigeria, the Lagos-based Guardian reported. The new space vehicle will replace NIGCOMSAT-1, which was launched on May 14, 2007, but was displaced on Nov. 10, 2008, because of a solar power failure that occurred on one edge of the satellite.
South Africa: SA Blog Awards
The SA blog awards is a showcase of the very best of South African blogs. The 2009 SA Blog Awards is scheduled for its annual process of nominations and voting this year from 1st March through to 1st April, and the winners announced on 3rd April. Among those in contention is Azad Essa's blog
West Africa: Liberia's blackboard blogger
Alfred Sirleaf is an analog blogger. He take runs the “Daily News”, a news hut by the side of a major road in the middle of Monrovia. He started it a number of years ago, stating that he wanted to get news into the hands of those who couldn’t afford newspapers, in the language that they could understand. Alfred serves as a reminder to the rest of us, that simple is often better, just because it works. The lack of electricity never throws him off.
AfriGadget is a website dedicated to showcasing African ingenuity. A team of bloggers and readers contribute their pictures, videos and stories from around the continent. The stories of innovation are inspiring. It is a testament to Africans bending the little they have to their will, using creativity to overcome life’s challenges.
Africa: The 18th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition
The 18th African Human Rights Moot Court Competition will be held at the University of Lagos, Nigeria from 10 to 15 August 2009. Students, academics and judges from all over Africa are invited to participate. All law faculties in Africa are invited to send one faculty representative who works in the field of human rights (dean or another lecturer) who will serve as a judge in the preliminary rounds, and two undergraduate students (preferably one man and one woman) who will constitute the team that represents its university at the Moot Court.
Global: Easier said than done
20 years of children's rights between law and practice
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its near global ratification have been seen as true accomplishments in this sense. Yet, despite this recognition and success, the range and severity of problems faced by children at the start of the twenty-first century are persisting, if not increasing. The year 2009 marks the 20 th anniversary of the Convention. The occasion provides a timely opportunity to assess the value of the CRC in engaging with dilemmas on the ground, in devising multi-faceted approaches other than a purely legal or technical response, and in evolving to meet new challenges that emerge from its practical implementation.
Global: Kwame Nkrumah International Conference
Kwantlen Polytechnic University invites you to participate in the Kwame Nkrumah International Conference: August 19-21, 2010 at its beautiful Richmond campus in British Columbia, Canada. The Conference will commemorate the centenary of the birthday of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Africa’s Man of the Millennium, and bring scholars and students from Canada and from the around the world to share research and ideas on Africa’s place in the global community, and to discuss the life, achievements and shortcomings of Africa’s foremost Pan-Africanist.
Kwame Nkrumah International Conference
From Colonization to Globalization: The Intellectual and Political Legacies of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and Africa’s Future
AUGUST 19TH, 20TH &21ST, 2010
Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Richmond, BC, Canada
Early Registration Ends August 1st, 2009
Notification of acceptance provided by August 30
Final Registration Ends on September 1st, 2009
Notification of acceptance provided by September 30
Kwantlen Polytechnic University invites you to participate in the Kwame Nkrumah International Conference: August 19-21, 2010 at its beautiful Richmond campus in British Columbia, Canada.
The Conference will commemorate the centenary of the birthday of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Africa’s Man of the Millennium, and bring scholars and students from Canada and from the around the world to share research and ideas on Africa’s place in the global community, and to discuss the life, achievements and shortcomings of Africa’s foremost Pan-Africanist. Molefi Kete Asante, one of the most distinguished contemporary scholars and author of 68 books will provide a keynote address in celebration of the conference with other scholars of talent in the context of Pan Africanism, post/neo-colonialism and globalization via a cross-disciplinary, multi-centric, and international perspective.
