Pambazuka News 519: The rough road to freedom: Côte d'Ivoire, Libya & the continent
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Crisis in Côte d’Ivoire: What impact on women?
On 28 November 2010, Côte d’Ivoire held a second round of presidential elections, following a first round which took place in October 2010 after several postponements. Fourteen candidates participated in the first round, and Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo, the two candidates who garnered the most votes, made it to the second round of the polls. Gbagbo is the incumbent president. After the elections, the Independent Electoral Commission declared Ouattara the winner, but these results were invalidated by the Ivorian Constitutional Court which declared his rival, Gbagbo, the president-elect of Côte d’Ivoire.
This precipitated a crisis in the country. Gbagbo ‘refused to yield to international pressure and withdraw from his position’ in favour of Ouattara, who was recognised by the entire international community.
Mata Coulibaly and Honorine Sadia Vehi Toure, the two women’s rights advocates whom we interviewed, explained how the population is experiencing this situation: ‘We are going through a crisis and this is very difficult. There is tension in the country. Our days are filled with uncertainty because at any moment, a strike can be called,’ said Coulibaly. Toure added: ‘This is a real crisis and we are under tremendous stress. We do not know what tomorrow will bring. The social situation is deteriorating day by day. So it is highly stressful and frustrating.’
The political crisis in Côte d’Ivoire has had major diplomatic, financial, economic and social repercussions on the population, including on women and the organisations that defend their rights.
Gbagbo’s refusal to step down has prompted several international organizations, including the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) to take punitive measures against him, his family and close friends, and the state.
IMPACT OF THE CRISIS ON THE DAILY LIVES OF IVORIANS
The economic cost of Côte d’Ivoire’s conflict between 2002 and 2007 was severe: the gross domestic product (GDP) per person dropped by 15 per cent between 2000 and 2006 and poverty consequently increased. Côte d’Ivoire’s rank in the Human Development Index (HDI) dropped from 154 in 1999 to 166 in 2007, and later rose to 149 in 2010. Before the post-electoral crisis, the economic outlook for Côte d’Ivoire seemed to have improved, with a growth of 3.8 per cent in 2009 and optimistic forecasts for an increase of revenue from cocoa and petroleum exports.
The current crisis aggravates a rather precarious situation and has accentuated the impoverishment of the population. It has had a serious impact on the daily lives of Ivorian households, causing prices of essential products to rise sharply and encouraging speculation. As Toure emphasised: ‘Market prices have soared so much that some essential products such as oil, sugar, meat and onions are difficult to obtain. This is a real hardship for households. Before the crisis, many female-headed households could only afford one meal a day, so one can only imagine how much more difficult it is now for those families. Everyone is suffering.’
Coulibaly added: ‘Life seems to go in slow motion. Prices have soared. For example, sometimes there is a shortage of natural gas. A quantity of coal that previously cost CFAF100 now costs CFAF200. A kilo of ‘oignon dur’* has increased from CFAF450 to CFAF1,000 while onions from Niamey have increased from CFAF600 to CFAF1,500, and a kilo of beetroots from CFAF1,900 to CFAF3,000. These examples illustrate the impact of this crisis on the shopping basket and this price increase has a tangible impact on the living conditions of Ivorians. Salaries remain the same although prices are surging. This situation forces women to economize more in order to feed their families. Regardless of whether it is a woman or man who is the head of household, everyone has similar difficulties to overcome.’ Sophie confirmed that some food prices have doubled, while those of other products, such as oil, have tripled. She said that it is extremely difficult for middle-income households to feed themselves because everything has become so expensive.
The situation is no different in other cities and towns in the country. Coulibaly stated: ‘The current crisis has affected the whole Ivorian territory. In Korhogo in the north, Bouaké in the centre of the country, and Man and Duokoué in the west, food prices have almost doubled. The population is tired and is growing poorer every day. In addition, the private sector is threatened with redundancies, which could lead to famine for parts of the population. We have just learned that with the closure of the Abidjan and San Pedro ports, we will run out of gas in a few days. Côte d’Ivoire exports all its products. Another concern is that HIV/AIDS patients are no longer provided with anti-retroviral drugs and this has resulted in a proliferation of the disease and the aggravation of existing cases.’
Toure paints a similar picture of the situation, stating: ‘Impoverishment is felt by everyone throughout the territory. Before the elections, the country had not yet unified and therefore in the central, northern and western areas, the living conditions were already poor. The south was not spared, but it suffered to a lesser degree. But now I can assure you that now no area is better than another. Whether it be towns, villages, urban or rural areas, it is the same unbearable situation all over.’
VIOLENCE, RIGHTS AND SECURITY VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATES
After the first, relatively peaceful round of elections at the end of October 2010, reports of violence and abuse in different regions of the country began to emerge. These incidents indicated a serious deterioration of the general human rights situation and are a reminder of the atrocities committed during the last decade. African, European and American human rights organisations, in particular Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International, have repeatedly sounded the alarm about the situation.
The United Nations Human Rights Council held a special session on Côte d’Ivoire in Geneva on 23 December 2010, during which the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a speech and the High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay strongly condemned the human rights violations committed in Côte d’Ivoire. The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has also voiced its concerns about the situation.
Most of the violence reported to date is carried out during night raids led by the security forces and other groups in the neighbourhoods of Abidjan that are considered to be predominantly populated by Ouattara’s supporters. Human rights organisations have noted a series of kidnappings under similar circumstances. The victims of these kidnappings were declared missing or were found dead. Coulibaly confirmed this stating: ‘Acquaintances of ours have been kidnapped.’ According to Sophie, these are ‘raids that are violent, ethnic-based and politically motivated, targeted against individuals or groups of people whose neighbours have informed on them. The perpetrators are mercenaries who are paid to commit these murders.’
According to independent sources, human rights and women’s rights activists are living in a state of constant anxiety with respect to their safety. An experienced civil society advocate, who requested to remain anonymous, told IRIN: ‘I have been in hiding ever since being threatened over two weeks ago. Sometimes, it looks as though the situation is about to calm down. This is often the impression in the daytime, but one never knows what will happen once night falls.’ Toure confirmed: ‘We are working within a context of fear. We are truly sad about what is happening in our country. We cannot carry out our work openly for fear of reprisals. In spite of this, we are working, relying on God, and hoping that our country will rapidly overcome this situation.’ Coulibaly stated: ‘As a representative of the Democracy and Human Rights Fund (FDDH), I do not feel safe.’
IMPACT OF THE CRISIS ON WORK ON WOMEN’S RIGHTS
The punitive sanctions imposed on Côte d'Ivoire have had a very negative impact on non-governmental organisations that depend mainly on international funds for their survival. Toure explained that most of their financial partners in the United Nations system and the World Bank have closed their offices, which has in turn forced the NGOs to suspend most of their activities. Furthermore, due to political instability, it is increasingly difficult to operate as normal. Coulibaly stated: ‘Nothing is sure. We have to tailor our plans according to how events evolve. We are afraid to go to work and sometimes we receive information or hear rumours that cause us to stay away from work.’
OTHER RAMIFICATIONS OF THE CRISIS: THE WIDENING OF THE DIVISION
The riots that broke out in September 2002 in Côte d’Ivoire divided the country between the south, run by the Gbagbo government, and the north, controlled by rebel forces led by Guillaume Soro, the current prime minister in the Ouattara administration. However, in 2008, after signing the Ouagadougou Agreement, the country began a reunification process, which led to the consensual organisation of the recent presidential elections.
However, some people are afraid that the alliance between Soro and Ouattara will cause a revival of the divisions, and will introduce a religious dimension to the divide. Nonetheless, it should be emphasized that there are different opinions on this subject, as highlighted by Toure. ‘No matter what is being said, the people in Côte d’Ivoire do not promote division,’ she said. ‘It is the politicians who have put us into this situation because of their personal interests. In the south, there are Christians and Muslims, and there are also people from the north, and we live together in harmony, at least those who have understood that division does not suit us, which is most of us. The same is true in the north. Therefore, there is no real division in Côte d’Ivoire, even if this is what they want you to believe. Ivorians have suffered through ten years of crisis. In the end, everyone was tired of this. Our will to leave it behind was shown by the high voter turnout in the elections: 83 per cent in the first round and over 70 per cent in the second round.’ However, Coulibaly does not agree: ‘The division is inevitable. The politicians accuse the people of the north of being rebels. Women are divided in the markets. Some pro-Gbagbo market women tell their pro-Ouattara counterparts to ask their leader to build them their own market.’
The current situation in Côte d’Ivoire is worrying. The Ivorian population, which underwent almost a decade of crisis, strongly desires that a peaceful outcome to this situation be found quickly for the benefit of everyone. Human and women’s rights organisations are particularly affected because funding opportunities for their work are becoming scarce. Furthermore, growing fears for their personal safety reduce their capacity to engage, and very few of them dare to openly express their analysis of the situation. Coulibaly confided to AWID (Association for Women’s Rights in Development) that, as far as she knew, no public action has been undertaken by human rights organisations and that only the Civil Society Agreement of Côte d’Ivoire (CSCI), which is a leading organisation in the country, has made proposals for a solution. Other organisations prefer not to issue statements because they do not share the same point of view or analysis of the situation. However, Toure stated that there are discreet initiatives being carried out by around 20 organisations and women’s networks to encourage the two protagonists to protect the lives of women and children, and to seek a peaceful outcome to the crisis.
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* This article was first published by the Association for Women's Rights in Development.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
* Literally ‘hard onion’ – a variety of onion common in Cote d’Ivoire.
 RFI, http://www.rfi.fr/afrique/20101028-cote-ivoire-trois-favoris-passent-attaque
 IRIN, Côte d’Ivoire: La pression de l’économie – Compte rendu, http://www.irinnews.org/fr/ReportFrench.aspx?ReportID=91589
 PNUD, http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2010_FR_Tables_reprint.pdf
 France 24, http://www.france24.com/fr/
 IRIN, Côte d’Ivoire: Violations des droits de l’homme – Compte rendu, http://www.irinnews.org/fr/ReportFrench.aspx?ReportID=91604
Protests across Africa: Different attention for different countries?
What began as a people’s uprising in Libya has since moved closer towards a civil war as soldiers of the Libyan army defect and some protestors take up arms against Colonel Gaddafi’s forces, as shown in this graphic video (tweeted widely), with the Libyan army protecting protestors against pro-Gaddafi forces. @EnoughGaddafi tweets ‘Massive arrests being made in Tripoli, eyewitness from Jdeida prison says a lot of activists and injured are being held there’. One tweeter reminds us of the chaos and possible endangering of peoples lives by international media reports:
‘@bintlibya: @AlJazeera pls stop airing calls of ppl giving locations details of things that have yet 2 happen u are causing more harm than good #Libya’
Tens of thousands of mostly foreign nationals are fleeing the country and already there is a humanitarian crisis on the Tunisian border. The tweets from UNHCR stress the panic taking place:
‘@refugees: #UNHCR & #IOM ask govs 2 suply masive financial + logistcal asets incl planes + boats: overcrwding at #Libya #Tunisia border worsens by hour’
‘@refugees: Shelter! Shelter! Shelter! Tens of thousands need shelter at the Tunisian border, as Tunisia opens its borders for all. #Libya’
As Gaddafi finds new ways to attack Libyans, Libyans unleash their fury against his deployment of mercenaries from West and East Africa as migrant workers from south of the Sahara face increasing attacks and are prevented from leaving the country. Given the racism in Libya and low status of foreign black workers, it was only a matter of time before innocent people were attacked.
@melissafleming tweets an email she receives: ‘Email from Somali refugee in Tripoli: we are under attack by local people...our home was burnt down, 7 Somalis killed...’
Afrol News reports:
‘In Al-Bayda, the hunt-down and arbitrary arrest of sub-Saharan Africans goes on. Ms Wold also spoke to a group of Libyan youths, monitoring the streets in accordance with the city's interim authorities - made up of civilians and defected army officers. The youths openly told her they were out, trying “to catch mercenaries to hand them over to authorities”.
‘Reports from other ”liberated” Libyan cities are similar. In Benghazi last week, citizens attacked and destroyed a building housing 36 citizens from Chad, Niger and Sudan. The Africans were accused of being “mercenaries” and subsequently arrested, local residents told Western journalists.
‘@elicopter_mid tweets Exp @northafrica: Massive number of #African workers stranded in #Libya. May be wrongly targeted, accused of helping Gaddafi. Looming...”
‘Exp @northafrica: #Touareg troops from Mali, Niger and other Sahel countries are said to be with Gaddafi for the financial support he...
‘@shababLibya writes “Breaking: it seems 70 cars have arrived near the town of ras lanuf to support a battalion to attack the city of Brega and regain airport...The cars reported to be full of Mercenaries with the intention of joining a battalion outside Ras Lanuf to head to Brega to regain #Libya”.’
The blog Bikyamasr reports of thousands of black African (still being called ‘Africans’ as opposed to seeing Libyans as Africans) workers trying to escape from Libya being denied entry on evacuation ships in the port of Benghazi. This is again confirmed by @Refugees:
Concerned large # of sub-Saharan #Africans being denied entry to #Tunisia frm #Libya. #UNHCR in talks w/self-apntd volunters guardng border.
© New York Times
The language and subtext being used in some of the reports is cause for concern. In a video by Al Jazeera, ‘Immigrant workers under suspicion’, the US-based Frontlines of Revolution uses the headline ‘White Arab supremacy: Revolution or Moor black oppression?’ There is no doubt that there that racism is rife in Libya and that black foreign workers are being targeted, but language like this and lack of historical or political context only inflames the situation. The blog Jadaliyya provides a more reasoned analysis of what Professor Mahmood Mamdani calls the ‘perceived dichotomy between Arab and black Africans’ which is ‘false and relies on colonial-era tropes of settler and native’, and asks that we ‘consider the stakes of this conceptualization of a basic Arab-African or Arab-black antagonism—one that not only formulates these as mutually exclusive categories but also pins them against one another in the context of the Libyan revolution’.
The blogger continues with some questions: ‘Are the men we see pictured here perpetrators of state-sponsored violence, are they victims of racism, or is it possible that both of these things may be true at the same time? Are they being attacked in retaliation or in the course of a battle, or are they taken for mercenaries simply on the basis of their skin color? Is this just one more instance of non-citizens falling victim to a conflict that is not their own?’
Nonetheless, the assault on black Africans is disturbing, not least because the uprisings in North Africa have been framed within an Arab/Middle East context, not just by Western media but more importantly by Al Jazeera, which itself has become part of the revolutionary story. This in itself further antagonises Arab–African/Arab–black tensions and also raises the monumental question as to who is an African and what do we mean by Africa. Pambazuka News editor Firoze Manji addresses this in a recent interview with Al Jazeera – could this possibly be a response to growing criticism of their framing the North African uprisings solely in an ‘Arab’ context?
‘Egypt is in Africa. We should not fool about with the attempts of the North to segregate the countries of North Africa from the rest of the continent … Their histories have been intertwined for millennia. Some Egyptians may not feel they are Africans, but that is neither here nor there. They are part of the heritage of the continent.’
Connected to this are questions raised by mainstream media, bloggers and tweeters as to whether other parts of the continent – the term used is ‘sub-Saharan Africa’ which in itself is a loaded descriptive – will rise up against oppressive regimes. Countries such as Gabon, Cameroon and Zimbabwe have been mentioned in this context.
A further point is which conflicts, revolutions and uprisings are being reported and how are they being framed. Last week Kenyan blogger Ory Okollah started a campaign with her tweet ‘On global media and African protests, “Why are Anderson Cooper and Nick Kristoff not in Côte d'Ivoire?”’ Others took up the call and began re-tweeting for media coverage outside of North Africa.
Côte d’Ivoire remains one of African stories hardly anyone is talking about, least of all Anderson Cooper who claimed he would respond by 28 February:
@andersoncooper: I have been following #ivorycoast closely and it deserves far more coverage. Monday will try to do something.
However, a week after Kenyan Pundit’s call, Côte d’Ivoire remains @philinthe: ‘The Story no one is Talking About http://su.pr/2vJpb2 #civ2010 #IvoryCoast @cnn @andersoncooper @nickkristof @nbcnightlynews @ariannahuff’.
African Newsbot again reminds us of the ‘other’ African crisis:
@africanNewsBot: Don't Forget Africa's Other Displacement Crisis, Says IOM: With more than 129,500 people no... http://bit.ly/fZ10Cd #africa #cotedivoire
Reports estimate as many as 70,000 Ivorian refugees fleeing into neighbouring Liberia. @scarlettlion based in Monroiva published photos of refugees arriving in the country [UNHCR protecting their photos - so much for creative commons]
@connectionivoir reports on fights and explosions in the capital as fighting between security forces and supporters of Alassane Ouattara and President Laurent Gbagbo. In the north of the country millions are without water and electricity. They point to the similarities between Gaddafi and Gbagbo. Both see themselves as Pan-Africanist socialist leaders but at the same time embrace capitalism and investment by Western corporations, stealing vast amounts of dollars from the people.
Last week Cameroonians took to the streets in what has so far been a limited uprising immediately put down by the armed forces of President Paul Biya. Kah Walla, the founder of Cameroon O’Bosso (Cameroon lets go) was among the 300 protestors last week, many of whom were beaten, as shown in this YouTube video. She wrote about her experience here on Pambazuka News. Her diary of what happened is important because it speaks to the courage and determination of a small group of people, which is all it takes to start a revolution. She writes:
‘They wanted to stop us from protesting, we protested. We have a non-violent philosophy, which we maintained in the face of extreme violence. An incredible force of young Cameroonians. We started out almost 300 and ended up less than 50 but (being a) nugget has banished fear, for ourselves and for many other Cameroonians. The population did not join us in droves, but: not one person out of hundreds complained about the blocking on the road; If we ever doubted it, we now have extreme clarity on the absolute need for change and the absolute need for unwavering determination in bringing it about in our country.’ Six members of Cameroon O’Bosso have been arrested and remain in detention.
On 29 January thousands began protesting against the leadership of President Ali Bongo Ondimba, the son of former President Omar Bongo. Despite being faced with the brutal forces of the regime, the protests spread across Gabon. Again Gabonese protests have been off the radar as these tweets point out.
@cletusrayray: Is anyone listening? ‘Pambazuka - #Gabon: The forgotten protests, the blinkered media http://t.co/hrRJhiR’ #Egypt #Libya #Bahrain #Yemen’.
@eDipAtState explained one possible reason for this .... ‘Media won't cover Cameroon/Gabon much. Protesters need to use Twitter/Facebook & send reports to AJE. #Gabon #Cameroon’.
I am sure global corporate media are aware of what is happening and it’s clear that choices are made on which conflicts and revolutions are covered. These choices need to be challenged as do other silences, such as the voices of women, of sexual minorities, refugees, landless people and migrants across the continent. Ethan Zuckerman points out in Pambazuka News the danger in selective reporting:
‘The danger of ignoring Gabon’s revolution isn’t just that opposition forces will be arrested or worse. It’s that we fail to understand the profound shifts underway across the world that change the nature of popular revolution. The wave of protests that swelled in Tunisia may not break just in the Arab world, but across a much larger swath of the planet … And as audiences around the world watch in wonder as Christian and Muslim protesters pray together in Tahrir Square, they wonder why struggles in Gabon can’t command at least a fraction of this attention.’
On 23 February 45 social justice activists were arrested and charged with treason in Zimbabwe. The 45, which included International Socialist Organisation (ISO) coordinator Munyaradzi Gwisai, were accused of watching and discussing video footage of the Tunisian and Egyptian protests. Some of the activists have been ‘brutalised and tortured’ whilst in custody. On 28 February, 7 members of WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise) and MOZA (Men of Zimbabwe Arise) were also arrested.
Earlier in this post, I mentioned that there were questions around whether the uprisings in North Africa would spread to southern parts of the continent. In the case of Gabon there is no evidence to show the uprisings were influenced by those in Tunisia or Egypt. And although the 45 activists were meeting to discuss these, Zimbabweans have been in a state of revolt against the Mugabe regime even before the 2008 elections – see ‘Mapping Terror’ on the Sokwanele blog. Members of WOZA have demonstrated over and over again; their members have been beaten, arrested and tortured but still they continue to take to the streets. In 2010 83 of their members were detained for celebrating the International Peace Day.
The mistake the media and activists in the West make is to believe that the voice of revolution has to be highly vocal and visible to their world. On the contrary, there are thousands of activists and social justice movements from across Africa and the diaspora who are totally committed to achieving political and social change in their respective countries. It just takes a little effort and time to know what is happening.
Revolutions are a complex process of competing interests and multiple tensions. The period following the removal of Ben Ali and Mubarak in Tunisia and Egypt testify to this. The streets protests and their removal were not the beginning. Activists have in both countries have been working towards this moment for a long time. The revolutionary process will continue and may well move in contradictory directions. The reporting of revolutions – deciding which ones receive the most attention and how they are reported – add to the complexities at play. What I have tried to do in this article is to bring an additional perspective to the revolutionary forces in Africa. As informed citizens and if we are to see ourselves as part of the revolutionary process, then we need to try and grasp an understanding of the layers of narrative and actions which are taking place, not just across Africa but on a global level.
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* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Peace and justice movement should oppose US-led intervention in Libya
Forces aligned with Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi have launched new assaults to regain control of several towns captured in a popular uprising over the past two weeks. Meanwhile, two U.S. warships have moved through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea toward Libya under orders by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. As talk of potential Western military intervention grows, we speak to Horace Campbell, a professor of African American studies and political science at Syracuse University.
AMY GOODMAN: Fierce battles are raging in Libya. Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have launched new assaults in an attempt to regain control of several towns that had been captured in a popular uprising over the past two weeks. Earlier today, Gaddafi addressed a small group of supporters in Tripoli in his third televised appearance. He continued to deny the uprising, saying opposition to him is led by terrorists and al-Qaeda operatives.
Meanwhile, two U.S. warships have moved through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean after orders by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that they should move closer to Libya.
For more, we’re joined by Horace Campbell, professor of African American studies and political science at Syracuse University. He has written extensively on African politics. He’s joining us now by Democracy Now! video stream from his home.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Professor Campbell. Your assessment of the situation in Libya?
HORACE CAMPBELL: Good morning, and thank you very much for inviting us to discuss the delicate stage of the revolutionary situation in Libya. It is a situation that is maturing with very deliberate and great dangers for the revolutionaries. The dangers arise from the number of areas: firstly, the massacres that have been carried out by Gaddafi himself and the clique around Gaddafi; secondly, the dangers that are coming from the drumbeats for Western military intervention; and thirdly, the kind of xenophobia and anti-African, anti-black sentiment that is being stirred up among sectors of the Libyans who are rising up for freedom.
So, in this context, it is very important, for those who have solidarity with the Libyan uprising, with those fighting for freedom in Libya, to support the people in Libya and at the same time denounce any attempts by the Western forces, especially elements within the administration in the United States and Great Britain, for military intervention. We have seen, from the testimony yesterday from the Senate Armed Services Committee, that the chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is very uncomfortable with military intervention. Gates is uncomfortable with military intervention. And the head of the U.S. Central Command said that a no-fly zone is a prelude to military activity. And then, on the other hand, we have John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Hillary Clinton and those forces calling for a no-fly zone and military intervention.
It is up to the peace and justice movement in this country to stand with one voice to say that at this point any kind of humanitarian intervention must be through the United Nations and to support those who are suffering at the borders and those who are suffering inside of Libya. We do not need military intervention by Britain, United States or any forces of NATO at this present moment.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Campbell, when you hear "forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi," I don’t know if that’s actually an accurate term, because of the number of people he is paying to do this, to fight the pro-democracy groups. But can you talk about the mercenaries and where they come from and why they would support Muammar Gaddafi or work for him?
HORACE CAMPBELL: Well, I am going to be very careful of the use of the term "mercenaries," because every government that say they have the control over state power use the instruments of the state to employ persons to fight for that state. So the fact that the United States of America employs other nationals to fight their wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, those persons are not called "mercenaries." So I want to be very careful in the use of this term "mercenaries."
Gaddafi and his children have access to billions of dollars. There are many citizens of countries all over the world, from the Middle East and from Africa, who have been in Libya, especially those from Africa who were aligned with forces like Charles Taylor from Liberia, Foday Sankoh from the Sierra Leone, the elements from Chad, where Gaddafi has been supporting for many years. Added to this, there are a number of Africans who were kept prisoners in Libya, who were caught trying to escape to Europe because they believed in freedom of movement of labor, just as in the international economy we have the freedom of capital. Now, many of these persons have been caught in this battle. And some Africans who are being paid by Gaddafi are called "mercenaries."
Now, one has to do intense work among the governments of these states to do the diplomatic work to extricate their citizens who are caught in this fighting. And one has to also, at the same time, do very clear, deliberate work with the people fighting for freedom in Libya, that they do not, in their fight for freedom, whip up any kind of xenophobia against Africans, as if Libya is not an African country, or what we would say, against black Africans who are caught in this crossfire of Gaddafi manipulating citizens who are supposed to fight to keep him and his family in power.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Campbell, we’re also joined by Elizabeth Tan, deputy regional representative for UNHCR in Cairo, Egypt, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The refugee crisis is getting more intense every day, Elizabeth Tan, both on the Tunisian-Libya border and on the Egyptian-Libya border. Can you talk about what is happening now?
ELIZABETH TAN: Yes. The crisis is indeed getting worse by the day in Tunisia. There are thousands and thousands of people stranded there at the border who are trying to get back to their homes. Many of them are from Egypt. There are efforts underway to go and to repatriate them, but the border is extremely congested, and UNHCR is very concerned about the humanitarian situation there. We are, together with the International Organization for Migration, trying to mount an air operation to bring people back to Egypt. There are, of course, a lot of other persons stranded at the border both here in Egypt and even more in Tunisia, people who are desperate to get home, to get away from the situation at the border there, thousands and thousands of people stuck who want to go home.
AMY GOODMAN: How can they best be helped?
ELIZABETH TAN: I think for the—certainly, there is a need to decongest the area around the border in Tunisia. In Egypt, I would say that there is—that the situation is better. There are less people there. And most of the people crossing are Egyptian, so they are directly going to their homes. In Tunisia, UNHCR is providing shelter, and agencies are providing food and trying to set up sanitation facilities there, but I think the main need is really to provide transportation for people to get home.
AMY GOODMAN: And food? How are people getting access to food? And what about word that Muammar Gaddafi’s forces are now moving into the border areas, where people have been able to go freely back and forth until now?
ELIZABETH TAN: I think certainly there are a lot of humanitarian agencies, and the governments of both Egypt and Tunisia are helping the people who are at the borders. In terms of—I am based in Cairo. So, there are no problems of people accessing the border, with the exception of people—refugees and persons of—from sub-Saharan Africa who are stuck in their homes, who are very afraid to move, as the other speaker on your program was mentioning. UNHCR is very concerned about those people. But on the eastern side, otherwise, the access to the border is OK.
AMY GOODMAN: Elizabeth Tan, I want to thank you for being with us, deputy regional representative for the U.N. High Commission on Refugees. She’s speaking to us from Cairo, Egypt.
Also, still with us, Professor Horace Campbell, professor of African American studies at Syracuse University. Professor Campbell, I wanted to read to you from The Guardian newspaper. This is a pseudonym, Muhammad min Libya, who wrote this. But he said, "As the calls for foreign intervention grow, I’d like to send a message to western leaders: Obama, Cameron, Sarkozy. This is a priceless opportunity that has fallen into your laps, it’s a chance for you to improve your image in the eyes of Arabs and Muslims. Don’t mess it up. All your previous programmes to bring the east and the west closer have failed, and some of them have made things even worse. Don’t start something you cannot finish, don’t turn a people’s pure revolution into some curse that will befall everyone. Don’t waste the blood that my friend Ahmed spilt for me," he writes. He is speaking against intervention, Professor Campbell.
HORACE CAMPBELL: I think that is a sentiment that is seen very clearly from sectors of those who are hungry for freedom in Libya, because any kind of intervention by the United States and NATO forces would send a signal to anti-imperialist forces that the revolution in Libya has been instigated by the West and would throw sentiments in favor of Gaddafi at this moment when he’s carrying out massacres against the people. In fact, I would think that the opportunistic and cynical elements in the military establishment in the United States and Britain, in particular, are calculating that keeping Gaddafi in power longer would be to the benefit of the West, because it would destabilize the revolutionary forces in both Egypt and in Tunisia. And I would think that the concern that is being expressed by Lieberman, McCain and Hillary Clinton is not for the revolution in Libya, but is a concern for oil and for the destabilization of the Egyptian revolution, because of the long-term implications of this revolution for Africa and the Middle East.
AMY GOODMAN: What about, Professor Campbell, the fact that it is usually referred to as rebellions, uprisings, revolutions that are taking place "in the Arab world"?
HORACE CAMPBELL: Yes. And one of the major challenges is for the people who call themselves progressives to be very careful in their language about this so-called revolution in the Arab world. Libya is on the African continent, long historic ties to Africa. Tunisia is on the African continent. Egypt stands at the headwaters of the Nile River that comes out of Central Africa. All of these states work very hard to be citizens and members of the African community. We only need to look at the African nation—Cup of Nations Cups and to see the role that Tunisia and Egypt plays in African soccer. So, these are African societies. In these African societies, they have citizens who are of an Arab extraction, and many of these people call themselves Arabs. So what we can see is that the revolution in North Africa links the Arab revolution of Arabia and North Africa.
This intersection of Arab and Africa has been positive in the past during the period of Nasser, when Nasser was anti-imperalist. What we have to be very careful about in this period is those who call themselves Arab carry on the arrogance and chauvinism and racism of Western Europeans who look down on Africans. And it is in a revolutionary process that revolutionaries themselves have to have a higher standard of ethics, morality and racial and gender consciousness so that they do not reproduce the hierarchy and racism that looks down on Africans who are called black Africans, because Tunisians, Libyans and Egyptians are also Africans.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Campbell, the issue of Saudi Arabia? We are hearing protests in Yemen, in Oman, in Bahrain, in Jordan. Saudi Arabia, we have heard there have been some strikes, but what about how Saudi Arabia fits into this?
HORACE CAMPBELL: This is the real clincher for the revolutionary process underway. I have been following the writings of Robert Fisk, and Robert Fisk has said that the real challenge will be the extent to which the revolutionary process gets underway in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, like Egypt under Mubarak, like Gaddafi’s police state, like Ben Ali’s police state, these are police states where the political leaders have billions of dollars to repress the people, where the political leaders use the resources of the state to recycle for Western armaments companies. And the leaders of Saudi Arabia are very conservative, oppressing not only the people, but particularly the women of Saudi Arabia. So there are large and huge pent-up sentiments and hunger for freedom within Saudi Arabia.
It is precisely because the Western strategic thinkers understand the potential for revolution in Saudi Arabia, along with all over the Arabian Peninsula, why it is urgent for them to intervene in North Africa, because from the time of Cleopatra right down through the Nazis in Germany, the occupation of Libya, right next to Egypt, was strategically important for access to North Africa and Arabia. So the strategic thinkers in Washington, in London, in Paris and Brussels are considering that with the impending isolation of Israel, with revolutionary processes all over Arabia and North Africa, it is very important for the West to have a foothold.
It is in this very moment they need ways to divert the working peoples of North America and Western Europe from the practice of capitalism. As we’ve seen in Wisconsin, the workers in Wisconsin gained confidence, gained support, gained courage from the peoples of Egypt. We’ve seen signs where the people say they’re standing up for their rights. In moments like these, when the Governor of Wisconsin is cutting back on expenditure on health, on education, for the poor, and the Pentagon is spending over a trillion dollars in its budget, it is times like these that the conservative forces need to whip up a new militarism in the United States of America to divert attention from the struggles of the working peoples, from students, from women, from the youth, who are against the capitalist system as it exists. We are in the midst of the most intense capitalist crisis since 1930s. This struggle internationally is a struggle against capitalism.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Campbell, I want to thank you very much for being with us, a professor of African American [studies] and political science at Syracuse University, African American studies and political science at Syracuse. He’s written extensively about African politics.
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* This article first appeared on Democracy Now.
* Horace Campbell is a teacher and writer. Professor Campbell's website is www.horacecampbell.net.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Civil war in Libya: Washington attempting to justify US–NATO military intervention?
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN THE SO-CALLED ‘JAMAHIRIYA’ OF LIBYA
There is no question that Colonel Muammar Al-Gaddafi (Al-Qaddafi) is a dictator. He has been the dictator and so-called ‘qaid’ of Libya for about 42 years. Yet, it appears that tensions are being ratcheted up and the flames of revolt are being fanned inside Libya. This includes earlier statements by the British Foreign Secretary William Hague that Colonel Qaddafi had fled Libya to Venezuela. This statement served to electrify the revolt against Qaddafi and his regime in Libya.
Although all three have dictatorship in common, Qaddafi’s Libya is quite different from Ben Ali’s Tunisia or Mubarak’s Egypt. The Libyan leadership is not outright subservient to the United States and the European Union. Unlike the cases of Tunisia and Egypt, the relationship that exists between Qaddafi and both the U.S. and E.U. is a modus vivendi. Simply put, Qaddafi is an independent Arab dictator and not a ‘managed dictator’ like Ben Ali and Mubarak.
In Tunisia and Egypt the status quo prevails, the military machine and neo-liberalism remain intact; this works for the interests of the United States and the European Union. In Libya, however, upsetting the established order is a U.S. and E.U. objective.
The U.S. and the E.U. now seek to capitalize on the revolt against Qaddafi and his dictatorship with the hopes of building a far stronger position in Libya than ever before. Weapons are also being brought into Libya from its southern borders to promote revolt. The destabilization of Libya would also have significant implications for North Africa, West Africa, and global energy reserves.
COLONEL QADDAFI IN BRIEF SUMMARY
Qaddafi’s rise to power started as a Libyan lieutenant amongst a group of military officers who carried out a coup d’état. The 1969 coup was against the young Libyan monarchy of King Idris Al-Sanusi. Under the monarchy Libya was widely seen as being acquiescent to U.S. and Western European interests.
Although he has no official state or government position, Qaddafi has nurtured and deeply rooted a political culture of cronyism, corruption, and privilege in Libya since the 1969 coup. Added to this is the backdrop of the ‘cult of personality’ that he has also enforced in Libya.
Qaddafi has done everything to portray himself as a hero to the masses, specifically the Arabs and Africans. His military adventures in Chad were also tied to leaving his mark in history and creating a client state by carving up Chad. Qaddafi’s so-called ‘Green Book’ has been forcefully portrayed and venerated as being a great feat in political thought and philosophy. Numerous intellectuals have been forced or bribed to praise it.
Over the years, Colonel Qaddafi has tried to cultivate a romantic figure of himself as a simple man of the people. This includes pretending to live in a tent. He has done everything to make himself stand out. His reprimanding of other Arab dictators, such as King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, at Arab League meetings have made headlines and have been welcomed by many Arabs. While on state visits he has deliberately surrounded himself with an entourage of female body guards with the intent of getting heads to turn. Moreover, he has also presented himself as a so-called imam or leader of the Muslims and a man of God, lecturing about Islam in and outside of Libya.
Libya is run by a government under Qaddafi’s edicts. Fear and cronyism have been the keys to keeping so-called ‘order’ in Libya amongst officials and citizens alike. Libyans and foreigners alike have been killed and have gone missing for over four decades. The case of Lebanon’s Musa Al-Sadr, the founder of the Amal Movement, is one of the most famous of these cases and has always been a hindrance to Lebanese-Libyan relations. Qaddafi has had a very negative effect in creating and conditioning an entire hierarchy of corrupt officials in Tripoli. Each one looks out for their own interests at the expense of the Libyan people.
FRACTIONS AND TENSIONS INSIDE THE HIERARCHY OF QADDAFI’S REGIME
Because of the nature of Qaddafi’s regime in Tripoli, there are a lot of internal tensions in Libya and within the regime structure itself. One of these sets of tensions is between Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and his father’s circle of older ministers. Libyan ministers are generally divided amongst those that gather around Saif Al-Islam and those that are part of the ‘old guard.’
There are even tensions between Qaddafi and his sons. In 1999, Mutassim Al-Qaddafi tried to ouster his father while Colonel Qaddafi was outside of Libya. Mutassim Qaddafi holds a Libyan cabinet portfolio as a national security advisor. He is also famously known amongst Libyans for being a playboy who has spent much of his time in Europe and abroad. There is also Khames Gaddafi who runs his own militia of thugs, which are called the Khames militia. He has always been thought of as possible contender for succession too against his other brothers.
There have always been fears in Libya about the issue of succession after Colonel Qaddafi is gone. Over the years, Qaddafi has thoroughly purged Libya of any form of organized opposition to him or prevented anyone else, outside his family, from amassing enough power to challenge his authority.
THE ISSUE OF LOYALTY AND DEFECTION IN LIBYA
Undoubtedly, little loyalty is felt for Qaddafi and his family. It has been fear that has kept Libyans in line. At the level of the Libyan government and the Libyan military it has been both fear and self-interest that has kept officials, good and corrupt alike, in line. That mantle of fear has now been dispelled. Statements and declarations of denunciation against Gaddafi’s regime are being heard from officials, towns, and military barracks across Libya.
Aref Sharif, the head of the Libyan Air Force, has renounced Qaddafi. Interior Minister Abdul Fatah Al-Yunis (Al-Younis), who is from Benghazi (Bengasi) and oversees a branch of the special operations work in Libya, has resigned. Yunis is reported to be Qaddafi’s ‘number two’ or second in charge, but this is incorrect. Abdullah Sanusi, the head of Libyan Internal Intelligence and Qaddafi’s relative through marriage, is the closest thing to a ‘number two’ within the structure of power in Tripoli.
Reports have been made about two Libyan pilots defected to Malt and Libyan naval vessels refusing to attack Benghazi. Defections are snowballing amongst the military and government. Yet, there must be pause to analyze the situation.
THE LIBYAN OPPOSITION
At this point, however, it must be asked who is the ‘opposition’ in Libya. The opposition is not a monolithic body. The common denominator is the opposition to the rule of Qaddafi and his family. It has to be said that ‘actions of opposition or resistance against an oppressor’ and an ‘opposition movement’ are also two different things. For the most part, the common people and corrupt Libyan officials, who harbour deep-seated hate towards Qaddafi and his family, are now in the same camp, but there are differences.
There is an authentic form of opposition, which is not organized, and a systematic form of opposition, which is either external or led by figures from within the Libyan regime itself. The authentic people’s internal opposition in Libya is not organized and the people’s ‘actions of opposition’ have been spontaneous. Yet, opposition and revolt has been encouraged and prompted from outside Libya through social media networks, international news stations, and events in the rest of the Arab World.
The leadership of the internal opposition that is emerging in Libya is coming from within the regime itself. Corrupt officials that have rebelled against Gaddafi are not the champions of the people. These opposition figures are not opposed to tyranny; they are merely opposed to the rule of Colonel Qaddafi and his family. Aref Sharif and Al-Yunis are themselves Libyan regime figures.
It has to also be considered that some Libyan officials that have turned against Qaddafi are doing it to save themselves, while others in the future will work to retain or strengthen their positions. Abdel Moneim Al-Honi, the Libyan envoy to the Arab League in Cairo, can be looked at as an example. Al-Honi denounced Qaddafi, but it should be noted that he was one of the members of the group of Libyan officers who executed the coup in 1969 with Qaddafi and that later in 1975 he himself tried to take power in a failed coup. After the failed coup, he would flee Libya and only return in 1990 after Qaddafi pardoned him.
Al-Honi is not the only Libyan diplomat to resign. The Libyan ambassador to India has also done the same. There is an intention on the part of these officials to be members of the power structure in a Libya after the ouster of Qaddafi:
Libyan Ambassador to India Ali al-Essawi told the BBC that he was quitting, opposing his government's violent crackdown on demonstrators.
Mr. Al-Essawi was reported to be a Minister in Tripoli and could be an important figure in an alternative government, in case Libyan President Muammar Qadhafi steps down.
The second Libyan diplomat to put in his papers was Tripoli's Permanent Representative to the Arab League Abdel Moneim al-Honi, who said in Cairo that he had quit his job to ‘join the revolution’ in his country.
‘I have submitted my resignation in protest against the acts of repression and violence against demonstrators, and I am joining the ranks of the revolution,’ said Mr. Al-Honi. The Second Secretary Hussein Sadiq al Musrati, announced his resignation from China, in an interview with Al-Jazeera, and called on the Army to intervene in the uprising.
Again, these revolting officials, like Al-Yunis and Sharif, are from within the regime. They are not mere diplomats, but former ministers. There is also the possibility that these types of ‘opposition figures’ could have or could make arrangements with external powers.
