Pambazuka News 512: Crises of citizenship and identity: Sudan, DRC and Côte d’Ivoire
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
CONTENTS: 1. Action alerts, 2. Features, 3. Comment & analysis, 4. Advocacy & campaigns, 5. Obituaries, 6. Books & arts, 7. Letters & Opinions, 8. African Writers’ Corner, 9. Highlights French edition, 10. Highlights Portuguese edition, 11. Cartoons, 12. Women & gender, 13. Human rights, 14. Refugees & forced migration, 15. Social movements, 16. Africa labour news, 17. Emerging powers news, 18. Elections & governance, 19. Corruption, 20. Development, 21. Health & HIV/AIDS, 22. Education, 23. LGBTI, 24. Environment, 25. Land & land rights, 26. Food Justice, 27. Media & freedom of expression, 28. Conflict & emergencies, 29. Internet & technology, 30. Fundraising & useful resources, 31. Courses, seminars, & workshops, 32. Jobs, 33. WikiLeaks and Africa
Highlights from this issue
ACTION ALERTS: Petition in defence of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu/Urgent petition to the Israeli government
WOMEN AND GENDER: Gendering justice, building alternative futures/Women, water and human rights
HUMAN RIGHTS: Torture scenes from Côte d'Ivoire’s most populated prison
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Ivorians cross into Liberia by the hundreds
EMERGING POWERS NEWS: Comment on South Africa’s recent inclusion into the BRIC grouping
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: News highlights form the Sudan vote and the Tunisian revolution
DEVELOPMENT: Oil production, environmental degradation and human rights
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: Indian patent decision could help manufacture of cheap HIV/Aids drugs
LGBTI: Campaign to stop ‘corrective rape’ goes viral
LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: Kenyan activist’s murder shines spotlight on land rights
FOOD JUSTICE: The food price scandal and the World Bank’s blind spot
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Tunisia to taste internet freedom
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Algeria – Is revolt contagious?
PLUS…Internet and Technology, e-newsletters and mailing lists, fundraising, courses and jobs…
Petition in defence of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has publicly criticised Israeli policy towards Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank. He has also criticised Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians. These criticisms are well-known.
Recently, his criticisms of Israeli policy have elicited bitter personal attacks. Amidst calls for him to be removed as Patron of the Cape Town and Johannesburg Holocaust Centres of the South African Holocaust Foundation, Tutu has been attacked and labelled an "anti-Semite" and a "bigot".
Disagreements should be debated openly, but these personal attacks are totally unacceptable.
During the Second World War, which killed 60 million people, Nazi Germany killed socialists, gay men and lesbians, Roma people, and resistance fighters, but its most systematic destruction was of the Jewish people. Six million Jews were transferred to ghettos and concentration camps before being murdered.
This grotesque crime against humanity must never be forgotten. Its legacy and lessons belong to and must be guarded by all of humanity. Racism -including anti-Semitism- sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and inhumanity must be resisted wherever they occur. As stated in the Mission Statement of the South African Holocaust Foundation, we must build "a more caring and just society in which human rights and diversity are respected and valued."
This is precisely the cause to which Tutu has dedicated his life. He represents the finest tradition of resistance to all forms of oppression. He has taught us that understanding the Holocaust begins with appreciating that the only way for each of us to be safe is for all of us to be safe. He embodies the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document born of the horrors of the Second World War, the rights contained in which pertain equally to Israelis and Palestinians.
To use the Holocaust in an attempt to de-legitimise Tutu is to undermine its legacy and insult the memory of its victims. To call him an anti-Semite, because he has attacked the policies of the Israeli government, is outrageous, renders the term meaningless, and enfeebles the necessary efforts to defeat real anti-Semites and racists.
We give our support to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu as a most appropriate patron of the South African Holocaust Foundation.
Urgent petition to the Israeli government
The right to dignity for all asylum seekers
The African Refugee Development Center
Targeting: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of the Interior Eliyahu Yishai
Started by: The African Refugee Development Center (ARDC)
THE AFRICAN REFUGEE DEVELOPMENT CENTER (ARDC) AND A COALITION OF HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS CONDEMNS THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT FOR ITS ACTIONS AGAINST REFUGEES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS.
WE CALL ON YOU TO MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD
January 2011—In recent months, political and community leaders have articulated increasing hostility towards refugees and asylum seekers living in Israel. In particular, we condemn the following elements of a broad reaching plan by the Israeli government to deter new arrivals on the basis that they deny asylum seekers their right to dignity and contravene Israel’s obligations under international human rights and refugee law:
- the denial of the right to work for all asylum seekers holding renewable (2)A(5) visas
In late November, the Ministry of the Interior began to boldly mark on asylum seekers’ temporary visas that their status does not authorize them to work and this will be enforced once the proposed 'refugee camp' is operational. This policy will deny asylum seekers the opportunity to support themselves, increase the poverty level of the community and make them increasingly susceptible to the social consequences of poverty—violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and crime.
- the opening of a refugee camp in the Negev-Naqab to confine 10,000 asylum seekers in a remote location where they will be held indefinitely and provided with only their basic needs
The facility presents a number of significant problems. First, it will inflict further psychological trauma particularly on children and youth. Secondly, without the right to work, the estimated 20,000 asylum seekers currently in Israel who will not be held in the facility will be at risk of homelessness. Thirdly, those held in detention will inevitably include children who were attending school and individuals who were enrolled in academic and other education institutions.
- the construction of a security barrier along the Egyptian border which began in early December
Many thousands in need of protection and transiting through Egypt where they are still in danger will be denied the opportunity to apply for protection in Israel thus their lives will be endangered.
- the amendments to the refugee status determination procedure and the Anti-Infiltration Law
We reject these measures on the grounds they are serve the sole purpose of limiting the rights of asylum seekers. Collectively these policies—primarily designed to discourage entry into Israel by presenting economic disincentives—will prove highly ineffective as they fail to address the issue at hand. Asylum seekers do not come to Israel seeking economic prosperity. Instead, they come to Israel in search of protection from persecution.
We, ARDC along with a coalition of other organizations and the undersigned individuals, call on the Israeli government to:
- establish a comprehensive legal framework based on the principles of the 1951 Refugee Convention, the 1967 Protocol and international refugee law and publish it in the interest of transparency and consistency;
- commit to efficiently and fairly determining the claims of all asylum seekers by devoting resources and introducing procedural fairness;
- ensure that the Israeli-Egyptian border is not closed to asylum seekers, who must be guaranteed access to the asylum process in Israel;
- afford all asylum seekers with the basic right to dignity which includes reinstating the right to work pending the outcome of their application for protection and introducing the right to government-sponsored welfare and medical care;
- when group protection is applied, in accordance with UNHCR recommendations, it should be official and afforded social and economic rights;
- correct all procedural abnormalities in the refugee status determination process including providing the opportunity to appeal to the administrative court as opposed to the Ministry of Interior;
- seek the advice of refugee and asylum seeker NGOs and the refugee population to develop a solution of what Israel realistically can and should do in accordance with international law;
- cease incorrectly and deliberately referring to asylum seekers as ‘infiltrators’ and ‘economic migrants’; and
- provide absorption facilities for recognised refugees.
FURTHER BACKGROUND INFORMATION
While the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution is a human right enshrined in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the State of Israel is a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, it is a right that it is not fully protected in Israel today. Israel often evades its international law obligations to refugees by refraining from recognizing them as such. Due to a systematic reluctance to recognize rights, since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, only 141 individuals have been recognized as refugees in accordance with the Refugee Convention.
Individuals from certain countries of origin are granted an informal type of group protection, a form of protection that is inferior to that which Israel is required to grant pursuant to the Refugee Convention. For example, persons from Sudan and Eritrea, who constitute more than 85 per cent of the asylum seeker population in Israel, do not have access to the Refugee Status Determination (RSD) procedure. Others nationals who are eligible to apply for refugee status must wait years for their application to be determined and live in a prolonged state of limbo. One of the proposed amendments is that
In Israel there are currently more than 30,000 asylum seekers and refugees. As mentioned, approximately 85 per cent are Sudanese and Eritrean nations who have escaped ethnic persecution and attack. They make the perilous journey crossing through the Egyptian Sinai desert to enter Israel and are at risk of deadly attacks by the Egyptian military and being held hostage by smugglers. Despite the fact that 96 per cent of asylum requests filed by Eritreans worldwide in 2008 were accepted, the Israeli government refuses to even consider their applications. Additionally, nationals of enemy states such as Sudan are also ineligible for protection. As a result, Eritrean and Sudanese individuals receive no entitlements or guarantees in Israel other than immunity from deportation.
We strongly reject Interior Minister's Yishai claim that only 0.01% of those entering are refugees while the rest are migrant workers and that this 'poses an existential threat to Israel'.
Sign the petition
Sudan and oil politics: A nation split by oil
As Sudanese vote this week on staying as one nation or becoming two, my mind goes back to when civil war broke out in Nigeria in 1967. I recall that when Biafra was announced, I leapt in celebration at the novelty of suddenly being a citizen of a new country under a new flag and with a bearded man at the head of state. What my young mind could not fathom, and did not question, were the reasons for the emergence of the new nation. What were the announced reasons and what were the unspoken ones?
Before we could settle to savour the change expected from the split, things took a different turn. The war drums sounded, and bullets began to fly. Streams of refugees flooded through our village and soon enough, we were on the move. I still recall seeing starving kids, rotting corpses by the roadside, and I can hear the screams of young ladies who were captured and forcibly married by rampaging troops.
We see the great mobilisations by the peoples of Southern Sudan for a split and when the result of the referendum is announced, we can bet that the result is like a dream long foretold.
There are many reasons why the South should be eager to drift away. Indices of development from the country are severely skewed against the region. Reports have it that over 80 per cent of the inhabitants of Southern Sudan have no sanitation facilities.
While almost 70 per cent of the people living in Khartoum, River Nile, and Gezira states have access to pipe borne water, the people in the south depend on boreholes and rudimentary water wells. They and those in the Darfur area depend largely on food aid for survival on account of the dislocation of the agricultural sector by entrenched violent conflict.
Certainly, all will agree that oil is a major factor in the political fortunes of Nigeria. We may squabble and bicker under the cover of ethnic or regional differences, but beneath the surface, the struggle is over who controls the massive oil and gas resources and revenues of the land. The struggle for power at the centre was set the moment a unitary system of government was decreed in 1966 and has since coloured the sort of federal system that the nation runs on.
Oil is a principal factor in the current political situation in Sudan. Exploration activities started in the 1960s by AGIP, the Italian oil company, which found natural gas in the Red Sea. The American oil giant, Chevron, followed suit but never revealed what they found, according to reports.
Like Nigeria, like Sudan
As time went on, a number of Chinese and Asian companies jumped in and finally oil was produced from the Muglad Oil Basin, Blocks 2 and 4. Sudan is divided into 17 oil concession blocks with SUDAPET, the government owned company, working in joint partnership with the various Asian and European oil companies.
As aptly captured by a Sudanese academic in a recent Oilwatch Africa meeting, "Sudanese oil has been developed against the background of war, international sanctions, and political isolation. It has been developed at a time of imposing demand by emerging economies like India and China and a time of unprecedented soaring prices of both food and oil and the controversial use of agricultural crops as a source of bio-energy."
Quite like Nigeria, oil produces over 75 per cent of the foreign exchange earnings of Sudan. Other production sectors have equally been almost completely neglected. Before oil, over 50 per cent of Sudan's revenues came from the agriculture sector, contributed 95 per cent of the export earnings, and employed a high percentage of the total labour force in the country.
With oil as a major economic factor, and seeing that the bulk comes from the South, developments nevertheless eluded the region. An example can be seen in the first refinery which was sited about 70 Km north of Khartoum. Crude export pipelines runs northward and amount to about 5326 km in length.
The reality is that with the available infrastructure, the South cannot export its oil except through the North. In addition, as the date of possible separation drew nearer, new oil blocks that transverse northern and southern areas were being allocated.
Oil companies operating in Sudan are exempted from paying taxes. The contracts were mostly negotiated when the price of an oil barrel of oil was less than 20 US dollars. Surely, the companies operating here could not hope for a better space for reckless exploitation and incredibly high profit margins. Added to this is the fact that the regulatory regime is largely non-existent and even the conduct of environmental impact assessments are selective.
With Sudan having about five billion barrels of oil in reserves and currently exporting billions of dollars worth of oil per year, it must be painful for Khartoum to let the oil rich South go. About 80 per cent of Sudan's oil exports come from the southern states. Only 50 per cent of revenue accruing from oil goes to the South, a factor that undoubtedly stokes the embers of discontent in the area.
As the peoples of Sudan vote for the emergence of a new Southern nation, dreams of the desperately poor and those traumatised by war and cruelties will run high. Children who never experienced peaceful environments will be marvelling at great possibilities. Oil has certainly greased the engines of exploitation, oppression and war in Sudan. It is oiling the machines of separation today. What will it lubricate next?
These are questions we must mull over, but a bigger question is over the implication of continued fragmentation for Africa as a whole. At a time when the continent should be coming together and erasing the arbitrary boundary lines drawn by colonialist adventurers, we continue to fragment. Certainly, this cannot be the only way to overcome poor and parasitic governance.
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* Nnimmo Bassey is executive director of Environmental Rights Action (ERA)/Friends of the Earth Nigeria in Benin City, Nigeria.
* This article was first published by Next.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Sudan: The price of separation
During this week, the people of Southern Sudan will cast their votes in a historic referendum to determine whether to secede from the North, likely becoming Africa’s newest independent nation. The date for this referendum was set six years ago, during the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) ending a 22-year civil war between north and south. The extraordinary voter turnout and jubilation at the polls this week reflects the desire of so many to free themselves from decades of oppression and marginalisation by successive Northern-dominated regimes. After enduring a brutal war in which two million people were killed and four million more were displaced, it is clear that the people of Southern Sudan are ready to become first-class citizens of their own sovereign nation.
As a northern Sudanese living in the diaspora, I am experiencing this historic moment with mixed emotions. I feel hopeful and inspired by a people who are inching closer towards their dream of self-determination. The demands of the Southern Sudanese liberation struggle represent the Sudan many of us in the North want: A nation in which wealth and power is more equitably distributed and where everyone, regardless of ethnicity, faith, or gender is treated with respect and dignity.
The impending secession of Southern Sudan should also serve as a wake-up call for us to recommit ourselves to the struggle for democratic change within our soon-to-be, newly drawn borders. The balkanisation of African states can be devastating, because it makes them more vulnerable to neo-colonial exploitation and undermines their political sovereignty, so we must ask why it has come to this.
The fact is, the Sudanese government failed to make unity a viable option for Southerners. Over the past six years, rather than making strides towards equitably sharing wealth and political power with the South, the Khartoum regime strengthened its grip at the expense of the majority of its citizens. The peripheral regions of Darfur and the South remain particularly neglected and underdeveloped.
A vote for secession will give the South control of about 80 per cent of Sudan’s current oil production of 490,000 barrels a day. This will represent a drastic shift from the 50-50 share between the Sudanese government and the Government of Southern Sudan set for the interim period, following the signing of the CPA. Meanwhile, the burden of these potential losses, are likely to be carried by those already marginalised in Northern Sudan. In the days leading up to this referendum for instance, the Sudanese government raised the price of fuel and sugar in preparation for the nearly 70 per cent oil revenue losses, which are expected once the South secedes. According to economic experts, the new price increases reflect the ‘price of separation’ from the country’s south.
These price increases have already caused suffering in the war-torn region of Darfur, where basic food items such as grains and vegetables are becoming more expensive as transportation costs rise. For the millions of Darfurians still living in the squalor of camps and dependent on food aid, an increase in fuel prices also has implications on food delivery and access to water among the displaced.
Sudan is currently sub-Saharan Africa's third-largest oil producer, behind Nigeria and Angola, providing China with 30 per cemt of the oil that fuels its factories. And yet very little of Sudan's oil profits have benefited its people. Instead, oil companies, primarily from China and Malaysia, have been providing the technology to explore the oil, while sharing the profits with the elites in power. Khartoum's regime is said to have siphoned off as much as 40 per cent of total oil revenue, lining its own pockets through various forms of mis-pricing, instead of taking on the task of developing vast regions of the country that have been neglected for decades.
When a regime driven by greed loses its grip on power, it tends to tighten that grip before losing control. President Omar Al-Bashir's latest remarks on the eve of this referendum, demonstrate this tendency quite vividly. In the days leading up to the vote, he announced that were the South to secede, he would change the constitution in the North to impose Sharia law and ensure that Islam and Arabic are the official religion and language, respectively. He also declared that the 1.5 million Southern Sudanese living in the north would lose citizenship rights and be removed from all public service positions, thereby perpetuating the marginalisation and exclusion Southern Sudanese people fought against for decades.
The people of Sudan belong to over 597 ethnic groups and speak over 200 languages and dialects. Of those ethnic groups, approximately 60 per cent identify as indigenous African and 40 per cent as Arab. 70 per cent of Sudan is Muslim, 25 per cent follow indigenous traditions and 5 per cent are Christian. If the South secedes, these demographics will shift, but the cultural diversity and religious pluralism of the country will remain intact. People who identify as indigenous Africans and do not speak Arabic as their first language will continue to constitute a majority in the north. And while most are Muslim, many do not adhere to the practices and interpretations of Islam put forth by the ruling elite. Forcefully imposing a mono-cultural national identity is therefore, a dangerous project, which could potentially lead to future demands for secession.
As we witness the people of Southern Sudan cast their votes on this historic occasion, it is therefore my hope that we in the north will organise ourselves, around an alternative project which recognises our people's diversity as its strength. While the referendum represents a failure on our government's behalf to make unity a viable option, it also represents our own complicity and silence around policies that, if left unchallenged, could ultimately lead to the further fracturing of our nation. We cannot however, rely on outsiders with a variety of agendas and motives, to challenge these policies for us. It must come from within, with the support and solidarity of those who respect Sudanese sovereignty and have the best interest of all Sudanese people at heart.
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* Nisrin Elamin is an educator and activist living in New York City. Originally from Sudan, she is the coordinator of the Support Darfur Project which documents and supports Darfurian-led grassroots initiatives and blogs at www.supportdarfur.org.
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Of great expectations and frustrated men
H. Nanjala Nyabola
I’ve been reading the news coming out of Southern Sudan with a great deal of trepidation. I’m categorically not against the referendum and the potential split of Africa’s largest country. For me, the distressing thing is the level of hyperbole and un-moderated excitement of various voices in Africa and further afield. Reading headlines like ‘Countdown begins to a free Southern Sudan’ doesn’t make me want to celebrate. Instead it takes me back to a very scary place, sitting in my living room in Nairobi in 2007, waiting for election results to be released by the Electoral Council of Kenya.
Although the 2007 election will be known in history as the one that threatened to tear the country apart, anyone who was in Kenya at the time will tell you that the days before the vote were some of the most inspiring in the country’s history. On the day of the vote, we watched with great pride as queues of excited but patient Kenyans snaked their way around and around the polling stations, some people waiting for up to five hours to vote. Never in the country’s history had a voting process been so smooth - it was the beginning of a new democratic era.
We all know how that particular scenario turned out, and the current excitement in Southern Sudan takes me back there, but not in a good way. Of course there’s no real reason to believe that the referendum in Southern Sudan will turn out the same as the election in Kenya. The populations in both countries have had completely different historical trajectories, and more importantly were voting for different things. Whereas the referendum in Southern Sudan is very much a life or death issue, perhaps signalling an end to the country’s protracted conflict, except for corrupt and greedy politicians who look to elected office as a ticket to prosperity rather than a chance to serve the public, the election in Kenya was more an issue of cementing the political change that had taken root in 2002. Southern Sudan is voting for it’s right to exist beyond the shadow of the North, Kenya was voting for the right to the label ‘democratic republic’.
Yet, there is something eerily familiar about the rhetoric surrounding the Sudanese vote. Without a doubt, this is a historical moment, for Sudan and for the region, but the coverage by African media and outlets further afield seems to be based on the assumption that because Omar al Bashir has stated publicly that he will abide by the decision of the Southern Sudanese people, not only will he be bound by these statements, but all the people who for over 40 years have kept one of the world’s longest conflicts going will play along.
It is encouraging that Africa is getting such significant ‘airtime’, particularly in the Western media, but it seems we’ve forgotten that Bashir has been president of both Southern Sudan and Darfur, in charge during some of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, and the chilling outcome of the sinister machinations of the central administration and their lackeys in the latter case does not bear repeating.
Don’t misunderstand. This isn’t a bout of Afro-pessimism condemning a promising moment in history to failure before it even transpires. Rather, it is a call for moderation and self-reflection, particularly on the part of the media and those who are able to use it as a platform for their agendas. It is important and indeed necessary for the people of Sudan and their friends to will their nation into existence as peacefully as is possible. However, it is equally important for any expectations to be grounded in the reality that even by the most generous standards, the Northern government has not really earned a reputation for playing fair. Would it be so unusual for ballot boxes to be stuffed and officials to be intimidated as they were in Kenya, in full view of international observers and the hawk-eyed press? What if, even outside all the hype and excitement playing out in the press, the majority of Southern Sudanese, like their former leader the late John Garang, are actually against separation from the North? Why are we all talking like the result of the vote is a given - is there a plan for what would happen if the result didn’t quite go as we have all set them up to go?
Unless there is some agreement that we as the public are not privy to - and let’s face it, in any African election this is hardly the stuff of dreams - caution should be the order of the day when reporting on the referendum. It may very well be that Bashir and his circle, like their counterparts in the South, have grown weary of living in perpetual conflict and are equally eager for a peaceful settlement, and we are on the cusp of Africa’s Velvet Revolution. Still, considering the country’s history, until any such hopes materialise and Southern Sudan comes out of this week intact and free, we must keep our expectations in check and judge the key players by what they do rather than what they promise to do. If there is anything that we should all have learnt this weekend following the tragic events in Arizona, USA, is that the consequences of political rhetoric can be devastating and far-reaching.
We as Africans must be hopeful but we must not allow our hope to blind us to the recurrent shortcomings of our beloved continent. It’s time we learned to give trust where it is earned rather than continually letting our leaders kick us in the teeth. Dickens accurately observed that the pressure of unmet expectation can sometimes have devastating outcomes. While wishing nothing but the best for our Southern Sudanese brothers, I hope that they are spared the experience of frustrated men threatening to tear their country apart.
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The invention of the indigène
For the institutions that claim to represent ‘the international community’ – the Western press, international NGOs and UN agencies – the armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been a paradigm of senseless violence. The number of casualties is indeed staggering. In 2001, the New-York-based International Rescue Committee started providing estimates of war-related deaths since the conflict began in 1998: they rose from 1.7 million in 2001 to 5.4 million in January 2008. If correct, these figures account for about 8 per cent of the current population of the country. They were called into question in 2008, however, when two Belgian demographers concluded that the excess death toll between 1998 and 2004 was in the order of 200,000 – one-twentieth of the IRC’s estimate for the same period, but still a shocking number of victims.
The violence in Congo may seem unintelligible but its roots lie in institutional practices introduced under colonialism, which 50 years of independence have only exacerbated. At their heart is an institution known as the native authority. Since the colonial period, native authorities have had jurisdiction over ‘tribal homelands’. As a system of power, the native authority claims to represent age-old ethnic identity. But ethnicity refers to cultural difference, and there is no necessary link between culture and territory. A system of tribal authority, however, asserts a necessary connection between power, culture and territory. Ethnic identity preceded colonial rule, unlike tribal homelands or the native authority. This is why in Congo, as in other areas of ‘indirect rule’ – colonies ruled through a devolved system of tribal powers – ethnic cleansing was the rosy dawn of colonial occupation. The native authority is based on a single politicised identity, the ‘tribe’, and distinguishes two kinds of ethnic groups: those who are indigenous and those who are not.
At the outset, only groups officially acknowledged as indigenous were entitled to a native authority, and with it the right to a tribal ‘homeland’ administered by chiefs appointed from within their own ranks. Not only were non-indigenous groups denied this right; they were required to pay tribute to ‘indigenous’ chiefs in the native authority where they lived. The colonial system thus rested on a dual system of institutionalised discrimination dressed up as cultural difference: by race in the cities and tribe in the countryside. The native authority system continues today to create suspicion and animosity between two politically defined groups – one indigenous, the other not – and to set the scene for violence. What used to be called tribalism – and is now called ethnic conflict – is the expression of a structural contradiction between the economics of a market system and the politics of a residual colonial system. Markets move people, and not simply products of labour, across boundaries, but a colonial mechanism such as the native authority disenfranchises anyone who crosses tribal boundaries, as millions of Congolese were obliged to do, in the service of a fluid migrant labour system. This contradiction was at its most acute in the southern province of Katanga and the eastern provinces of Ituri and Kivu. With independence from Belgium in 1960, there was a prophetic round of ethnic cleansing in Katanga and Kasai, repeated on a more dramatic scale in 1992-93, and shortly afterwards in Ituri and Kivu.
Ethnic cleansing is rarely spontaneous; it requires elite conspiracies and methodical popular organisation. The shaping of the popular dimension in Congo began with administrative coercion and the creation of ‘tribal homelands’. In Katanga, where the Union Minière du Haut-Katanga – a partnership formed in 1906 between King Leopold II, the Société Générale de Belgique and British interests – demanded a flow of cheap labour to exploit the region’s mineral resources, the government obliged with a series of decrees, in 1906, 1910 and 1933, requiring that each ‘tribe’ be identified, separated and resettled in its own ‘homeland’, supervised by its own native authority. One district commissioner complained of his duties that some ethnic groups were ‘totally jumbled’: ‘It will be very difficult to organise them.’ The separation was accomplished between 1925 and 1930, by means of ethnic cleansing.
Whether for the mines, the civil service or the army, recruitment was based on tribal identity. In Katanga, labour migration meant that the two main ethnic groups, the Lunda and Luba, became three ‘tribes’. The Lunda were classified as indigenous to Katanga. But the Luba, who had migrated from neighbouring Kasai, were divided into two groups: those who had moved to Katanga before colonialism became ‘Luba-Katanga’, classified as ‘indigenous’, while those who had arrived during the colonial period became ‘Luba-Kasai’, classified as non-indigenous. All three organised and founded separate political parties. There was also a fourth party, representing Belgian settlers in Katanga. When they confronted the militant Luba trade unions in the mines of Katanga, the Belgians forged an alliance with the indigenous Lunda, and proclaimed a coalition of ‘civilisers’ and ‘authentic Katangans’. At independence, with active support from the colonial establishment – the church, the state and business – ‘nativist’ tribal movements mounted separate drives for secession, first in Katanga under Moise Tshombe (11 July 1960) and then in South Kasai (8 August 1960). The Luba, defined as ‘aliens’, became the first target of ethnic cleansing, in not only Katanga but South Kasai.
The government of the newly independent Congo responded to the secession in Katanga by sending in troops. Ordered to also put down the South Kasai secession on their way to Katanga, the Congolese National Army went on a rampage, slaughtering civilians. Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, the Congolese political historian, has argued that the prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, committed his ‘first major political blunder’ when instead of seeking to heal the rift in a ‘bitter inter-ethnic conflict’ between ‘indigènes’ and ‘non-indigènes’, he chose to side with one group against another. His political enemies held Lumumba responsible for the ensuing political violence; on 5 September 1960 Dag Hammarskjöld, the UN secretary general, described it as ‘genocide’. On the same day, the president, Joseph Kasa-Vubu, dismissed Lumumba.
Since independence, the crisis has moved eastwards, to Ituri and Kivu, where the cross-border movement of soldiers and refugees has exacerbated domestic tensions. Ituri lies in the north-east of Congo, bordering Uganda. It was the site of lucrative gold deposits, to which the Belgians were drawn as early as 1903. In time, other natural resources, from diamonds to coltan and tropical timber, brought a flood of fortune-seekers to Ituri, making it one of three main European areas in Congo. Colonial pacification in Ituri began in 1916, with a policy of regroupement, whereby the authorities separated the predominantly pastoral Hema from the predominantly agricultural Lendu populations, forcing each into its own homeland (territoire) supervised by its own tribal authority (chefferie). A census tagged every villager as a ‘native’ of a particular tribal homeland. ‘Forced relocations,’ Johan Pottier writes, ‘were the norm.’ Before long, market inequalities began to be expressed in ‘tribal’ terms, and early access to formal education gave rise to a dominant Hema administrative and business elite, with the Lendu working largely in the mines and plantations.
In 1966, a law in Congo centralised control of all unoccupied land and mineral rights and brought them under the jurisdiction of the capital, Kinshasa. In 1973, a General Property Law gave state functionaries powers to appropriate ‘ancestral land’ for private sales. Both laws benefited anyone with good political connections. In Ituri, the Hema elite, very small indeed, was enriched as large numbers of Lendu peasants lost ‘customary’ land rights overnight. When Ugandan troops occupied Ituri in 1998, they began to collude with this elite, doing away with the legal requirement that villagers whose ancestral land was to be sold officially be given two years’ notice: evictions swiftly followed. In June 1999, a Lendu rebellion broke out, targeting mostly Hema local administrations. By the end of the year up to 7000 people had been killed and more than 150,000 displaced. Each side and its militias accused the other of being ‘non-originaires’.
Kivu consists of two districts (‘north’ and ‘south’), situated south of Ituri and bordering on Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The groups ‘indigenous’ to Kivu include the Babembe, the Bafulira and the Barira. The non-indigenous population of Kivu is made up not of other Congolese from outside the local native authority, but of Banyarwanda immigrants from what was formerly the kingdom of Ruanda. The Banyarwanda – Hutu, Tutsi and Batwa migrants and their descendants – number roughly 40 million, and are mainly resident in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and Eastern Congo. Those who are settled in any part of Kivu, under the native authority system, cannot accede to customary rights over the land they may have occupied for generations or participate in local government, since they are defined as ‘non-indigenous’. In 1963, open conflict broke out in Kivu between the Banyarwanda and indigenous interests and soon turned into a wider issue: the Banyarwanda demanded ‘democracy’ while indigenous groups called for ‘custom’ to be upheld. The struggle lasted two years; it was sharpened by a short-lived rebellion (1963-64) led by Pierre Mulele, prompted by Mobutu’s seizure of power in the country as a whole: ‘indigenous’ Congolese in Kivu then rallied to the Mulelists, while the Banyarwanda did what nervous immigrants tend to do, sheltering under the wing of the host country’s army.
Between the end of the Mulelist rebellion and the genocide in Rwanda thirty years later, a complex process unfolded in Kivu. The more the Banyarwanda were obstructed at a local level, the further afield they looked for alternatives. Disqualified from exercising power locally, they sought elected office at higher provincial and national levels, but this only hardened the resolve of ‘indigenous’ residents to ensure that they were denied citizenship. In the end, the Banyarwanda – with the Tutsi component leading the way – tried to carve a livelihood from employment in the state security apparatus, based in Kinshasa; when that failed, they knocked on the doors of security in Kigali. Three key decisions on citizenship fed the insecurity of the Banyarwanda. The first was Mobutu’s Citizenship Decree of 1972, issued shortly after a massacre of 200,000 Hutus in Burundi. As Hutu refugees streamed into Kivu, the decree extended citizenship to an earlier intake of refugees, who had arrived in 1959-60, in order to distinguish them from the new arrivals. The strategy backfired, however: the indigenous inhabitants believed the decree was signed by Mobutu under the influence of Bisengimana Rwema, his chef de cabinet, himself a 1959 Tutsi refugee. To their minds it was a worrying precedent that threatened to turn Kivu into an open sanctuary for people fleeing Rwanda and Burundi. Visiting eastern Congo as part of a fact-finding mission in 1997, I was told by a prominent civil society leader: ‘What can’t be accepted is an order whereby every immigrant who comes in is granted citizenship automatically.’
The second decision was the Nationality Law of 1981, passed by an elected assembly at national level, which restricted citizenship to people who could demonstrate an ancestral connection with Congo at the time of the Berlin Conference in 1885. The ‘indigenous’ Congolese pushed for this law as an effective counter to the strategy adopted by minorities like the Banyarwanda of trying to penetrate the Mobutist party-state. It was one thing to pass the law, quite another to implement it. Though it remained on the books, the question of citizenship was still unsettled by the time of the 1985 provincial assembly elections. In Kivu, the Banyarwanda were allowed to vote, but not to run for office. They found themselves lumped together for the first time into a single group, regardless of the distinction between refugees and immigrants. Their response was to smash ballot boxes: no provincial assemblies were elected in North or South Kivu.
