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Deborah Brautigam provides an overview and description of China's development finance to Africa. "Looking at the nature of Chinese development aid - and non-aid - to Africa provides insights into China's strategic approach to outward investment and economic diplomacy, even if exact figures and strategies are not easily ascertained", she states as she describes China's provision of grants, zero-interest loans and concessional loans. Pambazuka Press recently released a publication titled India in Africa: Changing Geographies of Power, and Oliver Stuenkel provides his review of the book.
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Pambazuka News 427: African unity: Feeling with Nkrumah, thinking with Nyerere

The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa

Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

CONTENTS: 1. Action alerts, 2. Features, 3. Comment & analysis, 4. Letters & Opinions, 5. African Writers’ Corner, 6. Blogging Africa, 7. Emerging powers in Africa Watch

Help Pambazuka News become independent. Become a supporting subscriber by taking out a paid subscription. Donate $30 a year.

Highlights from this issue

In anticipation of the forthcoming Julius Nyerere Intellectual Festival to be held in Dar es Salaam 13-18 April, and in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kwame Nkrumah, Pambazuka News is publishing a special issue devoted to both giants of pan Africanism. And we also announce the publication of Where is Uhuru: Reflections on the struggle for democracy in Africa by Issa G Shivji, Mwalimu Nyerere Chair of African Studies.

- Message from Issa G Shivji on Nyerere, liberation and unity
- Yao Graham on the lessons for African leadership on the heritage of Nkrumah

- Issa Shivji on Pan Africanism - a chapter from his recently published book
- Chambi Chachage on why Nkrumah's vision remains powerful
- Salma Maoulidi calls for popular forms of Pan Africanism

- Carmen Silvestre on EU-AU relations

- With the escalating crisis of legitimacy of the Kenya government, KPTJ comment on the precipitous resignation of the Justice Minister; Paul Muite speaks out on the threats to his life; Yash Tandon decries the lack of East African solidarity at the national dialogue and reconcilation meeting in Geneva; and the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings issues a call for an end to intimidation of human rights defencers.

- Following the victories of the general strike in Guadeloupe, Kont Pwofitasyon (LKP) addresses the workers and peasants

LETTERS pour in from readers

AFRICAN WRITERS CORNER: Interview with Zukiswa Wanner

BLOGGING AFRICA: Award winning blogger Sokari Ekine provides a round up of the African blogosphere

- Loss of freedom of expression in Egypt
- Obama urged to send official US Delegation to Durban Review conference

- Stephen Marks looks at the G20 and China - implications for Africa

There will be no LINKS & RESOURCES section this week. We will resume next week.

Action alerts

Direct lawsuits break down freedom of opinion and expression in Egypt

Arab Program of Human Rights Activists


Following the arrest and trial of novelist Magdy El-Shafei on grounds of ‘publishing and distributing publications incompatible with public morals’, the Arab Program of Human Rights Activists is calling for the Egyptian government to drop the charges against the writer, which violate the freedom of opinion and expression, and to amend the existing criminal legislation to ensure the practice of freedom of opinion and expression.

The Arab Program of Human Rights Activists is following up the case of the novelist Magdy El-Shafei who was arrested by the Egyptian security forces and whose trial in the Kasr el Niel misdemeanor court was scheduled for 4 April 2009.The writer was accused of ‘publishing and distributing publications incompatible with public morals‘. If found guilty of these charges, the writer would face the penalty of not less than two years in prison, under articles 178, 178 bis and 198 of the Egyptian penalties law.

The case started in April 2008 when the vice police forced entry into the Features ‘Malameh’ publishing house and confiscated all the copies of the novel Al Metro (The Subway), which is the first Egyptian graphic novel. In the meantime, the security forces broke into many other libraries and confiscated the novel as well.

Moreover, later, one of the lawyers belonging to the ruling party filed a lawsuit against the novelist Magdy El-Shafei, accusing him of authoring publications contrary to public morals, a charge which he is being tried for.

The Arab Program of Human Rights Activists condemns maintaining the so-called direct ‘popularis’ cases to hunt down intellectuals and to abort the opinion of novelists, writers and journalists. The program confirms that the freedom of opinion and expression guaranteed under the Egyptian constitution and under article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights have become illusory freedom in Egypt, that vanished out on the hands of authorities and security forces day after day, as well as legislation which distorted the true essence of freedom. In addition, the prosecution of such cases is pursued by some members of the ruling party to terrorise all the voices that are trying to express their views on the political and human rights situation in Egypt.

Therefore, the Arab Program declares its complete solidarity with the writer and calls on the Egyptian government to do the following:

1. Drop the charge against the author Magdi El-Shafei as it is a flagrant violation of the freedom of opinion and expression.
2. Amend the existing criminal legislation to ensure the practice of freedom of opinion and expression and the abolition of the direct ‘popularis’ issues.
3. Respect the international conventions, which have already been approved and thus become, under Article 151 of the constitution, a part of the Egyptian legislation.

Meanwhile, the program appeals to all Arab, local and International institutions to unite in solidarity with Magdy El-Shafei, and all journalists who are pursued by the government because of their views.

For more information please contact:

Arab Program of Human Rights Activists
Osama El Sadik St
8th district
Building no.10,7th floor, Flat no.16
Nasr City
Tel : 0222753975-85
Fax: 0222878773
[email protected]

Urge President Obama to send official US delegation to Durban Review Conference

TransAfrica Forum


TransAfrica is encouraging people to contact US President Barack Obama to urge him to send an official US delegation to the 20-24 April 2009 Durban Review Conference, the follow-up to the 2001 World Conference on Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance.

President Barack Obama returns to Washington, D.C. on 7 April, and he needs to hear from you! As a country, the US has travelled a great distance along the path of racial reconciliation toward the goal of social justice for all. However, our racially defined history of injustice still shapes today's realities, both national and international. The February controversy comparing President Obama to a chimpanzee is only one of the most recent public examples indicating how far we still must travel. Yet, like candidate Obama, at TransAfrica Forum we continue to feel that ‘working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds..."

US participation in the 20-24 April 2009 Durban Review Conference (the follow-up to the 2001 World Conference on Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance), which is being held in Geneva, Switzerland is an important step on our country's ‘path of a more perfect union.’

Yet, despite encouragement by many G20 leaders, the European Union, and black diaspora groups around the globe, the administration has not reversed its earlier decision to boycott the conference. In light of specific US reservations regarding the conference's draft outcome document, the UN Human Rights Commission has made significant changes, removing language to which the US objected (see for details). A continued US boycott will have serious repercussions for the international event,specifically:

- Other nations, who would rather not deal with the legacy of racism within their own countries, are likely to pull out, undermining the entire process
- Of the over 100 countries that endorsed the 2001 Programme of Action, only 54 have developed national action plans to combat the legacy of racism. The absence of U.S. participants will signal to other nations the lack of importance of confronting racism and developing concrete remedies.
- The lack of participation will be a significant blow to African descendent groups around the world who have been able to make concrete advancement in the struggle against racism and discrimination.

The Durban decision is the administration's first test of President Obama's
commitment to increasing racial awareness and racial healing. To date the
president has largely heard from opponents of the conference – both from
voices inside his administration as well as those outside. President Obama needs to hear from you.

There is widespread belief in the administration that our communities simply do not care about the upcoming conference. We know differently. Please join us! Call the White House today.

There are several ways to contact the president:

- White House comment line: +1 202 456 1111
- TTY/TDD comment line: + 1 202 456 6213
- On-line comment


Nyerere, liberation and unity

Message from Issa G. Shivji, Mwalimu Nyerere Professor of Pan-African Studies

Issa G Shivji


cc Wikimedia
With Dar es Salaam on the verge of hosting the Julius Nyerere Intellectual Festival Week from Monday 13 April, Issa G. Shivji, Mwalimu Nyerere Professor of Pan-African Studies at the city's university, offers his reflections on the pan-African struggle. Though Africa has undoubtedly suffered from the neoliberal onslaught of the past two decades, Pan-Africanism as a progressive ideology is now firmly back on the historical agenda, Shivji states, uniting in the process the continent's dual quest for unity and liberation.

Speaking at the 40th anniversary of Ghana’s independence, Mwalimu Nyerere said that his generation of African nationalists had set themselves two tasks: liberation and unity. In the first task, that of liberation, they had succeeded, but in the second they had failed. It was now the duty of the post- independence generation to bring about African unity.

By liberation Mwalimu meant formal independence from colonialism. In our youthful days we greatly underestimated the importance of formal independence. Yet it was an earthshaking event for a people who had been oppressed and humiliated for four centuries of slavery and a century of colonialism. As C.L.R. James said of Ghana’s independence in 1957, it had 'raised the status of Africa and Africans to a pitch higher than it had ever reached before'.

The neoliberal onslaught of the last two or so decades has dramatically brought home to us the significance of Uhuru. But it has also made us wonder, Where is Uhuru? Liberation without unity is incomplete; some would say, not possible. And they would have ample evidence from the neoliberal episode which has proved to be an unabashed attack on African sovereignty, both of the state and the people.

Pan-Africanism, African unity, is back on the historical agenda. I would say so is liberation. The new generation of African nationalists can only be pan-Africanists and in pan-Africanism we have the ideology and vision of African (not Tanzanian, or Burkinabe or Algerian) liberation. The twin tasks of liberation and unity are now combined.

With the wisdom of hindsight and the experience of half a century of African independence, we should critically reflect on what Nyerere said 50 years ago: ‘African nationalism is meaningless, is anachronistic, and is dangerous, if it is not at the same time Pan-Africanism.' The territorial nationalism of African states, what Nyerere derogatively used to call in Kiswahili 'vinchi' (statelets), is ‘the equivalent of tribalism within the context of our separate national states’. Has he been proved right?

The Julius Nyerere Intellectual Festival Week will hopefully provide us with a forum to begin to reflect critically on the pan-Africanist message of the first generation of African nationalists and the experience of independence from the standpoint of the African working people.

* Where is Uhuru? by Issa G. Shivji is now available from Fahamu Books.
* Issa G. Shivji is the Mwalimu Nyerere Professor of Pan-African Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

Pan-Africanism or imperialism? Unity and struggle towards a new democratic Africa

Issa G Shivji


© Fahamu
Fahamu Books is pleased to announce that Issa G. Shivji's Where is Uhuru? Reflections on the Struggle for Democracy in Africa is now available to order from its website. In celebration of this collection of Shivji's essays on a wide array of topics – from the Pan-Africanist emancipation project to multiparty politics – this edition of Pambazuka News features a chapter from the book entitled 'Pan-Africanism or imperialism? Unity and struggle towards a new democratic Africa'. A record of the Second Billy Dudley Memorial Lecture delivered at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, on 27 July 2005, the chapter outlines Shivji's reflections on globalisation as imperialism and the inextricable links of African nationalism to the broader Pan-Africanist liberatory movement. Drawing upon Julius Nyerere's poignant reservations around territorial nationalism as 'the equivalent of tribalism within the context of our separate nation states’, Shivji eloquently surveys the evolution of Pan-Africanist thought and sets out its contemporary role in articulating the continent's path towards democracy and liberation in the post-Cold War era.

I am honoured and humbled by your invitation to deliver the Second Billy Dudley Memorial Lecture. Memorial lectures are no doubt occasions for us to celebrate the lives of our colleagues and comrades and learn from their contributions to the causes that we hold dear. I take it that they are also an occasion to reflect critically on our intellectual discourses and what they mean for the societies we live in. So I wish to take this opportunity to reflect with you on one of the most important of such discourses – African nationalism.

In this era of the so-called globalisation of the world into a global village, to give a talk on nationalism must sound anachronistic, if not foolish. But I shall be a fool, and you, I am afraid, have no choice but to hear me out. I will talk of African nationalism as an anti-thesis of globalisation. For me globalisation is imperialism. So I shall call it by its true name – imperialism – and henceforth imperialism shall mean and include globalisation.

I will talk about African nationalism from the vantage point of a village; not Kivungu in the district of Kilosa in a country called Tanzania, where I grew up. No! I am talking of the village called Africa, the African village. I am quite sure when I mention names like Kivungu and Kilosa you do not recognise them nor do you emotionally feel any affinity to them, but shrug them off as some administrative spaces somewhere – where? – in Africa, an African village. It is the Africanness of my village which binds us emotionally and arouses the whole bundle of perceptions, convictions, emotions and feelings associated with the phenomenon called nationalism. Thus African nationalism is Pan-Africanism. There is no, and cannot be, African nationalism outside of, apart from, or different from Pan-Africanism.

True, after 40 years of flying ‘our’ flag and you being turned away from ‘our’ airports for lack of visas (I am told Nigerians have great difficulty in getting Tanzanian visas), you did recognise the name Tanzania but it did not quite strike a chord with you. But if I had said I come from the country of Julius Nyerere, it would have immediately had resonance and you may have even felt some kind of affinity to it. Why? May I venture to say because of Nyerere's Pan-Africanism?

African nationalists like Nkrumah and Nyerere, Nasser and Azikiwe, Modibo Keita and Amilcar Cabral, Hastings Banda and Houphouët-Boigny (yes, even them), Albert Luthuli and Jomo Kenyatta, and Ahmed Ben Bella and Patrice Lumumba were all Pan-Africanists. With varying degrees of commitment to the cause or even out of political expediency, as African nationalists they could not be anything but Pan-Africanists. As Nyerere said: 'African nationalism is meaningless, is anachronistic, and is dangerous, if it is not at the same time Pan-Africanism' (Nyerere 1963a in Nyerere 1967, p. 194).

No other continental people feel the same affinity, emotional bondage and political solidarity as do the people of Africa. Not only is our self-perception African, rather than Tanzanian or Nigerian or Chadian, even others’ perception of us, whether positive or negative, is African. Again Nyerere expresses well what many of us have often experienced. In a lecture in Accra on 'African Unity', to mark 40 years of Ghana's independence, he observed:

'When I travel outside Africa the description of me as former President of Tanzania is a fleeting affair. It does not stick. Apart from the ignorant who sometimes asked me whether Tanzania was Johannesburg, even to those who knew better, what stuck in the minds of my hosts was the fact of my African-ness. So I had to answer questions about the atrocities of the Amins and the Bokassas of Africa.

'Mrs. Gandhi did not have to answer questions about the atrocities of the Marcosses of Asia. Nor does Fidel Castro have to answer questions about the atrocities of the Samozas of Latin America. But when I travel or meet foreigners, I have to answer questions about Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire, as in the past I used to answer questions about Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia or South Africa (Nyerere 1997).'

Territorial nationalisms, signified by our 53 flags and anthems and mini-states and trigger-happy armies, can hardly be described as an expression of African nationalism. Outside Pan-Africanism, territorial nationalism tends to degenerate into chauvinism at best, racism and ethnicism, at worst, all compounded by utter subservience to imperialism. Nyerere in his characteristically simple but picturesque language described what he called 'exclusive nationalism', meaning territorial nationalism, as 'the equivalent of tribalism within the context of our separate nation states’ (Nyerere 1965, in Nyerere 1967, p. 335).

It is not my intention to go into the history of African nationalism but I want to put forward a thesis that in this second phase of the second scramble for Africa (which I shall explain in due course), Pan-Africanism is more important than ever before. Elsewhere I have talked about the coming insurrection of African nationalism (Shivji 2005). Today I want to go further and urge you to make it happen. Before I do that, let me identify some of the important tensions in the thought and practice of African nationalists of the independence period. This should provide us with the building blocks for a new discourse on African nationalism and Pan-Africanism as we struggle to construct a new democratic Africa.


African nationalist thought of the independence period had two major strands: Pan-Africanism and anti-imperialism. African nationalism, almost by definition, was an anti-thesis of imperialism whose synthesis was African unity. The Pan-Africanist idea was developed in the diaspora towards the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries by such great Afro-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans as Henry Sylvester Williams, George Padmore, W.E.B. Du Bois, C.L.R. James, and others (Legum 1965). The early Pan-Africanist thought revolved around essentially cultural and racial issues whose main demand was for equality and non-discrimination (Pannikar 1961). This was reflected in the resolutions of various Pan-African congresses before 1945 (Legum 1965). The manifesto of the 1923 congress, for instance, proclaimed, 'In fine, we ask in all the world, that black folk be treated as men' (Legum 1965, p. 29).

The turning point was the second world war. In 1944 some 13 welfare, students' and other organisations based in Britain came together to form the Pan-African Federation, which was to organise the most famous, Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester in 1945. The Manchester congress was the most political of the Pan-African congresses, with clear demands for independence; its rallying cry was 'Africa for Africans.' It was also for the first time attended by young Africans from Africa. Its two organising secretaries were Kwame Nkrumah from Ghana and Jomo Kenyatta from Kenya. Some 200 delegates attended the congress, among them representatives of trade unions, political parties and other organisations.

The resolutions were unambiguously political, demanding autonomy and independence. They sounded warnings that the age-old African patience was wearing out and that 'Africans were unwilling to starve any longer while doing the world's drudgery' (quoted in Legum 1965, p. 32). They condemned and discarded imperialism while proclaiming in their own language a kind of social democracy. One resolution said:

'We condemn the monopoly of capital and the rule of private wealth and industry for private profit alone. We welcome economic democracy as the only real democracy (Legum 1965, p. 155).'

Significantly, the Fifth Pan-Africanist Congress already signalled, albeit in an embryonic form, the idea of African unity in the following words: '[T]he artificial divisions and territorial boundaries created by the imperialist powers are deliberate steps to obstruct the political unity of the West African peoples.' Nkrumah, who organised the West African National Secretariat at the fifth congress, followed up the idea of African unity at its conference in 1946. The conference pledged to promote the concept of a West African federation as a path towards the achievement of a United States of Africa. This resolution was formally endorsed by Azikiwe. Thus was born Nkrumah's lifelong passion against balkanisation and for African union, which he pursued single mindedly until the end of his life (Legum 1965, pp. 32–3).

Armed with the Pan-Africanist ideology, Nkrumah returned to Ghana, then called the Gold Coast. His organisational genius soon yielded results as he reorganised the existing Convention Party, led by the intellectual petty bourgeoisie, into a mass organisation called the Convention People's Party. The insertion of the word 'people' was not an empty boast. Nkrumah was able to mobilise the lower middle classes and the youth and draw into the fold the party trade union leaders. Ghana became independent in 1957, the first African country to break off and throw away the shackles of colonialism. This was a great triumph for African nationalism. The African had reclaimed his/her dignity and self-respect. In the words of that great historian, C.L.R. James, Nkrumah 'led a great revolution' and he 'raised the status of Africa and Africans to a pitch higher than it had ever reached before' (James 1966, quoted in Grimshaw 1992, p. 356).

Nkrumah was no petty nationalist. For him the Ghanaian flag and anthem were a means towards building the African union. Just as African nationalism could only be expressed in Pan-Africanism so, for Nkrumah, Pan-Africanism could only be expressed in the formation of a political union of Africa, which he variously called the United States of Africa or the African Union. With passion, and sometimes overzealousness, Nkrumah set to organise the independent African states and African people towards realising the vision of African unity.

Between 1958 and 1964, two sets of conferences took place: the Conference of Independent African States, and the All Africa People's Conference, pursuing African independence and African unity. In April 1958, Nkrumah with the help of his Pan-Africanist mentor George Padmore, organised the conference of independent African states in Accra. Eight states – Ghana, Liberia Ethiopia, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Sudan and Morocco – attended. In the same year, Accra organised the All Africa People's Conference of delegates from national political parties and trade unions.

The Second Conference of the Independent States took place in 1960 in Addis Ababa. Fifteen states attended including Nigeria and the Provisional Government of Algeria. In the same year again there was the All Africa People's Conference held in Tunis. The Third All Africa People's Conference was held in Cairo in March 1961. In May of the same year, 32 independent African states met in Addis Ababa and adopted the Charter of the Organisation of African Unity or OAU.

The resolutions of the independent states invariably declared their allegiance to the United Nations, respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the African states, and their support for the principle of mutual non-interference in each other's internal affairs. While affirming the need for solidarity and cooperation among African states, the goal of African unity was posited as something in the future. Interestingly, though, neither the term nor the concept of Pan-Africanism found any mention in their resolutions while anti-imperialism was confined to demanding the independence of African countries still under colonialism. This showed the limits of the 'pan-Africanism' of the African states. The limits were later to become shackles around Nkrumahist Pan-Africanism as the consolidation of the state proceeded apace under the guise of nation-building.

