Pambazuka News 513: Patrice Lumumba: Tributes to a fallen giant
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Highlights from this issue
WOMEN AND GENDER: New report examines the rights of girls in urban and ICT contexts
HUMAN RIGHTS: Kenyan police allegedly execute suspects; Concern over detention of Sudanese rights defenders
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Displaced Ivory Coast children at risk
EMERGING POWERS NEWS: The latest emerging powers news
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: Reports and papers from the Conference of the Democratic Left in South Africa
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Protests against interim Tunisian government; Injuries in Algerian pro-democracy march
CORRUPTION: Legal challenge to blanket immunity given to BAE over Tanzania deal
DEVELOPMENT: Up to $1-trillion in illicit financial flows yearly, says OECD
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: Poor countries with IMF loans divert aid from public health, says new Oxford University-led research
EDUCATION: World Bank education plan fails because it does not see education as a human right, says commentary
LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: New study on large scale investments in land
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Trade unions launch campaign for responsible media in Africa
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: UN reinforces peacekeepers in Côte d’Ivoire; Nigeria urges use of force in Côte d’Ivoire
WIKILEAKS AND AFRICA: Africa’s uranium hazard, Bongo’s millions, Mbeki’s Cope and Tunisia’s corruption…
PLUS…Internet and Technology, e-newsletters and mailing lists, fundraising, courses and jobs…
Tribute to Patrice Lumumba on the 50th anniversary of his assassination
Malcolm X, speaking at a rally of the Organisation of Afro-American Unity in 1964, described Patrice Emery Lumumba as ’the greatest black man who ever walked the African continent. He didn’t fear anybody. He had those people [the colonialists] so scared they had to kill him. They couldn’t buy him, they couldn’t frighten him, they couldn’t reach him.’
This was three years after Lumumba was assassinated by Belgian mercenaries in the breakaway state of Katanga (southern Congo).
Why was Lumumba killed? Because he was a relentless, dedicated, intelligent, passionate anti-colonialist, Pan-Africanist and Congolese nationalist; because he had the unstinting support of the Congolese masses; because he stood in the way of Belgium’s plan to transform Congo from a colony into a neo-colony.
Until the mid-1950s, the nationalist movement had been dominated by the small Congolese middle class. It was not a radical movement; it was composed of clerical workers, mid-level army officers, supervisors and so on, who were getting a cut of the enormous profits Belgium was making out of Congo. They opposed direct colonialism in the sense that they disliked white rule and were sick of being second-class citizens in their own country; however, the basic economic institutions of colonialism suited them quite well. They were scared by the Congolese masses – the peasants, the workers, who worked in slave-like conditions for a pittance, and who bore the brunt of the famines and the genocidal actions of the colonisers.
The masses wanted control. They wanted the Belgians out, not just moved from the front seat to the back seat. They didn’t want white oppressors to be replaced with black oppressors; they wanted freedom and justice; they wanted democracy; they wanted nationalisation; they wanted to be listened to; they wanted to rule.
Lumumba was the key figure in mobilising these masses. Joining the nationalist movement around 1955, he quickly grew disillusioned with the middle class elite and addressed himself to the most oppressed sections of society. The peasants and workers of Congo were constantly radicalising him. He developed a clear strategy for total decolonisation, to be brought about on the basis of broad political action by the masses.
In 1958, he and others formed the broad-based Mouvement National Congolais (MNC), which immediately established itself as the key organisation in the struggle against colonial rule.
The Belgians and their friends in the ‘international community’ were shocked by the pace of development of the nationalist movement. In the mid-1950s, Belgium – which had exercised the most vicious, murderous, plunderous rule over Congo – was confident that it would retain its African colony for at least another century. However, by 1959, the MNC had gained such popularity and credibility that the Belgians knew their time was up.
But they had a backup plan: To replace traditional colonialism (white rule, backed by a military occupation) with neo-colonialism (black rule in white interests, backed with Belgian money, advisers and mercenaries). That way, Belgium’s theft of Congo’s sumptuous natural wealth (including massive reserves of coltan, diamonds, copper, zinc and cobalt) would continue uninterrupted.
Reading the writing on the wall, the Belgians decided to grant independence much sooner than anybody was expecting, in the hope that they would prevent the further growth of the nationalist movement; that it would be denied the chance to develop a coherent organisational structure and would therefore be heavily reliant on Belgium’s assistance. However, Lumumba had rallied the best elements of the nationalist movement around him and clearly had no intention of capitulating.
At the independence day celebrations on 30 June 1960, Belgian King Baudouin made it perfectly clear that he expected Belgium to have a leading role in determining Congo’s future. In his speech, he chose not to mention such unpleasant moments in history as the murder by Belgian troops of 10 million Congolese in 20 years for failing to meet rubber collection quotas. Instead he advised the Congolese to stay close to their Belgian ‘friends’: ‘Don’t compromise the future with hasty reforms, and don’t replace the structures that Belgium hands over to you until you are sure you can do better… Don’t be afraid to come to us. We will remain by your side and give you advice.’
He and his cohort were therefore shocked when Lumumba, newly elected as prime minister, took the stage and told his countrymen that ‘no Congolese worthy of the name will ever be able to forget that it is by struggle that we have won [our independence], a struggle waged each and every day, a passionate idealistic struggle, a struggle in which no effort, privation, suffering, or drop of our blood was spared.’
Referring clearly to Belgium, Lumumba stated that ‘we will count not only on our enormous strength and immense riches but on the assistance of numerous foreign countries whose collaboration we will accept if it is offered freely and with no attempt to impose on us an alien culture of no matter what nature’.
Lumumba, caring nothing for being polite to the Belgian dignitaries in the audience, concluded: ‘Glory to the fighters for national liberation! Long live independence and African unity! Long live the independent and sovereign Congo!’
Ludo de Witte writes of this historic speech: ‘Lumumba [spoke] in a language the Congolese thought impossible in the presence of a European, and those few moments of truth feel like a reward for eighty years of domination. For the first time in the history of the country, a Congolese has addressed the nation and set the stage for the reconstruction of Congolese history. By this one act, Lumumba has reinforced the Congolese people’s sense of dignity and self confidence.’ (The Assassination of Lumumba)
The Belgians, along with the other colonialist nations, were horrified at Lumumba’s stance. The western press was filled with words of venom aimed at this humble but brilliant man – a man who dared to tell Europe that Africa didn’t need it. The French newspaper ‘La Gauche’ noted that ‘the press probably did not treat Hitler with as much rage and virulence as they did Patrice Lumumba.’
In the first few months of independence, Belgium and its western allies busied themselves whipping up all kinds of political and regional strife; this led to pro-Belgium armies being set up in the regions of Katanga and Kasai and declaring those regions to be independent states. This was of course a massive blow to the new Congolese state. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Belgians (along with their friends in France and the US, and with the active support of the UN leadership) developed plans for a coup d’état that would remove Lumumba from power. This was effected on 14 September, not even three months after independence.
But even under house arrest, Lumumba was a dangerous threat to colonial interests. He was still providing leadership to the masses of Congolese people, and he still had the support of the majority of the army. Therefore the Belgians connived with the CIA and with their Uncle Tom stooges in Congo to murder Lumumba. That Belgium is most responsible for Lumumba’s death is amply proven in Ludo De Witte’s book, ‘The Assassination of Lumumba’. Furthermore, the UN leadership was complicit, in the sense that it could very easily have put a stop to this murderous act.
Lumumba, along with three other leading nationalists, was assassinated by firing squad (led by white Belgian officials in the Katangan police force), after several days of beatings and torture.
When the news of Lumumba’s murder broke, there was outrage around the world, especially in Africa and Asia. Demonstrations were organised in dozens of capital cities. In Cairo, thousands of protesters stormed the Belgian embassy, tore down King Baudouin’s portrait and put Lumumba’s up in its place, and then proceeded to burn down the building.
Sadly, with Lumumba and other leading nationalists out of the way, the struggle for Congo’s freedom suffered a severe setback, which was not to be reversed for over three decades.
There are a lot of important lessons to learn from this key moment in the history of anti-colonial struggle; lessons that many people have not yet fully taken on board. As Che Guevara said: ‘We must move forward, striking out tirelessly against imperialism. From all over the world we have to learn lessons which events afford. Lumumba’s murder should be a lesson for all of us.’
To this day, western governments and media organisations use every trick in the book to divide and rule oppressed people, to stir up strife, to create smaller states that can be more easily controlled. To this day, they use character assassination as a means of ‘justifying’ their interventions against third world governments – just look at how they painted Aristide in Haiti, or how they paint Chavez, Castro and many others. To this day, ‘UN intervention’ often means intervention on the side of the oppressors. To this day, the intelligence services use every illegal and dishonest means to destabilise and cause confusion. We all fall for these tricks far too often.
On the bright side, the past decade has been one of historic advances; advances that point the way towards a different and much brighter future. The political, economic, military and cultural dominance of imperialism is starting to wane. As Seumas Milne pointed out at the recent Equality Movement meeting, the war on terror has exposed the limits of western military power. Meanwhile, the economic crisis has started to discredit the entire neoliberal model. The rise of China, the wave of progressive change in Latin America, the emergence of other important third world players – these all indicate a very different future.
In Congo itself, progress is being made, although it often seems frustratingly slow (principally because the West is still sponsoring armies in support of its economic interests). But, as De Witte writes, ‘the crushing weight of the [Mobutu] dictatorship has been shaken off’. We can’t overstate the importance of this step.
As we all move forward together against imperialism, colonialism and racism, we should keep Lumumba’s legacy in our hearts and minds.
‘Neither brutal assaults, nor cruel mistreatment, nor torture have ever led me to beg for mercy, for I prefer to die with my head held high, unshakable faith and the greatest confidence in the destiny of my country rather than live in slavery and contempt for sacred principles. History will one day have its say; it will not be the history taught in the United Nations, Washington, Paris, or Brussels, however, but the history taught in the countries that have rid themselves of colonialism and its puppets. Africa will write its own history and both north and south of the Sahara it will be a history full of glory and dignity … I know that my country, now suffering so much, will be able to defend its independence and its freedom. Long live the Congo! Long live Africa!’ (Lumumba’s last letter to his wife, Pauline).
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* Carlos Martinez is a London-based political analyst who focuses on issues on racism and culture, and runs the website Beat Knowledge.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Rumba, Lumumba and I
‘We are going to show the world what the black man can do when he works in freedom, and we are going to make Congo the center of the sun's radiance for all of Africa.’ – Patrice Lumumba, independence speech, 30 June 30 1960
Like some of my contemporaries, I grew up on the music of Zaire (as it was known then), today known as Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Born to parents who represented Kenya’s young and hopeful independence civil servants, the tunes of Franco, Tabu Ley, Simaru and Madilu System remain a nostalgic feature of my past and active part of my present. The possibilities of pan-Africanism were relayed unconsciously and on a daily basis to me through these and other African musical encounters. In fact, my education on the social and political context of the DRC was anchored from a very early age on the musical commentary of these artists. A fuller understanding of the country and its complexities were however developed through my ‘interaction’ with Patrice Lumumba in history classes in secondary school in Kenya.
I remember Lumumba best for his unflinching independence speech in which he made it clear that the fact of Belgium granting Congo independence was not something to be grateful for. He recalled the servitude, abuse and denigration that Congolese had faced at the hands of the Belgian colonial government. His supposedly ‘dangerous revolutionary utterances’, as described by then UN secretary general Dag Hammerskojld, had made him an uncomfortable candidate for the country’s leadership, despite being on record as the only democratically elected prime minister. Begrudgingly included in the independence negotiations and sworn in as prime minister by the Belgians, Lumumba was constructed as dangerous because he did not ‘cotton’ to the coloniser in his expectation that Africans were equal and would negotiate cooperation on the basis of equity and in due recognition of the colonisers role in debilitating the human resource of the country. The fact that at independence Congo had a ‘handful’ of graduates made the task of corralling a diverse country, people and natural resource rich context, where many international interests played out, an impossible task. This is a reality we continue to witness today.
‘Africa will write its own history, and it will be, to the north and to the south of the Sahara, a history of glory and dignity.’ – Patrice Lumumba
Lumumba, like his counterparts such as Thomas Sankara, believed in the imperative of African unity as a prerequisite for a formidable economic and political force to enable a ‘working’ relationship with the West after a history of deplorable subjugation. Such an approach would serve to ascertain a place that did not produce Africa and Africans as ‘other’ and consistently constructed in ‘opposition’ to the West. Lumumba in retrospect did not necessarily represent an ideology or an approach that differed radically from other independence leaders of the pan-African extraction. He believed in the need to re-craft ‘African culture’, which, un-problematised, is a tenuous proposal as can be seen in the deleterious effects of Mobutu Seseseko’s approach to ‘Africanising’ Congo. The ‘dangerous revolutionary’ nonetheless presented exuberance, youthfulness and a belief in ideological grounding as the basis for conceptualising change and informing leadership. Unlike Sankara, who had some time to implement his policies aimed at destabilsing the structural roots of inequality, Lumumba’s possibilities were cut short.
Congo’s radiance and Africa’s dignity as foreseen by Lumumba faced two key challenges. The first was an international community vested in balkanisation and exploitation that continues uninhibited today. The second was the presence of a comprador bourgeoisie -a political elite -invested in amassing personal wealth and instrumentalising power. These challenges remain germane to Congo today and also form the corpus of leadership problems affecting a number of African countries. Being cognisant of the continuity of these challenges despite their metamorphosis into new forms such as negotiated leadership pacts, land grabs or economic partnership agreements requires that our approaches to confronting the construction of the ‘impossibility’ of Africa and African leadership must shift radically. It is to the factors that have inhibited the possibilities of ‘Congo’s radiance’, that stand out for me on the anniversary of Lumumba’s death and which I will turn to now. This piece is not intended to be an in-depth political and/or economic analysis of what is a complex country and conflict.
THE CHALLENGE OF CONGO
It would be less complex to retreat into an analysis that places the ‘challenge’ of Congo squarely on the Scramble for Africa. This historical colonial dynamic resulted in the creation of a country that was disproportionately large and which for all intents and purposes was crafted in this way due to the vast repositories of natural resources that were found within one territory.
However, the key question to my mind remains the need to reflect on what mechanisms could have been put in place by subsequent African governments to not only ensure that controlling interests of these natural resources remain with the country and not individuals, but also ascertains the redistribution of resources across the country.
Political theories that develop the idea of clientelist and patrimonial states see them as being purposefully constructed by elites to promote their interests in capital accumulation as a means to maintain power and adapt to the historical constraints of the post-colonial environment. This is done by constructing informal mechanisms of social control and capital accumulation. The chequered political history of Congo highlights how various regimes - through a range of patron-client relations - systematically plundered and accumulated the country’s resources for the benefit of a few.
The attempt at a federal form of government through the cessation of Katanga in 1960 reflects the ways in which regional territories within the Congo have been unable to cohere sectional interests for the benefit of the collective. Ethnicity, religion and class have subsequently become useful mobilisation tools that sustain skewed governance arrangements that see one section of the country positively budding while other sections languish from a lack of basic needs.
The international interests in keeping the Congo conflict alive are evident in the advantages it offers in the seemingly symbiotic relationships used to frame negotiations with various warring groups or post conflict regimes. What would ordinarily be highly lucrative income generating opportunities for national governments result in theft of intellectual property rights and unrestricted repatriation of a corporation’s profits. In exchange for the provision of basic but core services such as health, education and infrastructure, national reserves are signed away leaving governments with a limited controlling interest. Instead the political elite are strategically positioned within the multi-national corporations. A political economy analysis reveals the ways in which competing rules between formal and informal institutions generates shifting coalitions that contribute to the appearance of authority, collapse and/or legitimacy of different groups.
The crisis in the Congo has therefore thrived on a globalised economy of plunder that is sustained by the continuity of the conflict. The mismanagement of Congo’s natural resources highlights an ongoing challenge in many other parts of the continent - Liberia, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe to mention a few, in addition to the burgeoning land crisis across most parts of Africa. Effective governance of natural resources is reflective of a larger leadership/governance question and in the Congo it is manifest in peculiarities such as the sheer size of the country, compounded by inaccessibility of vast sections of the country via a reliable road, rail and air network.
THE COMPRADOR BOURGEOISIE
Colonialism may have interrupted the potential for effective institutions and systems, but when systems of accountability have evolved either through sub-regional mechanisms or through the African Union how do we ensure that these institutions benefit the majority and not oligarchies?
Perhaps this challenge lies in what Olonisakin (2010) has variously described as elite pacts that are not new occurrences to the continent. I argue that most pre-independence negotiations - whether these were through the Lancaster house meetings for countries such as Kenya and Zimbabwe or in the case of Congo – the Brussels Conference where Lumumba’s presence had to be ‘lobbied’ for despite the overwhelming majority by the MNC (Mouvement National Congolais) in the pre-independence elections - were complex compromises between various elites.
The ongoing conflict in the Congo has laid bare its configurations not only in terms of the territorial interest as exercised by neighbouring countries, but also in the complex web of legal and illegal networks that sustain the conflict. The distinction between organised crime and war, especially as it plays out in the Congo, is becoming blurred. These organised networks are facilitated by the presence of a comprador bourgeoisie that is bound to multi-national corporations in its interest in the accumulation of personal wealth. Often sitting in strategic positions, either in government or within strategic sectors of the economy, the comprador bourgeoisie masquerade on occasion as a national bourgeoisie interested in the economic growth of the country through nationalisation or privatisation. The fact that national resources often end up redistributed amongst a group of oligarchs and not to the majority of citizenry indicates the spuriousness of the nationalist claims. In the Congo, the comprador bourgeoisie, as represented through the figures of Mobutu and Tshombe, set the stage quite early for political patronage and plunder.
The significance of the elite pact theory here lies in the continued relationship between the comprador bourgeoisie and the colonial masters, represented today by the intricate web of multinational and local actors. The place of the individual – in the figure of Lumumba representing pan-Africanism and its national antecedents - is thwarted. The challenge lies in the ability to merge individual/s, political and ideological ideals of leadership into systems that work beyond a specific regime.
Nonetheless, the opportunity today lies in the existence of a revived African Union that creates the potential for effective norm and standard setting. The political crisis in the Ivory Coast yet again could serve as a useful test to assess whether collectively African nations can hold each other accountable to basic principles of effective governance. While I am not one to wax lyrical about the power of the collective in holding the nation accountable, there is potential for setting a precedent on minimum standards of ‘good behavior’. Such precedence however, may demand exclusion, criteria for inclusion and creation of a pool ‘stakes’ for members.
The place of the ‘individual renegade’ such as Lumumba and ‘authentic’ pan-African ideals that do not masquerade as comprador or national bourgeois interests are currently limited by the fact that the stakes for exclusion by the collective (such as the African Union) are non-existent, while the role of neutral arbiters (other African states and the international community) is compromised by their complicity as state or non-state actors in elite pacts.
The brilliance of the Rumba that I grew up on was in the number of greats who worked collectively and alone. Franco and his orchestra was home to Simaru and Madilu System - grande maîtres in their own right. They also inspired a host of younger Congolese musicians. The challenge of the figurative Lumumba remains in the solitary and perhaps splintered nature of the revolution. The ‘dangerous revolutionary’ is still ‘unable’ to beget other renegades who can sustain the collective space for the revolution. If the words of Thomas Sankara (’while revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas’) are taken to hold some truth, then on the anniversary of Lumumba’s death I muse over the possibilities of many latter day Lumumba’s challenging governments from within, not only for Congo’s radiance but for Africa’s dignity.
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* Awino Okech is based at the University of Cape Town.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Patrice Lumumba: The rise and assassination of an African patriot
Patrice Lumumba is, next to Nelson Mandela, the iconic figure who most readily comes to mind when Africa is discussed in relation to its struggle against imperialism and racism.
Mandela suffered tremendously. But he won.
Lumumba, on the other hand, lost - he lost power, he lost his country, and in the end, he lost his life. All were forcibly taken from him by a combination of forces that was probably the most powerful ever deployed against a single individual in history. Ludo De Witte, in his book, ‘The Assassination of Patrice Lumumba’, calls Lumumba’s murder ‘the most important political assassination in the 20th century’.
The amazing thing is that Lumumba had done absolutely nothing against those who wanted his blood. They just saw him as a threat to their interests; interests narrowly defined to mean, ‘His country has got resources. We want them. He might not give them to us. So let us go kill him.’
I insist, though, that he should not be seen only as a victim of forces too powerful for him to contend with. On the contrary, he should be seen as someone who fully recognised the power of the forces ranged against him and fought valiantly with every ounce of breath in his body and with great intelligence to try and save his country.
Thus, we can see in the history of the African people’s struggle in the 20th century, Mandela and Lumumba representing the two ends of the pole that swung within the axis that marked the fulcrum of the struggle. The two men represent the beacon of light that shines sharply to bring absolute clarity into the evaluation of a history that is often mired in obfuscation and mendacity.
To those who say, ‘How wonderful it was to see in Mandela, the issue of oppression so peacefully resolved’, we need only point to that picture of Patrice Lumumba, a torturer’s hand in his hair, as he was brutalised in a truck by black Kantangese soldiers at Elizabethville (now Kisangani).
In that picture of Lumumba, serious students can espy unseen hands, steered by a ‘heart of darkness’, bribing, mixing poisons, assembling rifles with telescopic sights, and finally propping an elected prime minister against a tree in the bush and riddling his body with bullets.
And then - could even Joseph Conrad, in his worst nightmarish ramblings, have imagined this? - first burying Lumumba’s body, then exhuming it a day later because the burial ground was too close to a road, and then hacking it to pieces, and shoving the pieces into a barrel filled with sulphuric acid, to dissolve it.
And could Joseph Conrad have been able to picture the murderer making sure to break off two front teeth from Lumumba’s jaw, to keep as a memento to show off to the grand-children in Brussels in years to come? As well as one of the bullets that killed him? If Shakespeare could write black comedy, we might have got dialogue like this:
‘Grandpa, what didst thou do in the Congo?’
‘I exterminated Lumumba - and mark thee, that’s why I live in comfortable retirement and, never ye forget this - that’s wherefore ye went to such expensive schools. Here - see? Two of his very teeth that I broke off and brought home! And this - the bullet that finished the job!’
A Belgian, nearly 60 years after Conrad published his ‘Heart of Darkness’ and 57 years after Roger Casement and E. D. Morel had made what they hoped was a definitive exposure of the crimes King Leopold The Second of Belgium had committed against the Congolese people could still engage in such barbarities against a leader elected on the basis of a constitution signed into law by Leopold The Second’s own grandson, King Baudoin the first.
That sordid crime in the bush near Elizabethville 50 years ago was the logical conclusion of a bitter and vigorous campaign that Belgium, aided by the United States, waged in the Congo in 1960 to ensure that Patrice Lumumba would never get a chance to rule the country that elected him to be its leader. Because of the action of Belgium and the United States, we actually do not know whether Lumumba would have made a good ruler or not. Which makes him even more important to history: for he was not assassinated merely as a person, but as an idea. What was that idea?
It was the idea of a Congo that was fully independent, non-aligned, and committed to African unity. Lumumba’s party, the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC), was the only one in the Congo to organise itself successfully as a party that saw the Congo as one country, not as a conglomeration of ethnic groups. Thus, it gained 33 out of the 137 seats in the Congolese Parliament. From this relatively strong base, Lumumba was able to inspire others with his vision and thereby to hatch alliances that enabled the MNC to command an overall majority of seats in the Congolese Parliament.
When Lumumba was appointed prime minister by the Belgians, many of the Belgians in the Congo and in Belgium itself thought the heavens had fallen in. For he was not the Belgians’ first choice. They tried other Congolese ‘leaders’ (such as Joseph Kasavubu) and it was only when these failed to garner adequate support that they unwillingly called on Lumumba.
The magnitude of the achievement of the MNC in organising itself as a nationwide party, and managing to hatch viable alliances, is not often appreciated, because few people realise that the Congo is as big in size as all the countries of Western Europe put together.
(As for Belgium itself, it is outrageous that it should have wanted to run the Congo in the first place - the Congo is 905,563 square miles in size, compared to Belgium’s puny 11,780 sq. miles. In other words, Belgium arrogated to itself the task of ruling a country more than eight times its size.)
Not only is Congo huge, but think of a country the size of Western Europe that does not have good roads, railway systems, telecommunications facilities or modern airports. And a Western Europe in which political parties are legalised only one year before vital elections.
The only thing to add is that in the Congo, the first nationwide local elections held in 1959, which saw the emergence of the MNC, were even more crucial, for it was those elections that were to assess the strength of the various ‘parties’ (in effect, ethnic movements) that would take part in deciding the future constitutional arrangements under which the country would be governed. Who knew, perhaps the independence that Ghana (1957) and Guinea (1958) had achieved, might even come Congo’s way and those elected might become ministers, who would form the first government of a new, independent Congo, after nearly 100 years of the most brutal colonial rule inflicted on an African country by a European ruler.
By the time the Belgians felt the need to call a constitutional conference in Brussels to decide how the new Congo was to be ruled, Lumumba was in prison. Again. (He had earlier been imprisoned on a charge of embezzlement while he was a postal clerk. It needs to be pointed out that the charge was brought against him while he was away in Brussels, touring the country at the invitation of the Belgian government. Was someone trying to blight a future political career?
The charge on which he went to prison a second time was more in line with colonial practice. What was that charge? ‘Inciting a riot.’ Where have we heard that before? Those who know African history can immediately see the parallels with what happened in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi: it was precisely the same colonial criminal code that had put Kwame Nkrumah in prison in Ghana in 1950, and in a slightly more tortuous manner, Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya in 1953 and Kamuzu Banda in Nyasaland in 1959.
Again, like Nkrumah in Ghana, Lumumba’s party, the MNC, contested local (provincial) council elections in 1959, while its leader was still in jail, and surprise, surprise, it too won a sweeping victory, as the electorate made no mistake in recognising why the leader had been jailed. In its main stronghold of Stanleyville, Lumumba’s party obtained no less than 90 per cent of the votes.
So, when in January 1960, the Belgian government invited all Congolese parties to a roundtable conference in Brussels to discuss political change and write a new constitution for the country, and the MNC refused to participate unless Lumumba was at its head, the Belgian government had no choice but to release Lumumba from prison and fly him to Brussels. It was at this conference that Lumumba showed his mettle - rising above the divisive politics that the Belgians wanted to promote among the various ethnic groupings, and uniting them on one central objective - independence. He managed to get a date agreed for independence – 30 June 1960.
Lumumba returned from Brussels to contest the national elections that were held in May 1960: a mere one month to independence. I draw your attention again to the huge size of the Congo and the absence of anything in the country that resembled adequate infrastructure. This made it well-nigh impossible to campaign for elections on a national scale and of the 50 parties that put up candidates only two - Lumumba’s MNC and the Parti National du Progrès or PNP bothered to field candidates in provinces other than where their leadership originated from.
Here is how the larger of the 50 parties that took part in the May 1960 general election performed:
MNC-L [L for Lumumba] was strongest in Oriental Province (Eastern Congo) and was led by Patrice Lumumba. It won nearly a quarter of the seats in the lower house of the Congolese Parliament (33 out of 137) - thus garnering the highest number of seats for any single party.
In the province of Léopoldville, Parti Solidaire Africain or PSA (led by Antoine Gizenga) narrowly defeated the ABAKO party of Joseph Kasavubu).
In Katanga province, Confédération des Associations Tribales de Katanga or CONAKAT, led by Moise Tshombé, won narrowly over its main rival, the Association Générale des Baluba de Katanga, or BALUBAKAT, led by Jason Sendwe.
In Kivu, the Centre de Regroupement Africain, CEREA of Anicet Kashamura, won but didn't obtain a majority. MNC-L came second there. MNC-L also won in Kasaï, despite being obliged to fight against a splinter faction that had become MNC-K (under the leadership of Albert Kalonji, Joseph Iléo and Cyrille Adoula). In the Eastern province, the MNC-L won a clear majority over the PNP, its only major adversary. Finally, in the province of Equateur, PUNA (led by Jean Bolikango and UNIMO (led by Justin Bomboko) were the victors.
But as stated above, it was not Lumumba who, based on his performance at the elections, was first called upon by the Belgians to try to form a government. That honour went, instead, to the ABAKO leader, Joseph Kasavubu. But he failed, and it was then that Lumumba was asked to form a government. To the Belgians’ surprise, Lumumba succeeded in doing so. He clobbered together a coalition whose members were:
UNC and COAKA (Kasaï), CEREA (Kivu), PSA (Léopoldville) and BALUBAKAT (Katanga). The parties in opposition to the coalition were PNP, MNC-K (Kasaï), ABAKO (Léopoldville), CONAKAT (Katanga), PUNA and UNIMO (Equateur) and RECO (Kivu).
It was at this stage that Lumumba demonstrated how far-sighted he was. He convinced his coalition partners that the opposition parties should å≈not be ignored and he proposed that they should elect Joseph Kasavubu, the ABAKO leader, as President of the Republic. Lumumba’s coalition partners agreed, and the deal was announced on 24 June 1960.
But unfortunately, Lumumba signed his own death warrant in appointing Kasavubu out of the best of intentions. In doing so, he implanted a poisonous Belgian wasp into his bosom. Lumumba’s action was acclaimed as an act of statesmanship and was endorsed by a vote of confidence in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.
However, the Belgians began to use what would have been Lumumba’s political strengths against him. They now cultivated Kasavubu, filling his head with sweet words about how Lumumba was young and inexperienced, whereas Kasavubu was experienced and sagacious, as recognised in Brussels. He must not allow any ‘impulsive’ acts of the young Prime Minister to go unchallenged. And they backed their flattery with massive sums of money.
Even more important, the Belgians planted into the office of the Prime Minister (Lumumba) as his principal aide, a former soldier called Joseph Mobutu. Mobutu had been recruited as an agent by the Belgians, while attending the Exhibition of Brussels, following which he stayed on in Belgium as a student of ‘journalism’. With his military background, it would not have been difficult to teach him the tricks of espionage, instead. When Lumumba arrived in Belgium, straight from prison, to attend the constitutional conference, Mobutu befriended him - no doubt on Belgian instructions. Mobutu later joined the MNC and gained Lumumba’s confidence. At independence, he was well placed to be put in charge of defence at the Prime Minister’s office, given his seven years’ service in the Congolese army, the Force Publique. Prompted by his Belgian paymasters, Mobutu worked very closely with Kasavubu in secret to undermine the new Prime Minister.
Now, on becoming Prime Minister, Lumumba had come very far indeed - and the distance between where he had sprung from and the complexities of political life marked by Belgian and American intrigues against him cannot be over-emphasised. Lumumba (his full name was Patrice Emery) was born on 2 July 1925, in the village of Onalua, in Kasai Province. His ethnic group, the Batetela, was small in comparison to such bigger groups in Kasai as the Baluba and the Bakongo. This gave him an advantage, for unlike politicians from big ethnic groups, no-one feared ‘domination’ from his side. He therefore found it easier to attract would-be political partners from other ethnic groups.
Lumumba attended a Protestant mission school, after which he went to work in Kindu-Port-Empain, about 600km from Kisangani. There, he became active in the club of ‘educated Africans’, whom the Belgians called the ‘évolués’. He began to write essays and poems for Congolese journals. Next, Lumumba moved to Léopoldville (now Kinshasa) to work as a postal clerk and went on to become an accountant in the post office in Stanleyville (now Kisangani). There he continued to contribute to the Congolese press.
In 1955 Lumumba became regional president of an all-Congolese trade union of government employees. This union, unlike other unions in the country, was not affiliated to any Belgian trade union. He also became active in the Belgian Liberal Party in the Congo. In 1956, Lumumba was invited with others to make a study tour of Belgium under the auspices of the Minister of Colonies. On his return he was arrested on a charge of embezzlement from the post office. He was convicted and condemned to 12 months' imprisonment and a fine.
It was shortly after Lumumba got out of prison that he became really active in politics. In October 1958, he founded the Congolese National Movement, NMC. Two months later, in December 1958, he travelled to Accra, Ghana, to attend the first All-African People's Conference. I was working in the newsroom of Radio Ghana at the time, and was posted to Accra airport, to meet delegates to the conference, who were arriving at all sorts of odd hours.
I remember Lumumba because of his goatee beard and his glasses, which gave him the look of an intellectual. My French was not up to scratch, but with the help of an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I was able to talk to him for a while before he was whisked away by an official car. He expressed his happiness to be in Accra, to seek inspiration from Ghana, the first British colony to achieve independence, and to exchange ideas with other freedom fighters.
Lumumba and other French-speaking delegates did not get much of a look-in at the plenary conference, as far as the Ghanaian public was concerned, because people generally don’t react well to translated speeches, which take twice the time to make a speech in a language that is understood. But I also think that delegates like Lumumba, who came from repressive colonial regimes, were protected from the press as they could be penalized on their return home, if they made any statements that did not please their colonial masters.
The star of the conference was Tom Mboya of Kenya, who made a great impression with his command of the English language. ‘In 1885, the Europeans came and carried out a “scramble for Africa”,’ Mboya said. ‘We are now telling them to scram from Africa!’ This statement of Mboya’s was quoted widely around the world. Within a few years, he was Dead - struck down by an assassin.
The All-African People’s Conference of December 1958 was notable not for the speeches made or the resolutions passed, but for the personal contacts that were made behind the scenes. The conference was the brain-child of Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s Advisor on African Affairs, George Padmore. Now, Padmore was a most experienced operator in international politics, having been in charge of the Comintern’s section that dealt with African and black trade union matters, in the 1930s. He was a most intelligent and courageous operator: basing himself in Russia, Hamburg and Finland, he befriended sailors of all colours, and was thus able to smuggle revolutionary literature - and personal messages - to anti-colonial politicians in Africa and all over the world where contacts with communist organisations were illegal. He also made several visits, incognito to African countries, including Ghana or the Gold Coast, as it was before it gained its independence.
Padmore’s devotion to the black cause was so strong that when Josef Stalin ordered him to tone down his attacks on Britain, France and other European colonialists, with whom Stalin had struck an alliance, during the Second World War, Padmore resigned from the Comintern.
This was a most dangerous thing to do, because Josef Stalin did not brook opposition. Padmore knew that he could be chased around and murdered - like Leon Trotsky. Indeed, the Kremlin tried to smear Padmore, claiming falsely that he had embezzled funds, but he defended himself effectively. He ended up in London where he set up as a writer of books and campaigner on anti-colonial issues.
In London, Padmore became the mentor of many young African students who were later to achieve fame in the independence movements of their countries later. It was he who met Kwame Nkrumah when Nkrumah arrived in London as a student from the USA in May 1945. A strong bond of friendship grew between them and together, they organised the most famous Pan-African Conference of all – that at Manchester in October 1945.
Nkrumah returned to Ghana in 1947 and organised the Convention People’s Party (CPP), with which he fought for and won independence for Ghana on 6 March 1957. In his Independence Day speech at the New Polo Ground in Accra, Nkrumah told the whole world that ‘The Independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the whole African continent.’ He indicated his willingness to put this idea into practice by inviting George Padmore to come to Accra to be Nkrumah’s advisor on African affairs. Padmore needed no second invitation: he saw an opportunity not only to work with a personal friend, but also, to implement the ideas on pan-African unity and African independence to which he had devoted his life.
Within a few months of arriving in Accra, Padmore had organised a ‘Conference of Independent African States’ there in April 1958. Its purpose was to link the independent African states in Africa, so that they could adopt common positions in world affairs, especially at the United Nations.
Padmore followed that up by organising an ‘All-African People’s Conference’ in December of 1958. Lumumba was there and Padmore took him to meet Nkrumah. Lumumba was assured of Ghana’s full support from then on. He was made a member of the permanent organisation of the conference and stayed in touch with Ghana from then on. One historian has observed that after the conference, Lumumba’s ‘outlook and terminology, inspired by pan-African goals, now took on the tenor of militant nationalism.’ George Padmore established links in Paris, Brussels and Congo-Brazzaville, through which funds and political advice could be secretly transmitted to Lumumba and other Congolese politicians, when necessary.
In late 1959, the Belgian government embarked on a programme intended to lead, ‘in five years’ to independence. The programme started with the local elections mentioned earlier (which were held in December 1959.) Lumumba and other Congolese leaders saw the Belgian programme as a scheme to install puppets before independence and at first announced a boycott of the elections. The Belgian authorities responded with repression and sought to ban the meetings of Congolese parties.