The third critical event was the decision of the Sovereign National Conference (CNS), convened in 1991, to uphold the provisions of the 1981 law. Part constitutional conference, part transitional government, the CNS was meant to be the mechanism that took Zaire into the post-Cold War world of multiparty democracy. The impetus for its decision came in part from the growing conflict in the Kivus. In North Kivu it had begun as class unrest, when mainly Hutu landlords began to evict poor Hutu peasants during the 1970s and appropriate their land. In the 1980s one group of poor were pitted against another over who could access ‘customary’ land. Matters got worse when Mobutu deployed two armed contingents, the élite Special Presidential Division (DSP) and the Garde Civile. Both were forced to live off whoever would feed them, the former off prosperous Hutu, the latter off the poor. Each contingent protected the land claims of its respective providers and so helped turn the conflict into a very bloody one. Between 10,000 and 20,000 people were killed, and some 200,000 were forced out of their homes. Such was the state of majority-minority relations in North Kivu before Rwanda erupted. The CNS lasted, with several disruptions, for nearly 18 months. Its decision to reaffirm the 1981 Nationality Law was taken as ‘indigenous’ delegations from North and South Kivu were pressing for a restrictive definition of citizenship. People were already starting to use the generic term ‘Banyamulenge’ for all Congolese Tutsi, not just the group living around Mulenge in South Kivu. At this point, with all migrants and their descendants required to prove a century-old connection to Congo in order to qualify for citizenship, the situation of the ‘Banyamulenge’ was really no different from that of the Tutsi refugees who’d recently arrived in North Kivu. The deeper the crisis, the coarser the stereotypes to which it gave rise, which in turn served only to fuel the crisis. All Banyarwanda began to fear that they would be chased away by ‘indigenous’ groups and ‘indigenous’ groups feared they would be killed by the ‘immigrants’. The proceedings of the CNS were televised throughout urban Congo, inspiring the growth of civic organisations and strengthening the opposition, but as it prepared to deal with two of the most sensitive dossiers on its agenda – ill-gotten gains and political assassinations – the conference was abruptly closed in December 1992 and never reconvened. This was a sign of the regime’s continuing strength, and the fragility of the opposition. The key weakness of the opposition was that it failed to move away from nativist definitions of political belonging, which fragmented it again and again, to an inclusive understanding of citizenship, which might have appealed to immigrants who had come to Congo at different periods and united them in a single movement. The failure to meet this challenge had undermined Lumumba’s position in 1961 and now, thirty years later, it allowed Mobutu to play ‘indigène’ against ‘non-indigène’ in several parts of the country, ripping the opposition apart at the seams. The worst outcome was in Katanga, home to the two leading opposition parties, the UPDS, led by a Luba from Kasai, and the UFERI, led by a relative of the first secessionist figurehead, Moise Tshombe, with a strong base among the Lunda ‘natives’ of Katanga. Growing tensions between the two, initially allied as the Union Sacrée, prepared the ground for the second post-independence ethnic cleansing in the province, in 1992-93. It was worse than the first; according to Nzongola-Ntalaja, over a million Kasaians were expelled from Katanga. Forced into a narrow column more than 1000 kilometres long on their way into Kasai, they were regularly attacked by armed UFERI militias and many died.
Mobutu had in the meantime decided that the time had come for a new federal approach in Congo: la géopolitique, as he called it, was an attempt to elevate ‘nativism’, hitherto the basis of the native authority, into a principle for reorganising central government. Having already pushed through a resolution that every aspirant to citizenship must demonstrate an ancestral connection with the territory, he declared that new heads of ministerial departments would henceforth represent their ‘native’ provinces and that recruitment to the ministries would be based on a quota system: la géopolitique entrenched indigeneity as a principle and as an institutionalised competition between ethnic groups.
When a 1995 decree declared all Kinyarwanda-speakers to be foreigners, the momentum of ethnic cleansing shifted to Kivu. On 7 October 1996, the governor of South Kivu ordered all Banyamulenge to leave the country within a week, or they would be interned in camps and eliminated. This was an extreme response to a dramatic situation created by developments in Rwanda. Waves of Tutsi migrants and refugees had settled in South Kivu since the late 19th century, but conflict in the province was triggered by the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s invasion of Rwanda in 1990 from bases in Uganda, which inspired many young Tutsi from Kivu to cross the border and join the RPF. That in turn led Mobutu to send a ‘mission’ to the province, ostensibly to verify who among the Banyarwanda was ‘Zairean’ and who was not. Predictably, the exercise disenfranchised more Tutsi, increased the flow of young men into the ranks of the RPF and drove up tensions in the province. The genocide of 1994 had a catastrophic effect on Kivu. As the tables began to turn in Rwanda and the RPF advanced on Kigali, more than two million refugees fled across the border. Their presence heightened the local conflict in eastern Congo and pointed up the pernicious role of the UN and the major foreign powers, France especially. In North and South Kivu, Hutu refugees lived in armed camps that were controlled by the ex-Rwandan army and the Hutu militias (or Interahamwe), who both continued to receive military supplies from the French. The soldiers and militia numbered about 20,000 in Bukavu (South Kivu) and 30,000 to 40,000 in Goma (North Kivu). Many believed there was an agreement between the French and Mobutu that the soldiers would not be disarmed by the Congolese army.
France had turned a public pledge to rescue Tutsi civilians into a cover-up that would protect the people who bore responsibility for the genocide in Rwanda. Having witnessed the slaughter of the Tutsi without lifting a finger, the UN looked on with the same complacency as refugee camps established near the international borders were turned into venues for arming and training insurgents, whose daily welfare was provided by US-funded NGOs and the UNHCR in the name of humanitarian assistance.
The existence of the Hutu camps, armed and funded, and home to two million refugees or more, had a devastating effect on civilian life in Kivu. It led to the dollarisation of the economy and price rises (including rents) well beyond the reach of local people. As the Interahamwe unleashed a regime of terror against Congolese Tutsi, another wave of younger men moved across the border to enlist in the RPF. Among them was Laurent Nkunda, the future commander of the notorious Banyamulenge militia (Tutsi), wanted for war crimes in Congo and now detained in Rwanda. The anatomy of political life in Kivu began to resemble that of Rwanda just before the genocide, where every political party had its own militia: in Kivu, every native authority began to acquire one.
The ethnic situation went from bad to worse after the success of the 1996 rebellion against Mobutu, as Congolese Tutsi saw an opportunity to settle scores with local opponents, and Rwandan Tutsi generalised their hatred of the ‘génocidaires’, first to all Hutu, then to all Congolese, whom they now regarded as willing hosts to armed Hutu killers. By September 1997, with Mobutu ousted, the rebel leader Laurent Kabila in power and the fighting in Congo officially at an end, disillusion had set in. Activists decried the new regime’s insistence on starting out from scratch and dismissing the principles adopted at the CNS. Kabila and his ministers were behaving like a one-party state in a country whose citizens had already had a taste of democratisation. In Kivu, the colloquial Swahili word for water is mayi and Mayi-Mayi is the name given to all the militias linked to indigenous native authorities. Their ritual use of water to immunise themselves against bullets dates back to similar practices in the early anti-colonial movements in east and central Africa. Mayi-Mayi recruits in Kivu are mainly alienated young men, often school drop-outs.
The first of the modern-day militias was formed from the ‘indigenous’ population in North Kivu to protect themselves against the DSP, who’d thrown in their lot with prosperous Hutu. The Hutu developed a counter- militia, known as Les Combattants. In a parallel move, the Tutsi of South Kivu organised their own. By 2000, the Mayi-Mayi was one of five different armed groups in the countryside, along with the UN peace-keeping force (Munoc), the newly organised Congolese army (FARDC), one Tutsi militia and another Hutu militia, the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), which contained former Interahamwe fighters.
In spite of its excesses and atrocities, Mayi-Mayi is seen locally as a self-defence operation carried out by ‘our children’ or ‘the people armed’ – and the same villagers who lament its violence often consider it a ‘necessary evil’. Often, too, they think of Mayi-Mayi as a resistance to ‘foreign occupation’. Mayi-Mayi militias joined Laurent Kabila’s 1996 rebellion against Mobutu but later turned against it when it seemed to them to be the spearhead of a Rwandan occupation. At that point, in North Kivu, Mayi-Mayi began co-operating with the FDLR militia, who were targeting armed Tutsi groups. But no matter who the Mayi-Mayi were fighting, it was always in the name of the so-called ‘indigènes’.
Two conferences have been held to try to halt the conflict in Congo, the first in Lusaka, Zambia, in 1999, the second in Sun City, South Africa, in 2002. The Lusaka agreement required the foreign forces to withdraw and the local militias to disarm under UN auspices. Sun City, by contrast, bore a recognisably South African imprint: opposition groups would participate in the transitional government, the national assembly and the senate, while the militias – numbering anywhere between 50,000 and 300,000 men – would be integrated into the new national army along with former rebels, in a process known as ‘brassage’. That process began in 2004; it consisted of 45-day programmes for former fighters, who were given blue jumpsuits, quartered behind barbed wire and sent out in teams to repair the roads. After this, they were inducted into the army. Those who didn’t make it were supposed to get a subsistence paycheck but rarely received it. The process was put on hold in 2008, when the World Bank withdrew funding, leaving 80,000 former combatants stranded and thousands more who hadn’t even been inducted into the programme.
Why lump rebels and local militias together when the first were organised along ideological lines as a supra-local army and the second were largely a local phenomenon tied to specific communities? An alternative would have been to restructure the Mayi-Mayi in their neighbourhoods, each accountable to a separate local authority and responsible for policing law and order. But that would have meant doing away with the distinction between ‘indigenous’ and ‘migrant’ – in other words, reforming the native authority system root and branch. Instead, Mayi-Mayi were pulled out of their communities and dispatched to barracks across the country.
A key rule in the integration process is that a former militiaman can be deployed only in a region other than the one in which he previously fought, but after the 2006 elections, many of these ‘new’ brigades were deployed in eastern Congo, because of the continuing violence. At that time another 12,000 combatants or more from rebel groups joined the army, swelling its numbers in eastern Congo alone to about 60,000. Unpaid soldiers are uncontrolled soldiers, living off civilians and taking to extortion as a way of life. They are also susceptible to bribes: the Hutu FDLR in Kivu has control over key mineral resources in the region and a network of private trade, and appears to have arrangements with Congolese army personnel. Researchers have reported instances where former Mayi-Mayi soldiers now in the army have refused to fire on Hutus.
The supreme difficulty in Congo, as I’ve said, is the persistence of the native authority, which, for all the complexities of ethnicity, is still in place as an organising principle. It is now the terrain on which new forms of political authority, flaunted by young men bearing arms, confront older forms steeped in patriarchal tradition. (This same confrontation has also unfolded in Northern Uganda and Sierra Leone, where youth-led rebellions have eroded older kinds of authority.) The descendants of migrant communities, and newer waves of immigrants, have proved as violent as their opponents, but they have also been the first to rethink the boundaries of community and try to reinvent themselves as Congolese citizens. In 1972, when thousands of Hutus were slaughtered in Burundi, Tutsi Banyarwanda distanced themselves from what was happening across the border and vigorously reaffirmed their Congolese identity. The general description ‘Banyarwanda’ fell away; henceforth they preferred ‘Banyamulenge’. The reformulation suggests a radical will to shift identity away from ethnic origin to territory.
Under the two Kabilas, Laurent and his son and successor Joseph, the Mobutist models of citizenship and ethnic identity came under review. Kabila Sr’s draft constitution affirmed that the Berlin Conference date should remain the criterion of citizenship, but in 2005, after his son’s constitutional referendum, citizenship was awarded to all individuals descended from ethnic groups present in the territory on independence in 1960: a major step forward, even if citizenship remained an attribute of ethnic identity. Etienne Tshisekedi, the leader of the Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social, showed the intrinsic weakness of the opposition in Congo when he denounced the draft constitution as a ‘sell out’ to foreigners. He was thinking of the Banyarwanda, who had arrived before independence but whose descendants would now be Congolese: he called on his supporters to boycott voter registration in advance of the referendum. Tshisekedi, himself a victim of ‘indigenous’ chauvinism in Katanga, was incapable of seeing beyond his own narrow political advantage when it came to the future of the country. Faced with the extreme violence that has racked Congo and always threatens to break out again, the ‘international community’ has tended to fall back on the notion of the failed state. As with organ failure in medicine, ‘state failure’ provokes calls for radical solutions, including rapid intervention and even emergency transplants. In 2004, after a massacre in a camp on the Congo- Burundi border, Clare Short told the BBC that ‘if we leave it, there will be endless killing.’ She went on to warn that Africa could soon become a ‘failed continent’. In Foreign Policy a couple of years ago, two leading academics proposed that ‘the only way to help Congo is to stop pretending it exists.’ Like external examiners everywhere, all three commentators are intent on outcomes, not processes: they ignore the colonial and post-colonial history of state formation in Congo and can tell us only what it should be, not what it is or how it is evolving.
That violence in Africa is criminal rather than political is now the conventional wisdom. Groping for a memorable soundbite, the development economist Paul Collier claims that greed, not grievance, is the source of the civil wars on the continent, while human rights groups now include ‘naming and shaming’ in their response to atrocities. Calls for prosecution and punishment can also be heard: but who will do the punishing in Congo? Will it be failing native authorities in Kivu? The armed militias not yet integrated into the new army? Or that army itself, already home to most of the perpetrators? Or should the international community – led by the International Criminal Court – take charge of Congo’s destiny yet again? And who should be punished: the rank-and-file or senior commanders? Will they be Congolese only, or soldiers from the neighbouring armies (Rwanda and Uganda) that have intervened? These questions are highly political. Even the worst perpetrators of violence in Congo must be understood as human actors caught up in a conflict that started with the colonial conquest a century ago. That means shifting the focus from individual acts to the cycle of violence, from atrocities to the issues that drive them. Instead of recognising and facing the real challenge – to reform the native authority so that local militias can be held politically accountable – the ‘international community’ has chosen to induct them into a ballooning, dysfunctional colonial-style army, leaving the native authority to grind along unchanged.
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* This article originally appeared in LRB Vol. 33 No. 2 dated 20 January 2011.
* Mahmood Mamdani is the director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research in Kampala, and Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University. He is the author of Saviours and Survivors: Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror.
THE FOLLOWING BOOKS AND ARTICLES WERE CONSULTED IN THE WRITING OF THIS PIECE:
‘Local Violence, National Peace? Postwar “Settlement” in the Eastern DR Congo (2003-6)’ by Séverine Autesserre (African Studies Review, December 2006).
Lunda under Belgian Rule: The Politics of Ethnicity by Edouard Bustin (Harvard, 1975).
A Working Class in the Making: Belgian Colonial Labour Policy, Private Enterprise and the African Mineworker, 1907-51 by John Higginson (Wisconsin, 1989).
‘Re-examining Mortality from the Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 1998-2006’ by Francesco Checchi (World Health Organisation Health and Nutrition Tracking Service, www.thehnts.org/useruploads/files /hnts_peer_review_re_examining_mortalityfrom_the_conflict_in_drc_1998_2006.pdf).
The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa by René Lemarchand (Pennsylvania, 2009). Zaire: What Destiny? edited by Kankwenda Mbaya (CODESRIA, 1993).
The Congo from Leopold to Kabila: A People’s History by Georges Nzongola- Ntalaja (Zed Books, 2002).
Black Mineworkers in Central Africa: Industrial Strategies and the Evolution of an African Proletariat in the Copperbelt, 1911-41 by Charles Perrings (Heinemann, 1979).
‘Representations of Ethnicity in the Search for Peace: Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo’ by Johan Pottier (African Affairs, January 2010).
‘Demilitarising Militias in the Kivus (Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo)’ by Monica Thakur (African Security Review, January 2008).
‘A Reconfiguration of Political Order? The State of the State in North Kivu (DR Congo)’ by Denis Tull (African Affairs, July 2003).
Conflict and Social Transformation in Eastern DR Congo by Koen Vlassenroot and Timothy Raeymaekers (Gent, 2004).
Gbagbo and the Ivorian test: Moving beyond anti-imperialist rhetoric
On October 31, 2010 the peoples of Cote d'Ivoire voted in the Presidential elections that had been postponed for five years. The results of this electoral contest showed that Laurent Gbagbo, the intellectual turned trade unionist and politician won the first round with about 35 percent of votes cast. Two other opposition leaders were runners up. Alassane Ouattara, the leader of the Rally of Republicans (RDR) and former Prime Minister, captured 32 percent of the votes cast. Ex-president Henri Konan Bedie, leader of the Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI), was in third place with about 25 percent. Because no candidate received an absolute majority of votes in the first round, a second round was held on November 28. When this second round of voting took place, Henri Bedie threw his electoral support behind Outtara and so the Presidential candidate of the RDR emerged the winner and was declared as such by the Independent Electoral Commission of Cote d’Ivoire. Observers from ECOWAS, independent groups in Africa, the African Union and the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) came to the same conclusion. The African Union and the United Nations recognized Ouattara as the winner of the election and since the standoff, the struggles for democratic participation in West Africa has dominated international news and discussions in many continents. These polarized discussions and the challenges of how to give meaning to the results as one expression of the will of the Ivorian people divided the peace and justice movements as the African Union imposed sanctions and declared that all means would be used to resist the illegitimate Presidency of Laurent Gbagbo.
Undoubtedly, the elections had been conducted in a society where the militarization of politics had increased after the death of Félix Houphouët- Boigny. Coups, armed rebellions and mercenary forces had become part of the political landscape with an equal round of peace negotiations and agreements for disarmament and the demobilization of rebel forces. Abidjan that had been the base of international organizations lost its luster as the African Development Bank relocated to Tunisia as lawlessness dominated the scene to the point where political leaders were complicit in the dumping of toxic waste in the middle of a working class neighborhood. Laurent Gbagbo, a veteran freedom fighter who was a leader of the opposition to the one party dictatorship of Félix Houphouët- Boigny, had come to power not only by winning a general election in 2000, but also through popular mass resistance against military dictatorship on an anti-imperialist program. However, once in power this same anti–imperialist embraced international capital to the point where the banking magazine named his finance minister, banker of the year in 2009. Flush with increased revenues from high cocoa prices and new fields of oil and gas, the elements around Gbagbo did not want to relinquish control over the national treasury so they rejected the November 28 election results as declared by the Independent Electoral Commission. Gbagbo swore himself in as President in early December. Ouattara was recognized as the legitimate President by the African Union and by the Security Council of the United Nations.
Our task is to lay out some of the democratic questions in the current struggles in the Cote d'Ivoire. The post-election stalemate in Côte d’Ivoire once again sharpens the demand by African peoples for democratic African societies devoid of leaders who have turned tools of anti-imperialism into tools for the oppression of their own people. From Zimbabwe to Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Ivory Coast, the peoples of Africa have grown impatient with leaders who were anti-imperialist heroes but once they entrenched themselves in power, they did not only become allies of the imperialists they had fought against, they become obstacles to the aspirations of their peoples, who yearn for freedom of movement, freedom of religious expression, gender equality, citizenship, peace, and human dignity. We advocate for a paradigm in which the aspirations and will of the people supersede the selfish interests of leaders and their imperialist accomplices; a paradigm in which neither the likes of Laurent Gbagbo nor Alassane Outtara would have the free rein to betray the mandate and aspirations of the people. This paradigm cannot be guaranteed by the manipulation of anti-imperialist sentiment against the democratic aspirations of citizens as we are currently witnessing in Cote d’Ivoire. In this piece, we also want to place the military question in a context where the use of ECOWAS military force should be entertained as the option of last resort to achieve the aspiration of the Ivorians, bearing in mind that it is the Gbagbo forces who have unleashed military force against the people. It is our proposition that the concentrated and prolonged struggles of the people place the future of democracy beyond the person of Ouattara. Therefore, from the outset our position in this progressive pan African piece differs with the view of the economist, Paul Collier who is calling for a military coup to oust Laurent Gbagbo.
CLASSIC NEO-COLONIALSM AND THE COCKPIT OF IMPERIAL INTERESTS IN COTE D’IVOIRE
After independence in 1960, Cote d'Ivoire became the cockpit of imperial machinations in West Africa for over 50 years Félix Houphouët-Boigny and his political organization allied with France to dominate the spaces of economic, social, political and cultural interactions. Boigny had matured from the class of rich cocoa plantation owners to enter politics during the dying days of colonialism. Prior to the decline of France in the wake of German occupation, the racism of France excluded even rich plantation owners from political spaces, so this exploiter of migrant workers made common cause with the working people by organizing the Syndicate Agricole Africain (SAA), a union that defended farm workers and planters’ interests. In 1945, Boigny rose to political prominence when he was elected as the Ivory Coast’s deputy to the French Constituent Assembly.
Riding on the wave of anti-colonialism immediately after WWII, Houphouet-Boigny used the base of the nationalist movement of the (SAA) to be a moving force in Côte d’Ivoire’s first independent political party, Parti Démocratique de la Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI). The PDCI became part of a larger network of French-speaking West African political parties, known as the Rassemblement Démoctratique Africain (RDA). Supported by the French, this RDA opposed Pan Africanism and undermined efforts aimed at transcending the Berlin borders and the divisions between Francophone and Anglophone Africa. This former supporter of the rights of agricultural workers supported French military oppression in Algeria and Vietnam and with this new orientation became a darling of the economic interests of France in West Africa. France identified Africa as the source as its contention to remain as an international force in the global economy and the domination of West Africa was key to the post war posture of the France to maintain a ‘sphere of influence.’ In the face of the militant nationalism of leaders such as Sekou Toure and Felix-Roland Moumie, the planter class in Côte d’Ivoire was identified as reliable allies for French imperial plans as France maintained troops in the ex-colonies in order to intervene to support the plunder of human and natural resources. With its principal allies in Abidjan, investments poured in from Western Europe and North America and the capital city of Abidjan became a hub for Air France and for anti-colonial planning in Africa. The very spatial organization of this growing urban space articulated the hierarchy of the apartheid conditions with Cocody reserved for Europeans, Plateau for the Lebanese traders and Treichville for the mass of African workers. City planning carried a clear French cultural identity with the public buildings and bridges given names of French leaders, with the bridge named after Charles de Gaulle holding pride of place in the developed infrastructure to ferry the rulers between places of exploitation and leisure.
Houphouet-Boigny was rewarded for his alliance with France against African nationalism in the tense period when France deployed troops across Africa. Before France was exposed for its alliance with the genocidaires in Rwanda, the mantra of France was that it was providing peace keeping for Africa. The real purpose of France in its multiple military interventions has been fully documented in the book France, Soldiers and Africa. These interventions postponed democratic transformations and supported the most conservative elements in Africa. These activities of France provide a cautionary tale to those who would support the logic of the US who have established AFRICOM to replace France as the dominant military force in the repression of the African poor.
French soldiers were garrisoned in Cote d’Ivoire and Boigny opted for a form of relationship with France that ensured that the French franc remained the currency, French teachers remained in the schools of the rich, French food dominated in the restaurants and French soldiers were deployed to defend the interests of France. It was easier to make a telephone call to Paris than to call a neighboring African society. French commercial companies ensured that bottled water was imported by running a poor water supply system. It was this kind of relationship that gave rise to the use of the term neo-colonialism to describe the connections between France and the West African former colonies after these societies became independent in 1960. During these years, the African ruling elite served as the conduit for the export of wealth accumulated from the sweat and brow of the working poor. In the process of taking their cut as junior partners in the chain of exploitation, French nationals poured in as the society was branded as a sea of stability and growth. It was in this period of increased foreign investments that the society became the number one cocoa producer in the world and millions of migrant workers were attracted into the society to work on cocoa, coffee and banana farms. By the end of the 20th century the children of these migrant workers from Liberia, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea and Sierra Leone had contributed greatly to the increased wealth of the planters and the Lebanese merchants. As a planter himself, Boigny understood the importance of these workers for the wealth of the society and tolerated these workers as long as they did not become activists in trade union movements.
Accumulating a personal fortune that was estimated to be above $10 billion, Boigny supported an administration that oppressed workers at home while becoming the godfather of other oppressors such as Mobutu. Along with Mobutu, Boigny became a staunch ally of the apartheid regime in South Africa supporting dialogue with the apartheid leaders, when the African freedom fighters and the frontline societies were calling for increased sanctions. Jonas Savimbi found a base for his activities in this society and diamonds from Angola were mixed with diamonds from Sierra Leone as the buildings in Plateau changed character. With new sources of wealth, elements from within the ruling classes of this society became staunch anti-communist allies of France and the United States. These were the forces that benefited from the destabilization of West Africa and the assassination of Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso. Hence, from even before the death of Boigny in 1993, the ruling elements of this society that were the number one producer of cocoa was profiting from war and misery in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. During his last years as leader millions of scarce foreign exchange were spent on the building of the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro, his home community. This was designated the largest cathedral outside of the Vatican, assigning a cultural and political identity for that section of the ruling elite who were members of the Roman Catholic Church.
Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa was like Kenya in East Africa. These were both societies where there were new social forces struggling for democratic rights against both one party dictatorships and intensified exploitation. During the Cold War these forms of repression enjoyed the support of imperial interests.
BEYOND XENOPHOBIA AND CHAUVINISM IN THE PAN AFRICAN WORLD
Laurent Gbagbo, leader of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) was from the educated elite who had joined the anti-dictatorial struggles in the society and earned his stripes as a freedom fighter. He was continuously imprisoned for fighting for the rights of workers during the one party dictatorship of the PDCI. Trained in the Sorbonne in Paris, Laurent Gbagbo and his party emerged as strong contenders for political change when the society was forced to break the stranglehold of the one party dictatorship. When Boigny joined the ancestors in 1993, Bedie who had been the finance Minister under the elder dictator quickly moved to consolidate control over the state resources by moving to disenfranchise workers in general and to exclude Ouattara from the political leadership. Abdul Lamin in his 2005 monograph, “The Conflict in Cote d’Ivoire: South Africa’s Diplomacy, and Prospects for Peace,” documented in detail the twists and turns of the ‘politics of exclusion’ and how this brand of politics became militarized after 1999. The central thrust of this exclusionary political direction was to disenfranchise large sections of the population who were the children and grandchildren of migrant workers. Ouattara was also a target of this exclusion. One of his parents had migrated from Burkina Faso although he himself had joined the ruling circles rising to become Prime Minister under Boigny. Xenophobia was buttressed by religious chauvinism as the opposition to the leadership of Ouattara was wrapped in religious garb. In 1995 President Bedie had disqualified Ouattara from the presidential race on the grounds that he was not a citizen even though less than three years earlier both men had served in the cabinet of Boigny. Ouattara was excluded on grounds of religion and citizenship and disqualification alienated many of the citizens from the North who followed the Islamic faith. This chauvinism and xenophobia was given currency as a cultural force under the label of Ivoirite (Ivorian-ness). In his monograph, Abdul Lamin outlined the mobilization of the spirit of Ivoirite which was then enacted into the legal statutes:
The controversial law, popularly known as Ivoirite, was specifically designed to exclude certain segments of the population from full participation in the political process. A key provision of the law restricted the eligibility requirements for candidates seeking the presidency of the country. According to the now-infamous article 35 of the national constitution, anyone seeking to run for the presidency must first show that they were born in Côte d’Ivoire to parents who were also born to Ivorian nationals. In other words, contrary to previous practice where citizenship was defined by birth within Ivorian territory, to at least one parent of Ivorian nationality, under the new law the conditions were much more stringent, excluding a vital segment of the population.
Lamin’s scholarship drew attention to the ways in which xenophobia at home merged with the militarization of the region so that the ruling elements were benefitting from the war in Liberia and Sierra Leone while fomenting hostility to refugees and the children of migrants. In 1996, Cote d’Ivoire was flooded with 350,000 Liberian refugees, who fled across the border after Charles Taylor began the war from the Ivory Coast in 1990. Regional militarism compounded the regional struggles for democracy. Outtara was the target of the internal struggles within the top echelons but by 1999 the popular opposition to these elements diminished this class of leaders and in December 1999 the military seized power. General Robert Guei emerged as the military leader and he intensified the chauvinism that had been fomented by the Bedie faction of the ruling elements.
It was in the midst of this militarization of the politics that Gbagbo emerged with his freedom fighting credentials and in the parliamentary elections of 2000 his party carried the most votes. A popular uprising elevated Laurent Gbagbo to the Presidency. Gbagbo and his Ivorian Popular Front benefited from both internal popular uprisings and the opposition of the African Union to military interventions. In 1999 the Constitutive Act of the African Union had been drafted and one of the first positions of the AU was opposition to military dictatorships. Thus, Gbabo benefited from both the internal and external pressures for democracy in Africa.
Once he was elevated to becoming the President in 2000 Gbagbo began to consolidate power and did not denounce the chauvinism that sought to exclude millions of Ivoirians from full citizenship rights. Military means of opposing Gbagbo became one option and a rebellion in the North broke out in 2002 when an armed group called the New Forces launched an uprising in the North. Cote d’Ivoire was thrust into the arc of warfare and oppression that spread from Liberia and Sierra Leone into the number one cocoa producer. French trips were landed in the society ostensibly to protect French citizens; and as a member of the Security Council, France managed to give this intervention the stamp of international approval under the mandate of the Security Council. After 2002, Côte d’Ivoire was effectively partitioned into two parts, with the Gbagbo government controlling the mostly economically developed south, and the rebels and their allies controlling the mostly undeveloped north. Regional differentiation and class formation had gone hand in glove so that the South and the region of the cocoa plantation produced the schools, the banks, the infrastructure and the social amenities that reproduced the assertion of an African ruling class. The North that served as a labor reservoir for the South was less developed and so class differentiation was reinforced by religious differences as the majority of the citizens in the North were followers of Islam.
Guillaume Soro emerged as the de facto leader of the rebellion and as part of this war, President Laurent Gbagbo fueled anti-foreigner hatred in the south. Fighting did not only split the country into the rebel-held north and loyalist south, it killed more than 3,000 people and uprooted more than 1 million others. Militarism and violent confrontations dominated the political and regional landscape as various peace conferences were used by the contending factions to bolster their forces. From 2002 to 2005 there were peace talks that focused on the political reunification of the country and the demobilization of the rebel forces. After this peace conference in 2005 a government of national unity was established where the leaders of the rebellion joined the government and Laurent Gbagbo undertook to organize free and fair elections. In January 2002, a court in Abidjan certified the nationality of Alassane Dramane Ouattara clearing the way for him to contest in the politics of the elections.
DEEPENING DEMOCRATIC STRUGGLES IN COTE D’IVOIRE
The military struggles in the society concealed the long battles for full democratic rights by plantation workers. Although this was one of the most urbanized societies in West Africa, the agricultural sector was still very significant with over 69 per cent of the workers employed in enterprises producing coffee, cocoa beans, bananas, palm kernels, corn, rice, manioc (tapioca), sweet potatoes, sugar, cotton, rubber and timber. In this sector, super-exploitation abounded as numerous reports of the International Labor Organization drew attention to the widespread use of child labor on the plantations. According to some of these reports,
• 40% of the world’s cocoa supply comes from the Ivory Coast
• Local activists in Ivory Coast reported that 90% of its cocoa plantations use labour in conditions similar to enslavement
• In 2003 the US State Department estimated there were over 109,000 children in forced labour on Ivory Coast Cocoa farms
• In 2005 The International Labour Organisation (ILO) claimed there were over 150,000 children working under the worst forms of child labour in the cocoa industry in the Ivory Coast alone, an estimated 12,000 of whom had been trafficked.
These facts reinforce the point of this commentary that the struggle against child labor and super-exploitation were central components of the democratic struggles in the society. Another component was the struggle for environmental justice. Workers in the society had initiated a legal suit to ban the use of dangerous pesticides in the society since the greatest hazards facing children was the use of pesticides without protective clothing and the use of machetes to clear land. An international movement to support these workers developed around Fair Trade certified chocolate.
In 2008 a US federal appeals court ruled Ivory Coast plantation workers, who claimed they were sterilized by a US-made pesticide, cannot sue the manufacturers and distributors of the chemical in the US, because they can’t show that the companies intended them harm. Some 700 workers had accused US companies of genocide for marketing DBCP abroad after the pesticide was banned in the US. It was in the midst of these legal struggles that elements from the plantation sector strengthened their alliance with sections of the legal confraternity in the USA.