On the other hand, the resolutions of the All Africa People's Conferences militantly expressed the idea of Pan-Africanism leading to the union of African states. They resolutely condemned imperialism in both its forms, colonial and neocolonial. They urged the mobilisation and education of the masses in Pan-Africanism and anti-imperialism. The people's conferences were organised under the auspices of the All Africa People's Organisation, which fell into disuse after the formation of the OAU. The potential of the bottom–up people's organisations for Pan-Africanism was thus suppressed under the weight of African statism.

During this period, fundamental differences between Nkrumah's position on the need for a political union of African states as an urgent task and those who continued to counsel caution and gradualism became crystallised. Gradualism was finally inscribed in the OAU Charter. Nkrumah inscribed Ghana's readiness to surrender its sovereignty in the interest of African unity in the 1960 republican constitution of his country. Nkrumah's passionate advocacy of union government earned him many enemies among his fellow heads of state inviting personal hostility and accusations of personal ambitions. The head of the Nigerian delegation to the 1960 conference, for example, made this biting remark: 'if anybody makes this mistake of feeling that he is a Messiah who has got a mission to lead Africa the whole purpose of Pan-Africanism will, I fear, be defeated' (quoted in Legum 1965, p. 192). Even an otherwise passionate, albeit pragmatic, advocate of African unity, Julius Nyerere clashed with Nkrumah at the 1965 OAU Assembly of Heads of State in Accra. The background was Nkrumah's criticisms of regional groupings and associations such as PAFMECSA (Pan-African Freedom Movements for East, Central and Southern Africa), including the proposal to form an East African federation in both of which Nyerere was an active and a moving spirit. Nkrumah believed, not unreasonably, that regional groupings and associations would make continental unity even more difficult while Nyerere seemed to subscribe to the gradualist approach, holding that any form of unity among any number of African states was a step in the direction of African unity.

With the wisdom of 40 years of fruitless ‘territorial nationalism’, and the pursuit of power by Africa's pseudo-bourgeoisies and compradors, Nyerere perhaps came to regret his vitriolic 1965 attack on Nkrumah. Speaking at the 40th independence anniversary of Ghana in 1997, Nyerere admitted that his generation of nationalist leaders had failed to realise the objective of African unity. The OAU, Nyerere said, had twin objectives: to liberate the continent from colonialism and unite Africa. They succeeded in one but failed in the other. Yet some of them, with Nkrumah, believed that colonialism and balkanisation were twins which had to be destroyed together. They had a genuine desire to move Africa towards greater unity, he asserted. Why did they fail then? Nyerere, in his figurative, albeit apologetic, language attempts an answer. It needs to be quoted in full.

'Kwame Nkrumah was the greatest crusader for African unity. He wanted the Accra summit of 1965 to establish a Union Government for the whole of independent Africa. But we failed. The one minor reason is that Kwame, like all great believers, underestimated the degree of suspicion and animosity which his crusading passion had created among a substantial number of his fellow Heads of States. The major reason was linked to the first: already too many of us had a vested interest in keeping Africa divided.

'Once you multiply national anthems, national flags and national passports, seats at the United Nations, and individuals entitled to 21 guns salute, not to speak of a host of ministers, Prime Ministers, and envoys, you would have a whole army of powerful people with vested interests in keeping Africa balkanized. That was what Nkrumah encountered in 1965.

'After the failure to establish the Union Government at the Accra Summit of 1965, I heard one Head of State express with relief that he was happy to be returning home to his country still Head of State. To this day I cannot tell whether he was serious or joking. But he may well have been serious, because Kwame Nkrumah was very serious and the fear of a number of us to lose our precious status was quite palpable.

'But I never believed that the 1965 Accra summit would have established a Union Government for Africa. When I say that we failed, that is not what I mean, for that clearly was an unrealistic objective for a single summit. What I mean is that we did not even discuss a mechanism for pursuing the objective of a politically united Africa. We had a Liberation Committee already. We should have at least had a Unity Committee or undertaken to establish one. We did not. And after Kwame Nkrumah was removed from the African political scene nobody took up the challenge again (Nyerere 1997).'

In this Nyerere is no doubt vindicating Nkrumah's position. Is he also critiquing his own position of step-by-step unity, any unity? Nkrumah himself had much earlier held the gradualist position but was quick to learn from experience. In Towards Colonial Freedom, written between 1942 and 1945, his ideas on unity were limited to West African unity as a first step. 'Since I have had the opportunity of putting my ideas to work, and in intensification of neo-colonialism,' he said, 'I lay even greater stress on the vital importance to Africa's survival of a political unification of the entire continent. Regional economic groupings,' he argued, 'retard rather than promote the unification process' (Nkrumah 1963, p. 14).

Nyerere is laying stress on local vested interests as an impediment to the unification of the continent. Nkrumah is reminding us that local vested interests are allied with imperial interests to keep the continent balkanised. Unlike Nyerere, Nkrumah is acutely aware that not any form of unity is necessarily a step towards greater unification. In particular, economic co-operation or economic associations may, as a matter of fact, act as a hindrance rather than facilitate political unification. In this Nkrumah is refuting the oft-heard argument that economic association should precede political unification, the trajectory of European unification being used as an example (see for instance the arguments of the secretary general of the Malawi Congress Party, Chisiza 1963 in Luthuli et al. 1964, pp. 38–54). The two situations are not analogous though.

The colonial economies inherited by independent Africa are woefully incompatible with each other; rather they are competitive. Each of them, separately, voluntarily or otherwise, seeks association with metropolitan economies. African economies are not only incompatible but exhibit extreme uneven development. The result is that in any economic association some countries are bound to be in a disadvantageous position, giving rise to perpetual acrimony and unsolvable contradictions (Nnoli 1985). The only way to overcome these contradictions would be by a deliberate act of political will. This is the lesson to be drawn from what was once hailed as one of the most successful economic associations, the East African community. Services and even currency in the four East African countries were integrated. This worked so long as there was a single political overlord, the colonial state. But with independence the respective sovereign states set on very different trajectories, each wanting to maximise its advantage. Only a political decision in the interest of African unity could have addressed and resolved these issues. In the absence of a single political centre, the East African Community floundered and was dissolved in 1977. Recent attempts at reviving East African economic cooperation have been difficult and are fraught with problems, not the least of which is, for example, the multiple memberships of the states in different economic associations such as COMESA and SADC. A couple of months ago the East African heads of state postponed the fast-tracking of the proposed East African federation ostensibly to get people's views. In reality, the economic contradictions of the association and the underlying competition among member states to get aid and investment from erstwhile donors is proving a formidable barrier to political unification. So much so that even the attempt by President Museveni to get a third term in Uganda is being seen by some Tanzanians as proof of his ambition to become the president of the proposed East African federation. True or not, these arguments sound like the echoes of the arguments against Nkrumah. Unashamedly wedded to imperialism as he is, Museveni is of course no Nkrumah.

Be that as it may, my point is simply that these experiences have proved both Nyerere and Nkrumah right. Nkrumah's dictum (paraphrased), 'Seek ye first political unity and the economic union shall be added thereunto', held true then and holds true now. Nkrumah's fear that a delay in political unity would expose individual African states to neocolonialist manipulations and Nyerere's fear that sovereignty, flags and state power would be too sweet to surrender, have all come to pass, and tragically so. The Congo crisis of the 1960s then, and now the DRC crisis of the 1990s, in which five African states went to war, express in the most extreme fashion all the woes of the continent and the tensions of African nationalism: dismal disunity among African states, utterly cynical manipulations of imperialist powers, rapacious exploitation of the resources of one of the richest countries of the continent, war, oppression, dictatorship and looting and pillage.

The trajectory of the Congo from the Belgian Congo through Zaire to the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) is really the story of the last 40 years of independent but disunited Africa. Pan-Africanism was buried with Patrice Lumumba in the Congo. ‘Statist nationalism’, more correctly compradorialism, in cohort with imperialism has wreaked havoc on the continent since.

But Pan-Africanism will be resurrected, who knows, perhaps in the DRC. That brings me to the second part of this chapter,


I said earlier that in this second phase of the second scramble for Africa we need Pan-Africanism more than ever before. I owe you an explanation of what I mean by the second phase of the second scramble. The first scramble for Africa was of course the colonial carving up of the continent; the first phase of the second scramble was what Nkrumah called neocolonialism (Nkrumah 1965) and Nyerere defined as 'Africans fighting Africans' (Nyerere 1963b in Nyerere 1967, p. 205 onwards) The second phase of the second scramble is what we are witnessing today under so-called globalisation. The local manifestation of globalisation is the neoliberal package enforced by imperialism through the triad of the International Monetary Fund–World Bank–World Trade Organisation and donor policies and conditionalities on aid, debt and trade. Let us provisionally call this phase the compradorial phase.

The first and second phases of the second scramble more or less correspond to the cold war and post-cold war phases of neocolonialism. In the first phase, Pan-Africanism was 'nationalised', or more correctly statised, under the rhetoric of territorial nationalism. This is the period of military coups, dictatorships, one-party governments, and cold war manipulations. True, a few African countries managed to maintain relative autonomy, thanks partly to superpower rivalry. True again, this was the period when the liberation of the continent was completed. Internationally, third world nationalism in which at least some African countries played a significant role was on the ideological offensive and imperialism was on the defensive. Then the Berlin Wall fell; the bipolar world collapsed. Reaganomics turned into war-mongering Bush politics.

In Africa the second phase began with the structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) of the early 1980s. The point about SAPs was not simply their imposition of neoliberal economic conditionality. The point was the loss of political self-determination they signified in the making of economic decisions. Soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall imperialism mounted a frontal ideological attack on third world nationalism (see generally Furedi 1994). Whatever was left of African nationalism, even of its territorial variety, was discredited, if not destroyed, in the rhetoric of globalisation. African states, which had in fact hardly departed from the policy prescriptions of the erstwhile international financial institutions, were now made the villains of the piece: corrupt, inefficient, patrimonial, and undemocratic. All of that may be true but all of it happened under the hegemony, and with the connivance of, the same imperialist powers. New prescriptions were handed down on good governance, human rights, transparency, multiparty systems, democracy and so on. SAPs moved from the realm of economics to politics, from policy to ideology, from adjusting our economies to accommodating theirs. Masses, who we once said were the prime subject of history, became the object of poverty reduction strategy papers or PRSPs. Country SAPs combined with PRSPs and became the continental NEPAD (New Partnership for African Development). Forward looking African nationalism, which traced its genesis to Pan-Africanism, was displaced by the African Renaissance, a spurious echo of European history. African states and leaders joined in the chorus of their own condemnation and in the condemnation of their Pan-Africanist predecessors, if not by words then by deeds. Peer review committees replaced liberation committees; our presidents queued to have tea with G8s at Davos instead of joining their Asian counterparts at Bandung. The Blair Commission replaced the South Commission while the Geldofs with their guitars led the procession of begging presidents from Africa. The mantra of the chant 'Make Poverty History' is supposed to make us forget not only the history of poverty and the political economy of imperialist pillage of our continent but, and this is even more crucial, it is meant to demean our national liberation struggles.

But enough of humiliation. Everywhere Africans are harking back to the self-respect and dignity that the struggle for independence gave them. Our young intellectuals are writing PhDs on the Nkrumahs and Nyereres, albeit in foreign universities, because our own have fallen victim to the dictates of SAPs. African masses, in their varied ways and idioms, are censuring their leaders and evaluating their weaknesses. In my country when the president says ‘utandawazi’ meaning globalisation, people echo ‘utandawizi’ meaning 'a network of theft'.

Globalisation chickens are rapidly coming home to roost while neoliberal eggs are cracking up one after another. SAPs and the subsequent privatisation and liberalisation policies have severely undermined the welfare of our people. The indices of education, health, sanitation, water, life expectancy, infant mortality and literacy have all fallen. Privatisation programmes have thrown thousands of people out of work and increasingly privatisation projects are being exposed as big scandals. In Tanzania, all the four big privatisations – bank, water, electricity, telecommunications and mining – have proved to be utterly one-sided in favour of multinational corporations, if not outright fraudulent, costing the country billions of shillings.

The imperialist ideological offensive is losing steam. After the unilateral Iraq war, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, it has lost its last veneer of legitimacy. Increasingly, not only in its backyards but even at home it is resorting to coercion, force and wars, in the process provoking resistance of all kinds from the oppressed. In the absence of a global, coherent ideology with a vision, the oppressed, the marginalised and the disregarded fall back on the only ideological resource available – racial, religious, ethnic and chauvinistic prejudices.

I want to suggest that Pan-Africanism is the ideology of national liberation at the continental level in the post-cold war era just as nationalism was the ideology of liberation in the post-second world war era. For Pan-Africanism to play this role we need to modify and rework it in several directions. I can only suggest a few.

First, Pan-Africanist ideology must give primacy to politics. It must be a political ideology, not a developmentalist programme. It must provide a vision, not simply set out a goal. It must inspire and mobilise. While African unity is undoubtedly the rallying cry it must unite us to struggle and inspire us to struggle to unite.

No doubt Africa needs economic development. But as the Lagos Plan of Action, which was shamefully rejected by African states because of lack of endorsement by their imperialist masters, argued, such development cannot be self-reliant or sustainable unless African economies and resources are internally integrated (see Adedeji in Nyong'o et al. 2002). This in itself requires a political decision.

Second, Pan-Africanism in its theory and ideology, in its programme and strategy must be anti-imperialist and pro-people. It must totally and uncompromisingly distance itself from the position that globalisation offers opportunities and challenges and that we should use the opportunities. The fact that in your struggle you may wrench the master's weapon and turn it against him does not mean that the master has given you an opportunity to do so. Globalisation, as all serious studies show, is a process of further intensification of imperialist exploitation through deepening the integration of the world economy in the interest of international finance capital

Third, Pan-Africanists must think continentally and act both continentally and regionally. By regionally I mean to refer to spaces beyond single countries, whether this is East African or West African, North African or Southern African, or Central African. Pan-Africanists must prise open spaces to expand the struggle beyond regions because regions are only battlefields; the war is continental.

Here we need to recall the debate among the African nationalists on the step-by-step as opposed to continental approach to unification. Nyerere argued that unification at regional levels would enhance the process towards continental unity because you would have fewer units to unite. This would be so, he argued, provided we did not lose sight of the ultimate vision of African unity (see Nyerere 1966). Experience, however, has proved that in practice so long as such processes are led by states, the very vision of larger unity tends to disappear as state leaders get embroiled in the pragmatism of power politics.

These dilemmas, to a certain extent, may be overcome by the conception of Pan-Africanism as a people's ideology of struggle and a vision of liberation as opposed to the statist pan-Africanism of leaders.

Fourth, therefore, Pan-Africanism must be a bottom–up people's ideology putting pressures on their states and monitoring their actions rather than a top–down statist programme or plan. People's Pan-Africanists must be wary of African states and their imperialist backers who wrap up their ‘nepadisms’ in the garb of Pan-Africanism.

NEPAD, which underpins the African Union, is in line with compradorialism rather than Pan-Africanism, as a number of African scholars have shown (see Adedeji, Nabudere, Mafeje, Olukoshi, Mkandawire, Tandon and others in Nyong'o et al. 2002). Adebayo Adedeji succinctly sums up NEPAD's objective as strengthening imperialism's hold 'by tying the African canoe firmly to the West's neo-liberal ship on the waters of globalisation' (Nyong'o et al. 2002, p. 42). And one may as well add that South African capital provides the rope painted in the colour of the African Renaissance. As two South African authors have put it:

'The pinnacle of Mbeki's Renaissance Africa has been a drive for the virtues and dictates of the free market in Africa. Essentially, this boils down to making Africa safe for overseas multinational investment and private capital. …

'This, above all else, may be why Washington supports the thrust of a Mbeki-articulated renaissance. This could also account for why Mbeki is clearly liked by America's Corporate Council on Africa, as well as western European investors (Landberg & Kornegay 1998).'

Fifth, unlike the times of African nationalists, today's Pan-Africanists face another challenge and that is the rise of regional hegemons. South Africa seems to be moving in that direction. Africa is the fourth largest export market for South African goods with the trade balance heavily tilted in favour of South Africa. South African corporations have rapidly moved into many African countries, taking hold of banks and mines, telecommunications and energy’ retail networks and hotel businesses. Even cultural exports in the forms of TV networks and shows are a daily diet of African urban (fortunately so far only urban) homes (Daniel et al. 2002). South Africa's active role in the so-called peacemaking in the DRC has paved a way for its corporations to take hold of that rich country. South Africa is also known to supply arms to a number of neighbouring African countries. No wonder some have wondered whether the renaissance is not Pax Pretoriana thinly disguised as a Pax Africana (Daniel et al. 2002).

New Pan-Africanism will have to evolve new strategies to deal with this development so that Pan-Africanism does not fall prey to the ambitions of stronger African states.

Sixth, the new Pan-Africanism must find an organisational home in the movements of African people as opposed to state (political) parties. It should walk in the footsteps of the All Africa People's Organisation. Pan-Africanism should be an explicit credo of our All-Africa research and professional organisations, All-Africa trade unions, All-Africa peasant associations, All-Africa women’s organisations. I would say even our regional people's organisations should be branches of All-Africa organisations.

If we truly want an All-Africa Federation of People's Republics, we have to start with an All-Africa Federation of People's Organisations.


In this chapter I have only set out in broad strokes some of the elements of a new vision. It requires a lot of further discussion, debate and struggles to realise the Pan-Africanist vision. And that is where we should begin. We should consciously place Pan-Africanism on the agenda. For example, in our various debates on constitutionalism and federalism, like the one which is currently going on here in Nigeria, Pan-Africanism could have been, and ought to be, one of the central issues.

We intellectuals have to generate a deliberate, consistent and protracted continent-wide discourse on new Pan-Africanism. It is in such a discourse that we can debate and agree and debate and disagree on many and varied aspects of new Pan-Africanism. We shall discuss and debate the motive forces of Pan-Africanism and the social character of our states. We will analyse and struggle over who are the friends and who are the enemies of Pan-Africanism. We will begin to chart the type of new democratic Africa we want. We shall go beyond the Pan-Africanist liberation of the continent to the social emancipation of humankind. It is in such debates and dialogues that we will nurture our new George Padmores and Du Bois, Nkrumahs and Nyereres, Fanons and Cabrals. A Pan-Africanist discourse will, in the words of Nyerere, 'link our intellectual life together indissolubly' (Nyerere 1966 in Nyerere 1968, p. 217). It is through such discourses that we shall evolve our All-Africa People's Organisations

Remember: 'Insurrection of ideas precedes insurrection of arms.'

A spectre is haunting Africa – the spectre of Pan-Africanism. We, Africans, have been exploited a great deal, humiliated a great deal, disregarded a great deal. Now we want to make a revolution, a Pan-Africanist revolution so that we are never again exploited, humiliated and disregarded.[1]

People of Africa unite,
You have nothing to lose but your drudgery
And a whole continent to gain.

* Where is Uhuru? by Issa G. Shivji is now available from Fahamu Books. This article comprises an extract from Where is Uhuru?.
* Issa G. Shivji is the Mwalimu Nyerere Professor of Pan-African Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

[1] The second sentence is adapted from Tanzania's Arusha Declaration, the socialist manifesto of the country adopted in 1967 under Nyerere. It has now been abandoned.

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Nyerere, J. K., 1963a, 'A United States of Africa', Journal of Modern African Studies, January, reprinted in Nyerere, J. K., 1967, Freedom and Unity: a Selection from Writings and Speeches, Dar es Salaam: Oxford University Press.
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Nyerere, J.K., 1997, 'Africa Must Unite', edited excerpts from a public lecture delivered in Accra to mark Ghana's 40th independence day anniversary celebrations, United New Africa Global Network,
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Shivji, I. G. 2005, 'The Rise, the Fall and the Insurrection of Nationalism in Africa' in Felicia Arudo Yieke, ed. East Africa: In Search of National and Regional Renewal, Dakar: CODESRIA.

Nkrumah at 100: Lessons for African leadership

Yao Graham


© Africa Within
While many African leaders have aspired to inherit Nkrumah’s mantle as the visionary and driver of Pan-Africanism and continental unity, writes Yao Graham, a gaping political leadership vacuum remains at the heart of the continent’s collective expression. From an age when there were a number of outstanding African leaders, among whom Nkrumah was preeminent, Graham argues that the African Union’s election of Gaddafi as its leader is a statement of a collective failure of leadership and underlines the crisis in which the Pan-African project is currently mired at the inter-state level. Where, asks Graham, are the African leaders who see opportunities for change in the current crisis, and who are ‘ready to dare and look beyond guaranteeing the sanctity of aid flows?’