On 30 October 1959, the Belgians tried to disperse a rally held by Lumumba’s MNC in Stanleyville. Thirty people were killed. Lumumba was arrested and imprisoned for ‘inciting a riot’. More clashes occurred around the country, and it was then that the Belgians, in an attempt to defuse the situation, organised an all-party ‘roundtable’ constitutional conference in Brussels. All the parties accepted the invitation to go to Brussels. But the MNC refused to participate without Lumumba. The Belgians thereupon released Lumumba and flew him in triumph to Brussels.
At the conference, he observed that the Belgians were trying their old trick of ‘divide and rule’ by playing on the ethnic rivalries of the Congolese delegates. Lumumba outflanked the Belgians by getting the delegates to focus on a date for independence. Eventually, a date was agreed upon: 30 June 1960. National elections were to be held in May.
As we have seen, not only did the MNC come first in the country, but also, it reached out to other parties, and Lumumba eventually emerged as Prime Minister. Lumumba was able to hold his own against the maneuvers of the Belgians at this time, because although Padmore had passed away in September 1959, he was receiving constant counselling from Dr Kwame Nkrumah in Accra. Indeed, some other Congolese politicians who would normally not have given him the time of day, were ushered his way by mutual friends in Accra.
But when independence dawned in the Congo on 30 June 1960 it was doomed from the start. The independence constitution was drawn up largely by Belgian academics and officials without too much participation of the Congolese politicians present. The discussions were often abstruse and largely above the heads of the Congolese, none of whom had ever taken part in such an exercise before. So one-sided was the exercise that six Congolese students in Brussels held a demonstration in protest against ‘a constitution being written for Congo without Congolese participation.’ The Belgians dismissed them as trouble-makers.
The document that emerged was a very complex text, and yet, it was made even more unwieldy by being released in two parts - one part in January 1960, and the second part in May 1960 - just one month before Independence. Belgian incompetence was written all over it: in some parts, the Congo was regarded as a centralised unitary state; in others, it was treated as a federal entity. These provisions were veritable booby-traps that were later fought over to determine who would wield ultimate control over the country’s finances and natural resources. The confusion in the document provided the kernel of the idea that the CONAKAT leader, Moise Tshombé, later developed - with Belgian advice - into the full-scale secession of his home province of Katanga shortly after independence.
Nevertheless, Belgium, under the delusion that it was magnanimously atoning for the brutality it had unleashed on the Congolese people in the past, was full of self-congratulation. On the day of independence itself, the Belgian monarch, King, Baudoin, dressed in majestic finery, made an insensitive, self-congratulatory speech to the assembly of Congolese politicians and foreign guests assembled in the National Assembly.
The Belgians in charge of the ceremony had not made any provision for the Prime Minister and leader of the country, Patrice Lumumba, to address the gathering. But Lumumba got up and spoke all the same:
‘Men and women of the Congo,
Victorious fighters for independence who are today victorious, I greet you in the name of the Congolese Government. All of you, my friends, who have fought tirelessly at our sides, I ask you to make this June 30, 1960, an illustrious date that you will keep indelibly engraved in your hearts, a date of significance of which you will teach to your children, so that they will make known to their sons and to their grandchildren, the glorious history of our fight for liberty…
‘No Congolese worthy of the name will ever be able to forget that it was by fighting that our independence has been won; [applause], it was not given to us, but won in a day-to-day fight, an ardent and idealistic fight, a fight in which we were spared neither privation nor suffering, and for which we gave our strength and our blood.
‘We are proud of this struggle of tears, of fire, and of blood, to the depths of our being, for it was a noble and just struggle, and indispensable to put an end to the humiliating slavery which was imposed upon us by force.
‘That was our fate for eighty years of a colonial regime; our wounds are too fresh and too painful still for us to drive them from our memory. We have known harassing work, exacted in exchange for salaries which did not permit us to eat enough to drive away hunger, or to clothe ourselves, or to house ourselves decently, or to raise our children as creatures dear to us.
‘We have known sarcasms, insults, blows that we endured morning, noon, and evening, because we are Negroes. Who will forget that to a black person, ”tu”, was certainly said, not as to a friend, but because the more respectful ”vous” was reserved for whites alone?’
He recalled: ‘We have seen our lands seized in the name of allegedly legal laws, which in fact recognized only that might is right. We have seen that the law was not the same for a white and for a black; accommodating for the first, cruel and inhuman for the other.
‘We have witnessed atrocious sufferings of those condemned for their political opinions or religious beliefs; exiled in their own country, their fate truly worse than death itself. We have seen in the towns, magnificent houses for the whites and crumbling shanties for the blacks. A black person was not admitted in the cinema, in the restaurants, in the stores of the Europeans; a black travelling on a boat was relegated to the holds, under the feet of the whites, who stayed up in their luxury cabins.’
Lumumba further demanded: ‘Who will ever forget the massacres where so many of our brothers perished, the cells into which those who refused to submit to a regime of oppression and exploitation were thrown [applause]?
‘All that, my brothers, we have endured.
‘But we, whom the vote of your elected representatives have given the right to direct our dear country, we who have suffered in our body and in our heart from colonial oppression, we tell you very loud, all that is henceforth ended.
‘The Republic of the Congo has been proclaimed, and our country is now in the hands of its own children. Together, my brothers, my sisters, we are going to begin a new struggle, a sublime struggle, which will lead our country to peace, prosperity, and greatness. Together, we are going to show the world what the black man can do when he works in freedom, and we are going to make of the Congo the centre of the sun's radiance for all of Africa.’
(Lumumba added): ‘We are going to put an end to suppression of free thought and see to it that all our citizens enjoy to the full the fundamental liberties foreseen in the Declaration of the Rights of Man [applause]. We are going to do away with all discrimination of every variety and assure for each and all, the position to which human dignity, work, and dedication entitles him…’
Then gesturing dramatically towards the assembly of Belgian dignitaries, each turned out in the fullest ceremonial plumage, Lumumba declared: ‘We are no longer your macaques [monkeys]!’
His electrifying speech was greeted with a prolonged standing applause.
When news of the fiery Lumumba speech spread through Leopoldville, a sense of euphoria enveloped the city. One man, in a picture I remember from the pages of Drum Magazine, was photographed lying prostate in front of Lumumba’s car, arms spread out in a gesture that symbolically stated: ‘Drive over me if you like, My Leader! If I die today, I am satisfied enough to do so gladly!’
It was also reported that another Congolese, filled with pride, jumped the line of troops guarding King Baudoin at a public ceremony, removed the King’s ceremonial sword, and ran away with it into the crowd.
But in the barracks of the Congolese army, the ‘Force Publique’, reality took a different turn altogether. The commander of the Force, Gen. Emile Janssens, felt obliged to make a speech to his assembled troops. He fatuously announced that the much-touted ‘independence’ would have no immediate effect on life in the Force Publique. The situation ‘après [after] l’’ndependence', he very kindly explained, was precisely the same as ‘avant [before] l’independance’. Contrary to reports they had heard, Janssens told the troops, ‘no African officers were to be commissioned in the near future’.
Thus this insensitive officer shattered, with a few sentences, all the dreams that the Congolese soldiers had woven in their minds about life in an independent Congo. Their increased pay, their officers’ pips, the cars, the bungalows they had dreamt about - all vanished with the general’s words.
Within hours, the troops had mutinied. Units brought in to restore order joined the mutineers, attacked their white officers, and turned on the officers' families, raping some of the women. Gangs of armed, uniformed troops looted shops, and indiscriminately beat and terrorized Europeans in the streets.
Léopoldville's European population fled en masse across the river to the relative safety of Brazzaville. The mutiny spread to the interior of the country and non-African inhabitants found themselves under siege.
Belgium now faced the task of evacuating its nationals under fire. It flew commandos in from Europe and secured the country’s major airfields, while bringing in additional reinforcements by sea. Belgian forces in the Congo quickly swelled from an initial 3,800 to well over 10,000. To Prime Minister Lumumba and the Congolese army, this looked more like a colonialist coup than a rescue mission. Fire-fights broke out between Belgian units and Congolese soldiers, as Lumumba urged his people to resist all moves by the Belgian troops. Meanwhile, he appealed to independent African countries to send troops to help the Congolese army restore order, so that the Belgian troops could be expelled from the Congo.
Ghana’s President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah was one of the first to respond to Lumumba’s appeal.
The African group at the UN agreed with Nkrumah that Belgium was using the mutiny as an excuse to re-impose colonial rule on the Congo. So they asked the United Nations to order Belgium to withdraw its troops forthwith and replace them with UN troops.
The UN procrastinated, as is usual with it. In the mean time, Lumumba asked Nkrumah directly for bilateral assistance. Within one week, Ghana was able to dispatch 1,193 troops to the Congo equipped with 156 military trucks and 160 tons of stores.
The Ghanaian troops were mostly flown to the Congo by British Royal Air Force planes. (See W. Scott Thompson: Ghana’s Foreign Policy 1957-66 - Princeton University Press 1969).
In addition, Ghana sent engineers, doctors and nurses, technicians and artisans of all types to the Congo, some of them flying in by Egyptian planes, while others went by Ghana Airways aircraft, piloted by Ghanaians. The Congolese could hardly believe their eyes: at independence, the Congo had only six or so university graduates and to see Africans piloting planes was mind-blowing to those who saw them.
The Ghanaian troops in the Congo, on the other hand, did not always get a warm welcome from the Congolese, for a lot of their officers were white - three years after Ghana’s independence. Ghana’s chief of the defence staff was himself a British officer called General H. T. Alexander. He lacked the imagination - or confidence - to reconstitute the Ghanaian units that went to the Congo so that they would be officered by Ghanaians.
The Congolese could not quite get their heads round the fact that if they were fighting against white Belgians, Ghana should come to their assistance with troops led by white officers. Belgian propaganda claimed that the white officers were Russian Communist. To them, all the whites they knew - Belgians - were racist devils, and they could not understand that in Ghana, whites took orders from a black government. Thus misunderstanding was costly to Ghana - in one incident at Port Francqui, Ghanaian troops came under a surprise attack by Congolese soldiers and over two score lost their lives.
As a news editor at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, I was following all these events carefully and trying to understand what was going on in the Congo, so as to broadcast bulletins to the people of Ghana that would make them understand the situation. One day, in September 1960, Radio Ghana’s monitoring section came up with a news item that was utterly shocking: President Joseph Kasavubu had announced over Radio Leopoldville that he had dismissed the Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba. Kasavubu said that he, as President, had used powers given to him under the Congolese constitution (the ‘Loi Fondamentale’) to dismiss Lumumba as Prime Minister.
Very soon, we got another flash: in retaliation, Lumumba had also sacked Kasavubu.
Lumumba took the precaution of immediately asking the Congolese Senate to give him a vote of confidence over what he had done. Despite a huge outlay of secret cash payments made by the Belgians and the Americans to influence the Congolese Parliamentarians to take Kasavubu‘s side, it was Lumumba’s dismissal of Kasavubu that the Senators endorsed. Later, the lower House of Parliament also supported Lumumba with a vote of confidence.
Meanwhile, the newspapers of the world, unable to decipher Congolese constitutional matters and distinguish between who had acted legally and who had acted illegally, had a field day running this mocking headline: ‘Kasavubu sacks Lumumba! Lumumba sacks Kasavubu!’
Lumumba made a very eloquent speech in asking the Congolese Parliament to dismiss Kasavubu. The speech was probably the last one he made in public that was fully recorded. Our monitoring station transcribed it for us and I ran the transcript of it almost in full in our news bulletins.
Patrice Lumumba said: ‘It was we who made Kasavubu what he is. As you well know, he has no majority in this Parliament. He tried to form a government and failed. Yet, out of our desire for national unity, we generously offered him the highest office in the land - the presidency - instead of giving it to someone from our own side, the majority side.’
Lumumba continued: ‘We made that sacrifice in order that we could achieve the unity without which we cannot build our new nation in a stable atmosphere. And now he turns round to say that he has sacked, me, the leader of the majority! It was by my hand - this hand - that he was appointed President. It is an insult to our people, who voted us into this Parliament. How can a person who commands a minority of votes in this House sack the one who has the majority? It is not done anywhere that there is a parliamentary system. It cannot be done in Belgium! Why must it be allowed to be done here?’
The vote of confidence Lumumba got surprised Kasavubu, whose strategy for neutralising Lumumba was plotted from Brussels and Washington. The Belgians and the Americans were left with egg on their faces, for they had given money to Kasavubu to bribe many of the MPs! The MPs had taken the money, and yet voted against Kasavubu! The Americans and the Belgians were outraged.
But with the full weight of the CIA now in support of Belgium’ objective of throwing out Lumumba, his was a lost cause. In the midst of the confusion following the mutual sackings, Sergeant (promoted Colonel) Joseph-Desire Mobutu, staged a coup d’etat on 14 September 1960 against both Kasavubu and Lumumba. Or so he claimed. (Mobutu, remember, had been a Belgian secret agent of long-standing but also doubled for the CIA. The Belgians then planted him in Lumumba's office as Lumumba’s army chief of staff, and though Lumumba made sure that he also appointed an army commander who was loyal to him, General Victor Lundula, this Lundula was barely literate and no match to the far more literate and ever-scheming Mobutu.
When Mobutu struck, his pretext was that he wanted to ‘bring peace’ to the country and save it from the ‘squabbling politicians’. This was classic coup-makers’ language. Time Magazine ran a hilarious account of Mobutu’s coup in its issue of 26 September 1960. (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,897597,00.html)
In his book, ‘The Assassination of Patrice Lumumba’, the Belgian writer, Ludo De Witte, gives us a detailed description of what was happening in Congo at the time. ‘Belgian military chiefs’, De Witte wrote, ‘made nightly visits to Mobutu and President Kasavubu to plot Lumumba's downfall.’ A Belgian officer, Colonel Louis Maliere, ‘spoke [to De Witte] of the millions of francs he brought over [from Belgium] for this purpose.’ The Belgian plot to kill Lumumba was nicknamed ‘Operation Barracuda’ and was run by the Belgian Minister for African Affairs, Count d'Aspremont Lynden, himself.
As mentioned earlier, the CIA was also fully on board. This is how the informative magazine, US News and World Report, described one aspect of the CIA effort. The head of the CIA, Mr Allen Dulles, cabled the CIA station chief in Leopoldville that:
‘In high quarters here, it is the clear-cut conclusion that if [Lumumba] continues to hold high office, the inevitable result will [be] disastrous consequences…for the interests of the free world generally. Consequently, we conclude that his removal must be an urgent and prime objective.’
A later report in the same paper was even more detailed:
‘It was the height of the Cold War when Sidney Gottlieb arrived in Congo in September 1960. The CIA man was toting a vial of poison. His target: the toothbrush of Patrice Lumumba, Congo's charismatic first prime minister, who was also feared to be a rabid Communist. As it happened, Lumumba was toppled in a military coup just days before Gottlieb turned up with his poison. The plot was abandoned, the lethal potion dumped in the Congo River.’
When Lumumba finally was killed, in January 1961, no one was surprised when fingers started pointing at the CIA. A Senate investigation of CIA assassinations 14 years later found no proof that the agency was behind the hit, but suspicions linger.
But all the evidence suggests that Belgium was the mastermind. According to ‘The Assassination of Lumumba’, Belgian operatives directed and carried out the murder, and even helped to dispose of the body.
Belgium had finally got its chance to eliminate Lumumba after Mobutu’s troops arrested him in December 1960. Belgian officials engineered his transfer by air to the breakaway province of Katanga, which was under Belgian control. De Witte reveals a telegram from d'Aspremont Lynden, that Lumumba be sent to Katanga. Anyone who knew the place knew that was a death sentence.
Does that mean the CIA didn't play a role? Declassified US cables from the year preceding the assassination show that Lumumba clearly scared the daylights out of the Eisenhower administration. When Lumumba arrived in Katanga, on 17 January, accompanied by several Belgians, he was bleeding from a severe beating. Later that evening, Lumumba was killed by a firing squad commanded by a Belgian officer.
A week earlier, Lumumba had written to his wife, ‘I prefer to die with my head unbowed, my faith unshakable, and with profound trust in the destiny of my country.’
The next step was to destroy the evidence. Four days later, Belgian police commissioner Gerard Soete and his brother cut up the body with a hacksaw and dissolved it in sulphuric acid. In an interview on Belgian television, Soete displayed a bullet and two teeth he said were saved from Lumumba's body.
A Belgian official who helped engineer Lumumba's transfer to Katanga told De Witte that he kept CIA station chief Lawrence Devlin fully informed of the plan. ‘The Americans were informed of the transfer because they actively discussed this thing for weeks,’ says De Witte.
Final proof of the CIA’s hand in the murder is given by the fact that when the CIA officer in Elizabethville saw that Lumumba had been delivered safely into the hands of his Katangese enemies, he wrote to his counterpart in Leopoldville:
‘Thanks for Patrice. If we had known he was coming, we would have baked a snake.’
Whatever the racist sentiments behind the message, its intent was clear: congratulations for bringing him to us to do as we please with.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Cameron Duodu is a journalist, writer and commentator.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Snapshots of Lumumba
The name of Lumumba looms large in Tanzania as it does elsewhere in Africa. Or at least it used to. It kept popping up when I was coming to age many years after his untimely death in 1961.
Many a times I meet people who are named after him. Some of them were named so in the early sixties when his assassination in the aftermath of Africa’s ‘Year of Independence’ traumatised the pan-African imagination. Yet others became his namesake at a time when Africans were nostalgically attempting to reclaim Africa’s so-called lost decades of the 1970s and 1980s.
What is so special about this son of Africa? Why does he continue to capture our imagination?
Two images of Lumumba have stuck in my mind, not least because they are now widely invoked in Africa and its diaspora. When I arrive in any African country I sense him standing at the entrance to the aeroplane facing the heart of Africa on his first voyage back home to the then so-called Belgian Congo during the struggle for its independence.
It is an image of a youthful and hopeful African leader full of genuine love for Africa and Africans. In it we see a pan-Africanist visionary who is looking towards Congo and beyond its artificial colonial borders to embrace African unity. He thus celebrated that moment in his poem ‘Dawn in the Heart of Africa’:
The dawn is here, my brother! Dawn! Look in our faces,
A new morning breaks in our old Africa.
Ours alone will now be the land, the water, mighty rivers
Poor African surrendered for a thousand years.
Hard torches of the sun will shine for us again,
They’ll dry the tears in eyes and spittle on your face
The moment when you break the chains, the heavy fetters,
The evil, cruel times will go never to come again.
A free and gallant Congo will arise from black soil,
A free and gallant Congo-black blossom from black seed!
Philipe Wamba’s ‘Kinship: A Family’s Journey in Africa and America’ thus captures this quest:
‘Popular legend had it that Lumumba had expressed the unacceptability of having to wait four years [for Belgium to grant independence to Congo] by deliberately arriving late to a meeting held to discuss the decolonization process; when he finally sauntered into the conference hall and the irate Belgians demanded to know why he was so disrespectfully tardy, Lumumba calmly noted that they were angry because he had made them wait just a few hours, yet they wanted Congolese people to wait years for their freedom.’
To better appreciate this first imagery and make sense of the second imagery one needs to recall, at least in passing, the images of Lumumba’s arrest that culminated in his assassination. I am not particularly fond of them but they explain why Africa is still pathetically locked between its dusk and dawn. They show a betrayed and dejected face of the Africa(n) that fits neatly into Langston Hughes poetic rendition ‘A Dream Deferred’. For a moment, the dream of Congo - and for that matter of Africa - was deferred not least because, as the heart of Africa, it was envisioned, by Kwame Nkrumah and other pan-Africanists, as the capital of the soon-to-be established ‘United States of Africa’. The then chief minister of the then Tanganyika, Julius K. Nyerere, thus captured this cloudy moment very despondently as he attempted to find a silver lining of hope in his adjournment motion during the 36th Session of the Legislative Council on 15 February 1961:
‘It is indeed hard, sir, to see how anything but evil results can flow from the act of violence that has taken place in the Congo, but even at this stage let me express the hope, sir, on behalf of this Government, this Council, and the people of this country, that the Congo’s wounds may yet to be healed.’
Half a century later the wounds of the heart of Africa may yet to be healed. It is not surprising then that some African scholars scattered all over the world are bitterly debating ‘Why is Africa in such a mess?’ What else can they do when we are all filled with images of Africa’s physical and psychological wounds from Cape Town to Cairo and from Cape Verde to Cape Guardafui?
Nevertheless, it is the second image of Lumumba that fully captures our times. No wonder it is frequently invoked online to rebuke the current crop of African leaders. Lumumba’s stern face is sending a clear message to all African people: Take responsibility. Be in charge of your destiny.
The time has come for the Africa Lumumba envisioned to be responsible, that is, response-able. We need to enable ourselves to sternly respond to the new Mobutus who are ready to rape our dignity and hijack our destiny by any means necessary even if that means colluding with the ‘Chief Infiltrators of Africa’ to rob us of our new Lumumbas. After all, we get the leaders we deserve.
Africa’s dawn is dim. Africans may yet be awakened. Pan-Africanism is the way out of dusk.
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* © Chambi Chachage.
* Chambi Chachage is an independent researcher, newspaper columnist and policy analyst, based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Lumumba and war politics in the Congo
Lumumba as the hero depicted by the legendary poet from Martinique, Aimé Césaire, was a beer salesman whose chant for customers instinctively made Belgian colonial police panic, fearful of a subterranean text and force in his eloquence, the energy of his words uttered like the staccato of a machine gun. It was the kind of panic that guardians of repression in apartheid South Africa feared in Miriam Makeba’s ‘Click Song’; and Yvonne Chaka Chaka’s ‘Umqombothi‘ (My African beer) lyrics. Despite being a clear instrument of colonial commercial exploitation and pacification of the Congolese people, Lumumba seemed to be scratching the surface of a hidden ocean of anger, humiliation, hunger, physical exhaustion from all-year long forced labour – a force of human rage waiting to exact revenge, which was shared by oppressed peoples all across Africa.
Aimé Césaire’s Lumumba was ignorant about the exploits of Dedan Kimathi as war general of the Mau Mau armed struggle in Kenya; had apparently not heard of armed waves that swept as angry waters across the vast plains of colonial Tanganyika against threats of mass starvation under German colonial rule. There is no mention of his knowledge of the armed warfare by Algerians to rid themselves of French suppression. This insulation from political turbulence and the geography of hunger for freedom elsewhere in Africa was a tool used with great skill, tenacity and cynical efficiency by colonial governments. (President Paul Kagame has recently called for an end to a mindset of ‘isolation’ that Rwandans were subjected to since German and Belgian colonial rule.) What is recorded, however, is Lumumba travelling to Accra in 1958 to attend the All-African Peoples’ Conference convened by newly independent Ghana under the visionary pan-Africanist leadership of Kwame Nkrumah. The impact of that brush with Nkrumah’s political flame would be so potent that when Lumumba arrived back in Leopoldville and addressed fellow Congolese, they broke out into violent rioting against Belgian rule.
Lumumba attended four years of primary school education and one year of ‘technical’ training for postal workers. He was a clear victim of a Belgian intellectual genocide which ensured that by the year of independence in 1960, only 136 Congolese children across the country’s one million square kilometers had completed secondary school education; there was a paltry total of 30 university graduates, a larger pool of a mere 600 post-secondary school trained priests, and a miserable three Congolese senior civil servants (against a total of 3,400 Belgian senior civil servants). Savoring their crime against the human resource development of the Congolese people, Belgian colonial strategists rubbed their hands in satisfaction at the prospect that they would set up a ‘McDonald’s hamburger’ regime after independence, in which a thin layer of Congolese politicians would hold political posts at the top; a vast mass of primary-school trained clerks, medical auxiliaries, school teachers would hold the bottom, while the Belgian officials would be the engine of power located in the middle. The livid hatred of Lumumba among Belgians would be quickly rooted in the fact that he scuttled this strategy by forcing Belgians to leave power in hasty panic. All it took was for Lumumba to stand and address a group of Congolese and they would be instantly aroused into violent eruptions against Belgians.
I first heard about Lumumba through sneaking out at night from a school dormitory to tune an unguarded radio in a room in our classroom bloc at St Mary’s College, Kisubi, six kilometers away from Entebbe, the seat of government of the Protectorate of Uganda. The radio broadcast a dramatic story of Europeans fleeing in crowded lorries, trucks, cars and buses being stopped at roadblocks and subjected to savage beatings, violent death, and rapes. Crowds of Congolese were said to particularly target priests and nuns. As a kid who on a daily basis saw Catholic nuns dressed so clinically that we could not see their hair, ears, necks, breasts and curves of the buttocks, there was a shock and a guilt-ridden glee at the thought that these Congolese were discovering the raw womanhood of these seemingly untouchable sect. There was some mention about Congolese paying back their former white rulers who used dry hippo hide (kiboko) to whip those digging roads, digging on farms, digging underground in mines. No explanation was given for attacks on priests. One man whose name the fleeing Belgians were blaming was ‘Patrice Lumumba’, of the Batetela tribe, and who had grown up in Stanleyville (now Kisangani).
The sea of anger that was rousing and surging in erupting waves of anger all across the country came to be associated with a force that was a ready and powerful weapon waiting for Lumumba’s tongue to whip up. In their panic in the face of this gigantic force not yet fully detonated, Belgian colonial officials turned to British wit as once practiced against Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi a decade earlier, as angry surges of Indians’ grabbing for freedom broke British colonial power. The British had turned to the power of personal ambition linked to a religious appeal. Over 40 million people would die all across India as counter-nationalism gave birth to Pakistan as a separate country gouged out of India’s womb. British colonial engineers in London also used this strategy to break up a nationalist momentum started by Nnamdi Azikiwe in Nigeria by arousing Yoruba ethnic nationalism in the south-west and Hausa-Fulani ethno-religious defensiveness across northern Nigeria. In the Congo, Belgian intelligence officers went wild in overplaying their hands and actively assisted in the sprouting of up to 120 ethnic-rooted political parties. It was like hurling back at Lumumba’s nationalist movement a swarm of bees to sting him to death.
The savage hatred that Lumumba aroused in US President Eisenhower was as naked as the bile spewed out of the mouth of Belgium’s minister for African Affairs, Count Harold d’Asprement Lyden. Said the minister: ‘The main aim to pursue in the interests of the Congo, Katanga and Belgium, is clearly Lumumba’s elimination’. America’s President Eisenhower sent out instructions for Lumumba’s ‘assassination’; and that it ‘must be an urgent and prime objective’. For these apostles of elections as the root of political legitimacy, the fact that Lumumba’s party had won a majority (with 33 seats out of a total of 137 seats) in parliament was an irrelevant irritant. Lumumba had quickly exposed the nudity, cynical hypocrisy and determination by colonialism to stay in power in Africa. His thrust is urgently relevant today.
My radio broadcast did not reveal the profile of the political war that had been launched against Lumumba and Congo’s nationalism. The Patrice Lumumba of Aimé Césaire’s beer salesman had been denied information about how Mao Tse-tung (Zedong) and his communist party comrades had fled to the mountains and built military and political machines fused together and had fought their way from 1922 to 1949 to drive his opponents out of power. In his innocence, Lumumba combined hastiness for power with a lack of an intensively trained-and-tested-in-battle military-political party he could use as weapons against the 1,100 Belgian military officers, who commanded a 25,000 strong colonial army of Congolese men.
Agostinho Neto (and his Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola, MPLA); Samora Machel (and the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, FRELIMO); Robert Mugabe ( and ZANU-Patriotic Front); Oliver Tambo (and the African National Congress, ANC); Amilcar Cabral (and the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, PAIGC) – all learnt to avoid Lumumba’s mistake of fighting a highly organised power of colonial and imperial capital with bare hands. Whereas Lumumba would be captured like a dangerous cobra – trapped, guarded and hastily hacked to death by hatred- and fear-crazed Belgian police and military officers acting under desperate orders from Washington and Brussels. Little did they know that they were inventing an immortal African martyr for freedom; and making a vital investment for Congo’s rebirth today.
I was given a glimpse of fear of Lumumba as late as 1964 – three years after his assassination – when a region-wide eruption of attempted military coups were linked to the fate of Mobutu Sese Seko. The year 1964 saw Oscar Kambona, the secretary general of Tanganyika African National Union, TANU; Grace Ibingira, secretary general of the Uganda Peoples Congress, UPC, and Tom Mboya, secretary general of Kenya African National Union, KANU, accused of plotting civilian-cum-military coups simultaneously in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Commentators blamed the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), for seeking to establish loyal regimes from the shore of the Indian Ocean in the east to the shore of the Atlantic in the west. These regime products of malevolent activities by ‘economic hit men’ were not expected to reject Mobutu as a military dictatorship; and would seal the lid over the disrupted mass freedom that Lumumba had stirred in the Congo. Mobutu conducted his second military coup in 1964.
Lumumba’s condemnation of Dag Hammarskjöld and his United Nations military and bureaucratic machine in the Congo – as tools that took their orders from the United States, Belgium and other non-Communist countries – served as an awakening counterpunch to a propaganda offensive that presented the United Nations as a contingent of ‘saints-without-borders’. A typical case was Ralph Bunche, an African-American diplomat and a top UN official, who described Lumumba as a ‘mad man’ that behaved like a ‘child’. There is no evidence that Lumumba benefitted from Bunche’s pan-African solidarity as he was confronted with Belgian military re-colonisation of his country only four days after independence on 30 June 1960.
In his famous independence speech Lumumba cursed Belgians as ‘exploiters’, who inflicted brutal whips on Congolese labourers from morning till sunset; and subjected Congolese to forced labour all year round. He bluntly debunked the cloak of colonial rule as a civilising force and began in the Congo a school of thought that George Padmore and W.E.B Dubois had thrown at European empires in Africa; an intellectual thrust that Walter Rodney and Frantz Fanon would develop and articulate in more systematic forms. At his most opportunistic moment in 1972, even Mobutu Sese Seko – a key collaborator in Lumumba’s murder – would cynically invoke Lumumba’s voice to justify seizing properties of foreign nationalities for distribution and putting ownership of property into his patronage network. This intellectual spear thrown out by Lumumba would suffer from imperialism successfully sheltering eastern, central and western Africa from hearing and anchoring it in their politics. From within the United Nations contingents that came to the Congo from various independent African countries, South Africa’s racist rulers, Israel, and other intelligence agencies would recruit officers who would return to their various countries to carry out military coups against nationalist African leaders. These coups silenced, imprisoned, killed their radical and patriotic critics; and disorganised the power of Lumumbists’ attacks on imperialism as a guide to Africa’s development.
The positive face Lumumba’s offensive was a call to a historic return to the nationalistic development of Africa. His commitment to the unity of the Congo as engineered by Congolese leaders who were disconnected from Belgian and foreign rule, would be echoed in policy inventions by Mwalimu Nyerere as communal cooperative villages (ujamaa) and ‘democracy within a single national and socialistic political party’. It is an intellectual dimension of political independence driven by a passion to end and reverse the intellectual genocide under colonial rule. Its call for grassroots democratic governance is now envisaged by the National Plans of Action of the African Peer Review Mechanism, ARRM, of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, NEPAD. In this regard, Lumumba’s declared war for Africans to seize history’s call to develop Africa on its own terms despite hostile forces in foreign national interests, lives on.
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* Okello Oculi is the executive director of the Africa Vision 525 Initiative
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Lumumba’s ideal and the symbolism of his life
The 50th anniversary of Patrice Lumumba’s assassination offers us a solid basis from which to reflect upon the meanings of his life and legacy as a metaphor for Africa today. He remains an iconic and powerful representation of the desire that generations of Africans hold to be able to determine their own political, social and economic path unencumbered by history. Yet the situation in which Africa finds itself at present is one defined by neo-colonial phenomena of globalised capitalism and globalised racism. People in different parts of the continent are, however, slowly rising to the challenge and saying ‘Enough!’ The resurgent popular movements against unemployment, poverty and the alleged corruption of the ruling elite, and resistance to the corruption of electoral democracy are symbolic grasps at defining a different future. This resistance is symbolic too of the values that Lumumba stood for and rallied around during his brief political life, marked by intolerance towards injustice, indignity, and oppression.
He detested the brutalities and indignities suffered by his people under Belgian colonial rule, and made clear his mission to ensure that Congo’s mineral wealth was put to the service of the people. Perhaps his most important contribution to the larger Pan-African discourse, his famous Independence Day speech on 30 June 1960 remains a treatise of the critical introspection and actions he believed would seal freedom for the liberated Congo and other African countries. In it he implored his people to look towards transcending ethnic divisions, proclaiming that ‘...our country is now in the hands of its own children. Together, my brothers and sisters, we are going to begin a new struggle, a sublime struggle, which will lead our country to peace, prosperity, and greatness. Together, we are going to establish social justice and make sure everyone has just remuneration for this labour’.
He believed that the dignity of his countrywomen and men could only be restored through a political and economic system that levelled the playing field for hard work to be rewarded: ‘We are going to show the world what the black man can do when he works in freedom, and we are going to make the Congo the center of the sun’s radiance for all of Africa. We are going to keep watch over the lands of our country so that they truly profit her children. We are going to restore ancient laws and make new ones which will be just and noble. We are going to put an end to suppression of free thought and see to it that all our citizens enjoy to the full the fundamental liberties foreseen in the Declaration of the Rights of Man. We are going to do away with all discrimination of every variety and assure for each and all the position to which human dignity, work, and dedication entitles him. We are going to rule not by the peace of guns and bayonet but by the peace of the heart and will…’
He predicted at the time that Congo’s independence would mark a decisive step towards the liberation of the entire African continent, and whereas this came to pass, few of the optimisms he voiced at independence have taken root 50 years on. Congolese power elites back then displayed a cavalier disregard for their great nation’s rich mineral resources, lending a willing hand in the country’s repeated plunder by the U.S. and Belgium. Today due to greed powered by its own African neighbours, who under the watchful eye of the United Nations continue to fuel ethnic conflicts and amass far too many civilian casualties, the country lies in political, economic and social tatters. The paranoid miscalculations of the U.S. and its allies during the Cold War cost Africa many inspiring leaders and perpetuated conflict in a number of countries that have paid long and hard, among them Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Mozambique, and the DRC. In Sudan, a long civilian war robbed Southern Sudan of its economic soul for more than two decades, and the semi-autonomous region that stands poised to secede from its northern counterpart today is one that is desperately clinging to the hope of Pan-African solidarity and visionary, steadfast leadership. At the contentious heart of its secession lies its enormous mineral wealth, caught within the same crosshairs of imperialist interests and intervening African interests against which Lumumba struggled until his death.
Paradoxically, the Congo seems to fall back in history but is also one of the most important countries fuelling the modern globalising economy going forward. It is a country larger than the whole of Western Europe, which it powers through conflict minerals like the precious coltan, mined for its use in mobile phone technology, but is incapable of powering itself due to the desperate social and economic crisis gripping it under the selfish leadership of the national bourgeoisie in cahoots with multinational corporations. This was the humiliating state of affairs from which Lumumba and his nationalist compatriots sought to rid the Congo of, and which unfortunately still pertains.
If there is one thing the WikiLeaks phenomenon has left us with it is the certainty that there still exist in our governments the same enemies to solidarity as those that betrayed Lumumba to the powers that wanted him out of the way in 1961. It is also clear from the leaked cables that US foreign policy is still not quite guided by the same democratic principles against which it calibrates the rest of the world, especially Africa. The lesson, if we are to pick one, is to trust ourselves more, to look back in towards the continent to resolve its own problems, straighten out its bad leadership, and to honour the peoples’ power.
As President Joseph Kabila campaigns to change the voting system from the customary two round system to one, no doubt to ease himself back in more smoothly during the coming elections, his Ivorian counterpart is equally, adamantly clinging on to whatever strands of power he can muster to support his arrogance. Beyond questions of democratic accountability lies the disturbing message that Africa appears to be sending to the world: that 50 years into independence, and 20 years into democratisation we still need referees with interests to tell us how to manage this seemingly ‘strange’, ‘borrowed’ concept of elections. Cameron Duodu (New African, January 2011) shares the exasperation of many when he suggests that the AU should spend 2011 thinking about setting up a permanent electoral body to go and conduct elections in volatile countries and enforce the verdict with military power! Lumumba might have reminded us that independence was not granted to us magnanimously, and that we must guard it jealously. In the same way, the concept of democracy is not foreign to Africans, and we must resist all attempts to alienate us from its fruits of freedom and justice, through poorly contested elections.
