Pambazuka News 497: MDGs in Africa: What progress?
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
CONTENTS: 1. Announcements, 2. Features, 3. Comment & analysis, 4. Advocacy & campaigns, 5. Books & arts, 6. Letters & Opinions, 7. African Writers’ Corner, 8. Cartoons, 9. Zimbabwe update, 10. Women & gender, 11. Human rights, 12. Refugees & forced migration, 13. Emerging powers news, 14. Elections & governance, 15. Corruption, 16. Development, 17. Health & HIV/AIDS, 18. Education, 19. LGBTI, 20. Environment, 21. Land & land rights, 22. Food Justice, 23. Media & freedom of expression, 24. Conflict & emergencies, 25. Internet & technology, 26. Fundraising & useful resources, 27. Courses, seminars, & workshops, 28. Jobs, 29. World Cup 2010
Highlights from this issue
- New media, alternative politics: Cambridge conference – 14–16 October
- Charles Abugre on Africa and the Millennium Development Goals
- Steve Sharra on women and peace in the MDGs
- Patrick Bond discusses South Africa's MDG prospects
- Africans must not rely on so-called millennium goals, says Cameron Duodu
- Pregs Govender on debating South Africa's Protection of Information Bill
- World Bank land grab report: Beyond smoke and mirrors
- Dani W. Nabudere on Africa's future and global capitalism
- Sokwanele on art, censorship and the Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe
- Horace Campbell on the life of Ronald W. Walters
- Franklin Lamb discusses the Sabra-Shatila massacre, 28 years on
COMMENT & ANALYSIS
- Rwandan President Paul Kagame speaks to Jenerali Ulimengu
- SA left lacks leadership and vision, says Mphutlane wa Bofelo
ADVOCACY & CAMPAIGNS
- 83 Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) activists detained in Harare
- Global Week of Action against Debt and the IFIs
BOOKS & ARTS
- Sokari Ekine interviews Emmanuel Iduma on online literary journal Saraba
- Kagendo Murungi's film 'Taking Freedom Home'
LETTERS & OPINIONS
- MDGs yet to fail Africa, says Moalosi Masilo
AFRICAN WRITERS’ CORNER
- Because I am a girl, I must study
- Gado on Goodluck Jonathan's campaigning intentionsZIMBABWE UPDATE: WOZA activists detained
WOMEN & GENDER: New UN entity to champion gender equality
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: More nations join ban on child soldiers
HUMAN RIGHTS: Congo’s civilians need protection
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Sexual harassment at Malawi camp
EMERGING POWERS NEWS: Emerging powers news roundup
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: New runoff date proposed in Guinea
CORRUPTION: Examining aid and budget transparency
HEALTH & HIV/AIDS: Global drive to save women and children launched
EDUCATION: More commitment to education needed
LGBTI: Gay rights: The ninth MDG?
DEVELOPMENT: Where are the missing voices on MDGs?
ENVIRONMENT: Green economy can reduce poverty, says UN
LAND & LAND RIGHTS: Punjab farmers acquire Ethiopian land
FOOD JUSTICE: Food security and structural hunger
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Somali journalists launch new federation
INTERNET & TECHNOLOGY: Connecting farmers with mobile phones
COURSES, SEMINARS & WORKSHOPS: Poetry Africa tours Cape Town, Zimbabwe, Malawi
PLUS: Jobs, Fundraising & useful resources and publications
*Pambazuka News now has a Del.icio.us page, where you can view the various websites that we visit to keep our fingers on the pulse of Africa! Visit http://del.icio.us/pambazuka_news
New media, alternative politics
MDGs: How far we've come and what still has to be done
A mother cradles her newborn baby girl, with joy where there might have been grief. During labour, the baby was in a dangerous breech position, putting both mother and child at risk of death. But a skilled birth attendant turned the baby, saving their lives.
Thanks to the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), standards world leaders agreed on in 2000 to lift the poor, the sick and the hungry by 2015, professionally-attended births are at an all-time high in Africa. Benin is most improved, and even war-scarred DRC and Angola have risen to the challenge, with Angola halving maternal deaths.
Thanks to the impetus of the MDGs, the expectant mother and this baby received free prenatal care, and free medical visits will continue through the breastfeeding period, strengthening the child’s body and mind - a low-cost policy Ghana, Malawi, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda all began. Thanks to the MDG challenge, she is likely to escape Africa’s child-killing diseases, because cadres of health workers have been hired and trained to distribute essentials, such as bed nets and improved malaria medicines (in the countries with free prenatal care, plus Zambia and Niger). Africa-wide, malaria deaths have fallen by half. Meanwhile, vaccinations including measles and tuberculosis have skyrocketed, saving six million lives.
The world leaders who are gathering for a MDG Review Summit at the UN this week must study these victories. They must remember, if they wonder whether the goals are realistic, that indicators on maternal and child health, hunger, poverty and disease have improved in some of sub-Saharan Africa’s poorest countries. Before the global financial crisis, hunger plummeted by 75 per cent in Ghana, and by a smaller degree in Djibouti, Mozambique, Chad, Benin, Mali, Gambia, Uganda, Burkina Faso and Togo. Populous Ethiopia, Egypt, and Angola halved their poverty rates. And although the goals were inked in 2000, change really began in 2004. So it’s all happened very, very fast.
Today, with five critical years to go, we know what works. There’s a set of solutions that are proven, and cheap. They include:
* Increasing health budgets, so maternal and prenatal care are free (And so more birth attendants can be trained).
* Publicly-funded discounts on fertiliser, to lessen hunger. In Nigeria, when some farmers got fertiliser and simple technology, credit and marketing help, their income rose 50 per cent - for just $80 a year. Help with warehousing the harvest in eight other nations led yields to rise as much as four-fold.
* Low-cost childhood preventive care, which could save six million of the 11 million children who die each year. That includes breastfeeding for six months, nutritional supplementation up to two years, vaccines, bed nets, antibiotics for respiratory infections and oral rehydration for diarrhea.
* Cash grants to the most destitute, like teenage orphans, the elderly, and families without a breadwinner, to reduce poverty. Kenya, South Africa, Mauritius, Namibia, and Lesotho, among other countries, funded them with taxes. Cash transfers are quite small: $3 a month lifted the health, education and nutrition of Kenyan orphans. A $2 per month payment to Malawian families without a breadwinner decreased child labour.
But more of the same won’t be enough. World leaders in New York must re-energise their MDG efforts, with stronger action plans to accelerate through 2015, because despite the many stunning successes, progress has been uneven. Too many donors and African governments have failed to make the plans to fund the programs and to deliver on their promises.
Meanwhile, the food and financial crises have devastated the poorest, though final numbers on the impact mostly aren’t available. But even before the global economic crisis, amid progress elsewhere, poverty was up in Nigeria and Zimbabwe. While the mother and newborn above were saved, one in seven women die in childbirth in sub-Saharan Africa. (In Ireland, it’s one in 48,000.) One in three infants in Africa are undernourished, causing irreversible stunting. Rural areas are worse off than cities almost everywhere. Child mortality is among the world’s highest in Equatorial Guinea and Chad, and in the DRC, the proportion of hungry people has doubled.
Access to piped water and sanitation has seen little progress; two-thirds of those in sub-Saharan Africa lack basic sanitation. And though education is spreading, 38 million children still don’t attend school. (In North Africa, they’re mostly girls.) And the negatives go on: Sudan and Ethiopia’s immunisations are falling. Africa has three-quarters of all new HIV infections. Most medical workforces are inadequate - in some nations, a single ob-gyn serves an entire state or province of millions. And with measles vaccine funding down, measles deaths could rebound by as much as 1.7 million.
This week’s summit must refocus world leaders’ attention on the policy failures behind these tragic shortfalls, and end with a commitment to redouble efforts. To turn away now would be, as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has said, morally and practically unacceptable and would multiply the world’s dangers: instability, violence, epidemic diseases, overpopulation, and environmental degradation. And progress must happen on multiple fronts at once. Extreme poverty kills through the cumulative effects of malnutrition, poor infrastructure, gaps in health care delivery, and more.
Here’s what commitment looks like. Take the baby girl when she reaches school age. Education will be free if she’s in Burundi or Tanzania, where school fees were abolished in pursuit of the MDGs. Now enrollment is nearly universal. (Zambia is close, and in Mauritania, which doubled its budget allocation to education, girls’ enrollment surged.) Ethiopia raised its education budget, funded textbooks in local languages and built rural schools. Tanzania recruited teachers and added second shifts to meet overflowing demand. Gambia invested in teacher training.
Once she’s in a clean school, she may be immunised there, and get a nutritious free meal, kicking off a virtuous circle. Being healthier, she’ll be absent less often. Attending regularly, she’ll likely finish. Being better educated, she’ll make healthier decisions when she grows up. And so on. If her government school purchases the free meals from an area farmer or community garden, local income rises. More community children can eat. They’re healthier and miss less school. Commitment will allow these children, upon graduating, to find decent employment, thanks to fair, efficient economic and tax policies. With jobs, they’ll pay taxes. That will fund more schools and clinics. And so on.
Leaders at the summit must also be heartened because the backdrop in Africa now is in many ways better than in 2000. Economies are bouncing back. Our abundant natural resources are in demand. There is less inflation, less debt, and more scope to borrow and raise taxes (and stop tax evasion and fraud). Broad popular awareness of the goals has fostered new coalitions now working together. The public institutions responsible for social services to the poorest are in better shape. And the trend towards decentralisation, that’s shifting funds and power to provincial localities, makes citizens better able to monitor their leaders’ governing and spending.
The political landscape is more conducive, too, with fewer military conflicts and military dictatorships. And we Africans seeking justice are backed by a global movement, pressure from which helped lessen Africa’s debt burden, leaving governments more money to spend on MDGs.
Here’s what needs to happen next:
* Donor nations: Fulfill your side of the bargain and deliver on your promises. Stop tying humanitarian aid to political and macroeconomic conditions that do not favour growth and pro-poor human development. Prudent economic management fosters development. But tying aid to unfair conditions is effectively a death sentence on millions of mothers and children and the poorest. Reducing poverty must be aid’s only purpose. If you want to promote democracy, realise that elections alone, important as they are, can’t alone constitute a functioning democracy. We need jobs, the taxes they generate and a clampdown on tax havens sheltering illicit capital flight to sustain our democratic institutions. These all - and building our jobs base so we’re not dependent on commodities - are inseparable from the democratic process.
African leaders in countries falling short: You must find a stronger will to improve the condition of your poorest citizens, as you promised when you signed the MDGs in 2000. The goals make it mandatory that you provide health, clean water, sanitation and education for your citizens. Build on what we know works to carry efforts forward at this time of promise more potent than any moment ever before. Raise the revenues needed to deliver on your commitments. Fight for global trade rules and financial regulation that serve justice. Say you stand for eradicating poverty, and the correct steps you’ll take to get there, and we will support you.
Citizens: Recognise your responsibility and in your own powerful voice, demand that political leaders and public servants deliver. Africans must stop acquiescing in silence to poor governance and substandard services, whether in schools, hospitals or town halls. We deserve, we require, we demand competence and effectiveness in public spending. That means watching over those who govern to catch corruption and waste. Show your support for the MDGs by joining an event during the September 17-19 ‘Stand Up, Take Action, End Poverty’ day of action (standagainstpoverty.org). You can force those responsible to solve our societies’ problems.
Our fates, north and south, urban and rural, rich and poor, are entwined. Our common future depends on more powerful commitment to end the suffering of extreme poverty, to make sure every newborn, like the baby girl asleep in her mother’s arms, has the basic necessities we know how to provide. For now, tiny but alive with possibility, she waits for our action.
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* Charles Abugre is the Regional Director-Africa, United Nations Millennium Campaign.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
MDGs, women and peace: Towards uMunthu
Is it a mere coincidence that the 2010 summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) being held this week in New York overlaps with the UN International Day of Peace? Whether it is or is not, that fact alone offers an opportunity to reflect on how the MDGs relate to the promotion of global peace. The idea of ‘peace’ is absent from the MDGs. This has prompted a group of activists to declare ‘Interfaith dialogue for peace’ a missing Millennium Development Goal. However, it may not be the only missing goal, as another activist group, the Charcoal Project, has taken up ‘energy poverty alleviation’ also as a missing MDG. I am sure each one of us can come up with at least one suggestion that could be said to be another missing goal from the MDGs.
There has been a lot of discussion leading up to the UN MDGs summit, but one that caught my attention last week was the BBC programme World Have Your Say. On Thursday 16 September the programme’s discussion centred around the observation that of all the eight Millennium Development Goals, those relating to women were the furthest behind. Evidence for this for me came from a separate news item that celebrated Ghana’s progress, touting it as on target to become the first African country to achieve MDG number one, halving poverty. But the same news report also observed that Ghana would be unable to achieve the MDGs relating to children’s and women’s health, goals number 4 and 5 respectively.
Is it surprising that of the eight Millennium Development Goals, those pertaining to women are the hardest to achieve? Take MDG number 3, promoting gender equality and empowering women. The target for that goal is to achieve gender parity in primary and secondary school enrolment for boys and girls by 2005, and in all levels of tertiary education by 2015. The 2010 Millennium Development Goals report indicates that the global numbers show near parity for this goal, but when regions are looked at separately, the reality is quite different. A few days ago the news coming out of the United States was that more women were now obtaining PhD degrees than men. This was the last remaining area in the American education system where women were not in the majority. On any given day, there are more women on American university campuses than men, with some universities reporting a 45:55 men to women ratio. It is these figures that balance out the global numbers in other parts of the world such as sub-Saharan Africa, where in fact there are 67 women for every 100 men in tertiary education. In southern Asia the ratio is 76 women for every 100 men.
Going by these realities alone, why wouldn’t one conclude that the United States of America and other societies in the global North have achieved gender equity? It is only when one looks more closely at other indicators of power that the above conclusion starts to melt away. As advanced as the United States appears to both Americans and others, it has never had a female president in its entire 234-year history. The US Senate has 18 women and 82 men, according to the website ThisNation.com. In the US Congress, males make up 83 per cent (441 males) while females make up 17 per cent (92), according to 2009 Wikipedia figures. On average, an American woman earns 75 cents for every dollar a man earns. The speaker of house is a woman, for the first time in the history of the United States. More evidence of gender disparities in the United States comes from gender-based domestic violence. Some estimates put the number of American women who have experienced sexual violence or attempted sexual violence at one in six, according to figures from the activist group Safe World for Women. Every two minutes a woman is sexually assaulted in the United States, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).
Clearly American women have not only achieved gender parity in higher education, they have surpassed it. When it comes to politics and other areas of gender concern however, the US is not unlike other countries. The world leader for women’s political representation is an African country, Rwanda. There, women make up 55 per cent of their parliament, a feat no other country in the world has achieved.
Throwing around numbers such as these always raises the inevitable question of whether women in positions of political leadership promote peace better than men. This would be an easy question to answer, were it not for the misunderstanding of the meaning of ‘gender’ differences and the nature of political power implicit in that question. For women’s leadership to promote peace, there is need for change in the very process that defines ‘gender’ and entrusts political power. The misunderstanding will endure for as long as gender continues to be defined in confrontational terms as a competition between men and women, masculine versus feminine. Progress will continue to be elusive for as long as gender is seen as an argument for women to prove that they are equal to men in physical strength and endurance, academic achievement and political representation, property ownership and leadership management style.
For the empowerment of women to make a real difference in the promotion of peace, the discussion needs to shift from one of competing forces to one of cooperation and collaboration. Feminist scholars argue that both men and women possess characteristics that are considered, for lack of more refined language, masculine as well as feminine. The difference lies in the way we are socialised. We grow up being taught to behave in a particular way due to what society perceives gender differences to mean and to require. Social norms compel us to reinforce these perceptions and expectations, and then to undermine them when we use those very perceptions and expectations to blame one gender for being collaborative rather than competitive, accommodating rather than uncompromising, submissive rather than aggressive, gentle rather than violent.
One Malawian gender columnist recently captured this contradiction perfectly. In a recent article, Penelope Paliani-Kamanga wrote about being in a vehicle with male colleagues. The car in front was moving rather slowly and cautiously, and the men concluded that the driver must be a woman. In due course the vehicle Penelope and her male colleagues were in overtook the vehicle in front, and she noticed that the driver was actually a man. She went on to observe in the article that advertisers make it a selling point when a vehicle has been driven by a female, making sure to include that in a classified ad. Yet on the road, many men make disparaging remarks toward female drivers, seeing them as incompetent and inexperienced.
The contradictions and misunderstandings of what gender means are not the preserve of one section of society only; as many men and women alike hold distorted views about the inferiority of women and their unsuitability for leadership positions; as many men and women alike believe that women have no one to blame but themselves in the numerous instances that show women not measuring up to men. One example of this came up in a recent radio panel discussion commemorating International Literacy Day, whose theme was ‘literacy and women’s empowerment’. One man called into a live programme on Transworld Radio and said the reason why there were more illiterate women than men in Malawi was that women did not understand the importance of literacy, and therefore chose to drop out of school before acquiring literacy. No doubt there were women who agreed with that sentiment. Equally problematic is the stereotypical view of women as victims who need men to empower them.
It is very common to hear men and women argue that there is no reason for gender equality programmes; women only need to apply themselves the way men do. Do people who think in this way understand why two of the eight MDGs are gender equality and maternal health? Do they understand why several African governments have created entire ministries to tackle issues of gender and women’s development? Why many universities around the world have departments and programmes studying gender and women’s development? One of the startling statistics here in Malawi is that women make up 70 per cent of all small-scale subsistence farmers, yet only 4 per cent of Malawian women own land. An easy solution to this problem would be to simply call on women, in the ubiquitous manner of news headlines, to own more land. Problem solved. But were it that simple.
As world leaders gather in New York this week to review progress on the MDGs with five years to go to 2015, the list of what goals are missing will probably grow. I will take this opportunity to add one more to the list: uMunthu-peace. Target: reform school curricula around the world into peace curricula, making all education peace education. It is in peace education and peace studies that a more meaningful perspective on gender equality has been developed. Such a perspective might enable each of the eight goals to be viewed ultimately as aiming to promote uMunthu, peace and social justice at the local and global level, making them much more relevant to the majority of people around the world.
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* Steve Sharra blogs at Afrika Aphukira, the Zeleza Post and the Paulo and Nita Freire International Project for Critical Pedagogy. He writes in his own capacity.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
South Africa and the MDGs: Talking left, walking right
IPS: Of the eight MDGs (Millennium Development Goals), which has South Africa made the most progress on? What has enabled this?
PATRICK BOND: 6 – Combat HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases. How? Access to ARV (anti-retroviral) treatment became available in South African public health facilities in 2004, after a heroic battle was waged by the Treatment Action Campaign and its allies against President Thabo Mbeki, the world's largest pharmaceutical corporations and the US government. Anti-retroviral drugs that used to cost US$10,000 a year per person now are free for poor and working-class South Africans, and the medicines are available generically, made locally in Africa, not only by Big Pharma in the North. This is a miraculous change from a decade ago, and probably saved more lives than any single initiative anywhere since the end of apartheid.
IPS: Which goal has been most difficult to pursue? Why?
PATRICK BOND: There's a three-way tie, for MDG goals 1, 7 and 8:
1) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. South African urban poverty increased from 1993–2008 according to latest official stats, and rural poverty declined only because more poor people moved to the cities and the welfare grant system was extended. Why? The South African economy is structured so as to generate poverty-expanding 'growth' of GDP (gross domestic product). As accumulation of capital occurs in much of South Africa, the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer. That structuring happens in ways familiar to anyone following the speculative, financial-driven and profit-exporting character of capitalism nearly everywhere these days, interrupted only briefly by the great crash of 2008. Most of Pretoria's economic policies amplify this because of their neoliberal (pro-business) character.
7) Ensure environmental sustainability. South Africa's climate, land, water, mining/smelting, petro-chemical, fisheries and timber sectors are experiencing ecological disasters on a more regular scale. Why? The large corporations mainly responsible for these problems have a tight-knit 'crony capitalist' relationship with the ruling party, bordering on outright corruption (for example, the huge US$3.75 billion World Bank loan to Eskom this year which directly funds the ruling party for a vast coal-fired power plant so the world's biggest mining/metals firms get the world's cheapest electricity). At minimum, the revolving door between state officials and capital confirms laxity in environmental regulation, and even Pretoria admits the state of the South African environment is in perilous decline.
8) Develop a global partnership for development. Under Mbeki's influence, Pretoria's international representatives tried valiantly to stitch together a global elite with concern for African 'development', starting with South Africa's hosting of the 1996 UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) conference, but to no avail. Why? There has been a deficit of good governance on every single global-scale problem – not just poverty – for at least the last decade, what with the Bush/Obama regime's fusion of neoconservative ideologues and neoliberal institutions in the UN, Bretton Woods institutions, World Trade Organisation, UN Security Council and environmental bodies, such that since the 1996 ban (in the Montreal Protocol) on ChloroFluoroCarbons (causing ozone hole growth), there's been no global-scale elite solution to global-scale problems.
IPS: Within five years, which goals can South Africa be confident in achieving? Which goals do you think will not be achieved? Why?
PATRICK BOND: South Africa cannot be confident of making progress on any MDG goals, given the coming austerity associated with a failing global and national 'Keynesian' (deficit-based) macroeconomic strategy that was largely based on white-elephant infrastructure investments. Such spending – especially for now empty soccer stadiums costing R22 billion – plus declining state revenues (as profits and taxes fell) moved the national budget from a surplus of around 1 per cent of GDP under Trevor Manuel to a deficit of more than 7 per cent since the crisis began, and as Pravin Gordhan took over as finance minister. What is therefore likely, within five years, is a similar turn by the Treasury to the kind of austerity now being felt in many other countries which ratcheted up their deficits to deal with the crisis. As shown in the recent civil servants' strike, the state is willing to put services mainly utilised by the poor majority – public schools, clinics and hospitals – at risk to maintain some semblance of fiscal discipline, which does not bode well for future state expenditure on MDG-related needs.
IPS: What specific plans are in place to promote gender equality and women's empowerment?
PATRICK BOND: Given the fact that during economic crisis and rising mass unemployment – which still characterise South Africa – women typically suffer most, and given the apparent rise in patriarchy experienced in South Africa since President Jacob Zuma's 2006 rape trial and his curious 'Moral Regeneration Campaign' leadership, I suspect that gender equity will suffer and only a few women in political and bureaucratic leadership or Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) positions will be empowered.
IPS: Each year, the African Union summit theme relates to a different MDG. Civil society has lauded the statements issued as a result, but been critical of follow-through and implementation. How have the resolutions at the last three summits helped to shape South Africa's programmes for water and sanitation and investment in agriculture?
PATRICK BOND: As was learned from the failed New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the failing Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), there is a great deal of rhetoric at the African Union not matched by implementation, because as most in civil society soon realised, the promises of good governance are a 'talk left, walk right' manoeuvre. How else would one explain the fact that tyrants have held continental leadership positions in recent years (e.g., AU leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, NEPAD/APRM/climate leader Meles Zenawi and MDG summit co-chair Paul Kagame). Civilised society in Addis Ababa will eventually have to join the more observant, critical forces in African civil society and stop praising the AU's empty rhetoric, given that such praise simply encourages corrupt, repressive elites to continue posturing and distracts the society from the elites' dictatorial practices at home and, especially, their destructive alliances with global power-brokers (e.g., Zenawi and Kagame with George W. Bush and Tony Blair, and Barack Obama and David Cameron for that matter).
IPS: 6 – Reducing poverty and hunger is the first, and perhaps most basic development goal. What will the government's programme to create jobs and sustainably reduce poverty look like?
PATRICK BOND: Given the neoliberal orientation of policy-makers in the Treasury, Pretoria still appears religiously opposed to subsidising food or even zero-rating Value Added Tax for most nutritious goods. As for improving food security through land redistribution, Pretoria did pledge to finally ditch the failed Willing Seller Willing Buyer land reform policy (the 1994 promise of 30 per cent redistribution of good land within five years resulted in less than 1 per cent, a figure that may have only now, 16 years into liberation, risen to 5 per cent).
The rural power structure remains extremely biased towards white farmers, so durable malnutrition even among farm workers is an indication of the prevailing semi-feudal social relations. Pretoria's job-creation programme was limited to a half-million so-called jobs in short-term public works programmes, and the only change proposed in 2010 was to develop a two-tier entry-level labour market with capital subsidised by the Treasury to employ young workers at rates below the minimum wage. Fortunately, that idea of Gordhan's has been blocked by labour. In sum, the job creation strategies are merely tokenistic, and it is a tribute to the South African economy's destructive tendencies that while a mild 'recovery' is allegedly underway with 2 percent plus GDP growth recorded in the first half of 2010, another 150,000 more jobs were simultaneously lost. The state is also losing its so-called 'war on poverty', and instead, given that South Africa boasts amongst the world's highest protest rates per person, what is more apparent is Pretoria's war on the poor: repression and disconnections of water/electricity to people who cannot afford their fast-rising utility bills, especially in the wake of Eskom's price increases (at least triple the inflation rate for the foreseeable future). This state of affairs will generate a growing hostility to politicians, but it will take a break between labour and genuine communists on the one hand, and the ANC's (African National Congresses) 'predatory' leadership (as COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) calls them) on the other, before genuine electoral politics can finally begin.
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* Patrick Bond is based at the Centre for Civil Society within the University of KwaZulu-Natal's School of Development Studies.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Africans must not rely on the so-called millennium goals
In the next few days, many sweet words will once again be issued from the UN about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa, given the special summit being held in New York.
Professor Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in the United States, who is not normally uncritical of the performance of the G8 when it comes to their attitude towards the eradication of poverty in Africa, is quite upbeat about the possibilities available to rich nations before the 2015 landmark for achieving the MDGs arrives.
Writing in the London Guardian on 21 September 2010, Sachs declared: ‘The Millennium Development Goals have triggered the largest cooperative effort in world history to fight poverty, hunger, and disease. They have become a rallying cry in poor and rich countries alike. Ten years after their adoption, they are alive and stronger than ever, inspiring breakthroughs around the globe. The world wants them to work. We are just five years from the target year 2015. If we aim high, great outcomes are within reach.
‘Africa can achieve food security; all boys and girls can complete primary education, and millions more, secondary education; solar and other energy sources can bring electricity into remote villages and primary healthcare can prevent millions of deaths annually and encourage families to have fewer children in the confidence they will stay alive. We can choose, in short, to achieve the millennium development goals, and look beyond 2015 to the end of extreme poverty in our generation.’
It is tempting to mock Sachs for having been infected with a mild form of euphoria by the proximity of so many heads of state in the UN building, all brandishing well-researched papers enthusing about what will be happening by 2015; what can be done and what is projected to be achieved.
In fact, Sachs himself, in an earlier article published in the Guardian on 4 July 2010 gave the G8 a ‘fail’ mark when he juxtaposed the promises they had made, especially at the Gleneagles summit in Scotland in 2005, with the achievements - or non-achievements - recorded in development since then. The United Kingdom government was the only one that passed the Sachs ‘accountability test’. Of the rest, he found that not only were some not attempting to achieve goals they had themselves pledged to achieve, but also that some of them were deliberately fudging figures to give the wrong impression.
For instance, figures were at times badly stated in today's money and had not taken account of how inflation had eaten into them since they were pledged five years ago. The ‘most important pledge of all the G8's promises,’ Sachs wrote, was ‘the Gleneagles one which stated that by 2010, they would increase the yearly development assistance to the world's poor, by $50bn, relative to 2004. Half of the increase, or $25bn per year, would go to Africa, the G8 said.’
But the G8, says Sachs, ‘fell far short of this goal, especially with respect to Africa... Aid to Africa rose by $10bn-$15bn per year, rather than $25bn. The properly measured shortfall is even greater, because the promises that were made in 2005 should be adjusted for inflation. Re-stating those commitments in real terms...aid to Africa should have risen by around $30bn. In effect, the G8 fulfilled only half of its promise to Africa - roughly $15bn in increased aid rather than $30bn.’
You see why I am surprised at the optimism with which Sachs views the possibilities opened by the UN summit on the MDGs? People's future behaviour is usually predicated upon their past behaviour. If, in spite of the hopes aroused by the G8 at Gleneagles to, in the words of one of the campaigning groups, ‘make poverty history’, only 50 per cent of aid pledged to Africa materialised, why should anyone take what the G8 say at the New York summit seriously?
One of the more penetrating observations made by Sachs in his accounting of G8 pledges of aid and delivery, was his detection of the fact that ‘much’ of the overall G8 increase in aid ‘went to Iraq and Afghanistan, as part of the US-led war effort, rather than to Africa’.
(However, in case anyone is tempted to believe that any country that wants increased aid would be best advised to invite the US to invade it, the true situation should be known: much of the ‘aid’ to Iraq and Afghanistan usually goes into the pockets of American companies which carry out contract work for the US military. The rest mainly consists of arms to the client governments of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is wrongly classified as ‘aid’, because, in Iraq, for instance, seven years after the Americans landed there, electricity has not been generally restored and health facilities and schools bombed to the ground remain in that state.)
Expanding on his charge that the G8 manipulate aid figures, Sachs describes what is in effect a sleight of hand by the G8 (though he fails to call the practice by its correct name). He writes:
‘Since the G8 was off track in its aid commitments for many years, I long wondered what the G8 would say in 2010, when the commitments actually fell due. In fact, the G8 displayed two approaches. First, in an “accountability report”, the G8 stated the 2005 commitments in current dollars rather, than in inflation-adjusted dollars, in order to minimise the size of the reported shortfall.
‘Second, the G8…simply did not mention the unmet commitments at all. In other words, the G8 accountability principle became: if the G8 fails to meet an important target, stop mentioning the target - a cynical stance, especially at a summit (Canada 2010) heralded for “accountability.”’
Sachs adds: ‘The G8 did not fail because of the current financial crisis. Even before the crisis, the G8 countries were not taking serious steps to meet their pledges to Africa.’ Giving praise where praise is due, Sachs points out that this year, despite a ‘massive budget crisis, the UK government has heroically honoured its aid commitments, showing that other countries could have done so if they had tried.’
What this situations tells every government in Africa is that they must understand, even more clearly than before, that we in Africa are our own saviours and that we should stop spending money on stupid things, such as purchasing luxury aircraft for presidential flights, while our children are dying from curable diseases, or from sheer malnutrition.
I noticed that recently precious money was expended in Ghana to hold a conference to ‘brand Ghana’. Even as the conference was taking place, a correspondent who visited Ghana five years ago went back to see the progress that had been made since his last visit. He chose to visit a little girl who was born exactly five years ago.
He met the girl, Hannah Klutsey, running from her family's single-room house with tears in her eyes. A mouthful of bread had lodged in her throat and her eyes were bloodshot and bulging.
Her mother, Mary, dropped the bundle of firewood she had carried into the dusty compound and rushed to the huge plastic water pot in front of their ramshackle kitchen. She came back with a plastic cup of water, which Hannah gulped down. Only later, when the youngster was recovering on her mother's knee, did they notice the mosquito larvae at the bottom of the cup, ‘half a dozen wormlike creatures writhing in the water’.
‘The pot must have been left open for mosquitoes to lay eggs in the water,’ said the mother, whose immediate concern was that her only daughter, who had recently recovered from severe skin rashes, could fall ill again. ‘She survived her recent sickness by miracle: another illness could kill her,’ said the girl's father. There is no running water in Kpobiman, the poverty-stricken community outside Accra in which the family live. Like most of their neighbours, the household use water from a shallow borehole. ‘Others are forced to draw water from stagnant pools, where germs and parasites are abundant.’ Added the correspondent: ‘The water is so bad you can't imagine this community is just a stone's throw from the capital city of Ghana, Accra.’
Need I say that if the money used yearly to send delegations to listen to sweet words at the UN (sleep through them would be a more accurate description of what happens) had been used to improve life in the village visited by the correspondent, he would have contributed to ‘branding’ Ghana as a country in which progress is being made, not as one where life is getting worse for some people. Oh, and by the way, that type of ‘branding’ would not have cost the Ghanaian taxpayer a single penny.
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* Cameron Duodu is a journalist, writer and commentator.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Secrecy as a weapon of oppression
Secrecy has been and remains integral to the oppression of people and to the exploitation of land and mineral resources across the world. Colonisation, genocide, slavery and apartheid were all dependent on secrecy. Those who abuse power depend on secrecy to deny others their rights - within and through states, corporations, religious, traditional, health, educational and media institutions as well as homes and families.
Secrecy enabled apartheid to create a highly militarised, authoritarian, unjust and unequal society. Those who exposed its secrets were detained, banished or killed by its security and intelligence forces. However, apartheid seldom completely silenced their voices. From Ruth First to Steve Biko, their examples inspired and laid the foundation for our right to freedom of expression.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, poor women in urban and rural areas shared information, united and stood against soldiers, vigilantes and oppressive chiefs and husbands. Information was critical to struggles for the right to life, freedom from violence, land, decent housing, healthcare, education, sanitation, water and other socio-economic rights. On the factory floor, bosses could not plead poverty because workers had accessed information about their massive profits and salaries.
The world’s citizens were mobilised by information on how their money was used by their country’s banks, mining and arms industries to serve apartheid. Ruth First’s expose of farm-owners in Bethal entrenched a tradition of investigative journalism that revealed who carried the real cost. Despite Thatcher and Reagan’s powerful media machine that described Mandela as ‘the terrorist who should hang’ informed citizens stood in solidarity against apartheid.
SA’s democracy adopted a Constitution that signaled a significant shift from the culture of secrecy that characterised our apartheid, capitalist and patriarchal past to an open, free society characterised by democratic transparency and accountability. It proclaimed that: ‘Everyone has the right of access to any information held by the state; and any information that is held by another person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights.’
The preamble of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000 (PAIA) states that ‘the system of government in SA before 1994, resulted in a secretive and unresponsive culture in public and private bodies which often led to an abuse of power and human rights violations’. PAIA placed a duty on public and private bodies to share information that would enable the poor and the powerless to hold accountable those with the power and resources to undermine or uphold their human rights.
The Constitution established independent statutory institutions to ‘support Constitutional Democracy’ such as the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). The SAHRC’s mandate is to ‘promote respect for human rights and a culture of human rights; to promote the protection, development and attainment of human rights and monitor and assess the observance of human rights’. In addition the SAHRC has a specific PAIA mandate. It has, among other things, to:
‘Compile and make available a guide on how to use this Act; submit reports to the National Assembly; to the extent that financial and other resources are available it has to develop and conduct educational programmes; encourage public and private bodies to participate in the development and conduct of these programmes; make recommendations for the development, modernisation, reform or amendment of this Act and train information officers and deputy information officers of public bodies.’
The SAHRC, with very limited resources but with dedicated staff, compiled the PAIA guide; submitted annual reports to Parliament; conducted educational programmes; trained large numbers of government’s information officers and their deputies on their duty to ensure that the poor access the information they need from government departments. However, PAIA (Section 83.2) recognises that for the SAHRC to fully effect its Constitutional and legislative mandate, it has to have ‘financial and other resources’, including a dedicated Information commissioner, who has still not been appointed. Compliance with this provision means that government cannot continue to decrease the SAHRC’s financial and human resources, as it has been doing, (for example from the Mandela administration to the current administration the number of commissioners has reduced by almost 50 per cent).
To ensure access to information in the context of a Bill that will diminish and deny this right, the SAHRC can play the role envisaged in civil society submissions such as that of Laurie Nathan, if it has the necessary ‘financial and other resources’. After too short a time and too few resources to effectively root PAIA within the public service, the Bill may quickly return the public service to the old bureaucratic culture of secrecy and impunity. In its 2009 Annual Report, the SAHRC reported to Parliament that under PAIA, ‘More than 80% of local government structures remain non-compliant.’
What happens when the poor lose faith in democratic institutions, when their requests are not heeded and their opinions are not taken into account? People know that budgets (from national to local government) reflect policy priorities and choices. They reflect, more than any rhetorical speech, who and what is valued...or not. People want to know the basis for government’s choices. A key factor in many protests is the lack of access to information.
Those protesting over the lack of service delivery see many green, well-watered golf courses in their local municipalities but no houses, toilets, schools, clinics or well-equipped and maintained playgrounds or sports-fields for their children. They ask who is benefiting from million-rand tenders when bridges collapse and children drown. They want to know why the cost of basic food is increasing and why their sick children have to make choices between food and medicine. Striking workers say society’s claim to value their contribution to social reproduction through education and healthcare is not reflected in budget choices.
Ordinary citizens ask who profited from the arms-deals and the building of stadiums. They want to know what economic, trade and finance policies have resulted in them losing their jobs. They ask where are the rights and choices for poor girls trafficked into prostitution. They ask why, in the 21st century, they have no toilets or toilets without walls. They want answers not just on the symptoms of their poverty and lack of socio-economic rights but on the causes of their poverty. Parliament has the power to ensure that local to national government is held to account and that there is not an even greater sense of impunity and disrespect for compliance because of the Protection of Information Bill.
The SAHRC 2010 Parliamentary submission on the Protection of Information Bill critiques the bill from the perspective of the SAHRC’s mandate to promote the right to access to information, the direct opposite of the ‘Secrecy Bill’. Its submission builds on its earlier submissions on bills affecting information, including the 2008 version of this bill, and critiques the lack of harmonisation between information bills. The SAHRC submission concurs with many of the concerns of civil society, especially on the impact on the rights of whistleblowers and journalists. The SAHRC systematic clause by clause submission raises serious questions about matters such as:
‘The ‘Minister’s unfettered powers; the broad definition of national interest (the bill states that “secrecy exists to protect the national interest”); decision-making around categorisation, classification, standards and procedures; the concentration of power in the state over information management and protection of information; the absence of a moderating independent body and the fact that non-disclosure on the basis of commercial or financial interests cannot be over-ridden by the public interest provided for in PAIA.’
Developing a human rights culture requires a transformation of institutions and mindsets. Post-1994, the culture of secrecy continued to characterise government’s most controversial decisions including the adoption of the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) economic plan, the arms-deal and the HIV/Aids debacle.
A recent comment by Ronnie Kasrils, the former minister who first introduced the 2008 Protection of Information Bill to deal with existing apartheid-era legislation, critiques the ease and danger of stepping back into old mind-sets. He argues, for example, that the current bill deletes ‘a provision that provided for the automatic declassification (with limited exceptions) of all information classified before 10 May 1994 (i.e. apartheid-era classifications). This reflects an inexplicable desire to maintain apartheid era secrecy’.
The current debate needs to interrogate the desire for secrecy against the right to information in a society in which the lack of socio-economic rights diminishes the ability to access political and civil rights and vice-versa. It is a vicious cycle that the further secrecy of the Protection of Information Bill, will only deepen. The right to access to information that government itself has put in place since 1994 needs to be upheld not undermined. Those who are now entrusted with power and resources need to remain committed to responsive, transparent and accountable government.
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* Pregs Govender, is deputy chair of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). She chaired Independent Panel Review of Parliament (2007- 2008), was an ANC MP between 1994 – 2002 but resigned after being the only MP to register opposition to the arms deal in the Defence Budget Vote and holding public hearings on HIV/Aids in 2001. She is the author of Love and Courage: A Story of Insubordination (Jacana).
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
LET THE TRUTH BE TOLD
Almost 350 civil society organisations have come together under an umbrella campaign to stop South Africa’s Protection of Information Bill. Called the Right2Know (R2K) Campaign the organisations are concerned that the bill will ‘fundamentally undermine hard-won constitutional rights including access to information and freedom of expression’.
The R2K campaign statement – ‘Let the truth be told. Stop the Secrecy Bill!’ – characterises the Protection of Information Bill as fundamentally undermining the struggle for whistleblower protection and access to information and as reminiscent of South apartheid past.
Visit http://www.right2know.org.za to find out more and sign up.
African Women Writing Resistance
Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez, Pauline Dongala, Omotayo Jolaosho and Anne Serafin
African women are too often presented in scholarly and media accounts as passive, pathetic victims of harsh circumstances, rather than as autonomous creative agents making positive changes in their lives. Confronting entrenched social inequality and inadequate access to resources, women across the continent are working with grit, determination, and imagination to improve their own material conditions and to blaze a strong, clear path for their daughters and granddaughters. The contributors to African Women Writing Resistance are at the forward edge of the tide of women’s empowerment that is moving across the African continent at the start of the twenty-first century. They look unblinkingly at the challenges they confront while also creating visions of a more positive future, using writing to bear witness to oppression, to document opposition struggles, and to share successful strategies of resistance. African women writers such as those included in this collection are moving beyond the linked dichotomies of victim/oppressor and victim/heroine to present their experiences in full complexity.
In many ways the twenty-first century is a good time to be a woman in Africa. African women, energized by the path-breaking 2005 victory of Liberian Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman president of any African nation, are educating themselves and entering politics and the professions in record numbers. 1 Another trailblazing African woman, Wangari Maathai of Kenya, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her ambitious woman-based reforestation project, the Green Belt Movement.2 Gender mainstreaming are the new watchwords at the United Nations and other international development agencies, which are finally beginning to give women their due as the pillars of any society, particularly in periods of crisis or rapid development.3
Though still trailing in numbers and recognition behind older, more established male counterparts,4 African women writers have begun to appear on the world’s bestseller lists, with debut novels by women writers such as Zimbabwean Tsitsi Dangarembga and Nigerian Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie building on the successes of previous generations of African woman writers,5 including Buchi Emecheta (Nigeria), Ama Ata Aidoo (Ghana), and Mariama Bâ (Senegal). 6 Africana studies is growing as an interdisciplinary academic field spanning Africa and the African diaspora and is increasingly taking women’s experiences and voices into account,7 as evidenced by the recent publication of collections such as the multivolume Women Writing Africa series, produced by a collective of editors and writers at the Feminist Press; African Gender Studies, edited by Oyeronke Oyewumi; and African Feminism: The Politics of Survival in Sub-Saharan Africa, edited by Gwendolyn Mikell.
Still, there are many challenges for African women to confront. The scourge of HIV/AIDS has hit African women hard; their own rates of infection and death are high, and those who survive are left to care for the sick as well as for an ever-growing tide of orphaned children.8 Other health-related burdens exist as well: maternal mortality remains high throughout much of Africa, due to a lack of access to modern health care facilities,9 and other preventable diseases take their toll, including malaria, tuberculosis, and lesser-known but equally deadly and prevalent parasitical diseases, such as schistosomiasis, trachoma, river blindness, and elephantiasis.10 Though some women are beginning to gain social recognition and political power, the vast majority of African women remain undereducated11 and subject to patriarchal norms, both indigenous and imported, that keep them from reaching their full potential.12 Domestic violence remains a significant problem, along with marital rape and child marriage—all issues explored by contributors to this volume.
Conflicts in African countries, such as Rwanda, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have too often relied on brutal tactics of ethnic warfare, with the raping of girls and women of all ages commonplace and devastating.13 Conflict has also led to the displacement of millions of African women, who languish in refugee camps all over the continent,14 where they are often subject to sexual predation, in some cases by the very aid workers and peacekeepers who are supposedly there to help them.15 Sex work and sex trafficking are also increasingly important issues for African women, as several alarming recent reports make clear by detailing the growing numbers of women and children lured into unsafe and exploitative sexual activity.16 Luckier are those women refugees who have managed to flee to exile in the West, but this escape, too, brings its own forms of alienation and struggle. These are among the issues of concern to African women today that are thoughtfully explored by contributors to this volume.
Certain common themes of African women’s resistance quickly emerge in the writings collected here. Early twenty-first-century African women from all over the continent write about their struggles to balance the demands of cultural traditions with the pull of modernity and their own desires for autonomy and independence. They write about their sexuality, which is often a fraught site of struggle and resistance for women of all ages, from young women exploring first sexual relationships, to women confronting societal intolerance as a result of their desires for and relationships with other women, to women entering into marriage for the first time. We also hear about mature women grappling with unhappy marriages, in some cases making the difficult decision to leave their spouses and children in search of their own happiness. We hear too about the inherent tensions of polygynous marriages and about the suffering of older women dealing with the cultural exploitation of widowhood.
Contributors to the anthology also focus on women’s health concerns, such as the highly contested issue of female genital cutting; environmental degradation and lack of access to clean water; and the destructive impact of interethnic conflict and corrupt government. The writers included here aim to raise awareness about the issues rather than to promote any one answer or solution to the problems they describe. They are reaching out to join hands with a wider audience to prompt an open-ended discussion about conditions for women in different regions of Africa, in the hope that a gendered and localized analysis will lead to an appropriately focused response—or at least a broader, more inclusive conversation.
Many of the contributors to African Women Writing Resistance are relatively young and just emerging on the literary scene,17 but we have also included a few of the activist “mothers” of the current generation of younger women, such as Nawal El Saadawi, Wangari Maathai, and Abena P. A. Busia, whose ongoing, path-breaking contributions to the empowerment of women in their home countries and on the broader world stage cannot be over-emphasized. In going through the many submissions we received for the anthology, we looked above all for women writing their resistance to contemporary social issues eloquently, forcefully, and with style. We made the choice to limit our pool to contemporary women writers who were born in Africa, in order to amplify the voices of African women who might not otherwise be heard in classrooms and other literary circles in the West. We did, however, include African-born women writers who are now living abroad, since so many African writers do leave their homelands in search of better educational or career opportunities or to escape political unrest or persecution.
We also looked for contemporary women writers who could represent a wide range of genres and cultural contexts. While not encyclopedic in approach, African Women Writing Resistance opens a series of windows into the lives of women from thirteen countries across the continent, from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds and many different walks of life, writing in genres ranging from poetry and fiction to memoir, essay, epistle, and interview. Most of the pieces included here were written specifically for this anthology, either in French or English; we also included a few excerpts from longer works published elsewhere that provide an important and unique contribution to our theme of women writing resistance.
How do these African women writers understand resistance? Generally speaking, resistance for these women is not a matter of armed political resistance movements, which are more often the province of men. For women across the African continent, resistance frequently takes more subtle forms. “Tome, resistance means challenging beliefs, traditions, and values that place women below men in terms of being heard, making decisions and choices,” says Zambian contributor Ellen Banda-Aaku.18 Kenyan Ann Kithaka agrees, saying that “resistance means saying ‘no’ to the patriarchal system and values that continue to disempower, subjugate, and undermine my personal dignity. In all stages of my life, my thoughts and actions have been subject to societal dictates, where ‘society’ denotes the male figure—my father, my husband, my boss, my brothers, my pastor.”Marame Gueye of Senegal defines resistance simply as “the political, moral, intellectual, and spiritual refusal to succumb to any form of violence or oppression.”
Many contributors to this volume note that their personal struggles for dignity and empowerment benefit the larger society as well as themselves. Ellen Banda-Aaku works to enable women to “come out of the shadows and use their full potential to contribute to economic and social development and change in their communities, be it locally or internationally, formally or informally.”Susan Akono of Cameroon highlights her resistance to the separation and segregation of human beings into arbitrary “races”: “One is not always one. Inmy case, one is, at least, five. For while I am a pure black woman, I can silence neither the white part within me, nor the yellow, nor the brown, nor the red. In other words, I cannot silence my humanity.”
For the contributors to this anthology, writing is essential to effective resistance. “Writing exposes the many challenges African women are resisting in the world today, and speaking out brings issues to the forefront so we are forced to question or address them,” says Ellen Banda-Aaku. “By writing we become more aware of the values and beliefs holding us back, as well as those that can move us forward. Only by writing can we tell the story of the African woman. If we don’t tell our story, who will?”
For poet Ann Kithaka, “Writing resistance is a process of discovery, emancipation, and reclaiming. It is about reclaiming my dignity, privacy, and freedom as an African woman and human being. It is about emancipating myself from historical, structural, and systematic abuse, oppression, and discrimination. And finally, it is about discovering my inner strength, my uniqueness, and my interdependence on other people.” She continues, “Writing resistance is a reawakening of my consciousness through intercultural and intergenerational dialogue with other women writers around Africa and the diaspora, so that we can stoke the dying embers of feminism for the benefit of future generations.” Resistance is not only a struggle against but also a struggle for, and many of the writers represented here present their positive visions for the future of African women—a future where resistance and struggle might give way to peaceful, productive, and equal coexistence with their men.