In February Ghana’s new President John Atta-Mills announced that Nkrumah’s birthday in September will be observed as Founder’s Day and a national holiday. The long and tortuous national rehabilitation of the man who led the country to independence and remains an inspiration to Africans all over the world had taken yet another important step in the centenary year of his birth.

In the years after Ghana gained independence, Nkrumah’s life and work was dominated by two primary concerns, one international, the other domestic. Internationally Pan-Africanism as a project of political and economic freedom, unity and structural transformation linked to the issue of Africa’s place and voice on the world stage was dominant. Inside Ghana the main issue was the structural transformation of the mono-crop dependent colonial economy bequeathed by the British into a balanced and internally linked one that offered improved and secure livelihoods to Ghanaians. The domestic and international concerns were of course closely linked in Nkrumah’s pronouncements and practice. He hoped that any achievements in Ghana would serve as a model as well as a unit in the economy of a united Africa. Nkrumah was ready to incur the wrath of the major imperialist powers of the day in pursuit of what he believed was in the interest of the African people.

David Rooney concluded his critical biography of Nkrumah with the acknowledgement that ‘His hopes were encapsulated in his ultimate goal of a United Africa in which its rich natural resources would be used for the benefit of all its people and would not be filched from them by foreign financiers and other exploiters. It may take centuries for Nkrumah’s goal to be achieved, but when it is, he will be revered as the leader with the dynamism and intelligent imagination to take the first brave steps’.

From an age when there were a number of outstanding African leaders, among whom Nkrumah was preeminent, the continent currently confronts the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and a host of other challenges such as the situation in and international political play around Darfur without a rallying figure.

Nkrumah’s leadership and rallying role in African affairs went well beyond his vision and theorising. Importantly it included support for national liberation movements. This support embodied a unity of his Pan-Africanism and commitment to anti-colonial independence as a necessary precondition for the continent’s unity and progress. The activities of the Bureau of African Affairs which oversaw support for national liberation movements and the training of their cadre in Ghana with support from the Soviet bloc and China led to Cold War accusation that Ghana was a base for communist subversion in Africa. Two events however stand out in Nkrumah’s readiness to support the national liberation struggle as well as defend its unity with the Pan-African cause, even when face to face with much more powerful countries. These are the financial aid Ghana gave to newly independent Guinea in 1958 and Ghana’s stance and action in support of Patrice Lumumba’s government during the Congo (DRC) crisis of the early sixties. Developments in the two countries soon after independence offer credence to Cabral’s argument that ‘so long as imperialism is in existence an independent African state must be a liberation movement in power, or it will not be independent’.

As France stared defeat in the face in Algeria at the hands of the National Liberation Front (FLN) – a prospect made all the more difficult to countenance because of the humiliation inflicted by the Vietnamese in 1954 – it sought to re-package its colonial control by offering its African colonies membership of a French community. All French African colonies, except Guinea under Sekou Toure, agreed to the new colonial package. In an unforgettable act of vindictiveness, the departing French stripped Guinea of anything they could carry, leaving the country on the brink of collapse. Nkrumah stepped in with a £10m loan to help the newly independent country avoid collapse. This was a considerable sum in those days and big sacrifice by a small country like Ghana.

Nkrumah’s brave and sustained but ultimately doomed support for Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, the unity of Congo and his faith in the UN in the face Western plotting and intrigue marked a high point of his willingness to assume international leadership on African causes. The outcome was also a stark statement of what could not be achieved without a concerted African engagement in the face of powerful external forces. Nkrumah maintained a consistent line during the Congo crisis. He insisted that the country should solve its problems with the support of other African countries within the framework of the UN without the meddling of global powers, especially the NATO bloc. He assumed that the UN framework would give international legitimacy to the African led process. Nkrumah sent troops to support Lumumba using Soviet planes much to the anger of the USA. On 23 September 1960 Nkrumah used the platform of the UN General Assembly to make the case for Congo’s unity, Lumumba’s leadership and for an African solution under UN auspices to the crisis in the Congo. The appeal failed to gain traction, mainly because the UN auspices also provided perfect cover for the US and its NATO allies to carry out their plans in the Congo.

It is now a public fact that even before Congo’s independence on 1 July 1960, the American CIA was getting ready to put its puppets in power. President Dwight Eisenhower issued a national security order for the killing of Prime Minister Lumumba within six weeks of Congo becoming independent. Congo’s fate as a Western plaything in the Cold War was sealed and its long and tragic descent into what it has become today had begun. The gulf between Nkrumah’s intentions and his weakness in the situation was tragically highlighted by how Ghana’s contingent in the UN military force became detached from Nkrumah’s political objectives and acted as accessories to actions against Lumumba.

Nkrumah’s lonely and heroic but ultimately futile stance on the Congo crisis contrasts sharply with the flabby collective African approach on Somalia and Darfur. The former process has lurched from crisis to crisis with ever diminishing credibility and capacity of the transitional government. The situation was further compounded by the readiness of Ethiopia, the host country of the African Union, to act in concert with the Bush administration in pursuit of their particular national interests that converged in Somalia. Old Ethiopian imperial pretensions meshed with Bush’s war on terror. All these fuelled the discrediting, resistance to and delegitimation of the AU’s role in that country.

The Darfur crisis and its escalation around the indictment of Sudan’s President Bashir by the International Criminal Court has provided a grave test for Africa’s collective ability to deal with African issues which are heavily intermeshed with international dimensions and interests. The UN/AU hybrid peacekeeping operation in Darfur (UNAMID) continues to face various difficulties. Joint UN-AU as well as Arab League mediation and peace initiatives do not appear to be making much progress. The indictment of Bashir and the issuing of a warrant for his arrest has further complicated the situation. Having failed to exert a decisive influence on the course of events in Darfur, including on the behaviour of the Sudanese government and the evolution of the ICC’s pursuit of Bashir, the African Union has taken a critical stance towards the implementation of the arrest warrant. As the internationalisation of the Darfur conflict widens, the purchase of the African Union on how it is likely to be resolved shrinks.

In recent years Pan-African structures, institutions and processes have proliferated. The mechanisms of the AU have been undergoing refinement since it took over from the OAU as the premier continental institution. Alongside these phenomena, many African leaders have aspired to inherit Nkrumah’s mantle as the visionary and driver of Pan-Africanism and continental unity. A gaping political leadership vacuum however remains at the heart of the continent’s collective expression.

Earlier this year the AU elected Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi as chair of the Union. In recent years, he has emerged as the most forthright spokesman for the urgency of creating a United States of Africa. How best and how quickly to move forward to a union of African states was the main item on the agenda of the 2007 AU summit, fittingly held in Accra during Ghana’s 50th year of independence. The debate was inconclusive but the exercise underlined Gaddafi’s stature as a leader of the Unity Now! camp.

The African Union’s election of the unpredictable Gaddafi at this grave moment in history is more a negative than a positive. It is a statement of a collective failure of leadership and underlines the crisis in which the Pan-African project is mired at the inter-state level. His seemingly radical stance on African Unity notwithstanding, the sad truth is that Gaddafi is not the successor to Nkrumah that the continent currently and urgently needs. He does not offer a coherent vision or leadership practice of pan-Africanism in keeping with the needs of the age. These shortcomings are compounded by his unpredictability and histrionics. Some of his views and pronouncements show him up as a man deeply marked by his years as an authoritarian leader. Among his many bizarre acts is his current self-designation as king of Africa’s kings, a reactionary assertion out of tune with the democratic logic on the continent’s national liberation struggles.

The African people want democracy not monarchs. If there is one element of Africa’s post-colonial history that the masses want behind them it is the years of despotism. In Black Star, his deeply sympathetic study of Nkrumah’s life and times, Basil Davidson, who devoted his life to supporting Africa’s national liberation struggles, pointed to the decay of internal party democracy and the gradual ascent of authoritarian use of power in Nkrumah’s Ghana as a key contributor to the erosion of mass support for Nkrumah’s efforts to transform the economy for the benefit of ordinary people. ‘The view for tomorrow is that Nkrumah’s aims were the right ones and their realisation will become increasingly possible as conditions ripen and as other strategists take up further struggles for liberation. These strategists will succeed... in the measure that they undertake and carry through the work of building democratic organisations which become the vehicles of mass participation as well as mass support: movements in which the mass of ordinary people really make, enshrine and uphold the fundamental law of the land’.

The African delegation to the London G20 summit was led not by Gaddafi the chair of the AU but by Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi, who is chair of NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) and a good friend of the West. NEPAD is at best a substructure of the AU and Zenawi’s presence is illustrative of the ease with which many outside Africa are able to pick and choose how to deal with the continent. During the Beijing China Africa Forum the Chinese were able to deal with African countries as individuals while the AU was treated as observer.

Processes of restructuring of global leadership are underway in the international level responses to the unfolding economic crisis. One strand of these is the emergence of the G20 as a key site of global economic leadership, the effective downgrading of the G8. This process mirrors the way in which the old wholly Western quartet of leading powers in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has been replaced by a new quad of the US, EU, Brazil and India. The seating around the G20 table reflects the power of individual Asian and Latin American economies with South Africa the only African country there as an individual member country. Realistically the most effective way African countries could have optimised their voice would have been through effective prior preparation and definition of positions and South-South diplomacy ahead of the meeting, as well as having a collective representative of their own choosing.

The continent’s response to the global crisis has so far lacked urgency and the sense that this is an opportunity to make a break with some of the discredited policies which have failed to deliver transformative growth over the past couple of decades. The main line in the global fora has been to plead for Africa to be remembered and for the security of aid budgets. As African leaders traipse around international fora, the glaring absence of leaders who see opportunities for change in the current crisis stands in sharp relief.

The current global crisis has validated what critics of neoliberalism have been saying for years. In the last few years the annual Economic Report on Africa (ERA) published by the UN Economic Commission for Africa has been gently putting out its critique of the experience of the neoliberal agenda in Africa. Years of growth had failed to effect either transformation or the much touted poverty reduction. The current crisis had again brought to the fore the fundamental structural problems of Africa’s economies which the recent years of growth had masked, especially in countries exporting oil or benefiting from the commodities boom.

Nkrumah reportedly broke down in tears when confronted with the news that the collapse of cocoa prices had cut the ground from under his plans for the economic transformation of Ghana. In the years since Nkrumah’s overthrow, the cyclical movement of cocoa and gold prices have been the determinant factors in the health of the Ghanaian economy, tempered in recent years by the substantial aid that the country receives. For some years now Ghana has been a model of the type of economy and economic policy that has been proclaimed as the way forward for Africa but which has failed to deliver over a generation and has been exposed as bankrupt by the global crisis.

During the last six or so years of his rule Nkrumah attempted to transform the colonial economy he inherited. Many leaders of his generation – Nyerere in Tanzania, Kaunda in Zambia, and many others – recognised this to be a primary task of post-colonial economic policy. Despite the claims that Nkrumah’s difficulties were because of his socialist policies, the truth is that for a long time he was a good pupil of the dominant economic theories and ideas of his day as purveyed by leading thinkers in the West. His later attempt to learn from the development strategies of the Soviet Union as well as China and Yugoslavia showed a readiness to take risks and try uncharted paths. In retrospect it clear that many mistakes were made and offer rich lessons for today, but he dared.

In the 15 years Nkrumah was in power a leading role for the state in the economy was the norm in both communist countries and the West where Keynesian economics prevailed. The experience of the Soviet Union offered lessons in rapid industrialisation, which India had started learning before Ghana came along. The relative success of import substituting industrialisation in Latin America had made that strategy a respectable one by the time of Ghana’s independence. The Labour party was undertaking extensive nationalisations in Britain when Nkrumah first came to power. Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanism was powered by a grander vision and ambition than the modest European Coal and Steel community, which has flowered into the European Union, but they were united by a recognition of the benefits of regional integration.

Using existing resources, Nkrumah rapidly expanded education, health and infrastructure and aided other newly independent countries such as Guinea. With additional borrowing, industrial and agricultural investments were made. Many of the agro-industrial projects, not all well conceived, were in their infancy when he was overthrown. He inaugurated the Akosombo hydroelectricity dam, the centre piece of the Volta River project, which he saw as powering Ghana’s industrialisation a month before his overthrow. The creation of a local raw material base was not properly scheduled with the new factories that were built in the period before the 1966 coup. By that time the crisis in the international price of cocoa had wrought considerable damage to revenue and growth projections, putting pressure on imports and consumption.

The turn towards the Soviet Union and China was an economic as well as political act. Nkrumah’s anti-imperialism meant that he did not believe he could rely on the West for full support for his transformational project especially given the centrality of African unity with its implication for existing colonial spheres of influence as well as US intrusions into the continent.

One of the key lessons from Ghana’s development experience under Nkrumah is linked directly to his commitment to a pan-African solution to the challenges of under development. Nkrumah’s works are replete with warnings about the limits of what small ‘balkanised’ African countries can do on their own. Faced with the absence of a larger political economic unit he sought to transform the small economy and market of Ghana into an industrialised economy at a fast pace. The post-Cold War global economic framework has made the regional and continental even more key in any serious African project of economic transformation.

Sadly even in the face of the global crisis many African governments are looking only outwards towards their ‘development partners’ rather than exploring the opportunities for deepening regional and continental cooperation and integration. The IMF is offering its pernicious advice that not much needs to change and there seem to be many in African leadership ready to listen. Meantime in the global North, pages are being torn from the rulebooks by which African economies have been run from Washington. The norms which have driven the negotiating positions of the West in fora such as the WTO have been called into question by domestic policies in those countries.

All these offer important opportunities for a new agenda for economic transformation in Africa. Where are the African leaders ready to dare and look beyond guaranteeing the sanctity of aid flows? Wanted: an African ‘leader with the dynamism and intelligent imagination to take the first brave steps’.

* Yao Graham, an activist and writer, is the head of Third World Network Africa, a pan-African research and advocacy organisation based in Accra, Ghana.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

Comment & analysis

African unity: Feeling with Nkrumah, thinking with Nyerere

Chambi Chachage


© Africa Within
The debate on how to unite African states has not changed significantly since Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere locked horns on the matter in the early 1960s, writes Chambi Chachage. Exploring Nyerere’s ‘step by step’ approach to building African unity in relation to Nkrumah’s desire to ‘fast track’ the creation of a Unites States of Africa, Chachage concludes that while Nkrumah’s Pan-African vision remains powerful, his approach is unrealistic even today.’ ‘To that end, I will feel with Nkrumah, yet I shall think with Nyerere’, he writes, ‘Africa must unite, albeit pragmatically’.


The times have indeed changed. What was known as the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) is now called the African Union (AU). It is just a matter of time before we see a United States of Africa (‘USA’) in our lifetime. At least that is what Pan-Africanists envision.

Any change tends to be characterised by both discontinuity and continuity. Discontinuity of what was/is meant to be changed. Continuity of the vision associated with a mission of bringing that change.

It is such continuity that this article seeks to address. Why? Simply because the terms of the debate on how to unite African states has not changed significantly since Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere locked horns on the matter in the early 1960s.


The thoughts and sentiments of these two great Pan-Africanists on how to achieve African Unity still divide us today. There are those who side with Nkrumah. Others side with Nyerere. Yet some of us are caught somewhere in between.

Note, for instance, the position advanced by Ebou Faye in Dr Kwame Nkrumah: Remembering Africa’s Most Influential and Greatest in the 21st Century. Therein he claims that it was Nyerere who frustrated Nkrumah when he ‘cunningly pushed through a resolution which urged the OAU to accept the colonial borders as permanent, recognised frontiers of the OAU member states.’ Nyerere indeed admitted in 1992 and 1997 that he was responsible for moving that resolution which was carried by a simple majority at the 1964 OAU Summit in Cairo with two reservations: Morocco and Somalia.

This move, Faye further asserts, ‘was in collaboration with Emperor Haile Selassie, who one year earlier had annexed Eritrea’ and that ‘though Nyerere claimed that the intention was to minimise border conflicts in Africa,’ the ‘underlying motive of the resolution was to frustrate Nkrumah and his Pan-Africanist ideals.’ These ideals called for a speedy continental unity as early as 1965.

For the likes of Faye the choice was and is as clear as crystal: Nkrumah’s speedy way toward a United States of Africa, rather than Nyerere’s gradual way toward African Unity. And to the Fayes, Nyerere was ‘the architect of the OAU status quo’ because he ‘cunningly pushed through’ that resolution which allegedly made OAU cease ‘to be an instrument of the Pan-African revolutionary change.’

As such, they contend, even ‘the liberation of the remaining colonies was conceived in the context of maintaining this status quo’ and that the OAU became its ‘apologist’. The situation became worse, they further contend, to the extent that in 1972 Nyerere himself publicly admitted that ‘the OAU had become no more than a ‘trade union of Africa’s heads of state.’

Then there is another relatively less polarised position advanced by the Mwalimu Nyerere Professor in Pan-African Studies at the University of Dar-es-Salaam, Issa Shivji, in his Bill Dudley memorial lecture on ‘Pan-Africanism or Imperialism? Unity and Struggle towards a New Democratic Africa’ on 17 July 2005. Shivji sides with Nkrumah’s position yet bails out Nyerere’s supposedly recanted position. After quoting in full Nyerere’s speech at the 40th independence anniversary of Ghana in 1997, Shivji concludes that in that quote ‘Nyerere is no doubt vindicating Nkrumah’s position’ and asks rhetorically if thus Nyerere ‘is also critiquing his own position of step by step, any unity?’

Ironically, that same quote – coupled with what Nyerere went on say prior to his untimely death in 1999 – proves that he never abandoned his own pragmatic position of step by step continental unity. In fact it shows how impractical Nkrumah’s position was vis-à-vis Nyerere’s practical approach. To get the context, lets revisit this quotable quote of Nyerere’s that Shivji was referring to.

As ‘the greatest crusader for African Unity’, generously notes Nyerere, Nkrumah ‘wanted the Accra summit of 1965 to establish a Union Government for the whole independent Africa’. But, he admits, they failed. ‘The one main reason’, Nyerere further notes, ‘is that Kwame, like all great believers, underestimated the degree of suspicion and animosity which his crusading passion had created among a substantial number of his fellow heads of states.’

The major reason, however, confesses Nyerere, is that already too many of them ‘had a vested interest in keeping Africa divided.’ He then echoes his 1960s prophetic warning on the necessity of establishing an ‘East African Federation’ prior to independence by reiterating why Nkrumah encountered such resistance.

Such opposition, affirms Nyerere, naturally happens because once ‘you multiply national anthems, national flags and national passports, seats at the United Nations, and individuals entitled to 21 guns salute, not to speak of a host of ministers, prime ministers, and envoys, you would have a whole army of powerful people with vested interests in keeping Africa balkanised.’

Tellingly, Nyerere reminisced how in that summit he heard ‘one head of state express with relief that he was happy to be returning home to his country still head of state.’ Even though he was not sure if this leader was serious or joking – although Nkrumah ‘was very serious and the fear of a number of’ leaders ‘to lose’ their ‘status was palpable’ – Nyerere thus reiterates his then pragmatic scepticism:

‘But I never believed that the 1965 Accra summit would have established a union government for Africa. When I say that we failed, that is not what I mean, for that clearly was an unrealistic objective for a single summit. What I mean is that we did not even discuss a mechanism for pursuing the objective of a politically united Africa. We had a liberation committee already. We should have at least had a unity committee or undertaken to establish one. We did not. And after Kwame Nkrumah was removed from the African political scene nobody took up the challenge again.’

Contrary to what some Pan-Africanist revisionists would want us to believe, Nyerere was solidly consistent in his pragmatic position. While it is correct to argue, as Shivji does in his Bill Dudley lecture, that Nkrumah had much earlier held the gradualist position but was quick to learn from experience and switch to a fast-track position, it is equally correct to argue that Nyerere had also earlier held a fast-track position in the context of regionalisation but was quick to learn from experience and switch to gradualism.

In his 1960s call for an East African Federation prior to the independence of Tanganyika, Kenya, Uganda and Zanzibar, Nyerere ridiculed what he referred as the camps of the ‘bados’, that is, those who were saying ‘bado kidogo’ as in ‘we are almost ready but not yet so lets wait a bit’ to federate. He even asserted that this was the same argument that imperialists used to delay our uhuru.