While failing to distinctly voicing his opinions regarding the gender basis upon which his vision could be achieved, Lumumba was a dynamic and passionate nationalist. He was the only Congolese leader who, from very early in his career, attempted to build a Congo-wide political organisation. His approach to power was grounded upon a broad interest in movements that did not necessarily relate directly to politics. In this way, he rallied his people in general towards the task of nation building. On the whole, however, African nationalist movements and projects have always subsumed concerns that were not considered immediately integral to promoting the aims of what were considered to be urgent tasks at the time, those of liberation, of nation building, of forming unitary states. Numerous studies have documented the ways in which the rights of women, even those that had contributed to struggles, often fell by the roadside in the post-independence period.
To be fair, Lumumba’s premiership was too short-lived and punctured by betrayal and insubordination to meaningfully deduct his attitude towards women’s empowerment, yet he seemed to have had an evolving ideology that might have made substantive space for addressing women’s concerns within the Congo’s political discourse. Were he to resurrect today, I would add my voice to those of thousands of African feminists who have witnessed and are incensed by the sheer scale and brutality of sexual violence taking place particularly in eastern Congo; who are confused by the irony of the silencing of female political voices despite massive and concerted international attention of a political nature in that country: and who are concerned about the plunder of natural resources and inequitable distribution of land and other productive resources.
We would ask him simply, in his thinking; in what way would an African revolution seek to transcend the customs and traditions that hinder the full participation of women?
Lumumba’s ideals can still be rescued by all those who are invested in the bright future of this continent. His truth and his spirit live on, and his vision, grounded upon a deep love for Africa, did not leave with him. New leaders in Africa are afraid of ideas that inform and conscientise the people, especially those generated and informed by our past struggles. They are seeking to create a new narrative that does not re-affirm past ideals. Modern leaders will rarely quote revolutionaries like Thomas Sankara, Samora Machel or Julius Nyerere, whose words have all but found their way out the histories that young people are learning in schools now.
The ideals that Lumumba stood for remain very relevant given the situation in which majority of Africans find themselves today: Of economic hardship, political marginalisation and the resultant fundamentalisms that these two factors fuel. Africa’s rich history of struggle and introspection is a strong weapon in our hands and there is hope that the result might be a stronger, more conscious, more unified people. We must be willing to question the conspicuous silencing of those who liberated this continent and remain vigilant of the hegemonic forces still robbing us off our leaders. We are also obliged to interrogate the continued patriarchal domination of women and other marginalised groups, in particular sexual minorities and ethnic minorities on the continent, and remember what it means to be human together. We must retrace the footsteps of Lumumba in order to understand his outrage at the unjust systems we inherited, and in so doing attempt to embark on a renewed journey for the betterment of the lives of all Africa’s people.
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* Lyn Ossome is a Pan-African feminist activist and scholar.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
50 years after Lumumba: The burden of history
Iterations of assassinations in Africa
In the experiences of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and of Africa, the iterations of assassinations were meant to kill the genuine self-determination of the African peoples. Of these crimes, the murder and cover up of the assassination of Patrice Lumumba continues to reverberate across Africa, crying out for a break from the recursive patterns of genocidal politics and economics. Patrice Lumumba was the first democratically elected prime minister of the Congo. The DRC won its independence in June 1960, but the wishes of the Belgian colonialists were that the conditions after independence should not be different from that of the colonial era. In the Congo, Belgium – a small divided society in Europe – had worked to get a seat at the table of imperial overlords. In the eyes of the Belgians, the crime of Patrice Lumumba was that he refuted the speech of the King of Belgium at the independence celebration in June 1960. Lumumba refused to accept the representation of the Belgian mission as one of civilising and modernising the Congolese peoples. Lumumba was removed from office less than two months after independence. He was placed under house arrest; he escaped but recaptured, beaten, tortured and eventually eliminated. This pattern of murder, torture and destruction continues today, 50 years after the assassination of Patrice Lumumba.
From the time of the assassination of Lumumba, almost every African leader who sought to chart a course for genuine independence was assassinated, whether it was Eduardo Mondlane, Amilcar Cabral, Herbert Chitepo, Samora Machel, Thomas Sankara, Felix Moumie, Chris Hani or Steve Biko. Violence against leaders was accompanied by the intimidation and assassination of journalists, students, opposition leaders and any social force that challenged oppression of Africans and the plunder of their resources. This nested loop of genocidal thinking, genocidal economics and genocidal politics has generated 11 wars in the Congo since 1960, and all of these wars have had implications for almost all the regions of Africa in relation to genocide, militarism, dictatorship, economic plunder and patriarchal models of liberation.
The task of reconstruction and the recovery of the dignity of the Congo and of Africa is a challenge that requires a decisive and revolutionary break with the ideas, organisations and the modes of political and economic practices that dehumanises Africans. The youth of Africa are everywhere calling for an elaboration of their humanity, and are challenging the devaluation of life. From Tunisia and Egypt in the North to South Africa and Zimbabwe in the South, the youths are seeking new organisations and ideas that can break from the centuries of oppression. The celebration of Lumumba should be accompanied by the spirit of healing and reconstruction and calls on the peoples of Africa to draw from the determination of Patrice Lumumba to continue the struggles for emancipation and unity.
PATRICE LUMUMBA AND THE BURDEN OF HISTORY
Despite the history of European plunder, looting and savagery in the Congo from the period of the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the present, the intellectual culture of the West represents the peoples of the Congo and Africa as uncivilised, open to atavistic violence and awaiting modernisation projects from Europeans. In November, I attended a session of the African Studies Association meeting in San Francisco, USA, where there were some young scholars making a presentation on Eastern Congo. In the main, the quality of the work was so shallow and devoid of historical context that one Congolese scholar in the back of the room asked if the presenters were aware that there were Congolese scholars who have been doing scholarly work on reconstruction and peace in the Congo. This question is very pertinent in the present moment in so far as many of the scholars and researchers from Turkey, India, Brazil, China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan turn to the work of European and US conservative scholars to orient their ‘humanitarian’ projects in Africa. Jacques Depelchin, Nzongola Ntalaja and countless others have documented the horrors of the forced labour, brutality and the genocide of over ten million Africans by the Belgians but their brand of scholarship and activist intervention was marginalised by the dominant Western intellectual institutions.
The documentation of Western atrocities in the Congo has also been brought to a wider audience by the writer Adam Hochschild, whose book, ‘King Leopold’s Ghost’, has reached a wider community than that which was accessible to African researchers and scholars. Hochschild built upon the work of Mark Twain in bringing to a larger audience the plunder and murder of the colonial enterprise. In his day, Malcolm X challenged mainstream historians and linked the history of genocide in the pan-African world to the murder of Lumumba and the search for self-determination by the peoples of the Congo.
Scholars trained in African studies centres of the West could not write clearly about the iterations of assassinations because of the ways in which the academy had been polluted by the modernising discourse that was supposed to depoliticise Africans. Malcolm X challenged US scholars to detail the massacres in the Congo. In a well-publicised exchange at Brooklyn College on 24 November 1964, the professors told Malcolm X that he was an alarmist and that Leopold civilised the Africans in a humanitarian campaign. It was in this intellectual climate that Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the US House of Representatives was reared. Gingrich wrote his doctoral thesis at Tulane University on the civilising role of the Belgians in the Congo. In some academic centres, such as the African Studies Center at the University of Wisconsin Madison, there were specialists on politics in the Congo. The students of these professors have dominated the US bureaucracy and academia for the past 40 years, reproducing modernisation theories and the failings of the ‘tribal’ African.
Malcolm X himself was assassinated in February 1965 when he articulated a clear understanding of the linkages between racism and oppression in the United States and massacres and murders in Africa. His famous dictum, ‘You cannot understand what is going on in Mississippi if you do not understand what is going on in the Congo’ is as true today as it was when he uttered these words. The current military crisis in the DRC (especially in the Eastern regions) brings out the need for activists to grasp the burden of history in order to understand the present and chart a new course for the future.
These utterances by Malcolm X were part of his work as a mobiliser and truth teller. Malcolm X met with Abdurrahman Babu and Che Guevara in 1964 after the Johnson administration supported mercenaries to abort the second independence struggle in the Congo. Their meeting had agreed on a strategy to move beyond political mobilising to put in place a plan for liberation in the Congo and in the Americas. Four months after this historic meeting between three great freedom fighters, Malcolm X was gunned down in Harlem and the CIA hunted down and murdered Che Guevara. (See details in the book by Karl Evanzz, ‘The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X’). Professor Manning Marable is also working on a new book that exposes the conspiracy to murder and cover up.
The iterations of assassinations had taken their own roller coaster ride so that not even the president of the United States was immune to this mindset of killing and murder. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963 by the forces of the military industrial complex and the intelligence agencies that continue to promote death tendencies all over the world. James Douglass, in his book, ‘JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters’, has documented in extensive detail how the cover-up of the assassination has been even more elaborate and meticulous than the actual assassination. This same cover-up continues in the cases of Martin Luther King Jr and hundreds of freedom fighters whose lives have been snuffed out at an early age.
COLLUSION BETWEEN INTELLECTUALS IN USA AND WESTERN EUROPE
Since the murder of Lumumba, mainstream intellectual work inside Europe and North America has covered up and distorted the conditions under which Lumumba was assassinated. Former officials of the United Nations have written a number of books on the influence of the United States over the decision making processes in international bodies dealing with the Congo at this time. The record has been established by various authorities on the manipulation of the major international institutions in order to cover up murder. The United States manipulated the United Nations on the question of the Congo so that Patrice Lumumba and Kwame Nkrumah who had called for UN intervention against European mercenaries found that the UN was working to support the same mercenaries and their employers in Belgium, France, and the United States. When Dag Hammarskjöld, the secretary general of the UN, woke up to this manipulation, he himself was assassinated. Many UN operatives who were appalled by the callous behaviour of the US and the CIA have written about the sordid tale of Moose Tshombe (puppet leader of Katanga) and the secession in Katanga. Kwame Nkrumah wrote ‘The Challenge of the Congo’ to underline the centrality of this challenge for the unification and liberation of Africa.
Richard Mahoney who wrote the book, ‘JFK: Ordeal in Africa’ had studied the tremendous energies invested in the control of the Congo in the period when the US was implicated in the murder of Patrice Lumumba. Mahoney termed the whole thrust of the policy a story of stupidity. This study, the product of a doctoral dissertation at John Hopkins University, detailed how the Congo became the centrepiece of US African policy in the 1960s. Mahoney made the argument that the US foreign policy was confused in purpose and contradictory in execution. But he did not challenge the fundamental realist and androcentric assumptions of graduate training. The role of the CIA and elements of the State Department in building alternatives to Patrice Lumumba leading to the massive support for Mobutism has been the subject of numerous studies. One of these explicitly entitled, ‘America’s Tyrant: The CIA and Mobutu of Zaire’ covers the whole military, economic and intelligence apparatus that was provided to enable Mobutu to rule in a tyrannical manner over the peoples of the Congo. President Clinton, in clear reference to the linkages between the US government and Mobutu, apologised to the people of Africa in Kampala, Uganda in March 1998 by declaring that during the Cold War, the US was blinded by its confrontation with the Soviet Union and hence supported elements such as Mobutu. How can the activists ensure that these apologies of the leader of the USA are not simple political gimmickry? Up to the present, there needs to be a clearer exposure of the US establishment and these assassinations. The attempt to poison Patrice Lumumba exposed the mindset of biological warfare that was to be later experimented in Africa. One scholar also opened the reality that it was in the Congo that the US first experimented with extraordinary rendition.
Neither the speech of the-then President Clinton nor policy formulations from the current National Security apparatus link the present policies of transnational corporations to the kind of policies that connived to perpetrate the elimination of Lumumba. The linkages between the bureaucracy and the University in the Cold War produced a generation of scholars who were steeped in the realist paradigms and went between the foundations, the universities, the Pentagon, the think tanks and the National Security Council. It was like a revolving door where they quoted each other, supported each other and provided a barrier to truth. From time to time, the production of Area Handbooks provided a basis for the assembling of the ideas sanctioned by scholars. These scholars participated in an elaborate exercise to provide political legitimacy for the US foreign policies in Africa. Henry Kissinger best symbolised these realists who could be termed organic scholars of the bourgeoisie. Many of his protégés staffed the African Bureau in the State Department and have left an indelible mark on the conceptualisation of war and politics in Africa. Noam Chomsky has written of the callousness and dehumanisation of the officials who have overseen murder and violence in the name of strategic minerals and strategic interests. He noted that, ‘Self-righteousness comes naturally to those who are able to achieve their will by force. They may also rest confident that the doctrinal system will properly efface and sanitise the past, at least among the educated sectors who are its agents and, arguably, its most naïve victims.’
LET THE NEW SCHOLARSHIP ON TRUTH THRIVE AND GROW
There is now a spate of books on the role of the CIA and the obsession of the US government with the so-called communist threat. What many of these books did not make clear was the level of coordination between the US and Belgians in the plot to eliminate Lumumba. The book that broke the mould and painstakingly outlined the plot in the clearest terms was that of Ludo De Witte, ‘The Assassination of Lumumba’. De Witte spent several years doing archival work and interviewing those involved in the assassination. It was after this book was published that the government of Belgium was forced to open up a parliamentary inquiry into the assassination. This parliamentary inquiry heard testimonies from a wide cross section of operatives in the Belgian state.
In February 2002, the government of Belgium accepted moral responsibility for the assassination of Lumumba. The Belgian Foreign Minister declared in February 2002 that, ‘[i]n light of criteria applicable today, certain members of the government at the time and certain Belgian actors of that period carry an irrefutable responsibility for the events that led to the death of Patrice Lumumba.’ (quoted from Thomas Turner, ‘Crimes of the West in Democratic Congo: Reflections on Belgian Acceptance of “Moral Responsibility” for the Death of Lumumba’, in ‘Genocide, War Crimes and The West’).
The declaration by the government of Belgium came after 40 years of research and writing on the assassination. The cables from Washington and the role of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in organising the plot are now well known. In 1975 Senator Frank Church carried out investigations on the ‘Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders,’ published in Senate Report 94-465, 94th Congress 1975.
Despite the record of the Church Committee and this parliamentary inquiry in Belgium, the reality is that the information on the conspiracy to murder Lumumba is not widely circulated. Belgian and European scholars continue to represent their work in the Congo as that of civilising Africans. More significant, has been the fact that this killing and the subsequent traditions left by Mobutu has poisoned the political culture and political life of the society. Mobutu’s government carried out extra judicial killings and murdered students and trade union leaders for thirty years. In 1990 there was an attempt to develop the basis for a national Palaver in a Sovereign National Conference. Neither the Congolese political careerists nor the imperial supporters in Washington, Brussels and Paris wanted the truth to come out. The genocidal wars in the Central Africa region and the deaths of over five million since the removal of Mobutu attest to the fact that once the politics of impunity are embedded in a society it takes generations to heal.
When Mobutu was overthrown in 1997 there were many discussions on the need for the US to open the files on the Congo. Lawrence Devlin, the ageing head of the CIA in Kinshasa at the time of the assassination of Lumumba turned up at one of the seminars. What was implicit in his presence was that there should be no revelation on the role of the USA in the crimes of Mobutu and that the ranks should be held. At the end of 1999, it was officially confirmed by a story in the Washington Post that President Eisenhower had given a direct order for the elimination of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo in 1960. This revelation confirmed what had been public knowledge for forty years, that President Eisenhower had given direct instructions to Allen Dulles, then director of the CIA for the assassination of Lumumba. Now in the aftermath of the Cold War, there are demands for opening the files so that there can be a new beginning for the societies that were destroyed.
In order to distort the real truth behind the assassination, before his death, Devlin wrote his own book, ‘Chief of Station’. Devlin’s book reproduced what had become the defining element of the US foreign policy, a lame attempt to rekindle the Cold War distortions that Lumumba was a communist and that the USA was acting to prevent the spread of communism in Africa. This brand of intellectual work was reinforced by section of the US bureaucracy that ingratiated itself with Mobutism and the circus of ‘humanitarian’ actors and actresses who have descended on the Congo and Eastern Africa. This circus has been underwritten by the massive investment of the World Bank to perpetuate a ‘conflict resolution’ paradigm in Africa, to obfuscate the iterations of assassinations. Throughout the misrule and oppression by Mobutu, the World Bank and the IMF were partners in the oppression. After Mobutu was removed, the Bank sought to link violence and warfare in the DRC to ‘primary commodity production’. The intellectuals of the World Bank joined in the discourse with reports on the Economic Causes of Civil Conflict and their Implications for Policy. After decades of foreign aid, foreign investment and economic reforms, the Development Research Group of the World Bank noted in their publication ‘Economic Causes of Civil Conflict and their Implications for Policy’: ‘[A]s of 1995 the country with the highest risk of civil conflict according to our analysis was Zaire, with a three in four chance of conflict within the ensuing five years.’ What was most revealing from the analysis of the World Bank on the relationship between primary commodity extraction and warfare was the extent to which questions of democratic participation on the one hand and the global armaments culture on the other are excluded from the policy alternatives offered for peace. Paul Collier, then the director of the research group of the World Bank argued that:
‘…the most powerful risk factor is that countries which have a substantial share of their income (GDP) coming from the export of primary commodities are radically more at risk of conflict…. Thus, without primary commodity exports, ordinary countries are pretty safe from internal conflict, while when such exports are substantial the society is highly dangerous. Primary commodities are thus a major part of the conflict story.’
Collier graduated from this World Bank research position to establish himself as an intellectual entrepreneur and high priest of the enterprise of studying Africa. He pontificates on warfare and violence from the safety and comfort of Oxford, where he suggests military interventions and coups as solutions for democratic governance in Africa. William Reno, Christopher Clapham and many others have turned the study of war-lordism into an academic industry without linking the plunder, mass rape and warren that support these military entrepreneurs. The conflict paradigm without historical reference to the experiences of the Belgian mining companies and the role of foreign corporations under Mobutu is represented with the full authority of the name of the World Bank to argue that countries ‘with Congo like geography’ and reliance on primary exports are prone to ‘Civil Conflict.’
What was also missing was clarity on the differences between the wars of plunder of elements such as Foday Sankoy’s and Charles Taylor’s and the righteous struggles for liberation that had been initiated by Patrice Lumumba. In the World Bank model there is no room for the explanation of the struggles for African dignity. Without this kind of interrogation of the role of the World Bank, the West can continue to think of the World Bank as an institution that can formulate development plans for the reconstruction of the DRC for a new era.
HEALING AND RECONSTRUCTION IN A NEW ERA
In the experience of the Congo and Central Africa, there continues to be a distortion of the actual conditions that generate warfare, rape and plunder today. One of the outcomes of this distortion is that the US military can represent itself as a force for peace by the ideas that are put forward as justifications for the establishment of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM). The counterinsurgency scholarship that was unleashed by the Pentagon during the cover up of the assassination of Lumumba is now being refinanced through the Africa Command Social Science Research programme. However, this research agenda comes up against the new energies of organisations and individuals who want to make a break with the iterations of assassinations. Whether it is the lobbying groups who are opposed to AFRICOM or the peace and justice campaigners organised as Friends of the Congo, there are many who are using the anniversary of the assassination of Patrice Lumumba as a platform for the exposure of the crimes of US imperialism and Belgian complicity.
Lumumba’s assassination is relevant to current global politics and the struggles for social transformation in Africa. As de Witte quoted from Fanon who had noted that: ‘If Africa was a revolver and the Congo its trigger…the assassination of Lumumba and tens of thousands of other Congolese nationalists, from 1960-1965, was the West’s ultimate attempt to destroy the continent’s authentic independent development‘ (xxv). De Witte rightly argued that:
‘After his death, the corrupt and dictatorial puppet regimes that popped up throughout Africa, supported by Western money and weapons, effectively stifled African nationalism and independence. Attempts to cover-up the assassination not only dishonor an innocent man, but perpetuate the violence and slavery of Africa.’
It is up to us to actualize the dream of Lumumba for the Congo and for Africa. In a letter to his wife before his assassination, Patrice Lumumba wrote:
‘No brutality, mistreatment, or torture has ever forced me to ask for grace, for I prefer to die with my head high, my faith steadfast, and my confidence profound in the destiny of my country, rather than to live in submission and scorn of sacred principles. History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that Brussels, Paris, Washington or the United Nations will teach, but that which they will teach in the countries emancipated from colonialism and its puppets. Africa will write its own history, and it will be, to the north and to the south of the Sahara, a history of glory and dignity.’
The celebrations of the life and work of Patrice Lumumba draw heavily from his last statements on the need for Africa to make a break and move in a new direction. We can draw inspiration from the optimism of Lumumba, stating:
‘I write you these words without knowing if they will reach you, when they will reach you, or if I will still be living when you read them. All during the length of my fight for the independence of my country, I have never doubted for a single instant the final triumph of the sacred cause to which my companions and myself have consecrated our lives. But what we wish for our country is right to an honorable life, to a spotless dignity, to an independence without restrictions…
‘They have corrupted certain of our fellow countrymen, they have contributed to distorting the truth and our enemies, that they will rise up like a single person to say no to a degrading and shameful colonialism and to reassume their dignity under a pure sun.
‘We are not alone. Africa, Asia, and free and liberated people from every corner of the world will always be found at the side of the Congolese. They will not abandon the light until the day comes when there are no more colonizers and their mercenaries in our country. To my children whom I leave and whom perhaps I will see no more, I wish that they be told that the future of the Congo is beautiful and that it expects for each Congolese, to accomplish the sacred task of reconstruction of our independence and our sovereignty; for without dignity there is no liberty, without justice there is no dignity, and without independence there are no free men.’
Even in captivity, Lumumba never wavered in his belief that Africa will be free from the imperial overlords and their puppets. He called on Africans to stand firm and to work for Africa’s emancipation. Lumumba ended the letter to his wife with these words:
‘[D]o not weep for me, my dear companion. I know that my country, which suffers so much, will know how to defend its independence and its liberty. Long live the Congo! Long live Africa!’
Patrice Lumuba’s words give courage to the current freedom fighters of Africa who should not mourn him but organise for the freedom and unity of the continent. We must also struggle to free Africa from African leaders who have Africanised the iterations of imperialist tools of oppression and assassination. Indeed, there must be an intensification of the struggle to make a break with the iteration of the assassination of African peoples’ dreams and aspirations. We must work harder for the kind of Africa Lumumba foresaw when he asserted that Africa will write its own history of dignity and glory. We must not rest until this dream is realised. This is the burden that history has placed on us.
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* 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Tunisia: The fall of the West's little dictator
When people choose life (with freedom)
Destiny will respond and take action
Darkness will surely fade away
And the chains will certainly be broken
(Tunisian poet Abul Qasim Al-Shabbi (1909-1934))
On New Year's Eve 1977, former President Jimmy Carter was toasting Shah Reza Pahlavi in Tehran, calling the Western-backed monarchy "an island of stability" in the Middle East. But for the next 13 months, Iran was anything but stable. The Iranian people were daily protesting the brutality of their dictator, holding mass demonstrations from one end of the country to the other.
Initially, the Shah described the popular protests as part of a conspiracy by communists and Islamic extremists, and employed an iron fist policy relying on the brutal use of force by his security apparatus and secret police. When this did not work, the Shah had to concede some of the popular demands, dismissing some of his generals, and promising to crack down on corruption and allow more freedom, before eventually succumbing to the main demand of the revolution by fleeing the country on Jan. 16, 1979.
But days before leaving, he installed a puppet prime minister in the hope that he could quell the protests allowing him to return. As he hopped from country to country, he discovered that he was unwelcome in most parts of the world. Western countries that had hailed his regime for decades were now abandoning him in droves in the face of popular revolution.
Fast forward to Tunisia 32 years later.
What took 54 weeks to accomplish in Iran was achieved in Tunisia in less than four. The regime of President Zein-al-Abidin Ben Ali represented in the eyes of his people not only the features of a suffocating dictatorship, but also the characteristics of a mafia-controlled society riddled with massive corruption and human rights abuses.
On December 17, Mohammed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old unemployed graduate in the central town of Sidi Bouzid, set himself on fire in an attempt to commit suicide. Earlier in the day, police officers took away his stand and confiscated the fruits and vegetables he was selling because he lacked a permit. When he tried to complain to government officials that he was unemployed and that this was his only means of survival, he was mocked, insulted and beaten by the police. He died 19 days later in the midst of the uprising.
Bouazizi's act of desperation set off the public's boiling frustration over living standards, corruption and lack of political freedom and human rights. For the next four weeks, his self-immolation sparked demonstrations in which protesters burned tires and chanted slogans demanding jobs and freedom. Protests soon spread all over the country including its capital, Tunis.
The first reaction by the regime was to clamp down and use brutal force including beatings, tear gas, and live ammunition. The more ruthless tactics the security forces employed, the more people got angry and took to the streets. On Dec. 28 the president gave his first speech claiming that the protests were organized by a "minority of extremists and terrorists" and that the law would be applied "in all firmness" to punish protesters.
However, by the start of the New Year tens of thousands of people, joined by labor unions, students, lawyers, professional syndicates, and other opposition groups, were demonstrating in over a dozen cities. By the end of the week, labor unions called for commercial strikes across the country, while 8,000 lawyers went on strike, bringing the entire judiciary system to an immediate halt.
Meanwhile, the regime started cracking down on bloggers, journalists, artists and political activists. It restricted all means of dissent, including social media. But following nearly 80 deaths by the security forces, the regime started to back down.
On Jan. 13, Ben Ali gave his third televised address, dismissing his interior minister and announcing unprecedented concessions while vowing not to seek re-election in 2014. He also pledged to introduce more freedoms into society, and to investigate the killings of protesters during the demonstrations. When this move only emboldened the protestors, he then addressed his people in desperation, promising fresh legislative elections within six months in an attempt to quell mass dissent.
When this ploy also did not work, he imposed a state of emergency, dismissing the entire cabinet and promising to deploy the army on a shoot to kill order. However, as the head of the army Gen. Rachid Ben Ammar refused to order his troops to kill the demonstrators in the streets, Ben Ali found no alternative but to flee the country and the rage of his people.
On Jan. 14 his entourage flew in four choppers to the Mediterranean island of Malta. When Malta refused to accept them, he boarded a plane heading to France. While in mid air he was told by the French that he would be denied entry. The plane then turned back to the gulf region until he was finally admitted and welcomed by Saudi Arabia. The Saudi regime has a long history of accepting despots including Idi Amin of Uganda and Parvez Musharraf of Pakistan.
But a few days before the deposed president left Tunis, his wife Leila Trabelsi, a former hairdresser known for her compulsive shopping, took over a ton and a half of pure gold from the central bank and left for Dubai along with her children. The first lady and the Trabelsi family are despised by the public for their corrupt lifestyle and financial scandals.
As chaos engulfed the political elites, the presidential security apparatus started a campaign of violence and property destruction in a last ditch attempt to saw discord and confusion. But the army, aided by popular committees, moved quickly to arrest them and stop the destruction campaign by imposing a night curfew throughout the country.
A handful of high-profile security officials such as the head of presidential security and the former interior minister, as well as business oligarchs including Ben Ali's relatives and Trabelsi family members, were either killed by crowds or arrested by the army as they attempted to flee the country.
Meanwhile, after initially declaring himself a temporary president, the prime minister had to back down from that decision within 20 hours in order to assure the public that Ben Ali was gone forever. The following day, the speaker of parliament was sworn in as president, promising a national unity government and elections within 60 days.
Most Western countries, including the U.S. and France, were slow in recognizing the fast-paced events. President Barack Obama did not say a word as the events were unfolding. But once Ben Ali was deposed, he declared: "the U.S. stands with the entire international community in bearing witness to this brave and determined struggle for the universal rights that we must all uphold." He continued: "We will long remember the images of the Tunisian people seeking to make their voices heard. I applaud the courage and dignity of the Tunisian people."
Similarly, the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, not only abandoned his Tunisian ally by refusing to admit him in the country while his flight was en route, but he even ordered Ben Ali's relatives staying in expensive apartments and luxury hotels in Paris to leave the country.
The following day the French government announced that it would freeze all accounts that belonged to the deposed president, his family, or in-laws, in a direct admission that the French government was already aware that such assets were the product of corruption and ill-gotten money.
The nature of Ben Ali's regime: Corruption, Repression and Western Backing
A recently published report from Global Financial Integrity (GFI), titled: "Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2000-2009," estimates Tunisia was losing billions of dollars to illicit financial activities and official government corruption, in a state budget that is less than $10 billion and GDP less than $40 billion per year.
Economist and co-author of the study, Karly Curcio, notes: "Political unrest is perpetuated, in part, by corrupt and criminal activity in the country. GFI estimates that the amount of illegal money lost from Tunisia due to corruption, bribery, kickbacks, trade mispricing, and criminal activity between 2000 and 2008 was, on average, over one billion dollars per year, specifically $1.16 billion per annum."
A 2008 Amnesty International study, titled: "In the Name of Security: Routine Abuses in Tunisia," reported that "serious human rights violations were being committed in connection with the government's security and counterterrorism policies." Reporters Without Borders also issued a report that stated Ben Ali's regime was "obsessive in its control of news and information. Journalists and human rights activists are the target of bureaucratic harassment, police violence and constant surveillance by the intelligence services."
The former U.S. Ambassador in Tunis, Robert Godec, has admitted as much. In a cable to his bosses in Washington, dated July 17, 2009, recently made public by Wikileaks, he stated with regard to the political elites: "they rely on the police for control and focus on preserving power. And, corruption in the inner circle is growing. Even average Tunisians are now keenly aware of it, and the chorus of complaints is rising."
Even when the U.S. Congress approved millions of dollars in military aid for Tunisia last year, it noted "restrictions on political freedom, the use of torture, imprisonment of dissidents, and persecution of journalists and human rights defenders."
Yet, ever since he seized power in 1987, Ben Ali counted on the support of the West to maintain his grip on the country. Indeed, Gen. Ben Ali was the product of the French Military Academy and the U.S. Army School at Ft. Bliss, TX. He also completed his intelligence and military security training at Ft. Holabird, MD.
Since he had spent most of his career as a military intelligence and security officer, he developed, over the years, close relationships with western intelligence agencies, especially the CIA, as well as the French and other NATO intelligence services.
Based on a European intelligence source, Al-Jazeera recently reported that when Ben Ali served as his country's ambassador to Poland between 1980-1984 (a strange post for a military and intelligence officer), he was actually serving NATO's interests by acting as the main contact between the CIA and NATO's intelligence services and the Polish opposition in order to undermine the Soviet-backed regime.
In 1999 Fulvio Martini, former head of Italian military secret service SISMI, declared to a parliamentary committee that "In 1985-1987, we (in NATO) organized a kind of golpe (i.e. coup d'etat) in Tunisia, putting president Ben Ali as head of state, replacing Burghuiba," in reference to the first president of Tunisia.
During his confirmation hearing in July 2009 as U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia, Gordon Gray reiterated the West's support for the regime as he told the Senate Foreign Relations committee, "We've had a long-standing military relationship with the government and with the military. It's very positive. Tunisian military equipment is of U.S. origin, so we have a long-standing assistance program there."
Tunisia's strategic importance to the U.S. is also recognized by the fact that its policy is determined by the National Security Council rather than the State Department. Furthermore, since Ben Ali became president, the U.S. military delivered $350 million in military hardware to his regime.
As recently as last year, the Obama administration asked Congress to approve a $282 million sale of more military equipment to help the security agencies maintain control over the population. In his letter to Congress, the President said: "This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country."
During the Bush administration the U.S. defined its relationship with other countries not based on its grandiose rhetoric on freedom and democracy, but rather on how each country would embrace its counter-terrorism campaign and pro-Israel policies in the region. On both accounts Tunisia scored highly.
For instance, a Wikileaks cable from Tunis, dated Feb. 28, 2008, reported a meeting between Assistant Secretary of State David Welch and Ben Ali in which the Tunisian president offered his country's intelligence cooperation "without reservation" including FBI access to "Tunisian detainees" inside Tunisian prisons.
In his first trip to the region in April 2009, President Obama's special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, stopped first in Tunisia and declared that his talks with its officials "were excellent." He hailed the "strong ties" between both governments, as well as Tunisia's support of U.S. efforts in the Middle East. He stressed President Obama's "high consideration" of Ben Ali.
Throughout his 23 year rule, hundreds of Tunisian human rights activists and critics such as opposition leaders Sihem Ben Sedrine and Moncef Marzouki, were arrested, detained, and sometimes tortured after they spoke out against the human rights abuses and massive corruption sanctioned by his regime. Meanwhile, thousands of members of the Islamic movement were arrested, tortured and tried in sham trials.
In its Aug. 2009 report, titled: "Tunisia, Continuing Abuses in the Name of Security," Amnesty International said: "The Tunisian authorities continue to carry out arbitrary arrests and detentions, allow torture and use unfair trials, all in the name of the fight against terrorism. This is the harsh reality behind the official rhetoric."
Western governments were quite aware of the nature of this regime. But they decided to overlook the regime's corruption and repression to secure their short-term interests. The State Department's own 2008 Human Rights Report detailed many cases of "torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment" including rapes of female political prisoners by the regime. Without elaboration or condemnation, the report coldly concluded: "Police assaulted human rights and opposition activists throughout the year."
"The dictator has fallen but not the dictatorship," declared Rachid Ghannouchi, the Islamic leader of the opposition party, al-Nahdha or Renaissance, who has been in exile in the U.K. for the past 22 years. During the reign of Ben Ali, his group was banned and thousands of its members were either tortured, imprisoned or exiled. He himself was tried and sentenced to death in absentia. He has announced his return to the country soon.
This statement by al-Nahdha's leader has reflected the popular sentiment cautioning that both the new president, Fouad Al-Mubazaa', and prime minister Mohammad Ghannouchi have been members of Ben Ali's party: The Constitutional Democratic Party. And thus their credibility is suspect. They have helped in implementing the deposed dictator's policies for over a decade.
Nevertheless, the Prime Minister promised, on the day Ben Ali fled the country, a government of national unity. Within days he announced a government that retained most of the former ministers (including the most important posts of defense, foreign , interior and finance), while including three ministers from the opposition and some independents close to the labor and lawyers unions. Many other opposition parties were either ignored or refused to join based on principle protesting the ruling party's past.
In less than 24 hours, huge demonstrations took place all over the country on Jan. 18 in protest of the inclusion of the ruling party. Immediately four ministers representing the labor union and an opposition party resigned from the new government until a true national unity government is formed. Another opposition party suspended its participation until the ruling party ministers are either dismissed or resign their position.
Within hours the president and the prime minister resigned from the ruling party and declared themselves as independents. Still, most opposition parties are demanding their removal and their replacement with reputable and national leaders who are truly "independent" and have "clean hands." They question how the same interior minister who organized the fraudulent elections of Ben Ali less than 15 months ago, could supervise free and fair elections now.
It's not clear if the new government would even survive the rage of the street. But perhaps its most significant announcement was issuing a general amnesty and promising a release of all political prisoners in detentions and in exile. It also established three national commissions.
The first commission is headed by one of the most respected constitutional scholars, Prof. 'Ayyadh Ben Ashour, to address political and constitutional reforms. The other two are headed by former human rights advocates; one to investigate official corruption, while the other to investigate the killing of the demonstrators during the popular uprising. All three commissions were appointed in response to the main demands by the demonstrators and opposition parties.
January 14, 2011 has indeed become a watershed date in the modern history of the Arab World. Already, about a dozen would-be martyrs have attempted suicide by setting themselves ablaze in public protest of political repression and economic corruption, in Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania. Opposition movements have already led protests praising the Tunisian uprising and protesting their governments' repressive policies and corruption in many Arab countries, including Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Libya, Yemen, and the Sudan.
The verdict on the ultimate success of the Tunisian revolution is still out. Will it be aborted by either infighting or the introduction of illusory changes to absorb the public's anger? Or will real and lasting change be established, enshrined in a new constitution that is based on democratic principles, political freedom, freedoms of press and assembly, independence of the judiciary, respect of human rights, and end of foreign interference?
As the answers to these questions unfold in the next few months, the larger question of whether there is a domino effect on the rest of the Arab world will become clearer.