EXTERNAL FORCES AT PLAY IN LIBYA
The governments of the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, and Italy all knew very well that Qaddafi was a despot, but this did not stop any of them from making lucrative deals with Tripoli. When the media covers the violence in Libya, they should also ask, where are the weapons being used coming from? The arms sales that the U.S. and the E.U. have made to Libya should be scrutinized. Is this a part of their democracy promotion programs?
Since rapprochement between the U.S. and Libya, the military forces of both countries have moved closer. Libya and the U.S. have had military transactions and since rapprochement Tripoli has been very interested in buying U.S. military hardware. In 2009, a Pentagon spokeswoman, Lieutenant-Colonel Hibner, affirmed this relationship best: ‘[The U.S.] will consider Libyan requests for defen[c]e equipment that enables[Libya] to build capabilities in areas that serve our mutual interest[or synchronized U.S. and Libyan interests].’ The qualifier here is U.S. interests, meaning that the Pentagon will only arm Libya on the basis of U.S. interests.
In what seems to have happened overnight, a whole new arsenal of U.S. military hardware has appeared in Libya. American-made F-16 jets, Apache helicopters, and ground vehicles are being used inside Libya by Qaddafi. This is a shocking revelation, if corroborated. There are no public records about some of this U.S. military hardware in the the arsenal of the Libyan military. In regards to the F-16s, Libyan jets are traditionally French-made Mirages and Russian-made MiGs.
Silvio Berlusconi and the Italian government have also been strong supporters of Qaddafi’s regime. There is information coming out of Libya that Italian pilots are also being used by the Libyan Air Force. Mercenaries from Chad, Sudan, Niger, and Nigeria are also being used. This has been verified through video evidence coming out of Libya. The Libyan regime is also considering contracting American or European security firms (mercenaries).
THE POLITICS OF AL JAZEERA
The Libyan government has shut down the internet and phone lines and an information war is underway. Although one of the most professional news networks in the world, it has to be cautioned that Al Jazeera is not a neutral actor. It is subordinate to the Emir of Qatar and the Qatari government, which is also an autocracy. By picking and choosing what to report, Al Jazeera’s coverage of Libya is biased. This is evident when one studies Al Jazeera’s coverage of Bahrain, which has been restrained due to political ties between the leaders of Bahrain and Qatar.
Reports by Al Jazeera about Libyan jets firing on protesters in Tripoli and the major cities are unverified and questionable. Hereto, the reports that Libyan jets have been attacking people in the streets have not been verified. No visual evidence of the jet attacks has been shown, while visual confirmation about other events have been coming out of Libya.
Al Jazeera is not alone in its biased reporting from Libya. The Saudi media is also relishing the events in Libya. Asharq Al-Awsat is a Saudi-owned paper that is strictly aligned to U.S. interests in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region. Its editor-in-chief is now running editorials glorifying the Arab League for their decision to suspend Libya, because of the use of force by Tripoli against Libyans protesters – why were such steps not taken for Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, or Yemen? Inside and outside the Arab World, the mainstream media is now creating the conditions for some sort of intervention in Libya.
THE ROLE OF FOREIGN INTERESTS IN LIBYA
Qaddafi and his sons have run Libya like a private estate. They have squandered its wealth and natural resources. One of Gaddafi’s son’s is known to have paid the American singer Beyoncé Knowles a million or more U.S. dollars for a private music concert. Foreign corporations also play a role in this story.
The positions and actions of foreign corporations, the U.S., and the European Union in regards to Libya should not be ignored.
Questioning the role of foreign governments and corporations in Libya is very important. The Italian and U.S. governments should be questioned about the role that pilots of Italian nationality and newly bought U.S. weaponry are playing in Libya.
It is very clear that democracy is only used as a convenient pretext against dictators and governments that do not bow down and serve U.S. and E.U. interests. All one needs to do is to just look at the way Mutassim Qaddafi was welcomed with open arms in Washington on April 21, 2009 by Hillary Clinton and the Obama Administration. Upon their meeting, Secretary Clinton publicly said:
I am very pleased to welcome Minister Gaddafi to the State Department. We deeply value the relationship between the United States and Libya. We have many opportunities to deepen and broaden our cooperation and I am very much looking forward to building on this relationship. So Mr.Minister welcome so much here.
What the U.S. and the E.U. want to do now is maximize their gain in Libya. Civil war seems to be what Brussels and Washington have in mind.
THE BALKANIZATION OF LIBYA AND THE PUSH TO CIVIL WAR
Qaddafi’s son Saif Al-Islam has made statements on Libyan television about deviant Taliban-like faith-based organizations taking over Libya or attempting to take it over. Nothing is further from the truth. He has also warned of doom and civil war. This is part of the Qaddafi family’s efforts to retain power over Libya, but a path towards civil war is unfolding in Libya.
Amongst the ranking members of the military, Mahdi Al-Arab, the deputy chief of Libya’s military staff, was said to have renounced Qaddafi. Al-Arab, however, has modified his position by saying that he does not want to see Libya spiral into a civil war that will allow foreign intervention and tutelage. This is why Al-Arab prevented the people of his city, Zawarah, from joining the revolt and going to nearby Tripoli.
The drive towards civil war in Libya is fuelled by two factors. One is the nature of Qaddafi’s regime. The other is an external desire to divide and weaken Libya.
Qaddafi has always worked to keep Libyans divided. For years there have been fears that Qaddafi’s sons would start a civil war amongst themselves or that some other high ranking officials could try to jockey for power once Qaddafi was gone. Civil war on the basis of ethnicity, regionalism, or tribalism is not a big threat. Tribes and regions could be co-opted or allied with, but the people that would spark a civil war are regime figures. The threats of civil war arise from the rivalries amongst regime officials themselves. Yet, it must be understood that these rivalries are delibertly being encouraged to divide Libya.
The flames of revolt are being fanned inside Libya. Chaos in the Arab World has been viewed as beneficial in many strategic circles in Washington, Tel Aviv, London, and NATO Headquarters. If Libya falls into a state of civil war or becomes balkanized this will benefit the U.S. and the E.U. in the long-term and will have serious geo-political implications.
All the neighbouring states in North Africa would be destabilized by the events in Libya. West Africa and Central Africa would also be destabilized. The tribal boundaries running in Libya and Chad extend into countries like Niger, Algeria, and Sudan. The chaos in Libya would also have a significant effect on Europe and global energy. Already the events in Libya are being used to validate the drive to control the Arctic Circle and its energy resources.
WHAT WILL BE QADDAFI’S END?
It is very likely that Qaddafi will not have as fortunate an exit from power as Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt. Finding refuge for Qaddafi will not be easy. In general, Qaddafi is considered a liability by other governments. Saudi Arabia, which can be portrayed as a refuge for Arab dictators, will most likely not give Qaddafi refuge. Libya and Saudi Arabia have bad relations. He is also wanted for investigation in Lebanon. Generally, Qaddafi’s relationship with the leaders of the Arab petro-sheikhdoms in the Persian Gulf is tense and negative. He will not be granted refuge anywhere in the Persian Gulf.
In general, Arab governments will also be afraid to host him. In his efforts to present himself as a champion of the people, he has insulted many of his fellow Arab dictators. There is something to be said, however, when Qaddafi’s statements at Arab League meetings or about Palestine and Iraq are far more popular or candid than the rest of the Arab dictators.
It is highly improbable that any Latin American, European, or ex-Soviet countries will give him refuge. A country in sub-Sahara(n) Africa is the mostly likely place Qaddafi could seek refuge.
His options are limited and he is determined to hold on to power. Civil War seems to be looming in the horizon. It is highly unlikely that he will leave Libya peacefully and the U.S. and its allies have no doubt examined this scenario. On February 23-24, 2010, he met with the leaders of the three biggest tribes in Libya (Werfala, Tarhouna, and Wershfana), to secure their support. His own tribe, Qaddafa is supporting him and it seems that the Madarha and Awlad Slieman tribes are also supporting him.
THE THREATS OF NATO INTERVENTION AND U.S. AND E.U. CONTROL OVER LIBYA
Libya has been in the cross-hairs of the Pentagon for years. According to Wesley Clark, the retired general who was the supreme military commander of NATO, Libya was on a Pentagon list of nations to be invaded after Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. The list included Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, and lastly Iran. In Clark’s own words:
So I came back to see him[a high ranking military officer in the Pentagon] a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, ‘Are we still going to war with Iraq?’ And he said, ‘Oh, it’s worse than that.’ He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, ‘I just got this down from upstairs’ — meaning the Secretary of Defence’s office — ‘today.’ And he said, ‘This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.’
In one way or another all the nations on the list have been attacked directly or indirectly and all of them, but Syria and Iran, have succumbed to the U.S. and its allies. Again, the only exceptions are Iran and its ally Syria. In Lebanon, the U.S. has made partial gains, but it is now receding with the decline of the Hariri-led March 14 Alliance.
Libya started secret negotiations with Washington in 2001 that materialized into formal rapprochement after the fall of Baghdad to British and American troops in 2003. Yet, the U.S. and its allies have always wanted to expand their influence over the Libyan energy sector and to appropriate Libya’s vast wealth. A civil war provides the best cover for this.
LIBYANS MUST BE AWARE OF THE PRETEXT OF HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION
The Libyan people should be on their high guards. In is clear that the U.S. and the E.U. are supporting both sides. The U.S. and the E.U. are not the allies of the people of the Arab World. In this regard, the U.S. supports Qaddafi on the ground through military hardware, while it also supports the ‘opposition.’ If the so-called Western governments were serious about democracy, they would have cut their business ties to Libya, specifically in the energy sector, before 2011.
Both Washington and the powers in Brussels could co-opt opposition forces. They have supported Gaddafi, but they do not control him or his regime like they controlled Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt. Libya is a very different story. The objectives of Washington and Brussels will be to strengthen their control over Libya either through regime change or civil war.
‘Actions of opposition to Gaddafi’ are strong, but there is no strong organized ‘opposition movement.’ The two are different. Nor is democracy guaranteed, because of the nature of the coalition opposed to Gaddafi, which includes corrupt regime officials.
There is now talk about a ‘humanitarian intervention’ in Libya, similar to Yugoslavia and Iraq. A ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya has been mentioned, as has NATO military intervention. The aims behind such statements are not humanitarian, but are intended to justify foreign interference, which could potentially lead to an invasion. Should this come to fruition, Libya would become an occupied country. Its resources would be plundered and its assets privatized and controlled by foreign corporations as in the case of Iraq.
Today, in Libya and the Arab World the ghosts of Omar Mukhtar and Saladin are still very much alive and active. Getting rid of Gaddafi and his sons alone is not the solution. The entire corrupt system of governance in Libya and the culture of political corruption must be dismantled. At the same time, however, foreign interference or domination should also not be allowed to take root in Libya. If the Libyan people are mobilized and steadfast, they can fight such schemes.
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* Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya specialises in the Middle East and Central Asia. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.
* This article was first published by Global Research.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 ‘UK Hague: some information that Qaddafi on way to Venezuela,’ Reuters, February 21, 2011.
 One is taken back by the proliferation of pre-1969 coup Libyan flags. Where did all these flags come from?
 ‘3 Libyan Diplomats resign,’ The Hindu, February 22, 2011.
 James Wolf, ‘U.S. eyes arms sales to Libya,’ Reuters, March 6, 2009.
 Information from sources in Libya; not publicly confirmed yet.
 Ibid.; I have been given two explanations for this. The first explanation is that government agents from Libya have been disseminating misinformation to Al Jazeera. This includes reports made to Al Jazeera that jets have been attacking civilians in the streets. Gaddafi has used this to try to discredit Al Jazeera internally in Libya by pointing out to the Libyan people that no jet attacks have occurred and that Al Jazeera is broadcasting misinformation. The second explanation is that Al Jazeera is simply spreading misinformation. Whatever the case, both explanations agree no Libyan jets have attacked protesters yet.
 Marine Hyde, ‘Beyoncé and the $2m gig for Colonel Gaddafi’s son,’ The Guardian (U.K.), January 8, 2010; it was Mutassim and not Hannibal Gaddafi that the music concert was for (the article is wrong). The article is not authoritative and has been cited to illustrate that these types of escapades are even vaguely known by the mainstream press in Britain and Western Europe.
 U.S. State Department, ‘Remarks With Libyan National Security Adviser Dr. Mutassim Qadhafi Before Their Meeting,’ April 21, 2009: <http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/04/121993.htm>.
 Information from sources in Libya; not publicly confirmed yet.
 David Ljunggren, ‘Libya turmoil puts focus on Arctic oil: Greenland,’ ed. Robert Wilson, Reuters, February 23, 2011.
 Information from sources in Libya; not publicly confirmed yet. I have been told that Qaddafi promised the tribes reform and that he would step down in about one year in time. I was also informed that he claimed that none of his sons would control Libya either.
 General (retired) Wesley Clark, ‘92 Street Y Exclusive Live Interview,’ interview by Amy Goodman, Democracy Now, March 2, 2007.
How Gaddafi nearly took Ghanaian men ‘to the knife’
Right now, Gaddafi is a big danger to black Africans. Any black person found in Libya is likely to be given very short shrift by the white-skinned section of the Arab population, which believes that Gaddafi has imported – or is importing – blacks from Chad, Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Liberia and anywhere else that he has followers, to go and fight for him.
One Ghanaian who was among the first batch of about 100 that safely returned home, told reporters ‘that some blacks were being caught and "beheaded". There are estimated to be a further 10,000 Ghanaians still left, whom the Ghana government is trying to evacuate home.’
The question is: what should the rest of Africa think of Gaddafi’s troubles?
There is no uniform answer amongst Africa’s ruling regimes.
As Mondli Makanya asked in his column in the Johannesburg ‘Sunday Times’ on 27 February 2011:
‘Why did the world's political community, which normally does not suffer fools, tolerate this madman?
‘Short answer: he paid a lot of people good money. He had many presidents, prime ministers and kings on his payroll. He also filled the coffers of some nations and financed the election campaigns of many parties.’
Makhanya was rebuking the ANC for going soft on the wanton killings that Gaddafi’s militias were directing at the people of Libya. That is a damning verdict on the ANC, which, as everyone knows, got a lot of political mileage from the bloodshed unleashed on the black people of South Africa at Sharpeville on 21 March 1960 and in Soweto on 16 June 1976.
In Nigeria, a writer in the Lagos ‘Guardian’ had pointed out, as early as 13 February 2009, that Gaddafi’s enthusiasm for the creation of a ‘United States of Africa’ was suspect, because ‘A lot of Nigerians and other Africans in search of greener pastures have been brutalised, dehumanised and tortured; some killed while the lucky ones got deported. If Gaddafi had shown some iota of mercy to these Africans who sneaked into Libya, maybe we would not have read much meaning into this idea being touted by him.’
The Ghana ‘Daily Graphic’ of 17 December 2004 put some flesh and bones on the sufferings of Africans in Libya, reporting that a total of 6,027 Ghanaians had been precipitately deported from Libya, many of whom were flown down on cargo planes without any seats.
It wasn’t as if Ghanaian street talk hadn’t used religious imagery – sometimes very crudely – to invent stories to counter Libya’s burgeoning influence over Ghana (which encouraged so many Ghanaians to undertakethe trip to Libya) when the country's then ruler, Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, seized power – for the second time – on 31 December 1981.
Shortly after the Rawlings coup, I was having lunch with a couple of ladies when, out of the blue, one of them asked me: ‘So what are you going to do about Libya?
‘Libya? What about Libya?’ I asked.
‘Gaddafi is taking over Ghana!’ she said.
‘Nonsense,’ I answered. ‘Ghanaians value their autonomy and no-one is going to sit down and allow a Libyan to dictate to him or her.’
She said, ‘You wait. You know we are to play Libya in the Confederation of African Football Cup Final in Libya, soon, don’t you?’
‘Yes,’ I said.
‘Well, that will be the sign. We will lose that match,’ she said.
‘Bollocks!’ I exploded. ‘You mean the Black Stars will deliberately throw a match on the orders of a politician like Rawlings?’
‘You wait and see. We shall allow the Libyans to win. And then will come the second sign – the most unkindest cut of all.’
My heart sank. In my experience, young ladies do tend to have a lot of information.
She said: ‘After we have allowed them to beat us at football, Gaddafi will send a horde of wansams [untrained circumcisers] to Ghana, to circumcise all uncircumcisedGhanaian men – in the name of Islam!’
I looked at her companion, who had remained silent. She nodded vigorously in agreement with her friend. Were they a pair of Roman Catholic propaganda agents? Or Mossad recruits spreading ill-will against Gaddafi in Ghana?
I howled so loudly with laughter (mixed with absolute horror) that everyone in the restaurant stared at me.
‘Gaddafi circumcise us? Let him come and try!’ I said finally.
I went on: ‘Libya cannot – and will not – beat us at football. And it can't come near our treasured male members. Even if Jerry Rawlings were to pilot himself to go to Libya to plead with our boys to throw the match, they would turn a deaf ear to him. You cannot fool around with Ghanaians when it comes to their football.’
I added, ‘Nor can you fool with their – er – ‘scabbarded’ ‘swords' or 'sticks’ either!’
Then I sat back, pleased with my own impromptu witticism.
The talkative young lady then made a bet with me on the outcome of the CAF football match. I cannot go into details about the terms of the wager.
But Ghana did beat Libya in that CAF football cup final on 19 March 1982.
However, the result was arrived at in such a tortuous manner that at one stage, I entertained a real fear that our boys were throwing the match.
The full 90 minutes of play yielded a 1-1 draw.
Extra time came and went – but produced no goals, either.
I began to sweat profusely as the game then went into penalties.
Ghana just managed to win the penalty shoot-out by scraping 6 goals to Libya's 5. Final result: 7-6 GHANA!
Had we lost, those two ladies would have combined to run me out of town and claimed that mass circumcision of Ghana males by hordes of sword-waving wansams from Libya was coming next! And I might have believed them – who knows?
After the Black Stars' victory, I got into my car and joined many jubilant Ghanaians who were celebrating, by driving around purposelessly in the streets, tooting the horns of their cars, late into the night.
If any of my friends had seen me, they would have thought I was quite manic.
Ha – if only they knew what the stakes had been, that night. Next item: An appointment with a foreskin-excisor from Tripoli?
Not funny at all!
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* Cameron Duodu is a writer and commentator.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Africa: NATO seeks to recruit 50 new military partners
A recent article in Kenya’s Africa Review cited sources in the African Union (AU) disclosing that the 28-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is preparing to sign a military partnership treaty with the 53-nation AU.
The author of the article, relaying comments from AU officials in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where the organization has its headquarters, wrote that although ‘the stated aim is to counter global security threats and specifically threats against Africa, some observers read the pact as aiming to counter Chinese expansion in Africa.’
The feature further claimed that NATO is negotiating the opening of a liaison office at AU headquarters and that the North Atlantic Alliance’s legal department is working with its AU counterpart ‘to finalise the new pact, which will be signed soon.’
The news story additionally divulged that Ramtane Lamamra, African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, ‘confirmed that Nato is to sign a military cooperation agreement with the AU’ with particular emphasis on consolidating the African Standby Force (ASF). The latter is intended to consist of brigades attached to the five Regional Economic Communities on the continent. (North, East, West, Central and Southern.) The West African Standby Force has been tasked the role of intervening in – which is to say invading and occupying – Ivory Coast since the announcement of presidential runoff election results in the country in December, and contributors to the East Africa Standby Brigade (EASBRIG), Uganda and Burundi, are engaged as combatants in the civil war in Somalia.
The AU’s Lamamra stated ‘Africa would like to learn from Nato on strategic airlift, advanced communications, rotation of important units among regions and to meet logistical challenges,’ adding that ‘Nato was a good model on which to build the ASF.’
NATO airlifted thousands of Ugandan troops into and out of the Somali capital of Mogadishu last March – 1,700 and 800, respectively – in support of the Ugandan-Burundian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
The Kenyan report also revealed that ‘Experts say Africa is becoming a strategic battleground between world powers and in particular the US, the European Union, China and Russia,’ with the first two – collectively subsumed under NATO and its Partnership for Peace program (except, for the time being, Cyprus) – working in unison and the second two expanding oil and natural gas investments on the continent. In addition, Russia and China are competitors of the U.S. and its NATO allies in regards to arms sales to African nations. The piece added:
‘According to knowledgeable sources, the new security arrangement could be a way to block the continent’s other main arms suppliers – China and Russia.
‘If the pact gets endorsed by AU member states, it would be a big blow for China and Russia.’
‘In its 2010 annual summit, Nato set itself a target to be a global ‘security guarantor’ by the year 2020.’
On February 18 and 19 a delegation of high-level officials from the African Union led by Sivuyile Thandikhaya Bam, head of the Peace Support Operations Division of the AU, visited NATO Headquarters and the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Belgium. As NATO reports:
‘NATO and the African Union have developed an increasingly fruitful practical cooperation since 2005….NATO supported the AU Mission in Sudan[airlifting over 30,000 troops to and from the Darfur region] and is currently assisting the AU mission in Somalia in terms of air- and sea-lift, but also planning support.
‘NATO is also providing…training opportunities and capacity building support to the African Union’s long term peacekeeping capabilities, in particular the African Standby Force.’
The African Standby Force has been systematically modeled after the NATO Response Force, which was launched with large-scale war games in the African island nation of Cape Verde in 2006. The ASF is a joint project of NATO and U.S. Africa Command, which before achieving full operational capability on October 1, 2008 was conceived, developed and run by U.S. European Command, whose commander is simultaneously NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
In 2007 the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s top civilian decision-making body, commissioned a study ‘on the assessment of the operational readiness of the African Standby Force (ASF) brigades.’
The following year NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer visited Ghana for three days and said ‘the military alliance could play an important role in training African soldiers,’ in particular that ‘the Alliance had agreed to support the African Standby Force.’
In 2009 the bloc began training African staff officers for the ASF at the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany. Joint Command Lisbon, the Alliance headquarters tasked to supervise military cooperation with the African Union, has trained African officers to run military exercises, and ‘NATO has also participated and supported various ASF preparatory workshops designed to develop ASF-related concepts.’
The same year Norwegian Colonel Brynjar Nymo – Norway’s embassy in Ethiopia is the informal liaison office for NATO’s relations with the AU – said that ‘cooperation between NATO and AU is currently focusing on technical support for the African Standby Force (ASF).’
The Norwegian embassy’s website at the time stated that ‘The Africa Monitoring & Support Team at the NATO Headquarters in Portugal is the operational headquarters for NATO’s work in Africa,’ as indicated above.
Then-NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General Maurits Jochems visited AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, where NATO has a senior military liaison officer and other officials assigned, later in 2009.
‘In his capacity as NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary-General, Ambassador Jochems has frequently visited Addis Ababa for discussions with the African Union….NATO is providing technical advice, and making available subject matter experts, experiences from international operations, and access to relevant training facilities to the AUC[African Union Commission] in the context of the African Standby Force.’
This January 26 and 27 NATO’s Military Committee held two days of meetings in Brussels with the chiefs of defense – the U.S.’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen and his equivalents – and other military representatives of 66 nations, a third of the members of the United Nations.
The proceedings discussed ongoing NATO operations in Afghanistan – currently the world’s largest and longest war, with an estimated 140,000 troops from some 50 nations serving under the Alliance’s International Security Assistance Force – the Balkans (Kosovo Force), the entire Mediterranean Sea (Operation Active Endeavor), and the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Aden and down the eastern coast of Africa (Operation Ocean Shield).
During the Military Committee and related meetings a session of the Mediterranean Dialogue was held with military leaders from the seven members of that NATO partnership: Israel, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, Morocco and Mauritania. The session occurred as the government of Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had recently been toppled and the demonstrations in Egypt that would bring the same denouement to President Hosni Mubarak were getting underway.
On February 9 Serbia’s Beta News Agency reported Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac announcing that a NATO strategic conference entitled After Lisbon: Implementation of Transformation will be held in his nation’s capital of Belgrade in June with representatives from 69 countries attending: All 28 NATO member states, 22 Partnership for Peace nations in Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and 19 other states.
In addition to the Mediterranean Dialogue, NATO’s Istanbul Cooperation Initiative program is developing military cooperation with the Persian Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, with Oman and Saudi Arabia to be brought on board next. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was in Qatar from February 15-16 for the two-day Deepening the NATO-Istanbul Cooperation Initiative conference with the permanent representatives (ambassadors) of the bloc’s 28 members and senior military and government officials from the six Gulf Cooperation Council states: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The first and last of them have troops serving under NATO in Afghanistan.
NATO also has a partnership category called Contact Countries. Subject to expansion, the four such nations are all in the Asia-Pacific region: Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. The U.S.-led military bloc also maintains the Afghanistan-Pakistan-International Security Assistance Force Tripartite Commission to coordinate war efforts on both sides of the Khyber Pass and has troops and other military personnel assigned to its command in Afghanistan from nations that are not currently among the 70 NATO member and official partnership states: Colombia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore and Tonga.
The NATO-Russia Council was revived at the bloc’s Lisbon summit in November and NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) is training and equipping the fledgling armed forces of Kosovo, the Kosovo Security Force. NATO, then, has no fewer than 75 members and partners with nations like previously neutral Cyprus slated to follow.
The African Union has 53 members and will soon have another after the successful independence referendum in Southern Sudan. The AU includes the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara), conquered by Morocco in 1975 and not recognized by any NATO state, but not Morocco, which withdrew from the AU because of the latter’s recognition and incorporation of Western Sahara.
Four members of the AU, along with Morocco, are already part of a NATO partnership program, the Mediterranean Dialogue – Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania and Tunisia – so a NATO military cooperation treaty with the African Union could gain the Atlantic Alliance 50 new partners.
That is, the world’s only military bloc can further expand from one that grew from 16 to 28 members in a decade – 1999-2009 – into one that will become truly international in scope with nearly 100 military partners. Partners and members on every inhabited continent. Two-thirds of the nations in the world.
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* Rick Rozoff is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
* This article was originally published by Global Research.
* Please send comments email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Argaw Ashine, Nato to sign security cooperation pact with AU
Africa Review, February 18, 2011 http://bit.ly/gawlgE
 Ivory Coast: Testing Ground For U.S.-Backed African Standby Force, Stop NATO, January 23, 2011
 Africa Review, February 18, 2011
 Uganda: U.S., NATO Allies Prepare New Invasion Of Somalia, Stop NATO, July 28, 2010, http://bit.ly/hKSmY2
 Africa Review, February 18, 2011
 North Atlantic Treaty Organization, http://bit.ly/iaAjNu
 North Atlantic Treaty Organization, http://bit.ly/gP4z1b
 Ghana News Agency, November 21, 2008
 North Atlantic Treaty Organization, http://bit.ly/gP4z1b
 Royal Norwegian Embassy in Ethiopia, April 20, 2009
 Royal Norwegian Embassy in Ethiopia, November 4, 2009
 Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia, Finland, Georgia, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Russia in sometimes included.
 NATO conference in Belgrade announced, Beta News Agency, February 9, 2011, http://bit.ly/hKHjiN
 KFOR’s Final Firefighting Exercise for Kosovo Security Force, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Allied Command Operations, February 17, 2011, http://bit.ly/geefkO
 Push for NATO programme deemed unconstitutional, Cyprus Mail, February 19, 2011, http://bit.ly/hWxXPG
Trading with the enemy
The last decade has seen a remarkable surge in US economic interest in the continent of Africa. Policymakers who once considered Africa the languid backwater of global economics are now rushing in to stake a claim in the continent’s enormous resource endowment.
Most of this effort operates with a rhetoric focused on ‘partnership’ and ‘development’, with the vision of using US trade and investment to lift Africans out of poverty. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton exemplified this attitude when she spoke last year at a US-Africa trade policy forum, saying, ‘Let’s help each other make Africa all that it can be.’
But a quick look at the trade policy itself shows that this sugary rhetoric of American benevolence and concern for African welfare is deeply misleading. It does little more than cloak an agenda firmly rooted in economic realpolitik.
Michael Battle, the US Ambassador to the African Union, has revealed the blunt urgency of this agenda in a candid but troubling statement: ‘If we don’t invest on the African continent now, we will find that China and India have absorbed its resources without us, and we will wake up and wonder what happened to our golden opportunity of investment.’
The centerpiece of US trade policy for Africa is the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Signed into law by President Clinton in 2000, AGOA is, according to Congress, ‘perhaps the most significant American initiative on Africa in our country’s history’. It provides trade preferences for duty-free entry into the United States for certain goods from sub-Saharan Africa, which is touted as a way to boost African business by encouraging exports. President Bush signed the AGOA Acceleration Act of 2004, which extends the policy until 2015.
THE BIG CATCH
It’s hard to quarrel with the idea that reduced trade barriers around American markets would be a boon for African exporters. The quintessential example is Lesotho, whose textile industry has flourished since joining AGOA and now exports more than $400 million worth of garments to the United States annually.
But there’s a catch. The US president reserves the right to reevaluate each country for AGOA eligibility on an annual basis; 41 made the cut last year. In order to qualify, African countries have to meet a specific set of stringent ‘conditions’.
Topping the list is the requirement that the beneficiary promote ‘a market-based economy that protects private property rights…and minimises government interference in the economy through such measures as price controls, subsidies, and government ownership of economic assets.’ In addition - and here’s the big one - the beneficiary must make progress toward ‘the elimination of barriers to United States trade and investment’.
In other words, AGOA eligibility requires not just mild economic deregulation but the outright destruction of any and all tariff protections, flinging open African markets to a flood of American goods that inevitably undermine local industry. And African countries don’t really have a choice in the matter, for if they refuse to meet these conditions, they effectively forfeit their access to the American market. For all of the positive spin that US policymakers put on AGOA, nobody ever so much as mentions these draconian measures, which are easily as destructive as the dreaded ‘structural adjustment’ conditions that the International Monetary Fund attaches to its loans. Essentially, AGOA amounts to a coercive free trade agreement with most of the subcontinent.
Given that AGOA requires its beneficiaries to eliminate barriers to US investment, it’s not surprising that the balance of trade comes out strongly in favour of the United States. Trade data shows that Benin, for example, has exported almost nothing to the United States since it became an AGOA member, but has imported some $600 million worth of US goods that have significantly undercut local producers. Some countries do actually export a great deal under AGOA rules - but only those with substantial petroleum and mineral deposits.
Take Angola, for instance; 99 per cent of all of Angola’s exports under AGOA have been energy-related. In the Congo, that number reaches closer to 100 per cent. The same is true of Nigeria, Botswana, and every other country with an oil and mineral portfolio. Indeed, more than 80 per cent of all exports under AGOA fall under this sector.
AGOA, in other words, is designed to pry open new markets for US goods while making it easier for the United States to extract oil and minerals. And since most of Africa’s oil and minerals are controlled by Western corporations like Exxon, Shell, and Anglo-American, this is hardly an arrangement designed to benefit African businesses.
If that’s the tragedy, then here’s the farce. AGOA actually does include a number of progressive conditions for membership. In order to qualify, beneficiaries must develop ‘economic policies to reduce poverty’, uphold ‘the rule of law, political pluralism, and the right of due process, a fair trial, and equal protection’, construct ‘a system to combat corruption and bribery’, and refrain from ‘gross violations of human rights’. In addition, beneficiaries must implement ‘the protection of worker rights, including the right to organize and bargain collectively, a prohibition on the use of any form of forced or compulsory labor, a minimum age for the employment of children, and acceptable conditions of work with respect to minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health.”
In practice, however, none of this actually applies. Countries renowned for corruption, human rights abuses, and labour law violations are routinely approved for AGOA eligibility. Indeed, the countries with the most flagrant abuses are those that trade the most under AGOA, giving blatant lie to the claim that good governance is a necessary precondition for successful US investment in Africa. Cameroon, for example, enjoys AGOA eligibility even though the government there rules an undemocratic, one-party state, regularly obstructs political meetings, harasses journalists, tortures human rights activists, and turns a blind eye to child labour. But it has a lot of oil.
Neighbouring Chad also enjoys AGOA eligibility, despite rampant corruption and a long tradition of arbitrary detentions and extra-judicial killings. But it has the Chad-Cameroon pipeline - the single biggest US investment in Sub-Saharan Africa - and Bush and Obama have been devoted to protecting the project’s US investors. Eritrea is another example. In 2003, the UN named Eritrea one of the ‘World’s Most Repressive Regimes’. But it gets AGOA eligibility in exchange for having joined ‘the coalition of the willing’ during Bush’s war in Iraq. Burkina Faso, Angola, Swaziland, and the Congo all benefit from similar double standards.
The issue here is not just that the United States benefits from corrupt and repressive regimes, but that while AGOA claims to create incentives for political reform in Africa, it actually does the opposite. By encouraging the deregulation of oil and mineral based economies, AGOA contributes to the development of ‘rentier states’ that do not have to rely on income taxes for their revenue. Such states have no incentive to build up a strong middle class, diversify their economies, or respond to the needs of their citizens. In turn, citizens have no incentive to scrutinise government priorities. As the social contract between citizens and the state erodes, endemic corruption inevitably follows, and states become increasingly repressive in order to maintain their grip on power.
This is what economists call ‘the resource curse’ or ‘the paradox of plenty’. An over-reliance on huge oil and mineral deposits ends up generating corruption, inequality, and widespread poverty instead of positive development outcomes. This pattern contradicts the common assumption that economic liberalisation translates into political freedom or democratic reforms.
Although AGOA purports to leverage exports as a way of boosting economic development in Africa, it does not stipulate that the exporting companies must be African. Indeed, most of them are American, Chinese, and Indian. The vast majority of beneficiaries under AGOA are not impoverished Africans, but wealthy foreign corporations. Indeed, AGOA’s insistence on the elimination of local trade barriers allows US companies to bid freely on things like mineral concessions and government contracts. And given that these companies have deep capital reserves, they can usually win, effectively blocking out their African competitors.
In addition, when it comes to industries like textile manufacturing, AGOA stipulates that producers must use US raw materials, which effectively blocks investment in local upstream sectors. Furthermore, because AGOA requires that goods exported to the United States ‘originate’ in the host country, Chinese and Indian clothing manufacturers frequently label their goods ‘Made in Kenya’ and transship them to the United States through Africa to get preferential treatment. The overall effect, then, is that AGOA does not create greater market share for African companies but actively diminishes it.
One might argue that regardless of where the investment comes from, at least it creates jobs. This may be true. But AGOA does not require that the new jobs go to Africans. Indeed, many of the extractive industries that benefit from AGOA import highly skilled labour from developed countries like the United States.
In Angola, for example, most of Exxon’s engineers are Americans. Furthermore, the jobs that AGOA does create for Africans are often deeply exploitative. AGOA has encouraged the development of Export Processing Zones (EPZs) across the continent, where labour laws are nearly non-existent and wages are rock-bottom in order to attract foreign manufacturers. In the textile industry, the net effect is that Asian sweatshops relocate to Africa to take advantage of AGOA incentives. In Kenya in 2006, the average wage of EPZ workers in Asian sweatshops was a paltry 20 cents per hour, which amounts to barely more than a dollar a day - the lowest wages in the country. Most EPZ workers - the majority of whom are women and doubly vulnerable to exploitation - have to work excessive overtime just to meet their basic needs, and live in constant danger of being laid off without compensation.
It doesn’t have to be this way. With a few thoughtful changes, AGOA could be used to make trade work for everyday Africans.
First, the economic liberalisation condition should be dropped. Rich countries like the United States, Britain, Japan, and China initially used tariff protections and subsidies to promote their industries in the early stages of development; it’s cruel to deny those basic strategies to African countries desperately in need of development. Second, the political reform conditions should be taken seriously, and used to leverage best practices in human rights and labour law. Third, local content rules should require that all US investments in Africa should tier up over a set period to at least 80 per cent local labour and local contracts - characterised by genuine registration - and should require investment in local capacity where it proves too poor to meet the necessary standards. Finally, targeted quotas should be used to channel foreign investment to where it’s needed most, rather than to where the regulations are most relaxed.
But changes of this order are not on the horizon, for - as I have demonstrated - the United States is concerned less about the well-being of Africans than about meeting its own energy needs and promoting the interests of American corporations. We need to cut through the deceptive rhetoric of US trade policy and ask the tough questions: Who really benefits from AGOA? Does AGOA enhance welfare and development, or facilitate extraction and exploitation?
As Ambassador Battle’s statement illustrates, the present trade arrangement between the United States and Africa is eerily reminiscent of the era of colonial conquest. In 1875, as Europe set its sights on Africa’s vast riches, King Leopold II of Belgium wrote to his ambassador in London, ‘I do not want to miss a good chance of getting us a slice of this magnificent African cake.’ It’s America’s turn now, and it appears that the Obama administration - like Bush before him - is driven by a similarly disturbing vision: a new scramble for Africa.
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* Foreign Policy In Focus contributor Jason Hickel is an instructor and PhD candidate in anthropology at the University of Virginia. His research focuses on trade, development, and political conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Uganda elections: ‘An exercise in shame-faced endorsement’
When the lithe, 42-year-old guerilla leader Yoweri Kaguta Museveni (‘M7’ or ‘Ssevo’ to his supporters) emerged from a five-year ‘bush’ war to claim the presidency of Uganda in 1986, few observers gave him much of a chance. Many questioned whether he had the credentials to lead such a fractious, decimated and demoralised population out of the doldrums.
Twenty-five years later, Museveni remains at the helm of Ugandan politics and on 18 February 2011 he received yet another endorsement in an election that extends his term until 2016. By that time, Museveni will be 72 years old, and at 30 years in power will have long since entered the record books as East Africa’s longest-serving leader, outstripping both the late Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania and Kenyan ex-President Daniel arap Moi.
But it will also be the time to ask whether his legacy will be that of the former Tanzanian president, who left office still revered and loved, or that of a figure of tragedy and hatred like Moi? Indeed, as North Africa witnesses the collapse of long-term dictatorships from Tunisia to Libya, it is necessary to inquire how it is that Museveni won the 18 February election, and what lessons this has for political struggle and freedom on the continent.
Drawing on Libya for comparison is particularly apt since Museveni has long been an ally of President Muammar Abu Minyar al Gaddafi. In one of many trips to Kampala, the eccentric and now beleaguered leader urged Museveni to stay in office for life, arguing that revolutionaries are not like company managing directors.
It is a lesson Museveni took to heart, removing presidential term limits from the Constitution in 2005, and setting himself well on the way to a de facto life presidency.
So what explains Museveni’s February victory, especially given that while largely predicted, the margin by which he won – 68 per cent of the presidential vote and 75 per cent for his National Resistance Movement (NRM) in the parliamentary poll - stunned many. This margin should be compared with the three previous elections in 1996 (when he won with 75 per cent), in 2001 (69 per cent) and in 2006 (59 per cent).
According to the pundits, while still popular, dominant and thus likely to win, the downward trend would continue. Some even predicted that there would be a run-off because the 50.1 per cent margin would not be reached in the first round. The other issue of surprise was the relative calm and lack of violence that attended the election. Most foreign observers - from the European Union to the US government - described the vote as generally peaceful, free of bloodshed and (in the usual parlance of those who have emerged as the guardians of African electoral politics) largely a ‘free and genuine’ expression of the wishes of the Ugandan people.
The local media described it as the most boring poll in recent Ugandan history, lacking as it did much of the drama, intrigue and confrontation that Ugandans had become accustomed to. It is thus not surprising that Museveni’s rap song - ‘Give Me My Stick/You Want Another Rap?’ - garnered more attention than the substantive issues at stake.
To fully comprehend the outcome of Uganda’s recent poll, it is necessary to understand a number of basic facts. The first is that Uganda is yet to become a functioning multiparty democracy. For the first nineteen years of Museveni rule, the country operated a ‘no-party’ or ‘movement’ system of government, which was little better than a single-party state. Under that system, government and party institutions overlapped right from the lowest level of government (resistance or local councils) through to Parliament. Indeed, in many respects, Museveni took a leaf from Gaddafi’s popular councils, creating these ‘LCs’ as supposedly representative of ‘grassroots’ democracy, but essentially a cover for single-party dominance. Today, many of the no-party structures remain intact and operative. They function as the main conduits of political mobilisation and for the channeling of state resources, buttressed by a massive local bureaucracy of government agents and spies.
Of course the fact of incumbency guarantees Museveni unfettered access to state coffers, such that the NRM reportedly spent US$350 million in the campaign, testimony to the benefits that come with office. The enduring image of the past several months has been the President handing out brown envelopes stashed with cash for various women, youth and other types of civic groupings.
The other reason for Museveni’s victory lies in the highly militarised context within which politics and governance in Uganda is executed. Following five years of civil war (1981 to 1986), and 20-plus years of insurgency in the north of the country, Uganda has never been free from conflict. Unsurprisingly, the idea of peace and security loom large within the national psyche. For older Ugandans there is fear of earlier and more chaotic times, while for the younger generation who have only experienced Museveni, the claim that he has restored peace has a particular resonance. Ironically, both groups also fear that if Museveni lost an election, he would never accept the result, and instead would either return to the bush or cause such instability that it is not worth it to even think about an alternative candidate. This explains what to many is the most surprising outcome of the election: Museveni’s victory in Northern Uganda despite facing two ‘sons-of-the-soil’, ex-diplomat Olara Otunnu and the youthful Norbert Mao.