Therein Nyerere used case studies of Somaliland/Somalia, India/Pakistan, Nigeria, Canada and USA among others to prove it was relatively easier to federate prior to independence, paying homage to what he hailed as ‘the most brilliant and far-sighted sons of Africa’, that is, Nkrumah and Ahmed Sekou Toure, for managing a then exception to that rule by uniting Ghana and Guinea after they became independent.

This is the Nyerere who was ready to delay the independence of Tanganyika so as to fast-track the East African Federation. ‘The balkanisation of Africa,’ he insisted, ‘is a source of weakness to our continent’ and that the ‘forces of imperialism and neo-imperialism will find their own strength in this basic weakness of our continent.’ Thus he saw that golden chance of removing the balkanisation of East Africa as a chance to undo part of the harm of continental balkanisation and as a step toward continental unity.

Barring conspiracy theories about being a stooge of Anglo-American Imperialism, it is this experience that made Nyerere lock horns with Nkrumah on the feasibility of fast-tracking unity. Out of this experience there is no way, unless conspiracy theories hold water, that Nyerere displayed what Shivji’s (2008) ‘Pan-Africanism or Pragmatism: Lesson of Tanganyika-Zanzibar Union’ refers to as ‘his limited appreciation of Nkrumah’s analysis of imperialism as a world system in which Africans could stand tall only as a politically united continent’ when he thus responded to his criticism at the 1964 OAU Summit:

‘To rule out a step by step progress towards African Unity is to hope that the Almighty will one day say, ‘Let there be unity in Africa’, and there shall be unity; or pray for a conqueror, but even a conqueror will have to proceed step by step. To say that the step was invented by the imperialists is to reach the limits of absurdity. I have heard the imperialists blamed for many things, but not for the limitations of mankind. They are not God!’

Indeed Nyerere lacked the economic sophistication of Nkrumah, but that by no means means that he did not then have a deep sense of the neo-colonial dynamics of imperialism. To prove that, one only has to reread his writings prior to the 1960s, such as his 1958 pamphlet on ‘National Property’ to see how he apprehensively foresaw, and tried to avert, the ongoing neo-colonisation of land tenure in Tanzania.


What then made Nyerere ‘oppose’ Nkrumah? The answer, I think, lies buried in Bill Sutherland and Matt Meyer’s 1992 interview with Nyerere on ‘Mwalimu, Tanzania, and the Meaning of Freedom’ and in Ikaweba Bunting’s (1998) ‘The Heart of Africa. Interview with Julius Nyerere on Anti-Colonialism’:

In the case of the former interview, Nyerere thus reminisced:

‘My differences with Kwame were that Kwame thought there was somehow a shortcut, and I was saying that there was no shortcut. This is what we have inherited, and we’ll have to proceed within the limitations that that inheritance has imposed upon us. Kwame thought that somehow you could say, “Let there be a United States of Africa” and it would happen. I kept saying “Kwame, it’s a slow process.” He had tremendous contempt for a large number of the leaders of Africa and I said, “Fine, but they are there. What are you going to do with them? They don’t believe as you do – as you and I do – in the need for the unity of Africa. BUT WHAT DO YOU DO? THEY ARE THERE AND WE HAVE TO PROCEED ALONG WITH EVERYBODY!” And I said to him in so many words that we’re not going to have an African Napoleon, who is going to conquer the continent and put it under one flag. It is not possible. At the OAU Conference in 1963, I was actually trying to defend Kwame. I was the last to speak and Kwame had said this [OAU] charter has not gone far enough because he thought he would leave Addis with a United States of Africa. I told him that this was absurd; that it can’t happen. This is what we have been able to achieve. No builder, after putting the foundation down, complains that the building is not yet finished. You have to go on building and building until you finish, but he was impatient because he saw the stupidity of others.

In the case of the latter interview, Nyerere thus recollected:

‘Kwame Nkrumah and I were committed to the idea of unity. African leaders and heads of state did not take Kwame seriously. However, I did. I did not believe in these small little nations. Still today I do not believe in them. I tell our people to look at the European Union, at these people who ruled us who are now uniting. Kwame and I met in 1963 and discussed African Unity. We differed on how to achieve a United States of Africa. But we both agreed on a United States of Africa as necessary. Kwame went to Lincoln University, a black college in the US. He perceived things from the perspective of US history, where the 13 colonies that revolted against the British formed a union. That is what he thought the OAU should do. I tried to get East Africa to unite before independence. When we failed in this I was wary about Kwame's continental approach. We corresponded profusely on this. Kwame said my idea of ‘regionalisation’ was only balkanisation on a larger scale. Later African historians will have to study our correspondence on this issue of uniting Africa. Africans who studied in the US like Nkrumah and [Nigerian independence leader] Azikiwe were more aware of the diaspora and the global African community than those of us who studied in Britain. They were therefore aware of a wider Pan-Africanism. Theirs was the aggressive Pan-Africanism of W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey. The colonialists were against this and frightened of it.

Such was a context in which Nyerere clashed with Nkrumah. In his own words, ‘it was when we were very close to a federation of East African states and Kwame was completely opposed to the idea.’ His, then, was the most practical solution given the fact that organic movements of the people, such as the Pan-African Movement for East and Central Africa (PAFMECA), had made strides toward regionalisation whilst the preamble of the OAU Charter that stated ‘we the heads of state’ rather than ‘we the people’ was ironically creating a bureaucratic Pan-Africanist political project. Later on these groupings would have come together naturally to form bigger units and, ultimately, a greater African unity. This is a position that Nyerere consistently held, as his ‘Reflections’ during his 75th Birthday celebration in 1997 thus attest:

‘The small countries in Africa must move towards either unity or cooperation, unity of Africa…if we can’t move towards bigger nation states, at least let’s move toward greater cooperation. This is beginning to happen. And the new leadership in Africa should encourage it… southern Africa has a tremendous opportunity… because of South Africa… but you need leadership, because if you get proper leadership there, within the next ten fifteen years that region is going to be the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) of Africa… West Africa. Another bloc is developing there, but that depends very much on Nigeria… The leadership will have to come from Nigeria…’

It is people’s loyalties to these regional blocs as well as nations that pose what Nyerere referred to in 1966 as ‘The Dilemma of the Pan-Africanist’. ‘On the one hand’, he noted, ‘is the fact that Pan-Africanism demands an African consciousness and African loyalty; on the other hand is the fact that each Pan-Africanist must also concern himself with the freedom and development of one of the nations of Africa.’

It is not surprising, then, that the latest Afrobarometer Survey conducted in 2008 showed that the majority of Tanzanians do not support the political and military unification of East Africa even though they are supportive of its economic integration. Interestingly, the majority of Tanzanians also told the presidential committee that collected public views in 2007 on fast-tracking the proposed East African political federation that they were in favour of a gradual approach. Once again most citizens are on the side of Nyerere’s pragmatism. One can easily guess what they would say to a proposed United States of Africa.


My heart is with Nkrumah. I still get moved when I read his electrifying ‘Address to the conference of African heads of state and government’ on 24 May 1963 in Addis Ababa. But it is as unrealistic now, especially with Colonel Muamar Gaddafi at the helm of the AU, as it was then when Emperor Haile Selassie was the head of OAU. As such, my mind is with Nyerere. His pragmatic way is still valid today.

Thus to me the question is not Pan-Africanism or pragmatism? Rather, it is wither pragmatic Pan-African patriotism? To that end, I will feel with Nkrumah, yet I shall think with Nyerere.

Yes, Africa must unite, albeit, pragmatically!

* Chambi Chachage is an independent researcher, newspaper columnist and policy analyst.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

Contemporary Africa and Pan-Africanism

Articulation, unity and inclusion

Salma Maoulidi


cc Tom Maruko
Pan-Africanism gave rise to the civil rights movement in the US and to independence and anti-imperialist movements in Africa, writes Salma Maoulidi, but what is Pan-Africanism to the average African today? To a large extent, Maoulidi argues, it remains a global phenomenon that has focused on global political agendas and less so on struggles on the ground. What is missing, suggests Maoulidi, is ‘a popular expression of Pan-Africanism and a matching consciousness such that the concept does not appear surreal, abstract and out of touch with reality and the populace, particularly the youth who are the inheritors of its future.’

Recently I was in the audience listening to a talk hosted by the African Studies Association and the Centre for African Studies at Rutgers University in the US, featuring Paul Tiyambe Zelesa, entitled ‘Obama, Africa and African Americans’.

The talk explored the Obama phenomenon, which Mr Zelesa considered has deep meaning and implications for the Pan-African world, as well as the engagement between Africa and its diasporas. As the first black president of the most powerful nation in the world, Obama’s election assumes racial significance. Also significant is that it took the son of an African man, exposed from an early age to a multicultural context to realise the long dream of a population brutalised for centuries by slavery and racial injustice.

According to Zelesa, Obama’s election is viewed with great optimism by African and people of African descent mostly because, ‘it signals a Pan-African present in which the continent and the diaspora are mutually inscribed, invoking memories of the past and imaginations of the future that are singular and inseparable’. I wish to linger momentarily on this idea, exploring the connection between the past and the present to ask how a waning Pan-Africanist agenda can reclaim relevance in novel articulations of unity and inclusion.

I believe this examination is pertinent more so in view of the fact that Pan-Africanism as an ideology is presently confined to certain quarters of the global political intelligentsia. As a person who is mobile and politically engaged increasingly I come across Pan-Africanism mostly in global activist spaces e.g. in the World Social Forum and similar contexts and occasionally in academic spaces. Thus to claim relevance we must ask what is Pan-Africanism to the average African today? Is it a political ideology, as is feminism, or a political , as was the non-aligned movement? Is it a philosophical tradition or a viable political alternative? Where is it situated: Is it internationalist, nationalist or grassroots based? Importantly is it a popular movement or an elitist enterprise?

Africa’s racial legacy spurred the movement. Pan-Africanism emerged and grew at a defining point in history. It arose at the ebb of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and at the demise of colonial empires. Early choices of where to organise – London, Paris, Lisbon and New York – indicated that initial roots were in the diaspora. The movement blossomed amidst a renegotiation of the social contract and a new global order ushered in by the creation of the League of Nations and later the United Nations, bodies which enjoyed influence and trust of the membership. It benefited from the moral issues raised by the global crises created by the two world wars, prominent among them being the question of self-determination of oppressed people.

Pan-Africanism advocated for the commonness and unity of Africans and people of African descent, seemingly oblivious to Africa’s cultural vastness and diversity. Early pioneers moved to reclaim the dignity of the African, instil pride in being African and forge an Africa identify from a shared culture. At the outset, therefore, Pan-Africanism is grounded in an ideology of resistance from colonial and European domination.

Historically Pan-Africanism found diverse expressions and representations. Whether known as Négritude, Back to Africa, Pan-African or Black Power, the naming of Pan-Africanism or its conception as ideology or movement evidences its varied roots and motivations. Two main trends of Pan-Africanism are commonly acknowledged: continental Pan-Africanism and the diaspora Pan-Africanism. Historically these have had a symbiotic relationship.

Early roots of Pan-Africanism demonstrate strong kinship between Africans in the diaspora and Africa. Indeed, the movement was birthed and spearheaded in the Caribbean and in the United States mostly by intellectuals advocating for the dignity of Africans. Pioneers like Henry Sylvester Williams from Trinidad organised the first Pan-African Conference in London Edward W. Blyden W.E.B. Du Bois one of the founders of the NAACP, sponsored the Pan-African Congress of 1921, 1923 and 1927, Martin Delany developed the re-emigration scheme which was later taken up by Marcus Garvey, the founder of a nationalist movement – the Universal Negro Improvement Association – which promoted black pride and advocated for repatriation to Africa. It is also not surprising that the origins of the movement in the continent is tied to an elite class, part of which was resettled diaspora in West Africa, led by activists like S. L. Akintola of Nigeria or Wallace Johnson from Sierra Leone.

The Pan-African ideology found willing disciples among Africans educated in the US and in Europe and among those exposed to Western and urban culture. Student movements of Africa students like the West African Student Union (WASU) founded by Ladipo Solanke were critical in popularising Pan-Africanism in the continent. African students saw the usefulness of the ideology in their self-understanding and in the liberation of Africa. Most, like Kwame Nkurumah and Jomo Kenyatta came back to lead their own national independence struggles as well as partaking in the liberation of the continent from colonialism and apartheid.

Even after returning to Africa, African students maintained ties with the diaspora. In turn the leadership in the diaspora was connected to the continent ideologically, spiritually and at times physically. They made deliberate overtures to Africans, building solidarity and furthering causes related to the liberation of all people of African descent recognising connectedness in their individual and collective cause. For example Mary McLeod Bethune, the first African American woman to serve in the US government, and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. formed part of the Council on African Affairs, a black lobby advocating for African interests. Specifically they advocated for the end of colonialism in Africa and for self-determination.

Pan-Africanism was and continues to be concerned with the affirmation of the African race, culture and achievements. The Encyclopedia Africana Project and numerous books like Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, or Franz Fanon’s the Wretched of the Earth and Nkurumah’s Africa Must Unite among many literary pieces were all attempts to reconstruct and explain global relationships from a African perspective. Scholars, activists, novelists and heads of state crystallised their idea of a liberated and proud Africa in writings, dialogues and organisation.

Today this freshness in perspective and hopefulness amidst newly found freedoms is missing from dominant discourses of African heads of state. Instead their rhetoric ranges from the fatalistic presenting of Africa as the intractable continent, a continent perpetually impoverished intellectually and materially and which can only be ruled through authoritarianism. Some of these readings are incorporated into university curriculums but in view of the small numbers of graduates from African Universities, revolutionary ideas remain elitist and a concern of the campus not the streets.

Also, there is a marked break with art and cultural forms in its expression. In its heyday, Pan-Africanism was a cultural movement, which attracted and influenced artists of different genres in both the US and in Africa. It led to the Harlem Renaissance, marked by authors and poets like Langston Hughes, Richard Right, Claude McKay, and Lena Horne. As a rallying ideology Pan-Africanism defined and gave life to race-based (and class-based) struggles. In the US it gave rise to the Civil Rights movement, while in Africa it gave rise to the independence movements and anti-imperialist movements.

However, the main challenge to its growth and adoption has been in rallying behind a common purpose. Earlier on newly independent nations struggled with an organisational form to encapsulate the Pan-African intent. But at the 1957 conference in Ghana and in subsequent conferences, including the 1974 Dar es Salaam Conference, differences in ideologies, political orientation, regional interests, and leadership hindered meaningful progress from being realised.

Our inability to acknowledge and reconcile divergent strands in ideology and movements has strained the development of Pan-Africanism beyond the faction. Individuals at the centre of Pan-Africanism and their politics were indicative of the shades and interests in the movement. Garvey, unlike Du Bois and others was not an intellectual or from the black elite class. He was thus not very popular among his more rationalist peers. Garvey’s flamboyance and aspiration as provisional president of Africa is observed in figures like Bokassa, Mobutu, Chiluba, Amin, Mugabe and Taylor, while the more poised intellectuals like Du Bois are observed in figures like Nkurumah, Nyerere and Kaunda. These personalities could not eat at the same table, creating deep personal and political divisions that continue to the present day.

A number of leaders and countries were, however, willing to try to make the grand concept of a united and free Africa a reality. They made great sacrifices to liberate their fellows who were still in bondage, but upon liberation the latter have been reluctant to reciprocate with equal doses of good will. South Africa, a country whose anti-apartheid leadership benefited from the Pan-African experience is now a political and economic sore to African nations. The killings of mostly African immigrants in 2007 and 2008 are but an extension of wider anti-African immigration policies pursued by the South African government. Indeed stringent visa conditions against nationals of former frontline states persists, while European nations that supported apartheid have greater access to Africa’s economic magnet.

Yet, at the helm of South Africa’s political leadership are revolutionaries, people who were given refuge in neighbouring states to wage a liberation struggle. It is this class that has failed to translate to the masses that stayed behind the value of unity among Africans and the sacrifices neighbouring countries made and continue to make to enable peaceful coexistence in South Africa. How can a class who benefited from an emancipatory ideology in action abandon it amidst so much expectation of a renaissance in the continent?

This presents an opportune moment to explore some of the shifts that have occurred in the continent, which may signal a repositioning of the Pan-African agenda for continued relevance. I will speak only to the most salient areas that I think are critical to novel articulations of Pan-Africanism, so as to promote unity and inclusion. These are aspects that thus far have been ignored by past articulators who, being more consumed with reasoning, failed to nurture a collective will that would transform the African identity.

In many ways the Africa pre and post independence leadership embodied Pan-Africanism. These heads of states who were poll bearers have since died, been assassinated or deposed. The current generation of African leaders are not inheritors of this legacy. In fact with the bulk of the adult population in Africa being born between 1985 and 1990, a period when the original objective of liberation and independence had been achieved, the challenge is in substantiating the continued relevance of the ideology to new generation of Africans who have inherited the seeds of mistrust sown by former disciples of Pan-Africanism like Jomo Kenyatta and Kamazu Banda.

Today’s Africans, if they have heard of Pan-Africanism, then it is in a context of what was, not what is or what could be. Pan-Africanism remains an obscure rhetoric that informs an increasingly obsolete academic and activist culture. It formed part of Africa’s pre-independence era such that those born in an independent Africa find little attraction with its emancipatory charm. The present occupation in the continent is political and economic unity, as evidenced by the African Union’s most visible project c (New Partnership for Africa’s Development). Its central thesis is, however, not home-grown nor is it final outcome homebound.

At inception, Pan-Africanism was tied to strong intellectual, labour and other social movements e.g. student movements, revolutionary movements and literary movements. Pan-Africanism was a central thesis in their advocacy. Political agitation for the rights of black people was going on simultaneously both in America and in the continent calling for the end of oppression of black people. This shared purpose is no longer shared by the more recent crop of African Americans in power. Rather the perception is that the likes of Condoleezza Rice or General Colin Powell[1] are a liability to the continent. Overall, they did very little to boost image of Africa or to advocate for the continent.

African unity, among other things, is challenged by the language divide: Anglophone, Lusophone, Francophone or Arab speaking. It is ironic that as a people Africans would rather dialogue via the languages of their colonisers and oppressors but resist attempts to adopt an African language to evidence integration. Therefore Africa continues to operate not only in different language zones regionally, but also nationally, as the more educated elites who run the country and services conduct business in the tongue of the masters while the majority of the population converse in indigenous tongues. Thus indigenous Africa remains rooted while official (and professional) Africa is markedly uprooted.

Albeit philosophical, Pan-Africanism found expression in student movements such as Nkrumah’s African Student Organisations in the US and the West African Student Union in Europe. Most nationalist leaders were at different points introduced and inducted to Pan-Africanism during their student days. Alas student movements globally have been weakened. In Tanzania, for example, they are not as political as they were in the 60s and 70s. Today most of their advocacy concerns survival issues and not national and international questions. Furthermore, being increasingly materialistic, young people presently do not have the same affinity to their countries or to the continent, believing that the continent owes them. Rather than involving themselves in the business of salvaging Africa, they see the opportunity to study abroad as a ticket out of Africa. If they do come back to the continent, it is foremost to work for multinational companies and international agencies.

Moreover most intellectuals from Africa, champions of Pan-Africanism, are in flight in foreign universities while labour movements have been weakened by neoliberal economic policies and agendas. Few artists have the political consciousness to contribute to political causes the way Miriam Makeba, Harry Belafonte and Bob Marley did. Political consciousness, nationalist fervour and matriotism are qualities that are passé in the larger political culture.

Certainly, Obama signifies many things to many people. For African American he may epitomise the fruits of a long struggle for civil rights, while for Africans he validates the continent’s attribution as a natural source for global leadership – after all he is the son of an African who managed to do what his kin in America failed to for so long. Significantly, Obama redeems the rift between African and African Americans. But whether this necessarily translates in a shared Pan-Africanism remains uncertain, as Obama’s politics find greater resonance in the integrationist and reconstructionist politics of Lincoln than in Du Bois, Malcom Shabazz or Martin Luther King Jr.

This is an important reality to contend with as we reconsider the utility of Pan-Africanism today, not just in the diaspora but also in the continent. Surely the face of the diaspora has since changed with Africans and people of African decent being dispersed, mostly by choice, in the East as they are in the West, this time as economic migrants as well as skilled labourers, as diplomats and traders. The more recent diaspora have countries of origin with local chapters. Today we see an African diaspora with a real not just an imagined affinity to the continent. We are dealing with a very different diaspora with different dynamics that needs to be captured in a relevant political articulation.