But perhaps the ultimate lesson to Western policymakers is this: Real change is the product of popular will and sacrifice, not imposed by foreign interference or invasions.
To topple the Iraqi dictator, it cost the U.S. over 4,500 dead soldiers, 32,000 injured, a trillion dollars, a sinking economy, at least 150,000 dead Iraqis, a half-million injured, and the devastation of their country, as well as the enmity of billions of Muslims and other people around the world.
Meanwhile, the people of Tunisia toppled another brutal dictator with less than 100 dead who will forever be remembered and honored by their countrymen and women as heroes who paid the ultimate price for freedom.
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* This article was first published by counterpunch.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Twittering on the edge
H. Nanjala Nyabola
If you’re not a big fan of clichés, now may be a good time to cut back on your internet usage. In fact, you may want to stop reading things altogether for a few days (except, of course, this website). Following the remarkable events of last Friday that led to the ousting of one of Africa’s longest serving rulers, the evergreen President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, you may want to protect yourself from the rampant use and misuse of Gil Scott-Heron’s famous line ‘the revolution will not be televised’. Then again, maybe you won’t have to. By all measures it seems that no matter how, unless the situation in Tunisia takes on a dramatic turn for the worse (as it’s threatening to), the mainstream European and North American media will continue to discuss two things: one, what the crisis means for the region, and specifically key US ally Egypt, and two, what the increasing use of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are doing to promote increased social activism in young people.
On the first point, given the geostrategic obsession that Europe and North America have had with Egypt, it is almost understandable that any potential dramatic destabilisation of the country is at the front of everyone’s mind. If he remains in place until October of this year, Mubarak will have been in power for 30 years, and throughout that time he has managed to position himself as a key regional US ally against the sea of hostility towards the state of Israel, in return for commanding the largest portion of US foreign aid (mostly military, but that’s another story). Sadly, Mubarak does not have a history of treating his own citizens with the same magnanimity that he has extended to the state of Israel, and there is perceptible resentment towards the old man in many quarters. At the same time, Egypt has not been spared the effects of the international rise in food prices, and recalling that nothing threatens long-term political oppression as much as powerlessness in the face of imminent economic collapse, some commentators argue that it is only a matter of time before the crisis in Tunisia sets of a chain reaction in the Maghreb and beyond.
The second point is a little more interesting for me because it represents a rare moment of self-reflection for those who produce and consume technology. Rare, because conventional wisdom has always had it that more technology is always better, making increasing access to technology a priority for governments and corporations. Starting with the mobile phone and extending all the way into the penetration of the African market by social networking sites, the argument runs that increased access to such facilities increases political participation; giving voice to those who would be silenced by conventional political process. Thus Twitter, Facebook and other sites – and their availability on mobile phones and not just computers – have been credited with bringing the youth especially into the democratic space and, in part, sparking revolutions like those in Tunisia.
It seems like a straightforward enough account, except that it has been and continues to be challenged, primarily by Africans. On one hand runs the argument that the so-called communication revolution is nothing more than the cooption of democracy and all its ideals by corporations in order to move more merchandise. Mobile phones and the attendant phone plans are neither free nor cheap in many African countries, and the extent to which they are actually having an effect beyond raising standards of living for African middle classes is debatable. It’s marketing 101 that attaching a social value to a good increases the desire of individuals to be associated with it. Thus, portraying Facebook and Twitter as platforms for social change rather than the ultimate tools for procrastination and self-aggrandisement is more likely to draw people in, and charging people a fortune for the ability to be plugged into these platforms 24/7 on their mobile phones seems a more wholesome endeavour.
At the same time, there are those who question even the extent to which these platforms are actually fomenting social change. Some analysts are crediting increased access to these sites as major catalysts of the events in Tunisia, particularly by bringing Tunisian youth in contact with electronic vigilante groups such as Anonymous, who used their hacking skills to crash many of the Tunisian government’s websites. Indeed, the Jasmine Revolution, as the events in Tunisia have been dubbed by the Twitterati, is only the latest in a stream of similar events in Iran, Moldova and Belarus, of which the Green Revolution in Iran received the greatest attention. When the US State Department requested Twitter to suspend scheduled site maintenance so as not to interrupt the flow of information from Tehran, many analysts suggested that the electronic social revolution was finally coming of age. Or was it? Anonymous and other internet users are usually just that – anonymous. Aren’t the real heroes of the revolution, the thousands of Tunisian men and women who went out onto the streets everyday, risking their lives, even if their web-based counterparts helped egg them on? Would all the postings and updates in the world have made even the slightest bit of difference had many long-suffering ordinary Tunisians not poured out into the streets to express their frustration at their government?
As someone who has tried to use social networking sites to organise political action and failed, I’m still inclined to stay on the middle-ground with this one. I agree with those who argue that the internet and the mobile phone, much like the Gutenberg Press before them, do not create revolutionaries. The desire to effect social change in one’s community is more a reflection of personality and passion, and a revolutionary will emerge whether or not he or she has access to the internet or to Twitter. Indeed, the greatest change-makers on the continent, the revolutionaries of yore like Cabral and Kimathi, did not even need the printed press to get their message out and organise successful resistance to colonialism. Many of the young people who came out in support of the PAIGC (Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde - African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde) and Mau Mau couldn’t even read or write, let alone produce pamphlets in support of their causes.
Even so, I believe that increased access to the internet and social networking – much like the printed press – is changing the way in which revolutionaries are able to interact with their intended audience. Any student of social and political change knows that lasting change, especially in capitalist societies, must come from the middle, and what the internet and mobile phones have done is to increase access for the middle classes to information on the state of their nations. To be middle class in many African countries usually means to be politically disengaged, and what social networking sites do is create space for these young people to plug into the political sphere with limited personal risk. This may seem counterintuitive at first, but if you think about it, young middle-class people – rightfully or wrongly – often sense that they have more to lose by speaking up for a cause. These are people who would live relatively comfortable lives, often insulated from the excesses of tyrannical governments, and what the internet does is bring these excesses to their doorsteps while taking the element of personal risk out of the equation. This brings in a broader audience for the revolutionaries in question, and no doubt Kimathi or Cabral would have been grateful for the opportunity to take their revolutionary message right into the homes of the African clerks, teachers or civil servants.
Acknowledging that social networking or technology in general has a role to play in catalysing activism doesn’t diminish the agency or power of those who participate. Rather, what it does is acknowledge that the world has changed, and social activism with it. Technology, in the hands of passionate and organised individuals can and has been vital in fomenting social change in Tunisia and further afield, and this should not be underplayed. To corrupt an old saying, in as much as a good worker never blames their tools because they know that a tool is only as effective as those who wield it, anyone who’s ever work on a farm will tell you, it doesn’t hurt to have good tools.
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A tale of two dictators
Last Friday Tunisian dictator, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali who has ruled for the past 23 years, fled the country on 14 January following a popular uprising on the streets of Tunis and to a lesser extent in cyberland. He is now hiding in Saudia Arabia, a country he should feel comfortable in, given its own history of repression and censorship. Over in Haiti, ex-dictator Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier, who fled the country for exile in France in 1986, returned on Sunday night. Both dictators have much in common: A dictatorship of repression and intimidation maintained by a much-feared personal police force; the murder of thousands of people – the figure for the Duvaliers is some 60,000 – thousands of people disappeared; millions of US dollars stolen from the public purse; supported by the West until it was untenable; and subsequently given lodgings along with their stolen millions. (The Swiss government has just opened an enquiry into Ben Ali’s stash following two official complaints).
Both events have been covered extensively in on Twitter and to a lesser extent on Facebook and blogs; already there has been a great deal of hype about Tunisia being a ‘social media’ revolution. Yes, minute by minute updates of the protests were tweeted, videoed and Facebooked, but the uprising took place on the streets not in cyberland. What social media/citizens journalism has done is to enable those on the ground to publish reports in real time, globalising the uprisings and events and in that way encouraging more Tunisians to join the protests, as well as influence the view among the ‘international community’ that his leadership was no longer tenable. It has also put other Arab dictators on notice and no doubt given great encouragement to those living under other repressive Arab and African leaderships.
Please note, events in both Tunisia and Haiti are moving so fast with hour-by-hour changes so some of these reports may well be history by the time they are published.
Egyptian blogger Arabawy posts a series of links to stories on the ‘domino effect’ of the Tunisian revolution:
‘“Neoliberalism on the retreat” [in the Arab world]; “Omanis protest high cost of living and corruption”; “Protests by opposition parties and trade unions on food prices hikes in Jordan”; “Overthrow delivers a jolt to Arab region” and on Egypt: We all feel it in the air” - Mubarak must be especailly worried given the high level of political protest in Egypt both on the streets and online......
‘Mubarak must be extremely worried at the moment. He’s old, in a bad shape, and is expected to die at any moment. Is his son ready for succession? My answer is no. The whole establishment must be shaking, and I’m sure there are all sorts of emergency plans being put in place to rescue our royal family if an uprising takes place similar to the one in Tunisia (or in Egypt ’77). I’m sure everyone at the top is trembling. And for a good reason. The Egyptian people will revolt. And when they do they will show our Ben Alis no mercy for the crimes they’ve committed over the past three decades.”
A Moroccan about the world around him points out that Ben Ali has left but RCD (Constitutional Democractic Rally) remains in tact:
‘Thousands have been arrested and tortured in the past four weeks in accordance with orders given not by Ben Ali, but by military and police generals and political officials in the RCD. Ben Ali has left, but it is hardly the death knell of graft, fraud, political elitism, and economic austerity; these will still be deeply rooted in Tunisia as long as the RCD remains a political juggernaut.’
Tunisian blog portal Nawaat has the most comprehensive timeline of events over the past month, including the changes in leadership since Ben Ali fled. For example this post suggests the appointment of Foued Mebazaa as interim president may be unconstitutional:
‘Dès lors l’investiture de M. Foued MOBAZZA, comme président par Intérim parait constitutionnellement comme entachée d’illégalité.
Il ne fait aujourd’hui qu’occuper, voire squatter le pouvoir faute d’avoir été régulièrement investi de la fonction exécutive.
J’ajoute que la défaillance du Conseil Constitutionnel est d’autant plus consternante qu’elle procède d’une manœuvre intentionnelle, destinée à détourner les dispositions relatives à la durée de l’Intérim prévues par l’article 57 de la Constitution et limitée à une période de 45 jours au moins ou 60 Jours au plus.
Il est en définitive, pour le moins extraordinaire que les commensaux du régime de BEN ALI se sont révélé jusqu’au bout incapables de respecter une procédure constitutionnelle instituée par des textes qu’ils ont eux même confectionné à leurs seules mesures et voté dans des conditions exemptes de tout débat démocratique.
Aussi, la Tunisie se retrouve aujourd’hui dans une impasse constitutionnelle et un vide politique au sommet de l’Etat.
En effet M. Foued MOBAZZA n’est en fait qu’un simple occupant du pouvoir sans aucune légitimité constitutionnelle.
Je me bornerai ici dans cette analyse, à énumérer les différentes solutions juridiques envisageables pour sortir de cette crise constitutionnelle et je laisse le soin aux forces politiques tunisiennes et au peuple tunisien de réfléchir et choisir la voie politique de sortie de crise.” Ahmed MAALEJ, Tunisian Lawyer in Paris’
Ben Ali has fled but this is just the beginning and Tunisians must continue to keep up the pressure as Kabobfest points out in ‘Tunis... And the Looming Darkness’:
‘What happened in Tunisia on January 14th, was not the collapse of the regime but fleeing of its face.
‘Ben Ali’s fled because the army genenerals refused to obey a direct order to fire on the protestors. Without the army backing his reign was no longer tenable but what about the system that he had put in place since many of the Ben Ali government, including Prime Minister, Mohammed Al-Ghannouchi who aassumed power [for a whole 24 hours], remain in government?
‘The quick take-over of Ghannouchi led the West, especially the United States and France, to immediately embrace the revolution and applaud the people’s right to self-determination for freedom and democracy, trying to force down people’s throats that this struggle for freedom was somehow about dethroning one man from power. Of course, one could argue that the West couldn’t respond in any other way in the face of a social movement with this magnitude. After all, Ben Ali and his policies have been approved of and applauded for thirty years by the United States and France in particular, citing the Tunisian setup as the best model for the Arab World to follow, with international reports mainly from entities like the World Bank, cheering the economic success. That is precisely because Tunisia has represented, for the last decade, one of the greatest models of the World-Bank/IMF design for what a neo-liberal capitalist society should look like, which is to say maximizing free trade in all sectors. That means, you open up Tunisia for giant transnational corporations to penetrate its markets, crushing all local competition in the process, where the Tunisian people are ultimately transformed from mass producers to mass consumers, unemployed and dependent on World Bank and IMF grants and loans for sustained consumption.’
Recommendations for Twitter users to follow are Tunisians @ifikra, @nawaat @yassayari and Egyptians @waelabbas @alaa @mashahed
In Haiti events are changing so fast that by the time this is published, Duvalier maybe back in France, or he might be in prison, or he may have escaped to the Dominican Republic – in short anything could have happened. The tweets began appearing on Sunday evening and have not stopped since, giving a minute by minute account of Duvalier’s arrival, waving from the Hotel Karibe, scheduled press conferences which were both cancelled, and, as I write now, on his way to the court house in a prison vehicle. This follows a report on Radio Caraibes that the Justice Department was meeting to decide if Baby Doc should be arrested.
@KatOnEarth: “Duvalier is in a Nissan Patrol with police, led by the prison transport vehicle, headed to courthouse- Tues, 18 Jan 12.23.
@public_archive: “Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier arrested -12.23
@HaitianIntoProj: “Duvalier supporters are blocking the street to the hotel and screaming angrily. 12.24
@delapour inserts some humour into all of this with: Next on As #Haiti Turns:Clinton is arrested 4 destroying Haitian agriculture & forcing thousands 2 move to PAP causing them to die in the EQ - 12.14
@kiskeacity: Baby Doc' #Duvalier charged with corruption in Haiti http://ht.ly/3G5s4 #BabyDoc 17.11
@karljeanjunne: It's over (for today at least.) #BabyDoc is leaving the court and heading back to the hotel. #Haiti - 17.19
@ezilidanto: #Haiti government refuses to renew the passport of Aristide - HaitiLibre.com http://bit.ly/hbwYzu 18.56
@Renewal4haiti: If indeed the int'l community is playing games with #Préval, that would be a way out of left-field reaction. #Haiti - 20.33
Blogger and freelance journalist, Media Hacker turned to the Wikileaks report ‘Rice and Brazil agree to keep Aristide out, South Africa says it will prevent him from influencing politics’ and ‘Excerpts and link to full cable on Aristide, MINUSTAH, gangs.’
Media Hacker who produces the best reports from Haiti, has an excellent timeline of ‘Haiti’s Disastrous 2010’:
‘For me, something that stands out is the number of times the UN indicates an understanding of humanitarian failures but seemingly ignores suggestions from others on how to do better – for example, that it do a better job of including Haitians and civil society in decision-making.’
On the arrival of Baby Doc, Ezili Danto trys unravel the mystery of who is behind his return, why and so on (note this post was written on Sunday 16 January). She makes the excellent point that:
‘If Air-France wanted to bring in Osama Bin Laden into Haiti, how could Haitians stop it?
‘I noted on my arrival in Port-au-Prince that no one is turned away from Haiti - it’s doors are open to anyone no matter how fraudulent their creditentials. Haiti is not under the control of Haitians. For millions of Haitians in the country and in the Diaspora, the return of Jean-Claude Duvalier has brought back horrific memories of brutality and terror for those who lived under the Duvalier dictatorships. It amounts yet another assault on the people. Earthquake, floods, cholera, fraudlent farcical elections, protests, the anniversary of the earthquake and now the return of Baby Doc. A great many people knew he was arriving Sunday night. Someone started videoing [http://youtu.be/bl-gCTGuGd8] the landing of the Air France plane which brought him. He was met at the airport and the arrivals hall was full of press. The police escort and his supporters were outside waiting. Yes, they could have gathered in the time it took for those in the airport to spread the news but the media and police must have been ready.
‘To add to the confusion the OAS have recommended that Michel Martelly take the place of Jude Celestine in the run off against Mirlande Maniga whilst the CEP [Electorical council] continue to maintain that Celestine is the run off candidate not Martelly. One cannot be sure and speculation is rife but I am not of the firm belief that President Preval is behind this or even knew of it, at least not until the last minute. One possibility is that Duvalier supporters have taken the opportunity provided by the chaos and dysfunctional government of the past 12 months to bring him back with the intention of causing further instability and therefore the possible election of their candidate. One thing is sure, whatever is taking place is not in the interest of the millions of ordinary Haitians who have borne the violence of the past 12 months.’
Finally Black Looks writes about the organisation SOIL, whose founder she met whilst in Haiti, and which is installing compost toilets in Cap Haitian and Port-au-Prince:
‘The philosophy behind SOIL which they describe as ”liberation ecology” is
dedicated to protecting soil resources, empowering communities and transforming wastes into resources in Haiti. We believe that the path to sustainability is through transformation, of both disempowered people and discarded materials, turning apathy and pollution into valuable resources. SOIL promotes integrated approaches to the problems of poverty, poor public health, agricultural productivity, and environmental destruction. We attempt to nurture collective creativity through developing collaborative relationships between community organizations in Haiti and academics and activists internationally Empowering communities, building the soil, nourishing the grassroots.’
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* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
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Referendum for Sudan, requiem for Africa
Alemayehu G. Mariam
It is the best of times in the Sudan. It is the worst of times in the Sudan. It is the happiest day in the Sudan. It is the saddest day in the Sudan. It is referendum for the Sudan. It is requiem for Africa.
South Sudan just finished voting in a referendum, part of a deal made in 2005 to end a civil war that dates back over one-half century. The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) says the final results will be announced on February 14; but no one really believes there will be one united Sudan by July 2011. By then, South Sudan will be Africa's newest state.
In a recent speech at Khartoum University, Thabo Mbeki, former South African president and Chairperson of the African Union High-level Implementation Panel on Sudan, alluded to the causes of the current breakup of the Sudan: "As all of us know, a year ahead of your independence, in 1955, a rebellion broke out in Southern Sudan. The essential reason for the rebellion was that your compatriots in the South saw the impending independence as a threat to them, which they elected to oppose by resorting to the weapons of war." There is a lot more to the South Sudanese "rebellion" than a delayed rendezvous with the legacy of British colonialism. In some ways it could be argued that the "imperfect" decolonization of the Sudan, which did not necessarily follow the boundaries of ethnic and linguistic group settlement, led to decades of conflict and civil wars and the current breakup.
Many of the problems leading to the referendum are also rooted in post-independence Sudanese history – irreconcilable religious differences, economic exploitation and discrimination. The central Sudanese government's imposition of "Arabism" and "Islamism" (sharia law) on the South Sudanese and rampant discrimination against them are said to be a sustaining cause of the civil war. South Sudan is believed to hold much of the potential wealth of the Sudan, including oil. Yet the majority of South Sudanese people languished in abject poverty for decades, while their northern compatriots benefitted disproportionately.
Whether the people of South Sudan will secede and form their own state is a question only they can decide. They certainly have the legal right under international law to self-determination, a principle enshrined in the U.N. Charter. Their vote will be the final word on the issue. The focus now is on what is likely to happen after South Sudan becomes independent. Those who seem to be in the know sound optimistic. Mbeki says, "Both the Government of Sudan and the SPLM have made the solemn and vitally important commitment that should the people of South Sudan vote for secession, they will work to ensure the emergence and peaceful coexistence of two viable states." The tea leaves readers and pundits are predicting doom and gloom. They say the Sudan will be transformed into a hardline theocratic state ruled under sharia law. There will be renewed violence in Darfur, South Kurdofan and Eastern Sudan. There will be endless civil wars that will cause more deaths and destruction according to the modern day seers.
To some extent, the pessimism over Sudan's future may have some merit. Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir's told the New York Times recently about his post-secession plans: "We'll change the Constitution. Shariah and Islam will be the main source for the Constitution, Islam the official religion and Arabic the official language." Bashir's plan goes beyond establishing a theocratic state. There will be no tolerance of diversity of any kind in Bashir's "new Sudan". He says, "If South Sudan secedes, we will change the Constitution, and at that time there will be no time to speak of diversity of culture and ethnicity." Bashir's warning is not only shocking but deeply troubling. The message undoubtedly will cause great alarm among secularists, Southern Sudanese living in the north who voted for unity and Sudanese of different faiths, viewpoints, beliefs and ideologies. In post-secession Sudan, diversity, tolerance, compromise and reconciliation will be crimes against the state. It is all eerily reminiscent of the ideas of another guy who 70 years ago talked about "organic unity" and the "common welfare of the Volk". Sudanese opposition leaders are issuing their own ultimata. Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of the Umma Party, issued a demand for a new constitution and elections; in the alternative, he promised to work for the overthrow of Bashir's regime. Other opposition leaders seem to be following along the same line. There is a rocky road ahead for the Sudan, both south and north.
FROM PAN-AFRICANISM TO AFRO-FASCISM?
The outcome of the South Sudanese referendum is not in doubt, but where Africa is headed in the second decade of the 21st Century is very much in doubt. Last week, Tunisian dictator Ben Ali packed up and left after 23 years of corrupt dictatorial rule. President Obama "applauded the courage and dignity of the Tunisian people" in driving out the dictator. Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo is still holed up in Abidjan taunting U.N. peacekeepers and playing round-robin with various African leaders. Over in the Horn of Africa, Meles Zenawi is carting off businessmen and merchants to jail for allegedly price-gouging the public and economic sabotage. What in the world is happening to Africa?
When African countries cast off the yoke of colonialism, their future seemed bright and limitless. Independence leaders thought in terms of Pan-Africanism and the political and economic unification of native Africans and those of African heritage into a "global African community". Pan-Africanism represented a return to African values and traditions in the struggle against neo-colonialism, imperialism, racism and the rest of it. Its core value was the unity of all African peoples.
The founding fathers of post-independence Africa all believed in the dream of African unity. Ethiopia's H.I.M. Haile Selassie, Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah, Kenya's Jomo Kenyatta, Tanzania's Julius Nyerere, Guinea's Ahmed Sékou Touré, Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda and Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser were all declared Pan-Africanists. On the occasion of the establishment of the permanent headquarters of the Organization for African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa on May 25, 1963, H.I.M. Haile Selassie made the most compelling case for African unity:
‘We look to the vision of an Africa not merely free but united. In facing this new challenge, we can take comfort and encouragement from the lessons of the past. We know that there are differences among us. Africans enjoy different cultures, distinctive values, special attributes. But we also know that unity can be and has been attained among men of the most disparate origins, that differences of race, of religion, of culture, of tradition, are no insuperable obstacle to the coming together of peoples. History teaches us that unity is strength, and cautions us to submerge and overcome our differences in the quest for common goals, to strive, with all our combined strength, for the path to true African brotherhood and unity.... Our efforts as free men must be to establish new relationships, devoid of any resentment and hostility, restored to our belief and faith in ourselves as individuals, dealing on a basis of equality with other equally free peoples.’
Pan-Africanism is dead. A new ideology today is sweeping over Africa. Africa's home grown dictators are furiously beating the drums of "tribal nationalism" all over the continent to cling to power. In many parts of Africa today ideologies of "ethnic identity", "ethnic purity," "ethnic homelands", ethnic cleansing and tribal chauvinism have become fashionable. In Ivory Coast, an ideological war has been waged over 'Ivoirité’ ('Ivorian-ness') since the 1990s. Proponents of this perverted ideology argue that the country's problems are rooted in the contamination of genuine Ivorian identity by outsiders who have been allowed to freely immigrate into the country. Immigrants, even those who have been there for generations, and refugees from the neighbouring countries including Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea and Liberia are singled out and blamed for the country's problems and persecuted. Professor Gbagbo even tried to tar and feather the winner of the recent election Alassane Ouattara (whose father is allegedly Burkinabe) as a not having true Ivorian identity. Gbagbo has used religion to divide Ivorians regionally into north and south.
In Ethiopia, tribal politics has been repackaged in a fancy wrapper called "ethnic federalism." Zenawi has segregated the Ethiopian people by ethno-tribal classification like cattle in grotesque regional political units called "kilils" (reservations) or glorified apartheid-style Bantustans or tribal homelands. This sinister perversion of the concept of federalism has enabled a few cunning dictators to oppress, divide and rule some 80 million people for nearly two decades. South of the border in Kenya, in the aftermath of the 2007 elections, over 600,000 Kenyans were displaced as a result of ethnic motivated hatred and violence. Over 1,500 were massacred. Kenya continues to arrest and detain untold numbers of Ethiopian refugees that have fled the dictatorship of Meles Zenawi. What more can be said about Rwanda that has not already been said.
It is not only the worst-governed African countries that are having problems with "Africanity". South Africa has been skating on the slippery slope of xenophobia. Immigrants from Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia have been attacked by mobs. According to a study by the Southern African Migration Project (SAMP): "The ANC government - in its attempts to overcome the divides of the past and build new forms of social cohesion... embarked on an aggressive and inclusive nation-building project. One unanticipated by-product of this project has been a growth in intolerance towards outsiders... Violence against foreign citizens and African refugees has become increasingly common and communities are divided by hostility and suspicion." Among the member countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), South Africans expressed the harshest and most punitive anti-foreigner sentiments in the study. How ironic for a country that was under apartheid less than two decades ago.
Whether it is the "kilil" ideology practiced in Ethiopia or the "Ivorité" of Ivory Coast, the central aim of these weird ideologies is to enable power hungry and bloodthirsty African dictators to cling to power by dividing Africans along ethnic, linguistic, tribal, racial and religious lines. Fellow Africans are foreigners to be arrested, jailed, displaced, deported and blamed for whatever goes wrong under the watch of the dictators. The old Pan-African ideas of common African history, suffering, struggle, heritage and legacy are gone. There is no unifying sense African brotherhood or sisterhood. Africa's contemporary leaders, or more appropriately, hyenas in designer suits and uniforms, have made Africans strangers to each other and rendered Africa a "dog-eat-dog" continent.
In 2009, in Accra, Ghana, President Obama blasted identity politics as a canker in the African body politic:
‘We all have many identities - of tribe and ethnicity; of religion and nationality. But defining oneself in opposition to someone who belongs to a different tribe, or who worships a different prophet, has no place in the 21st century.... In my father's life, it was partly tribalism and patronage in an independent Kenya that for a long stretch derailed his career, and we know that this kind of corruption is a daily fact of life for far too many.’
For what little it is worth, for the last few years I have preached from my cyber soapbox against those in Africa who have used the politics of ethnicity to cling to power. I firmly believe that our humanity is more important than our ethnicity, nationality, sovereignty or even Africanity! As an unreformed Pan-Africanist, I also believe that Africans are not prisoners to be kept behind tribal walls, ethnic enclaves, Ivorité, kilils, Bantustans, apartheid or whatever divisive and repressive ideology is manufactured by dictators, but free men and women who are captains of their destines in one un-walled Africa that belongs to all equally. "Tear down the walls of tribalism and ethnicity in Africa," I say.
It is necessary to come up with a counter-ideology to withstand the rising tide of Afro-fascism. Perhaps we can learn from Archbishop Desmond Tutu's ideas of "Ubuntu", the essence of being human. Tutu explained: "A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed." I believe "Ubuntu" provides a sound philosophical basis for the development of a human rights culture for the African continent based on a common African belief of "belonging to a greater whole." To this end, Tutu taught, "Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." More specifically, Africa.
"AFRI-CANS" AND "AFRI-CANNOTS"
As for South Sudan, the future holds many dangers and opportunities. Africans have fought their way out of colonialism and become independent. Some have seceded from the post-independence states, but it is questionable if they have succeeded. How many African countries are better off today than they were prior to independence? Before secession? As the old saying goes: "Be careful what you wish for. You may receive it." We wish the people of South and North Sudan a future of hope, peace, prosperity and reconciliation.
I am no longer sure if Afri-Cans are able to “unite for the benefit of their people”, as Bob Marley pleaded. But I am sure that Afri-Cannots continue to have tribal wars, ethnic domination, corruption, inflation and repression as Fela Kuti warned, and expect to be viable in the second decade of the 21st century. In 1963, H.I.M. Haile Selassie reminded his colleagues:
‘Today, Africa has emerged from this dark passage [of colonialism]. Our Armageddon is past. Africa has been reborn as a free continent and Africans have been reborn as free men.... Those men who refused to accept the judgment passed upon them by the colonisers, who held unswervingly through the darkest hours to a vision of an Africa emancipated from political, economic, and spiritual domination, will be remembered and revered wherever Africans meet.... Their deeds are written in history.’
It is said that those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it. I am afraid Africa's Armageddon is yet to come. Africa has been re-enslaved by home grown dictators, and Africans have become prisoners of thugs, criminals, gangsters, fugitives and outlaws who have seized and clung to power like parasitic ticks on a milk cow. Cry for the beloved continent!
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* Alemayehu G. Mariam is professor of political science at CSU San Bernardino.
* This article was first published by Ethiomedia.com.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Malawi at a crossroads
Is Malawi on the verge of becoming Africa’s newest dictatorship? President Bingu wa Mutharika’s double-standard behaviour toward Joyce Banda, the country’s vice-president, has certainly moved the troubled country in this direction.
Wa Mutharika also sounded dictatorial last year as he threatened Malawi’s journalists, telling them he’d shut down newspapers that tarnish his government’s image. Just last week a Malawian journalist was arrested in Blantyre and the idea of freedom of expression became even more of a distant memory in the country.
Yet the president has been all smiles internationally, winning prizes for encouraging women’s equality and for promoting Banda as Malawi’s first female vice -president.
On the home front it’s a different story.
In mid-December Banda was expelled from the ruling Democratic Progress Party (DPP), after vague and questionable allegations that she was forming parallel party structures and refusing to endorse wa Mutharika’s brother for the 2014 presidential nomination.
Banda’s expulsion is the culmination of escalating discrimination from within her own party. Not only have her vice presidential duties been taken away, but members of the DPP have actively campaigned against her and tried to quash any hopes she may have of running for president in 2014, only a few months into wa Mutharika’s second term.
Noel Masangwi, DPP Regional Governor for the South, recently raised eyebrows when he said: ‘Malawi is not ready for a female president.’ Banda has been given fewer funds to cover staffing and the Malawi Broadcasting Company (MBC), Malawi’s only TV Station, has only once reported on the functions of her office.
It’s a long way from 2009, when the president and his vice genuinely appeared as Malawi’s dream team. Banda was recognised as having a huge influence on the party’s landslide victory in the election, largely due to her popularity among the country’s women, who have historically been sidelined in the political arena.
However, things have changed drastically in a short time and a president who once happily endorsed and bragged about his second-in-command is now undermining her credibility and attempting to orchestrate her political downfall. Apparently the selection of Banda for vice-president was no more than window dressing in a poverty-stricken country desperate to impress international donors.
The current situation is of deep concern. It diminishes the great strides Malawi has made toward achieving gender equality and greater women’s representation in politics. It also constitutes a serious threat to the democratic principles stipulated in the country’s Constitution as well as regional and international protocols it has signed and ratified, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.
It further symbolises how a president with a political majority in a young democracy can pretend to be one thing in the international public eye while practicing something very different behind his country’s closed doors.
‘Women in politics have been squeezed as a result of the oppression of the vice president; some are scared to voice their views in support of her due to fear of what will happen,’ says Anitta Kalinde, an MP who was assaulted by the DPP Youth Wing because she sympathises with Banda. ‘This is a sad development. The morale of women is down and this is an example of how a female politician is being used.’
Norway was one country that provided major financial support to the 50/50 Campaign launched prior to the presidential election in May 2009. The campaign’s goal was to increase women’s representation and participation in political decision-making positions and it was largely successful. Malawi elected 22 per cent women, more than ever before, including six female ministers and Banda, its first female vice-president.
‘Statistical increase in women representation in politics is positive. However, the gender imbalance will remain if the numbers are not given a practical meaning and content in terms of active women participation, which continue to be a challenge in Malawi,’ argues Bjorn Johannessen, former Norwegian ambassador to Malawi.
Public Affairs Committee (PAC), the prominent interfaith organisation made up of the main Protestant, Catholic and Muslim faith groups in Malawi, recently put out a statement about Banda’s treatment and the DPP’s succession plan, which said: ‘The ruling party’s path wasn’t clean as the selection of a successor never went through a convention which is wrong and undemocratic.’
PAC further stated: ‘The way the Vice President is being victimised is disrespectful and unheard of. It is tantamount to gender-based violence against a female politician and eroding values and principles of democracy. The way the expulsion was carried out further shows lack of intra-party democracy within the ruling party.’
Aside from this there is little public debate on the controversial matter and the DPP has created an environment in which national and international stakeholders are fearful to protest or present an alternative view.
However, outside Malawi the issue is being taken up. In a letter of solidarity addressed to the vice-president earlier this year the pan-African organisation FEMNET criticised the DPP’s treatment of Banda: ‘We feel that such attacks on female politicians are totally unacceptable in the 21st century and we condemn it in the strongest term.’
Malawi is at an important crossroads and the world is beginning to take notice. Either government can adhere to the principles of human rights and democracy enshrined in the regional and international documents it has signed, or it can continue down the dangerous path toward dictatorship.
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* Chifundo Phiri is not the author’s real name. The author has chosen to remain anonymous.
* This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service, which provides fresh views on everyday news.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Dethroning King Coal in 2011: From West Virginia to Durban
South Africa’s crust was drill-pocked with abandon since Kimberley diamonds were found in 1867 and then Witwatersrand (Johannesburg) gold was unearthed in 1886. But the world’s interest in how we trash our environment perked up again last week for two reasons:
- the shocking revelation that acid mine drainage is now seeping into the Johannesburg region’s ‘Cradle of Humankind’, home of hominid fossils dating more than 3 million years, where our Australopithecus ancestors’ earliest bones are now threatened by the area’s pollution-intensive mining industry
- hot contestation of new United States financing for South Africa’s proposed Kusile power plant, which will be the world’s third largest coal-fired facility.
In parallel battles though, the beheading of King Coal is underway in West Virginia, where nine days after the 3 January cancer death of heroic eco-warrior Judy Bonds, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) overturned the Army Corps of Engineers’ prior approval of Spruce No. 1 mine, the world’s largest-ever ‘mountaintop removal’ operation. Coal companies have been blowing up the once-rolling, now-stumbling Appalachians. In order to rip out a ton of fossil fuel, they dump 16 tons of rubble into the adjoining valleys.
After an avalanche of pressure by mountain communities and environmentalists, the EPA ruled against the ‘unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas (including spawning and breeding areas), wildlife, or recreational areas.’ According to leading US climatologist James Hansen, quoted in Bonds’s New York Times obituary last week, ‘There are many things we ought to do to deal with climate change, but stopping mountaintop-removal is the place to start. Coal contributes the most carbon dioxide of any energy source.’ The EPA also took a stance in late December to belatedly begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
Through activism and legal strategies, US communities and the Sierra Club have prevented construction of 150 proposed coal-fired power plants over the last couple of years, a remarkable accomplishment (only a couple got through their net).
But in South Africa, the fight is just beginning. The national government in Pretoria and municipal officials in seaside Durban will continue invoking several myths in defence of coal, Kusile and the ‘COP17’, the November 28–December 9 climate summit officially called the ‘Conference of the Parties 17’ (but which should be renamed the Conference of Polluters). Here are some of the strategies of the South African state and big business meant to blind us:
- in Durban, aggressive ‘greenwashing’ will attempt to distract attention from vast CO2 emissions attributable to south Durban’s oft-exploding oil refineries and petrochemical complex, Africa’s largest port, the hyperactive tourism promotion strategy (in lieu of any bottom-up economic development), unending sports stadia construction and an unnecessary new King Shaka international airport, electricity going to the very dangerous Assmang ferromanganese smelter (the city’s largest power guzzler by far at more than a half-million megawatt hours per year), sprawly new suburban developments, and inefficient electricity consumption and transport because of state failure to provide adequate renewable energy and mass transit incentives.