The political leaders in Cote d’Ivoire did not budge and went further to be accomplices to the importation of toxic waste into the country. Probably one of the most heinous crimes carried out by the militarized rulers was the importation of toxic waste into the society. According to one account,
In Ivory Coast waste, which contained hydrogen sulphide, was unloaded from a Panamanian-registered ship, the Probo Koala, at Abidjan port and then dumped in at least eight open air sites, including the city's main rubbish dump. By mid-September 6 people had died and 16,000 had sought treatment. Dutch-based Trafigura Beheer BV, one of the world's leading commodities traders, said it had chartered the ship and said the material was a "mixture of gasoline, water and caustic washings" following the unloading of a cargo of gasoline in Nigeria. The sludge was later blamed for killing 15 people and sickening 100,000 more. In 2009 Greenpeace said it had obtained internal e-mails and other documents that show Trafigura Beheer BV executives were aware the sludge was hazardous.
That hundreds of tons of toxic waste were allowed to be dumped in and around the working class neighborhoods give a clear lie to the idea that the division in the society was just between Southerners and Northerners. This was a divide between capitalists and workers. In September 2009,Trafigura agreed to pay $50m to people in Ivory Coast who were poisoned by the waste. In June 2010, Dutch prosecutors accused Trafigura of illegally exporting hazardous waste to Ivory Coast but the full complicity of the ruling elements was never revealed. Gbagbo reshuffled the government and continued to illegally hold on to power.
STAMP OF APPROVAL BY INTERNATIONAL CAPITAL
Laurent Gbagbo sought to mobilize his anti-imperialist credentials while strengthening a new class of rich Ivoirians. The base for enrichment was enlarged after 2006 when Oil and gas were mined in the country even while supporting a new class of rich persons who were supported by the military; Gbagbo mobilized anti-French rhetoric while mobilizing new sources of political and material support from as far afield as Angola and China. In particular, the Angolans had been attracted to Cote d’Ivoire to gain information on the networks of Jonas Savimbi in the society.
While opposing French political intervention in the society the Gbagbo regime did not use their powers to eradicate the cultural power of France. In effect, what was being played out was not so much opposition to France but opposition to a sector of the French leadership. Gbagbo was supported by elements of the French socialist party and their faction in France. Side by side with these external forces was the stamp of approval accorded to the regime by the IMF and the World Bank as well as Western international bankers.
The World Bank had pulled out of Côte d'Ivoire in 2004 over the non-payment of arrears, but returned in 2008 after the Ouagadougou Peace Accords. The World Bank had embarked on a Country Assistance Programme for 2010-2013, focusing on the usual phrases of “good governance, infrastructural development, improved exports, agricultural development and a revitalized private sector.” The International Development Association (IDA) had a portfolio of 10 investment projects worth US$737 million ($245 million still to be dispersed).
In March 2009, the IMF agreed to provide $565.7 million under a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) arrangement, focusing on economic regeneration, while the World Bank and IMF allowed Côte d'Ivoire to qualify for debt relief under the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. Both institutions praised Gbagbo’s efforts on “poverty reduction and financial management.” The debt relief offered around $3 billion on a total external debt of around $12.8 billion was premised on the successful holding of elections. HIPC status allowed Côte d'Ivoire to enter into debt arrangements with both the Paris Club and London Club. France and the USA also agreed to important debt relief measures.
It was in this period that the banking magazine named the Finance minister of Cote d’Ivoire as banker of the year.
THE 2010 ELECTIONS
Despite the fact that there had been a peace agreement, the question of citizenship was never resolved and the debate over Ivorite took place within the technical committees of the electoral commission. After several postponements, which were blamed on technical problems linked to the electoral census, legislative and presidential elections were rescheduled for November 2009. Once again, however, the elections could not be held on this date, despite the fact that the normalisation of the political and security situation depended on these elections going smoothly. After five years of postponing the elections the Gbagbo forces agreed to elections in 2010. Presidential candidates in Cote d'Ivoire had agreed on a new voter registry for an election in October. Disagreements over voter eligibility delayed the election, which was later scheduled for October 31. Supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo rejected earlier lists, which they claimed included ineligible voters, namely citizens with background from neighboring countries, Burkina Faso and Mali. Opposition candidates argued that the objections were attempts to disenfranchise likely opposition supporters. All presidential candidates have agreed on the new list, which was published by the electoral commission by October 12.
After the first round of the elections, the former opponents Bedie and Ouattara joined forces and the supporters of Bedie rallied behind Ouattara. After the second round of voting on November 28, the release of election results were blocked by the followers of the Ivorian Popular Front. On December 2, Election commission Chief Youssouf Bakayoko announced that opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara had won with 54.1% of the vote, compared to 45.9% for Pres. Gbagbo.
Since that time the society was plunged into a deep political and military crisis as the Constitutional Council declared Laurent Gbagbo winner with 51% of the votes. The Constitutional Council annulled results in seven northern regions. The African Union and the UN Security Council rejected this disenfranchisement of over half a million citizens and in December the UN Security Council urged that all parties to recognize Alassane Ouattara as president and, extended the mandate of the peacekeeping force for six months.
A TEST FOR THE AFRICAN UNION
After appearing on Democracy Now in the USA one Gnaka Lagoke of AfricanDiplomacy.com repeated the view that Gbagbo won the elections and that there had been fraud. This same government that had earned millions of dollars from dumping Toxic waste had employed the lobbyist Lanny Davis from the USA to represent their side of the argument. In a society where there is over 40 per cent unemployment, the Gbagbo forces were paying this lobbyist US $100,000 per month to represent his view that as a freedom fighter he should continue as President. There is a sophisticated attempt by Gbagbo’s sympathizers to reproduce the xenophobia of the ruling elements while claiming Pan African credentials. Two days later I was in a meeting with the Head of the ECOWAS monitoring group and he categorically supported the figures that Gbagbo had lost the elections.
It was this certainty by both the AU and ECOWAS that led to the unified international position by the EU, the UN, the Carter Center in the USA and other international observers. So, despite the argument that the unified position was a French plot to bring back neo-colonialism, the reality was that French commercial and financial interests were never threatened under Gbagbo.
Unlike in the compromised elections of Kenya and Zimbabwe, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been firm in the rejection of the claims of Gbagbo that he won the elections. This firmness was supported by the Central Bank of West African States that has since December 2010 cut Gbagbo off from Ivory Coast's accounts, giving Ouattara signature rights. Both the African Union and ECOWAS maintained that if Gbagbo remained defiant, "the community will be left with no alternative but to take other measures, including the use of legitimate force, to achieve the goals of the Ivorian people." But the response from Gbagbo's camp has been uncompromising, rejecting the "unacceptable" threat. This threat of military action by ECOWAS and the African Union has created unease in West Africa with the President of Ghana breaking ranks from unified position of the African Union. One of the spokespersons for Gbagbo and the Ivorian Patriotic Front branded the West African move a "Western plot directed by France" and warned that military action could put millions of regional immigrants in Ivory Coast in danger: "The people of Ivory Coast will mobilise. This boosts our patriotism. This strengthens our faith in Ivorian nationalisms.," This “patrotic” and anti-imperialist position of the FPI was backed up by articles exposing the history of Alassane Ouattara as a former official of the IMF and declaring that force will be met with force. Hand in glove with this anti-imperialist position was the unleashing of military and para-military forces within the society to intimidate opposition forces. The armed elements of Gbagbo surrounded the UN that had been guarding Ouattara and the militarization of the political relations escalated with the unleashing of unemployed youths who were deployed as enforcers to threaten the opposition. It was this same government that had unleashed the military in order to illegally stay in power that was now declaring that it was against military intervention. This discourse of state violence conceals an even greater element of structural violence that is being visited on the ordinary citizens. The struggles for basic trade union and citizenship rights place the question of democracy in that society beyond elections. Moreover, the fact that the Gbagbo elements were willing and able to dump toxic waste in the middle of the neighborhoods of the working poor added the issues of environmental justice to the democratic questions to be resolved in that society.
The negotiations undertaken by the AU reflected a new determination within Africa to be united so that dictators do not stay in power against the will of the people. In our analysis of the democratic struggles we highlighted the issues of health and safety of the working peoples as the foremost democratic questions. Supporters of the Gbagbo forces were arguing that Ouattara represented the interests of international capital and was too close to French imperial interests. However, it was our effort to show that despite the verbal declamations of anti-imperialism, the Gbagbo forces were supported by some of the most retrograde sections of international capital. The links to Lanny Davis in the USA and Trafigura in Holland pointed to these linkages.
BEYOND MILITARIZATION AND DEMOCRACY BEYOND ELECTIONS
At the start of the second decade of the 21st century the form and content of the struggles for democracy will have tremendous implications for Africa. All over Africa the impact of the capitalist depression is leading to the intensification of exploitation. Unemployment among the youths provides a ready pool of social elements that can be recruited for warfare. It is this reality with the remobilization of former Liberian fighters by the Ivorian political leaders of the Ivorian Popular Front that should be borne in mind when the AU threatens military intervention. I would like to agree that there are dangers of external military intervention but this discussion should not gloss over the reality that military force is already being deployed against innocent persons by the regime. Despite this reality this author supports intensified political, financial and diplomatic pressures on the Gbagbo regime. It is this prospect of regional war and the unforeseen consequences of warfare that guides this intervention that one must conceptualize democratization in a process of building new peaceful relations. In this context, I want to differ with the position of Paul Collier who is calling for a military coup in Cote d’Ivoire. Collier made his argument in this way, Gbagbo's attempt to remain in power, recognised as illegitimate by the regional authorities, is such an instance. Of course, Gbagbo has taken care to get the army onside: currently it is keeping him in power. But his control of the army is inevitably fragile. Were army officers requested by regional authorities – supported by the international community and Ouattara – to remove Gbagbo in an orderly fashion, his position might start to look precarious. After all, a coup can come from many different levels in the military hierarchy. It is the senior officers, who are closest to Gbagbo, but they would know that a coup from lower-ranking officers would spell their own doom – and that lower-ranking officers would find this an attractive strategy for accelerating their careers. If junior officers ousted Gbagbo, their reward would not be an unstable and high-risk presidency, but secure senior military positions. I disagree with the position of Collier who had earlier articulated these views in a book on wars, guns and voters. These challenges of citizenship, the rights of migrant workers and environmental justice cannot be solved by military power, just as removing Gbagbo by military force could result in a recursive process of militarism.
Only a new paradigm of people’s rights, citizenship, politics of inclusion, and a situation where the wishes of the people supersedes those of leaders would help Africa withstand the 21st century challenges and bring about transformation. Every country in Africa carries the differences that can inspire chauvinism if there are no leaders who will rise above the politicization or region, religion and ethnicity. Let the people’s voice prevail. Ouattara is neither a saint nor a messiah, but a precedent must be set so that the same power of the people that has now voted Gbagbo out of office would prevail over Ouattara should he act contrary to the aspirations of the people. This is the paradigm that Africa needs. Cote d’Ivorie offers another veritable opportunity to set the precedent for this paradigm. Cote d’Ivorie is a litmus test for ECOWAS and the African Union in this regard.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Horace Campbell is a teacher and writer. Professor Campbell's website is www.horacecampbell.net. His latest book is 'Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA', published by Pluto Press.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Crisis in Côte d’Ivoire: History, interests and parallels
One thing interesting about Côte d’Ivoire is that two of their heads of states, the first head of state and the present one, have a trade union background but their leadership of the country has not helped strengthen trade unions or the labour movement’s influence. Houphouet-Boigny was involved in organising the African Agricultural Union in 1944 and the union was active in the founding of his party, Parti Democratique de Côte d’Ivoire. Boigny was also a leading member of the predecessor Rassemblement Democratique Africaine (RDA) which was in an alliance with the French Communist Party during the colonial period. The present head, Laurent Gbagbo, was detained during the Houphouet-Boigny regime for his activities in National Trade Union of Research and Higher Education. In between the two the only elected leader was Houphouet-Boigny’s chosen successor, Henri Konan Bedie, so he could be looked at as an extension of Houphouet-Boigny’s politics. It was during his period of trade union activities that he formed the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI). His party was seen to be friendly with the social democrats of the Socialist Party of France. The play of the politics of Côte d’Ivoire since independence and the crisis which is going on now is so distant from any weight being given the labour movement in decision-making and participation or the direction of affairs. The dominant force in the politics of the country has been France – the colonial power. The French first came to present day Côte d’Ivoire in 1637 and formalised their control around 1842.
Despite this, as early as 1959, Houphouet-Boigny expelled his deputy, Jean-Baptiste Mockey for leading a group of people within Boigny’s own party and government to openly oppose the government’s Francophile policies. He was accused of plotting to kill Boigny through the use of voodoo. In 1963, there were more than 100 secret trials in which Mockey and others like Ernest Boka, head of the Supreme Court, were implicated. Houphouet-Boigny had a poor relationship with governments in West Africa who were not the favourites of the West. Houphouet is alleged to have supported rebels and plotters against the regimes of Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, Sekou Toure in Guinea and Patrice Lumumba in the present-day DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo). He is also associated with the coup against the pro-Soviet Matthieu Kerekou in Benin in January 1977. He supported Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA when the ruling government in Angola was pro-Soviet and UNITA was the favourite of the USA in Angola. It is believed that he worked closely with Blaise Compaore in the overthrow of Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso. He influenced French backing for Charles Taylor’s rebel forces in Liberia. Laurent Gbagbo also said in July 2008 that he received support from Blaise Compaore, present president of Burkina Faso, during the period that he organised against Houphouet-Boigny. Blaise Compaore is widely seen as the person who intervened on behalf of the French and other Western interests to bring to an end the radical anti-imperialist politics led by Thomas Sankara as the head of state of Burkina Faso. This means that no matter the labels the politics of Côte d’Ivoire was heavily influenced by pro-French interests and forces close to them.
It was only in 1990, when the anti-incumbent movement pressures in Africa after the collapse of the Berlin Wall took off that there was the first ever election in Côte d’Ivoire where somebody contested against Felix Houphouet-Boigny since independence in August 1960, and this was Laurent Gbagbo. Whilst friends of the West fraudulently present Ghana under Nkrumah as a tyranny, the presidential election in Ghana on 27 April 1960 had two candidates, who were Kwame Nkrumah and J.B. Danquah – Côte d’Ivoire, which was praised, had nobody contesting Houphouet-Boigny. In 1969, the Students and Pupils Movement of Côte d’Ivoire (MEECI) was founded and its founding congress was held in the PDCI, the ruling party’s offices from 3–5 April 1969. This provoked riots from the Ivorian student body in opposition to this body, which was seen as a puppet organisation of the one-party state, to stifle student representation and voices. Boigny interpreted these student riots as an action masterminded by foreign pro-communist forces and a group of students were arrested by the government. The World Confederation of Labour (WCL) continued to make complaints about the harassment of trade unionists and the obstruction of the free operation and functioning of trade unions in Côte d’Ivoire under the regime of Houphouet-Boigny. There are two umbrella trade union bodies which are Dignite and the General Union of Workers of Côte d’Ivoire (UGTCI), with the latter seen as being favoured by the regime. From 1978, unfavourable cocoa prices contributed to a worsening economic situation. Student demonstrations took place in 1982 for which some lecturers, including Laurent Gbagbo, were seen as the instigators. The end of the Cold War in 1989 opened up the space for less support of the West for its puppet regimes so anti-incumbent movement renewed trade union militancy as well as student militancy. Even the army mutinied in 1990 and 1992. Houphouet-Boigny died in 1993.
With the suppression of democratic functioning bodies representing social groups and classes as well as a virtual monopoly of pro-France politics, there was no culture of mass organisation and mass intervention based on ideological differences, and in this situation what you have are anti-incumbent movements or ethnic group supported or driven differences. The first visible struggle was the one for the succession to Boigny’s throne. The struggle emerged between Alassane Ouattara, the prime minister, and Henri Konan Bedie, the president of the National Assembly. Bedie’s regime introduced the policy of differentiating between full Ivorians and non-Ivorians. In 1995, the word Ivoirité emerged to refer to ‘full’ Ivorians. Although this started to refer to those who had both parents from Côte d’Ivoire it degenerated to be seen as the population from the south and east of the country. Ouattara, whose parents come from the north, was now alleged to be a Burkinabe (a national of Burkina Faso). People from the north were affected in this xenophobic policy as a large number of migrants from Mali and Burkina Faso had come to live in the north as workers on the cash-crop farms. For those of us in places like Britain where we campaign against immigrants being declared to be illegal we will be shocked that Africans in an African country will face this type of discrimination when it comes to citizenship, which is an idea totally hostile to the principles of Pan-Africanism. In October 1995, there was an election which Ouattara was excluded from contesting on the grounds a review of the electoral code which is seen by some as targeted at him. The anti-incumbent movement was also poorly organised and Bedie won the elections with 96 per cent of the vote. Apart from Ivoirité discriminating on ethno-regional, it is also class discriminatory that the rural agricultural working class – which has contributed to the cocoa farms which have brought hard currency – are disregarded and not considered as citizens. The government also banned the student organisation called the Student Federation of Côte d’Ivoire (FESCI) which was formed in 1990. With allegations of corruption and repression, the Bedie regime was overthrown through a coup d’état on 24 December 1999, which brought General Robert Guei to power as the military ruler of Côte d’Ivoire. Henri Konan Bedie fled into exile after the coup d’état.
The military regime of Robert Guei continued with the Ivoirité climate and also exclusion of those who were seen as corrupt politicians of the past. The Guei junta organised elections in 2000 which were surrounded by violence in which about 200 were killed. A Supreme Court decision excluded 14 of the 19 people who wanted to contest the presidential elections. The disqualified included Ouattara and Bedie. Guei attempted to declare himself the winner of the elections but popular street protests and the lack of the support of the military forced him out of power, with Gabgbo who was shown to be leading in the votes being installed as president. Ouattara’s supporters continued to demand for a new and inclusive election. The atmosphere of impunity brought forth by Ivoirité was institutionalised de facto. A forum for reconciliation was set up in 2001 which included Robert Guei, but he withdrew from the forum in September 2002. A number of members of the Ivorian Armed Forces of northern origin mutinied on 19 September 2002, declaring that they were dissatisfied with the lack of representation through the discriminatory Ivoirité. Robert Guei, his wife and some members of his family were killed during the mutiny. There is the strong suspicion that the rebellion had been supported by Burkina Faso. As the rebellion spread the new forces came to control 60 per cent of the Ivorian landmass. It is alleged that Gbagbo has also brought in mercenaries from Belarus and former combatants of the Liberian war. The country then got divided into two, with the north under the control of the rebels whilst the Gbagbo government controlled the south. The French brokered a peace agreement in 24 January 2003 and sent troops to protect a buffer zone between the government-controlled territory and the rebel-controlled territory. In July 2004, the UN, the African Union (AU) and ECOWAS (Economic Community Of West African States) organised a summit in Accra, Ghana, to prevent a renewal of hostilities and reinvigorate the French-brokered peace.
As the dominant character of the post-Cold war movement was pro-incumbent and anti-incumbent movements, the change was around whether power had shifted to Gbagbo and the FESCI forces allied to him. This can be seen from the visibility of former FESCI leaders like Charles Ble Goude of the Young Patriots (Congres Panafricain des Jeunes Patriotes – COJEP), Moussa Zeguen Toure of the Patriotic Group for Peace (Groupe Patriotique pour la Paix – GPP) and Guillame Soro of the Patriotic Movement of Côte d’Ivoire (Mouvement Patriotique de la Côte d’Ivoire – MPCI) who have been split by Ivoirité. Whilst Soro is the leader of the rebel movement his former colleagues, who are pro-Gbagbo, are at the head of pro-Gbagbo militias. The formal FESCI structure in existence has become an extension of the Gbagbo government’s forces. There have been allegations of abuses by FESCI activists and the inability of the police to take any action against them. Human Rights Watch investigations found out that FESCI activists ransacked the headquarters of the two leading human rights organisations, the Ivorian League for Human Rights (Ligue Ivorienne des Droits de l’Homme – LIDHO) and Actions for the Protection of Human Rights (Actions pour la Protection des Droits de l’Homme – APDH). They were targeted for supporting striking university lecturers. Horrific crimes are alleged to have been committed by all parties in the conflict including death squads, mass executions, torture and rape as have been found by Human Rights watch, Amnesty International and the UN investigations. In November 2004, the Gbagbo government bombed the rebel-controlled city of Bouake, killing civilians and French soldiers, leading to reaction from French soldiers as well. In April 2005, there was another peace agreement among the forces in the conflict mediated by the then president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, in Pretoria. On 29 July 2005, the parties reaffirmed their support for the Pretoria agreement. Arrangements were reached about how to organise the elections in 2005 when Gbagbo’s controversial tenure of office as president would end. The instability in the country resulted in the elections being postponed several times until the recent elections in 2010. A government of national unity was set up, co-opting the rebels in 2007 and with the electoral code amended in 2008 to prepare for elections.
The elections were finally held on 31 October 2010, but no candidate won outright so a run-off was organised between the two leading candidates, Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara on 28 November 2010. In the imperfect conditions in Côte d’Ivoire today elections results will definitely reflect the ratio of control of the forces of violence – the National Army and the rebel group of New Forces. The Electoral Commission’s results declared that Alassane Ouattara received 2,483,164 votes (54.1 per cent) and that Laurent Gbagbo had 2,107,055 votes (45.9 per cent). The Constitutional Court declared that after addressing the issues of voting irregularities the votes left to have been properly cast are 2,054,537 votes (51.45 per cent) for Laurent Gbagbo and 1,938,672 votes (48.55 per cent) for Alassane Ouattara. The Ouattara group raises the disproportionate cancellation of votes from the north where they control as fraud by the Gbagbo-controlled Constitution Court. The UN, African Union and ECOWAS have endorsed the Electoral Commission’s results as demanding that Gbagbo should hand over. ECOWAS has also threatened of using force to remove Gbagbo if he doesn’t step down and hand over to Alassane Ouattara. The threat of use of force is a very ill-advised as it will appear as an invasion and could rather worsen the situation. It is worth noting that both forces are protected by the forces of violence. The Gbagbo government is protected by the Armed Forces which have been loyal to it during the crisis and the Alassane Ouattara group controls the north through the rebels of the New Forces whilst he is protected by the UN peacekeepers in Abidjan, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire. On 26 December 2010, Alassane Ouattara called for a national strike of workers until Gbagbo hands over, but this was ignored by most workers in Abidjan, the capital, and work at the main ports, Abidjan and San Pedro, went on normally, with just some shopkeepers in Bouake, capital of the rebel-held north, closing their shops (but even there banks and public transport functioned normally without disruption). Both Gbagbo and Ouattara have had themselves sworn in and set up governments, with Gbagbo controlling the government media while the rebels are depending on a pirate radio broadcast.
Various forces have taken sides on who has won the elections. Some start from the position that the Ivorian government should be respected, and not respecting the Gbagbo government is a disregard for the sovereignty of Côte d’Ivoire, but that ignores the fact that the situation in Côte d’Ivoire is a crisis and not a normal situation since the elections of 2000. Some have even tried to give the impression that Alassane Ouattara is a neoliberal representative of external forces. To this Horace Campbell answered in an interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman that if the Gbagbo regime is such a pro-people government how come that they made an agreement with Trafigura and March Rich to dump toxic waste in Côte d’Ivoire. Every effort needs to be made to resolve the matter peacefully. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has also appealed to its two affiliates in Côte d’Ivoire to make efforts for a peaceful resolution of the crisis. A delegation of ECOWAS made up of the presidents of Sierra Leone, Cape Verde and Benin together with African Union representatives in the person of the prime minister of Kenya have been to Côte d’Ivoire to meet the two groups and Ouattara’s ambassador to the UN said on the Hard Talk programme on 11 January 2011 that talks are going on behind the scenes.
For a permanent solution, it must be seen clearly that this problem is not just about Côte d’Ivoire but another manifestation of the crisis of post-colonial Africa. The issue of the population of countries being uncompromisingly divided along ethnic, religious or geographical territories has become a common feature of elections in various examples, including even the apparent peaceful ones like Ghana. The post-colonial arrangement whereby the elite have just inherited the colonial status quo with just presenting black faces to manage the colonial structure fails to address the aspirations of the masses of the people. In the process of the anti-colonial struggles the masses of people were mobilised in unity to fight the external forces. However, independence has meant that the masses have not played any further role in democratisation beyond endorsing one of rival groups to share the spoils of the colonial arrangements left. This requires that there should be structures to involve the masses of the African people in grassroots decision-making and political involvement and cross-border co-operation among them with the support of forces which are struggling to end the unjust global system which marginalises the majority of people in the supposed advanced countries and then the lesser-developed countries as a whole. The lessons have to be learnt from Zimbabwe, Kenya and Côte d’Ivoire to guide future elections as the factors which contribute towards are present in all the other African countries.
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* Explo Nani-Kofi is the Director of Kilombo Community Education Project, London, UK, and Kilombo Centre for Civil Society and African Self-Determination, Peki, Ghana, which jointly publishes the Kilombo Pan-African Community Journal as well as hosts the ‘Another World is Possible’ radio programme. He is also a regular guest African Analyst on Press TV and has made appearances on Al Jazeera. He contributes articles to the Counterfire website and Pambazuka News.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 I have used the word anti-incumbent here to describe the movements pressurising for change in Africa from the end of the 1980s and early 1990s. Sometimes they have been referred to as pro-democracy movements but I have decided to describe them as anti-incumbent as their mobilisation focused so much on achieving the use of the ballot box and the need to remove the incumbent government.
Has the UN failed Côte d’Ivoire?
Polarised and violent political crises that recur in nation states signal that the political formulae adopted to resolve the crises have not worked. Such is the stark reality in Côte d’Ivoire. The United Nations’s (UN) strategy to oversee elections and install a winner-takes-all Western-style ‘democratically elected’ state president has failed. Côte d’Ivoire is an avoidable disaster. For disaster to resurface is a marked failure of the UN and a grave disappointment, as one cannot help recalling a similar disaster in the Congo in the 1960s and the current election chaos in Haiti.
The intended consequence of the UN arrogating itself the right to certify results of sovereign elections in a polarised Côte d’Ivoire is the current messy state of two presidents, with one endorsed by the UN and the other by the Constitutional Council. Here, the ‘international community’, signalling the collective wishes of the US-led Western world, saw the need for a regime change in Côte d’Ivoire and poured in resources to the tune of US$400 million (and rising) to effect that change through the agency of the UN. To make sure that everything went on according to plan, the UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, installed his own kinsman to be in charge of affairs on the ground. Ban Ki-moon therefore had direct and unadulterated communication channel through Mr Y. J. Choi, his special representative. Ban Ki-moon was on top of happenings on the ground, with good intelligence across the country supported by those of the EU delegation, World Bank, NGOs and Western embassies in the country. All essentials were therefore in place for the UN not to fail to deliver credible election results, which in turn would deliver a ‘universally’ accepted state president. And what is of great psychological importance here is that the exhausted population expected the UN not to fail them.
It is all clear that the smooth regime change strategy of the UN has failed. What is striking about this UN failure is that it has led to further violence and the loss of life. The primary function of UN intervention in a war-torn state is the prevention of the loss of life and destruction of property. It has become apparent that the UN fails to achieve such objectives when the mission is seen to be dictated by the national interests of powerful voices in the UN Security Council (UNSC). A case in point is Haiti in 2004, when the US, France and Canada ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide even though he had been democratically elected by a clear majority of Haitians, simply because the powers that be wanted a regime change. The crisis in Haiti continues to fester despite the scale of resources being poured in there via the UN and by the US.
It is the failure of the UN to impartially address the question of transition in the national interest of Côte d’Ivoire that has led to the current state of heightened tension and threat of violent disorder. Haiti is a glaring example from where lessons learnt, shrewdly applied and without prejudice, could have prevented this avoidable disaster in Côte d’Ivoire. The UN has abysmally failed the long-suffering people of Côte d’Ivoire by seeking to play a poker game with the egos of the three leaders who have contributed to the destruction of the very country they want to rule at all cost. The three protagonists, Henri Konan Bédié, Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo could have been prevented from contesting for state power through a transitional arrangement that embraced all three egos but with a caveat preventing each one of them from participating in future elections as they laid down the foundations to reorder the Ivorian society. The challenge here is harnessing what each of the three has to offer for the betterment of the Ivorian society. The combined experience of the three is a national asset that must not be left polarised to the disadvantage of the country. This is what the UN has denied the people of Côte d’Ivoire. It hurts as the UN has the capacity to do better if the political will to do so reflects first the national interest of Côte d’Ivoire.
When political crisis explodes in a country and the crisis turns violent this means that the nation’s centre can no longer hold. The political body is then signalling a need for the reordering of society. What matters here most is the ability of mediators to humbly listen to and interpret, without prejudice, the intestinal disquiet like a trained doctor would with a stethoscope. The disorder also presents an opportunity for sober examination and the creation of a new society in the collective national interest. If the status quo ante had worked things would not have fallen apart in the first place. The old centre could not hold. Why then intervene only to foist the old political establishment on the suffering people again? Why did the UN think that they could placate the three egos with an election contest when the very UN knew that each of the three protagonists felt it to be their manifest destiny to rule Côte d’Ivoire at the expense of the other? It was the UN’s manifest destiny to save the people of Côte d’Ivoire from the destructive egos of Bédié, Ouattara and Gbagbo. This, the UN has failed!
I am writing from experience of dealing with the UN in the field of preventive diplomacy during the Sierra Leone crisis. I was part of the team that worked invisibly, between 1995 and 2003, to assist in laying the foundation for bringing the devastating war in Sierra Leone to an eventual end. I also quietly worked on triggering Liberia to hold elections in 1997 after brokering an entente cordiale between the Federal Government of Nigeria and Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) in 1995. Long before then I had managed to persuade President Museveni to offer to send troops to Liberia to break the state of mistrust that hitherto existed between the NPFL and the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) intervention force, ECOMOG (Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group). President Museveni went further to persuade Tanzania and Zambia to make their presence felt in Greater Liberia with their troops to ease tension. Kenya offered General Opandi who saved so many lives across the divide and made an African solution possible in Liberia.
Between 1995 and 1996, as the special envoy of International Alert, I managed to negotiate: (1) a unilateral ceasefire with Corporal Foday Sankoh’s Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone (RUF/SL); (2) the release of 19 hostages including 10 Europeans; and (3) for an RUF/SL peace team to leave the forest in Sierra Leone to prepare themselves for peace talks in Côte d’Ivoire. It was this singular effort that contributed to the processes leading to peace negotiations in Abidjan and Lome. In helping with the drafting of the Abidjan Peace Agreement, some of us saw an opportunity to facilitate measures that will enable the people of Sierra Leone to patiently reorder their own society after their own interest and image. Others were impatient to let the status quo they were familiar with re-emerge.
In 1997, with my hands-on experience and the benefit of hindsight, I tried to let the newly-elected president of Liberia, Charles Ghankay Taylor, see the futility in his winner-takes-all electoral victory as I tried to explain to him that he had handed himself a poisoned chalice. As a prosecutor of a protracted war he could not unify and at the same time build the country alone through his National Patriotic Party (NPP). His victory was a means to an end and not an end in itself. By this, I explained to President Taylor that he should see his election as a transitional presidency to reorder the Liberian society and hand over to a new generation groomed to take Liberia forward into a period of all-round accelerated development. His duty was to immediately put in place structures to demonstrably raise the quality of life of his people and wage a relentless war against corruption and mediocrity in all areas of national life to prepare the ground for the next generation of leaders. To succeed in this he had to change his ‘Ghankay’ persona and assume an all embracing transitional bearing that would attract all hands and brains on deck to steer the nation to a purposeful future. To demonstrate this I beseeched President Taylor to effect a change in the nation’s motto from the alienating ‘The Love of Liberty Brought Us Here’ to the more embracing ‘The Love of Liberty Unites Us’. This is how I tried to help President Taylor to interpret his mandate as then I had my finger on the pulse of Liberia.
After several visits and with other promptings from within his ruling party, the NPP, President Taylor agreed to a form of a national conference, in 1998, to chart an inclusive way forward. The outcome of the conference did not see the light of day. President Taylor instead went on to style himself after President Tubman.
I could not give up on Liberia. In 1998 I approached Major Kojo Boakye-Djan in London and persuaded him to go with me to Monrovia to convince President Taylor to use his presidency to create a transitional space that could usher in Liberia a brave new society making use of modern advances in agriculture, medicine, science and technology that were at their disposal. Major Boakye-Djan and I had some useful sessions with President Taylor and out of these emerged a working document, which again never saw the light of day. Despite having access to several African leaders and intelligentsia, I decided on Major Boakye-Djan precisely because I saw in him an organised mind that delivers under pressure from competing interests. What was important to me was the fact that Major Boakye-Djan had helped to successfully transfer state power, in a violent state of affairs during the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) period (June to September, 1979), when he was the deputy head of state of Ghana and spokesperson.