Remarkably, women continue to be markedly absent from the movement’s face, spaces and content. It is notable that women are more visible in Marcus Garvey’s populist movement than in more sophisticated chapters. Women such as Amy Ashwood and Amy Jacques, who both were married to Garvey, were active in the Back to Africa movement. The Nardal sisters from Martinique, Claudia Jones and Una Marson, the Jamaican poet were visible literary figures. Among the few African women associated with early Pan-Africanism are Constance Cummings John and Stella Thomas both from West Africa. A similar pattern is also observed in liberation movements where a certain type of freedom fighter was prized over others. Women continue to be unacknowledged and relegated to the background, raising deep suspicion among women with respect to its emancipatory potential.

Indeed, the faces and voices of Pan-Africanism tend to be male, black, mostly middle-aged, and located in academic institutions or think tanks. To a large extent Pan-Africanism remains a global phenomenon that has confined itself to global political agendas and less so on struggles on the ground. For this reason we struggle to define it appropriately in our local languages. I yearn for a popular expression of Pan-Africanism and a matching consciousness such that the concept does not appear surreal, abstract and out of touch with reality and the populace, particularly the youth who are the inheritors of its future.

* Salma Maoulidi is an activist and the executive director of the Sahiba Sisters Foundation in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at


[1] The same can be said of the governor general of Canada, Michäelle Jean and black woman or Diane Abbott and Paul Boateng from Britain

EU–AU relations: What role for civil society?

Carmen Silvestre


cc Xaf
With African and European ministers set to meet in Brussels on 28 April to assess the progress of the Joint Africa EU Strategy (JAES) adopted in Lisbon in December 2007, Carmen Silvestre emphasises the importance of the meeting for both African and European civil society. Setting out the background to the JAES and Human Rights Dialogue and civil society's participation, Silvestre argues that the meeting represents a key opportunity for groups from both continents to discover areas of common ground and find ways of influencing official strategies and policy.

On 28 April 2009, foreign ministers from the European Union and African Union will meet in Brussels to assess progress on the Joint Africa EU Strategy (JAES) adopted in Lisbon in December 2007. A week earlier, on 20 April, a session of the EU–AU Human Rights Dialogue will be held in Brussels. European and African leaders have committed to civil society participation in these processes but, to date, these commitments remain largely unfulfilled, with information hard to come by and access still disputed. Nevertheless, civil society in Africa and Europe should be gearing up to engage in these debates – important issues will be on the table for discussion by our leaders.

This article will set out some background for the JAES and Human Rights Dialogue, the potential role of civil society in their implementation, and make recommendations for action.


The Joint Africa–EU Strategy provides a long-term framework for relations between the AU and the EU, based on equality and shared interests. The strategy is meant to be an ‘umbrella’ for all existing and future cooperation between the two organisations, and has a plan of action with specific priorities and outcomes to be achieved by 2010. These are structured along eight areas of cooperation (known as ‘partnerships’) that cover important subjects for civil society in both continents, from peace and security to governance, human rights, trade, migration and climate change (see the annex at the end of this article on key information).

Although there are differences between the different partnerships, their work has generally progressed slowly. For example, the partnership on Democratic Governance and Human Rights has reported some progress in their priority areas (dialogue in international fora, support for African governance mechanisms and cooperation in cultural goods), but has yet to agree a common concept or way forward for these broad and ambitious priorities. Concrete implementation projects are defined by the Joint Expert Groups (JEGs) established for each of the partnerships. They bring together working-level representatives and have an African and European ‘lead’ to push forward their agenda. For example, Egypt, Portugal and Germany lead the JEG on Democratic Governance and Human Rights (see annex for list of all lead countries).

The appointment of an EU special envoy to the African Union and the strengthening of the AU delegation in Brussels are among the few direct and immediate results of the strategy. These two delegations are responsible for many of the daily contacts between the EU and AU and for the preparation of the officials' meetings that take place regularly in both continents (see annex).


The EU and AU have established a regular Human Rights Dialogue – a foreign policy instrument the EU uses in its relations with several non-European countries.[1] This dialogue was officially launched in 2008 and is supposed to hold twice yearly sessions in Europe and Africa alternatively. Human rights organisations have often criticised the EU’s human rights dialogues because of the limitations on civil society participation and the lack of independent assessment of their impact on concrete situations. However, having this additional institutional mechanism to discuss human rights concerns in both Europe and Africa is a positive development. Although this Human Rights Dialogue is separate from the Joint Africa–EU Strategy, there will be overlap and collaboration between the two processes, making it all the more important for non-governmental organisations to engage with it.


The Joint Africa–EU Strategy is meant to be a 'people-centred partnership' and states clearly that the AU and the EU 'will empower non-state actors'. Both parties pledge to make the Joint Strategy 'a permanent platform for information, participation and mobilization of a broad spectrum of civil society actors' and affirm that the strategy’s objectives can only be achieved 'if this strategic partnership is owned by all stakeholders, including civil society actors and local authorities, and if they are actively contributing to its implementation.'[2] The reference language for the Human Rights Dialogue also opens the possibility for involving civil society, which 'could become involved under the most suitable arrangement in the preliminary assessment of the human rights situation, in the conduct of the dialogue itself … and in following up and assessing the dialogue'.[3]

Despite these good intentions, the involvement of civil society actors has so far been slow and limited. There are no agreed procedures for civil society participation in the overall implementation of the JAES. Access to working-level meetings is mostly ad hoc, with each Joint Experts Group establishing for itself suitable ways to involve civil society organisations. The first EU–AU civil society event scheduled to precede a ministerial meeting (28 April) was postponed after the European organisers pulled out due to time constraints and difficulties raised by the AU over the participation of African NGOs.

One positive development is that the first session of the Civil Society Forum foreseen under the Human Rights Dialogue will definitely take place on 16–17 April in Brussels. The draft agenda, though made available at fairly short notice, focuses on important issues in both Europe and Africa – legal frameworks for civil society, the impact of anti-terrorist legislation, and the fight against torture. The Forum will report the outcome of its discussions to the official’s meeting on 20 April.[4] One can only hope that adequate financial provisions will be made to ensure future sessions of this forum.

The AU has maintained that African civil society engagement in the JAES should be done only through the AU’s Economic, Social and Cultural Council (AU ECOSOCC). An AU Commission consultation meeting with NGOs (Nairobi, 3–5 March 2009), decided to establish a civil society steering group made up of 21 representatives to follow the implementations of the strategy. This group includes organisations that are not members of the AU ECOSOCC, but it should be chaired by an ECOSOCC member and its input apparently be channelled through the ECOSOCC. The AU Commission (Directorate for Citizens and Diaspora – CIDO) is also a member of the steering group. In general, there is not much information available about African civil society consultations on the eight partnerships.

European civil society participation in the JAES has been ensured also through a Civil Society Steering Group (CSSG) made up of the European organisations most interested in or active at the implementation of the strategy. This self-selected group came together in a fairly informal way, following a request by the European institutions for civil society organisations to structure their input. There is one SCSG contact point for each of the partnerships (see annex). The CSSG is not part of the European Economic and Social Committee (EU ECOSOC), which is an official EU body of non-state actors from the social and economic fields.[5] The EU ECOSOC has been loosely involved in the implementation of the JAES and it is by no means the only vehicle for civil society engagement with EU institutions. European NGOs, like their African counterparts, are not a unified and cohesive body. In Brussels, they operate very fluidly, both on their own and in partnerships, networks or platforms that interact with EU institutions in formal and informal ways.[6]

The degree of involvement of European civil society organisations varies somewhat. The lead European countries for the Partnership on Democratic Governance and Human Rights, for example, have made an effort to share information about their discussions with the African counterparts. However, these have been mostly around methods and procedures for the work of the Partnership, rather than the substantive issues. Recently the states involved in this partnership invited two civil society representatives to attend the second JEG meeting of this partnership (30–31 March in Lisbon). While this was a very positive step, notice of the meeting was short and two weeks ahead, neither an agenda, nor discussion papers had been shared.


The matters under discussion at these meetings are too important for civil society to ignore, whatever the imperfections of the consultation process. If meaningful, joint actions are carried out in these areas, they could have a major impact on the work of many NGOs and the lives of communities. The strategy can also be a means for civil society organisations from both continents to learn about each other – find commonalities and acknowledge disagreements – in the understanding that the more they know and contact with each other, the better the chances of impacting the policies and actions at stake in the strategy. Critically, this is an opportunity for civil society from both continents to raise concerns about EU policy and practice and to look at the coherence between the internal and external action of the EU in key areas such as human rights and governance.

However, the systems for consultation do leave a lot to be desired, on both the European and the African side, despite commitments to a ‘people-centred’ approach. We are reaching the point where, given the difficulties in meaningful participation, civil society organisations will lose interest and the strategy – if not the Human Rights Dialogue – will be little more than a set of wonderful commitments around which officials meet occasionally in Europe and Africa, making no difference to the future of both continents and the relations between them.

What can be done?

The official bodies of the EU and AU must fulfil their responsibilities. EU and AU governments and institutions should make timely information available about meetings and the items on the agenda for discussion, as well as promote more events where civil society can comment on and feed into official policies, while supporting direct contacts between civil society organisations from Europe and Africa.

But civil society organisations should not wait for the officials to take the initiative. They should approach the European and African Union commissions and member states to express their interest in the strategy and specific partnerships, enquire about progress made and let them know they are monitoring the implementation of the Action Plan – similarly for the human rights dialogue. They should ask about and push for open and inclusive mechanisms for civil society involvement. In their absence they should develop informal contacts with the institutional civil society representatives and government and commission officials – both ahead of key meetings and on a regular basis. Civil society organisations should also present concrete recommendations in their areas of expertise, through submissions to officials or, where appropriate, public statements or advocacy campaigns ‘hooked’ on official meetings. Finally they should reach out to and promote contacts with civil society organisations in the ‘other’ continent. With such an effort, the meetings that risk being no more than formulaic might actually become spaces for real discussion and decision-making.

* Carmen Silvestre is with the Open Society Institute in Brussels.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at
* Our thanks to AfriMAP for providing this article.

[1] For example, the EU holds human rights dialogues with China, Central Asia, India, USA, Canada and Japan. They can take place autonomously or in the context of broader political discussions, at either experts or political level.
[2] The Africa–EU Strategic Partnership – A Joint Africa EU Strategy, joint_strategy_en.pdf
[3] EU Guidelines on Human Rights Dialogues with Third Countries – an update,
[4] The European Commission is financing the meeting, so the travel and accommodation costs of African NGOs will be covered. Please contact commission officials in the organisation before incurring in any expense as limitations may apply.
[5] It includes trade unions, employers associations and general interest organisations, such as farmers or environmental groups.
[6] Just as an example, check the website of the EU Civil Society Contact Group which brings together some of the biggest European platforms of public interest organisations coming from different sectors – culture (EFAH), development (CONCORD), environment (Green 10), human rights (HRDN), lifelong learning (EUCIS-LLL), public health (EPHA), social issues (Social Platform) and equality between women and men (EWL):

Annex: Joint Africa–EU Strategy – key information

EU–AU Human Rights Dialogue contact: [email protected]

Africa-EU Summit: Heads of State and Government meet every three years, alternatively in Europe and Africa.
Africa-EU troika: senior officials and ministers meet twice a year, alternatively in Africa and Europe. The troika involves the current and incoming EU presidencies, the European Commission (EC), the EU Council Secretariat, the current and outgoing AU presidencies and the AU Commission (AUC).
Commission-to-Commission meetings: The EC and AUC meet several times a year at working level as a Task Force. Political guidance is provided by the meetings, once a year, of the EU and AU Colleges of Commissioners.
Joint Expert Groups (JEG): experts from both sides responsible for the implementation of each partnership meet informally several times a year to discuss concrete implementation projects. Their work is prepared and followed up by separate EU and AU Implementation Teams. Each JEG has a lead country institution.

Peace and Security – European Peacebuilding Liaison Office ([email protected])
Democratic Governance and Human Rights – Amnesty International ([email protected])
Trade, Regional Integration and Infrastructure – CONCORD ([email protected] / [email protected])
MDGs – CBM ([email protected])
Energy – Climate Action Network/Europe ([email protected])
Climate Change - Climate Action Network/Europe ([email protected])
Migration, Mobility and Employment – ETUC ([email protected]) and ITUC ([email protected])
Science, Information Society and Space (no one for the moment)

Peace and Security - EU Council Secretariat and Algeria
Democratic Governance and Human Rights - Portugal+Germany and Egypt
Trade, Regional Integration and Infrastructure - European Commission and South Africa
MDGs - United Kingdom and Tunisia
Energy - Germany+Austria and AU Commission
Climate Change - France and Morocco
Migration, Mobility and Employment - Spain and Egypt
Science, Information Society and Space - France+Portugal and Tunisia


Statement on Martha Karua’s resignation

Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice (KPTJ)


cc Wikipedia
Following the resignation of Kenyan Justice Minister Martha Karua, Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice (KPTJ) demand meaningful reform of government and that Kenya's leaders demonstrate the leadership required to establish lasting peace and security in the country.

The resignation of Justice Minister Martha Karua is the clearest indication yet that the reform agenda is in peril.

Viewed together with the failure of the Grand Coalition Government (GCG) to meet on fast-tracking the implementation of the mediation agreements and the resignation of National Cohesion Secretary Kithure Kindiki in July last year, the frustration of the minister charged with the bulk of legal and institutional reforms outlined in agenda 4 of the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation process is a damning indictment of the president’s leadership as he attempts to secure just and sustainable peace for Kenya.

This resignation demonstrates the point that the anti-reformers are taking charge of government affairs and have the wherewithal to frustrate their opposites into resignation. It is therefore imperative that Kenyans heighten their pressure for actual and meaningful reforms rather than the empty rhetoric that the government speaks.

While we commend former minister Karua for signalling the gravity of the situation to the Kenyan people, we call upon both parties to the GCG, particularly the two principals, to step above the interests of impunity and succession and demonstrate leadership and statesmanship in saving the mediation agreements.

Judicial and security sector reforms, signalled by a removal of those with political responsibility for the same, are an imperative if the country is to move ahead.

We call on NARC-Kenya (National Rainbow Coalition-Kenya) and ODM (Orange Democratic Movement) as political parties in parliament to have a deliberate conversation on the reform legislation they need to push through to force all else to deliver on agreed reforms. Only then shall we believe Ms Karua and the prime minister when they talk to Kenyans alleging frustration.

Civil society stands ready to help in the drafting the bill for a special tribunal.

While recognising the collapse of the Kilaguni talks, we challenge President Kibaki and Premier Raila Odinga to hold periodic public accountability sessions with wananchi where they will answer questions on their performance.

* Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice (KPTJ) is a coalition of citizens and Kenya's governance, human rights and legal organisations which continues to monitor and advocate for the implementation of Kenya's mediation agreements.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

Press statement by Paul Muite on threats to his life over extrajudicial executions

Paul Muite


Having been credibly informed that his life could well be in danger, Paul Muite considers the implications of his willingness to speak out against the Kenyan government's involvement in the assassinations of Oscar Kamau King'ara and Paul Oulu. With the Kenyan authorities themselves at the forefront of extrajudicial killings and threats, Muite highlights the Kenyan citizenry's complete lack of confidence in the government or police to protect people's rights.

Last Sunday 5 April 2009, I received specific information from credible sources that members of the 'Kwekwe squad' responsible for carrying out extrajudicial executions had been given instructions to get rid of me.

The question you will ask and the one that jumped to my mind when I received the information is, what have I done, and why now? This is the question my mind that has been grappling with me since Sunday.

My conclusion is that the consistent public stand which I have taken on extrajudicial executions may have something to do with it. Some of you ladies and gentlemen of the media will recall that I was amongst the very first public figures to condemn extrajudicial executions and to point fingers at the government. I attended the funeral services of both Oscar Kamau King'ara and Paul Oulu at which I spoke strongly on government involvement in the killings. In so doing, I was aware that intelligence officers would be present wanting to know who was saying what. It is their work.

Recently, Professor Philip Alston handed over his report on extrajudicial executions in Kenya to the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, and requested the ICC take action.

Behind the scenes, I have myself been urging the ICC through emissaries to take action since this issue is grave and serious. The documented cases are over 600. Thousands more are listed as missing. It is possible that the intelligence agencies are aware of my behind-the-scenes efforts for the ICC to take action. They listen to phone conversations and hack emails, as we all know.

I have accordingly decided to write formally to ICC Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo, drawing his attention to the imminent threat to my life and urging him to open investigations into extrajudicial executions in Kenya with a view to prosecuting those involved. I am making available to you copies of my letter to Mr Moreno-Ocampo. You will see from the contents of my letter to Mr Moreno-Ocampo that under Article 28 of the Rome Statute, I finger criminal responsibility for these extrajudicial executions on the president himself, as well as the Honourable John Michuki, who was the minister of state in the Office of the President in 2006 when this policy of extermination through extrajudicial executions appears to have been formulated and its implementation commenced, the commissioner of police, the director of intelligence, the commanders of these squads and at the bottom, those officers who carry out the executions.

It is possible however that the last straw might well have come from the latest spat with H.E. the president over the criminal raid on KTN and The Standard and with his then minister of state in charge of internal security, the Honourable John Michuki. It will be recalled that the president himself issued a coded threat 'or whereever else we might meet. It is the only way.' My lawyers' letter to the president in which this coded threat was taken up is a matter of public record and I make available to you copies of that letter.

The Honourable John Michuki, too, sent a demand letter which was responded to. The last paragraph of my lawyers' response reads:

'Thirdly and finally, we have been instructed to state that our client will take the suit your client files as [an] invitation to disclose and adduce evidence of the meeting at which the decision to carry out the criminal operations was made, who was present and in particular who presided over that meeting and gave the go ahead, including the fake articles on an alleged visit by 'someone' to Southern Sudan back in 1997 to visit 'someone' there. Your client will bear responsibility for [the] disclosure of that evidence including the implication and consequences.'

This too I suspect might have contributed towards the final straw.

If a government which is supposed to protect the lives of its citizens is the one taking those lives in extrajudicial executions and political assassinations, there is very little a citizen can do to escape execution.

I have called this press conference to let Kenyans know that if anything does indeed happen to me, let no one be fooled that it was 'ordinary thuggery or car jacking'. It will have been pre-meditated political assassination and extrajudicial execution.

It would pain my soul wherever it might be to hear Erick Kiraithe and Dr Alfred Mutua telling the public that the government/police are investigating with a view to bringing to book those who might have been involved.

Equally, it is pointless reporting to the police. They are the suspects who should be investigated. To report to them will only give them the opportunity to probe from where the leak might have occurred so that they deal with the 'msaliti' (traitor) the way they dealt with Kiriinya.

* A signed copy of this press statement is available for download from Mars Group Kenya. Paul Muite letter to ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampon is also available to download.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

Kenyan democracy on trial

Yash Tandon


cc Wikimedia
Attending a conference on Kenya’s national dialogue and reconciliation in Geneva, Yash Tandon, notes that the issues of power sharing, ethnicity, and governance overshadow matters related to economics and welfare. He also ponders why, other than the 50-60 Kenyans present, he and Tanzania’s former president Benjamin Mkapa are the only attendees from East African countries. Given the ‘many daily cross-border interactions between the people of the region’, this lack of interest in Kenya, he says, demonstrates ‘a serious slip-up of the principle of solidarity among East African neighbours’. Help from European friends to Kenya has, Tandon suggests, allowed Uganda and Tanzania and the East African community ‘an exemption from their moral responsibility’.

These personal reflections on the present situation in Kenya are triggered by a conference I attended in Geneva on 30-31 March 2009 on ‘The national dialogue and reconciliation: one year later’, organised by the Kofi Annan Foundation in partnership with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and the International Center for Transitional Justice. As a Ugandan I am at least a stakeholder in the ongoing process of peace making in Kenya. If Kenya burns, Uganda also feels the heat. And vice versa, if Uganda is on fire, Kenya is a home to refugees, as it was for me.

The conference was attended by some 300 people including about 50-60 from Kenya among whom there was a deputy prime minister, the attorney general, some ministers and parliamentarians and other distinguished personalities, several representatives of civil society and the trade unions, and at least one retired general from the army. But apart from myself I do not believe there was any other Ugandan, and apart from the former president of Tanzania, Benjamin W. Mkapa, any other Tanzanian.