- ‘offsets’ for a tiny fraction of Durban’s emissions will again be fatuously marketed to an unsuspecting public, as during the 2010 World Cup, including mass planting of trees (though when they die the carbon is re-released) and municipal landfill methane capture – even though the increasingly corrupt offset industry and European carbon markets which market our emissions credits are now ridiculed across the world, and in economic terms are failing beyond even the most pessimistic predictions
- whacky, unworkable ‘geo-engineering’ strategies are going to multiply, such as biomass planting to convert valuable food land into fodder for ethanol fuel, or mass dumping of iron filings in the ocean to create carbon-sucking algae blooms, or ‘Carbon capture and sequestration/storage’ schemes to pump power-plant CO2 underground but which tend to leak catastrophically and which require one-third more coal to run, or the nuclear energy revival notwithstanding more shutdowns at the main plant, Koeberg (five years ago the industry minister, Alec Erwin, notoriously described as ‘sabotage’ a minor Koeberg accident that cost the ruling party its control of Cape Town in the subsequent municipal election)
- South African ‘global climate leadership’ will be touted, even though Pretoria’s reactionary United Nations negotiating stance includes fronting for Washington’s much-condemned 2009 Copenhagen Accord, which even if implemented faithfully, by all accounts, will roast Africa with a projected temperature rise of 3.5°C.
As even the government’s new National Climate Change Response Green Paper admits, ‘Should multi-lateral international action not effectively limit the average global temperature increase to below at least 2°C above pre-industrial levels, the potential impacts on South Africa in the medium- to long-term are significant and potentially catastrophic.’ The paper warns that under conservative assumptions, ‘after 2050, warming is projected to reach around 3-4°C along the coast, and 6-7°C in the interior’ – which is, simply, non-survivable.
If President Jacob Zuma’s government really cared about climate and about his relatives in rural KwaZulu-Natal villages who are among those most adversely affected by worsening droughts and floods, then it would not only halt the US$21 billion worth of electricity generators being built by state power company Eskom – Medupi is under construction and Kusile will begin soon – but Pretoria would also deny approval to the 40 new mines allegedly needed to supply the plants with coal, for just as at the cradle of humankind and in West Virginia, these mines will cause permanent contamination of rivers and water tables, increased mercury residues and global warming.
More evidence of the Witwatersrand’s degradation comes from tireless water campaigner Mariette Liefferink, who counts 270 tailings dams in a 400 square kilometre mining zone. With gold nearly depleted, as Liefferink told a Jo’burg paper last week, uranium is an eco-social activist target: ‘Nowhere in the world do you see these mountains of uranium and people living in and among them. You have people living on hazardous toxic waste and of course some areas are also high in radioactivity.’
The toxic tailings dams are typically unlined, un-vegetated and unable to contain the mines’ prolific air, water and soil pollution. Other long-term anti-mining struggles continue in South African locales, against platinum in the Northwest and Limpopo provinces, against titanium on the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast and against coal in the area bordering Zimbabwe known as Mapungubwe where relics from a priceless ancient civilisation will be destroyed unless mining is halted (as even the government agrees).
There’s another reason that the power of what is termed the minerals–energy complex continues unchecked, even as treasures like the cradle – and also Kruger Park’s priceless surface water plus millions of people’s health – are threatened: political bribery. In addition to supplying the world’s cheapest power to BHP Billiton and Anglo American Corporation smelters by honouring dubious apartheid-era deals, Eskom’s coal-fired mega-plants will provide millions of dollars to African National Congress (ANC) party coffers through crony-capitalist relations with the Japanese firm Hitachi.
Last year, Pretoria’s own ombudsman termed the role of then Eskom chairman and ANC Finance Committee member Valli Moosa ‘improper’ in cutting the Hitachi deal. As a result, even pro-corporate Business Day newspaper joined more than 60 local civil society groups and 80 others around the world in formally denouncing US$3.75 billion World Bank loan to Eskom which was granted by neoconservative–neoliberal bank president Robert Zoellick last April.
Other beneficiaries of Washington’s upcoming trade finance package for Eskom include two desperate multinational corporations, Black & Veatch from Kansas and Bucyrus from Wisconsin. The latter showed its clout last October when in order to fund machinery exports to the huge Sasan coal-fired plant in India with US Export–Import Bank subsidies, the Milwaukee firm yanked members of Congress so hard that they in turn compelled the bank to reverse an earlier decision not to fund Sasan on climate grounds.
But now, after the EPA’s slapdown of Spruce No. 1, Bucyrus must be really nervous. Forty years ago, John Prine wrote the haunting song ‘Paradise’ about the strip-mining of his Kentucky homeland, with this verse describing a creature known as ‘Big Hog’:
‘Then the coal company came with the world’s largest shovel
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.’
Big Hog was a Bucyrus-Erie 3850-B dragline shovel. With West Virginia coal companies no longer buying these monsters, the company is fanatical about overseas sales. As a result, last Thursday, two dozen of us gathered by Friends of the Earth and Sierra found ourselves shouting slogans against Eskom and Bucyrus outside the Export–Import bank’s Washington headquarters.
The Milwaukee corporation rebutted that Export–Import financing was justifiable because of a Johannesburg black economic empowerment (BEE) partner plus Wisconsin steelworkers jobs, even though this means that South African counterparts – especially a Jo’burg company, Rham, that will apparently fire scores of local employees – lose out. Bucyrus’s 2010 contract to supply Eskom with coal-mining equipment became a scandal subject to a parliamentary investigation last September. Given the Witwatersrand area’s historical world leadership in mining equipment, businesses there claim that there’s no obvious reason why local firms cannot supply Eskom at much lower cost (one-third of Bucyrus’s in that particular case).
Most importantly, the poor will repay this finance at a time when South Africa has become the world's most unequal society and unemployment is raging. For Eskom to cover interest bills on Medupi and Kusile loans requires a 127 per cent electricity price increase for ordinary consumers over four years. This has already raised power disconnection rates for poor households, and on Monday, Durban police made 25 arrests of shackdwellers for electricity theft.
This multiple set of interlinked climate–energy–economic travesties can only be reversed by grassroots and labour activism. At the Durban COP 17, don’t expect a global deal that can save the planet, given prevailing adverse power relations. Instead of relying on paralysed politicians and lazy bureaucrats, South Africa’s environmental, community, women’s, youth and labour voices will be demanding serious action to address the greatest crisis of our time:
- major investments in green jobs would let metalworkers weld millions of solar-powered geysers, for example, thus allowing Eskom to switch off power to BHP Billiton’s aluminium smelters and to halt new power-plant construction without net job loss
- new public transport subsidies should reconfigure apartheid-era urban design and pull us willingly from single-occupant cars
- an employment-rich zero-waste strategy would recycle nearly everything and compost our organic waste so as to eliminate methane emissions at the remaining landfills
- more direct-action protests against major emissions point sources – Eskom, Sasol (apartheid’s wicked coal-to-oil company), the Engen refinery in south Durban and the new Durban–Jo’burg oil mega-pipeline, for instance – should better link micro-environmental struggles over local air, water and land quality to climate change
- more ambitious Air Quality Act regulations would label – and then phase out – carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gas ‘pollutants’, as with the US Clean Air Act
- government planning and utility board decisions would halt willy-nilly suburbanisation and un-green ‘development’
- instead of North–South financing via destructive carbon markets, the demand for ‘climate debt’ would permit the flow of strings-free, non-corrupt and effective adaptation funds.
Through urgent adoption of genuine post-carbon strategies like these, by the time the COP17 rolls around, the world could see in Durban a state and society committed to reversing climate change.
But get real. Since none of these will be considered, much less implemented by the current ruling crew, instead we’ll see a mass democratic movement rise, aiming to do to the climate threat what we did to apartheid and the deniers of AIDS medicines: defeat them at source, when respectively, old white politicians and their international business buddies, and Thabo Mbeki and Big Pharma, had to stand back and respect a new morality, a new bottom-up power.
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* Durban-based academic Patrick Bond’s book ‘The Politics of Climate Justice’ will be released later this year, and recent articles are posted at http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za/default.asp?4,80.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Livelihoods under threat: Malindi's fishermen
The re-education of South Africa
The statement by Afrikaner author, Anneli Botes, that one group that she still does not like are ‘black people’, reveals a deeper malaise that continues to permeate the post-apartheid psyche among certain sectors of our society. To dismiss these views as the isolated and marginal views of a ‘few’ misguided individuals, would be the loss of an opportunity to critically engage with the wider issue of how to overcome the in-built and internalized prejudices that the apartheid regime carefully cultivated over decades. Is it necessary for us to begin a dialogue on how South African society can re-educate itself and wean itself away from the distorted, and still entrenched, conceptual framework that was at the core of a carefully devised programme of institutionalised racism which was legally sanctioned by the judicial and law enforcement system for 46 years (1948 to 1994) - or three and a half centuries (1652 to 1994) depending on your historical point of departure.
Botes was reported to have said that in her ‘daily life there’s no one else that I feel threatened by except black people. If a courier comes to my door and he’s white, coloured or Indian, I’d have no problem inviting him in for a glass of water. But I would feel threatened by a black man’ (Author stands by racist comments, Mail and Guardian, 2 December 2010). She further added that she would never appoint a black gardener. In her view the ‘face of crime’ in South Africa is black. To categorise ‘all’ black people in this manner is clearly unfair and unjust to the masses of so-called black people who are getting on with their lives and working diligently to build a new South Africa.
Botes and her husband are planning to move to England as soon as he goes on pension. Paradoxically, Botes will discover that black people are everywhere in England, include in the House of Lords where a black man is a Conservative peer of the realm. How would she cope if the Queen invited her to tea and she came across this black Lord? But this is a digression.
The fact that Botes claimed that she had received 1,000 emails supporting her comments is the more important issue that needs to be addressed. Given Botes predilection to truth-telling perhaps there is a basis for believing this claim and concluding that her views may be much more widespread than society is prepared to accept. But should we really be surprised by this?
Apartheid was one of the most devious mind-altering systems ever devised by a group of human beings to subjugate, subordinate, marginalise and exclude another group of people. At the core of this brutal psychic experiment was race socialisation. So-called white people we systematically taught how to be racists through race socialisation. The objective of race socialisation in the apartheid construct was to programme superior self-pride among white people, to entrench white supremacy and to falsely inflate their sense of self-worth. The opposite side of the coin was a systematic programme by apartheid to malign the so-called black people by casting them as sub-human, primitive, lazy, promiscuous, untrustworthy, violent, with a propensity towards crime. This apartheid construct sought to impose black inferiority as an acceptable worldview, which would then make their segregation in dilapidated townships and shanty towns (with all the social ills that this generated including ironically criminality) an acceptable thing for the apartheid government to do to ‘them’. This system sought to foster a lack of self-worth and constrained black peoples opportunities for self-expression and creativity. Apartheid’s mind-altering deviousness was in fostering race identities based on one’s perception that she or he shares a common heritage with a particular racial group, such as so-called ‘whites’, and not with others such as so-called ‘blacks’. These sentiments are still widespread and very much alive in today’s South Africa, given the evidence for example from the IJR Reconciliation Barometer which shows that while there has been some degree of racial integration, there is still a long way to go for the country’s citizens to genuinely interact with each other. Apartheid instilled a racial prism into all those who it came into contact with, and may have a lasting effect on their offspring.
Botes is merely articulating what the apartheid framework had intended for her feel, perceive and express about black people and their propensity to criminality. She was subjected to apartheid’s mind-altering system and has not been able to emancipate herself from these distorted views. So we should not be surprised by her pronouncements, they are merely the echoes of apartheid. These sentiments are also much more deeply engrained in the psyche of a significant number of South Africans who lived under apartheid, as well as those who have experienced its legacy and who have continued to hold onto these distorted worldviews. To assume that the elections of 1994 and the subsequent call to reconciliation would ‘heal’ these distorted minds, is to fail to understand the psychological damage that was wrought by the apartheid system. Individuals who hold these views will not heal the way they view their fellow human beings, unless they make a concerted effort to do so. Similarly, individuals who continue to sustain an inferiority complex also have to engage in a process of re-education and self-healing. This is easier said than done.
South African’s who consider themselves highly educated and literate may also be holding on to these views due to their racial socialisation. Many would argue that they have overcome the effects of apartheid and that they get along with all race groups. The point is that there are no race groups only one human race. Unfortunately, there are those that are too intellectually smug to have even considered interrogating how their current core beliefs were shaped by apartheid. In the last 17 years, others have not bothered to critically reflect on how the racial socialisation programmes altered their perception of reality and insinuated an insidious racial prism into their psyches. There the racial prism remains as the ghost of apartheid wrings its hands in merriment at how it has subjugated the minds and souls of all those who were exposed to it.
This is why the re-education of SA, 17 years after so-called liberation, is vital. The physical attributes of freedom might be evident and embodied in the country’s Constitution, but the psychological chains of apartheid’s racial prism still imprison and detain a substantial number of those who live in South Africa. The physical, emotional and mental imbalances created by the legacy of apartheid are still with us and will be with us for several decades to come. The psycho-cognitive effects of apartheid can only be healed by a systematic programme of re-education complimented with an orientation to forgiving oneself, one’s community and one’s country for what was perpetuated on the victims of history. Re-education however cannot be forced or coerced, it has to be entered into voluntarily.
While some of these debates have been confined to the lecture halls of academia and seminar rooms of think tanks, it is now time to have a full-blown national dialogue about how citizens in SA can effectively re-educate and ‘re-programme’ themselves about the essential humanity of all people, despite the bad things that certain people do.
On the question of how to deal with the malignancy of racism in South Africa, one of the response’s clearly has to be a concerted effort to re-educate all those affected. In practical terms what does this mean. Clearly, the first line of engagement is at the level of primary, secondary and tertiary education. It is vital to prevent future generations of South Africans from internalising and endorsing the views of their parents. We cannot assume that children and the youth will not adopt certain views, particularly when for the first few formative years of their lives they are exposed to race socialisation. The second line of engagement is at the local neighbourhood and community level. Progressive individuals can invite their neighbours to engage with these issues and if necessary bring in a professional counsellor to assist them with working through some of these issues. The third line of engagement has to be at the work place, in government, trade unions, the private sector, civil society organisations and ecumenical groups. To a certain extent these organisations may already have begun the process of such a re-education, albeit under the guise of terms such as ‘transformation’, ‘diversity training’ or racial dialogue. Government and business recognise that the legacy of apartheid is still evident in the work place in terms of race relations.
Ultimately, terms such as ‘white’, ‘black’, ‘race’ have to be eliminated because there is only one human race. However, given 46 years of deeply debilitating institutionalised racism, these terms will not be eliminated from the discourse among South Africa’s citizens. The racial prism will continue to determine how the majority of SA’s citizens view each other for quite some time to come, perhaps for the next 46 years. It will continue to be evident in the discourses about violent crime, social segregation, civil unrest and the misplaced sense of entitlement across all sections of the country. The racial prism will also compel individuals like Botes, and those who share her views, to continue to articulate a racial paranoia which will ultimately do more harm than good towards the building of a new South Africa. In the absence of a concerted national effort to engage in re-education and healing the distorted views of the past, there will continue to be socio-political imbalances, eruptions and disruptions in the country, in the same way that a sick body reacts to an infection or inflammation. The aspiration to achieve so-called ‘non-racialism’, however, is not a pipe dream and can be achieved but only if there is a conscious and wide-spread effort by individuals to re-educate themselves to transcend apartheid’s racial prism.
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* Dr Tim Murithi is head of programme at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Isle of peace into pieces: A call to disarm
The haunting omen of violence started 2011 with a common thread of police brutality in Tanzania and Tunisia. Under the shameless guise of ‘law and order’, this cloudy predicament stretching above Africa threatens to erase all the remaining traces of peace as a claim to fame. Never since the days of Habib Bourguiba has Tunisia seen such a wanton disregard for human life from its security forces. A parallel is felt on the other side of Africa, in Tanzania. These two countries, relatively unknown for large-scale unrest, are plagued by a hideous manifestation of totalitarianism – the use of state security organs, notably the police and the so-called anti-riot units – to suppress what would be considered perfectly understandable responses to unemployment and unacceptable living conditions.
At least 35 protesters, going by government figures, are reported dead in Tunisia. The International Federation for Human Rights reports that the death toll could be in excess of 50. President Ben Ali was forced to change his tune from calling the protest ‘terrorist activities’ to ‘the situation requires a change, a drastic change’ and ‘I understood you’. The recent disproportionately violent crackdown on the opposition in Arusha marked a heightened and, sadly, continuing tradition of preferring unreasonably forceful solutions over our trademark ‘peace and tranquillity’. It is almost like the use of excessive force is a special showcase of governmental overreach to warn any and all who might even entertain the thought of protest, civil or otherwise. The opposition (CHADEMA) was denied a constitutional right to march in protest of corruption following an insidious last-minute Machiavellian move, whose legality is questionable since the formal permission letter was not withdrawn and the denial was made through the media, in a move that can be argued to be calculated to cause mass confusion and grant the police an excuse to use violence.
Parliamentary immunity privileges, under the auspices of the Parliamentary Immunities, Powers and Privilege Act of 1988, were completely disregarded. Members of parliament and opposition leaders were beaten inhumanly, even the oft-observed unwritten sensibility towards women was cast away. One particularly sordid picture is that of a bloodied Josephine Mashumbushi, prompting one Twitter user (@1stworldmusic) unfamiliar with the Arusha situation to ask ‘What did this pretty lady do to deserve this?’ Indeed, the question lingers with grave accusation to our police: Was all that force necessary? Is Tanzania really still the land of peace and tranquillity? It has to be noted that, only a few weeks ago another opposition party rally was summarily dispersed with teargas in Dar es Salaam, under similarly totalitarian excuses. Is Tanzania turning into a fascist state?
Tunisia, that famed home away from home for the fathers of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, is itself garbed in a style of tyranny the Palestinians, knowing oppression first-hand, would easily decry. Online images of the Tunisian unrest provide a vividly grotesque picture of what is going on, completely showing people with their brains spilling out and mass hysteria. This is not for the faint of heart. Tanzania is that famed home of the liberation movement of almost half of the southern tip of the African continent, from South Africa to Zimbabwe, Angola to Mozambique. The parallel is more than symbolic; does it mark a new decline in the last bastions of peace and tranquillity in Africa? I resolve to at least expose these injustices for what they are, a threat to progress not only in these two countries, but to the least common denominator in African civility.
This is a saddening anti-climax for all the hopefuls in Africa who had such a great hope in the liberation movements, stretching from the so-called sub-Saharan Africa (how insulting) to the Maghreb, which is more identified with the Middle East than Africa. Today Tanzania and Tunisia, two largely ignored countries in the Western media, are all intertwined in the umbra of police brutality. The least we could do is expose these charades passing for responsible governments. Africans have the talent and resilience to reject this vortex of complacency and move forward towards a more promising governance. But that can only be done by putting in the work and risking out of comfort zones. At least the Tunisian students are protesting, what are the Tanzanian students and other sections of civil society doing?
But it is not enough to stop there. We must address this responsibility in a very specific manner, identifying precise weaknesses in our systems, and prescribing the exact corrective measures with a ‘no holds barred’ attitude. Despite a slimy attempt at branding criticism as ‘unpatriotic’, the fact remains – as Mark Twain, that quirky sage of unabashedly unrestrained literature pointed out – ‘Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.’ Howard Zinn said: ‘Patriotism is not supporting the government. Patriotism is supporting the principles that the government is supposed to stand for.’
With a common history of being largely ignored by their respective former colonial occupiers – the French in favour of Algeria and the British of Kenya – Tanzania and Tunisia managed to chart an enviable path of social harmony. Sadly, this is becoming history, something to be referred to in the past tense, even as you read this.
Reports of students from University of Dodoma protesting are encouraging, especially given the previous image of a docile – almost party wing – and appeasing institution. Even as we urge the students to root their activism in a studied reason, dissent is in the best interest of our nation. A student’s uprising capable of wielding the right pressure without resorting to unnecessary violence – which could easily corrode the moral highground – is a most welcome breath of fresh air. We as Tanzanians and Africans cannot be blind to a new colonialism just because the new colonials are our fellow Africans. We need the same spirit that was critical in mobilising the masses against the British in Tanzania and the French in Tunisia.
The labour movement showed its muscle during the election; it could do more to ensure that the powers that be are kept in check. Already we are hearing the Ben Alis, Jakaya Kikwetes and Benard Membes of this world retreating. Kikwete has pledged, against the Ian Fleming adage of ‘never say never’, that this automaton of sadist bloodthirstiness will not happen again. That remains to be seen. Benard Membe is reported acknowledging that the police used excessive force. If this is how shameful these acts are, imagine how much could be accomplished with a more organised protest, more informed populace, more daring citizenry and more focused activism.
So many things can be said about our apathy and how to tame it, our modal national character conflicted between an old disappointing love and a new unknown – if hopeful – beginning. The sheer lack of information, or even deliberate censorship and misinformation, that gives spin-masters a field day would stagger scholars, let alone the nine out of 10 who don’t have the right tools. So this endeavour of a more-just Tanzania is not an easy task; progress in this context never is. But the rewards are more than worth it, and the challenge appears stronger than it really is from this side of history. We are seeing tremors already producing a much-needed drift. This could be the decisive hour of attaining a paradigm shift. This is the time to stand up and be counted, the time – notice, not a time – of action, the time of ‘Put up or shut up’. Contribute in your own way, read or write something worthwhile, get involved in your trade union and community events, know your elected officials and engage them, strike peacefully if necessary. A critically examined dissent may be our only saviour from this stagnating stupor we are facing.
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* This article was first published on Kate Bomz’s blog.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Bye-bye Ben Ali… but where does that leave Tunisia?
Tunisia has all the ingredients to be a successful country. Strategically situated in the Mediterranean, with an excellent climate ideal for tourism, and a well educated work force there is no reason why it should not flourish despite the fact that it does not have the oil revenues of its neighbours Libya and Algeria.
In 1956 Tunisia was one of the first countries to achieve independence from the European colonial powers, under the leadership of a charismatic nationalist leader Habib Bourghiba. Bourghiba steered a moderate policy, avoided the firebrand anti colonialist rhetoric that was fashionable at the time and set about to build a modern forward looking country. The opposition complained of lack of freedoms, but by comparison to other regimes in the Arab world, this was a benign leadership.
Bourghiba however made the mistake of many leaders. He did not know when to let go. As he became older, he became senile. His son, Habib Bourghiba Junior was being groomed to succeed him but he lacked both the charisma and the political astuteness of his father. The inner circle around the president decided they could not wait until Bourghiba dies and in 1987 they removed him from power in a bloodless palace coup, and installed his Minister of Security, Zine Abbedine Ben Ali as president.
Ben Ali was essentially a policeman, and he was never interested in reaching out to his opponents, expecting them instead to fall in line with him and his policies. The regime became increasingly more repressive. The vibrant student organisations and trade unions that had been allowed space under the Bourghiba government were quickly suffocated. Opposition to the government went under the surface. It started articulating itself in Islamic terms, playing on the tensions in Tunisian society between a modern and westernised middle class in the capital city Tunis, and the more conservative elements in the interior of the country.
By the time of the first Gulf War it was already clear that the government was well out of tune with the population. Hundreds of thousands demonstrated against the war, despite the fact that the government was supporting it. A distance between government and governed emerged and Ben Ali was never able to close the gap. Presidential and Parliamentary elections were falsified, to give Ben Ali and his Constitutional Democratic Rally (formerly the Destour Party) fictitious landslide victories. In the last presidential election in 2009 Ben Ali claimed he received 89% of the vote. In parallel there was widespread corruption spearheaded by members of the families of the president and his wife.
On the positive side the status of women in Tunisia was probably better than anywhere else in the Arab world. Around 20% of MPs elected for the last parliament were women, and women exercise equal roles with men at all levels of society. Past Tunisian governments also gave a lot of care and attention to education and put substantial resources in its development, ensuring not only high levels of literacy but also good scores in tertiary level education.
Tunisia was hit like other countries by the global economic downturn. But the rioting of the last weeks, culminating in the dramatic departure of Ben Ali for exile in Saudi Arabia is not simply due to economic factors. For a long time the Tunisian people had been feeling violated, as if their country had been privatised by a small ruling clique. Economic difficulties, resulting in unemployment and rise in food prices helped give the opposition a common agenda to which everybody could relate.
For the moment the future is very uncertain. It is quite possible that the ruling elite will try to simply replace Ben Ali with somebody of the same ilk, maybe even another policeman or soldier. It is however unlikely that those who have forced Ben Ali's downfall will be satisfied with that. Many are asking who these people are and what place they will have in the post Ben Ali Tunisia.
There is little doubt that the movement with the most widespread grassroots support is the Islamist An Nahda movement led by Rashid Gannouche. Gannouche has been living in exile in London for nearly twenty years. In the 1990s I invited him to come and speak at the LSE to one of the student societies. He turned up (with about a hundred supporters) and gave an eloquent critique of the Tunisian government. His vision for Tunisia was however vaguely expressed than, as it is now. Al Nahda have tried to project themselves as moderate Islamists, rejecting the violent methods of the Algerian FIS or al Qaeda, yet it is also known that restless elements within the movement have been for a long time urging a more hard line approach. Many consider that for any future political project in Tunisia to work it is best that Al Nahda be brought in the political process. This will be hard to swallow for the current government who have been demonising the movement for the last quarter century.
Al Nahda will however be ready to co-operate with communists and other left wing groups whose ideologies in Tunisia have never been very popular, but who have influence over the Trade Unions and the student organisations. They are traditionally well organised, and it is quite possible that it was this potent Al Nahda-Radical Left alliance that finally was able to galvanise enough popular support to force Ben Ali out.
To these two ideologised groups need to be added the mainstream of the Tunisian middle class, who traditionally were Bourghiba's supporters and for a while also constituted the backbone of Ben Ali's government support. This middle class does not want to see an Islamic state in Tunisia, nor a communist takeover. However they have been increasingly vocal in their criticism of the government. The younger generation in particular, with better knowledge and connections with the outside world, became increasingly disillusioned with Ben Ali and many of them over the last few weeks threw in their lot with the opposition.
It is not clear if these three disparate groups will have the ability to work together to bring about deep political changes in Tunisia. The current interim government is simply a continuation of the former and probably has neither the will, nor indeed the capacity to implement deep-rooted reforms. So there may yet be more instability in Tunisia before things settle down one way or the other. This will harm further the Tunisian economy.
For the moment however all talk is of “domino effects” and the impact of the events in Tunis on neighbouring countries, such as Egypt, Algeria and Morocco. There is a danger that this can be overstated. These countries have different political dynamics, despite the obvious similarities and to talk of a domino effect may be premature
However this should not stop the debate about the need for political renewal in the Arab world and the dangers arising from regimes that lack legitimacy and ride roughshod over their own populations.
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* Dennis Sammut is the executive director of LINKS.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
This groundswell of anger could be the beginning of a popular rebellion
I don’t know if the political elite truly believe that Kenyans are stupid, or whether they are too arrogant and self-important to care about what the people who voted them into office think about them.
Kenya is truly unique in that it is a dictatorship pretending to be a democracy, except that in the Kenyan case, it is not one man ruling over the majority, but a bunch of men and a few women in Parliament, who decide the fate of Kenyans.
In 2002, when Daniel arap Moi was vacating office, I told BBC Online that I was not sure if “getting rid of the politician Moi would get rid of the Moi in every Kenyan politician.”
Nearly 10 years have passed since I made that statement, and I am seeing Moi clones everywhere. Our parliamentarians decide which Kenyan lives, which one dies, which one is jailed, which one is acquitted, which one gets State funding, which one doesn’t.
As my fellow Nation columnist Charles Onyango-Obbo noted recently, “One of the things that distinguishes the Kenyan Parliament is that it has actually hijacked a lot of power from the Executive and even the courts.”
What makes our parliamentarians even more extraordinary is that, unlike neighbouring countries, such as Uganda or Tanzania, they are the least ideological, which, according to Onyango-Obbo, explains why there has been no full-scale rebellion or revolution in this country.’’
But if one places one’s ear close to the ground, one might hear an army approaching, leading to the start of such a rebellion.
As I write this, Kenyans from all walks of life are gathering their resources to present a petition against the government’s proposal to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) and to use taxpayers’ money to pay the legal fees of the six suspects accused of committing crimes against humanity.
The idea is to use all means possible to get at least one million Kenyans to sign the petition before it is presented to the government and the international community in order to “place the Kenya Government on legal notice for any action which is contrary to Kenya’s sovereignty and its Constitution, and in breach of international obligations”.
The petition seeks to underscore the fact that withdrawing from the ICC process and using public money to pay the legal fees of the suspects is retrogressive, and could have wider consequences that will undermine the already fragile situation in the country.
It is an attempt to register ordinary Kenyans’ anger at “the embezzling and diversion of the meagre resources which are intended to alleviate the situation of the post-election IDPs” and the “politicisation of a grave human rights issue”.
One of the specific immediate demands of the petition is that President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga unambiguously state their position concerning the Rome Statute and the ICC and follow it through with concrete actions.
At this critical point in our nation’s history, let the two principals make known their views and not hide behind officialdom to protect the rights of not just those who lost their family members and who were raped or displaced during the mayhem of 2007/8, but also the rights of all Kenyans, rights that are now enshrined in the new Constitution.
At the very least, the President and Prime Minister should sack the five senior civil servants who have been named as suspects by the chief prosecutor at the ICC.
They can call it “stepping aside” if they like, but those five suspects should not be allowed to control public funds by virtue of their position, and should be denied access to any privileges paid for by the taxpayer.
In addition, for the sake of transparency, the government should once and for all make public the findings of the Waki Commission.
Failure to do all of the above may lead Kenyans to take actions that will forcibly remove all those parliamentarians who are cynically disregarding the Constitution, international law and their mandate as elected MPs.
A coup d’etat in the making? Perhaps.
What is clear is that Kenyans are fed up with the business-as-usual attitude of our parliamentarians, and are not willing to be hoodwinked any more.
I say join this campaign by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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* This article first appeared in The Nation.
* Rasna Warah is a writer and journalist based in Nairobi.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Label GM foods
African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) and SAFEAGE
All South Africans need to act urgently and immediately to the proposed regulations in the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) governing the labelling of Genetically Modified (GM) food. The regulations are weak and undermine the consumer's right to know and consumer choice while addressing the needs of big business instead. You can read more about what's wrong with the legislation at www.labelgmfoods.org.za
An essential element for the labelling of GM foods is to protect your right to know and make informed choices. Since our supermarket shelves are full of foods that contain GM ingredients it has never been more critical that food labelling is accurate and transparent. The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) and SAFEAGE are intent on protecting your rights. We are demanding certain changes that ensure everyone's right to know. You can read our demands and the actual petition at www.labelgmfoods.org.za
Please support this action by signing our petition.
We have until 31 January 2011 to submit comments before the regulations are finalised. If the regulations are passed in its current form it will deny consumers the right to know what is in your food and hence undermine your freedom of choice. You may also write to the department yourself by sending an email to Mr Ntutuzelo Vananda at firstname.lastname@example.org
Statement on gender, economic and environmental justice by African women activists
We are young African women activists and feminists from various countries who gathered in Accra, Ghana on 20-23 November 2010 for the Regional Consultation and Training on Gender, Economic and Environmental Justice convened by Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) and Third World Network-Africa.
Recognising the challenges and uncertainties that the Africa region is facing in the context of systemic global crises, we affirm the central role of women in the resolution of these crises and the crucial need to address the gaps and fragmentation in the institutional and policy responses from governments and global governance institutions. Taking into consideration the ever-increasing pace of globalisation and the disastrous impact of the multiple crises of climate, finance, food, and energy, we urge governments and all stakeholders to ensure the long-term sustainability of policies and programs for addressing all the themes of the African Women’s Decade. As young women activists, we call for the full ratification and implementation of the Maputo Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, especially as regards food sovereignty and climate justice, in order to make the African Women’s Decade a meaningful reality.
AFRICAN WOMEN’S DECADE
We acknowledge the importance of the African Women’s Decade under the theme of ‘Grassroots Approach to Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment’ launched in October 2010. We applaud the recognition of ‘Young Women’s Movement’ as a distinct theme within the African Women’s Decade. It is imperative to ensure inclusiveness and to engage meaningfully with members of civil society, especially women’s movements, from all walks of life. We call for a fully integrated approach to identifying and addressing the priorities of women across the continent. As young African women, we urge African states to recognise the equal importance of all the themes set out by the African Women’s Decade. Recalling the commitments made by African states under the various international and regional instruments for women’s human rights and gender equality, we challenge African states to adhere to all their commitments. We also urge other social movements to join forces to hold authorities accountable to their commitments and their responsibilities to the peoples of Africa.
THE MAPUTO PROTOCOL
Alongside others across the continent, we celebrate five years since the African Union Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa came into force following its ratification by 15 countries. The Maputo Protocol, as it is commonly referred to, articulates women’s rights and offers significant potential for ensuring that these rights are promoted, realised and protected. It is noteworthy that the Maputo Protocol recognises and includes rights that are not embodied in other international instruments such as women’s rights to peace and the special protection of elderly women.
We applaud the 29 countries that have ratified the Protocol so far and in so doing acknowledged its importance as a framework for advancing the rights of women within their states. We call on them to promptly domesticate its provisions within their national laws and policies through parliamentary and other processes, and further ensure its successful implementation. With the same urgency we strongly call on the other African countries that have not yet ratified this important document to do so. We are further calling for the inclusion of sexual rights in the Maputo Protocol as well as in national legislations.
We demand that solutions to climate change must be based on justice and the full respect of human rights, especially women’s sexual and reproductive rights. The principle of responsibility for causes and consequences of climate change must lie with developed countries. Developed countries must re-pay their climate debt by transferring environmentally-sound technologies and financial resources required to enable African countries to shift to low-carbon growth. Priority at the national level should be given to ensuring that rural communities and the urban poor have access to renewable energy sources.
Given the scale and damage of the climate crisis in Africa we demand adequate allocation of resources for mitigation and adaptation to climate change through a transparent and accountable fund under the United Nations.
We oppose market-based and false technological solutions to climate change, and reaffirm the moratorium on geo-engineering agreed to by the 10th Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya. As young women activists and feminists we also resist attempts to legitimise the Copenhagen Accord and demand that developed countries commit to legally binding targets that result in significant reductions of carbon emissions.
FOOD SOVEREIGNTY, WOMEN LIVELIHOODS AND ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENTS (EPAs)
Acknowledging the need for food sovereignty and protection of women’s livelihoods in Africa, we the young women activists and feminists demand that governments eliminate discriminatory policies and legislation in line with regional and international commitments on women’s rights. Women’s rights to land and property must be guaranteed. Laws, policies, procedures and guidelines should be enacted and implemented to ensure that land reforms do not deprive communities of common resources. Women’s roles in the agricultural sector, especially the subsistence subsector for food production must be recognised, valued and supported with adequate productive resources. Moreover, bio fuel production should not be promoted at the expense of food production. Food sovereignty, in particular the protection of traditional knowledge and indigenous biological resources as well as the right to safe and nutritious food must be guaranteed. The precautionary principle should be respected in all agricultural technological innovations. Furthermore, we demand a moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
We are deeply concerned that the EPAs that are currently being negotiated pose a threat to women’s livelihoods across Africa in relation to gender, economic and environmental justice. Young women activists and feminists will be monitoring African governments and continuing to oppose the EPAs. We will hold African governments accountable for ensuring sustainable development policies with women’s rights and gender equality at their core.
Dated: 10 December 2010
This statement has been endorsed by:
- Hameda Deedat, Gender, water and trade activist, South Africa, part of the TWN - Gender and Economic Reforms in Africa (GERA) network and African Women’s Millennium Initiative (AWOMI)
- Olukorede Denton, Nigeria
- Hibist Kassa, Student Worker Solidarity Society (SWSS), Accra-Ghana
- Shau Mudekunye, South Africa
- Ruth Mumbi Meshack, Bunge la mwananchi social movement (People’s Parliament), Kenya
- Christine Njeru, gender officer, Christian Partners Development Agency (CDPA), Kenya
- Joyce Nyame, Ghana
- Anushka Virahsawmy, Mauritius
- Gathoni Blessol Wambui, queer rights activist and pan-Africanist fellow Gay Kenya/FAHAMU, Kenya
The statement is also supported by:
- Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), Josefa ‘Gigi’ Francisco, Global Coordinator, Manila, Phillipines
- Third World Network-Africa (TWN-Af) Yao Graham, Coordinator, Website: http://twnafrica.org
Feminist, gender equality, social justice and human rights organisations: To add your organisational support to this statement by African women activists on gender, economic and climate justice, please send your name and work role, full name of organisation, and contact details to email: email@example.com Please also indicate if contact details can be published on the web.