I was to call on Major Boakye-Djan again in early 1998 to go to Sierra Leone to sit down with Major Johnny Paul Koroma to initiate a transitional arrangement to reorder the Sierra Leonean society. Major Koroma’s AFRC had booted out President Tejan Kabbah into exile in neighbouring Conakry, Guinea in May 1997 and with the help of the newly elected British New Labour Party Prime Minister, Tony Blair, President Kabbah was fighting back.
The task of finding African solutions to Africa’s problems led Major Boakye-Djan and I to develop a conceptual framework for effective political transition through a phased bottom-up transfer of state power from the local authority level upwards. We believe that societies coming out of war have an enabling opportunity to create a new society in their own collective interest and progressive image. Inter-governmental organisations (IGOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) deployed to assist in bringing about change must exercise extreme patience so that they do not end up further deepening the crisis by seeking to shape that weak and traumatised society in the image and interest of those who paid the piper.
In 1996, I first witnessed the depth of Africa’s problems when in a heated discussion with a top UN official over the psychological importance of evolving ‘African solutions to Africa’s Problems’ and the leading role that must be accorded the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in the search for peace in Sierra Leone, this top African UN official raged into me that: ‘...the UN cannot play second fiddle to the OAU...’ Unfortunately, his Commonwealth colleague also held the same view. It is such vaunted view that has led to the violent stalemate in Côte d’Ivoire. Meanwhile ordinary Africans continue to lose their life and property inexplicably in an avoidable disaster. The assertion by Ban Ki-moon that ‘mercenaries, including freelance former combatants from Liberia, have been recruited to target certain groups in the population’, collaterally exposes ordinary Liberian citizens in Côte d’Ivoire to retribution. Here, Ban Ki-moon throws caution to the wind to attract sympathy to his failing operation thus deepening the chaos. Ban Ki-moon makes African life expendable.
We must not forget that whenever the West and/or the UN mess up in Africa it is left with African leaders to clean up the mess. In 2003 in Liberia, it was Obasanjo, Konare, Kufuor and Mbeki who came to the rescue with the skills of His Excellency Amara Essy and Dr Ibn Chambas, then heading the African Union and ECOWAS respectively. They persuaded President Taylor to quit his presidency. I had earlier been sent in June by Essy and Chambas to discuss options with President Taylor. In 2007 in Côte d’Ivoire, President Mbeki cleared the mess for Gbagbo to assume and share state power. In 2005 in Liberia it took the skills of Presidents Kufuor and Mbeki to get Ambassador George Oppong Weah to concede defeat to Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in order to save Liberia from imminent collapse. In Haiti in 2004 Mbeki had to offer a safe haven for President Aristide of Haiti. And now in Côte d’Ivoire, the AU is busy trying to clean up the mess and also clear the air of statements purported to have been issued on behalf of the member states.
The UN has all that it takes to save Côte d’Ivoire from collapse but it cannot do so, so far as the UN continues to play ‘second fiddle’ to those who pay the piper.
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* © Akyaaba Addai-Sebo
* Akyaaba Addai-Sebo is an independent consultant on Preventive Diplomacy and the National Interest.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Crisis of democracy in Africa
The African Blog laments about the continued failure of the democratic process and elections in Africa:
‘We have seen elections in Zimbabwe and Kenya that have produced no winner or loser, giving these two terms their literal meaning. Laurent Gbagbo is currently trying his luck in Cote d’Ivoire, and why not?
‘Now it would appear Africans, especially those in the aforementioned countries are fed-up with electoral democracy in Africa where people’s role is only to put leaders into power then the electorate must leave at the mercy of governments’ decisions and policies that hardly take people needs into account. People are quickly realising that they are not only there to vote leaders into power; the people are also there to ensure that elected officials do not abuse their position but act according to stipulations of their office and heed to the wishes of the electorate. Unleashing trigger-happy police on innocent protesters in order to call them rioters cannot mask the undemocratic nature of the majority of the African leaders.
‘The protesters are doing exactly what democracy is all about: government of the people, for the people and by the people. That is how democracy must be measured if there was ever a yardstick at all.’
Muigwithania argues that the West and their African surrogates are going against the wishes of Ivorian people by insisting that Laurent Gbagbo vacate the presidency:
‘The situation in Ivory Coast demands our immediate attention as representatives of the African world. The time has long come for us to speak out against the machinations of the French and American governments in the affairs of the African continent. Clearly the interests of the French and the Americans are not the interests of the people of Ivory Coast and all claims of moral uprightness made by Western interests must be questioned. We realize that their interests, if history is our guide, are for material advantage, minerals, political puppets, and strategic positions for global control.
‘WHY there are so many Europeans and Americans vying for the right to “promote” democracy in Ivory Coast and not in Somalia, Egypt, Gaza or Western Sahara? Our position has always been critical against all actions, proposals, and attitudes that go against the masses of African people, whether they come from the United Nations, ECOWAS, or the French government. The lessons of our African history are quite clear and we seem to have not yet digested them drawing from the actions of the AU and ECOWAS today. The numerous ways the West subverted democratically elected governments around the world should be a lesson that indeed they really do not care about democracy(look at Gaza) .On that note it is only fair to conclude and emphasize that President Gbagbo will not step aside because he is the certified winner of the presidential election. The actions of ECOWAS, the UN and others are actually subverting the true will of the Ivorian people.”
Texas in Africa worries about potential conflict in an independent Southern Sudan:
‘While John Prendergast, George Clooney, and other advocates who don't speak a word of Arabic have been raising fears about violence for months, the likelihood that a genocide or war will break out immediately seems to me to be slim to none. As Stephen Chan notes in a discussion hosted by the Royal African Society, there are too many incentives for both sides to behave themselves - the oil needs to keep flowing for both sides to benefit, and the US and China aren't likely to put up with any shenanigans. Also, al-Bashir seems to be willing to let the secession happen, despite pointing out to al-Jazeera that the South is going to be a bit of a mess in its initial independence period.
‘As Rob Crilly points out, al-Bashir is right. My real worry for this situation is not that war will break out between north and south - even over Abyei, which I think will eventually be allowed to vote on its own status - but rather than tensions within the South will be played out in the context of an extremely fragile state. Southern Sudan will immediately become one of the world's poorest, weakest states - albeit one with oil - with a plethora of ethnic groups who don't see eye-to-eye on everything. That's rarely a recipe for stability. Add to that the resentment that may build up over the SPLM's domination of politics within the South and there could be real problems.
‘Then again, the South's many groups have had several years to learn to work together, and everyone has known what was coming for some time.’
The Mirror explains how ongoing protests in Tunisia reflect a paradigm shift for Tunisians who previously believed that repression was the price to pay for stability and economic growth:
‘It almost invariably breaks down like this: you want people to be happy, bring them prosperity. You want prosperity, you need security. And security needs a strong man with a firm hand on power. Democracy? That won’t work –we’re not mature enough.
‘Those arguments are difficult to disprove in the Arab context. With a Per Capita Gross Domestic Product way ahead of neighboring countries, the Tunisian regime presents itself as a success story and is making the case for democracy in the Middle East and North Africa a difficult idea to sell. As a consequence, Tunisia often serves as a model for other regimes in the region, who use the perceived success of Ben Ali as a pretext to further consolidate their grip on power....
‘Public demonstrations are unheard of in Tunisia unless they are organized by the ruling party itself. So much so that when the first images of protests filtered through the heavy wall of internet censorship, the world knew something potentially serious was underway…
‘The question in the mind of every observer is whether the protests will gather strength enough to lead to a regime change. Whilst I personally doubt this will happen due to the lack of sustainability and organisation of the movement, I believe the Sidi Bouzid uprising has already achieved something tremendous: a mental paradigm shift. No longer will anyone, neither the regimes nor their apologists, claim that repression and authoritarianism can bring prosperity and happiness.’
My Heart’s in Accra also writes about the protests in Tunisia and wonders why the media in the US has largely ignored these protests:
‘If you’re in the US, there’s a good chance you haven’t heard what’s going on in Tunisia unless you follow news from North Africa and the Middle East closely. The story of the ongoing protests has received very little media attention...
‘One explanation is that the tragic shooting in Tucson has (understandably) captured the US’s attention at present and that the Christmas and New Years’ holidays prevented the early chapters of the story from gaining attention...
‘What’s fascinating to me is that the events of the past three weeks in Tunisia might actually represent a “Twitter revolution”, as has been previously promised in Moldova and in Iran. There’s been virtually no coverage of the riots and protests in the thoroughly compromised local media – to understand what’s going on in their country, many Tunisians are turning to YouTube and DailyMotion videos, to blogs, Twitter and especially Facebook…
‘So why isn’t the global twittersphere flooding the internet with cries of “Yezzi Fock!” (The rallying cry of the movement, which translates as “We’ve had enough!” in local slang)? Perhaps we’re less interested because the government in danger of falling isn’t communist, as in Moldova, or a nuclear-armed member of the Axis of Evil, Iran?...
‘I don’t know whether most people are missing the events in Tunisia because they don’t speak French or Arabic, because they don’t see the Mahgreb as significant as Iran, because they’re tired of social media revolution stories or because they’re mourning the tragedy in Tucson. I’m disappointed and frustrated, not just because I care deeply for Tunisian friends who have been working for justice in their country for years, but because real change in the world is a rare thing, and it’s a shame that people would miss the chance to watch it unfold.’
The Chia Report: Julius Fondong, a former UN Civil Affairs Officer in Haiti and The Chia Report, contributor writes about the Haiti that the media never tells us about:
‘Haiti has a major private airline company that operates 28 flights to 8 different destinations on a daily basis. I don’t know of any private indigenous company in Sub Saharan Africa with such a track record.
‘All major Haitian banks have well developed internet banking systems, unlike a country like Cameroon where none of its indigenous banks offers online banking services. Internet access in Haiti is easier and cheaper than in a country like South Africa...
‘In matters of individual and civil liberties and press freedom, Haiti is far advanced than most developing countries I know of. There are more than 500 private radio stations in Haiti. Spread nationwide, the bulk of them are in Port au Prince and some regional metropolis. All of Haiti’s 140 communes boast of an average 2 radio stations and at least one TV station, all of which are managing to stay on the air in spite of irregular electricity supply.
‘This is a mammoth achievement as compared to a country like Cameroon which accounts for less than a handful of licensed radio stations and over a dozen community radio stations that owe their existence to the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and local councils, which are exempted from licenses and have pledged to air no political content. In Haiti, press censorship is virtually unknown, unlike in most France-Afrique countries where administrative censorship is still common place...
‘I know it’s difficult to think differently of yourself when everyday you’re being told or being reminded of how poor and miserable and pitiful you are. It literally dissipates your sense of pride and self-worth. So you start being apologetic about your circumstances. This is the kind of stigma most Haitian youths have had to deal with all their lives. Poverty is a social condition, no doubt, but it can also be a state of mind. In Haiti it’s both a social condition and a state of mind.’
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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.
Pambazuka Press: New titles for 2011
Ending the Crisis of Capitalism or Ending Capitalism?
Amin explores the systemic crisis of capitalism after two decades of neoliberal globalisation and examines the domination of the South through the North's intensifying military intervention. He proposes North-South collaboration for a more humane society.
No Land! No House! No Vote!
Voices from Symphony Way
Symphony Way pavement dwellers
This anthology is written by shack-dwelling families in Cape Town who were moved into houses but soon afterwards evicted again. They organised the Symphony Way Anti-Eviction and here write about their experiences.
Women and security governance in Africa
Edited by 'Funmi Olonisakin, Awino Okech
In the field of international security, there is a tendency to relegate discussions on women and children to the margins. This book addresses a broader debate on security and its governance in a variety of contexts while at the same time making the argument that human security cannot be achieved without placing women at the centre of this policy agenda – for perhaps the single most important measure of the effectiveness of security governance is its impact on women. But this is not just a book about women. Rather it is a book about inclusive human security for Africans, which cannot ignore the central place of women.
African Women Writing Resistance
An Anthology of Contemporary Voices
Edited by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez , Pauline Dongala, Omotayo Jolaosho, Anne Serafin
The African-born contributors to this volume move beyond the linked dichotomies of victim/oppressor and victim/heroine to present their experiences of resistance in its full complexity: They are at the forward edge of the tide of women's empowerment moving across Africa.
Global History: A View from the South
This short book includes studies of capitalism in the ancient world system, central Asia's place in it, the challenge of globalisation, Europe and China's two roads to development, and Russia in the global system.
Reclaiming African History
Depelchin shows how African history could be written in a way that would help free it from being hostage, consciously and unconsciously, to European and US historical intellectual frameworks.
My Dream is to be Bold: The Work to End Patriarchy
Despite post-1994 optimism and gains for some, gross inequalities continue to divide women in South Africa. Feminist Alternatives work for alternatives to leadership and power and for social transformation where women are free to realise their potential.
Modernity, Religion and Democracy: A Critique of Eurocentrism and Culturalism
'Eurocentrism' is a classic of radical thought by one of the world's foremost political economists. His new introduction and concluding chapter make this provocative essay about one of the great 'ideological deformations' of our time even more compelling.
Reconnecting Food, Nature and Community
Edited by Annette Aurélie Desmarais, Nettie Wiebe, Hannah Wittman
Around the world, people are resisting the environmental, social and political destruction perpetuated by the industrial agricultural system. This resistance has led to a new and radical agricultural practice – food sovereignty – which puts control in the hands of those who are both hungry and produce the world's food – peasants and family farmers – rather than corporate executives.
Dust from our Eyes
An Unblinkered Look at Africa
Whether speaking with an African grandmother over 100 years old, interviewing an African inventor, or working with African journalists, Joan Baxter has been repeatedly amazed by the diversity of Africa and the resilience and spirit of its people.
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Zimbabwe: Power lies to the East
I bumped into him when another young fellow kindly offered to liberate me of my shoes. Anxious to buy some time, I informed the fellow – let’s call him the Artful Dodger – that he would have to purchase my shoes for ZAR50, money for the taxi home, as I could not walk barefoot in the heat. From behind me came the sound of booming laughter. Shooing the resentful empty-handed Dodger away, the source approached me smiling.
‘Just call me Bob,’ he said, steering me to a safer corner outside South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs. Like me, he was in the process of handling passport issues. After chatting about my shoes and the price they would fetch the Dodger on the streets, I commented that Bob was probably not the greatest of names for a Zimbabwean.
'You people have short memories,' he said, ‘He was a real hero once upon a time.'
While we both leaned against the frame of a shiny black burning hot jeep, slowly roasting under the sun, Bob mentioned that although he had no desire to go back to 'some kind of hell', he missed his country 'like a child does his mama.'
He had no idea as to whether the unity government between Zanu PF (headed by Robert Mugabe) and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would be successful, given that 'the old man was still in power – and behind him, too many more just like him.'
According to him, the strength of Zanu PF was not in Mugabe but in the army and corporate executives that wanted to keep him there, so that they too could remain in power and 'eat the money'. These days, said Bob, ‘Mugabe usually points to the East.’
Indeed, the price of Beijing's friendship, as in most of Africa, is resources: Specifically oil, iron ore and, in Zimbabwe's case, diamonds. The Shanghai Diamond Exchange (SDA), one of twenty-eight bourses globally, intends to become the world's fifth largest by 2013. During the past year, China has become the world's second largest diamond market, with 40 per cent of brides in major Chinese cities accepting promises of 'forever' in the form of diamonds only.
But geostrategic control of resources is less often about who has access than who doesn't. In Zimbabwe's case, although the US remains the world's largest market for diamond jewellery, it is China that has directly secured the pipeline.
This was not the case until recently, when one of the two active joint ventures (JV) Canadile, a public-private partnership between the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and South African company Core Mining and Minerals, was removed from the equation through the arrest of key Canadile representatives such as Lovemore Kurotwi, as well as the now suspended head of the ZMDC, Dominic Mubayiwa.
It is alleged that Kurotwi was directly interviewed by Mugabe about the source of Canadile's development capital – said to be US$2 billion, allegedly from Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz via the Beny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR).
Although it was meant to be a secret, once the information was leaked, BSG, active in diamond-rich countries such as Botswana and Sierra Leone, issued strong statements separating itself from Canadile.
And even though the Mubayiwa admitted that it was the minister of mines, Obert Mpofu, who had personally approved Canadile above the heads of the ZDMC, stamping out the company and seizing its equipment, appeared to be purpose enough. If BSGR's involvement as chief capital provider was true, openly associating with Mugabe's regime and Zimbabwe's 'blood diamonds' would certainly not be good news for the company, as the Steinmetz Diamond Group, one of the De Beers's largest clients, remains a key global supplier of rough and manufactured diamonds to the international markets; it is also engaged in joint ventures with respectable jewellery market-makers such as Sotheby’s.
BSGR however allegedly had no qualms accepting Rio Tinto's iron-ore Simandou concession in Guinea, when the then-president – and dictator of almost two decades, Lansana Conté, decided to strip Rio of half its rights. The difference was that iron-rich Guinea is a little known country when it comes to one of the most crucial factors affecting a corporation's financial bottom line: The Zimbabwe-focused 'blood diamond' fixated media.
Nor would BSGR have had an easy time: Mugabe recently openly rejected ArcelorMittal's proposal to purchase 53 per cent of the state's ailing Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (ZISCO) due to the fact that Mittal's head was close friends with his enemy, Britain's Tony Blair.
Shutting down Canadile therefore appeared to also lock out the presence of Western interests on Zimbabwe's most crucial and easy-to-access source of wealth: Marange's alluvial diamonds.
According to the government, Core Mining had entered into the joint venture fraudulently – the same charge levelled against African Consolidated Resources (ACR), which discovered the alluvial diamonds field in 2006. While Zimbabwe's Supreme Court declared that ACR legally owned the rights in 2009, following government opposition, the decision was reversed. To clear Marange fields from artisanal miners, the government launched Operation Hakudzokwe in November 2008, estimated to have left hundreds dead, and thousands maimed and raped.
Yet if the controversial and alleged BSGR interest had been concrete, its intentions would not have been difficult to fathom: Zimbabwe's finance minister, Tendai Biti, has called Marange's diamond field ‘the biggest find of alluvial diamonds in the history of mankind.’ It is estimated to produce US$1 –1.7 billion in revenue annually. To date, around $1 billion in diamond revenue is thought to have been silently looted by the army and political elites at the helm of the state, through Indian, Arab and Chinese purchasers, before release into international markets through the usual industry players.
China, for instance, present via Anjin Investments, has been mining diamonds at Chirasika for the past seven months, despite the concession only becoming active at the end of 2010. This was admitted to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy by Mr Musukutwa, who stated in response to an MP's query on the Chinese company, ‘I would like to confirm there is a third company, Anjin, mining in Chiadzwa.’ To date, there has been no accounting of diamonds extracted, volumes exported, or revenues remitted. Chinese employees, believed by closely connected source to be Chinese military, dressed in red uniforms, oversee operations.
Zimbabwe's Antonov An-12 light cargo plane operating on the 1.2 km runway at Marange's fields transports rough diamonds to Harare, to one of several destinations including the Charles Prince Airport, Harare International Airport –where Mbada Investments (see below) has a storage facility – or a private military base outside Harare.
According to the UK's Daily Mail, five Chinese people (Deng Hongyan, Jiang Zhaoyao, Zhang Hui, Zhang Shibin, and Cheng Qins) are silent beneficial partners of Grandwell Holdings, a Mauritian-based tax-free Global Business Category II (GBCII) entity – the private arm of another JV with the ZDMC, Mbada Investments. As Mubayiwa admitted to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee of Mines and Energy, ‘it would have been difficult to do due diligence on Grandwell because it is a paper company registered in Mauritius’, one of the world's leading secrecy jurisdictions.
Mbada Investments is chaired by Robert Mhlanga, the Sandton-residing former personal helicopter pilot to Mugabe. Grandwell is owned by a South African company, the controversial New Reclamation, already buddy-buddy with the ZDMC through a decade of exploiting – allegedly with no tender contract, renewal or monitoring – Zimbabwe's iron reserves via the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (ZISCO). Mhlanga is an old ZISCO hand, and the lead broker on the ZISCO 'steelgate' deal (2006), characterised by systematic looting alleged to have extended to the highest echelons of the state including Vice President Joyce Mujuru.
Mujuru's rise to power, through an episode known as the 'night of the long knives' was largely at the behest of her husband, General Solomon Mujuru, Mugabe's most feared rival within Zanu PF. Like Mugabe, Mujuru has claimed ownership to Zimbabwe's diamonds through another mine, River Ranch, illegally seized by Mujuru and Sheik Aujan. Mujuru put his power to good use by obtaining the approval of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), allegedly by removing Priscilla Mupfunira, then head of Zimbabwe's Mineral Marketing Corporation (MMCZ), which was responsible for providing KP-certification.
His partner, Aujan, heads a company called Rani Investments based in the tax haven of Dubai, a jurisdiction on the receiving end of illegally peddled Marange diamonds. Diamonds are traded by Rani Investments through the company's Finer Diamonds Trading Company. Although the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has banned Marange's diamonds, according to a source, Marange diamonds may likely be channelled and sold under River Ranch's tag. In September 2010, a consignment of diamonds, valued at 4,000 carats, smuggled to Dubai, was mysteriously returned to the ZMDC and MMCZ, while another consignment with a clean Dubai KP certificate, was reportedly being held at the Antwerp World Diamond Center.
‘High-ranking Zimbabwean government officials and well-connected elites are generating millions of dollars in personal income by hiring teams of diggers,’ revealed US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. ‘Whether bought first by regime members or not, eventually the diamonds are sold to a mix of Belgians, Israelis, Lebanese (the largest contingent), Russians, and South Africans,’ stated the cable authored by US Ambassador James McGee. ‘Once sold to foreigners, the majority of the diamonds are smuggled to Dubai and sold at the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre Authority, a dedicated economic free-trade zone created in 2002 for the exchange of metals and commodities, most notably gold and diamonds.’
Noting that Mujuru and others like Gideon Gono made several hundreds of thousands of dollars each month from diamond revenue, the cables also illustrated that the diamonds were not sold to regime members and elite, but instead, diamonds ‘sold directly to foreign buyers, actually constitute the majority of the diamond trade in Chiadzwa.’
Yet disclosing the role of corrupt officials in Zimbabwe is unlikely to find a receptive audience through institutional channels: Farai Maguwu, head of the Marange-based Centre for Research and Development (CRD), was arrested in June, and his relatives tortured, for allegedly possessing documents drafted by the army deemed 'prejudicial to the state' after South African KPCS monitor Abbey Chikane – according to Maguwu – 'set him up'. Maguwu informed Chikane that human rights violations were taking place at Marange. Describing Chikane as part of the Zanu PF 'gravy train', Maguwu stated to the media, ‘Little did I know that the meeting was to set me up so that Chikane can create a story out of the meeting and resulting in all these problems that we are facing now, emanating from a meeting that I had with one person and in close confidentiality,’ he said.
‘To the surprise of everyone he (Chikane) is very arrogant. He is saying I passed a State security document and he is saying that I knew that it was a crime to possess that document, so I am 100 percent responsible for the consequences,’ stated Maguwu. Though the case against Maguwu was dropped, circumstances surrounding CRD's activities remain perilous.
The value of Marange's reserves are pegged at US$800 billion, labelled by a survey report from De Beers as more than eight times higher than average diamond fields at a ratio of more than 1000 carats per hundred tonnes (CPHT). The report, prepared for De Beers by noted geologist John Ward, draws Rio Tinto's concession in Zimbabwe's Midland province, estimated at CPHT 120.
Gideon Gono himself stated, ‘A reliable estimate shows that US$1.2 billion per month would be realized from diamond sales in the country, enough to solve the economic challenges the country is currently facing.’
But little of this will reach Zimbabweans. Moreover, mass evictions for families residing at Marange has begun, with the displaced to be housed at the Arda Transau Farm resettlement area. Though diamonds have been exploited for the past four years by the Zimbabwean military and the ZMDC, not a cent had been deposited to the state's national tax base, save for recent tithes thanks to the Kimberley Process-approved auction. Later, Tendai Biti complained that as much US$30 million was missing from the proceeds of the KP supervised sale.
The KP definition of blood diamonds is limited to 'rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance armed conflicts aimed at undermining legitimate governments.'
Yet the mechanisms at the helm of the diamond industry have not only locked out the MDC but have also facilitated the concentration of power and resources in the hands of Zanu PF through the drivers of Zimbabwe's politics: The Joint Operation Command (JOC). The most influential member of the JOC – the secretive inside guard controlling all facets of security and intelligence – is the head of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), General Constantine Chiwenga. It was Chiwenga who allegedly negotiated the arms-for-diamonds deal, as well as permits for Chinese nationals – particularly those with links to the army – to mine Marange.
Certification is crucial for the diamond industry: As Andrei Polyyakov, spokesperson of Russia's diamond agency Alrosa, the world's largest diamond producer stated, ‘If you don't support the price, a diamond becomes a mere piece of carbon.’ To ensure controlled supply, Gokhran, Russia's stockpiling agency, has set aside a budget of US$1 billion for 2010, vaulting three million carats of gem quality diamonds each month.
The threat to undermine 'controlled supply' (a system of slow release created by De Beers to manufacture artificial scarcity) has already been proposed by Zimbabwe's political elites. Supa Mandiwanzira, a representative of Zimbabwe's Diamond Consortium said ‘we have the potential to destroy the whole industry’ by flooding the markets.
The other alternative, strenuously backed by Zimbabwe's KP monitor Chikane who is eager to certify Marange's diamonds as KP-approved, is that Zimbabwe's Zanu PF-controlled political economy will soon be conveniently legitimised under the guise of the unity government, and Marange's diamonds, systematically legalised through certification.
And yet, even if Africa produces more than 65 per cent of the world's diamonds, valued at US$8.5 billion annually, for Bob – the Zimbabwean outside Home Affairs in South Africa – and others like him, some passports are still worth more than others.
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* Khadija Sharife is the southern Africa correspondent for The Africa Report magazine and a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Civil Society (CCS) based in South Africa.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 JOC members include Commander General Constantine Chiwenga; Air Force commander Perence Shiri; Secret Service Director General Happyton Bonyongwe; Prisons Commander Paradzai Zimondi; and Police Chief Augustine Chihuri.
Pambazuka Samir Amin Award
Pambazuka News is pleased to announce the call for submissions for the first annual Pambazuka Samir Amin Award. This award, launched to mark Samir Amin’s 80th birthday in 2011, pays tribute to the extraordinary contribution Samir Amin has made to our understanding of the exploitation of the peoples of Africa and the global South.
Entrants are required to submit an essay showing original thinking and of no longer than 10,000 words on the subject of 'Accumulation by dispossession: the African experience'. Essays may be geographically focused on one or more countries, or about the continent as a whole; they may address the topic thematically (for example, focused on the mining sector, or agriculture, etc) or historically. Submissions are limited to one per person.
Submissions are open to citizens of African countries who on the closing date are under the age of 35 years.
A panel of leading African intellectuals from across the continent will select up to five contributors to receive this year's award. The chosen essays will be published as a book by Pambazuka Press, and summaries will appear in Pambazuka News.
The award-winners will be invited to a ceremony (to be held in either Dakar or Nairobi) where they will present their papers and meet Professor Amin and representatives of the award panel. The winners will receive a selection of Professor Amin’s publications personally signed by him; they will also be interviewed by the media. Travel and accommodation costs will be covered by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. Awardees may also be offered fellowships to enable them to spend periods at selected research or academic institutions in Africa; full details will be announced later.
Please submit your essay, written in clear English or French, using any common word-processing software, together with a summary of no longer than 500 words, and a copy of your CV. Please follow the author guidelines (.doc and .pdf) and the Pambazuka News style guide (.doc and .pdf) or write to email@example.com to obtain copies.
Essays should be submitted by 6pm GMT on 30 April 2011 and sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The results will be announced in September 2011.
Notes on contemporary imperialism
Phases of imperialism
Lenin dated the imperialist phase of capitalism, which he associated with monopoly capitalism, from the beginning of the twentieth century, when the process of centralization of capital had led to the emergence of monopoly in industry and among banks. The coming together (coalescence) of the capitals in these two spheres led to the formation of “finance capital” which was controlled by a financial oligarchy that dominated both these spheres, as well as the State, in each advanced capitalist country. The struggle between rival finance capitals for “economic territory” in a world that was already completely partitioned, not just for the direct benefits that such “territory” might provide, but more importantly for keeping rivals out of its potential benefits, necessarily erupted, according to him, into wars, which offered each belligerent country’s workers a stark choice: between killing fellow workers across the trenches, or turning their guns on the moribund capitalism of their own countries, to overthrow the system and march to socialism.
We can distinguish between three different phases of imperialism since then. The first phase of which the second world war was the climax, corresponded almost exactly to Lenin’s analysis: rivalry between different finance capitals to repartition an already partitioned world bursting into wars which in turn led to the formation of a socialist camp. The precise course of events through which this general trend unfolded after Lenin’s death included an acute economic crisis (the Great Depression of the thirties), to which the disunity among capitalist powers contributed, and which in turn created the conditions for the emergence of fascism that unleashed the second world war and that represented in Dimitrov’s words the “open terrorist dictatorship of the most revanchist sections of finance capital”. The second world war greatly weakened the position of financial oligarchies. The working class in the advanced capitalist countries that had made great sacrifices during the war emerged much stronger from it and was unwilling to go back to the old capitalism. (A symptom of this was the defeat of Winston Churchill’s Tory Party in the post-war elections in Britain and the enormous growth of the Italian and French Communist Parties). The socialist camp had grown significantly and was to grow even further with the victory of the Chinese Revolution. Capitalism had to make concessions to survive, and two concessions in particular were significant: one was decolonization, where it was so reluctant to proceed that even after the formal process was completed it refused voluntarily to yield control over third world resources, as evident in the cases of Iran (where Mossadegh was overthrown in a CIA coup after nationalizing oil) and Egypt (where an Anglo-French invasion was launched after Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal). The other was State intervention in “demand management” in advanced countries to maintain high levels of employment, which until then had never been experienced in capitalist economies. State intervention in demand management in turn was made possible through the imposition of controls over cross-border capital flows, and also trade flows. A new international monetary system where the dollar was declared “as good as gold” (exchangeable against gold at $35 per ounce) and which allowed such restrictions on trade and capital flows, came into being. It reflected the new reality of the domination of US imperialism, and a muting of inter- imperialist rivalries in the new scenario. This was the second phase of modern imperialism.
The conditions for the third phase within which we are currently located were created by this second phase itself. The dollar’s being “as good as gold” meant in effect that the U.S. was handed a free and unlimited gold mine: it could print notes and the rest of the world was obliged to hold such notes since they were “as good as gold”. As a result, the US did print notes to finance, among other things, a string of military bases all over the world with which it encircled the Soviet Union and China. These notes started pouring into European banks which then started lending all over the world. They wanted to lend even more as the torrent of notes increased during the Vietnam War. Capital controls were a hindrance in their way and were therefore gradually removed. The International Monetary System under which the dollar was officially convertible to gold could not be sustained and was abandoned in the early seventies, though the pre-eminent position of the dollar as the form in which a large chunk of the world’s wealth was held remained. But the easing of capital controls and increased mobility of finance across the globe brought into being a new entity, international finance capital.
This third phase of modern imperialism is marked by the hegemony of international finance capital, which is the driving force behind the phenomenon of globalization, and the pursuit of neo-liberal policies in the place of Keynesian demand management policies in the advanced countries and Nehru-style “planning” (or what some development economists call dirigiste policies) in the third world.
FINANCE CAPITAL THEN AND NOW
In this third phase of imperialism there has been such an immense growth of the financial sector within each capitalist economy and of financial flows across the globe that many have talked of a process of “financialization” of capitalism, rather like “industrialization” earlier. While this may be an accurate description of the processes involved, it does not draw attention to the entity that has come into centre-stage, namely international finance capital. This entity differs from finance capital of Lenin’s time in at least three ways.