This was curious. Why were there so many people from Europe or the West at the conference but not from Uganda or Tanzania? Where was the East African community? Within the community there are so many daily cross-border interactions between the people of the region, and between the heads of state and functional ministers who regularly meet to discuss matters of common concern. Why should that process of interaction not extend to extending a helping hand to resolving matters that divided fellow brothers and sisters in Kenya? Pondering over this puzzle whilst shuffling my documents and waiting for the formal opening, I remembered my own days in exile, first in Kenya in 1971-72, and then in Tanzania in 1973-79.

For eight years (1971-79) Ugandans were brutalised under the rule of Idi Amin, who was put in power by the combined efforts of the British, Israel and some national forces alienated by the rule of Milton Obote. Britain continued to supply weapons of torture, military arms and consumer goods to the Amin regime, and there was very little that Kenya or Tanzania, or those of us who were in exile, could immediately do to change the situation. However, Uganda’s invasion of the Kagera basin in late 1978 gave an opportunity to President Nyerere to counterattack. Britain threatened to move a resolution in the Security Council of the United Nations to block Tanzanian action alleging that it was ‘interference’ in the internal affairs of Uganda. To counter this, Ugandans in exile (from Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, and overseas) rallied behind Nyerere, gathered at a conference in Moshi, forged a united front under the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF), and when Amin fled the country in April 1979, formed the first post-Amin democratic government in the country. Among thousands of others, I returned to Uganda.

Peace, alas, did not last long. We Ugandans were at each other within the year. That is another story, no less relevant nonetheless, to the present saga in Kenya. The point is that in 1979, we were grateful that Tanzania and Kenya gave us the support we needed to get rid of a ruthless maniac from Uganda who was until the last day supported by powerful forces in Europe and America. And hence my puzzle: why is that when Kenyans need support, we Ugandans and Tanzanians are so conspicuously absent? Admittedly, the presence of the former president of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa, as one of the three-member Panel of Eminent Personalities, helped the mediation process, but he came as member of a team brought together by the African Union under the leadership of the former secretary general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan. President Museveni did see President Mwai Kibaki soon after the elections in Kenya, but then he was soon out of the scene.

I have no explanation to offer for this what I regard as a serious slip-up of the principle of solidarity among East African neighbours. To take an example from another region of Africa, and whatever the shortcomings of the mediation process undertaken by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) led by President Thabo Mbeki in the long and arduous process of mediation in Zimbabwe, it was at least a practical application of the principle of concern and solidarity. The process still continues as we write these words, and indeed the jury is still out in the case of Zimbabwe. But what SADC`s mediation did was at least to provide a protective shield to Zimbabwe from the interference of America, Britain and Europe.

This is not to say that there is interference in Kenya from America or Europe; I have no such evidence. But it is still a matter of concern that the Kenya peace process, and the Geneva conference, brought the stakeholders from within Kenya and those from the international community, but not from within the region. Whether a regional presence would have made any difference to the process is impossible to say. That it did not happen should itself be a matter of concern to all fellow East Africans.

Whilst I was musing, the formal process began. Kofi Annan provided a thumb-nail sketch of the background to the mediation process, and the process of implementation. The conference quickly settled down to identifying the causes and consequences of the mayhem in Kenya. Most of the presentations were made by Kenyans – from government as well as from non-governmental representatives, women and men, young and old, ministers, trade unionists, an army general and parliamentarians. They were all without exception brilliant presentations – cool and reasoned, sometimes passionate and remarkably candid. They spent more time on how to move forward, trying hard, though not always succeeding, to avoid the ‘blame game’.

Much as I was tempted – as a legitimate stakeholder – to speak, I decided to sit, listen, and take notes. The conversation boiled down essentially to two issues. One related to questions of governance, of law and order, of violence and impunity, of electoral flaws and power sharing. The other related to economic and welfare issues – of the ten million poor and homeless in rural and urban areas that need immediate assistance, the struggles about land and resources, and the connection between these matters and the issues of governance.

In the serene surroundings of the Intercontinental in Geneva, freshly breaking into spring, and away from home, the participants reached a remarkable degree of consensus in a day and half of discussions. As I expected, learning from my own previous experience in Uganda, the issues of power sharing, ethnicity, and governance overshadowed matters related to economics and welfare. Listening to the debate I wondered, however, if the ethnic card was not being overplayed. To be sure, ethnic divisions are a factor, a reality of all Africa, whether it is Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda or Zimbabwe. But why should it be the salient factor, and if so, what circumstances make it salient? After all, the Kikuyus and the Luos, the Bahutu and the Watutsi, the Shona and the Ndebele have lived reasonably peacefully with one another for centuries. As a friend wrote in an article at the time, ‘I did not see Kikuyu residents in Nairobi's exclusive Karen suburb hack their Luo or Kalenjin neighbours with machetes or worse still shoot at each other, even though the majority of them own guns. However, in the informal settlements, neighbours turned against each other.’ Why is it, he asked, that it is the poor who turn against each other?

The question of ethnic violence is not an easy to understand. Several explanations were offered at the Geneva discourse. The Rift Valley region became one of the locations of violence, it was argued, because during the British colonial days, lands were seized from the ‘indigenous’ people and given to ‘foreigners’. So when the 2007 elections went sour, the ‘foreigners’ became the targets of violence. Others questioned whether it was simply an issue of ‘resource allocation’ and historical inequities; they pinned it down to the more primordial matter of ‘identity’.

One issue on which there was a near-unanimous agreement was that the ‘state’, or ‘the political elite/class’, or simply ‘the politicians’ – the participants offered their own preferred terminology – had lost the confidence of the people. People no longer trusted the state. ‘The people were behind the demand and the processes leading to the constitutional change,’ said a constitutional expert who has been directly engaged in the constitutional process, ‘but the politicians have sabotaged the process and the outcome.’ One politician offered this: ‘We are building a new electoral system afresh but the nomination of commissioners is blocked by political manipulations and that is our collective failing as a political class’. And yet another: ‘People feel that they are not part of the reconciliation and implementation process of the Peace Accord; the political elite have taken over.’

When it came to ‘the way forward’, the bulk of the interventions focused, not surprisingly, on how to build credible and trusted institutions of governance – from the electoral system to police reform, from the attorney general’s office to whether the country should be run as a presidential system or one that locates executive power in the office of the prime minister. These are complex issues. Although many of them are technical issues, they assume a political character in the midst of conflict. A constitutional expert from a Latin American country offered ‘six principles of a good electoral system’, arguing, correctly, that the roots of violence lie deep in society but a flawed election can trigger violence (as happened in Mexico, he added, for comparison). The least one can do is make sure that an independent electoral system is in place. The Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), he observed, lacked the two prerequisites of an electoral system: it lacked the confidence of the stakeholders; and its staff had little competence, little experience and no specific knowledge.

One issue that preoccupied many of the participants was the question of impunity. Police violence went unchecked and uncensored. Some alleged that police violence was ‘state-sponsored’. Impunity accumulated over a long period of time immobilised the security and the judicial systems, and when these systems fail, ‘the youth take matters in their hands’ burning homes and churches. ‘We had violence in 1992 and 1997,’ one parliamentarian observed, ‘but in 2002 we had a regime change without violence. And then violence broke again in 2007. The difference between 2002 and 2007 was that in 2007 the security forces were implicated.’

That took the discussion to why the parliament was not able to set up the special tribunal recommended by the Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence (the Waki Commission). Again, various explanations were offered with the normal suspects – ‘the politicians’ – taking the brunt of the burden of failure to act. The question that posed itself was: What should be done if the parliament is unable to set up the proposed special tribunal? Should the ‘criminals’ go unpunished? Should the victims have no redress? If there is no redress, and if the criminals enjoy impunity, again and again, would this not undermine efforts to set up credible institutions of governance? Would it not impair the task of ‘state building’? These are weighty and urgent questions.

Alternatives were suggested to the hitherto failed attempt to set up the special tribunal. These included the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, to setting up a Sierra Leone type of ‘hybrid’ tribunal (consisting of national and international judges), to setting up a unique ‘Kenya model’. One Kenyan interlocutor suggested that the ‘sealed envelope’ containing the list of alleged criminals in the possession of the AU panel of eminent African personalities should go to the Prosecutor of the ICC, and be made public. A representative from the ICC said the ICC was ‘waiting in the wings’, and it can respond quickly if approached.

I wondered if the panel really had the authority to approach the ICC on behalf of Kenya or of ‘the international community’. What if the panel did take the responsibility on its own to pass on ‘the envelope’ to the prosecutor in The Hague, would it really serve a useful purpose, or would it complicate matters, given the controversy that the ICC is involved on the issue of Darfur? Closer to home in Uganda, I am aware that a similar proposal to bring Joseph Kony of the Lords Resistance Army operating in the north of Uganda to the ICC has added another layer of complexity in the delicate peace negotiations process. Some people in Uganda have suggested an amnesty as a means of moving forward. Comparison with South Africa, where the apartheid regime human violators escaped with impunity, came to mind. Is amnesty sometimes not a better alternative if it helps to throw back some of the more painful aspects of history in order that a fresh start is made to build credible institutions of state? Can the creation of a trusted penal system, an independent electoral system, the reform of the police, and above all, an independent judiciary, not be done without revenge and punishment?

Of course, I have no clear answers, and in any case, I kept my thoughts to myself. I sensed that there was no mood in the Geneva Intercontinental conference for talk of amnesty. There was a stronger sense that if the government or the parliament failed to set up the special tribunal, then the matter should proceed to the ICC prosecutor.

Throughout the discussions my mind kept on returning to the question I had posed earlier: why are there so many people from Europe and so few from East Africa (apart from Kenyans themselves)? It was like sitting in a conference on peace and conciliation process in say Ukraine with more Africans involved in it than Europeans from the region. A European ambassador based in Nairobi offered a partial explanation. She said, among other things, that the events in Kenya had shocked the donor community; they had thought that Kenya was a relatively peaceful and stable economic and communications hub in the region. So when violence erupted, and when Kofi Annan came on the scene, they came immediately to support him. She went on to say that they were only helping the ‘Kenya process’, and as donors they were pleased to put in money into the mediation process, as also in the holding of the Geneva conference.

But I was not satisfied. Help from European friends is fine, provided it is based on solidarity and without hidden agendas, and provided it does not come with lectures about learning from Europe or America about democracy, good governance and human rights. But the troubling matter was that this kind of help enabled Uganda and Tanzania and the East African Community to get off the hook. It allowed them an exemption from their moral responsibility. Furthermore, if it comes to money, are the countries in the East African region so poor, or so aid dependent, that they could not raise it for a peace and conciliation conference in which they are the principal stakeholders and the principal beneficiaries? Couldn’t they have done so without going to the donors? Since I have just completed a book on ‘Ending aid dependence’, this question vexed me as I walked back home from the conference.

* Yash Tandon is former executive director of the South Centre, and chairman of SEATINI (Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute)
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

UN calls for Kenya to stop intimidation of human rights defenders

Sarah Knuckey


The Kenyan government must issue orders for the military and police to ‘cease and desist from acts of intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders and to make public the text of such instructions’, Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, has said in a statement issued on 7 April. Alston said that dozens of prominent and respected human rights defenders who provided information to the UN have been targeted in ‘a blatant campaign designed to silence individual monitors and instil fear in civil society organisations at large’, with all indications seeming to point to the fact that the campaign ‘has been carefully coordinated within the government’.

Kenya’s law enforcement agencies have engaged in systematic intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders in response to reports by the United Nation’s (UN) special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, according to a statement issued on 7 April by the special rapporteur, Philip Alston.

‘Dozens of prominent and respected human rights defenders have been targeted in a blatant campaign designed to silence individual monitors and instil fear in civil society organisations at large,’ Alston said.

Significant numbers have been forced into hiding within Kenya or exile in other countries. He characterised the behaviour of the Kenyan police and military in this regard as violating the most basic rules governing the treatment of UN fact-finding missions. ‘Non-cooperation with a UN mission is one thing,’ said Alston, ‘but making threats against those that have provided information to the UN, as well as harassing their families, is quite another’.

‘All indications seem to point to the fact that the campaign has been carefully coordinated within the government,’ according to Alston. ‘Individuals from many different civil society groups across the country have been targeted, threatening telephone messages have been left for a wide range of prominent public figures, and the security forces have made repeated visits and threats to the family members of those who have fled,’ he added.

The special rapporteur noted that there has been no substantive response to complaints registered by the UN, and no critical statements have been made by the President, Mwai Kibaki, the Internal Security Minister, George Saitoti, or others who exercise control over the security forces. In addition, offers of help from the FBI to investigate assassinations for which the police appear to have been responsible have been rebuffed.

Alston called upon the government of Kenya to immediately issue instructions to both the police and military to cease and desist from acts of intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders and to make public the text of such instructions. ‘The international community can not stand by as Kenya responds to findings highlighting human rights violations by unleashing an attack on those struggling to document and respond to such violations,’ he said.

* Sarah Knuckey is senior adviser to the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

To the workers, youth and people of Guadeloupe

Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon (LKP)


In light of a recent general strike in Guadeloupe, an overseas department of France, Kont Pwofitasyon (LKP) addresses the people of Guadeloupe and seeks to encourage their continued political involvement in the struggle to end economic oppression and exploitation. The group indicates that the recklessness of employers, elected officials, representatives of the French government, and colonial institutions within this archipelago in the French Antilles has threatened the livelihoods of Guadeloupians. Through Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon (LKP), a social movement of trade unions and social organisations, activists are exposing the injustices endured by the masses and mobilising the country by demanding an increase in the minimum wage, the people's access to commodities, and the promotion of new social relations.

Travay é Peyizan

Since 20 January, our country has undergone an unprecedented upheaval that everyone describes as an historic movement. In response to the call of 49 organisations – unions, political and cultural associations, consumer protection groups, and those representing environmental activists, workers, youth, persons with disabilities, retirees, artists and creators, farmers and peasants, fishermen, artisans and small businesses – the people of Guadeloupe burst onto the political scene, showing that the country is theirs.

After watching the first three days of negotiations on radio and television, they understood the game quickly. They witnessed the irresponsibility and disregard of employers, elected officials, and the representative of the French government. They immediately saw the reality of the profiteer's camp, the Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon (LKP), and the camp of the criminals, Kan Yo.

Faced with this situation and in response the call of the collective Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon, which they recognised as their form of leadership in the struggle, Guadeloupians demonstrated by the tens of thousands. From 16 to 20 February, the number of protesters gradually increased from 25,000 to 40,000 to 100,000. They rose up against the aggression displayed by thousands of mobile police officers and special troops deployed in Guadeloupe by the French government with the complicity of certain elected officials.

Citizens of Guadeloupe united to address and demand immediate solutions to a dire situation, particularly the shortages of various commodities and petrol. Under the request and control of the LKP, production was maintained in order to feed and sustain the population during the strike.


Today, mobilisation continues despite the suspension of the general strike. The mobilisation forced the French government and local officials to sign an agreement on 26 February designed to increase the minimum wage by €200. The mobilisation further succeeded in imposing the signing of a general memorandum of agreement on 4 March.

The goal is to promote new social relations, which is expressed in the preamble to the Jacques Bino Agreement (named after a trade union leader who was killed during protest):

'Considering that the economic and social conditions existing in Guadeloupe follow the model of the plantation economy. Considering that this economy is based on the abuse of dominant positions, which generates injustice. Considering that these injustices affect both the workers and internal economic growth... Considering the need to break down these barriers by creating a new economic order, calling for an adjustment of the appreciation of the work of each (owners and employees) and promoting new social relationships.'


Everyone acknowledges that nothing will be like before, nothing can be like before. This feeling, this liyannaj, finds its origin in the struggle that workers in Guadeloupe – with the support of the population – have been driven to undertake to maintain the independence of trade unions, and to resist anti-union repression, racial discrimination and lay-offs.

This resistance was manifested in particular by:

- The struggle for independence among the working class, particularly the unions against the social dialogue of compromise and class collaboration through social forums
- The struggle for respect for 27 May, symbolised by the struggle for the release of Michel Madasssamy in late May and early June 2001
- The long and difficult conflicts, such as the struggle at Destrelland Carrefour, Danone, where workers and their organisations still face the contempt békés patterns supported by the colonial power, which did not hesitate to use systematically dozens of police and mobile gendarmes at their disposal
- The struggle of the former employees of the Farm Campeche to preserve their livelihoods and farmland in Guadeloupe
- The fight for the Free Union of Free Peoples of the Caribbean driven by the Association of Workers and Peoples of the Caribbean (ATPC) created in December 2002 in Guadeloupe, in particular through the struggle for the sovereignty of the people of Haiti (in defending Haiti we defend ourselves)
- The revolution in South America, including Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador.


This has been expressed today in the mobilisation that we have seen for two months and through the unity of these 49 organisations, a union between people and the LKP.

This imposes a responsibility on the elected officials:

‘We are not heard in Parliament… The movement initiated by LKP has managed to achieve what parliamentarians in vain have tried to ask of the French Government, in particular in relation to the greater control over fuel prices...’

These were the words of MP and Chairman of the Region Victorin Lurel at a signing of the Memorandum of Agreement to suspend the general strike on 4 March 2009, as quoted by the newspaper France Antilles, 6 March 2009.

Since the president of France raised the idea of the Estates General on 19 February – initially launched by the presidents of the General and Regional Councils of Guadeloupe – Guadeloupians have witnessed a political offensive concerning this conceptualisation from the minister of colonies, the prefect, and also certain political organisations.

All of them spend their time scorning workers and youth. They demonstrate their inability to solve the problems facing the masses while supporting colonial institutions which have been based on racial discrimination throughout the past 400 years. Now, they suddenly want to concoct a ‘future’ through their Estates General, their congress, and their consultations, that is through the French colonial institutions.

And they continue to do everything like before.

Do they not understand the message? Do they have short-term memories? What right do they have to do this? Who has given them a mandate for that?

But how can they do otherwise? They are subordinate to the colonial institutions.

It is the right of the people of Guadeloupe to decide their own future! The militants of Travay é Peyizan argue that what has been happening since 20 January is a genuine movement of class struggle. The platform of demands developed by the LKP collective with the masses expresses the will of the people of Guadeloupe to end social oppression and national oppression. It is up to the people to define the shape, pace and time of any change! It must be reiterated that only we, the people of Guadeloupe, can say what we want, through institutions created by us and for us.

The movement that began on 20 January shows that the people and workers of Guadeloupe need to have elected representatives at their service, elected officials accountable to them, whom they can monitor and revoke at any time. Activists of Travay é Peyizan believe that only a national constituent assembly can meet this need. They believe that to carry out the fight for the constituent assembly it is necessary to have a tool that will succeed in achieving this: an organisation, a party and a front.

These militants are raising the perspective of building an independent workers’ party, separate from institutions. They are seeking to implement a party that struggles for the independence of the working-class, and for the unity of the peoples of the region, for the Free Union of Free Peoples of the Caribbean.

* Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon (LKP) is a social movement comprised of trade unions and social organisations.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

Letters & Opinions

A thank-you to Pambazuka readers for supporting my blog

Azad Essa


My blog had been shortlisted for the SA Blog awards 2009 in the 'politics' category and it recently featured on the Pambazuka newsletter. I am pleased to tell you that my blog has since won the category and I am especially grateful to Pambazuka for bringing the blog to the attention of your vast readership, and for encouraging them to take part in the voting process. This is much appreciated!
My blog had been shortlisted for the SA Blog awards 2009 in the 'politics' category and it recently featured on the Pambazuka newsletter. I am pleased to tell you that my blog has since won the category and I am especially grateful to Pambazuka for bringing the blog to the attention of your vast readership, and for encouraging them to take part in the voting process. This is much appreciated!

Open letter to all poor Americans and their communities in resistance

Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign


The privatisation of land – a public resource for all that has now become a false commodity – was the original sin, the original cause of this financial crisis. With the privatisation of land comes the dispossession of people from their land, which was held in common by communities. With the privatisation of land comes the privatisation of everything else, because once land can be bought and sold, almost anything else can eventually be bought and sold.
To: All poor Americans and their communities in resistance

The privatisation of land – a public resource for all that has now become a false commodity – was the original sin, the original cause of this financial crisis. With the privatisation of land comes the dispossession of people from their land, which was held in common by communities. With the privatisation of land comes the privatisation of everything else, because once land can be bought and sold, almost anything else can eventually be bought and sold.