We welcome additional support sign-ons until March 31, 2011. Additional signatures will be updated online at www.dawnnet.org on a monthly basis.
Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem: Brilliant African mind
Wow! The first thing that crossed my mind when I read this book was: wow! Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem is one of those brilliant African minds that was once again cut short far too early, sadly on the streets of Nairobi. What a great loss for anyone who believes in the dream of African mental and physical freedom. The book itself is a collection of short pieces that he wrote under the banner headline 'Pan-African Postcards' for the Pambazuka News website. The topics vary from discussions on the vision of Pan-Africanism and critiques of individual African nations and leaders, to criticism of the aid establishment (which some would argue he eventually became a part of, but more on that later). Abdul-Raheem was clearly a passionate and eloquent activist and he knew his stuff. He inspires me so much – I only wish that I can eventually be the kind of activist that he was.
There’s really something for everyone who has an interest in Africa in this book, and he writes with an approachable sincerity that draws you in and keeps you hooked. The book is never condescending or overly academic, just knowledgable and acerbic enough to get you thinking things through twice. My favourite are his observations on Pan-Africanism – the machinations of Brother Gaddafi, the continually lacklustre performance of Olusegun Obasanjo in Nigeria, the hypocrisy and greed of the Kenyan political establishment, the eventual betrayal of Nyerere’s Pan-African dreams by subsequent Tanzanian leaders, and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni. I don’t think there’s a phrase short enough to cover just how much Abdul-Raheem is disappointed with the former rebel and visionary that is today Museveni. And he’s right on all scores. Museveni believed his own hype and sold out, like Macy’s on Black Friday (I just made that up – how clever am I?)
All in all, this is thoroughly recommended reading for anyone who has even a remote interest in understanding what Africa looks like for Africans. That is to say, we know it’s messed up, we know what’s wrong with it, we don’t need you breathing down our necks reminding us, just help us fix it with honesty and sincerity.
Awesome book! Wow! Inspired!
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* Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem’s ‘Speaking Truth to Power: Selected Pan-African Postcards’ is available from Pambazuka Press.
* This review featured on the Kenyantraveller blog.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Excellence and erudition: Ekpo Eyo’s 'Masterpieces of Nigerian Art'
looted in the 1897
now in British Museum,
London, United KingdomFor many of us, the name Ekpo Eyo has come to stand for excellence and erudition. The first director-general of the Nigerian Commission for Museums and Monuments has produced several articles and books of the highest quality on Nigerian art, and his recent book, ‘From Shrines to Showcases: Masterpieces of Nigerian Art’ (2010, Federal Ministry of Information and Communication, Abuja) is no exception. It is a masterpiece in its own right.
After an introduction to Nigerian art that gives the historical background of the arts and archaeological art, the introduction deals with accounts of discoveries and examines issues in the preservation and conserving of Nigerian cultural heritage. I enjoyed thoroughly Eyo’s discussion on what art is and the early Western views of African art as well as the topic of primitivism, tribality and universalism:
‘What is a work of art and how does one know when seeing one? There are certain concepts in the world that are difficult to define and art is certainly one of them. This is clear from the study of the global history of art because what may be regarded as art in one society may not be so regarded in another. Moreover, a particular definition of art may not be universally accepted even within the same community or scholarly field or local art scene.’ (p.13)
What distinguishes a work of art from a merely functional object is ‘The special attention to character and the lavishing of imagination on individual artworks, rather than mass produced items, was what became known as aesthetics - which was ill defined - but nonetheless was seized upon by connoisseurs of Western art as the criterion for good art.’ (p.13).
carved by Areogun of Osi-Ilorin
Aesthetics then distinguishes artworks from other utilitarian objects. The failure to understand this fact explains why it took so long, until the 20th century for many in the West, to accept African art as art. Even today, in the 21st century, there is still a need to persuade many that African art addresses aesthetic concerns. Ekpo points out that following Darwin’s theory of evolution, human societies were classified into three stages: the age of savagery, the age of barbarism and the age of civilisation. The Europeans who made this classification, put ancient Greeks and Romans into the age of civilisation but all non-Western people were thrown to the bottom of the scale: ‘It is ironic that ancient Egypt was considered a precursor to Western civilization and, therefore not really “African” despite the simple fact that it actually developed in Africa’ (p.15).
Eyo recalls that the word ‘civilisation’ is of relatively recent usage and that Samuel Johnson (1709–84), originator of the famous ‘Dictionary of the English Language’ declined in 1772 to include ‘civilization’ in this work. The word came into general use by the time of the Industrial Revolution and the rise of nationalism in Europe and North America. From then on the world was divided by the Europeans into the ‘civilised’ and the ‘savage.’ Those from the West were civilised and those from the rest of the world were savages. Eyo states that: ‘It became the duty of anthropologists, travellers, explorers and missionaries to spread these ideas wherever they went, and to redeem the God forsaken people they encountered.’ (p.16)
Figure of a seated male.
One of the looted Nok
terracotta bought by
now in the Musée du
Quai Branly, Paris,
France, with Nigerian
post factum consent.
The dichotomy between ‘civilised’ and ‘savage’ was, as may be expected, applied in the field of art. Europeans classified all non-Western art as ‘primitive’ because in their view true art could only be made by Western peoples. Explorers who came to Africa took home African works out of curiosity to show to their people that they had been to the land of the primitive people. The missionaries gathered African objects to deprive Africans of what they considered to be the focus of their worship and show Europeans that these were idols. Colonial administrators took artefacts as proof of the backwardness of people whom they had to bring civilisation. The anthropologists considered African objects as ethnographic objects of primitive people. None of the above-mentioned groups of Europeans regarded the African objects as works of art. One anthropologist cited by Eyo, Leonhard Adam, stated that ‘Actually they are not so much works of art as failed attempts to produce on’ (p. 16). The European prejudice about African art was so engrained that as late as 1959, the famous art historian Ernst Gombrich asked an American professor: ‘Is there African art?’ When told that there exists African art, Gombrich objected: ‘To be sure there are those who speak of primitive art, although I do not find it proper to use the term “art” where one is referring to simple shapes used for the building up of different representation’ (p. 17). Gombrich, who had seen the exhibition Treasures of Ancient Nigeria Legacy of 2,000 Years, co-curated by Ekpo Eyo, had been ‘Overwhelmed’ by Ife and Benin bronzes. But when asked whether these works qualified as works of art, said ‘yes’ but then asked his interlocutor: ‘Do you really believe that the Ife and Benin pieces were the work of Africans?’ (p. 18).
William Fagg, who had visited Nigeria several times, did not like the term ‘primitive’ and replaced it by the term ‘tribal’. He identified specific art works with specific tribes and declared that what is not tribal is not African. As may be expected, Ekpo Eyo, objects equally to the term ‘tribal ‘ as misleading since it denies statehood to well-organised states such as those of the Asante, the Yoruba, the Edo, the Kongo and the Kuba and suggests that there had been no cultural exchanges among African societies and influences from one society to the other. It also creates the impression that there is a specific style for a specific people.
Eyo discusses Nok culture and expresses regret that ‘they have been looted over time to supply the international market. Properly excavated, such pieces might have shed valuable light on Nok culture’ (p.23). The author is very polite and does not mention that some of the looted Nok pieces ended up in Paris at the Musée de Quai Branly, as his catalogue of works clearly shows.
with elaborate hairdo,
Lagos, NigeriaEyo recounts the visit of Frobenius to Ife and the disappearance of the Olokun head when Frobenius arrived in Ife in 1910, thinking he was discovering artefacts from a lost Greek people. He bribed the people at Ife with money and alcohol. When he saw the Olokun sculpture, he was overwhelmed, seeing in the Olokun, ‘a head of marvellous beauty, wonderfully cast in antique bronze, true to life, encrusted with patina of glorious dark green’. However when he turned around and saw the local people, his European prejudice seems to have overcome his admiration of beauty and declared that he was ‘moved to melancholy at the thought that this assembly of degenerates and feeble minded posterity should be the legitimate guardians of so much classic loveliness.’ Evidently the notion of some of our Western contemporaries that they have a right and duty to guard and keep African artefacts has a long ancestry.
The British colonial administrators were alarmed by the activities of the German anthropologist and had to go to Ife to prevent the adventurer from taking the Olokun head to Germany. He nevertheless went away with seven sculptures that are now in the Ethnologisches Museum (formerly Völkerkunde Museum) in Berlin and in the Frobenius-Institut in Frankfurt. When Frobenius left Ife, it was later discovered in 1948 that the Olokun he did not take away was a replica of the original. Nobody seems to know where the original is. It would have been interesting to hear from Eyo whether the Nigerian authorities have contacted the two institutions in Germany and what the response had been. When valuable objects disappear, we must make efforts to find them, especially at the places we have reason to believe they may be found.
The author mentions that the sculptures taken away by Frobenius did not convince Europeans that Africans could produce works of art equal to those of Europeans. That had to wait until 1938 when a number of bronzes were discovered in Ife.
Figure of a seated male.
One of the looted Nok
terracotta bought by
Now in the Musée du
Quai Branly, Paris,
France, with Nigerian
post factum consent.
Eyo ends his introduction to Nigerian art with a very useful section on ‘Conserving and Showcasing Nigeria’s Heritage’. The author expresses Nigeria’s appreciation for the contributions made by two colonial officials, Kenneth Murray, art teacher and surveyor of antiquities in 1943 and Bernard Fagg, first government archaeologist. Both laid solid foundations for the Antiquities Service, now called the National Commission for Museums and Monuments. They also initiated standards for museum buildings and for laws forbidding the illegal export of artefacts from Nigeria.
Writing about the establishment of museums at various places in Nigeria, Eyo states: ‘And in Benin, where some of the famous Benin bronzes left after the British Punitive Expedition of 1897 are exhibited. However most of the items now on display were brought back to the country as a result of open sales and private negotiations after Nigeria’s independence in 1960. Sadly, some pieces on display today in the museum are replicas of the original Benin pieces taken away during the Punitive Expedition and sold in England to defray the costs of the expedition. Appeals were made by Nigeria during some UNESCO (United Nations Scientific, Cultural and Educational Organization) conferences for the return of some … only some! of the looted pieces, but these appeals yielded not a single response’ (p.32)
We may add that since Nigeria’s independence 51 years ago, various Nigerian governments and parliaments, as well as the Benin royal family, have requested the return of some of the looted Benin bronzes, but with no effect. Indeed, some of addressees of such pleas do not even have the courtesy to acknowledge receipt of the request and go around proclaiming that there has never been a request for the return of these artefacts. Far from thinking about restitution to the rightful owners, it seems many of the present illegal holders are more interested in selling the blood artefacts for profit. A good example is the recent attempt to auction a hip mask of Queen-Mother Idea at Sotheby’s. The British Museum has in the past sold Benin bronzes even to the Nigerian government.
Eyo divides the catalogue of works which constitutes the bulk of the book into ‘Historical Arts’ and ‘Living Arts’.
Historical Arts include Nok terracottas, Baker (Eagan) monoliths, Lower Niger bronzes, Calibre terracottas, Igbo-Kudu bronzes, If terracottas and bronzes, Benin bronzes and ivories.
Lagos, NigeriaLiving Arts comprise works from Western Nigeria (Yoruba), Northern Nigeria (Igala, Bass-Nge, Mama, Afo, Mambila, Chamba, Mumuye, Jukin, Tiv, Idoma), south-eastern Nigeria (Cross River Basin-Mbembe, Ejagham, Bokyi, Oron, Ibibio) and south-central Nigeria – Igbo.
Among the historical arts are shown pieces of Nok sculptures, including the three famous looted pieces, now in Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, which the French bought knowing they had been looted. This led to difficulties with ICOM (International Council of Museums) since they were on the ICOM Red List of items that should never be taken out of Nigeria. The matter was finally settled through an arrangement between Nigeria and France that seemed very curious and unsatisfactory from the point of view of cultural preservation.
One of a pair of leopard
figures, now in the
Royal Collection Her
Majesty Queen Elizabeth
II, London, UK. The
commanders of the British
Punitive Expedition force
sent a pair of leopards
to the British Queen soon
after the looting and
burning of Benin CityIn reviewing this excellent work by Ekpo Eyo, we could not help noticing that out of the 255 masterpieces shown in the book, at least 95 are outside Nigeria. That is almost two-fifths of Nigeria’s best artistic objects – as estimated by Nigeria’s foremost archaeologist and first director-general of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments – that are not in the country. These Nigerian masterpieces are in the USA and in Europe.
Many of the objects are in museums but a large number of these masterpieces are in private collections, some being named and others not. In some cases, the countries where they are located are mentioned but others not. Presumably some owners did not want their names and locations to be revealed, perhaps for security reasons or in order to avoid any questions regarding the provenance of the works. It is well-known that Nigerian artefacts have been subjected to intensive plundering and theft. What are the implications of the above for the students of art in Nigeria and for the Nigerian people as a whole?
Nigerians are deprived of the opportunity to see some of the major artistic works of their predecessors and thus may not have the usual knowledge one could expect from Nigerians about their own art. The development of Nigerian art is equally denied the benefit of an important part of the national heritage. How do art students study and improve their skills? This is mostly by looking at what has been produced by previous generations. But in this case a large part of that corpus is simply not there. Ironically, these objects are available to the citizens of the USA, France, Switzerland and Germany. How would the Germans, for example, feel if two-fifths of their artistic masterpieces were in Nigeria or elsewhere in Africa? Would German art students be happy to go all the way to Nigeria to see works of Albrecht Dürer?
It should also be recalled that we are living in a period where the Western countries have made it extremely difficult for Africans, especially Nigerians, to enter their territories. Indeed, the Europeans have established a military force, Frontex, the main objective of which is to prevent Africans from entering Europe, even if this is not officially admitted. It is difficult to imagine that any Western state would grant a visa to any Nigerian who seeks to enter their territory with the main aim of seeing the Nigerian masterpieces. So when will Nigerians be able to see those Nigerian masterpieces that the average Westerner can see without any difficulty in the museums of the West? Those who are busy preaching the value and importance of the so-called ‘universal museum’ may be able to explain the universal nature of museums where the majority of humankind is excluded through visa requirements and other factors.
Musée du Quai Branly,
Paris, FranceWhile other countries are displaying and boasting of their famous collections of Nigerian art in order to attract tourists to their museums, Nigeria itself cannot even do that with major Nigerian artistic works which are outside the country. Many Westerners praise African arts but keep our cultural artefacts in their museums and refuse to return any. Is our deprivation then the price for those praises?
The Nigerian authorities may wish to explain to their own people why that these masterpieces of Nigerian art are not in Nigeria and what steps have been taken since independence to recover some of them. Western museums and scholars may also wish to consider whether such a situation is healthy, just and normal. They cannot pretend not to know about this situation nor can they pretend to be more or less neutral in so far as they appear to be supporting the existing situation. True lovers of art cannot work for the preservation of art and artistic heritage at home but be indifferent to looting, and plunder of the artistic heritage of others.
Figure of mother
with child, Robert T.
Wall FamilyOne leaves the excellent book of Ekpo Eyo with a certain anger and sadness, anger that the first director-general of the Nigerian Commission for Museums had to ask the permission of the British Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Arts, Musée du Quai Branly and others for permission to use photos of Nigerian masterpieces mostly acquired under dubious or contested circumstances in order to produce this major work. It is also sad that after some 50 years of independence, Nigeria is still dependent on Western museums, including museums of the former colonial power, to be able to serve the Nigerian people. But how long will these masterpieces remain in captivity and exile?
If ever there were any doubts about the excellent quality and the extraordinary diversity of Nigerian art, ‘The Masterpieces’ should put all doubts to rest. The Nigerian authorities may wish to consider an abridged version of this wonderful book for the use of the Nigerian youth.
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* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
LOCATIONS OF NIGERIAN MASTERPIECES IN USA AND EUROPE
Those interested in knowing where these masterpieces are may consult the following list compiled from indications in ‘Masterpieces of Nigerian Art’. We mention here only those masterpieces mentioned in the book under review. There are many other excellent pieces of Nigerian art in Western museums which are not mentioned here.
Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, France.
Musée Barbier-Mueller, Geneva, Switzerland.
Dept. of Art History and Archaeology, University of Maryland, USA
British Museum, London, United Kingdom.
Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, USA.
National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institutions, Washington, USA.
Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, USA
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA.
Museum Rietberg, Zürich, Switzerland.
Ethnologisches Museum, Berlin, Germany.
Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, USA.
Volkerkunde Museum, Vienna, Austria.
Royal Collection, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, London, United Kingdom.
New Orleans Museum of Arts, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA.
Yale University Art Gallery, Connecticut, New Haven, USA.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia, USA.
Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, Indiana, USA.
Bowl with figures,
National Museum for
Pilgrimage to the cradle of civilisation
Marvels and musing in Egypt
Before I left for a writers’ conference in Cairo recently, that was organised by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Culture in collaboration with Egypt PEN and supported by International PEN, I had spent the last four days in Nairobi with Professor Okello Oculi, the Nigerian based Ugandan professor of political science and author of the poetry anthology, Song for the Sun in Us.
And when I told Professor Oculi that I was going to Egypt for a conference on the subject of ‘The African Writer and the Challenges of the Time’, the soft-spoken Ugandan scholar urged me on, ‘Ah, Africa’s intellectual well.’ And he gave me a gift of his poetry anthology, which I read on my flight from Nairobi through Khartoum to Cairo.
It was one of the most subtle orientations, a teacher can offer to a student – a latent preparation. He played the catechist – both European and Oriental civilisation drew inspiration from Ancient Egypt (Africa). And he wrote and spoke with angst – the Negro infusion of that civilisation is refused by all. And he urged me to read the works of the Senegalese nuclear physicist Cheikh Anta Diop who had read antiquity texts in Greek, Arabic, and Latin and found out that the centrality of Negro role in human civilisation had been expunged from modern translated texts:
‘Why is Cheikh Anta Diop obsessed with genius in black peoples of Ancient Egypt? I find no melody in hieroglyphics, as I do in Arabic and Greek texts,’ Professor Bill Brown wondered aloud to dissuade African scholars from pursuing a study in the origins of civilisation!
I arrived at the Cairo International Airport at around midnight, where I met other conference colleagues from Liberia and Sierra Leone. Earlier, I had met the Ugandan delegate, Danson Sylvester Kahyana. We were picked up by our hospitable hosts and driven to the residence Hotel Pyramisa. In the morning, now joined with writers from other parts of the continent – Ethiopia, Zambia, Tunisia, Morocco, Ghana, Algeria and South Africa – we went to The National Museum in Cairo.
At the museum I saw the mummified bodies of Ancient Egyptian kings and queens such as Tete, Nefertari, Hatshepsut, Tutankhamun, and Akhenaton – best remembered as the first man in human civilisation to imbue the knowledge of monotheism.
The president of Egyptian PEN Ms Ekbal Baraka noted that these royals were Nubians. Of course this will interest both Egyptian and Kenyan scholars because there is a Nubian community in Kenya, but their dark complexion varies from the Caucasian complexion of those in Egypt. And I almost thought I had seen a mummy with Negro complexions – flat nose, hair locks, tropical teeth, a Negro face really!
Egypt is a country of 80 million people, about twice the population of Kenya. And Cairo, its major city, has a population of 25 million people. It is a big city. The city of Alexandria is the second with a population of 14 million people.
Cairo is an amazing picturesque, enticingly romantic and covertly seductive. What with the many historical sites, like the 13th Century Qalawon Mosque, which had a medical facility, a mausoleum, and a school of Islamic law, or the High Court of Fiqueh administered by four judges or sheikhs; Shafei, Malki, Abu Hanefa and Ibn Hanbel. Inside the mosque you get the taste of antiquity art; beautiful paintings and drawings on the walls, hieroglyphics with the inscription of the name of Prophet Mohamed, and you feel, well, modern art has not invented anything! Still wanting to learn the mystery embedded in these historical sites, you drive to the Zoo next to Cairo University, and you are mesmerised even more by the friendliness of the Egyptians.
In Cairo bypasses are all over the place, so much so that when driving, one gets a bird’s eye view of the city. That is if you have not had the opportunity to marvel at the city atop the splendid Cairo Tower! Then we went to marvel at the spectacle of the pyramids, the fairy tombs of the pharaohs, whose construction – the architecture, both inside and outside, the stones used, the plaster, their sheer size and the sphinx built strategically to protect the pyramids – remains a mystery to scholars.
After the site-seeing excursion, we went to the conference hall at the headquarters of the Supreme Council of Cultures for discourses. But first, let me digress a little.
A Kenyan literary scholar once introduced me to a friend as a poet who writes in Haiku, the Japanese poetry model. That description, however, focuses and elevates one of my three models of poetry, namely the celebratory model, which is born from a perpetual pilgrimage to the shrines of great African writers. It proclaims the non-existence of my love epic and poems of known tradition.
Be that as it may, it was in Egypt where I found the clearest definition of Haiku – brief, precise, and subtle. Such was the appeal of Dr John Ralston Saul, president of International PEN to a gathering of writers, students, and scholars drawn from the fields of literature, anthropology, sociology, political science, media, ad nauseam.
Indeed these faculties are broad enough to justify long discourses and polemics. The vexed question of a homogeneous African identity or the search for a continental paradigm, the problem of translation which inhibits access to literary texts from other places, the sore scars of censorship on creativity, leadership and the tendency of African heads of states to turn themselves into capricious gods susceptible to divergent views, and the danger posed by globalisation, which unlike slavery and colonialism which were overt, the former being covertly designed to obliterate other cultures and instal the Anglo-Saxon individualism and/or discourage attachment to ancestral pride, which is considered extant, et al, et al, came under sharp focus from variegated minds.
Dr Ezzedine Choukri Fishere the Egyptian academic and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Political Science at The American University in Cairo, set the ball rolling in his keynote address titled, ‘Fighting Our Own’:
‘We have been taught that writing is an act of rebellion against hegemonic projects, or at least should be. Writing after all, is a subversive act. In societies rife with hegemonic projects, the writer is among those few who have the opportunity to escape control and – either from within or without – ridicule, unmask, and sabotage the hegemonic discourse.’
I have deliberately quoted at length this conference paper for two reasons; one, its enrapturing sounds, disturbing melody, and the war imagery, fighting our own, returns me to the tomb of Senegalese poet Leopold Sedar Senghor, whose Negritude movement was necessary at a time when the English poet Rudyard Kipling had claimed the Negro race was half-devil, half-child, meaning, it was inferior.
Secondly, it confers the writer with a societal role, where other artists have been rendered impotent, the poet of yesteryear sang of his tribulations, and played cords of freedom of expression, before his arms were frozen, his limbs immobilised, and his tongue cut. Here is the poem (Haiku) I recited to introduce myself to the audience before taking my seat during a session on creativity and censorship:
And that romantic hour’s gone
After another poet’s born
Speak, when there’s someone
Where there’s none refrain
Other scholars presenting papers included Professor Nadia EL Kholy, chair of Department of English at Cairo University; our host, Dr Emad Abou Ghazi, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Culture; Professor Mona Anis; Hala El Badry, the free-spirited novelist and columnist; Frank Geary, director of Programmes at International PEN; Haggag Oddoul, the Nubian playwright and novelist; Khadija George, the UK-based Sierra Leonean poet and editor of Sable Magazine, who represented African Writers Abroad, and many more distinguished intellectuals.
A young Egyptian university student who also happened to be a polyglot had given me a rose on the third day of the conference, and as I debated the import of that gesture, I woke up to the realisation that she had vanished from my sight.
But what shall endure in my mind is the moment when the talented Egyptian poet Amina Addalla came to pick me up on the morning of my last day in Cairo and we drove in a private car out of the city, to Giza town to the home of the Great Egyptian poet Zein El-Abdin Foud Abdel Wahab, for an interview I had requested. Born in 1942, the distinguished Egyptian poet is an oracle.
During the interview he narrated to me the fairy tale of The Poetry Caravan to Gorée Island in Senegal, where there is preserved the slavery museum. The Poetry Caravan was mooted sometime in 1996 by eight distinguished African poets from Mali, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Tunisia, South Africa and Egypt. During a seven-hour ride on a boat across the Niger River, Zein took a poetry anthology by the great Malian poet Ali Bakari Osman Nkunda, who was seated in front of him. The Malian poet noticed that Zein was deeply engrossed in the book and was writing, so he left him undisturbed, upon which after, Ali Bakari asked, did you translate one of my poems into Arabic? And the Egyptian poet answered in the affirmative. Ali Bakari asked him to read the poem.
When he began to read, tears started flowing on the cheeks of the Malian poet and Zein was moved by emotions. Hidden in those tears, he would later discover, was a secrete desire and a dream – Ali Bakari, a great poet, a religious person, and a practicing Muslim, had been nursing a secrete desire of having one day even a line of his poetry being translated into the holy language of the Q’ran, Arabic, and the Egyptian poet had fulfilled that dream by translating a whole poem in his lifetime! To overcome that emotional experience, the sight of a distinguished poet crying, Zein El-Abdin Foud Abdel Wahab wrote a poem in honour of the Malian poet Ali Bakari and did a translation, and every time he read it aloud, Ali Bakari would say, ‘That’s me, that’s me,’ and he cried on.
It was then that the legendary Egyptian poet and historian wrote the poem ‘He Collects Roses From Tears’, offering insights into a rare inspirational totem to every poet. I recorded the interview where Zein reads the poems in Arabic and English. I will be unveiling the interview for the benefits of the Kenyan literati and poetry students. The Egypt excursion was refreshingly enjoyable, educational, and informative.
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* Khainga O’Okwemba is a Kenyan poet and writer and the treasurer of International PEN, Kenya Chapter.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Deification of poetic craft: the last of the Egypt trilogy
There, among those verdant meadows, oh Nefertiti
Immolated and transposed into a Langi Egyptologist
I played the banjo, awaiting a daughter of the Nile,
Lo! ‘Twas the Nightingale Arabica coming, and none!
I beheld the beauty with silver spangles on her breast, giggling
Oh genius of Babel, curse you I, for erecting this smokescreen
She spoke in her tongue, and I in another, but hieroglyphics!
Take me to the Oracle at Giza, said I, that I may learn a new cord.
We stood on the opposite ends of the neo-Modernists. Our faith was lost in the traditional forms of poetry. We believed in a deified poetic craft. Our influences transcended our immediate background. Poetry linked us with other generations. We had our fires where we sung our songs, oblivious that we were being ignored. And we were a handful. Here was one such poetic prose.
The language of poetry needed not be freed from its elegance. Poetry, like a secluded home, a shrine, was supposed to be a place where we all got lost in trying to locate, and when we did, it was refreshing. Poetry was supposed to be melodic and memorable. Today, that commitment to poetic craft, taxing as it has always been, has been abandoned, and poetry disgraced. The emphasis is now more on subject. Yet a balance between subject and discipline is necessary.
The poet of immemorial is at once baffling and obscure, making him a most difficult poet to the uninitiated. To the initiated though, his poetry is full of allusions. In the fragments here presented, ‘immolation’ points to the fact that the poem was written after the poet’s near-fatal experience with armed goons. Did the poet seek to immolate himself by virtue of attending a literary function? Is our subscription to the principle of unbridled free speech an act of immolation? The ‘sepulchre’ is for the poet an important place of ‘transposition’.
‘Verdant meadows’ becomes the imagery of a fertile place of intellectual pursuit, an idyllic deification of Ancient Egypt (Africa) as the cradle of civilisation. ‘There, among those verdant meadows’ and not ‘Here, in this verdant meadows’ suggests that this poem was written ‘after’ and not ‘during’ a trip to Egypt. Yet were it not for that pilgrimage the poem might not have been born. That pilgrimage therefore becomes an important source of inspiration. But inspiration is triggered by an urge or a desire to express a feeling, an idea, or an observation. The poet did experience that strong desire to make a poetic installation of that trip to the cradle of civilisation.
In ordinary conversations, Egypt is a metaphorical term meaning breaking with the past - do not take us back to Egypt. That metaphor has its genesis in the Bible - when Moses leads the children of Israel from bondage. But Egypt is also the country where young Jesus escaped into exile, or where Joseph shelters his family from a long spell of famine in his country. Where is the metaphor for that richness of hospitality?
Milton in his poem ‘On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity’ seeks the destruction and erasure from memory of ancient Egyptian gods, ‘nor is Osiris seen/In Memphian grove or green,’ while at the same time celebrates the triumph of Christ over ‘The brutish Nile gods!’
A renowned Kenyan author Dr David Maillu, fondly referred to as the Father of Popular Literature, has recently published a book he calls an African bible titled, ‘KA: Holly Book of Neter’. Dr Maillu told me recently in an interview that the Negro race has worshiped a god (Neter) since the beginning of time and that the absence of a written text does not mean that Africans did not know religion. But the use of ‘holly’ on a book that is neither authenticated by Christianity or Islam, must meet with strong opposition from these religions.
Queen Nefertiti is enacted as a divine goddess. She remains mum to the persona’s lamentation. When he plays on his musical instrument to entreat a ‘daughter of the Nile’, he is instead met with an amazing Arab lady ‘with silver spangles on her breast’, a woman almost in the league of Sappho of Lesbos, for she too is a singer, whom she requests to take him to the Oracle at Giza.
‘Daughter of the Nile’, refers to a water nymph or an African mermaid. There is the mythical tale of a Kitmikaye, which relates the story of a wealthy woman who emerges from some water mass. The woman is emotionally overwhelmed by the sight of a man in tattered clothes. She sympathises with him and they love. Long after they are married, she is betrayed by the man. Their marriage breaks. The short of it is that like the Biblical wife of Lot, she turned into the stones of Kitmikaye in Nyanza Province of Western Kenya. Oh woman, woman/to undeserving you tend! Thus wrote I in one of my poems to warn folks of deceptive politicians!
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* Khainga O’Okwemba is a poet, writer and the treasurer, International PEN Kenya Chapter.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Imperialism’s consequences for Africa
Review of ‘The Curse of Berlin: Africa after the Cold War’
Nilani Ljunggren De Silva
Adekeye Adebajo’s book, focused mainly on contemporary African events, has been written with coherence, clarity and forcefulness for a wider audience. Adebajo does this by bringing into focus an important event in the past – the division of Africa at the will of few European States at the Berlin Conference under the leadership of Otto von Bismarck (Iron Chancellor), at the Berlin Conference during the period of 1884-85. The author shows using a catalogue of events how this event continuing to sway Africa in general and contemporary African international relations in particular.
The book consists of three parts: The quest for security, the quest for hegemony and the quest for unity. In the first part, Adebajo examines Africa’s security institutions such as the African Union (AU), and sub regional bodies, their visions and missions –to take active part to muster the will to resolve disputes that arise in the continent. Next the author discusses the political peacekeeping and socioeconomic roles of the UN and UN-AU hybrids in Africa. The discussion is also dominated by two UN-secretary-generals – Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Kofi Annan – and their roles in the context of Africa. The second part, which consists of five chapters, assesses Africa’s quest for leadership, discussing Nigeria and South Africa’s role in leadership and capabilities as well as weaknesses. In the third part, the discussion extends to the visions and strategies of some prominent African statesmen, such as Kwame Nkrumah (Tanzania) Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt), Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki (South Africa) Olusegun Obasanjo, Muammar al-Gaddafi etc, and their role in creating unity and/or disunity in Africa. Last but not least, the book also touches on Barack Obama’s presidency, and China’s role in Africa.
It was refreshing to read a detailed and interesting book of this kind. Its structure is coherent and subject matter dealt with appropriately, reflecting on many related and vital issues. Adebajo has managed to analyse successfully the main points described above. He uses the techniques of persuasion to establish the truth of a statement, giving statistics, footnotes and references. The facts, statistics and events are immensely rich and the analysis measured and balanced. The anecdotes are revealing. It reads well. There is emotion but it transcends to strategic thoughts. Adebajo writes:
‘Putting old wines in new bottles will clearly not integral Africa. African leaders must revert to the first option and focus on the hard work of strengthening and funding fledgling institutions that they have created, and establishing one effective economic pillar in each African sub region. They must get their domestic houses in order and build strong economies and stable democracies. After all, there has to be something to integrate for integration to succeed.’ (p267)
The author provides a much-needed perspective about the challenges faced and some meaningful suggestions about what really need to be done to fix them. Adebajo is not lacking the holistic past of Africa; he breezily tracks the political and socio-economic developments and decays of Africa ever since the Berlin Conference. Contents being described such a way it helps the reader realise, through many sensuous details (people, episodes and events).
While at times, some of the contents may present themselves as sudden bursts of inside. He writes:
‘It is the torch of the liberation that Gandhi handed to Martin Luther King Jr. to wage the successful civil rights movement in America that in turn made possible to day for a black man, Barack Obama—a gifted Kenyan Kansan political prophet—to become the most powerful man in the earth.’
The book starts and ends by giving Barack Obama a prominent place, which I find less suitable and too hasty. Adebajo describes Obama with many adjectives. It comes out as Barack Obama as somebody – a newly emerged alchemist. It is confusing and difficult to understand author’s motivation here.
Adebajo’s main argument focuses on the division of Africa by European imperialist powers and its consequences. The book covers substantial facts details about colonisation. However, I missed reading about European slavery and Arabic slave dealers and some African monarchies’ involvement in the matter. In addition, I would have liked to see more details about how African leaders, social and political system functioned before such invasions. Therefore, I am reluctant to use the words ‘historical analysis’ to describe the book.
In addition, the preface of the book runs into ten pages. This may discourage the reader. Only when I started reading the introduction, did I feel that I wanted to keep on reading it. Perhaps author may want to shorten the preface or move the section to the conclusion.
Finally, without any hesitation, I would like to recommend this book to others who are interested not only in contemporary Africa but also want detailed analysis of the Berlin curse that is still affecting her future. It is a useful book that boldly criticises the West as well as Africa for the continent’s slow socioeconomic and political recovery.
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* Nilani Ljunggren De Silva is a researcher and academic advisor at the University of Stockholm.
* Adekeye Adebajo’s ’The Curse of Berlin: AFRICA After the Cold War’ is published by the University of KwaZulu Natal Press (ISBN 978-1-86914-196-7).
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Lament of Chetambe
(For the Bukusu freedom fighters of 1895)
Coward Fate stares at us in our eye tonight;
I see the naked fear in us in its bolder eyes.
The moonlit silence of the enemy in siege
Is to us, Were Khakaba, a deafening dirge!
A herd of hundreds of humped bulls still stands
between our old Fort and their new Trenches,
on the soft dewy Bukusu hill grass, untouched
under the pallid skies of the month of May.
Hobley’s whitemen and men from Wangaland
know not the old ethics of real war:
peace offers are equal to a noble surrender,
so they like puny wily Wangas they are, await still
the war conch at the sight of the amber sunlight
to break our world into tiny fragments
and fill the Nzoia with our arrogant blood.
The butchery at Chetambe will bear witness
to the distant land of the living dead
as survivors narrate how the white terror of the Maxim
the rumoured ruthlessness of Banubi mercenaries
the bloodthirsty Kakungulu, hound of Kabaka,
his uncircumcised warrior-boys from Buganda
and the rest now formed into an alliance of war
met a justified death at edge of our swords and tip of spears!
We say bring the war! Bring the war! Bring it!
The peaceful sons of the Thigh of the Elephant
Now in full battle regalia and erection await it!
Bring the war not in the redness of a cold dawn
Bring it as you want it, cowards, bring it white!
the memory of our last stand against
the lead and brimstone of the white wars
lives on, on the silent Chetambe stone hills
west of Webuye’s Brodericks Falls
in the proud mourn
of our blood that survived
we still laugh when we lament:
“Khwafwa Khwabuna eee nga lumerera,
wa Chetambe eee nga lumerera eee.”