First, while Lenin had talked about the “coalescence” of finance and industry and had referred to finance capital as capital “controlled by banks and employed in industry”, which tended to have a national strategy for expanding “economic territory” that would also serve the needs of its industrial empire, the new finance capital is not necessarily tied to industry in any special sense. It moves around the world in the quest for quick, speculative, gains, no matter in what sphere such gains accrue. This finance is not separate from industry, since even capital employed in industry is not immune to the quest for speculative gains, but industry does not occupy any special place in the plans of this finance capital. In other words not only does capital-as-finance function as capital-as-finance, but even capital-in- production also functions as capital-as-finance; capital-as-finance on the other hand has no special interest in production. This is basically what the process of “financialization” involves, namely an enormous growth of capital-as-finance, pure and simple, and its quest for quick speculative gains. Secondly, finance capital in Lenin’s time had its base within a particular nation, and its international operations were linked to the expansion of national “economic territory”. But the finance capital of today, though of course it has its origins in particular nations, is not necessarily tied to any national interests. It moves around globally and its objectives are no different from the finance capital that has its origins in some other nation. It is in this sense that distinctions between national finance capitals become misleading, and we can talk of an international finance capital, which, no matter where it originates from, has this character of being detached from any particular national interests, having the world as its theatre of operations, and not being tied to any particular sphere of activity, such as industry. Thirdly, such uninhibited global operation requires that the world should not be split up into separate blocs, or into economic territories that are the preserves of particular nations and out of bounds for others. The interests of international finance capital therefore require a muting of inter- imperialist rivalry. If this process of muting of inter-imperialist rivalry began in the post-war period as an outcome of the overwhelming economic and strategic strength of the U.S. among capitalist powers, it gets sustained in the current phase by the very nature of international finance capital.
To say this is not to suggest that contradictions do not exist among these powers, or that they are not engaged in intense competition in world trade, of which the present currency wars (which amount to a “beggar-my- neighbour” policy) are a reflection. But such contradictions are kept in check by the need of globalized finance to have the entire globe as its unrestricted arena of operations. Certainly, the idea of these contradictions bursting into open wars among the advanced capitalist countries, or even proxy wars among them, appears far-fetched in the foreseeable future.
Many have seen in this fact a vindication of Karl Kautsky’s theory of “ultra-imperialism”, which referred to the possibility of a peaceful and “joint exploitation of the world by internationally-united finance capital”, as against Lenin’s emphasis on inter-imperialist rivalry and the inevitability of wars. But the world has moved beyond the Kautskyan perception as well, so that using his concept of “ultra-imperialism” in today’s context is misleading for at least two reasons. First, “internationally-united finance capital” of Kautsky is not the same as “international finance capital” of today. We are not talking about unity among a handful of national finance capitals of major capitalist countries, but we are talking about an international phenomenon, which goes beyond national finance capitals and is no longer confined to a handful of powerful countries. It is both composed of finance capitals of different national origins, including from third world countries and also moves around the entire globe pursuing its own interest, and no particular national capitalist interest. Secondly, Lenin’s emphasis on wars as accompanying imperialism remains as valid today as it was in his time. World wars among imperialist countries may not appear on the horizon; but other kinds of war arising from the phenomenon of imperialism, of which the Iraq war, the war in Afghanistan, and the earlier war in the Balkans are examples, continue.
GLOBALIZATION OF FINANCE AND THE NATION-STATE
In the current phase of imperialism, finance capital has become international, while the State remains a nation-State. The nation-State therefore willy-nilly must bow before the wishes of finance, for otherwise finance (both originating in that country and brought in from outside) will leave that particular country and move elsewhere, reducing it to illiquidity and disrupting its economy. The process of globalization of finance therefore has the effect of undermining the autonomy of the nation-State. The State cannot do what it wishes to do, or what its elected government has been elected to do, since it must do what finance wishes it to do.
It is in the nature of finance capital to oppose any State intervention, other than that which promotes its own interest. It does not want an activist State when it comes to the promotion of employment, or the provision of welfare, or the protection of small and petty producers; but it wants the State to be active exclusively in its own interest. It brings about therefore a change in the nature of the State, from being an apparently supra-class entity standing above society, and intervening in a benevolent manner for “social good”, to one that is concerned almost exclusively with the interests of finance capital. To justify this change which occurs in the era of globalization under pressure from finance capital, the interests of finance are increasingly passed off as being synonymous with the interests of society. If the stock market is doing well then the economy is supposed to be doing well no matter what happens to the level of hunger, malnutrition and poverty. If a country is graded well by credit-rating agencies then that becomes a matter of national pride, no matter how miserable its people are. The point however is that this “inverted logic”, this apparent illusionism, is not just a misconception or false propaganda; it has an element of truth and is rooted in the actual universe of globalization. It is indeed the case that if finance lacks “confidence” in a particular country and flows out of it, then that country will face dire consequences through a liquidity crisis, so that pleasing finance, no matter how oppressive it is, is a pre-condition for economic survival within this system. This “inverted logic” therefore is the direct off-shoot of a real life phenomenon, namely the hegemony of international finance capital. It cannot be overcome by appealing to some “correct logic” or some “correct priorities of the State”; it requires the transcendence of the hegemony of international finance capital. It requires in short not “reform” within a system dominated by finance capital but an overcoming of the system itself.
Finance capital’s insistence upon a non-activist State, except when the activism is in its own interest, takes in particular the form of imposing fiscal austerity upon the State. In the old days, the “sound finance” on the part of the State that was favoured by finance capital consisted in a balancing of its budget. At present it takes the form, pervasively, of a 3 percent limit on the size of the fiscal deficit relative to GDP. This is the limit legislated across the world from the EU to India and sought to be enforced. (The one exception among capitalist countries is the U.S. which systematically ignores whatever “fiscal responsibility” legislation exists in its statute books, and alone among these countries enjoys a degree of fiscal autonomy. But this is because its currency is still considered de facto, though no longer de jure, “as good as gold”, and hence constitutes the medium in which much of the world’s wealth is held; capital flight out of the U.S., owing to displeasure on the part of finance over the size of its fiscal deficit therefore will be resisted by the entire capitalist world, a fact that speculators themselves are well aware of).
Since the nation-State pursuing trade liberalization has to cut customs duties, and therefore must restrict excise duties (so as not to discriminate between domestic and foreign capitalists), and since, in the interests of “capital accumulation” it keeps taxes on corporate incomes, and hence, for reasons of inter se parity, on personal incomes, low, the limit on the fiscal deficit causes an expenditure deflation on its part. And this provides the setting for “privatizing” not only State-owned assets “for a song” but also welfare services and social overheads like education and health. All this is usually referred to as constituting a “withdrawal of the State” and its rationale is debated in terms of “the State” versus “the market”. Nothing could be more wrong than this. The State under neo- liberalism does not withdraw; it is involved as closely as before, or even more closely than before, in the economy, but its intervention is now of a different sort, viz. exclusively in the interests of finance capital. The recent events in Greece and Ireland underscore this point. The State in those countries incurred a fiscal deficit in order to shore up the banks which had financed speculative bubbles earlier and have now come a cropper with the bursting of the bubbles. To cut the fiscal deficit however the State now has to wind up its Welfare State measures, at the expense of the working masses. The State in short intervenes in favour of finance capital, but withdraws from intervention in favour of the working people. Closer home, in India itself, despite a massive food price inflation now, the State hoards 60 million tonnes of foodgrains because its release through the PDS will raise the fiscal deficit, and hence offend finance capital.
Not surprisingly, both Keynesian demand management in the advanced capitalist countries and third world dirigisme become untenable in the era of globalization. The nation-State in the era of globalization in short becomes a custodian of the interests of international finance capital, which has the obvious effect of attenuating, diminishing and making a mockery of political democracy.
THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL COMMUNITY
The restrictions on the activities of the nation-State are imposed not just by the fear of a capital flight. A whole ideological apparatus, and with it a whole army of ideologues, gets built for supporting neo-liberal policies. Since finance capital itself becomes international in character, the controllers of this international finance capital constitute, to borrow Lenin’s expression, a global financial oligarchy. This global financial oligarchy requires for its functioning an army of spokesmen, mediapersons, professors, bureaucrats, technocrats and politicians located in different countries. The creation of this army is a complex enterprise, in which one can discern at least three distinct processes. Two are fairly straightforward. If a country has got drawn into the vortex of globalized finance by opening its doors to the free movement of finance capital, then willy-nilly even well- meaning bureaucrats, politicians, and professors will demand, in the national interest, a bowing to the caprices of the global financial oligarchy, since not doing so will cost the country dear through debilitating and destabilizing capital flights. The task in short is automatically accomplished to an extent once a country has got trapped into opening its doors to financial flows. The second process is the exercise of peer pressure. Finance Ministers, Governors of Central Banks, top financial bureaucrats belonging to different countries, when they meet, tend increasingly to constitute what has been called an “epistemic community”. They begin increasingly to speak the same language, share the same world view, and subscribe to the same prejudices, the same theoretical positions that have been aptly described as the “humbug of finance”. Those who do not are under tremendous peer pressure to fall in line; and most eventually do. Peer pressure may be buttressed by the more mundane temptations that Lenin had described, ranging from straightforward bribes to lucrative offers of post-retirement employment, but, whatever the method used, conformism to the “humbug” that globalized finance dishes out as true economics becomes a mark of “respectability”.
But even peer pressure requires that there should be a group of core ideologues of finance capital who exert and manipulate this pressure. The “peers” themselves are not free-floating individuals but have to be goaded into sharing a belief-system. There has to be therefore a set of key intellectuals, ideologues, thinkers and strategists that promote this belief system, shape and broadcast the ideology of finance capital, and generally look after the interests of globalized finance. They are not necessarily capitalists or magnates; but they are close to the financial magnates, and usually share the “spoils”. The financial oligarchy proper, consisting of these magnates, together with these key ideologues and publicists of finance capital, constitute the “global financial community”. The function of this global financial community is to promote and perpetuate the hegemony of international finance capital. And this global financial community insinuates its way into the political systems of various countries, initially as IMF and World Bank-trained “advisers” into economic ministries, and subsequently as cabinet ministers, and even office-bearers, of established political Parties. Reforms are undertaken everywhere in the education system to rid it of the vestiges of any world-view different from what the global financial community propagates. They play an important role in the ideological hegemony of finance capital. The process of privatization and commoditization of education facilitates the instituting of such reforms.
CONTRADICTIONS OF GLOBALIZATION
The neo-liberal regime imposed upon the world by the ascendancy of globalized finance capital entails a number of serious contradictions which bring the system to an impasse. What we are witnessing at present is such an impasse. There are at least four contradictions which need to be noted. The first consists in the fact that free movement of goods and services and of capital (though not of labour) has made it difficult to sustain the wage difference between the advanced and backward economies that had traditionally characterized capitalism. Since broadly similar technologies are available to all economies (and the free movement of capital ensures this), commodities produced with the cheaper labour that exists in the third world economies can outcompete those produced in the advanced countries. Because of this, wages in the advanced countries cannot rise, and if anything tend to fall in order to make their products more competitive, to move a little closer towards the levels that prevail in the third world, levels which are no higher, thanks to the existence of substantial labour reserves, than those needed to satisfy some historically-determined subsistence requirements. Advanced country workers in other words can no longer escape the baneful consequences of third world labour reserves (which were created through colonial and semi-colonial exploitation that caused “deindustrialization” and a “drain of surplus”). And even as wages in the advanced countries fall, at the prevailing levels of labour productivity, labour productivity in the third world countries moves up, at the prevailing level of wages, towards the level reached in the advanced countries. This is because the wage differences that still continue to exist, induce a diffusion of activities from the former to the latter. This double movement means that the share of wages in the total world output decreases.
Such a reduction in the share of wages in world output also occurs for yet another reason: as technological progress in the world economy raises the level of labour productivity all around, the wages of workers do not increase in tandem, again owing to these wages being tied to the existence of substantial labour reserves in the world economy.
As a result, taking the world economy as a whole there is both an increase in income inequalities, and, as a consequence, a growing problem of inadequate aggregate demand: since a dollar in the hands of the working people is spent on consumption while a dollar in the hands of the capitalists is partly saved, any shift in income distribution from wages to profits tends to depress demand and create a “realization problem”. Credit financed expenditure and expenditure stimulated by speculative asset price “bubbles” provide only temporary antidotes to this tendency towards over-production at the world level, but with the bursting of such “bubbles” and the inevitable termination of such credit financing, the basic underlying crisis of the world economy reappears with all its intensity.
The second contradiction under the neo-liberal regime arises from this. Any deficiency of aggregate demand resulting in unemployment and recession naturally affects the high-wage and therefore high-cost producers in the advanced countries more severely than those in the low-wage countries like India or China. Countries like the United States therefore experience, as a result of this world tendency towards over-production, not only higher levels of unemployment but also continuous and growing current account deficits on their balance of payments. In short, acute unemployment, particularly in the hitherto high-wage economies, and the so-called problem of “world imbalances” (whereby countries like China have continuous and growing current account surpluses while the United States has growing deficits and hence gets increasingly indebted) are both caused by the neo- liberal regime imposed upon the world by globalized finance capital. While the US multinational corporations and US financial interests demand neo- liberal regimes everywhere, the fall-out of this demand is reduced wages and employment for the US workers.
If the State in the advanced economies like the U.S. could intervene to promote demand then unemployment there could be reduced. But as we have seen the regime of globalized finance entails a rolling back of State intervention in demand management. Of course, the State of the leading economy, the US, whose currency, being almost “as good as gold”, enjoys a degree of immunity from the caprices of international finance capital in this respect, still retains some fiscal autonomy and can still undertake demand management, since capital flight away from its currency will not be too serious. But since the leading-currency country itself is getting progressively indebted, its ability to undertake demand management also suffers. The incapacity of the capitalist State to undertake demand management as earlier constitutes the third contradiction of the neo-liberal regime, within which therefore there is no effective solution to the problem of global over- production and global imbalances.
Neo-liberalism in short pushes capitalism towards a protracted crisis for several co-acting reasons: it creates a tendency towards over-production in the world economy by engendering inequalities in world income distribution; it enfeebles capitalist nation-States for undertaking demand management; and it also undermines the capacity of the leading State for playing a similar role, but for a different reason, namely by saddling it with continuous and acute current account deficits.
It may be thought that the crisis we are talking about is primarily concerned with the advanced capitalist world, which will continue to remain sunk in it for a long time to come (and if by chance there is a new “bubble” that temporarily lifts it out of this crisis, its inevitable collapse will plunge it back into crisis); that the third world, especially countries like India, are immune to it. This, however, is where the fourth contradiction of neo-liberal capitalism becomes relevant. This relates to the fact that the bourgeois-led State in the third world withdraws from its role of supporting, protecting and promoting the peasant and petty producers’ economy, as the domestic big bourgeoisie and financial interests become closely integrated with international finance capital under the neo-liberal regime, leading to a fracturing of the nation and the development of a deep hiatus within it. The abandonement of this role which the bourgeois-led State had taken upon itself during the dirigiste period as a part of the legacy of the struggle for decolonization, causes a decimation of petty production, the unleashing of a process of primitive accumulation of capital (or what may be more generally called a process of “accumulation through encroachment”). Multinational retail chains like Walmart come up to displace petty traders; agribusiness comes in to squeeze the peasantry; land grabbing financiers come in to displace peasants from their land; and petty producers of all descriptions everywhere get trapped between rising input prices caused by withdrawal of State subsidies and declining output prices caused by the withdrawal of State protection from world commodity price trends. When we add to all this the rise in the cost of living, because of the privatization of education, health and several essential services, which affects the entire working population, we can gauge the virulence of the process of primitive accumation that is unleashed.
The current period therefore is one where it is not only the advanced capitalist countries that are beset with crisis and unemployment, but even apparently “successful” “high growth” countries like India. The former are affected by the problem of inadequate demand, the latter by both the fall-out of the former’s crisis (via its effects on peasants’ prices and export activities) and also by the additional problem of distress and dispossession of petty producers and the unemployment enegendered by it. Both segments of the world economy therefore get afflicted by acute social crisis.
SOME OTHER PERSPECTIVES ON CONTEMPORARY IMPERIALISM
We have discussed contemporary imperialism so far on the basis of Lenin’s analysis, i.e. taking his analysis as our point of departure. In contemporary writings on imperialism however we come across certain other perspectives. Let us examine some of these.
One such perspective sees imperialism not in terms of the immanent economic logic of capitalism, which, through the process of centralization of capital, gives rise first to the finance capital that Lenin had analyzed, and subsequently to international finance capital; instead it emphasizes imperialism as a political project undertaken by the State of the leading imperialist country, the U.S., for globalizing its brand of capitalism through enlisting the support of other advanced capitalist States. It therefore sees continuity in the imperialist project in the post-war period, in terms of a persistent attempt by the U.S.State to build an “informal empire” by taking other capitalist States on board. This project might have been thwarted in some periods (such as the dirigiste period in the third world) and advanced rapidly in others (such as the more recent “era of globalization”). But through all these vicissitudes it is essentially a conscious, planned political project.
The difference between this perspective and the one outlined earlier is methodological and hence quite fundamental. By taking the leading country’s State as the driving force behind imperialism, it attributes not just a relative autonomy to the State but in fact an absolute autonomy. The State, it admits, acts within an economic milieu, but it does not see economics as driving politics. In fact it rejects such a proposition as being “reductionist”. It therefore departs from the fundamental understanding of capitalism as being a “spontaneous” or self-driven system that is unplanned, and therefore incapable of resolving its own basic contradictions.
An immediate consequence of this position is to underestimate the current impasse of capitalism. More generally, the methodological flaw in the approach that attributes an autonomy to politics is that it cannot anticipate events, but can only explain them post facto. There are no foreclosed options for capitalism in any given situation imposed by the intrinsic economic logic of the system; the State as an autonomous agency can always mould the system to overcome whatever predicament it may happen to be in. Whether it will be able to do so or not can only be known after the event. This approach therefore is not conducive to conscious revolutionary praxis founded upon the building of revolutionary class alliances on the basis of anticipating the course of movement of society as a whole.
A very different perspective is provided by the influential work Empire (2000) by Hardt and Negri, which talks of a transition from “modern” imperialism based on nation-States to a “post-modern” global Empire, a transnational entity comparable to ancient Rome. With the rise of the Empire, there is an end to national conflicts. The Empire is total: victorious global capitalism completely permeates our social lives, appropriates for itself the entire space of “civilization” and presents its “enemy” only as a “criminal”, a “terrorist” who is a threat not to a political system or a nation but to the entire ethical order.
Unlike the standard Leftist position, however, which struggles to limit the destructive potential of globalization, by preserving the Welfare State for instance, Hardt and Negri see a revolutionary potential in this dynamic; the standard Left position from their perspective therefore appears to be a conservative one, fearful of the dynamics of globalization. In this sense they can claim an affinity to Marx who did not advocate limiting the destructive potential of capitalism but saw in it an enormous advance for mankind which had to be carried forward through the transcendence of capitalism itself. But even if this affinity is granted for argument’s sake, there is nonetheless a basic difference even in this regard between Marx on the one hand and Hardt and Negri on the other. This difference consists in the fact that while Marx saw not only the necessity for the transcendence of capitalism but also the fact that the system produced the instrument, viz. the proletariat, through which it could be carried out, Hardt and Negri’s practical proposals for going beyond contemporary globalization come as a damp squib.
The authors propose political struggles for three global rights: the right to global citizenship, the right to a minimal income, and the right to a re-appropriation of the new means of production (i.e. access to and control over education, information and communication). Instead of concrete strategies of struggle, we thus end up with mere pious wishes. Take for instance the right to a minimal income. The immanent tendency of capitalism to produce “wealth at one pole and poverty at another” is manifesting itself at present through a vicious process of absolute immiserization, caused by an unleashing of primitive accumulation of capital that is not accompanied by any significant absorption of the impoverished into the ranks of the proletariat. The demand for a minimal level of income in this context is meaningless unless we are willing to transcend capitalism and struggle for an alternative system which is free of any immanent tendency to produce such absolute impoverishment. The logic of this alternative system, the nature of this alternative system, the roadmap for getting to this alternative system (which we call socialism) must therefore be worked out if we are serious about the right to a minimal level of income. The demand for such a right within capitalism then can only play the role of a transitional demand (in Lenin’s sense), which is unrealizable within the system but which can act as a mobilizing, educating and illuminating device.
To argue in general for a minimal level of income therefore is an illusion if it is considered achievable within capitalism, and a mere pious wish if the contours of a society within which it is achievable are not analyzed. To detach this demand from the struggle for socialism is reflective of a theoretical flaw, which afflicts Empire. The book, notwithstanding its several insights, does not have any analysis of the tendencies immanent in globalization, does not examine the economics of the system, does not see its “spontaneity”, its self-driven character that both creates its own grave- diggers and gives rise to conjunctures for revolutionary political praxis. Georg Lukacs had once said that the remarkable property of Marxism was that every idea that apparently went beyond Marx was in fact a reversion to something pre-Marxian. Hardt and Negri’s post-Marxist analysis paradoxically ends up regressing to a position that is even pre- utopian-socialist.
THE STRUGGLE AGAINST IMPERIALISM
The nature of the crisis it was argued earlier differed somewhat between the first and the third worlds. In the former it is primarily a crisis of insufficiency of aggregate demand, which manifests itself in terms of unemployment and unutilized capacity, while in the latter (especially in countries like India) this aspect of the crisis, though not altogether absent, is muted (as yet), but impoverishment of the peasants and petty producers through a process of primitive accumulation of capital, and of the workers too as a consequence of it, takes centre-stage. It follows that class alliances behind the struggle will be different in the two theatres.
In the former, the working class, the immigrants, the so-called “underclass”, together with the white-collar employees and the urban middle class, will combine to provide resistance, as is happening in Greece, France, Ireland and England, though of course, as also happens in all such situations there is a parallel growth of fascism promoted by finance capital that seeks to thwart and disrupt this resistance. In the latter it is the peasants, petty producers, agricultural labourers, marginalized sections like the tribals and dalits, and the working class that will combine to provide the resistance, while segments of the urban middle class, who are as yet untouched by crisis in any form and benefit from the high growth ushered in by globalization, may for the time being become followers of the big bourgeoisie and financial interests.
The crucial difference thus relates to two segments: the peasants and petty producers who are a significant anti-imperialist force in the third world but are of less significance in the first, and the urban middle class which is a militant force in the first world (as exemplified for instance by massive student protests) but vacillates or tails the big bourgeoisie at the moment in the third world. (Latin America is different in this respect both in having a relatively small peasantry and in having an urban middle class that has experienced acute distress caused by its longer history of globalization and unrestrained neo-liberalism).
Given this difference, a co-ordinated global resistance is not on the horizon, in which case the struggle against imperialist globalization must take diverse forms in diverse regions. In countries like India at any rate, it must entail forming a worker-peasant alliance around a national agenda based on a judicious de-linking from the global order.
The proposal for a selective de-linking of the national economy from the global economy will be objected to by many, since it appears to involve a retreat to “nationalism” from a regime of globalization. True, globalization is dominated by international finance capital and is carried out under the aegis of imperialism, but the way to fight it, many would argue, is through coordinated international actions by the workers and peasants. Nationalism, even anti-imperialist nationalism, they would hold, represents a retreat from such international struggles, and hence a degree of shutting oneself off from the world, which has potentially reactionary implications. There are two basic arguments against this position. First, internationally-coordinated struggles, even of workers, is not a feasible proposition in the foreseeable future. And when we see the peasantry as being major force in the struggle against imperialist globalization in countries like ours, so infeasible is the international coordination of peasant struggles, that one cannot help feeling that those who insist on such international coordination are altogether oblivious of the peasant question. In other words, any analysis that accords centrality to the alliance of workers and peasants as the means of embarking on an alternative strategy, cannot but see the struggle against imperialist globalization as being nation-based, with the objective of bringing about a change in the nature of the nation- State.
Secondly, as already mentioned, such de-linking is essential for bringing about an improvement in the living condition of workers in any country. And the workers who struggle for such an improvement cannot possibly be asked to wait until a new World State has come into being that is favourably disposed to the interests of workers and peasants. Any delay on the part of the Left in third world countries like ours in working towards such a worker-peasant alliance against imperialist globalization will have serious consequences for another reason: the peasants will not wait for the Left to organize them; they will turn to all kinds of fundamentalist organizations to spearhead their resistance against the new global order if the Left does not step in. It is possible to detect the class support of peasants and petty producers behind the Islamic fundamentalism of an Ahmedinijad in Iran, just as the same class support lies behind the rise of an Evo Morales in Bolivia. Whether we follow the Iranian or the Bolivian trajectory depends upon how quickly the Left moves to organize the peasantry as a militant force aligned with the working class against imperialist globalization.
But, leaving aside pragmatism, doesn’t a retreat into a national agenda represent a conservative, defensive reaction of the sort that Hardt and Negri had criticised, as opposed to seizing the dynamics of globalization for a revolutionary carrying forward of the process? Isn’t a retreat to a national agenda against the march of history, an un-dialectical act of setting the clock back? The answer to this question lies in the fact that the forward march of history is ensured by the lead provided by a force that comprehends “the historical process as a whole”, a force that brings the revolutionary class outlook to the working class and organizes the peasantry around it. The march of history is not reducible to formulae about whether the terrain of resistance is national or international; it depends upon whether the leading force in the resistance is internationalist or reactionary.
The crisis of capitalism, as argued earlier, is likely to be a protracted one. It will pass through many phases and many twists and turns, some even adverse to the Left, just as during the unfolding of the 1930s crisis. But it is pregnant with historical possibilities of a socialist transition for mankind if the Left makes proper use of this conjuncture, as Lenin had done earlier.
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* Prabhat Patnaik is an Indian Marxist economist and political commentator.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
V.I.Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Phase of Capitalism, with an
Introduction by Prabhat Patnaik, Leftword Books, Delhi, 2000.
Paul Sweezy and Harry Magdoff, Stagnation and The Financial Explosion,
Monthly Review Press, New York, also Aakar Books, Delhi, 2008.
John Bellamy Foster, Naked Imperialism, Monthly Review Press, New
Prabhat Patnaik “The Economics of the New Phase of Imperialism”, 2005, at
Reparations and the slave trade
The responsibilities of a capitalist and imperialist Europe in the reproduction of the circumstances behind sub-Saharan Africa’s extreme vulnerability are well-established. This began with the development of a modern, global system in which the famous triangular trade played a central role through the distortion of local systems of production and the integration of the work of peasants and those ‘deported’ to America within a collective productive surplus value worldwide. From this come calls for reparations from within Africa’s alter-globalism at the turn of the 21st century. These calls demand that the Western powers – who participated in this system – recognise firstly that they committed a crime against humanity, which we stress, and secondly that they accept the principle of reparations, which is somewhat naïve. While this trend is slowing, it is important to appreciate it as a means of demonstrating that vigilance is required in the choices of the themes of alter-global claims.
Up until the 2001 Durban conference on racism, the subject of reparations linked to the Atlantic slave trade had been absent from United Nations and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) conferences on racism. The claims were in relation to the creation of a new international economic order, founded on the elimination of unequal exchange, the right to industrialise, non-interference within developing countries’ internal affairs and the dismantling of foreign military bases. It is within this context that the South was able to obtain the recovery of the United Nations’ economic role (with the formation of the 1964 Conference on Trade and Development, the United Nations Organisation for Industrial Development in 1967 and the Declaration of the New International Economic Order in 1974), and where for the first time a group of countries decided unilaterally to increase the price of commodities for export (OPEC quadrupled the price of a barrel of oil between 1973 and 1974). In Africa the anti-imperialist offensive continued with analysis and proposals until 1980, as demonstrated by the adoption of the Lagos Action Plan with which African states engaged to implement a plan of industrialisation and accelerated technology.
The emergence of the theme of reparations as a mechanism of support for development policies is one of the consequences of the weakening of the Southern front from the mid-1970s. Faced with a crisis around economic growth, the imperialist powers favoured southern countries’ debt. This, however, was not through their own states but rather their private banks, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank. As a result the debt seemed depoliticised, while it was really about increasing the political power of transnational corporations (TNCs). This bad debt was in fact devised as a powerful economic means of impeding the crystallisation of socialist and nationalist forces within each country and of breaking the Southern front. It is here that the determination – irrational for the people but rational for imperialism – on the part of the Bretton Woods institutions and the bilateral agencies should be understood as a demand for the unilateral opening of countries’ economies, not only within the public sector but also in relation to education and health services. In order to create a kind of mental confusion, at breakneck pace the system produced development projects inconsistent with reducing poverty, the maximum entry into the system as a factor of economic development etc. The dominant project today aims to render the realisation of the two essential conditions of capitalist development and industrialisation in Africa impossible, by on the one hand blocking the formation of industrial coalitions within each country and on the other by locking states within a logic of sub-regional alliance created not to challenge imperialist pressures but rather to facilitate the penetration of TNCs and often subsidised goods (directly or indirectly). The saying ‘strength in unity’ becomes a simple slogan.
The appearance of the theme of demands for reparations with the African alter-global movement is an indication of the tipping balance of power that was done for the interests of imperialist capitalism in the wake of the South’s maldevelopment, the failure of Soviet socialism and the success of a mixed capitalism in post-Maoist China. The core components of collective imperialism – the TNCs, political leaders and the big social science research institutions – decided to make their victory the end of history. This was an end that would mean the definitive paralysing of the forces of struggle against polarisation, the overexploitation of work and natural resources and the establishing of a genuinely polycentric global system. The period of social-democrat capitalism in the centres and the rising power of the Third World (1950–75) is in this way characterised as an insupportable period of restrictions on the free operation of capital and imperialism. In order to ensure the longevity of this ‘freedom’, it strove to depoliticise and weaken Southern societies by promoting a civil society headed up by organisations with the function of destroying or blocking the creation of political parties or movements organised by the popular classes (from rural and urban areas who could push for socialism or simply a form of economic protectionism as a move away from the capitalist system). Calls for reparations find their place here precisely because they have no chance of actually being taken into consideration. In this vein the second United Nations Conference on Racism (Geneva, 2009) simply ignored it in only discussing the true subject of the day, whether or not to regard Israel as a racist state.
And the Geneva conference had been a great diplomatic success for the European Union, which succeeded in not only passing a statement in which the matter of individual states’ responsibility in the catastrophe of African peoples is not referred to, but also in burying any potential for future debate around reparations. Africans need to ask themselves two crucial questions: Would they have been able to escape the Atlantic slave trade? What lessons should they take from this tragic period of their history in order to understand the present, and which strategies should be used to reduce their vulnerability within the domain of economic rationality and the democratisation of societies in relation to transparency in the distribution of revenue and responsibility?
To sum up, it is time that African NGOs participating in the World Social Forum lose their innocence. Our watchwords should be: reconstruction; solidarity; dignity in social security and equality of opportunity in education and training for all. In the division of work, let’s leave the theme of struggles around reparations to people in the diaspora who are the products of trade and mistreatment during the formative years of the imperialist powers. Let’s support them, but without making this a condition of our own economic and social emancipation.
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* Bernard Founou-Tchuigoua is the Third World Forum research director.
* Translated from the French by Alex Free.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or
comment online at Pambazuka News.
 … which appears in the declaration of the NGOs' general assembly in Durban.
 Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Federation for Human Rights had officially disowned that statement in which Israel was condemned for its colonialist policy.
Rising up: Looking for Bob Marley and Fela Kuti
Alemayehu G. Mariam
It is said that ‘music is a universal language’. Using a few notes and inspiring lyrics, musicians and song writers have waged relentless battles against the perpetrators of tyranny, oppression, inequality and injustice. Music is a divine language that can pierce through the stony walls of hatred in the heart, the irrationality and fallacies of the mind and the darkness of the spirit. Musicians and songwriters have used their lyrics and melodies to defend and uplift the downtrodden, the exploited, the oppressed, the needy, the persecuted and subjugated. They have pumped up the volume against colonialism, racism, tribalism, imperialism, capitalism, communism, socialism, fascism, totalitarianism, individualism, militarism, sexism, adventurism, fatalism, hedonism, materialism, nihilism, pessimism, statism, corporatism and whatever else is left out. Where have Bob Marley and Fela Kuti gone?
Protest songs have served as potent weapons of political dissent and nonviolent resistance in American history. There were ‘protest’ and ‘freedom’ songs that championed civil rights, women's rights, labour rights, and human rights and challenged slavery, injustice, inequality, war and brutality. The ultimate American freedom and protest songs were disguised in the Negro spirituals, consisting of religious songs created by enslaved African people in America to protest their oppression, degradation and exploitation on the plantations.
They sang about escape from slavery: ‘Wade in the water/Wade in the water children/Wade in the water/God's gonna trouble the water/’, was the coded message for fugitive slaves to elude their captors and make it safely to freedom. They sang about slipping the slave master's grip by hopping on the ‘underground railroad’: ‘Swing low, sweet chariot/Coming for to carry me home/.../If I get there before you do,/ I'll cut a hole and pull you through.’