As the poor of South Africa, we know this because we live it. Colonialism and apartheid dispossessed us of our land and gave it to whites to be bought and sold for profit. When apartheid as a systematic racial instrument ended in 1994, we did not get our land back. Some blacks are now able to own land as long as they have the money to do so. But as the poor living in council homes, renting flats or living in the shacks, we became even more vulnerable to the property market.

It is chilling to hear many people today speak with nostalgia about how it was better during apartheid – as if it was not apartheid that stole their land in the first place. But, in an obscure way, it makes sense. Back then in the cities there was less competition for land and housing. Because many of us were kept in the bantustans by a combination of force and economic compulsion (such as subsidised rural factories), the informal settlements in the cities were smaller and land less scarce.

But in the new South Africa (what some call post-apartheid South Africa and others call neoliberal South Africa), the elite have decided it is every man – or woman or multinational company – for him or herself. And thus, the poor end up fighting with the rich as well as with themselves. The elite use their wealth and their connections to all South African political parties in the pursuit of profit. There is very little regulation of this, and where there is regulation, corrupt and authoritarian government officials get around it in a heartbeat. People say that we have the best constitution in the world – but what kind of constitution enshrines the pursuit of profit above anything else? They claim it was written for us. That may be. But it obviously was not written by us – the poor.

So, the recent realisation that there is a financial crisis in the US (we think the crisis has been there a long time, but was hidden by economists) reminds us of where we ourselves stand. While our neoliberal government has touted growth and low inflation figures as proof of the health of our country, 40 percent unemployment has remained. While Mandela and Mbeki were in power and the economy grew, poor South Africans had their homes stolen right from under them. For our entire lives, we have been living in a depression, and at the centre of this crisis is land and housing.

As the poor, we gave the African National Congress government five years to at least make some inroads towards redistribution. But instead, the land and housing crisis has gotten worse, inequality greater, and we are more vulnerable than ever.

So, in 1999, 2000 and 2001, farms, townships, ghettos and shack settlements all across South Africa erupted against evictions, water cut-offs, electricity cut-offs and the like. We have been fighting for small things and small issues, but our communities are also fighting two larger battles.

The first is embodied in the declaration we make to the outside world: We may be poor but we are not stupid! We may be poor, but we can still think! Nothing for us without us! Talk to us, not about us! We are fighting for democracy. The right to be heard and the right to be in control of our own communities and our own society. This means that government officials and political parties should stop telling us what we want. We know what we want. This means that NGOs and development ‘experts’ should stop work-shopping us on ‘world-renowned’ solutions at the expense of our own home-grown knowledge. This means we refuse to be a ‘stakeholder’ and have our voices managed and diminished by those who count.

In the 2004 national elections and again in this year's elections, we have declared, ‘No Land! No House! No Vote!’ This is not because we are against democracy but because we are against voting for elites and for politicians who promise us the whole world every five years and, when they get elected, steal the little we have for themselves. Elections are a chance for those in power to consolidate it. We believe this is not only a problem of corruption, but also a structural problem that gives individuals and political parties the authority to make decisions for us. We reject that and we reject voting for it.

Second, while our actions may seem like a demand for welfare couched in a demand for houses, social grants and water, they are actually a demand to end the commodification of things that cannot be commodified: Land, labour and money. We take action to get land and houses and also to prevent banks from stealing our land and houses. When a family gets evicted and has nowhere else to go, we put them back inside. (In Gugulethu last year we put 146 out of 150 families back in their homes).

When government cuts off our electricity, we put it back on. In 2001, we were able to get the City of Cape Town to declare a two-month moratorium on evictions. We break the government's law in order not to break our own (moral) laws. We oppose the authorities because we never gave them the authority to steal, buy and sell our land in the first place.

Combined, these are battles for a new emancipatory structure, where we are not stakeholders but people; where land is for everyone and where resources are shared rather than fought over.

This anti-eviction movement you are waging has the potential to help build a new kind of liberative politics outside of the political parties. We have found that these politics must be about the issues (including land and housing). It must not be about personalisation of the struggle. No politician or political party can or will fight the struggle for you. As a hero of your past once stated: Power concedes nothing without a demand. Being in the struggle for over nine years, we have learned the following:

- Beware of all those in power – even those who seem like they are on your side
- Beware of money, especially NGO money, which seeks to pacify and prevent direct action
- Beware of media, even alternative media written by the middle class on behalf of the poor. Create your own media
- Beware of leaders, even your own. No one can lead without you. Leaders are like forks and knives. They are the tools of the community and exist to be led by the communities.

When you build your ‘Take back our land! Take back our houses!’ movement, build from below. Build democratically. Build alternative and autonomous ways of living within your community while fighting for what is yours. Build your own school of thought.

Make sure poor communities control their own movements because, as we say, no one can lead without us. Make sure you break the government's laws when necessary, but never break your own laws which you set for yourselves.

Most important of all, do not forget you have much to teach us as well. We all have much to learn from one another.

Amandla ngawethu! Power to the poor people!

The Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign
South Africa

Open letter to the IMF on the loan request by the Republic of Kenya for US$100 million

Partnership for Change


We understand that the Kenya government has applied for an emergency credit for US$100 million to cushion its currency from the International Monetary Fund. We also understand that this application is due for consideration at your next board meeting. The Partnership for Change is concerned that while Kenyans continue to demand accountability from the Government of Kenya on our public debt, the government continues to ignore the public and continues to borrow and indebt the poor people of Kenya.
Re: Loan request by the Republic of Kenya for US$100 million

We understand that the Kenya government has applied for an emergency credit for US$100 million to cushion its currency from the International Monetary Fund. We also understand that this application is due for consideration at your next board meeting.

The Partnership for Change is concerned that while Kenyans continue to demand accountability from the government of Kenya on our public debt, the government continues to ignore the public and continues to borrow and indebt the poor people of Kenya.

The position of the Partnership for Change is that transparency requires that Kenyans know what they owe, to whom they owe, and for what purpose they have a debt. The Partnership for Change wants no further contracting of international debts unless and until the government of Kenya accounts to the people of Kenya through parliament by tabling the complete list of all loans and debt registers for the period 1963 to date for public scrutiny. We also want the law amended before any further borrowing, so that it is illegal for the government of Kenya to borrow without prior parliamentary approval and full debate on the merits of the borrowing. We request that all future lending to Kenya be pegged to accountability and transparency. We submit that that most of the debts that Kenya is listed as owing are bogus, corrupt debts, which have impoverished Kenyans who repay these debts annually to the tune of 24 per cent of our national budget. The effect of making poor, starving Kenyans pay these unconscionable debts can easily be described as a crime against humanity.

It is in this context that we write to your organisation as hereunder.

Three years ago, when he was the junior senator for Illinois, US President Barack Obama, famously said in Nairobi that ‘while corruption is a problem we all share, here in Kenya it is a crisis – a crisis that is robbing an honest people of the opportunities they have fought for – the opportunity they deserve.’ If he were to visit Kenya today, he might feel that the situation is no longer a crisis but has reached the tipping point. In fact, corruption in Kenya is no longer a crisis; if one understands crisis to mean that point where there is some hope of recovery should the government intervene. We believe that corruption in Kenya is akin to a terminal cancer that has become malignant, and the government doctors attending the patient are administering placebo treatment, allowing the cancer to spread institution by institution. Among these institutions are the treasury and the ministry of finance whose debt management leaves a lot to be desired.

Aggravating the situation, President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga are in denial as evidenced by their public statements, that the corruption problem in the grand coalition is not serious. The consequences of their denial is that the fight against corruption is not a government priority and Kenyans continue to suffer as impunity for gross economic crimes becomes entrenched to the same extent as during the Daniel Arap Moi regime. Arap Moi’s greatest scandal, Goldenberg, remains unresolved and beneficiaries named in a judicial commission of inquiry remain in cabinet and public prominence. This despite promises by Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga.

Nothing characterises such impunity as the treasury or the ministry of finance. It is this department of the Kenyan government that is responsible for the unresolved scandal of the sovereign debt in the form of irrevocable promissory notes worth close to US$750 million dollars that were illegally issued, without legal consideration, to several phantom credit companies in the Anglo Leasing credit contracts. To date these have not been cancelled and the government that is asking you for emergency credit is actually negotiating payments of these bogus debts with the so-called financiers in Europe, in the full knowledge that no credit was delivered to Kenya and that the poor taxpayers are the ones who will eventually pay for these bogus debts.

To add insult to injury the Government is refusing to seek mutual legal assistance from international authorities who are willing to unravel the Anglo Leasing scandal with respect to their nationals. It is public record that among such authorities whose inquiries are being frustrated by the Kenyan authorities, and the Attorney General in particular, are the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office. The Kenyan authorities have also yet to make a serious request for assistance of the United States department of justice, which has in its custody a US national who was involved in Anglo Leasing called Bradley Birkenfeld. The Kenya Anti Corruption Commission has no interest in international asset recovery.

Beyond the failure of investigative and prosecutorial bodies in Kenya, corruption is systemic because the ministry of finance and the treasury are not accountable to Parliament and can keep the contracting of such bogus loans, shielded from legislative scrutiny in breach of the External Loans and Credits Act which requires Parliament to be informed of such debt by the minister of finance. To date, for example, the detailed separate audits of the 18 security related contracts known as Anglo Leasing worth Ksh56.33 billion, have never been tabled in parliament.

But it is not just parliament that has been kept in the dark. The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has been side-stepped by the treasury for decades as it borrows recklessly, especially since the mid 1980s.

Section 31 of the Central Bank of Kenya Act states that the Central Bank shall administer any payment agreements entered into by Kenya, and shall be consulted by the government in negotiating any payments agreement. However in contravention of this law, the Central Bank has been kept out of the loop. Although in 2004, the Central Bank was lobbying for amendments to the External Loans and Credit Act to compel the government to consult it in all external loans borrowing, these amendments have never been enacted. So the situation in 2009 remains as it was in 2004. Although the permanent secretary for finance, Mr Joseph Kinyua, said that he issued a circular abolishing the use of promissory notes and to stop commercial credit agreements of the Anglo Leasing type, the government does not have to consult with the Central Bank before it borrows money abroad. In fact the government is not obliged to give full disclosure of external payment agreements it requires the CBK to administer. As regards external commercial public debt, the Central Bank is legally bound to pay without protest so long as the instructions given to the Bank by the government are proper and there are sufficient funds to honour the transaction without querying the underlying transactions.

This is what happened during the entire Anglo Leasing series of payments of commitment fees, principal repayments and interest servicing from 1997 to date. Unfortunately for the Kenyan people whose taxes are the guarantee for sovereign debt, these Anglo Leasing debts are secured by irrevocable promissory notes and legal opinions by Kenya’s attorney general, Amos Wako, which validated them giving consideration for sham contracts drawn by treasury whose sole purpose was to facilitate embezzlement of taxpayers’ funds. An investigation by the controller and auditor general, Evan Mwai, found that not a shilling in credit was ever provided by Anglo Leasing financiers to justify the issuance of promissory notes. Sadly provisions have been made in the current budget to pay some of these debts for money not received and which is certainly not owed. The budget is prepared by the treasury that has approached you for emergency credit.

As if that were not enough, the permanent secretary for finance and other senior treasury officials have told civil society representatives that there are false entries in the country’s national external debt register. These were apparently inserted between 2001 and 2004 and cover the Anglo Leasing type 18 security related contracts. It would appear that despite having cleaned the external public debt register in 2001, after hiring Lazard Brothers the Government of Kenya in just a few years loaded the external public debt register with close to US$1 billion worth of fictitious credit and debts.

Treasury’s pathetic stewardship of our public resources threatens to cost Kenya billions of shillings. If the debt register contains false entries, Kenyans have no way of knowing how much they owe to external creditors and on what terms. In effect the permanent secretary, Joseph Kinyua has disclosed that there is a multi billion shilling hole in our books comprising what are obviously unconscionable debts.

Kenyans are aware that the largest component of our public debt is to the World Bank and the IMF. We want the World Bank and the IMF to lend responsibly and not to continue impoverishing Kenyans. What Kenyans would like to see from the World Bank and the IMF is comprehensive debt relief, with immediate cancellation of our debts to your organisations. Millions of Kenyans are wallowing in abject poverty and indeed are starving, unemployed and destitute. Without transparency in this matter of national debts, there will be little point in continuing to maintain the fiction, now being put about by your institutions, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, that the government of Kenya has the capacity or will to unravel this shameful system failure and corruption scandals. Kenyans must stop the abuse of borrowing powers by the treasury. We do not want to borrow US$100 million from the IMF. The Government of Kenya should be reminded that they have provided for a similar amount US$100 million to repay bogus Anglo Leasing and Ken Ren fertiliser factory debts in the current budget 2008/2009. Ken Ren fertiliser factory is a phantom project for which annual payments are being made by the treasury to a bank in Austria and a bank in Belgium. They should use those funds to ‘cushion the currency’. The IMF and the World Bank should not assist the Government of Kenya in scamming Kenyans.

We therefore respectfully urge you:
1. Not to approve the request by the government of Kenya in its present form.
2. To insist that the following conditionalities apply before the request is considered:
- The Government of Kenya immediately demonstrates austerity measures, including the reduction of the number of ministries to a reasonable number such as 13 (the size of cabinet at independence). Kenyans cannot afford to maintain a bloated cabinet of 93 ministers and assistant ministers. There are currently 43 ministries in the grand coalition government, many of which have no developmental added value and are mere sinecure positions for the president and prime minister to fill
- An audit of the external public debt register be made and issued to the public through the national assembly
- A report on pending legislation and threatened proceedings against the government of Kenya on the basis of sovereign debt be made and issued to the public through the National Assembly
- Immediate retirement in the public interest of the permanent secretary, treasury and the head of debt management and immediate replacement of the two persons with Kenyans with appropriate credentials who can easily be found from within the Kenya public service
- All wasteful expenditure is removed from the national budget estimates to be presented to Parliament in June 2009 and that the estimates to reflect 60 per cent in development expenditure and 40 per cent in recurrent expenditure
- Provision by the government of Kenya of evidence that it has requested mutual legal assistance for international asset recovery and has taken action to seize proceeds of corruption in Kenya.
3. To consider comprehensive debt relief for Kenya, by cancelling our current debts to your institutions in order to alleviate the suffering of millions of poor Kenyans and to enable Kenya to meet crucial Millennium Development Goals.
4. Peg all future support to the government of Kenya to accountability and transparency in the borrowing and implementation of the funds advanced.

We trust the International Monetary Fund Board of Directors will consider the opinion of those who will inevitably be taxed to repay whatever loan the government of Kenya obtains, regardless of whether or not they obtained any developmental benefit from it.

Yours Faithfully,

Mwalimu Mati

For the Partnership for Change

The Partnership for Change is an open initiative of Mars Group Kenya and other like-minded organizations, civil society agencies, NGO’s, youth groups, faith based organisations, social movements and grass roots organisations and networks from all of the eight provinces of Kenya. The mission of the Partnership for Change is to advance the strategic use of non-violent action in calling upon the Kenyan citizen to demand the end of Impunity, the restoration of democratic accountability and the end of dictatorship in Kenya.

Open copies to:

1. All members of parliament (Kenya National Assembly)
2. Bilateral donors to Kenya
3. The country resident director, the World Bank
4. The resident representative, African Development Bank
5. The resident representative, International Monetary Fund
6. Media
7. The board of directors of the World Bank

Download the signed PDF copy

Open Letter to the Minister of State for Provincial Administration and Internal Security

Judy Wakahiu


The Refugee Consortium of Kenya writes with concerns on refugees and asylum seekers rights abuses by law enforcement officers and by extension the Government of Kenya.


We write with concerns on refugees and asylum seekers rights abuses by law enforcement officers and by extension the Government of Kenya.

We take note of the huge presence of both military and police in the North Eastern Province and appreciate the need to strengthen the security of the country against possible intruders who may have bad intentions for Kenya.

However, our concerns stem from the worrying trends of law breaking – bribery, arbitrary arrests and detention of asylum seekers and refugees by law enforcement agents. The manner in which your officers have been handling asylum seekers and refugees in blatant disregard of the provisions of the Refugees Act 2006 and other International laws that Kenya is signatory to and therefore bound by leaves a lot to be desired.

We have witnessed on many occasions genuine asylum seekers and refugees including women and children being forcefully returned. Asylum seekers after entering the country are entitled to a due process for their status to be determined as provided for by Sec. 11(3) of the Refugees Act 2006. On Monday, 30 March 2009, asylum seekers in a bus from Liboi were captured at Dadaab town by officers of the Kenya army and Kenya police and returned to the frontiers of war in their country Somalia. This was done without regard to due process, even when the Department of Refugee Affairs and UNHCR were but a ‘stones throw’ away from the town. We opine that this is a breach of the same laws that officers are supposed to enforce.

The principle of NON-REFOULMENT (not to forcefully return a person to a place where their lives would be danger) is an overriding principle in refugee protection and it has clearly been stipulated under Section 18 of the Refugees Act 2006, Laws of Kenya and Article 33 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees which Kenya is signatory to.

The Refugees Act clearly provides for the process of registering presence on entry into Kenya. The relevant offices charged with that responsibility for now are:

- The Department of Refugee Affairs headed by the commissioner (which is represented by the camp manager in Dadaab)
- UNHCR offices in Nairobi and the sub offices at the refugee camps.

It can be deduced that as the asylum seekers were arrested in Dadaab, they were seeking to have their claim to asylum assessed by a competent authority. In any case, Somali refugees are currently enjoying prima facie status as per section 3(2) of the Refugees Act of Kenya.

We argue that the continued border closure does not serve any ones interest and it is an opportunity lost by the government of Kenya. It would benefit the government more for the border to be re-opened so that it is aware and in control of who is coming in and going across.

For the reasons raised above, it is our assertion that the actions by the Kenyan Government and its officers are wrong and should cease hence forth. We recommend that:
- The law enforcement officers guilty of abuse of power and breaking the law should be investigated and disciplined
- The Government should immediately cease the return of people to places where their lives may be in grave danger
- In line with Kenya’s obligation under international and Kenyan law, the government should ensure that asylum seekers are able to access the Refugee Status Determination Process
- The closed refugee transit centre in Liboi should be re-opened to ensure orderly registration of all newly arrived and allow for vetting of those who may want to take advantage of the asylum process.

Judy Wakahiu
Refugee Consortium of Kenya

African Writers’ Corner

Interview with Zukiswa Wanner


Conversations with Writers
In an interview with Conversations with Writers, Zukiswa Wanner discusses her books Behind Every Successful Man and The Madams.

Conversations with Writers: When did you start writing?

Zukiswa Wanner: I started writing when I was five. As a prospective published writer though, I was kind of pushed into it by South African writer Lewis Nkosi, who had seen some of my opinion pieces and suggested that I should consider writing fiction. I told him I was too much of a realist to write fiction and he told me it was the greatest bull he had ever heard.

I thought it a challenge and in two weeks I had written the first draft of The Madams. I sent it in its rawness to another Drum-era journalist – the now late Doc Bikitsha – and he loved it and suggested that I make it longer. He also sent me a list of five publishers to send the manuscript to and of the five, three accepted it. I picked one out of those three, went through a rigorous editing process and the rest, as they say, is history.

Conversations with Writers: How would you describe your writing?

Zukiswa Wanner: I write stories of contemporary South Africa.

In my writing, I generally focus on the middle-class because I believe I see enough of poor stories in Africa on CNN.

Conversations with Writers: Who is your target audience?

Zukiswa Wanner: I write something that resonates with me and that I would enjoy. It's just coincidental that there are people who have read my work who seem to enjoy it, which I suppose is an indication that ultimately, many of us have similar aspirations.

Conversations with Writers: Which authors influenced you most?

Zukiswa Wanner: The Zimbabwean author, Shimmer Chinodya, because I love the way he manages to bring out serious issues through humour (and therefore not sound preachy). I also love George Orwell's cynicism.

Conversations with Writers: How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

Zukiswa Wanner: Apart from language usage, not much.

I tend to use other people's stories, so some of my friends have been bastardised in the two books that I have written, in one way or other.

Conversations with Writers: What is your main concern as a writer?

Zukiswa Wanner: My main concern is probably writing something that's entertaining enough for people to keep turning the pages in these days of short attention spans.

Conversations with Writers: How do you deal with this concern?

Zukiswa Wanner: I am yet to know how to deal with it because traditional 'intellectual' readers want me to be more serious when writing while people who generally have never read tell me how much they enjoy my conversational style. I shall have to keep 'practicing' so I can create a balance between the two.