The looming presence of the military also explains why the turnout for the election at 59 per cent was much lower than any of the previous three polls, where figures were closer to 70 per cent. Many people simply stayed at home, partly out of apathy, but more on account of the fact that the streets of Kampala and other parts of the country were swamped with military personnel. More akin to the army in Libya than in Egypt, the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Force (UPDF) is not reputed to exercise restraint when dealing with civilian insurrection or politically-motivated opposition.
Museveni’s performance in the North reflects the other side to the story, and that is the fact that Museveni is only as good as the opposition he faces. The dismal performance of the opposition is attributable to a host of factors, not least of which is the fact that there are really no opposition parties in Uganda. Rather, there are only opposition personalities - epitomised by three-time presidential contender Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), who have constructed around themselves weak or non-existent party structures that only come to life in the run up to the election.
Uganda’s opposition is also bereft of firm ideological positions, and while the death of ideology is an ailment affecting the ruling NRM too, its absence among the opposition has proven particularly harmful as there is a lack of a central organising message around which the opposition can translate obvious disgust and support against Museveni into electoral victory. Thus, at the start of the election season, the opposition wavered between a united front against Museveni or a boycott, citing the bias of the Electoral Commission and the un-level playing field.
Neither option was adopted, and at the end of the day all major opposition parties decided to field candidates in both the presidential and parliamentary elections, while decrying the inequality in the contest. Nevertheless, Besigye assured his supporters of both victory and of the ability to protect his vote in the event of an NRM poll-rigging, a show of bravado on which he was unable to deliver.
However, UPC candidate Olara Otunnu took the cake by failing to show up to cast his vote on election day in a classic example of the ailments afflicting the opposition. At the end of the day, while Museveni’s victory is not much of a surprise, and in the short run ensures the continued charade of economic and political stability that has characterised the last two decades, it portends considerable apprehension for the future of the country.
While the President has dismissed comparisons with the fallen dictators of North Africa, there are indeed many parallels. The state in Uganda has assumed what can only be described as a ‘Musevenist’ character, such that an election such as the recent one can only be an exercise in shame-faced endorsement of the incumbent. That state has also devolved to a situation in which there is little to distinguish between the personal and the political, and where it is increasingly being marked by the growth of family/personal rule. While Museveni has only one son (in comparison to Gaddafi’s seven), Muhoozi Kainerugaba is clearly being groomed for greater things. Thus, he has taken charge of the Special Presidential Brigade, the elite force designed to guarantee his father’s personal security, and he recently wrote a book about the bush war to burnish his credentials as an intellectual-cum-soldier able to fit into his father’s rather large shoes.
This is clearly the same path that Ben Ali, Mubarak and Gaddafi pursued, only to find themselves thwarted by the movement of the people. While it may be true that revolutionaries don’t retire, if there is no other lesson of the recent Northern African upheavals, it is that revolutionaries can be forced to resign. It is all simply a matter of time.
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* Professor J. Oloka-Onyango is director of the Human Rights & Peace Centre at the Faculty of Law, Makerere University.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 To its credit, it was only the African Union (AU) that declined outright to describe the poll as ‘free and fair.’
Smoke and mirrors: The case of Egypt and Ethiopia
The dramatic upheavals in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Algeria, Libya and Yemen show what huge numbers of ordinary citizens can do when they rally bravely for democracy and human rights. In Egypt, we have witnessed the downfall of a seemingly invincible dictator, but as of yet the regime he erected is still functional. Are Egyptian generals stalling for time to frustrate meaningful change? How should the US respond to the events in Egypt?
In this brief article, I wish to consider what Ethiopian history can reveal about the future of Egypt. Egypt and Ethiopia, linked by the Nile, are also linked by their common struggles against dictatorships. With this in mind, I look back at the Ethiopian revolution of 1974 for some instructive lessons for Egypt. In Ethiopia the military dictator, Mengistu Hailemariam, rose to prominence and power on the backs of the country’s youth. In September 1974, students, workers and peasants rose up and helped depose Emperor Haile Selassie, who had ruled Ethiopia since 1916. The revolution began in the context of the Cold War, the 1973 oil crisis and Haile Selassie’s cover-up of a major famine in the north. In the political vacuum which followed the fall of Haile Selassie, Ethiopia's military was actually a latecomer to the revolution that engulfed the country. In the summer of 1974, the so called ‘Provisional’ Military Advisory Council (PMAC), or Derg, assumed power and declared a policy of ‘Ethiopia Tikdem’, ‘Ethiopia First’.
In July 1974 the PMAC elected Mengistu Hailemariam as its chairman. When the PMAC was formally organised in September of that year, he was named first vice-chairman, a position he held until he took complete control in February 1977.
Throughout 1977 and 1978 the military government crushed a major challenge from radical students and bureaucrats in what was dubbed the period of the ‘Red Terror’. Hundreds of thousands of young Ethiopians and Eritreans were imprisoned, killed or exiled. The military had stolen the revolution and had no intention of handing power to any elected body.
Mengistu unleashed his terror. It lasted for another 17 years until 1991. He was overthrown by an armed insurrection. Sadly, even after the enormous sacrifice paid to get rid of Mengistu, the democratic enterprise in Ethiopia is to this day a victim of predatory politicians and military adventurists. Organised military resistance and a renewed struggle for democracy and democratisation are still underway.
During the 2005 elections, when the opposition made unexpected gains, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia said on state television that, ‘there is not going to be a “Rose Revolution” or a “Green Revolution” or any colour revolution in Ethiopia after the election.” Much as we are witnessing in Libya, his special forces shot and killed about 200 Ethiopian protestors. Thousands were sent to concentration camps.
But the ongoing resistance from the Ogaden (an area inhabited by ethnic Somalis in southeastern Ethiopia) and Oromia (an oppressed majority in the south and southwest) never abated. There are also indications that the contagion effect from the Middle East protests is reaching Ethiopia and neighboring Djibouti. Djibouti is a city-state with a population of 850,000 and home of the largest US military base in Africa. It is the only current port access for Ethiopia.
A recent Wikileaks release reveals the deep concern Ethiopia’s dictatorship feels with the raging Ogaden insurrection. The Ogaden insurrection is a mirror image of the way the Zenawi group came to power. They fought their way up and won militarily. Thus the Ogaden rebellion is bound to worry Ethiopia.
Ethiopia, like Egypt for most of its modern history, has survived on foreign aid. Ethiopian rulers like their Egyptian counterparts invariably played favourites when it came time to distribute the aid they received and the land they looted. The control of Ethiopia as in Egypt was maintained by cronyism, whereby tainted benefits were given to politically favoured groups and local strongmen. Instead of uniting the entire population under a state that the citizenry could legitimately consider their own, Ethiopian leaders used economic aid to divide and rule. There is fear that an uprising such as that taking place in the Middle East may result in the balkanisation of Ethiopia. Worse yet, Ethiopia may simply implode.
According to the CIA fact book, Ethiopia is listed as among the most unequal societies. With some 60 ethnic groups, the dominant elements in the current government come from the Tigray province in northern Ethiopia, which represents about 7 per cent of the population. The Tigreans are deeply resented by at least the Amara, the majority Oromo and ethnic Somalis from the Ogaden. Furthermore, the price of basic commodities has skyrocketed, exacerbating hunger. The conditions for an Egypt-like uprising are more than ripe.
It is instructive to examine the role US policy has and continues to occupy in Ethiopia. America continues to support dictators, as it also did when Ethiopia was ruled by Haile Selassie, because Haile Sellassie was a willing pawn in the US geopolitical worldview, which took precedence over supporting democratic struggles. Even when Mengistu opted to ally with the Soviet Union, the various armed struggles against Mengistu were disregarded by Washington.
It is viciously ironic that yesterday’s liberators from the Mengistu dictatorship have now ruled Ethiopia with an iron fist for over two decades, propped up by the United States in the name of partnership against ‘the war on terror’. Last year, Meles Zenawi passed two draconian laws that strengthen his grip on the country. A terrorism law criminalises many forms of dissent and a charities law restricts foreign funding for civic organisations. Zenawi, in power for 20 years, was re-elected last year by an outrageous 99.6 per cent of the votes, Mubarak, in Egypt’s last election, won by 99.9 per cent.
It is clear that US policy in both countries is conducted at the expense of the democratic aspirations of the peoples. There is this eerie similarity in that Egypt is also considered a ‘special’ geopolitical case, thereby justifying US support for the Mubarak dictatorship.
In what other ways does the situation in Egypt mirror the situation in Ethiopia? The contexts between the Ethiopia of 1974 and that of Egypt in 2011 are obviously significantly different in some ways. For one thing, there is no Soviet Union competing with the US for patronage of bloody dictators and Egypt is more homogeneous and cohesive than the ethnically divided Ethiopia. Nevertheless, there are similarities.
Both Ethiopians and Egyptians wanted to remove a dictator, and their ultimate objective was instituting political and economic democracy. Similar to the PMAC in Ethiopia, the generals in Egypt posing as protectors of Egyptian stability are trying to postpone acceding to popular demand. As in Ethiopia in 1974, Egyptians now are in real danger of being hijacked by the high echelons of the military whose loyalties do not link them to the Egyptian masses. These generals owe their positions to Mubarak, having clearly enriched themselves as his cronies, serving in key positions while maintaining the police state. Mubarak is gone, but the regime that he created is still intact, and the US supports ‘managed continuity’ with perhaps some cosmetic makeover.
One possible scenario materialising in Egypt is that the military may allow enough political freedoms to gain some credit and legitimacy as reformers. Typically, this means holding regular elections and permitting the creation of a few opposition parties, a scattering of independent civic groups, and an independent newspaper or two. But they may maintain a strong enough hold on the levers of power to ensure that no serious threats to their rule emerge. Is post-Mubarak Egypt destined to be stymied by such semi-authoritarian arrangements?
Governance in Egypt will be daunting, even for the most well intentioned government. Crony capitalism is pervasive, making Egypt one of the most unequal societies on the planet. According to the United Nations Development Program, a third of Egyptian children are malnourished and 40 per cent of Egyptians live under the poverty line, while members of the Egyptian military control key sectors of the economy and are the primary economic beneficiaries of cronyism. Under these circumstances, is it not possible for Egypt to regress slowly back to another corrupt and blatant dictatorship?
The trump card in this whole scenario is the role the United States will choose to play. The history of US policy in Egypt is significantly similar to its policy in Ethiopia. Egypt is also considered a ‘special’ geopolitical case, whose stability and partnership is crucial in the ‘war on terror’ and for the peace treaty with Israel. This was used to support the Mubarak dictatorship for three decades. How will the US respond to the rebellion in Egypt? So far, US policy in response to the current uprising is unclear, inconsistent, ad hoc, and full of knee-jerk reactions. Depending on the individual spokesman, US motives seem confusingly complicated, ranging from the erratic to the mostly instrumental. The cruel fact is that Egyptians know the many ways America subsidised and enabled the Mubarak regime to preside over a police state for three decades, while ignoring the desperate pleas of Egyptians for basic human and civil rights. Ultimately, democracy is sustained by the inner strength of a given society, but the role of outsiders at a revolutionary moment can also serve to enable or to hinder democracy.
What is to be done?
There is a serious credibility problem for the United States among the aggrieved citizens of Egypt and indeed across the entire Middle East. For a meaningful departure from past policies, Obama must stay away from supporting dictators on geopolitical grounds. Even now, however the selective enthusiasm he shows for the protests in Iran, while giving hesitant ‘support’ for the Egyptian protest movement, is a business-as-usual approach. The crises in the Middle East and Egypt can provide the opportunity for a paradigm shift in the conduct of US foreign policy. It is time to redefine the policy of enlightened self-interest and to break loose from the rigid doctrines of another era with a radically different set of circumstances. Cold war tools are woefully inadequate for engaging the dynamic and fast changing Middle East.
A democratic Egypt will protect the rights of Egyptians and by extension those of the vulnerable and invisible guests/refugees seeking protection in the country. It will abide by the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That kind of Egypt will have a positive regional influence. It will help accelerate the democratic struggle.
Without democracy, it will be impossible to maintain peace in this whole region. In Libya, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Sudan, ethnic conflict is potentially explosive. The Egyptian uprising is having a contagion effect. Events are very fluid, and these are dangerous times for autocratic rulers around the region.
Perhaps Obama can win back some credibility by showing that he is serious about actively supporting democracy as a matter of principle, not just as an expedient way to justify military action or the use of other tactics to effect regime change against unfriendly governments.
Promoting democracy as a matter of principle does not mean focusing on lofty ideals while ignoring hard national interests. To begin to recover from the historic damage done, Obama needs to acknowledge past mistakes with sincerity and to abandon the unfortunate pattern of supporting autocratic regimes in the name of economic and security interests. Repressive autocrats breed extremism and all too often evolve into anti-Western terrorism. One way to prevent or at least to minimise this possibility is by an enlightened policy of unwavering support for the democratic aspirations of all peoples in all countries. Perhaps then, the Egyptian generals might think twice before they try to swindle Egyptians and re-entrench themselves as a new form of military oligarchy.
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* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Challenging Western distortions about Zimbabwe's land reform
For years, Western journalists have castigated Zimbabwe's land reform programme. From afar, they pronounced land reform a failure for having brought about the total collapse of agriculture and plunging the nation into chronic food insecurity. Redistributed land, we are continually told, went to cronies with political connections, while ordinary people were almost entirely excluded from the process. Farmland went to ruin because of the incompetence of the new owners. These were simple messages, drilled into the minds of the Western public through repetition. For Western reporters, certain that they owned the truth, emotion substituted for evidence. Those of a more curious frame of mind, however, were left to wonder what conditions were like in the field, where no reporter bothered to venture.
Now this gaping lacuna has been filled by two recent studies. In a report issued just over a year ago, the African Institute for Agrarian Studies (AIAS) details the results of its extensive field investigations conducted in six districts from 2005 to 2006. The other field study was done in Masvingo Province beginning in 2006 by the Livelihoods after Land Reform project, with multinational assistance, including that of the Great Britain-based Institute of Development Studies (IDS).
What both studies found was that the facts on the ground were at variance with popular Western perceptions. As the IDS study noted, ‘Those of us exposed regularly to the international, especially British, media found it hard to match what we heard on the TV and radio and read in the newspapers with what we were finding on the ground.’ There were a number of misperceptions, which in large part the team felt were due to ‘a simple lack of solid, field-level data.’ Although it is true that there has been such a lack, this factor alone does not account for the inaccuracy of Western news reports. The ideological factor is paramount, as always. For that reason, even though concrete information is now available, the tone of Western reports is unlikely to change.
It can never be stressed enough that Zimbabwe inherited a highly unequal land ownership pattern from apartheid Rhodesia. By 2002, 70 per cent of the richest farmland still remained in the hands of just 4,500 white commercial farmers, focused mainly on producing crops for export. Meanwhile, 1 million indigenous families eked out a bare existence, crowded into an arid region of limited suitability for agriculture, known as the 'communal' areas. Fast-track land reform redistributed much of the commercial farmland to some 170,000 families. Whatever its faults in execution, the process has undeniably created a significantly more equitable distribution of land than what prevailed before.
That is not the story the Western audience hears. Instead, we are told that fast track land reform was a ‘land grab’ by ‘cronies’, bringing about a more unequal distribution of land than what had preceded it. Yet the surveys conducted by the AIAS and the IDS found that most beneficiaries of land reform were ordinary people, whereas those who might be categorised as ‘elites’ constituted a small minority. According to the IDS, this minority amounted to less than 5 per cent.
But it does leave open the question of how one determines who an ‘elite’ is and who is not. That one works for the government does not in itself mean that one is an ‘elite’ or a ‘crony’, nor that one has necessarily ignored the application process and simply bullied one's way into being granted land. Such cases did occur, but they hardly constitute the typical experience of resettled farmers. ‘That some of the beneficiaries are “elites” is undisputed’, notes the AIAS. ‘What is in dispute is their character and the extent of their benefit. The tendency to generalize the notion of an “elite” leaves unexplained the social content of the concept, and assumes that it lacks differentiation in a dynamic process of class formation.’ Government job holders, war veterans and ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front) members are lumped together with high ranking officials as ‘elites’ or ‘cronies’. It is assumed that all bypassed the land application process in order to seize land.
The AIAS points out that the empirical evidence shows ‘a more differentiated pattern.’ This finding is confirmed by the IDS team: ‘The composition of land reform beneficiaries is highly varied. The claim that the land reform was dominated by politically well-connected “cronies” is simply untrue. Nor are war veterans a dominant group. Although many took leadership roles during the land invasions, the majority came from rural backgrounds where they had been farming in the communal areas. While some civil servants and business people are members of the elite, many are not. Teachers, extension workers and small-scale entrepreneurs have joined the land reform, adding new skills and capacities. And farm workers too have been important beneficiaries.’
There were two resettlement schemes implemented during fast-track land reform: the A1 model, in which small farms intended to benefit the landless or disadvantaged were allocated, and the A2 model, which were larger farms that were expected to be more immediately productive. The AIAS found that most of the beneficiaries of land reform came from the communal areas, about 62 per cent. Other ordinary people accounted for the majority of the remaining percentage. Applicants for A2 farms ‘were required to submit a business development plan and a proof of capacity to finance farm operations’. For this reason urban residents unsurprisingly accounted for a far higher percentage of applicants for A2 farms than they did for A1 farms. Still, even in the A2 farms they rank second to communal farmers.
Despite a lack of infrastructure, beneficiaries were quick to take up farming operations. For instance, nearly 72 per cent of those allocated land in 2002, the peak year of land resettlement, began operations that same year. This, despite resistance by evicted commercial landowners, and the refusal of many of them to vacate the land. By 2003, the percentage of these resettled farmers that had begun farming had risen to almost 96 per cent, a far cry from the popular image of land going to waste.
Agricultural productivity, we are so often told, has been dismal since the launch of fast-track land reform. The not-always-unstated implication of Western reports is that the land would have been best left in the hands of the few wealthy commercial landowners, as only they were capable of producing bountiful outputs. That view is a manifestation of the free-market philosophy that is so comforting to the entitled: that the greatest good should go to the privileged few. From that vantage point, the many who suffer the consequences of an extreme and narrow concentration of wealth are deemed unworthy of consideration.
There has indeed been a decline in agricultural production in recent years, although for varied and complex reasons. Certainly one of the key factors responsible for the decline is that Zimbabwe's entire economy has shrunk by around 40 per cent since the year 2000. By abandoning the destructive Western-initiated structural adjustment programme, and then by accelerating land reform efforts in order to achieve a more equitable distribution of land, Zimbabwe triggered Western hostility. Neoliberal sensitivities were offended, and punishment was not long in coming. By late 2001, President George W. Bush signed into law the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, which instructed US officials in international financial institutions to ‘oppose and vote against any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the government of Zimbabwe.’ The US wields enormous influence in the decisions of the IMF (International Monetary Fund), World Bank and other international financial institutions. Great Britain and other Western countries were of like mind, and Zimbabwe found itself shut out of the kind of normal credit operations that are essential for any modern economy to operate.
Western meddling did not stop there, and the net effect was to cause the Zimbabwean economy to take a nosedive, a trend which unavoidably had an adverse impact on agricultural operations. Agriculture does not exist in isolation. In myriad ways it is interrelated to the general economy, and it cannot remain unperturbed by a deep economic downturn. For all of their expressed concern for Zimbabwe's agricultural productivity, Western leaders must bear a major portion of the responsibility for its decline. But then, that is what sanctions are intended to do: sow economic ruin in the target nation.
Another not insignificant factor in the decline of crop production is that much of the region in which Zimbabwe is situated is especially susceptible to the effects of climate change, and over the last decade there has been a sharp increase in the frequency of major drought conditions. According to the AIAS, ‘the period from 2001-2005 was characterized by poor rainfall distribution, the worst in the post-independence period.’
As this chart illustrates, rainfall and agricultural production in Zimbabwe track quite closely. Maize is measured in the chart, as this is the staple crop in Zimbabwe.
(Source: Sam Moyo’s presentation, ‘Zimbabwe's agrarian reform and prospects for recovery’)
The drought in the 2007–08 agricultural season was particularly nasty, and national maize output plummeted to 470,000 metric tons. Yet in the following season, the nation enjoyed good rainfall and as a result more than two and a half times as much maize was produced. It is impossible to consider the correlation between rainfall and agricultural output and then continue, as Western reports do, to insist on its irrelevance.
In Masvingo Province, the area the IDS studied, the ‘production since settlement, for all farmers outside the irrigated plots, has been highly dependent on the pattern of rainfall, and the droughts in many of the seasons since 2000 had a huge impact on people's ability to establish themselves. By contrast, the good rainfall years resulted in substantial harvests and were vitally important in the pattern of accumulation, allowing for the purchase of new inputs, equipment and livestock.’
Western media have distorted the pre-land reform picture as well. Contrary to the rosy picture painted of the apartheid-era inherited land ownership pattern, most commercial farms focused on export crops such as tobacco, while the bulk of food for domestic use was grown by communal farmers. In more than half of the years in the two decades preceding fast track land reform, Zimbabwe needed to import food. It is simply untrue that the import of food is a new development in Zimbabwe's history.
It is inaccurate to attribute a drop in agricultural production entirely to resettled farmers. The ‘pattern of low yields based on inputs' constraints’, the AIAS reports, ‘also affected communal area farmers … Indeed, a large proportion of the marketed maize and cotton in recent years is found to have originated from the newly resettled areas.’ The evidence in the AIAS survey, as well as according to the views of farmers and extension workers, ‘is that yields have declined mainly because of the shortages of (and failure to access) inputs’ by new farmers due to inadequate credit and personal savings. ‘Yields were also affected by frequent bouts of inclement weather.’ The shortage of draft power, too, ‘is a key constraint to timely and adequate ploughing.’
Historically, the success of any land reform effort depends on the support new farmers are given. Adequate agricultural inputs are essential. Unfortunately, Zimbabwe has had to deal with some daunting challenges in that regard.
The AIAS found that less than half of the farmers it surveyed relied on inorganic fertilizer, production of which has sharply declined in the nation. ‘Fertilizer and agro-chemicals use have been most affected because they require some imported content yet foreign currency resources have been scarce.’ And the supply of foreign currency is low due to Western sanctions. As the IDS study points out, other factors include ‘frequent plant and machinery breakdowns and power cuts, and the reduced capacity of the National Railways of Zimbabwe, leading to increased costs of moving raw materials from mines and ports by road.’ Sanctions have reduced Zimbabwe's access to spare parts to keep machinery running, and the poor supply of foreign currency limits the amount of electrical power that can be imported from neighbouring countries. ‘Furthermore,’ the AIAS notes, ‘the majority of the new farmers are resource-constrained and thus cannot afford to meet their input requirements from the market even when the inputs are available.’
Prior to the fast-track land reform process, large commercial farms received strong credit-line support from both state and private financial institutions, while nearly all smallholders lacked such support. After fast track land reform, most of the private financial companies withdrew altogether from offering credit to farmers. Only 2 per cent of resettled farmers ‘benefitted from private sector crop input schemes and none were beneficiaries for livestock programs.’ Financial support for the burgeoning number of farmers fell to the state, which was ill-equipped to meet the need, with its financial resources stretched to the breaking point by economic sanctions. As a result, only a small percentage of resettled farmers were able to benefit from adequate credit support, compelling most of them to rely on their own savings to manage.
International NGOs for the most part refused to provide any services to resettled farmers, and focused their efforts elsewhere. Relying for their funding on Western governments hostile to the land reform process, NGOs were loath to support the beneficiaries of a process they preferred to see fail. Less than 3 per cent of resettled farmers in the AIAS study sample received extension support from NGOs. ‘Input assistance from NGOs was even lower with 1.7 per cent of the beneficiaries having received such support.’ AIAS interviews with NGO officials revealed that the organisations were opposed to operating in resettled areas because they regarded land reform as illegitimate. These humanitarian organisations, it seems, were much happier with the old system, in which the many suffered hunger and privation while the wealthy few thrived.
And yet, despite all obstacles, many resettled farmers have managed to prosper. According to the IDS study, ‘impressive investments have been made in clearing the land, in livestock, in equipment, in transport and in housing.’ Indeed, the IDS argues, ‘the scale of investment carried out by people themselves, and without significant support from government or aid agencies, is substantial, and provides firm foundations for the future.’
‘Cattle holdings have a direct impact on crop production,’ notes the IDS study, and ‘the value of draft power, transport and manure is substantial.’ In the IDS study sample, herd sizes in the resettled areas have grown, while households without cattle have declined.
One of the primary goals of land reform in Zimbabwe was poverty alleviation, a deeply unpopular concept in the US and Great Britain, but one that still means something in much of the rest of the world. While not every farmer is succeeding, the majority of resettled farmers have experienced real change in their lives. As one farmer explained, ‘We are happier here at the resettlement. There is more land, plots are larger and there is no overcrowding. Last season I got very good yields, and filled two granaries with sorghum. Following resettlement, there is now a future for my family, and my sons will have land.’ Another man had ‘little land to farm’ prior to resettlement, and relied for help from his relatives in order to survive. He and his wife have managed to clear four hectares on their new farm. ‘Before I had no cattle,’ he said, ‘but now I own five head, all purchased through farming. I have also managed to buy a plough.’ In a turnaround, no longer needing support from his family, it is he who helps family members back in the communal areas during periods of drought, and sends cash to pay for his young brothers' school fees. ‘The new land has transformed our lives,’ he remarks. According to another farmer, ‘Life has changed remarkably for me because I have more land and can produce more than I used to.’ These are typical comments from resettled farmers.
‘While newspaper headlines around the world emphasized the collapse of agriculture and the growth in food insecurity in the country,’ the IDS study reports, ‘the new farmers were getting on with establishing their new farms and producing, sometimes in very substantial amounts. This disconnect between perception and reality became most apparent following the 2008-9 season which resulted in very substantial production. At the same time, the aid agencies and those interested in discounting any success in land reform, were proclaiming impending famine and need for massive food imports.’
This is not to say that there are no problems. For example, as the IDS study points out, ‘The failure of input supply and delivery has seriously hampered production.’ Indeed, improving the supply of inputs is perhaps the single most important task need.
Wages paid to farm workers tend to be low, a pattern that has persisted even after fast-track land reform took over most of the large-scale commercial farms. Still, more farm workers than not report an improvement in their working conditions since the implementation of fast-track land reform. Working conditions for farm workers constitute a key weakness, and even though the lives of farm workers were particularly harsh under the former large-scale commercial farm owners, there is substantial room for improvement.
The discrepancy in size between A1 and A2 farms presents an inherently unstable situation when there are still so many people who need land. The class differentiation between A2 farm owners, A1 farmers and those in communal areas, including landowners and the landless, is likely to grow over time.
In particular, in a region highly vulnerable to climate change, an expansion of irrigation schemes is critical. That, however, will be difficult for the cash-strapped government of Zimbabwe to achieve, except in the unlikely event that Western governments ease the sanctions regime.
Still, despite these problems, fast-track land reform has created a vastly more equitable distribution of land compared to the previous lopsided ownership pattern. Poverty alleviation has been real, and many have for the first time in their lives been given hope. Resettled farmers are determined to succeed. As one put it, ‘Land is what we fought for. Our relatives died for this land… Now we must make use of it.’ As a sovereign nation, Zimbabwe has the right to improve its citizens' lives, regardless of how offensive that ambition is to the imperialist nations. The land belongs to the people of Zimbabwe, and resettled farmers are succeeding in spite of the obstacles thrown in their way by Western sanctions and interference.
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* Gregory Elich is on the Board of Directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute and on the Advisory Board of the Korea Truth Commission. He is the author of the book 'Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit'.
* This article was first published by Global Research.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 ‘Fast Track Land Reform Baseline Study in Zimbabwe: Trends and Tendencies, 2005/06,’ African Institute for Agrarian Studies, December 2009.
 Ian Scoones, et al, ‘Zimbabwe's Land Reform: Myths and Realities,’ James Currey, 2010.
 Ian Scoones, et al, p. 1-2
 African Institute for Agrarian Studies, p. 22
 African Institute for Agrarian Studies, p. 50-51
 African Institute for Agrarian Studies, p. 52
 Ian Scoones, et al, p. 103
 Ian Scoones, et al, p. 96
 Sam Moyo, ‘Agrarian Reform and Prospects for Recovery,’ African Institute for Agrarian Studies, July 28, 2009
 African Institute for Agrarian Studies, p. 175
 African Institute for Agrarian Studies, p. 69
 Ian Scoones, et al, p. 96
 African Institute for Agrarian Studies, p. 69
 African Institute for Agrarian Studies, p. 163
 African Institute for Agrarian Studies, p. 75
 African Institute for Agrarian Studies, p. 77 Ian Scoones, et al, p. 210-211
 African Institute for Agrarian Studies, p. 163
 African Institute for Agrarian Studies, note on p. 163
 Ian Scoones, et al, p. 77
 Ian Scoones, et al, p. 122
 Ian Scoones, et al, p. 117
 Ian Scoones, et al, p. 6
 Ian Scoones, et al, p. 66-67
 Ian Scoones, et al, p. 238
 Ian Scoones, et al, p. 124-125
 Ian Scoones, et al, p. 125
 African Institute for Agrarian Studies, note on p. 109
 African Institute for Agrarian Studies, note on p. 112-113
 Ian Scoones, et al, p. 76
Everyone matters, everyone is human
The fight for justice in rural KwaZulu-Natal
David Ntseng with Mark Butler
Over a number of years, Thulani Ndlazi has been Church Land Programme's primary link with the emergence, growth and struggles of the Rural Network. During 2010, while Thulani took some sabbatical leave, colleague, David Ntseng, took on temporary responsibility for sustaining those links. Up until then, David's contact with militants of the Rural Network in Northern Zululand had mostly been enabled through participating in solidarity actions – especially at the eShowe Magistrates Court where a case of murder of two scholars is being tried against two security guards:
I have participated in protest marches, picketing outside court and sitting inside the court room listening to the trial. But I had no idea where these villages are that the people come from, nor what their life is like. I have always enjoyed hearing the testimonies by these militants describing their experiences on the farms and their revolutionary attempts to resist brutalities on the farms. One of the militants invited me to come with him to see where people live and how they live, so I can connect their struggles to their daily experiences. In this short article I present my reflection of what I was invited to see, hear, taste, smell and feel.
I got there mid morning, accompanied by a gracious female militant from the area. She had already told some people that I would be coming and that I would be happy to have time to listen to their stories. The farm sits on the foothills and is adjacent to orchard farms owned by a white farmer. That neighbouring farm is hard to see from the distance because it is tucked behind the orchards and at the bottom of the hill. On the whole it gave a sense of an isolated or hidden place.
On arrival, people started showing up and before I knew it there were already twenty people, mostly women. As they gathered, I recognised faces as those of militants I always see in eShowe magistrate court. I was happy to see them and they were too. What was alarming was that I came to pay them a visit. I had no special news to share, no programme to roll out, no project to launch. I just came to see them and really have a chance to connect their stories to their context.
Discussions began and there were really shocking experiences that people have to endure on regular basis. The leader of the community, who is a woman, began by describing how they are treated by the local farmer, the owner of the orchard farms. More disturbing was hearing her describe the way security guards physically abuse local residents and their livestock. The day I came was four days since someone's cow had been shot dead and hidden in the bush by the security guards. Others joined the discussion telling how they or their next of kin have been assaulted by the security guards. Their situation is like a life of imprisonment - they said that every move they make is controlled. They have to put up with interrogation every time they go to town or to schools or to graze their cattle. Although there are regulations about cattle impounding, the next-door farm impounds their cattle all the time. As residents, they have learnt to stand up to these security guards and protect their livestock and their rights to live as normal human beings not objects to be pushed around.
They went on to talk about how the Department of Land Affairs (DLA) has abdicated its responsibility and left them to be trashed upon by ruthless farmer. It all began with boundary disputes. The farmer’s claims of the boundaries do not match the residents’ claims. The local iNkosi is said to have been very lenient to the farmer and allowed him to shift boundaries. DLA, with all the resources it has, has not been able to present registered cadastral data that indicates at what point the farms split.
DLA is accused of ignoring the residents of eNkwalini, even failing to appoint an officer to work with eNkwalini residents. In addition, accusations regarding DLA conduct mean that eNkwalini people are forgotten citizens – people who do not matter. In their assertion they feel they are being used by DLA and the farmer to settle their scores. DLA offered to buy land as a way to deal with the dispute and the farmer agreed - but at a high price. With the DLA refusing to meet the farmer’s price, the residents pay the human cost, living a life of daily brutality, physical assault and livestock impounding.
Situated along the R34, between eNkwalini and eMpangeni, this farm is part of a tribal authority. I met with the local chairperson, a militant male who has recently been arrested and charged with 'public violence' and violating the Gatherings Act. He took me to the kwaMpanza family where I was going to spend most of my stay. I must say that for me it was a real honour that I set my feet at the Mpanza homestead. This is the family that had lost a son in 2006 after he had been ambushed by security guards with four others (where Thembinkosi Mpanza and Vukani Shange died) in a sugarcane farm not too far from their homes. To me this family is the centre of the trial that has been my point of contact with other militants in Northern Zululand.
I was shown the grave of Thembinkosi Mpanza, [may his soul rest in peace] but like all other young men and women who die defying structural poverty, his blood was shed to water the tree of the struggle for freedom…
I was shown the school he attended until the day he was killed. I saw another young man who was the state witness and a good friend of Thembinkosi. I couldn’t help it but shake his hand and commend him for the bravery he had shown in court, giving his account of how they were ambushed. I hope to God that the law will take its course and does justice, and not let people go with impunity even when they have robbed a village of a young man who would have made a positive difference.
Here too I told people that I had come to visit them, I did not have a project to launch or a programme to enrol them into. I came because I owe it to them to know where they live and how they live. In the discussion I learnt that it is hard to organise in the village. For many years people have been receiving communiqués from the tribal authority and through the tribal structures that will communicate their wishes.
With the trial of Thembinkosi’s murder some people have turned around and embarked on a struggle to live free of security guards and white farmers’ tyranny. The hegemonic presence of white farmers is so overwhelming because they are also the source of employment for many residents.
I was humbled by the eagerness of people to change things and to be a community that looks after each other. The death of a young man has began to testify to this effect, as more and more people are suddenly interested in knowing what is happening in court and how much they wish the perpetrators to be punished. Most of the residents that I met reiterated their steadfast commitment to be united all the way until all have a life they deserve.
Victory triumphed when the eShowe court finally found the two who were accused of killing the young men guilty for murder and attempted murder, and sentenced them to twenty years each behind bars.
I was so shocked to hear that there are ongoing land disputes - not only between white farmers and local residents, but also between local residents and their local Trust Committees that were formed as part of government's Land Restitution roll out. Weak monitoring, and a lack of post-settlement support by the Department of Land Affairs, has allowed for irregularities in the management of these restitution farms and has denied most residents the space to participate in decision-making to shape their future.
This is the village on the hill just across Umhlathuze river from the R34 between eMpangeni and eNkwalini. It is adjacent to eMasangweni. People from both farms know each other very well. In 2007, residents of kwaNtsheluntshelu won a restitution case and were awarded three farms that are next to their village. They have been working closely with their mentor, as per advice from DLA, to continue using the land for crop farming, tree plantations and sugarcane. For a long time before that, they were working as farm labourers on these farms.
I went there to be introduced to residents accompanied by the chairperson of eMasangweni village. As we went through the farm, he started telling me about his experience as a farm labourer on the same farm. He remembered what the fields looked like in those days. He told me of the productive capacity of that farm, and how unfortunate it was that it has been left to lie fallow and revert to untamed bushveld.
In the new dispensation, their local trustees have taken over the ownership of the farm on behalf of the residents. They have not managed to keep the farm in the form that it was before. Some suspect that the mentor got the best out the deal, and left the residents with just the crumbs. Some suspect irregularities from the side of trustees. Recently a new deal was signed with a white farmer who is leasing the farm for crop farming. He has reduced salaries of employees and brought back security guards, a phenomenon that residents had long forgotten about since taking over the farms.
I particularly visited the farm because another incidence of murder has happened. Mr Mpanza, a local hard-working man, was shot and killed by security guards while he was walking through a farm next door to kwaNtsheluntshelu across the river. He was walking with his three daughters and was accused of stealing oranges. I wanted to visit the Mpanza family and send my deepest condolences and extend our support (on behalf of many militants who are disgusted by the merciless killings of innocent people on farms).
As I listened to elders in the village telling their story it was clear to me that even here too, security guards are brutalising people to the extent of unreported fatalities. I cannot actually believe that this is still happening. I was told that people are found mutilated on the riverbanks and that they will then be reported to have been attacked by crocodiles trying to cross Umhlathuze river. It is true the river has many crocodiles but the number of bodies found raises concerns. Residents accuse security guards of ambushing people who are walking alone, and throwing them in the river. Mr Mpanza happened to be one of those unfortunate victims who were confronted with titanic might of security guards - and that cost him his life. He has left behind a widow and three daughters who, from just observation, show scars of the poverty they will still have to contend with for many more years to come. The family was robbed of the possibility of a better future, and that has angered all Ntsheluntshelu residents.
Police nabbed the security guard and he has appeared in the Magistrates Court in eMpangeni. He has since been granted bail. Investigation is still under-way and the trial is set for 9 and 10 February 2011. Like in the murder case of Thembinkosi and Vukani, residents have vowed to come in their numbers to support the Mpanza family. They want to see justice. They want to be seen as humans, not animals that can be butchered any time a security guard so wishes. They want farmers to know that they too are humans with rights to land and access to use land.
As a way of drawing lessons and making connections from this trip, I read again Hope and Timmel's book titled ‘Community Worker’s Handbook 1’ (1984). As an activist and as someone who believes in the role of faith in people’s struggles for freedom, it was useful for me to dig from the wells of my tradition.
It is for that reason I think it is important to quote Albert Nolan when he writes,
‘to believe in Jesus is to believe that goodness can and will triumph over evil. Despite the system, despite the magnitude, complexity and apparent insolubility of our problem today, humankind can be, and in the end will be, liberated. Every form of evil- sin and all the consequences of sin: sickness, suffering, misery, frustration, fear, oppression and injustice – can be overcome. And the only power that can achieve this is the power of a faith that believes this. For faith is, as we have seen, the power of goodness and truth, the power of God’ (in Hope and Timmel, 1984: 31).
For me this is what I can offer to militants from these villages, a reminder that they are the powerful force that can change the course of history. To change the course of history is a daunting task. It requires a sense of communion and commitment to each other. As a proverb from Madagascar has it: ‘Cross the river in a crowd and the crocodile won’t eat you’.
Unless there is commitment to organising and mobilising in numbers, efforts to dismantle the economic and political forces that condemn people to poverty, humiliation and degradation will be in vain. At a given time and a decisive point in history, people decide to act against these conditions which restrict their freedom as people. The struggles that villagers I met are waging attest to this. Most importantly, this is a hard struggle in which militants have demonstrated their strong, firm and steadfast commitment to freedom for all. Amandla!
POSTSCRIPT: NGO PRAXIS AND CELEBRATING MILITANCY
Over a number of years, the Church Land Programme (CLP) has transformed its way of being in the world and its understanding of the role of civil society in relation to emancipatory change in the world. It is not helpful simply to imagine that civil society – which is almost universally now thought of as being mainly NGOs – should be 'agents of change'. Of course, NGOs, with their/our resources, their/our middle-class staff, their/our access to circuits of information and connection in broader 'civil society', and so on, can be agents of change. But the changes they effect can seldom be properly emancipatory. Since their praxis in the world simply follows the logic of their assumption of agency, the practical effect of their work is to compromise the agency of the poor. This is a common experience of the poor as they are often conscripted into the outsider activists’ projects about ‘what should be done’.
It is through our very familiar practices that the agency of the poor is compromised: They cannot present themselves and their life struggles, so we must re-present them; they do not think, so we must think for them and ‘empower’ them with our insights; they cannot speak, so we must speak for them or ‘give voice to the voiceless’.
But it doesn't have to be that way. It is perfectly feasible to chip away at these assumptions and find ways of working in the world that abandons them in favour of a fundamental assumption of egalitarianism: The simple conviction that everyone matters, everyone is human. In that decision, the poor and oppressed cease to be objects of the outsider's project, but subjects of their own liberation. Then the possibilities of really emancipatory action to change the world unfold in the actions of 'the people' – that mass of humanity that has no name, no voice, no power. Then the NGO, like any other outsider-with-power, comes not with arrogance but humility, not contempt but love and respect, not teaching but learning, not leadership but solidarity.