They even described the map of the escape route in song: ‘When the sun comes back,/and the first Quail calls,/Follow the drinking gourd,/For the old man is waiting/for to carry you to freedom/.../ The river ends between two hills,/Follow the drinking gourd,/.../’
In the 1960s, freedom and protest songs provided the spiritual force for the civil rights and nonviolence movement. ‘We Shall Overcome’ became the signature protest song of the US civil rights movement: ‘Oh, deep in my heart/I do believe/We shall overcome some day/We'll walk hand in hand some day/We shall all be free some day.’ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said the protest songs of the day ‘invigorated and gave unity to the movement in a most significant way’.
Political protest and social activism were promoted in American pop music. The Soul music of James Brown electrified African-American youth in the 1960s and 70s. ‘Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud’ was Brown's signature song. The ‘Godfather of Soul’ used his lyrics and fame to speak out not only against prejudice and bigotry towards blacks in America, but also to inspire pride, self-reliance and empowerment among black people everywhere. Proudly defiant, Brown declared: ‘One thing more I got to say right here/Now, we're people/Just like the birds and the bees/ We rather die on our feet/Than keep living on our knees.’
The ‘Hardest Working Man in Show Business’ followed up with ‘I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door, I'll Get It Myself)’, emphasising self-reliance and self-confidence among African-Americans: ‘Don't give me sorrow/I want equal opportunity/To live tomorrow.’
Marvin Gaye asked, ‘What's Going on?’ in Vietnam. ‘Brother, brother, brother/There's far too many of you dying/You know we've got to find a way/To bring some lovin' here today.’
There were countless other musicians and songwriters who delivered their political messages of protest, peace, racial harmony, tolerance and reconciliation. The long list of the great ones includes Paul Robeson (‘No more auction block for me’), Pete Seeger/Lee Hays (‘If I had a hammer’), Bob Dylan (‘Blowin' in the Wind’), John Lennon (‘Give Peace a Chance’), Nina Simone (‘Hound dogs on my trail/School children sitting in jail’) and Buffy Sainte-Marie (‘Now That the Buffalo is Gone’) who wrote songs about the plight and suffering of Native American peoples. Even Elvis Presley, the apolitical ‘King of Rock and Roll’, told the gut-wrenching story of American poverty and crime in ‘In the Ghetto’: ‘On a cold and gray Chicago mornin'/A poor little baby child is born/In the ghetto/And his mama cries.../It's another hungry mouth to feed/.../ People, don't you understand/the child needs a helping hand/or he'll grow to be an angry young man some day/.../’
BOB MARLEY, FELA KUTI AND PAN-AFRICAN PROTEST MUSIC
Jamaican Bob Marley used reggae music not just for entertainment, but to teach, preach and reach people's minds, hearts and spirits the world over. He used his music and lyrics to promote love, understanding and tolerance while confronting racism, inequality and injustice with a defiant message.
Marley sang about the struggles of black people in Babylon (The West) and the need for pan-African unity to overcome oppression. As a member of the Rastafari movement, he deified H.I. M. Haile Selassie and saw Africa as ‘Zion’, the place of unity, peace and freedom. His message for Africans was unmistakable: ‘Africa, Unite/'Cause we're moving right out of Babylon/And we're going to our father's land/.../So, Africa, Unite, Africa, Unite/Unite for the benefit of your people/.../’
He urged those suffering oppression to ‘Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!/.../Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!/.../Most people think,/Great god will come from the skies,/Take away everything/And make everybody feel high/But if you know what life is worth,/You will look for yours on earth:/And now you see the light,/You stand up for your rights. jah!’
African liberation from colonialism and Western exploitation was Marley's foremost concern: ‘Zimbabwe/Every man gotta right/To decide his own destiny/.../So arm in arms, with arms/We will fight this little struggle/'Cause that's the only way/We can overcome our little trouble/Brother you're right, you're right/You're right, you're right, you're so right/We gonna fight, we'll have to fight/We gonna fight, fight for our rights/Natty dread it ina Zimbabwe/Set it up... Mash it up ina Zimbabwe/Africans a liberate Zimbabwe.’ (If Bob Marley knew what Bob Mugabe had done to Zimbabwe today, he'd spin in his grave.)
Marley took part of a 1963 speech by H.I.M. Haile Selassie and made it a powerful song against war: ‘Until the philosophy which hold one race/Superior and another inferior/Is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned/Everywhere is war, me say war/That until there are no longer first class/And second class citizens of any nation/Until the colour of a man's skin/Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes/Me say war/That until the basic human rights are equally/Guaranteed to all, without regard to race/Dis a war/That until that day/The dream of lasting peace, world citizenship/Rule of international morality/Will remain in but a fleeting illusion/To be pursued, but never attained/Now everywhere is war, war/.../’
Marley understood the daily struggle of the poor to find enough food to eat: ‘Them belly full but we hungry/A hungry mob is a angry mob/A rain a-fall but the dirt it tough;/A pot a-cook but the food no 'nough/You're gonna dance to JAH music, dance/.../ Cost of living get so high,/Rich and poor, they start a cry/Now the weak must get strong/They say, "Oh, what a tribulation."’
In ‘Who the Cap Fit’, Marley warned against hypocrisy and duplicity in everyday relations: ‘Man to man is so unjust, children/You don't know who to trust/Your worst enemy could be your best friend/And your best friend your worst enemy/Some will eat and drink with you/Then behind them su-su 'pon you/Only your friend know your secrets/So only he could reveal it/And who the cap fit, let them wear it/.../Some will hate you,/Pretend they love you now/Then behind they try to eliminate you/But who Jah bless,/No one curse/Thank God we're past the worse.’
Nigerian songwriter, singer and musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti was an equally talented and inspiring musical innovator and political advocate. He was inspired by the protest songs and political upheavals in the US in the 1960s. For three decades, Kuti became the musical voice of Nigeria's poor, downtrodden, unemployed and marginalised. He sang about the abject conditions of existence in one of the richest African countries. His ‘Afrobeat’ music was a combination of blues, funk, jazz and African rhythms. His lyrics are in pidgin English (‘broken English’) and local languages. He relentlessly criticised government corruption, multi-national corporations, and police brutality in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa. He used music as a weapon to promote human rights, good governance, accountability and transparency in Nigeria and the rest of Africa.
In ‘Zombie’, Kuti criticised Nigeria's military as a bunch of mindless brutes who follow orders to shoot, kill and plunder: ‘Zombie no go go, unless you tell am to go/Zombie no go stop, unless you tell am to stop/...unless you tell am to turn/... unless you tell am to think/... Go and kill!/Go and die!../Joro, jaro, joro../ (Zombie)’.
In ‘Authority Stealing’, Kuti compared the Nigerian kleptocrats to armed robbers for stealing the nation's resources to enrich themselves using their ‘magic pens’. ‘Authority people them go dey steal/Public contribute plenty money/.../Authority man no dey pickpocket/.../Armed robber him need gun/Authority man him need pen/Authority man in charge of money/Him no need gun, him need pen/Pen got power gun no get/If gun steal eighty thousand naira/Pen go steal two billion naira/Thief, thief, thief!’
In ‘I.T.T.’, Fela satirised the multinational corporation International Telephone and Telegraph and condemned foreign companies for sucking dry the Nigerian economy and spreading confusion, corruption and inflation: ‘Many foreign companies dey Africa carry all our money go/.../ Them call him name na I.T.T./ Them go dey cause confusion (Confusion!)/Cause corruption (Corruption!)/Cause oppression (Oppression!)/Cause inflation (Inflation!)/Oppression, corruption, inflation/.../Them go pick one African man/A man with low mentality/Them go give am million naira breads/To become of high position here/Him go bribe some thousand naira bread/To become one useless chief.../Like Obasanjo and Abiola.’
After travelling the world, in ‘Upside Down’, Fela sang that things are organised and planned well everywhere except in Africa where there are villages, but no roads, land, but no food or housing. Africans don't even have knowledge of African culture: ‘Open that book dem call dictionary/.../Upside down na there dey proper/Dem recognize the word for sure, yes/.../People no know their African name/People no dey think African style/People no know Africa way/For Africa man house, I don't see/.../Communication Disorganize /.../Agriculture Disorganize/Electric Disorganize/Everything Upside Down in Africa.’
In ‘Beasts of No Nation', Fela criticises corrupt leaders in Africa and elsewhere and focuses on how certain governments have helped apartheid thrive in South Africa for so long: ‘Many leaders as you see dem/.../Animals in human skin/Animal-I put-U tie-oh/ Animal-I wear agbada (traditional Nigerian robe)/Animal-I put-U suit-u.’ In the must-see documentary ‘Fela: Music Is the Weapon’, Kuti said: ‘The situation here [Nigeria] is worse than in South Africa.’
In retaliation for his songs, in 1977 one thousand of General Obasanjo's ‘zombie’ soldiers attacked Kuti's compound (the ‘Kalakuta Republic’, established to protest military rule), beat him to a pulp, and burned his house and everything in it. The soldiers literally threw out his 82-year-old mother, one of the notable anti-colonial figures in Nigeria, from a second-story window. She died from her injuries a few months later. Kuti launched his own political party (Movement of the People) and ran twice for the presidency. His confrontational messages always got him on the wrong side of the military dictators who tried to find reasons to put him in jail. Kuti also had his eccentric side, including marrying over two dozen women at one time.
MUSIC AS A WEAPON AGAINST DICTATORSHIP AND FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Kuti titled his 1998 album ‘Music is the Weapon of the Future’. I believe African musicians could play a pivotal frontline role in the struggle for human rights, the rule of law, accountability and transparency in the continent with their lyrics and music. Africans today need new sounds against home grown dictators and tyrants who cling to power like barnacles to a sunken ship. In the mid-1980s, Kuti sang about leaders who are ‘animals in human skin’. In the second decade of the 21st Century we know the actual physical form of the ‘animals’ he was talking about. They are hyenas that sip on the blood of Africans like wine and dine on their flesh and bones everyday. Shakespeare wrote, 'If music be the food of life, play on’. If music be the weapon of the future, I say sing on until we chase the greedy and corrupt scavengers out of the continent. Africa needs a new generation of Marleys, Felas and Makebas to give a new message of hope, faith and charity. And Africa's youth need new battle songs and hymns to fight the hyenas in designer suits and uniforms.
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* This article first appeared at http://www.ethiomedia.com/augur/4406.html
* Alemayehu G. Mariam is professor of political science at CSU San Bernardino.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Rivers State: The making of an island of integrity
Travelling across the old eastern region of Nigeria can be very challenging. The roads are just very bad. There are also thousands of police checkpoints. You meet one literally every one two minutes. Sometimes you fear for your dear life because you may not know whether the next roadblock has been mounted by the police or dare devil kidnappers.
From Owerri and then to Aba you seem to have suddenly enrolled for a dancing exercise. Across your window, you are greeted by heaps of decaying refuse. It will only be safe to assume that you have entered an area forgotten by government unless you want to give yourself a heartache. That was my experience a month ago.
However, as you continue along the Aba-Port Harcourt expressway, a different kind of air will start blowing at some point. You will then start seeing well built bus stations, feeder roads and street lights. Hey, what happened? Just know that you have entered Rivers State.
A MASSIVE CONSTRUCTION SITE
The government of Rivers State has recently turned Port Harcourt city into a massive construction site. Diverse forms of construction are going on and that only reminds me of Doha, the capital of Qatar that I visited many years ago. From roads, to bridges, to street lights to mono rail. There is a clear hurry to develop the state. I went around the city and spoke to at least 55 ordinary people: from drivers to petty traders, everyone acknowledged the speedy pace of infrastructural development that has indeed given Port Harcourt a very impressive look.
SYSTEMATIC DEVELOPMENTAL APPROACH
I found out that as soon as the administration of Rivers State governor Rotimi Amaechi took over three years ago, the governor undertook a retreat with his appointees and unveiled a development strategy. This strategy, I was told, was to pave a way towards the non-oil economy by providing quantum infrastructure in the state and achieving food security.
In the difficult terrain of the Niger Delta, this will seem to be a tall and even impossible ambition, but the evidence on the ground will become so overwhelming that one will only wonder if all of this was achieved in just three years. Apart from the free compulsory primary education and health care, the state government is building 60 brand new health centres, which will be commissioned soon. It is also noteworthy that human capital development is a big priority in the state. Many indigenes of Rivers State are currently studying in several universities around the world under the state overseas scholarship scheme. Other schemes like the Greater Horizon and Opportunities Program (GHOP) and the compulsory Graduate Work Experience Placement Scheme (GWEPS) is indicative of a government that understands the priorities of the people and has a clear focus in addressing them.
One of the major agro-allied initiatives of the Rivers State government is the Songhai Rivers Initiative. This is an initiative that is aimed at promoting agricultural and allied productivity to generate employment and diversify the economy of Rivers State. This singular project had been judged by many as the most visionary project ever to be embarked upon by any state governor in Nigeria. When completed, the Songhai Initiative is expected to generate about a hundred thousand jobs and millions of naira daily for government. It is modeled after the Songhai farms in Port Novo in the Benin Republic, which is generating billions of dollars annually at the moment.
TRANSPARENCY AND THE RAINY DAY FUND
What is seen as the most outstanding achievement of the Rivers State government is the setting aside of a compulsory 27 billion naira as a ‘rainy day fund’ for future generations. This amount of money will be invested for future generations in Rivers State. Governor Amaechi is blazing the trail and has already signed an agreement with a consortium of sound money managers to invest the funds, all in a committed effort to make Rivers State money benefit the people.
On the occasion of the third year anniversary of his assumption to duty as governor, Amaechi published the amounts of all the monies the state has received, the entire list of contracts awarded and all the stages of the projects, including verifiable figures. This is a rare show of transparency and stewardship that should be emulated by other public office holders.
DEVELOPMENT BACKED BY LAW
As a former lawmaker himself, Governor Amaechi understands that the only way to guarantee the reforms he has introduced is to codify them by law. The education and heath care reforms as well as the rainy day funds have been backed by appropriate legislation. This legislation were carefully crafted to insulate these progressive policies from the virus of political manipulation and reversal.
In all, the innovative reforms and the infrastructural boost in Rivers State are commendable. Oil is a non-renewable resource that will dry up one day. We must diversify our state and national economy beyond oil by building a solid infrastructural base. Rotimi Chibuike Ameachi is leading the way. Other governors in the Niger Delta and indeed the old south-eastern Nigeria should emulate his example. Who says sustainable development is not possible in our lifetime?
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* Uche Igwe is a researcher at the Africa Program, Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Somaliland: Travelling beyond the international map
Abdirahman Mohamed Dirye
Twenty years after unilateral declaration, Somalia continues to eclipse Somaliland and globetrotters see a journey to Somaliland as a risky business. The assumption that Somaliland is like Somalia, where the gun rules, has not an iota of truth to it. By contrast, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Somaliland operates according to the rule of law, where the ballot paper changes the sitting president. A biased media too preoccupied with Somalia, a confluence of terrorism, starvation, and the woes of war, hardly covers the positive stories of Somaliland, such as durable peace and democratisation. World-wide news consumers are led to believe that Somaliland is a part and parcel of Somalia and thus making a trip there is like committing suicide. But it is a de facto country and has informal links with Ethiopia and South Africa, amongst others. So far no courageous country has stood by Somaliland by establishing full diplomatic ties.
Somalia’s ongoing and complex troubles often make the headlines and overshadow the milestones of Somaliland, such as the restoration of law and order, a rich democracy, and the running of a system without any help from external sources. If Somalia followed suit, all of the death and destruction could be avoided.
Somaliland is an oasis of stability. Over the years, thousands of returnees from the Diaspora have heavily invested in the private sector. They have built four-star hotels such as the Ambassador Hotel in the capital (www.ambassadorhotelhargeisa.com), beverage factories, money transfer firms, and private airliners. Unlike other Africans who wait for their governments to do everything on their behalf, Somaliland nationals have also raised funds to build infrastructure, including bridges. Despite the fact that it is an internationally isolated nation, it is still economically viable and progressing.
Although Somaliland is 20 years old, very few foreigners know about it. Popular Arab media ignore Somaliland’s breakthroughs. The media is a spitting image of the countries that they operate in - if it is a liberal democracy, the media too is free and closer to the truth, but if it is working in an old-fashioned, authoritarian regime, freedom is not in the dictionary.
Somalilanders have done everything to give their country the international limelight and present their case, but the media works against them, sometimes deliberately. Therefore, Somaliland rarely catches the headlines. This tiny nation is struggling with the negative perception that it is associated by name with Somalia and foreigners often confuse Somaliland with Somalia. Some people in Somaliland even suggest changing the name to avoid the stigma associated with it.
Somaliland is a controversial issue among African states. Africa’s semi-failed countries like the Sudan threaten to walk out whenever some AU member states like Ethiopia and Uganda suggest a more serious look at the matter. Despite the country’s strategic location, the Somaliland case for statehood remains outstanding. On the other hand, Somalia, which has topped the list of failed countries for ten years in a row, has gained unprecedented interest from heads of African states. Nonetheless, the concerted blockade of Somaliland by the international community might not be the answer. By accepting Somaliland as a member of ‘a family of nations’ Somaliland will certainly offset the creeping danger of the Jihadists in Somalia.
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* The author is a Somaliland volunteer and activist based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He can be reached at email@example.com
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
South Africa: Township youth organisation achieves excellent results in matric results
'Wow! We did well!' Township youth org achieves excellent results yet again: 87% matric pass rate, with 78% eligible for tertiary study
7 January 2010
A township-based volunteer programme that gets learners out of poverty and into university has once again shown that transformation is possible, despite the odds. The great news is that 78 per cent of IkamvaYouth learners are eligible to move from township schools to tertiary institutions next year.
It has been a difficult year for matrics across the country, with much of the school year lost to the World Cup and public sector strikes, and learners in township schools have been hit especially hard. Yet IkamvaYouth’s learners, all of whom attend township public schools, achieved an 87 per cent pass rate, with 52 per cent Bachelor passes and 38 per cent diploma passes. Thirty-six distinctions were awarded. This low-cost peer-to-peer programme is producing results comparable to the country's top (and highly resourced) schools in its mission to redress inequality in South Africa: since 2005 its matric pass rate has been between 87 and 100 per cent.
IkamvaYouth operates in five townships in three provinces, and each branch has achieved excellent results: 85 per cent pass in Western Cape, 85% in KZN, and 94 per cent in Gauteng. Of those learners that failed, 70 per cent are eligible to write supplementary exams, and IkamvaYouth will ensure they get the support they need.
Co-founder Joy Olivier says, 'While we are very proud of our learners and these achievements, the real measure of IkamvaYouth’s success is our ability to help learners access post-school opportunities. Achieving these results is a first big step, yet many obstacles need to be overcome in the next few weeks, including actually being accepted, finding money for registration fees and navigating the bureaucracy of institutions and financial aid. Some of our learners have already received confirmation of university placements and scholarships, but there is work to be done to meet our target of at least 60 per cent enrolling at tertiary with the remainder securing learnerships or employment.'
The young social entrepreneurs that run IkamvaYouth’s branches have successfully leveraged the power of volunteerism and strategic partnerships. All tutors and mentors at IkamvaYouth are volunteers, and local universities, public libraries, NGOs, companies and foundations have come together to replicate the IkamvaYouth model. Together they ensure that learners receive the information and support they need to succeed despite the challenges of township school education. These results are possible thanks to the learners’ and volunteers’ hard work and the rallied support of diverse stakeholders. IkamvaYouth garnered support from the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) last year, and hopes to partner with other education departments in 2011.
Many learners jumped 2-3 symbols since joining the organisation, and there have been excellent individual results.
Brighton Dube, a Gauteng ikamvanite, received five distinctions. Simphiwe Ndzube, a committed Ikamvanite at the Masiphumelele branch achieved 94 per cent in visual art and has been accepted at UCT’s Michaelis Art School. He says: 'What made me focus; I had a dream, a goal to get into university, which motivated me to work hard, study every day, and I was aided by the support from my family, friends, teachers and IkamvaYouth mentors. Wow, I did well! UCT here I come! I am proud of myself!'
Thabisile Cele, an ikamvanite in KZN, had to overcome the challenge of her parents not understanding why she studied late into the night. Her parents were often unhappy with her 'wasting electricity' while studying at night (her father works at the post office and her mother is disabled and unemployed). Encouraged by her sister (a former ikamvanite) not to give up, Thabisile saved up some money and bought candles. Her family is celebrating her Bachelor’s pass and acceptance at the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN) for Environmental Studies.
'We are thrilled that the class of 2010 has achieved the results to make this change happen for themselves and for others,' says IkamvaYouth KZN director Khona Dlamini. Winile Mabhoko, the Khayelitsha branch coordinator, expects that most of these matriculants will return as volunteer tutors and mentors, as has happened in previous years.
A small group of committed volunteers started IkamvaYouth in 2003. Due to the model’s innovation and the talent and commitment of all who have joined and supported since then, the organisation has grown from strength to strength. The consistently excellent results since 2005 led to IkamvaYouth winning the Mail & Guardian/ Southern African Trust Drivers of Change Award last year. The judges said of the Ikamvanites: 'These learners are the true drivers of change as they are also setting a good example for younger learners to become agents of change for their own success.’
The organisation is calling for much-needed donations and volunteers - anyone and everyone who wants to be a part of this high-impact and fun way to transform South Africa can make a difference.
IkamvaYouth is welcoming new learners in grades 8-11 into its programmes. Interested learners, parents and volunteers should make their way to their nearest branch on 22 January for IkamvaYouth’s Open Day, to find out how to become an ikamvanite.
For more information, please see www.ikamvayouth.org or email email@example.com
## Ends ##
IkamvaYouth is a community-based non-profit organisation that enables disadvantaged youth to access higher education and job-based training. To do this, it works with learners in the last 2-4 years of high school and provides supplementary tutoring, career guidance mentoring and computer literacy training. IkamvaYouth's Media, Image and Expression programme provides an opportunity for learners to express themselves through art, performance, media and writing, while the HIV programme enables access to voluntary counselling and testing. The organisation has branches in the Western Cape (Khayelitsha, Nyanga and Masiphumelele), KZN (Chesterville) and Gauteng (Ivory Park). For more information, see www.ikamvayouth.org
Will football unite the Nile Basin countries?
International diplomacy can indeed be juicy. On Wednesday Egypt kickstarted what it pragmatically calls the Nile Basin Tournament. Interestingly, this tournament will be a yearly one.
As you can bet, most of the invited teams are the very ones that recently locked horns with Egypt on the use of the water of the Nile. The 12-day championship was meant to include 10 countries that, geographically speaking, constitute the countries of the Nile Basin: Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. However, three teams – Eritrea, Ethiopia and Rwanda – have opted out of it this year.
Football, as we know, has been a unifier as well as a divider. The history of African nationalism is replete with stories of how football teams were vehicles of forging a united front against colonialism. In my home country, Dar es Salaam Young Africans, or Yanga as we call it, is a case in hand. But, as we also know, Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ left a bitter taste in England’s goalmouth while sweetening Argentina in the context of their 1982 war over the Falkland Islands.
Probably Egypt’s decision to splash money for a regional soccer tournament will ease the tension in its neighbourhood and foster some sort of pan-African unity. But, ironically, the other teams have been involved in a less expensive yearly tournament – the Council for East and Central Africa Football Association (CECAFA) Senior Challenge Cup. Egypt could have simply joined them.
Expectedly, when probed about ‘claims that Egypt is trying to use this event to placate its neighbours over the use of the River Nile’, the Egyptian Football Association chair ‘was quick to clarify that for them it is about football and nothing more’ (The Standard, 5 January 2011). But is it?
The United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) recently launched Africa Water Atlas notes that Egypt accounts for only 9 per cent of the Nile Basin’s area. However, the area holds nearly a third of its population and about 78 million people in the country depend heavily upon the Nile.
Such a context renders the tournament nothing more than football diplomacy. Even the choice of its name speaks volumes, let alone statements such as these from the organiser: ‘We are also ready to support any country in the region that is ready to host it at any time’; ‘So, for us, it is about football and not politics. The Ministry of foreign affairs may look at it differently though’ (Ibid).
Football is political. That is why states spend lots of money and energy to get even a chance to host the Olympics and the World Cup. Egypt’s decision to host a tourney cannot be less political.
With these points in mind one can start thinking about the role of Egypt as a unifier rather than a divider in Africa. For a long time the country has been contested as the cradle of human civilisation. Africans, spearheaded by Cheikh Anta Diop, have tried to claim it as an African civilisation and, as such, an inspiration for an ‘African renaissance’ and the ‘unity of Africa.’
Following the historian Basil Davidson, Sally-Ann Ashton, the Egyptologist curator at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, thus captures this Afrocentric/pan-Africanist quest and its setback: ‘Egypt is geographically part of the continent of Africa. It should therefore follow that Egypt is part of African history and cultural heritage; however, this is rarely the case in the literature.’ Yet Egypt, so often labelled as an Arab rather than an African country, co-founded the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and supported the liberation of other African countries.
But, alas, in recent years, especially in the aftermath of the Pan-African nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt has tended to turn its back on the so-called sub-Saharan Africa. In the case of its closest southern neighbour, Sudan, water flow has been the tie that binds. No wonder they were on the same side as boycotters during the tussle over the new 2010 Nile Basin treaty that gives all countries therein an equal stake in Nile waters, thus ‘abrogating’ the ‘colonial’ treaty of 1929 between Britain and Egypt as amended by Egypt and Sudan in 1959 to give the former the right to veto upstream water projects in addition to having more access to Nile’s total water flow.
No doubt Egypt has all the rights to be close to its northern neighbours. However, the Nile Basin is a constant reminder that its lot is with its fellow African countries. With a total population of over 400 million people, the countries around Nile can forge the form of unity that made the area a hub for such great civilisations as Kush, Axum, Meroe and, of course, ancient Egypt.
More significantly, Africa has about 1 billion people who, when unified, can be a potent force in African renewal. If indeed Egypt is to Africa what Greece is to Europe, then it has a special place in such an African renaissance. After all, as far as football is concerned, Egypt has consecutively won the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in the last three years. Africa(ns) must indeed unite!
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* Chambi Chachage is an independent researcher, newspaper columnist and policy analyst, based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
* © Chambi Chachage
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Social justice philanthropy revisited
Influencing policy at a pan-African level
Before TrustAfrica was set up, there was no African foundation that worked at a continental level explicitly on issues with regional and continental dimensions. The very scale of Africa’s problems was potentially paralysing. How could TrustAfrica, with minuscule resources compared to the challenges it faced, come up with a strategy that would allow it to achieve meaningful change in at least some areas? Part of the answer was to work through the existing system of treaties rather than starting advocacy from scratch. Another part of it was to work through civil society and civic engagement with the aim of improving political and economic governance in Africa.
But we didn’t get to this point immediately. Initial consultations across Africa resulted in three programmatic areas for TrustAfrica: peace and security, regional integration, and citizenship and identity. We also decided that grantmaking in these areas would be just one strategy at our disposal. Others included convening, technical assistance, advocacy and dialogues.
These three thematic areas made sense for a number of reasons. First, they had clear regional and continental dimensions. Second, there were several treaties and declarations at both the continental and the regional level that most African countries were committed to but had not implemented. If complied with, these treaties would go some way to addressing challenges in the thematic areas. Third, civil society was critical for holding governments accountable for these and other commitments.
TrustAfrica decided to focus on civic engagement in the three areas. We made grants for knowledge generation, capacity strengthening and advocacy training. We believed that by attempting to influence policy through civic engagement at a pan-African level, we could also influence national policy shifts, with civil society formations demanding that member states ratify and comply with the regional treaties they had signed. An example is our funding of a coalition of organizations that has undertaken a study of all treaties and is now advocating for their domestic ratification through campaigns and other related activities.
A FOCUS ON GOVERNANCE
However, two years of pursuing this strategy led us to shift our focus to three broad areas – civil society and democracy, equitable development and African philanthropy – to secure the conditions for a peaceful, safer and prosperous Africa. We were convinced that to secure lasting solutions to Africa’s governance challenges, citizens and their institutions needed to come together to set a common agenda and to develop strategies for holding their governments accountable. Consultations also showed us that the three areas were means and not necessarily ends in themselves. The question still remained: what were we concerned with? What were our ends?
Clearly, we were about governance, both political and economic. Equally clearly, the questions of peace, identity and integration that we had focused on were closely connected with how Africa is governed. Ours was in many ways a strategy that was born out of a few years of learning.
KEY ELEMENTS OF THE STRATEGY
THE TREATY SYSTEM
A number of our partners focus on international principles, declarations, treaties and commitments that member states have signed and ratified. This is a critical level for TrustAfrica because these treaties provide a framework to hold governments accountable at both international and domestic levels. Most of the treaties have implications for transforming power relations, addressing the structural and systemic causes of underdevelopment and helping to dismantle some of the underlying causes of social injustice.
In 2007, for example, African member states adopted the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. If implemented, this would address the underlying causes of conflicts, violence and violation of human rights in Africa. It lays out the developmental imperatives for member states. The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (1987) also guarantees every person the right to the freedoms of assembly, association, protection, development, etc. These treaties address both first-generation rights and second-generation rights around socioeconomic development.
However, the treaties remain ineffective because most of them have still not been implemented by individual states. To remedy this, TrustAfrica supports non-state actors at national, regional and international levels to collaborate with member states in the implementation of these treaties and to monitor their compliance. Our work on agricultural advocacy, for example, is geared towards equipping smallholder farmers to engage meaningfully with the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme, an African Union framework agreed by the majority of member states. The same applies to our gender work on Millennium Development Goal 3. The aim is to get member states to comply with the commitments they have made to ending gender-based violence and enhancing the dignity of women. In the investment work where we are partnering with the International Development Research Centre, the aim is to improve policies to do with doing business with a pro-poor focus in Africa.
The first years of TrustAfrica’s grantmaking strengthened our view that we had to focus on civic engagement in questions of governance. Our experience was that most governments respond to people’s needs only if there is a critical mass of demand from bodies such as unions, associations and social movements. Furthermore, support for these organizations helps create an environment in which all members of society can meaningfully take part in their development and governance.
COLLABORATION AND PARTNERSHIP
TrustAfrica’s strength lies in that of its partners. For this reason, we invest in institutions that address the fundamental challenges of governance, development and rule of law, including human rights, as well as implementing initiatives ourselves that we see as critical for TrustAfrica’s identity. These include research and knowledge generation, advocacy, and taking positions on issues that demand our voice as an African-led and governed institution. An example is our forthcoming book (Dis)Enabling the Public Sphere: Civil society regulation in Africa.
We support groups that generate knowledge on a variety of issues and encourage them to collaborate with others such as media, advocacy and similar groups that can help disseminate that knowledge. We also support groups that work at the advocacy level on areas such as economic governance and equitable development (extractive industries, trade, aid, mining, climate change, business environment, investment, agriculture, higher education, etc) and political governance (transitional justice, human rights, elections, governance, etc). These normally target national, regional and intergovernmental institutions such as parliaments, courts, Regional Economic Communities, and the African Union and its various organs. They also target international bodies such as the United Nations, World Trade Organization and World Bank and initiatives like the World Economic Forum and its adversarial counterpart, the World Social Forum.
In addition and from the very beginning, we chose to set our agenda through consultation with our partners. For example, we have brought together potential grantees in our economic governance work as well those in the broader political governance area to develop projects that respond to their situations and the needs of their constituencies. Often we find that these dialogues facilitate a collective response to Africa’s challenges. In many ways this also addresses questions of duplication and cost-effectiveness. In addition, groups usually identify a holistic response to problems, with some groups addressing the underlying causes and others focusing more on other dimensions.
As a foundation based in Africa, TrustAfrica is often in collision with political elites and others with vested interests. This is why we have adopted African agency or what we term African philanthropy. Africans should be at the centre of the response to their challenges and African philanthropy means resources – human, financial, social, intellectual – that can be tapped to address Africa’s problems.
A COMPREHENSIVE AND HOLISTIC APPROACH
This comprehensive and holistic approach is designed to address all dimensions of social injustice – from the policy level to attitudes to practice and knowledge. Grantmaking is only one of the elements in this strategy. Opening up a dialogue or lobbying are equally important. Sometimes, we simply provide travel grants for activists or representatives from grassroots organizations to enable them to attend key meetings where decisions are made that will affect their wellbeing. This can be crucial in allowing them to begin a dialogue that will help build a shared value base and a future Africa where equity, equality and justice can thrive.