Chetambe Fort was stormed in the decisive battle between the Bukusu sub-nation of Kenya and military forces of the British Empire in the great battle of Chetambe Hill in the spring of 1895. Overpowered by a better-armed alliance of several white military officers led by C. W. Hobley, Wanga soldiers from Mumia's, Nubian, Maasai and Baganda mercenaries, the last bastion of Bukusu independence capitulated but not before a spirited campaign that mounted heavy casualties on their foes and family. The rest is history. The fort was founded by Chetambe Yifile, ruler of the Abangachi clan in the 19th Century. The Bukusus are some of the few people in the Great Lakes region known to have lived in forts before the dawn of the 20th Century. Oral historians claim they carried this tradition across tens of generations from their olden home on the banks of the Nile. There was a fort that also stood at Lumboka, etc. A direct descendant of the last inhabitants of this fort continues to draw attention to the historical importance of this place as a site of resistance within Kenyan national history.
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* This poem is taken from JKS Makokha’s new collection of poems, Nest of Stones (written under the pen name Wanjohi wa Makokha), published by Langaa RPCIG. (ISBN 9789956578306).
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The statistics are too far gone to claim: us
Me and the girls that carry my anguish
Sometimes I want to find someone to blame
Someone to imprison with guilt or at the every least point a finger at
But such people only come under the cover of night and have their way
Tears no longer account for the pain, they flow too easily
And immediately forgotten
If I had been placed in this life-altering predicament
By one such I loved then it would be different
But in nightmares I re-face the faceless violation
Re-live the day my life ended
Some say it was because I am full of beauty
Yet the mirror tells no such lies
Days follow weeks where I have no one to account for that night
I hear the whisperings and feel the stares
From far I can be seen as damaged goods
And who is there to tell me it wasn’t my fault when the world is against me
The few that try to comfort me say I can do anything I want in life
But how do I live when my days are numbered?
Welcome to adolescence in Zimbabwe
I have read that poverty is in the mind, so Lord make rich in spirit
We turn from girls to women over night
I can dream of days when it wasn’t like this
When children played hopscotch on pavements
Small knees caked with mud
My cousin and I used to run
From the corn field to the vegetable patch
Oblivious that the world outside the iron gates
Would soon consume us
But that is but a cold dream now I awake to reality in the morning
Remembering I am part of a cycle only declining in age
I wish I could paint you a pretty picture
But in my capability I can only line up
Woman who would content with a cure
Afraid to face the shame so the virus spread quicker.
From the beginning of age to the eldest no scream is loud enough
No resistance is strong enough,
Questions pack my mind
Did I not carry myself as one that was not ready?
For I was just a child petrified and soaked in tears for the old lie
Purity cleanses all filth
TO BE CONTINUED
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* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Pambazuka News 174: Tunisie : Un mois pour effacer 23 ans de dictature
Raila, Gbagbo and the army
Tunisia: Ben Ali chased out
Kenya: AU and Ethiopia endorse Kenya’s bid to defer ICC case
Kenya has secured the support of the African Union Commission and Ethiopia in its bid to have the International Criminal Court defer the case against six Kenyans at the International Criminal Court and have them tried locally. AU Commission chair Jean Ping endorsed Kenya’s request, saying it is within the realm of the rights of all ICC member states. Kenya’s Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka has been on a tour of African states that the government wants to back the country’s request.
Africa: New report examines the rights of girls
A new report, released by Plan International, examines the rights of girls throughout their childhood, adolescence and as young women. The 'Because I am a Girl: The State of the World's Girls 2010 - Digital and Urban Frontiers' report looks at the prospects and perils facing girls on two of the 21st century's fastest growing areas - the boom in city populations and the explosion of IT and communication technology. While there are great opportunities, prejudice and poverty is excluding millions of girls from taking advantages of the possibilities on offer. Urban poverty, lack of proper housing and sexual harassment can make many girls feel unsafe.
Africa: Statement on gender, economic and climate justice by African women activists
'We are Young African women activists and feminists from various countries who gathered in Accra, Ghana on 20-23 November 2010 for the Regional Consultation and Training on Gender, Economic and Environmental Justice convened by Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) and Third World Network-Africa. Recognising the challenges and uncertainties that the Africa region is facing in the context of systemic global crises, we affirm the central role of women in the resolution of these crises and the crucial need to address the gaps and fragmentation in the institutional and policy responses from governments and global governance institutions.'
Africa: Working with traditional leaders on gender justice
How can non-governmental organisations (NGOs) tackle social issues such as HIV, gender equality and violence in rural African communities? A number of them, including South African Sonke Gender Justice network, Ubuntu Institute, CARE International and Zambian Women for Change (WFC) are working with traditional leaders as a gateway to reach the people in communities they are targeting.
Global: Maternity and work, a review of legislation
Maternity protection for women workers is essential for ensuring women's access to equality of opportunity and treatment in the workplace. This updated review of national legislative provisions for maternity protection in 167 International Labour Organisation member states has a particular focus on how well countries’ provisions conform to the ILO Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (no. 183), and its accompanying recommendation (no. 191). It shows that, over the last 15 years, there have been noticeable improvements in maternity protection legislation around the world.
Zimbabwe: Politically motivated rape of women in Zimbabwe
Politically motivated sexual violence against women in Zimbabwe takes many forms. These include extreme violence, gang rape and insertion of objects (bottles and sticks) into the women's genitalia. This report from the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) and Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) is the first coming out of Zimbabwe focusing particularly on politically motivated rape; the aim of the study was to provide a valid and reliable description of cases of politically motivated rape. Since this was a clinical rather than an epidemiological study, there was no attempt to determine either the prevalence of political rape or to establish how representative the sample was.
Botswana: $3bn mine approved as water rights case gets underway
Botswana’s government has green-lighted a massive $3bn mine in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve – in the middle of the Kalahari Bushmen’s appeal against the Botswana authorities’ refusal to allow them access to water there. Gem Diamonds announced that its application to open a huge diamond mine near the Bushman community of Gope in the reserve has been approved.
DRC: Jury still out on ICC trials
Almost two years into the trial of Thomas Lubanga for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC), several international justice experts and observers say the court has had a largely positive impact on the ground in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but some differ. Indicted for enlisting, conscripting and engaging children in armed hostilities in eastern DRC in 2002 and 2003, Lubanga, alleged leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots and of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo, was detained by the ICC in 2006. His trial began in January 2009.
Kenya: ICC judges reject Ruto case
Judges at the International Criminal Court at The Hague have rejected William Ruto’s application criticising its chief prosecutor's investigations and seeking to bar summons or arrest warrants over Kenya poll violence. Mr Ruto had filed an application at the court arguing that chief prosecutor Louis Moreno-Ocampo failed to conduct proper investigations on the Kenya case and instead relied on reports by the Waki Commission and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).
Kenya: Police execute three men point blank
Policemen were on Wednesday caught on camera executing three men in cold blood on a busy Nairobi street, reports the Daily Nation. A motorist who happened upon the confrontation between plainclothes policemen and alleged criminals in the morning traffic pulled out his camera and took photographs. All the three men had already surrendered and were lying on the tarmac on Langata Road near Wilson Airport. As they lay on the tarmac, a policeman in plain clothes was pointing a gun to their heads.
Kenya: Release Political Prisoners Trust statement on extrajudicial executions
The extrajudicial killings that were carried out along Lang'ata Road by the Kenya Police indicates to all Kenyans that the death squads are now completely out of control. It is now clear to all that the Kenya Police have abandoned all pretext of any reform and are now operating totally outside the law.
Release Political Prisoners Trust (RPP)
Extrajudicial execution by the Kenya police on Langata Road
20 January 2011
The extrajudicial killings that were carried out along Lang'ata Road by the Kenya Police indicates to all Kenyans that the death squads are now completely out of control. It is now clear to all that the Kenya Police have abandoned all pretext of any reform and are now operating totally outside the law. As an organisation, we feel vindicated in our long held position that the extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances are now official policy of the police and are sanctioned at the highest level of government. In the light of the most recent killings RPP Trust demands and expects the following:
- That the Lang’ata OCPD Mr. Augustine Kimantiri be immediately relieved of his position. From the media accounts, it is clear that Mr. Kimantiri is complicit in the cover up of the matter by putting out to the media - and Kenyans - a false account of the events. Further, officers under his command threatened journalists who were carrying out their legitimate duties in a totally unacceptable manner.
- That an independent commission of inquiry be set up to investigate the escalation of extrajudicial killings and involuntary disappearances in Kenya.
- That urgent steps be taken to disband the death squads and stop their activities and to restore police reforms. Further, the recommendation of the Philip Ransley Task Force on police reforms that an Independent Police Oversight Authority must be implemented.
Release Political Prisoners (RPP) Trust
Upperhill Gardens, Block D-14,
Third Ngong Avenue off Ngong Avenue.
P.O Box 4636-00200
Tel: 020 2692071/2
Cell: 0717 431 738
Mauritania: Slave owner, rights activists convicted
A Nouakchott court on Sunday (16 January) sentenced Oumoulmoumnine Mint Bakar Vall to six months in prison for enslaving two girls, ages 10 and 14, in the city's Arafat neighbourhood. Last week, three human rights activists were handed down six month sentences for taking part in an unauthorised rally over the case. The verdict against the rights defenders, including Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA) head Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, was based on charges of assembling and disturbing the public peace, as well as using violence against police officers.
South Africa: On the casual bulldozing of a Shembe Temple in Durban
One of the many places in our society where the fracturing in who counts as a full member of our national public and who does not is immediately visible is Motala Heights near Durban. Motala Heights is nestled into a valley between the factories on the outskirts of Pinetown and a steep hill that leads up to the expensive suburb of Kloof. Some of the people in the valley are poor and live in tin houses that they have built on rented land and some are middle class or wealthy and live in large suburban homes. There is also a shack settlement at the foot of the hill that leads up to Kloof. On Friday last week a bulldozer shuddered up the hill adjacent to the shack settlement, went straight to the Shembe temple and obliterated it. There was no warning of what was about to happen, writes Richard Pithouse on The South African Civil Society Information Service.
Sudan: Concern over detention of human rights defenders
Open Letter to Mr. Mohammed Boushara Dossa, Minister of Justice
'The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), strongly condemns the continuing detention of at least fourteen human rights defenders and call upon the Government of Sudan to release them immediately as their detention is arbitrary.'
Zimbabwe: Human rights forum welcomes SADC ruling on torture
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) says it welcomes the judgment handed down by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal on 9 December 2010 in the case of Gondo and eight others vs the Government of Zimbabwe. The SADC Tribunal ruled that the Government of Zimbabwe violated Articles 4 (c) and 6 (1) of the SADC Treaty by failing to pay compensation to the nine (9) Applicants who are all victims of organised violence and torture (OVT). 'The ruling also confirms what the Forum and other Zimbabwean civil society orgnisations have been saying over the years – that one of the country’s main challenges is the flagrant disregard of court orders by the state and the absence of the rule of law.'
Africa: European countries asked to increase settlement places
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, on Wednesday called on European countries to increase resettlement places and support for refugees as a show of solidarity for the host countries of the world's refugees, four fifths of whom live in developing countries. Guterres made a specific request to Switzerland to consider restoring their resettlement programme.
Burundi: Land key obstacle to reintegration
After living abroad as refugees for years – in some cases decades – many of the half-million people who have returned to Burundi since 2002 are having to cope with a severe shortage of one of the tiny country’s most precious commodities: land. 'The issue of access and entitlement to arable land on which to undertake subsistence farming and of securing shelter [for the returnees] ... are among the most acute hurdles which continue to confront returnees,' Hugues van Brabandt, associate external affairs officer for the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, told IRIN.
Ethiopia: Monitoring of conflict, human rights violations and resulting displacement still problematic
An estimated 300,000 to 350,000 people remained internally displaced within Ethiopia in late 2010. There were reported displacements related to violence and human rights violations in Gambella and Somali Regions in 2010. Armed conflicts and localised episodes of violence have continued to cause displacement in various areas. In particular, government forces have continued to fight insurgency groups including the Ogaden National Liberation Front in Somali Region and the Oromo Liberation Front in the south of the country.
Ivory Coast: Displaced Ivory Coast children at risk of sexual exploitation
Thousands of children who have fled violence in Ivory Coast are at risk of sexual exploitation or recruitment by armed forces, aid workers warned on Tuesday. They are particularly concerned about children who have become separated from their parents during the turmoil following the country’s disputed presidential elections in November. About 30,000 people, more than 75 per cent of whom are women and children, have crossed the border into neighbouring Liberia while another 18,000 are internally displaced in Ivory Coast.
Somalia: From a life of fear to a life in limbo
Fleeing Somalia may mean an end to dodging bullets and living in fear, but for many Somalis who manage to cross the border into Kenya, it is also the start of a long and difficult journey as a refugee. 'We have refugees who have been in Kenya since 1991,' said Salam Shahin, registration officer with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Dadaab, the world's largest refugee complex, home to more than 300,000 people, mainly Somalis.
South Africa: Building the solidarity economy from below
The ecological and economic crisis of South Africa’s transnationalising capitalist economy is also reflected in increasing hunger, increasing food prices, unhealthy diets and polluting agro-processing food production. Advancing an Anti-Hunger and Food Sovereignty Campaign challenges this reality and politicises the food question in a more consistent way. Such a campaign has to be advanced bottom up, through a participatory democratic logic for democratic left politics. These campaign notes, presented at a Conference of the Democratic Left in South Africa, intend to promote such a process and emerge out of the Gauteng Democratic Left conference held in March 2010.
South Africa: Democratic left demands on housing
There is a need to outline a programme of demands in the area of housing. Through struggle in the Western Cape some demands have come to the fore, and they might be considered to be elements of a programme in the area of housing. The discussion available through the link provided, from the Conference of the Democratic Left, held recently, may not even include all the demands that have been raised by different communities in the Western Cape, so should not in any way be regarded as definitive even of recent Western Cape experience.
South Africa: Time for a new democratic left politics
It is time that the people take their destiny into their own hands, writes Mazibuko Jara. 'Can poor and working people, working with middle class people committed to social change, open the path to a new politics that can change this country? Can a modest national conference under an umbrella of democratic left politics offer any hope for the majority and those interested in social change in this country? This 1st National Conference of the Democratic Left, which will follow two weeks after the celebration of the ANC’s 99th anniversary in January 2011, is a milestone in a maturing long-term political process.'
South Africa: Towards a united democratic left front
This paper, from the just-concluded Conference of the Democratic Left, presents a perspective and argument for organising the democratic left initiative as an anti-capitalist political front. It is anchored in the premise of maximising the unity of social and ideological forces against post-apartheid and global capitalism. To stimulate debate, discussion and resolution on the political form question for the democratic left initiative this document covers the following themes:
- A strategic approach to fronts;
- Learning lessons from the history of political fronts;
- The case for a United Democratic Left Front for South Africa;
- Key issues for a Democratic Left approach to building a political front through struggle.
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....
Study sends agriculture warning to Africa
Agricultural research produced in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation concluded last week that Africa should stop relying on just a handful of crops and developing new seeds as the default solutions to end hunger and poverty. The message, outlined in a report by the Worldwatch Institute, appears out of step with the Gates foundation’s funding of agrotechnology initiatives to achieve agricultural development in Africa.
East Africa Eager to Welcome Independent South Sudan
With the final referendum votes being counted and south Sudan preparing to cut ties with the north, excitement is building in East Africa, as the prospects of an expanded political and economic union draw near. While official results from south Sudan’s historic election are not expected until February, unofficial tallies indicate nearly universal support for separation from the north. Visions of the future in Africa’s newest country are already taking shape, and with them are visions of a greater East Africa.
M&A hits new high in Africa
Investors and analysts expect the pace of deals to gather speed this year as more overseas groups and banks target Africa's fast-growing economies, growing middle classes and increasing trade flows with Asia. "Africa is becoming much more important for a lot of global banks. As a consequence, you are seeing increased competition," said banking analyst Johann Scholtz of Afrifocus Securities.
2. China in Africa
China to forgive half of Africa rail debt
China has signed a protocol with Zambia and Tanzania in Zambian capital city Lusaka, writing off 50 percent debts of Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA) Chinese Deputy Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, Zambian Minister of Finance and National Planning Situmbeko Musokotwane and Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs of Tanzania Pereira Silima signed the protocol on Wednesday evening at Lusaka's Intercontinental Hotel. Zhong said the decision made by the Chinese government to remit the partial debts is of the friendship between China and the African countries, and Chinese people wish to support Zambia and Tanzania in their capacity of development by seeing the railway getting off its burden of current operational difficulties.
China hands over Zimpeto National Stadium to Mozambique
The Mozambican government Monday received the Zimpeto National Stadium from the Chinese government. It is the biggest sporting venue built in Mozambique since the country’s independence and holds 42,000 spectators. Ten thousand of the 42,000 available seats at the venue are under a covered area, which also houses the VIP area and areas for restaurants and the media. The stadium took two years and three months to build and cost US$70 million funded by the Chinese government, which took charge of the building project by handing it over to the Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Co. (AFECC).
China set to fund West African infrastructure
It is reported that China Inc having earmarked more than USD 5 billion to increase its footprint in West Africa's iron ore industry last year is tipped as the likely source of billions more for the railways and ports needed to get the next generation of projects off the ground. In a report on West Africa would-be iron ore miners, Foster Stockbroking analysts said the single biggest risk facing companies was infrastructure. Although the world's biggest miners including BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata are active in the region, it is China's deep pockets that are expected to foot much of the bill as the resource-hungry nation seeks to lock down future sources of supply.
Chinese authorities probe fake good
After numerous complaints, Chinese authorities are said to be taking counterfeits seriously and have requested assistance from Namibian business people to root out counterfeit products that are flooding the Namibian market. The move is said to have come directly from the Chinese government in order to “guarantee the quality of China’s bulk exports to Namibia”. Whether or not the directive would yield the desired results is yet to be seen. But the Chinese Embassy in Namibia is asking local business people to submit all information pertaining to fake or counterfeit products by Chinese businesses and has promised to act on all information provided.
Chinese investor scoops Liganga, Mchuchuma bid
A Chinese firm has won the tender to invest in the Mchuchuma and Liganga mining projects in southern Tanzania and is expected to pump in 3bn/-. The investor, Sichuan Hongda Corporation won the competitive tender in a bidding exercise that attracted 48 international companies.
3. India in Africa
India's largest trading company opens doors in South Africa
MMTC Ltd, India's largest international trading company with a turnover exceeding US$ 10 billion has opened offices in South Africa in a bid to significantly increase trade between India and South Africa. Indian Commerce Minister, the Hon. Mr. Anand Sharma officially inaugurated the MMTC Office in Johannesburg on Monday 10 January, 2011 at a function organised by MMTC in association with the Consulate General of India in Johannesburg. The event was hosted by His Excellency Mr. Virendra Gupta, High Commissioner of India in South Africa.
Indian bank expanding and recruiting in Africa
This week the Indian trade minister has made a high-profile official state visit to South Africa, as two-way trade between the two countries is growing beyond expectations and MMTC, india’ state-owned commodity trading enterprise, has opened its first African branch in Johannesburg’s Sandton business district. South Africa has just been formally invited to join the Bric bloc, made up of Brazil, India, Russia and China and in April it will attend the Bric summit in China for the first time.
Against this background analysts expect business with India to increase in the next twelve months. One company has made a head start: Religare Capital Markets, the investment banking arm of Indian billionaire Malvinder Singh’s Religare Enterprises. Last year Religare was given by the board a mandate to spend $1bn on strategic investments and since then RCM has been busy making acquisitions and recruiting people in Asia and the Americas as well as Africa.
Huge untapped potential for investment and trade between India and South Africa
Shri Anand Sharma, Union Minister of Commerce & Industry, while addressing the India Business Forum, in Johannesburg last evening, said that there are huge untapped potential exists in the area of investment and bilateral trade between India and South Africa. Interacting with the captains of industry from both sides, Shri Sharma said that for Indian businessmen, Africa is an untested but potential huge trade and investment market for the future. South Africa could provide the key to unlocking this market.
$15 b target set for India-South Africa bilateral trade
Buoyed by the massive growth recorded in trade between India and South Africa, and the huge potential it holds for the future, the two countries have decided to set a target of achieving $15 billion bilateral trade by 2015. The two countries are also set to breach the $10 billion two-way trade target by next month, 23 months ahead of schedule. Mr. Sharma was speaking in Johannesburg during the inauguration of the first branch office of state-run commodity trading enterprise MMTC. Mr. Sharma, who met the South African President, Jacob Zuma, on Monday, will also have a bilateral meeting with South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.
India to set up educational institutes in Africa
India plans to set up a slew of educational institutions in Africa over the coming years in a soft diplomacy initiative at a time when it is competing with China over presence and investments in the region. The human resource development ministry will set up an Africa Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (AIEPA) in Burundi and an Africa Institute of Information Technology (AIIT) in Ghana under the plan, top government sources have told HT. At least another dozen institutes, including one on foreign trade and management, are also in the pipeline though they are yet to be finalized, the sources said.
India for early conclusion of trade pact with southern Africa
India is keen to conclude a preferential trade agreement with the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) as this will significantly boost bilateral trade, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said Tuesday. 'This should provide an enormous boost to ongoing levels of bilateral trade, specially in products such as pharmaceuticals, machineries, automobiles, where India enjoys a competitive advantage,' a statement released here quoted Sharma as saying at the India Business Forum in Johannesburg.
India-UK fund to boost agro-innovation in Africa and Asia
The Indian and UK governments are tapping into agricultural innovation outside the traditional international development community with the launch of a £20 million (US$32 million) programme for food security. Sustainable Crop Production Research for International Development (SCPRID) will allow scientists to research stressors, ranging from pests to climate change, on five key crops — cassava, maize, rice, sorghum and wheat — with a view to boosting sustainable crop yields. Brian Harris, head of the agriculture and food sector of the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, which is managing the programme, told SciDev.Net that the initiative builds on earlier partnerships with the UK Department for International Development (DFID) to "bring new people into the international development field" by encouraging UK scientists to solve practical agricultural problems in developing countries.
4. In Other Emerging Powers News
China's outbound direct investment up 36 percent last year
China's outbound direct investment in the non-financial sector hit 59 billion U.S. dollars last year, up 36.3 percent year on year, the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) announced Tuesday. Total outbound direct investment in the non-financial sector had amounted to 258.8 billion U.S. dollars by the end of 2010. Though China's outbound direct investment grew rapidly last year, most of it went to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, as well as countries in Asia and Latin America, with a very small amount to Europe, the United States and Japan, said MOC spokesman Yao Jian.
Standard advises on China power deals
Standard Bank Group, Africa's largest bank by assets, acted as the sole financial adviser to the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) on its $1.8bn acquisition of 100% ownership of seven power transmission companies in Brazil. The acquisitions are one of the largest investments made by a Chinese company in Brazil. SGCC, the world's largest utility, has bought the seven companies from Spanish groups Cobra, Elecnor, Isolux and Abengoa. Craig Bond, Chief Executive of Standard Bank in China said it was pleased at being the adviser.
Zuma, Uganda's Museveni Will Sign Agreements; Eskom
South African President Jacob Zuma who is on a two- day state visit to Africa’s biggest economy to boost ties, will meet President Museveni to sign agreements on bilateral cooperation in agriculture and a memorandum of understanding on public works and infrastructure development. They’ll also review progress on areas of collaboration in trade and investment, water and environmental affairs and energy and social development.
Blackwater Founder Said to Back Mercenaries
Erik Prince, the founder of the international security giant Blackwater Worldwide, is backing an effort by a controversial South African mercenary firm to insert itself into Somalia’s bloody civil war by protecting government leaders, training Somali troops, and battling pirates and Islamic militants there, according to American and Western officials.
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Bric becomes Brics, but will this be good for South Africa?
Late last month, it was announced that South Africa had been invited to join the Bric grouping of Brazil, Russia, India and China. On December 23, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi telephoned his South African counterpart, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, (China currently chairs Bric) and conveyed the invitation to her, adding that a letter to President Jacob Zuma had been dispatched by Chinese President Hu Jintao, inviting South Africa’s leader to the third Bric summit, to be held in China this year. Yang also indicated that the group would now be known as Brics. “We believe that South Africa’s accession will promote the development of Bric and enhance cooperation between emerging economies,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu. The Russian Foreign Ministry stated that South Africa’s admittance to the group was “in line with sustainable trends of global development, including the emergence of a polycentric international system. The entry of [South Africa], an active participant in the G20 and the largest economic power in Africa, will not only increase the total economic weight of our association but also will help build up opportunities for mutually beneficial practical cooperation within Bric.”
South Africa as a BRIC Member
Gerhard Erasmus asks what we can expect from South Africa’s admission as the fifth member of BRIC and what does it mean for Africa. He asks: Is Pretoria now in a new league vis-a-vis other African states? Will it take on more responsibilities to promote African interests when meeting with its BRIC partners?
Has China's Export Financing Met Its Match?
A fascinating new development in the dry area of export financing: we learn that for the first time, the US Eximbank has matched China Eximbank's terms for export financing. John Pomfret reports for the Washington Post on the case of GE's effort to win a tender for train exports to Pakistan. GE was about to give up: After all, China was a powerful competitor that routinely offered low-cost financing - below-market interest rates, easy repayment terms - that cut tens of millions of dollars off the bottom line of its international deals. But in a case that underscores a significant shift in how the United States and the rest of the developed world are dealing with the challenge of China's economic might, the U.S. Ex-Im Bank decided to fight back.
China Corporate Challengers Brawny, Not Brainy
Brawn, not brain-power, characterizes the Chinese business groups that a new report says will shake up the corporate world order. A list of rising companies from the developing world likeliest to challenge the multinationals (pdf), published by the Boston Consulting Group on Tuesday, suggests size and government backing in China, not entrepreneurialism, may be the source of the global impact by the country’s businesses. China occupies 33 spots on the 100-strong list, against 20 from India and 13 from Brazil.
Forging a New Partnership: India and Africa
The relationship between Africa and India dates back to more than a thousand years. India and Africa are bonded together by very long traditions of friendship and common historical struggle against colonialism, apartheid, racism and injustice. This shared historical background based on colonialism and a successful attainment of independence is one of the important bases for strengthening India-Africa partnership in the 21st Century. The rapid emergence of India in the globalized world raises the demand for tapping in to Africa’s natural resources, which are available in the African Continent. Africa also has to be industrialized for an equitable distribution in sustainable development of the continent. It is also in the above environment of strengthening the India-Africa Partnership in the 21st Century that India has launched and implemented a number of initiatives to support various aspects of the continent’s peace, stability and overall development efforts.
Ready for the African safari?
T S Vishwanath highlights that the African continent has been clearly recognised as the next big market for trade and investment globally. A free trade agreement (FTA) with different regions of Africa will be the next logical step in building a dynamic partnership with the region, stated India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma recently while addressing industry. He notes that it is time for India to re-look the strategy to engage in Africa. Therefore it will be important for the Indian government to closely engage with industry in India for developing an Africa strategy since it will help develop a more sustainable partnership, which will be beneficial to both India and Africa.
What's driving the rise of southern aid agencies?
A fully fledged member of the G20, invited to join another exclusive club, the "Brics" (Brazil, Russia, India, China and now South Africa), and Africa's most promising candidate for a permanent seat on the UN security council (or has that idea been kicked into touch?), it was a matter of time before South Africa announced its own official aid agency. No hopeful new power can be without one.
Enlarged Bric bloc to prioritise energy security, says India
Fast-growing India has developed an intensive focus on dealing with its energy security challenge, which has emerged as a constraint on the Asian giant’s industrial competitiveness, India’s Ministry of External Affairs joint secretary and spokesperson Vishnu Prakash told Engineering News Online this week.In a briefing with South African journalists in New Dehli, Prakash said the country was strongly focused on increasing its energy capacity, as well as other infrastructure, such as roads, ports, airports and telecommunications, the lack of which was limiting the economy’s growth and development aspirations.
What BRICS means for agriculture?
Since news of this broke, Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill, who coined the BRIC acronym, has questioned why larger and faster developing emerging economies, like Mexico and South Korea, weren’t asked to join the group before South Africa. Agriculture Business Chamber CEO Dr John Purchase said it likely has to do with South Africa’s strategic position as the strongest economy on the continent, which also makes us a gateway into Africa for Brazil, Russia, India and China.
It’s common knowledge that China and India, especially, are investing heavily into Africa seeking raw materials and minerals, such as coal and iron-ore, for their fast-growing economies, and access to agricultural production to ensure greater food security for their countries, he explained. With the BRIC group now the BRICS group, Pretoria University agricultural economist Prof Johann Kirsten said South Africa will have the opportunity to see “how Brazil and China have become agricultural giants by having good policies, by stimulating investment in agricultural research and by not disturbing investment in agriculture through political interference”
A strategy to straddle the planet
Welcome to a new era of globalisation, China-style. As the financial crisis recedes, one of the big fears is that the process of increasingly closer links among big economies worldwide will go into reverse as governments and countries look inward. The message coming from the world’s second-largest economy for the past year has been clear: China wants to accelerate the integration of the global economy, but on its own terms. Over the past few decades, China has benefited hugely by hitching itself to a process of globalisation where the rules were written in Washington and the American consumer was the buyer of last resort. China prospered by making first the socks, then the washing machines and finally the iPods sold at Walmart.
Algeria: Several injured in pro-democracy march
Algerian police have broken up an anti-government demonstration by about 300 people in the centre of the capital, Algiers, calling for greater freedoms. Several protesters were injured and a number are reported to have been arrested. Seven police officers were also hurt, according to state media. The leader of the opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) said those held included its parliamentary leader.
Egypt: Will 25 January be the Day of the Egyptian Intifada?
What is going to happen in Egypt on 25 January? People are calling for demonstrations and sit-ins everywhere. Who is going to participate, and where? What are their demands? Isn't it possible that some people are against the whole thing? Global Voices wraps up the Egyptian blogosphere to find out answers to these questions.
Malawi: Local government elections on hold
Malawi has only voted for local government representatives once since 1994 when democracy was ushered in. The country’s constitution demands that local elections be held in the year following the national general election. Malawi has had general elections every five years since 1994, but local elections supposed to be held in 1995 and 2005 never took place. The government has never explained why. This article from IPS Africa explains the impact on ordinary citizens.
Niger: Candidates seek to delay presidential poll
Niger's 10 presidential rivals have asked the ruling military junta to delay elections by three weeks to 20 February and to replace the electoral commission after problems with local polls held earlier this month. The presidential elections are meant to restore civilian rule after a military coup in February 2010 toppled the former president, Mamadou Tandja.
Somalia: Puntland shuns Somali government
The autonomous region of Puntland in Somalia has announced that it will break with the federal government based in the embattled capital, Mogadishu. After a special meeting of Abdirahman Mohammed Farole's presidential cabinet, the government issued a statement saying that the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) 'does not represent Puntland in international forums' and that the United Nations Political Office for Somalia should 'reconsider its position and support for the TFG at the expense of other Somali stakeholders'.
Sudan: Statement on the 2011 Southern Sudan referendum processes
The Sudanese Network for Democratic Elections (SuNDE) and the Sudanese Group for Democracy and Elections (SuGDE)
'The Southern Sudan referendum allowed the free expression of the will of the people for self determination. Turnout was massive, in a peaceful environment, and administrative procedures met national legal requirements in an atmosphere of respect and cooperation. Though the counting and tabulation stages of the referendum have yet to be completed and the final results are still awaited, our observation showed that voter participation far exceeded the required 60 per cent threshold and indicated that the final official referendum results will show that people chose a peaceful secession.'
Tunisia: EU shows solidarity with Tunisia, quiet about the rest of North Africa
The European Union has offered to help organise elections in Tunisia following its democratic uprising that culminated in the flight of leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to Saudi Arabia. However, asked whether this 'solidarity' extended to other democracy movements across north Africa, the commission refused to be drawn regarding other regimes in the region.'We cannot speculate on situations that are not ongoing,' said foreign affairs spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic.
Tunisia: Thousands rally against Tunisia interim government
In renewed demonstrations against Tunisia's government, thousands marched from Sidi Bouzid to downtown Tunis on Sunday (23 January), seeking the removal of Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi's interim administration. The 'Caravan of Liberation', which left Sidi Bouzid on Saturday, was just the latest in a wave of demonstrations protesting the continued presence of members of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's regime.
Zimbabwe: State agents compiling database of potential violence victims in Binga
A councillor in a remote district of Binga has revealed that state security agents are compiling a visual database of MDC officials that they suspect are potential candidates in the next elections. The CIOs have already taken photographs of some councilors in Binga, but others have refused to be photographed, saying they know that their images will be used to identify them when violence is unleashed during elections. SW Radio Africa spoke to Councillor Temba Toonse Kunjulu, popularly known as TTK in his Jabuba ward in Binga, who described how he was recently approached by CIOs who asked him if he would be running for a position during the next elections.
Tanzania: Legal challenge to blanket immunity given to BAE Systems
Campaign Against Arms Trade and The Corner House are challenging the blanket immunity from prosecution given by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to BAE Systems as part of its February 2010 plea bargain settlement with the company. In exchange for securing this immunity, BAE pleaded guilty to a relatively minor accounting offence in its complex scheme of offshore companies used to pass and make payments relating to its supply of a radar system to Tanzania.
Tunisia: Complaint launched in France over Ben Ali's assets
The Arab Commission for Human Rights, SHERPA and Transparence International France (TI France) has filed a complaint with the French public prosecutor (Procureur de la République) against several members of Ben Ali and Trabelsi families. The objective is the opening of a judiciary inquiry into the assets they own in France, which could have come from the embezzlement of public funds. Corruption inside Ben Ali’s regime has been revealed with the recent revelation by Wikileaks of a diplomatic cable from the US embassy in Tunis.
Tunisia: How president's wife 'fled with $60m in gold bullion'
The final act of the kleptocracy by the Ben Ali family was to steal one and a half tonnes of gold, with the president's wife personally collecting the bullion from an initially reluctant but eventually browbeaten president of the country's central bank, reports the UK Independent. Within hours the allegations – denied by the central bank – had been turned into slogans on the streets of Tunis in another demonstration, as protesters vented their fury at the former first family.
Africa: Fighting illicit flows from developing countries
Cross-border illicit financial flows from developing countries are estimated to range from US $850 billion to US $1 trillion each year. Two thirds of these illicit flows are related to tax evasion and avoidance by multinational companies operating in the South. As a result of tax dodging, poor countries lose massive financial resources which, according to the OECD, are larger than the amount received from Official Development Assistance (ODA).
Africa: Growth is not enough to meet poverty targets, UN says
Africa's economy isn’t growing fast enough to meet targets to reduce poverty in the world’s poorest continent, the United Nations said. Per-capita income will probably expand 2.7 per cent in 2011 and 2.8 per cent in 2012, lower than the 3 per cent 'minimum rate of growth to make a substantial dent in poverty', the UN said in a statement released in Johannesburg. Rising commodity prices, better harvests and investments in rail and energy projects will help lift growth to 5 per cent in 2011 and 5.1 per cent in 2012, from 4.7 per cent last year, the UN said.
Africa: Infrastructure investment depressed due to economic crisis
Infrastructure finance in Africa is still struggling to claw back to the pre-2008 peak, just before the global financial crisis. A new survey by audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) shows traditional finance models have faltered in the wake of the recession, compounded by political and systemic obstacles that could derail a nascent recovery.
Africa: The World Bank's economic outlook
According to the World Bank's Global Economic Prospects 2011, released on 13 January, the GDP growth rate for Sub-Saharan Africa is projected at 4.7 per cent for 2010, from a 1.7 per cent low in 2009, increasing to 5.3 per cent in 2011 and 5.5 per cent in 2012. This compares to negative growth for the United States in 2009 (-2.6 per cent) and weak recovery in 2010-2012 (2.8 per cent, 2.8 per cent, and 2.9 per cent). The World Bank notes that the recovery is due in large part to trends in commodity prices, particularly for metals and minerals as well as for oil. But it also stresses the significance of domestic demand and of expanding investment in the region, including in manufacturing and telecommunications service. This edition of AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from the report's regional annex on Sub-Saharan Africa.
East Africa: Hurry to implement East African single currency
The five states making up the East African Community (EAC) are in a hurry to prepare for their common currency, which according to plans is to be introduced already next year. Experts now see how they can fast-track the process. Experts from the five EAC states on 17 January embarked on a four-day meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, that sets the stage for negotiations for the East African Monetary Union.
Uganda: What’s on the Agenda for Museveni in SA?
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s state visit to South Africa shows that he is already looking ahead to next month’s national election, which he is expected to win comfortably. With Uganda’s first oil exports expected to start flowing next year, as well as a growing service sector and significant agricultural potential, opportunities for economic cooperation between South Africa and Uganda is likely to dominate discussions during the two day state visit, says the South African Institute of International Affairs.