Topics to be discussed include, (but not limited to) the following:
Perspectives on African Decolonization and Development
African Intellectuals and Decolonization and Development
Leadership, Democracy, Citizenry, and African Development
Armed Struggle and Decolonization in Africa and the “International War” on Terrorism
Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Pan-Africanism
The Intellectual Traditions and the Many Stands of Pan-Africanism
The 5th Pan-African Congress and the First All-African Peoples Conference: Continuity and Change
The Architects and Pioneers of Pan-Africanism and Global (Pan) African Unity
Liberation Wars and Contemporary Forms of Armed Resistance and the US-led “War on International Terrorism”
Failed Unions: The Cases of the Soviet Union, India and Pakistan
The Creation of “the Perfect Union”: Lessons from Canada, Europe, and the USA
Dafur and Other Internecine Conflicts as a Test for the African Union’s Trans-Saharan Unity
Global African Unity in the Age of Globalization: Strategies and Tactics
Fifty years of Political Independence in Africa: Independent Africa in the Global Context
The Obama Presidency and Africa’s Destiny
African Youth, African Women, and Africa’s Future
The African Personality and Identity in Continental and Trans-Continental/Diasporic Contexts
Global African Dialogues: Factionalism as a Source of Strength
Globalization: A Curse or a Nirvana- Breaking Africa’s Cycle of Underdevelopment
Abstracts of approx. 250 words for papers of 20 minutes duration, and suggestions of panels consisting of 3 panelists each are welcome and should be e-mailed, with a short
bio-note (50 words) contact address, and one to three keywords related to the area of research to Dr. Charles Quist-Adade at KNIC@kwantlen.ca no later than August 30th, 2009, final notification of selection to be communicated by September 30, 2009.
Although efforts are being made to secure some funding to assist participation by scholars from outside North America and Europe, and especially young scholars, the organizers are unable at this time to offer financial support, and participants are responsible for their own expenses. Participants from countries requiring a visa to enter Canada must make their own arrangements.
For more information, contact:
Dr. Charles Quist-Adade
Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Department of Sociology
12666 72nd Avenue
Global: OTJR: International Conference - "Taking Stock of Transitional Justice"
26-28 June 2009, University of Oxford
Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR) aims to bring disparate views on and approaches to transitional justice into a single arena. In pursuit of this, we are proud to host, at the University of Oxford, an international conference, “Taking Stock of Transitional Justice,” which is designed to assemble vast knowledge on transitional justice from across geographical locations and areas of academic study and practice. Exploring established views and new thinking on transitional justice, OTJR would like to invite all interested parties to submit a presentation abstract or register for general participation.
Global: The CSDG/ ECOWAS Peace and Security Mentoring Programme
Call for applications
The Conflict, Security and Development Group (CSDG) at King’s College London together with the Africa Leadership Centre (ALC), in collaboration with the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), is pleased to announce a call for applications for the MA Studentships and Mentoring Programme 2009-2010.
CSDG/ECOWAS Peace and Security Mentoring Programme
School of Social Science and Public Policy
Conflict Security and Development Group
The CSDG/ ECOWAS Peace and Security Mentoring Programme
The Conflict, Security and Development Group (CSDG) at King’s College London together with the Africa Leadership Centre (ALC), in collaboration with the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), is pleased to announce a call for applications for the MA Studentships and Mentoring Programme 2009-2010.
Funded by the UK Department for International Development, the Programme will bring together 5 West Africans who are at the early stages of their career to undertake a carefully designed MA and training programme in Conflict, Security and Development at King’s College London. This training will conclude with an attachment to the ECOWAS Commission for practical experience in the field of peace and security.
From October 2009, the MA Studentships and Mentoring Programme 2009-2010 will be under the aegis of CSDG and the ALC, which is a partnership of King’s College London and Kenyatta University, Nairobi.
The ALC aims to build a new community of leaders generating cutting edge knowledge on peace, security and development. To this end, the ALC undertakes to do the following:
Create an enabling environment for ideas that are grounded in African realities;
Provide space for interaction with role models;
Build capacity for independent thinking;
Expand the knowledge base to develop transformational ideas that can be developed to create visions of change;
Create opportunities to transfer knowledge to achieve multiplier effects for communities;
Connect with processes nationally, regionally and globally, especially in the field of peace, security and development; and
Build lasting partnerships that will maintain an African-led vision of change.