When those who should not name themselves, nor speak for themselves, nor act on their own thinking, fulfil their humanity through collective struggle, they have become subjects of their and our freedom – they have become militants for the truth rather than activists on someone else's behalf, and we can all grow and discover the unimaginable depth and breadth of our collective humanity through solidarity with their struggles against injustice.
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* Church Land Programme is an independent non-profit organisation that works through a process of animation with groups of poor people to create unique responses to their unique situations.
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Ex-miners fight for justice in Swaziland
‘We will always actively try to mobilise and conscientise our people so that they become aware of their rights and that they stand and fight for them.’
Cebisamadoda Nxumalo, coordinator of the Swaziland National Ex-Mineworkers Association (SNEMA), is speaking on the role of SNEMA in a broader struggle for Swaziland’s many poor.
SNEMA was formed in 2007 because the pensions of many mineworkers, invested by the Swazi state in a fund run by Fidentia Asset Management, have not been paid. Over 50,000 ex-miners and their widows from several countries in Southern Africa, including Swaziland, have been trying to get their pensions - totalling about one billion Rand - from Fidentia and its boss J. Arthur Brown, who has allegedly laundered the entire amount from Living Hands Trust, the mineworkers pension fund (See http://bit.ly/eieoQS and http://bit.ly/hop7hd for more information).
And according to the mineworkers, the Swazi state has not exactly been playing a leading role in helping them get their pensions back, choosing instead to leave it to the South African mining industry to sort it out.
SNEMA is a member of the Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice and has grown to have over 1,000 members, mainly from destitute rural areas of Swaziland. SNEMA initially focused on lobbying the Swazi and South African state for unpaid pensions, but has over the past few years assumed a more multifaceted approach.
The organisation educates people in their branches on human rights, democracy, poverty eradication, and other relevant issues - both because these issues are interrelated to the main purpose of SNEMA, that of retrieving their pensions and with them their livelihoods, and because many ex-mineworkers are unaware of how to claim compensation for occupational injuries or diseases.
‘My sharing in our community discussions on key socio-economic issues heightened my knowledge about my rights, and made me link this up with the extreme poverty levels that are evident in our communities,’ said one SNEMA member of the sense of empowerment and consciousness that SNEMA’s education programmes have given him. ‘Not only has it increased the levels of understanding and awareness about our rights,’ he continues, ‘but it has also yielded positive results in the sense that we are now more united. We believe that in the future, we shall wage a victorious struggle against unjust and undemocratic tendencies perpetrated by the state.’
One of the success stories of SNEMA, based on the increasing democratic and rights-based consciousness of its leaders and members, was its ability to take the Swazi state to court, and win (See http://bit.ly/feQThv)
The court case was over the Swazi states failure to provide free primary school education for everyone, as promised in the constitution, and although the Swazi High Court later reversed the court victory (see http://bit.ly/fHCY1x), the initial win was still an important lesson in the power of the combination of consciousness and mobilisation. Especially as a combination of traditional rule and a brutal clampdown on anything political in Swaziland has left large parts of the population politically apathetic.
‘In the past I had looked at the issue of human rights as a foreign thing,’ says another SNEMA member. ‘To me the concept of human rights was a foreign thing, introduced by foreign vultures. However, my involvement with SNEMA changed these wrongfully conceived perceptions.’
Many Swazi men have worked in South African mines during the past one hundred years or so. Swazis were forced to become work seekers due to the hut and poll taxes that were introduced in the late 19th century and the land partitions in the early 20th century. The taxes were introduced because of labour shortages in the mining industry that had sprung up during the latter part of the 19th century in what was then called the Transvaal region of South Africa. As there was little opportunity for employment within Swaziland itself, huge numbers of Swazi men - at times up to well over a third of the male population - ended up working in South Africa, many on the mines.
South African mines have generally had a reputation for excessive levels of injuries, disease and fatalities, although this has somewhat improved in recent years. In 2009, 165 people died in mining accidents in South African mines as opposed to 309 people in 1999 (see http://bit.ly/ieZnoA). Tuberculosis amongst mine workers is amongst the highest in the world (See http://bit.ly/hRohS4)
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* Peter Kenworthy is Africa Contact's communication and project officer.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Where hypocrisy knows no bounds
US hypocrisy knows no bounds as recently spoken by Ben Terrall here on Pambazuka News. Democracy is only democracy if the leadership is approved by the US, which continues to demonise Fanmi Lavalas and oppose President Bertrand Aristide’s return to his homeland. In this narrative, Haitian presidential candidate Michel Martelly gets approval despite his dubious credentials to run a country and his much reported Macoute connections and despite the consensus that last November’s elections were massively fraudulent.
The Haitian Blogger makes a strong argument for cancelling the planned 20 March run-off elections between Martelly and Madam Mirlande Manigat, both who initially protested against the elections results until told by the UN they were in the lead. She calls on President Preval who, for once showed some sign of independent action and issued a new passport to President Aristide, to take this one step further and reject Western interference in Haiti:
‘Haitian government should consider the big picture and reject the control the West is trying to have in Haitian internal affairs and say: Hell with the IHRC! Get out of Haiti MINUSTAH! Eh, get lost Canada! Au voir France!’
Jadaliyya comments on the US/International Community/ UN Security Council’s decision to impose sanctions on Libya which until a month ago, having been brought in from ‘rogue state’ status was embraced by all of the above. In reference to the Resolution’s promise to ‘strengthen its measures’, the writer makes some suggestions on how these measures might look:
‘Recalling the unwillingness of the Security Council and the International Criminal Court to initiate investigations about allegations of war crimes committed by the U.S., the U.K., and other “Great Powers” in Iraq and elsewhere;
- Recalling the illegitimate and undemocratic structure of the United Nations Security Council, which grants permanent seats, and veto rights, to “Great Powers”;
- Underlining that the UN Security Council does not have an authority speak in the name of humanity or the international community;
- Affirming that the citizens of Libya have taken their destiny into their own hands by an uprising against their government, and that they are the legitimate deciders of their future;
- Noting that the threat of war crimes prosecution may create perverse effects and incentives, and that more state violence may be unleashed on Libyan citizens as a consequence;
- Observing that the strengthening of measures by the United Nations Security Council may involve an international intervention justified on the grounds of crimes against humanity;
- Concludes that the UN Security Council Resolution 1970 further exposes the double-standards of this institution which arrogates itself an authority to decide on behalf of humanity.’
One of my favorite blogs, is Koranteng’s Toli In this post titled ‘Fallen Angels [Things Fall Apart]’, which apparently was planned some four years ago, he takes us on a guided tour of the ‘Little Green Book’. For those who have forgotten, this is Gaddafi’s contribution to literary gobbledegook. Here is a short excerpt but please do try to read the whole prose:
‘Back home in Ghana at the depth of our despair
When books were scarce, and food shelves were laid bare
‘He of The Little Green Book made a donation
A token of the good Colonel's appreciation
‘A thousand copies of The Little Green Book
Brotherly solidarity, extended to the Ghanaian pocketbook
‘The generosity of his wisdom, to be shared far and wide.
Our universities, the recipients of his vacuous bromides
‘We'd learned heavy lessons about what he called revolution
"Crush the dissent", "Don't brook any opposition".
‘Thus, ever since the Flight Lieutenant's arrival
We'd had to develop a new philosophy of survival
‘At airports, we would fight over corned beef and sardine tins
Throughout I kept asking myself: why are these men laughing?’
Mwana ba Afrika engages in some light relief on naming in southern Africa. In case there are still some people out there who are not convinced Egypt is in Africa, confirmation is at hand.
‘They like to separate North Africa because this region is sooo different from sub-Saharan Africa, ha! Lies, lies I tell you because the Egyptian man who has named his first-born daughter Facebook has just displayed typical African behaviour by giving his child an inappropriate English word for a name.................In my country people are called Crankshaft, Anybody, Foluteer (a bastardisation of Volunteer) and many other highly inappropriate names. Some names are translated straight from vernacular to English, immediately turning them from normal to inappropriate, as well as made up names that sound English and last but not least English names that are mispronounced and until they are spelt you would have no idea that that Kle-gee is actually called Craig. TIA, gotta love it :)’
The Black List Pub comments on ‘farcical and anarchic’ Nigerian car number plates. He begins by defining the word ‘farce’:
‘A light dramatic work in which highly improbable plot situations, exaggerated characters, and often slapstick elements are used for humorous effect’. And ‘The broad or spirited humor characteristic of such works’. Or ‘A ludicrous, empty show; a mockery: e.g. The Maurice Iwu-conducted 2007 election [the 2007 Nigerian elections] was a farce.’
He goes on to give examples of Nigerian state number plates – below is a small selection – should we laugh or should we cry ... No beg for revolutionary forces to emerge on this glorious land:
‘Bayelsa “The Glory of All Lands”
‘Thank God, they are not calling it “The Wealth of the Nation”, that would have been too obvious, isn’t it? But what exactly is their glory there? Oil spills, dirty and foul-smelling creeks, gas-flaring and irresponsible governors and local chiefs? All these and the corruption have given the state's slogan a hollow ring.
‘Plateau “Home of Peace and Tourism”
‘Its cool climate and cultural landmarks have always made it an attraction for the rare tourists who make it to Nigeria, but Plateau has been plagued by religious and ethnic violence promoted and sustained by evil, calculating politicians that have killed hundreds. What have they turned one of the most beautiful environments in the world into?”
‘Nassarawa "Home of Solid Minerals"
‘but where are the minerals to complement the oil? Last I heard, those solid minerals are mined by individuals who never make any returns to the Federal Government, and the Federal Government is in full awareness of this but cannot do anything about it because these are powerful illegal miners.”
‘Abia "God's Own State"
‘Yes, indeed. Why not “God’s Own People”? God gave Abia Orji Kalu, and the state has never been the same again. I know of only one God’s own people, and they are not in Abia State. They give Igbos a bad name.
‘Enugu State - “Coal City State”
‘Yes, the last time I heard about coal coming from Enugu was when I was in the primary school in the 1960s. Since then, all the coal must have disappeared into some people’s land and pockets.”
‘And finally, Kebbi “Land of Equity”
‘For a state that used to be part of the Sokoto Caliphate and introduced Sharia laws, I wonder where the Equity is coming from. But we are all here waiting.
Diary of a Mad Kenyan Woman comments on the proposal by a group of young Kenyans for all Kenyans to sing the national anthem on 28 February. ‘Why? It is a summons to unity, a hail’ - if only things were that simple. DMKW will sing, but not for the requested reasons.
‘These may be uplifting ideas, but I fear that they foreclose necessary reflection and may collude in our burgeoning amnesia: I am not sure that we have much to be proud of in these parlous times.
‘Six of our leading representatives and public figures are under grave suspicion by the International Criminal Court of crimes against humanity, but this apparently does not perturb us. Our internally displaced citizens continue to languish in refugee camps, which disturbs our comfort not at all. Millions of young people are unemployed and frustrated but we would rather not discuss it. Ethnic militias gather force and virulence: still, we are content. A vulgar misogyny accompanied by a homophobia as vile as it is pervasive finds extensive purchase in our collective psyche: we are unflappable. We seem to enjoy all these, or at least not to mind them enough to engage with their implications.’
Black Looks publishes a signed statement by African bloggers on David Kato and Uganda.
‘We the undersigned wish to express our deep sadness at the murder of Ugandan human rights defender David Kato on 26th January 2011. David's activism began in the 1980s as an Anti-Apartheid campaigner where he first expressed a strong passion and conviction for freedom and justice which continued throughout his life. David was a founding member of Sexual Minorities Uganda where he first served as Board member and until his death as Litigation and Advocacy Officer and he was also a member of Integrity Uganda, a faith-based advocacy organization…’
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* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
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The big green race to extinction
This piece continues the series being presented by Cory Morningstar and Gregory Vickrey and is part of their anticipated and controversial book and multimedia project due out in 2011.
2011 | THE RACE TO THE BOTTOM ACCELERATES
Illustration courtesy of Stephanie McMillan | CODE GREEN
“The Earth isn’t dying, it’s being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.” – Utah Philips
As we now stand firmly on the precipice – staring irreversible climate catastrophe and natural resource depletion squarely in the face – the world accelerates its pace in a mad race to the bottom. Running with the baton are the world’s largest environmental NGOs – non-profit organizations. Although the industrial non-profit complex claims to speak for civil society, in reality these groups are the sanctioning agents of a planet which is rapidly becoming completely dominated by corporate control. These groups have been integral to lending legitimacy and credibility to the very corporations hell bent on destroying and commodifying what little remains of our increasingly fragile planet. What we are now witnessing is a race for the last remaining shared commons. Commons which should be protected and held ‘in trust’ for future generations – if only our governments were not mere puppets of corporate power and control.
WTF WEF: “DEFINING CIVIL SOCIETY, ONCE AND FOR ALL”
“We are blinded, enchanted and finally enslaved by spectacle.” – Empire of Illusion, Chris Hedges
In the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting of 2005 one topic of significant importance was ‘Defining Civil Society, Once and For All’. The moderator Bassir Pour cited there was a 15 minute delay as many of the participants had been listening to the panel titled ‘The G8 and Africa: Rhetoric or Action? ‘ This panel had highlighted an example of ‘civil society in action’ in the form of a demonstration by Greenpeace, which Pour said put a smile on her lips because it was so peaceful. To be sure, there is nothing that makes a corporation or corporate-controlled government happier than a passive, unthreatening demonstration with no fighting spirit. Mind you, the same corporate entities do not uphold such similar peaceful ideologies for themselves to abide by. For example, in Columbia and other developing countries, Coca-Cola has murdered hundreds of union leaders. Dole has had no qualms in knowingly exposing banana workers to toxins resulting in sterilization. On December 26, 2009, Dora “Alicia” Recinos Sorto, age 32, was assassinated. Dora was the second anti-mining activist killed that week in the small community of Nueva Trinidad. Recinos Sorto was eight months pregnant and carrying her two-year old child when she was shot on her way back from doing laundry at a nearby river. Canadian Mining Company Pacific Rim has come under fire for these accelerating assassinations which continue today. In vulnerable countries such violence has become a daily part of life. Activists are targeted and become the invisible victims of the murderous economic system. Demonstrations have morphed from the fierce unwavering determination witnessed in the sixties to the ‘acceptable’ demonstrations now recognized today which are overwhelmingly ineffective. Such assembly line ‘protests’ undoubtedly inspire reactions from the global elite such as, “look at the cute proles who believe they can make a difference – adorable. Now let’s get back to business.” Touching on today’s ineffective movements, on 3 February 2011, Mr. Fish of truthdig.org asks the question: “What do we have now? An anti-war movement that is so gutless and so savagely unimaginative that, rather than gaining purpose and momentum in the face of our government’s ever-increasing disdain for peace in the Middle East, it has proved itself to be too lazy, even too cowardly, to face down the very disease of oligarchy that it had concocted itself to cure.” This statement can easily be applied to today’s environmental movement.
Pacific Rim Corporation: Above: Anti-Mining Activist Recinos Sorto – Assassinated
WEF: “ORGANIZING THEIR DREAM WORLD“
One response to the question of ‘how to define civil society’ was that since big business foundations are incentivized by the tax code, corporations are not civil society, but foundations are. Therefore it should be no surprise the ‘big green’ groups who claim they receive no corporate funding can legitimately do so, merely because foundations serve as corporate front groups. The big greens are funded by the very foundations set up by the corporations who essentially serve as a money laundering service in what the elites proclaim as philanthro-capitalism. Others questions in the WEF discussion were: “Could an NGO formed by a corporation be part of civil society? Does acceptance of government contracts make an NGO an extension of government? Are the big NGOs still members of civil society?” In the summing up period, Pour said, Kofi Annan’s advice was the main point: to keep “organizing our dream world.”
The following year, at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of 2006 a topic of significant importance was ‘Building Trust in Public and Private Institutions’. Richard Edelman, President and CEO of Edelman, USA, reported that opinion leaders now trust NGOs more than business, media and government for information. “NGOs are the most trusted institution in nearly every market,” he stated. (Edelman’s Trust Barometer 2006 Seventh Global Opinion Leaders Study). He further reported that “Information conveyed by CEOs is at the bottom of the list, even lower than politicians, with organizations such as Amnesty International, WWF World Wide Fund for Nature, Greenpeace, and Médecins Sans Frontières at the top of the ranking.” Guy Ryder, General Secretary, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), Brussels, corroborated the Edelman survey: “Trust matters. There is a feeling of bewilderment which dramatically impacts on people’s lives. They feel powerless; we do not have a means of expressing opinions. ‘Trust proximity’ is the thing that you are familiar with; it includes the things you understand.” Ryder further explained that for the ordinary person, “NGOs seem ‘more like me’ and convey the things that matter to me.” He noted that the fall of confidence in public institutions is the most alarming. “53% of people in the US want to be represented by trade unions, but corporate America stops this.” (Corporate America certainly does stop this. Corporate power has been utilizing corporate-owned media to its absolute advantage in a major attempt to turn the public sentiment against unions – the last remaining collective to threaten corporate power. The rhetoric spewed out by the corporate media is nothing less than incredible.)
Make no mistake, NGOs are recognized by corporate power as an absolutely essential element – indispensable for ensuring corporate power can quite easily advance their agenda.
FIRST PLACE: NATURE CONSERVANCY
“Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate” – Bertrand Russell
At the front line of the race to the bottom we must recognize The Nature Conservancy for accepting the challenge of “protecting nature” in an announced new partnership with Dow Chemical who have generously gifted Nature Conservancy with a cool $10 million. Unfortunately, this ‘bankrolled consent’ most likely means Dow will be too financially strapped to clean up Bhopal – whose citizens continue to suffer to this day. Never mind last week it was announced that Dow’s profit has tripled. The corporation reported a profit of $511 million for the quarter ending in December 2010. Nature Conservancy’s president and CEO is none other than former Goldman Sachs Group executive, Mark Tercek. Perhaps not coincidentally, formerNature Conservancy president Henry Paulson also made his rounds through the revolving doors of the Goldman Sachs Group. Yet another Nature Conservancy board member, Muneer Satter, also originated from Goldman Sachs. You may recall the name Goldman Sachs – most known for their role in the brilliantly executed 2008 financial crisis which threw millions into poverty as the rich became even richer. As well, Nature Conservancy just hired a new marketing director in 2010 — former executive vice president for marketing at World Wrestling Entertainment. Prior to that position, he served as senior vice president for marketing at Showtime Networks. Showtime indeed. Fiction? Satire? Unfortunately not. If such organizations were not so dangerous, one would have to laugh. However, considering we are on the brink of exterminating our own children, this is truly sickening and no laughing matter. (Fyi – The Nature Conservancy has more than $3.7 billion in assets, annual revenue of $860 million – remember that when they ask you for your last 20 bucks.)
SECOND PLACE: GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL
And what does the world’s most recognized NGO plan to do in the face of cataclysmic climate change, as the opportunity to avoid irreversible planetary collapse slowly dissipates? It launches an international campaign to ‘green’ Facebook by Earth Day, April 22, 2011.
Update! 11 February 2011: “Today we need you to join a very special photo petition – … no, call it a competition – The 10 most-liked photos on Wednesday, 16 February at 17:00 CET will feature in an upcoming Greenpeace activity… (say no more, nudge nudge, wink wink). We also have campaign t-shirts for the top ten, and a CD of “Amchitka, The 1970 Concert that Launched Greenpeace,” featuring Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs, and James Taylor, for the most popular photo of all. The funniest, weirdest, and most provocative photos will probably get the most ‘Likes’, so have some fun with it, submit your photo and get “liking” right away! Happy snapping, Team Facebook (at Greenpeace!)”
THIRD PLACE: WWF PRESENTS NATIONAL SWEATER DAY
“It’s time to Get Sweatered!” WWF-Canada announces a brand new campaign for Sweater Day, February 17, 2011. And after this you can look forward to shutting your lights off for that one hour a year in WWF’s annual Earth Hour campaign. As always, big greens frame the conversation on what an individual can do while vehemently neglecting to discuss the root cause of climate change – the current economic system. In this campaign, our youth is led to believe that small individual actions will help solve our environmental crisis. They can’t. Further, the crisis is framed to be most unthreatening, simply because the solution proposed requires so little effort. Of course, this campaign isn’t complete without prizes to feed the insatiable need to consume – which this campaign endorses by way of participation. (WWF International’s operating revenue totalled 224.2 million in 2010. Carter Roberts, CEO and President, took home a meagre $486,394 in 2008.)
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: FRIENDS OF THE EARTH INTERNATIONAL
Courtesy of Keith Farnish’s Unsuitablog
“Find out about the Good Shopping Guide application: http://bit.ly/hH44mK Plus win an iPod touch! ” – Friends of the Earth via twitter
Friends of the Earth, 1970-2011 RIP
The video featuring a 2 minute summary of the COP16 conference and highlighting the brand TckTckTck makes light of our planetary emergency and tells the viewer… absolutely nothing. Further, the video frames Bolivia as an obstructionist to the negotiations when in fact Bolivia stood alone rejecting an agreement which will lead to mass genocide. Alone, Bolivia fought for life using powerful, ethical arguments, defending the people’s agreements adopted in Cochabamba which would protect Mother Earth, all species and future generations. All big greens have declined to endorse the People’s Agreement which places people before corporate profit. It appears this video, being promoted widely, was created by TckTckTck partner UKYCC.
FIRST PRIZE FOR MOST DANGEROUS: GREENPEACE AT THE WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM
“Capitalism justified itself and was adopted as an economic principle on the express ground that it provides selfish motives for doing good, and that human beings will do nothing except for selfish motives” – George Bernard Shaw
In the frontline of global economic forums such as the WEF, commonly referred to simply as Davos, you will recognize the exceptionally orchestrated Greenpeace demonstrations. This is the Greenpeace that rides today on the coat-tails of the legacy laid down by the original Greenpeace founders decades ago. A Greenpeace which in reality no longer exists. Before being co-opted by corporate power, Greenpeace consisted of grassroots activists who were not interested in discussing compromise. One such founder, Bob Hunter, wore a ‘fuck off’ sign around his neck in a public meetings. These real-life eco-warriors had no fear of ripping to shreds those who were destroying our planet.
A headline on an image posted on 10 January 2011 reads, “Sixty Greenpeace activists dressed in skeleton suits protest in front of the World Economic Forum conference against Dow Chemical”. The banners reads, “Clean up Bhopal Now!” The images are moving. Yet, in the background something much different is going on … behind the scenes … for those who dance in the elitist circle … the champagne flows almost as fast as the money.
7 February 2011, Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International and chair of the Havas creation TckTckTck ‘speaks to power’ in Johannesburg, South Africa. Naidoo explains that at the World Economic Forum in Davos he had meetings with no fewer than 15 chief executives of major corporations, men whose decisions help shape (destroy) our environment and affect workers’ rights (exploitation) and ultimately what kind of world we pass on to our children and grandchildren (irreversible climate hell with collapsed ecosystems). Naidoo states that the first meeting was a breakfast briefing with Unilever. Naidoo states he was invited by the chief executive to speak of the curious relationship his company enjoys with Greenpeace.
Curious. Yes. It is most interesting that TckTckTck creator Havas serves the world’s most powerful clients such as Unilever and EDF (nuclear).
For an excellent briefing on why Greenpeace working with corporate power for a better world is bullshit slash greenwash, Richard Samans offers an astute analysis in “Running the World After the Crash,” in Jan 2011 Foreign Policy. “Two years ago the elites were scared to death by the global crash, their economic nostrums discredited. Thousands of citizens took to the streets. Governments fell. Others desperately promised a new era of financial re-regulation, world cooperation on the environment and food crises created by neoliberalism and exponential growth. Then they regained confidence. Banks were “too big to fail”. The taxpayer was told to pay the bill for the playboys of the Western world. Trillions of private debt were transferred to the taxpayer (socialism for the rich) – a bill that our children and their children will have to pay. A further consequence: there is “no money left”, we are told, to finance climate action, international aid, schools, healthcare, housing, job creation and infrastructure. The elites are laughing all the way to the bank. And the high priests of the system (at Davos Jan 2011) say the next whirl of the financial wheel will be based on carbon credits.”
FIRST PRIZE FOR MOST TASTELESS | GREENPEACE MAKES LIGHT OF TIBETAN OPPRESSION
Under attack for the tasteless 30 second Super Bowl commercial using Tibet, the corporation responsible, Groupon, stepped into the defensive mode. As images of Tibet were shown, actor Timothy Hutton read, “The people of Tibet are in trouble. Their very culture is in jeopardy.” The scene cuts to Hutton inside a restaurant: “But they still whip up an amazing fish curry. And since 200 of us bought at groupon.com we’re each getting 30 dollars worth of Tibetan food for just 15 dollars at Himalayan restaurant in Chicago.”
Although this ad is clearly distasteful and trivializes the incredibly serious issue of human rights violations in Tibet, Greenpeace, who also uses Groupon, defended the ad. “Greenpeace is happily participating in the campaign. The truth is that the ‘Save the Money’ campaign and the commercial are really helping us save the whales,” Greenpeace’s John Hocevar said in a blog post. He added, “They loved the idea of poking fun at themselves by talking about discounts as a noble cause.”
People aware of how the Tibetan culture is being destroyed in the conflict with China understand struggles of Tibet deserve respect.
From the Free Tibet website: “For Groupon the commercial has generated a lot of free media coverage and it could be argued that the advert has helped raise the profile of what is happening in Tibet, after all awareness is the first step to accountability. But it does put Tibetans and their suffering at the heart of the joke and when it’s used for commercial purposes that is exploitative. The commercial also exposes that fact that across the US and arguably the world the public know what is happening inside Tibet. But that leaves the uncomfortable fact that not enough of us are holding the Chinese Communist Party accountable for the suffering in Tibet, nor for that matter are our own governments being held accountable for their failure to hold China accountable for its appalling human rights record in Tibet.”
(What Remains of Us: This film was shot without the knowledge of the Chinese authorities, using small digital cameras, during nearly a dozen secret forays into Tibet between 1996 and 2004.)
FIRST PRIZE FOR MOST PREDICTABLE
“Reformers who are always compromising, have not yet grasped the idea that truth is the only safe ground to stand upon.” – Elizabeth Stanton
Rockefeller funded 350.org wins hands down for the predictable launch of their Businesses For 350 Campaign. How to get to 350? You won’t find the answer on this site … maybe just keep recycling or consuming. It appears Bill McKibben of 350.org neglected to read our 10:10:10 critique from October 2010.
FIRST PRIZE FOR MOST UNDETECTED GREENWASH OF 2010
TckTckTck – partner of 350.org, WWF, Greenpeace and hundreds of other NGOs – was created by Havas, one of the largest marketing and PR firms in the world. Havas clients include a torrent of the largest and most powerful corporations on the planet. Given that economic growth is the root cause of greenhouse gas emissions growth (they have been neck and neck for the last 50 years); and the raison d’etre of Havas is to ensure TckTckTck founding partner corporations including EDF (the largest nuclear corporation on the planet) increase profits through economic growth; TckTckTck was fatally compromised at its inception. In the 2010 ‘Public Eye’ campaign it states, “Organized since 2000, Public Eye reminds corporations with destructive business practices that actions have consequences, presenting ‘name and shame’ awards to the nastiest corporate players of the year and through these awards presents to the world the immoral nexus between corporate power and the political elite.” In 2010, following the Copenhagen disaster, Greenpeace Switzerland participated in naming the Public Eye Award to “the nastiest corporate player of the year”. The nominees included GDF Suez and Roche – TckTckTck founding partners. In summary, Greenpeace, partner of TckTckTck (Kumi Naidoo chairs both Greenpeace International and TckTckTck, also known as GCCA) is in partnership with these same corporations (GDF Suez and Roche). Such campaigns and organizations make a mockery of those suffering on the front lines of the climate emergency today. The layers of deceit are breathtaking.
As of today there remains a shortcut link on the Havas website to www.tcktcktck.org to “join the fight for climate justice”. And business for Havas has never been better – new business remains strong. (€1.6 billion for the first nine months of the year, compared with €1.1 billion for the same period in 2009 (+42%)).
TckTckTck has removed their partner, the Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change, from visibility on the www.tcktcktck.org website after screenshots and information of this collaboration were released to their supporters and partners using their own listserv. The TckTckTck partners within the Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change group include Shell, Coca-Cola and RBC. RBC is the number one financier of the most destructive project on the planet – the tar sands. Over 1,000 corporate entities make up this TckTckTck partner group.
ERADICATING STUPIDITY | GOING FORWARD
“As for the bourgeois state, we are seeking to overcome it, to overthrow it.” Salvador Allende, 1970
Just as wearing sweaters will not make any meaningful dent in our climate crisis; just as turning Facebook green amounts to essentially nothing; just as ‘green’ shopping and more i-pods only serve to further destroy us; and just as the Nature Conservancy – Dow partnership will only serve to greenwash; consuming as a means of helping will not save whales or anything else. Every day, our current economic system continues brings us one day closer to cataclysmic, irreversible climate change and ecosystem collapse on a global scale.
And while we may not expect truth from the bloated NGOs, we should not accept it. Importantly, while we recognize the demise of ethics within the vast monopoly of NGOs who protect the very system that grips us securely in a stranglehold, we must also recognize that within these corporate structures are well-intentioned citizens and even activists who are just as frustrated by the censorship and symbolic ‘feel good’ campaigns that appeal to our society’s worst traits. Such traits such as individualism, greed, apathy and narcissism are integral for a profoundly weak and divided society. Therefore, such traits are kept fed and nourished by the corporate powers who are, in turn, completely dependent upon society’s successful indoctrination and feelings of powerlessness. Fortunately, for the ethical, yet repressed, campaigners on the inside, in 2011 we now have Enviroleaks – enabling those within the system to leak imperative documents, without fear of repercussion.
What else is new in 2011? To date, there are no mainstream NGOs who are willing to campaign on militarism and its massive contribution to climate change. One would think that this would be a sure ‘win’ upon which the NGOs should love to attach themselves. Really, how many people do you know that would oppose a campaign to end occupations and war? Known to most citizens, militarism in the US represents such a massive chunk of the budget, there is little money for anything else. Healthcare and education remain mere irritants of the lowest priority. Although this reckless budget will no doubt contribute to bankrupting the US sooner rather than later – only to line bank vaults of the corporations and the controlling plutocracy – the big greens are silent on the issue. It appears that millions of lives lost count for little.
And like we must stop the soothing yet false illusion that governments will someday do what they are supposed to do – represent their constituents and act in their best interests – we must also stop the false illusion that NGOs will confront the system and inspire a desperately needed uprising of the people who reject all false solutions while also demanding nothing less a new system which functions to serve only the essential needs of the people while protecting all life and our planet.
To date, the big greens refuse to tell supporters what the most critical aspects of climate change are, in spite of the insistent urging from climate justice activists. These are the imperatives every citizen has the right to know … and are not being told.
1) In order to stabilize the planet, the world must achieve zero carbon emissions. Zero is the only number that matters and it must be achieved in a matter of years, not decades. We are in a planetary emergency at less than 1ºC rise.
2) The current economic system is the root cause of climate change.
3) A mass mobilization on a global scale is needed to convert to a clean, perpetual zero carbon economy which rejects all false solutions including green capitalism.
The destructive campaigns of the big greens highlighted within this article are just a drop in the bucket of symbolic brand-building nonsense. Therefore the easiest direct action of 2011 is this: hit unsubscribe. The industrial non-profit complex claims to represent and speak for you in economic forums and government institutions around the world. They don’t. And if they have no members of civil society, they immediately lose their power to speak for us. If they no longer speak for us, they can no longer use civil society as a tool allowing the expansion of the corporate agenda.
The pursuit of profit verses our responsibility to protect nature brings us to a tragic reality that is difficult to accept. Decades of doing nothing means it is now too late to stop climate change. Yet, perhaps it is not too late (we hope) to avert the magnitude of long-term impacts by cutting emissions to zero at break-neck speed. If we miss this closing window of opportunity, feedbacks take over, at which point cataclysmic climate change becomes irreversible. Nature takes over, and our planet becomes a living hell.
MESSAGE TO THE YOUTH: DO-OR-DIE
“But we won’t spend a buck a dime a single cent to preclude disaster for our children. As a mother and a grandmother this is the line that grips my heart. I see this as ageism gone viral. We don’t really care about our kids just our credit rating and OUR pensions. I guess Queen Victoria was totally effective when she said, “Children should be seen and not heard. Our so called economic system doesn’t hear the children at all. I guess soon we won’t have to see them either. Good for us adults, our campaign is a BIG success.” – FB comment
Why does society expect the next generation to clean up this mess of unparalleled magnitude – especially considering instead of being given essential tools for life skills, they were given remotes, posters of corporate prostitots, and truckloads of made-for-landfill plastic stuff bursting with toxins, chemicals and everything else that makes one ashamed to be human. This apocalyptic nightmare should never have been left to a generation of youth who have been raised and indoctrinated by corporate America – yet here we are – and the wrath of insatiable greed is about to grab our youth by the throat.
While we listen to Maude Barlow and other wise owls who tell us the next generation is the one that will change everything, we must recognize that today’s youth have become a reflection of our morally bankrupt society – beautiful children who have succumbed to become, most comfortably numb. Millions have come close to over-dosing on social media such as Facebook and texting. Ironically, social media is a wet dream for the globe’s largest marketing public relations firms who represent the world’s most powerful corporations. Marketing executives and corporate super-powers are salivating over what they envision as the greatest opportunity to exploit the planet’s youth. The corporate powers are masters in the art of acclimatizing civil society into believing that we have no control. They methodically hypnotize us to believe resistance is hopeless and therefore should be given up. This very system that enslaves us can continue its existence only if we accept that resistance is futile. Not unlike pedophiles who prey upon children, the plutocracy preys upon and is dependent upon a society easily lured with candy.
Things can change. 2011 marks a paradigm shift. The Egyptians have taught the world how to use the very social media tools corporate gods had hoped would serve to manipulate, control and distract us – and use these tools, instead, as weapons of mass-resistance. We now have WikiLeaks and Anonymous, bound to inspire creativity, coupled with revolt, in ways not yet imagined. The Egyptians have also taught the world what a revolution requires – nothing less than the courage and conviction of hundreds of thousands and even millions of bodies in the streets that refuse to leave until victory is achieved.
Today’s youth have, not only a right, but a moral obligation, to rebel and destroy the current power structures that exist. This is necessary in order to salvage what is left of a raped and pillaged planet on the brink of ecological collapse. Martin Luther King once said that “you cannot commit an act of violence against a non-sentient object.” Today, police states and corporate controlled governments protect property, corporate interests, and industrialized economic growth over life itself. Drastic times require drastic measures; thus, our youth have the right to destroy the suicidal structures now threatening humanity. Echoing the words of Malcolm X, they must defend that right “by any means necessary”. And we must support them as they seize this right, for we have failed them.
“Liberties are not given, they are taken.” – Aldous Huxley
Go forward in self defence. No longer can we passively witness the rape, abuse and desecration of our Earth Mother. No longer can we passively witness the exploitation, violence and oppression subjected on our brothers and sisters. In our fight for survival and for all life, love is the guiding principle, illuminating the centre of our struggle. We will not negotiate life. We reject all compromise. We will practise non-violence in the spirit of the Buddhist concept of aggressive non-violence understanding that one cannot commit an act of violence against a non-sentient object. Although we will exercise compassionate wrath, we recognize we have the right to defend ourselves and our Earth Mother. We intend to do so. Self-defence is not a crime. We will attack the economic system – as this is the only language it understands. We will collectively fight to reclaim our dignity and power. The burning flame at the heart of our fight for life will not be smothered, rehabilitated, co-opted, or psychologically marginalized. There will be no dilution of our fervour, no lowering of the flames, or any muting of our essential collective voice. And if our fire destroys, it is for the sake or protection and healing and bringing us together as one. Our love will burn brilliantly. The time is now.
“Individually we may see ourselves as free, yet as a collective, we are slaves. The point where we free ourselves from our own animal is that moment when we become enlightened, where we see ourselves not as a person at a single point in time, but as a continuity in blood and in thought, spanning generations and time.” Harold One Feather
It is past time to start enacting civil disobedience on a massive scale. Knowledge is the weapon and it is time to arm the masses. Fuel distribution centres, pipelines, the industrial-military-complex, banks, the stock exchange: all must be targeted. Go forward. Don’t look back. Be courageous. Be strong. The truth is on our side. Our parents could not find the courage, which means we must. The Earth, and all life on this planet, pumps through our veins. To feel it, go outside and lie under a tree. Look up at the sky. We are nature. Nature is us. Our time is running out.
“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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* This article first appeared on The Art of Annihilation.
* Cory Morningstar is climate justice activist whose recent writings can be found on Canadians for Action on Climate Change and The Art of Annihilation site where you can read her bio. You can follow her on Twitter: @elleprovocateur
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
The Dar es Salaam Renaissance
Dar es Salaam is abuzz. It’s giving birth to a novel artistic landscape. Well, at least new in scope.
A cursory look at www.everythingdar.com/ and other calendars gives a glimpse of what is happening in Dar on a daily basis. Of particular interest are the originality, novelty and locality of oratory and literary expressions. They remind one of the making of the Harlem Renaissance.
Just to recap, the Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement that partly swept New York City in the early 20th century. It produced music luminaries such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday and Duke Ellington. The movement also produced great poets such as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and Claude McKay. It was in these times that the famous Apollo Theater came into being.
The works of these artists and artistes are still immortalized in the African imagination. Langston Hughes’s poem ‘A Dream Deferred’ continues to inspire critiques of the post-colonial ‘African condition’ – no wonder one voluminous biography is entitled ‘Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred.’ It is also not surprising that the Ella Fitzgerald jazz song ‘Drop me off in Harlem’ was also used as a soundtrack in the movie ‘Malcolm X’ starring Denzel Washington. And even today writers are still grappling with Countee Cullen’s poetic question: ‘What is Africa to me?’
Such is a fervour one finds in Dar to the extent that at the risk of engaging in a stereotypical linear comparison it is tempting to refer to all this as ‘The Dar es Salaam Renaissance.’ Of course the term ‘renaissance’ is not as innocent, especially when viewed in the context of what happened to Africa and the then so-called ‘New World’ after the European Renaissance. Yet it is a term that captures well the cultural awakening that tends to usher social change in any society.
It is in this regard that we need to pay close attention to what is happening in Dar’s cultural space, for in it are seeds of a social transformation-cum-revolution. What do you see when you encounter youngsters with locally produced t-shirts with Kiswahili or ‘Kiswanglish’ messages such as ‘Harakati…’ and ‘Na-struggle…’? Or what do you hear when you listen to them rapping about societal injustice? Mind you these artistic products are not made by NGOs or donor money!
What is interesting is that this renaissance in Dar es Salaam is pulling people from all walks of life and age as it crystallises a social consciousness necessary for societal transformation. The 'maiden' Pen & Mic event attests to that. It featured poetic expressions from the likes of Vitali Maembe, Saida Yahya-Othman, Fid Q, Langa Sarakikya, Walter Bgoya and Mzungu Kichaa. You can read a bit about the event or relive it altogether at http://vijana.fm/2011/02/09/pen-mic/
Yet that is not the only space in Dar. There is the Fanani Flava poetry club that meets every last Tuesday of the month at A Novel Idea Bookshop in Slipway. Who knows, maybe a century from now its blog athttp://fananiflava.blogspot.com/ will be one of the leading archives of the Dar es Salaam Renaissance. Surely such a space needs to expand, lest it become, if not remain, elitist.
Last but not least there is Soma Book Café at http://www.soma.or.tz/ and its Soma Literary Magazine, among yet many others, is a space for fusing oral and literary consciousness. Interestingly, the upcoming issue of the magazine features Maya Wegerif, whose poem ‘Who tells our story?’ at http://mayawegerif.blogspot.com/ is a recipe for an African (cultural) revolution.
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* Chambi Chachage is an independent researcher, newspaper columnist and policy analyst, based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
* This article was first published on the Udadisi blog.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
2010 Global Year of Action: Preliminary report
This preliminary report, which will be presented at the International Council of the World Social Forum, was prepared following the discussion of the strategy committee held at the council session in Dakar in November 2011. The report is based on the ‘Table of events in 2010’, which appears as an appendix, and will be continued and completed once the summary fact sheets for all of the events of 2010 are available and have been validated by the organisers (twenty-one fact sheets are currently available or pending). The fact sheets available can be accessed at http://WSF2011.org/en/global-actions; http://WSF2011.org/fr/actions-globales; http://WSF2011.org/br/acoes-globais; or http://WSF2011.org/es/acciones-globales Gustave Massiah (23-01-2011)
THE GLOBAL YEAR OF ACTION 2010
The Belém WSF marked an important stage in the WSF process, and benefited from fresh impetus to forums. It also gave rise a new acceleration and new issues. In response, during the move from Belém to Dakar the International Committee proposed a Global Year of Action 2010, thus putting the events and initiatives part of the forums process during 2010 into perspective.