Africa: Ending hunger to reach MDGs
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have committed to working together to reduce child stunting in Eastern and Southern Africa in an effort to reach the UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015. UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Director Elhadj As Sy and WFP Southern, Eastern and Central African Regional Director Mustapha Darboe signed an agreement prioritising both goals and acknowledged the progress that had been made to address the nutritional factors hampering children’s health.
Africa: Poor countries with IMF loans 'divert aid from public health'
Poor countries that borrow from the International Monetary Fund are spending just one cent in every dollar received in health aid on improving the medical care of their populations, according to new Oxford University-led research. The study, published in the International Journal of Health Services, said there were signs that the tough loan conditions imposed by the IMF were leading to health aid being diverted for other uses, reports the London Guardian.
Chad: Beyond the cholera emergency
Cholera, though easily preventable, is one of the most deadly diarrhoeal diseases. Once someone is infected through contaminated food or water, the vibrio cholerae bacteria are present in faeces for one to two weeks, and without proper sanitation are likely to infect others. But proper sanitation facilities, as well as safe drinking water, are out of reach for most Chadians. And tackling this, experts say, must be the priority post-emergency. With the rate of infection slowing as of mid-December, Chad had 6,369 documented cases of cholera with 180 deaths, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Malawi: Better paediatric HIV services reduce infections
More mothers and pregnant women in Malawi are attending antenatal clinics since the increased training of health workers in paediatric HIV care improved services to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, and paediatric HIV testing and treatment. 'I was reluctant [about] going for the voluntary HIV [test] when I got my first pregnancy in 2007,' said Fanny Yolamu, whose previous child had been delivered by traditional birth attendants.
South Africa: How better ARV prices were won
South Africa’s recently-awarded tender for antiretroviral drugs halved drug costs for the world’s largest ARV programme. Driven by a better-prepared and more aggressive government, the deal may stand up to criticism better than initially thought. In a country with an estimated HIV prevalence rate of about 18 per cent, more than a million South Africans are currently on ARVs. South Africa will save an estimated 685 million dollars over the two-year life of the new tender.
Zimbabwe: Newborn deaths at Hopley settlement, Zimbabwe
In June 2010, Amnesty International found that pregnant women and girls at Hopley settlement, in Harare, are at risk of ill-health and even death due to inadequate access to essential health services. Both their own lives and the lives of their newborn babies are put at risk because of the government’s failure to provide adequate levels of maternal and newborn care. Though there have been some recent investments to rehabilitate the health delivery services in other communities in Harare after many years of neglect, the situation at Hopley has remained precarious.
Global: The World Bank as a new global education ministry?
In early 2011 the World Bank will approve a new education sector strategy amid trends that mean that international goals on education will not be met. Zoe Godolphin of the University of Bristol argues that the Bank’s proposed approach fails conceptually because it does not accept that education is a human right. It also fails pragmatically because it continues to advocate a template approach instead of supporting genuinely country-driven priorities in education planning.
Swaziland: Free primary education goes with hunger, poverty
The new school year opened with hope - and hunger - in Swaziland this week: an estimated 140,000 orphans and vulnerable children are among the small, eager faces in the mountain kingdom's classrooms. Poverty and the AIDS pandemic threaten to make an early mark on the next generation.
Uganda: International university approved
Uganda has approved the setting up of an international university that will partner with institutions from around the world to deliver accredited courses and degree programmes to students in Uganda and other East African countries as well as Southern Sudan and Nigeria. The five member countries of the East African Community, EAC, are Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
West Africa: New body to promote university ideals
The University of Ilorin in Nigeria has established the Association of West African Universities, AWAU, as a sub-regional body that will coordinate and promote the ideals of University education in West Africa. According to a communiqué signed by Dr Mahfouz A Adedimeji, deputy director of the Directorate of Information and Protocol in the vice-chancellor's office, the association was established on 10 January to strengthen and develop the capacity of leadership in universities in West Africa to address the challenges confronting the region.
Cameroon: The LGBTI situation in Cameroon
Cameroon continues to arrest and prosecute individuals under a law that criminalizes same-sex sexual activity. This law has consequences for LGBT people beyond their unacceptable arrests and imprisonment. It drives inequality within the justice system and promotes violence within families and communities. To combat these violations, in November IGLHRC launched the report, 'Criminalizing Identities: Rights Abuses in Cameroon based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.' The report was a collaborative effort with Human Rights Watch and the Cameroonian LGBT organisations Alternatives-Cameroun and l’Association pour la Défense des Droits des Homosexuels.
South Africa: Cape Town Pride festival gears up
Preparations for the popular Cape Town Pride, taking place from 24 February to 6 March 2011 are underway in the Mother City and organisers have promised a remarkable event that will highlight the beauty of diversity and indicate the event is not only about beautiful bodies and drag queens but about gay families, normal gay businessmen, the transgender community and the unheard voices of
'our sisters' in the townships who often face intimidation and corrective rape.
Zimbabwe: GALZ statement on HIV prison risk assessment
'GALZ applauds the National Aids Council for taking steps to carry out an assessment of HIV prevalence and risk behaviours among the prison populations in Zimbabwe. We believe that men, women and children in these settings are vulnerable hence it is important to ensure that the health of those who constitute this population is protected, as they are a part of the broader community.'
Africa: The implications of climate change for health
Climate change is a significant and emerging threat to public health, says this publication from the Arid Lands Information Network. 'There is need for capacity building and implementation of projects to strengthen the health system response to climate change and to ensure that health is appropriately considered in decisions made by other sectors such as energy and transport.'
Rwanda: Forest conservation calls for carrot and stick
Rwanda has made the protection of its remaining forests a priority, and set a target of increasing forest cover to 30 per cent by 2020 – a goal it seems set to achieve well ahead of schedule.
The country is still losing precious primary forest – the almost complete destruction of the Gishwati Forest in the northwest between by people displaced by the genocide is an example – but this is offset by the aggressive campaign against unsustainable use of forests while promoting tree-planting across the country.
South Sudan: Millions needed for war-hit wildlife
South Sudan has appealed for investors to plough $140 million into its war-hit wildlife parks, seeking to kick-start a tourism industry and wean itself off oil months ahead of its expected independence. The south has the world's second largest migration of mammals, untamed wildernesses and vast herds of gazelles and antelopes, rivalling anything seen in Kenya, Uganda and other African holiday hotspots, say experts.
Global: New studies on large-scale investments in land
A new set of research studies – available now on the International Land Coalition (ILC) website – explores the growing wave of large-scale international and domestic land acquisitions and the factors that are driving demand for investments in land. The studies examine how changes in demand for food, energy and natural resources, along with liberalisation of trade regimes, are making the competition for land increasingly global and unequal.
Mali: Cotton and food security closely linked
Many Malian farmers are boycotting cotton this year, instead planting cereals. Cotton isn’t edible, but observers say that the shift could weaken food security. Discouraged by falling prices for cotton, and poor administration at the state-owned Malian Textile Company (known by its French acronym, CDMT), many Malian farmers are reducing the area planted with cotton on their farms – or abandoning growing it altogether.
Africa: Trade unions launch campaign for responsible media
A new campaign on the theme, 'Socially Responsible African Media' has been launched in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, by a group of trade unions fighting for the rights of journalists and other media workers in Africa. The group consisting of Federation of African Journalists, (FAJ), Uni Africa and their partners like the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and media-related groups across the continent are leading the campaign over a three-year period.
Côte d’Ivoire: Domestic media raise the stakes
Such is the concern about the role the Ivoirian media are playing in ramping up the tension in Côte d’Ivoire that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently warned that International Criminal Court (ICC) indictments could eventually be handed down on those inciting violence. Most of the Ivoirian media is deeply polarised. The state-run Radiotélévision Ivoirienne (RTI), the most widely accessed source of news in the country, is an unwavering champion of Laurent Gbagbo and a persistent vilifier of his internationally-backed rival claimant to the presidency, Alassane Ouattara.
Rwanda: Opposition to prison terms for journalists
The Committee to Protect Journalists has issued a statement opposing prosecution demands for lengthy prison sentences for the editor and deputy editor of the independent weekly Umurabyo. State Prosecutor Agustin Nkusi requested a 33-year prison sentence for Editor Agnès Uwimana and 12 years for her deputy, Saidati Mukakibibi, at a High Court hearing in the capital, Kigali. The two, arrested in July 2010, face charges of incitement to violence, genocide denial, and insulting the head of state in connection with several opinion pieces published in mid-2010, according to news reports.
South Africa: Open letter to President Jacob Zuma
Following his address to the 99th ANC anniversary celebrations, The Right2Know campaign has written to President Jacob Zuma pointing out that he has 'failed to address a number of disturbing political developments that threaten the free flow of information in South Africa.'The Protection of Information Bill – the Secrecy Bill – currently before Parliament would cast a shroud of secrecy over the workings of the state. This Bill would impose harsh penalties, up to 25 years in prison, on whistleblowers, activists and journalists who expose information in the public interest. We welcome your reassurances that the ANC will continue to promote and fight for media freedom, yet this Bill would be disastrous for media freedom in South Africa.'
South Africa: State broadcaster CEO gets multi-million payout
Embattled former SABC CEO Solly Mokoetle received a settlement of R3.4-million following his resignation on Wednesday, says the SABC. 'Mr Mokoetle was paid an equivalent of his 12 months' salary which amounts to R3.4-million inclusive of leave and other entitlements as a full and final settlement,' SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said in a statement on Friday.
Togo: Authorities shut down three radio stations
On 29 December 2010 Togolese authorities closed down three privately-owned radio stations in the capital, Lomé, citing administrative reasons. A statement issued by the Post and Telecommunications' Regulatory Authority and signed by Palouki Massina, its director general, said the decision was taken after a 10-day joint review of the stations, together with the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC), in November 2010.
Zimbabwe: Soldiers 'ban' Masvingo weekly newspaper in Gutu
Soldiers from 42 lnfantry Battalion in Gutu on Friday 14 January 2011 allegedly banned vendors from selling Masvingo province's weekly independent newspaper, The Mirror, after it published a story alleging that army personnel had beaten up people at Mupandawana growth point on Christmas Eve.
Egypt: Survey of young people in Egypt
Egypt is at a stage in its demographic transition with a marked 'youth bulge', a period in which the proportion of youth in the population increases significantly compared to other age groups. Owing to the dearth of data on youth, the Population Council has recently conducted a comprehensive situation analysis of adolescents and youth in Egypt: 'The Survey of Young People in Egypt (SYPE)'. The report updates knowledge on issues of health, education, employment, family formation, and civic participation.
Ghana: Billions needed for water infrastructure
Ghana has recently reached middle-income status but still struggles with a water deficit and widespread lack of sanitation. Despite challenges, Ghana is one of only four countries in sub-Saharan Africa on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal for water by 2015. Government estimates it will need to invest about $1.6 billion a year over 10 years for adequate infrastructure.
Haiti: Returned ex-dictator Duvalier charged
Haiti on Tuesday briefly detained former dictator Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier, back from exile in France, and charged him with corruption, theft and abuses of power allegedly committed during his 15-year rule. While a noisy crowd of his supporters protested outside the prosecutor's office, Duvalier, 59, was questioned over accusations that he stole public funds and committed human rights abuses after taking over as president in 1971.
Africa: Landmines, the hidden threat
Esperança Chidzinga lives in the rural town of Chicualacuala in Mozambique's Gaza province. Accessible only by a train that comes twice a week, the town is isolated and under-serviced. When Chidzinga was nine years old she went into the forest with school friends to gather wood for a party and she stepped on a landmine and lost a leg. Her life has never been the same. 'I was at the hospital and my father came to see me,' she said. 'When he left I tried to follow him but when I got off the bed I fell down. That's when I realised I had lost my leg.' Chicualacuala is a typical example of the many areas in Mozambique still affected by landmines laid during the country's civil war.
Cote d'Ivoire: Ouattara calls for cocoa export ban
Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognised president of the Cote d'Ivoire, has called for a month-long ban on cocoa exports, in an attempt to oust Laurent Gbagbo, who remains president despite being widely considered to have lost the disputed November poll. Anyone contravening the ban will be liable to sanctions, according to a statement issued on Sunday by the government nominated by Ouattara, who is holed up in a hotel guarded by UN troops.
Côte d’Ivoire: UN reinforces peacekeepers, officials warn of risks of genocide
The United Nations has reinforced its nearly 9,000-strong peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire with extra peacekeepers and helicopters, as senior officials called for urgent action to prevent growing post-electoral violence from degenerating into genocide. In a unanimous resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which allows for the use of force, the Security Council authorised the immediate deployment of an additional 2,000 troops and three armed helicopters in the West African country.
Mozambique: Mozambique prepares for worst floods in 10 Years
Flood alert levels are on orange in parts of Mozambique as disaster management services mobilise to respond to flooding potentially as bad as the catastrophe in 2000. Heavy downpours are steadily swelling the Southern African country’s rivers, while authorities watch rainfall and water level indicators in countries upstream with a wary eye. Some people living in the Limpopo Rver basin in the south of the country have started moving to safer ground after warnings that some 7,000 people could be affected if the river reaches the expected 2 metres above alert levels.
Mozambique: Speaking out on landmines
Digital stories are powerful narratives combining images with first hand accounts of people most affected by the topic at hand, in this case the ongoing impact of landmines in post-conflict Mozambique. Since many of the most affected areas are away from urban centres, these views and voices are sometimes forgotten. Community Media for Development did four workshops in which participants from the community recorded and produced a series of personal narratives that were distributed widely to demonstrate the ongoing human impact of landmines.
Nigeria: Nigeria urges UN to authorise force in Côte d'Ivoire
Nigeria's foreign minister on Monday called on the United Nations Security Council to authorise force in Côte d'Ivoire as West African nations seek to further pressure strongman Laurent Gbagbo to quit power. Odein Ajumogobia, in an editorial published in Nigerian newspapers, said the crisis 'single handedly precipitated by Mr Laurent Gbagbo ... will inevitably lead to anarchy and chaos, or worse, a full-blown civil war' if not resolved.
'Next Google and Facebook Have to Come from Africa'
There are countless opportunities for the IT sector in Africa. This was one of the conclusions drawn by Google Ghana’s Country Manager Estelle Akofio-Sowah and local Kenyan IT entrepreneur Kamal Budhabhatti. Both were speaking in the Netherlands at the Fill the Gap event, supported by Dutch organisations IICD and Hivos. Fill the Gap is an annual event about ICT for Development (ICT4D) with a different theme each year. This year’s theme was: IT entrepreneurship in Africa.
Africa: African culture promoted in award-winning 3D animation
An African film company is gaining global attention by producing award-winning 3D animation titles made from an African perspective. TransTales Entertainment was started in 2005 on a budget of less than 5 000 dollars by Segun Williams and Obinna Onwuekwe, and is the first film company to produce African themed 3D animation films to fill the void in animation with myriads of authentic African stories.
Africa: Can WikiLeaks and social media help fuel revolutions?
On 14 January 2011, Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced from office, and by some accounts he thereby became the first political casualty of the age of Wikileaks and social media, states this article.
Kenya: New ICT drivers of the economy
A significant decline in agriculture, still considered by many to be the economy’s backbone, has seen the emergence of information communication technologies (ICT) and telecommunications as the new pillars of the economy. 'We have been getting requests to increase allocations to the agricultural sector. The ICT sector, including the numerous outsourcing ventures which employ mostly the youth, appears more attractive,' Joseph Kinyua, treasury permanent secretary told Financial Journal.
Uganda: Ban on refurbished computers sparks the law of unintended consequences
The dirty downside of the ICT industry is that computers have to go somewhere when they die and because they are full of potentially toxic materials they cannot simply be dumped in landfills. Uganda’s Government has sought to tackle part of the problem by banning the import of secondhand computers and sparked the law of unintended consequences. Russell Southwood talked to Shakeel Padamsey of Camara and Kyle Spencer of the Uganda Linux Group about what’s happened.
Reject Online Issue 32
The latest issue of the Reject Online is now out.
This issue's highlights are:
- Scavengers of the gold mine
- Fear stalks IDP camps as mothers lose babies
- Child loses uterus through repeated sexual assault
- The great Mekatilili wa Menza
- Healer with a touch for broken hearts.
The Zimbabwe GNU Watch
The Zimbabwe GNU Watch provides an overview, month by month, of political developments under the terms set out in the Global Political Agreement (GPA). The sections profiled in monthly outputs may vary depending on events and issues raised in that particular report. Where possible, the relevant article as stipulated in the GPA has been provided.
2011 APSA Africa Workshop
The American Political Science Association (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. The Workshop will be held at the Institute of Development Studies in Nairobi, Kenya. The organizers, with a grant secured from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will cover all the costs of participation (travel, lodging, meals, daily stipend, and materials) for up to 23 qualified applicants (20 African, 3 U.S.). The working language of the workshop is English.
Codesria comparative research networks call for proposals for 2011
Within the framework of its strategy for building comparative knowledge on Africa produced from within the African continent, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) invites proposals from researchers based in African universities and centres of research for the constitution of Comparative Research Networks (CRNs) to undertake studies on or around any of the themes identified as priority research themes within the framework of the CODESRIA strategic plan for the period 2007 – 2011.
Comparative Research Networks
Call for Proposals for 2011
Within the framework of its strategy for building comparative knowledge on Africa produced from within the African continent, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) invites proposals from researchers based in African universities and centres of research for the constitution of Comparative Research Networks (CRNs) to undertake studies on or around any of the themes identified as priority research themes within the framework of the CODESRIA strategic plan for the period 2007 – 2011. The primary purpose for which the CRNs have been introduced is to encourage the development and consolidation of a comparative analytic perspective in the work of African social researchers. In so doing, it is hoped to establish a strong corpus of comparative studies produced by African scholars and which could help to advance theoretical knowledge and discussion. Priority research themes for the constitution of CODESRIA CRNs include the following:
1. Re-thinking (African) Development;
2. Re-thinking Democracy (in Africa);
3. Engendering Democracy and Development;
4. Transitions in African Higher Education;
5. Reforming the African Public Sector: Retrospect and Prospect;
6. The Changing Political Economy of African Natural Resources;
7. African Encounters with the Global System;
8. The Popular Arts, Identity and Culture in Contemporary Africa;
9. Health, Politics and Society in Contemporary Africa;
10. Migration Dynamics and the Making of New Diasporic Communities;
11. Changing Rural-Urban Linkages;
12. New Regionalist Impulses in Africa;
13. New Institutions of Transitional Justice;
14. Conflict and Reconstruction in Africa;
15. Law, Politics and Society;
16. State, Political Identity and Political Violence;
17. Political Pluralism and the Management of Diversity;
18. Water and Water Resources in the Political Economy of Development and Citizenship;
19. Ecology, Climate and Environmental Sustainability in Africa;
20. Transport and Transportation Systems in Africa;
21. Africa and the “Emerging” Powers of the Global South (China, India, Brazil...)
22. Religion, Spirituality and Power in Africa
Interested researchers are requested to highlight clearly the comparative question which they wish to pursue. Each proposal should include: an introduction - problem statement – review of related literature - the objectives of the study - the research methodology - the results - the outline of the proposed budget and time frame knowing that the total duration of the study is 18 months from the date of launch. Furthermore the proposal should indicate, the membership composition of the network, including the coordinator(s) of the group; the biodata and institutional affiliation of the network members; copies of the curriculum vitaes of the coordinator(s) and members of the network; the budget outline for the activities that are proposed. The identification sheet attached to this call shall be filled and sent along with the elements of CRN. Any application submitted does not contain the required elements will not be taken into account. Apart from the CVs of members of networks proposals should not exceed 12 pages (font: Times New Roman, size of fonts: 12, line spacing: single).
Authors of proposals submitted for consideration are urged to pay close attention to the comparative methodology which they will be applying and to demonstrate a proper understanding of the challenges of carrying out comparative studies. The independent Selection Committee that will be reviewing the CRN proposals received will be mandated to eliminate all proposals that are either silent on the comparative question that will be researched and the corresponding comparative methodology that will be employed or which show an inadequate understanding of the challenges of comparative research.
Each CRN will be entitled to organise three meetings during its lifespan, one methodological; the second one to evaluate the progress of the work of the members of the group and a final one to wind up the work. Although the budget that will be approved for the CRNs to be supported will vary from group to group, prospective applicants may wish to note for indicative purposes only that the grants that were awarded by CODESRIA in the recent past ranged from USD10,000 to USD35,000. Similarly, although no specific format is required for the presentation of the budget for the work that is proposed, authors may wish to note that resources will be allocated by the Council to cover the following costs:
i) A methodological workshop for the members of the CRN;
ii) A review workshop at which the progress of the work of the CRN members will be assessed;
iii) The field work to be undertaken by the members of the network;
iv) Books to be purchased for the work of the CRN;
v) Honorariums to be paid to the members of the CRN for the work undertaken.
vi) Final workshop
The size of a CRN will vary from proposal to proposal, on average, of four to six members. It is advantageous to ensure that a proposed CRN is multidisciplinary in composition, sensitive to gender issues, and accommodative of younger scholars.
For the 2011 competition, CODESRIA will be open to receive proposals up to 15 June, 2011. Notification of the result of the selection exercise will be made by 31 July, 2011. The methodology workshop for the selected CRNs will be in September 2011. Proposals (electronic versions) for the constitution of CRNs should be sent to:
Comparative Research Networks
BP 3304, CP 18524
Tel: +221-33825 98 22/23
Fax:+221-33824 12 89
Web Site: http://:www.codesria.org
Fellowships for threatened scholars
Call for Applications
The IIE Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) is pleased to announce a call for applications for threatened academics whose lives and work are in danger in their home countries. Fellowships support temporary academic positions at safe universities and colleges anywhere in the world. Professors, researchers, and lecturers from any country or field may apply.
Master's in International Human Rights Law (part-time)
University of Oxford
Oxford University’s Master's programme in International Human Rights Law is offered jointly by the Department for Continuing Education and the Faculty of Law. It is conducted on a part-time basis over 22 months. It involves two periods of distance learning via the internet as well as two summer sessions held at New College, Oxford. The degree programme is designed in particular for lawyers and other human rights advocates who wish to pursue advanced studies in international human rights law but may need to do so alongside work or family responsibilities. The aim of the degree programme is to train and support future leaders in the field of international human rights law. A central objective of the course is to ensure that participants not only know but can also use human rights law. The curriculum places roughly equal emphasis on the substance of human rights law, its implementation, and the development of human rights advocacy skills.
Rotary Peace Fellowship: Now Accepting Applications
The Rotary Foundation is now accepting applications for the world-competitive Rotary Peace Fellowship. The fellowship provides academic and practical training to prepare scholars for leadership roles in solving conflicts around the world.
Rotary Peace Fellowship: Now Accepting Applications
The Rotary Foundation is now accepting applications for the world-competitive Rotary Peace Fellowship. The fellowship provides academic and practical training to prepare scholars for leadership roles in solving conflicts around the world.
Up to 100 fellows are selected every year in a globally competitive process based on personal, academic, and professional achievements. Fellows earn a master’s-level degree or a professional development certificate in peace and conflict studies at one of six Rotary Peace Centers at leading universities in Argentina, Australia, England, Japan, the United States and Thailand.
To learn more about the program, applicants are encouraged to visit the Rotary Peace Centers website at www.rotary.org/rotarycenters
South-South Cooperation: Charting the way for people to people collaboration
World Social Forum, Dakar, Senegal, February 2011
The roundtable discussion is aimed at bringing together participants from African, Asian and Latin American civil society organisations and movements to discuss the concept of South-South cooperation from a peoples’ perspective. The roundtable will interrogate the challenges and opportunities for people centered South-South cooperation in the context of Southern ‘emerging powers’ and increased intergovernmental relations.
South-South Cooperation: Charting the way for people to people collaboration
The Emerging Powers in Africa initiative is pleased to announce the following roundtable dialogue at the forthcoming World Social Forum to take place in Dakar, Senegal, February 2011.
The roundtable discussion is aimed at bringing together participants from African, Asian and Latin American civil society organisations and movements to discuss the concept of South-South cooperation from a peoples’ perspective. The roundtable will interrogate the challenges and opportunities for people centered South-South cooperation in the context of Southern ‘emerging powers’ and increased intergovernmental relations. It will also debate the intentions and impact of the BRICS state to state relations and how collaboration and co-ordinated people to people interventions can be achieved towards greater synergy and action. Moreover the forum is aimed at developing collective reflections and promote a platform for South-South dialogue on the perspectives and strategies for the future, thereby guaranteeing that the voices of people and movements contribute to the effective achievement of another possible and urgent World for all.
Date: 8 February
Panelists include Mercia Andrews (African People’s Dialogue – South Africa), Ebrima Sall (CODESRIA - Senegal), John Patrick Ngoyi Kasongo (Justice Development and Peace Commussion - Nigeria), Dongying Wang (Global Environment Institute – China), Alyxandra Gomes (Fahamu and Sephis Programme - Brazil), Aissatou Diallo (ENDA – Senegal), Yuhua Xiao (Institute for African Studies – Zhejiang Normal University China) and Rahul Goswami (India).
United Nations Institute for Training and Research courses
The United Nations Institute for Training and Research has a number of courses available, including:
- Mediation and Consensus Building for Efficient Diplomacy
- Négociation bilatérale et multilatérale : stratégies et techniques
- Climate Change Diplomacy
- Multilateral Conferences and Diplomacy
- Mediation Skills
- United Nations Protocol
- Information Session on the Structure, Retrieval, and Use of United Nations Documentation
Launch of the African Women’s Journal by FEMNET
FEMNET will be unveiling the first issue of The African Women’s Journal on 20 January 2011 in Nairobi, Kenya. The first of its kind in the region, The African Women’s Journal will provide well researched and analytical articles on women, gender and development issues in Africa. The theme for this first issue of the Journal is 'The African Women’s Decade (2010-2020): A Call for Action, Action and More Action'.
Political think tank blog aims for change
RADICAL-8 is an open political think tank blog aiming to trigger a global uprising against war, poverty, and misery in Africa. It advocates a 180º directional change on the continent while simultaneously pushing for peace, progress, and prosperity for all. Ultimately, Radical-8 ambitions to change Africa for the better one day at a time, one intellectual battle at a time, and one mind at a time.
South Africa Pushed to the Limit: The Political Economy of Change
Building on his acclaimed book Limits to Change, Marais examines South Africa's most pressing issues – from the real reasons behind President Jacob Zuma's rise and the purging of his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, and how the African National Congress replenishes its power, to a devastating critique of the country's continuing AIDS crisis, its economic path and its approach to the rights and entitlements of citizens. South Africa Pushed to the Limit presents a riveting, benchmark analysis of the incomplete journey beyond apartheid.
Ghana: Capacity building program officer
Revenue Watch Institute
The Revenue Watch Institute (RWI) is a non-profit policy institute and grant-making organization that promotes the transparent, accountable and effective management of oil, gas, and mineral resources for the public good. RWI provides expertise, capacity building and funding to help countries maximize the long-term economic benefit of their natural riches.
Position Available: Capacity Building Program Officer - Media
Revenue Watch Institute
About Revenue Watch Institute
The Revenue Watch Institute (RWI) is a non-profit policy institute and grant-making organization that promotes the transparent, accountable and effective management of oil, gas, and mineral resources for the public good. RWI provides expertise, capacity building and funding to help countries maximize the long-term economic benefit of their natural riches.
Oil, gas and mining resources have the potential to fuel the growth and development of resource rich countries. But, often this wealth may be captured by elites, may distort and damage the broader economy, may reduce governments’ apparent need to respond to their citizens and may fuel conflict. Many developing countries lack the oversight mechanisms, both within government and civil society, to manage these challenges.
Revenue Watch is the only organization exclusively dedicated to helping oil, gas, and mineral-producing countries harness extractive revenues for development. We take a comprehensive approach to improving governance and development along the resource value chain—from the decision to extract, through the organization of production, revenue generation and management, to the expenditure processes in resource-rich countries. We believe that improved public oversight of these revenues, coupled with targeted assistance to governments on managing them, can help turn resource wealth from a hindrance into an asset.
Purpose and Context
The Capacity Building Program Officer for Media post will implement, monitor and promote our approaches to addressing the diverse and increasingly advanced needs of the media.
RWI believes that a vibrant, scrutinizing media is essential in giving public the information and voice it needs to demand the transparency and accountability necessary for good use of public resources and revenues, including those related to oil, gas and mining. RWI has undertaken some training and capacity building work with and for media actors, to improve the quantity and quality of reporting on extractive issues. But RWI now has a strong desire to develop more systematic, sustainable and impactful approaches and expand its coverage.
The Program Officer will focus on work to build the capacity of media as a key target group. At the end of 2009, RWI received funding to develop a significant new media capacity building program in Ghana and Uganda. The project is currently slated to run for 3 years, with the possibility of expanding in geographic scope in the following years. If the project is successful and further funding secured, there is the strong probability that the post will be extended and the remit expanded. The position will be based in Accra, Ghana, but will be managed from London.
The Capacity Building Program Officer for Media will be responsible for the following:
• Ensure good on-going communication and coordination with other agencies involved in capacity building of media (especially related to economic media and the extractives) – nationally, regionally and internationally.
• Negotiate and manage all contracting and relationships with local partners and any others providing inputs to the program (including inputs from technical advisors within RWI).
• With local partners, ensure the smooth design and implementation of the:
• selection process to identify participants,
• needs assessments and trainings,
• mentoring program
• financial support mechanisms
• prizes for journalism
• Ensure an effective monitoring and evaluation approach is designed and implemented, including tracking and analysis of media coverage.
• Ensure project learning and impact is effectively documented and communicated to key audiences, using traditional and new media and tools.
• Maintain close and constructive relationships with editors, owners, leading journalists etc to ensure the smooth running of the program.
• Ensure effective financial management of the project and reporting to donors.
• Build contacts and lever the project to develop and sustain the RWI media programme in Africa and other regions.
• Represent RWI externally at meetings, conferences, with donors etc.
• Implement media related work as required by RWI’s capacity building portfolio, in agreement with the Director of Training and Capacity Building.
• Undertake other tasks as required by management.
• At least 3-5 years experience running and managing capacity building projects in an international development and advocacy environment – including recruitment and management of staff, relationship management and capacity building of local partners, monitoring and evaluation, financial management.
• Demonstrable understanding of the media in Africa – key players, constraints, opportunities – and how it can be strengthened.
• Personal commitment to improving the use of, and accountability for, public resources.
• Skills in effective documentation and communication of project progress and learning.
• Ability to combine attention to detail whilst driving towards the overall goals of a program
• Ability to manage several simultaneous projects in a fast-paced environment.
• Ability to work in a self-motivated manner, with management support from a distance.
• Collegiate working style with superior interpersonal, writing, and organizational skills.
• Ability to use all key Microsoft office software.
• Willingness to travel – at least1 week per month.
• Ability to be based in Accra for the duration of the project.
• Experience in media capacity-building and network building in low income countries, especially in Ghana and Uganda.
• Post-graduate degree in a relevant field (media, political science, economics, international affairs).
• Experience in adult learning and teaching/teacher training.
• Experience in civil society capacity-building and network building in low income countries.
• Fluency in at least one additional language to English, especially French.
Location: The candidate will be based in Accra, Ghana, where RWI’s Africa regional office is located.
Duration: Initially until the end of the first project, slated for completion by October 2012.
Start Date: March - April 2011
Compensation: Commensurate with experience. Benefits include medical, dental, work travel insurance, life and disability insurance, private pension scheme, 20 annual leave days plus all public holidays.
To Apply: Please email resume, cover letter, references and salary requirements before February 13, 2011, to: email@example.com
Include job code in subject line: PC/MEDIA/RWI
Once we have had an opportunity to consider all resumes received by February 13, 2011, we will only contact those applicants whose background and prior experience appear to be most suited to this particular position.
No phone calls, please. The Revenue Watch Institute is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
Senior fellow/Part-time researcher
Berghof Conflict Research (BCR)
There is currently a vacancy at BCR for a senior fellow or a part-time researcher for a 2-year period. As a specialist in governance studies or impact research, the successful candidate will carry out collaboratively-funded research and coordinating work within BCR’s CORE team.
Senior fellow/Part-time researcher
Berghof Conflict Research (BCR)
Berghof Conflict Research (BCR) is currently collaborating with the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), the University of St. Andrews and other research partners in Europe and India within the framework of the EU-funded project (FP-7) 'The Role of Governance in the Resolution of Socioeconomic and Political Conflict in India and Europe' (CORE). This project aims at a substantial theory-related and empirical assessment of the impact of governance agendas on local conflict dynamics. BCR will contribute to the project with a study on the methodology of impact research, will take part in two case studies (Kashmir and Bosnia) and will host the project’s midterm conference.
There is currently a vacancy at BCR for a senior fellow or a part-time researcher for a 2-year period. As a specialist in governance studies or impact research, the successful candidate will carry out collaboratively-funded research and coordinating work within BCR’s CORE team, and will be particularly co-responsible for elaborating on an impact research methodology for the project.
• possess a university degree and preferably postgraduate qualifications,
• have a record of significant research publications,
• be competent to engage in original and collaborative research, to produce research papers and to contribute to project coordination tasks,
• have experience with public presentation at conferences and other events, and
• have excellent spoken and written knowledge of the English language.
Please email application letters and curriculum vitae by February 15, 2011 to Ms. Ulrike Petri, Human Resources Manager, Berghof Conflict Research, email address: firstname.lastname@example.org BCR intends to fill this post by March/April of 2011. Please note that only those candidates who are called to be shortlisted or for an interview will receive a reply.
Women's Human Rights Handbook
INTERIGHTS is pleased to invite applications from lawyers for an internship as part of the development and implementation of its work. This is a part-time or full-time placement (three to five days per week) to begin ideally in the first week of February 2011 for six weeks. It will provide an opportunity for a researcher with knowledge of women’s human rights and relevant law to assist our programme in developing a publication with:
- Legal research on international and comparative human rights law and practice with respect to the protection of women’s human rights;
- Researching case law and comparative and human rights standards on women’s human rights
- Compiling indexes for the publication
- Case summaries.
Africa: Africa Offers Easy Uranium
Wikileaks cables have revealed a disturbing development in the African uranium mining industry: abysmal safety and security standards in the mines, nuclear research centres, and border customs are enabling international companies to exploit the mines and smuggle dangerous radioactive material across continents. The Wikileaks cables reveal that U.S. diplomats posted in a number of African countries – the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Niger, and Burundi, among others – have had direct knowledge of the poor safety and security standards in these countries’ uranium and nuclear facilities.
Gabon: Bongo pocketed millions in embezzled funds
Gabon’s late president Omar Bongo allegedly pocketed millions in embezzled funds from central African states, channelling some of it to French political parties in support of Nicolas Sarkozy, according to a US embassy cable published by El País.
South Africa: Mbeki's policy for COPE
Former president Thabo Mbeki's office has refused to say whether he helped draft a key policy document for the Congress of the People, insisting that the ousted head of state was still a member of the ANC. According to a US diplomatic report leaked to the WikiLeaks website, former ANC spokesman Smuts Ngonyama told University of South Africa professor Dirk Kotze in 2008 that Mbeki had helped to write a COPE policy draft. If this proved to be true, Mbeki could find himself in hot water with the ANC.
Tunisia: Little faith in Tunisian opposition
A US Embassy cable from 2006 discussed the possible replacement of Tunisia's Dictator Zine El-Abedine Ben Ali. It left little faith in the opposition but in many ways foresaw PM Mohammed Ghannouchi's attempt to consolidate the ruling party's power and who will attempt to gain power.
Tunisia: US ignored Tunisian corruption
The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten released a series of US diplomatic cables from 2006 on massive and pervasive corruption and nepotism in Tunisia and its effect on economic development and social problems. The cables show that the United States government was fully aware of the dangerous and debilitating level of corruption in Tunisia, and its anti-democratic implications.
Zimbabwe: AG probing Tsvangirai over WikiLeaks disclosures
The attorney general in Zimbabwe has set up a team of lawyers to investigate whether Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai can be charged with treason or conspiracy related to revelations by the website WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks published US cables saying Tsvangirai and his party leadership were planning with US diplomats for Washington to contribute to a fund to buy-off security service chiefs to achieve regime change in Zimbabwe.
Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice
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