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* Bhekinkosi Moyo is programme director at TrustAfrica.
* This article is reproduced with the kind permission of Alliance Magazine.
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 The African Women's Development Fund (AWDF) was already in place. However, it worked specifically on women and feminist issues, while TrustAfrica encompassed a broader focus and mandate. Increasingly regional grantmaking bodies have emerged.
60 Banyamulenge refugees tortured in Ethiopia
Open letter to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
Akim M. Hakiza
His Excellence Meles Zenawi
Prime Minister of Ethiopia
PO Box 1031, Addis Ababa -
UNHCR OFFICE in Addis
Human Rights Watch
I write as the President of the International African Child Relief and Peace Foundation of Canada, an international human rights organization. Together with the undersigned partners, we are deeply concerned by the torture of about 60 Banyamulenge refugees currently victims of cruel treatment by the Ethiopian police as result of being injustly handed over by UNHCR local agent called Negate, and illegally detained with no reasons. Our sources indicate that whereas these 60 individuals, victims of torture, are the only true Banyamulenge refugees in Ethiopia, they found themselves surrounded by a mob of non Banyamulenge refugees who had falsely claimed to be Banyamulenge refugees and reported to the UNHCR as Banyamulenge in order to qualify for UNHCR protection and benefit its services including resettlement in western countries as refugees. Those who deceivingly reported themselves as Banyamulenge refugees, are accused of corrupting some policemen and some UNHCR officials such as Mr. Negate so that they may deny the true Banyamulenge refugees their rights and treat them as criminals.
We have received reports naming one the corrupted UNHCR officials of Ethiopian origin named above (Mr. Negate) who has been allegedly bribed by the Rwandese Hutus and some Congolese falsely registered by UNHCR as Banyamulenge refugees to make sure all of the true Banyamulenge refugees do not get asylum in Ethiopia.
According to local sources another such corrupt Ethiopian official who has been bribed to tortured Banyamulenge refugees is an ARRA agent by the name of Mr. Masmara known for his determination to keep true Banyamulenge refugee from benefiting their rights in Ethiopia and badly mistreat them.
Local sources confirm that some of the persecuted Banyamulenge refugees are severely injured. Indeed one of them called David is reported to be in a coma, due to cruel beating, and a woman among them has had an abortion as a result of beatings.
Mr. Prime Minister, the Republic of Ehiopia has ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As your government has committed to uphold international law over national, we appeal to you to implement obligations under international law and not allow the corrupt officials tarnish the image of your country as refugees and asylum seekers in Ethiopia are at great risk of torture or other inhuman treatment.
We write also to urge the office of UNHCR in Ethiopia to address the issue of wrongful identification and treatment of refugees, particularly the case of Banyamulenge refugees in Ethiopia, and the need for an immediate security assessments of the 60 individuals named herein, in order to address their cause. Please be aware that any negligence of this matter could result in danger of about 60 innocent refugees being subjected to torture or arbitrary deprivation of their lives in the hands of UNHCR officials in collaboration with a handful Ethiopian corrupt officials.
Akim M. Hakiza
International AfricanChild Relief and Peace Foundation of Canada
Tanzania: Statement on clashes in Arusha
Tanganyika Law Society
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (to be published in its entirety)
9th January, 2011
DAR ES SALAAM
The Tanganyika Law Society (“TLS”) is the National Bar Association for mainland Tanzania, which was established under The Tanganyika Law Society Act, Chapter (CAP) 307 R.E. of 2002. Under the said Act, the TLS has the mandate to, among other things, assist the Government in matters affecting legislation, the administration and practice of law, as well as to protect and assist the public in all matters touching, ancillary or incidental to the law – in short, the observance of rule of law and good governance.
Following media and individual reports on the clashes in Arusha between the Police Force of the United Republic of Tanzania (“Police Force”) and Chama Cha Demokrasia (Chadema) supporters in Arusha Municipality, the TLS communicated with several sources in Arusha, including its members, members of the media and victims of the violence to confirm the veracity of the reports. Our attempts to communicate with or contact the police officers in charge of Arusha Municipality were not successful.
It was brought to our knowledge that on 5th January, unarmed Chadema leaders and supporters staged a peaceful procession in Arusha Municipality, pursuant to a notification of the same delivered to the Arusha Municipality Officer Commanding District (OCD) on 31st December, 2010 and in furtherance of a 4th of January letter from, and consultative meeting with, the OCD confirming the security detail for the procession and assembly. We know that the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) on national news at 8PM (that is, less than twenty four hours before the intended procession) on 4th January issued a verbal warning stopping the procession but allowing the public assembly. We also know that despite the warning, the procession took place as planned.
We are informed that subsequent to this, the Police Force used force to stop the procession and to disperse the assembly, which resulted in at least two (2) deaths and injuries to several unarmed civilians. We are further informed that during the fracas, journalists conspicuously identified as such were targeted by the Police Force for simply covering the unfolding events, and that after the fracas the Police Force did not initially allow advocates to gain access to the people who were in police custody.
Article 20 of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, 1977 (“the Constitution) guarantees every citizen the right to freedom of association and assembly. Section 43 (1) of The Police Force Auxiliary Services Act, CAP 322 R.E. 2009 prescribes a procedure for anyone desirous of convening, collecting, forming or organizing any assembly or procession in any public place pursuant to their constitutional right to assembly, which only requires notifying the Police Force in the area of the place and time at which the meeting will take place and the purpose of the meeting. It is our understanding that the requirement of notification is prescribed by law to ensure that the Article 20 constitutional right is preserved and protected - and not infringed upon - by the Police Force. It is our view that the verbal warning issued by the IGP, in effect, banned the procession by Chadema because it did not provide for a clear alternative to when Chadema could hold its procession. But where there is a right, there is a remedy and Chadema should have sought recourse within the confines of the law. However, we are not certain that the IGP’s verbal warning afforded Chadema with adequate opportunity to pursue any means prescribed in law to either overrule the IGP’s warning or to stop the procession from physically taking place. That notwithstanding, the Police Force should neither be the cause of nor cause violations of constitutionally protected rights.
Article 18 of the Constitution guarantees every person the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to freely express ideas and opinions as well as the right to communicate and be informed. This right serves to protect expressions, information and communications, including that of media personnel. From the reports we received, it seems that this right was abridged by the Police Force.
Section 54 of The Criminal Procedure Act, CAP 20 R.E. 2009 obligates a police officer to cause reasonable facilities to be provided to enable a restrained person to communicate with a lawyer, a relative or friend of his choice. From the reports we received, it seems that this right was – at least initially - infringed upon by the Police Force.
Firmly committed to upholding and strengthening the rule of law and good governance by the State, knowing that when properly upheld, rule of law and good governance protect people from the arbitrary powers of the State; ascribing to the notion that impunity always leads to greater crimes; and believing strongly that justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done:
I. The TLS calls upon civilians and the State and its organs to observe and abide
by the laws, the rule of law and good governance; and
2. The TLS strongly condemns the actions taken by the Police Force in denying the constitutional rights of association and assembly and of expression; and
3. The TLS strongly condemns the use of excessive force by the Police Force in dispersing the crowd of unarmed, peaceably processing and assembled
4. The TLS calls on the Government of Tanzania to probe into the cause of and to investigate this unfortunate incident, to bring those accountable to task in accordance with the laws, and to continue using peaceful means of upholding rule of law and securing democracy for the national good.
Submitted by and on behalf of the Tanganyika Law Society
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Malangatana, force of nature
I always thought of Malangatana as a force of nature, one of the lynchpins that held tight to the cultural wellspring of Mozambican society. Through him one glimpsed with regularity brilliant facets of that culture.
Everyone who came into his ambit will have a story to tell about him. When he showed up to an event he was inevitably the fulcrum around which things turned.
A vivid occasion for me was a night a few days after Mandela was released from jail, when Malangatana organised an event at the Museu de Arte in Maputo. He had written an open letter to Madiba and proposed to read it to us that evening.
So there he was standing amongst the paintings and sculptures of his fellow artists and of his own, reading his letter of welcome and advice to the man of the moment. Malangatana was assuming the stance of cultural integrity at a moment when Mozambican society was still riven by war. On that evening, amidst the art, the sculpture, the Museum itself, which can be a sombre space, came to life.
But it was the punctuations of song from a choir you did not know was in the audience, from Malagatana himself, from solo singers and, if memory serves me right, a dancer or two, that were revelatory. Here was the oratorical form that in my mind was specifically associated with Samora Machel. Here were the South African freedom songs that some how I thought Mozambicans did not know but in fact everyone present knew the words to all of it, to Senzenina, Tshotsholoza, Vukani Mawethu and of course Nkosi Skeleli – in Changaan. Afinal!
Younger artists may have sometimes thought that Malangatana occupied too much space but he was a good steward of the forest. The big tree has fallen. The gap in the canopy is enormous – there for the little ones to grow to fill.
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A startling new voice on postcolonial disintegration
Sanya Osha’s ’Naked Light and the Blind Eye’ published by Future Fiction London purports to be a human angle portrayal of the deplorable conditions that are currently prevailing in the Niger Delta.
In many ways, it succeeds in demonstrating the brutality of African military dictatorships. In a more concrete political sense, the meaning of a failed state is explored and analysed.
‘Naked Light and Blind Eye’ follows the slow and inevitable disintegration of a postcolonial society as economic systems, local communities and families crumbled under the weight of grotesque management policies and obsolete communal beliefs.
In the novel, the familiar modernity and familiar dialectics is played out, but with subtle poetic tones. The heavy book of ideology is not hung above our heads waiting to crash on us. Instead, we are handed scenes depicting postcolonial scarcity, rudimentary commodity fetish and the power of mythology in developing contexts. Sanya Osha does very well in the handling of these themes.
I am particularly concerned about the political implications of the issues dealt with in the novel. The transitions from a tribal culture to modernity are well-rehearsed in the annals of modern African literature. But the handling of this popular theme is not often arresting in other works with similar preoccupations. Unquestionably, it is a political theme since it deals directly with decolonisation but Osha manages to breathe new life into an over-flogged subject. What happens when our political and economic systems fail at the grassroots level? Sanya Osha’s ‘Naked Light and Blind Eye’ has many of the answers.
I am sometimes also somewhat baffled by the numerous stylistic ploys of the work. But on the whole it is a rich and powerful work.
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* Sanya Osha’s Naked Light and the Blind Eye is published by Future Fiction London (ISBN-10: 0982792816).
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Denying Rwanda: An open letter to John Pilger
29 December 2010
I have long admired and learned from your work, and consider you one of the most humane and incisive voices on the political left.
I was therefore stunned to read your warm [url= endorsement]http://monthlyreview.org/books/politicsofgenocide.php]endorsement[/url][/url] of the recent book by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, ‘The Politics of Genocide’, stating: ‘In this brilliant exposé of great power's lethal industry of lies, Edward Herman and David Peterson defend the right of us all to a truthful historical memory.’
As you are aware if you have read the book, Herman & Peterson engage in brazen denial of the 1994 Rwandan genocide - indeed, perhaps the most extreme denial that I (as a comparative genocide scholar) have ever read in a so-called scholarly source. In brief, Herman & Peterson deny that any organised killing of Tutsis by Hutus occurred in Rwanda in 1994. In the Rwandan context, this is the direct equivalent of asserting that the Nazis never killed Jews in death camps.
I have published a detailed critique of Herman & Peterson's denialist fabrications, available at http://www.genocidetext.net/denying_rwanda.html I wish to ask you straightforwardly: do you indeed endorse this denialist enterprise? If not, will you reconsider your praise for the volume, and publicly denounce Herman & Peterson's attempts to obliterate the genocide of Tutsis in 1994 from ‘truthful historical memory’?
I am preparing further materials on this subject for publication, and would be grateful if you would clarify, on the record, your stance on whether Tutsis were systematically murdered by agents of ‘Hutu Power’ and their supporters in Rwanda between April and July 1994. Indeed, I must respectfully insist that you do so.
Adam Jones, Ph.D.
Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction
Ivory Coast showdown: The political crisis in West Africa
The only struggle against Gbagbo is that of shameless imperialists to secure resources and influence in West Africa.
Now, people who hadn't heard about Gbagbo a year earlier are suddenly turning into Ivory Coast specialists and anti-Gbagbo pundits. Fed by the uncritical media they believe they know what is going on. Uncritical of what they are being fed as information they make un-,worse, mis-informed comments.
They talk of an international community that thinks like them and brandish their numbers as a proof of their being right. The number of people saying something does not make it true. In medieval times, intellectuals said that the earth was flat. They were wrong. Today, very knowledgeable people are succumbing to emotions and sensationalism thereby not being objective when it comes to Ivory
COast and Gbagbo.
I suspect the fact that Allassane studied in the US is the reason why
so many Americans back him. Moreover, socialism has never been a political philosophy of choice in the states. It is that of Gbagbo...
The UN and ECOWAS are not independent bodies. Those speaking African countries there, for the most part, depend on aid from the members of the permanent security council. They are not independent and are mere parrots when it comes to opinion. In that international community, and in the security council, is France which definitely has economical and political interest in Ivory Coast. Those interest are of an imperialist nature, like it or not.
Allassane is liked because he belongs to the system (IMF, World bank,
France, etc...) and has religiously applied their measure in Ivory Coast in the past when being the prime minister of a corrupt and dictatorial regime (in the 90s). He is docile. He executes, no question asked. A good slave.
Gbagbo is a bit more of a problem. He has views of his own. He thinks that imperialism is still a fact, how funny you will say. The fact is a significant portion of the Ivory Coast population thinks like him. This makes it difficult to take him out.
Obviously he can be treated as a Mugabe... that is demonized. Let's
kill his legacy they must have said. The fact is it will be difficult to turn him into a West African Mugabe. He is more adept at politics than Mugabe. He's been doing it since before Allassane was collaborating with a dictatorial regime. Allassane is a relative new comer on the political scene. He is naive. He believes that support from the US or France is enough for him to win the Ivorians hearts.
He is sadly mistaken. Times have changed and it's no longer sufficient to be friends with Paris to lead Ivory Coast.
If there's one thing that Gbagbo has done it's this one: show the
Ivorians that there is life after France.
Let's salute him for that.
Ancestral Worship (Coming to the UK)
Sometimes… I suspect
I have not played this ‘African’ card
Despite being here a year and some months now
(If you’ve watched Eddy Murphy’s Coming to America, you’ll know what I mean!)
What would my boss (a lovely Scottish lady) say for instance
If I one day announced:
“The ancestors revealed last night that I must take three days off.”
Would she collapse with laughter, guffaw uninhibitedly in front of me,
Or, play the politically correct British game,
Sombrely nod, and:
“That’s alright Kingwa, I’ll just discuss that with the rest of management and get back to you,”
Only to hysterically roll on the floor and laugh till her sides ache,
at my departure?
She might smile, be pleasant, act like nothing’s the matter
But in future be afraid
Of being alone in a room with me
“The ancestors told me… I must put my fingers around your neck…”
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Pambazuka News 173: Regards africains sur la situation en Côte d'Ivoire
Pambazuka News 35: Mídia brasileira em África
Gbagbo calls a teleconference
South Sudan votes
WikiLeaks makes phone records public
DRC: Rape. Re-rape. Gang Rape. But, really, who cares?
The exact number of women and girls who have experienced sexual abuse in the DRC is not known, writes Nikki Whaites for the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service. In 2008, the United Nations Population Fund reported 15,996 registered cases of sexual violence across the country. And 65 per cent of those were children, the majority girls – 10 per cent were under the age of 10. But few are paying attention.
Three years ago I visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the first time. The country is home to the world’s bloodiest war since World War II, with more than 30 times as many deaths as last year’s earthquake in Haiti.
It’s also one of the world’s most unsafe places for women and girls. Women are raped and gang raped on a daily basis. Just last week reports from Médecins Sans Frontières told of a series of vicious rapes on New Year’s Day in South Kivu. Women were tied up, beaten and then raped, some in front of their children. What a way to ring in the New Year.
Few are paying attention.
While in DRC I had heard that a major TV journalist from an American news channel was in the East of the country filing stories. I was excited; too few media outlets are covering this epidemic. And it is an epidemic.
The world needs to wake up and he, I thought at the time, was the man to do it. As details emerged, however, I learned that this journalist was not there to report on the situation of women; his story was on gorillas. In a region of the world where a nine-year-old girl can tell you the story of the second time she was raped and the fourth surgery she underwent to repair the resulting damage, this journalist’s focus was on gorillas.
Sadly, I can’t blame him. Gorillas make great television; they’re cute, endangered, exotic and genuinely do need help. Who wouldn’t want to watch them on the six o’clock news? What makes the gorilla story even better is that we can easily help - give money now to save them and their habitat. We can sleep well at night knowing we’ve made a difference.
Conversely the story of a nine-year-old watching her father murdered while she and her mother were gang raped and her brothers abducted to be ‘soldiers’ is not comfortably watched. The issue is difficult, complex and dark.
The exact number of women and girls who have experienced sexual abuse in the DRC is not known. In 2008, the United Nations Population Fund reported 15,996 registered cases of sexual violence across the country. And 65 per cent of those were children, the majority girls – 10 per cent were under the age of 10.
It’s widely accepted, however, that the majority of victims don’t report the attack meaning actual numbers are significantly higher. Victims know their chances at justice are slim; they fear rejection by their families and face expulsion from their communities.
Young girls who have been raped face not only the immediate physical and emotional consequences but the stigma that permanently affects their futures. Nicholas Kristof, a reporter with the New York Times, spoke with a village chief in the east of the country who said that the typical price for a bride in the region is 20 goats. If she’s been raped, however, the price is two goats, at most. Married women who are raped are regularly abandoned and divorced by their husbands. Men simply don’t want women who have been raped.
The issue isn’t restricted to the DRC. It is estimated that during Liberia’s 14-year civil war (1989-2003) as many as 75per cent of women were raped, many more than once. The majority of Tutsi women who survived the genocide in Rwanda were raped, raped with objects, held in sexual slavery or sexually mutilated. A 2009 survey of women who fled to refugee camps in Chad to escape violence in Darfur found that one third reported or showed signs of rape, though again numbers are thought to be higher. The statistics are appallingly similar in Sierra Leone, Uganda, Central African Republic, South Africa and elsewhere.
The numbers are shocking. So is the lack of public outcry.
When the earthquake hit Haiti the media couldn’t get there fast enough to photograph the destruction, the bodies, and the death. Ditto the tsunami. The global public demanded action. Celebrities held telethons. Millions of dollars were raised seemingly overnight.
If these crises showed the world’s ability for aid and compassion at its best, addressing rape as a weapon of war shows us at our worst. Nicholas Kristof writes of the DRC: ‘...no humanitarian crisis generates so little attention per million corpses, or such a pathetic international response.’
And there’s no simple answer as to why this is.
Perhaps we think the problem is just too big, there are too many people affected in too many countries and we don’t know where to start. Maybe it’s that the issue is too dark. Hearing stories of women raped and re-raped with foreign objects by boys young enough to be their grandchildren is too uncomfortable. It’s incredibly easy to change the channel, put down the newspaper or turn off the computer. Perhaps it’s that we increasingly value solutions that are easy and fast – give $50 now and save a baby gorilla.
The scope of the problem is huge. The stories are dark. The solution is neither easy nor fast. But these are exactly the reasons why we must do something.
Addressing the issue is, and will continue to be, complex. It requires the immediate provision of additional resources and services for victims; far more than are currently available. It requires long-term approaches to addressing the root causes of gender inequality. It requires putting pressure on governments to efficiently and adequately punish perpetrators. It requires working with local communities to reduce stigma so that victims feel able to speak up. It requires a stronger, more concerted international approach. It requires a global public that cares.
We need to show victims that we’re hearing their stories. We must show that we’re paying attention and demanding action. It’s time to let victims know that we will no longer ignore them; that we’re as interested in helping them as we are Haiti. As we are tsunami victims. As we are gorillas.
* Nikki Whaites is the international program consultant at The Leprosy Mission Canada (TLMC). This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service which offers fresh views on everyday news.
Global: Gendering justice, building alternative futures
The Municipal Service Project (MSP) has undertaken in-depth examinations of the gendered effects of privatization of public services, with a particular emphasis on the ways in which privatization creates additional burdens for women and exacerbates the power imbalance caused by the gendered divisions of labour. A new briefing note available on their website covers this issue and also includes an extended bibliography broken down by sector (water, health and electricity/energy) and thematic areas of interest.
Global: Women, water and human rights
How is it possible that a woman living in a water-rich region only needs to open the tap to get enough water for herself and her family, while a woman in a water-scarce region has to walk for miles and miles to get far less water of much worse quality? This article has two parts. The first deals with dominant positions concerning water: the neoliberal agenda, consequences of water privatisation, and the UN stance. The second part looks at what is missing in this picture and ignored by the dominant perspectives - namely, global inequalities and gender discrimination.
Liberia: Radio station gives women the controls
Christiana Garpeh listened attentively with her headphones as she put together her first radio piece of the day. She ignored the Beyonce song playing in the newsroom to focus on transcribing an interview. The interview was with a woman from Pagos Island, a part of Monrovia cut off from the rest of the city by swamps. She was seeking donors for women's literacy classes and classes in soap making and tailoring. Each working day Garpeh produces about two such stories on the needs of women for broadcast by Liberia Women Democracy Radio, housed in a two-story building in Congo Town on the outskirts of Monrovia, the nation's capital.
Malawi: Empowering young sex workers for safer sex
Sex work has increasingly become a popular means of making money for young girls in the urban areas in Malawi. This article makes reference to an intervention project in Malawi that was implemented in 2004 and sought to empower sex workers and to encourage them to insist on consistent use of condoms. The messages were also designed to encourage the young sex workers to modify their behaviour and withdraw from the practice.
Zimbabwe: Sexual harassment on Beitbridge border continues
Soldiers patrolling on the periphery of the BeitBridge border fence have been accused of sexually harassing desperate border jumpers intending to cross to South Africa. Zimbabweans living in South Africa who had come to the country hoping to acquire travel documents have been forced to leave the country without passports due to chaos at the Home Affairs Department. Sources who spoke to Radio VOP said women who use undesignated entry points into South Africa are subjected to sexual harassment including rape.
Africa: Mixed success in efforts to end death penalty
The past year has seen mixed fortunes for activists working towards abolishing the death penalty in Africa. Togo and Burundi joined the ranks of African states that have removed capital punishment from their statutes, while Gambia extended its application to new offences. In April, Nigerian state governors announced they wished to see executions resumed 'as a measure to decongest prisons' and directed prison authorities to initiate execution papers.
Côte d'Ivoire: Torture scenes in the most populated prison
A YouTube video is currently creating a stir among the Ivorian online community, reports Global Voices. It shows militaries beating up prisoners in the 'Maison d'Arrêt et de Correction' prison (MACA). According to the person who posted the video, the prisoners are Alassane Ouattara's partisans. Since the beginning of the political crisis in Ivory Coast, dozens of people have been arrested in Abidjan for their political opinion, and jailed at the MACA.
Kenya: Kenya lobbies Africa to pullout of ICC
Several Cabinet Minister have left Kenya on a mission to countries around Africa to lobby support ahead of the tabling of a Motion before the African Union (AU), to push for Kenya's withdrawal from the International Criminal Court statute. The AU meeting will take place between 30 and 31 January in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Union has already urged for a deferment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's indictment by the ICC and could undoubtedly back Kenya's bid.
South Africa: Groups seek Livni arrest
Two South African groups have launched a move to get an arrest warrant issued against Tzipi Livni, the chairperson of Israel's Kadima party, during a visit to the country next week, Israeli media have said. Haaretz.com, quoting Channel 10, said the Media Review Network (MRN) and the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA) allege Livni committed war crimes in her role in Israel's three-week war on Gaza in late 2008-2009. Livni was then foreign minister in the government of Ehud Olmert.
South Africa: Putting the past to rest
The results of this year’s SA Reconciliation Barometer survey, conducted by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR), found that a majority of South Africans still agree that they are trying to forgive those who hurt them during apartheid. Close to three-quarters feel that they want to leave the past behind and move forward with their lives. However, writes Kate Lefko-Everett, the 2010 survey results also reveal some enduring concerns about the delivery of justice that pose challenges to further reconciliation, particularly in a context in which experts, analysts and practitioners have begun to question whether the wounds and traumas inflicted under apartheid may prove to outlast political will to help them heal.
Côte d'Ivoire: Planning for the refugee influx
Ivoirians are still crossing from western Côte d'Ivoire into Liberia at a rate of 400 to 600 a day, according to an 'initial refugee assessment' issued by the UN World Food Programme (WFP). Using data drawn from a four-day mission to Liberia border areas earlier this month, the WFP's study on the Ivoirian refugee influx and food security notes that 'refugee consumption is inadequate' and highlights the need for refugees to receive either full food rations or partial rations complemented by supplementary feeding.
Djibouti: Concern over arrest of refugees
The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa (HRLHA) is highly concerned about the safety of nine Oromo refugees from Ethiopia whose whereabouts are not known since they were extra-judicially arrested and taken away by members of the Djibouti force in Djibouti on different occasions in the months of November and December 2010, and January 2011. HRLHA has a profound belief that the two countries – Djibouti and Ethiopia – are acting jointly in hunting, arresting and punishing alleged members and/or supporters of opposition political organisations and human rights activists.
Kenya: Resettlement concerns as ICC mulls case against suspects
As the International Criminal Court (ICC) decides whether to charge six prominent Kenyans over the violence that followed the 2007 presidential election, internally displaced persons (IDPs) have expressed concern over their much-delayed resettlement. 'We feel we have been suffering in camps for too long; we wonder if those who caused us the displacement ever think of our welfare,' Peter Kariuki, an IDP at the Mawingo camp in Nyandarwa district, Central Province, told IRIN.
Somalia: Saudia Arabia asked to stop deporting Somalis
Human Rights Watch has called on Saudi Arabia to stop the deportation of Somali refugees back to the war-torn Horn of Africa nation, reports Bloomberg. Saudi authorities sent more than 150 people back to the Somalia capital, Mogadishu, on 17 December, HRW said, citing local press reports. Another 2,000 were returned in June and July, according to the United Nations.
Zimbabwe: Immigrants gain temporary reprieve
South Africa has given tens of thousands of illegal Zimbabwean immigrants a reprieve after agreeing to extend the deadline for them to regularise their stay to 31 March. It is estimated that 1.5 million Zimbabweans are in South Africa illegally and most of them do not have proper identification documents.
Zimbabwe: Zimbabweans in the diaspora are economic refugees, says IOM
The International Organisation for Migration has confirmed that millions of Zimbabweans who left home and settled in foreign countries were economic refugees. 'The assessment we have done so far confirms that many Zimbabweans chose to move in pursuit of better economic opportunities, and with things improving in the country we expect an improvement in the returning of those immigrants,' IOM Deputy Chief of Mission to Zimbabwe, Katie Kerr told journalists on the sidelines of her organisation’s boat donation to the department of Civil Protection in Harare.
Global: Social movements and poverty in developing countries
This paper explores social movements’ roles in challenging relationships of poverty and inequality. It begins by examining the motivations, emergence and strategies of these movements. The author then argues that movements are highly relevant to poverty reduction dialogue because they challenge the dominant way in which it is understood, and suggest alternative means of achieving it. Cases from Bolivia, India, Peru and South Africa are considered.
South Africa: Massmart under fire
The South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu) plans to picket a Massmart shareholders meeting to show opposition to the group's impending deal with Walmart, reports South Africa's Daily Times. Massmart's shareholders are expected to vote for the global retail giant's offer to acquire 51 per cent of Massmart's shares at the meeting. The anti-Walmart coalition includes the Congress of South African Trade Unions, social movements and civil-society organisations.
Global: Perspectives on Emerging Powers in Africa - January Newsletter Available
In the first commentary piece of this month's newsletter Ms Sanusha Naidu comments on South Africa’s recent inclusion into the BRIC grouping. The second commentary by Alexandre de Freitas Barbosa looks at relations between Brazil and Africa (article in Portuguese) followed by a review by Prof Deborah Brautigam of a recently released report on China’s possible influence and activities in African media. The January edition is available here.
Latest Edition: Emerging Powers News Round-Up
In this week's edition of the Emerging Powers News Round-Up, read a comprehensive list of news stories and opinion pieces related to China, India and other emerging powers.
Investors wake up
Walmart's entry into Africa through the purchase of a majority stake in Massmart reflects a significant change in the attitude of global investors to the continent. African nations are being recognised as consumers -- modest consumers in the global context, but consumers nonetheless.
2. China in Africa
China's 2010 investment in Zambia tops $1bn
Chinese direct investment in Zambia exceeded $1-billion in 2010 and created more than 15 000 jobs, Zambia's vice president said on Monday. China has invested billions of dollars into African states such as Zambia, the continent's biggest copper producer, hoping to secure the resources it needs to fuel its booming economy. Vice President George Kunda, who met visiting Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liang Yu, said he expected Chinese direct investment to top $1-billion again in 2011. The recent signing of an agreement with China's privately owned Zhougui Mining Group would attract more than $5-billion into Zambia's mining sector over the next few years, Kunda said.
Uganda gets $350 mln Chinese loan for airport road
China is providing a $350 million concessionary loan to build a multi-lane toll road linking Uganda's capital with the country's Entebbe airport, 54 km (34 miles) away, Ugandan officials said on Thursday. The east African nation's parliament is expected to ratify the loan agreement soon and construction will begin in July once the money is officially allocated in the next financial year (2011-2012) starting in the same month.
China, Mauritius sign about 9 million U.S. dollars economic cooperation accord
China has signed an economic and trade cooperation accord with Mauritius worth about 9 million U.S. dollars, including 6 million dollars grant and 3 million dollars interest-free loan. The accord was signed on Friday and the signing ceremony was attended by visiting Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu and Mauritius Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economic Development Pravind Kumar Jugnauth. According to the accord, the grant and loan will fund projects agreed on by the two governments in the future. Hui and Jugnauth also agreed on boosting cooperation in science and culture and implementing the programs of the accord signed by the two sides.
The Chinese vice Minister discusses with Minister of Transport
Mr Gao Hongfeng came to Cameroon to strengthen cooperation ties with Cameroon. The cooperation has been labeled in with the 2006 China Africa cooperation summit. According to the 2006 China Africa cooperation summit, the government of the Peoples Republic of China undertakes to help the African continent develop its infrastructure. In relation to this, the Chinese Vice Minister of Transport held a working session with Cameroon’s Minister of the Economy Planning and Regional Development. The Minister of the Economy, on the occasion, presented the country’s vision in the development of the sector. The Chinese vice Minister of Transport later met with Cameroon’s Minister of State for Transport, Bello Bouba Maïgari. Bello Bouba Maïgari during the session, presented priority projects in the transport sector.
China pledges to help Angola in diversifying exports in bilateral trade
Visiting Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan said here on Thursday that China would help Angola in diversifying its exports to China as part of the efforts to boost trade relations between the two countries. Zhong made the pledge during his meeting with Angolan Minister of Trade Maria Idalina Valente to explore ways of further expanding trade and economic ties between the two countries. Zhong said China has attached importance to developing ties with Angola, the largest trading partner of China in Africa, and the 2010 visit to Angola by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping brought Sino-Angolan ties to new highs.
'We need Chinese investors'
Vice-President George Kunda has called for more Chinese investment in Zambia. And Zambia is among the African countries to benefit from the US$5 billion China-Africa Development Fund (CADFund), the bank has announced. Mr Kunda said Zambia remains a prime destination for investment because of its economic and political stability. “Zambia has arable land and other natural resources, which the Chinese investors can exploit. There are a lot of opportunities in the agricultural and tourism sectors,” he said.
China, DR Congo see great potentials for further co-op
Visiting Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu on Wednesday met here with President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) Joseph Kabila with both saying that there are great potentials for further cooperation between the two countries. During the meeting, Hui said the development of bilateral ties between China and DR Congo has been maintaining good momentum, and the two sides have built political mutual trust and expanded cooperation in all sectors which have scored great achievements. DR Congo has become one of China's important cooperation partners in Africa, Hui said. Hui said as of developing countries, China and DR Congo are complementary in economy and there are great potentials for further cooperation.
3. India in Africa
South African, Indian trade taking off faster than hoped
Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma proposed on Monday that the target for bilateral South African/Indian trade be increased to $15-billion a year by 2014. Speaking in Johannesburg, he reported that bilateral trade is growing so fast that the current target of $10-billion annually, which was meant to have been achieved by 2012, will actually be achieved by the end of this financial year (March 31). “The balance of trade is happily and heavily in favour of South Africa and will remain so,” he highlighted. This is due to large-scale Indian imports of South African gold, diamonds and coal, among other products. He praised South Africa for providing leadership within the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) in the negotiating of a preferential trade agreement between Sacu and India.