Conditions have been set in order for an event to be included in the list for the 2010. Inclusion on the list is sought by social and civic movements associated with the forums process, which propose to organise the event and form an initiative committee. The initiative committee agrees to refer to the World Social Forum Charter of Principles. The event is organised taking forums’ methodological principles into account and prominence given to self-managed activities in particular.
At the beginning of 2010, inclusion on the list for the Global Year of Action 2010 had been sought for 41 events. All of these events occurred during 2010, with some date changes during the year, with the exception of one forum scheduled to take place in Mauritania; this had been postponed. Fourteen other events were added to the process in 2010, having accepting the conditions stipulated; these are identified in the table in a section entitled ‘Unplanned at the start of 2010’. This report examines the 55 events (listed in the table attached) that constitute the Global Year of Action 2010. It does not include events from 2009 after Belém, or those from the beginning of 2011 that are part of the Dakar WSF. 6 or 7 forums were held in January 2011, the last of which is scheduled for 29-30 January 2011: the Mesopotamian Social Forum’s Ecology Forum in Turkey.
Numerous other events were held in 2010 and are not included in this table, either because we were not aware of them or because they were local forums and events, organised locally. There are also other events that were organised by movements that are stakeholders in the process, but part of other dynamics. Some events at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, for example, could have been considered part of the process but were not included, since the movements engaged did not request their inclusion and the methods of organisation were set out without reference to the Charter of Principles.
In November 2010 the Dakar IC, at the proposal of the strategy commission, decided to follow up on the Global Year of Action by having a summary fact sheet prepared for each event and requesting a summary report on the events. The fact sheet template is attached to the report as an appendix.
This report is a presentation report on the Global Year of Action, and is not yet the anticipated summary report. It is based on the table of the 55 events that in itself provides a significant illustration. It is also based on the first fact sheets received (around 20) and contact with organisers of, and participants in, these events.
This report is a stage. Summary fact sheets have not yet been prepared for all events, with some to be discussed and completed by the organisers. From that point onwards, it will be possible to compare the information and evaluations more closely and prepare a summary report by reconstructing the Global Year of Action 2010 in its context and assessing its impact on, and consequences for, movements and the process.
This preliminary report will examine four issues:
- The geographical basis of the forums process
- The convergence of movements that carry the process
- Issues discussed at forums
- Proposals for the future of the process
THE GEOGRAPHICAL BASIS OF THE FORUMS PROCESS
The 54 events took place in twenty-eight countries. Indeed, many more countries were involved than if the location of the forums is used as a measure. A number of events were organised by movements from several countries, while some were held in several countries. This was true in particular of regional and thematic forums.
Thus, there in total 19 national forums, 5 regional forums and 31 thematic forums. Indeed, several national and regional forums are also thematic forums that examine certain issues with an invitation to international participation (such as the Mexico forum on the crisis in capitalism).
An analysis of the distribution of the location of events according to main regions provides the following distribution:
South America 22 (including Brazil, with 13)
North America 2
The geographical expansion of the movement should be emphasised; in fact, the main regions do not provide much of an understanding of this expansion. The most relevant level of analysis is the sub-regions: at this level, a connection can be drawn between trends in globalisation in the organisation of large regions and the geocultural forms of social movements. For us, it would be better to start with the geographic dimension of social movements to redesign a new geographical map from the point of view of the social forum process.
From this point of view, the following should be emphasised:
- The relative importance of South America, and of Brazil in particular. This is a product of the vigour of social and civic movements in the region and the (contradictory) relationships between movements and political regimes. The sub-regions would be Brazil and Amazonia, Andean America, the Southern Cone, Mexico and Central America, and the Caribbean.
- The very rapid emergence of the Maghreb-Machrek region, with the increase in social struggles and struggles for democracy and the controversial issue of political Islam. The sub-regions would be the Maghreb, Turkey and Iraq with Syria, Egypt with Palestine and Lebanon, and Iran and Afghanistan.
- A continued European presence, despite the crisis in the European movement and the contradiction between the increase in social resistance struggles and the totalitarian and xenophobic drift of some regimes. The sub-regions would be southern Europe, northern Europe, eastern Europe, and Russia.
- Strong activity in Africa and strong forum activity linked to African social movements. The sub-regions would be west and central Africa, east Africa, and southern Africa (north Africa also lies within the Maghreb-Machrek region).
- The drop in Asia related to the difficulties faced by social movements in India. The sub-regions would be India with Bangladesh and Pakistan, south-east Asia, and China.
- The strong presence of North America in view of the small number of countries in the region.
Thus, six main regions would become twenty regions, to be specified, which will support an analysis of the evolution of movements and networks.
THE CONVERGENCE OF MOVEMENTS
Each forum is organised by a group of movements. A distinction can be made between three levels of involvement on the part of movements. First of all, there are movements that assume responsibility for the organisation of an initiative; between three and fifteen movements are directly involved in the organisation of an initiative. Then there are the movements that actively participate in the organisation of activities, in particular self-managed activities. Depending on the size of the forum in question, between thirty and 1,000 associations are involved in the activities of a forum. Finally, there are movements present at forums that do not play a very active role in their organisation. Between two and five times the number of movements that actively participate in their activities are present. (This information will be provided once all of the validated fact sheets are available.)
Similarly, an evaluation of the audience of forums could, perhaps, be added based on validated fact sheets. A distinction can be drawn between the audience involved in the activities, based on entries, and the audience attracted by events and demonstrations associated with an event. The ‘enrolled’ audience ranges in size from 200 people (trade union forum in Algeria, which was held despite being banned) to around 20,000 people (Porto Alegre, Detroit). The audience attracted by events, when such events have taken place, can reach five to ten times the ‘enrolled’ audience. The benefit of these quantitative data is rather relative; they can provide ideas for forum organisers. An analysis of the audience, verified over the course of several forums, shows that depending on the nature of the forum (national, regional or thematic), 60 to 70% of participants come from the country where the forum is held; 20 to 30% come from other countries in the sub-region; and 5 to 15% come from other regions of the world.
Little is known about the highly diverse nature of movements, which range from regional and international networks, which are very present in thematic forums, to small, highly autonomous local associations. The most active base is made up of large national associations actively involved in regional or thematic networks. The nature of movements is also highly diverse: there are social movements, civic movements, movements engaged in economic activities (social economy), cultural movements and various types of NGOs.
The relationship between movements and activities could also be stated. Generally, the ‘agglutination’ of self-managed activities is often limited to existing networks and agreements between networks; for example, the intersection between thematic and regional networks that facilitate comparisons. From this point of view, the inclusion of events on the list is no longer controlled and there is not enough time to facilitate comparisons. The process for convergence meetings and action assemblies is in its infancy.
A transversal analysis is required. Such an analysis would allow a study of a map of movements and their evolution.
CONTENT AND DISCUSSIONS
The forums are a forum for debate and discussions that bring together questions that arise from demonstrations and struggles, theoretical analyses and approaches and references to alternative practices. At all forums, discussions highlight the issues to be debated that are raised from one forum to the next with specific approaches. Regional forums highlight certain issues based on the concerns of social and civic movements in the region. Movements give concrete expression to a shared regional approach based on issues raised and the way of examining them that are unique to the movement. The same is true for national forums that address the assessment of national situations, both social and political, and the relationship between movements and the political authorities in a more direct manner.
Thematic forums are assuming an increasingly prominent role in the social forums process and, in particular, in their preparation. These forums put forward an issue that constitutes the main purpose of the forum. This issue can refer to a theme (such as education or agriculture) or intersection between several areas and several questions (such as education and culture or agriculture, food sovereignty and land). This approach has two advantages: issues and questions are a product of movements and how they highlight the issues; and the importance given to self-managed activities in the organisation of forums enriches debate and guarantees the diversity of approaches and positions.
Thematic forums allow an issue to be debated in depth and developed in a more collective, broader and more continuous manner. On some issues, there are already regular forums that are in their second or third session. They also allow movements and networks involved in this question to converge, expand their approaches via the participation of new networks, confront points of view, highlight proposals and put them forward for validation by other movements, draw lessons from mobilisations together, and disseminate and submit advances in policy and alternative approaches to critical evaluation.
A thematic forum prepares and orders discussions and debate on an issue. It cannot summarise the process of preparing WSF. Bias can exist in thematic forums, with one form of this bias being too much importance being given to the opinion of experts on a particular issue. The other is the subordination of events to bodies for negotiation, in particular international bodies, on a given issue and the adoption of the agenda of the dominant powers on the world stage. The response to these drifts is constituted by social and civic movements that are at the base of forums. It is up to them to closely monitor the place given to the approach of movements in the preparation of forums. The validation of approaches and proposals involves mobilisations of movements. These are the movements that engage in discussions between forums. From this point of view, world social forums are the main forum for transversality.
The analysis of thematic forums held in the Global Year of Action 2010 identifies some of the issues that have been highlighted by a thematic forum and which may have been examined at several forums. Issues have been grouped together based on the comparisons provided in the convocation of forums.
The groupings used, based on the themes discussed at forums, are as follows:
- Crisis, the crisis of capitalism and financial issues (Mexico)
- The crisis of civilisation, progress and modernity (Cochabamba, Guerrero)
- The environment, ecology, climate, soils, mines (Cochabamba, Cairo, Niamey)
- Agriculture, food sovereignty, land (Niamey, Quito)
- Urban, suburbs, peripheral areas, the rights to the city (Rio, Pelotas, Canoas)
- Health, environment (Cairo)
- Education, culture (Osasco, Belém, Bahia, Palestine, Santiago de Compostella, Porto Alegre, Stuttgart)
- Rights, the rights of peoples, human rights, indigenous peoples, rights and justice, the rights of Mother Earth (Bento Gonçalves, Sao Leopoldo, Cochabamba, Girona, Casablanca, Guerrero)
- Democracy (Bangaldesh, Casablanca)
- Social economy, fair trade and world trade (Canoas)
- Immigration (Quito, Brussels)
- Social movements, trade unions (Tokyo, Alger, Dakar)
- Youth, youth and childhood (Lomba Grande, Osasco)
- Civil society, governments and civil society (Stuttgart)
- International solidarity (several countries on BDS Palestine, Bordeaux)
- WSF process, assessment, communication (Porto Alegre, Belém)
As in regional and national forums, controversial issues are discussed in thematic forums. Examples include the nature of emancipation, post-capitalism, the relationship with Mother Nature, modernity, science, elections, armed struggles, war, armies, political Islam, parties, alliances, relationships with governments, states, etc. Based on debates in world and regional forums, the issues that emerge and are taken up by movements and networks are behind the organisation of thematic forums. The progression of a controversial issue to a thematic forum thus sustains the forums process.
How to organise the issues raised and discussions in a collective space for preparation. Each forum leaves records that are available on the internet that have been useful in preparation and which often incorporate its conclusions, declarations and conclusions. Movements that participate in forums provide these conclusions and can carry them into new sessions of the forum and other forums.
To go further, and without seeking to be exhaustive or provide general coverage, it would be possible to propose to forum organisers the publication of a summary report of some ten pages with links to the most developed contributions. This note would accompany the summary fact sheet on the forum used for the Global Year of Action 2010. It would highlight several categories: the identification and relevance of the issued raised, the analysis of situations, popular struggles and resistance, proposals for in-depth reform of public policies, perspectives for radical social transformation and the surpassing of the dominant system, specific emancipation practices provided by movements, positions declared in national and international negotiations, themes engaged in the battle of ideas, mobilisations and recommended actions.
The objective would be to identify controversial issues to recycle them in the process. It would be possible to call researchers and intellectuals, to begin with those of movements, to grab hold of issues to debate, conduct searches, and formulate theories and subject them to criticism and verification at forums.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE SOCIAL FORUMS PROCESS
The Global Year of Action 2010, from Belém to Dakar, reinforced and deepened the world social forums process. The International Committee will be able to draw lessons from this for the follow-up from the 55 events of 2010.
The commissions of the International Committee have assisted the process and have begun to learn lessons and draw proposals from it.
The methodology commission has played an essential advisory and accompaniment role, helping the events place greater importance on self-managed activities and giving priority to the role of movements in the organisation of forums. It has worked on the convergence assemblies held in Nairobi, implemented in Belém. These assemblies can benefit from the experience of the Detroit forum, which put in place ‘peoples movements assemblies’, some of which have been deployed over several years between forums in the United States, from Atlanta to Detroit. It must also analyse the relationship between governments and movements, in particular at the Cochabamba forum.
The expansion commission played a very important role in the regional approach of forums, assisting the emergence of the forum movement in the Maghreb-Machrek. It must work towards the evolution of the movement according to region and sub-region, in particular in Asia. It has managed the evolution of the composition of the International Committee in a calm, effective manner.
The communication commission played a very important role in the innovation of extended forums that should assume greater influence with the ‘extended Dakar’ forum, and which was trialled with very good results with the World Education Forum in Palestine, which resulted in an ‘extended Ramallah’. It must prepare the debate on the visibility of the process to the media and opinion.
The resources commission played a very important role in advising and assisting the search for resources by the organisers of different events. It will be able to learn lessons from the diversity of approaches to the subject. At present, it is working on the issue of the financing of the process, excluding the search for resources for events.
The strategy commission was present at several events. The debate on the strategy of movements and the process was present at a large number of events, and to a large extent was renewed based on the Porto-Alegre forum on the ten-year review. It works based on the explanation of the strategy of movements, the identification of controversial issues and the work of forums. It is this latter approach that was most prominent in 2010. It would be possible to propose to movements and centres of research, as well as sites associated with them, to commit to the publication of an annual strategic monitoring report on one of the issues discussed at forums.
For the process as a whole, the wealth of events during the global year of action shows that the social movements process has diversified and become fixed in a number of realities. It is an evolution that must be taken into account. The International Committee could learn from this to strengthen the social forums process.
- It could now prolong the 2010 approach to extend the geographic and thematic scope of forums.
- It could include the ‘extended forums’ approach in an analysis of the development of local social forums
- It could also consider that the major events that would want it (such as Rio+20, G8-G20 meetings, etc.) and accept the approach would be recognised as events associated with the forums process, thus re-establishing close ties with events that, like Seattle in 1999, have contributed to the creation of world social forums.
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* A pdf detailing the list of the events of the 2010 Global Year of Action is available here.
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WSF 2011: Revolution, responsibility and resistance
Preliminary notes on the Dakar World Social Forum
The latest World Social Forum took place in Dakar from the 6th to the 11th of February. It was followed by a two-day meeting of its International Council which began the assessment exercise, that will continue in the next months, and reflected on the way ahead for the next two years. The WSF had a special flavour this year. Whereas the “usual suspect” issues of world activism recurred predictably, though often articulated in new and inspiring ways as I will say below, the overall mood of WSF 2011 was inspired by the exceptional success of the Tunisian and Egyptian Intifadas. Activists followed with trepidation the events unfolding and a gift from fate (may the aulic tone be excused) that on the day of the closing ceremony Hosni Mubarak finally gave in and fled in front of the unrelenting, un-intimidated and growingly confident crowds of Egyptian citizens that washed the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, and all Egypt of the grim remains of thirty years of brutal dictatorship.
After a year of networked events taking place in the four corners of the planet during 2010, activists convened once more in a unique venue to reconnect, meet and organise, discuss, share experiences and imaginations of another possible world. The recent events in Tunisia and Egypt and to different extents in Algeria, Morocco, Jordan and Yemen gave an added relevance to this forum. Roaming in the lush avenues of the Cheikh Anta Diop University campus activists exchanged comments on the development in the Maghreb-Mashreq and those from the region were courted for news, explanations, analysis, inspiration. Some just wanted to know how they could do the same, bring about democracy, justice, equality, rights in their oppressed countries. And soon the forum became the backdrop of opportunity against which activists come together to project into the future plans and activities of change imbued with a new sense of hope. The WSF was and is, after all, the space where activists meet and share experiences, knowledge, imaginations and practical plans for action. The full mandate, the full vision, of the WSF seemed to have been given a renewed, compelling, illustration.
The Maghreb-Mashreq Social Forum has developed into a key dynamic of the World Social Forum process. Developed in the past few years it has gained momentum and it is now enjoying unexpected successes in the struggle along human rights and democracy activists in the whole region and in particular in Tunisia and Egypt where MMSF activists have been involved in the successful revolts. The African Council acknowledged its growing relevance and its momentum by choosing to hold the next Maghreb social forum in Tunisia and activists are considering that soon Egypt will become a welcoming place for a World Social Forum event after having hosted last year a thematic Forum on Health, Environment and Land Towards a Collective Action.
In the meantime a delegation of the African Council will soon visit both Tunisia and Egypt to express solidarity and offer assistance to the activists of both countries during the period of transition from authoritarian to democratic rule. Activists are concerned that while the revolts have succeeded in freeing the countries from their dictators the democratic path is neither necessary nor granted. Opening the second day of the IC meeting, after a touching song performed by a Tunisian trade union activist to a standing, clapping, moved crowd, another Tunisian activist warned of the possible corporatist drift that might affect the democratization process in both Egypt and Tunisia. Real risk exists, he said, that radical activists might be displaced by liberal forces with a passion for neoliberal policies and a shrewd ability in formulating superficial discourses revolving around demagogies of democracy and human rights.
Against the backdrop of such renewed confidence and the glare of possibility opened to committed progressive activism the World Social Forum 2011 was a space of experimentation and reflection on the overall WSF movement, its challenges and potentialities, its regional rootedness, its organisational capacity, its ambition and limitations. It was not an easy forum for its organisers and for many participants. It was a WSF that stretched imaginations but also frustrated expectations, that addressed past challenges and exposed new ones, that hesitated on problems that afflict WSF activists since its inception and that ten years of experience have not yet fully resolved.
A thorough assessment of the Dakar forum can hardly be conducted here, for that the Methodology Commission of the International Council has set up a dedicated working group that will exercise itself in the next months to present a pondered evaluation at the next IC meeting in May in Paris. In what follow I will mention some of the most debated issues that might be addressed in the overall assessment exercise.
The expectations of organisers, partners and participants, spoken and unspoken, varied enormously but some recurred. The Brazilian events and in particular the last one, in Belem in January 2009, the WSF that preceded this one in Dakar, were in many people’s mind the comparison inevitable. So it was the previous, controversial, African WSF held in Kenya in 2007. The key success of the Belem event for many was represented by the ability of the organisers to include a wide range of indigenous movements and that a close connection was established between the forum and those activists who worked in the region (the Brazilian Amazon). In this sense the Dakar success was just as resounding. A great participation of activists from Senegal, West Africa and the whole continent witnessed a thorough and inclusive mobilisation process.
The most painful memory of Nairobi was, for many, its relative closeness, the difficulties and costs in accessing the venue and the controversies on the role of some Christian organisations and large NGOs. Dakar was completely open and accessible and at the same time militant and unashamedly political as it was noted during the IC meeting. Whereas the expansion of the WSF in Africa is part of a process that has started in 2001 and has already produced two WSF in Bamako and Dakar (and a wealth of regional, sub-regional and national forums), renewed efforts have been put by the Senegalese conveners to make of the Dakar forum a welcoming, inclusive and sizeable event despite the small size of the overall host country. In this sense, Dakar was a confident step along the journey of the African chapter of the WSF.
The mobilisation of activists and resources compared to the size of the host country was nos less than impressive. It was of course not exclusive merit of the Senegalese organisers. In fact, a great contribution was given to the local hosts by the African Council and its ability to conduct thorough outreach in all regions of Africa. Partners from outside Africa joined in both in raising resources and in participating in big numbers to the event. Moreover, a key contribution to the accessibility of the venue and to the mobilisation of regional activists the caravans, twelve of them, that criss-crossed West Africa and brought thousands of activists to Dakar while, at the same time, engaged those who they met along the way on issues of justice, development, poverty, equality dignity and by telling them about this place, the WSF, where those ideas were not only not considered wishful thinking but in which activists join together to achieve them.
Inclusiveness and difference of participants made of the Cheikh Anta Diop university campus a truly open, diverse, accessible space. For the organisers and for the IC this was a crucial success and a sort of magic that removed the spell that the Nairobi event had, for some, put on the African chapter of the WSF. And this was evident from the first day, the day of the opening march. Tens of thousands of people marched through Dakar, local minorities and unions, Senegalese peasants and their regional partners. And the outreach continued in the following days with virtual experiments of decentralisation via the Internet (the Dakar Extended project which allowed remote participation) or by organising events in the banlieue as the conveners of the World Assembly of Inhabitants did in the neighbourhood of Guediawaye or by organising a delegation that visited the slum of Baraka.
And what the organisers and their international partners of the IC could not do, Dakar did. With its welcoming people, warm weather and the soft blow of the Harmattan over the sparkling ocean, it was the friendliest city in which a WSF had ever took place, as an enthusiastic IC member stated during the WSF evaluation session on the 12th of February expressing the feelings of all. Even more important was a comment that followed soon made by a women activist who acknowledged that this had been the safest forum for women. This alone would be enough to celebrate Dakar and the 2011 WSF. And the impressive cultural programme of the WSF complemented the endless options for inspiration, and dance, that the city offers.
An important trend in global activism perhaps highlighted by the Dakar forum and which contributed to its success, was that activists arrived already well prepared and networked among them and with local partners and with a key concern about further strengthening regional and global alliances on shared issues. Those convergences, at the heart of WSF’s mission, proved exceedingly successful, beyond activists’ expectations even, and for some seem to indicate a clear trend towards consolidation of struggles at the global level. If it is premature to state it confidently, it is nonetheless something to be closely observed in the months and years to come to capture the spirit of both converging and networked alliances, encounters, interactions and practices that could influence both the awareness of and the underlying values of a truly emancipatory global cosmopolitan society.
Some of these convergences took place before the WSF itself, others in its last days. The world charter of migrants, for instance was launched on Goree Island after two days of meetings that saw activists from all corners of the planet converge on one of the most daunting symbols of the abominable slave trade to claim rights to free mobility for all individuals on the planet against boundaries that create segregation, exploitation and new forms of human trafficking. During the forum a solidarity convergence on Palestine, the first to be ever organised at the forum, proved to be one of the most resounding successes of WSF’s facilitated solidarities. And media activists converged on a communication assembly to take stock of communication activism in the era of wikileaks and the influence of social media on street protests as in the Maghreb and Mashreq region.
The World Assembly of Inhabitants, whose final declaration was signed by over 200 organisations and movements and which organised a wealth of events, seminars and workshops both at the university and in the banlieue, constitutes one of the most inspiring alliances of activists at a global level. A new paradigm, a new way of conceptualising the struggle for a better world, is being developed as outcome of this alliance and as outcome of the practical engagements to join forces in concerted campaigns and actions. A paradigm that both opposes the neoliberal model of urban development and replaces it with a social, human, centred one and one that, further, debunks the so called urban bias of decades of international development and rethinks the dualist and reductive separation between the urban and the rural. This is no mean achievement by such a composite set of partners which bring to such process enormous cultural, intellectual, ideological, strategic differences but share a common aspiration of justice and equality for all world inhabitants, and an unfaltering resistance against those processes of land-grab (so painfully current in the African continent) and market lead dynamics of slum upgrade that deny to the weakest sections of society the right to a livelihood and a habitat in which to thrive. Among the conveners and participants to this initiatives are Habitat International Coalition, the International Alliance of Inhabitants, No-Vox. Their first common objective is to organise a day of mobilisation coinciding with the World Habitat Day: an international alternative Habitat Day on the 3rd of October.
One more impressive event was the convergence of the Assembly of Social Movements, a regular event at the forums since the first edition, that gathered in the biggest auditorium of the university and saw the participation of thousands of activists that gave life to moments of true shared elation to celebrate being together and in such numbers and from so many different places. The success of the assemblies moved in the direction of addressing some of the long standing concerns of some WSF organisers and critics, namely the fragmentation of the programme and the atomisation of the different strands of global activism with the perceived outcome of weakening the resistance against neoliberalism and reducing the impact of imaginations and practices aimed at building a new world.
However, as some noted, among the processes that did not work as expected in the organisation of the Dakar forum was the process of agglutination of self-organised activities. Part of the event methodology since 2005 this process would facilitate the convergence of different workshops and seminars organisers towards shared activities. Whereas the practice does not oblige anyone to work with undesired partners, it does convey information around converging or similar topics to activists and organisations who might be interested in networking and finding potential new partners. If the agglutination had been more successful, it was argued, a considerably small number of events would have to compete for the fewer spaces available at the university and perhaps no competition for those spaces would have happened (as a Indian activist put it, the open space this year had become a grab-a-space space).
And this was the hardest reality that confronted participants, organisers and IC members who tried to assess what happened. Yes, what happened in the first few days of the forum? Why people were welcomed by a mayhem of moved rooms of lacking definitive schedule and new impromptu locations? Simple, the new university rector did not fulfil the commitments taken by the previous who had promised both the suspension of classes during the forum to allow students to be exposed to the WSF events and the allocation to the organisers of the forum of the entire campus for their activity. When such opportunity was denied, at the very last moment, a wave of panic spread among the organisers and soon enough that became confusion and even frustration among some participants. New tents were pitched to host the events and a lot of creative scheduling had to be performed by all but it took a while for all to become familiar enough with spaces and schedules (posted daily in notice boards around the campus). In the end some suggest that only 80% of the planned could take place as originally planned.
Whereas both creativity, expediency, ingenuity and, most important of all, genuine solidarity marked the trajectory of many lost souls in the avenues of the campus, fiddling with their phones and escorted by the most welcoming volunteers, a darker side to the initial confusion was highlighted by many. Competition for spaces and the differential ability to convene audiences by activists generated a phenomenon profoundly at odds with the values of the forum. It generated conditions of privilege among those activists and organisations with tighter networks and larger resources and it excluded and alienated those who joined the forum for the first time or those not closely connected with other activists and with those “in the know”. As someone said during the IC meeting, the culture and the aspiration of the Forum’s activists do not deserve such contradictory organisational processes.
As it has been noted above, there are great differences in relations and expectations in the world events of the WSF and also imbalances of connections and social capital. Some network on the basis of their relations extend their reach and feel and are more included, others feel they depend more on structured programmes and feel lost when they fail to take place as scheduled. Many thought, for instance, that it was lost opportunity that of having been unable to involve to a greater extent students and teachers of the university and of wider Dakar. But university students were often directed with tact and smiles, just as we all were, by enthusiastic volunteers who explained “the rules of the game” as one told me: this is not a normal conference, everything happens everywhere all the time, so you may as well stop running around looking for other things (not that I was anyway) and enjoy what’s around you (which I was thoroughly doing, included talking to him and hearing what he had to say about the North African Intifadas: he said there should be one in each country in Africa).
IMPACT ASSESSMENT AND RESPONSIBILITY
The logistical issues were not the only ones. Great attention and cries of outrage were raised by the confrontations between Moroccan activists and supporters of the Saharawi people. Repeated intimidation and violence involved the two groups that extended from the opening march to the university halls (where an event hosting two European parliamentarians was violently shut down by outraged Moroccans who would not allow space to discuss the demands of independence of the Saharawi people) to the women tent where Moroccan women attacked Saharawi women.
But a member of the Moroccan delegation of the Maghreb Social Forum warned activists that some of the activists who oppose the claims to independence of the Saharawis are not agents of the government as many have accused them to be (and the organisers that allowed that such a delegation was welcomed) but they were allies who held different political views on an issue whose history and roots make it a most complex one and on which assuming rigid political postures can only be divisive and counter-productive for activists in the delicate Moroccan polity. Alienating the support of those allies would cost strength to the movement in Morocco and beyond and would void years of patient negotiations and alliance building.
There were also problems with the ambitious Dakar Extended project that did not manage to go ahead with the entire programme as planned due to lack of resources and spaces. And there were some recurring issues raised by those who found unacceptable that Coca-Cola and Danone products were sold at the food stalls or that water, that had to be freely distributed, eventually was sold at three times its main street price. Others, on the same vein, questioned the extent to which it is coherent with the WSF vision that activists house themselves in expensive hotels and whether it would have been more appropriate to stress the organisational commitment on solidarity accommodation with local activists or provide other local accommodation for rent as many indeed did. Provocatively someone suggested, then, that the forum could take place in a field where everyone would just pitch their own tent to sleep in or to organise events (and I saw visions of Burning Man events and Glastonbury festival which I am not sure I find entirely distressing – perhaps with farmer’s cooperatives from the region providing organic food…).
On the other hand, though, still on the front of resistance against multinational corporations’ monopolies, all computers in the press centre, donated by Oxfam, were running on GNU/Linux to stress the research and practices that many in the WSF are conducting on common creation and ownership of intellectual rights. In this sense focusing on the commons, in ways that were stressed at the Science and Democracy forum organised at the Top of Form
Bottom of Form École Polytechnique of the University before the beginning of the WSF, has not only a limited import with reference to the world of technology (however, given the increased relevance of technology not only in the wider world but in the life of activists, it might deserve increasing attention), but is a practical engagement with a crucial trend on common resource (material and symbolic) management from neoliberal institutions (World Bank as often ahead of the rest) who may use such approach to deepen the reach of privatization and disciplinary practices of production, exchange and consumption of knowledge.
Other complaints were discussed during the IC meeting, but there were also alternative views about them. For instance, the reduced coordination and agglutination of events, the lack of spaces and of programme, and the technical failures affecting, for instance, the translation system or the registration computers did also produce remarkable solidarity and showed a huge ability to self-organise and to take advantage of the Egyptian tested practice of mobilisation via text messages and cell phone calls. A Palestinian activist stressed at the IC meeting that, while he fully enjoyed the forum and considered it the best of all those he had attended, of all things it was solidarity among strangers that he most appreciated. He continued, “if we do not help each other when we are in crisis” (and we do not find the room where our event was supposed to take place) “when are we supposed to show the richness of our solidarity? And,” he added “apportioning responsibility and culpability is something that needs to be done with care to avoid divisive dynamics.”
Many reflected on these words and the considerations on the failures of the forums became sophisticated reflections on causes and responsibility and on criteria to assess outcome and impact in way that were coherent with WSF’s values.
TRUST AND TRANSPARENCY
But what were the criticisms raised and towards whom were they directed? There were growing concerns among international activists about issues that went beyond the logistic failures. Many IC members, with whom I spoke, for instance, were concerned about decision-making practices, transparency, collegiality, collaboration among different structures of the WSF organisational architecture. Others reflected that the workings of spaces of the WSF like the IC, its commissions, its Liaison Group and the local (Senegalese) organising committee and the regional African Council, are not always easy to gauge.
Many were unhappy that Evo Morales was invited to open the WSF, this is patently against the principles stated in the Charter because the compañero Presidente Evo is nonetheless a head of state. But those concerns were even more focused, beyond the specific issue, on the process by which this decision was taken. It was impossible for many to understand who and when had taken this decision, not to mention the choice to invite former Brazilian president Lula to speak at the same time as other forum activities were taking place (fact that contradicts previously agreed guidelines) or the local president who was keen, as someone reminded during the IC meeting, to clarify that he had nothing to do with the WSF and proceeded to give a fully neoliberal speech.
Criticisms escalated during the first morning of the IC meeting and many members protested energetically that the IC was not aware of any of the organisational decisions made by the local steering committee and that no commission of the IC was allowed to contribute to the actual design and implementation of the final programme. Members claimed that the methodology commission had met in Dakar before the forum but no African members had joined, the same was told of the strategy commission and one of the members of the Senegalese steering committee confirmed that the separation between local and IC communication commission was due to not better identified power struggles that prevented them to work together (a member of the Communication Commission of the IC lamented that after over four weeks of work in Senegal she had no contact with local journalists because they were prevented from meeting them).
Whereas contingent frustration might exaggerate the extent of the separation between local organisers and international partners and whereas certain comments used rhetoric hyperboles and paradoxes to make a strong impact on the audience over issues of commonly recognised great importance, it became soon clear, and the cry of the Palestinian member reported above might have contributed to certain extent to sober the mood and relax the atmosphere, that an alternative path to assessing the Dakar forum might have proved more fruitful for all involved. It was, after all, a shared conviction that collective spaces of decision-making were necessary to help activists to address issues that would overwhelm them individually. In this sense, what needed to be considered where how to facilitate the work of such spaces and, even more importantly, accept that whatever at the Dakar forum did not met the expectations of different activists (each, it has to be stressed again, for different reasons related to their desires and their political culture) was due to a collective responsibility. I lost count of how many times the expression “collective responsibility” was voiced in the first morning of the IC meeting. It seemed to me, after a certain number of times, it had become a mantra, an exorcism of the confrontational and potentially divisive considerations that had been articulated that pointed at the local steering committee as the sole responsible of all that did not match the activists’ expectations.
And later on, a prominent member of the local organising committee, who had previously tried to explain, and with him several others of his colleagues, the complexities of the Senegalese polity and the idiosyncrasies of the governmental and university organisational culture which ultimately caused most of the confusion and logistical mishaps, closed the meeting by apologising for all those that they could not offer to match the expectations of their guests and acknowledged that several mistakes had been done. It did not take much for all to remember of the many mistakes that were made in the previous forums and some, later told me that while heartened by the quality and depth of the conversation (that was supposed to be not more than a preliminary assessment of the Dakar forum) suggested that perhaps the WSF methodology could reformulate its use of the term failure as a different form of learning success.
But perhaps it was not so simple, as if good will and years of shared activism in the WSF had so easily washed away days of complaints and frustration with some wholeheartedly felt apologies and considerate calls for shared responsibility. There are other conflicts and perhaps deeper and not fully conscious that underpinned some of the difficulties experienced by the global organisational architecture of the WSF. Guidelines for organising events have been agreed and consensually approved, resources constraints are too familiar to all, cultural, ideological and political differences are widely acknowledged. It all seems in order, so what is missing? Why there was so strong the feeling that a crack was opened between local organisers and international partners? Why did I feel strong deja-vues from previous WSF events that reminded me of the difficulties in negotiating local cultural and political contexts and the political interests of those convening the event and both of these with the aspirations of the international partners?
It seems as though those who organise the local events have to face reality against the encouragements of the partners not directly involved who remind them that the sky is the limit of their dreams and they would not settle so easily on the grinding path towards the fulfilment of the WSF vision. It may not be necessarily any Us v. Them divide, it may be another incarnation of the Reality v. Aspiration tension. Whereas spur and encouragement by international partners may be very useful it may also be crucial to evoke trust towards the local partners especially when things do not look easy to decipher, and in Dakar there were many of those things, but not more than anywhere else the WSF has been organised before. At a rather more abstract level, the apparent contradictions between calls for transparency on the one hand and trust on the other, so crucial in the neoliberal discourse, might indeed embodied in the activism of the WSF as well.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE WSF PROCESS?
Few hours of the IC meeting were dedicated to the beginning of a conversation on the next location of the global meeting and to some of the next commitments for the years to come. There were three candidates to host the world event with official invitations, Montreal, Porto Alegre and Santiago de Compostela but a wider debate has just started on whether to allow the forum to move from a location in the global south to the north of the planet.
Some suggested that the WSF should unmoor itself geographically and reclaim a fully global scope. Moreover, it was suggested that the WSF should move to where neoliberalism has its institutional and social cores. Another IC member reflects that indeed it would be crucial to take the WSF to the place where the current civilisation, the civilisation that has brought crisis and destruction to the world and risks to annihilate it, has been generated. I saw some older comrades sneer at the memory of painful debates on the primacy of the struggle in the capitalist world over that in areas where capitalism was still following the pioneering steps of imperialism and I saw some feminists shiver at the thought of the debates between the strategic feminist of the north v. the tactical feminism of southern women. I’m sure it was not this that the activists suggesting a move of the forum to the North had in mind but a genuine intent to globalise a solidarity beyond geographical boundaries.
In fact, a compelling argument was articulated by an Indian activist that summarised the sentiments of many. A forum in Europe or in Canada could be very useful to establish new forms of solidarity between northern and southern activists grounded on new foundations. Such solidarity would not be constructed between dependent actors tied by social relations of domination and exploitation in which activists are not involved but in fact struggle against from both south and north but between fully autonomous individuals stressing the shared desire to struggle together for collective emancipation.
A forum in Europe, someone mentioned could help a shattered WSF process and movements that struggle to resist austerity measure that affect the most vulnerable sections of the populations imposed because of the crisis generated by a greedy and irresponsible minority. In North America and especially in the US, instead, the WSF seems to be experiencing an inspiring moment following the successful Detroit USSF. A forum in Montreal, a region that has produced two very successful local social forums and impressive mobilisation against Free Trade Agreement Treaties (among others), would contribute to the momentum and to consolidate both organisational dynamics and activists’ confidence.
There are of course stringent conditions that need to be met for a forum which is truly global could take place in the North: visas. Several southern activists reminded everyone of the frustrating experience that is associated to their repressed mobility. If these issues are not addressed and resolved it won’t be possible to even imagine a forum in Montreal (or Santiago de Compostela for that matter, or anywhere else in the north). And visas are not the only ones, as several Europeans suggested that Europe is not prepared to host a WSF and such an event cannot be imposed on unwilling organisers, it goes without saying.
But before 2013 there is 2012 and what is left of 2011. In the consolidating tradition of the alternating world events and years of decentralised actions, thematic, regional and local forums will take place, some of which have been announced in Dakar. There seems to be a double trend in the WSF process with two complementary currents that reach new geographical areas of the world and deepen the debate through thematic forums.
The mission of the WSF is not to lead the movements but to anticipate their moods, to read the trends of global activism and to provide a space where organisations and movements can meet and build on shared moods and common priorities. The next months seem to suggest a converging trend towards Rio + 20, which will discuss current and alternative development models, and a mounting wave of regime changes in the Maghreb and Mashreq the consequences of which will have global impact and could greatly inspire and transform global activism.
Among the activities of the forum process that will take place in the next months there will be a World Food Sovereignty Forum that will take place in Haiti, a Palestinian Solidarity Forum in Brazil and a South Asia Social Forum in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in November 2011.
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* This article first appeared on Giuseppe Caruso’s Weblog.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Call for Applications: Moving Walls group photography exhibition
The Open Society Foundations invite photographers to submit a body of work for consideration in the Moving Walls 19 group exhibition. Application deadline is April 1, 2011.
Moving Walls is an exhibition series that features in-depth and nuanced explorations of human rights and social issues and recognizes the brave and difficult work that photographers undertake globally in their documentation of complex social and political issues. Their images provide the world with human rights evidence, put faces onto a conflict, document the struggles and defiance of marginalized people, reframe how issues are discussed publicly, and provide opportunities for reflection and discussion. For participating photographers, a key benefit of the program is to gain exposure for both the social justice or human rights issues they photograph, and for themselves as photographers.
Some of the topics that are focus areas for the Foundations and about which we are interested in receiving submissions include (but are not limited to) the following:
* Muslim communities in Europe
* Women in post-conflict countries
* Global pretrial detention (not United States)
* Public health issues in Africa, including access to essential medicines, access to health care, palliative care
* Climate change
* Economic downturn in the United States, including the foreclosure crisis
* Images that reframe mainstream media representations of African American men and boys
* Detention of immigrants in the United States
* Youth movements, especially political participation in voter registration, policy reform efforts, public education
* Reconstruction and rebuilding in Haiti
* Physical and mental disabilities in Eastern Europe or Central Asia, focusing on integration or inclusion
* Political violence, especially in Latin America and Africa
* Elections in Uganda and Nigeria
For more information on the application process and to view images from current and previous Moving Walls exhibit go to:
An open letter to Jimmy Manyi
Let us drop titles for the purpose of a necessary exchange. So let us forget for now that I am a cabinet minister and that you are a director-general equivalent, in the same government.
I want to address you simply as a compatriot South African.
I want to draw to your attention the fact that your statements about ‘an over-concentration of coloureds’ are against the letter and spirit of the South African Constitution, as well as being against the values espoused by the Black Management Forum (BMF) since its inception.
That you were a director-general of the Department of Labour, as well as the president of the BMF at the time when you made these statements is quite a mystery.
It is a mystery because I must assume that you were elected as president of the BMF, without any familiarity with the history and constitution of that organisation, and that you were appointed as director-general of the Department of Labour, without any familiarity with the constitution of the Republic of South Africa or the legislation administered by the department.
I observe from a Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) press release, that Mr Vusi Mona issues in his own name, that you apologise for the statement because ‘some people may have taken offence’. This continued negative behaviour merely serves to confirm the values that you hold, or more precisely, lack.
Firstly, why Mr Mona had to issue a statement is beyond comprehension since you distinctly did not utter those racist sentiments as an official of the GCIS.
Secondly, that you lack the moral conviction to publicly apologise says so much about your acute lack of judgement.