Writing provides opportunities for resistance that may be largely unavailable to women in their day-to-day lives. Thus writing can become a safe space for resistance—which does not make it any less powerful, as contributor Diana Adesola Mafe observes in the following anecdote:
“Resistance” has generally meant “non-compliance” to me. In speaking about my resistance as an African woman, I know that my non-compliance is not always immediate, not always self-evident, and not always strong enough. Sometimes my non-compliance is all too introspective, all too silent. Audre Lorde warns us in Sister Outsider that, “Your silence will not protect you.” I remember crossing the border from Canada into the United States by car a couple of years ago. Since I was not Canadian, I was required to go through passport control, fill out forms, and be fingerprinted and photographed as part of the US-VISIT security program. The officer who “processed” me, a white man, was patronizing and insulting. He spoke with exaggerated slowness, despite my Canadian accent, Western clothing, and obvious ability to speak English. When I filled out the two-sided green form, he inquired condescendingly about “how I had done that so fast,” ostensibly marveling at my literacy. Inside, I was fuming—ready to whip out degrees and a résumé, thus proving my worth as an articulate, educated woman of color—ready to stoop to insults, mock his accent and sneer at his levels of education and literacy. Instead, I remained silent and, yes, compliant, because I knew he had all the power in that situation—the power to turn me back, the power to detain me. Insulting him would have been juvenile and probably disastrous but if, as I believe, the purpose of resistance is to counter oppression, then I failed in that moment. I could at least have commented on his behavior and the fact that it was unnecessary. In doing so, I might have made things easier for the next woman of color he processed. Or worse.
Thankfully, that is where writing comes in. Writing is resistance, an opportunity to voice my non-compliance. Here I can make up for all those moments where I wish I had said something. Here I can anchor those past (and future) experiences, deconstruct them, learn from them, and perhaps most importantly, share them.
THE POWER OF COLLECTIVE STRUGGLE
African Women Writing Resistance locates itself within the transnational, intergenerational, cross-cultural efforts of African women to voice their needs and desires, their sorrows and their joys, to each other and to the wider world. As education is a necessary precursor to writing, the call to African women to educate themselves and each other is frequently heard in this collection. Elisabeth Bouanga of Congo-Brazzaville, a grandmother in her seventies and the mother of anthology coeditor Pauline Dongala, recounts how, when she was young, “Women were not allowed to go to school; they were supposed to learn from their mothers how to work in the fields, how to cook and how to be good wives. It surely was a kind of education but it was too limited,” she says. “Girls must go to school to be educated,” Bouanga declares. “A woman, be she single, married, or widowed, must free herself and be capable to take on any profession.”
This is a rallying cry heard all over Africa in these early years of the twentyfirst century, as women organize themselves to join fully in the contemporary social, economic, and political life of their countries. Resistance is undoubtedly more powerful when it is collective, and women throughout Africa and the diaspora are joining together to improve the quality of lives for themselves and their sisters through many organizations, such as the African Women’s Development Fund, Tostan, and FEMNET, to name just a few.19
What do the contributors to African Women Writing need and want from us, their readers? It is our belief that African women writers seek a broad-based audience with which to engage in the healing exchange of compassionate witnessing and empowering dialogue.20 We present this anthology in the hope that the strong voices of African women represented in these pages will arouse the spirit of activist solidarity in women and men all over the world, encouraging us to work together to build a better future for us all.
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1. A biography and set of speeches by President Johnson-Sirleaf can be found at the Liberian government site http://www.emansion.gov.lr/content.php?sub=President’s%20Biography&related=The%20President
2. For information on the current work of Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement, see the Web site http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/
3. For a good description of the theory and practice of gender mainstreaming, see the 2007 report by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “UNESCO’s Gender Mainstreaming Implementation Framework,” available at http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001318/131854e.pdf or the WomenWatch site, produced by the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality, at http://www.un.org/womenwatch/
4. A few of the male African writers who have achieved international fame and recognition are Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Kenya), Chinua Achebe (Nigeria), Nuruddin Farah (Somalia), and the winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature Wole Soyinka (Nigeria, 1986), Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt, 1988), and J. M. Coetzee (South Africa, 2003). The only African women writers to win the Nobel Prize for Literature thus far are Africans of European descent: Nadine Gordimer (South Africa, 1991) and Doris Lessing (2007), who was raised by British colonials in Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.
5. Tsitsi Dangarembga’s first novel, Nervous Conditions, was published in 1988, won the African Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1989, and is widely taught in colleges and high schools worldwide. Dangarembga has gone on to work in film as well, becoming the first black Zimbabwean woman to direct a feature film, Everybody’s Child, about four African AIDS orphans in 1986. A second novel, The Book of Not, was published in 2006. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi’s first novel, Purple Hibiscus, a finalist for the Orange Prize for Fiction, was written while she was a student at Eastern Connecticut State University. A good survey of emerging African writers, both male and female, is available on the African Writing Online Web site, http://www.african-writing.com/aug/profiles2.htm
6. Other groundbreaking African women writers include Bessie Head (Botswana, 1937–86), Flora Nwapa (Nigeria, 1931–93), Nawal El Saadawi (Egypt, 1931–), Zoe Wicomb (South Africa, 1948 –), and Werewere Liking (Cameroon, 1950–). See the suggestions for further reading at the end of this volume for more specifics on these and other important African women writers.
7. The African Studies Association provides an excellent resource list of Web sites affiliated with Africana studies: http://www.africanstudies.org/?page=links_page
8. Current information about African women and HIV/AIDS can be found, among many other sources, on the World Health Organization Web site, http://www.who.int/gender/hiv_aids/en/index.html; the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS Web site, http://womenandaids.unaids.org/default.html; and the IRIN news agency focus site on HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, http://www.plusnews.org/
9. See an excellent analysis of African maternal mortality and related issues in the article “Reproductive Health in the African Region: What Has Been Done to Improve the Situation?” by Tigrest Ketsela, a pediatrician with postgraduate training in public health and the director of the Division of Family and Reproductive Health in the WHO Regional Office for Africa (WHO/ AFRO), which is based in Brazzaville, Congo. The article is available at http://www.un.org/Pubs/chronicle/2007/issue4/0407p71.html
10. A good hub resource for information on African diseases of poverty is maintained by the United Nations Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, at http://www.who.int/tdr/index.html
11. See the UNESCO reports on progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals for educating girls, at http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=34813&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html, as well as reports on the ways in which increased technological access can improve educational opportunities for African women and girls, available at http://www.elearning-africa.com/newsportal/english/news35.php
12. Female genital cutting, a touchstone issue for many African women’s rights activists, is an indigenous tradition in some African regions and is also practiced in tribes that have adopted Islam. Other patriarchal norms that continue to create conflict include the strict relegation of women to the private sphere (reinforced in earlier eras by the Victorian mores of the European colonizers) and the practice of polygamy. For information on female genital cutting, see the Tostan Web site, http://www.tostan.org/web/page/586/sectionid/547/pagelevel/3/interior.asp
13. Rape was first acknowledged to be a war crime in the aftermath of the Bosnian conflict in the late 1990s, and UN Security Council Resolution 1325 was passed in 2000, officially recognizing the impact of armed conflict on women and calling on governments to include women in the peacemaking process and to provide the means for healing and reconciliation for sexually traumatized women. The full text of Resolution 1325, as well as analysis and useful links, can be found at the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Web site, http://www.peacewomen.org/un/sc/1325.html A series of articles, analyses, and multimedia resources on the use of rape as a weapon of war in Africa is available on the IRIN Web site, http://www.irinnews.org/InDepthMain.aspx?InDepthId=20&ReportId=62817 See also the useful 2006 report by Jeanne Ward and Mendy Marsh, “Sexual Violence against Women and Girls in War and Its Aftermath: Realities, Responses, and Required Resources,” at http://www.unfpa.org/emergencies/symposium06/docs/finalbrusselsbriefingpaper.pdf, which gives a worldwide view of a problem acutely faced by African women. The Web site of Women for Women International, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) focused on improving the lives of women in postconflict regions, also provides much useful information on this topic: http://www.womenforwomen.org/programs.htm
14. Excellent regional and country-by-country analysis of the situation of refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs) is provided by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre at http://www.internal-displacement.org/8025708F004CE90B/(httpRegionPages)/BBA6119B705C145802570A600546F85?OpenDocument Additionally, a series of recommendations on improving conditions for women and children who have been internally displaced by conflict is available on the Brookings Institute Web site at http://www.brookings.edu/speeches/2004/~/media/Files/rc/speeches/2004/0526humanrights_mooney/20040526_mooney.pdf
15. See the BBC Special Report “Peacekeepers Abusing Children” at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/ in_depth/7420798.stm or the Human Rights Watch report at http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2008/04/03/darfur18424.htm to get a sense of the scope of the problem.
16. See the UN High Commission for Refugees report “South Africa: How Heavy Is Human Trafficking,” at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/48ced5e1e.html, for a window into this problem just in South Africa. Human trafficking is occurring all over the continent on an unprecedented scale, as is evident in the following 2003 expert testimony before the House International Relations Committee by a doctor representing Doctors Without Borders: http://physiciansforhuman rights.org/library/2003-06-25.html.
17. A number of online Web sites provide a great window into the leading edge of the African literary scene. See, for example, African Writing Online at http://african-writing.com/hol/profiles .htm; Words Without Borders at http://www.wordswithoutborders.org/?sec=Africa; African Writer at http://www.africanwriter.com/; Farafina magazine at http://farafinamagazine.com/f14/index .php.
18. Contributor quotations in this section are from personal letters sent to the editors in response to a query, What does resistance mean to you?
19. Information about the African Women’s Development Fund is available at http://awdf.org/ web/index.php/about-awdf. Information about Tostan is available at http://www.tostan.org/web/ page/556/sectionid/556/pagelevel/1/parentid/556/interior.asp. Information about FEMNET is available at http://www.femnet.or.ke/default.asp
20. We borrow the term compassionate witnessing fromDr. KaetheWeingarten of Harvard University, whose groundbreakingwork on the value of a compassionate listener to heal post-traumatic stress is detailed in her book Common Shock (Penguin, 2003). A condensed version of her argument is available online at http://www.humiliationstudies.org/documents/WeingartenCompassionate Witnessing.pdf.
World Bank land grab report: Beyond smoke and mirrors
On 7 September 2010, the World Bank finally decided to publish its much-anticipated report on the global farmland grab. After years of work, several months of political negotiation and who knows how much money spent, the report was casually released on the bank's website – in English only.
The report is both a disappointment and a failure. Everyone was expecting the bank to provide new and solid on-the-ground data about these ‘large scale land acquisitions’, to use their terminology, that have created so much controversy since 2008. After all, the bank should have access to governments and corporations in a way that journalists and non-government organisation (NGO) researchers never would. The bank itself says this was its central ambition. But there is hardly anything new in the whole 160-plus page document. The bank said it was going to look concretely at 30 countries, but it only looked at 14. As it turns out, companies refused to share information about their farmland investments, as did governments providing the lands. So the bank turned instead to farmlandgrab.org a website run by GRAIN, made a database of all the deals that the media reported on there, and then sent out teams of consultants to see if they were real or not. Is this the best that the World Bank could do?
What its researchers and informants found corroborates what many have been saying for two years now. Yes, there is an ‘enormous’ farmland grab going on around the world ever since the 2008 food and financial crises and it shows no signs of abating. The bank says that the 463 projects it tallied from farmlandgrab.org between October 2008 and June 2009 cover at least 46.6 million hectares of land and that the majority of these are in sub-Saharan Africa. Field reports validated that 21 per cent of these projects are ‘in operation’, more than half are under ‘initial development’ and nearly 70 per cent have been ‘approved’. The bank downplays these numbers, presenting them as evidence that the land grab deals are more hype than reality. We think, on the contrary, that they demonstrate that a lot of projects are moving forward, all the more so since the bank's figures are out of date, with new deals happening all the time.
The bank's findings also corroborate what others have been saying about the impacts of these land grabs. Its general conclusion is that investors are taking advantage of ‘weak governance’ and the ‘absence of legal protection’ for local communities to push people off their lands. Additionally, it finds that the investments are giving almost zero back to affected communities in terms of jobs or compensation, to say nothing of food security. The message we get is that virtually nowhere, among the countries and cases the bank examined, is there much to celebrate:
‘Many investments (...) failed to live up to expectations and, instead of generating sustainable benefits, contributed to asset loss and left local people worse off than they would have been without the investment. In fact, even though an effort was made to cover a wide spectrum of situations, case studies confirm that in many cases benefits were lower than anticipated or did not materialize at all.’
The bank provides a table with some very brief summaries of foreign investments in farmland in seven countries (see Appendix 1). It is one of the only instances where the bank goes into detail about how these investments are actually playing out on the ground. The table paints a horrific picture. Whole communities are getting thrown off their lands, workers are being exploited, violent conflicts are erupting (one senior company representative was killed), investors are breaking laws and promises and so on. What does the bank say about these ‘immense risks’ and ‘real dangers’, as it calls them? That we should not get alarmed, for there are ‘equally large opportunities’.
WHAT THE REPORT DOESN'T SAY
Most of the report is smoke and mirrors talk about potentials for agricultural production, not ‘the global land rush’ as it was previously titled. It clouds the reader's mind with facts and figures about yield gaps and land usage, and how productivity can be increased with innovative research or technology. We are treated to a barrage of agroecological zoning maps and charts that do not say much except where the most potential to produce food is apparently located.
Anyone who looks beyond the smoke and mirrors effect can see that the report is more significant for what it doesn't say than what it does. Had the bank really wanted to shed light on this new investment trend it would have at least peeled back the curtain on the investors. Who are they? What are they after? How much of the investment flows are private and how much are public? Without this kind of information, you cannot analyse much. For example, we have heard companies say on numerous occasions that their investments have nothing to do with ‘food security’ – that this is business, pure and simple. Weighing up exactly who is involved and for what purpose, without the fantasies attached, would have been most useful. In fact, at the beginning of this year, the bank shared some data of this nature when it identified for the Global Donor Platform the top countries targeted by these land grab deals and the top countries of origin of the investors between 2008 and 2009 (see Table 1). But in its final report, the bank chose not to name names, forcing everyone to speculate why.
This is not all that the bank left out of the report. ‘The veil of secrecy that often surrounds these land deals must be lifted so poor people don't ultimately pay the heavy price of losing their land,’ World Bank managing director, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, declared upon releasing the study. It's true. And she could have started by making available to the public all of the contracts and investor-state agreements that the bank's study team was able to access in the course of this research. Communities need to have access to the actual terms of these deals in order to judge them for themselves. Government and corporate propaganda will not do. Yet these documents are very difficult to get hold of. If the bank really wanted to lift the veil of secrecy it would start by putting these legal documents in the public domain. We would be glad to host them at farmlandgrab.org and help ensure their translation into local languages.
Another matter that the report is silent about is the World Bank's own neck-deep involvement in these deals. For decades, the bank has been actively promoting market-based approaches to land management through its lending practices and policy advocacy. This means privatisation of land rights, both through the conversion of customary rights into marketable titles as well as the disengagement of the state, and legal reforms necessary for Western style land markets to function. If the bank now says that so many countries, especially in Africa, are ‘ill-equipped’ to deal with the ‘sudden influx of interest’ from farmland investors, then what good were the policy advisory services it performed over the last 30 years?
Even more directly, the bank's commercial investment arm, the International Finance Corporation, is a major investor in numerous private equity firms that are buying up rights to farmland while its Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) is providing land grab projects with political risk insurance (Table 2). MIGA has put up US$50 million, for example, as cover for Chayton Capital's US$300 million business investments in Zambia and Botswana. For other firms, like British hedge fund SilverStreet Capital, MIGA's role in protecting farmland investments is crucial. If problems arise, ‘you'll have the World Bank on your side,’ Gary Vaughan-Smith, SilverStreet's chief investment officer, puts it. MIGA, like IFC, is a for-profit agency, with a mission to promote profitable agribusiness investments in developing countries for its shareholders. Given these multiple levels of vested interest in farmland deals, it should come as no surprise that the bank promotes them despite dismal realities on the ground.
The bottom line is that there is a huge disconnect between what the World Bank says, what is happening on the ground and what is truly needed. Right now, numerous governments and civil society organisations are calling to put a brake of one form or another on these deals. Australia, Argentina, Brazil, New Zealand and Uruguay are just some of the countries currently debating whether to introduce, at the highest policy levels, restrictions on foreigners getting farmland ownership. Egypt is one of those trying to get tougher to keeping new farmland investment programmes limited to domestic investors. Much of this, the non-xenophobic part, is or could be about establishing new forms or expressions of sovereignty over land, water and food at a time of tremendous pressure on all three. And many farmers' organisations, academics, human rights groups, NGO networks and social movements are clamouring for all sorts of moratoria and bans and halts to this land grabbing. In the meantime, the hunger of private investors for farmland deals is proliferating. A group of former Cargill traders, for instance, have just launched a US$1 billion fund that aims to buy into farmland in Australia, Brazil and Uruguay.
The World Bank has shown it is not a trusted arbiter or wellspring of good ideas on how to move forward. Too bad if it took the agencies that commissioned this report a very long wait, and a pile of taxpayers' money, to see that.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* This article was first published by GRAIN.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
APPENDIX 1: SCRATCHING THE SURFACE
DRC - MAIZE PROJECT:
‘Investment displaced local cultivators, pushing them into a national park where farmers now pay guards to let them cultivate within the reserve; other farmers forced to relocate 50 km away where they rent land from local people. Mineral poor soils highly susceptible to erosion following biomass clearance. No EIA required...’
LIBERIA - RICE PROJECT:
‘Economic problems caused investor to encroach on fertile wetlands, in contravention of agreements reached with the community (which cannot be enforced), displacing 30 percent of the local population. Compensation is not offered to all who lost rights. 400 full-time jobs have been created for unskilled workers (mostly ex-combatants) but there is concern about hiring foreigners who are willing to work for lower wages. As a result of deforestation, more than 50 ha of swamp have been silted from the first year of operations.’
LIBERIA - TIMBER CONCESSION (example of attaching a ‘social pact’):
‘Social agreement clearly specifies rental payments and benefit sharing with government, but prohibition of investors' interference with good faith exercise of customary uses of timber and other forest products is not adhered to. Investment has thus restricted community access to forest products in context of increasing population and decreasing farmland.’
MOZAMBIQUE - SUGARCANE:
‘Only 35-40 [people] were employed full time plus some 30 on a seasonal basis [despite investor's promise of 2,650 jobs]. (...) Local people lost access to forest for fuel wood, game meat, fish. Investor uses local water supply and roads without compensation; thus negatively affecting women who gather the water. EIA noted potential negative impacts of agro-chemicals on soil, air, water and recommended mitigation measures. Also negative impact of forest clearance for sugarcane production.’
TANZANIA - LIVESTOCK + JATROPHA:
‘Joint venture between Dutch and Tanzanian companies; land belongs to four villages, who still must approve transfers to the investor; only one village has so far granted land rights. Investor wants to lease land directly from the local villages, in violation of the Village Land Act. Potentially negative impacts on pastoralist communities' access to grazing land, fire wood and water. Expected employment benefits not quantified.’
ZAMBIA - EXPORT CROPS:
‘Local fears about potential displacement. Potential population displacement, loss of access to forest products, including edible caterpillars. Intact miombo woodlands on site would be negatively impacted by clearing for cultivation; current environmental impacts limited to land clearing for road and dam construction and related soil erosion.’
Source: World Bank, ‘Rising global interest in farmland’, Appendix Table 2, pp 106-108
APPENDIX 2: EXAMPLES OF WORLD BANK SUPPORT TO FARMLAND INVESTORS VIA IFC AND MIGA
ALTIMA ONE WORLD AGRICULTURE FUND (US):
The Altima One World Agriculture Fund, registered in the Cayman Islands, was created by the hedge fund Altima Partners to invest in farmland in South America, Eastern and Central Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. In 2009, the IFC made a US$75 million equity investment in the Fund. One senior Altima Executive says the Fund aims to create the "first Exxon Mobile of the farming sector".
CHAYTON ATLAS AGRICULTURE COMPANY (UK):
Chayton is a UK-based private equity firm investing in farmland in southern Africa. In 2010, MIGA signed a contract with Chayton to provide it with up to US$50 million in political risk insurance for its development of farm projects in Zambia and Botswana. It's CEO, formerly with Goldman Sachs, says its "goal is to feed Africa."
CITADEL CAPITAL (EGYPT):
In 2009, the IFC invested US$25 million in Citadel's Middle East North Africa fund, which is investing in agricultural projects. Citadel, one of Africa's largest private equity funds, is pursuing farmland investments in Egypt, Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.
MRIYA AGRO HOLDING (UKRAINE):
Mriya, which is incorporated in Cyprus and listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, is the 7th largest farmland operator in the Ukraine. In 2010, IFC provided US$75 million to Mriya in equity and loans for the company to increase its landholdings to 165,000 ha.
SENA GROUP (MAURITIUS)/TEREOS (FRANCE):
In 2001, MIGA provided a consortium of investors from Mauritius, known as the Sena Group, with US$65 million in political risk insurance to support their acquisition of a sugar plantation in Mozambique. The company also announced that it intended to expand its cattle operations from 1,800 head to 8,000. The Sena operation has since been taken over by the French multinational sugar company Tereos.
SLC AGRICOLA (BRAZIL):
SLC, a publicly traded company partly owned by foreign investors such as Deutsche Bank, is one of the largest landowners in Brazil, with a land bank of 117,000 ha in 2008. In 2008, IFC provided a US$40 million long-term loan to SLC, enabling it to increase its holdings to over 200,000 ha.
VISION BRAZIL (BRAZIL):
Vision is a Brazilian investment company with over 300,000 ha in cropland and another 400,000 ha in "options". In 2008, IFC provided Vision with US$27 million in securities financing.
- The World Bank report can be downloaded in English from: http://www.donorplatform.org/content/view//457/2687 The Spanish executive summary is here: http://ediscussion.donorplatform.org/ wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Land-Report_es.pdf. The French summary will presumably be available from the same site shortly.
- For a selection of reactions to the report, many of which provide summaries of its contents, see http://farmlandgrab.org/cat/world-bank
- An open electronic forum on the World Bank report is being hosted from 13 September to 8 October 2010 by the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development and the International Institute for Sustainable Development. Visit http://www.donorplatform.org/ component/option,com_wrapper/Itemid,2686
 World Bank, ‘Rising global interest in farmland: can it yield sustainable and equitable benefits?’, Washington DC, September 2010, http://www.donorplatform.org/ component/option,com_docman/task,doc_view/gid,1505 A week after its release, the Bank decided to issue translations of the executive summary into Spanish and French.
 Ibid. See pp 33-35 and p 38 for an explanation of this methodology.
 Ibid, p 36.
 Ibid, p 51.
 See Javier Blas, ‘World Bank warns on 'farmland grab' trend’, Financial Times, 27 July 2010, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/62890172-99a8-11df-a852-00144feab49a.html and John W Miller, ‘World Bank land grab report under fire’, The Wall Street Journal, 29 July 2010, http://blogs.wsj.com/brussels/2010/07/29/ world-bank-land-grab-report-under-fire/tab/print/
 See World Bank, op cit, p 91
 Drew Carter, ‘Fertile ground for investment’, Pensions & Investments, 19 April 2010, http://farmlandgrab.org/12218 The Crowder quote in the photo caption is from Edward West, ‘Africa: Agri-projects at 'unprecedented' levels’, Business Day (South Africa), 1 September 2010, http://allafrica.com/stories/201009010190.html
 Barani Krishnan, ‘Galtere says raising $1 bln agribusiness fund’, Reuters, 1 September 2010, http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKN0113842720100901
The global capitalist crisis and Africa’s future
Dani W. Nabudere
I am overjoyed to be asked to give this inaugural address of the newly formed Nile Heritage Forum on political economy to provide space and platform for African autonomous thinking and policy dialogue on issues of the future of the continent, free from disadvantageous foreign influences that have resulted in Africa’s weakening. While this is a noble objective, we must nevertheless avoid being overly reactive to such influences and instead build our own capacity to think and act independently regardless, by developing new ways of looking at ourselves and at the world at large. This can successfully be done if we draw inspiration and living knowledge from our well-known heritage as the home to the Cradle of Humanity.
Africa today is trailing [behind] the rest of the world because in part the African leadership has failed to mobilise its people along the lines of a Pan-African agenda that informed the earlier phases of our political development. This is due to its weak ideological base, which, instead of drawing from such a heritage, is wedded to Western ways of knowing and doing things which we have derived from their educational institutions without questioning, including Christian and Muslim religious influences.
While these external interventions have added to Africa’s modern culture in what Nkrumah called a ‘triple heritage,’ they have also left a negative impact on African intellectual capacity to think independently unlike, say, the Asian intellectuals and political leaders who have linkages to their religions and cultures. This is due to the fact that Asia, unlike Africa, was less destabilised by way of religious intrusions, resulting in its intellectual and political leadership remaining more anchored to their religions, languages and cultures.
The result is that the African economic and political scene continues to be open to the outside world for exploitation and the enrichment of big corporations and the mafia, which act in consort to help themselves to African cheap and more or less free natural and human resources. They do this with the help of the African leadership, which has been bought over by these forces to exploit their own continent in a lop-sided ‘globalisation.’
Many of these leaders use their political and economic powers not only to assist the foreign corporations, but also to enrich themselves by stealing from public coffers and from the ‘aid’ they receive for so-called ‘economic development’ of their countries. Recent statistics show that as much as US$150 billion dollars is filtered out of the continent annually by African leaders who place this ill-gotten wealth into their personal bank accounts. This is not only complicity in the impoverishment of their populations, it is outright criminal activity, which Western governments and corporations connive in because it benefits their economies. The failure of the African post-colonial states is therefore in great measure a responsibility of these leaders, which is a betrayal of the African people.
We cannot therefore blame foreigners alone for the continents’ depraved condition. There is a level at which we can blame these forces outside our continent, but there is a level at which we must accept responsibility since most of this leadership comes from the same institutions that we, as ‘educated’ Africans come from. In fact many of us who are not in the state institutions crave to have positions in the state institutions so that we may also have a share of the ‘national cake,’ which is sometimes obtained by dividing the population and creating conflicts among them by exploiting ethnic and tribal identities. African culture is used negatively in the form of ‘political tribalism’ to gain political advantages and not in their interests. Indeed, the political divisions on our continent are directed in compounding ethnic differences, which could otherwise be harnessed and managed through equitable economic and social transformation.
Even the very idea of ‘nation-building’ that was the song of the first generation of African leaders turned into political divisions based on ‘tribal’ differences, which were very much the creation of colonial ‘divide and rule’ ideologies of the imperialist powers but which we continued to exploit. The African political elites bought into this ideology to their advantage, a heritage that has led to the current state of massacres, ethnic cleaning and even genocides. We cannot blame these calamities on foreign forces alone. We as African political and economic elites have played an active role as agents in these calamities that have bedevilled our continent. We always blame these problems on the ‘colonialists’ and ‘imperialists’ while at the same time playing the role of executioners of our own people.
The calamities that bedevil the continent at the present moment are a continuation of the policies of the past, which African leaders, under neo-colonialism, have continued to pursue. Indeed, the current global economic crisis is an aspect we cannot ignore as having its roots in the weakening of the continent ever since political independence was achieved in the 1960s. Even the little ‘nationalism,’ which was reflected in the ‘Lagos Plan of Action’ and the ‘Abuja Treaty’, was abandoned in favour of Structural Adjustment Program-SAPs that were accepted by African leadership wholesale in the 1980s. This led to the abandonment of what was emerging as a ‘social’ and ‘national’ agenda.
Indeed, it was these ‘adjustments’ that led to the denationalisations, privatisations and liberalisations of the African economies that opened these economies to new financial sharks in an ogre of ‘financialisation,’ in which the African leadership begun to participate by heightened corruption, which drained the continent not only of the financial resources but also of the brains in what came to be called the ‘brain drain’ and mystified as the ‘brain gains.’ The current crisis on the continent must therefore be faced squarely and their origins recognised if indeed we have to move towards a new way of understanding the impacts of our role in global issues. I will give an example of how we can face this task by my own experiences arising out of these difficult times.
THE GLOBAL CAPITALIST CRISIS
Indeed, what is being called the ‘global economic meltdown’ is in actual fact a crisis of capitalism on a scale never imagined before. Analogies are made to the 1929 financial crisis, but these analogies are misplaced, because that crisis can be said to have been an ‘industrial cycle’ phenomenon which had only financial effects. The response then was Keynesian economics, which resulted in what emerged as ‘full employment’ after the war. As we now know this neo-Keynesian recipe resulted even in a more serious ‘stagflation’ that could no longer be responded to by the Keynesian ‘priming of the pump’ strategies to overcome cyclical crises. It required a ‘Chicago’ response of monetarism led by Milton Friedman which championed the financial revolution.’ It is this ‘revolution’ that came to a halt in the 2008-2009 ‘meltdown.’
Indeed, when the crisis struck the US in September 2008, the immediate reaction was that this was purely a US affair. I challenged this characterisation in my three articles which appeared in the Uganda /Sunday Monitor/ within two weeks of the crisis being acknowledged on 15 September, 2008. I argued that what we were witnessing was neither a ‘sub-prime’ mortgage crisis, a ‘credit crunch’, nor a financial crisis. I pointed out that the crisis went to the very roots of capitalism as a system. I wrote:
‘The present financial crisis afflicting the global economy should not be seen from the narrow focus of the credit crunch and its relationship to the subprime mortgage crisis in the Western countries, especially the US. The crisis goes to the very foundations of the global capitalist system and it should be analyzed from that angle. What is at the core of the crisis is the over-extension of credit on a narrow material production base. This is in a situation in which money has become increasingly detached from its material base of a money commodity that can measure its value such as gold. But this is not just a monetary phenomenon. It has its roots in the ‘real economy’ of which it is part.’
I was able to come to these conclusions because I had done some studies on the issue of money and credit seen from a Marxist epistemology, from which I published two books. The main work was ‘The Rise and Fall of Money Capital’, published in London. The second, a simplified version of the main work was ‘The Crash of International Finance Capital’, published in Harare in 1989.
The main book did not receive much circulation due to the fact that at the time it came out in 1990, the socialist world was in crisis and Marxism was not taken seriously, especially on issues of political economy given the fact that the economies of the USSR and the ‘Socialist’ countries were in crisis. The second smaller book received wider circulation and was read widely so that when the crisis struck in 2008, a South African political economist, Professor Patrick Bond, who had read both my books, gave a public lecture in Johannesburg at the height of the meltdown and declared that: ‘Professor Nabudere has been vindicated.’ The smaller book was picked up once more by Pambazuka Press, Oxford, who asked to republish it in 2009 with a new introduction and new chapter dealing with the 2008 ‘meltdown.’
I am mentioning this book because of the fact that the study enabled me to give an up-to-date analysis of the global capitalist economy when none of the official economists were able to analyse and advise our governments correctly. Even the mainstream university economists continued to pursue erroneous theories which were no longer relevant to the situation. Locally in Uganda, it was a small NGO called SEATINI, which immediately wrote to me and asked to reprint the three articles because of the favourable way in which the three articles had been received by the public. In fact when the first article appeared in the first week of October, 2008 I received some ten email responses praising my analysis, coming from as far as Chicago in the US. I responded to the SEATINI request by offering to expand the articles in a monograph, which I did. The result was an expanded 130-page monograph which they published in Kampala under the title: ‘The Global Capitalist Crisis and the Way Forward for Africa’, which came out in May 2009.
The three articles that appeared in the Sunday Monitor were reproduced in Pambazuka News as a single article. This combined article in Pambazuka attracted the attention of an organisation called BOTHENDS from Holland, which thought it contributed to the emerging consensus calling for a Green New Deal because of its emphasis on the need to change course and emphasise food security in our countries in Africa. In fact the last of the three articles had put forward a proposed ‘Way Forward for Africa’ after the crisis. I was invited to Amsterdam by BOTHENDS to take part in a panel discussion on the issue of the Green New Deal in which the Dutch minister of finance was invited to take part together with an Indian professor. It appeared that the passage in the articles that interested them most was the following:
‘What we have said above must already alert us as to what we have to do to get out of the mess. First, we have to look at how we can survive the crisis. For the first time, we have to wake to the reality that we need a food security policy as a matter of urgency about which we can no longer dilly-dally. That means we have to focus on the home market firstly, the regional market secondly and the global market lastly. With the production being focused on the home market, we can create our own currency in East Africa because in that case we shall have no alternative but to create it! But we cannot develop a food security policy based on food crops of which people have very little knowledge, especially since with the currency crisis; we shall not have any dollars to buy foreign food products with in the short run. The African elites will have to content themselves with indigenous crops…’
The articles in Pambazuka also attracted the attention of an organisation in Prague, Czech Republic, which on hearing that I was coming to Amsterdam also invited me to go to Prague the next day, where a large number of participants discussed the on-going economic crisis. I was expected to address the conference on the issue of how African political leadership had responded the crisis. At the time, many African leaders declared that the crisis was unlikely to affect their countries since their economies were not ‘fully’ integrated in the global capitalist economy. In fact the indications by the end of 2008 was that with a threatening recession in the industrial countries, the level of imports of raw materials was going to decline; there was also indications that ‘aid’ would decline given the precarious financial situation of the ‘donor’ countries; with reduced employment in the developed world there was also evidence that the level of the tourist industry would be affected. Transfers from African workers employed in the developed world were also likely to decline due to growing unemployment. All these indicated that the economies of the African countries would be adversely affected in the medium term if not in the short term.
The declarations from both these conferences were sent to the G20 Summit, which was being held in London on 1 April 2009. My participation in both these meetings demonstrated that organisations in Europe took seriously the analysis by African scholars if indeed they were serious analyses. It also demonstrated that while foreign organisations were quick to take note of African contributions to the debate, none of our governments and even local mainstream economists in government and the universities were able to take these debates about an alternative future seriously.
Thus while my views through these organisations could be sent to the G20 Summit to be taken into account, none of the African countries – apart from South Africa – was represented, but with no declared positions. Without attempting to blow my own trumpet, I would argue that the lack of serious intellectual engagement on these issues amongst the African leadership and academy was evidence of our inability to think for ourselves and to put forward positions that could protect the interests of our countries, instead of having to accept dictates from the ‘Washington Consensus’ or the ‘donors.’ This is a post-colonial heritage we must overcome.
THE GLOBAL CRISIS AND THE FUTURE OF AFRICA
This brings me to the whole question of the implications of the on-going capitalist crisis and what it means for Africa. I have already referred to my reactions to the crisis in October 2008 and what I conceived to be the response to the ‘Way Forward for Africa’. The concept paper of the Nile Heritage points out that the objective of the forum is ‘to support African independent scholars, civil society organisations and actors, artists and environmentalists to initiate and participate effectively and with credibility in policy dialogue so that the authentic voices of the continent can have a better impact in the development of public policies.’ It is also declared that the ‘[f]orum’s vision is that policies and strategies across the continent work to empower its peoples/to reclaim and protect its natural resources and heritage and end impoverishment and marginalisation.’With reference to the specific objects the forum wants to deepen and widen intellectual engagement, which can: ‘strengthen African-centeredness’ and to ‘[d]eepen engagement by stimulating knowledge sharing, and evidence-based policy proposals to overcome poverty, inequality, ecological challenges and marginalization of women in policy-making.’
This is a tall order and requires some digesting. The forum’s vision would require us as members of the Nile Heritage Initiative to be committed to the process of ‘empowerment’ of the ‘ordinary people’ of the continent, while at the same time or as part of this process, engage in policy dialogues with all ‘stakeholders.’ But we do know that a people that are disempowered by existing power structures cannot engage with those same power structures that are responsible for their exploitation and disempowerment because it is their weaknesses created by disempowerment by those power structures makes such dialogue meaningless. The real question is whether the empowerment of the African exploited masses can be achieved through policy dialogues or through other means?
This raises the question of our role in society as ‘organic’ intellectuals or civil society organisations engaged in some form of intellectual and/or society intervention activities. Our role must go beyond policy engagements to promote the interests of the marginalised and poverty-stricken citizens. It must involve a process of unlearning and learning not only of the disempowered masses but also of the disoriented intellectuals who have been alienated from their cultures and heritages by Western culture, education and material inducements. This is what accounts for the widening gap between the African elites or intellectuals and the masses of the people for what is really the real missing link in Africa’s transformation – the distance between the African masses and the African intellectuals. As Professor Hubert Vilakazi of South Africa has observed:
‘The peculiar situation here is that knowledge of the principles and patterns of African civilisation (have) remained with ordinary, uncertificated men and women, especially of those in rural areas. The tragedy of African civilisation is that Western-educated Africans became lost and irrelevant as intellectuals who could develop African civilisation further. Historically, intellectuals of any civilisation are the voices of that civilisation to the rest of the world; they are the instruments of the development of the higher culture of that civilisation. The tragedy of Africa, after conquest by the West, is that her intellectuals, by and large, absconded and abdicated their role as developers, minstrels and trumpeters of African civilisation. African civilisation then stagnated; what remained alive in the minds of languages of the overwhelming majority of Africans remained undeveloped. Uncertificated Africans are denied respect and opportunities for development; they could not sing out, articulate and develop the unique patterns of African civilisation.’
Professor Vilakazi adds that Africa therefore finds herself in an awkward situation because it needs to develop an educational system founded upon and building on the civilisation of the overwhelming majority of its people, yet her intellectuals are strangers to that civilisation. They have no spiritual or intellectual sympathetic relationship with the culture and civilisation embracing the masses of African people. Yet the biggest spiritual and mental challenge the African intellectuals face of their massive re-education process can only be provided by the African ‘uncertificated’ African men and women who live largely in rural areas. He concludes:
‘We are talking here about a massive cultural revolution consisting, first, of our intellectuals going back to ordinary African men and women to receive education of African culture and civilisation. Second, [this] shall break new ground in that those un-certificated men and women shall be incorporated as full participants in the construction of the high culture of Africa. This shall be the first instance in history where certificated intellectuals alone shall not be the sole builders and determinants of high culture, but shall be working side by side with ordinary men and women in rural and urban life. Intellectuals must become anthropologists doing fieldwork, like Frobenius. But unlike academic Western anthropologists, African intellectuals shall be doing field work among their own people as part of a truly great effort aimed at reconstructing Africa and preparing all of humanity for conquering the world for humanism.’
Professor Vilakazi is quoted here at length to demonstrate that the exercise we are trying to set in motion here has occupied the sharpest minds of ‘organic intellectuals’ on the African continent. He is also quoted at length because of the relevance of his ideas to what we are trying to say of the need to link the rural communities to African intellectuals and centres of high learning. Professor Vilakazi challenges all of us to wake up to this reality and create a new relationship between ourselves and the African masses who are our bearers. Such a new relationship shall imply a process of unlearning and relearning on our part. This is the only way we can resurrect the deep values of African humanism (‘Ubuntu’) that is so badly needed in today’s gadgetised and digitised world without the human touch and spirit.
While the problem Vilakazi poses is a real one, there exists nevertheless a link between the two components of African society. A non-African cannot play the role the African elite are required to play in the transformation of their society. Therefore, the new approach seeks to build on the unity of the two social forces as necessary for the reconstruction of Africa from ruins inflicted by Europe. Just like Vilakazi, who would like to see the African intelligentsia, being tutored by their ‘uncerticificated’ men and women to jointly produce a new African high culture that would be at the base of the African Renaissance, Y. V. Mudimbe too would like to see the emergence of a ‘wider authority’ of a ‘critical library’ of the westernised African intellectual’s discourses developed together with ‘the experience of rejected forms of wisdom, which are not part of the structures of political power and scientific knowledge.’
This is a useful reminder despite the fact that Mudimbe himself, according to the African philosopher D. A. Masolo: ‘lamentably fails to emancipate himself from the vicious circle inherent in the deconstructionist stance’ of how this ‘usable past’ should be used by African ‘experts’ to construct an ‘authentic’ African episteme. In short, if we are to join the African masses in transforming the continent, we must move towards establishing a truly Pan-African University. The object of the Pan-African University is indeed to overcome this epistemological divide between the ‘uncertificated Africans’ and the African intelligentsia.
Afrikan languages must therefore have to be at the centre of developing the university at all African community sites of knowledge. Language, as Cabral rightly pointed out, is at the centre of articulating a people’s culture. Cabral pointed out that the African revolution would have been impossible without African people resorting to their cultures to resist domination. Culture, according to him, is therefore a revolutionary force in society. It is because language has remained an ‘unresolved issue’ in Africa’s development that present day education has remained an alien system. Mucere Mugo quotes Franz Fanon who wrote: ‘to speak a language is to assume its world and carry the weight of its civilisation’. Professor Kwesi K. Prah has argued consistently over many years that the absence of Afrikan languages has been the ‘key missing link’ in Afrikan development.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* This paper has been written without references only for purposes of discussion at the inaugural conference of the Nile Heritage Initiative, held in Nairobi on 9 September 2010. It is not to be quoted from or extracted without the prior authorisation of the author.
* Professor Dani W. Nabudere is executive director of the Marcus-Garvey Pan-Afrikan Institute, Mbale, Uganda.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Art, censorship and the Gukurahundi
Freedom of expression in Zimbabwe
Politics has so infiltrated our lives that the personal, social and cultural are all political, and as always with Zimbabwe, it is impossible to talk about one without referencing the other. What we hope to do is to encourage people to think beyond the minute detail of political immediacies, and to debate who we are as people in this maelstrom. How do we define ourselves, where do we want to be going, how can we get there, and is there space for this richness of identity to be defined and celebrated in Zimbabwe today?
We start by looking at the way ‘freedom of expression’ is dealt with in the Global Political Agreement. We then turn to a discussion of how ‘freedom of expression’ in Zimbabwe is sharply curtailed by Zanu PF’s ‘Patriotic History’ programme. This has serious implications for artists in Zimbabwe, and Owen Maseko’s case is used to outline what happens to artists and their art when their work dares to challenge Zanu PF’s Patriotic History. Maseko’s recent exhibition – now banned from being shown in Zimbabwe – focused on the Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe; so we also discuss how the truth of the Gukurahundi has been suppressed for decades and, if Zanu PF get their way, will continue to be suppressed for the foreseeable future. We ask whether ‘now is the time’ to discuss our past. Finally, we consider the future implications for art in Zimbabwe in the light of the Maseko case.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND THE GPA
The Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed on 15 September 2008 includes a section on ‘Freedom of Expression and Communication’, but this all-encompassing title is distilled to a few points. In essence, it agrees that new radio stations and newspapers need to be allowed to register and operate in Zimbabwe, and that radio stations operating from outside Zimbabwe should be asked to cease their operations and to return home and their ‘external funders’ asked to stop funding them. The GPA also agrees that the state-controlled media ‘provides balanced and fair coverage to all political parties for their legitimate political activities’ and that the public and private media will desist from perpetuating intolerance or hate-speech.
The GPA is the final product of a tensely negotiated agreement, heralding a power-sharing ‘inclusive government’ for a transition to new elections to resolve the political crisis. Its purpose, as well as the explosive context within which it was drafted, means it is understandably brief when dealing with expansive and important concepts such as ‘freedom of expression’.
The clauses in the GPA for ‘freedom of expression’ focus on ‘freedom of political expression and political communication’. There are two points to make: first, there is an inherent contradiction in the use of the word ‘freedom’ alongside a clause that seeks to shut down existing forms of communication (this refers specifically to the agreement to ‘call upon the governments that are hosting and/or funding external radio stations broadcasting into Zimbabwe to cease such hosting and funding’). Second, that the focus on political freedom of expression, to the exclusion of all other forms, suggests that once people/the media can express themselves freely with regards to politics, that all good things will flow from there. But is this true? Or is it possible that this diminution of ‘freedom of expression’ perpetuates the type of logic and thinking that has informed and controlled our understanding of freedom of expression for decades, including the pre-Independence era?
ZANU PF’S SOCIAL ENGINEERING PROJECT
Czeslaw Milosz, a poet writing within the constraints of Polish post-war communism, argues that individuals and human societies grow and discover new dimensions, often unconsciously and unintentionally, by direct experience. This experience, he says, is influenced by ‘the direct pressure of History with a capital H’, revealing itself through events and evidence of things that have happened; for example, ‘invasions by foreign armies, or ruined cities.’ But experience is also affected by things that are less tangible and sometimes intensely personal; for example, ‘a detail of architecture in the shaping of a landscape.’ Individuals, located within a constantly flowing stream of history, are bumped by political, social, cultural and personal experiences, all of which gel together to define their sense of self and identity in a place and time – their ‘history. This contributes to who they are in the world and how they function in their unique contexts.
Zanu PF, a party obsessed with political dominance and political survival, understands this construction of self identity and experience all too well. Its efforts during the 1980s to establish a one-party state extended a nationalist agenda that had began during the liberation war, and went on to lean heavily on legislation left behind by the Rhodesian Front government. Shortly after the Rhodesian Front’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence on 11 November 1965, freedom of expression and communication was sharply curtailed with propaganda and censorship; in fact, the Censorship and Entertainment’s Act still used by the Government of Zimbabwe today dates back to 1967. This suppressed information in Rhodesia led the Johannesburg Sunday Times to scathingly describe the white Rhodesian population as ‘the most brain-washed group in modern times,’ but, as Zanu PF demonstrates, political ‘brain-washing’ goes hand in hand with a desire to retain absolute political control.
Zanu PF showed its true colours very early: Perceived threats to Zanu PF’s political dominance from Joshua Nkomo and ZAPU were brutally dealt with during the Gukurahundi of the 1980s, and misinformation and misperceptions about this time still have currency today. Shortly after this, Edgar Tekere (Zanu PF’s former secretary general, cast out of the party in 1988 and lambasted for straying from the revolutionary path) formed the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM) and challenged Mugabe at the 1990 polls. State television adverts with the same menacing overtones so familiar to Zimbabweans today portrayed the choice between Zanu PF and ZUM as a matter of life and death:
In one advert shown on national television, the shattering of glass in a car accident was followed by a voice coldly warning, ‘This is one way to die. Another is to vote ZUM. Don't commit suicide, vote Zanu PF and live.'
All of these are precursors to the intense social engineering programme that Zanu PF sought to refine after its defeat at the constitution referendum polls in 2000. This programme encompasses both the formal visible structures of information and expression (e.g. the media), as well as the less tangible cultural aspects that are equally as critical to achieving the party’s primary aims.
Zanu PF has determinedly set out to rewrite and remodel ‘History, with a capital H’ as patriotic nationalism, what Terence Ranger calls ‘Patriotic History’. Patriotic History seeks to ’proclaim the continuity of the Zimbabwean revolutionary tradition’; it resents ‘disloyal questions’ and considers any history that is not political or useful to the party’s main political objectives to be ‘irrelevant.’ Raftopolous explains:
‘In this project the media and selected intellectuals have been used to provide a continuous and repetitive ideological message, in order to set the parameters of a stable national identity conducive to the consolidation of the ruling party.
‘Zanu PF’s domestic agenda has no qualms about resorting to crude measures when rhetoric and propaganda fail: overt intimidation, direct threats, assault, torture and imprisonment. As a result, the Zanu PF project has been carefully contextualized for regional audiences within an ‘anti-imperialist‘ narrative, one aimed at securing the support of regional powers, and very importantly, to limit regional criticism of local human rights abuses:
‘By doing this, the regime has been able to represent the fundamental human and civic rights questions placed on the Zimbabwean political agenda since the 1990s, as marginal, elite-focused issues, driven by Western interests, and having little relation to urgent problems of economic redistribution. As a result, many radical nationalists in the wider African continent and the diaspora have averted their gaze from Harare’s repressive domestic policies.’
In 2008, Zanu PF’s use of political violence was so extreme that it threatened to derail its regional gains: ‘The party was forced to deal with fact that it had undermined its own claims to sovereignty and legitimacy, and faced deeper isolation not only from the West, but in the region if it refused further regional intervention.’ That regional intervention led to the power-sharing government we have today, a period of time that will undoubtedly be recorded in future texts as a significant milestone in Zimbabwe’s ‘History, with a capital H’.
But what of the more intangible social and cultural elements that are equally important in shaping our understanding of our place in history – where human societies also grow through their relationship to memory, culture, beauty and experience? This is the domain of the personal and the creative imagination: in Zimbabwe it is a space where artists, writers, poets and playwrights ‘operate at the interface of culture and politics‘, sometimes ‘exposing the perhaps less visible and less measurable, yet vital ways in which artists continue to contest culturally specific notions of politics’.
Zanu PF has sought to control this space too: its ‘Patriotic History’ agenda has been solidly backed up by a ‘profound cultural nationalist project’ where art and culture have been cynically exploited to popularise ‘Patriotic History’. Dissenting voices have been silenced using an arsenal of repressive legislation, including the Rhodesian Censorship and Entertainment Act, to block out any narratives that might undermine or question the veracity and purpose of ‘Patriotic History’.