Coal India seeks 10 mln tonnes from Mozambique
State-run Coal India Limited (CIL) plans to export 10 million tons of coal from Mozambique to India in the next 10 years from its two mining concession blocks in the southern African country, a top official said on Sunday. CIL's director for central mine planning Marinder Khurana also said his company would ask Mozambique for five more licence blocks in a strategic bid to meet India's fast-growing domestic demand for energy. "We have two blocks now and we will ask for five mnore blocks," Khurana told Reuters on arrival in Maputo as part of an Indian delegaton that included Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal.
Indian puts food security at heart of Africa agenda
With barely months to go before the second India-Africa Forum Summit, India Monday said the Indian model of 'green revolution' had an appeal for African countries across the board and underlined that boosting agriculture and food security were at the heart of its engagement with the 53-nation African continent. 'Agriculture is without doubt at the forefront of India's engagement with Africa in the current transformation phase,' Gurjit Singh, joint secretary in charge of east and southern Africa, told experts at a seminar on exploring twin themes of food security and India-Africa relations in the context of South-South cooperation. 'The Indian model of agriculture growth has attracted Africa across the board,' said Singh, while stressing that agriculture and food security are going to be high on the agenda of the second India-Africa Forum Summit that is expected to be held in an African country in April-May this year.
Rwanda comes to Gujarat to seek investment
With robust 8.5 percent growth since 2006, the east African nation of Rwanda is seeking to put behind the ugly civil war of 1994 that claimed a million lives, calling upon Indian and global investors to invest and benefit from its progress. Prime Minister Bernard Mazuka led the country's sales pitch at the two-day Vibrant Gujarat conclave here and spoke about the opportunities, especially in agriculture, energy, tourism, information technology, mining and realty.
India boosts influence across Africa
The Indian government is raising its diplomatic profile in Africa, with Indian companies striving to keep up with China’s business profile in Africa, taking advantage of historical ties with the continent, analysts have said. Last year the continent witnessed the conclusion of one of the biggest deals when India’s Airtel acquired Kuwait’s Zain that had operations in 16 African countries. The change probably meant little to the average customer, but for the continent, it’s another sign that India is moving in. It underscores the rise of India in Africa, at a time when much of the focus on foreign investment here has been on China.
4. In Other Emerging Power News
South African farmers look for greener pastures abroad
Thousands of white South African farmers are leaving their homeland due to post-apartheid land reforms, a shortage of affordable territory and severe water shortages Thousands of white South African farmers are leaving their homeland to work abroad due to post-apartheid land reforms, a shortage of affordable territory and severe water shortages. Lance Spear is among those in neighbouring Mozambique who are renting land at a fraction of the cost paid back home and where he can also pay lower wages to workers and make better profits. “The big incentive is the availability of land and water,” the 39-year-old says, as he strolls across the dark brown, rain-soaked soil of his 200-acre (81-hectare) banana plantation in Mozambique. “South Africa doesn’t have any land or water. It’s all gone,” he adds, watching 20 workers pack freshly-picked bananas into boxes headed across the border to South Africa or to markets in the local capital Maputo.
5. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
Is India ready to refuse UK aid?
Aid is a subject vulnerable to a near continuous identity crisis. What is it for? Who should get it, and what should they use it for? All these questions are thrown into sharp relief by India. Here is a country which, as Andrew Mitchell, the UK secretary for international development, puts it, "is roaring out of poverty". It is the 11th largest economy in the world. It is spending $31.5bn on its defence budget and $1.25bn on a space programme. So why, in these cash-strapped times, is the British government giving aid to India?
Referendum in Sudan: India’s Predicament
Sudan, Africa’s largest country by territory, is at the crossroads. On January 9, 2011 its semi-autonomous South began a week-long referendum to decide whether to remain part of Sudan or secede. For the Sudan Liberation Movement (SPLM), the main party in the South led by Salva Kiir, it is the culmination of half a century of struggle for recognition against successive regimes in Khartoum. By the time fighting stopped in 2005, Africa’s longest war had cost 2.5 million lives and displaced many millions more. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the war set up the semi-autonomous region of South Sudan, to be ruled by SPLM, as well as a Government of National Unity (GoNU) in Khartoum led by President Omar al Bashir. The CPA also mandated a referendum in the South. At the moment public opinion in the South is building towards independence. According to the latest survey 95 per cent of Southerners voted for secession. There are fears that the North may try to manipulate the results. However, chances of electoral fraud are minimal, given that around 14,000 Sudanese along with 2,000 Chinese are monitoring the elections. Sudan’s referendum has attracted interest among the international community. The United States and European Union have in the past few months been pressuring the National Congress Party (NCP) government to meet the referendum deadline. China and India, with considerable investments in energy and other sectors in Sudan, are equally keen on a smooth and stable referendum process.
China: A force for peace in Sudan?
As the world anxiously watches the southern Sudanese vote on whether to secede, one country has more to lose than most if civil war returns to Sudan. With an estimated 24,000 of its citizens living there and billions of dollars worth of investments in the country, China is the key foreign player in Khartoum. When the US oil giant Chevron pulled out of Sudan - beginning in 1984 when three of its employees were killed and culminating in 1992 when it finally sold all of its Sudanese interests - the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) stepped in. It now has controlling stakes in the biggest energy consortiums operating in Sudan, giving China an estimated 60 per cent share of the 490,000 barrels of crude oil produced daily. It also constructed the 1,500km pipeline that connects the oil fields of the south with Port Sudan in the north - from where the oil is exported. But with oil accounting for more than 90 per cent of government revenues in the south, compared to just over 40 per cent in the north, there is a possibility that Khartoum could close the pipeline should the south vote for independence. This decision would not only be devastating for the underdeveloped and oil revenue-dependent south, but would also disrupt China's oil supply.
China: A strategic partner
Relations between Saudi Arabia and China are mutually strategic in nature. China is the second largest economy in the world. Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Middle East and North Africa region and plays a unique systemic role in the global energy market. Saudi Arabia today possesses 70 percent of the world's extra capacity in oil. Both countries are members of the G20. As China's demand for oil increases so will Saudi Arabia's importance in providing sustainable and secure amounts of the black gold. Security of supply for China is equal to security of demand for Saudi Arabia. As China's role in the global economic landscape increases, trade being an essential part of that role, assures a sustainable foothold in Saudi Arabia. The relationship until now has been marked by the roles the two countries attained respectively in the world.
Chinese wooing in Africa: Boom without democracy
Once again, China has scored points in Africa. Beijing wants South Africa to become the fifth member of the Bric countries -- the acronym for Brazil, Russia, India and China, the world's leading newly advanced economies. South Africa is flattered, since Turkey, Indonesia and Mexico have markedly larger economies. South Africa's growth rate is also well below the Bric level. But China's initiative is yet another example of Beijing's offensive in Africa, a continent succumbing to China's wooing.
South Africa and the BRICs: A Crisis of Identity in Foreign Policy
South Africa has edged closer to finally becoming a member of the ‘elite’ grouping of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China), following recent expression of support by China and Russia for Pretoria’s bid. It is expected that South Africa will be accepted formally as a new BRICs member at these emerging powers’ next summit in April this year. The BRICs wield significant diplomatic and economic clout and have become crucial powerbrokers in the evolving, albeit volatile, multipolar world order. They are the four biggest economies in the developing world and Goldman Sachs has predicted that, thanks to their rapid growth rates, the combined economies of the BRICs could overtake those of the current wealthiest countries in the next four decades.
Algeria: After Tunisia, Algeria hit by spate of attempted suicides
A jobless man who set himself on fire in a northeast Algerian town bordering strife-torn Tunisia to protest the mayor's refusal to meet him over jobs and housing died of his injuries on Sunday, his family said. It was the one of four attempted public suicides in Algeria this past week in apparent copycat replays of last month's self-immolation of a 26-year-old graduate in Tunisia which triggered a popular revolt that led to the ouster of that country's ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
DRC: Opposition cries foul in constitution review
Opposition political parties and groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have denounced a bill passed by the ruling party to revise the Constitution as a mandate of 'mass cheating'. In a declaration made available to PANA on Monday, the opposition said the revision of the Constitution to have only one round of voting in the presidential election 'is a dangerous step backward', which would reduce the legitimacy of the president, increase challenges to his power and create instability.
Ivory Coast: AU in fresh attempt to unlock Ivorian crisis
The African Union's mediator in Ivory Coast's deadly leadership standoff is to return to Abidjan this week for his latest bid to bridge the yawning gap between two increasingly entrenched presidents. AU mediator and Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga flew to Abuja on Sunday to meet the head of west African regional bloc ECOWAS, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, after which he will head to crisis-stricken Abijdan.
Liberia: Preparations begin for October election
Voter registration begins this week in Liberia where a little over a million eligible voters are expected to go to to polls to choose a new president come October. Incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf - who is vying for a second five-year mandate - won the last polls in a runoff against George Weah, who is this year expected to run as an opposition coalition joint candidate.
Mozambique: Mozambique launches constitutional reform
Mozambique's parliament has created a committee to draft amendments to the constitution that analysts have warned could be used to allow President Armando Guebuza to stand for a third five-year term. The creation of the committee comes a year after ruling party Frelimo won enough seats to change the charter unilaterally.
Nigeria: Jonathan wins Nigeria party primary
Nigeria's ruling Peoples Democratic Party has nominated incumbent Goodluck Jonathan as its presidential candidate after fending off a primary challenge in the country's mainly Muslim north. Jonathan's nomination on Friday allows him to stand in the April presidential elections, which are viewed as one of the most important in the history of Africa's most populous country.
Somalia: Mogadishu mayor - 'I may be killed'
Mohamed Ahmed Noor was under no illusions when he agreed to take on the job of mayor of Mogadishu, capital of Somalia. He was living in the relative safety of London when the offer was recently made. He sat his family down and told them he may not be coming back. 'I explained the dangers of the job, that I may be killed and that one day they may hear on the news that the mayor of Mogadishu has been assassinated, or killed in an explosion.'
South Africa: Local government elections loom
South Africa's local government elections are widely expected to take place in May, but since the five-year term ends in March the polls could even be held sooner. Less than 55 per cent of the electorate turned out to vote in the last round of local government elections in 2006 - and many have since been disappointed by their ward councillors. Rhodes University political science lecturer Richard Pithouse says there will be high levels of repression in the months leading up to the local government elections.
Sudan: Referendum commission confident of successful results, 3.3 million votes cast
The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) has assured referendum results will be successfully announced despite insecurity concerns and logistical challenges. The SSRC Chairperson Professor Ibrahim Khalil has said that 84 per cent of the registered voters cast their votes. This is a preliminary statistic carried by the Commission from 9th-14th January 2011.
Sudan: Southern Sudan diaspora backs secession as vote count starts
The marathon task of counting the ballot in southern Sudan's independence referendum was underway on Sunday after the week-long polling on partitioning Africa's largest nation closed. 'Secession. Secession. Secession', the returning officer intoned on Saturday night as he carefully unfolded each ballot paper cast at a polling station in a school in the southern capital of Juba before pronouncing the voter's choice.
Sudan: Sudan denies it will take on south's debt
Khartoum has denied it will take on Sudan's entire debt to free an independent south of any liabilities, after former US president Jimmy Carter said he received assurances the north would do so. The Daily Nation reports that Sudan's foreign ministry 'categorically refuted the statements of the former US president Jimmy Carter to CNN... that the president of the republic told him Sudan's entire indebtedness would be carried by north Sudan,' the official SUNA news agency reported late on Monday.
Tunisia: Interim leader to form unity government
Tunisia is trying to restore order following the 'Jasmine Revolution' that led former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to leave the country on Friday. Until new presidential elections are held within the next two months, Chamber of Deputies Speaker Foued Mebazza will be Tunisia's president. Ben Ali is now in Jeddah, the Saudi Royal Palace confirmed Saturday.
Kenya: One more minister under graft probe
Kenya Anticorruption Commission (KACC) is currently investigating another minister over graft, in addition to the four ministers earlier mentioned, reports the Daily Nation. According to KACC director Dr PLO Lumumba, the latest case relates to allegations of misuse of Constituency Development Fund (CDF) money.
South Africa: No progress in job creation, says Zuma
There has not been much progress in government's job creation project due to the economic crisis that hit the world recently, President Jacob Zuma said during an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation, reports the Mail and Guardian. Speaking a day after addressing the 99th African National Congress (ANC) anniversary celebration in Polokwane, Limpopo, Zuma said the issue of job creation was going to be a central issue at the upcoming ANC congress, as well as how resources would be allocated to see to it.
South Africa: Zuma cracks whip on growth
President Jacob Zuma told party leaders this week to implement the government's new growth plan immediately, insisting it could be refined as they went along. With unemployment officially above 25 per cent of those actively looking for work, South Africa lost more than a million jobs in the recent global downturn. School-leavers and unskilled young men and women are the hardest hit by joblessness.
Southern Africa: Oil production, environmental degradation and human rights
This paper from the South African Institute of International Affairs notes that oil production in Southern Sudan has 'degraded agricultural lands and caused mass displacement and suffering of local pastoralist and agriculturalist communities'. The paper looks at the legal system around environmental issues arising from oil production in Southern Sudan after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005. This agreement guarantees the right to compensation to those whose rights have been violated by the activities of the oil companies.
Africa: Drug company's loss could be Africa's gain
A very important patent decision may have just been made in Mumbai. Abbott Laboratories, one of the world's biggest research-based drug companies, doesn't like it - they are now considering what to do. But HIV/Aids campaigners are celebrating. The Mumbai patent office has rejected Abbott's application for a patent in India on its drug Kaletra - a combination of the two antiretroviral medicines lopinavir and ritonavir. The decision could help enable the manufacture of cheap versions of a key Aids drug, reports the London Guardian.
Africa: TB's spread compounded by mining activity
A new study from the American Journal of Public Health reports that mining is a significant determinant of countrywide variation in tuberculosis among sub-Saharan African nations. The study's authors conclude, 'Our findings suggest that mining profoundly affects not only the health of miners but also the dynamics of TB incidence in sub-Saharan African nations...As shown by the population risk of mining, improved public health and health care conditions for miners may be necessary not only for the miners themselves, but for controlling TB more generally among sub-Saharan African populations.'
Africa: WHO global plan to contain drug-resistant malaria
The World Health Organisation launched a plan on Wednesday to stop a form of drug-resistant malaria from spreading from Southeast Asia to Africa, where millions of lives could be at risk. It would cost about $175 million a year to contain and prevent the global spread of the artemisinin-resistant parasite which first emerged along the Thai-Cambodian border in 2007, the United Nations agency said.
Burundi: Sex workers enticed or forced into unprotected sex
Sex workers operating in East Africa are generally aware of the HIV risks of unprotected sex, but for many of them, the extra cash incentive clients often offer for sex without a condom is worth the risk. According to Basilisa Ndayisaba, coordinator of local NGO Society for Women against AIDS in Africa (SWAA-Burundi), which raises awareness among sex workers on condom use and HIV risk, despite their best efforts, many sex workers in Bujumbura remain apathetic about condom use.
Ethiopia: Transport sector launches HIV policy
The Ethiopian government has unveiled an HIV policy for its transport sector, which has grown significantly in recent years alongside the rapidly expanding road network. 'Various national studies have shown that those working across the transport sector - especially drivers and their assistants - are vulnerable to HIV infection as they spend considerable time away from their families,' said Ethiopia's transport authority director Kassahun Hailemariam.
Nigeria: Health system fails the youngest
Despite some progress, Nigeria is lagging behind its peers in reducing deaths among children under five. The mortality rate remains worryingly high for newborn infants – 700 children less than 28 days old die in the country every day. A new report published by Nigeria’s Ministry of Health however acknowledges that the mortality rate for children has fallen by about a fifth since 1990, but this progress has been unevenly spread – with important implications for health policy.
Uganda: Muslim women back condoms for HIV prevention
Some Muslim women in western Uganda are demanding that a new HIV prevention programme for Muslims include condom promotion, going against calls by local religious leaders for the programme to be limited to messages on faithfulness and abstinence. 'The holy Koran allows Muslim men to marry four wives, but men still go out of wedlock and have extra-marital relationships,' Jazira Mugisa told IRIN/PlusNews.
Zambia: Don’t ignore the children of sex workers
At an increased risk of HIV and often unable to negotiate safe sex with clients, sex workers have been a major focus in HIV prevention and treatment. However, away from the streets and brothels, their children have been largely ignored. Now a small but growing body of research has suggested that the children of sex workers face a range of HIV risks including early sexual debut, low school enrolment, parental abandonment and psychological issues, including social marginalisation, related to their mothers' work, according to Jennifer Beard, assistant Professor in the Department of International Health at the Boston University School of Public Health.
Côte d'Ivoire: Political impasse deepens education troubles
The political crisis in Côte d'Ivoire is hitting an already broken education system, with gunfire disrupting classes, teachers staying home for political reasons and families increasingly desperate about their children's schooling. Under-investment and instability in recent decades have weakened education in Côte d'Ivoire and many development projects - now suspended - called for strengthening basic services such as health and education.
South Africa: Education system 'a scandal'
A leading academic has ripped into the country's education system saying it is failing South Africa's youth. Speaking at the graduation ceremony for the Eastern Cape Student Sponsorship Programme at Selborne College in East London, Rhodes University vice-chancellor Dr Saleem Badat called the state of education in the country a 'tragedy'. 'It is an absolute scandal that the South African school system functions the way it does in 2010, 16 years after the start of democracy in our country,' Badat said.
South Africa: Massive growth in post-school places
In its push to expand participation in tertiary education, the government announced last week that opportunities for South Africans who passed school-leaving examinations in December would grow by 56 per cent this year. And under political pressure to provide free higher education, President Jacob Zuma promised students on state loans a free final year if they graduate.
South Africa: Matric pass welcomed and questioned
It's a 'whopping' increase in the matric pass rate, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said triumphantly last Thursday morning. But education specialists were immediately divided on the question of whether so unexpected and so huge an improvement is educationally both believable and reliable as a true indicator of pupils' aptitudes. At 67,8 per cent, the pass rate for the 2010 national senior certificate (NSC) outstrips 2009's 60,6 per cent by 7.2 per cent and all nine provinces recorded increases in their pass rates as well, reports the Mail and Guardian.
Botswana: Batswana register new organisation
The lives of Botswana’s transgender people are seemingly about to change for the better, following the registration of Rainbow Identity Association (RIA), a trans and intersex oriented organisation, formed in 2007 after founder, Skipper Mogapi, realised marginalisation of these gender identities among the general lesbian, gay and bisexual movement in that country.
Cameroon: Gay activist under pressure over EU grant
Cameroonian gay rights activist Alice Nkomo has come in for sharp criticism over a European Union grant meant to provide health training for sexual minorities in the conservative country. News of the euro 300,000 grant which was finalised last week has heightened already widespread sentiment against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders in the west African country. Anti-gay movements in the country have urged the government to take the EU to task for providing the funds to Ms Nkomo’s organisation.
Malawi: Lobbyists decry visa delay for Malawian gay
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT ) organisations of Malawi have expressed concern over the delay by the Canadian authorities to issue visa to a Malawian gay Tiwonge Chimbalanga. Chimbalanga and his colleague Steve Monjeza hit the headlines following their arrest and conviction on homosexuality charges after going public about their engagement in December 2009.They were later released following a presidential pardon last year.
South Africa: Campaign to stop 'corrective rape' goes viral
Luleki Sizwe, a small, all-volunteer group that campaigns for LGBT people, is based in Cape Town’s mostly poor black townships and rural areas. The organisation works with and supports women who have been victims of what has fast become a ubiquitous form of targeted sexual violence in South Africa: 'corrective rape' against gay women or women suspected of being gay, as a form of 'curing' them. A campaign of the organisation has garnered 130,000 signatures worldwide.
Global: State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet
The Worldwatch Institute's 2011 edition of their flagship 'State of the World' report is available. It looks at the global food crisis, with particular emphasis on global innovations that can help solve a worldwide problem. State of the World 2011 not only introduces the latest agro-ecological innovations and their global applicability but also gives broader insights into issues including poverty, international politics, and even gender equity.
Mauritius: Renewable Energy Gets a Boost
A new initiative to support production of renewable energy in Mauritius may provide a model for other countries to follow suit. 'We have got so much sunshine here,' says Andrea Gungadin, rector of the Hindu Girls College, a private educational institution in Curepipe, southern Mauritius. 'Why allow it to go waste when we can use it to produce electricity at a time when fossil fuel is becoming scarcer and more expensive?' The college, which has 1,400 students, is producing 14 KWh of clean electricity daily from a three kilowatt solar system mounted on its roof. This represents about a fifth of the school’s energy needs.
Kenya: Sordid history of tribal land rights emerges with assassination of activist
As slain land rights activist Moses Mpoe was laid to rest on 11 December, thousands of community members gathered to mourn and remember him, reports The Press Institute. During the funeral, murmurs circulated suggesting that senior government officials and their families were responsible for Mpoe’s assassination, as Mpoe played a major role in a court case that aimed to return more than 30,000 acres of land in the area known as Mau Narok to the Maasai community, a semi-nomadic people indigenous to East Africa who are known for their distinctive dress and customs.
South Africa: Land redistribution announcement needs back up
President Zuma’s latest plan to address stagnating land reform is a positive move, say land and agricultural experts, but clarification of the details, the input of all stakeholders, and government support for black farmers is crucial to its success. Speaking at the ANC’s 99th birthday bash in Polokwane this weekend, Zuma said land reform would be based on the de-racialisation of the rural economy to enable shared and sustained growth, as well as the democratic and equitable allocation of land across gender, race and class.
Africa: India puts food security at heart of Africa agenda
With barely months to go before the second India-Africa Forum Summit, India has said the Indian model of 'green revolution' had an appeal for African countries across the board and underlined that boosting agriculture and food security were at the heart of its engagement with the 53-nation African continent. 'Agriculture is without doubt at the forefront of India's engagement with Africa in the current transformation phase,' Gurjit Singh, joint secretary in charge of east and southern Africa, told experts at a seminar on exploring twin themes of food security and India-Africa relations in the context of South-South cooperation.
Global: The food price crisis and the World Bank’s blind spots
World Bank President Robert Zoellick, or at least his press team, responded promptly to last week’s concerns on a new food price spike with a comment piece in the Financial Times. It’s fascinating as much for what is missing as for what is in there, says this Oxfam blog. On the plus side, Zoellick gives due priority to food as ‘the essence of life’ and argues that the G20 needs to show leadership. But the whole piece seems to suffer from a straitjacket of free market ideology. Whatever the problem, the answer can’t go beyond liberalising trade and investment, voluntary codes of conduct, access to information, and improved aid and safety nets for those that fall through the cracks.
Gambia: State security agents forcibly close community radio station
State security agents ransacked Teranga FM last week, a community radio station located outside the capital, and ordered its closure, Reporters Without Borders has learned from various sources. Launched in 2009, Teranga FM is based in Sinju Alajie, about 20 km west of Banjul, the capital. It is funded by donations from the local population and advertising.
Malawi: Police arrest journalist
Police in Malawi have arrested a senior journalist with the sensational weekly tabloid which was briefly banned by authorities in October for not properly registering with the government. Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika has threatened to shut down newspapers he accused of lying that up to one million Malawians will need food aid.
Somalia: The deadliest place in Africa for journalists
Over the past four years, violence against journalists and other media professionals in Somalia has escalated to an alarming level. Somalia is now the most deadly state in Africa for journalists. According to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUOSJ), between 2007 and 2010, 22 journalists were targeted and murdered specifically for their journalism, 32 were wounded while conducting their journalistic work, 108 journalists were imprisoned, 200 journalists received death threats, and 250 journalists fled the country.
Tunisia: 'Please tell the world Kasserine is dying!'
Tunisian netizens are working around the clock to show the rest of the world the ongoing carnage in their country. Despite the fact that protesters on the ground are facing a heavy-handed response from the authorities, and cyber-activists are facing the same dilemma, photographs, testimonies and videos showing the daily mayhem are appearing online. Visit this Global Voices page to see a video of a protest in which shots are fired and photographs of the situation.
Tunisia: Pledge to free press vindicates journalists, says IFJ
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has welcomed the pledge from Tunisian President Ben Ali to allow press freedom and to end internet censorship, saying the move vindicates the long-running campaign for independence by journalists led by the Syndicat national des journalistes tunisiens (SNJT), an IFJ affiliate. 'We welcome this commitment to press freedom by President Ben Ali,' said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. 'It is long overdue and now he must make good on his promises.'
Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe stands by media fees policy
Zimbabwean government officials insisted on Friday that they would not back down from a plan to require journalists and media houses to pay higher registration fees. Foreign media outlets are now required to pay $6 000 to register in the country, up from $2 500. Zimbabwean journalists working for the foreign press need to pay an accreditation fee of $400 - up from $100.
Algeria: Is Revolt Contagious?
During the night of Wednesday, 5 January, young people took to the streets in the Algiers neighborhoods of Bab El Oued, Climat de France and Rais Hamidou to shout their anger at a socio-economic situation characterised by a high cost of living and unprecedented misery in such a rich country. Several other cities in the country also saw rioting, especially Oran, located west of Algiers, where young people ransacked several public buildings. The riots continued in other towns: Akbou and Tazmalt in Kabylie. This post from Global Voices contains links to commentary from bloggers about the protests, and a video showing some of the protest action.
Haiti: One year since the earthquake in Haiti
Last week marked the first anniversary of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that devastated the impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti, leaving a quarter of a million of its people dead, more than 300,000 injured, and approximately a million and a half homeless. One year after this natural disaster, the horrors facing Haiti’s population have only deepened, with a cholera epidemic claiming thousands of lives and a million left stranded in squalid tent camps.
Sudan: South Sudanese see new state as buffer to LRA
Yunis Egbaguru still lives in fear after she fled her village in south Sudan following an attack last month by the brutal Lord's Resistance Army, but she hopes an independent south will better protect her. Known for abducting young girls to serve as sex slaves and young boys to fight, the LRA fought Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's government from neighbouring Sudan's lawless south for nearly 20 years until 2005, when it was ejected from its bases and forced on the move.
Zambia: Calm after deadly protest
Relative calm returned to western Zambia Saturday though under heavy police patrols after Friday’s bloody protests left two people killed and nine wounded as activists pressed for secession of the region. Police shot dead two youths in an effort to crush Barotseland activists who wanted to hold a rally at Limulunga royal village in Mongu – about 600 kilometres west of the capital Lusaka – to discuss secession of the province.
Global: Net thinking
No matter how many times researchers caution about the tendency to exaggerate the impact of information technologies (ITs) as 'magic bullets' to address a host of development challenges, common talk is predictably techno-optimistic, says this article on the website of the Communication Initiative. Policy makers, the media and aid organisations usually throw nuance aside to hail the arrival of the latest technology.
Kenya: Google maps Korogocho slum
After mapping various key locations and landmarks in the country, Google is now mapping Korogocho, one of Nairobi's informal settlements. The mapping of Korogocho, an area with about 200,000 people, is meant to make it easier to identify streets, key structures and landmarks that were previously not mapped onto Google Maps. The mapping is done through Google Map Maker, a tool that allows people to help create a map by adding or editing features such as roads, businesses, parks, schools.
Tunisia: Citizens get a taste of internet freedom
Like many of its neighbours in the region, Tunisia has long approached the internet as a force to be censored. Tunisians are barred from accessing a wide variety of sites, from the seemingly innocuous YouTube to sites providing information on human rights in their country. Yet, in a surprising speech in which Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian president, announced that he will not run again for office, he also promised something long hoped-for by Tunisian netizens: Internet freedom.
South Africa: Behind the funding crisis for civil society
Traditional funding sources for NGOs are drying up and grants are being reduced due to various factors, says this article on http://www.ngopulse.org Externally, the fact that South Africa is viewed as a middle income economy has resulted in decreased funding opportunities. It has also been noted that the inadequate expenditure of funds by the South African government has contributed to the decrease in donor funding. The recent economic recession has seen some funding organisations in the United States merging to survive, just like their United Kingdom counterparts. Some have indicated that they intend to focus on programmes that are replicable regionally, say, in a number of countries within the Southern Africa Developing Countries (SADC).
Call for 2011 APSA Africa Workshop Fellows
APSA and the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) University of Nairobi, are pleased to announce a call for applications from individuals who would like to participate in a workshop on 'Representation Reconsidered: Ethnic Politics and Africa's Governance Institutions in Comparative Perspective' from 23 July to 6 August 2011, in Nairobi, Kenya. The 2011 APSA Africa Workshop will be led by Todd Eisenstadt and Carl LeVan, both of American University in Washington, DC, along with Josephine Ahikire from Makerere University in Uganda , and Karuti Kanyinga from the University of Nairobi, Kenya.
China's role in Africa's peace and security
Saferworld and the Africa Peace Forum are delighted to invite you to the report launch of China’s Growing Role in African Peace and Security. China is increasingly coming to play a larger role in Africa’s peace and security landscape. This event provides an opportunity for a panel of speakers to present their own views and perspectives on the topic.
Priority Africa Network’s First Annual Ubuntu Community Awards Dinner
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, one of the greatest writers, thinkers and philosophers of our time will be the keynote speaker on: Saturday, 22 January 2011, Waterfront Hotel at Jack London Square, 10 Washington St., Oakland.
Priority Africa Network’s First Annual Ubuntu* Community Awards Dinner
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, one of the greatest writers, thinkers and philosophers of our time will be the keynote speaker on:
Saturday, January 22, 2011
4:30 – 8:30 pm
Waterfront Hotel at Jack London Square, 10 Washington St., Oakland
Help us celebrate the this year’s honorees:
- Christiana Bendu Hunter, Association of Citizens and Friends of Liberia
- Gerald Lenoir, Black Alliance for Just Immigration
- Muadi Mukenge, Global Fund for Women
- Walter Turner, KPFA’s Africa Today
To purchase tickets in advance, go to Brown Paper Tickets
* 'Ubuntu, the essence of being human...you can't exist as a human being in isolation, it is about our interconnectedness.' Archbishop Desmond Tutu
For more information, visit www.priorityafrica.org or call us at (510) 663 2255, email: priorityafrica.org
Advocacy Programme Assistant
African Women's Communication and Development Network
This position provides the opportunity to support existing advocacy coalitions and campaigns on women's human rights in a stimulating, multicultural and dynamic environment.
Associate Programme Officer (Advocacy)/Associate Programme Officer (Information and research)
Refugee Consortium of Kenya (RCK)
Associate Programme Officer (Advocacy): The job purpose is to contribute to the achievement of RCK mission of improving refuges welfare by influencing polices, systems, structures and practices of the Government, UNHCR and partners though lobbying and advocacy.
Associate Programme Officer (Information and research): The job purpose is to contribute to the achievement of RCK information/ research programme by assisting the programme officer in coordinating and performance of activities such as sourcing of materials, liaising with the media, research institutions and disseminating information.
Mozambique: Drugs and open secrets 'wikileaked'
The first Wikileaks cables from the US Embassy in Maputo revived the discussion on narcotics smuggling that had happened in mid 2010, reports Global Voices. Back then, the US Treasury added Mozambican businessman Mohamed Bachir Suleman to its list of international drug kingpins, sanctioning his businesses by freezing their US-held assets and preventing Americans from doing business with them. Suleman was one of a list of only 87 individuals globally.
Tanzania: Airline deal saga deepens
Air Tanzania managing director, Mr David Mattaka, allegedly proposed the use of an 'agent' to push for a multi-billion shillings fleet modernisation deal with American plane maker – Boeing. The claim, in a confidential diplomatic communication from the US embassy in Dar es Salaam, says the ATCL boss implied that the middleman would help to push for the deal that the embassy officials pegged at some $537 million (Sh750 billion) in sales. Mattaka vehemently dismissed the reports and said he did not at any time do what is being claimed in the memos, reports Tanzania's The Citizen newspaper.
Tunisia: US knew of corruption
A four-part series of US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks shows that the US knew about the extent of corruption and discontent in Tunisia, and chose to support Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the now deposed Tunisian president, regardless. Written in June of 2006 by William Hudson, the US ambassador to Tunisia, the memos were composed just four months after Donald Rumsfeld, the then-US secretary of defence, visited Tunisia to discuss expanding military ties between the two countries.
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