Thirdly, that the statement apologises only for the fact that ‘some people may have taken offence’ says to me that you clearly fail to appreciate the extent to which your utterances are both unconstitutional and morally reprehensible.
These ‘things’, (as the ANC (African National Congress) statement says, your utterances reduce people to being mere commodities) in your view, ‘the coloureds who are over-concentrated in the Western Cape’, are the sons and daughters of those who waged the first anti-colonial battles against the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British when they set foot on our shores.
These ‘things’, which so irritate you, include many who made huge sacrifices in the struggle against apartheid, at a time when people with views like Jimmy Manyi were conspicuous by their absence from the misery of exile, the battles at the barricades and from apartheid’s jails. By the way, what did YOU do in the war, Jimmy?
I want to put it to you that these statements would make you a racist in the mould of H.F. Verwoerd. I want to put it to you that you have the same mind that operated under apartheid, never merely satisfied with inflicting the hurt of forced removals and the Group Areas Act and would encamp language groups so that horrible aberrations, such as Soshanguve, were created to accommodate ‘non-Tswanas’ in their own little encampments in greater Mabopane.
Mr Manyi, you may be black, or perhaps you aren’t, because you do not accept that label and would prefer to be ‘only a Xhosa’. Whatever the label you choose, I want to put it to you that your behaviour is of the worst-order racist.
I refer to you in this way because those of us who found our way into the struggle through the Black Consciousness Movement have always understood the origin of the Black Management Forum, as we have understood and supported the ANC documents that speak of ‘blacks in general, and Africans, in particular’. Regrettably, in your understanding the term ‘black’ has quite a different meaning. As a consequence of your behaviour, people like me – in the ANC and in government – are being asked to explain what was in the mind of the drafters of the amendments to the Employment Equity Act.
We were present at the point of the debate of the first Employment Equity Bill; we expressed a complete comfort with the assignment of ‘designated groups’ to include ‘black people’ which means ‘Africans, Coloureds and Indians’ because it served as a representation of our constitutionality and as the fruits of our struggle.
When, in your capacity as chairperson of the Employment Equity Commission, you made strange utterances that sought to carve away the basic premise of the Employment Equity Act, we should have been more vigilant.
The just and constitutionally obligated provisions for redress are not and can never be an excuse to perpetuate racism.
Now, in the light of the utterances you made when you were the director-general of the Department of Labour, and given the fact that the amendments to the Employment Equity Act were drafted during your tenure, I have a sense that your racism has infiltrated the highest echelons of government.
Count me among those who, in spite of my position, will ensure that parliament acts in the letter and spirit of our constitution when it adopts amendments to the act.
I have never waged any battle from the premise of an epithet that apartheid sought to attach to me but I will do battle against the harm you seek to inflict. When I do so, it is not as a coloured but as a non-racist determined to ensure that our great movement and our constitution are not diluted through the actions of racists like you.
I have been prepared to sacrifice before for the cause of the kind of society articulated in the Freedom Charter. It is not a cause that has ended. I have simply not been called upon to make the same kind of sacrifices since 1990. I must declare my willingness to make sacrifices now in deference to the opening lines of the Freedom Charter that boldly declare that ‘South Africa belongs to all who live in it’.
I now know who Nelson Mandela was talking about when he said from the dock that he had fought against white domination and that he had fought against black domination.
Jimmy, he was talking about fighting against people like you.
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* This article was first published by IOL News.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Namibia at 21: Coming of age?
Once upon a time there was a country, whose people endured and braved more than a century of colonial minority rule. Their resistance against foreign domination resulted at the beginning of the 20th century in forms of genocide against parts of the people. When half a century later the ‘winds of change’ started blowing over the African continent, the people reorganised their anti-colonial struggle. Due to their relentless mobilisation, the diplomatic and military means applied, and the support of like-minded countries and people in favour of their right to self-determination, the liberation movement leading the struggle since the mid-1960s emerged ultimately by popular vote under United Nations-supervised elections as the legitimate government. On 21 March 1990 the Republic of Namibia joined the community of sovereign states. But only in fairytales do people live happily ever after.
In his inaugural address, Namibia’s first head of state declared after midnight on 21 March 1990: ‘Our achievement of independence imposes upon us a heavy responsibility, not only to defend our hard-won liberty, but also to set ourselves higher standards of equality, justice and opportunity for all, without regard to race, creed or colour. These are the standards from which all who seek to emulate us shall draw inspiration.’ Measured against such promises, Namibia comes of age with a mixed balance sheet. People enjoy relative freedom and civil rights they were denied before. But many of the hopes for a better life remain wishful thinking for most of the erstwhile colonised majority.
Not all is well in the state of Namibia. ‘Solidarity, freedom, justice’ as the leitmotiv of the struggle for emancipation sounds hollow when contrasted with the harsh realities Namibia’s people still have to cope with. There is a scandalous contrast between the many ‘have nots’ and the few ‘have lots’. That among the latter are a growing number of ‘fat cats’ (equating ‘black cats’) is of little comfort. Social inequalities might have become more nuanced than the restrictive category of race imposed by apartheid suggested. But the class structures remain as brutally discriminating as before. In the absence of better opportunities for all, independence took to a large extent the form of a self-enrichment scheme creating mainly better opportunities for few.
The first congress of SWAPO (South-West African People’s Organisation) held in an independent Namibia, adopted in December 1991 a new political programme. It remains among the documents accessible on the party’s website and declares among others that, ‘democracy and economic growth are not in themselves sufficient conditions for the elimination or deduction [sic] of the socio-economic inequality which still today characterize the Namibian society. They do not automatically touch on the equally important issue of social justice. Social justice in Namibia requires the adoption and implementation of progressive policies aimed at creating equality of opportunity in all the spheres of human life and dignity.’
The programme also emphasised the promotion of political empowerment: ‘To understand and popularize the ideas and ideals of solidarity, social justice and progress, as well as, the principle of democracy’, and declared, ‘To mobilize the people to participate in the affairs of the Government and society, and thereby help to develop in the Namibian citizenry a capacity for interpretation of political events in the country and the world at large’. It vows ‘to bring about a balanced and fair allocation of national resources, particularly, to the previously disadvantaged majority’ and commits the party ‘To work for full social justice in the distribution of resources, wealth, promotion of efficiency and proper management of human and natural resources.’
Twenty years on, this all sounds like wishful thinking in cuckoo’s land, measured against the real progress – or actually lack of it. Service delivery in the educational and health sectors is dismally defunct. It is revolting that people dependent upon intensive care in the state hospital risk their lives due to power failures. Reckless handling of public funds results in exorbitant losses through shady financial deals like in the GIPF saga or merely incompetent running of business affairs like in the case of Namcor. Corruption and other forms of misappropriation of funds spiral out of control and the political leadership seems more interested in covering up and sweeping under the carpet any of the scandals than cleaning the house.
Despite all these eroding tendencies, which severely undermine the credibility of and trust in those tasked to maintain public order and proper running of state affairs, Namibia is still ranked among the top countries on the continent in terms of good governance criteria. This is no reason for complacency while more people are unemployed more than ever before. Instead of providing the opportunities for all citizens to make ends meet, the demands by a popular alliance backed by church and trade union agencies for a basic income grant are rubbished as attempts to secure a free ride and exploitation of the privileged taxpayers by those battling daily for survival – as if people would like to be dependent on handouts from the state instead of securing a decent living through their own hands’ work.
The neoliberal gospel and Social Darwinism reign supreme under a liberation movement as government, which once seemed to suggest that independence should also translate into a decent living in self-respect for all citizens of the country. Despite all the setbacks measured against such a social justice yardstick, the fourth and hitherto last official congress of SWAPO since independence applauded its own policy by concluding that, ‘great progress was made in the reduction of poverty and removal of vestiges of social inequalities’. Do the comrades, who adopt such high-flying statements, visit the shacks in which people dwell? Do they note the growing number of street kids, the desperate young girls selling their bodies to sugar daddies, the rampant degree of domestic violence and rape as indicators of social and moral decay?
Instead of being visibly concerned, the aging political elite self-righteously continues to base its claims to represent the people on its struggle credentials dating more than 20 years back and thereby rapidly turning into a gerontocracy. The party leadership moves politics into a sphere of untouchables, surrounded by cronies who cash in their loyalty as political entrepreneurs. Public office bearers are accountable only to themselves. Those who betray the ideals of a struggle claiming to advocate social emancipation can rely on patronage as long as they do not question the dominant policy. Those who dare to challenge the hegemonic status of the party dons are labelled unpatriotic traitors. Others, who identified with unconstitutional and indeed criminal acts as political sympathisers, are merciless punished without any legal verdict.
The high treason trial against those accused of supporting a failed secession of the Caprivi in 1999 drags on. Most of the accused are since more than a decade under harshest imprisonment only for their political affiliation to the secessionist movement and are hence considered as political prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International. Without being sentenced, more have in the meantime died behind bars than during the secessionist attacks. The fundamental principle of being innocent until proven guilty is not applicable for those accused. Their ordeal is based on the opposite assumption, namely being treated as if guilty until they can possibly prove their innocence – unless they die in custody before. This is a legal scandal of a magnitude which hardly existed even during the notorious apartheid days.
Triumphant outbursts celebrating the rule of law (all too often wrongly so welcomed only if in conformity with the law of the rulers) are also misplaced when it comes to the legal battles over election results. These seem to have become a regular feature following National Assembly elections. Namibian policy makers should use these tiresome disputes as a reminder that democracy requires rules and regulations meticulously designed, implemented and observed. Any shadows of doubt can only result in losers on all sides. The biggest loser will be democracy. There is therefore no reason for celebrations, except maybe for the fact, that despite the worn-out legal battles over poll results, the relative political stability of our country has never been at risk. Namibia is not Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Egypt or Libya. The time is not up for the political elite of the day, and the expiry date for those in government is not yet in sight. This is a precious asset we have to use as the most important investment in strengthening a vibrant democratic culture, which takes all on board as Namibians and proud of it.
What Namibia needs foremost is a thorough reform of the agency tasked to institutionalise, administer and execute proper democratic elections based on transparent practices. Namibians also need the comfort of mind to have political parties which do not abuse their influence and power over running the state of affairs through undue interference in the professional execution of such elections. We cannot afford to leave substantial democratic procedures in the hands of political pawns or opportunist, incompetent officials rendering a disservice to the nation and its political culture. We cannot afford to provide opposition parties and voters even the slightest doubt in the credibility of the electoral process and result. The mere fact that they had a case sufficiently justified to result in such lengthy legal wrangling is toxic for any trust in our political system.
Despite all the hiccups denting the image of our political system, Namibia’s democracy is bruised but not battered. It has so far survived, if only because the one-party dominance has, despite challenges, not yet been decisively in danger by dissenting political forces. But democracy cannot have a sustainable long-term future if it is dependent upon one hegemonic political player who pays lip service to democracy as long as it does not collide with its own claims for absolute dominance. It is easy to recognise democracy while the political culture displays authoritarian tendencies and the rules of the game are considered to be the party’s affair.
In contrast, the political programme of 1991 postulated, ‘To organize the people to demand for accountability from their elected representatives and to defend their hard-won democratic rights and liberties against any threat from whatever quarters’. As loyal citizens and supporters of the government, we should take this seriously and also challenge the party in political control, if it does not pursue the implementation of such defined noble responsibilities. The real litmus test for Namibia’s maturity will be how those in political control executing the power of definition over socio-political affairs in the country will respond to any meaningful challenges of their rule.
While once upon a time the people of one of Africa’s last colonies achieved the fruit of their long and bitter sacrifices in their struggle for Independence, they did not really live happily ever after. Namibia is blessed with relative peace and stability but far from being what some of us had expected in terms of turning the project of liberation into emancipation for most if not all. Reality is not a fairy tale. It requires a daily commitment to and struggle for justice, human decency and civil rights, liberty and equality rooted in the material wellbeing of all instead of only a few. This struggle requires engagement as a daily civic duty by the people, for the people. Independence is not the end of history. We therefore should pursue actively further the agenda expressed in the motto that the struggle continues.
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* Dr Henning Melber is executive director of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in Uppsala, Sweden. The son of German immigrants, he joined SWAPO (South-West African People’s Organisation) in 1974. After independence he returned from exile as director of the Namibian Economic Policy Research Unit (1992–2000).
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Obama is not the president of the world
H. Nanjala Nyabola
Barack Obama has the most difficult job in the world. Whether fighting fires within his own nation or being constantly challenged to intervene in the business of other states, it seems that the current president of the United States is destined to spend his term between a rock and an indefinite sequence of hard places. Much of this tension stems from the fact that the international demands impressed upon the ‘leader of the free world’ and the head of 50 united states have never been as diametrically opposed as they seem to be today. Yes, it seems that the chickens of decades of domestic isolationism and foreign policy overreach are finally coming home to roost during Obama’s first term.
On the cusp of the 2008 election that brought Obama to power, the Economist magazine ran a special feature in which its readers from around the world were invited to ‘ vote’ in the US general election. Aside from voters in Iraq, the majority of voters ‘painted the world blue’, indicating that President Obama was probably the first US president since FDR to be as or more popular overseas than he was in his own country. Obama’s promise of relatively liberal international policy was a welcome relief following Bush’s interventionist excesses, and the vows to close Guantanamo Bay, to deliver a tenable peace deal in the Middle East and to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan all resonated with a world that was reeling from war-related spikes oil prices and a rise in terrorist attacks ostensibly on US targets but generally affecting citizens of other nations. Celebrations over Obama’s election rang across the globe and a collective sigh of relief that the heavy-handed, indelicate foreign policy of the Bush years was apparently finally behind us.
Unfortunately for President Obama, inasmuch as the international community felt itself a part of his victory, it seems to feel itself obligated to demand a significant portion of his attention. If analysts are to be believed, the eruptions of violence and discontent in various corners of Africa and the Middle East remain uninteresting or irrelevant until President Obama declares his position on the events. In Tunisia, even though the former colonial power seemed to side initially with the administration, as soon as Obama hinted that his administration sympathised with the demands of the protesters, the crisis went from being civil unrest to being a revolution. It is understandable that considering that the US bankrolls the Egyptian military, Obama’s voice on the revolution there should have significant clout – but the same cannot be said for Libya, where Obama has still been pressed to declare his allegiances. In contrast, where the US president is yet to make such declarations as in Djibouti or Gabon, protesters and latent revolutionaries continue to be ignored.
But what does the world really want from the president of the USA? Survey after survey of national attitudes indicates that citizens of other countries generally reject US intervention in their own national affairs, but are quick to urge US intervention in third countries. No one is looking to David Cameron for some kind of guidance on the Libyan crisis even though it has been revealed that the UK government and several of her private citizens have extensive links with the Gaddafi regime. Nor is anyone calling on France to develop a comprehensive response to the crises in Cote d’Ivoire, even though as the former colonial power and having maintained several questionable links with various administrations in the country, perhaps the French government has more of an obligation to clean up a mess that any historian would argue they helped to make. Does anyone even care that the African Union (AU) has done nothing more than issue lukewarm statements following the crises in Cote d’Ivoire and Egypt?
A nation facing its own internal demons, the US has lost much of the clout and international legitimacy that it once wielded, especially following the widely broadcast ineptitude of the Bush administration. The country is struggling under a rapidly mounting national debt and is increasingly beholden to China, its biggest creditor currently holding about US$900 billion or US$1 trillion of US Treasury holdings (depending on whether or not you include Hong Kong). This massive debt not only heightens the uncertainty surrounding the fiscal feasibility of the entire state, but also engenders a deep resentment internally, considering that the lion’s share of the money is being used to shore up a military fighting two ‘unnecessary’ wars and a banking system that continues through awarding obscene bonuses to thumb its nose in spite to the general population. The international community did not vote him in; US citizens did and the national mood in the US seems to be for greater attention to be paid to sorting out these and other internal issues. The schizophrenic attitude of many observers seems to be a desire to see the US consumed by these international failures – to serve as a vindication of the inadequacy of the neo-liberal model – coupled with a wish for the US to continue to engage itself in each and every crisis that emerges.
To be sure, being the most powerful country in the world brings with it a certain degree of responsibility, especially when that greatness is built on a morally murky history. Machiavelli advised an emerging prince that it would be better to be feared than to be loved, but with the twinned factors of its dark history and the proliferation of urban guerrilla conflict changing the stakes and the outcomes of modern warfare, it seems that the US is destined to neither be loved nor feared. In February of every year, the US commemorates Black History Month and reminders that the legacy of slavery has yet to be adequately addressed in the country’s national policies are plentiful. Similarly, the legacy of several misguided Cold War interventions in Africa, Asia and South America continue to haunt these regions, with nations like Nicaragua, the DRC and Cambodia still struggling to move beyond atrocities that have, due to political considerations, failed to be adequately acknowledged. Add to this the modern fiascos of Iraq and Afghanistan and it seems justifiable to argue that the US does indeed owe many regions in the world an apology, if not some measure of redress through intervention.
Even so, the time has come for the various regions of the world, especially Africa, to borrow a leaf from the Asian nations and start sorting out their own messes. Before looking to the US to comment on or validate participants in the next big crisis, it’s time for other nations to either start bearing their share of the burden or stop taking exception each time US foreign policy overreaches.
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* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Emily Flitter (2011) ‘ Analysis: What is Plan B if China dumps its U.S. debt?’ in Reuters.com, 18 January 2011 (accessed 27 February 2011) available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/01/18/us-usa-treasuries-china-idUSTRE70H5NX20110118
Thugtatorship: the highest stage of African dictatorship
Alemayehu G. Mariam
If democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people, a thugogracy is a government of thieves, for thieves, by thieves. Simply stated, a thugtatorship is rule by a gang of thieves and robbers (thugs) in designer suits. It is becoming crystal clear that much of Africa today is a thugogracy privately managed and operated for the exclusive benefit of bloodthirsty thugtators.
In a thugtatorship, the purpose of seizing and clinging to political power is solely to accumulate personal wealth for the ruling class by stealing public funds and depriving the broader population of scarce resources necessary for basic survival. The English word ‘thug’ comes from the Hindi word ‘thag’ which means ‘con man’. In India ‘thugees’, well-organised criminal gangs, robbed and murdered unsuspecting travelers over a century ago. Africa's ‘thugees’ today mug, rob, pillage, plunder and rape unsuspecting nations and peoples and secrete away their billions in stolen loot in European and American banks.
Today, we see the incredibly extreme lengths Libyan thugtator Muammar Gaddafi is willing to go to preserve his thugocratic empire floating on billions of stolen oil dollars hidden in foreign bank accounts and corporate property holdings.
The British government recently announced that it expects to seize ‘around £20 billion in liquid assets of the Libyan regime, mostly in London.’ The Swiss government has similarly issued an order for the immediate freeze of assets belonging to Gaddafi and his entourage. The Swiss central bank announced that it will freeze Gaddafi's 613 million Swiss francs (USD$658 million), with an additional 205 million francs (USD$220 million) in paper or fiduciary operations. In 2008, before a diplomatic incident involving the arrest of one of Gaddafi's sons for assault in Switzerland, Gaddafi's Swiss holdings amounted to 5.7 billion in cash and 812 million francs in paper and fiduciary operations. In 2006, the Libyan Sovereign Wealth Fund had investments of $70 billion. The US closed its embassy in Triopli and slapped a freeze on all Libyan assets described as ‘substantial’.
To protect his empire of corruption, Gaddafi has ordered his air force to bomb and strafe unarmed civilian demonstrators demanding an end to his 42-year rule. His son Saif al-Islam threatened to dismember the country and plunge it into a civil war. Gaddafi himself has vowed to fight on and die ‘like a martyr’. It is not enough for Gaddafi and his thugs to have bled the Libyan people dry for 42 years, they now want to burn down the whole country to ashes.
The Ivory Coast is on the verge of civil war, according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In December 2010, Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after he was decisively defeated in the presidential election. In 2000, Gbagbo imposed a curfew and a state of emergency and ordered security forces to shoot and kill any demonstrators in the streets: ‘Police, gendarmes and soldiers from all branches of the armed forces are ordered to use all means throughout the country to oppose troublemakers.’ Like Gaddafi's mercenaries today, Gbagbo's troops back then went on a killing and beating rampage. The European Union, the Swiss and United States governments have frozen Gbagbo's assets in their countries.
In May 2010, Meles Zenawi said he won the parliamentary election by 99.6 per cent. The European Union election observer team said the election ‘lacked a level playing field’ and ‘failed to meet international standards’, a well-known code phrase for a ‘stolen election’. In its 2005 report, the team said exactly the same thing.
Zenawi's EPDRF party pretty much owns the Ethiopian economy. ‘According to the World Bank, roughly half of the rest of the national economy is accounted for by companies held by an EPRDF-affiliated business group called the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT). EFFORT's freight transport, construction, pharmaceutical, and cement firms receive lucrative foreign aid contracts and highly favourable terms on loans from government banks.’ The regime's own anti-corruption agency reported in 2008 that ‘USD$16 million dollars’ worth of gold bars simply walked out of the bank in broad daylight.
In 2005, Zenawi demonstrated the extremes he will go to protect his empire of corruption. Zenawi's own inquiry commission documented that troops under Zenawi's direct command and control mowed down 193 documented unarmed protesters in the streets and severely wounded nearly 800. Another 30,000 suspected opponents were jailed. In a meeting with high level US officials in advance of the May 2010 election, Zenawi [url=http://bit.ly/gjEiPo]told[/url them in plain words what he will do to his opposition if they try to ‘discredit the election’. ‘If opposition groups resort to violence in an attempt to discredit the election, we will crush them with our full force; they will all vegetate like Birtukan (Midekssa) in jail forever.’ If Zenawi will ‘crush’ those who ‘attempt to discredit an election’, it does not leave much to the imagination to figure out what he will do when the people ask him peacefully to leave power.
In April 2010, Omar al-Bashir of the Sudan claimed victory by winning nearly 70 per cent of the vote. The EU election observer mission declared the ‘deficiencies in the legal and electoral framework in the campaign environment led the overall process to fall short of a number of international standards for genuine democratic elections.’ Another election stolen in broad daylight; but that is not all Bashir has stolen. According to a Wikileaks cablegram, ‘International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told (US) Ambassadors Rice and Wolff on March 20 (2009) that (Ocampo) would put the figure of Sudanese President Bashir's stash of money at possibly $9 billion.’
After the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, the first warrant of its kind for a sitting head of state, a sneering Bashir flipped his middle finger at the ICC: ‘They will issue their decision tomorrow, and we are telling them to immerse it in water and drink it’, a common Arabic insult.
In February 2010, a group of soldiers in Niger calling itself the ‘Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy’ stormed Niger's presidential palace and snatched president Mamadou Tandja and his ministers. In 2009, Tandja had dissolved the National Assembly and set up a ‘Constitutional Court’ to pave the way for him to become president-for-life. Niger's state auditor reported that ‘at least 64 billion CFA francs (USD$128-million) were stolen from Niger's state coffers under the government of former president Mamadou Tandja.’ Tandja is sitting in jail in southwestern Niger.
In March 2008, Robert Mugabe declared victory in the presidential election after waging a campaign of violence and intimidation on his opponent Morgan Tsvangirai and his supporters. In 2003, Mugabe boasted, ‘I am still the Hitler of the time. This Hitler has only one objective: justice for his people, sovereignty for his people, recognition of the independence of his people and their rights over their resources. If that is Hitler, then let me be Hitler tenfold. Ten times, that is what we stand for.’ No one would disagree with Mugabe's self-description. In 2010, Mugabe announced his plan to sell ‘about $1.7 billion of diamonds in storage’. According to a Wikileaks cablegram, ‘a small group of high-ranking Zimbabwean officials (including Grace Mugabe) have been extracting tremendous diamond profits.’ Mugabe is so greedy that he stole outright ‘£4.5 million from [aid] funds meant to help millions of seriously ill people.’
In December 2007, Mwai Kibaki declared himself winner of the presidential election. In 2002, Kibaki, criticising the regime of his predecessor Daniel Arap Moi, urged the people to ‘remain calm, even when intimidated or provoked by those who are desperately determined to rig the elections and plunge the country into civil war.’ In 2007, Kibaki and his thugs unleashed such violence against the civilian population that 1,500 Kenyans were killed and some 600,000 displaced, almost plunging Kenya into civil war.
The Kroll Report revealed that Moi stole billions of dollars using a ‘web of shell companies, secret trusts and frontmen’ and secreted the loot in 30 countries. Kibaki stonewalled further action on the report, including prosecution of Moi.
The story of corruption, theft, embezzlement and brazen transfer of the national wealth of African peoples to European and African banks and corporate institutions is repeated elsewhere in the continent. Ex-Nigerian President Sani Abacha, who was judicially determined to be a member of a criminal organisation by a Swiss court, stole $500 million. Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt also have their stolen assets in the hundreds of millions of dollars frozen in Switzerland and elsewhere. Other African thugtators who have robbed their people (and pretty much gotten away with it) include Nigeria's Ibrahim Babangida, Guniea's Lansana Conte, Togo's Gnassingbe Eyadema, Gabon's Omar Bongo, Equatorial Guniea's Obiang Nguema, Burkina Faso's Blaise Campore and Congo's (Brazaville) Denis Sassou Nguesso, among others.
In previous commentaries, I have argued that the business of African governments is corruption. African thugtators cling to power to operate sophisticated criminal business enterprises to loot their national treasuries and resources. These African ‘leaders’ are actually ‘godfathers’ or heads of criminal families. Just like any organised criminal enterprise, African thugtators use their party apparatuses, bureaucracies, military and police forces to maintain and perpetuate their corrupt financial empires.
When the US first announced its ‘kleptocracy asset recovery program’ to the world in July 2010, US Attorney General Eric Holder delivered the message, not at some international anti-corruption forum, but at the African Union Summit in Kampala, Uganda. Holder told the gathered African thugtators:
‘Today, I'm pleased to announce that the US Department of Justice is launching a new Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative aimed at combating large-scale foreign official corruption and recovering public funds for their intended - and proper - use for the people of our nations. We're assembling a team of prosecutors who will focus exclusively on this work and build upon efforts already underway to deter corruption, hold offenders accountable, and protect public resources.’
Holder's announcement was nothing short of breathtaking. In Kampala, Holder was talking directly to the African equivalents of the Godfathers of the Bonnano, Columbo, Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese crime families in one place.
THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF THUGTATORSHIPS
Thugtatorships in Africa thrive in the political economy of kleptocracy. Widespread corruption permeates every corner of society. Oil revenues, diamonds, gold bars, coffee and other commodities and foreign aid are stolen outright and pocketed by the thugtators and their army of thugocrats. Public funds are embezzled and misused and state property misappropriated and converted to private use. Publicly-owned assets are virtually given away to supporters in ‘privatisation programs’ or secretly held in illegal transactions. Bank loans are given out to front enterprises owned secretly by the thugtators or their supporters without sufficient or proper collateral.
Businessmen must pay huge bribes or kickbacks to participate in public contracting and procurement. Those involved in the import/export business are victimised in shakedowns by thugocrats. The judiciary is thoroughly corrupted through political interference and manipulation.
One of the common tricks used by thugtators to cling to power is to terrorise the people with warnings of an impending Armageddon. They say that if they are removed from power, even after 42 years, the sky will fall and the earth will open up and swallow the people. Thugtators sow fear, uncertainty and doubt in the population and use misinformation and disinformation to psychologically defeat, disorient and neutralise the people.
Both Gaddafi and his son have warned of chaos. Zenawi has been talking about ‘genocide’ for years. The 2005 European Union election observer mission in its final report strongly chastised Zenawi and his associates for morbid genocide rhetoric. If Africa's thugtators plan to use the ‘nuclear option’ and bring Armageddon on their societies, they would be wise to know who is destined to win the final battle between good and evil.
Gaddafi's fate now dangles between what he wants to do to bring this unspeakable tragedy to a swift conclusion, the will of the Libyan people once they vanquish his mercenaries and the International Criminal Court to whom the US Security Council has voted unanimously to refer Gaddafi and members of his government in Libya for investigation and prosecution for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Like al-Bashir of the Sudan, Gadhafi and members of his thugocratic empire will not escape the long arms of justice. The days of massacring unarmed demonstrators, strafing and bombing civilians and detention of innocent people by the tens of thousands with impunity are gone. Justice may be delayed but when the people open the floodgates of freedom, ‘justice (not blood) will run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream’ and wash out the wreckage of thugtatorship into the sea.
Africa's thugtatorships have longstanding and profitable partnerships with the West. Through aid and trade, the West has enabled these thugocracies to flourish in Africa and repress Africans. To cover up their hypocrisy and hoodwink the people, the West is now lined up to ‘freeze’ the assets of the thugtators. It is a drama they have perfected since the early days of African independence. The fact of the matter is that the West is interested only in ‘stability’ in Africa. That simply means, in any African country, they want a ‘guy they can do business with’. The business they want to do in Africa is the oil business, the (blood) diamond business, the arms sales business, the coffee and cocoa export business, the tourism business, the luxury goods export business and the war on terrorism business. They are not interested in the African peoples' business, the human rights business, the rule of law business, the accountability and transparency business and the fair and free elections business.
Today, the West is witnessing a special kind of revolution it has never seen: a youth-led popular nonviolent revolution against thugtatorships in Africa and the Middle East. Neither the West nor the thugtators know what to do with this kind of revolution or the revolutionaries leading it. President Obama said, ‘History will end up recording that at every juncture in the situation in Egypt, that we were on the right side of history.’ Well, what is good for Egypt is good enough for Ethiopia, Libya, Tunisia, the Sudan, Algeria, Kenya, Bahrain, Djbouti, Somalia and Zimbabwe. The decisive question in world history today is: are we on the right side of history with the victims of oppression or are we on the wrong side with thugtators destined to the dustbin of history?
Power to youths in Africa and the Middle East!
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* This article first appeared in The Huffington Post.
* Alemayehu G. Mariam is professor of political science at CSU San Bernardino.
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Dakar appeal against the land grab
La Via Campesina
We, farmers organizations, non-governmental organizations, religious organizations, unions and other social movements, gathered in Dakar for the World Social Forum 2011:
Considering that small and family farming, which represent most of the world's farmers, are best placed to:
- meet their dietary needs and those of populations, ensuring food security and sovereignty of countries,
- provide employment to rural populations and maintain economic life in rural areas, key to a balanced territorial development,
- produce with respect to the environment and to the conservation of natural resources for future generations;
Considering that recent massive land grabs targeting tens of millions of acres for the benefit of private interests or third states - whether for reasons of food, energy, mining, environment, tourism, speculation or geopolitics - violate human rights by depriving local, indigenous, peasants, pastoralists and fisher communities of their livelihoods, by restricting their access to natural resources or by removing their freedom to produce as they wish, and exacerbate the inequalities of women in access and control of land;
Considering that investors and complicit governments threaten the right to food of rural populations, that they condemned them to suffer rampant unemployment and rural exodus, that they exacerbate poverty and conflicts and contribute to the loss of agricultural knowledge and skills and cultural identities ;
Considering also that the land and the respect of human rights are firstly under the jurisdiction of national parliaments and governments, and they bear the greatest share of responsibility for these land grabs;
We call on parliaments and national governments to immediately cease all massive land grabs current or future and return the plundered land. We order the government to stop oppressing and criminalizing the movements of struggle for land and to release activists detained. We demand that national governments implement an effective framework for the recognition and regulation of land rights for users through consultation with all stakeholders. This requires putting an end to corruption and cronyism, which invalidates any attempt of shared land management.
We demand that governments, the Regional Unions of States, FAO and other national and international institutions immediately implement the commitments that were made at the International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD) of 2006, namely securing land rights of users, the revival of agrarian reform process based on a fair access to natural resources and rural development for the welfare of all. We ask that the elaboration process of the FAO Guidelines on Governance of Land and Natural Resources be strengthened, and that they are based on Human Rights as defined in the various charters and covenants - these rights being effective only if binding legal instruments are implemented at the national and international level to impose on the states compliance with their obligations. Moreover, each state has to be held responsible for the impact of its policies or activities of its companies in the countries targeted by the investments. Similarly, we must reaffirm the supremacy of Human Rights over international trade and finance regimes, which are sources of speculation on natural resources and agricultural goods.
Meanwhile, we urge the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) to definitively reject the World Bank principles for responsible agricultural investment (RAI), which are illegitimate and inadequate to address the phenomenon, and to include the commitments of the ICARRD as well as the conclusions of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) in its Global Framework for Action.
We demand that states, regional organizations and international institutions guarantee people's right to land and support family farming and agro-ecology. Appropriate agricultural policies should consider all different types of producers (indigenous peoples, pastoralists, artisanal fishermen, peasants, agrarian reform beneficiaries) and answer specifically to the needs of women and youth.
Finally, we invite people and civil society organisations everywhere to support - by all human, media, legal, financial or popular means possible - all those who fight against land grabs and to put pressure on national governments and international institutions to fulfil their obligations towards the rights of people.
We all have a duty to resist and to support the people who are fighting for their dignity!
Sign the appeal here!
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* La Via Campesina is an international movement of peasants, small- and medium-sized producers, landless, rural women, indigenous people, rural youth and agricultural workers.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Post-election tensions in Uganda require fair, just and timely settlement
Citizens' Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU)
The Presidential and Parliamentary Elections of February 18th 2011 were an important milestone in Uganda's democratization process. Over 7 million Ugandans arc recorded to have voted in the 2nd multiparty elections since the return to multiparty politics in 2005. This election came after a relatively peaceful campaign period. Notwithstanding this calmness, the electoral process was characterized by an uneven playing field.
The election day itself was relatively calm, but subdued across the country. The heavy deployment of security personnel in anticipation of post-election threats to national stability was uncalled for. Though relatively few, there were violent incidences before and after the election day, most notably in Bugisu, Lingo, Ankole and West Nile. In Bugisu, confrontations between the security forces and civilians left a citizen dead and several others injured, including a journalist who was shot. In order to guarantee peaceful, free and fair elections in the future, the following will require very urgent consideration:
• Adopt comprehensive electoral reforms including the appointment of a representative Electoral Commission ;
• Adopt and implement very strict guidelines to guard against the misuse of incumbency especially during campaigns ;
• Adopt strict measures against acts of bribery in elective politics and public appointments ;
• Guarantee a clean voters register in order to avoid disenfranchisement of many potential voters ;
• Ensure that the training of polling officials is on-going, efficient and effective ;
• Ensure that all Post-Election contentions are expressed in a manner that does not unnecessarily increase tension and undermine political dialogue ;
• In relation to the above, we consider non violent civic expressions of displeasure through peaceful demonstrations as one of many legitimate options that should not be thwarted by security forces as has al ready been the case in Aiasaka ;
• The use of irregular private or stare militia and the military should be avoided ;
• All actors especially religious bodies, in particular Inter Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) should hasten a proactive facilitation for peace and reconciliation between warring parties across the country, and especially in areas regarded as conflict hot-spots.
Finally, in the short and medium term, important political reforms remain necessary to establish a more inclusive governance regime that will build greater public trust in institutions of state and open doors for actors across the political divide to constructively engage in building the Uganda we all desire.
Prepared and signed for and on behalf of the Citizens ' Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU).
Chairperson, Executive Committee
Sex Workers March – 3 March 2011
International Sex Worker Rights Day
African Sex Worker Alliance
In 2009 sex workers from Southern, Western and Eastern Africa came together to form a sex worker led African Sex Worker Alliance (ASWA), whose mandate is to lead the fight for sex workers’ rights in Africa. To date the alliance is made up of 7 African countries; Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
ABOUT INTERNATIONAL SEX WORKER RIGHTS DAY
On the 3rd of March ASWA will take to the streets and hold events in commemoration of the International Sex Worker Rights Day. The day’s history goes back to 2001 when over 25,000 sex workers gathered in India for a sex worker festival. The organizers, the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, is a Calcutta based group that has over 50,000 sex worker members and members of their communities.
WHY WE ARE MARCHING
“We call for access to health services and the ending of sex workers’ human rights violations. We call for an investigation in all the murders committed against sex workers and the bring to trial of those who abuse our rights and put barriers in our ways to gain access to health care and send our children to school.
“We are humans; sex work is just one dimension of our lives, not all of who we are. We are your brothers, sisters, daughters, neighbours.
“When we dare to be powerful, to go onto the streets and make our voices heard, we know there are those who will try to shame and ridicule us, with the hope that we will be isolated and silenced. But this won’t be the case!”, says ASWA Regional Coordinator, Kyomya Macklean.
KENYA SEX WORKERS ALLIANCE
Route: From the Coast Provincial General hospital to the Tononoka social hall
Starting time: 9am
Contact persons: Phelister Wamboi firstname.lastname@example.org (+254 720 333 141), John Mathenge email@example.com (+254 725 608 724)
WANT TO JOIN?
Join us at the march closest to you – bring your own red umbrella, and wear a mask to cover your face in solidarity with sex workers who cannot show their faces for fear of being arrested, harassed and stigmatized. Feel free to bring your own banners and signs to show your support.
Africa Sex workers Alliance
Bar Hostess Empowerment and suupport Programme
Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya
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Statement on Zimbabwe activists arrest
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
February 25, 2011 -- Detained social justice activist Munyaradzi Gwisai on February 24 lamented the torture sessions to which 46 activists are being subjected by state security agents as tragic and inexpressible.
Gwisai, who testified before Harare Magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi during an application for refusal of placement on remand for the 45 human rights activists filed by defence lawyer Alec Muchadehama disclosed in court that he, together with other activists, were subjected to torture during their detention by the police at Harare Central Police Station.
Gwisai said the torture sessions were aimed at securing confessions which would implicate them in the commission of treason, a charge which they are now facing.
Gwisai said he was tortured together with five other detainees in a room in the basement at Harare Central Police Station by nine state security agents who included some police officers who had arrested them.
During the torture sessions, which were recorded on video, the detainees were asked to recount what had transpired during their meeting, which was held on Saturday, February 19, 2011, in central Harare.
Gwisai said each of the six detainees received a series of lashes which were administered while they lay down on their stomachs. He added that he received between 15 and 20 lashes as the police and his tormentors sought to obtain confessions from him and the other detainees.
Gwisai said the pain which he endured and suffered as a result of the torture sessions was “indescribable, sadistic and a tragedy for Zimbabwe”.
The University of Zimbabwe labour law lecturer said it was extremely difficult for him to sit and walk because of the torture sessions he underwent together with other detainees.
Gwisai said the meeting held on February 19 was held to discuss International Socialist Organization business and issues of democracy and constitutionalism and not to plot the toppling of the government as alleged by the police and prosecutors. He added that the meeting, which was attended by HIV/AIDS activists, was also meant to commemorate the life of a deceased HIV and AIDS activist, Navigator Mungoni.
Earlier on Muchadehama outlined the detainees’ complaints against the police.
The detainees’ lawyer said the arrest of his clients was unlawful as they were not advised of the reason/s for their arrest. He also advised that they were detained in filthy and stinking police cells. He said the detainees only knew of the treason charge filed against them when they finally appeared in court on February 23, 2011 and were not warned and cautioned that statements were recorded in relation to the treason charge.
Muchadehama told the court that the police extensively subjected his clients to severe interrogation sessions where they attempted to coax some of the detainees to turn against their colleagues and be considered state witnesses.
He said some of the detainees were assaulted, brutalised and tortured while in police custody. The defence lawyer said the torture sessions were administered through assaults all over the detainees’ bodies, under their feet and buttocks through the use of broomsticks, metal rods, pieces of timber, open palms and some blunt objects.
In his application for refusal of remand Muchadehama argued that the facts as outlined by the state did not constitute the commission of an offence.
The matter continues on February 28, 2011, when prosecutor Edmore Nyazamba, who applied for the placement of the detainees on remand, cross examines Gwisai. In the meantime, all 45 will remain incarcerated in remand prison in Harare and at Chikurubi Women’s Prison for the women detainees.
* * *
February 23, 2011 -- On February 19, the Zimbabwe state attacked a meeting on Egypt of the International Socialist Organization Zimbabwe and arrested everyone there. Some 52 people representing students, union members and workers were arrested and were detained at the Harare Central prison. Munyaradzi Gwisai, director of the Labor Law Centre and former Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MP, was among those detained. They were denied medical and legal assistance.
The activists were holding a closed-door meeting in downtown Harare when the police raided the premises. They were discussing the events in the Middle East and the fall of Egyptian dictator Mubarak and had just shown a film of the uprising.
They are being individually interrogated and, according to one comrade who saw them briefly, are being beaten.
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* Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights aims to foster a culture of human rights in Zimbabwe and to encourage the growth and strengthening of human rights at all levels of Zimbabwean society.
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UN concerns about Namibia’s rights record
28 February 2011
The Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the 48-Member UN Human Rights Council (HRC) has expressed widespread concern about the general human rights situation in Namibia. This includes the Government of Namibia (GoN)’s non-compliance with several core international human rights norms, UN documents indicate.