THE CASE OF ARTIST OWEN MASEKO
On 25 March 2010, Owen Maseko’s provocative exhibition of paintings, graffiti and 3-D installations was opened at Bulawayo’s National Gallery. His work focused primarily on the Gukurahundi era, but also challenged Zanu PF’s political oppression in recent years. Both he and Voti Thebi, the gallery’s director, were arrested the following day and the exhibition closed to the public. Maseko was charged with violating Section 33 of the Criminal Law and Codification Act, a law that punishes anyone who ‘insults or undermines the authority of the President’. He was also charged with Section 42(2): ‘Causing offence to persons of a particular race, religion, etc.’:
‘Any person who publicly makes any insulting or otherwise grossly provocative statement that causes offence to persons of a particular race, tribe, place of origin, colour, creed or religion, intending to cause such offence or realising there is a real risk or possibility of doing so, shall be guilty of causing offence to persons of a particular race, tribe, place of origin, colour, creed or religion, as the case may be.’
Both these crimes carry a penalty of either a fine or a prison sentence of up to one year in jail.
On 27 August 2010 a special government order was issued formally prohibiting the exhibition. According to the Gazette, Maseko’s work has been censored for a very specific reason:
(1) The showing of DVD clips showing effigies, words and paintings on the walls of the Bulawayo National Art Gallery by Maseko prohibited, and
(2) The exhibition at the Bulawayo Art Gallery of effigies, paintings and words written on the walls portraying the Gukurahundi era as a tribal-based event and as such is prohibited.
It also stated that the art was banned in accordance with Sections 13(1) and (2) of the Censorship and Entertainment Act, which stipulates the different circumstances under which materials can be banned:
(2) A publication, picture, statue or record shall be deemed to be undesirable if it or any part thereof—
(a) is indecent or obscene or is offensive or harmful to public morals; or
(b) is likely to be contrary to the interests of defence, public safety, public order, the economic interests of the State or public health.
There is nothing in the Act that prohibits art that is a ‘tribal-based event’. It has to be noted that the Board of Censors is allied to the Ministry of Home Affairs, and it is a point of intense concern that this bizarre censorship instruction was issued under the Inclusive Government from within the Ministry of Home Affairs co-chaired by Theresa Makoni (MDC-T). Makoni subsequently told SW Radio Africa that she was ‘unaware’ of the order issued by Melusi Matshiya, her permanent secretary, banning the work, but she has said little more on the subject.
Maseko’s problems did not end there. The state subsequently tried to change their initial charges to Section 31 of the Criminal Law and Codification Act, which prohibits ‘publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State’. Section 31 is far more serious, carrying either a fine or a prison sentence of up to twenty years in jail if Maseko were to be found guilty. On 13 September 2010, the state was forced to drop all the charges against Maseko after his lawyer argued that, ‘there is no procedure which allows the state to substitute a less serious charge for a more serious charge.’ The matter is not entirely resolved, because the state is still contemplating bringing the new serious charges against Maseko and his art is still banned. In fact, the National Gallery in Bulawayo has had its main ground floor hall closed to the public, its windows papered over, while the exhibition is held in-situ as evidence in the trial.
Maseko’s case is a clear illustration of what happens when ‘art’ and ‘freedom of expression’ come together to challenge Zanu PF’s ‘Patriotic History’ project. It reveals how the rule of law in Zimbabwe has been crafted and subverted to support the Zanu PF party’s ideological priorities. The evolution of Maseko’s case demonstrates that the Zanu PF party remains deeply committed to its social engineering programme, regardless of the GPA.
THE GUKURAHUNDI AS A ‘TRIBAL-BASED EVENT’
Ordinary Zimbabweans outside Matabeleland know very little about what actually happened during the Gukurahundi, and what they do know has been carefully controlled by the ZANU PF government that was in power at the time.
During the conflict, the state-controlled media consistently portrayed the minority ZAPU party as the aggressors, blaming them for instigating an insurgence against the government, supposedly out of anger that they lost the 1980 elections. At the same time, Zanu PF and all the government security forces were portrayed as righteous defenders of independence, democracy, and law and order. The state-controlled media categorised ‘The Enemy’ in sweeping generalised terms, leading to a dangerous perception amongst Zimbabweans outside Matabeleland that part of the responsibility for the troubles in this region rested with a troublesome civilian population:
Although such representations rarely explicitly alluded to ethnicity; they were underlain by an implicit ethnic explanation due to the association between the Matabeleland region, ZAPU and ZIPRA. The Zanu government and state-controlled media blurred distinctions between the armed ‘dissidents’, the civilians among whom they lived, and ZAPU supporters. All these groups were marked subversive and dangerous, and all of them were concentrated within the Ndebele region of Matabeleland. The frequent blurring of political, ethnic, regional and insurgent categories in the media played an important role in the popular understandings of the violence as ‘tribal’ in regions outside Matabeleland.
If outsiders were deliberately led to believe that Ndebele civilians were inextricably associated with a political insurgency, the non-combatant Matabeleland civilians themselves very quickly realised that they were victims of a political war where Zanu PF was primarily seeking to destroy its political opposition. The term ‘Gukurahundi’ means ‘the first rains that wash away the chaff after the harvest’, and many civilians took this to interpret themselves as the ‘chaff’ or ‘rubbish’. Their military tormentors confirmed this for them with both their actions and their words:
At rallies, commanders of the Fifth Brigade invariably expressed the conviction that ‘all Ndebele were dissidents,’ and said their orders were to ‘wipe out the people in the area.’
Testimony from a dissident, a person supposedly the direct target of this massive military operation, gives insight into the focus and function of the Fifth Brigade (also known as the ‘Gukurahundi’):
‘The Gukurahundi wasn’t a good fighting unit. It was trained to reduce the population, it was just killing civilians. The Gukurahundi weren’t soldiers. Where do you see soldiers who sing when on patrol? They were looking for civilians, not other soldiers, so we would come across them singing and we would just take cover. Soon after, you’d hear people crying in their homes...’
Robert Mugabe himself went so far as to identify the entire region – civilians and dissidents – as justifiable military targets. Donald Trelford, editor of the UK newspaper The Observer in 1984, recalled an interview that he had with Mugabe where he asked him whether he would ever consider a political solution to the Matabeleland issue rather than the military one. Trelford describes Mugabe’s response to his question as ‘blunt’ and ‘chilling’:
‘The solution is a military one. Their grievances are unfounded. The verdict of the voters was cast in 1980. They should have accepted defeat then … The situation in Matabeleland is one that requires a change. The people must be reoriented.’
This is why the description and banning of Maseko’s images of the Gukurahundi as a ‘tribal-based event’ has such potency in 2010. If an acceptable ‘tribal-based event’ is one where Patriotic History defines the Ndebele population as ‘the enemy’ and Zanu PF as having moral right on their side, then it follows that an unacceptable ‘tribal-based event’ is one that suggests the reverse – where Ndebele civilians are portrayed as victims and Zanu PF as aggressors.
Stanislaw Baranczak, a Polish poet, writer and literary critic argues that, ‘The controllers of culture are by no means interested in eliminating expression altogether; on the contrary, they sponsor and promote it, provided it serves their goals.’ The Patriotic History narrative codifies people like Maseko who dare to think beyond the boundaries established by Zanu PF as ‘disloyal’ and ‘unpatriotic’. Accordingly, Maseko’s work is not offensive to the Zanu PF censors because it is ‘tribal-based’: it offends because it contradicts the historical narrative they have spent nearly three decades insisting is the only acceptable version of events.
‘THE PAST IS THE PAST’ AND ‘NOW IS NOT THE TIME’: A QUESTION OF TIMING AND RELEVANCE
The argument that ‘the past is the past’, and we should forget about it, put it to rest, and move forward is one view that often comes up in social discussions about Maseko and his exhibition. Those making this case, fail to understand –especially in relation to the Gukurahundi – that the past is very much a part of the today. It exists in the memories of the people of Matabeleland, in the way it has influenced and shaped their lives since the events, but also in very real tangible ways. Just last month News Day reported that wild animals were digging up the bones of thirteen people massacred and buried in a mass grave in Lupane; and as the bones surfaced, so did the horror and the truth:
‘The 13 are said to have been employed by the Forestry Commission when they were massacred [...] No explanation was given for the killing. [...] “The first to be gunned down were nine forestry workers [...] They were shot for no reason. After that, we were told to bury them in shallow graves and their remains have remained there since.” [Headman Sikhonzi Nyathi] said the soldiers ordered the villagers to bury the nine bodies in one grave before they went on to indiscriminately shoot at four others. “There was nothing that the villagers could do to resist the orders as they also risked being shot,” Nyathi said. “The villagers carried out the orders and buried them in one grave.”’
Others have argued that while Maseko’s work is worthy and important, it is perhaps ill-timed given the context of a fragile Inclusive Government that has yet to fully implement the GPA a full two years on. It begs the question: who decides when the time is right and on what grounds? Who is going to tell the artists, musicians, sculptors, poets and writers that they must suppress their impulses to create, or worse, to censor themselves by conforming to non-threatening ‘art’ based on the terms and conditions dictated to Zimbabweans by the Zanu PF party?
There are many social, political and cultural events with the potential to rile an incalcitrant Zanu PF, all of them posing extra challenges for the power-sharing relationship: the constitutional outreach programme is just one of them, the anticipated referendum another. Zimbabweans will be asked to participate, and asked to support specific positions, despite the fact that these moments make Zanu PF uncomfortable. For those who think ‘now is not the time’ for freedom of expression among artists and cultural innovators, are we to assume that they consider freedom of expression today to only be important and timely when it confines itself to the ‘political’?
At the start of this article we asked whether it was possible that this diminution of ‘freedom of expression’ to ‘political ‘freedom of expression’ continues to perpetuate the type of logic and socio-cultural thinking that has informed and controlled a Zimbabwean understanding of freedom of expression for decades. Has Zanu PF’s Patriotic History programme been so effective that some amongst us – including members of former opposition parties and activists – have unconsciously assimilated the view that the writing of Zimbabwean ‘History with a capital H’ in 2010 should be exclusively and narrowly pre-occupied with the ‘political’? Have they come to believe, as Zanu PF believes, that all other events and moments influencing historicity are ‘irrelevant’?
IMPLICATIONS FOR HEALING AND FOR CULTURAL AND ARTISTIC FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN ZIMBABWE
Banning Maseko’s work has very troubling implications for national healing, reconciliation, and integration in Zimbabwe. One of the initial charges against Maseko (now dropped) was that his art caused ‘offence to persons of a particular race, religion, etc.’ The only ethnicity explicitly identified in Maseko’s work is that of the Ndebele victims of the Gukurahundi, and it is highly unlikely that they would be offended by his efforts to expose the truth. Maseko’s work also clearly identifies those who are accountable for the crimes committed during this time: They are Mugabe, members of the political elite, and the Fifth Brigade. And while these individuals may be ‘offended’ by this accusation, they, as a group of predominantly Shona people, do not constitute or represent all Shona people.
It’s worth remembering that Zanu PF’s targeting of the Ndebele people in the 1980s had very negative consequences for ‘integration’: the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace report on the atrocities noted that “the Fifth Brigade “war” hardened ethnic differences’ and ‘struck at the root of people’s most cherished social and political identity’.
It follows then that the casual blurring of the distinctions between the elite and all Shona people – inferred from the initial charges against Maseko and the description of the art as a ‘tribal-based event’ – is tantamount to inflaming tensions between different groups in Zimbabwe. How does this aid healing or integration in our country today?
On the same day the government attempted to charge Maseko with ‘Publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State.’ Patrick Chinamasa announced that he would be tabling a bill in parliament that would enable the Human Rights Commission to investigate human rights abuses. But Chinamasa’s bill will have a ‘get out of jail’ clause designed to protect the Zanu PF party:
‘This commission will not investigate the alleged violations which occurred before the enactment of the amendment number 19 unless the violations have continued after the enactment but anything that happened before they will not have power to investigate.’
This means that all human rights abuses committed before December 2008 will not be investigated – it affects not only the Gukurahundi, but Murambatsvina, violence carried out in the farming communities over the last decade; the political violence that has accompanied every election, and the horrific glut of torture and violence that was at its worse in 2008.
Will there be a time when art that attempts to focus on these events will, like Maseko’s art, also be subject to censorship by the state? How can art in Zimbabwe thrive if a swath of topics that make the government uncomfortable are declared no-go areas? And how can art in Zimbabwe be taken seriously if the first question asked of a challenging exhibition is ‘Does this art conform to Patriotic History?’ instead of ‘Is this art good?’
It is a shame that almost all of the discussion pertaining to Maseko’s exhibition has been corralled by political imperatives. Zimbabwean artists work at a challenging interface between the social/cultural and the political; but as artists, they are also positioned within the broader discipline of ‘art’, a field unconstrained by national boundaries and rigid definitions of ‘sovereignty’. The controversy surrounding Maseko’s exhibition has effectively cast him as a political activist and fails to give due recognition to the fact that he is also, quite simply, an Artist.
Baranczak, writing about the impacts of communist control on artists, argues that an ‘artist’s self-restraint’ is one step further on from state censorship. He calls this ’progressive censorship’; it occurs when an artist’s ‘creative compromise’ and ‘self-correction’ renders the state’s open interference needless.
If artists and cultural innovators voluntarily restrain their creative impulses to avoid political acrimony, then there will be no need for Zanu PF to ban and censor works. When this happens, Zanu PF will have deemed the cultural objectives of their Patriotic History project to be ‘successful’: rather than having ‘freedom of expression’, artistic expression will be carefully controlled leading to a further narrowing of the cultural field in Zimbabwe, with absolutely devastating consequences for the future of ‘Art in Zimbabwe’.
On 4 August 2010, The Herald wrote about an Artists’ Charter for Zimbabwe, a document drafted by a group of artists for inclusion in the constitutional outreach discussions. The charter asks that ‘the rights and interests of the artists of Zimbabwe and their language communities be recognized and protected in the new constitution’ and it lists 11 points they want guaranteed. Significantly, the word ‘freedom’ is glaringly absent from the charter – i.e. there are no demands for ‘creative freedoms’ to be protected. The closest the charter comes to referring to ‘freedom of expression’ is when it recognises ‘the right of every citizen […] to enjoy the arts in their diverse expressions’. And despite the fact that censorship is a massive threat to artistic creativity and expression, the word censorship is not even remotely referred to in the charter.
It isn’t possible to know exactly what informed the drafting of this charter, but the fact that the state-controlled media was happy to champion it is a sign that the guarantees it seeks do not threaten the Zanu PF patriotic project. Do the limitations of the Artists’ Charter for Zimbabwe indicate that Zimbabwean artists are already sensitive to, and aware of, the need to conform to political imperatives that define artistic boundaries within Zimbabwe?
Maseko’s experience suggests that this is possibly true. Interviewed by SW Radio Africa on 14 September 2010, he commented on the artistic community’s reaction to his experience at the hands of the state:
‘I was surprised that the artists are the only community that has not really truly supported me. I don’t know, maybe it is something to do with fear. Maybe they are scared or worried that if they associate with me they might also get arrested. Artists are aware of how, whatever the outcome that can happen to me, can greatly affect them, but taking a stance of running away is not really a helpful one because whichever way they look at it they will still be greatly affected.’
Maseko is right. If the state is allowed to ban critical works that investigate and challenge the state’s role in history, and if they are allowed to intimidate and harass artists who dare to think beyond state-controlled boundaries, then all artists will find themselves unable to truly be ‘artists’ in the fullest sense of the word.
It is not only artists who will be affected. All of us are affected by this attitude to criticism. We need to ask ourselves if we really want to live in a country without truth. Do we really want to be a people whose identities and experiences are defined by the state? Finally, we need to ask ourselves this important question: if artists are not allowed to express themselves freely, what makes us think that we will ever be allowed to express ourselves freely either?
The Board of Censors operates from within the Ministry of Home Affairs. Please e-mail The Honourable Theresa Makoni, MDC-T, Co-Minister of Home Affairs, and ask her to immediately reverse the ban against Maseko's art exhibition.
Please also e-mail Senator David Coltart, Minister of Education, Sport and Culture, and ask him to do all he can to protect freedom of expression as it relates to art and culture.
Ask them both to prevent further persecution of the artist Maseko, for daring to question and tell the truth.
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Ronald W. Walters: A fighter against global apartheid
Brother Ronald Walters joined the ancestors on 10 September 2010. Over the past 50 years he was a scholar and activist in all areas of the global Pan-African movement. From his early years in Kansas, USA, in the movement against Jim Crow he was involved in demonstrations and sit-ins.
Walters emerged as a major international spokesperson for reparations, peace and social justice. He was at the forefront of the campaigns of the African Liberation Support Committee in the early 1970s and was a participant in the World Conference against Racism in Durban 30 years later. He wrote passionately against apartheid and worked to build a grassroots movement across Africa to oppose global apartheid.
As one of the activists behind the anti-apartheid struggles, he saw first-hand how the system responded to the activities of congressman Charles Diggs, who carried forth the anti-apartheid work from the halls of Congress. Serving as Diggs’ senior advisor, Walters sharpened the international understanding of the Rhodesian and South African apartheid regimes. He was at the base of the mobilisation of blacks to exercise their right to participate in the political system in the United States and wrote extensively on its political processes.
As one of the forces behind the Rainbow Coalition and the Jesse Jackson campaigns in 1984, and 1988, Walters wanted to carry forward the struggles for full democratic rights. While he is better known for his scholarly writings, for example, ‘Black Presidential Politics in America: A Strategic Approach’, Walters was committed to the struggles against institutionalised racism and eugenics. He elaborated on this in the book ‘White Nationalism: Black Interests, Conservative Public Policy and the Black Community’. This book can assist us in understanding the rabid racist movement that continues to try and dominate public spaces in the United States.
Walters opposed white supremacy and white nationalism and worked hard to alert students to the realities of the US state system. It was his objective to work for a new society where all humans could live in dignity. His support for the rights of oppressed peoples led him to articulate a brand of Pan-Africanism that supported the rights of oppressed blacks and indigenous peoples in all parts of the world. For instance, he supported the rights of self determination of Palestinians. His scholarship and activism are a beacon for those who want to understand the meaning of commitment. He struggled hard to break the conservative stranglehold on mainstream political scientists.
STRUGGLES IN THE ACADEMY
The biographical notes of Walters’ work tell the story of a scholar who toiled for change even as a teenager. Whether it was his activity as the president of the Youth Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured Peoples (NAACP) or as a budding scholar, Walters had marked a path for struggle since his undergraduate days at Fisk University. His fruitful years at Fisk led him to work closely with Diggs, another Fisk graduate. His close friend and colleague James Turner underscored the long history of Walter’s involvement in the black liberation struggles. Long before the sit-ins by youths in Greensboro, North Carolina, made national and international news, Walters was organising against racism in the South. Turner, who was full of grief over the loss of his close friend and colleague, also commented on Walters’ humility.
Dr. John Johnson, a colleague of Walters’ when he taught at Syracuse University in 1969, has also spoken of his passion and work among youth on an off campus. Walters was very clear that black students on white campuses had a special responsibility and Johnson recalled Walters’ electric presentation on the question of black awareness in higher education. This was the period of the black uprisings on the Cornell and Syracuse university campuses in upstate New York.
Like Clarke, Walters worked in a tradition that fused African knowledge systems with his formal training in the Western academy. As a communicator, Walters was continuously working, traveling, speaking, advocating, fighting and proposing peace and reparations.
For those who did not know Walters it is now possible to get his view of his growth as a scholar from the Oral History Interview with Ronald W. Walters. Conscious of the role of oratory in preserving the history and culture of Africans, Walters produced an eight-part video of the history of his life.
WALTERS’ BRAND OF PAN-AFRICANISM
Writing in the preface of his book, ‘Pan Africanism in the African Diaspora’, Walters described his early days as a student and activist. His first awareness of Pan-Africanism occurred in 1963 when, as a senior at Fisk University, he wrote an essay titled ‘The Blacks’ which won a Readers Digest national essay competition.
His book details his association with the Pan-African Movement and his work with Jimmy Garret, Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture), Amiri Baraka, Courtland Cox, Howard Fuller (Owusu Sadauki) and William Strickland. Walters also wrote of his activities in the African Heritage Studies Association (AHSA). The AHSA was the effort of those who opposed the domination of the African Studies Association (ASA) by those who served the interests of empire. Walters worked with Pan-Africanists such as James Turner, John Henrik Clarke, Ron Karenga, Leonard Jeffries, Molefi Asante and countless others.
Although he was trained in the American university system he broke with the traditions that placed scholarship in the service of oppressors. He was a founding member of the National Black Political Science Association (NBPSA), and was one of the few senior political scientists to challenge head-on the efforts to marginalise Pan-Africanism by the foundations and the gatekeepers in the academy. This was a major battle at a moment when the State Department and the foundations had mobilised to distort the true meaning of Pan-Africanism.
Prior to the Second World War scholars such as C.L.R James, George Padmore, W.E.B. Du Bois, and others linked Pan-Africanism to global anti-racist struggles. This brand of Pan-Africanism was anti-imperialist and anti-fascist. The British tolerated these Pan-Africanists during the struggles against Hitler and Mussolini but worked to undermine and co-opt this Pan-Africanism after the war. British academics entered the discussion on Pan-Africanism seeking to determine the trajectory of research, scholarship and activism on the subject. Some made the distinction between Pan-Africanism with a big ‘P’ and Pan Africanism with a small ‘p’.
Pan-Africanism in the United States was linked directly to the lived experiences of peoples of African descent, so the ruling forces in the USA worked hard to redefine the meaning of Pan-Africanism and inscribe it in the ideological battles of the Cold War. After the Second World War, leading scholars of political science such as Joseph Nye and David Apter were involved in research and writing on Pan-Africanism. Melville Herskovits established a tradition among liberals that Africans could not be serious scholars on Africa and Pan-Africanism because of their emotional attachment to Africa. Herskovits dismissed Du Bois as a propagandist and political activist, rather than a serious scholar. This ensured that liberal whites dominated the research and teaching spaces in the country’s leading universities.
Walters was entering the field of political science a generation after Du Bois when the ‘philanthropists’ and government institutions were bent on funding scholarship that would perpetuate white hegemony in the white academy. Pan-Africanism had to seek refuge in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities in order to survive the ideological onslaught of the oppressors.
Apter was writing on Ghana, Nkrumah and Pan-Africanism, while building an organisation called the American Society of African Culture. It later turned out that this organisation was heavily funded by the intelligence agencies and the foundations. Walters belonged to that group of scholars, black and white, who were opposed to the mobilisation of the social sciences for military purposes. Research by thinkers for the empire was bent on distorting the history of Pan-Africanism. Under the direction of political scientists such as Apter and John Marcum a major study, ‘Pan Africanism Reconsidered’ was published. Nye had written on Pan-Africanism and integration in East Africa at a moment when the Nkrumah project of African unity was still on the international agenda.
Walters opposed the links between the intelligence agencies and the professors of the American Political Science Association. There was a major rupture within the ASA at a meeting in Montreal in 1969. It was at this point that the AHSA was formed to bring Pan-Africanism back to its base – among those who opposed racism, colonialism and apartheid. It was in this same period in 1969 when Walters joined those black political scientists who formed the NBPSA.
After the rupture in 1969, the subject of Pan-Africanism was dropped by mainstream political scientists (although Andrew Apter followed in the footsteps of his father David when he wrote the book ‘The Pan-African Nation: Oil and the Spectacle of Culture in Nigeria’). The study of Pan-Africanism fell under the rubric of Black Studies and mainstream political scientists relegated this subject to the backburner. In this period it was unfashionable to write and speak about the global Pan-African struggles. But Walters refused to go along with this and carried his passion for justice to the centres of intellectual debate.
Research funds from the major foundations dried up. Funding from the Department of Education disappeared. There were few centres where graduate students could do doctoral research in this field. Walters directed one such centre when he served as a professor of political science at Howard University in Washington, D.C. From this base he trained a new generation of thinkers and activists to link the local to the global.
PAN AFRICANISM AND THE AFRICAN LIBERATION SUPPORT COMMITTEE (ALSC)
As a committed intellectual, Walters did not confine his work to the Howard University campus. He was one of the key thinkers behind the Congressional Black Caucus. He served as an advisor for Congressman Charles Diggs who waged a relentless battle against American support for the illegal government of Ian Smith in Rhodesia. It was while working with Diggs, Shirley Chisholm, Charles Rangel, Louis Stokes and others that the Pan-African struggles to boycott chrome from Rhodesia took the spotlight in the USA.
Walters also wrote on the apartheid bomb. His book ‘South Africa and the Bomb: Responsibility and Deterrence’ became a reference for the anti-apartheid campaign and he wrote scholarly articles and op-ed pieces about US government’s support of the oppression of blacks in Africa.
(Today, the US government is working hard to sow confusion about humanitarianism and the so-called War on Terror in Africa to disguise new efforts to militarise the continent. It has established the US Africa Command, headed by a black general who struts around Africa under the guise of supporting peace and good governance.)
Of the more than 100 scholarly articles Walters published, his most fruitful period of publication was those years when he was fighting apartheid in the USA and in Africa. At that moment, he was organically linked to the black liberation movement.
This academic work was done alongside Walters’ activism in the African Liberation Support Committee (ALSC) The ALSC represented one of the highest points of the organising for Pan-African liberation in the second part of the 20th century. The energy and spirit of the people were manifest in demonstrations, protests, books, films, and other forms of political statements on the struggles in Africa and the struggles of Africans in the Diaspora. Walters was one of those caught in this ferment with the ideological explosions from such a dynamic moment. Many ‘scholars’ did not survive to continue in the movement for liberation. Divisions over ideological lines blurred deeper divisions among those who worked for the long term needs of liberation. Walters used all the resources available to support the ALSC and was in the midst of these deliberations.
The full history of the ALSC is still to be uncovered and Walters himself provided his own insight into this period in his book ‘Pan Africanism in the African Diaspora’. This was a period when black political representatives, such as Diggs, were challenged to link the opposition to apartheid in South Africa to the apartheid conditions inside the United States. At this time, those from black political spaces dominated the news on the opposition to apartheid and colonialism. Diggs had used his position in Congress to work with the ALSC and the forces of freedom to expose US corporations that were profiting from the exploitation of black labour. So incensed were the ruling forces in the USA that they worked hard to silence Diggs and removed him from Congress.
Removing Diggs was an effort to silence the anti-apartheid forces from the centre of national organising. The system sought to humiliate not only Diggs but the entire black liberation forces in order to prop up white supremacy at home and abroad.
Throughout the 1970s Walters worked tirelessly on the political situation in Rhodesia and was one of the founders of the TransAfrica Forum. The ruling class in the USA was threatened by this activism and worked to discredit and frustrate those involved in these formations. It was in this climate that Diggs was charged with taking kickbacks in 1978.
Walters understood all of this and worked even harder to find spaces to oppose racism. In the 1980s he was a close advisor to the Jesse Jackson Campaign.
WORKING INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE POLITICAL SYSTEM TO COMBAT RACISM
While immersed in electoral politics, Walters was writing about the limitations of the same electoral process, based on the experience of blacks. He spelled out the need for multiple forms of struggle in the book ‘Freedom is Not Enough: Black Voters, Black Candidates and American Presidential Politics’. After his involvement in the established political system, Walters was writing for the younger generation to show them that the democratic facade of elections concealed greater challenges for society.
I remember in 2007 when he came up to Syracuse to speak on the Obama phenomenon, we spent hours reflecting on the need for a movement that would be clear about the need to work inside and outside the system. Walters wrote weekly columns on the need for multiple forms of struggle. He prepared us to develop the needed strategies to combat the neo-fascist forces that are now mobilising under the banner of the Tea Party. From his scholarship we understand that the Tea Party Nation is only one manifestation of the deep racism of this society. His book ‘White Nationalism and Black Interests’ outlined the institutionalised forms of racism and the dangers for black and brown peoples. It is now urgent for engaged scholar/activists to grasp the dangers of the Tea Party’s form of populism in a period of extended capitalist depression. It was for this reason that while he was on his deathbed, Walters found his voice to speak out forcefully against conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s work to manipulate the memory and meaning of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
THE REPARATIONS MOVEMENT
Walters worked hard for the rights of the peoples of Haiti, the peoples of Brazil and for oppressed peoples all over the world. In the second half of the 20th century he worked to show that there should be no distinction between theory and practice. He served with those who campaigned for reparative justice in the United States and castigated those congressional members from the black community who retreated from the demands of the UN World Conference Against Racism. When the follow-up conference was convened in Durban in April 2009, he was again advocating and popularising its program of action.
When there were sections of the black middle class working to domesticate black politics in the service of the Democratic Party and in the service of empire, Walters worked even harder to fight for peace and justice internationally.
WALTERS’ MADE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE
I alerted him when I started writing my book ‘Barack Obama and Twenty-First Century Politics’. He supported and encouraged me and was always full of optimism borne out of concrete experience in the struggle. I asked him to write a blurb for the book and he readily accepted sending back the words of solidarity that now grace the book. I did not to know then that he was terminally ill because he did not share his pain with us. He worked up to the last moments of his life. Ronald Walters wanted to repair the destruction of human lives. He wanted society to understand the crimes of slavery and racism. The world is a better place because he was with us.
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* Horace Campbell is the author of Barack Obama and Twenty First century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News
Munir’s story: 28 years after the massacre at Sabra-Shatila
The untreated psychic wounds are still open. Accountability, justice and basic civil rights for the survivors are still denied.
Scores of horror testimonies have been shared over the past nearly three decades by survivors of the September 1982 Sabra-Shatila massacre. More come to light only through circumstantial evidence because would-be affiants perished during the slaughter. Other eyewitnesses are just beginning to emerge from deep trauma or self-imposed silence.
Some testimonies will be shared this month by massacre survivors at Shatila camp. They will sit with the growing numbers of international visitors who annually come to commemorate one of the most horrific crimes of the 20th century.
THERE ARE NO AVERAGE MASSACRE TESTIMONIES
Zeina, a handsome bronzed-faced middle-aged woman, an acquaintance of Munir Mohammad’s family, asked a foreigner the other day, ‘How can it be 28 years? I think it was just last fall that my husband Hussam and our two daughters, Maya, 8 years old, and Sirham, 9 years old, left our two-room home to search for food because the Israeli army had sealed Shatila camp nearly two days before and few inside Shatila Camp had any. I still pray and wait for them to return.’
In Shatila Palestinian refugee camp and outside Abu Yassir’s shelter, the bullet marks still cover the lower half of the 11 ‘walls of death’ where some of the dried blood is mixed and feathered in with the thin mortar. An elderly gentleman named Abu Samer still has some souvenirs of the event: three American automatic pistols fitted with silencers, a couple of knives and axes that were strapped to some of the killers belts as they quickly and silently shot, carved and chopped whoever they came upon starting at around 6 pm on Thursday, 16 September, 1982. Plus a couple of whisky bottles. These weapons were gifted to Israel by the US Congress and subsequently issued along with drugs and alcohol and other ‘policing equipment’ to the killers in his ‘most moral army’ by then-minister of defence of Israel Ariel Sharon.
Earlier this year, one of the murderers from the Numour al-Ahrar (Tigers of the Liberals) militia, the armed wing of Lebanon’s right-wing National Liberal Party founded by former Lebanese president Camille Chamoun, nonchalantly confessed, ‘We sometimes used these implements in order to advance silently through the alleys of Shatila so as not to cause unnecessary panic during our work.’ The Tigers militia, one of five Christian killer units, was assisted inside Shatila by more than two dozen Israeli Mossad agents, and led in this blitz by none other than Dani Chamoun, son of the former president.
NO PLAQUE OR SIGN NOTES WHAT HAPPENED HERE
The world learned of the slaughter at Sabra-Shatila on the morning of Sunday, 19 September, 1982. Photos, many now available on the Internet, taken by witnesses such as Ralph Shoneman, Mya Shone, Ryuichi Hirokawa, Ali Hasan Salman, Ramzi Hardar, Gunther Altenburg, and Gaza and Akka Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) hospital staff, preserve the gruesome images deeply etched in the survivors’ memories. The Israeli Kahan Commission, five months later in its 7 February 1983 report, substantially whitewashed Israeli responsibility referring more than once to the massacre as ‘a war’.
Zeina ushered me down a narrow alley from her house arriving at the 3-by-8 metre wall outside her sister’s home, spraying here and there with an aerosol can as we walked. She apologised for the spray but insisted that she and her neighbors could even now smell the slaughter that happened there three decades earlier.
For readers unfamiliar with the location of Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camp in Beirut, this particular ‘wall of death’ is located across from the PRCS Akka Hospital, such as it is, after years without adequate financial or NGO support. Locating the 11 ‘walls of death’ requires help from the few older Palestinians who still live in this quarter. They are among those still living at the scene and who still vividly recall the details of the massacre. Some provide personal history of some of the butchered, seemingly urging the dead to return by making them seem so alive, often describing a personality trait and the name of their family village in Palestine. ’
‘A SWEET BOY WHO ADORED HIS OLDER BROTHERS MUTID AND BILAL’
Zeina recalls that Munir Mohammad was 12 years old on 16 September 1982, a pupil at the Shatila camp school, named Jalil (Galilee). Virtually all of the 75 remaining UNRWA schools in Lebanon, like other Palestinian institutions, are named after villages, towns or cities in occupied Palestine. Often they are named after villages that no longer actually exist, being among the 531 villages the Zionist colonisers obliterated during and after the 1947-48 Nakba (Catastrophe).
Zeina recalls that it was late on a Thursday afternoon, 16 September, that the Israeli shelling had grown intense. Designed to drive the camp residents into the shelters, almost all of which Israeli intelligence, arriving the previous day in three white vehicles and posing as ‘concerned NGO staff’ had identified and noted the coordinates on their maps. Some residents, thinking aid workers had come to help the refugees, actually revealed their secret sanctuaries. Other refugees, based on their experience in the crowded shelters during the preceding 75 days of indiscriminate, ‘Peace for Galilee Israeli bombing of Shatila, suggested to the ‘aid workers’ that the shelters needed better ventilation and perhaps the visitors would help provide it.
According to Zeina the Israeli agents quickly sketched the shelter locations, marked them with a red circle and returned to their headquarters which was located less than 70 metres on the raised terrain at the southeast corner of Shatila camp, still known as Turf Club Yards. Today, this sandy area still contains three death pits which, according to the late American journalist Janet Stevens, is where some of the hundreds of still missing bodies of the more than 3,000 slaughtered are likely buried. Janet had theorised that there was a second Sabra-Shatila massacre that occurred on the morning of Sunday, 19 September, which piggybacked the first and was conducted on the west side of Shatila inside the second Israeli-Phalange headquarters, known as the Cite Sportiff athletic complex. As the Israeli soldiers took custody of the surviving refugees from the Phalange militia, trucks entered Cite Sportiff loaded with hundreds of camp residents on the back to be taken to ‘holding centres’. Family members forced to wait outside heard volleys of gunfire and screams from inside the complex. Hours later the same flat bed trucks drove away to unknown locations, tarps covering the unseen mounded cargo.
Camp resident Sana Mahmoud Sersawi, one of the 23 complainants in the Belgium case filed against Ariel Sharon on 16 June 2001 (currently – but not fatally – sidetracked), explained, ‘The Israelis who were posted in front of the Kuwaiti embassy and at the Rihab benzene station at the entrance to Shatila demanded through loudspeakers that we come to them. That’s how we found ourselves in their hands. They took us to the Cite Sportiff, and the men were marched behind us. But they took the men’s shirts off and started blindfolding them. The Israelis interrogated the young people and the Phalange delivered about 200 more people to the Israelis. And that’s how neither my husband nor my sister’s husband ever came back.’
Journalist Robert Fisk and others who studied these events, concur that more slaughter was done during the 24-hour period after 8 am Saturday, the hour the Israeli Kahan Commission, which declined to interview any Palestinians, ruled that the Israelis had stopped all the killing.
Eyewitness testimony also established that the ‘aid workers’ described by Zeina passed the shelter descriptions and locations to Lebanese Forces operatives Elie Hobeika and Fadi Frem, and their ally, Major Saad Haddad of the Israeli-allied South Lebanese Army. Thursday evening, Hobeika, de facto commander since the assassination the week previously of Phalange leader and president-elect Bachir Gemayel, led one of the death squads inside the killing field of the Horst Tabet area near Abu Yassir’s shelter.
It was in eight of the 11 Israeli-located and marked shelters that the first of the massacre victims were quickly and methodically slaughtered. There being few perfect crimes, even in massacres, the killers failed to find three of the shelters. One of the overlooked shelters was just 25 metres from Abu Yassir’s shelter. Apart from these three undiscovered hiding places there were practically no Shatila shelter survivors.
American journalist David Lamb wrote about this first night of butchery and the ‘walls of death’:
‘Entire families were slain. Groups consisting of ten to 20 people were lined up against walls and sprayed with bullets. Mothers died while clutching their babies. All men appeared to be shot in the back. Five youths of fighting age were tied to a pickup truck and dragged through the streets before being shot.’
At around about 8 pm on 18 September Munir Mohammad entered the crowded Abu Yassir shelter with his mother Aida and his sisters and brothers Iman, Fadya, Mufid and Mu’in. Keeping the relatively few camp shelters for the women and children while the men took their chances outside was a common practice as the massacre unfolded. But a few men did enter to help calm their young children.
IF ANY OF YOU ARE INJURED, WE’LL TAKE YOU TO THE HOSPITAL
Munir later recalled events that night. ‘The killers arrived at the door of the shelter and yelled for everyone to come out. Men who they found were lined up against the wall outside. They were immediately machine gunned.’ As Munir watched, the killers left to kill other groups and then suddenly returned and opened fire on everyone, and all fell to the ground. Munir lay quietly not knowing if his mother and sisters were dead. Then he heard the killers yelling: ‘If any of you are injured, we’ll take you to the hospital. Don’t worry. Get up and you’ll see.’ A few did try to get up or moaned and they were instantly shot in the head.
Munir remembered, ‘Even though it was light out due to the Israeli flares over Shatila, the killers used bright flash lights to search the darkened corners. The killers were looking in the shadows.’ Suddenly Munir’s mother’s body seemed to shift in the mound of corpses next to him. Munir thought she might be going to get up since the killers promised to take anyone still alive to the hospital. Munir whispered to her, ‘Don’t get up mother, they’re lying.’ And Munir stayed motionless all night barely daring to breath, pretending to be dead.
Munir could not block out the killers’ words. Years later he would repeat to this interviewer as we passed the Shatila Burial ground known as Martyrs Square:
‘After they shot us, we were all down on the ground, and they were going back and forth, and they were saying: “If any of you are still alive, we’ll have mercy and pity and take them to the hospital. Come on, you can tell us.” If anyone moaned, or believed them and said they needed an ambulance, they would be rescued with shots and finished off there and then…What really disturbed me wasn’t just the death all around me. I…didn’t know whether my mother and sisters and brother had died. I knew most of the people around me had died. And it’s true I was afraid of dying myself. But what disturbed me so very much was that they were laughing, getting drunk and enjoying themselves all night long. They threw blankets on us and left us there till morning. All night long [Thursday the 16] I could hear the voices of the girls crying and screaming, “For God’s sake, leave us alone.” I mean…I can’t remember how many girls they raped. The girls’ voices, with their fear and pain, I can’t ever forget them.’
The same kind of dégagé is displayed by the half dozen confessed militia murderers featured in German director Monika Borgmann’s 2005 film ‘Massaker’, one of whom opined, ‘With hanging or shooting you just die, but this is double,’ explaining how he took an old Palestinian man and held him back against a wall, slicing him open in the shape of a cross. ‘You die twice since you also die from the fear,’ he said nonchalantly describing white flesh and bone as if in a charcuterie waiting to be served.
The killers also explained how they began a frantic rush to dispose of as many bodies as possible before the media entered Shatila. One testified how the Israeli army gave them large plastic trash bags to dispose of bodies. Another confessed that they forced people into army trucks to ferry them to Cite Sportiff where they were killed, and that they used chemicals to destroy many of the corpses. Several mentioned that Israeli army officers conferred with the militia’s leaders in Beirut on the eve of the massacres.
THE VENOMOUS HATRED PERSISTS TO THIS DAY
To this day, the Hurras al-Arz (Guardians of the Cedars) boasts of its role in the carnage. Less than two weeks before the massacre the party issued a call for the confiscation of all Palestinian property in Lebanon, the outlawing of home ownership and the destruction of all refugee camps.
The party statement of 1 September 1982 declared, ‘Action must be taken to reduce the numbers of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, until the day comes when no single Palestinian remains on our soil.’
In 1982 certain political parties referred to Palestinians as ‘a bacillus which must be exterminated’ and graffiti on walls read, ‘The duty of every Lebanese is to kill a Palestinian’ – the same hatred commonly expressed today in occupied Palestine among colonists, extremist Rabbis and politicians.
The Guardians’ call for outlawing Palestinian refugee property ownership was indeed achieved in 2001 by a law drafted by the current minister of labour, who pledged on 1 September 2010 that, ‘Parliament will never allow Palestinian refugees the right to own property.’
The mentality that allowed the massacre at Sabra-Shatila 1982 is largely unchanged in 2010, as Lebanon still resists the call of the international community to grant the survivors of the Sabra-Shatila massacre basic civil rights. Some who have studied the Arabic websites and observed gatherings of the political parties represented at the 1982 massacre, claim the hate language is actually worse today and is being used to stir up parliamentary opposition to Palestinian civil rights.
During the month following the 1982 massacre, British doctor Paul Morris treated Munir at Gaza Hospital approximately one kilometre north of Abu Yassir’s shelter, and kept the youngster under observation. Morris reported to researcher Bayan Nuwayhed al Hout that Munir ‘will smile once in a while, but he doesn’t react spontaneously like others of this age, except just occasionally.’ Then the doctor banged on the table, and said, ‘The lad has to be saved. He has to leave the camp, if only for a while, to recover himself.’
When Munir was asked by al Hout if one day when he grew up and would be able to carry a weapon would he consider revenge. The pre-teen replied, ‘No, no. I’d never think of revenge by killing children. The way they killed us. What did the children do wrong?’
Munir’s 15-year-old brother Mufid was among the first to enter Abu Yassir’s shelter, but he left and later appeared at Akka Hospital with a gunshot wound. After being bandaged he left the hospital to seek safety and his family. No one has seen him since and for a long time Munir could not even mention him.
According to camp residents, Munir’s older brother, Nabil, then 19 years old, being of fighting age, would have been shot on sight by the killers. Aware of this, Nabil’s cousin and his cousin’s wife fled with him as the Israeli shelling increased and camp residents reported indiscriminate killing. The trio dodged sniper bullets to seek refuge in a nursing home where his aunt worked. Like Munir, Nabil soon learned that his mother and siblings were all dead.
Now in America, both Munir and Nabil are leading relatively ‘normal lives’ considering the horror and lost family they experienced while escaping death at Sabra-Shatila. Munir and Nabil have become a credit to Shatila camp, to Palestine and to their adopted country. Residing in the Washington D.C. area, Munir is married and busy with his career. Nabil is devoting his life to advocacy for peace and justice in the Middle East, working with an NGO. Both brothers return to Shatila camp regularly.
Also apparently living ‘normal lives’ are the six ‘Christian’ militia killers featured in Borgmann’s film. ‘They are all living ordinary lives. One of them is a taxi driver,’ Borgmann explains.
As is well known, the massacres at Sabra-Shatila were undeniable war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Each killing was a violation of international laws enshrined in the Fourth Geneva Convention, International Customary Law and jus cogens. Similar massive crimes have seen charges brought against Rwandan officials, Chile’s ex-president General Augusto Pinochet, Chad’s former president Hissein Habre, former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, Liberia’s Charles Taylor and Sudan’s Omar Al Bachir.
No one has been punished or even investigated for the Sabra-Shatila massacre. On 28 March 1991 Lebanon’s parliament retroactively exempted the killers from criminal responsibility. However, this law has no standing in international law and the international community remains legally obligated to punish those responsible. The victims of the Sabra-Shatila massacre and their families, as well as virtually all human rights organisations including but not limited to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Humanitarian Law Project, strenuously oppose blanket amnesty for the killers. They argue that the 1991 decision violates Lebanon’s constitution, as well as international law and promotes impunity for heinous crimes.
It was precisely to achieve justice for the victims of crimes such as Sabra-Shatila that the International Criminal Court was established. The ICC must begin its work without further delay and all people of goodwill must encourage Lebanon to grant the survivors of the Sabra-Shatila massacre basic civil rights.
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* This article was originally published by Australians for Palestine.
* Franklin Lamb is director of Americans Concerned for Middle East Peace based in Beirut and Washington D.C., is a board member of the Sabra-Shatila Foundation, and a volunteer with the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign in Lebanon. He is the author of ‘The Price We Pay: A Quarter-Century of Israel’s Use of American Weapons Against Civilians in Lebanon’ and is doing research in Lebanon for his next book. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Al Hout, B.N. (2004) Sabra and Shatila: September 1982, London, Pluto Press
 Ang Chai, S. (1989) From Beirut to Jerusalem, London, Grafton
A DOCTOR’S EYE-WITNESS ACCOUNT
The following is a letter to Franklin Lamb from British surgeon and founder of Medical Aid for Palestinians doctor Swee Ang Chai who wrote the famous book ‘From Beirut to Jerusalem’, an eye-witness account of the massacre in Sabra-Shatila.
Thank you for forwarding this to me. It is very difficult but I recall every single event the night of 17 Sept 1982 when Mounir was brought into the Gaza Hospital emergency room by his friends. All he could say was Israelis, Haddads, Kataebs and then passed out. He was the last patient I operated on before we were ordered out of our basement operating theatre by militiamen. He was shot 3 times and bled a lot- his haemoglobin dropped to 4 gms (normal 12-13 gms).
Mounir like others, lived months in the same house in Shatila where his family was murdered, reliving the nightmares until finally they managed to get his brother and him to the USA to start a new life. I met up with Mounir many times, and even now, he would ask me to look at his scars.
Out of respect, I changed his name in my book, but last year he told me he felt stronger and I can tell his story – that of a little 11 year old. I also printed pictures of his grandmother and grandfather in my book, and the lamentation of his grandmother.
Perhaps it is about time the lamentation of his late grandmother who walked 20 kilometers from South Lebanon to Shatila is heard in Lebanon and world-wide.. She arrived in Shatila that September day to find 27 members of her family killed – there is only Mounir and Nabil left.
‘Our doves are still here. Our carnations give fragrance. The sparrows sing their usual songs. Yet Abu Zuhair is nowhere to be found. Beirut you took all I had. You took my last spark in life and my heart dies dead on your streets. Abu Zuhair, the tall young tree was cruelly snapped off his roots on your soil May the blood of whoever murdered you mingle with yours. May his mother suffer the same agony. Who dug your grave, Abu Zuhair? Who brought this disaster onto us? What can I say in your memory? My heart is full of reproach towards this unfeeling world. Not even a hundred ships, or two hundred stallions, would be enough to carry the load of pain in my heart. What can I say? “Mother” you tell me, “go visit our graves and pray for those they engulf” I go to the graves and tenderly embrace its stones. I tell it ” Please let your stones warmly embrace the bodies of my loved ones within, take care of them, I have entrusted them to you. I mourn your youth and mourn for all the young girls who never knew a moment of happiness or contentment. They went to meet life so hopeful and eager, only to be trampled and torn by its ferocity. Oh God I cannot go on. He was the handsomest of men and the strongest of youths. He used to pave the way for others, to facilitate their path. Your young body mingled with the sand too soon, your eyes filled with the sand. What else can I give to my country? My heart is full of agony and reproach to life. How I envy those of you who were there when my loved ones died. Did they die thirsty? Or were you merciful enough to give them a drink? I implore every passing bird to carry my anxiety and love to you, then to come back with news of my loved ones. My child, your body is strewn with bullets. Who sent you to me, crow of ill omen? Why do you inflict disasters on me all at once? Spare them a bit Oh God. God – wait at least a year, then thy will be done. I implore you, bearers of coffins, move slowly. Do not hurry. Let me see my loved ones once more. I go to the graves, and roam listlessly around. I call Abu Zuhair, then I call Um Walid (his sister). My call remains unanswered. They are not there. They followed Um Zuhair (Abu Zuhair’s wife) and the young ones. They all left one night by the moonlight – all my loved ones. My child you are near me no more. Mountains of distance are between us….. Nabil (Abu Zuhair’s nephew) calls his mother. “Mother”, he says, “to whom have you left me?” Zahra answers” I have left you to your uncles. They should tell you of me and take you to my grave so my eyes can look at you and my heart reach out to you” But Abu Zuhair is gone and he cannot carry out Zahra’s will. Zuhair (Abu Zuhair’s son) asks his father, “To whom have you entrusted me?”
“Your grandfather will come for you. You are the continuation of his life”. But life, what life is left to us? Our hearts have died. Our tears have dried for all the young men and women who died. Where can I turn to? Where are my children? My child, may God show you the holy path, and may my love and care be a lantern to accompany you along the way. Almighty God, give me patience. Young men, please stay away: you renew my wounds, and I am so weary. What can I say’. 