In addition, the programme of the ALC is guided by its core values, which are as follows:
African-led ideas and processes of change.
Recognition of youth agency.
Pursuit of excellence.
The Purpose of the MA Studentships and Mentoring Programme
The Programme is designed to expose young African professionals to the complexities of conflict, security and development and to equip them for careers in this field. The Programme has four main aims:
Conflict Security and Development Group, School of Social Science and Public Policy, King’s College London 1
CSDG/ECOWAS Peace and Security Mentoring Programme
The first is to increase the pool of West Africans versed in the field of peace and security and working to generate African led ideas to address the challenges on the continent.
The second is to ensure that African regional organisations such as ECOWAS have better access to knowledge and expertise relevant to their peace and security mechanisms.
The third aim is to inject skills within regional and national centres of excellence so that they can strengthen their policy research capacity on peace, security and development topics with independent and critical approaches.
The fourth aim is to contribute to expertise on peace and security that is grounded in the pursuit of excellence and integrity.
The programme will also develop the existing network of African scholars working in the field whilst linking them with the peace and security mechanisms of relevant regional institutions.
This is an 18 month Programme, with two phases. The first comprises the MA Programme and mentoring sessions based at King’s College London, in the UK, which entails full-time study at KCL, where successful candidates will pursue an MA in Conflict, Security and Development and attend specifically designed training sessions on African peace and security. During this period, they will conduct visits to several UK institutions working in the field of peace and security and undertake research visits to partner institutions in Europe. They will also undertake a series of simulation seminars during which mock conflict management situations will be practiced.
In the latter stages of the first phase, MA Scholars will be able to work with CSDG partner institutions in Europe and the United States of America, European Union Institutions, Geneva Centre for Security Policy, International Peace Institute and City University New York. During this period, MA Scholars will be expected to produce written work, based on analyses of issues of immediate policy relevance to the work of ECOWAS and/or the African Union. The subject of their research will have been agreed with the facilitating institutions and the sponsoring African organizations at an earlier period.
Attachment to ECOWAS
The third component of the CSDG/ ECOWAS MA Studentships and Mentoring Programme will be based at the ECOWAS Commission and related regional bodies, where participants on the programme will be placed for a minimum period of 6 months. Here, participants will follow a structured program applying knowledge gained through training while also gaining direct experience of the workings of the organisation. Under the supervision of senior staff working in the field of peace and security, they will participate in and contribute to the day-to-day work of the organisation. They will also be exposed to the complexities of the sub-region and to the stack realities confronting the practitioners operating on peace and security in West Africa.
Terms of the MA Studentship and Mentoring Programme
Successful applicants will have the status of full time MA students on Conflict Security and Development Masters course. It is necessary for applicants to the Mentoring Programme to make individual successful applications to the MA Conflict, Security and Development in the Department of War Studies. Details of the MA Conflict Security and Development can be found at this link: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/sspp/ws/ps/tpg/macsd/
You can make an on-line application at this link, by following the instructions detailed here:
Conflict Security and Development Group, School of Social Science and Public Policy, King’s College London 2
CSDG/ECOWAS Peace and Security Mentoring Programme
http://www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/sspp/ws/ps/tpg/macsd/admiss.html and with the following link to the online application form: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/graduate/apply/
All foreign students at King’s College London will be subject to the immigration rules of the UK, which can be found on the King’s College London web page for obtaining student visas: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/international/prospective/prearrival/visas.html
Additional information on studying as an international student at King’s College London is available on the College’s webpage for International Students:
The position is funded* and will include a stipend of £840 per month for the first 12 months based in London. In addition, a one-off sum of £750 will be made available to each student upon their arrival in the UK, to assist with winter clothing and book expenses. Successful candidates will be able to apply for University of London accommodation, although they can make their own alternative accommodation arrangements. Candidates are strongly advised to make all necessary accommodation arrangements well in advance of taking up their positions at King’s College London. Information on KCL student accommodation can be found at this link:
For the period of attachment in ECOWAS, participants will receive a stipend of $1,000 per month, exclusive of medical insurance expenses; in addition to a $500 one-off allowance to enable them settle in to their location. Fellows are expected to find their own accommodation during this phase also.