Conversations with Writers: What are the biggest challenges that you face?

Zukiswa Wanner: My greatest challenge is being referred to as 'a good female writer', as opposed to just being a good or bad writer. I think it's awfully patronising and I tend to dismiss people who refer to me as that because my writing (essays, blogs, etc.) is not limited to 'female issues' (whatever that is) and even if it was, women make up half the world anyway.

Conversations with Writers: Do you write everyday?

Zukiswa Wanner: I write everyday. Mostly emails and responses to people on Facebook. But I also generally wake up at about midnight and write throughout the night daily.

I then take a shower, take my son to crèche, and then come and sleep for most of the day unless I have assignments that just can't be put on hold.

Conversations with Writers: How many books have you written so far?

Zukiswa Wanner: Two.

The Madams (Oshun, Nov 2006) is a story of the friendship of three women in today's Johannesburg and the issues they experience.

The novel explores questions like: Is HIV/Aids just a disease of those under 35? Does our Rainbow Nation tag mean we, in South Africa, are truly over our racial issues and racial labels? Is domestic violence merely a disease of the lower classes? In spite of women getting top jobs and the best constitution in the world, are women really equal [to men] in today's South Africa?

The book is written in the first person and the voice is that of one of the female protagonists.

My latest novel, Behind Every Successful Man (Kwela Books, June 2008) deals with traditionalism versus modernity and questions whether a woman can ultimately be satisfied with just being there for her husband and her children without pursuing her own dreams (well, unless of course her dream is to be a stay-at-home mom). It's written in the third person and gives both the husband's and the wife's perspectives.

In Behind Every Successful Man, Nobantu decides she is going to leave her house to pursue her dreams, to the horror of her CEO husband Andile. He then has to learn how to be a father to his children, as opposed to being a cheque book dad, while she has to learn how to be in business without the security of his money to fall back on.

Conversations with Writers: How did you chose a publisher for your latest novel?

Zukiswa Wanner: I left Oshun because the team that I had worked with on The Madams had all quit and I tend to like working with people I am familiar with (the royalty fee I was being offered at Kwela didn't hurt either!).

I chose Kwela because I was already friends with a lot of their writers and knew the inside scoop, I also knew their publisher and many in their team.

The advantage, in addition to the aforementioned higher royalty percentage, is that they have a better publicity team. People actually stop me in malls now to tell me how much they enjoy my books (the down side is that I can't walk around wearing sweats anymore!)

Conversations with Writers: Which aspects of the work you put into the book did you find most difficult?

Zukiswa Wanner: Nothing, because I was commenting on a time I am living (the present) unlike I suspect, if I had been writing a historical novel (yet another reason why I think Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is so brilliant).

Conversations with Writers: What did you enjoy most?

Zukiswa Wanner: Sometimes I just have a line that feels right. In Behind Every Successful Man, that line was from Nobantu's mom as repeated by her mother, 'Better to cry in a limo than laugh in a taxi'.

Conversations with Writers: What sets Behind Every Successful Man apart from The Madams?

Zukiswa Wanner: The style as I have highlighted above. And the fact that I actually have a male voice in Behind Every Successful Man.

Conversations with Writers: Are there any similarities?

Zukiswa Wanner: They both deal with issues that women I know have struggled with at one time or other.

Conversations with Writers: What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Zukiswa Wanner: Being featured as one of South Africa's Most Phenomenal Women this year and my nomination for a South African Literary Award.

* Zukiswa Wanner is the author of Behind Every Successful Man. Wanner has contributed material to newspapers and magazines that include the Sunday Independent, Oprah, Elle, Juice and Afropolitan.
* This interview was originally published by Conversations with Writers.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

Blogging Africa

Blogging Africa: 9 April 2009

Sokari Ekine


April 6 marked the 15th anniversary of the beginning of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, when 800,000 people were murdered over a period of three months.

Black Star Journal points out one of the lesser known facts around the horrendous killings: It occurred a year, almost to the week, after politicians and dignitaries in Washington solemnly promised 'Never again' while inaugurating the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
He also publishes links to a series of very informative articles and blog posts from the 10th anniversary in 2004 – well worth reading.

Sociolingo’s Africa points to a multimedia campaign, highlighting the thousands of women who were raped and the estimated 20,000 children born as a result.

Intended Consequences, a multimedia film created by MediaStorm from the photographs and video of award-winning photographer, Jonathan Torgovnik, chronicles the lives of these women, many of whom have been rejected by their families, compounding already unimaginable poverty, emotional distress and illness, especially due to high rates of HIV infection from the same attacks that left them pregnant. In the piece, which is viewable both in full and in individual segments dedicated to each of the featured women, their stories are told in their own voices, accompanied by still portraiture and video.

Ramblings of a Procrastinator in Accra wonders whether, despite the plethora of films and books on the genocide, the world has really learned from Rwanda and points us to the Kigali Memorial Centre

Last month two Kenyan human rights activists were murdered on the streets of Nairobi. Sukuma Kenya remembers one of the activists, his friend, GPO Oulu, in this moving post:

‘Sunday 5 April will mark a month since our brother GPO Oulu was slain in cold blood. GPO was a man who burned with zeal and conviction for the rights of the oppressed and with the dream of a better Kenya. He was a man who even in death remains firmly affixed in the minds of all who knew him.’

Nigeria, What’s New comments on the recent G20 Summit and asks a number of questions on where Nigeria stands in the global economy and the trillions of dollars supposedly allocated for aid to it and other ‘emerging’ countries. As he rightly points out, aid has not worked in the past and besides the monies allocated by the Summit are miniscule anyway:

‘Where does Nigeria and other emerging cess pits stand in this huge pile of cash? History has shown that regardless of the amount of money pumped into developing countries, the infrastructure remains challenging. Getting the cash is easy but the plans and strategy of using it to develop the so-called Third World seemed stunned. G20 my left foot. They have allocated $500bn for the IMF to lend to struggling economies but only $100bn to poor corruption-ridden ones.

Commentary SA writes on the trial of ANC president, Jacob Zuma, which has now been cancelled. Although he is disgusted by the freeing of Zuma and questions the future of South African justice he goes on to somewhat contradict himself by stating the NPA ‘had a hard decision to make’:

‘It’s a joke. It’s a cruel and terrible joke of our system where a man can slither free from defending his innocence because of procedural intereference. Two wrongs, Mr Zuma, do not make a right. Ncuka should be investigated, but so too should Zuma. The latter won’t happen, and while it might be the correct procedural course, it only became so due to years of drawn out, overpaid legal battles in which Zuma was able to effectively buy his way out of very real trouble.

‘Secondly, and rather contradicting my little rant there, the NPA clearly had a difficult decision to make here. If they were to ignore this additional evidence, which, when brought to full light, I suspect would certainly impact on Zuma’s case in his favour. This way the procedures of the rule of law are maintained and at least one agency in this horrid mess has their hands relatively clean. One cannot in good conscience continue with the trial when these tapes do nothing but cloud the impartiality of the whole damned investigation.’

As he points out, few South African and non-South African citizens including myself, would agree with his second point, as now we have the spectacle of a future president of South Africa who remains under suspicion for corruption amongst other things.

African Loft comments on a story from Nigeria on the theft of oil from oil pipelines. Apparently the thefts amount to some $1.5 billion annually. An astronomical amount of money, which according to the quoted report, is used to fund armed militia in the Niger Delta as well as force multinationals out of the country. A fact that would not cause too much misery to the many people in the Niger Delta who have seen no benefit from oil exploration:

‘The unrest forces the oil multinationals to leave the Niger Delta. The entrepreneurial bunkers move in and hire the young local out-of-work engineers to handle the ‘cement shack refineries’. The more crude oil refined and sold in black market, the more funds for militia, who then get more daring and violent, which then leads to more multinational leaving town.

‘The hopelessly vicious cycle of violence, theft and slow economic strangulation in the Niger Delta is becoming clearer every day, here’s a sampling of recent events.’

Whilst it is true that enormous amounts of money is being stolen by bunkering (and there is no proof that politicians, traditional leaders as well as militants are not involved in this activity). It is also true that enormous sums of oil money have been stolen by successive governments at all levels. The multinationals are themselves complicit in the violence both feeding it and being directly involved through their actions against protests and the environmental damage they have unleashed.

Black Looks reports on the recent Pfizer meningitis trial which has been settled out of court by the Kano State government. Pfizer was sued by Kano State for the unlicensed trial of a meningitis drug Trovan (trovafloxacin) in 200 children in 1996. Eleven children were killed and dozens others suffered side affects and disability as a result. The state has settled for US$75 million instead of the US$2 billion originally sought. Whilst understanding the need for compensation for the families of the children, Black Looks states that it is of utmost importance that multinationals such as Pfizer do not escape justice and be allowed to commit terrible crimes and go free.

While I would not want to be critical of the Kano State government in agreeing to the US$75 million out of court settlement which could see US$35 million going to the families, it is so important in cases like this that multinationals are exposed and made to pay for their actions. US$35 million is a lot of money for the families, but it is a drop in the ocean for Pfizer and we cannot continue to be bought off by the multinationals in this manner. The trial against Shell brought by the Ogoni people begins on the 26 May. It would be extremely disappointing if the plaintiffs in the case were to settle with Shell because no amount of settlement would be sufficient compensation for their role in the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 8 and the environmental damage they have committed against the Ogoni and other people of the region.

* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

Emerging powers in Africa Watch

The G20, China and the implications for Africa

Stephen Marks


Following the G20 meeting in London last week, Stephen Marks unpacks the spin behind the apparent swelling of financial resources available for a global recovery plan. While the IMF remains free to impose the infamous conditionalities that have been the bane of many of its recipient countries, Marks highlights the glaring irony of an organisation that has long pressured others into reform without ever being subject to self-reflection and change itself. While the motives of each G20 player may differ, Marks writes, China at least has a clear interest in seeing the reforming rhetoric of the meeting turned into genuine action and greater representation for developing nations.

On paper it all looks great. The G20, its communiqué assured us, had pulled the rabbit of expansion and regulation out of the hat and clearly turned the old days of global free market dogmatism into history. Bretton Woods is born again, Keynesianism has returned, and the world's great age begins anew.

However on a second and subsequent examination, the shine begins to fade. The new money turns out not to be so new after all, the re-regulation has still to be agreed, and the new age is to be governed by the same monarchs as the old, with only the promise of a new constitution. The poor get sympathy while the rich keep a tight hold of the purse-strings. And in the final communiqué, Africa is not mentioned once.

But you would not think so from the spin that grabbed the headlines. 'The agreements we have reached today, to treble resources available to the IMF to US$750 billion, to support a new SDR allocation of US$250 billion, to support at least US$100 billion of additional lending by the MDBs, to ensure US$250 billion of support for trade finance, and to use the additional resources from agreed IMF gold sales for concessional finance for the poorest countries, constitute an additional US$1.1 trillion programme of support to restore credit, growth and jobs in the world economy. Together with the measures we have each taken nationally, this constitutes a global plan for recovery on an unprecedented scale', the final statement boasts.

But the US$500 billion extra for the IMF turns out in reality to be only US$250 billion on the table, of which Japan and the EU had each already pledged US$100 billion earlier this year. Most of the rest appears to be made up of US$40 billion from China, though according to Geoff Dyer in the Financial Times on 4 April, 'officials said the details of China's contribution were still under discussion.' The second tranche has still to be found from other donors, and progress is promised by further meetings next year.

There is a promise that the additional IMF funds will be 'incorporated into an expanded and more flexible New Arrangements to Borrow … and to consider market borrowing if necessary'. But in the meantime the IMF is free to continue to impose the notorious conditionalities which have left so many of its 'beneficiaries' at the mercy of today's global crisis.

The irony is that while the IMF imposes strict conditionalities before disbursing its funds to poor countries, the organisation is apparently to be given an additional US$500 billion without any conditionality of prior reform on its part, but merely a promise of future unspecified changes. So a boost promoted as part of a counter-cyclical 'Keynesian' package will be implemented by an organisation which is still imposing pro-cyclical and anti-Keynesian conditions.

The organisation Third World Network has analysed nine IMF loans extended since September last year to emerging market economies and developing countries affected by the crisis. It finds that:

'[F]iscal and monetary tightening is still being prescribed. The loan conditions typically reduce or limit government spending and reduce or limit the budget deficit. Fiscal deficit reduction targets are to be achieved by cutting public expenditure, involving reductions in public sector wages, caps on pension payments, postponement of social benefits and minimum wage increases, elimination of energy subsidies and in the case of Pakistan, by raising electricity tariffs by 18% and reducing tax exemptions.

'Similarly, monetary policy conditions are focused on reducing inflation through rigorous inflation targeting regimes and tightening monetary policy by increasing interest rates. In the case of both Latvia and Iceland, the official interest rate was increased by 600 basis points, or 6 percentage points. Most other countries are also asked to raise their interest rates.

'The pro-cyclical conditions in these recent IMF loans contradict the directive given in the G20 communiqué that resource increases to the global financial institutions will "support growth in emerging market and developing countries by helping to finance counter-cyclical spending". They are also opposite to the counter-cyclical policies that the G20 countries have prescribed to themselves; the G20 communiqué for example reports that within G20 countries "interest rates have been cut aggressively…and our central banks have pledged to maintain expansionary policies."'

Things look a bit better when it comes to the next tranche of goodies – the US$250 billion in new Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) which are not subject to IMF conditionality. However, they are not to be allocated to the countries that need it most, but rather to the 186 IMF member countries according to their voting shares. As a result 44 per cent of the total will go to the richest seven countries, while only US$80 billion of the total will go to middle-income and poor countries.

However, the promise to 'ensure [the] availability' of US$250 billion to support trade finance over the next two years should provide welcome lubrication to the wheels of commerce, if it materialises. Welcome too will be the 'substantial increase in lending' for the Multilateral Development Banks totalling US$100 billion – though the communiqué commits the G20 only to 'support' the increase, not actually to provide it.

And while the communiqué's annexe on 'delivering resources' refers specifically to 'a 200 per cent general capital increase at the Asian Development Bank', it talks only of 'reviews of the need for capital increases' at the Inter-American Development Bank, the African Development Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

But at least Africa makes it into the annexe.

Of course, the small amount of hard commitment may be topped up by the additional sums promised, and the indications of possible future changes to the constitution and terms of reference of the IMF and World Bank may materialise. But the omens are not good. The last time the UK hosted a major heads of government jamboree was at the Group of Eight summit at Gleneagles in Scotland in 2005. And most of the rich donor countries have still to deliver on the promises of increased development aid which they made then.

As Walden Bello rightly pointed out last week in Pambazuka News, 'The current crisis is a grand opportunity to craft a new system that ends not just the failed system of neoliberal global governance but the Euro-American domination of the capitalist global economy, and put in its place a more decentralised, deglobalised, democratic post-capitalist order. Unless this more fundamental restructuring takes place, the global economy might not be worth bringing back to the surface.'

A start, as he also points out, has been made by the stimulating and scandalously under-reported Commission of Experts on Reforms to the International Monetary and Financial System, set up by the president of the General Assembly and headed by Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz. The commission has now produced its report, which is due to be discussed at a special meeting of the UN General Assembly later this year.

But as Joseph Stiglitz himself pointed out in an interview with the German magazine Spiegel, Africa is in great danger of being the big loser in the crisis. '...even the high growth of 6 percent in Africa in the last few years hasn't been enough to permanently fight poverty. A lot of the countries on the continent which inherited a low standard of education, and no infrastructure from colonialism, have solely focused on increasing commodity prices. That was a risky strategy. The IMF's structural development policies also contributed to deindustrialization. We haven't managed to create a stable foundation for the African economies', he commented.

How far can China's continued African involvement offset the trend? The World Bank recently cut its 2009 economic growth forecast for developing East Asia to 5.3 per cent from 6.7 per cent and warned of a 'painful surge' of unemployment as the global recession hits home. But the bank reiterated its projection that China's economy will expand 6.5 per cent this year and called the prospect that China's economy will bottom out mid-year, as its massive stimulus package kicks in, a 'ray of hope' for the region.

There should be some spin-off for Africa's primary producers from this, as continued Chinese demand for raw materials offsets in part declining demand from the West and North. But the boost is part of a more ambitious plan to make China less dependent on export demand from the West by expanding China's internal market.

In its turn this would make China's demand for raw materials more independent of global cycles and increase its counter-cyclical effect. A key indicator that this aspect of China's stimulus is still central was the announcement last week of guidelines for China's ambitious healthcare reform, for which a total investment of US$124 billion is planned over the next three years.

While basic healthcare was largely free after 1949, the system was dismantled after the country shifted to a market-oriented system in the early 1980s. As a result Chinese people save for a rainy day instead of spending. A revival of public sector spending on healthcare and other services is therefore seen as central to expanding domestic demand.

There may seem little connection between China's healthcare reform, the G20, and the international role of the US dollar as a reserve currency. But whatever the divergent motives of other G20 players, China at least has an interest in seeing that the reforming rhetoric of the official communiqué is turned into reality. For the rhetoric of global reform owes a lot to the pressure exerted by China and the other BRIC [Brazil Russia India China] countries in the weeks before the G20 meeting for developing countries to have a bigger say in world financial institutions.

At their meeting in London in March BRIC finance ministers had called for changes in the global institutions of the kind promised by the G20 weeks later – including even-handed IMF economic surveillance, merit-based appointments of IMF and World Bank heads (instead of reserving them for US and EU nominees), and pledges to hasten reforms to make both agencies more representative.

And China's Premier Wen Jiabao had declared himself 'a little bit worried' about the safety of Chinese assets in the US, where China's massive trade surplus is largely invested in US Treasury bonds.

One way to assuage these fears would be to find an alternative to the US dollar as the basis of the global monetary system. A recent paper from the People's Bank of China floated the possibility of an alternative global currency based on a greatly expanded use of the IMF's Special Drawing Rights – to which a small gesture was made by the G20.

But pending the unlikely adoption of this scheme, there are advantages for China if its own currency could play a more leading role in the global financial system. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported:

'Beijing has signed currency swap agreements with six central banks: Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Belarus and most recently Argentina. These swaps permit those central banks to sell yuan to local importers in those countries who want to buy Chinese goods. This is particularly useful for importers struggling to obtain trade finance as a result of the financial crisis. As such, it's consistent with China's desire to participate in the Group of 20's efforts to support trade financing.'

Pilot schemes are also planned to encourage currency exchanges between the Yangtze River Delta region, Guangdong Province, Hong Kong and Macau. Also included would be settlements between entities in Guangxi Autonomous Region and ASEAN-member nations.

A recent article in the Chinese economic journal Caijing describes these trends as a way of getting round the shortage of dollars and other currencies and offsetting the global economic downturn – as well as giving China's yuan more international clout.

This could certainly benefit Africa, and is a possibility the African Development Bank could well investigate. The possibility should also encourage the established actors to be more active in delivering on their post-G20 rhetoric.

The competition might prompt more local and regional delivery, as in the recent Lusaka conference, which produced international pledges of US$1.2 billion from developed nations in support of an ambitious plan to improve transport infrastructure in southern and central Africa.

Of course this does not mean that China and the other BRIC countries are automatically the champions of the global poor. They have their own national and even sub-imperial ambitions, indeed their own justified national self-interest. As South Africa's Mail and Guardian reported last week, 'In the same week that South Africa claimed it had refused the Dalai Lama a visa in the interests of trade relations with China, the Chinese cocked a snook at the South African government by rejecting its request for new quotas limiting Chinese textile imports'.

On the other hand, China continues to be sensitive to its image and reputation abroad. Last month a top-level meeting of officials from China's Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Commerce and the People's Bank of China, together with academics and the Chinese green NGO Global Environmental Institute (GEI) met to discuss the new Guidelines for Environmental Conduct Overseas, which aim 'to improve the environmental impact of China's policy on investment, aids and loans and regulate Chinese companies' environmental conduct overseas'.

GEI seeks 'to work alongside local NGOs in some of the hottest areas for Chinese overseas investment in doing case studies by selecting pilot companies to follow the guidelines'.

This is the sort of grassroots cooperation which can ensure that any new global financial architecture that emerges from the crisis works 'for the many not the few'.

* Stephen Marks is research associate and project coordinator with Fahamu's China in Africa Project.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

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ISSN 1753-6839 Pambazuka News English Edition

ISSN 1753-6847 Pambazuka News en Français

ISSN 1757-6504 Pambazuka News em Português

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