Please circulate this – from a Palestinian grandmother to her family, murdered in the Sabra and Shatila massacre – I have kept her words and read them to all who care to hear for 28 years.
Teaching uMunthu for global peace
Reflections on International Day of Peace
As I was beginning a seven-month period in 2004 studying prospects for peace education in Malawian classrooms, a friend of mine seemed very surprised at the topic of my study. Why peace education? She asked. Has Malawi been at war lately?
I don’t exactly remember how I responded, but the question of peace education in the Malawian school system appears to me to be as relevant today as it was six years ago. And as it was probably since we first developed our own education system at independence in 1964. September 21 is International Day of Peace, and the theme for this year is ‘Youth for Peace and Development’. Observing this day prompts me to reflect on what I learned those six months I spent in 2004 visiting Malawian classrooms and talking with Malawian primary school teachers and pupils about how we can define and understand peace from a Malawian perspective.
A picture of how we may define ‘peace’ from a Malawian perspective started to emerge in my mind when I attended the inauguration of Reverend Bishop Thomas Msusa as Bishop of Zomba Diocese on 17 April 2004. In his homily after the inauguration, Bishop Msusa talked about his guiding principles in his life as a priest, but it was his description of the Malawian philosophy of uMunthu that has stayed with me in the intervening years. The more I thought about uMunthu and its implications for Malawian life, the more intriguing it became. The only person I knew to have given serious thought to the idea of uMunthu within a peace framework was Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In his 1999 book ‘No Future Without Forgiveness’ Tutu argued that the transition South Africa underwent from apartheid to democratic black majority rule was made possible because of what the South Africans call uBuntu. He grants that it was not the best of transitions, but he could not think of another way South Africa could have managed the transition without degenerating into a horrific civil strife. In recent times Desmond Tutu has described post-apartheid South Africa’s socio-economic tensions as a ticking time bomb, but his belief in the power of uMunthu as an African principle of being has not dissipated.
I was also aware of Malawian philosopher Harvey Sindima’s treatment of uMunthu as an important African philosophy, from his 1995 book ‘Africa’s Agenda: The legacy of liberalism and colonialism in the crisis of African values’. I decided there and then that I needed to look more deeply into this topic, and see which other Malawians had done research on the concept of uMunthu. To say I was pleasantly surprised by what I found would be an understatement. To be sure, none of what I stumbled upon talked about uMunthu as a Malawian or African peace concept, as Tutu had done. However I discovered that there was already a considerable amount of scholarly attention paid to the concept, by Malawian intellectuals such as Augustine Musopole, Gerard Chigona, Chiwoza Bandawe, Richard Tambulasi and Happy Kayuni, among others. I also recall seeing a number of articles from a column in The Nation newspaper, titled ‘uMunthu’. More articles have appeared in other newspapers and magazines as well.
It was a female primary school teacher who gave me insights that helped me make sense of what Malawian scholars have written about uMunthu, and in the process pushed my thinking in a new direction. I had been wondering how the concept could be thought of from an educator’s viewpoint, and this teacher didn’t hesitate to show me how. She began by giving examples of Malawians in high positions because of their superior rank and educational qualifications, but who did not seem to how practice uMunthu principles in their daily life. She asked, rhetorically, ‘Of what use is a university education if a graduate has no uMunthu?’ She asked similar questions of Malawian bosses in various offices in companies and in government ministries, before making a statement that captured the essence of uMunthu and education. She observed that it was one thing to have an education, and quite another to have uMunthu. We could teach Malawian children all the knowledge necessary to succeed in life, but if we didn’t teach uMunthu, that education was incomplete.
Looking at uMunthu from this educational perspective raises several questions about how to teach young Malawians, indeed young people in any part of the world. It also offers part of the answer to the question my friend asked in 2004 as to why I was studying prospects for peace education in the Malawian school system. A number of peace educators around the world have argued that all education ought to be peace education. This is important, whether teaching a Standard 1 pupil how to read, or a final year university student how to analyse quantitative research data. The question at the heart of the education system ought to be how particular subject matter content promotes the values that define our society, and promote love and understanding, friendship and interdependence, empathy and community. That is where uMunthu-peace starts.
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* Steve Sharra blogs at Afrika Aphukira, the Zeleza Post and the Paulo and Nita Freire International Project for Critical Pedagogy. He is writing in his own capacity.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Johan Galtung interview: Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East
Amy Goodman: As we continue here in Bonn, I sat down with another of the Right Livelihood laureates, Johan Galtung. He won the award in 1987. We talked about the Mideast talks, the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the rise of China as a superpower. Yes, Johan Galtung, we’ve had him on the broadcast a number of times, and he started by talking about the Middle East.
Johan Galtung: I think the only viable solution is a Middle East community consisting of Israel and the five bordering Arab states, meaning Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine - fully recognized according to international law - and Egypt. That was also the solution for Europe, with Germany in the centre, this time with Israel in the centre. I think that could work, and I think what they’re negotiating is a nonstarter from the beginning. With the formula I just indicated, I think Israel could get peace, with open borders, free flow, and perhaps the possibility of Jews settling in the neighboring countries, too, but not trying to mess them up with too much investment and too many tricks of various types. There has to be some rules. And what they’re doing now would, in Europe, have been a treaty between Germany and Luxembourg. That was not the way Europe solved its problem.
Amy Goodman: What do you think - how would you describe what is happening now in Sharm el-Sheikh? Who are the negotiating parties?
Johan Galtung: Well, formally speaking, it is (Mahmoud) Abbas from the Palestinian Authority and Bibi Netanyahu from the Israeli government. But the settlers have threatened to withdraw from Netanyahu’s coalition if he gives too much to the Palestinians. And by giving too much, I don’t think there’s much margin from the Russian settler point of view. And I think there are similar threats from Gaza and from Hamas. I don’t think this will work. It is not a solution on the horizon. I think it is, to some extent, a manoeuvre and that both of them will try to blame the other or some third party.
Amy Goodman: What about the role of the United States?
Johan Galtung: Role of the United States - the United States was never a mediator. A mediator cannot be an ally of one of the parties and having a joint concern, since United States and Israel came into being the same way, by some kind of divine mandate, that we are chosen peoples and this is our promised land. The people onboard the Mayflower took over the Jewish metaphors before they landed on the Plymouth Rock. So I think they are obsessed with the idea that if one falls, so does the other. Now, that’s an asymmetry which is unacceptable for a mediator.
A much better mediator would have been the European Commission. The European Commission should enter here not only as a mediator, but as a model, just simply revealing what happened, laying the cards on the table. How did they manage to integrate Germany, that had committed so many atrocities? That is quite some story, and that story would be inspiring for them. And out of it came something that works. Right now they have a little currency crisis, but they’re overcoming that much better than somebody else.
Amy Goodman: How did they manage to integrate Germany? What year was it?
Johan Galtung: It was started with the coal and steel authority in 1950. And from 1st of January, 1958, came the Treaty of Rome. And the basis was mutual and equal benefit. Germany entered as a full member from the beginning. I think it was told that ‘You better shut (up) the first twenty years. Don’t talk too much. And if there’s some bills to pay, you pay them.’ Now, I don’t think that would work with Israelis. First of all, they cannot shut up. And secondly, I don’t think they are willing to pay any bill. But I’m just mentioning it, not quite as a joke, because that was the way it worked. Germany was more obedient, to put it that way. That’s become a glittering success, in terms of accommodating Germany. That they have other problems is obvious.
Amy Goodman: Professor Galtung, what about Iraq, where do we stand today with Iraq, where Iraq stands?
Johan Galtung: I think the basic point about Iraq is that it is an artificial construction by two civil servants of the British Foreign Service in 1916. And I think they had the assignment of constructing a country out of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire, consisting - but it could, within the borders of one country, accommodate the oil in Kirkuk, Mosul, in the north, and Basra, in the south. And so they did. Now, that’s not a rationale for a country. Mesopotamia, between the rivers, would have made sense. Iraq, I think, is doomed to disintegration. This is one reason why they still don’t have a government, in spite of elections in March. They cannot agree on the formula for it. So I would say that it will disintegrate as either a very loose federation or a confederation.
There is some Iraq that has come into existence. I am quite willing to say that. But it is weak. And I don’t think the capital can be in Baghdad, which is in one of the four Sunni provinces out of the eighteen provinces. And, you see, the Sunnis have been ruling this system not having oil. And the others are not quite willing to bail out the Sunnis. So I think it’s a nonstarter. It was a nonstarter from the beginning, and Obama is now following in the footsteps of George Bush. I don’t think there’s anything new, actually, in Obama’s proposal, and it doesn’t look promising.
Amy Goodman: I mean, you have about 50,000 troops. You have the largest US embassy in the world there, something like 80 football fields in size.
Johan Galtung: Unbelievable, inside the Green Zone. Unbelievable. Are they going to dismantle that? Well, those bases, I guess, were inspired by the idea that there will be a war with China. That’s always been the Anglo-American idea, that the biggest power, be that on the continent or be that in Eurasia, is our born enemy. It’s always been the Anglo-American idea, some kind of paranoia. And totally unnecessary. So I guess the bases are essentially for that purpose, like the purpose of the Bagram base in Afghanistan, the same.
Amy Goodman: Do you see a similar way of the US so-called withdrawing in Afghanistan - do you think they’re going to follow the model with the US in Iraq?
Johan Galtung: They are going to withdraw from both of them, because it is a mission impossible, a mission unachievable. They’re going to withdraw, and I think the most likely future for the US in both countries is to become neither a winner nor a loser, but irrelevant, and that that whole area will be managed by some cooperation between Turkey and China and the countries in between, the countries in between being Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan. And that means the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation - I’m just back from a meeting with them in China, and some other people from the central committee and the defunct Regional Development Cooperation between Turkey, Iran and Pakistan and Afghanistan. Now, this is a massive belt of countries, so I would watch out for this - for Ankara-Beijing cooperation.
Amy Goodman: For what?
Johan Galtung: Cooperation. Watch out. It’s not there yet, but Beijing is now building a railway from Xinjiang, the western province - where the Uyghurs, that Beijing, by and large, have treated not only badly, but stupidly - into Kazakhstan. Now, if that railroad ends up in Istanbul, they are in business. And it could easily do.
Amy Goodman: You have spoken to a number of US Congress members about what you think needs to be the solution in Afghanistan. What have you proposed, and what is their response?
Johan Galtung: I proposed withdrawal of all foreign troops; coalition government with the Taliban; Afghanistan as a federation, relatively loose, because of all the centripetal tendencies, probably with a capital not in Kabul; a confederation with the surrounding Islamic countries, meaning a central Asian community, with the five former Soviet central republics, plus Iran, plus Pakistan, plus maybe the Muslim part of Kashmir; and a policy of equality between genders and nations.
I have spoken with Taliban about that, and they say, ‘We know we are behind on the gender issue, but we’re not going to be told that by foreigners. We’re going to learn from countries, Muslim countries, that are ahead - Tunisia, [inaudible] Tunisia, since 1956 already, Turkey, Indonesia, southern Philippines. We know we are behind, and we are going to develop on our own premises.’ OK?
Number five is security. It’s a very violent culture, probably organised by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in cooperation with the UN security conference - not NATO, not USA, not International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), nothing of that type. Get it out, and get the work started. Personally, I think that the future Afghanistan will be handled by that belt from Turkey to China. It’s a very powerful one.
Amy Goodman: What do US congressmen respond?
Johan Galtung: They shrug their shoulders, and they say, ‘Dear Professor Galtung, it’s impossible to convey to American voters, because that means that we have to concede that the other side has a couple of good points and that we have a couple of wrong points. It’s very difficult to do that.’ And one of them, a very famous one, who shall remain unmentioned, put it this way: ‘Our instinctive reaction whenever there’s a problem is to send the Marines and not to try to solve the problem. We have done that too many times.’
And, you see, here comes a little point about China. China, within what classical China regards as their pocket in world geography, between the Himalayas, the Gobi Desert, the tundra, meaning Siberia, and the sea, is theirs. That doesn’t mean it’s all part of China, but China has the upper hand, and they have treated parts of it very badly - wars with Vietnam, Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia. Hong Kong-Macau has found a rather good formula. Taiwan is heading in that direction. Korea is doing not badly. With Vietnam, they have had warfares. But outside that pocket, China has not had a single invasion, occupation. What they did in October '62 about India, they withdrew immediately. And I, myself, am not on the Indian side on that issue. But leaving that aside, this means China has a free hand all over the world, because there is nobody who can say, ‘You were here 300 years ago, and we remember what you did.’ And that, I can say about all Western countries, and particularly about the US, with its tendency to send the Marines. China has much more freedom to act than the US has.
Amy Goodman: What about China? You just recently met with the central committee. What was that like?
Johan Galtung: Central committee members. Well, I was sitting with the deputy foreign minister, and we had a map, a world map, on the floor. And, you see, peace studies, as opposed to the somewhat paranoid security studies, is about solutions. It's about equity, mutual and equal benefit. And this is exactly what the Chinese say they believe in - no, not inside that pocket, as I mentioned, but outside it. It was very easy to talk with them. We just went through the whole map and were discussing Chinese options.
I can mention one example. And I’m not - I’m just saying these were things that I mentioned, and - to build a four-lane highway from Dar es Salaam to Kinshasa’s harbor on the Atlantic, expanding the Silk Route that was the world trade from 500 to 1500, globalised, incidentally, much before current globalisation, run by Buddhists from China and surrounding countries and Muslims, ending in Somalia, and to expand that through the highway I just mentioned, maybe a railroad, too, to the Atlantic and then on to South America. And then trade the other way, exchange for students, sub-South, developing country, developing country, not dominated by China, but China as an anchor. That would be something, quite something. And not excluding North-South trade, but that was the imperial trade, you know. That was the United States to Latin America, and that was Europe and all the eleven colonial countries in Europe to Africa and other places. We cannot exclude it. We don’t want to exclude it. But we want the East-West trade.
Amy Goodman: What is China’s view of the United States?
Johan Galtung: They used to have a strong distinction between the US people, who are all good, and the US government, that’s all bad. I think both of those have changed a little bit. There are good elements in the US government, and there are not-so-good elements in the US people. I think they start getting to know the US a little better, so yin-yang, black-white perspectives, nuances, are coming up. They want cooperation.
They have three avoidance principles: avoid being encircled; avoid counter-revolution - and here, they are thinking, in particular, of North Korea and Myanmar’s - now, all of that leaves open quite a lot of discussion - and avoid confrontation with the US. They don’t want confrontation. They want friendship. And right now they’re, of course, very much concerned with the manoeuvres in the Yellow Sea and also in the China Sea and …
Amy Goodman: Who’s manoeuvering there?
Johan Galtung: US, an aircraft carrier, together with South Korea in the Yellow Sea. Now, that’s very, very close. So, you could imagine the Chinese navy having manoeuvres outside San Francisco or Los Angeles. It would not be very well received by Washington. So they are protesting, but are - the need, the need to avoid confrontation. If the US could do it the same way as the China does, try to stay away from such things, it would be very, very useful.
Amy Goodman: Why doesn’t the US avoid that? Why are they doing the manoeuvres in the Yellow Sea?
Johan Galtung: Old habits, considering the world their playground. We did it before; that’s the way we always did it. US has to reset, to quote somebody who talks about it, but hasn’t quite done it.
Amy Goodman: How do you think the US should end the conflict in Afghanistan?
Johan Galtung: I can start with what I hope. If the US could support a real peace plan. So I’ve indicated points that I believe in, and the many who believe along these lines. Something along these lines. That would be the best option for the US. The question is, as my Congress representative friends say, whether that can be sold to the voters and to other parts of Congress.
Now, let us say that you have about 65 progressive members of the House of Representatives, ‘progressive’ meaning going along with solving conflict and not with military responses. Well, many people, good people, but we are talking about 435, aren’t we? So, we know where we are. We also know that, of the 100 persons in the Senate, it would be very difficult to mobilise 65 people. Very difficult. So, given that, the US has, in a sense, been digging a grave for itself, meaning that becoming irrelevant is the option, like they did in Vietnam. They did in Vietnam, and Vietnam came together, after 30 April 1975, somebody climbing up a ladder to a helicopter hovering above the US embassy. And there might be similar things happening here.
Now, if the US wants to become irrelevant, if they prefer that, do so. I would much rather see the US supporting a conference for peace and security - or let us call it security and cooperation - in Central Asia, maybe not even as a participant, but as an observer, because the US is not quite known as a Central Asian country. Incidentally, it's not an East Asian country, either. As far as I can see from the map, it belongs to the American hemisphere, and maybe it’s in cooperation with Mexico and Canada, a kind of MexUSCan, where the future US will be very well located, more modest, like an Israel contracting to June 1967 but getting peace as a reward. Not a bad reward.
Amy Goodman: What is your assessment of President Obama?
Johan Galtung: I have never believed in him. Never. I have lots of editorials and things written in the election year. I think that I sense something slightly megalomaniac in him, which is disturbing. The idea of being able to unite all of the US, just as he unites skin colors and faiths and origins in his body, and for that reason, leaning over backwards to negotiate with the Republicans and taking on Republican points, whereupon the Republicans vote no. Now, maybe the Republicans will now change from being a ‘no’ party to some couple of ‘maybe’ or ‘yeses’, maybe. But in the meantime, he has lost the support of the people who are voting for him. If I had been working like mad in 2008 to get him elected, because of some beauties in his rhetoric, and had experienced what I have experienced now, I would not work for the midterm elections.
Amy Goodman: What do you think he has gone back on, in terms of his promises?
Johan Galtung: Practically speaking, everything. Guantánamo is still there. Rendition is still there. There is the saying that no torture should take place; I haven't seen the mechanism to ensure that that’s the case. The withdrawal from Iraq, with 50,000 remaining. Stepping up, escalating the war in Afghanistan. And as we know, whatever withdraws from Iraq essentially goes to Afghanistan instead.
I think it’s very contrary to the kind of thing that he was exuding, including the nuclear point. What kind of thing is this, to get rid of old-fashioned weapons with the Russians and then arguing for $180 billion to modernize the nukes - $100 billion for the weapons carriers, $80 billion for new warheads? What kind of nuclear-free world is this? He should have had the decency, when Norway made the mistake of giving him the Nobel Peace Prize, of saying, ‘I graciously, gratefully decline. I haven’t earned it yet. Let’s come back when possibly I have earned it.’ He didn’t say that, and dispensed with the prize money in a disgraceful way.
Amy Goodman: How?
Johan Galtung: To all kinds of irrelevant organisations. He didn’t even give it to US peace organisations. Let me just mention one: the American Friends Service Committee, which is a fantastic organisation doing marvelous work all over the world. Could have given the whole thing to them.
Amy Goodman: Is there anything else you’d like to add here in Bonn, in this year, 2010?
Johan Galtung: This is a remarkable gathering of people who are working on very positive things. And there isn’t one single person here who doesn’t have a solution to something. I would say the world should pay attention to these people. These are very positive people. And these are not people who have just derived some expertise from one conflict. The Nobel Peace Prize winners usually know nothing except that one conflict, and too much is demanded of them, because they are not able to generalise from that. These are people who have done a lot of thinking and a lot of practice. I am just very grateful that this so-called Alternative Nobel Prize - Peace Prize exists, and the Right Livelihood Award - five prizes every year, 30 years, 150 - eighty of them, a slim majority, are assembled here.
Amy Goodman: Professor Galtung, thank you very much.
Johan Galtung: My pleasure. Thank you.
Amy Goodman: We turn to part two of my interview with Johan Galtung. Known as the founder of peace studies, he spent the past half-century pursuing nonviolent conflict resolution in international relations. His latest book is ‘The Fall of the US Empire - And Then What?: Successors, Regionalization or Globalization? US Fascism of US Blossoming?’
I spoke to him last week about his prediction of the collapse of the US Empire in 10 years, he says, by 2020. In the second part of our interview, Galtung discusses his assessment of President Obama, the US corporate media and more. But we began with the war in Afghanistan, where he’s worked extensively in attempts at conflict resolution.
Johan Galtung: Now let’s look at it from a Washington point of view: pursuing a victory which will never happen. I’ll say why: 1.56 billion Muslims are dedicated to the idea of defending Islam when trampled upon. Some of them are traveling to Afghanistan. Some of them are doing it somewhere else in other ways. Those ways can become quite disagreeable, as you know.
Point two, there is no capitulation in Islam to infidels. It doesn’t exist. To fight against Christians and Jews - you take the mini-empire of Israel, the regional empire - is not an invitation to a violent confrontation that will end with a capitulation. In other words, the time perspective of the Muslim community is unlimited. I don’t think the time perspective of Washington is unlimited. So you can say, of course, who has the longer time perspective will win. There may be some local capitulation, a white flag somewhere, but by and large the usual scenario of a tent, maybe, with a camping table, somebody diligently typing a couple of copies of a capitulation document and ‘please sign on the dotted line’, forget about it. Forget about it. That’s not the way it happens these days.
So, having said that, victory is out. Of course, the US will not be available for defeat, as, in a sense, it was in Vietnam in April 1975. So withdrawal is the likeliest thing, hoping desperately that the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police will take over the job, which they will, with my knowledge of the situation, not do. They will be aligning themselves with the next stage in Afghan history.
But having mentioned this, there is of course a fourth possibility: United States participating in conflict resolution. So what we have been discussing here, Amy, in Washington in these sessions, have been the details of these five points and other points. And here I would like to enter with a basic point about mediation, we who mediate. I’m an NGO mediator. I’ve done this more than 120 times around the world, sometimes with some success, sometimes not, or to put it more optimistically, not yet success. OK, what we are trying to find out are the goals of the parties. What do they want? I mentioned the Taliban are dead against secularisation. I find that legitimate. The US goal of a base, I find it illegitimate. The US goal of an oil pipeline and controlling it, I find it illegitimate, by means of war. But the US goal that no attack should come from Afghanistan, I find completely legitimate.
I don’t think that’s what happened 9/11. I don’t think the attack came from Afghanistan, nor do I think Osama bin Laden’s role was very much important. I think it was essentially Saudi Arabian. It was a revenge for the oil treaty of March 1945, because it was totally against Wahhab perspectives on reality, that a good life is the life as lived at the time of the Prophet and, as the Prophet said when he expired in 632, ‘In this country there shall be no two religions.’ I’m, of course, in no way saying that all Saudi Arabians are of this opinion, but many are, even the royal house are divided down the middle. And if you then add to this, from 1990 onwards, staging US wars in the region, be it against the Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait, or be it against the Saddam Hussein - that was in 1991, February - the Saddam Hussein of 2003, 20 March, by Iraqi reckoning, staging it from Saudi Arabia, from the sacred land of the chosen people. Now, the US should know something about sacred land and chosen people, the metaphor that I took from Judaism, because at the time in 1620, at the time of the Mayflower, there was not much Zion on the eastern end of the Mediterranean.
So, having said that, conflict resolution is the way. But that can only happen if you understand what the people want, legitimate goals in Afghanistan, and taking into consideration what, to my mind, is an absolutely legitimate goal from Washington - no attack shall emerge from Afghanistan. Even if it didn’t do so, and to (the) best of my knowledge, in 2001, it could do it today, because the US has produced quite a lot of people who have reasons for hating the country. Now, having said that, I am not sure that the US is going to do this. And the reason for it is a limited US ability to see a conflict from the outside or from above, to take your intellectual helicopter and getting up above the conflict, see your own legitimacy and illegitimacy and the other side’s legitimacy and illegitimacy, starting thinking that maybe he has a point and then trying to see if there’s some reality that could accommodate all of it. Well, 243 military or political interventions since Thomas Jefferson - we are now perhaps at 245 - this is not a US foreign policy talent, in spite of the fact that there are so many wonderful Americans in this fantastic country, where I have lived much of my life, that have a fabulous ability to handle conflicts well.
So, having said that, we come to alternative five for the US: to become irrelevant. Neither victory nor defeat, nor withdrawal, nor conflict resolution -becoming irrelevant. And that, of course, leads us to the question, who then is relevant? Countries in the region, Turkey. Turkey is led today by three people - the president, the foreign minister, and of course the prime minister - Davuto?lu, Erdogan, Gül - of an exceptional quality, I will call a team more in tune with what happens in the world than the people leading the United States of America at present. I’m not talking badly about Obama and Hillary Clinton; I’m just saying that those three, it’s very hard to come up to that level. Now, they are not becoming a regional power. They are now very high up on world diplomacy. They are not, as Washington Post is saying, turning against the West; they’re turning against the United States and Israel, turning against the US empire and the Israeli mini-empire after 1967, 43 years ago, after the occupation, after the June War. You see, all over the region you find people saying that we can tolerate, we can live with - I mean, I talk with Hamas people, and I ask them, ‘Is there an Israel you can acknowledge, you can recognise?’ And they say, by and large, 4 June 1967, with some revisions. Well, Turkey is on that side, and they are making contacts now with Iran, with Afghanistan, Iran with Afghanistan, Iran with Turkey. So there you have a quite interesting triad coming up. Add to that Russia and China, not India. India is outside this game; it’s an unimportant country for the time being, in spite of its size, also now involved in a very deadly war and unable to find good solutions for the Naxalites - should learn from Nepal, although Nepal is also in difficulty of another kind. You can look at this, and then you can draw the conclusion: increasing US irrelevance. Well, you see, that’s how empires die. They die with a whimper, and usually not with a bang, as T.S. Eliot said.
Amy Goodman: We’re talking to Johan Galtung, whose latest book is called ‘The Fall of the US Empire - And Then What?’ He is known as the father of peace studies, a mediator around the world.
Johan Galtung, I wanted to ask you about your assessment of President Obama, but first play a clip for you. This was President Obama speaking months ago at the US Military Academy at West Point, where he unveiled a plan to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. He gave this speech a week before he received the Nobel Peace Prize in the city, in the capital you were born, in Oslo.
President Barack Obama: Now, the people of Afghanistan have endured violence for decades. They have been confronted with occupation by the Soviet Union and then by foreign al-Qaeda fighters who used Afghan land for their own purposes. So tonight, I want the Afghan people to understand: America seeks an end to this era of war and suffering. We have no interest in occupying your country. We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens. And we will seek a partnership with Afghanistan grounded in mutual respect, to isolate those who destroy, to strengthen those who build, to hasten the day when our troops will leave, and to forge a lasting friendship in which America is your partner and never your patron.
Amy Goodman: That was President Obama. Your response?
Johan Galtung: Totally unrealistic and extremely badly informed, and that from such an intelligent, such a charming man with such a brilliant rhetoric. Look, to be realistic here, one has to understand that almost all Afghans, after having been invaded five times in recent history - three times by the English, once by the Soviets, Russians, and once by the Americans - are sick and tired, absolutely, of being invaded. The idea that the Taliban should lay down their arms before the Americans withdraw is outside reality. The idea of a partnership in a country fundamentally, and to some extent fundamentalist, Muslim, that you can have a partnership and you can come with technical assistance projects, development projects that have not been blessed by Allah, is a great misunderstanding. You will cater to a small group of Westernised people in Kabul and a couple of other places. That’s the only thing you will reach.
Now, where is the Obama plan for canceling the Bagram base? Where is the plan for giving the pipeline back to the people it should belong to? And that is not Unocal. I hear nothing of the kind. Now, this is just a part of imperial politics.
What I do hear, with sympathy, is the idea of parity. But, you see, parity, with so-and-so-many soldiers in one of the lands, with no soldiers from that land in your own land, is not parity. I find - when I talk with Afghans, I find three motives, and I mentioned them already: number one, anti-secularisation; number two, anti-Kabul, in favor of a much more decentralised country; number three, and very importantly, anti-being-invaded. So we have so-and-so-many million Afghans, and you have three motivations. You have very many of them with plus-three. I think you have very few with zero motivation.
Dear Obama, out of touch with reality.
Amy Goodman: We have just - in Afghanistan, the war in Afghanistan has just entered its 104th month. I believe the Vietnam War, the US involvement in the US war in Vietnam, was 103 months, making this now, Afghanistan, the longest war in US history. Johan Galtung, how can it end now? And I also want to ask you about Iraq and the media’s coverage and the role the media plays in all of this.
Johan Galtung: John F. Kennedy sent the first US military specialists in 1961, and it ended 30 April 1975. If you take 14 years and multiply by 12, you get a little bit higher figure, but let's leave that outside.
I think it will end, by and large, the same way as Vietnam. That means United States becoming irrelevant. That means that others will, behind the scene, play important roles. There will be negotiations. We are probably coming into a period where Taliban, at some point, will meet Americans. They will not go to a place - the Taliban - where they can easily be captured. To find that place where they can meet will not be so easy. There will be something similar to the talks between North Vietnam and the Americans. And to quote one important exchange of words in that remark, one of the last commanders in Vietnam on the American side said to the top person in North Vietnam, ‘You were never able to beat us in any open battle.’ And the North Vietnamese response was ‘Correct, but it is irrelevant.’ You can be a superpower as much as you want. You’re up against a force, incidentally, which has enormous amounts of world support. That simply is superior. So, instead of playing it with a ladder up to a helicopter on top of the embassy, I would guess that the Obama double plan - on the one hand, 30,000 more in; on the other hand, withdrawal, an invitation for the Taliban to look at their watch and wait, of course - will play itself out in a way very similar to Vietnam.
And in the meantime, others will be working. There were lots of non-governmental people working - Pugwash, for instance. I was a member of that one. I know a little bit about what happened. France played a certain role, no doubt about it. Russia played a role. China played a role. And what happened then, when 30 April 1975 was all over, was that the two Vietnams came together like that, and the thing handled itself. Afghanistan will handle itself. United States will have to receive a relatively high number of people who, after this is over, will find themselves on the wrong side of the divide. Many of them will, like good chameleons, change colour in the meantime.
I think much of the key to the solution is in a conference for the security and cooperation of Central Asia, modeled, if you will, on the Helsinki Conference that led to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. United States played a role in that one, but also sabotaged it by deploying its, I would say, ridiculous missiles back starting in the mid-1970s, and by the mid-1980s they had been deployed, thereby postponing the end of the Cold War, by the insight of most of the people that I know, by at least 10 years. Well, there could still be sabotage actions from the US side. Could be. But this is more or less the scenario I would have. Vietnam is the model.
Amy Goodman: We return to my interview with Johan Galtung, the father of peace studies. He was born in Oslo. When the Nazis occupied Norway, his father - a physician, prominent politician, vice mayor of Oslo, and a member of the resistance -was sent to a concentration camp. I asked Johan Galtung for his assessment of the US media’s coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Johan Galtung: I would wish that Al Jazeera could be visible in the USA in a more prominent way than as channel 275 on Comcast. You see, what Al Jazeera does is the following. It is not left-wing, not at all. I’ve been interviewed a couple of times, three times. I know how they operate. It’s multi-angular. You don’t present anything unless you have that Afghan position, that Afghan position, that US position, that Iranian position, or that Turkish position. You present that. And it comes, and all the people who are being interviewed are grilled by very talented people - that also happens in other channels - and it is then left to the viewers to draw their conclusion.
So what I find is that the discourse, as it’s cut by the US, is almost infantile. For instance, the figure terrorist. Look, I’m approaching 80. The Germans came and occupied our country in 1940. I was nine. I still remember how our resistance movement was referred to as terrorist, Goebbels. Terrorist, terrorist, terrorist.
Amy Goodman: The Norwegians.
Johan Galtung: Yes, it was people not in uniform attacking him. That is true. It was our resistance. It’s very hard to see it otherwise.
Amy Goodman: The Norwegians referred to as terrorists by the Nazis.
Johan Galtung: Precisely. And, of course, it was true that some used tactics - it’s a tactic, terrorism is a tactic - that sometimes was unnecessarily violent. It’s also true that some of them were extremist communists. Very, very true. And they were hoping for the reward after the war that the people enthusiastically would vote them into government. No, they didn’t get that. But at the same time, they were respected for what they had done. So, that is one, if you will, stupidity that should stop.
The other one is this inability to see the other side. Let us just look for a second into what happened on 9/11. I’ll give you in one sentence what about 100 dialogues around the world have led me to believe, including of course in countries very central to this. It was an extrajudicial execution of two buildings, probably heading for a third one - Langley, Virginia, CIA. Probably. Why? For having insulted Saudi Arabia, insulted economically by a pattern totally contrary to Wahhab visions of what is a valid economy, by having insulted the country militarily by the presence of nationals of totally different religions, infidels, and in the same time using the country for attacking another country, also Arab, also Muslim, a country that one can critique and criticise, but still a part of the ummah, the Muslim community.
Now, if you look at this, look at it that way, then you suddenly start understanding why Osama bin Laden said in one of his famous speeches in October, after 9/11, said, ‘You are now suffering the humiliation we suffered more than 80 years ago.’ You take 2001, you subtract 80, you come to 1921. But he said ‘more than’, so let us subtract five more, as a maximum - 1916, '17, ’18. Sykes - Picot; 1917, Balfour Declaration; 1918, the occupation of Istanbul. I remember I was eating in my apartment in Manassas, close to Washington, where my wife and I live in much pleasure much of our lives. I was hitting Googling to find out how many US media had picked up what happened more than 80 years ago. Amy, I found zero.
Now, the US is not very good at history. So that ridiculous formula, that we were attacked because people are envious and they're envious (of) our democracy and so on, was the one that went all over in the media and has been intoxicating and, I would say, making for the highly unintelligent analysis.
Now, what do you do? Imagine that what I say now is correct. Imagine that is more or less what happened and that it is consistent with what we have been told, that 15 out of the 19 hijackers were Saudi Arabians. Let’s imagine that’s correct. What do you do then? Maybe you go back to March 1945, and you look at the treaty. Maybe you have an Arabian-US commission to discuss it. Maybe at some point you don’t apologise. That is a tradition, which I don’t think so important. But maybe you say, for instance, that I wish it could be undone. Maybe you say that this was not the wisest thing we could have done onboard the aircraft carrier in the Suez Canal, with Ibn Saud, on the one hand, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on the other - one of the last things before he expired on 12 April 1945. Amy, you will now ask how can I remember that. That was the day my father was released from concentration camp, so it was a day with one shiny light and a very sad day. We admired and we loved Roosevelt, like most of the world loves America, but not US imperialism, you see.
And since you asked me about the US media, look, this is a country with so many universities, so many educated people, brilliant people, charming people, wonderful people. I don’t understand why the mainstream media have to market that much stupidity.
Amy Goodman: Johan Galtung, you dedicate this book, your latest book, ‘The Fall of the US Empire - And Then What?’, ‘to a country I love, the United States of America’. You write, ‘You will swim so much better without that imperial albatross around your neck. Drown it before it drowns you, and let a thousand flowers blossom!’ How…
Johan Galtung: I mean every word of it. I can even tell you that when I give talks about this, many places in the US, I put hand on heart and say, ‘I love the US republic, and I hate the US empire.’ You see, to many people, this doesn’t make sense. It’s called anti-American. No, no, no. I’ve had, I’ll tell you, people coming up to me saying that that remark relieved them of an enormous problem, namely, ‘I have so much difficulties with our foreign policy, our economic penetration, our cultural arrogance, our political manoeuvering and arms twisting, and yet I love my country.’ And what I try to say is that these are two different things, and the albatross is around your neck. Get rid of it. Give it up. Do the following four things. Very quickly.
Economically, trade for mutual benefit, fine, but equal benefit. And that means to examine the impact of your economic deals down to the last bottom, not only in a third world country, but maybe also in your own. Maybe you need some retraining of your economists to do that.
Militarily, pull your bases back. Eight hundred in 150 countries is madness. And instead of all that, conflict resolution, conflict resolution, conflict resolution. There are so many places in the US now where the young generation is being trained in it. They’re doing brilliant steps forward. A department of peace was suggested by Dennis Kucinich, and I think about 64 congressmen and women are behind it, something like that. A brilliant conception. And I’ll tell you one thing. If the US had that one and even permitted it to shine, as the famous castle up on the hill, all the love for the US around the world would return. It would be just fabulous.
Now, third thing, politically, no more arms twisting. Negotiation with the cards on the table, no threats, no nothing. No secret call by the US ambassador to UN, or whatever it is, to call in somebody and tell them that ‘if you do this and that, if you insist on this as your bargaining position, we will do something’, and so on. I know so many such stories.
Point four, get down from the idea of having a separate mandate from God, even a mandate to kill. The word is dialogue. The word is simply to say we have something that we can contribute - and you have from this marvelous, generous country. But others also have something. For instance, it seems that the Muslims have some good ideas about banking, like not lending more than 30 percent of your capital. Well, if your upper limit is 2,400 or something like that, then you’re a little bit high. And if that limit is considered too high and is abolished in 2004, and the sky is the limit, down it came. And it’ll come down again. US is today probably heading for a rather important crash and, in all probability, for a major devaluation of its currency.
Well, let us leave that aside. Let us just say new economic relations to other countries; conflict resolution instead of bases and invasions and interventions and special forces all around the world; negotiations with open cards, without tricks; and dialogue. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. All of the Americans I know very well, and many of them Jewish Americans, have extremely good talents for this. Why couldn’t that be more the tone and the tenor of US policy?
Amy Goodman: We have two minutes before the satellite ends. Johan Galtung, as you leave the United States, what do you want to leave US people here in the US with? Your thoughts?
Johan Galtung: We’re making the distinction between the empire and the republic and that the republic could do beautifully without the empire, like so many others have done before them. I can give you general public opinion studies around the world, let us say, in Muslim countries. About 85 per cent love the United States of America, like I and my Japanese wife do. About 85 per cent hate US foreign policy. You see, take that seriously. Just have a look at your military, economic, political and cultural foreign policy. They can be changed. It’s even relatively easy. Make yourself a normal country. No exceptionalism, please. A normal, wonderful country. Maybe you will find it in your interest to make North America a region, a Mex-US-Can, a Mexico, United States, Canada. That could also be a shiny light, with Mexico as a bridge to a Latin America which is now finding its own ways outside the Organisation of American States, a Latin American region. Well, put your fingers in the earth, find out where you are, and you will find marvelous rounds forward for an ever-better American republic.
Amy Goodman: Johan Galtung, founder of peace studies. His latest book is called ‘The Fall of the US Empire - And Then What?’ You can get a DVD of today’s broadcast at democracynow.org.
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* This interview was conducted by Democracy Now and recorded in video. It appears in two parts at http://www.democracynow.org/2010/9/16/johan_galtung_on_the_wars_in and http://www.democracynow.org/2010/6/15/i_love_the_us_republic_and
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Ghana’s paradox: Poverty despite political stability
Poverty in Ignorance
Poverty in Ignorance writes about the Ghanaian paradox of political stability alongside disastrous socio-economic indices:
‘Ghana may be the political success story of West Africa, however, its citizens have yet to experience a standard of living more associated with modern liberal democracies.
‘Ghana is routinely touted as one of Africa's “success stories” because of its political stability. Certainly the United States has invested a lot in this idea; the US Embassy complex rivals the Presidential Palace in size.
‘However a closer look at the economic statistics underlying that claim underscores what a miracle the country's stability is, considering that Ghana ranked 152 out of 189 countries in the latest Human Development Report, poorer even than Yemen, the Sudan, Haiti and even violence torn Pakistan and the Congo.
‘Only Afghanistan and even more desperate sub-Saharan countries rank lower, this despite a strong base of natural resources (the country wasn't known by Europeans as the Gold Coast for nothing) and agriculture, as well as recently discovered oil. As Forbes magazine recently commented, Ghana "shouldn't be poor, but it is”...
‘Therein lies the great problem facing the country. Ghana's “success” is that despite its continued economic woes, it hasn't become unstable, become a haven for extremists or turned anti-American. But it's hard to say how long will Ghanaians remain quiescent in the face of such poverty when their country has so much potential.’
Sami Ben Gharbia's Blog
Sami Ben Gharbia argues that increasing US activism in the Arab blogosphere supposedly to promote Internet freedom is hypocritical and counterproductive. To drive this point home, he quotes Egyptian blogger Alla Abd El Fattah:
‘To most Egyptians the alleged support to digital activism provided by US government, US companies and US non profits is irrelevant at best. For starters the interest and hype in what goes on down south is very selective. For instance the tens of thousands of Egyptian workers organizing factory strikes and posing the biggest challenge to the Mubarak regime at the moment are totally ignored by both media and policy makers. This is not some argument about slacktivism either. These factory workers are using blogs, Facebook, SMS and YouTube to organize, mobilize, and publicize their actions and grievances. Digital activism is very much a daily part of their movement. Even when the State Department notices actual activism happening, their interest and “support” can bring more harm than good. You see we notice how much the U.S. supports the “moderate” regimes that enjoy torturing us. And getting support from the same guys who finance the police, the military, state propaganda media and corruption is simply bad for an activist’s credibility (not to mention how most of us feel about the occupation of Iraq or the United States’ unconditional support for Israel). If the U.S. government is really interested in democracy in the Arab world, it should stop sending aid to the dictatorships, and just get out of the way.’
Mikocheni Report writes about a visit to Zanzibar as the island prepares for the upcoming general elections:
‘I did the usual survey of political opinions in Zenji while I was there the past week. From the man on the street, it sounds as though the predictions for the coming elections are positive. Taxi Driver Number One told me that Zanzibaris were only waiting for the elections to formalize the coalition government since Maalim Seif is the favorite candidate. Taxi Driver Number Two confirmed this, and the only CCM member I could corner said something along similar lines. Other things that I learned: Zanzibar is interested in renegotiating the terms of the Union in it's favor, consensus politics are preferable to oppositional politics, Eid ul Fitr gets celebrated for four days straight (!), the Zanzibari/Zanzibara distinction is alive and well.
‘The mood on the island was quite relaxed as far as I could tell, even though there were more campaign posters than there are Zanzibaris. Upon leaving, I got a bit of ribbing about not hanging around to see the vote... but much as I would love to watch Zanzibar ease in a genuine coalition government, elections is no time for a mainlander to be hanging around without a press pass.’
Swahili Street reports on the recently-released Annual Learning Assessment of Tanzanian schools:
‘Anecdotally, it is widely felt that Tanzania’s schools are struggling- despite notable increases in enrollment and an annual budget of over a billion dollars (that’s US, not Hong Kong) for education.
‘Uwezo - an initiative of Twaweza - decided to measure it and launched their findings just this morning (in the luxury of the Kilimanjaro Kempinski – always a questionable choice for NGO affairs, I feel). Their survey of over 22,000 households and their 42,000 children confirms suspicions. 80 percent of primary school leavers (that is, they have completed all seven years) can read to a level they should have reached in their second year, and maybe higher. And 70 percent of primary school leavers can deal with second year mathematics...
‘The full report is worth getting your hands on. To a non-specialist it appears pretty rigorous. Its outline of the assessment methodology is comprehensive but also easy to digest. This is important in a country where such survey findings can sometimes be distrusted. It would have been good to also include the processes around the household questionnaire that also appears to have been administered alongside the numeracy and literacy assessments...
‘Will things change? That’s not up to Uwezo/Twaweza, but they are bullish, particularly about the potential role of tech innovations in opening up data and information and Cash on Delivery as a means of delivering aid on the basis of results. We’ll see.’
The Malagasy Dwarf Hippo
Lova Rakotomalala calls on Madagascar to adopt more realistic and achievable development goals:
‘Malagasy people like to imagine what could have been when they compare the fate of their nation with the fate of their neighbor Mauritius. There was even the hope of somehow catching the right wave and rising like the "Asian Tigers" of a few decades ago. (Taiwan had a lot of geographical and biological similarities with Madagascar but it light-years away in terms of development)
‘Let's be clear, it's all a pipe dream now. Catching up with Mauritius, that ship has sailed, long gone like the Sarimanok, the first sail from Malaysia to land on the coast of Madagascar.
‘The issue at hand here is that there is a fair amount of self-loathing going on everytime Malagasy people reflect on the development of their country. It is not uncommon to hear from Malagasy: " We cannot do anything right, our leaders have failed us over and over".
‘Especially in this time of political crisis and uncertainty, trust is a scarce commodity amongst Malagasy and hope even rarer.
‘Maybe it is time to revisit the goals here.
‘Maybe if we accept that we will never be an economic powerhouse, we can start focusing on doing the things we can achieve.’
Nana Yaw Asiedu provides a short commentary about Westerners who still fall for ‘419’ internet scams:
‘Those “well-watered” Westerners who strike cyber friendships and business partnerships with West Africans, let me etch this on your minds: there are no gold nuggets glittering, and there is no fairy gold dust winnowing, on the streets; there is no gold bullion in the dingy rooms of faux royal families. Ergo, before your greed eggs you on to wire reckless dollars to criminal cliques in order to earn sky-high returns, won’t you at least take the time to learn about the social and business culture, names and norms?’
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* Dibussi Tande blogs at Scribbles from the Den.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Celebrities and the Taylor trial: Justice and false consciousness
Many people in the Western hemisphere are only familiar with the conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia through popular Hollywood films such as ‘Blood Diamonds’ and ‘Lords of War’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicolas Cage respectively.
But with the prosecution of the Special Court in Sierra Leone calling in the supermodel Naomi Campbell and Hollywood actress Mia Farrow as witnesses in the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, there has been a renewed focus on the conflicts in West Africa.
According to the Chief prosecutor Brenda Hollis, the Hollywood actor and the supermodel possess ‘important information for the trial chamber in relation to Mr Taylor’s possession of rough diamonds at a particular point in time … [which] supports the prosecution’s allegations that Mr Taylor received rough diamonds from the rebels in Sierra Leone, and used those rough diamonds for his personal enrichment as well as to procure arms and ammunition for the rebels in Sierra Leone’. The main objective of the prosecutor was to find out if Campbell had received diamonds from Charles Taylor after a dinner hosted by Nelson Mandela in South Africa in September 1997.
However, it remains unclear how a few diamonds given to the supermodel can link Charles Taylor with ‘blood diamonds’, his support of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone and with crimes against humanity, which is fundamental for the court case.
Calling in Campbell and Farrow as witnesses reflects an enhanced form of US-led psychological operations (PSYOP), where celebrities are used as a powerful instrument to create a false consciousness of international justice. The overall aim of this propaganda seeks to gain public support and legitimise Western-led military interventions into resource-rich African countries, by using the positive notions of democracy, human rights and international justice.
A CONTROVERSIAL COURT IN A CRISIS OF LEGITIMACY
In the light of comprehensive research on the war in Liberia carried out over the past seven years, it appears that the indictment, arrest and trial of Charles Taylor are extremely controversial.
In the West the dominant media and academics present the trial of Taylor as an example of international justice being applied in Africa. In contrast, many African politicians, scholars and commentators from across the political spectrum see the case of Taylor as marking an expansion of neocolonial jurisdiction in Africa, which selectively indicts African politicians who do not comply with the wishes of London, Paris and Washington.
The trial of Taylor marks the first example where an elected president in office has been indicted by a quasi-internal court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Special Court was established by Britain and the US through UN Security Council resolution 1315, which requested that the UN secretary-general ‘negotiate an agreement with the Government of Sierra Leone to create an independent special court’.
On 16 January 2002, the UN signed an agreement with the government of Sierra Leone which established the Special Court for Sierra Leone with the mandate ‘to prosecute persons who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996’.
At that time, the Sierra Leonean government, under the leadership of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, was backed by British and American political, economic and military power. For example, in May 1997, when the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), a breakaway group from the Sierra Leonean army, in cooperation with the RUF, succeeded in removing President Kabbah and installed Major-General Johnny Paul Koromah as head of state, Britain suspended Sierra Leone from the British Commonwealth in July, and on 8 October 1997, the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Sierra Leone.
Dena Montague, from the Arms Trade Research Center, World Policy Institute, notes that a number of foreign mining companies, such as American Mineral Fields, directed by Jean-Raymond Boulle, wished to see the return of Kabbah’s administration. They expressed interest in financing Kabbah’s reinstallment in exchange for diamond concessions, but they did not have the military means. Therefore, as Thomas K. Adams from the US Army War College points out, the private military corporation (PMC) Sandline International (directed by Tim Spicer, a former lieutenant colonel in the British Army) informed the press in March 1998 that Sandline ‘was asked by the British High Commissioner in Sierra Leone to help train and equip a local force capable of removing the generals’. Ten month later, President Kabbah was successfully reinstalled.
The people in Sierra Leone were already familiar with foreign PMCs, for in 1995, Executive Outcomes, founded in South Africa in 1989 and registered in the UK in 1993, drove the opposition forces to Kabbah out of Freetown, and chased them out of the diamonds fields. Adams notes that this operation was financed by the company Branch Energy in return for ‘the concession to operate the Koidu diamond field’. Reputedly, Branch Energy was owned by ‘Strategic Resource Groups, a British company based in the Bahamas, that in turn owned Executive Outcomes’. This, however, is disputed by Michael Grunberg from Sandline International, who in 2002 informed that ‘Sierra Leone's ability to pay Executive Outcomes and its other service providers depended upon the continued support of international funding agencies, in particular the IMF [International Monetary Fund]’. The payments to Executive Outcome ‘were being underpinned by the IMF’.