It is important to note that this financial support is for individual participants on the programme. It does not cover dependants and it is not intended to support family members. Successful candidates will need to make alternative arrangements to cover the costs of dependants before arrival in the UK. Under the UK Immigration laws, prospective applicants must satisfy the Home Office that they have sufficient funds to support themselves and their dependents before arrival in the UK (taking into account the stipend to be provided by the Mentoring Programme).
The programme is a full time appointment and all applicants are expected to make a full time commitment. Given the intensive nature of the programme, including its short phases in different locations, as well as necessary extensive travel, successful applicants that are expectant or nursing mothers will be advised to defer their admission to the programme.
The offer of a place on the programme will be subject to successful candidates obtaining a student visa to study on the MA. Failure to obtain a visa to enter the UK automatically invalidates the offer of a place on the programme with no consequences to King’s College London. Successful applicants will be required to undergo medical examinations at recommended venues prior to taking up their positions. It is a condition of the programme that successful candidates shall return to their base or home countries at the end of the programme. Please note that any deviation from the terms of the programme, except as may be lawfully authorised by King’s College London, shall affect a successful applicant’s immigration status. Please consult the British Embassy/High Commission in your home country for more information. The Conflict Security and Development Group reserve the right to terminate the appointment in the event of any breach of the conditions of the MA Studentships and Peace and Security Mentoring Programme.
Submit a separate application for the MA Conflict Security and Development (CSD) at King’s College London. The offer of a place on the programme will be conditional upon admission onto the MA.
Be citizens of a West African country (member states of ECOWAS), with valid travel documents.
Demonstrate commitment to the core values of the programme and the Africa Leadership Centre.
Have knowledge of, or experience of human rights, security and development issues.
Must be able to demonstrate a commitment to contribute to work on peace and security in Africa
Have a demonstrable plan for how to utilise knowledge gained in the Fellowship upon return to their countries and organisations.
Must be fluent in spoken and written English.
To be considered for the MA Studentships and Mentoring Programme please e-mail or post the following documents to Eka Ikpe at email@example.com or Eka Ikpe, Conflict, Security and Development Group, King’s College London, Strand Bridge House, 138-142 Strand, London WC2R 1HH, UK by 17:00 hrs, Monday 4 May 2009:
A letter of application detailing your relevant experience and qualifications.
A supporting statement detailing why you think that this Mentoring Programme is important and future plans for engagement with peace and security issues no longer than 1,000 words.
2 letters of recommendation (To be received directly from the Referees by the deadline of 17:00 hrs, 4 May 2009)
Recent curriculum vitae.
Two writing samples (maximum 5000 words).
Indicate on your MA Conflict Security and Development application that you are also applying for a place on the CSDG/ECOWAS Peace and Security Mentoring
Please ensure all documents are sent in as MS Word attachments in a single email message (separate emails for the same application will not be accepted) or as a single post package and that your name is indicated at the top right hand corner of every page of all documents submitted.
Due to the large volume of applications received it may not be possible to contact all applicants that have not been short listed. Hence, if you have not received a response from CSDG by Friday 24 July 2009, please assume that you have not been shortlisted on this occasion.
• This project is funded with the generous support of the UK Department for International Development.
Class struggle and resistance in Africa
The African continent has been central to the project of capitalist globalization, and the dominance of Western economic and geopolitical interests continues to profoundly shape Africa's internal dynamics in the postcolonial period. This collection of essays and interviews from leading activists and socialists offers critical insights into class struggle and social empowerment across the continent.