The above is the outcome of the UPR process, also known as the interactive dialog, which took place on January 31 2011 during the 10th Session of the said Group. The Session was held in Genevabetween January 24 2011 and February 4 2011.
The UPR is a unique process involving a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States once every four years. The process provides the opportunity for each UN Member State to declare what administrative, legislative, judicial and other measures it has taken to improve the human rights situations on its territory in compliance with its mandatory human rights obligations. Hence, the UPR is designed to prompt, support, and expand the promotion and protection of human rights on the ground, with the ultimate goal of improving the human rights situation in every UN Member State.
During the interactive dialog on Namibia, altogether 48 UN Member States scrutinized the general human rights situation in the country, with the result that a total of 120 shortcomings have been identified, which GoN needs to rectify during the next four years.
Out of the 120 recommendations, GoN must provide concrete answers to 27 concerns no later than the 17th Session of the HRC slated for June 2011.
In 19 cases of the 27 recommendations, the aforesaid Group concentrated on GoN’s failure to ratify four UN-sponsored core international human rights treaties, viz: the Convention on Enforced Disappearances (CED), the Convention on Migrant Workers (CMW), the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OP-CAT) and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (OP-ICESCR). In four other cases, the Working Group urged GoN to extend an open and standing invitation to the HRC’sSpecial Procedures, while three additional concerns had regard toNamibia’s non-compliance with international human rights norms relating to labor, communication and minority rights.
Three of the 120 UN concerns, dealing with sexual minority rights, have been rejected by GoN.
The 120 recommendations are contained in the 22-page Draft Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, also known as the Draft Outcome Report, published on February 3 2011. The report is informed by three documents: (1) a Summary of Stakeholders’ Report prepared by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, (2) a Compilation independently prepared by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, (3) the National Report submitted by the Namibia’s Ministry of Justice.
Human rights issues---such as violence and discrimination against women, gross income disparities and inequalities, human trafficking, backlog of court cases, police brutality, the right to a fair and speedy trial, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, discrimination against indigenous minorities, attacks on the press freedoms as well as the rights of sexual minorities---dominated the interactive dialog on Namibia.
Each UN Member State has the primary responsibility to implement the recommendations contained in the final outcome, while the UPR ensures that all countries are held accountable for progress or failure in implementing such recommendations. In a subsequent review process, States are under the obligation to provide information on the corrective measures they have taken to implement the recommendations made during a previous review process.
During the present review, GoN stressed that it would continue in its endeavors to remove obstacles to the full realization of human rights by all Namibians, with the exception of the rights of sexual minorities. However, GoN stated that its principal priorities “at this time” were food security, education and health, which purportedly take much ofNamibia’s budget. Saying Namibia had “only recently reached independence”, GoN pleaded with the international community to “show understanding” for the shortcomings.
In case of additional information, please call, e-mail or text: Steven Mvula or Phil ya Nangoloh at Tel: +264 61 253 447, +264 61 236 183 or +264 811 406 888 (office hours) or Mobiles: +264 811 299 886 (Phil) and or +264 812 912 948 (Steven) or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or visit us at: Liberty Center, 116 John Meinert Street, Windhoek-West, Windhoek or visit us at: www.namrights.org.na
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Reclaiming China's ‘open sea’ foreign policy?
A critical reading of Abdul Sheriff’s ‘Dhow Cultures of the Indian Ocean: Cosmopolitanism, Commerce and Islam’
‘The Indian Ocean, perhaps more than even the Mediterranean, was an arena of open dialogue between people of many cultures and religions’ – Abdul Sheriff
If there is one theme that runs throughout Abdul Sheriff’s (2010) 351 pages magnum opus ‘Dhow Cultures of the Indian Ocean: Cosmopolitanism, Commerce and Islam’ then it is unity. Yet it is a book about unity in diversity – yes, cultural, political, commercial and even religious diversity.
The book is a 14-year work of painstaking historical research. It is profoundly personal as it is political. ‘I grew up in Zanzibar’, the author intimates in its preface, and ‘therefore became conscious of the intermingling of the peoples of the Indian Ocean which underlay the cosmopolitan character of Zanzibar, of which I was myself a product’ (p. xiii).
As ‘one of the numerous dhow ports skirting the Indian Ocean’, the Zanzibar in which Sheriff grew up ‘was almost transformed by the arrival of the monsoon dhows and sailors from Arabia, the Persian Gulf, India and Somalia’ (p. xiii). It is their intermingling with locals as lubricated by what Sheriff regards as cultural and religious tolerance that informs his take on the subject.
Four parts constitute the book: 1) regional partners; 2) navigation; 3) dialogue across the ocean; 4) the cultural world of the Indian Ocean. In total it has 15 chapters. For the purpose of this review they are revisited with respect to the author’s nostalgia for the unity of an ‘open sea’.
Methodologically the author aligns himself with Fernand Braudel’s concept of longue durée, as applied in the Mediterranean, to explain how the Indian Ocean forged unity over a long period of time. He thus rejects the long-held assumption that the vast Indian Ocean economic system was absorbed by the Portuguese seaborne empire in the 16th century. Yet he reluctantly agrees with world-system analysts that this intervention marked the beginning of the modern capitalist world-system which littoral societies, as he painstakingly tries to show, have somehow survived.
To Sheriff, ‘the Indian Ocean before the coming of the Portuguese was a mare liberum where continental states rarely tried to control maritime matters’ (p. 7). In other words, it was an open sea whereby sailors in their dhows traded freely across the small port/city-states without the interference of major empires of the time. Interestingly, he uses the phrase ‘free trade’ to describe such oceanic commerce. One such ‘non-interfering’ empire which he glorifies, not least because of its current Western demonisers, is China. He thus romanticises its then foreign policy:
‘By the fifteenth century the Indian Ocean commercial and cultural zone had matured, and it was the golden age of many of the city-states around its rim. Into this world two major incursions occurred from opposite directions, that of the spectacular Chinese expeditions from the east at the beginning of the century, and that of Portuguese from the west at the end of the century. While the Chinese expeditions were powerful armadas able, if they had wished, to conquer many of the small city-states, they generally abided by the long-held principle that the Indian Ocean was a mare liberum. The Portuguese, in contrast, were crusading conquistadors determined to capture the spice trade of the East through armed trading and trade monopolies. They initiated what has been called the “Vasco da Gama epoch” in the Indian Ocean, although they were ultimately unable to monopolise the trade of the vast ocean.’ (p. 12)
An explanation for China’s seemingly aborted imperialism, however, remains elusive. Elsewhere a notable literary critic of imperialism, Chinua Achebe (2011), explains it this way: ‘The Chinese had their chance to emerge as the leading nation in the world in the Middle Ages, but were consumed by interethnic political posturing and wars, and had to wait another 500 years for another chance.’ Following Jared Diamond, Ian Morris (2011) thus resorts to geographical shifts:
‘Particularly, two inventions the Chinese come up with in the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries have enormous implications. These are working oceangoing ships and working guns… They spread like wildfire. Within a few generations, the techniques that make this work have spread from China to the furthest fringe of backward Western Europe… Once you get the oceangoing ships; all of a sudden an important geographical fact abruptly changes its meaning. To get from northwest Europe to the Americas is about 3,000 miles sailing with the wind across the Atlantic. To get from China to the Americas is about 6,000 miles sailing with the winds that you have to take… Other things being equal, Europeans are simply twice as close to the Americas as the Chinese are. I suggest … that, given time, it seems inevitable that sooner or later there would have been a discovery and plundering and colonization of the New World from East Asia. But they don't have time, because the Europeans are simply twice as close… There are other factors as well involved of course…’
In a way Sheriff’s explanation anticipates Achebe and Morris’ ones, though it seems they hardly consulted each other’s. For instance, in tandem with the former, he notes that in 1424, by the end of the reign of the Emperor Yung-Lo, who was behind Zheng He’s expeditions, ‘China was not at peace’ (p. 310). After noting gleefully that while Portuguese ‘crawled down the west coast, taking nearly a century to reach Malindi on the East African coast in 1498, it took Admiral Zheng He just over a decade to reach the same port in c. 1418, beating them to it by nearly 80 years’, he seems to agree with Morris by stating that the ‘difference was because while the Portuguese had to explore every inch of the way in terra incognita, Zheng He was cruising through a known world of the Indian Ocean that had been traversed by Iranian, Arab, Chinese and Indian dhows and junks, and charted by their navigators, for hundreds of years’ (p. 292).
Thus the move by what is regarded as the greatest navy the world had ever known to will itself to extinction within a hundred years is a fodder to the historian’s ‘if’ conjectures. It’s no wonder to an advocate of its then foreign policy that that ‘fateful decision’ is thus lamentable: ‘But eventually the Chinese decision was to expose not only China but also the whole of the Indian Ocean, which had grown to largely peaceful trade for hundreds of years, to the rapacity of Portuguese armed trading without a credible response’ (p. 311). But, again, what if China did not retreat at all?
Naturally, another 'force' that the author attempts to defend from the ongoing Western demonisation is Islam. Interestingly, it ties perfectly well with his defence of the then Chinese foreign policy, not least because the admiral he seems to so much admire, Zheng He, was ‘from the line of Muslims who had migrated from Bukhara in Central Asia during the Mongol Yuan dynasty six generations earlier, and his grandfather and father had both apparently performed the Hajj’ (p. 294) and ‘his own Muslim background facilitated his dealings with rulers of many Islamic as well as Hindu states’ (p. 297). His last expedition was even earmarked for Mecca.
It is not surprising then that Sheriff dedicates a whole chapter to the Indian Ocean as arguably ‘a Muslim lake’, and therein he devotes a whole section on The Hajj – A Great Unifier and another one on Trade and Tolerance alongside The Hajj and Commerce. Of course as a scholar Sheriff is careful enough to present alternative critiques of such significations. After citing as varying sources as Ali Bey al Abbasi, a Spanish nobleman originally named Domingo Badia y Leyblich, who fervently witnessed the great gathering at Arafat in 1807, and Malcolm X, who changed his name to Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabbaz after his enthusiastic pilgrimage in 1964, on the Hajj as ‘a wonderful institution in the interest of strength, unity and spiritual power of Islam’, he cautions:
‘The exuberance of Ali Bey is understandable, but thousands of pilgrims from the four corners of the Muslim world obviously could not all speak Arabic. They spent only a few days or weeks in the Holy Cities and spoke at least forty languages, according to Burckhardt … even if they all prayed in the same devotional language and shared in the emotional unity of a single religion.’ (p. 248–9)
Nevertheless thereafter Sheriff maintains one of his main points, that Islam was – and is still – favourable for cultural, commercial and even religious tolerance in the Indian Ocean as elsewhere. As he puts it in regard to understanding the complex intersection of Islamic and maritime histories in relation to commerce: ‘Under what has been called pax Islamica in this sense over the vast region, merchants of all nationalities and religions generally found security and protection’ (p. 257). No wonder therein he is bold enough to join in this conclusion:
‘Hodgson rightly concludes, Islam “came closer than any had ever come to uniting all mankind under its ideals”, and represents ‘one of the most thoroughgoing attempts in history to build a world-wide human community”… This was even more true in the Indian Ocean.’ (p. 258)
Time will fail me to review, among others, the chapters of the book on ‘The Dhow’, ‘The Iranian Interval’, ‘The Era of Sindbad’, ‘Madagascar: “People who have come from the Sea”’, ‘Slave Trade and Slavery in the Indian Ocean: The Zanj Rebellion’. Nor will space allow me to critique its sections on ‘Piracy’, ‘The Superimposition of Roman Trade’, ‘The Persian Gulf: The Periplus' “Blind Spot”’, ‘Slavery in Islam’, ‘Hadhramaut: The Geography of Migration’, ‘The Swahili: “Oriental”, “African”, or Schizophrenic?’, ‘Mappilas: “Sons-in-law” of the Monsoons’ and so forth.
So the best you can do, gentle reader, is to get hold of the book and navigate through its fascinating pages. Perhaps along the way you will untangle the mystery of why the mighty China, despite its then Sino-centric view and solicitation of tributes, it did not conquer half of the world that was within its grasp. In the meantime you could as well join in this conclusive eulogy:
‘Zheng He’s tablet in three different languages by the admiral of the then most powerful superpower, addressed to three different gods but making exactly the same offering to all of them, is difficult to interpret other than as a fine example of the cultural heritage of the Indian Ocean world before the coming of the Europeans.’ (p. 319)
China is back in the global stage with a bang, and so is Islam as it grows steadily across the intolerant West. In the long run will the resurgent China entrench itself as an ‘empire without imperialism’? What about Islam – will it entrench itself as a global ‘religion without religionism’?
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Chambi Chachage is an independent researcher, newspaper columnist and policy analyst, based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
* Abdul Sheriff’s ‘Dhow Cultures of the Indian Ocean: Cosmopolitanism, Commerce and Islam’ is published by Columbia University Press.
* This review was first published on the Udadisi blog.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Fears of ethnic cleansing rise as Libyan revolution unfolds
As all of us, and as the international community continues to give understandable solidarity to the self-proclaimed revolutionaries of Libya, it is also important that we give equal weight the condemnation of reported atrocities now surfacing against dark-skinned people (Black Africans) by the revolutionaries, or by those acting in the name of the revolution. These practices should end. There is no place in revolution for ethnic cleansing. Revolution is about change. It is about constructing deeper humanity and bonds among people.
I write this letter to bring attention to the under-reported but troubling issue of possible ethnic cleansing in Libya. As the Libyan Revolution unfolds, fears of possible ethnic cleansing is gripping the more than 1.5 Million migrant workers from Sub-Saharan (Black Africa) now working as low waged workers in the oil industry, as domestic servants, and as general laborers in Libyan society.
Fears of the possibility of ethnic cleansing is motivated by reports from migrant organizations and some news organizations that dozens of African looking workers have been killed thus far, while countless hundreds are in hiding because of the hunt now on for “Black African” mercenaries. Since the protest began, Libyan dictator Qaddafi has relied on “Black African Mercenaries,” recruited from among the armies of his friends on the African continent, especially from Chad and Niger. The presence of these mercenaries has complicated the problem for other peaceful “Black African Migrants,” who are in the country as workers or as refugees. Any black skinned person is a suspected mercenary. Black African immigrants are now, by default linked to the state-orchestrated violence and mass killings carried out by the regime. This is a most dangerous development.
On-going reports of atrocities against innocent people based on their shade of blackness, is horrendous to say the least. What is more horrendous is that these atrocities are being carried out by lighter skinned Africans (Libyans) against their darker skinned brothers and sisters, their guests from other parts of Africa. While killings of the innocent cannot and should not be sanctioned; such ethnocide is further complicated when it is being done by one group of Muslims against another group of Muslims because of differences in skin color. Where are the leaders and teachers of the Muslim community here and in the world on these issues?
It is the duty of the leaders of the revolution and of the provisional government now ensconced in the East of Libya to investigate the reports of ethnic cleansing, to declare such acts as inhuman and as illegal, and to take action against the perpetrators of such horrendous acts.
Pambazuka News 179 : Le Forum Social Mondial 2011 entre ratés et réussites
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Zimbabwe: Another dissident arrested, tortured, lawyers say
Police have arrested and tortured another dissident critic of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's regime as the government escalated a clampdown against a perceived plot to stage mass demonstrations against the leader, lawyers said late on Monday (01 March). Job Sikhala, the leader of a small offshoot of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was arrested on Friday in connection with an alleged plan to stage demonstrations like those in Egypt.
Zimbabwe: Mugabe threatens foreign firms
Zimbabwe's president has threatened to seize foreign firms and boycott their products in retaliation for Western sanctions against him and senior members of his ruling ZANU-PF party. Robert Mugabe made special mention on Wednesday of British-controlled banks and businesses, saying they controlled 400 businesses in the former British colony in southern Africa.
Zimbabwe: Race to succeed 'ailing' Mugabe
As anxiety grows about President Robert Mugabe's health, divisions in Zanu-PF have worsened, with the two main camps angling to succeed the veteran leader intensifying their internal battle for control of the party. Mugabe's health concerns escalated last week when he was rushed to Singapore for what spokesman George Charamba said was 'the last review on his minor cataract operation'.
Africa: FAMEDEV Awards GAMCOTRAP Gender Award 2011
The Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr Isatou Touray, is one of the recipients of the Africa Gender Award 2011 by FAMEDEV (Femme et media et Development) headed by a Gambian, Amie Joof-Cole based in Dakar, Senegal. Dr Touray is amongst other prestigious awardees such as the Senegalese President, His Excellency Abdoulaye Wade. Imam Baba Muhtarr Leigh, received the award on behalf of Dr Touray.
Africa: No decent work for cross-border traders
This week marks 100 years of International Women’s Day with a theme that mentions the need for a pathway to decent work for women. Despite the fact women cross-border traders make huge contributions to African economies, their path to decent work is still strewn with difficulty and danger. A recent United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) report surveyed 700 cross-border traders in Southern Africa and found that most women traders had reported sexual abuse and harassment. This exposes women traders to HIV infection and other sexually-transmitted diseases, yet nobody seems to take action.
No decent work for cross-border traders
A couple weeks ago while crossing the Tanzania-Kenya border, I overheard a man teasing a cross-border trader that she was not likely to get married because of the nature of her work.
This statement was not really a joke, regardless of the innocent manner in which it was made. It was a manifestation of deep-rooted stereotypes about women who engage in cross-border trade.
This week marks 100 years of International Women’s Day with a theme that mentions the need for a pathway to decent work for women. Despite the fact women cross-border traders make huge contributions to African economies, their path to decent work is still strewn with difficulty and danger.
Throughout Africa these women are not respected and there is a perception that because they cover long-distances and spend nights away from their families, they are prostitutes or of base character.
Others see them as divorcees, dangerous, or users of witchcraft. All these perceptions reinforce the belief that someone engaging in such trade does not fit the ‘good woman’ stereotype.
This perception is not just an East African phenomenon. In most African countries, these stereotypes seem to give a licence to members of society to subject cross-border traders to gender-based violence with impunity. Sexual harassment, rape and abuse of women cross-border traders by police and customs officials goes unpunished on many regional borders, including Kenya-Tanzania, Zimbabwe-South Africa, Zambia-Zimbabwe and Malawi-Mozambique.
A recent United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) report surveyed 700 cross-border traders in Southern Africa and found that most women traders had reported sexual abuse and harassment. This exposes women traders to HIV infection and other sexually-transmitted diseases, yet nobody seems to take action.
And although there is little data on this subject, what is known is that women cross-border traders play a huge role in the economies of Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries. Some estimates put their contribution to intra-SADC trade as high as 40%: around US$17.6 billion per year. This doesn’t include the other massive contribution they make to national coffers through taxes, licence fees and duties.
What is disturbing is that many of the above attitudes have percolated through government institutions directly responsible for ensuring the wellbeing of these women. Rarely do these institutions integrate women traders in programmes geared towards improving regional trade, although as many as 80% of those involved in informal trade in Africa are women.
National governments, regional bodies and most civil society organisations seldom educate or empower these women with knowledge on how they can participate meaningfully in regional trade.
Likewise, the contribution of these women in rearing educated and healthy children – a large ingredient for achieving the Millennium Development Goals – is never accounted for.
Failure to recognise these efforts and these women as key players has major implications.
As African countries – either in SADC, the East Africa Community or elsewhere – make huge strides through regional trade policies, these women have no voice or stake in something so important to their lives.
This is confirmed in Masheti Masinjila’s 2009 study Gender Dimensions of Cross Border Trade in the East Africa Community. She found that women who were interviewed showed little knowledge of the East African Community Customs Protocol, and those who did had little motivation to use it to facilitate trading activities.
Meetings to sensitise the business communities in these countries have rarely benefited women traders. The main players are men who enjoy greater proximity to power and have the capital to access unlimited resources which gives them a major competitive edge.
With this, men are able to take advantage of economies of scale and sell their products at lower prices, undercutting small-scale women traders who lack such resources.
It is because of this exclusion that many women traders see the opening of borders as a threat rather than a development opportunity. Programmes to educate and reassure these women are nonexistent.
There are also few specific programmes designed to help transform these women from petty traders to major players in regional trade. Most banks avoid them, arguing that they lack collateral and engage in risky business.
Yet the majority of these women, by virtue of their outstanding experience in the difficult business terrain, could likely produce better results if enabled to take advantage of such trade.
Masinjila established that 44% of the women in her study had completed secondary education. If properly educated and sensitised on regional trade instruments, they would surely have the ability to appreciate the implications of better trade.
Without such interventions, these women will continue to live anything but decent lives. As victims of societal stereotyping, institutional sexual harassment and governmental neglect, their current plight is certainly not a story to celebrate this International Women’s Day.
* Arthur Okwemba is a journalist with the African Women and Child Feature Service in Kenya. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service special series for 100 years of International Women’s Day.
DRC: Capturing the voices of women
Despite the signing of international peace agreements, a deadly 15 year war continues in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Women shoulder a disproportionate burden of the conflict. Women in Eastern DRC, face threats of violence and pervasive insecurity, lack of livelihoods, educational inequalities, and poor health and wellbeing. This document from Women for Women International captures the voices of women in North and South Kivu in Eastern DRC.
Kenya: One woman's turbulent journey to success
Mount Elgon in Western Kenya is one of the most marginalised regions in the country. It is so marginalised that it is the only area where not even an inch of tarmac road has been constructed. The area is characterised by violent conflicts over land, as well as retrogressive cultural practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and early child marriages. It is from these harsh conditions that Jennifer Masis has risen, against great odds, to be a formidable force in the fight for women’s empowerment.
Liberia: Maternity Waiting Homes launched in Liberia
Liberia is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be pregnant - one in 20 women will die during pregnancy or childbirth. But the government is launching new projects to deal with the problem. One such project began in February, with the opening of the first of seven ‘maternity waiting homes’ in Bong County, in north-central Liberia. A ‘maternity waiting home’ is a facility, within easy reach of a hospital or health centre, that is equipped with medical supplies and provides antenatal care with skilled birth attendants and emergency obstetric care.
North Africa: Revolts bypass domestic workers
The uprisings sweeping the Arab world have been provoked by long injustice, low income, police brutality, and lack of social security. While the world looks at this, the suffering of up to three million maids across the Arab world remains wrapped in silence. Victims of abuse, confinement and rape, migrant domestic workers are often invisible because they suffer in places that remain hidden to the public eye, mostly private homes.
Egypt: A first step towards prosecutions?
The protesters who stormed the offices of Egyptian state security this weekend say the buildings are proof of 'the greatest privacy invasion in history', filled with transcripts of phone conversations, surveillance reports and stark reminders of the torture carried out inside.Hundreds of protesters seized the state security building - a prominent symbol of the Egyptian government's brutality - after hours of protests. Protesters say they hope the documents are used to prosecute state security officers.
Egypt: Human rights organisations condemn military court trials
The signatory organisations to this statement have stressed that civilians are not to be prosecuted and tried for non-military crimes before military tribunals composed of military officers, which is contrary to the basic rights of citizens to a fair trial. This follows the conviction of Amr Abdallah Abd el-Rasoul el-Beheiry on 1 March on charges of assault of an officer and breaking curfew.
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Press release: 2 March 2011
Human Rights Organisations Condemn the Trial of Civilians before Military Courts
The undersigned organisations today condemned a military tribunal's conviction of Amr Abdallah Abd el-Rasoul el-Beheiry (32 years) on March 1st on charges of assault of an officer and breaking curfew. The tribunal further sentenced him to a prison term of five years all within a period that did not exceed three days from the time of his arrest.
The signatory organisations to this statement stressed that civilians are not to be prosecuted and tried for non-military crimes before military tribunals composed of military officers, which is contrary to the basic rights of citizens to a fair trial. They also stressed that all international treaties ratified by Egypt affirm the adherence to the standards of a fair trial even in times of emergency and that no state has the right to derogate from this obligation.
The undersigned organisations express their deep concern over hundreds of trials that took place in the past few weeks since the outbreak of the Revolution on 25 January and that have been tainted with the suspicion of violating internationally agreed upon principles regarding fair and public trials.
In many of these cases, family members of the defendants were not able to visit their relatives or hire lawyers to defend them. In the cases where a lawyer was hired, the pace with which the trials took place, did not allow the lawyers much time to review case files or prepare an appropriate defense. The secrecy of the trial proceedings further aggravate the situation, as often the defendants' families are not informed of the time of the trial, or where their relatives are being detained, until after the verdict is issued.
Amr Abdallah was arrested during the early hours of Saturday morning, 26 February, at a peaceful demonstration in front of the Council of Ministers building to demand the resignation of interim Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik. He was interrogated on Sunday, 27 February, and tried on Monday, 28 February without the presence of a lawyer appointed by his family. Furthermore, he was not allowed to contact any of his family members, eliminating any chances he had to make use of eye witness testimonies or to submit evidence for his innocence.
The signatory organisations to this statement plan to present a petition to the military officer charged with ratifying the decision, seeking the annulment of the court sentence and a retrial before a civilian court, where Amr Abdallah will be given the opportunity to seek counsel and witnesses, and the regular judicial system will be able to re-evaluate the events leading to his arrest and to reconsider the charges against him, in light of testimonies of witnesses who were not present during the first trial.
While the undersigned organisations have resorted to this plea, time is of the essence as the military officer charged with ratifying the decision can make his decision at any point, according to the Military Justice Code (Law Number 25/1966).
The undersigned organisations also demand that the military officer charged with ratifying the decision not ratify any military sentences issued against civilians in non-military crimes, and that they be retried before civilian courts to guarantee their right to a fair trial.
Signatories to the statement:
1. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
2. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
3. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
4. Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
5. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
6. Hisham Mubarak Law Center
7. Al Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence
Egypt: Mubarak regime 'provoked' attacks on Christians
Analysts say there is growing evidence that Egyptian security forces planned attacks on Christian churches and clergy, or allowed them to happen. The apparent purpose of the attacks was to reinforce the idea to sympathetic Western governments that without Mubarak, radical Islamist groups would gain a foothold in Egypt and wage a holy war on its Christian community.
Kenya: State responds to ICC civil society drive with two-million signature effort
A competition has broken out between Government and civil society groups opposed to the deferral of International Criminal Court cases. Government functionaries have launched a bid to collect two million signatures from Kenyans to prove that the deferral bid has popular support. This is a direct response to civil society groups that announced they would collect a million signatures to oppose the deferral drive.
Kenya: Vice president off for ICC deferral mission
Kenyan Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka started a second round of shuttle diplomacy on Sunday to lobby for International Criminal Court deferment of Kenya’s post election violence case by a year. Musyoka left the country for a meeting with UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon on Tuesday and US officials on Wednesday.
Libya: General Assembly suspends Libya from rights body
The General Assembly suspended Libya from the United Nations Human Rights Council on 1 March for 'gross and systematic' human rights violations because of President Muammar Al-Qadhafi’s violent repression of peaceful protesters demanding his ouster. The vote by the 192-member Assembly, for which a two-thirds majority was required, followed a request from the Geneva-based Council itself that it suspend the North African country – one of the top UN right’s body’s 47 elected members – and was passed by acclamation.
Sudan: Rights groups criticise Khartoum crackdowns
Anti-government protesters, who have taken to the streets of Khartoum and other Sudanese cities over recent weeks, run the risk of sexual assault, torture and detention, say human rights workers and demonstrators. 'We confirmed five cases of women who were sexually assaulted during or after the protests,' said Rania Rajji, Amnesty International’s Sudan researcher, adding that there had also been cases of torture, and injured people being denied medical care while in detention. According to Amnesty, some 60 people who took part in protests are in the custody of security forces.
Africa: Dreams of a better life and the reality of trafficking
Dreams of a decent living as well as good paying jobs and working conditions have gripped the lives of many young people from Somalia, Ethiopia as well as northern Kenya. Youth aged between 20 to 40 years are being lured with promises of relocation to the developed world and other countries within the region like South Africa. However, while many youth leave home dreaming big, the dreams have ended up turning into nightmares and harrowing tales for the young men and women as they travel from various destinations to the capital city of Nairobi and Mombasa. This article from the African Woman and Child Feature Service examines the issue.
Africa: EU migration policy and support for dictatorships
While protest movements are developing against dictatorial regimes in northern Africa and the Middle East, the statements and actions by European governments are mere rhetoric when it is a matter of reaffirming the necessity of a closure of borders that undermines fundamental rights, says this article. Thus, while Gaddafi brandishes the spectre of a migratory invasion by threatening European states of putting an end to any 'cooperation in the field of the fight against irregular immigration', the EU, through the words of its representative for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton, claims that it does not want to give in to blackmail. At the same time European bodies continued to negotiate, less than a week ago, Libyan participation in their policy to secure the Mediterranean space.
Chad: Libya unrest cuts 'critical' aid route
Unrest in Libya has cut off a 3,000km supply route the World Food Programme has used since 2004 to bring food to tens of thousands of Sudanese refugees and displaced Chadians in eastern Chad. 'WFP used the Libya corridor for about 40 per cent of its food aid to Sudanese refugees and displaced Chadians,' Jean-Luc Siblot, WFP representative in Chad, told IRIN. When unrest erupted in Libya, 11,000 tons of cereals and pulses were ready for discharge at Libya’s Benghazi port to be transported to eastern Chad. The two vessels carrying food have since been re-routed to Port Sudan, Siblot said.
Côte d'Ivoire: 'Dramatic Increase' in refugees fleeing
Thousands more refugees are fleeing an escalation of political violence in the Ivory Coast, reports children’s charity Plan International. Unofficial figures suggest that up to 40,000 people have crossed the border into neighbouring Liberia. 'The number of refugees entering Liberia has increased dramatically in the last week, due to an outbreak of fighting in our neighbouring country, Ivory Coast,' says Mohammed Bah, Plan International’s Country Director in Liberia.
Libya: Fears for the safety of refugees
The UN refugee agency has said it is 'increasingly concerned' about the dangers for civilians inadvertently caught up in the mounting violence in Libya, especially asylum-seekers and refugees. 'We have no access at this time to the refugee community. Over the past months we have been trying to regularise our presence in Libya, and this has constrained our work,' Melissa Fleming, UNHCR's chief spokesperson, told journalists in Geneva.
Libya: Migrants' plight 'desperate'
More than 191,000 people have fled the violence in Libya, according to a report by the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), citing figures from the International Organisation for Migration. People fleeing Libya for Tunisia said they had to pass through dozens of checkpoints on their way from Tripoli, the capital, and that they had been robbed by Gaddafi's security forces.
Somalia: Thousands displaced in offensive against militants
An offensive by pro-Somali government troops and Ethiopian forces against Al-Shabab militants in the western Somali town of Bulo Hawo has forced thousands of people to flee their homes there and in the nearby Kenyan town of Mandera, say witnesses and officials. One resident of Bulo Hawo, normally home to some 60,000 people, and also close to the Ethiopian border, said much of the now nearly deserted town had been destroyed 'after days of shelling'.
Latest Edition: Emerging Powers News Roundup
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...
NDI Hosts Democracy Support Roundtable with Emerging Powers
A group of politicians, civil society leaders and academics from the transatlantic community and emerging powers – including Argentina, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa – convened recently in Washington to discuss the potential for greater cooperation on democracy support.
Raw materials: Towards a global resource war?
While Europe tries to ensure undistorted access to raw materials for its industries, commercial conflicts over export restrictions are a growing area of tension in international trade, with developing countries defending their right to curtail global access to their resources in support of domestic economic development. "World history has been influenced by hostile resource wars and much of the European expansion and colonisation of Africa was to control raw materials," said Mogens Peter Carl, former director-general of the European Commission's trade department. Speaking in Brussels on Tuesday (1 March), Carl, who is now senior advisor at communications consultancy Kreab Gavin Anderson, warned that "there is a danger of a resource war even today – but from the commercial aspect only".
2. China in Africa
China's Leading Construction Company Halts Projects in Libya amid Unrest
China State Construction Engrg. Corp. Ltd. (China Construction), China's leading off-shore construction outsourcing company, on Monday said it is suspending its projects in Libya as the unrest continued in the North African state. Company sources said China Construction has signed construction contracts amounting to 17.6 billion yuan (2.67 billion U.S. dollars) in Libya since 2007. More than half of the projects are still underway.
Libya: China evacuates nearly 29 000
China said on Monday it had evacuated nearly 29 000 of its nationals from strife-torn Libya, where a popular uprising has left at least hundreds dead and triggered a mass exodus of foreigners. The foreign ministry said around 2 500 Chinese citizens had already returned home and 23 000 more had been sent to Greece, Malta, Tunisia, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates, where they were waiting to board flights home.
Bui Project needs additional $168m funding
The Government of Ghana is seeking an additional $168 million funding from the EXIM Bank of China to complete Ghana’s third hydroelectric power dam, the Bui Hydroelectric Dam in 2013. The Deputy Minister of Energy, Mr. Inusah Fuseini disclosed this to the Business Chronicle at the project site at Bui, in the Tain District of the Brong-Ahafo Region.
China rail firms look abroad for expansion
China's rail and train builders, who gained valuable experience at home in projects with Western heavyweights, are now competing with them for global contracts, but analysts say a lack of international savvy could clip their ambitions. China already has 8,300 kilometres (5,150 miles) of high-speed rail and from next year will boast more than half of the world's fast tracks. The country is also pouring money into its urban underground networks, with nearly two dozen major cities given the green light in late 2009 to build 89 metro lines by 2016 -- at an estimated cost of 880 billion yuan ($134 billion).
China helps build state intelligence complex for Mugabe
Construction of the government’s secret electronic eavesdropping complex just outside Harare is moving at a ‘very fast pace’ SW Radio Africa learned on Thursday. It’s believed the complex will, amongst many other things, be used to monitor internet use and telephone calls in Zimbabwe. The ‘snooping’ project, according to a source, is to become the government agency that monitors communications around the whole country. Robert Mugabe officiated at the launch of the building site in 2007.
Chinese 'driving ICT agenda' in Africa: Wikileaks
The US embassy cable, from Nairobi to Washington, says Chinese firms selling into Kenya's ICT sector are “throwing a lot of money around” and influence may be so great “that it is distorting important investment decisions in the country”, according to industry contacts. “Putting aside corruption, Chinese ICT vendors are difficult to beat on price and quality, and therefore often win government procurement tenders. However, companies that buy Chinese equipment often find that they end up paying the piper later due to poor after-sales service,” the leaked cable reads.
Exports of metal to China fall short
A breakdown of foreign trade last year shows China was South Africa’s biggest trading partner with total trade between the countries worth R143.3 billion. The second biggest global economy, China bought R59.3bn worth of South Africa’s goods, of which more than R52bn were in the sectors that include base metals, coal and iron ore.
3. India in Africa
Cautious India supports UNSC vote against Libya
India dropped its customary caution to agree late this evening to a unanimous United Nations’ Security Council vote imposing sanctions against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, including a travel ban and a freezing of the assets of his inner circle, as well as a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC). India is not a member of the ICC. The 15-0 vote at the Security Council came despite objections by the Chinese and the Russians, who sought to dilute critical language in the prepared text against Gaddafi, but dropped these when the Arab League issued a strongly worded statement against the Libyan leader, and Libya’s permanent representative to the UN, Abdurrahman Mohammed Shalgham, strongly supported the UN move.
Indian vaccine to save 250 million lives in Africa
A new India-made vaccine against meningitis is to be administered to nearly 250 million children and adults in sub-Saharan Africa, thanks to a joint campaign by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and PATH, an NGO. MenAfriVac has been produced by the Serum Institute of India and is to be administered to those in the age group of 1 to 29 in 25 sub-Saharan African countries.
Africa’s Aids patients biggest losers if India/EU drugs deal sails through
Jimmy Gideyi has been on free antiretroviral generic drugs manufactured in India since 2004, when he was confirmed HIV positive. In the past decade, the 56-year-old man has received a constant supply of the drugs, which are almost 10 times cheaper than branded ones, thanks to the humanitarian organisation, MSF (Doctors Without Borders). However, Gideyi, like other HIV positive patients in East Africa, fears all that might come to an end, if the controversial Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and India goes through.
Airtel kicks off Africa-India job transfer program
Airtel Africa weekend announced the kick off of a unique staff transfer program that will see the first batch of employees from Africa work within the operations of its parent company in India, starting 23rd February, 2011. The initial phase of the program saw the integration of specialized staff from Bharti airtel into some markets. In this phase of the program, the initial group from Africa to India will be employees from airtel’s operations in Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, the democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Niger and Zambia.
South Africa and India seek to build economic edifice on strong political foundations
When South African and Indian government Ministers meet, the language is always warm and often effusive. At a function in Johannesburg, in January, marking the opening of a South African office by a major Indian State-owned company (MMTC), South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies described South Africans and Indians as “two very, very closely allied peoples with much shared history”. And, at the same function, Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said: “[The relationship between the two countries is] strategic and special, which no two countries share with each other. That is not only documented in history. That is how it is shaping the future.”
India, Africa must stick together: Top UN envoy (Interview)
Ahead of a crucial round of negotiations on reform of the UN Security Council next month, Cheick Sidi Diarra, the top UN envoy for Africa, says India and the 53-nation continent should 'stick together' through twists and turns to realise their long-standing quest for permanent seats on the global high table. 'It's important that India and Africa stick together. India and Africa, whatever shape the discussions take, should stick together,' Diarra, UN under secretary-general and the UN's special adviser on Africa, told IANS in an interview here.
4. In Other Emerging Powers News
Russia: Libya: Russia fears the contagion of violence in North Africa
Russia fears the disorder and violence in North Africa could spread to the northern Caucasus and a series of recent attacks in the Russian Muslim majority region, renews these fears. In less than a week, the President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have spoken on the subject. Yesterday, in Brussels, Putin admitted: "Despite the reassuring claim according to which it is unlikely that radical groups will take power or increase their influence in North African countries, we are concerned."
Russia could 'lose $4 bn' in Libya arms deals
Russia could lose almost $4.0 billion in arms export contracts to Libya after Moscow joined other world powers in slapping an arms embargo on Moamer Kadhafi's regime, a report said on Sunday. The Interfax news agency quoted a military source as saying that Russia had an order book for contracts from Libya worth $2.0 billion while negotiations had been in progress for deals worth $1.8 billion more. "Among the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, Libya is one of the main buyers of Russian weapons," the source, which was not identified, told the agency.
Russia to send envoy to Middle East and North Africa
Russia would send an envoy to the Middle East and the North Africa to discuss the possible impacts of the ongoing "dramatic events" in some countries, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a Friday statement. The high-ranking Russian diplomat Sergei Vershinin, who is the head of Russian Foreign Ministry's Middle East and North Africa Department, was scheduled to visit Syria, Israel and the Palestinian from Feb. 28 to March 4, the statement said.
Africa farmland has potential of Brazil: Quifel
African farmland investment has the potential to match the exponential growth of Brazil's agricultural industry, the head of business development at privately owned agricultural operator Quifel said. "The best benchmark is really Brazil. What took the Brazilians around 30 years, one should try to do it in 10-15 years," Pedro Marques dos Santos, head of business development at Quifel said, referring to how Africa could emulate Brazil's dominance in global agricultural investments.
S.Africa's Bidvest looking at Brazil acquisitions
South African industrial group Bidvest is on the lookout for food services expansion opportunities in fast-growing Brazil after emerging markets such as Asia helped lift its half-year profit. "Latin America is one of the geographies we are looking at, especially Brazil," Bidvest Chief Executive Brian Joffe told Reuters on Monday. "We're looking for other acquisitions," Joffe said.
Zuma says backs French G20 goals
South Africa backs France's goals for its presidency of the Group of 20 economies, President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday, stressing that failure to address issues like food price swings would hit the poor hardest. Zuma is on a two-day visit to France at the invitation of President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has sought South African backing for a G20 agenda that includes reforming the global monetary system and reducing instability in commodity markets. "We support France's emphasis on the issues of commodity prices, food security and the future of the International Monetary System," he told a news conference on Wednesday.
South Africa pushes for continentwide beneficiation framework
South Africa plans to use its position as the current convener of the Council of African Ministers of Industry to develop a common continental framework for extracting greater value from the prevailing minerals boom, Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies has revealed. The rise in the demand for natural resources, which has been accompanied by strong commodity price increases, is already attracting foreign investor interest. But Davies says that South Africa is also keen to use the upturn to stimulate greater investment into minerals beneficiation across the continent.
China sets out disputes facing "arduous" climate talks
China, the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter, wants rich nations to vow bigger cuts to emissions as part of a new international deal on fighting global warming, Beijing's top climate negotiator said on Tuesday. The negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, said he expects "arduous" wrangling about that and other issues facing governments seeking to settle on the key parts of a comprehensive climate change pact at talks in Durban, South Africa, in late 2011.
5. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
China tamps down Middle East-inspired protests before they can gain momentum
Police and security officials displayed a show of force here and in other Chinese cities Sunday, trying to snuff out any hint of protests modeled on the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. In Shanghai, several hundred people trying to gather were dispersed with a water truck. Premier Wen Jiabao, meanwhile, used a morning Internet chat to promise to purge senior officials who are corrupt and to rein in inflation and rising home prices, directly addressing some of the most common grievances of ordinary Chinese.
Libyan Unrest Prompts China to Rethink No-Strings Investments
As Libya's political turmoil continues to affect Chinese business interests in the country, the potential loss is shaping up to be one of the gravest lessons for Beijing's decade-long "go-out" policy, analysts say. China has been aggressively promoting investment abroad, especially in the resource-rich African continent. It became Africa's largest trading partner in 2009, with total direct investment of more than $9 billion. a sum expected to soar 70 per cent by 2015, the South China Morning Post reported Friday.
Unrest rattles China's Africa policy
China has no immediate reason to fear the popular political upheaval rapidly spreading across the Middle East and northern Africa - the so-called "Jasmine" revolutions that have ousted leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, forced Libyan strongman Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to the brink and threatens regimes in Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Oman and beyond. But, if Chinese leaders are smart, this viral regional turmoil should cause them to rethink, immediately, their commercial ventures in Africa.
Congo’s $6bn China accord: deal of the century or Africa’s “Great Chinese Takeout”?
While Washington is preoccupied with war in Afghanistan and Arab liberation movements, Beijing is feeding its insatiable “Made in China” machine by cranking out mega-deals to develop Africa’s infrastructure in return for rights to grab resources, such as minerals and oil. Some African leaders compare these resource-for-infrastructure swaps to Marshall Plans — deals big enough to jumpstart economies. But critics in the West say the swaps amount to a “Great Chinese Takeout” or a series of sweetheart deals for the Asian colossus.
Cancun pact no proxy for Bali roadmap: Basic nations
After a step forward at Cancun, the global climate talks is heading backwards with the environment ministers from Basic group (India, China, Brazil and South Africa) agreeing on Saturday that Cancun Agreements cannot be a “substitute” for the Bali Road Map. “There are number of issues not addressed in the Cancun agreements which needs to be brought back on the table,” environment minister Jairam Ramesh said, after holding talks for two days with the ministers from other Basic countries in New Delhi.
Will Nigeria ever join the BRICS?
I am persuaded that in our ~quest to become a major world player we ought to aspire to membership of the BRICS within the next two years so that the club will become the BRINCS. More than South Africa, we are the gateway to the continent. Our banks have more continent-wide reach than those of any other country. Our vast hydrocarbon and other natural resources will bring considerable value to the table. But we would have to set our home in order first.
BRIC vs IBSA = China vs India?
The rivalry between India and China is intensifying—and going global. Their latest difference is over the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) group arrangements. China reportedly wants the non-military bloc to be known as BRICS (The ‘S’ for South Africa), and also seems to want to amalgamate BRIC with the IBSA Dialogue Forum. With this in mind, it is in the process of organizing a BRICS (BRIC plus IBSA) summit in Hainan in April this year. But India has seen through China’s game from the start. New Delhi knows the Chinese want IBSA closed down because Beijing has no direct role to play in it. It’s obvious that India, for its part, wants a diplomatic/strategic space for itself, where it doesn’t have to be in the company of its domineering, giant neighbour. In addition, South Africa is crucial for India’s efforts to counter China’s strategic forays into Africa.
[url=http://the-diplomat.com/indian-decade/2011/03/02/bric-vs-ibsa-china-vs-india/ Read More [/url]
When BRIC becomes BRICS: The tightening relations between South Africa and China
At the end of 2010, the news that the BRIC forum would accept South Africa as a full member of the group caught international media attention, as the current chair of BRIC, Chinese President Hu Jintao issued an invitation letter to South African President Jacob Zuma, inviting him to attend the third BRIC leaders’ meeting to be held in China in 2011. While addressing the significance of South Africa joining BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China), Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said that China believes South Africa’s accession will promote the development of BRIC and enhance cooperation among emerging market economies.
Tougher than BRICs
The global economy is poised to enjoy decades of robust growth, as a number of poor countries play "catch-up" to the rich industrialised countries in terms of income and living standards, according to Citigroup’s global chief economist, Willem Buiter. In a major new report, Global Growth Generators, Buiter nominates 11 countries that are most likely to drive global growth – and generate profitable investment opportunities – over coming decades. These '3G' countries are Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Mongolia, Nigeria, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
Research body leads rural study
An influential SA organisation that facilitates ground-breaking research is leading a study by multinational academic teams to find solutions to the enduring socioeconomic problems of rural areas in SA, as well as other countries. The South Africa-Netherlands Research Programme on Alternatives in Development (Sanpad) will host a three-day workshop in Beijing, China, from February 28 to launch the research project with academics from India, Zimbabwe and SA.
Cheques and balances
China is a very aggressive and pernicious economic competitor with no morals when it comes to trading in Africa. This is according to a memo by Johnnie Carson, a former US assistant secretary for African affairs. It was sent after a meeting with oil company representatives in Lagos earlier this year. It was among the 250000 confidential cables leaked by the website Wikileaks in recent months. Though the glib tone of the cable is said to best describe the current mood in Washington about China’s African adventures, it does belie a growing unease in most Western capitals, many of which are starting to scrutinise more closely the Asian giant’s moves into Africa.
Australian Mining Engagement in Africa
I am here at Indaba 2011 with the six other Australian high commissioners and ambassadors posted in sub-saharan Africa, with our senior trade commissioner, and with over 400 Australian companies. This visible and active presence at Indaba by team Australia is a reflection of Australia’s growing engagement with the continent and the constituent countries of Africa. Our enhanced engagement comes at a time when Africa is “on the move.” I’m sure I don’t need to tell an audience like this but the environment has never been better to realise Africa’s potential.
Now, China woos east and central African countries?
China has intensified efforts to improve ties with east and central African countries. The shift in focus from North Africa comes amid ragging unrest across Libya and other parts of the region and rising anti-Chinese sentiments in the region for its support to unpopular regimes.
Angola: Soldiers patrol over threats of protests
Soldiers patrolled the Angolan capital Luanda on Sunday as Angolans watched to see if plans for a Monday mass protest against the 31-year rule of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos would materialise. Since last month, rumours have been circulating on the Internet of north Africa-style protests scheduled to begin on 7 March.
Côte d'Ivoire: After the elections
Chatham House's Africa Programme hosted an expert discussion in February 2011 with a representative for Alassane Ouattara to discuss the post-election crisis, its impacts and prospects for a resolution. The paper available through the link provided is a summary of the event. 'As the political stand-off between incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and elected President Alassane Ouattara remains unresolved, ordinary Ivoirians have suffered the consequences, and impacts of the impasse are increasingly being felt in the region and internationally,' says Chatham House's website.
Equatorial Guinea: New report highlights failures in citizen participation
Citizens in Equatorial Guinea trying to take advantage of the government’s pledge to allow greater citizen participation continue to face serious obstacles that hinder their efforts, EG Justice says in a new report. The country was delisted from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) - a voluntary international effort to strengthen governance in resource-rich countries through improved transparency and accountability - in April 2010 for its failure to comply with the EITI’s requirements, including failing to allow unfettered civil society engagement. Nearly one year later, the Equatoguinean government has not implemented the necessary reforms to guarantee citizen participation and to increase the likelihood that the country will be readmitted to the EITI. The 37 page report, 'Disempowered Voices: The Status of Civil Society in Equatorial Guinea', identifies systematic failures on the part of the Equatoguinean government to allow the full and independent participation of civil society organisations.
Eritrea: Opposition force calls for Egypt-style uprising
An exiled Eritrean opposition force has called for Egypt and Libya-type mass protests to end the rule of the east African nation’s government, which is led by president Isaias Afeworki. The Eritrean leader has been in power since 1991, following 30 years of armed struggle that led to the country’s independence.
Nigeria: Three killed in explosion at election rally
Three people were killed and 21 injured by an explosive device thrown from a car at an election rally near Nigeria's capital Abuja on Thursday, the latest act of political violence ahead of nationwide polls next month. The device missed the centre of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) rally in the town of Suleja, on the northwestern edge of Abuja, but landed close to where street traders were working, police said.
South Africa: Malema swipes at Zuma, Guptas
ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema has taken a thinly veiled swipe at President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family, saying the youth must protect the ANC from being used by 'families' to enrich themselves. Speaking at the launch of the ANC's municipal elections manifesto, at the Royal Bafokeng stadium, in Rustenburg, Malema drew huge applause when he said democracy was not for people who exploited the resources of the country to enrich themselves in the name of freedom.
Southern Africa: Nervousness over revolt threats
The Arab revolt fever could be spreading across the southern African region with Zambia, Angola, Zimbabwe and Swaziland reportedly on the edge over a possible mass protests. And the leaders of those countries are not taking chances. They have openly warned against any kind of revolt.
Uganda: 18 opposition supporters still detained
At least 18 members of opposition political groups are still under detention by the government, weeks after the presidential elections. According to the opposition, several supporters were still under detention while others are missing. Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC) chairman Ken Lyukyamuzi said the government is especially harassing supporters of the Democratic Party and Forum for Democratic Change and other parties in the IPC in different parts of the country.
South Africa: Hands off the public protector!
The investigation into alleged improper conduct and maladministration perpetrated by the National Commissioner of South African Police Service (SAPS), Bheki Cele, and the Minister of Public Works (PW), Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde has been completed and a comprehensive report submitted. It is now up to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to urgently move the process forward, says the Social Justice Coalition. It is in the interest of the Rule of Law and our faith in the Justice system that the case against General Cele and Minister Mahlangu-Nkabinde be brought before the courts, says the Coalition.
Tanzania: Ministers still accommodated in hotels
The government is losing millions of shillings in accommodation bills for newly appointed ministers and their deputies. The problem is compounded by the former ministers’ continued stay in the ministers’ residences. It is not yet clear why former ministers and their deputies continue to cling to government houses when they had five years to organise their own accommodation.
Africa: UK stops development aid
The government has outlined plans to stop direct development aid to 16 countries and freeze the level of assistance given to India. In a statement, a representative told the House of Commons: 'We have decided to focus British aid more tightly on countries where Britain is well-placed to have a significant long-term impact on poverty.'
Global: International Day of Action demands World Bank end fossil fuel funding
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and activists from around the world held rallies on Tuesday, 1 March, in London, Paris, Berlin, Johannesburg, and elsewhere, in tandem with a worldwide social media campaign to demand that the World Bank finally put an end to fossil fuel lending. Dressed as prisoners chained to lumps of coal, activists demanded that the Bank halt its highly controversial fossil fuel financing that led to last year’s $3.75 billion loan to one of the world’s largest coal plants, in South Africa.
Southern Africa: A region of winners and losers, not partners
As Southern Africa prepares itself for another year of economic partnership agreement (EPA) negotiations with the European Union, trade analysts say any deal should be about more than just liberalised trade. A December 2010 deadline that the SADC-EPA configuration set itself has come and gone. With EPA negotiations set to continue in Lesotho in March, African negotiators take the long view. 'It is no longer necessary to negotiate an interim EPA,' Namibian trade minister Hage Geingob told IPS. 'Instead we will move straight ahead with negotiations for a final EPA but this includes agreeing on contentious clauses such as the "Singapore issues". While the parties would like to reach an agreement this year, I don’t think that target will be met.'
Tanzania: Tax holidays costing economy hundreds of millions of dollars
The government’s generous tax exemption regime could be robbing the region’s second biggest economy of millions of dollars, a new survey has revealed. The findings by Hivos/Twaweza East Africa corroborate recent comments by several donor partners on Tanzania’s unwarranted tax exemptions. The report says that while the Tanzanian parliament carefully scrutinizes the government’s budget, tax exemptions, on the other hand, do not receive the same attention, thus making them hidden expenditures.
CAR: Struggling for healthcare
After decades of political violence, displacement and insecurity caused by clashes between rebel groups and government forces, as well as armed bandits, thousands of people in Central African Republic (CAR) are vulnerable to disease and have little access to health services, aid agencies say. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), many health centres in the north and southeast of CAR are either looted or not operational because medical workers are often compelled to leave the area.
Kenya: Civil society defends access to generic drugs
Access to affordable medicine for millions of people in the South could be at risk if the production and distribution of generic medicine from India is restricted. Campaigners say both Kenyan legislation and a European Union-India trade agreement to be concluded this year will block access to affordable drugs.
South Africa: SECTION27 and the TAC welcome the increased budget for health
SECTION27 and the TAC have welcomed the proposed increases in health expenditure outlined in the budget tabled by Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan on 23 February 2011. 'However, we are concerned that the additional R11 billion available for 2011/12 will not necessarily translate into improvements in the delivery of health care services in the absence of a reasonable plan to address endemic and systemic problems with budgeting and expenditure within health departments at all spheres of government,' said a statement.
Swaziland: Consulting the ancestors on ARVs
Most Swazis go to traditional healers if they feel ill, but in a country with the world’s highest HIV prevalence rate healers are struggling to cope. Thabile Xaba, 37, a healer who has been diagnosed HIV-positive at a clinic, told IRIN about her experiences. 'I was almost done with high school when our traditional healer told me the ancestral spirits wanted me to become a healer. He did this by reading the "bones", which is what I can now do too. A person who is chosen must agree or there will be misfortune, like an illness will strike you. You must accept your fate. It is like being chosen as one of the king’s wives. You accept it.'
Tanzania: Report reveals health system ailments
While Tanzania's health indicators in some key areas have shown improvement, challenges abound within the health system, a new study shows. The report lists 36 factors impeding the development of the health sector in the country. Limited financial and human resources, administrative shortcomings and unfulfilled plans and promises are among the reasons. Giving local authorities some mandate on decision-making, functional responsibility and resources from central to local government authorities also contribute to the sector's underperformance. The 'Tanzania Health System Assessment 2010' report reveals that there has been a layer of complexity arising from the managerial ability of staff to coordinate across different ministries and fulfil their roles within the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the Prime Minister's Office, Regional Administration and Local Governments (RALG), administration structures.
Zimbabwe: Zimbabweans Turn to Indigenous Medicine
Zimbabwe’s government recently announced that the country had run out of the critical painkiller morphine. It was just the latest development in a debilitating health care crisis that has seen hospitals turn away patients because of drug shortages. In the absence of even a basic drug such as paracetamol, desperate patients like 44-year-old asthma sufferer Susan Pamire have turned to traditional herbs.
Global: Armed conflict blocking efforts to achieve universal primary schooling
Armed conflict is robbing 28 million children of an education by exposing them to widespread rape and other sexual violence, targeted attacks on schools and other human rights abuses, according to a United Nations report. The number accounts for 42 per cent of the primary school age children globally not enrolled in school and living in poor countries affected by conflict, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) warned in its 2011 Global Monitoring Report.
Malawi: Activists slam church over support for anti-lesbian bill
Malawian civil society organisations have lashed out at religious leaders in support of the new bill outlawing lesbianism in Malawi, stating, 'Christianity as a religion should not be used to alienate diversity, people in Malawi come from different backgrounds and have different beliefs and traditions.' This came after Malawian Council of Churches (MCC) Chairperson Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe said same-sex practices 'threaten the family unit' and 'contradict Malawi’s rich traditions, culture and its spirituality as a God fearing nation'.
Mozambique: Minister praised for statement on homosexuality
The Mozambican Association for the Defence of Sexual Minorities (LAMBDA), the only organisation in the country working for gay, lesbian and transsexual citizens, has praised Justice Minister Benvinda Levi for her categorical statement that homosexuality is not illegal in Mozambique. Levi was speaking in Geneva on 1 February at the review of Mozambique’s human rights record under the Universal Periodic Mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council.
Uganda: Video launched on Lesbian, Gay and Transgender asylum
On 11 February, 2011, the Refugee Law Project (RLP) in collaboration with the Ugandan Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights & Constitutional Law launched a revealing documentary on the realities of lesbian, gay and transgender asylum. This video captures remarks made by Professor Ben Twinomugisha, Dean of Law, Makerere University during the panel discussion after the launch. Copies of the documentary will be available in a couple of weeks. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to book a copy.
South Africa: Manuel slams Manyi
Government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi on Wednesday said he would not comment on an open letter by Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel in which he was labelled a 'racist'. In the open letter, which was published in the Mercury newspaper, Manuel hit out at Manyi over his comments on coloured people. 'I want to draw your attention to the fact that your statements about "an over-concentration of coloureds" are against the letter and spirit of the South African Constitution, as well as being against the values espoused by the Black Management Forum since its inception,' Manuel wrote in the letter.
Africa: Revealed - the cost of electricity from coal
The hidden costs of generating electricity from coal have been calculated in groundbreaking research by Harvard Medical School’s Centre for Health and Global Environment. The results of the study 'Full Cost Accounting for the Life Cycle of Coal' released by co-author Dr Paul Epstein in Boston reveal that the health, environmental and other costs of using coal costs the United States 500 billion dollars per year.
Africa: UN agency publishes first in series of books on ‘green economy’ for development
The United Nations agency tasked with promoting industrial development has published the first in a series of books focusing on 'green' economic growth, which entails a low-carbon, resource-efficient approach to sustainable development, while combating climate change and conserving biodiversity.
The volumes are intended to give practical expression to the concept of sustainable development adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said.
Burundi: Burundi inks landmark Nile Basin agreement
Burundi has became the sixth country to sign a new draft agreement on the management of the River Nile, ending nearly 12 months of doubts about the future of the agreement and of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI). The NBI is a regional partnership that seeks the best ways of developing the continent’s longest river. Burundi’s decision to sign the agreement now leaves DR Congo, Egypt and Sudan as the only countries yet to do so.
South Africa: Ability to secure climate deal queried
SA’s preparations to host the United Nations (UN) climate change conference in Durban in November have been heavily criticised by the European Union (EU). Judith Sargentini, a Dutch former anti-apartheid activist now responsible for fostering SA-EU bilateral relations, said SA had neither the capacity nor the strategy to secure a deal on climate change as hosts of the UN conference.
South Africa: Calls for 'informed participation' in climate change policy
Idasa's submission to February’s National Climate Change Response Green Paper, on behalf of the Electricity Governance Initiative of South Africa (EGI-SA) which it co-ordinates, has pointed out that the challenges of climate change need different approaches to development than in the past, and may require difficult tradeoffs. Idasa stresses the importance of transparent, accountable and inclusive processes to work through such trade-offs.
Cameroon: Billion dollar plantation deal on the cards
Malaysia's Sime Darby is considering a $2.5 billion plantation expansion deal in Cameroon, the Financial Times reported, signalling the global grab for land is well underway as food prices soar. The Financial Times quoted Sime Darby Chief Executive Mohd Bakke Salleh as saying the project in the West African state will involve 300,000 hectares (741,300 acres) of oil palm estates although discussions have so far led to 'nothing conclusive'.
West Africa: Conference deliberates the causes of pastoralist conflicts
As part of its mission of collaborative peacebuilding, the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding
(WANEP) organised a regional workshop at the PACIFIC hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on
22 and 23 February 2011. After two days of discussions and exchange of experiences, the 50 participants from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Togo developed mechanisms and solutions for sustainable and more effective actions, and identified the different actors and organisations for the implementation of the actions.
Cote d’Ivoire: Cocoa farmers suffer from export ban
Cocoa farmers in Cote d’Ivoire are bearing the brunt of a ban on the export of cocoa beans, reports Farm Radio Weekly. On January 23 this year, Alassane Ouattara called for a month-long ban on cocoa and coffee exports. His aim is to starve Laurent Gbagbo of the funds that are keeping him in power.
South Africa: Fighting hunger with traditional seed storage
Lindiwe Zono is a member of the Phadima Agricultural Association in the Sekhukhune District of Limpopo province, in northwestern South Africa. The association has started a seed bank to preserve and increase their supply of traditional food plants, reports Farm Radio Weekly. Zono says that seed saving was once an almost sacred duty among the Pedi, the largest ethnic group in the province. The seed bank builds on this tradition. It aims to make use of and promote traditional crops such as sorghum, millet, cowpeas, maize, and pumpkin. It began in 2000 and covers seven villages.
Angola: Journalist gets year in prison for defamation
A court in Angola's southwestern province of Namibe sent a journalist to prison without due process over his coverage of a sexual harassment scandal that implicated the province's top judicial official, according to local journalists and news reports. Judge Manuel Araujo sentenced Armando José Chicoca, a freelancer who reports for US government-funded broadcaster Voice of America (VOA) and private Angolan newspapers such as Folha 8, Agora, and O Apostolado, to one year in prison and a fine of 200,000 kwanza (US$2,100), according to news reports.
Global: Organised crime and the media
A total of 141 journalists and media workers were killed during the decade of the 2000s in attacks and reprisals blamed on criminal groups. Mafias and cartels today pose the biggest threat to media freedom worldwide, says this Reporters Without Borders document.
Mozambique: Launching Madjuba, Quest for the Talisman
Mozambique’s first adventure-fantasy serial radio drama will soon be hitting the airwaves. 'Madjuba: Quest for the Talisman' is an action-packed 13-part radio drama available in Portuguese, Changaan, and Sena, initiated by UNESCO with support from SIDA, produced by CMFD (Community Media for Development) Productions. Follow the tale of a community that gathers nightly around the fire to hear a wise storyteller weave a tale of adventure and fantasy. Little do they know that the magic of the story has transported their stubborn neighbour Arlindo to a far off fantasy world where he has become the unwitting long-awaited hero, Chamwari. As Chamwari seeks the talisman that will transform the land, the village listeners realise that they too have the power to speak up and help make the changes in their community they want to see. Over the course of the story the hero, along with his allies, travel though different lands, each with a task or problem to overcome related to key governance issues: accountability/ transparency, civic participation and the need for a strong civil society, freedom of expression, and political intolerance. The large-scale production involved over 50 local actors and recordings took place in Maputo and Beira. The script was drafted by talented scriptwriter Evaristo Abreu, who has over 25 years experience in the field of drama.
For more information, visit http://www.cmfd.org
Senegal: Three Senegalese among 20 best ‘bloggers’
A Senegalese journalist, Basile Niane and his three compatriot students have been selected among the 20 best bloggers of the Mondoblog competition, organized by Radio France International, a press release from RFI, made available to PANA said. In all, 100 francophone bloggers participated in the competition and the 20 best bloggers designated through a week-long training session in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, or Yaoundé, Cameroon.
Somalia: Radio Kulmiye resumes operations
The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has welcomed the resumption of the Radio Kulmiye of its normal operations on 4 March 2011. The radio station had been off air for at least 48 hours following a letter ordering the radio to go temporarily off air from the National Security Agency. The radio immediately went off air upon receiving the letter. The resumption came after the Minister of Information, Posts and Telecommunication, Dr. Abdulkadreem Jama authorised the radio back on air, according to the Kulmiye Radio Director, Osman Abdullahi Guure.
Tunisia: Tunisians criticise state-run media
The National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) met last week to discuss the state of the nation's media in the post-Ben Ali era. 'It's hardly a change,' said Soukaina Abd Samad, SNJT executive office member and Tunisian television journalist. 'The changes in the media did not keep pace with the democratic changes in the country.'
Côte d'Ivoire: Crisis worsens as police loot homes of new cabinet
Police backed by gangs of youths have ransacked at least 10 houses belonging to ministers and other allies of the internationally recognised president of Ivory Coast, according to witnesses. The raids came amid worsening tensions between Alassane Ouattara and the sitting president, Laurent Gbagbo, whose refusal to step down has pushed the west African country to the brink of civil war. Fighters loyal to Ouattara said they captured the western town of Toulepleu, but Gbagbo's military said fighting continued.
Côte d'Ivoire: Fears of a civil war intensify
The three-month long conflict in Ivory Coast has entered a particularly bloody stage. Nearly 400 people have been killed in the west African country, including 32 on 3 March alone, almost all of them men who had voted for opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, according to UN figures. The photographs on this page provide an illustration of recent events in the country.
DRC: Arrests follow DRC 'coup attempt'
Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have arrested more than 30 people after an attempted coup in the country over the weekend. According to Lambert Mende, the country's information minister, seven people were killed in fighting that followed Sunday's attack on the Kinshasa residence of President Joseph Kabila.
Global: Preventing armed violence
Over the past decade, there has been growing international momentum to conceptualise, document and address the various manifestations of 'armed violence'. To date the discourse has focused largely on the causes and effects of armed violence and explored the range of available programming options to prevent and reduce it. Discussions on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) currently underway in the United Nations (UN) provide an important opportunity to examine armed violence in the context of decisions concerning international transfers and the export and import of conventional arms used in armed violence, says this document from the International Action Network on Small Arms and Amnesty International.
Libya: Country braces for prolonged conflict
Opposition forces in Libya are bracing for a prolonged campaign in their bid to overthrow the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, the country's long-time leader, as their fighters battle to repulse ferocious assaults by government soldiers. Forces loyal to Gaddafi have attacked several rebel-held cities along the country's coastline in a bid to halt the anti-government forces' rapid advance to the capital Tripoli. Dozens have died in a dramatic escalation of the conflict gripping the oil-rich North African nation.
Libya: Israel company recruiting Gadhafi mercenaries
An Israeli company is recruiting mercenaries to support Moammar Gadhafi’s efforts to suppress an uprising against his regime, an Israeli news site said Tuesday. Citing Egyptian sources, the Hebrew-language news site Inyan Merkazi said the company was run by retired Israeli army commanders.
Libya: Map shows changing tides of the conflict
This map shows fighting in Zawiyah, Misrata, Bin Jawad and Ras Lanuf as the Tripoli government tries to claw back gains made by the rebels.
Libya: Videos expose Gaddafi violence
As pro-democracy forces advance toward Gaddafi's main strongholds, the dictator of Libya is stepping up efforts to retake regions lost to the rebellion. Amidst an almost complete Internet and media blackout, videos still manage to be leaked, giving us a glimpse of what's happening on the ground. This post from Global Voices contains a round-up of the videos that emerged.
Morocco: Riots erupt after Western Sahara concert
Violent clashes broke out in the early morning hours of Saturday (26 February) in the city of Dakhla. The unrest left two dead and 14 injured, according to Moroccan officials. While Moroccan authorities blamed supporters of the Polisario for the latest events, Sahrawi activists were just as quick to accuse Moroccans. 'Armed militias of Moroccan origins,' were behind the events, the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights (CODESA) claimed.
Senegal: Three soldiers die in Casamance
Senegal Saturday (27 Feb) lost three more soldiers in Casamance (southern region), during violent clashes against fighters of the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) in northern Sindian near the Gambian border, PANA learnt here from military sources. According to the sources, the clashes also left seven other soldiers wounded, including one whose legs were cut off by an anti-personnel mine.
Sudan: Violence raises fears for South
Clashes in two Sudanese flashpoints left scores dead, officials said on Wednesday, reigniting fears for the stability of the country's oil-producing south in the countdown to its independence. Arab nomads and militias fought southern police in the contested north-south border area of Abyei on Wednesday (3 March) killing at least six people, the latest in a series of clashes, officials said. Renegade militia fighters clashed with south Sudan's army on Sunday in the southern oil state of Jonglei, where French oil giant Total is due to start exploring, both sides said.
Uganda: LRA attacks populated areas
The UN refugee agency said Tuesday (02 March) it was alarmed by an upsurge in violence against civilians by a rebel Ugandan group in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. A particularly worrying development is that the Lord's Resistance Army, or LRA, appears to be targeting more populated areas.
Tanzania: New health collaboration website
Afya Mtandao, Tanzania’s national ICT for Development (ICT4D) health network, is testing a new social health website. With the website, hospitals and health institutions using ICT tools can share their experiences and read news about ICT in the health sector. The website was set up together with Dutch IT company InterAccess by using the Ning platform (an online platform for people to create their own websites and social networks).
Zambia: Minister Uses Facebook to Announce Government Policies
Zambia’s education minister Dora Siliya who is also ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) spokesperson, has in the last few months used Facebook to make important government policy announcements as well as party matters, reports Global Voices. A few days ago, Siliya announced changes in the educational system on Facebook and, as usual, attracted a lot of comments, both positive and negative from some of her 4,950 online 'friends'.
Nordic Africa Institute digital newsletter
The digital newsletter of the Nordic Africa Institute is aimed at all those who wish to receive regular information on the activities of the Institute, its research, publications and various events on issues related to modern Africa. The newsletter contains comments on current events of importance to Africa and an overview of the Institute’s activities as well as its products. The newsletter is published approximately eight times per year. To subscribe please visit the website available through the address provided.
Zimbabwe: Youth Electoral Bulletin
The Youth Electoral Bulletin from Youth Alliance for Democracy (YAD) aims to fill an information gap that exists in communities ahead of possible elections and a referendum following the manipulation of the national broadcaster to serve the interests of a single political party. The Bulletin will be issued on a weekly basis.
Africa: Toolkit on women's rights and freedom of information
'Freedom of Information and Women’s Rights in Africa' is a toolkit guide published by the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) with the support of UNESCO. The book provides guidance for women’s organisations in Africa on how to organise around freedom of information. It has compiled five case studies from five African countries, namely, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia under different scenarios.
Call for Applications
Peace and Security Fellowship for African Women
The African Leadership Centre (ALC) was established in Kenya in June 2010 as a joint initiative of King’s College London and the University of Nairobi. The ALC is pleased to announce a call for applications for the Peace and Security Fellowship for African Women for 2011/2012. This Fellowship is an intellectual and financial award to those who have demonstrated obvious or potential capacity to make a change in their field. Please note that the Fellowship does not lead to an academic qualification, rather it is a postgraduate non-degree programme.
The Dag Hammarskjöld Scholarship Fund for Journalists
The Dag Hammarskjöld Journalism Fellowship is open to individuals who: are native of one of the developing countries of Africa, Asia, South America or the Caribbean. Applicants must demonstrate an interest in and commitment to international affairs and to conveying a better understanding of the United Nations to their readers and audiences.
Call for 2011 Workshop Fellows
'Representation Reconsidered: Ethnic Politics and Africa’s Governance Institutions in Comparative Perspective'
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.
Call for 2011 Workshop Fellows
'Representation Reconsidered: Ethnic Politics and Africa’s Governance Institutions in Comparative Perspective'
23 July to 6 August 2011
Sponsored by the American Political Science Association and the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi, Kenya
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. Professional fluency in English is absolutely required.
The workshop leaders are Todd Eisenstadt (American University, USA), Carl LeVan (American University, USA), Josephine Ahikire (Makerere University, Uganda), and Karuti Kanyinga (Institute for Development Studies, Kenya).
Program announcements, the 2011 Application Form, and more information about the workshop can be found online at the APSA Africa Workshop website, www.apsanet.org/africaworkshops The application deadline is 14 March 2011.
Call for Proposals
54th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association
The African Studies Association (ASA) will hold its 54th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, 17-21 November 2011, at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. We are soliciting proposals for papers, panels, and roundtables, especially relating to the theme '50 Years of African Liberation', which will reflect on African experiences over the past five decades when African nations began to win independence from colonial rule.
Call for Proposals
54th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association
“50 Years of African Liberation”
November 17-20, 2011, Washington, D.C.
Deadline for Proposals: March 15, 2011
ABOUT THE MEETING
The African Studies Association (ASA) will hold its 54th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, November 17-21, 2011, at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. We are soliciting proposals for papers, panels, and roundtables, especially relating to the theme “50 Years of African Liberation,” which will reflect on African experiences over the past five decades when African nations began to win independence from colonial rule. Presentations may focus on this theme or on broader social science, humanities, and applied themes relating to Africa. We strongly encourage the submission of formed panels. The Program Committee Chair is Professor Carol Thompson of Northern Arizona University.
HOW TO SUBMIT A PROPOSAL: Instructions for submitting proposals are online athttp://www.africanstudies.org/p/cm/ld/fid=48
The deadline to submit a proposal is March 15, 2011.
TO JOIN THE ASA OR RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP: http://www.africanstudies.org/p/cm/ld/fid=3
ABOUT THE AFRICAN STUDIES ASSOCIATION
Established in 1957, the African Studies Association is the largest organization in the world devoted to enhancing the exchange of information about Africa. Our members include scholars, students, teachers, activists, development professionals, policy makers, donors and many others. We encourage interdisciplinary interactions with Africa. We provide access to pathbreaking research and key debates in African studies. We bring together people with scholarly and other interests in Africa through our annual meeting and seek to broaden professional opportunities in the field of African studies. The organization publishes two leading interdisciplinary journals on Africa, African Studies Review and History in Africa and promotes an informed understanding of Africa to the public and in educational institutions as well as to businesses, media, and other communities that have interests in Africa.
We welcome your participation in this exciting conference and in the ASA!
The dilemma of land grabs and the implications for sustainability
Development volume 54.1 out now
The first issue of Development 54 starts the one year debate on sustainability by looking at the dilemma of the current global land grabs in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It engages academics and researchers of the Land Research Action Network and of the University of Utrecht in a hot debate on land speculation today. The journal issue tackles land, commodity and food speculation. It explores the implications for an equitable and sustainable development and looks at how to ensure that any benefits from foreign land development are passed on to local people.
Africa Program Director
International Rivers supports civil society groups and communities around the world which seek to stop destructive dams and promote better methods of meeting energy and water needs. We are looking for an experienced, skilled, dynamic director of our Africa Program. The position will be based at our main office in Berkeley or at a strategic location in Africa (such as Nairobi, Johannesburg, or Accra).
Africa Program Director
International Rivers supports civil society groups and communities around the world which seek to stop destructive dams and promote better methods of meeting energy and water needs. We are looking for an experienced, skilled, dynamic director of our Africa Program. The position will be based at our main office in Berkeley or at a strategic location in Africa (such as Nairobi, Johannesburg, or Accra).
The Program Director will work with partner organisations in Africa, with colleagues in our Berkeley headquarters and our satellite offices around the world. The position requires several international trips per year. The Program Director oversees consultants, interns and volunteers, and reports to our Policy Director.
The duties and responsibilities of the Program Director are:
1. Program coordination: Coordinate International Riversï¿½ Africa Program to challenge destructive dam projects, advocate for better solutions and strengthen the capacity of our local partners. Develop effective strategies, prepare work plans and carry out program activities. Supervise consultants, interns and volunteers. In conjunction with the policy director, do extensive fundraising and coordinate budgeting and financial oversight for the Africa Program
2. Monitoring and research: Conduct campaign-related research on river ecosystems, the African energy and water sectors, dam building plans and better solutions to meet water and energy needs in Africa. Monitor specific destructive dam projects, assess their impacts, and analyze cross-cutting issues such as the impacts of climate change on Africaï¿½s rivers and dams.
3. Capacity building: Strengthen the capacity and the networking efforts of civil society groups working on rivers and dams in Africa. Share information with our partners, carry out site visits, organize trainings and other workshops, extend small grants, and give direct advice.
4. Media work and other communications: Devise strategies to create awareness about the threats facing African rivers. Produce reports, fact-sheets and audio-visual materials. Nurture relations with interested journalists and carry out media work primarily in Africa and on the international level. Contribute articles to our magazine, World Rivers Review, and maintain the Africa Programï¿½s web pages.
5. Advocacy work: Help create pressure on African and international dam builders and financiers to stop the development of destructive projects and promote better solutions in the water and energy sectors.
- Excellent research, writing and verbal communication skills in English; fluency in French highly desired;
- Demonstrated ability to think strategically and develop effective campaign strategies;
- Diligence, ability to handle multiple tasks and deadlines in a fast-paced environment;
- Independence, ability to work alone while maintaining constant communication with the main office in Berkeley if working from Africa;
- Knowledge and understanding of Africa's environment and development issues and NGO community;
- At least five years of experience in social or environmental advocacy work;
- Ability to work well in a team and within an international network;
- Commitment to environmental integrity, social justice and the mission of International Rivers;
- Strong computer skills (ability to post simple online content highly desired);
- Bachelor's degree or equivalent professional experience required; Masterï¿½s degree a plus;
- Authorization to work in the United States or at an office location to be determined in Africa.
International Rivers offers a stimulating, casual and flexible work environment. Our competitive salary and benefits package includes health insurance and excellent vacation and sick leave. Salary commensurate with experience.
To apply, send a cover letter, resume and writing sample to email@example.com or to International Rivers, 2150 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA 94704, USA; fax +1 510 848 1008. Please mention 'Africa Program' in the address or subject line and indicate your preferred location of work. Deadline for applications: March 23, 2011.
International Rivers is an Equal Opportunity Employer and First Source Berkeley employer. We encourage applications from all qualified candidates regardless of age, class, disability status, ethnicity, gender, race and sexual orientation.
Tuliwaza Program, Fahamu
The mission of Fahamu's Tuliwaza Program is to generate and share knowledge towards a liberated Africa based on the needs and input of African social movements using progressive, feminist and people-centred approaches and methods.
Director – Tuliwaza Program, Fahamu
Fahamu has a vision of the world where people organise to emancipate themselves from all forms of oppression, recognise their social responsibilities, respect each other’s differences, and realise their full potential.
FAHAMU’S MISSION AND VALUES
Fahamu supports the movement for social justice in Africa by providing learning, platforms for advocacy, platforms for analysis, debate and discussion as well as supporting the generation of knowledge.
TULIWAZA PROGRAMME - MISSION
To generate and share knowledge towards a liberated Africa based on the needs and input of African social movements using progressive, feminist and people-centred approaches and methods.
The Executive Director
• Represents the organisation in public forums and in relation to other institutions
• Supports and manages program staff
• Program and financial management
• Oversees implementation of policies and plans within the program as approved by the Board
• Fundraising and resource mobilization
• Provides strategic direction and leadership of the program
• Facilitates knowledge production in various forms
• Leads, manages and oversees the implementation of research and knowledge generation projects related to Fahamu’s core mandate
• Coordinates advisory committee input into Fahamu’s knowledge generation and research contribution to the movement for social justice
• Demonstrable extensive knowledge of political, economic and social context in Africa and in relation to the rest of the world
• Commitment to the mission and values of the organisation
• Experience of managing a range of diverse projects
• Experience in management of staff at a distance
• Experience and knowledge of partnership development and working
• Knowledge of and experience in cross disciplinary research methods, feminist and post-colonial epistemologies
• Knowledge of, skills and experience in developing frameworks for participatory action-based research
• Demonstrated commitment to democratization of knowledge and the production of knowledge in various forms
• Ability to provide leadership whilst also being a team worker
• Ability to work under pressure and to tight deadlines
• Demonstrable organisational and planning skills
• Experience in fundraising and donor liaison
• Strong people skills (both in relation to the external partners and in relation to staff)
• Excellent communicator
• A dynamic, visionary person with a passion for social justice
• Relevant masters level or Phd degree from accredited university (equivalent experience will be considered)
• Participatory action-oriented research experience
• Excellent English communication skills – both written and oral.
• Knowledge of qualitative and quantitative research methods
• Commitment to social justice and progressive change
• Experience working with social movements in diverse contexts
• Commitment to diversity and non-discrimination.
• Experience managing budgets and fundraising.
• Fluency in French, Portuguese, Arabic or Kiswahili an advantage.
• Fluency in other African languages an advantage.
The position will be based in Nairobi, Dakar or Cape Town with substantial travel throughout the continent.
Fahamu is an equal opportunity employer.
Salary range: GBP 30,000 - £35,000
To apply, please send the following documents on or before March 17, 2011, to firstname.lastname@example.org
1. a detailed CV including salary history
2. a cover letter explaining why you are interested in this position and why you feel you match the requirements for this position
3. a one page description of a key research question that you think is critical to the struggle for social justice in Africa at this time which outlines why this question is important, what methods you would use to carry out the research, who would the research benefit and how would you reach your primary audience. Please use Arial font 12 for this one page description.
Applications received after March 17, 2011, will not be considered.
Please note that only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.
South Africa: World Cup spending puts PE in red
A dire cash flow shortage in Nelson Mandela Bay, the sprawling municipality that includes Port Elizabeth, Despatch and Uitenhage, has resulted in an R800 million cut in spending on key service delivery projects in the municipality - including a project to put an end to the undignified bucket system. The council’s financial woes are mainly due to World Cup spending that was not recouped, and a drop in the revenue collection rate.
Kenya: Diplomatic cable reveals fears of a Raila presidency
Fears of Prime Minister Raila Odinga ascending to the presidency after the 2007 general election by close confidantes of President Kibaki have been revealed in a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, reports the Daily Nation. A Cabinet minister warned a US embassy official that Mr Odinga was likely to turn into a dictator if he won the hotly disputed general election.
Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice
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With around 2,600 contributors and an estimated 600,000 readers, Pambazuka News is the authoritative pan-African electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa providing cutting edge commentary and in-depth analysis on politics and current affairs, development, human rights, refugees, gender issues and culture in Africa.
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