When the Kabbah administration faced new problems in 2000, after the RUF had taken several hundred UN military personnel as hostages in the diamond-rich Eastern province, Britain deployed around 1,000 soldiers who were directly involved in counterinsurgency activities, and the capture of RUF leader Foday Sankoh. This intervention took place shortly after Tony Blair had introduced his ‘Doctrine of the International Community’ in relation to the bombardment of Kosovo in 1999, which seeks to justify military intervention in the name of human rights, democracy and free trade.
As in the case of Kosovo, the intervention in Sierra Leone was described as a ‘humanitarian intervention’, and the notion of ‘blood diamonds’ became a powerful instrument to denounce the atrocities committed by the opposition to Kabbah’s administration.
It is in this context that the Special Court of Sierra Leone was established, which explains why the court from the very beginning has faced a crisis of legitimacy in West Africa. The court is being criticised for being a de facto US/UK court, based on the fact that it is predominantly funded by Britain and the US and all the chief prosecutors have been of American or British nationality, starting with David Crane, who was a former employee of the US Army. The prosecution is accused of selectively indicting individuals in line with the foreign policy agenda of the UK and US, which seeks to maintain British and American neocolonial dominance in the region, in order to safeguard UK/US-based private corporate access to natural resources, such as diamonds, gold, oil and uranium. This criticism is rooted in the long history of pan-African resistance against colonialism and neocolonialism.
THE INDICTMENT OF TAYLOR IN 2003
The way in which Taylor was indicted by the Special Court on 4 June 2003 has further added to the criticism of the Special Court in Sierra Leone.
Just as the peace conference between the government of Liberia and the two rebel groups, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), was about to begin in Ghana, the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court David Crane sent out through Interpol the indictment accusing Taylor on 17 counts. This included ‘being in the heart of a joint criminal enterprise’ to commit war crimes, crimes against humanity, and serious violations of international humanitarian law within the territory of Sierra Leone.
This blocked the hopes for a peaceful solution to the war in Liberia. With the support from a number of heads of African states who participated in the peace negotiations, such as Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast, John Kufuor of Ghana, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Toumani Touré of Mali, the arrest order was ignored and Taylor was flown back to Liberia in the Ghanaian presidential plane, because rumours stated that American and British intelligence services had planed to hijack Taylor’s official plane.
Two days after, LURD and MODEL launched a number of military attacks on strategic cities in Liberia. This resulted in a humanitarian disaster, and as the military pressure increased on Monrovia, President Bush stated that ‘President Taylor needs to step down so that his country can be spared further bloodshed.’ Bush further noted that Colin Powell was ‘working with Kofi Annan’, who was ‘working with others on the continent to facilitate that type of move’ that would ‘make Taylor … leave Liberia’.
On 13 August 2003, Taylor went into exile in Nigeria. In his farewell speech he accused Britain and the US of having denied the government of Liberia the ability to defend itself, by imposing an arms embargo and other sanctions on the country. He further emphasised that the war in Liberia ‘is an American war. LURD is a surrogate force … [the US] caused this war’.
Subsequently, the US facilitated a comprehensive military intervention in Liberia, which became one of the largest UN military missions in the world and de facto established Liberia as a neo-trusteeship under the UN, with the US as the lead agent. When Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became president of Liberia in 2006, she considered the Taylor issue as belonging to the past. But after a visit to Washington, she asked Nigeria to extradite Taylor to Liberia, and handed him over to the Special Court in Sierra Leone.
DOUBLE STANDARDS IN THE INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM
The critics of the Special Court further note that the indictment of Taylor, and the UN sanctions against Liberia which since 2000 were maintained by the accusations that the Liberian government supported the RUF in Sierra Leone, presents an example of double standards in relation to international justice and law.
They point to the fact that while the international community accused Liberia of supporting the RUF in Sierra Leone, they turned a blind eye to Guinea’s support of LURD in Liberia, which was backed by Britain and the US. Although this has been noted in a number of international reports, there has been very little international focus on the financial and logistical support of LURD’s insurgency in Liberia.
On 20 September 2002, Liberia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Monie Captan addressed this issue at the UN General Assembly, and stated that there is a ‘conspiracy of silence surrounding the prevailing war in Liberia waged by externally supported armed non-State actors’. At that time the RUF had been dissolved, which made Captan ask the assembly how it is ‘conceivable that Liberia can … continue to be punished by the Security Council on allegations of supporting a non-existent RUF in a non-existent war in Sierra Leone’, and point out that the arms embargo imposed on Liberia was ‘a flagrant violation of Liberia’s inherent right under Article 51 of the Charter to defend itself against armed attacks’.
The critique of double standards in relation to international justice in Africa is not limited to the Special Court in Sierra Leone. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is also being accused for being a neocolonial instrument. This notion gained momentum when the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC Luis Moreno-Ocampo in June 2009 stated that there is a need for the ICC to cooperate with the US military to enforce ICC arrest warrants in Africa.
Many African politicians and commentators have raised the question of why the ICC is targeting Africans, and not people such as Tony Blair, George W. Bush and former prime minister of Denmark and now secretary general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, for war crimes in Iraq. The ICC indictment of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan has made many African countries work against the ICC. For example, in June 2010 the African Union (AU) was close to adopting a resolution stating that AU member states would not cooperate with the ICC in the arrest and surrender of President Bashir.
USING GENOCIDE, BLOOD DIAMONDS AND CELEBRITIES TO SHAPE PUBLIC OPINION
The critique of the Special Court in Sierra Leone and the ICC echoes classical realist theory in international relations, which considers international law as rules made by the most powerful states to safeguard their interests. In reality, strong states do what they want; weak states do what they can. But since there are very few enforcement mechanisms in international law, the system relies heavily on the world public opinion.
In this relation, it must be noted that powerful states are not the slave of public opinion, but shape public opinion through propaganda or psychological warfare, by appealing to people’s intellectual convictions, moral valuations, emotional preferences, fear and guilt. Former advisor to President Clinton Josephs Nye describes this as ‘soft power’, which is about shaping the ‘preferences of others to want what you want’.
The use of celebrities in international politics has increasingly become a powerful instrument to shape public opinion and frame the debate. For example, when the US wanted a military intervention in Darfur, celebrities, perhaps unwittingly, helped shaping the world public opinion in favour of such intervention. Mia Farrow and George Clooney publicly expressed their outrage against the atrocities in Darfur, and promoted the notion of genocide. This was further aided by the unification of more than 500 civil society groups from across the political spectrum in favour of a Western-led military intervention into Darfur.
Steven Spielberg, for his part, said that he would boycott the Olympics in China because of China’s strong bilateral relations with the government of Sudan. At the end of the day, China did not use its veto power in the UN Security Council to block for the establishment of the UN military mission in Darfur.
Most scholars and commentators refrained from asking critical and fundamental questions such as: Why does Washington add the label ‘genocide’ to the conflict in Darfur? How is this connected to China’s oil concessions in Darfur and South Sudan, and most importantly, who funds the rebels?
From a realist perspective, such questions will immediately lead the attention to the role of Britain, France, the US and their allies, in relation to great power rivalry over access to the oil resources, where proxy wars and psychological warfare plays a central role. As in the case of Iraq – where former US Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan notes that ‘it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge … [that] the Iraq war is largely about oil’ – most journalists, scholars and celebrities have refrained from linking the issue of oil in Darfur with the armed conflict.
Besides the oil resources within Darfur, the region represents a geopolitical strategic area because of pipelines. If the oil-rich South Sudan becomes an ‘independent’ state, where US AFRICOM (Africa Command) will provide the security, it is most likely that the Chinese oil companies gradually will be replaced by US-based oil companies. But the US will still need to get the oil out of South Sudan, and it is unlikely that the US will rely on the pipeline going from South Sudan to Port Sudan in the North. Instead the Chad–Cameroon oil pipeline can be extended to South Sudan through Darfur, which means that the oil from South Sudan can be pumped directly to the terminal in Cameroon. This will make the shipping route to the US cheaper and faster, but it demands US control over parts of Darfur.
Iraq and Sudan are not the only examples where the oil factor is neglected and deafened by the rhetoric of humanitarianism and Hollywood actors. ‘Operation Restore Hope’ in Somalia in 1992 was presented as a ‘humanitarian military intervention’; Hollywood produced, in cooperation with the US Department of Defense, the popular film Black Hawk Down, released in 2001. Most commentators have ignored the link between US willingness to intervene militarily in Somalia and oil resources. At the time of the intervention, nearly two-thirds of Somalia was allocated to US-based oil companies, most notably Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips. Conoco’s compound in Mogadishu was transformed into a de facto American embassy and military headquarters. According to a declassified cable from the US embassy in Mogadishu to State Department headquarters, Conoco was ‘investing in oil exploration in Somalia on a scale unmatched by its rivals, building roads and airstrips … [and had] recruited a well armed force … to provide security’. But without a more stable situation Conoco would not be able to operate properly.
Ignoring the role of oil is no different to the case of Liberia. Although the first oil exploration began in Liberia more than 50 years ago, and oil resources have been publicly mapped since 1982, most journalists and scholars have marginalised, ignored or completely rejected the idea that there were links between the Liberian armed conflicts and the oil resources. While the mainstream public focus was concentrated on celebrities and ‘blood diamonds’, Chevron announced, in September 2010, their ‘entry into … the large prospective offshore areas’ in Liberia, allowing Chevron to advance their growth strategy in the region.
The naming of genocide in Darfur, the promotion of a ‘humanitarian’ military intervention in Somalia and the notion of ‘blood diamonds’ in Liberia and Sierra Leone can from a realist perspective be seen as examples of sophisticated psychological warfare and propaganda. They are all powerful concepts that seek to divert public attention away from the real underlying political and economic interests, while at the same time promoting public support for military interventions.
The popular overarching concept and slogan to support such interventions is the ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P). This concept was developed by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, established by the Canadian government. The basic principle of the R2P is that ‘where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect’.
It is difficult not to agree with these noble words and good intentions, in a similar way that it is difficult not to agree with the idea of human rights, democracy and international justice. But it is important to note that one of the main promoters of the R2P is Australia’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs Gareth Evans, who himself has been indirectly connected to crimes against humanities in East Timor, during the process of securing oil concessions to Australian-based companies. Evans also served as the president of the International Crisis Group, which is connected to the Enough campaign, the Save Darfur Coalition and to the Centre for American Progress, which is associated with a number of influential political actors such as former US Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb.
When taking these important factors into consideration, the notion of the responsibility to protect can be seen as a modern version of Kipling’s ‘White Man’s Burden’, where celebrities are used as powerful instruments of propaganda in the promotion of Western-led military interventions, and where the real political and economic interests are disguised by a positive humanitarian rhetoric.
THE FLAWS OF THE KIMBERLEY PROCESS
Blood diamonds are associated with slave labour, murder, rape, the amputation of body parts and terrorism. An example of the latter is well captured in an article in the Washington Post, shortly after 9/11, when staff writer Douglas Farah published an extensive article that connected Charles Taylor and blood diamonds to al Qaeda. According to Farah, the Washington Post had obtained a copy of a military intelligence summary, which offered ‘the clearest picture yet of al Qaeda’s secretive business operations in West Africa’. According to the Washington Post, ‘preparations for al Qaeda’s diamond operation began in September 1998, six weeks after the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania’, and after the 9/11 attack two senior al Qaeda operatives were ‘hiding in an elite military camp in Liberia’.
It can be assumed that linking West African diamonds to crimes against humanity and terrorism should affect consumer confidence in the market. But in 2000, the UN Security Council encouraged the International Diamond Manufacturers Association, the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, the Diamond High Council and ‘all other representatives of the diamond industry to work with the Government of Sierra Leone’ to develop methods that could distinguish between blood/conflict diamonds and non-blood/conflict diamonds, with the aim of implementing a ‘Certificate of Origin regime’.
These institutions and companies established the World Diamond Council (WDC) with the ‘ultimate mandate’ to facilitate ‘the development, implementation and oversight of a tracking system for the export and import of rough diamonds to prevent the exploitation of diamonds for illicit purposes such as war and inhumane acts’. This resulted in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), which subsequently was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 6 February 2002.
But the problem with the Kimberley Process is, as was pointed out in a UN Report of the Panel of Experts to UN Security Council, that the ‘experiences of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire show how difficult it actually is to separate out conflict diamonds from other alluvials’.
This view corresponds with a number of former and current Liberian government officials, who note that diamonds from Liberia can easily be transported and sold in Conakry and obtain a certificate of Guinean origin. In reality the Kimberley Process has very little impact on the diamonds trade in the region, and many people in the Taylor administration saw the notion of ‘blood diamonds’ as British and American instigated war propaganda, disseminated through funding of NGOs such as Global Witness and the International Crisis Group. The notion of blood diamonds became central in the mainstream denunciation of the Liberian government under the leadership of Charles Taylor, while the promotion of the Kimberley Process ensured consumer confidence in the international diamond market. But in reality it is not possible to distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ diamonds.
GETTING PUBLIC ATTENTION ON THE TRIAL OF TAYLOR
The Kimberley Certificate provides no guarantee, and if Mia Farrow owns a diamond, she cannot be sure of its origin, just as the diamonds that Campbell received from Taylor cannot per se be classified as ‘blood diamonds’, as is often presented in the dominant media. It is very easy to buy raw diamonds in the streets of Monrovia, but impossible to find out where the diamonds come from.
It is not that significant that a president from a country with a lot of diamonds is using diamonds in public representation to buy sympathy from other states or individuals. The fact that Taylor gave some raw diamonds to a supermodel has little to do with the actual court case, and it is very difficult to see how it can establish the connection between Taylor and the RUF in Sierra Leone, which is the foundation for the case.
Involving celebrities in the trial of Taylor attracts and shapes world public opinion in support of a positive notion of international justice, at a time where international courts increasingly are being associated with Western neocolonial jurisdiction in Africa. But this is a false notion of international justice, and the propaganda diverts focus away from the reality, which is being replaced by surreal Hollywood shows, with supermodels and popular actors.
A genuine interest in promoting international justice in Africa must include critical analyses of the root causes of the conflicts, in order to identify, indict and bring to court all key actors suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity. This will, in particular, include external state powers such as France, the UK and the US, as well as the private business corporations involved in the conflicts.
The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC) finding number 19 states that:
‘External State Actors in Africa, North America and Europe, participated, supported aided, abetted, conspired and instigated violence, war and regime change against constituted authorities in Liberia and against the people of Liberia for political, economic and foreign policy advantages or gains.’
When researching the role of the United States in West African conflicts, and in particular in Liberia, it becomes clear that the US is one of the main key actors. Therefore, in order to ensure real international justice for the crimes committed in Liberia, scholars, journalists, governments, and civil society groups, should take the TRC’s finding number 19 seriously, and demand the establishment of an ‘Independent International Special Commission for the Investigation of the Role of External State Actors in the Liberian Conflict from 1979 till 2003’, with the mandate to look into the possibility of taking those state actors that bear the greatest responsibility for the wars in the West African region, to be tried by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Experience can be drawn from the case of Nicaragua against the United States in the mid-1980s, where the United States was convicted for state terrorism in the form of the unlawful use of force against Nicaragua. Although the case did not stop the United States from continuing to destabilise Nicaragua, it became more difficult because people became more aware of the external manipulation of civil society groups and American propaganda.
In a similar way, a social movement demanding an independent investigation into the West African conflicts will bring attention to the role played by powerful external actors. This will increase the general public consciousness about the real root causes of the conflicts, which can further help academics, journalists, and celebrities to promote real international justice across the world.
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* Niels Hahn is a PhD researcher at the Department of Development Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Brenda Hollis (2010). In an interview with the BBC, broadcasted August 4, 2010 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-10864688)
 Psychological Operations can in practice be difficult to distinguish from Psychological Warfare (PSYWAR). For more information on these concepts of warfare, see US Department of Defence (1993), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff,. Memorandum of Policy no 30 (issued- 17 July, 1990. Command and Control Warfare. (http://www.dod.gov/pubs/foi/reading_room/732.pdf)
 The research has been carried out in relation to a PhD thesis at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, which focuses on neoliberalism and contemporary modalities of neocolonialism. Data has been collected over several years of field research in Liberia, which includes more than 150 interviews with key people who were involved in the armed conflicts in the West African region. This includes a number of former and present Ministers and Heads of State, Army Officers from most fractions of the conflicts, academics, Civil Society Organisations, etc.
 UN Security Council Resolution 1315, article 1. S/RES1315 (2000)
 Agreement Between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone on the Establishment of a Special Court for Sierra Leone (2002), Article 1.
 BBC (2000). What can the Commonwealth do? (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/749078.stm)
 Montague, D. (2002), page 235. ‘The Business of War and the Prospects for Peace in Sierra Leone.’ The Brown Journal of World Affairs IX(1): 229 - 237.
 Adams, T. K. (1999). ‘The new mercenaries and the privatization of conflict.’ US Army War College 29(2).
 Adams (ibid)
 Grunberg, M. (2002). ‘Comment by Sandline International.’ from http://www.sandline.com/comment/list/comment43.html
 BBC (2003) (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/africa/2000/sierra_leone/default.stm)
 Blair, T. (1999). Doctrine of the International Community. (http://www.globalpolicy.org/globaliz/politics/blair.htm)
 See David Crane’s profile at Syracuse University. (http://www.law.syr.edu/faculty/facultymember.aspx?fac=152)
 Hahn, N. S. C. (2008). ‘Neoliberal Imperialism and Pan-African Resistance.’ Journal of World Systems Research XIII(2): 142 - 178. (http://jwsr.ucr.edu/archive/vol13/Hahn-vol13n2.pdf)
 The Special Court for Sierra Leone (2003). The Indictment was issued on March 3, 2003, but sealed and kept secret till it was unsealed on June 4, 2003. (http://www.sc-sl.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=5glkIHnmPYM=&tabid=159)
 Paasewe, S. V. (2006) page 190-191. Neocolonialism in Africa - Liberia: the Last Target. Calabar, Uptriko Press.
 Bush (2003). New York Times, June 26, 2003. (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/26/international/africa/26CND-LIBE.html)
 Taylor (2003). BCC 10 August, 2003. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3140211.stm)
 Confidential source from high positioned Liberian government official. Interviewed by Niels Hahn, February 5, 2009.
 See for example International-Crisis-Group (2002), page 4. Liberia: The Key To Ending Regional Instability. London, International Crisis Group. Report No. 43, 24 April.
 Captan (2002). Address by His Excellency Prof. Monie R. Captan, Minister of Foreign Affairs to the 57th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, 20 September 2002. (http://www.un.org/webcast/ga/57/statements/020920liberiaE.htm)
 Al-Bulushi, S. and A. Branch (2010) Africom and the ICC: Enforcing international justice in Africa? Pambazuka News - Pan-African Voices for Freedom and Justice. Issue 143.
 See Sudan Tribune, July 26, 2010. (http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?page=imprimable&id_article=35765)
 Morgenthau, H. J. (2006). Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace. New York, McGraw-Hill.
 Nye, J. S. (2004). Soft Power - The Means to Success in World Politics. New York, Public Affairs, a member of the Perseus Books Group.
 See Mia Farrow, The Darfur Archives (http://www.miafarrow.org/darfur-archives.html) and ABC New, April 30, 2006. George Clooney Speaks About Crisis in Darfur. (http://abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek/story?id=1907005)
 Mamdani, M. (2007) The Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency. London Review of Books. (http://www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n05/mahmood-mamdani/the-politics-of-naming-genocide-civil-war-insurgency)
 Telegraph, February 13, 2008. Steven Spielberg boycotts Chinese Olympics (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1578577/Steven-Spielberg-boycotts-Chinese-Olympics.html)
 Greenspan, A. (2007). The Age of Turbulence - Adventures in a New World. New York, The Penguin Press. See page 463.
 See Hahn, N. S. C. (2008). ‘Neoliberal Imperialism and Pan-African Resistance.’ Journal of World Systems Research XIII (2): 142 - 178. (http://jwsr.ucr.edu/archive/vol13/Hahn-vol13n2.pdf). Section on The Rhetoric of Empire and Civil Society, page 157.
 US Today (2001). May, 29, 2001. Pentagon Provides for Hollywood (http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/2001-05-17-pentagon-helps-hollywood.htm#more)
 Fineman, M. (1993). The Oil Factor in Somalia. Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, Republished by Nomadnet (http://www.netnomad.com/fineman.html).
 (Cable from US Embassy in Mogadishu to State Department Headquarters. 21 March 1990. Cable Number: Mogadishu 02844. Freedom of Information Act release 2006-01-286 to Keith Yearman). See The Conoco – Somalia Declassification Project (http://www.cod.edu/people/faculty/yearman/somalia.htm)
 Tolbert, W. R. (1971). Republic of Liberia - Presidential Papers. Documents, Diary and Record of Activities of the Chief Executive. E. Mansion. Monrovia, Executive Mansion. See page 270.
 GTZ, G. f. T. Z. (1982). Resource map of Liberia. Copy of specific pages can be retrieved at (firstname.lastname@example.org).
 Chevron (2010) Press Release September 8, 2010. Chevron to Acquire Deepwater Interests Offshore Liberia. Entry expands Chevron’s presence in West Africa in a promising new geological trend. (http://www.chevron.com/chevron/pressreleases/article/09082010_chevrontoacquiredeepwaterinterestoffshoreliberia.news)
 International Commission on Intervention and state Sovereignty (ICISS), 2001. Report of the ICISS, page XI. (http://www.iciss.ca/members-en.asp)
 See John Pilger (1994), Documentary: ‘Death of a Nation’, from min. 0:56. Can be retrieved from (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhaBSPGBXco)
 Korb (2008). Personal communication with Lawrence Korb, Copenhagen, September 18, 2008.
 Farah. D. (2002). Washington Post, December 29, 2002; page A01. (http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/CCT510/Sources/washingtonpost-Africans_Al-Qaeda_Diamonds-12-29-02.html)
 UN Security Council, July 5, 2000. S/RES1306 (2002), article 10. (http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N00/517/01/PDF/N0051701.pdf?OpenElement)
 World Diamond Council (http://www.worlddiamondcouncil.com/)
 UN General Assembly (2002). Resolution 56/263. The role of diamonds in fuelling conflict: breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to prevention and settlement of conflicts (http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N01/497/66/PDF/N0149766.pdf?OpenElement)
 UN Security Council (2001). Report of the Panel of experts pursuant to Security Council resolution 1343 (2001), paragraph 19, concerning Liberia. See page 16. (http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/committees/Liberia2/1015e.pdf)
 Richardson, J. (2009). Former National Security Advisor of Liberia under Taylor's administration. Interview recorded on February 21, by Niels Hahn, at the Royal Hotel in Monrovia.
Allen, C. (2009). Chairperson of the National Patriotic Party of Liberia (NPP), during Taylor's administration Interview recorded on April 7, by Niels Hahn, in his home in Paynesville, Monrovia.
Dunbar, J. (2006). Former Minister of Land, Mines and Energy, Republic of Liberia. Interview recorded in his home in Monrovia by Niels Hahn. June 16, 2006.
 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (2009). Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (TRC). Monrovia. 1: Findings and Determinations.
 See Hahn (2009) Recommendations to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia. (http://centrum.humanitasafrika.cz/en/library/catalogue/article/11)
 International Court of Justice (1986). International Court of Justice. Case Concerning the Military and Paramilitary Activities in and Against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America. International Court of Justice. (http://www.icjcij.org/docket/index.php?sum=367&code=nus&pl=3&p2=3&case=70&k=66&p3=5)
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Rwanda: Answering the critics
President Kagame: Rwanda’s case has been a little bit complex; we really have dealt with very complex situations, some of which have also formed some lessons for us. We always learn as we go along. In dealing with some of our problems we find that you don’t find precedents, you don’t easily find a textbook (laughs) from which you can easily say, elsewhere things were like this, they were handled like this...
Sometimes we have had to do things even through experimentation, it is a learning experience...but you will find that we’ve been dealing with the situation, trying to deal with our problems, stemming from our own history, our own culture, even traditions, but that is always converging with other things, there are also external factors, regional, African and beyond, that come in (and complicate matters further). There is a lot of sorting, looking for these tiny things about Rwanda, like you are picking millet grain from thick grass…
What do I mean? Let me explain. The genuineness of the people, you see this will always escape the pen of many when they come to write (on Rwanda), but for different reasons. One important reason that I have frequently seen, it’s like there are different narratives you can get from it, but there is one constant one that comes out, and this has got more to do with external factors than internal ones…these journalists, these observers, they don’t see for some reason I don’t understand, and if they see it they don’t want to believe it.
They see that maybe something is happening here in Rwanda, and that at least for the Rwandans it matters a lot, and yet when Rwanda is being analysed this doesn’t come out. They will still write, in Rwanda, the Hutu, the Tutsi, they will maintain that narrative about this divide, as of old; it is standard. Yet when you see the mass, the people out there, you cannot see the Tutsis alone, or Hutus who have been coerced to come there.
It’s Rwandans who have come there because they identify with something. But this never comes out, even for people who see it many times. It’s like, Kagame, the RPF, are an imposition on Rwanda, the Rwanda which is supposed in their mind to be the divide between the Hutu and the Tutsi, period. They even talk of the RPF or Kagame being up there and not being linked with the people. That narrative comes out, it plays out every day, irrespective of any evidence you may give to the world and say no, that is not true. It is linked with this constant criticism: lack of political space, Kagame being autocratic, or even oppressive. It’s like here in Rwanda people really have no breathing space; they are coerced into something, outside their own will; they have something else in mind but we are pushing them, it is against their will that some things are happening. In fact it is even as if even for the progress that you may have alluded to and many have alluded to, it always happens by force.
They’ll always be like, yes, there is progress but at what cost? What it is intended to portray is, like, progress yes…and they say yes, also because, even if you hate Rwanda and you are blind you cannot fail to see whether there is progress or not (laughs)…so the argument goes, yes, there is progress, but at what cost?
Jenerali Ulimwengu: On the negative image in some quarters about Rwanda. Is it a question of bad PR that Rwanda is not fully appreciated for what it has done over the two decades, that people dismiss it as a small country that is easy to govern under a dictatorship?
President Kagame: Let me admit about PR. For me it is not so recent. The story of it... Our PR might be poor, and that doesn’t help to set things right in our case, but I still think that is a lesser problem. The bigger problem is, even in our region, when (someone says they are able to do what they are doing) because it’s a small country, well, for being a small country that is a fact, I have no quarrel with that. But that kind of response is also associated with progress, which brings its own problems.
The success we have had has created problems for us as well. Not everybody is genuine enough to accept. It’s human, not all people will give credit where credit is due, for one reason or another. In fact it is not uncommon…there is simple evidence that even in conferences that have taken place over the last 10 years or so, in which people coming from all over the world and who talk about what Rwanda has achieved, I have told my people: One, when you hear these things, don’t get drunk, because there is a danger of falling into complacency from getting drunk because people are saying you are making good progress and you stop making progress or you even start going down.
Number two, I also said, be prepared, that there will be a backlash of some sort, fair or unfair, mainly unfair because people will say, ‘Why Rwanda? It’s not even true.’ For example, a Ugandan writer who was brought here by a colleague of his because this writer had been in Uganda (writing negatively) about Rwanda, so this friend of his brings him here. And you can see that it’s not like this man had no eyes to see, because at some point he was agreeing, saying, ‘yes there is progress’, and later, ‘yeah, there is even more progress’, but all of a sudden he flips back and says, ‘No, it’s all rubbish. It’s because of something else.’
But I was going to say that in the conferences that have taken place over the years, when somebody at the UN says something about Rwanda, and another one comes and says, in Rwanda we have experienced this, whether it’s in AIDS or in education, or in agriculture and food security, and they say, we are happy to be partners with Rwanda, when we put in our money we see the returns in terms of outputs and so forth. Some become so resentful about the whole idea of talking about Rwanda and they detach it from why there is this story about Rwanda, the fact that universal primary education covers 92 per cent and it is a fact and there is evidence, it’s what it is and it’s true, and whether it happens in Rwanda or somewhere else people are bound to praise it. But if you praise it in the case of Rwanda somehow it is not accepted.
Now, number three. The world we live in is very complex. We have had running battles, almost everyday, with these so-called partners of ours. Sometimes we do things and even if they agree with what we have done, they will still say, ‘Why didn’t you tell us? We hear you are doing this, why didn’t you tell us?’ And we say, ‘But we are telling you.’
And it’s as if really a relationship, as of old, has been established that we the Rwandans, the Africans, are probably less human and we may not know what we want or what we deserve, or what we should be having, so someone should be telling us.
It’s an old story, whether it is from slavery to colonialism to post-independence. It’s like we need permission. I’ll give you an example: Two to three years ago we took a decision on what we wanted to do to transform our agriculture. We had things like a crop specification programme, to concentrate on certain crops, to fight hunger, find the markets. And we concentrated these crops in areas where they grow best; and this one-cow programme that you may have heard about, and so on. Not because it was really something new, it’s a known fact that many countries have done similar things.
So we did this regionalisation, divided our country into regions: Where does tea grow best? Where does maize grow best? We never used to grow maize here in Rwanda. And the moment we said we are going to do this and we laid out our policy, we had a backlash from the donors. They resisted.
The first thing they resisted was the one-cow programme. It came from the World Bank, noises were made by the UN. One time I confronted the World Bank person and said, ‘What do you have against the special crop intensification programme?’ They (attempted an argument) but in the end someone confided in me, saying, ‘You know what, these people (a European power is named) are really hard on us and they are asking us to tell you to stop this programme. You are forcing people to grow maize…you are making them cut down their banana plantations. You are really interfering with the people’s way of life…’
On the one-cow programme, all donors refused to give their money. Only this Nigerian who was with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said, ‘I’m going to give you, I’ll give Rwanda $5 million for the next five years.’ Everybody else was opposed to it, and we could not understand the rationale, the reason for opposing it. So we said we are going to do it, even if you don’t put in your money. We are going to do it from our little resources; we are going to do it. Today, these programmes, including the one-cow project, have transformed millions of lives.
We have thousands of families who never had an income in their lives, who are now building homes, they are buying cars, they are buying motorcycles from the maize they have been growing. And you go there and they tell you the story themselves, or they show you. An area that had so many grass thatched houses, and all of a sudden, the people have proper houses.
Let nobody tell you lies. These people don’t want Africans to move out of their poverty. They will always say the right things, but when it comes to doing they will always keep us…and it’s really unfortunate that Africans don’t understand this. The West, this developed world, don’t want us to get out of poverty, because we must remain beholden to them; and they must always be the do-gooders who do things for you. If you break out of that, or if you are seen to be breaking out of that, you are committing an offence.
And I’m saying this from real practice. For me I’ve come to believe this because I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it, I have evidence for it. It comes from many things. It’s like they are saying, ‘these stubborn Rwandans’ and by that they are saying, ‘these stubborn Africans’. And it’s even dangerous because you may infect others with this spirit of being rebellious, doing things your way. I believe it, I experience it, I confront people on this everyday.
I don’t even bring it up except where it really concerns what I’m doing because it keeps bringing up other backlashes. Then they will bring up human rights, repression - they divert you from doing what matters to you, explaining yourself every day. So they create these suspicions so that every day you are caught up in explaining yourself.
When our officials in the ministry of finance and elsewhere meet with these middle level officials of these powers they are always asked: ‘Why are you doing this? Why didn’t you tell us?’ And are we people respond by saying: ‘Why do we have to tell you? Why must we first clear it with you?’ They say they are our partners, but at the same time they also own us and own these processes.
In 1995, when we talked about imidugudu (local assemblies) we were told: ‘Oh, you see you are going to force people to live together, you are bringing Ujamaa that failed in Tanzania.’ And we said: ‘No, we are not bringing Ujamaa, and whatever Ujamaa was, we are not interfering with land and property, we are not taking anything away from anybody.’ We went to the extent of telling them: ‘But even you, in Europe and other places, you live inmidugudu. We fly over all these areas and we see midugudu So what’s wrong when we also want to do it? And even Ujamaa, if it was the choice of the Tanzanians, what is wrong?’
Then later on, surprisingly, they turned around and accepted it, only giving it another name, these so-called millennium villages. The same people who were opposed to our concept have it under another name. Actually they have seen that where we established midugudu, they have served people well.
Jenerali Ulimwengu: About security in the region, the attack on General Kayumba, the fate of General Nkunda…
President Kagame: The problems have calmed down, though some persist. For example, we have evidence that some people in the region are involved in some unacceptable activities regarding our country. When we ask them about this they say ‘no, no, no’, but then we show them the evidence and they are forced to accept and they give excuses.
For instance we have evidence that the people who were involved in the shooting of Nyamwasa (General Kayumba, former Rwanda chief of staff, shot in Johannesburg recently), we have evidence that his driver, who was involved in the shooting, went to South Africa from (mentions an East African country) with a passport (from another East African country). He is the man who was involved in this act. He was the driver and he colluded with some people in shooting Nyamwasa.
Now, what is surprising to us is that the South African authorities have talked about all the other people, they have talked of Tanzanians, they talked about Somalis, Kenyans, Rwandese, but they never talked about this nationality of the passport of the driver. And we have a copy of his passport.
And we’ve been wondering: why do the South Africans continue to keep quiet about this person? We have the passport, it was specially given. But you will never see a (mentions the nationality) being mentioned as being one of the suspects. I don’t know, but it happened between (mentions country again) and South Africa. But we see this connection here.
When I said that there were people in the region who were more interested in our affairs than in their own affairs (a remark Kagame had made at a press conference a day earlier), it becomes too obvious. Even these criminals, these boys who have been publishing these destructive stories about our country, the two who were banned, live in that country. In fact one or both of them was supposed to appear in court and he escaped, and they are living in that country, with the knowledge of the government there. They are being shielded. So these things are there, we manage them quietly, but they haven’t flared up into anything significant.
Concerning (General Laurent) Nkunda, we intend to find a third country to receive him. There are issues about handing him over to the Congolese, but all these issues are debatable. In fact our ministers of justice (of Congo and Rwanda) are dealing with this matter, looking at all the options. In this we are looking at a number of things. One, we clearly don’t want to stay with him. Now that leaves us with a number of options: one is to hand him to the government of Congo. The other is to agree with Congo that we hand him over to a third party and completely get rid of him from the region, from the area and out of the equation. So these are options that we intend to discuss with our Congolese colleagues, and our action will depend on the outcome of those discussions.
But one sure thing, one option we don’t want, is keeping him, because it gives us the task of policing him, which we don’t want, or of being responsible for anything that he does while he is here, we don’t want that.
Well, we can’t keep him in prison for ever. We have him, we hold him so that he doesn’t cause problems again where he came from. He can’t be released and stay here freely because that may come with certain consequences. The other option would be to give him to the DRC, but what does it mean? This is what the two ministers are looking at. Looking at all things together this seems to be the most favourable (giving him to a third country), but it’s something we want to agree on.
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* Jenerali Ulimwengu, chair of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper, is a political commentator and civil society activist based in Dar es Salaam.
* This interview first appeared in the The Citizen on 1 September 2010.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
SA left lacks leadership and vision
Mphutlane wa Bofelo
The outcry by many workers that the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) sold them out during the recent public workers strike, and the inability of the broader left to link-up and consolidate the various initiatives towards a strong left alternative, reflects a crisis of leadership in South Africa. It also reflects a leadership whose actions are not necessarily informed by the mandate of the people and the conditions they face.
The cry of the most marginalised communities is for political and organisational platforms that returns power to the people and puts them at the centre of the formulation and implementation of policy decisions. Part of this cry is for radical left political parties and sociopolitical movements to consolidate themselves into a strong and dynamic alternative capable of seizing political and economic power and locating it in the hands of the people through genuine participatory democratic and egalitarian processes and structures. Unfortunately it seems as if it is the rightwing and centrist capitalist parties that are more serious in consolidating themselves to replace the neo-liberal capitalist politics of the ANC.
The new relationship between the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Independent Democrats (ID), which will ultimately result in the dissolution of the ID into the DA, once again reflects how rightwing and centrist parties can overlook the differences among the various models of capitalism to galvanise themselves around a shared vision and common goals.
The ability to put more emphasis on points of agreement, rather than disagreement, and to put collective vision above differences in personalities, leadership style and organisational cultures requires the subjugation of personal and organisational egos to the ultimate goal of the collective. This in itself requires selflessness, foresight, pragmatism and innovativeness. It is therefore ironical and tragic that rightwing and centrist parties fare far better than leftist parties and movements when it comes to the ability to work together around a common program of action centered on a shared ideological and political program, and informed by the practical conditions on the ground.
At the moment the masses of South Africa are crying for an alternative way of doing politics - away from the capture of state power and the economy by a tiny political and corporate elite. This is an opportune moment for leftists of all shades to move out of an ideological straightjacket and find each other so as to build a powerful, grassroots-based, people-centered radical alternative to the way politics and the economy are run.
While rightwing capitalist parties seem determined to risk moving out of their comfort zones so as to embrace each other and find ways of consolidating their presence even at the expense of some parties swallowed up by others, leftist parties and movements seem to still be concerned about flags, personalities and names.
In the main, they are still spending too much time on what particular brand of socialism, Black Consciousness or Pan-Africanism is being sold than what points of agreement there might be. They are too afraid to re-imagine a way of viewing and (re) making the world which Frantz Fanon, Steve Biko, Lillian Ngoyi, Leopold Senghor, Cheik Anta Diop, Rosa Luxemburg, Amlicar Cabral, Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky, Tomas Sankara, and Vladimir Lenin could not have imagined. Rather than update, build on, and move beyond the thoughts and actions of these thinkers and activists, our leftists are keener to imitate them, regurgitate their sayings, recycle their ideas, fight over their tombs and claim sole right to interpret their words and deeds.
The main barrier to alliances, coalitions, partnerships and cooperation between left-leaning political parties and socio-political movements is more to do with personal and organisational egos, dogmatism and fear of trying something new than with the shortage of areas of agreement or lack of possibilities for alternative ways of doing things. If the issue of a name can be such a stumbling block, why can’t the Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo) and Socialist Party of Azania (Sopa) simply settle for Azapo/Sopa and get on with the real work of building real people’s power on the ground? If capitalists beat socialists with regard to finding ways of working together despite their differences, why should socialists claim the superiority of socialism above capitalism as its egalitarian ethos? How do you adhere to the socialist ethos of sharing, caring and compassion when you are forever in competition with each other and hardly ever find an excuse to cooperate?
Currently there are three processes that are aimed at looking for alternatives. The September National Indaba is taking place on the 24 - 27 September in Soweto, the Truth Conference is taking place in Durban on the same weekend and there is a Congress of the Left. While the September National Indaba has sent a message of support to the organisers of the Truth Conference, there is little sharing of notes or establishment of linkages between these initiatives. Yes, there are political and ideological differences, but I am sure there are areas of agreement within the broader left.
Why is it that leftists dwell more on areas of disagreement among themselves and never bother to tap into the area of agreement? The objective conditions on the ground calls for broader unity of the left - and so do people at the grassroots. Is this the case of a leadership sitting in ivory towers, far removed from the bread-and-butter issues that the masses of poor people are grappling with?
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* Mphutlane wa Bofelo is a cultural worker and social critic.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Hope Street: Recovering from South Africa’s xenophobic attacks
Xandi Orford: Juma, when did you leave Zimbabwe and move to South Africa?
Juma: In 2006 I moved to Khayelitsha, on the outskirts of Cape Town, and worked as a bricklayer until December 2007. I then returned to Zimbabwe to set up my own business. This proved to be impossible due to the country’s economic situation and so I went back to Khayelitsha in March 2008, to set up a craft venture.
Xandi Orford: Were you successful?
Juma: Before the business could start growing I lost everything in the xenophobic attacks of May 2008.
Xandi Orford: What happened?
Juma: There had been talk for a few weeks that these attacks were going to happen. Eventually, foreigners were told to leave Khayelitsha on the coming Saturday. Unfortunately however, on the Friday, some high school kids started the attacks, while everyone was away at work. I was in Bellville at the time.
Xandi Orford: Did you go back to Khayelitsha when you heard this?
Juma: The taxi driver warned me about the danger of going back, but I had to see if I could save any of my things. I saw streets burning as he drove me to the Khayelitsha police station. Inside it was chaos. There were so many of us foreigners. Some with bags, many with nothing. I tried to get a police officer to come with me to my house to collect my possessions. None were willing, because of the danger. That is when I realised that I had nothing in the world. Not even five cents in my pocket.
Xandi Orford: What happened next?
Juma: Later on in the evening we, the foreigners, were driven in police vehicles to Desmond Tutu Hall camp. There were people from all over Africa. It was so full that people had to make use of any space available. Even the corridors and bathrooms were crowded. I kept on closing my eyes to see if I was dreaming. Three days later people from local government came around and appointed Willard and myself to be the group leaders. Willard was the head and I was the secretary. This is how we met.
Xandi Orford: Willard, what was your story up until this point?
Willard: I was devastated by what had happened. This was not the first time in my life that I had lost everything I owned. I even contemplated suicide because I could not understand how so much misfortune could have befallen me.
Xandi Orford: Tell us about the previous times?
Willard: When I finished school there was no money to study further at college. So, in 2000, I started buying new and second hand clothing in Mozambique and Zambia to sell at flea markets in Harare. In 2004, under the guise of taxation laws, the Zimbabwean government closed the flea markets and destroyed many homes, including my own, which they claimed were not up to specification. All the property and market areas were given to Chinese businesses. I lost everything and had to sleep on the streets for three months.
Eventually I managed to restart the business. However, when crossing the boarder to Zambia, to buy clothing for a client, I was detained for five days, had my passport taken away for three months and all my money confiscated (the equivalent of R8,000). I was informed that I was not allowed to take so much money out of the country and was threatened because I refused to join the ruling ZANU PF. On my release, I had to borrow money from my sister to pay back the client.
On another buying trip, this time to Mozambique, I was deported back to Zimbabwe, even though all my paperwork was legitimate. The Mozambican police claimed that they would send all my confiscated goods and money back to Zimbabwe. It never arrived. I was so upset by this, that I led a protest, with others to whom this had happened, in front of the Mozambican embassy in Harare. I never got to the bottom of why I was deported, but believe that it was because the Zimbabwean government wanted everyone to be back in the country for the land grabs.
Xandi Orford: How did you manage to get through the xenophobic attacks in South Africa?
Willard: Well, both Juma and I started to lead the group of people in the Desmond Tutu Camp because it was the only way to cope with the stress. We needed something to do to take our minds off things. The best way to do this is to help others and so we started making a list of everyone in the camp and what their immediate needs were.
Juma: There were people from Tanzania, Malawi, Ghana, Angola, Cameroon, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia. For the next four months we helped deliver babies, women who miscarried, buried the dead and aided the sick. We also started connecting with NGO’s and repatriating people.
Willard: We were lucky to have the help of Ikamva, especially Joy Olivier. The organisation managed to raise R76,648.95, which was used to feed people and reintegrate them into communities such as Khayelitsha. We were the last to leave Desmond Tutu Hall. You can read about our time there on a blog that was created.
Juma: We both moved back to Khayelitsha and were given R1,352.18 from the fund to set up an arts and crafts business. JDI a group of philanthropic professionals in Cape Town, also donated tools to us. That was the beginning of the business we have today.
Willard: Joy Olivier also managed to get us on to a one week Lucca Leadership programme. This proved to be fruitful in many ways. We met Ricky Lee Gordon from A Word of Art and he has been instrumental in getting our studio space in the Woodstock Industrial Centre.
Xandi Orford: Why and when did you set up your art and craft workshops for the kids in Khayelitsha?
Juma: After we left the Desmond Tutu Hall camp and attended the Lucca leadership programme we realised that the only way to break down barriers was through interaction. Willard and I also realised that though we may have had our possessions taken away, we still had our dignity. We started having HIV prevention talks and discussions about the xenophobic attacks, with some of the kids that may have instigated these.
We then founded a group called Ubuntu Youth and started teaching art and craft. There were seven children in the first week; the numbers rose to 40 by the following week and now there are 100. What Willard and I had learnt to craft as children has become a means of breaking down barriers and building a business.
Xandi Orford: You guys are inspirational.
Juma: I still feel as though we have only just begun and there is much to do.
Willard: It may be inspirational to hear our story, but I do not like looking back at my past. It is filled with too much pain. I prefer to be in the present and look towards the future.
Xandi Orford: What do you want to do with your future?
Willard: We would like to employ more staff, build a good life for ourselves and hold more workshops to teach kids skills. We believe that the only way we can help people is to make them self-sufficient.
Do you ever miss Zimbabwe?
Juma: One day we may move back. We have not forgotten about our country. During the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe we held a one-week hunger strike to raise awareness of the problem. We also held a ‘Gig for Jik’. The entry fee was a bottle of Jik (a brand of bleach) and we collected donations. We managed to deliver Jik, baby food and baby wipes to Zimbabweans and hopefully managed to save some lives.
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* Author's note: Though Willard and Juma chose to move back to Khayelitsha to help mend things in the community, because of the threat of more xenophobic violence after the World Cup, they have moved back to Woodstock.
* This story was first published on Mahala, a free South African music, culture and reality magazine that reports and represent what's happening along the fault lines of race, culture, politics and social reality. The original story is at http://www.mahala.co.za/culture/hope-street.
* Pictures supplied courtesy of Nix Davies, www.nixdavies.com.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Private funding to political parties does not promote democracy
Mphutlane wa Bofelo
President Jacob Zuma defends private corporate capital’s funding of political parties on the basis that corporate citizens should invest in democracy. The reality of the matter is that political parties, governments and states are always terrains of contestation among various class interests. Therefore corporate and finance capital will at all times use every resource and avenue at its disposal to cajole and capture the political establishment and the state to be beholden to and defensive of its interests. Already the tremendous amount of financial, technological, material and human resources, social and economic networks and organisation required for effective lobbying, advocacy and political pressure advantages the middle and upper classes when it comes to influencing social policy priorities and the economic trajectory of the government and public participation at various levels.
The power and social relations are such that even grassroots-based civil-society organisations are often captured by middle-class intellectuals and academics and political elites who often dilute the content and demands of the people’s struggles and use these forums as platforms to either decorate their curriculum vitae, gain or settle political scores or advance their political or academic careers. Very often scant material resources and scarce local funding also result in organised civil society being indebted to both private and public foreign funding, which seldom comes without overt and covert conditionalities that serve to compromise the organic nature of these formations. It is therefore very clear that any corporate citizen with pure and sincere intentions to enhance democracy will not invest in established, mainstream political parties but would rather direct its resources towards enhancing the capacity, skills, effectiveness and independence of grassroots community organisations, social movements and independent civic societies and labour unions, alternative media, community media, arts and cultural organisations, various types of advocacy and watchdog group and forums and campaigns that push for genuine public participation, transparency and accountability.
It is sardonic to talk of private corporate funding to political parties as supporting democracy when we have several cases of allegation of bribery and corruption involving government officials, public servants and private corporates. It is important to bear in mind of several cases where the media exposed that both the ruling party and the official opposition party received funding from dubious and corrupt individuals. Also to bear in mind is that a former commissioner of the police has just been found guilty of corruption involving not so kosher relations with a corporate citizen and that the current president won such a case against him on technical grounds.
The other paradox is that the very government that punts private funding to political parties as the promotion of democracy has not yielded to calls for legislation that makes it mandatory for political parties to make public the private corporates and business people that give them donations and funding. When you add into the mix the looming censorship of the media, the charade become just too satirical.
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* Mphutlane wa Bofelo is a cultural worker and social critic.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
China–Africa human resource development: Partnership or one-way?
Over the last two years, research has been carried out on several dimensions of China’s education and training cooperation with Africa – in Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Egypt and Cameroon. Pambazuka readers may be interested to engage with some of themes that are emerging from this study.
First, despite China’s discourse about the parity and importance of symmetry in China–Africa cooperation, several of these education and HRD (human resource development) elements appear to be much more one-way than two-way cooperation.
There are, for example, in Kenya and Ethiopia very few Chinese students on scholarships from their host countries compared to the numbers of Kenyans and Ethiopians going on China Scholarship Council awards to China. The presence of education counsellors from China in Egypt and South Africa is certainly testimony to the fact that there have been significant numbers of Chinese studying in these two countries, and no less than 20 Chinese appear currently to be on host-country awards in Egypt. However, the very large-scale, short-term training programme of 20,000 African professionals going to China is basically a one-way process. There are substantial numbers of Chinese going to Africa in medical teams, or as agricultural experts, or as trainers in agricultural and vocational colleges, but they are going as trainers not trainees.