South Africa: Helpdesk peer mentor and editor - FAIR
For its Investigative Journalism Helpdesk in Johannesburg, South Africa, the (pan-African) Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR), seeks a Peer mentor/editor to assist investigative journalism projects carried out by African investigative journalists, either individually or as FAIR grantees and FAIR team projects.
FAIR Helpdesk Peer Mentor and Editor
For its Investigative Journalism Helpdesk in Johannesburg, South Africa, the (pan-African) Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR), seeks a:
Peer mentor/editor to assist investigative journalism projects carried out by African investigative journalists, either individually or as FAIR grantees and FAIR team projects.
Many African newsrooms suffer from a lack of peer mentoring. There is a scarcity of senior investigative journalists showing new and aspiring colleagues ‘the ropes'. Additionally, investigative story projects can meet with pressures on an individual journalist and/or newsroom, which in some cases lead to ‘spiking' or (self) censorship of worthy stories. Furthermore, constraints on time and resources, combined with a lack of transparency, often make it difficult to access information to increase the evidence base of an investigative story.
The FAIR Helpdesk plays a role in:
• Accessing information
• Training support
• Encouraging the publication of good quality investigative stories that are in the public interest
The FAIR Helpdesk needs to be staffed by a seasoned peer mentor/editor to help it increase and improve this function for the benefit of investigative journalists in all African countries.
The FAIR peer mentor/editor will assist and supervise the investigative projects of FAIR grantees, the FAIR TI team as well as of individual African ‘IJ's', who call on the FAIR Helpdesk for such assistance.
He/she will ensure, through skilled peer mentoring, the quality and evidence base of FAIR grant, cross border and local and individual investigative story projects, and ensure the resulting publication/broadcast of such stories and programmes in African media through interaction with the relevant newsrooms.
It is nowadays a required skill and quality of any investigative editor to fight for press freedom, for access to information and against censorship. Such skills are expected from the new peer mentor/editor in addition to the ‘normal' editorial skills of encouraging and monitoring best practice and ethics in the conduct of the investigation.
The peer mentor/editor will specifically:
• respond to FAIR members' and other African colleagues' requests for peer mentoring and information-accessing assistance of their investigative story projects
• peer-mentor and ensure the journalistic quality and investigative evidence base of these investigative story projects,
• monitor the results with a view to defensibility, (qualitatively, ethically and legally), and therefore publication of the final products
• peer-mentor and oversee in this way also important regional and continental team investigations, conducted by FAIR members as well as others, for the purpose of wider publication/broadcast of these investigations
• assist in providing links between journalists battling to obtain public information and the many relevant Access to Information NGO's that could assist in these battles, for the purpose of obtaining public records that can increase evidence-base, and therefore quality, of stories and programmes
• interact, on FAIR's behalf, both with publishing houses and with existing Legal Defence Funds (such as the Media Institute of Southern Africa's Fund, but also others) when and if needed in the process of accessing information and publication;
• generally assist journalists and their newsrooms in fighting the pressures that stand in the way of publication through the use of quality oversight, legal expertise and FAIR input
Location of position:
The FAIR peer mentor/editor will be based at the FAIR Helpdesk in Johannesburg, South Africa and interact with the continent-wide FAIR network and African media through FAIR's website www.fairreporters.org
Between USD 1800 and USD 2000 per month, based on experience and track record.
A one year contract, starting 1 June 2009, with a possibility of extension yearly.
FAIR gratefully acknowledges the support of Freevoice and Unesco in making this Helpdesk function and staff position possible.
Please apply in email, with a one page letter, a short CV, references and specific track record, to firstname.lastname@example.org before 1 May 2009.
Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice
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With over 1000 contributors and an estimated 500,000 readers Pambazuka News is the authoritative pan African electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa providing cutting edge commentary and in-depth analysis on politics and current affairs, development, human rights, refugees, gender issues and culture in Africa.
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