Second, on the other hand, twinning and partnership are key characteristics of many other parts of China’s HRD support to Africa.
For instance, there are 22 Confucius Institutes (CIs) in Africa, and all of these are partnered with Chinese universities and institutes. Indeed, there are no less than 21 different higher education institutions (HEIs) in mainland China involved in supporting the Confucius Institutes in Africa. Each institute in Africa has both a Chinese dean or director as well as an African one. And the African CI provides the accommodation for the CI, and the visiting teaching staff and volunteers, as well as salary support, making it much more of a symmetrical partnership than the provision of training under our first point. Admittedly, the CI headquarters, Han Ban, in Beijing provides a very substantial annual subsidy to each of the African CIs, but it does so also to the 94 CIs in Europe and the 60 in USA and Canada.
This partnership thread is a central element in several other dimensions of China’s HRD cooperation, and particularly components in the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Sharm El-Shaikh Declaration of November 2009. Thus, there is a new scheme for twinning between 20 Chinese and 20 African higher education institutions. This may speak to the realisation that beyond individuals going for short- and long-term training, there is importance attached to institutional capacity building on both sides.
This key partnership theme is also very evident in three further items from the Sharm El-Shaikh FOCAC declaration. One is the China–Africa Science and Technology Partnership Plan. A second is the China–Africa joint research and exchange plan, between scholars and think tanks. And the third is a China–Africa partnership to address climate change. There has been a tradition of symmetrical science and technology partnerships, for example between China and South Africa since 1998. But it will be intriguing to see whether this existing model of parity can be extended under the ambitions of the FOCAC pledge. From the text of Sharm El-Shaikh at least, it sounds more like one-way cooperation since it is intended to ‘help African countries develop their own science and technology capacity’ (FOCAC 2009: 5.4.1). The joint research and exchange plan may again be a partnership where parity will depend on strong research institutions and think tanks in Africa partnering with counterparts in China. As this programme was only launched in March 2010, it is still much too early to see how the ‘politics of partnership’ will work out in this scheme.
Third, China’s aid to the formal education sector in Africa is comparatively very small.
The offer in the Beijing Summit of 2006 of 100 rural schools for Africa, repeated in 2009 as 50 China–Africa Friendship Schools, comes to a rather small number for the six-year period, of 2007–12 – just some 26 schools per year for the continent. These do not compare to the 2,600 primary and secondary schools constructed in 22 countries by Japan’s aid to Africa, between 1985 and 2008 – on average 130 per year (JICA, 2010). The other FOCAC offers include the professional training of some 15,000 Africans between 2007 and 2009. One element in this overall offer of 15,000 was the formal education component to: ‘Provide annual training for a number of educational officials as well as heads and leading teachers of universities, primary, secondary and vocational schools in Africa’ (FOCAC 2006: para 5.4.4). No number was actually given. But as there were four education resource bases set up in China to provide training for the formal education system in Africa, it might be estimated that a total of some 1,000 educational managers at different levels had been offered short-term training over these three years (Li et al, 2010). For the following triennium, 2010–12, an actual figure was promised at Sharm El-Shaikh – 1,500 teachers and head teachers would be trained in China. In general, such training would be conducted in 2–3 week courses in China.
Beyond these, an element of the 4,000 Africans offered full China Scholarship awards would have been related to the formal education systems of Africa – whether from ministries of education or from university faculties of education. The numbers would not be large as the bulk of these China Scholarships have been in the fields of science and technology.
Apart from these formal education-related components of China’s short- and long-term training programmes, there are several other formal education items that can be noted. These fall outside the official FOCAC pledges and commitments, and significantly they are all in the higher education area. These non-FOCAC items are bilateral offers of educational assistance to Africa. Three of the largest of these would be the building, equipping and staffing of the Ethio-China Polytechnic College in Addis Ababa, which opened its doors in 2008. This was the highest diploma level college in Ethiopia, and cost around US$15 million dollars. Another higher education contribution made was an offer of US$2.6 million dollars to support skills training and poverty reduction in South Africa. This was made at the time of President Hu Jintao’s visit to South Africa in early 2007, shortly after the pledges made at the great Beijing Summit of November 2006. Over three years later, however, most of this offer had not been translated into specific projects in skills development in South Africa. A third offer of Chinese support to higher education in Africa would be the US$21.8 million dollar, brand-new Fendell Campus of the University of Liberia, which was handed over to the government in July 2010 (Seboe, 2010). Finally, there has been the recent agreement by China to provide a US$80 million dollar loan to Malawi to develop a science university (Kamanga, 2010).
The two completed higher education projects (in Ethiopia and Liberia) are substantial in size, but in comparative terms with other donors, these one-off bilateral agreements are not on the scale of the regular annual sector support to education and training by donors such as the UK’s DFID (Department for International Development). In several countries, such as Kenya and Ghana, DFID has been allocating some £10 million sterling annually over a five-year period.
Fourth, the Confucius Institutes in Africa are probably the single most visible instance of China’s cooperation in education in the continent.
At a time when several of the traditional Western donors have changed their policies from branding their educational aid in Africa, with British, Dutch or Danish ‘flags’ and have adopted different forms of sector budget support, it looks as if the ‘China–Africa friendship schools’, promised in the latest FOCAC meeting of 2009 would be explicitly identified as such. Similarly, the high-level vocational college in Addis Ababa is actually called the Ethio-China Polytechnic College.
By contrast with these, it is of course entirely appropriate that a language and cultural institute like the Confucius Institute be so named, in the same way as the Goethe and Cervantes Institutes, or Alliance Française and British Council are openly identified. What makes the Confucius Institutes different from these comparators, as we noted above, is that they are not located on the high streets of national or regional capitals but right inside a major national university or universities in some 15 African countries.
Fifth, China’s HRD and educational cooperation is people-based rather than infrastructure-based.
Although we have talked of the different education institutions constructed by China in Africa, arguably the focus of China’s HRD cooperation remains people-based. A large number of the FOCAC education pledges are based on people, whether students, volunteers or experts. This is illustrated by the commitment to train 20,000 people from Africa in the period 2010–12 and provide 5,500 long-term scholarships over the same period. Equally, the technical assistance theme is exemplified in the young volunteers-serving-Africa scheme that started in 2007, or in the many volunteers and teachers coming to work in the Confucius Institutes. Under other line ministries such as health and agriculture there has been a long tradition of Chinese medical teams going to Africa, as well as senior agricultural experts. With these two areas, infrastructure has also been an important component, with the 30 hospitals and 20 agricultural demonstration centres committed to Africa. Nevertheless, the human resources focus remains very strong, with no less than 50 agricultural technology teams going to Africa in the current triennium, and medical teams also continuing to be sent. Within the area of science and technology also, there are FOCAC pledges just being implemented to support 100 African post-docs to do research in China, as well to support 100 joint research and demonstration projects in Africa.
It should be underlined that there continues to run through the FOCAC process the strong emphasis on ‘cultural and people-to-people exchanges’, youth and sporting exchanges, in addition to the newer emphasis on implementing a China–Africa joint research and exchange plan, a climate partnership and a science and technology partnership. This focus on China being exposed to Africa and vice versa is central to the logic of China’s cooperation. So when the FOCAC 2009 Action Plan (para 6.4.1) mentions: ‘The two sides noted that people-to-people exchanges are conducive to mutual understanding and important to the deepening of China-Africa friendship. The two sides remain committed to promoting people-to-people exchanges.’ It is making a crucially important point about the nature of the cooperation process (FOCAC, 2009). The only other country that still pays as much attention to exchange of expertise and to capacity building through short-term training in international cooperation is Japan.
This emphasis on the importance of Chinese expertise as a central component in HRD cooperation parallels a debate about the crucial role of Chinese workers in companies working in Africa, to which we turn shortly.
Sixth, China’s human resource cooperation with Africa is more at the post-basic level than at the level of basic education.
China’s does not engage with the Western debates about the six Jomtien education for all (EFA) goals, nor does it discuss the pros and cons of support to basic versus post-basic education, which is commonplace in Western donor discourse, and particularly in the EFA global monitoring reports. Nevertheless, it can be readily seen that the bulk of China’s HRD and educational cooperation is at the post-basic or higher education level. This is not to minimise China’s offer of 100 rural schools in the Beijing Summit pledge of 2006, or its supplementation through 50 China–Africa friendship schools in FOCAC 2009. It should be noted also that China’s offer to train teachers for primary, secondary and vocational schools is essentially short-term training in China. There is of course something artificial in seeking narrowly to determine whether an item of expenditure is support to basic or post-basic education and training; teacher training for primary education is a perfect example of something that is both basic and post-basic.
Nevertheless, the great bulk of both the one-way and the two-way people traffic between China and Africa is at the level of higher education, whether this involves education, health, agriculture or science and technology. China would argue that this reflects the priorities and preferences of its African partners and is inseparable from its planned long-term investment presence in Africa.
Seventh, the particular shape and character of China’s support to education, and to human resources more generally, help to explain why it does not often take part in donor coordination meetings at the country level in Africa.
It can scarcely be argued, when China is offering just one to three rural schools in many African countries over a six-year period – and the occasional much larger further or higher education project in just a few African countries – that it should take part in the regular education donor meetings at the country level. China is not involved in education sector support like DFID, so it is not an obvious candidate to participate in donor meetings, for example, about Ghana, Kenya or Uganda’s education sector support programme. Its human resources support does touch several line ministries, but it makes more sense for it to relate to a more general ministry such as Ethiopia’s Ministry of Capacity Building or Kenya’s Human Resources Development Department (HRDD).
A more substantial point, however, may be that the various items that fall under China’s FOCAC statements on human resource development or education do not yet constitute a coherent aid package. There is no obvious connection between the offer of scholarships on the one hand, and very short-term training on the other. Indeed, they are organised through different ministries in China, and two different buildings of the Chinese embassy in many African countries, one linked to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and one to the Ministry of Commerce. Equally, the organisation of Confucius Institutes is done separately through its Han Ban headquarters in Beijing. Furthermore, the building of rural schools, hospitals, agricultural demonstration centres or vocational training centres is organised through the Ministry of Commerce, and its branch of the Chinese embassy in country. In all but two countries, Egypt and South Africa, therefore, there are no obvious Chinese education experts available at the country level to take part in any such donor coordination activity in the education sector.
Eighth, Chinese training through the presence of hundreds of Chinese companies in Africa is almost certainly much larger in scope than all the FOCAC HRD elements put together.
Here we enter an area of controversy as it is widely alleged that China does no training in Africa, but merely brings ‘hordes’ of its own workers. Deborah Brautigam has done her best to bring some robust evidence into this charged debate, and would admit that Chinese projects do use more of their own nationals as workers and skilled technicians than projects carried out by any other country. But the idea that China doesn't employ (or train) Africans is quite wrong (Brautigam, 2009: 154ff). We would say the same. For instance, in the telecommunications sector in Africa alone, it is claimed by Ethiopians that ZTE, which has the contract for the phone and mobile network across the entire country, is providing training for over 1,000 telecommunication engineers in the first phase alone (King, 2009: 46). And ZTE’s rival, Huawei, which runs six regional training centres in Africa, and two research & development centres, is said to have trained some 12,000 Africans to become the backbone of the African telecommunications industry after taking courses in these centres (Wang, 2010).
Of course, training and skills development policy depend crucially on the attitudes and policies of the different African governments and African companies which may be working with Chinese contractors or sub-contractors. In one large Ethiopian construction project, for example, the Ethiopian contractor had specified to their Chinese sub-contractor that they wanted five Ethiopians trained for every skilled Chinese worker employed.
These are just a few aspects of China’s current education and training cooperation with Africa. There are, however, many interesting questions to be raised about how China’s ‘South–South cooperation’ differs from that of traditional Western donors. Pambazuka readers may wish to engage with this debate by looking at the latest issue of NORRAG News which is entirely dedicated to an analysis of the ‘Brave new world of “emerging”, “Non-DAC” donors and their differences from “traditional” donors’ (NORRAG News 44, 2010).
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* Kenneth King is visiting professor at the Hong Kong Institute of Education.
* This research has been supported by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (RGC/UGC 750008). The views expressed here are the author’s.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 There are however no Chinese on South African scholarships as these are reserved for students from sub-Saharan Africa.
 See NORRAG NEWS 41 special issue on ‘The politics of partnership: peril or promise?’ – www.norrag.org
 Brautigam (2009, 158) also mentions China’s provision and operation of a vocational training centre in Uganda and its development of two more in Angola.
 See note on JICA staff and experts: ‘Staff: 1,664 staff. They are supplemented at any one time by thousands of and young and senior volunteers on both short-term and long-term contracts.’ http://www.jica.go.jp/english/news/field/2008/pdf/081003.pdf
 In fact the Chinese Embassy does deal directly with HRDD for Kenya’s short term training awards. In several countries, China does take place in donor meetings, e.g. in the roads sector where they are one of the leading funding or executing agencies.
Brautigam, D. 2009 The dragon’s gift: the Real Story of China in Africa. Oxford University Press, Oxford
FOCAC, 2009.Forum for China-Africa Cooperation Sharm el Shaikh Action Plan (2010-2012); downloaded from http://www.focac.org/eng/dsjbzjhy/hywj/t626387.htm
JICA, 2010. JICA basic education cooperation in Africa. The joy of learning for all children. JICA, Tokyo
Kamanga, P. P. 2010 University brings hope. ChinAfrica, vol.2 Sept. 1.
King, K. 2009. China’s cooperation with Ethiopia: a new human resources-focused approach to development? OSSREA Bulletin, vol. vi. no.2. pp.45-51
Li W., Huang J., Wang K., Mao X., and Chen. F. 2010. Education assistance to Africa: We can do more and better, Transition Studies Review, vol. 17. No. 2 pp. 280-296
NORRAG NEWS 41 special issue on ‘The politics of partnership: peril or promise?’ – www.norrag.org
NORRAG NEWS 44 special issue on’Brave new world of ‘emerging’, ‘Non-DAC’ donors and their differences from ‘traditional’ donors’ –www.norrag.org
Seboe, P. 2010. Scratching Liberia’s back. China delivers independence gift – a modern university. FrontpageAfrica: http://www.frontpageafrica.com/newsmanager/anmviewer.asp?a=11190
Wang, W. 2010 What can China bring to Africa? China.org.cn July 4 2010. http://www.china.org.cn/opinion/2010-07/04/content_20416315.htm
Columbia University: Treat Ahmadinejad and Zenawi equally
Alemayehu G. Mariam
Open letter to President Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia University
17 September 2010
President Lee C. Bollinger
Office of the President
202 Low Library
535 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
By Fax: (212) 854-9973 and
Dear President Bollinger,
On 22 September 2010, Mr Meles Zenawi is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at an event sponsored by Columbia University's Committee on Global Thought. There is widespread belief among Ethiopian-Americans that Mr Zenawi's invitation to speak at this event necessarily implies the university's endorsement and support of Mr Zenawi's views, policies and actions in Ethiopia. I am writing to request your office to issue an official statement clarifying your position concerning Mr Zenawi, as you so eloquently did when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran spoke on your campus on 24 September 2007.
Let me say at the outset that I believe Mr Zenawi has a ‘right’ to speak at your university, though he is not a United States citizen or lawful resident. I firmly believe, though others may reasonably disagree with me, that any individual who is present in this great country has the right to free expression under the protective umbrella of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. I make no exceptions for Mr Zenawi.
In your prefatory remarks preceding Mr Ahmadinejad's speech in 2007, you offered an exposition on free speech that is instructive to all who believe in freedom of expression. You said that the ‘genius of the American idea of free speech’ is to empower us not ‘to retreat from engagement with ideas we dislike and fear’ and ‘to have the intellectual and emotional courage to confront the mind of evil’. Nowhere is your statement more true than in a university where the denizens ‘have a deep and almost single-minded commitment to pursue the truth’. I believe, as you do, that there must be no obstruction to the free exchange of ideas in the university setting. As you correctly pointed out to Mr Ahmadinejad, open inquiry, debate and dialogue are ‘required by existing norms of free speech in the American university’.
In your remarks you specified five substantive issue areas for which Mr Ahmadinejad deserved just condemnation and censure. One of them was Mr Ahmadinejad's ‘brutal crackdown on scholars, journalists and human rights advocates’ in Iran. Citing Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports, you deplored the execution of more than 200 persons in Iran in 2007, including at least two children. You also expressed just outrage over his denials and mockery of irrefutable facts about the Holocaust, his failure to adhere to international regimes on nuclear power and his support for terrorism. In righteous indignation, you told Mr Ahmadinejad: ‘Mr President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.’
Petty and cruel dictators, Mr President, have also infested the African continent and threaten the lives of African peoples on a daily basis. In Ethiopia, for nearly two decades, Mr Zenawi has lorded over one of the cruellest dictatorships in the modern world. Let the facts speak for themselves:
- In 2005, security forces under the personal command and control of Mr Zenawi massacred 193 unarmed protesters and inflicted severe gunshot wounds on 763 others. Today, the murderers walk the streets free.
- In May 2010, Mr Zenawi made a travesty of democracy by claiming that his party won the parliamentary election by 99.6 percent. The European Union Election Observation Mission described the same election in its preliminary report as ‘marred by a narrowing of political space and an uneven playing field.’
- In December 2008, Mr Zenawi arrested and reinstated a life sentence on Birtukan Midekssa, the only woman political party leader in Ethiopian history. He kept her under extreme conditions in prison. In describing Birtukan's situation, the most recent U.S. State Department Human Rights Report stated: ‘She was held in solitary confinement until June , despite a court ruling that indicated it was a violation of her constitutional rights. She was also denied access to visitors except for a few close family members, despite a court order granting visitor access without restrictions.’ Birtukan is considered to be a political prisoner by the various international human rights organizations. ‘Amnesty International considers her a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression and association.’
- A couple of weeks ago, Mr Zenawi shut down all distance education programmes in the country, including those providing higher education and technical training to over 75,000 students, in flagrant violation of the applicable laws of the country on the pretext that such programmes were interested ‘only in collecting money’.
For the past several years, Mr Zenawi has misused the legislative process in Ethiopia to institutionalise repression and legitimise gross human rights violations. According to Human Rights Watch:
‘In 2009 the government passed two pieces of legislation that codify some of the worst aspects of the slide towards deeper repression and political intolerance. A civil society law passed in January is one of the most restrictive of its kind, and its provisions will make most independent human rights work impossible. A new counterterrorism law passed in July permits the government and security forces to prosecute political protesters and non-violent expressions of dissent as acts of terrorism.’
Mr Zenawi has shuttered private newspapers in Ethiopia and effectively eliminated the independent press. The Committee to Protect Journalists in its recent report stated:
‘The government enacted harsh legislation that criminalized coverage of vaguely defined “terrorist” activities, and used administrative restrictions, criminal prosecutions, and imprisonments to induce self-censorship… The government has had a longstanding practice of bringing trumped-up criminal cases against critical journalists, leaving the charges unresolved for years as a means of intimidating the defendants… Ethiopia is the only country in sub-Saharan Africa with “consistent” and “substantial” filtering of web sites…’
In your remarks, you challenged Mr Ahmadinejad on his abuse of the Press Law to ban writers for criticising the ruling system and rhetorically asked: ‘Why are you so afraid of Iranian citizens expressing their opinions for change?’ You need to pose the same question to Mr Zenawi: ‘Why are you so afraid of Ethiopian citizens expressing their opinions for change?’
Mr Zenawi has jammed the Voice of America, the official external radio and television broadcasting service of the United States government, claiming that the 68-year-old service is the equivalent of Radio Mille Collines, which coordinated the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Mr Zenawi said: ‘We have been convinced for many years that in many respects, the VOA Amharic Service has copied the worst practices of radio stations such as Radio Mille Collines of Rwanda in its wanton disregard of minimum ethics of journalism and engaging in destabilizing propaganda.’
When Mr Ahmadinejad outrageously denied the occurrence of the Holocaust, you told him without mincing words: ‘You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated.’ Mr Zenawi needs to be similarly rebuked for equating the Voice of America with the wicked and loathsome Radio Mille Collines.
Mr Zenawi runs one of the most repressive regimes in Africa. Human Rights Watch in its recent report stated: ‘Ethiopia's citizens are unable to speak freely, organize political activities, and challenge their government's policies--through peaceful protest, voting, or publishing their views--without fear of reprisal.’ The report described Mr Zenawi's regime as one masquerading in ‘a veneer of democratic pretension hiding a repressive state apparatus’.
Since 2006, a number of bills have been introduced in the United States Congress to restrain Mr Zenawi from engaging in gross and sustained human rights violations, and to help him move towards democracy. H.R. 2003 (‘Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007’) co-sponsored by 85 members, passed the House of Representatives in 2007, but failed to clear the Senate. That bill sought to:
‘support human rights, democracy, independence of the judiciary, freedom of the press, peacekeeping capacity building, and economic development in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia; strengthen U.S. collaboration with Ethiopia in the Global War on Terror; secure the release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Ethiopia; foster stability, democracy, and economic development in the region; support humanitarian assistance efforts, especially in the Ogaden region; and strengthen U.S.-Ethiopian relations.’
Just last month, Senators Russ Feingold and Patrick Leahy introduced S.B. 3757 (‘Support for Democracy and Human Rights in Ethiopia Act of 2010’) to:
‘to ensure the autonomy and fundamental freedoms of civil society organizations, to respect the rights of and permit non-violent political parties to operate free from intimidation and harassment, including releasing opposition political leaders currently imprisoned; to strengthen the independence of its judiciary, and to allow Voice of America and other independent media to operate and broadcast without interference in Ethiopia [and] to promote respect for human rights and accountability.’
It is vitally important for academics to speak truth to power. When you stood up and spoke truth to Ahmadinejad on 24 September 2007, you proved to the world the value of ‘hav[ing] the intellectual and emotional courage to confront the mind of evil’. On 22 September 2010, you have another golden opportunity to show the world that you and Columbia University will ‘confront the mind of evil’ regardless of its origin on the planet. As millions of Iranians and others rejoiced at hearing your words on 24 September 2007, so now millions of Ethiopians eagerly await your statement on 22 September2010 that Columbia University condemns all violations of human rights, repression and theft of elections in Ethiopia by Mr Zenawi and his regime.
Permit me to conclude my letter by paraphrasing your eloquent words when you expressed your disgust for Mr Ahmadinejad's actions: ‘I am only a professor and a lawyer, and today I feel all the weight of the Ethiopian people yearning to express their revulsion for what Mr Zenawi has done to them over the past two decades.’
Alemayehu G. Mariam, PhD, JD
Professor and attorney at law
Department of Political Science
California State University, San Bernardino
* This article was originally published by The Huffington Post.
* Follow Alemayehu G. Mariam on Twitter.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 http://www.hrw.org/en/node/89126/section/1 (Human Rights Watch, ‘One Hundred Ways of Putting Pressure, Violations of Freedom of Expression and Association in Ethiopia (2010)), pp. 2,3
Promoting literacy through intergenerational learning
September, in the Education and Adult Learning and Education (ALE) sector is an important month, mainly because we mark World Literacy Day. In some quarters, a whole week is designated as Literacy Week to give prominence to literacy as a development imperative. Indeed, literacy is a critical skill enabling individuals and communities to function as independent and productive members of society and is, therefore, critical to individual, communal and national progress.
In Africa, initiatives in ALE have mainly, and sometime exclusively, emphasised literacy skills. More recently, there has been much discussion on teaching these skills using mother languages/tongue and not necessarily foreign languages or official languages as was initially the case. Literacy rates in many countries depict, somewhat, the precarious nature of existing literacy initiatives. Certainly greater investments are needed to boost literacy initiatives further, as was underscored by African Civil Society (CSOs) participating in pre CONFINTEA (International Conference on Adult Education) processes and at CONFINTEA VI.
But what kind of investments are we talking about? Is it always about getting more money from the north or is does it always boil down to institutional measures at central ministries and directorates to spearhead literacy programmes? Can African CSOs and literacy outfits innovate literacy initiatives and cultures beyond present literacy paradigms?
I want to draw from a recent engagement in Northern Ghana to demonstrate how using simple and sustainable approaches African CSOs, educators and the Adult Education Movement can back a popular continental literacy drive across the generations. The idea is to build on available resources in communities to promote a culture of intergenerational inquiry and learning. The resources I wish to draw upon are those of the learners themselves.
I was in Northern Ghana evaluating a programme for the Regional Advisory Information and Network Systems (RAINS), a local organisation that has been instrumental in promoting girls education in the Northern Region, as well as increasing school enrolment, retention and completion. RAINS has also pioneered mechanisms for community participation and governance using the school as a base for such involvement. Through the community surveillance teams (CSTs), self help groups (SHGs) and children’s community clubs (CCCs), RAINS brings together different sections of the community to address the problem of child migration, child labour and school drop outs with a reasonable amount of success.
I was, however, struck by the high levels of illiteracy among parents of the children who were benefitting from the school based programmes ran by RAINS. Upon further inquiry I learnt that official literacy or AE programmes were inexistent or had been discontinued after the death of the instructor in some places for a number of years. Sadly there was very little concern at both the official quarters or among CSOs about this void.
How could an organisation focus its work on education yet fail to address the problem of mass illiteracy in their midst? How could a CSO hope to influence parents to send and keep their children in school if the parents themselves have not appreciated the joy of being able to read, to count to learn new things on their own? How could a CSO promote greater community participation in its programmes and in the school if the participation of an important stakeholder i.e. the parents, is limited by their inability to read and follow project proposals, question reports and engage beyond physical presence at meetings?
RAINS is not the only organisation which finds itself in such a situation, a situation which evokes a contradiction in real terms – between what is claimed and what is practiced. The focus on the education of children which after all is the priority of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as well as numerous master education plans and development visions has blurred an equally pressing concern of nurturing literate adults. A single focus on formal primary education is not sustainable and has to be balanced by a parallel investment in informal and non-formal education targeting youths and adults.
The emphasis on informal and non-formal education is key in ALE approaches in that parents may not always have the time to attend ‘formal’ literacy classes. Also, it underscores the need for adults and youths to learn on the basis of their everyday experiences rather than being instructed in abstract terms. An additional consideration I wish to argue for in support of these approaches is to ensure reciprocity in the learning equation where acquiring knowledge is not a solitary event but a communal obligation that is discharged by all able members of the community, young and old.
To realise this CSOs and education/ALE activists have to undergo two important conceptual shifts. The first is in how they conceptualise the main protagonists in any education/learning endeavour and the other relates to methods required to motivate participation and learning. It is common for most education programmes to look at recipients of education as beneficiaries or as victims to be instructed and not as active agents who can partake and shape the processes of learning and instruction.
One way this could be altered is requiring children who are benefiting from education programmes supported by numerous CSOs like RAINS to undertake to impart basic literacy skills to a non-literate adult in their family or community. CSOs can be innovative in how they realise this in practice but it can be built in the school curriculum where homework essentially takes place in the home environment tackling learning gaps among family members. Alternatively, it could comprise an essential part of extra curriculum activities pupils are encouraged to do for a number of semester hours, which dedication will be monitored and tested at some point such as during literacy week. Pupils can earn credits or some of recognition for their effort.
Equally, whereas parents are often required by CSOs and governments alike to make substantial contributions/sacrifice towards the education of their children such as by participating in the construction of schools building and facilities, making financial contributions and the like in most cases such contributions are not welcomed because they tend to drain parents financially without parents seeing immediate results from their investments/sacrifice. Indeed, in a poverty and drought-stricken area, as in Northern Ghana where everyday survival is paramount, parents can’t wait 13 or more years to harvest the benefits from their children’s education.
We in the education and ALE movement, therefore, have to consciously operate with this understanding as we devise education interventions. Similarly, we have to challenge our own assumptions and biases about working with poor people, children, illiterate folks and rural populations. Why could a rural pupil not be the agent and impetus for literacy initiatives in their communities? Why could we not promote child-led literacy initiatives as an integral part of our child rights work? Why do we not enter into conversations with parents and communities about making homes and fields, not just the four walled classrooms sites for learning?
I raised one question to pupils I interviewed as part of my evaluation – why can’t your mother or father read or write while you can? Most of the children seemed surprised at the question. The children were however aware that their parents were going at length to keep them in school. If this is the case why did the children not recognise that they also have a duty to give back to their parents beyond being dutiful hard working children in the home of in the field? How could they give back in practical terms? How could what happens in the classroom be actualised in the homes enabling parents to experience firsthand the benefits of schooling?
Making these linkages, I believe, will set us off to building a learning culture across generations, a culture which emphasizes learning as a natural obligation to ensure our common development and survival.
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* © Salma Maoulidi
* Salma Maoulidi is a GEO (Gender Education Office) member representing the Africa region.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Solidarity with the Haitian people
Supporting popular organisations and the return of Aristide
Kamau Karl Franklin
The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) takes a yearly journey in August outside the United States empire as part of our Black August experience to engage with other organisers and activists of Afrikan descent. This year, the delegation went to Haiti. It was one of the most important and urgent journeys we have taken.
This impoverished Afrikan nation in the Caribbean is rebuilding. Little more than seven months after a devastating earthquake killed over 200,000 Haitians, the resiliency of the people is a marvel. Through graffiti, the people express themselves in various ways about their post-earthquake circumstances and their distrust of their government, their elite, the United Nations occupation and non-governmental organisations, most of which have become parasites on the Haitian body.
On the walls of the crumbling National Palace statements like ‘Aba Ministra’ (Down with the UN occupation), ‘Aba Preval’ (Down with Preval, the current president), to calls for the return of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, speak volumes about the daily struggle to survive and a continued heightened political consciousness and concern about fighting for a true peoples’ democracy.
Over the last 20 years, this generation of Haitians has had to deal not only with the devastating effects of this earthquake, but with the continued battles to establish a popular democracy that represents the interests of the vast majority of the Haitian people. After the fall of the brutal USA-backed father-son regime of Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier, through the efforts of a mobilised populace, the Haitian masses have continued to fight their own Kreyòl, elite.
For a time the USA propped up the military and right-wing militias responsible for killing thousands of pro-democracy activists and the poor who created the popular organisations that battled to elect Aristide twice. After those victories the people have had their hopes dashed in two coups d’état orchestrated by the Haitian élite and the USA, Canadian, French and Dominican governments to depose Aristide, remove him from the country, and ban Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party from participating in Haiti’s elections. Lavalas is the political party of the majority of the Haitian people and as Haitian human rights lawyer Mario Joseph put it, ‘Lavalas could put up a ham sandwich in an election and win against all other parties and candidates in Haiti and everyone knows it.’,
In addition, the last20 years have seen the USA lead the way in making the Haitian economy bleed for supporting the wrong candidate. Imposing a Cuban- style embargo on important aid and battering through structural adjustment programs via the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. These destroyed state-controlled elements of the economy which supplied jobs and revenue for the Haitian government to build schools and provide some resources. Sold-off state properties were then closed down, or protected agricultural industries were forced to open their markets, and both were replaced by cheap American imports. For example, in 1982 the USA government demanded the eradication of Haitian pigs and their replacement with American pigs, which are smaller and die sooner because they are not conditioned to Haiti’s terrain.
Tax-free cheap labour zones were set up to provide ‘jobs’ for needy Haitians leaving them even more in need after they received pay cheques that were too low to feed themselves on. What was left of the Haitian economy was replaced by foreign NGOs that had no accountability to the government or the people, but only to their sponsors, running fundraising drives off the backs of the poor.
Haitians also have to deal with an occupation by UN forces, which shoot up places like Cité Soleil for aligning with Aristide and Fanmi Lavalas. At the same time, neither the so-called peacekeeping force of the UN nor the Haitian national police can seem to find, arrest or take weapons away from former coup leaders who have been allowed to return to Haiti. People such as Guy Philippe, a top coup conspirator and murderer of Haitian people with strong USA Central Intelligence Agency connections. Philippe freely roams around without any interference from UN peacekeepers giving interviews about his intention to run for president (Compared to musician Wyclef Jean, Philippe at least lives in Haiti.)
This is enough to wear a people out. However, Haitians are in a literal life and death struggle for control of resources, aid, and keeping the idea of a popular working democracy going. The popular organisations and the masses are recovering and helping themselves by creating and re-creating indigenous community groups.
As part of the trip our delegation visited camps where Haitians live in the thousands – sometimes hundreds of thousands. Many of these places have only been visited once or twice by the UN or other so-called aid groups seven months after the earthquake. Literally billions of dollars have been collected or pledged, but the vast majority of the monies have not reached the Haitian people. Instead Haitians have self-organised to provide some protection against violence and rape, sought out resources for the hungry, and created makeshift schools for the young.
Popular organisations have worked to rebuild schools and colleges, form women’s groups, micro-lending organisations, groups dedicated to freeing Haitian political prisoners and set up aid sites that provide mental health care and other material services. These popular organisations, with the solidarity of international groups, have continued to support accountability for aid groups, a just electoral process, justice and human rights for the Haitian people, even through this catastrophic process.
The people of Haiti cry out that the government has not been accountable and the Haitian élite of course never was so into this breech steps in indigenous groups such as the Institute for Justice and Democracy, the Aristide Foundation, the September 30th and others.
Among popular organisations there is a call to allow the people to delay the upcoming elections to allow for full participation by the people and Haitian political parties, instead of going ahead with the cynical USA and Haitian elite-backed process that moves forward, requiring identification to vote, knowing full well many people lost almost everything in the earthquake including, of course, identification documents.
The Black August delegation, representing the MXGM, expresses full support for the demands of the Haitian people. Our delegation was named for a fallen comrade, Javad Jahi, who, as a member of MXGM, dedicated himself to solidarity with the Haitian people. Our trip was built on the basis of some of those relationships.
As we support financial aid efforts sponsored by the Haiti Action Committee and Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, which have direct ties to indigenous Haitian organisations, we call for a new solidarity movement that will support the demands of Haitian popular movements.
Towards that end, we have helped create the Haiti Will Rise Again Coalition to fight against continued USA foreign policy that seeks to protect the interests of the Haitian élite, at the expense of the wishes of the people for a true popular democracy.
Coalition points of unity:
1) Be in alliance with the Haiti Action Committee and the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund (www.haitisolidarity.net)
2) Be a multi-national, multi-racial and multi-tendency alliance composed of various political, social, spiritual, and cultural organisations in the metropolitan Atlanta region, committed to pressuring the USA government, multi-lateral institutions (IMF, World Bank, WTO, Inter-American Bank, etc.), and transnational corporations to comply with the principal demands of the progressive people’s movement in Haiti
3) Engage in organising, mobilising, resource generation, and educational activities that realise the demands of the Haitian people’s movement. This would include, but not be limited to, petitioning, lobbying, demonstrating, marching, direct action, and providing material aid.
Demands of the Haitian people’s movement:
1) An immediate end to the U.S. and UN occupation of Haiti
2) The elimination of all IMF, World Bank, Inter-American Bank, USA, and G20 debt, structural adjustment and privatisation programs required by these loans
3) The nationalisation of all Haiti’s natural resources
4) Reparations and restitution from France and the USA for the forced indemnities, illegal blockades and occupations
5) Freedom for all political prisoners arrested following the 2004 coup and during its aftermath
6) Residency and amnesty for Haitian refugees
7) End the ban on the Fanmi Lavalas party to ensure that there are legitimate, free and fair elections
8) The immediate return to Haiti of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
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83 WOZA members to spend night in cells at Harare central police station
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights have confirmed that 83 WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise) members are being held at Harare Central Police Station. They will spend the night in custody even though police officers are still not sure what charges to prefer or if they even have a case against the activists as most handed themselves in.
WOZA members had commemorated International Peace Day by handing over a set of demands aimed at the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Ministers of Home Affairs asking police to adhere to the protocols set out in the Police Act, the ZRP Service Charter and the ZRP Service Standards and to work together with Zimbabweans to keep our communities safe.
When police arrived at Parliament in a police vehicle and began to arrest some members, others rushed to jump in the vehicle, effectively arresting themselves. When the vehicle was full, other members marched to Harare Central and handed themselves in at the station.
These arrests come after many constitutional consultations in Harare over the weekend were marred by violence from ZANU PF youth. It is unclear how many, if any, of these violent youths have been arrested and yet 83 peace activists, asking police to work together with them to promote community safety, are the ones that have been arrested.
WOZA is currently suing the co-Ministers of Home Affairs over the filthy and inhumane conditions in Harare Central Police Station. By all accounts, conditions have not improved and are still soiled with human waste.
Please continue to phone Harare Central Police Station on +263 4777777 to demand that the WOZA activists be released immediately.
African Conference on Participatory Democracy and the African Left Networking Forum Meeting
As we mark 50 years of the decolonisation process in our continent, we note the wide diversity of experiences, of popular and democratic advances, of partial gains, of stagnation and even, in many cases, of grave setbacks and the heavy oppression of progressive forces. Everywhere in our continent the struggle for the legitimate democratic, social and economic aspirations of our peoples continues.
African Conference on Participatory Democracy and the African Left Networking Forum Meeting
19 - 21 August 2010, Johannesburg, South Africa
We, delegates to the Africa Conference on Participatory Democracy and Africa Left Networking Forum Meeting representing 52 Organisations from 28 Countries, including 3 Youth Formations and 28 Political Parties, meeting from the 19th to the 21st of August 2010 in Johannesburg, declare as follows:
1. The struggle continues!
As we mark 50 years of the decolonisation process in our continent, we note the wide diversity of experiences, of popular and democratic advances, of partial gains, of stagnation and even, in many cases, of grave setbacks and the heavy oppression of progressive forces. Everywhere in our continent the struggle for the legitimate democratic, social and economic aspirations of our peoples continues.
Centuries of anti-colonial struggle, decades of national liberation mobilisation, and 50 years of neo-colonial plunder and manoeuvring, have taught us an important lesson - advancing, deepening and defending the interconnected objectives of national liberation, national unity, vibrant democracy and social and economic advances require ongoing struggle, popular mobilisation, organisation and vigilance.
Freedom and the unity of our peoples and our continent will never be delivered from above, but always through the struggles of workers and popular forces.
In this context we reject manoeuvres from within some quarters of the AU to impose a hasty and top-down single African Government, a "United States of Africa" cobbled together by some heads of state, many of whom lack a legitimate democratic mandate from within their own countries. The unity of Africa, the unity of our peoples will be built in struggle, bottom-up and on the basis of mobilisation against external reactionary forces and their local agents.
Contrary to the liberal myth of a new world order and of a beneficent north bent on offering our continent a helping hand, everywhere imperialist forces, their local neo-colonial agents and their pay-masters, the transnational corporations, are active in fostering the effective re-colonisation of our continent. This persisting strategic agenda assumes many forms - the expansion of external military interventions, notably the persistence of French military bases and the expansion of Africom, working with local militarised regime; the continued and selective support of autocratic regimes; the fostering of ethnic and regional divisions; the hypocritical certification of deeply flawed electoral processes; and the deliberate undermining of the capacity of African states and their public sectors to discipline capital and to advance development.
Our continent is rich in people and natural resources, and yet everywhere our people live in poverty. Our wealth continues to be plundered, while here, as the Sotho proverb says, we are left "to share the head of an ant".
2. African Development and the Global Crisis of Capitalism
Conference and the Networking Forum take as a starting point the reality that for the great majority of popular forces in our countries, whether in times of so-called "boom" or bust, capitalism is a daily crisis of grinding poverty, unemployment, destruction of natural resources, hunger, and the bitter struggle for survival. There can be no stability, peace, real democracy and full human development under the dominance of capitalism - a system which is predicated on the exploitation and oppression of the great majority of the world's peoples.
We reject the simplistic view that the ongoing global economic recession is merely a product of the mismanagement of the global financial system by greedy bankers.
The ongoing global economic instability is an inherent characteristic of capitalism, and Africa may once again be made to pay dearly for the inherent weaknesses and evils of the global capitalist system.
We pledge to work to promote Africa's full social and economic development premised on the needs of the African peoples and not private profits, with the protection of Africa's labour and natural resources from a new round of global capitalist exploitation; as the global capitalist system struggles to regain its falling rates of profits. We view this as integral to the struggle for democracy and human rights in Africa.
3. On Climate Change and the Destruction of our Natural Resources
We have noted the growing international scientific consensus that the present trajectory of global economic growth is rapidly destroying the bio-physical conditions for human civilisation itself. We further noted that, while it is the economies and consumption patterns in the developed North that are the principal drivers of this deepening crisis, it is the peoples of the South who will bear the brunt of the crisis.
At the heart of the ecological crisis is a global capitalist system premised upon the expanded reproduction of private profit. Our struggle for socialism is a struggle to make social needs and not private profit the strategic priority. As such, the struggle for socialism is and has to be simultaneously a struggle for ecological sustainability.
We pledge to support all efforts aimed at developing environmentally sustainable renewable sources of energy and a just and democratic world social and economic order.
In the search for new sources of energy and protection of the environment, we will always guard against manoeuvres by imperialism to further under-develop Africa and plunder its labour and natural resources.
4. Global Left Solidarity
Across the world, not least in the global South, progressive and popular forces are once more realising that their diverse struggles are inextricably linked to the struggle against capitalism. We, progressive forces from the African continent, pledge to work closely with and learn from the rich experience of social movement, women, youth, indigenous, labour and party political anti-capitalist struggles.
As the African Left Network Forum we will work to forge more active links with like-minded forces, not just within our continent, but also with those in Latin America, Asia and everywhere else in the world.
We are encouraged by important left advances made in Latin America, and we believe that diverse left projects in that continent, including in Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador hold many important parallels and lessons for our own struggles on the Africa continent. We reaffirm our deep appreciation for the outstanding internationalist support that Cuba has consistently provided to our peoples, and we pledge to continue to expand our actions of solidarity in defence of Cuban socialism.
As this gathering we have resolved to intensify our interactions. To this end, we will now meet on an annual basis. To prepare for our annual meetings, and to ensure continuity and ongoing work, we have established a secretariat of the ALNEF. Amongst other things, we will consolidate ALNEF and its website to act as a repository of our ongoing discussions and debates.
Apart from our annual meetings, we will also convene meetings focused on sectoral struggles. To this end, we have resolved to convene in February next year an international conference on Women in Africa. Collectively, as a network and individually as separate formations, we pledge to carry forward into our mass base the ideas, perspectives and campaigns that we have resolved upon over these past days.
AMANDLA NGAWETHU! (Power to the People!) YA UMAAL ALALM WA CHOUB EITHEDU! (Workers and Peoples of the World Unite!) MAPAMBANO! BADO YANAENDELEA! (The Struggle Continues!)
21st August 2010
Chinese loan underwrites lake Turkana destruction
NGOs are outraged after confirmation that the world's largest bank will finance the destructive Gibe 3 hydropower dam. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) is underwriting a $500 million contract awarded 13 May to Dongfang Electric Corporation for the dam's turbines and electro-mechanical works. Although ICBC has not publicly announced the loan, an official confirmed 8 September by email that the financial agreement between ICBC and the Ethiopian government was signed in July. The funding undermines ICBC's efforts to build a global reputation as a socially and environmentally responsible lending institution.
Ikal Angelei, Friends of Lake Turkana (Kenya) +254 736 685 118 email@example.com
Terri Hathaway, International Rivers (US) +1 510 848 1155 firstname.lastname@example.org
Sonja Willems, BankTrack (Netherlands) +31 24 324 9220 email@example.com
NGOs are outraged after confirmation that the world's largest bank will finance the destructive Gibe 3 hydropower dam. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) is underwriting a $500 million contract awarded May 13 to Dongfang Electric Corporation for the dam's turbines and electro-mechanical works. Although ICBC has not publicly announced the loan, an official confirmed September 8 by email that the financial agreement between ICBC and the Ethiopian government was signed in July. The funding undermines ICBC's efforts to build a global reputation as a socially and environmentally responsible lending institution.
Ethiopia's Omo River is a lifeline to Lake Turkana in northern Kenya. The 1,870 MW Gibe 3 Dam would shrink the Omo River's flow into Lake Turkana, devastating the lake and some 300,000 indigenous people who depend on it. Severe degradation of Lake Turkana would intensify tribal conflicts and could destabilize the already volatile area between the Ethiopian, Kenyan, and Sudanese borders.
Ikal Angelei, Chair of Friends of Lake Turkana, said: "ICBC is underwriting the destruction of our peoples. Their funding is a hideous gesture of the destruction Chinese funds can bring to Africa's poorest communities."
Friends of Lake Turkana has filed a lawsuit in Kenyan court over the government's failure to protect Lake Turkana communities from the dam. Since 2009, Lake Turkana communities have voiced their opposition to the Gibe 3 Dam through demonstrations, petitions and meetings with government officials. A public demonstration against ICBC's loan is planned in Nairobi for September 28.
Terri Hathaway, Director of International Rivers' Africa Program, said: "Development banks and other private banks have turned away from Gibe 3 Dam. Even Italy's export credit agency refused to support the Italian contractor. It is disturbing that ICBC will fund a project which breaks Ethiopian law and has been shunned by the international community."
The Gibe 3 Dam is Ethiopia's largest public infrastructure project to date. The dam's contract was awarded in 2006 to Italian construction giant, Salini Costruttori, without international competitive bidding. Construction began the same year in violation of Ethiopian law and without securing external funding. Four years of aggressive efforts by the Ethiopian government and Salini had failed to attract external funding. In July, the African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank withdrew their funding consideration for the Gibe 3 Dam. In 2008, JPMorgan Chase and SACE, the Italian export credit agency, both refused to finance the dam.
Sonja Willems, Campaign Coordinator of BankTrack said, "This loan makes a mockery of ICBC's actions to establish itself as a socially and environmentally responsible lender. As the world's largest bank, ICBC should strive to become an environmental leader, but instead is building a reputation of undercutting other banks' standards and financing untouchable projects."
Gibe 3 Dam Background
The Gibe 3 Dam Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) was finalized in January 2009, more than two years after the dam contract was awarded and construction began. The government of Ethiopia broke its own law in 2006 when it awarded the contract without the approval of the ESIA by the country's Environmental Protection Authority. The ESIA has been criticized for its poor analysis and significant gaps in its scope, namely the dam's impact to Lake Turkana.
Due to concerns over the dam's impact to Lake Turkana, in 2009 the African Development Bank commissioned an independent study by Dr. Sean Avery.  The study confirmed that the Gibe 3 Dam would reduce flows and threaten the lake's most productive fishing area. It also noted that large-scale irrigation could cut the river's flow by an additional 30%, an impact neglected in the ESIA.
A 2009 independent report by the African Resources Working Group warned that the Gibe 3 Dam could lead to a 12 meter drop in Lake Turkana's water level.  Reduced flow would largely be caused by abstraction for large irrigation and seepage losses from the reservoir. Neither impact has been sufficiently studied.
Project developers have ignored the dam's potential to intensify existing tribal conflicts. A 2009 USAID report recommended that a project conflict vulnerability assessment for the downstream indigenous ethnic groups should be conducted. 
 Avery, Sean. April 2010. Assessment of Hydrological Impacts of Ethiopia's Omo Basin on Kenya's Lake Turkana Water Levels. (draft report) Commissioned By The African Development Bank.
 ARWG. 2009. A Commentary on the Environmental, Socioeconomic and Human Rights Impacts of the Proposed Gibe III Dam in the Lower Omo River Basin of Ethiopia. Available at www.arwg-gibe.org
 Johnston, Leslie. January 2009. Ethiopia - Gibe III Hydropower Project Trip Report - January 12 - 30. USAID/Washington, EGAT/ESP.
International Rivers is an environmental and human rights organization with staff in four continents. For over two decades, International Rivers has been at the heart of the global struggle to protect rivers and the rights of communities that depend on them.
International Rivers www.internationalrivers.org
Global Week of Action against Debt and the IFIs
October 7-17, 2010
International South-North Campaign on Illegitimate Debt Relief
October 7-17, 2010
Break the Chains – Transform the System
We’ve been told that the global economy is on the road to recovery. The Wall Street casino that triggered the global financial and economic crisis is back up and running; the largest banks are back to paying out enormous bonuses to their CEOs and investors; the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) have a new lease on life with massive increases in their operating capital and political role.
People and the planet should not pay the costs of the crises!
For the hundreds of millions of people around the world who were pushed even further into poverty and marginalization due to the crisis, and for the planet Earth itself, however, this “recovery” is meaningless. Together with the food, climate, and fuel crises, the economic crisis led to massive job and wage losses, cut-backs in the provision of basic human rights to healthcare, education, housing, water, electricity, and social security, violent evictions from land and territories, increased concentration of corporate control and exploitation of natural resources, and a rise in racist, gender, religious, and sexual discrimination, among other impacts. The costs of this truly systemic crisis continue to rise, including also skyrocketing social crisis and heightened militarization, war, and criminalization of protest, even while the financial sector is again reaping record profits.
Debt levels around the globe have also increased dangerously, as a result of policies designed to subsidize the wealthy and favor the free flow of capital in a market that was supposed to be self-correcting. The debt domination that countries in the global South have suffered for decades is beginning to affect countries in the North more directly, and the types of painful “austerity measures” that devastated populations throughout the South are more widely being applied in the North. Still, it is people and the planet in the South, and those most vulnerable in the North, that stand to bear the brunt of a renewed debt crisis.
The peoples of the South do not owe; they are the creditors!
The debt that is accumulating is not just financial however. By and large, the response to the crises has been a continuation of failed policies of the past, increasing the ecological, climate, social, and economic debts owed to working people and the marginalized. The alarming failure of governments in the North to make concrete commitments to settle their climate debt to the South, through deep domestic emissions cuts and compensatory finance and technology, threatens our collective future. Similarly, limited, lender-driven and conditioned debt relief has ignored the need to respect the self-determination and sovereignty of all peoples and to address demands to end the impunity of the casino economy and make reparations for the damage done through illegitimate indebtedness.
Other wrong-headed responses to the crises include: lending for crisis needs, fossil fuels, agrofuels, mega infrastructure and energy projects or so-called clean development mechanisms; promoting the carbon market and the notion of a “green” capitalism; and the central role given to highly questioned institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, regional development banks, the Financial Stability Forum, or the World Trade Organization.
People and the planet demand debt cancellation and reparations, NOW!
Enough is enough! What people and the planet are demanding is to break the chains of debt domination and the subjugation of all life to the dictates of the market in an economic system based on accumulation and overconsumption by the few, rather than justice and solidarity among the many. We, the peoples, must unite locally and globally to build alternatives of equity and equilibrium for all, without debts or domination.
Instead of more illegitimate debt and new institutions like the G20 – the self-proclaimed “premier forum for international economic cooperation”-, that exclude the majority of countries, it is time to transform a system whose failure has become increasingly evident. Rather than profiting from the crises on the backs of the same peoples, countries, and planet that for too long now have been paying the costs of their enrichment, the governments, corporations, and institutions of the North, together with elites in the South, must provide reparations for the debts they have incurred and their responsibility for these multiple crises and the disproportionate use of the planet’s resources.
Stop Illegitimate Lending – Transform the System!
We call on movements and organizations all over the world to join forces in this fight and to unite in the GLOBAL WEEK OF ACTION AGAINST DEBT AND IFIs, October 7-17. Together let us carry out actions wherever we are, in support of the following demands and ongoing struggles:
No more debt in response to the crises provoked by the lenders
Unconditional cancellation and repudiation of all illegitimate financial debts
Restitution and reparations for ecological, climate, economic, social and historical debts owed by the governments and corporations of the North to the peoples of the South
Respect for the sovereign right of countries to repudiate or stop servicing debt claims in order to meet their human and nature rights obligations
Solutions to the economic, climate, energy, and food crises that are equitable, participatory, and transformational
World Bank and regional development banks out of Climate Finance
An end to the nefarious practices of vulture funds, which profiteer at the expense of impoverished countries and debt cancellation.
No more irresponsible lending to finance destructive projects or to prop up illegitimate governments.
Creation of new financial institutions and global and regional financial architecture that put people and the planet before profits and corporate power
An end to the militarization and criminalization of social protest
GLOBAL WEEK OF ACTION AGAINST DEBT AND IFIs
OCTOBER 7 to 17, 2010
INTERNATIONAL SOUTH-NORTH CAMPAIGN ON ILLEGITIMATE DEBT
Initial endorsers: Jubilee South, Jubilee USA, Committee for the Abolition of the Third World Debt (Cadtm), European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad), Africa Jubilee South, Daughters of Mumbi Global Resource Center (Kenya), Dialogue 2000 (Argentina)
To add the endorsement of your movement, organization or group, send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the blog
The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement statement on conditions in Haiti
The Malcolm X Grass roots Move ment (MXGM) is an organization of people of Afrikan descent in the United States who believe in fighting for and sup port ing self-determination and human rights for Afrikans in the United States and around the world. Our organization annu ally takes an international trip to build solidarity with other people strug gling for liberation and social justice. This year, we come in solidarity to Haiti (with the people of Haiti).
Our objective was to meet with Haitian people and popular organizations and assess the current situation in the camps and through out the country seven months after the earthquake.
What we have found is appalling. There is a lack of security, deteriorating health conditions, and inad equate access to food, water, medicine and education in the camps. We are particularly concerned about the lack of safety and the large number of reported rapes and violent attacks on Haitian women and children in the camps.
Numerous Haitian people living in the camps have reported that aid groups and Non-Governmental Organization’s (NGO) have provided inadequate aid after millions were collected by the U.S. government (through the Clinton/ Bush initiative), the Red Cross, the United Nations and a multitude of NGOs.
We demand that the US and Haitian governments, and so-called aid organizations, be held account able and immediately collaborate with the popular organizations of Haiti for the distribution of much needed relief to Internally Displaced Haitians
All the people we encountered in the camps and the popular movement continuously raised concerns not only about the deplorable health conditions and lack of long term planning but also the need for free and fair elections in Haiti that include lifting the ban of Fanmi Lavalas from the upcoming elections, creating a legitimate elec toral council and allowing the return of Jean Bertrand Aristide who the people still view as their legitimate leader.
MXGM supports the demands of the Haitian people and popular movement. The current situation is untenable and is a violation of the principles of democracy and human rights.
MXGM opposes the banishment of Dr. Jean Bertrand Aristide from his home land and supports the consistent popular demand of the Haitian people for his speedy return. We oppose the occu pa tion of Haiti by the United Nations and call for the freedom of Haitian political prisoners. And we support the demand for France and the U.S. to pay restitution and reparations to Haiti for slavery and centuries of coercion, and economic exploitation.
We will organize our communities in United States to help end the conditions we witnessed and to build the new Haiti envi sioned by the people’s pop u lar movement.
Thursday, August 26, 2010 Con tact: Kamau Franklin +001 917 53 53 041 www.mxgm.org email@example.com
Taking Nigeria's literary destiny into our own hands
An interview with Emmanuel Iduma
’Saraba’ is an online literary magazine created and published by Emmanuel Iduma and Damilola Ajayi, two students from the University of Ife, in Nigeria. Saraba has just published its sixth edition in just 18 months and has gone from strength to strength. There are a number of Nigerian-run literary blogs such as ’Bookaholic’, and ’Wordsbody’ by Molara Wood as well as websites like ’Sentinel Nigeria’,and ’Nigeria Fiction’. But ‘Saraba’, for my mind, remains the most comprehensive and progressive literary journal, with the potential to move well beyond Nigeria. It is a work of the heart with very little funding and my hope is this short interview will encourage readers to support Emmanuel and Damilola in their work.
SOKARI EKINE: Lets start with some background on how you came about the idea of Saraba. When and why did you imagine you could put together a literary magazine? Did you decide alone or did you have a series of conversations with friends? How long was it from the idea to publishing the first issue? How did you cover the costs?
EMMANUEL IDUMA: The idea of Saraba was born after a Colloquium of New Writing I organised alongside two friends, in late 2008 at Obafemi Awolowo University where we school and reside. So, basically, in late 2008, dissatisfied and disenchanted with the loads of rejection mails we were receiving, Damilola and myself felt we could start an electronic magazine with little or no sensibility and with support from emerging writers.
Of course, we had to immediately define ‘emerging writers’, and we took the phrase to mean young (or old) writers who have been published little or not at all, but whose writing showed promise and talent. This definition was necessarily from the viewpoint of ourselves and our writing, since we could be described as such writers.
The time between the decision to begin and our first issue was about three months – November 2008 to February 2009. We started by assembling a team of enthusiasts like ourselves – Ayobami Omobolanle, Itunu Akande and Dolapo Amusan. Dolapo was the technical guy, who helped design the first website. We got this at no cost. The cost of hosting the site was borne by myself and Damilola from savings.
What was most important was the drive. We were inexperienced with literary publishing. In fact, we felt so bad about our first issue that we had to re-issue it in September 2009.
SOKARI EKINE: Why did you feel so bad?
EMMANUEL IDUMA: Well, we felt dissatisfied with the standard of the issue, especially because at that time we had begun to read other electronic literary magazines. The hyperactivity and exuberance that had greeted our first publication soon dwindled because, suddenly, we realized we had work to do, and that we were novices. ‘Professional novices’, I’d like to say. Also we did not know what it meant to distribute an online literary magazine. We just felt we could put it on the site without getting to the readers. By the time the second issue was to be published we had only one or two submissions. I think this was because we didn’t communicate with writers who had submitted to the first issue. We didn’t write them acceptance or rejection letters but just put their work on the site.
SOKARI EKINE: But you have learned from that now. I know you have a proper structured submission process on your site
EMMANUEL IDUMA: Yes we do.
SOKARI EKINE: You mentioned you were at university. Are you studying anything literature-related?
EMMANUEL IDUMA: No. I am studying law and Damilola is studying medicine.
SOKARI EKINE: When did you discover that you had a love of literature and when did you begin to read seriously? Did you read much as a young child? If so, what did you read?
EMMANUEL IDUMA: Yes, I started reading quite early – say about eight [years old] – because my dad had a huge library of theological and philosophical books. I didn’t read them, in the sense of reading. I simply glanced at their covers. Up until today I can tell the titles of most of my dad’s books. When I began to have the idea that I wanted to write, I started reading novels. Mostly Nigerian. I read a lot of romance too at that point.
SOKARI EKINE: Can you name just a few?
EMMANUEL IDUMA: I started by reading all of Achebe that I could find. Then the Christian romance series ‘Heartsong’, and the ‘Left Behind’ series by Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins. Then John Grisham, John D. McDonald, Orson Scott Card, Michael Crichton, and so forth. Afterwards, in 2006, I started to read the kind of books I thought I wanted to write: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Richard Wright, Umberto Eco, Helon Habila, Salman Rushdie, Isabel Allende, Orhan Pamuk. Well, the list is endless. I acquire new books every month.
SOKARI EKINE: What has been the response and support from established Nigerian writers, the new crop of writers and poets, from the arts in general and, of course, the general public? Do you think there is a need for this or even more Sarabas?
EMMANUEL IDUMA: On established writers, the response has not been kind of minimal. Yet, it’s better than when we started. The first ‘established’ writer to support us was Jumoke Verissimo, our first guest editor, then Uche Peter Umez, then Jude Dibia, Tolu Ogunlesi, Eghosa Imasuen, and Lola Shoneyin. Yet, I think there’s a need for us to try harder with getting the support of established writers, whose support would go a long way in increasing our respectability.
The new crop of writers and poets is our biggest asset. By this I mean that the response has been overwhelming. At present, we have published or are going to publish writers from India, Botswana, Malawi, the U.K., South Africa, Ghana, Turkey, Paris, etc. This is aside from the numerous writers in Nigeria we have already published. It’s interesting because we feel unstarted, and being in school means we might have achieved more if ‘Saraba’ was done full-time.
The general public, well, [it] knows little or nothing about ‘Saraba’. I assume the general public in this context means readers. I can safely say there’s little known about ‘Saraba’, and the goodwill we enjoy comes mostly from writers and literary enthusiasts. This is no fault of theirs. We have not exactly done good publicity, owing to schoolwork and financial constraints.
Of course, more Sarabas would be useful. The caveat in this regard would be that I hope more Sarabas would attempt to have a signature of their own. The market should not be laden with efforts that are only replicas of existing ones. What ‘Saraba’ has tried to do is have a signature of its own, separate and distinct from existing efforts. Anyway, I am open to any new Saraba, for I think we need to do this – to take our literary destiny into our hands.
SOKARI EKINE: As the publisher of one of the few Nigerian literary magazines, what do you see your role [to be] and what is your impression of the calibre of new writings coming out of Nigeria, West Africa and the continent?
EMMANUEL IDUMA: My role is simple. I do not want to be looked upon as a messiah of some sort, but a young man with love for the literary arts. Again, as a preliminary remark, I’d like to add that it is somewhat difficult and demanding to give perfect and equal attention to writing and publishing. They are two roles that I think should not be fused. But increasingly, we find that we must make exceptions. And I think my life is that exception! I think we can have a conversation on the role of a writer as a publisher.
If I have any role, let it be one that has a definitive outlook. I desire to create a forum, a hub of expression, without limitation as to status or achievement in literary circles. As such, I wish to help create a symphony of simplicity and ambition, a place where writers meet unashamed, and well, without restraint.
I’d talk about calibre [from] two angles. The first angle is simpler. I think good writing is coming out of Nigeria, and many agree, so I don’t need to spend time on this. The second angle is that I find many new writers seeking to conform to certain standards, or viewpoints, set and shared by newly established writers. Many seem to define good writing by the achievement of others, and feel that certain sensibilities must be reflected in a work before it achieves merit. I’ve had conversations with several of my peers and I feel this is a major challenge; and I also feel it is cautionable. The calibre of any writer’s writing is self-defined, and such feet-licking is highly destructive. I think a writer is to define his ambition himself; whether he gets there or not is left to no one’s judgment, but his [own].
SOKARI EKINE: Nigeria has a growing publishing scene with Cassava Republic and Farafina being the most well known. Is there a danger of these becoming the spokespersons for Nigerian literature and acting as the entry points for new writers in the same way that the established European publishers have in the past?
EMMANUEL IDUMA: I feel the need to extricate the issues, and you might want us to consider them separately. First, whether these publishing houses can become spokespersons for Nigerian literature is not a question of sentiment, but of fact. The facts that make this a reality outweigh the facts that do not. For one, these houses seem to have entered a market that is disfavourable – a forgotten market. It becomes necessary that they assert their presence – publish the writers they want to, whose writing would publicise the publishing houses. As such, it is easy for them to dictate to Nigerian literature.
Whether they do so rightly or not is another issue. I mean, look at what Farafina has done with Adichie. They have literally told us that she’s an Amazon, and fed us with what to imagine about her and her writing. I think this is only incidental to the fact that they came into the Nigerian literary industry at the time they did. They have to stay in business. But if this position remains the same after a decade, then they would have done worse to Nigerian industry than the military dictatorship.
The second issue is whether they have (or can) become an entry point for new writers. I assume new writers in this context relates directly to new Nigerian writers. This is more of a subjective issue. One, it is highly dependent on their structure, tenacity and commitment to new writing. Since 2004 when Farafina became prominent, this has not exactly been the case. New homegrown writers published by Farafina and Cassava Republic, if any, have not been accorded the same respectability and assiduousness accorded to writers who are ‘West-grown.’ This is only, as I said earlier, incidental. The risk is enormous.
But, that said, it is only unfortunate that these publishers are unwilling to take the risk to promote homegrown writing. We are not talking here about workshops or events, we are talking about books and what makes a book successful. I wish these houses would commit their resources to finding new talent, getting manuscripts and publishing them. Ambition is risky; mediocrity is safe. These publishers, in my opinion, have been mediocre. We support what they are doing, with caution, only with the hope that they become ambitious. A book might fail, but not all books would fail in the market, eventually. And yes, they seem to assert their ‘literary right’ to serve as entry points. Can we blame them?
SOKARI EKINE: Over the past few years there have been regular writers workshops run by well-known writers such as Adichie all of which aim, encourage and support writers. Last year you attended the Word Into Art Into Africa (WiAiA) workshop in Lagos run by SPARCK. However as we both know, for example, from our joint SPARCK experience, you as participant and myself as one of the facilitators, that there are serious problems with these kind of events – not just during the workshops themselves but what happens to the writer afterwards. What are you left with? Or rather, what should they be left with?
EMMANUEL IDUMA: Every workshop, in whatever capacity it is organised, should leave a young writer with the temerity and ambition to write. I use ‘temerity’ because young writers like me are generally faced with the challenge of being overwhelmed by the market, by the success of established writers and the failures of some; by the question of publishing, and the question of the essence of writing.
In a workshop, however, the young writer is told that he can write, that there is no such thing as a writer who does not know how to write; he is encouraged. He is therefore left with courage, determination, and in some cases, dissidence. Of course, his reasserted courage is directly proportional to his ambition. If he can be encouraged, his ambition soars.
These are the two-fold essentials that I am left with after every workshop I attend. It might not have a universal appeal. But I think they should, and organisers of workshops should direct their attention to them.
We must question and address the aim of these workshops. I do not propose superficial questions, which would produce superficial answers. Instead I propose questions that linger, such as the post-workshop experience, and the sincerity of the organisers. We must also question the mode of selection. If you want to train writers, do not anticipate made writers. Isn’t it possible to have workshops where writers are selected on the basis of their work on the internet, and pre-recognition? Writing samples (800 words, for instance) appears to me as restrictive. For example, being selected for the WiAiA workshop was proof that 800 words do not express my talent. And I know many others with such experience. In the end, persons who get chosen for 800-word-workshops seem to be those with ‘short’ interest in writing. This is as far as I can get.
Residing on a university campus, I understand how unfulfilling it can be for writers to have no support for their writing. Almost all, if not all, campuses in Nigeria are guilty. There is no support, to the extent that I know, for literature in Nigerian universities. There are stultifying literary courses which, most of the time, are outdated, inundated with retrogressive and unenthusiastic tutors.
If I had sought inspiration from my university’s literary indulgence, I would have stopped writing a long time ago. In school however, we took our destinies into our hands, organised workshops, wrote on wooden boards, found peers who shared our passion. Our university does not notice, has not attempted to appreciate our efforts. It is disheartening. But when I consider that nothing in our educational system has been ‘heartening’ I am somewhat consoled.
SOKARI EKINE: Recently you started a long discussion on Facebook following your comment on literary tyranny – whether we mortal souls have the right or dare to critique well known writers such as Adichie. Could you expand on what you were alluding to and why you think this is important?
EMMANUEL IDUMA: Although you have given the short note a new twist, which was not what I intended, let me see if I can attempt an explanation.
I do not presume that we do not have the right to question such writers as Adichie. I was attempting a sarcastic rendering of how I felt about how she’s been handled, by the majority of her admirers, and what this holds for the literary landscape well after she’s gone from the scene. My consideration of this was from the lenses of her book, by which I did not exactly feel overawed. I have reservations on the book, which I think is too sentimental to be clearly written. I must say, however, that I respect her craft, her talent. It has never been a question for me.
But in talking about literary tyranny (although it seems the word was not carefully chosen), I meant that it appears Adichie is being considered an icon that cannot be critiqued, a person of whom all talk about must be in praise. I am against this. We are humans first, and then writers. No one writes a perfect book since no one is a perfect individual. If we continue in this manner, the tyranny I perceive is that we would all be shut up and fed trash. Good, she has written good books, her stories are great, but it does not mean that when we have a grouse with what she has written, we should remain silent.
I say this because I perceive the general feeling is that she is too good to a fault; even those who have not set their eyes on her books think this! She is a writer, and we measure her by her books, not her face or the appeal that Farafina, for one, has managed to attach to her name and personality. This is the tyranny I speak about. It’s nothing personal, I assure you. I do not, as my senior peer Eghosa Imasuen tried to suggest on the note, begrudge the artist her success. It is deserved (although I am not sure – I have no personal rapport with her).
When I grow up I want to be like her! But the note seemed to show the fact that we must talk about what we have to talk about, and defend it thoroughly.
SOKARI EKINE: When it comes to awards and prizes, Nigerian writers rely on those given by foreigners. Why do you think we do not have say an Achebe or Amos Tutuola award for literature?
EMMANUEL IDUMA: I cannot say. I think, however, that it appears we lack the temerity to do so. But you know, prizes are emerging. I appreciate the work of Myne Whitman, of ANA, JLF and so forth. The fact is that prizes come last. We are still in the stage of re-developing our craft, our ‘literariness.’ ‘Saraba’ would institute a prize, I’m certain. We should take our time on prizes. They are too sensitive – see what has happened with the NLNG Prize [Nigeria Prize for Literature]..
On prizes given by foreigners, I can say nothing! I have no facts.
In sum, we need our own prizes because we have our own writing and sensibilities, separate and distinct from the foreign.
SOKARI EKINE: So where next for you, Emmanuel and for ‘Saraba’? You have hinted at the possibility of instituting a prize some time in the future and expanding the magazine to include writers from across the continent. I want to return to your first anniversary (Issue 4) in which you reflect on the first year. You titled the piece, ‘A short history of modern fools.’ You start off by saying you are not fools, then completely contradict yourself by saying maybe you are. Which are you? Or are you neither?
EMMANUEL IDUMA: Of course, the contradiction was intended. Looking back, I felt we had done so much without experience. But I suddenly realised that experience was gotten on the job. I stand by my affirmation that we are modern fools, because it seemed to me that sometimes we acted too spontaneously, without thinking. I’m sure, albeit, that we’ve done all passionately, without once being limited by resources and experience.
That said, the future is hazy, although daily clarity is bestowed upon us. There’s no plan to institute a prize just yet. But we hope to increase awareness and public knowledge about ‘Saraba’. Although we are constrained by financial wherewithal, which sometimes affects how soon we upload a new issue, we are more concerned with increasing awareness than making profit. Profiteering is something we are taking our time to plan and prepare for. We hope to go commercial by this time in 2011.
It might be necessary to state our plan for the rest of the year. We are releasing a new poetry chapbook on 30 August 2010. Then our technology issue would be out by end of September. In October, we plan to release another chapbook with poems for Nigeria at 50 [years old], and perhaps other writings that express Nigeria. Finally, our annual story issue would be out in December.
For me, the road is long. I feel small, too small. I’d have my degree in October, in Law, and proceed to the Nigerian Law School. During this period I hope to complete a novel – hopefully! Ah, I cannot say much, I can only say I know I want to write. As much as possible, I’d also try to avoid the public fora. Sometimes, it seems deafening. And who wants to be deafened?
SOKARI EKINE: I read your poem ‘Dream Machine.’ We all have dreams but the distance between the dream and realizing the dream is often long and hard. Why do you think you have succeeded in your attempt to create a space in Nigeria‘s/ Africa’s literary landscape? W – what have you and your partner Damilola got that makes ‘Saraba’ work?
EMMANUEL IDUMA: I cannot call what we have success. It is too early for that. What we have might only be an attempt, and if we have succeeded in this attempt, fine. I must however add that it seems we have a space in the Nigerian/African literary landscape. It was gladdening to us when Akin Ajayi included ‘Saraba’ on The Guardian’s website as one of the three prominent literary journals. Such recognition meant that there was a Saraba that could be referred to; for that we are grateful.
If I must speak about qualities, I’d prefer to speak about Damilola. Partnerships, today, would often fail for conflict of ideas and whims. There has been nothing like that. Damilola has given me the room to make ‘Saraba’, and I hope I’ve given him room, too. It’s amazing that we’ve never had an argument in almost two years, even as friends. This essential quality – simplicity – is well known to me as the secret of progress. Even more amazingly, Damilola thinks we have not begun, and he says this so often that I feel idle and of no use. Of course, it his tenacity and energy that I admire the most.
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* This article was first published by Black Looks.
* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Taking Freedom Home
Directed and edited by Kagendo Murungi and co-produced by The Welfare Warriors Research Collaborative, QEJ & Wapinduzi Productions, ‘Taking Freedom Home’ chronicles two years in the life of the Welfare Warriors Research Collaborative (WWRC), a project of Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ), a New York based non-profit organisation.
The film sheds much needed light on the challenges faced by low income LGBTGNC (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender nonconforming) residents of New York City as well as their intersectional social justice organising strategies.
Equal parts video postcard and revolutionary workbook, the film utilises memory, artistic expression and group analysis to reveal a process of personal healing and collective empowerment.
‘Taking Freedom Home’ celebrates the creativity and vibrance of diverse LGBTGNC movements and particularly the historical initiatives of trans and gender nonconforming people of colour in New York and throughout the US from the Stonewall Uprising in 1969 to the Critical Resistance (CR10) conference in 2008.
This documentary video was co-produced by Queers for Economic Justice and Wapinduzi Productions to document the Welfare Warriors Research Collaborative’s storytelling process. It accompanies ‘A Fabulous Attitude!: Low Income Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Gender Non Conforming and Queer People Surviving and Thriving on Love, Shelter, & Knowledge,’ the collaborative’s 70-page research report on low income LGBTGNC issues.
The Welfare Warriors Research Collaborative was a participatory action research project of Queers for Economic Justice that convened from 2007 to 2010. We came together to investigate the disturbing and infuriating poverty-related violences low income LGBTGNC people navigate every day.
Trained in research by a graduate student at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and in documentary video production by the founder of Wapinduzi Productions, we videotaped 10 storytelling interviews and conducted 171 surveys with low income LGBTGNC people of color and white folks in the NYC area.
Our findings show that the majority of low income LGBTGNC people are strongly involved in their communities and use many strategies to fight for justice. We deal with continual discrimination and violence at the hands of police - as well as staff and guards at government and nonprofit institutions.
Those in our research also create personal and community projects that make their lives richer and stronger. Still, the struggles low income LGBTGNC people face are harsh and isolating – 69 per cent of survey takers have been homeless at some point in their lives and 40 per cent use isolation as a means to avoid being targeted. Our work shows how racism, transphobia, and homophobia entangle with economic injustice to create such conditions.
This film will engage the interest of friends and allies to LGBTGNC movements, advocacy and organizing groups, academics and policy makers, and community members that can relate to the difficulties of being low income and having the desire for justice.
Queers for Economic Justice is a progressive non-profit organisation committed to promoting economic justice in a context of sexual and gender liberation. Their goal is to challenge and change the systems that create poverty and economic injustice in our communities, and to promote an economic system that embraces sexual and gender diversity.
Founded in 1992 by Kagendo Murungi, Wapinduzi Productions is a US based producer of documentary films, and collaborative creative community spaces for social justice.
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* Kagendo Murungi is director and editor of Taking Freedom Home
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
MDGs yet to fail Africa
The Millennium Development Goals initiative is yet to fail Africa.
Africans must focus on their own agenda and leave out the Western propaganda that is bent on infiltration by their media mediation of our social issues.
They are once more blaming our governments by what is purported as lack of transparency and human rights abuse by our leaders, while actually is their lack of commitment to have our interests at heart.
In fact the West should be considering reparations for the continent they robbed of its wealth, land and people for centuries.
As for you Africa, you must know, you're on your own.
Remember Marcus Garvey and stop feeling pity for yourself.
Because I am a girl, I must study
A father asks his daughter:
Study? Why should you study?
I have sons aplenty who can study
Girl, why should you study?
The daughter tells her father:
Since you ask, here’s why I must study.
Because I am a girl, I must study.
Long denied this right, I must study
For my dreams to take flight, I must study
Knowledge brings new light, so I must study
For the battles I must fight, I must study
Because I am a girl, I must study.
To avoid destitution, I must study
To win independence, I must study
To fight frustration, I must study
To find inspiration, I must study
Because I am a girl, I must study.
To fight men’s violence, I must study
To end my silence, I must study
To challenge patriarchy I must study
To demolish all hierarchy, I must study.
Because I am a girl, I must study.
To mould a faith I can trust, I must study
To make laws that are just, I must study
To sweep centuries of dust, I must study
To challenge what I must, I must study
Because I am a girl, I must study.
To know right from wrong, I must study.
To find a voice that is strong, I must study
To write feminist songs I must study
To make a world where girls belong, I must study.
Because I am a girl, I must study.
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* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The fisherman and the carpenter
To the Ga, of Ghana
Natty Mark Samuel
When I rise in the morning and when retiring at night, I praise Maawu. I praise her with my mouth; honour him with libation.
On my behalf, Maawu tells Nsho to give me red snappers and giant tuna. That which I cannot control, listens to the voice of Maawu and my net is filled.
But I have caught my last red snapper
My last giant tuna.
For the final time
I sat by Sango lagoon.
You and I both know
I have eaten my last Kpokpoe.
Blest and beautiful Teshi
I have danced my last Kpashimo
I praise Maawu
For deliverance from hunger
Our yearly festival called Homowo.
Praise Maawu always, beloved nephew.
And you will continue to create things of beauty and usefulness,
As my nets have never been empty.
Give thanks and praise continuously.
Then Abomsam cannot trouble you.
Thank you for my final bed
Shaped like a boat.
Now I can sail from here
Continue to fish
To row, to bob, to float
To float on some other Nsho
Only Maawu knows where
Time to go Master Carpenter
Time to sail from here.
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* © Natty Mark Samuels, 2010
* Natty Mark Samuels is a poet based in Oxford.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Homowo: Annual harvest festival
Kpashimo: Festival street parade/dance
Kpokpoe: Festival meal
Nsho Bulemo: A preliminary ceremony of festival
Sesebumo: Final ceremony of Teshi Homowo festival
Teshi: Ga town
Jonathan throws hat into ring
'I was beaten on the head and all over the body'
'President [Robert] Mugabe [leader of ZANU-PF] and Prime Minister [Morgan] Tsvangirai [leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)] must apologise to me because I was beaten on the head and all over the body by ZANU-PF militia and sustained a broken leg. My daughter-in-law, who was pregnant, and my six-year-old grandson were locked in a house which was then set on fire.' - Juliet Mashoko, a 61-year-old grandmother, attended the recent Survivors Summit in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, organised by Heal Zimbabwe.
83 WOZA members to spend night in cells at Harare Central Police Station
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights have confirmed that 83 WOZA members are being held at Harare Central Police Station. They will spend the night in custody even though police officers are still not sure what charges to prefer or if they even have a case against the activists as most handed themselves in. WOZA members had commemorated International Peace Day by handing over a set of demands aimed at the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Ministers of Home Affairs asking police to adhere to the protocols set out in the Police Act, the ZRP Service Charter and the ZRP Service Standards and to work together with Zimbabweans to keep our communities safe.
WOZA activists released but leader Williams briefly detained
Around 73 WOZA activists arrested Monday, following a demonstration at the Parliament Building in Harare, were eventually released on free bail on Wednesday. The activists marched to commemorate International Peace Day and police arrested them at the end of the march, first charging them with ‘obstructing traffic’ before later changing this to ‘criminal nuisance’.
Africa: Call for new UN mechanism to deal with equality before the law
Equality Now has called on the UN Human Rights Council to create a new mechanism to
assist member states to achieve women’s equality before the law. "The Human Rights Council is responsible within the UN system for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and ending discrimination against women falls squarely within this mandate. One very concrete action that could be taken by the Human Rights Council to promote women’s equality would be creation of a new special mechanism to focus on women’s equality with men before the law," said the organisation in a written statement to the UN last month.
Africa: New UN entity to be ‘strong champion’ of gender equality
The first head of the new United Nations super-agency on female empowerment today voiced hope that the body will be a 'strong champion' of gender equality and hasten existing UN efforts to advance the cause of women and girls. The UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women was established on 2 July by a unanimous vote of the General Assembly to oversee all of the world body’s programmes aimed at promoting women’s rights and their full participation in global affairs.
Africa: Opportunities and dangers for 21st century girls
With an urbanisation rate of 4-5 per cent per annum and a staggering 38 per cent of its population currently living in cities, millions of girls in sub Saharan Africa are likely to be left behind the expanding benefits of urbanisation and technological advancement, a report by international child rights organisation Plan International says.
Embargoed until September 22nd 2010
Opportunities and dangers for the 21st Century Girls
Nairobi: With an urbanization rate of 4-5 percent per annum and a staggering 38 per cent of its population currently living in cities, millions of girls in sub Saharan Africa are likely to be left behind the expanding benefits of urbanization and technological advancement, a report by international child rights organization Plan International says.
Although there are generally fewer street girls than boys, the report says their invisibility makes them the most at risk of abuse, exploitation and sexual assault. The general public treats them with contempt while those meant to protect them, such as the police offer them violence instead.
“These booming areas present new opportunities for girls and young women. But both cities and the internet are not always planned with their best interest in mind” says the Nigel Chapman, Plan’s Chief Executive.
“Without the right measures, urban and virtual spaces are at risk of becoming yet another place from which girls are either excluded or simply scared to enter” Chapman says in a commentary accompanying the report.
Plan’s annual global study Because I am A Girl: The State of the World’s Girls 2010 report, which will be launched today, makes the chilling findings. The report was released to coincide with the September 20-22nd UN summit meeting in New York called to speed progress towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of which one of the targets is to ensure significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.
The report reveals that the boom in city populations and the explosion of cyberspace offer the best chances for girls to go to school, to marry later, give birth more safely and have more of a say in their lives than their rural cousins. But many of the benefits do not apply to slums where 62 per cent of urban population in Sub Saharan Africa reside.
It shows that while cyber space are becoming hunting grounds for crime syndicate and traffickers wanting to lure young girls into the sex industry, young girls with nowhere to live, no family support, unsafe streets and prejudice are being forced out of schools into risky and unsafe relationship.
“A lot of men from the general public or from nearby offices come to the river. They then solicit sex from girls… A man comes and picks whoever they want to have sex with. If I am picked, I leave my child with the other girls and take the client down to the river,” says Tanya, 14, from Harare, Zimbabwe.
“Even if they don’t use a condom, it’s not like I was ever going to make much out of my life anyway. I don’t see myself ever leaving these streets and having a better life, so I might as well do something that will help me to survive for the moment as tomorrow is another day. “I’m afraid to visit the hospital for HIV tests. But if I cannot have sex with these men, eventually I’ll die of hunger. It is better to die of AIDS than hunger,” She says.
When girls perceive that their environment is threatening, they start to avoid the places that make them feel unsafe. As a result, streets, squares, parks, internet cafés, public toilets, and neighborhoods are often used more by men and boys than by women and girls.
“You have no one to take care of you. Nobody in the society respects you or wants to see you… People don’t care whether you die, whether you live,” says a street girl from Kenya
“I like being a girl, but I want to know my rights,” said a girl who is a secondary school student in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya. She said that she felt she could hardly step out of her home at night without being assaulted.
While women and children are recognized as specific categories in policy and planning, girls’ particular needs and rights are often ignored.
“There is little recognition at any level by those who run our cities that adolescent girls have different requirements and different vulnerability than boys and older women,” says Gezahegn Kebede, the Regional Director of Plan International in Eastern and Southern Africa. “Women and girls should have as much right to the city as men and boys; to freedom of mobility, to use public spaces, to go to school, to engage in politics and to participate in the benefits of urban life without fear,” Kebede says.
The outgoing Under Secretary General and Executive secretary of Human Settlements (UN Habitat) Ms Anne J. Tibaijuka in a forward statement in this report says “Right to the City is about consultation, inclusion, and empowering people to solve their own problems. It is about fighting slums, not slum dwellers, and fighting poverty instead of fighting the poor! Empowering and including girls and young women is crucial. Their rights and needs have been ignored for too long”
“The evidence in this report demonstrates what can and must be done and I am delighted that Plan and all the many organizations that have contributed to the 2010 Girls’ Report have called us all to action. We must not condemn another generation to life in urban slums, or worse” says Tibaijuka.
As African heads of state join the rest of the world leaders in New York for the Millennium Development Goals review summit, Plan International (Region of Eastern and Southern Africa) is calling on Africa to take the lead in addressing the plight of African girl children living in city slums and other informal settlements by ensuring:
· Girls’ rights in cities (economic, social, political and cultural) are guaranteed
· Girls have equal access with boys to all services.
· No girl is so poor that she has to sell her body to survive
· Every girl has access to decent shelter, education, employment, transport and health services.
· Girls living in cities are free from violence, at home, at school, and in the street
· Girls living in cities are not discriminated against or harassed
· Girls living in cities have equal access with boys to technology
· A clear understanding is noted that girls’ needs are different from boys’ and from each other
· Adolescent girls’ needs are documented and taken care of in political and planning processes.
For more information, please contact Regis Nyamakanga on mobile phone +254712 205 860 or Masudi Hamimu on mobile phone +254715 101 464
Global: Developing countries must reform domestic violence laws to meet MDGs
For most women who are heavily dependent on their abusers, attaining economic independence is an impossible dream. Consequently, “women – who are often at the heart of every nation” are not able to make sure their children are fed, educated or vaccinated. In order to accelerate progress on some of the Millennium Development Goals, good governance and legal reforms to protect the vulnerable are desperately needed.
Southern Africa: Women traders confronting sexual harassment at borders
Harassment and sexual exploitation by border officials seeking bribes constitute the biggest obstacles for female informal cross-border traders in Africa, according to a United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) research study. The study, which surveyed over 700 informal traders at their homes, workplaces and markets in Zimbabwe and Swaziland, as well as at border posts with South Africa, describes harassment of traders by South African police, soldiers and customs officials if traders should refuse to pay bribes.
Africa: Challenges for NGOs at Human Rights Council
Freedom House’s recently released report card on the UN Human Rights Council has noted how human rights abusing countries on the Council often try to prevent NGOs from being able to report on abuses by repeatedly interrupting them as they speak during their designated time slots. Freedom House says this practice is clearly demonstrated during a short speech by Kristyana Valcheva (a Bulgarian nurse imprisoned and tortured for over 8 years in Libya on false charges), who was speaking on behalf of Freedom House. Valcheva was repeatedly interrupted by Libya, Iran, China and Cuba.
Africa: World leaders fail to uphold rights, says Amnesty
Amnesty International on Tuesday warned that the plan of action on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed by governments fails to uphold the rights of the world's poorest. Despite overwhelming evidence that millions are being left out of the MDGs because discrimination and other human rights violations prevent them from accessing basic services, world leaders failed to seize the opportunity to put human rights at the heart of the MDGs, during a UN summit in New York this week, said Amnesty.
DRC: Congo's civilians need protection
All sides in the conflict - Congolese and foreign armies and an alphabet soup of armed groups - have committed appalling abuses. Their killings, rape, burning, pillaging and forced labour have forced at least 1.2 million people from their homes in 2009 and early 2010 alone, bringing the number of displaced civilians in eastern Congo to almost 2 million.
Kenya: Obama administration implicated in detention of rights worker
Two prominent human rights workers, one of them a lawyer, were arrested this week in Uganda as part of a US-sponsored local 'security response' to bombings in Kampala over the summer. 'As an investigator for Reprieve, I work closely with one of them: Al-Amin Kimathi, director of the Kenyan organisation, Muslim Human Rights Forum, who has assisted hundreds of rendition victims and now represents those charged with the Kampala bombings. He is one of the most tireless human rights activists in Africa, and is now at grave risk of torture himself,' writes a colleague.
Sudan: ‘UN Rights Council Must Not Silence Victims of Rights Violations in Sudan’
The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council appears to be on the verge of ending the mandate of the UN Independent Expert on human rights in Sudan at its 15th Session despite the worsening human rights situation in the country. A draft resolution circulated earlier this week by the African Group failed to renew this mandate.
African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Darfur Bar Association, and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Sudanese and International Human Rights Defenders: ‘UN Rights Council Must Not Silence Victims of Rights Violations in Sudan’
(17 September 2010, Geneva) - The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council appears to be on the verge of ending the mandate of the UN Independent Expert on human rights in Sudan at its 15th Session despite the worsening human rights situation in the country. A draft resolution circulated earlier this week by the African Group failed to renew this mandate.
According to Ziad Abdel Tawab of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, “Now is not the time for the UN to look away and pretend the human rights and humanitarian crises in Sudan will somehow go away; it has a legal and moral obligation to ensure victims of human rights violations are given a voice and to work for an end to such violations.”
The 15th Human Rights Council’s review of the independent expert’s mandate comes at a crucial moment for Sudan’s future. The independent expert has a vital role in its reporting function to the Human Rights Council and in monitoring the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and recommendations made by the UN Group of Experts on Darfur.
Despite the latest report published by the independent expert in May 2010 noting progress in implementation of the CPA and recommendations of the UN Group of Experts on Darfur, the report concluded that “unresolved and serious human rights concerns overshadow the positive gains realised”. Since May, the human rights situation in Sudan has deteriorated severely, with pre-print censorship renewed from May – August 2010 and peaceful demonstrations violently suppressed.
Sudan faces a myriad of challenges at a variety of levels: the upcoming January 2011 referendum for self determination in the South and the status of the disputed Abyei territory will likely be accompanied by rights violations, and has the potential to divide the country and lead to an eruption of violence. Widespread human rights violations continue in Darfur, with attacks on villages and insecurity in IDP camps heightening in the past weeks and ongoing lack of humanitarian access. The Doha peace talks remain stalled and will soon be replaced with an internal “peace from within” strategy as declared by the government of Sudan. Civil and political rights, particularly the freedom of expression and association, remain repressed throughout the country, and there has been a dramatic tightening of space since the April 2010 elections, in which NGOs and the independent expert documented numerous cases of harassment, arrest, and detention of journalists and opposition members and their supporters.
A representative of the Darfur Bar Association said that “Wide-spread violations of human rights may lead Sudan down the path to another civil war if the situation continues to get worse. But the African Group seems more concerned with playing political games at the moment than protecting victims and ensuring the progressive realisation of security and peace for the Sudanese people.”
Throughout Sudan the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) remain endowed with broad powers of arrest and detention, and arbitrary arrest and torture are systematically practiced against Darfuris, human rights defenders, journalists, and opposition members. Members of the NISS are granted immunities through the National Security Act 2010 and other legislation amended during the interim period, and there remains no judicial oversight. A comprehensive programme of legal reform articulated in the CPA has yet to be undertaken, and while key pieces of legislation protecting civil and political rights have been reviewed, they often directly contradict the gains made by the progressive Bill of Rights in the Interim National Constitution.
Osman Hummaida of the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies said, “The Human Rights Council has a critical role in ensuring an environment conducive to a peaceful and democratic referendum, and the independent expert is the only UN mechanism with a mandate on reporting on the whole of Sudan. Renewal – and strengthening – of the mandate would assert the Human Rights Council’s commitment to addressing the situation of human rights in Sudan at one of the country’s most pivotal moments. We urge the governments of the UN Human Rights Council to address the serious human rights violations present throughout Sudan by renewing the mandate of the Independent Expert.”
The Human Rights Council, and the African Group in particular, should address the failures of the Government of Sudan in addressing the lack of protection for civilians caught in areas of conflict and perpetual insecurity, particularly South Sudan and Darfur, lack of access to justice and protection for human rights, and restrictions on the freedom of expression and the existing culture of impunity.
African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies - Osman Hummaida (English, Arabic), firstname.lastname@example.org
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies - Ziad Abdel Tawab (English, French, Arabic), email@example.com
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) - Glenn Payot (English, French), firstname.lastname@example.org
Uganda: Kenyan activists at risk of torture
Two Kenyan activists working on the cases of suspects charged with terrorism for the July 11, 2010 Kampala bombings have been illegally detained in Uganda and are at risk of abuse, Human Rights Watch has said. Human rights activist Al-Amin Kimathi of the Kenyan Muslim Human Rights Forum and Kenyan lawyer Mbugua Mureithi were arrested on September 15, 2010, when they arrived at Entebbe airport, and taken to the Ugandan police's Rapid Response Unit headquarters in Kireka, Kampala.
Côte d'Ivoire: Quest for durable solutions continues
While the implementation of the Ouagadougou Peace Accord saw some progress in mid-2010, in particular with the announcement of a new date for the elections and agreement on the voter list, fears of renewed violence and further displacement remain. At the same time, internally displaced people (IDPs) continue to struggle for durable solutions.
Malawi: Sexual harassment wrecks refugee camp
At the age of 13, Chantal Kifungo* is mother to a ten-month-old baby girl. It wasn’t her choice. Almost two years ago, she was raped by her stepfather – and fell pregnant with his child. "My mother was in hospital because she had complications with her own pregnancy. I was left alone with my stepfather. One night, he came home and raped me. I tried to shout for help but nobody heard me," Chantal says while nervously playing with her hands in her lap.
South Africa: Corruption and confusion as documentation process gets underway
Reports of corruption and confusion have already started surfacing in South Africa, as the process to legalise undocumented Zimbabweans in the country gets underway. The exercise began on Monday, a few weeks after South Africa announced it was ending its moratorium on Zimbabwean deportations at the end of the year. But by Wednesday there were already indications that the December 31st deadline for Zimbabweans to regularise their stay in South Africa will be hard to meet
South Africa: Hollow promise of permits for Zimbabweans
South Africa is to resume the deportation of Zimbabweans on 1 January 2011, on the basis that conditions in their home country have improved sufficiently, while those with valid documents will be issued with permits to stay. This is a welcome promise, activists say, but hard to implement and irrelevant to most expatriates.
South Africa: Life in for a Zimbabwean immigrant
Leaving your children behind in your home country is by no means easy, but more and more people are moving to crossing our borders in the hope of making a better living. Zoopy TV's newsteam spent a day with Belinda, a Zimbabwean who now works as a domestic worker in South Africa.
Africa: China-South Africa deals highlight great-power rivalry in Africa
The visit by South African President Jacob Zuma to Beijing from August 24 to 26, heading a delegation of 400 business representatives and 11 government ministers, was another indication of intensifying international rivalry within the African continent.
Angola: China follows British footsteps to African wealth
Chinese investment in Angola is bringing back to life one of the greatest rail routes in Africa, the Benguela Railway. In return, China gets oil - but how fair are accusations that China is engaged in a colonial-style scramble for resources?
Emerging powers news roundup
Exim Bank of India to open office in Addis
The Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank), the country’s premiere export finance institution, is scheduled to official inaugurate a representative office in Addis Ababa. The office, being set up to promote trade and investment flows between India and the East African region, will look after the bank’s interest in Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, according to Sachin More, Resident Representative of the bank.
China Taking Steps to Boost Exports From Ethiopia, Ambassador Gu Says
China is taking steps to increase the volume of goods it receives from Ethiopia, the state-owned Ethiopian News Agency cited Chinese Ambassador Gu Xiaojie as saying. China is using policy measures such as zero tariffs on products from developing countries and organizing trade fairs for Ethiopian exporters to improve the balance of trade for the Horn of Africa nation, Gu said in an interview, according to the Addis Ababa-based agency.
Bono bails on Africa
The U2 front man, who together with his wife Ali Hewson founded the Edun fashion line to resurrect clothing manufacturing in sub-Saharan Africa, has relocated production to China because of quality and consistency problems.
I.B.M.: Africa Is the Next Growth Frontier
I.B.M. will supply the computing technology and services for an upgraded cellphone network across 16 nations in sub-Saharan Africa. Its customer is India’s largest cellphone operator, Bharti Airtel, which paid $9 billion a few months ago for most of the African assets of Kuwait’s Mobile Telecommunications Company, or Zain. The Bharti contract punctuates I.B.M.’s Africa strategy. The company’s presence in Africa dates back 50 years, but in the last five years I.B.M. has invested $300 million in the region to build data centers, add country offices and foster technology training programs — and it plans to expand aggressively in the region.
Kenya: Chinese Loan Underwrites Lake Turkana Destruction
NGOs are outraged after confirmation that the world's largest bank will finance the destructive Gibe 3 hydropower dam. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) is underwriting a US$500 million contract awarded May 13 to Dongfang Electric Corporation for the dam's turbines and electro-mechanical works. Although ICBC has not publicly announced the loan, an official confirmed September 8 by email that the financial agreement between ICBC and the Ethiopian government was signed in July. The funding undermines ICBC's efforts to build a global reputation as a socially and environmentally responsible lending institution.
Sundance working on funding for $3,3bn Mbalam project
Africa-focused iron-ore developer Sundance Resources expects to secure financing for its Mbalam iron-ore project, on the border of Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), before the end of the year. Sundance chairperson George Jones said “In recent weeks, we’ve travelled extensively to meet with a number of the major steel mills and discuss sales contracts and potential joint-venture arrangements. It was during these visits that we met and engaged with China Harbour Engineering Company and CRCC China Africa Construction,”.
Chinese consortium mulls $20bn investment in Nigeria’s infrastructure
The Commonwealth Business Council on Thursday disclosed that a consortium from China is perfecting plans to invest about $20 billion on infrastructure development and capacity building in Nigeria. Mohan Kaul, director general of the council, who made the revelation in Abuja at a round table on the Nigerian international investors’ forum, said some major investment banks from France and the United Kingdom (UK) are also looking at investment opportunities of very high level in the country. The director general said, “We have China consortium here who are trying to use their credit line that China has given to Nigeria, which is about $20 billion. That credit line we got through an agreement with the Chinese government can be used on infrastructure and for capacity building. So, we have a Chinese group that is basically looking at infrastructure project using that credit line which I told you is as high as $20 billion. We have also some major investment banks from France and UK which are also looking at investment projects of very high level. So what we are looking at is investment of infrastructure projects of very high level.”
Following the money
Chinese firms have radically stepped up their overseas investment activity in recent years. But the environmental impact of that investment has caused international controversy and China’s own environmental NGOs are starting to pay attention. One such group is the Global Environmental Institute (GEI), a non-profit outfit headquartered in Beijing that has a particular focus on the environmental impact of Chinese finance abroad.
South Africa - China rejects maize surplus
“They don’t need grain in its primary form, so we exchanged information on agro-processing and agribusiness. We also discussed market access for processed goods,” she said. Grain SA chairperson Neels Ferreira, who was part of the delegation, said South Africa didn’t have the infrastructure to deliver the 4 million ton grain surplus in under a year.
Construction firms eye Africa as work dries up
South African construction companies, which arguably benefited the most from infrastructure contracts associated with the 2010 soccer World Cup, are now pinning their hopes on projects elsewhere on the African continent and in other parts of the world.
Ghana says in talks with Chinese oil investors-Reuters + China gives Ghana over $3bn loan
Ghana is making good progress in talks with Chinese investors interested in buying a stake in the West African nation’s oil assets, its deputy energy minister said on Monday. Ghana aims to produce its first barrel of oil this year but developments have often been overshadowed by talk of disputes between state oil firm GNPC and foreign energy firms.
Nirupama Rao, Foreign Secretary of India, delivered the Harish C. Mahindra Memorial Lecture and she also spoke on India’s global role at Harvard University
Of late, India’s global role has been mentioned frequently against the backdrop of what we would call a shift of economic power to Asia. Today, it is almost de rigeur to speak of the dynamic Indian growth story despite the ravages of the global economic crisis. But, to put our arms around the Indian experience, you have to beyond just the factor of fast economic growth. And that would lead us onto the quest of India’s attributes and its enduring stability as a modern and democratic nation state. Driving our foreign policy priorities and our desire for strategic autonomy are factors of external security, internal security, the need for sustained economic growth, our energy security, maritime security and access to technology and innovation. Further, India is too large a country to be dovetailed into alliance type of relationships. In order to modernize our country we need to, and we have succeeded in, forging well-rounded strategic partnerships with all major powers. A fundamental goal of India’s foreign policy is to create an external environment that promotes the fulfilment of our economic growth targets and ambitions.
President Mills arrives in China for State Visit
President John Evans Atta Mills, on his arrival in Beijing, China, on Sunday for a five-day state visit, has stressed Sino-Ghana relations and collaboration for mutual benefits. During his visit, President Mills would meet and hold talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, and sign a 270 million dollar loan facility from China to expand the Kpong Water Project, in Ghana. Other activities on the itinerary of President Mills are a visit to Bonsai Aluminium Company, which recently invested 80 per cent share in the development of Ghana's bauxite and aluminium industries, investment talks and business forum organised by the China Development Bank and a meeting with African Ambassadors.
India's cheap AIDS drug lifeline quantified
India's pivotal role in supplying cheap anti-HIV medicines to developing countries has been quantified for the first time.
The detailed assessment found that India is supplying 80 per cent of the cheap anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) bought by low- and middle-income countries. The authors say their work reveals the scale of the damage that could be done to these countries should the supply be cut off by new trade agreements. Sub-Saharan African countries, and India itself, rely heavily on cheap Indian generic drugs. This has been possible as Indian laws did not grant patents on a product, but only on a process to make it, which helped its drug firms to make cheaper versions and improved formulations using alternative methods. But India's signing of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement under the World Trade Organization in 2005 means that the country now has to grant patents on products as well as processes, for any drugs patented after this date. "Now, there is a threat that the limited policy space that remains will be further constricted by bilateral or regional free trade agreements" that have even more stringent clauses than TRIPS, said the authors.
THE BRAVE NEW WORLD OF “EMERGING”, “NON-DAC” DONORS AND THEIR DIFFERENCE FROM TRADITIONAL DONORS
This issue of NORRAG NEWS (NN44) is dedicated to an analysis of the new development partners, sometimes termed emerging donors. This latter is not a very useful term and especially as it is often used to refer to India, China and South Korea which have been involved in development cooperation for a very long time. These newer actors in development assistance are also sometime called non-DAC donors. This is also a misleading and a rather negative way of defining this very diverse group, as some of these new development assistance partners are new EU member states, others are OECD members but not of its Development Assistance Committee (DAC), others are Gulf States, while others again are members of the group called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). And there are many more.
This issue is available here.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Compiled by Sanusha Naidu, research director of Fahamu’s Emerging powers in Africa programme.
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Eritrea: The siege state
This latest report from the International Crisis Group, analyses the fragile political and economic situation following the devastating war with Ethiopia (1998-2000). Just a decade ago, Eritrea might reasonably have been described as challenged but stable. Today it is under severe stress, if not yet in full-blown crisis. While not likely to undergo dramatic upheaval in the near future, it is weakening steadily. Its economy is in free fall, poverty is rife, and the authoritarian political system is haemorrhaging its legitimacy.
Ghana: Trade minister says regional integration not working
Despite Nottingham University’s Professor Oliver Morrissey’s claim that Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) will accrue only 0.01 per cent of Ghana’s GDP to consumers, and imports from the European Union will go up by six per cent, he is emphatic that Ghana should “not fear the EPA.”
Guinea: Election commission proposes new run-off date
The election commission in Guinea has proposed 10 October as the revised date for the presidential election run-off. The poll was due last Sunday, but was postponed following violent clashes between rival supporters. The new date must be approved by the head of Guinea's military government, Gen Sekouba Konate. He has said that he does not want any further delays.
Guinea: New date set for run-off
The election commission in Guinea has proposed 10 October as the revised date for the presidential election run-off. The poll was due last Sunday, but was postponed following violent clashes between rival supporters. The new date must be approved by the head of Guinea's military government, Gen Sekouba Konate.
Somalia: Prime Minister quits
Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke, Somalia's prime minister, has resigned after a prolonged dispute with Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the country's president. Sharmarke said on Tuesday he "resigned as the prime minister of the transitional federal government of Somalia after being unable to work with the president". The federal government has failed to end a three-year insurgency by hardline Muslim fighters who now control much of the capital and huge chunks of south and central Somalia.
Sudan: Fears over vote postponement
Preparations for an independence referendum for Sudan's oil-rich south are behind schedule, putting the country at risk of renewed civil war, diplomats and activists say. Plans for the January 11 vote, meant to decide the fate of the Southern Sudan, were signed as part of a 2005 peace deal between the government and southern fighters, and any postponement could reignite civil war in Africa's largest country.
Mozambique: Examining aid and budget transparency
External donors contributed some US$1.6 billion in aid to the government of Mozambique in 2009. These donors have all committed to making aid more effective by adhering to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and to the Accra Agenda for Action. However information about how much money is available, how it is being spent and what are the results of that aid are still poor, says this study.
Nigeria: Ribadu warns elite on corruption
Nigeria's former corruption fighter Nuhu Ribadu has said no-one will be safe from prosecution if he is elected president next year. The elections have been set for January but may be postponed. Election officials, who have asked for a delay, however insist that the new president will be inaugurated in May, as planned. Mr Ribadu came to prominence as head of Nigeria's anti-corruption agency before being sidelined in 2007. He returned from exile in June, after saying he had fled because attempts had been made on his life.
Africa: Can micro-finance help Africa meet the MDGs?
With only five years remaining until governments are to meet the targets set out by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the sub-Saharan Africa region continues to have the highest poverty rates in the world, with millions of people living on less than US$1 per day. Certain countries, like Ghana, Cameroon and Uganda have shown great progress towards decreasing poverty levels, while the rest of the region continues to lag behind on the 2015 deliverables.
With only five years remaining until governments are to meet the targets set out by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the sub-Saharan Africa region continues to have the highest poverty rates in the world, with millions of people living on less than US$1 per day.
Certain countries, like Ghana, Cameroon and Uganda have shown great progress towards decreasing poverty levels, while the rest of the region continues to lag behind on the 2015 deliverables.
However, amongst a range of seemingly futile poverty reduction strategies, some initiatives, including women-led microfinance projects, show promise and have returned positive results.
After emerging in the early 1990s, microfinance Institutions (MFIs) have increased in sub-Saharan Africa in recent years, with current records from the 2009 Africa Microfinance Analysis and Benchmarking Report showing that more than 195 active MFIs exist throughout the region.
In Malawi, some MFIs have made concerted efforts to target women. These goals are in line with MDG3, which focuses on achieving “female empowerment, gender equality and control of resources, such as money,” with the end goal of reducing vulnerability, eliminating discrimination, providing freedom from patriarchal constraints and providing women with economic stability.
For instance, The Hunger Project (THP), an international non-profit organisation committed to ending world hunger in Africa, Asia and Latin America, currently reaches more than 110,000 people in 190 villages in Malawi, and is providing women with new skills in small business management and agricultural development to help them “lead lives of self-reliance.”
Delifa Zulu, a mother of five from Nancholi, an impoverished district on the outskirts of Blantyre’s city centre, sells vegetables in the market thanks to a loan from THP. “When I am here I can fend for my family,” she says with a smile. “And my children are all able to go to school.”
Women who choose to partake in the project’s agricultural initiatives receive the loan as a group and are required to pay back the full amount with interest every month after receiving the loan.
“I now feel more powerful,” says Zulu. “I don’t have to beg my husband to send my kids to school. I can still manage my family.”
According to a 2009 Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX) report, sub-Saharan Africa reached 6.5 million borrowers by the end of 2008, which is higher than Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Women made up 57% of all microfinance borrowers.
Finley Kandaya, operations manager for Malawi’s Finance Trust for the Self Employed (FISE) says his organisation, a branch of World Vision International, has been able to assist about 13,000 Malawians.
“Currently the membership that we have is in excess of 3000, in which 60% of those are women,” he says.
Before FISE grants an individual credit, they have to provide collateral savings of 20% of the requested loan, with a set interest rate of 4%.
“The repayment rate for women is quite interesting, it’s so good,” says Kandaya. “Since most women take loans as groups, they use a strategy known as peer pressure, so they are paying really well. If a member fails to pay back a loan, it’s in the group policy to follow-up. We do not directly confiscate property.”
Similarly, a grassroots organisation based in Chirimba, in southern Malawi, called Women for Fair Development (WOFAD), emerged in 2005 after a group of women – mostly widows infected with or affected by HIV and AIDS – decided to do something to improve the living standard of their community, 85% of whom were affected by HIV and AIDS.
With money provided by the United States Embassy, the director, Linnah Matanya, distributes grants to more than 55 women across three rural villages, who then opt to take part in a bursary programme, operate small businesses, or buy livestock.
Matanya says these projects “reduce stigma and discrimination in the community because the women can stand on their own. They have a free mind now.”
WOFAD trains 20 women in small business management for the timber project— a profession often dominated by men — and afterwards, the women have the skills needed to train another 20 women, ensuring sustainability.
In the past, most women involved in the timber industry barely made five dollars a month and now they bring home approximately US$400: more than enough to support themselves and their families.
However, vice-president of the New York-based MicroFinance Transparency, Alexandra Fiorillo, outlines certain concerns over lending.
In a September article in The Nation, one of Malawi’s national newspapers, Fiorillo said there is a definite “need for increased transparency on interest rates and charges levied by micro-finance institutions” in order to ensure customers make informed decisions when taking loans. She urged the Malawi microfinance industry to “start practicing transparent pricing for their long-term survival, growth and relevance in the financial industry.”
Addressing poverty is not cut and dry. With deeply embedded hierarchical corruption so often prevalent in developing countries, it remains to be seen if microfinancing institutions can bridge the gap between the extreme rich and the poor.
Yet for women like Zulu who must support a family of five, microfinance has been a lifesaver. “Without THP, people were really finding it difficult to move forward. Since they came to our village it has changed our lives for the better.”
*Andrea Lynett is a Canadian journalist based in Malawi with Journalists for Human Rights (jhr). This article is part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service.
Africa: Development strides propelled by policy innovations - UN-backed report
Expanded social protection programmes and other innovative policies have helped to spur Africa’s progress in achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), according to a new United Nations-backed report. The continent has made tremendous strides in several areas, including achieving universal education, with 76 per cent net enrolment in primary education in 2008, up from 58 per cent in 1999, says "Assessing Progress in Africa Toward the Millennium Development Goals."
Africa: Lamy says finishing Doha round by 2011 possible
Completing the stalled Doha round of trade talks is 'technically doable' by November 2011, World Trade Organisation (WTO) chief Pascal Lamy said Wednesday. 'Celebrating 10 years of negotiations may not be a big occasion for champagne,' Lamy acknowledged in remarks in Washington, little over a year before the talks hit their 10-year anniversary. Nevertheless, he said that nations involved in the talks could formulate an agreement by November 2011.
Africa: Where are the missing voices on the MDGs?
As world leaders prepare for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) summit on 20 - 22nd September at the United Nations in New York, aid agencies and development organisations have released colossal amounts of research outlining the progress of the MDGs. Amid this information overload, there are missing voices: those of the developing world, whose poverty the MDGs are meant to address.
Kenya: Agricultural budget out of reach of small-scale farmers
Although the majority of Kenyans are agricultural producers, only 3.6 percent of the country’s national budget goes towards the sector. This falls severely short of government’s promise to spend at least ten percent on agriculture. About five million out of Kenya’s eight million households are directly involved in agricultural production, according to Vision 2030, a government strategy document geared towards the country’s growth and development. And yet, ten million out of 38 million Kenyans face starvation and will require food aid this year, a recent census showed.
Mali: Voices from the ground and the MDGs
'My name is Sali Samaké and I live in Tamala, one of the villages in the region of Djitoumou, in Mali. We’re proud of our past. We always refer to Djitoumou, an ancient land name, to indicate our village’s position to outsiders. I was born in Defara, a neighbouring village, but my parents no longer live there. I was 15 when I got married. Now I am 56 years old.' - This is one story from a Panos project called Voices from the Ground, which follows five people in the developing world and reveals how progress towards the Millennium Development Goals is affecting them.
South Africa: Progress on MDGs questioned
Southern Africa: Paying for social protection
Despite the Southern Africa region sustaining an annual growth rate of six percent, the U.N. Summit on the Millennium Development Goals will hear that the majority of Southern Africans remain among the poorest people in the world. While economies in the region are growing, inequalities between citizens of the same countries have also increased. "In South Africa, for instance, there is a growth in inequalities on the basis of provinces, gender, classes and races," said Dr Agostinho Zacarias, the United Nations Development Programme resident representative in South Africa.
Global: Drive to save women and children launched
Culminating a global summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Heads of State and Government, along with the private sector, foundations, international organizations, civil society and research organizations, kicked off a concerted world-wide effort to save the lives of more than 16 million women and children. At a special UN event to launch the “Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health”, stakeholders pledged over $40 billion in resources for women’s and children’ health.
Global: Leaders pledge to scale up efforts to end malaria deaths by 2015
African leaders and global health experts rallied at the United Nations today to boost access to life-saving bednets and medicines as part of the fight against malaria, aiming to reach the goal of near-zero deaths by 2015. “We have made solid advances in recent years both in reducing deaths and increasing the use of life-saving nets. The goal of ending malaria deaths is within reach, and I urge all partners to sustain the momentum,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Kenya: The high price of birth
Expectant mothers living in internally displaced people’s camps in western Kenya need qualified medical help to minimise the possible risks associated with delivery, the residents said. 'It is by God’s grace that mothers and children survive,' Paul Thiongo, chairman of Pipeline IDP camp along the Nakuru-Eldoret highway, said. 'Safety during birth is a luxury here; even getting three meals is like a dream. Though it may sound odd for us to be depending on traditional birth attendants [TBAs] in the 21st century, there is not much choice.'
Namibia: Early warning indicators for drug resistance in resource-limited settings
A pilot project using 'early warning indicators' (EWIs) to minimise antiretroviral (ART) resistance in Namibia has provided further evidence of the potential value of this strategy in settings where routine viral load monitoring is not feasible. With more than four million people in the developing world now receiving antiretroviral therapy, but few of those people able to access the relatively costly laboratory tests that are a standard component of HIV medical care in wealthy countries, there is ongoing concern that high rates of undetected treatment failure could cause widespread drug resistance.
South Africa: Behind the secrets and lies of multiple sexual partners
Cheating, mistresses and having more than one partner might sound very sexy and intriguing. But beneath the surface lies a dangerous web of sexual partners which is leading to the rampant spread of HIV/AIDS. This documentary which was aired on e-tv's 3rd Degree in South Africa, engages with a group of HIV+ individuals who all contracted the disease by having sexual relations with more than one person at a time, examines why they did so, and how they hope to educate others to not follow in their footsteps.
Southern Africa: Small amounts of cash make a big difference
After being diagnosed HIV-positive Margaret Bikyele could not even manage the simplest of household chores, let alone being able to work to generate an income for her and her two sons. Since her diagnosis in 2005 and in the years that followed, the Bikyele family’s prospects in life had looked bleak. That is until Bikyele became the recipient of a social cash transfer scheme in 2007 and began receiving 10 dollars a month.
Sudan: Southern hospital cannot cope with demand
Doctors are working 12-16 hour shifts to cope with the increasing demand at Malakal teaching hospital in Upper Nile State of Southern Sudan, say officials.
"We are trying to encourage more doctors to come work here," Upper Nile State health minister Steven Lor said. The relatively poor living conditions in Malakal, however, made it difficult to convince Southern Sudanese doctors working in the capital Khartoum to move.
Zimbabwe: Mugabe calls for universal testing
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has called for universal testing and treatment for HIV to help combat the pandemic, the local media reported.The state-owned Herald newspaper quoted the veteran leader, who is attending the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, as saying HIV should be treated the same way as diseases such as smallpox where nations vaccinated their entire citizens against it.
Africa: Education in poor countries hurt by financial crisis
As world leaders meet this week to review a UN bid to cut poverty and hunger by 2015, the Global Campaign for Education warned that the financial crisis had halted improvements in education for children in impoverished countries. There are 69 million children out of school around the world, said a report on the world's 60 poorest nations by the campaign, a coalition of more than 100 organisations.
Africa: More commitment to education needed
African nations lack the political will to provide access to primary education to all children, according to the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), a coalition of organisations in 100 countries. In most countries on the continent, achieving basic education remains a far-off dream, the coalition stated in a report titled, "Back to School? The worst places in the world to be a school child in 2010", which was launched during the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit in New York, where world leaders are gathering to evaluate their countries’ progress five years ahead of the 2015 deadline.
Africa: Toilets are key to good education
As millions of children around the world start school this month, many are discovering something critical is missing. It's not teachers or textbooks - it's toilets. Poor sanitation doesn't just cause high rates of illness and absenteeism, but it also affects a child's intelligence, aid agencies say, with research showing that diarrhoea and worm infestations can lower IQ.
Mozambique: Sexual abuse preventing progress on education targets
After she became a mother just before her 15th birthday, Diana Ricardo* was forced to drop out of school and give up her dreams of a brighter future. Ricardo says she was impregnated by a teacher, who afterwards refused paternity testing claiming he could not afford a second wife. Ricardo’s case is not unique. Worrying statistics around sexual abuse in schools and high female drop-out rates means Mozambique and other countries in the sub-Saharan Africa region may not reach the 2015 education and gender targets set out in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
After she became a mother just before her 15th birthday, Diana Ricardo* was forced to drop out of school and give up her dreams of a brighter future.
Ricardo says she was impregnated by a teacher, who afterwards refused paternity testing claiming he could not afford a second wife.
“I dreamt of finishing school and studying medicine, but circumstances I could not control hindered by dream,” said the teenager as she glanced down at her two-year-old daughter sitting on her lap. “My parents demanded that he pay a fine. I never got any part of the money he paid as all was taken by my parents.”
Ricardo’s case is not unique. Worrying statistics around sexual abuse in schools and high female drop-out rates means Mozambique and other countries in the sub-Saharan Africa region may not reach the 2015 education and gender targets set out in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
In Mozambique, although authorities do not have exact figures, teenage girls often fall pregnant before reaching 16, the legal age of marriage, which usually puts an end to their education.
According to a 2008 report compiled by the Mozambique Ministry of Education and Culture, many of these pregnancies are not consensual and girls are impregnated by teachers who ask for sexual favours in exchange for passing grades. Not only are female students becoming pregnant, but they are also becoming exposed to sexually transmitted diseases through their teachers.
The report, entitled “Mechanism to stop and report cases of sexual abuse of girls”, found that 70% of female students said a teacher had asked them for sexual favours in order to pass.
Such abuse is not confined to Mozambique, but is so common in Africa it has been labelled “sexually-transmitted grades” or “BF” which refers to “bordel fatigue”, when girls have had too much sex with teachers and are tired in the classroom.
A recent Plan International report called “Learn without fear” found that sexual abuse is institutionalised in many school systems in sub-Saharan Africa. It also noted “high levels of sexual aggression from boys and teachers towards schoolgirls ... in Botswana, Ghana, Malawi and Zimbabwe” and found that one third of all documented rape cases and abuse of schoolgirls in South Africa is committed by teachers.
As governments and world leaders meet to discuss the MDGs at the 10-year point, it is problems like this which will provide a reminder that there is a long way to go before 2015 targets to eliminate gender disparity in education and women’s empowerment can be reached.
According to the 2009 United Nations Human Development Index, Mozambique, a nation of more than 22 million, has an adult literacy rate of just 44% -- and only 33% of its women are literate, much below the regional average.
The UN also notes that the sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia regions are “home to the vast majority of children out of school”.
It is against this background that organisations like the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in Mozambique have embarked on initiatives aimed at complementing the government’s programme to call for a “Zero Tolerance of Abuse of Girls in Schools”.
Carlos dos Santos, an education specialist at UNICEF, said although cultural practices which favour girls are still mostly responsible for the higher numbers of boys being sent to school, there are many cases of girls who drop out after being impregnated or abused by teachers, other students, or members of the community.
“There is work that is being done in schools to help in reporting cases of sexual abuse of girls and this will help in combating the phenomenon in communities and schools,” he said, noting that authorities confirm such cases are rife, especially in rural areas where most residents do not have much information on their rights.
UNICEF and its partners are currently conducting research in order to come up with a database on the problem. It has also advocated for school councils which will be chaired by teachers, parents and guardians of students.
Santos said councils are headed by women from local communities who regularly meet with girls and receive reports about sexual abuse.
Mozambique’s Ministry of Education and Culture has also created a Teacher’s Code of Conduct which, among other things, calls for disciplinary action against a teacher who sexually abuses a student.
In 2008, two teachers in southern Inhambane province were expelled for allegedly impregnating three students and three teachers were suspended pending dismissal on the same charges in Maputo province.
Ursula Paris, a child protection specialist at UNICEF in Maputo, said her organisation was also working with officials from the justice and police departments to update them on new clauses in the country’s Family Law which further protects women and children.
“It’s never too late to act as each day which passes a girl is made pregnant and her life is ruined,” she said.
*Not her real name
*Fred Katerere is a foreign correspondent based in Maputo, this article is part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service.
Zimbabwe: Leave for school-going mothers and fathers revoked
Zimbabwe's education ministry has backtracked on a new policy, introduced in August 2010, to grant pregnant schoolgirls and the prospective fathers maternity and paternity leave from school, and has opted for disciplinary measures instead. "Learners in all schools may be suspended, excluded or expelled from school for various acts of misconduct of a serious nature," Stephen Mahere, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, said in a circular.
Africa: Gay rights: the ninth MDG?
It may have been the first time an African couple was arrested because they held an engagement party. In a part of the world where engagement and marriage are momentous occasions and a cornerstone of adulthood, the union of two men in Malawi last December, however, created an uproar that made headlines around the world.
But although Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were eventually freed after international condemnation, hundreds of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people throughout Africa continue to live in fear; their plight off the radar.
It may have been the first time an African couple was arrested because they held an engagement party.
In a part of the world where engagement and marriage are momentous occasions and a cornerstone of adulthood, the union of two men in Malawi last December, however, created an uproar that made headlines around the world.
But although Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were eventually freed after international condemnation, hundreds of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people throughout Africa continue to live in fear; their plight off the radar.
From Uganda to Zimbabwe to Namibia, African leaders have openly attacked the lgbt community, even going so far, as Robert Mugabe recently did, to referring to homosexuals as “worse than dogs or pigs.”
From these statements – and the actions of religious, political and community leaders throughout Africa – it is apparent that Africa’s gay community is increasingly under threat, and Amnesty International has noted that activists fighting for the rights of lgbt people are often harassed, intimidated and many face arrest, detention and ill-treatment.
As world leaders meet in New York to discuss accelerating progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) before the 2015 deadline, they should also take time to ponder which goals might be missing and which communities might be deliberately left out of the current eight goals.
With 38 countries in Africa still criminalising homosexuality (some with the death penalty), it is high time world leaders did something to address this human rights tragedy – and where better than the MDGs?
The MDG Africa Steering Group was convened in September 2007 and brings together the leaders of multilateral development organisations to identify the practical steps needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
It has identified a list of concrete areas to invest in including education, health facilities, family planning, agriculture, infrastructure, fighting disease, and HIV and AIDS, among others. Working with the lgbt community is not on the list.
In Uganda, lbgt activist Frank Mugisha said attempts by Members of Parliament to introduce an Anti-Homosexual Bill for debate means the government has no plans to protect the lgbt community, certainly not under the MDG framework.
“We cannot count on the government of President Museveni to plan for the lgbt community in the country’s MDGs,” he said.
Mugisha said that the police and regular Ugandans now stalk, beat, discriminate against and at times threaten to kill lgbt members of the community, ensuring they are unable to gather collectively to fight discrimination.
Yet in Kenya, the government has taken a different approach, indicating it will conduct a census of the lgbt community (despite homosexuality being illegal in Kenya) to get a better idea of numbers in order to help combat the spread of HIV and AIDS, which is the sixth MDG.
Such a survey would be the first of its kind carried out in Africa, and it would provide important information around the problems of stigmatisation and criminalisation of homosexuality and its effect on fighting HIV and AIDS.
The Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK) have been sceptical of the plan.
“They are obviously going to get information that is underestimated, grossly underestimated, said David Kuria, GALCK Manager. “Our concern really lies with bad laws that discriminate and punish homosexual acts.
The Head of the National AIDS/STI control programme in the ministry of health, Nicholas Muraguri, said the survey aims to gather data to combat HIV/AIDS, noting that the identities of respondents will be kept confidential.
“The information is only for public health use, which is in line with the government’s MDG plan to provide better health services to all,” he explained.
Kenya Minister of State for Planning, National Development and Vision 2030 Wycliffee Oparanya said his government is still searching for funds to facilitate the census.
“The government cannot turn a blind eye on these people,” he said, noting that if the country plans to eradicate poverty by 2030 it will have to coordinate initiatives for the gay community also. “They are part of the society.”
Oparanya called on Kenya’s gay community to come forward as part of the consultation. “The government is willing to listen,” he said.
Yet homophobia is still rife in Kenya and the wider region.
In neighbouring Uganda, the Parliament is still considering an internationally-condemned bill that would toughen already strict laws on homosexuality.
Draft legislation even proposes a three-year prison term for anyone failing to alert authorities if they believe someone they know is gay. There is also a provision that includes punishment for individuals or organisations that support gay rights.
Until now, the only assistance African gays regularly receive comes via international media and diplomacy around major incidents, such as in the case of nine Senegalese gay men and activists who were sentenced to eight years in prison after Senegal hosted an international AIDS conference that included members of its lgbt community. They were later released after France’s President Sarkozy got involved.
But what happens to all those gays and lesbians who don’t make international headlines but suffer discrimination on a daily basis?
Gay rights movements in many parts of the world have had great successes –even in South Africa, where gay marriage is now legal – yet until we institutionalise and protect gay rights within some sort of binding international instruments, gay Africans will continue to be persecuted, killed, beaten, arrested and alienated because of who they choose to love.
So why not start by creating a ninth MDG?
* Gilbert Ongachi is a Kenyan journalist. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service.
Global: "Taking Freedom Home"
Equal parts video postcard and revolutionary workbook, the film utilizes memory, artistic expression and group analysis to reveal a process of personal healing and collective empowerment. “Taking Freedom Home” celebrates the creativity and vibrance of diverse LGBTGNC movements and particularly the historical initiatives of trans and gender nonconforming people of color in New York and throughout the US from the Stonewall Uprising in 1969 to the Critical Resistance (CR10) conference in 2008.
Africa: Climate change not linked to African wars
Research published in 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences' finds virtually no correlation between climate-change indicators such as temperature and rainfall variability and the frequency of civil wars over the past 50 years in sub-Saharan Africa, reports Nature News. The analysis challenges a study published last year.
Africa: Green Economy can reduce poverty and help meet MDGs, says UN
Investing in clean energy, sustainable transport, forests and environmentally-friendly agriculture is essential, if internationally-agreed goals to reduce poverty are to be achieved. This is among the central conclusions of 'A Brief for Policymakers on the Green Economy and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)', launched as heads of state and ministers met at UN Headquarters to review progress to date - five years before the MDG deadline of 2015.
Global: Importance of global biomass carbon maps
Maps of vegetation biomass carbon density are important for quantifying terrestrial carbon sinks as well as potential emissions to the atmosphere from land-use change. Worldwide, living vegetation stores an enormous 500 billion tones of carbon, more than 60 times annual anthropogenic carbon emissions to the atmosphere. The tropics and sub-tropics combined store 430 billion tones of carbon, while boreal and temperate ecoregions store 34 billion tones and 33 billion tones, respectively.
Nigeria: Gold mining tragedy in Zamfara state
The discovery of natural resources worldwide ought to be a blessing. This is because when such natural resources are exploited, it is expected to bring in revenue to contribute to the development of local communities. However, in these communities in developing countries, the reverse is usually the case.
No single event illustrates this more than the recent tragic events in Zamfara State. About 335 suspected cases of strange ailments were reported in several hospitals within the locality. It turned out that 163 lives were lost out of which 111 of them were children between the ages of 5 to 10 years.
Uganda: NGO slams hydro CDM bid
A controversial Ugandan hydropower project is making its second application for approval under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), drawing criticism from an environmental NGO. California-based International Rivers says the 250MW Bujagali dam project on the Victoria Nile river in Uganda should not be eligible for the CDM and would have gone ahead regardless of approval under the UN mechanism.
Ethiopia: Punjab farmers to acquire 50,000 hectares of land
Punjab-based farmers, who are known for feeding the country, now want to try their hands offshore, with a group of progressive farmers all set to acquire 50,000 hectares of farm land on lease in Ethiopia for growing high-value cash crops, including pulses and maize.
Africa: Food security and structural hunger
The latest estimates, which will soon be published in its annual State of Food and Agriculture report, show that there are 925 million hungry people on our planet – that’s roughly one in our six of us. '...there is a fundamental structural problem with our food system that goes beyond temporary increases and decreases in food prices. That the food problem is rooted in poverty and radically unequal distributions of income and assets, within and across countries, which influence both food production systems and food consumption patterns.'
Africa: Monsanto in Gates' Clothing? The Emperor's New GMOs
If you had any doubts about where the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is really placing its bets, AGRA Watch’s recent announcement of the Foundation’s investment of $23.1million in 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock should put them to rest. Genetic engineering: full speed ahead.
Global: Event: Gambling on food
Tuesday 26 October, 2010
Speculation on food commodities in global financial markets is pushing up and destablising the price of food. In 2008, high prices caused riots because people were going hungry. Big investment banks are making a killing out of reckless speculation, with disastrous consequences for the lives of poor people around the world. Come and find out how, and what we’re going to do to stop them.
Africa: Are Western filmmakers entitled to tell Africa’s story?
“Why is it when people make films about Africa, they always show the bad parts of Africa?” Is an American with extensive world and filmmaking experience more capable of capturing realities on the African continent than a less-experienced African filmmaker? Is a South African filmmaker who has not left his country more credible to shoot a film in the Congo than a Westerner who has a career background in war-torn societies?
Global: Right to Information: Global Index released for comment
In anticipation of Right to Know Day, 28 September 2010, ARTICLE 19 has launched the Global RTI Index, a new tool to compare and contrast right to information laws, highlighting weaknesses and best practices. In the past decade, many new right to information (RTI) laws have been adopted across the world. Despite such a promising development, it is often difficult to know and assess how adequate these laws actually are.
Liberia: President launches first radio station for women
'We want you to bring a strong voice to the women', says President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as she launches Liberia’s first and only radio station for women. Standing in a room full of ministers, officials, journalists and community women, Africa’s first democratically elected female President knows only too well what it’s like being a lone female voice in a male dominated world.
Somalia: Journalists form new federation
Journalists in the Somali capital have for the first time announced the launch of the Federation of Somali journalists that brings together all the existing media groups in and an outside the country as well as journalists individually. The launch of FESOJ, calls upon all relevant stakeholders and most prominently the Government of Somalia and the rebel groups to respect and promote the rights of the journalists and the freedom of the expression.
Somalia: Two radio stations taken over
On Sunday 19 September, Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam extremists forcibly looted two independent radio stations, HornAfrik and Global Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), in Mogadishu. The two radio stations are independent and are based in the capital. The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has condemned the two attacks by the Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam extremist groups. "This is unacceptable and amounts to the highest degree of media freedom violation," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ secretary-general.
Zimbabwe: Exiled journalist's return
Even dead, they would get me, the man from Mugabe's spy agency, the CIO, had warned. My corpse would be shred into "mince meat" even if I returned to Zimbabwe in a coffin for burial, he told me when our paths crossed in Johannesburg. I had been branded a "sell out", and an enemy of the state for my reports in the foreign media on how the ruling party and its supporters waged their land war against white farmers and then tortured and murdered hundreds of black opposition supporters.
Africa: More nations join ban on child soldiers
Hailing the move by several countries to ban the use of child soldiers, a top United Nations official has urged that all nations that have not yet done so take the important step of signing and ratifying the global treaty that serves to protect children in armed conflict. 'Today is a landmark day for children,' Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said after three countries either signed or ratified the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.
Africa: Reducing the disaster risk in slums
The disproportionately high risk of disaster faced by a billion slum-dwellers across the world could be significantly reduced with prudent investment, states a new report. 'We cannot stop urbanisation but we shouldn't be naïve; a trend does not mean destiny, disasters can be prevented,' Matthias Schmale, the under-secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said in Nairobi at the global launch of the 2010 edition of the World Disasters Report.
Somalia: Deaths in Mogadishu street battles
At least 20 people have been killed and 70 others injured in a series of street battles in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, sources say. Shells fired by African Union (AU) peacekeepers hit Bakara market, in central Mogadishu, during Thursday's fighting, Al Jazeera has learned.
Africa: Commission for Africa finds science support lacking
Donor support for science and technology (S&T) in Africa has been "disappointing", according to a report from the Commission for Africa published last week (12 September). Some US$3 billion, which the commission had urged donors to spend on building centres of excellence in S&T, has not been spent.
Africa: Connecting farmers with mobile phones
A project launched in 2009 in Uganda's Bushenyi and Mbale districts enlists trusted local residents, such as farmers, agriculture extension workers, shopkeepers and school teachers, to disseminate and gather information about agriculture using mobile phones. The workers help the Ugandan farmers treat not only sick goats, but also blighted bananas, coffee berry bacterial infections, discolored tomatoes and other plant and livestock problems.
Africa: Mobile web community platform launched
Technology blog White African reviews Motribe, a simple community building platform for the mobile web that was launched recently. "You can easily get a site up and going in an hour that allows chat, photo sharing, private messaging and mobile blogs," says the blog.
Africa: Small tech grants, big differences
For women living in rural areas, access to ICTs means first overcoming multiple barriers relating not only to their location, but also their gender. In a new publication, 'GenARDIS 2002 - 2010: Small grants that made big changes for women in agriculture', Jenny Radloff explores how seed grants were disbursed to innovative initiatives.
Global: 5 iPhone apps to help fight poverty
Hectic lives, jam-packed schedules and the all-too-common feeling of powerlessness can keep us from doing what we can to make a difference — even if that difference is simply offering a donation. Social media and the social good movement has revolutionized and re-energized fundraising, with mobile apps making it easier than ever before to do what you can to help others. And it can be surprisingly simple. Knowing that your ability to help others is but a tap away should be motivation enough for you to download these apps and start pitching in.
Global: Balancing social media with humanity
As leaders gather this week at the United Nations to discuss the challenges and opportunities to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, Mashable, 92nd Street Y and the UN Foundation brought speakers together at the Social Good Summit on Monday to present new and innovative ideas that bring the MDGs, technology and humanity together.
Mozambique: Plan to register cell phones
Mozambique plans to register non-contract cell phone users, weeks after an anonymous viral text message campaign fuelled riots that killed 14. Communications Minister Paulo Zucula said the new law would improve security for internet banking and prevent crime. 'The main idea is to educate citizens about the way to use, with responsibility, the services put in place by the state,' he said.
Africa: Briefing document on economic growth and poverty reduction
Panos has produced a briefing document for journalists on economic growth and poverty reduction. It sets out the main issues around the topic and gives tips on reporting it. It aims to help journalists consider issues and debates, and research their own stories.
Connections between rural areas and cities in Sub-Saharan Africa
Call for proposals
The objective of this topic is to enable research on common challenges that are relevant to all sub-Saharan African countries and that could be met more effectively by them collectively rather than individually. In order to meet this objective, the research should be multidisciplinary oriented, including the humanities, use and integrate quantitative and qualitative methodologies, develop forward looking approaches when relevant and create knowledge platforms to ensure exchange and transfer of knowledge within Africa and with Europe.
SSH.2011.4.1-2. Connections between rural areas and cities in Sub-Saharan Africa
The objective of this topic is to enable research on common challenges that are relevant to all sub-Saharan African countries and that could be met more effectively by them collectively rather than individually. In order to meet this objective, the research should be multidisciplinary oriented, including the humanities, use and integrate quantitative and qualitative methodologies, develop forward looking approaches when relevant and create knowledge platforms to ensure exchange and transfer of knowledge within Africa and with Europe.
The research should address the following issues with the aim to investigate more closely the connections between rural areas and cities in Sub-Saharan Africa:
- Thinking and developing land use and agriculture in a sustainable way is nowadays a major challenge for African countries. Major activities like forestry, plantations, energy production (charcoal, bio-fuels) and tourism have large impacts on agricultural actors. Different forms of land use and agricultural heritage are also affected. Research should analyse how the agricultural actors adapt to their changing environment and what the impact of these adaptations, in turn, is on local populations, products and land use as well as social, economic and political arrangements in rural areas but also in cities.
- The quantity and quality of services in Sub-Saharan African cities often remain very poor and are inadequate to respond to the needs of high levels of population and migration from rural areas to cities. Research should analyse how cities attempt to respond in terms of services to such migration and to the inequalities they often generate. It should bring recommendations on a number of inter-related key issues such as education and training, communication, property rights, and other social and economic policies. The research should cover at least three interlinked rural areas/cities in East, Central, Southern and West Africa.
Poetry Africa tours Cape Town, Zimbabwe and Malawi
Featuring a rich representation of African poetic and musical voices, Poetry Africa on Tour kicks off at the Cape Town ICC on Sunday 26th September. Further satellite programmes take place in Harare, Zimbabwe, on 28th and 29th, then Blantyre, Malawi, on 1st October before culminating at the main Poetry Africa festival in Durban from4th to 9th October.
Now in its 14th year Poetry Africa is organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), one of the earliest initiators of African literary festivals – the CCA also produces the Time of the Writer festival. Supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (principal funder), Mimeta, Pro-Helvetia Arts Council of Switzerland, and Hivos, Poetry Africa on Tour is an effort to celebrate the beauty, power and impact of poetry with ever-wider constituencies and to stimulate meaningful cultural exchange between artists, audiences and countries.
Visual artist, musician and poet Charlotte Hill O’Neal aka Mama C was a former member of the Black Panther Movement in the USA but since 1972 has lived in Tanzania where she is co-director of the United African Alliance Community Centre. Mama C uses poetry as a form of honoring heritage and spreading unity through art, and has produced a book of poetry and four albums of poetry and music.
The twice Pushcart Prize-nominated Frank M. Chipasula is a Malawian poet, fiction writer, editor and publisher who currently teaches Black literature and creative writing at universities in the USA. Chipasula’s poetry addresses the state of post-colonial Africa, artistic social responsibility and the accessibility of the creative medium.
South African poet, performer, actress, columnist, television presenter and producer Lebogang Mashile was in 2006 awarded the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa for her first poetry collection. Co-founder of the popular Feel a Sistah! Spoken Word Collective, Mashile also featured in the film Hotel Rwanda, and in a cross-media collaboration with choreographer Sylvia Glasser and Moving Into Dance Moiphotong.
The only artist in the lineup not from Africa is Mutabaruka, the legendary poet, author, radio host and social critic from Jamaica. With a background steeped in Rastafari, political activism, spiritual awareness and black consciousness, and as a leading figure in the establishment of dub poetry, Mutabaruka is one of the prominent icons of that island nation, and already a cult favourite in South Africa. Also an actor, Mutabaruka starred in Haile Gerima’s award-winning Sankofa in 1993.
Poet, sculptor, artist and academic Pitika Ntuli (South Africa) spent his exile years in the U.K. where he helped establish one of Europe's leading poetry circuits, Apples & Snakes, in London. Ntuli sits on several ministerial committees and is widely sought after as a public speaker and commentator on arts and culture, indigenous knowledge systems and African scholarship.
Barolong Seboni (Botswana) is currently a Senior Lecturer in the English department at the University of Botswana. Seboni has published several works of poetry, edited numerous literary collections and has a popular weekly column in the newspaper Mmegi. Seboni is the co-founder of the UB Writers’ Workshop and the Writers’ Association of Botswana.
Concord Nkabinde (South Africa) and Erik Paliani (Malawi) are two innovative musicians in the contingent who will provide an opportunity for exciting Poetry Africa collaborations. Malawian songwriter and guitarist Erik Paliani, who has also lived in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa, has made a name producing albums for Zamajobe and Hugh Masekela, while Concord Nkabinde is a musical director, recording producer, and one of South Africa’s most sought after bass guitarists. Concord has worked with Abdullah Ibrahim, Hugh Masekela, Johnny Clegg, Zim Ngqawana, Darius Brubeck, Deepak Ram, Ray Phiri and Gito Baloi amongst others, and has been involved in numerous cross-cultural collaborative projects and genre-fusing initiatives with artists from around the world.
The Cape Town leg of the tour will feature a unique double-hander between two of the sharpest rappers/word artists in the region, Comrade Fatso (Zimbabwe) and Ewok (South Africa). The explosive and controversial Comrade Fatso calls his art Toyi Toyi. It is this radical form of Shona/English street poetry and political critique that saw Fatso and his band Chabvondoka’s House of Hunger album banned in Zimbabwe. With a background in theatre and live music performance, Ewok works within the Durban hip-hop scene promoting a return to the original roots of hip-hop culture. He is a two-time Poetry Africa SlamJam champion and a top-five placer at the World Slampionship in Rotterdam (2005). Both Comrade Fatso and Ewok have albums out and both are very active on the national and international performance scene.
South Africa’s acclaimed storyteller, playwright, author and actor Gcina Mhlophe will also be part of the Cape Town experience as well as the Durban edition of the festival. Her charismatic performances contribute to the preservation of storytelling as means of keeping history alive. Mhlophe’s work has been translated into numerous languages and received significant national and international awards, including university doctorates.
One of Kenya’s new generation of poets Ngwatilo Mawiyoo joins the tour for Zimbabwe, Malawi and Durban. A performance poet who draws on her musical background and work as an actress, her Blue Mothertongue collection of poems set in Nairobi and the African Diaspora focus on notions of home, loss and healing.
In each of the centres the tour will also showcase local poets.These include Khadija Heeger, Ronelda Kamfer, Mbali Kgosidintsi, Madosini, James Matthews, Malika Ndlovu, Ari Sitas, and Kelwyn Sole In Cape Town; Julius Chingono, Batsirai Chigama, Chirikure Chirikure, Freedom Nyamabuya, Outspoken, Musa Zimunya, and Comrade Fatso’s Chabvondoka in Zimbabwe; while in Malawi the programme includes Linda Gabriel, Chigo Gondwe and Q Malewezi.
One of the tour objectives is to develop partnerships and skills exchange with cultural organisations in the respective territories, and principal partner organizations for this project are African Arts Institute in Cape Town, African Synergy Book Café in Harare and the Blantyre Arts Festival and Nation newspaper in Blantyre. Apart from the performance showcases other activity programmes include panel discussions, workshops and meetings with local artists. For more details on Poetry Africa and the tour contact the Centre for Creative Arts on +27 31 2602506 or visit www.cca.ukzn.ac.za
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South Africa: September National Imbizo (SNI) on justice and sustainable development
24 - 26 September 2010, Soweto
The September National Imbizo (SNI) is a historic meeting sixteen years after Democracy in South Africa. Ours leaders are fighting amongst themselves whilst the people suffer. We can no longer leave things in the hands of the politicians. It is for this reason that have we called for the SNI which is a gathering of ordinary South Africans who want to see change in the lives of our people.
South Africa: September National Imbizo (SNI) on justice and sustainable development
SNI Press release
The September National Imbizo (SNI) is a historic meeting sixteen years after Democracy in South Africa. Ours leaders are fighting amongst themselves whilst the people suffer. We can no longer leave things in the hands of the politicians. It is for this reason that have we called for the SNI which is a gathering of ordinary South Africans who want to see change in the lives of our people.
The post-1994 government has not shown the sort of commitment required to turn the legacy of colonialism and apartheid around. The September National Imbizo is an opportunity for ordinary citizens to take stock of what has happened in the past decade and a half and deliberate on what must be done by all South Africans who want justice and sustainable development for the majority.
All areas of Black life are engulfed in major crises; from healthcare, education, poverty, housing, racism, sexism and landlessness just to mention a few. On the other hand, a few have benefited from the fruits of democracy which have created new major inequalities and sustained apartheid created divisions. Our country, contrary to the official mantra and the guarantees in the constitution, remains primarily an unequal society. These inequalities are both raced and gendered. It is true that it is Black men and women who suffer the most from the post-1994 social and economic injustices. The conference is the first of many steps towards giving our country and Black people another possibility and new hope!
The current social questions are deeply shaped by our terrible past. We believe that if only our government could demonstrate the same amount of dedication as displayed during the hosting of the soccer World Cup, then half of the majority’s problems would be solved. The excuse of there being a lack of capacity increasingly doesn’t hold water. We know for a fact that the lack of service delivery in Black areas is the result of our government prioritising the interests of the White minority. What we need now is to unlock the creative energies of our people to answer the serious challenges they face which have been so normalised that they go unquestioned. The xenophobic attacks and high levels of violence in poor communities already suggest that the social fabric of our country is falling apart. It is for these reasons that we resolve to call for a national dialogue to discuss our situation and collectively find answers.
The SNI is inspired by the great sages of the anti-apartheid struggle who represent the main currents of the liberation movement: Oliver Tambo, Robert Sobukwe and Steve Biko. Whilst the liberation movement was divided, the vision each of these leaders held dear was to see a liberated and prosperous South Africa. It’s their vision which the SNI seeks to draw inspiration from as we move forward.
Highlights from the programme:
- An address by Professor Lewis Gordon - a renowned Africana philosopher from the United States. This session will be chaired by Professor More, a local scholar of Black Consciousness.
- Mr Sabelo Sibanda, a Pan Africanist scholar from Zimbabwe will provide an input on the lessons of post colonial Africa.
- Two of South Africa’s most prominent artists Simphiwe Dana and Thandiswa Mazwai will be panellists on a discussion about the Black condition and how we concretise a collective vision that seeks meaningful change.
- Andile Mngxitama a black consciousness activist will give a talk titled “16 years is enough!”
The SNI will be held from the 24th-26th September 2010 in Soweto. There will be a media briefing on Saturday 25th September from 1pm until 2pm. SNI discussion document please go to : firstname.lastname@example.org or Follow the SNI on twitter: http://twitter.com/imbizosni
The September National Imbizo has been endorsed by Simphiwe Dana and Thandiswa Mazwai.
Marketing & logistics officer - Gender Links
Johannesburg, South Africa
Gender Links, a dynamic Southern African NGO based in Johannesburg seeks a Marketing and Logistics Officer responsible for marketing Gender Links publications and services, events coordination, travel logistics and basic finance and administration duties. At least five years experience in finance and administration, knowledge of the SADC region and MS Office is required. The contract will be for an initial two year period. A competitive remuneration package will be offered, commensurate with skills and experience. Applications must be submitted by 29 September 2010 to: email@example.com or fax: 011-622-4732. Only short listed candidates will be contacted for interviews.
South Africa: What's left after the World Cup?
Attempts to measure the tangible and intangible benefits left by the World Cup suggest that while expenditure on infrastructure and stadiums significantly boosted the economy and had some impact on job creation, overall gains were skewed in favour of the economic and political elite. Justin Sylvester and Daniel Harju of the Political Information & Monitoring Service (PIMS) at Idasa also argue that the disproportionate influence exerted by external actors such as FIFA and the international community reflect the ongoing poor levels of accountability and transparency enjoyed by our own citizens.
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